Hi, my name is Tasha and I am 31 years old. I was born and raised in Knoxville, TN. I spent the first 17 years of my life living with both my parents and brother in a small single wide trailer on the outside of town. Although from the outside it appeared that we had a normal happy life, the inside was much different. To family and strangers, my mother appeared like a wonderful and loving woman, but behind closed doors she was very angry, hateful, and verbally abusive.
My mom was abused as a child and took her painful childhood and misfortune out on us! It always seemed as though we were a burden and inevitably in the way. It only took something as small as leaving a crumb on the counter to warrant her yelling at us, so I spent most of my childhood walking on egg shells while learning to avoid confrontation with her and doing whatever possible to please her. My brother on the other hand rebelled against her more often which left me also trying to defend and protect him much of the time as well. This made me feel anger towards her, afraid and frustrated most of the time. I could not understand why the people I loved and were supposed to love me were acting this way.
This was my life until I became a teenager and was given more freedom. The more freedom I got the more I wanted and liked it, which made me rebel against her even more. I soon began hanging out with my mom’s brother and their children who lived close to us, because I feel comfortable and accepted by them. The only thing wrong with this situation was that they were regular alcoholics and drug addicts behind closed doors. I saw how much fun they seemingly had and wanted to feel and act like they did. At the age of 17 I tried drugs and alcohol for the first time and was hooked on the feeling of freedom and carelessness that it provided me with. I could now do whatever I wanted and didn’t have to be afraid or feel guilt or impress anyone, I was free! At home I had to please or dodge my mother, and at school I had to dodge the mean kids who made fun of me because of my lack of money and name brand clothing. My frizzy hair and glasses didn’t help my situation at all either! So this new life of drugs and alcohol were my escape. The more I used drugs and alcohol the less ambition I had for school. I had all but abandoned my thoughts of Collage even though I graduated in the top 10 % of my class and was offered a scholarship.
Around this time, I met an older man who I became infatuated with. He was handsome and said all the right things that made me feel special and loved. Little did I know that he was only using me the way he had done many other women. It was only a game to him! Not only did he abuse me emotionally he also took my purity and in the process gave me a sexually transmitted disease. I was devastated, angry, full of shame and resentment and continued to use more and more drugs and live the party lifestyle. I meet new so called friends in this arena and experimented more and more until the age of 19. At this point I wanted more in life and was ready for a change so I sporadically started to go to church again. My dad’s side of the family were believers and my aunt is a Pastor so I had grown up knowing some of the things of God but never fully committing to Him. I didn’t know who He was or what a relationship with Him really meant. On one of my visits to church I ran into a man that caught my eye. He carried his self in a manner I had not seen before. He had a passion for God and he loved music. I felt less than and not good enough for him to even give me a second glance, BUT he did! Praise God!
We hit it off together and became inseparable. I fell in love with him and wanted to be involved in everything he loved to do, even though I was going about it the wrong way thinking that he could make me better. I thought that performance and people pleasing along with my association with this Pastor would make me a better person and who I needed to be. I thought if I just try hard enough it will all work out! This great plan back fired and blew up because I got so tired of trying to measure up and please people that I wanted to give up. As if that wasn’t enough we were intimate before marriage and I became pregnant. I felt ashamed, worthless, and hopeless. Now look what I had done, corrupted a preacher, it was all my fault. Then came all the so called “Christians” with their condemnation and judgements and I sank deeper and deeper into hopelessness.
After giving birth I fell into post-partum depression that really put the icing on the cake! With prescription meds in my hands I kept needing more and more to be at peace and finally took an offer of cocaine that started me back down the road to old habits which I hid from my new husband for over 2 years. When it all came out about my drug use, surprisingly my husband was understanding and wanted me to go into a program and get some help. I checked into rehab but in only a few weeks I was ready to leave. I pleaded with him promising him I’d never use drugs again and many other things I knew I couldn’t deliver on but I had to get out. I begged and pleaded with him to let me come home. Finally, he came and took me home. Things were better for about a year until I became pregnant again with my son. I immediately fell back into post-partum depression and drug use. Once again I tried to hide it and live a normal life but now something was different. We had a church I was in ministry. I was supposed to help woman and be strong. I was addicted, lost, afraid and couldn’t even help myself how could I minister in our church? I didn’t want to lose my husband and family, but didn’t know how to become free. I tried so many times and every time it had ended in failure. The more times I failed the more my husband got fed up with my behavior. I got so bad on street drugs that I would go on binges and leave him alone with the kids for days.
At the worst part of my life I prostituted myself out for money for drugs hoping I would overdose and die! At this point my husband gave me an ultimatum, it was drugs, prostitution or him and my kids. I had the choice of going to a year long program or losing my family. Out of fear and desperation I found a year long Christian program in Florida. After staying there 14 ½ months trying to do the right thing, but keeping secrets from everyone not dealing with the wounds and pains of the root issues I went back to my husband and family. Now you would think this would be the end of the story, well think again! I got pregnant again and the same ole story repeated itself again with a complicated pregnancy which caused nothing but turmoil in the family. My husband was so angry and fearful that we would have yet another repeat of the first two children he withdrew emotionally and physically from me my whole pregnancy. So once again feelings of less than, not good enough, shame, failure, and thoughts of never really being loved flooded back and sent me into a spiral headed down to despair.
I became bitter towards him and the church, feeling that the church and the people always came before me and my needs. In my isolation I eventually turned back to the familiar cycle of drugs, secrets, lies, hiding it from all who knew me. I couldn’t minister to the ladies that would need to talk to me from our church because I was no better off, what could I say to them. It was harder to hide this time because of the past; my husband knew what to look for. The last straw, the final nail in the coffin was when I took my youngest daughter and left on a three-day Meth binge. I was out of control and everyone had put up with me as long as they could, it was over. My husband filed for divorce and at the point of hopeless desperation, I decided to go back to Florida to the program that had provided at the most, some help to my addiction.
When I returned they felt that since I had failed that I hadn’t worked hard enough or paid the price for my sins enough to be healed. They wanted me to feel the severity of my sins by working me to the point of abuse. I had blisters on my hands from physical work to the point of exhaustion. This sent me deeper and deeper into depression only after a couple of weeks of being there. I left and ended up on the streets of Florida again but found refuge in a battered women’s shelter and began to take an inventory of my life. I couldn’t figure out how at age 30 I was homeless, addicted to drugs, involved with prostitution and alienated from every person I’d ever loved. I wanted to die, but deep down inside I wanted to live, get well, and get my family back.
I asked the Lord to help me find a way back from this desperation and in his faithfulness He did. After being in the shelter for only a few days a friend contacted me and asked if I would be interested in going into another program in Dallas Texas. I swore I’d never go to another program but told my friend I’d think about it. A few days later I called Dallas and someone told me I didn’t fit the criteria for the program but they would have Pastor Sam call me back, and he did. I told him my story and he asked lots of questions. He said that he would talk to his wife Pastor Sherry and that they would pray about it and call me back with a decision. To my surprise and delight he called me back and said I could come but it would be tough. He even bought me a plane ticket. He said I would have to tell every secret and that I could hold nothing back, nothing!! He had to find out why the other programs didn’t work and said that they would not work me to blisters but they would love me to healing through Jesus.
I’ll never forget the words pastor Sam said, we will dig and dig and get to the root of all my issues, IF I WOULD ALLOW IT and they would love and support me through it all. He said it has to be your decision, you have to want it! So my journey began. I was met at the airport by Pastor Sam, a big white van and 7 other crazy women all talking to me at the same time. Pastor Sam tried to turn around in the covered parking and got the van stuck and we had to back up with the top of the van grinding against the cement ceiling. I thought oh my I should jump out and run, but I didn’t.
Through the next few months I went through healing, and intensive one on one counseling with a licensed counselor. I was given a mentor, and daily group meetings, parenting classes, computer classes, celebrate recovery, bible studies, prayer meetings, going to church, self-help programs, a personal trainer and dance classes, and lots of digging.
With all this it was very dark because for the first 4 months I had no communication with my husband or children. In fact, when Pastor Sam called him to just let him know I was there he didn’t have anything kind to say about me. He was done! Pastor Sam kept reaching out to him and loving him and he always had my best interest in mind. Pastor sam was going to bat for me, making himself available to my husband and kids. All I had was the hope of restoration that I felt God had spoken to me. Faith is seeing the things that aren’t as if they were. After much prayer and surrender to God my husband agreed to let me call the kids once and write them. He wasn’t ready to talk to me or write so I just kept believing and praying. After some time had passed pastor Sam called me to his office and said I have some good news for you, your husband wants to talk to you. Now remember the divorce has already been filed and he planned to go ahead with it but he would talk to me. Soon we began to talk on a regular basis. I got to talk to the kids also. I was talking to them twice a week. Although Pastor sam cautioned me about not getting my hopes too high, we both knew that God was answering prayers. I also remember Pastor Sherry telling me often not to give up on God no matter what the circumstances looked like. She said don’t ever doubt what God says to you and keep believing for a miracle. God came through for me. Soon after our healing was in place I got a phone call and my husband had called the attorney to check on the divorce and he couldn’t find that it had ever been filed. God had misplaced those papers and they fell behind or under the desk into a place that was covered for months. There was no divorce, I was still married, I was scared.
This was enough for my husband to believe God wanted us back together. We continued to grow and struggle. We talked about our future and I fought out day by day still in Dallas working my recovery. It was not easy. There were times I had wanted to give up. I had told every secret, I had been dug in and gone through with a fine tooth comb. I would not give up, my husband, my children, my end of program was in sight, I could do it. I can be victorious.
God continued to blow my mind and restore my husband and children beyond my expectations. My children and husband have been healed. My youngest baby who didn’t even remember me has had her memory of me restored by the Lord. God has answered all my prayers for healing and changed me on the inside that I am unrecognizable on the outside. I went home for short visit because of a sickness in the family and people who had known me for years didn’t even know who I was. God even restored my teeth which should have been in horrible shape from all the drugs. I went to the dentist and they only found one cavity. Praise God. He began to see the change over time and finally after nearly 7 months in the program Pastor Sam organized and paid my way for a weekend trip all the way to Tennessee to visit my family. After returning, RHM helped me get a job and a bank account to save money for when I would graduate. It was such a satisfying feeling to have a job and be able to save money along with build good relationships and integrity. After graduating, people actually loved my work ethic and hated to see me go, which was totally new for me.
But, although all of those things were amazing, my deepest desire was to be re-united with my family that I realized how much I'd taken for granted. And once again, God was faithful and went beyond my wildest dreams could imagine. As my year began winding up and graduation was in sight, I had a thought go through my mind about how it could be. I had been to a graduation before and saw the purity ceremony that Pastor Sam and Pastor Sherry performed for those girls that wish to have it and thought to myself, wouldn't it be nice if instead my husband and I could renew our vows. At first I kept the thought to myself, but eventually after praying about it spoke to Pastor Sam about it and before I could even get the thought completely out(I'm sure most of you can relate lol) he answered me with yes let's do it. So thus began preparation for not only a graduation, but a wedding as well. People stepped up everywhere donating things to make it happen. The dress, flowers, the cake, decorations, and so much more than I could imagine started to come together. God, through RHM allowed me to have a fairytale wedding that I always dreamed about but assumed was impossible. I watched miracle after miracle fall into place even down to the smallest of details and for the first time see how much purpose my life had.
When God says He will restore and make all things new He means everything He doesn’t miss a single detail of your life. I am truly a new creature through Him. I can’t thank God enough for giving me another chance at life and the dreams I thought were lost and for sending me to Restored Hope Ministries. Since graduation, I moved back home to Tennessee with my husband and three children and God hasn't failed to continue the miracles he began at RHM. I was without a car and within a few weeks of being home was blessed with a car along with $5,000 to help our family. My youngest child who didn't even really remember me, has bonded to me in a way that only God could do. It's as if God has ended things better than what they ever were before they were broken. People in the church that my husband pastor's that I believed wouldn't believe in me or receive me back, has welcomed me with open arms. I lead worship every service and more and more God is opening doors for me to teach and share my story.
God has done so much more than what I can name here today, and the exciting part is knowing that this is only the beginning of my story and the purpose God has for me.
As far as RHM is concerned, I would recommend it without hesitation regarding donations or to anyone needing a place for healing and help. I can't say that I always agreed with Pastor Sam or that I wasn't in his office many many times. I can't say that I haven't stormed out of his office or that I haven't surely added a few gray hairs to his head, or that he hasn't added a few to mine. But I can say that without a doubt that he and Pastor Sherry along with their volunteers love without reservation and give until it hurts. Their hearts are toward God and to the help of hurting women. My life has been forever changed and I will forever show my gratitude to God for allowing RHM to be a major part of the turning point in my life. I have truly been given hope and can’t wait to see what God has in store because you see…. This is just the beginning of my Story. We are forever FAMILY.