I’m Kathy and I was raised in a violent alcoholic home. I grew up witnessing my mother being beaten quite frequently. She had broken ribs and bruises, constantly, black eyes; I was beaten with a buckle end of a belt. My siblings were also abused. My dad was just broken, and had a rage inside of him. I grew up feeling unloved, and worthless. And even as a child thinking, why am I here, and I don’t want to live. I really struggled with suicidality and thinking that a lot. But yet, I’d see a fuzzy kitten, or a beautiful sunrise or, you know, look at my little sisters – they were 8 and 10 years younger than me when they were born – and just look at their teeninecy little fingernails and think there has to be someone or something greater that created all this beauty.
When I got to Junior High, my girlfriend invited me to a Bible study at her youth group, and I heard the gospel for the first time. I heard Jesus Christ, God’s son, He wants a relationship. He doesn’t want you to…you can’t be good enough, you can’t do enough to earn God’s favor. He loves you already and has a plan for your life. And I really struggled believing what he was saying, because I thought, people have told me they love me, but I don’t believe it, you know, I’m unlovable. I looked around the room and I thought, well, it’s probably true for all of them, but not true for me. And then, right as I was thinking that, the youth pastor was like, “and He wants a relationship with you, and you” – and he was pointing around the room and pointed at me. And it was like, I sensed God, you know, just saying, “Come to Me. Come to Me.” So I told my friend that had taken me there; I said, “I’m gonna walk home.” – This was only a few blocks from my house. – Because I had to think about what was being said. I felt like my chest was gonna burst open. You know, it was just so full of what was happening.
You know how the Bible talks about God’s knocking on the door of our heart? I literally felt a pounding on my heart. Like, I wanted so much to believe You. I said, “I don’t know if you’re real, but I want to believe this. It was like I could feel this light. I could feel this peace. I think I got a glimpse of heaven. I think I got just a touch of what we might experience one day when we’re face to face. I don’t know how to explain it. But I don’t think I would have believed if He hadn’t done that for me. In that moment, I think that’s what I needed. Because I was just talking to Him on the way home saying, “I don’t know. I don’t know. Are You real? Will You show me You’re real?” And it’s like, He did it. He did what I couldn’t do.
I was so afraid that if I didn’t get home soon, I was going to get in trouble. But I was so excited. I went home and told my mother. And, and then for months, I prayed and prayed about saying the same thing to my dad. He was not a believer and I wanted him to know what I had found. I chose the morning he hadn’t been drinking yet. I tried the best I could to share what I’d heard and spent 15 minutes telling my dad, you know, how God saved me and what happened and that He’s real. He just patted me on the knee and just said, “Well, I’m glad you found something to believe in. But for most people, religion is a crutch. It’s, it’s just great for you.” And he just walked away. I think because of my new life in Christ, it got harder and harder to see the destruction, to see the violence.
So life went on. I met my husband at 16. He was in college and I was in high school. We started dating exclusively. He had become a believer through another friend. So we both had become believers, but we didn’t really know how to live for God and, or how to trust Him and so we were a mess from the start. (Kathy laughs) Just living life our own way. But we got married, I was 20 and he was 23. We had two children 13 months apart, a daughter and a son – precious gifts. And then, when they were very young – I was 27 at this point – this is when God really got my attention and showed me that I was doing things my own way.
I’d been drinking a lot. My husband was worried. He traveled all week, every week. And I woke up this one morning with a hangover. It was a Monday morning, and he had left town for the week. We had had an argument the night before, and I just woke up in this angry, bitter place and back to my old way of thinking ‘no one could really love me. Now that he knows me, he really doesn’t love me. He doesn’t understand me. And my kids would be better off without me because I’m not a good mother.’ You know, just what we call in recovery circles that “stinking thinking.”
I put on my robe and went into the kitchen. I shut the door to the hallway so I wouldn’t disturb my kids and started getting breakfast ready. I was slamming down the toaster with the toast in it, you know, and hitting the light on and just this anger. – But if you had asked me if I was angry, I would have said no, I’m not an angry person. – As I was scrambling eggs, my little precious daughter came into the kitchen and just said, “Mama, what’s for breakfast?” in her cute little voice. And instead of responding to her in a loving kind way, I just started gripping that skillet tighter and tighter. And I just felt this, I don’t know, a volcano inside of me. And all the sudden, I just started beating this skillet on the stovetop over and over and screaming, “Leave me alone!” And yelling it over and over as I was beating the skillet on the stove top. Eggs were flying everywhere. And it was like I went into this black hole. I can’t even describe it. All of a sudden I felt a pain in my arm. I don’t know, I think an egg got on me or something. It jarred me back to where I was and what I was doing. I heard a whimpering and I looked over at my daughter and I didn’t see her, I saw me as a child through the fear and the pain she was experiencing. I felt her pain. And then God very gently said to me, “Kathy, you’ve become the very thing you’ve hated.” And that broke me. That broke my heart.
I got on my knees and asked God to forgive me for living life my own way, for having my daughter feel the same way I felt, and not believing Him, not believing His Word, or believing who He says I am. And I began, right then, asking Him, “Help me. Show me what’s wrong. What is wrong with me? Why am I doing this?” But that morning, I put the skillet down and went to my daughter and asked her, reached for her and said, “Can mama hug you?” and asked her forgiveness. You know, I said, “Mama was angry. I’m not angry at you. I’m so sorry I acted this way.” I was, you know, able to say to her something I wished I had always heard from my mom and dad. And I believe that morning, when I looked at my daughter, I believe He began the process of opening a door to my childhood that I had totally shut off from myself and everyone around me.
I went to AA thinking, “Oh, alcohol is my problem,” you know, and tried that a while. And it was helpful, but I realized over time, alcohol is not my problem. I’ve been missing God, I’ve not been surrendering my life to God and understanding what He wants. So we began this journey. We found a beautiful little church and started going there and the kids were learning a lot. My husband and I were growing in our relationship. We were learning a whole lot about the Lord and His truth. But I wasn’t sleeping. I would get maybe two to three hours of sleep a night, and I would wake up and have just fear coursing through me. And before, when it was happening, I would drink and that would help me sleep a little longer. Well, now I wasn’t drinking. We went to our pastor, and he said, “I think you have a chemical imbalance, so you might need to go to a psychiatrist. I just read this book. You might go to him, or you know, give him a call.” And so I did. They said it would be four months before I could see one of his associates; that he was not taking any new patients. So that was really difficult because we had prayed before we went to see our pastor and felt like this was the answer God gave us. And when they said no, and it’d be at least four months, it just really threw me for a loop again, I was very young in my faith.
My cousin happened to call me after I’d gotten off the phone, about a couple hours after I’d gotten off the phone with that psychiatrist office. And she said, “You have been on my mind all morning, all morning. And I had to call you. What is going on?” And I said, “I’m really struggling. I’ve been depressed, I’m not sleeping well. I was trying to get in to see this psychiatrist and he’s not taking new patients. And I can’t see anyone else, for four months, and I’m just not functioning well. I’m, I’m just waking up with this fear every night and I don’t know why. She said, “Who is this psychiatrist you’re trying to see?” I told her and she said, “Oh my goodness. Oh, I’ve got to go. I’ll call you back.” And so my way of thinking was, Oh, I bothered her. She’s busy. She, you know, she didn’t want to hear it. And then she called me back about an hour later and said, “You have an appointment with the psychiatrist at 9am tomorrow morning.” And so we went to the psychiatrist who “can’t take any new patients.”
I went to the psychiatrist and he listened to what I was experiencing and he said, “You have severe PTSD and severe depression, and we need to hospitalize you.” And so I was like, “Well, for how long?” And he said, “Six to nine months.” And I mean, the inside of me – six to nine months, you know, I was just like, no way! I was hospitalized. I was committed; I couldn’t choose to leave or not, I had to be committed by my husband. And as scary as it was to be in there, it was also…I learned a lot about dysfunctional families. It was a Christian group and so a lot of the Bible verses that God had been leading me to, they were sharing. And so it was like, confirming that I was where I needed to be. But after six weeks, my insurance said we can’t pay for anymore and so I felt sure, you know, yay, I was able to go home and be with my husband and children. And but, I’d learned quite a bit.
But while I was in the hospital, I started having these flashbacks of these hands coming at me. The first time it happened, I fainted. My blood pressure shot through the roof. And my therapist there was saying, “Kathy, what would make you so afraid that – whose hands are these?” And I, I said I didn’t know, but in my heart, I knew they were my dad’s hands coming at me. But I didn’t want to say it. And it caused just incredible shame and guilt. And, you know, I thought, I’m speaking poorly of my parents. But after about another year, even though I was out of the hospital, I continued with some counseling. It was during that time that I started remembering more and more, and the pieces finally came together for me. I remembered that my dad had incested me and sexually abused me, my entire growing up. And I just put that away and just would not, didn’t want to go there. And I really struggled with even believing myself. I kept thinking, maybe I’m crazy, you know, there’s something wrong with me. And I kept going back to that old way of thinking. And God kept…He was faithful, constantly faithful. He desired me to know the truth in the hidden parts.
I kept being convicted to go and confront my father. But the verses God used from Matthew 18, where it talks about, “if you if your brother or sisters sins, go and go alone.” And so I knew I had to go on my own. As I was driving there, I was very afraid. I didn’t know how my dad would respond, if he’d get violent. And I literally remember my hand shaking on the steering wheel and just tears, crying. And God reminded me, “You’re not alone. I’m with you.” And so I kept saying, “Just help me. Let me be Your spokesperson.” Because I really didn’t have a plan on what to say except to tell him what he’d done, that I remembered. I was just shaking so bad walking up to the front door. My legs were literally shaking and I started to knock on the door. And the moment my hand hit the door, it was that same peace I’d felt when I accepted Christ. It was like, I felt like this safe bubble had been blown around me. I stopped shaking. I was calm. He, he invited me in.
I hadn’t seen him for a while and he said, “Have you finally come to your senses?” And I said, “Well, I have something I need to talk to you about.” And he said, “Well, I brought your mother and your siblings here.” And I said, “No, this is just for you and me, for now.” And so we went to another room and I told him the bad news of what I remembered. As I shared that with him, he literally got up from where he was sitting and came over in front of my face, about two inches, and started bashing his hand in his other, his fist into his other hand, saying, “Shut up! Shut up!” Raging at me; hanging over me. And normally, that would have kicked me into a fight or flight. And I just sat perfectly still. It was like the Lord was right there with me. And I was just praying, saying, “God help me. You are my protector, You are my salvation, You are my all in all.” And I think he saw that it wasn’t affecting me and he started to walk away. As he did, I said, “That was the bad news. But I want to share the good news again with you. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what I’ve done, God loves us and He has a plan for us. And He wants a relationship with you. And He wants us to have a healthy relationship based on His truth and His love.”
And so I shared the gospel again with him, telling him that Jesus died for his sins, so he would not have to pay for them. And he went to the door and he looked at me and he said, “Get out. You’re crazy. They need to lock you back up, in that insane asylum that you were in.” And he told me to leave. And so I did.
I remember the Lord just speaking again, to my heart very clearly. “He’s not rejecting you. He’s rejecting Me.” And as I walked out, and got my car, I just felt so sad for my father. But yet, so loved by my Heavenly Father. And I drove home and was telling my husband what happened when my mom called and said, “Kathy, isn’t this funny? This only happened to you. Why would you say those things about your father?” And instead of being able to respond, I think it just caught me off guard. And I was like, that’s true. I don’t know of anyone else who this has happened to. God, and maybe I am crazy. And then the more I thought about it, and the more I thought about the verses, I said, “Lord, I went on my own. But there isn’t anybody else. There aren’t two or three witnesses.” And so that was a Saturday, and I got in bed and I just, I didn’t want to get up out of bed – ever. And I thought, “See, I can’t even trust You.” I was so angry. “Where are my witnesses?”
I woke up the next morning, and I didn’t want to go to church. It was Sunday morning, and I didn’t want to go. And my husband said, “Yes, we need to go.” And he helped me get ready. He put his arm around me and we walked into church. I sat between the pew side of the church, the wooden pew and him, and just cried the entire time. I don’t think I heard a word of it. And as we were leaving, my cousin, who happened to be going to the church that we were at, kind of cut me off coming down the aisle. She stepped in front of me and said, “Kathy, what is going on? I can see you crying. I’ve been so worried about you since you were hospitalized. And I’ve been afraid to ask you this, but I’m just gonna ask you. Did your dad sexually abuse you? Cuz he tried to with me and he did my sister.” And I just was speechless. And I just said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry that happened.” Inside, I was just thanking, God. Thank you so much and forgive me for my unbelief.” And that began the process of me, just trusting Him with so much. He proved Himself over and over to me to be faithful.
Through that whole process, He showed me how much anger and hatred and bitterness I had in my heart. I actually told my husband one day, “I need a few hours. I’ve just got to go sit with God. And just… I’ve got to quit being this angry. Because it was harming me more than anything. Now that I knew why I was angry. It wasn’t, it wasn’t coming out sideways anymore. But I was still struggling with depression quite a bit. I went up to a park, Flagpole Hill actually. I took my Bible, was sitting there for a long time, and as I was pouring my heart out to God, He also revealed how angry I was at Him. And I started screaming, “How could You let this happen? I was a child! I was a baby girl!” And then I said, “Why didn’t you just kill him?”
And He said, “I love your father.”
That’s when I started studying forgiveness, because I was trying to place myself above my father. I was rating our sins – his is worse than mine. And God says, it all falls short of His glory. We’ve all fallen short of His glory. And He loves us. He wants a relationship with us. And I’d been praying, “God, let me see my dad and my mom with Your heart and with Your eyes, you know. Show me.” And when He said that to me, “I love your father.” That changed it for me. That changed my thinking, my feelings that I had a right to be angry. I don’t. God’s justice is perfect, not mine. My anger doesn’t bring about God’s righteousness. And that changed my heart.
A miracle happened in my life that I was able to go from hating being around my dad, hating for him to touch me, hating for him to be near me, hating him, really – to loving and caring for him. That I wanted the best for him. God’s best for him. You know, all of us have a story. And it’s God’s story. It’s not ours. It’s God’s story. It’s His and we just need to proclaim it.