I firmly believe that it’s important to remember where you come from, for a variety of reasons. Here are a few.
- Getting stuck in the present circumstances can affect your level of gratitude. (ie, forgetting that you have things now that you used to pray for)
- Forgetting the past can lead to undesirable repetition of it.
- Retelling your triumphs has great power to enable someone else to conquer their mountain.
In all my recounting of the past, my sole desire is that I would inspire someone else. The past is the past, and I am no longer defined by it. In no way do I desire to cut open and examine old wounds just because.
That being said… let’s begin.
From Victim to Victor
I was two years old when I became part of a “broken” family. I lived in Grandma’s house with my dad, brother, and sister — and of course, Grandma. My aunt may have already been there as well, but I’m not sure. (It’s possible there were others living there, as was often the case.)
Looking back, we had quite the family structure (or lack?) going on at home, but I was clueless. I loved my life. We often had people from the church at our house. My older brother and sister seemed to have so many friends that loved to come over.
My biggest fear was my daddy growing too tall for me to see him. (He’s six foot five, and I didn’t quite understand that people DO stop growing!) He was my absolute hero. I was Daddy’s Girl to the extreme.
My mom started coming to visit with me at some point when I was four (I think). We could only go to public places, and she could not come in our home. I remember asking why she didn’t live with us; I was told that maybe we could talk about it “when I was older”. She came back to the church when I was around seven, which opened the door for me to spend a lot more time with her.
Some interesting events occurred when I was nine, including the opening and closing of a family restaurant. This was the catalyst for a myriad of painful events and circumstances over the next several years of my life. I will not go into any of the details in this post, but needless to say, the happy life I knew never returned.
My “hero” became a completely different man. Drowning in disappointment and defeat, Daddy turned into a monster. Day after day was filled with senseless fights and screams. Grandma became more and more haggard and worn as the weeks turned into months. There was no end in sight to the madness.
It was around this time that I became aware of the financial disaster in which we found ourselves. It’s hard to ignore the daily calls from creditors and debt collectors, which I often answered because I thought it was fun to answer the house phone. (My how things change! Ha!)
Grandma worked hard to pay the bills. She had a full-time job, she baked cakes for everyone, and she did a lot of sewing. Oh, not to mention that she basically ran the entire household… laundry, dishes, food, etc. And most importantly, Grandma took me to church.
I bounced back and forth between the church school and Berryhill Public School from 5th thru 8th grade. It was during my final year in public school, at age thirteen, that my whole entire world turned upside down once again.
On the way home from an amazing getaway with my brother and his family, Brother told me the worst news I could possibly have imagined hearing.
“They think she may have cancer.”
I think I cried the rest of the way home, which happened to be hundreds of miles away still.
I remember exactly what Grandma wore the next day in Sunday service when she sang in the choir for the last time. I remember the next several days, staying in the hospital with whoever stayed with Grandma, because I just didn’t want to leave. I remember having an absolute meltdown outside Grandma’s hospital room, and several family members having to calm me down enough to convince me to go home with someone and get some sleep.
And unfortunately, the painful days that would turn into memories had only begun. Yet, in the midst of the darkest days of my life, I would discover a priceless treasure, One that would bring blessed peace and calm to my troubled seas.
The Year 2010
The year 2010 was a year of decision-making for me, even though I was only a brand-new teenager.
At the time, I was attending public school. (Daddy had started the school year as the cook at my previous school, but alas… Things went down, and needless to say, he didn’t work there anymore.) Since Grandma was sick and dying of cancer, she was staying with one of her daughters who could take care of her. I still lived with Daddy and an aunt. I think my sister had moved out by this time.
No shame to my sister for moving out — it quickly became clear that no one wanted to live there. By the start of April, I was the only living there most of the time.
You read that right. Thirteen-year-old me was living on her own 90% of the time.
How did you eat? Who took you where you needed to go? Who took care of the house? What on earth?!
Yeah. All of those questions are relevant, and to be honest, a lot of it is a blur. I don’t remember being scared. I don’t remember being hungry. I do remember being bored and sporadically getting very, very angry. My anger usually drove me to do funny things, like clean the house within an inch of its life… that is, as much as you can clean a rotting (literally), mouse-and-roach infested home.
People from church often picked me up and dropped me off, but I don’t really remember church. I was just blindly living life. No one at home cared what I did, because there was no one there! I started listening to music I had been taught not to listen to, music that was honestly not at all appropriate for a young teenager. I started dressing however I wanted. I watched a lot of movies, indulged in dirty, vulgar humor, and a lot of other stuff.
But hey — I still went to church. Though, I didn’t really plan on going much longer. My plan was to take the summer and transform myself, then to return to public school as a brand new person, unrecognizable as “previous me”.
Thank God He, and many others, never gave up on me.
A Turning Point
I remember the drive to one particular weeknight church service. Daddy actually took me. Long story short, we arrived with him screaming awful things at me. As I slammed the truck’s door, tears pouring down my face, I ran into the church, straight to the altar.
Someone told my brother what had happened, I guess. I was sobbing that ugly, heaving kind of sob, and no words were coming out. I felt his arms around me, and he just let me cry. He cried, too.
Through my sobs, I whispered, “I hate my life.” And at that point, I really did. I wanted to die.
My brother held me and told me that this is where I would find my answer, my reason for continuing to live — at the altar.
And, he was right.
I made a decision that summer to give Jesus a chance to change my life. I had gone to church all my life — received the wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost and been baptized in Jesus’ name at eight years old. But that summer, I really gave God my heart and life.
I went back to my church’s school in August as a 14-year-old freshman. My life was still a wreck, but inside, I was changing.
Goodbye, But Not Forever
Grandma moved back in with us for a short time (and suddenly, everyone else was there, too?), but relapsed and went down fairly quickly. She passed away on February 28, 2011.
I was the last one she spoke to, and some of her last words were, “Always trust God, Kelsi. He’s the only One who will never leave you.”
And, she was right.
The next several years of my life were filled with many more questions than answers. I grieved almost unbearably over the loss of my sweet Grandma, while simultaneously dealing with a Daddy I no longer recognized. I lived in a home where I felt painfully out of place. Many times I curled up on the floor and cried out for God to take away “the label”. I didn’t want to be a victim of circumstances, destined to suffer and fail in everything I did.
I threw myself into church and into school. I studied God’s Word like my life depended on it, because it did. I found strength in words like…
“When my father and mother forsake, then the Lord will take me up.”
“He will cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust…”
“…be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee…”
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes…”
Making Up the Difference
God put several families in my life that helped me, prayed with and for me, let me escape in their homes — whatever I needed. They taught me what real love looked like, what GOD’S love looks like, by the way they loved me… even when I thought I was unlovable.
Were there times I failed? Oh my — almost daily. Some days I withdrew, barely even smiled. Some days I treated my best friends with the harshest cold shoulder you’ve ever seen. Some days I cried until I had blood blisters around my eyes.
But, you know what?
God never left me. I never suffered alone. I never cried alone. I never retreated alone. He always had mercy. He kept reaching for me. He kept loving me through other people. He kept pressing me forward, pulling me out of my darkest thoughts.
My Battle Cry
In May 2012, I received the Student of the Year award at my school. As my principal was introducing the award, describing the winner before making the announcement, he said…
I have watched this young person rise from victim to victor.
This became my battle cry. I will not be a victim — I will be a victor. Not by might or by power, but by the grace of God.
In 2014, I graduated as Valedictorian of my class with a full-ride scholarship to any university of my choice within the United States.
In 2018, I graduated with a BSBA from the University of Tulsa as Cum Laude, with a few awards from the Collins College of Business.
In 2019, I married the love of my life, pledging to stick with him no matter what comes our way.
In 2020, we bought our first home and had our first child. Our home is clean and free of mold, bugs and rodents. Our baby girl has a mommy AND a daddy who love her, and each other.
Is this a boast? Should you look at me in awe and amazement because I’m some amazing person who has conquered?
On my own, I am nothing. I have failed in more ways than I can count. I wanted to quit so many times. There have been moments in my life when I wanted to die (no, literally). I should have been a victim. I should have been in the DHS system, just another number, just another statistic. Honestly… I shouldn’t even be alive.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God…
Ephesians 2:4-8 (KJV)
He is the reason I am alive. He is the reason I have risen from victim to victor. He is the reason I have conquered. And, I will spend all my days giving Him the glory, and telling others that He can do it for them, too
This is just a snapshot of a memoir I plan to complete by the year’s end. If you have any questions, or you’d like to chat with me more, feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com.