My parents divorced when I was about 4 years old. My older sister and I soon became latch-key kids. I became that kid mothers don't want around their kids. Getting into fights, flooding our upstairs apartment because I forgot to turn off the water when I was doing dishes because someone asked me to go swimming. Almost burning said apartment down because - grease fire. Digging through trash bins looking for treasures. My Mom often said that's why she got remarried, because she couldn't control us.
So in 4th grade Sis and I ran upstairs on a Sunday night after our dad dropped us off and we walked in to find a strange man sitting in a strange chair. Meet my new stepdad. They had gotten married while we were at our Dad's place.
This began a new phase in my life. One of living with an abusive alcoholic. Leaving my home state of California to go from job to job with this man. Leaving my dad behind and all my family that I had felt safe with. I began to learn to live in survival mode. Being gone as much as I could and lying about where I was. I looked to boys for the love I so desperately wanted. I used drugs and alcohol in ways that should have killed me. I believed the words this alcoholic stepdad spewed at me in his drunkeness - that I was worthless and unacceptable. That I would never amount to anything.
I always pictured God draped in a black robe, pointing a finger at me in judgment and disappointment. Until the summer of 73. I was 16 and I was visiting my cousin and his college roommates in southern California. I thought I was going to be partying, but it turned out they were all Christians. What was that about? They took me to a free concert in a big circus tent. These bands sang about Jesus. There were hippies all around me but they weren't doing drugs. They were singing and raising their hands. When songs were over, instead of clapping they held up their index fingers. I later learned that meant One Way. That night I was confused and a little scared. I had never seen church like this.
The next day he took us to the beach, where I sat up on some rocks and watched God's love unfold in front of my eyes. The beach below was full of long-haired hippies, holding hands, hugging, and singing while others were in the ocean being baptized. I felt something inside that was foreign to me. I felt the stirring of God's love. For the very first time I was faced with the fact that God loved people. I wanted whatever those people had. I wanted to know this God. I didn't know what a sinner's prayer was but I asked God if I could have this love - if He would love me like He loved all those people on the beach.
It's been a crazy journey but all these years later I finally know that He does love me. Even in my messed up-ness. You can hear more of my story in our podcast episodes.