If you’ve never met a real life Disney princess, I hope you get the pleasure at some point in your life. When I first met Amanda, she gave me “I sing with birds” vibes (all in love Amanda!). She was sweet, down to earth, and extremely helpful with me transitioning into my new position as she was the only other “me” at the agency. Once I got to know her, though, I realized that was only one side of her. As much as Amanda was sweet, she was also a fighter, an advocate, a whistle blower, and an amazing friend. Together, we worked hard to reach out and provide services for our community, and I loved every minute of working by her side. Here’s Amanda’s story:
Our pastor challenged us to share our personal testimony on Easter, but truthfully I’ve been hesitant to share mine. My path hasn’t been pretty, but it sure has been blessed I can’t help but feel like God continues to tell me, “You have a story to share…so share it.” With vulnerability, here is mine.
I grew up in a Christian home. My parents have been active in the church throughout my entire life. Both of my grandparents and extended family members have also been very active in the church. So I grew up the same way. I asked Jesus into my heart at age 8 and was baptized at First Baptist Church of Columbia. For most of my childhood, I grew up thinking church and prayer were things I “should” do but didn’t really foster my personal relationship with the Lord. Because of this, I fell off the path during my teenage and early adult years. I experienced a great deal of trauma for many years and did things I’m not proud of. Truth be told, I felt the Lord tried His best to pull me out of that lifestyle so many times, but I just wouldn’t listen. There were several occasions I believe I could’ve easily died, and the only explanation I have for them was God had a purpose for me. He saved me every single time. I look back on those years with such sadness at the things I tolerated and allowed. My life would’ve been much different without those experiences.
Fast forward to 8 years later, when I had finally hit my rock bottom. I turned to the one place I knew I could: God. And I finally started listening. I made scary decisions like graduate school, cutting off relationships, and changing my lifestyle. I became involved in church again. And I found the more I listened, the more the Lord blessed me. That doesn’t mean things were easy. It just means more and more peace came each time. I believe I have become a better trauma counselor, social worker, wife, and friend because of the terrible things I’ve experienced. I do believe terrible things can serve a purpose. I’ve just been lucky enough to see how the things I’ve experienced served a purpose in my life. I started realizing all the times the Lord tried so hard to have a relationship with me. And that’s when my relationship with Him grew. I may have gone astray, but He never left me.
Fast forward again to becoming a mother. The entire process of becoming a mother to a premature baby was terrifying and traumatizing in many ways. Nothing went as I had expected or “planned”. Once again, things happened that can only be explained by God’s miracles. Yes, I feel I have PTSD from those experiences. Yes, I still feel like I struggle with grief from those experiences. But I am also able to hold so much gratitude that the Lord allowed me to see a miracle in my daughter. And now I have become so much more vocal about my faith. I never needed proof before that God was real, but there could never ever be a doubt in my mind now. I am so thankful the Lord is loving, forgiving, protective, and miraculous. As my journey with Him continues, I know He is the only reason I am where I am today. Jesus changed my life.