• Terri Kelley

Part one - "Dear Younger Me"

(Mercy Me, “Dear Younger Me” - lyric clips)

Dear younger me, where do I start? If I could tell you everything

that I have learned so far then you could be one step ahead of

all the painful memories still running thru my head -- Or do I go

deep and try to change the choices that you’ll make cause

they’re the choices that made me -- If I knew then what I know

now condemnation would have no power, my joy my pain would

have never been my worth -- It's not your fault you were never

meant to carry this beyond the cross...

The first time I heard this song play on the radio, I was out for a run and ended up on the side of the road bent over in an emotion puddle. The words had triggered the deep pains of my past and the question I have asked God so many times… “why did you abandon me as a young girl?” In my messy tears, I begged Him to let me go back and talk to that young girl hoping it would change all of the heartbreak I had walked through in this life and undo the fear and shame that had lodged itself so deep inside my soul. My story is not the one that I would have chosen and certainly not the one I had dreamed of so many years ago, but it is the one God let me walk through- perhaps for such a time as this. Friend, I pray my story will in some way encourage you especially if you carry the pain of a broken heart. Jesus still works miracles today and can breathe life back into your shattered heart. I know this because I am His miracle story.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

My dreams as a young girl were grand and colorful… full of life and purpose. I was a Jesus-lovin girl from as early back as I can remember and dreamed that I would marry a youth-minister like my dad, have lots of kids and do ministry work. We lived in Houston during my younger years where our lives were centered around church and the people. We attended church services every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night attempting to be the first ones there and always the last ones to leave. Since dad was the youth-minister, we were typically there more than 3 times a week which was fine with me because I loved hanging around all the teenagers and doing the fun things that they were doing. I especially loved the devotionals followed by a competitive late-night volleyball game where the teenagers always made me feel included and loved. They became a part of our family which allowed me to witness their joys and struggles as well as their love for Jesus.

I was a dreamer with a bit of a wanderlust spirit for as far back as I can remember. School felt confining and somewhat boring except for the few subjects I cared about-- music, home economics and PE. The dreamer in me would rather be home playing house with my baby-doll, baking cookies in my easy-bake oven and cranking up the song “Son of a Preacher Man” while belting it out as if I were singing it to my man. The wanderer couldn’t wait to jump on her bike and ride through the neighborhood to see what the rest of the world was up to or look for new adventures on the dirt trails hoping they would lead her somewhere exciting far away. Some of the best days were when my brother and I would gather all the neighborhood kids for a baseball game in the back cow-pasture. We would scrounge up as many bats and balls that we could find, a few gloves that we argued over, and several dry cow-patties that we placed around the infield and used for bases. You can imagine the fun we had when a player discovered the patties were not as dried up as we thought.

I would love to say that my childhood was only full of fairytales and baseball but sadly it was not. Darkness had manipulated it's way into my heart by the age of 9 when I was raped by a neighborhood teenager. His words spoken over me that day were that I was useless and no good... words that would stay with me for many years to come- as well as his threats to hurt me or my family if I ever told anyone about our secret. He then quickly pushed me out his front door leaving me to walk home alone, hurt and confused. Around the same time period, I was sexually assaulted by our next door neighbor who was married and had three small children. I loved caring for the children but occasionally the father would use his baby girl and lure me into the back room with him. I don't remember details of what took place in that room, but I do remember feeling that familiar fear and shame as he put his finger over his mouth and whispered, "shh". We would soon move to a new neighborhood that seem far enough away but it was not long until we saw our old neighbor slowly driving by our house. He would circle around the block a few times, stop to watch our house and then leave. This continued for awhile until one day he came knocking on our door asking if I could come out and see him. I hid in my room asking God to make him go away... and he did because that would be the last time I remember seeing him. The traumas experienced were filed away in my mind as secrets I could never tell but the fear and shame I carried would take root and create a dark hole in my soul.

My family moved from the big city to a smaller town in Central Texas where my parents felt would be a safer place to raise a family. We were excited about our new little town and I was looking forward to starting my 7th grade year which would be my first year of Jr. High. We became part of a local conservative church where I grew to love many good people, but the teachings there would soon fill my heart and mind with confusion and a distorted view of God along with a fear that I could never be good enough. It was the early 70’s and there was an all-out sexual revolution going on so the church seem set on putting the fear of God in us especially when it came to sexual sin. In our girl’s class, we were told that all good Christian girls must save themselves for marriage—if not, a Christian boy would not see you as pure and would not want to marry you. In my experience, Christian boys wanted sex just like all the other boys and I often wondered what was being taught in their church class. Even adult men who claimed to be Christians were inappropriate in their behavior towards me as a teenager which left me confused to what proper sexual boundaries should be. I quickly learned that a girl had no voice, it was a man’s world and the church left no room for error.

But in all the confusion, I still had a heart that wanted to please God and do the right thing, so I chose to say 'no' to sex during my teen years. Since sexual assault of any age was not talked about in church, I was not clear on how God saw me or how others would see me when it came to sexual purity... and I never asked.

At age 16, I fell deeply in love with a young boy at a youth revival. His plan was to become a preacher and we dreamed of college and married life together in ministry and missions. He was kind and respectful… it was my fairy-tale coming true. Until it didn’t. He was older and about to head off to college so he would be moving on without me. My heart was broken and all the fear that I had of being rejected by a Christian man manifested itself into a deep anger and sadness. I remember the exact moment when the enemy whispered in my ear that I would never be good enough and that it was time to give up on my young girl dreams. With a heart buried in pain, I gave in to the lies which would set in motion a lifetime filled with many destructive decisions and a heart reduced to ashes.

It was not long after that when the bad-boy in school came calling and I fell head-first into the trap. He was about doing all the bad things that I had avoided in my life, but I loved the attention and affection he initially poured out on me. He was protective and attentive and I felt loved. But the relationship became more intense over the next several months with battles of jealousy and accusations that always left me having to prove myself trustworthy and good enough. Protective and attentive became controlling and abusive and saying "no" to sex with him became a personal rejection that escalated the anger. And in one night my life would be changed forever when my "NO" was not enough.

A month later I had become sick almost every day so a friend suggested that I take a pregnancy test. I did. The test was positive. I was pregnant.

To be continued...

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