I had a really wonderful childhood, I grew up on a farm in upstate NY with horses & cows. I lived in a "normal" home with my older brother, Brick and my parents. No one ever did drugs, never beat me, and no one was ever drunk around us. My parents have always been incredible parents & just celebrated their 50th anniversary.
We moved to Ohio when I was 13. When I was in high school I remember going to parties & it wasn't unusual for someone to offer me a joint, but I wouldn't ever smoke it, I couldn’t imagine disappointing my parents like that. Because drugs were just something that wasn't ever tolerated in my family. But then I’d turn around & drink a beer or two or three. I rationalized in my mind that it was OK, I wasn't doing drugs... for some reason I thought it was OK to drink – then I’d drive home. I didn’t really think it was a big deal, everyone else was doing it and I’d seen my parents drink before. Never out of control or drunk, but I saw alcohol as more acceptable than drugs and I rationalized why it was ok.
As an adult, my life LOOKED perfect from the outside looking in. I earned two college degrees, owned my own home, was a network engineer, made over $60k per year, bought two brand new cars, and flew first class to Europe... But I was miserable, I HATED my life, I hated myself & I wasn't even sure exactly why. I felt a constant void that I was always trying to fill. I always hoped the NEXT thing would make me happy: I tried filling that void with shopping, relationships, success, traveling, nothing worked, I still felt empty.
I even knew who God was, I was a “weekend Christian” – I’d go to church a couple times a month & apologize to God for how I was living my life. I'd promise to change, to stop having premarital sex, to stop being so materialistic, to stop drinking too much, to never drive if I’d been drinking, ever again… I even believed these things as I said them but at the end of the day, I still felt empty – these were all just empty promises with no change.
That rationalization of drinking that I used in High School, became a habit for me. But I didn’t drink beer anymore; I drank wine – that was “classy” and sophisticated in my mind… And I didn’t have a problem, because I didn’t do drugs, I didn’t do shots or drink hard liquor. I never set out with an intention of getting drunk but I didn’t feel as bad or care as much when I drank, so I drank wine a LOT. I can’t tell you how many times I’d wake up & have to look out my window to see if my car was there because I didn’t remember driving home. Or I’d call a friend to ask what happened last night because I didn’t remember a thing… I was a blackout drinker…
I finally realized this wasn’t normal, maybe I needed to do something about my drinking, so I decided to check out an AA meeting. I went to two different places & it seemed that everyone there had lost something huge in their life. Their spouse left them, they lost their job or their license, their kids hated them… something big. I couldn't relate, I thought: I wasn't like ‘those people’ – I have a great job, I pay my bills, I don’t drink every day, I don't hide my bottles, I don’t drink in the morning, I don’t HAVE to drink, I drink because I want to, I drink wine not hard liqueur …. That convinced me even more that I didn’t have a problem… so I continued drinking as I had been.
I used this rationalization (and denial) until June 12, 2003. That night I came home from work, drank some wine & then went went out on a blind date to DeSha’s restaurant, continuing to drink a lot more wine. We sat and talked and drank wine, it was really nice. That’s the last thing I remember. I "came to" in a hospital bed with my parents looking over me on my right side, a doctor on my left sewing up my knee & a sheriff at the end of the bed. I had NO IDEA how I got there, I was so confused & didn’t remember anything… I asked what happened because the look on everyone’s face told me something awful had just happened, but I didn’t know what. I frantically asked them: Was I in an accident, did I hurt anyone, what’s going on??? The doctor sent in a Chaplin to tell me what happened… She said I had hit a pickup truck, that the driver was treated & would be ok… I felt awful for that, but I knew there was more, what wasn’t she telling me? Finally she told me that the passenger was killed. I didn’t understand how that could happen, there must be some mistake; I would never EVER hurt anyone, maybe I’d hit a tree or a pole, or hurt myself, but I would NEVER hurt someone else… I thought I was a GOOD girl, from a good family… This couldn’t be true….
According to what happened, I must have been awake for the entire crash, but for some reason I still don't remember it. I have had flashes of it over the years, but I don't remember anything between being in the restaurant and 'coming to' in the hospital.
I later found out Katy (the girl I killed) was the drivers fiancé, they were going to be married exactly 1 month from the night I killed her. Earlier that day they had a final meeting with their pastor going over their wedding vows. Katy was only 21 years old, she was an only child and she was pregnant with their 1st child. That night they were on their way to the store to get a baby monitor, to listen to their baby's heartbeat. I pictured everyone that had planned to come to town for her wedding, now had to come to her funeral. Her parents had to bury their ONLY child, only grandchild and only chance at ever being grandparents.
I hated myself so much I couldn’t stand to be in my own skin. I was beyond disgusted with myself & saw NO reason for me to be alive. I was planning on how to get away from my family to kill myself. I was going to take one of their cars & drive off a bridge. They kept telling me it was an accident; you didn’t mean to hurt anyone… which made me so angry, I was so sick of people being nice to me. Why couldn’t they understand that 2 people were dead & so many people were suffering because of what I did? How could they be nice to me? Why wouldn’t they leave me alone so I could DIE…? But they wouldn’t, I guess because they were afraid I would do something to myself.
Eventually, my brother Brick made me go talk to someone. He made me go to church & of all places, I REALLY didnt want to go there, because I knew they would be nice & I didnt want it... But he knew I couldn’t live with what I had done. When I walked in, God met me there, He spoke directly to my heart through a woman named Dana and my life has never been the same since.
I explained to her what I did & how I felt. She was the first person that understood, she said your right – what you did was horrible. You should feel bad, 2 people are dead because of your choice to get in the car drunk. This made me love her & trust her… It made me listen to what else she had to say. Instead of praying for me, she prayed for Katy’s family; for their peace and comfort, for God to surround them with his love. Then she told me about Jeremiah 29: 11-13:
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
She told me that if I killed myself I'd never be able to do anything good with what I did. That God still had a plan for my life. That he could still use me, but that I had to submit to Him. I now realize that God used Dana to speak to me. That even though I had just killed two of His Children and didn’t deserve anything from him, He still loved me. He could use all of the HORRIBLE things that I did, all of my bad choices I made and use it for His glory by changing my heart...
For the first time, I realized God wasn't just some far off being, (as I'd always pictured) but He was real, alive and with me every second of every day. (As He is with each of us) That He really did love me & want what was best for me. He wasn't only about judgment, but he was Love, Mercy, Grace & Forgiveness. He didn’t just want me to apologize to him; he wanted me to invite him into every part of my life, to be my best friend. Once I realized this, that’s when my life changed so drastically.
A month after I met Dana I was baptized - before I went to prison. It was incredible, when I went down into that water, I felt Him wash away my sins – all the hatred, drinking, materialism, murder, lying, judgmentalism… I actually felt it wash away, when I came out of that water – WOW, I felt new, clean, forgiven and loved… I was a new creation in Him & I felt it… I knew He forgave me completely & I had a fresh start…
After that, I told God that I was ready to go to prison. I was facing 16 years in prison for what I did. I’d accepted it and I was at complete peace. I remember singing “Shout to the Lord” waiting alone in the jail cell. My prayer was that God would give me as much time as he needed to change me into the person created me to be.
But then the sentencing came & I had to face Katy’s parents & fiancé. I told Dana that I couldn’t do it, that I just wanted to die again, I didn’t want to be alive knowing what I did to them. She said – you’re right, you can’t do this. But you aren’t alone anymore. You now have the Holy Spirit living inside of you that can help you through anything, including this. She was right, He helped me through it. And the most amazing thing happened – Katy’s dad looked at me & said I don’t hate you – I hate what you did, but I don’t hate you. I know that MUST have been the Holy Spirit speaking through him, because I don’t think any human could have that kind of compassion after what I had just done to his family.
I was sentenced to only 3 years in prison. I cried every single day for the first 1½ years, almost all day. I remember a counselor asking me if I needed to go to the psych ward. I KNEW that God forgave me, but I couldn’t forgive myself, I hated myself SO much for what I had done... Until one day the Holy Spirit revealed to me that forgiveness is NOT a feeling – it’s a CHOICE.
I realized I didn’t want to forgive myself, I thought that if I did, it would be like saying what I did was ok & what I did would NEVER ever be ok. But He showed me that all of my self-hatred & condemnation were only keeping me stuck & away from him. Those were not emotions from God, but I was allowing the enemy to keep me away from the peace & joy that God had for me. And that wasn’t His plan for my life. That He did have a future for me, but I had to choose His forgiveness & live in His grace.
I argued with God. I said "I can’t do it, I won't, how can I possibly forgive myself for what I did, how can I live in peace after destroying so many lives?" But He won that argument by bringing 1 sentence to mind “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13
I had to accept the fact that I could never change the past, but I could choose how I would live my future.
To be honest with you, a lot of people didn’t understand this. (Even Christians) I realized that people were much nicer to me when I hated myself because they understood that. But when I started living in Gods grace with joy & forgiveness – they accused me of having no remorse for what I had done. The first time that happened, I went back to my bunk & cried for 2 days straight. Until God revealed to me that was Not truth & I had to stop allowing the enemy control me through other people’s opinion of me. That was a first for me, but he transformed me, into a better and happier person than I had ever been. Even while I was in prison because for the first time, in my mind I was free, full of love, hope, joy & no longer stuck in self hate & condemnation - I wanted to live for Him & I knew it. He filled that void within me that I was always trying to fill.
Shortly before I left prison I read something about fruit trees. That the first 3 years of their life are spent being pruned & trained to form their shape & build them stronger so then they can produce a stronger fruit in the years to come. I believe that is why God only gave me 3 years. To train & shape my character into the person he wanted me to become. So I could leave prison & go out to produce better & stronger fruit for him.
My point to this is that God has a purpose for everything; he sees the big picture – even when it doesn’t make any sense to us. We only see the moment in front of us, but God sees the entire picture... He knows his plan for us and how it will all turn out... We just need to be patient and trust him.
We’re told in Psalms 37:4 "to delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
I was finally doing that, I was delighting in Him, enjoying being in His presence. I couldn't get enough of Him, reading His word, listening to praise music, going to church, ... getting to know Him better and Oh my goodness…. He has blessed me WAY beyond my wildest dreams… in so many ways:
First, He brought me a true man of God to be my husband, to love me and accept me, just as I am.
God allowed me to know that Katy’s fiancé didn’t blame God. Andrew (her fiancé) is now a part of the website sharing his feelings, pictures and his version of what happened that night. Andrew wrote me an email saying:
“I think this is the 1st time a crash victim and the person who hit them have ever compiled together to reach people on a higher scale, to tell the truth about choices and to show people that not only is God out there, but He walks with us, works with us and works through us.
And now, God has even allowed me to become a mom. I have two incredible daughters. It absolutely blows my mind how amazing God is, it is beyond my understanding… WOW – Only through the love, grace & mercy of God is this possible!!! By the “worlds standards” I deserve to be burning in hell for what I did, but through the blood of Jesus, I am washed clean and seen as a new creation in Him.
I realized that God has always wanted the VERY best for me, (as He wants the best for each and every one of us) but I had to choose to invite Jesus into my heart and into my life to allow him to take over and help me make better choices. To let his joy fill me no matter what the circumstance.
Were told in James 4:9-10 "to be afflicted, mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” I don’t think there can be healing until you take responsibility for the choice you made. Once I truly repented, I didn’t need to try to lift myself up because God healed, restored, & lifted me up…
He wants the VERY best for us, but we must choose to invite Jesus into our hearts and into our lives to allow him to take over and help us make better choices.