Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kingdom Dreamer: Aimee

This is Aimee. A dear friend. A very dear friend. We are new moms together and I am so blessed by her friendship. We all have a past and I asked Aimee if she would share her story. She has been so kind to do so. I don't think details of our testimonies before we are changed are always necessary to bless the readers or hearers, but Aimee tells her past in a way that truly points towards the new creation that she is. It is a bit lengthy, but I promise, you will be blessed by reading this.
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This is a testimony of Gods love, grace and power to change lives. I pray it gives you hope and blesses you!

I come from a Christian family. I have been a believer in Jesus Christ as my lord and savior my whole life, but I have not always lived this way. My upbringing was a strong foundation but I think with life we all put other things before God some times. I know I did and definitely strayed from my faith when I did. For quite some time in junior high & high school, I had depression but did not know it yet. After I was out of college I did not realize what a strong hold the depression had taken on my life, although my fiancé knew something was very wrong. It was taking a toll on our relationship as I began to embrace the darker feelings I had been getting.

I was 22 when I broke up with the love of my life believing he could do better than me and shortly after I quit my job. I don’t know if I knew I was depressed at that point but I know there was a darkness I was in, that only kept getting darker. I had come to embrace it though. I believed the lies of the enemy, that if I accepted and embraced these strange feelings that I would be happier with myself and who I was becoming. That deception led me to a time of self-destruction.

After my break up I only became more depressed. I was sad that I threw away a good relationship, but felt like it was the only thing I could do. I was also out of work and after a month of not finding a job in my field I decided I would go to Toledo to strip. That was where my "ex" lived and I wanted to be closer to him any way. Once I told him I was stripping I was no longer welcome in that circle of friends any more and things only became more lonely for me. I quit driving an hour home and paying for hotel rooms to sleep because that was too expensive for me, a new stripper who still was not making much money.  I started sleeping in my van when I didn't have some one offer me a place to stay. Looking back on those years now I can remember the different degrees of dark, cold and loneliness as if I were going through a cave with multiple caverns going deeper into the earth.

Stripping soon became my escape; my drug! I used it to withdraw from the pain of my reality.  It was like I could exit the world by looking into the mirrors and just watch myself dance, zoned out to the music. I began to really love stripping. I did not realize it then, but I was doing the work of the enemy.  I am so thankful to now know that God can cause ALL things to work for his good!

I continued to struggle with depression, anxiety and panic attacks off and on for the next several years, even with antidepressants. I even had my antidepressants increased 3 times. At one point I realized how lonely I actually was and went back into depression. I began writing my depressive thoughts in a journal. My thoughts became cries to God because I knew not only was he the only one I wanted to listen, but I felt like he was the only one who really cared! Among my prayers I reminded my self that I would never commit suicide, while crying, because I knew that some day God would have something better for my life. I reminded myself that one day I would truly be happy. But the sadness was not gone yet, so I just sat alone and cried my tears to God.

In those 3 years I meet people who changed my opinions and my views of people over all. My eyes were opened to many things I never thought I would see. Were before, I would have passed judgment on a girl who you might think to be promiscuous, I now saw a young woman struggling in her life and crying out, in her spirit, for help. I saw drug addicts cry to the ones they loved because they were being given up on. I saw a prostitute alone in a room praying to God for a better life. I saw men who the world looked down on, now just looking for some one to love and care about them. I saw other men, who the world looked to as upstanding, now ready to degrade and exploit women. I saw many different forms of sexual exploitation, including human trafficking (although I did not know it was trafficking at the time). I believe God was using this terrible time in my life, to open my eyes to the spirit of his people who were suffering as well, and not be so quick to simply label them as whores (I hate that word now, but it is the word people use!) All that we see is the exterior. We forget this was a person made in the image of God, with a soul and spirit. These are the lost and hurting and there is a reason for there pain.

Of all the people who impacted me the most, it was a girl who was a prostitute that opened her doors to me after leaving her pimp from Detroit. I’ll call her Mia. Her life had aged her beyond her years. I thought she was in her 30s and was very surprised to find out she was only 23. She was my age! She was a drug addict and compulsive liar. I wanted to help her so bad, but I was hardly equipped & barely stable myself. I could tell so many stories about her and many others, but I would be close to writing a book to tell them all. My point is, as cold as my life was, these people touched me. My heart cried out for them! I had to move out of Mia’s house very quickly after only a few months for my own safety.

After 3 years I left stripping because the guy I was with wanted me to take another job opportunity. I would be able to make money comparable to stripping doing what I when to college for at an oil refinery that was offering me a position. I didn’t want to because I loved stripping but I did it for the guy.

I was now 25 and no longer dancing but things were not over yet. The relationship I was in was far from healthy. We broke up shortly after I started my new job. My depression stayed with me still, and actually increase quit a bit at the new job. Also the anxiety came back stronger do to the long hours and the high-risk nature of my new job. I didn't want to quit yet though because I thought I should give it at least a year. Six months after starting that job I met the man I later married who is truly amazing. He stuck with me as a friend through out all of my emotional struggles and problems with my job. We married and bought a house together after only a year.

My home life was so blessed! I know it was truly blessed by God but I could not say the same for my job. I struggled on a daily basis at work. I wanted to quit so many times but would not because I did not want to put the entire financial burden on my husband. And there were not a ton of jobs that paid what this one did. After more than 3 years at that place and dealing with a whole new batch of struggles in my life, I would find myself crying alone at work. I would even burst in to tears at home just because I thought about work. I could not take it any more! I had come up with a plan. I would go back to school for a new career and I would pay for it by stripping again! I hated my job more than anything and I needed to get out before I lost my mind, or worse... I only told my husband about my plan to strip again and he was not happy, but there was nothing he could do. My mind was made up!

I passed all the necessary requirements to get into the new specialized school I planned to go to except a final interview. The interview was the last step before I would quit my job, start school and begin to strip again at the age of 28. I had been working 96-104 hours a week for a few weeks so I was excited to leave it all behind. It was the midnight portion of my shift and the day before my final interview. I was talking to one of my coworkers, Doug, who I often complained to about how I could not handle the job. After several hours of waiting on-call in the shop I opened up, and told him I was going to quit. I almost had tears in my eyes and my voice cracked as I told him I struggled with depression and that I could not mentally handle a job of such high stress and high risk to my health and safety. I told him I just couldn’t handle it any more. I had to leave. I never told him where I was going or what I would do but I admitted to him I was struggling! I was so tired and needed to sleep, but before the conversation ended, Doug asked if he could pray for me! I told him I would really appreciate it!

He stood up, put his hand on my shoulder and began to pray. The words of his prayer caught my attention. It was like he knew more of what to pray for than I did. Could he read my mind? After the prayer I gave him half a smile, said thanks and went to find a quiet place to sleep before the bosses came in for the morning. I sat down in a chair in a dark room and thought about his prayer again, but still very determined to quit my job and go back to stripping. Only a second later I fell asleep.
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I woke up about 5:00am feeling incredible peace. I do not mean it at all figuratively when I say I was truly a new person the moment my eyes opened! I knew I was different and I knew it was something God had done. My first couple thoughts were, "I am not going to strip and I am going to tell the dean of students in the interview today, I can not start school this semester". I was not stressed or worried or concerned with any thing. I just knew... I knew it was God with me, I knew he had changed my mind and my heart. I knew I was full of his love! I saw everything differently all of a sudden. I felt love for every one I worked with even the people who I previously could not stand. I suddenly saw stripping as something heart breaking. I saw that I was exploiting gifts that God had given me in doing that. But I had no shame or guilt because I new God loved me, forgave me and that’s why he did what he did for me. I knew he could use it for good and his purpose. I was only sad for all the people involved in strip clubs who did not yet know how it hurt them and saddened God. I wanted to show them GODS LOVE. I wanted every one to know what God had done for me and in only an instant! I was not scared of my job any more. I knew it was where God wanted me to be and I was ok with that. All these thoughts and I had not even left the room yet.

I still don’t totally understand how God did what He did. I never once thought about changing my mind. I just went to sleep and when I woke up, my mind was changed. Was He speaking to me in my sleep? Did He change my mind for me? I almost felt like it was as Saul to Paul type conversion because it happened so fast, with out even thinking about it. All I know is God put his foot down and put a stop to my ridiculous plan and instead gave me a new life! It will never stop amazing me!

That day I could not thank Doug enough for his prayer, but I don't think he understood the extent of the change that had taken place. My day was also filled with incredible peace and joy and a love that I know could only have come from God. It was a very happy day at work!

I attempted to listen to Christian radio on my way home that day but the station was very staticky. When I got home I looked up the song I thought was coming through. It was "Beautifull Beautiful". I played the song on my computer & tears flooded my eyes as I heard the words. I truly worshiped my savior, Jesus, for the 1st time. I played the song again filled with joy as I danced around my house thanking God for what he had done for me. I used to dance for the devil in darkness and despair, now I danced for Jesus with joy and freedom!

On my way to the interview I was not nervous at all and even happy with what I had to tell them because I knew it was Gods will for me! On my way home I worshiped and thanked God more and was baptized with the Holy Spirit, there in my car.

That day began a whole new journey in my life; a path that God had just for me. This was a new way filled with things beyond my understanding but filled with peace, joy and overflowing love!

I began journaling my prayers and the words God gave me but I wanted to use my old journal from all those years ago. I was writing in it for a while before I was ready to read any of the old entries from my stripping days. After some time I figured I would just look back to see how far my life had come. As I read, I found a prayer from one of the most sad and lonely times I was going through. This is what it read
" God, please help me to get through this hard time in my life. The past year has been crazy & I want you to be a part of my life again. Please bring positive influences back into my life. Please help me to make the right decisions. I have gone down a very rough path in my life & I want very badly to get back on track. I know if I have faith in you, you will show me the way. I love you Father in heaven. Thank you for the faith & hope that keeps me going."
As I read, I remembered gasping for breath from crying so hard at the time, but now I could only be thankful with tears of joy! I was 22 when I wrote that & 28 years old when I re-read it. It had been 6 years… and God answered my prayer. He still continues to answer that prayer in my life!

I pray this story gives you hope; hope in a God that answers when you call on him; hope is in Jesus. When you call, He WILL answer. God answers prayers; whether it is some thing you see right now or some thing you won't notice for years down the road. God is faithful! He does what he says! So never loose hope in any situation and never loose faith in him!

John16:24"...Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be complete"
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I’m 30 years old now. It’s been 2 years since God gave me new life & He has only continued to bless me. He gave me peace at work. New people came to know Jesus at the refinery. My husband and I were blessed with a son and shortly after God gave us peace for me to stay home with my son. He brought amazing Christian brothers and sisters into my life. I also was able to answer the calling on my life in fighting local human trafficking.

One thing I realized after all that, was I could not begin to help women and girls who were struggling until I was healed myself and in relationship with Christ. After I was born again, God showed me that I couldn’t help before, because I was part of the problem myself. I saw nothing wrong with striping before and when God opened my eyes, I saw the true exploitation of it. My heart was so broken for all forms of sexual exploitation; I could not just stand by while it happened! I wasn’t ok with doing nothing while people believed the lies of the devil that were causing so much pain. I never stopped thinking about all the girls who opened my eyes before and now God has showed me even more. I was determined to use the bad that had happened in my life to help others, especially sex trafficking victims and women like Mia. I am now working with two different local Christian ministries to do just that. Many people have been called into ministry all around the world but I know my calling is right here in North West Ohio. I don’t believe I can do any good picking the speck out of any one else’s eye until the log is removed from my own. I just pray God continues to led me and many others as we work to help women and girls, who are lost and hurting, heal and bring the truth, light and love of Jesus to every one involved in sexual exploitation.

The peace and love of Jesus to all who read this!
I pray you have been blessed!

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