Julie Stevens

July 7, 2016

I wasn’t always this gal with a heart overflowing with love, thankfulness, and joy. Sometimes I feel like falling on my face in a puddle of my own tears of gratitude when I think of all the Lord has done for me.

The first 23 years of my life were as different as they could be. I grew up getting violently abused from a dad who made sure it was loud and clear he didn’t want me. He also didn’t want me to ever forget I was an accident that he despised. His crushing words would hurt me deeper and their pain would last longer than that from the beatings by far.

 

I was very blessed though. I had an uncle, who lived with us for six months out of every year. He loved me as though I were his own. I adored him. He protected me from my dad whenever he was around. He was my whole world. He walked to school and back. He carried my books for me when my hands were cold, so I could warm them in my pockets. He showed me there was at least one good guy who would love me, not expecting anything in return but my heart.

 

I was about to turn 11 and so looking forward to our six months to begin again. The day before his return, we got a phone call instead. He had a heart attack and passed away. He was the only tape holding my brokenness together and now something had quickly ripped him away. I was left shattered again.

People tried to give me comforting words at his funeral, but they only struck the match of my rage. I thought, “If there is a God, how cruel he must be to take my only hero, my protector, the one I needed most!” I hated the very thought of God for it all.

 

As the abuse went on, my anger grew. I hated my life. I started doing drugs and getting drunk at 14. No wonder then, by 15 I was targeted for other horrible abuse by grown men. I was so empty, broken and numb. That same year I almost ended everything a few different times. I didn’t value my life at all. I got so annoyed that something would ruin my plans every time, especially when it was almost finalized. I just became more filled with hatred and rage.

 

I became more involved with drugs and alcohol. Every time I tried to change my life, it seemed to fail. I became involved with very dark things. The people around me were into the same. Throughout it all, even when everyone was telling me I’m worthless, I could almost hear a still small voice coming from somewhere deep inside, saying I was made for more. For what, I didn’t have a clue. I started thinking, “There’s got to be more to life than this!”

 

One night I had a dream so vivid and real. It was of an eerie place with the dead. My uncle was there trying to desperately tell me something. There wasn’t any volume to his voice, even though he was almost screaming at me. He picked up a stick and wrote in the sand. I can’t remember the exact words it said, but the meaning was clear. I didn’t belong in that place and needed to get as far away as possible. I was still shaking even after I awoke.

 

I realized I needed to move away from the influences I had if I ever wanted be better. So that’s what I did. I quit drugs and drinking. I tried to make a better life for myself on my own. Things finally started looking up. I had a good job that I fought hard for, plenty of money in the bank and a small but nice place to live. However, loneliness was there with me also.

 

I finally gave into my aunt’s many requests to go to church with her to please her. There I learned a little about Jesus Christ, heaven and hell. Every other word out of my mouth was still the worst curse word. I wasn’t living the life I ought to, so I thought, “I’ve got to go fix myself first before I get into this.” I didn’t want to be a “Sunday Christian,” I thought, “If I’m going to do this, it’s got to be all, or nothing.”

 

I came to realize I couldn’t fix it all on my own. I decided to jump all in and ask God to change me and forgive my multitude of sins … and He did!! He turned my whole life upside down! He has, and is, addressing every issue, bringing just the right things in just the right times to prove over and over that I am loved. The King of kings values even me… the one who used to turn others against Him … the one who did things to make fun of Him and His people. Yep, even me … Wow!

 

When I was saved, my dad and oldest brother cussed me out telling me how stupid I was. I kept praying for them anyway and inviting them to church, showing them love and speaking truth. My brother was saved and has attended church with me many times.

 

In 2009, my dad collapsed while I was on the phone with mom. My husband and I flew out the door praying like crazy!  We had everyone praying for this man who still wanted nothing to do with me. God worked it all out in His plan for me to stay with dad at Lutheran Hospital for over two weeks. Most of that time I was in solitude, except for visits from my amazing husband. Dad was in a comma after having so many heart attacks and being revived.

 

I read God’s word aloud to him every day and prayed almost non-stop. When I wanted so badly to just go home, felt like I couldn’t take anymore, God spoke to my heart so loudly, so clearly saying, “Don’t worry Julie, I’m going to save your dad tomorrow.”  I replied, “I don’t know how, and it doesn’t make sense to me since he’s still in a comma, but if you say you are going to do something, I believe you will.” I texted every Christian I had in my phone, “I know this sounds crazy, but please pray God saves my dad’s soul TOMORROW!”

The next day I was reading to dad again and he squeezed my hand! I read more, he opened his eyes! I read from Romans then I read a sample sinner’s prayer. He had tubes down his throat, so he wasn’t able to speak. I said, “Dad, I’m going to read this again, and if you believe it, I want you to pray this to God.” As I read it again, tears flooded his face. I knew, but still asked him if he had just prayed that. He nodded YES!!! Things would never be the same again.

 

We found out he had stage four cancer that had already spread. Doctors gave him six months to live. He lasted fourteen. I never saw him cry before that day in the hospital. I never remember seeing a single beam of joy come from him. In those last fourteen months we chatted about mostly light-hearted things. I got the first hugs and kisses on my cheeks I ever remember getting from him. We would often sit and hold hands. There was no need to pour over the past. We just gave each other a little of the grace God has given us.

The last thing he said here on earth was that he loved me, and I got to reply the same. He was at peace, and right before he left, he was suddenly beaming with joy even more. I really miss him, but oh am I grateful for those last months and for the rest of dad’s eternity in heaven with Jesus.

 

God has taken me -- a hateful, broken, drug-dealing, blaspheming, unloved mess, and helped me overcome it all. Now He’s had me become a police officer at one point, a foster parent to nine so far, and a wife to an incredible godly man for over 11 years. He has kept me completely sober for about 14 years, gave me a graduating 4.0 in college for nursing, and calls me His child among so many other amazing blessings.

Don’t ever think anyone is a lost cause to Him who is love.

 

            -Julie Stevens

 

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