Everybody has a story. Some may seem better than others but the greatest thing about being a Christian is how God can redeem our story and make it part of His story. No matter what we may have gone through, God’s love and grace can conquer all if we will take the time discover and accept His Will. I must say I had difficulty putting the pieces of my life together. To be honest, I still am, but it’s a task I no longer have to do alone.
I was only four when things started unraveling in my life. My mom, was going through a second divorce. Being that young, I was not cognizant of everything that was going on but as I got older, I realized it proved to be a huge turning point in all our lives. My mom, now a single parent of two naughty teenage boys and a nice, sweet little girl had the full responsibility of providing for our family. She had no job and no prior work experience. Her pride kept her from accepting help because she was determined to prove… she could manage just fine on her own. She even refused help from her ex-husbands who were both active in the military and had the means to provide some support. My mother had to work twice as hard and twice as much to make ends meet, but somehow she always made it happen.
Because she had to work she needed a baby sitter for me. That proved to be one of her greatest challenges. I remember being passed from house to house. I hated it, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise because it led to an auntie that began taking me to church. I was in the 1st grade when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. Eventually, I joined the church youth group.
I wish I could say, “And she lived happily ever after”, but as many of you have also discovered being a Christian doesn’t mean that you won’t face challenges and have trouble. As I got older, I started to become more self-conscious and let my insecurities take control. For one, when I was born, I was diagnosed with jaundice. Two, I was overweight for my age. I was bullied in school and sometimes even by my own cousins. I started to distance myself from people and I even became suicidal. I
asked God why was I so fat and ugly? Why was my family enduring hardships? The way I saw it, everybody else seemed to be living the good life. I felt so abnormal and out of place. And then the verbal abuse from my oldest brother added insult to injury. He was on drugs which made him very violent. He would physically and verbally abuse me every day. I bottled everything inside and didn’t dare tell my mom out of fear of what she might do. I would cry out to God, “Why me? I’m trying so hard to live for You and do the right thing.” Every time I thought about committing suicide by jumping from our 17th floor high rise apartment, the devil would always be there to tempt me to just do it! Go and jump!
My family and I reached another stumbling block in our lives when we lost my second oldest brother to pneumonia. It broke my family apart even more. My oldest brother got involved with the wrong crowd and landed himself in jail. So now It was just me and my mom. It broke my mom’s heart, but we were trying so hard to hang in there spiritually. Things just started to get harder and harder for my mom and I.
Several years later, my mom’s health started deteriorating. Her kidneys failed and the doctors told her that her only option was dialysis. If not, she wouldn’t have much time left. I was a senior in high school. We cried and asked the church family to pray with us during these difficult times. My mom started dialysis. I became so frustrated with life. On the outside I seemed happy, but behind the smile and laugh, I had a heavy burden on my chest and it became so hard to bear. I would go to the youth meetings and bible study to occupy my mind and time. I would play musical instruments with cousins as an outlet for all my problems.
In 2009 I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. What else, right?! I became even more frustrated with everything going on so I turned to
alcohol and cigarettes. I started to rebel, quit the youth group meetings and left my church. This really broke my mom’s’ heart, but I was selfish and didn’t care anymore. I started going out with my friends and cousins to the clubs and getting wasted, while my worried and sick mom stayed home and prayed for me. We started getting into arguments because she wanted me to give up that life. I wasn’t listening. Watching my mom struggle with her health made me only want to go out more. It had become my escape from reality. I didn’t know how else to cope. I still just did what took the pain away even if just for a little while. But no matter what I did, it still left me feeling empty. Things remained this way for quite a while.
One Sunday evening, I was out getting wasted with some family and friends, and for a few seconds, I was happy. Now that I look back, I think God had been trying to get my attention. In fact He tried to get my attention countless times, but I turned him away each time. Later on that evening, I turned on my phone and it was filled with missed calls, text messages and voicemails. Have you ever gotten that feeling, when you’re about to speak in front of a huge crowd, and you forget everything you had to say? You start to dread what is about to happen, your nerves kick in, your heart starts to skip beats, you start to sweat, and fear takes over.
I knew I had to find out what was going on and I knew it wasn’t good. A text message from my uncle hit me like a train, “I told you, you only have your mom left, now mom is watching over you from Heaven!” Just like that, my life came to a screeching halt. In that instant, it felt like time just stood still. It was so quiet, I could hear my heart beating. At first I couldn’t, or wouldn’t believe it! I immediately called a cousin of mine and as soon as she confirmed it, I burst into tears and went crazy. My mom had been my everything and I treated her like she was nothing! I became enraged and took it out on God. I was filled with guilt and regret. I told myself I would NEVER step into the house of the Lord EVER AGAIN!
Already stubborn, my mom’s passing made me even worse. I was at the lowest point in my life, with nobody in my family to turn to. It was at this time that a close friend reached out to me. Knowing my story, she and her family took me in as one of their own. Being well raised Christians and knowing the importance of salvation, they treaded lightly, but with time and a lot of prayers, I started to feel the Holy Spirit working on me. I began to feel God’s love everywhere, especially from this family that had become such a BIG part of my life. It was to the point where I felt there were no barriers between us, and that they truly loved me. I never thought that, after everything I’d gone through, I could ever feel this way again especially now with my mom gone.
My new-found family helped me at times when I felt like throwing in the towel. They were so understanding and always reminded me that God loved me, regardless, and that He will ALWAYS be there. I owe a great deal to my “earth” parents, Sharon and Jacob Umang. I owe an even greater deal to God who has molded me into the person I am today. It was a tough journey, and yes, He sure does work in mysterious ways. I express my love and appreciation to Him each day, especially when I play my drums for Him on Sundays. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a work in progress. It is hard, but I try to remind myself that if I have overcome all of these hardships in my life and with Him as my strong tower of refuge and strength, anything is possible!!
I miss you everyday mom. Thank you for everything you did and for putting up with me. I thank you God for your Agape love and I ask that you continue to help me on my Christian journey one day at a time!