“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalms 27:13)
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
I grew up in a very dysfunctional home. I was a very depressed child and full of fear. My perspective on life and how I processed life was through a very negative lens and filter. Even though I was saved at the tender age of twelve, there were a whole host of strongholds that I would have to take captive to the obedience of Christ throughout my lifetime.
When I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, my mom prayed that the memory of what I had endured as a child would be wiped clean. That all I would remember was from Salvation onward. I must confess I only have glimpses of my childhood.
What I do remember is that my dad was a very angry man. He was very scary to me when he got upset. Growing up in my house there was a saying, “Children were to be seen and not heard!” and I never felt as if my opinion mattered, or that I had a voice. My self-esteem was very low. I really did not know how to think for myself. I was very much a people pleaser. As long as I did everything right, I was a good girl, but if I did something wrong or that appeared wrong, I would pay the consequence. As a little girl, it felt as if it was the end of the world. I always wanted to do everything right. This perception would carry on well into my thirties. It would take a very long time to find my voice and for God to bring me into what His thoughts were towards me and what His word says about me.
My mom was a very depressed mother and wife. I always had the feeling that she hated me. When I would look into her eyes, they appeared very dark and I saw such hatred. It felt as if she wanted to kill me. I’m sure that was not the case, but it was how I felt during those years of my life. I hated going to sleep for fear that in the middle of the night; something or someone would come in my room and hurt me. I would sleep with the covers up to my neck; face the door so I would be able to protect myself, still totally frightened. It felt as if I never slept. This went on from the age of five, until I was twelve.
My mother dabbled in the occult. She would have séances, levitate, have premonitions, consult palm readers, psychics, read tarot cards and play the Ouija board. There was a lot of demonic activity in our home to say the least. She also was an alcoholic and was suicidal. I would come home from school and find her at the bottom of the basement stairs blacked out, not knowing if she was dead or alive. I remember being afraid all the time not knowing what the next day would bring.
My parents would argue and fight, which seemed like all the time to me. It was very intense and very loud. There were so many sayings in my family growing up like; we’re loud, we’re Italian, that’s how we talk, if the truth hurts, each followed by very negative, outspoken comments. No! All of which consisted of arguing and verbal abuse, yet while not understanding that as a child and living through it. I thought that was normal. There was one time my father came home from work and found my mother sitting on the floor in the corner of their bedroom, in the dark with a scotch glass in her hand. She was drunk and they began to argue. This argument must have been so intense because it is etched into my memory. My mom threw the full scotch glass at my father. I ran to my room like so many other times and would pray that God would make it stop, that they would not get divorced. I was always so frightened and living on the edge. I did not realize at the time that I was a depressed little girl as well.
I was raised as a Catholic while growing up and went to a Catholic school. Very often before heading to school, my mom would play a song from Helen Reddy, “I am woman”, and she proceeded to tell my sister and I, never to forget that we were women. There was one day my mom was so angry, I can’t remember why, but she told me she hated me and to go, get out of the house and go off to school. I remember feeling devastated. My fears of her hating me were becoming true. I was so broken that I hated the day I was born. I remember saying to God, “why, why was I born into this family. I wish I had never been born.” Sad I know. Around this time in my life, I was in a store and I saw a keychain with a witch on it. So I purchased it and I gave it to my mother and said, “This is who you are to me” and sang her a song called Witchy Woman. After I told her again saying, “This is who you are to me!” She said,”I know.” and proceeded to hang it on the knob of the kitchen cabinet. So there it stayed.
As I stated earlier, I don’t have a lot of memory of my childhood, but I remember feeling very dirty whenever my dad would hug me. As a little girl, I remember finding Playboy magazine’s under his bed on his side. For some reason, I always was able to relate to someone who was sexually abused. I only have glimpses of certain things and questions as to why I would feel so hated during those years. Before my dad passed away in 2010, I felt impressed by God to speak to my dad and released him from any torment he might be going through, from guilt of the past. I was so nervous, but I knew it was something I had to do. My dad had leukemia and meningitis to the point that it affected his brain. In the past, if I would have brought this up, he would have been on the defense and reacted angrily. Instead, he allowed me to share all my questions and concerns. I told him that God wanted me to come to him so he could be released of anything that may have taken place in the past that if anything did occur, I had forgiven him. It was the most loving and freeing time I had ever had with my dad. He had no such memories. I am sharing this to show the goodness God has to tend to the issues of our hearts. He took care of my father’s heart as well as mine. I watched God be faithful to His word in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” My dad went to be with the Lord two weeks after my visit. Gods timing and ways are perfect. I have learned to trust and obey Him even when it’s scary.
At the age of ten, I was about to make my first communion. I always loved God. He placed within me a heart that loved Him and always wanted to help people despite what I was living through. The night before I was to make my first communion, I prayed that God would allow me to die in a car accident. I thought if I died on my communion day, then I would go straight to heaven and would not have to go to purgatory. My understanding was that people had to pray you out of purgatory; after all...my mother was a drunk and she hated me, while my dad only went to church on Christmas and Easter. In my mind, I would be stuck in purgatory forever and never make it to heaven. I prayed and prayed and was so disappointed when it did not happen.
Two years later, I am now twelve years old. My mom made the decision that she is going to take her life. She said that she had such a sense of peace in making this decision, and we were all better off without her. That day, God interrupted with His divine appointment. She was in a store that morning and she ran into a cousin of hers that just moved into the area we were living. Being polite, my mom invited her over for a cup of coffee. Her cousin had given her heart to the Lord and was a born-again Christian. She began to share with my mother about how much Jesus loved and cared for her and how He died to take away her sins and redeem her life. The whole time her cousin was talking, she thought she was crazy, while she knew the plan she had in her head to take her life. As her cousin was leaving, she said to my mom, “Marge, Jesus loves you. He truly does. Just give Him a try, ask Him into your heart and to forgive you your sins.”
That evening, my mother could not get out of her mind what her cousin shared with her earlier that day. She cried out to the Lord and said, “Ok Jesus, if you’re real like Alice says you’re real, I ask that you forgive me of all my sins and come live in my heart.” She began to feel a hand go over her mouth trying to suffocate her. During this struggle, she kept hearing her cousin’s voice in her mind saying, “say Jesus is Lord!” She began to scream in her head, “Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Lord!” At the end of the struggle, she saw in her mind’s eye a vision of Jesus with His arms wide open saying, “Marge, come to me. You’re my child.” The next day, my mom poured out all the alcohol we had in our house (we had a fully stocked bar) and threw away her cigarettes as well. My father thought my mother had a nervous breakdown and he was very angry. After all, that was a lot of money to throw down the drain. My mom’s old man (spirit) died that night and she became a new creation. The power of sin and death over my mother was destroyed that evening, through the blood of Jesus Christ. My mom went to her cousin’s house the next morning, banging on the door saying, “What did you do to me?” Her cousin began having bible studies with her, praying and taking her to church. One night after my mom got home from church, my father put my mother up against the wall and said, “It’s Jesus or me!” my mom said, “It’s Jesus” and he let go of her. So now we are going to check out this church my mother is going to, making sure she is not involved in a cult. My dad would say,”I was born a Catholic, I will die a Catholic.”
In July of 1974, a Friday evening, we visited the church my mother was attending on Tuesday’s and Friday’s. I was amazed by the love, joy and peace these people had. I wanted what these people had. I asked my mother if I could go to the altar and receive Jesus in my heart. At first, she said “no”, nervous of what my father might do. My father would not think twice about hitting someone if he felt like they were bothering him or his family. He grew up fighting people his whole life. I asked again and this time my mom said “yes.” As I went up, a young man asked me if I wanted to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I responded yes!
Well, my dad was furious. He went up to the altar to grab me away from these crazy people and when he went to grab me, I immediately got filled with the Holy Spirit and he fell. My father tried again twice to get me and each time he kept falling down. He would look around, but there was nobody there. God was trying to get his attention, and that He did. My father gave his heart to the Lord that evening as well. God is amazing.
The Lord answered my prayer that evening. When I was ten, I wanted to die and go to heaven, fearful of being in purgatory. Two years later, my old man (spirit) died when I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was forgiven, redeemed and had the promise of eternal life. I no longer worried about not making it to heaven.
I continued to live in joy and happiness like I never experienced before. Things were so much more hopeful and peaceful. I would attend church every time the doors were opened. I was involved in Sunday school and went on to eventually teach the two-to-four year olds who attended. I was also, involved in a youth group and helped with VBS. Life was good.
Then at the magical age of fifteen, this young man liked me. I was so flattered. He was four years older than me and on the worship team. He asked me out to the church’s Valentine’s dinner. The only problem was, I wasn’t allowed to date until the age of sixteen and I was only fifteen and a half. So I did what any teenager would do; I pleaded my cause. What magically happens in six months? After all, I will be sixteen! He’s on the worship team! I wore them down and they gave in. This would be the beginning of compromise entering my life. Slowly he became my everything. I lived to please him. In April of 1980, in my senior year of high school and at the age of seventeen, I became pregnant. I was full of fear and wanted to marry him and have the baby. We were both terrified of what my parents might do. He said my parents would kill us. So the spirit of fear drove us to make the horrible decision to have an abortion. I truly wanted to be married and have this baby. While we drove up to the abortion clinic, there were people with signs outside and one especially, stood out to me, “Mommy, don’t kill your baby”. I was sick. I wanted to die. I wanted to run from this place and I really wanted to be married and have the baby, but fear had the loudest say. This so far, was the most horrifying experience of my life. I came out of that room so sick and hatred immediately filled my heart. I would not be the same person for many years. I still wanted to die. I struggled with thoughts of suicide. The only thing that kept me was the fear of going to hell. I went into a severe depression, where guilt and condemnation were always present within me. My father told my boyfriend that he was to stay away from me, that he did not know why his daughter was so depressed. This caused more hatred to fill my heart towards my parents. I told them I hated them for breaking us up. In my mind, the only way to make what we did right was to eventually be married. This is how my seventeen-year-old mind was processing everything at the time. The enemy had me believing so many lies. I felt as if I could never be forgiven. I murdered my baby.
I continued to spiral downward. I told no one of what I did. The only people who knew were my ex-boyfriend and me. I lived with shame, guilt, condemnation, self-hatred and offense towards my ex-boyfriend for a very long time. This secret seemed to be with me every moment of every day. It was my constant companion, a continual reminder of what a failure I was and that I didn’t deserve to be forgiven. The enemy had gained access of my thought life and I believed every lie he spoke. My heart became so calloused and hardened. I began to run from my thoughts by living for whatever gave me pleasure at the time. I wanted to fit in to this new world I was about to experience. The world of sinfulness. I began to drink, party, do drugs, go clubbing and do whatever I wanted to do. I hated myself. I wanted to hide from anything that had to do with the Lord. This continued for about seven years. The only problem was that God never stopped pursuing me. I couldn’t hide. I had a praying mom and I was continually convicted by the choices I was making. Psalms 139:7-8 & 11-12 “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8.) If I make my bed in Sheol, behold You are there 11.) If I say, “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me” 12.) even the darkness will not be dark to You, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.”
I had no rest or peace. My parents were always praying for me. The Lord truly leaves the ninety-nine and goes after the one. At this time in my life, even this disturbed me. My parents would make me go to church and of course, God was always pursuing me, but I would choose to resist. There was a visiting evangelist this one Sunday and after he spoke, he had an altar call. Of course this altar call was for me, but I would not go forward, so he came to me. He said, “Jesus forgives you, now forgive yourself.” I thought if you only knew the extent of my sin, my secret, you would not be saying this to me. I murdered my baby; this is the most unforgivable sin in my mind. I could not receive what this man was speaking to me at this time in my life. My secret had me bound and truth could not enter in.
I grew tired of dating and the life I was living and I decided to pray to God, not believing He would want to even listen to me, but I prayed. I said, “Lord I am tired of dating. If you can hear me, let the next person I meet be the one I marry. I don’t care how long it takes or what he looks like, it can even be ten years from now, just let him be the one. Please, I’m tired.” The very next week, a client who went to the hair salon I worked at, asked if I wanted to go to a Fourth of July party. He was nice to talk to, but definitely not my type. I thought well, God totally did not hear my prayer but I had nothing else to do, so I went. In my rebellion I thought, my parents never like who I bring home...let me bring someone home they truly would not like. After all, I didn’t even like him. He was nice as a friend, but in no way was he boyfriend material. He was extremely wild. The stories I heard scared me. We began seeing each other more and more and before I knew it, we were dating. Then when I brought him home, my parent’s loved him! I said you have to be kidding me; I don’t even ‘like him - like him’. They said, “There is something in his eyes, he seems genuine.” About a month into our relationship, we slept together and I got pregnant. I told him I was pregnant and that I was having an abortion. I had already made plans and my girlfriend would be taking me. He said, “Are you sure that’s what you want to do?” I said, “yes” and I have already made the arrangements!” I did not even care what he thought. I told him, “I already had an abortion from my first boyfriend, and I am not ready to be a mom!” My heart was so cold, calloused, hard and selfish. My secret was out. He was the only one I had ever told about my first abortion. I went on to have that abortion and we never spoke of it again until...well, I will get to that a little later in my story.
Things began to get serious between my boyfriend and me. He wanted to get married. We were living a partying lifestyle, drinking, smoking pot, snorting cocaine. It was crazy to say the least. All of this while knowing what God wanted. Even though I was living like this in my mind, I could not marry anyone who did not receive Jesus as their Savior. Crazy I know, so I took him to church to see what he would do. I knew in my mind if he did not believe the same way I did, I could never marry him. He was the type of person that would never do something he didn’t want to do. So I knew if he were to receive Jesus as his savior, it would be because he truly wanted to. Well, you will never believe this, that traveling evangelist was at my church again and had an altar call for Salvation. I turned to my boyfriend and said, “Would you like to leave”. He said, “No, I want to check this out. I want to go up front.” I went with him and he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. The evangelist said to him, “Is this your wife?” and he said, “No”. The evangelist nodded his head and said, “someday!”. John drove home that evening and said this was better than any high that he ever had. God had answered my prayer that one night when I said I was tired of dating. John and I have been married for 32 years. We have three children and four grandchildren at this current time.
I would love to say that we immediately served the Lord after John received Christ, but that was not the case. We continued living a compromised lifestyle. Got engaged, got married and four months into the marriage, I was pregnant with our first daughter. We discussed living right before the Lord, now that we would be parents. We had a friend that would come by every Saturday and bring over cocaine. This was my husband’s drug of choice. This one Saturday evening he was over, I went into the bathroom and began to pray. I said, “Lord, we promised to stop this and live for you. Please show up. Let us never do this again. Deliver us.” I started praying in tongues in the bathroom. The gifts of God are truly irrevocable. I went out into the living room where they were waiting for me and I was filled with words of knowledge. Our friend could not open his hand to put the cocaine out on the table. He was flipping out as God was speaking through me. He kept saying, “Man, I can’t open my hand.” John was getting very angry saying, “Put it out!” and his friend kept saying, “I can’t”. Then John told me to “SHUT UP”. Filled with the Spirit, I remember saying, “Satan would love for me to shut up, but I am going to speak what the Spirit tells me to speak”. I continued to speak whatever the Spirit had me speak. At the end of this encounter, John’s friend opened his hand to put the cocaine out and it was all melted. John got delivered that night and we have never touched any drug again after that evening, nor returned to a compromised lifestyle. His friend came to church with us the next day, as he was blown away at the events that took place that evening.
Our journey with God began after that evening. I had asked God to forgive me of my sins, but forgiving me was a lot more difficult. Now would begin a process of many strongholds breaking off my life and my mind being transformed, renewed through the word of God and confession of my sins. I no longer kept what I was struggling with a secret. When we moved to Pennsylvania and got involved in a church, around the age of twenty-eight, we were asked to become youth leaders. My conscious would not let me be free to do ministry with the guilt I carried around of having two abortions. I confessed to my pastor what I had done. He led me in prayer and gave me the scripture in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I read it and thought it was good. It wasn’t until I meditated on what it truly said, that I was set free from the guilt of my sin. It said, “ALL”, unrighteousness, not some. The word ALL jumped off the page. All means all, not some. I began to reason in my mind. If God can forgive and cleanse me from ALL unrighteousness, how can I not forgive myself? Am I greater than God? No, of course not. So I prayed and said to the Lord, “Jesus thank you for forgiving me of ALL unrighteousness. No matter how big the sin, I choose to forgive me! Enable me to love and serve you all the days of my life. I did not deserve this grace and mercy, but I receive it in full measure. I Love you with all my being and I am eternally grateful to you.” It is the truth of God’s Word that sets us free from our own reasoning and the lies of the enemy. God is truth and there is no lie found in Him.
At around the age of thirty-six, John and I went through a program called Cleansing Stream and that was the first time we ever spoke of the abortion we had when we only dated for a month. God brought much healing into our lives at this time.
James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3.) knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4.) And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I have lived through many trials throughout my lifetime. There would be too many to write about in this testimony. From 2008-2015 John and I walked through a very difficult season in our lives. During this time, I chose to rise up in my Spirit man and declare the goodness of God in the land of the living, regardless of the circumstances or outcome. John and I lost our home of twenty-five years due to the economy affecting his business. I was in a car accident in 2012, with no health insurance and during that time, lost four family members to cancer and illness. Out of this, God would have me write a personalized devotional, “Being Immersed in the Father’s Love” in obedience to the Lord’s directive. This is His heartbeat to all His Children. It is a personalized devotional that Immerses you into His kind intentions towards you through His word, no matter what the circumstances. Whether you know the Lord for one day, one hundred years, or not at all, this devotional will touch your life in an intimate way. He is a good, good Father! He orders our steps. The good steps and the hard steps. Receive His love, His truth, and His promises. May every lie be broken and cast down in Jesus name! Amen!
Description of Dana's Ministry in Her Own Words:
"Come and be immersed in the overwhelming love of God the Father. Encounter His desire and the kind intentions that He has for you through the personalizing of scripture presented in this devotional. Picture a waterfall of God's promises washing over you and fully immersing you through the faithfulness of what He has promised to you in His word. Where negative mind-sets and perspectives will be washed away and replaced with great worth and value. Experience how you will be enabled to have victory in your life even while encountering difficult trials and circumstances. Your trust and faith will increase as you engage with Him. He is desiring you and is willing to give you all that He has promised. Come and encounter the goodness of God the Father and allow Him to lavish His love upon you. All you need to do is be willing to receive what He is providing. He is trustworthy and will not disappoint! Come and be immersed!"