Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I Was the Woman at the Well - Part I

Guest Writer - Valerie

God's Presence in Spite of My Unbelief

Nothing I am about to tell you is confidential. I called my talk “I Was the Woman at the Well” because I can identify with her, and you will soon see why.  I’ve never been married, but I was living a life of lies and wretchedness, just like her.

My mother told me that I was an "accident." My grandmother blamed the course of her life on my mom, and my mom did the same to me. She was married three times, and I was raised by my stepfather ... I never knew my biological father. I was the middle child of 4 children (plus a stepbrother), and never felt loved. When I was 5 years old and my mother was in between marriages, she used to drop me and my brother and sister off at the neighborhood church on Sunday mornings and then leave. When the church found out what she was doing, they asked her to stop dropping us off, but I remember even at that age loving the Psalms. This was my first introduction to Jesus.

Although I have good memories of going to the beach and playing in the neighborhood, there is little else that I recall as being good in my childhood. When I was 12 years old, I broke my arm in two places and when I showed my mom, she got angry and told me to sit down and be quiet until she finished her ironing. By the time we got to the Navy hospital, my crooked arm was painfully swollen. There was no cps back then or she would’ve been in trouble!

By the time I was 13, I simply decided that life wasn't for me, and I tried to kill myself by drinking a liter of kerosene. I was ready for death -- I welcomed it. I was puzzled as to why I didn't die in the first day or so, and then I was fearful of dying a slow, painful death. But all I suffered from was toxic burps and a sick stomach. I never had medical treatment and I never told anyone at the time. I didn't realize that God had saved my life until He saved my soul 30 years later.

When I was 15, I was even more depressed. I received no love at home, and I was a very shy girl at school. I felt invisible to most of the world, like a non-person walking through the motions of each day, without purpose or value on this earth. I tried to kill myself again, this time by swallowing a lot of pills -- three or four large-sized bottles of extra-strength Excedrin and every other pill I could find in the medicine cabinet. I thought that this would surely kill me. I took the pills after bedtime, when everyone was asleep. I started "tripping" -- everything looked kind of green and wavy. I decided to wake up my mom and tell her what I did. She got angry and told me to go back to bed, and we would see how I felt in the morning. She never checked on me, and the only thing she ever said to me was that it was a stupid thing to do. I received no medical attention. Was she hoping I would die? Most likely. I was dizzy and queasy for a few days, but lived through it. God saved my life again.

At that point, I decided that I would just have to live for myself, and I excelled in school, finishing in the top 10 of my class. After graduation, I made some new friends, one of which was the 17-year-old daughter of a Pentecostal minister. They invited me to family camp, and at night when the adults were asleep, we got drunk. I was curious about why people would follow Jesus, because this was no different than the way other people lived.

When I was 19, I considered suicide again after my boyfriend stood me up on Christmas Eve, but seeing that I wasn't all that successful at it, I chose instead to eat the pecan pie I had made for the party I was supposed to go to. It was at that precise moment that food became a source of comfort for me. But something was going on ... I believe God was working pretty hard at getting my attention. I had a sense that killing myself was wrong, which was the first time that thought ever occurred to me.

After that, I made some friends who were alcoholic drug users and dealers, and I would go to parties where there would be cafeteria trays covered in lines of cocaine, for any and all to use. There was plenty of pot whenever you wanted it, because these friends grew their own up in the woods by Mt. Shasta. We also smoked hash, and took Black Beauties or some other form of speed in combination with alcohol before we went to concerts. I remember one time we rented two houseboats on Shasta Lake, and partied for a few days. Someone gave me some pot brownies before I went home, and I ate most of them while driving several miles home on the windy, mountain roads. I was wasted. I had no idea how I got home, but now I know that God saved my life again. And how many times before and after that? More than I have knowledge of, I’m sure.

I got away from those friends, not caring much for the lifestyle. I had learned that I needed to manage my own life, even from the age of 12, and all of this escapism lost its appeal.

My promiscuity began with my first boyfriend when I was a senior in high school, and continued for the better part of the next 25 years. My mom was married three times, so I had no role model on how to be a good woman, and the best I can figure is that I thought someone would have sex with me and fall madly in love with me, like they do in the movies. But the love part never happened. At the age of 25, I got pregnant. I think I know who the father was, but I’m not going to mention anything about him because it would romanticize something that is really dirty and ugly. We had a one-night stand in New Orleans while I was on vacation.

I was in complete, absolute denial that this was happening to me. I felt all alone in the world, with nobody to talk to about the pregnancy. By the time I decided to get an abortion, I was past the window of opportunity for an "easy" abortion, so I had to go to a special doctor for what I only found out a couple of years ago to be a partial-birth abortion. I was very sick afterwards, as I lost a good amount of blood, and my hormones went all out of whack, so I reached out to my mom and told her I had some female issues and had to have a D&C. She knew better, but I decided to go to her house in Stockton to recuperate. She never once came into the room to check on me. My sister said "hi" to me, but when I asked her to bring me a glass of water, she told me that she was too busy and I had to get my own. I left Stockton and came back to Sacramento.

I was on anti-depressants for several months, but decided to go off of them because I was tired of feeling numb. But I found comfort in drinking, breaking my own non-escapism policy, and went to nightclubs several nights a week. One rainy, winter night after closing time, I was drunk and drove my car over the embankment of the off-ramp at Garden Highway. I destroyed a couple of tires, but managed to get my car off the embankment and to a friend's house nearby. God saved my life again. It is an absolute miracle that I never went to jail or hurt someone while I was driving drunk. Thank you, Jesus.

I then moved to Fresno to open a new office for my firm. My boss was a cruel man, a devout Methodist -- please note that I hold no bad feelings towards Methodists in general. He constantly blasted me with scriptures that showed me what a horrible person I was. This was not a good representation of Jesus, and again, I thought, "What is the appeal of this Jesus?" But also while in Fresno, a cashier at a sporting-goods store asked me how I was doing and I must have told her about my boss, and she quoted a scripture that had to do with patience and God's love. WOW! A good representation of Jesus!

Also in that same year, I went to the doctor for tendinitis in my foot and had to fill out a questionnaire. I froze when it came to the part about surgeries or procedures, but somehow I couldn't lie about it, and I was finally able to write the word, "ABORTION."  When the doctor went over the form, I started crying and he told me that God forgives us long before we forgive ourselves. Now I know that we need to ask for forgiveness, but I have also learned that asking God to forgive me does not necessarily mean I accept that forgiveness, and I believe that is what the doctor was talking about. This was another good representation of Jesus, which I have never forgotten.

I moved back to Sacramento in 1986. A friend sent me to her psychic for a reading, because she thought it would help my life somehow. This psychic knew intimate details of my youth, which I now know was information supplied by the enemy of our souls. She said I was "special," and referred me to a Native American priestess who gave psychic lessons. Think about it ... if I was psychic, would I need someone to tell me how to do it? Wouldn't I just know? But I was gullible, searching for anything to help make sense out of my life. I paid for several sessions, until at one training session invisible hands touched me, and I never went back. But these ugly spirits followed me for years, until I became saved and learned how to send them away in the name of Jesus.

When I was about to turn 30, I was sick of my life. I decided to go to counseling, and if it didn't work, I was going to go live on a beach in Mexico. Suicide was no longer an option, praise the Lord! The counsellor helped me, so I stayed in Sacramento. A year later, I met my son’s father. When my friends asked me about him, I said that I didn't like him very much, and wasn't the least bit attracted to him. My "friends" said, "Well, has what you've done so far worked?" Meaning, I didn't know how to make a good choice. So, with some extremely skewed logic, I figured since he wasn't the one I wanted, maybe he was a good choice. I should just settle and settle down.

I swore I would never live with a man unless he married me first, and that I would never be divorced. But I moved in with him, and it was a horrid relationship. He was verbally abusive, manipulative and controlling. By the time I was 35, I was absolutely lost. My biggest desire in life was to be married and have a baby, or even seven babies!, but with my biological clock ticking, I figured I was out of time, so I took matters into my own hands.

This part of my story used to be a source of great shame for me. I buried each day's birth control pills in a potted plant -- I was afraid that if I tried to flush one it might float back up. I remember that it was during the World Series and I got extremely drunk -- that was the night I conceived. I just couldn't believe I actually got pregnant, so I bought several sets and types of pregnancy tests, including a couple at clinics. I spent over $120 in tests in 1993. I finally decided to tell my boyfriend, and he didn't want to believe it, so I had to pay for another test at Planned Parenthood. When they told us that it was positive, we left and he said he would pay for half of the abortion. I told him I wasn't going to have an abortion. He said I was Pro-Choice, so why not? I told him to look up the word "choice" in the dictionary.

He did not want to be a father. I told him I would sign any paper he wanted me to, relieving him from any and all responsibility for the child. I was certain this was the solution. But his family found out, and he couldn't sign off on his child without losing his inheritance. On Father's Day 1993, he asked me to marry him, and I said “yes.” Three hours later, his mood took a dark swing and he told me that he was only marrying me to ensure his rights with the child. The engagement was off, but I didn’t tell him for a couple of months.

I started going to counseling, and as a result, decided that my son’s father had to straighten up by the half-way point of my pregnancy, or I would leave. He came at my womb a couple of times with his fist, but a well-placed foot stopped him both times. He threatened to get a gun, but didn't specify what he would do with it. He threatened to take the baby after it was born and jump off the Bay Bridge with it. So, half-way through the pregnancy, he went on a trip to New York and I moved into my own place. He returned to an empty home and a Dear John letter taped to the door. I was living by myself when I went into labor.

Now let's skip forward several years, to when I was 42. I was working at a consulting firm, and we had a 19-year-old temp worker named Jaimie. She saw how unhappy I was, and asked me if I would take a coffee break with her so she could tell me about Jesus. We took every coffee break and lunch together for a week. She explained salvation to me, but I told her that I believe Jesus exists, but that I was too dirty and he would never want me. She explained the errors in my thinking and on the 4th day of meeting I accepted Jesus into my heart and my life. FINALLY, A REALLY GOOD REPRESENTATION OF JESUS! Jaimie printed a lot of scriptures on little pieces of paper and told me to put them in my wallet, loose in my purse, and tape them to my mirrors, doors and fridge. This 19-year old discipled me and put me on the right path.

WOW, WHAT A REVELATION! JESUS LOVES ME! I believe I said the "prayer" eight times just to make sure it stuck and that He heard me. I had a great thirst for knowledge, and studied my Bible and read different books on Christian topics. I started at New Hope less than a year later, in January 2002.

(Valerie first presented her testimony before The Women of Hope Second Sunday on February 10, 2013. Her testimony is continued in "I Am the Woman at the Well - Part II")


  1. Powerful stuff Jim. It is really amazing how Jesus can save us and pull us from any depth of despair.

  2. I like what you stated about "any depth of despair". It reminds me that Jesus went to the depths by being crucified. Regardless of a person's situation or sin, God's love reaches to the lowest depth to save us.