A few months ago, I reconnected with Jeremy’s cousin, Tenia. I say reconnected because although we were family and neighbors, we had grown apart and taken different directions in life. In the past 3 or so months, our paths have converged once more, and our friendship has been taken to a whole new level. She is eager to share her story, so I asked her if she would like to do a guest post. She also gave her testimony for our ladies‘ class on April 12, 2023, and I have included the video below. I hope her testimony touches you as it has me and countless others already.
Around 2009-2010, I had started using Opioids at night to help me rest and get a good night sleep. It wasn’t a normal habit for me, just maybe a Friday night after a long week at work. That was the real start of the nightmare that would chase me and my family for over 12 plus years, nearly costing me my marriage and my life. I had lost a good job over 10 plus years. I was unable to keep a stable job after that as the drugs had taken over my mind and totally consumed my thoughts and feelings of a “Normal person”.
I didn’t know how to function any longer without the Opioids. I though I was doing good, honestly – I was still able to function by finding some work, driving a nice truck, being seen in public, but was I EVER SO WRONG!?! I would use the Opioids not only to sleep but also to escape the feelings of life, to numb the pain of my hurts and insecurities. If something upset me or I felt like something might upset me, I would use to mask the pain of the feelings I carried on the inside. I would just escape to my safe place a – “Fantasy land”.
My marriage had become really unstable, real quick as my lifestyle of destruction had got out of control. Josh and I slowly withdrew from each other over time. I would always blame him and his job for not being with me. We pretty much became “room-mates”. We had separate checking accounts, separate lives and separated from our marriage. Josh knew something was wrong, but I was never honest with him about my feelings or my behavior. He didn’t know until all of my bad choices started to catch up with me. I would either not go to Church or I would go later to see who may or may not be there so that I could find my next “fix”. I got caught a couple times and people started to call Josh and my parents about my erratic behavior. Josh and my family began to put all the pieces together and I began to be confronted for my behavior and actions. I always had a justification and would deny those behaviors as to why I did the things I had done. Excuse after excuse, reason for reason until I finally had got tired of all the lies and I could see the one thing I wanted to save the most was about to be taken away by the drug, the DEVIL himself, and that was my Josh, my marriage and my life!
“Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.” John 8:34-35
The week of Thanksgiving 2021, I had had enough for real. I had gone outside on a cold Alabama night and began to pray the hardest I believe that I have ever prayed in my life beneath the Apple trees along our driveway. I prayed that God would help me get away from the lifestyle I had been living. I wanted to be a better Christian, wife, friend, and daughter. I needed Him real bad and I knew that Jesus was my only true hope from the escape of the torment in my life. That next morning I woke up to a text message from one of my “dealers”. I decided, against better judgment, to go and chase that evil desire. Just as I was about to meet with the devil, my cell phone rang and it was a friend that I had not spoken to in several months. She told me that she had woke up that morning thinking about me and ask me what I was I doing? I replied back, “Being stupid.” She could hear the desperation in my voice and encouraged me to call her cousin in Florida, Mrs. Sherry. She told me to call and get myself the healing that God intended for me to have and that I deserved. I took it upon myself to look up the information and I emailed Mrs. Sherry for her to only tell me to call Ms. Shannon at Lydia’s House the next day. I put myself on a Greyhound bus within the week and made it to Avon Park, Florida where I was picked up by Mrs. Sherry and taken to Lydia’s House on December 5, 2021.
What exactly is Lydia’s House some of you may ask?? Lydia’s House is a one year residential program for women coming out of destructive lifestyles. Those lifestyles can be anything from: addiction, prostitution, abusive relationships with a spouse or broken families, etc. When a girl is accepted at Lydia’s, for the first 30 days she is not allowed any outside communication with family. After the 30 days she may write immediate family only. No “Boyfriends, Baby Daddys, old friends”. After 90 days and in good standing, she may make two fifteen minute phone calls on either Saturday or Sunday afternoons, as well as receiving those immediate family members for Family Day each month. A person has to sincerely have the true heart desire to endure a one year commitment and really be able to lean into Jesus for that full commitment. Lydia’s House is a non-profit 501 (C) 3, funded and is FREE to women between the ages of 18-49 years of age that fit the program. The Mission Statement of Lydia’s House, Inc provides an environment for the transformation of women through Biblical teaching, Godly counsel, fervent prayer, and the development of self-discipline and life skills.
There is a small farm called “Pioneer Village”, where Jesus is Lord and families are united. Pioneer Village is a vision that the Lord gave Mrs. Sherry one night, showing her pictures of abused, abandoned and neglected children. Mrs. Sherry prayed to the Lord that she was only one woman and there wasn’t anything she could do. The next morning the Lord gave her a vision of an 1800s style farm with animals such as horses, and carriages, a petting farm, log cabins and a general store. That vision was birthed and today consists of just that, a couple of horses, emus, a pot belly pig named Earl, chickens , cats and dogs, along with several other animals, two cabins, general store, the Chapel and a family center. The women in the program are taught responsibilities by feeding and tending to the animals daily. The animals are also therapeutic for the ladies, or “Girls” as we are called within the program. There are currently two days out of the week that are set aside just for the girls to be able to go to the farm to work and press into the Lord. Those days may consist of pulling weeds by hand, mowing with an Amish style mower, raking grass, bathing the dogs, re-building a fence or cleaning the cabins that family members are allowed to stay in during the 3rd Sunday of each month or what is better known as “Family Day weekend”. The “Farm” is referred to as “God’s farm” and you can definitely feel His presence while there. Each Family Day weekend we have Sunday School at 9:00 a.m, services at 10:00 am followed by a pot-luck style lunch. After lunch, family class is offered for the girls and their families are encouraged to attend to help restore those healthy relationships. If a girl needs accountability while working through some hard situations with a family member, that is available also.
Aside from Pioneer Village , there are two Thrift stores, “Heaven Sent” and “The Mustard Seed”. These stores receive donations from people within the community to be able to re-sell the donations to fund Lydia’s House. The Girls usually work at each store one day out of the week by going through clothes, tagging and hanging clothing out for sale, pricing “stuff” such as house-hold trinkets, dishes, small appliances; you name it and we will take it. Heaven Sent is also the re-sell shop for Bikes on a Mission. At Bikes on a Mission, people will drop off old bicycles and Mr. Gregg will fix those up to sell or maybe even give to an individual within the community as a mode of transportation. Those proceeds also help fund Lydia’s House.
We have a wonderful Victorian-style setting restaurant, “The Amazing Grace Tea House”. The Tea House is a wonderful place for ladies to have lunch and be able to hear some amazing testimonies from Lydia’s House graduates Thursday – Saturday. Girls in the program are trained under Florida food law “Serve Safe” and are required to pass an exam in oder to work at the Tea House. The Tea House serves dishes such “Signatures” that basically consist of two chicken salad croissant sandwiches, a bowl of soup either The Lord’s Potato Soup or Broccoli Cheese soup, desert and a drink. There are many other things on the menu also and you absolutely cannot forget about the “Amazing Grace Tea”. Teas are served hot from tea pots and hand poured into tea cups for each guest. Each of the girls participate at the Tea House by preparing and serving foods. All of the dishes are made from scratch especially the wonderful deserts. Sadly, Hurricane “Ian” damaged the roof of the Tea-House in October and it has been closed until repairs can be made. Hopefully those repairs are able to happen within the next couple of months. Graduates of Lydia’s House are eligible to stay on and work in a Christ-filled environment while earning money to re-start their lives. Ms. Crystal is a graduate of Lydia’s House and she currently serves as The Amazing Grace Tea House manager as well as Lydia’s “House Mom”.
I left home so quickly that a lot of my family felt I was only running…I did “run”, I ran straight to a safe place to the Lord over 650 miles away from my hometown not knowing a single soul in Wauchula, Florida. I was scared to death for so many reasons: the fear of the unknown, being in a house full of women, away from home for a year long commitment and my every day normal. That was just what I needed to allow God to do His work in my life. I had to face some real fears while at Lydia’s house. I feared that Josh would show up in March of 2022 for my first “Family Day” with divorce papers. That later became only a lie that I was believing because in November we celebrated 17 years of marriage. I faced myself and all of the wrongs and the ugly about myself. With God’s help I am still facing fears and will continue to do just that now that I’m back home. Fast forward a year later. I fell in love with the people back in Wauchula, at Lydia’s house. Those people, God’s people, all feel like “my people” and “my family”. They are some people that I’ve come to realize that I can count on and that I can trust. My “REAL” friends, truth speakers who will call me out by looking me in the eyes and cutting me where it hurts the most…in my true feelings in my pride of life.
“Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.” Romans 6:17-18
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son set you free, you are truly free.” John 8:32, 36
It took me 13 months to make it back home to Alabama. The real journey of my life began January 15, 2023 as I graduated the program. I now have a new start for the rest of my life. I know that I can trust in the Lord as He was preparing me in Wauchula to be prepared for home, for Alabama. He will always fight my battles, I only need to keep Him first, be honest with Him, myself and others. He will always be there for me in the good times and the hard times.
Check out the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24. Tenia told me how she felt truly felt like the prodigal returning home in January.
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid do not be discouraged”. Deuteronomy 31:8
“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:14
If you or someone you know is involved in a destructive lifestyle like Tenia described, or would just like more information on Lydia’s House or Sherry White Ministries, I encourage you to visit sherrywhiteministries.com.