Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Cardboard Testimony

My childhood friend, Tara, who I admire so deeply for her faith through immense challenges, just posted a blog entry that just blew me away! I love her dearly! Please check out her blog to learn more about her struggles and her strength in the face of unimaginable adversity. You will be touched, I know!

Last night, I read her blog about her cardboard testimony and watched videos from church services where they did a cardboard testimony service. It was so amazing! I was in tears lying in my bed at almost midnight while my husband was sound asleep beside me. I know I have so much to be thankful for when I read about what other people have gone through. However, I felt that I should share my personal testimony as well because it might touch someone's heart in a special way and maybe even help them find the ANSWER they need...and there is only ONE! He is the answer to all of our problems, no matter how big or small! He suffered and died so that we don't have to!

My testimony:
At an early age, I was faced with what some would call hardship but what I deem as a necessary and important step on the road to my own personal discovery. My brother and I were born to a single mother who struggled with raising her two illegitimate children while suffering from severe depression and mental illnesses. I can remember being left on many occasions in the sole care of my older brother who was no more than 9 or 10 years old at the time, and my brother can remember feeling afraid at times because we did not live in a very safe neighborhood, and the door to our house did not even have a proper lock on it due to numerous break-ins. My biological mother loved us and cared for us to the best of her ability, but the local Department of Social Services soon discovered that her ability was severely encumbered by her mental condition. With all of these hardships, I still have fond memories from this period in my young life, including receiving beloved Christmas presents, learning to ride a bike, learning to read and developing what has become a lifelong love of books, and developing a profound adoration of my older brother.

After numerous attempts to help my biological mother care for her children, my brother and I were placed in a local children’s home. We were very fortunate that a Christian children’s home was located very close to our biological mother so that we could visit her on occasion. I was 6 years old when I went to live at the Church of God Home for Children, and my brother, Paul, was 12. We experienced many happy occasions while living in the Home for Children and made many lifelong friendships.

After we had lived in the Home for less than a year, a Christian couple came to the Home to work and became my “house parents.” The gentleman was a minister, and he and his wife had no children of their own. With their arrival, they brought a feeling of hope to our “house” and made it feel more like a home. The woman even took pains to redecorate the house and make it more beautiful. She always went the extra mile to give love and attention to all the children under her care, children of all ages, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Her “children” soon learned to love her in return. After being at the home for about a year, my house parents realized that they had developed a special attachment to me, a very shy little girl. I was so shy that I did not reach out immediately to new people, but my desire to love and be loved by people who were mentally capable of loving soon led me to reach out to the only real “parents” I had ever known. When my house parents realized that they may need to offer a more stable home environment to me, they took extra care to get to know my brother who had to live in another house because he was a boy. They offered to let him live in their apartment that adjoined the house. My brother had already made it clear that he would not allow his sister to be separated from him through adoption. He developed a strong attachment to my house parents, especially to the “house father” because he had never had a real male role-model.

When I was almost 9 and my brother was almost 15, my house parents became my “real” parents and took my brother and I to live with them. It was definitely a learning experience for all, since my brother and I had never had a normal parent-child relationship, and my parents were dealing with being new parents and parents of a teenager all at the same time. They continued to struggle to bring their shy little girl out of her shell because they had learned that she may have inherited her biological mother’s depression-related mental illness, and her psychologist had advised them that she needed to learn to communicate her feelings. With love and patience, they slowly drew me out, and after a year of living together, I was able to verbally call them “mom” and “dad”.

My brother was stronger than I and was very grateful for being brought out of a situation and a community that would have undoubtedly led him into dangerous situations as he grew up. He graduated from high school, successfully graduated from college with honors, graduated from law school at the University of North Carolina, became a very successful lawyer at a very young age, and has become a loving husband and father of three beautiful children.

My struggles were probably more inherent because of my inherited mental state, but I am an example of what a loving familial relationship centered around Christ can produce and overcome. I remained a shy adolescent, but I worked very hard in school and graduated from high school with a 4.0 average after taking the highest academic classes offered. Although I had to change schools in the middle of my high school years because of my father’s decision to re-enter the ministry, I managed to make a few close friendships that have remained true to this day. In college, I was still very shy, but at a small women’s college, I was able to develop respectable relationships with my professors and to participate in active classroom discussions. From the time I graduated from high school, I held several part-time jobs to keep my parents from having to provide all of my financial resources because I knew that my father’s desire to re-enter the ministry had significantly decreased his income. Working provided me with a profound desire to become a successful, independent woman. During my junior year of college, I applied and was offered an opportunity to work in a small plaintiff’s workers’ compensation law firm. The job I was hired to perform was supposed to involve minimal clerical and receptionist duties, but my desire to learn more soon led me to take on more responsibilities so that during the summer, I was able to take over the job duties of the office’s paralegal, the only legal support staff for the two attorneys, while she was on maternity leave. I utilized this professional opportunity to gain a lot of knowledge about the legal field and the North Carolina workers’ compensation system. My heart was often touched by injured workers who could no longer work or provide for their families.

While in college, I met a young man who was attending North Carolina State University and studying forestry. I was drawn to his incredible strength of character and integrity and soon learned that his background was not completely free of hardships either. His parents had struggled financially his whole life while working very hard in local textile mills. When he was a teenager, his father decided to leave his mother and had nothing more to do with either himself or his sister. Although many impressionable young men would have allowed this treatment by their most important role-model to sour their disposition, I discovered that this young man had remained a caring and compassionate creature who respected his mother more than any young man I have ever known. I also discovered that he had been profoundly influenced by his grandmother who had earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education later in life and held education in very high esteem. She had died from cancer a few years before I knew him, but he went on to make her proud by graduating from college and beginning a successful career in his field of study. Our friendship and relationship grew for over three years so that when I graduated from college, we became husband and wife in a beautiful ceremony performed by my father that paid tribute to all of the people who had inspired our lives.

As all newlyweds soon discover, independence is not always easy, especially for two people who enter it with very little financial resources and a significant amount of debt due to educational expenses. With a lot of love and more than a few disagreements, we stuck together and have now been married for almost seven years. Three years ago, we celebrated the arrival of our beautiful baby boy who has already proved to possess a fiery disposition to match his lively red hair. After living a significant distance from both of our families for almost four years, we decided to take an opportunity of relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina. This move felt like coming home for me. After almost 20 years, I had moved back to the area of my birth. My brother and his family had moved to Charlotte a couple of years before, and my husband’s family was also in the vicinity so when my husband had the opportunity to relocate for his job, we did not hesitate to make the move even though it involved moving with a new baby and attempting to sell our first home that we had purchased just two years earlier.

The last few years of our lives have been both difficult and wonderful. It has allowed me to give my son a chance to have a close relationship with his extended family and to grow up with his biological cousins, both advantages which I never had. Now, I have been blessed with a wonderful job working in the legal practice area that first opened my mind and touched my heart with a desire to help others. I also have the opportunity of pursuing my life-long dream of becoming an attorney and possibly doing more to help the clients that already touch my heart.

My Cardboard Testimony would read:

Front: Born to a single mother who battled with serious mental, emotional and depression-related illnesses and who verbalized her suicidal thoughts in front of her young children. Wondered if I would inherit her condition and what kind of mother I could hope to be as a result.

Back: Saved through GRACE and now the proud Mommy to a beautiful and amazing little boy!


  1. Awesome testimony Sherry! :) God is so faithful.

  2. Yes, He is! He definitely gets all the glory! Where would any of us be without Him? Why can't people open their eyes and see the TRUTH? I wish more people would open up and share their stories because that is what we are meant to do! If our stories can help just one person, it is our responsibility to share! That is doing God's work, right? Imagine how many women who have suffered alone or in silence with a similar struggle as yours and how many have probably read your words of hope and love and maybe found peace! God bless you for your amazing testimony too!

  3. I was checking out your blog after I saw that you had prayed for me from The Mob Society. Your writings drew me in and I just love love this post!! And in the midst of my reading....I see that you live in Charlotte... I live in Hickory. Talk about a small world!! Thanking God for your prayers today!

  4. Thank you for reminding me of your testimony. I believe this is where the Lord first led me to your blog. I am so thankful that He did. Your testimony is assurance of God's love, mercy and grace. Remembering the hard things in our lives, is a huge reminder of what God has done and can do!

  5. I am so glad you included this link in your newest post. Obviously we didn't know each other in 2010 and even with clicking around within your blog I had never come across this post. I knew some of these details but not the entire story. Of course I feel like I know you so much better now. What a powerful testimony. I've always been impressed and awed with your strength and resiliency, but that has grown even more now.

  6. Thank you for including this link. As I said in my previous comment, you are amazing Sherry. You are so strong and such a good mommy to your four children. Even though you may not have grown up with a stable family situation from the start, you are providing an incredible family experience for your boys. You make me cry with your inner strength and the beauty of your story.

  7. Sherry, I have been reading through your blog after coming over from Kelly's the other day. While we have different religious beliefs, I am so, so touched by your testimony. We have so much in common. In addition to both being crafty, stay-at-home attorneys, there is a lot of intersection in our lives. My father, though a present and wonderful parent, struggles with mental illness resulting in part from being a Vietnam vet. I had, and still have, many fears about what that means for me. My legal practice was for children in foster care going through their reunification and/or adoption processes. I almost hesitate to write this part, because I have certainly not walked in your shoes, but I almost did. My eldest daughter was born very early and severely ill due to issues with her umbilical cord (she is here only through a miracle and the intervention of my co-worker who was a NICU nurse before going to law school). I am really moved by your story and can personally relate to so very much. I look forward to reading more about your family and you!


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