Healing My Father Wound
For most of my life, my father has not been the greatest of fathers. Physically, he was present. I had a roof over my head, clothes I needed, food in my stomach. But that lasted until I was 18. After my parents divorced, he didn't care if I had house to live in or how I was going to pay for food or clothes, let alone for college.
After my long term relationship with my boyfriend at the time ended (6 years together) when I was 24, I went on a destructive path. I needed to feel validation from men and I sought it. Whatever way it came in. To me, men were only good for one thing, and I would make sure I got it. I would be in "relationships" with these men, but not really committing myself to them.
Until one "relationship" was so toxic, that I started to question God and myself, how I would allow my life to get this far. I would drink and do drugs with this guy and I swore to myself long ago that I would "never be one of those girls."
After I accepted Christ into my life, the Lord showed me that not only was I hurt but so was my father. Because my father didn't have his own father growing up (my grandfather would reject him as his own son and didn't recognize him as such), he didn't learn to be one. My father didn't have role models to show him to be a loving husband to my mom, or loving father to us kids. And I didn't have a good father figure to show me that I should be loved and cherished and valued as the most beloved treasure there is. Because that is how God sees me.
I have come to a point where I know my earthly father is no where near my Heavenly Father and the distinction is crystal clear. I can count, trust, seek my Heavenly Father. I can depend on my Heavenly Father for everything and anything. That is the prayer I pray for everyone: To trust, to seek, to obey, and to love Jesus Christ as He is the one who will heal your wounds, and bring you in right standing with Him.
God Get All The Glory
So, my 20s started off with me grinding & striving hard - finishing undergrad in 3 1/2 years, then 1 year later running to get my MBA & finishing in 1 1/2 years. Blame it on the Nigerian ambition, but in my mind I was running full speed to my corner officer as the VP of a major entertainment company while driving my 7 series BMW. Oh & in the middle of all this, I was failing in my fight against my addiction & depression, thinking "this can't be life." The outside looked good, but I was literally dying on the inside.
Then out of desperation, I showed up to a church I heard about in passing about 4-5 years earlier, and while at The Vine, I encountered the risen Christ. I knew my life was instantly changed, but I didn't yet understand what this meant for the rest of my 20s. In the middle of my applying to jobs out of state, I was introduced to discipleship. The recession hit, and no one was hiring me out of state, so I said I'd try this discipleship thing out. Then I learned about "death to self". Death to self? A few years back, I was dealing with suicidal thoughts, so anything with death & me in the same sentence was a no go. Wait! Oh, you mean self-denial? Ya, I'm surrendered to Jesus - I mean I sing "All to Jesus, I surrender..."! I deny myself all the time. Uhh no! I wasn't getting it.
Then, to my surprise, I was suddenly no longer able to achieve my goals - no matter how hard I tried. It was like I kept running full force into brick walls & nothing made sense. I did everything according to the book & followed the Nigerian handbook to success lol. Why am I not successful? There were lots of changes happening internally, but I desperately wanted the outside to match. I was like "thanks God for healing me from addiction & everything that came with it. Oh, and thanks for my new friends, but where's my six-figure paying job? I mean, can I just have something for my parents to brag about when they're around other Nigerians?" I was soooo frustrated!
So after years of fighting God, I prayed, "God, please get all the glory in my life." That's when things turned upside down. I learned that when God is in control, 1+1 doesn't always equal 2. Things could look great on paper, line up perfectly, and not go according to my plans. I was completely humbled. I had so many plans, but He was the One determining my steps. I was stripped of everything I thought I wanted, and that is when I really began to learn the secret of contentment. I had to learn (& still learning) to stop taking control, get out of the way, & leave room for Him to move. I really needed to learn the meaning of "not my will, but God's will be done".
For those not walking closely with me, this past decade looked like my life hasn't changed much. Sometimes, it even looked like I was going backwards. My 20s felt like the slingshot season of my life, where the dominant hand (God) grasps the pocket and draws it back to the desired extent to provide power for the projectile (me)! I've also learned that success to God is me following & obeying His plans, regardless of where the world says I should be. I no longer have 5 year plans. I no longer desire to be boasted about by my relatives. My desire is to hear "well done My good and faithful servant." I have absolutely no clue what adventures will take place as I continue to walk with Christ, but I'm encouraged in knowing that God is able to do far more abundantly than I can ask or imagine!
I Remember The Singing
I remember the singing...
To back up a few steps, I had always been the one to try and avoid worship years ago. I would purposely drag out whatever I was doing at home before going to church so that I would be late and miss worship. Thank goodness my sister was still willing to drive me, even though I would make her late, too. Worship made me uncomfortable. At the time, I didn’t get the waving of the hands, the tears, the emotions.
But I remember the singing.
I remember wanting to go back each week for the message and being drawn to the peacefulness and passion of the singing. It was beautiful. One time, one of the singers on stage began the song in English and then transitioned to a few verses in Spanish. Tears welled up in my eyes. Times like these felt like being at home, or a sense of home, and not the building of home, but a deeper sense of the word “home”. I couldn’t process it all clearly in the moment.
In the weeks to come, I would be a little earlier to church, still late, but not missing the whole worship session. And I would start to have this overwhelming urge to put my hands up. For so long I had fought against it, wishing that the songs would end so we could get right to the sermon. But things slowly started to shift, and I felt like I was fighting more to suppress than I was actually suppressed. It was this desire to surrender, but more profound, it was this “I know it’s You”, and “I can’t deny it’s You” admittance within.
Pride is so frustrating and strong. No hands were raised for awhile.
We kept hearing time and time again from the pastor [Phil] about how worship doesn’t end once we leave church. And that if worship alone with God is our lifestyle, then church is the extension, the beautiful opportunity to worship together.
I still think about those nights hearing those singers on stage, and I remember my soul wanting to spring up but my pride trying to hold it back.
How beautiful the gifts and talents God gives. As if they are windows to help see God in a way one may have never seen or experienced Him. Like the sweetness that came from those voices, and what it helped stir up within.
Hello my name is Stephanie Robledo and I have grown up in the church my whole life. My parents put me in Sunday school class, I was in choir by the age of 6, and attended church camps growing up. So growing up I knew about God and His love for this world and how Jesus came to save us, but this knowledge was just a head knowledge, and I knew it because it was taught, but that was as far as it went. I didn't really have a personal relationship with him because at the time I didn't really know how that looked.
It wasn't until high school, at camp when I had an encounter with the Lord and truly felt Him calling me, and at that point that knowledge started to make its way to my heart. However, it wasn't until being at The Vine under Pastor Phil's leadership where I truly experienced all those truths that I learned when I was a child, in ways that were so powerful, real, practical and life changing. At that point those truths took root in my heart and grew. The season of the Vine at Shepherd Church grew my faith, transformed my life, grew my understanding of what worship truly is and so much more. I gained a family of brothers and sisters that I was able to do life with and grow with. That season I am truly grateful to God for.
Some time had gone by in between the Vine at Shepherd and the Vine at Own Your Faith, but the minute I stepped back into the Vine at OYF I once again found and felt a family of brothers and sisters to do life with. Through OYF my understanding of the heart of God, the works of the Holy Spirit, the depth of worship as a way of life, and so much more, has grown even deeper. OYF and being a part of 72 group has challenged me in the ways I think and how to go deeper, has brought about deeper understandings of truths I have known, and has brought about brothers and sisters to do life with, and to walk alongside me in the healing process during a very hard season. The Vine has been a huge part of my testimony and the journey of my walk with the Lord, and I am so blessed and grateful for this ministry and for Pastor Phil's heart of obedience in serving the Lord in this ministry!
I've had the privilege of serving God through Own Your Faith/The vine as a mentor. It's not because I have eloquent words of wisdom, but because spending time, listening and sharing the Gospel with other women has a way of giving me purpose in life.
Serving as a mentor has given me clarity on knowing and loving God, my identity in Christ, and how to love my neighbor as myself!
A Restored Life
Hi, my name is Cynthia R. Hernandez. I am so overjoyed and blessed to say: "I'm a servant of the Most High". I get to worship freely and for that I'm forever thankful. I get to serve in Worship Ministry with Own Your Faith Ministry @ The Vine with an amazing family of brothers and sisters. I have been blessed beyond measure. This is truly a ministry that "Heals the Wounded and Builds the Healed." With Pastor Phil's leadership and God's phenomenal Prayer Team @ The Vine, I have been able to overcome ALL of my obstacles.... God has strategically placed all of these individuals into my life so that He could use each and every one of them to claim Victory over His daughter.
Sadly, I was born with PTSD. I didn’t even have a chance to acquire it on my own (lol). I am what a Doctor would call a botched abortion, But what God intended to be, His miracle! Born in 1969 with serious medical issues from day one, hanging on to life. I’m told I had a fraternal twin that did not make it…..I was brought into a fatherless, abusive home.(My mother divorced her first husband, before I was born.) I had one older brother at the time. My mother was an immigrant born in Beirut, Lebanon. She entered the United States at the age of 4 or 5 years old. Her Father was a very abusive man as well. My mom had 3 brothers and 3 sisters in which she was the oldest (first born) and the only one that was left behind in Lebanon. She grew up with some evident mental illnesses that she prescribed alcohol and drugs to temporarily fix as an adult. I was 3 months old when my mom was able to bring me home from the hospital. By the time I reached 5 months old we were homeless for the first time.
I was 4 years old when my mother remarried. And I shortly became an older sister. Now I was the middle child and the only girl, in our entire immediate family, which meant I had many new responsibilities. Mom had lots of friends over and my brothers and I often had to see them passed out in their own vomit. I vividly recall one of mom’s friends lying on the bathroom floor dead from a drug overdose. Mom’s new husband (my stepfather) was an alcoholic, and a violent one. He was physically and mentally abusive to my older brother and I behind my mother’s back, mostly while she was away at work. By the time my younger brother was 4 they were divorced.
My baby brother did not return home from playing outside one day 1977/78, he had been abducted. Police wagons were posted up in front of our house along with a news van. At this same time, children were being abducted from around our city and being found cut up in pieces. The next morning, here comes my baby brother walking up the lawn. My mom runs out of the house and falls to the ground screaming where were you!?! He replied; I was with my Daddy! Apparently his father drove by and swooped him up without giving any kind of notice. My mother had lost her mind at this point, left us with our grandmother and never returned home. That evening, she was arrested for assault, battery, vandalism, larceny, and attempted murder. She had gone over to “the father’s” house busted out his windows and headlights from his car with a Louisville Slugger (bat), the windows of his house, and then his kneecaps. She then set the house on fire! Remarkably, she was released on some kind of temporary insanity, being her child was abducted, and she thought he was with the hillside strangler…. Mom was in and out of trouble after that, and had people in and out of our home. Drug dealers, boyfriends, friends etc. We moved around a lot. Our home was being raided, robbed, or used as a cultivation spot with tons of traffic in and out. We were always losing our home and becoming homeless.
I couldn’t be settled in any one school and my grades began to falter due to the unstableness. My brothers and I were physically, emotionally, and verbally abused by our mother all of our lives. I got the worst of it! I say that because she would constantly remind me during beatings how she wished I would have been flushed down the toilet with (what she would refer to as) “the other one”.. This was a resounding gong in my ear while growing up. I became an adult very quickly. I don’t remember too much being a child, as I do my childhood years. I was picked on most of the time at school (when I was there). I had old dingy clothing that reeked of smoke, flea bitten legs, matted nappy hair and my skin wasn’t as light as it is now. I was of much darker complexion. I remembered taking some of my school pictures (that one day, even “you” don’t recognize yourself), and place them in an album and write fairy tales about who I was in the pictures, because the very next day it was back to the same old routine.
So let’s fast forward to 9 years. So far we had lived in Harbor City, Torrance, Silver Lake, Inglewood, Compton, South Central and Hawthorne, CA. Mom went to work one day while we were homeless again and living with my biological paternal grandmother, and never returned “again”, but this time it was for a couple years. My grandmother was African American/Creole(French Spaniard).
She would braid my hair up in cornrows etc. And even though I was in a totally different school, I was still being picked on. I was getting it from the Caucasians and the Colored folks. I was called a half breed, a n****r lover, by the white kids, and a High Yella white trash mix by the black kids. So I got a chance to see what each side felt like. I had no other choice but to grow up quick and tough. I had to fight my way in and out of everything. Fast forward…….to 1980, we are now in Lawndale, CA. Obviously mom had returned for us, and at that point she’d gotten herself into a very dangerous lifestyle. We ended up having to move very far away, as her life was now in danger. She picked a place on the map, and said we were going there! “There” was the desert. Some ghost town called Lancaster, CA. Oh my Lord! I was so angry and just completely traumatized by this age. I just could not wait to get as far away from this place, and my mother as I could. I got into many fights.
So now I’m being called a “beaner”. Can you believe that? Well I got myself thrown out of the entire school district and I had to go and live with my grandmother in Silverlake, CA where I attended high school for a short period of time. I didn’t graduate on account of getting pregnant at the age of 17 with my first boyfriend. I was a mother by 1987, and a wife by 1988. I sure know how to pick them! My first husband ended up being a drug addict. He was severely physically, mentally, verbally, and sexually abusive. We were married for less than a year when I had to leave him and file an annulment. He went to prison for murder/homicide with a 25 years to life sentence.
I had already met my current husband Herbert prior to my ex husband's arrest. In 1993, my baby brother was murdered, and Herbert and I were expecting our second child, as he accepted responsibility of my first child back in 1989. Herbert lost his father to cirrhosis of the liver, when he was 19 years old. His father was 39 years of age at the time of his death. It was sudden and shocking. I really never thought Herbert would take that same path. He ended up becoming an alcoholic/addict. We got married after being together for 8 years. Then, 4 months later our lives would take a drastic turn. I packed up and moved out. I had enough of the abusive dysfunctional family life. We were seperated for 3 years. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at the age of 26. I am diagnosed with PTSD, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Fatigue Syndrome, and many other complications that all stem from the severe trauma from the unsuccessful abortion my mother had. I have severe Panic Disorder. Among other ailments. I overcome these obstacles with the help of the Holy Spirit.
See when I was a little girl, my grandmother taught me about Jesus. She said Jesus was my savior! I literally took Him for exactly that. The only way I survived my childhood, adolescent, and into adulthood has been by His mercy and grace. I learned to pray and read at a very early age. After 18 long years of prayer and trust in Jesus, Herbert and I couldn’t be a stronger strand of 3. With Christ at the center. It was a struggle and we are “THE” exception to the rule; they say. Herbert, now by the grace of God Almighty, has been 10 years clean and sober. It started with Herbert and I surrendering our lives to Jesus. Then God began to use us.
As we moved forward in His will, He lead us to The Vine. This is where the Lord would begin to use Pastor Phil Allen to speak life into these dry bones. In 2012 the Lord called us into ministry and blessed us with a home in Santa Clarita. We are now grandparents of 5 blessings with 1 on the way. I’m proud and overjoyed to say that our grandkids have never been subject to any of the sins from our past. Thanks for believing in our dream of freedom in Christ. I am going to have to end this with a………To be continued :)
Growing up, I attended Catholic church as a young child, and never really enjoyed it or ever wanted to go actually. As a family we would go on holidays and special occasions. For me the best part was the donuts. About the time I was in middle school, maybe 12 or 13, we started going to a Christian church at Rocky Peak. My parents wanted us to start going there because they thought it would teach us good and important things children should learn growing up. I enjoyed the youth group there because they had fun games and events that were fun for kids my age.
I also started to learn about who Jesus actually was, and that he is a personal God, things I had never heard before. The idea of a loving, personal God who wants to help me with any problems I may encounter sounded appealing to me, so I accepted Jesus into my life at one of the youth group nights. Through middle school and high school I continued to believe, and even had some moments of being on fire for the Lord, but for the most part my own desires took over, and I eventually left the church after high school.
Around the age of 17 or 18, I started trying things of the world - drinking, smoking and partying. For me at that time, those things felt like what I had always been looking for in life, and they were very appealing to me. For a few years, until about the time I was 24 or 25, I continued living that way. As time went on, it progressed from having an occasional drink, to a serious addiction, to marijuana and getting drunk a few times every week, or whenever I went out to socialize. At first it was fun. There were times of being in inappropriate relationships with girls, and partying, and to be honest some very fun times. Deep down I always knew how I was living was wrong and one day it would have to come to an end, but I did not want to stop.
As time went on I began to lose relationships, and became more of a solitude user; it was a very lonely time. There were many times when I wanted to stop getting high, but I could never manage to stay sober for more than a few hours, much less a day or 2. I knew the very sin I once enjoyed and pursued no longer brought me the same joy, but I could not stop; I was in a prison of addiction. As much as I wanted to change, and even friends would try and help me, I could not seem to get myself out of the mud I had found myself stuck in. Things continued to get worse as I lost my job, and began to lose the will to live. This time in my life was the lowest I have ever been. I was seriously depressed, suicidal, had a serious anxiety problem, and was just completely hopeless and alone, or at least that's what I thought.
I believe because of my decision for Jesus earlier, the Lord was not going to let me go. At this point he began putting ideas in my head. Nothing big, just the idea of God, thoughts of church earlier in my life, small things. Although it seemed small, God was really working to do something huge. One night as I was laying in my bed as a wretched, depressed, anxious wreck, I encountered the Lord in a very real way. As I laid there I began to feel the presence of God in the room with me, and he asked me if I wanted to be free from the situation I found myself in. Having nowhere else to turn, I said yes, and he said he could free me from my chains if I trusted in him.
Now this experience was the most powerful experience I have ever had, and probably will ever have in my life. The feeling of his presence and love and peace was completely overwhelming, and hearing his voice was unprecedented. However, me being the way I was, I still was not sure. So I asked for another sign, and then fell asleep as I was bathed in the peace and love of the almighty Lord. Now God is merciful! He is so merciful he gives us far far more than we ever could deserve or earn. A few hours after I fell asleep, I was awaken by an earthquake that shook me enough to wake me out of my deep sleep. At that moment I knew that the Lord's promise was for real, and I knew my life would never be the same.
After that night I struggled with drugs and alcohol for about another month, because I was still trying to do things on my own. I can honestly say though from that moment on, the obsession was lifted, the chains were broken, and I walked a free man in the Lord! I was still seriously flawed, and it took a serious program of recovery working the 12 steps thoroughly and repeatedly, in order to gain my sanity and in order to remain sober. These things are also very important - to be able to be put in a place where you can help someone else. Today I am still far from perfect, but I am not the man I was 3 years ago. I am thankful to have found OYF as I continue my walk in a place of community, and a place where I am always challenged to not become complacent.
I met Jesus for the first time at the Vine. In May of 2011 I was at rock bottom the pain and emptiness in my soul was so great. I had formed a plan to give my daughter up for adoption because I felt unworthy to be her mother and I also decided to take my own life. I grew up a "fan" of Jesus, calling myself a Christian and going to church with my family on and off. Every time the pastor offered baptism I signed up. I was desperate to know the God of Love. But I grew up never feeling loved or wanted because my father left when I was a baby.
I desperately wanted the pain in my soul to be healed. I had no idea you could have a true real relationship with Jesus. Through the weight of my broken heart somehow I knew I needed to go to church. So I told my Mom I needed to go to church, and she happened to have a friend whose son went to the Vine, and so she said why don't you check it out?
That night I planned to take my life because I felt my daughter would be better off without me to ruin her and her life. But my Mom's voice kept echoing in my head.."why don't you check out the Vine". That night I cried out to God like never before. I prayed and said to Him "if you are truly a God of Love then show me because all I have is pain and I just want to be loved". I felt a nudging telling me to get my bible and open it. So I got it and opened it up (bible roulette) to 1 John 4:16
"And so we know and rely on the Love God has for us. God is Love. Whoever lives in Love lives in God and God in them".
In that moment I knew He heard my prayer so I made the decision to check out the Vine the next day. THE BEST DECISION I EVER MADE aside from giving my heart to Christ. Immediately when I walked in to the foyer a sweet girl greeted me and started a conversation with me. I was hurting and she could see it in my eyes she stayed with me the whole service, offered me prayers and tissues to dry my tears, and she made sure to get my phone number and she actually called me!
I felt such warmth and love like I had made it back home. Now 6 years later I have truly become part of a beautiful family, a family that Loves as He Loves and I am so Grateful.
Sundays @10 am
Residence Inn Valencia
25320 The Old Road
Stevenson Ranch, CA 91381
Our mission is to facilitate a space that fosters healing and edifies believers, leading people to “own” their faith, living out what they say they believe. We want to equip a generation to lead, teach, and inspire others to be culture-changers .