I was the fifth child born in a family of seven. My father was not a well man he suffered from alcoholism. My mother was a co-dependent who self harmed many times. We lived in a 2 bed terraced house that was rat infested, we would hear the rats inside the walls and chewing on the floorboards. The house was such squalor that I don’t have the words to describe it, only my brothers and sisters know the truth of the horror of our childhood home. We would often go hungry for several days. Sometimes we would be taken out of our beds in the early hours of the morning to walk the streets because my mom was so scared that my dad was going to harm someone due to his excessive alcohol consumption. There where times when we were in such a rush we did not even have time to put our socks or a coat on. On one occasion I remember being outside in about two inches of snow and I was so cold I thought I was going to die. We would have to stay outside until my dad fell asleep and my mom felt it was safe for us to go back inside. We would go to school the next day tired and unkempt as you can imagine I never had any friends. School was painful but home was even worse.
The greatest gift I ever received in life was from my dad because he gave me a Christian upbringing. As confusing and crazy as this may sound my dad did fear God and as a family we attended Church every Sunday and confession every Saturday.
I left school at 16 like all my brothers and sisters with very few qualifications. I sat one exam and that was religious studies. I started full time work on my 16th birthday. At 16 I could not drive a car so I brought a moped, after work I could go to my sisters to check she was caring for my nephew properly, then I would go to my mom’s house to feed my younger brother and sister and then to my dad’s to check that he got home from the pub safely.
Three months into my new job God sent an angel into my life who was going to help heal ALL the pain from my past, this angel three years later became my husband and the father of our two amazing children. I am not putting him on a pedestal because that is not fair to anyone but he is a lovely person by God’s Grace, Amen. I had just passed my twentieth birthday when I gave birth to our beautiful daughter and she was just the most amazing being I had ever seen and I cried out to God with everything I had and begged him to help me not harm this little life in anyway. I believed I was ‘damaged goods’ and I would only end up hurting my beautiful daughter and my lovely husband. I heard God’s audible voice right there in the hospital bed, he said “you will be fine Tina and I will be with you every single step of the way.”
God Blessed me through the love of my husband, children and amazing siblings, their love gave me the confidence to start night school, I gained the education needed to start university and three years later I qualified as a Children’s Nurse and then went on to complete an honours degree in Public Health. EVERY SINGLE SECOND of every day was a struggle, a constant battle with the devil who kept telling me I was not good enough BUT MY GOD, MY LORD AND MY SAVIOUR told me I am more than a conqueror, that I am the head and NOT the tail, He said He is with me ALWAYS, He loves me with an everlasting love, He knows every single hair on my head and He loves me just the way I am, He said I am beautiful and wonderfully made AMEN.
Without God in my life I have no doubt that I would have been a drunk and an abusive wife and mother but to God’s Glory I am very Blessed to have been married 29 years to a husband I love and to have an amazing daughter and son. I have also been blessed with the most wonderful siblings who would do anything for me. With hindsight I believe that God was preparing me through the pain of my childhood to do my current job with real passion. I am very blessed to help vulnerable families who have alcohol and drug problems. I don’t judge them, I help them and most importantly God has blessed me to be a voice for the children who are suffering. God told me and he is telling everyone reading this article that he has a plan and purpose for our lives; Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.
I am not perfect by any means and neither is my husband, we are both sinners saved by Grace and although every day is still a struggle we go out with God’s full armour on (Ephesians 6). By God’s Grace we are advocates for the heavenly Kingdom on earth and we are ambassadors for Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Through writing my own testimony God has spoken clearly to me on two levels:
1. Not to judge but to love even the most difficult people because there I go but for God’s Grace and as Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8 'love covers a multitude of Sins…'Amen
2. Be careful what I sow because I will leave a legacy and God asks me 'Tina what legacy will you leave?'
Author: Christina O’Neill
May God bless and enrich your life
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