By: Grace Moerke Malone

My life, for as long as I can remember, has been anything but normal. I was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota and eventually I moved to another city close by. I suppose I ought to explain a bit about why my life was so utterly chaotic. To start, I have high-functioning Autism. As a girl on the autism spectrum, I struggled socially and academically. To compound things, I wasn't diagnosed until my last year of high school, which by then was too little too late for my education. Compounding that are the fact that I have Fibromyalgia, a condition that causes chronic long-term pain. For years, I was unable to lay down on my back for more than a few seconds at a time and sleep was occasionally a challenge. To complete the chaos, I was also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, depression and ADHD. Long story short, I was the crazy kid.

I remember going to church when I was younger but by the time I was ten my parents and I had stopped going completely. Being an only child with autism, I would often keep to myself, preferring to stay at home as opposed to going out with friends.

But for all those years, there was a black shadow that haunted our family. My father, a black man from El Dorado, Arkansas, was emotionally abusive towards both me and my mom. It started subtle but gradually grew more intense and for all that time I had no idea I was being manipulated. 'I am the only person you can trust. You can't trust anyone else, not even your mom.' 'Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.' 'Keep your head on a swivel.' 'Be careful. People can backstab other people.' Those were some of the things he said to me. And I believed him because I was a kid and didn't know any better.

My dad had a painful past all his own. He actually spent first through sixth grade in a segregated black school using second-hand textbooks that the white kids no longer needed. He grew up with ten brothers and sisters in a community where if you were black then you had to fight to survive.

 Later on, he went into the military. And during that period, things happened. My dad took most of the details to his grave but I know he was involved in unexpected armed conflicts. He might have even killed someone. Who knows? All I know is that he married my mom and in 1992 I was born. But over the years, he became more and more paranoid. He put Styrofoam over our windows because he was worried that people were looking in. From the time I was born (February of 1992) until November of 2011, there were only five times that anyone ever came over to our apartment. He was also distrustful of other people. For that same period of time, there were only a dozen or so occasions where I went to someone else's house.

Elementary school is the only period of time when I consider myself a 'kid'. I discovered that I had an innate talent for music, particularly the clarinet. I had friends and I remember wanted to go to school every day. But when I entered middle school, my life started to gradually spiral out of control. The homework load became a literal nightmare. Due to my inattentiveness and ADHD, I did homework from the time I got home until the time I went to bed. I had few friends and spent little time socializing. Music became my outlet and it was the only thing I could say that I was good at.

There was this one incident where I did something to upset my dad. His response was one that haunted me for years. I was a computer whiz and I had built up a collection of educational CD-ROM games. I literally had dozens of them and I loved them. I would play with them almost every single day. Well, he started grabbing them and he started breaking them. And he didn't just break them, he literally and physically snapped them in half. And it wasn't just a few. He broke ALL of them. The process took several hours and I remember crying so hard and begging him to stop. He even forced me to break (or attempt at least) some of them myself. I learned not to cherish anything too much or to 'show' how much something meant to me. I feared the hurt from losing something that I cherished. I was always careful. Sometimes even the most mundane thing would set him off. If he asked me a question and I didn't answer the way he wanted, that alone would sometimes provoke his rage. For everything I got right, there were ten things I would get wrong. Nothing ever seemed good enough and I never seemed able to meet his lofty expectations. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I would attempt to deflect his rage onto anyone else that I could find. I would feel relieved when he was yelling at my mom because it meant he wasn't yelling at me. I was convinced that he loved me and that all he wanted was the best for me. If I could just meet his goals, then everything would be fine and my life would be perfect.

I always had a vivid imagination and I turned to fantasy to fill the emptiness. I hated real life. I remember coming to the stark conclusion that if given the possibility of leaving my family and friends and life forever, I would do it in a heartbeat. I also learned that crying was bad. If I started to cry while my dad was yelling at me, he would assume that I was trying to elicit pity and he would treat me even harsher.

High school was a period of time that I refer to as 'my darkest hour'. My life came undone and never stabilized. During 9th grade, the homework load reached a crisis point. My dad had been an academic over-achiever for all his life. Seeing me struggle to get good grades caused him to 'police' me unrelentingly. Due to his training in the military, my dad knew how to raise his voice and he knew how to be intimidating. Rebellion was simply not an option and I learned that from an early age. Failing my classes became less stressful than the homework and once that imbalance was reached, I never recovered. I barely managed to get a B in any of my classes. Because of the constant workload, I never got the chance to take a breather or recuperate. Eventually, I started lying about homework just so I could get a break from it all. My life was nothing but stress and it took its toll.

I attempted suicide in 9th grade by trying to overdose on one of my medications. My parents locked the meds away but that did nothing to fix the root of the problem. During that year of school, I turned to self-abuse. I felt compelled to 'punish' myself on a regular basis. My preferred method was to hit myself in the head with one of my heavy, hard-cover textbooks. I would pummel myself over and over, wondering why I couldn't succeed. 'If only I could be smarter,' I would think to myself, 'if only I could be normal'. There were nights when I would literally cry myself to sleep. But I was good at acting. No one at school suspected a thing. I would act as if everything was alright. God at that point was the farthest thing from my mind. I was too busy trying to keep my head above water to worry about religion. But somehow, there was a void that only God could fill. I tried different things to fill that void, from various religions and even trying to make up a religion of my own. I was searching for Him without even realizing it.

Then 10th grade came and my self-esteem plummeted to an abysmal low. I had no self-worth. I was convinced that I was nothing, that I was of no value and not even worth the air I was breathing. The fantasies I used to entertain myself turned dark and morbid. I would daydream about death and dying and killing myself. I came to the conclusion that the world was a dark and twisted place and that there was no hope whatsoever. I would envision myself suffering endlessly because that was all I knew. Fire, pain, death, illness were all a part of it. I even recall wishing that humanity would die out. I would literally wish for disease and sickness and fire so that the world could be 'cleansed of suffering'. I prayed for Armageddon. I wished I could say that this is just an exaggeration but I can't. I transferred to a high school closer to home for 11th and 12th grade.

Music became the only ray of hope I had left. My greatest triumph of that time was making it into the school's lead jazz band on tenor saxophone for my senior year. For me, that was the one thing I had wanted ever since hearing that band play back in middle school. But my dad would threaten that if I failed to perform to his expectations, then he would pull me out of Jazz 1. That year, I made a terrible promise to myself. I decided that if I did fail his expectations and he pulled me from the band, I would run away and never go home. Having to face my band director, the head of the music department and someone I looked up to, after something like that was unthinkable. I was finally diagnosed with Autism and an IEP was created. But it didn't seem to help much. Then one day I found an old safety pin at school. I started picking at my hands with it until I would sit in class and physically thread the pin through my skin. This left massive scars over an inch long on my hand that are still there even to this day. I would take a scarf and choke myself with it.

Then there was my chemistry class. That class was in a league all of its own. It was the one class I failed. It was also where I found myself confronted with all kinds of acidic things. Back then, my hand had gaping wounds from where I had torn the skin open using that safety pin. One day, I was trying to make up for a partner assignment. I was working with Sulfuric Acid. I felt compelled to take the acid and allow it to drip onto the open wounds on my hand. This continued for nearly 30 minutes. It got to a point where I revealed to the teacher what was happening and refused to continue. Not only did she not say anything but she failed both of us for the assignment. And no matter how hard I tried to study, I failed nearly every test I was given. I thought that I was getting what I deserved, so I said and did nothing. That event with the partner assignment also convinced me that I was unreliable and that I couldn't allow people to trust me with anything. So I avoided making friends on purpose. I thought I was doing the world a favor by trying to remove myself from it as much as possible. For Spanish class, I had to keep a daily journal. I filled that journal with wishes that I would die and how I had lost hope. My Spanish teacher asked if I was alright but I pretended that I was and nothing more was done. My dad had taught me to 'trust no one' and so I revealed nothing of what was happening to me. If anyone questioned anything, I was quick to defend my dad and state how much he loved me. It almost boggles my mind to think that even through those bouts of suicide and depression that God was with me all along. I just couldn't see it.

For my dad, February 19th of 2010 was the beginning of the end. On that day, the police came to our apartment to serve a search warrant. But they came to our apartment by mistake. They didn't identify themselves and when my dad opened the door one of the officers grabbed his arm. He started fighting with the cops and had to be tased. He was taken to Region's Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. That was when PTSD was suspected. But my dad was stubborn and never got the help he so desperately needed.

In August of 2011, I got to go to work with my mom to see what her job was like. At the time, she was working at the Ramsey County Correctional Facility as a night lieutenant. The shift was from 10:00 pm to 6:00 the next day. When we got home, we found that my dad had drunk himself unconscious. Mom called 911 and the paramedics came to help him. But he woke up and started struggling with the paramedics. They had to strap him down to the gurney to get him out of the apartment. His blood alcohol was .27, over three times the legal driving limit. Just 12 days later, I came out of my room to see that my mom had handcuffed my dad and that the police were on their way. My dad had been making threats that he was going to kill people in the apartment and he was extremely agitated. He was forced into a 72-hour police psychiatric evaluation. I knew that my dad was going downhill but nothing could have prepared me for what was soon to come.

On November 17th 2011, my life was shattered apart. On that day, at about 8:00 at night, someone made a 911 call from our home phone number. Since my mom was asleep and I dared not use the phone that way, it had to have been my dad who made the call. Since it was a hang-up, the police came to investigate. My dad had an air-powered gun with orange markings to show that it was non-lethal. But for reasons I don't understand, my dad had removed the orange markings. It looked like a real gun, which fueled what happened that night. The police arrive to find my dad standing just outside our apartment door in the hallway, holding that gun. They told him to drop it but instead my dad raised the gun and pointed it at the officers. They opened fire in defense and I can't really blame them for it. Two bullets hit my dad in the chest and stomach and he died. I remember being in my room and hearing shouting followed by several gunshots. I was so scared. My mom woke up and left her room to see what was happening. I remember peeking out from my room and seeing a police officer with an assault rifle pointed at my mom and my mom holding her hands up. I was eventually brought out of my room and into the living room. From there, I could see that my dad was lying in the hallway and I knew instantly that the police had shot him. They evacuated the entire apartment building and I could hear them literally knocking down doors. They told us to get jackets on and they had us leave the apartment. I had to step over my dad's body to get out through the door. I didn't have the heart to look down. They set us in the back of a squad car and we waited. The paramedics came but never brought me dad out. Fifteen minutes passed and it dawned on me. My dad was dead and they couldn't save him.

They brought us to the police station for questioning then sent us to a hotel room. We couldn't go home because our house was a crime scene. When we finally got home, it just didn't feel like home anyone. The carpeting just outside of our apartment was stained with blood and there were bullet holes in the front door and in the door of the closet which was just to the side of the entrance.

A few days later, people came to make sure that we were okay. I can vividly recall thinking how 'uncomfortable' I was having people over at our apartment. It was, after all, the first time in over ten years that my mom and I had hosted guests. Thanksgiving was completely overshadowed by what had happened. That December we moved to a new apartment and tried to pick up the pieces of our shattered lives. I spent the next two years 'lost in a fog'. It wasn't until spring of 2013 that I started the gradual process of recovering.

During the year 2013, I gradually rediscovered God and Jesus Christ. But I was wracked with low self-esteem. At first, I thought myself unworthy of forgiveness and that my sins couldn't be forgiven. But God was patient with me, allowing me to heal. And slowly but surely I did recover. At the start of 2014, I started trying to reach out to God. I was going through intense bouts of depression where I barely had the motivation to get up in the morning. I knew that I needed help. I started to feel a 'conscience' that would help to guide me along. I know now that it was the Holy Spirit that was getting me through that difficult period. And then there is the day I will never forget. It was the day I was truly 'Saved'. On July 19th 2014, I attended an evening church serve with my mom at a place where one of her co-workers worshipped. We started talking about the book of Ruth and I started crying. I realized that I was just like Ruth, wandering a tough and troubled road. Then after the service, I noticed that books were being sold on a table at the back of the church. One of them was called 'I thought I was' and it immediately caught my eye. It was a book about people who thought that they were saved but they weren't.

I bought it and took it home with me. I spent that night reading it. I suddenly felt that God wanted me to read that book, all the way through. When I paused or thought about taking a break, I felt a thought that said 'No, keep reading. There is something in here that I want you to see.' So I kept reading and reading. The book mentioned that you'll 'know' if you've been saved. And I didn't know. So I started thinking and trying to figure it all out. Until finally, it hit me. The thing that was keeping me from God was trust. Up until that point, I couldn't bring myself to believe that I was saved. I was scared of being 'prideful' or even lying. And there was that thought: 'If only you would have just a little faith in me.' I said the sinner's prayer and then the hardest yet most wonderful moment of my life. I found the courage to speak, out loud, that I was saved and that my sins had been forgiven. That was the moment when I was truly saved. Then, something miraculous happened. My anxiety and depression all but disappeared. Sure, there were low points but I was genuinely happy and at peace with myself. I was finally able to accept myself and believe in myself. I was even able to completely forgive my dad for what he did. I was also no longer scared of crying. And the best part is that I have a personal relationship with God. I have thoughts that mine but they aren't 'mine', a voice that answers my questions or makes comments on what I'm going through. I finally understand what God wants. He wants us to live with Him forever. He doesn't want even one person to have to spend an eternity apart from Him. God even used my vivid imagination to help me understand.

I remember a 'daydream' where I was in court. I was being tried for my sins and I had been found guilty. 'The wages of sin is death, thereby I sentence you to death.' I felt scared and terrible. Right there in the courtroom was an electric chair. The bailiffs were coming to get me, to take me to that chair and execute me. Then, from the back of the courtroom, I heart a great voice call out 'Stop! I have the ransom!' I looked back and saw that it was Jesus Christ who was speaking. The judge seemed a bit confused and asked what Jesus meant by 'a ransom'. 'Let me die instead, in that she might live.' The judge didn't even seem to question it. He just shrugged and said 'Well as long as a life is paid, I don't care.' The bailiffs let go of me and escorted Jesus to the electric chair instead. I can't describe the guilt I felt. As they were strapping him into the chair, I cried out to him. 'Why Jesus?! Why die for someone for me? You don't have to do it!' And Jesus looked up and I looked right into his eyes. And He said 'You're right. I don't have to do this. But I WANT to do this ' because I love you Grace. I love you as if there were no other to love.' And there was a blast of white light and the daydream was over. And I burst into tears and spent the next several minutes sobbing hysterically. It all made sense.

God has even used my passion for music to his benefit and glory. There have been times when, while listening to a particular song, I have felt joy beyond description. I would start sobbing and I'd feel a great burning in my chest. It was like there was so much joy inside of me that I could barely contain it all. It felt as if my heart was going burst apart at the seams. My head would fall back and I would sit there, mouth hanging open and feeling the joy of the Lord come upon me.

And then I would read testimonials and as I read, I would hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. 'Do you see now how much I love you? Do you see that I will gladly chase a person to the ends of what is just to bring them back? I have such blessings to offer and such patience.'

And the best part is, I have learned to trust in God. I have learned that when I feel an inspiration to do something righteous or even seemingly simple, I do my best to heed that voice.

In September, I felt the sudden urge to write something, so I found a pen and piece of scratch paper. But then I wondered what I ought to write. 'Write 'God loves me' on that sheet of paper', the voice said and so I did. 'Now write 'Jesus loves me''. So I did that too. I keep writing those two lines over and over.

Finally, I wondered what was happening. 'Write those things until you have made a measurement of how much I love you'.

But God! I thought, I'd have to write those things for the rest of eternity and even then I still wouldn't be any closer!

'Good, now you understand how much I love you.'

And I got it! It actually made sense! I understand that I have been blessed beyond measure. And to think that there are even more blessings yet to come! I know that if God can accept and forgive a person as broken as me then no one is beyond redemption! And I can honestly say that I am ready and willing for whatever the Lord sends my way!


"And this gospel of the kingdom [Jesus died for sinners] shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Quote from Jesus Himself: Matthew 24:14).

Consider how many children in "all the nations" have never heard YET what Jesus accomplished for THEM at the cross? PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS TO THE LITTLE CHILDREN!

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Dear Reader - are you at peace with God?  If not, you can be.  Do you know what awaits you when you die?  You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain.  Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!).  Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God?  We plead with you...please don't make such a tragic mistake.

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