Ricki Lynn's Testimony
Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who built it.........
This scripture describes my entering LifeWorks as a volunteer. After retiring from the State of Louisiana, I moved to Waynesville with the expectation of volunteering at LifeWorks and changing lives. You see I grew up in an abusive family right here in Haywood County. I entered my teens with low self-esteem continuing to choose abusive relationships because that was my norm. The Lord graciously moved me to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where God placed women in my life who taught me to overcome my deficits and build on my strengths! How to know who I was in Christ Jesus and live a productive, happy, successful, mature adult life.
I thought because I had been freed of the weight these ladies struggle with, I was equipped to help change their lives for the better (like overnight or at least a week or so)! After a few weeks at LifeWorks going through the Jobs for Life and Love Unveiled bible study, I realized only Jesus can truly change lives. I realized the need to participate in everything the ladies do at LifeWorks. The Jobs for Life is a proven successful tool in preparing women for life and employment.
That is what LifeWorks has been for me. Watching, listening and participating in discussions of the struggles of everyday life and equipping women with the tools and knowledge to build on their strengths. I still volunteer my job skills when needed, but mostly I see myself as a participant in the job of learning how to do life to the fullest extent possible, and pass that knowledge on. Allowing God to use me whenever possible to mentor, pray and encourage women to see themselves as Jesus sees them.
Thank you for allowing me to share.
Sue Ellen Hopper
It was truly my pleasure to sit down and share some time with one of LifeWorks' program participants. Dawn, at first, was hesitant to share her story. However, it is through telling our stories that both ourselves and others receive healing. We overcome “by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of [our] testimony.” (Revelations 12:11).
To an onlooker, Dawn appears to be another average person in the mountains. Four years ago, Dawn and her family moved to WNC from Florida. She enjoys camping, kayaking, and hiking with her husband and kids. She is a wife, a mother of two, a working professional.
Dawn, though, is by no means average. She is an overcomer. She is strong. She is sensitive to other peoples’ needs. She is courageous. She is resilient.
For a lifetime, Dawn has been hiding her thoughts, feelings, and experiences from the world, from friends, and from family. She has trauma that has led to unhealthy coping mechanisms that she has used to deal with the pain. Then, for the first time in her life, Dawn attended church with a friend. She agreed to go because she felt like she “should”; going to church is what is “culturally acceptable” here in the mountains. What Dawn ended up accepting was Jesus' gift of salvation. She didn't know what it meant, didn't have words for why she went to the altar or what happened to her, but she “felt different,” a “peaceful, freeing inside.” She was also shocked because it wasn't what she expected to happen in her life. She never thought she would be a church person. Meanwhile, Dawn's husband would have nothing to do with her new pursuit.
A month later, Dawn was baptized. A month after that, Dawn's best friend, high school sweetheart, and husband of nineteen years was diagnosed with a rapid form of cancer. He was rushed into chemo, his body shut down, he was put on dialysis, and his heart stopped three times before he was put on life support. When Dawn's husband woke up and came off life support, he asked for a preacher and received Jesus as his Savior “right then and there in the hospital.” Other than going to church, nothing changed in their lives. Dawn's unhealthy habits continued.
The Pastor's wife at her church suggested Dawn join a Bible study at a place called LifeWorks. Dawn didn't want to go, but she said “yes” just like she said “yes” to Jesus. Dawn says she's not sure why she said yes, except that she wants to learn, wants to get better, wants to be a role model for her kids.
Throughout her participation in the Love Unveiled Bible study at LifeWorks, Dawn has learned more about what it means to be called a child of God. She has learned more about the Bible, sin, and paying attention to “where my thoughts are.” Dawn is “[being] transformed by the renewing of [her] mind.”
(Romans 12:2). Much to her chagrin, Dawn will be walking across the stage in June for the LifeWorks graduation. She doesn't understand why she should walk across the stage for completing a year's worth of Bible Study. She seems embarrassed of the attention, but she is learning God’s heart and desire is to lavish love on His children.
Dawn is practicing stepping into the light. “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
(1 John 1:7). Her mentor says that after a year, Dawn will finally make eye contact. She lifts her head and can smile. She is willing to share a meal with others. She's even beginning to share parts of her story. At LifeWorks, Dawn says she feels safe to be herself. Everyone is struggling and there is no judgment.
At home, things are changing too. Her husband is completely healed and off of all medical interventions. They are attending church as a family. Dawn's son just recently got saved. And the Holy Spirit has begun to change the desires of Dawn's heart. She now only listens to Christian music. She's developing healthy coping mechanisms. She's getting better about getting herself into Christian fellowship when dark thoughts begin to consume her. After thirty years of struggling in her own power, Dawn is beginning to rely on Jesus' strength. She has learned through experiences of the last eighteen months that God is her provider and that He is trustworthy. With all the medical bills, Dawn's family has struggled financially. But Dawn prays. She has seen the miraculous healing of her husband. Just when she thinks there will not be enough (food or money for bills), there is. God has erected boundaries of protection with family members when Dawn has needed them most.
There is more to work through. A journey of more healing is ahead. “He who begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6). Finally, Dawn has the knowledge, the fellowship, and the strength of Jesus to escort and carry her. And Dawn's only hiding place will be the Lord. “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7). Join us on June 8 to celebrate Dawn and this year's other LifeWorks participants at their graduation!
Our new semester has joyfully begun. We have welcomed a new teacher, Janis Rowe, and new participants. Classes commenced on September 21. Ten women initially registered, seven of which attended class. Two months later, six women are going strong: Frances, Angela, Brandi, Dawn, Krystal, and Patty. These ladies are seeing transformation and change in their lives. They have set their eyes on “The One” who washes away our past and holds our future.
One of these beautiful women is Brandi Teague. Before coming to LifeWorks, Brandi had been in jail, rehab, and outpatient programs due to her alcohol and drug use. Then her grandmother recommended she come to LifeWorks. This time around was different, Brandi has a hope for her future. “All the other programs reinforced what's wrong with you,” as a faith based program, LifeWorks has taught Brandi how to talk to God. “I've realized I'm worth it and I have a purpose.” In the past, relationships have been her greatest downfall. Since coming to LifeWorks, Brandi has begun praying about everything. Her focus has changed from just trying to please others to growing her own life. She is “fine now just being me.”
Brandi grew up in Haywood County and was saved and baptized at 15. She moved out of her parents house at 18 and began to rebel. She moved to Florida and started partying. After giving birth to her oldest daughter things got really bad. Brandi moved back and ended up in jail with her daughter in DSS custody. Now, her spiritual journey feels different. “I've had more experiences and seen what He's done. There are times I should've been dead, but God's kept me here for a reason. I wouldn't have had my girls.”
The Holy Spirit has changed how Brandi handles obstacles, temptations, and relationships. “My parents and I used to fight a lot. Now we get along. And when little arguments happen, I don't argue back. I see things in a different way, as a learning experience.” Brandi has used once since beginning the program, but she immediately felt bad about it. Instead of spiraling down as in the past, Brandi talked with her mentor and Ricki Lynn. She's “praying more than I ever have.” She clings to John 10:10, “The thief comes to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Brandi explains that “God wants to give you the most abundant life possible, not just material things, but spiritual.”
Brandi's family has been restored. She now lives with her parents, her 7 year old daughter and her almost 1 year old daughter. As a mother, she had never considered how her own past effected her daughter. When her daughter threw tantrums, Brandi says she would just argue back and make things work. Now, Brandi tries to consider how her daughter is feeling and has more patience, a transformation that only God can implement. Brandi reminds herself of Phillipians 4: 6-7, “6 Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
As far as LifeWorks' role in these changes, Brandi has most appreciated the bible study and the inspiration of other women, like Ricki Lynn, who have been through difficult things and seen change in their own lives. Brandi cleans houses and is fully engaged in the LifeWorks' job and life skills program. She expects to start nursing school in August. Brandi enjoys anything to do with art; she paints, draws, and makes jewelry. She loves traveling anywhere with a beach. Brandi wants others to know that “If you feel discouraged and have tried everything else and it's not working, give LifeWorks a try. It's worth it. I owe it to God for giving me a second chance.”
Brandi and these five other special ladies were handpicked by God for this time. We desperately need mentors to come walk along side of them and demonstrate the culture of God's family. We are looking for Titus 2 women to “ teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”