Sandi Miller — what a mighty woman of God! The Lord has taken her life from a barren desert to overflowing streams that create an oasis for other hurting women. She amazes me and I know that I know her Redemption story will touch you deep in your soul. Please share this with any woman you know who has suffered the devastation of childhood sexual abuse and the broken heart, guilt, and shame of abortion. Sandi wants others to know the Father’s forgiveness and, together, we ask the Lord to help set the captives free.
I sometimes struggle with an urge to preface my story with apologies, as though they would somehow change my experience; as though they would soften the edges … as though they would finally allow me the “Brady Bunch” existence I so longed for as a pre-teen. The truth, however, is that my story becomes beautiful only in the light of God’s glorious redemption, praise His Name!
My childhood home was one of chaos, fear, and isolation. My dad was a sexual predator, preying upon his own children. I was severely sexually abused by him the first thirteen years of my life. And while I had four siblings living within the same walls, their stories are their own, as we were all so isolated from one another by our dad’s manipulation, I simply never knew how they viewed or lived their lives.
By the time I reached my teens, I had been raped and otherwise sexually abused by multiple family members. In light of this, I learned at an early age to turn my thoughts and feelings inward in order to guard my heart.
God was not invited into our home unless it was to use His Name in vain. Even so, as early as age five, I sensed that “someone” was watching over me, keeping me alive and providing me with safe places to hide, even if those places were dark, dirty, and already inhabited by spiders.
When I was eight, my mother began letting me off at church on Sunday mornings, which didn’t register as being significant, other than it was an escape from home. The God whom they said lived in people’s hearts did not visibly take up residence in the hearts of my family. Nonetheless, I spent the next eight years attending all the expected Sunday School classes and confirmation studies.
When I was sixteen, the God I’d been learning about introduced Himself to me as the “someone” I’d been aware of in my early childhood, before I knew He had a name. At this time when I was beginning to realize how isolated and alone I had always felt, God drew me near and let me know I had never been on my own after all.
I accepted His Son as my Savior that night, and my faith-walk flourished as I remained in fellowship with my church youth group, even becoming part of a youth worship team. For the first time in my life, I knew peace. My parents had divorced, so my dad was rarely in the picture. And even though we lived in poverty, we were safe.
When I began to commute to a nearby university after high school, things took a very different turn.
I no longer had my close-knit youth group friends around me. In fact, I knew no one and was so painfully timid, I struggled to feel I was truly a part of college life except when I was able to sing with the school’s concert chorale. Not only did I feel very much alone, but I also began to realize the depths of the trauma I’d experienced growing up.
It hit me hard, and it seemed there was no tangible source of stability for me to cling to, as I was losing sight of God. I still loved Him, but I didn’t know where He was … not even the “someone” I’d sensed in childhood. Before long, I stopped caring … about God, about myself, about anything.
I started making poor, risky choices, which led to me becoming pregnant at age twenty-two …. a young, pregnant, unwed Christian woman living outside God’s will.
Yet this pregnancy gave me a first glimmer of hope for my future … until those nearest me — some quite angry — began to fill my ears with all the things I could not offer a child. After days and days of this torment, I felt myself becoming the scared, isolated, abused little-girl version of myself all over again. I once again had no voice, no power.
When I could take it no more, I finally consented to having an abortion.
I was devastated and completely lost. Regret was instantaneous following the abortion, and has remained with me all these thirty-six years since. Heaped on top of regret was guilt, shame, grief, and the painful belief that God could surely never open His arms to me again.
Not after this tragic decision.
I hid from Him in alcohol, drugs, and poor relationships, not wanting Him to see the disgraceful disappointment I was sure I had become.
Not long after the abortion, I reached a point where I felt I could no longer bear the pain and loss, not only of my child, but of my own childhood. I was at a beach one night after drinking all day. I just wanted to lose myself in the ocean, the sound of which had always brought me peace. Maybe it would again ….
As I walked into the black water, a voice behind me in the darkness asked where I was going. As God would have it, a member of the Hell’s Angels I’d been partying with all day was sitting on a picnic table, inviting me to be heard.
As I sat and poured myself out to him, I suddenly remembered something one of my youth pastors had told me six long years earlier: “No matter how far you try to run from Jesus, the moment you turn around, He’ll be there with arms open wide. He will have been waiting there all along.”
That’s what I did that night. I turned back to Jesus, and there He was. Waiting to wrap me in His arms.
In the years since that night, the ride has not been smooth and effortless. I’ve spent a good number of years testing my husband’s trustworthiness, but he’s still here in our 29th year of marriage.
I struggled to know how to parent my sons when they were small and vulnerable, because I had nothing to draw from. While other people were telling me they wanted to give their kids everything they themselves did not have as kids, I just prayed I would not abuse my kids, knowing full well that it was statistically likely that I would.
But I have also learned to go toward Jesus when my heart is hurting and I’m feeling lost, rather than sneaking from one dark place to another in shame. I don’t always get it right because I battle fear, doubt and trust issues still — even with God, who has shown Himself to be faithful, steadfast, tender and patient with this once very broken woman.
Six years ago, God gave me my greatest assignment … to put every ounce of trust in Him as He helped me begin a journey of healing from the deep wounds of my past. I became a participant in a Christ-centered support group for women who had been sexually abused as children.
The two facilitators of this group walked me through very dark times, encouraging me and not backing down when my anger became all I could see. These two women (Debbie and Karen) are dear friends to me, and will always hold a special place in my heart. During the course of this support group, I was able to begin receiving desperately needed counseling and treatment for PTSD.
I praise God for the two very special women of faith (Joani and Fonda) who’ve walked alongside me with their wise counsel and their understanding that I’ve needed to put Christ at the center of my healing journey, or I will not truly heal.
And, finally, God knew my need to be forgiven and healed from the wounds of my past abortion. He placed on my path a gifted author, and now my precious friend, Shadia Hrichi, whose Bible study, Worthy of Love: A Journey of Hope and Healing After Abortion, became part of His plan for my healing.
Along with this study, one of the most profound turning points for me came while I was attending a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat Weekend for post-abortion healing 3 and 1/2 years ago. When one of my small-group facilitators said, “I see someone who is weary; I hear doubt, and I see you struggling to trust. But even in your doubt, and even when trust is hard, God can still use you!”
Those five words changed my heart and changed my life in an instant. Over the course of the last couple of years, God has called me to come alongside Shadia as her ministry partner, leading post-abortion study groups, managing the Worthy of Love page on Facebook, and doing graphic design work in support of her ministry as an author, speaker, and teacher. It is an honor to serve Shadia in this way, but more so to ultimately serve the Lord.
My friends, God knows our every need, every scar, every wound, and sees every tear. He deeply desires to draw each of us near, so that He can lavish us with His love.
My prayer is that those who hear my story are never left thinking, “Oh, that poor woman.” But instead think, “What an amazing God we have, who can heal such brokenness!”
Blessings, dear brothers and sisters.
More About Sandi:
Sandi Miller is a native Californian living in the Central Valley Community of Patterson with her husband Ken and two adult sons, Zach and Nate. She has been a Special Education Paraeducator (Kindergarten – 12th grade) for almost 31 years. Sandi treasures working with these precious children and is always mindful that it was some of her own teachers who made her feel most safe and loved as a child.
Sandi has a great love of music, teaching herself to read music at age 10 and then teaching herself to play a dozen woodwind instruments during high school band. Since that time she has led worship and served as vocalist on various worship teams. She now serves women in post-abortion ministry where she has the honor of seeing women’s lives take on new meaning as they discover God truly does forgive and heal the wounds of abortion.
Another love God has grown in Sandi the past 6 years is that of expressing herself through art. God knew she needed a way to express the depth of her pain, loss, fear, even rage, as she began to heal from her years of abuse and the loss of her daughter, Hannah Kathryn, to abortion. Sandi believes her expressive artwork was for a season when words eluded her and experiences it less and less as she heals. She now channels most of her creativity into graphic design work for her beloved friend and ministry partner, author Shadia Hrichi.
TO CONTACT SANDI: Post-abortive readers may message Sandi privately on the Worthy of Love Facebook page. She can get you into a closed post-abortion group. Confidential online Worthy of Love study groups are available.
Hagar. Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me by Shadia Hrichi.
Releasing October 2017