The Lost Testimony: story of my redemption. By Dana Simpson
I was born Dana Nicole Tate. My mother and biological father divorced shortly after I was born. They had problems long before me and both agree that having a baby couldn’t save their marriage. My biological father spent the remaining years, in and mostly, out of my life. He provided me with no stability and our relationship has been a roller coaster, as I best describe it. This was the beginning of my troubles. I choose to believe he loves me, but never quite figured out how.
When I was 2.5 years old, my mother met a man from St. Louis, Missouri, named Steve Hanlon. They fell in love and married by the time I was 5 years old. Then a few months later, he legally adopted me and I still remember the exact day…We had to go to court and afterwards, he kneeled down on one knee and said, “you can call me Dad now.” I didn’t know the magnitude of the situation that day, but what I did know… I was happy to call him Dad.
After that day, my biological father no longer had legal rights and I was now…Dana Nicole Hanlon. We were very happy and life was wonderful. A few years later they had my sister, Katie, and we were complete. We grew as a family together through the years. We didn’t have much money then, but we were rich in love and family.
By the time I hit high school, my Dad had been successful enough at work that mom was now a stay home mom. We were pretty well off by then and we had just moved to a predominant neighborhood. Signs of problems in my parents marriage began to appear here and they started spending more time apart than together. I always say, “the bigger our houses got, the further apart our rooms got.”
I was a good kid and did well in school, so my parents never had much to worry about me in that sense. However, I was the pretty, blonde cheerleader…not to sound concieded, just trying to paint a picture. Pretty, blonde cheerleaders tend to get a lot of attention. Good or bad. I had both unfortunately. I began to struggle in high school because I was a goodie-goodie at heart, but I was also a cheerleader, which had pressures to keep up with the popular crowd. I had friends in theatre that my friends in the popular crowd couldn’t understand. I was torn. I had no idea who I was suppose to be, much less who I was.
Things between my parents progressively got worse when I went to college and I tried my best to ignore it. I guess being 6 hours away at college made it easier to ignore. They both continued to convince me they were “fine” and “that’s just marriage,” so I did what any 19 year old would do…believe them. They are your parents right?
I finished college making a 4.0 GPA by the time senior year rolled around. I got an awesome job right out of school and moved to Nashville, Tennessee. On the outside, I had it all together, but on the inside I was a wreck. By then, I had already began to “unravel” and turned to alcohol to numb my pain. To make matters worse, I was hanging out with friends who did the same. My parents, who love me unconditionally, were so consumed with their own problems at that point that they never saw my cries for help. I slowly continued to spiral out of control until one night, November 10th, 2004…
I had been out on a usual night of drinking at a bar with friends. By 1:00am, I decided to drive home. I was about 100 yards from my apartment when I lost control of my truck and ran right through a brick wall. I immediately freaked out, then I saw a bright light that was mesmerizing. My life began to flash before my eyes very vividly from when I was a baby till that very moment. Only, it was a different picture of my life. It was a different perspective…you know, the “reality” of what actually happened versus what I thought had happened. I had hit rock bottom.
I must have I passed out at some point because when I came to, an officer was pulling me out of the car asking if I was ok. I was taken to the hospital, where I was checked out by doctors. By then, I had a chance to sober up and realize the repercussions of my actions. My world was flipped upside down. How did I get here? What happened? What have I done? Where have I been for the past 10 years of my life?? I was a lost little girl for a very long time.
It was at the hospital that I had my first encounter with God. The doctors had left and the room was eerily quiet. A nurse came in to tell me that I was being released and I needed to call someone to come get me. I stopped to gather my thoughts, then a blank stare. I realized I had no one. As tears began to well up, I said to her, “I have no one to call.” My so called “friends” were still at the bar or had left drunk. My parents were 250 miles away in Memphis. I had no one. My perfect little life came crashing down on me and I began to weep. The nurse asked again, as if it were a dagger in my side, saying, “there has to be someone?” I replied, “no one.” She abruptly left the room and I was left to think of all the terrible things she thought I was.
But then, there she was again. She came busting through the door, threw a warm hospital blanket over me and wrapped me up tightly. I can still feel the warmth of that blanket to this day. She then proceeded to gently shove me off the bed and said, “Come on, I’m going to take you home now.” Mercy. I believe that’s the definition. She showed me mercy when I didn’t deserve it. God’s love is so amazing that we can’t possibly understand it in the human flesh.
(Psalm 116:1) “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.”
We sat pretty much in silence the whole way to my apartment. As I got out of the car, I tried to muster up a thank you as my eyes were swollen from tears. She told me to take care of myself and then said the two words that saved my life…”God Bless.” It was the first time I ever heard them and directed at me. I was curious. God? Was HE the answer? A little curiosity goes a long way. I knew it was a miracle that I was alive. My car was totaled, I ran through a brick wall literally and I had not one scratch on me. Think about that. I now know there is a God because of the things that can’t be explained that night.
(Ezekiel 34:16 ) I will search for the Lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the cruel and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
After the wreck, it was like learning how to walk again. If I don’t go to bars, where do I go? I didn’t know where to begin to put my life back together. So, I began with what I hadn’t tried…Church. I finally accepted a friend’s request to attend Church after asking me a thousand times over the years. It was there, I found my answers. I slowly became aware of my Savior and officially SAVED a few months later in February 2004. I decided right then and there, to start living my life for Jesus and stop living life for myself. I have been blessed beyond words ever since!
I continue my spiritual journey till this day. He amazes me every day and I am as happy as I’ve ever been. I moved back to Memphis that May to be with my family. There, I met the love of my life 1 week after moving back. We were married about 4 years later and then blessed with our little boy, 2 years ago. I must also mention that the love of my life came with an added bonus: Aydin, my stepdaughter, who teaches me more about God than I could ever teach her.
(John 10:10) “I came so that you have Joy in your life.”
I believe our spiritual journeys never end. Blessings come from God everyday for us. After a rough first year with a sick baby and hectic work schedule, my husband and I received the call of God to move to Birmingham, Alabama. HE called and we packed up everything we had, with a sick baby in tow, and moved. Here we have found our dream and a healthy little boy ever since. My husband and I joined Church of the Highlands in July 2012, where we now serve the student ministries on the MOTION dream team. I hope to help other kids find their way through His way.
I have learned that I am not in control and the more I tried to control my life, the further it spiraled out of control. Only He can bring me peace and no one has loved me greater. God gave me meaning and purpose for my life. It’s through HIS amazing grace, I have been redeemed. I no longer have to live with shame and regret. I have taken back my freedom because of my love for Jesus. I was taught that even though our background and circumstances may have shaped who we are, WE are responsible for who we become. I want everyone to find the joy that I have found in Him. I now dedicate my life to finding the “lost” and showing them the light. May my life be the testimony.
(Romans 8:28-29) “And we know that in all things, God works for the good; who have been called according to his purpose. For God knew his people in advance to become like his son…”