Filling the Hole in her Heart
By Audra Smith Haney
The 700 Club
CBN.com -“We were a typical mid-west family,” Carrie Cecil said. “Mom, dad, pot roast on Sunday, Walter Cronkite on the news. Then, my parents got divorced and everything I knew about safety was gone.”
After her parents divorced, Carrie Cecil moved with her mother to Arizona.
“My childhood was filled with a lot of love but it was filled with a lot of wanting, of poverty, of struggling.” Carrie said. “My mom was trying to be both mom and dad, working 3 jobs but when a parent works a lot of jobs, a single mom, kids are left to their own. I would say about about the 6th grade with the first time that I was touched inappropriately by an adult.”
Through her adolescence, Carrie hid the deep pain of abuse.
“The way I saw myself at the time was damaged, damaged goods,” Carrie said. “I was going to do whatever it took to try, first as a kid, then as an adult and the as woman to just mask that, to lie.”
As a young adult, Carrie initially embraced a party lifestyle, filled with drugs and alcohol. But as she matured, she found her comfort elsewhere.
“When that didn’t work for me, when the self-medication didn’t work to fill the hole, it was career it was money,” Carrie said, “because I thought poverty was the problem. From college I went to New York, and some wonderful mentors there, from New York to LA. I ended up working in PR, working in movie sets and my career was taking off.”
By her twenties, Carrie was a top publicist and writer in the entertainment industry.
“Here I was I was on the site with Arnold Schwarzenegger on ‘End of Days,’ I was in ‘Return to Paradise’ with Joaquin Phoenix and Vince Vaughn, Carrie said. “I'm working on TV shows with Will Smith on ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ and climbing the ranks and then I go out and have my own company.”
“At night, I'm still going home and I'm drinking,” Carrie said. “Now I’m not drinking Boones Farm I'm drinking a really great bottle of Chardonnay and taking two Xanex, because I can't quiet that voice in my head.”
When career wasn’t enough, Carrie tried to recreate the family she desperately wanted. She married her college sweetheart, NFL star Chuck Cecil.
“The cover Sports Illustrated the football star, too vicious for the NFL,” Carrie said. “My husband is a good looking, and still it's not enough. There's no peace. I can’t go to sleep at night I'm still afraid inside, even though no one knows, I'm driving around a Mercedes-Benz everything looks great on the outside. We are the perfect NFL family. No!”
But in 2001, Carrie’s life took an unexpected turn. She became pregnant and then, her husband began coaching for the Tennessee Titans. Carrie was stuck in the South.
“I'm from LA and there is nothing crazier to me than Christians, than Southerners,” Carrie said. “In LA, Everyone says, ‘what do you do for a living?’ In Nashville, people say, ‘where do you go to church?’ You’re like, ‘church? I go to the church of Neiman Marcus, that’s where I go to church. Go sell your Jesus somewhere else. Y’all are crazy.’”
Carrie soon discovered that she had some influential neighbors.
“There is Stormie Omartian, who is a Power of a Praying… everything,” Carrie said.
“Dr. Rice Brooks who wrote God’s not Dead, and an African American family, the Johnson’s Tim and Le’Chelle Johnson. Tim Johnson was a big NFL star. He is a pastor and they all go to this one church in Nashville, Bethel.”
She formed her closest bond with the Johnson family.
“Honestly at this point, I’m pregnant with my daughter, you know, and I’ve been living in LA, and I’m starving,” Carrie said. “I haven’t eaten and I’ve been trying to be skinny my whole life and they are feeding me. Le’Chelle can cook anything, so she would feed me. I would see the love in their house and honestly, at this point, I think I was sober for the first time because of having my daughter. I had not had her yet. I looked in the mirror and I just wasn’t very likeable.”
Several months later, Carrie reluctantly agreed to visit their church.
“I agreed to go to church with them only one time, to their church, one Sunday, because I wanted to solidify my Sunday meal,” Carrie said. “I’d never seen anything like it in my life. It was black, brown, yellow, people of every color. I mean, it was like the United Nations episode of Glee. I thought God only loved people that were good, so I sit the very back row because I’m afraid lighting is going to hit this church for sure if I’m here.”
“Pastor Tim comes up and he preaches. And something speaks to me. And it touched me. And I didn’t know what it was. I was just like, ‘wow! He’s talking to me.’”
For a year after Carrie’s trip to church, she continually asked the Johnson Family spiritual questions. Finally, Carrie got the sign she was looking for.
“I walked into a store and got a sign,” Carrie said. “It was a sign on the wall. I didn’t know where it was from and it said, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ And isn’t that just what we want? Just peace? I wanted to go to sleep. And I wanted my daughter to have a hope and a future. I wanted her to be the woman I that I wanted to be, but wasn’t.”
“And, I went over to Tim’s house that night and Le’Chelle and I sat on the back porch,” Carrie said. “I said, ‘Tell me, what is it? How do you have this life with peace and joy?’ …and he said, ‘Baby…that ain’t us…that’s Jesus in us.’”
Six months later, Carrie was baptized at Pastor Tim’s church. Today, she is a full time speaker and author, and has written a fiction work about her spiritual journey called, One Sunday.
“God didn’t come to save the perfect,” Carrie said. “He came to save the broken. He loves us at our worst; He loves us in the places that we can’t love ourselves.
“If you are that one person like I was, maybe you don’t have anything, maybe you have it all. At some point, you are going to need more and that is when God moves in. We are in a place where God can meet you exactly where you are…exactly right now.”
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