(photo by a’la Tara)
I first became acquainted with Angie through her boyfriend– Mike and I worked at the same coffee shop when their love story began. At the time, I observed that on her worst day, Angie possessed ten times the cheerfulness and energy that I was capable of after two cups of coffee. I observed that Mike loved to stare at the photo of her on his phone wallpaper. And I observed that they were a couple who clearly adored and exuded Christ.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Angie would become one of my dearest friends—and that her love for the Lord would one day make an indelible impression upon my heart as we prayed, talked, and walked together through seasons of dating, marriage, and parenthood. There is no way to adequately express how much sweet Angie Daniels has meant to me these past five years, nor is there a way I could exhaustively share the incredible testimony God has given her. But the following is my meager attempt to scratch the surface…
Angie Daniel’s story as told by Randi Peck
The music stopped and a hush fell over the crowd of three hundred. Tuxedos and gowns lined the stage, and Mike slung his guitar over his shoulder as everyone stood to their feet in unison. He looked out across family and friends and explained that the song he was about to sing was in reference to a Love Story- one greater than the story he shared with Angie. As his bride began her march down the aisle, he shifted his gaze from the eager audience onto the beaming beauty in white… And he never looked back. Lyrics battled tears, as he managed to begin this song:
“All this pain,
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way.
I wonder if my life could really change at all.
All this earth,
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us…”
Judging by the sheer joy on Angie’s face or the confidence in her stride, one would never have guessed that there was once a time she didn’t know if she believed in marriage. In fact, there was once a time she didn’t know if such a thing as a good man existed. And then she met One…She met one way before Mike entered the scene. Oh, Mike had inarguably earned her trust and won her love ever since that time they first met, two years previously. But her love story began long before that…
A Childhood Hi-jacked
Angie remembers sitting in Sunday school when she was three years old, peering up at the teacher and asking what the words on the board said. “Jesus Loves You” was the straightforward, yet powerful, response- one that would remain with her through far more troubling childhood memories.
The world of a young girl should be filled with tea parties and tutus, rain boots and mud patties. Angie’s was composed of dysfunction, drugs, and abuse. By the time Angie was two, her parents- both enslaved to their addictions- had divorced. She went to live with her mother, who was often preoccupied getting high with her emotionally and physically abusive boyfriends. Her cousin took advantage of this neglect, taking her in a shed and sexually abusing her whenever chance afforded him. Before she had even entered pre-school, Angie’s childhood had been robbed, her innocence stripped.
At the age of five, Angie experienced a heat stroke after being left outside in the summer heat all day. Her mother was deemed by the State as incapable of providing a sufficient environment for children, and Angie and her siblings were placed in the custody of her grandparents.
Angie says, “My grandparents- they are amazing. But [their home] was not a safe place for me.” Tragically, her trauma only continued. Throughout the end of elementary school and on into middle school, Angie was victimized again- raped by her older brother countless times. She remained silent, paralyzed by the thought of the upheaval her family was sure to experience if she spoke up.
A Bad Home, a Good Father
By Junior High, Angie was drowning in shame and self-hate. She began cutting her wrists and experimented with methamphetamine and over-the-counter drugs- all attempts to distract herself from the hell she called home. Even amidst this dark time, Angie maintained childlike faith that there must be a Divine Being who cared. In 8th grade, she attended a Campus Life event in which someone spoke of the love of God the Father. This captivated her attention and Angie recalls this monumental shift in her thinking, “I was like ‘This is a love I’ve never heard of.’ It was so good. And it was truth. So that’s when I rededicated my life to the Lord, and I really knew that He was my Father and He was going to take care of me.”
Angie continued to attend church and believe in this Good Father throughout high school- but not without her faith being tested. For though her brother had been out of the house for years, he moved back in during Angie’s senior year and attempted to rape her again. This time, she managed to evade his efforts, but not before he strangled her. This would be the tipping point. She recounts the next day, “I was in school and I was looking around at everybody and… everyone around me was happy and I was just so sad. And I didn’t want my life to be like that anymore.”
She decided to disclose this incident, as well as her history of abuse, to a close friend. That very day, her friend’s mom walked Angie into the police office and the distressing but necessary process of bringing her brother to justice began. Since Angie’s family initially responded with denial, she moved out with a friend and found support among church community.
A New Chapter
As high school peers whispered and stared at this new source of scandal, Angie decided to accelerate her senior year and attain her GED. She then enrolled in Anthem, a discipleship program through Living Waters Church, which provided her opportunities to serve and know the Lord on a deeper level.
Intermittent counseling sessions and court hearings would fill Angie’s schedule over the next two years. Even as they heart-wrenchingly opened old wounds, God used them as the very means to breathe hope into Angie’s heart and to miraculously enable her to forgive her offenders. No prosecution of her perpetrator was capable of giving her this newfound peace- though her brother was ultimately sentenced for his crimes. It was a result of her realization of a Love vast enough to cover the sins of all mankind- including her own. She began to see that there was, after all, a happily-ever-after in the Man, Jesus Christ. Her church family continued to walk the long journey of healing with her, as every facet of her thinking was turned upside down.
One of these calloused areas God chipped away at was Angie’s inability to trust people. She confesses, “I really didn’t believe people could be good.” But as she grew to understand the gospel, she realized that, yes, man is evil, but in Christ, our brokenness becomes loveliness. Dirt becomes life. And flawed man can be a picture of the gospel. As a result of the trust and truth Angie learned from the Lord, she became open once again to marriage.
First Comes Love…
God further narrated His love for her by bringing a man into her life. When Mike Daniels came into the picture, he quietly grieved the pain of Angie’s past. He marveled at the woman she was today. And he humbly requested to be a part of her future… She said yes.
Angie admits, going into marriage, “I was really scared.” She could not predict what trauma would be awakened, and it hurt to know that Mike might have to walk through those memories with her… But she trusted him. More importantly, she trusted God.
Though there have been a few occasions where Angie has had to walk through the old wounds with Mike, overall she says, “[My upbringing] hasn’t affected my marriage a whole lot. Which is totally the Lord’s grace.” The Lord has gifted her with the healthy, happy home psychologists and statistics deny are possible for her.
During her healing process, Angie had received a promise from the Lord that He would one day give her a family. Not only has God blessed the Daniels with a flourishing marriage and two beautiful children, Sophia and Jedidiah, but God has also redeemed the idea of extended family for Angie in a way she never knew possible.
She was immediately embraced by Mike’s family, as if they had known each other their whole lives. And in a roundabout way, they had. For Mike’s mother had been praying for her son’s spouse- whoever she might be- over the course of the last twenty years, sometimes waking in the middle of the night with the urgent conviction to cover her in prayer. Angie says that during the darkness of her childhood, she always felt that someone, somewhere was praying for her. She was honored to not only meet and thank that person, but to call her “Mom”.
Angie has also seen amazing redemption in some of her relationships with her own family. Her mother now loves the Lord and is healing from her own addictions and abuse. She has become a dear friend to Angie as well as a sweet grandmother to Angie’s children.
Angie has seen the beauty God can resurrect from death and destruction, and though she has experienced moments of doubt in God’s protection over her, she has come to trust that, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) For those with similarly dysfunctional or abusive backgrounds, Angie cannot overemphasize the power of prayer and forgiveness. God used Biblical counseling as a powerful tool to bring both into her life, and she highly recommends it. Her encouragement is, “God can heal you. There is hope. You don’t have to hold onto those things.”
People have asked Mike what in the world he was thinking, trying to sing an emotion-packed song in an already emotion-packed moment during their wedding ceremony… But the Daniels laughingly respond with the knowledge that whether in their wedding, love story, or lives, God’s goodness has caused them to echo Acts 4:20: “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Because of the gospel, Mike and Angie recognize that their wedding was not a picture of true love at last; rather, their story was both possible and powerful because He loved us first. And that is why he sang:
“… All around,
Hope is springing up from this old ground.
Out of chaos, life is being found in You.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of dust.
You make beautiful things,
You make beautiful things out of us.”
photo by Georgia Rose Photography