BRANDON — Even though she is the most awarded female singer in contemporary gospel music history, Sandi Patty went through a time when churches shunned her.
For many years, her life was a mess and she was hurting, humbled and heartbroken. She had had an affair and her marriage ended. She really needed to get things right even though she knew the consequences of her decisions might follow her for years.
As she sat in the back of a church she had never visited before, her journey of grace and forgiveness began.
Patty wrote a book in 2005 Broken on the Back Row about this painful episode in her life and her passage back to restoration.
In her book she said she has shared her story to show the mercy, power and goodness of her God, a God of second chances.
After news of her divorce, she received many letters from Christians condemning her actions and churches canceled her appearances.
She says what she did was sin with no justification but says that God was her healer.
This healing process took her off the road for several years.
"I grew up in the church and have always been at home in the church," she wrote in response to a set of email questions posed by the Times.
"I went through a restoration process under the covering of my local church family and I am so glad to have had that support and be singing in churches again."
She said she is relearning every day that God uses broken people who seek him and that all through the Scriptures God used broken people.
"I'm proud to be a beautiful mess and I really believe the Scripture that says that God can use all things to work for the good of those who are called according to his purposes," she said. "Somehow, some way God uses me sometimes to help other broken people and that's what I pray my ministry can be about.''
Patty is now married to Don Pesli and they share a blended family of eight children. They make their home in Oklahoma City. Last week, Patty became a grandmother for the first time.
"I have completely fallen in love with my grandson, Thatcher," she said.
In what spare time she has, she follows the NFL, with the Colts being her favorite team.
"I also love my Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team and have been honored to sing the national anthem at a few of their games," she said.
At the age of 30, in 1986, Patty was introduced to the world with her rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner at the rededication of the Statue of Liberty. From there her career took off. She has sold more than 11 million records and has achieved three platinum and five gold records earning her the title of "The Voice.''
Patty has 40 Dove Awards, five Grammys and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2007 she was named as an Indiana Living Legend. Her most recent Dove award was in 2010 for her album The Edge of the Divine. Her latest album, Everlasting, will be released in Target stores in September.
Outside the genre of gospel music, Patty has performed with symphonies across the country including the New York Pops, the Boston Pops, the Dallas Symphony and the Oklahoma Philharmonic.
"I am grateful for the many opportunities God has given me in my life and for how he has allowed me to spread my wings," Patty wrote on her website. "Singing is my way of telling my story of life, hope and love."
Michelle Jones can be reached at [email protected]