Having been born into a Christian home, all my young life I have been living this so-called “perfect” life style, at home, at school, and at church. I was saved at 5 years old and I always followed the rules, did what I was supposed to do, and didn’t do what I wasn’t supposed to do. In the eyes of my church and my family, I was living the life I was meant to live. But why did I always feel so empty? Why was I constantly afraid of whether or not I was doing what I was supposed to do? Why was I not enjoying the life everyone said I should be living?
In the beginning of my schooling, I was home schooled. It was hard for me to pay attention and to simply sit still in a chair. It often frustrated my parents and sometimes got me in trouble. To please my parents, I began to change myself. I tried to do everything perfectly so that I wouldn’t let them down. After several years of home school, my siblings and I entered into the “big world”: public school. Going into this new environment was rough for me. My 3rd grade teacher insisted that all of her students have perfect behavior at all times. If we made one mistake, we would get in trouble for it and have to accept the consequences a 7-year old like me was not used to having. Being a year ahead, I was younger than everyone else and already uncomfortable with being away from home. After one incident of accidentally taking the wrong textbook home for my homework, I got in big trouble. Every day at school I would cry. I would cry at lunch, in class, and sometimes even at recess. A month passed by when the principal decided to talk to my mom. We came to the decision to move me back to 2nd grade, the grade I was technically supposed to be in. My life at school became much happier. My 2nd grade teacher treated her students with such love and care, just what I had wanted and needed. I became more comfortable at school and my days got better. But the perfectionism and fear had followed me.
As I got older, I entered into a stage of life where I understood more. This was also a time when the enemy began to use parts of my past against me. One day, when traveling to Florida with my mom, siblings, aunt, and cousins, we had stopped at a gas station. I was in the bathroom and for some reason I had this overwhelming fear that my mom had left me. I began to call her name and she came and I had no reason to be afraid anymore. We continued on our way, in two separate vehicles, and us kids would swap cars at some of our stops. Later, at a Wendy’s, I had gone to the bathroom before getting back on the road. The adults thought everyone was in a car. I came out to see none of my family. They had left me. I ran out the door and saw them driving away. I began to scream and cry and I did not know what to do for I did not have a phone. Some of the adults there had tried to calm me down and called the police to get a hold of my mom. We were reunited again, but that day shook me up badly. My feelings of abandonment and invisibility took root.
When I was between the ages of 13 and 15, my family endured several difficult, life-changing events. My two sisters were in a big ATV accident in which my younger sister could have lost her life. She had crushed almost all of the bones around her eyes, her nose, sinus cavities and few other broken facial bones. It was a miracle from God that she did not lose her life that day. My dad lost his job as an associate pastor at our church, and his part-time job was cutting back hours. With no other job openings coming through, all this eventually led to losing our home to foreclosure. We moved in with our grandparents and tried to live life as if it were normal, but we had become homeless. In the midst of all of this, my little sister was still having surgeries and my older sister was suffering depression and false guilt from the accident – not to mention both my older siblings were finishing high school and would soon head off to college. It seemed as if all of the attention was on everyone else. Being a third child and the middle girl out of three, I felt unnoticed. My older sister had more authority, my younger sister was the baby, and I felt left in between. Even in church, in our youth group, I felt invisible. My older brother and sister were the leaders of the group, leaving me feeling as if everybody only loved them. I was known as “Drew’s and Ashley’s little sister.” These feelings followed me throughout middle school.
To an extent, I began to turn away from God and my family, and decided to try to change myself. I wanted so deeply to be noticed. I tried to seek attention from boys and other people so that I would feel like I was wanted. In order to accomplish this, I thought everything about me had to be perfect, including the way I looked. Every day I began to watch what I ate. I made sure that I ate less of everything. I became anorexic. I would put food into my mouth, then spit it out because I was so used to not eating anything. I looked into the mirror every day and saw rolls and rolls of fat. I thought my cheeks were fat like a chipmunk’s and my stomach was huge. I was disgusted with myself. So I decided I was going to change who I was, and not just physically. I became extremely quiet and would refuse to speak up or speak out. I completely changed my personality because I didn’t want someone to see me for who I was and hate me for it. So I silenced myself. I was no longer the real me. My life had become dreadful. There was no joy in my heart.
During that dark place in my life, God came for me. The summer of 2012, I went to church camp where God stirred something deeply in my heart. I had gone down to the altar one night, when one of my friends came down to pray with me. I told her what I had been dealing with and how hard it had been for me. Through that, God showed me the truth of who I really am. He told me I was beautiful in every way, and that I am who I am and look the way I look because He created me that way. He loves me for who I am.
In so many ways since then, God has changed my life completely. There is still more to my story and God is still healing my heart where I need healing. I hope to one day share the rest of my story of how God brought me out of the hardest times in my life and how he is restoring me from it all. Colossians 1:13-14 says: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” He has brought me out of that darkness. He has and is creating me to become the person he meant for me to be all along. A person who is not afraid to speak out. A person who can laugh and feel free to be herself. A person who is strong and depends upon her Father and His strength. A person who can laugh at her mistakes. A person who knows she is loved, wanted, noticed, and definitely not invisible. The only person I should ever be is myself. The famous Dr. Seuss had it right when he said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you!” Only I can be me, and that is a huge relief. God has made me the way that I am for a reason. I thought that there was no hope in becoming who I really am. I thought I was going to be stuck in that dark place for forever. But God wasn’t just sitting around waiting for me to figure it out on my own. He came for me and I accepted Him and his truth and love. More than anything I just wanted to know that I was loved – God proved to me that I am. I can now say that I love myself. I can now say I love the person I am meant to be, because the Person who created me loves me, too.