Like most people, my journey of walking with God is a complicated one full of beautiful Highs and extreme lows. My journey had a rough start, I was born in Allentown, PA to an alcoholic drug using woman who had 3 older children. I spent 26 months living in that situation, experiencing abandonment and who knows what else. In God’s divine plan, during my social workers attempt to finding me a temporary home, I was adopted into my wonderful family.
It is an understatement to say, I was a challenging child. I definitely gave my parents, my teachers and everyone under the sun a run for their money. My family moved to Africa when I was 7 years old, and I became a missionary kid. I was almost kicked out of school in the 3rd grade, due to behavioral issues.
In the years to follow, I learned how pretend I was a ‘good Christian girl’, but in my heart I longed for freedom; to do my own thing. I graduated high school and began “Bible College”. This is when things really began to take a turn. For the first time in my life, I had a lot of freedom, my choices where not being monitored or corrected. I skipped classes, ignored assignments, dated a looser and started working in the restaurant industry. I lost my college academic scholarship after my first year due to bad grades. I had to move back home and enroll in community college.
I was pretty miserable. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was living at home with my parents, fighting with them constantly and working in a job where I was exposed to a whole new way of life. My ‘good Christian girl’ façade finally crumbled.
In January of 2008, I moved to upstate NY to do a Leadership and Discipleship program where I attempted to put together the pieces of my “good girl life”. The following summer I was supposed to work at camp, but I was fired before the season began, ultimately because my actions had made it abundantly clear: I wanted nothing to do with Jesus.
Once again, I moved back home. I was a miserable, angry 21-year-old. My anger led to a lot of screaming in my home. Finally, in late 2008, my mom made a pretty bold statement about the fights going on between my dad and I, and Her statement prompted me to begin reaching out for help.
On February 16, 2009 I moved into a place that my church called Lthe House of Refuge. Although many aspects of this experience were rough, it is the experience that led me to Jesus. I started counseling and processing through the journey that had been my life.
While living in the house, another girl moved in for just 24 hours. She was a young mom with twins whom she had custody of and was raising. She had just given birth to a little girl, and that baby girl was in temporary foster care. She had come to the house with the goal of keeping and raising all 3 children. After less than 24 hours in the house with her baby girl, she gave up. She terminated her rights to her baby girl and went back to whatever journey she had been walking before.
This tore me to shreds. I remember laying on the floor of our family room with the 2 woman who ran the House, bawling my eyes out. The situation had hit way close to home. This girl had children whom she loved and was raising, just like the woman who gave birth to me. Her older children were twins. Two of my older biological siblings are twins. She had given birth to another child, a baby girl. In my eyes, she was tossing this baby girl aside.
For the first time in my life I recognized that I carried some serious baggage connected to being adopted. I had always thought being adopted was the most wonderful thing in the world, I had been rescued. I was happy as a clam that I was adopted. Now don’t get me wrong, I would never in a million years change having been adopted. So many aspects of my adoption are absolutely wonderful. I gained a wonderful family, got to grow up in Africa and was raised to know about Jesus. Despite all of these good things, a huge part of my heart was hurting in a big way and I had no idea.
Watching that baby girl be tossed aside brought to the surface a million questions I had for my birth mom… What was wrong with me? Was I not lovable? What was so much better about my siblings that you could keep them? How come I wasn’t good enough for you to get clean? Why didn’t you care about me???
I laid on that floor with my world being rocked! I experienced emotions that I didn’t even know where possible. The girls I was with, sat with me in their own tears. They let me feel it all and loved me through it. I slept very little that night and in the days to come. The questions that were asked, that I had to process through, brought a truth alive for me. The reality of my adoption was God’s greatest display of His love towards me, and it finally reached my core. I was completely broken and the Grace of God was making me whole. I felt as though I could finally breathe for the very first time. In December of that year I was baptized, declaring to the world my belief in the fact that it was by God’s grace along that I was saved, through faith!
That same month I moved out of the House of Refuge and into a studio apartment alone. Looking back, I wish I had listened to my mother who told me several times during my apartment hunt that I should not live alone. She had been correct, my loneliness eventually got the best of me. I had gone from living with 2 roommates to being alone. I had no accountability. Very quickly I headed down another dangerous road, walking very far from the Lord. I stopped going to church, racked up significant debt, began drinking a lot and smoking marijuana. I was in a serious, yet toxic relationship. I was making loads of other bad decisions.
I lived this way for almost 2 years, most of the time I was having an absolute blast. I did whatever I wanted and no one stopped me. Eventually all my nights of drinking were feeling dark and lonely even though I was surrounded by people. I missed the joy I once had and the love I had experienced in Christ. It was at that point God began to again tug at the strings of my heart as I was hitting rock bottom. It took a minor car accident and a big falling out with a house mate for me to finally acknowledge those tugs. I started spending more time with my family and heading back to my church. I moved out of my apartment and in with a wonderful older friend who spoke truth into my life.
During this same time my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My dad and I were not particularly close (in fact, quite the opposite). However, when your dad gets a cancer diagnosis and only has months to live, all the issues of the past seem to fade a bit. God used those 11 and a half weeks we had with my dad to bring huge restoration in our relationship, and more importantly, to draw me to Himself. I watched as God showed Himself to me and my family in ways that I had only heard about.
Remember how I said that I just moved in with a friend? Well, her name was Jill and she let me live in her home rent free. This gave me the chance to spend time with my family, time I would not have had, if I needed to work enough to pay all the bills. She showed me a grace and kindness, that quite frankly I did not deserve, even while living there. There were so many people in our church who poured out love and kindness on our family.
My mom, dad, brothers and their wives and I were able to go away for the night to a beautiful bed and breakfast up near Allentown, the place both of brothers spent most of their growing up years. We were able to drive past our old home, walk through our old church and reminisce on countless wonderful memories. We went to Avalon, NJ and spent a wonderful week together enjoying life. My dad’s sister from Seattle was even able to come and spend a few days with us. On top of all of this, my brother Tim was working as a teacher just 3 hours away at West Point in NY. Previously, his 20 years of military service had stationed him all over the country and abroad on several tours of duty, but in God’s sovereignty, moved him close. He and his family were able to come home every weekend that my dad was sick, and at the end Tim was able to come and stay.
All of these amazing moments of God displaying His undying love brought me to my knees again. I was the girl who had grown up in a Christian family, spent her childhood as a missionary kid in Africa, went to church every Sunday and youth group every Wednesday and even spent a year in Bible College. I had every opportunity in the world to experience the love of God. Quite frankly I was knowledgeable of it all and even experienced His love at times. But it took tremendous personal loss for me to experience His love in a way that took hold and began to transform me.
In the months and years since, God has brought me though some of the greatest joys and deepest heart breaks. I went back to school to study art and I thrived at it. I had friendships from before my dark years rekindled and restored. I also experienced some of my family fall apart, my brother being crushed and my church community turning into an unsafe place.
But God, in His goodness, amidst heartache brought a wonderful man into my life. The man who become my husband. I moved to Lancaster County, I became a mama for the first time. I have watched as God has done amazing things in my life. Here I am, now in my 30’s with a God-Fearing husband who I adore and 2 beautiful daughters who I love more than life itself who love to sing about Jesus. I attend a church in which I feel safe with a wonderful community around me. I am involved in student ministries and am in a new small group of people that I am growing to love dearly, and I have made some of the best friends I have ever had. God in all His Glory has redeemed my life. I am so excited to continue on this journey of knowing Him deeper.
Pictures of my life throughout the years.
And this is me today, filled with Joy and the Love of Jesus!
Headshots from Soul Focus Media