My prayer to the Lord for the past 5 months was for complete vulnerability and transparency. He’s best exemplified when I am obedient. My hope and prayer is that this serves as a light at the end of the tunnel for at least one person.

I’m not going to start this like a stereotypical testimony telling you how I found the Lord and the type of home I grew up in and how once I accepted Jesus into my heart everything was perfect. This is going to be about my life from the moment I accepted the Lord until now- as I type this with shaky fingers. This is a story about a girl who stumbled through a lot of valleys and found a God that picked her up every single time. More than it’s about me though, it’s a story about a God who redeems.

My heart was at war for a very long time.

In 7th grade, I prayed that prayer alongside the pastor on stage and welcomed a perfect savior into my life. It was the best decision I have ever made, but I wasn’t instantaneously a new person. I found a peace in knowing that my forever was changed and that the Lord would be walking alongside me, but it didn’t strip the pain and ache from that path.

That year was the year my parents told me that they were separating and that my grandpa had gotten diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I can remember to this day where I was, the exact outfit I was wearing, and feeling of my stomach turning inside out as my mom told me that my family was about to change before my eyes. I’m an only child; my parents are my two best friends in the world. being an only child, this destroyed me, and in more ways than just seeing my two best friends stop sharing a life. This season was the breeding ground of a battle that overtook my heart. I didn’t have siblings that could hold my hand; I didn’t have someone who understood the feelings that were relentlessly beating me down. I began the destructive habit of bottling everything in- suppressing and barricading any ounce of pain or hurt inside. The world saw a girl who was “handling her situation so well”. What they didn’t see was the pain that was winning in the internal fight.

8th grade was a year of fake smiles and silent suffering; nothing particularly notable, yet the battle in me ensued. more casualties and harsher conditions- still, I pushed it further down and let it remain unaddressed. 8th grade passed and I started my freshman year of high school. I began that year enthusiastic, and I found that my attempt at looking at the glass half full would quickly turn completely dry. A whole new set of problems began as I entered those hallways. I heard girls talking about their bodies and looks in such degrading ways and it immediately made me aware of my own in the same way. I started picking myself apart piece by piece. I fell hard into the comparison trap; my friends were prettier and thinner and in my 9th grade mind, that was all that mattered to me. I constantly viewed myself from a lens that showed that I was less and they were far greater. In every girl, I saw something that they had- something that I lacked. From that moment in 7th grade through this season, the Lord was just a distant friend to me. I didn’t know Him and I didn’t seek Him. I wasn’t wearing His armor and therefore, I collapsed when the enemy attacked. I was weak and the lies landed heavy in my heart. I spent more nights than I can count in my room crying myself to sleep because I couldn’t love the me I saw in the mirror. Believing those lies allowed the enemy a prominent position in my heart and I started to believe more and more of what he was placing there. I started to not only feel unworthy in appearance, but in heart as well. I genuinely couldn’t name a thing about myself that I loved- inside or out. It brings me to tears as I write this thinking about that version of myself. She was so broken- crippled by pain.

It progressed even further and instead of turning to the Lord to try to seek out my worth, I turned to boys. I craved the attention I found and it gave the holes in my heart a sense of fulfillment- but that fulfillment was temporary. It only lasted so long and then I was left empty again. I craved compliments like they were air; anything that would fill that void in my heart the Lord was so desperately trying to tell me to fill with His word. I was stubborn and ignored any calling I may have felt from Him. I continued this vicious cycle of seeking my value from a human. sophomore year began and it was the darkest year of my life. The thoughts that consumed my heart and mind about my appearance were as vicious as ever. I began to try to take matters into my own hands and started to make decisions that i’m not proud of. every morning at 5 am I would go to the gym and then at 5 pm, I would go back and do it again. I did this for weeks and didn’t shed a pound. so then I took it up a notch, I started cutting how much I ate little by little. still no change. Finally, I reached a point where I was going twice a day, running, and only eating one apple a day. I did this for weeks and reached a point of frustration- the kind of frustration that makes you cry out of anger. I was losing a little weight but not the kind I wanted to see due to the measures I was taking. I came to my mom, tears streaming, gasping for breath- confessing that I hadn’t eaten more than an apple a day for a whole month. We went to the doctor for two reasons- to address my eating, as well as seek out medical advice. My family has a history of thyroid problems and I had always experienced bad fatigue and low energy; then, my confession of my inability to lose weight alarmed my mom on top of everything and she wanted to me get tested to see if I was a recipient of the hereditary condition.

I got to the doctor and found out I have hypothyroidism, which- in non-medical terms, means that my thyroid doesn’t produce the hormones that my body needs to function fast enough for my body to work properly. It’s also in charge of your metabolism and causes it to slow drastically, which was a reason I couldn’t seem to lose weight. A glimmer of hope shined in me for the first time in a very long time when the doctor gave me my diagnosis. There was finally a reason for my frustration and with a diagnosis, usually comes a solution- a fix or medicine. The light was put out just as fast as it came when she sighed heavily and relayed the news that there was no medicine I could be put on until I was at least 18. As a 15 year old, that was an eternity away. I bawled in that doctor’s office; I felt utterly hopeless. So, I returned to old habits. but now that my mom knew of my tendencies, I became sneaky and was really good at tricking her into thinking I was eating. I gave her no reason to worry and even acting more into health and fitness so that she would think I was losing weight the “right way”. I continued to not eat and exercise more than I ever had before and with time, I started losing weight. The internal battle in me waged louder than it ever had before because I knew what I was doing was wrong, yet I couldn’t bring myself to stop. I was numbingly sad. I was losing weight and was still left empty. I put so much emphasis and power on the fact that my appearance was the thing that would bring me happiness that even when it began to change, I was still broken.

That was the season that I found out I had depression and anxiety.

I spent a majority of sophomore year and the summer leading to junior year in my room. I was numb and the thought of getting out of bed was debilitating. I didn’t care about anything anymore; my tank had run dry. But I never let anyone see it. I would muster up anything in me for the circumstances when I was out of my house, but as soon as I returned to my bed, I was empty. This was the darkest time of my life and there was no light because I squashed God’s candle. I reached a point where I just knew I didn’t deserve God’s love so I didn’t allow any space for Him to try and give it to me.

There was a turning point for me though-

One day after school my junior year, I had reached my limits. I was exhausted. I fell to my knees on the floor of my room, crying out to the Lord for the first time in a very, very long time. I was so deep in the valley and I finally got a glimpse of his persistent pursuit in trying to carry me back up. My mom wasn’t particularly faith-driven with her advice to me. I didn’t grow up regularly attending church or talking about god so my whole faith journey was very much on my own- which is probably why I fell on my face so many times. yet, when she found me in my room on my floor, her words changed the trajectory of my life. The lord spoke through her that day and saved the young girl that was crippled by depression and the lies that overtook her heart. she sat with me, held my hand, and told me to write down every single thing I was grateful for. I was in such a dark place, my list consisted of things like air to breath, my room, candles, my dog, and books. My mom made me read that list every morning and add at least one thing to it everyday; she said that you put up a fight against the sad when you can visibly see every good thing you have to be thankful for. She said, one day your page will turn to a notebook and the gratefulness will take the place of the pain in your heart. in the moment, I couldn’t believe that that was possible, but I clung to the first glimpse of hope I had in a long while. I so desperately wanted it to be true and I was ready to start fighting.

I used that list as my weapon and started to truly seek the Lord for the first time in my life. Very reluctantly, I tried to start allowing Him to work in the war zone that was my heart. I started reading the truths in scripture that the Lord says about me, instead of the lies that the enemy was screaming at me through worldly things. It wasn’t a sprint by any means whatsoever, but slowly, I started to see the dull light in me grow. The Lord went from a distant friend that I sought out every once in a while to my heartbeat. I started to see my worth;I started loving myself- all because I knew a God who believes I am precious and cherished. I fell in love with a Father that never gave up on me. In all those seasons, he was chasing me down- but I shut Him out. When I fully opened my heart to Him, He was standing there, arms open, ready to bring me back.

I worked every day to pursue the Lord and not the world, but God didn’t intend for us to fight alone. Even with Him, I couldn’t do it myself. He created us for relationships and community. I found a group of people senior year that changed everything. They taught me what friendships centered on christ looked like. I had never had that before and up until finding them, I didn’t realize just how much I needed them. Those people fought my fight with me without even realizing it. Each one of them taught me something about what it looks like to pursue the lord. He put them in my life to reveal himself to me. the light in me started glowing even more and I can look back and see that I was genuinely happy- the kind of happy I felt in isolation, not just for the world. They changed my life without even knowing it and that is something I will never be able to thank them or the Lord enough for.

This past summer, I was able to go on a retreat with my church and lead a group of freshmen girls. I was scared beyond belief. I had big and bold prayers leading up until that trip because I was terrified I wouldn’t say the right thing. Right before our first small group, I prayed a simple prayer with everything I had in me: speak through me Lord. When we started talking, I found pieces of my story in every single one of those girls and I was able to speak the truth into their lives that I had spoken into me when I went through it. The Lord had used every single one of those valleys and redeemed them so that I could help someone else find Him in theirs. Each of those things shaped me into the girl that’s typing this now and I don’t have enough words in the world to explain the gratefulness that floods my heart thinking about my story. I found the Lord in the valleys: I found a a redeemer, a friend, a listener, a Father.

I went from the girl who fell to her knees in her room ready to give up to the girl who who fell on her knees in worship- rejoicing on the mountain tops and in the valleys.

All because of Him.

This is not nearly everything in my testimony, but it’s the part that the Lord had been urging me to share. I wrote this for the girl or boy who is finding themselves feeling the way I felt in those valleys. I pray that the Lord used me to speak something that landed in your heart. I want this to be your hope and your reminder that you are loved fully, just as you are. You are so incredibly cherished by the King of Kings. You are not defined by what the world says. The creator of the world has never stopped chasing after you, even in the quiet places where you don’t feel Him. He’s a relentless pursuer. Chase Him back. Don’t give up on yourself. He hasn’t.