This year, I am turning 30…I decided to do something a little difficult for me and that is to share a very very personal account of my life so far. As a tribute to new beginnings in 2017, I hope that my story encourages you to pursue your dreams and to never give up hope.
When we moved to Boston in July of last year, I don’t know that I fully comprehended just how few Spirit-filled, bible believing Christians I would come across here. This last month has been a wake-up call…stirring me to make changes in my speech, in my conduct and more importantly in how I spend my time. With the bitterness surrounding the presidential elections, to say it’s been tricky, might be the understatement of the century.
I have chased careers, chased fame, chased money and relationships. Nothing, I mean nothing has brought the kind of satisfaction that 13 years of being a Christian has. This year marks 13 years of living in God’s blessing as a Christian, and God keeps calling me back to himself in every season to remind me I am called, for such a time as this…called to be set apart for His good works. I don’t share my faith as often as I should, or as often as I used to…and as I was brought to my knees today and reminded how good God has been, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to share my story. …to share it so that others could know how God has always been there in every moment of my life, just like he’s been there for you. My hope is through this blog, you will be inspired to live more fulfilling, generous, kind, and expansive lives and that every post I write will be seasoned with grace so that God can do a work in your heart, just as he has done in mine. I pray that you see God in me, and not the selfish, sometimes brutally honest, impatient sinner that I used to be. I’m not perfect, and sometimes I might fall short, but I hope you will take this journey with me and keep in mind that I’m a work in progress that felt called by God to share my gifts, my talents and my treasure with others. If you don’t already know it, I’m going to share my very personal story:
I grew up in the Philippines. I was taken from my mother when I was born and lived with a very brutal man until his Aunt found me and took me into her home. When I was five years old, I was adopted by a family in America. Little did I know, this one simple act of generosity would change my life forever. The family that adopted me was what most people would call “the typical American family”. My mom was a school teacher and my Dad owned and operated a very successful restaurant in the heart of Virginia Beach. They went to the local Presbyterian church every Sunday, my mom would stay and shake hands and chat with everyone and my dad would rush to the car so he could go home and eat and watch the news. I would go to Sunday school every week and they would talk about how much Jesus loves you, but nothing really ever sunk in. Through a series of unfortunate events and offenses, we eventually left that church and began attending a Methodist church down the road.
As I grew older, the more I heard about God, the Father, the more I found myself him comparing him to my earthly father. I never saw much of my Dad in my younger years, because he worked crazy hours with the restaurant. When he wasn’t at the restaurant, he was “unwinding” with a glass of scotch, or a cold beer always in his hand…I honestly do not have a single memory where alcohol was not involved. As I got older, the drinking got worse and worse…and so did his temper. He became very prideful, very angry and his words began to get away from him. His father, my grandfather, whom I never met, was also an alcoholic…the worst kind. He would beat my father senseless during a rage brought on by drinking too much. I began to view my relationship with God the way I viewed my Dad…far off, distant, angry at me, ashamed of me, that He hated me…but nothing could have been farther from the truth.
Unfortunately, growing up in a home that encouraged keeping up appearances, not ever telling anyone about your problems for fear they might judge you or maybe try to help/interfere with the delicate balance of not upsetting Dad…it became toxic and very quickly. My normal night during my teenage years, became hearing my Dad come in from work, where he had stayed to “have a few” with his staff…he would be angry…angry at my mom, for who knows what reason, but they would start yelling. My Mom would run to the guest room and lock herself inside while my Dad would pound on the door screaming what a terrible person she was, how she was selfish, how she was fill in the blank with basically every nasty, awful, obscene word. This would continue on until my Dad lost steam, then he would eventually go to sleep. The next day, my mom would be angry at him, and he could hardly remember why, but he knew he said something to make her act this way. I would dodge the awkwardness, and while they bickered in the hallway, I would pour my morning bottle of water with half vodka, shove it in my backpack, and skip out to the school bus before they noticed I was gone.
I was angry, angry that they didn’t notice how much it hurt me…to not have a “normal” family. I didn’t trust anyone, and in my awkwardness at school, and feeling ashamed that someone might find out about my home life, I pretended to be “friends with everyone”…although truthfully, I was an outcast, I had no real deep and meaningful friendships, no one to talk to, no one to share my deepest hurts with. I tried to blur the pain with drugs, with alcohol, with boyfriends and with my talents. I hated school, I hated my family, I hated myself and I hated being alive. My junior year, is when it really came to a head. I began cutting, my threshold for pain was high and it honestly didn’t make me feel better, but I finally had control over something in a life I felt zero control over. One day, I just had enough…enough of the yelling, enough of feeling so utterly and completely alone and decided, I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I cried out to God on my knees and begged him to just take me. I said, I’m tired of being alone, I’m tired of feeling lost, and tired of no one loving me. I had my door closed and I was sobbing. My grandmother heard my cries and told my mom she thought something was wrong with me and they came into the room right when I was about to cut open my wrist. I don’t tell you this for you to feel sorry for me…I am sharing this so you will fully understand where I came from and what God has done for me…but also to provide comfort for those who know me now, but maybe feel alone, and have days where you wonder why do I not feel like I’ll ever be satisfied with my life…God isn’t finished with your story yet.
After this happened, my mom started putting me in therapy. As if talking to a complete stranger would somehow magically wipe the slate clean. I struggled with paying attention at school. Although I was an “average-grade” student even though I could have pulled off A’s if I tried, but truthfully, I was bored. I hated taking tests, and the classes were too easy so I didn’t really care enough to give it any effort. I had no motivation to work hard. I felt no purpose. Thankfully a friend shook me out of my daze and persistently invited me to her youth group. I finally gave in…even though on the inside, I was so ashamed of what I had become. “If God really existed, I was too “dirty” for Him to love” is what my inner demons told me. “If God was real, would He even make time for me?” “Am I worth it to Him?”
To say that what I experienced after attending this youth group just one time, radically changed my worldview wouldn’t even come close to describing how powerfully, divinely, abruptly, all-consumingly my life changed the moment I surrendered my heart to Jesus. The moment I made the decision to walk away from my broken past and into the plans God has for me, nothing has ever been the same. I’m not saying that over these past 13 years of my life, I haven’t experienced heartbreak, pain, suffering, feelings of doubt or confusion…but what I am saying…is that my life would literally not exist anymore if God hadn’t intervened.
I am sharing my personal story with you to give you hope. Against all odds, He rescued me. Against everything I ever knew growing up…all the rejection, all of the fear, all of my brokenness has been made whole and I am set free because of who Christ is living in me and He can do that for you too. All you have to do is ask Him.