I was waiting to make this post until I could do a fun photoshoot with my big "30" balloons...but alas. The "0" balloon decided it wanted to climb up to the heavens before we could even get the first photo done! Haha. Oh well. Plans rarely meet expectations!
A few weeks ago, I had my 30th birthday. And on this day, I reflected on my 20s and how well they were spent! I'll be transparent and admit that I had expected to be married with kids by now, but even still...I really had an incredible decade.
My 20th birthday was spent in Thailand where I was serving as a missionary working with a children's home for kids rescued from trafficking. That launched me into pursuing missions and leadership on several different levels. I moved across the country to San Francisco where God completely brought me to the end of myself and pushed me to come back better and stronger. I did multiple cross-country road trips. Made the BEST lifelong friends and memories. Saw the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and Mount Everest (from a distance...but still). I sat on the street and enjoyed meals with "the least of these" and also had meals with "the greats".
I moved to another country again and discovered that the heart really is a unique and beautiful thing. Just when you think you are at capacity for how many people you are able to love, God stretches your heart and makes room for more. SO much of my heart is in Nepal. Incredible people and meaningful experiences.
And when I least expected it, God started answering prayers from my TEEN YEARS right before my very eyes. He brought me HOME. I have been able to witness SEVERAL family and friends make decisions to change their lives for good. To follow Jesus. To leave addiction. To leave a legacy.
I also went back to school, started a nonprofit, fostered a little boy, and had a cancer scare. (Because I'm an overachiever and can't just face one hard thing at a time, apparently. )
My twenties produced some of the greatest, deepest, and most meaningful moments and relationships I could ever imagine! People who grieved with me. Celebrated with me. Called me UP. Forgave me. LOVED me. Oh, how I appreciate each and every one of these souls!!!
God also did some other things in my twenties. He worked on the INNER me. I battled suicide, depression, and isolation. I had a mental breakdown in front of my peers and people I respected. I got help. I went to therapy. And even though I will say my therapy experience itself was mediocre, it was also EXACTLY what I needed!
If you've known me a while or have read some of my posts, you may remember that when I was a child, I experienced some sexual abuse from an aunt's ex-boyfriend. I first opened up about it in my teens and it was SO healing for me just to even talk about it. I thought that because I had moved on and moved forward and genuinely forgiven this man, that the hardest part was over! But I was wrong. I had forgiven myself and I had forgiven this man, but I was still mad at God. Let me explain what I mean...
Through all of the good and beautiful things God had done in and through me, He allowed me to walk with several women/young ladies through their own abuse/trauma stories. But one girl triggered me. See...she struggled to believe that God was good...because if He was good, why did He let bad things happen? She had been trafficked. She was an escort. She was an exotic dancer. She sold her body for the pleasures of men. But she wanted out and she wanted understanding as to WHY God allowed the childhood trauma to occur in the first place! And it was through counseling her that I realized...I can't counsel someone on something that I PERSONALLY don't know to be true. I mean, I "knew" God was good...but I admit I didn't "feel" like He was good. And I couldn't convince her of something I didn't believe myself.
This led to the aforementioned breakdown. I had brought this issue up with some of my peers and we talked about it. I realized that I could believe God was one or two of His attributes, but I couldn't believe He was ALL of them ALL of the time. Like...HOW?! How is He good AND all-present in the midst of abuse? How is He all-knowing AND just? I couldn't reconcile it. So I did what any reasonable person would do. (Jk). I quit all my responsibilities, fell into depression, and went to therapy. Five different families from my church offered to take me in, RENT-FREE (in SF), while I sorted through everything. (What a BLESSING). I ended up at my best friend Vanessa's house. She and her family really are the G.O.A.T.!! (That means greatest of all time...for those who don't know).
She gave me a couple of days to feel what I needed to feel, but she didn't let me STAY there. I basically said to God "I'm pretty sure that You are everything I've always believed...but I've spent my whole life holding onto You and I just can't hold on anymore. So if You're real, You're going to have to catch me. I give up." AND HE DID!! And He used my community too.
There was this moment in therapy where I could FEEL the presence of Jesus in the room. Like as if I could literally touch Him. And I can't describe it to someone who has never experienced it before, but it was like all of my questions were answered in an INSTANT...even though no discussion had taken place. Not only that, but depression disappeared like sugar in hot water. And I realized at that moment that I had been carrying the same spirit of depression that my abuser carried and at that moment, that spirit was commanded to leave! (He hasn't returned either!) I still don't have magic words to make someone feel better when they are having their own battle with God on this issue, but now I KNOW it to be true to the core of my being. God IS all that He says He is...ALL of the time. And just because it is too much for me to wrap my head around doesn't make it any less true.
It gets better.
Since my abuse, I started gaining weight. Between ages 7 and 8, I'm pretty sure I doubled in size. I have not been considered a healthy weight since age 7 and have been classified as overweight/obese by every health report/doctor's visit since then. I've gone through stages of trying to get better and take better care of my body. I had a personal trainer. I changed my eating habits. I did elimination diets and all kinds of exercise routines and regimens and NOTHING WORKED. I might lose 5-10 pounds here or there for a little while. (And I did lose about 30 pounds in high school after taking a biology class that taught me what was in my food!), but since entering high school and into my adult years, I never saw the scale go below 200 pounds. I thought that was just the way it was going to be for me and I learned to love and accept my body (most days) the way that it was.
But something happened when Jesus met me in that therapy room. It's like my Spirit leveled up! Because since that moment, God has blessed every effort I have made for my health. Since that day, I have lost over 40 pounds. In fact, THIS MORNING I weighed the lowest weight I have ever weighed in my adult life! (I'll give you a hint and say it is well below 200!) It has given me a new excitement and appreciation to see what all my body is capable of. My body today is in the best shape it has EVER been in and I am so excited to see what it can do! It definitely helps to have people in my circle who are all about health and fitness and give me tips, support, and encouragement throughout it all.
I wanted to share all of this because I KNOW several of you reading are dealing with your own health journeys right now. Your own trauma. Your own healing. And it might not be where you want it to be yet. I'm definitely still a work in progress, but if you are wanting to start...let me encourage you to do a few things.
Identify YOUR root issues. For me, childhood trauma, bullying, and depression were some.
Invite God to go with you on your journey. Yes, He is always present, but He is a gentleman and doesn't force Himself on you. Invite Him into the good, bad, ugly, and unmentionable. He cares about your health!
GET HELP. It doesn't have to be a therapist necessarily. But find people to be in your inner circle of influence who are FOR you and who want to see you whole and healthy who will encourage you, but also tell you the hard truths when you need to hear them. (You don't need friends who "understand" EVERY craving for a Reese's cup. Sometimes you need a friend who will say "I know you want it...but PUT IT DOWN.")
Journal. Record the process. Write down your goals. Write out your dreams! Look back and reflect on where you are today versus where you have been. It will encourage you more than you think!
PUT THE WORK IN. My pastor recently used an analogy for salvation. If you're going skydiving and someone is about to jump without a parachute, you'd stop them, right? Why? Because obviously...they are about to die. It doesn't matter if they know the parachute exists, where it is placed, how to use it, all of it's specifications, etc. It doesn't matter if they believe it can save their life. What matters is if they actually put it on or not. (The analogy was used for salvation being a free gift...it doesn't matter if you believe Jesus exists or if you know the Bible forward and backward...what matters is if you've chosen to live your life FOR Him). Anyway, the same analogy can be used for your health. It is not enough to believe that lifestyle changes will improve your life. In order for them to actually work, get this....you have to ACTUALLY apply them!! So make a plan. Start with Day One. And KEEP GOING.
I don't have it all figured out. And while I'm pretty happy with where I've been and where I am, I am most excited about where I am going!
ALL of that to say...yeah, my twenties were pretty great! I'm happy with them. But now I'm determined for my thirties to be even better. :)
Enjoy the following photos of my body throughout my 20s and how God has transformed me! (First 4 are from my 30th Birthday/one with my Pastor who also happens to be my personal trainer!)
Here is my progression through my twenties!