I will never allow my family to know they have hurt me. They will never see me cry. They will not win. I made this promise to myself while sitting on a bus on my way to the fourth grade. I do not remember the exact circumstances of this particular morning, but I do remember my morning routine well. Each step was well planned; I watched and listened for my step-dad to leave the living room to refill his coffee so I could move quickly to the next room. I learned at a young age, if I was not seen or when I was not around, everything seemed to go better. My parents were both alcoholics and my step-dad seemed to go out of his way to let me know how much I ruined everyone’s life. All my siblings were his biological children and they were treated very differently from me. I was told frequently how I would never measure up to them. He did not allow me to have a relationship with my mom, and if my mom and I did spend time together he would get very upset. I witnessed him taking this anger out on my mom through physical abuse enough times to realize I was ruining her life. My parents spent almost every night on the back porch drinking, arguing and fighting. I would sit in my bathtub with my ear pressed against the tile listening to them argue, so often about me, waiting for my mom to stick up for me, yet so scared of what would happen if she did.
I was a tomboy, great at sports, and good in school. I found my identity in being a good kid, performing well in everything I did, but always very quiet. I came to know Jesus at the age of 15. My mom was a director at a preschool and she would come home and talk about this lady who worked for her. I remember being so jealous of the woman, Connie, who my mom thought and spoke so highly. She was eight years older than me and from the day I met her she became like an older sister. She really took me under her wing, taught me how to drive, played sports with me, and took me to church. There was something different about her and the way she lived. God used Connie to bring me to Himself and I am forever grateful. I began to grow in my relationship with the Lord; I could not get enough of His word, of His love, and of fellowship with people at church. God was gracious and raised up people in the church to show me love and to bring me into their family.
I went to college on a volleyball scholarship as far away from home as I could possibly go. When I arrived on campus, a junior on the team immediately befriended me. She was so outgoing, funny, and always the center of attention. I did not understand why she wanted to be my friend, but I loved it. Months later, she informed me that she knew I was a lesbian and that she had befriended me because she liked me. I spent the rest of that year and some of my sophomore year trying to convince her and myself that she was wrong. I had heard this before. I was a tomboy, I loved sports, I was very active, got along better with the guys, and always dressed in baggy or athletic clothes (trying not to be noticed). I had been asked and teased about being a lesbian all of my life by friends, family and kids at school. I started to wonder if everyone was right. She was persistent, continued to pursue me, and it felt good to be wanted and noticed. One night after drinking too much at a party, I gave in to her advances. This was the beginning of many bad decisions in my life. I began drinking to deal with the shame, guilt, and hopelessness. I hated myself for turning my back on God when He had done so much for me. I continued to cycle in and out of these patterns of sin, but I could not get rid of the guilt and shame. Luckily, God in His mercy and grace continued to pursue me.
Looking back I can see that parts of my childhood were so beautiful; I depended on God and His words to help me through each day. I went to Him with the pain and rejection I felt from my family and I knew He loved me. I knew He had a plan and His glory would be shown in my life. What I did not realize at the time was that although I was growing in my relationship with the Lord, a huge part of my heart was still shut down to everyone, including God. I was living life trying to make sense out of everything I was learning and yet still protecting and defending myself by hiding behind all the walls I had built.
I came to Living Hope in February of 2009 after much persuading by two dear friends. God has done amazing things in the past 9 months of my life. He has brought restoration and stirred my heart in such a way that has opened my eyes to beauty all around me and within me. He has started to awaken my heart to the desires and hopes that were killed years ago as I attempted to protect myself. He has shown me that He abides with me, gives me worth and that because of Him I do have something to offer this world. I have started to see my femininity as a strength and a blessing rather than a weakness to be endured. I now know that it takes strength, humility, and dependence on God to embrace my femininity.
Hagar identifies God as El Roi, the God Who Sees; I have found great comfort in El Roi, my God who sees ME when I spent so much of my life trying to be unseen. The people at Living Hope have been such an encouragement to me. God has brought about a lot of healing in my life through walking alongside people who understand what I struggle with and where I have been. I am challenged by them to seek God and His character, which has helped me tremendously in surrendering my shame and guilt. I have learned that God is patient, slow to anger and He enjoys being in relationship with me.
I have confidence that He will continue the good work that He has begun in me. I know there will be trials and temptations, but it is exciting because I know through these trials He will bring me closer to Him.