My "Life" Story
In my own heart, I misunderstood what it meant to be a child of God for twenty years at least.
From childhood, I lived my life as a Jesus follower, and from the outside it looked like my heart was doing just fine. My father had a masters in theology and taught me Scripture; my mother was a stay-at-home mom. I went to Sunday school every week. I was a straight-A student all the way through high school and graduated from college with honors and a bachelor's degree in English.
I met my wonderful husband, Jeff, at a beach bonfire in the fall of my freshman year of college. We married three weeks after graduation and began our careers, he as an architect and I as a lifestyle journalist and magazine editor. Five years later, we had our first beautiful daughter, Sophia. I received a promotion at work less than a year later, launching a family lifestyle magazine as Editor in Chief.
In this season, I was trying to "do it all" the way I always had. I stumbled, sleep deprived, into Mariners Church Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), and became a volunteer small group leader within a year. As the Editor of Coast Kids magazine in Newport Beach, CA, I tried to write wise articles for other parents while my own parenting was still just theory. Working from home during my daughter's nap times, living off of Diet Coke and the crusts of my toddler's grilled cheese sandwiches, I was skinny (read: starving), professionally successful, and emotionally hanging by a thread.
When Sophia was two years old, I heard God's voice on my way to work. It said, "You don't have to be stressed out to be valuable." I believed it. I recognized that God wanted to set me free from the works-based, crazy pace I had been living for as long as I could remember. I gave notice to the magazine two weeks later. That was the start of what I call my "Amateur Era," the beginning of training my heart to believe that I was loved, valued, and allowed to rest. But the old patterns of compulsive behavior followed me into amateur ministry, friendships, and mothering, and I still wasn't free from my perfectionist tendencies and shame-based value system.
Then, after I had my second daughter, Liv, at age 30, I had a breakdown. I was diagnosed with acute anxiety and depression. After years of pushing myself so hard, doing all the "right" things, I had the family I always wanted but I couldn't enjoy it. I felt God had failed me. I had believed too long and seen too much to deny His existence, but I didn't trust Him anymore.
I told my husband he should leave me, since I was no longer the woman he married; he refused, brought me the medication my doctor had prescribed and made me take it. I went into therapy and was prayed over by members of our church. Then I opened up to my community of friends about all of it: the anger, the fear, the doubt, the sadness. In return I received grace, understanding, and ultimately hope. I was not alone, nor was I disqualified from a life of faith.
When the acute mental health crisis had passed after about nine months, I recognized that I'd been fighting clinical anxiety and depression for at least a decade. Though I'd tried all my life to be good, Godly and grateful, I had been anxious, uptight, ashamed, and afraid of God for much of my life. And because I'd thought I was "fooling" everyone, I’d been afraid that other Christians were "faking it" too. But I was tired of faking it. I was tired of just managing. I wanted to get real and get well.
I began a self-prescribed course of heart training in which I had one goal: to learn how to be spiritually free. I studied theology, boundaries, and attachment theory. I went to therapy and sessions of deliverance prayer. I read books on parenting, marriage, releasing perfectionism, and shame. I studied childhood trauma and its affect on adult emotions and relationships. I attended classes and seminars by Christian teachers and psychologists from all over the spectrum.
What I discovered through all this research was that God had not failed me, but rather that generational patterns, early childhood traumas, relational wounds and some harsh church leaders in my early adulthood had injured me, and distorted my thinking. I, like all people in some degree, had placed flawed human characteristics onto a perfect, good, faithful God. Though I had always seen myself as "one of the lucky ones" and therefore here to serve others, God invited me to see myself as a child needing help, healing, protection and comfort. And from that starting place, He has been growing me into a mature, adult woman who is capable of great things through His power.
Mid-way through this heart training process, God called me to teach what I was learning. I spoke through my own struggles, sharing where I was still hurting, where I still felt broken. And though the enemy would whisper in my ear almost daily, "You aren't qualified. You're still struggling. You still have doubts," I learned to tell him to shut up and stand down. I became convinced not of my competency, but of my calling: to share authentically what God was revealing to me piece by piece about his goodness, power and favor toward all his children.
I'm grateful for the crisis point at age 30, which, as we say in Christian recovery, was only Step One: I came to believe I was powerless and my life was unmanageable. Twelve years later, my heart is still in training, but "managing" is no longer the goal: I want to thrive. I joined a Twelve-step recovery group for women who struggle with codependency several years ago and found that healing toxic relationship patterns has been critical to my spiritual and mental health.
Over the years I have taught seminars on boundaries, women's retreats, Bible studies, Girls Night's Out, Twelve-Step Recovery groups, Recovery Conferences and more than one hundred moms groups. I now serve on the Care and Recovery speaking team at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA, and have created curriculum called The Bridge: An Introduction to the Twelve Steps, a tool to help other followers of Jesus confront and heal unmanageable aspects of their lives. My new book, All My Friends Have Issues, is a how-to on building authentic friendships with imperfect people, that I hope will help women develop the kind of relationships that will bring true freedom and healing to their lives.
Today, my first and greatest ministry is to my family -- being a partner to my husband and teacher, coach and comforter to my two daughters. But writing and teaching is a very close second. I believe that God calls each of us to a lifetime of heart training. All my writing and speaking comes back to this essential idea: that freedom is found through authentic relationships with God and others -- in living without secrets, fully loved and fully known.
So join me. I’d love to come speak with any of you who would like to live intentionally and love with knowledge and depth of insight (Philippians 1:9). This is the message I will bring you, which God in his extreme grace has given to me: Take heart, daughters and sons. God wants to make your precious heart free.