I firmly believe every experience we encounter has the potential to shape us and mold us. From the beginning, God knew the journey He had chosen for me since my first breath. While I had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home with amazing parents and a brother 5 years older than me, some of the earliest memories of my childhood outside my home are quite painful. Beginning at the age of 4, I was sexually abused for the following 5 years of my childhood. Amazingly, in the midst of all of that, I became aware of what Christ had done for me and I gave my life to Him one night while sitting in my mom’s lap. It has been interesting for me to look back and wonder why there was such disconnect between these two major happenings in my life. By the age of 9, the truth was uncovered and there was an immediate sense of relief. Unfortunately though, still left sitting in the shrapnel, was a very vulnerable and angry little girl that did not want to deal with the pain or embarrassment of what had robbed me of my childhood. This part of my life would be swept under the rug and no one could make me talk about it. I simply chose to ignore it and my parents were left helpless.
As the years went on, I did not seem to notice the inescapable emptiness I felt at times. I think there were times when I wanted God to be the one to fill the emptiness but more often than not I chose the more tangible: my friends opinions of me, attention from boys, outward appearance, a life of promiscuity, perfectionistic ideals – these were the vices that gave the facade of a satisfied life. In reality I was miserable. There was just so much brokenness inside and I felt like one big mess.
About my junior year of high school, many things began to change. Popularity had taken its toll on me and I was tired of the drama and difficult friendships, the need to always have a boyfriend, and trying to keep up with the same old routine. I decided to pull out of everything and thus began a very long Senior year of high school – lonely. I began to care less and less about other’s opinions of me. I needed to get serious about my walk with God. Because my brother had been heavily involved in Campus Crusade for Christ, he began sharing with me about what it meant to have a personal relationship with God. I began spending time with older gals that loved God and encouraged me instead of bringing me down. I found a renewed sense of strength to get through my last year of high school even alone and now ostracized because of my desire to grow and make changes.
For me, this meant moving 4 hours away to college and seeking out a very solid church well known in the Dallas area. For the first time in my life, I began to make friends with gals who loved me, encouraged me, weren’t jealous and petty, but were committed to seeing me thrive! I began to get involved in other girls lives, lead bible studies, and finally start dealing with the painful past that had been buried long ago. I went to counseling for the first time and came face to face with the reality that God had allowed something painful to happen to me. I began to ask some really hard questions. How and why could a loving God allow this? What am I suppose to do with this awful past? Will I ever be able to trust a man intimately? These questions would ultimately lead me to grow in my belief that God is good and that He will use me according to His purpose. I accepted that my past was always going to be a part of me but I refused to let it identify me or keep my simply stuck.
A couple more years of doing ministry and truly loving my college experience, I met my future husband. Somewhere in the midst of a great friendship, I gave my heart away to Mike Slayden. Little did I know that God was going to use this man and the institution of marriage to start messing with my life – again. Marriage has fine tuned areas of my life that I did not want fixed. I have found myself praying for God to fix him long before I was willing to get before the Lord and see what needed work in my own life. I am so grateful that God gave me such a great man to navigate through some pretty ugly stuff in my heart. I have had to beg God for a teachable heart and we have had to work hard on our marriage. Spiritual growth fascinates me daily. Only God can take something so messed up, sinful, and hard and use it for His glory anyway. He does not wait until we are perfect but uses us while He is growing us.
Now even years later, more events have transpired in our life…being a mom to three amazing girls (which is the 2nd most powerful thing God has used to grow me), marriage counseling because we have needed it, job loss, a move across the country, wrestling through depression, building a house with my parents, starting a non-profit, and probably a great deal more – all circumstances that have shaped me and pushed me toward growth and more understanding of who God really is. My hope is that I continue to learn what it means to walk in His grace, invest in the lives around me, be teachable in my relationships with family and friends, steward the resources He has given me, learn to discern God’s prompting, obey Him without hesitation, and give my life wholly to Him. And I still have a long way to go.