This is the story of me and God – to fully explain how far He has brought me, I have to go right back to the beginning.
I was born in Plymouth, Devon (UK), and am the first daughter (second child) of my parents. My mum was a stay-at-home mum until my youngest sister was a few years old, and my dad worked as a fireman.
We lived across the road from a Methodist church and my mum used to take my siblings and I to the service every Sunday. We attended the Sunday school and as a family were very involved – except for my Dad – I don’t ever remember him coming with us. I loved hearing stories of Jesus, and attended the Girls’ Brigade there too. I had lots of church friends and enjoyed serving in the church too, even though I was so young. I used to love to take the collection!
When I was 9, on a family holiday, my parents sat us down and said that they had decided to separate. My mum told me later that they picked a holiday because she didn’t want us to associate our home with being told that news. I don’t really think it affected me that much at the time – things didn’t seem to change. In fact I think we saw my dad more! He would take us to the cinema most Saturdays and we’d have McDonalds. I loved those times and it didn’t seem to bother me although it was a life-changing event.
A few months after my parents separated – maybe six months – my mum sat my brother and I down and told us that she and her friend, who had been visiting us for a little while, were a couple. Her friend was another woman, and my mum was coming out to us. As a 9 year old I didn’t really comprehend this; all I knew about homosexuality was what I’d seen on Emmerdale (there was a vet who was a lesbian!) so again, even though looking back it was a life-changing event it didn’t really affect me to begin with.
However, when my mum’s partner moved in with us, things did change – significantly. My parents (who I never remember rowing) had a lot of fights, and my Nana, aunt and uncle (mum’s sister and brother) walked out of our lives. For six months we didn’t see my Nana – she even ignored us completely when we met accidentally at a swimming pool one day. That hurt so much – but six months later, almost as suddenly as she’d started blanking us, she came back into our lives. I don’t ever remember getting an explanation for what happened but in my little mind I think I decided it was because mum’s family didn’t approve of Mum and her partner.
In the summer between year 5 and year 6 we moved house, to a completely new neighbourhood. We also moved schools – and from then on life became incredibly difficult for me. My old friends had just accepted the change in my family with no questions, but as the new family in a small village we were the target of gossip, and for me – as the new girl in a year 6 class with pre-teen girls – life was suddenly very complicated and difficult. I had never been the target of anything before, nor really had any problems with friendships…but all that changed.
One of the popular girls *Lisa* became my friend – but looking back I was like a new toy for her, she picked me up and took me along but when the novelty wore off she dropped me. Then two other girls took me under their wing…and we were a great little group for a few months, but then they dropped me too – to this day I don’t know why, although when I was in sixth form one of them apologised for how she treated me and said she has no idea why they did it.
Also around this time my dad began a new relationship, with my now step-mum. He began spending less time with us, and more time with his new family. This, added to the friendship difficulties, and the upheavals with my Nana, all led to me becoming insecure and feeling generally very fragile. When I went up to Secondary school the friendship issues continued; actually worsened and I became the target of bullying. Lisa* who I’d been friends with for a while in Year 6 picked me up again, but ours was a friendship built on her whims – when she wanted me around, she was great – but then she’d get bored of me and drop me again; not only drop me but be nasty about me, spreading rumours and telling people personal things I’d shared with her about how I felt about my family. She would always tell people about how weird my family was – what freaks we were.
As she was popular, all her other friends would blank me too. Whenever Lisa dropped me, I would also lose all my other friends.
I became very introverted, withdrawing into my school work and finding it hard to express how I was feeling about life and everything that was going on. I felt like I couldn’t talk to my mum because I didn’t want to hurt her by explaining that being the daughter of a lesbian made me a target for bullies. I did take it out on her partner though – I think I rationalised it, thinking that if she weren’t around, my mum wouldn’t be gay – we wouldn’t have moved – I wouldn’t be bullied. It’s naïve and stupid, but how I felt. At times I could be awful to her – shouting and screaming at her over nothing, and generally just being quite foul.
I had always been a skinny girl – very skinny, like a beanpole – but in trying to get at my mum’s partner, I started refusing to eat any dinners that she cooked. I don’t know if she and Mum ever realised what I was doing, but eventually refusing her food turned into cutting down on all food, skipping meals and saying I didn’t like things. Gradually I became an anorexic – it sounds like a cliché but I finally had control, and it made me happy in a very strange way.
Things carried on in this way for a number of years – but with one real positive. During one of the times when Lisa had dropped me, I became friends with two other girls – *Lydia* and *Molly*. They had been friends for years and they kind of took me in. All my insecurities from being hurt by people before were still with me, but I felt very safe with them. They invited me to go to Girls’ Brigade with them. They went to a company at a little church fairly local to our school – and I willingly said Yes. We did have ups and downs (lots of them) but were a good threesome.
Being back in Girls’ Brigade and having that community was amazing. I felt near God again – even from the first time I went. The leaders knew about my mum but didn’t judge me or us.
My teenage years followed an up/down pattern for a number of years after that – with Girls’ Brigade being the only real constant. I was caught in a cycle with Lisa, and struggled to break away from her. When she was my friend, things were brilliant, but when she dropped me – I just hated my life and myself. Having Lydia and Molly made it easier though, and over the years they became my best friends. When Molly moved to Wales it wrecked me, not that I really showed it – I actually was really awful to her, because I resented her for leaving me. Lydia and I had a turbulent relationship too – even though she was the best friend I had ever had, I was so insecure that I got competitive and jealous. My self-esteem had been ruined by Lisa’s bullying and I felt worthless – not even a great friend could get me out of that place. We had amazing times together and built some of my favourite memories, but we also regularly fell out and in response to being hurt, I could get nasty. Words can’t even express how ashamed I feel of how I acted towards her.
My relationship with my Dad became non-existent. I felt shut out of his life, and unimportant compared to his new family. He did so many things that hurt us, hurt me, but didn’t seem to care how we felt. I missed him so much and was angry about his lack of effort in maintaining any kind of relationship.
I was still struggling with anorexia – but never told anyone. I always ate just enough to not be noticed, but inside I completely hated myself. I was fairly addicted to chocolate – for the sugar rush. I felt like I had no control over any aspects of my life – apart from school work and how I looked. I began self-harming when I was about 14 – cutting myself to deal with the overwhelming feelings of being worthless and useless. I believed everything that Lisa had every said about me and felt that the reason I was a bullied was because of things I must have done. I thought I must have done something to make my dad not want me.
Writing this is still painful – but to show God’s miracles in my life I have to explain just how bad it really was.
As I said, through it all, I attended Girls’ Brigade. I loved it – hearing about God, being with people who didn’t judge me. I went to church a few times but always felt conflicted about it. It was difficult to tell my mum about anything back then – mostly we just fought all the time. I had such a temper; feeling like I couldn’t be honest about anything meant that I was always on the edge and I would flip out over the slightest thing. I know I was a nightmare to live with, but I was just so miserable.
I eventually told my Mum about the self-harm when I was 15 – after an argument with my sister where I hit her. I was so ashamed at how I was behaving, I knew something had to change…but I didn’t know what to do. Mum wanted me to have counselling but I never went – the thought of telling someone how I felt was too awful. Having confided in Lisa and having my secrets told to everyone, I had very little trust for anyone. During my GCSEs my mum and her partner split up, and even though we had had a turbulent relationship I felt like the world had fallen apart; even though my family was dysfunctional it was the only “normal” I knew. To be honest, it felt like nothing would ever stay stable or good.
When I was about 16, the church employed an American guy – David – to be the Youth Pastor. He and his wife Rachel and their little boy moved over from Oregon, and from the first day I met David, life completely changed. He set up a Youth Group called Crave and I started going. There was another girl youth leader (Emma) and between them they encouraged me to start coming to church. It took so much to admit to my mum that I wanted to go – I was afraid that she would feel I was judging her by choosing the church. But I felt so at home, so safe, so secure, when I was at church or Crave – learning about God.
I remembered everything I had learned when I was a little girl at Sunday School, things I had decided couldn’t possibly be true when the bullying was at it’s worst. I couldn’t believe then that God loved me, but I heard testimonies from other people, saw people worshipping, and talked with David and Emma, and let God work in my heart. Being shown such unconditional love from everyone at the church was overwhelming. I felt God’s love through them, they became my family.
When I was 16 I gave my life for God. I tried to live for God, although it was difficult and I made many mistakes. I joined a Woman’s Bible Study with Rachel and some women from church and learned more about God’s character, his Father-heart for me. I knew God’s forgiveness for my sin and stopped self-harming. I was baptised when I was 17, standing in front of church and shared what God meant to me.
I went to University when I was 18 – Canterbury. God completely led me here – I know that so well. It wasn’t even my second choice – it was a last option because I had to have six universities on my UCAS form. When I came for the Interview, I was so struck by God’s presence here and knew that this was where I needed to be. From the very first day, when I met people from the Christian Union, I was surrounded by people who wanted to know me for me. They were sweet and loving and showed me what it means to be in fellowship with other believers. I joined City Church and immediately found another church family.
Over the past five years, since being in Canterbury, God has redeemed me from a lot of the negative things that have happened in my life. I have been able to develop genuine friendships, and overcome my insecurities – showing my true self to people and being accepted for who I am. I have been reconciled to my dad, and although this is still a constant challenge I know God as my Father and am able to turn to Him when my earthly dad lets me down. I have a beautiful little sister from my dad’s second marriage and could not love her more if I tried. I have recovered from my anorexia and am closer to my Mum than ever.
I cannot believe that God has done so many incredible things in my life. I feel completely unworthy of His love, but eternally grateful for it all. He is the ultimate loving Father, who sent His son to die for all my sins. He knows my every need and is compassionate towards me, He is gentle and kind to me – never giving me more than I can handle.
I hope and pray that God continues to use me – and my testimony – to bring others closer to Him. He has redeemed me from so much through Jesus’ death on the cross and through His never-ending love for me. He can do the same for you too.