To the girl I was:

Girl I Was,

This letter has taken five years to write because the woman I am is still developing. I had to realize that this was a letter for you, and not for him. I had to thank you for being the girl I was, to honor you for all that we lost.

Girl I Was, I miss you. You could make a brick wall talk to back to you and laugh. You could stand in a line of strangers and make them feel good by finding something nice to tell them – about their outfit, their kid, their order choice, a snarky comment about the line taking forever, anything. Girl I Was, you were so funny that you could diffuse a tense situation in seconds. You weren’t perfect, not by any means. You had a temper that could ignite a forest in a second. You loved too quickly and let your heart take a few too many beatings. But you were innocent. You were me. And then, you were gone.

That night stole part of you away. You went from trusting to wary. Light-hearted and happy to reserved, forcing fake smiles because no one could know that you weren’t you anymore.

I still see you curled in a ball on the floor and crying, hurting, and wondering why God didn’t protect you – why He left you the moment you needed Him to intervene the most. My heart still breaks at the feeling of abandonment and neglect. This is a weight you carried alone for far too long.

I wish I could go hold you, Girl I Was, and whisper the things that I know now. I wish I could remind you that you are more than this. I know this sent you spiraling into a mess of hating God and wishing He would save you at the same time. You can’t see it now, but He already saved you. He never promised you would be given an easy life, though it seemed that way until now. I couldn’t see it then, but He was about to use this horror for so much good.

Genesis 50:20 is now my life verse: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He put me in this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

Girl I Was, you bore this burden of guilt and shame because of what a man did, what a man stole. But when you finally start opening up to people, you’ll see how not alone you are. This was not your fault. This is not a burden of guilt and shame that is supposed to rest on your shoulders. 1 in 4 women go through similar situations, and some of those women don’t have God to lean on.

Girl I Was, when you find your faith again it is so much stronger than you could have imagined. Yes, when this week comes I still cry. But I forgive him for what he took. I forgive him repeatedly, every day this week and I pray for him – not what you thought would ever happen when you lived in fear for two years. Not what you thought would happen when you went from one bad decision to another in your spiral.

I still do not love that this happened to me, but I am thankful that I am able to use it to help save others. Girl I Was, I am a teacher now. I have the lives of students in my hands, and so many of them have struggled with this same thing – or they will struggle. I pour God’s love over them every day, and I am blessed when they trust me enough to tell me their heart hurts.

Girl I Was, purity is more than virginity. Purity is in the heart, and my heart is still pure. I know you wished to be Ruth waiting on Boaz instead of feeling like Gomer. Girl I Was, you are more than those choices. You are more than mistakes. You are worth so much more than you believe.

Girl I Was, you’re not gone completely. I still see glimpses of who you were in who I am today. I love people freely, even when it gives my heart a new bruise. I still give compliments, even though it’s hard to step out of my new comfort zone. I still have a temper that can ignite a forest, but the flames tend to be doused quickly. I’m still funny.

Girl I Was, I think you would be proud of the woman I am. I fight for the rights of others with a flame can withstand a hurricane. I turn to God more and seek His guidance, even when I make mistakes. Especially after I make huge mistakes. I know He loves me. I trust that He will never abandon me, that He never abandoned me. I trust in His protection. I trust in Him even when I feel anxious about situations. I’m still working on being more open with people, but I also trust that God will let me know who those people should be. I am not ashamed of my past anymore, though I know the enemy will throw my mistakes in my face when I feel weak. This is not something to be embarrassed about, but to know that I am strong because I walked through the fires.

I’m ready to be the woman I am meant to be because of you, Girl I Was.

Thank you,

Woman I Am

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As small as a mustard seed

Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It wraps around the heart like a poisonous vine and squeezes until all that is left is hurt. Fear stems from jealousy. The fear that you are not as pretty as her. The fear that you are not as smart as him. The fear that you are not as funny, or as charming, or as gifted. Then there is the fear that you will never have your dreams while your cousin, sister, best friend, general Facebook acquaintance is posting pictures of theirs. With every image, the vine squeezes just a little tighter, reminding you that you do not have what you desire. It reminds you that the clock is ticking, that your running out of time – of youth. Or, it reminds you of the diagnosis that doctors said will prevent you from ever having your dream. Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It wraps around the heart like a poisonous vine and squeezes until all that is left is hurt. Your cousin, sister, best friend, general Facebook acquaintance is posting pictures of their dreams come true. With every image, the vine squeezes just a little tighter, reminding you that you do not have what you desire. It reminds you that the clock is ticking, that you are running out of time – of youth. Or, it reminds you of the diagnosis that doctors said will prevent you from ever having your dream.

The hurt flares up every time you hold your best friend’s baby. The hurt flares up every time you see your Facebook friends post pictures of their handsome husbands and beautiful wives. You feel it every time you find your praying knees, asking God why. Why hasn’t it happened yet? why does every relationship fall apart? why were you diagnosed with that disease? why were you betrayed by the people you valued most?

The vine spreads throughout your body and becomes the lump in your throat when someone asks if you are okay. You nod and force a fake smile and continue on your way. Maybe even tell a little white lie: “I’m fine. Just tired.” The vine becomes the ache in your stomach when you see a pregnant woman smile at her husband and rub her rounded belly. The vine becomes the headache as you slide through social media and stare at smiling faces and perfect makeup and posts that document a wonderful day.

Then fear settles in. Fear stems from jealousy. The fear that you are not as pretty as her. The fear that you are not as smart as him. The fear that you are not as funny, or as charming, or as gifted. Then there is the fear that you will never have your dreams. The “what if’s” that echo through your thoughts every second of every day. “What if God lied to me? What if I imagined that vision? What if God tricked me into believing in it?” Fear is the weight settling on your shoulders. It presses down, creating a strain in your neck. You can’t turn your head away from the barrage of pain headed your way. You are stuck.

Sometimes you share your emotions with a friend – who swears that it can still happen.
Sometimes you share your emotions with a relative – who tries to remind you that God has the final say, not doctors.
Sometimes you share your emotions in a journal – where you battle with yourself and feel insane as you pour everything out with tears streaming rivers down your cheeks.
Sometimes, you share your emotions with the world – wondering if anyone is struggling as you are.

Sometimes you pray. You pray so long that the day ends and the next one begins. You remember the vision you were given of your own belly rounded with a baby. You remember the vision of yourself holding hands with your husband. You remember that new beginnings sometimes start with painful endings. You remember that God is in control and that His timing is perfect and yours is not. You remember that Fear is a liar trying to rob you of your happiness. You remember that God only speaks the truth, God loves you, God is not a trickster aiming to hurt you, God will remove the vine from your heart and the weight from your shoulders.

From the prayers and reminders, a seed of hope is planted in your heart. It’s a small seed, no bigger than the tip of a pencil, “yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:32).

person holding a green plant
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