I know from personal experience what it's like to grow up in what society refers to as a "dysfunctional home." Today, there are so many dysfunctional families that much of the world has lost sight of what a healthy, functional family looks like.
I was raised Jewish, so Jesus was the last thing on my mind. My parents have been married and divorced three times each, and I've been a part of five blended families. My dad had an extremely violent temper and my mom was paralyzed by emotional pain. Because they were always in one crisis situation after another, I never felt the freedom to go to my parents for comfort and direction. When I needed comfort, I found it in food. When I was in pain, I used drugs and alcohol to escape. By the time I was sixteen, I was addicted to both the food and the drugs. I had made so many poor choices, burned so many bridges, and nearly destroyed my mind and body. I believed I was destined for destruction. I wanted
desperately to crawl out of this deep, dark hole of despair, but the harder I tried, the deeper I fell into depression.
At the lowest point in my life, a friend challenged me with a painful question. She asked me how long I was going to use my past as an excuse for the poor choices I was making. She shocked me with the truth that I could do nothing to change my past, but I could choose to make the right choices to change my future.
That painful truth empowered me to change almost everything about myself. Believe it or not, in just one year, I lost all my weight, I stopped using drugs, I changed my friends, I changed my attitude, I improved my grades, I changed my clothes, my hair color, and while I was in a "change mode" I even changed my nose.
I went from a drug-using, overweight, insecure junior in high school to a powerful, popular senior who had boyfriends, a local beauty title, and a much better place in life. It looked like I had it all, and to the outside world, I did. There was only one piece missing from what appeared to be the perfect puzzle; it didn't matter how much I projected a perfect life on the outside, because on the inside, I continued to die a silent and secretive death that no one could see but me. I refused to forgive those who had hurt me and I held on to bitterness and resentment.
I was emotionally starving for love and felt alone, no matter how many people I had surrounding me. All the money, things, worldly success, and beauty could only decorate my pain and get the praise of people.
Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."
My life was a book with a sleek and colorful cover, but inside the pages were empty.
I did not know how to deal with my feelings. How could I possibly tell anyone that the young woman who seemed to have it all still cried herself to sleep every night, just like she did when she was a little girl. I couldn't tell my parents because they were still dealing with their own problems. If I told my friends about my emotional pain, they would look at my successes and think that I was ungrateful. So I did what I had learned to do as a young girl, and once again, I ignored the warning signs. I covered them up by losing more weight, winning more pageants, making more money, setting more goals, and filling my schedule with excessive busyness so I wouldn't have time to feel.
Then, at age twenty-four, I was again thrown back out on the road of reality. This time my emotional pain was so severe that every part of my body was hurting. I had panic attacks, crying spells, loss of memory, and chronic depression. The original pain from my childhood that had given me the power to change my life as a teenager no longer worked.
I had no more strength or desire to fill the empty pages of my life. I felt as if I were at the end of the story of my life.
I thought out a way that I could end my life quickly; I felt it would be better to die with the world thinking that I was successful than to disappoint them with the truth that I was a mess. The next week, I checked myself into a hotel room and decided that I would take my life with sleeping pills. When I walked into the room, I threw myself on the floor and screamed at the top of my lungs,
"God, do You exist? If You do, please show me!"
As I lay there, face down on the floor, God revealed Himself to me through a vision of a long-forgotten friend named Allen, a drug dealer from my high school.
It was on a Friday in the field across from our school where Allen sold me drugs practically every day. On that cool California morning, Allen said he wouldn't be seeing me at any of the parties that weekend. He was going to some special weekend retreat with a friend. On Monday morning, I hurried to the field to buy my drugs before school, and there stood Allen. I remembered the look in his eyes, the smile on his face, the tenderness of his voice, and the wisdom of his words as he began to tell me about a loving God who had changed his life over the weekend.
As I lay there on the floor, I started to wonder, Could the same God change my life? The next day my boyfriend invited me to his grandparents house and his grandparents were missionaries.
I walked in the most welcoming home and was invited to sit around a dinner table without fighting, but with a real family that loved each other. As I sat around the table with this family, for the first time, I experienced the love of God through the love of His people. I was captivated by their relationship with God and I have never seen such kindness, compassion and unselfish purposes.
I had to know more about this Jesus.
Emily, the missionary, sweetly asked me if I wanted to stay the week at their home, and of course I could not reject the invitation. That night she gently knocked at the door of my guestroom and she asked me if she could tuck me in bed and read me the Bible. What Emily did not know, is that I had never been tucked into bed as a little girl and had never been read to. Tears filled my eyes and joy my heart as I begin to realize that God heard the cry of my heart in that hotel room when I yelled and asked him if He existed.
He met me in the most personal way through Emily that night.
I begin to realize He was real and a few weeks later in a hotel room again holding a bottle of sleeping pills, I decided not to end my life, but instead to accept God's invitation and receive His Son, Jesus, into my heart and get a new life.
I have to admit, it felt very foreign at first and a little bit like I betrayed my Jewish family for receiving Christ as my savior. But I had so much peace for the first time and I didn’t feel alone anymore. I couldn’t wait to tell my family!
But to my surprise, while sharing Jesus with my grandmother on her deathbed I lost my Jewish family for my faith. It was a 10 year battle but the war has been won as my Jewish family, cousins and all, are now born again Christians.
I’d like to say that that’s the end of my story and we all lived happily ever after. There's been many battles and many victories but these past three years have been the hardest as I have survived cancer disease, a devastating divorce during my cancer battle, and wondering where God was in my darkest hour as I fought this battle without my family.
Today I realize that this is not our forever life and that we live in a fallen world. I have forgiven and I have chosen to go back out, wounds and all, to share the wisdom of God’s word and the power of God’s love on my new His Princess Warrior conference-tour, for women all over the world!
If I never meet you in person I look forward to celebrating with you in eternity!
If you want to know more, check out my book Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal!