From Broken To Beautiful, Guest Post

cracked glass votive

Typically, things are considered ugly when they are broken, mainly because they no longer fulfill their purpose. Who wants a car with no brakes, a chair on three legs, or a fan with no blades? There’s no fun in a roller coaster that won’t roll, a leaky pool with no water, or a bike with bent wheels.

This is what we mean when we say we are “broken.” We have been knocked down one too many times. We have suffered – of our own fault or at another’s hands – and we simply don’t “work” any more. We know we should seek God and have joy and praise, but all the emotions we feel are negative. Besides, we have nothing more to offer. This makes sense to us, because when something is broken, we don’t expect it to magically start working again.

Fortunately, for those of us who know the Lord, He is with us and is for us (Romans 8:31). But what does that mean if we are broken?

We might want God to turn back the clock and make us exactly like we were before…before the mistakes, the injuries, the tragedies, the pain. Or we might expect God to make us new again, like He did when we were first saved. But God’s will and grace far exceed our own, and His plan is greater than we could ever hope or imagine. For if He did this, if He changed us back or made us new again, what would have been the purpose of it all? What would we have gained through our difficult experience?

I saw a beautiful illustration the other day on Pinterest. It was a pretty candle holder made from a simple Mason jar. What made it unique was that a “cracked” design had been added to it by covering it with scraps of material before spray painting it. After the material was removed, and the candle lit, a unique pattern emerged as the light shined through the “cracks.” The rustic look gave the glass jar character, a style often referred to as shabby chic.

Instead of leaving us broken, God does something only He can do: He heals our hearts and binds our broken pieces back together in such a way that we are made better than we were before. Instead of fusing the broken pieces completely, He leaves a little crack. Like the candle holder, these cracks allow God’s light to shine through us in a new way. We still carry the same light of God as before, but the way we display it is more beautiful than ever.

This unique design that God makes out of our brokenness is, in fact, our testimony. When we are no longer ashamed of it, when we gladly tell others about what God has done for us, we allow Him to work through us in a new way. In this way, our brokenness is healed, becomes our testimony, and then glorifies God – like only we can do.

We are no longer broken – we are healed! We are etched with a testimony of His love and mercy. People will notice this difference in us and ask us what happened – how did we get that unique design on our lives? It is our job, then, to tell them that we were broken, but God made us better, made us whole. We are now…beautiful.

Ezekiel 34:16 “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken, and strengthen the sick…” (The Lord speaking through Ezekiel)

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Ashley Jones is a business professional by day and freelance writer by night. She uses her Masters in Biblical Studies to show others how God and His Word can be applicable in their lives. Ashley also draws upon her own personal experiences with brokenness – from tattered relationships to prolonged illnesses – and shares them as her testimony of God’s healing and redemption in her life. In her spare time, Ashley works with her husband Robby on updating their home, which was built in 1939. She is also a volunteer at her alma mater, the Tallahassee Christian College and Training Center. Ashley and Robby have one fur baby, a cat named Sue.

Ashley is working on various books at this time as well as her new blog. www.bigsisterknows.com.

When You Are Not Okay

Band-aid pic

My daughter came to me wearing a frown as she carried her favorite stuffed animal, Chickie. When you love something hard it’s bound to fray, sometimes in the same place where the first wound originated. Chickie has required multiple surgeries and so have I. What I have been through physically is a drop in the bucket compared to dear friends who have wrestled with cancer and won. I started writing seriously seven years ago, before then I was just playing. Prayer journals and angry poetry placed at my bedside as I dealt with miscarriages, surgeries, and tests that hurt so badly that I would fold in the elevator only to stand when the door opened. I never wanted anyone to see me folded and weak. I always found a way to stand back up, sometimes only in my spirit. And sometimes I had to receive a hand and help to stand upright. Sometimes we just need help.

Six years ago I was recovering from an emergency surgery. I had two weeks to prepare beforehand and I was trying my best to figure out another option other than what my doctor strongly suggested.

“It’s now or later…how long do you want to suffer?” I would never recommend this surgery to a thirty-one-year-old unless it was needed.” I nodded; scared to death as he set the date and I emotionally ran away.

With several staged interventions of loved ones and friends, I folded again and surrendered to the cutting of surgery and process of healing afterwards. But I wasn’t ready for the fear that was surfacing and the nightmares that happened as I drifted off to sleep. This peaceful sleeper began to fight and scream with terrors. My husband would rush to my side and one time had to physically pick me up and put me back in the bed. We were both terrified and knew this was not normal for me; I was running scared even in my sleep. I had just finished my second novel and had found an editor in California that I was going to work with. But I was a rag doll who needed to be fixed with torn places no one could see, both on my heart and in body. I had started loosing weight yet looked like I was with child. What once brought death and miscarried dreams, brought forth life in abundance and my body was worn out from the aftermath. Something had to give.

So I stopped writing fiction all together because the first novel that I wrote awakened memories I wasn’t ready to deal with, so I put it down and declared it an ADD train wreck on paper. The surgery happened, I recovered slowly and ended up back in the hospital fighting an infection. I’ve always been the girl who never liked to slow down, especially if it was forced. Yet being forced to slow down was the best thing for my health and my heart. Now I make rest and taking care of myself a priority. I stopped running, I asked those really hard questions like…how old was I when my mom placed two brown-eyed-girls in a car and drove off to find the three of us a safe place? Where was our family in all of this? Where was God?

I acknowledged that what happened to her and to us was not okay as I forgave again and rejected bitterness. Again. God was always right there leading my mom, carrying her as she cried and fought for her girls. It seems like there has to be a good reason for running and hiding and pauses for healing both physically and spiritually. And so I did all of that really well and gave myself room to retrace broken places in my past. I kept a few people at arms length until I healed. I gave myself permission to not be okay until one day I really was okay and better than ever. And as I sit here with the sun on my face and joy in my heart, I can tell you with confidence that God heals your broken past and gives you a stronger, clearer voice with beautiful things to say if you let Him.

It’s okay to run from the things that hurt you, or the people, as long as you always find yourself running to God who makes forgiveness actually attainable instead of a nice thought. God can mend broken homes and hearts and sometimes He gives you an open door and a trusted friend to wrap their arms around you and help you cry a little, or a lot, as you come up for air before you lace up your running shoes.

Broken Girl,

Please don’t stay broken. Ask those hard questions, let God mend your torn places. Do it for your daughters, do it for your sons. Do it for you. I’m convinced that we travel back and forth from broken places and seasons, we are never really exempt from hard, tattered places…and so we run like rag dolls and let God do His surgery. We let Him unfold our fetal position posture and we stand stronger and there we find Him waiting with healing in His wings.

Praying over you today, we love you so much.

Unfolded and free,

Jennifer Renee

Mom,

Thanks for running away, because you were brave enough and always put us first…we have a pretty stellar life. You’re worth more than rubies to me and still a total fox. I love you. I plan on taking good care of you when you’re an old lady. It was always the three of us against the world, The Three Musketeers with cute hair and a God who never failed us. We are so blessed.

Love,

Your Firstborn

Keri Sallee’s Broken Girl Story

We are so excited to share Keri’s story with you today. Keri is a joy! She’s one of the most talented girls I know, has a contagious laugh and is beautiful inside and out. She blogs at The Creative Life where she takes bits and pieces, lots of glue and makes art that will take your breath away, her story will do the same thing. 

We pray you will be encouraged by Keri’s Broken Girl story.

Love,

Keri & Jennifer

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Crushed by Grief. Not functioning. Forcibly separated into two or more pieces. Incomplete.

These are all definitions of what it means to be broken and for most of my life, it was a perfect description of my life.

I grew up in a home many would give their lives for…a mom…a dad… and a big sister. We moved around a lot, but when you’re a kid, it seems like one big adventure.  But in the midst of my adventure, I was forced to find my own way. My parents were still there, but they were so caught up in their own issues, that I felt alone and abandoned in my own home.

I soon realized that the only way I would get noticed was if I made good grades, so I put all of my effort into doing that and tried to be the “good girl” and fade into the background the rest of the time.

When I was 12, we made our first big out of state move to a small town in Texas where, if you hadn’t lived there your entire life, you didn’t stand a chance. My parent’s marriage was rapidly crumbling and so I didn’t add to their stress, I kept everything bottled up. I bottled up my loneliness. I bottled up my hurt. I bottled up the fear that consumed me, when at age 12, the thought of suicide first took root in my mind and seemed like an actual option.

Our next move took us to West Virginia and took me deeper in to the cycle that would be my go-to act for many years: I would be fake happy at school, be the typical vague teenager to my parents and I would lie awake at night hating myself for not being stronger.

I became very easily influenced by others at this time. I had my first cigarette. My first drink. I became so easily influenced by others that I let a friend talk me into running away from home. And when I came home and my parents asked me why I did it, I wanted to SCREAM at them “I’m just so unhappy and I just wanted you to notice me.” But…I didn’t. I told them I don’t know why I did it, they believed me and we moved on.

Upstate New York was our next move and it gave me something I had never had before: friends. It was so much easier to pretend to be happy, but I still couldn’t shake the depression and the feeling that something was missing from my life.  So, I started searching. I began to read my horoscope daily. I began to read tarot cards. I read books on crystals and how they were supposed to bring me love and hope and friends, but no matter how many rocks I wore around my neck or carried around in my pocket, the war inside my head would NOT cease.

By now the war had become a series of battles that played on a loop: I would think about ending it all and when I wouldn’t have the “guts” to do it, it would only add to my feeling of inadequacy and loneliness which would lead me back to suicide.

It was truly a painful, sadistic cycle I lived in.

The battle caused me to loose so much of my life; so much of my childhood. So many experiences that I should have had as a teenager but I was too scared someone would find out my secret and label me “the freak” that I never stepped out and experienced.

Then came Faith…

Faith was the first girl we met when we moved to a small town in Missouri. She was our tour guide at our new school and Faith invited us to church.

For six months, I sat through sermon after sermon and didn’t believe a word of them. God didn’t love me and He sure didn’t have a plan for my life. I sat there waiting for it all to be over so I could have social hour with my friends.

That is until one night in April of 1997 when we had a traveling show come through called Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.

The basic premise of the show was it showed people who did and did not believe in Jesus and what happened to them after they died. And like most other church things, I sat through it, but didn’t really listen. That is, until about three quarters of the way through the show.

The scene came up and it consisted of a girl sitting on a chair on a completely dark stage, except for a single spot light on her. And as she began to talk, I felt like she was telling my story.

She began to talk about how lonely she was. How no one loved her and how no one would miss her when she was gone. And from behind her back, out of the shadows, she pulls a gun and as the lights go out, the sound of a gunshot reverberated through that small church.

That night I realized that I didn’t want to end up like that girl on the stage, where she felt her only option was to end her life and for the first time in a very long time, I cried. I cried for the years I had lost and I cried for the person that I knew I would never become if I didn’t choose to make a change in my life.

So that night I gave my heart to Christ and for the first time in my life, I felt put back together. I was still fragile and I knew I couldn’t hold it together on my own. Only with God as the glue, could I keep the pieces of my life whole.

A few years later, I moved to attend Central Bible College and I thought that I had everything together, but during summer break, my life was, once again…broken.

It was the Saturday before Memorial Day and like any college student on a Saturday I was still sleeping when someone knocked on my door around 10:00 that morning. I opened the door to my little apartment to find my dad standing on my doorstep. .

I asked my dad where mom was and he told me she’s down in the car with Leslie (my sister) and Andy (my brother in law.) I told him to have them come up and he said no, he needed to talk to me first.

We sat on my little thrift store sofa and he said, you and your sister have always joked about being adopted…..and the truth is you are.

And I remember looking at him and asking “IS THIS A JOKE?”

He said “No.” and he hands me a letter and tells me “Your sister got this letter in the mail and you’ll be getting one soon, too.” And I start reading this letter and I always joke that it sounds like an after school special from the ‘80s because it says:  “MY WIFE AND I GAVE UP TWO DAUGHTERS IN 1981.” Gave a name and my sister’s birthday. Then gave another name and gave my birthday. “I think you’re my daughter.”

And in that moment, my perfect bible school world was gone… all of those feelings I had struggled with as a teenager came crashing back on me. I was once again that lonely, insecure and self-destructive girl. And now I had evidence. Look…even your own parents didn’t love you enough to keep you. They gave you away. You weren’t meant to be alive anyway.

That summer…I was shattered. Pieces of my heart and my soul were flung so far and wide that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I would never find them all, let alone be whole again.

Trying to ignore my brokenness, I began to fill my life with self-destructive distractions. I began to drink and party. I put myself in a situation with a guy that I almost didn’t get out of.

I was lost and lonely and I didn’t have any one to turn to because I was so angry. At my biological parents for picking drinking and drugs over us. At my adoptive parents for lying all those years and for not loving me the way they I felt they should have.  And honestly, I was mad at God—I gave my heart to Him…wasn’t it supposed to be safe from this kind of heartache?

Anger and fear colored my everyday life for a long time. It colored my marriage. How I treated my kids. How I made friends.

It colored my healing process three years ago when my sister and I finally opened up about abuse that had happened to us as young teenagers by a relative. In all honesty, I had shoved those memories away, under lock and key. But when my sister decided to open her vault and told me what had happened to her, the lock on my secret box broke wide open and those memories became Technicolor. I remember thinking as a teenager “At least someone is paying attention to me.” For that brief moment, in my messed up, lonely brain, I wasn’t alone.

That is my heritage…I’m a product of abuse…abandonment…depression…anger…suicidal thoughts…hurt…neglect… unworthiness… COMPLETE BROKENNESS.

So why am I still here and how can I call myself an un-broken girl?

I found HOPE.

Being an un-broken girl is as much a journey as being a broken girl. An un-broken girl is not perfect or loved more by God or “has it all together.” The only difference is an un-broken girl has HOPE that a broken girl does not.

Those of us who call ourselves the un-broken have battled the same loathing, depression, pain, hurt, abandonment, abuse and so-on in our lives and the reason we are here and are able to say “I am un-broken” is that we looked up from ourselves, past our issues, and away from our past and current situations and found HOPE in Christ.

Psalm 31:12-14 & 24 says this (bold added by me):

I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot. I have heard many rumors about me, and I am surrounded by terror, My enemies conspire against me, plotting to take my life. BUT I am trusting you, O Lord, saying “’You are my God” So be strong and courageous, all you who put your HOPE in the Lord.”

Those verses are my life in 67 words.

I still have cracks…I still have noticeable flaws, but that’s OK because in my eyes now, when the light of God shines through those cracks, it’s even more beautiful.

You don’t have to live broken…God’s life for you has you whole…strong…and courageous.

It will not be an easy journey to un-brokenness…trust me…I’ve walked it, but it can start with just the one small step of HOPE.

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Keri Sallee is a lover of all things creative…from cooking and scrapping to mixed media and music to reading and writing. You name it…she loves it (well…except for sewing). You can join her on her journey of daily creativity at The Creative Life. Or follow her on Twitter @creativelifear

Banner of Beautiful Brokenness by Miranda Jones

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Have you ever met someone and connected instantly? God is sweet like that to connect hearts quickly; I find it’s always for a greater purpose. When I met Miranda Jones at She Speaks this summer we just clicked. She is a gorgeous Southern Girl with a passion that stunningly beautiful because God has met with her in her brokenness and given this girl a voice that worth listening to! Our heart at Broken Girl Ministries is to join hands and lock shields with other women who are world changers. We invite you to share your testimony and watch God use it for His glory.

Much love to you,

Jennifer

I pray these words from my friend bless your heart today, may God bring beauty from your brokenness.

Banner of Beautiful Brokenness

I burst out in tears because Lord sometimes

I don’t know the words to express how I feel

All I know is the deep pain is real

The pain that cuts sharper than a knife

And drowns the wounds in sorrow

The pain that causes shame and sadness

Alongside the doubt that casts shadows over dreams

And drowns delight that I once knew

Delight that I found not only in you

But in my own soul

And now I wonder

Where has joy gone
Where has inspiration traveled

I search my heart in hopes of finding

A compass that might lead me back

I search my thoughts in hopes

In provoking an ounce of joy

I search but there is none to be found

Until I search first for you

Until I fall to the floor

Then I am lifted up

To your open door

And I realize

You are the sovereign source

Comforting calmness upon all anxiousness

You are the true father for the fatherless

The lover to the lonely

And the answer to destiny

My hope rests in you

When others fail me

Whom shall I look to

The I am

The father to the fatherless

The answer to my destiny

The creator of creation

And of all things

Then I realize

You are the creator of my dreams

And the source to my consolation

Where pain is powerfully used

For your perfect purpose

In gathering mysterious pieces

Of pottery like a puzzle

Filling in the cracks and crevices

With loyal love that heals

Sealing the pieces together

As a masterpiece

Creating something real

Something beautiful

Out of something

Broken

Then will you fill it

With the oil of gladness

Then your faithfulness

Is proven real

More so than the pain

More so than the past

More so than the doubt

That drowns dreams

And more so than

The overwhelming pangs that plague my soul

How beautiful is your banner of brokenness

© A Miranda Jones Publication

All rights reserved

Miranda Jones is passionate about helping the fatherless. Although she was abandoned biologically she has been adopted spiritually by her Heavenly Father.

Miranda Jones, profile pic

My Broken Girl Story, Sometimes It’s Okay To Runaway

Band-aid pic

My daughter came to me wearing a frown as she carried her favorite stuffed animal, Chickie. When you love something hard it’s bound to fray, sometimes in the same place where the first wound originated. Chickie has required multiple surgeries and so have I. What I have been through physically is a drop in the bucket compared to dear friends who have wrestled with cancer and won. I started writing seriously seven years ago, before then I was just playing. Prayer journals and angry poetry placed at my bedside as I dealt with miscarriages, surgeries, and tests that hurt so badly that I would fold in the elevator only to stand when the door opened. I never wanted anyone to see me folded and weak. I always found a way to stand back up, sometimes only in my spirit. And sometimes I had to receive a hand and help to stand upright. Sometimes we just need help.

Six years ago I was recovering from an emergency surgery. I had two weeks to prepare beforehand and I was trying my best to figure out another option other than what my doctor strongly suggested.

“It’s now or later…how long do you want to suffer?” I would never recommend this surgery to a thirty-one-year-old unless it was needed.” I nodded; scared to death as he set the date and I emotionally ran away.

With several staged interventions of loved ones and friends, I folded again and surrendered to the cutting of surgery and process of healing afterwards. But I wasn’t ready for the fear that was surfacing and the nightmares that happened as I drifted off to sleep. This peaceful sleeper began to fight and scream with terrors. My husband would rush to my side and one time had to physically pick me up and put me back in the bed. We were both terrified and knew this was not normal for me; I was running scared even in my sleep. I had just finished my second novel and had found an editor in California that I was going to work with. But I was a rag doll who needed to be fixed with torn places no one could see, both on my heart and in body. I had started loosing weight yet looked like I was with child. What once brought death and miscarried dreams, brought forth life in abundance and my body was worn out from the aftermath. Something had to give.

So I stopped writing fiction all together because the first novel that I wrote awakened memories I wasn’t ready to deal with, so I put it down and declared it an ADD train wreck on paper. The surgery happened, I recovered slowly and ended up back in the hospital fighting an infection. I’ve always been the girl who never liked to slow down, especially if it was forced. Yet being forced to slow down was the best thing for my health and my heart. Now I make rest and taking care of myself a priority. I stopped running, I asked those really hard questions like…how old was I when my mom placed two brown-eyed-girls in a car and drove off to find the three of us a safe place? Where was our family in all of this? Where was God?

I acknowledged that what happened to her and to us was not okay as I forgave again and rejected bitterness. Again. God was always right there leading my mom, carrying her as she cried and fought for her girls. It seems like there has to be a good reason for running and hiding and pauses for healing both physically and spiritually. And so I did all of that really well and gave myself room to retrace broken places in my past. I kept a few people at arms length until I healed. I gave myself permission to not be okay until one day I really was okay and better than ever. And as I sit here with the sun on my face and joy in my heart, I can tell you with confidence that God heals your broken past and gives you a stronger, clearer voice with beautiful things to say if you let Him.

It’s okay to run from the things that hurt you, or the people, as long as you always find yourself running to God who makes forgiveness actually attainable instead of a nice thought. God can mend broken homes and hearts and sometimes He gives you an open door and a trusted friend to wrap their arms around you and help you cry a little, or a lot, as you come up for air before you lace up your running shoes.

Broken Girl,

Please don’t stay broken. Ask those hard questions, let God mend your torn places. Do it for your daughters, do it for your sons. Do it for you. I’m convinced that we travel back and forth from broken places and seasons, we are never really exempt from hard, tattered places…and so we run like rag dolls and let God do His surgery. We let Him unfold our fetal position posture and we stand stronger and there we find Him waiting with healing in His wings.

Praying over you today, we love you so much.

Unfolded and free,

Jennifer Renee

Mom,

Thanks for running away, because you were brave enough and always put us first…we have a pretty stellar life. You’re worth more than rubies to me and still a total fox. I love you. I plan on taking good care of you when you’re an old lady. It was always the three of us against the world, The Three Musketeers with cute hair and a God who never failed us. We are so blessed.

Love,

Your Firstborn

Broken & Restored: Alexis Goring’s Broken Girl Story

“God takes the broken pieces that Satan leaves behind and makes MASTERPIECES.”

— Pastor Pranitha Fielder

I never fit in.

I always stood out.

When you’re in high school, standing out can become unbearable, especially when you do not have anyone standing out with you.

I had friends but they would always pair up and leave me out- whether it would be a group of female friends or couples, whatever the equation, I was always the “odd girl out” as I had been since cliques and couples started in middle school. Standing out has its benefits but when you’re young, it’s hard to see the benefits. Especially when it’s recess time and you’re the last one picked for the team and of course the team you’re placed in doesn’t really want you on their side—if they did, they would have picked you. It’s not easy when your peers reach the dating age and the boys are asking the girls out but never ask you. By the time I reached high school, years of rejection in social situations were weighing heavily on my heart. Being alone as I walked the halls and having people who called themselves my friends whisper to each other about me and exclude me was painful.

At the age of 16, over summer vacation, I had a breakdown— a complete nervous breakdown of which my doctors could not determine the root cause. My family took me to the hospital and I was transferred to an institution that cared for at-risk teens. Even there I did not fit in. The usual clients were ones who were sick because of a drug or alcohol habit. They also had clients who had behavioral problems. Here I was, a girl who simply didn’t fit in, painted with the broad brush of people who fit in to society’s perception of at-risk teens.

I stayed in the institution for about 2 weeks, during that time, I was given several different medicines as the doctors tried to properly diagnose me and find the best treatment. By the time it was time to go home, they had documented their final diagnosis of me and given me a medication that I am supposed to be on for the rest of my life. The medication made me ravenously hungry. I went from a size 6 (only got there because I starved myself since age 14 in order to “fit in” with how society says teen girls should look) to a size 16 as I gained 100 pounds in less than 6 months.

When I returned to high school to begin my junior year, I was still recovering. The medicine made my eyes unfocused and my mind was in a daze. But I begged my mom to send me to school. I wanted to fit in. I didn’t want to miss a day and have people wondering why. I remember one of my friends rushing to meet me and then jumping back in surprise telling me, “You’re not focused!” I remember walking the hallways by myself. My body was there but my mind was in a whole other world. I heard the teachers give out homework, lots of homework but I couldn’t even write it down. I spent the day in silence. When it was time to go home, I sat on a leather couch in the lobby of the high school, arms holding a high pile of books and homework assignments, looking listlessly at the entrance, seeing people passing by me but not able to register the reality of being back in school. I remember a friend of mine stopped by and sat next to me. He was concerned. He tried to get me to talk. I still remember him telling me, “Alexis! Talk! That’s what your mouth is for!” I don’t know why, but I wasn’t able to speak. I looked away and out of the corner of my eye saw him stand up and leave, shaking his head.

My grandmother picked me up from school and took me to her house as she would for me and my brother. We’d wait at her house until our mom got off from work and took us home. I think I may have eaten some food as I waited for my mom to pick us up. By the time I returned home, I laid out all of the books and homework assignments on my bedroom floor and began opening the books and picking up assignment after assignment. I didn’t know where to start. I was completely overwhelmed and not acting like I’d always been—a star student. When my mom stopped by my room, I looked up at her from where I was seated on the floor and admitted. “I can’t do it.” My mom went to her original plan- to homeschool me until I got better.

The medicine made me sleep like a log at first as it was a part of the recovery process. So in the mornings, my mom would wake me up and I would eat breakfast with my mom and brother and then my mom and brother would go to work and school and I would return to my bed and sleep like a baby for at least 4 hours. When I woke up, I would eat lunch and my dad would drive me to my grandmother’s house where I stayed until my mom would pick me up in the evening after work.

During my time at my grandparents’ house, I would do my homework from the company in which I was enrolled as a homeschooled student. The homework aligned with the requirements for the standards of my high school’s curriculum so even though I was doing the work at home, I was still able to complete it and pass. As time marched on, my mind became clearer and more focused. By December, I had gone from barely knowing where to start in my schoolwork to having made a daily study/work schedule and breezing through my assignments. By January, I was beginning to get bored. My mom spoke with the school’s Guidance Counselor and Registrar and made a way for me to return to school as an enrolled student.

When I returned to school to finish my junior year, I met a mixed set of reactions. The same friend who saw me in August when I was still in a daze and she called me “not focused,” ran up to me and gave me a hug. “Alexis! You’re back,” she said, “The circle is complete.” I never asked her what she meant by that statement about the circle being complete, but looking back, I think she may have been referring to either our circle of friends or the learning community as a whole. Nonetheless, she made my day as I was happy that there were people who were happy to see me.

Not everybody was all smiles. There were people who treated me according to my new figure—as a morbidly obese girl. I grew up fat so I was used to the territory and issues that come with it which is why I had starved myself thin from age 14 to until I got sick at 16. Not that my “thin” figure mattered because in my mind, I was still fat and undesirable and working out daily to achieve the airbrushed beauty I saw on magazine covers. Many of my peers only saw my new, bloated size. The fun and games began. People isolated me. Whispered about me. Laughed at me and one time one of my friends’ friends threw grapes at me and laughed.

Now the difference is, before I became sick and was given medicine that made me eat like a pregnant woman, I was depressed, sad and angry at being the “odd girl out” in social situations and feeling alone and unfairly judged. During my hospitalization and times as a homeschool student, God changed my heart and life. He birthed compassion within me, forgiveness and renewed my outlook on life. After my sickness was out of the crisis stage and I began to recuperate, nothing could upset me like it did before. I was happy and I wanted to share the love God showed me with the world. I attended a private Christian school and I found myself loving being in Bible class more than I ever had before. God started to equip me with the tools I needed to share my story. I rejoined the Journalism and Yearbook staff and wrote with new fervor and skill. God placed me on a steady path to restoration.

By senior year, I was restored to star student status. During the class picnic, the students had time to sign each other’s white t-shirts. One of my friends wrote something on my t-shirt that made me want to keep the shirt for life. She drew a beautiful picture of a cross with a symbol of Jesus Christ’s robe draped over it and wrote, “God takes the broken pieces that Satan leaves behind and makes MASTERPIECES.”

I graduated from high school with honors and was given a Presidential Scholarship for college. Five years later, I graduated from college with a degree in Print Journalism. Since graduation, God has blessed me with my own column called Growing Up which is about discipleship. He’s also given me experience in working with children as I was a teacher for the past 2 years. And now as my teaching career has ended, God is giving me the opportunity to pursue my calling to write full-time.

Recently, I was cleaning up my room and I found the t-shirt with the quote about God’s masterpieces written by my friend Kitty Pilli who since then has grown up to become a pastor. When God restores, the healing effect ripples like a stone skipping over water. He restored my mind and renewed my heart. And God continues to restore my body to good health. While I still struggle with my weight, I know that one day, I will achieve my goal of a healthy weight and toned figure. Through it all, I’m learning to trust God’s timing and rest in the blessed assurance that God is taking the broken pieces that Satan caused in my life and making masterpieces as He transforms the pain into beauty.

God is restoring me into the masterpiece He created me to be and He wants to restore you too.

Alexis A. Goring

Becky’s Broken Girl Story

We are big fans of Becky. She is a woman who embodies Broken to Beautiful. Becky walked to Jesus with all of the broken pieces of her life and asked Him if He could make anything out of it. And HE DID!! He made something that makes you stand in awe. Not in awe of Becky (though she is pretty amazing) but in awe of a God that redeems the ugliest of stories.

Becky is the founder and director of Saving Grace. She is rescuing girls from the very life she endured and is helping them learn to give the broken pieces of their lives to God. Saving Grace is a non-profit ministry that is in need of your prayers and financial support. We believe in them enough to put our time and our money where our mouth is! If you’d like more information about how you can support Saving Grace please hop over to see what you can do.

Becky will be joining us on Tuesday, January 24th to share more of her story at Bella Vista Assembly of God. If you’re in NWA we’d love to have you join us.

And now, here’s Becky’s story in her own words. I pray that her words help you find hope in a loving God.

Love~

Keri & Jennifer 

With each blow of the belt on my bare flesh, I gasp from the pain. The sound of the box fan in the window creates an eerie harmony with the screams coming from the one who hates my existence.  I cry quietly, since responding to the violence invokes her wrath.  I try to be still and accept the beating since any reaction to defend myself fuels her rage. She grabs my long hair and jerks my head back to the point I almost can’t stay conscious….finally the room goes black.  The unconscious moments provide a temporary escape, but when I reveal my consciousness the abuse will reconvene.  She continues the assault until she is spent and unable to continue.  She stops suddenly with a deep sigh, almost as if she’s defeated.  She leaves the room and I hear deep breathing from the next bedroom.  I get dressed and make my way out to the back yard…still the deep, quiet sobs shake my seven year old frame uncontrollably.  In our backyard, I lay down in the grass again, as I often do and look up at the sky, wiping away the tears with the back of my hand only to find blood trickling down my neck from my ear, not realizing my eardrum has been ruptured from the blows.   I wipe away the blood, longing for kisses to take away the hurt.

Today, the blows were delivered because I was out playing and she lost track of me, at least that’s what I think it was.  Often I had no idea why I was attacked, but today I was beaten because she was afraid I was in danger.  The little girl I was didn’t know to ask why someone so concerned about my safety would harm me with such reckless abandon.  In the future I would learn to be more careful.  I did my best to leave and return home undetected; ideally when she was sleeping.

The fear subsides, sobs fade and my breathing steadies. My tears begin to dry on my little cheeks.  “God, did you give me to the wrong mommy?  I really like your sky today!  I can’t wait to live up there with You and Jesus.   God, can I have a mommy and daddy who loves me some day?”  I go to sleep this night with the fear mama may decide to choose today to be the day she will take my life.   I sleep with a Bible on my chest believing it will protect me like a shield.  Days go by and mama stays in bed.

The cabinets and fridge are empty… except for mustard and some dry bread.  All too often my days were spent searching for things for my little brother and me to eat, and many days were faced with no options.   Mama warned me not to ask the neighbors for food or they will call social services and we will be separated and never see each other again.  I couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from my family.  My older brother and sisters have left home and now it is up to me to keep the peace at home and help mama with the little one.  Betty the milk lady stops by with her weekly donation of milk.  The gallon glass jugs are difficult to handle with my small hands, but I quickly learned to manage.  The cream on the top fills our tummies and thanks to her kindness we aren’t as hungry and we drink our fill of milk for the next several days.  I take solace in knowing with school beginning soon I will get to have breakfast and lunch most days and be able will to save some things to feed my little brother.

School begins and provides an escape… my teachers are all that is kind and good.  My favorite teacher is Mrs. Genung.  She greets me each morning with a warm hug, even though I had often gone days without a bath.  She daily escorts me to a sink and helps me brush my teeth, wash my face and hands, and pulled my long hair back with a ribbon then tops it off with some good smelling lotion.  I love her and secretly wish she was my mother.

School eventually becomes a burden… I begin to flunk out of almost every class.  Years come and go and the fierceness in Mama’s anger for me grows as my small frame grows into the body of a woman.  I am sexually abused by neighborhood men and shame builds its ugly wall.  Mama begins to call in the elders from the local Pentecostal church to anoint me with oil and pray over me after her fit of rage, believing I am possessed… it will be years later that I praise God for allowing them to pray for me.  The older sisters come home for a time and leave again… only trying to survive this life… older brother stays with absent father.  I find a family in a group of adults who aspire to get high, cook crank and live off welfare.  I get arrested at the age of eleven for possession.

I run for what seems like forever… I find my sister and she runs too.   We are broke and I watch as my sister gives her body to feed us and at times is brutally raped by more than one to keep me from harm’s way, all the while the rapists threatens to kill us when they are done.  Our days on the run bring brokenness that can’t be described… adding to the wall of shame.  We return home.  Mama calls the police and I’m immediately taken into custody.

The drive to the children’s home, a place I would call home for the next seven years is long… yet so beautiful.  It takes me back to a place I hadn’t been in a really long time… to my conversations with God in my back yard after one of Mama’s raging storms.  It’s June 9th, I’ve got on “Chick” jeans and a white T-shirt.  This day is etched in my heart for a lifetime.  We go into a small office; I meet my house mother, she seems kind and I’m not afraid.  She take me in a truck for a short ride up the road to our house… where I meet the house dad and all of my new brothers and sisters… I’m 12 years old and the youngest girl.  We go to a dining hall and eat with other families who I will get to know over the next few years… we have soup and grilled cheese, it’s Wednesday and we go to church.  As I sit with my new family I wonder if I’m going to hell, I’m certain I am… I’ve been a horrible child and the church I went to with Mama said I am going to hell if I don’t follow their rules… nobody in this church is following their rules with all the short hair, pants and makeup on the women and girls….

We head back after church and go to the playground where I see a man on a horse and realize that maybe… just maybe God isn’t so mad at me after all… He gave me a mom, dad, brothers and sisters… AND horses! J  I go to bed later this night feeling safe, with a sense of hope… I will wet the bed later in the week… and then never again, not ever… after wetting the bed every night for as long as I can remember.

I thrive through the years making good grades in school for the first time and being loved by amazing people who push me to work hard… however things happened to me at the hands of a few who were meant to protect me that would add to my wall of shame.  It would be twenty years later that God would slowly and with the sweetest care begin to tear down this wall… one brick at a time.

I graduate from high school and head off to a Christian college, mostly because I have no other place to go.  I don’t know what I will do for Christmas and with a few deliberate moves I am pregnant and married by Christmas.

There is much more to this story of a broken girl, with broken dreams, a broken heart and at many times a broken marriage.  God blessed me with three beautiful daughters and countless others who would call me mom.  Kent and I grow to love each other and eventually fall in love… it’s the most beautiful kind of love… grown in the fertile soil of God’s amazing Grace.

Kent has always called me his wildflower…He says “You bloom where you land”.  In Psalm 30:10-12 NIV it says:   

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD my God, I will praise you forever.

This is what that same passage says in The Message:

You did it: you changed wild lament
into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
I can’t thank you enough.

This really isn’t “my story”, it’s “God’s story about me”!

I’m His forever grateful girl!

Rebekah Lynn