An Unexpected Journey

By Michael Agnew
By Zabdi Piña
By Kristie Davis
By AJ Jerkins
By John Hames
By Makenzie Romero
By Caroline Khameneh
By Victoria Renken
By Kathy Whitthorne
By Dawn Johnson
By DJ Newman
By Mary Weyand
By Rob Nickell
By Kathy Whitthorne
By Nila Odom
By Sherene Joseph Rajadurai
By Kristi Sheffy
By Sharon Arrington
By Sarah Crawford
By Betsy Paul
By Angel Piña
By Elizabeth Piña
By Justus George
By Lori Kuykendall
By Chris Kuykendall
By Matt Holland
By Courtney Grimes
By Jessie Yearwood
By Brian Severski
By Brian Arrington
By Sandhya Curran
By Will Meier
By Clint Calhoun
By Jen Mayes
By Alf Laukoter
By Neil Wiersum
By Jim Henry
By Jenn Wright
By Kevin Harwood
By Nandi Roszhart
By Leah Vanhorn
By Janett Miller
By Isaac Harris
By Charlyn Valencia
By Chad Golden
By Jonathan Cortina
By Kuruvilla (K.O.) Oommen
By John Dyer
By Abe Paul
By Lauren Geppert
By Jennifer Durrett
By Penny Jones
By Jill Asibelua
By Jared Barnett
By Paul Martin
By Norm Headlam
By Kristi Herring
By Sissy Mathew
By Shannon Pugh
By Melanie Mechsner
By Michelle Garza
By Armando Galvan
By Jeremiah Betron
By Camille Holland
By Rod Myers
By Crystal Elwell
By Darcy Peterson
By Jason Elwell
By Amy Aupperlee
By Barry Jones
By Bryan Eck
By Tricia Kinsman
By Nat Pugh
By Sarah Kemper
By Dana Myers
By Craig Pierce
By Jim Woodward
By Andy McQuitty
By Pete Hyndman
By Kevin Dial
By Catherine & Elizabeth Downing
By Gerald Ridgway
By Jill Hoenig
By Sunitha John
By Tarrin Henry
By RozeLee Rugh
By Beverly Hogan
By Kendra Cordero
By Lisa Gajewski
By Bonnie Goree
By Young-Sam Won
By Chris Beach
By Tom Rugh
By Nick Vuicich
By Andy Franks
By Lead Team
By Jason Roszhart
By Harvard Medical School
By Justin K. Hughes, MA, LPC
By Sherene Joseph
By Earl Davidson
By Rebecca Perry
By Joe Padilla
By Christian Melendez
By Bruce Riley
By Isaac Harris
By Amy Leadabrand
By Ben Haile
By Shaun Robinson
By Natalie Franks
By Cathy Barnett
By Ryan Sanders
By Casey Pruet, The Grace Alliance
By Sharon Arrington
By Lauren Chapin
By Betsy Paul
By Alberto Negron
By Kelly Jarrell
By Michelle Mayes
By Jenn Wright
By Jill Jackson
By Terri Moore
By Robyn Wise
By Katherine Holloway
By Richard Ray
By Kurtlery Knight
By Bruce Hebel
By Neil Tomba
By Tony Bridwell
By Grayson McGovern
By Luke Donohoo
By Kathy Whitthorne
By Mike Moore
By Wade Raper
By Mike Gwartney
By Jo Saxton
By Dieula Previlon
By Jonathan Cude
By Ken Lawrence
By Jay Hohfeler
By Barb Haesecke
By Lindsay Casillas
By JoAnn Hummel
By Shawn Small
By Alice McQuitty
By Jonathan Murphy
By Peggy Norton
By Brent McKinney
By Irving Bible Church
By Irving Bible Church
By Ashley Tieperman
By Betsy Nichols
By Trey Grant
By Debbie Lucien
By Sue Edwards
By Suzie Robinson
By Paul Smith
In Hope & Healing
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How does a girl with many things working in her favor end up at rock bottom, which in this case, was a strip club?

It did not happen in one instance, or even two or three. It didn't happen on a rebellious whim. It stemmed from a lifetime of unspoken messages from a patriarchal society, from systemic misogyny, and from the childhood indoctrination into what it means to be a woman. All of which were communicated by otherwise well-meaning individuals - some of whom are Christians themselves. Let that sink in for a minute—Christians themselves. Even if it wasn’t said outright, there was certainly the undertone.

The beginning of my story is a bit cliché. Unspoken familial messages of prioritizing wealth, status, and reputation above all else; a childhood sexual assault by a family member; verbal abuse by a parent that slowly turned physical. However, this was all behind closed doors. In public, we appeared to be a perfect little family. We were deeply involved in our church and community. We were kind and funny and charming. We didn’t speak about our problems, but instead we helped other people with theirs.

The unspoken message I received was that my problems were irrelevant and a source of shame, and that wealth and status mattered above all else. What happened at home and in private was meant to be at home and in private.

When I was 14, I met a boy in youth group from a similar background as myself. Like some others in his position, he had trouble saying the word ‘no.’A year later, he raped me and then emotionally blackmailed me using physical threats, violence, and fear. I was a virgin, planning to “keep myself pure until marriage” because that’s what good Christian girls did. Sex before marriage was shameful to me, my family, and my future husband, if I could even find one after such a travesty.

Once again, I received an unspoken message. This time, I believed that I didn’t have a voice. And if I did, no one would believe me because I was weak and dirty.

As I became older, somehow sexual assault started to become a reoccurring theme in my life. I began to believe it was my fault because of things I had worn or places I had been. During this time, I met a woman who would soon become my modeling agent. Her name was well known. I thought maybe this was my way out. This was a way to take charge of both my circumstances and my body. Throughout those years, I received mixed and confusing messages that I struggled to make sense of as a teenage girl.

Again, I learned that wealth, status, and beauty were all that mattered, but it was always just slightly out of reach or never enough.

I found that the powerful people in the world of tv and magazines were vapid and lack of compassion or morals. I began finding small amounts of success in my job, and as I did, I realized that the people I was working for didn’t care about me, they only cared about what I could do for them.

Eventually, I started traveling. I started partying with celebrities, and in doing so I periodically got away from my toxic and hostile family environment. So, I thought I had made it to better things.

And again, the unspoken message was received. Beauty and wealth above all else. Your voice, opinion, and experience don't matter. Your silly southern morality will make you vulnerable and is not how the world really works.(That one was actually said numerous times.)

The unspoken messages I continued to receive in my newfound career only validated those from my childhood. I started taking higher fashion modeling jobs outside of the catalog world. Higher fashion meant fewer clothes, more sex appeal, and a much quicker pace where there wasn’t time to think. It meant more hours, longer days, and later after-parties.

Eventually, the partying started to catch up with me. Depression and anxiety crept in and I began to burn bridges. My agent and my parents had enough of my drama. I was angry. They were angry. And the only solution I could fathom was to leave home.

I kept modeling but the jobs became more provocative and I became more depressed. Then one night I met a girl. She seemed like everyone else, but she was so different. She worked at a strip club when she wasn’t modeling.

She told me she made as much, if not more hourly than I did at an average modeling gig! She wasn’t high. She wasn’t drunk. She said she owned a house. She was a mom. She was just paying the bills! So, it seemed very normal and I found myself wondering how this was any different from modeling.

In the beginning, it was all partying. I liked to say I got paid to party. I felt good about it for awhile. I chose my schedule. I was traveling the world. It was very similar to modeling but in some ways I had more freedom.

But eventually, my relationships were failing, I didn’t want to go to work, and my depression worsened. It was affecting my whole life. Everything was becoming more and more confusing. I was having panic attacks and eventually, I broke down. That’s when I hit my knees. I was so angry at God. But that meant I knew there was a God. So, I cried out. “If you’re real, help me. I give up. I surrender.”

And with gentle loving-kindness, He met me where I was and began the work of showing me who I really am, and more importantly who He really is.

I decided to leave the world I had become accustomed to. It took years and a lot of healing to get a fuller picture. Almost a decade later, I found a group of former dancers who met once a week. That’s where I consciously met Jesus for the first time. Before that, He was doing all the work behind the scenes. At this point, I was choosing to go deeper. I thoughtfully entered a season of learning what a relationship with Him truly means. He’s not some evasive spirit up in the sky who was counting my mistakes. He is the Jesus who left the 99 to come to find me in the wilderness I had willfully chosen to walk in.

I found the Jesus who wept when I was abused. The Jesus who stood by me all those years and loved me in spite of myself. He even loved me because of myself! He made me. He wasn’t angry with me. He wasn’t disappointed in me. He knew all the things that led me to the edges of myself and it mattered to him. And when I was ready, He wrapped me in his arms and said, “I’ve missed you.”

He has methodically and gently taken every lie and replaced it with the truth. In that freedom, I’ve found the woman He intended me to be. I am soft, strong, courageous, compassionate, a fighter, a fierce defender, a friend, a mother, and a wife. I am so many things and I don’t fit into a typical narrative or box. There is nothing I’m supposed to be or look like. That’s the beauty of humanity. We are multifaceted beings - layered with contradiction. This is why it’s only Jesus who can help us to discover our true selves. He designed us.

Jesus himself was multifaceted. He was not weak, although He chose to be emotionally vulnerable. He got angry. He loved the outsiders and the rejects. He turned water into wine. He was real and honest and vulnerable. When I discovered that, I realized this Jesus is what I was searching for all that time.

Jesus is in the business of restoration. I’m still growing, evolving, and healing. It’s a never-ending journey. But I think that’s the beauty of it. It’s never too late. We’re never too far gone. God lifts us back up onto our feet or holds us until we can stand. Then He mends our wounds, and straightens our crowns, and reminds us that we are children of The King.


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