In a moment of prayer, I was trying to come up with something to write about on this blog. God told me to share my testimony. I’ve shared parts of my story with PBS Kids and the nonprofit organization I’m A Fighter, but I’ve never shared the full story. This is going to be one of the most personal blogs I have ever written, but I feel God has placed it on my heart to share my testimony.
I was born prematurely, weighing 1 pound and 15 ounces. I was a tiny baby, I know. (Fun fact: Apparently I was the size of a kitten when I was born. So you can probably imagine how tiny I was). I was actually supposed to be born in June of 1999, but I was born in March of that year, instead. Because of my premature birth, I had to stay at the hospital for approximately 4 and 1/2 months after I was born.
When I was born, my lungs hadn’t even developed, so as a result, I had to be connected to a respirator while my tiny lungs finished developing. I was diagnosed with retinopathy at prematurity, and I had to get laser eye surgery at 2 and 1/2 months. Along with that, I had to get needles in my foot to draw blood. The doctors actually said that I had a very low chance of surviving, and if I did survive, that I would be a vegetable in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Well, I have to admit they were totally wrong now. 🙂
When I finally came home from the hospital, I was still really tiny, and every cold or flu sent me back to the hospital, where I spent approximately 2 weeks. However, I was a very happy (and cute) baby. I liked the Teletubbies, Elmo, Barney, Dora, and Strawberry Shortcake (typical things that most babies liked in the early 2000′s), but I didn’t like needles, or anything coming near my feet. My mom had to trim my toenails and fingernails when I was sleeping!
Thankfully, my elementary school years were really great! I made a whole bunch of awesome friends, who I still keep in touch with to this very day. But my junior high years were pretty tough…
I was bullied for a while from June 2013 until January 2014. I was often the “outsider looking in” (to say the least), and I didn’t really have any friends at school. I’ve always been shy, so making friends has always been kind of hard for me. I know this might sound crazy, but I was feeling pressured to ‘fit in’ a while back. I’ve noticed that most girls in my class are wearing these cute, ‘designer-looking’ outfits. So, I started buying some ‘blinged-out’ clothes, and wearing makeup, and everything, in an attempt to kinda… fit in, I guess. (Now don’t get me wrong, I love my designer clothes and wear makeup every day now. But at the time, it was something different for me)
But I guess the main point of me telling you all this, is… I used to be insecure. And I think that was when I met God for the first time, in June 2013.
Once, when the bullying was really bad, I came home from school, turned “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato on repeat, and wrote “Stay Strong” on my wrists in marker. I was trying to convince myself that everything was going to be alright, when in reality, I didn’t know. I didn’t know what would happen the next day at school. So I sat down and prayed.
I remember exactly what I prayed. I was on the verge of tears when saying it, trying to figure out why everything was so confusing. So I just silently prayed to God, knowing that He’d hopefully hear my cry. “Dear God, please help me through this situation. Help me to stay strong and rise from the ground… Like a skyscraper.” I had gone to church and youth group for most of my life, but I had never actually FOUND God until that one moment. That one moment where I felt like I was talking to Him. But that isn’t the end to my story.
I was still bullied after that, I remember. It was mainly through social media (Facebook and Instagram. I didn’t have Twitter at the time, nor did I use my YouTube account often), though it also occurred at school too. The “cliques” or the “groups” didn’t want to include me because I was different. I think that’s what the situation was. They wouldn’t give me the time of day because I was different from them.
I had also lost a friend that summer. We spent the whole summer together, even going to two concerts (Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez). But after the Selena Gomez concert, she started ignoring me, and then she just left. I was hurt, and didn’t know what I had done wrong.
I remember praying every night, just praying that God would work everything out, but nothing happened. At the end of that year, I remember reaching a “breaking point”. In December of that year, I realized that I had to get help. So in January 2014, after talking with my parents and the guidance counselor, I transferred schools (and have been going to this current school for a year already!). Needless to say, I am so much happier now, and I have a lot more confidence now than ever.
Fast forward to April 2014… my life was pretty amazing at that point. I was finishing 9th grade, and I was working on improving my piano skills. I was also in a Driver’s Ed course at school, so I could get my learner’s license. Along with that, I went to YC Alberta for the first time that year! Like I previously mentioned, I had the opportunity to share my story with I’m A Fighter, so when I wasn’t studying for final exams or preparing for YC, I was writing the story and editing it. I wanted to make sure my life story was perfect. 🙂
Everything was awesome (*cue the song from the LEGO Movie! LOL*), but I still felt… distant, far away from God. And I didn’t realize what was happening until I just about got in some major trouble in May 2014 (ironically, it was just before I went to YC for the first time). A friend and I had prank-called the local pizza place, and actually ordered some pizzas. We made up a fake address, and… long story short, the pizza place threatened to call the cops on us. I also got my phone taken away for a couple days when my mom found out. I haven’t spoken to this friend ever since. (And for some reason I’ve never really liked pizza since that moment. I wonder why? 😉 )
The summer of 2014 was a good one. I went to a Bible camp for one week at the beginning of July, and I remember the second-to-last night. All the campers were in the church, and we were given the opportunity to– if we had never done it before and were interested– go up to the front of the church and accept Christ into our hearts. I was one of the first ones to stand up, and the second to say something about my experience. And for the whole summer, I was strong in my faith. But when I got back to school, I found myself drifting away from God again.
In late October, I was blessed with the opportunity to go to Lac Bellevue for a weekend with my youth group. And that was where I accepted Jesus into my heart once again. You’d think this is where the story’s going to end… but there’s still more.
Even though I had accepted Jesus into my heart, I had never really heard Him speak to me. I guess I was too busy in my everyday life to really stop and listen to what He was telling me. So when one of my youth leaders suggested that I join her in attending a SOZO conference that was happening in the area, I signed up right away! The conference happened earlier this year, in January. and it was honestly one of the most amazing moments.
I was still being reminded of all the friendship things I had been through, and I really wanted to get that off my chest and start over. I tried to sign myself up for a personal SOZO session, and I thought I would get through with no problems. But because I was under the age limit (and there was a whole bunch of legal stuff involved if they worked with anyone who was under the age limit), the SOZO team told me I couldn’t do it unless my parents had done a personal session in the past. I have to admit, I cried when they told me that. I was so upset, but I wasn’t going to give up yet. I spent about 10 minutes praying over the dilemma, and after about 10 minutes, my youth leader talked to me. She said that she had spoken with the team, and told them how much I wanted to do this. Long story short, I didn’t get the full SOZO session, but… I guess you could call it a mini session.
Do you want to know something really cool that happened? I was in the room, praying with one of the SOZO team members and my youth leader, and after I prayed, I heard Jesus speak to me. For the first time. I have what He said written down on a little piece of paper that I keep inside my Bible, but I can literally quote it word-for-word.
He will stay with me, even if all my friends leave me.
I am a treasure and I am beautiful in His eyes.”
I didn’t cry when I realized that, but my reaction was priceless! For the first time in a couple years, I was finally free. I had let the chains fall away, and everything had changed from that moment on. And… I have no idea why I’m quoting Nichole Nordeman in this paragraph! I guess her song “Finally Free” really connects to me.
During that long period of time, I used to listen to a lot of secular music. And I had some Christian songs on my iPod, but I wasn’t as passionate about that kind of music compared to the other, Top 40 music. I think I actually turned away from my Faith a few times in the past. But when I switched schools, I decided to change my life too. I downloaded a few tobyMac songs (as well as 6 songs from the Grace Unplugged soundtrack) onto my phone, and I decided that I was going to become a different person. Ever since the SOZO conference, I have been listening to more inspirational artists/music than ever (my current favorite artists are Bethany Dillon, Jamie-Grace, Chris Tomlin, and Nichole Nordeman), and I’ve been more involved with the youth group(s) in my community.