Candice's Story "Piecing My Heart And My Head Back Together"

I have toyed with the idea of sharing my story for a very long time. However, something always got in the way. I started and stopped a hundred times. I was fearful that people I know would judge me or people would not see my story as I do. However, a specific moment in my life continues to remind me that my life is meant for more. About 15 years ago, I was visiting my best friend. We had been out on the town that night and went to Waffle House to eat afterwards. There was a large group of older people there and they seemed out of place among the loud, after-party crowd in the breakfast diner. As I ate, I could feel a woman glancing at me repeatedly. I thought nothing of it at first. However, she got up from her seat and began to walk toward me. She came up to me and very nicely apologized for interrupting my meal. She then asked me if I knew Jesus. I replied that I did even though at that time in my life I was not living very Christ-like. She proceeded to say, “I hope this doesn’t alarm you, but God wanted me to tell you something.” My heart began to race and my palms became sweaty. She certainly had my attention. I thought, "Oh no, what is this lady going to say?". She leaned down next to me and said, "God has big plans for your life. He is going to do great things through you." Throughout my life, when the depression and pain was so heavy, I would remember this moment and God would remind me that He has bigger plans for my life than I could ever understand.

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Growing up, I was taught right from wrong. I was taught to live spiritually. I even attended a Christian school. After my dad left when I was young, I had a void in my life. I never had an example of a good man and I had no idea what love looked like. I had a constant need to seek love. As a teenager, I did just that in all the wrong ways. I ended up quitting school in the beginning of my 10th grade year. From that time until around age 23, I was a mess. I binge drank almost on a daily basis. I sought love from men who had no good intentions with me. I gave myself away freely and without regard for the consequences. Eventually, I found myself in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. This was by far the most detrimental thing to my well-being. I only identified myself in relation to this other person. My value was reliant on how this person felt about me. I was told I was worthless, dumb, ugly, stupid, and incapable. I was battered, beaten, and bruised. I had been worn down to nothing. I literally felt like I was nothing.  I was so reliant on this relationship; I would do anything to keep it. I did things I am not proud of, things that went against what I knew was right. I did things I regret on a daily basis. Honestly, I am not sure how I survived without going to jail or dying.

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This relationship would haunt me for many years. If I am being honest, it still causes me pain to this very day. I still have debilitating panic attacks when I have a memory of the pain or I see something that reminds me of the past. It caused me to lose myself, my friends, my family, and my spirituality. My self-esteem and confidence were nonexistent. I had been beaten down. The physical pain was bearable, but the emotional pain was unreal. This pain caused me to suffer through depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I fought this battle for many years. Throughout that time, I would sometimes attempt to leave and start over. I'd go back to church and try to get on the right path. But I would always go back to him. I felt I wasn't good enough for God's love and that no one else would love me so I might as well just deal with the pain. About 3 years ago, I had finally had enough. I had lost everything financially, emotionally, and my hope was lost. I reached out to God and just begged for him to deliver me. I struggled with my faith. I struggled with not being able to see God and trusting he was actually going carry me. After all, I had made so many mistakes and felt as though no one could possibly love me. God knew I needed a tangible way to find myself again. It was around that time I found CrossFit. Through the community there and strength I developed, I was able to overcome my lack of confidence. Through developing physical strength, I found my mental strength. I found myself. I learned to love myself again. I met and made friends with people who cared about me and did not think I was worthless or unlovable. God brought me to a place where I could learn to love myself again and through this process God consistently showed me that he's here for me and his love is the only love I need.

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Over the last couple of years, I have still struggled. There were times where I made the same stupid mistakes. However, the recovery from them became a little easier each time. I began piecing my heart and my head back together. When I was 23, I managed to go back to school and obtained my master’s degree. I am also a single mom of two daughters. If it were not for them, I would have probably given up a long time ago. However, as a parent, it is my job to show them the right path, strength, and perseverance.  Anytime I feel like I want to back out of my responsibilities or go back to my old life, I remember I have been given the blessing of raising my daughters to be confident young women. I work with teenage girls in the foster care system who experienced many of the problems I did. I get to pour life into these girls who often have the same void needing to be filled just as I did when I was young. My job is hard. There are times when I am reminded of my past and I want to throw in the towel. Through the struggles I experienced, I feel as though I've been called to share my life story God has written for me. This story has encompassed a lot of pain. But through that pain, I found a beauty that I would have never found, had I not been dragged through the dirt. If I can help one girl see that she is enough, that she can fight and that God can carry her and love her, I will have not suffered in vain.

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After the storm of pain, tears, and regret, God revealed a rainbow on the other side. Those challenges and brokenhearted times would make me who I am. And now, I cherish that fire. I am no longer mad about what I have been through, nor am I ashamed. I have forgiven those who have caused me pain. Most importantly, I have forgiven myself. That once hurtful flame created a fire in me to help women just like me who feel like they are not enough. But I did learn that God was there the whole time. Even though at the time I felt very alone, I wasn't. At the time, I didn't recognize that God was there with me. God never left my side and was always faithful. He was faithful to me when my faith was little. I often wish I would've realized sooner that God was walking with me. But I'm so glad that I can look back and see that God had my back my whole life. As I write this, I am sure he is writing it with me. It is my prayer that through me a great work will be done. I pray that one person will hear my story and decide to fight another day and invite the spirit of the living God to be on their side through their battle. There was a time in my life that I was embarrassed of my story. I didn't want people to know my past, the dark places I've been. But there is great power in owning your past and wearing your scars like a warrior. My hope is that sharing my life, my scars, my not-so-pretty moments, as well as my victories and my triumphs, that you will be encouraged and you will find strength in Jesus.

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