The 16-Hour Drive That Changed My Life

By the time I reached my senior year in high school I was a complete mess inside and out.

Outwardly, I was in a major struggle against obesity, reaching my highest weight of 336 pounds. Everything hurt and was uncomfortable, all the time.

Inwardly, where do I even begin. I was in such a broken, discouraged, hopeless place. I can’t say there was one awful or terrible thing that happened to me, but I can say that growing up was there were a lot of challenges to overcome. I was raised by a single mother who did her absolute best every day. She worked around the clock to provide for us, but still we barely made ends meet. We couldn’t afford things like gymnastics lessons, healthy food, or fancy clothes.

My dad had a family at the opposite end of the country, so we didn’t see much of him. And when we did, there were huge hurdles to jump over since \ he and my mom were so drastically different in personality. We didn’t know how to act around him because the majority of our time was spent with our mom. So that made things hard.

By the time I turned 18 we had relocated thirty times.

Yes, 30.

No, we were not military.

There isn’t one main answer as to why we moved so much. Basically we were always struggling to make the rent, and often times my mom was trying to find solutions to the constant struggle of raising two kids with no help. Moving this often caused me to struggle in school and it was very difficult to make friends. As soon as we’d get settled into one place and meet a few people, it was time to go again.

My weight had caused to tease me, all the way back to Kindergarten. So needless to say, I was never very excited to meet new friends who I thought would find me repulsive and cause me to be the laughing stock of the class.

I won’t bore you with extra details of my upbringing, I’ll just tell you that by the time I reached my senior year I was just absolutely broken. My spirit, wounded. My body, terribly unhealthy. My self-esteem, nonexistent. No friends. No confidence.

The one and only friend I had, dropped out of school my sophomore year and I was absolutely crushed. Every day I came to school in sweatpants and a big baggy t-shirt. My long, stringy hair, in a half-wet-from-the-shower ponytail. No make-up. Dingy sneakers. Sad eyes.

I’d walk into the classroom with my head down, make my way to the seat furthest to the back, barely squeeze into the teenager-sized desks, struggle through the teacher’s instruction, and count the minutes til the bell would ring so I could get out of there. I’d leave that class and do the same thing for every class for the rest of the day. Every day.

When I’d get home from school, I’d go to my room and cry.  I felt hopeless.

Finally I decided, “as SOON as I graduate high school, I’m leaving this place.” I was leaving Florida. I planned to head to Tennessee (we had vacationed there when I was a tween and I loved the mountains and waterfalls).

I didn’t care where I was going or what I’d do when I got there, but I wanted to leave and never ever return.

The day came. I graduated (miraculously). All that was left was to work my last two weeks at my part-time job at the local book store, collect my check, pack up my things, load my car, and drive to my new destination.

As things fell into place, my destination looked more like Virginia than Tennessee. I didn’t mind that. I didn’t know a single thing about Virginia, but I decided I’d figure it out when I got there. Things were so awful, I just needed to break away and do something.

My life completely changed when I started in that new state. Slowly, over time. I didn’t even realize what was happening, but in my nine years of living in Virginia, my life completely and totally transformed. I learned my value as a person, acquired some confidence, lost a bunch of weight learned to connect with people by looking them in the eye, made friends, and eventually met my incredible husband and had our first baby.

Since that time, I’ve been through other seasons. Our family moved to Kansas for three years (for my husband to attain his PhD), and then back to Florida (yep, the place I said I’d never return to), and we had our second baby.

I truly believe that one of the biggest reasons that my life was changed so drastically after high school (when I left Florida) was because of the way I left that season of my life.

Here’s the part that no one ever knew:

On the day that it was time for me to leave, I got into my little white Dodge Neon around 9:00 in the morning. Before I did anything I turned on a worship song that I’ll never forget. And from that moment, until the following evening when I reached VA (I made it a two-day trip), I worshiped.

For two days straight, I cried, and I worshiped, and I worshiped, and I cried. I put that song on repeat and listened to it the entire time. The lyrics to the song were

“you’ve done so much, for me not to worship…”

Tears just poured down my face. I began to think of even the slightest of things that were tiny little blessings from that awful season I was coming out of. I began to think about people that God has placed in my life that though they didn’t realize it, were a glimmer of hope for me. Gratefulness welled up inside of me, as I sensed a freshness that was about to take place in my life.

And I cried, and sang, and worshipped at the top of my lungs. The entire, two-day journey.

I thought about this recently. My life was an absolute wreck at the time! EVERYTHING was horrible, and I mean everything. But there was a pull inside of me that just had to worship. My circumstances were horrible. But deeply in my spirit I knew that God was good. I didn’t know what the future held, but I knew that God was good. I didn’t understand why I had to go through everything I had been through, but I knew that God was good. I couldn’t explain why I was so empty and broken on the inside, but I knew that God was good.

I worshiped, and I worshiped, and I worshiped.

That pivotal moment in between two life-seasons, shaped me. It showed God that even though I was in a terrible place in my life, He could always expect a worship from me. He could always expect to see me lifting my hands. He could always know that my life doesn’t have to be perfect, for me to say that He is good.

Shirt by: Art of Homage (Click HERE)

God has used incredible individuals, as well as our church family, as a vessel to shape and develop me in ways I never would have imagined. Through every moment, season, adjustment, mountain, and valley, God has worked things together to for good. Even when I don’t see it that way.

To this day, at any given moment, I can think back to that place – that hopeless and painful place – and be filled with tears of gratefulness that God was right there with me, but He didn’t leave me there. He took me on a journey that would teach me how to lean into Him, to know Him more, and to use my worship as an instrument of intimacy that no one can ever take away.

Today I am nothing like that hopeless, broken, unhealthy, sad, 336-pound girl. Nothing.

He has transformed me, I’ll never stop worshipping Him.

He’s just too good.

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