First of all, thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for taking initiative in your spiritual and health journey. This is big, and it means so much to me that you’re looking to my story for support and guidance. So without further ado...
Let’s get right to it, shall we?
Raised in a religiously open home, I had my choice of which god I wanted to follow.
My parents were of faith, sure. We never started a meal without saying grace at our nonnegotiable, nightly family dinners. I knew the true meaning of Christmas and every Easter we made it to church without a question as to why. At the end of the day, however, they made it clear that it was up to me to pursue whatever faith "spoke to me" - if that was something I wanted.
I grew up in the Peninsula of the San Francisco Bay Area, a place characterized by ethnic diversity, rapidly advancing technology, medical breakthroughs, and candidly speaking, just stupid amounts of money. I was surrounded by every possible belief system: atheism, Christianity, Judaism, Satanism, Islam, secular humanism, get-as-much-money-as-you-can-and-get-out-ism, and thousands more. San Francisco still today prides itself for being known by its diversity of thought and melting pot of residents. But the last thing it is known for? Being a place with a deep faith in a god, be there any proof of a god at all. And it is made sure as hell clear by many San Franciscans, there isn’t any.
Looking back, I am truly thankful for the way I grew up. While my parents have since then stepped fervently into their faith in Christ, growing up I never had anything “shoved down my throat.” I was never asked to memorize scripture and I was never once told by a superior to go to church or church camp. Perhaps you may believe that is a huge reason as to why I have faith in God today. Well, maybe you’ve got a point, but I disagree.
There are some odd number of reasons why I have come to believe the Lord has gifted me with a spirit of faith, one of which is a deep sense of knowing and trusting His presence even before I knew His name. I remember as early as four years old laying in my bed thinking, "Hi God. I know You can hear my thoughts." While it scared me at times that He knew everything, I was oddly comforted by it too.
There are old home videos of me as young as four or five years old, picking flowers and placing them delicately in my garden basket, as I quizzically look to the camera and ask, “How many flowers do you think there are, Mom?"
I then stop myself, only to turn back and answer my own question, "Well, God knows each and every one of them, every petal."
It seems even as a young child my desire to be fully known was present, but this Power and Grace simply did not yet have a name in my heart.
It should come as no surprise that when I started asking these sorts of questions - questions about the existence, nature, and character of God - I was directed to a Bible. The only Bible I had was a Kings James Version my dad had given to me. It didn't make all that much sense to me as a young girl; the "thy's" "thou's" and old English syntax (which I have now come to adore in adulthood) were like a foreign language. Simply talking about God was a foreign language as it was!
It wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that I was given a Bible I could truly understand. The scriptures were in the NIV and they immediately pierced through to the deepest parts of my heart. In just a few days with my head in that Bible and with one listen to a worship song by a random camp band that spoke to the depths of my pain ("Light Beyond the Sun" by M. Filmore), I gave my life to Jesus in a small, overcrowded forum tucked behind the back roads of the Santa Cruz mountains. All in a whirlwind of one moment, the gospel made perfect sense and no sense at all - and I wanted all and everything to do with it.
I was 12 years old.
Life with Jesus
The following years proved extremely difficult, to say the least - the details of which I will refrain from sharing here, though there will be bits and pieces inevitably surfacing with every article the Lord moves me to share with you on B&B.
As the years moved along, through counseling and a comforting faith, I began to heal from that trauma. But in high school, a new sinful heart posture surfaced: I wanted perfection.
I hated the idea that I was tainted or unworthy of love, and I was going to do everything in my power to deserve Jesus' favor and rewrite my past.
What a delusional task! But I set out for it, nonetheless.
This proved all the more difficult given my high school environment - a school dedicated to allowing its students to be and say anything they wanted to be and say except be a Christian and speak out about God, ESPECIALLY the one named Jesus.
*Of course, that is at least how it seemed from the social statures of the student body. This was by no means written anywhere in the actual bylaws of the school - merely the loudly unspoken ones.
Starting as early as the first month of freshman year at 13 years old, being bullied for my faith became a weekly occurrence.
No one liked the word Jesus and I was one of probably three outspoken nondenominational Christians in a school of 1600 kids. I was scoffed at when I said I’d pray for someone. I was sent videos from the "cool kids" lighting Bibles on fire and laughing. They carved the numbers "666" in various places around the community, completely naive to the fact that it was inviting more darkness into the lives of their classmates. They called me "Jesus freak," "prude," and the one that hurt my heart the most, "fag-hater."
I hated that they hated Jesus, but I didn't have much power other than working the hardest I possibly could to never give them a reason to do so. So becoming perfect would be the only way.
Looking back, I was truly under the impression that this persecution was normal. I thought these times were the real life trials Jesus talked about in the scriptures (Matthew 5, 2 Timothy 3, and so on). I had no idea I could actually speak against it or call my persecutors higher in love. Truthfully, I wasn't brave enough and I wanted to be well liked. Because I refused to deny my faith, I instead stayed quiet and did my very, very best not to mess up. Because if I did, I knew they'd blame Him.
And I just couldn't let that happen.
The pressure to be perfect became unbearable. To carry the weight of righteousness and hide my sin was an impossible task, needless to say.
It wasn't long until I craved desperately to break out. The chains of leaning on my own righteousness were tighter than any grip I had ever felt. I wanted to be able to say, "I regret that" or "I learned x from y mistake." I wanted to burn my hand on the stove even though I already knew it was hot - but I couldn't. For all intents and purposes, I had achieved the "perfect" Christian image. How could I go back on that now?
Surely, college would be my chance.
Life in Los Angeles
When I got to USC - a school characterized by alcohol, drugs, scandals, sex and once again, stupid amounts of money - I thought to myself: "if high school was that bad, I'm not telling anyone I'm a Christian here! I'm just gonna take a few months, maybe a year to myself and then I'll come back and live the rest of my life in persecution. That'll do just fine. That's all I need."
One of the scariest things I know about our God is that He'll let you think you're playing His role. He'll let you run away. He'll give you exactly what you want sometimes if it means letting you fall on your face just to have Him pick you up, strengthen you, only to ask you to pick up your cross again.
And that's exactly what happened. In those few months that I decided to "just do me" - I fell flat on my face. It took me a mere 2 weeks to get caught in the whirlwind that is USC Greek Life, and only 2 weeks for me to get tragically sick and begin what would be a four year journey into healing from chronic illness.
On December 6th, 2015, a mere three and a half months after my start at USC, I was brought to my knees. It was a Sunday morning after what would end up being one of my darkest nights at USC where I confessed everything to an older Christian woman in my sorority (who later became my first mentor). She smiled, thanked me for trusting her with my confession, and said, "Let’s go to church."
I had never heard such sweet sounding words.
That night I fell before God at Reality LA's 5pm service and it was there that I rededicated the entirety of my life to Jesus and serving Him.
I was in it for the long run - no if, ands or buts. His way was better. His love was sweeter. His grace was stronger. Now I had the experience, the burns on my hands, the regret and the pain, things that I so boldly asked for, to prove it.
And He yanked me out only 15 weeks in to share of His goodness. I still am praising Him for this part.
The next three and a half years were spent joyfully dedicated to sharing the gospel on Greek row at USC. I believe the Lord allowed me to run away and see the darkness for myself such that I would be better equipped to serve that community because I had tasted and seen that it wasn't what it promised. My college experience ended up being characterized by the most profound relationships and the deepest intimacy with Jesus I had ever known - relationships that continue to deepen and only get sweeter every day as I walk in post grad life. Unfortunately, however, those first fifteen weeks of college had lasting effects on my body that I am working to repair the last bits of still to this day.
The Start of Chronic Illness
Soon after beginning my freshman year, I became extremely ill. Within the first 8 months, I battled strep throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, 7 sinus infections, and 4 cases of croup cough - all battled by 9 different rounds of pharmaceutical grade antibiotics and 3 rounds of Prednisone (a pharmaceutical oral steroid). Mixed with copious amounts of alcohol and fighting my inner moral and spiritual compass, my body was almost unrecognizable to myself.
While the denying of my innermost being and disobedience to Christ stopped soon after it begun, the sickness continued.
For the next three years, I searched high and low for medical answers. I met consistently with seven different specialists, all who held degrees from renowned universities such as Harvard Medical School, Stanford Medical School, and UCLA Medical School. No one could tell me why I was so sick. Endless blood tests, CT scans, acupuncture, ultrasounds, sinus scopes… Through it all, everything came back relatively normal. I was a "healthy" 18-21 year old girl.
Stepping into a Lifetime of Holistic Medicine
It wasn't until I met with a homeopathic doctor that I finally started to uncover some answers. With a quick diagnosis of Candida, a wrecked gut microbiome and a weakened immune system from the antibiotics given to me by such "prestigious" doctors, I began what would be the start to a lifelong journey into holistic medicine. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, holistic medicine is an approach to healing that looks at the body as the sum of its equal parts and focuses on treating sickness through lifestyle and diet change, prioritizing mental, emotional and spiritual health, vitamin and supplement use, and herbal cleansing.
In time, I became my own doctor, healed my Candida, repaired my gut lining, and ultimately was self diagnosed with celiac disease and hypoglycemia - diets basically translating to gluten free and low sugar. These lifestyle and diet changes, along with living joyfully in obedience to Jesus and the Scriptures, have brought healing to wounds I thought were irreversible, both physically and spiritually. These approaches to healing in all aspects - emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically - are the many things you will read about on B&B.
Overall, I believe that God has allowed this uphill battle through my college years in order that I might share encouragement with all of those who are seeking answers on a similar journey. I pray that God reveals Himself to you in His profound goodness and wisdom through this process, and may you be reminded every day and through every word I write that you truly are Bold&Beloved.