I would say that God has been leading me through difficulties and challenges since the beginning of my life. My biological father struggled with addiction and mental health problems. My biological mom was compassionate to a fault. When I was six months old my biological father murdered my biological mom, and that has set the trajectory of my life.
God has been taking care of me from before I was born and I believe he preserved my life during that time. I was taken to a foster home that night, and shortly after I arrived my maternal grandmother came to pick me up. My family had to go through a legal battle in order to keep me, another instance of God fighting by our side. By the time I was two my maternal grandparents were able to adopt me. Growing up I feel very blessed. I refer to my maternal grandparents as my mom and dad, because they are the only parents I consciously remember.
My parents were able to give me a very full childhood. I think since they were retired they were able to devote much of their lives to tending to my needs. When I was growing up I always felt like I needed to explain to people why my parents were so old and would recant my trauma as if it were no big deal. I would say I had a pretty typical experience from elementary through high school. I was blessed to be surrounded by lots of family and friends. I got to go on mission trips, road trips, etc. As I earlier said my parents were very involved in my life, I had everything I needed, and most of what I wanted.
Next came college. My freshman year I started out as a psychology major. I was very fascinated in the mind and how what people think links to what they do. The major didn’t quite fit. I ended up talking to professors in the psychology/social work department and found that my interests were in more alignment with the field of social work. I also found out that a social worker had helped my mom (grandma) in a recent court hearing she had attended regarding my bio dad. I thought it was a perfect fit. I also really liked serving God and helping others.
My sophomore year my dad (grandpa) passed away. That is a time I am really thankful for adventist education. I was in an environment that was SO supportive. People were able to support me in a way that would not have been possible elsewhere. Professors, pastors, deans, friends, everyone was there for me. I was able to stay in school that quarter, only going home for the funeral. I would say that is a reflection of God and the resiliency He has given me. Success is something that is very important to my family and my personal hardships will not get in the way of accomplishing my dreams, goals, and the plans God has for my life. I also think this highlights what is scary about having older parents. My mom (grandmother) is still alive and doing well, but she is 90. I feel like when she has passed away I will have lost two sets of parents which is hard.
My 4th year of college I felt called by God to be a student missionary. I went to Poland and taught conversational English for the year. I went into the experience dedicating it to my relationship with God. He really helped open doors for me to even be able to go in the first place. I learned to put my life in His hands and in His control. I also fell in love with travel and other cultures, which is something I am passionate about and feel very privileged to be able to do! There were times where my relationship with God was the only thing that brought me through. I went back to college and completed my final year. I then went and spent time studying abroad in Germany. I felt like I needed to embrace life abroad before heading to graduate school.
Finally, this past year I went to graduate school and completed my masters in social work. I am really proud of myself and all that I have been able to do so far in my lifetime. I know that this would not be possible without the power of God. During graduate school I was able to do an internship at a county juvenile department. It is kind of interesting considering my early child-hood trauma, but now I am VERY passionate about the justice system in the United States, and juvenile justice in particular. It is interesting how trauma can impact outcomes for individuals, and often can result in criminal behavior because folks did not have the right resources.
During my internship I learned about restorative justice and believe it is an important (and Christ like) model. It holds individuals accountable, gives space for the victim and community, but also helps the offender be able to reintegrate and feel that they still have a place in their community. There was a film I watched at the beginning of my internship. A story about a grandma, her granddaughter, and the man who murdered the grandma’s daughter, the granddaughter’s mom. They had a victim offender dialogue. In the conversation the man apologized to the family for what he had done. It was so powerful. It made me think of my own story and what my own biological father would do if given the opportunity. Though I personally do not want a relationship for him, I do have compassion and forgiveness in my heart, and wish him the best considering the circumstance. While he needs to be held accountable for his actions, there is space for forgiveness, just as Christ has forgiven all of us.
I guess people find me most interesting because I am resilient and have risen above hardship. I currently work as a mental health therapist and can’t wait to see where God takes me next.