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  • Writer's pictureHolly Tomlin


Today is my 34th birthday. For the last few weeks, I have been sharing with my close friends that 34 is really hitting me harder than any of the 30s. Not necessarily in a bad way, just more so in a reflective way. For so much of my life, I have spent more time and effort on trying to be someone I am not or trying to appear to be something I am not. I am certain I am not the only woman that falls into this category either. The world makes us feel that we have to look a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain kind of friend, mother, wife. Competition. Perfection. It is when we quickly realize we can’t keep up with these standards that the inadequacy sets in. Like I am less of a woman because I don’t look like a model, I don’t drive that car, have that kind of house, and have those kinds of clothes. I eat fast food; I don’t feed my family all organic or whatever it may be. In this inadequacy, we fall victims to Satan’s evil ways. We give him room to steal our joy, destroy our souls and in this the paths of our lives can be forever changed. Unless we step out of that path. In the last 5 years or so, I have spent more and more time being transparent with my family, friends and other women I am journeying with. I finally came to the point that I was too exhausted to try any longer to put my “makeup” on and pretend like I had it together all the time. So here’s the real me… in all its guts and glory. I am the daughter of two amazing imperfect people. I was not raised in the perfect house or in the perfect family. But I was raised by two people that loved me dearly. They gave my sister and me a solid foundation and taught us to love the Lord. Feelings of inadequacy started at a young age for me. I have always been highly competitive. I remember playing softball growing up, starting at a very young age. If I didn’t go 4 for 4 at the plate or if I let the ball drop or roll past me, I was devastated. As I got older, the insecurities then began to change over to how I looked. I remember being made fun of by boys in 6thgrade for how I looked. Walter Gamble was the worst. He would do it in front of some many others. (Sorry Walter, if you’re reading this then please know that I have forgiven you) As a child we moved around a lot. Being a coach’s kid, that didn’t mean you stayed in one place for long. If a better job came up, we packed up and went. With that came a whole set of new feelings.  A new town, a new house…. And new friends. I remember always feeling nervous… would they like me? Would I make new friends?  I felt the pressure to be beautiful and for my body to look a certain way early on. I remember thinking in 8thgrade, that I had control over how I looked and if I would do certain things then I would have the “perfect body”. During the next few years of my life, I became so consumed with how I looked and didn’t stop at anything to accomplish that goal. Water pills, starving myself, and even worse, making myself throw up. I remember one night my mother caught me throwing up and I had to play it off like I was sick and just went straight to bed. This horrible pattern would continue to go on into my college years. All in efforts to feel some sort of control in a life that was out of control.  In high school, we moved again in the summer between my sophomore and junior years. I would now have to start over with new friends, new sports, I wouldn’t be able to be a cheerleader at the new school. All the things I had placed my identity in were being stripped away from me. Every time I moved, I never had a problem making new friends but there were always those kids that were hateful to me because I was the new girl. Especially if I made a certain team, or even when I made cheerleader my senior year.  Then I was named head cheerleader.  A time when I should be celebrating, I was scared to death and so upset it had happened. Who was I to get this honor when girls who had been at this school for years didn’t? I always have struggled with pleasing others and making others happy. Needless to say, this was very unsettling when I knew many were upset at this designation. I finished high school and went on to the University of Texas in Austin. I was so excited for this huge accomplishment and what would happen for me during those years. In the summer before I moved to Austin, I met a guy. I never really dated anyone in high school exclusively. I had never had a boyfriend or a guy that was ever really “into me”. When I met this guy, he said all the right things and made me feel like Miss America. We started dating and I quickly found myself in a relationship that I was so ashamed of. All those kind and affirming words quickly turned into possessiveness and jealousy. What started out like a relationship out of a movie quickly turned into a relationship that I wanted to keep a secret. I wasn’t able to have any real friendships. I found myself in the very relationship that I had criticized some of my friends for. I remember several times the police were called because neighbors could hear him yelling at me so loudly. How anyone could let someone treat them like that. The abuse started out passively but then became apparent to those closest around me. I didn’t want to believe I was with someone whom everyone hated. At this point, I was so deep into this relationship I felt that there was no way out. I believed the lies from Satan that I was only getting what I deserved for making bad choices. This was the worst time of my life. I tried several times to get out, but the web of control got tighter and tighter. I remember so many nights praying to have the strength to just leave him. But then I felt so guilty. He had threatened to kill himself so many times if I did. I couldn’t go home. I could barely face my family because I couldn’t bear to pretend like everything was ok. I found myself in a place that I never dreamed I could be. If someone would have told me that at 20 I was living as the person I was, I would’ve never believed it. But there I was. Broken. Ashamed. Guilty. For me, that was the bottom of the pit. Honestly in those moments of desperation, I now know that those were some of the most precious moments I will ever have with the Lord on this side of heaven. He met me there. He knew everything I had done and was still there. To be so far away from Him, I never felt so close to Him. My biggest fear in being transparent and letting others know exactly what my life REALLY looked like is that I would be rejected. The Lord was patient with me and never left my side. Two years into this relationship, the abuse eventually became physical. At that point, I told myself that it was over. I remember it was Texas-OU weekend and we were in Dallas. Thankfully a longtime friend was with me and I survived that weekend. I prayed to the Lord that if He would just get me through this dark time and give me strength to leave him I would do anything. I would give my life to Him. When we got back to Austin, I broke ties with the boy. It was ugly. It was a rough few weeks to say the least. He harassed me, followed me everywhere and even broke into my apartment when I wouldn’t answer the door. I lived with friends during this time and the Lord protected me. This really was the first time in my life that I saw God’s hand of provision and protection over my life. Well, let’s be honest, at the time I didn’t, but isn’t hindsight always 20/20. God provided a safe place for me to live until the storm passed. Those first few days, weeks and months were the hardest. Trying to dig my way out of the dark life I had created for myself. Trying to create a new identity, one that I was proud of. At this point in my life, I had based my identity in sports performance, my outward appearance and a guy. All of which had failed me tremendously. I wasn’t a college athlete. I wasn’t a supermodel. The relationship didn’t turn out to be quite the fairy tale I had expected. During this two year relationship, I drowned my pain in a number of things, shopping being the worst addiction. I actually ended up in over $20,000 of credit card debt. Anything I could do to numb the pain. I had a lot of things to show for my debt, but nothing ever came close to filling the holes in my heart.  My entire life I lived loving Jesus and loved the concept of what He was about, but I had no idea how to live with Jesus and how to walk in step with the Holy Spirit leading my life. Several months after this breakup, I started dating my current husband. To back track a little bit, I met him in the 8thgrade and we kept in touch over the years and would go out periodically but never fully connected for longer than a few months. Then I was in a relationship so we didn’t talk as much during most of this time. But we never went more than a year without talking.  There were many nights I would lie awake just crying out to God; I would ask him to help Cory to one day to forgive me and see me worthy enough to marry. I took the first step in leaving that relationship and the Lord made way for the two of us to come together. Cory not only forgave me but he accepted me and loved me with all his heart. I don’t think I can ever express how much I love my husband for loving me in return. A few months after my big step out in faith, God moved a group of people to Austin to start a new church called the Austin Stone. My future brother in law was one of those who started this church so I felt the need to attend. I had tried several churches in Austin while I was living there but never went back for a second visit. This time it was different. I went back every week. I even went alone. Sadly though, I was pretending like I had it all together while I was there. I couldn’t let any of the “perfect Christians” there know anything about the hell I had been living in. But for the first time in my life, I began hearing the truth about Jesus and wanted to believe everything I was hearing. Part of me believed that even I could be deserving of his love. For that two year period of my life, I was too ashamed to step foot in a church. I cried when I walked into church because I didn’t feel like I was good enough to even be there; now I cry at times when I am there because I am so thankful God wants me there. At that point in my life I had no concept of what grace truly meant. I just felt like I was attempting to follow the rules of a religion more than I was learning to have a true relationship with the Holy Spirit. I began to move on with my life and graduated from college. I moved to Dallas and then a year later Cory and I were married. It wasn’t until a few years in our marriage that I began feeling unsettled and had no joy in my life. I was trying to live a life that was not my own. I was trying to give 75% of my heart to the Lord and not 100%. To give it fully to Him would mean I would have to let go of everything and surrender all of me to Him. The good, the bad and the really ugly parts. I was living my life trying to do anything I could to make up for the bad things I had done. But I was exhausted both mentally and physically. He told me that to be healed, I had to deal with my past. I had to release it. There was no way He could heal me if I didn’t allow Him in.  It was in those moments that the Lord began working. God has placed certain people in my life every step of the way over the last 20 years to encourage me in my walk with Him. He has been healing my heart in stages ever since I fully said yes to him. For years, I felt like God could never use me because of the things I had done in my past. I believed the lie that Satan told me over and over again, that God only uses those who follow the rules. I believed the lie that I could never be used. “One of the most paralyzing mistakes we make is thinking that our problems somehow disqualify us from being used by God.” --  Mark Batterson- “In a pit with a lion on a snowy day” Today I felt the Lord telling me to write. To share my story. I believe that someone needs to hear this tonight…  I am not perfect. None of us are. It’s ok to not have it all together. But I love Jesus. I am forever grateful that he loves me just as I am. Because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, God sees me as perfect. It’s ok that you are not perfect. You are exactly what God created you to be. There is nothing that can ever separate you from him. NOTHING.  Everything that has led up to this very moment in your life serves a purpose. I pray that you have already realized that but if you haven’t, hold on tight because the Lord is waiting to bless you tremendously if you would just come to Him. As I close out this post, I want to challenge each of you reading this to the following. 1. Pray for the Lord to reveal to you anything you may be keeping in the dark. What is the one thing that you feel you cannot admit to someone else out loud?  It could be anything… it doesn’t have to be something illegal or what the world would say is horrible. But I believe that we all have something that we keep to ourselves because of the shame we have and the enemy jumps on that opportunity to create a space between us and the Lord. We all have struggles, pains from the past and unrepented sin.  When you admit this, I promise you will immediately experience freedom. The Lord will never leave your side. Then you will finally experience the rest only He can give. 2. I strongly encourage you to take this “thing” to the Lord. Ask Him for his grace and forgiveness. Then I want you to share it with someone else. Maybe it’s the one person who is closest to you or a group of girlfriends you are close with. I am not saying the Lord is calling you to confess it on social media, although He could. But in confessing this, you will have freedom. The lie the enemy wants you to believe is that if you tell this “thing” to anyone, they will only judge you and never speak to you again. I would argue the complete opposite. There are things in my life that I have confessed to friends over the last 10-15 years that I thought I would never tell anyone. By sharing these things with friends or family, I have experienced complete freedom and peace. The Lord has provided certain people in my life along the way that have embraced me. There has not been any judgment and I have been received with open, loving arms. I know he will do the same for you. This is a step you must take in the path of healing. Your “thing” may be the very thing the person you share with needs to hear to bring them closer to the Lord. We can never underestimate the power of the Lord’s plan. Do I love spilling my life story out to people? Absolutely not. In fact, I am sure the devil will be playing on my mind all night wondering what people who are reading this will think of me. But instead, I am going to remain strong in my trust that God has a purpose for this post and that someone, even if it’s just one person, needs to hear this truth tonight. “God’s in the business of recycling our pain and using it for someone else’s gain”. – Mark Batterson- “In a pit with a lion on a snowy day” We can’t question God and try to figure out what it is He will do with our lives. All He asks is that we trust Him completely. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I feel that the churches in America today would look much different if everyone was a little more real. Transparency. We are killing each other in the battle of comparison and trying to keep up with the false reality of the lives we live. We are all guilty of only posting the best pictures we take on Facebook. We only hashtag the best memories we make. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any hashtags of #mymarriagesucks or #havingafatday or #ihaveyelledatmykidsallday. All this just leads to feelings of inadequacy when we see that everyone else’s lives are glamorous and full of perfection, when some of ours are crumbling into pieces. We feel like we are the only ones going through particular struggles or experiencing certain feelings.  I will be honest, when I hear the testimonies of people whose lives have been a train wreck, I want to stand up on a table and start yelling and clapping. There is nothing more powerful that seeing the work of Jesus in the lives of his people. Jesus heals the broken. If we all have it together, then we wouldn't need Him. So let's stop pretending like we don't need Him.  How can we encourage one another through this life if we are never honest about how we truly feel and how ugly our lives really are at times? I am who I am because of the valleys I have walked through. I spent so many years wishing that time of my life away. It is because of that time in my life that I am who I am today. It’s because of those times that I have that deep and desperate need for God. I pray that more people would truly experience God for who He is. When you do, you will never be the same. True contentment is only found in Him. Looking forward to another year of my life, I want to let go of all the unrealistic expectations I have placed on myself to be something other than myself. I confess I feed my kids Cheetos and chocolate donuts. I rarely buy organic vegetables. I think it is awesome for those of you that do. But I can’t be everything and do everything. I will do what I can and just pray about the rest. I struggle daily and I will until this life ends and I am made perfect in heaven with Jesus. But, this year, I want to just be me and embrace what God has in store for me. Lord in my weakness, you are strong. Please use me and my broken past all for your glory. For you, it will all be worth it. “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.” Ephesians 4:1

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