Together, let’s take our broken pieces to God who alone can mend us and use us for His glory! My brokenness is on blast, please see my testimony “How Sunshine Became Jennifer” where pain becomes the platform I use to draw the hurting to Christ.
How Sunshine Became Jennifer
I grew up in what I now know to be a single parent home. My mother worked tirelessly to make sure that my brother and I had everything that we would’ve had if our fathers were in the picture. We went on family trips each year, camp every summer, attended church much more than I preferred, and were very active in the community with girl scouts and charity work. There were no material possessions that were lacking in my life; however, there were parts of my sense of self that was distorted for as long as I could remember.
I can recall always looking for someone to confirm who I was. You know, justify me. “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8: 30 What I did not realize then was that I am already accepted and loved. I did not have to work for love or approval. I could never earn what God freely bestowed upon me. As I entered into middle school, events would occur that would forever change my life. These events have scarred but also shaped me into the woman I am today.
In sixth grade, I was bullied relentlessly. The bullies were displeased with my presence, persona, weight, and mere existence which they made known whenever the opportunity presented itself. They would torment me with chants, “On your march, get set, Turkey neck!” Overcome with pain, desperately seeking relief, I started leaving school and going to a local sub shop. There I would find comfort in sweaty, slimy, yet delicious subs and onion rings. I would go back to school and eat my lunch in the bathroom. The ragged conditions in my mind made eating lunch in the bathroom seem normal, acceptable even. It took a long time, but today I do not beat myself up for not standing up to the bullies. It seems that I was readily willing to forgive the children who intimidated me, after all, they were just kids but I was much harder on my own response to the trauma. As a pre-teen, I learned how to eat for comfort, and avoid social situations. I thank God emotional eating is a struggle, but nonetheless, I am no longer a slave to food. I eat to live and not to die. Because of the terror of being bullied every day I started to skip all of my classes. Eventually, I realized that I did not have to keep skipping school; I learned that I could skip home life as well.
As a runaway at the age of 12, desperately seeking comfort, validation, and approval, I was promiscuous with men three times my age. I used marijuana, alcohol, and eventually ecstasy daily. As I lived on the street, I sold my body, time, and soul for the love that I did not have for myself, or receive from my dad. My dad was never in the picture, as he suffers from alcoholism, drug addiction, and a host of other difficulties. He felt that the best way to protect me from his demons was to avoid me. His avoidance of me, made me think that something was “wrong” with me. My father’s rejection, coupled with the negative feedback I received from my peers caused me to believe that I had little value, was unacceptable, and had to work for approval. I remember being about 10 or 11 years old writing a poem referencing his absence. I was a daddy’s girl with a dad. But I know now that I always had a Dad I just needed to look in a different direction for Him.
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8
About the age of 16, I went to JobCorps. I believed the lie that I was bisexual. I did not believe much in myself; hence my difficulty in finishing things. I left JobCorps once I earned my GED instead of staying and completing the CNA program as planned. I came home, only to run away again, and be in a homosexual relationship for 4 years. My mother listened to me describe some of the mental and emotional symptoms that I experienced and took me to a professional where I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I refused to believe that I had this disorder and continued to self-medicate, engage in criminal activity, and be promiscuous with whoever would have me. The sharp, aching pain in my heart from my own self-rejection was palpable. I did all that I could do to smother it with relationships, drugs, money, sex, idolatry, and even power. But when everything fizzled away all that remained was a broken little girl that had an identity crisis. There was a time that I would say that my identity was stolen but I do not think that I ever had a truly healthy, godly view of myself until now.
“Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” 1 Peter 2:10
At the age of 21, I began exotic dancing. This magical underworld made me feel really approved and valued as people were constantly throwing money at me. What I did not realize was that God values me and I do not have to degrade myself to receive his validation. Additionally, God values me more than any diamond, car, clothing, or material item in this world. God paid the ultimate price to have a relationship with me. Now that is value. But all I knew back then was that my name was Sunshine and I needed money and attention. I was introduced to cocaine at the age of 22. I was convicted that same year. During my prison sentence, something changed. I slowly realized that my name was not Sunshine, it was Jennifer. I began to understand that if I did not forfeit death to experience life, my jail cell would be my new home for life or the mental ward.
“Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:4
The transition in prison was none short of a miracle. I began to curse less until did not curse at all. I stopped smoking cigarettes and abusing medication. I broke up with my semi-girlfriend that I had and called home and got rid of the dope dealer boyfriend that plagued me. I ceased listening to music that did not glorify God. I attended church, bible study, and Celebrate Recovery on a regular basis. I did not realize how bound I was until I was free. Hallelujah! I was walking around on prison grounds as free as can be.
“Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free. “ John 8:36
I was released from prison, March 25, 2009. I recently celebrated 8 years that I have been a spiritually and literally free from bondage. Since then I have obtained my Associates Degree in Human Services. I enter into Howard County Detention Center on a biweekly basis to minister to the women there to facilitate the Celebrate Recovery program. With new confidence in the power of God at work in me, I created a program for women to use composition as a vehicle for change, Editing Destiny. I am the mother of an amazing little 5-year-old boy, Caleb, that surprises me every day. When he was diagnosed with Autism I did not quite know what that meant. I have learned that it means that I am going to spend the rest of my life loving him and learning from him in a beautiful and unique way, only God could do something so magnificent. Currently, I am a Minister in Training at the Church of the Redeemed of the Lord.
Presently, I am a Service Coordinator for seniors; assisting them in obtaining community resources. I have worked as a Case Worker for the past year with people with similar difficulties as I. Prior to that I was an Administrative Assistant at a homeless shelter. God is my Dad, my Friend, my Provider, my Lifeline, My Coach, My Shield, and My Help. Due to my submission to God’s love and power, my life has never been the same.
I have been delivered from low self-esteem, people pleasing, drug addiction, cigarette addiction, homosexuality, lust, self-hatred, bitterness, self-loathing, approval addiction, and procrastination.