I’ve never shared my testimony.
Well, not until last night, that is. I finally shared it with a group of amazingly beautiful and brave women, through tears and smiles and grace.
I’ve never written, though.
And this is so hard.
People have been so surprised to learn I’ve never shared my testimony. I’ve been a Christian for a while and I’m very outspoken. I love to talk, love to write, yet I haven’t shared the most important story of my life.
I guess I should start my testimony with my parents. They were young when they met. My mom was 14 and my dad 17. My mom got pregnant out of wedlock at 17, and that’s how I happened.
We were so, so poor. We lived in a trailer (I hate when people make fun of people living in trailers because sometimes they’re doing the best they can). My favorite story is when they charged a pizza. Like on a credit card. Just so the three of us could have a Domino’s pizza.
I love that story because it’s humbling. And sweet. And I don’t have bad memories from my childhood because I didn’t KNOW we were poor because it didn’t matter. I always told them growing up how much I loved our “wooden house.” One day, my dad said, “Kaitlin, that was a wood-panneled trailer.” I was so innocent and so happy and had so much fun with my parents and my brothers (Kristian came along three years later and Keaton 10) that I never cared.
I didn’t know we weren’t “poor” anymore when we had a big house and fun things. I just knew my parents loved me and I loved them and life was fun and I never went hungry and never didn’t have everything I ever wanted and needed.
My parents raised us in church from day 1. I was raised in a Church of Christ church and I’m so thankful for my foundation in God. If not for my parents and that church, I wouldn’t know God and I wouldn’t have met my best friend of 23 years.
My parents were also very strict. They wanted better for me than what they had had and had done, so they had some pretty serious rules I had to follow.
They don’t know a lot of things that are in my testimony and that’s one reason I’ve never shared it. I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me. I didn’t want anyone to be disappointed in me. I wanted everyone to think I was absolutely perfect. Ha.
When I was 15, I had been dating a guy I thought I really loved. My little high school heart definitely thought we would get married. We never had sex. I was serious about being a virgin until marriage, but we definitely did some things a pure, Christian seeking the heart of God shouldn’t do.
I felt bad, but I just pushed the guilt aside and continued on with my perfect little life – making good grades, playing sports, not drinking, not having sex – just being so good.
I also decided to get baptized when I was 15. I told my best friend, the one I referred to earlier, that I knew I needed to give my life to God and get baptized. I wanted to make sure I was going to go to Heaven.
My brother and I got baptized on the same day. He had been having the same feelings.
I was so happy. It was a beautiful day and I wholeheartedly had given my life to God.
But nothing had changed. My heart hadn’t changed. I was just following the rules and trying to be as perfect as I could be.
When I was 17, I was at a bonfire with a bunch of friends from my graduating class when I found out that guy I thought I loved had been talking to another girl. I was crushed and thought life was over.
(Girls, if he isn’t devoted to you, you need to move because there is a man out there who will love you the way you were made to be loved. Please trust me on that).
I tried to get back with him at one point, and he was so much better, but I knew it wasn’t what God wanted for me. That was one of the first signs I saw of God protecting me and saving me for something so much better.
When I was a freshman in college, I was still very serious about my religion and thought everyone I met who drank and partied was “bad.” I was upset every time I found out someone was “bad.” That was very judgmental of me, but I also wish I still had a bit of that innocence and hurt for sin like I did then.
I fell for another guy. He drank, smoked, and didn’t even believe in God. I thought I could change him. And I thought he was so cute and fun. (You can’t marry someone cute and fun. It won’t work out, I promise. They can be cute and fun and also need to be devoted to God and kind and loving and dedicated.)
That obviously ended. He broke up with me on Easter, actually. Good times.
Shortly after that relationship, a new guy came to the rescue. He was such a good godly man and we were so much alike. I immediately fell in love with him.
Notice a pattern. I wanted to be loved so much and I loved so hard. It was dangerous. I was not guarding my heart and letting God guide me. I was just letting my heart and emotions guide me.
Meanwhile, I was very involved on campus, rushed a sorority, and made so many new friends. People really loved me. It was such a change from high school where I got ridiculed for being a “goody two shoes” and a “snob.” No one really ever got to know the real me, and I just always felt hated. So this was cool, for people to think it was “cute” that I was such a “good girl” and they told me I was pretty and fun and just made me feel so loved!
I was seeking their affection so much I think I forgot Who I was supposed to be pleasing, but I tried my best to hold on to my relationship with God and make it better and better. I was exhausting myself trying to do that, actually.
I got very serious with the guy who swept me off my feet. And I started learning more and more that he wasn’t who I thought he was. And I desperately wanted him to love me the way I needed to be loved, but he wasn’t meant for me, so he couldn’t do that.
I really thought he was the one, so I forced it and tried to make him love me. I wanted his attention so bad, but he gave his attention to everyone and everything else.
I don’t remember him telling me I was pretty or beautiful or amazing very many times. He broke me down so much because I gave him everything I had.
Again, we didn’t have sex, but we did things we never should have done that emotionally scarred me for so long and made me feel so much shame.
After we broke up and got back together and broke up and kept hanging out and finally ended things, it took me a long time to get over him, but when I did, I never looked back.
(I have to add that he did eventually apologize for everything, gave me closure, and found a girl to love with all his heart. And I’m so happy for them.)
I was still running so hard after God. I was falling behind and couldn’t catch Him. I didn’t know what to do.
I had taken my first sip of alcohol my sophomore year of college. I drank a few more times that year and drank several times my junior year. I realized it was fun to get drunk and people thought I was fun at sorority parties and fraternity parties and me and my friends had all these fun stories to tell.
I had always been so afraid of alcohol and its consequences and I knew my parents would be so mad at me. (I’m sure they knew what was going on, but I never told them).
It was so hard to keep some of these things from my mom because she’s my best friend in the world. I know she’s reading this now, and mom, I’m sorry. But I’m so happy I had Jesus to talk to and His grace to get me through and bring to a point where I can talk about it.
I was living two lives. At this point, everyone on campus knew my name. At my school, it was big enough to be big and small enough for their to be the “elite” as people called it where everyone knew your name and all your business.
People had loved me for so long and now I felt like people were starting to hate me. I could feel it. And I was so obsessed with making everyone like me and pleasing everyone that I lost myself. I lost my place with God and the ability to know I was enough in His eyes.
Through that terrible, soul breaking relationship, I did learn so much about myself, and I was introduced to a man who changed my life forever.
Dr. Larry Nelson was a professor at the university and the best man of God I’ve ever known and ever will know. He loved the Lord and it was evident no matter what he was doing. My boyfriend at the time was close to him and a group of students went to have “edifying gatherings” at his house with he and his wife where they would eat her delicious meals and talk about Jesus.
I had to get in on this. And I did. And they became my family.
And when that relationship with that guy ended, I knew I had been in it to meet Dr. Nelson and Miss Verlie. And I was best friends with him until the day he died my senior year of college.
I was always so scared of what would happen if he knew that bad things I had done, and at his funeral, I burst into tears and smile when I realized he would have loved me anyway. Just. Like. Jesus.
He had painted a vivid picture of what the love of Jesus looked like. And I felt so clean and forgiven and whole again at his funeral. It was the happiest funeral I have ever been to.
I miss him a lot, but he brought me (and hundreds of other people) closer to Jesus, and I know God greeted him with a hug and a “well done good and faithful servant,” and that gives me peace.
During my senior year, I was very focused on “having fun” and making the most out of my last year in college.
I started dating a boy who was a freshman. We definitely clicked and really like each other, but I was a train wreck and drug him along with me.
Something he said to me after he ended things hurt me but rocked me and changed me. I was in a stage where I was partying with my friends and while I didn’t drink often, when I did, I drank a lot. And I always felt awful after and wanted to stop this life, but I just couldn’t.
I explained to him that he didn’t know the real Kaitlin and this is not who I was. He said, “Did you ever think that maybe this is who you are now?”
It floored me. I was still holding on to this girl I used to be: the perfect, good girl who had never messed up and everyone loved and Jesus loved and she was good at everything and her life was just picture perfect.
But I wasn’t her. I wasn’t even close to her. I was messed up and broken and sad and lonely and wandering and looking for something beautiful and I couldn’t find it anywhere.
Someone had written something about me on an anonymous social media site one night that was so mean and I cried about it for two days. I had let people’s opinions of me flood my soul and absolutely wreck me.
It took me a long time, as in like up until a few weeks ago, to really let that go. And it still creeps back in, but I send those feelings straight back to hell where they came from and remind them that Jesus defeated all those thoughts and feelings on the cross a LONG time ago.
I had become consumed with my image and making sure I won the right awards and did everything I could for my sorority and made perfect grades so I could keep some of that perfect persona I had always carried. I couldn’t let anyone know I was so broken.
I had lost friends, I had lost boyfriends, I had lost a lot of myself, and I was just truly heartbroken.
That poured over into my first year out of college. I had started my first job and I hated it and was just miserable the majority of the time.
Don’t get me wrong. I had so many fun times and laughs and love and memories I’ll cherish forever during all of these hard times. But the bottom line is I didn’t have Jesus and my soul wasn’t His. It was the world’s. And that’s why I had happiness at time but never joy.
I was still drinking sometimes when I would party with new friends I had met and I was going back and forth from my home church to Church of the Highlands.
I had moved in with a girl from college. We pretty much hated each other in college and our sororities were rivals and it was hilarious that we had become friends let alone roommates.
She had completely changed and given her life to God and she knew I had always had a relationship with Him, so she helped me get involved at Church of the Highlands.
I’m so glad our paths crossed and that Jesus had it in His plan because we needed each other during that season of life, and we will always have that bond.
I went every now and then and joined some small groups and led small groups and tried my best to make a change, but things were still off.
That’s the problem – I TRIED TO FIX MYSELF. I can’t do that and no one can do it for me. No one can do it for you, either. Only Jesus can. Only Him.
July 4, 2015 was the last time I got very drunk. The next day I knew I could not do that ever again. But more than that, God had something pretty cool planned to change my heart and my life.
I was really involved in our church’s young professional’s summer small group. It was co-ed and we just kinda hung out and played sports and prayed together. I met some new friends that had become best friends and some cool guys, but I had been single for a year and was finally happy with myself. I was learning to love myself. And it was awesome.
Then God and me had a little talk. I wanted to quit my job and move, and He said very clearly, “I want you here right now.” And then I told Him I might want maybe like a guy to hang out with, kinda, and he said, “Yep. You’re ready.”
And on July 7, the guy who had led the small group asked me on a date. On July 8, we went fishing, and for most of July, I really wasn’t interested. He was so kind and was pursuing me the right way, but boy was I fighting it.
Then I heard a podcast about why we should date. The preacher said we should date to further the Kingdom of God together, as a couple. And I knew right then and there that this guy really was the One.
I prayed for God to show me that a little at a time. And he did. I had never had someone pursue me the way this guy was, and I felt so beautiful and loved. I was on Cloud 9 or maybe 10.
He was putting back the pieces that had been broken by guys before, by myself, by the world. I don’t believe people can save you, but I do believe God can send people to help save you. And that’s what this guy was for me.
I haven’t been drunk since that day he asked me out. He makes me want to be a better person, and while I was falling so madly in love with Him, I was falling madly back in love with Jesus.
There hasn’t been a day since July 29, 2015 that he hasn’t showered me with love, and he tells me I’m the most beautiful person he’s ever known every single day.
Y’all, when I was at my lowest, when I deserved it least, God blessed me with a supportive family, an incredible boyfriend, amazing friends new and old, promotions in my job, and joy – and I deserved none of it. But that’s how His grace and love works.
He restores, he redeems, he replenishes, he renews – in all seasons, every day.
I’ve recently had some pretty powerful encounters with Him, and my heart is changing so much and it’s so much fun. I love Him so much and what He’s doing in my life and in people around me.
I can see it in my siblings, in my parents, in my friends, in people I’ve just met, in people I’ve never met – I’m starting to see the good and see Jesus everywhere I go.
I’ve struggled with jealousy and insecurity my whole life. I’ve always compared and competed, which caused a lot of the tension I had in high school and college. And now, I’m so happy for people when they succeed and so happy to see everyone’s unique, beautiful, glory-filled journeys unfold.
I’m giving my life back to God, and after years after exhausting myself to run after Him and try to stay perfect, I’m taking the advice of a friend and throwing perfect away. It is out the window, off my checklist, and out of my mind.
The only box I’m checking is the one beside my Savior’s name. I don’t need any other labels or titles or achievements. I need Him.
That doesn’t mean I’ll never mess up again because I will every day, probably multiple times. It means that I will know I’m loved through the valleys and up on the mountains and everywhere in between. He keeps me grounded and raises me up and goes with me everywhere I step.
He is using me for His glory and I’m gladly willing to be a vessel for him to do so.
I pray everyone I know can experience this kind of freedom.
I’m still learning and growing and walking in this season of redemption and change, but I’ve never felt more alive.
People around me are filling my cup and I’m trying to fill lots of cups up, too.
I’ve had life spoken into me and I hope I can do the same for you. No matter your struggle, you’re not alone. Because every single person has a story and has struggles and has been throw low valleys before they saw the mountain of God.
Some of you may be in the middle of your story, and that’s ok. You can share it now, you can share it later. Just share it. It will change someone. Someone will say “me too.” Someone will feel better knowing you aren’t perfect, you’re human, and that you’ve been there, too.
If you’re reading this, I love you, but more importantly, (like so important it will save your life), God loves you so much and wants you to live a fulfilling life with a super cool purpose.
Go ahead and throw perfect out the window next time you go for a drive, and let God take it from there.