I was raised in a Christian home. I looked pretty good from the outside as long as you didn’t know about my dad’s raging bipolar disorder and my mother’s broken sexuality. I struggled with my sexuality and my identity all through my childhood and adolescence. I’m not sure I could’ve said, I’m attracted to girls but I knew I was different, broken, and a freak.
My mother led me to Christ at a young age and she taught me many great things. She taught me to be strong and speak my mind, to use my brain and think for myself and build a fire in the rain. She taught me many amazing things, but she did not know how to teach me to be her little girl. She struggled with any talks about femininity and was emotionally absent through most of my adolescence. She was very neutral in her dress and her appearance. She never wore make-up and always had baggy clothes or very neutral pants and shorts. I learned from her that frilly fluffy things were unnecessary and the lie that vulnerability was unsafe.
As I got older and more active in sports I was always so tall and had such big feet that my mother began dressing me in boys clothes. She gave up even going to the girl’s section of clothing and so I learned that I did not fit in with the other girls.
I hated the way my father treated my mother and how he treated me. He was always angry and tearing me down and calling me fat and useless. He had violent outbursts and broke my heart repeatedly as a young person. I learned from him the lies that men were not safe and that it was not okay to be weak. I learned the lie that to be feminine was to be a victim.
Neither of my parents was affectionate and neither was one to give praise or say that they loved me, and they did not hug me – ever. I learned the lie that I was unlovable and undeserving of affection.
As I grew up I felt like I had this ever growing chasm separating me from all the girls in school. I didn’t know how to dress like them and I didn’t act like them. I didn’t like most of the things they liked. Boys made so much more sense and I understood the way their brains worked. We could hang out well together while I just felt awkward and stupid most times trying to make friends with the girls in my class.
I was attracted to boys but they were never attracted to me. I was stuck in that best friend position and never dated anyone all through junior high and high school.
I loved God and I was very active in my youth group. That seemed to be the only place I was accepted outside of sports. I learned a lot about Christ and grace and freedom. I knew that God had a call on my life for foreign missions and in leading worship.
I would pour myself into my music and try so hard to be all the things the Bible said I should be. But I knew that there was this awkwardness towards women that was growing more and more into attraction as I grew older because I absolutely didn’t understand women at all. They were everything I was not. I was inferior, disqualified. It seemed they had discovered all these women secrets in their little feminine club and I had been left out on the doorstep in the cold without the secret handshake.
I did not understand beauty and weakness and being vulnerable and cared for. I didn’t understand pretty dresses and purses and make-up and hairstyles and everything that made women tick. I knew that I was not like them, and not a boy, but couldn’t there just be this other category that I fit into?? In the back of my mind, I thought if I just loved God enough and worked hard enough to be good and ignored this fascination this attraction this darkness, that it would just go away.
I graduated from high school and went to college. My parents divorced and I truly believed it was because of my dad’s mood swings and violence. I pressed into to God and the worship team and just continued ignoring all the broken pieces of me because there was NO WAY I could talk to someone about it. What would I say? Hi, I think I like girls and I don’t want to, help??? What kind of a Christian could I really be if I couldn’t beat this thing anyway, right??
In my second year of college, I find out that my parents really divorced because my mother decided to walk away from 23 years of marriage and 2 kids to become a lesbian. My world shattered.
I was so lost. Everything I had believed about my family was apparently wrong. I learned that my mother had been having an affair since I was 14 with this lady, who is now her partner of 16 years. I didn’t know what to do. I was so angry at my parents for never talking to me about this. I was so confused about how my mom could just walk away from her job and her marriage and her church and leave everything for this lady.
My mother is the strongest, smartest woman I know. She was an amazing teacher of the Word. I would sneak out of Sunday school as a small child to watch her teach the adult classes. My mother couldn’t beat this thing that had been haunting me. My mother, who led me to Christ and taught me everything I know about life. My mother couldn’t make this straight thing work.
I was mad at God and scared and wounded and I made some very bad decisions. I decided that if my mother couldn’t make this thing work, then I sure never could. I am not blaming her, its not her fault. I made my own choices. I am just trying to explain what went through my head. I gave up. I decided I would never be good enough, that I was disqualified to lead worship, that I could not make this God thing work. I couldn’t live life this torn between my emotions.
I spent the next 4.5 years going back and forth between the church and same-sex relationships and battling a huge alcohol addiction. I would pour myself into God and worship and try everything I could think of to be good enough, but I would always fail. It was a war between lies and truth and emotions and all I wanted was to mesh what I felt with what I believed. I was told by several people in my church that I didn’t want healing badly enough, or I didn’t try hard enough, or to just pray harder.
A lot of people tried to help, but they thought if they put me in a dress then I would magically feel like a girl. If they changed my clothes and made me look like them on the outside then somehow my femininity would emerge. If I just found the right guy I would be instantly cured straight. Lots of good intentions but no one really knew how to cut to roots of my brokenness and teach me how to begin to let God heal my wounds and my wounded perceptions. There just aren’t many churches out there who are equipped to help with sexual brokenness.
I finally left the church altogether and poured myself into a 2-year lesbian relationship, because I just couldn’t make the God thing work.
In 2003, I was 23 years old and living in northern California. I had been in a relationship for 2 years with a woman whom I truly loved with everything I knew of love. I had finally found what I thought was this perfect person. I was understood and heard and loved and needed and still not at peace.
I loved God, that never went away, but I was so lost in my brokenness and I had no idea how to get out. I wanted to change but I didn’t know how. I wanted to be different so badly but I was just stuck. I was happy, often, but there were still so many nights when I lay awake with the tugging in my Spirit of God saying THERE IS MORE THAN THIS.
I knew I could not lead worship or follow God’s call on my life to foreign missions and be gay. I knew I had to make a choice between God and the lifestyle. I loved my girlfriend and wanted to build a life with her but deep inside I knew it would end. I knew it was broken. I knew it was flawed. I just didn’t want to walk away because she was my world and it was all I had left.
I knew I wasn’t experiencing the Truth I had read about in the Bible. The Word talks of freedom and healing and joy, but I wasn’t seeing any of that. I so desperately wanted that freedom I had heard so much about.
I finally made one of the hardest decisions of my life to walk away from that relationship. We both decided we couldn’t build the future that we truly wanted together and both decided to try to return to Christ separately.
Shortly after, my job offered me a transfer to the Ft. Worth area. I arrived knowing no one and so fragile and unstable in my newfound singleness. I desperately needed a support system and actually found Living Hope through an old girlfriend of mine. That was how God chose to work out of my past. He has such a sense of humor.
I contacted Ricky and met with him and in fifteen minutes God used him to help me make more sense of my brokenness than a lifetime of seeking ever had. God has gifted Ricky Chelette with a powerful tool of communication and an ability to cut through to the root of sexual brokenness and express it in such plain and simple truth. For the next 3 years, I worked through my brokenness with the amazing people of Living Hope. They were my mentors, my friends, my teachers, and my family. The patience and wisdom of the Living Hope staff never ceased to amaze me. They walked with me through the darkest times and through the joyful moments and loved me like Christ through it all.
During those 3 years, I was challenged to face and change many of the lies I believed. I realized that I truly had no idea who I was. It was an extremely painful process of changing my beliefs, challenging my perceptions, throwing out every untrue thought I had of femininity and myself and the world and relationships and starting over from the core of Christ and rebuilding it all again. I had to uncover the truth of who God said I was and who God truly is and then live that.
The support groups and online ministry of Living Hope played a key role in my healing and growth. It was so amazing to find out that I was not alone in my struggles. There is such a power in the darkness when we feel we are the only ones wrestling with demons when we are alone fighting in the shadows and hiding our weakness. It was amazing to come to a meeting of broken people who would not judge, who would not look down on me, who could listen and respond and even relate to all that I was going through at that time.
Living Hope was a safe place to share. It was a place to be challenged. It was a place to cry and sometimes yell and scream and also laugh and share and live life with people who wanted to see me succeed.
Through that time of healing and walking out the truth, I learned that freedom is real and change is possible. I came to a place where I started dealing with other sin issues. Moving on to other areas of brokenness. I learned that there was more to my Christian life than just trying not to sin. And just when things were really finally stable and good and under control, God said, okay now let’s move forward.
What?? God, what do you mean? There’s more? I’m happy to just be straight? How can there be more?? I’m not sure I want there to be more, I’m kind of okay with things being just kind of okay!
The next step in my journey was the mission field. I sold everything I owned and quit my job and moved to Brazil.
Now I am not saying there is a magic formula of Living Hope for 3 years and BAM you’re a missionary. I’m not saying after 3 years you are magically healed. There is no ABC you’re free. The goal is to press into Christ so He can heal you and hold you and lead you into the life He has for YOU. My road happened to lead to Brazil. I served in the mission field for 2 years in Brazil and faced so many new and difficult challenges. It was a wonderful, amazing time. In that time I was able to minister to so many people in so many ways. I also was confronted with more areas of sin in my life and more areas of my self image that needed to be restored. I learned so much and was challenged and stretched and broken and laughed and cried and made memories of a lifetime. We are never done. We always have opportunities to grow and areas of our lives that need healing and cleansing and we will live the rest of our lives learning to be like Christ.
During my 2 years in Brazil, I also happened to meet an amazing Brazilian man named Diogo. And the next great adventure God lead me into was marriage. Marriage was not a part of my plan when I went to Brazil. It was one of the last things on my mind, but when it came together it was so right and wonderful.
I have been married for almost 3 years now. My husband and I moved to the States shortly after we married and took a break from the mission field to work on our marriage and be a part of a local church and serve in our community.
Marriage has challenged me even further than I could’ve imagined. SO much of the healing God did in my time with Living Hope and in the mission field was absolutely essential for me to start down the road of marriage. I needed to truly learn who God said I was before I could be with someone else. I want to kind of wrap up here by saying I am far from done. I am not perfect. I am no better or worse than any of you here. I am a work in progress, I am a child of the King, and I am still working on and walking out the work God is doing in my life.
I want to tell you, if you have any doubts tonight, that freedom is real and change is possible. I am living it.
I want to thank Living Hope for allowing themselves to be used by God to help change my life.