I was the woman at the well, living in isolation, separated from people by the shame of two failed marriages, credit cards maxed out, a closet smoker and yo-yo dieter. I was a single parent of three, struggling financially, in almost constant conflict with my teenage son about his drinking. My entire family was in Wisconsin, and I had distanced myself from friends, thinking they were judging me for not following my husband to Boston for a job he accepted on his own and painfully against my wishes. I felt alone, insecure, like I didn’t matter and everything in my life seemed out of control.
So like the woman at the well who drew water in the heat of the day to avoid facing other women in the early morning, I snuck away to a 5-day Christian weight loss program called Lose it For Life to figure out how to control the one thing I thought I could. The heat that drove me into isolation was shame about the choices I had made in my life and a public image I was desperately trying to keep intact. I somehow believed that if I just lost weight and felt good about the way I looked, no one would discover the real me, broken and falling apart on the inside. I was a businesswoman, a single mom with three smart kids – all good athletes, the Youth Minister that led teens on mission trips, took kids to serve in soup kitchens, small group facilitator, a soccer coach and referee, outgoing, funny, confident, had it all together – that’s the me I let people see.
God got a hold of me at LIFL (Lose It For Life) when a complete stranger I was seated next to invited me to go to the Women of Faith Conference in Philly the following month and stay at her house for the weekend. I was so puzzled at her offer, but came home from WOF on fire for the Lord. It was the first time I ever heard speakers apply God’s promises to their lives and I was encouraged in my own life. I had returned home from Lose It For Life with a plan to fill the holes in my physical, emotional, spiritual and mental life and joined a Community Bible Study, which was the first time I studied the Bible and I thrived on the discussion with other women. I didn’t know until years later that I was filling myself with head knowledge about God, but dying of spiritual heart failure in this season of my life.
In January 2004 at the end of winter break, I wrote a letter to my son telling him I loved him, I stood for him, but I would not have his toxicity in the house any more, or listen to him screaming that he hated me, and I told him he could not come home on college breaks until he was ready to work on our relationship. He reminded me so much of my older brother, who died from a fall off the roof of a 3-story building after free-basing cocaine, and resulted in me parenting out of fear much of the time, afraid I would lose my son the same way. On the 4th of July, I got a call from DC police that my son had been drinking and crashed his car into a pole. He came home and we began to put our relationship back together in typical Midwest fashion – never speaking of the past, moving forward. He was respectful and didn’t push boundaries. The relationship was strained – I was still trying to fix it myself even after turning it over to God. There was no real relationship and a lot of uncomfortable silence.
One summer night in 2007, I woke up to spasms shooting out of my sciatic nerve into my lower back and down my leg. I was in extreme pain, couldn’t do anything comfortably except sit or lay down, and spent 10 weeks home from work only going out to the chiropractor and physical therapy. My self-reliance was shattered and I was dependent on other people for everything – oh I hated that! But in this place of physical brokenness God got my attention and I started spending the hours of my day in prayer and in the Word. I had just started a 12-week Christian Life Coaching certification program that required me to completely examine who I was before God, and I began to give each day to God, trusting Him to lead and knowing that my past didn’t matter anymore.