Holly’s Story

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Holly’s Story

Once upon a time I thought I was destined for medicine. My life was on a path to go to medical school. I wanted it so badly I could taste it. I dreamed of it. I was married, had two small children, but had a stubborn mindset that I could do anything- go ahead and tell me I can’t; I’ll show you I can. Then, my life took a turn. I went through the darkest time in my life, and I couldn’t see then that there was a gift in the heartache I was experiencing. But to tell the story of that gift, I must back up.

I met my first husband at a youth event when I was 16 years old. He was one of the very popular boys. He was 18, in college, and though we’d grown up in the same church our whole lives we had never before looked in the others direction. I immediately lost myself to him. What was supposed to be a relationship quickly grew into something dangerous and unhealthy, but I couldn’t see it. I walked away from friends, changed my career path, elected to not go to college, let him decide everything for me, and did everything to please him. He was jealous- fiercely, obsessively jealous, and I was an object. We ended up engaged to be married after my senior year of high school (I was 17!), and 6 weeks later I found out we were expecting our first son. I married him, my first love, right out of high school, gave birth to the first of two amazing children, and my life still existed in the scope of that other person’s. He was nice- to everyone but me. I knew I was unhappy, but I didn’t know how to get out. Two children, no job, and no skills- how could I survive on my own? He’d been great at tearing me down, telling me I would never be anything without him, could never make it on my own, and I had no worth- who would want me? Sadly, for several years, I believed him. Eventually I knew there had to be a plan, and more importantly, I knew I had one shot with my sons and what kind of example was I showing them? That it was ok for men to treat women like this? That it was ok for them to be objectified? Treated as possessions, made to live in fear? It’s a terrible thing to be afraid of the person you sleep next to.

When my sons were 4 and 7 I made the choice to leave. It was the scariest and most liberating thing I have ever done. I had to leave on the sly. My boys and I packed only our clothes and some of their toys and left while their dad was at work. I had no job, no car, no home, and nine dollars in my pocket. In an effort to further control me, my husband a few weeks before had had my car repossessed to ensure that I would have to ask him permission to go anywhere, and had started withholding our family money to the point that I had to ask for things like lunch money for our first grader. But, even with nothing, I felt freer then I’d felt in 8 years of marriage. Thankfully, an aunt and uncle opened their home to my sons and I and I did what all mothers in my situation do: I found a job.

For the first time in my adult life I had to work, and I didn’t have anything glamorous to put on a resume. I’d been a stay-at-home mom, and so far a part-time student, a year from applying to med schools. I took a job at a sporting goods store and serving at a restaurant and within 4 weeks had enough money for a car and apartment, and moved my sons and myself into our home. It was a small cozy apartment- nothing glamorous, but it was safe, ours, and that’s what mattered. I knew then that med school was no longer my reality. Sure, single parents could do it. Sure, plenty of people were successful at med school with other responsibilities, but as I looked at my sons’ faces, it wasn’t on my path anymore. It was as if something I’d once knew without a doubt I was destined for was nothing more than a vague wisp of an idea. I knew that I wasn’t willing to have my boys sacrifice while mom put in crazy hours as a resident. I had one shot with these boys- I wasn’t getting a second chance at raising them. So, there had to be another way for me to “become something.” God had a plan. And I needed to graduate and get a job!

I finished school, and spent the summer looking for work and stumbled onto education. It was truly by accident. After being convinced I was completely marketable because I had a bachelor’s degree- finally!- and searching for 4 months and not being hired I sat sobbing in front of my computer one day praying that the Lord would send something- anything- my way, and that He send what my family needed. What he sent to me was an opportunity to work in a school with At-Risk 5th graders. I took it. It was ideal because I was working in the same school my sons were attending. The first day in the classroom, if the heavens could have opened and the angels could have sang, I think they might have, because it was if I’d found my place. That one opportunity that fell into my lap after a tearful episode at my computer got me out of my own way, so that God could show me this wonderful path that was already laid out for me. I elected to go back to school, and opted to complete not only an additional Bachelor’s degree, and Master’s Degree, but I became licensed to teach in 3 content areas, and wound up teaching Middle School. Our steps are truly ordered.

My story doesn’t conclude with a “she’s a teacher, the end, and they all live happily ever after…” No, you see, I’m an ever-evolving, work in progress, for whom I believe our Great God has great plans, and I’m still following my path. I said before that in all that turmoil I experienced during that dark time there was a gift, even when I couldn’t see it. God does this- He doesn’t leave us in the midst of our trial, and if we let Him, He shines through the darkness, and there’s always a gift in it. He took the darkest time of my life, and I emerged stronger: bruised, but not broken; shaken, but not shattered; I left afraid and came through with courage. I finished my education, went on to build more, I found myself. I’m the person I am today because of that experience and I don’t regret it. I wouldn’t change it. It was fundamental to my being. Another gift emerged: my husband of nearly 5 years. Sometimes when you have the worst, it’s because God is saving the best. I met the love of my life- though I didn’t know he would become that- at the darkest hour. My best friend became my husband became the love of my life. God sent me a man designed truly as God Himself created a husband to be. For this man, I’m every day thankful.

So, where am I today? Two years ago I was faced with a decision- keep my teaching job, or take a position with a University. I loved teaching, and I loved my students. I was burned out on the politics and was not sad to say good-bye to that. This University offered my family more flexibility. It gave my sons their mother home in the morning and afternoon, which was their request. The more I weighed it out, the clearer it became; I was going to have to leave teaching. Our steps are ordered. This move was designed by God’s own hand. Two months later I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was operable and benign, but the ongoing recovery- more than a year in endurance- still with no resolution or end in sight, would have been the end of teaching for me, and the end of working for me. However, the freedom and flexibility I have with this job I’m able to work full time, stay on that path that’s been laid at me feet, and work tirelessly for what I believe in. Our steps our ordered in His will, according to His plan.

I’m a humanitarian. I’ve been blessed with a servant’s heart. Before I knew He was working on me, God was already giving me a burden for those At-Risk, and in each situation, whether it be work or school, I have sought out the At-Risk populations, volunteering my time, advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves, creating awareness, safety nets, and words of kindness and comfort for those who need it. Most of all I hope that my life each and every day is a reflection that Christ Jesus lives within me, and that His Light shines through me as a light in someone’s dark hour.