16 and pregnant. The sort of thing you never really expect to happen. But that’s exactly the situation I found myself in. All of a sudden my life felt like it was over.
I had an amazing upbringing. We lived in a small country town and our home, while chaotic and noisy, was full of love. My parents are the most amazing people whom I have the deepest of love and highest respect for, so the words ‘ashamed’ and ‘devastated’ don’t begin to describe how I felt.
So what went wrong? Well, when I was 13 I became really sick. I was suffering from Glandular Fever which developed into the hugely debilitating condition Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For nearly three years I was constantly bedridden and missed large chunks of school. My weight plummeted. My mental health was in a bad way. I shut off from God, confused and resentful. I was a living shell with no hope I would ever get better.
My parents tried to keep me plugged into normality—they took me to social gatherings as much as possible. But living out bush, these involved a lot of alcohol and I quickly became wrapped up in self-destructive behaviour. Drunk on the weekend, sick and wiped out with fatigue all week. In my final year of high school, I fell pregnant. Faced with the reality of being a teenage mum and in an emotionally abusive relationship, I was desperately unhappy and depressed. I turned to food as my comfort. My weight ballooned from around 45kgs to 82kgs in a few short months. Low self-worth, hopelessness and shame covered me like a dark, inescapable blanket.
Supported by family and friends, I attended school right up until a few weeks before I gave birth to my daughter Katie. I even attended my high school graduation just three days after she was born. I wanted to be a good mum but I was also battling shame, bitterness and resentment. I found myself feeling restricted and held back.
I was still in a relationship with my daughter’s father but it was clear it just wasn’t going to work. I was a 17-year old single mum. That label hung heavily on me. Over the next few years I was at my absolute lowest. I was studying, yes. But everything else was just a mess. Wanting to escape the pain, I would party every opportunity I could. I wasn’t much of a mother. There were days where I took my frustration and resentment out on my little toddler. I’m not proud of those times, but it truly did feel like it was all too much. There were times I contemplated suicide.
No mess is too big for God to re-make into something beautiful.
During that time that I joined a gym and from there, a passion for health and fitness took hold. In my mind I was an ‘unwell, unhealthy and unfit’ person, however, I was instantly hooked on the feeling I had made a positive choice and was doing something to nourish myself and my health. I’ve never looked back. I wasn’t just in ‘survival mode’, I was beginning to thrive!
One evening a friend invited me to church. That night, I heard a message of love and acceptance and restoration―to think my mess of a life could be of worth was just beyond words. From the moment the first worship song played I was a blubbering mess. I didn’t know what was happening, but it was the start of deep healing within my heart and identity. That day I found a relationship with Jesus and, in that, the freedom, strength and confidence to really live!
From there we took a huge leap of faith and decided to move to the Sunshine Coast. I got plugged in to an amazing local church, found work in great gyms and my daughter attended a beautiful school. We began to develop a really strong community of ‘family’ and friends. I began to really feel as though I was thriving as a mother and had made peace with being a young mum. After a couple of years, I made the decision to move on from teaching and pursue health and fitness full-time.
Fuelled by what I’d seen in the health and fitness industry and a vision God had placed in my heart, The Healthy Happy Soul was born. My philosophy for this ministry/business is that the BODY (physical health), MIND (emotional health) & SOUL (spiritual health) are all connected. Plus they’re equally important for living the fullness of life we’ve been created for. It’s about equipping, empowering and inspiring people to enjoy a life brimming with health, happiness and soul.
So my encouragement is that no mess is too big for God to re-make into something beautiful. He has a life more amazing than you could ever imagine for yourself. Hold tight to God and hang in there.
Dare to dream big! It’s scary. Fear can creep in. But I urge you to ask God for a big dream. His heart is to fulfil the desires of your heart. Isn’t that how He works? He is the God of exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or imagine!
So dream big, believe big, pray big and live big. Because our God is huge!