When I was little, I remember when construction began on the house we were building. My mom carried me around the property to show me the cement foundation amidst the mud, telling me the plans her and my dad had dreamed for the house that would go on top. At the time, I was not impressed with the grunt work of building a house – such as my dad clearing the property with his chainsaw, and my mom painting, while I was bribed to pick up hundreds of stray nails in exchange for DQ. Rather, I wanted to look at the blueprint, to draw my 5-year old pictures of our house, and what I thought it would look like. As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned that while the drawings and dreams of what I expected my life to appear as have been left behind, the trials of construction have left me with a house that although flawed on the exterior, will stand strong through the storms to come.
From the young age of kindergarten, I began dreaming about what my high school career in athletics would look like, attributed to the long hours of watching my siblings compete in their sporting events and yearning for the day it would finally be my turn. As time went on, I began painting a picture in my mind of the plans I had for my life, my house, as I was finding success in the sports I was playing in elementary and early middle school – mostly in part because I was the tallest and strongest girl in my grade. I dreamed I would be the star athlete, who would make the game-winning shot, and rise to the top to go on and eventually play college basketball, which seemed so attainable from my naïve perspective. At the time, my grades were of secondary importance, because if my house turned out to be as the picture my mind had painted, a college basketball career would be my key to unlocking and living in my dream house.
In regards to my faith, I knew that it was required to be a part of my house, evident by the chimney my parents and Christian education had raised me with the knowledge to understand I would need it to live happily, yet I didn’t truly appreciate or understand why it fell in the necessity category. At the time, my prioritization of investing into my relationship with Christ was quite low, as quite honestly my idolization of athletics – specifically the addiction to the success and attention – emitted artificial warmth that I lived off of within my home. From the outside, it was evident that my chimney wasn’t emitting much smoke, a direct reflection of the state of my spiritual life – dying coals within the woodstove only kept alive by an occasional devotional reading; simply, another check off of my to-do list.
By the time I was in 6th grade, I was invited to play up in basketball, and I was so excited. This opportunity, I believed, gave me the chance to enhance my house – both in reputation and my skills – on the way to become a star high school and college athlete. However, I did not foresee the repercussions of this decision until I was already caught in the middle of them: socially, I had estranged myself from my friends upstairs in the 6th grade, and I wasn’t truly a part of the social circle of my 7th grade teammates downstairs. My picturesque house began to crack at its foundations, as my confidence on the basketball court began to shake under a cataclysmic storm that having been brewing for years, erupted over my paper-strong house: this storm is called Perfectionism. During a time of unknowns I felt like I had to put on a façade of being happy, meanwhile the church I had been raised in fell apart, my dad’s health wasn’t very good, and basketball was not going well, I began to demand some control of my house. I no longer wanted the body that had made me a dominant athlete, as it had been the root of insecurities, and was a part of my life I could silently rebel and reign over. If I had lost my identity in athletics, then I believed I would try to be the perfect girl that the boys would like and I could feel good about. The second area of my life where I became a control freak was my academics and piano playing. The storm of Perfectionism beat on my house’s walls every waking minute of every hour of every day, over time weakening my foundation as I developed the mindset that anything less than 100% was not acceptable. I had no idea that this pivotal time period in my life, where I had evolved my house to showcase grades, a false happy face, and perfectionism was only the warm-up for the tornado that was awaiting me.
By the summer before 7th grade, my house had become frail as the endless beating of the storm of Perfectionism left me vulnerable. I constantly compared my house to other houses I believed were better – specifically those of my friends of models in the pages of magazines – like the comparing of a beach house to Bill Gate’s mansion, a comparison the Perfectionistic mindset constantly reminded my competitive self that I would always lose. During this time of obsession with the exterior and appearance of my house, I completely neglected my interior and my spiritual fire, leaving me with a cold and dilapidated building that had once been the depiction of my hopes and dreams. I then became lonely because I had no neighbors, which I have now learned that the storm of Perfectionism drives you to be singled out – but the side-effect is isolation. Finally, my house could take no more, and the tornado named Anorexia Nervosa touched down like a freight train and left my house in shreds.
Reduced to the ground, I began the journey of making sense of the ruins of my shredded picturesque home, fully understanding I was undergoing a demanding project filled with frustrations and tough conditions with the goal of constructing an authentic, real home. Too weak on my own, my family and faith rebuilt my foundation. The cold mental and physical state of an eating disorder fell away as I was gradually drawn back into the warmth from the fire of my dormant spiritual life , which began to take off once I believed the truths scripture spoke over my house and God’s plan for it. After my foundation was built, I constructed the structure of my home in learning to give myself rest, and to be real about my shortcomings that had driven me to ruins; in contrast, I allowed myself to admire my strengths, such as competiveness (how well could I build this house), discipline and focus to keep my eyes set on the task before me and achieve an authentic house that reflected who I truly am. These strengths became pillars that supported my home. But the strength I admired most is “restorative,” which I utilized to pick up the pieces Anorexia had left behind of my picturesque home. And to place them on the outside of my home is a testament of my brokenness – that I truly can’t fake Perfectionism – and how God is using those pieces from my story to reach others.
Once my house had been built, I began to let neighbors back within my life – people who I had once kept as outsiders of my walls while I was silently hurting inside. I had finally decided to face my fear of people seeing me for who I truly am – a once broken girl that although still raw, is in the process of being restored. These were people like Riley Van Hulzen, who showed me how to loosen up and have fun, and most of all she showed me a joy for life that I have found comparable to none. In letting down my walls, I began to appreciate the designs of other homes, while my neighbors spoke life into mine, and I began to foster the mindset of contentment over comparison.
Lynden Christian has played a major role in the construction of my home, primarily by providing me so many opportunities to get involved and diversify myself. The naïve idea of my house only anticipated time invested on the court for basketball and volleyball. However, LC has given me the gift of pursuing my love for music in choir and the student worship apprentice team, while also my love of organizing as a part of the student government. The walls of Lynden Christian High School have been a safe place, a place where I can jump out of my comfort zone and stretch my leadership skills, whether that be in the athletic arena, leading the student body in worship on SWAT, or organizing events to build the community among our peers. The greatest gift these activities have brought me are the people; in many ways, my involvement was the vehicle that allowed me to let my neighbors in – both new and old – trading in my vulnerability for relationships and my fear for confidence.
Regardless of the many ways my time at LCHS has helped me rebuild my identity, I have learned through my experiences that it is when I get caught up in the appearance of my house that I neglect the spiritual fire within my woodstove – the woodstove being the place where my spiritual fire has been cultivated during high school, mentored by teachers like Mr. Thomas – who has taught me to think critically about who I am and why I am that way. While he has been my English teacher, he has taught me more about how the world works, the authentic struggle of faith, and challenged me to share my testimony of a shredded house and how God has brought the people in my life that played a role in the rebuilding of a stronger me.
Early on, I forgot the most important thing was to warm my house. The tools I have learned from my education at Lynden Christian have set me up for success; however, the final step is to light my fire. I have discovered my passion for worship has been the spark that lights my spiritual fire, where the knowledge feeds the fire and relying on the Holy Spirit’s guidance is the oxygen needed. From past struggles, I don’t want to live in a house lacking the warmth of a spiritual fire; rather, I know that when I prioritize my fire, not only may I live in my house with contentment, but I can open my doors and give the warmth of my fire to those seeking Christ’s love. I refuse to put my walls up in isolation to survive on a false “warmth.” With the love and support of my family as my foundation, my house stands confident and firm, without fear of the storms that once shredded my home, as Psalm 62:2 asserts, “He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.”
As I look forward to entering the medical field studying pre-Physician Assistant, I know that this experience-founded confidence in my home and warmth it gives off will provide me with opportunities to share my story of Christ’s faithfulness to restore and rekindle the nearly dormant coals in my spiritual life. And while I know I have the picture in my mind of what my life will look like in this next phase of my building project, I look forward to reflecting on my journey in a few years and seeing again how the trials of my construction will yield an even more beautiful and resilient house – a testament of hope, endurance, and victory.