Have you ever tried to live your life according to someone else’s expectations? Well I did that for several years — thirty-seven years to be exact. When you learn rejection in the womb, you try to find someone to please, and you go about doing or being the person you think they want.

I was born December 30, 1974, in Mobile, Alabama, and two months later I was adopted by two loving parents and immediately became part of a wonderful family. I was always proud to be adopted and had written stories in my mind and heart about what it would be like one day when I met my birth family. I expected to bond instantly and create a friendship with my birth mom. I longed for discussions about who she was, acceptance from the family, and expected to learn they felt an immense regret at letting me go.

I loved my adoptive parents but simply wanted to know my biological parents. It felt like I just needed to connect the dots — figure out who I was.

Searching for a Mother

I was in the middle of a discipleship program when I received my official adoption records. It was hard to open the envelope, but finally, with some encouragement, I pried open the sticky adhesive. What would the envelope hold? Would there be a tearful reunion soon? When I read my original birth certificate, it told me a great deal and not much at all. But it did give me the name of my birth mom, which helped me locate her.

And she was still in Mobile.

It took me seven years to make the trip to meet her. I know — seven years seems like a long time for something I’d anticipated ever since I could remember. However, once the opportunity presented itself and my anxiety-filled dream became a reality, I felt fear. I became very afraid of hurting my adoptive parents. My desire to meet my birth mother was never an intention to replace my adoptive parents; I just wanted to know who I was. I was seeking answers. My entire life I had struggled with negative self-image issues; I felt I could find answers to my issues in my birth mother.

Meeting Face-to-Face

When we met there were no tears. I actually felt like I was part of a one-person parade, marching through this highly anticipated moment alone. Over the next week and a half, the story I had written in my heart crumbled in front of me.

After going to meet my birth mom and staying for my biological sister’s wedding, I returned back home, back to my life. The same life I left was waiting for me. I expected to feel very different after my life-altering experience, but instead my life felt rather mundane. That was a surprise.

My first week back home was a roller coaster. I continued to replay my visit to Mobile over and over in my head. While my birth mom behaved as if she’d known me forever, she never offered to provide any tidbit of personal detail about how I was born. She gave me no family history.

Instead, she held onto her version of how I came into the world — a version I would later find out that was a lie. I met her on a Friday and by the next Saturday she had given me the same story she had given her mother. She had been raped, and I was conceived. The same lie over and over again.

But my biological grandmother ended up telling me the real story of how I came to be. After an indiscretion that resulted in my unwanted pregnancy, my mom went off to a convent and gave me up. My grandmother’s truth was able to bring peace to my mind, but the permanent damage to my heart had already been done.

The End of the Dream

When I learned the truth, I did not escape to my normal pattern of dealing with overwhelming emotions. At that point in my life, I had developed a poor relationship with food and often found myself coping with things by overeating. But this time was different. I turned to God to comfort me.

I was very quiet over the next few weeks. I didn’t understand why my birth mother couldn’t be honest with me, and it left me seeking answers from the only One who could provide them.

The story I had created in my heart was not the truth.

My entire life I wrestled with the question of who I really was. I had been searching and fighting to find something — anything — about myself to like. I always walked with my head down. I had no confidence, even after hearing God tell me many times who I was.

When I prayed, God often took me to scriptures that reminded me He created me, and He makes no mistakes. When I looked in the mirror I saw nothing beautiful, but as I allowed God to speak to me, I began to see myself through His eyes. In my moments of rejection and confusion, He reminded me that I was His; I was everything He intended me to be.

A beautiful woman.

Journey to Healing

I struggled with weight almost my entire life and was so unhappy with myself. I began working out and lost weight. I changed the way I was eating and started feeling better on the inside. Finally, I went to an herbalist who put me on a strict diet for six months. I never felt better in my life. I even ran a 5K.

Then I decided to give up wearing makeup for a period of time. After various promptings from the Lord, I felt like this cleanse of concealer, foundation and all the other stuff was healthy for me. That was probably the hardest thing I have ever done. I was used to using makeup to hide all of the imperfections I saw in my face.

And I learned that my face is beautiful.

But even with all of the growth and understanding, the light bulb had not fully gone off. I had not fully overcome the struggles of not loving myself, of feeling rejected by my birth mother. I knew it would take time and that God had me on a journey to healing. However, comparison and dissatisfaction are wicked tools of the enemy, and I was still allowing the habit to infect my heart. It was keeping me from believing I had a voice and that He wanted to use me for His Glory.

No Mistakes

One morning God spoke to me through Psalm 139. It wasn’t the first time. But that day, as I stood in my bathroom getting ready for work, He gently reminded me of the encouragement offered in Psalm 139: 13-14, “For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.”

The Lord reminded me that He didn’t make a mistake with how He created me, where I grew up, or even who my parents were. As I stood there and wept, I cried out to God. I wanted to know the woman He says I am.

God continues to answer my prayer and is revealing the beauty He sees in me each day with every new step He asks me to take. Along with getting healthy and shedding my makeup, God asked me to take the most intense step yet — taking out all of my hair extensions.

It was a Tuesday night, and I sat in my hair stylist’s chair as she cut out my extensions. I tried to hold it together. So often we are defined by what’s on our outside, and my hair made me feel beautiful — even if it wasn’t really my hair. When I saw myself for the first time without the extensions — saw myself as I truly am — I almost cried. But God was so good to bring about the necessary heart change I needed with every outward physical change.

The Anchor

I am living in my own skin, hair and body, and I am learning to celebrate myself. God caused me to take leaps I would never have considered taking before, and He continues to call me to take new steps and live each day being His ambassador — loving on others, taking the time to listen, praying for others and ultimately living out my life before them.

In an act of celebration, I went and got a tattoo of an anchor with the word Hope written above it. My tattoo is based on Hebrews 6:19-20, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.”

Now, when I look into the mirror, I now see a beautiful, young woman who loves to work out, who knows how to rock a scarf, and wears makeup in moderation. I see a woman full of confidence, anchored in who she is, and full of great, powerful, hope.