Tyler’s Boldheart Story — How Rape Led to Redemption

From when I was a young age, God was talked about and prayed to often in my home. But He was not the cornerstone of my family’s foundation. I grew up Catholic. Sunday after Sunday, I loved to gain knowledge about God when I attended mass with my dad. However, I did not gain the spiritual disciplines of walking in relationship with Him, nor did I hear or come to understand the heart of the Gospel until years later.

Meet Tyler, a beautiful boldheart!

This surface-level knowledge about God made it easy to slip into walking in the ways of the world instead of committing my life to Him. From eighth grade into high school, I found validation in flirting my way into popularity, dedicating my time to partying, consuming myself with perfectionism, and priding myself on my independence. This all changed the summer before my junior year of high school. The best way to describe how the Lord graciously sobered me from all of those false outlets of pursuing a “satisfying” life was that He flipped my heart, much like a pancake. After one night of partying, I woke up and heard the Lord call me to life with Him. He put in my heart to attend a nondenominational church that I went to once before in the eighth grade when a friend invited me to a service similar to the Porch (a worship night for men and women in their 20s and 30s at a church in Dallas) but for eighth graders.

Shortly after I started attending this church regularly, I heard the Gospel for the first time, and it fell softly on my heart. I accepted that I am a sinner, and I need Jesus. No matter how I might try to tally up my works to prove otherwise, it was about Jesus dying for my sins and receiving His gift of grace to redeem me from those sins. I was secure in eternal life with God and began experiencing true life and joy by abiding in Him.

As I finished up high school, God was evidently clear in calling me to attend Texas Christian University for college. I spent three years at TCU, where I continued to walk and grow in my relationship with the Lord. I was then led out of state for the fall semester of my senior year to pursue a dream internship.

The day before my internship ended, I was raped by a coworker. I remember calling my best friend the next day to confide in her. Terrified to even verbalize the word “rape,” I vividly remember fighting through tears, and before I told her what happened, out came the words.

“Please still love me.”

I didn’t realize it then, but those words were absolutely reflective of the lies I immediately bought from the enemy: that I was unlovable, tainted beyond repair, marked with unredeemable shame, and forever shackled by what happened.

I was scared. I was confused. I did not see how what happened could be used by God. Plus, a huge way God showed me His protection through my wandering years of high school was by preserving my virginity, and here it was taken by abuse, which only led to more confusion. I didn’t get it. I didn’t want to get it. So I covered it up. I lied through my physical bruises and suppressed my emotional ones. I thought I couldn’t be loved by God because of the sin done against me, and I further believed that I was undeserving of God’s love because I responded to what happened by turning to sin as a way to cope.

I ventured back to TCU to wrap up my last semester of college, where I sought out alcohol as a means to escape reality. I jumped into a toxic relationship that I used as an excuse to Heisman my relationship with God. I shut down all feelings by slipping into a state of numbness, learning how to carry myself “well enough” without anyone recognizing that something was off.

It wasn’t until the Lord started knocking on my heart, rather loudly, that this stance of Heismaning God softened into falling to my knees. As I transitioned into adulthood and started work in Dallas, I was still pursuing everything this world had to offer as a distraction. I wasn’t ready to heal, but it was obvious that I no longer had a choice. The more I pursued the world, the more I found myself committing to my church and the Porch. I couldn’t help but finally have an open heart to hearing and seeing God’s pursuit of me through people, conversations, circumstances, church, community, and His word.

I had enough. I was tired of being haunted by what happened. I had no other option than to follow Him into a radical healing journey that would literally save my life and bring me to a place of experiencing God-given joy. Not only was I able to confess and be freed from the sin that had been done against me, but I was able to accept His gift of grace for the sin I pursued in coping with what happened.

Better yet, God has been gracious enough to reveal the purpose of how He is using my story for His glory and His Kingdom. Genesis 50:20 rings true—God does not just save a person; He saves a person to save people. The Lord has been gracious enough to open the doors for conversations and platforms to share my testimony so that I can, in turn, walk with other women who have similar stories.

I would not trade my story for anything, because it is marked with God’s grace, mercy, and overwhelming love that has only shown me more of who He is. And guess what? God has firmly refuted the lie I bought into that I couldn’t be loved by Him. I get to freely receive His unconditional and sacrificial love each and every day because He is a Healer, He is the Prince of Peace, the Ultimate Counselor, and a Mighty Protector.

Simply put, now I look back on my story and how God is actively using it, and all I see is love—His love for me, my love for Him, and the love He puts in me to love on His people.

 

Val’s Boldheart Story — How a Snake Led to My Move to Austin

I stared at the ceiling and checked my phone: 2:45 a.m. Another sleepless weeknight due to work stress. I threw off the covers and rolled out of my bed.

I walked down the hall of my small apartment in Dallas, turned on my TV in the living room and plopped down into my black-and-white speckled couch. The room was completely dark, except for the flashing lights of the screen. Maybe I could fall asleep watching the snooze fest of a 3 a.m. infomercial.

Meet Val, a beautiful boldheart!

I was mildly entertained by some cooking device being hawked by a chipper couple when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something moving in the hallway. I glanced that direction.

Oh, that’s a snake, I thought casually, and then turned back to the TV.

Realization set in two seconds later: That’s a snake!!!

I let out a scream/wail, jumped off the couch, and crawled on top of my nearby kitchen bar counter. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. The snake remained still, then lifted its head and slithered back behind the hallway wall and out of my line of sight.

I waited several minutes before clutching a massive kitchen knife and tiptoeing down the hallway. The snake was gone, completely disappeared. He wasn’t found for two more days when the apartment maintenance staff tracked him down in my laundry room.

I was shaken and desperately wanted to move out of my apartment. I paid the reletting fee to get out of my lease with a 60-day notice.

Soon after, a long-held desire of mine began to resurface. Being from Dallas, I visited Austin several times while growing up. As a child, I toured the capitol building, and I spent a lot of time on 6th Street during college. I was always fond of the city, but when my youngest sister moved to Austin in 2013, she showed me the quaint, laidback, unique parts of Austin that tourists don’t know about. Something about the vibe resonated with me and felt like home.

I tried to make a move to Austin in 2014, but the timing wasn’t right. My other sister and her husband were recently told his cancer treatments weren’t working, and he only had a few months to live. I needed to be with my family through this transition. It wasn’t easy, but we got through his passing together. After a couple of years, our wounds were healing, and life was getting back to normal.

I was restless and yearning for a change of scenery. Maybe all of those sleepless nights weren’t just the result of work stress.

A month before my apartment lease was up, I saw a job posting in Austin that seemed like the perfect fit for me. I applied on a whim. Before I knew it, I was driving down to Austin for a half-day of interviews. Still, I moved forward with my life in Dallas, as if the Austin dream may not come true, and found a new place to live in Dallas that was hopefully snake-free.

With my everything packed and ready for my move, I was hours from picking up the keys to my new apartment when the recruiter from the Austin sent me a job offer. In order to make the timing work, I had to cancel my new Dallas apartment, move my items into storage, live with my parents for two weeks, and find a new place to live in Austin.

A few nights before I left for Austin, I was on my way to dinner with my parents.

“You know all of this started with a snake in my apartment,” I said from the backseat.

“Yeah. And why do snakes shed their skin?” my mom asked. (She’s a therapist who can read situations like a radiologist reads MRIs.)

“Because they’ve outgrown their bodies.” It was silent for a few moments. “Ohhhhhh. I outgrew my life here in Dallas. That snake was a sign of things to come in my life.”

“Mmmhmm,” my mom said, nodding in the front passenger seat.

Life in Austin hasn’t exactly been easy. I’m on my third job and third apartment in a year and a half. I feel like Goldilocks searching for a fit that’s “just right.” My experiences in Austin have been exhilarating, heartbreaking, joyous, frustrating, rewarding, delightful, lonely, scary, thrilling, and satisfying. In other words, they’ve been just like life.

I’m not sure if I’ll stay in Austin long term, but I know that the move has enriched my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I’ve met the most fascinating people, had many deep and soulful conversations, and enjoyed some delicious life moments.

Most importantly, I took a risk and a leap of faith to follow my heart. It was worth every emotion to experience the ride.

Be Bold Enough to Know That You’re Enough

Hi! I’m Natalie, and I’m excited you’re here! I was clearly very focused at work in this picture.

I used to think that my life was supposed to end up like all of the romantic comedies I loved so much—I’d meet my guy, something funny and a little dramatic would happen, and then we’d profess our love for one another in the middle of a parking lot in the pouring rain. Or he’d kiss me in a gazebo. It would be perfect.

Well, I didn’t even get my first kiss until I was 27 years old, and it happened at a track while I was wearing running clothes and a giant red bow in my hair with stickers in my hand and a stopwatch and whistle around my neck. That entire event is a story in itself. And that guy, much to my dismay at the time, didn’t end up being the one for me.

I’m 33 now, and I’ve still never had a boyfriend or even been on a real date. For years, I thought that something was wrong with me—I thought that guys didn’t like me (and never would) because I wasn’t pretty enough or funny enough or smart enough or [enter an adjective here] enough. Simply put, I never felt like I was enough. So I did everything I could to make sure that the guys I had feelings for never knew, because I figured they would never be interested in me.

It took way longer than I would have liked for me to realize that those feelings of not being enough were all lies. Friends, I truly hope you never feel that way. Please know now and every day for the rest of your lives that you are enough. Despite what Jerry Maguire made us all believe so many years ago (or maybe you’re way too young for that movie and have no clue what I’m talking about—thankfully, there’s Google), no other person can ever actually complete you.

For the past five or so years, my goal in life has been to live boldly. I don’t ever want to let fear get in the way of, well, anything. Does that mean that the things I want always happen? Good gosh, no. I stood face to face with a man I adored and poured my heart out to him as he basically told me in different words that none of that mattered compared to his career.

I used to have season tickets to Texas Rangers games, and my goal every game was to get gum from the opposing team’s pitchers in the bullpen.

Living boldly doesn’t always mean you get the happy ending you’re hoping for, but I fully believe that it means living well.

Please don’t ever change who you are because you think you’re not good enough, and please don’t ever let fear stop you from being bold and doing the things you know you’re meant to do. You’re a lot stronger than you think—just like our soul sister Mariah, you can make it through the rain.

You may not be starring in your life’s own version of a romcom, and that’s OK. We all have different stories and timelines. Don’t rush yours. If I weren’t single right now, I might not be pursuing the creation of Tower318 with Ashley—and I don’t want to think about that.

Trust that you are where you are for a specific purpose, and boldly march on, sister.

Stop and Listen: What Is Life Telling You?

Hi, I’m Ashley! Nice to meet you. Here is a little background about my life and an unrelated photo of me at Disney World.

Life has a funny way of putting you exactly where you need to be at the right time. I am currently living in Nebraska (a very recent move), and nothing in my life could have predicted that I would be living here for any amount of time, yet here we are. What life has taught me is, while I don’t yet know the reason, there’s a purpose to me being here. Had life not pushed me in this direction, and had I received what I wanted, I’d be frolicking on the beach in San Diego right now, but clearly that is not where I need to be in this season.

I’m only 23 years old, so I don’t pretend to know everything. Life has taught me that I know very little. Life has also taught that some lessons you can only learn by going through them. Other lessons, though, I feel could have been avoided had I had a little more reasoning and logic in my teen years—if I had had a little more trust in God and listened more rather than running off a list of prayers of what I wanted in life.

Some girls were a lot smarter than I and focused on other things during their high school years, and while I did focus on my studies and my friends, a huge portion of my time was spent worrying about whatever boy I liked at the time. Did he like me back? Why hadn’t he asked me out yet? Other times were spent worrying about guys I had dated (if you can even call a week to one month long relationships “dating”). Why didn’t he like me anymore? What did I do wrong? Am I unlovable or, worst yet, was I *gasp* annoying?

For all of the years of romantic comedies I watched, it somehow evaded me that ended relationships and rejections should actually be celebrated. Yes, rejection hurts (a lot), but if it wasn’t a good match—heck, if it wasn’t the match—I should have been glad to be rid of the relationship!

Me and the very nice husband I could have missed out on.

It’s not worth your time to be with someone (relationship or friend) who doesn’t understand your quirks or your humor or whatever it may be that’s not clicking. That was something I failed to understand—I just saw it as a failure on my part; I thought that something was wrong with me and that I needed to change. I spent so much time worrying about if a boy liked me that I hardly ever gave myself a chance to figure out if I actually liked him. I was too worried about keeping or obtaining what I thought I wanted. I failed to stop and listen to what life—and God—were practically screaming at me.

Ladies, I’m so happy to be writing for Tower318 to have a chance to build you up and encourage you to reach your brightest potentials and to never question what makes you uniquely you. Whatever hardship you’re facing, whatever personal quality you’re questioning, whatever unanswered prayer or desire that you’re wishing to be granted, please take a moment to just listen.

Take a break from all of the noise in your head and all of the competing wishes and wants echoing in your mind, and instead take a moment to listen. Chances are, the answer to your problem is right in front of you; it just may not be the answer you want. But trust me, still listen. If I hadn’t, I might not have my husband. I might not be writing for Tower318. I might not have a far better life than I could have imagined at 16.

 

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