I grew up in the church. I knew Jesus was nice and that Noah built the Ark and Jonah got eaten by a whale. I still sing Veggie Tales- “you are my cheeseburger, my tasty cheeseburger, I’ll wait for youuuu”. Anyone else remember or relate to that song more than ever now that we’re older? Because I do. Maybe Veggies Tales is the reason I love food so much? Any who, I knew about Christianity, I knew verses from the bible, I was baptized and I knew I loved Jesus, but I never really knew what any of those things meant until way later in life.
I remember as I got older I still went to church, but I don’t think I ever really had a relationship with Jesus. It was more like going through the motions and making sure I followed a set of “rules”, and as you get older you become more stubborn and rebellious and you don’t want to follow “rules” ya know? You get in that “I want to learn things myself” mode and that usually means the hard way.
I had my first panic attack in 7th grade. I remember sitting at the lunch table in middle school and I couldn’t swallow. My heart was racing a mile a minute, everyone was scurrying around me talking and eating their lunch but I couldn’t hear anything except the heart beat in my head. I obviously went into full blown panic mode. I went into panic mode, but I hid what was happening. I didn’t tell a soul. I suffered through that stage alone; scared something was wrong with me, scared I was weak, scared I was being a baby. I had no idea anxiety was even a thing and I didn’t think my friends ever felt that way, so I held everything in.
Fast forward to me as an adult, 22 to be exact. My parent’s divorced and I moved in with my papa. I moved in with my papa because I couldn’t handle the guilt of living with one parent over the other. I just couldn’t choose, so I moved in with my grandparents. A third party, hopefully something to ease my guilt. A few weeks after I moved in the guilt never left and guess what came back? Yep, my anxiety. But in a different way this time. I had the worst stomach pains you can think of. I sat on the bathroom floor for days, I couldn’t move, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t go to work, I just couldn’t even function as a normal adult. After about a week of this I ended up in the hospital and you know what they diagnosed me with? Stress and anxiety. I couldn’t believe how in my head I was. I mean, I stressed myself out to the point of hospitalization.
Now let me give you a little backstory into the life/heart of Kristi Ridley. I grew up in an alcoholic home and I think that’s where a lot of my “I have to be perfect” traits came from. I love my family so stinking much and they have shaped me into the girl I am today. But with alcoholism comes dysfunction which then equals some pretty crappy behavior from all parties. I have always been the girl who has to help everybody else and keep everyone happy, at all times, at all costs. Someone is treating me poorly? It’s ok, I probably deserved it. If I upset someone in any way, I just couldn’t handle it. I’d do and say anything to make them ‘like’ me again. I’ve always struggled with guilt (still do sometimes). I felt guilty about everything. I didn’t want to go away to college because I felt guilty leaving, I wouldn’t take a job outside of MI because I couldn’t leave my family. I put this pressure on myself to stay close because that way I could make sure everyone was happy (I’m serious, this is how my mind worked). But I forgot about one thing. Me. My family never made me feel any kind of guilt that I couldn’t do this or do that, I put that pressure on myself. I had these unhealthy ideas in my head that I could be this savior and keep the people closest to me safe, happy and healthy. My thinking was so backwards. Oh, and saying ‘no’ to people? What is this word no you speak of? I’d run myself ragged just to please others. I had no clue what a boundary was and as you can see, I had a lot to learn about growing up and being a healthy adult.
During these years I knew Jesus sure, but didn’t reach out to Him too much. After my parent’s divorced and life was really hard, I was mad at God. I stopped going to church all together. I didn’t pray much, if at all, I never read my bible or my devotional. I figured I could handle life on my own, and if God was going to make life hard, well, I didn’t need Him anyway.
Come to find out, I did need Him. Like, holy crap did I ever! Who knew life gets even harder when you try to figure it out on your own? Lol. This time around with Jesus was different though. I didn’t focus on the rules. I didn’t focus on being perfect. I’m far from it, so if Jesus was going to be who He said He is, He was going to love dysfunctional Kristi flaws and all. I made mistakes and didn’t beat myself up too bad. I learned to talk to Jesus as if I were talking to my best friend. I’d tell Him about my day, I’d tell Him how thankful I was for Him but also how mad He was making me when He’d take forever to answer a prayer. We had a relationship. It wasn’t built on guilt or shame or rules, it was built on love, honesty and forgiveness. It changed my life.
Jesus has brought me out of so many dark times. I still get a little bit of anxiety from time to time, but nothing like I used to. I’m still growing as a person and Christian, but that’s just a part of living on earth. I trust God with every fiber of my being. It took me a long time to do that, but He is faithful. He loves me for me. I used to hide my true self because I didn’t always “fit in”. Now, I let the weird shine. Oh and that obnoxious, crazy sense of humor? I let that shine too! I’m proud God made me the way I am. I love that He chose some wacky characteristics to give me. That big guy upstairs has shown me how to have peace, joy, patience, understanding and empathy. He’s always teaching me something new, something to better myself and those around me. He never gives up on me and He’ll never give up on you.
God doesn’t forget about us. We may push Him to the side, but He’s still there. No matter what we’re going through, He hasn’t forgotten about you and He still loves you x infinity. You’ve never made too many mistakes. You’re never too far gone. Don’t do what I did and go through hardships alone, dig into Him harder than ever and trust the promises He has made just for you!
I have so many other stories and details about my life that have shaped me into the person I am today, but I think I’d have to write a book to cover it all haha. My life has never been perfect and never will be, but that’s okay. I choose now to look for the good in each day even when it’s hard (sometimes near impossible) to find. I still tell Jesus when I’m mad at Him but I also call out to Him when I’m struggling and know that He is there. I trust His plan and know that it’s better than anything I could conjure up.
I’m thankful for the hardships, the heartaches and the confusion because without those things, I wouldn’t even be close to being the person I am today. It’s hard to look at tough times while you’re going through them and understand what the heck is going on or what the heck you’re supposed to be learning, but trust me, someday soon you will know. Your life has meaning. Your life has purpose. God has a plan. Jesus loves you so freaking much and you’re a tough cookie that can handle anything life throws your way. Jesus wants you to tell people your story because your story has meaning and will change lives. Don’t be scared.
Thank you for reading a snippet of my life! Love you!