This picture is pure freedom.
Except it’s not because my life is just not that perfect. In fact, if you knew my story you would know my life isn’t perfect at all. It’s not even that “Wow… I know no one’s life is perfect, but I would love to be as happy as her” kind of perfect. I have not always been happy. I have not always been an explorer. I have not always been easy to understand, and on several occasions, I’m still misunderstood. This blog wasn’t really created for any reason other than to help myself heal, and maybe to prove to myself that everyone has a story.
This is mine.
Sunflowers have not always been my favorite flower. Stay with me… I know that seems random. Like, “here we go again, another blog post I won’t understand.” But I’m really going to try and make this one make sense. If in the end it doesn’t, well then I guess there is no hope for me. This will be harder for me to write than it will be for you to read, I promise. I’ve kept myself buried for a very long time. All I can do is my best.
This is my best.
Sunflowers have not always been my favorite flower. They were my favorite when I was about 6 years old. They stood over me like my dad stood over me, except they weren’t angry. They didn’t have eyes that made me want to hide in my closet. Instead, they invited me to play. They would tilt toward the sun and my head would tilt with them. I could stand on my tip-toes but at six years old, I would never be able to reach them. Who knew I would grow up someday and walk tallest among them…?
I am 12 years old and I HATE flowers. I have no idea why.
I couldn’t remember the sunflowers from my childhood anymore. I had blocked out everything except the present moment. That six-year-old little girl was buried somewhere deep inside of me, but she was definitely stuffed in a closet somewhere. I swear I stacked millions of sealed boxes in front of that door inside my head… And I RAN.
At 12 years old in 7th grade, I finally made a part in the school play. I would be on a stage! I would stand front and center for more than a few seconds. I was the narrator. 7th grade was three years living with my dad and his new wife. I didn’t like her. I didn’t like being away from my mother, and I REALLY didn’t like that she took up all of my dads time. Now that I’m older, I realize he actually gave it to her. ALL of it, and he did it willingly. I love them both now, regardless of the separation that came several years later.
The point is that my dad showed up at my play that day. That sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Like, what great news! Keep reading to learn that my dad sat out in the crowd half asleep, while my stepmom took pictures so I would have proof someday that my dad was actually amazing, and I’ve just been looking through “the wrong pair of lenses” my entire life. I pranced off the stage overflowing with adrenaline from head to toe, and like every 12-year-old girl who wants her dad to notice her… I ran straight to him. My dad’s wife and her family congratulated me by taking a picture of myself and my stepmom. Did you catch that? WITH MY STEPMOM. Not with my dad.
The worst part of this whole thing was that she handed me flowers. I hated flowers. I hated the “I know I haven’t been here for you, but I’m so sorry” overstimulated, over-dramatized, and overplayed gesture. The part I hate most about flower gifts is that they can be purchased with little to no thought tied into them, like the dainty red rose my stepmom “and” my dad picked out for me that day. I wanted it to mean something to me, but it didn’t do anything for me except confirm that my dad, in fact, did not know me at all. I didn’t have a favorite flower back then, but even if I had had one, it would NOT have been a rose. A rose that is elegant, RED, and ready for passion. What parent buys their child a red rose? Well… apparently lots of parents do, but to me, in that moment all I heard from that red rose was “no one understands you and no one ever will”. The voice wouldn’t cease after that.
Rewind back to 6-years-old… My dad always gave my mom flowers after a fight. While I stood looking up at those sunflowers in my grandmother’s backyard that day, my mom was inside the house crying, and undoubtedly crying about my dad who always left home in the middle of the night. My life has always been a fight to keep the innocence.
This is my fight.
If you scroll up again you’ll see a picture of me standing on top of my car surrounded by nothing but a road, deserted land and rocks. If you look close you’ll see a sticker in the window that reads “Jesus is real”, and I guess that’s where it all started for me. Everyone has something inside themselves to discover.
This was my discovery.
After middle school and high-school FINALLY came to a close, I disappeared. I took myself to a whole other level of distraction. I met a woman twice my age, got into a fight with my mom about it, and eleven days later I was packing up my stuff and leaving home. She was my “girlfriend”, and note that I added quotation marks there so you will understand that leaving with this woman was a Very. Bad. Idea. I was gone for almost 2 years, and while that may seem like a short amount of time in the larger scheme of things, it was between the ages of 17 and 19 years old – my first 2 years of “adult” hood. Here is a synopsis of what happened in those two years, because I’d like to circle back to the sunflowers before my whole day is lost to writing this.
I left high-school 1 year early. Yep, I dropped out.
I moved to Estacada OR with the woman I mentioned above, and lived two hours away from cell service. Yep, I was homeless.
I moved back to the city later on, where I worked my first job and got my first apartment. I was fired and evicted 2 months afterward.
She and I went back to the homeless life for the rest of summer into fall and then winter.
While I lived on the streets I became a model and I got myself ready every morning in a public restroom at the mall. My “modeling career” started with fashion, then bridal, then bathing-suit… and then nothing. She had me doing anything that would “pay the bills”, and we hardly had any.
Don’t be fooled. My successful “modeling career” was NOT a choice.
Yep, I was trafficked. And I didn’t know it was human trafficking until only a few months ago (I’m now 24 years old) when I was finally connected with another trafficking survivor named, Rebecca Bender.
I moved back home at 19 when my dad finally decided to show up in my life. He helped me pack the few things I had left. He hid myself and my car where she wouldn’t be able to locate me, and I worked as a brand ambassador beyond the security gates at the Portland Airport. I was in debt from the bottom of my feet up to my chin. I was followed and harassed by a woman who thought she owned me, and I was taken advantage of by a man because at the end of all I had endured, I thought just maybe men deserved a chance after all. Everyone has to make mistakes at least once, right?
This was my mistake.
During my 19th year of life, I dated two guys and learned they were no good. After that, I reconnected with my ex-boyfriend from high-school. We hung out every day until I realized he was safe. He wasn’t going to hurt me or force me to sell my body. He was perfect. If there was one thing I needed it was someone who could provide safety, even if they could give nothing more. I clung to him and then I got pregnant.
At 20-years-old I had my daughter and left the man I thought was my answer. I needed something more… or different, and I wasn’t sure what it was or how to get it.
Let me clarify: My daughter was NOT the mistake. The mistake was letting fear shuffle me into a relationship that I couldn’t commit to, followed by the biggest mistake I’ve made in life thus far…
When my daughter was 3 months old I fell in love for the first time. I fell in love with a man who drank more alcohol in one day then a single bottle could hold. He talked sweetly, danced with me in the rain, and PICKED ME FLOWERS. Of course, he did these things when he was drunk so you can imagine the things he did when he was sober. He isolated himself from me, missed my calls, broke promises and lied A LOT. I guess it will come with no surprise to inform you that he broke my heart, and that was the end of that. It took two years of deep agony for me to understand that the end of one thing means the beginning of another.
This was my beginning.
I had known about Jesus my entire life, in fact, last week I read my journals from childhood and it turns out I wrote to Him when I was a kid. I don’t remember doing that, but it certainly happened. When I was 21 and almost 22, I met Jesus. And I mean I met Him. The somewhere-in-the-sky-God that I thought maybe didn’t exist finally started talking to me. He said in fewer or more words… Leave what you have worked for, I have something better. Say what? I know right. like what was He thinking? I looked around hoping I’d see a man nearby who was out of his mind and maybe talking to himself. No one was there. It was just me and an echo of the voice I had heard. When that moment passed, I began reading the Bible (Not that day, but the next day) and not because I thought it was “right” but because I honestly didn’t know how else to get to know This God who was speaking to me. How was I to know that He would have something better for me if I didn’t hear it from somewhere other than what I thought might have been my own conscience?
Turns out your conscience can only correct behavior you already know is bad.
God corrects even the behaviors we don’t know are wrong for us. And they aren’t necessarily “wrong” behaviors in the grand scheme of things. For a specific individual, any decision can be wrong for that person without being wrong for everyone else. I’m honestly just talking out loud to myself right now, and not trying to prove anything to anyone.
Anyways, the important part circles back around to sunflowers. After I met Jesus and started spending time with Him on a daily basis, He began speaking to me about flowers. He hasn’t stopped.
My sunflower story actually doesn’t start with a flower, it starts with a name. God gave me a new name about a year and a half ago, and that name is Esperanza. Turns out the name means, Hope. I learned its meaning about a year following the day He gave me the name. He asked me to write a story and title it, Hope Rising. Soon after He spoke to me about that title, I remembered a book called, Esperanza Rising. I had planned to read that book in high school and then I dropped out. I read it just about a year ago, today. I looked up the name Esperanza before I read it and that is how I learned the name, in fact, means hope. The book changed my life.
I still go by the name Heidi publically, but I’m proud to admit that when God whispers to me He sometimes calls me Espy.
The girl in the book reminds me of a sunflower. Every time I think of the character I picture a girl surrounded by a sunflower field.
Shortly after I read the book I decided sunflowers could become my favorite flower. Not long after that big decision, a dear friend of mine explained that sunflowers are unique in their ability to seek the sunlight even during a windstorm. No matter where you place a sunflower, if there is light nearby, they will look towards it. I’ve done this very thing my entire life.
About 6 months ago a woman from my church proceeded to tell me that when she looks at me she sees a sunflower. She said she didn’t know what it meant, and that was okay because I DID.
In August for my 24th birthday, I finally made my way to a sunflower field. Instead of looking up at them like I did at 6 years old, I looked at them face to face. Beautiful.
In 17 days I will be married, and as a wedding present to myself, I gave up sunflowers for my bouquet. I refused to pay money for something that God provides in one precious season of the year.
Turns out one of my closest friends (who is also one of my bridesmaids) ordered sunflowers for me as a wedding gift.
I gave up table clothes too, by the way. Found out one week later that my fiance’s brother already ordered them.
AND THAT my friends… is the provision of The Lord and a short synopsis of my story.
This is my story.