On this week’s blog, we are featuring one of our own as she ventures out to begin a podcast in order to strengthen other young Christians on their journey called life. If you would prefer the audio version, visit her Facebook page. Thank you for your support.

Hello and welcome to Strength from Grace a sanctuary for the young warrior. I’m Michaela Riggins, and I am so excited to get to know each and every one of you. Before we go any further, I’d like to give a special thank you to Sanctuary Family Farms for supporting me. You can find a link to all of their awesome projects and more on my Facebook page.

Now believe me I already know what you’re thinking, “What on earth does this kid know about anything??” This past May, I graduated from high school.  Ever since I was a freshman, my dream was to become valedictorian. I was dorky I know, but hear me out. I thought that if I could just be smart enough to become valedictorian, I would have everything figured out.  I was wrong . . . so, so wrong!

Eventually, I did become valedictorian; however, I’ll be very honest with you, all I know now is that I don’t know anything.  Becoming valedictorian didn’t put me head and shoulders above everyone else, and it certainly didn’t make life magically easier. What I can tell you though is that I gained more from my struggles than I ever did my intelligence.

One of my favorite scriptures to hold onto when things are tough is Romans 5:3-5. “More than that we rejoice in our suffering knowing that suffering worketh endurance, and endurance worketh character, and character worketh hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the holy spirit which is Christ Jesus.”

Whether it be through our thinking, perspectives, or even just sharing stories, the goal of this podcast is to bring Christ’s light and love into our daily lives.

Over the years, my Pa has gifted me many names. These could range anywhere from Mac, Baby Doll, Frank, to even Turd.  But the most recent of which is Sunshine.  As soon as he started calling me this, it just irritated the dickens out of me and drove me nuts.

You see there was a period in my life where I grew this horrible habit of constantly being negative. It didn’t matter how big or small the situation, I would convince myself that there was no way for it to turn out positive.  Over and over my family “reminded,” or in my eyes “nagged,” me about how in Romans it says, “And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” But that was the thing, I didn’t know.

I didn’t know how God was using my struggles for my own good, I didn’t know if God really cared about me on the individual level, and I sure didn’t know if I was even capable of being loved back by Him.

At this point in my life, I was in a very dark place.  I was anxious, depressed, and struggled with even wanting to begin to heal.  I continued to sink further and further down until I finally hit rock bottom – turning completely away from God.

My focus shifted to how wronged I was, and I hated God for that. If He was such an all-powerful God and such a loving God, then why didn’t he protect me from all my struggles, and why didn’t He stop me when I started down this path?

I used this thinking as a way for me to continue to justify the ways that I was hurting myself, because at that point, if God couldn’t care enough to take care of me then, why would He care now?  I was extremely self-centered and narcissistic until it all just hit me like a train.

This was the day that I gave up all together.  I stopped fighting.  I had no intentions of getting back up again. At that point, God picked me up and with the strong, but loving, hand of a father gave me two options: I could choose to start looking for Him in all of the hard places, or I could continue walking down this path with (let’s face it) Satan and ultimately lose, not just myself, but my life.  I know you’re sitting there saying, “Well come on.  That’s a no brainer.”  And in some ways, you’re right, but making that decision wasn’t that simple.

I knew that I was going to have a long road ahead of me and that healing was going to take time, pain, and even failure.  It had been so long since I had been the happy-go-lucky kid who spat milk from the family dinner table, that I really didn’t know how to be happy and at the very least, positive. However, as difficult as this road was going to be, I knew that it had to be better than me trying to make it on my own.  So, I decided to start really making an effort to focus on the positive.

I started by removing myself from the people and things that I knew would bring me back to my own negativity. This wasn’t easy, because I was in junior high and this meant that there were going to be times where I would feel extremely alone.  I cut out music that I had originally turned to as a way to validate what I was feeling, and I removed myself from social media outlets that encouraged the negativity that I was turning away from.

Then I began to force myself to say the positives out loud in place of the negatives or especially after I said something negative. This was the hardest part, because I would get so wrapped up in what I was feeling that I would have to flat out stop and tell myself that it doesn’t matter how I feel.  I have to trust and know that God will take care of me.

This brings me back to why it irritated me so much to be called Sunshine.  Learning to be positive and focus on God has been nothing short of an uphill battle.  Every day I struggle and sometimes fail.  In my eyes being named Sunshine was just another cruel reminder of how far I was from where I wanted to be.

But that’s the thing, if you know anything about my Pa, he’s always wanted to see you succeed and grow, no matter how big of a turd you can be.  So, there was no way for there to be any malice behind him calling me Sunshine. If anything, it was encouragement, and so that’s what I used it for.

I turned “Sunshine” into my daily goal. Now I know that this can be a little abstract, because how on earth to you BE sunshine?  No, I didn’t start wearing nothing but yellow, but I did start making an effort to be a light for others.  I began to openly talk with friends about God and how he brought me through my struggles, it wasn’t easy at first, but slowly I became more and more comfortable as I grew confident in God’s love for me.  

Listen I get it, we all have our struggles, and I hope that I’m able to help everyone find their light and love through my testimony.  Believe me, I definitely don’t have everything figured out, but we’ll figure it out together.  Whether you need a prayer or even just an open ear, I look forward to hearing from you. You can message me on my Facebook page @StrengthfromGrace412 or email me at strengthfromgrace412@gmail.com.

Again, I’d like to say thank you to my family and Sanctuary Family Farms for supporting me in this new journey, and I hope to see you all here next week.  Thank you and God bless.