Hi, my name is Michaela Sarai Riggins, but if you ask my Pa, I’m known as Sunshine. I am the oldest of the grandkids by 6 years, all of which I spent being spoiled rotten. I am 18 years old, and believe me when I say that I completely underestimated the statement, “Growing up is Hard.”

You see, I’m the crier of the family, and if it’s coming from my uncle Bear, I’m the cry baby of the family. (I guess that’s why Pa still calls me his baby girl.) When I was no older than six, my family took me to my very first funeral, and I hysterically bawled, “He was my bestest friend!!” I had never met the man a day in my life.

As I grew up, I continued to be the crier of the family even with the addition of five babies and toddlers. I cried at school often because I missed my mom and wanted to go home to play with my Littlest Pet Shop, but when I was in the fifth grade, things started to change. I started to experience bullying. It was jovial at first and easy to explain away to myself, but the older I got, the worse the bullying got. By the time I was in seventh grade, I dreaded going to school and going to lunch even more. I have always been very black and white as to what is right and wrong especially when it correlates with scripture. This is something that some of my closest friends, at the time, took advantage of and used against me.

I allowed myself to stray away from God and go into really dark places. I didn’t trust God or my family, and I put all of my efforts into finding someone to blame for my suffering. I was angry, lost, confused, and bitter, because I knew that God could do all things, and if he could do all things, why wasn’t he taking away this pain?

This was rock bottom for me, but it was also when I had my “come to Jesus moment.” In our family, there is no beating around the bush. We try to hit our problems head-on, so needless to say, they presented me with two options. I could spend the rest of my life miserable and bitter by continuing on the same path, or I could choose to start seeing the purpose around me. (It was a no brainer.)

In our lives, we are always presented with choices. It may seem like the only choice is a bad choice, but at the end of the day, we still have the choice. When I say “bad” choice, I don’t mean a choice that forces us to stray away from God, even though we do have the opportunity to make that decision. What I’m talking about are decisions that aren’t what is necessarily comfortable for us at the moment.

This brings me back to “Growing up is Hard.” From the moment I chose to focus on the positives and come back to Jesus, I started to make progressively more difficult decisions. Part of this was the result of growing up, but at the same time, as I grew closer to God, it seemed like Satan fought harder to drag me away. When I started my freshman year of high school, my excitement was contagious. I was on the varsity cross country team. This was a huge accomplishment for the uncoordinated 5’7” girl I had been all through junior high, and I was finally able to do all of the speaking and drama events I had been dreaming about for the past three years. Things were genuinely looking bright. I was happy. Life was good. Then things seemed to start falling apart.

Two months before our district cross country meet, I broke my ankle in basketball practice. This was a whole new world for me. You see, I had never broken a bone in my life, and now we were looking at the possibility of surgery. Once again, I was back to being miserable, bitter, and scared. A decision that I already knew how it would play out, but I chose to make anyway. I grew angrier and angrier with God until I had yet another “come to Jesus moment.”

The entire time that I was waiting to be released to run, I continued to wake up and go to practice with our coach. Don’t ask me why I chose to do this. It was 6:00 every single morning! The only thing that I know is that God changed my heart so that he could teach me what I was too stubborn to see. One morning after practice as I was heading to my first period class, my coach caught me and pulled me to the side. She told me that despite not being able to run and missing the district meet, she was going to letter me. This was completely against our school’s policy, but she didn’t care. All she wanted me to remember was Isaiah 58:11, “And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” For me, this was God telling me, “Wherever I take you, I will provide for you.” To this day I hold onto this truth as tightly as I can. No, this isn’t an easy task, because there are days where I flat out don’t “feel” like God is guiding me or providing for me, but I know in my heart that everything that happens has a purpose, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

Just a few months ago, I came very close to losing my best friend. I was scared, angry, frustrated, but most of all conflicted. I knew what Isaiah 58:11 had said, and I knew that God wasn’t going to give me any more than I could bear, but I had no idea how God was going to bring us through this. What if I lost him, what if this was God’s way of punishing me for my sins, what if I never got to see him again, or hear his voice? There were so many “what-ifs” running through my mind from the second I found out what had happened. I didn’t know what to think or believe, but I do know that it was extremely difficult to turn to God and his promises.

I wanted nothing more than to wake up and realize that this was all a bad dream, but I never did. Instead, I had to live in the hard truth that I had to trust and rely on God more now than I ever had in my life. I won’t lie and tell you that it was easy to accept this truth, because I still struggle with it today, despite how far we’ve come. My flesh wants to solve everything on its own and be in control of the situation, even if that means that my solution isn’t God’s solution.

Every single day I have to remind myself of three things, 1) God is good all the time, and all the time God is good, 2) God is taking care of everything, and by me trying to solve it on my own, I’m only getting in the way, and 3) God’s way is so much better than my way. Just because I remind myself of these truths, doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle. Some days I’m still afraid that I’m going to lose him, or I’ll try to fix everything on my own, but once I stop and refocus myself on God and his promises, I’m able to live with more peace. Yes, I’m still a crier, but I know that no matter how hard I cry, my God is so much bigger, stronger, and mightier than all of my tears.

– Written by Michaela