Your Story: Joy McMillan

Note from Alana: Joy and I met through the pre-marriage program Josh and I participated in. Joy and her husband Joe were the leaders of our group. This was almost 7 years ago! I have greatly enjoyed the development of our friendship and I’m honored to share Joy’s story here today. 

I Once Was Lost
shared by Joy McMillan

I’m sure the longing to live in someone else’s skin started long before the awkward puberty-stricken days of 7th grade, but that is when I recall the daydream beginning.

And the dream always unfolded in the exact same way: me, in all my spectacled, short-haired clumsiness, standing alone on the playground.  Some sort of chaos would inevitably break out amongst my classmates and the distinct need for a hero would arise.  This is when my fragile heart would practically beat out of my chest with excitement – it was my cue, my moment to shine.  Even if it was painfully nonexistent.

I would step forward and, reaching around to the back of my neck, fearlessly unzip the ugliness – shedding my unsightly exterior, effortlessly stripping away the insecurity and self-loathing, peeling back the too-tall, too-thick, über ungraceful façade to reveal the jaw-dropping beauty within.  Boasting long, gorgeous hair, a tiny waistline, and a beautifully feminine face, she turned heads, won hearts and solved schoolyard problems.  And she was everything I was not

This is usually where the daydream ended, but it was enough.  Enough to temporarily satisfy the ache in my heart.  To be beautiful.  To be confident.  To not be me.

Along with the embarrassing arrival of ‘aunt flow’ at the tender age of 10, came pimples, attitude and dieting.  And the painful discovery that – in my unrealistic, perfectionistic opinion – who I was would never quite be enough.

I was a royal mess on the inside…and nobody knew it.

You see, I grew up in a solid Christian home, was raised by amazing parents {who remain besotted with each other} who love my 3 sisters and I well, was an excellent student and knew exactly how to behave in public.

A people pleaser par excellence.

It would seem I had every reason to succeed at life.  All the makings of a healthy, well-rounded, confident young lady.

But something was horribly wrong behind the scenes as my mystery wounds festered, alone in the basement of my heavy little heart.

There was no good reason for the brokenness in my life.  No explanation for the shame and insecurity that ran rampant in my mind.

When in doubt, try harder, was my unspoken mantra.  Work harder, diet harder, evolve more, do more, rock the boat less.

So naturally I blamed myself when, at the age of 15, I found myself drunk and being raped by the brother of the guy I liked.  He flew home to England the next day.

And so my enigmatic descent into the belly of the promiscuity beast began.

I lost count of the number of shop-lifted pregnancy tests I took behind closed bathroom doors before the age of 18.  My conscience wasn’t numb, it was just so used to being in a state of worthlessness that it no longer mattered.

I was so beyond the “amazing grace” I had heard about all my life.  God’s arm of mercy and redemption was far too short, and most certainly too dogmatic, to {re}save the likes of me.

Somewhere along the line I had lost sight of His heart.  Of Him.  Settling rather for head-knowledge and religion, and falling painfully short of the mark.

Religion had rejected me, and I had all but abandoned it.

It’s astounding the foolish choices one will make and the painful things one will endure when desperately heart-hungry for value.  When dying for {worldly} affirmation.  When aching for {true} love.

The way we flesh out our existence in this world will always disclose where our identity and self-worth – or complete lack thereof – lies.  It exposes the tender underbelly of our belief system.  The very essence of who the Creator is to us, and who we believe we are to Him.

And my sterile system of beliefs came crashing down on February 18th, 2000 when after 2 ½ years, the only guy I thought would want me – along with all the {unknown} baggage I came with – broke my heart, leaving me with a ring on my left hand and the payments to cover it.

How could God allow me to be so abandoned and rejected?

But you know, this is the second best part of my Story because this is exactly where God stepped in and met me – in the midst of all my messy, angry brokenness.  He used the agony to get my attention and begin the wooing process.  He had always been there – cradling and protecting me in ways I never understood – I had just been too blind to notice His fingerprints.

During the next couple of years, God started to restore my heart.  But while healing had begun, fear of exposure and rejection kept dirty secrets locked tightly away.  No one could ever know the things I had done.

And then it happened, the best part of my story.  I met the one who would end up walking alongside me through the façade into authentic life, fighting for my freedom, loving me through the ugly days, picking through the debris of a past studded with rape, depression, kleptomania and promiscuity, pressing on to grab ahold of the identity and value he knew was mine to revel in.

God knocked my socks off with His outlandish grace, revealing His tender heart toward me, exposing lies that I had believed about myself and about what it means to follow Jesus, restoring my identity, and healing the brokenness in my heart, mind and body in ways I never dreamed possible.  His wildly outrageous love has restored the deep, dark places of my soul and won me over in the most beautiful of ways.

I can now share openly about my messy life because it is through my shattered past that He shines brightly.  I am a trophy of his grace.

My hubby and I had the opportunity to travel to Southern Africa {my homeland} 6 years ago, where God revealed a missing piece of the life puzzle He has slowly been assembling with me during the healing process.  A crucial chunk of my life that, out of little 4 year old self-preservation, I had blocked out.  Sexual abuse, at the hands of someone my parents trusted, and my older sister and I adored.

Finally it all made sense.

The McMillan Family

In His faithfulness, God had brought me back – alongside the precious man who had fought faithfully for my wholeness – to the very grounds where the damage had been done.  We walked the property hand-in-hand, cried together, and celebrated closure to a devastatingly destructive chapter of my life.

Then my God, in all his sweet sneakiness, brought new life out of this redemptive time: we found out we were expecting our first child shortly after we arrived back in Michigan.

We named her Alathea Grace.  Alathea is Greek for “truth”.

She’s the fruit of an experience drenched in truth and seasoned with grace.

A beautiful representation of God’s ability to bring joy and new life out of our pain.

Joy McMillan is the love-struck bride to her best friend, proud mommy to their two wildly wonderful kids, and is, quite honestly, a recovering control-freak.  Originally hailing from Southern Africa, she now makes her home in central Michigan.  She owns her own freelance graphic design business, www.simplybloomdesign.com, and is budding writer when she’s not wiping little bottoms, clipping toenails or sweeping up cheerios {for the 37th time in one day}, occasionally wears knee-high boots at home and slippers out of the house, and drinks entirely too much tea & coffee for her own good.  With a passion for marriage ministry, and fleshing-out an authentic love-affair with her Savior, she now finds herself navigating the often overwhelming waters of motherhood {and is determined to bloom where she’s planted, poop and all}.  She blogs about her gloriously messy life at Simply Bloom.

You can also connect with Joy on Facebook.

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6 thoughts on “Your Story: Joy McMillan

  1. Wow, Joy! Thank you for your vulnerability. What a beautiful redemption story. Over the past couple years of God restoring my identity, I’ve realized its importance. I often ponder how I can help other people avoid making the huge mistakes that inevitably follow a person with a lost or false sense of identity. As a mom, how do you work to instill a Christ-centered identity in those lovely kids of yours? With two months before my wedding, I’m looking for some parenting advice to file away for later use! 🙂

    • Thank you, Amanda! And what a fantastic question!! I started the discussion with my parents after I read your comment, and want to chat with my hubby this evening…so my response is coming, but I thought this would be a powerful topic to hit as a blog post (because, as I’m sure you picked up…brevity is not one of my spiritual gifts!) 🙂 Stay tuned! And CONGRATS on your upcoming marriage…how wildly exciting!

  2. Joy McMillan is an amazing person – I have been privileged to hear her speak a couple of times. and even gotten to spend some quality time with her. She’s easy to ‘fall in love with’…and her name REALLY does live through her. How awesome that she shares the God-redeeming testimony that she carries within her. She has wisdom far beyond her years and a terribly delightful sense of humor. Just gotta adore this fine woman of God. Thanks for sharing this story that needs to be repeated again and again, to give other women hope for their future. God bless both of you richly!

  3. Joy, reading your story brought back memories from my own past. Things that I know I am still processing through. Like Amanda, I appreciate your vulnerability – to know that another woman can relate to my pain and high standard of perfection. What blessed me the most about this part of your Story, is that Joe was right there with you and did not leave your side. I cried when I saw that he re-proposed to you – FULLY KNOWING – what he was getting in to. I cried again when you shared that he was able to physically walk with you on the grounds where you were abused. To be there. To support you. OHMYGOSH, he is freaking amazing! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your Story here, Joy! I love you, Woman.

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