About the Author

Sarah Mae has a past that would be her present if it weren’t for Jesus. A blogger, author, and co-author of Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe, she’s currently writing The Complicated Heart, a book for broken-hearted lovers of Jesus. Learn more at @thecomplicatedheart on Instagram or...

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  1. Sarah, thank you for this beautiful post.

    Our family does foster care, and in the process have had *that girl* in our home. I pray that we showed her Jesus, that we left an imprint of love on her heart, that she knows that she has value far above her pain.

    • Melissa, I know sometimes it seems we don’t make a difference, but in the secret places of the wounded heart, the memories of love are there…and they do make a difference.

      Thank you for being a foster parent!

      • Sarah,
        Thank you for your post and comment here……both so very much needed and appreciated…..you are loved!

        Melissa Lea, as a fellow foster parent I can completely relate….we have wondered how much difference we are making. Thank you for the time you give the children.

        “Out of darkness, new life comes” a paraphrase of Anne Voskamp’s Book “1000 Gifts” (as I understood her comment, all new [renewed] life comes from a dark place or period.)

  2. Oh I know exactly what you are talking about. My story is different from yours, but there was a time where a home was a battlefield and now it is a sanctuary of wonderfulness. I always remember that girl eventhough I have the life I always dreamed of. I work at a school and I try to keep an eye out for that girl or boy who I can tell that is in that spot. Thanks for the reminder to keep shining the light into those dark places where people don’t know if there is light anymore.

  3. Sarah,
    You were writing part of my story in this also. I was that girl but I was incognito. I was the honor roll student, respectful, caring, afraid to get into trouble, afraid of the wrath of my mother. I knew I wasnt loved, I didnt understand why, I still dont really, other than now I accept that maybe she just didnt know how, maybe she wasnt loved as a child either so she never learned how. I turned to boys and sex while in HS and hoped I wouldn’t get pregnant. I didnt. I was absolutely wild when I turned 21. I was out drinking and ‘clubbing’ with my friends and was not uncommon to go home with someone or bring them home with me. All I wanted was to feel love from another human being. I wanted to hear those words “I Love You” from someone. I ended up pregnant but then miscarried and was devastated. I ran harder from people but only I ran into the arms of people who I knew wouldn’t really love me but sex was something that was an okay substitute at the time. I did eventually settle down, get married, have children and a home. I also ended up divorced and completely lonely and depressed. God guided me ever so gently to the place I call home now, to my church home that I had been without for over 18 years. He put people in my life that would tell me they love me and mean it. Friends who took me under their wings, took the time to get to know me even though they knew I didn’t trust them or their love, they kept loving me anyway. Very happily married friends. He is showing me what healthy relationships grounded in Him look like. I love these people dearly but the words simply wont come out of my mouth. They are very scary words to utter, but I want to and I will one day.

    Your post kept saying things like all we want was to hear “I Love You”. The church choir that I sing in will be singing “Voice of a Savior” by Matthew West and Sam Mizell in a couple of weeks. Its the 2nd time we have done it in the past year. It speaks so loudly to my soul that I decided I would be the one to write the devotional on it for that week to share with the choir at practice before we sing it on Sunday. You have to know that I am terrified to speak in front of people ,even a group of friends, unless you are a group of nurses that need to be trained on how to do something-then I am perfectely comfortable. This will be huge for me but I have a story to share about that song and why it speaks so much. This is just a tidbit of the song:
    You and I are not that different; we got a void and we’re just trying to fill it up with something that will give just a little peace.
    All we want is a hand to reach to, open arms that say “I love you”.
    We’d give anything to hear the voice of a Savior.

    It goes on to describe where people find this ‘voice’; alcohol, drugs, sex, money, power. How some people loose the strength to carry on and give up completely. Some people look in the shadows of the steeple, or the back row pew and then the clincher:
    Some people try to find it in the arms of Jesus, thats where I found it!
    How about you!

    Can’t you just picture it? Running into the arms of our Father, Abba, telling him how bad we hurt and he wraps his arms around you and says “I Love You”, I will take care you!
    Lisa

    • Lisa – I will be praying for you! So thankful you felt safe to share all of that here because it WILL bless someone else. I am so sorry you went through all of that. I went through similar things and it took me until I was 37 to start to understand what I was running from and looking for {that was even after being married for almost 4 yrs}. God rescued me and I will never be able to thank Him enough for His love in my life. It is the ONLY love I can depend upon and trust. I am learning to trust my incredible husbands love but that still trips me up. A life of rejection is hard to shake some days. And then there is GOD who never rejects me and always loves me and constantly gives me hope! Praying you find peace truly in Him and that you will find a man of God who will love you as the Father loves you. Big hugs!

      Thank you Sara Mae for your transparency this post is wonderful and I pray teens get to read this too. I write a weekly column Teen Talk Tuesday on my blog and these are the kind of posts needed there. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it or a link to this. The church needs to reach out to the hurting teens not just by seeing them at church – but becoming the church to them in LOVE! They need more than a building. They need His people to love them in a very tangible way!

      • Jill,
        I was 38 when I started to seek help just to change a living situation. I was 40 when I realized, after settling the living situation by divorce, that my problems go much deeper than just my divorce. It took 8 months of weekly counseling to break the walls open and expose the hurt, fears, anger, shame, bitterness etc. Maybe its something about that age 37-40 that life takes a different viewpoint. I dont know exactly. But I seriously thought that pulling my fingernails off one at a time or even going through my divorce all over again would have been so much easier to do! I am outside that cave and I am inching farther and farther away from that door. But man is it tough. I am thankful to have found this website and love that people really do respond and really do think about what others write down. I do hope one day my story will benefit someone, one person would make it all worth it.

    • Lisa, wow.

      I want you to know that today I’m praying for lies to be revealed in your life that are keeping you from love…from believing that others love you and for the walls of your heart to come down so you can really love (and say it!).

      Love you, friend.

      • Sarah,
        I did it! I said it-out loud-to someone other than my children! To someone who tells me each and everytime she sees me or talks to me on the phone. Everytime. We were talking on the phone ready to hang up and she said it-then the words came out of my own mouth before I knew it! It scared me afterwards!
        Lisa

  4. What a beautiful post and I thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your past! What a blessing and testimony you are. You radiate that your past does not have to control your present because through Christ you are born new.

  5. Sarah,

    I can relate about looking for love in all the wrong places. I took got pregnant and had an abortion in high school. When a guy at church (I went occasionally) was interested in me the pastor’s wife told him I was “bad news.” She was right. I got pregnant again at 17 and had a baby boy.

    Yet it was during that pregnancy I found Jesus. He’d been seeking me for a very long time and I finally surrendered. That guy that had been interested came around again. He’s now my husband and it’s almost our 21st Anniversary! That pastor’s wife actually tried to get us together after she saw the transformation God did in my heart. She’s now my mother-in-law. 🙂

    And as for “those girls,” I weekly mentor teenage moms. I’ve worked with many lost, hurting, mean spirited, angry, hurt girls in our support group and I’ve seen amazing transformations … all because of Jesus.

    • Tricia, I was the punk rocker as a teenager, which started me down a prodigal path but I’ve been back many years now. But I have a daughter who’s now the one walking down a path far from Him and it’s my prayer that He places people there like you in her life. Perhaps, hidden in the recessed corners of her world. Where a Jesus-follower will stop and listen to her, just the way she is.

  6. Sarah, I teach school and see this type of situation daily….Thank you for telling your story if people only knew what some children and even adults have to live with. What an inspiration you are. Thank you, Donna

  7. Oh, Sarah. I too was “that” girl in many ways. Every so often, as I look back at those years, I wonder how I ever made it to the arms of my good man, a beautiful suburban home and 2 (another on the way) precious children to raise.
    I never would have seen myself here, a blessed stay-at-home mom, but God did and He never gives up!
    It’s good to not “hide” that part of our lives for you never know who you can help or who will be encouraged that He can do anything!

  8. This has me in tears this morning! Just thinking back on my own story and how God send a special lady who could see past my wrong and see the pain I was in. She showed me real Christ love and my life has changed for the better ever since. If we as Christians would allow the holy spirit to guide us in saving lost souls, just think of how many can be saved. You never know who is just begging for a way out. I know I was on the outside looking in and felt so alone and in pain. It only took one true Christian woman to show me the way. I hope others may read my testimony and can pass their blessings on to someone who they may feel doesn’t deserve it, but God has another plan for that very person.

    http://buildethherhousewithlove.blogspot.com/2010/09/on-outside-looking-in.html

  9. You are beautiful. Thank you for sharing this and using what God has brought you through to love others.

  10. Thanks for sharing this, Sara Mae. Someone close to me is “that girl,” and it hurts so much to see her excluded by her peers when all she needs is love and acceptance. It’s a tough job for parents to know how to advise their own kids: embracing the “bad kid” is risky because they may get sucked into the drama, but excluding her is even worse because it separates us from Christ. I pray that the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to the down-and-outs in our life and empower us to love them unconditionally. Much love to you!

  11. Wow, girl!

    This post moved my heart in the right direction. And I really needed some moving today.

    Thank you SO much for sharing.

    Sweet Blessings,
    Kate 🙂

  12. Beautiful. Thank you for the reminder to love. To love people who we might otherwise turn away from.

    You’re story is beautiful, how God has carried you through. Thank you for sharing it.

  13. Amazing and powerful! I was “that girl” just a little older, after I realized the being good and getting good grades, trying to be perfect didn’t work! It didn’t fill give me the love I wanted and so desperately needed. Thank you for sharing your story, and reminding me to remember “that girl” and to always show Jesus through my actions as I may never know if it is “that girl” that just needed to feel His love. Huge Hugs! 🙂

  14. Oh yes. I know that girl. Was that girl. It’s true what the bible says – that God will restore the years that have been lost. It’s grace. Where would we be without it?

  15. I was that girl too. I can count on less than 5 fingers the people who met me where I needed them. The hard thing is being open to “that girl” in my own kids lives because I so desperately want better for them.

  16. I just want to reach through my computer screen and give you a huge hug. I’m so sorry you had to go through all this. But God has done something amazing with your story and you’re reaching many hearts with this story that needs to be told.

    There are more and more girls like this now, and we know a few of them. I’m hoping and praying God will show us how we can be a beacon to Him while protecting the impressionable mind of our daughter..their peer.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart today, Sarah..

  17. Hugs and kisses from a Christian friend! I understand the awkward teenage years & hormones, etc.

    I’m praising God that He doesn’t give up on us! I can just see Jesus running to each & everyone of us wanting to hug us & welcome us home!

    Thanks for sharing your heart & soul today!

  18. Wow! I am always amazed at God’s lavish GRACE in our lives! Who am I, that HE would pull me out of the miry pit and set my feet on solid, beautiful ground where lives blossom and grow! I, too, have a story of a young, desperate aching to receive love and value when I was a young girl/woman. It was a dangerous place to be…but God mercifully protected me! I did NOT deserve His protection, but oh how thankful I am! He has given me a wonderful husband…who i also do not deserve…and three amazing children! May God receive all the PRAISE and GLORY in my life…and in my story! Thank you Sarah Mae for being God-courageous to share YOUR story! Grace and peace to you!

    • Carla, my life verse:

      “I waited patiently for the LORD;
      he turned to me and heard my cry.
      He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
      out of the mud and mire;
      he set my feet on a rock
      and gave me a firm place to stand.
      He put a new song in my mouth,
      a hymn of praise to our God.
      Many will see and fear the LORD
      and put their trust in him.”

      Psalm 40:1-3

  19. You are beautiful and you are loved…thank you for sharing your story. It is only in the telling of our stories that they lose power over us. I too, am “that” girl.

  20. Sarah Mae~ My heart aches for the little girl you were. I was that scared, hurt, lonely girl too. I got pregnant at 16 and had my first daughter at 17. My heart aches for those “bad” girls. I know their story…. they want to be loved. If I could open up a HUGE “I’ll love you home”, I’d take all those girls who don’t have someone telling them that they WERE made for greatness and they ARE loved and show them. I also played grow-up, married twice and now have a wonderful husband and five healthy children. God is good. Have a wonderful weekend.

  21. I was that girl too. In my younger years i did have a coupla precious families that would have me in their home and show me a good family life and try to share Christ with me. God used the vileness and pain of my past and the memory of those dear families to draw me to himself years later. His Grace truely amazes me. I stand in awe that He, who is purely holy would make a way for me (us) to come to Him!! The love of those families (not my own) effected me years later. I had not thought of them in years, but the Lord was drawing ,me and my husband and i were on the brink of divorce and i had a 9 month old, i started wondering about *good* families. Because of those families influence in my life i thought maybe church had something to do with how they did life (for they both had this in common). I started attending and God saved me and later my husband. I am so very greatful they took a chance on me with lettin me hang out with their daughters and them lovin me.

    I am very cautious with who my children are socializing with. Very cautious, however we do invite unbelievers into our home for meals and games and movies and just hangin out. This way we can reach out to *that* girl and love her and help protect our children too. It is good for us all. Praise God for His redeeming love that even makes any of it possible :-).

  22. Oh Sarah Mae! So beautifully written.

    When we were growing up we had a neighbor girl that was “that girl”. My mom loved her so much. Washed her clothes..and often clothed her. Fed her, made her hairbows. allowed her to stay for hours at our home. We have so many old photos with her in the background..on the fringe wanting so bad to be a part of “our family”.

    My mom has often wondered, looking back, if it was the right thing to allow her in so close. She often exposed my sister and I to things we were unaware of, things we in our innocence were not quite ready to know. I reassure her though that the LOVE she showed this precious little girl taught two daughters to always LOVE those on the “fringe”, those who are desperate to belong, to just be a part of a loving family.

    Your words have made me wonder now what became of our little neighbor. We moved away and lost contact. I pray, PRAY, she has found what you have found. A loving husband and family of her own.

    Thank you for the reminder to always be watching for the hurting little girl…even if she’s now in the form of a a hurting woman.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Heather@ At The Picket Fence

    • I have one of “those girls” in my neighborhood right now! I have wondered, too, if I should let her come around because of what she might expose my kids to. After reading this blog and some of the comments, though, I will definitely open up my home to her a lot more. I needed to read this. Thanks so much for posting!

  23. I remember being like that girl, myself. Depression, teen angst, feeling alone, moved to dangerous situations…

    When someone does step up and show you that they really care… Wow! What a miracle!!!!

    You are a shining, beautiful example of Grace and you radiate with His love!

  24. oh, please God, help me to reach out to “that girl”…she was me 35 years ago.
    Thank you for sharing and making me cry today.

  25. Sarah,
    Oh how heartbreaking, but how bittersweet. My story is similar but different. I ended up pregnant at 15 and married. And believe it or not, still married almost 30 years later, by the grace of God. He has had His hand on us throughout our life.
    We worked for years in youth ministry and in a community youth center, and I made it a point to reach out to *those* girls. You know they are hurting inside but on the exterior they put up such a steep wall.
    Great post…
    Bernice
    8 ways to find joy everyday

  26. Thank you so much for this. Just this morning I realized that little girl inside of me who has been longing for a parent to really love her, is still there waiting. I so wanted my parents to love me – give me attention, comfort, and most of all value. I am still empty…and saddened that my life, my years…my days, have been spent trying to fill that emptiness. Especially those younger years when in trying to fill that void, to others I looked like the “bad” girl. I was so misunderstood – I was hurting, I was lonely, I craved love. I just wanted someone, anyone to make me feel special, like I belonged. I wanted to feel part of something, that I had a purpose. Thank you so much for sharing and reminding me to keep my eyes open in hopes of helping another.

    • N.K.

      One thing I had to do (which was extremely painful, but necessary) was to mourn the loss of my mother as if she died. I had to go through the grieving process. But friend, God is so faithful. He will give you what you need to fill in the gaps.

      Love to you!

      • Amazing.. I am almost 50 now and realize that I still hurt from those wantings… I have my God , my savior now but the earthly emptiness still is profound.. I am a pushing mother having high expectations from my two daughters and although, God is the only one who says “I love you” to me.. I dont want my daughters to feel that the home is a battlefield.. Want to be the safe heaven for them..I realize the mistakes I am doing Sarah Mae.. Thank you all for the stories..
        Our stories are different but the feelings are very same.. Don’t want my daughters to mourn me while I am still living.. It must be tough on both.

    • N.K.
      I have felt it, the same things you described. I also completely agree with Sarah Mae’s response to you. It most definitely is a grieving process. One that took me 40 years to get to. It was also one of the most difficult things in my life yet. But if you can find just one person you trust completely with your feelings, share them. Talk it out with them or write it out. God is with you, He was with you then even if you may not have known it or felt it. I’ll be praying for you because it sounds like we are very similar just based on our stories.
      Lisa

  27. There seems to be a world of “that” girls around. I live with my own scars from the past and now that I have 2 teen girls myself…..I’ve tried to invest a worth in them that honors God. Because I know just how not having a healthy self-worth works against you.
    I don’t want my own girls to live with the regret that I do. Or any of the teen girls that I work with.
    Thank you for sharing your story!

  28. Such beautiful redemption. Such wondrous grace. Such courage to let His love be seen so evidently through your story. Thank for you for sharing you, Sarah – and for the push to find “her” and intentionally lavish His love. Such a good post…

  29. This post touched my inner-most core. I love what your bio says; this past would be your present if not for Jesus. Your gentle reminder in this post is beautiful.

  30. Sarah Mae, this is beautiful.

    I would never guess that you were ever that girl. God has done such a work of transformation in you. Thank you for the reminder to reach out to others who feel just like you felt.

    You are a blessing!

  31. Thank you. What a touching post. All too often it is easy to forget where we have come from, that their are others hurting just as bad (or worse) then we were when we were in that place. Thank you for the reminder to let God work through us for His glory in the lives of those we might normally shy away from, for we all have a past (or a present).

  32. I was that girl too, but most people didn’t know it. I put on a great show. But when I was 18 someone saw through my act. Kim loved me when I was so very broken and unlovable. She believed in me, and does to this day. She knelt with me as I prayed for Christ to come into my life. We live 800 miles apart now, but I remember her always. One of my greatest desires is to “be someone’s Kim.” I want to give back what she has given to me.

  33. your title makes me think if something my mom once said about my friend who came to live with us because no one else would take her in. she said “don’t let her be your role model. give her a chance to let you be hers.”

    it was a profound lesson I would have never learned if I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be friends with a hurting girl.

  34. I was that girl, too. Sarah Mae. 🙂 I was the foster kid who did whatever I had to do to feel like I existed. I love your stories. I once saw a t-shirt that said, “all the interesting people have a past.”

    Love you, friend.

    s

  35. This post breaks my heart with the pain and sadness I know are out there, but also gives me hope that things can change when the right people step in to share His love with those who are hurting. Thank you for sharing!!!

  36. In so many ways this could be my story. How I wIsh I could sit with you for the cup of coffee and ask you the many questions in my mind. How did you learn to love yourself? Do you have a good relantionship with your mom? How do you stop the pain of never being good enough.? I’m happily married, have wonderful children yet still don’t love myself . Xxx

  37. Thank you for sharing your story with the world. I was the friend to someone just like you. I went to her mother’s funeral at the age of 10. I stood by her as she took all three pregnancy tests at age 12 (3 different pregnancies throughout 7th grade) and then listened to her cry on the phone after each one was aborted. I helped her recover after drunken nights and beatings from boyfriends at age 13 and 14. I took her to the nurse when she would punch the lockers and break her fingers during class, and when she tried cutting herself during a movie in science. In high school she disappeared and I didn’t see her again for several years. We ran into each other at a grocery store, me pregnant with my first child, and her with her 2 beautiful children in tow. I wish I knew how she has been since then, and I hope and pray that she has found the deliverance from her own demons. Many, many blessings to you and your beautiful family!

    Emily

  38. I like your post. I, too, was one of “those” girls as a teen who was in so much pain and desperately needed someone to show they cared. And, because of Jesus, I now have a wonderful life. We do need to keep on the lookout for “those” girls and love them with Jesus’ love.

  39. I teach junior highers in special education and every year I encounter the girls that need a mama to hug them, tell them they are pretty and that they are loved. It is the hardest job I have ever had, but I love the opportunities I have to whisper Jesus silently to their broken hearts. There are so many of these teen girls in our world today….so so many….I pray they each encounter a person who will whisper Jesus to their hearts and souls. This truly is a generation with many broken, lonely hearts that no amount of social media can fill.

  40. Wow. Your story breaks my heart because, like so many others, it was like my story. I was “that girl”. I turned to boys for affirmation and affection, getting pregnant 3 times before I was 20, one of those times choosing abortion. I don’t ever recall “I love you” at home, but I embraced it and believed it when I started to hear it as a vulnerable teenage girl. I was constantly striving for someone to love me unconditionally and to tell me I was loved because I was just me. I still struggle with this today as I strive daily to become the mother God made me to be…despite not knowing firsthand what this looks like. I am so grateful for your honesty and transparency. You remind me it’s okay to bear these scars and that I don’t have to make an effort to hide my past at all costs, something I am really struggling with right now.

  41. Sarah,
    Thank you for your post and comment here……both so very much needed and appreciated…..you are loved!

    Melissa Lea, as a fellow foster parent I can completely relate….we have wondered how much difference we are making. Thank you for the time you give the children.

    “Out of darkness, new life comes” a paraphrase of Anne Voskamp’s Book “1000 Gifts” (as I understood her comment, all new [renewed] life comes from a dark place or period.)

  42. I just love you to pieces Sarah Mae. Though I don’t have the exact same past it sounds oddly familiar….and I’m so thankful to have found the love of a good man and a greater God. I don’t always act like I’ve found that love…and I’m working on that part but sometimes I get so caught up in my un-loving past I just push the people closest to me away…hopefully one day I’ll get there.

    Big {hugs}

  43. Grace and love win the day! Thx for this wonderful reminder. I work with the teen girls in my church and always try to remember how horrible it was to be in that awkward age!

  44. It always amazes me how similar my story and yours are, concerning our mothers. This took me back to a memory long forgotten- 16 years old with a bottle of rubbing alcohol to my mouth, wanting to end it all…..and my mother yelling at me to just do it- she dared me. Her seeing the scabs on my wrists from cutting, testing out how much pressure it would take….and her acting like she believed my feeble excuse of the cat doing it.

    It’s made me so sensitive to other children that you can just tell are going through similar things in their life. It makes me want to gather them up and cart ’em off with me…..but your advice is so important: Love them. It would have made such a difference in my life had someone simply done that for me.

  45. Dear Sarah Mae,

    I am just coming upon your heart felt words now … and I just want to say thank you. I too have a past that was sunk in a pit, so unlike the life Jesus has now given me. I walked the walk of the bad girl for the first 15 years of my life … I replay it all in my head like a movie, a lifetime ago. Today, I stand redeemed, clothed in His righteousness, being set free by His truth and how grateful I am. So blessed to know you.

  46. o my goodness. tears are running down my face. there are several 3rd graders that come to my mind this very moment…i will absolutely reach out to them tomorrow.

  47. Dearest Sarah,
    With a couple exceptions, you could have been writing about me. All I wanted was for someone to think I was pretty, smart and to hold me and truly love me. I did some pretty stupid things in a desperate attempt to have those things. Repeatedly.
    At that time, I knew who God was. I knew He was with me and helping me get through it. What I didn’t know was that he TRULY loved me. He thought I was pretty. He knew I was smart. Although I couldn’t feel it, He was holding me in His arms and crying right beside me. But I didn’t know it then. No one told me. I think it is imperative that we let our young men and women know that God came to this earth and as a human, experienced all the same things that they do. He knows. He knows what they’re going through, first hand, and DOES understand. If we let them know this, there would be less teen alcoholism, drug abuse, pregnancies and (worst of all) suicide. Thank you for writing this…I am sending it to every teen I know. –Lea

  48. Wow. God is so awesome. I felt like that. After all ive not got to much, why spend time on somebody who is clearly disposible. Who am i? But the chick you hide your kids from, never mind everybody got a story..even the chick hiding from you. Well. I guess i better take these words to heart.