Ever since you were baptized, you wondered how God would miraculously change your life, how one day you’ll wake up completely changed for the better. You expected great things to happen; and they will believe me, but just not according to your own timeline. These expectations you’ve set for yourself are so far from what God plans to do with your life and there is nothing you can do to know what God has in store for you. But if there is any advice I could offer you,
Everything is part of a greater picture, and let me tell you this, everything happening around you right now is just a small piece of that big picture. From where you stand right now, perhaps the picture may seem blurry, unclear. You don’t see God changing you or those around you, but once you look back in a few years you will see the beauty of what God has been creating all along.
Remember that trip to China a couple years back? Remember how the people seemed so rude and so ignorant of others around them? Remember how that one trip alone, set a precedent for the entire country and culture of China? So much that you promised yourself you would never want to return again? I know that you have a deep resentment for the country, for the people, the culture, and you’ve given up; you think that there are people simply too stubborn, too rude, too hard-hearted to be loved — but you’re wrong. God hasn’t even thought of giving up on them and you need to see that, don’t let one bad experience dictate an entire culture of people because that’s not how God see’s you.
You haven’t experienced this yet, but your heart will be so radically changed when you go, out of all the places; to China for a mission’s trip. Not to any big city or tourist location, but to a small orphanage in the rural parts of the country. Everything about the place and the environment would cause you to think that only despair resided there. But when you meet those children, the kids that have come from the worst of backgrounds and you see them smile more genuinely and loving than anyone you’ve met before, you’ll realize that there is so much goodness in these countries, so much love and joy that grow out of the most unexpected places. Those kids will teach you what it means to love. And to think, there are such pure and amazing people that have never even heard of the name Jesus how could you sit idly by and not share the one thing you know to be true? Just because you’re afraid of being “embarrassed”? The one person you know who could literally save their lives! Don’t you think they more than deserve a chance?
As you continue to grow in your faith you’re going to have some amazing experiences, conferences and worship events that will fill you with the Holy Spirit in a way you could never have imagined. And one day in the near future, you’ll find yourself standing on the streets of Hong Kong, with a guitar in hand and a team of other passionate Christians around you, singing and worshipping your hearts out, not caring about what others may be thinking of you, but simply expressing the joy of being called by God and meeting that call.
You need to tell them, you need to show them, and when God calls, you need to answer.
Sincerely Your Future Self ,
Megan Joy Bravo
Dear Megan Joy Bravo,
Since the day you were born, you’ve been a bundle of joy - I mean, it is your middle name.
As a Bravo, you were born brave. It’s in your blood. But naturally, you’re a lover. You’ve always been so passionate about everything and everyone you love. Hold onto these things.
As you grow up, you’ll forever be known as the baby wherever you go — the youngest child and grandchild; shortest and smallest on your basketball team; and the bottom right spot in class photos will practically have your name on it. Small and young; that’s just who you are and how you’ll be known throughout your childhood. You know your strength, ability and heart, but the voices around you have challenged who you believe you are and limit the potential you know you have within you. You’ll grow up trying to live past this label. You love proving people wrong — maybe a little too much.
You’re independent and you’ve always been this way. You don’t want anyone to think that you need them. You don’t want to be known for your love if you’re not loved back. You’ll spend years trying to dim your light and limit your love — yet these are your greatest gifts.
Learn to be cautious of how the voices around you fills your mind and changes the intentions of your heart. You’ll soon realize that not everyone will go the lengths you would go for them, and no one shares the same heart that you do. The relationships in your life aren’t capable of filling the void in your heart that you have been desperately searching to be completed.
Growing up, you were raised to know God at home, church and school. He’s all you have ever known. I know you know He’s there, but only in desperate moments, you turn to Him. Everything I realize now, you have known it this whole time, but you didn’t fully believe in His power and greatness— and that has made the biggest difference.
The same God you have been raised to know is the same one who has delivered me from the brokenness you are about to go through. The same thing that has carried you through everything you thought you wouldn’t get past, was and is God, who has made it clear that He has been with you this whole time. Your same timid soul is still in the midst of me as I’m here at 18, yet the difference is made in my decision to pursue Christ. His promise is in Matthew 6:33 — “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added to you.”
You’re spending all your time chasing these things, and wonder why you’re left feeling so empty. You will learn that joy found in Christ is greater than this worldly success you are so determined to achieve. Every Headmaster’s list you’ve made, every award, every praise you’ve been given, everything you’ve bought, everything you want to buy — He is far greater than anything you’re chasing.
I wish you knew it was ok to make mistakes. You’re going to strive to be the very best in everything, everywhere you go — I need you to know it’s ok to not be ok.
I still have moments where I fall back into my old patterns of thinking - the way you go about life now. I start to feel anxious, overwhelmed, and consumed by fear. This is how you feel all the time, but I want you to know that it's not always going to be this way. When God's heart replaces yours, you'll have a new perspective. Even here on this earth, you won’t be alone. God will send you blessings in the form of your closest friends and family, who will be the ones to encourage you and remind you to turn to Him.
Megan Joy — my hope for you is that you live the years of your youth to the very fullest, and don't let anyone stop you from being who He created you to be. Keep stepping into roles that are bigger than your feet can fill, with confidence that God will equip you with what you need. Practice patience, hold onto your integrity and love others the way He first loved you. Remember that this world is not your home, but while you're here, live to glorify His name.
Even though I am writing this for you to learn from me, your older and apparently wiser self, I am in awe of your courage. The smallest steps of faith that you’ve taken have paved the way that I am on now. You don’t know what you are stepping into, but your willingness to be open, to let your guard down, and to share your heart has guided me to where I am now.
You are exactly where you need to be. Even in grade school, always being hooked up to the nebulizer machine because your asthma is acting up again. Even in some of your hardest years, trying to make sense of why cancer is hurting those who are closest to you. Even in your first year of University, spending almost everyday alone, questioning your purpose and direction in life.
Even in these moments, you are growing, right where you are. You are learning. You are becoming wiser. You are growing deeper roots. You are leading me closer to God.
To my younger self, thank you. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your willingness to grow. Thank you for letting God work in you. Thank you for helping me get here.
With love, from your older self
Megan Joy Bravo
God the Sculptor
I am Rambo, and this is my Atesto.
Ever since I could remember, I have always been an unpopular child. I had a lot of bullies in elementary school and many of my "friends" simply saw me as a fly, unwanted and buzzing around them. In Grade 8, instead of going to my catchment school like 99% of the other people in my graduating class, I decided to start fresh. I was desperate to abandon my past and to start anew. I was excited to meet people who I could consider as friends! I had heard many good things about the people at the high school I was entering. I heard that they were accepting and kind, and that I would be happy there.
In my first couple of months in Grade 8, I tried being what I thought was "cool". That never really worked out, and I realized that dropping the whole cool kid act would make things better with my friends. I stopped trying so hard, and what do you know? God put some friends into my life. There were still some bullies at my new school, but I had found myself a group of good friends and with them I was ready to take on any hurdle. Grade 8 was a blast and a new page in my chapter began.
In Grade 9, my friend group split up. I was still able to maintain good friendships with some of them, but there were others who became like entirely different people to me. One of the people I stopped spending as much time with hurt me in particular. This person would always act very friendly with me and we would chat comfortably on MSN or Facebook, but when there were others around us, I would feel like a ghost. I would be physically there, but this person would always focus their attention on anyone but me. Whenever I tried to join in on the conversations, I would be kicked out of them right away.
I still had my other friends, right? That would be a half truth, because the people this person would act differently around were the same people who I considered my friends. This caused anger and resentment to grow inside of me. I thought God had finally given me some friends who would always want me; instead, I felt that I was a second choice. Nobody ever wanted to pick me first in anything, not even my own friends. The thing is, I was desperate for human interaction and decided that hanging around these people would be better than being a complete loner.
The situation with my friends led to dangerous thoughts. I began feeling inadequate around my friends and to make matters worse, my mother would constantly compare me to people around me.
“Why can't you play piano as well as this person?”
“You haven't brought a painting home from classes in a long time, you need to work faster in class.”
“Why do your friends get better grades than you? I thought you were smart!”
This led to a rough time at school and at home. I was confused and frustrated. I was angry at God. I would bring myself to the point of tears, asking why I was born inferior to others. I led myself to believe that I had nothing good about me and that I was replaceable in every aspect in my life. I even felt like my mom would have been happier if I had never been born. I started thinking of suicide. I would constantly ask myself if my death would have any impact on others and the answer I believed in again and again was that nobody would care in the slightest if I died today. Although I was angry at God, I still prayed to him, trying to find an answer.
For two years, from the start of Grade 9 to the end of Grade 10, I did not get any concrete answers and my prayer became sporadic while my cries of hurt were as frequent as ever. I was able to sort things out at home. My mom tried her best to console me, but as much as I love her, she's not very good at consoling. She's very strong and was not able to grasp my struggles, but we ended up working things out. At school, I still put up a perfect facade; nobody knew what I was going through. At home, I would often cry for hours on end to my mother.
In Grade 11, God had finally grown annoyed of my constant crying and decided to do something about it. He sowed the seeds for major change in my life. I had tons of classes with my old friends but I was also put into classes where I was forced to interact with new people. There was one person in particular who I shared a majority of my classes with; we started talking. Let's call him Bob. We went from acquaintances in the hallways to inseparable friends in the classroom.
After a couple of months, Bob's birthday was coming up and I was invited. A birthday party! I had not been to one for years, my old friends were not the type to have one. I went, and had a great night with Bob and his friends. I didn't feel awkward around them and I found myself genuinely having a good time. Bob had become a pillar of support for me through the power of God. All the hurt, all the anger, all the frustration that had accumulated in my body was unloaded onto him. I began feeling something unfamiliar inside of me. It was different from the happiness I had felt before, happiness which would come and go. This was permanent happiness.
God didn't stop there with Bob and his friends. God had decided to pay me back for all the years of hurting in tenfold. He brought numerous people into my life, and he still has been doing so. Ever since Bob's birthday party, all the thoughts of inadequacy, loneliness and suicide disappeared from my mind. Now, when I ask myself if my death would impact people, my answer will be a resounding yes. Through Bob, God had saved me.
Looking back at this, I now realize that my friends who had hurt me were going through their own struggles. I don't hold them accountable for the hurt they inflicted on me; I still keep in contact with them. I have also realized that God is a masterful sculptor. I was a slab of marble in his hands. He chiseled and hammered away at me. The slab of marble looked hideous for a long time, but in one brilliant stroke, he refined me into a masterpiece.
I went through two years of suffering, but I would do it all over again. My struggles have made me the person I am now and without them, who knows what I would be like today.
I am Rambo, and this is my Atesto.
Glory to the one that saves, Jesus Christ.
As a single mom, my mother was left to care for 4 children; one of which had Autism. Growing up, I had often felt alone and neglected, feeling a deep sense of loneliness. I never had the encouragement or affirmation I needed and craved. I lacked self-confidence and social skills. I would refrain from engaging in the public world and would often find comfort at home under the covers.
I developed Social Anxiety disorder intertwined with Depression. I had thoughts of committing suicide and that gave me comfort. I felt relieved when I thought about how all this emotional pain could go away forever. I thought about how my relatives were in Iran and I knew nothing about them. My brothers were older than me and I could barely remember them being around. I thought that if I could just be thin then I would be confident, so at age nine I developed an eating disorder.
My anxiety got worse and I avoided every social situation I could. I would have panic attacks when I was just in the vicinity of people. In high school I started to drink, and that became everything to me. I ended up losing my first job at 16 when I went to work drunk. I would depend on alcohol so much to ease my anxiety that I secretly drank throughout the day. Then alcohol turned into drugs.
I went up the ladder in drugs, searching for a more intense high each time. At this point I felt that I had nothing to live for so I invested all my time and money on partying. I felt free, when in fact, I was a slave to these drugs, needing them to be “normal”. I would do drugs at school and I thought nothing of it. My moral compass was gone. I was basically living to die and I thought that if I did die, at least I would die with a smile on my face.
I hated my mom and treated her with great disrespect. I hated myself, my life, everything. To cope, I avoided thinking of these things and reverted to self-medication. I saw a few doctors and they told me that I had to quit what I was doing because the combination of what I had been taking was lethal.
But I didn’t care. There was nothing else going for me and I began hating myself even more. One night I decided to end my life. A voice inside me said, “if I die, no one would care”, that my own family didn’t love me.
I took a bottle of prescription meds and collapsed on the floor. I was rushed to the hospital where the doctor looked right in my eyes and told me “You are lucky you’re alive. You would have had a really painful death.” At that moment it all clicked; I could have died. What was I doing? How I could be so stupid? Yet despite it all, I still couldn’t quit. I didn’t have the power within myself and I didn’t see a reason to.
It wasn’t until college when I met a friend who talked to me about Jesus. I felt the love that I never felt from my family. I gave my life to the Lord and things began to change. My first prayer was, “God if you are real, take these drugs from me.” And He did.
Glory to the one that saves, Jesus Christ.