Photograph by Karly Ford
Many of you may go through my blog posts and Instagram feed thinking “you’re healthy, you have a beautiful family, and you seem to have it all pulled together for a 22 year old” – but I haven’t always had a bright and shiny life. Some of my low points were by my doings but most of it was out of my control – and in hindsight I now can see how God had me in the palm of His hand the entire time.
I’ve never written my entire testimony before – I have told people my testimony in person but honestly there is so many events in my life that I have never covered it all. So, I suppose the only way to start this off is to start from the beginning (hang on tight because I am about to tell you my life story, and it’s long).
Before I was born, from what I have been told, my mom dated my dad in junior high and high school. It was a small town and they had been together for a long time. For some reason they broke up and when my mom was 19 she conceived me with a new boyfriend (my biological father). When she told him that she was pregnant he decided to leave her. She moved back in with her parents (though before being pregnant she had left home because of their strained relationship) and gave birth to me on Canada Day.
After I was born my dad (adopted father) and mom got back together, engaged, and married after I turned 1 year old. Add two more little sisters to the mix and that was our family. When I was 7 years old my dad officially adopted me – a social services lady came over asked if I wanted my dad to adopt me, I said yes, and that was that.
We moved around quite a bit in British Columbia for my dad’s work (pipefitting), before finally settling down in Alberta where there was plenty of work for my dad. We were enrolled in a cool arts school, immersed into dance classes, and had a bit of family in the area.
My dad worked long hours but we always had everything we needed and more. My mom stayed at home or volunteered at our school. I don’t remember my mom and dad having a rocky relationship but I do remember there being a verbal fights.
Fast forward 3 years, and 3 nights before Christmas. I was 9 years old and we were on a family ski trip in Jasper with: my best friend’s family, my grandpa and his wife, and my family. We were in our hotel room and my mom and dad let us know they were getting a divorce. Talk about dramatic and unfortunate timing to enjoy Christmas day. I remember crying and crying. I was mostly shocked because I felt blindsided and I was old enough to know how this was going to affect our lives.
Not to mention my mom and dad did not handle their divorce well. It was a mess with my sisters and I in the middle. My parents liked to gossip about each other to my sisters and I. My corresponding step parents hated the other parent – it was a full out war complete with lots of court dates and child support fights and all with 3 girls in the middle. Plus my dad would pick and choose when he came to see us, again a lot of tears over that.
Within a few months my mom was dating a new man, who was a widower (his wife had been depressed and had committed suicide) and he had 3 children. I don’t remember much from this time because it all happened so quickly – my dad moved out, my mom’s new boyfriend and family moved in, then they bought a house together, and we all moved in. Trust me I was an angry child at this point. I was not asked if I liked this new man or his family, I was not asked if any of this was too fast for my adolescent mind to handle. I was forced to talk to a psychologist and that is who I was supposed to talk to.
I was angry for a long time especially because this new man was Korean and traditional with his parenting, something I was not used to. I will admit I was a spoiled, entitled brat who needed a swift lesson in manners and discipline. And for that I resented him the entire time I lived with him. That’s a lot of hate for a person to carry.
While we lived with our new “blended” family we started going to church, we shopped around our suburb neighbourhood but never found anything that fit. Then a new church was being built a few blocks away, North Pointe Community Church. I forgot to mention I was an anxious teenager so new experiences were difficult for me, but the moment my mom dropped me off at NPCC’s youth group I felt peace with my anxiety. And I continued to go the youth group – there I met new teenagers, developed friendships with the youth pastors, and learned about God. I had never gone to church regularly growing up, so this was a new weekly routine for me.
One year later after finding NPCC my blended family decided that we would all get baptized at church. Today during baptisms at NPCC the pastors have the candidates record a short video on why they want to be baptized and what/who influenced them to want to know Jesus that is nicely edited and presented to the church before their baptism, but 10 years ago when I was baptized we talked into a microphone in front of the whole church answering the same things. I was mortified about public speaking so my answers were full of um’s, ah’s and a blank mind. For those who will ask: I did feel forced by my blended family to be baptized, it was not entirely my decision but that was how my life rolled at that moment. I was told what to do and if I didn’t do it, I was disciplined.
Then just when I thought maybe my prayers would be answered that my mom would leave this new man and we could dissect this blended family, he proposed. He proposed before he was baptized in front of the whole church.
After the wedding everything changed. They chose to do a familymoon, so we all packed into our 8-seater white van and drove from Edmonton, AB to Disneyland. He screamed, yelled, and threatened my mom the entire drive. I can remember being genuinely afraid because his mood swings were so intense and not even my mom could calm him down.
That’s when my life became a facade. He was a commercial real estate agent and could easily turned on the charm when he needed to – but our home life was so very different. He became aggressively verbally and emotionally abusive to my mom. Because I was the eldest of all the children I caused the most friction with him because I knew how to use hateful words, curse, yell, and blast angsty music. My heart became calloused because I was always hurting for a better life.
Thankfully I had developed 4 friendships at school that saw me through those tough years of my life. They became my best friends and I let them know everything that went on at home. It was good to have the feedback that what was going on at home was not normal.
High school started and I was immersed in my sports and my best friends, thankfully I didn’t have time for boys. I stayed away from boys until I met Matt at YC 2010, we had gone to youth together for many years but never met because we stayed within our friend groups. He came from a good Christian family with 5 boys. He was athletic, super smart, sweet and loved God. Everything I knew a boy should be.
Come grade 12 my stepfather was a raging sociopath (and I am not even joking). I will spare you the entire story because it is too long and too sad, but he ended picking up and leaving my mom with his 3 depressed teenagers. He had stopped paying the mortgage and bills months before he left her, so she had to scramble to figure out what bills had been unpaid and how to pay them.
I had been dating Matt for 6 months when my (ex) stepfather left, and I had tried to tell Matt a few times about how insane and strict he was but he never quite understood because Matt’s father was also a strict man (but his father had a heart for God, so it was good disciplinary action). He couldn’t believe what had happened. Matt’s family couldn’t believe what had happened. They had thought my (ex) stepfather was a relatively good guy.
My family made it through the next year. It was tough but we still had each other, and God had put Matt in my life. He was my shoulder to cry on when everything was a mess, and believe me I cried a lot. For a long time I cried because I was mad. Mad at my mom for letting this get as far as it did, mad at my (ex) stepfather for ruining our lives, and mad at his children for having a psycho for a father.
After graduating I didn’t know what I wanted to be. I did not feel drawn to anything or have clarity about my future. So my mom enrolled me to upgrade my grades and then apply to the ultrasound technician program at our local technology institute. An ultrasound tech makes good money and that was something that I knew would give me some stability to move out (at the time my relationship with my mom was becoming rocky, as a result of thinking I’m an adult under my moms roof).
That summer Matt proposed. We had talked about getting married a long time before (like 6 months into dating… we were two kids crazy in love). Before and during our engagement we had been engaging in premarital sex. Something as Christians we do not believe in, but let me tell you when Satan has a hold on you and you don’t re-enforce yourself with God to fight hard enough to break away, Satan won’t let go. Satan laughed in our faces at our half assed attempts to become celibate. I was on birth control during this time, and then the puking started.
It was consistent, every morning. It wasn’t until 2 months into all the puking that I finally took a pregnancy test. I took 2 pregnancy tests, then I googled “false positive pregnancy tests”, and it turns out that false positives are pretty rare while it’s more common to have a false negative. So I cried. Because I was 19 and my world was coming down around me because my actions had consequences, and because I had to call Matt to come over. We cried together.
Matt was afraid he would have to work a dead beat job and never get to go to school to get a good job to support us. I was afraid I had become my mother.
The second worst part: telling our parents. My mom casually guessed it in passing and I didn’t deny it, and she looked at me with a gaping mouth and gave me a big hug. I couldn’t have asked for a more humbling and gracious experience telling my mother that I was pregnant.
Telling Matt’s parents and little brothers came with a lot more tears, not that I held his family at a different standard than my mom, but because I felt like I had tarnished their family. I’ll be honest it was mortifying, the silence and shocked faces was heart breaking. But I remember clear as day what his father said “children are a gift from God, and this baby will be loved”. And after the initial meeting they were nothing but supportive and loving.
Before our wedding we had our first prenatal checkup, and to our surprise I was already 3 months pregnant. We had no idea you could opt out of any prescreening tests for the baby, so we agreed to everything and went on our way. The next day I received a call to come in to talk to my new OB/GYN about my results. Upon meeting her she went over my test results with me – there was one test that was red flagged.
My results for the Downs Syndrome test was 1 in 5. A woman who is 19 years of age and healthy has an average of 1 in 35 000 chance of having a baby with Downs Syndrome. A healthy woman who is 40 years of age has an average of 1 in 200 chance of having a baby with Downs Syndrome. I was confused and alone (literally I went to this appointment alone). Following this result my OB/GYN went over my abortion or amniocentesis options with me. I was now mortified. I went home and cried. I knew I would not be aborting my baby no matter what the chances of Downs Syndrome were, and I knew Matt felt the same way.
I was 3 months pregnant when we were married. Our youth pastor had moved to Airdrie to start a new job the past year and made the hike back up to Edmonton to marry two kids from the original NPCC youth group (to this day I believe we are the only ones from our church’s youth group to marry each other).
I worked so hard during that summer to get 600 hours for maternity leave, and by God’s blessing I made it. I worked right up to my due date and got 634 hours. Annaliese Jeannine Kaup was born the first day it snowed in Edmonton. She was beautiful and like my father-in-law had said “she was so loved”.
Matt finished his 3rd year into his Bachelor of Arts program when he took the LSATS to apply for law school. He had played one year of basketball at Grant MacEwan, and by doing that he had to take a lighter course load. He was one class short of being officially considered a 3rd year student (technically he was a 2nd year student). Now it isn’t required for you to finish your program before applying to law school but it does make it easier for you to be accepted. The earlier into your bachelor program you apply the higher the standard is for your application – so when Matt applied to law school as a 2nd year student he was denied. It took us some more prayer to figure out what to do and God gave us guidance. He worked for a year at his dad’s law firm, took an online course to finally be a 3rd year student, and re-applied. Praise God he was accepted!
What can you learn from my (very long) story? Know that when it feels like your life is crumbling around you, God is with you. He knows you. He wants you to know Him. And He is waiting for you to come to Him. Give your heart to Him and He will overfill your heart with peace and love.
Without the trials in my life I would have never gone to church, or met Matt. There are trials and tribulations in your life for a reason. I certainly did not see the silver lining while experiencing my trials but now that I have made it through I see God’s hand in all of my life. And I am so thankful. He has healed my hurt, my anger, and my calloused heart.
I’ve always used listening to music to move myself to healing – whether you are dealing with family issues, a heart breaking breakup, or other personal issues in your life – check out my hurting + healing playlist. I find the easiest way to heal is to surrender to God and cry out for His help.
I would love to hear you testimonies or if you have prayer requests leave them in the comment section below and I will add them to my prayer list.