This is the seventh article in our new series called “Every Heart has a Story to Tell.” As we head towards our first Thrive Conference in October, our desire is share how Every Story Matters. Please check back each week to see how God is moving in women’s lives and let us know how he’s moving in yours.

“But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength.” 2 Timothy 4:17

I took these before pictures in January 2015. Looking back now, I can clearly see I had stepped outside of God’s will for my life, although I wouldn’t have labeled it as such at the time. After having my first child and conceiving my second  shortly after, I started ignoring what my body and soul needed as I adjusted to life as a stay-at-home mom. Motherhood hit me like a ton of bricks, buried me in diapers, and I was desperately trying to hold it together. I  saw my circumstances, including my emergency c-sections, health problems, and my mother fighting breast cancer, as a reason to treat my body terribly. I felt I didn’t have a choice other than to ignore my needs to make it through that stressful time in my life.photofy (1) photofy

From 2011 to 2015 I gained 50 pounds, and the number on the scale kept climbing. Attempting to reverse this seemed nearly impossible, so I began accepting my weight problem by defending it with excuses. I felt paralyzed and unable to begin any of the marketed weight-loss plans and fad diets because I knew I couldn’t succeed with those programs. It wasn’t possible to change everything about my lifestyle overnight and I didn’t know where else to start, so nothing changed.

Years of carrying the extra weight eventually manifested as a new set of health problems. I had migraines, neck and back problems, acid reflux, anxiety and panic attacks, stomach sensitivities, even fatty liver. Every day I was peeling myself off the floor, completely depleted, trying to pour myself out to my family when I had no reserves to draw from.

Over time, the extra weight began looking normal to me. After years of getting comfortable in my yoga pants, I began wearing the 50 pounds of weight gain like a badge of motherhood honor. Even though I wasn’t admitting it outwardly, deep down I knew this wasn’t who I wanted to be.

In January of 2015, I was at my lowest. I never thought I’d share these photos publicly, but I needed them as motivation. I promised myself I would find a way to succeed in losing weight and becoming a healthier person. After making that promise, I refused to go on a diet (because I’d only quit). I refused to set up a regimented workout plan (because I’d only feel governed by it and then quit). I decided to make one small change at a time. And that made all the difference in the world.

I started by removing processed foods from my diet. I took this process slowly. Choosing one item at a time. I quickly became thankful for the small triumphs like getting through a meal without taking two acid-blocking medications. I was seeing changes at a snail’s pace, but I was excited about the new journey I had begun. I then educated myself on healthier food choices. I celebrated the new perspective on health I had for my family, even though we were inching our way there. Six months after promising myself things would change, I had lost 47 pounds and never had to conform to a diet or exercise program.

But this battle that began in 2011 wasn’t really about the weight. It was realizing I had forgotten about the life God was inviting me to live. I spent years disconnected from God’s encouragement, energy, and guidance. Not realizing it at the time, God was taking my hand and guiding me as I fearfully and sometimes reluctantly shuffled through a dark room, just waiting to reach the other side. Instead of removing my pain, God revealed his trustworthiness. God does not waste pain, and he showed this to be true in my journey. In six months, He restored my relationship with Him and improved the health of my entire family. Even if you are as broken as I was,God can work in your life, repairing your damages. He can mold you into a new person, with new habits and new joy.

God will always campaign for our hearts and our lives. If we choose to walk the challenging path of transformation with him, we’ll realize He’s been worthy of our trust the whole time.

Are there any pieces of your story God is waiting to transform? Are you ready to begin that journey with him?

About guest contributor Andrea Munsch: My name is Andrea. I was an ambitious businesswoman who turned into a passionate stay-at-home mom of 2. Coffee and creativity fills me up. I’m inspired by memories. I own a small home business (MeadowLark Digital Memories) that helps people share their stories through photographs and video. I’m a recovering perfectionist who finds  joy in messy art projects and a cluttered kitchen. My hobbies are journalism, baking, and re-purposing furniture.