MY STORY

I'm a homeschool graduate. If you had met me in high school you would have associated me with TLC's popular 19 Kids & Counting show. I have ten brothers and sisters. And I used to wear long skirts and dresses. All the time.

But let me tell you, none of that conservatism came from legalistic parents who sheltered me from the real world. When my Mom first truly accepted Jesus as her personal Savior and recognized that His forgiveness and our repentance is the only true way to get to heaven, she wanted to do something for Him. He asked her to have children and raise them for Him. And so she did. I am one of the 11 fruits of her labor, but my conservative choices rose from my own personal zeal to give God my very best.

True, I was raised to seek God first in whatever choices I made. But I embraced this with my whole heart at the young age of 9. I didn't start out this way, though. Before Christ became real to me I was bitter. I'm a type "A" control freak who wants to boss everyone I meet, easily holds grudges, vainly cares about what I look like more than anything else, and whose main talent is the art of verbal abuse. I know. That's a huge list of negatives about myself. My parents were very patient with me and they tried really hard to explain to me in a deeper way why I should be selfless, forgiving, and avoid cruelty. I tried hard to accept Jesus and live for Him, but I just couldn't. It all seemed fake to me. I couldn't see that He was anything more than a God who was unapproachable and too perfect to relate to.

I'll never forget Mom softly sharing with me the story of Christ's crucifixion in an effort to explain to me forgiveness, that I might forgive those who hurt me because of the forgiveness I was shown by God. She made clear that Jesus felt every pain and temptation the same as a human, and yet He still made those sacrifices for mankind. For me. The tears rolled down and I felt broken. The beauty of what Jesus did for me was finally clear to me and I knew then that a personal relationship with the God who loved me so unconditionally was what I wanted my life centered around and focused on above all else.

The control freak in me still flares. The type "A" tendencies still manifest and I lose my temper. But I am free of grudges and I am walking in the grace of His forgiveness. And I am awestruck of this.

So I wanted to do something for God with my life. Growing up in a family that does everything contrary to what the rest of the world does, caused me to see firsthand how people can be unjustly treated just for being different. I watched my family be questioned about the legalities of their home education choices, their birth at home choices, their decisions not to immunize their children. And yet, I saw that those who understood the law were not easily taken advantage of or pushed around. They could protect themselves and did not appear vulnerable.

One of the verses I clung to when deciding what to do with my life was Isaiah 1:17:

Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.

I sped through high school and finished when I was just 16. I worked for a year to pass CLEP tests and earn enough money to pay my way and be qualified to go through a year long paralegal program through a Christian law school.  I eagerly started a juris doctorate program at 19 while working full time at a ministry organization doing administrative work. I had a few setbacks that first year in law school and soon realized that I needed to get more serious about law and look for a paralegal position.

I became a paralegal at a christian advocacy group for private education and finally felt like I was doing exactly what I first dreamed about when I was 12 years old. And then I met my now husband. I was 22 and he was my first boyfriend. I no longer wore long skirts, but I still clung to many of my conservative views about relationships and purity. He was in college and also a homeschool grad, so we shared a lot of the same conservative views. We were oh so in love. We did save the ultimate physical part of our relationship for marriage, but we made so many mistakes from our original rules that we had set up for ourselves as we got swept up in our passion for each other. I think this was the first step towards losing my first love and zeal for Christ.

During this time of falling in love I started to focus all my energies on supporting Chris's dreams. His favorite verse was the same as mine and his goal was law school after he finished his under grad. It seemed like a match made in heaven, and all of my own plans turned into short range plans like our wedding and our first baby.

We got engaged right after I finished my second year of law school. I put law school on hold to plan my wedding and help Chris pay his college tuition so that we wouldn't have any more debt than necessary when we got married.

Marriage was bliss for me, but for the first time I started thinking more about myself than ever before. How could I please my husband? How could I make a house nice for us. When should we have children, and how can I lose more weight? We had a baby only a year and a half after we got married, and I decided that returning to law school was not an option for me.

God was always there. He watched Chris and I build our family and make our choices as newlyweds. He grieved yet forgave as we repented of the mistakes we made while we were dating. And life started for us.

We've had a job lay-off, a dramatic move, a short sale, three babies (so far), and life has certainly happened to us. Again, God has always been there, but perhaps not always at the forefront of my mind. Instead a lot of my focus was on the practical needs of my family.

I started this blog as a young mom of 25 with my sister. I was working from home as a paralegal. I had no plans to go back to law school. I was going through a bit of an identity crisis, trying to figure out who I was now that I was home alone with a baby and tied to my computer working all day. I wanted the blog to be my outlet for creativity. My sister and I posted about nonsense (beauty and fashion) and then I started posting pictures of what I wore every day as I navigated my way through style on a tight budget. Most of the time I looked ridiculous. Very rarely did I get an outfit right, and just about never was I actually "fashionable."

My sister has since stopped posting as she found many other creative outlets she preferred to blogging. I have continued blogging. I really enjoy finding amazing deals on clothes, and enjoy putting together many outfits on my small budget. It's been fun documenting my style journey.

But this past year I've been remembering my high school days. I've begun to really understand what it's like to have my identity back. My identity in Christ. Not as a wife. Not as a Mom. Not as a blogger. But as a follower of Jesus Christ.

I am going back to law school in January of 2015. I only have two years left. I no longer want to post mainly about style or fashion. I no longer need followers for this blog. I no longer care. This blog needs to be a reflection of what really matters in my life: God, family, my life work, and those in this world that I can impact for Christ.

To those of you who have followed me from the beginning and are still there, thank you for watching - it's been fun! I have no plans to delete the archives, so my style posts will always be on here, and I'm sure a few style posts will show up in the future every now and then.

To those of you who have just found this blog, please be prepared to hear a lot of raw talk here. I still don't have an exact direction for the blog except that I know it will simply follow my journey in life, whatever that may be. I can no longer remain silent about what is truly the most important part of my life: my faith.

-Vanessa Ridley