Finding Freedom, by Heather Deroche
Nash’s Note: Over the years, Heather has become my second mom. She’s also become my assistant, my therapist, my chef, my stain remover, my seamstress, my pharmacist, and most importantly, my friend. I continue to watch her grow each year, as she breaks free from her past. Through all the highs and all the lows, her faith continues to build. I’m honored to have her words on my site, because those words are filled with power and freedom. This is one of the most relatable guest posts I’ve released.
My life has been in a season of turmoil lately. I am currently focusing on finding my way back, reconnecting with God, and getting to a place of peace. Here’s a glimpse into that journey.
Freedom is such a loaded word. What does it truly mean to have freedom? The answer to that has changed over the years for me. It’s looked very different in each season of my life. As a child, it looked like escaping from abuse. As a teen, it was finding my place in a world that I never really felt like I belonged in. As an adult, being married, and having children, the look of freedom changes even more. I would try to find time to escape and be alone: a few precious moments to breath. In more recent years, my definition of freedom became finding peace. Peace from the noise that fills my mind. Peace from the lies that had been spoken over me. Peace from depression and all that came with it. Peace from the overwhelming weight of life, and all the drama and chaos that surrounded me.
Stop the world
I found several things that would give me momentary glimpses into what peace felt like. Brief moments where the world around me stopped and allowed me to focus, even if only for a minute. Worship music calms me and helps me to find my balance: lifting your hands in worship and surrendering to God creates a bond, and it opens up a beautiful conversation.
I have also discovered a love for hiking. For some people, it represents endurance and fitness. For me, it’s the physical definition of what freedom should look like. When you’re in the woods, there is such a calmness and serenity. Out there, you have no choice but to have an intimate connection with God. When you stop to take in all that is pure and natural (the sound of the wind, the song of the birds, the rushing of the water, the rustling of the leaves), it’s all so calming to the soul. Life gets so busy and so loud, but out there, it all goes away. It opens up that true connection with God.
Twelve Years Ago
I’ve come to realize that throughout all of the seasons of my life, I’ve had the ability to find freedom in whatever form or definition I needed. It has been right there at my fingertips the entire time. Twelve years ago, I gave my life to Christ, and for those twelve years, I convinced myself that I was living for Him. I’ve had ups and downs and grown a whole lot. I know that no matter what, He has walked with me and carried me through so much—sometimes, even as I’m kicking and screaming. Even though He’s always been right there beside me, loving me unconditionally, I realize now that I have never fully accepted all that He has for me. When I look at freedom from Christ’s perspective, it is so much different than any definition I could imagine on my own.
What freedom really is
People always ask why God allows us to go through all that we do. I have heard many explanations to this, but I truly can say that I understand it now. Recently, I have gone through a season of change that has caused me to stumble a bit. Through this season, I have gained a new sense of what freedom really is. While I have lost so much, I believe it was God’s way of helping me to see the freedom that He has for me. I focused so much on my own understanding. I couldn’t see past all of the noise. In order for me to really and truly see Him, lean on Him and live for Him, He had to break me from those things. I will never find freedom in people or objects, not in money, or in any worldly possession. I certainly won’t find it while trying to maintain control. God gives freedom willingly and freely. All we have to do is submit our lives to Him. Not some of it, not bits and pieces of it, but fully and completely.
I am currently working on making some positive changes in my life. I will no longer let my past define me. I have been made new in Christ. I will no longer try to control situations or people. “Helping” isn’t always helping, as much as it is controlling. I will no longer try to fight against situations around me, because the fight is not mine, but God’s. I will no longer try to force life to look like what I want it to, because God has bigger and better plans for me. I will no longer allow myself to feel alone, because God has brought some amazing friends into my life. I will not allow myself to lose sight of that again. I will no longer live my life afraid. God says “Fear not. For I am with you.” So I plan to take every opportunity that He puts before me, and I’ll listen more intently, not letting the noise interfere. I’m sure I will stumble again, but I know that, no matter what, God will be right there with me, lovingly guiding me right back where I need to be.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30
“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalms 46:10
I have been through so much over the last few years, but through it all Gods word to me has remained the same. Just be still. Be still and listen. Be still and wait on my timing. Be still and have faith that I have a plan for your life. Be still and know i will provide all that you need. Be still and feel the love I have for you. Be still and give the chaos to me to untangle.
That’s such a hard concept for someone like me. I am the queen of the control freaks!! I am all about fixing things. It has been incredibly hard to just let go and let God. And in the beginning I didn’t listen. I continually tried to do things myself and failed miserably at it. Through everything, He has shown me that when I am still and just wait on Him, things turn out so much better than I could have expected!
He has made some big things happen in my life. I stopped everything and just gave it all to Him and He has led me down a windy path, but so far its brought me to some pretty amazing things.
Culinary school was my first big step. I had wanted to go for a long time, but was discouraged and told it wasn’t worth it. It was so worth it for me! This was a time that God used to help me find my confidence and my voice. When I first started I was shy and scared and very timid. Didn’t know what to do and was afraid to make mistakes or even ask questions. I met so many amazing people there that helped me to grow through that. By the time I graduated I was a whole different person. I knew I could do whatever I set my mind to after that. While I don’t foresee me ever working in a busy kitchen, I do feel like I can take on whatever God has for me in the future because of the confidence I gained there.
Arkansas was the biggest move. If you know me you know my love of the outdoors. Hiking, camping, kayaking, atvs, etc. are all things I absolutely love to do! I could not be in a better place to do all the things I love. I felt so strongly that it was time and I needed to go right then. Most didn’t understand and they still don’t, honestly I really don’t either, but I know it’s where God intends for me to be. It has been a crazy transition, but God has shown up so many times. He brought me a home when needed, a job, and a time to relax and grow and change. He did bring me to Arkansas for a reason though. Shortly after I got to Mena my best friend here lost her husband to Covid. Being there allowed me to walk through one of the most devastating times in her life with her. God brought me to Mena in His perfect timing to allow me to be there for her and her kids. I am so grateful to have been able to be there for them! This was a hard time and I know I was where I needed to be. I do, however, feel Mena was just a stepping stone to something so much greater.
Hot Springs is something so much different for me. Honestly I feel lost here. I have no idea what I’m doing here. I came here knowing no one and having no connection or community. I prayed hard about coming and God opened a door that made the answer quite obvious to me. I have been here a few months and still don’t really know anyone. I pray continuously for God to show me what His plan is. I want His will for my life, not my own. Its so hard some days, but I try every day to walk in joy and peace knowing that His will is perfect and His timing is impeccable. I wait patiently (sort of) and try to be open to hear His word and move as He would have me move and live as He would have me live. I’ve never been without community of some sort before. I go to work and church and go through the motions, but it’s the epitome of relinquishing myself to God. Everyday is a struggle, but my faith never waivers. I know in His perfect time things will line up and fall into place. It’s hard to be alone, but it forces me to have no one to rely on but God.
So many times I have come very close to packing up and going back to Louisiana. I miss my people and want to be able to be there for my girls, my grand baby and my friends, but that would just be going back to my comfort zone. I know I will never be able to grow past my current situation if I go back now. I will stay stuck in the rut I have been so desperately trying to dig myself out of for some time now. So here I am, out of my comfort zone, looking to God to bring me through. I pray for peace and strength to grow to be the woman that God intends for me to be. I pray that He shows me my place in His kingdom, and what He would have me do to share His amazing word with those around me. I pray that my relationship with my girls be strengthened and that our bond would continue to grow as they get older and that they can eventually understand my decision. I pray that God would bring an amazing man of God into my life that will walk along side me, love me for who I am and help me to continue to grow in my faith. I pray that God brings people into my life that I can share in community with, as I did in Louisiana. People that can help me to grow and I can do the same for them. Finally I pray for contentment in wherever God leads me and that He will help me to tame this wandering spirit I have and help me to find peace and rest in His perfect plan for me!!
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
This Is My Testimony
My parents divorced when i was 4. My mom married again very quickly. My step father was very abusive and I lived my childhood in constant fear. I was scared to go home a lot of days because i never knew what i was going to be walking into. There was constant fighting and strife and i never felt at peace. I so desperately wanted to feel loved that i myself married the first man that came along at 20 years old, which put me into another abusive situation.
I lived with constant depression and major anxiety. I always tried to make things work and walked on egg shells every day of my life. I tried so hard to make sure everyone else was happy that i completely lost myself. I was not the best i could be for my girls and it showed. I spent so much time trying to make everything perfect that i alienated people around me including my family. I pushed so hard to maintain control in every situation. I became manipulative and harsh and judgmental.
I never knew God growing up and only ever stepped foot in a church if i attended with friends. God planted a seed in me through a Jehovah’s Witness that came to my door one day. She was the first person that had every really talked to me about God and faith. This sparked something in me that i didn’t understand but i wanted to know more about it. I started reading the Bible and asking questions and really wanted to know more.
One day i decided to skip out of work and ended up at the library. I came across a friend from work that was pretty much doing the same thing. That day she invited me to attend her church the following weekend because she was singing. I really wanted to go to hear her sing so i took my oldest daughter and we went to check it out. I felt so moved that day by the sermon. Hearing about the heart God has for us and meeting all the people and seeing how passionate and happy they seemed made me want more of what they had. I gave my heart to the Lord before i left that day.
Over the next 14 years i immersed myself into serving. I served in children’s ministry, hospitality, outreach and many other places. I walked into church every Sunday with a smile on my face and did what i thought i needed to, but at the same time i was a completely different person outside of those walls. I checked all the boxes and did all the things that i thought i needed to do to earn God’s love. I worked very hard to make sure that everything i did was done to perfection. All the while not realizing that God wanted so much more for me.
I completely walked away from my marriage 7 years ago, after 20 years of chaos and turmoil. I had tried many times over the years to do this even to the point of getting divorced previously but eventually going back and getting remarried thinking things would be different, but they weren’t.
This began a healing process for me. I began to try to figure out who i was, but at the same time i still was not submitting to God. I had been saved for all of those years but never really understood the relationship part. I served from the wrong place and never really put God’s people as first priority. I was working full time at my church and was majorly involved in my community and at my kids schools and did all the things i thought i was suppose to, but still walking around every day with this mask on that I worked very hard to hide behind.
Underneath that i was still that lost little girl longing to feel loved. The depression and anxiety was still there, the need to control everything to make sure it was all perfect was still there. The need to fix things and make everyone else happy was still there. I honestly felt a really strong connection with God, but never was willing to give up full control of my life. I kept hearing Him over and over again tell me to just be still and i just wouldn’t listen. I kept pushing forward and trying to fix everything in my own power. So since I wouldn’t relinquish it willingly God allowed me to go through things that slowly stripped it all away. I lost my job, my house, my car, my three older kids walked away, my health took a negative turn, relationships were shattered and i just felt lost, completely broken and alone. When i was at my lowest and just completely broken i cried out to God through tears and heartache and just prayed for Him to take the pain. I just kept hearing the same phrase over and over again as i prayed. Who will love me for me, because that is what i so desperately wanted. I finally realized it was a song that I don’t ever think i had heard before. It’s by JJ Hellers and in it she she talks about all of these people that had the same cry that i did. They were broken and just wanted to be loved. At the end of the song God answers. He says;
And now that you’ll listen, I’ll tell you that I will love you for you Not for what you have done or what you will become I will love you for you I will give you the love that you never knew.
Hearing those words changed everything for me. It was like a switch flipped and i just saw the world differently. It was during that time that God opened my eyes and showed me that i was never really in control of anything. I needed to just give it all to Him. It took me several years to work through all of this and finally just give it all to God and get to a point of here i am God send me. I can sit back now and look at the journey that he has brought me on and see His hand working every step of the way, but in the moment its just so impossible to see. When you are in the storm you just want to know why, but its in that storm that God takes all of your broken pieces and is able to put them back together into what He has for you to be. Things may not make sense to us, but He knows the outcome.
At one point when i was in the worst of it there was a visiting pastor at our church. He called me up and told me that God was going to restore my joy. That He was going to completely turn my life around. That i would laugh again and find peace. The thought of that was so far from anything i could have even considered at the time. But it opened my heart to the possibility.
I have done and said things I am not proud of. The person i was before was not what God wanted for me and it is shame that the enemy has tried to use to hold me back. Any one who knows me knows that i have a big personality. And the enemy twisted that into someone that today I don’t even recognize. God has healed my heart and my mind and brought me out of the depths of a pit that seemed impossible to climb out of.
When He called me to come to Arkansas i had no idea what i was doing, but i knew it was where He was leading me. I originally came here with no job, no money and no community. I literally threw everything in a moving van and came here with no plan. I had just graduated from culinary school and knew that i needed a fresh start. It’s been a very rocky road since i have been here, but that road eventually led me to Encounter. I walked in the door very quiet and tried to sneak in and out and hide in the crowd. That didn’t last long though. God has opened doors for me here that has allowed everything that i had lost along the way to be restored to me and so much more. Since i have been here i have felt so much love and support. I feel so at home here and know i can just be me, minus the mask and the fake smile. I have felt the unconditional love that i so longed for. God has blessed me immeasurably more than i could have ever even begun to imagine. He has brought people into my life that have shown me that i can be my crazy silly self and its ok. And i love that!! He truly has restored my joy and allowed me to laugh again. And it is so amazing to me to look back over my journey so far and literally be able to see God moving in my life. And I didn’t have to do a thing but be still and listen and be obedient to his will.