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Genie Lopez

I’m the youngest child of two full-time, ministry-serving parents. My siblings and I teased each other a lot growing up, so I didn’t cringe much at my nickname, “the accident.” I’d even smile when letting others in on our sad inside joke – I was not supposed to exist.

My parents’ lives and home were full from the start. Married, ordained, and sent off to start a ministry, their newlywed years were a whirlwind. In addition, my dad entered their union with three teen children he saw very little of, and my mother with an elementary-aged son of her own. Together they had my brother and sister. The family was complete, or so they thought. They made an effort medically to prevent pregnancy after my sister was born, but found themselves expecting again shortly before her first birthday.

The fact that I was a surprise never bothered me. I think it was more the air of inconvenience I sensed. I couldn’t ask for much of anything without feeling like I was a bother. I tried to be more like my sister, but failed every time. She was quiet, I was loud. She was calm, I was hyper. She shrunk back when challenged, I dove head first, literally, into many dares. I also longed to be like my older brother, Danny. He was obedient and compliant. I, on the other hand, pushed and kicked almost every boundary set before me. He was affectionate with close family and friends; I gave courtesy pats in lieu of kisses and hugs. To top it off, my tomboy adventures wreaked havoc on my parents’ peace of mind and finances. They paid out more in emergency medical care for me than my siblings combined.

I truly believed I was their biggest problem in life. The nickname I thought never bothered me apparently did. It provided fertile soil for a deadly lie to take root within me that said, “You do not matter.” It was with that lie in mind that I grabbed a handful of painkillers and gulped them down with a tall glass of water. I was only thirteen. Thankfully the pills came up just as quickly as I swallowed them. No one in my family ever knew I made an attempt to take my life that day. I survived, but unfortunately so did the lies within me.

I grew up, but the ache inside never dulled. Every time I thought I made progress, a huge life event turned me upside down. This was especially true when my brother died suddenly. Someone took his life in an attempt to rob him. I begged God to let me die. I could not understand why “Genie the accident” was still alive while Danny, the one with so much promise and purpose, was gone.

Soon after his death, I married one of his close friends and we started a family right away. I put off seeking help for the trauma in my life, throwing all my energy into a new identity I loved – Mother. I kept busy with my kids’ events and household tasks. I thought that by investing all I had into them, I’d have purpose, and they’d have the life I never had. Instead, the seams were bursting and my family felt the weight of my codependence. Loving them wasn’t wrong; not loving myself was.

My identity was not firmly rooted in Christ. It required the praise, acceptance and affection of people to stay afloat. When I didn’t get that, I’d fall apart. If someone didn’t like me, believe me, or if they spoke ill of me, I did everything I could to “fix” the situation or shut them out. The lies of my childhood drove me more than I realized. I was out to prove I had value. I tried to please everyone around me while keeping a tight lid on my thoughts and where they led me. I maneuvered situations and relationships that should have been surrendered to the Lord. I didn’t think He saw me. I didn’t think He cared. Nothing in me could believe I mattered.

Exhausted and disappointed, I did what I should’ve done decades before, relinquished control. I landed at my church’s recovery ministry called re:generation. I wasn’t quite sure what recovery meant, but I knew the life I led on my own was not working. Relationships with my children were strained. I was so blinded by my own pain, I couldn’t see theirs. Both of my girls already had daughters of their own by then. I wanted to understand what I was carrying so that I didn’t pass the bag of hurt on to the next generation. Furthermore, my relationship with my husband of twenty plus years was hanging on by a thread. He has a story all his own, but suffice to say his pain collided with mine. We were a home in secret turmoil. I literally had nothing to lose, so I dug in and committed to every aspect of the program. That was several years ago.

Today, my life looks very different. I don’t need people’s approval or affirmation to feel whole or sure of myself. When there’s an attack on my character or motives, I walk away or pray for the words to communicate clearly without anger. Anyone that knows me can tell you I do not execute all of this perfectly. I need His people and His Word to remind me Whose I am.

Isolating is still a temptation of mine, but I remember where that’s taken me and pray for the strength to reach out before I land at the bottom of an emotional well all alone. I never thought God could use all of the ups, downs, twists and turns in my life but He has. Now I have the privilege of leading women through the very same ministry that helped me. I get to tell them what I’ve experienced in my walk with God. I’ve learned that on the other side of a waning faith is a renewed understanding of God’s sovereignty. On the other side of shattered identity is belonging and acceptance.

I have a new nickname now. It is Genie, “Daughter of the King.”

Amanda Buccola
[email protected]
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