My story is far from normal. It honestly isn't the easiest to tell. There are twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows. This story of mine is messy and broken, but that is what makes it so beautiful. That's what allows the light of the Lord to shine through. The cracks, the bruises, the tears, the imperfection, it's all apart of the journey, all apart of being made new, being made beautiful. Something I have learned is that God doesn't ask us to come to Him with a full face of makeup on, freshly washed hair, and an outfit that screams Instagram picture. He asks us to come as we are, bare faced, messy life, and heart that longs to be fully loved and fully known. He calls us beloved and He created us beautiful.
Apart of me wants to hide the real brokenness of my story in hopes of presenting a more "put together" girl. But that truly defeats the purpose of having a testimony. I believe I was given this life, these struggles, this story to help the next girl out there feel a little less alone. I believe the purpose behind the pain and tears is to equip me with the strength and wisdom to pour into another sister or brother in Christ.
I just realized I never said my name! How funny. My name is Abby Arend. I am 19 years old and am a sophomore at Nova Southeastern University where I play volleyball! I am a born and raised Texas girl, no I don't have an accent, who has grown up with an amazing family. I have two siblings, Will who is 21, and Claire who is 16, as well as two selfless and supportive parents, Bill and Kira. To say the least, I am your typical middle child... lol.
I love sunflowers, VOLLEYBALL, sunshine, the beach, anything chocolate, and well of course Jesus. On the outside, I seem to have it all together. I am most likely always smiling and laughing at my own jokes. But I also battle clinical anxiety disorder and depression. Yep. That'll change the mood.
I was diagnosed when I was ten years old, it has been my greatest battle ever since. I also view it as a blessing. Because without that struggle, I would have never found Jesus the way I have. It took me years to view this diagnosis like that, a blessing. It also took me years to overcome the identity I had placed in being so broken, so anxious, and so sad all the time. For years I kept myself in the small bubble that made me feel safe. I stayed confined to the four walls of my bright blue bedroom and peace sign bedspread. I never tried too hard, always put enough effort in to get by, but I never EVER stretched myself or pushed myself to be better or stronger. What if I put everything I had into volleyball but it still wasn't enough? What if I pour my heart into my friends only for them to leave me when someone cooler or better comes around? What if I study SO hard for this test and still fail it? My brain functioned like this. Countless "what if's" and worries controlled my every step, every thought, every breath.
It wasn't until 2017, seven years after being first diagnosed, that I finally hopped off the fence of "what if's" and stepped into the freedom of "even if."
In 2017, I started Project40thirtyone. Project, to my surprise, blew up the first couple of months. I was able to host events, speak at church and school, make t-shirts, and sweatshirts. Project's first year was honestly the most successful year we've had.
2018 was my senior year. This was the year I quit volleyball and the year my grandma suffered from a stroke. 2018, out of all my years battling depression, is the year I will never forget, but often want to. I wrote countless blogs, Instagram posts, and even filmed a video regarding my depression, all of which I deleted before I left for college. I was embarrassed. Ashamed. I knew what I had posted had helped so many other people out there who felt alone, yet I couldn't shake the feeling that what I had to say was not important, of no value, and wouldn't help anyone. It took me a full year to recover from the suffering brought on by my depression. During that time I started playing volleyball again, was going to Baylor University, and planned to stay real close to home. Long story short (the full story is on my blog) spring break of 2019 I committed to Ohio University where I played volleyball this past year.
My time at Ohio was much shorter than expected but I grew leaps and bounds while I was there. It is crazy to me because for the first time in my life I was constantly surrounded by others, but was the loneliest I had ever been. The Christian community my heart longed for just wasn't there. And to walk this walk of faith alone for the next three years was something I genuinely didn't think I could go through. So this past February I entered the transfer portal where I would eventually find Nova Southeastern University where I am currently a redshirt freshman setter. Nova is home. And I can say that confidently because of the work God has already revealed to me.
The twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows that I mentioned earlier are woven together throughout the past almost twenty years of living. My senior year was easily
the lowest low, committing to Ohio was a huge twist, transferring to Nova was very much a turn but also a high, probably my favorite high in a very long time. My story is a mess. And it would be super easy to go through and clean up a few pieces here and there for the sake of my pride, but I’m not going to. I’m not going to in hopes that the person who does read all the way to here, can leave this site saying “I am so not alone.” That’s my hope.
And that’s honestly the goal of project40thirtyone. To help girls out there feel a little less alone, and a little more loved.
So what do ya say? Would you like to join me on this journey? If so, come as you are, brokenness, imperfection, come 100% you and
Soar with me.
but those who Hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.