Thank you so much for visiting this website – I love that you’re here!
My name is Jenny Chang and I am a 21 year-old raised and living in Auckland, New Zealand. I dreamed and created The Lilac Road blog and non-profit to give young women much needed encouragement & hope, to give them guidance through their struggles with things like depression, suicidal thoughts and low self-esteem, and to give them a space where they can be listened to, heard and understood. Although my life has been a rocky and damaged one, I am passionate about helping women through sharing the storms I have been through. I hope that you will be inspired, encouraged, and filled with a little bit more hope as The Lilac Road continues to post things that are born out of a pure love for you. As an introductory post, I would like to share a little bit about my who I am, where I came from and my testimony.
My story starts with me being born in Busan, South Korea in a refugee camp. My parents fled their war-torn and famine-stricken countries to end up as refugees in Korea where they lived for four years without hope of escape. The camp was told that hell would freeze over before they could ever leave. So, when I was four months old and we were on a plane to a new home in New Zealand, it was a miraculous story of God’s grace. While I am of Chinese and Vietnamese descent and born in South Korea, I am a Kiwi at heart and I proudly call New Zealand my home.
My mum took me to church while I was growing in her belly, so growing up, it was natural for me to be raised as a Christian. However, it’s not to say that I didn’t grow up in a broken family home. My earliest memories of my parents were of my dad being physically abusive toward my mum and myself starting from when I was just five-years-old. Until I was 16, I experienced all kinds of abuse that sporadically went on in my family. It scarred me and I drifted ever further from God and the church.
Growing up, I didn’t consider myself to have a dad and I hardly saw my mum. My dad had lost my respect and I chose not to talk to him, and my mum was constantly working to provide for my family. Two years after I was born, I was given a little brother, but even him and I had issues similar to what I had with my dad. My family was, and still is, a distant and damaged one.
As a result of my relationship with the men in my family, I ran to every man that showed even the slightest interest in me, thinking that it could fill that void in my heart for a man’s love that I had never known but was desperately seeking. I was wrong – they always ended up using me. Slowly, I began to form a love/hate relationship with them, and my distrust and weariness of them grew even more.
I tried finding other, equally hopeless ways to ease my pain. I started drinking at 14 and also started smoking and experimenting with drugs shortly afterward. I went underage clubbing at 16 and led a life where I would drink spirits straight from the bottle and party until the early hours of the morning, all before I was legal.
I was also struggling with my appearance and weight. Because of the verbal abuse I experienced from family and friends, I had low self-esteem and believed myself to be ugly. I went through a phase where I would starve myself and if I felt like I ate too much, I would throw up my food. I stuck pictures of editorials and models I wanted to look like all over my wall and when I worked out, I did it to be skinny, not to be healthy.
I was a very broken, young girl, confused and desperate to fill my need for love and approval in all the places where they were void.
When I was 16, I told my doctor all the suicidal thoughts I had been feeling. I also told her I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep. She told me that I was depressed, and I believed every word she said. I asked myself, ‘Why has God abandoned me? Why didn’t I have a family who loved me? Why did I go through all this abuse as a child?’ I was a girl trying to comprehend for the first time why my world was so broken. I had never felt so alone in all my life and I felt that I had to go through my depression alone.
This lead to a long time during my high school years where all I would do was draw my curtains shut and lay in my bed in the darkness. I had no energy to live, let alone get up. Although I did well in school, I almost failed because of my poor attendance. I was constantly thinking of suicidal thoughts at this point. I remember one time after faking a smile the whole day, I came home and bent down on all fours, crying and crying to God to be taken away. Looking back, I asked God to take me home to heaven more than I asked anything else of Him.
The underage clubbing, the drinking, the smoking, the drugs – it all became worse. What especially became worse was the constant running to men to determine my worth. The more I ran to them, the more I got hurt, and the more I was desperate to find love. Every time I reached out to a man, I was either abused or abandoned. Needless to say, I had no respect for my life, for my body and for myself. I was lonely. I was shamefully depressed. Ultimately, I was leading a life that was bound for death, one way or another. Worse of all, I was beginning to lose hope.
But then, my story changed.
God sent a friend into my life who helped me get back up on my feet again – Anja, my best friend then and still my best friend today. We constantly emailed and I felt safe enough to tell her all about my depression and suicidal thoughts. The most beautiful thing she has ever done for me was not judge me, but simply listen to me. She didn’t try lead me, she didn’t tell me to get over it, and she didn’t think I was too much to handle and left me – she just walked beside me. She once said a profound thing to me that has since been the song of my life: ‘Don’t lose hope, for it is the anchor for your soul.’ And in the end, I never did.
My little sister Sarah was born in 2001 and ever since she was conceived, she has always been a beacon of sunshine to me in my depression. She had a pure innocence and love about her that the darkness couldn’t permeate. She, too, listened to me without judgement. She is one of my best friends and the person that I love the most in the world.
As a way to channel my pain, in 2008 I co-founded a non-profit organization called Hope99 with a friend of mine to raise awareness and money for physically, sexually and mentally abused children in Thailand. It helped massively to get my mind off my suicidal thoughts and it was a great way for me to focus on solutions rather than problems. As a community, we raised an incredible $11,000 for the cause, which I am convinced was a ‘Jesus-multiplying-fish-and-bread’ situation. That day I received the phone call about it, I broke down. It was a miracle. Even though that whole year of campaigning was full of tears, struggles and disappointments, it was the most genuinely happiest I have ever been to date. Now, it has lead me to begin this non-profit organization of which I am honored to be a vessel for.
Ultimately, what Anja, Sarah and Hope99 did was point me back to God. Since coming back to His heart, I have felt His strong arms pull me up and save me in all the ways a person can be saved. Of course, it has nevertheless been an uphill battle to restoration and healing, especially to leave behind the destructive habits of my past. More times than I can count I, like the prodigal son, would run back to my old life. The darkness felt safe.
It was when I went to Bible College in 2011 that I found most of my healing. God pruned me, moulded me and most of all, restored to me that which was lost. It was there that I realized that there was a beautiful thread woven throughout my whole story – the thread that my God is a redeeming God.
God gave me the strength to completely forgive my family, especially my father, for hurting me as a child.
God opened my eyes to realize that I am beautiful, inside and out, size six or size 60, and that there was nothing about me that needed to change.
God showed me that partying, drunkenness and drugs do not numb the pain, but that He can be trusted to turn to when I feel lost.
God taught me, and is still teaching me, that I can’t go to a flawed man to ask him what I am worth. Only He has the right to tell me that, and He tells me that I am worthy and loved, all the time.
Most wonderful of all, God completely healed me from the strong grip depression had on my life. Even though sometimes I feel like I’m slipping into depression or suicidal thoughts again, I know I can always trust on God to walk with me in the dark valley that I’m going through. God gave me hope, and without it, I know I wouldn’t be breathing today. He has brought me from depressed, ashamed and angry to loved, celebrated, and on the road to restoration.
I wanted to share my vulnerable story with you to encourage you that there can be healing for you no matter how broken or damaged you are. If you are in a place of darkness, if you feel like you are in valley where the end seems so far, or if you are feeling empty and hopeless, know that God will not lead you where His grace cannot keep you. He has never let you go, and I believe that He can always bring you out of brokenness and into a place of restoration if you let Him. Take God’s hand, trust in Him and know that nothing is stronger than what He has put inside of you, and nothing is stronger than His love for you.