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CBN.com "I always wanted to be someone’s princess. I wanted a knight in shining armor to come rescue me, affirm me, tell me I was worthy and valuable. I grew to feel like I had a big 'A' on my forehead. Before anyone ever met or saw me, [they] just saw that I was adopted -- that I didn’t fit in and didn’t belong. I remember very distinctly in the second grade coming home bursting in door and crying, ‘Don’t ever tell anyone I’m adopted again.’"
When you don’t look like your family, you stand out. Jennifer Mallan remembers it all too well. It stirred up all kinds of emotions.
"Why didn’t they love me enough? Maybe if I work real hard or give of myself then I’ll create a place in the world for me where I’ll be wanted," Jennifer says.
The place Jennifer felt the most wanted was with Mimi – her grandmother. She taught Jennifer about God and took her to church.
"Well, my life became one of performance for acceptance and overcompensation," she says. "I became a perfectionist and a straight-A student. I became a people-pleaser. Whatever you wanted me to be, I would try to become that."
Add to the mix a mother with health issues and a busy, withdrawn father. That left Jennifer craving affirmation.
"In high school I got into some very destructive relationships where for six years I was heinously physically abused," Jennifer says. "‘It’s my fault’; ‘what did I do?’... I think that you draw what you think you deserve. In high school I dated a man for two years, and that was very destructive. My life was in danger many times."
So, what attracted a bright and charming girl into these kinds of relationships?
"At first he seemed very attentive, kind, doting... What it ended up being was very controlling and manipulating. But from someone who had gotten very little attention, that attention at first was very flattering. It grew to something very ugly and much worse than it had been at the beginning. Then you feel you’re in too deep and don’t know how to get out."
When she was 17, something really wonderful happened. Jennifer met her birth parents.
She says, "For the first time, I felt that the hole in my soul had been filled. I felt like I had operated my whole life with a missing limb. Why [am I] so demonstrative and so expressive, and why [am I] so affectionate? I didn’t know why! But when I met my biological family, all of a sudden, I knew why... I saw the Italian, the demonstrative, the expressive.
Jennifer Mallan finally found herself.
"It helped me understand that that’s the way God created me," she says.
Wonderful as it was, it still didn’t meet the longing inside of Jennifer. So again, she threw herself into achievement.
"I was a Garnet and Gold Girl, vice president of a sorority, [in] every honorary society, Lady Seminole, first runner up to Homecoming queen at FSU, offered scholarship awards and graduated magna cum laude. I got to the end of my senior year in college [and it] should have been the happiest time of life, yet my heart was empty."
Someone would look on the outside and say, "She’s got it all together. I want her life!" -- not knowing that Jennifer was dying on the inside.
"I quit going to church, youth group, kinda put the Bible away," she says.
Jennifer was depressed and at the end of herself. She went to see her “anchor” Mimi. They talked and watched a CBN program together…
"Sheila Walsh came on the television, and she just was the voice of God. She said, ‘If you’re empty, hurting, broken, if you’ve tried everything, if you’ve run from God, He’s right there waiting. His arms are open.’ She just read my mail.
"The whole song was about the prodigal daughter: ‘Jennifer, come home. We’re waiting for you. The party can’t begin, ‘till the family’s gathered in. Don’t you know we miss you, Jennifer?' I felt the peace of God. I felt the burdens lift. Even though my circumstances didn’t change right away, I stood up and knew I’m gonna be okay."
After her college graduation, Jennifer worked in a church where she could reach out and help others.
"That’s where the real deep work [began]: restoration, God getting in there and peeling all the layers of rejection, abandonment, hurt. As I would love little Jennifers in the inner city, then God would heal parts of my soul."
Today Jennifer and her husband Rob have five children, two whom they adopted. She still works in that same church with pastors Randy and Paula White.
So, what would she say to that woman who is in that same place today that she once was?
"This is right, and this is wrong. It’s right even if no one’s doing it, and it’s wrong even if everyone’s doing it. You don’t have to go down the road of the prodigal daughter. Get to the end of the driveway and run back! Run back to His loving arms."
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