Karen is free of the chains that held her captive from a loveless childhood
Her face is calm, her smile is infectious – a mighty victory for Karen Roos who battled for 40 years against low self-esteem and self-hatred.
Wounded by conditional parental love, she battled with an unwelcome destructive outlook and years fighting bulimia.
"Not hearing from my father and trying to stay out of the way of an angry mother, I lived in a world governed by rejection," Karen recalls.
Karen says an untactful and overbearing character became her "self-survival kit", thinking it would protect her from more rejection. Throughout her schooling, she did not fit in and depression set in.
"My parents divorced, my father left our small family when I was eight and moved to another country and I was very much alone as a child," she says.
Her mother joined a religious sect when Karen was five. Barred from birthday parties, Christmas and Easter celebrations, she recalls "I grew up feeling even more ostracised from friends and community."
Persistently depressed by rejection at age 18, Karen decided to attempt suicide the next day, a Sunday. At 4am after a sleepless night, she recalls a clear voice telling her to go to a friend immediately, the voice was so strong.
At 4am Karen's friend opened her door and invited her to come to church that morning. Karen never argued but went straight to sleep on their couch and for the first time in a long time was absent of the "horrendous thoughts" that were attacking her mind.
That morning Karen stepped inside a church for the first time in her life. She says she sensed God's presence and peace immediately.
"As I walked in, I started weeping uncontrollably. I was radically saved by faith in Jesus, My Lord, My Saviour and Redeemer. I believed that Jesus had paid the price for my sins and I knew I was never to go back to my past."
"My life changed that very day and the Lord helped me start working on the many trials I still had to contend with."
One of them was that she did not fully understand God's forgiveness. Karen says she regretfully continued to be defensive when she felt threatened or if her character faults were exposed.
Feelings of rejection also plagued her and at age 18 she struggled with bulimia.
"I would eat myself senseless, be so revolted with what I had done and then purge all that food," she recalls.
After marriage and four sons, Karen gained 40kg, and was further burdened with guilt because she could not lose the weight.
However, a loving husband, and her relationship with God ultimately enabled Karen to overcome these internal battles over time.
"The Lord gave me my husband Johann who demonstrated the love of God by loving me unconditionally and unequivocally," Karen says.
"I finally stopped vomiting when God gave me a revelation of the lies that the enemy had been feeding me. God showed me how He had indescribably blessed me with four beautiful sons and the incredible love and support from my husband and Himself."
The other major victory came when Karen had a word of revelation that her 'black or white' perception of life was God-given.
"The Holy Spirit told me through a pastor that God had specifically made me that way. I see things as either for the benefit of Jesus or they are for the benefit of Satan. This means that I no longer conform to the lies of the enemy."
And when feelings of rejection sometimes re-emerge, Karen says, "I am quick to recognise it as a lie. I have God's Word, the Bible, to slice through those lies."
A truth Karen can testify to; is that for those who trust in Jesus, "God never leaves you, nor will He ever forsake you (see Hebrews chapter 13 verse 5). You are His beloved and He thinks of you all the time!"
Despite her efforts, family relationships still remain broken. "It is extremely difficult," Karen says, "but God has been so gracious to me. My heart's desire is to have a pure heart. I honour my parents and family members even though they may not love me. In God's might, I keep my heart in forgiveness towards everyone."
Karen says God has strengthened her to co-ordinate and plan Christian conferences for women in southern Western Australia.
"I am so honoured to serve God, to reach out to people who don't know Him and to touch God's beloved children," Karen concludes joyfully.
"I am no longer a woman rejected, but a woman with inexplicable joy from the Lord. He turned my mourning into dancing!" •