Debra & Zoe
2020 Fashion Show

Debra Reniva

I must say, when you contacted me, my yes was a faith statement! I knew God was leading you in this and knew He was ordaining it for an amazing reason!

Walking a runway, for whatever reason, was something I would never see me doing… the lies and insecurities of my childhood kept me from seeing me as God sees me.

I grew up in Illinois… all over Illinois. My father was an abusive alcoholic and not sure if he was running from or running after something.

My childhood was spent in abuse. From a small child, I remember my father falling in the door and the abuse began – emotionally, verbally and physically. I was told constantly how ugly, fat and stupid I was. That I’d never amount to anything. I believed it for many years. As I grew, my anger and hurt did as well. I tried to squash the hurt with food, and later drugs and alcohol.

I was a big girl by 13 or 14. I started fighting back to protect my mom and siblings. That’s when he threw me out. At 15, I was in the streets.

Thank God, a dear friend told a couple she babysat for about me. They took me in. I was like a live-in nanny. They were imperfect people with a heart to love. Their love eventually led me to the love of Christ.

At 19, I gave my life to Christ. For the first time in my life, I actually felt loved. It has been a journey. I married a man, whom I thought was walking with the Lord. He had addictions and mental illness that caused him to be verbally and emotionally abusive.

After the divorce, for so long, I felt like a failure, like damaged goods. The devil tried to use that to verify all the lies of my childhood. But, as I fell at my precious Savior’s feet, he began a new healing.

I moved here in 2012 to help my daughter and son in law. Hannah was in law school (her calling to help and defend abused kids). Abe was working at the university and they had precious Zoe. I don’t regret moving here from Louisiana. It has been an amazing journey. God has done amazing healings in mine and my family’s lives. When Zoe was born, and then Abbigail 6 years later, my vow to them was and will continue to be… they will know Jesus, love, and humor!

Growing up, I was told I would not be anything, I was stupid. I went to nursing school in 1992 because God called me to. I stood on His word. I had 3 small children and graduated with honors and received the highest award you can in our nursing school. Because of this award, I was given the stage to speak. I shared my journey and what God had done to get me there.

Those who said I’d never…. God said whatever!!

I would and could do all things through Him!

I met an amazing, Godly man. God has used him and his love to heal my broken heart. He is from the Philippines and practices internal medicine here in Chesapeake. Collectively, either by marriage or love.

As a nurse, I have worked in trauma, critical care, and the ER. Recently, I started in hospice! Whatever area God has me, He calls so He equips!! I use humor in my nursing ministry. Humor has been the element that helped me heal in my life.

I was blessed to train with AMTC in New York in 2017. That experience changed my life forever. I felt strongly God gave me the gift of humor and I will use it for His glory. My heart is for abused kids. I think God will not only use my training in AMTC for my life but as a means to help kids from abuse find their true gifting and heal.

I often say, if God can take my mess and make it a message, He can for you too! Thank you for listening to the Lord. I was blown away by the amazing women in the show and behind the scenes. As I would practice at home, the devil would taunt me and even family (not immediate) laughed at ME being in a fashion show. I would walk away, pray, and say, I am doing this to honor you God and to bless my dear friend Sandra. The voices were silenced. Then practice. I pulled up and saw all these beautiful women. The voices of my past began to taunt me. But, as I walked in and encountered the amazing love, the voices were once again silenced. The night of the program, I was determined that, no matter what, I would shine and glorify my Father and thank Him for making me as He did. Each step was a statement of faith and thankfulness to Him. My little granddaughter was nervous and was afraid at the practice. But I shared with her that she had a gift no one else had. And she would walk in her unique way to glorify God. She looked at me and said, “let’s do this then!” She thought, as all of us do, she had to be perfect like the worlds image… but God sees each of us in our unique beautiful self as a gift to the world. The devil wants to hold us back and have us hide our gift. We defeat Satan when we share the gift of us with this hurting world!

Love you Sandra. Thank you for letting Jesus use you. You are a beautiful gift from God. A true example of “the beauty of His Holiness”!

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