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Chasing the Dream Life

“My ninth birthday I got a diary, and in the diary I wrote, ‘I'm going to be a flight attendant, and I'm gonna travel the world and my life is going to be wonderful.'"

It was more than a lifestyle Renee Silvestri was after, it was an escape. She grew up in a small town just outside Chicago. The middle child of three sisters, it seemed nothing she did would please her strict German mother.

“Love or feeling love was not something that was part of the mo in the house. It was more the chores and the discipline and making sure you didn't do anything wrong. I definitely felt that I had to be perfect. If I did something, if I slipped up, there would be a consequence.

In her diary, Renee wrote of her dreams a life that would give her an escape...and more.

“I will live in London and then I will get discovered on an airplane and I will start acting. So, this is what I set before myself to escape my sad life. And I thought once I get out of there then I'll be loved, and I'll be adored, and people will pay attention to me.”

Then, when Renee was fourteen, her parents divorced, and her father moved to another state and remarried.

“I just felt like, wow, he's just replaced the family.”

After high school, Renee achieved her goal of becoming a flight attendant and traveling the world. Five years later, at twenty-three, she met famed actor and director Dennis Hopper on a flight. As if on cue, he gave her a part in his upcoming movie. Within weeks, she was living the life of a Hollywood actress.

“Then I was offered a bit part on 90210 and then another job, again, on Melrose Place. So, I-I kept getting these great little roles on these great shows, but it was not making me feel complete. and so, then that kept me on another journey of, well, surely if I get married, I'll feel fulfilled.”

A few years later, Renee married a wealthy businessman in the jewelry trade.

“I had so much insecurity built into myself from growing up that I wanted to feel safe and loved and adored.”

Then she had a son, and it appeared all of Renee’s dreams were coming true.

“I should have been so happy, but I wasn't. It was about my things. It was about my status. It was about my home and my lifestyle, and that's how narcissistic my world was.”

So, her search for fulfillment continued, and she left her husband for another man.

“I thought surely this man loves me more and will give me more love and more adoration and more safety.”

Eventually, Renee gave up acting. Over the next thirteen years, she would marry and divorce 3 more times and have another son. She never found the love and safety she craved.

“I was just so tired of the act and the circus that I was living, and I had been through all those marriages, and that whole big life. it just wasn't fulfilling for me, as I thought it would be.”

By 2014 Renee was living on her own, raising her two sons, now age ten and eighteen.

Everything was at the lowest point of my life right then; I was just beat down. We were in this house on a hill, and every time I drove to the bottom of the hill, I noticed this church, and I just kept feeling like I was supposed to go in that church.

One Sunday, when her boys were with their dads, she decided to go.

“The minute I walked in there I just felt I never wanted to leave that sanctuary! The lyrics, the music, I just felt like these are my people.”

Drawn by the community of love and acceptance, she started taking her sons to church every week. A few months later, Renee went forward for prayer, and told a woman she was at her end.

‘“I was at such a low point, and she said, ‘It doesn't matter-- just tell me what's going on.’ And I told her a little, and she said, "Don't you know that God loves you?" I had never heard that before and I-I couldn't even accept that. and so, she said, ‘Let me pray for you.’ and I asked Jesus into my heart.”’

Even then, Renee had a hard time believing what she said.  

‘“How could God love me after I did all that crazy stuff? And so, I went for a walk, and I said, ‘Alright, God, if this is true and you love me, you're gonna have to show me a sign.’ And I got to my house, and I looked down and I see this perfect heart-shaped leaf. I just felt like the Lord was saying, "I love you and here's my sign." My life drastically changed from that day forward. I felt so peaceful. I felt so in control of my life for the first time. I wasn't having someone control me or that I was feeding off of someone for their love. I was now feeling the peace and the love from God.’”

In 2017, Renee re-married Nando, her younger son’s father. She also reconciled with her parents. She’s currently training to become a Christian counselor and often speaks to women’s groups about Jesus.

“His peace will come over you if you just ask him into your heart. He'll forgive you of all your sins, and your shame will be gone, because it's all okay. He'll forgive it all, and you can start fresh.”

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