I don’t remember my life “Pre-Jesus”. I came to know Jesus and ask Him into my heart at the very young age of 4. I knew Jesus to be my savior, the forgiver of my sins and my way to heaven, but as I grew older I never really dove into a full "follow me" relationship with Him. Growing up, I went to church every Sunday, VBS, was involved in youth group on Wednesdays, youth retreat weekends, summer camps, and mission trips. I did all the things, and had all the knowledge, but the older I got, my heart drifted. Somewhere along the line, I became self-conscious, and more ashamed of my faith than proud of it. My desire to please others and “the world” began to replace my desire to please God.
From middle school on, I struggled with low self-esteem and with fitting in with peers. In about 4th-5th grade, I came across some pornographic movies at a neighbor's house while house sitting and scrolling through cable. I was drawn to them, and watched similar things several times after. I hid it from my parents and have always kind of blown it off as just "one of those things" that happen, but God has helped me see that it was much more of a defining moment than I've cared to admit, and had a massive impact on me. It really affected my views of sex and the part it plays in a relationship and (even though I knew the TRUTH in my head), what I had seen in those movies really dictated how I handled myself in relationships with men, the choices I made, and the value I held for myself.
I never dated or had a boyfriend all the way up through high school. I was painfully shy, and it was debilitating. In my senior year of high school, I started smoking and drinking to fit in with peers. My relationship with my parents became strained as they noticed a change in me. I would stay out late and lie about where I was. I saw them as the enemy, trying to keep me from the people and things that I felt were giving me worth. A few months into the fall of 1997, after graduating high school, I met a man. I soon discovered he had two small children with another woman he was living with but wasn’t married to. I should have walked away then, but I didn't. I ended up leaving home for him, and within a couple months, at the age of 18, I found out I was pregnant. The father suggested an abortion. I went to a clinic with him but couldn’t even stand in the lobby without experiencing severe panic and fear. I immediately ran out.
I ended up having my son, Christian, in August of 1998. The father slowly vanished, and I was left a single mother. I worked full time at a restaurant, and drifted. I slept around, deep down hoping someone would love me. I drank and partied, as much as a single mom’s schedule would allow, but that ended up landing me in at 20 with a DWI. From there I continued in a downward spiral full of severe depression and an eating disorder. I felt worthless, unloved, and without a future. I remember when Christian was about 3 or 4, looking at him, and feeling nothing inside - no love, no hate, just nothing. I knew enough to realize something was wrong. I sought Christian counseling and was referred to a psychiatrist. I tapped out at the maximum dosage allowed on an anti-depression/anxiety medication.
Thankfully, God was at work, even when I wasn't actively seeking Him. My father was in the mortgage business, at the time, and a friend of his at work took a chance on me. I had zero mortgage experience, and no degree. But he helped to pull me out of the restaurant life and give me a solid schedule and income conducive to a single mom. I was in and out of churches, seeking God. I even ended up converting to Catholicism at one point. I was attending mass, had Christian enrolled in Catholic school, and was getting on better with my parents. Things were seemingly on the right track. I was working at a title company, and had just purchased my first home. And I had been praying for many months about a Godly man coming into my life for my son and I.
Shortly after, I met someone. It seemed perfect, as he had a young son as well, from a previous relationship. I fell fast, and convinced myself this was God’s answer to my prayers. I ended up selling my home, and Christian and I moved in with him. Within a year we found a home and moved to Celina. Our relationship was centered a lot around drinking and hanging out with friends. About 2 years later, I found out I was pregnant. We were suffering financially at the time, and the idea of abortion was brought up. Deep down, I wanted to follow my “Christian conscience”, but ultimately I didn’t.
We pulled up to the abortion clinic and I realized it was the same center I had run out of 10 years earlier when I was pregnant with Christian. Only this time, the fear and anxiety didn’t come, and I didn’t leave. I stayed and I aborted my baby. The guilt and remorse were not immediate. I numbed the pain, and “moved on'' with life. I shoved my feelings down, piling them on top of other past hurts. Within the next year, I was pregnant again. This time, there was no question. I was having this baby, and on January 2, 2010, Austin was born. His dad and I were married about a month after. The partying continued at our home, but I began drifting away from it, convinced and convicted that I needed to focus more on being a mom. Again, I drifted in and out of churches as I knew I needed to give my boys a solid backing, but felt alone. Our marriage was struggling as I was trying to come back to God, hoping to drag my husband with me. But nothing seemed to be working. And I'm sure from his end, I was changing into someone he no longer recognized.
Then in the fall of 2015 things truly started falling apart. I prayed and tried everything within my power to fix things, even down to changing myself. I didn’t want my children to have to go through the pain of coming from a split family. And even with the dysfunction in our marriage, I found my purpose and worth in what we had as a family. Despite all my prayers and all my “doing”, things reached a point where it was just not healthy for anyone to continue as things were, especially for the boys, and I knew I had to file for divorce. It was an extremely devastating time. I lost about 40 pounds within months. I was experiencing anxiety attacks almost daily. I was at my wit's end with worrying about my boys, and what was going to transpire throughout the divorce process. It took about a year and a half to finalize.
With my marriage ending, that took away my husband and my step-son, and left me with only part-time custody of Austin. Then Christian chose to leave home of his own accord. I felt as though everyone I loved and cared for was taken from me, or abandoning me. I was broken and without a purpose.
I remember sitting alone on my front porch one night drinking, smoking, and watching Matt Chandler sermons, crying my eyes out. This is when God’s grace, mercy and love were finally and fully able to reach me. I look back and see that I needed to be in that place, fully alone, for me to see that He was the answer all along. I was always trying to find something or someone to give me worth and meaning, and wasn’t hearing God’s voice telling me my identity was in Him. It took me being isolated and alone for me to finally and truly see it, and experience Him fully.
It’s been a long several years but I can see God at work daily. He’s helped me to remove all the things from my life that I was using to find worth in, apart from Him. I’ve found healing and forgiveness, both for myself and others. I now feel like I’ve come full circle, back to the 4-year-old who loved Jesus so much, had a fire in her heart, and just wanted everyone to come to know the love and the healing that He has for anyone who will turn to Him and find their worth in His arms.
I still struggle with fully forgiving myself, especially for the abortion, but I know my baby is in the loving arms of Jesus who loves me and has forgiven me, and I will see my baby again one day. My parents are now my rock, and our relationship has been repaired beyond measure. And the relationship I have with my sons is healing and growing as well, despite my having failed them in so many ways in the past. I've been blessed to have their forgiveness. And, I'm now down to the lowest dose of depression/anxiety medication. I'm definitely still a work in progress. I’m still working through forgiveness and listening to the Spirit's gentle prompting which continues to open hidden places within me, showing me areas I am still trying to fill with things other than Jesus, and reminding me I still need Him daily. And, through it all, I have an unbending faith that my family is going to find Jesus. And in the end, that’s ALL I want!