To witness the light bulb of faith illuminate in one’s life is quite possibly the greatest joy. That is the joy I have in sharing Her Story today. What was once a reckless life, lost and hurting in a broken world is now a life that has been redeemed, restored, made whole and new. As I share her story with you, I’m reminder that we serve the God of new. He takes the ashes of our past and makes a beautiful new. No, not one has gone beyond the reaches of His grace. Her story proclaims that amazing truth.
She grew up in the amazing state of Montana, a beautiful place full of love and adventure where people love college football, snowboarding, fishing and hunting. However ideal it may have seemed, her home life was far from that. Both of her parents struggled with substance abuse, and the affects of that proved to be devastating in her life. When she was born, her father walked away from his addictions because he wanted to be able to raise her and her younger brother. Her mother however, struggled to overcome them. She wanted to be a good mom, but her addictions consumed her. Although her father loved her and her brother very much, her parent’s marriage was falling apart. The lack of love and trust between them continued to grow, and it eventually led to divorce. Despite the love her father gave her, she was overwhelmed with feelings of rejection, convinced that something must be wrong with her to cause her mom to leave. Her father brought her and her brother to Catholic church every Christmas and Easter, but aside from that, God was not a part of her life.
The absence of her mother coupled with her lack of friends at school only fueled her doubts and insecurities about herself. Was she lovable? Was she valued? Did she meet other’s expectations? Even as early as 4th grade she wrestled with these questions. Popularity was not something she seemed to have in school, and this only led to further insecurity. She felt as if she would do whatever it took to be noticed, just to feel worthy of someone’s affection. So she tried to be everything she thought others wanted her to be, but it only led to more pain.
Her high school years only grew worse as her feelings of worthlessness increased. Because she felt she had no true friends, she sought love and attention from men. It became of vicious cycle that wreaked havoc on her heart. After the initial attraction to every guy she dated, physical intimacy soon followed. Once she had given that part of herself away, it wasn’t long before he was out the door, no longer wanting anything to do with her. Despite her broken heart time and time again, she was determined to find her worth from someone.
As high school graduation approached, all she wanted was a new start – new people, a new place, whatever it took to have a clean slate. She had an older brother from her mom’s first marriage that lived in Arizona. He would always send letters about how wonderful Arizona was, and the beauty of the desert captivated her. So, immediately following graduation, she moved away to start over in Arizona with her brother. He was very involved in the church he attended, and she loved spending time there with him. After only attending two services, she was hooked and sold out for Jesus, or so she thought. Unfortunately, it didn’t stick.
“Other seed feel on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.” Mark 4:5-6
Her heart simply wasn’t ready to change. Ignoring all the love and worth she had found in Jesus, she ran into the arms of another man. This time it seemed different. He was much older, and she had never been more infatuated. Intimacy quickly followed, and any connection she had felt with God faded away. When she went home for Christmas that year, she was ecstatic. She couldn’t wait to tell everyone about her new life in Arizona. She had found what she was looking for, finally…right? But her joy and excitement evaporated when she found out that she was six weeks pregnant. She was devastated and spent days crying. She knew keeping the baby was the right thing to do, but everyone fed her the lies she needed to hear to convince her that aborting the baby was the best solution. She wanted to live life to the fullest, and having a child at her age in her situation was not the road she wanted to take. When she went to Planned Parent Hood, they told her it was just a clump of cells and that Christians and Catholics have abortions every day. No one told her the pain and emptiness she would feel afterwards. She cried for weeks after that day, regretting what she had done and knowing she could never do anything to change it. She stopped going to church all together. Being there only seemed to add to the shame she felt. Even being around her brother became too difficult for her because his light and his love for Jesus constantly seemed to shine onto her darkness.
Her relationship with her boyfriend became very unhealthy. Fighting became the norm, and just as their relationship was nearing its end, she found out that she might be pregnant, again. This time, there were complications which led her to the E.R. Her boyfriend had left her at the hospital, and never had she felt more alone. The shame of all of her sin weighed so heavily upon her that night. She knew God was calling out to her, wanting her to return to Him, but she just couldn’t embrace Him. Not yet.
Continued attempts at finding love and worth from men that only led to further heartbreak finally brought her to her breaking point. Every failed relationship, every man that used her and left her, and all the shame of her past that she carried with her became too great a burden for her to bear any longer. She attempted to take her own life. Despite the distance she had created between her and her brother, he readily stepped back in to help nurse her back to health. Although she had never felt further from God, He was right there, using everything in her life to point her back to Him. Not even in her darkest night had He left her side.
She allowed some time to pass, thinking that this would bring the healing she needed, but she couldn’t have been more wrong. She entered into another relationship, this time convinced that she knew what love really looked like and that this guy did in fact care about her. Because love equaled intimacy in her understanding, it was quickly a part of this relationship as well. After only a few weeks, she found herself devastated yet again as the relationship ended, this time with the horrible news that she had contracted an STD. God could have been shouting at her for all she knew, but her heart was hard. All she had known was rejection, false love, and emptiness as she pursued what the world had to offer. Drinking, partying, and sex defined her. Even though it always left her feeling empty the next morning, she ran back to it every night. When she found out she had contracted a second STD, her life seemed to come to a screeching halt. She knew that if she kept living like this, she would die. She was afraid, hurt, and so lost. She only knew one person that she could turn to at this point. Someone that would love her and help her get her life on the right track. She called her brother.
This time when she turned to Jesus, she stayed in His arms. The first six months were the hardest. Her old life was filled with so many addictions that were hard to break, but she finally had hope and her hope was in Jesus Christ. She knew that in order for her life to really change, she needed God to take away all the things that were keeping her from Him. As difficult as it was for her old self to die, God began to create new life within her. He faithfully brought new friends into her life, godly young women that pointed her towards Jesus every time she stumbled. She was invited to attend a weekend getaway with some girls from the church, and through the friendships she made there, she joined her first Bible study. God has used these ladies in her life in such incredible ways. They continue to show her God’s abounding mercy and grace. God blessed her with the friendship of one girl in particular who is now not only her best friend but also her sister-in-law.
And her story doesn’t end there. She continued to walk with the Lord, allowing Him to heal the brokenness in her heart, surrendering every part to Him. What amazes me most about the grace and forgiveness of the Lord is that He always works in ways far above and beyond what we could ever hope for or imagine. Despite her past, God was still preparing a man for her, one that would love her and care for her like she had never known. When her friends first told her about Austin, her first thought was, “No, absolutely not. I’m not dating for a long time.” However, when she finally agreed to meet him, everything changed. As they got to know each other, he shared his story with her: he had only kissed two girls and was waiting for the one that God would bring into his life. Then he asked about her story… she told him everything. Completely amazed, she was met with nothing but love, grace, and forgiveness. I was blessed to witness their marriage less than a year later. She had recommitted her purity to the Lord, and he was a virgin on their wedding night. What a powerful picture of God’s grace! She now works for a non-profit organization called Not My Kid that allows her to share her story to youth in schools, educating kids about substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, and dating. She refuses to allow her past to define her present and her future serving the Lord. She is a new creation. The old is gone, and the new has come. She continues to see the hands of God moving in her life and in the lives of those around her. Serving her Savior is the only thing she wants to do, and her life will be spent encouraging women to know that their worth is already found, and it is in our Lord, Jesus Christ. She will never stop using her story to encourage and love women into the arms of Christ.
I was blessed to have a front row seat watching her life being transformed by Jesus Christ. Her faith inspires me. Her obedience encourages me. Her walk with the Lord challenges me to love my Savior more. I am truly blessed to call her friend. Freddie, thank you for loving Jesus like you do. It’s contagious, and God is using your story to bring women into His loving arms.