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Abby – 2018 Graduate

I grew up in a Christian home and loved God from an early age. I have 3 older siblings and 8 younger siblings. I was homeschooled and grew up in the country. In a lot of ways I had a good life but internally my life was marked with a lot of pain, fear, grief, shame, and guilt. At an early age I lost my Grandma in a car accident, which was a very traumatic time for me. I was so sad and this caused me to be afraid about losing my own mom. I love all of my siblings but I felt rejected by them because I was the “good” child. I lost contact with some family members and my best friend moved away to a new state. All of this led me to feel alone and isolated from my family. This caused me to try really hard to please people so I could feel better about myself. I tried so hard to read my Bible, pray, be a servant, and love people to please God, so that He would be happy with me. I never felt like what I did was enough and deep down I felt like guilt and shame kept me from being myself. For the next several years, I struggled with anxiety and depression. I was so scared and felt very alone. A few years later someone close to me was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Next, God did something amazing. I became friends with someone new. I felt truly loved and understood by this friend. I started to come out of my shell and enjoy life. Life was better for a time but then change began to happen again. Change most often brought more pain and fear to my heart.

From my childhood until I was 18, I was very involved in 4H competitions and I began playing sports. I told myself I loved it but in reality I hated the pressure. I felt like I had to perform well in everything I did or I would disappoint my family and myself. When I was 17, I lost my grandfather to cancer and that was devastating because he was a big part of my life. He always made me feel loved, important and special. I pushed down the pain and focused on graduating high school. I met one of my best friends when I graduated and she was a blessing to me. When I worked at a Christian kid’s camp during the summer, God changed my life and gave me a camp family. The friendships I made there really opened my eyes to the wonder of real community and the sweet bond of the body of Christ. God started speaking to me and showing me that I had pain and hurt locked away deep inside from my past. Over the next two years He gently walked me through the walls in my heart and brought light to my dark memories. I could finally put words to the shame and pain. Someone close to me sexually abused me when I was a child. During these two years I worked for my dad’s business, worked as a nanny, worked at camp, coached soccer and archery, helped out at home, volunteered at the local pregnancy center, and tried to stay busy to get past my internal battle. I was having horrible nightmares, fighting depression, having anxiety attacks and becoming very angry with my parents. I felt that they couldn’t see my pain and as if it did not matter to them. Later that year, I found out that I was not the only one of my sisters who had been abused.

I found out about Mercy from a close friend who knew someone that went to the Nashville home. I walked into Mercy so broken and deep in pain. I was very angry. I felt like my world had fallen completely apart. I felt hopeless and did not think life could be lived without pain again. I was struggling between rage and despair but I also wanted help. I was determined to get healing. I soon realized this journey was not one I could do in my own strength.

A few weeks after I arrived at Mercy, during a time of worship, the worship leader was singing Lauren Daigle’s song, “Dry Bones”, and the Spirit moved me to start praying for the person that abused me. I felt things shifting and the walls falling down inside of my heart. I had a realization about my own sin and my own need of forgiveness. How could I hold unforgiveness towards those that have hurt me, when I needed forgiveness for all of the people I have hurt? That began a work that the Spirit is still doing within me.

It was hard for me to keep choosing to forgive as the Spirit kept uncovering the lies and wounds from my past. I became real with God and invited Him into the hurt places. I asked Him questions. Where were You? Why did You let this happen? Why didn’t You use me to protect my sisters? I stopped fighting. I surrendered to Him and let Him speak into my hurt. I had been so focused on surviving and fighting satan that I didn’t realize I was also fighting God. I had to forgive myself. This had been the hardest part of my journey at Mercy because I blamed myself that my sisters were also abused. One by one, God has been answering the deepest questions of my heart. He has held me while I have wept and mourned the wounds of my soul and the years of fear and isolation. He has gently told me over and over that He loves me and He is pleased with me. Through the Spirit, I am learning to live without the heavy burden of trying to be perfect. He has become my safe place. When I am hurting, the Spirit comforts me and reminds me of the truth of who He is and who I am. He is my Father, my Savior, my Healer, my Friend, my Shepherd, my Guide, my Shelter, my Rock, my Anchor, my PEACE and my Joy. I am His beloved daughter. I am His precious child. He delights in who I am. He is proud of me.

After Mercy I am going to live with my friends. I am, Lord willing, going to find a job and start saving money for college. God has placed a dream in my heart to be a counselor. I am excited to see where He leads me with that! I am so grateful for the peace and freedom from my past hurts that God has brought to my life. I am praying for opportunities to show the hope of His love to other broken and hurting people who feel lost.

I am so grateful for Nancy and all the donors who, by the love in their hearts, provided this safe place for me to come and begin the process to be healed from the painful wounds of my past. By God’s MERCY and grace now I am not just surviving, I am THRIVING.