I was born into a loving Christian family, and I had an exceedingly good childhood complete with ice cream, hugs from daddy, and proper discipline. I loved life and made the decision to trust and follow God when I was five. Years flew by, and I took to academics and to the family sport of diving rather effortlessly. I dove, no pun intended, into regional and national competition by age nine and received praise and affirmation for my talent. Though I was home-schooled, I had many friends through sports and church and did not lack in socialization. From the outside my life looked like it was on the fast track to fulfillment and success, but on the inside ugly lies were starting to take root in my heart. At age ten, I was exposed to pornography while surfing the Internet. I remember being confused and feeling dirty after seeing it, but a curiosity lingered which sparked a ten-year battle with pornography and sexual struggles. This struggle planted strong roots of shame and secrecy in my heart that affected every other area of my life. A few years later, I made the transition from home-school to private school and became suddenly exposed to the body-image struggle that many girls experience. During the same year, my mom decided to initiate a weight loss contest between the two of us, which increased my body insecurity and caused me to believe that my mom did not love and accept me the way that I was. For years I restricted my food, exercised obsessively, and won the affections of my family, friends, and teammates. Inside I was dying under the weight of the pressure that I was putting on myself. Around age 16, I broke. I started binge eating to cope with the feelings of unworthiness and self-hate, and soon I was lying, stealing, and manipulating people to further my behaviors. My parents desperately tried help me and keep me accountable, but nothing worked. The shame from my sexual struggles partnered with the shame from my weight gain was almost too much to bear. I tried counseling and treatment, but nobody ever got to see the darkest areas of my heart where I so desperately needed healing. I willed my way through my senior year of high school and managed to earn a diving scholarship to a Division I school. I made written vows to myself on the flight to college that I would leave my old life behind and that I would start making good decisions, but I slipped back into old behaviors soon after settling in. During my first year at school I had great athletic success under an extremely demanding coach, but as soon as the diving season ended, I fell to pieces. Soon after returning home, my parents informed me that I could no longer live under their roof if I was going to continue lying, stealing and bingeing, so I left. I was empty, broken, and desperate for something to restore my hope. After a beautiful encounter with God, I, in turn, hid and let another year of numbness and poor decisions go by and buried myself deeper and deeper into sin and secrecy. I was violated sexually and emotionally by a guy I barely knew and then turned to same- sex relationships to satisfy the gaping hole in my heart. I was covered in shame and depression when I finally decided to reach out to Mercy.
I walked through the doors of Mercy ready for some serious behavior modification. Little did I know, God was going to pair me with a counselor who wasn’t about to let me hide behind my performance masks for the rest of my life. In the beginning months of my Mercy journey, I was fiercely insecure, terrified of using my voice, and my soul was riddled with doubts about God, the Bible, and this so-called healing they offered me. I started surviving the way I knew how – by keeping God, my counselor, and the staff at an arm’s length. I was in denial about my hurts. The Lord was relentlessly pursuing my heart, but I struggled to see or feel Him past the dominating voice of the enemy in my head telling me that I was already a failure. A major breakthrough happened when I began opening my mouth and speaking out against the enemy. Using the tools that I was learned at Mercy, I broke off the strongholds of shame, doubt, and performance in my life and asked Jesus to replace them with His qualities of forgiveness, faith, and vulnerability. I had very little belief that this act of obedience would bring change in my life, but was shocked at the shift that I started to see in my heart. The shame of the past started to chip away, and I began actually talking to and opening up to staff. The Lord was graciously softening my heart and was allowing me to experience His perfect love and acceptance through the words, prayers, hugs, and tears that I shared with each staff member. Jesus paid the highest price for me to be free, and all I had to do was reach out and accept His sacrifice. As I slowly gave up my old identity, God did not leave me as an empty vessel, but He came right behind me and filled me up with His life and identity.
Through Mercy I entered a season of rest and restoration. There were days that I heard and felt the Lord and days where I simply leaned into the promise of His love, but every day was a step toward relationship and freedom. I transitioned to seeing Him as a Father and a Friend. I am learning how to trust Him with my finances, relationships, health, sexuality, and future. It used to sound frightening to trust God, but now it is my solid ground, my firm foundation, and the strength of my life. I am no longer afraid of my weaknesses because His grace is sufficient. I am no longer a slave to my body because He calls me lovely. I am no longer bound by performance because who the Son sets free is free indeed. And I no longer fear the future because I know that all His promises are true.
After graduation I plan to live with family while saving and raising money to go to Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in January. None of this would be possible without the overwhelming goodness of God being poured out in my life. I can’t wait to start this new adventure with Jesus.
I am beyond grateful for your support of this amazing ministry. Jesus was the one who saved my life, but I would not have met Him and gotten to know Him without Mercy.