I grew up with my mom, dad and three siblings. Our home valued family time, the outdoors and working hard. It was very moralistic and I felt a lot of pressure to be good and do good things. My father was easily angered and my mother struggled with alcohol, so I began to believe the lies that I wasn’t important and that I was someone to be ashamed of. I don’t remember Jesus’ name ever being spoken in my house, no matter how many times we went to church. We were very much in the awkward and religious Christian culture of the Bible Belt, and I was very confused by the hypocrisy around me. But there was something different about my 7th grade basketball coach who professed this same Christianity thing, but he lived differently. His faith was authentic and I saw that he knew Jesus and was living for Him. I wanted this! I saw the same thing in the counselors at the camp I went to in the summers, and became more and more intrigued by the way they were living.
After years of questioning, I made the decision to truly follow Jesus about halfway through high school. Around this same time, I had a softball coach who was very highly respected and well-known in the community. He sat with his family in the pew at church, but was emotionally and verbally abusive Monday through Saturday with us. If I disagreed with what he would say and do, my opinions were aggressively shut down. I learned that my voice did not matter. This experience also affected the way I began to see my authority, especially with men.
After I graduated high school, I got the dream job of being one of those counselors that I looked up to so much at camp. Halfway through the summer, my friend and I were first on scene at a horse-riding accident in the trails. This was the most traumatic thing that I had ever seen, and I have not been the same since. I was also heartbroken over the campers that I sent back right into their dangerous living situation that they had a week-long escape from. This heart-brokenness quickly transferred to hopelessness.
At the end of the summer I lost my grandma to Alzhiemer’s and I felt the need to grow up. I saw a lot, heard a lot, and felt a lot of scary things that made me feel like there was no purpose or hope in life. I was caught up by the brokenness of the world, and in my mind the hope that Jesus brought really didn’t stand a chance. As I began college, classes and a social life were the last thing on my mind. I was skipping classes and building up every kind of wall with others that I could. I numbed everything and isolated myself all the time. In this darkness and isolation is where my suicidal fantasies began. Any sort of light that kept trying to creep in to my life was shut out by the confusion and fear that I was drowning in.
I knew I wanted out of my situation, so I went to work with a missions organization in Colorado. A few weeks before I left I was in a terrible car accident on the highway. I should not have survived it, and I wished that I hadn’t. Over the next six months, I met incredible people, experienced Jesus in a completely new and nonreligious way and really grew.
At the beginning of 2015, I was with a team in Kyrgyzstan for a few months. About a month in, I became gravely ill, and there wasn’t much to do about it since it was a developing country and English was not a common language. After four days of my body and mind deteriorating, I was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. There was no medicine or bedside manner of any sort, and it’s a miracle that I survived. There was miraculous physical healing from the surgery without any morphine or antibiotics, but there was detrimental emotional scarring from my ten days in the Kyrgyz hospital. I was sexually assaulted by the doctors and made a vow of death over my life. I was so caught up in my life being a trauma after trauma that I didn’t feel like it was worth living. Every day I woke up wanting to die. I was hurting and I took it out on others. I felt so alone and misunderstood. Strongholds of confusion and fear and the lies I believed about myself were magnified, especially over any truth or hope that I tried to hold onto.
Because I knew the way I was living wasn’t truly living, I chose to apply to Mercy. I knew I wanted something more and didn’t want the hopelessness of my life to outweigh the hope of it anymore. I came with PTSD, depression, anxiety and suicidal fantasies.
On March 16, 2016 the vow of death over my life was broken! At Mercy the strongholds of fear, confusion and hypocrisy were broken because there is power in my choice and obedience to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I learned that I am important and that my life matters. I am not someone to be ashamed of and my identity is not in my trauma, but in the light and presence of Jesus. I learned that life is not about just existing, but is something to be embraced and involved in everyday. In my time here not everything was answered or healed, but a real relationship with Jesus was established and I now trust Him.
At Mercy I began to show up, to be real first with myself, then with others and God. Through that I realized that Jesus had been showing up all along in my life, but I was blinded by my hurt and brokenness. He was there when I was lying in the middle of the highway and on the table in the operating room in Asia. Through renewing my mind the lies turned to truths, and I learned there is power to my willingness and my choice. There is something in my will and soul and heart and mind that connects when I declare truth over myself. And praise Jesus, my hope began to outweigh the hopelessness. I learned how to be connected and feel again. In this, the hurt really hurt, but man did the good ever feel so good.
After Mercy, I am going to LIVE! I will participate in my life, and show up and love and hurt and laugh and cry. I am never going back to how I ‘lived’ my life before, and I’m going to pursue and experience the love of Jesus in my life every day. That will outweigh any darkness this world has to offer. I am moving to live with my grandparents, volunteer with a human trafficking advocacy organization, and hopefully work find a new job. I want to do art ministry with survivors of trafficking. I want to meet Bob Goff and Ellen DeGeneres. I want to travel the world without losing an organ. I want to connect with others through creativity and authenticity. I want to complete the Camino Del Santiago. I would also love to start a social business connecting people in the U.S. with people around the world, showing that this world isn’t as big as we think it is.
My mind is renewed, my hope is restored, my soul is refreshed, and I can breathe again. Thank you, because this new breath would not have been possible without your participation in what God is doing at Mercy Multiplied. He is bringing breath back to hundreds of women.