I was born into a great family who loves Jesus and taught us the importance of following Him. When I was two years old, my parents planted a church. I loved being in church and learned the importance of serving from a young age. However, being a pastor’s kid was difficult. I began to operate out of a spirit of legalism that fostered elements of performance and perfectionism in my life. I believed that God was only pleased with me when my behavior was right and good enough. I also experienced the negative side of church and Christianity very early on, seeing how even Christians could be rude and hurtful. I began to feel distant from my family, but because I was a pastor’s kid, I felt like I had to maintain the image of everything being okay.

When I was nine years old, a friend at school exposed me to pornography, which led to sexual struggles and questions that brought a lot of shame into my life and created an element of secrecy in who I was. In middle school, chaos began to ensue in my house. My older brother became involved in a dangerous crowd at school, and my parents’ attention was focused on keeping him safe for the next couple of years. I began to live in fear for my brother and felt that my needs were neglected by my family. I became very angry and controlling, hoping to hold my family together.

When I was entering high school, God freed me from unhealthy addictions and the questions of my sexuality. Even though I became closer to God, I still found myself searching to fill this void in my heart of feeling parent-less and unloved. I became involved in a relationship with a man significantly older than me to fill the void of feeling unlovable and unheard. I began sneaking out and continually lying to my parents about where I was going. I eventually told my parents the truth, which immediately ended the relationship. This absolutely broke my heart, and I grew angry towards my parents.

I was still pursuing God, and I had grown close to the youth pastors at my church and allowed them to really disciple me. After high school, I moved to Florida to attend ministry school and have, what I thought could be, a fresh start. Very quickly, unhealthy patterns and habits began catching up with me – perfectionism, performance, control, anger, and the search for relationships to fill the void and shame in my heart. The following years were full of betrayal from friends and church leaders, which led me to a place of mistrust and self-sufficiency.

The defining moment in choosing to come to Mercy was when I found myself in a relationship where I was manipulated, isolated, and taken advantage of. I felt covered in shame and absolutely defeated. In the next year, I tried to piece my life back together, but as unhealthy patterns, cycles, and intrusive thoughts of suicide continued, I knew that I needed more help than I could give myself. I found Mercy from an Instagram post, and as soon as I saw it, I knew this was where I was supposed to be.

Walking in the doors of Mercy, I came with the belief that God would heal me, but not transform me. I knew that I would learn more about God and come to a greater understanding, but I did not believe He could touch my heart. He proved me wrong. During my time here, I have not only learned to hear God, but I have seen Him and felt Him. I learned how to be His daughter and how to be loved. He showed me all of the things that were limiting me. God revealed He wanted to take off my limits and bring me to His level of wholeness and freedom. I experienced a lot of unfamiliar emotions, and He showed me how to walk through them in a healthy way by partnering with my counselor.

God also began to heal my relationship with my family and show me how my transformation would extend to them and bring healing. God restored communication with my brothers and my parents. I came to learn that my desire to earn God’s love was not how God wanted to love me. He just wanted me to rest and allow Him to love me.

My turning point at Mercy came through speaking truth over myself, along with receiving a new love for reading God’s Word and communicating with Him. He showed me that I am heard and loved that I am His treasure and an absolute delight to Him. He uncovered my shame and covered me with rest. He took my need for control and showed me how to be fruitful. I gave Him my pride, and He taught me gentleness. Along the way, He really just showed me that everything I needed was already inside me. He just helped me access it.

After Mercy, I plan to move home and spend time reconnecting with my family and my cat. I want to learn what life looks like outside of serving in ministry and experience church as a congregant. I believe God is going to expand my gifts and prepare me for my next season in life. I can’t wait to hang out with God and learn even more about His character and who He made me be!