Growing up, I didn’t look, talk, or act like anyone I knew. I felt that I could never reach the high standards that were expected of me. As I got older, I thought that if I were skinnier, I would be enough. Eating disorder patterns began emerging from a young age. Anxiety and fear overtook my life. When I entered seventh grade, I was bullied about my weight and appearance. I thought that if I were beautiful, it would all disappear, and I would be loved.

At 13, I had my first major panic attack where I passed out. All of this led to suicidal thoughts and crash diets. When I was 14, we moved again. I decided this was my chance to reinvent myself and succeed. I engaged in more eating disorder behaviors so that I could reach my ideal image. I was lonely and desperate, which led to a string of emotionally abusive and codependent relationships for the next six years, solidifying my distrust in men and disgust with myself.

I pushed my family away, and I barely hung onto God as I tried many things to fill the gap in my heart. After high school, my dad suggested I attend a discipleship program for people my age. During this program, I learned about theology for the first time and really dove into my faith, and eventually gave my life to Christ. After finishing the program, all of my issues resurfaced, and I spiraled into a deep depression. That’s when I walked into Mercy.

After a month of being in the home, God began to open my eyes to the fact that I was living a lie. Slowly, He unfolded the Truth about the way I saw Him. He was not my inner critic; He is my loving Father. I had substituted theology for relationship. In my mind, I had no clue how anyone could love me in the state I was in. God chased down my heart and rescued me from the lies.

One big area that I had to work through was trusting men. I had typically felt betrayed by men or seen as ugly and unwanted. This deeply affected my relationship with Jesus. It was hard for me to see Him as a man, and it was hard for me to believe I had value in His eyes. I was so wrong. Jesus historically met women with respect and honor. He broke cultural norms just to show women that they are valuable.

Insecurity, anxiety, depression, fear, codependency, and an eating disorder had me in a stronghold for years. Through Jesus, I am finally free. God has given me the confidence I’ve never known, the love I’ve always craved, and freedom from my fears. He assigned me value and a destiny beyond what I could ever dream up. My heart is safe within the hands of my Father, and the Holy Spirit guides me in all truth and wisdom.

After Mercy, I will continue working and build a life in my home state. God has given me a dream to speak to women about the gospel and bring freedom and practical help through Jesus. If I could sum up my Mercy journey in one sentence, it would be a lyric from a maverick city song, “Mercy opened up my eyes, now I’m losing my religion to be loved like a child.”