We all give first impressions. We all make judgments when we first meet another human being.
When most look at my photos, my life, my positive attitude, or my external appearance, they initially think, “What a beautiful woman with a perfect son, life and family. How blessed she has been during her life. She looks and acts as though there are no worries in her life.”
What they do not see is the internal anguish I experienced for 28 years of my life before finding the true treasure to my life. Now, before I tell you the ONE miracle that transformed my life, let me give you my background.
I did not grow up in the Church. For many years, I did not understand why my parents did not take me. I walked into a church maybe a handful of time before the age of 28. My parents divorced at age three, with my first vivid memory being of their argument, credit cards flying and screaming from my father with tears non stop on my mothers end. For years, I questioned myself and whether my parents separation was my fault, even though I grew up in a very loving and compassionate home with my mom. She did her very best, but I now see the one thing that was missing in her life which caused it to be missing in mine for so many years.
Fast forward to age 11, after years of emotional traumas, where my journey with body dysmorphia, bulimia, anorexia, and anxiety began to consume my entire being. Enter high school, where I attended the beautiful Lake Brantley High school here in Altamonte Springs. I had been a dancer, gymnast and cheerleader for years and found myself lost in the mix of “where do I belong?”
Then, my best friend spread the most reputation altering rumor. I didn’t even want to go to school or see anyone. I was ashamed, embarrassed, lost, confused and most of all hurt. I had no idea where to turn to for comfort. About one month later, I lost my virginity by rape. I didn’t learn until two years ago how traumatic this was and how it has affected my entire course of relationships.
If I had just had Jesus back then.
At the same time of these events, i was seen by my first psychiatrist and prescribed my first anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. The doctor told me and my mother that this would help me “feel better”. I continued to try to explain to my parents that the medicines made me feel worse and not better, and I went deeper into the hole of darkness.
This deep, dark hole — voices telling you you’re not enough, no one will like your ideas, you’re failing your family, you’re not pretty or skinny enough, no boy will ever want to be with you because you’re “used trash.” All of these horrible self destructive thoughts and feelings filled my mind for four years. I made seven suicide attempts, one attempt placing me in a coma for three days.
This one suicide attempt would be the most influential in my life. The very same weekend, my brother’s life was taken through a brain aneurysm, even as I was saved and awoke with a tube down my esophagus yelling and crying at my mom who was sitting next to me holding my hand, “help me.”
The next day I went to my brother’s funeral. I will never forget that day. I told myself that there was no God if he could take such a beautiful life and end it so soon. How could He be real or good?
I spent the next years in abusive relationships, dealing with bouts of crippling anxiety that I would flush away with liquor at downtown bars, thinking this was just the life I was given. How wrong I was! I didn’t know this yet, but Jesus had already given His life for my sins and I could be forgiven and HEALED!!! All I had to do was listen, learn, believe and trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Seems like an easy concept, yet we are all running the opposite direction in these times of fear.
I remember this feeling today. It still shakes me to my core. How different the next 13 years of my life could have been if I had the one treasure we all have waiting for us to accept into our hearts and minds. I believe the path God had paved for me was one with suffering so that I might believe fully and wholeheartedly in His grace, love and mercy!
At age 24, I found myself pregnant —  engaged but in a very unhappy relationship with an addict, a first time young mother, trying to figure out this new life as a parent. God was preparing me though. During all of these times of suffering, I know He was with me. He was waiting for me to accept His unconditional and eternal love and protection.
Finally, at 28, my new boyfriend at the time invited me to Grace. I had recently been struck with the debilitating, lifelong disease of Rheumatoid Arthritis and was in a very fragile state.
I’ll never forget my first experience at Grace. From the second I walked in with my son, Liam, we were greeted as though we were family, open arms and smiles galore. Liam made friends immediately, and I could see how incredible a life in the Church and with God could be for my child. I knew it was where we needed to be, but had no idea I was going to be radically changed.
In April of 2015, I gave my life to Christ. I submitted my entire being and my son to Him and His glory as I know He brings good to our lives. November 2015, I was baptized with all of our wonderful Grace family and my own family! It was the most blessed day. I remember the feeling of walking into the water, washing away my sins and walking out as a new woman, lifted by Christ!
Now my son and I volunteer for graceKIDS! curriculum set up, we attend most every Grace event, and Sundays are for Grace. We committed our lives to Christ and to the family at Grace, and since then the abundance has been tremendous. We still have many times of suffering in our lives, but I am able to see all of the little blessings in between and this is only because Jesus is my treasure and I live my life to be more Christ like each and everyday! I am raising my son to know Jesus and the love God has for him as His True Father and we are leading our lives according to God’s plan.
I say let go of fear and let Jesus in your heart!

Photo: Remain Photography