Ever since I was a young girl, struggle seemed to be part of my story. When I was 5, my parents divorced. At an early age I was exposed to much darkness – anger, many forms of abuse, neglect. Growing up I was taught about God and about putting one’s faith in Jesus – asking forgiveness for one’s sins and that we would go to Heaven when we die. While I was taught that God was a good God and that He loved us (me), the focus was more on Old Testament teachings of law rather than New Testament teachings of grace and faith. It was more about what we should and shouldn’t do, rather than the gift of grace and the relationship that Jesus desired with each of us. The desire to be accepted was such a struggle even as a little girl. I struggled to feel accepted at home and struggled to be accepted at school. When I was 9, I became very ill and was hospitalized. Family dynamics on top of being very ill became another struggle. Growing up, my friends all lived with both of their parents (their mom and dad were still married). I felt so detached because I felt none of my friends could relate to what having a divorced family felt like. I had step-parents, too (another thing they couldn’t relate to). I began to make choices that would displace the feelings that I had temporarily for something that was pleasing at the time. Alcohol, promiscuity, pornography – those were a few of my “go-to’s”. When I entered high school, I continued to search for that acceptance that I’d been seeking and began to struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide. I believed that the loneliness and the insignificance that I felt could be solved if I just wasn’t here anymore. After all, I’d accepted Jesus into my heart and asked forgiveness for my sins – I had nothing to worry about, right? My college years were filled with more poor decisions, which led me further into the darkness. I found acceptance with men and the pleasure I could give them. In 2000, I was involved in an accident that doctors believed I wouldn’t survive. I miraculously was released from the hospital after spending close to 3 weeks in the Intensive Care Unit. Jesus was in all the details. He is the reason I survived. I believed that He had something special He was going to use me for after that. Two years later, the serious relationship that I’d been in was no longer. I was too much. The emotional side of me was too much. He was interested in other women…with less baggage. That broke me. That was the longest and most serious relationship I’d ever been in and I wasn’t sure how I was going to go on. God blessed me with a mentor that spoke truth and purpose into my life. Mentally and emotionally, I was still in the darkness and God was slowly revealing His light to me. Life was so lonely. “Sure, there may be light somewhere out there and sure God loves me, but I can’t do this. What’s so great about me that He saved me from the accident that was supposed to kill me?” Confusion. Loneliness. Anger. Bitterness. Sadness. Regret. “Why did I have to be so emotional? I’m too much. Too much for someone else. Too much for myself.” This was it – now was the time to exit stage left and save myself from this misery. But God had other plans. He kept me around and helped me to see there were people that truly loved me for me. I came to see the darkness for what it was and was able to begin calling out the lies that I’d so often believed. I began to get involved in church, attending a singles ministry and being more regular about reading my Bible. Life was good – I now felt accepted. Within the next year or so, I got involved in another serious relationship – one that would last nearly a decade and was extremely toxic. That darkness, those choices – it was all very familiar to me. Misery loves company and that was most definitely what this relationship was. The tension that filled our home was heavy - I was suffocating, yet I couldn’t bear to hurt someone else. I stopped going to church because I was being convicted – I knew that the choices I was making and the way I was living weren’t right. Years passed and in late 2011, we gave birth to our precious son. He was truly a miracle! From the moment I saw him, my heart was forever changed. I’d always dreamed of being a “mom” but could never imagine how truly wonderful it was until then. As I looked into his eyes and cared for him daily, I began to really question the relationship I was in and the effects it would have on our son. In January 2012, my stepdad was killed instantly on his way to work one morning. His death shook our family and it was during that year that I had clarity about the relationship I was in. I was no longer meant to raise him in that home. In early 2013, I moved out and was now a single mom to a sweet 1 ½ year old. I knew that I’d made the right choice to leave that relationship, but the loneliness and hurt that came were unbearable. I made the most of the days my son and I had and loved them so much, but when he was at his other house the emptiness of the home was too much. I would do whatever I could to escape the depression and darkness that were lurking nearby. It all became too much. I decided that I couldn’t do this anymore. His life would be better without me here. The inconveniences I had caused for those around me would be done. Everyone’s life would be better if I were gone. I attempted to take my life and again, God was near. He met me on my bathroom floor and reminded me that I was “chosen”. I wasn’t put here on Earth just by chance or with some big dream that possibly I may make something of myself. I was created by and for God, even before the formation of the Earth. He designed me just as I am and created me for a specific purpose, which no one else can fulfill. When I was released from the hospital, I was able to see so clearly, yet again, where God was in all the details. He saved me and spoke to me that if I were to trust in and follow Him, He would give me the desires of my heart. I may still feel broken, but He put me back together. Life would still hurt, and I would still experience valleys, but He would be with me every step of the way. Today, my son is in first grade and thriving and joy-filled as ever. God allowed me the opportunity to go back to school and further my education, to better provide for my son and I in the future. I graduated in June. He provided a mentor for me through Flourish at Passion City Church - someone who would walk with me through life, share wisdom they’ve gained through their walk, while speaking truth and life over me, continually pointing to Jesus. He surrounded me with a group of women that are Jesus followers and that support me and challenge me to be a better me. He brought a women’s gathering (The Grove) to the city when I was in desperate need of community. He began the healing process in me, in a way that only God can, and through healing prayer, counseling, etc. – the deep pain and hurt from my past has now been brought into the light. His Light. I am walking in freedom that I never knew existed for me. I am now able to confidently declare that I am accepted. I am chosen. I am forgiven. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I have a purpose. I am loved.