Where do I begin with my testimony of how I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior? I guess if I could tell it in the most honest way possible…here is what is in my heart (this is a little scary, but here it goes!)
I grew up in a very loving and supportive family with my mom, dad, and two sisters (I am in the middle) in a suburb East of Cleveland. We were raised Catholic and we went to Catholic grade school that had grades K-8. I am very thankful that my parents chose to raise us knowing about Jesus and the Gospel, but I remember always feeling like I was missing something. Looking back, I craved that personal relationship with Jesus that I didn’t understand until I was older.
I remember as a very small child always being extremely sensitive. Everything made me cry, or made me sad. I remember always feeling very insecure…always cared way too much about what others thought of me, I always wanted to fit in. But I also hated conflict, hated when people would be mean to each other, and felt a heavy burden for the world. Especially for the homeless, and for children…I remember feeling that burden ever since I was 5. I wondered how a world with God could be full of so much ugliness.
Into my teenage years those things didn’t really change. I remember in high school feeling so lost. I wanted to fit in so so badly, to be “cool," to be “sexy," and to be “the life of the party." I tried so hard. I didn’t really fit in though, and the question of God and Jesus still plagued me. What did it all mean? I distracted myself with the attention of boys and boyfriends, trying to fill that gaping, growing hole inside my heart that kept telling me that I wasn’t loved. I partied because my peers did, I focused on drama and not my grades. I had an ugly green monster of jealousy towards my older sister that kept us from being close at times. I was so sad inside. Sometimes I feel like the experience I had in high school is what I feel like a lot of college-aged girls go through…but maybe I experienced it a little sooner. I had a horrible senior year of high school where I was extremely depressed, but my family didn’t know to what extent…I remember feeling like there were other concerns and worries they had and I didn’t want to burden them with mine. I felt like my friends and peers were just annoyed with me for crying all the time and being sad. During Christmas break that year I hardly saw anyone…but I prayed. I prayed and journaled my heart out. I had a little notebook I kept with me at school and when I felt weak, I would pray and journal.
I decided to join a small little production of Beauty and the Beast at school, and got the role of Chip and was the understudy for Belle…it didn’t matter that it wasn’t a grand production, I loved being a part of it. I loved going to practice and spending time with kind people. I loved rehearsing and how it felt to be on stage. My whole life I’ve always had a great love for film, plays, stories, and books. Me and my sisters, when were younger, were always playing make-believe and putting on shows. I felt so much happiness being a part of this play that it led me to want to become an actress. I had a friend who moved to LA to become an actor and he encouraged me to just go for it! Why not!? My aunt, who had been a friend and mentor to me, lived out there with my 5 cousins and they had some connections to the acting industry. I got this idea in my mind and became obsessed. I wanted to be a famous actress. I wanted to be a role model to girls all over the world. I wanted to be a light and make movies that would bring hope and joy to a hurting world. I told my mom and dad when I was 18 that I either wanted to join the missions, or move to LA. With the support from them, and my aunt, I moved to LA when I was 18 years old.
It was in my time in LA that I was saved and gave my whole heart and life to Jesus. I cried and cried and cried and asked God to heal the lies and wounds in my heart. I got baptized in the Pacific Ocean as an adult and re-dedicated my life to Christ. I still had a lot of growing and changing to do, but I met so many wonderful people who helped me, encouraged me, loved me, and prayed for me. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t always pretty, but God changed me out there... I was in LA from the time I was 18-22. I never became a famous actress. I didn’t finish school. But I was set free from the lies of the enemy and felt like all of the crap I felt buried under for so long, had been swept away.
Circumstances happened that made me feel like it was time to move back to Ohio. I was burned out from trying finish school, working multiple jobs, and not focusing on acting, which was why I wanted to be out there in the first place. I was pretty devastated when I moved away from CA. I felt lost, unsure of the future, and felt like a failure. I was removed from all of my Christian friends and family, and wondered what living for Jesus looked like for me all on my own. I bounced back and forth between living with my mom and dad and living with my older sister, her husband, and a little baby boy. I worked odd jobs, nannied, and began to get distracted again with boys. Boys had always been my downfall and distraction, pulling me away from what God was calling me to. I was always trying to find love from someone or something other than Jesus. I don’t think I truly believed God had someone for me. I was so scared of no one ever loving me. How could they? I felt un-loveable (GIANT LIE!!). But, when I was at another all-time low, God brought my now-husband into my life. I was such a mess. I can’t believe he was able to see past my mess and somehow see something good in me. He met me right where I was at. In the muck and mire and he didn’t care. He just loved me with a kind of love that I had never experienced before. It reminded me of how Jesus loved me. He had so much grace for me. I know that people can’t save people or “fix” people, but I truly believe God sent me my husband just right in the perfect timing. The past 5 and a half years since I have known my husband, God has used him (and a lot of others) to bring out the absolute best in me. I feel like I am truly becoming the woman God made me to be…and my husband played a very instrumental part in that.
Finally, at 28 years old, I feel like God has laid the foundation to have me do whatever it is that He has called me to do. I don’t know what that is yet, but I am enjoying the journey. He has used all of the good and bad experiences, seemingly odd jobs, my acting dreams, the people I have met, the heartache, the loss, the freedom, the gifts that I didn’t even realize were gifts; they have all come together in this crazy way. I am cherishing this season of life because it is so sweet. I feel so much peace and joy. I feel so much love for people and our world, but also a calling to love and pray for them. My full-time job is that I get to be the volunteer recruiter for an amazing faith-based non-profit out of Lexington, KY, called Amachi.
Amachi means “Who knows what God has brought us through this child.” Isn’t that the truth though? We are a mentoring program that matches adults with children who have been impacted by parental incarceration, and I get to tell people about Amachi and have them come and change kids’ lives with us. I have been a mentor with Amachi for almost 4 years and then just joined the staff this past December 2016. Look at those seeds God planted 4 years ago…it absolutely blows my mind how He works everything together to complete His plan.
I feel so strongly that in this season in my life, He is stirring up my heart and preparing me for whatever else He has planned for the future… and every day I just put out my hands, palms up, and say “I’m Yours…use me to do Your will.” It has brought me the most joy I have ever had. I am so excited to see what God has in store for me. I think I have finally realized that all I need to do…is just to keep loving people…give hugs and smiles, encourage others, let myself cry and be sensitive, and to be sweet. That is who God called me to be. Just myself. It just took me 28 years to figure that out.