I have four kids, all with different dads. I was never able to say those words out loud, and I went out of my way trying to hide it. Eventually, someone would figure it out, and I would die a little inside as I imagined all the ways they were judging me. I thought, what would people think if they knew? What about my abortion? Different dad there, too. Many people with my background (sexual abuse, divorced parents, an absent father) often end up drinking, partying or doing drugs. Me? I just wanted to be loved, and I used sex and relationships to fill that void.
Of course, my relationship with the first three dads didn’t work out, and I hit rock bottom after my third child. But here’s the thing with hitting the floor— it gives you a chance to bounce back. I found my self-worth after moving into a trailer with my kids and learning to live, for the first time, without the love and support of a man. Something was still missing, but something else had changed within me. I knew what I was looking for wasn’t what I had spent my life chasing; I just didn’t quite know yet what that was.
Fast forward a few years. I reconnected with an old high school friend, Jon, who loved me despite my brokenness and baggage. We got married, had a child and bought a house. Things were going better than before, but something was still missing—God. Seeds had been planted at youth camps as a child, but as an adult I had moved away from church.
Jon and I started attending church in Rockwell City. Then in 2014 we found Prairie Lakes Church when Amy Seward invited us to a Christmas Eve service. That night, we were given an ornament of a key with a date, ribbon and a tag that said “welcome home.” I treasure that ornament above all others because it reminds me of the night my life, and that of my family, were forever changed. As the Fort Dodge community knows, Amy died in a car accident last year. I wish she knew the impact of her invitation!
When I heard the words “it doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, God loves you, and you can look for God here,” I felt a tremendous weight lifted from my shoulders. You don’t have to check your baggage at the door here; there’s room! For the first time in my life, I truly felt like I was HOME. I grew confident in God’s love for me. I knew in my heart I AM worthy, I AM loved and I AM good enough. I may be a sinner, but I am NOT my sin! Prairie Lakes Church is so much more than a church. It’s home. It’s family. It’s friends. It’s a huge part of our lives, and we are incredibly blessed to be part of it. There are still days when I feel like I don’t deserve this new life I have been given, but God has given it to me anyway.
I’m no longer afraid to share my story because it’s part of who I am and how I rose above. I hope it inspires others to see God’s love is truly unconditional. Because of His great love for us, we don’t have to be afraid of our pasts and can be secure in our future with Him. Thank God for that!