For 15 years, I was the kid that parents would often dream about. I was the daughter of a youth pastor and I played the part well. The only time I EVER missed a church service was if I was attending a Christian conference or a youth convention. I was actively involved in the church. I worked in the nursery, I sang on the praise team, I performed in plays and cantatas, and I was a student leader in the youth ministry. I prayed hard, read my Bible, and loved Jesus with every fiber of my being.

But, I was also obedient. I did everything the leaders of the church told me to do. If they said I needed to greet newcomers, I did. If the pastor’s wife told me that my eye makeup was too dark (which she did), I wiped it off. If the youth leaders insisted that my bathing suit was too risque, I put a t-shirt over it. When my father told me I needed to spend more time reading my bible, that’s exactly what I did. Whatever was asked of me, I did it. I respected the leaders of the church. I believed that they could guide me in my own walk with God. For 15 years…

Everything changed for me when my parents divorced. The only way I can explain it, is it was like being in a snow globe that someone had flipped upside down and refused to stop shaking. Everything was moving, nothing would settle down, and I had no idea which way was up. Instantly, the house that I had called a home was no longer my home. I would never sleep in my bed again. I would never climb out of my window to lay on the roof and look at the stars EVER AGAIN. I had to leave my school behind. I left kids that I had known since kindergarten. I would never talk to them again. My family was broken. My entire childhood felt like a lie. Even our church couldn’t handle my parents’ divorce. The senior pastor left. One by one, leaders and crucial members of the church just started to scatter. The congregation fell apart. And when a new pastor came in, following my father’s resignation, he asked my mother and me to step out of ministry. We were told that we could continue to attend, if we really wanted to, but it was clear that we weren’t welcome. Everything, literally EVERYTHING changed when my parents divorced. And side note: anyone that tells you that divorce is no big deal is lying to you. It’s absolutely awful. Believe me. If divorce is just “signing a dotted line”, then hell is just a sauna…

I can remember laying in one of the spare bedrooms of my Grandma’s house, shortly after my parents separated. I remember throwing my Bible across the room and screaming at God. WHY? Why was I going through this? I’m 15 years old. I’m just a kid. I’m not the one that sinned! I’m not the one who screwed up! Why am I paying for the sins of someone else? I had done everything I was supposed to do and this is what I get for it! It wasn’t fair. I was angry. The angrier I became, the more people didn’t want to be around me. People tend to avoid angry, hormonal, 15 year old girls. So I became lonely. Then, I became depressed. And then, I started to spiral out of control.

I was done with God. I didn’t care. I threw away all of my convictions, all of my morals, and everything I had ever believed in. Age 15: I started smoking. Age 16: I lost my virginity and started smoking pot. By the end of my junior year of high school, I had more than one notch on my belt, I drank almost every night, and I was abusing prescription drugs. I didn’t care. Being numb, being rebellious, and doing whatever I wanted wasn’t an ideal life, but at least I had some control.

At age 17, towards the end of my senior year, I became pregnant. The father of my baby was also, like me, just a kid. I barely knew him. I thought he would be my happily ever after, but instead, our relationship ended with a custody agreement and a PFA.

After I filed a PFA against my baby’s father, I went back home to my mom’s house. Once the dust settled, I had a minute to stop and breathe. When I did, I was forced to ask myself…”What have I done?” I wasn’t even old enough to buy alcohol, but I was a mother. I had no job, no money, no husband and I was living at my mother’s house. What kind of mess did I get myself into? What kind of future would my daughter have? How did I get to this point? I started to feel empty. My life was missing something. The last time I can remember feeling whole, was when I had a relationship with Jesus. Something clicked in my brain that night: I knew that Jesus was the only way I could be forgiven, be healed, and be transformed.

I can remember crying out to God that night, “God, if you’re there…if you’re listening to me, help me. I’m broken. I’m bitter. I’m a sinner. I’m empty and I need help… Please…show me what to do.” I will never forget that night, as I cried out to God. For the first time, in a long time, I heard God’s voice loud and clear. God said to me, “Kristin, I never left you.”

God never did leave me. I was the one that moved. I’m not going to tell you that everything magically fell into place after that night. I had stumbling blocks. It took time for me to forgive everyone that hurt me. It took time to forgive myself and accept God’s grace. It took time to fix my eyes on God and drown out the world. And I know, that God isn’t done with me yet. I’m a work in progress. But, I do know that in Christ, I am free. I live every day for God alone, with passion and purpose. I have eternal peace knowing that the God who conquered hell, lives inside of me and loves me.