I couldn’t resist republishing Sandra’s story once I read it. I hope her story gives you hope for knowing who Jesus is and how He really feels about us.

Paul

sandra.jpgLife is splendid. I have been seeing Jesus change hearts. And there is nothing like seeing a person transform before your eyes. See light in a mostly dark world. Experience life the way He designed it to be.

So, I guess in order for you to understand what is happening now, you will need to know what has happened before. Gosh, some of you don’t even know how I ended up moving to Mexico, then back to the United States, so I guess I will start further back.

As some of you already know, I was kind of a loner in my early years. I grew up feeling alone and isolated. I spent a large amount of time by myself and at the age of 10 found some magazines that sparked an addiction that began to rule my life even at that early age. I thought “Hey, that is what a woman is supposed to be” Because of the large amount of time alone I spent most of my hours creating a fantasy world in my head to help with the loneliness I felt. I was going to church, but because of a rumor that was started when I was 12 I was asked to leave. So I decided to be done with God. By high school, to mask the loneliness I felt, I got into a string of relationships and grew an unhealthy addiction. My sense of loneliness expanded, and I turned to alcohol. At 18, I felt I needed to escape. I traipsed off to college with full blown addictions in hand and created wreckage around me.

I went to college as a theatre major and there I tried to fill this void I felt with excessive partying, and it didn’t work. I was at every party, every weekend, and getting into numerous situations I shouldn’t have, but was lonelier than ever. I met, married and then divorced my first husband, pursued a relationship with someone else that in turn caused damage in his marriage, and had started drinking heavily, so after my sophomore year I dropped out of school and went to North Carolina. I met my second husband and at the age of 20 entered the world of adult entertainment. It paid my bills and fueled my addictions. I sought out approval from everyone around me, tried to be the prettiest, smartest, funniest, but I was empty. I used people in whatever way I could. Through my life I have always ran when the circumstances had gotten bad and I thought a change of location could change me and I was wrong.

I moved to Mexico and did a divorce process through the mail. When I entered Mexico I let my addictions run rampant. I continued working in the Adult Entertainment industry, and hit the bottom of my alcoholism and cocaine addiction, lost everything I owned, and started staying with people I knew because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I tried to lock myself in a hotel room for a week to kick my habits, but I really couldn’t do it on my own. One day a woman at work named Alejandra called a 12 step program that spoke English for me. That next day I was picked up at a hotel by my future sponsor and I got on the road to sobriety. That was July 15th 1996.

I got sober, started making new friends, and decided I didn’t want to be without money anymore so I started booking entertainers into Mexico while I was dancing. When I was in the middle of it I didn’t fully see the darkness around me. There was this top layer of glamour, beauty, excessiveness and attention that I was craving, but inside I was really dead and asking how my life could have turned out how it had. I talked myself into the idea that I was fine, that I was just taking care of myself, that I had a life everyone wanted, people sought after me, that I had tons of friends so I must be happy. I kept trying to talk myself into being happy. Everything seemed in order. I had done my checklist. But for some reason that I couldn’t put my finger on, I was sad. I still felt lonely. I felt something missing. I remember one day crying out of hopelessness that if this was all there was to life I didn’t understand why I was here. Why did it feel so wrong to me that we would go through life and then just die and that’s it? Why did I feel so alone? Why was I constantly feeling the need to do stuff to try and fill my life with things? When I was alone, or before I would go to sleep at night, I was filled with emptiness. A void, nothingness.

Each time I really started to process that, or look at the possibility that there could be more for me, I would stuff the feeling back down. During this time I went back and forth believing that God existed. On one hand I didn’t believe he existed, and on the other hand, if He did exist, then surely I had messed up so bad that there was no hope for me. In 2002 I thought some time away would do me some good. I went to England for the summer with my friend Greg. We ended up in South Beach after coming back to the states and I met a friend of mine there. I was at the Porn convention and looked around me and was so tired of how my life had ended up. I remember being outside the hotel and a guy was standing on the side of the street with a sign in his hand that said John 3:16. I remember making fun of him to the people I was with. I was a lead sinner. I was dying on the inside.

I went back to Mexico and after a few weeks flew to KY. After a couple of weeks I got a clear sense to stay. I wasn’t sure why, but knew it was what I was supposed to do. I ended the relationship that I had in Mexico poorly and moved here. A friend of mine asked me to go to his church a few times and I didn’t want to, I really didn’t want to meet many people or deal with any of my issues. He finally talked me into going because they were teaching a movie series and that week was on “Lord of the Rings” looking at the biblical principles in the movie. I thought, “I want to see how they do this”, and I was surprised at the church. I was used to this idea of hell fire and brimstone, hymns and condemnation, and that if I started going to church I would have to stop wearing makeup and wear dresses with little flower print on it all the time. I had bought into this lie that I would have to give up all the things I thought was fun, when really those things always led my heart to emptier places anyway. Instead I saw people around me that loved each other and cared about getting to know me. I looked around at the people here and they all had something I didn’t. They all had a peace and a joy that I had never known.

In the next couple of months I started feeling the love of God for me and not the pointing finger I thought I was going to get. I really thought God was tired of the mistakes I kept making. At this point I was walking around with internal shame and regret in my life from the things I had done, the people I had hurt. On the outside I looked great. On the inside I wasn’t. I didn’t think I could truly be loved by anyone. I had been here a few months and began to believe in God. I decided I wanted to follow Him. I loved getting to know about Jesus and His character and what He had done for me by dying on the cross. Then April 27th, 2003 came around.

Pete (our pastor) was talking about grace and after 6 months of questioning and not believing it could all be for me too, then going to believing and wanting to follow, I finally understood God’s grace for me and that I needed to receive Jesus into my heart and ask Him to lead my life. That I was just His kid that He loved no matter what. That the whole time I had been trying to lead my own life and making a MESS of it, Jesus just wanted to lead it. That I just needed to let Him. That He wasn’t pointing a finger, He was opening His arms. That it was a gift. That nothing I could do would make Him love me less, that nothing I could do would make Him love me more. It was a gift and I needed to receive it. It’s like if you get this amazing gift at Christmas from someone who loves you more than anyone else, you can open the gift and receive it, or set it on your coffee table, look at it all year and never know what it was. I finally got that Jesus was God’s son and that He was the only person on the earth EVER that didn’t sin, and that we all sin, but He loved us all enough to take all of our sins on Himself, He died for us, and then God made Him alive again and if we accept His gift, God’s sacrifice that already happened, our sins would be wiped clean in God’s eyes, past present and future! The gap between God and I could be bridged by Jesus!

So in my heart I walked up to the cross and said, “Jesus, this is all my stuff, my sin, my gross stuff, my good stuff, I don’t want it. I know you are God’s son, that He sent you and you died on the cross for me; I receive your gift of forgiveness, please come into my heart and lead my life. I love you, thank you.” With a humble prayer, led by a great friend of mine named Sharon, the hole I had been trying to fill with everything else, (like alcohol, money, relationships) was forever filled by Christ. I felt peace for the first time in my life. I didn’t feel alone anymore. I know now that my past doesn’t define me, but Christ defines who I am.

But the deal is it wasn’t just for me. It is a gift for everyone. It’s your choice, you can just pick it. These days, my life looks really different. I still make a ton of mistakes (I’m not perfect), and there are still storms I go through, but there is an underlying love that I feel from Him that doesn’t go away and now I am able to love people and love myself too. I really get to live in seeing myself the way He sees me. I used to cry all the time out of hopelessness, but now I get to cry out of joy knowing I am His and He loves me.

He also showed me through all this how my sexual and relational patterns had led to so much of the wreckage in my life. At that moment I knew other women didn’t have to go down the same paths I did, and that we needed to set up a program here at church for women that also had sexual and relational addictions called No Stones. We started the first group at the beginning of 2006 and so far we have had 6 groups with almost 100 women who have found freedom. We also began a group for women whose husbands struggle with sexual addiction. We have a ministry here at the church on Friday nights called The Mat. There are other groups there like: substance abuse, co-dependency, a 12 step study, and Men’s and Women’s integrity groups. I never dreamt that my past could be redeemed in such a way that helps other women, but He did. It amazes me.

He is doing the restoration in my life.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me. I would love to hear from you all.
~ I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” ~ Luke 7:47-50

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