Shelterwood came as a shock to me, a shock to my whole family, but a true blessing in the process of our healing in the struggles that I faced. My dad was a pastor of a small church in which everyone knew me and loved me, but expectations of my actions were extremely high. At the age of about twelve, a young man from the church began to take advantage of me. I never told anyone about the abuse because in my eyes (at the time) this young man really cared about me. Depression and guilt were overtaking my personality and I never understood why. Throughout the next few years the depression I faced led to cutting, acting out, and suicidal thoughts.
By the time I was fifteen, I had earned a reputation for doing the one thing that I had been groomed to do for three years. I slept around with any boy or man that told me he cared. I had begun to believe that was what love meant. Sex was the one thing that I felt I could control about my life.
Eventually, that same year, my parents found out about the abuse I had endured and was still enduring and all of the ways I had acted out. They quickly confronted the situation and took the evidence of the abuse to the police. I reacted by pushing them away and becoming very bitter. And although I had started counseling, the bitterness continued to grow and my life began to spiral out of control. My life became all about relationship after relationship, prostitution, and doing everything I could to control my own life.
When I was seventeen, I ran away from home and moved in with a man I had met online. One week after I left, the man I was living with saw me on the news as a missing person and drove me back to the neighborhood in which my parents lived. I grabbed my bags out of his vehicle and walked up to my parent’s front door. They stepped outside after quickly calling the police and we talked for about 30 minutes before the police arrived. They drove me to the children’s psychiatric hospital, where I stayed for eight days while my parents made arrangements for me at Shelterwood. Upon arriving at Shelterwood, I was overcome with regret, but also a strange sense of relief, which I now know was God’s guiding hand showing me the peace that I could have.
While I was at Shelterwood, I learned so many things about myself and about my family. The first thing I learned was that I most definitely could not solve all my problems on my own and that I needed my family and others to help me. Also, I gained confidence during my stay at Shelterwood. I learned what love should look like versus what I had been experiencing the past few years of my life. I was able to accept that God did love me despite my best efforts throughout my life to try to hide from Him. The most important lesson that I learned at Shelterwood though, was simple. I learned that I would never be perfect and that even after I left Shelterwood, I would know how to cope with my problems and how to ask for help when I needed it.
Since I left Shelterwood a little over a year ago, my life has drastically changed. My relationship with my parents has continued to improve, along with my relationship with my sisters. I was able to accept being loved by a man that I eventually married. My husband and I are now expecting our first child and cannot wait to teach our little one all about Christ’s love and forgiveness through every step of life. And while I do still have my ups and downs, I could not be more grateful for the journey that God allowed me to travel and the blessing of having a second chance to become the woman that God created me to be.