I love to read about the woman at the well in John 4. That’s where Jesus presented His incredible gift of grace to a woman with a history of poor choices. Yet He didn’t condemn her. He didn’t chastise her or pile on guilt or shame. No, none of that. Instead, He expressed love. Forgiveness. Acceptance. And an invitation for her to have a relationship with the Son of God—the One who could fill every empty part of her life forever.

It’s amazing. Jesus knew everything this woman had ever done, yet He chose to look past her record of sin—her dirty thoughts, her motives, and every sinful moment—to see the woman He had created her to be. He invited her to follow His better way that led to abundant life here on earth and eternal life with Him in heaven (John 3:16; 10:10).

But then, as if that weren’t enough, He used her to bring others to salvation!

The Apostle John could have just as easily been writing about me. I’ve made my own poor choices—lots of them. But praise God, Jesus met me at my “well” and extended to me His gift of forgiveness and a fresh start. He welcomed me into His family, and ever since, beyond my ability to comprehend, He has used me to lead others to His amazing grace.

My sinful choices stemmed from my need for love. I can’t remember a time as a child that I felt loved or safe except when my father was home. Unfortunately, his commitments to the military often took him away. His absence left my siblings and me vulnerable to abusive behavior from our mother, who struggled with alcoholism.

Today, on the other side of years of therapy and treatment for my own poor choices, I better understand her illness of alcoholism. I understand now that my mother wasn’t just mean; she was sick. She had a disease that greatly impacted her behavior. That doesn’t make what I experienced at her hand any more comfortable or right, but knowing it has helped me forgive her. I’ve also come to forgive my father for not intervening like I thought he should.

Regardless of the reasons for my parents’ actions, those years of abandonment and abuse led me to believe I was unlovable and not worth saving. I mean, if my mother wouldn’t love me and my father wouldn’t save me, who would?

Maybe you can relate.

In my teenage years, I began drinking and using heavy drugs. These substances temporarily faded the darkness around me. However, I increasingly needed more drugs and different combinations of drugs and alcohol to get the same effect.

At 15, I joined an outlaw motorcycle club. I was definitely looking for love in the wrong place. Most of the men, including my boyfriend, thought nothing about beating their women. I was soon pregnant.

In my experience, children were a curse. That’s how my mother had made me feel. Desperate, I went to a pregnancy center, where a counselor told me that at 16 weeks, I was simply carrying a blob of tissue. That “blob” terminology was exactly what I wanted to hear, and I chose to have an abortion. I was so afraid I would be like my mother.

I would go on to have three more abortions, but I never once considered I was taking a life. I have since recognized my sin, sought God’s forgiveness, and through counseling, worked through the emotional aftermath abortion brings.

When I was 18, I went to cosmetology school. Some people from a modeling school came there to recruit girls to join the Brevard County Beauty Pageant. One woman encouraged me to enter. She told me I was smart, elegant, and beautiful. No one in my life had ever told me such things. Inside, I laughed and wanted to say, “If you knew who you were talking to, you’d spit on me!”

Her words, though, encouraged me. I entered the pageant, and I was voted Miss Congeniality. This experience and the acceptance of those women helped me believe maybe I could be someone special. I decided I’d enter the pageant again the next year.

Regretfully, that positive experience was quickly overcome by darkness, and I reverted to my usual way of thinking: I wasn’t worth anything to anyone. I had nothing good to give. I was a curse and a burden.

I didn’t enter the pageant again. Instead, I ran away with another biker—a dark, handsome Italian who smuggled large amounts of cocaine into the state of Florida. It wasn’t long before he kicked me to the curb, leaving me homeless. For six years, I lived on the streets, and I did whatever I needed to do to survive. I was arrested many times for my actions and sent to prison. I served two years in the Florida Department of Corrections on my first stint.

Prison did nothing to change me. As soon as I was released, I went back to my old ways. Within weeks, I had violated my parole and was sentenced to two more years in Lowell Correctional Institution, one of the hardest women’s facilities in Florida.

While I was there, my mother passed away. I wasn’t a religious person, but I found myself heading to the prison chapel. I wondered if she had gone straight to hell, and I was terrified for her soul.

I went to the altar and knelt to pray. I was surprised when other female inmates in the chapel gathered around me, placed their hands gently on my shoulders, and began to pray for me. I felt the pure love of Jesus Christ envelop me. There was no darkness there, only light (John 1:5).

I went back to my dorm and, for two days, pondered what I had experienced. I got on my knees and prayed, “God, I don’t know if You are real. I don’t know if You can hear me or if You can do for me what everyone says You can. But if You are who they say You are and can do what they say You can do, will You do it for me? I don’t want to live another day the way I am.”

I was so tired of running the streets in criminal activity. Demoralizing behavior, abusive relationships, alcohol, and drugs had brought me nothing but pain and regret. I was a disgrace to my family, nothing more than a pile of trash to be hauled away. I couldn’t go another day carrying my heavy load of shame.

Two nights later, I dreamed of my mother. At first, her back was to me. I felt rejected and cried out, “I love you, Mom. I’m sorry.” But then, she turned around. I’d never seen her so beautiful and gentle. “I love you too, and I’m sorry,” she said as she held out her arms. I collapsed into her loving embrace. It felt so real.

That dream changed me. God had given me a gift. He knew I needed to feel the hug of my mother, and that sensing her love and seeing her in a different light would melt away the mortar of pain that had encased my heart.

There were no spiritual fireworks, but I felt different when I awoke. I understood that God was real. And somehow I knew that with Him, I could do the prison time ahead of me. I needed that time to heal.

A few weeks later, Bill Glass Ministries came to Lowell for a three­day prison yard event. I listened as celebrities shared their testimonies of how Jesus had radically changed their lives. Their words encouraged my heart, and I publicly accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Afterward, I imagined myself one day voluntarily going into prison to minister to inmates.

I served my sentence and, once released, went home. I got off the bus in Cocoa Beach and looked up to the sky. “What now, Lord?” I asked. I wanted a new life, but I had no plan to get it. I thought I could just figure life out as it came at me. Boy, was that a mistake. My feet had my body in a crack house before my brain knew what was happening. And that decision led me right back to Lowell for another eight months.

I quickly learned that if you don’t plan for success, you will fail every time. This time, I asked God to reveal His plan. Hebrews 12:13 says, “Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong” (NLT).

I learned about a transitional facility that would provide support, safety, rehabilitation, and godly direction. I finished my time at Lowell and went directly to Resurrection Ranch. The godly support at the Ranch kept me standing firm in my transition.

A few years later, I married the administrator of the program. We served God and others with zeal at the Ranch, but we forgot to care for one another. As a result, our ten-year marriage dissolved.

In my loneliness, I became deeply depressed, and I relapsed. I had been clean for 15 years. It was a humiliating experience, and I felt like I had let many people down, including God. But God did not give up on me. Instead, He pursued me with His love and helped me get up again. Then He brought others alongside me too who offered support. It’s been several years since that relapse. With God’s help, I have stayed clean. There have been many trials that could have tripped me up, but God has kept me secure as we take one day at a time, together. He is a good God, a loving Father, and my faithful friend. Two years ago, I fell down the stairs of my home and severely broke my leg. I ended up homebound for months and needed constant care. To my great surprise, God brought my ex­husband back into my life to serve as my caretaker. During those long months of recovery, Dave and I had many in-depth discussions and came to forgive one another.

I am in awe over how God not only healed my body but my relationship with my husband as well. We remarried on October 5, 2018, our original anniversary date. Isn’t God something? I am so thankful I serve the God of another chance, the God who restores broken things.

Maybe like me, you’re prone to making mistakes. Be encouraged: our God is the God of another chance. His love has no limits, no boundaries, and no expiration dates.

Maybe you think you are too far gone and that there’s no place for you in God’s kingdom. That’s what the devil wants you to believe. Reject those lies the enemy sells and shake off the guilt. God’s hand is always extended to you. He will never give up on you. He does not keep a record of your wrongs (Psalm 103).

Accept His invitation for a new life and get a plan that includes godly support. Then take one day at a time with Him. Together, you can make it.