Dark depression was my constant companion for as far back as I can remember. By the time I was 10, my journal reflected my feelings of being unloved, not accepted, and not good enough. I felt utterly invisible to the world and uncomfortable in my skin. It didn’t help that I came from a broken home.

A loner in elementary school, I suddenly found myself seeking popularity when I entered middle school. But no matter how hard I tried, I never quite fit in with the popular kids. Desperate, I turned to the drug crowd. They didn’t care about my quirks.

I was barely a teenager when I tried drugs for the first time, and I was instantly addicted—getting high provided a quick escape from the overwhelming darkness of my life. Finally, I had found a way to feel okay in this world.

Coming down from a drug-induced high was a problem though. The pain and darkness rushed back in every time. I began cutting myself, and I developed a severe eating disorder. Cutting and binging gave me some sense of control over my chaotic life, but I was on a dark road of destruction. And things were about to get worse.

At the age of 14, while at a party, I lost my virginity to a rape situation. Confused and broken, I built protective walls around my heart and mind. I turned to same-sex relationships, reasoning that a girl would never hurt me the way that boy had done.

Not long after, I overdosed on drugs and began cycling in and out of mental hospitals and drug treatment facilities. But they did nothing to stop my behavior. Truthfully, I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t even care if I died.

At 16, I left home and bounced from house to house, overstaying my welcome at every stop. A year later, I met a guy who seemed trustworthy. We had sex, and I got pregnant. His family encouraged me to keep the baby, but I felt ill-equipped to be a mother. So I chose to have an abortion. The young man broke up with me as a result.

No one at the abortion clinic prepared me for the emotional upheaval that would follow. I would not soon forget the smells and sounds of the procedure. Nor would I forget the sight of my tiny, dismembered baby, meticulously arranged in a petri dish. Not to mention the intense shame I felt as I lay on that table.

The depression and guilt that followed were worse than anything I’d experienced before. I looked for the only escape I knew—drugs. I worked hard at getting high and pretending nothing had ever happened. I ran as hard as I could into the darkness, where I felt I belonged.

After my eighteenth birthday, I entered the sex industry, where I had access to an abundance of drugs. Over the next year, I did unimaginable things and encountered much abuse at the hands of many. I became pregnant twice and terminated both pregnancies.

And then, I was arrested for drug trafficking. The judge sentenced me to four years of probation, which I promptly violated. This time, the judge sent me to prison. But he presented me with a choice: I could serve 42 months in prison or two years with two years probation. Surprising even myself, I chose the 42 months in prison. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was giving myself time to realize my need for God.

Prison life wasn’t much different than my outside life. I continued to struggle with eating disorders, cutting addiction, lusting after women, and engaging in same-sex relationships. I soon discovered my issues weren’t related to my location—they were within me. I had a heart problem that needed attention.

One thing was different, though. In prison, I finally had a sober mind. I had lots of time to stare at my ugly life in the mirror and learn to deal with it.

It all started when I met a girl named Tiffany—a real Miss Goody Two-Shoes who I couldn’t stand. She was obviously a Christian, and I wanted nothing to do with her. Until then, every Christian I had ever encountered was a hypocrite.

But Tiffany kept coming at me with her “love.” She would pray for me and read the Bible to me. It was the strangest thing, but I started to feel safe around her. She loved me in a way I had never experienced before and stuck by me when everyone else left. I could talk to her about anything without feeling condemned. She listened and never once tried to fix my problems.

Eventually, Tiffany was sent to a work camp, where she finished her sentence. In her absence, the atmosphere of the prison grew noticeably darker. She had carried such an unmistakable light within her. I missed her terribly, but even more, I longed for what she had.

I started secretly listening to a Christian radio station and reading the Bible Tiffany had given me. One night, I came across the account in John 3 of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. Something began to stir within me, and suddenly, I felt the urge to be baptized. At the time, I didn’t know why, but now I know it was God’s Holy Spirit, drawing me to Himself (John 6:44).

I got up from my bed and went to the shower. I turned on the water, stood under the stream, and began to cry. I couldn’t understand how I could be feeling such emotion toward a God I didn’t even want to believe in. Confused and angry, I asked, “If You are so good, then why has my life been like it has? Where were You when I was raped and abused? Alone and rejected? Tormented by darkness as a kid?”

As the shower water continued to flow over me, something amazing happened. I felt God’s incomprehensible peace, and I heard Him say, “It’s okay. You are Mine now.”

Suddenly, the weight of darkness lifted from my soul, and I could breathe and think clearly. Everything was different. I can’t explain how or why, but I knew God had saved me. I went back to my bunk and fell asleep. When I awoke the next morning, my desire to cut was gone, and so was my same-sex attraction. I also sensed my addiction to drugs had vanished too.

I started telling everyone what had happened, but no one would listen. They all just thought Crazy Lexi was having a breakdown. I lost a lot of friends in those early days. But later, after they saw that the change in me was real, they opened back up. I became to them the kind of friend Tiffany had been for me.

After a time of good behavior, I was transferred to a special dorm where the Lord gave me a new friend who was genuinely committed to her faith. Her name was Jody. And then, He sent Christina. (See her story on page 16.)

Jody, Christina, and I spent a lot of time together, studying the Word. I couldn’t help but notice how confident they both were in their eternal salvation and relationship with God. I, on the other hand, still felt so much confusion and doubt. So I continued to seek Him.

A year later, Christina and I were released from prison and entered a Christian transitional home together. But even there, I lived in doubt and fear. I was especially afraid of losing my salvation. I was sure the moment I made a mistake or did something to displease God, He would drop me. I thought I had to be perfect for Him to love me.

I also doubted God’s ability to keep me from evil. I was terrified that I would go back to my old lifestyle once I was released from prison. Hearing other inmates predict my failure cemented this fear in my heart. Plus, I was still being bombarded with temptations. If God had truly saved me, why was I still having these issues? Second Corinthians 5:17 said I was a new creation, but I still struggled in many ways.

And then, there were the abortions. They were always there, at the back of my mind. I couldn’t imagine how—or why!—God would ever forgive me for them. There was no way I deserved His forgiveness. The sin of abortion seemed way beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace.

And I had had three!

Fear and doubt were eating me alive, but I was too ashamed to tell anyone. All the other girls seemed to have it together; I felt so condemned. I know now Satan was behind this lie. He wanted me to continue to stuff my struggles deep inside, so I’d suffocate beneath the weight of them.

After 16 months in the transitional home, I decided to attend a Bible school in Dallas called Christ for the Nations. I didn’t know a soul in Texas, but I felt an intense desire to go.

Soon after my arrival, I met a man named Zack. We went to church together, and there I learned about the grace of God. How relieved I was to know that my eternal salvation didn’t depend on me. No matter how good or bad, my works had no bearing on whether God would save me. Instead, my salvation came only through what God had already done for me through the life, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16). I was saved by my faith in Jesus, not by anything I could do (Ephesians 2:8).

I found other scriptures that confirmed this good news, and I learned that before I had done even one good thing in my life, God had already given up His Son, Jesus, for me. He even demonstrated this great love for me while I was His enemy (Romans 5:8–10). Jesus bore all my sin in His body and, through His wounds, enabled me to be healed from the effects of my sin (1 Peter 2:24).

I also learned that when I believed in Jesus, I became a child of God, forever. Even if I returned to prison or fell back into drugs, my heavenly Father would still love me. Nothing could separate me from His love (Romans 8). Now, I knew that didn’t give me a license to do whatever I wanted, but it did alleviate my fear that God would drop me for something I might do. Scripture clearly states that God never abandons His children.

I found even more freedom when I attended a prolife rally. After hearing the speakers, I broke down and confessed my deep-seated fear that God would never forgive me for my abortions. A complete stranger lovingly reminded me that not only would Jesus forgive me, He already had. Jesus had willingly put Himself under the wrath of God that should have been mine (Romans 5:8–9), so  He could remove my sins from me as far as the east is from the west. He doesn’t even remember them (Psalm 103)!

Instead of running from God’s grace, I finally embraced it.

A year later, Zack and I were married. God was so merciful to me by allowing me to get pregnant and carry the baby to term. I wept as I held our daughter; I was the last person who deserved to be a mother after the decisions I had made.

When she was 15 months old, we moved to the Philippines for Zack’s internship. God soon blessed us with a second daughter, and then we felt Him leading us to Thailand.

There, we ministered in the red light district to young girls and women caught in the sex industry. Often, we would simply stand on the street corner and sing songs about Jesus and talk with people as they stopped.

While in Thailand, I discovered I was pregnant with our third child. God is so gracious. Our younger daughter, however, began having health issues, so we returned to the United States. She was soon diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and our son was born.

It’s been difficult to watch my child suffer from such a horrific disease. I have had to learn to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). It’s only as I keep my eyes on the Invisible One that I’m able to keep moving forward (Hebrews 11:27). I don’t know what the future holds for my daughter, but I know the Lord will lead us through every difficulty (Isaiah 43:2).

I have witnessed firsthand God’s unconditional love and mercy and His faithfulness. In all this time, in all my mistakes, God has never once dropped me. And if He would save me, the worst of the worst, He will save anybody.

It is God’s greatest desire that everyone would be saved (1 Timothy 2:4–6), and that includes you. So come, just as you are. Position yourself under God’s shower of grace where His love, peace, and mercy can rain down on you. Give Him every sordid detail of your past and receive His forgiveness.

There’s nothing that is outside the reach of God’s grace.