“Christina, I need to see you at my desk, please.”

Anxiety ripped through me at the sound of my fifth-grade teacher’s voice. Another trip to the school office? More questions about my home? I harbored so many secrets, and even at that young age, I understood there was safety in silence.

Tears threatened as I walked to the teacher’s desk. I was relieved when I realized she only wanted to talk to me about a guest speaker who had visited our class on Career Day. Edie, a professor at the University of Arizona, had spoken to the class about journalism and had given us some writing exercises.

“She called me to ask about you, Christina,” my teacher said, beaming with pride. “Edie was impressed with your writing, and she wants to get to know you.” I couldn’t believe my ears.

Edie took me on a field trip that included a tour of the University of Arizona School of Journalism and the local daily newspaper headquarters. “Christina’s going to write someday,” she said as she introduced me to the journalists in the newsroom.

“You have a gift, Christina,” Edie told me as I exited her car. “You will be a great writer someday. I hope to see you in one of my classes!” She drove away, and I returned to the loneliness of my childhood. I have never forgotten that day, as it was one of the only times I felt heard or seen as a child.

I never made it to college. I didn’t even graduate from high school. I left home at 13, and my innocence disappeared as I fell into addiction and street life. Before I knew it, I was 18 and headed to prison. I would remain trapped in a cycle of destruction for years. It didn’t matter whether I was behind bars or out in free society; pain, shame, and self-pity kept me shackled.

By 2015, my life resembled a war-torn country. All that remained amid the rubble were broken relationships and shattered dreams. All I wanted was a way out.

I was in jail, going through the agony of heroin withdrawals, when I cried out to God. “If You really exist, please help me. I don’t want to live like this anymore.” I know God heard me because, at that moment, a strange peace washed over me. It comforted me like a warm blanket and gave me the will to keep breathing.

God responded to me like a loving father whose child is injured. He held me in His arms and gave me His strength. And with the help of His Spirit and His Word, I began a long journey into healing. I received a study Bible from the ministry, Rescued Not Arrested (RNA). And for the next two and a half years, I spent every minute I could with my nose buried in its pages.

Every day, I wrote prayers to God in a journal. I opened my heart to Him and shared things I didn’t talk about with anyone else. I also confessed things to Him that no one else knew.

Communicating with God through writing made me feel like I had a voice. I always had my Bible open during these times of prayer and journaling, and the Lord poured His healing into every broken and wounded place in my soul.

The more I read God’s Word, the more I heard His voice. God reminded me that He had created me with intent and purpose. And despite my many failures in life, He still loved me and had a plan. It wasn’t too late for Him to take my messed-up life and use it for something good (Romans 8:28).

Soon after my release in 2017, I contacted Roger Munchian, the founder of RNA. I shared my testimony with him and thanked him for the Bible that had helped build my relationship with the Lord. Then, I traveled to meet Roger and to pick up some Bibles for my roommates back at the halfway house. I didn’t know it then, but the Lord was positioning me to answer the call He had on my life.

“You have an amazing testimony, Christina,” Roger told me during our first meeting. “It was very well written. Do you like to write?” I told him that I had always wanted to be a writer, but my life had taken a different turn. Roger encouraged me not to underestimate what God might still do in and through my life.

It wasn’t long before Roger invited me to serve as part of the correspondence ministry team at RNA. For two years, I read mail, processed Bible requests, and responded to letters from inmates all over the country. I used writing to encourage others and point them toward God’s Word as a source of comfort during their dark times.

In February 2020, Rescued Not Arrested hosted a volunteer appreciation dinner where I shared my testimony. I thanked the volunteers for their part in making sure that the body of Christ did not forget about people like me in jails and prisons.

As I walked off the stage and made my way to the food table, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a face I didn’t recognize. “Hi,” the woman said. “My name is Kristi. I would love to hear more of your story.” She pulled out a copy of Victorious Living magazine and quickly wrote down her email address and a phone number to one of her ministry directors. “If you submit your story to Pat Avery, he will make sure I receive it.”

I procrastinated for three weeks as I wrestled with doubt and other negative thoughts. Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that submitting my testimony would be pleasing to God, so I finally did it. The very next day, I received a call from Pat. “Kristi loved your story! She wants to include it in the upcoming issue along with Roger Munchian’s testimony.” I couldn’t believe my ears.

A few days later, I received an email from Kristi that said, “Thank you for sharing your story with us. It will undoubtedly touch thousands of lives through this magazine. By the way, you are an amazing writer!” She extended an open invitation for me to continue writing for the magazine if I was interested.

If I was interested? Are you serious, God?!

As I tried to absorb what was happening, I couldn’t help but remember Edie’s words from my childhood. God had used her all those years before to plant a seed in my heart about His plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11). And now, even after all I had done wrong, it was coming to pass. God was fulfilling His plan for me, and He would use everything Satan had meant to harm me to benefit others (Genesis 50:20).

My story, “Beauty for Ashes,” was published in Issue 2, 2020. Since then, I have shared other stories of hope in Victorious Living. Then, in July 2021, I accepted Kristi’s offer to become the production manager for the magazine. Now I help others share their God stories!

Incredibly, God has restored my life to His original purpose. Not only that, He has entrusted me to represent Him through the words I write. It is still so hard for me to fathom the depth of God’s incredible love and grace. I could never have imagined this for myself. God truly is our Redeemer when we trust Him.

He can redeem your life, too. If you make Jesus the Lord of your life, He will bring you into His good plan. He will weave every detail of your story together into a beautiful masterpiece for His purpose and glory, and it will exceed anything you could have asked or thought of for yourself (Ephesians 3:20). And that is a promise.