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I Am Renewed

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“When I went to college, my identity in worldly things was at its peak,” said Ashley Vickers. “I deeply wanted approval from others, focused on my image, and tried to maintain others’ positive opinions of me. I claimed to be a Christian, but my actions didn’t reflect that. I partied, experimented with drugs, engaged in premarital sex, and jumped from relationship to relationship.

“After college, I entered into an inappropriate relationship that included cheating, manipulation, and verbal abuse. I found myself overcome with guilt and shame. I felt defeated in that relationship and my lifestyle in general. I knew I was going to be exhausted if I kept doing what I was doing.

“When I moved to Dallas from my hometown in Kansas, I felt like it was a restart. I started to attend The Porch, Watermark’s young adult ministry, and quickly started to see and hear that true life change was possible through the truth of Jesus. I knew I needed a drastic transformation, but I didn’t want to change any part of my lifestyle. I didn’t want to confess my sin, date in purity, or have hard conversations. But God was faithfully working on my heart, and I continued to attend events and messages at Watermark.

“Living my double life finally started to catch up with me. I had an unexpected pregnancy and started to think through ways I could abort the baby. I was so ashamed of my pregnancy because I claimed to follow Jesus, but I knew I hadn’t given God full control over my life. Before I could ever act on my ideas about abortion, I experienced a miscarriage. Like a lot of my past, I decided to keep this part of my life secret from those around me.

“I thought I was too broken. I thought I was damaged goods. I didn’t want to tell anyone about my past, because I was afraid that they would think of me differently. I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired. I really wanted freedom – true freedom from sin – so I humbly asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. I began to confess sin in my life that I wanted healing from. No longer did I want to be a Christian only when it was convenient to me. I wanted to follow Christ with everything I had. This decision and surrender changed everything. My faith and trust in the Lord changed how I dated, how I interacted with others, how I spent my weekends and my money, and how I even viewed myself.

“I finally told my community group about previous sexual sin in my life and my thoughts before my miscarriage. I never previously talked about it, because I didn’t want to add another bullet to my resume of brokenness. But when I confessed my sinful thoughts, I was met with forgiveness and grace from believers around me.

“Now I see on the other side that in Romans 5:8, it says, ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me and every sin I committed; past, present, and future. I get to spend eternity with Him, and I get to live different here on earth because of His sacrifice. I don’t have to live in bondage of my sin anymore. I am free to talk about my story, my secrets, and my struggles because I am not defined by my past. I am renewed.

“I can see the Lord’s faithfulness in everything. He has shown up in so many aspects of my life. He has been so faithful to forgive me and to redeem me. He’s given me a community of other Christians to help me through life in a biblical way. Like Christ, they don’t see me for my sin but as a child of God – forgiven and loved. In even small moments, I can see what God has changed. I never knew my own need for a savior or the weight of my own sin. I didn’t see what my sin was doing to me and those around me. God reminds me through His Word that I am loved, chosen, and redeemed (Isaiah 43:1).

“Now, I have the opportunity to serve young adults at The Porch every Tuesday. I get to be around people in the same life stage and season I was in when I felt so low and broken. Everything about my life is so different because I am focused on how I can glorify God. I fully trust Him with my life. I’m not perfect by any means, but I have the tools to remind myself of God’s truth. My past was filled with a lot of anxiety, guilt, and shame, but I know He is going to provide for me. I get to share my own story of grace and redemption and let others know that we have a reason to be hopeful. God wants different for all of us. He wants better – and a life fully surrendered to Him offers that.”