this is a sweet, sweet post by a lovely girl named Jessica who I had the pleasure of watching grow up. I hardly edited a word, because the innocence and honesty are crucial...and we could all learn from them. <3[about the author] My name is Jessica. I was born in New Iberia, Louisiana. I have lived in three different states (Louisiana, Colorado, and Florida), each place God has used to mold me. God has been with me through so many things, I do not know who I would be without Him... It's a life I can't even picture. I am a senior at Louisiana State University (graduate in December! woot woot!), studying to be an Elementary school teacher. I can't wait to have my own classroom. I'm not sure where I will teach yet, but can't wait for whatever adventure God has in store for me.

~~~ I grew up in a church home. I know that's a line many of us have heard. My story's most likely the same as many peoples' in this world. While I am not proud of all the decisions I have made, I know that God allowed me to go through certain things so I could realize Him and His grace more fully now.

I was born in a  little town in Louisiana. When I was seven my family moved to Colorado. All my life I remember my dad telling me that I was a Princess; an heiress to the Kingdom of God. Someone with power only through Christ. My dad was a pastor and never let a day go by where he did not share these things with me. To this day I still wonder how, with this love and the love God showed me through life, I could have made some of the decisions I made. Thankfully God is amazing and I will never understand His love and forgiveness. My middle school years were a foundation building time. I had an amazing group of girls that God blessed me with. We would pray together, seek God together, go to school and live life together. I was firm in my beliefs, I knew my worth, I was strong... or so I thought. God threw a curve ball, like He often does. I should have been used to moving by now, meeting new people and becoming accustomed to things (by now I had already been to seven different schools) but what came the summer before my ninth grade year I was not entirely prepared for. I was settled in my life, and suddenly coming home to a "For Sale" sign in the yard. This time, we were moving to South Florida. A new state, a new school, and a new journey. High school years are hard for everyone. I of course experienced a culture shock. This area of the world was much different then the places I had lived. And I'm not just talking about the palm trees. There's always that awkward first day of school. I was a Freshman, walking in two weeks after school had started. I walked in with jeans, a t-shirt, a backpack and sneakers (apparently this was not a cool way to dress.. first thing to go was the backpack). I began making a few friends, however none were the same as my group back in Colorado. I had grown accustomed to sharing everything about God with my friends back then; however soon found out that not everyone wants to talk about those things. I lost many friends because of my openness. As the years in high school went on I wanted more and more to fit in. I found a group of people that would accept me, the only thing was that they slowly began to make it easier for me to make the wrong decisions. This was the beginning of a slow drift. While I wasn't a "party girl", I often ended up in that atmosphere, pretending to like the things going on around me (and toward the end convincing myself it was all pleasurable). I had my first boyfriend when I was 17, he did not love Jesus. God told me to break up with him, and I did eventually; however that attention seemed so nice at the time that I began turning to other guys for it. I would find myself at a party, with a boy flirting, thinking he doesn't want anything more, and of course a majority of them did. Time and time again I was left broken, wondering what I was doing wrong, why all of these boys seemed to only want me for certain things, and not realizing God was in the background calling me to turn back to my first love.  Finally, I could take no more. I had been through the same thing over and over with this life. I would go where my "friends" were. Somehow a guy would start talking to me, soon I would find myself physically involved with him, telling him all the while that I couldn't actually do anything because I was saving myself for marriage and yet getting as close to anything as I could. He would say "I really respect that" and then try to push my limits. I kept saying they aren't all like that. But what I had forgotten was the one thing that I needed. That attention I was getting was entirely fleeting. God, my first love, my amazing best friend, was constantly putting songs in my head (literally, in the middle of a party I would hear worship songs, like God was calling to me in the midst of it all), trying to make me come back to Him. I had forgotten the words that my dad used to tell me. "You are a Princess, an Heiress to God's Kingdom, and you deserve a man that will treat you that way". I had replaced it for a cheaper version of what God wanted for me just to get the attention I craved. I applied to LSU to get away from the atmosphere, I felt God calling me out of it. When I came here God brought me to a group of men and women who fiercely loved the Lord. They accepted me in all my brokenness and reminded me constantly the way men and women were meant to treat each other. The world has a much different way of looking at relationships (friends, between a man and woman, sons and daughters... every relationship). I had been caught up in it, but God was reminding me of the world He had in mind for us. One of the biggest reminders was because of swing dancing. I know weird right? We would have random nights where all of us would get together and swing dance. It was amazing. None of the guys in that room wanted to do anything but twist me around in circles, and teach me knew dance moves! God reminded me of the purity He had given me (my purity is not my own). He is the one that, even though I'm torn... dirty... broken... wants to twist me around in circles. He wants me to come back into His arms and remember the romance He has with me. There's a moment, when you have to trust your dance partner. When you trust that if they bring you in for a dip they won't drop you. God used those moments to remind me that He would not drop me, and if I only trusted Him in this dance, I would have the most amazing time of my life. For a while it was hard to grasp. Why would God, knowing full well the decisions I had made.. even after I was His child, be calling to me again? How could he forgive me when I had slowly given away things that He asked me to guard (mainly my heart). Why would He want me again? I struggled with forgiving myself, with realizing that I had made mistakes and just moving on. It seemed easier to forgive everyone else, but I was unforgivable. I was told by a friend that I was being prideful. How could I tell God that I was unforgivable. He died on the cross! Who was I to say where His power ended. One thing was certain, He still wanted me, wants me, for some unknown reason. I began praying and am still praying earnestly for focus. Those years I spent trying to fit in cost me years of getting closer to Him. But it's because of those years I am who I am, and I can write this story right now. God does things for His glory, He raises us up, tells us to leave the burial clothes behind, and gives us new clothes. The only purity I have is His, the only love I have is His, the only joy and all my strength comes from Him. When I live for Him, when I make decisions based on pleasing Him, my life is full. My past does not matter because He says it does not. I want to encourage anyone who seems stuck in trying to please people. It's still a struggle for me, just in different ways. God says we are not here to please men, but to please Him. High school can be tough, but stay strong because even if it seems weird to others to be bold for Christ, believe me the alternative is not as pleasing as it sounds. I let the world take away my boldness, and I am still working with God to have that strength again. The fearlessness I had at the beginning of high school to share the Word was gone for a while, and only because God has such an amazing love can I begin to share it again. He wants a full life for all of His children. I now have a boyfriend who respects me. He respects me in every aspect. He loves Jesus and pushes me to search for Him. The relationships I had with guys before can't even compare to one where God is the centerpiece. Pleasing yourself can leave you empty and alone, but God is here to remind you that He has set you free from pleasing yourself and others. My boyfriend and I are now constantly praying for God's will in ours and each others lives. It is a blessing to know that there are Godly men out there. Don't be discouraged, there are so many out there. Don't settle for something or someone because it's there and you haven't experienced it yet. If you ever feel lonely remember that God is your first love and He wants to know you so deeply. If I would have continued to have my focus on Him during those hard times I can only imagine where my life would be right now. I realized after 2 and a half years that I wanted my focus on Him. Find a group of girls that you can live life with. Don't let them go, continually pray and seek God with them (or if you're a guy I would encourage you to find a group of guys). Continually read scripture (not just because you should but because God can say so much through it). Ask for wisdom when sharing your faith with others. Don't just give it away, ask God to make clear opportunities where He can shine through you. Guard your heart, but don't be afraid to love. Try to remind yourself the type of attention that is good and what is fleeting. The feeling of a boy telling you you're pretty only lasts a couple hours, but the feeling of God telling you how much He cares for you and others makes a lasting impression. Don't be afraid to fail, if you fail don't be scared to call on God to help you. Don't beat yourself up for past mistakes. Look at them, pray God gives you the strength to overcome them, forgive yourself, and refocus. It takes time, but it's worth it. And always remember, there are other people who have most likely been through something close to what you are going through. Remember God gave us our brother's and sister's in Christ so that we can not only share the fun things in life, but so that we can help each other out of mud. Don't try to get over it by yourself, God gave us community for a reason.