For much of my childhood, I identified as a Cultural Catholic – it was just who I was. I didn’t hold a strong belief in God, and in high school, I really began to wonder if God was real. My father was verbally abusive and an alcoholic, and my mother was an enabler. Being the youngest in my family, I felt alone, forgotten, and confused as to why no one was speaking up about what was happening in our house. Things were not okay – why wasn’t anyone doing anything? Over time, I developed chronic anxiety and my weight began spinning out of control.

I began doubting the Bible as true. If God was real, why would he allow these circumstances in my life? When I went off to college, I majored in Anthropology, and had a desire to study other cultures in hopes that I could somehow prove the Bible as false. I wanted to prove everyone wrong.

Around this time, my brother and his wife, who are non-denominational Christians, invited me to attend church with them. I always enjoyed being around them and looked up to the people they had become, so I agreed. They talked about the love of God, and I didn’t understand what that meant, but I enjoyed the experience of church. My parents found out that I had started attending a non-Catholic church and became angry with me, so I stopped going shortly thereafter.

I had enrolled in a class at school called “The Anthropology of Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion,” but knew something was wrong from the moment I entered the classroom for the first time. The room was dark, smelled of incense, and there was a heavy weight in the air. Other students in the class seemed to hate religion, and I felt a conviction that this wasn’t somewhere I should be, and decided to drop the class and switch my major to Art.

After beginning my journey as an art student, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. It was devastating – she was my closest friend, my world. As she grew sicker, I developed a love for illustrations and children’s books. While she spent an entire summer in the hospital, I read The Chronicles of Narnia and instantly wanted to know more about the author, C.S. Lewis. I ordered an anthology of his work and began reading Mere Christianity.

My mother meanwhile moved into hospice, and eventually passed away. The day after her funeral I went to a local bookstore and bought my first Bible – I knew at that point that I was all in. I suddenly had a hunger and a thirst for God, Jesus, and Christianity, and wanted to know all about them!

After college, I struggled to find good community, grieve my mother, and find a job. After research and a lot of prayer and trust in God, I decided to take a leap and move from California to Texas. I sold most of my belongings and drove to Austin, even though I had never been. I didn’t yet have a job, had no place to live, and didn’t know anyone. Thankfully, I quickly found some Christian roommates and landed a job two days later.

Over time, I found community, purpose, and the true freedom found in making Jesus my Lord and Savior that I had always longed for. I began learning more about God the Father and realized He was not the same person as my earthly father. In the first small group that I attended, I began to truly understand God’s love for me. I learned that God the Father would love me far greater than my earthly father could. Now, ten years later, I can see how God has provided for every step of the journey. Since I made the decision to trust in Jesus, I am confident He will continue to sustain me and guide me in His wonderful plans for me.

Artwork by Alicia Leon inspired by her faith story.

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