Crystal joined our family the day we signed papers to adopt Owen.  We didn’t know each other well, but it was clear we would spend the rest of our lives unpacking our stories and finding out how we all fit together.

Right now, she’s sitting on my couch.  The best part of this Easter is having her here with us.  Tonight, she helped Owen find Easter eggs.  She pushed the girls on the swings.  She ate my second batch of cookies after I burned the first.  And she read to us an essay she wrote for a scholarship.

She’s given me permission to share part of this essay on my blog.  Her life is one of courage and pain.  She’s a flower busting through concrete.  She is a picture of rebirth, renewal, and ultimately, the change Jesus came to bring.

It’s fitting to share her story on the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  Her story is a picture of Easter—of how death is never the end and devastation doesn’t get the last word.  She named her essay “New Beginnings” which is the origin of the name “Owen”.

Here, in her own words, is her story.

The past eight months of my life have been about repair.  I am repairing the damage I’ve done to myself and what others have done to me.  I am in a wonderful program called “R.I.S.E”, (Reaching Independence through Self-Empowerment), that has been helping me turn my life around.

Overcoming a difficult childhood is a challenge in every aspect of my life.  My father was an abusive man and his alcoholism only made it worse.  When I was seven years old the abuse turned to me.  He started beating and molesting me, and after two years of watching what my father was doing to me, two of my stepbrothers decided they could get away with it, too.  For five years I endured mental and physical abuse at their hands, until I decided I could not take anymore.  I ran away at the age of 14 determined to never go back.  And I never did.

When I ran, I expected to be free from the life I was leaving, but instead the pain and trauma followed me and affected every decision I made.  At fifteen I was pregnant with my first son and by seventeen I was a mother of two, struggling to raise children when I was only a child myself.  I had no way to support my children because when I ran I left my birth certificate and social security card behind. 

With no way to prove who I was, I was stuck in an endless cycle of dependency.  I had to depend on men to take care of me and my children just to survive.  This led me into many relationships what were abusive and unhealthy.

The anger and hate was a part of every relationship, because every man I was with somehow reminded me of my father.  The anger and hate turned into a drug addiction to numb pain.  Prescription pain pills gave me the freedom I was looking for when I ran away.  At least at first, I believed they did. 

The pain and anger were temporarily forgotten, the tears dried up and the guilt and shame subsided for a time.  The pills gave me a false sense of happiness, until the addiction caused me to lose everything.  No matter how many pills I took, they were no longer distracting me from my problems.

Child Protective Services became involved in my life for many reasons.  By the age of twenty-one both of my boys were in foster care.  My inability to provide a safe and stable environment ultimately caused me to lose them.  I was in an abusive relationship and felt there was no way out.  I had no idea how to fight for my children or how to fight my addiction, so by twenty-two, my rights as a mother had been terminated.

The devastation, pain and confusion that followed were relentless.  The pills were no longer helping me like they once did but still I tried, desperate for relief.  My pill consumption was expensive and to support my habit, I was dancing in gentlemen’s clubs all over Fort Worth.  For two years, I completely lost myself and my shattered self-esteem and bruised ego kept driving me deeper into despair. 

I hit rock bottom when I delivered a third child—a very sick and premature boy.  Due to drug use during my pregnancy my son was born one month early and was in an incubator for six weeks, with an uncertainty on in if he would survive.  My life had spiraled out of control.  Once I realized I no longer had the ability to manage my problems, I prayed for help.  That night in the hospital as I lay in my bed, I cried out to God. 

I cried for the life I had been robbed of. 

I cried for the life I wanted, and I cried for the life I had lived.

The following day, help arrived in the form of a social worker with a question that would change my life.  She asked me if I had ever considered placing the child up for adoption.  With this idea I realized it would allow me to give my son the life I would never be able to provide him, given the obstacles I was already facing.  I did not want to just pass my problems down to another generation; I wanted to break the cycle. 

I found an adoption agency and the perfect family.  I know God’s hand was directing all of it because they were the first family I looked at and I knew they were it.  The Gibson’s never judged me.  They have loved both me and my son, Hunter, from the start.  We decided on an open adoption and the day we signed the papers I knew this was one decision I had gotten right. 

But in spite of this positive decision for Hunter, the grief was still palatable.  Without proper coping skills to help me with the deep loss I felt, I went back to using drugs to mask the pain once again.  It wasn’t long before I found myself in jail, a shattered and broken woman.

My arrest on June 19, 2013 was the answer to my prayers.  God heard my pleas and provided the perfect solution in a program called RISE—a program that is helping me heal.  I discovered the key to my happiness during the process of my healing.  God was and always has been the key.  Through my hard work and dedication to making my life better, many opportunities have appeared.  I have lived the life of the tragic and now I will live the life of the success.