#GRACEIS | Sierra Hanson

I was raised in a very Christian household and my God Parents had a big role in my life. Although I was surrounded by strong faith, in high school I encountered a very dark time. I experienced several losses, and that was something I had not experienced before. I was also being bullied at school. All of this came together to send me to a very dark place. I struggled with doubt and self-loathing. I was at a point of despair and really didn't know what to do. I had many peaks and valleys. I started figuring out who my real friends were. I started at a new church, joined a new youth group, and found new mentors and friends that didn't go to my school and that is how I grew in my faith. They helped show me God's unending Grace. I still had many low moments after I felt so defeated by life. However my newly rejuvenated faith, as well as a select few good influences, helped me overcome those moments and remember God's love for me.

I viewed starting college as a new start, and for the most part it was. New environment, new friends and a complete fresh start. I even contemplated going by my middle name to feel like a new person (I opted out of that. It was too hard to remember to respond to Ellie, a nickname for Elaine) However college came with it's own challenges. I struggled letting go of a toxic relationship. I also was the victim of a cyberbully. The combination of these two things sent me back to that very dark place. I was struggling again, but agin there was the Grace that found me before. My new friends came to my rescue and were there for me every step of the way. Also this time not being my first go round and being slightly more mature, I was able to remind myself about His Grace even on my darkest nights. God sent amazing people into my life, and even though times were hard I could still see Him working in my life.

I finished college so much stronger than I ever imagined. I learned from my Freshman year troubles and tackled the following three years head on. I met amazing people and created lifelong friendships. I continued to grow in my faith. As I shared my testimony with some, many were shocked that the strong, independent, happy woman they were talking to had seen such dark times. My testimony is still something I rarely share and I am working on becoming more comfortable sharing it with others, now that I am in the post-grad adulthood part of my life. I am free of the depression that bogged me down for years, but still struggle with anxiety. I cling to the Lord to help me through everyday. I can't do it without Him. My main priority isn't sharing my story, but rather trying to show everyone I meet God's Grace, because I truly feel as though I am living proof that God's Grace can truly overcome anything.

Lastly, I want to share the verse I found in high school that I have clung to these past almost 10 years of trials and tribulations. When I find myself feeling low or searching for God's Grace I remind myself of this verse. It is combination of several Bible translations, with my favorite wording of each phrase. "Rejoice in hope, be patient in affliction, and constant in prayer" -Romans 12:12