they would speak a thousand things

Leanne’s Testimony

Leanne Watkins Headshot

I was born into a loving, Christian family who taught me about Jesus Christ and His love for me from an early age. Having been a child evangelist for many years, my mom led me to accept Jesus into my heart when I was 5 years old. We talked about Heaven and what I thought it would be like. I decided I wanted to go to heaven, and in order to do so, I was willing to put my faith in Jesus. So my mom prayed with me and I asked Jesus into my heart. Yet a root of competition and striving to perform well to be approved developed in my life when my sister and brother were born and I no longer seemed to be the center of attention. I was jealous of them and believed the lies from the enemy that I had to constantly perform perfectly in order to win the affection and attention from my parents that I desired. On top of this, my best friend, born exactly a week before me, could seemingly do no wrong in my or her parents’ eyes; in contrast with me, the problem child and trouble-maker. I grew up feeling like the black sheep of not only my family, but my best friend’s family also.

you want to be saved

As I grew up in the church, I learned about Jesus, memorized verses in Sunday School, sang in the church kid’s choir and attended a private Lutheran school K-8th grade. But I was so young when I accepted Christ that I never started to understand what it meant to have a personal relationship with Him until I was about 14 years old. After a challenge to read my Bible everyday given to me at a church camp, my interest in a relationship with Jesus was sparked. I pursued an opportunity the summer before my freshman year of high school to go on my first mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. My church had been doing outreaches there in connection with a church called Cristo Emmanuel Evangelistico for over 15 years. That mission trip serving and learning with my fellow teammates was life changing for me. I witnessed the miracle of a girl who was deaf receiving the gift of hearing after our whole team prayed over her. That week made me desire for the first time to follow Christ and go out into the world to tell people the good news (Matt. 28:18-20).

As I went into high school, I served God by reading His Word, leading worship team, and attending Bible study. I participated in outreaches, sharing ministries, and mission trips and loved every minute of it. I started to fall in love with Christ for the first time as I sang his praises in the high school choir at church, raised money for starving children in third world countries, traveled to Oakland to clean a homeless shelter and talk to homeless people in the city about Christ. During my junior and senior years of high school I taught myself to play the guitar to lead the high school worship team at church. At that point I absolutely loved Christ and wanted to give Him all of my life.

1000 times i've failed

During my junior year of high school, I was rejected by the boy I had liked, who led me on for a year for his personal enjoyment. This planted a seed of what would grow into a deep root of fear of rejection. This only confirmed my previous belief that I had to look, act, and be perfect to be loved and accepted. Stress concerning my college plans and the financial burden of it increased my anxiety and I became an insomniac for almost 2 years. Soon the pressures of keeping a good Christian reputation and maintaining high academic achievement that I had put upon myself, coupled with my low self-esteem due to my dependence on approval and success, began to weigh heavily on me. I constantly strived for perfection and hated myself when I failed to meet my own impossible standards.

I fell into deep depression, and though I still went through the motions of a Christian life, I had lost faith in God. I believed I had to shape up and do everything right before He would love me – just like everyone else in my life. During my senior year of high school I was devoid of any passion other than looking “perfect,” and though on the outside I looked like I had it all together, on the inside I was numb, lost, and had no joy or peace in my heart.sad girl in the rain

After my 18th birthday, I began cutting to cope with my inner turmoil. Since I could not keep the rest of my life from falling apart, it was the one thing over which I had control. It meant everything to me. The first time was an accident; while using a razorblade to cut up cardboard boxes for recycling, I accidentally missed and sliced my hand. But after that first time, cutting became my addiction. I started slowly, just scratching with a pin or something sharp, but that didn’t last long. Before I knew exactly what had happened or what I’d done, I was addicted. For a while I didn’t want to stop, because I liked the pain, I wanted to just feel something more than dull, aching sadness.

After only 6 months of cutting, I was worse off than ever before, and still having trouble both sleeping and eating at all. It had become so violent by Christmas 2009, that I scared myself and knew I had to stop or it would all end very badly and bloodily. I tried several times to stop cutting, yet each time I wouldn’t feel any better, and the pain and hatred got worse and worse until I couldn’t take it anymore and went back to cutting – taking my anger and insecurity out on my own body. When I would return to cutting, the lies I had believed for so long would return to chain up my mind in an endless cold, dark prison cell of pain, performance, and hate. The enemy of my soul (Satan) had my heart and mind securely bound to my self-harm under lock and key. I could not escape.

shattered glassBy this time I was in college and attending a Christian group on campus. I knew I desperately needed help to get out of the deep black hole into which I had dug myself. But when I reached out to this group and revealed my secret struggles, the leaders condemned me for struggling and my friends there rejected me. I was not allowed to attend that group freely until I had cleaned myself up first. Jesus said it is not the well who need a physician, but the sick; he came to seek and save the lost, and that was exactly what I was. I was devastated and outraged at their prejudice and judgment against me, and delved even deeper into self-harm.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I was in an indescribable place of misery and torment, and decided to reach out one more time for help. I told a trusted friend about my struggles, hoping that maybe just one person would help me find the healing I was searching for. But he broke my confidence and betrayed me by exposing my problems to an audience once again. Bitterness, mistrust, and striving to hide every sign of my inner and exterior battle became constants in my life. Thoughts of death and suicide relentlessly plagued my mind.

When I returned to school, I felt more isolated and dejected than ever. I wanted to sleep and never wake up. On September 26th, 2010, I made my first serious suicide attempt by overdosing on over 100 sleeping pills and OTC drugs. But when I should have been dead, God supernaturally saved my life. After 3 days in the hospital, I was sent to a psych ward – basically hell on earth – until I could prove to them I did not intend myself harm again. After 3 trauma-filled and sleepless days, I was released and allowed to return to school the following week. I was forced to begin seeing a secular counselor on campus and a psychiatrist for medication. I was diagnosed as clinically depressed and bipolar type 2.

Almost two months after my attempt on my life, a friend of mine told me about Mercy Ministries. I knew my only choices were death or radical help, so I applied as a last resort to get my life back. On May 10th, 2011, I walked through the doors of Mercy broken, desperate, and hopeless. But God encountered me there and my life has been forever changed.

Through biblical teachings and constant sincere love being poured into me, I learned the truth that I am loved and greatly valued, paid-for by the priceless blood of Jesus Christ. Forgiving others and myself for past hurts and offenses was key in releasing me from my burdens of severe anxiety, bitterness, and resentment and healing my deep internal wounds. By far, spending quality time with Jesus during every part of the day, as well as speaking and believing the truth about who I am in Christ were the most freeing experiences at Mercy. I am not defined by the world’s labels and diagnoses and my value is no longer based on my failure or success, performance, or past mistakes and sins. When I decided to surrender my all my control over to God daily and put all my faith and trust in Him, I was freed from my chains of guilt, shame, condemnation, fear, and self-hatred. I am worthy, lovable, and entirely 100% acceptable to God because I am made perfect and blameless in Jesus Christ. I fell in love with Jesus again, and I fully intend to never let Him go again…not that He will ever let me out of His gentle loving embrace and merciful protection.

God has taken away my desire to hurt or punish myself for my past failures, because I now know that my old self is gone and I have been made completely new! My past is entirely erased in every respect – washed pure, brilliant white by Jesus’ blood. In May 2013, it will have been two years since I stopped cutting, entered Mercy and truly began my journey of healing and discovering freedom in Jesus’ life and indescribable love.

Though our lives are but a vapor, here one minute and gone the next, I know that my journey is not nearly over. Though I wanted and tried to end my life, God won’t let me until He decides it is my time. I am not afraid of death, but I don’t want it anymore; I desire only to devote my life to Christ and eventually live with Him forever. I don’t know what God has up His sleeve for me in the future, but whatever it is, I’m trusting in Him all the way! In all things, no matter where I go or what I do, I am determined to keep God as my firm foundation around which the rest of my life is centered, because I am securely anchored in Christ!

hope with cross Anchor jewelry collage 1

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8 responses

  1. Wow! I love your testimony, its amazing what God brings us through! I’ve a similar story and can relate to much of yours!
    Blessings!

    December 11, 2013 at 4:27 pm

  2. Gram

    Leanne, I just reread your testamony. What a testamony you have for Christ Jesus. Keep up witnessing for Him today and forever.

    August 23, 2013 at 8:29 pm

  3. meli_mudedi@hotmail.com

    Hola! Hoy Eric me envio el link que le enviaste de tu blog. La verdad me encanto todo lo que has escrito. Estaba investigando algunas cosas pero decidi leer tu testimonio. Todas las palabras han tocado mi corazon (tengo algunas lagrimas) doy MUCHAS GRACIAS A DIOS por tu vida. Hoy al escuchar tu voz Dios toco mi corazon. Se que Dios usara tu testimonio para ayudar a otras personas. Gracias por compartir tu vida con nosotros. Ya sabes que en Costa Rica tienes una familia Eric, Asia y yo estamos muy felices de conocerte. Cuenta con nosotros!

    August 12, 2012 at 8:51 pm

  4. Roberta Hegland

    Leanne – your mom was visiting here during her Portland mission trip a couple weeks ago. We sat at my kitchen counter with my 30 yr old daughter (that your mom used to babysit) and looked at this blog. My daughter began sharing feelings that were parallel to yours – it amazed me – these were things she had never shared before. You are a minister from afar – thank you!
    Btw – your blog is beautiful!

    April 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm

  5. Beth Johnson

    Leannne,

    I have held you in my prayers many times. To see God’s work in your life is nothing less than a miracle. You are blessed by God. His plan for you has not been completed. The Lord has all the hope, joy, and love that we could ever need. I am glad you realize it and now can live with it in your heart. The transformation in your words is a sign of healing beyond what we as humans undsrstand the soul to be capable of. It fills my heart with happiness for you.

    Beth.

    December 30, 2011 at 5:59 am

  6. Leanne, what a beautiful testimony of the grace and redemption of Jesus!! I am so grateful for your life and read this with tears with joy for God’s abundant mercy and love. Thank you for sharing!! I love you and will continue to pray for you!!

    December 28, 2011 at 7:26 pm

  7. Jim Counts

    Thank you for sharing Leanne. You will always be thought of as one of our daughters. We love you very much.

    December 28, 2011 at 6:01 am

  8. Rachel Burkhart

    Thanks for sharing this, Leanne. It was really eye-opening. God will do amazing things through you; I know it. 🙂

    December 28, 2011 at 5:32 am

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