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Tired of Pretending to be Fine

Sana Cotten remembers her turbulent childhood and the shame that followed her for years.

“We literally lived in a crack house.  My mother was addicted to drugs, and she was in and out of incarceration. There was a lot of people that were around, trying to help her raise me coming up, so I really didn't have much of a relationship with her. To this day, I still do not even know who my birth father is.”

She was just 4 years old, when police raided her home, and discovered that she had been malnourished, and abused physically and sexually. Sana and her twin brother were placed in a foster care home--and four years later they were adopted by a new family. Each pair of guardians raised Sana according to their Christian values.

“I was always taught about God. I was always told that we needed to go to church. I was always told that there was a higher power, someone that we were striving to be like. But I never really had a relationship with Christ for myself.”

At 18, she turned to an older man for love and became pregnant. The relationship was toxic, sometimes violent.  “I was still trying to find out who I was, and I was still trying to find someone that was going to love me. I was trying to still kind of heal and trying to find a way to get the love from a man, really, that I was lacking from my birth mother and my birth father.”

Two years later, the couple separated.  Sana says she lost control, during their child’s visitation pick-up.  When their argument escalated to a physical fight she realized her life was headed in the wrong direction.  

“One day he came to pick up our son for a weekend visit, and he brought a young woman with him. And although we were not together anymore, something in me just kind of snapped. And I remember when the altercation was over, I found myself in the bathroom, looking at myself in the mirror, tears running down my face, and I remember thinking, "There has to be more than this.  And before I went to sleep that night, I literally got down on my knees for the first time in years, and I just cried out to God and I asked God to really show me someone who was going to love me the way I deserved to be loved. The very next day, of course, was Sunday. And so my cousin awakened me and she said, you know, "I'm visiting this church for the third time, and I think you should come.  And so when we walked up to the church, I remember walking up the walkway and there was a gentleman that was standing outside. And I turned to my cousin and I said, ‘God said that's my husband.’ And she said, ‘You are crazy. You're supposed to be here for God, not for a man.’ And I said, ‘I'm telling you, God said that that is my husband.’ I knew there was something different about him, something that I had never felt before. And so when the service was over, we ended up exchanging numbers.”

The man turned out to be the pastor’s son. After 6 months of dating, they married.

“I was starting to kind of play church. And by play church, I mean, I would come to church, I would, you know, engage in the praise and worship and I would be a part of all of the women's ministries, and all the different things that they had going on in the church, but I had no real relationship with Christ.

When Sana least expected it, a guest preacher called her out. “He began to kind of speak into my life, and he was saying how, you know, God really wanted to use me, but He did not want to continue using me as a broken woman. And for the first time I realized that I was a broken woman. That even though I had found that love that I prayed for, and I had found this husband and I was married, it did not heal the things that I had gone through.”

Sana finally surrendered to God, and over time she noticed that her broken heart had healed.   

“God said to me very clearly, You're healing process is done, but now I need you to be unashamed.  It was as if I finally realized all those things that I had gone through, all those years of pain, all those years of crying, had brought me finally to this point, where God said, It's time for you now to serve me whole, and it's time for you to surrender to me.  And it was in that moment I literally got down on the floor in my living room and I surrendered my life to God. And that was the moment where I knew that I had finally established my own relationship with Christ.

Sana has been moving forward since. She’s been married to her husband Joshua for 11 years now and serves alongside him in ministry. She’s a motivational speaker and advocate for adopted and foster children, as well as children with incarcerated parents.  She also founded ‘Unashamed’ a foundation that aims to empower women.

She’s no longer ashamed of her past, in fact she embraces it--as proof of God’s power to heal and make whole.  

“You know, the thing that brings me the most joy in my life is allowing my children to see me as the woman that I am today. They have seen me as a broken woman. They have seen so many times that I've cried. But now they get to see God's work in my life. The very things that shamed me, the very things that caused me to be ashamed of who I was, God is allowing me to use those things to go out and speak to His people, and to really tell them what He's done for me, to show them that if He did it for me, He can do it for you.”

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