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It was the first day of my second internship in New York City. My friend Anna and I decided to grab a happy hour drink at the St. Regis Hotel after work to celebrate our second summer in the big city. We were both from the Midwest and neither of us had ever been to the St. Regis, but we had heard it was the height of class and elegance--a place where those “sophisticated New York girls” we’d seen in movies would DEFINITELY hang out.

Rain poured down as we walked ten blocks in Midtown Manhattan, but we weren’t going to be stopped; we were determined to have a glass of wine at the King Cole Bar. When we arrived it was everything we’d imagined--the quintessential high-class New York cocktail lounge. A waiter immediately seated us and asked if we’d like a drink menu. All too eager to look like we had been there before, we said, “Oh no no NOT necessary--we’ll each just have a glass of the Malbec.”

The waiter came back with our two glasses and a cocktail menu “just in case we wanted to try something else.” I sat back and sipped my wine, taking everything in when I heard Anna almost yell, “Oh. My. Gosh!”

While perusing the drink menu she had discovered that a single glass of Malbec was $32.00. “You’re kidding,” I said as I snatched the menu to see for myself. And there it was staring back at me. “No wonder we’re the only twenty-two-year-old girls at this bar!” she said. We both started laughing hysterically. It dawned on us that this glass of wine would also count as our dinner and probably breakfast the next day. Who were we kidding. We were trying to be something we weren’t and New York laughed right back in our faces.

As we made fun of ourselves together, laughing our heads off in the middle of this mess we’d put ourselves in, I revealed to Anna that this blunder was just another example of my life at that time being a mess. I had been feeling a deep sense of emptiness; I knew something was off--but had no idea how to fix it.

I had grown up as a Christian, but fell away from my religious routines when I went to college. I was going to too many parties, my dating life was not great, and it seemed as though the harder I tried to fix all of my problems, the more chaos I created around myself. I told Anna that I knew I needed to make changes, but didn’t know if God would be willing to help me. I felt as though my mistakes were too many and my problems too small for Him to forgive me. “Will any adjustments I make to my lifestyle really make up for all the mistakes I’ve already made?” I asked her.

She stared back at me with wide eyes and said, “This is so weird, Christen. I literally went through this exact same thing six months ago.” She proceeded to tell me about her past mistakes--most exactly the same as mine--and that not long ago she shared the same doubts as I about her worthiness to be forgiven by God. But then she said, “Girl, you’re missing the grace factor! He has ALREADY forgiven everything you’ve ever done. He’s literally just waiting for you to accept all of the love He wants to shower you with. He opened up my eyes six months ago to His unconditional love and my life has never been better.”

Though this might sound strange, as Anna was speaking, I sensed a shift in my heart. I felt as though God was giving Anna those words in that exact moment so that I could hear Him and come home to Him. I was immediately hooked. I ran home to God and I haven’t let go since. I began spending time with Him daily, slowly but surely giving Him control of every area of my life. My heart was completely transformed that day--all thanks to a glass of wine I couldn’t afford.

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