Laura Perry experienced a tumultuous life during her teen years, having struggled with her sexuality for most of her childhood.
"I had always had feelings of wanting to be a boy as a young child," Laura says. "I was very athletic and enjoyed sports. I didn't get along with girls very well. I was uncomfortable being a girl.
"By my 20s, I fully embraced the transgender lifestyle," Laura admits sadly. "I called myself 'Jake' and lived as a transgender 'man' for eight years. I took opposite sex hormones and underwent a double mastectomy and a full hysterectomy to remove my female organs."
Laura lived with a partner who also identified as a transgender, attended pro-LGBT support groups and moved towards having more surgery to become less feminine.
However, she had grown up in a godly Christian home and was raised attending church, Bible study and a Christian school.
Although Laura had a lot of head knowledge of Jesus, she never had a personal relationship with Him.
"As a child, I had a lot of confusing thoughts about my identity," Laura recalls. "I was often told that God had created me perfectly and hadn't made any mistakes, but over time I began to get very angry with God. If He had created me perfectly, then why did I feel this way? Why did I struggle with this so much? Over the years, this created a lot of bitterness and frustration in my heart.
"All I could see was the things God had not given me, I didn't even see all the things He had given me and blessed me with. I started to really doubt my faith."
Laura, in her desperation, honestly thought that being transgender "would make her happy".
When Laura accepted the transgender life style, her parents, Francine and Paul, never ceased to pray for her.
"Their prayers weren't really offensive," Laura states. "But I was more offended that they didn't accept me. I wanted them to affirm me as a man."
All the while, though, Laura was miserable and searching for real peace.
"Two or three years after I became a transgender male, I remember thinking, 'I am still no happier than I was before.' I felt a bit like a hamster on a wheel. I had no purpose. I thought becoming who I really wanted to be would finally give me what I was looking for, but it left me empty."
Laura admits that her heart remained cold until, through a series of miraculous doings, God slowly began to draw her back to Him.
It started with prayer.
"My mom, Francine, turned to her ladies Bible study group for prayer. They prayed earnestly for me to turn away from the sin I was living in," Laura says. "My mom was crushed to the core by how I was living. These ladies' prayers were also releasing God's healing in her too."
Laura's transgender partner was politically conservative and got Laura into radio talk shows. This eventually led Laura to listen to the Christian radio.
felt so much
love before”"One of the biggest influences was when my Mom asked me to work on her website for her Bible study," Laura shares. "I was a programmer and she needed a website built, so I knew it wasn't intentional on her part to try and win me back.
"I started reading her notes and over time, I just got really curious. She was finding things in the Bible I had never seen or heard before. I began asking her questions about Christianity and the Christian faith, which opened up the door for communication with her."
All along, Laura had considered herself a Christian because of her upbringing, but as God opened her eyes to the truth, she realized how wrong she was.
"Slowly but surely," Laura explains, "God worked in me, making me realize that the transgender life was a dead-end."
Things didn't change overnight. Laura "was still conflicted" but after reaching a particularly low point in her life, she tearfully asked the Lord to help her.
One day, she asked her mother, "Is it OK if I come to church?"
At first, Francine was worried that if Laura came to church as a "man" it would cause embarrassment, but "grace won out".
"It was a turning point in my life," Laura says excitedly. "In August 2016, I gave my life to Jesus."
Laura broke up with her transgender partner and moved back home with her parents. It was a decision that she said came after much struggling.
"A lot of people these days tell me, 'Well that's good for you, whatever makes you happy,' but me leaving that lifestyle had nothing to do with me being happy," Laura admits. "It was extremely hard for me to leave it. I did not want to be a girl. I had no desire at the time to be a girl. It was really about surrendering to Christ.
"I knew it was about dying to self and it wasn't about what I felt or what I wanted. It was about what God wanted and He has redeemed and changed my heart more than I ever could have imagined!"
Laura started attending her mother's women's Bible study and was amazed because she didn't know that they had been praying for her.
"When I first came home, the first three days were extremely difficult for me," Laura says. "I just felt like I was dying and it was extremely painful. Then my Mom laid out in front of me some cards that these women had written to me. I just sat at the kitchen table, sobbing, as I read them. I couldn't believe the love that these women had for me – and they hadn't even met me."
On top of this, these ladies raised $1,200 to buy Laura a new wardrobe and when she came to their Bible study for the first time, she was surrounded by women who were kind, welcoming, and filled with joy because of her repentance.
"It was amazing," Laura declares. "I'd never felt so much peace and love before. I am so humbled by all that God has done."
God has healed the mother-daughter relationship between Laura and Francine.
Laura has now fully embraced her God-given sexuality as a woman, her story being one of God's amazing undeserved kindness and redemption.
"I am living proof that God's love is greater than the devil's lies," she testifies.
To teens or youth who are gender confused or hurting, Laura urges, "It's not about what we want, it's about Christ. Jesus said, 'If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.' Jesus will set us free."•