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Angelina Billman: My journey of hope, relief and forgiveness through Jesus Christ

‘We all must embrace the scars life has given us and remember we are the authors of our own stories’

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was born into a family with a lot of struggles. Alcohol and drug addiction plagued her family. Many times she had to sleep on the streets, beg for money for food, see drug overdoses firsthand and care for her younger sister on her own. This little girl never even dreamed of life in the future.

She lived with her birth family until around age 8 and was then put into the foster care system. The little girl and her sister were moved in and out of eight homes in the span of two years. Never having any stability, the little girl struggled. She struggled to see herself as anything more than an object to be tossed around and used for whatever pleasure some person wanted in that moment. She struggled to let people into her life and to trust those around her.

That was until she moved in with a family who showed her love and introduced her to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The girl met with the missionaries, and after a month of discussions, she was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on Aug. 22, 2002. 

Life got better for her yet there were still so many obstacles she had to fight and overcome. Seeing her life now, I know that her 8-year-old little self would be astonished seeing the person she grew up to be, accomplishing things she never dreamed or even imagined.

I know this to be true, because that little girl is me.

My life has been truly blessed through continued faith and knowledge that I was and will never be alone. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered, bled and died for me. He felt all of my pain and loneliness. 

A year ago, this is pretty much where most of that story ended. But the Lord had other plans for me. 

As a child, I longed for respite from my life struggles. I was angry at my birth parents. Questions constantly swirled through my head, “What did I do wrong?” Through many years of therapy as well as continued Church attendance, I learned that part of finding that relief is having faith and practicing forgiveness.

Offering forgiveness has changed my life. After 32 years, I now have my birth father present in my life. After a serious health scare with a possibility of becoming paralyzed on the left side of his body, and time in a nursing facility, my father was given a choice. 

Leave the nursing facility and return to his home — a home with no power or running water, back to being alone — or to come live with my family, a life that would be completely foreign. My father knew this was his last chance to find happiness. Thankfully, my father chose me. 

Immediately after moving in, he asked about attending Church. My father started meeting with the missionaries and has a desire to be baptized. Being given the opportunity to be free from the world he was born into, he is able to tell the difference between the light and the dark. He can now see that sin doesn’t bring happiness, only pain. He is finding happiness in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Brantley, left, and Angelo Zanini Jr., are pictured at the Sacramento California Temple.
Angelina Billman’s son Brantley, left, and birth father, Angelo Zanini Jr., are pictured at the Sacramento California Temple the day before Brantley was baptized in October 2023. | Provided by Angelina Billman

I never in my lifetime thought I would be having these experiences with my father. I finally have a chance to be with him, and to see all the little quirks we have in common.

Heavenly Father had a hand in bringing my father back into my life and my sister’s life. I could choose to be angry at my father for not being there, but what would that leave me with? Anger and a hardened heart.

The Lord declared: “I, the Lord will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10).

I know this new journey is not going to be easy, but with my Savior Jesus Christ on my side, I can do hard things. Christ said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you, Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Choosing Christ is choosing happiness. We all must embrace the scars life has given us and remember we are the authors of our own stories. It is up to us to decide how our stories will end.

— Angelina Billman is a member of the Rossmoor Ward, Sacramento California Cordova Stake, where she lives with her husband, two sons and daughter.

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