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The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Her Mess Became Her Message of Redemption

By Brandice Hudson
The 700 Club“I remember the first night I went to the club to dance.  It was funny to me that they gave us an application.  I was like, ‘what are the prerequisites for being a stripper? What do you need to do?’” says Shay. 

When Shay Nielsen stepped onto the strip club stage, she had come a long way from the sheltered life she knew as a young girl.  I was raised by my mom and my stepfather.  My grandfather was a pastor all of my childhood.  Growing up with a grandfather that was a pastor was good.  It set the tone in my family for peace and for love and accountability,” said Shay. 

She was always known as the ‘quiet, good girl’ but when she started a new school in her late teens, she was drawn in by the lifestyles of gang bangers and drug dealers.  “I would sell drugs, package drugs.  I felt like a bad girl.  It felt good.  I kind of liked the feeling of not being the obedient child and not doing what I have to do all the time,” says Shay.

When she finished school and moved out, she was ready to embrace a life with no restrictions.  During the day, she worked as a body piercer.  At night she was drinking, partying, and popping ecstasy pills.   “Drugs helped me to open up,” Shay recalls. “I was always a shy person.  Always reserved.  Always insecure.  I always felt a little unworthy.  So, drugs made me feel like I can.  Made me feel like superwoman.” 

Her addiction caused her to miss work and she was fired.  A friend told her she could make good money stripping.  “Going in…it was a different part of my mind and a different part of the world that I had never experienced.  I talked to the lady and I’m like, ‘How much money do they make?’ And she tells me, and I’m like, ‘Oh yes, I can do this…about 300 or 400 dollars a night.’”

But stripping wasn’t as glamorous as she expected.  “To get on the stage butt naked, in front of complete strangers – you feel devalued.  I couldn’t be sober because I could hear the voice in my head saying, ‘What are you doing?  You’re worth so much more than this.’So I asked one of the girls, ‘What I should do to stay up and not be so shy to get on the stage and still function?’  She says, ‘Try cocaine.’ So once cocaine came into play it was cocaine all night, sleep all day.  Get up. Do it again.” 

At 22, Shay got pregnant.  The thought of having a child gave her hope. She quit using drugs, drinking, and dancing but 34 weeks into her pregnancy, she lost the baby and sank into depression. To numb the pain, she binged on cocaine for three days with friends.

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die. I’m going to die.  My mom and my sister they’re going to come find me and all they’re going to remember me by is a stripper that was on drugs.’” 

She drove herself to the emergency room to get help.

“I didn’t want to die so I called on the only person I know could save me.  ‘God if you are real, and that was my prayer… If you are real and if you are there and if you are listening…If you keep me alive and don’t let me die, I will never touch cocaine again.’  And that was my promise and I kept my word.  The grace of God allowed me to walk out of that hospital.”

Sobered up, Shay had time to think about her life.  “I’ve been a stripper. I’ve been on drugs. I’ve been a party girl.  I’ve done everything I want to do.  I’ve been involved in some of the wildest sexual escapades you can imagine.  What now?  What am I going to do now?  And I heard and I felt this small still voice inside me saying, ‘Go to church.’  And I’m like, ‘I guess I can go to church.’”

Shay says from the first day in church, every sermon felt like a personal message from God, so she kept going.

“Then one Sunday he preached a sermon and said, ‘We need to pray and ask God to reveal our own hearts to ourselves.’ And I prayed that prayer: ‘God reveal my heart, reveal me to me.  Show me who I am.’  Everything that I had done in my life, the mirror was turned on me and I could see it through the eyesight of God and it hurt me.  I asked Jesus to come into my heart and to forgive me for all the wrong and the sins that I had committed.  I felt accepted.  I felt loved.  Jesus came and He healed every wound that I had.  He really moved into my heart and showed me His love for me and it made me feel complete.”   

Shay never touched drugs again.  Today she’s married to Colter and raising their two daughters.  She’s also a writer.  She tells her story in her book called, My Mess Became My Message.

“I look in the mirror and I see somebody who is redeemed. I see ‘Shay who Jesus loves.’  I see ‘Shay the wife.’  I see ‘Shay the mother.’  All the remnants of my past are dead.  Jesus came and He turned my life totally around from the inside out.  There’s hope for us all.  God is right here.  He’s waiting to give us His love, to come in and show us. All we have to do is be serious and say, ‘Jesus, show me who you are.’”

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