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Christian Woman Leadership Podcast

144 EpisodesProduced by Esther LittlefieldWebsite

It's time for you to embrace your God-given gifts, skills, and passions and lead with confidence. Host Esther Littlefield is a pastor's wife and business owner, and she is joined by co-host Holly Cain. They discuss issues related to leading as a Christian woman, and they also interview other women w… read more


47: Moving from Shame to Freedom & Pursuing God-Shaped Dreams with Merritt Onsa

Have you ever felt trapped in shame and bondage due to your past? How do you move from that place to freedom and embracing your identity in Christ? And how can you begin discovering and pursuing the dreams God has placed in you? 

In this episode, I talk with Merritt Onsa, wife, mom, and podcaster about her experience of coming to Christ as an adult and the process of healing from shame about her past and experiencing freedom in Christ.

We also discuss how to determine whether an idea is your dream or God’s dream for you, what to do if you’re afraid to start your dream, and how comparison impacts your dream. This is a conversation full of truth, hope, and encouragement. 

  Merritt’s Leadership Journey:

Merritt was shy as a child, but she was drawn to leadership roles. However, she had the feeling that in order to have a voice someone had to choose her, e.g. through an election or chosen by a teacher. She has often felt weak and unqualified. 

After working in the dot-com world, Merritt started working on her own as a freelance writer. She also had a marriage-readiness blog for single women who were older. In 2016, she was a podcast guest and her friends encouraged her to start her own. She realized that through her work as a freelance writer, she had interviewed people for 12 years. It seemed like podcast interviews would be a fit. 

She asked God what He wanted her to do because she knew she had a gift for communication and a heart for women. As she struggled with her next step, she realized that she must not be the only one who struggled with knowing her purpose. She launched her Devoted Dreamers podcast in 2016.

  How Faith Plays a Role in Merritt’s Story

Merritt came to know Christ at the age of 30. She grew up with parents, who, as children, were inundated with religion. She didn’t go to church regularly partly because the church didn’t inspire her to learn more about God. 

As a teenager, she ran far from God. She obsessed with boys, dating, relationships, parties, drinking, and promiscuity. She searched for her value in others. This destructive pattern continued into her adult life. 

In her late 20s, a family member died and she started wondering about God. At the same time, Merritt got a job in Dallas where her colleagues knew Christ. She came to know Jesus through a church website.

  What Helped Merritt Move from Shame to Freedom 

After coming into a relationship with Christ, it took Merritt about five years to recover from all the damage she’d done to herself and her heart. God began to give her opportunities to share her story with her church, and she started seeing how her story was impacting other women. 

Merritt participated in Celebrate Recovery and is a supporter of 12-step programs. She found that doing a fearless moral inventory helped her. This inventory caused her to look at her entire life, including people, incidents, and whatever triggered emotions. Then she had to share her story with another. Finally, she repented. 

Now she does a daily moral inventory by asking God, “Is there a place I need to confess? Attitudes? Actions?” Then she owns it and moves on.

Embracing Your Wiring & Identity

It’s been important to Merritt to know that God made her the way He did, on purpose, and that her wiring is not flawed. The resources that have been most helpful for her have been the Strengths Finder and the Enneagram.

Merritt also believes that the high-ropes courses she did when she was younger helped her grow.

  How She Learned to Embrace Her Identity

Only recently has Merritt learned to embrace her identity. At a previous church, she felt that life was all about what she could do and be, e.g. “be more patient,” but that isn’t what Jesus says. Check out her own podcast episode on this topic.

Merritt believes that if we are going to dream God-shaped dreams, we first have to know who we are. If we don’t believe who we are, we are going to flounder.

Ask God to teach and show you the next step. Merritt notes that if anything good is going to come of her life, it’s going to have to be because God did it with her.

She’s still in process, but her identity is growing--the identity that says she is God’s special girl.

  How to Start Dreaming Big

If you’re unsure of your dream:

  • Think about who your dream serves. Who is your neighbor that your dream will serve?
  • Ask what actions cause you to lean into God because you know you can’t do them on your own.
  • Trust your Father, which means spending time in God’s Word. How can you be in God’s Word today?
  • If a dream keeping burning inside you, keep turning it back to God.
  • Take baby steps.
  • Remember there is no finish line. 

Know that sometimes you need to struggle and fail as a reminder that you need God. God will show you what He’s asking you to do, and it’s going to be good!

  Merritt’s Dream

Merritt has a longing to see God’s women set free from the bondage of fear, shame, and comparison so that their lives sing God’s praises and they can pursue their dreams. She learned that this was her dream after taking a leadership course with her pastor and wrestling with what her dream was.

  How Comparison Affects Women + Their Dreams

Merritt started listening to extremely professional podcasts like Serial. Then, she started to listen to Jamie Ivey and started comparing herself to Jamie so she had to stop listening.

She found that she -- and so many women -- were looking at each other and asking, “Could I?” and “Should I?” Remember to go back and ask, “Who did God make me to be?”

Comparison is common and worth fighting against.

  If You Don’t Know Your Dream

If you don’t know your dream, God loves you so dearly. You are not forgotten or left off the list. If you long to have a dream, tell Him, believe He’ll answer, and wait.

Connect with Merritt:

Merritt Onsa longs to see the love of Jesus set women free from the bondage of fear, shame and comparison so that their lives will sing His praises and their dreams will come alive. As host of The Devoted Dreamers Podcast, she interviews Christian women about their God-shaped dreams. These conversations include real-talk about the fears and challenges we all feel when we do courageous things outside of our comfort zone. This is the place that fuels Merritt’s fire. Hearing these stories reminds us that fear is normal—we all feel it—and yet it doesn’t have to halt our flourishing or the pursuit of our dreams. In fact, it is often the thing that draws us closer to the Lord.

Merritt and her home-brewing, community-building husband, Todd, live with their two young daughters near Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.


Key Quotes from the Episode:

  • “God, you are so big that You took my shame and you turned it into freedom for others.”
  • “The practice of confession, repentance, and forgiveness is huge.”
  • “The dream is not as quite important as what God will do with you in the dream.”
  • “God lets us dream in the places that He’s worked in us in the deepest ways.”
  • “Comparison is not healthy and it is not of God.”
  • “There is enough room in God’s kingdom for all of us pursuing the dreams He’s given us.”
Other Ways to Connect with Esther & Holly and the Christian Woman Leadership Podcast:   Episode Sponsor: Audible

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This episode was originally published on To join the Purposeful Leadership Facebook Group, go to

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