I was a "bus ministry kid" that loved going to church...My grandparents raised me, encouraged me to go to church, but they themselves did not go, they were Christians, just not devotedly so. At the age of 12 I went to the alter & asked Jesus to be my Lord & Savior ; it was a genuine experience, but there were a lot of negatives that occurred in my life during the first few years after I gave my life to God; Not drugs or alcohol, I never had addictions to either of those...the things I refer to were things that I had no control over..things that were done to me by others, the details of which are not necessary, except to say they made me feel very negative toward myself. [And let me assure you, emotional & verbal abuse are just as harmful as physical abuse...(I know, I've experienced them all, ) and the wounds inflicted & the scars they leave behind can be deadly] I stayed in church & stayed committed to Him for a few years, then for various reasons let myself drift away from church & from God. I now realize that the real reasons I let myself withdraw from God were mainly because I felt I was somehow unworthy of His Love & was angry at Him for letting bad things, things that were not of my choosing, happen to me. (Like I was somehow so special I should be exempt from any trials, or unpleasantness, foolish to think that I was so special the enemy would exempt me from his evil attacks.)

Long story short, I was totally out of church for over 20 years; except for the occasional Easter or Christmas attendance. During that time I became fascinated with the occult, exploring many of its various areas. You see, I had been & felt so controlled for so long, and by circumstances over which I had no control, that I had to try to control the future ... I couldn't come to the acceptance that life is lived one day at a time. I knew I couldn't relive yesterday, but I felt if I knew what tomorrow was going to be, then I could somehow edit out all the negative and retain only the parts of it that were good. But that was not what God had planned for me. Little by little my interest in and fascination with occult practices began to diminish, and I eventually came to recognize them as foolish attempts at controlling the uncontrollable.

During all of my years of living on the fringes, or even outside of, the Kingdom of God, I still had that one small corner of myself that could be moved by the thought of what Christ had done on the cross, and the enormity of the Love that motivated Him to do it, but I had long ago concluded that I was not worthy of His Blood. The stains of my sin, my guilt, my shame were too dark and too deep to be cleansed and washed away. I felt like they could be hidden from view but never removed. As a result, I was inwardly miserable, unhappy, & filled with self-loathing, but I had learned to be extremely adept at hiding the stuff I didn't want others to see or know about me. A smile became my most often worn accessory, because as long as I was smiling, no one asked me what was wrong. Even on those days when I was so filled with my own inadequacies and my own sense of self-loathing, when I hated my life and almost every one in it, I could put on my 'Smiley Face' mask and no one knew the difference. To all outward appearances I was happy, content and totally in acceptance of who I was and the life I had lived/was living.

But, unbeknownst to me, there were people out there who were praying for me, and my husband 'Snake', because they cared about us and wanted us to know the joy that comes from serving God and living life in Him and for Him. And, they didn't want us to spend eternity in hell, separated from the One who loved us above Himself. And God was moved by those prayers. Without any outward sign,and without us having any conscious awareness of what He was doing, the Holy Spirit was working on us, softening us, opening our spiritual ears so that when Jesus came knocking and calling, we would hear him and respond. And respond we did. My husband heeded the call first, but perhaps not as intensely as I did. But when he awakened me on that Sunday morning in June of 1997 and said 'Get up, we're going to church,' I had no idea how quick, how deep and how complete would be my acceptance of and surrender to the Loving Father and His Precious Son. Within a matter of weeks, I recommitted my life to the One who had saved me at the altar of a Nazarene church when I was 12 years old. Since then, though it's not always been free of obstacles, I have done my best to walk the path He has laid for me, following in His footsteps as closely as possible as He leads me on this incredible journey to the Promised Land. Jesus has become my rock, my refuge, my strong and mighty tower. In Him I have found a place to hide and a place from which to fight, knowing that He will be with me through it all; knowing that when I'm am weary of the battle, He will give me rest while continuing to fight on,for He is not willing that any should perish; and the Victory has already been won. The adversary is just unwilling to admit defeat.

And yes, the smiles are genuine, my heart is content and my mind is at peace. I have forgiven and I have been forgiven. The demons that once kept me from enjoying life as it is are now held at bay by the mighty hand of the Saviour who has lovingly enfolded me in His embrace and will not let me go. Nor do I want to leave the warmth, the tenderness, the strength, the protection, the comfort of His arms. And that is how I came to be a child of the King and a daughter of God.

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