I never remember not believing in God. My family went to a Presbyterian church when I was growing up, where I really liked the Bible stories in vacation Bible school. But Sundays were pretty dreary. There was a lot of talk but I never remember hearing the Gospel. Maybe I missed it. In high school I went to Young Life and heard the Gospel clearly there, and made my decision to be a follower of Jesus. But I didn't get into the Word or pray much, so I lived pretty much the same as I had. The summer after my freshman year of college, my father died suddenly. He had always been close to my older sister but never paid much attention to me. When he died, it had a huge effect on me and I didn't understand why. I felt like the world had collapsed. My mother was a very well-meaning person but neurotically afraid and taught me to be afraid. She cut articles out of the newspaper on terrible things and gave them to me when I was little. For instance, when she gave me a book on how babies are made, she also gave me a newspaper account of a rape. It was pretty hard to figure out at eight. I basically felt that the world was a very unsafe place. So after my father died, I started looking for a man. This was the early 70's, not a great time for an insecure young woman to be looking for love in all the wrong places. I was going to UNC Charlotte, and met some really nice people there who were in a singing group called the New Directions, led by our very own Patt and J.L. Williams. It was a life saver. I joined the group and traveled with them for a couple years and got the first really good Scripture teaching of my life. My junior year, my mother remarried, to a nice man who was a believer, and on the faculty at Gardner Webb College. He was kind to me but he was NOT MY DADDY, and I kept my distance. My mother soon had a complete emotional breakdown, and was admitted to the local hospital for ECT (shock) treatment. ECT was much more extensive then, and left her non-functional for some time. So I was now, for all practical purposes, parentless, and with an emotional age of about 13. When I was a senior, I started listening more to the culture and questioning Scriptural teaching on politics and women, and ended up leaving the New Directions. This was the beginning of a couple decades of wandering. I thought that some man was going to make me safe and happy. Wrong. I married a man soon after college who had appealing political beliefs, but we were both very unstable and it was a disaster. I left after a year. He called me and threatened to kill me after I left. I rebounded to marry a very safe man; we had a lot in common from our small town Southern upbringings and it was comfortable. He never seemed to be very interested in knowing me, but I decided I needed to make this marriage work, so I stayed. God blessed us with two wonderful children, and there were precious years of family for which I am eternally grateful. I wanted to go back to church and take the children, though my husband was not a believer. I returned to a “churchy” Presbyterian church which didn't preach the radical message I needed. When my second child was a toddler, I got interested in nursing, and went back to school to become an RN. That was the beginning of the end of that marriage. I finished school, got a job, and became increasingly focused on myself and wanting "deep love" which we didn't have. I eventually decided I wanted it enough to leave. So I did. I still can hardly believe that was me, and that I had so little commitment to the marriage or to my children. I had convinced myself it was best for my children, but it was purely selfish. I had put my young faith away, and me minus Jesus, is utterly self-centered. The truth was that I was longing for God's deep love and kept trying to get a man to give it to me. For some reason they kept "failing" to be God. God was so good to me, even in this prodigal time, and gave us a comfortable home nearby so my kids could go back and forth to their father's house more easily. It's a horrible thing for kids to have to go back and forth to their different parents' homes. And on vacations and holidays, someone is always missing for them. And for us. I sobbed home from many a drive leaving them at their father's family Christmas gathering, and taking them to go stay at his house. I hated the sight of their empty beds at my house. I am so very grateful for redemption. Jesus stands behind me, and will weave that into good for them somehow. Next verse: surprise, I got married again. I met a very colorful and attractive man at work. We quickly became interested in each other. A very MARRIED, colorful, and attractive man. Having no morals to speak of at that time, I thought I was saving him from his reportedly unhappy marriage, and pursued him. So he divorced his wife. I divorced my husband, and we got married. He had a terrible childhood, full of abuse and extreme abandonment, and was now an alcoholic. I didn't know that at the time. I just knew that he seemed to come home with different personalities. He was not physically abusive, but I was always afraid it was possible. Verbal abuse was excruciating, and painfully confusing. We seemed to live in very different realities. He sometimes made very hurtful comments to my children or their friends, so I became Mama Bear guarding the children. I was the ultimate traitor: I was sleeping with the enemy. And remember my training in fearfulness? I now had a large and imposing man who was very easily upset. In psychiatric circles they point out how we are very good at choosing people and situations that support our broken beliefs about the world and ourselves; I chose three men: one slightly dangerous and unstable, one who wasn't very interested in knowing me, and then one who was very unstable and scary to me. Men didn't seem to be working out so well for solving my deep longings. Now completely desperate, I found a Gospel preaching church and went to everything--every women's retreat, every Bible study, every service. I was finally truly seeking God. I read the Word and I prayed and prayed and prayed. Prayer became the center of my life. I began to hear from God in my heart. I took my children to this church; my daughter got involved and accepted Jesus at a summer retreat in middle school. Praise God! My son was older and more resistant; he didn't want to go to church because he said he felt like a hypocrite. So I required him to go either to church or youth group; he chose youth group and made some good connections with the staff there. I'm still not sure of his beliefs. I have never felt able to communicate well with him and feel I have deeply failed him. So I pray. I found Deuteronomy 30:6, and pray it over him daily. My husband went to church with us and I asked the pastor to help him find a small men's group. He went to one faithfully, and was even healed of drinking overnight at one point (which he told me years later). However, our inability to communicate, and mistrust remained. My counselor at that time asked me what one thing I would change; I said I just wanted to stop feeling I was dragging around such a heavy weight. She was a believer and recommended what was called the Rite of Confession in the Presbyterian church. I asked my pastor if he would do this and he agreed. God led me to look up scripture about forgiveness. I studied those verses one morning and did a short fast. I wrote out a list of all the sins I felt so horrible about. I took the list to my pastor and we talked for awhile about them. Then we went into the sanctuary and put the list on the altar. He laid hands on me and prayed for me; I felt something like electric current go all through my body (I grew up Presbyterian remember, had never read or heard anything about things like this). Afterwards, I don't remember the drive but I found myself sitting in Duke Gardens where I had been married last. I felt like I was hardly on the earth; God was strongly present. The heavy weight was gone. That was a turning point in my spiritual life. Time passed, and the marriage was still very stressful. I started to be increasingly physically affected. I grew weaker and weaker, and had to cut back my hours at work. Counseling both secular and through the church was ineffective for us as a couple. Other factors in our lives were adding more challenges to our lives. My husband started to pull away, and I grew more afraid I was going to die from the stress . I finally asked him to leave. We separated, and then divorced. After that divorce, life was as close to hell as I can imagine. I experienced severe depression, fear, and anxiety. I couldn't sleep. I felt like I was going crazy. I kept trying and trying to figure out what went wrong, going over and over memories. I tried many counselors and medications but nothing changed anything. I never stopped going to church, never stopped reading the Word, never stopped praying. That saved my life. I lived in Asheville for a short time, and God led me to Celebrate Recovery at Biltmore Baptist Church. It was a wonderful support group, such courageous people dealing with very serious problems and all based firmly in Jesus and the Word. I got into a small group for co-dependency (yeah I finally got it), and that was extremely helpful. But I was still grappling down deep with things I just couldn't name or budge. I moved back to Durham and my Bible study leader there gave me some CD’s from a church near Burlington. I listened to them one Sunday on the way home from a weekend with family; I was stunned! I had never heard such conviction about the promises of God and His love. Something I heard in one of the sermons led me to start praying Scripture. As soon as I became conscious every morning, I would pray verses over my life; THIS was the beginning of major deep healing. Nothing before had been powerful enough to change the deeply imbedded broken messages from my childhood, and to erase the guilt and shame of my life. I copied verses that spoke to my heart, and put them all around the apartment. I started to have hope. I knew I had to get to that church. Soon I made my first visit to Lamb's Chapel, and it was clear I needed to be here. I was working part-time and looking for a full-time job, and I hadn't found anything in Durham. I prayed one Sunday for a job and went to the computer. I could hardly believe my eyes! Tere was the perfect job, and in Burlington! I applied and got the job. I came to the church to look at the Needs and Deeds Board to see if there was a house for rent. I ran into staff who led me to buy a house. I found a perfect house on a little land about 4 minutes from work; and it was cheaper than my apartment rent in Durham! My time here in Burlington has been such a healing season, full of revelations, and miracles, and blessings, but that's another story. I continue to have things I struggle with, but I am a changed woman, I am happy and at peace. HAPPY AND AT PEACE! I desire nothing more than to know Jesus better and better, closer and closer, and I long to see His face. HE is the love of my life. I long to serve Him and love Him extravagantly, and I trust Him to lead the way. I am so excited about the adventure to come!