God had been calling me for many years when I finally knelt at the altar and gave my life to Him.
I grew up in a lovely village with good Catholic parents and went to church, but at the age of fifteen, I left church as I couldn’t see the relevance of it. I still believed in God, but I was quite rebellious in those days and was only interested in doing what I wanted to do and having a good time! I was more interested in motorbikes and men than in education or anything to do with God. I wasn’t a bad person as such and didn’t get involved in criminal activities but I sailed quite close to the edge with some of the people I associated with (serious bikers, drug dealers, etc) and I put myself in some very dangerous and compromising situations because I thought it was exciting and fun!
Around that time, I had some friends who became born-again Christians – they had both been powerfully saved, one from cocaine addiction and one from alcohol addiction. When they got saved I used to laugh at them and take the mickey about their encounters with Jesus, I would laugh and say that these “encounters” were caused by the drugs and alcohol! I also worked with a born-again Christian lady around thirty years ago and she witnessed to me and shared the love of Jesus with me frequently. I remember I used to joke with her about it but she was very kind and tolerant of my teasing! Later on (around twenty years ago) I lived next door to a family of born-again Christians for around eight years. They tried a few times to speak to me about God, but I wasn’t interested, my heart was hard. I was a busy single mum and didn’t have time for anything that I couldn’t see any immediate use for. I thought I could manage perfectly well on my own and I didn’t need salvation.
I came to church on 18th August 2013 as a result of speaking with Andrea while she was doing church outreach in Northampton town the previous day. I had no idea who these “crazy Christians” were or what they were talking about, but for some reason, I stopped and listened to them, whereas normally I would have tried hard to avoid them. When I came to church the next day I felt awkward, out of place, weird (well all born-again Christians are weird aren’t they? Or so I thought!). I found the praise and worship at the beginning of service excruciatingly embarrassing, all that clapping and raising of hands – weird!….but when the altar call came, I felt an incredibly strong pull to go to the altar, I fell on my knees and sobbed while Andrea prayed with me and lead me to Jesus. I had an incredibly powerful encounter with Him, I wept and all the frustrations, anger, loneliness, confusion, etc came out of me and I felt totally overwhelmed by a feeling of peace, love and forgiveness. I went home, having no idea of what had really happened, but I could see colours and shapes more clearly – like I had put on a new pair of glasses! I felt vibrant – I felt totally ALIVE like a massive burden had been lifted from me!!
During the first year of my salvation, God put five different people in my workplace who were born-again Christians, one was even a pastor’s wife! During that year two of these people prayed with me about different things and I will never forget the words that one of them (a Baptist lay preacher) spoke to me, he said “He is your Father!!” with such emphasis on Father that I will never forget the expression on that man’s face, it was wonderful. Gradually during that first year or so the Christians left the company as I grew in the Lord so perhaps God felt that I only needed them for a season, while I was a “baby” in Him, but I think God put them there to encourage me during that first year as I underwent some significant trials and temptations which, if I’d given into them, would have pulled me away from God.
I also noticed that so many sermons resonated with me and my circumstances at the time they were preached. While I was going through a season of serious temptation Pastor preached on temptation and what he described was the exact thing that was happening to me, every detail. Pastor couldn’t possibly have known the situation as I had told absolutely nobody, I was battling with it alone (or so I thought!). It seemed as if most of the sermons I heard were written for me, God was really speaking to me and this has happened many times since then during different trials and seasons.
I’ve also had many times when God has audibly spoken to me during my quiet times with Him and while I’ve been out walking with the dog or driving. He has told me to trust Him, that He will look after me and my son, that He is bigger than anything I could ever face, that “by His stripes, I am healed”, that He LOVES me overwhelmingly and that my sins are forgiven despite me thinking sometimes that I couldn’t possibly be forgiven for all the bad things I’ve said, done, thought, etc….. He has given me dreams and visions of things to come and revelation about things that have happened or that I’ve been going through, He has shown me things that have been happening in the spiritual realm which has increased my understanding of so many things and given me so much peace and joy (for example seeing my Dad in Heaven talking with Jesus).
I used to think I was in control of my life and I liked to be in control, I needed to be in control. I had (and still have) a very busy life; a single parent of two children, a very demanding job, running a home, etc. When I came to Christ it took me a long time to truly submit everything to God and sometimes it was a difficult and painful experience as God gradually taught me to completely trust Him and submit everything to Him. I cried at the altar many times as God gently drew things out of me that needed to be dealt with and He changed my heart and my outlook in so many ways.
God has led me through various trials which I believe He does to test and strengthen our faith, to see how we will respond and to encourage us to turn to Him and grow in Him rather than trying to do everything in our own strength. He is like any loving parent, He wants the best for His children but He doesn’t tell us everything straight away, He gives us enough to be able to seek Him, pray and work some things out for ourselves and that’s how we grow in Him. At such times (and every day) we need to really take root in His Word (the Bible), to meditate on Scripture every day and embed it in our heart. I went through a particular season which involved a period of long-term sick leave from work which ended in losing my job, but throughout that whole time God provided financially, for me and my family, He spoke to me and when it came time to start looking for a new job my interviews were guided by the Holy Spirit and I received multiple job offers. Through standing firm in faith, God opened up new opportunities and made sure that my household would be continually provided for.
Every day now I make a point of submitting all that I have and all that I am to God, I give everything into His hands – my life, my children, my family, my home, my job and everything that He has blessed me with and every challenge that I face – His hands are the only safe place! I thank Him every day for how good He is and every single morning He wakes me up with a song of praise and worship on my lips – it’s a different song every morning and it starts my daily devotional time with Him. God is the first thing that I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of when I go to sleep, He is the first and last person I speak to every day and I speak with Him many times throughout the day.
Everything God does or allows to happen to us is because He loves us. He allows us to go through trials and temptations to see how we respond and to build us up spiritually. If we immerse ourselves in the things of God (reading and meditating on the Bible, praying and encouraging His people) we will pass each test as long as we trust Him completely and stay focused on Him. We need to think of each test as a season, it won’t go on forever, it will come to an end and things will change. Life is constantly changing and throwing different challenges at us, there are always things going on in the spiritual realm and things that come against us, but God never changes, He always loves us even when we’re not very lovable and He’s always with us no matter what we face.