Beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning...

"Just as bees make honey from thyme, the strongest and driest of herbs, so do the wise profit from the most difficult of experiences." ~Plato

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How God Saved Me from Myself

When I was a little girl, my mother took my brother and me to church regularly, but they stopped going, and when I was 9 or 10 years old I got tired of walking to church by myself, so I quit. In junior high I became a Jesus freak, and carried my Bible to school with me. I said I was a Christian, and believed in God and in Christ's death and resurrection, but I just couldn't accept that He loved me enough to have done that for me personally.

In high school and my early 20's I did what you'd expect a young, single, clueless, non-Christian female to do in the 1970's and early 80's. I also had an unhealthy pride in my own so-called psychic abilities and had foolishly dabbled in the occult, which caused minor, sporadic demonic activity in my life. By age 26, I had a 5-year-old daughter by a failed marriage; I had lost my job and returned home to finish my college education; and I was addicted to drugs. My father bought a mobile home for my daughter and me to live in while I attended college. This, of course, allowed me to continue my lifestyle.

I met Randy, my husband, in a computer class we were both taking. He often had his Bible with him, so I figured he was a Christian. Gradually we became friends, and I met his mother, with whom he was living while he attended college. They were such good friends, and I saw so much love, peace, freedom, and joy in their lives. I wanted that - it was so totally different from my own restless, fearful life. Randy would read the Bible to me, and talk about it. I didn't listen much, but God was working on my heart anyway.

Randy didn't like me using drugs in front of him, so I would indulge before he came over. One night I confessed to Randy something awful I had done, and he showed the love and forgiveness of Christ to me. From that moment I was delivered from my drug addiction like it had never been. I was even high at the time. God reached right through that and healed me. Then I gave Randy something that I had found after a séance I had attended years before, and that I believed I had to keep or something terrible would happen to me. He took it from me and said he would dispose of it with such carelessness, even contempt, that I was filled with admiration.

A few days later, I told God that if He was the God of love that Randy was telling me about, then He would just have to break down my pride and show me. On August 13, 1983, He did. Randy had had an upset stomach for a couple of days, and his mother, who worked nights, did not want to leave him alone, so my daughter and I went over to spend the night at their house. I told Randy that I was almost persuaded to become a Christian, but that I was afraid that if I did, God would institute all sorts of rules and restrictions. We stayed up until 4am listening to a taped sermon series, and talking about the freedom and joy of being a Christian.

When I walked into Randy's mother's bedroom, where my daughter and I were sleeping, I was assailed with a feeling of foreboding. Because of this, I lay down beside my daughter without taking off my clothes or turning off the light. I fell asleep, but a little while later I was awakened by something making a noise on the bureau. I knew what it was - that was a pretty common demonic manifestation - but I pretended to myself that it was a mouse or a bug, and in a show of bravado, I changed into my pajamas and turned off the lamp before getting back into bed.

No sooner was I back in bed than I was overcome by fear like I've never felt. I was literally petrified by fear, afraid to move because of what I might touch, afraid to open my eyes because of what I might see. I didn't really know how to pray, so I started reciting the Lord's Prayer in my head, which didn't help. The only other thing I knew was Psalm 23:4 "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." I began saying that to myself, really concentrating on each word, over and over again. Suddenly I opened my eyes, and it was morning - the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and Randy and his mother were talking in the kitchen. I knew that God had fought for me, and that I was saved. I had run - bolted - fled - from darkness to the Light. All that day I felt the love of God so strongly that it felt like Someone was hugging me.

About a week later, I woke in the night to see a goat-headed figure backlighted with a sulphurous yellow light over by my bureau. As soon as it saw I was awake, it came over and began shaking me by the arm, saying "I'll never let you go, I'll never let you go." But Randy had told me what to do, and I commanded it to leave in the name of Jesus, which it promptly did.

Over the years, I continued to experience demonic activity, sometimes worse than anything I ever experienced as a non-Christian. At the same time, God helped me to tear down strongholds and close doorways through which Satan had access to me, and gave me much victory. Some years ago, a friend sat me down and helped me to understand the profound truth of who I am in Christ. I've discovered that the Christian life truly is a life of joy, and freedom from fear, and more and more I walk in that joy and that freedom.

Life hasn't been easy since I became a Christian. Christ said that we would suffer for His sake from living in this fallen world. As children of the Most High, we can also expect chastening, refining, and pruning. He cares more for our character than for our comfort. I've had five miscarriages and other health challenges, and now live with chronic autoimmune disease, including Hashimoto's thyroiditis and collagenous colitis. My husband has experienced long-term unemployment. We now consider the Pacific Northwest our home, but before we moved here we celebrated five Christmases in five different houses in four different states.

My biggest challenge, however, has been believing in the strength of God's love for me. I feel like the woman with the issue of blood. Jesus had all these other people, who no doubt had worse problems, jostling Him, and clamoring for His time and attention. But if she could just touch the hem of His robe... She didn't realize how Jesus knew her and loved her so intimately.

I think a lot of women struggle with this issue. It's easy to think rationally, "The Bible says so, therefore it must be true," but to actually feel it's true, and to act on it? That's much harder.

Since God is love, it is His nature to love us completely. Jesus knew what the woman with the issue of blood was thinking, all her pain and suffering over the years, how conflicted she was, having faith that He could heal her, but not wanting to bother Him. He knew the first movement of her hand toward the hem of His robe. I think He even yearned for it. And when He turned and focused on her, He gave all of us a lesson in His great love and attentiveness toward each one of us, no matter how insignificant we think we are.

That's why I love to hear - and to tell - stories of God's great mercy and grace. They give us a reason and a hope.