As I begin the story of my journey, I want to note that I have realized over the years that Jesus was always with me, I just couldn’t see or hear Him. Without Jesus, I couldn’t know real love or peace. I am also unable to learn what is truly right and wrong.

My life as a child was happy. Great home. Great mom and dad. Great friends and lots of fun. As I grew up, I began to see how scary the world was. I noticed that I felt fear often and struggles were really hard. I learned about God in church. My family went to church regularly during my childhood. I understood there was a God. I understood He loved people. What I didn’t understand was the differences in people on church days and the other days of the week. On church days, there was kindness for everyone. On other days, not so much. That’s weird.

Let me tell you a bit about my family. My mom and dad were the best parents a little girl could have. They loved each other and us (my brother, sister and I) very much. My dad was gone for work a lot. He and momma decided his job on the road would provide better for our family. This left my mom to take care of our home, my siblings and I and earn money sewing for people. She also helped my grandparents. This was a lot for her to juggle. I worried about her a lot. She made our lives at home safe, comfortable and full of love. Life outside of our home would not be as safe.

Our days were filled with school, chores and playing. My favorite season was and still is Winter. People seem to be kinder in the Winter and there is also a possibility of snow in Winter. I love snow and the activities it brings.

As I began my teenage years, I became more aware of the world outside my home; hard, cold and very scary. Fear was creeping into my life more. I talked to my mom about my fears and she always made me feel better. However, as I got older, I felt I needed to handle things I didn’t understand myself because my mom was so overloaded. So I did. This was not a good idea.

I attached easily to people who were naturally kind people and nice to me just because they could be. I also hurt deeply when bad things happened, especially to people I really loved. One such event affected me greatly. I was 13. I was involved in a car accident. Two of the people in the car I was riding in were my friend and her mom. You remember those church people I told you about earlier in the story? Our family and my friend and her mom went to the same church. My friend’s mom was different from the other church goers. I saw Jesus in my friend’s mom’s life. She was kind, considerate, smiled a lot and loved everyone. Outside of the love my parents showed me, she was probably the first church person I found interesting because she was the same way every other day as she was at church. How she acted was weird to me but I sure loved her because she was so nice to me.

That kind lady I went to church with died. My friend was so sad. I was too. How could God take her? She was needed here; to take care of her family and love people. Like me. The next year my mom and I were in a car accident. My mom was injured and all the feelings I had about my friend’s mom, the lady from church that died, came flooding back. God. Please do not take my mom. Please. God didn’t. My mom got well. Time went on, but I was changed. And not for the better.

My days were the same as most folks. A daily routine and free time spent with family and friends. But inside, I hurt. I had questions. I needed answers. I did not know where to find them. I couldn’t ask my mom. Her plate was too full. I really didn’t understand the God I learned about in church. People who seemed to love God the way the Bible said were dying, struggling in their lives or were seriously injured while other people who didn’t believe in God seemed to flourish and be just fine. What? Why? I really didn’t understand and I just couldn’t burden my mom with my problems. So again, I didn’t. Fear was beginning to overshadow my life. Sometimes I would ask questions to people around my age, but they really didn’t seem to be in any better shape than I was.

I began to make some friends. School was good. Slowly, life was a little better. But then, more tragedy would strike. My granny, who was such a wonderful, kind woman, died. My grandpa would also die. Why? Same question. Not so good people still here. Good, loving people dying. I was crushed. My parents were sad. It was a difficult time at our house and I was done.

I fell into a darkness that was so deep. Except for going to school and work, I stayed home. Then one night I was invited to go out with some friends. I went. I was invited to have a drink. An alcoholic drink. Then another. And maybe one more. I went home. I felt numb. For the first time in a long time, I was not lonely, or scared and I didn’t seem to care about anything. The hurt and ache in my heart was gone. It was the best I had felt for a very long time.

I continued to see these friends and drink. I built my life around drinking. Let me say here that when I fell into the deep darkness, Satan was more than willing to make sure I stayed there, and continued to provide people, liquor and places to drink. I was free. I could plan a day and not be in fear. Why? Because all I had to do was perform well for the day, do what I was told to do and get to the next drinking event, which was about 3 times per week. Sober up by 9 pm with a ton of coffee, go home, be happy. This would be the way I coped with my life for the next 10 years, until I was 25.

As time went on, I became more and more withdrawn and incredibly angry. Why? Because I lived in the world I created and was happy there. When that world was challenged, I fought hard to keep my world the way I needed it to survive. I have always hoped and prayed my parents never knew how desperate I was.

I am now 18. I have graduated high school and I realize I will not ever overcome my drinking problem here. I need to leave. I felt I could not talk to anyone who could help. My drinking buddies were all older than I was. They had made drinking their life and it was not pretty. I saw that and began to want something different. Maybe better. But what could be better than drinking which helped me to hide? Hiding from real life was my way to cope. At this point in my life I really didn’t know what I was fighting so hard to live for.

So, I moved away. Found new drinking buddies because, like I said, Satan had me in a stranglehold and made sure I thought I was in a place I could not leave. Kinda like in the song Hotel California. Looking back, God was still there calling to me, but I could not hear Him over the screams and agony of pain in my heart from the life I chose.

After moving away, I married. It was not long before our marriage began to crumble. We drifted further and further apart. We began to fight. It was ugly. We needed help. Surely life could be better than this. Or could it?

My husband’s friend invited us to go to church with him to hear about Jesus. My husband thought it could help us. Church? Why? My husband wanted to go. So we went. We walked in late. People were singing and seemed really happy. They were clapping their hands and looked like they were having a really good time. This was not a church service. I left. There was something wrong with these people. Or was there?

By this time in my life, I adapted to whatever situation I needed to. I had lost all concepts of what was really right and wrong. I had lost all my grounding. All that I once believed to be good and pure faded. No black or white. Just grey. People lived. People functioned. People died. No good. No bad. Just existence. I was existing. I found no hope or joy in anything. I did my job at my home, where I worked and whatever else I needed to handle. I ended most days with drinking. (There is an irony here. Even though I was so addicted to alcohol, I very rarely ever kept any in the house.)

Ok. Back to the church. My husband and I went back after we were invited again. What is it with these church people? This time I managed to stay. I didn’t want to, but I stayed. We kept going. There was an air about this church that was familiar? These people were nice to us. Like the lady in my church that passed away when I was younger. The people seemed to enjoy being there. Interesting. I would later come to realize that what made these people different was their love for Jesus.

This church where we were going was far from our home. Another friend of my husband pastored a church closer to where we lived. We started going to the new church. It was good for a while, but then my husband and I began to drift apart again. Our world was falling apart. I really liked church. My husband began to resent it. Our marriage was failing. On this Sunday, I would go to church by myself, because my husband was no longer interested. The message spoke to me that day.

When the invitation was given, I wanted to give my life to Jesus. I went to the altar. It was a big church. The church trained regular people to help people in the service when they came forward so that everybody’s needs could be met without waiting. The lady who helped me was so kind. We talked and I told her I had gone to church before, but on this day I understood a little better that Jesus loved me, for real. I wanted to give my life to Jesus. She asked if there was anything else I wanted to pray for. I told her I didn’t know and shared a little about my marriage. She said to me, “How about we pray for what you need?” What? For what I needed? Ok. We prayed. I asked Jesus into my heart that day. It was a really good day.

Just a little side note here. When I was a child, I had asked Jesus into my life. I believed if I died, I would go to Heaven. I did not really believe Jesus would help me in my life here.

Jesus was in my life now. I was so very happy. I felt alive. Like when I took my first drink. The difference was I was numb and hiding with alcohol. I was present and really alive with Jesus. Hiding didn’t seem to be so important anymore.

My journey with Jesus began. My husband and I would part ways and divorce. I was able to stop drinking and using alcohol as a crutch to prop me up. I was growing in Jesus. I was thankful I had lived to see a life so much better than what I thought was best. I felt peace and love. I was finding my place and beginning to truly understand right from wrong. My life was better. I continued to go to church and grow in the Word.

Two years later, tragedy would strike again. This time it was almost unbearable. My dad, a devout Christian man, who had been such a strong presence in my life, passed away. My mom was devastated and so was I. I just didn’t know how we would get through this. I prayed. I was learning how to pray for what I really needed. I felt a peace, but great sadness too. I was also really scared.

My mom was struggling. I asked her if she wanted me to come home? Yes, she did. I wanted to but struggled with how I would move back to the place where there had been so much pain, sadness and drinking. I prayed that God would give me a reason not to go back. He didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted, but God wasn’t sending me back to fail. He was sending me back to help me heal the brokenness in my heart from my childhood that I had not yet made peace with. He was also sending me home to be with my momma and to serve Him. I had no clue how to do that.

The move was difficult, but it happened. I felt so angry that God would send me back to live in such a painful place. Why would God do that? I didn’t understand. I was falling back on my strength. I was not seeking His will. Even though I was struggling, I was thankful I didn’t fall into despair as I had done before as a teenager. I remembered how the people at church taught me to pray and lean on Jesus.

It was hard because I really wanted life my way. Jesus stayed with me until my hard heart could be softened and I could see the mission He was sending me on. I would have to trust Him. Yikes. By His Grace, I was able to accept my mission, lean on His strength and stay grounded, even though I was really scared.

Jesus prevailed. My momma and I would get to enjoy life together in the Lord. I was sober and able to function. I was no longer alone. I was still scared sometimes, but my coping skills were better. I could find answers through God’s still small voice in my thoughts, the Bible, prayer, words of a song, book, message from a Pastor or from the words of a friend. I was really at peace.

As I continue my journey with Jesus, my life has changed so much. My momma has gone on to be with Jesus and my daddy. I was so sad when it was my momma’s time to leave. I loved her so much and it took me a long time to not miss her everyday, but Jesus gave me the strength to function without her here and to move forward.

I have married again to a very kind Christian man. I am thankful for him. I have 2 remarkable children who have grown up and now have families of their own.

As I close this writing of my story, I want to say that everyone’s life is better with Jesus. I hope and pray that as you read my story, you will consider your own life. I think if I had understood more about Jesus as a child, my life would probably have been better sooner. But I also know that this is the life God allowed me to live so that I could find Him, and in finding Him, I could share my story with you so you can find Him too. Are you curious about the life you could have with Jesus? I really hope so. It’s the only life you will really live.