I was raised in a Christian home where we went to church every Sunday. We all attended Sunday School as my parents were both Sunday School teachers. As a child I was very shy and quiet as I didn’t ever want to draw attention to myself. I wasn’t a good reader therefore I lived in fear of being asked to read out loud for most of my life. I wasn’t a good (and still aren’t) a good sleeper and used to lay awake thinking about “things.”
At High School I decided that I was going to “come out of my shell” and not be so quiet. I made good friends, did well in a number of sports and gained a few awards. Life was good but I still had a deep insecurity about being asked to do things publicly. While I looked like quite an outgoing person I was fearful and shy inside.
After I finished High School I went into a good job as a storeman at Auto Electric P/L. It was during my early days there that a group of Christian young people came from Sydney and Brisbane to the Youth Group I was attending. I got to know them quite well and saw in them a vitality in life that I hadn’t experienced before. As I got to know them I found that Jesus was the reason they had this “life” in them.
One evening during a church service one of them said, “If you have stolen 5 cents from your mother’s purse you were a sinner and needed God’s forgiveness. I had often stolen extra money from the bus fare jar to buy lollies. I also knew that I had done much worse things than that! This brought home to me the concept of sin. There were no little sins or big sins. I used to think I was OK because I hadn’t killed anyone or hurt too many people.
With the freedom I observed in the team of young people and the conviction of sin I wanted what they had. One night while laying awake thinking I said the words, “Jesus I want you to come into my life.” From that moment things changed. The next morning I remember thinking when I woke up “I asked Jesus into my life last night.” Looking back I really didn’t understand what I had done but Jesus took up the invitation!
I didn’t tell anyone, I was still shy and didn’t want a fuss. Some of the other youth group members also asked Jesus into their lives. The team ran a special meeting to help them grow in their new found faith. I wasn’t invited because I hadn’t told anyone. But I heard that there was a meeting on and I just turned up. It was my opportunity to go public. Through this time I finally understood that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins and that He wanted relationship with me. I understood the freedom this can bring when you don’t have to live with guilt and fear. Later I were baptised with the others in a special church service.
From then on my life felt like I was standing on a rock rather than sand. I was still shy and fearful but my new found relationship with Jesus gave me purpose, a deeper understanding of real love and the constant presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
Since then there have been many hurts, disappointments, slip ups and fears in my life. It is hard to describe what it is like to have Jesus in your life. He has been there to help me through so many different circumstances. When there are decisions to be made I can pray for wisdom. When I’m afraid I can ask Him to be by my side. When I do the wrong thing I can ask for His forgiveness and He sets me free to live without guilt. I have been through many things now over 30 years of having Jesus in my life and I often wonder how people live without Him knowing what He has done for me. I even read out loud sometimes!!
My story starts in South Australia where I grew up. My parents took me to church and Sunday School as they were part of the Lutheran church, a denomination with its roots in Germany. The strength of this Lutheran community provided me with my first taste of real community. It proved an important foundational anchor through a very mobile childhood. We moved homes a lot since my father was a teacher.
I was raised on Bible stories and thought that loving God was expressed by keeping the ten commandments. I did my very best. But these foundations of my faith cracked wide open when I was 18. In that year I contracted a severe illness which led to 8 months bed rest followed by several years of rehabilitation. This was life changing as during those 8 months I thought I might die at any moment. However, I realised I wasn’t ready or at peace to meet my Creator God. There must be something more. I came out of that time knowing God held my life in His hands but I was scared of Him, and aware that something was missing in my life.
Set apart through those three years of illness, I found myself on a path that was largely unknown, without models or many friends as I had left my teacher training course and with it largely lost my peer group. Through this period, I experienced what it is to lose community, purpose and cohesion within relationships, and it wasn’t a pleasant journey. Only in hindsight can I see how these experiences too, were important building blocks in my development in understanding the power of connection both with God and others.
I had lost faith in God’s kindness through experiencing so many losses during that illness, but He proved utterly faithful. When I was 21 the door opened unexpectedly to office work for an organisation in Adelaide, South Australia, though I was still battling with post sickness effects and would do so for another five years. I also studied part time and through that, when I was 24, I attended a Christian Student camp. It was here, while someone was teaching the Bible, the Lord revealed Himself to me in a vision. Suddenly Jesus Christ was standing right in front of me holding our His arms to embrace me, very much alive and real, as He poured His love over me. He was not locked in history 2000 years ago in the pages of a Bible but ALIVE, HERE and NOW and inviting me to RELATIONSHIP. He was willing to cleanse and forgive me for my sins and wrongs (Oh glorious reality) and help me walk through life with Him at the centre.
Life absolutely changed with lots to learn and adjust to. I found out that trying to keep the rules to show my love to God was very, very different from a direct relationship with God through His initiative. It was nothing to be compared to. Personal relationship with God was REAL and POSSIBLE through accepting the gift of Jesus’ death and resurrection and His indwelling Holy Spirit. His presence and fellowship were HEAVEN after the HELL of grief and loneliness I’d previously known! Of course, there were still plenty of bumps to come. I took a while to learn how to let Him lead me and how I could follow, making my decisions around His direction. I was learning I was not alone travelling the ups and downs to come. This was very different from before I met the Lord.
In this early season in my faith journey I was challenged to listen to His whispers and found creativity a useful means to explore these. Over the following years two-sided creative prayer grew into something I loved and eventually would model and teach.
After my conversion I discovered that God had a direction for my life – triggered after a trip to the Middle East when I was 26. Initially I fought a sense of being called to lay down my own desires for my life and follow His path which was leading outside of my current career. I was afraid of ending up a single woman back in the Middle East and this did NOT appeal. It was hard to learn that singing lovely songs and enjoying His company were not all there was to loving Him. He is not just SAVIOUR, but LORD and His leadership needs to be accepted to really follow Him. After several years of fighting His direction, ultimately through His help, I surrendered. Always a good thing to do with God! Such peace immediately followed once I surrendered and I wished I’d not been so fearful of saying YES to His leading. I had to learn God has good things ahead and would lead me a step at a time.
Soon after this surrender I quit work, moved to a church keen on outreach and I went to Bible College. There I met Peter and we married.
Many adventures have followed – some tough, others amazing but through all the challenges, trials and joys God has proved incredibly faithful to me. He has taken a shy, broken and anxious woman, loved her, walked with her and continues to heal her, turning her into something so much more than she could ever imagine for herself. God specialises in taking what the world considers trash or of little worth and turning it into something beautiful to display His ability and glory. His love and faithfulness are without limit.
This verse says it all: “The Lord’s loving kindness indeed never ceases. For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Your Faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23