Growing up, I had a variety of religious influences. My mom came from a family of Christian Scientists and Presbyterians. My dad's family, on his natural father's side, was Pentecostal. His mother was Methodist. He even studied to become a Catholic at one time. My mom's mother died when I was 3, and that was what eventually led her to seek the Lord. She got saved when I was 6 years old.
My parents had me baptized as an infant. It was my dad's idea. My mom and I went to a Methodist church with my grandmother. I don't recall my dad going with us, although he may have gone at Christmas time. When I was about 7 my grandmother passed away, and we didn't go to church at all for a while. My dad was mad at God because his mother died. Today I would say he is an atheist on the outside, because only God knows what is in his heart for sure.
I remember being interested in the occult as early as 6 years old. I was influenced by some "fairy tales" and certain television shows and cartoons. Halloween was my favorite "holiday", second only to Christmas. My favorite ride at Disneyland was The Haunted Mansion.
I started second grade in a Christian school that was sponsored by a Baptist church. My mom and I sporadically attended services there on Sundays. Sometimes we went to an Episcopal church whose pastor she particularly liked. Mostly, though, my mom listened daily to the teachings of Kathryn Khulman, Oral Roberts and Pat Robertson. She and my dad used to have screaming fights because she would send money to TV preachers.
While in Christian school I learned Bible "stories". I even accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 8, but He was never made real to me. He seemed far away and distant. They told me He lived in my heart, but I didn't really understand what that meant, and they didn't take the time to explain. They were very clear, however, about things like dancing being a sin, men not having "long" hair, appropriate attire for church (suit and tie for men and boys, skirts and dresses for women and girls), skirt lengths being no more than one inch above the knee, and the evil of "rock and roll" music.
I was 10 when "The Exorcist" came out. I was equally fascinated and horrified by it, even though I wasn't allowed to go see it. There was a book about the "making of the Exorcist" at our local dime store, and I would sneak and look at the pictures while my mom was shopping. After that I began to be very afraid of the dark, certain that there were demons lurking in every corner of my room.
I played with a Ouija board a couple of times. The first time I got a terrible headache. The second time nothing happened, except that my friend and I took it to school, unaware what an uproar it would cause. The teacher took it away from us and sent us to the office. I don't remember what they told us, but I know I didn't play with one again.
I continued in Christian school through the 8th grade. The kids in Christian school were no more kind than their counterparts in public school. There were still the thinner, prettier, more popular girls who made fun of others. The junior high football players and cheerleaders referred to those of us outside of their social circle as 'peasants'. I always felt bad that my academic accomplishments received little more than a cursory nod, while those involved in sports and cheerleading received pins, ribbons and extra space in the yearbook.
I determined that if I couldn't be popular by conventional means, I would gain attention by acting bizarre in order to get a rise out of people. A small group of us joined the fan club of a Saturday night horror show host named Grimsley. He was supposed to be a dead mortician, and he did comic bits while introducing and commenting on campy horror flicks (a la Elvira). Our group would cause disturbances in class on Monday mornings as we recounted Grimsley's antics from the previous Saturday night. We laughed when the teacher, frustrated, would send us out of the room. We mocked the football players and cheerleaders to the point that the head cheerleader broke down and cried and we were told to knock it off. I began to think that there was more power in being bad than good.
During this time I had a boyfriend whose father was a preacher at a Four Square Pentecostal church. My mom divided our church time between that church and the Episcopal church. I thought my head was going to split sometimes because I couldn't reconcile the two. In one, the people where jumping up and down and shouting, and in the other we read the same boring thing week in and week out.
My parents divorced when I was 12. When they split up, my dad said he couldn't afford to give my mom any money, and there were no child support laws at that time. One night all there was in the house to eat was saltine crackers. So, my mom and I ate saltine crackers and had some water to drink and that was our dinner. I told my boyfriend about it the next day at church and I tried to laugh it off. He didn't think it was so funny. When my mom and I went out to our car after the service there were bags and bags of groceries in the back seat. It was hard for my mom to accept charity, but what could she say?
The next day the deacon's wife came to our house and brought six more bags of groceries. I'll never forget that lady and that church, because that was the first time I ever really saw God's love in action with no condemnation.
After 8th grade I told my mom I wanted to go to public high school. It was total culture shock. I still did my best academically but soon found that it wasn't considered "cool" to be a good student. Not only did I feel I would not be rewarded for my accomplishments, I feared I would be socially ostracized by those I wanted to befriend. I pleaded with my mother to put me back in Christian school. She agreed, even though it was a financial burden for her. For me, it meant walking back and forth to school about four miles each way. It wasn't commonplace for students to have backpacks then, so I carried my books and supplies back and forth every day in my arms. A couple of times I tried to ride my bike but it was hard to do in a dress. Nevertheless, I persevered because I wanted to be with my "friends".
Apparently they didn't feel the same toward me. Perhaps they thought the month I'd spent in public school had somehow "dirtied" me, or maybe my exploits from 8th grade were still too fresh in their minds. I don't know. What I do know is the people I'd formerly considered to be my friends wanted nothing to do with me. They even started a rumor about me that went around the whole school, which caused a boy I liked to "hate my guts".
I started to be absent from school frequently. The vice principal met with me and sent home a book for my mom about adolescents with adjustment problems. He gave me a psycho-analysis test and told me I was "high strung". I don't remember him praying with me. I don't remember him sharing anything with me from God's word. I do remember that I hated him and I hated that school. I began to view Christians as hypocrites. Then we moved away and I couldn't have been happier.
I went back into the public school system to finish out my 9th grade year. My mom had to work full time because money was tight, so I was on my own quite a bit. When we moved we went to live with my aunt and cousins, and I got in with the wrong people. At 14 I started smoking cigarettes and I had sex for the first time with my new boyfriend, who was 18.
While we were living at my aunt's house, my cousins and I got in a huge knock down drag out fight. The result was my mom and I moved that night to her other sister's house who lived nearby, and who was a Christian. We started going to their church, which I didn't like very much, but it was a lot less formal than some of the places I'd been and the people seemed a little more accepting of me.
My mom and I slept on the floor in my aunt's living room. It was late May and the weather was very warm. It had been in the 90's and 100's for about a week or so. The next day was the church picnic and also Memorial Day. That night, as we were going to bed, my mom prayed and told the Lord she was willing to go to this church function, but she asked Him to please send a cool breeze because it had been so hot.
The next day at the picnic it seemed like it was going to be as hot as ever. But at noon, a breeze began to blow. It continued to pick up until it sent napkins, paper plates and table cloths flying. The temperature seemed to drop ten degrees or more, as the wind continued to blow the rest of that day. I couldn't believe my eyes. Deep down I knew God had answered my mom's prayers and I knew He was real.
Another prayer He answered was that my mom and I would be able to move back to our hometown. Within a month we were back where we longed to be, in our own home, with beds to sleep on, by God's grace. My mom found a local Calvary Chapel and we continued to go to church on Sundays. I was beginning to grasp more about the Lord than I'd learned before. Then my mom started listening to the televangelists again, and gradually we stopped going to church.
She continued to follow Pat Robertson and Oral Roberts. As the prosperity gospel began to gain ground she started listening to people like Kenneth Copeland, Fred Price, Marilyn Hickey, Benny Hinn and Jesse Duplantis. As my Christian walk waxed and waned over the years, well into my adulthood, I tried to listen to these people and couldn't understand why I was frustrated. I prayed the prayers just like they said, but I was never successful with the "name it and claim it" stuff, so I figured I just didn't have enough faith.
At sixteen I decided I'd had enough and went back to doing things in my old way. I started smoking again and I started listening to music I'd previously had little taste for. KISS became my favorite band, and my album collection grew to include artists like Zeppelin, the Stones, Alice Cooper, and Blue Oyster Cult.
My senior year in high school was the first time I experimented with drugs. I smoked pot with a friend a couple of times. The last time, I don't know what was in it, but I was tripping out really bad. I didn't do it again for a long time.
After I graduated I worked for a while, played around and partied. I finally met a guy I really liked. I even tried to straighten up so my mom would like him too, but she hated him. And the more she hated him, the more determined I was to have him. So, I moved away from home to go live with him.
I got pregnant when I was 19. We found out it was twins, but something went wrong and they were born at 26 or 27 weeks gestation. They were too small to survive and both passed away within days of their birth.
We got married about a month and a half after the twins passed. We started partying at that time, drinking and using cocaine and crystal meth.
When I got pregnant again I cleaned up and didn't drink, smoke or use drugs. We went back to church. This new church preached a LOT about the evils of rock music, and how people who believed in a pretrib rapture were wimps. They spent a lot of time some Sundays detailing how local Satanists and witches were harassing them. I don't remember learning very much from God's word there. Shortly after my daughter was born, things got weird.
I suffered a demonic attack one night. I'd been asleep when suddenly I felt this 'thing' on my chest. It seemed to be pushing my face sideways into my pillow. I couldn't open my eyes, so I thought I must be dreaming, but it was so real. I could feel 'claws' digging into my cheek. I could hear its 'voice' in my ear. It had a horrid two-toned sound, both high and low pitched at the same time. In my mind I was saying "Jesus, Jesus" and the demon would say "your Jesus can't help you now". I guess the Lord must have intervened because it stopped.
I contacted the church. I wanted them to come to our house because I felt like there was a 'presence' there. I could hear it thump on the walls at night sometimes and heard something that sounded like wind moaning, only it wasn't windy. I was terrified. They wouldn't come to our house, but insisted we go to the church for a 'deliverance' ministry.
During the deliverance "session", they told my husband, among other things, he would have to have his tattoos removed because they were a "doorway for the devil". They prayed over me for evil spirits to "come out". Nothing came out. But we walked out and never went back to that church.
We tried for a while to go to an Assemblies of God church, but it felt so empty. I felt like I couldn't find the Lord. There were many topical sermons, but no verse by verse, chapter by chapter teaching of God's word. I was starving spiritually, and I didn't know it.
Sadly, we walked away from the Lord and things went downhill fast as we went back to drinking and doing drugs. Eventually my husband and I separated and during that time he had an affair before we could work out our differences. I'd also gotten pregnant during one of our times together when I was trying to "win him back" from her. I had an abortion. It all became more than I could take and we divorced.
I moved into another apartment where there were more incidences of demonic activity. I wondered if it were drug-induced or related, but since my Christian aunt came to pray in my apartment and experienced it also, I knew it was not in my imagination.
I moved from there, got clean again, and tried the Assemblies of God once again. One Sunday, after the morning service, we were all told that everyone but "the members" would have to leave, as they were going to have a "members only" meeting. I'd never been told I had to leave a church before. I didn't understand why they were acting so exclusive. All my old resentment returned, and I stopped going to church once more.
During that time God answered my prayers that my marriage be restored. My husband and I reconciled and were remarried. Unfortunately, I never gave my emotions to the Lord. I figured I had to deal with everything that had happened, but I didn't know how. \About that time I started to have chest pains and shortness of breath. I was diagnosed with panic attacks and depression. The doctor put me on Prozac and Xanax, and I had regular appointments with a psychiatrist. Things seemed okay for a while, and then one day I lost it. I started crying and couldn't stop. It felt like I was in an emotional nosedive I couldn't pull out of. I was in the process of writing a suicide note when my husband found me. I was hospitalized for almost two weeks. They changed my meds and it seemed I was getting better.
Once out of the hospital I started going on the internet and talking in chat rooms. Then one day I found an email on our computer from my husband's former girlfriend's daughter. I went ballistic. I wrote her a scathing email in return, telling her in no uncertain terms to stay away from us. To get back at him, I started getting into cybersex. To deal with my guilt I started drinking. It wasn't much at first, but by the time all was said and done I could down a six pack of beer and a fifth of tequila in one night.
When alcohol alone wasn't enough to deaden my pain I went back to drugs. Meth was my drug of choice. I didn't stop doing it when blood ran out of my nose. I didn't stop doing it when I thought I was having a heart attack while driving, after I'd been wired for maybe 36 or 48 hours (I honestly can't remember exactly how long I'd been up). I didn't stop it until I got some meth that made me break out in sores all over my body and I was sick in bed for a week; then I decided I'd better knock it off or die.
I was a basket case at work. Finally one day I went in and sat down at my desk and just started bawling. I couldn't stop crying and so I told my boss I was emotionally burned out and was no longer an asset to the company, and I resigned.
I went home and called my psychiatrist and asked him to put me on temporary disability until I could get straightened up and able to work again. I was still on antidepressants and antianxiety meds at the time, and going to see him once every two weeks to a month. He told me he couldn't put me on disability because there was nothing wrong with me. I was furious. I decided right then and there that if I could kick meth, I could kick antidepressants. I slowly weaned myself off of them, but it was actually harder for me to quit those than it was to quit meth.
I didn't give up the cybersex, and still drank from time to time, but it seemed more controlled. One night, while talking with a guy I "liked", he asked me if I was a pagan. I thought this was odd, as I had been toying with the idea of pursuing my old interests in the occult and taking up witchcraft. On a whim I told him yes, I was a pagan. We started to talk and I discovered he and his wife were the high priestess and priest of an eclectic wiccan coven, and they were willing to give me lessons over the internet. They recommended books for me to read, which, at the time, were very hard to find. I ended up having to special order most of them.
At one point he told me I should be careful about using Hecate's name in my internet address (Hecate is the name for the crone aspect of the triple goddess), and that was the reason he'd asked me if I was pagan. I was surprised, because I had no idea how it had shown up there. I figured that was a sure sign that I was meant to be a witch.
As I studied witchcraft it seemed to me it wasn't much different from the 'name it and claim it' garbage spewed by some televangelists. It seemed to be basically the same positive confession stuff without the guilt. Plus, it enabled me to indulge my old habit of doing things to shock people. From our Wiccan chat room we would go to Christian chat rooms and harass them, then go back and laugh when we got banned. I became fascinated with vampires and read everything I could get my hands on about them, fiction and non-fiction. Halloween was now my favorite holiday. I had more boxes of decorations for Halloween than I did for Christmas. We started doing a haunted house every year, each time trying to outdo the year before.
Deep inside, though, I missed Jesus. Every time I'd cast a circle or contemplate the moon, I would think about Him. These new age gods and goddesses weren't real to me. But I knew God was real, and He had helped me, even in times I didn't deserve it.
Eventually, my Wiccan friends proved to be as faithless as my Christian friends from my younger days. The guy who'd introduced me to the pagan world turned on me and was cruel and mean. At the same time, my studies were showing me that a true witch embraces the 'dark side' of the goddess, as well as her goodness and light. I didn't like the sound of that very much. The point was driven home when I was chatting one night with a witch back east who shared with me how an 'entity' had 'gated' into his living room one evening as he was working on some spells. I really began to doubt the wisdom of dabbling further in witchcraft, especially considering the brushes I'd had with the demonic.
Still, I clung to my books, tarot cards, candles, etc., fearful that I wouldn't find fulfillment in anything else. I didn't use them anymore, but felt they were there to "fall back on" if I decided to have another go at it.
At that time, my dad had retired and my parents (who had also reconciled and remarried) were going to move out of state. I had never been that far away from my mom, and I did not want her to go away. But my dad's mind was made up and I knew there was no human being who could talk him out of going. I prayed to God, the One who had come through for me before when all seemed lost. In ignorance I made a bargain; that I would give up all my witchcraft paraphernalia if He would keep my parents from moving away.
My parents tried two or three times to leave. Their truck broke down every single time just before they'd get to the state line. Finally, my dad came over to my house and said 'well, guess we're not going to Texas'. I put that witchcraft stuff in the garbage that same day. Little did we know, my dad's health was failing. Within a month my dad had congestive heart failure, but God's intervention and quick medical attention saved his life. My dad says now that, had they gone to Texas, he might not be alive right now. Praise the Lord; He knew what was happening with my dad. Perhaps God would have moved to prevent them from going even without my prayer (my mom didn't really want to go anyway), but He graciously used the opportunity to answer my selfish plea and give me a chance to let go of witchcraft.
Nevertheless, I wasn't quite to the end of myself, where God could get my attention. Last summer, I lay on the floor of my bathroom, crying out to Him because I wanted to kill myself, and didn't know why. I had the man I wanted, I had the kids I wanted, I had the house I wanted, the car I wanted. I had everything I thought would make me happy, and I was wretchedly miserable. Still, I couldn't do it because of what I knew it would do to my kids, and because I figured I'd end up in hell.
Deep inside, I knew what I needed was Jesus, I just didn't know that even though I'd accepted Him into my heart, what I needed was a personal relationship with Him. I didn't understand how important it was to pray daily, not just for what I wanted, but because God wanted to hear from me, because He loves me. I didn't understand He wanted to speak to me through His word. I didn't know that fellowship with other Christians was vital.
I'd always had a great interest in prophecy, since I was about 10. Within days of the bathroom floor incident, I was flipping through the TV channels and decided to stop on Jack Van Impe to see what was going on in the world in relation to prophecy. I don't recall everything he was talking about, but I do remember him saying to 'keep an eye on Juan Carlos of Spain'. I thought, 'wow, it must be getting close if Jack Van Impe's willing to go out on a limb like that". And then I heard, in my mind as clear as a summer day, these words: "it's time to get serious. There's no more time for playing games". I knew it was Jesus. I knew at that moment how real He is, and how much He loves me, in spite of all I had done. I was on my knees, tears of repentance, relief and joy pouring from my eyes.
Through one of my son's teachers, the Lord led us to the church we are now attending, a wonderful Calvary Chapel outreach where they teach the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter. The people there don't judge you by your hair or clothes, or the tattoos on your arms. They've welcomed us with open arms and we've also reached out to them.
The change in my family is nothing short of miraculous. My husband has given his life back to the Lord. My kids are walking with the Lord. My dad, who is still not saved yet, has even remarked on the changes in us.
I will never go back to where I came from, because like Peter I have to say "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life". Religion hadn't saved me. Material gain hadn't saved me. Psychiatry hadn't saved me. Drugs and alcohol hadn't saved me. Sex hadn't saved me. Witchcraft and the occult hadn't saved me. The Lord Jesus, in His infinite love, grace and mercy reached out to me, and saved me.