I grew up doing the motions of religion, going to church on Saturdays and eventually attending an Adventist high school, but I wasn't happy. I eventually rebelled toward the end of Year 9 and refused to continue at that school.
I ended up at a public high school where I had friends and a boyfriend. At 14, my life was filled with partying and drinking, and I began smoking. I was doing this to try to fit in, but I still wasn't really happy. I finished Year 10, went to secretarial school and got a job.
After several relationships, I ended up in a de facto relationship that eventually turned into marriage. This lasted 17 years. I don't know how we got through the first nine years because we had cycles of good and bad, usually ending in domestic violence.
Whenever we argued he became so angry. I'd end up black and blue, and sore for days. Yet when I tried to get out, it seemed too hard. Besides, by the time I'd tried to sort it through we were over the hurts and anger, and things were good again.
The bad times were the only times I ever prayed to God. When things were back to normal, I soon forgot about God.
I became pregnant and, just a few days before my baby was born, my mother died of cancer. My mother loved the Lord, and as she was dying, I told my mother I would bring our baby up to know God.
When the baby was born, I had this strong realisation that I was responsible for her. Priorities began to change in my life. But while I remembered my promise to my mother, I couldn't seem to bring myself to go to church.
I'd started yoga classes around this time--for the exercise. The yoga included meditation, sometimes getting into past lives and finishing with chanting and "oms." Although wary, I figured this was pretty harmless. One night, I went to an Indian drumming circle. I was wary, but thought this was harmless enough, even if they were drumming up spirits. Everyone seemed to be having fun.
That night I had a disturbing dream that woke me with a jolt. For some reason, I turned on the TV just as It Is Written with George Vandeman came on. I can't remember the message, but I knew it was for me. Around this time, I was given a bagful of Signs magazines that had been Mum's, which were assigned to the toilet room to read half a page here and there. I remember reading an article on Eastern religions and the other side of them.
My second daughter was born 18 months after the first, at about the time our business experienced severe financial problems. I began to go on the road selling our product so we could pay our bills. Things were tight.
At the end of every day, I would count the takings. There was always enough for the bills, with about 50 cents over. I began to sense that God was providing for us because each time I'd gone out I had prayed in my mind, and I was talking to God.
One Saturday I decided I would like to go to church, but my husband said if I went and changed any more than I had, our marriage was through. I was devastated and didn't go.
Our business eventually went bankrupt. So we decided to shift. One day, after we'd shifted into a new area, I found a leaflet in the mailbox for a kids club, a holiday program being run by the local Adventist church. I took the children and met a woman who'd been particularly impressed to be there on that day. We started talking.
All of a sudden I just knew I had to give my heart to God. It was the most incredible experience. I was on the biggest high all day. This was something I'd never experienced before.
A couple of weeks later someone visited from the church and my husband allowed me to go to church the next day for a visitors day. I started attending regularly and then attended the Net '99 program.
I was so happy, but my husband wasn't. One day he threw me to the floor. While lying there, I looked up at him and said, "You can kill me but you can't get God out of my heart." I had no fear even if he did kill me. He left me alone but threw my Bible off the veranda, he was so angry. All that night, although my world was falling apart, I had an incredible sense of peace.
Twelve months later, we parted peacefully. We didn't argue. We hugged and I packed him off with foods I knew he liked. My heart was breaking, but I couldn't make him stay.
Now my life is rebuilding, but I am content and peaceful. God has helped me through the hurts. Since coming back to God, I've never felt so happy and fulfilled. The kids are happy and seem to have adjusted well.
My husband is still on his search for happiness and I can see his life becoming more tangled. We pray for him every day and I believe that one day he'll come to know God.
You can't run forever. I know that. I can never escape from your spirit! I can never get away from your presence! Psalm 139:7. Jasmine Blank is a pseudonym.