Despite being a Christian for over 10 years, it’s surprising to me (and somewhat shocking) that I really haven’t shared my testimony with many people. I’m not the kind of person that likes drama, attention, or a microphone, and if I’m being honest, I just haven’t really known how to share it. I’m a “wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve” kinda gal, but I’m not just going to unload my story on everyone I meet – that would just be too full-on haha.
But lately, I’ve been reflecting on the moment I knew God was real, and how He has been with me since. I am SO grateful that from the time I said yes to Him, I have had a constant source of hope, strength, and love in my life. Through life’s beautiful moments, and the challenges, I have had a safe place where I am forgiven, accepted, and loved.
It’s for this reason that I feel challenged to share in this way now. Because my testimony isn’t actually about me and my experiences throughout life. It’s about God. It’s a story of how His kindness and goodness mercifully entered my life and exchanged hopelessness with hope. It’s my hope that in sharing this, no matter where you are at in life and faith it encourages you.
THE TIME BEFORE
I was around 12 when I decided to follow Jesus and to give context on how this came to be, I suppose I should share a little about my childhood to paint the picture of what my life was like before.
It’s said that when you have hardships as a kid you grow up pretty fast, and that’s how it was with me.
I can’t remember ever living in a home with both my Mum and Dad. My parents separated when I was little and for most of the time until I was 12 it was just the three of us; my Mum, my older sister and, me.
I grew up very much aware of the financial and emotional struggles that can come with being a single mum. The arguing over child support payments, the stress of not having enough money for school supplies, uniforms, or bills, lack of help around the house, and us all at many times feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unheard. We did a lot of our grocery shopping at food banks, often ate at the local soup kitchen, and I was sponsored by kind strangers from the age of 10-19 who paid for my school supplies, uniforms, extra-curricular activities and textbooks. There were times the police were called, there were times extended family would have to step in, there were times I’d run to the random neighbours house for refuge (thank God they weren’t creeps), and there was once a stint in foster care.
As a kid, although I understood our circumstances, I had no idea how to deal with what I was feeling, and it would often manifest in holes in the walls, broken windows, slammed doors, and screaming at the top of my lungs. I am sure we were known as the crazy house on the street with all of the screaming and arguments that went down.
But even despite all of the hardships, I can honestly say I was loved very well. We experienced hard times, but we certainly had our moments of joy as a family, too.
One of those exciting moments, which probably isn’t typically exciting for an 11-year-old was coming home from school one day and our mum telling us that we had been approved for government housing, or “Housing Commission” as it’s called in Queensland. We had been on the waitlist for such a long time, and for our family, it was an opportunity to have a fresh start and ease the financial stress.
About 1 month later we moved to our new home, which was about an hour away. Because of this, I changed schools and we began to adjust to life in a new town. My mum was an avid gardener and she took what was a rundown house and made it look like a well-loved home. She even won awards from Housing Commission for the care and love she gave. Though we were living in poverty, she never made it feel that way.
But it wasn’t all that long after the move that my Mum was diagnosed with stage four cancer. She had been a smoker for most of her life, and unfortunately, cancer that had started in her esophagus ended up spreading throughout her body.
For the first few months of radiation treatment, my mum would drive herself to the center which was about an hour away. Each time, my sister and I would take the day off school to go with her and accompany her on the drive. And whilst she was having treatment, we would sit in the waiting room and make bets on who could drink the most amount of hot chocolates from the free machine within an hour #freehotchocciesontap
At that age, I remember thinking that there was the possibility our mum wouldn’t recover, but I never thought that it would be a scenario to actually consider.
For the months that followed, I can remember our neighbour driving me to, and picking me up from school and swim lessons, and a school teacher driving me to and from my mum’s chemo treatment before school.
But rather than getting better, our mum’s condition only seemed to worsen. Before too long she became confined to a reclining sofa in the living room with an oxygen tank always by her side. My sister who was 14 at the time was home-schooled but really stepped up to be our mum’s full-time carer; bathing her, taking her to the bathroom, getting her dressed, cooking meals. When I got home from school and on the weekends, my role was house cleaning, feeding/cleaning animals, gardening, and mowing the lawn. It was important the house was always kept clean for her health and this was my responsiblity. To earn some pocket money I’d also mow our neighbour’s lawn, too (entrepreneur in the making?).
When the time came for more medical support, my mum was transferred to the hospital. From that point on we were cared for by the extended family who would drive daily (2-hour roundtrip) for us to visit mum in the hospital, and not that I realised at the time, but prepare for us to move.
THE MOMENT I KNEW GOD WAS REAL
When my mum was diagnosed with cancer, she made the decision to give her life to God. I can remember there being an instant shift in our household. Amidst what was no doubt our most stressful, weak and emotion-filled time as a family, instead of strife, there was peace. A peace that I hadn’t experienced before. She instantly gave up smoking (which was big, because she was a 1 pack-a-day kinda lady), and in the hardest season of our lives, it felt the most peaceful. I didn’t understand it then, but I can see it so clearly now.
At 7.30pm on the 27th Janurary 2017, I watched my mum take her last breath. I can’t quite explain it, but it was in that moment I knew God was real. After something so tragic, it seems odd to say I believed in God. After all, one of greatest questions people ask is “how can there be a good God when there is evil, loss and hardship in the world?”
For me, my answer is simple. It’s because in the saddest and most difficult moment of my life, amidst the confusion and deep sadness, there was an undeniable and powerful presence of peace. It filled the entire room, and for a moment it felt like time didn’t exist. All l I could feel was a warmth throughout my entire body as if someone was hugging me. And for this girl who didn’t grow up in church, God became real to me. He met me where I was at. I experienced Holy Spirit as my comforter, and from that moment on, and through more of life’s challenges, I have never felt alone.
After our mum passed, my family got my sister and me involved in a Friday night youth group. I was very inward, shy and with all of the changes and pain I had experienced, I was quite depressed, too. My mum passed 2 days before I was to start grade 8 and at new school again. I didn’t want to socialise or make friends. In fact, my plan was to spend every lunch break in the library so I didn’t have to talk to anyone.
But despite my social awkwardness, every week I would go to youth and each time I’d experience the same presence I felt in that hospital room. It brought me joy, renewed my hope and made me feel like I belonged somewhere. From the ages of 12 to 17, I went to youth group, and at 18, I became a youth leader at the same church.
MY LIFE NOW
Through youth group, I ended up meeting an incredibly top bloke and when I was 19 we made the decision to be best friends for life and got married. Now almost 8 years happily married, we have two beautiful kids (almost 1 and 3) and strive to live wholeheartedly, as followers of Jesus, spouses, parents, and business owners. I’m a very driven person, I think my childhood set me up that way, and so I love working/running businesses alongside our growing family.
Of course, not many days go by that I don’t long for my mum to be here. And there are lots of special occasions like finishing school, graduating uni, getting married, pregnancy, and kids birthdays that remind me that shes not.
But looking back over my life, I’m humbled at how and when God has come through for me. Though I have experienced loss, I am not lost. In Him, I have purpose, hope, and a future to smile at. Each day I have breath in my lungs is a day for me to be thankful.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NLT
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 NLT
I don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t experienced God’s love, grace, and hope. The greatest decision I’ve ever made was to let Him into my messy and broken life. Through all of the challenges I’ve experienced since then, I know that God will lead me through them so I may come out stronger on the other side.
No matter where you are at on your faith journey, I pray this snippet of my story encourages and refreshes you. There is so much hope for you, and you are so very loved.
If you have any questions about God, I’d be more than happy to chat and share my experience with you. I pray you have a blessed day with renewed hope for all the future holds in God.
With so much love,