I didn’t know how dark my life had been until I experienced the light. I grew up in a home with drugs, alcohol, violence and severe abuse in all its hideous forms. It wasn’t until my late teens that a friend pointed out that what I was going through was not normal and was not okay.
The trauma of my childhood led to severe substance abuse and mental health issues that made it hard for me to trust or connect with others, as well as a debilitating fear of being alone.
Emotionally, I was a ticking time bomb that almost went off in 2018.
The darkness had become too great to bear and I decided that I didn’t want to live anymore. Moments before I intended to end my pain, I suddenly heard the voice of my nana: “Be strong dear and trust in the Lord. He loves you.”
I was raised in a semi-Christian family who seemed to have a specific distaste for all things related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But my nana was born a member of the Church and remained a member until her early adolescence. She was forced to convert to a different Christian denomination after she married my grandfather.
All my life she would secretly tell me about her love for the church she was raised in and her testimony of the gospel. She would share scriptures and sayings from the Church when we talked. Something she said often was, “Be strong dear and trust in the Lord. He loves you.”
I was not a fan of Christianity at the time but for some reason, as my nana’s words rang in my ears, I knew that I needed to pray. I dropped to my knees and said my first prayer ever. I cried the entire time—so much that I wondered if even God could decipher my words through the sobs.
I begged Heavenly Father to heal my soul, to help me overcome the darkness that I had suffered with all my life. I offered Him an agreement: “If you carry me through and help me survive, in the new year, I will start going to church.”
The prayer left me too exhausted to even get onto my bed let alone hurt myself. I curled up on the floor where I was and slept till morning.
When I woke up, I felt a lot better.
As the days and weeks went by, I continued to feel better and better. When the end of the year arrived, I could not deny that the Lord had clearly held up His end of the agreement and I decided that I would uphold mine.
The words of my nana saved my life that day. Those same words were what led me to type LDS.org into my computer when it was time to find a church. Of all the churches I could have chosen, it was the most natural thing to me to seek out The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because I loved my nana and she loved it.
As I drove up to the chapel on Rua Road I felt an overwhelming darkness come over me. I felt as though I was doing something wrong. In my mind there was a voice saying, “wouldn’t you rather be at home? Don’t you want some wine? Don’t you want to relax?”
The feeling was so strong that when I finally parked, I was shaking too much to get out of the car. The doubt and fear almost won until I remembered something: I’ve been here before, I know this darkness. I know that I can pray, and God will answer.
I prayed out loud. “Give me a sign that I’m meant to be here,” I said. As I spoke, I felt a rush of calm as overwhelming as the darkness that it chased away.
I got out of my car and walked through the church doors. I immediately locked eyes with a stranger and felt instantly connected and comfortable with her. During the meeting she whispered to me, helping me to understand the messages. As the meeting ended, she asked for my name and number. She was shocked when she heard my maiden name.
“That’s my last name!” she said.
We discovered that our grandfathers were brothers and that we were in fact family. I remember being overcome with emotion as I felt the Lord speak lovingly to my heart saying, “There’s your sign.”
From there everything happened quickly. I learned the gospel from the elders, married my wonderful husband and two days later was baptised.
My life has continued to fill with the light of Christ, a light that in my childhood I did not believe existed. I am so grateful to my nana for her faith and bravery and her determination to turn me to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ; to my husband and his family who loved me through my issues; to my newfound cousin who made me feel at home that day and to my Father in Heaven who is always waiting to pour out His blessings upon us.