"I am passionately in love with God because he listens to me. He hears my prayers and answers them.|As long as I live, I'll keep praying to him, for he stoops down to listen to my heart's cry.
Death once stared me in the face, and I was close to slipping into its dark shadows. I was terrified and overcome with sorrow.
I cried out to the Lord, God, come and save me!
I was born the youngest of three into a family filled with division. My mother was saved when she was 24 and has followed Jesus since.
My father is an atheist. I didn't grow up in the church, but I was exposed to it many times throughout my childhood. They finally divorced when I was 18, after 13 separations and 18 years of marriage.
I have a few stand-out memories of God from my younger years. The first time I gave my heart to the Lord, I was 8 years old. I don't remember all the details of that day; I was in Oamaru and went to a church service with my aunty. There was an altar call, and I remember being prayed for and crying my little heart out.
I was given a green pamphlet with scriptures in it. One stuck with me forever, NIV 1 John 4:4. 'You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them because greater is the one who is in you than the one who is in the world.' I had no idea at the time, but that was the first seed planted in me.
At 16, I was attending a church with my mum. I didn't exactly want to go or feel anything spiritual there; I only went because the teenage boys were cute. I attended the youth group on Friday nights as well.
Again, I don't remember many details of this time, but I'll never forget when my youth leader gave me a letter of prophecy he had received.
I wish I still had it, but I don't. The only detail I remember is him saying that God told him I was a diamond in the rough. That meant nothing to me at the time, and I all but forgot that night over the next 22 years.
Throughout my teenage years, I remembered God existed, but I never had any desire to follow Jesus. I occasionally read a bible my mum had given me, and I would pray when I wanted something from God.
One night I was with my boyfriend at his friend's house, and he never treated me very well. That night he told me to leave and to walk home by myself; it was a "boys' night". I had to walk about half an hour along an unlit, harborside road.
I prayed to God to protect me on my walk and get me home safely. That minute a car came along with its headlights on and revealed a giant, deep hole in the ground at my very next step.
If that car had not come along, I would have fallen right in, and who knows what injuries I would have sustained. I knew right then that God was protecting me. But I still did not follow him.
At 21 years old, when I was already the mother of a beautiful little two-year-old girl, I moved from Dunedin to Christchurch. My sister and her husband had recently been saved, and I spent a lot of my time with them.
One night at his parent's house, I gave my heart to Jesus once again. I know it was as real at the time, but deep down, I was following the crowd. But another seed was planted, this time a little deeper, and it grew a little more.
I was baptised and attended church regularly. I became involved in the women's café and tried to fit in, but I never fully did. I felt like it wasn't really my place. I had latched onto my sister's life and followed her there.
After a couple of years, I started working again in hospitality. I met new people, made new friends, and very easily wandered away from Jesus and my church life. That seedling that had been growing very easily was torn out and thrown aside.
Over the next 16 years, I lived a life very much in the world. I smoked copious amounts of marijuana, so much so that being high became my normal. I was a highly functioning stoner. I watched a lot of pornography and had sex with more men than I am willing to admit.
All whilst being a solo parent to two young girls and, years later, a son, I sheltered them from my lifestyle as much as I could and think I did a pretty good job of it, but of course, they were exposed to things that they shouldn't have been. I never thought twice about what this lifestyle was doing to my soul.
Over time I grew very hard-hearted. I called it my black box and kept it locked tightly. Little did I know the level of darkness I kept locked in there with me. I went through multiple bouts of depression and developed an anxiety disorder, which most likely brought on my recreational use of party drugs.
I turned completely away from God and never wanted to hear anything about God, Jesus, the gospel, or anything related to the subject. I threw away every bible I owned, and I would get very angry, especially at my mother, if anyone tried to speak to me about it.
My eldest daughter became a Christian in her early teens and was very involved in her church. Prioritizing it over everything else in her life, I developed a strong hate and anger for this church. I was so angry when I saw her give up so much for them.
The couple of times I did attend for something she was involved in, my skin would crawl, and I felt very uncomfortable being in the presence of God and around so many people who followed Jesus.
In January 2017, I moved to Australia with my two younger children. My oldest daughter, then 15, stayed in New Zealand and moved in with her father, who had never been very involved in her life.
I gave her a choice to come or stay, as she had the most to leave behind in New Zealand, especially her church; this is where I truly felt that they had stolen my daughter away from me. Of course, I could have put my foot down and forced her to come with us, but I knew deep down that it wasn't the best thing for her.
Leaving her behind is the hardest thing I have ever done as a parent, and I still regret leaving her too young. But I know none of us would be where we are if we hadn't made the move. God had a plan.
I always told Mum that if God is real, He'll need to do something drastic to me to make me believe it, and that's exactly what he did. In such a way, I could never have imagined, and if it had not happened to me, then I would probably struggle to believe the story I am about to share.
On June 24th 2020, God revealed himself to me in such a way that I could no longer deny his existence.
Leading up to that day, I was struggling with chronic anxiety.
Thinking back, the severity of it had been building for at least six months without consciously realising it. Covid hit, and my life was turned upside down. I quickly found myself unemployed with no income; this did not help my mental health.
I had no idea how I was going to continue to support my family, and I had far more time on my hands than I wanted. A couple of weeks into this time, I began smoking marijuana again; I had been on and off it for many years by this stage, mostly on, but also for long periods without it.
I remember having occasional thoughts of, I think I want to go back to church, but I never voiced this, and with everything closed due to lockdowns, so attending was not an option. A few weeks later, the government announced the Job Keeper scheme, which helped me relax a little financially.
My workplace reopened, and I was able to get some form of routine back. Even though life returned to some form of normality, my anxiety continued to build. I had a few nights of heavy cocaine use over a short period, which fueled my mental health in a downward spiral even more.
Things like running a business and a household that were once very easy for me became so difficult I could barely cope. It was like the problem-solving part of my brain, which usually thrives, had shut down. I had severe physical symptoms of anxiety; some days, and could hardly breathe. Often not brought on by anything.
I decided to go and see the doctor and finally give in to medication. He gave me an anti-depression/anxiety medication prescription and booked me to speak with the clinic's psychologist. I stopped smoking marijuana, as I knew it was not helping my anxiety.
But I still had a stash of weed brownies hidden in the freezer, which I would take a bite of every night. I had convinced myself that eating it was better than smoking it, as it relaxed me but didn't mess with my head so much. I was very wrong.
I met with the psychologist on June 23rd; that day, I also started taking a very low dose of my medication. She let me offload and then went through some coping strategies with me, teaching me that anxiety was a liar that attacked the vulnerable at their weakest times.
She helped me to remove the anxiety from being part of me, to see it having a figure of its own. I saw it as a dark grey cloud, with beady little eyes and a big mouth, that loomed over me and fed me lie after lie.
I spoke with my sister in New Zealand a lot during this time. I felt that talking to her helped calm me, and I was able to be vulnerable with her, which is not something I have ever been very good at.
On June 24th, I went to work like any other day. My anxiety was as high as ever, and nothing I did help to ease it. I was now more aware of how it was an attack on me rather than being part of me and how it was full of lies in my head.
But being aware of this did not ease how I felt at all. I went to the gym after work, and lifting weights would help ease my nerves, but not that day.
I went home and ate a huge weed brownie, more than I would usually have in one go, and began my usual Mum duties. Whilst cooking dinner, I began to feel very nauseous, which was not an effect I'd had from eating marijuana.
I told my daughter I was going to bed and asked her to watch her brother and maybe check in on me in a little while.
It was about 5.30 pm.
I got into bed and googled the side effects of the medication I had taken and at the top of the list was nausea. I had taken a total of 20mg across two days, so I had a minuscule amount of this in my system.
As I read the rest of the side effects, they started to come over me in waves, clammy hands, sweating, quivering, and heart racing. It all hit me at once.
I know this was probably psychological from reading it, but it all felt very real at the time. I started to panic and struggled to breathe, and I remember the overwhelming fear I was feeling.
Fear like never before. I began to call family, anyone who could help talk me through this. And just so they knew, in case anything bad happened to me.
I was scared I would stop breathing or my heart would fail, and I needed to go to the hospital. My nephew was on standby in case I needed help throughout the night. My trail of thought was not logical at all. I was petrified.
As I sat there in my bed, I began to cry. I howled and howled uncontrollably; barely any tears came out, but the emotions I felt were overwhelming.
My daughter came in to check on me, and I begged her to take her brother to the neighbours; I didn't want him to see me like this. I told her I was having some negative side effects from my medication and that they could look after him for a few hours, which they did.
Manaia returned with me and held my hand as I cried and quivered and had hot and cold flashes. I knew I was in a full-blown panic attack, and I didn't want her to see me like this, so I asked her to leave me alone.
I called my sister; she is a worship leader and pastor in her small church and has been a Christian for about 20 years. I was frantic at the time. I had never felt like this in all my years of anxiety issues. I explained what was happening and what had happened the day before.
I cried more and started to gag, wretch and spit into a bucket I had on the floor beside me. Nothing physical came out besides saliva. I was picturing a grey blob looming over me, and it was my anxiety, my demon. I was rambling to my sister for ages. I don't believe she was praying for me; she was just listening.
Then suddenly, this calm came over me, and my hands started to rise beside me; I asked if she was doing something to me, "No, what do you mean?" she asked.
"Are you sure? Are you praying? Something is happening to me." She said she always prays for me. I begged her; please pray right now. I need you to pray; I need God.
As she prayed, there was more and more gagging and retching; it was loud, aggressive, and physically hurt.
With a giant evil-sounding purge, I felt something come out of me into the bucket.
I saw a dark, evil figure with his beady eyes looking up at me. I jumped out of bed and threw the bucket outdoors onto my balcony.
I ran to the bathroom and fell to my knees and cried out to Jesus, save me, Jesus, save me! My sister was still on the phone through all of this.
I told her I had to go; I was panicked and needed to leave the house. I was scared of what had come out of me and that my neighbours could hear the crazy evil sounds coming out of me.
I asked Manaia to walk with me to the park next to our complex. It was pitch black, and there was one light in the park beside the toilets, so I went over there. I could feel that so much more needed to come out of me, and I was still so scared, and I didn't want Manaia to see this.
I called my sister back and told her there was more to come out; I physically could not hold it in if I tried. I had unleashed a demon and the rest needed to pour out. I sent manaia home because she had already seen enough.
I began retching violently again on my hand and knees in the shadows. The sound that came out with every retch was the sound of pure evil; I could not repeat it if I wanted to. It was not a natural human sound.
I must have looked like such a crazy person to anyone who walked through the park that night. But I knew that there was massive spiritual warfare going on right then.
My sister stayed on the phone with me throughout it all, praying and talking to me. So many memories came back to me of times when God had been working in my life. I was reminded that he had had his hands on me my whole life, and everything I had been through led me to this moment.
Many visual things were going on for me with the contrast of dark and light. There was such a battle going on for my life between darkness and light, and I could physically see it happening.
I sat on a blanket in the light and felt safe there; every time I felt another wave of sick come over me, I crawled into the dark shadows and gagged and retched and spat more; this went on for what was about an hour; maybe two.
I had completely lost track of time. Every time I came back into the light, I felt waves of warmth and calm come over me, like warm arms wrapped around me. The more I let out, the calmer I became.
I didn't feel like I was in control of what was happening to me. I was scared but also relieved that the darkness was coming out.
Eventually, my sister called my cousin, who lives in Brisbane, and asked her to come and get me. She didn't want me to be alone for the night after what had gone on.
I was honestly too scared to go back to my house then. My cousin lived an hour away, so it took a while to get there. Still more came out, but it did start to subside slowly.
Eventually, I left the park, running as though the dark was chasing me, and I needed to get away from it and back into the light. I waited outside near the pool until my cousin arrived, still on the phone with my sister. I remember asking her if I had just been through an exorcism, and she said no, that was deliverance.
I didn't know what I had just been through. All I knew was I felt lighter, I could breathe, and the sick feeling inside me was gone. On the drive back to my cousins, two more retches came out, and on the final one, I screamed out the window, GET OUT OF ME!!!
After that, I could sit calmly in the car, eyes closed, absolutely exhausted physically and spiritually. My sister sent me a link to a song, Reckless Love, and I sat quietly in the car and listened to it on repeat. It will forever be the song that reminds me of that night.
I woke up the next day with such a warm feeling of deep love inside me. I can't truly put the way I felt into words, but I knew I would never be the same again.
I later learnt there were people all over who were praying for me that night, none of whom knew what I was going through, just that they knew they had to pray for me. Some who had been praying for my salvation for years.
I stayed with my cousins for three days and was nervous about coming home because I was unsure if my demons were still there. When we arrived, I went into the house, praying out loud. Commanding any evil out of my home in Jesus' name.
The Holy Spirit came over me as I walked into my bedroom like a wave. I almost fell to the floor. I knew then that my house was covered by the blood of Jesus, and we were safe.
I spent the next few months getting to know myself again. I was surprised at how much work God did in my heart. It truly changed from dark to light overnight. God told me repeatedly that I could be a light in the darkness through Him.
I found a church running personal services again and connected with a woman with whom I shared this story. She invited me to attend her life group. They were a wonderful group of ladies who made me feel loved and welcome. One of them had a prophetic word and scripture for word for me, NIV Galatians 5:1:
She felt God tell her that I am a diamond. I cried so much when she said to me that she asked if she should stop. She had no idea I had been told this very thing 22yrs earlier. I am still unsure what God has in store for me to shine like a bright diamond, but I trust I will find out in His perfect timing.
It has been two years, and by no means has it been easy, but I am a new person. I still make mistakes and face struggles. I have to remember to run to Him constantly.
I can proudly say I have been drug-free since that day. My mental health is solid. I attend church regularly and have recently started to connect and build a community of fellow Christians around me.
I live with a contentment that I've never felt before. God continues to remind me that I am safe and that my life is in His hands. I surrender to him continually and trust His plan for my life.
He keeps proving to me that His plans for me are good. I trust him with my decisions and continue to pray that His will for my life be done, not mine.