Many years ago I awakened after nearly losing my life and in the aftermath of that time I found Jesus and realized that my life was no longer my own. That was over 40 years ago and to say that my life has come with challenges of all sizes would be a strong understatement. Many of my wounds were self-inflicted and many were from outside forces over which I came to understand I had no control over. I can’t tell you that my life is what dreams are made of (unless of course you are a child growing up in poverty of which a bed, hot water and shoes on ones feet is a dream.) I, like many American upper middle class children did not go without life’s necessities (unless you call time with your parents a necessity in which case some children of poverty are much richer than I.) Yet my life would have crushed the average soul. I can share all in a long rambling sentence of pain and loss with everything from rapes to children dying or taken away at the last-minute of the last day as a closet full of dreams in the form of teddy bears and little girl dresses went away with the gavel from a corrupt judge. I can share that darkness has visited me in the forms of flesh and blood, people for whom hell whispers loudly in their ears and they follow orders better than any army Sergeant. I can share that blood relations for whom most people trust became my abuser, that chemical companies altered my DNA with their chemicals, that homes were lost to indifferent neighbors who suddenly held an infinity for pesticides and herbicides. I can share that it seemed even GOD brought deep pain in the form of a lightning strike through a landline phone while I was talking. The phone blew up in my hand, the floor became my only support as my heart lost its very heartbeat and then shuddered itself awake to beat irregularly for most of its remaining years. I can share that while I lay sleeping beside my husband in my beautiful bedroom a brown recluse spider came under the covers and bit me only, not once, not twice but three times. The flesh became neucrotic, my kidneys began to fail, I vomited and lost weight and the ability to have normal movements with subsequent paralysis of the intestines and recessive dips in muscles. I can share that cancer has come not once, not twice but three times. I can share that I am married to a man whose parents wanted me gone months into the marriage and tried to reconnect him with his ex-wife who they love. I can tell you that man and I were apart for the better part of 9 years by his work and that as one point he had an affair. I can tell you that comes with a price. I can tell you I loved a young man who lived with us and helped me through my cancer (when no one else was helping me) and when his horse went blind he came to me weeping and asked for my help. I went and took homeopathy and prayer and my faith as strong as any mustard seed and after laying mud on his eyes (as Jesus had done for a blind man) one of his eyes (which had been white as a sheet) suddenly restored and the horse could see. The young man and I wept together and then I made the fatal mistake of telling him that this was God showing that he was real to the young man and that it involved his faith too. Less than two days later the horse failed and had to be put down. The young man for whom I loved like my own son left and has never spoken to me again. I can tell you that, coupled by churches asking me to leave because they didn’t like the way I told my testimony or how I led worship or taught bible study, took a great good hit upon my faith which was already weakened by illness that has NEVER left my body. There have been miracles though, healed of a coma out of ICU by Jesus coming into the coma and telling me their was work to do (I was sitting up within the hours, though I have never been fully strong again) My foot which had a 30 gallon glass water bottle fall on it and shatter, severing the artery and breaking the bone become infected so badly the Dr who attended to me feared amputation. Healed by an audible voice in the room telling me to get up and walk…which I did. Miracle after miracle with patients who came to my office or for whom I prayed with. One woman had been mentally ill for over 30 years Institutionalized and the Lord actually took her symptoms off of her through me (I had her symptoms for almost a day before he lifted them off of me and believe me that precious saint suffered) Miracles with a broken neck and miracles with encounters with the Holy spirit, so profound and holy I can’t repeat them except to say that “Ecstasy” with God is a very real thing. I had read about it in books and stories about the Saints of Old and Mother Teresa experienced it for almost a month. So I can share that the experiences with GOD and his ways has been beyond my human ability to comprehend. Demonic attacks so profound I cannot share them. Yet GOD showed up every single time in his way and in his time. I can share that watching my baby brother suffer for three years and die was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through but out of that pain came a song I birthed in the labor pain of suffering and that music project went on to win an award in 2013. The Independent music associations Folk artist of the Year. I can tell you that my suffering has been used to give water and life to orphans in Africa since 2005. So in my cracked faith I see his hand and I sense his truth, even when I don’t fit into any box that Christianity 101 defines. In my humanness I long for something easier to walk out, but I also know I can comfort with a surety of his presence and that prayers forming in my mouth and spilling forth from my tongue have been used to heal. These mysteries of God the Almighty have bewildered me and many others. My version of Christianity has not been preached from the American church pulpit, but I see that I am very biblical. So alone with that bible I seek his comfort and his hope through the years of suffering and the sheer fact that I am still here is testament sufficient to know that being a Christian is clinging to the message of grace and hope. That is what Advent is to me. A cracked faith, in a broken body, listening to bad news and clinging.