Holly Sands

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1Jn 1:5)

THE BEGINNING

BhavenI was born in a small town of Southern Mississippi. My family was Roman Catholic and apparently, this made us a target for the Klu Klux Klan. I remember them burning a cross in our front driveway. I suppose this was a warning of some kind that they were coming for us. Although they never followed through on this warning, I think this must have been a “scare tactic” in order to get us to move away.

Two years after I was born, my mother’s brother was tragically murdered. He was in a bar when another man was attacked. He tried to intervene and they shot him. He died at the scene. I do not remember my uncle, but they tell me that he was the apple of the family’s eye. This sent my mom and her family into a whirlwind of emotions. She must have begun to pull away from my dad at this time, because that’s how my first memories of my dad began – angry.

Already, at the age of two, I was very afraid of my father. I remember one morning in particular. My mom had left before I awakened and my dad was making breakfast. The fear that went through me, when I realized I was alone with my father, was unreal. I sat down at the table and waited quietly for breakfast. He had made scrambled eggs…burnt scrambled eggs.

He sat them before me and said, “Eat it.”

I said, “Daddy, they’re burnt.”

“I don’t care, eat it!” he demanded angrily.

I began to cry. Daddy didn’t like to hear me cry. He picked up the fork, squeezed my tiny mouth open and began to shove the burnt eggs down my throat. I still remember how the sharp points on the fork felt at the back of my throat.

Unfortunately, for me, as he was shoving the fork down my throat, I threw up. He went into a rage and slapped me and smeared the vomit and eggs in my face. He spanked me for crying and throwing up.

He then said the words, which I would come to know very well,

“If you tell your momma, I will kill you.”

Sadly, in spite of my fear, I loved my father. I wanted him to love me. I remember how special I felt the day he wanted to teach me billiards. I was three years old at the time, but I still remember how it felt with his arms around me, being so tender with me.

Around this time frame, my father took me to the city pool. I was so excited that he and I were there together. I felt so special as he held my hand and led me in the water. It seemed he quickly got bored with me.

“Now, you stay here (in the shallow side), while Daddy goes and dives off the diving board.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

Well, I didn’t want to be alone and it seemed everyone was having a great time on the other side…plus, my daddy was there and I wanted to be with him.

There was a bar that separated the shallow side from the deep and I thought if I hold my breath and go under the bar, I would be able to come right up to the top…like on the shallow side. I didn’t realize that there was a huge drop off and I didn’t know how to swim.

I squeezed my nose with one hand and held onto the bar with the other hand and down I went…only I forgot to hold my breath. Instead of going up, I went down, down, down. The force of the water invaded my lungs and the pain was terrible. I can still hear the sound of the water rushing in my ears.

All of a sudden, I found myself floating outside of my limp body, watching the bubbles come out of my mouth as I proceeded downward toward the bottom of the pool. Next thing I know, I am out of the pool, floating in the air, watching a crowd of people surround someone. As I move in, I see that it is my lifeless body on the side of the pool and my father is hunched over it.

Immediately, my spirit was pulled back into my body and I sat up coughing out the water. I cried. Daddy didn’t like it when I cried. He was so very angry with me.

My father had saved my life. But as the years went on, I wondered if he regretted that action.

The next memory was at the age of four and it was Christmas time. I still remember what I was wearing and what the room smelled like. It seemed my father was actually happy at this time. I remember him hugging me really tight and I didn’t want him to let me go. This is a very vivid memory, I guess, because this would be the last time I remember him hugging me or showing any affection toward me.

A year passed and at five years old, I was sitting anxiously by the phone waiting for the exciting news. Would I be given a sister or a brother? I quickly decided that it did not matter, I was so happy to have a sibling!

The phone barely rung as I snatched it up. It was Daddy! He had called to give us the news – my mother had just given birth to a baby boy! I was overjoyed and asked what they had named him.

“William Preston”, he said so proudly.

I couldn’t wait to see him and my mother.

My mother’s doctor had her taking diet pills while she was pregnant and she had only gained 11 pounds. When Preston was born, he weighed five pounds and had a stifled cry. Little did any of us know that 17 hours later, we would be faced with a tragedy that would send our lives on a downward spiral.

My tiny brother, “Preston” died due to Hyaline Membrane Disease, also called Respiratory Distress Syndrome. It causes babies to need extra oxygen and help breathing. Although, modern technology could have saved him, they did not have that knowledge in the Seventies to help him survive. Therefore, I attended my first funeral and last hope of my father’s love.

At the graveside, I sat beside my father, holding a single rose. My father was weeping. It seemed like I was in some kind of nightmare. I remember they had opened the coffin at the grave and people were taking pictures and laughing. I didn’t understand what was happening. I was so scared and distraught.

I took my tiny hand and tried to place it under my father’s arm. He violently pushed me away, nearly knocking me off the bench.

“Don’t touch me…” He snarled.

Then he said the words that I shall never forget…

“I wish it had been you in that coffin.”

After my brother’s death, the Lord began to draw my heart to Him. I remember looking at the sky, hoping to see something that would reveal God to me. There was an irresistible desire within me to know Him.

My family attended a Catholic Church in our small town, but they did not know God. We went to Mass on Saturday evenings, but there was no real commitment to the Lord. I remember being in awe of the church’s statues and the 8 or 9-foot crucifix…but who was that man named Jesus? No one seemed to know or care.

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH

1739-silhouette-alcoholic_1My father began to drink shortly after my brother’s death. My parents fought constantly and there was no peace to be found. I very often stayed with my grandparents to alleviate the intense sorrow that surrounded my home. I thank God for my grandparents because I don’t think I could have made it through the years that followed, had it not been for their love and comfort.

My father began his constant physical abuse toward me as I entered first grade. He would never hit me when my mother was around. She always threatened to kill him if he laid a hand on me. I guess he believed her, so he found a way to hurt me without her being able to notice. It would seem that as soon as my mother would leave the house, Dad’s countenance would change. He would look at me with such hatred in his eyes that I thought he would very well take my life.

If I made a single sound, the beatings would start. He would pop off his chair so fast and begin hitting me on my ears. I would cry and then he would beat me more and say,

“I will give you something to cry about!”

I tried so hard to stop, but the pain in my ears was unbearable. Naturally, he would end with,

“If you tell your momma, I will kill you.”

And you know what? I believed him.

I developed a stuttering problem as well as muffled hearing in my right ear around this time. I slurred my words and couldn’t seem to enunciate very well. I had to attend a special program, in first grade, to learn how to speak. No one knew what my father was doing to me. I never told a single soul.

I remember one day I was rearranging my room and it ticked my dad off. My mother happened to be there and they were arguing because he was mad at me for changing things. He yelled at me to stop. I was standing in front of my bedroom door, looking into the living room where my parents were fighting. My father picked up a screwdriver and threw it at me as hard as he could…the screwdriver actually went through my bedroom door. Had I not moved, it would have gone through me.

In spite of the beatings, I did not hate my father. I was indeed afraid of him, but I only desired his love. However, no matter what I did to please him, it failed. He seemed to be disgusted by my presence. It seemed I was a source of constant irritation to him. I suppose he really meant it when he wished it had been me in that coffin, instead of my brother.

For the years that followed, we would endure much grief from my father with his alcoholic binges and constant beatings. Many times, he, in his drunken stupor would abandon and then beg us to return. It was a constant nightmare.

Meanwhile, the house where we were living had a lot of paranormal activity going on. We would always hear shuffling footsteps that approached our bedrooms. We would hear voices calling our names. Unexplained happenings were commonplace in that house. Some said the man who murdered his family there haunted it.

The spirit of death was upon our home and upon our lives. Only a God of great mercy could save us from imminent destruction.

LORD, WHERE ARE YOU?

st francisAround the age of 8, my parents and I began attending a Southern Baptist church. My dad deeply disliked the Catholic Church and desired to return to his roots as a Baptist. We quickly moved from simply visiting, to desiring to be members. The pastor informed us that we all needed to be baptized. This is well to note here because the gospel was never shared with us. We were simply asked if we believed that Jesus was God’s Son. On our affirmation, we were ushered to the waters of baptism. Though we felt that we had done something significant for God, it was a mere false and ignorant profession. We quickly fell away from the church after the pastor’s illicit relationship with his secretary was exposed. Sadly, this only went to solidify my father’s disdain for Christianity altogether.

That same year, I remember watching a movie called, “Jesus of Nazareth”. I was so intrigued by Jesus. I finally saw the story of His life – a story that no one had been able to share with me up to this point. “So, ” I thought, “this was the man on the cross!” I thought that I should get a Bible because that would help me know Him. So, for Christmas that year, I asked for a Bible. That’s all I wanted – nothing else. I think this annoyed my parents though I’m not sure why.

Christmas came and I opened the presents, looking for that Bible. Finally, I came to it! I was so overjoyed! It was a red Catholic Bible with a picture of the Pope inside the front cover. I sat on the couch holding my new found treasure. I tenderly stroked it and held it close. I opened the pages and savored the smell. I kissed it and cried. I knew that this book had the answers that I was looking for. But I didn’t know where to start nor did I understand what was written.

I have very little memory of ages 9-10. Perhaps I blocked out the memories because they were too painful. However, the memories that I do have of that time frame are sick and twisted and are not worth printing on paper. My father’s attempted suicides and the beatings continued. Complete and utter hopelessness had taken over my family.

At the age of eleven, I began my search for answers. I wanted something… anything to change our home situation. I was tired of trying to save my dad from killing himself or me and I knew there had to be a power greater than myself that could help. I wanted to know God. I wanted to know Jesus. I needed answers…and fast.

The only source of answers I knew of at that time was the Catholic Church (being forbidden to return to the Baptist Church), so naturally my quest began there. I studied under two Nuns, who I questioned emphatically about God. They could not give an adequate reply. They taught me all the things to say when I went to “confession” and all of the prayers to the saints, but they could not teach me about Jesus. My frustration grew with each unanswered question.

I was determined to find the power I knew was out there. I was desperate.

I questioned the Nuns,

“Who is Jesus?”

They pointed to the “bigger than life” crucifix attached to the wall. But I wanted to know more. Why was He on the cross? What did He do that caused Him to be nailed to that thing? As far as I understood, He was still nailed to the tree and we were praying to a dead man…. which meant He could not help me!

Eventually, my incessant questioning severely aggravated the two Nuns. One of them pulled me by the arm and took me to the front of the rectory where there was a large statue of Mary.

“Bow and pray to the Virgin Mother!” I was commanded.

“No, I won’t bow!”

Apparently, this was blasphemy to a Nun. She became irate and angrily pushed me to my knees,

“Bow! Pray that the Blessed Virgin will forgive you!”

“No,” I said, trying to get up under her heavy hand, “I’ve not done anything wrong. I just want to know who Jesus is!”

They put me out of the rectory and told me to wait outside on the steps while they called my mother to get me. I was no longer welcome in the church. I left the rectory hopeless and my questions unanswered. I thought there must be something that could change my situation. There must be a greater power than what I had known…

PLUNGE INTO DARKNESS

dark-darkness-girl-light-lost-Favim.com-118417When I was expelled out of the Catholic Church that day, something happened to me. I felt rebellion rise in my heart. I literally felt a darkness envelope me. I was angry – so very angry.

I had my mother drop me off at the library. If there was no power to be found in the church, then I knew there was power elsewhere. It lived in my house. It moved things around. It was a supernatural force. If there was no power to be found in the light, then I knew there was power in the darkness.

I began to look up books on the supernatural. The occult. Magic/Witchcraft. Tarot cards. Anything that looked like it had the slightest bit of power was now in my hands. Suddenly, I came across a very old, thick book on spells and incantations. I thumbed through it – this was it – there was power in this book. I was going to make it mine.

I took the books to the counter to check out. The librarian looked at the old book on spells and incantations.

She said, “Where did you get this book?”

I told her what aisle.

“No,” she said,“ This book does not belong to the library. We would not carry such a book. If you want it, just take it. It doesn’t belong here.”

So take it, I did.

I brought the books home and hungrily read through them. Nothing made much sense and I became frustrated once again. At last, I picked up the old book on spells and incantations. In it, I read about mind control or “How to get people to do what you want”. As you would expect, this appealed to me, considering the conditions I was living in.

The book taught me to draw a pentagram and conjure up a demon. The book stated this would bring ultimate power. Unfortunately, it failed to say who would be wielding the power. So, needless to say, I took some chalk and drew a pentagram on my bedroom floor. I wasn’t sure what all the symbols meant, but I drew them anyway. I stood in the middle of the pentagram and recited the words to conjure a demon. I did so and asked it to live inside me. It definitely obliged me. What power I felt!

“What a difference I would be able to make in my family,” I thought.

For a time, I was able to transfer thoughts into my family’s minds. I would practice by calling their names telepathically and they would think they heard me audibly. I practiced levitation and as my body lifted off the bed, I was excited to know that I held within my hand the power to command all forces to obey me.

Little did I know, my problems had only just begun.

TORMENTED

chainsI quickly found the demons I thought I had control over, now controlled me. I was tormented day and night. Horrible visions appeared before me. I saw things that are too horrifying to write or speak of. The demons drove me to do things that I would not normally do. I was a puppet on their string. I was absolutely helpless to their every whim and call.

Although the beatings lessened, my home life worsened and the supernatural activity in our home was shoved into high gear. I began to withdraw from my parents and stayed exclusively in my room.

I no longer felt love for my parents; I no longer wanted to help them…I wanted to hurt them. Many times, being awakened from a deep sleep, I would hear voices telling me to kill them. Visions would come to me and I would see myself standing over their dead bodies while a feeling of euphoria flooded over me. This is an isolated example of the depths to which I had plunged. I thank the Lord to this day that He did not allow me to follow through with the wicked visions that haunted me.

My friend and I began a witch’s coven. We practiced evil spells to exert power over those who had weak minds. There was a presence about us that made people cringe in fear. We always wore black and were full of hatred to everyone around us. I could not stand looking into my own eyes in the mirror – what I saw starring back at me was not Holly, it was someone else; someone dark and terrifying. 

In Ephesians 5:12, Paul tells us, “…it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” This is a true saying; for that reason, I do not feel it necessary to go into full detail of all the things that were done in secret…in darkness. I am deeply ashamed of the things I was driven to do. For the sake of those I love, it will suffice to say, we were exceedingly wicked, full of the devil and did the things that the spirits drove us to accomplish.

I will recall one particular instance from my years in witchcraft because I believe it shows that God was preserving my life from ultimate destruction. I was consulting my spell book for a situation that I do not remember. The spell required me to take a Bible and read a passage out of Luke. I don’t know what the Bible had to do with this spell, but I proceeded to do what it said. I picked up this white Bible and turned to Luke. All of a sudden, my hands began to shake violently and the Bible flew out of my hands and hit the wall on the opposite side of the room. I fell to the floor in fear and backed as far away as I could.

“Why did this happen?” I wondered. “Was it God who prevented me?”

I quickly dismissed the thought as the demons’ wicked laughter drowned out my hopes.

As the months and years went by, I began to feel as though I was going insane. I was totally and completely possessed by devils. My parents were convinced that I had snapped and was losing my mind. Their solution was a psychiatrist.

As I entered the psychiatrist’s room, I went and sat on the long brown leather couch at the back of the office. This was rather bizarre, because it seems I was watching this meeting, rather than being a part of it. I saw myself draw my feet up underneath me while I was holding my knees, rocking back and forth. I appeared to have a sick, demented smile on my face.

The female psychiatrist came in and immediately was uneasy. My reply to every question she would ask was a strange, wicked laughter. I can’t describe it. It didn’t seem natural. She didn’t spend much time with me. She went out and talked with my parents and prescribed some antidepressants. I don’t know how long I was on the anti-depressants…could have been weeks…maybe only days. These pills only made everything worse for me. I fell into a deep, horrifying depression and became suicidal. I was constantly tormented by the demons. The visions increased and I felt like I was in a Fun House and everything was warped and crazy.

Finally, the day came when I could no longer stand the voices or the visions or the torment of having absolute hopelessness. I took an overdose of the Anti-depressants and before I lost consciousness, I heard the most insane laughter and the voice said,

“I’ve got you now!”

Yet, much to the devil’s dismay, Mercy stepped in. The Lord did not allow me to die that day. He refused to allow my life to be snuffed out.

I don’t have any memories of what happened after this point in my life. Consequently, my next memory began when I turned 15 years old.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

854b1946-63d7-4396-93ee-df9a46957e58That particular summer, I met a 22-year-old Costa Rican man. He gave me the loving attention that I had longed for from my father. We met secretly because I knew my mother would not approve of the relationship. My father was totally uninvolved in my life. He hadn’t spoken much to me in years.

All the same, as time passed on, my mother became privy to the secret relationship and was determined to end it. She threatened the man and me and was going to have him arrested. Of course, this made me all the more determined to be with him.

The man suggested that we run away together. He romantically pictured us escaping to Costa Rica where no one would be able to separate us. (Humorously thinking back, I don’t know how he planned to take me out of the country without a passport…much less with my mom hot on his trail!)

My friend decided she wanted to join the Romeo/Juliet adventure and skip the country, as well. We wrote a letter to our parents saying our “goodbyes”. I hid it in my room while we planned our international affair.

Shortly thereafter, as I was at school, my mother began to search my room. I wouldn’t talk to her, so she was determined to find answers on her own. She eventually came across the “goodbye” letter and I can only imagine what went through her mind as she read the contents. Now, having a daughter of my own, I can safely say she was horrified.

As my friend and I approached my house from the school bus, we saw her mom’s car parked out front. This was shocking to us, because our mothers did not like each other and for her mom to be at my house was an alarm bell of disaster! They must have found the letters! Now, we would never escape the hell in our homes!

As we entered through the front door, two angry mothers confronted us about our attempted scheme. Toward the end of the conversation, my mother told me that a reverend was coming over. What in the world was a reverend? I wondered if this was some kind of new psychiatrist or some kind of social worker. I was raised Catholic – all I knew was Father and Monsignor. I must have made a big deal out of it, because I remember my friend explaining to me that reverend meant preacher. I still wasn’t sure this was a good idea and needless to say, we weren’t very happy about this newly invited guest.

The Reverend came as scheduled to our home. He was a very calm, peaceful man with a warm smile. He talked with my friend and I, although, I don’t remember how the conversation went. After he finished speaking with us, he asked if it would be okay to pray with us.

“Uh, yeah, sure…” I thought, “Like that will make any difference. I prayed to the Saints for years and it never did any good for me.”

He then began to pray, but what was it he was praying? This didn’t sound like any prayer I had ever heard. I laughed because I thought he was doing it wrong. I mean, wasn’t he supposed to make the sign of the cross or kneel and say Hail Mary? He was talking to God like He was actually real and most surprisingly of all…he was talking to Jesus, not Mary or the Saints.

Wasn’t Jesus dead? I was confused.

THE LIGHT OF DAWN

8400092489_df5f58cc2a_zThe very next week, my friend’s mom sent her to a Baptist church camp.

“Must be some kind of punishment,” I thought.

I made fun of her new found dilemma. Much to my surprise, the joke was on me as my family decided to attend the Reverend’s Non-Denominational Church. My mother had asked my aunt, who attended the church, what we should wear.

My aunt told her, “A regular dress is fine”.

Wait. What? A dress? Me? Uh-uh, no way. My friends roared with laughter as they discovered I was going to church and forced to wear a dress!

The church was like nothing I had ever witnessed before. There was no “holy water” to dip your finger in…no pews…no statues…no kneeling cushions. Though very charismatic and often eccentric, these people seemed to know the God my heart was being drawn towards.

Shortly thereafter, my two cousins and I went to buy fish tackle. We drove up to an old red house that had a sign, pointing to the back yard that simply read, “Fish Tackle”. We parked the car and walked around the back fence, to a man who was skinning fish. He really didn’t seem that interested in selling anything.

Eventually, his wife came out to greet us, relieving the tension we felt from the quiet old gentlemen. Her face was unusual – not that she had some kind of deformity or unseemliness, but her face was glowing – unusually bright, at least it was to me. She had a skip in her step and was bubbling with joy. She was the happiest person I had ever met. I had never known anyone who was happy. I wondered what made her that way.

She brought some lemonade and handed it to my cousins. She then turned and asked me to come inside and talk. I curiously followed her. What was it that she possessed? I was intrigued. I was only 15 years old, but life had dealt serious punches leaving me cold, hard and bitter. I was totally closed and did not share my feelings with anyone. I prided myself on being numb. I had built a stone enclosure around me and was determined to let no one through. Yet, there was just something about this kind, elderly woman. I felt so warm around her; so loved. She was genuinely interested in me, but why?

I suddenly found myself telling her things that I had never told a soul. I told her about our plan to run away with this 22-year-old Costa Rican. I tried to shock her. I tested her by saying things I thought would have her throw me out because I didn’t believe anyone could really care for me. Instead, she patiently listened with the sweetest smile I have ever seen. It was the look of compassion that still brings tears to my eyes as I think of it. Where was this coming from? How could she love someone like me? I slowly began to feel the stone wall crack.

She proceeded to talk about Jesus. She made His Name sound so precious. It was like a song that floated from her lips. Jesus… Here He was again. He was alive and this dear woman knew Him. She knew Him personally. Oh, was it possible? Could it really be?

I could not stop the tears as they began to flow down my cheeks. I couldn’t speak and she didn’t ask why.

Finally, through my sobs, I began to say over and over,

“I just don’t know what to do…I just don’t understand…”

I felt my heart melting and it was the strangest, yet, most wonderful feeling I had ever experienced. She reached across the table where we were sitting and took my hand in hers.

She looked me straight in the eye and said rather firmly,

“If you really want to know what to do, go home and tonight before you close your eyes, you pray and you ask the Lord Jesus to help you and show you the way.”

I looked at her incredulously. I can talk to Jesus myself? I don’t have to have someone pray to Him for me? I was scared. There were no formulas? No written prayers? What if I messed up? What if I said the wrong things?

I left her home in a daze. What was happening to me? Why did I suddenly feel tender inside? I kept to myself for the rest of the day. I didn’t want anyone to distract me from what I was experiencing. Evening couldn’t come fast enough for me. I had an appointment that I was going to keep.

As night closed in, I slipped into my bed. I lay there and starred at the ceiling for quite a while. I had a mixture of feelings as I thought about my meeting with the elderly woman. As I planned on speaking to this God I did not know, I felt both excited and apprehensive. Finally, I sat up, starred into the darkness and began my feeble attempt to talk to Him.

“God…um, if you are there…if you can hear me…well, that lady I was talking with today…she told me that if I didn’t know what to do with my life, I was to ask You. So, um…I don’t know what to do. Will you help me?”

It was short because I was very uncomfortable and felt weird speaking with someone I couldn’t see. I fell asleep and rested very deeply.

The next morning, when I awoke, I experienced peace for the very first time in my life. I was actually happy. The first thing I felt compelled to do was to write a letter to the Costa Rican man and tell him that it was over. I was not going to run away with him and I never wanted to see him again. I gave the letter to my mom and asked her to mail it. When she understood what I had written, she was more than happy to be the messenger!

It seemed something had been lifted off of me. I didn’t feel hopeless anymore. God had begun a work in my heart and that which He had set in motion, He would complete.

TRANSLATED INTO THE KINGDOM OF LIGHT

bright-light-of-loveWith this new lightness in my heart, I began paying regular visits to the Reverend. For two solid weeks, after school, I sat in his office located in a historical hotel. I questioned him on everything I could possibly think of and the best part was, he had answers! He patiently took me through the Scriptures and explained Jesus to me. He talked to me about salvation and repentance and a new nature. I was elated beyond words. My family frowned upon my visits, thinking I was somehow a bother to this minister. On the contrary, he seemed happy to share what I was so hungry to find.

Meanwhile, my friend, who had been “banished” to the Baptist youth camp, had been born again. The sequencing of these events was clearly set in motion by an Almighty God.

The evening of July 25th, my friend was attending her youth camp service. A “prayer box” was placed at the front of the auditorium and they were told to write down someone’s name, what they were praying for and slip it in that box. She took a piece of paper, wrote down my name and placed the word “salvation” beside it. The camp gathered together and prayed for every need in that box, believing that God would answer.

The next day, Thursday, July 26th was a monumental day. It was 3:30pm and I couldn’t wait for my meeting with the Reverend! I had one final question for him.

“If I become a Christian…do I have to wear dresses?”

I sat in suspense for his reply. To me, a lot hinged on the answer to this question.

He leaned back in his chair and had quite a chuckle.

“No, of course not.”

He tried to stifle his amusement. He may have thought it was funny, but at the time, this was a big issue to me.

For some reason, I began to shake, perhaps at the anticipation of the moment or perhaps the demons inside me became unsettled.

I nervously said,

“I want to be born-again.”

When I spoke those words, it seemed like a rush of heat came over me. I became uncomfortable. For some reason, I felt the urge to bolt for the door and not make this commitment. But, thanks be to God, His mighty power, overrode the resistance of the demons inside me.

The patient reverend, once again, took me through the Scriptures and explained what salvation meant and what was expected of me once I received this new nature. We knelt together on that dingy floor and God breathed new life in me. I felt evil leave me. It was as though, all at once, it was violently ripped out of me. Darkness no longer had a hold on me.

I came up off that floor a brand new person. I had been washed in the Blood of the Lamb. My name was written in the Book of Life. I was clean! I was free!

Tears of joy were flooding my face and all I could say was,

“Oh thank You, Jesus! You love me! Oh thank You for saving me! Oh thank You, Lord!”

When I say I was a brand new person, I mean my personality had completely changed. I was not the same girl. My mother was about to witness this first hand.

I walked out of the church building and everything looked like it was in Technicolor– it appeared brighter and more beautiful than I ever remember it looking. I was smiling ear to ear as I walked toward my grandmother’s house. I felt like I was walking on air. So, this was life! This was what it was like to be free!

I opened the door to my grandmother’s home and stepped inside. I stood in the foyer, momentarily as I unsuccessfully tried to calm my excitement. My mother came to the door of the kitchen and looked at me. She didn’t recognize me. The way I stood was different. My face was different. I was no longer darkness; I was light.

She slowly and curiously asked,

“Holly…is that you?”

“Yes, Mom, it’s me!”

“Wha…what happened to you?”

She still wasn’t quite sure why I didn’t look like myself.

“I got born-again, Mom! I’m saved!”

I told her all about my conversion and what little of the Gospel I knew. She was quite skeptical, but she could not deny what she saw. She had a brand new daughter and this was no small miracle.

NEW CREATION

Beautiful-Butterfly-HD-Wallpaper“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have disappeared, and-look! – all things have become new!” II Corinthians 5:17

Once I was converted, I immediately had an insatiable hunger to read the Word of God and took my bible with me everywhere I went. I couldn’t stop reading it – I finally understood what these words meant! Being so zealous, I read the entire New Testament the first week of my new life.

Everyone around saw the change in me. I had light in my eyes for the first time. It was no longer scary to look in the mirror because I no longer saw death staring back at me.

In spite of the change that my dad saw, he coldly looked at me and said,

“I’ll give it two weeks. You’ll never last longer than that.”

I told him he was wrong – I had a new life and a new Lord and my life would never be the same.

I talked with the Lord constantly. I did not like to be caught up in conversation with anyone but Him. I would lay on my face and pray and worship for hours, never wanting to stop. I never wanted to leave His presence. As my body would tire, I would cry and ask the Lord to forgive me that I had to sleep. I despised sleep because it took time from Him. I wanted to be with Jesus and nothing else would satisfy.

I prayed,

“Lord, show me if there is anything in my life that is not pleasing to you and I will remove it.”

He reminded me that I still owned all the items I used in the occult. He brought to my remembrance the scripture in Acts 19:19 which said, “Many of them also which practiced magic brought their books together, and burned them before all men…”

I contacted my friends, who were once in the occult but now were born again, that I was going to have a bon-fire and if they were willing, to bring all their demonic items and we would burn them together. They were willing and we took all our items out back and threw everything on the huge fire. As they burned, it was as if we could hear the screams of the conquered enemy and we rejoiced with great joy.

Somewhere in this time frame, I made a trip to the library. As I was coming through the door, my great uncle met me and gave me a big hug. He said that he had heard what had happened to me and was so glad to see the change in my life.

Cheerfully he inquired,

“When are you coming back to the church?”

“I am in church.” I said happily.

“No, no…the Catholic Church. When are you coming back to THE Church?”

“Well, uncle, I’m not. I attend a non-denominational church now.”

His smile quickly turned to a scowl. He grabbed my shoulders and began to shake me, while yelling,

“YOU ARE A CATHOLIC!”

“No!” I said sternly. “I am a Christian.”

He shoved me backwards and put up his hand.

“Then, I no longer know you!” He harshly said.

I was stunned as he turned away and walked out the door, not to mention, embarrassed by all the stares that I now became aware of. He meant what he said. In the years to come, if he saw me walking toward him on the sidewalk, he would cross the road and walk on the other side. If he were forced to be in the same room with me, he would act as if I was invisible. He never spoke another word to me till the day he died.

NO TURNING BACK

running-feetIt was two months after my conversion, and I desperately hungered for God. My life was no longer my own. I willingly laid it all down for Him. He had saved my life from hell, if the Lord had never done another thing for me, I would have still been forever indebted to Him.

I stayed in the book of Colossians. I realized that if my life was rooted in Christ, if I was made alive in Christ, if I was hidden in Christ and if I was complete in Christ, then my entire being belonged to Him. I spent so much time in prayer and in the Word that my parents grew angry with me. They begin to reason that I must be up to no good since I had shut myself up in my room. Yet they didn’t understand that I was cleaving unto the Lord and I would not let go of Him for anyone or anything. I was, what we called back then, “sold out for Christ”.

I recall a particular conversation that happened during this time. My mom and I were sitting with my grandparents, in their living room.

Suddenly, the conversation turned and they begin telling one another,

“You are my life. I couldn’t live if something happened to you.”

Each one said it to the other. Finally, the floor opened for me to repeat what had been going around in this circle. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say. I loved my family, but to repeat what they were saying to one another seemed appalling to me. I was reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

I began slowly,

“Well, I love all of you…but…to say that you are my life…I feel like I would dishonor the Lord because HE is my life…and if you claim Him as your Savior, He should be your life too.”

Of course, this did not go over well. I was called selfish and uncaring.

At this point, I began doing serious studies of various books of the Bible. I didn’t just want to know what the Scriptures said, I wanted to experience them working in my life. I prayed the prayers that Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus. I learned about my spiritual armor. This Christian life was no playground – it was war and I had been well acquainted with my enemy.

Everyone had been converted in my home, except for my dad. He was still an alcoholic and was given to fits of rage. One particular day, he was drunk and he and my mother got into a horrific argument. He tried to strangle my Mom. My cousin, who lived with us, picked up a baseball bat to defend her. My dad quickly turned his anger to my cousin. He was so frightened by this sudden demonic rage against him that he dropped the bat and ran to his room. My dad angrily grabbed the bat from the floor and came after my cousin, like a rabid dog, with the threat of death looming. My mother and I followed and picked up the nearest things we could find to defend my cousin from my father’s wrath.

In his drunken stupor, he stopped and dropped the bat. As he passed by me, it was like a roar came up out of him and he started to charge me. I recognized this as a demonic attack and I knew my authority in Christ.

I stood still and pointed my finger at him and yelled,

“You will never lay another hand on me in the Name of Jesus Christ!”

He staggered back as though someone had punched him in the face. He turned and stumbled out of the house. From that day forward, he never again attempted to hit me or anyone else in my family.

THE CALL

the-effectual-call-of-godI was so thankful to my new Master for saving my life from destruction. I wanted to make sure that I pleased Him in every way. I had a burning passion to live pure and holy. I didn’t want anything standing before my Lord and I.

One by one, things that seemed innocent enough to other people like secular movies and music, became a conviction in my heart to forsake. I found that when I partook of these types of entertainment, my heart became dull and my fellowship with the Lord became distant. That distance repulsed my heart and hurt me so much that I could no longer cling to such worldly things. Nothing – not even so called “fun” – was worth me losing fellowship with Christ.

Three months after my conversion, we had a “Lay Witness Mission” at my church. They brought a group of young adults to teach about evangelism. I hung on their every word.

It was the last day of the Mission and we were in the middle of praise and worship. As we begin to sing, “All Hail King Jesus”, something began to happen to me. It was like I began to hear people cry to me from the nations. I had an overwhelming realization of the state of men’s souls. I began to weep and I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I needed to be alone with the Lord, so I ran out of the service and went to the back of the building. The sobs rolled over me like waves.

A man from the Mission had seen me leave the service and came to see if I was okay. I couldn’t even tell him what I was feeling – I didn’t understand it myself. He laid his hands on me and began to pray.

Very quickly, he took his hands off, and said,

“I feel the Lord wants to speak with you.”

I waited for Him to tell me what the Lord wanted to say, but instead, he turned around and went back into the service.

Now what was I to do? I went and sat down at a table and placed my head down and continued to cry. What was this burden that I felt? What was happening to me?

“Lord,” I cried, “Please explain to me what’s going on…I don’t understand this pain I feel for men’s souls.”

I put my head back on the table and continued to grieve and weep for the lost.

Suddenly, from behind me, I heard these words,

“Lift your head and cry no more; I’ve called you to spread My Word.”

I quickly spun around, looking for the audible voice that spoke to me. There was no one there. It was the Lord. It was He, who called out to me. It was He who placed this burden in my heart. I began to tremble and fell down upon my face at the realization of this command. As soon as the service had concluded, I ran to my pastor and told him what had happened.

“What does this mean?” I eagerly asked him.

“Holly, it can only mean one thing,” he said lovingly, “He has called you into the ministry.”

At the age of 17, the Lord began to reveal to me His call on my life as a missionary. Interestingly enough, I had a sense that I would only be arriving on foreign soil much later in life, even though in my times of prayer, the burden grew and was like a fire that never went out.

The glorious message of the Gospel, which was spoken by Paul in Acts 26:18, became the defining mission of my life: “To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

 

For the cause of Christ and for all those who have gone before me, I shall run! (Heb. 12:1-2)

“[Jesus] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14

 

© 2014 Holly Sands. www.unitedinchristjesus.org
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Shane SandsHolly Sands