The Best Christmas Gift I Ever Received

I grew up in a Christian family, the youngest of six children. When I was fifteen, my mother passed away suddenly. There was no doubt that she had gone on to her reward, and while we were sad to be without her, we were happy for her. While I loved (and still do love) my dad very much, I have to admit that I was a lot closer to my mother; there just didn't seem to be that strong of a bond between dad and I.
Within a year after mom passed, I was virtually the only child left at home, as nearly all the others had gotten married or just moved out. I was not saved at the time, and my dad was really putting pressure on me (although I don't think he realized it) to do so.
Within a year a half, dad got remarried, and I was not at all comfortable with it. My relationship with my step-mother was not a happy one, mainly because I wouldn't let it be. I still had not "let go" of my mother, and I resented my step-mother, and also I resented my dad for allowing her to "take over" in "mom's place". We fought almost constantly, at one time my dad even had our pastor come to the house to mediate.
At 17, I told my dad I wanted to move in with my sister, and that if he didn't let me, I would just run away. He didn't, but I didn't run away. Instead, I realized that my dad must love me very much to not want me to move out, and so I decided to make him happy. So, at 17, I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior (or so I acted like I had) and was baptized.
I briefly tried to be less rebellious and to get along with my step-mother, but, alas, as I'm sure this happens in most new Christians' lives, Satan reared his ugly head.
I had a boyfriend, I'll call him "TC", who had moved away for a while, but came back to town a couple of months after I was baptized. One night, he called me, crying, saying that he was scared. He finally told me that he was going to Hell because, while he was living in CA, he had gotten in with the wrong crowd and wound up selling his soul to Satan, saying that he remembered signing a contract with his own blood. I felt that he was sincere and that he needed spiritual help, so I contacted my pastor, who went to TC's home and counseled him. After that, not a word was said about it, and I really didn't think anymore about it.
TC and I would go out on dates, and I had told him that I wanted to wait until I was married to have an intimate relationship with someone. As a teenager, I was still also very naive and gullable, and I soon found out that TC was a very smooth talker. One night on a date, we went back to his place and he talked me into "just lying beside him in his bed". I soon wound up a victim of "date rape", with heavy metal music playing in the background (To this day, I cannot stand heavy metal). I felt ashamed and worthless as TC eventually dragged me into a life of sin and fornication. He then turned his attention to my best friend, who was desperate for a boyfriend. They paraded their blatant tryst right in front of me, knowing that it would hurt me. She wanted me out of the picture, but he didn't and tried to talk me into having a "threesome". I drew the line and refused. He seemed to have some sort of "spell" over me, as I continued to go out and be intimate with him. And even though I eventually broke things off, he still seemed to have a hold on me.
When I was 18, my oldest sister and her husband introduced me to a divorced friend of theirs who was about 8 years older than I. When I had broken things off with TC, I had prayed to the Lord that he would send a good, Christian man my way to help me get over the emotional pain I had suffered at TC's hands. When I met "MC", I felt that the Lord had answered that prayer. We were immediately attracted to each other, and he was a good, Christian man (our first "date" was a Wednesday night Bible study at his church). He was all that I could ever have asked for in a man, at that time. I felt that I was ready to settle down and be his wife.
But Satan was still having a grand old time at my expense. When TC found out about my seeing someone else, he came around to see if he still had a hold on me, and, in fact, he did. Or, I should say, Satan still had a hold on me. I hated TC so much that I forgot about Romans 12:19 ("Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, 'I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it', says the Lord." - New Living Translation). I set TC up and tried to get MC to beat him up for me. But my plan backfired on me, as my conscience told me that it was wrong, and I confessed to MC that I had lied to him about some things TC had said about him to get him to beat him up. I was truly sorry about what I did, and I begged MC not to break up with me, but he did. Feeling lower than a snake's belly, I felt that whatever happened to me after that, I truly deserved. Satan would soon make my life a wreck.
I stopped going to church. I no longer considered myself a real Christian, and felt unworthy of fellowshipping with those that were. I withdrew from my family, I started smoking, drinking, smoking pot and partying with the wrong crowd. My relationship with my stepmother was even worse, and after she threatened to leave, my dad told me I had to go. I left the only home I had ever known without throwing a fit. TC had also come back into my life, but I was now the "other woman", as my former best friend did not know that he was seeing me again.
TC would tell me that he loved me, and a part of me, deep down, wanted to believe him. I wanted no contact with my family at that time. It also wasn't any help that TC would lie to me, telling me that he had talked to members of my family and that they had told him how much they hated me for leaving the church. I had never in my life felt so unloved as I did at that time. TC knew that I was in a position where he could once again completely control me, and exact his revenge on me. Eventually, one night at his apartment, he raped and sodomized me. I wanted to go to the sheriff's department and have him arrested, but even though there was physical evidence, I hated myself so much that I felt that no one would believe me. So, I kept my mouth shut about it.
Once, I tried to see if MC would take me back, but instead found that he had moved on with his life. I was so devastated that I fell into my bed (which was in a mobile home), in the heat of July, with no air conditioning, and stayed there for two days, wishing I would die from dehydration. I lost my job over those two days. I entertained thoughts of suicide, but knew that if I killed myself, I would surely go to Hell. I was unable to find another job, and eventually my only mode of transportation was repossessed. I seriously considered hitching a ride to Los Angeles, or somewhere like that, to try to make a living as a prostitute (it seemed like sex was the only thing I was good at). Unable to pay rent, I had to move out of the mobile home. I lived here, lived there, lived off the kindness of strangers. I even tried to join the military, but after I had put down in my health history that I had had a nervous breakdown in the past, they wouldn't take me.
When I finally hit rock bottom, and felt that I could go no further without dying, I swallowed my pride and called my sister, who had a place of her own at that time. She let me come and live with her, and I really felt grateful. I would cook, clean, do the laundry and occasionally look after my little nephew. I still couldn't find a job, though. It seemed no one wanted to hire me, and I really can't say that I blamed them.
That Christmas Eve, we went to our family's get-together. I felt so out-of-place, like a stranger amongst my own family, and I resented it. I watched my brothers and sisters open great gifts from our dad and stepmother, as I opened my gift from them - a card with a $10 bill in it. It was the only gift I received that Christmas - or, at least, the only gift I THOUGHT I would receive. I smiled and thanked them, but after my sister and I got home that evening, I was feeling pretty down about it. I tried not to let it show, though.
My nephew went to his father's and my sister went out with her boyfriend, and I was left alone that night, to wallow in my self-pity on Christmas Eve. I found a bottle of cheap wine in my sister's refrigerator and commenced to drinking it. I thought about the past, about how it seemed I hadn't a friend in the world. In a drunken state, I dialed up my former best friend to "wish her a Merry Christmas", planning to tell her the truth about me and TC. But her mother aswered, and told me that she was out with TC.
I longed for the long-gone days of my happy childhood, the days of when my mother was still on this earth. I felt that the only person who had ever loved me was up there in Heaven, and that if she could see me right then, she would be so disappointed in me. I decided to go out onto the back porch for a cigarette, and stepping out into the cold night air I looked up at the billions of stars shining bright in the sky. I remembered the third verse to "Away In A Manger" and started to sing it very low: "Be near, me, Lord Jesus. I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray..."
Even those words made me sad inside, because at that time in my life, it didn't feel like Jesus was near me at all. I began to cry, and I felt - angry! Angry that my life was such a mess. Angry about all the bad things that had happened to me. Angry that I had let myself be used and abused by a guy like TC, who was obviously filled with an evil spirit. I concluded that, indeed TC may HAVE sold his soul to Satan, and that Satan had recruited TC to help him obtain mine for all eternity. And I realized that I had been angry at God after since He had taken my mother home to be with Him when I needed her the most.
I screamed out, "GOD, WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME?!!!" And then, something very strange happened. To this day, I do not believe it was the wine, but the divine hand of God, that knocked me off my feet and to the floor that night. I was a wayward child, throwing a tantrum, in need of discipline. The fall did not hurt me, and I didn't hit my head or anything, but I was stunned, and as I lay there on my back, a sense of calm came over me that I had never felt before in my life. It was then that Jesus spoke to me. I didn't hear Him with my ears, but with my heart and soul. He told me that He had never left me, that through all these troubles in my life He had been beside me, keeping me from death. He told me that He loved me, and He said to me, "My child, I have never left you. It was YOU who left ME." I started crying again after that, great wrenching sobs. My soul was being purged and cleansed, and I asked Jesus to forgive me for all that I had done and said, and to come back into my heart. The calm lifted and a wondrous joy filled my heart, like I had never felt before. I jumped up. I started singing and shouting and praising the Lord. "Thank you, Jesus! I'm saved!" I shouted. That was truly the BEST Christmas gift I have ever received.
The next morning, I went to church, and when the service was over, I went up to my dad and stepmother and hugged them both and told them I was sorry. I felt kind of like a prodical daughter. We cried together as we reconciled.
Today, I'm married and we have a beautiful daughter, who has also come to know the Lord as her personal Savior. My husband's faith in the Lord is not as strong as mine, and he sin's a lot, but I pray for him.
My stepmother and I get along just fine now.
And God gave me the strength to finally say "no" to TC.
Your sister in Christ,

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