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A Breath of Fresh Air
A Merry Heart
A Woman's World
A Word in Season
Acting Up
As I Imitate Christ
Cyber Walk
Faith Seekers
Golden Apples
Heaven Bound
Take it to Heart
Teen Truth
The Joy of Family
The Parents'
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The Treehouse
Through Their Eyes
'Tis the Season
We Are the Church
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TeensJourney to Jesus Ė One Grandmotherís story
By Darlene Hight

As I watched my granddaughter pour the five pound bag of sugar into the canister, I felt the laughter begin to bubble up. It was a school project. She had to carry the sugar baby with her everywhere she went for one week.

At the beginning of the week she had been so excited about the prospect of having a sugar baby. She printed out a birth certificate for it and baby announcements. A friend and she went to great lengths to decorate the bag of sugar to look like a pretty little baby girl. The project was designed to drive home the huge responsibility of parenting. Evidently, it had worked!

Friday, she got home from school, went directly into the kitchen, tore open the sugar baby and deposited it unceremoniously into the canister, her parenting responsibilities fulfilled.

The school project is a great idea Ė moving too fast into the adult world isnít. It can start a cycle of mistakes that build up speed like a runaway skateboard.

I fell headlong into the adult world of parenting. One month after my seventeenth birthday, I gave birth to my daughter. I know first hand how unprepared a teenager can be for parenting. I was totally unprepared. I unrealistically expected this tiny baby to fulfill my deep emotional needs. She of course couldnít do that. My husband, also, a self centered, unprepared parent and spouse, didnít meet my needs. And neither of us sufficiently met the needs of our daughter or the two sons that followed. I can truthfully say that our life was a mess and our children were square in the middle of it.

In the early days of my journey into the adult world, I looked for an escape hatch. I went to parties where I could drink, dance and laugh. They provided a temporary escape from reality, but I always landed back where I started, usually with less money and more dissatisfaction. The partying life was no more than a thinly disguised longing for childhood, but I was unable to reenter that world. I tried going to work, which also provided no escape. In fact, working added to an already heavy burden.

Many nights I could be found lying on my couch asking God to rescue me. How this translated was, "Please, save me from my circumstances." When He didnít do that, I concluded that if there is a God, He doesnít care about me.

My life became as futile as a super ball bouncing between floor and ceiling. I alternated between trying as hard as I could to create a good life for my family, when I was on the up cycle; to turning again to parties or sleep when I was on the down cycle. I carried guilt with me everywhere, all the time. Unlike the sugar baby that can be occasionally passed off to a friend, guilt hung around my neck like an anvil.

I carried my failures like a laden backpack. One weight, in particular, was heavier than all the rest Ė it was the weight of Jesusí death. I knew from my early church days that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Instead of being appreciative of this fact, it made me angry. I didnít ask him to, I reasoned and there is nothing that I can do about the fact that he did! To me, this was a burden too heavy to carry. He felt like someone who looked down on me. I didnít like being around Christians either. They also seemed to be looking down on me, condemning.

But somewhere deep inside, I wanted to believe in a God who loved me. As a child, I had believed. One of my earliest memories is of touching Grandpaís bible; I remember thinking this has to be the most special book in the whole world. I didnít know it, but I was longing for a relationship with God even back then. I longed to be a good person. I didnít want to be rejected by God. I needed to be a good parent. One thing that I felt a good parent did was to take their kids to church. I didnít want to go to church. I had enough guilt. I was very conflicted.

I started sending my kids to church on a church bus. Surely, that would be considered a good thing even to church people. When the church had childrenís musical programs, I wanted to go for the kids, but most of the time, I felt like an outsider. I saw judgment in the eyes of the church people. I never felt dressed enough. I didnít fit in. After a while the kids didnít want to go anymore and that was okay with me.

Then something happened. My friend, Kathy, asked if I wanted to go to church with her. Kathy wasnít a churchgoer. She was my drinking buddy and my only really close friend. Another friend had invited her. We went because it would be good for the kids.

Somehow, I ended up sitting on one side of the church, alone. Kathy sat on the opposite side with her other friend. The preacher spoke that day about his life before becoming a Christian. It mirrored mine. I remember thinking, "Heís no better than I am."

Then he said something that had never occurred to me before. He said, "If you will only ask Jesus to forgive you and come into your life, He will change your life."

I had never done that. It probably seems like a common sense everybody-should-know-to-do-that kind of a thing, but for me, it was a "Eureka" moment! I sat quietly in my pew but I knew what I needed to do. I asked Jesus to forgive me and he did!

I would like to be able to tell you that the rest of my journey has been smooth sailing but that wouldnít be true. God had a lot of work to do in my life. Some of it was quite painful and at times still is, but there is a difference. I no longer carry the weight of my sin. I carry everything to the cross and Jesus lifts it off of me and places it on himself. How can I help but love a Savior who does that?

For everything there is a season. There is a season for enjoying the freedom and fun of youth and there is a season for discovering the joy of parenting. But whatever the season, Jesus is the right choice to help us through. He helps us to make wise choices and he will carry all of our burdens, if we will let him.
Darlene Hight lives in Southern Ohio with her husband, Mark. She is editor of the Golden Apples column of this magazine. She has regretted many decisions in her life but has never regretted making the decision to Journey to Jesus.
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