CBN.com The crisp air, snow-capped mountains, and clear streams of Hatcher Pass, Alaska, are a distant dream for most people but home to Irene Phillips. Standing over 6 feet tall, Irene has an adventurer's spirit.
"I would love to hang glide," she says. "We have hang gliders that come up here and step off some of these ridges here."
Irene runs Hatcher Pass Lodge. Hospitality is her middle name.
"Im a people person," she says. "I love it when people come up here and when they leave they say theyve had a beautiful time and they felt special."
As beautiful as it is up here, it can also be dangerous, but that doesn't bother Irene.
"We have avalanches and snow slides and over 100-mile-an-hour winds, and weve had an earthquake here," she explains.
These things used to scare Irene, but she says, "God took that fear out of me."
Irene used to be afraid of a lot of things. Growing up, she feared her father.
"I was abused by an alcoholic father, and I was told I was a mistake, I never should have been born, that I was stupid and no good," she says.
And she feared God.
"He was this man or entity in the sky that if I got out of line, He was going to reach down and hit me if I didnt behave," says Irene.
For Irene, one of eight children, this or any kind of acknowledgement was welcomed. Irenes parents werent very attentive to her. They traveled from town to town with the circus, leaving Irene and her seven brothers and sisters poor and often alone.
Says Irene, "I remember feeling that I had no value. I was never touched by my parents in a loving way. I was never told that I was loved or wanted."
So Irene went on a dead-end search for significance. Before she was 30, Irene married three times, had two children, and had two abortions. In her own eyes, Irene had become a failure. This failure led Irene into a life of drugs, alcohol, abuse, and the ever-present fear of more failure.
"I had failed so many times," she says, "and I feared failing again and again and again and not finding what I was searching for."
On the outside, Irene looked fine. She had an expensive car, a successful career, and a charismatic personality. On the inside, Irene wanted to die.
"I didnt see a bottom in sight, so I felt suicide was the way out," she says.
Irene says that she did actually attempt suicide. Describing the attempt, Irene says through tears, "I went for the gun, and when I got to the closet where the gun was kept, I couldnt find the gun. I just fell to the floor, and I dont know why I even said 'God,' but I said, 'God, help me. Please help me. God, I dont want to live any more.' I said, 'Take my life away. Ive hurt people, God, and people have hurt me, and I just dont want to live any more. Ive failed as a wife; Ive failed as a mother. Please take my life away.' When nothing happened, I said, 'You aren't real. You don't care about me.' "
After her attempted suicide, Irene knew she needed help, so she checked herself into a hospital. There, she met a Man who changed her life forever: Irene had a vision from God.
"A big screen came up, like a movie screen, and He showed me from the time I was a baby until I was there in the hospital. It seemed like just within a short, brief period of time my whole life just flashed before my eyes, and He was watching this screen with me," she says. "He saw the abuse. He saw the abortions. He saw all the men. He saw the divorce after divorce. He saw all this. I was so ashamed I remember just thinking, Oh, I only thought I knew about this, but He knows. He really knows all this mess in my life.
"He said, 'Irene, old things shall pass away, and, behold, all things shall become new.' Right away I said, 'But how? How? How can this happen?' I said, 'Every day I wake up and my mind is my worst enemy. It reminds me. It constantly tortures me and reminds me that youre a failure. You did this; you did that. Youre no good. He said, 'With man its impossible, but with God all things are possible.'
"He touched me. And this cleansing, all I can say is it was like a garden hose was placed on top of my head with a nozzle and it was opened up full blast and this spray of cleansing water just went through me. I felt like tons and tons and tons of weight had been lifted off of me. Then it was like an earthquake started. It was like huge boulders inside of me. It was like a prison that I had been in within myself had come down, and I knew what was going on. It was like a collapse inside.
"The Lord told me we were going to build a new house. He said, 'Irene, a house built on the sand will come down with a mighty crash,' but He said, 'a house built on the rock will withstand the storms of life.' I said, 'Houses? Whats He talking about houses for?' I had no idea what He was talking about. Id never read a Bible. He said, 'Irene, I want you to tell people about what youve been through, and I want you to tell them about Me.' I said, 'But who are you?' I didnt know who He was. He said, 'I am Jesus.' I said, 'Oh, my God, Hes alive and He wants me!' "
That day, Irene experienced something she'd never felt before. It was heavens love.
"I never touched drugs and alcohol after it because I said, 'Ive got the real thing. Ive received the real thing. Finally, I now know that someone loves me.' "
Irene views herself differently now after accepting Jesus.
"I love me," she says. "I couldnt say that ever before, but Jesus has placed such value on me that I cant even comprehend not loving me because He created me and Hes put His Holy Spirit in me. Without Him Im nothing."
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