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CBN.com “We were free but at the same time, there were constantly adult parties.”
“Freedom” was the code Vanessa Holland’s parents lived by. Their home in Australia was where they practiced a hippie lifestyle that included the open use of drugs and free sex. Vanessa and her siblings saw it all.
“I honestly remember wishing that my parents did give me boundaries, because when you’re little and anything goes, you don’t feel safe.”
When Vanessa became a teenager, she began to follow in her parents’ footsteps. “By the time I was maybe 14 or 15, I was living with a boyfriend. So I was with a bunch of guys drinking, smoking pot, being rowdy, getting into fights, just like I had been when I was a child, and it felt normal to me.”
Sure, it felt normal, but did she like this lifestyle?
“No, I was depressed,” she confesses. “I had been depressed since I was a little girl. I can remember feeling horrible, dark feelings -- like a dismal feeling that comes over you where you just feel so sad inside. Sometimes you don’t even know why, but life just doesn’t seem like a good thing.”
When Vanessa moved to New York, she searched for something to make herself feel better.
She recalls, “I went through every single new age philosophy and fad. I read every self-help book, and I tried it all. My mum was always into these different fads. Whatever one I was into, she was into the next one that was a little wackier and more intense.
“I was calling her quite a lot, and I just kept saying to her, ‘Why did you have to bring me into this world? Why? Mum, my whole life has been miserable. I’ve been in a depression for 30-something years. What is the point?’”
Vanessa considered suicide and took it one step further.
“There was a time that I did attempt it, and I ended up having my stomach pumped,” she says.
When she recovered, Vanessa went deeper into other new age philosophies in search of peace.
“Then the next book I would read would say, ‘It’s you. God is within your subconscious. You need to meditate and find your higher power — your divine self.’ I got into yoga. I got kind of fanatical about the martial arts.”
A woman in her martial arts school noticed how unhappy Vanessa was. “And she had started going to Brooklyn Tabernacle. She had given her heart to the Lord. At that point, I kind of felt like, ‘Yeah, fine, I’ll go to a church. I’ve never tried that before.’”
Vanessa went to church, and she says from the moment she walked in, she sensed something was different.
“The choir began to sing and people were worshipping,” she recalls. “I didn’t know what was going on, but I started to cry. That wasn’t really like me, because I’d become very hard at that point. But, that particular day I had to be at work a certain time and I left. The next Sunday, I just had an urge to come.”
This time, Vanessa got to hear some of the sermon.
“He was talking about being forgiven of your sins. I wanted forgiveness. I wanted my past to be erased,” she says. “Then there was an altar call.”
Vanessa came forward and had an unforgettable experience.
“It was like for the first time something sounded right, felt right, felt full and felt different, and the experience was just different,” she says. “I didn’t know anything yet. I didn’t really even know what it meant to be saved. I just knew that it was the answer, and I wanted it.
“Every day since then has just been getting better and better and… It’s like when you compare the old me to the new me, I am a different person -- 100 percent different person.”
Vanessa’s mother, Barbara, also became a Christian.
“God has not only given me a daughter, but He’s given me a sister in Christ,” Barbara says. “So, now I have a sister and a daughter in the same person, and I’m so grateful to Him.”
“There’s a scripture that I feel really sums up what God’s done in my life,” Vanessa shares. “Romans 15:13 says, ‘May the God of hope fill you with joy in peace in your faith that by the power of the Holy Spirit your whole life and outlook would be radiant with hope.’ That’s how I feel. That’s my experience. I feel radiant with hope. I feel radiant with joy, and I definitely have peace.”
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