My name is Nikki Gifford. I am 39, married and have 2 children. This is my testimony about how and why I feel to be baptised.
When I was a child, my local Sunday school was held in a small baptist chapel about a mile from my home. It was my oasis of peacefulness and acceptance, which were sadly lacking at home. From when I grew too old for Sunday school, until my late teens, church visits were limited to weddings, christenings an the occasional Easter and Christmas communions.
I attempted to regain my connection with God in my late teens and was confirmed at eighteen. While at a Christian retreat that year I felt gods touch as an overwhelming feeling of love. Unfortunately I found little support from within my local church and I quickly became disillusioned and drifted away.
Life, as it does, marriage, having a child, working etc got in the way for about 10 years until my late twenties. I was still looking for some kind of spiritual explanations and I became drawn towards the occult through witchcraft and new age paganism. I was initiated into a local coven and began to learn their rituals of magic. I became friends with many other people who all held a wide range of beliefs, but all of them centred around the practising of magic. I learnt to read the tarot cards and began practising other forms of divination and contacting spirits.
However, I still felt that I was searching for my niche and my interest in the occult began to wane slightly when I moved away due to the breakdown of my first marriage. Life was very hard for a single mum and left little time for magic. I was drawn into a friendship with another witch and began practising again but a disagreement between us led to me giving up the practice of ritual magic but my interest in spiritual things remained.
In 2007 I was most fortunate to meet my now husband Andy. We were married in 2008 and my son Dennis was born swiftly afterwards.
I moved to Gloucester from the Forest of Dean a few months before Dennis was born. For the first year I was very busy setting up a new home and then moving house and setting up again.
I was very lonely after Dennis was born. I didn’t know anyone locally and I felt isolated and very unsure of myself. Fate intervened at this point and a chance meeting in the Doctors surgery led to a friendship that survives to today.
I was persuaded to come along to a craft session that was held at Tredworth Junior School which was run by the Kingfisher Church. I was then persuaded to enrol on the 21st Century Parenting course, Confident Kids and Drug Proof your kids courses.
But it was really hard for me. I constantly felt anxious and self conscious, I felt that I was trying to become someone I wasn’t. I tried to withdraw, but was instead dragged along to toddler groups, creative workshops and Little fishes.
It most likely seems to you all that since I’m stood here reading this, I’m a confident, out there, grasping life by the throat kind of person. But please let me tell you this
Outwardly I had the idyllic childhood, well off parents, holidays abroad, toys galore. But all that glitters is most definitely not gold. I was constantly undermined, set goal posts that were impossible to achieve and berated for not being quite good, clever, quick, pretty enough. I was measured by what others were achieving. My own talents going unrecognised and dismissed as folly and not at all useful. I was denied ever having friends to my house or ever being able to visit theirs. I was clumsy, awkward, and introverted. I was compared, unfavourably to other peoples children and fell short of every mark. I became anorexic by the age of 17 and entering into training for a job that my parents thought would be suitable. I desperately needed to break away and decided to join the armed forces, but I was too thin and not fit enough. I became bulimic by 20. Overeating vast quantities of food, then training, purging, abusing drugs to maintain a more stable, acceptable weight. My feelings of worthlessness and overwhelming guilt at not coping better led to episodes of severe and crippling depression and although I managed to join the Royal Air Force for several years, my eating disorder was not treated until my early thirties.
The stress of new places, new people and dealing with my eldest sons diagnosis of Aspergers with High functioning Autism set off another spiral of depression at the beginning of this year and all the confidence I’d gained making new friends and getting out started to slip away. I began to withdraw again. Agrophobia loomed large on my horizon. I could only venture out if I had someone with me, even if it was only my toddler. Fate again intervened and Hope Counselling was recommended via the church. Here I found I was able to examine the issues from my past and develop a new perspective and new strategies for coping. The bogeyman from my past was finally reduced down to size and I found that instead of anger towards them I began to feel pity. I learnt that the actions of others didn’t need to define who I wanted to become. I could just be who I was and be happy with that.
Although immensely helpful, the counselling didn’t relieve my depression, the pull of that yawning chasm of darkness was too strong to resist. I was persuaded to come along to a Sunday service after someone agreed to meet me at the door and told me I could bring Dennis and he would be looked after in the Sunshine Club. I kept coming, Sunday after Sunday telling myself to be strong, the depression would just go away. It didn’t and eventually I spoke to Jan, telling her I wasn’t strong enough. A chat with James reassured me that I didn’t and shouldn’t cope alone. I wasn’t failing anyone by going to ask for help. I was failing my family by not going for help.
I kept coming along to playgroup, craft group and Sunday Services essentially because when you’re depressed routine can be a wonderful thing. Then this funny thing started happening. James started reading my mind. I know, it’s spooky when it happens, but it’s even spookier that I’m quite obviously not the only one he does it to.
But I still had these nagging doubts. Why on earth would God want me? What could I offer? The things I’d done, things I was still doing. I wasn’t ready, wasn’t sure. I’m a sit on the side of the pool and paddle person, not a dive in and shout look at me I’m loving it person.
At this time I was working as a tarot reader for a premium rate psychic phone company. However as the weeks went on I became aware that whenever I had to work I felt uncomfortable. I made excuses not to work and when I did I would have a feeling of dread every time the phone rang.
Then Jan gave a Sunday Sermon on Living in a family based on Grace. It was like a flicker of hopeful light had switched on and it grew within me as I realised that God already knew all my sins, God knew my very soul. All I had to do was ask him into my life and my heart by asking for his forgiveness. So while everyone prayed, I asked God into my life, into my heart and he flooded in and overwhelmed me. It was like a weight had been lifted and the jigsaw of my life shifted slightly, so that I was no longer an odd bit of sky that looked like all the other bits of blue sky waiting to find a place in the jigsaw, suddenly I fit in perfectly to make up the whole of the picture. God had accepted me for all that I was, all that I am and all that I could be. Best of all with God’s forgiveness I began to learn to forgive myself, to be kinder to myself, to start to love me.
I spoke to Jan after the service and told her I was giving up my job with the tarot cards because I had invited God into my life. She was so proud, so joyful she had tears in her eyes. More importantly than that Jan had faith in me, she believed that God could make me so much more, that my belief was transforming.
I’ve been tested since then, money was scarce when I gave up my job, endless CV’s were sent, applications filled in, endless rejections, no hope in sight. I prayed and begged for Gods help. Still nothing. So I changed my plea. I asked God to show me where He needed me to be, to start revealing his plans for me. I was sent a clear message to look elsewhere. I’ve trained in Business Admin, part time office work was very scarce and my earnings would be swallowed up with childcare costs. Frustrated I searched for jobs evenings and weekends. Pages of vacancies for Care Assistants came up. Something inside me went click. I applied for several (hundred it felt like, I was getting desperate after all) I had many rejections. No experience plus no qualifications equals thanks but no thanks. The temptation was always there to go back on the phone lines, easy money but not so easy conscience. I wavered more than once. But I kept praying and asking for direction. I found a job that seemed perfect, nights at a care home run by nuns, I mean it had to be a sign right?? I was so sure I’d get it I almost turned down an interview with another company but at the last minute said yes.
Well the nuns didn’t go well. They really wanted experience and I’d have to pay for my own qualifications. I went to the second interview the following day expecting little. But came away with a job.
I realised later that Gods hand had definitely been at work when I added up how much it would have cost me in travelling and childcare for the first job compared with the job I’d been offered which involved no childcare costs, petrol allowance, and free training.
I’m beginning to blossom in the grace of God’s love. I have found that instead of being the driver of my life it is wonderful to be the passenger and let God drive. He knows where we are going and when we are going to get there and if I ever feel lost he’s left me the Bible as my sat nav.
So that’s how I came to be here today.
Thanks and Love to Suzanna who befriended a lost and lonely lady at the Doctors and for inviting me to join in with everything.
Huge thanks to both Judith and Jean for listening, encouraging and helping me believe that it wasn’t all my fault.
Thanks to James for reading my mind, wise words and thought provoking sermons.
Thanks, love and praise for all those in the Pre School Ministry Small group for their love, acceptance and support.
Huge respect and love to my ever supportive husband for just being the man that he is.
My love, respect, admiration, inspirational spiritual mum, Jan. Thank you for your words, love, compassion and the joy with which you have celebrated my every step towards God. Every time you wrap your arms around me and smile I feel I’ve come home. Thank you Jan you not only have my love, but there is a space in my heart which is now most definitely Jan shaped.
Now please excuse me while I do become one of those people who dives in while shouting look at me I’m loving it!!