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The Thanksgiving that changed my life

From the November 21, 2011 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

First appeared as a web original on November 17, 2010

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I’d like to express my gratitude for a Thanksgiving Day service in a Christian Science church that turned my life around. (Each year, Christian Science churches around the world hold a special Thanksgiving service.)

When I was a teenager, my sister was killed by a drunk driver. That tragedy turned my life upside down and left me in great turmoil. I’d been raised going to a Christian Science Sunday School and had experienced healings, several from my own prayers. Turning to God when troubled, sick, or afraid was automatic, but after my sister was gone, I felt adrift and alone. I questioned everything about God and figured God and Christian Science were a joke.

I went through the motions of the normal activities of college, meals, work, and Sunday School, but my distress mounted to the point where I could not bear to be around my parents because it was too painful (I was living at home). I couldn’t just “put on a happy face” for Sunday School when I felt no happiness. So I arranged my schedule so that I worked on Sunday mornings and late into the night to avoid church and my parents.

During this time, I struggled with fear, sadness, and severe anxiety, including anxiety attacks. This went on for about a year. I got to the point where I knew I needed help, but didn’t know where to turn. On Thanksgiving Day I wasn’t working, and Thanksgiving morning my dad asked if I was going to join them in church. To avoid an argument, I said yes.

That church service changed my life.

Thanksgiving morning my dad asked if I was going to join them in church. To avoid an argument, I said yes.

Sitting in the pew listening to the attendees standing and expressing gratitude during the testimony portion was a healing balm. As one after the other popped up and gave heartfelt thanks, the anxiety I’d felt since that late night phone call about my sister’s death lifted, and the binding grip around my chest melted away. I took a long, deep breath, the first in what felt like a very long time, and I actually smiled. I knew that I could find healing and joy with Christian Science. It was as if God said to me, “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isa. 30:21).

From then on I threw myself into studying the Bible and Science and Health, by Mary Baker Eddy, and the weekly Christian Science Bible Lessons. The results were immediate. The emotional turmoil I’d felt began to abate, and my joy returned. I spent time with my parents. While the anxiety attacks continued, they were fewer and farther between. Over the next several months they disappeared, too. I learned many lessons about my spiritual identity, my sister’s identity, the allness of God’s goodness and strength no matter what the human condition.

A particularly clear demonstration of God’s care for me occurred during this time. I applied to a different college, and while I was being considered, I was 40th on a waiting list. It was very unlikely I would get in. But my newfound confidence in God left me feeling that no matter if I got into that school or not, I would be fine and my future was sure. I did get into that college and continue to benefit from the experiences I had there.

This was more than 30 years ago. That one Thanksgiving service sparked a course of action and a devotion to God that blesses my life today. I have since relied on Christian Science and God’s loving provision for all my needs. This Thanksgiving holiday and every holiday season, I remember that church service and am thankful.

Amy Nickell lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

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