You may be interested in the author of this homepage.
My name is Astrid Juessen and I am 41 years old and married to a wonderful husband. I work in a kindergarten, a job which I really enjoy.
I was brought up in a traditional Catholic family. Although I never doubted God’s existence, I did not practise my faith. I went to church on Sundays out of habit, but during the week I did what I wanted and did not pray.
After spending a year working as an au pair in England (Guildford, Surrey), I went to University in Bonn, studying English and German, to become a teacher. Listening to my lecturers I was irritated by the diversity of beliefs and attitudes and found it difficult to distinguish between what was true and what was false. I began to long for some kind of measure to help me to decide between them and for a greater sense of direction in my life.
I got to know a fellow student named Martha. She was a Christian and I was amazed by her faith. God was the centre of her life and she seemed to be so happy. One day she invited me to come with her on a weekend retreat.
My bedroom in the retreat house was very simple. There was a bed, a table, a chair, a cupboard, a Bible and a wooden crucifix.
I had not realised that it would be a silent retreat - I found this very hard, because I like talking!
With no TV, no radio and no talking there were no diversions, only silence. A silence that made me think about my life. Martha kindly went for long walks with me and we had some good talks (despite not being allowed to).
I realised that my life was not OK in the eyes of God and I cried a lot.
On the retreat, a priest spoke of Jesus´ love for us and I really sensed that the Son of God loved me. I went to the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) and got rid of the ‘weight’ of my sins. I felt relieved and decided to live my life close to Jesus, and I have never regretted that decision.
Experienced Christians helped me to apply my faith to my daily life. I have found the commitment to daily prayer to be essential.
As a beginner I began by praying for ten minutes each day. I found it to be important to stick to this amount of time, not more or less. Time in prayer should not be driven solely by emotions (otherwise I might end up praying for 30 minutes when I felt good but hardly at all when I felt bad). It is God who is given honour in prayer; I am not to be the one in charge, so I stuck to my time. It needed a bit of discipline but it was worth it.
I also started reading the Bible, which is a “must” for a Christian. How are we to know the will of God if we don´t read His Word?
Luckily I had Christian friends and spiritual advisers who helped me - community is a key part of the Christian life. That was when I was 21.
Four years later I fell seriously ill. I was in hospital for two months and on release I stayed with my parents, but was able to do virtually nothing. The strong side effects of my medication prevented me from reading, watching TV or even lying down, so I spent hours walking.
I began to ask myself, “Who am I? I can’t do anything”. I realised that until that time I had defined myself through achievement: I was good at something so I had “earned” any love that I received. But this would not work when I was ill, because there weren’t any achievements.
My faith helped me out of this dilemma: God loves me for who I am, not for what I do. This gave me the strength to accept myself for the way I am. It is a process of course and is likely to continue for a lifetime, but it was one of the most important lessons to learn and it has been so helpful.
Another interesting aspect of my relation to God is how He led me into knowledge of the Trinity.
First I was in love with Jesus Christ. He suffered for me and He knew exactly what it felt like to be a human being.
A couple of years later, I discovered a prayer to the Holy Spirit in an old prayer book. I learnt it by heart and prayed it regularly. I discovered first my interest in, and then my love for, the Holy Spirit. Staying in England for a second time as an assistant teacher I got to know the charismatic renewal and learned a lot more about the Holy Spirit. One thing is clear: He is the one to revive the Church and we would be wise to open our hearts to Him.
Finally, God the Father showed me how dearly He loves me.
Living a life with God is very interesting and exciting.
I hope, dear reader, that you have had the same experience. If not, I sincerely wish for you the experience of discovering our awesome and wonderful God.