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I was raised a Jehovah's Witness and walked away in 2002. I was 34 years old. Two years later I read Purpose Driven Life and it changed my life. I was baptized as a Christian in November 2004 and I have never been happier. The freedom I have in Christ is the most amazing experience. I am so grateful that God pulled me out of that organization and into a personal relationship with Him. It has continued to be so refreshing to have to grow close to God and to have such a positive spiritual, guilt-free, joyful experience as a Christian. Most of all I love the freedom to think, to read, and to question. I have become an insatiable reader. I feel like there is a whole world of Christian books out there - with such a refreshing style (not like the Watchtower publications). Even the bible is now fascinating to me. I had never read it as a Jehovah's Witnesses (all the way through). I've now read it 2 times through and I'm on my 3rd lap. I started with just asking God to show me who He was and what He wanted me to know about himself. It's amazing what that approach has taught me about God and how much easier other translations are to read. I look at the NWT now and think...no wonder I never could get through reading this...it's so choppy and bland. I have enjoyed reading the NIV version, the Message version, and now I'm reading the New Living Translation.

The hard part is - this is all just now coming out to my family. My father is an elder, and my brother and his wife and family are all in the organization. I know to them, it's like telling my Orthodox Jewish parents - I've become a Nazi. My dad has been an elder for 30 years, my mother is a die-hard JW. My brother and his family are all in the "truth." They just found out this summer that I have become a Christian. They are grieving pretty hard right now and I have been embroiled in several difficult conversations with my parents. They love me so much that the thought of them being called to cut me off is causing them unimaginable grief. My dad is 70 and my mom is 72. At least they are still talking to me and haven't cut me off...my brother and sister-in-law, well, they are being loyal to the organization and have cut off all contact with me. I understand their stand...but being on the outside it is so bizarre that a difference of opinion on bible doctrine is cause to cut off your own flesh and blood. How twisted!

I was raised a JW. From the time I was a teenager I always had an issue with the keeping separate from the world and feeling shamed when I wanted to have friends outside the organization. I was always more drawn to them and found them to be true companions. I suppressed this and hid the fact that I maintained close relationships outside of the organization over the years. I met these people mostly through work and school. What tipped the scales for me was 10 years ago when a very close JW friend was disfellowshipped. Although I had only known her for one year, I do believe God gave me a special attachment in order to open my eyes to the cold process of disfellowshipping. Being told to cut her off completely - no communication whatsoever...it was too much to bear. I was told that the elders were watching me and I would be disciplined if they found out I was associating with her in any fashion. I couldn't take the pressure of them on my back or the heartbreak of feeling like God wanted me to cut off a trusted friend who loved the Lord. After a year, I actually moved out of state to avoid the struggle. It was very painful. For 3 years I attended meetings up in Washington, but again made friends outside of the organization that I had to keep to myself. I felt half-hearted, because I was taught that such a double-life isn't pleasing to God. My disfellowshipped friend would come to visit and I would feel totally guilty over a visit! It was ridiculous!!!

My job brought me back to California after 3 years and never found my groove at a Kingdom Hall again, because of my desire to have "worldly friends" and also to continue my friendship with my disfellowshipped friend. So after a while I quit going and I actually wanted nothing to do with God or religion for about 2 years. I felt the JW's had "the truth" but if God was the type of God that I had been taught, I really didn't want to serve him because I could never be pleasing to him at the most basic level. Not that I am without sin, but I am someone who has never done drugs or been immoral so as to carry such guilt over maintaining friendships with non-witness friends seemed totally imbalanced.

My disfellowshipped friend meanwhile had found the Lord through her boyfriend and encouraged me to continue praying and to not give up on God. Eventually another friend gave me Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and I started to read it. At first it was hard because I had my Watchtower Society goggles on. But then I picked it back up again trying to read it with an open mind. Concurrently, this is the time that the Passion came out and my boyfriend took me to see it - which really shocked me into thinking about what Jesus actually did for mankind. Also, he asked if I would attend a bible study with him at his church. This freaked me out to even think about going into a church. But because of my desire to please the boyfriend I decided to at least look into what the church believed. I went to the website and saw they believed in Hellfire and the Trinity doctrines - and I thought I could never go into a church that taught that. But then I thought "hey, how do I know what the witnesses teach is all truth, what are they hiding anyway, why haven't I ever been able to read anything outside of my religion or go on websites to do research to at least investigate." Hence, my research began. I started with http://www.jehovahs-witness.com/default.ashx - and it was like a bad car wreck, I couldn't tear my eyes away. I was amazed at this large on-line community that shared so many thoughts and feelings I had had over the years. It had tons of great links, discussions and resources. That is when the Watchtower really started to crumble for me. Once, I started doing my own research and reading my Bible on my own and asking God to reveal himself to me, it didn't take long before I was off and running and open to a relationship with Christ and was open to sitting in church and being fed elsewhere.

And what is my life like now? I actually for the first time in my life enjoy going to worship services, I read the bible and pray every morning, I glow and have such an inner sense of peace and happiness to have personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The boyfriend I wanted to please to go to church I broke up with because eventually he didn't want the same kind of relationship with Christ that I did. He didn't walk his talk. Although it was painful, it wasn't even close to the same kind of pain I felt over my disfellowshipped friend. The difference being that I have Jesus at the center of my life now and pleasing Him is the most important thing. Every day is a gift and an opportunity to glorify God. I have even been on a short term mission trip to Brazil earlier this year. I want everyone on the earth to know Him and come into a relationship with Him. Most especially my family. I do believe God has been preparing me for this special journey to snatch my family out of the fire of the Watchtower Organization. He continues to equip me and prepare me.

Reading the bible every day and books like Mere Christianity really helped me to re frame my mental outlook on the Trinity and other doctrines the JW's teach. I am patient with myself and understand I still have a lot to learn. Years of brain washing doesn't disappear over night. I even wear a "cross" now! It is amazing the transformation....only by God's mighty saving arm was it possible for me.