I'm not sure that I was much use to God for many of those years, but by the same token I know that He can work through us when we look least likely to be any use to anyone, so I won't rule it out.
The fire was lit in 1987 when I first encountered Jesus in one of those, 'I'm talking to you. Yes, you,' moments. I burned brightly for a few years, and then my light sort of dimmed to a faint glow for a long, long time. It nearly went out a few times. He kindled it afresh in the years following the loss of my Dad, when motherhood and near-despair knocked me over at the same time and I found myself unable to get up. This time, God breathed on the embers and there was a flame again.
Something happened. I woke up? I changed gear? I grew up? I don't know, but about in the last decade things have changed. It's the hardest thing to describe; things shift subtly and incrementally and then one day I look over my shoulder and I am amazed to see how far I've come.
'Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back,
everything is different?' *
It's as if my life changed from pastel shades and muted greys to full, glorious technicolour. It's vivid and vibrant and exciting. It still has ups and downs - indeed the ups are higher and the downs are lower than they used to be. Until this last decade I didn't really understand what it felt like to be so miserable that it's hard to breathe, or so filled with wonder and awe and joy that I find myself in laughing even as I cry.
For many years I was in a constant state of waiting: when this happens, when that happens... for the next hurdle to be over. Then things would 'get back to normal'.
Then one day the penny dropped. This is normal.
It's relentless, ongoing, never-stopping, day-in-day-out exhausting normality of life on His team. Not normal at all.
Better than normal. Harder than normal. More worthwhile than normal.
I could get the old normal back, I think; I could choose it, back off and get comfy on the sofa again instead of putting one foot in front of the other over and over each time the going gets tough, but why would I? I feel as if I'm living.
Time is rushing past so quickly. It's nearly the middle of another year, one that only feels as if it only started last week. It isn't five minutes since I was grumpily packing away the Christmas decorations for another year and waiting for the first shoots to appear, and here I am with the longest day only a month away and wondering when someone will tell me how many shopping days there are until Christmas.
Jesus said, '... I came to give life - life in all its fullness.'
Full as in busy, constantly on the go? Probably not.
Full as in rich, complex, endlessly challenging, surprising, amazing? Yes, definitely.
Life with Him. It's hard, but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world. He never said it would be easy; He said it would be worthwhile.
These last few years have been more meaningful than most of the others put together. I have learned more about God, about hearing His voice, about staying close to Him, living under His wing, being sent out on His business and doing things I never thought I could do.
I have learned a little about how He sees the people around me; His hopes, His dreams, His heart, His plans.
I have learned life-changing things about myself.
I am loved. Right now, as I am, imperfect, middle-aged, overweight, tired, confused. Sheep-like. Special. Unique. Loved by the true and living God.
I blurted this idea out to someone the other day, the idea that life can change from black and white into colour, and they knew what I meant. It's not just me! I was met with nods of agreement and recognition of my description, especially when I said that it wasn't a fluffy sort of change; things got harder, not easier. Things weren't 'normal' any more.
So perhaps this is a self-indulgent anniversary reflection. Thirty years since I first gave my life to Father God. I've taken it back and handed it over many, many times since then. Thirty years since I first heard His voice; since His Spirit first moved me to tears of awe and gratitude for what He did for me.
And then, a few years ago, He fitted me with a warp-drive and I've learned more in those years than in the previous twenty. It turns out that you're never too old; it's never too late.
Thankyou for the colours, thankyou for the ride, and for holding me close when the curves and inclines and steep drops make my tummy go funny. Thank you for the breathtaking scenery, the places that I could never go if you were not with me and for the exhilaration of the journey. For the sunshine and the rain. For the sound of your voice and the treasures that you show me. For the music of heaven and the wonder of your company and the promise of more to come. For the gifts you are giving me; the things I never imagined that I could experience and most of all for the hope that nobody can take away.
I feel as if I'm really living.
* This quotation is often attributed to CS Lewis, speaking as Prince Caspian, in the Narnia book of the same name. I thought that was where it was from until I tried to check it, and it turns out that it was not actually said by Lewis. I don't know who said it, originally, but it has a lot of truth in it.
Helen Murray lives in Derbyshire with her husband, two daughters and her mum.
As well as writing and reading, she drinks coffee, takes photographs, swims, breeds Aloe Vera plants and collects ceramic penguins.
Helen has a blog: Are We Nearly There Yet? where she writes about life and faith.
You can also find her here: