Monday, February 23, 2015

How 2 years can change your life...

Justin on his Harley big wheel-his favorite gift out of all of his birthday presents.

 This weekend, my husband and I- along with some close friends and family members) gathered to celebrate our son's 2nd birthday.  In the midst of an insanely busy schedule,  trips, and meetings,  we made sure to set aside time to celebrate the little person who has turned out to be the greatest blessing in our lives. If there was ever someone who deserved to be celebrated, it's him. Not only is he a trooper- he gets dragged all over by my husband and I on our ministry ventures, has a crazy schedule and no set routine most of the time, is always sharing his house (and parents) with strangers, and has been on more roadtrips in his short 24 months than most adults have been on
in their lifetime- but he has given his father and I a renewed purpose in life- a purpose that both of us had long ago forgotten about.

Justin celebrating his birthday with his daddy and some of his cousins.

Ben and I call Justin our "atonement baby." We truly believe that he was a gift given to us by God as a second chance to be parents, and to experience the wonderful joys that come with it. He was sent to make up for all we had lost out on, had stolen from us and given up on with our other kids while we were in our addiction.  Ben and I have very similar testimonies, and we both have much older children from previous relationships (long before we knew each other). We were horrible parents to say the least- caught in a cycle of drug addiction that made our children nothing more than an afterthought. We weren't there the way we should have been, and we put our kids through things no child should have to go through. We wasted precious years of our children's lives in a haze of substances, and by the God saved us out of our drug addiction, the relationships with our kids had been severely damaged and time had been lost that we could never get back. When Ben and I met, even though we were both in good places in our lives- being parents was the last thought to enter our minds. We both knew we had blew our chance at parenthood, and we had come to terms with the fact that it was something we were never going to be privileged enough to experience. We messed up, and sometimes there is no way to undo things that are done. Sometimes apologizes aren't accepted, people don't truly believe that God can change people (or at least not people as horrible as us), and second (or in our case 100th) chances aren't given.

February 21st, 2013- the day my life changed forever.

But GOD is the God of second chances..  I always had an ache in my heart for failing my kids and not being with them. However, despite how it may have looked to others- I was doing what was best for my kids. So was Ben. We thought staying away would give them the best shot at having a good life. We just messed things up. So we stayed away- even though it was heart breaking. I did what I knew to be best at the time, regardless if it hurt me. It wasn't about me. From the outside it probably looked like I was a lowlife junkie abandoning my kids, but I was trying to protect them- from me. They were safer, and saner, with me not around. It was the only unselfish act I performed in my addiction- doing what was best for my kids even though it killed me inside, and I was ridiculed for walking away. People didn't understand, but it didn't matter. I knew it was best for them. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my future husband that I had yet to meet had made the same exact choices regarding his kids years earlier.

I accepted that ache and loneliness as punishment- my lot in life for being a horrible mother. But that didn't make it hurt any less- it just helped me make sense in my mind why God had allowed my life to turn out the way it had, and why he didn't give me my kids back. I was saved, drug free, and accepted the consequences of not having my kids because of my bad decisions. So did Ben. We both had people in our life who were constantly reminding us what failures we had been, and we agreed with them. We had been horrible failures. But God had changed us. We made the best of our situations and decided to make the best out of the rest of our lives. We accepted that we couldn't change the past, but we're going to do our best to have a good future living for God- without children.

                                  Justin the day we brought him home from the hospital.

But God is the God of second chances. You can imagine our surprise, then, when we found out we were expecting. My entire infancy, I thought it was too good to be true. How could God be blessing us with a baby after how badly we had messed up with our other kids? How could he entrust this little soul to us? I remember being so fearful that something was going to go wrong. This couldn't be right. We didn't deserve this. Even though we had changed our lives and were living for God, we didn't deserve this second chance at parenthood. Isn't parenthood a one shot deal? Apparently, God didn't think so.

Thank God that he doesn't give us what we deserve. God blessed us with the most amazing gift we could have ever imagined when he gave us Justin. We finally understood what other parents meant when they talked about love at first sight, and knowing that you would kill to protect the little person in your arms. How you would give your last dollar, your last ounce of energy, your last breath for your baby. All of the feelings that the drugs wouldn't allow us to feel with our first kids came flooding in full force with Justin. We felt them so strongly, because we truly appreciated what we had in this baby- that he really was a gift. We had taken it for granted with our other kids, so we savor every moment of parenthood now with our second chance baby- our atonement baby. We realize just how precious each of these moments are, because we have grieved the lost moments we never got to spend with our other kids. It's like being given a second chance at life- a chance to do it right. Parenting truly is a gift- one that God gave to us even though we didn't deserve it. I look at my precious little boy's face, and see the love of God. A God who loves us so much that he longs to bless us, forgive us, have compassion on us, and give us another chance. When people ask me how I know God gives second chances, I point to my little boy.  He can have mercy and grace on you in ways you would never imagine. I am so amazed that God used this little boy to restore both mine and Ben's pasts in one shot. God can redeem even the most lost, worthless life if you give it to him. He did mine- beyond my wildest dreams.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning- great is thy faithfulness.
                       Lamentations 3:22-23

So I will restore to you the years that the locust have eaten... 
                           Joel 2:25