My husband and I had an amazing time this weekend with some old ministry partners from Milwaukee. A weekend full of dinners, meetings, fellowship, and reminiscing. Pastor Clay and his wife Felicia trudged along with Ben and I for years through the spiritual boot camp of Milwaukee Victory Church, and they continue to share the same passion for ministry and helping drug addicts that Ben and I have- even after all these years. Pastor Clay has been in ministry since 1991, and is still going strong. Ministry can be hard and it's easy to burn out, but his passion has withstood the test of time, and God has used him in great ways.
It was amazing to bring our past ministry and our current ministry together. They are both colliding and merging to bring together an amazing future ministry- one that includes Christian recovery homes for addicts needing restoration, led by grateful believers who have experienced that same restoration, deliverance, and freedom in their own lives. The visit was very beneficial for everyone- our CROSSroads team gained insight on where Ben and I came from and how the homes were run, and Pastor Clay and Felicia got a glimpse of the NEW thing that God is doing with the same foundation of the past. Between Ben, myself, Clay and his wife, we have over 50 years of addiction ministry experience, pastoring, and running restoration homes and churches- and we have learned a lot. God has used the good things in past ministries to show us what to do, and the not so good aspects as a warning as to what not to do- but it has all been a learning experience.
Reminiscing about where we came from and where we are at now left me astounded this weekend. I started thinking about our ministry team and all of the things that had to happen in everyone's lives to get us all together. How every life experience of each person- good and bad- shaped them into the people they are now with the exact giftings and personality traits that God wanted them to be equipped with for this ministry. How he moved people from different cities and states, to bring them together in Marshfield Wisconsin of all places. How he took all of our brokenness to use it to relate to the broken. How all along, our entire lives, God was planning this very thing. How God truly ordained everyone's steps, and how mesmerizing it is to see his plan coming together. Ask anyone on our leadership team if they would have ever dreamed of having the life they have now, and they will tell you no. It wasn't their plan, but it was God's. None of us could see the plan, we couldn't see what was being set up, but God knew exactly what he was doing, and was in control the entire time.
When I think about this- and how God truly does work everything together for good for those who love him- I feel so stupid for the lack of faith that can creep into my everyday life. God has the entire universe under control- and always has- so why do I worry about things? The God who was in every circumstance of my past, who took into account every bad decision, every setback, every comeback, every mistake, every struggle- is still in every circumstance of my present. That is a hard thing to remember sometimes when I am undergoing spiritual warfare and being attacked, when the bills are piling up, when I am exhausted, and when things look out of control. Sometimes we can only see God's reason for it in retrospect, after we've made it out.
Sometimes in the midst of God's plan, things can look really crazy. You could have never convinced me 7 years ago that God would take my horrible, devastating mess of a life and clean it up the way he has. Never would I have dreamed that I would be sober, a Christian (let alone living my life sacrificially for others), living in central Wisconsin, married to a wonderful man whose life has been redeemed by God in the same way- and that God would take those two former horribly broken people and create the greatest blessing in our lives- our son Justin. If it wouldn't have been for both of us being addicts and winding up at Milwaukee Victory Church, we would never had met and would not have this gorgeous little boy that neither one of us can imagine our lives without. Ben never imagined 25 years ago when his wife left him and took their kids that the decades of drug addiction that followed as a result would eventually lead him to his true calling in life. He is at a pastor's conference today with all of the pastors from our assemblies of churches, talking about CROSSroads and the need for homes for addicts. None of this would be happening today if it weren't for his past, and for God's mercy, grace, forgiveness, redemption, and plan. As a police officer told Ben this week- "your struggles in the past are what make you the upstanding guy and the success in the community that you are today." Even when the circumstances looked horrible (and they did for a LONG time), God was working with the end result in mind.
I think that's why God ordained this weekend to happen the way that it did. Sometimes we need to be reminded that everything truly is working out for the good, even when it may not seem like it. When we look back in retrospect, when can see that God's hand was in all of it all along. Every person that comes against us, every bill that needs to be paid, every day of exhaustion, every time that things feel out of control- I need to recall what God has already done. To recall how things have looked bleak- sometimes even devastating- in the natural realm before, and how God worked it all out for good in the end. No matter what happens, it is in God's control, and he wouldn't allow it to touch our lives if he wasn't going to use it for something down the road. Every moment that we go through in our lives is preparing us for a moment yet to come. We may not be able to figure out why God is allowing us to go through things, or see exactly how they are working into his plan- but we do know that God is good, and he is in control. The same God who ordained the footsteps of all the CROSSroads leaders for decades to bring us to the place we are now, will continue to ordain our steps for his purposes, no matter what the circumstances might try to convince us of otherwise.
So when I say that I feel stupid for getting worried, I mean it. I know better. I know God better. I have seen him do miraculous things throughout my lifetime, and I know that no attack, no setback, no disappointment, no mistake- will change His plan for my life. I know that He truly does use everything for my good if I leave it in His hands, even when I don't understand what the end result is going to be. Sometimes I just need to be reminded. This weekend did just that, and I am grateful.