Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Resurrected Dreams

This past Friday, I graduated with honors from the University Of Wisconsin with my AAS associates degree. While graduating from college and the attainment of education and knowledge through hard  is always something to be celebrated, for me it held an even deeper meaning.

For me, graduating college was a dream that died long ago. I had always been incredibly smart, and was placed in gifted classes starting in third grade. My family- as well as myself- knew that I possessed the brains to make something of myself, but my addiction had other ideas. What could have been a bright future was instead marred by years of alcohol and drug addiction.

I tried- and failed to go to college four times before this. I would make it about a week, and then I would drive drunk and crash my car, or get arrested for assaulting someone, or doing something else that would sabotage my attempt at college. Ultimately, each time I had to drop out- because my addiction was so strong that I could not put it on pause while I sought a degree. It got to the point that I gave up trying to go to school, and came to terms with the fact that I would never be a college graduate. I wasn't meant to be a professional, all I would ever be was an alcoholic and an addict. And I was ok with that. After so many failed attempts to control my addiction, I decided that I would stop trying to not be an addict, and instead be the best drug addict I could be, and go at it with full force.

I was perfectly ok not only with the idea of never going to college, but of never having anything that resembled a life. I stopped getting my hopes up that I would ever break free because I had tried so many times before and failed. Drugs were my life. Being an addict was what I was good at. I was convinced that it was how I would live the rest of my life- and end it.

My graduation this past week is so much more than a piece of paper, but a statement. It is a testament to how far Almighty God has brought me. From the person shaking on the couch who was unable to walk or speak without having a drink first, to someone who now speaks loud and proud to  help people who are in the same position. From someone who was in and out of jail to someone who tells others about the freedom found in Jesus Christ so that they can be liberated from their chains. From someone who chose drugs over her children, to someone whose life revolves around her sons.  From someone who knew nothing but the hopelessness and despair that comes with drug addiction, to someone who has a hope and a future in Jesus Christ.

I can only hope that my story can be a testimony to others and give them hope that no matter where they are, or how lost or hopeless they may feel, God can turn it all around. He cares about every aspect of your life, and if you give your life to him, he will turn it into something marvelous. There is still hope, and it's never too late.

My graduation this week was my first tie ever in a cap and gown. I graduated high school on time and with my class, however I didn't go to the reception because I was 8 months pregnant with my oldest son. It had always bothered me that I missed my chance to be in a cap and gown. The smart kid, the gifted honor student- the one everyone expected to be in a cap and gown, was one of the only ones who wasn't. It was something that honestly embarrassed and haunted me my entire life. God knew it, and he made it right this past week. Not only did I get to wear a cap and gown, but I graduated with honors- while running a full time ministry, taking care of a two year old, and juggling my husband's hectic schedule. I truly believe God let me get to where I am so that I wouldn't be embarrassed anymore. He wanted to restore my past, and give me beauty for ashes, and he did.

I have learned a lot through this graduation process. Not only have I learned that I am stronger and more capable than I ever believed, but I have seen just how proud my husband is of me and how much he loves me. He threw me a surprise graduation with many of the people that I love mot in attendance. It is the second surprise party I have ever had in my life- the first one being the birthday party my husband threw me two weeks ago =) He went out of his way to make me feel special, loved, and honored in a way that no one ever has before. I am truly blessed to have him as my partner in life. His efforts to go above and beyond to show me that I am loved and cherished means more than he will ever know.

I have also learned that sometimes, people that you may expect to be happy for you may not be. Sometimes people will root for you to fail instead of push you to succeed, and sometimes no matter how far you go in life or how much you change, there will always be someone with something negative to say, or someone who refuses to see you as anything other than an addict. Sometimes people aren't happy for your successes, because it takes away their excuse for why they can't accomplish the same in their lives. The trick is to not let the negativity affect you. Surround yourself with the people who DO love you, and love the others from afar.

I have been told multiple times this week that I am an inspiration. The truth is, I am nothing. It's all God. He's the one who took this hopeless, lost, pitiful life and turned it into something beautiful. He is the God of redemption, the God of restoration, and the God on second, third, and 100th chances. And he can do it for anybody. Anyone can have the same ending as I do. No matter how bad the beginning is, there is always hope for it to turn around if you are breathing. How you finish is what matters. And with God on your side, I promise that your ending will be better than you ever imagined. Despite your mistakes, your bad choices, and your wrong turns- God has a plan for your life. Your dead dreams can be resurrected by God's power.


 My uncle read the following at my after-graduation celebration dinner. It is a speech by Nelson Mandela. I thought it was a very fitting choice for the occasion:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.