Thursday, February 25, 2016

God is the redeemer of ALL things- including the first day of school.

The LORD says, "I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts.
Joel 2:25

   You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ “You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life.
Lamentations 3:57-58

Justin with his daddy in front of the school!

I was not feeling well this morning. Not at all. However, this morning was my baby's first day of school. There was no way that I was gonna miss it- no matter how bad I felt. This is one of those priceless memories in time that you don't want to miss- because there is no getting it back.

He had a great time getting dropped off- he ran in and played with the kids like it was nothing. My husband and I walked out happy parents, relieved over the smooth transition. I'm not going to lie- I wanted to cry. My baby going to school is just not something I am ready for yet! When did he get so big?

I went about my day. Today is one of those chaotic days- moving furniture, writing 5 papers before the class they are due in at 1 pm, studying for a test at 3 pm. However, when I finally got a moment of silence to myself and had time to hear myself think about something other than schoolwork, a thought hit me like a kick in the gut. It brought both happy and sad tears to my eyes. I didn't recognize it in the bustle of the morning craziness, but God softly reminded me that today was a redemption day. A day I thought I would never see- a day I didn't think I deserved.

You see, about 8 years ago, I had another son who had his first day of preschool. I was determined to go- like any mother- and see my little boy off to his first ever day of school. However, back then, I was not any mother. I was a hopelessly addicted drug addict who didn't know Jesus. As anyone who has ever dealt with or been a drug addict knows- an addicts plans hardly ever come to fruition.

On that day 8 years ago- instead of seeing my little boy off to his first day of school, I was in a hospital getting my stomach pumped for alcohol poisoning and tons of pills that I had taken in a suicide attempt. I remember it so vividly- laying on the hospital bed, unable on my own will because they had branded me suicidal and there was a hold period, and coming out of my substance induced haze, I realized what that morning was. It was Alex's first day of school. Was I really that much of a loser that I had to screw up my kid's first day of school with my addiction? What kind of mother is that? Talk about a low point in life- that was one of them. If I was suicidal before I came into the hospital, now I really wanted to die. I always screwed everything up, and I was tired and hopeless. There was no point even trying anymore.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. ...
Psalms 107:1

My grandma kept calling the hospital to see if I was okay. She told the nurse that it was my son's first day of school. I remember when that nurse walked in the room, she had a look of disgust on her face that she didn't even try to hide. Her contempt for me, my disease, and my selfishness were obvious. She snarkily said "Really- it's your son's first day of preschool? You chose drugs over that? Pathetic." Then she walked out.

I wanted to scream at her, explain the situation, tell her that I couldn't help it, I was in bondage and couldn't break out, despite the good things in my life. Despite wanting to. The hold my addiction had on me overshadowed even the good things in my life, and there was nothing I could do about it. But I didn't. She wouldn't care anyway. To her I was just a junkie loser who didn't care about her kids. I could understand why she thought that way. However, I DID care- I loved my son dearly, and deseratley wanted to be a good mom, my addiction just had more power.

I went many years totally heartbroken when I thought about that memory. It is one of those moments in time that you can never get back. One of those times you look back in your life and realize just how low drugs brought you. I thought it was one of those things I would just have to live with. There is no redemption for that. You can't get it back.

Until today. Clean and sober and saved, I dropped my little boy off for his first day of preschool. So did my husband- who missed everything in his older children's lives due to his addiction too. It was a moment we thought we would never get to experience. Neither one of us ever thought God would give us another child, after the ways we failed the other ones- the way we chose our addiction over them. But we were BOTH there for every moment this morning.

Checking it out!

His locker!

When I realized what had happened this morning, I burst into tears. SO many times God does miracles, and we are too busy to notice them. What seems like a small, normal thing to most people- dropping your child off for their first day of school- is a miracle for two former hardcore drug addicts. Addicts who didn't have custody of their other children because they were a danger to them, who couldn't show up to birthday parties because they were getting high, who came to Christmas drunk and wrecked the holiday for everyone and traumatized their kids. Addicts whose children saw them getting arrested by swat teams, and who grew up without their parents fully there because they were caught up in an addiction that they couldn't get out of- until God.   I truly believe that God knows how heartbroken I have been all these years over missing this moment with my other son. He showed me today, that he truly does redeem all things. He cares, and He will give you a life beyond your wildest imagination if you let Him.

Nothing is impossible with God. No matter how far you have gone or hopeless it seems or how badly you have messed up your life, he can fix it. I promise you that. Anyone who says otherwise- I call your bluff. Because we walked our little boy into preschool today.

And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,
Colossians 1:20-22

Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.
Isaiah 44:21-22

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Justin's THIRD birthday.

Even though we have been celebrating all weekend, today is Justin' official third birthday. It is so crazy that he is three years old already! It seems like just yesterday, the gorgeous baby with the crazy mop of hair entered our lives and changed them forever! He is growing so quickly, but I am SO proud of the child he has become. We could NOT be more blessed, or ask for a more amazing little boy!
Justin at just a few hours old (see what I mean about the hair!)

We got home from Minnesota this evening, and had a small, intimate birthday celebration for our birthday boy. His daddy went out of his way to buy decorations (including a bubble machine), set up all of his presents, and we surprised him. His little face was priceless!

So happy!

Kisses for daddy

My hubby did such an amazing job!

Lots of Mickey Mouse loot!

MMMMMMM... cupcakes!

Love my baby!

I know that some people may think we went over the top by celebrating his birthday for three day straight, but this little boy has altered both mine and my husband's life in ways that we couldn't fathom before he was born. We have been so beyond blessed to be his parents, and we thank God for him everyday. We wanted to make his birthday incredibly special, especially since last year he was with us on a ministry trip on his birthday, so he really didn't get much of a party except for a small party with family at McDonalds. We hope that he will look back on these memories and realize just how loved and cherished he is by his mom and dad. We would give him the world if we could! I thank God that he enabled us to have a great experience this weekend, and gain much needed family time where we could concentrate on celebrating our incredible son.  Happy birthday my sweet, sweet boy. We love you to the moon, and we are absolutely honored to be your parents!

Justin's birthday weekend celebration at MOA day two- Rainforest Cafe and Nickelodeon Universe

Our little guy had quite the day today on the second day of his birthday weekend celebration at Mall Of America. We went for a morning swim, had a delicious lunch at TGI Fridays, then headed over to the mall of America and hit up Nickelodeon Universe. He had a blast- but it was crazy busy, with kids everywhere!

The wonderpets!

Awesome rides

Driving the truck with daddy!

After he finally got tired out, mommy went shopping for awhile (seriously- if I buy ONE more pair of shoes, I think my husband is going to kill me!) while Justin and daddy sat down to rest. Then, we headed over to Rainforest Café for Justin's birthday dinner. He was absolutely thrilled with the entire experience! Not only is the entire restaurant decorated in a jungle theme with animated animals, but there are periodic thunderstorms that happen while you are eating. It was so cool! The food was delicious, but the real hit of the night was when they brought out Justin's birthday brownie volcano complete with a sparkler on top, while the staff sang happy birthday to him. His eyes lit up, and he was grinning from ear to ear! My husband has an ADORABLE video of it! My little boy was SO happy!

HUGE shrimp tacos!
Justin's cool light up cup!

Delicious clam chowder in a bread bowl!

Ben's seafood platter

And... The birthday brownie volcano- complete with ice cream and whipped cream! This thing was TOTALLY massive! So yummy!

So happy!


Once we got back to the suite, our little boy was out like a light! He took up the ENTIRE bed, so finding a position to sleep in was interesting ;) I am just SO thankful that God has blessed us to be able to have this wonderful weekend to celebrate the birth of our little boy- he is worth it ALL!

Out like a light!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

First day at mall of America for Justin's birthday weekend- Sea Life!

Instead of doing a traditional birthday party for our little boy's third birthday, we decided to take a weekend getaway to mall of America in Minnesota. Sometimes you just need to get away from all of the ministry, school, and life stuff and relax as a family! We had an absolute blast on our first day. Our hotel suite was absolutely gorgeous, and the first thing that we did was take Justin to the aquarium. He loved it so much! It was way better than I thought it was going to be! We all got to pet stingrays, and they had amazing tunnels where the sharks, fish, turtles, and stingrays swam over your head. I am so happy that my little boy had an amazing time (and let's face it- mom and dad did too!)

We also went to Lego land, had some fantastic Gyros from a place called Gyropolis, and enjoyed swimming and the hot tub when we got back to the hotel for the night. We are really looking forward to day two- Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park and The Rainforest Café for his birthday dinner!

These are all made out of Legos! How cool is that?