Thursday, March 17, 2016

Remembering where you came from.

                   'You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm'
Deuteronomy 5:15

The past few months have been crazily busy. Between raising Justin, school (I am in the middle of mid-terms right now- yuck!), ministry, and lots of traveling, things have been hectic. However, there have been a few events over the past few months that I want to memorialize, and just haven't had the time too. I feel it's important, because I feel like God used each and every one of these events to remind me of where He brought me from, and how He has blessed my life in such a short time. 

At the end of January, I had the honor to be besides one of my best friends as she gave birth to her little girl. Her story reminds me so much of mine. Her daughter reminds me so much of Justin. They are both atonement babies- given by God to redeem the mistakes of the past. The emotions that I felt while staying with her for those 18 hours of labor were overwhelming. Not only because I was honored to be asked to be there as her labor support, and of course birth is beautiful all on its own- but because I remember how blessed and undeserving I felt when I found out I was going to have my "atonement baby". That God blessed and entrusted me with another baby was something that I never thought I would have again- something I never thought I deserved after making a mess of my other children during my drug addiction.  When I was sure that I had to live with the consequences of being childless forever after failing my first set of kids- out came this beautiful, bouncing bundle of joy- straight from heaven. To know that God loved me that much- to offer a second chance, to remind me that I am not my past, that nothing is unforgivable, that He can do ALL things-  and to let me have another shot at raising this beautiful baby he had given me was so heartbreaking- in the best way. All of those feelings and memories came flooding back in that labor room, and I felt so much of that for my dear friend as she gave birth to her "atonement baby"- her fresh start, her new hope for the future- a living, breathing, sign of her redemption from her past through her savior. God shows his goodness in so many ways- and I am so happy for the experience that she is going on- the same experience I myself started just a few short years ago. She will now, truly, know what unconditional love is. To know that you are that beloved by the creator of the universe, and that God longs to restore you that he will go to any lengths to make that clear is a an experience that very few people get. To know that God thinks you are deserving of another precious child- even if people don't- is the ultimate act of love from our creator. 

Me with the new mommy- and the beautiful, redemptive peanut!
I also went back to my roots- where my life with Jesus began- in February. The outreach addiction church my husband and I met at were having a woman's conference Valentine's Day weekend, so we went to Milwaukee for the weekend to attend it. Usually when we go to Milwaukee for the weekend, we book a suite in a hotel. This weekend, my husband and son stayed in the suite, while I stayed in the women's restoration home with two of our CROSSroads girls from up here. I thought it would be good for them to experience the home- a home very similar to the restoration home that we are going to have in Marshfield soon. To be back to the place where it all began- where I walked in addicted, suicidal, broken and lost, where I found God, where I stayed 4 years as the women's home director and ministered to other lost and hurting, drug addicted women, and finally walked out of as a strong, drug free, confident, Christian woman- was humbling. So many memories of how I fell in love with God there came rushing back. The awe and wonder I experienced as I was first getting to know him while being set free from my addictions is something that can never be replaced. He found me in that restoration home- and did miraculous work in me. Being there that weekend reminded me that I need to get that fire back- to step away from the distractions of life, and have my sole focus on God the same way I did back then. I long for that closeness with Him again- closeness that often gets put on the back burner in everyday life while I'm dealing with school and toddlers and housework and ministry. Being back there opened my eyes to what my relationship with God once was- and where I am working towards getting it to again. It also brought so much hope and excitement for the homes we will be opening up here- thinking about how many lives will be saved and transformed at the home here like the home in Milwaukee saved and transformed mine. Being back there was a reminder that God used my time in the home there to train me and get me ready for running the homes up here. He never wastes anything. I am humbled from where he brought me, and what he is doing in other's lives through my obedience.

During the conference at Milwaukee Victory Church
To top it all off, this Monday, I was in a courtroom supporting one of my CROSSroads' girls HUGE accomplishment of graduating drug court after 18 months. While we were waiting for her to graduate, there were other people who were in the program that were in custody and called up before the judge in jumpsuits and shackles. Oh, how I remember being in that place. I thought that my destiny was to be in and out of jail for the rest of my life. When you are addicted to drugs and don't know God, that is the only option that you see. Such a hopeless, dark place to be. Someplace that I am so thankful God rescued me out of. I was reminded as I watched the people in jumpsuits, that that could have very well been me today if God hadn't intervened. I think back on that time of my life and it almost seems like a dream. My life is so unimaginably different today- because of God. He truly can change the worst of the worst, if we only surrender. I am living proof of that. So is my husband. He made a comment in the courtroom about how it was nice to be on the other side of the courtroom and know that you are going to be walking out on your own free will. Only by the grace of God! The funny thing is, that Malissa actually ended up at CROSSroads after being prayed for by people she didn't know from the CROSSroads leadership team on her first day of drug court that were in the courtroom for another one of our girls who was being sentenced. God brought her to CROSSroads a week later- and she has been there ever since! No one ever told her they were praying for her, but God brought her to us anyway. God is THERE- even in the darkest moments, and even when we aren't looking for him.  He may very well show up for those guys in the jumpsuits in the courtroom. He truly is a God of the miraculous.

My husband and others praying with Malissa outside of drug court
I truly believe that God reminds us of where we come from, so that we never forget His power. When life is going good, sometimes it is easy to forget all of the bad stuff we have been through. But, it is there- waiting- if we ever decide to turn our back on God and go back to our mess. The enemy would love nothing more than to get us back to where God brought us out of. That's why it is so important to keep our eyes on Jesus, and keep pressing forward. I am so thankful for God and everything He has done. Seeing the contrast of where he brought me from makes me that much more thankful. My life now is truly a miracle- only by his power. God, let me never forget just how deep your love for me runs, and just how much you have shown me that by the way you have changed my life!

Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth.
1 Chronicles 16:12