Potemkin Village

In 1787 while on a journey through newly acquired territory in Crimea, Catherine the Great toured a section along the Dnieper River with Grigory Potemkin, one of Russia’s highest military officials. Catherine was unaware that Grigory had set up fake villages along the River to fool her into believing that this section of Crimea was prospering.

While having a discussion with my husband about putting up facades, my husband recounted his time going to Pigeon Forge on weekends when he lived in Knoxville (almost a decade ago). He said he would pass by these large ornate theaters which always seemed out of place or too much for their surroundings. Curious to see what was inside and expecting the grand exterior to be reflected on the interior, he was surprised to find a small metal warehouse like building behind the large facade.

People are good at creating facades. All you need to do is go on Facebook and you will get the best version of everyone. You can untag yourself from less than attractive angles of yourself (I am totally guilty of this!) but you can’t untag yourself from realities of life. We are stuck with ourselves and our situations however not appealing or attractive that may be.  I was an expert at hiding my husbands addiction and pretending everything was ok. I realize now I wasn’t just fearful of people’s perceptions but I was also in denial of the horrible situation created by his addiction.

You can only keep the facade up for so long before people start knocking on the door. Then they find the exterior isn’t aligning with the scary interior.

I have spoken about transparency before but I feel more urgency now with our need to reach out and be honest about our struggles. We are worried about what people might think if we confess what’s happening in our lives but even more worrisome is coming face to face with the problem and what the fallout will look like. You ask yourself questions like “will my friends think less of me if they knew? What will this mean for our family and what will have to change? Will we have to get counseling? Will my spouse have to quit their job and go into treatment? Should I consider Divorce? What do I do?” Its a very helpless feeling. I have been through the seasons of denial but then it all started to unravel. I couldn’t control it anymore. I couldn’t control his drinking anymore. I couldn’t take the keys away again or worry about being out in public and feeling the embarressment. I couldn’t do IT ANYMORE. I was exhausted. I was running out of clever excuses and ready for him to deal with this addiction and frankly didn’t care what anyone thought or what might have to change in our family. I WAS DONE. I called my family and close friends. You see, when you give it up to the Lord you find out what true surrender means.

I’ve given my testimony a few times in the last few months and each time I am reminded about what the Lord did for us in that horrible time of our lives. How gently He guided us out of this facade we had created and gave us a new life. A fresh start. Free from the bondage of this delusional control. Light was now on the lies.

God knows whether we drink everyday or drink too much too often, or sneak that pain pill, or creep onto the computer for pornography. He knows when we tell people for the 10th time that our spouse isn’t feeling good when in reality they are hung over and laying on the couch again. He hears the excuses we give and the things we are afraid to admit. But He patiently waits on us to come face to face with our truth. He is ready to hold us through it. I have lived with secrets. I have held up the appearance. I have told myself the lies: “it’s not that bad” or “it could be worse.” The lies will consume you.

Your truth is this: It is that bad. It is a facade and it will get worse.

It will be painful to be honest about it. It will hurt your family. You may have to go through treatment or therapy. You may have to confront your spouse or family member. But taking that risk of the outcome is far better than continuing to live in this facade and believing this isn’t your life and this will never happen to you. I can easily say that when I stopped worrying about what others thought and started focusing on what I needed to face, I felt an amazing sense of strength. A willingness to be vulnerable is far easier than the exhaustion from hiding a secret life. Be authentic, face it, and knock down the facade. You might be surprised by how people respond to your honesty but more importantly you will get to know God through these circumstances and see Him do all that He has promised.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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I dare you Ragamuffin

Ragamuffins are:

[an] unsung assembly of saved sinners, who are little in their own sight, aware of their brokenness, and powerlessness before God. They know they are only a beggar at the door of Gods mercy.

This weekend I watched the movie “Ragamuffin”. I found it randomly on Netflix (I say random even though I know Netflix knows ALL about me). When I find a movie I believe is worth it, I like to let people know and this is a good one. But it’s a good idea to let you know that it isn’t your typical Christian film. There is still some B level acting but that’s not what I focused on. It is actually an incredibly honest movie. The title got my attention since I am a fan of Brennan Manning who wrote Ragamuffin Gospel. A book on my top 10 books on faith. It’s a challenging read but worth every second of your time. (YES, READ THAT BOOK!)

The movie is the biopic of Rich Mullins, a contemporary Christian singer from the late 80’s to early 90’s. I didn’t know much about Rich Mullins. I knew his most famous song was “Awesome God” which I always liked but my favorite song of his was “Hold Me Jesus”. I knew he had died in a tragic car accident in the mid 90’s. He was an incredibly gifted song writer who wrote many of Amy Grants songs and some other famous Christian artists but also had his own singing career for a short period. That was the extent of what I knew about him. I didn’t realize how painfully at odds Rich was with the box he was supposed to fit in to be in that genre of music at the time. He drank. He smoked. He wore t-shirts and ripped jeans.He played in front of churches with his bare feet and all of that is in the movie. I am sure he made a lot of Christians uncomfortable. But Rich really didn’t care about that too much. He was who he was. Broken.  The movie does a great job of putting it all out there. The honest picture of a Christian who didn’t have it all together. Who didn’t have it all figured out. Who wasn’t good at playing this church thing.

There are several points in the movie that spoke to me like when his friend popped in the tape (yes, it’s the early 90’s) of Brennan Manning speaking live at Woodcrest in Columbia, Missouri. It was a powerful moment. When Brennan asked the one question Jesus will ask “Did you believe I loved you?” I had to take a deep breath. My chest actually tightened up. This speech moved Rich Mullins to pull the car over. His soul was stirred to the point he couldn’t do anything but cry. Have you ever had a moment like that? A moment that you realize how much Jesus loves you? When you hear Him say I love you for who you are, not who you should be, because no one is who they should be.

There are many moments in the movie when I understood him. When I have felt that loneliness, the anger, that longing. I think a lot of people who see this movie will say it is “dark”. And I agree, it is. But I also believe there are a lot of put together Christians out there, walking around with scars that are afraid to shed light on their stories for fear of what would happen. They think “what would happen if people knew who I really am?” and they are overdue to see a movie like this. The good news about this movie is that it portrays the mess as much as the message as we are all messed up, unworthy, and broken. I don’t want to give too much of the movie away because I think it will speak to a lot people who are due to hear the truth in it but I do want to leave you with this brief video of Brennan Manning at Woodcrest. (Also, if you do watch the movie, the guy who plays Rich is a good actor but the wig he wears is terrible…sorry, had to say that. My only negative!)

Rent it. I dare you.

Love,

This Ragamuffin Named Leigh

My husbands testimony

One of the most sacred things that Christians have is their testimony. We must protect it at all costs. No one can shut it down with their own philosophies. It isn’t a bunch of words you are talking(preaching) about. It is the action of your life. It is your story.  It is the moment when Christ began a good work in you. It is ongoing, it is always changing as seasons of our lives transition from easy “normal” days to the most difficult days we have ever known. Recently, my husband was asked to give his testimony in the newsletter that his ministry sends out. Now that it was in print I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share it on this blog.

On Thanksgiving of 2008 while attending the Hebron program I received an index card that had a simple quote stating: “An extraordinary plan for your life will mean an extraordinary trial to prepare you.” They also referenced James 1:12. It is not signed and I’m not really sure who wrote it, but I have held on to this card for many years. It permanently resides on the front of my refrigerator. James 1:12 (NIV) says: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” This verse (and quote) that we reference daily didn’t have much meaning early on in my new walk with Christ. Later though, it would prove as a daily reminder of God’s grace and mercy upon me and my family all the while giving direct instruction for our new lives in Christ.

My trials with alcohol started at an early age. Fast forward through a “lively” college era and a prosperous professional career and I arrived at 2008 where alcohol had become the center of my life. In 2008 I was coming off some of the most lucrative professional years of my life. I was married to the most beautiful Godly woman and we were expecting our first child. Life was good…Right? Well, despite all of God’s numerous blessings I found myself going into in a very dark place until my entire life became unmanageable due to alcohol. It was nothing short of a miracle that I learned about Hebron Colony Ministries and I began a journey that was no less miraculous.

I have my family to thank for paving a firm foundation in my life. I grew up with positive Christian influences in my life. When I embarked on attending Hebron Colony in 2008, it came with loving support from not only my expecting wife, but also my immediate and extended family. I looked forward to seeing God’s plan for my life unfold like many powerful testimonies I had heard from men who had taken the same journey through the Hebron program. The feelings of anxiety I had when I first arrived at Hebron Colony were quickly replaced with feelings of love and security that I had not experienced in long time. There are still no words to put it into proper perspective.

It was not long after arriving at Hebron Colony that I learned about the power of prayer and what a “relationship” with Christ really looked like. God used these men, the staff and ultimately His word to draw me back to Himself where I eagerly recommitted myself to Him for His purpose during my time at Hebron. While in the 10 week program my wife wrote me a letter. In that letter she spoke to me about what our life might look like given our new life. What I realized is that she was sharing this with me as a hope and a prayer. It was how she envisioned herself standing up and giving a testimony at Hebron for what we would have been through and how the Lord brought us through.

This is an excerpt from her letter:

“This is my husband Kirk and we have now been married for almost 5 years and we’re blessed with two beautiful children. Life wasn’t always so grand though. Our second year of marriage when I was pregnant with our first child his drinking became a severe problem and wreaked havoc on his health, our marriage and our families. There were many sad nights and days that seemed to never end. I cried out to the Lord alone in my room to heal him and protect me. I felt like the hand of God had left our marriage and was in a complete state of despair all the while Kirk slipped deeper into an alcoholic coma – there is no other was to describe it. Finally the Lord brought Hebron Colony Ministries into our lives and not a moment too soon. I was 4 months pregnant and 70 days seemed like a long time but the darker days could be coming to an end. When Kirk came home right before the birth of our baby he was a completely changed man. The Lord had restored peace in his heart, and a commitment to stay clean and sober not by his own strength but by the strength God gives us when we call out to him for help. I am so grateful that he was here for the birth of our first child and could believe that he would be the father he had always wanted to be. Since that time in our own lives the Lord has continued to help us through as a family and we are stronger than we could ever hope for on our own. To this day Kirk has never had a desire to drink again and I have continually supported this by not letting it be a part of my life. So here we are 5 years later and I am so in love with my husband, my children and most importantly my Savior Jesus Christ. He saves us from ourselves and He rescued my husband from himself and gave him back to me as a new man, changed forever by the grace of God.”

This letter had a profound effect on me. I keep it to remind myself of where we are now, how far we have come, and all that God has redeemed in our lives.

I returned once more to Hebron in 2010 broken beyond measure having turned away from God’s plan and will for my life and not understanding why. By God’s grace I was allowed to return and experienced radical transformation. By this time I was on the verge of losing everything. My wife, my child, my family, my friends, my job. What I came to realize this time is that I had only surrendered 99% of my troubles, burdens and self at the foot of the cross. It was out beside the Hebron Chapel that I fell to my knees. I said a simple prayer asking God to reveal to me “the known and unknown” that was deep seeded in my heart. Instantaneously, God revealed to me what it was that was fueling my drunkenness and pain: feelings of abandonment, resentment, shame, guilt, etc… It was that remaining 1% that I was finally able to turn over to Him. When I came to I saw one of my Hebron brothers passing by and for a moment I looked at that man with eyes of Christ. He allowed me to experience for a moment the outpouring of love Christ has for us. I believe God showed this to me for a reason and placed a calling on my life to serve Him. This was April of 2010 and I was a new creation saved by God’s grace.

In April of 2015 it will be five years since that calling.
We shall always remain amazed at His love for us and how He graciously answered that single prayer and hope that my wife wrote so many years ago. My wife and I now have a beautiful 5 year old daughter and a one year old son. God continues to provide for our family and we thank Him each day for allowing us to serve Him in the very ministry that provided an opportunity to change our lives forever. We thank God for our “extraordinary” lives and even the trials we’ve endured not our own strength but His alone.
In His Service,

Kirk M. Hamilton, Jr. Graduate 2010
Administrative Staff, Hebron Colony Ministries

Hamilton Family Final (46)

The Root

Have you ever looked up the definition of the word “root” ? Most people wouldn’t because they know the answer. The title of this blog sent me to find the definition and I was amazed at how this one word is used in our language. It’s a noun with multiple meanings and a verb with multiple meanings. The root is the most important part of a plant. The health of a root determines how well a plant grows. And so I think with addiction. The root of the issue is deep. It requires light to be shed on it so the issue is revealed. If the roots rot then the plant or flowers die. And so it is with us. If the root of the addiction goes unacknowledged then nothing ever gets resolved and it infects every part of your being. The addiction to substance is just a signal that you have underlying issues. Much like a plant turns brown or wilts. We can see what is happening on the outside but we don’t know how to deal with whats on the inside.

And there’s one simple reason: It goes down deep…like into the soul, deep.

For some, the thought of digging the past up is not appealing. They buried it a long time ago and are content to let it stay buried. But if we bury our shame, guilt, hurt, and pain does it go away? No. It still exists. It’s rooted remember? The problem with addiction is that we have reduced it to a substance problem. The death of Robin Williams triggered this because he had said in a recent article that he was going back to rehab because he had never dealt with the root of the issue. He was sober for 20 years and the root was never dealt with. I read an article recently written by the the editor of the Good News website. In it he references the book Out of the Shadows (2001) by Dr. Patrick Carnes who identified 4 underlying issues in addiction. These are:

• I am, at the core, an unworthy person.

• Nobody could ever love me if they truly knew who I am.

• No one will ever be able to meet my needs; therefore, I must meet my own needs.

• The addictive agent is my greatest need.

The first issue is often caused by childhood trauma in a dysfunctional family and includes either emotional or physical abuse. The child can either be a witness to the abuse between the parents or become the victim themselves. The child can identify themselves with shame and unworthiness.

The second issue is feelings of rejection and part of the fall out of the first issue. They begin to feel like no one can love them if their own parents can’t and this feeds the behavior and anticipation of rejection. And the substance unconsciously masks the rejection that no one can love them if they new who they really were or how bad the addiction really is.

The third follows with no one ever being able to meet their needs. The first two have created a void in their life so the third naturally follows. “Relying on self prevents seeking help.” This also affects their view of a need for God and they remain trapped in their belief that they don’t need anyone…especially not God.

And then comes the most devastating issue. The addictive agent. It comes as a relief because it is identified with the greatest moments of pleasure and distraction. And just like a vacuum waiting to be filled by something…ANYthing, a person will find a substance to fill that void. It doesn’t matter if it’s dangerous. As it calls it in the article, “the agent” will be identified at an early age. Some try alcohol and then progress to harder drugs because the void isn’t filled. And some are just fine with alcohol because it numbs what needs to be numbed and then it becomes the obligatory crutch.

So you see what I mean when I say deep. Layers and layers. It starts somewhere. It doesn’t just happen. It has a root. Addiction is a band aid. It masks. It hides. It….buries.

20 years of sobriety and then it rears its head. I don’t know Robin Williams story. I don’t know what lead to issues with depression. I don’t know what his root was. But even he knew he had one. Something made him lose hope. This void that can’t be filled? It’s God. Simple right? What addiction and depression point to is our need to be saved from ourselves. That we cannot do this life by our own willpower. A lot of people have tried. There are even people who have created a successful life but without God what is the point of that? You are successful and live well and are nice to people and do good…but then what? God has created us for a purpose. When our identity is created by the world then we can’t get mad at God for the path we have chosen. For the addict, the challenge is to unravel this identity. They have to learn how to lean into God. To rely on Him again. To feel safe in giving up our strongholds. To trust again. To go back to that childhood moment. To see that child you were…sitting there as a victim or witness and instead, now you see Jesus wrap his mighty arms around this child and say, “It is over. I am here and have been since the beginning.”

 

 

What Addiction Has Taught Me So Far

I am thankful for what addiction has taught me. It sounds weird to say and even stranger to type but I really consider our experience a blessing. Today I am looking back at the road we have traveled down and I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Yesterday my husband and I had one of those moments where you look at each other,  nod and say “we really have it good “. That doesn’t mean its perfect or what I imagined. It just means that we aren’t in control and it is well with our soul.

Addiction has been an good teacher. It has taught me how much we need God. I am a weak person without the Holy Spirit to guide and convict. With addiction you learn to be radically dependent on God and the strength He provides us to endure and battle through.

Addiction has taught me to be empathetic to people who struggle with dependence. I use to look at people and think “just stop doing it.” But now I realize that it is a matter of the heart and not willpower. The substance abuse is just a band aid to cover what is really ailing underneath.  Abuse is a mask to hide what you don’t want to go through.

Addiction has taught me that I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know why alcohol is so accessible and acceptable and why other drugs are illegal and frowned upon. I don’t know why people who drink in moderation look down on alcoholics. I don’t understand why the face of alcoholism is a homeless person living under a bridge.  I want to know how Doctors, who consistently prescribe drugs to people and don’t give alternative options, live with themselves?

Addiction has taught me to be honest with myself. I use to be really good at saying I was fine. I use to be great at highlighting the good and stuffing the bad. Well, I’m not good at it anymore and I’m glad. Hiding the bad is exhausting. I never realized how tired I was until I just stopped being “fine”. Its liberating to be honest with yourself about who you are, who you are married to, and that bad things (addiction especially) happen to good people.

Addiction has taught me to how to be strong. You think your a strong person. You think you can handle anything. You think you have control of your life. And then it all goes away. Your willpower, the control, the love, the empathy. Then you have to pick yourself up off the floor, dust yourself off, and learn how to let go. When you learn how to let go, you learn how to be strong. Being co-dependent was my addiction. When I finally let go of what I thought I needed to do for my husband, he got sober…and I was free, strong, and a new creation.  Amazing.

Addiction has taught me to ask for help.  I was a pretty independent person. I always have been. But people who are this independent don’t like asking for help. Its in their nature. Asking for help makes you appear weak, dependent, and shamed. The most humble day was calling my parents to ask for help. It was the hardest phone call I have ever made. It was admitting that our life was wreak. I was admitting that I didn’t have it all put together. I was at the end of the rope. But I did it. And we are here. A living testimony to Jesus, that you can be healed. The greatest moment of courage was picking up the phone and its a decision I have never regretted. I learned to ask for help.

It will be 4 years on February 22, 2014 (1,460 days!!!) and in those 4 years I have learned more from addiction about myself than any class could ever teach. You can learn plenty from books, but that’s just head knowledge. You can walk around with pretty quotes and sound intellectual. You can talk about your philosophies of life and what you say you believe. But go through the fire, come out the other side, and people will actually start believing in the Faith and philosophies you have proclaimed. Addiction has taught me about what it really means to have Faith because I didn’t know what the outcome would be of going through this, but I finally believed that I wasn’t writing the story anymore. It was a leap of Faith to give it all up. The Great Author has the pen now and I look forward to each chapter ahead.

Hamilton Family Final (81)

Testify

“If people don’t know your testimony, then they don’t know you”

My mom said this to me the other day. It hit me hard. I hope my close my friends can say this about me. I hope people I just casually know can they say this about me. My husband is really open about when his life changed and gave it to Jesus. He has no reason not to share it. Our testimony is THE ONE THING that people cannot argue with, philosophize about, or wash out with scientific facts. Why? Because it is OUR story. It is our account of a spiritual moment that happened in our lives that changed us forever. It is a defining moment. I have had several defining moments…one when I was 6 years old and even at that tender age I knew that I was broken, sinful. I accepted Jesus. The second came when my husband was in the throws of his addiction and I laid everything at the foot of the cross. All of my control of the situation, all of my expectations, my whole life. Its funny because when I say “my whole life”, its kind of hard to fathom what that means. Let me put it to you in a story…

Recently, my husband and I moved to a new home. The position of the house and the way that we get direct sunlight is dead on in the mid afternoon. My 6 months old sons room is on that side of the house and I knew that we would need some heavy duty curtains to block the sun. In our old house that we rented, there were the most perfect curtains for his room. The thick sun-blocking kind. But they didn’t belong to us. They belonged with the house. My husband and I don’t make a lot of money so really heavy curtains like that can be incredibly expensive. Trust me. So, I thought that I would write a letter to our landlord and see if he and his wife would be willing to sell me the curtains and I offered a price. I didn’t hear anything for a while and we were moving that weekend. The Friday before the move on Monday we received an email from the landlord turning down the offer. I knew there was a possibility for a “no” since they were trying to sell the house. I was admittedly let down. I didn’t have a plan B yet. That night as I was plotting and figuring it out, I found myself looking at the curtains (and rocking my son to sleep) and PRAYING…Praying for curtains. I couldn’t believe I was praying for curtains but I said “Lord, you know what we need when we need so I am trusting you even on this small little curtain thing.” So when I say my whole life…I mean every small detail of it.

Even the curtains.

So guess what happened? The next day as we were packing we got a call from the Landlords wife. I had never spoken to her before but she had a very sweet voice. She said she was sad to see us go but understood we needed to do what was best for our family. Then she said the most amazing thing. She said, “Leigh, I’ve been thinking about the curtains and decided that I want your family to have them. I don’t need them and  thought I should call you and let you know that they are yours.” Well, I tried not to cry on the phone. My voice was shaky and I told her thank you. I told her that she will never know what a blessing that is to our family. This is how amazing God is. HE CARES ABOUT CURTAINS! More importantly though, he heard my little voice that night and answered that prayer so sweetly.

The impact of that answer to my prayer is not lost on me. It goes beyond me and what I needed because it is God showing up in our lives at every turn. The answer won’t always be yes or what we want but it is exactly what we need when we need it. I have heard people say that God doesn’t answer their prayers. My response is, sometimes no answer is the answer. And we have to be ok with that. Because there is a plan. The plan is to have Faith in all circumstances of life. Even down to the curtains. So today, I am telling this story to testify, to bear witness to, to give an account for what God does in my life and FAITHFULLY continues to work on in me.

If you are a Christian reading this blog then I would encourage you to start telling your story. Share your testimony with the friends and family you love, with your co-workers, with people you just met. You never know what will happen but at least you can say that they heard your testimony.  My mom tells me that the greatest legacy you can leave is a legacy of Faith. It is the only gift we can give that has eternal value.

I am posting a video of 3 people who give their testimony and how they were changed forever. These are their defining moments. We all have them….keep sharing yours.

7 years down

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.”— Helen Keller

October 21, 2006

It was the most perfect fall. No really. PERFECT! Bright blue sky.  A high of 70 degrees. Cool at night. The sun was setting with that beautiful autumn haze of orange and pinks. My husband and I stood before the church at All Saints and said “yes” to marriage. It was bliss. I looked at this man and decided to take the ultimate journey with him. Not asking whats ahead.  Just diving in because love is that powerful.

Here we are now. Married. Seven years later and I look back at that girl who said “I do” and I am glad I didn’t know what was to come. Would I have chosen this path? I don’t know. The world would have told me to say no. It wouldn’t make any sense. That would be crazy. Who would ask for heartache like that? But I did and the journey changed me. For good. For the gift of the message. The message that God loves us, no matter what. When we are at our lowest. When we yell at Him with anger because we don’t have answers. When our heart hurts so bad that you wish you could rip it out of your chest. Yeah. He loves us then.

I am so thankful for this man I married. He has such courage. Such conviction for standing for the truth. He is the man that I prayed for when I was young. I wanted someone strong in Faith that could lead a family. He wasn’t like that in the beginning. But then again, I wasn’t who I should have been either. But the foundation was there. The stage was set for a big life changing, gut wrenching, go through the fire kind of moment. When you go through that you have two choices: Blame God for your bad choices or look in the mirror. I am thankful we both chose the mirror. Finally.

On the day that my husband graduated from the program at Hebron I remember standing up in that chapel, as I had many times before, and singing “Victory In Jesus”. The words had passed my lips a thousand times before but on this day they meant something real. The victory over the addiction had been won. Jesus marched in and saved us. Tears rolled down my checks as I sang. I couldn’t really get the words out but it was like I was hearing the song for the first time. It meant something this time. I wasn’t just standing there with a hymnal robotically singing these words. I was the one who had experienced the victory. My husband was free of this bondage and our lives would never be the same.

So here we are at year seven. The last three 1/2 after sobriety have been the most joyous of our lives. We have so much to celebrate. So much to thank God for. For two beautiful children. For a roof over our head. For my husbands job of working with men who are at lowest point like he was and being a living testimony that this bondage doesn’t have to be their story. For my job and the friends that I have made there…they know my story and accept me for it.  For our church family and friends and friends we left behind at the beach that have kept up with us and this journey…cheering us on the whole way. I am glad to know you all!

My faith, seven years later, is forged and sealed. But other storms will come. If you are a person of faith and know how this being a follower Christ works then you know that you should rejoice in these times of calm and peace but understand that more is to come. Maybe not to you but people you love. We don’t know why but we know who is in charge. And I trust Him. All of the evidence in last seven years (and my whole life really) has His fingerprints all over it. If I didn’t acknowledge that He loves that much, that He cares that much then I would be in contempt for not giving Him the glory. So to God be the glory for revealing Himself in our mess. For showing up. For getting us through it.  For crossing the heavens to escort us out of the darkness and into the light.

7 years down. Eternity to go. And to my husband, thank you for sharing this journey with me. I love you.

Are you crazy?

Why give birth naturally? Are you crazy? I have gotten this response a lot lately. Its surprising and eye opening. I have now given birth twice. The first time with an epidural and the second time without any medical interventions. It wasn’t an easy decision. I must be honest, the moment that the nurse came to me while in labor and asked what my birth plan was…I paused. I had a chance to cave. I knew I wouldn’t be judged for it either. I was incredibly tempted at 6 cm to call this thing and get the epidural. But then I opted out and just looked at the nurse and said through near tears “no meds please”. She almost said “are you sure?”  I am glad she held back.

So how did I come to this decision? I knew after giving birth to my first that I would investigate this natural childbirth more in depth. I am one of those strange people who are interested in pushing the body to do what it is supposed to do and as women, we are created to give birth. I started my research by watching a documentary called “The Business of Being Born”. If you are pregnant now and interested in this process then I highly recommend this documentary. It gave me the confidence to believe that I COULD do this. If all of these women did it, then why couldn’t I? I wanted the raw experience because I will never be doing this again…so why not give it my best shot? After all, as a society aren’t we a little too quick to pop a pill when we feel any pain? I know I was. My husband just laughed when I told him I wanted to do this naturally. Then he realized I was serious. He knew my threshold for pain was very low. Well, that’s what I thought about myself anyway. I decided to challenge myself in a way I never have before. To make this body work like it is supposed to. It was one of the best MOST PAINFULLY FULFILLING decisions I have ever made.

As women, giving birth naturally can be one of the most emotional experiences we ever have. You are bringing a child into the world. Your body, for 9 months goes through an enormous upheaval and your comfort level decreases monthly. I am not one of those women who enjoys pregnancy. I will just get it out there. I would consider having another but the idea of pregnancy again makes me physically ill. It probably sounds at odds with the giving birth naturally. Aren’t you supposed to glow for 9 months? You are supposed to be serene, happy. Like an Earth Mother. You smile and only have to push once. Well, that’s not me. But I can’t complain about it. I am keenly aware that there are women who find out they can’t have children or struggle with infertility. They would trade places with me in a minute. So for that fact alone, I don’t talk about my disdain for pregnancy but for the purpose of this blog I am trying to give the whole picture and be honest about the experience. Even though I have these feelings about pregnancy, I can’t say that the end result isn’t worth it. It is. I am in love with my children. Now, back to the birth thing…I decided to use the 9 months to prepare for the idea of giving birth naturally. I looked at the positives and the negatives and the only negative that was in the “Natural” column was this: incredibly painful. If you think about it, that really isn’t a negative. It is just a decision you make based on how you deal with pain. When I was pregnant the first time, the epidural was a given. It is what you do these days. Most women choose it. You are in the majority if you get one. The thought of doing this naturally wasn’t on the table. I was so scared of the pain that I didn’t even want to consider doing the other. But isn’t that just like life: we don’t do what scares us the most for fear of the unknown? And why do it when you have the option of drugs?

With my second child I started to question all of this. I started to think about why we choose not to experience pain anymore. We don’t have to, right? If you have pain there is probably a pill for it. With my husbands battle for sobriety, I began to pay attention to the prescription pill addiction battle that is taking place right now in this country. Its not surprising to me that it has reached epidemic proportions.If the doctor prescribes it to you, then you should take it right? More and more we hear of celebrities dying from overdoses on prescription medications (usually pain killers are involved or the mixing of a sedative) and the numbers of women overdosing is surpassing that of men. I hear stories about moms taking Xanax, Klonopin, or Ativan to be better moms and how many stories of addiction start with “I went in for surgery on my back,knee etc and….”. My husband works at a mission for men with substance abuse problems and says that 1 out of every 3 men that comes in is addicted to some kind of prescribed medication. So why is this country in such a crisis with prescription drug addiction? I believe they are easily accessible and overly prescribed. I wont say that doctors all overprescribe but they are part of the problem. Some are becoming more diligent and regulating but at the tragic expense of many casualties that have lost the battle with addiciton. What scares me the most is that we are so afraid to feel pain that we don’t know how to get through life without a pill for whatever ails us. And for that matter, if the drug companies were in the business of making us well then they would, in effect, go out of business right? I am not saying all of this to point to a conspiracy but what I am alluding to is that we are ill equipping ourselves and our children on how NOT to deal with life. We have created an expectation that all must be good all of the time and if isn’t then there is a pill for that. The younger generations are not being told to deal with things. They are handed magic pills to help them study longer or not be sad or not have anxiety or pay attention better or get thinner. We are moving toward a society that won’t know how to deal with life in its raw form. It is a life without consequences for our choices. I am not an evolutionist but I do believe that we adapt. The tragedy is what we are adapting to.

SO am I really crazy for wanting to experience childbirth in its natural state? I chose this route to see if I could do it. To see if I could work through the pain. And I did it. It gave me incredible self confidence of what I can endure. The human body is an amazing thing. Our tolerance for pain (physically) is much more than what we give ourselves credit for. If we take away the highs and lows, the emotion, the sadness, the pure excitement and joy, the peaks and the valleys then we are missing out on the great human experience! Just this morning I heard Greg Laurie say to leverage your pain, don’t waste your pain (he was specifically talking about the pain of loss) and physical pain is a great analogy for mental pain. When we experience pain, both mental and physical, we learn to lean on God. C.S. Lewis said “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.” There is no pill for our heart. There is only one prescription for our heart and that’s Jesus.

http://offlabelfilm.com/

– Entered into the world naturally on April 19, 2013-

4 days old

For Father’s Day..a few days late

 

A friend of mine made mention of church messages on Fathers Day tend to be negative toward fathers while Mothers Day messages tend to be warm and fuzzy. I had to agree that this seems to be true. So for this post I want to take a minute and give Fathers a pep talk…as my friend said “be a cheerleader”.

I would like to say thank you to those Fathers who recognize the impact they have on their children as a spiritual leader in the home. The ones who strive to daily let Jesus be seen through them and how they respond to the challenges that get thrown at them. The ones who admit they aren’t perfect and never will be but at least try to be the best dad they can be.  You are making a difference in your kids life and the fruits of your labor will shine through your kids. The foundation you are laying is made of stone. Thank you for taking them to church. Thank you for opening your Bible with them. Thank you for living out your faith. WAY TO GO!!

I want to thank the Dads who day in and day out put their family before themselves as the sole provider. Some of you have jobs you don’t like more days than you actually like it but you stick it out because you know the importance of letting your kids see you work hard for what you have. You want your kids to see what work ethic looks like and not be part of the entitlement generation that seems to be headed our way. Keep up the good work men! I know you might wonder what the purpose is some days. I know you might want to walk off or quit but don’t. You are making a difference in ways you don’t know but will someday. HANG IN THERE!!

I want to thank the Dads who have had to do this dad thing alone. YOU are awesome. You chose one of the hardest careers out there: single full-time dad. The days are long and mostly thankless. The pay is zero but oh the rewards you will gain with kids who can say you were there for them! There are a lot of dads that have gone missing but you didn’t go anywhere. Those kids are lucky to have you. HURRAY for you!!

I want to thank the Dads who step up and be a Dad to kids that aren’t their own but instantly treat them as your own. You are filling a void, doing the best you can, and not asking to be loved in return. Keep on loving them. Keep on trying to win them over. Keep showing up and they will remember. My husband had a great step dad. He changed my husband’s life. He had a role model. It will have an impact. You will win them over! WAY TO GO!

And this last one is personal.

I want to thank the Dads that chose their family over addiction. That finally heard the pleas of their wife and saw the future disappointment in their children and decided they wouldn’t let that be their story. The ones that pulled themselves out of the ditch and make decisions each day not to go back. You are a redemption story. Your children will know the dangers and pitfalls from your own story. You made a great choice! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Dads are great. Dads are important. Dads matter!! Thank you for hanging in there, for sticking it out, for stepping up, for standing in, for writing the checks, for praying without ceasing, for listening, for loving, for showing up, for coaching, for teaching, for giving, for adapting, for changing (diapers…ha), for fixing things, for mowing things, for selling things, for mentoring, for throwing the ball, for playing dress up, for sliding down the slide, for kissing goodnight, for playing with dolls and transformers, for giving up your closet or the last room in the house that was “yours”, for chopping wood, for making dinner and finally for just being there.

 

Grand Canyons

It’s been a long time since I have posted. I will blame it on having a newborn. I can blame a lot on that. I will probably use that excuse until he is one or ten years old. Our son was born on April 19th. We were so excited to meet him. He doesn’t do much at the moment but I can tell he is starting to really take things in, learning and observing his little world. We are now the parent of 2. It’s exciting and scary. It has its moments…and those “moments” sometimes happen in the middle of the night. Like last night. It was a full on parenting middle of the night moment and what struck me in the middle of the night was how life (and any semblance of the old before he came) gets pushed aside. I think what bothered me the most was how my spiritual life has taken a hit. I haven’t spent any time with God and it has started to show. I am going through the motions of getting adjusted, trying to stay sane. All the while that part of my life, which is the foundation, is crumbling…so being up in the middle of the night with the baby and his congested nose was my wake up call. Its sounds silly but the Lord knows how to get our attention. Just let anything happen to one of my kids and I am on my knees praying.

Isn’t it funny how well He knows us?                                                                                   grand_canyon_scenery-12355
Isn’t it great how much He cares about spending time with us?

So my son could barely breath, much less take a bottle with all of his congestion. He even sounded like he was choking at one point. I was terrified. There isn’t any medicine to give a two month old and they cant blow their nose so all you have is saline and a horrible aspirator which makes him scream. It was 2:30 in the morning and I hadn’t even dozed off yet for fear of this happening. I was scared and felt completely alone in my own house. When it started to work and he got quiet I prayed. And then  I heard a song in my mind. It’s an older song but one of my favorites by Susan Ashton called Grand Canyon. (She is a great songwriter…where are you Susan Ashton?? Come back and write more songs!!) The lyrics have resonated with me at different times of my life. One line in particular is:

“Sometimes I feel like I’m as close as your shadow and
Sometimes I feel like I’m looking up at You from the bottom of the Grand Canyon.”

In the quiet as I fed my son I felt like I was at the bottom of that Grand Canyon again. I hadn’t been in real prayer for a while and God felt far away. But the truth is I moved, not Him.

Lord, I am sorry for putting everything else first. I am sorry that you have to go to such great lengths to get my attention. I am sorry that I have neglected the most important relationship in my life.

It always seems that I must be in some sort of crisis to be on my knees. When I was going through the battle with my husband and his addiction I was keenly aware of the Lords presence in my life. I spoke to Him all day long, prayed all day long…and now? Well, my husband and I switched roles. He is closer than ever and I am at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Another line of the song is “And I’m a long way from where I know I need to be
When there’s a Grand Canyon between You and me”

This is part of the process of moving on in life when you aren’t in crisis mode. You learn to live again but you need to learn how to keep God first now that the storm has passed. I am A LONG way from where I know I need to be and things will keep coming into my life like waves (good and bad). I need to keep afloat or I will drown. I won’t go overboard with the analogy but it really works in this case. Keeping afloat means you must keep learning, keep praying, keep diligently seeking truth and putting on the armor.  I have to learn this or I won’t grow spiritually. I will be stuck in “for emergencies only” mode and that’s not what my faith is about. God isn’t to be compartmentalized or kept in our back pocket. He should be daily…like my commitment to feed my son on a schedule. I have to actively schedule my priority with God. Having a newborn, a job, a 4 year old, and my life in general are secondary. I am sure I will have many more Grand Canyon moments in my life. But I think last night I realized that I was stuck in a pattern. If I am going to live this life on the wagon, then all of me needs to get on board. If we as Christians don’t grow and attempt to face each seasons of our life as if its our last then we will miss out on what we can learn when the storms are calmed. The storms are just temporary but we have to use what we learn from them. I learned some big lessons in my storms but the most important one is that Jesus held me up through them all and will continue to do so. I just think I would rather know Him better when the next round comes as it inevitably will.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

Here are the lyrics to Grand Canyon…check out the song if you get a chance!

I’ve seen You calm the waters raging
in the rivers of my mind
Your spirit blows a breeze into my soul
And I’ve felt the fire that warms the heart
Knowing that it comes from You
Then I’ve let it turn as cold as a stone
Sometimes I feel like I’m as close as your shadow and
Sometimes I feel like I’m looking up
at You from the bottom of the

Grand Canyon, so small and so far
From the Grand Canyon, with a hole in my heart
And I’m a long way from where I know I need to be
When there’s a Grand Canyon between You and me

I’ve had the faith that gave me strength
for moving any mountainside
I’ve felt the solid ground beneath my feet
But I’ve had the bread of idleness while
drinking from a well of doubt
And it shakes the core of all I believe
Sometimes I feel like I’m as close as your shadow and
Sometimes I feel like I’m looking up
at you from the bottom of the

When there’s a Grand Canyon between You and me

Sometimes I feel like I’m as close as your shadow and
Sometimes I feel like I’m looking up
at you from the bottom of the

When there’s a Grand, Grand Canyon between You and me

Because

This week is holy week. It is a week to reflect on the truth that Jesus came and paid it all. “All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.” That song has been ringing in my head all week. And I am so glad it has. It seems like there is a lot to distract this week from the enormity of the gift of salvation but I am choosing to actively turn my focus on what the cost of sin truly is…death. Death is certain. Morbid to think about it but we all face it. It could be today. People die everyday. What makes you believe today couldn’t be it? But how do we approach death? I couldn’t imagine living life without the hope of heaven. It would all seem without purpose. How can you live without purpose? I think there is a very obvious reason why Rick Warren’s book “A Purpose Driven Life” was so popular. People are constantly searching for it. But you can’t find the true purpose without God. It won’t make sense. With God, life makes sense. With Jesus, life is eternal. And because He lives…we can live. So death is nothing to fear in life. My husband and I talk about those that we have known that have gone on to be with the Lord. He likes to think his mother and grandmother are enjoying watching him raise a daughter and the test of patience this brings. How wonderful to have this hope of seeing these people we know again. That we are not eternally separated from them. I thank God for this hope. I thank God that He loves us so much, has such purpose for our lives, that this isn’t it for us. That this day to day stuff is just temporary and there is so much too look forward to. It says in Ecclesiastes 3:11:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

This scripture tells me that we are not made just for this earth. We have souls. Souls with the desire to find the eternal. This is why we seek for purpose. This is why something inside of us cries out “Is this all there is?” Because eternity is already in our hearts. But there is a problem with our hearts. They are evil. There are countless verses in scripture that talk about the heart of man being evil. And for this reason, bad things happen in the world. With reason, without reason. We cannot reconcile it. But because of Jesus and his defeat of death we can have hope in it. That the bad stuff can be redeemed to good and this lie of “this is all there is” is just that…a lie. The power of the resurrection cannot be denied by those that have experienced the freedom from sin and addiction. I know my husband experienced this great freedom from his darkness and I have experienced my own liberation from the bondage that this world brings. There is no other word to describe it. FREEDOM.

“But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” Romans 6:22.

Because of Christ, we can approach this holy week with confidence. WE can speak and commune with God through the one He sent to save us from ourselves. There is nothing we can do, no good deed that we can perform, that will help to alter that. It is a gift. It is hard to fathom because we feel that if we are given something so great, the gift of eternity, that we must do something in return. And all we have to do is confess that we are sinners, believe that Jesus died on the cross for OUR sins, and that he conquered death by rising on the 3rd day. It seems too easy to be hard for people to comprehend. But in this one act of selflessness, Christ made us white as snow. He washed our past away. And each day we get the choice to live for Him and do what matters in life or we can deny Him like Peter and live how we want to. There are some days I find myself like Peter. Wanting to hide in the shadows for fear of what people might think about how strongly I feel about my faith and if I were to proclaim the name of Jesus. I confess that I have days where living in my old patterns sounds like a fun idea. But then the pain of that reality pulls me back and I remember that it is not worth the price that was paid. This sanctification process has its difficult days. It has days that I wish I could just kick back, enjoy a glass of wine and say “heck with it”…but that is not the choice I made. I made a choice to deal with it head on. To pray about it and this is Life On The Wagon. And I won’t trade one moment of it…Because Jesus chose me on that day. In the garden, when He prayed to father, He chose me. With each lashing, He chose me. When they mocked Him and put a crown of thorns on His head, He chose me. When He carried the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, He chose me. When they pounded the nails into his hands and feet, HE chose me. When they lifted the cross and his body sank into the full weight of the pain, He chose me. And that is why I choose Him. Because He came for me. Because He lives, I live. cross

4GVN

I haven’t posted in over a week yet and I think I know why. Some life stuff got thrown my way and now we are dealing with it as best we can. I had a car accident. It was an incredibly scary moment. For myself, but even more for my baby and hoping that all is ok with him. I am 8 1/2 months pregnant so this couldn’t have happened at a worse time. In the midst of such joy, we are now having to scramble and get a new vehicle and worry about the babies health. We don’t know why we get these things thrown at us. But the best approach is to see the positive in it. The baby is fine. I am fine. No broken bones. Just broken cars. Mine was totaled which wasn’t a great thing financially but none the less it happened and we have the means to deal with it.

I keep playing the moment back in my head when I went off the road. It was a mountain cold morning. Some light snow was falling. School had been canceled again because of icy roads. The road I was driving looked just fine. And that’s when I took a hairpin turn and went straight instead of turning. I had that feeling of being absolutely out of control. By instinct I pressed the breaks but realized this wasn’t going to end well. I have had a thousand dreams where I am driving and then lose control only to wake up and realize it was just a dream. This time, it wasn’t a dream. When I “woke up” I was 15 feet down in ravine with the car laying flat on the driver’s side and I was staring directly at a creek. It took me a little bit of time to get it together. To realize where I was. To grasp the enormity of what just happened. Then I self-evaluated everything and thought, “Ok, I have got to get out of here.” But how? At first I was panic-stricken because the passenger side door was too heavy for me lift in my condition. I stood there for a moment (on the driver’s side door) with the passenger side door resting on my head and my arms taking a rest. I listened to the quiet. Snow was falling. Absolute silence. No cars coming. And if they did, they wouldn’t have seen me there. I took a moment, shut my eyes and prayed “lord, what do I do?” I shut the door back and took some deep breaths. I picked up my phone and called my husband. He was the only voice I wanted to hear on the other end of the line. He would know what to do. I called every number and he didn’t pick up. I knew he had just taken my daughter to daycare and was probably in the building. I dialed again and prayed, “Lord, please let him pick up.” On the fifth ring I heard his voice. Relief rushed over me. I sobbed and somehow managed to get out the words, “I ran the car off the road and I am in a ditch” (thinking back on this now I am so glad I didn’t let him now how bad it really was) and then tried to remember what road I was on. It wouldn’t come to me. I drive this road everyday and just kept saying “you know, the MAIN road.” Finally, it came to me. He knew where I was, he knew what to do. He said, “I am coming. I will call 911. Just stay calm. I love you.” As I stood vertically in the horizontal vehicle I prayed for the baby again and then started to make my way out of the car. I realized there was only one way out: the passenger side window. Thank God the window came down. Thank God this vehicle protected me and the baby. Thank goodness the window was big enough for me to climb through (I am not a size 8 right now). I climbed out onto the car clutching my purse and jumped off into the creek. I didn’t wear enough clothing. It was one of those days that a fleece pullover wasn’t enough. I should have brought my big coat. I made my way out of the creek and into the cold so I could be seen. I listened to the quiet. I closed my eyes and prayed for help to come soon. Then my baby boy kicked and I cried again. He was ok. From inside the womb he was letting me know he was ok. Relief again. Over and over the Lord kept showing up with His mighty protection. I hear a car creeping down the road and see the Blowing Rock Police Department car pull up. It was a young guy that got out of the car. He yelled down and asked if I was ok. I cried….again (Am I overly emotional because of the pregnancy? Maybe. However I do have tendency to cry or have a lip quiver when I am talking to someone about something sensitive in subject). The nice young man let me sit in his warm car until my husband arrived. I watched as emergency crews pulled up on the scene and put their flashing red lights. Some of them stare into the police car to see who (what kind of woman) did this. I look away embarrassed by the whole scene. I see them making a plan to get the car out and talking on their walkie talkies. I look down at my poor car laying on its side and in the creek. I loved this car. My husband had gotten a special license tag on the car that at first I detested. 4GVN. I wasn’t excited about it because I thought “well, now I can’t cut anybody off when I’m driving!!” Its like the Christian fish being on your car. It labels you and you better be aware of it because you are identifying yourself to people. They will expect a lot out of you. So there, in the creek, was the “4GVN” trooper. I could just hear people’s thoughts as they saw the car “yeah, you better hope your husband forgives you.” I thought about that a lot. Would he be upset with me? His response was exactly what I thought it would be. He was concerned for me. For the babies safety. He was glad I was ok. He was awesome. Not once did he get upset with me. I knew the financial strain this would bring with a baby on the way and he didn’t waver once in his reaction. Calm, concerned, controlled. I needed him that day. I needed to have his calmness surround me that day. It was a blessing. It confirmed to me that we were meant to be together. That I needed his clarity of thought and control when it seems like the world turns upside down and lands you in a creek. I am just so thankful for him.

I am sad to see the old Trooper go. It was a great car. It had some issues but was (normally) great in the dicey weather up here. I am thankful that it was the car I was in when the accident happened. It was big and sturdy. It did a great job in protecting us. I don’t know what would have happened in another car but this is how it was meant to play out. It’s hard to believe in moments like these that God is orchestrating some great plan with this car accident. It feels like we are going through a season of car failures all the time. But there is a plan and I have to faith in it. My new car is an older mini van. It was on my “I will never have one of those” plan. But now I am just glad to have it. I secretly like it. But don’t tell my husband. He will think he won the battle.