Finding Joy In The Trough

It’s been a tough year in our family. No way around that.

I retreat when I’m in a process. I reflect. I withdraw. But then I let things slowly start to flow out, when I’m ready to say things without becoming a mess of running mascara and quivering lip.

We’ve been faced with some of the toughest moments in our marriage due to health related issues, employement changes and some other tough stuff I never saw coming. My husband has been sober for almost 8 years now and I can only guess it was time. I forget this though. The Lord is always preparing us for what’s next whether we realize it or not and for the last 8 years He has been putting purpose into the small, ordinary and big moments of our lives to prepare us.

I confess that I secretely believed I had “paid my dues” in the early days of this sobriety journey with him. I thought, “Ok, this is it. This the hand I’ve been dealt”. Wrong. SO so wrong. I pridefully sat on top of the mountain and declared we had made it through thinking we could just coast in with medals for overcoming. Oh how misguided Leigh to believe that God was done with you! This confession proves the necessity for spiritual growth in myself.

He’s not done stretching me, our marriage, our parenting and our life as a whole. He will never be done until our last breath so thinkining this can be dangerous for the mind. Your time card getting stamped doesn’t exempt you from heartache, the trenches…the trough. But figuring out how to be joyful in this season has been my greatest challenge.

We are admittedly in a trough and I’ve been chewing and mulling over this post for months now thinking about how to say this, how to bring our current circumstance together into one neat spreadsheet of cause, effect and this is what we’re working on now. I don’t have a spreadsheet or a playbook but I do have scripture and C.S. Lewis. Recently, I picked up the Screwtape Letters again. I realized I picked it up because I needed a new perspective. I needed to not see what was happening in our life daily and what I was laser focused on with health problems we have been navigating. The whole book leaped into my arms like a gift.

If you’ve never read The Screwtape Letters it’s worth the short read. The context is a senior level demon (named Screwtape) writes letters to his newbie demon nephew named Wormwood. Screwtape is giving him tips, insights into how to do this job well, getting these humans off track, distracted, broken down so that there is no way they can truly believe in the enemy (God).

In one single excerpt from Screwtape’s letter I recognized what I was in the process of:

“Now, it may suprise you to learn that in His (Gods) efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, God relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else…It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it (the human) is growing into the sort of creature He (God) wants it to be…He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there, He is pleased even with their stumbles.” 

(Side note: Of course Screwtape goes on to discuss how to exploit these moments of our lives. My answer to this: Dear Screwtape, You lose. Move on. Thanks, Leigh)

I know this. I am aware that with every blow of the chisel He is shaping us. I guess I just wasn’t expecting this blow of the chisel. It came in from the back. What I’ve been getting over and now through are the feelings I can’t avoid and have to process: The why’s, the what’s, the how much longers?

What I’ve determined is this: I don’t know. I don’t know how much longer, I don’t know why and I certainly don’t know what. But I’ve had to shift my focus onto what I do know, the hopes that I can rest in, and the truth that directs my and my husbands life.

Finding Joy in this place, despite the circumstance, has been the greatest challenge. I want to throw the covers over my head and come back out when we are on the other side of this tunnel but my faith, my husband, my children, my coworkers and everyone around me deserves more than that from me. They should be seeing someone who despite the circumstance can laugh, can engage with life, can face the music, puts one foot in front of the other and pushes forward WITH joy.

Heres the thing about deciding to follow Christ: It is not easy. In fact, its really really hard. I know, I know. I am making this real appealing for non believers but I’m not one to paint a false picture. If you come into Faith with knowledge that this going to be hard but incredibly worth it and entirely skip over the “this is going to be hard” part then you won’t have full understanding. You WILL get more than you can handle. You WILL be heartbroken by people of the same Faith who let you down and break your spirit, you WILL have moments that you will think you can’t take anymore, you WILL want to cry in the closet and run away, you WILL be incredibly disappointed by dreams that take new shape. This is the bad news. But the reason for all of these “WILLs” is to show us our lacking, our depravity, our weakness, and reveal areas of self-reliance.

But here’s the good. I always save the good for last because this is why you jump over the fence, put your feet on the ground and then put one foot in front of the other:

In a dirty, lacking, and broken trough many centuries ago a sweet baby boy was born and He changed our outcome forever. 

That’s the JOY in the trough. Jesus is the only reason to keep moving forward. He is hated by the Wormwoods and the Screwtapes. They fear Him because they know the truth and  truth is something Screwtape and Wormwood can never offer. The truth that He can carry us through the valleys, increase our strength (Isaiah 40:31), lead us beside still waters when we walk through the Vally of the Shadow of Death (Psalm 23),  and rescue us when our spirits are crushed (Psalm 34:18). All we have to do is just stay on course and keep our eyes on Him. That’s it.

In the movie Chariots of Fire Eric Liddel gives a sermon after winning a race. He uses the race as an analogy of faith much like Apostle Paul does in the New Testament and I love the way that Eric used this analogy to speak to the audience who came to see him run:

“You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape-especially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe your dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job. So who am I to say “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is within your. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me.” If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.” 

I cannot argue with this truth because God has permanent possession of my soul and I believe that we are in the race of our lives. This last year has sidelined us and our commitment to help people going through addiction recovery but I felt like it was time to share the message that you will get sidetracked, sidelined, sideswiped but what’s important is to recognize what’s happening to you.

Keep your eyes on the baby in the trough and somehow, outside of yourself, find TRUE Joy in the midst.

Have a Merry Christmas Friends.

The Best News!

We are eternal. Isn’t that the best news?

I buckle the kids in the minivan. I worry if I have enough snacks. I check to make sure I packed the pull-up. Then I remember. I am eternal. EEEEK. In all of these day to day tasks, I stop myself and remember this. Wow. Eternal! 

I have written this post about 3 times now and the one thing that kept circling in my mind was this: we are eternal. I started to focus on this fact and here is what I came to realize: if we truly believe that we are eternal then won’t that change the way we live our lives? Truly believe it. After chewing on it for a while I started to think about how our perspective on life would change if we began to fully believe it. We would start to respect our bodies and our lives as something sacred. We would respect people’s lives and see value in them because we would remember: they are eternal too. Your outlook, as a whole, changes. You don’t get caught up in the temporary thoughts, frustrations and desires of the world. Things that might trip you up or aggravate you get washed out by the focus on eternity. Paul wrote in the book of Colossians (3:2) “Set your mind things above, not on earthly things”. Paul understood this kind of thinking. He was fully focused on the eternal and not the finite. It helped him escape traps of this world that bind us up and keep us from the doing the work that God has to do.

I get caught up in the finite. A lot. There…I said it! But in order to make this post authentic I challenged myself to really put the focus on the infinite. You start reminding yourself about what will truly last, what will end and you see your life focus change. I don’t think we realize how often we are seeking eternity. We try to create it here on earth. We seek the things that give us joy, pleasure, excitement but they aren’t sustainable. The high will always have low. The fun of the party will always have a next day hangover. The trip to the exotic will always come back to reality. The awards you sought after now sit on the shelf collecting dust. The thrill of the gift will end up in a thrift store. The bank account gets larger and so do the problems. You build the big house then have to downsize. But we keep seeking to sustain something that is not sustainable. Eternity is inside all us and that is why we crave it. We want the joy to never end here on earth but it always does. The only way to truly experience the never-ending joy is to know Jesus and what He came to do for us. On that good Friday the curtain was ripped in half and heaven was opened to us…to ALL of us. All we have to do is accept that He did that for us. To acknowledge that we are finite minded, messed up, broken people who get caught up in this world and that Jesus is so much bigger and better than all that we create or mess up.

After we acknowledge that gift of atonement for our lives,  we must start thinking eternally about what we will do with what we know. Will we start living our lives with an eternal purpose or finite purpose? Everything on earth has a beginning and end. I am beginning to think that we are ok with that. That we like there to be an end. Maybe it’s because our finite brain can wrap itself around “the end” but we have a problem wrapping around “the eternal” because it’s impossible to wrap.  It has no end. But that makes us uncomfortable. Oddly, the end is comforting. But once life is begun, it will have no end. Once life is created , eternity starts. Death is not the end nor does it have the final say.  Jesus conquered death for us! He came to give us hope beyond ourselves. Because of Him we will be able to call Heaven our forever home. Forever home. I find it interesting that people build what they call their “forever home” on earth. We can’t call it the forever though because it is like everything else in life: temporary. Seasons change, we grow old, and the house gets sold to someone else. But the one that remains constant is “I Am”. Our God. He is the past, the present, and the future.  He was here before time and He will continue to be throughout all of eternity. Today, and for whatever remainder we have here on earth, I challenge you to start turning your focus to eternity. Decisions that we make, things that we get hung up on, start holding them up to the light of eternity and see what holds water. Will it last? Does it matter in the light of eternity?You were made for a greater purpose and if we start respecting that in ourselves in others, I really believe life as we know it would start to radically change for the best. God’s best.

The I AM knew you before time began and knows what comes next. The I AM created you for eternity. Yes, that person who is getting into the minivan and worried about losing the baby weight 3 years later. YOU are eternal.  And the great I AM stands at the door waiting for us to answer. John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The Eternal Present.

This Easter, as you are putting on the pearls and ironing the Sunday clothes remember: you are eternal. As you plan the meal and dye the eggs remember: You will be forever. If you find yourself worried about buying things for the Easter baskets remember: Christ paved the way for our eternal destiny. Change your mind to focus on the eternal and see how your perspective on life changes. When the end of your time on earth comes, you will not be disappointed. This is a forever promise. 

 

 

 

 

photo courtesy of Jonathan Burton Photography

 

A Structured Life: Courtney’s Testimony

Structure is comfort. We know what to expect and there is no parting from it. I remember being conscious of my need for structure when I had my first born. You did not divert from the plan. Our lives do not work out how we planned. I recall the Jewish saying: “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” Here is my friend Courtney’s story…

I have always preferred structure to chaos, predictability to adventure. I prefer implementing a well thought out plan versus a go-with-the-flow and see where it takes me way of thinking. I can see now why God chose to match me with a husband who is my polar opposite in this way. Perhaps this is why I was attracted to him in the first place, because God saw that my inclination toward desire for structure and predictability needed to be balanced.

Growing up, I had the sense of predictability and structure, which I craved. Though the day in day out routine tended to bore me on occasion, it more often brought me comfort. My parents had clearly articulated expectations, rules and guidelines. We went to church every Sunday and I was involved in youth group as I became older. I am thankful for the background in faith, which helped build a foundation of knowledge, growing still today. I knew what to expect and what was expected of me. I had grounding and a sense of safety, an understanding of commitment and fortitude. Because my life was predictable I assumed the whole of my life would be as well. I was going to do all the things right I had observed others doing right, and was going to avoid making poor choices which would lead me to a broken marriage, kids that are unruly and a job I clock in hours at miserably so. I was good at seeing the pitfalls others had experienced and avoiding them – or so I thought.

It’s not surprising that at 23, soon after our marriage began, life started to unravel. The comfort I craved in predictability was not present. I chose a profession that was stable, with predictable hours and weekends off. My husband chose one with irregular hours and an irregular schedule, which often stretched into the late evenings and weekends. This did not innately provide regular time for us to connect. We created unhealthy patterns related to communication, and were both very self-centered in our approach to life together. This drove us apart at a time in our marriage when we should have been building healthy patterns and a strong foundation. We were floundering. Because of my insecurity in the unknown, the unpredictable nature of our relationship and my inability to control my husband and his actions toward me, my need to control began to creep in. My husband grew distant and apathetic. The more he fought against me, the more I tried to reign him in. I spoon fed him every bit of what I needed – to the extent that he would patronize me, do the bare minimum to keep me “happy” momentarily until the next thing came up and the cycle continued. My need to control grew out of my fear that I would not have the life I had planned. I wanted God to work in my life, but I wanted him to work things out the way I wanted them to go.

Added to the cycle of control and apathy, my husband and I both have a strong sense of independence. We both tried to do it all ourselves –  whatever that was, without seeking much if any wise counsel. Our independence grew into isolation. I, being the planner, thought I could plan my way out of the mess we had created single handedly. If I just figured out what steps 1, 2 and 3 were, and my husband went along with my plan, we would be fixed. I did not need anyone else to teach me the way to go, I would get myself (and my husband) out of this mess. He on the other hand was seemingly fine going about his day-to-day doing what he wanted, when he wanted.

On the rare occasion I shared the truth of our lives and the poor state of our marriage, the advice I received though well intentioned, was from others who had not travelled a similar path and who had not lived much more life than me. It offered little perspective. I was accustomed to going to God with my weakness, but avoided sharing my struggles with his body of believers. I knew that God knew everything about me, so there was no use in lying to Him about anything, but was afraid if I shared with others they would blame me. And my biggest fear, that they would be right in thinking I was the cause of my husbands distance.

As this unhealthy pattern continued, I had no idea that my husband’s coping mechanism relied on numbing his discomfort. The more discomfort he felt regarding life, including my efforts to control him and his choices, the deeper he went into addiction— though it would be several years before either of us realized addiction was a part of our lives. I remember sitting at lunch with my co-workers after a major argument with my husband the night before – as they chatted about their pets and what they had cooked for dinner the night before thinking, they have no idea regarding the reality of my life. What would they say if they knew? What would they think about me? About him if they knew the truth? The reality was, my husband and I were always either fighting, or he was ignoring me. He was staying out drinking, or not coming home at all. When he was home, I was miserable toward him, and he ignored me. I nagged and cajoled to no avail. How did we get to this place? How could we get out of this pattern? How could this be fixed? The truth is, we got there slowly, and we couldn’t get out of the mess we had made. The only one who has the power to fix the mess we created is Christ.

While I had maintained a steady relationship with Christ through most of my life, I wasn’t willing to give up control. I was desperate, but wasn’t willing to trade what I knew, for the unknown even if it could have been better – much better. Fear and control wanted to hold onto what I knew. What if God decided to fix this? But what if He didn’t? What if – what God had for me was worse than my current reality? This was a bold lie I believed for far too long before learning more about His nature and what He is really all about. Because I had nowhere else to go, I began to seek. I was anxious, weak, tired, broken, and confused. I slowly began to surrender. I began reading my bible regularly and searching God’s word for truth. The word and the Spirit worked together to replace the mountains of lies I had accumulated for mountains of truth.

I can cast all my anxiety on him because he cares for me1 Peter 5:7.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously. Joshua 1:5

My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

People who know their God will display strength. Daniel 11:32

Where the spirit of the lord is, there is freedom. 1 Corinthians 3:17

If God is for us, who can be against us. Romans 8:31

God is not the author of confusion, but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:33

In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world. John 16:33

I meditated on his word. I sought Christ in my life as I never had before. During the most unpredictable time in my life, He brought me peace. I saturated myself in His Word, on His promises and in prayer. He began to put people in my life that had been where I was. I found a Christ centered counselor who had experience in addiction and mature Christians to serve as a sounding board for me. He began to build community for me. We are intended to be each a part of the body of Christ, not lone soldiers out there fighting a battle alone, in vein. I began to give up control and realize that my sense of control was a fallacy. Christ’s control (guidance and direction) over our lives is enduring. I began to intentionally seek community in Christ followers and build relationships with mature believers in Christ.

While all this was going on, my husband remained in his addiction, and it became worse than it had ever been. I had to learn how to stand for God’s truth over the noise of the world’s. How to make hard choices – telling my husband our marriage was not healthy, and was not functioning as God intended and that he needed to leave.  I did not and could not have known which direction my husband would choose to go – toward Him, or away from Him and from us.

For a while, my husband chose to run, to fall, and I had to learn that it was not my responsibility to save him. That was in God’s hands, and in a choice that my husband (like all of us) has. The changes I could affect were in me, through Christ. I had to get to a place where I was confident that I responded to my husband in a way that honored God and in a place where I could sift the truth from the lies. God gave me the wisdom to be able to recognize them clearly.

My husband decided to surrender some of his independence and pride, and take his first real step in seeking help; his first step in admitting his brokenness and addiction and God began rebuilding. He began to form a firm foundation. But my husband was not ready to give up the battle with self and pride. As he acclimated to his new life, I did not know that he was still holding onto his addiction. His patterns at home had changed significantly, but there was something that was still off. After a year into his road to recovery he confessed to me that he had been holding onto a piece of his addiction, and had been lying to me about it for almost a year. That whole year I had been patient, continuing to seek Christ and apply his truth to my life. I knew that I could not continue through another unhealthy pattern in our marriage. I did not know what God’s plan was, but I knew that whatever it was – it was good. And I stepped back.

I initiated a separation, knowing how severely what little trust had started to rebuild was in shambles. We were separated for 2 ½ months. 2 ½ months of not knowing what would become of our marriage, but knowing that God is good all the time. You see – we make mistakes, big ones, and a lot of poor choices. But God had been teaching me. He can make beauty of our messes. He can restore the years the locust hath eaten. Joel 2:25. I believed that He could, and He would.

I didn’t know what my husband would choose….Christ, or not (Christ), and all that comes with that. I knew that one day I would have to answer for myself, and my husband would have to do the same, and completely released control to the one who saves. And save he did.

I am not sure why God chose to speak to my husband in such a clear way and call him back home during our separation or why my husband chose to listen to that calling, but I am so glad he did. There are not words (in the English language anyway) to describe how grateful I am for what God has done in my heart and in my husband’s.  It is truly amazing what an awesome God we serve. He is a very real God who is alive in us, and who loves us in spite of ourselves. In spite of our running and control and selfishness and all the things we hold onto. He loves us, has forgiven us, and seeks after us. 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” I believe this verse should be followed by a few exclamation points! Even better, the Amplified version which I love because of the elaboration, so descriptive in articulating what we have both experienced first hand: 2 Corinthians 5:17 AMP “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].” Amen!

So here we are. Not a year into our new life together, and married for 13 years. I thought it would take years to rebuild. I’ve learned that the walls we build, brick-by-painstaking brick, God can smash down in an instant. I love the visual that creates. In less than a year since the lowest point in our lives thus far, I have experienced forgiveness, hope, joy that is not from man. Christ has given me a heart for others, and perspective regarding our short time here on earth.  He has taught me that my planning nature is not a pitfall, but something He has created in me intended to glorify Him. My husband’s sense of adventure balances my need for predictability and pulls me out of my comfort zone and into the arms of Christ. Our marriage is a beautiful dance as Christ intended it, with Him at the center. The process, this life, was never comfortable- in fact painful. Those moments when I was weakest He stepped in. I learned He can use me even in the midst of my imperfection. Look at Abraham! Gideon! Duh! Right?! He has taught me the importance of community and forming relationships with others who have walked some of the same paths and are through them. They are the body of Christ. All parts of the same body, designed to work best as they were designed, but together. I look forward to the many adventures ahead; both the mountain top experiences and the valleys which draw me into sweet communion with Him.

The word thankful does not do justice for the gratitude I feel for the work He has done in my life and in the life of my husband. We have an AWESOME, loving God. He desires you dear brother and sister and wants you to experience abundance and fullness of life in Him. 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. 2 Corinthians 12:9. Rest on His word, and seek Him. Surrender and He will do miraculous things in your life and give you not just goodness, but abundance. John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

ABUNDANTLY.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20.

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19.

tes•ti•mo•ny: Kevin’s Story

Lifeonthewagon has turned 3 years old! In celebration, I decided to freshen the look of lifeonthewagon.com (when you have a chance, look around and see what’s new), but more importantly, I decided to do a series called: testimony. I asked several friends to share their stories. I am praying you will be inspired by their courage to share. I will be posting their testimonies over the next few days, so be on the lookout for each one. You will not want to miss the blessing of hearing their stories! To God Be The Glory!

The first testimony comes from Kevin, a graduate of the same ministry program my husband attended. You can leave comments on this post for Kevin if you feel led. I am thankful for his honesty and willingness to share….

Kevin’s Story 

I am honored to share with you my testimony and story of how God has saved me and restored my family. I am a native of Boone, born and raised by hard working parents.

 My battle with addiction began in my teenage years, though I did not see the signs early on. A verse comes immediately to mind in John 10:10, “The thief comes not but to steal, kill, and destroy.” It all started with alcohol, but quickly moved on to methamphetamine abuse shortly after high school.  My father owned several tractor trailers, so the natural progression was to follow in his footsteps and become a driver as well. Being a long haul truck driver for many years really enabled me to be someone else while on the road. Those years took a huge toll on my wife and children. The physical and mental abuse that I bestowed on them was completely out of control.  I would frequently have thoughts of suicide, becoming so fed up with the direction my life was heading, and I blamed everyone except myself.

I attended my first 28 day secular rehab program in 2001; and sobriety lasted for a short time before returning to the hog pen, as I call it, again. During those years of sobriety, Tracie and I built a new home; and we were blessed with a third daughter. Of course, these blessings came with their own set of stressors which led me back to drugs again, because I didn’t possess the tools I needed to deal with the problems that arise every day. 

In 2010, I attended Hebron Colony Ministry for the first time. Life returned to normal again for a short time, but I decided that my family needed more money to live; and I found myself missing the road. The opportunity presented itself to buy another tractor trailer and I jumped at it feeling this was the right move for our family.  All along I believed this was Satan’s plan to pull me and our family back into his grip, like the thief he presented himself again. 

Things went fine in the beginning of my newest venture, but then I became tired from the high expectations and long hours that are required to be successful in the logistics business.  I began using drugs again to enable my body to stay awake and deliver the loads in a timely manner.  I justified my drug use by comparing myself to King David, telling myself I was making money for my family. Brothers and sisters, was I wrong!  Over a short six month period, I was deeper in that hog pen than I had ever been.  Our home that we had worked so hard to build ten years earlier was foreclosed on, my wife and children left me and moved to a small apartment while I was left living in my car.  One day, driving into Boone, God saw His opportunity and took it. He had brought me to my lowest point in order to save me from myself.  I cried, begging God to help me and fix the mess I had made of the life He had given me.  I knew it was time to go back to the Mountain of Miracles, Hebron.

I made my way to RD Hodges’ office, a man who now I am proud to call my friend and brother in Christ. I was ready for a lasting change in my life and the staff welcomed me with open arms. They had prayed that I would find my way back and those prayers did not go unheard.  Though my wife had left me and was so fearful of me that she had a restraining order in place, she agreed to be my sponsor and drove me to Hebron that Saturday morning.  She knew the man I could be and longed to have that godly man back in their lives. The last portion of John 10:10 “I have come that you may have life abundantly” rings true and I have not looked back. I graduated on August 18, 2012, and then God blessed me again, allowing me to extend for an additional 12 weeks and then 6 more months as volunteer staff assisting Gene Dooley in the kitchen. The pastors laughed, telling me I was the first student to actually request to be assigned in the kitchen and I was blessed to have godly men like Gene in my life.    

Our lives are now full of happiness and joy.  My wife and I have a closer relationship than ever before, and although two of our daughters now have homes of their own, we have an exceptional relationship with each other.  Our youngest daughter Maggie is now 9; and she trusts me and my decisions. I still go to Hebron every Saturday where I enjoy helping the ladies in the office and meeting the new men.  I also enjoy doing the sound for each Saturday graduation service.  Maggie goes with me and enjoys the services as much as I do. 

I have said all this to say that when I truly surrendered everything in my life to God, He gave me an abundant life right here on earth and the tools I need to maintain this life, being in His Word. God gave my family back to me, a nice home to live in, a great job that I like and a heart to help other men who are just like me.  I praise God for the life he has given me because without Him my life means nothing. God can take a mountain of mess and turn it into a mountain of miracles like me.

Yours truly,

Kevin 

Graduate 8/18/12

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Phil. 4:13

 

2,190 Days

Like turtles on a fencepost. You see them sitting on top of one and you know someone had to put them there.

“There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’, and those to whom God says, ‘all right, then, have it your way.” C.S. Lewis

For the majority of my twenties and early thirties I was the second person. I wanted my belief in God on my terms. I believed he should fit into what I wanted for my life and I called out to Him on a need basis only. When I needed Him I prayed. When I felt I was ready to steer, He let me. Everytime I steered on my own, I ended up needing Him again. It’s regretful that it took me until I walked through addiction with my husband that I realized that this cycle doesn’t have to exist. I know that we can’t live in past but I do mourn the time in my life that has been lost that I could have been focused on a true eternal purpose.

2,190 days of sobriety for my husband. Amazing. To God Be The Glory.

Every February my husband and I get excited because we know that we have made it through another year where alcohol has become a part of our past. Every February we reflect on what we have learned and how different our lives have become…for the best. As the gap widens from where we were to where we are now, I am more at ease with who I am and who God made me to be as a wife, mother, friend, daughter and sister.  The idenity crisis of my twenties and early thirties is gone. I understand now that , as my mother says, “real learning is a change in behavior” and that “what you do tells people what you really believe in”. For the last 2,190 days our lives are a day to day battle ground for what surrendering means. It isn’t always easy, but I exhausted my own way. Now I say “Thy Will Be Done” and the outcome is ALWAYS above and beyond my own ideas or plans.

I remember feeling incredibly anxious when my husband first became sober. There were so many unknowns and I knew our lives where about to radically change. I believed I was giving up things I enjoyed. I wasn’t ready for it. It was all about me and my hang ups. I was afraid of superficial things like:

What would my friends think of us?

Will we lose friends? (Yes you probably will)

Can we have fun sober or will we be the wet blanket that everyone has to be careful what they say or do in our presence?

Will I resent him because alcohol won’t be part of our lives anymore?

I wrestled with all of this for the first sober 365 days.

And then in a moment of clarity I realized one thing. All of these things I was worried about had nothing to do with my marriage. I wasn’t married to these people or friends I was worrying about.  I was married to a man that needed me to be on his team. I wasn’t being a team player by getting caught up in these social issues. He needed me to be on his side. Since that moment of laying it all down, I have never once resented him or this choice. In fact, it has become a blessing to me and our children. On this earth I will never understand the depth of Gods knowledge of our lives but somehow He went before us and laid out His plan. He redeemed the wreckage and showed me that this life isn’t a dress rehearsal. We get one chance to live it FOR Him. And that’s it. So these things I was worrying about where 1. all about me and 2. have no place in His plan for my life. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have moments when we wrestle with these things. Like I said, it took me almost a whole year to get over myself and get on board with my teamate. But we do need a white flag moment because everything has a beginning date and an end date. It’s just easier to take my word on this and start living your life for Jesus and ask your spouse to forgive your self-centered motives.

There are many verses in scripture that have carried my husband and I through these last 6 years. It has been part of the learning process and letting the words marinate in our hearts. These 3 in particular speak to our new life.

2 Corinthians 5:17  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature. The old things have passed away. Behold, new things have come.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”

What riches in these verses!

So here we are. 2,190 days of walking with the Father and now we go confidently into the next day and then the next because He goes before us. He comes running to us like the prodigals father. He sees our baggage, carries it for us and then leads us through it. We just keep living in our amazement of HOW we got here. Like turtles on a fencepost. You see them sitting on top of one and you know someone had to help them up there.

‘Tis The Season To Come Back To Life

We weren’t happy. I was miserable and this time of year, more than any other, made me really feel it.

About 8 years ago I dreaded Christmas. Really it was the whole season. I sound like the Grinch. I related to him I guess. Christmas represented dread, work, putting up a front, manufacturing joy and deception on another level. When you have someone in your life that is working on becoming an addict or right in the thick of full blown addiction, you understand what I am talking about. You are surrounded by delusions of perfect family life when in reality you are at home plotting how NO ONE can discover your secret or how bad it’s starting to get at home behind closed doors. There is a twisted sense of relief that when you go to a Christmas party you can feel normal and no one really notices because others are just as drunk as your husband or wife. But then the cruel dawn of morning comes. I remember some of our most heated arguments usually came at this time of year.  Did I mention how much I dreaded Christmas? It only shined a spotlight on my deep sense of hopelessness. The belief that I would never be able to send out that Christmas card with a family photo and feel like it was authentic. Like we had true Joy.  We took the photo and sent out the card but I knew in my heart the photo was such a lie.We weren’t happy. I was miserable and this time of year, more than any other, made me really feel it.  I looked at pictures from other people and envied the life I was seeing. One that I believed I was never going to have. I felt alone, desperate and empty.

Last night my husband and I were talking about this time of year and why the ministry is suddenly bombarded with phone calls from family who need help for their addicted son or husband.  I immediately knew what he was talking about because I was that woman. I was reminded about the feelings that this season brought with it many years ago. It all came flooding back and I realized I needed to sit down and write about this time in my life because right about now if this is you, YOU need hope.

The only hope on this earth where we are surrounded by darkness is Jesus. He was brought to earth to be a light in the darkness (Advent!). He brought with Him eternal Comfort (Matthew 11:28-30), inexpressable Joy (I Peter 1:8,9) , and never ending Peace (Philippians 4:7).  We can seek the whole world to find or manufacture what He brought for us but we will always come up short and be left with a lie whispered to us by an enemy that seeks to destroy any chance of finding these things authentically. This is why we are so incredibly distracted this time of year by everything that has nothing to do with what the season is truly about. Just one of the many reasons why addictions seem to grow exponentially during this time of year: The stress from a million little things that don’t matter, the reminders of imperfect families, the need to portray life as it isn’t, the constant stuffing of the holes in hearts with material gifts, the feelings of sadness or guilt over broken family relationships. We want relief from it all! We don’t want to stop and think about our true reality or the poor condition of our broken heart. Instead of “Just Keep Swimming” you find yourself saying “Just Keep Stuffing”.  It all comes at us in a very short window of time and it is ALL CAPPED OFF by the reminder of yearly failures as we celebrate New Years Eve. Then we wake up the next morning with guilt, shame or fear of what’s coming in the new year and a bucket full of horrible resolutions. Not to mention that New Years is a goal for many addicts “to make it to” and then quit and get help.  You might hear this: “I will stop after the holidays”. I can’t even begin to count how many times I heard this lie. For me, all of it was a haunting lie. Incredibly empty with a side of deep disappointment.

If all of this sounds like what you are going through right now let me speak directly to you. I know that you are feeling desperate. I know you are losing hope. I know that you want to run away. I know you want to stand at the edge of the cliff and scream into the abyss. I know you are so tired of holding this life together so your children will have little memory of this time in your marriage or family. For you, in this time, I want you to stop talking at them and start praying for them. The talking is done. You can’t say anymore and I can guarantee they won’t listen so just PRAY. Pray like you have never prayed before. Pray in the car. Pray at that party. Pray beside your bed. Pray in the closet. Pray through tears. Pray for God to intervene in their life in a mighty way. Pray that it will happen during this season. Pray like your life depends on it. Stop intervening in the spiral. You cannot control it. Just pray for God to open their eyes so they can see themselves. So that they really see that they need help. Real help. Not just a meeting. He can do it but He needs you to get out of the way.

Whatever that means.

The safety net needs to be removed and you have to let them fall. I know you are scared by what that means, but trust when I say that it is far more hurtful to see an addict continue down this path without fear because they know you will rescue them. Just pray.

Pray this prayer with me:

Heavenly Father, I am broken. I feel alone. I feel desperate. I need you. I need you to intervene in my life and the life of this person in a mighty way. In a way that only you can do. I acknowledge that I need to get out of the way of the work you are going to do in their life. I give them over to you and fully trust that you are going to handle this. I can’t handle this anymore. I have tried to fix and save but failed. I know they might not choose you Lord, but today I choose you. I need you to work on my own heart as it broken into a thousand pieces because of all they have done to our famly. They have hurt and abandoned me, our children, our family. Only you can heal that hurt in my heart and I ask you put balm in that wound. Keep us protected from the chaos while you intervene. Keep them protected while you intervene. I trust you Lord. I trust you know what’s best. Thank you for your promise of an eternity with you. Thank you for your Son who came to the world to give us Your peace, Your comfort and Your joy. I rejoice in that promise this Christmas. You are my hope. In Jesus holy name I pray this. Amen. 

He loves you beloved and He won’t leave you. Keep Hope. The Redeemer will redeem as He has done in my life and can in yours IF you let him. He calls out to dry bones Come Alive. He calls out to dead hearts Come Alive! “Tis The Season” to come back to this life of Faith we are called into. For you, for your loved one, for your whole family. The Light in your darkness calls out for you to Come Alive.

Skip the ad and listen to this song for a moment.

 

 

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.”

 

 

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.

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.

1,095

Hamilton Family Final (73)

YES! 3 years! We passed this milestone on February 22 and what a great day it was! Seriously, Praise the Lord. He has everything to do with helping us get to this point by providing the opportunities, the support, the friendships, the church, the counseling we needed to make it here. I firmly believe you cannot do this alone. It took a village of people, all placed here by God, to get this family back on track. We owe a lot to our families for their support and continued faith in us. We owe a lot to our friends for their encouragement, for lending an ear and for just being there cheering us on. We owe our mentors for being strong models of Christ’s love and how to live it out in this new life. We owe everything to God for taking these two messed up people and using them for His glory. We don’t deserve it, but He uses us anyway. I often think about what my life would have been like now if my husband had never turned the corner. I am a realist and know that the story doesn’t always turn out this way. Sometimes the addiction wins. I have heard countless stories of loved ones who were defeated by it. I have seen it play out personally with my husband’s father. I hate to see it happen because I now believe addiction can be conquered.

I think it has to do with exposing the lies of the enemy which is what I try to do here. If you have never read the book Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis then read it! It is life changing when we realize that there is a spiritual battle going on that we can’t see with our eyes but experience in our everyday lives. When the enemy has control over us we have a tendency to believe that things just happen to us…that there is no plan or force behind it, orchestrating. But when you see things from a spiritual perspective you understand that we get tripped up for specific reasons. A few weeks ago my husband and I watched the movie Flight. (Disclaimer: this is an R rated movie and there is nudity, language, drug use throughout). It was a tough movie. Intense. But you could see the battle going on within Denzel Washingtons character. He wanted to do the right thing. He didn’t want to have a problem. He denied it heavily at the beginning of the movie. At one point, for 9 days leading up to his trial, he remained sober. The day before the trial he goes to stay in a hotel room and they even place a security guard in front of his room to protect him from any outside influences or from himself. In the early morning hours after tossing and turning most of the night he hears a tapping noise. He investigates and finds that the door to the adjoining room is open. Guess what is in the adjoining room? Yep, a stocked bar. The enemy wins again. I am one of those people who believe things like this are not just coincidence. I think they are designed for us to fall flat on our face…especially when we are on the right path. My husband and I have experienced this A LOT within the 1095 days. But we know to expect it and we know to expect it when we are being beaten down by life. When we get incredibly stressed out. When we are tired. When we feel anxious. When things don’t work out like we want them to. Even when the first signs of Spring show up (this is a different story). We expect temptation. And that is how you keep yourself safe. I have realized now that part of the reason I write this blog is not just to give perspective but also to expose the lies that I let myself believe, so people might identify themselves as well. I do it by being specific with details, thoughts, or habits. If you read the blog and can find yourself in anything I am saying them you know what I am talking about….and that’s why I do it. That is why I will keep on doing it. Shortly after you have identified yourself though you will find yourself convincing yourself that its not true or that your circumstances are different. And so the lie will continue. It is subtle but as the song says “It’s a slow fade, when you give yourself away.” I don’t want to be right about it, but I have been through too much to know that I am not wrong. Don’t believe the lie.

So here we are at 1095 days later and I am eternally grateful to God that He gave us a second chance at this. He has blessed us with a healthy, vivacious, opinionated, loving daughter. He has blessed us with a warm home, two cars that work (most of the time), two jobs, childcare and the means to support it all. He has blessed us with family and friends. And most of all, He has blessed us with a story to tell that might change the direction of someone else’s life. If we aren’t here to help one another, then really…what are we here for?

One personal side note: To my husband, I am incredibly inspired by you and changed forever by our circumstances. I am humbled by your humility and willingness to continue to share your story openly. I am so thankful that our daughter (and son) will know you, if God allows it. I am so thankful that their story is forever altered by your determination and faithfully seeking Gods plan for our lives. I am encouraged daily by your resolve. I am blessed when you talk about your weaknesses or moments of doubt…it reminds me you are still working on yourself as I need to be. You have a heart with eternity stamped on it and I am thrilled to know that I am included in that game plan. All my love. bpp.