Because my first pregnancy was discovered while I was incarcerated, quite often while I'm pregnant, I think of those days. I was in jail for two weeks when I got my first positive pregnancy test. Some of you know this, others may not. But here is the demon I was fighting in my mind this morning...
I used to live in this little one bedroom apartment with my boyfriend. I was 20 years old and was not old enough to drink yet, but was doing a lot of it. When we first moved in, we made friends with this older couple downstairs. We would cook out with them and pet their cute little dogs. They thought we were a sweet young couple. We thought they were a nice old couple.
After over 2 years in this relationship, it ended and I was devastated. I had a friend move in with me and we started dappling in hard drugs. Within a few months, I had met another guy, who quickly moved in...and so did his 3 friends... so now it was me, my friend and these 4 guys we hardly knew living in a one bedroom apartment. We partied non-stop, I couldn't keep a job, they paid me nothing, I started selling drugs, and the short version is I got kicked out of the apartment because the landlord knew all of this.
That is the very quick version of one of the most painful years in my entire life. But this is what was plaguing my mind this morning... the day before I moved out, the lady downstairs was outside while I was smoking and said this to me....
"I know you just wanted to help those people out, but you made the last couple months of my husbands life a living hell."
The nice old man had died from brain cancer in that short time.... and apparently I was too busy partying to notice, let alone care to give him any rest. We were LOUD. And here I am years later and my heart still hurts over that... and I don't even remember the lady's name to try to apologize.
My mind went from this to a whole list of things... and it got so intense that I had to get up and write it down. I hope to not regret this later. People have been known to throw some of my past in my face (usually in an attempt to make themselves feel better about something they are doing), but I have to believe that God pulled me up out of this pit for one reason only and that is to share that HE did! So, at the risk of serious judgement and possible regret, this is what He just put on my heart....
I think many people who follow my blog and who see me in church or out with my family probably think that I have a perfect little life and don't understand hardships. Everyone knows that I know what it's like to watch my own baby die in my arms, but the testimony I had BEFORE Rachel, is one that most people don't know. Actually, when I was pregnant with her was the first time I publicly shared (outside of Alcoholics Anonymous) my story in detail. It was at the women's retreat for my church where the topic was HOPE. Imagine that.
What I need for people to understand is that when you read or hear me saying that I yearn to live for God... or that I trust Him... or that He is worthy of praise.... or that He is so, so good... I need you to know that this does not come from a place of ignorance or an 'easy Christian life'. I understand things about life that I wish I didn't. It's not coming from a brainwashed girl who found a 'good crutch' to lean on. It's not coming from someone who grew up with any knowledge AT ALL about God or Jesus or anything having to do with either. I knew absolutely nothing about Jesus until I was 24 years old.
I understand broken homes. I lived with a single, stressed out mother and an absent father who I didn't talk to for years. I had step-parents/ parent figures who would have preferred I didn't exist and still do. My Nana, the rock of our family, died when I was 10 and my family has never been the same. Dysfunction? um, yes. And because this isn't their blog, I won't go into details, everyone has dysfunction in their family....
I understand growing up too fast. Gave myself away to a man much older than me at just 13 years old. I thought I loved him and this would make him love me. My first real boyfriend lived with me at 15 years old. I dropped out of school after getting in too many fights with all the girls he cheated on me with.
I understand molestation, I understand betrayal, I understand abuse.
I understand rape, fornication, lesbianism, pornography. I understand searching for love. And never finding it.
I understand eating disorders. Distorted body images. Always being 5 pounds away from 'happy'.
I understand addiction, alcoholism, fighting a battle in my own strength.... and losing.
I understand Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and mandatory meetings.
I understand drug dealers. I was one. I understand the life of a criminal... running from police and always looking over my shoulder. I understand being able to trust nobody. I understand thinking my best way out would be to die while doing entirely way too many drugs. I understand pulling the shades and hiding from the world so they can't see my bloodshot eyes or notice that I can't form words. I understand not being able to remember how long I was sitting on my bedroom floor... an hour?... a week?... 3 weeks?? And it not mattering.
I understand mug shots, finger prints, and how inappropriate police are behind the scenes.
I understand suicidal thoughts... and attempts.
I understand total desperation. Total defeat. Total and complete loneliness.
I understand adultery. Divorce. Getting pregnant by someone who was not my husband. I was married before Matt. I married this guy because he had gotten arrested shortly after me and I was convinced that if we were married, they wouldn't be able to make him testify against me....little did I know, he already had in his interview.... and so 4 months after we were married, I discovered he had blamed me for everything. He spent the next few months dragging me out of other beds... until I went away to rehab. I met Matt in rehab. I was there 7 months and would go to his house on my weekend breaks. It wasn't until I was out of jail and 5 months pregnant with Des that I got divorced. I never saw him again, until last year at Rachel's grave.
I understand the woman at the well.
I understand being pressured to have an abortion. By even family members.
I understand facing my entire life in prison. And when given a break, everyone thinking I snitched. I understand making the front page over and over... and not for a good game. I understand the Drug Task Force surrounding my house and banging down my door.
I understand weekly drug tests to be out on bail. I understand jail, probation, and house arrest. I understand what people think of people like that. I understand multiple class A felonies. I understand the downward spiral of drug addiction... and how long it affects your life... and everyone who loves you.
I understand jump suits, how they don't make them for pregnant girls. I understand getting visited in jail. I understand humiliation. I understand strip searches. I understand maximum security and getting my cold meal through a hole in the door. I understand one phone call a day that gets disconnected after the time is up, mid sentence or not. I understand taking a shower in front of multiple people in a dirty cement box with no curtain....and no flip flops. I understand using a cement toilet in the middle of a small room while being watched as well. I remember the obscene yells that came from the males side of the prison as we walked to the 'chow hall' or up for a visit.
I understand losing friends to overdoses, shootings and suicide. I understand how you can get too tired to fight anymore.
I understand unhealthy relationships, not daring to let women into my life, and constant betrayal.
I understand what it's like to be forced to leave a life you think you like.... and to somehow convince myself that I was happy with what I was settling for.
I understand having a baby out of wedlock. I understand being a single mom. I understand having to let my daughter go away each weekend with someone I didn't trust.... or like. And who also didn't like me. I understand what it's like to have another woman in my child's life - as well as what it's like to have another man beside me in her life.
I understand feeling let down by God's own people. I understand being judged, being manipulated, being passive-aggressively attacked.... in the church itself. I understand that Christians are not perfect. I understand I am far from perfect.
I understand miscarriage. I understand birth control - and trying to dictate to God when I will have children. I understand carrying my baby to term knowing she would die. I understand burying my child that I wanted to keep more than anything. I understand powerlessness.
I understand marriage trouble. I understand communication breakdowns. I understand wishing I never said 'I do' and I understand knowing the feelings are mutual. I understand love isn't a feeling at times. I understand not knowing how on earth I can stand *this* for the rest of my life.
So, that doesn't even cover it all... but here is the thing...
He covers it. ALL. Completely.
He pulled me up - gross little me - up. Out of that pit. Out of despair. Out of addiction. Out of sexual immorality. Out of broken homes. Out of selfish ambition. Out of marital strife. Out of death....and dying... and wishing I was dead. He pulled me up out of a life of hell on earth and saved me from an eternity in hell in the afterlife. He saved me from myself, you guys. Don't you get it? It's not because my life has been so great that I love God... it's because it sucked so bad and most of it was my own doing... and it was painful and miserable and dark and lonely and HE LOVED ME ANYWAY. He loved me. Like nobody ever loved me before. He stood me on a firm ground and He gave me BOUNDARIES. Not boundaries that take away my livelihood or ruin my fun. I WASN'T HAVING FUN. He gave me these boundaries because they are for my GOOD. Because He loves me. Because He wants what's best for me. Because He is God. Because I am His child. And my life has not been easy since, but it's been BETTER. It's been full of joy and goodness.
And on mornings like today, when I am taunted by the thought of how horrible of a sinner I am... when regret and shame rear their ugly heads, He reminds me that He is enough. That to Him sin is sin. That someone that has done nothing but tell a lie - or hate someone in their heart - is just as much in need of Him as me.... and yet, He can cover even all of that. He reminds me that He already did it. And in September of 2004, when I recognized my need for Him... for Jesus.... He washed it all away. And perhaps He doesn't let me forget for good reason. Because how can I give Him glory for all He has done, if I forget where I've been? How can I show the world Who He is if I let them believe that I was just a 'kid being a kid' and grew out of those younger days? How can I show the beauty of the whiteness of Jesus' covering, if I don't reveal my crimson stains?
My entire family uses the name of Jesus as a cuss word. At a family gathering, I listen to them say it at the beginning of most sentences. Well, I'm putting a new meaning to it.... Every time you say the name Jesus Christ I want you to hear in your mind "He saved her from THAT" I want you to hear "New Creation". I want you to hear "He loves the sinner". I want you to here "He died for me". Hear me say "Without Him, I am NOTHING but a drug addict who sleeps around and waits to die" Because Jesus Christ is not a swear word... Jesus Christ is the very One who loved me enough and is POWERFUL enough to SAVE ME FROM THE HELL THAT ALMOST KILLED ME. His name is Holy. His name is sacred. His name is to be praised. And if you don't believe it yourself, I want this to be a reminder. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. (Yes, I'm trying to ruin any chance at future use of His name in vain feeling anything but convicting.)
Thank You Jesus Christ for accepting me. Thank You Jesus Christ for dying for me. Thank You Jesus Christ for not leaving me where I was. Jesus Christ! You are Good!
Go ahead, say it... Jesus Christ! Oh, what a sweet name it is. Thank You Jesus for coming to my rescue.
Do you need rescuing? And I'm not just talking to non-believers here... there are people who claim to believe who don't want to do what He requires. Are you tired of convincing yourself that you like the life you are settling for? Are you afraid His boundaries will ruin your fun? Please believe me.... There is nothing better. His ways are the best. And not because He is a demanding God Who wants you to do what He says. If that was the case, He would not have given us free will... but because He knows things we don't. I only wish I would have trusted Him sooner. I pray that for you, too.
In everything, trust Him, Jesus Christ.