First Installment: Meet My Sister
Second Installment: The Functioning Years
Third Installment: The Maelstrom
Fourth Installment: Like Sunlight Burning at Midnight
Fifth Installment: Stepping Out On the Water
Sixth Installment: A Different Street
With a heart spilling over with affection and wonder, I hand you joyfully to my beloved sister, Gay, for her final installment in this powerful series. Don’t worry. I don’t believe this will be the last time you ever hear from her on this blog. I’ll get her to chime in here and there if she feels the leadership of God. But, still, this is a tender moment, watching her wrap up this gorgeous streaming testimony of Christ’s unfathomable grace. That same grace also saved and delivered me. Saved and delivered you, if you’ve let Him. If you do not know Jesus yet and you have never received the gift of His life offered for you on the Cross – a gift you cannot earn or deserve or be born into – and the power of His resurrection that strips us from our grave clothes and covers us in robes of righteousness, do not wait another day. Today is the day of your salvation. Get down on your knees, lift your face toward Heaven and express to God in your own words that, by faith, you willingly and earnestly receive His glorious Gift and desire to be saved, to turn from your own destructive way, and to follow Him. Believe with your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. And, Child, YOU WILL BE SAVED. And nothing – I do mean nothing – will ever be able to take eternal life from you.
My beloved big sister, I will let you take it from here. Words fail me to express my appreciation. We are changed by what Christ has done through you here. He alone will be able to give you a precise account of the lives altered. “My brothers (and my SISTERS), if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20 You, Gay, have been this “WHOEVER” to so many.
And, now, from her pen…
My life is so sweet today both on the outside and on the inside. Much has improved since I walked off the concrete. Improved would be an understatement. Wildly improved, exorbitantly improved, inconceivably improved would be far more expressive. Gregg was right when he said that we cannot fathom the dreams and plans that God has for us. Paul knew it too when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians. God might have told him about it but my guess is that he had experienced it after he fell to the ground on the dusty Road to Damascus.
“However, as it is written:
What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived
the things God has prepared for those who love Him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV
When I got here in mid-April of 2009, all I asked for was sobriety and a roof over my head. I’ve said many times to many people, “Sobriety is the best gift I’ve ever been given in my life and if it’s the only one I ever get, ITS ENOUGH!!” And it would have been enough, Ladies. Quality sobriety has brought great abundance into my life: trustworthiness, integrity, self-respect, meaningful relationships with my children and siblings, employment, housing, improved health, the ability to feel, etc. I am so grateful for it that I sometimes burst into tears and I always, ALWAYS thank God for another day sober in my every prayer. I am still very clear that it comes first, that the devil is not very creative and that He hasn’t forgotten how to tempt me and lie to me in the same old ways. So I keep it first on my priority list, always. I never become complacent to the fact that I have the disease of alcoholism. It’s in my brain and all I have to do is tip that celebratory drink and the beast will come forth just like it did the last time. It doesn’t have to prove that to me again. (Step 1, by the way.)
However, sobriety is not all I got! I have gotten, first and foremost, a continually healing and fully restored FAMILY. Although Tut and I did not reconcile marriage-wise, our relationship today is one of acceptance, trust and solid teamwork where the boys are concerned. We are today – and will forever be – very dear to one other. I know, I know, we girls like a Cinderella story but really, don’t fret. I’ve got my Prince!
The two little boys in Sugar Land? They are just WONDERFUL!! The three of us are wound so tight that they sometimes wish I would pop free. Not happening!! They’re not getting rid of me, not any time soon anyway. Zach is now 26 years old, a graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Effects and has been gainfully employed since 3 weeks after graduation in 2008 as a 3D Render Artist. He is the best person I have ever known and never loses sight of his God-given purpose for this season of his life which is to take care of Josh. He has laid his life down for his brother and their souls are knit together as one. They will have that for a lifetime, long after Tut and I are called Home. God so wonderfully works all things together for good for those who love Him.
Josh is 17 years old and in his senior year of high school. I don’t know which one of us has enjoyed his senior year more, him or me. I’ve spent this entire school year with him soaking up every single minute trying to make up for years lost. I know that our days together are numbered now that he is becoming a man. There have been many miracle moments between a redeemed mother and a once abandoned child where I have so wished to press the pause button to freeze them in time yet a moment longer. He has grown so much inside and out, come out of his shell, become Josh apart from the rest of us. I have fallen head over heels in love with him as with his brother. One especially thrilling moment was during opening night of this year’s high school musical, The Wizard of Oz, on January 28th. I sat perched on about the 5th row of Rogers Auditorium as the curtain opened on Kansas. Josh had been cast as the Cowardly Lion just two months before. Although some of my family members have quite a stage presence, I certainly didn’t know Josh was one of them. I was impressed out of my mind that he had learned his lines. All of them! When he sprung onto the stage in all of his Cowardly Glory I squealed with laughter, cried for reasons unknown and cheered out loud all at the same time. I had seen him grow over the weeks but I was, in no way, prepared for fully Josh. He was confident, accomplished, ironically COURAGEOUS, adorable, funny and oh so entertaining. He was fully himself, fully Josh, fully alive. He stole the show and it took my breath away. I sat in awe during those miracle moments with my hands clasped at my chin whispering “Thank You, God” over and over again. I realized that God had not only healed me but that He was healing my son as well. Josh’s performance that night was brilliant with the absolute highlight being his delightfully humorous delivery of the song King of the Forest. How appropriate is that? Applause please!!!
One quick note: I haven’t had to preach to my children or grovel over my past mistakes. I have simply had to stay sober, be present and fully engaged, and shine the Light. God so masterfully takes care of the rest.
I also got the best job on the face of the planet, handpicked just for me. I work at Mercy Street! You knew that already. At around one year sober, I just so happened to be making my way through the still buzzing Mercy Street hallway that I had come to call home. I rarely got an opportunity to have a personal conversation with Gregg Taylor, most beloved, most popular “street” pastor. He most often has a captivated audience. But somehow (we all know how) I did this particular night. I was looking for a job, uh … an office job, and Mercy Street just so happened to have had their Administrative Assistant’s position come available that very week. Now, you might think that was mere coincidence but I have come to believe that coincidence is simply God’s way of remaining anonymous. That job was mine! I knew it from the minute Gregg spoke it and I cried all the way through the service that night. God meant for me to be employed at Mercy Street where I could most effectively carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers and to anyone who might have lost hope. I heard Beth say during the Esther series that our destinies cannot be severed from our histories. I was so perfectly placed at Mercy Street not despite where I had been but BECAUSE of where I had been, and where I had been delivered from.
When I got to New Hope 35 months ago today I looked long and hard at the steps hanging on the wall and my eyes rested on the words “a power greater than ourselves.” I was a weakling when I got there. I was beaten up, burned out and practically in a fetal position. The cat was a power greater than me! I didn’t need a power greater than myself — I needed a power greater than King Alcohol. I needed the biggest, baddest power of them all! I needed a great power with extraordinary muscle, strength and COURAGE. I needed the King of the Forest. I needed the King of the Universe. I needed the King of Kings…
“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17
… so I set out to find Him through His way for my life that day and each day since.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:13-14 NIV
On the 20th day of next month I will have 3 full years of sobriety. Wow!! None of us humans, especially anyone who knew me before sobriety, would have ever dreamed I would have YEARS of sobriety. The fact that I am walking through this life, taking care of business, parenting, working, paying bills, doing laundry, laughing, crying (and everything in between) SOBER after a lifetime of drinking is, well … a flat-out miracle from God!
I try to imagine sometimes what exactly happened in the heavens that night under the bridge. In my limited mind’s eye, I see Almighty God in the image of man sitting at a grand oak desk drumming His holy fingers across the surface among dozens of beautiful, INCONCEIVABLE plans, drawings and designs. He’s waiting, whistling and waiting, drumming and waiting, patiently but not nervously waiting. He’s known it was coming since the foundation of the world but I like to think that He gets a hint of sweet satisfaction in being the Boss and whispering, “Hurry up, Gay, we’re waiting!” I think that even before the aching, desperate cry of “God, please help me” fully crossed my lips He had already leapt from desk to chariot and, with a loud trumpet sound, shouted to His angel armies, “She’s ready! Go get her!!” He knew, even though I didn’t know, that I had surrendered and that I would be willing to lay down my own failed plans and follow the ones He had custom drawn for me, just for ME. Upon His great command, the armies must have flown across the heavens in all of His Amazing Glory to the intersection of Sabo Road and the Sam Houston Tollway where the first appointed angel stepped through the veil as Tut in the flesh. Or maybe the first appointed was Zach who, knowing where I was, had asked his father to go fetch me for fear I would die that very night. Or maybe the first appointed was Jerry who had gotten us from Galveston to Houston in the first place that rainy Spring in 2009. Who knows? Only One. All I know is that they were all appointed.
I did not do this by myself, Sweet Sisters. An ARMY of “angels” wrapped in human skin have helped me and were strategically placed in my life by Almighty God Himself. There is no amount of white space for me to list them all and some names I don’t even remember if I ever knew them at all. From the street to New Hope to The Women’s Home to Mercy Street to Living Proof — from Southeast Houston to Pasadena to Montrose to Sugar Land — from a power greater than myself to Jesus, the One and Only. They were and are everywhere if we only open our eyes to see, our hands to receive and our hearts to feel. I don’t believe that any two of us cross paths by mistake or mere coincidence. I believe that the positive, negative and seemingly insignificant people, places and situations add value to our lives based on how we respond to them and learn from them. Its all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? If we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change — being transformed by the renewing of our minds. I only hope to have the most honorable assignment of being divinely appointed by Almighty God Himself to reach out to a friend in need, a fellow sojourner, a perfect stranger, a ragamuffin, the hurt, the lost, the seeking. Here am I, Lord. Please send me.
I stepped out on my back porch the other morning and in more of a casual talk with God rather than a prayer I cried, “Oh thank You, oh thank You, God, for not letting me die before I got this, before I got You, this sweet relationship, this rollercoaster of a ride, this ebb and flow of faith, trust and sheer awe that leaves me begging for MORE. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this. It would have been such a shame to have missed this. Thank You for saving me so that I could experience this … experience You. You are the Love of my life. You are the Great Love of my life. And I am Yours.”
I know today despite my shortcomings, failures and imperfections that to Him I am Beautiful, I am Redeemed and I am Loved. I have been seized by the Power of a Great Affection. I have been Saved. I have been Forgiven. I have been raised from the dead to walk in New Life. I have been Resurrected. Wow! It just doesn’t get any better than that, does it? Not in this life.
I have a CD of Travis Cottrell in my car that I like to listen to LOUD. Track 9 is an old hymn with a new and wildly improved sound. The ending words have never once failed to bring on the tears. They go like this:
The redeemed will sing forever,
The redeemed will sing forever,
The redeemed will sing forever
Amen and Amen.
I thank you for letting me share with you my story or, better yet, Christ’s story weaved into mine. It has been one of the greatest privileges of my new life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for each and every comment and word of encouragement. This divine assignment has been quite a challenge and I needed you all to charge me on. You became like my angel army in this endeavor. Isn’t that so cool? I have watched you minister to each other and pray for each other and pray for ME. I’ve experience many miracle moments sitting at this computer, reading and typing and trying my best to let God speak to you through my mumbling and fumbling to express the Inexpressible. Our testimonies have much power, don’t they? People love to hear that Jesus still saves even today. We love to see tangible evidence of it too. We love to see living proof! Thanks Beth, for giving us this beautiful venue and for giving me an opportunity that would have only lived in my dreams. You’re the best! I’m pretty sure that I’ll never be the same after this experience.
And again, thank You, oh thank You, my sweet Jesus for loving me and showering me with Amazing Grace. I love you with all my heart. I am Yours always. All of me.
Loved you are,