Many may wonder why should we volunteer? When asked about why a group of folks took time out each week to volunteer, the answers were inspiring. To feel needed, to share a skill, to get to know a community different from myself, to demonstrate commitment to a cause or a belief, to gain leadership skills, and to accomplish a civic duty.
Volunteers are love in motion.
Five Reasons We Should Volunteer:
(1) Studies have shown that volunteers live longer and healthier lives.
(2) Volunteering can help you establish strong relationships.
(3) Volunteering can complement your career.
(4) Volunteering helps society.
(5) Volunteering gives you a strong sense of purpose.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Anyone who has done any amount of volunteeringfor any measure of time would likely agree that when we give to others with our heart that we can reap benefits which are glorious and unimaginable. Simply being a good listener, expressing joy and humor, or offering a genuine, friendly smile, can contribute to lighting up another person’s life. Volunteering can have many surprising benefits!
One cool thing about volunteering is that you can choose an area that you are passionate about. Your love for animals could lead to spending some time helping out at a rescue shelter or a Veterinarian’s office. If reading inspires you, spend some time reshelving books at your local library. Are you an empty nester who misses having little ones in your home, then consider contacting a local indigent hospital, like Grady Memorial Hospital. Here, you may be able to rock babies one afternoon a week. In my recent past, I have chosen The Extension as one of my main volunteer opportunities for Volunteerism since it opened in 2009. The raw courage exhibited by the women who reside there has always challenged me in my personal journey.
Oh, and volunteering does not have to be a weekly commitment. It may involve simply providing a meal for a family who is dealing with adversity, join a Mission Team abroad or near home, or simply giving a ride to someone who needs one. Just being on the look out for who’s in your path, you will soon see many ways to lend a hand.
Studies have shown that volunteering is particularly beneficial to adults age 65 and older, and those who serve more than 100 hours each year. Volunteers are more likely to report a greater sense of well-being, and of purpose and meaning in their lives, than nonvolunteers. Older adults, who may be prone to social isolation, volunteering can offer strong social networks and a way to stay active in the community. Our parents were a great example of this as volunteers for Meals On Wheels late in their lives.
There has been a debate for some time now regarding whether or not high schoolers should be required to earn a certain number of community service hours. While time management is a real issue, having raised two young adults, we have seen significant benefits of their involvement in their community and beyond. There are many of the positives that can come from your teen being involved in service, whether it is required, or not. I am proud to know 18-year-old Aidan, who is on a mission to share the joy and necessity of giving to all. Aidan is a speaker, singer, and songwriter and you can like his Facebook page here. Aidan’s website is Aidan Cares.
I would love to hear in the comments below what you have chosen to do as a volunteer.
If you haven’t gotten involved as a volunteer, why not consider starting today?
I have been wrestling lately about how I can better express to my friends here on Pages From Joan the reality of my personal faith journey. A dear friend of mine, Laura, who battled breast cancer before dying in 2014 in her fifties, once told me she was wrestling. She decided that wrestling and seeking is synonymous. I agree with her. As I have wrestled, I have been seeking God’s will, His unique plan for me. Meanwhile, I want to share just a few details about my journey, related to my faith.
I am not my mistakes. I am not my old habits. I am not my PAST. I am a beautiful reflection of God. I am forgiven. I am loved. I am free.
Shanel Cooper Sykes
Raised in a Southern Baptist Church with my five brothers and sisters, I now consider myself more of a Christ-follower than a member of a certain denomination. At age nine, I professed belief in the Lord, Jesus Christ. As I grew, I believed God had my back, but I made the choice to stray away from a close walk with Him, for approximately ten years of my life. There is nothing wasted in God’s Economy. As time has gone by, I have come to realize that God used my time away to mold and deepen my faith in Him. It was during that time away that I learned about compassion, courage, forgiveness, and repentance.
I’ve often heard the question: “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved?”
Well, I was certainly the one who moved away from Him for that season of my life, but I see, looking back on that time, that He never, ever left me. I must say my time away has taught me so much about patience (on God’s part), compassion towards myself and my fellow-man, and love towards all created humans.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.
Fast forward to a few years into our marriage, when Donny and I, as a couple, had begun to move closer to God again. We spent three years of our marriage dealing with infertility, and you can read about that part of my journey here. In December 1987, while I was on Christmas break as a teacher, I found myself pleading with God to give us our first child. I cross-stitched Romans 8:28 in a small frame to keep on my desk. Soon after this, after over five years of marriage, I became pregnant with our first child. I felt strongly, that this was, in part, due to the fact that I had finally surrendered to my God about my dreams of having a child. I believe God rescued me from my childless sorrow and I had a renewed desire to draw close to Him. Leah was born on October 8, 1988, and I believe He has been wooing me, rescuing me, providing for me in countless ways since that time.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
A few things that I learned during this season of my life:
God’s timing is perfect.
God created us and He knows even better than us what is best for us.
Adversity makes us stronger. We must stick together especially when things get tough.
Did you know? There are more than 7,000 promises in The Bible. I am sharing this with you because I believe with all of my heart that Christ came to rescue each and every one of us. God keeps those 7,000+ promises as we seek Him, we will find Him, and He will rescue us from our troubles, and even from ourselves. The gift is in the promise, and as believers, we may go about our work assured that what God has promised, He is able to perform, and that the gift, which we already possess, will be realized when we need it the most.
One of my favorite bumper stickers states: CHRISTIANS AREN’T PERFECT. THEY ARE JUST FORGIVEN.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23 (THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT)
I hope you now have a clearer picture of my perspective as I post here on my Pages From Joan. It is my desire to bring encouragement, learning, and inspiration into your days as I seek my God and share authentically from my heart, soul, and mind.
And now, today, with all that has transpired in my over six decades of life, my husband and I are drinking in the presence of our nearly one-year-old grandson , Tripp and our nearly one-year-old granddaughter, Elizabeth. Our daughter, Leah and her husband, Scott are first-time parents, as of 8/24/18 and our son, Walker and his wife, Jessica are first-time parents as of 9/7/18. My heart is overflowing with gratitude to my Father in Heaven as He continues to pour blessings into my days, even amidst my wrestling and seeking. Oh, how He Loves You and Me.
What do you think? Whether you believe in Jesus, find your belief in something else, or question what you actually believe, God is interested in hearing from you as one of His unique and beautiful creations. It is both ultimately and intimately between each created human and God. I know for sure though, from my own personal experience, When we seek Him, we will find Him, every time.And I know I would not want to be on this planet earth without a relationship with the God of the Universe.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Be still, and know that I am God. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 46:1;10 and 91:1
Life Reminders For You and For Me, Whether We Are Young, Old, or In Between
No matter our age, we are all here to help one another. Helping those younger than we are and those older than we are will add spice to our own lives. These life reminders will make our life sweeter, too!
1. Make your bed every day; even if it’s right before you get in it. But I recommend doing it first thing.
It sets you up for a great day ahead.
2. Don’t wear ‘holey’ underwear. Ever. You deserve to feel decadent at all times…regardless.
3. Travel light through life. Keep only what you need. This includes people.
4. Put butter on your biscuit , and twice as much when you miss me. Add some fig preserves to remind yourself that comfort can be unusual.
5. It’s okay to cry when you’re hurt. It’s also okay to smash things; but, wash your face, clean your mess, and get up off the floor when you’re done. You don’t belong down there.
6. If you’re going to curse, be clever. If you’re going to curse in public, know your audience.
7. Seek out the people and places that resonate with your soul. Check in with yourself…a clenched jaw, heavy heart or cranky tummy is your sign to bail.
8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. And just because you shouldn’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the chance. Just be smart about your risks.
9. 5-second rule. It’s just dirt. There are worse things in a fast food cheeseburger.
10. Happiness is not a permanent state. Wholeness is. Don’t confuse these.
11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack your bag.
12. Never walk through an alley.
13. Be less sugar, more spice, and only as nice as you’re able to without compromising yourself.
14. Can’t is a cop-out. BIG TIME. Step UP. Google It. Teach yourself. Don’t be mediocre.
15. Hold your heroes to a high standard. Be your own hero.
16. If you can’t smile with your eyes, don’t smile. Insincerity is nothing to aspire to.
17. Never lie to yourself. EVER. Embrace your delusions…and get on with it….
18. Your body, your rules. Always.
19. If you have an opinion, you better know why. If you don’t have an opinion, admit it and ask questions so that you can form one.
20. Practice your passions. Every. Day. No exceptions!
21. Ask for what you want. The worse thing they can say is no. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed.
22. Wish on stars and dandelions, then get to work to make them happen (leave room for magic)
23. Don’t skimp on good sheets. Like underwear and lovers…only the best should ever touch your skin.
24. Fall in love often. Particularly with ideas, art, music, literature, food and far-off places.
25. Fall hard and forever in love with nothing but yourself.
26. Say Please, Thank You, and Pardon Me, whenever the situation warrants it.
27. Reserve I’m sorry for when you truly are.
28. Naps are for grown-ups, too. Indulge.
29. Question everything except your own intuition.
30. You have enough. You are enough.
31. You are amazing! Don’t let anyone ever make you feel you are not. If someone does….walk away. You deserve better.
32. No matter where you are, you can always come home.
33. Be happy, say your prayers and remember your roots.
34. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
35. No one will ever love you more than I do
Copied, Author Unknown
*I would love to know what you would add to this list! Comment Below and share with those you love the very most in this life.
With Christmas and Hanukkah upon us, I am sitting here counting my blessings, naming them one by one. As a sixty-something woman, I am grateful for my reliable God, my family, my friends, just to mention three bounties here in my earthly life.
As I ponder this further, I realize that sometimes the basis for gratefulness in my day is because a “spot of sunshine” has come my way.
“Sometimes when you don’t know the answer, live the question.”
Many tried to tell me how I might feel as a first-time grandmother. Most exclaimed that there were no words that could describe this new relationship. I agree. I do have occasional questions about these little ones’ future. Okay, the truth is that my thoughts surround Tripp, Elizabeth and their parents, constantly, lol. Our lives have changed forever since the births of our first two grands: Michael Scott Andrews, lll (Tripp) and Elizabeth Noel Page, respectively on 8/24/18 and 9/7/18. Our grand babies are pictured here during their nightly bath time.
Will they grow strong and will they be brave enough for this tough world we reside in? Will they truly know how much I love and cherish them? How will they face life challenges that are sure to come? What will they be? I find myself praying for Elizabeth and Tripp fervently each day. My Mama did the same for her children, her grands, and her great-grands.
In over six decades of living, I have come to realize many things. More than ever before, I have seen that sometimes the questions that we have in this life do not have answers that are easy to uncover…
WHY did someone have to die so soon?
WHY can’t _____ and _____ get along better?
WHY does this habit have such a strong hold on me?
WHY is this loved one living with a disability?
WHY was my husband unfaithful to me? OR
WHY did my husband die so young leaving me with the children?
FILL IN THE BLANK WITH SOME OF YOUR WHYS:_______________________________
As we journey through life, I think it is important to pray and talk to trustworthy friends, and perhaps even a counselor, about the issues in our lives.
Still, sometimes the answers just don’t come this side of heaven.
So what do we do?
WE LIVE THE QUESTION. We submit ourselves to the truth that we do not know the answer and we live the question, recognizing that the question may always be with us.
In the book CELEBRATION of DISCIPLINE, By, Richard Foster, the author speaks to this on page 111:
“I said that every discipline has its corresponding freedom. What freedom corresponds to submission? It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way. The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today. People will spend weeks, months, even a lifetime, in a perpetual stew because something did not go as they wished. They will get mad about it. They will act as if their very life hangs on the issue. They may even get an ulcer, develop health problems over it.”
So, today, take a few moments to consider what “questions” have been gnawing at you, and make the choice to simply breathe and live out your days with an understanding that some of the “answers” are not for us to know just now.
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson, British Poet (1809-1892) from his poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.”
Five years ago on November 11, 2013, my Daddy passed away and went to join my Mama. It was Veteran’s Day, which was appropriate since Daddy had served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the late 1940s. My five siblings and I came up with the following attributes in reference to our father:
God-inspired, man of character, compassionate, humble, man of stability, respectable, charming, hard worker, steadfast family man, musician, avid fisherman, and beloved physician.
At the age of 93, it was certainly evident to each one of us that he had lived a long and beautiful life. Even so, this has not changed the truth of how much we miss him and our Mama, too. When one loves completely, the “missing” may lessen, but it never goes away. I spoke at Daddy’s funeral and wanted to share with you my words to honor the memory of my beloved father:
Joan’s Eulogy for her Daddy
November 14, 2013
Our father slipped away quietly on Monday, a gorgeous, autumn afternoon. The kind of day that our mom would’ve loved. When author C.S. Lewis’ wife passed away, he was quoted as saying :
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) quote from his book, A Grief Observed, written in 1960
I believe that is exactly how our Dad felt after our Mama’s brief illness and death in October 2006. In fact, some of us thought Dad may join her in that first year of his bereavement. Perhaps dying of a broken heart. But instead, our strong and courageous father rallied.Daddy continued to play his clarinet for his many grandchildren. He took take daily walks for fitness at nearby Dellinger Park. Dad also resumed his volunteer position of delivering Meals on Wheels to the homebound.
From the time I was a little girl, our big family drove to Savannah Beach every August for our annual family vacation. Often this trip landed on my birthday and I thought that was just part of the plan. A beach birthday trip for Joan and family!
These were always great times! It was wonderful to see Daddy relax and take a break from his busy OB-Gyn solo practice.
When I think about who I am today, and who I am becoming, I think of both my mother and my father. Some of the most important character traits instilled in myself, my brothers, and my sisters are compassion and a strong work ethic. We now observe these same traits and many more in their grandchildren. WE are all thankful for the role model given to us by our parents, and I hope all of us for generations to come will honor their memory with our own lives.
Another life lesson that my father taught me is to have equanimity, a mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain; calmness. While I am definitely still learning to practice equanimity, I believe another way to think of this is in Psalm 46:10:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
In closing, I remember how special the fall season has been to our parents, their wedding was on October 21, 1948. Both Mom and Dad have now had their Homegoing in the fall.
I am reminded of one of Dad’s favorite musicians, Frank Sinatra, singing:
“Since you went away the days grow long,And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song.But I miss you, most of all my darling,When autumn leaves start to fall.”
I love you Mama and Daddy, so glad you’re finally back together!
As a Mommy, Daddy, Grandparent, an Aunt, or any other position you can name, does your special little one do and say unforgettable things? I bet he or she does, like ALL THE TIME. But as the moment goes by, the laughter has silenced, the memories may have a tendency to fade. One of my favorite things I did for both of our children was to write them notes now and then. These short letters are compiled in these Precious Moments books shown above.
Now that Donny and I are first-time grandparents to Tripp Andrews – born 8/24/18 and nearly 11 weeks old and Elizabeth Page-born 9/7/18 and nearly 9 weeks old, I hope to record our memories of times spent with them.
I know it may feel like “one more thing to do”, but these little books have sparked countless discussions as I have read aloud portions on special occasions such as a birthday or a graduation. Here’s what I did. I simply recorded my thoughts in the form of a “Dear Leah” letter and a “Dear Walker” letter. And your special loved ones don’t have to be in their youth either…they could be grown and live away and you could simply share some musings you have about them. Of course, if they are grown, you could actually mail them a real letter, which can be so so much more meaningful than a text or an email.
I started Leah’s book when she was a few months shy of her second birthday, and Walker’s when he was a newborn. My last entries were made for both just after their two weddings took place in 2014. There are some blank pages, so who knows? Maybe, I will make more notations in there at some point.
What a fun thing for them to have … notes about their childhood, and this will also be a cool thing to share with their own children some day. This post is not meant to make any one of you “feel bad” for not having done this particular thing with your own children. Everyone and every home is unique and this is just something I wanted to share with you that we did. Memories are alive, and they live forever, no matter what we might do to maintain them. Perhaps many of you reading have grown children, or no children, and are wondering who you could now write notes to? A grandchild? A neighbor child, family child whom you are watching grow up?
'In the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.'
This can be a very simple, yet meaningful activity. And it can be cathartic as well, because it allows us to get down on paper some of our heart thoughts and affirmations about one that you dearly love. All you need is a blank book of your choice and a pen or pencil. Here below are a few of the entries in Leah and Walker’s little memory books. Why not start today?
Dear Leah, February 5, 1996
We are out of school today for snow and ice. I guess Walker has been getting to you…(as siblings often do!) because today you told me you wanted to put him outside on a stand with a sign that says: “BROTHER FOR SALE ONLY $5.00!”
Dear Walker, December 22, 1995
Dear Walker, I guess you are ready for a bigger bed, because you fell out of your race car bed last night. I think it scared you because your were crying so hard and your heart was beating like crazy! Daddy and I got you a new twin bed for Christmas and you are going to love it!
Soon after I announced that we were expecting our first two grands, one of my Pages From Joan readers, Trish, mailed me a Grandmother’s Prayer Book. I have so enjoyed documenting my heart’s longings for both Tripp and Elizabeth.
I hope some of you will consider starting a little “Dear_________________ Book” for someone who means the world to you. This is really way easier than a “baby book” or a “scrapbook” that can sometimes feel too daunting. I included photos, ticket stubs, and even flocks of hair from a haircut in a ziplock bag with a date.
You will not be disappointed with the opportunity to share the collection of memories!
We have a small pond behind our Marietta, Georgia home and that is the first place our yellow lab, Gracie and I visit upon waking up.
Geese are a common occurrence on this pond. On this particular morning, however, as Gracie took care of her business, I stopped to count them. Still in my cozy bathrobe and holding a mug of steaming coffee, I counted…amazingly, there were 36 geese, seemingly frozen in place on our pond. I took pause, as I often do, my phone shining a bright light in the pre-day darkness.
I love nature and how it can speak into your soul, inspiring us to be the best version of ourselves. What did it say to me on this cool October morning?
“Observe the quietness of these floating before you. That is what I want to encourage you to do a little each day. Remember that cool verse in Psalm 46:10: ‘Be still, and KNOW that I am God.’? Brief moments like this one can help you to practice this.”
As we take some time to be still for a few minutes this weekend, let us all hold close to our hearts and in our prayers the many families impacted by both recent horrific hurricanes, Florence and Michael…more proof that life can change on a dime.
Life Is Fragile, Let Us Handle It With Prayer.
When is the last time you took a few minutes to JUST BE in nature. A back yard, some nearby woods, a porch, Kennesaw Mountain, a pond, a lake, or my favorite, by the sea?
As we celebrate our first born’s 30th birthday today, I am sharing this unforgettable story of how Leah came to be. Since this story played out in 1987-1988, my God has given me many reasons to be a person of hope and gratitude.
Many may wonder how it feels to be a mother of a 30-year-old, as well as a new grandmother. My main thought is one of pure joy and gratefulness that we are all still here to celebrate this day! We’ve all heard it said that “gratitude is a game changer in one’s attitude and approach to everyday living”, and I believe this with all of my heart!
Cheers To Leah Page Andrews Today!
Wishing you many, many more birthdays in the years ahead!
As a teacher at Avondale Elementary and a few years of suffering with unexplained infertility, I was near my wit’s end. We had planned everything out perfectly hadn’t we? With my husband still in training, we were hoping for a Spring Baby so that I could connect my maternity leave with a nice long summer before returning to the classroom.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
With May 1987, came another season of sadness and despair as we had one after another negative pregnancy test. It seemed that everyone we knew was having their first or second child. Married for five years, this was a season of adversity in our marriage. We both wondered aloud and privately if we would ever have the privilege of being parents. During my 1987-1988 Christmas Break, I found myself pleading with my God more than ever before.
I cross-stitched Romans 8:28 and placed it in this frame.
Soon after this, a snow-filled, early January Monday kept my husband and me home from work.
God can't give us peace and happiness apart from himself because there is no such thing.
Overjoyed to have this unexpected holiday together, we would later discover that this day was likely the day that our first-born child was finally conceived. (sorry for the TMI: too much information<smile>)
Some of the lessons we learned from this experience are:
God’s timing is perfect.
God knows even better than we know what is best for us.
Adversity makes us stronger. We must stick together even when things get tough.
When we seek God, we will find Him. In adversity, He draws us into a deeper walk with Him.
God hears our pleas.
Let’s be intentional about our choice to stay connected to our God and to each other when we are weak and when circumstances get tough.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10 reminds us that when we are weak, He is strong!)
NOTE: This post was previously published in October 2015. The post was updated on 10/8/2018 in honor of our daughter, Leah Page Andrews as she turns 30 years old today.
Note: This post was first published on January 17, 2016 and updated on September 27, 2018…There Is Always HOPE!
I had the opportunity to attend a MAG Alliance annual meeting this past Tuesday, September 25, 2018.
I learned so much that it prompted me to re-publish this important post.
My long-time friend, Dave invited me to hear Dr. Debra Houry, MD, MPH speak.
For four years, Dr. Houry has been the CDC’s Director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (Injury Center). During her first year, the Injury Center has aided states in preventing prescription drug overdose.
Dr. Houry reminded our audience that there must be a concerted national approach against the opioid crisis. This crisis has come in three waves: 1: a rise in prescription drug deaths, 2: a rise in heroin deaths, and 3: a rise in synthetic opioid deaths (street drugs laced with fentanyl-these deaths have increased more than 6-fold from 2013-2016.) For more information on all that our CDC is doing click here on their website: RX Awareness. The CDC RX Awareness Campaign in now active in 27 states, including GA. The phone number is 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) and there is a tool kit available on their site.
Having volunteered at The Extension, Women’s Campus, in Marietta, Georgia since its 2009 opening, my heart is extremely soft towards those who suffer with alcoholism and other addictions. With the birth of our two grands, I have stepped down for now as a volunteer. I am grateful that a friend has stepped up to carry on this tradition of having an “art therapy” session with “my girls”.
Every beating heart has a story, and the more I have worked with these women, the more I have realized that they have the same hopes and dreams for their future that you and I have for ourselves and for our families.
If you suspect your teen is drinking or using drugs,
My Story My story is a story of redemption and a story of great hope restored. It’s a story that demonstrates the overwhelming grace and love that God has for each and every person on the face of the earth. I feel like my story is a great demonstration of how God can make all things beautiful, no matter how messy we make them. The only reason I am alive today is because of His grace and His ability to perform miracles greater than we could ever even think to ask for. My story is one that shows it’s only when we die that we truly find life.
Growing up I had an amazing childhood with a great family. I played sports and loved to play out in the woods. I went to church with my family and was involved in all kinds of great positive activities. At 5 I first prayed to Jesus to come and save me and when I was 8, I was baptized. Then the next year something started to change. Because of a series of events, I became aware of a much different reality in this world than I was accustomed to and became really confused and angry.
My teen years I was filled with rage, confusion and depression. I started using alcohol and drugs at 12 and began a lifestyle pursuing the perfect mixture of sex, drugs and rock n roll. My life dramatically changed at 15 when I started using pain killers and taking club drugs. I remember my first time getting high on pills; I thought I had finally found what I had always been missing. I thought I had finally found the peace I had been searching for…
For the next few years I headed down a path of total destruction and eventually started using heroin. When I first tried to stop at age 19 my girlfriend at the time became pregnant with my son, Landon. I tried to get myself together as we prepared to have a baby but I could not seem to get it together.
As parents watch the nightmare unfold when their teen becomes self-destructive, they wonder how they will ever reconnect with the son or daughter that they fear they are losing. It is the most helpless, hopeless feeling in the world, and it can overwhelm an entire family with unimaginable pain, chaos, and despair.
from Teen Challenge Website
When my son was born I was in a detox facility having terrible withdrawals from drugs. I was so happy to have my son come into the world but was also still so consumed by my addiction. I made another decision I would get it all together that day in the hospital.
I ended up in a longer-term faith-based program and made a decision to follow Christ. When I finished the program I went home with an honest desire to start new but still was holding on to so much of my life. I had an ambition to get it all together and make everything work between my son’s mother and me. We got married that summer and I idealized pursuing The American Dream with my new wife and our baby. The dream was short-lived when we separated the next year. I was crushed when my dream was crushed. I had invested everything into this relationship and this dream. When it fell apart, so did the rest of my life.
I started using drugs again and spiraled out of control the rest of that year. I remember my first wake up call was going to jail in Atlanta for possession of cocaine and then immediately after I got out I went to get more drugs. After my heart had stopped due to a drug overdose, I remember buying more drugs the day I was released from the hospital. When I had no where else to go and ended up sleeping on the streets of a rough neighborhood in Atlanta, I can remember still only thinking about how I could get high. My life was consumed with this addiction and I was on the verge of suicide.
That’s when everything changed. My dad and I got in touch and he told me he had found out about a program called Teen Challenge and that he would help me got there. At first I was reluctant to go, but the next morning I woke up and felt something inside me say, “If you don’t get out of this place, you are going to die.” With urgency I called my dad and told him where I was. Then after waiting a few minutes, I changed my mind and left to go get high again. When my dad finally found me I was at an abandoned house, cold and shaking because of how many drugs I had been doing. I remember thinking I would kill him if he tried to take my drugs. He just sat there and watched me smoking crack and doing other drugs until they were all finally gone. When I finished I put the needles and pipe down and I remember him saying with a heart full of compassion, “Come with me son.”
16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. 18 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the Lord supported me. 19 He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. (Psalm 18)
I can relate so much to what David wrote in this Psalm when I reflect on how the Lord used my dad to rescue me out of the darkest place I could have ever imagined. When I look back I can imagine God’s hand reaching down from heaven to pull me out of the dark pit and rescuing me from enemies that really were too strong for me to overcome myself. God saved my life that day because he delighted in me even in my mess. When He saw me at my worst He loved me as much as he ever could or ever will. He loved me completely and with all of His heart. He pursued me no matter how far I tried to run away. He had a plan and a purpose even when no one else could see it.
A month or so later I made the most important decision in my life. I made the decision not to just avoid hell or to be a better person for Jesus. I didn’t just pray the sinner’s prayer and feel all tingly. I made a decision to die to self. I decided one day on a loading dock that I would absolutely give everything in my life to Jesus and hold nothing back. That day has forever changed me.
The next year or two I began to grow and deal with the many problems I had struggled with so many years of my life. One by one, the Lord just began to take away things from me. He took away even the desires that I had for these destructive behaviors as I continued to get in His presence and read His word. My life started to radically change and something new started to rise up inside of me. God started placing passions inside of me and began showing me that He had great destiny and purpose for my life. It was when He began to reveal to me my identity and destiny that I really began to strip off anything that hindered me from walking with Him. It wasn’t a set of rules that made me want to change but the overwhelming reality of His great love for me that filled my heart with a passion to pursue Him with everything.
These last four years God has restored my relationship with my son Landon. It has been an amazing miracle to watch him change the impossible to possible. When I first got off drugs I wasn’t even allowed to see Landon in supervised visitation. Today I have joint custody and have an amazing relationship with his mom and their family. God has taken the most broken of situations and has mended it into something better than I ever could have imagined.
God has also given me opportunities to travel and do things I never thought would be possible. I have been able to do mission work in South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, Canada and Europe. He has also given me a chance to travel all over the U.S. and share about all He has done for me. He has given me so many amazing friends and has restored my relationship with my family. He has healed me of all depression, anxiety and ADD. He has completely taken away my desire to take drugs, drink or even smoke cigarettes. He has replaced my suicidal thoughts with a life full of passion, hope and joy. When I chose to die completely and give Him everything I got so much more in return. He has given me a life of abundance.
My life’s mission is to abide in Christ’s love in such a way that others are inspired to pursue God with reckless abandonment and that my life would burn so passionately for God that it would set countless others on fire for Him.