Tag: hope

Restoration and Grace: Leigh’s Story

Grace House, our recovery home for women, desires to see women holistically healed from chronic addiction and restored through relationship with Jesus.

Last August, they hosted A Night with Grace House in order to raise money to re-open their doors to women in need of help. They raised enough money to continue helping women and saw life transformation throughout this past year.

Here is Leigh’s story of how Grace House has impacted her life. She has experienced the healing and redemptive power of Jesus, and has been brought out of hopelessness into a life full of hope and joy.

Describe your early life before addiction.

My first memory is of being sexually abused by a man close to the family. I was also sexually abused by a family member.  So from the beginning, I was led to be silent, compliant and alone.  I grew up scared; scared to be used sexually and scared of the rage that ruled over my family.  Everyone fought.  It was so bad we were forced to go to family counseling.  But I said nothing—I was coached well.  I was depressed, anxious and neglected.

At age eight, I started seeking ways to just make myself feel good.  That same year, my parents decided to separate, and by nine I was moving to El Paso to live with my mom. I began to fantasize and plan suicide at the age of nine. I didn’t have any friends and was teased every day for the next five years.  I started getting violent.

When did addiction first take hold of your life?

I was 13 years old when I realized I was a drug user, though I started around 12. I came to realize the only acceptance and love I would receive was from drugs and other drug users.  That became my identity: I was a drug addict. I only felt happy when I was high and I only felt accepted by others who got high.

What was life in addiction like?

At 14, I went to a mental institution. By 15, I was in my first rehab.  And right before my 16th birthday, I was raped.  In the midst of all this was rage and suicide idealization.  I got into witchcraft, then was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against my sister.  I could not go a day sober, and when I did, outbursts of rage ensued.  I got into cutting, drinking, heroin, meth, sex and never went without weed. I was a blackout drunk and was raped more times than I can count.  Every moment sober, I was overcome by shame and self-condemnation. I overdosed nine times in two months when I started using heroin.  I was in and out of hospitals, rehab and relationships with men who used and abused me.  Caught with heroin while shoplifting, I spent my 25th birthday in a mental hospital and my 26th in jail.  I tried to get help, but I could only ever get short-term care: a couple weeks in the hospital to stabilize meds and bring up trauma, then sent out into the world. I’ve been to rehab four times. If I wasn’t high, then I was having flashbacks.  Eventually, I had to use more and more and started using needles. I gave up.  What was the point?

Where were you last August?

Last August, I was drowning in addiction.  I was shooting up meth every day.  I relapsed on heroin with the intention of suicidal overdose.  I couldn’t die; nothing worked; I failed at everything.  Except drugs. I resigned myself to doing what I knew how to do: drugs and sex.  I was an object for men and women to use and I was good at the drug lifestyle.  I had given up—there was no way out.  I stopped fighting and gave in.

When I failed a drug test with three different substances and was facing my probation being revoked, I was ordered to go to Cenikor, a short-term rehabilitation center.  This was the first time I was ordered to rehab, and the first time I didn’t plan on staying sober.  I had truly resigned myself to my addiction and sobriety wasn’t an option.  “Get high until I die,” was my purpose.

After nine days in detox, I was moved to residential care.  It was there that I finally came out of denial.  I could no longer blame my drug use on my trauma. I admitted I was an addict.  This truth set me free.

I realized my death in addiction would be tragic and prolonged, so I decided I wanted to live.

I became open, willing to listen to others’ opinions and insights. I even started going to Bible study.  Not because I believed, but because I hoped I would get more knowledge.  My roommate encouraged me, because she glorified Jesus in so many ways.  If it wasn’t for her, I probably would not have softened my heart to the Lord.  One Sunday, she pushed me to join her in attending a worship service. A group of men came to Cenikor to share the Gospel.  These men were also in recovery, so I was able to relate. The lesson was good: describing Jesus as the bridge between old self and new self. However, it was something else that captivated me. One man had so much passion for Jesus that my whole body vibrated. He had no shame, but only purpose and fire! He would die for his convictions, not condemn others. Whew! He was on fire!  As the discussion went on, tears started streaming down my face.  I was thinking, “How could Jesus love me after what’s been done to me?  I am nothing.  How could He love me after the abuse of my childhood?  I’m disgusting.  I’m unlovable.”  I was heartbroken, hopeless and full of shame. I wanted what those guys had—I wanted to be loved by Jesus so badly.

Then glory came.

They asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior, and I could not get my hand up fast enough. We circled up, prayed and I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I had a pentagram I had worn since I was 16 and I felt like it was choking me. I ripped it off, went outside, prayed and buried it along with the hold my abusive family member had over me. I was so joyful that I couldn’t stop smiling.  I felt brand new. Thank you, Lord.

I was scheduled to leave Cenikor that Friday and was homeless, but I was so sure that I would be ok.  I had Jesus, and it was well with my soul. An employee at Cenikor got me a phone interview with Missy at Grace House, then we met in person the next day. This place was a dream come true!  A year of true healing, free of charge. Could it be? Long-term recovery, space to heal from the trauma and learn how to walk with Jesus?! The morning I was released, I was packed up, homeless and trusting the Lord.  Missy called to say I had been accepted into Grace House–five days after I chose Jesus Christ as my Savior! That’s the Lord!

How has life been since coming to Grace House?

Since coming to Grace House, I’ve not only dedicated my heart and mind to Jesus, but my body as well.  I’m married to the Lord and confident in celibacy. At World Mandate, I was moved by the Holy Spirit and surrendered all the men who sexually abused me and declared forgiveness. I’m learning what conflict resolution is and how to set boundaries. Through counseling and prayer ministry, I am facing the pain and bringing Jesus in.

I have been delivered from shame and rage.

I was baptized June 12th at Tonkawa Falls, and shared my testimony with all who were there.  My family is being reconciled and generational curses are being broken off.  Grace House is setting me up beautifully for life outside the home. I’m in a great Lifegroup, full of supportive individuals who value and encourage me. I’m working part-time at a bakery, learning how to budget and bring Jesus into my workplace.  When I look to the future, I rejoice at the days to come. Jesus is my future.

Where He goes, I’ll go.

On August 18th, Grace House will host A Night with Grace House: Beauty for Ashes at the Phoenix Ballroom. Come enjoy dinner and hear more stories about the healing and redemptive power of Jesus. Tickets are $40. Learn more and purchase tickets here.

What To Do With Pain

We were given no explanation. No one apologized. It felt like it was all our fault. We were dazed. Angry. Deeply sad. Confused. And more exhausted than I knew a human could be. I choked back sobs as the country I had given up everything for faded from sight through a tiny airplane window.

Like most missionaries, our journey to the nations began with big vision. We dreamed. We planned. We raised more money than we ever had before. We received hours of training, encouragement and reproof. Then we did the bravest thing we ever thought we could do: Board a plane with all our belongings (that we hadn’t sold) in tow and no return ticket.

We had arrived. We felt like we were at the top of trusting in this God—this King—we had come to love over the years. Our biggest dreams were coming true before our eyes and we couldn’t see anything shaping us better.

But instead, we experienced the hardest year of our lives. We lived in three different cities, slept in more beds than we could count on two hands, worked hard at learning two different languages and faced daily cultural challenges. My greatest dream started to seem like the thing that was going to take me down.

But God. He was relentless in His pursuit of my heart.

I would read words like:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my

fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’                                     

                                        -Psalm 91:1-2

I would rarely get past verse two most mornings. I began to trust in, abide in and rely on my refuge. My safe place. My Most High who covers me. He became the One to whom I ran in my time of need. He became my familiar place when nothing else around me felt normal. He was my all surpassing peace.

About the time we started to feel like we were getting into a rhythm, we came back to the states for our organization’s international conference. It was a glorious summer of being with family. Again we dreamed. Again we planned. Again we received hours of training, deep encouragement and even some reproof. And then,

knowing this time how hard it actually would be, we got back on a plane headed to the other side of the world.

That’s when everything unraveled. After flying for an entire 24 hours, government officials turned us away at the border. We were frantically run through a foreign airport and shoved onto a plane headed back in the direction from which we had just come.

I wish I could tell you it was a pretty process to get to where I am today. I wish I could give you a simple step-by-step guide to working through the grief of losing something that significant. Unfortunately (but maybe fortunately) it was a tearful, snotty, messy, daily (sometimes hourly) fight.

But God. He was still relentlessly pursuing my heart.

It was around this time I found these two verses tucked away in Hebrews:

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.  -Hebrews 6:19-20

In the verses above it describes what this is: an oath made by God to His people. An oath of His unchangeable character. An oath of His consistent, ravenous love towards us. An oath that He will come back for us.

So I took that oath as the only hope I had and would sit behind the curtain in the inner place with Jesus. Okay, sometimes I didn’t sit. Sometimes I paced with confusion. Sometimes I banged my fists against the walls screaming. Sometimes I curled up in a ball in the corner and cried for hours. Sometimes I sat with eyes glazed over and nothing to say.

But I was determined to not leave. I was determined that my hope in His oath would continue to take me behind the curtain to the inner place where Jesus was (and is). And I knew I would again find Him to be my refuge. My safe place. My Most High who covers me. I knew I would find Him if I ran to Him in my time of great need. He was familiar when my life felt like it had been flipped up on its end. And He did give me all surpassing peace.

IN RESPONSE

Think for a moment of your deepest place of pain. Take that place of pain and bring it to the Lord. Spend time meditating on Hebrews and let the reality of His oath become your hope.

By a Missionary

The Arrival: Hope Arriving

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

I Hope I Win the Lottery.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a few people say to me, “I hope I win the lottery so I can pay off the new Antioch church building!” Never mind they have a greater mathematical chance of being struck by lightning than winning the lottery.  I guess somebody has to win.  However, I’m more interested in probabilities that play in my favor. How about a 100 percent guarantee I will win? Sounds good to me! What game offers those kinds of odds? The game of life.

Christian hope is a 100 percent guaranteed winner. The Bible calls the ability to maintain confidence in what we hope for “faith.” However, what exactly is this jackpot Christians are hoping for?  Well, it’s not a thing.

It’s a person; the person of Jesus.

At the end of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi tells God’s people that a Savior is coming. Then there is a 400 year gap of silence between the end of the old testament and birth of Jesus. That’s a long time of hoping yet not seeing.

Yet for those that have experienced God’s character, we know that hope in God will never disappoint.

This week we begin Advent.  A time of remembering the 400 years of silent anticipation of the arrival of our Savior.  Let us once again be reminded that God is who He says He is and He will do what He said He will do.  Our hope in Him will never disappoint.

In Response

What dreams, desires and hopes are you holding in your hands?  Is your faith waning in the waiting?  Press into Jesus and ask Him to give you confidence that anything from Him is a 100 percent guarantee.

By Van Vandegriff, Family Pastor