Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter 2016: An Easter all about redemption

I love Easter.  I always have.  My dad was a pastor and I remember going to sunrise services in my pajamas.  I also remember getting my favorite Cabbage Patch Kid ever on an Easter morning many years ago.  Easter was special, and not because of the Easter bunny.  Deep in my heart, I knew it was a holiday that really mattered.  I knew it was life-changing.  Plus...the new dress and shoes didn't hurt.  I've had a thing for fashion since I was a toddler.

 Easter 1987 (I am the one in the blue dress).  Isn't that background so realistic?  I mean, it looks like my mom took us to a river near a forest, stood us on a dock, and snapped this picture.  
Except none of us were even looking at the camera (a wild animal must have run through the trees).  

 Easter 1988 (I am the one still asleep....some things never change!!)  
The wood paneling is a much more believable backdrop.

Easter 2011

Easter 2012  (I am noticing a trend with Ethan and the khaki suit).  I also just noticed
that this is a real river and trees in the background, and we are standing on a dock!!!

Easter 2013 (the last Easter I was home)

  I typically get pretty excited when the Easter decorations come out, and I love to decorate with little birds, eggs, and nests.  My daughter, Addalyn, and I were in Hobby Lobby when the Easter decor first came out (probably right after Halloween), and she grew quiet.  She then said, "Sometimes seeing Easter stuff makes me feel sad."  I asked her why, and she said, "Because the last two Easters you weren't there to put me to bed, and I cried myself to sleep. And you weren't there to wake me up."  Dagger to the heart.  She then asked me (for probably the thousandth time to date) if I would ever have to leave and go back to treatment.  I am wise enough to know that there are some promises I cannot make, so I replied, "Sissy, I will do everything in my power to try to never have to go away again."  It broke my heart that a holiday that I have loved since my childhood brought sadness to her mind.  It made me feel like a I had tainted her innocence.  

Easter 2014

  April 10th 2014, I entered into a treatment program.  Just the weekend before, Chad and I had gone out of town for a belated anniversary celebration.  I insisted on shopping for Easter outfits for the kids that weekend because, even though he had no idea yet, I was pretty certain I would wind up in treatment or a cemetery before that Easter.  Saturday, April 19th, 2014, I didn't stay up late assembling Easter baskets or ironing clothing.  A nearby church delivered Easter baskets to us that were filled with candy, a bracelet, stationary, and various other things.  I hadn't received an Easter basket since I was a child, and I found myself so thankful for it.  It was a bright spot in a dark time.  I cried myself to sleep in a room full of other women who were probably doing the same thing.  We woke up before dawn on Sunday April 20th, and all eighteen of us girls gathered on the balcony in front of the giant window, overlooking the hills below us.  We stood in silence as we watched the sun rise.  To be honest, I think it may have been the first sunrise I had ever seen.  As we stood, Mrs. Hogston (the kindest woman you will ever meet who thankfully was working that Easter weekend) began reading the Easter story to us.  She read it in a way I had never heard anyone read it before.  She read it as if we were standing outside the empty tomb realizing with our very own eyes that Jesus was indeed alive.  She made me believe those words in a brand new way.  I wrote the following entry in my journal that Easter morning:

Sunday 4/20
Heavenly Father, today I stand in awe of your love and your sacrifice.  As I watched the sun rise this morning, it was like watching the dawn of hope.  As I thought about how much I love and miss my kids on this day, you quickly reminded me that you also didn't want to give up your child for any amount of time...let alone to be sacrificed for my sins.  I can't even fathom the pain you must have felt.  Thank you for your gift to me....grace.  I ask that you keep me focused on YOU today.  Help me find peace and comfort in the shadow of the cross.  This day reminds me that I have hope of overcoming this addiction because you sent your son to take that for me.....and He overcame death.  I stand amazed, humbled, and with an overwhelmingly grateful heart.  

That  morning we packed ourselves into two vans and drove to Christ Temple Church in Huntington, WV.  The music was phenomenal, the message was great, and the children's drama was out of this world.  Yet, all I could do was look at the families around me.  The ones who were wearing matching outfits and looked so happy.  The mothers (who were not drug addicts) with small children sitting on their laps.  I wondered what they would do after church.  Would they go to an egg hunt?  Would they have a nice dinner?  We had chicken noodle and tomato soup on the menu for lunch because it was quick and easy.  As we were leaving the church, a lady approached our group and said that she would like to buy us lunch.  She chose a restaurant, met us there, and spent $400 to provide some women who were spending Easter away from their families with a nice dinner.  I will never forget that kindness.

We drove home, and I took a nap, only to wake up and find that two of the residents had stolen some of the other girls' things and then ran off the hill.  There is never a dull moment in rehab....not even on Easter.  A group of us decided to watch The Passion of the Christ, and when it was over, a girl named Lindsey approached me and said, "You are going to think I'm crazy, but I have always taken Communion on Easter, and I feel like those of us who would like to should do it."  She asked for my help, and we found a package of Heiner's rolls and some red fruit punch kool-aid.  We broke the rolls into small pieces, poured the kool-aid into a glass, and invited any of the girls who wanted to join us to meet us at the fountain out front.  Not a single girl declined, and Mrs. Hogston participated as well.  Lindsey read the scriptures to go along with our communion, and we passed the plate around, each girl dipping her piece of the bread roll into the kool-aid cup.  As we did this, one of the sweetest spirits I have ever felt surrounded us.  I had not sang in a couple of months, but my mouth opened and words effortlessly escaped my previously sealed lips.

How deep the Father's love for us,
how vast beyond all measure,
that He should give His only son,
to make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss,
the Father turns His face away,
as wounds which mar the chosen one
bring many sons to glory.
Behold the man upon a cross,
my sin upon his shoulders.
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held him there
until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished.
I will not boast in anything,
no gifts, no power, no wisdom.
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from his reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But, this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom.

I had sang those words a multitude of times, but this time would be one that I would never forget. This time I sang it....for the first I truly believed it.  Like I truly meant it.  Like the words were life to me.  All day long I had wished and longed to be with my husband and kids.  I had tried to just "make it through" the day without them.  As I looked at each girl, all of the tear-stained cheeks, I realized that as bad as I wanted to be home, there was no other place I would rather be at that very moment than standing around that fountain, using Heiner's rolls and kool-aid for communion with a group of girls who knew what it truly meant to be redeemed.  We were each silently celebrating our own resurrection from death.

Easter 2015

As hard as I tried to stay clean after finishing the program, I relapsed, and Easter 2015 found me back in treatment, again.  Chad was on his own, again.  He picked out Easter outfits, had them made, and made baskets.  Once again, I sat in church on Easter morning looking at all of the families around me and thinking about my kids who were at home without me.  That day, I vowed to do whatever it took to never miss out on anything special with them ever again. 

This Easter, I was home!!!  I got to pick out the kids' outfits, and go to Wal-Mart at ten o'clock on Saturday night to get stuff for Easter baskets.  Isn't that what everyone does?  I got to stay up late putting those baskets together and ironing clothes.  I put the kids to bed, went to their rooms and watched them sleep, and stood and wept.  I was the one crying on the night before Easter, but they were tears of pure gratefulness.  Truthfully, I didn't deserve to ever see those kids again.  I didn't deserve to be around for the special occasions.  But, because of what Easter means, Jesus Christ dying to save me from my sins and my failures, I luckily don't get what I deserve; rather I get what I don't deserve.  I got to wake my kids and watch them walk into the living room to get their Easter baskets.  I got to get them ready, ride to church with them, and then spend the day together.  I got to celebrate with Chad's family and then have dinner later in the evening with our small group.  I then got to take my family to our best friends' house and just sit back and smile and laugh at our crazy group of kids.  I got to celebrate a day that I shouldn't have even lived to see, all because a man died for me to do so.  

So many thoughts have gone through my head today.  To be honest, I have been in somewhat of a funk lately, and the raw emotions I have felt over the past couple of days have woken me up.  Our pastor preached about redemption this morning.  He said to redeem means to gain or regain possession of something in exchange for payment.  I am so thankful that Christ did that for me, for I could never find the means to pay for everything that I lost during my addiction.  God so willingly gave His Son's life because He knew I would NEVER in a million years be able to "pay up."  

He has done the same for you.  No matter what you have done in your past, or even what you are doing right this very second, the payment God made by sacrificing His only son over two thousand years ago is still just as strong today.  It is enough.  For your sins.  For my sins.  For your past of shame and failure.  What I could spend every second for the rest of my life trying to do and yet remain unsuccessful, Christ accomplished with one single breath....His dying breath.  He redeemed me.  He redeemed you.  The payment for your sins has already been paid.  Now...make the devil pay up.  Go get your stuff back.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

For Better or for Worse

(FYI...I started this post a week ago, but my house got hit by a NASTY virus that lasts two to three weeks and I've been a little preoccupied...and exhausted).

Sixteen years ago, on March 17th, 2000, I walked down the aisle, an eighteen-year old freshman in college, to marry my best friend.  He was three years older than me, and we had gotten engaged my senior year of high school.  We were inseparable...or so I thought.

We took a ten-day honeymoon cruise, and all I can tell you is that I was extremely homesick.  I had never flown or really been anywhere away from my family.  Essentially, I was still a kid who missed her Mommy and Daddy.

Soon after marriage, a life of hard times came quickly.  At twenty years of age, Chad already had a successful business and made more money than most people twice his age.  However, shortly after our marriage, we decided to open a commercial flooring store, and, within a year, we lost everything.  During that time, we also became parents to a three-year-old little girl who we would later adopt...after years of expensive custody battles.

We went through infertility for almost four years, finally had a baby boy, and he was sick all of the time.  I can remember our fifth anniversary very well.  We took a short trip, stayed in a historic hotel, ate some good food, and did some shopping.  The shopping was what I was most excited for.  I got to walk into a children's clothing store and pick out a little Easter outfit for our nine-month old baby boy, Ethan.  I had dreamed of that day for years.  I vividly remember choosing white pants, a polo shirt, a blue and yellow v-neck sweater vest, a white newsboy cap, and navy and white oxford shoes.  I couldn't wait to get home to show my Mom what I had picked out for him.

Most anniversaries after that one were a blur.

When Ethan was fifteen months old, I got pregnant with a baby girl, and I became sick myself. Within her first year of life, I had morphed from a somewhat normal stay-at-home-mommy into a drug addict.  By our tenth anniversary, I was a mess.  We had planned on going on a cruise or some kind of trip, but we decided to do a few renovations in our home instead.  I was secretly relieved because trips made me so nervous.  It was so hard to plan out my pill usage and have enough to last me the whole trip.  Typically, I would think that I had planned everything out perfectly, then end up taking everything I had within the first few days and feeling miserable the remainder of the week.  Trips are no fun for a secret addict.

We had big plans for our fifteenth anniversary.  March 17th, 2015.  We would finally take that cruise and get away from our crazy lives for some time together.  I had already come out of my first stay in treatment, and, to most, it appeared that I was doing well.  However, I was secretly battling a relapse, and had been for months.  On January 9, 2015, I re-entered the same treatment facility.  There would be no trip.  In fact, it appeared that there would be no fifteenth anniversary.  I had initially only signed a thirty-seven day contract, and I figured even if I were still kicked out of my home, at least I wouldn't be locked up for Valentine's Day, our anniversary, and Easter.  Turns out, thirty-seven days was simply not enough.  Chad had informed me that I was not allowed back into our home, but that he would come and pick me up for our anniversary for a four-hour out visit.  The visit date for that week was Saturday, March 14th, so that would have to suffice.

I was so excited and nervous that Friday night that I could barely sleep.  I was up before the sun, and I laid in bed until we were allowed to get up.  I was too nervous to eat breakfast, so I drank a cup of coffee, got my morning chores done, and started to get ready.  I wore a black top, straight jeans, and black heels.  I did my make-up really well that day, wore my favorite perfume, and sat in the sun room waiting for them to call my name to leave.  Lou came into the room, called my name, and I followed her into the front office to see Chad standing there.  I signed a paper stating that I would not use a phone, I would not mail anything, I would not go into a store alone, I would not drink, smoke, or use drugs, I would not drive a vehicle, etc.  We got into the vehicle, and I handed Chad this picture.                                                

I had painted art therapy (that's what you do in rehab.  make things for people.  it's kind of like being a grade schooler again).  In fact, one of the other girls had gotten mad at me for using all of the gold paint.  I didn't care.  This painting was a big deal.  I also handed him a card that had been quite an ordeal to get.  We typically had personal shopping every two weeks, in which we were allowed to spend twenty dollars (if we had it in our accounts).  A staff member or intern took our detailed lists and shopped for us.  Unfortunately, the week that I needed the greeting card, personal shopping was cancelled.  I went to the Residential Coordinator (who ended up being my mentor and one of my favorite people on the planet) and told her of my predicament.  She said that she would get me a card when she went to Wal-Mart to pick up prescriptions for another resident.  She saved the day.

We drove off the hill, down the long winding roads, and into "town" where we went to lunch at a little local Mexican restaurant.  We only had four hours to visit, and Louisa, KY is a pretty remote place.  I asked begged Chad to take me to a clothing store to get me a few things for spring, and we went to Wal-Mart to get a heating pad.  The treatment facility had a few that were passed around, but it grossed me out to use the "community heating pad."  Our visit was over before I knew it, and Chad took me back to the facility.

I came in with my bags of new things, left them in the office to be searched and returned to me later, and followed a staff member into the bathroom to have my person searched.  It definitely wasn't the fifteenth anniversary celebration I had imagined.  On our actual anniversary, Tuesday March 17th, 2015, I woke up at 7:00 in my bottom bunk.  I went to rec that morning, art therapy that afternoon, then to AA that evening.  I tried to go about my day like it was just any other day, but there was a sorrow deep in my soul that refused to be ignored.  I had really screwed my life up.  There would be no happy ending...or so I thought.

Last Thursday, March 17th, we celebrated sixteen years of marriage.  WE MADE IT!!  We had planned on going out of town for two days (not too far away, but to one of our favorite places), but we ended up with very sick children.  One of our dear friends came out to sit with the kids so that we could go to dinner.  After dinner, we went to look for new furniture.  After sixteen years of marriage, I'd say that's about as exciting as we get.  I was so tired on the way home that I could barely manage to keep my eyes open, and I didn't even ask to stop at Target.  We walked through the door, went straight to bed, and within about five minutes, we had two children lying right between us.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

There were no trips taken, no gifts exchanged, no extravagant dates planned.  The real gift was sitting at dinner, holding hands and realizing that we have what truly matters; realizing that there is no gift that can symbolize how truly grateful we are for one another; realizing that we are happier now than we have ever been; realizing that we made it through that which, by all means, should have torn us apart.  Now that....that is something to truly celebrate.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why I am thankful for messy days and my crazy life

My house is an absolute mess today ( my terms of a mess), but I am thankful for the mess; I'm thankful that I get to clean it up.  Sounds crazy, doesn't it?  It feels crazy to say.

I had to lie flat from Thursday to Saturday of last week from a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).  Everything went great, but lying flat is precautionary due to complications I have had in the past.  And, let me tell poor house suffered.  Dirty laundry piled up in groves, beds remained unmade for days, closets were turned into forts, and my youngest two played a prank by covering the kitchen cabinet handles with Vaseline and peanut butter.  Not funny.  At all.  

Yesterday was my first day up and about.  The day was filled with an amazing worship service at Life Point church, lunch with our small group (which included talking and laughing with my favorite little know who you are!), a large portion of the small group kids coming home with us, playing with my favorite three-year-old (she says we are best friends), our freshly groomed dog taking a mud bath behind the barn, three little girls having a strawberry and pickle picnic in said mud, meeting some precious new friends from our recovery group for dinner, attending our church's Dream Team event (indescribable!), then spending some time with our best friends afterward.  Six children had been at our house for the evening, and I walked through the door, fed my kids, spent an hour finding one kid's lost glasses, got everyone's school clothes ready (even my eighteen-year-old's), then crawled into bed.  I turned on Prison Break (which we are binge watching on Netflix right now), and spent an hour trying to keep Chad awake to finish the episode...that he had fallen asleep watching the night before.  Watching television with him is hard work!  I don't even remember falling asleep, but I woke up with two warm little bodies in my bed, one of them wearing a sleep mask.  I could have cuddled with them all day.  Instead, I dragged them out of bed, packed lunches, fixed hair, jumped in the van in my nightgown, and got halfway to school before realizing we had forgotten a backpack.  I dropped them at the door at school, watched them give the teacher greeting them a big hug, then drove home.  

When I walked through the door, I once again saw the mess.  Laundry, toys, dirty socks, muddy shoes, dog hair, beds to be made, dishes to be washed, overflowing trash cans....and I smiled.  I smiled because this means that they once again count on me.  This means that my husband is no longer used to doing everything on his own.  I smiled because it means that I matter and that my presence is missed/noticed when I'm gone/out of commission.  It means that I contribute (A LOT) to this family.  I smiled because I am happy to be here to do all of this, that this is now my home again.  It means that I have a husband and three kids (and a dog) to clean up after.  I smiled because it means that I am alive.  I smiled because I am the luckiest woman on the face of the earth, even if I'm knee deep in laundry, elbow deep in dirty dishes, and ankle deep in dog hair. Because, I'm head over heels deep in love with this crazy, beautiful, messy life that I get another chance at.

Read about the day my husband kicked me out by clicking here.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

What I learned from my dog

German Shepherd

My family and I have a German Shepherd named Luci.  I was not a self-proclaimed animal person until the day that I met Luci.  We wanted a German Shepherd because our home had recently been broken into, and I felt unsafe.  We had found an independent breeder, but on a Sunday evening in late September of 2012, we just so happened to stop in at a local corporate-owned pet store.  Chad told the kids and me that we were not buying a dog here, just looking.  I was fine with that.....until I saw Luci.  She was overpriced, scrawny, and her ears were bigger than her body; but I fell in love with her.  She was double the price of the puppies we had found from the breeder, so, obviously, Chad said "no".  We left the pet store, went to Wal-Mart, and when we got out to the parking lot, the kids and I all began to cry for the dog.  I might have thrown a tantrum....for a dog.  We walked back into the pet store ten minutes before they closed, and bought what looked like a miniature, scrawny donkey.

She nearly died the first week we had her and was diagnosed with kennel cough.  I sat up several nights in a row with her, and as I rocked her in my leather recliner, I realized I had become one of those "crazy dog people."  I was sure she would one day end up in our family pictures.....and she did.

Luci has an over-the-top obsession with tennis balls.  When I pop the top off of a new canister of them, she comes running, sniffing the air and the container.  Her love for tennis balls cannot be expressed in mere words.  We have to spell the word around her.  Where is Luci's B-A-L-L?  But, she has even learned how to spell ball.  She's a genius.  Maybe she will win the Spelling Bee at the kennel.

When Luci's ball rolls under a piece of furniture, she contorts her body, trying to crawl under and get it. At sixty-five pounds, she is often unsuccessful in her endeavors, and she prowls around the house, begging and pleading for someone to get on their hands and knees to retrieve her ball.  Luci has been to obedience school, and she knows commands for come, sit, lay, down, and stay, as well as the signs for those commands.  She 'heels' when on a leash, and she knows to go get in her bed when we lock up at night.  She knows what it means to go "bye-bye", and she knows that at 3:30 every afternoon, we pick the kids up from school.  She runs to the sliding van door and hops up into her seat.  She knows her groomer/boarder's name, and we have to spell it when speaking about her around Luci.  B-A-L-L and H-O-L-L-Y are words we do not speak in our home.  They invoke immediate canine mayhem.  She also gives high-fives and handshakes, knows the sound of the fruit drawer in our fridge opening from a mile away (A-P-P-L-E is also a word we only spell), and she refuses treats if we tell her they are from the dog catcher.  She knows not to get on the furniture, and when she has done something wrong, she readily and voluntarily confesses, hunkering down on the ground in the posture of guilt and shame. We are pretty sure she is a human disguised as a dog.  My dad jokes that we need to send our children to the same obedience school so that they will be as well-behaved as Luci.  Or maybe he's not joking......

She is the most obedient dog you will meet.....except when tennis balls are involved.  She loves to play fetch, but she simply will not release the ball.  She brings it and lays it in my lap, yet when I reach for it, she quickly snatches it up.  When I try to pull it out of her mouth, she clenches her teeth down and secures it in her jaws.  She takes it and lays down with it, and then brings it back.  We go through the whole routine.  She wants me to throw it, yet she won't give it to me.  Once in a blue moon, she will release it and let me throw it.  She runs across our hardwood floors, sliding into the wall as she goes for the neon yellow ball.  She excitedly grabs it, starts to bring it back to me, then decides she will keep the ball to herself again.  She comes back over to me, and I once again try to pry it out of her mouth.  I tell her to "drop" it, but her grip grows stronger.  As much as she wants me to have that ball so that I can throw it for her, she simply cannot and will not give me control.

German Shepherd

As I watched her do this one day, it reminded me of the way that I act with God.  My life is my tennis ball.  It is my prized possession.  I try to give it to God, to put it in His hands, but I instead strengthen my grip.  Sometimes I even lay it right in front of Him, but as He reaches for it, I pluck it right back from his grasp.  Occasionally, I am able to leave it in his lap and wait to see what he does with it.  Usually, it's pretty spectacular, and I find myself running ninety-miles an hour filled with excitement.  It is very clear that what He can do with it is much better than what I can do.  But, then I start losing my trust.  What if I give it to Him, and He doesn't do what I want Him to do?  Or even worse....what if He doesn't give it back to me?  So, I take it and run and hide.  I keep it in my possession, not really capable of doing much with it on my own.  It rolls under the couch, and I run back to Him, begging and pleading for His help.  No matter how untrusting, stubborn, and unyielding I am, He comes to my rescue.  Every. Single. Time.  You see, left to my own devices, I will eventually lose that ball.  It will roll under the bed and be covered and hidden in dust.  It will end up under the refrigerator, never to be seen again, or out in the yard, covered in a blanket of snow.  Left in my care, it is useless.  But, in my Master's hands, it is never useless.  He knows exactly what to do with it.  And, even though I don't know what that will be, one thing is for sure:  it will be spectacular, and I will be running, ecstatically chasing after it, anxious to see where it unexpectedly lands.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

An extra day, an extra chance

Cavs game

Yesterday was February 29th, an extra day....a freebie.

When I was in treatment, I was required to keep a journal.  Every night from ten to ten-thirty, we had to lie in our bunk beds and write in our journals.  I'm not gonna lie, some nights I just jotted down my favorite Bible verse or a short gratitude list from the day; but most nights I wrote about how I was feeling and about important things during that day that I never wanted to forget.  Back then, I was so thankful that I kept up with my journaling because two evenings a week, our beloved Mrs. Muncy (who forever impacted my life in the greatest way) did a journal check at nightly group.  She didn't read what we had written, as it was personal; rather she checked the dates and made sure there were no entries missing.  If there were, she would hand out demerits (especially for repeat offenders), which included not getting our one soda or coffee per day or losing minutes on a phone call.  I can remember girls sitting right as group was getting ready to start, trying to catch up on a week's worth of journaling.  In fact, one time one of the younger girls was trying to do eight days' worth in five minutes, and she frantically yelled out to me, "Misty!!  What did we have for lunch last Tuesday?!" I replied, "Are you really journaling about our meals?"  "I'm desperate at this point!", she explained.   I wanted nothing to do with demerits, and can boast that in two different stays, I never received one single demerit.  Something to be proud of, right?  I was on my best behavior in treatment.....for my drug addiction.

I am now thankful that I kept a journal because I love to pick it up and read what I was going through and feeling back then.   I often look back to see what I was doing one year ago to the day.

Looking back to one year ago, however, there was no February 29th, 2015.  The day simply did not exist.

February 29th, 2016 did exist, though, and we took full advantage of it.  Our eleven year old son, Ethan, got two tickets to yesterday's Cleveland Cavs game for Christmas.  They were for him and me, of course, as his dad finds sports rather underwhelming.  We loaded up and drove to Cleveland, stopped for lunch on the way, checked into the hotel, then walked across the street to the arena.  Ethan took pictures of the outside of the arena and held my hand as we ventured upon the crosswalk. Both of those things warmed my heart.  We went through security and into the arena where a security guard pointed us toward the escalators.  We stopped at the team shop and bought some over priced souvenirs then rode up the two story escalator to find our seats.  Ethan was so excited he couldn't even take his coat off.  He looked at every detail of the arena, capturing it all on his camera.  The lights went down, the fire came out, and they announced the starting lineup.  Ethan stared in amazement at the extravaganza, and I stared in amazement at the look on his handsome face.  His excitement only grew as we watched a nail biter of a first half. We walked to the concession stand and bought a soda to share and two packs of candy for $17.  No wonder they could afford to pay these players so much money!!!  We went back to our seats, enjoyed the half-time show, then anxiously watched the close second half.  The Cavs seemed to stay about three to four points down throughout most of the game.  I'm not quite sure that God cares about who wins an NBA game, but I found myself saying, "God, I know this probably doesn't really matter to you, but if you could somehow help the Cavs pull out a win here, that would be great.  For my little guy....please?"

The Cavs managed to bring it the last couple minutes of the game, and I found myself jumping up and down with Ethan.  The buzzer sounded, and Ethan screamed at the top of his lungs celebrating the win.  We walked down the steps and he said to me, "This was the best day of my life."  I watched as he walked to the railing to take some closer pictures.  As he stood there, I thought back to a day that was much different than this one.

January 12, 2015 I sat the kids down and told them that I was leaving, yet again, to go to treatment.  Ethan is typically such a tough kid and just doesn't let things get to him.  I did not anticipate the reaction he would have.  He was devastated and broke into sobs that pierced my heart.  I tried to console him, but he would not let me.  I left the room to finish gathering my things, and when I walked back into the living room, I saw Chad holding our ten year old like a newborn baby trying to calm him down.  I walked closer to them, and Chad angrily said, "No.  You get out of here."  I was humiliated that this was my fault.  I would dare to say that Ethan would describe this day as the worst day of his life.

And, yet, yesterday I was given another chance.  An extra day to make beauty out of ashes.  A day to attend a game with my son without the stress of making sure I had pills to take with me, without worrying that they wouldn't make it through security, without pretending that I needed to go to the restroom every little bit.  The same boy who had looked at me with eyes saying that I had caused him the worst day of his life, looked at me and told me I had given him the best day of his life.

I tell you all of this to give you hope, to show you that who you are today DOES NOT have to dictate who you are tomorrow.  Life can be changed from night to day, from sorrow to joy, with one single choice.

That's what God can do.  He can restore to us that which was lost.  He can take a mother who is ruining her child's life and turn her into a mother who is pouring into her child's life and making memories that will last a lifetime.  That is the true meaning of recovery.

He will give us an extra day, an extra chance...even when we are nowhere in the vicinity of deserving it.