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.  


  1. It's hard to not feel like these words were meant for me. I am a secret drug addict. I am the mother of a three year old girl, and the wife of an alcoholic/drug addict. I can just imagine the picture of what we must look like to some people based on that description, but my family looks much like yours. My husband has battled his demons for much longer than I have even known him, and I got into alanon to help with living with him. But somewhere along the way I found him so much easier to deal with after I'd taken some pain pills. As you can imagine, that escalated, and then I, no kidding, found myself scoring heroin from my little brother. Once that train started rolling, there was no stopping it. Today I find myself holed up at home with the last few pills I have until my next refill, and with no money left for dope. But for the first time, I am filled with guilt, shame, regret, disappointment and disgust with myself. Until very recently I've justified my use by telling myself I'm a better mom on the stuff...I can function, have fun, have energy, etc. But the truth is that, while that may have been the case for a short time, it's no longer true now. Every part of me has been consumed with getting the drug, using the drug, figuring out how to get money for it, I'm obviously not focusing on my child the way I should and could if dope were not a part of my life. I used to counsel people with addictions. Until now I never fully understood the fear of getting sick or the fear of living in this world without the buffer of a nice high. I get it now. Thank you for your words...they have touched me today.

  2. Oh, Jamie. I have been where you are right now, and could actually picture it all through your words. I thought the same thing...that the pills made me a better mom because I could do things around the house and take the kids to the park. Bad part was, I should/could have gotten arrested for even driving them to the park. My disease was telling me it made me better; my heart was telling me I was a mess. I finally went with my heart. I hate that you feel the way you do today, but I'm also thankful that you are feeling what I felt when I finally had the realization that something had to be done. You deserve a much better life!! I pray that you take that one step in the right Life can and does get better. Keep a grip on hope!!