Tuesday, February 28, 2012

We've only just begun...

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland."
--Isaiah 43:18-19

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
--I Peter 1:3

If I recall correctly, I don't believe that I stopped smiling the whole way home that Wednesday morning. We arrived into town a little after lunch and headed straight to my in-law's house, to see them of course but most of all because Beckett was there. Thank you Jesus for my son...Wow! After the hellos and the hugs we sat down to chat. I was nervous, but at the same time felt led to initiate the inevitable conversation. I told them that I had every intention of getting a good enough job so that Meagan would not have to work and so that she could stay home and take care of Beckett. The next part was no surprise. Her parents basically told me that they were not happy about the move to Texas. Who on earth could blame them for that? They had known me for over 5 years and I had been on drugs the WHOLE time. In their eyes I was much less than a man and rightfully so. Of course they would be mad that someone who had done nothing but fail would want to move their only child and only grandchild 5 hours away. Honestly, they took the whole thing a lot better than I would have...A LOT better. I thank God for that everyday and for them, because they certainly had the right to get me out of their lives and they chose to trust us. I say 'trust us' because I think they are slowly starting to trust me again, but they have trusted Meagan daily.

After we took care of the giant elephant in the room things were back to wonderful and we had an awesome meal that night. The next morning I headed to my parent's house where I picked up my dad and we headed to pick up the U-haul. We spent the rest of the day loading it up with everything that Meagan and I owned minus the furniture she sold. That night (the second night I was home) was my dad's birthday and we celebrated with all of our family, for those who know me you know that means we had about 25 people over. It was great and the next day I took Meagan to work and while she was there I was taking care of all of the last minute stuff.

At noon, I picked her up and we headed to Ft. Worth, me in the U-haul and her in her car.  We arrived late that night and stayed with some friends. The next morning I went to see Bobby and we had lunch. After lunch Meagan and I headed by the men's home to pick up a couple of guys to come help us unload the U-haul at the apartment. We spent the next 4 hours unloading and then Nick let us take those guys out to eat as payment. That was a huge blessing for them, but it was for us too.

We spent our first night in the apartment that night, it was great, boxes stacked a mile high. We just went from a 1700 sq. foot house, to an 800 sq. foot apartment and the crazy part is, I didn't care one bit, I had everything I needed and wanted in arm's-length.

We headed back to Benton after church that Sunday so that Meagan could finish her last week of teaching. It was great to hang with my family. We were able to get someone who was very close to me to go to the women's home. They took her down on a Tuesday and I went down the following day. From the start she was not happy to be there. Her main problem was the she had convinced herself that she was alright. You see, like I have said before and like I tried to tell her, drugs were only a small part of the problem. Her problem, like all of us is sin and this was the perfect place for that. "I can't be away from my kids" "this place is not for me" and so on. These were some of the things that she said, also some of the very things that I said. One thing I know is that a person like me and her must hit rock bottom in order to change, and change here especially. In my mind, she had not hit rock bottom, she had tricked herself and by Friday of that week found a way back to Benton. She seems to be doing okay now and I pray for her each day. I pray that if things ever get too bad that God will make a way for her to come back to the women's home.

I did a little teaching at the men's home that week and Meagan arrived that weekend to help me unpack all of the boxes. We made a pretty good dent in the boxes and by Saturday morning I was just getting in the way. I decided I would go fundraising with the guys. It was a great day and by the night time we had most of it unpacked.

We headed back to Benton after church and the next time we would come back to Fort Worth we would have both Beckett and our 75-pound Golden Retriever Duncan. Although things were going great, God still was putting things in my path to strengthen and stretch my faith and he was still nurturing me as well. He was certainly just beginning...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Coming home...

"But our citizenship is in Heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ."
--Philippians 3:20

So, the last time I left you I had just been saved and was on cloud nine.  However, when I came back home from dropping Todd off at the Victory Home, it was the same old mundane life.  I returned to work.  I returned to stress.  It was hard to keep the fire that I felt when I was saved burning as strongly as ever.  Honestly, I think a lot of it was my fault.  I didn't really know what to do in order to keep myself so in tune with God that nothing else mattered.  This is just a side note...I have found that at any point in time when I start to feel lonely or insecure, I can usually relate that to my prayer life.  The more I pray and seek God's will, the more fulfilled I am and vice-versa.  I think that is how it is for most Christians.

At this point in mine and Todd's journey, I was so ready for a permanent change.  Anytime I returned home from a trip with Todd, I wanted more and more to be back where he was.  I wanted to start fresh with him.  And nothing else mattered.  

After Todd had been in the home for about four months, he dropped the "big one" on me.  He told me we needed to move to Fort Worth.  Now, for me, most people would think it would have been one of the hardest decisions of my life.  I had everything in Benton.  I had my dream job where I had worked so hard to reach my highest potential, I had both families around us, I had a great home that I loved, I had a ton of friends, etc.  But sometimes, in those instances where you look like you have it all, you feel the loneliest.  I was definitely lonely.  I felt as though no one else had been through the things that Todd and I had been through.  And when I thought about Todd moving back to Benton and us staying there for the rest of our lives, it made me sick.  Not because of the town, the people, or anything like that, but because of the memories we held there.  For me, the decision was easy, I was ready to go where I was being led.  Led by Todd, but most importantly, by God.  

When I returned home from the visit where Todd said we needed to move, I got on top of things.  Because I am a planner, I decided to get prepared.  Any minor thing that needed to be done to the house was taken care of in order to get it ready to sell. I got the carpets cleaned, the roof patched, the carpet repaired, etc.  However, everything was on the "down-low."  Now, thinking back, I'm not really sure why I was so worried about everything being hush-hush.  It was in that instance that I should have been the most vocal about all the things God was doing in mine and Todd's life and how He was guiding us into a new path in which we would be able to bless and be blessed the most. 

Now, all of you know what the housing market is like...Well, when God is your pilot and steering you in a direction He wants you to go, you can throw the housing market and all its statistics out the window.  Todd and I sold our home in about 3 weeks.  The weird things about it was is during those 3 weeks, I wasn't really worried about it selling.  I just knew it would happen.  It had to happen.  And if we didn't sell it before we moved, we would just figure it out.  The thing I was worried about was breaking the news to a few people.   

I will say this... there were two people/groups that I was afraid to tell.  The first was my dad and the second was "my girls."  

I am an only child.  I have always been a daddy's girl and a mama's girl.  My dad was very proud of the person I had become and still am.  He was proud of all the accomplishments I had made while working for my school district.  He was proud to be able to tell people that "my girls" had won numerous competitions.  He was proud of the mom I had become and the home I had.  My dad was/is so proud of me.  I really felt like leaving all those things would let him down.  When you tell someone you love things that you know will disappoint them, you try to tread lightly.  Now, I'm not going to say my dad was thrilled with the decision Todd and I had made and I completely understand why he wouldn't have been.  How in the world was he supposed to be able to trust Todd who he only knew as an immature boy who not only couldn't, but wouldn't take care of his only daughter and grandchild.  

The second group I was most worried about telling was "my girls."  I knew I would be letting them down in the sense that I was leaving in the middle of the year.  I knew they would be heart-broken and honestly, I believe I was just as heart-broken to leave them.  When I sat down to tell them, I couldn't get anything out.  I was really so consumed with emotion that I was at a loss for words.  Honestly, I don't know if any of them knew what I was about to tell them (or they could have all known).  It was as bad as I thought it would be.  I was sick to my stomach the whole day before I was able to tell them.  I put on a fake smile the first few minutes of class and then, just broke down.  

A lot of times in life people wonder why God put them in certain positions.  In response to "my girls" I have often questioned what my purpose was for their lives after I realized God wanted me elsewhere.  And then, it just hit me one day like a ton of bricks.  It doesn't matter how much technique, choreography, discipline, etc. I taught them.  Actually, in the long run, all that stuff is superficial.  The reason I was there coach was so they would be able to see God's work in my life.  Not even during the time I was their actual coach.  But now, in my rawest form where I can give glory only to God for the change he has brought in my life.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It is finished...

"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."
--Acts 20:24

"...As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." 
--Joshua 24:15

I did not miss being on discipline. I was up late each night scrubbing and cleaning the whole house and everything around it, including the rocks again, and this time the bottom of our big yellow school bus. Then one night Nick told me that I was in charge of discipline and I thought that was great because I would be telling everyone else on discipline what to do. The first night I was in charge we had to stay up until 1am because the guys were acting up and I was in charge of keeping them in line. Turns out being in charge of discipline was the worst job yet.

This cycle of things kept up for about 3 weeks and I was just about ready to give up. I was mad, I hadn't seen Meagan or Beckett in almost a month. I told God that 5 months was enough and that I was ready to go. I told him that I was tired and I needed help if I was going to stay. Knowing that he will help me if I just ask is comforting. The morning after I begged God for his mercy Nick called me into his office. He told me that he had talked to my dad and they would be in town that weekend for me and Meagan to go look at a house in Saginaw, TX. 

In other words he was telling me that I was off discipline. Also this meant that I would get to spend the day with my family. That Saturday marked me being there for 5 months. I went out fundraising early that morning so that I could be back by noon and meet my parents and Meagan at the Men's home. I was so happy to see them. It was exactly what I needed and once again I stood in awe of what God was doing in my life. 

We went and looked at the house and immediately we found out that living in Texas was going to be a bit more expensive than Arkansas. We then went and checked out some apartment complexes. We liked a few of them but I just couldn't believe it was so expensive. Oh well, I knew God would put us where he wanted to. We had run out of time but we drove past one more and I told Meagan to check into that one and if it was a certain $ amount then we would live there. We went back to meet up with my parents and watch the end of my first Razorback football game of the year. I didn't like missing most of the football season, but that was a very very small sacrifice and in the big picture really not a big deal. For those people who know me personally they know for me to give up college football was a huge deal. :)

Hanging out with them was perfect but it came to an end after a few hours and I went back to the men's home. I met them at church the next morning and cried out to God on their behalf. Thanking him for what he was doing and asking him to anoint them and bless them. After lunch the next day they were gone and it was back to life at the men's home. I was still teaching from time to time, hitting the streets daily and giving Jesus everything I had because he gave me more than everything I asked for.

Two more weeks went my by and my family was back in town and this time Nick let me stay the night with them. I got to feed and hold Beckett....Thank you Jesus. I got to watch the entire Arkansas vs. Mississippi St. game and just spend quality time with my family. Oh yeah, and I got to eat some amazing food which by now was a wonderful blessing, and I got about 8 hours of sleep...Thank you Jesus. After lunch the next day they headed home. It wasn't all that sad for the first time in 5 and a half months. Meagan was coming back late Tuesday night to stay the rest of the week at her friend Holly's house because they were heading out of town.

Thursday of that week was Thanksgiving day and what a blessing it was. All of the men from the home headed to the Church around 6am and set up shop with haircuts, food, and clothing to give away to the homeless citizens of Ft. Worth. Meagan also came to help and did she ever help. I didn't know how Meagan would react, and honestly until that day I was afraid Meagan wouldn't pray in public. I was witnessing to a few of the men and women who were smoking across the street and I glanced over to the front doors of the Church where I saw Meagan praying for one of the homeless women. I could have jumped up and down screaming I was so excited for her to receive her blessing. It was then that I knew Meagan and I would have no problem taking on the world, which is what we were about to do in less than two weeks.

After spending 12 hours at the church ministering and blessing the homeless we got the day off Friday (during the 6 months that I was there we got 3 days off). I got to go eat with Meagan for lunch and then got to watch football the rest of the day. We had a normal weekend and after lunch Sunday I said goodbye to Meagan knowing that the next time I would see her would be the day I was to leave and complete my 6 months. 

The next week went by with no real major hiccups, it just seemed to take forever! My last weekend and then my final 3 days had approached. I got up early Wednesday morning and went about the morning, already being packed of course. It was me and another guy that got to the Men's home on June 11. After the morning Proverbs, all 60 of the other guys circled around me and him and cried out to God on our behalf. I then spent the next 30 minutes staring out the front door for Meagan. She arrived and I met her outside and just about squeezed the life out of her I was so happy. 

We headed to Benton mainly to pack up all of our stuff and move into our apartment Meagan had found. I was nervous though, I still had some unfinished business to take care of. The true test of faith was about to be right in my face...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

But One Day...: Yes God, I will do it...

But One Day...: Yes God, I will do it...: "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgement to begin ...

Yes God, I will do it...

"Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgement to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
--1 Peter 4:16-17

"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."
--Phil 4:19

Bobby had warned me about the 3 toughest times while he was in the home. The first would be the first time I saw my family, I made it through that one okay. The second one had come about. I had hit the half way point and I was getting attacked from every which way. By this time in the home I was one of the leaders. I was driving one of the vans as we went evangelizing and fundraising each day, I was the dorm leader for the older guys (guys who had been in the home from more than 45 days) who slept downstairs, also as I mentioned I was sleeping by the phone and praying for people throughout the night. I was teaching the new guys and the devil was not happy about all of this.

As I would often tell the newer guys, there wasn't a day that went by that I didn't want to leave. This place was tough, THANK YOU JESUS! If it had been any different I wouldn't have changed. I don't really remember exactly when but my little brother got to take in the experience during this time. I didn't know what he would think, honestly from the very moment that he saw me I think he began to look up to me again. I had lost any sense of being a role-model for him. If he wanted to know what not to do he just needed to hang around me for a little while. But all of that had changed and I just knew it by the way he seemed to look up to me and how proud of me he was. He may not even know this now but, next to Meagan, his approval was pretty important to me and I missed being his "big brother". From the moment we saw each other I knew I would always be his big bro/mentor/role-model.

God had been really dealing with me on something. He made it very clear to me that if I really wanted to change I would be obedient and go where he told me to go. At first I thought "hmmm, this will be easy, I have already dropped everything and come to Ft. Worth" but then I realized he meant my whole family...for good. So I wrote a letter to Meagan telling her what God had put on my heart for our family and completely to my surprise she said "I will do whatever God tells you to do for our family". And that was it, for once in my life I didn't question God I just said okay. After all he had saved my life and everything in it, it was the least I could do. I will do whatever God asks me to do because I know he will bless my obedience, although I will never do anything expecting a blessing or do it because I deserve to be blessed, because I don't as you all know.

That was that and Meagan had to break that news to her parents, and I had to break it to mine. Since the moment Meagan and I started dating all her parents have known was a wild KID who just flew by the seat of his pants and didn't really have any long term goals. I had been to rehab and jail and did not change, why on earth would I be any different now. The answer is simple...the blood of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless they still had reservations, I was taking away there only child as well as their only grandchild, and although they were not happy about it (and I do not blame them at all, they were better sports about it than I would have been) they supported our decision because Meagan was happy and because it was God's will for our family.

My parents took the news about the same, although they have another kid, they do not have another grandchild. They seemed okay with it and I think that mainly stemmed from the 2-3 visits that had in Ft. Worth and according to Meagan..."you can just tell" that I had changed. I don't really know how to describe her saying that other than me being filled with The Holy Spirit.

----Just a side note that I don't know if I was clear on. The Victory Home did not cost me a thing. They don't get ANY private or government funding. They do not get food stamps per person on anything like that. It is run strictly by donations and money that is raised by all of the guys fundraising each day. If God puts it on your heart to donate feel free to email me at toddm2526@gmail.com
This place saved my life so it is the least I can do to mention that so that someone else can have the same chance to know Jesus and get their family back.

Anyway, one day while we were out, Joe Joe (that is his nickname not a typo) called me (the 3 older guys in the home took cell phones with them so the leaders could call and check on their group) and asked how we were doing and I told him. Nick was out of town for a couple of days so it was just Joe Joe doing all the teaching and he then told me that Nick had told him to pick a couple of guys who would be teaching to EVERYONE that night including the women from the women's home. Now, I had taught the group of 5 or 6 new guys a few times but this was 60 guys and 20 women plus one of the guy's family had come to visit him. I told him I didn't want to, that I couldn't do it, knowing that I was going to regardless. God had been preparing me to do it though, by telling my testimony on the streets and teaching the new guys I was ready.

I went and picked up the other guys and headed home for prayer time. I asked God to speak whatever he wanted through me and just use me as a vessel for his words. It took me about 20 minutes and I had 2 pages of notes and the topic was: Tame Your Tongue. The main verse was Eph. 4:29. It is actually one of my favorite teachings now. I don't really remember the actual teaching part. The Holy Spirit just booted me out of the way and spoke for almost 40 minutes on the subject. I do remember some clapping and amen's so I must have been doing okay. It felt great and it wasn't the last time I would teach. I actually enjoy sharing now, which is crazy because I have never really liked speaking in front of people. I know it is cliche but I can do ALL things through Christ.

Nearing the end of my fourth month Nick called me into his office. He said "you had better start talking if you want this discipline to be a little easier than last time". I knew just what he was talking about. After 4 and a half months my body was tired of waking up at 5am and being on the go until midnight each day. The last couple of times that I had been out to evangelize and pass out fliers I had decided to park the van and let everyone take a nap, instead of hitting the streets. Not only had I been doing that but one of the newer guys managed to sneak a food stamp card in and I was buying snacks and everything while we were out (a pretty big no no since we don't carry money). He told me that if I really wanted to be obedient to God's call I had better watch out for the little things, for they are almost worse than the big ones. He called Meagan and then my dad to inform them that there wouldn't be any need in them coming for the next month. I was so upset. I was afraid Meagan would think that I have really changed and that I was up to my same ole tricks which was not true, I was just going through the growing pains of being a baby Christian and I hope that she saw it that way. Come to find out she did and she was actually happy that I got put back on discipline because it was the time that I changed the most.

Just when I started to get comfortable God decide to discipline me, stretch me, and mold me so that he could begin to use my life more.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I fooled you and you and you and...me

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; 
I have summoned you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, 
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, 
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..."
--Isaiah 43:1-3

When I left Todd the first time I visited him, I was rejuvenated.  My mind had been completely changed the moment I saw Todd.  I was able to forgive him for everything.  I know that you probably don't believe me, and that is fine, because honestly, I doubt I would have believed someone saying that they forgave EVERYTHING their drug-addict husband had done to them and their child.  I don't know what to attribute to the fact that I forgave him in that instance except for God's divine plan for our lives.  Because if I had not been able to forgive him right then, I wouldn't have been able to be open-minded to the changes that were about to take place in not only our family's life, but my life.  

As I left Fort Worth that weekend, Todd and I agreed I would come back the following weekend.  You see, we had so much to talk about and get caught up on that the 2 hours we were able to have with each other wasn't enough.  We needed more time to see where we were headed next.  I needed more time to get to know the new, growing Todd.  I called Nick, the home director, during the week and asked him if I would be able to come down and visit him.  He didn't tell me what I wanted to hear.  He said Todd would be going to a conference in San Antonio the following Sunday and that "I was welcome to come, but I would only be able to sit with him at church.  He would be leaving immediately after service."  Perfect.  That was all I needed.  Just to be able to sit by him.  That weekend came and went.  I got to see Todd and only talk to him for a few minutes after church.  But it was fine.

During the time Todd was in the home for the first 2 months, his grandpa was back in Benton getting worse.  After falling one day and breaking his hip, he was admitted to the hospital, never to return home again.  I remember the night Todd's dad called me.  I had already gone to bed and was asleep, but told them to call me if anything happened.  Steve said, "Meagan, he's gone."  I went to visit Pawpaw and the rest of the family at the hospice center.  It was surreal that this was happening and Todd wasn't able to be around for it.  Especially, now that he was sober and actually able to feel REAL feelings.  I hated and hurt for him the entire time I was there.  I was scared too though.  Honestly, I was scared he would come home for good.  I was scared his family would want him to stay home.  I didn't want him home...yet.  I honestly wasn't mentally or emotionally prepared. I went to Fort Worth the next morning to pick Todd up.  I was relieved to have him be able to come home, but broken about the circumstances.  

At home, Todd was looked to for strength, probably for the first time in his life.  He handled the pressure well.  I knew he was heart broken because he wasn't able to be there the last moments of Pawpaw's life, but he didn't think about it at that time.  He thought about taking care of everyone else in his family.  This was one of the first signs to me that Todd was changing.  As an addict, he was completely consumed in his feelings and his agenda.  It didn't matter what anyone else wanted or asked; he was going to do his OWN thing.  Not this time though.  He was aware of everyone's well-being, not his.

The day after the funeral, I took Todd back to Fort Worth.  It wasn't a good drive.  The entire time, he was nervous and sick at his stomach.  By that time, I was beginning to understand the strain the Victory Home can put on someone.  We stopped and ate at a place about an hour away.  Both of us couldn't eat anything because we knew what was coming up:  SEPARATION.  Again.  Except this time there were about four months left.  

I dropped Todd off at the Victory Home and was sick to my stomach.  Every other time I had left Todd in Fort Worth, I was uplifted.  Not this time.  This time, selfishly, I was sad.   I was sad for the four months Todd would miss with Beckett.  But, at the same time, I knew that Todd needed to stay in order for him to become the man our family needed. 

This next part is what I have been waiting to tell...

When I was 7, I thought I was saved.  I knew there was a God.  I knew I wanted to get baptized.  I knew I wanted to join the church.  So, I did.  I walked through the motions.  

When I was 10, I thought I was saved again.  Yes, I was older, and able to understand who God was and why I needed him.  I was afraid of God.  I wanted so bad to have a relationship with him, but didn't really understand what that meant.  

When I was in high school, I began to doubt my salvation.  This continued for about 13 years.  Everyday (yes, I mean everyday), I would wonder if the Rapture was going to occur.  I was so afraid God would forget about me and leave me behind.  If I woke up in the middle of the night and didn't hear my dad snoring, I would go in to see if my parents were still there.  If I didn't hear anyone talking in the next room, I would go in to see if they were there.  I would have these daydreams of my entire family vanishing and me being here on this earth, alone.  If you have never thought about that, it's an extremely scary, lonely feeling.  But, as human nature goes, I would repeat the things I had said in my "salvation prayer" at the age of 10 and talk myself back into the fact that yes, I was saved.  I said the right things.  I took all the correct steps.  I was fine.  Let me reiterate, this would happen EVERYDAY.  No one ever knew though.  I was too proud to tell anyone.  I mean, I had already thought I was saved once, so surely, just surely, I was saved the second time. Plus, I did everything right.  I went to church.  I was in Sunday School.  I was a nice person.  I "prayed" to God.  And let me tell you this, I was a great talker.  I fooled everyone.  Even myself.  What really got me thinking about the validity of my salvation was something Todd said the night before I took him back.  As we were laying in bed that night, I asked him, "When you pray, do you try to imagine what God looks like?"  I wanted reassurance that I wasn't the only one who did that.  Since I knew Todd was saved, if he said yes, then, I would know I was okay and once again, talk myself back into my salvation. Without hesitation, he said, "No...but I used to."  I was sick.  Now, I am not saying that believers never picture what God looks like.  I think a lot of us do.  But, I was trying to picture him for the wrong reason.  I was doing it to make him more real to me because I was lacking in faith.

I was listening to this Christian CD in my car on the drive home from Fort Worth after dropping Todd off.  "How Great Is Our God" is the 9th track to the CD.  I have heard this song hundreds of time, but as I started listening to it I thought, "I wonder if I will get anything out of this song tonight."  By the time the chorus came on, the Holy Spirit was convicting me more than ever before.  This time, when I walked myself through the things I had said when I was ten, I couldn't talk myself into the fact that I was saved.  I knew at that moment that, yes, I would be left if the Rapture happened that night.  I pulled off the road in Texarkana and asked God to forgive me of my sins and save me.  I decided I wanted a REAL relationship with Him at that time.  It was that simple.  That was all I had to do for those 13 years.  I am so thankful that God never gave up on me.  That is the thing, by that time, everyone else would have given up on me.  Even the devil had given up on me.  He knew I was already taken care of because of how proud a person I was.  But, not God.  God will never give up on us.  

I was so excited.  At that moment, I was ready to go to Heaven.  I had never felt a feeling like it before.  I cried, sang, and just rejoiced in the fact that now, Jesus had my back forever. :)  I called my parents.  I didn't know what they would think.  I said, "Mom, I have something to tell you.  It's kind of embarrassing and you will never believe it.  I just got saved."  Honestly, my mom knows me so well that when I got to the point where I paused before telling her I was saved, she figured it out.  Not because she thought I wasn't, but because she knows me that well.  

I had told Todd I would call the home when I got home.  I prayed he would answer the phone.  He did.  When I told him, I think he was shocked.  See, I had fooled him just like I had fooled myself and everyone around us.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My worst fear followed by an answered prayer...

"No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
--I Corinthians 10:13

"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life."
--John 5:24

The next week took forever because I would get to see Meagan at the end of it. Nick had told me that right after the church service me and about 20 of the other guys were heading to the mother church in San Antonio, TX. That meant Meagan would be making the 5 hour drive to sit with me for church and then she was driving 5 hours back home. We didn't care, for us we were a new couple and would do whatever it took to see each other. Church was great and we said goodbye.

All 22 of the guys who would be making the trip loaded up along with the 15 women from the women's home and we headed down to San Antonio for a week long conference. Even though I had seen the flags of the different countries it hadn't really sunk in with me just how big this ministry was. There are 114 ministries in 17 different countries worldwide. In fact last night at church Pastor Gustavo, from Spain and Pastor Juan Carlos from Panama spoke on God's blessings. So we went to the concert hall downtown and it was packed. There was around 3000 people there. Most of us were ex-drug addicts who had been set free by Jesus Christ and if you were to come in during the worship service you would have known it. Each night our senior pastor, Jubal Garcia, spoke on something powerful. Jubal is the son of Freddie Garcia who is the father/founder of the Outcry in the Barrio/Victory Temple Ministries. He started it all from his house several years ago. You can read all about it in his book Outcry in the Barrio. If you want a copy, let me know, it is free. 

It was a great week and we headed back home the following Saturday. I was excited because I would get to see Meagan yet again the following day...or so I thought. As we were getting ready for church one of the leaders told me that I was one of the 2 guys staying back from church to watch the home while everyone was gone. Immediately I was furious. I told them that my wife was coming and that I WAS going to church. About that time Nick came out of his office and told me he needed to talk with me. As we sat down he told me that he had told Meagan not to come and that was all I heard as the steam started to come from my ears!! "You did what?" I said. He began to explain that I was only looking forward to Sunday and I was just 'getting by' every other day. He said that I needed to focus on my relationship with Jesus, and NOTHING else. As mad as I was, he was right. 

That next week I missed another milestone. Not only had I missed my first Fathers Day, My 2 year wedding anniversary and my birthday, but now it was Meagan's birthday and all I could do was write a letter that wouldn't reach her in time. Times like these were tough, real tough. But, I was getting deeper and deeper into God's word each day. I had fallen head-over-hills in love with Jesus Christ.

 A couple more weeks had gone by and it was nearing the end of August. I couldn't believe that I had been there for more than 2 months now. I remember this next part very well. I was up all night sick one Friday night and was allowed to stay in bed the next morning. At about 8am one of the guys came up and told me that Joe Joe (the second in command behind Nick) wanted me to get up and get dressed; he wanted to talk to me. I thought he was going to try and tell me that I was faking sick. So I got ready and went downstairs. When I entered the office I could tell something wasn't right. He said that he had gotten a phone call early this morning and apparently my grandfather had passed away the night before. One of my worst fears had come true. I immediately started sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn't stop crying. I didn't have the chance to tell him I love him and that I was sorry for everything. He was probably one of the only people that never EVER doubted me....EVER. Man I loved Pawpaw, and I miss him so much.

The thoughts that came at me at this point were trying to decide whether or not I should go home for a few days. Honestly I was afraid I wouldn't return and for me that meant that I might go back to my old ways. But after a short time, I asked Joe for permission to call Meagan and also for permission to go home for the funeral. He said yes to both and I called her. Surprisingly I was pretty calm and I told her to head to Ft. Worth to come get me. I went to class and the next few hours seemed to be the longest hours of my life.

We arrived in Benton later that night and it was great to see all of my family, honestly the best part to me was to be able to play with Beckett. I had a good meal with my family that night and it was off to church the next morning. It was certainly not as charismatic as I was used to and truth be told, it was somewhat of a downgrade. After church we headed to the funeral home to view the body. It was bittersweet, it was so terribly sad and I struggled for a minute but in the end I was jealous of Pawpaw...yes, Jealous. He never had to put up with this world again, and for him in the end that meant so much real pain. He had finished the race and was sitting at the right hand of God. For the first time in my life I realized that death didn't scare me. Pawpaw was a lot better off than any of us as we sat there and cried over him. If he had been in the room with all of us crying like little babies he would have scolded us for doing so, and that is one of the reasons he was loved by so many people.

We got to spend some quality time together on Monday and the Funeral was the next day. It was a wonderful memorial service celebrating his life. It was packed, I told Meagan that I hope I have an 1/8th of that at my funeral saying that I had impacted their life like so many had told us of Pawpaw. I spent the rest of the day with all of my family and woke up fairly early Wednesday morning to head back down to Ft. Worth. After saying my goodbyes we were off and my stomach was immediately in knots. Mainly because I did not want to go back, but ultimately knew that I didn't have a choice.

When I say I didn't have a choice it wasn't because I wouldn't be accepted at home (although I don't think Meagan would have gone for it...at all), I think, deep down,they somewhat expected me to stay home; it was because if I wanted my life to change forever then I had to fulfill my commitment to God and that was six months. She dropped me off just before church on that Wednesday night and the service was just what I needed. I had told Meagan to call the Men's home when she made back safely. I slept by the phone every night (because people would call and want to come into the home at all hours of the night, and also they would want someone to pray for them and as we all know people need prayer at all hours of the day and night) and I would see the note that she had called.

We got to go to bed early that night so it was about 10:45 and the phone rang and when I picked up the phone Meagan said "Todd, has Nick talked to you yet?" I said "No, what has happened now?" She began to cry and told me that she had always thought she was saved and when she had doubts she lied to herself and moved on. She said that she was nearly sick to her stomach the whole way home and realized that she needed to truly accept Jesus as her personnel Lord and Savior. I began to cry and told her that was the happiest day of my life.

You couldn't get me to stop smiling for the next few days. Life was great, but the home was still hard and the next couple of months were probably the toughest.

Coming home from one of the visits to Todd.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so...

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
--Psalms 51:10

Three days after we got home, I got a phone call.  Yes, the dreaded phone call.  But, luckily, I was busy.  I was actually getting "my girls" ready for camp that we would be headed to the next day.  This was actually the same day I talked about in my last post.  At the same practice that I told my girls Todd had left for 6 months, Todd called me.  Did I answer? NO.  I knew it was him wanting his parents or me to bail him out.  He was ready to tell me every excuse to why he could make it at home.  On the inside, I just knew that Todd was scared.  He was running away from his problems once again.  He was proving to me that he was not changing and still remaining the "young child" we had left in Fort Worth.  So, yes, I didn't answer it.  I didn't want to talk to him.  I was tired of enabling him.  

As the month and a half before we went to visit Todd went by, I was testing myself.  Honestly, I was testing myself to see if I could do it alone.  That is, be a single, working mom.  Throughout the month and a half, I realized it was easier to be without Todd than to be with him.  I could relax more because I didn't have to worry about what he was doing, I could make decisions for Beckett and myself, and I had plenty of help with Beckett in case of a conflict with work during the night.  I COULD do it.  To tell you the truth, I don't know if I ever really prayed for Todd during that time.  I didn't care if he made it or not because I was independent and self-sufficient.

I knew I couldn't write Todd the first month he was there.  And that was relieving because whenever he had gone to rehab before, it had become a hassle to write him everyday.  After a month had gone by, I decided to write Todd ONE letter.  I only wanted to update him on Beckett and let him know we were doing fine without him.  I didn't really want to go visit him because I knew it would bring back the same emotions I had pushed away for so long.  

As we started off for Fort Worth on a Friday morning, I was excited.  Not because we were going to visit Todd, but because I was off that Friday and we were going down a day early to shop.  Todd's parents, Beckett, and I headed out to an outlet mall and had a great time.  But, in the back of my mind, I knew why we were there.  We were there to see if this place had worked for Todd.  I was there to test Todd to see if he was changing.  Honestly, at that point, I didn't believe he had or possibly that he ever could change.  

On Saturday, I started to get anxious.  We didn't have much planned for that day, so it was hard to stay focused on being independent, not caring about Todd, and shutting down emotionally.  

When I woke up Sunday morning, my stomach was in knots.  Not only was I getting to see my husband (who I didn't know if I still wanted him to be my husband), but he was getting to see Beckett and me.  I had thought for a long time about what rude or snide comment I could make to him about where he was and what he was doing.  About how I was at home supporting Beckett and me, ALONE, once again.  But, on the other hand, there was a possibility that something could have changed in him.  I gave that possibility about 5%.  He had never proven otherwise up to that point.  I was also nervous about going to the church service.  I had heard from Holly (if you remember Holly, she was the one that got us connected with Victory Temple) that Victory Temple was rather "energetic."  

When we drove up, one of the ushers parked us.  We got out and stated walking up to the church. At this point, I still didn't know how I would react when I saw Todd.  There was a huge group of guys lined up outside of the church.  I figured Todd what most likely in this big group.  I started looking for him and finally, saw him.  I describe the next few minutes of our lives like that you would see in a movie.  We saw each other at the same moment.  In that moment, I forgave Todd.  I forgave him for everything.  He didn't have to say anything or do anything, I just forgave him:  COMPLETELY.  We ran towards each other as quickly as possible.  Of course, I started crying (with the ugly cry face).  I couldn't contain all my emotions.  For years, I had so much resent and hatred towards Todd for all the things he had put me and now, Beckett, through.  And now it was gone.  At that moment, I knew that mine and Todd's marriage would never be the same.  I truly knew Todd had changed and it was time for me to change my attitude towards him.  I would say this point in time was the SECOND most important time in my life.  (I will tell you about the FIRST one in the next few posts).  

As we were seated at church, Todd wasted no time to get down on his knees and start praying.  Now, to me, that was a little strange.  It was quite different from our ritualistic service back at home.  He stayed there for awhile, actually it was about 30 minutes.  Then service started.  Service=one hour of praise and worship + 1.5 to 2 hours of preaching.  This was COMPLETELY different.  At home, we are used to getting out of service within 1.25 hours, for sure no more than 1.5 hours.  I mean, people have to go eat their traditional Sunday lunch no later than 12:00.  During praise and worship, I was completely blown away and almost nervous the entire time.  I had heard of churches like this, but never actually experienced one.  The kind I am talking about is where people are jumping up and down in the front, clapping, raising their hands, dancing in the aisles, etc.  Don't worry, though, I just stood there with my arms folded over one another because I didn't need to praise God like all the drug addicts in the church with me.  Honestly, I couldn't keep my eyes off Todd.  He was joining in with everyone else and I didn't understand.  He knew that wasn't how WE worshiped and I didn't understand how HE was able to do it.

When church was over, we went out to eat with Todd.  I just remember not being able to eat a thing because I was just in awe of him.  Finally, the person I thought I had married was present with me, in our own little world. I didn't really even know what to say to him.  I realized during this time we would have to get to know each other again, in a different way.  I sure hoped that I would be able to love him again the way I once had.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Secret of the Lord...

"...because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as His son.  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children.  For what children are not disciplined by their Father?"
--Hebrews 12:6,7

"Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  For he who comes to God, must believe He exists, and rewards those who diligently seek Him."
--Hebrews 11:6

"Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation.  Old things have passed away; look, new things have come!"
--II Corinthians 5:17

The day after I got home from the hospital Bobby had come by to check on things. I was wiping off the baseboards and the trim after class because my stretch of discipline had begun. Already knowing I was on discipline he asked me how things were going. I told him what I had done and what my consequences were. He then went on to tell me that Meagan had told him on the phone that she had hoped the leaders were not being too tough on me. Bobby then told her that he hoped that they were being very hard on me and the he was praying that I would get on discipline. I thought to myself gee thanks man, what a pal. He then informed me that it wasn't fair to me or Meagan that he tell either one of us that he talked to the other one so he said that was done.

A week or so went by and discipline wasn't getting any easier. I had done it all from the dishes after each meal (meals that served 60+ guys), trimming the grass with scissors, and the toughest one...scrubbing rocks. When you are on discipline and you can't seem to get it right the next step is to scrub rocks. That consists of a bucket of soapy water, a toothbrush and the lava rocks out in front of the men's home. From 7a.m. until midnight I got 3 restroom breaks and 3 meals. Also it was the first of July and in Texas it was already getting well over 100 degrees. I decided to come to the home today to help out and it just so happens that there were a couple of guys who were out scrubbing rocks. 

We went by the home today and just so happened to see a few of the "Homeboys" on the rock duty.  We thought you could see what it was like.

The first Sunday that I went to church was tough. I had been in the home for a little over a week and my head was pretty much totally cleared up. It was now clear to me what I had done to my family and the possibility that I may never see my wife and son again had set in and I was truly struggling. We got to Church early that morning and we began to go through our daily proverbs. As each guy started sharing about what the proverbs meant to him one of them said something like "...and today being Father's Day..." It hit me like a ton of bricks.  This was my first Father's Day as a father and my son's first Father's Day on this Earth. What a father I was. Most guys would have had an excuse to leave right then and there, but not me. Where in the heck was I going to go? For once in my life it was time to be a man and face this thing so that I could maybe give my son many more Father's Days.

It wasn't until I had been in the home for a little over two weeks and I was at Church for the second time. Before the service starts we have prayer time for 30 minutes. I was still pretty much praying for God to get me out of there and restore my life. Looking back on things he answered that prayer at this moment. During prayer I gave up and surrendered my life to God...For Real this time. Yeah I thought I had accepted Jesus as the boss of my life when I was 12 but I honestly didn't know what it meant to live like that. Now I did and I was learning more and more each day. I began to cry out to God and my prayer was simple. I told him that I knew that he wanted me there and I just ask him to help me stay there and to come into my life and become real. From that moment on I began to pray for Meagan and for everyone else. I decided that I had been living for me long enough and it was time to change. God had stolen my heart and I was falling deeper in love with him each day.

Another 2 weeks went by and the discipline was really getting to me. The days were getting long and I began to tell God that I was tired, BUT I would do it as long as he was asking me to do it. You see after I had my moment at Church I had come to the realization of a lot of things. One of those being that the leaders in the home did not have me doing the discipline...God did. The Bible says that God disciplines those he loves. Man, he really loves me! Also at this time I started thinking about the possibility of my family coming to visit me. For the first 30 days in the home there is no contact with the outside world. After that you can begin to write letters and you can have visitors at Church. Things seem to be going as well as they possibly could for me. After spending 30+ days on discipline God decided to take me off and for the first time in over a month I got just a little bit of rest. 

On Friday, July 15th, 4 days after mine and Meagan's 2 year anniversary, one of the leaders came in and gave me a letter from Meagan and he then said, "come talk to me after you read it." They read all of our incoming and outgoing mail for our own safety. I was nervous to read it because I knew what I was going through but didn't really have any idea about Meagan. The letter basically said something along the lines of "I am still extremely mad, I do not want to come see you at all and the only reason I am coming is so that you can see Beckett, and because your parents want to...That is it!" It was pretty much just 3 pages of that message. When I finished reading it I was heartbroken. I thought I was doing everything right now...and I was, but 1 month of the right thing doesn't erase years of the wrong things. My leader helped me understand that I was in the presence of God day-in and day-out and Meagan wasn't, in fact most people weren't...not like I was. He told me that it would take A LOT longer for her to come around, if she ever did.

The next day was my 25th birthday, so now I had missed my very first Father's Day, my 2 year wedding anniversary, and my 25th birthday. There was nothing special about that day, but yet it was great to be sober and doing everything that I did of the glory of God. For once in my life I had no problems, at least none that I had any control over. I had done all I could and now all I could do is just live for Jesus and let him take care of the rest.

On July 17th, as I was getting out of my first Bible study of the day at Church and was waiting to go in to the Sanctuary with the rest of the guys, one of them said, "hey Todd, I think your family is here." They knew them because of how often I showed off the pictures. I walked around the corner not knowing what to expect, and when I did Meagan, holding Beckett, came running in to my arms and she was sobbing, (for those of you who know her, she calls it the ugly cry face). We were both overwhelmed with emotion and I think for me at first I was just so very happy to see them and to know that they cared enough to come see me.

A picture of the first time Meagan and Beckett came to visit.

For a long time I hoped that they would come see the home and the Church and it would scare them and they would want to take me back home but for the 2-3 weeks before they came I begged God for them to fall in love with this place as I had. Some people might be wondering what I mean. This place is radical for God. People like me who have devoted so much time and effort and led the devil's army for so long NEED a place that is that much more devoted to God and leading his army. At first my family was a little reserved (A lot reserved compared to everyone else who was singing and crying out to God). Coming from a Southern Baptist Church in central Arkansas where it is almost frowned upon to raise your hands in worship, they had some adjusting to do. For those people who do frown upon stuff like raising your hands in worship, well shame on you, you should be grateful for what God has delivered you from. If you are one of people who have never had any monster struggles (and you are not, because you are not Jesus) then you should be more grateful than those of us who have. I am grateful for where God saved me from. I feel like jumping up and down and shouting out all day every day. I don't ever want to go back. And you might not have ever done drugs, and that's great! But, the people who 'just' lie or 'just' cheat on their taxes from time to time do not get an air conditioner in hell, sorry. 

I had to get that off my chest because I know that someone will read this and think "well my sins are not as bad as his so I can just talk to God on Sundays and sometimes Wednesdays". Sorry it doesn't work like that, EVERYONE needs Jesus ALL the time. 

Moving on, Church went great, they loved it. It was refreshing. Nick let us go out to eat as a family afterwards for my birthday. It was a blessing, I was able to share with them what God was doing in my life. Without being a Bible thumper or getting all religious with them. God had changed me, but he still has a long way to go. I had now accepted the fact that I was going to be at the place for a quite a while so I might as well give God all I have. Little did I know my life was about to be one big blessing. After getting a good meal and spending a little bit of time in the Stockyards in Ft. Worth they took me back to the home. That was one of the hardest things to do was to see them leave knowing that they actually did still care for me. In fact, Meagan told me again when she got there that she didn't want to come and she told my parents on the way down there that they were not coming back for a long while. After saying all of that she then went on to tell me that she would be making the 5 hour drive the following weekend to go to Church with me again...Thank You Jesus! 

The first 6 weeks were tough but God had only scratch the surface of my life. He certainly was not done shaping and molding me and stretching me to my limit.