I was asked to share my testimony the year before last at our woman's retreat, right after I found out I was pregnant with Rachel - the topic of the retreat: HOPE. I shared my story and my newly discovered pregnancy that weekend... In sharing my story, I had to re-live a lot of my past and God used that to revive my heart with Hope for my future - a hope that I had no idea I was about to need greatly for my next trial. I honestly thought I had enough of a testimony, but God still chose me to give the privilege of testifying to his goodness through Rachel too. Anyway, here's my first testimony :o)
Today is the anniversary of the day I got arrested. 11 years ago today, as I stepped out of my car in my driveway, I was confronted with a couple of guns to my head. "Get out of the car!" one of them demanded. As they cuffed me, I watched in slow motion as drug task force agents came out of every area surrounding my little mobile home, with big guns and ski masks, and busted open my door.
My drug addiction had caught up to me. I was just 21 years old. I had sold to an undercover 4 times, 4 different drugs. (one of my 'friends' brought his 'cousin' around and set me up to get himself out of trouble...love it) They also charged me with possession with intent to sell 3 different things that they found in my house. The paper called it a "Drug Fun House". I spent the next 11 months in and out of superior court facing 7 class A Felony drug charges and my family was completely devastated by the constant front page articles and my ongoing battle with drug addiction. The front page read "Gonic woman faces 87 years in prison and a million dollars in fines" Sounds like a bad day, right?
Yes, but it was one of the best days of my life.
Today, without meaning to schedule it on the anniversary of my arrest, I got a babysitter so I could bring Asa to the doctors (he's doing well) and then we go over to the court to apply for an annulment.
I drove down that familiar road and as I approached the court, I looked at the jail over to the left.... I could envision myself walking out the back door, carrying all my smoke covered belongings in a black trash bag over my shoulder, the day they let me out. I was 5 months pregnant with Desirae. How did that happen you might wonder? Weekend visits at rehab.... Where I met Matt. Yep, I found out I was pregnant with Des in jail, after falling in love with another addict in rehab and managing to get pregnant 2 months later. Imagine that collect call from your daughter....sigh.
I walked through the door and they joked that they needed to check the baby's seat for weapons.... I lifted his blanket and showed him off... and then of course had to set of the stupid alarm! why me? They asked if I had anything metal in my pockets... "just my gun" I said ( ha! just kidding, making sure you're paying attention) :o) I got my files and as I looked at the huge stack of them, I wanted to puke. This is mine? The top folder said "Sale of MDMA" on it... what the heck is that? I didn't even remember the terminology. Something that at one point consumed my life - and nearly killed me - I couldn't even remember.
As I was making my copies, two girls behind me started screaming at each other and people were holding them back from fighting. That used to be me. I looked up and saw three prisoners standing in their jumpsuits wearing shackles. That used to be me....pregnant, in a jumpsuit - my Lord, my poor parents.... I looked up at them with knowing eyes that I'm sure they didn't believe - and quickly returned my eyes to the copier.
One of the questions wanted me to write what my sentence was. I couldn't find the exact sentencing on the papers, so I asked. She pointed to where it was - it said 2-4 years state prison, 5 years probation. I told her that wasn't my sentence, but she insisted it was and walked off on me. I almost left, I got so overwhelmed talking to her that I started crying and sweating (what is that all about??) and I was just going to take my copies and leave... but I pulled my jacket off and stayed. I decided I would just write what she said they wanted. I did that for 6 of the 7 charges....
They all said either 2-4 years or 3-6 years and the prosecutor wanted them to run consecutive (one after the other), not concurrent (at the same time). I would have spent a minimum of 15 years in state prison. I got to the last one, which was technically the first one but I was going backwards because of how I laid them down after I made copies - and the last one said 12 months Department of Corrections, after completion of 7 months in rehab, 5 years probation, 15-30 suspended for 10 years. That was my sentence. He gave me a chance to sink or swim. And I KNEW I was going to swim.
Suddenly it all made sense. I forgot that I had a different sentence to begin with. (how did I forget that??)We had appealed it and the judge let me speak. I remember sobbing like a baby in court, holding onto my Nana's bible (I was NOT a believer then, explain that one!) I was quoted in the paper as saying "even my dog has been affected by this. I thought I wasn't hurting anyone but myself, but I was wrong" Even my dog? I meant it that's the funny thing. I'm sure the real criminals there that day thought I was still on drugs! But I was thoroughly convinced that I had let every person in my life down - and I had. I felt like a total loser and I was desperate for forgiveness. I was scared to keep living the way I was and I was scared to go to jail... but I really didn't think I could stay clean outside of jail.
I know that God had me read that paper last today for a reason. As I wrote all those years on each paper, I imagined what my life would have been like - I'd still be there. No husband, no kids, no Rachel. And when I got to the last one and saw the grace that the judge had given me when he totally didn't have to....I was overwhelmed with emotion.
I looked further and saw the day noted when the judge received a letter from my doctor who was concerned about my baby's health since I was losing pounds and in a smoke filled room.... "granted" it said.... They let me out to finish my sentence on house arrest. Had that not happened, I would have had Desirae in jail.
Standing in there today, I just couldn't believe that was my life... and that I was comfortable in those environments... me, whose afraid to walk alone at night. Maybe the reality of all the bad places I've been have left their mark in my mind? I'm not sure, but I know it's been a long, hard road. So, why do I say it was one of the best days of my life? Because in God's infinite wisdom and mercy, He was saving me from myself. I was already in a prison and likely to end up dead - I just couldn't find my way out. 11 years ago today, I started my journey out of that prison. He had better plans for me.
On the paperwork in courts, it still reads... "on the seventeenth day of January, two thousand and one in the year of our Lord" What? It says in the year of 'our Lord'? and then it lists out my charges... I did 'knowingly commit' those crimes.... I was guilty. I am guilty. I told the woman that as I read those papers, it was hard to believe it was me. she giggled. I didn't think she believed me, I said it again... "it really blows me away that I did those things" she giggled again. "that is probably how my parents felt when it happened, huh?" she laughed some more. "I'm going to call them and apologize again when I get home" I said.
I gave her the check and asked how long it would take to hear... "60-90 days" she said. I asked "and then what?" She replied, "And then it's like it never happened."
I'm embarrassed that I didn't say what was on the tip of my tongue, because I was prompted to by the Spirit for sure.... but had I said what I was thinking, it would have sounded like this...
Sounds a lot like what happens when 'our Lord' takes his proper place in our lives.... all those charges...guilty. My failures, my wrongs, my idols.... "like it never happened" The blood of Jesus covers all my charges and makes it 'like it never happened' in the eyes of God. He grants our annulments! And we don't even need to pay the DOC to do an investigation! :o) wow, He is good!
I started crying right there. I cried all the way home on the phone telling my friend Millie about all the things that had just happened... and overwhelmed with how good God has been to me. She commented on how God's hand had been so obviously on me for so many years - even when I couldn't see it.
I came home and called my parents and apologized for what I put them through and thanked them for staying by my side.
I'm so thankful that God didn't leave me there. I'm so thankful that I have had the opportunity to be a wife and a mother and to have my sweet Rachel. I pray that I have served Him well in giving Him glory through the blessings that have come from his great mercy on me. He is the only God who can bring beauty from such ashes and make flowers push up through broken ground. He is my Savior and Redeemer. Thank You Lord for rescuing me from my pit - even if drug task force style was all I would hear!
About half way through, you'll see mine and then Desirae did one too. (she was smaller then)