What does it mean to be an imitator of God?

I have been struggling with this phrase for some time now… It says in Ephesians 5:1-

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.”

In my mind I always looked at imitation as a negative thing…

No one really loves imitation cheese, imitation sugar, imitation leather

or any other imitation thing but we all want the real thing!

So when I would read this passage I would always look at it in an incorrect or negative light.

I still don’t know if I have it right but what God is showing me

is that I have not been walking my life out as an imitator or mimicking Him through my life and walk.

The Message translation helped me with this verse.

” Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.

Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love.

Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant.

He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us.

Love like that.”

How can you imitate someone that you don’t really know?

I can’t truly say that I understand or know who God is because I have spent so much of my time hiding from Him, scared that my thoughts, feelings or wants would make him unhappy. I have spent so much time trying to DO what I thought He would want that I have not sought out what and who He truly is so that I can emulate the love and life that He is calling me to.

Since my view of my earthly father has not been positive I still have a hard time understanding what proper behavior is that I was supposed to be learning from my parent. I learned manipulation, anger, fear, unforgiveness and loving someone only to get your needs met.

Yet at the end of verse 1 in the Message translation it says that He loved us, not so that He could get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. I don’t know or understand that kind of love.

But I want to!

And I want to learn to imitate that kind of love instead!

So where do I start?

“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.”
― George Bernard Shaw

When doing a word study on the word “imitator” I found an awesome study on the word and it helped me to understand it better.

“In order to add the background to Paul’s requirement, we must go back to chapter 4 and look at his previous argument.  Notice what he says:

Walk worthily of  the calling (4:1), be humble and meek (4:2), be long-suffering and bear with one another (4:2), chase unity (4:3), exercise your ability to provide for the body (4:11), seek perfect completion (4:12), be fully grown in faith (4:13), speak the truth in love (4:15), assist each other (4:16), be distinctively different from the world (4:17), put off the old man (4:22), be renewed in the Spirit (4:23), put on the new man (4:24), be a good neighbor (4:25), do not sin (4:26), give no opportunity for the Accuser (4:27), do not steal (4:28), domesticate your tongue (4:29), do not grieve the Spirit (4:30), turn away from unholy attitudes (4:31), be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving (4:32).

After all this, “then” imitate God.  Like most of Paul’s rabbinic instruction, we are not left in the dark about what to do.  If you want to imitate God, just do those things listed in chapter 4.”

Source: Skip Moen website

 

If you look at it closely it really does match up well with the well quoted 1 Corinthians 13 chapter in the bible, known by most as the love chapter.

I think so many times in my life when I find disunity in myself that it makes it hard to be unified with anyone else.

When I am struggling and wrestling with thoughts, feelings, emotions or life events that have unfolded, it keeps me distracted from walking this out. It keeps me from walking in unity with others and therefore keeps me from being an imitator of God to others around me.

I want to seek to know Him more,

to be content with the place He has me,

to learn from the past and let it go,

to look to the future with hope and thanksgiving,

knowing that as I continue this walk with Him,

He will reveal more and more of Himself

to me.

So I might mimic my perfect Father,

And even though His steps mammoth

compared to mine,

He will lovingly slow down His pace

so that my tiny feet can keep up.

 

Lies that I believed about God

The lies I believed about God

As you grow up from a child to an adult many things can shape your view of life in general and also what you believe to be true about religion and God. The people in your life play a huge part of shaping what you will believe as truth. If their views of God and life are distorted it goes with our saying that your views will most likely be tainted.

I grew up in a newly Christian home that was based on many lies, secrets and law. My mom was always told that our business as a family was no one elses business and you were to never let anything “out of the bag” because others would view you in a bad light. The problem with that view was that nothing was ever done with the dysfunction and it just left the family members to sit around and gossip about each other instead of actually seeking to help each other.

As a child I would view these things when the aunts got together to visit. One aunt wouldn’t be there so they were the topic of discussion. They would sit there and bash anything and everything that they felt was going wrong in this aunts life but never try and help her to see the problem or help her. When that aunt was present and another one gone then they became the topic of discussion. I remember my mom sitting out there until every aunt went to bed, making sure she was the last one to bed so they could not or would not talk about her. I then followed in her footsteps as I got older and was invited to sit in on the aunts/ grandma’s adult “discussions”. By then it began to include the cousins and what they were doing to mess up their lives.

In this instant, my young mind came to the conclusion that NO ONE was trustwrothy, not even God. If he was trustworthy then why would he give me a family that hurt each other so much? Even as a young child I saw the harmful effects that gossip caused and knew that if family did that to each other then no one was safe.

Another example as a child that I see shaped my view of God was in my relationship with my father. My father was a great provider for our family. He worked a job that he absolutely hated for 30some years just to put food on the table for us, a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. He was affectionate at times but it was usually when he wanted something. If you did something wrong you then had to earn your standing back with him over time. He tried to buy our love as children and that confused me very much. After he “bought” our love he would remind us of all the things that he has done for us and provided for my siblings and I. It was always conditional and our faces were rubbed in it to remind us that he was the one that could give and take away. He had my sister and I convinced that my mother was emotionally unstable, unfit and treated him horribly.

My view of God then became that God was a conditional, easily angered if not obeyed, provide for your needs, some of your wants but then would remind you of this when you did something wrong or worse would take it away from you kind of God. Again this type of God could not be trusted but was feared wondering if I could please Him enough to keep his love and affection.

My mom used to tell me a story of how every Sunday when they would give an alter call in childrens church I would go forward to get saved. We laugh about it now but tonight I want to weep because even as a child, I yearned for a God that would love and accept me unconditionally. I was so scared that I may have done something to sin against God during the week and not be in right standing with Him, like I so easily messed up and became out of my earthly fathers love so often.

I have written before about my childhood illness and how that affected from age 6-12 years. Honestly the aftermath of those years played out into not only junior high and high school but my early adult years and now. During the illness I gained a large amount of weight very quickly and let me tell you that children are so cruel… though I am sure you know this already as you may still have scarres that remain from things said to you whether you were too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall or anything else in between that someone could use to put you down and hurt you. I know the wound is probably still there because as a child we are never told how to let it go… other than to scream back “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!!”

FALSE!!!

It says in Proverbs 18:21

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

The tongue can speak words that bring life or death.

Those who love to talk must be ready to accept what it brings.

So my view of God was that He would not be my protector. My view was that He was this distant old man up in heaven that couldn’t even stop mean children from saying such hurtful things. I believed I some how deserved what the kids said about me, my weight and who I was. If I wasn’t so horrible then God would love me unconditionallly and protect me from the words spoken that pierced my child like heart with each word. I learned to beat kids to the punch line and put myself down first. That really made them gawk, not knowing what to say in response!

Again with the sickness, we had prayed for healing more times that I can even remember or count. It never happened. I was told by those people that as a child I must not have enough faith…

Again this tainted my view of God and how it says in the bible that He sent Jesus to heal us. Yet again I internalized this thinking that there was something I did wrong or could have done better to earn his favor and healing.

Lastly for tonight is the lie that I believed that other people were allowed to touch my body as a child in inappopriate ways and that this was ok. Even though in my heart and mind it did not feel right, as a child you come to the point where you wonder if what you think is right and wrong is totally wrong because these people in your life wouldn’t deliberately hurt you would they?? I was so disillusioned that my early pre-teen and teenage years were filled with such anger, rage and a deep desire to be loved, even if it was just one person.

Again this lie that I believed was that God did not care about what was happening to me and that this was just the way that people showed love and affection. If you loved a boy then you let him touch you in places because then it showed them you cared. This is such a lie from the pit of hell and the sad thing is that there are so many women in the world today that this has happened to and think the same thing.

What I am learning is the truth of who God is…

God is my perfect heavenly father that loves to give His children good gifts!

James 1:17

Everything good comes from God. Every perfect gift is from him. These good gifts come down from the Father who made all the lights in the sky. But God never changes like the shadows from those lights. He is always the same.

Also from the verse above.. He is never changing! HE is the same yesterday today and forever!!

I also know that He was there when I was in pain, sad, angry, hurt and alone…

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous.

Do not fear or be in dread of them,

for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.

He will not leave you or forsake you.”

I know that my name means “beloved” and that is no coincidence!

Romans 9:25

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”

I know that there is nothing that I can do to make God love me more than He already does!

Romans 5:8

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I know that I am saved by grace and that nothing I could do could make God love me less or more.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves;

it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.

And above all, I know that God can redeem those years that I believed lies and walked in darkness.

Psalm 31:5

Into Your hand I entrust my spirit;

You redeem me, Lord, God of truth.

So when I start to go back to those old lies that I believed as a child I can now read this and continue to learn from God’s word who His real character is. The more that I learn about His character the more I will walk in the righteousness that He has already bestowed upon each and every person who believes on His name!

One Month in Missoula!

Tomorrow marks my one month in Missoula, MT! 

 

So much has happened and yet I know it is just the beginning! I was able to sit in my first staff meeting last Wednesday and it is awesome to see how so many of the giftings and things that God has placed in me will help the ministry here. I am so excited to be heading up Ministry day for the ladies and finding volunteer opportunities for them to be a part of. I am a strong believer in reaching out to others when we are hurting because for one it takes our focus off of ourselves and the pain we are feeling. Secondly it helps you to see there are others out there who are going through difficult times also and your not alone. 

 

Another awesome opportunity my program coordinator and I just spoke about today is the opportunity to be on a planning committee to help birth some new programs and plans. The way the center is set up is that the women complete a 12 month rehabilitation program based on christian beliefs and principles. During their stay they switch off in groups who has kitchen duty and who goes to work at the Teen Challenge Thrift store. We also have a drive thru coffee shop that only 2-3 girls work at once they reach a certain level and are approved by the coffeeshop manager. These girls have to be able to work under pressure as it gets busy and be trustworthy enough to be able to work unsupervised. Only a select few girls get to that level during their stay in the program. 

 

What we are working towards is more job opportunities for the ladies while they are in the program and as they graduate to be able to work at and transition out of the home to living on their own. We want to have a christian gym here in Missoula, a dog grooming, boarding and training place along with a sit down coffee shop/ bakery and a boutique thrift store with higher end clothing. This is all a process and still in the prayer stages of existence.  Along with the job opportunities we are also praying in to existence transitional housing for the women that want to stay in the Missoula area and build a life. What that would mean is God raising up some people that would be willing to house a girl in their home or would have an apartment like area in their home already that they would be willing to rent out to a women coming out of the program. We are also hoping to expand on the land that we have our home on already and put an “apartment” like building behind that would house the interns and the “phase 5” graduates. 

 

God is doing an amazing work in this place and I am so excited to see it starting to take root and bloom! We have several women who are graduating within the next month or so! This will be the first women to graduate from this program in over a year! When the new program coordinator came in there was a huge transition from works based rehab to one that focused on the heart of the matter and it has been a process. 

 

In Isaiah 66: 9 it says~ Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

 

In the same way, I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.”

The Lord says this: “I promise that if I cause you the pain of birth, I will not stop you from having your new nation.” Your God said this.

 

Though this is going to be a time of growing, stretching and birthing this new vision for myself and this new Teen Challenge I am confident that the above verse still holds true today! God will bring something new and I am believing that our vision for the future of the center will start out small but will grow into some of the above endeavors if not all and then some! God has a way of taking our dreams and doing something beyond what we could ask or imagine when we diligently seek His face and plan! 

 

So this is what has been going on in my life in the last month! I have also started my courses through the Teen Challenge Ministry Institute (TCMI) and am about half way through my first book. I along with about 20 students learn online via Blackboard where we answer questions for each chapter and complete discussion board questions as well. I work 40 hours a week plus have been helping out at the thrift store as they have been short staffed and have been doing my school work also. Along with this I have been trying to build a relationship with each girl and get to know them on a personal level in order for me to effectively help encourage them through the program. It has been a challenge to build relationships as they are all broken women who have a hard time trusting. I learned this the hard way a couple weeks ago. I came in and easily fit in with the women, creating a pseudo sense of connected-ness. However because I was just thrown in (they do that in TC to see who’s really going to stay and who’s not cut out for this) and since I was just treading water trying to keep my head above, it made it difficult to know what I was and wasn’t supposed to do. Me being the kind of person that unless I am sat down and trained I will try and figure out everything on my own, I didn’t call, text or ask the program coordinator anything because she was so busy and didn’t have time for me (so I thought.. lol) Fortunately she functions much the same way I do and so she could identify with what I was doing and knew that once I reached the end of myself that I would either quit or come to them for help. I did come to them and it helped shed alot of light on the way that I do things, helped me to see how I function and it helped the girls to confront me on ways that were not effective with them and what their reality of the situation was. Because I had the support and backing of the program coordinator (her nickname is Red by the way) Red was able to explain to the women that I had never been through a TC program so I wasn’t aware of all the rules and needed grace given to me because I was learning just as they were. Put all that on top of me quitting smoking cold turkey and she was very understanding of all the changes that I was attempting to work with plus all the new people and being in a leadership position. Wow! It was alot to take but God was there through the whole thing and because of the house meeting it cleared the air with the women and helped us to truly begin to build trust, not just fake masks of friendliness but the kind that the bible talks about where iron sharpens iron! I am so thankful for that!

 

So in the coming month please keep the below things in your prayers!

 

-As relationships continue to build that God will work in me and use me to help each women grow deeper in their walk with the Lord.

 

-Please keep our new girls in your prayers. We got one new girl the week after I got here and a new one today. They expect there to be 3 more by the end of the month. This can cause chaos in the home as it changes the dynamics of the home and each bedroom. 

 

-Keep the women that are graduating in your prayers as their future unfolds it is both exciting and frightening at the same time for them. Please pray that God will open doors for them as they look for housing, jobs and provisions. 

 

-Please pray for health energy and stamina to be able to do the things that God has called me to do this year. 

 

-Please also pray for the other intern and I as we go to Eugene Oregon  February 24-27 for the Intern Intensive. It is a 10 hour trip and we are driving. We are praying about possibly breaking up the trip and leaving Sat. night and staying in a hotel so that we don’t have to start the evening of Sunday tired out from the long travel.

 

I look forward to hearing back from yall if you have any extra time! 

 

God bless and thank you for your time!

 

Amanda 

Teen Challenge Intern

Almost a week in Missoula, MT!

Missoula

Beautiful mountain view from my backyard!

My new home!

I arrived in Missoula, MT after a very only day traveling on Saturday.

It is so beautiful here and out of all the places I have lived this feels like home the most. Its a weird feeling since I haven’t felt at home for a very long time. I’m still not a huge fan of the snow however Missoula makes it look beautiful and therefore bearable! =)

I moved out here not really knowing much about what I was getting into but God is so amazing in working out all the details of a life that has fully surrendered to Him. I came out here with just 2 suitcases, a carry on and my laptop! In less than a week He has blessed me with more than I could have asked for or imagined! I have a nice room in a beautiful home! My own bathroom! YAY!! And the freedom to make it mine!

I have had the privilage of getting to know the women that are going through the drug and alcohol program that I am interning with and they are amazing! God is doing such a work with this ministry and I am excited to be a part of it!

I had the opportunity to share my testimony with the women last night and their wasn’t a dry eye in the house. When they heard from the staff that I had never been through the program they had their doubts about me and whether I could relate to the things that they were going through. After last night not one of them has any worry that I don’t understand where they are at.

Im going into this opportunity knowing that I can not change the world or even them for that matter. Change has to be something that each person wants for themselves. God has shown me that I am here to love each and every women in the program, I am here to be there biggest cheerleader and to shine God’s grace every day!

I am ecstatic that I get to help out with the thrift store that the girls work at and hope to be able to also impliment many other great ideas that God has put in my mind. I want to get a volunteer opportunity program going for each women to give back in whatever way they are gifted. Its when a person is giving that they don’t have time to dwell on the negatives of their lives but to see what a blessing they can truly be to others. I also have several of the girls that love all things art like me and am super excited to be able to start doing projects with them! I am hoping and praying that we will be able to get some canvases so they can start channeling things artistically. Pinterest is a God send and the women love getting ideas for projects they would like to try!

I can’t wait to see this year unfold and am trying to be disciplined in documenting as much of it as I can because it will be gone before I know it and I want to remember as much of it as I can!

Stay tuned for more amazing updates!

God bless!!

Do not worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:25-34

Many times in my life I have needlessly worried about the above things. I have thought that God wasn’t interested in my every day life enough to provide for my every needs. A dear friends close friend prayed for me yesterday and in her prayer God spoke through her to tell me to remember that He is in EVERYTHING! He loves details!

God could have easily just made a world for us to live on that had plain basic food for us to live on, a light source that was just enough for us to survive and had a plan that didn’t include saving us from ourselves.

But he didn’t do any of those things!

He made a world that we could enjoy, snow in the winter that we could play in, fields of wild flowers that we could run through and beautiful autumn leaves that we could marvel at! He made stars in the skies at night making them not only with a purpose but also making them beautiful so that his creation could stand in awe of their beauty! He gave us such a variety of food that each person could use and make things according to their own taste.

And best of all He made a plan for us when we stumble and fall. He doesn’t want to leave us where we are at but has a deep desire to see us draw near to Him, fall deeply in love with the creator of the universe and become sons and daughters of the most high through adoption.

If He has taken care of all of these details that we can not even begin to fathom. That science has yet to discover. Then wouldn’t it be even more awesome for our minds to wrap around the fact that He has every detail of our life in the palm of His hand if we give Him the control He so yearns to have in our lives.

Like I have stated in previous posts, God is a gentleman. He will not take control over someone that doesn’t want Him. He is not like men of earth that use their power and control to manipulate and use others for his own gain. He will not take your weaknesses and use them against you! Instead He desires to make your weaknesses stronger through His presence and Spirit in your life.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,

 I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Revelation 3:20

As a women who has never really had great role models of men, this it is a new concept for me. It is a constant struggle to consciously remind myself that God has my best in mind and that I don’t have to be fearful of what that best may be. His best is not anything compared to what man’s view may be for your best. Its not a controlling, manipulative “best” that doesn’t think of your feelings, well being, or emotions.

I am so thankful that God is teaching me this! As I step out in faith to move 2,195 miles away from “home” I am learning to trust Him for every detail of this new adventure!

As people started asking me questions about my new adventure, I realized how much I didn’t know about the details of what I would be doing day to day, down to the details of what my room would be like. The “old” me would have had to know all of these details so I could stress about them and how I would adapt to this new environment. Yet, I have found that I haven’t necessarily pursued finding out these details because I am trying to learn to leave the details up to God. I am learning that He will prepare and give me what I need to get through each day if I am continuing to look to Him each and every day.

We can’t say to God.. “Ok deal with the details!” And then sit back lazily and expect it to all unfold! BUT… we do have to daily remind ourselves that the details are His, ask Him to use you that day in whatever way He sees fit and then go on the adventure of walking out each step and have the faith that He will direct each step! Notice the word “step” is an action word while “sit” is a stationary word.

I have fallen prey to this misgiving as I know many others have. I wanted to be patient, sit and wait for God’s plan for my life to unfold but God wants us to be doing His will daily, learning to be faithful in the little things (steps) while He is preparing us for the big picture of our life!

If we first SIT in His presence then we will be able to effectively STEP out in faith!

I am so excited that God  is willing to use me and I pray that I will continue to first sit in His presence and then walk out what I can be confident He wants me to do each and every day!

Focus on each and every day! Because…

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Proof of God answering prayers!

Proof of God answering prayers!

*** I wrote this blog October of 2010. I had just a few months before moved down to South Carolina. It was such a challenging time in SC but God really prepared me for this next season in my life during that time. My prayers have been answered as I re-read this blog and I want people to see that when we put our faith, hope and trust in God and ultimately His Son Jesus, who died to take away my sins, then we have the promise that He will not leave us or forsake us but will finish the work that He has begun in us!!
Im so thankful that I wrote this out and can re-read it at this important time in my life! I hope and pray it touches someone else’s life also!

When is the past really the past??

Gods Redemptive Love!
Since I have recently moved to South Carolina I have had many struggles and God has been working in my life a lot. I am learning more and more what this verse means in my life…”Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”Wow! I had written those words in my missions support letter for India in 2008 and they still have soooooooo much meaning in my life even today!I have been struggling with a past that is never quite in the past. Though I know I am forgiven and free in Jesus name according to society I am still a felon…. this may come as a surprise to some that know me and yet others who have walked the path of life with me know that it was a very rebellious sad time in my life! I have tried to hide it many times as people who don’t understand where I came from have tried to use it against me… but I am sick of hiding!

God can not be glorified if I hide my light… my story…. can He?

Luke 8:16
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.

When I was 19 years old, I was a wayward rebellious young woman that was looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places. I was with a drug dealing ex-boyfriend when he and his friend carried out an armed robbery against 3 gentlemen that I had been acquainted with. Due to the men knowing me, I was then arrest the next day. I spent 108 days in the county jail, 90 days in prison and on probation for 2 years after the incident.

At that time in Waterloo, Iowa the DA personally told my court appointed lawyer that he was going to make an example of me to the people. He was going to show what happens when a white woman gets taken advantage of by a black man running from the law,  a Chicago thug.
(For those of you reading I mean no disrespect to anyone’s color, race or any thing… this was the DA’s words not my own.)
The District Attorney stated that this was happening too much in Waterloo.  His plan was going to send a message to any overweight white women who dated men of color and/or questionable character so that they knew that the DA’s office would no longer be lenient towards these women.
I surrendered my life back to God in a solitary confinement cell on my 104 day in jail. I cried out to God and told him I was so sorry for rebelling and told Him that I surrendered all. Four days later God provided a miracle and I was able to get out on pre-trial release.When first arrested, my charge was 1st degree Armed Robbery. The guys that I had been with told me that they would have alibis and I would be the one going down for this. Twenty-five years of my life! The charge carried a 22 year mandatory  I knew that I couldn’t get myself out of this. Though I was not the one holding the gun to the guys heads I was still in the wrong place at the wrong time.
God was so gracious and saw my repentant heart. The day that I got out of jail I attended a small group that had been praying for me during my time in jail. They were an encouragement and support to me.God accomplished so much in my life during this pre-trial release so when I met with my lawyer and he told me what the DA was offering for a plea bargain I was so mad and hurt. The DA’s plea bargain was what they call a 90 day shock with a sentence that added up to 25 years, theft 1st, burglary 2nd and Extortion. If at any time during this “shock” period I did anything to get in trouble or responded the wrong way to an inmate that attempted to cause problems I would then have to serve the full term of 25 years.I questioned God… Why do I have to go back?! I have changed my life!And His still small voice said, ” I know and I am proud of you. There are consequences to actions though and I am not finished with this. I have more for you to learn…”So knowing I was in God’s hands I willingly submitted to the plea bargain and turned myself back over to the Waterloo Police Department. During intake, a deputy officer asked if I had considered running during the time between court and when I had to surrender myself? I looked at him puzzled as if he had asked the strangest question ever.

I replied, “No! They would just catch me and then I wouldn’t get just the 90 days but the 25 years when they caught me!”
He just laughed. A few days into my intake I found out why he had laughed…. No one that anyone knew of had EVER actually gotten their 90 days. Either they messed it up for themselves or if they had truly changed someone else that was incarcerated would attempt to mess it up for them. My next miracle was that not only was I granted my 90 days but a judge ruled that I could get out 2 weeks early due to my mom’s persistence and hard work! During this whole ordeal my mom was my biggest cheerleader! She was my bull dog when it came to hounding my lawyer and she was my biggest prayer warrior!As Paul would say…”But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”I have spent the last 10 years changing my life and working hard to be a better person. I have volunteered in India at an orphanage, worked at a not-for-profit assisting individuals with disabilities and volunteered in many various aspects. I have soooooo many people who could attest to all the changes my life has produced over the past 10 years.I had paid my “debt” to society when I completed the jail/ prison/ probation and restitution however I find in my life a constant struggle and feeling that the past is never the past. Any time that I look for employment that would better my life and build up my resume my back ground comes back to haunt me. I dream of the day that I can go into an interview confident that the past is just that, the past, and a future employer will look at the great things I have accomplished wanting me to complete their company with my skills..

The government wonders why the recidivism rate is out of control! People are never truly given a second chance by society or employers but even years later still has a shadow over their head of past mistakes!

My dream job would be to advocate for people who have a past that they may not be proud of, a God who has changed their lives completely and a hope for a future they can be proud of!
I am currently job hunting as I have recently relocated to Columbia, South Carolina and every turn I make I am getting turned down for a job based solely on my background check and finger printing. I had been offered a position as a supervisor in a house for UCP ( United Cerebral Palsy) and knew that it would be a great fit for me to be able to take the things I had learned for the last 2 years of employment working with people with disabilities. Yet due to me not having a valid SC Drivers license and not being able to successfully pass a background and fingerprinting they retracted their offer and didn’t even allow a chance for explanation on my part. In NY State I was cleared by the OMRDD (Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities) and given a chance to prove myself worthy to be a part of the agency The ARC of Steuben… however this new company down here would not even budge or consider the life changes I have made.SO…..I have created a petition by emailing the Governor of Iowa, the US Government and any one else that can help in my cause to have a mistake that happened 10 years ago no longer hinder my future!I want to be able to be an example of God’s amazing grace, love, protection and favor… I want to be able to be an encouragement to others who may not have a perfect past to know that there is a God who loves them so much He sent His only Son to die for their sins!

There has got to be a hope and a future for people who look in their past and wonder how there could possibly be any hope!

These experiences have been a constant thorn yet I know that just like the first verse I put on here states that my sufferings are not in vain but they have brought about a character and a hope that I would not have had if I had not been through all the trials. Not to give room or permission to sin but to know that God is a God of redemption and love!