“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us [emphasis added], to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21, New International Version).
It is verse 20 (the emphasis added) that the Lord gave to me and my husband the last several months before we moved here to North Carolina. I am not certain that I recall another time that we were both given the same verse and shared the promise simultaneously…
I have spent 27 years at the side of my husband. The beginnings of our story is one for the books. Recovery is a marvelous thing. Have you ever heard the saying that if the mountain was smooth, you couldn’t scale it?
I met my husband Mark at St. Christopher’s Inn, Garrison, New York. This was a homeless shelter for alcoholic and addicted men. Mark was a resident. He had an addiction that had debilitated him to such a degree that the people who loved him were not willing to let him live in their home or take risks with him any longer.
I was 24 years old. I was in the process of a divorce and ravaged by grief at the loss of my sisters (one who had died and another who had fled an abusive home years earlier), and my second born son, Adam, who died suddenly at 5 months old. My heart lamented, fatigued by life’s viciousness. I was on welfare with 2 small children, Derek and Ashley-Nicole, and I felt like every way I turned I was yet again, a statistic.
Mark and I connected instantly when we first met. I had been in a very deep place (quite honestly I usually am) and God was beginning to reveal Himself to Mark’s refreshed, clear mind. He, too, was grieving the loss of a brother, his best friend, who had recently passed away from cancer. Like any good codependent, I was absolutely certain that I was the answer to his addiction. Convinced I would love him better than any other. (As a side note I was so clueless about addiction.)
I was a size 2, often tossed into decisions between paying bills and feeding my kids. I was starved on more than 1 facet of my life. In swept my knight in shining armor to carry me off into the sunset and melt all my fears and troubles away. I would save him and he would save me. No one really encouraged our relationship; in fact, it was said of us that “we were two dead batteries trying to jumpstart a car.”
Mark picked up and used 4 months into our relationship. Devastation was an understatement; however, I saw the remorse in him and still believed in him. It was just a little “slip up.” (These “slip ups” would continue for the next 7 years). I brought much baggage into the relationship as well. Wrestling all the time with anger and guilt, I vacillated between anger and deep sadness, yet I was very determined to break the cycle that seemed to dictate my life’s direction. I desperately wanted my husband well and felt I would do anything to make that happen. Oh and I was pregnant, so there was that. One thing was still real and true—we loved each other. So we got married and started our happily ever after.
To say that it was an uphill battle would never do justice to the days and months and years that the addiction and codependency were the rulers in our home. We had gone into business for ourselves and experienced some success, but then the addiction would swoop back in and drag it all away. Reputations, hopes, dreams, trust, faith in anything… all gone in a moment’s notice.
The in between moments were spent trying, in our own strength, to rebuild the foundation of our house built in the sand…oh, and having babies. These moments gave me glimpses of a good man who wanted to be a great man. Mark was suffering with a disease that he was truly powerless over.
It wasn’t until our youngest son, now 20 years old, was born that Mark truly surrendered to recovering from his addiction. This was our third child together; we had already been blessed with 2 beautiful daughters, Grace and Rebecca-lynn. We named our son after Mark’s brother and my son, and I reflected on God’s mercy as it had been 12 long years since I had held a baby boy of my own. Peter Adam, he marked the road with an altar of sacrifice, as I laid my heart down again. Isn’t God good!?
The road was tough; Mark and I are both complex and passionate people. While attending meetings and working the 12 steps in Alcoholics Anonymous, my husband had a sponsor who encouraged him to work on just one thing that coming year. He chose to make that his relationship with God.
It was an amazing thing when we both heard the voice of the Holy Spirit draw us in and rescue us from the madness we had succumbed to. As God put the pieces of our broken life back together, soundness of mind began to settle in and the chaos subsided. Living without chaos actually takes some getting used to when that is all you know.
Mark still had quite the entrepreneurial mind. We had 3 sons, 3 daughters, and awaited the arrival of our 7th child, a girl. She was the 7th child born at 7 am on the 16th (1+6=7), and she weighed 7 lbs. The year was 2005 . (You don’t need me to do that math!). We like to joke and say that the skies opened up again and God declared, “It is finished….” With 8 years of sobriety and hearts surrendered to Jesus, we welcomed Noelle into the world. Some have told Mark that Noelle has made him a better person; he often reflects sadly on how much the other children really needed him and how unavailable he was mentally and emotionally for them.
It has been 25 years since those first days back when a boy met a girl. They were gritty and oppressive in ways that only a slightly crazy codependent woman obsessed about a drug addicted man can understand. The 20 years of sobriety from drugs that Mark has is still to this day, one of the biggest gifts in our life together. God’s abundant grace flows as I recall all those beginnings, where 2 fragile people who fell deeply in love stood against all odds to face again a new day.
If you are living with someone in the throws of addiction, I say cautiously, never give up on God; He is still doing miracles. I pray you never lose hope.
At the end of June 2017, we moved…sold everything and even left some grown kids behind. Many tears fell as we departed the home that was so familiar to us, but even more grace fell. We have taken to this adventure, believing that God doesn’t always want us comfortable.
Last month, my husband went to work, like many mornings, since August 2017, for someone else. If you have ever been in business for yourself, you know this goes against the nature of an entrepreneur. On this particular day that I am mentioning here, he didn’t return until midnight. No drugs, no alcohol, no disorderly business, just a man sacrificing his very days and nights to bring about a dream in the life of his wife and family. Mark says that I gave up many things for a long time to provide for our family and now it is my turn to just enjoy the ride. He works for much less than he is worth. (I personally cannot put a dollar amount on his knowledge and skills). I have struggled many mornings seeing him off to do what he does out there in the world while I stay home.
That same Saturday he had the alarm set and got up and left to go do side work (as he does most Saturdays) to provide additional income in our home. I do not work. He encourages me to volunteer, to gym, to hike, to spend time with our daughters who live here and my grandchildren, and to sit on the back porch and listen to the Holy whispers of a good and gracious God for as long as I would like. I feel completely undeserving of such love and mercy.
We are minimalists to a degree, a 1 car family working diligently to live in our means. Mark works tirelessly most days with pride at the opportunity to allow me to stay home. We have chosen to remember continually the blessing of second chances that God has set before us.
Mark goes to Celebrate Recovery every Friday night, by my side. We hold hands and lift our hands to worship a God that we are blessed beyond all measure to be in the presence of. I value that time as more sacred than perhaps any other time in our week. The Holy Spirit stirs in my man’s yielded heart so much so that I scarce can express the love and admiration that I have for him.
I always believed in him; I earnestly prayed that God would restore all that the locusts had stolen…. I prayed more and waited patiently and impatiently for God to do in Mark what only God could do. This house we are building now is on the Rock.
Thank You, Father, that You saw me and rescued me. Thank You that You have a great plan for my life and You have poured Your Holy Spirit out on me to know You and seek after You with a passion to serve You. I pray for _____ today, Father. I pray Your protection over them. I pray You would place an unquenchable desire within _____ to seek You with all their heart. Make us matchless servants of God, gentle in spirit and strong in convictions with a desire to put every choice before You, and then please give each of us the will and the strength to persevere in whatever You call us to do. Help us, Lord, to guard our hearts and minds against the lies of the enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy our testimonies. Thank You for giving us access to You and to the power that raised Jesus from the dead. We love You so much and we long to hear You say, “Well done.”
In Jesus’s Holy Name.
Enjoy your weekend and don’t forget to check back in on Monday when Stephanie will be back to share more of the mayhem from her beautiful life….. Be blessed as we worship this Amazing God we are privileged to serve.