Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A God of Restoration

For most of us, the holidays are a time of gift buying, baking, family and friends. We gather together, give more to charities and find ourselves in overly good and merry moods. I know I do.

I work in my little elf shop, making cards and writing out letters to friends I seldom remember the rest of the year in the hustle and bustle with work. I put down other hobbies and save my time for holiday pursuits. But not everyone I know has the luxury of turning their lives in different directions for the season. Their lives are dictated from sun up to sun down as any other day. They are the many women (and men) we serve at Spirit House Ministries who are currently incarcerated in jail or prison. They live their lives day in and day out without some of the simple joys that I have every day.

While I know most of these women committed a crime that landed them in their circumstances, I never want to forget that they are more than the crime they committed. They made choices and mistakes, that is true. Yet they are also women with stories, pasts, families. They are educated or uneducated. They are single or married. They are mothers or sisters or aunts or daughters. They are women who you might be surprised are much like you.

Because I work with these women and I have lived with them as well, I know another side to the stories you may think you know. I've laughed with them and cried with them. I've fought with them and shared with them. I've listened to their fear that the world is going on without them and heard them give thanks that someone has remembered them with a card or letter. I've shared pictures of my children as they shared pictures of theirs. I've whispered prayers with them and played cards with them all at the same time. I've been blessed to know them.

Tonight, while I was busy in my elf workshop, creating some greeting cards for Christmas gifts, my phone rang. It was a client and friend who was released from prison early this year. She struggled in her first weeks, trying to learn about God and her relationship with Christ while battling the lure of the world as it welcomed her back. In short order she found herself pregnant and wondering how this would all work out but determined, having lost custody of her other two children, that she would make life right for this one. I can hear you now, she has no business having a child! Some new life she is living, giving in to sin and creating a life she has no business raising. Smart one, she is, getting pregnant and thinking she can rebuild her life let alone take care of a new one. You know you're thinking it though you might not say it, I know this because I too wondered what she was thinking and what she was doing. And I am her friend and sister in Christ. I've discipled her for over two years and tried to be there for her during her walk in the world again.

Well, here she was on the phone talking about how she was finally getting all she ever wanted in life; a husband, child and home. She was "fat and broke and happier" than she'd ever been and she was rejoicing in the birth of her new son. She had plans in February to petition the court for custody of her oldest son, which was being supported by the case worker in Utah handling her son's case. She is soon to be reunited with him. She is experiencing the joys of communion with our Lord and is learning about the God of restoration we serve. Her new baby is a gift and she knows this. She believes God is giving her the life she's dreamed of because finally she is understanding who He is and what He wants to do in her life. She is finding a quiet, content life and she knows it is God at work in her life. She is finding faith and a joy that comes from a life of faith.

Hers is just one story of restoration and grace we are blessed to see each day. And while the holidays are a convenient time to give thanks to God for all He does for us, it is so fitting that during this time we can remind one another no matter our circumstances, thanks be to God who though while we were still sinners, died for us, ALL of us.

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