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Jackie’s Story

Broken to Redeemed

First off I want to say that I grew up in a loving home with parents who loved me. I went to a parochial school until 8th grade, made my first communion, and was a cheerleader for our school’s basketball team. Life was good. Our neighborhood was filled with families with kids and I am still connected with some of those people today! We went to mass for school at least once a week and sometimes on Sunday’s with our mom. For anyone that went to parochial school you will know that as small children you always had a partner to walk to mass with. On the first day of school when I was in 2nd grade I met my first “best friend” who was my mass partner that day and for many days to come. Mary Ann was one of those people who was always there. We spent hours with each other. Our dad’s worked together so our families were connected in so many ways. What a blessing Mary Ann was for me and what a blessing she would turn out to be as my life circumstances changed and our families were turned upside down. God was taking care of me and I didn’t even know it.

When I was in 8th grade my parents separated and 6 months later divorced. I was devastated. We lived in a small town and everyone knew what was going on. In the 70’s divorce wasn’t an everyday thing like it seems to be today. I was teased at school and I started to hang out with different kids. It was during the 8th grade that I had my first drink, a shot of cold Peppermint Schnapps with a friend from her parent’s refrigerator. I loved the feeling it gave me and when I drank a little more, I soon learned that I didn’t have to think about what was happening at home. Unfortunately, although Mary Ann was there for me, I started to fall away from my friend during this time. We were still friends but I “hung out with” a different group of friends.

In high school I soon learned that I didn’t have to work really hard to get good grades so studying was not my forte. I began to make self-destructive, unwise choices with boys, my drinking, my relationships with my parents and friends and I had no relationship at all with the One that loved me more than life itself, Jesus. I knew who Jesus was because I learned about Him in school and confirmation classes but I didn’t have a relationship with Him. Actually the last thing I had on my mind was Jesus. My mom would drop me off at confirmation class and I would check in and then leave only to drive around with a six-pack with my friends. My son has a friend now that embraced confirmation class this last few years and I see how dedicated he is to his faith because he chose to love Jesus and what He did for us and not run from Him.

After graduating from high school I went to 2 different University of Wisconsin colleges and although I had good grades, I still partied and that was my primary purpose for being in school. I got a degree in Business Administration-Marketing and went out into the big, bad world. I was in what was probably the most destructive relationship of my life and I thought this was what was in store for me; going out, making unwise choices, selling used auto-parts or shoes, waitressing and misery. This is what I deserved…or so I thought.

At age 26 I met that guy that was to be my first husband, Rick. We married when I was 27 and had our first child when I was 28. Rick and I had a life of work, partying and yes, family. We loved our son, David with all our hearts and he became my number one priority and ultimately the reason I gave up a life of drinking and turned to sobriety. David was born with two congenital heart conditions and at the age of 4 months he had his first heart surgery. He was so tiny and my heart broke for my little son who was hooked up to machines to breathe for 4 days after his surgery. Then at age 18 months, he had his second heart surgery and he began to thrive! I told myself though that since I was working so hard at my job and taking my baby to the cardiologist monthly and sometimes weekly, and taking care of a husband and home that I “deserved” a drink or 5 after work. But after a weekend of partying I woke up on a Monday morning and God (I know now that it was Him) prompted me to make 3 phone calls. One was to my insurance company to see where I could go for help, one was to my mom as she had sobered up the year before and one was to my mother-in-law so I wouldn’t back out of my commitment to sobering up.

Thus began my walk towards Jesus and away from the self-destructive lifestyle I had been living. I joined AA and was a faithful member every Tuesday for many years. I learned about God and how He could help me move past the poor choices I had made and even make amends to those I had hurt along the way. AA has been called “Spiritual Kindergarten” by some people and for me that’s exactly what it became. I was still in the faith I grew up in and started sporadically attending church. We sent David to parochial school and I became involved in school activities and made friends with others that were attending that church. But there was still something missing. I started going to the “Adoration Chapel” weekly, joined the “Rosary Society” and served funeral lunches. I was “doing” all the things that were supposed to help me to get to heaven. But there was still something missing. During this time, God introduced me to a couple that would be instrumental in whispering the truth in love to me for the next several years. He was taking care of me again, knowing that I was going to need someone to get me through what was to become the most difficult time of my life.

Rick and I had another son, Brad and life was moving along, however, when Brad was 3 and David was 8, I received a phone call from my brother, Jeff. Rick had collapsed at work and was unresponsive and they were taking him by ambulance to the hospital. As I drove to the hospital the best and worst situations went through my head. He had a stroke, he was just exhausted, or he had had a heart attack. Rick was just 37 years old and we had two small children, he was going to be fine. But that was not the case. Rick had a massive brain aneurysm and the Dr.’s told us that he had a 5-10% chance of survival and if he survived he would probably be ventilator dependent for the rest of his life. He was a hunter, fisherman, and father and this was no way to live. After a few days we were told that the next day we would be asked to make a decision. And they were talking to us about donating his organs. My mother-in-law’s pastor had been coming daily and God was starting to woo me into turning to Him to make this decision, this was not my decision to make, it was God’s. My mother-in-law and I prayed that night together. We prayed that we would not have to make this decision and that God would make it for us. By the next morning, God had made the decision. We were told before they asked us to make a decision that Rick would not make it through the day. I had two small children what was I going to do? I had asked God to make the decision and He did. Now what?

Now what was anger towards God. I was angry with Him for taking the boy’s dad from them. I was angry for being alone. But He did not give up. Someone told me during this time that God had big shoulders and could handle my anger and that when I was done being mad, God would be there to pick me up and show me the way. After several angry months someone finally got angry with me! A stranger in an AA meeting told me that I had no right to be angry with God because He doesn’t do things TO us He does things FOR us. Ok, He did this FOR me? I don’t get it! Then I was angry with this stranger but God was working. That small still voice was talking to me, my friends that had been whispering the truth in love to me during those whole time were talking to me and a stranger in an AA meeting was talking to me. All messengers from God, all sent from a loving God that had been waiting patiently for me since before the earth was formed. I prayed to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior in a parking lot at a craft show in Des Moines, Iowa. God never gave up on me. He never stopped loving me.

Since then my life has changed in dramatic ways. I was reunited with my friend, Mary Ann (now known as Mary) during a time of trial in her life. That friendship means more to me than she will ever know. What I didn’t know is that even when I was making poor choices and running away from the world and her, that Mary still loved me too. She never stopped and her love and support that I now see was sent directly from God. My friends, Kim and Jon, who whispered the truth in love to me for years are always there for our family. Kim tells me now that she would get off the phone with me and tell Jon “She will never get it!” For those of you that have been praying for someone to “get it”, don’t give up! God is working and they will get it in HIS time not ours.

God has also given me one of the greatest gifts that a woman could ever have. A loving, devoted, godly husband to lead our home spiritually and to be a loving father to our kids. Has he always been perfect? Nope, he is human too. But God is growing him into a man after God’s own heart. A man who wants to serve God with the passions and abilities that he has been gifted with. Read his testimony and he will tell you about his journey. Rob brought with him something that I always wanted! A daughter! Misty has been such a gift to me. Her mom told me at Misty’s wedding that not only was she her only daughter but she was my only daughter too. What loving, selfless words those were to me! Misty is now a loving wife and mother also and her and husband, Jason have given us the gift of our first 3 grandchildren, Amina, Analise and Riker.

I have gone from a broken drunk to a redeemed daughter of the Most High. I have been saved by grace by Jesus when He died on the cross for my sins. Jesus has paid the price and has done the hard work. All I needed to do is accept His love and ask for my sins to be forgiven. I am so grateful for His love and forgiveness. I am a sinner and will be until the day Jesus takes me home. But because of His sacrifice, I am assured of eternal life with Him. How can I not serve a God that will do this for me? I do it not because I have to…but because I want to!

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