It wasn’t without cost, doubt or questions in my mind like “should I”, “why” and “what if”, before I shared my story at the Jesus Is Enough Conference last weekend. At 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning I stood at the microphone and began the story I believed that God wanted me to tell within the 45 minutes that I was allotted. My story of my faith journey through my daughter’s battle with addiction.
The guilt, shame and fear that a mother feels while watching her child fight this battle is more than anyone care bear alone. It is my story of letting go of what I had no power to change and then God changed me.
I felt calm and at peace as I began to address the full room of women before me. I started each session by introducing myself. I had not intended on using my very well-known, respected and loved by many in the Evangelical circles… father’s name, Rev. Lorne Shepherd, but God laid it on my heart to do so. Impressing upon me that there would be many in that crowd whose lives have been touched by his ministry. They may even have the impression that if they had a father like mine their life would have been easier.
I introduced myself as the youngest of three in a Pentecostal preacher’s family. My sister was the oldest and the “practice child”, my brother the “strong willed, middle child” and then there came me… the “spoiled, I mean favorite child”. I was a child that didn’t give my parent’s much grief, I tried to colour within the lines and didn’t stray far from the path and gave my heart to the Lord at a young age. My role in the family was that of informant, though my siblings called me a tattle tale and didn’t appreciate it. My parent’s clearly needed my help in raising my brother and sister because obviously they did not have eyes in the back of their heads and were not always aware of what they were doing. They needed my help.
I suffered very little growing up and lived a relatively normal, peaceful life and then I became an adult and I found out… that I was not special. I learned that I too would have to go through hard times and heart ache just like everyone else.
I repeated my session two more times each session the same and each session full. At the end of the day I was physically and emotionally exhausted and my friend Kerry and I made our way home.
Waiting for me at home was my husband and my beautiful little grandson whose face gave me the energy I needed to get through to his bedtime. This was his night for a sleepover and we were determined to not let him down.
I thought I would sleep forever but at 6:00 a.m. my eyes began to leak. I began to wipe my tears away with my sheets as faces of the day before passed through my mind like photographs in an album. I saw the countless moms and grandmothers who swarmed me after each session, with tears in their eyes saying “I’m going through the same thing”. I saw the young woman in her early twenties who couldn’t wait to meet me and with excitement told me she just came from detox and a lady had brought her to the conference. She held in her hands a copy of my book and asked me to sign it. I was given the opportunity to give her a hug and words of encouragement.
I saw the 18 year girl who thanked me and talked to me for a long while after the session ended. She was sober for 4 months and had no idea what she had put her mother through and my story helped her to understand and perhaps forgive. She told me she wanted to help other kids like her and I encouraged her to do so. I was given the opportunity to give her a huge hug, like I would give my own daughter if allowed.
I saw the mom sitting in the front row of my final session who during my closing words was crying uncontrollably. As soon as the session was over I reached forward and took her hand. She looked into my face and said “I thought I was all alone in this and that nobody would understand”…she said “everything I had shared is everything she is going through”.
And then I saw the lady who waited until everyone else had left and then came and sat beside me on the stage. She said, “I wanted to take a moment to encourage you with regards to your grandson”. She began to tell me that she was that child. Her mom is now elderly and sober for only 2 years now. She grew up not wanting to have anything to do with God because of how she was raised but somehow God found her and protected her from going down the same route as her mother. You see, she has a grandmother who lives on the other side of the world and though she only saw her a handful of times in her life that grandmother prayed for her faithfully. She learned later in life that her own mother had been raised in a Christian home though for some reason lost her way and fell into addiction. She told me to not underestimate the impact that a grandmother can have on a grandchild’s life.
Today, I have no doubt, no question, that I did the right thing. “Beauty for Ashes” the Bible says. I’m thankful, I stepped out in faith believing that God would use my pain for good.
In the last session there was a lady in the front row and before the session started we had time to chat. Our paths had crossed several times in our lives. She too had a father who worked at the Crossroads Centre probably around the same time that I also worked there. Her children went to Trinity Christian School in Burlington and we talked about the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools. I am proud to be a part of this organization. I’m proud to be a part of this family.
When I first started here, this was a safe place for me. Very few of you knew who my father is and for the first time I wasn’t Rev. Lorne Shepherd’s daughter but I was just me. It was okay for me to be open and honest about my imperfect life and many of you have journeyed a lot of it with me. Never making me feel like a bad mother or judged in any way. I appreciate that more than you will ever know.
I have taken a huge step back into where I was for a long time hiding from, in sharing my story so publicly. But I am so overwhelmed by how God is turning it around for His good in the lives of others. In those moments He makes it all worthwhile. I found out that it has always been okay for me to be real and honest about my imperfect life. Perfect is neither expected nor required.
The Bible says in Isaiah 61:3 New King James Version (NKJV)
3 To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”
I don’t know when our story will be over. I don’t know what my future holds but I know who holds my future.