Devotional by Amber LaBarbera
The way the sunlight passes through the top of my window and into my room around 9:30am is as beautiful as it is blinding. I’m mesmerized by a ray of light striking a sundial I have hanging there at just the right angle, creating little glimmers of rainbow that dance across the wall. As I contemplate when I want to get out of bed to brew coffee and join my family, I hear the spattering of bacon and the aroma makes its way to my room. I love Saturdays.
I think about how thankful I am for the opportunity to not work weekends (which is new for me having been a barista for so long – all my girls in the food industry-you got this!), the roof over my head, the people in it, the food, the laughs, and the family chats.
But I’m even more thankful for something that I’ve just realized is present in this home. Something that creates an opportunity for all these other things to be enjoyed and cannot be replaced: a consistent feeling of peace that only Jesus brings.
As I lay there realizing this sounds like an episode of the Brady Bunch, I have a “full circle aha” moment. One of those moments where you think to yourself, “How did I get here?” Because the absolute truth in the natural is: I should not be here experiencing this. Allow me to unpack some of my family history to explain why.
My mom struggled with addiction at an early age. When she became pregnant with me at 18, her and my father were not on the best terms. The possibility of having a child was scary, and naturally, she wondered if she was capable. She ended up making the decision to have an abortion and went to a clinic to have it done. The procedure ended up not working properly, baffling the nurses and greatly unsettling my mom. Because of her state of panic, they would not allow her to try again, and neither would any clinic in the state of Virginia. At this point she decided to keep the baby, and bam – here I am!
My mom continued to struggle with addictions and my dad was diagnosed with an illness that would not allow him to be consistently present in my life, which I found out about much later. Shortly after I was born, my grandparents got custody of me, as well as my younger sister 3 years later. However, we weren’t sheltered from witnessing first hand the horrific effects that drugs can have on a person and those around them.
I developed into an extremely insecure, shy, cautious, and overweight middle schooler. Around the same time, my grandparents began to fight a lot, and eventually my grandmother left to live across town. This was extremely difficult for everyone. We were already struggling financially, my younger sister had a lot of disciplinary problems, and I felt that I had to help my grandfather figure out how to keep things afloat.
Coming to the youth group at church and encountering God for myself is what completely changed my outlook on life and gave me hope for a better future. I understood that I didn’t have to be defined by my circumstances or background, and that I could get joy and confidence from a Source that never runs dry. I found a life-giving community and a purpose for my life that transcended just surviving. I prayed often for my family, knowing that God could do miracles for them as well.
When I was about 16 years old, my mom reached out to everyone saying she was out of jail, got a job, and was attending a program called Regeneration, which is a part of Wave City Care. We had heard “I’m going to get my life straight” from her several times throughout the years, but lo and behold, she began to prove herself and it gave us hope.
Not too long after that, my dad reached out to me and we began to reconnect, which was the beginning of an awkward but beautiful process of reconciliation. We now hang out regularly and I am so proud of how he has grown and found God for himself.
More recently, my grandparents have come back together and are doing well. They are always looking for ways to bless others and have found themselves planted in the house of God together again.
My mom is now several years clean and her life looks dramatically different. Within those years, she has earned a master’s degree, risen to the top of her company, and married an incredible man with an incredible testimony of his own that only makes sense because of God. Eventually, they bought a beautiful house together.
I had been living on my own for a few years and recently found myself in a place where I needed to move out and quickly find a different living situation. At the same time, my mom was building a guest bedroom. She offered to let me stay in it while I figure things out, which was definitely the best option for me.
The “full circle aha moment” that I described earlier took place because I am sitting in the house that my mom recently bought with her husband. She is able to take care of a need that I had in a way that she never could when I was growing up. I am able to know what it’s like to live in a peaceful home where chaos does not reign. Even though it doesn’t take back the way things happened, it does prove that God works all things together for the good of those who love him.
By no means do we have it all together. There are several reasons from the past and present that could, in the natural, cause us to be living in so much pain, or not living at all. But because of God, we are able to experience true life to it’s fullest. That is a miracle and I am forever grateful.