Amazing Grace

Prior to surrendering to Christ, I lived a life that was a lie. I abused alcohol, stole to make ends meet, and lied to anyone who would listen. I was searching for my identity and I thought that someone else held the key to who I was.

At 25 I was a single mother, going through a divorce. I didn’t know how to deal with the pain and anger of my faltering relationship, so I started pretending. I pretended it didn’t hurt, and I pretended I didn’t care. Over time I actually started to believe my own lies.

Eventually, I started to find comfort at bars. I didn’t have to feel the pain, and I didn’t have to accept the truth. Pretending and living a lie became a reality for me.

I was constantly running, and hiding. But the only person I ran from was me. I became so addicted to the atmosphere of the bar, and that lifestyle became my priority. The night-life, the people, the lies, allowed for me to create a person I thought was better than everybody else. This lifestyle satisfied what I thought I needed.

Unfortunately, the addiction became so powerful, that I could not financially survive. At this point, I realized something was wrong, but I wasn’t ready to admit that. I knew I had to fix the problem before it got worse. So I stole.

My financial problems were temporarily fixed, but I felt so guilty for my actions. I just waited for the day that I would get caught. I was so scared. The fear became so much that I started taking sleeping pills. I just wanted to sleep; as long as I was asleep I didn’t live in fear, and I didn’t have to feel the guilt.

On Sept. 6, 2007, I was taken to the hospital for what was called an apparent suicide attempt. I didn’t want to live this way anymore. I was also arrested for my crimes that day. On this day I slowly began telling the truth.

I was sitting in a jail cell the first time I heard the voice of the Lord. I remember hearing him tell me to talk to him, to pray. My response was, “I am not getting down on my knees and praying.” I thought in order to pray I had to be on my knees.

Over the next few weeks I could still hear his quite voice in my heart – he never went away and he never gave up.

I went to a Sunday service at the jail, and it was lead by a Sunday school teacher who would come in and sing children songs to the women. Her final song was “Amazing Grace.” As I sat there listening to that song, my heart opened, and the only thing I could say was, “I am sorry.”

On that day I took accountability for my actions, and finally asked the Lord for help. I wanted to change, but I didn’t know how, since I was in jail awaiting a sentence. I knew that I wanted something different. Two days later by the grace of God, I was sent home on house arrest.

I was fortunate to spend two months on house arrest. I was fighting a prison sentence, and searching for the truth. Limited on what I was allowed to do, my time on house arrest wasn’t easy. But my life changed the day that I walked into West Salem Foursquare.

I was never much a church person. In fact I couldn’t remember the last time I went to church. But when I walked into West Salem Foursquare, I knew I was home. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at the first service I attended. I wanted what the pastor so beautifully spoke of. From that day forward I have never been the same. In the weeks following, I met some very important and special people, who not only showed me God’s love and forgiveness, but they also showed me the truth.

On Nov. 29, 2007, I was sentenced to 26 months of prison. On Nov. 30, I walked into Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, more terrified and confused than I have ever been. How was I ever going to survive this? I am not a criminal, I just made some really poor decisions; or as Robert put it, some stupid, stupid, stupid decisions.

I walked into that place a believer. I was like a clinging child on Christ leg. Fortunately, I spent the next year growing and loving Jesus. I was in the word every day, attending services, and surrounding myself around other believers.

I went to court on Nov. 27, 2007 asking for a year and was sentenced to two years, two months. On May 21 of that year, I was accepted in to a drug and alcohol program, which reduced my sentence. I was released on Nov. 19, 2008. Eleven days shy of my one year mark.

That year in prison, allowed me to find out who I really am, to get to know the Lord, and trust in him. I walked by faith every day of my time away, and I still do.

Today I can say that I am honest and true to whom I am. Life since being home has not always been easy, but it’s definitely beautiful.

The Lord has been faithful to me. I am home with my family, who not only supports and encourages me, but also loves me and has forgiven me. I am rebuilding my relationship with my son – the Lord has shown me how to be the mother I am supposed to be.

I can look anyone in the eye today and be truthful. I am who I am today by the Gods’ love and grace.

Stefany Camenisch is thankful for God’s love and redeeming grace. She attends church at West Salem Foursquare and welcomes you to read her thoughts on her blog at www.stefanysthoughts.blogspot.com.

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