As Twyla* shares her story with me, I cannot help but think back to Rivers’s book. It should have been no surprise when at the end of the interview, I asked if any books had impacted her during her journey of overcoming and she said, “Redeeming Love. Do you know it?” I smiled and said, “Yes, I know it.”
* Her real name, used with permission.
Soon after meeting her first boyfriend at a driving class at the local high school, Twyla became pregnant at 17. Because of her unexpected pregnancy, she felt as if she were no longer welcome in her parents’ home, even though they never said those words. Twyla felt ashamed and as if she was a disappointment to her family. Twyla moved in with a new boyfriend (not her child’s father) who was verbally abusive and drunk most of the time.
She moved home after going into premature labor at 7 months. Her daughter was born in August, just about the time college was starting. Twyla was expected to go to classes and work full time to support her daughter.
All of her new responsibilities mounted, and Twyla broke under the pressure. Her mom took her to a psychiatrist who committed her to a psychiatric hospital in the drug and alcohol wing. A diagnosis of bipolar disorder came with daily medication and therapy.
When her daughter was a year old, Twyla began smoking marijuana with the new man she was dating. The drug caused her life to finally make sense and filled her with happy feelings. She also began drinking heavily every night. The large amounts of money she made at a gentleman’s club funded her drug and alcohol habit. Her boyfriend’s abusiveness increased after they started doing hard drugs together.
When Twyla asked her parents to take care of her daughter, she knew she was choosing an abusive relationship and drugs over her daughter, but she had lost perspective of what was really important.
In November of 2003, her daughter’s father was given full custody. Twyla didn’t try to fight it, because she knew her daughter deserved better.
By the time the third pregnancy occurred in their 4 year relationship, Twyla decided she wasn’t having another abortion, so she stopped drinking and doing drugs. During her pregnancy, her boyfriend left her for her best friend. After taking a bottle of Ambien and a bottle of Hydrocodone to cope with the betrayal, Twyla’s parents encouraged her to move home.
Her son was born in November of 2005.
A move to Georgia in 2006 should have been a fresh start, but Twyla started doing drugs and drinking heavily again. Making good money as a secretary for a tax attorney allowed her the opportunity to “live it up.” Twyla shares she kept returning to alcohol because she always felt something was missing, and alcohol filled her pain.
An invitation to visit a church opened her eyes to a different kind of life. She was baptized and began going through the motions of fixing her life. In January of 2008, her pastor’s wife confronted her about her addictions and encouraged her to go to rehab. “I told her no because I had responsibilities: a child, a full time job, and bills for my car and apartment.”
Those reasons were all taken away from her over the next year and a half. After a Thanksgiving visit with his dad, her son cried all the way home and told her, “I hate you. I want to live with my dad. You are a horrible mother.”
The words stung, but she knew they were the truth. She knew she was an alcoholic and a drug addict. She called his dad and asked him to come get him.
Her addiction spiraled out of control. One bad decision led to another. She knew she had hit rock bottom. On the drive to her parents’ house she made a life-changing decision: “If I don’t go to rehab, I will die.”
Her dad hugged her and invited her in. For the first time in weeks, Twyla ate and slept. She reached out to her best friend who discussed rehab with her. This time, Twyla offered no excuses. She was ready.
In 2009, Twyla started a thirty day detox and a six month rehab. During those difficult months, Twyla read and reread Redeeming Love. She began to see herself the way God sees her and loves her. (This year marks her 5 year anniversary of being clean and sober!)
Not long after Twyla met and married a man from Mexico, he was deported. She followed him there, only to be abandoned for a short time in a country that was not her home. Having made a marital commitment to him, Twyla endured the abuse and his excessive drinking.
She finally left him and moved to Georgia. A friend invited her to a Spanish speaking church, where she felt all the anger that had taken up residence in her be emptied. She then was filled with the Holy Spirit. A fledgling relationship with the God she had given her life to two years ago began taking root in her heart.
Her son had been living with his father, and Twyla had been completely un-involved. So when her son’s father asked her to sign away her parental rights, she knew she had no choice but to comply.
A few months before her divorce was final, Twyla met Eddie at a fair. There was something special about Eddie and before they married in April of 2012, Twyla knew Eddie needed to know about all the struggles she had faced (and overcome). His love for her overshadowed everything she had been through.
One night during a conversation Twyla asked him, “Why do you stay? I’m a mess.”
“Because God told me you’re His princess and you have been through so much pain,” he responded. “He doesn’t want you to be in pain again. It’s my job to take care of you and make you happy.”
Eddie’s words. But God’s message of redeeming love.
God’s unconditional redeeming love cleansed Twyla of her sordid past and brought her true love. An indescribable gift.
Their son Evan was born in January of 2013.
Twyla’s life finally seemed perfect: a strong marriage, a beautiful son, and a great church.
But in January of 2014, her husband Eddie voluntarily left the States and returned to Guatemala so he wouldn’t be deported for being here illegally. Suddenly Twyla was facing yet another challenge. One she was determined to overcome.
Twyla knew she needed God’s help to get Eddie back with an approved visa, so she called on her family and friends to be prayer warriors for them.
God was certainly working: Eddie’s birth certificate was obtained in one day rather than the expected 2 to 3 months. His background check came back quickly. His paperwork sailed through the process.
The interview date was scheduled so Eddie could present the case that he and Twyla were a legitimate married couple with a child. He would also share he had secured gainful employment for when he returned to the States.
Unfortunately, Eddie’s visa was not approved in May of this year. So he will remain separated from Twyla and Evan for a while longer. Their prayer warriors are back at work, praying for the obstacles to be overcome so he can be reunited with his family.
When someone has fought as hard to overcome all the struggles as Twyla has faced, I wanted to know what she’s learned. This is what she had to say:
“I know God forgives me, no matter what. There’s no reason for me to be sitting here. There’s no reason possible in human conditions for me to be here except for God. I’m stronger than I ever thought humanly possible. I’m grateful for all the pain I’ve experienced because it has given me an understanding of the struggles others go through.”
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