Photo by Nicole Tarpoff
I grew up in a very small town. I had wonderful parents and one brother. My childhood was happy and uneventful. I was close to my father and he suggested that I consider taking care of people for a living since I had been a caretaker for several people in our family when they were sick. I decided to take his advice and pursued becoming a nurse. From 1994–2001 I worked as a nurse in a hospital. Life was pretty uneventful at that time.
Then three things happened that I couldn’t deal with. My brother was killed by a friend, my mother was dying with breast cancer, and I had a hysterectomy.
I was so angry with the man who killed my brother. I fought in court trying to send him to prison. Not long after that I got hurt on the job and started using the pills I had been prescribed for an injury to help my emotional pain. I never thought addiction would happen to me, but I became addicted to the pills that took away my pain.
After my mom died in 2004, I got in trouble, lost my nurse’s license, and went to jail. The board said I would never get my license back. The judge wanted me to have treatment for drug abuse and I spent three months in jail waiting for a bed to open up in an addiction program. I was able go to a faith-based residential treatment center where I spent 180 days in treatment. The people were so loving there. They tried to show me beauty where I saw none. They started talking about things my mom had tried to talk with me about—about Jesus.
While I was in treatment I had terrible insomnia. Someone suggested that I pray when I woke up during the night. I took their advice and I prayed that God would reveal Himself to me and give me peace. It was gradual, but the Lord did reveal Himself to me and give me peace. When I got out of treatment I found my mom’s Bible and it was like a love letter to me. She had written all sorts of things in the margins. These were the same things I had heard in treatment.
The treatment center was named after a young woman who had been killed by a teenager over a $30 drug debt. One night I heard her father speak. He talked about forgiving the teenager who had killed his daughter. He said that he had given the teen a Bible and asked for mercy on him with the authorities. At this point I was still harboring so much anger toward the man who had killed my brother. When I heard this man speak, it was the first time I thought I might be able to forgive the man who killed my brother. I thought if this man could forgive the person who killed his daughter, why couldn’t I forgive the man who killed my brother?
The state nursing board said I would never get my license back. But the staff at the treatment center encouraged me to try to get my license back, and eventually I began working toward that. After I graduated the treatment program, I went to work at the treatment center as residential staff, taking care of clients and their needs. One of our clients was the niece of the man who killed my brother. Her mother (the sister of the man who killed my brother) came to visit her, and when she came through the door she cried and I cried. At that exact moment, I could see how everyone was a victim in circumstances of my brother’s death. I could see not only what it had done to my life but what it had done to the lives of his family. This experience was so healing for me. This was the event of forgiveness I needed.
I continued working at the treatment center and continued pursuing reinstatement of my nursing license. It took me three years to meet the requirements. One year ago today I got my license back. Now I work as a nurse at the very treatment center where I did my rehab. Most of the time we have 20 people in treatment at the center at one time. It is a wonderful thing to see all 20 people get their worth back and see the glow back in their faces. Most have been abused, and when they come in they are hopeless and sick and don’t think they can beat the addiction. They feel it is bigger than them. And then God steps in and they go from being a victim to being victorious. By taking the hand of the next person, they develop muscles and get stronger. By helping others, they get stronger themselves. This has been true for me as well.
God is good and God doesn’t put things on you to be harsh. He is there to help you get through things if you will let him. Now I pray before everything, and that helps me. God knows just what you need. God knew I needed to forgive to be healthy and whole again, and He helped me to do that by speaking to me through the father of the girl who was killed and by softening my heart through the tears of the sister of the man who killed my brother. God responded to my prayers for peace. I have a peace now that I never had in my life. Things that used to bother me don’t bother me anymore. God answered my prayers to reveal Himself to me. He put people in my life to point out His beauty and lead me to Him—my mother, the staff at the treatment center, even finding my mom’s Bible. God made a way for my nursing license to be restored even though they said it would never happen, and He has given me an even more meaningful and fulfilling nursing career than I had before. Over and over God has been faithful and given me what I have needed.
The way I feel about Jesus now is different than the way I felt as a child. He is not harsh and judgmental. He is a heavenly Father that is there to help you deal with life. Even when you fall, He still wants to hold your hand.
I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19)