She Said “Yes.”
Eventually, living “on the edge” will cause you to fall off. But even then, there’s a God who’s there to catch you.
Imagine you’re a young mom who missed your son’s first day at kindergarten because you’re in jail … for the second time. Your crime? Stealing to support your meth and heroin habit. While there, your mother dies of a drug overdose and you don’t even know it for three weeks … or where your five-year-old was taken. At age 25, your only sister also dies of her addiction. Shortly before their untimely demise, your grandmother succumbs to her lifelong drug habit.
Then, after leaving town, you end up shacking up with a gunrunner and a drug dealer—a guy who, when he met you, was about to blow a hole in someone’s face. And he might have blown a hole in yours, too, had he not been feeling generous that day. “Because you didn’t rat me out, I’m going to let you go,” he said in so many words. Then he bought you a bus ticket home.
Through all that, you had one saving grace: your dad. He believed. And prayed. And was there for you when you needed a break from your hard-livin’, drug-fueled street life. “Dad, I’m tired,” you’d say. Then he’d take you in for a few days. You’d sleep on his couch and then, like a frightened gazelle, you’d be gone again—back to the cesspool. The only thing certain in your life was your certain need for your next fix.
Most of this time you don’t feel much of anything. You’re numb. Things that would normally be the “come to Jesus” moment for most people—locked up in jail, living on the street with an abusive husband, losing custody of your kids and cheating death yourself—twice—never became a catalyst for change. All those wake-up calls went unanswered.
This kind of life isn’t most of our scenarios. By comparison, our lives are, well, rather predictable. But for Heather Hyatt, her life was a self-described “chaotic mess.” A too-bad-to-be-believed soap opera. Her future looked bleak.
“Growing up, our house was one big drug party,” says Heather. “My mom was strung out most of the time, and when she wasn’t high, she was crashed out on the couch. My dad was a man of faith, but he was also a ‘hands-off’ dad. He mainly just worked and gave us a roof over our heads. So I pretty much raised myself—all while drinking and doing drugs starting at ten years of age.”
Fast forward a decade or so and Heather is still deeply steeped in the street life when she gets an unexpected phone call. It’s from the New Life Recovery Center. They told her they were “considering her for the program.” She had never even heard of New Life. So why, she asked herself, were they calling her? How did they even know about her? And what was “the program?”
Looking back on the chain of events that led her to the New Life Recovery Program, Heather had no doubt it was a “God thing”—a divine set up. But before she kept that appointment with destiny, Heather lived for two years at the Mission—a kind of “warm-up” to the main act. She wasn’t particularly eager to give that up. “I was comfortable just being homeless and a shelter guest,” says Heather. “That existence became my security blanket. I was terrified of losing all that.”
All Aboard … Last Chance!
Eventually, she said yes to what she sensed was her last chance for a brighter future: she enrolled in the New Life Recovery Program. Once God gets a hold of you, it seems, change is inevitable.
Not surprisingly, at first, she struggled to even feel worthy of love. Her self-hatred was firmly entrenched, her confidence level at zero. When you’ve been living in survival mode most of your life, it’s hard to imagine anything other than the life you’ve always known. It’s a default set point that can only be changed by catching a vision of a different future—a future that you always secretly dreamed of, but never dared hoped for. Heather did catch that vision and once she did, from there on out, it was God’s endless supply of grace combined with pure grit that kept her going. Both helped her to tough out all the setbacks (there were many), the heartaches, the nagging regrets, and worst of all, the shame.
Heather would be the first to tell you that none of this happened in a bubble. She was helped along the way by people who could see what she had inside of her and were determined to stick with her until the “real Heather” began to emerge. To get there, Heather had to start replacing old habits with new ones. Most critical for her was practicing the daily habit of choosing the truth—what God said about her—vs. the lie—what the enemy whispered in her ear on a constant basis. And had done so since childhood.
Habits are huge. For Heather, it didn’t just mean practicing the spiritual discipline of choosing truth over lies—it also meant learning the most basic of social skills.
“Before going through the program, I couldn’t interact with society—normal society—at all,” says Heather. “During the recovery process, I was ‘doing life’ with other women on a daily basis. I was also meeting with volunteers who taught boundaries classes and a Bible study, and also facilitated social activities. These interactions taught me how to be social.
Slowly and surely, I started loving myself—believing I could do anything! From there, nothing could keep me down … even having to take the GED test over several times!”
Then there was what Heather calls the “clean up”—the devastation left in the wake of all her poor decisions. Losing your two children to a drug-addicted dad and then having to pay back child support was just one of those cleanups. But through it all, her mentors, program peers and others were there to guide her through the process … and to help her develop new life skills.
It Only Takes a Spark
“It was the best 18 months of my life,” said Heather. “I wouldn’t be the person or the mom that I am today if I hadn’t gone through New Life. Watching the women with their children and seeing how they were learning to become loving and nurturing mothers gave me hope that I too could become the mom I had always wanted to be.”
Today, Heather’s dream is being fulfilled. She’s regained custody of her children, has a great job— providing a stable home for her family—and most important of all, she has hope for the future and a strong foundation of faith. Her life has done a 360-degree turnaround.
“I should have been dead,” says Heather, “but God, well, He had other plans.”
A Tear-Jerker Text
Her children were part of that redemptive plan; the outcome of Heather’s radical transformation went beyond her just regaining custody. In May, Heather received an unexpected gift for Mother’s Day. It was a text from her son, who, she recalls with sadness, was “the child who had the rawest deal … I really dragged him through the muck and the mire.”
The text read simply, “Happy Mother’s Day, mom. Love you with all my heart. Anything I do in life, I have to give credit to you … you helped me be the man that I am today.”
Without a doubt, God is in the soul transformation business. Even more, what He begins in one life, He doesn’t stop until the whole family is restored to its rightful place—back to His original design. It doesn’t happen overnight … it takes time. Sometimes years, sometimes decades. But it will happen. As the lyrics to a classic Jesus Movement song tell us, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing.”
Heather is beyond happy—and grateful—for the fire of God’s redemptive love that’s started in her family. And all because she said yes to change. It’s a fire she warms herself by every day.
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