WRITING TO HONOR GOD
When I received an email about permanent make-up, I was mildly interested. I knew Christine Collier, the sender of the email, from the Southern Christian Writers Guild. She is the author of My New Life NOW: Recovery Course. I also knew she is a Registered Nurse who specialized in Surgery, which contributed to my interested in her new venture. She had trained to be a Permanent Make-up Artist at Bella in Fort Worth and needed clients to practice her new skill during her apprenticeship, which is a requirement to fulfill the Mississippi Board of Health regulations.
Over plucking had left me with eyebrows I hid with colored makeup pencils and glasses. Correcting the damage I’d done appealed to me. The apprentice prices for her services were deeply discounted, so I indulged my vanity, and Christine reserved time at the Beauty Center for her new client.
The morning of the appointment my husband said, “Are you sure you want to do this? It’s permanent and it’s on your face.”
“I know,” I replied. “I have reservations, but the photos she sent look good, and she is going to tell me her testimony after she does my eyebrows.” I departed for a two hour drive to Mississippi with my husband’s blessings.
I laid down on the table. Christine adjusted her light and said, “There will be a little pain.” The pain wasn’t any worse than the pain of plucking my eyebrows. When she was finished, the shape of my eyebrows looked great. A little darker than I wanted, but Christine assured me they would be 30 to 40% lighter when they healed. (A week later they were lighter as promised, and I was pleased with my new eyebrows.)
After the new make-up artist completed her masterpiece we went to Piccadilly’s for lunch, so Christine could tell me her story. I prefer coffee houses when recording someone’s story. It’s difficult to talk and eat at the same time. Christine finished eating her meal before I finished my salad. I looked at her empty plates. She grinned, “Nurses learn to eat in fifteen to twenty minutes. I’m retired now, but I still eat fast.” That was fine with me. She was free to talk while I enjoyed my lunch.
“Start with your salvation,” I said.
“It’s a little hard to start with my salvation. My life now was birthed out of my old life,” said Christine.
Christine’s earliest memory of God was a visit to the Presbyterian Church when she was six years old. The experience left her in awe. She loved the singing and the peaceful feeling. The peace dissolved when she walked out of the church and eluded her until she was thirty-seven years old.
Her parents had married young. Her mother had become pregnant with Christine before her husband was ready for the responsibilities of raising a child. He left when she was an infant. Her mother remarried an older man, but the marriage was difficult. He was a hard worker that provided for his family, but could be mean when he was drunk, and he was drunk often. The marriage produced two step-sisters. Christine’s stepfather never let her forget that she was not his child. The rejection wounded Christine filling her with anger and disappointment.
Her parents liked to socialize and often attended parties. Christine tasted liquor for the first time when she joined some of the other children at a party who were drinking from glasses left near empty and unattended. Christine liked the way the liquor made her feel. By the time she was twelve years old, she often retreated to the backyard to smoke cigarettes and drink her stepfather’s Miller Ponies. The high from the liquor dulled the pain of rejection. Before she turned thirteen she added smoking marijuana and even overdosed on Valium. “I wasn’t trying to commit suicide,” said Christine. “I had no clue what I was doing to myself when I took too many Valium. I was trying to get a better buzz than the weed gave me, but all I got was very sick. The sickest I’d ever been in my life.”
Her mother endured her husband’s alcoholism and verbal abuse until she could take no more and divorced him. By that time, Christine had begun a love affair with alcohol and drugs. Christine was seventeen when she met her future husband. He had a voracious appetite for Jack Daniels and coke equaled only by her appetite for pills and weed. Christine’s drug and alcohol abuse lead her to many bad choices and deeds she prefers to forget.
She became pregnant and married her boyfriend. The added responsibility of caring for a child did not change the whirlwind of chaos in her life until her daughter, Amanda, was three. An assailant broke into Christine’s house, assaulted her and robbed her at gunpoint. The experience left her shaken. She later learned the assailant was someone they knew. Christine knew the assault took place because of her drinking and drug use. It scared her straight.
Christine took steps to become clean and sober. Her husband also hit rock bottom and cleaned up his life. Free from the mental fog induced by alcohol and drugs, Christine and her husband decided they would live the “American Dream”. He found a job in the oil fields. She obtained her GED and went to school to become a nurse.
Christine paused her story to explain addiction. “People with addictions tend to be extreme, we moved from one extreme to the other. We were clean and sober, but the chaos continued. We traded that lifestyle only to become workaholics, making money, spending money – a new kind of empty.”
Her husband advanced quickly in the oil field industry, and she had become a good nurse. Life appeared fine. Until they moved to Mississippi, and she saw things in her daughter’s behavior that scared her. Christine and her husband had been sober for years. They had not raised their children with drugs and alcohol in the house, yet Amanda was making many of the same choices and mistakes her mother had made. “It was as if I were looking into a mirror of my life,” said Christine.
Christine focused all of her energy on helping Amanda. Amanda’s behavior became more and more destructive as addiction consumed her. The more Christine tried to control her and make her better, the worse Amanda became. When Amanda was sixteen, Christine learned her daughter had been assaulted by a young man. For the first time, Christine understood the seriousness of her daughter’s problem. She wasn’t just a rebellious teenager, but a wounded young woman trying to numb her pain. Christine tried everything she could think of to help Amanda. Nothing worked.
A friend noticed the stress in Christine’s life and offered her “a little something” to make her feel better. It wasn’t long before Christine’s old habits found a place in her life, but this time it was different. Being high wasn’t fun. By the time Amanda was eighteen, both Christine and her daughter were a wreck. Christine lived in fear of the dreaded phone call. The call no parent wants to receive. “Your daughter was found dead.”
Christine’s work was her only solace as she quickly came close to the end of her rope. About that time the hospital she worked at hired two new surgical technicians. She thought they were both weird, and did not like working with them. She often requested they would not be in her surgery room, but somehow she always wound up with one of them. The women that Christine could only tolerate in small doses were both Christians who loved the Lord.
Christine laughed. “It never failed. If you were working with them the conversation always brought up Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. He was all they wanted to talk about.” They never condemned or forced their beliefs upon her. At separate times in their own individual ways, the women shared the love of Christ and what God had done in their lives.
The love that emanated from the women made them appealing. Christine’s attitude changed from one of disgust to a desire to her about Jesus. She stopped avoiding them in the lunch room and began looking for a seat near them. One day, the one named Marilyn told Christine, “If you ever need somebody, anytime day or night, just come to my house.”
The inability to help Amanda depressed her. The depression created marriage problems and kept her in a cycle of drinking to escape life’s unbearable realities. She often woke up in her beautiful house, on beautiful sunny mornings wondering if life was worth living. One day, she started crying and could not stop. She cried for days. Nothing made her feel better. Then she remembered Marilyn’s offer. If you ever need somebody, come to my house. Desperate for help she grabbed her purse and headed for her car.
Marilyn listened quietly and patiently as Christine poured out her grief and fear. “Christine, you have got to take your hands off of Amanda, so God can get his hands around her. And God wants you in his hands too. Will you go with me to my pastor’s house?”
“I accepted Marilyn’s invitation to talk to her pastor,” said Christine. “The pastor waiting for me. There was an awesome scent in the air and Christian praise music was playing. Marilyn and her pastor lovingly and gently led me to the Lord. We prayed. We cried. I screamed, ‘Jesus, I need you. Please come into my life and forgive me.’ I will never forget the day I called, and he came. It felt like a ton had been picked up off my body. When I walked out of the house it felt like my feet were not even touching the ground. My feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of dying were gone and have never returned. The desire to numb my pain in a destructive way was replaced with a desire to know Jesus.”
Christine’s salvation instantly transformed her life. Her family thought she had lost her mind. The fits of anger and despair were gone. Filthy language no longer flowed from her lips like sewage. The woman who washed their clothes and cooked their dinner was excited about life and wore a never ending smile.
The Sunday after Christine accepted Christ, she visited Resurrection Life Church. The congregation greeted her and hugged her as though they had known her for years. A lady Christine was acquainted with spotted her from across the church. She invited Christine to sit with her. She immediately felt like family and continued to attend the church.
In the past, Christine had tried to read the Bible but could not understand it. Now its message fed her soul as she grew stronger in her faith. Christine could not force her husband or daughter to attend church but told her teenage son, “Until you are eighteen you will go to church with me.” He was reluctant to go, but within weeks he was radically saved. Christine and her son could not get enough of God and their newfound church home. They attended every service together.
Her husband attended a church service out of curiosity. He wanted to know who was “brainwashing” his wife and son. He had been saved as a young man and fallen away from his faith. His relationship with God was restored. Then Amanda began attending services. She prayed to receive Christ and was baptized in water. Her family soon learned a difficult lesson. Salvation will not make life perfect. Amanda’s healing would take years.
Four years later, Amanda was sentenced to prison on drug charges. Feeling slighted by God, Christine became very upset. She had devoted her life to God and faithfully served in her church. “How could you let this happen?” Christine demanded of the Almighty. “You promised to save my whole family.” Her anger dissolved into tears as she told God how disappointed she was that her daughter had not found the peace that the rest of her family did. “Why didn’t you send someone to help us? There are lot of families in the church who have family members or friends struggling with addiction. Why isn’t anyone doing anything?” Christine cried. Then she heard, “I want you to do it.”
The thought scared Christine. She abruptly stopped praying and went to the kitchen to wash dishes. As she filled the sink with water a list of reasons why she could not do whatever it was God wanted her to do flashed through her mind. She spent the rest of the week pretending she had not heard God say, “I want you to do it.” But it was too late. She knew what she had heard. She knew it was not intentional, but there was a huge need in the church that was not being addressed.
By the end of the week, Christine was exhausted. She could no longer run from God or ignore his call. She slipped into her closet of prayer and cried, “Lord if you show me how, I will do it. If you open the door, I will walk through it. If you shut the door, I won’t go. If you don’t teach me how to do this, I know there is no way that I can do it.”
Later that week, she received her daughter’s court date. She wasn’t required to attend but wanted her daughter to know that she still loved her. Christine entered the courtroom and sat down. Amanda turned to look at her. Christine was aghast at her daughters beaten and bruised face. She was sure her daughter’s facial orbits were broken. Before she left the court room, she demanded that her daughter receive medical care. She left knowing there was nothing else she could do for her daughter.
Christine walked out of the court room feeling helpless. There was nothing more she could do to help her daughter. On the long ride home, she remembered happier times and sobbed. Deep in her heart, she knew that Amanda was never meant to be a drug addict. She was a beautiful young woman with many gifts and talents. She recalled a recovery group a friend had told her about that met in a church an hour from her home, and decided to attend.
Counting Christine, there were twelve people at the meeting. Each of the eleven people gave their name and spoke for a few minutes. Then all eyes turned to Christine. All she could do was cry. They handed her tissues and waited patiently until her sobbing stopped, and she told them about her day. They listened like they really cared, then encouraged her and prayed for her. Christine left the meeting knowing this is what God meant when he said, “I want you to do it.”
For many years, Resurrection Life Church had practiced a small group ministry called Life Groups. The ministry helps people connect with one another and grow in their relationship with God. Each group was designed by the leader based on his or her passion and schedule. The program was a perfect place to launch a Recovery Group. Christine’s pastor fully supported her request to start a Life Group for people seeking freedom from addictions.
In September 2003, Christine held her first Life Group meeting with seven people in attendance. She had used a Bible study about the Beatitudes, but found it inadequate for her purpose. At the conclusion of each meeting, Christine returned home stirred to write. She spent hours recording whispers from God’s Spirit, which she incorporated into her group teaching time. Five years later, she had enough material for her first published work. She had also begun writing a new study on the Beatitudes. The group grew steadily over the years reaching 20 to 30 in attendance at every class. She eventually abandoned the initial curriculum and taught her Bible study course, which proved effective in helping addicts find freedom.
About the time she completed writing her material, a man in her church was elected Sheriff. A month after he took office, he invited Christine to teach her Life Group for addicts in the jail. Soon people were encouraging her to compile her writings into a book that could be printed and distributed through her growing ministry. She realized that she had written more than random Bible studies. She had written a curriculum that could and should be used by others. She named her labor of love My New Life NOW (No Other Way).
Christine ministered to addicts’ for years while her daughter was shuffled from one rehab to another and jailed multiple times. Sometimes people asked her how she could minister to others when her daughter was in need. Christine persevered believing the promise God gave her through prophecy, “If you minister to God’s kids, he will take care of yours.” Five years ago that promise was fulfilled. Amanda’s life was radically changed when she was released to Jacob’s Well Recovery Center instead of serving a two year prison sentence for breaking her parole.
Amanda returned home with a passion for helping women, who had successfully completed rehab, to reestablish their lives. Amanda and her husband opened The Light House for New Life; the only Christ centered half-way house in their area. They help women find employment and housing, teach them goal planning, help them with education, transportation and family restoration.
Christine smiled broadly, “Today, my daughter is the most radical, extreme, beautiful Christian I have ever known. She is pure, so pure, because God is faithful.”
Christine is the first woman board member of the Pearl River County Jail Ministry Association. Her Life Group is in its eleventh year. Since the groups beginning, Christine has mentored and raised up a strong team of Leaders and Volunteers who devote their life to teaching the New Life Now curriculum in their local Correctional Facility, the Church, local and regional Christ centered rehabs and halfway houses. Today churches, correction centers, work release and rehab settings around the USA are beginning their own My New Life NOW recovery mentoring programs. It is estimated well over 4,000 people have attended a My New Life NOW meeting, many finding restoration, healing and deliverance.
Christine has written six manuscripts. Two are published, My New Life NOW Leader’s Manual and My New Life NOW Participants Workbook. She recently completed her My New Life NOW Recovery Devotional/Journal, designed to complement the My New Life NOW program. The Devotional is filled with inspiring real-life stories and testimonies from My New Life NOW graduates. Readers are challenged to overcome their addiction with humor, humility and daily scripture readings. She is currently working on her second Bible study course A New Attitude for A New Life Now, which is an in depth study of the Beatitudes.
Christine holds a firm belief that Jesus Christ is still in the business of saving, healing and delivering people and that no one is too far from his grace, forgiveness and healing; even the addicted.