By: Lauren Liberto
Twenty-eight years ago, God blessed my parent's with their only baby girl - me. I was not raised in a church entirely; only attending service on Easter, Christmas, Mother's Day, etc. So, I knew of God and Jesus Christ, however I never fully understood how to build a relationship with Him. Up until I was in my late teens, I thought just believing in God was good enough; that's the way it was supposed to be I assumed.
Everything in my life seemed perfect. My parents were great; family life was good; hardly any struggles; had a great childhood - I was truly blessed. I just did not realize just how blessed I was.
In 2002 my Dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer, again something I did not know much about other than the word CANCER being directly linked to DEATH in my mind. I was scared, but he fought it off and on for years.
I graduated from high school in 2004, which was the first time I made myself proud. Many times I wanted to drop out and just get my GED, but my parents would have been far less than satisfied had I gone that route, so I finished strong obtaining my diploma.
Keep in mind I was smart as I wanted to be. I made Honor Roll once just to prove to myself I could, and since I knew I could, I was merely okay just getting passing grades so I could graduate.
I didn't care about my grades. My mind was elsewhere besides school. I also had no drive to go off to college. I was satisfied going to community college right up the street from my parent's house.
Which, I did - along with my high school sweetheart, whom very quickly found out was going to be a Dad, and I was the mother. I was eighteen years old when I found out I was pregnant, beginning the second semester in community college. It was the first time I felt I failed my parents; that they wanted more from me than to be a teenage mother.
I was blessed with my son's arrival on October 7, 2005, and was ready to raise this child, my son, by myself with the help of my parents. His Dad was involved for a little bit in the beginning (it was exciting and new), but he wasn't mentally and physically prepared to handle the demanding responsibilities of parenthood, and he soon steered off not too much longer later.
I was okay though. I worked, provided for myself and my son, purchased my own vehicles, and even helped my mom out with housing expenses. I was good, or so I thought.
I met an older man I thought was everything for me. I ran off from home; moved to his hometown in East Texas, and got married in February 2009.
No one approved of what I had done, so I lost all relationships with everyone in my family and pretty much everyone in my life, except for my mom who did her best to hold on. Another surprise came with the announcement of my second pregnancy with my daughter who would be born November 3, of 2009. I was married, had two children, struggling to make ends meet, and a husband who was anything but faithful.
I moved backed to Houston to live in my parent's house at the end of 2009, because I needed the help and I wanted to be closer to my dad. He was so disappointed with the decisions I had made in my life, but he was still my Dad and I loved him, and unfortunately the Cancer was taking a turn for the worse. Still, I was trying to find a relationship with someone I could talk to, who would listen, who would care, but I was turning to all the wrong places.
I turned to drugs: First marijuana, proceeding to cocaine, then methamphetamines, and narcotic pills, just whatever would do the trick at the time. I was spiraling down fast and couldn't help myself all the while watching my dad, who watched me kill myself with drugs as he himself was dying. My dad passed away on November 27, 2010.
Still looking for something to ease the pain, make me numb or invisible, I turned back to drugs.
I started working again the beginning of 2011, maintaining a household and barely making enough to live with the demands my situation was allowing at the time. My husband wasn't working, was no help, and our marriage dissipated before my eyes. I filed for divorce in 2011 and was granted my divorce and freedom in 2012.
I was doing great in my job, wasn't doing drugs, provided for my two children and my single parent household, and thought I had it all together. However in 2013, I left my job and moved back in with my widowed mother and grandmother. Shortly after, I started relationship after relationship with men, never resulting in anything good. The real story comes now'
In December of 2014 I was arrested in Harris County on four felony charges and I was granted a $0 bond, which meant there was no way to get me out of jail. I had never been in trouble like this. I was so washed out from doing drugs and living a reckless life that I was wishing that I was dead rather than be in jail, because I was exhausted from the worthless life I was living.
But, on December 11, 2014, the day I started what would become a few months incarceration, my life changed for the better. I did something I wasn't sure if I was doing right or how to do, but I prayed in my head and said, 'Lord, I'm sorry. I need out of here. I'll do ANYTHING you want me to God, just get me home please. I'll be good this time.'
I went to court that next morning and my court appointed attorney said we have to reset. I had too many charges that needed investigation, and that she would see me back on January 29, 2015, seven & a half weeks out.
So in hindsight I was going to be spending the holiday's in jail, and based on my four state jail felony charges, this was only the beginning.
I got back to my bunk on D Block in Harris County Jail. I grabbed a little brown bible offered to you by the chaplaincy department in Harris County Jail, and I started reading. I would read chapters and chapters in the bible, not making sense of any of it, then I stopped. I prayed right then, ''God please help me understand your Word and what you are trying to tell me. Please help me get through the next 50 days until I see my lawyer again. Please show me how to live a life for You. I am broken, and I need Your help. Lead me in the right direction Lord. I want to know You. Help me trust You
Heavenly Father. I will never leave You Lord. You're are my God.'' At that moment I had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.
I started to attend church once a week offered by Elevate Church Harris County Jail Campus, and I cried walking through the doors; I cried through the service; every week I cried; it was the Holy Spirit in me cleansing my soul.
I began worshiping constantly; praying all day and all night; talking to God - just me and Him ' best friends, - and for the first time in my life, I felt the most free, and wonderful, and loved, and liberated more so than I could have ever imagined.
I could feel, and to think ' I felt this FREE behind bars. I did not care at that point what I felt, and how amazing my God was. I knew that God was doing for me what
I could not do for myself.
At one point He said, 'Lauren, HALT; I had to stop you in your tracks. I had to put you in jail to save your life. I have a better plan for you. Take this time in here to know me and understand me and you will see...' Needless to say I was grateful to be alive. I was grateful to be somewhere I was fed, given shelter, and given the opportunity to change my direction.
I started praising the word of God to inmates that had become my sisters in there. I was using my story to help these young girls that came and stayed one or two nights in jail - enough to scare them - and used what God was giving me to make a difference in my life and the lives of others that came into those four brick walls. I no longer was worried what would happen on my court date, because God had my back. I stopped counting the days, because God told me I need not worry.
My faith and passion for God was shocking to others. They would say 'How can you be so happy in jail? Aren't you worried about what will happen, etc.' I told everyone that I could that I was finally free, that the Lord was with me, and He was walking with me, so the Lord would see that whatever happened with my punishment would be fit -- He would not allow me to suffer anything that I could not handle.
My whole life I was chasing after relationships that couldn't satisfy me. The only problem was is that I was looking in all the wrong places and in all the wrong people. No man, woman, or person alive could take the place of my God. He is ever present and has been working on things for me since before my time. I LOVE my God. I whole heartedly TRUST my God; I BELIEVE in my God; and I will SERVE my God for eternity.
The Lord Jesus Christ released me from my pain and suffering and instilled in me a love I never knew I had. I was ready to conquer the world. I was stepping out as a brand new unimprisoned soul and He was right there walking with me.
On a Legal Note - The judge dropped two of my felony charges; gave me two months time served for one felony charge which was then knocked down to a misdemeanor, and I was given four years Deferred Adjudication of Guilt, also known as Probation, on the other felony drug charge. Being on probation entails a lot from an individual. I have a lot of provisions of where I can and cannot be (no bars, no clubs, no alcohol). I pay a lot of fees and fines on a monthly basis. I am given frequent and random drug tests. I do several hours of community service. I attend drug rehabilitation classes, and I am required to obtain employment immediately. I am vigorously trying to find a job on a daily basis that will hire a convicted felon. That is a lot easier said than done.
Through all of this: My story, my complaints, my wrong doings ' I must say that I would not change what happened to me for anything ' NOTHING - because all the trials and tribulations I went through led me to my best friend, the Lord, my biggest supporter; the love of my life. I do however wish that I could take back the hurt I caused my loved ones -- my children, my mom and dad, my grandmother. Because I can't take back what is done, I can only show them the improved me, the Lauren who KNOWS she's loved and a child of God. The Lauren that even though her Daddy is no longer physically here - she still knows her Father walks with her every step of the way.
I wrote a brief (pretty long actually) story to give my testimony on how our Lord Jesus Christ not only died on the Cross for me but how he saved me. I firmly believe in forgiveness. It is harder to forgive sometimes because everyone has a different story, but the Lord teaches us to forgive one another, which also allowed me to forgive myself for the things I have done; the harms I have caused; the bad decisions I have made, and the pain and hurt I have caused.
My God has a plan for me that is bigger and greater than I would have ever imagined, and I am finally on my way to serve my purpose with His lead. Our God is an Awesome God, and more importantly, He is a forgiving God. I proudly am living my life for Him, and could not feel more blessed and happy to do so. The power of prayer is amazing, and the love God has for His children is beautiful.
I challenge anyone who has steered away from God, or who is unsure of God, to get to know Him. Pray often.
I have found that the moment I laid my life down and surrendered to God and His will, is the moment that my life finally made sense and the moment I finally felt that my life had a purpose and that the gifts and talents God has provided me with, are the tools that I will use to do work for Him. The bible tells us that we are ' fearfully and wonderfully made', and that is what makes each of God's children beautifully unique.
I would like to thank my mother for never giving up on me, even when she should have. She was always there for me when I needed her. She could have turned her back on me many of times, but she stayed by me through the worst of all situations and she continues to support me at my best. I love you Mom.
I would also like to thank another person who really helped me and inspired me to make a change within myself, and that is Mrs. Cynthia Corder, the Chaplain for the female inmates at Harris County Jail, also associated with Elevate Church - Elevate People, located in Houston, Texas. Without her testimony, hard work, and pure dedication to her job and what she stands for as an individual, I would not have been able to make my way back to the Lord like I did. Many 'Thank you's!!!' to Mrs. Cynthia Corder for helping to make a difference in my life.
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