but it was God's plan for me.
I am a talker more than I’m a writer, but God in His goodness gave me the ability and focus to share my heart from my journal in a one minute radio feature, Everyday Matters, beginning January 2006. It’s hard to believe that pages of my thoughts on how to apply scripture to an everyday life situation could be said in a minute. But there is a God and I’m not Him.
I write and record five transcripts a week to record on the radio, and through the wonder of technology the feature is available to program directors around the US, Canada and Norway (#funfact) and heard on hundreds of Christian Radio stations. Then, in 2015, God gave me another opportunity to write a monthly column for the Faith Section of the DL Tribune in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, the town where I went to high school and fell in love with the theatre.
However, the biggest challenge in writing came shortly after February 28, 2017 when I was given the blessing of a DUI.
Yep, a blessing it was, though at the time the guilt, shame and embarrassment made me feel like all ministry God had for me was over. Yet, I owned my story, took responsibility for my guilt, wore orange in a jail cell and shortly thereafter entered a writing contest through FAITH RADIO KTIS and I won. My non-fiction piece, “Orange is the New Blessing,” helped launch the book that I was told by God I’d one day write.
“Orange is the New Blessing: Stories on How God is Always Good Even When We’re Not,” is set to be released spring of 2019. This experience on God’s goodness and redemption in the messiness of life allowed me to become even more honest and vulnerable with others. I understand His grace and love like never before. I look forward to what lies ahead. Seeing the good potential, lesson, and blessing in ALL things is something I want to help you see too.
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (MSG)
The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18
I had to wear orange. I like the color. It’s in my color wheel as a flattering wardrobe choice. An orange jail jumpsuit however was never a choice for me; it was a consequence for my bad choice.
I made a mistake. Who doesn’t? I’m a sinner. We’re all sinners. The temptation to justify and explain is usually our default position. Yes, I see your list. I see your “reasons why” you needed to self-medicate; you have back pain in your shoulder that is now shooting down your left arm; you failed at getting the position you interviewed for; your dream seems lost or worse yet; you’ve lost a loved one and in your grief you just want some stinkin’ relief. Relief takes many forms.
Should you though, get behind the wheel in your pajamas after having a large adult beverage and drive three miles and back to get a Big Mac and fries to help feed the pain? What if after, you sit privately in your own driveway and stuff your face trying to forget and numb the pain? Does that work?
No. It does not work. You should not do this. But I did. It was not a good choice. Micah 6:8 tells us to “do justice” and in my situation, God saw to it that I was made right by humbly accepting his orange justice. Thankfully, I know He wants our trust in what He did for us, not in ours. No amount of personal sacrifice, good deeds or penance can earn his acceptance or love. It is humbling to share my story, but my hope is that the mercy and love I received may be redemptive and encourage others.
It’s important to know that the negative consequences we experience as believers should never be thought of as punishment because Jesus has already been fully punished for our sins. All sin has consequences, and some of those consequences are REALLY hard, but they are a part of God’s corrective discipline, which comes out of His great love.
I looked at my consequences, and they were hard ones. I cried. I cried for what I had done wrong, for my sin, and the shame. It was and is painful. I actually wailed, and the next day when a friend came over, I wailed some more and snot-cried. The only way to describe my friend who purposely left her phone in the car to spend five hours to sit, listen and love me, is ‘loving mercy’. It’s this kind of unconditional love not based on my performance value as a wife, mom, radio person, high school teacher or speaker girl that I desperately needed. We all desperately need it. We need to know our value and identity come from who God says we are. He says we’re created in His image, and he valued us enough, even while in our sin, to die for us. We are not a mistake even though we make mistakes. Micah 6:8 commands us to walk justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. It is not just one; it is all three. We know it when we receive it. And we want to do the same for others.
My jail-time news spread (and believe me it was a swift delivery of information) throughout my small town of 7,000 the minute the jail roster went up on the Internet. The nice thing about living in a small town is when you don’t know what in the world you’re doing…everyone else does. My phone had blown up while I was away and I had several private messages written with concern, kindness, grace and so much love I felt I needed to issue a statement on Facebook. So I wrote. “Love is kind. Thank you, my friends, for your kindness.” In all of what happens I know my Redeemer lives and takes the parts in us that are broken to teach and bless us. He gives us the grace we need for each day so that in turn we are able to help someone else when they are down. I am not alone. You are not alone. We all need love. We all need kindness.
The earth experience is hard. We lose focus and isolate even though we know better. When the enemy comes in with his lies and the haters come in with their hate, we must choose to stand strong. There’s no truth to the voice that tells you that you’ll never be enough. You’re a disappointment and that your past defines your future. There’s no condemnation in Christ. That’s why we need to reach out and step forward and say, “Hey I need to tell you something. I’m scared and I feel alone. I’m hurting. I know what’s true, but I can’t hear very well because my feelings are screaming at me and blocking all channels of truth.” Speak up, even if it’s a whisper, because there’s going be someone who gets it and just loves you. The sweetest encouragement comes from the fallen who rise again. It reminds me of what late author and speaker Brennan Manning shared, “One of the most healing words I ever spoke as a confessor was to an old priest with a drinking problem. ‘Just a few years ago,’ I said, ‘I was a hopeless alcoholic in the gutter in Fort Lauderdale.’ ‘You?’ he cried. ‘O Thank God!’” When we bring a smile to the face of someone in pain, we have brought Christ to them.
The experience in orange has been a game changer for me, a severe mercy. Before I left the jail, I asked if I could keep the orange socks as a souvenir. The socks serve as a reminder of God’s justice and mercy. I own what happened and because God is real in our pain, I can honestly say, “Orange is the new blessing.”
Book Coming Soon!
Debbie shares her struggles and revelations that God is good, even when we are not. Subscribe to be the first to hear when it's available for purchase.