Twenty years ago, Child Protective Services took my two toddlers away from me. I remember it like it was yesterday. At the time, I was a self-centered person fueled by an insatiable appetite for heroin and crack. My daughters were suffering from it, and everyone but me could see it.
I tried often to stop getting high but always fell back into my addiction. Ultimately, we became homeless. A worried stranger called the police and requested a welfare check. “Why can’t people mind their own business?!” I wondered. Like most addicts, I was comfortable in my dysfunction.
When the police and CPS caseworker arrived, I screamed profanities at them. “I am fine! We are fine! Just go away and leave us alone!”
It was obvious we weren’t okay, and the authorities immediately removed my daughters from me. If I wanted to see my girls again, they said, I’d have to go to detox and then complete an extensive stay in rehab.
I let the caseworker take me to detox, but I didn’t make it a full 24 hours before heroin withdrawals took me back to the streets. I wandered around in a stupor for weeks, grieving the loss of my children. Every time I’d sober up, I’d remember what was happening to my family and inevitably sink back into the hole I had dug for myself.
I wound up in jail, and after nearly two horrible weeks of withdrawals, reality sank in. I reached out to my caseworker, determined to be a better mom for my babies when I got out.
CPS tried hard to help me and even allowed me to have visitation with my girls. I went to recovery meetings and counseling, and I took advantage of the resources provided. The court gave me every opportunity to start over and be a good mom to my kids.
I tried to comply with all the requirements of my case plan for family reunification, but my addiction prevailed at every turn. One day, CPS surprised me with a drug test. I was dirty, and suddenly, all my efforts spiraled down the drain.
As they should have, CPS submitted a recommendation to sever my parental rights. I knew my chance at reconciliation with my girls was over. I wouldn’t be able to see them until they were eighteen—and then, only if they wanted to know their mother.
I headed for the nearest dope house. Two weeks later, I was back in jail, facing multiple felony counts of drug possession. I received a four-year prison sentence.
CPS sent my kids to live with relatives they didn’t know, which only added to their trauma and confusion. The devastating consequences my choices brought into these two innocent lives would impact them for years to come. It was the biggest failure of my life.
For the next 15 years, I stayed stuck in a cycle of self-destruction. It didn’t matter whether I lived in the free world or behind layers of barbed wire—shame and self-pity imprisoned me. There was a hole in my heart where my two little girls belonged. I lived every day, hoping it’d be my last. I hated myself that much.
And then, Jesus met me in my empty and lonely regret and revealed His love to me. (See my story in Issue 2, 2020.) While in jail, I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life. I reasoned that He must care for me deeply to sacrifice His life on a cross for the forgiveness of my sins. I had done nothing to deserve His love, and there was no way I could ever repay it (Ephesians 2:8–9).
All I had to offer the Lord was a broken spirit and a crushed and repentant heart (Psalm 51:17). Thankfully, that’s all He wanted. It still amazes me that God wanted a relationship with me after all the damage I’d done.
I dove into the Bible to discover more about God. I found relief in His Word; it bandaged the wounds of my soul (Psalm 147:3). I spent hours weeping at Jesus’s feet, grieving the loss of my daughters. I asked God to give me a desire to move forward with my life and a sense of direction. I had neither.
One day in my morning Bible study, God led me to Isaiah 40:11, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (NIV). These words stirred up hope. Would God lead me? Did He still consider me a mother? I was confused. “My daughters are long gone, Lord!” I prayed. “I don’t understand what You are telling me.”
The following day, God woke me up with two questions. He asked, “What are you doing to prepare yourself to be a better mother? If they came looking for you today, who would they find?” I was speechless.
All those years, I had been blaming other people for the messes I had created. I did the same things over and over, somehow expecting different outcomes (John 5). I realized that God was lovingly saying to me, “It’s time to get up, Christina. It’s time to do something!”
Strength and determination came over me as I’d never felt before. I know God put it there. I found the courage to open every area of my life to Jesus and to follow Him with my whole heart. I started putting one foot in front of the other and living by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
I realized all I could do was prepare myself in the way the Lord told me. He would have to prepare my girls. So I put them in His hands. If we would find reconciliation, it would come through Him. In the meantime, I would let the Holy Spirit work in my heart. And boy, did He!
God and His Word began to change the way I thought. Eventually, I even started thanking Him for the day CPS took my daughters away. He had reached down from heaven and intervened in all three of our lives to save us. I could see it now.
The way I prayed for my girls changed too. Instead of begging God to reunite me with them, I sought His will in our situation. I’d pray: “Father, please put people in their path to point them toward You. Even if they never want to speak to me again, Lord, let them know You.”
I put my whole heart into trusting Him. He was the Good Shepherd who had laid down His life for me (John 10:11). He would lead, protect, and guide me and my girls to where He wanted each of us to be.
I praise God that He has led us to that long-awaited reconciliation. I am grateful to have had the chance to ask my daughters for forgiveness. In His perfect timing, He has given us the gift of restored relationships.
Do we still face challenges? Absolutely! Generational patterns such as addiction and low self-esteem still ripple through their adult lives. But I am not discouraged because the healing and transformative power of Jesus Christ is generational too. I know the same victory He has given me, He will give to my daughters.
Don’t lose hope if your past choices have led to broken relationships. Put your loved ones and yourself in the hands of the Good Shepherd. Trust His timing and His ways. And while you wait, draw close to Him, and let Him change you. You will find peace at every stage of the journey.
Christina Kimbrel serves as VL’s production manager. Once incarcerated, she now ministers hope to those held captive by their past and current circumstances by sharing the message of healing she found in Jesus.