My name is Tina and I’m the 35 year-old mother of three teenagers. It can be a struggle some days, but then I stop and realize that my life is nothing short of a miracle. Only a few short months ago it was anything but that and my family had all but resigned to the notion that I would end up dead or in prison before they got to see me again. But then, God in His grace, intervened and He completely changed the course of my life! I have now been clean and sober for over a year and March 1st marked a year to the day that everything changed! But before I get to that let me go back to the beginning.

When I was 15, I made the mistake of getting drunk for the first time with some older boys who lived down the street from me. What I thought was harmless fun ended up being the start of my nightmare life. One of the 19 year-old boys slipped a date rape drug into my drink and I completely blacked out and when I woke up, I had been brutally raped. Sadly, the offender got a deferred judgment and 8 years probation!

I hated being the victim. On the outside, I appeared fine but on the inside I was angry, hurt, and confused as to how a loving God could allow this to happen.

The next few years were rough. I used drugs and alcohol to numb myself. I didn’t care who I hurt or what happened to me. I dropped out of high school, ran away from home, got kicked out of church and avoided God at every turn.

At 18, I got pregnant and ended up marrying a man who would father our 3 children. For a while things got better. I stopped using drugs, I was working, going to school and taking care of my family. But my marriage turned toxic with abuse and unfaithfulness. In a futile attempt to escape my pain and take back control of my life I turned back to an even darker world of alcohol, drugs and crime.

Eventually that led me to jail and on March 1st of 2017, I ended up in court for sentencing. Interestingly enough, my court date was postponed and on my way down the elevator I found myself with a man that I recognized from my drug crazed world who had just been sentenced and was battling 7 terminal illnesses including HIV.

He looked straight at me with the sentence of death on his face and asked if I remembered him and how old I was and told me that if I didn’t stop doing what I was doing that in a few years I would end up just like him…dying and going to prison … if I made it that long!

That day I realized, I may never get another chance. Then, a couple girls in the holding cell starting talking to me about God and how he wanted to pour out his blessing on me if I would just follow His will. I had pretty much given up on God and wasn’t sure that was the answer either as I couldn’t even imagine how He could ever love someone like me.

That night I lay there weeping and crying out to God. I told Him “God, I give it all to you. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t know how to fix any of this. Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it”. In that moment I felt relief, I knew God would handle it. I knew God would forgive, heal, and restore my life. I still had several more months of jail…but even in jail, I felt so free. I knew I was on my way to a better life and that healing had begun. I just needed to be sober and trust God’s plan. And when I got out of jail my parents let me come home to be with my kids and start over. It was scary for us all.

Part of my legal obligation was to do 60 hours of community service. This eventually led me to helping out with the harvests at the aquaponic greenhouse. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about aquaponics and I really had no interest in being involved. But I figured, I had to do it…so, I showed up one Saturday and my perspective completely changed. I realized God wanted to teach me something about my own healing process through this garden.

I began to view my own life through the life of the plants. The planting, feeding and tending all became metaphors for my own spiritual growth and the new life that God was planting in me.

Since then I’ve enjoyed becoming part of the Green Team and building relationships with others on our Saturday harvest days. It has given me a sense of belonging and purpose in watching how God can take a simple seed and make it into something beautiful that will go on to bless others.

I’m not sure exactly how God will use my past that is full of trauma, abuse, addiction and pain – but I have a sense that He is going to be harvesting me soon to share His love and bless others in ways I could never have dreamt imaginable. I know my journey won’t be perfect. It will have its’ share of snags and struggles but that won’t matter because if there is one thing I have learned it is to LIVE FORGIVEN!

Tina Zamora

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