Our Story...Our story is a story of rescue and redemption. It’s a story of deliverance and divine appointments. It’s a story of perfect timing and faithfulness. It’s a story that changed everything…
Leigh: I grew up in a Christian home. We were at church every day the doors were open. My childhood was filled with church camps, church events, and, well, more church. My dad taught me how to walk with Jesus, worshiping him in prayer and daily devotions. My mom taught me about giving sacrificially to others and living a joyful life through the true source of everlasting joy. The foundation was laid. My parents showed me through their example everything I would need to live the life Christ meant for me to live. The path was clearly marked…however, my rebellious spirit led me down another path. And although I knew who Jesus was my whole life, I would not live for Him until I was 32 years old.
Brett: Ditto…but it took me until I was 42 years old.
Leigh: During my teenage and young adult years, I clearly was not living for Christ, even though my friends were! The poor choices I made led to an unplanned pregnancy and a marriage devoid of Christ. When I was pregnant with my second child, my very unhealthy marriage ended. It was an extremely difficult time, and I grieved the loss of the “Christian one mom/one dad family” that I had growing up that now my children would never experience. The support of my mom and dad and Godly friends never wavered, but they could not save me from drowning in my own feelings of worthlessness. On one particular night I remember crying out to God, telling Him I never wanted to feel this way again. And although I had ignored Him for the past 27 years, He immediately answered me, speaking to my heart in a crystal clear voice “I love you, Leigh…try things My way.” For the next five years, I set out to do that very thing. I wanted to try things His way…but only in some areas of my life. You can only imagine how well that worked out!
Brett: Despite my Christian upbringing and nudge on my heart to serve the Lord in the ministry, the plan that God had for me did not coexist with my plan. I wanted to be popular and financially successful more than what God wanted in my life. My rebellion to God led me to an attitude of arrogance and a spirit of pride that led to a self-destructive lifestyle. I began drinking alcohol innocently enough when I was eighteen years old. I never drank it with restraint and quickly became accustomed to its ability to lighten my moods and loosen my inhibitions. I eventually became addicted to its lie and lived in this addiction for 24 years after my first drink. I lost friends, time with my family, and a marriage during my years running from God. I would pray to God, knowing he had the answer, all the while rejecting the truth while rising from my knees. The man I was no longer existed. I was a shell of a human…dead inside and desperate for a change.
Leigh: After five years of living for Jesus on Sundays and living for Leigh every other day of the week, life was a little better, but not really. I was going to church, but lacked intimacy with Jesus. I was happy, but lacked joy. My life was stable, but lacked peace. I was a good person…a good, lukewarm person. And you know what God says about being lukewarm! I will be forever grateful that God did not spit me out…He gave me another chance and sent me a friend who would go out on a limb and invite me to her church.
Brett: In my despair I had a choice to make. I had to decide between life and death. Neither seemed attractive, but I was slowly killing myself with alcohol and cigarettes. I had become a drunken sot, worthless in my own eyes. No self-worth, no self-respect. Even my undying love for my three children wasn’t enough to keep me off the alcohol. Near the end, with a bloated, red face, out of control blood pressure, dead eyes and a lifeless spirit, I reached out to Jesus Christ one last time with a broken, and contrite heart. In November 2011, I made a choice that would alter not only my life but the lives of so many others. I never knew the impact it would make. I decided with the nudge (ok…violent shove) of God to leave my past behind and become a student committed to attend Teen Challenge for the next year of my life. God said to me, “Son you spent twenty-four years living for the devil. I need one year to get you straight, and then prepare you for the work I had initially planned for you.” Jesus rescued me one more time.
Leigh: I became close friends with my neighbor, and she was the one who invited me to her church, Central Assembly of God in Haughton. The church was different…the people were different…there was just something different. It was there that I began to seriously listen to God. Every Sunday the music and the message ministered to my heart. Each week God's word was molding me, changing me, burning me, and convicting me. Riding the fence no longer seemed like a good idea. I was so ate up with conviction that I was miserable! I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. Something was working inside of me. It was January of 2012.
Brett: On January 28, 2012, at Hodge Assembly of God, a mighty work was done with God delivering me from my addiction to alcohol along with depression, oppression, and all the evil spirits that seemed to like to hang around. In all my years I have never felt a sense of freedom, before or after, as great as that night. In John 8:36 Jesus says “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” It’s real.
Leigh: One August afternoon in 2012, six months after I started to visit Central, I heard that crystal, clear voice speak to my heart again. God was urging me to join the choir...but there was just one problem. I can't carry a tune in a bucket! I thought surely I was mistaken, maybe that wasn't God speaking to me! But He was so persistent...join the choir, join the choir, join the choir. So I started making deals with God (probably not a good idea), "Ok, God, if a friend invites me to join the choir, I will. This is Leigh...remember, I can't sing." The next Sunday, a friend invited me to join the choir. Yikes…I made another deal, "Ok, ok, ok. God, if the PREACHER invites me to join the choir, I will. I seriously can't sing. YOU KNOW THIS!" The next Sunday, our preacher stood up and said, "I would like to invite all of you to join the choir..." Ok God! He had never said that before, and to this day, he has never mentioned that to the congregation again. Needless to say, I joined the choir...and stopped making deals with God!
Brett: I arrived back home in November 2012 a new person. Not remodeled or refurbished. Not a new coat of paint with some replaced rotten boards. I was remade. I had been broken down and made into something new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone: a new life has begun.” My good friend Jeremy Elliot said it best- “No longer addicted but anointed.” Upon my return I quickly became involved with my church, Central Assembly of God, and began to integrate back into “normal” life. I never have forgotten where I came from or where by the Grace of God I am now.
Leigh: Joining the choir turned up the heat on everything that was happening inside of me, and literally, I could not ride the fence for one more second. Every Sunday I felt like I was in a different realm, surrounded by the voices of such an anointed choir. Although I couldn't sing a lick, the voices around me were inviting, pleading, and preparing for God to show up each Sunday. And oh how He showed up! Sunday after Sunday I would sing songs (quietly...seriously, I can't sing) and would feel God next to me, and He would stay there throughout the message, speaking to my heart messages tailored just for me. It was an intimacy that I did not want to end. I wanted that every day of the week, every second of my life. Was I willing to be changed? Things were getting serious...
Brett: I remained hungry for God and all that he had planned for me. I woke up every day excited about what was next in God’s great scheme. The Holy Spirit was working in me and through me. I was invited to speak and share my testimony on many occasions. Although there were many challenges facing me, I remained faithful to God and like he promised in Hebrew 10:23, He remained faithful to me. My priority was to seek the kingdom and my needs were being provided for according to His riches and glory. I was truly being blessed beyond any measure I could have believed.
Leigh: On January 21, 2013, a year after my friend invited me to her church, while our pastor was preaching, God and I were having our own conversation. He was speaking to my heart about faith, love and forgiveness. He was speaking to me about His plans for me. He was speaking to me about obedience. It was an intense conversation, and everything in me knew there was a possibility that this would be our last conversation if I did not make a choice and choose Him once and for all...I knew it was time. It was time to stop riding the fence. It was time for me to give God every part of my life. It was time to serve God with everything in me. It was time to give up all of my old ways. It was time to be free of all of my old thoughts- thoughts of worthlessness, regret, condemnation. It was time to live that life God had created for me that my parents had told me about so many years before. A year after I had started visiting Central, six years after God pleaded with me to try things His way, thirty-two years after my parents introduced me to God, I knew it was time. It was time for me to follow Him. When our pastor gave the invitation, I did not hesitate to leave the choir loft and walk down to the altar. I saw my Sunday school teacher who had been a very instrumental part of everything I had experienced that year, and I began to pray with him. I simply said, "I'm done. I'm ready to live my life for Jesus. Jesus please forgive me!" God had been waiting so patiently for me to come to this moment, and with undeserved grace, He forgave me. I left every old thought and all of my old ways right there at that altar that day. I had been rescued! I had been redeemed! I began to walk in God's perfect will for my life, trusting in His perfect plan...I had no idea that His perfect plan was about to throw me and my two kids an unexpected curve ball...and that curve ball was coming very soon.
Brett: During a January Sunday night church service at Central Assembly of God, we had been blessed with a move of God during the meeting. Near the end of the service our pastor, Andy Harris, made an altar call for those who wanted a closer walk with God and to be filled with the Holy Spirit. From my vantage point in the congregation, I saw a hand immediately shoot up in the choir loft. Although I had seen her many times and shared a Sunday School class with her, I did not know her. That was soon to change. In my spirit I heard a still small voice that said, “You must get to know her…soon.” Unbeknownst to me, God was speaking to her at the exact time. The following week I listened to God and introduced myself to my future wife.
Leigh: A few months before I made my decision to sell out completely to God, I had noticed this very attractive guy in my Sunday school class. Ok, noticed is an understatement. I had more than noticed. I called this stranger "the boyfriend" to my friends and family, and plotted and planned all kinds of ways to talk to him. For months we did not exchange even one word...but we did exchange one memorable look. One time he looked at me, and I sneezed. Snot shot into my hair. I thought to myself, well at least he noticed me...me, the snot girl. Planning and plotting was really all fun and games. There was no way I wanted a boyfriend. My plan was to never get married again. My plan was to be the best single mom I could be to my two rowdy kids. My plan was for God to be the only man in my life. It turns out, my plan was not God's plan...not even close. Later on that same fateful Sunday in January during the evening service, our pastor asked who wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I wanted that! After the freedom I had experienced that morning, I wanted anything and everything God had to give me. My hand shot up, and I walked down to the altar again and was filled with the Holy Spirit that night. At the end of the service, I saw a man praying over his two sons at the altar. I would not have seen him if I had not been in the choir that day, but I had the perfect view. Praying over his children like he was doing was something my dad would do, and I thought to myself, wow, now that's a man! I said out loud, "Yes, Lord." I was surprised by the words coming out of my mouth, and didn't even know what I meant by that...but God knew, He was working overtime in my life that day! I took a closer look at the man and his sons, and wouldn't you know it! It was "the boyfriend" from Sunday school... uh-oh. I should have known at that moment to buckle my seatbelt, it was about to be one, wild ride. The following week he introduced himself to me…I told my friends, “That’s a wrap, folks. Game over. He’s it.” That was a pretty big week. It changed my whole life, and it all started with an act of obedience. That fact is not lost on me, the girl who once had a rebellious spirit a mile wide.
Brett: I fell in love with Leigh quickly. It was easy. During our very short courtship, we kept God in the center and all other influences on the outside. I saw a woman who was serious about God and loved Jesus more than she could ever love me, and she loved me so much. Many of my weaknesses as a human being were so wonderfully counter-balanced by her strengths. What the devil had taken from me, God returned in a magnificent way by giving me this perfect gift in the form of Leigh Chamberlain.
Leigh: We had a whirlwind romance. Well, something even faster than a whirlwind..maybe a lightening fast romance. There was confirmation after confirmation that this man was made for me. We both were committed to walking in God's will, and God was there leading the way. We knew right away that one day we would be married. We knew that was part of God's plan for us- He had confirmed that each step of the way. It was so right...each detail of our lives had been woven together in such an intricate way. It was meant to be, written in the plan by God himself, nobody else could come up with this! We even had a history together that we didn't even know about. My dad was his middle school football coach...he spent days at our camp with a friend in his teenage years, and I was there too! Each day we spent together, we began to see God's plan for us to be together unfold. I could not wait to start my life with Brett, and I was excited to see how God was going to use the both of us and our story to further His Kingdom. That still excites me today! We got married at the church we met at and vowed to always live our lives walking in God's will, striving to live like Jesus every day, shining His light everywhere we go, telling everyone what He has done for us, and loving each other every day along the way. We wanted to tell everyone what God had done for us. A few months after we were married, my mom bought me a new journal. The journal she bought me inspired Brett and me to create our own journals. These journals led to an opportunity to spread the message of Jesus. It was an opportunity that we had hoped for, and an opportunity that we knew was in God's plan for us! Our dreams are beginning to be a reality. Our business has it's challenges, that's for sure, but we know spreading God's message of rescue and redemption will be worth it all. Our marriage has a few challenges too. We are a blended family with five children and one dog, so when I say a "few challenges" I really mean a million!! But every day we depend on the God who brought us together to help us, and He is always faithful. We certainly aren't perfect- just ask any of our five kids! But God's love for us is perfect. Our story is proof of that.
Our Story...Some would say that our story began the day we were born. Others would say it started the day we met, or perhaps the day that the first journal was made. But we know our story began long before that. It began with a Son, who gave His life so that we could LIVE! Our story is one of rescue and redemption. It's the story that saved us.