Alexis’ Family Christmas
“To me, Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ,” says Alexis, a confident 15-year-old who lives with her mother and three younger siblings at Union Rescue Mission’s Hope Gardens. “But what makes Christmas Day special is family. It was the one day a year we could just eat, hang out, and be happy together.”
See, most of Alexis’ family life has been anything but happy. Her mother, Edy, has struggled with drugs throughout her life and was unable to care for Alexis. Her father had his own struggles and left the family, so Alexis was raised by various aunts, uncles, her grandmother, and even the foster care system.
“I really didn’t have a childhood. It didn’t feel normal,” she admits. “But I think it made me grow up and be more mature, so I could be there for my brothers and sister.”
But the holidays were different.
Every Christmas, her family would gather together for a day filled with good food and joy — including everyone but her father. “If I could have just one perfect Christmas wish come true, I would celebrate it with my mom and dad together, in one place, with my brothers and sister,” she says.
Last year, Alexis’ mother finally came to Hope Gardens to get her life back on track. Six months later, Alexis knew it was time to rejoin her mom. “All children want their mother. Even though my mom messed up, I wanted to fix our relationship and I could see how Hope Gardens was helping her,” she says.
Since rejoining with her mother, Alexis can focus on being a kid again — and her softball skills. “I’ve been playing softball since I was 5,” she says. “I love the game and I’m the leader on my team. I might even get a college scholarship someday. I see girls quit all the time, but I’ve learned that you can’t ever give up. You have to keep trying, no matter how hard it gets. And that’s true in all of life.”
Reconnecting with her mom at Hope Gardens hasn’t always been easy, Alexis admits. But this Christmas, she knows their relationship will just get better.
“I’m so thankful for Hope Gardens because of all the ways they’ve helped my mom and what they’ve taught her about how to deal with life,” she says. “And they’ve also had such a positive influence on me!”
Through the Fire Into God’s Future
My daughter, Alexis, is an achiever — big time. She’s a leader and a positive influence on so many other kids, and I’m proud of her. But, as her mom, I can’t take any credit. From the day she was born, I was never really there for her.
I didn’t know how to be a parent. My own mother struggled with personal problems and was never there for me, so I never learned. And as a drug addict since the age of 16, I wanted to go out to the streets instead of raise my children.
But I reached a breaking point two years ago when I gave birth to my youngest daughter. I already had three other children, including Alexis, I had never mothered. I had never been responsible and never made a right decision. Suddenly I felt empty. I was sick and tired of hurting my family, especially my children, and I wanted a new life. I wanted to change.
So I went to Hope Gardens, where I hoped to become the mother and the person God wants me to be. When I arrived, I was determined to be open to whatever God wanted to do in my life. I’ve been here almost a year now and I am excelling. Best of all, I have all my kids with me again and we’re learning to be a family. And I’m even getting ready to start a new job. I am ecstatic!
Thanks to Hope Gardens, I’ve learned to leave my past behind me and walk forward in faith into God’s future.
I’ve spent a lifetime walking through fire, but God finally helped me get it right.
Hope for the Holidays
Here are a few ways you can bless others — and enjoy God’s blessings in return — during the holiday season.
Give a Gift through our Online Gift Catalog Store and help change lives this Christmas.
Sign up for Rev. Andy’s Advent Email Devotionals as we remember the true meaning of Christmas.
Give a Year-End Gift to make the New Year brighter and better for men and women experiencing homelessness.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). To me, that statement summarizes completely everything that Christmas is all about — and it’s what Union Rescue Mission is all about.
Yet as we head into the holidays, that verse and this holy season hold special meaning for me. Last summer, I experienced a heart attack and needed quadruple heart bypass surgery. The problem was, as a diabetic with bad kidneys, most doctors didn’t want to operate on me. Few gave me any long-term chance to survive or live a healthy life.
I’ve lived my life well and feel like I’ve done what God asked of me, so I wasn’t afraid. But I thank God, I did find a willing doctor — and I am alive and healthy. I’m back from the brink! And this Christmas, I have a new determination to share the real message of Christmas to all our guests on Skid Row — that Jesus came into the world to bring them — and all of us — new life and hope, which only He can give.
Rev. Andy Bales