When things appear to go wrong in your life, it's time to start praising God! It is very plain to me now that God was in control of the seemingly disastrous events in our children's lives.
I'd tried to bring our children up to believe in Jesus Christ as their Saviour, but our church background was such that I'd never realised that mere assent isn't enough! However, in the autumn of 1995 we started going to the Hambro Road church, where we began to receive thorough biblical teaching.
Our daughter Amber became a Christian when she was 17, but at art college she started to backslide and in her last year, living away from home, she began to drink. After leaving college she lived at home but life was a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Quite often she did not come home at night, and there were one or two real scares, such as a phone call from a hospital early one morning - she hadn't known how she got there. She was binge drinking - and you don't know what you are doing when you are very, very drunk.
Then, in November 1995, our son Thomas was arrested for dealing in drugs. He was in his first term at university, although he wasn't arrested at the university. It came as a complete shock to my husband Chris and me, but I distinctly remember that first weekend after the arrest, in spite of the tears, an amazing sense of God's love binding us together.
Thomas lived at home for the next few months, awaiting his trial, and we agreed that he would come to church with us at least once a month. Our pastor also visited us at home to talk with my husband, over a succession of suppers, about baptism. During the course of these conversations, church-goings, and finally a day spent decorating the chapel with our pastor Phil, Thomas became a Christian - two weeks before his trial, at which he was sentenced to six months in a Young Offenders Institution.
The first weekend after the trial was one of the worst times in my life - prison is, for many of us, a completely unknown quantity and I had visions of all sorts of terrible things happening to Thomas. However, God wonderfully provided. Thomas survived his three months (his sentence halved for good behaviour), made friends, and returned home and was baptised. He has grown in the Lord most amazingly since then and I praise God for the way he has worked in his life. Who would have believed that I could praise the Lord for his arrest? - but I do.
Meanwhile, Amber continued to binge drink. On holiday on a Greek island with a girlfriend in the summer of 1998 she was involved in a serious incident after becoming drunk at a club. And then, in February 1999, she visited an old art-college friend in Italy where he worked and had a blackout after drinking at a club. This so shocked and upset her friend that she finally admitted to herself that she was desperately unhappy and that her life was in a mess. I believe God allowed these incidents as wake-up calls to our (and his) beloved child. After this, in August 1999, she went on a Christian camp with Thomas and God spoke to her there through the main speaker. A few months later she was baptised in our chapel.
But it hasn't all been plain sailing. On holiday in autumn 2000 with the same girlfriend, Amber made friends with a man, to whom she explained that she was a Christian and that Christians didn't believe in sex before marriage. But on the last night of her holiday she allowed her friend to go home early, without her, and the man forced himself upon her. Very soon it was evident that she was pregnant, but she didn't tell us about it until God had shown her that to have an abortion would be adding sin to sin. So, at the beginning of November 2001, we discovered that a grandchild was on its way.
Again, we believe God allowed this - for our daughter's humbling, to bring her to repentance - and for our humbling as parents. Now we have nothing to boast about except our marvelous Lord and God, who brings good things out of bad, who knows exactly what is best for each one of us ('As for God, his way is perfect', Psalm 18.30a).
Orlando was born in July 2001 and we all lived together, helping each other spiritually as well as physically, until April 2008.
God also provided in another way, by bringing me out of a stressful, time-consuming job and, from the beginning of November 2001 (perfect timing – see above!), into my job at a monthly evangelical Christian newspaper – close to home, in a mainly non-stressful, flexible environment, with Christian colleagues. God is so good and, although things weren’t always easy, I am completely confident that 'he who began a good work' in us 'will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus' (Philippians 1.6). Everything that has happened to us has reinforced this confidence.
In April 2008, Amber married Matthew. and she and Orlando obviously moved out. However, we see them most weeks and Orlando often spends weekends with us. He now has a younger brother called Percy and sister called Pearl.