For Mothers and Daughters

We have a Mother’s Day gift for you!

It’s a “reading,” created for all you moms and daughters out there. It’s sole purpose is to get you two alone together for a few moments, unplugged and undistracted, as you read God’s truth to affirm, cherish, and remind each other that you are in this thing together. There’s something very special about the relationship between mothers and daughters, and our prayer is that through this reading, relationships will be strengthened, hearts will be mended, and faith will rise as you speak these words of life over one another.

It was initially written for a Mother/Daughter retreat my sister and I were speaking for the weekend. But seeing the response it had on the moms and daughters, we knew we needed to share it with others!

So I called on my good friend Logan Pyle. He loves Jesus and uses his talents and giftings to point the world to Him. (He and his wife, Karissa, are a breath of fresh air. Their family couldn’t be more precious!) I told him of my idea and he was as excited as I was! He brought the beauty of this piece to life… real life.

THEN… who would be the mother-daughter duo?!?! Actually, I couldn’t wait to beg my friend Lori and her daughter Blake to be a part of this project. Lori’s got this parenting thing down-ha! Okay, who really does? She’s a mess… a beautiful, humble, God-fearing, light bearing, masterpiece of motherhood mess! She knows this life is about clinging to her God as she leads her children to do the same. She and her husband, Scott, are the BEST! I know it’s been a teary season as they are days away from watching their sweet girl graduate from high school! This project was special on many levels as they end one era to lean on their God as they begin another.

Again, Happy Mother’s Day! Here’s the printable version for YOU! Seriously, click on this link, it’s for YOU: mother daughter reading

{p.s. Daughters, you will totally surprise your momma if you print out the reading before she does. She’ll probably fall out of her chair! Print out one for her and one for you. This is waaaay better than picking out some hallmark card at Wallyworld! Bring some tissues and some chocolate for extra bonus points.}

{p.p.s. Moms, you can leave hints, you can tag your daughters in this video, but they still may not pick up what you’re putting down, so don’t wait for your daughters to stumble upon this video and print out the reading like good children, download the pdf and tell your daughter(s) you know what you want for Mother’s Day! Boom! Girl time!}

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The video was filmed and edited by: Logan Pyle
The adorable Mother/Daughter Duo in this project: Lori & Blake O’Dell

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 If you are new to Dancing On My Ashes… WELCOME!

To learn more about Dancing On My Ashes,
you can watch Heather & Holly’s 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book, Dancing On My Ashes: go here

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

In other BIG, HUGE, GIGANTIC NEWS:

The Take Me Away! Women’s Retreat Cruise with us is March 2-6, 2017.

We’d LOVE for you to join the fun.

It is a short cruise so families could manage without ‘mom’ and she would come back rejuvenated, tan, with her soul refreshed! This is a perfect retreat for women’s groups or individuals. If you organize a group for the cruise you can earn your trip!

It may be just the perfect getaway what you moms and daughters need! *wink wink*

Safe to Sleep

safe to sleep -header

I (Heather) want to introduce you to someone pretty darn special; her name is Jessica Luraas. We pick up our kids outside the same elementary school every day. Over the past few years a friendship has developed. As we wait for our boys to burst through the doors at the end of the day, we’ve shared conversations about our children, our school, our churches, our passions, and our God. (It’s amazing what you can cover in a few minutes!) When Jessica first mentioned a ministry she was involved in, I was spellbound. I had no idea this even existed in Springfield, Missouri. I asked her to share on our blog what she witnesses everyday. I think it will be educational as well as stirring—poking a giant hole in the bubble we live in—as we hear from one that is on the front lines of everyday suffering. You will also see a glimpse into this sweet woman’s heart. I think you will love her as much as I do!

———-

{by Jessica Luraas}

Its 7:30 on a Tuesday night. It’s been raining all day. The women stream off the bus and rapidly fill the hallway to the church gym with weary shoulders and wet feet. Small rolling suitcases and backpacks are propped up against their legs as they wait in line at the shelter sign-in table. One is young, just out of foster care at 19 years old, she is emotionally wounded from years of abuse and can’t keep a job. Another is 65, her husband passed away suddenly and she used her disability check to pay for his funeral. She missed rent and got evicted. And there is the 42 year old who has a mental illness so debilitating she can’t work. She is waiting on disability, stuck in the system and unable to pay for her own housing.

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Every night of the year, thirty to forty homeless women in Springfield seek refuge through an emergency shelter program called Safe to Sleep. Dedicated volunteers spend one or two nights a month at the shelter, giving up a little sleep to ensure the doors can stay open. A host church offers its building for several months at a time. Countless donors give money and supplies that keep the shelter running. Women would be on the street without the shelter, it saves lives.

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The next morning I’m driving to pick up a woman who stays at Safe to Sleep. I will spend a good part of my day trying to help her navigate the road to a home. She has fought a lifelong battle with chronic pain and mental illness. She gets into my car with the deepest, most painful cough I have ever heard. She has pneumonia and bronchitis. Can you imagine being sick and homeless? You just want to sleep in your own bed, in your own home, with a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a movie, but you can’t. You have to stand outside for an hour and wait for a warm building to open to get your dinner and then stand at a cold bus stop to get a ride to a shelter so you can finally lie down.

We are headed to the social security office to get a letter confirming her disability award which will help with getting housing. I like her, she makes me laugh. Her frank stories, told from a deep raspy voice pull me in. I know her life has been filled with drugs, shoplifting, ex- husbands, and bad choice after bad choice. I’m not sure what led her to be homeless at age 70 but I really want to help her. Everyone deserves compassion. Everyone deserves a home.

As we wait at a stoplight, she grabs my forearm and gives it a gentle squeeze. This tough lady with her weathered face, red fingernails, and throaty voice looks me directly in the eyes. She sincerely says “Thank you Jessica, it helps so much to have someone who cares.” This is my job, I get to make small things easier, because when you are homeless, small things are insurmountable.

People often ask me how I do it. How do I find empathy when a woman is rude to me? How do I take in a painful story and yet guard my heart? Do I ever get scared or feel unsafe? The truth is, sometimes I get frustrated and discouraged. Sometimes I have a hard time shaking a story I just heard. Sometimes I have no idea what to do to help. Sometimes I want to walk away and sometimes I have to walk away.

But here is the thing, it’s not about me. It’s not about how many women I help find housing. It’s not about how many hours I volunteer or how many new volunteers I recruit. Those things are very important, but what matters more is that God loves me and I love Him. He simply wants my heart–He wants every last bit of it. When I stop trying to please Him by doing things and start seeking a deeper relationship with Him, the doing comes naturally. The fruit of His love towards me pours out onto others. I am able to respond to His call on my life in freedom, without fear. The outcomes don’t matter because that is not in my hands. So that is how I do it. I don’t do it alone.

I will leave you with my favorite verse. It’s taken me years to understand what this verse truly means but I think I am getting there…“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4: 7). He wants our hearts to know Him, to know His love. When His love fills us up, we have enough to give to others. And we will always get more in return than we can ever give because His love for us is endless.

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If you live in the Springfield area and are interested in volunteering with Safe to Sleep or if you’d like to donate toward this ministry, email Jessica Luraas (Guest Advocate) at jluraas@ccozarks.org. They have evening shifts that end at 10pm and overnight shifts.

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To learn more about Dancing On My Ashes, you can watch Heather & Holly’s 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book, Dancing On My Ashes: go here

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

How to Talk to Your Children About Death

how to talk to your children about death

by Heather Gilion

“Mom, I don’t want you to die!”

I heard this sweet little voice break the silence before the sun even had a chance for it’s coffee. “Zachy, come here sweety.” Not the words you expect to hear first thing in the morning. I cradled my four-year-old in my arms, “Mom, please don’t die.” My stomach immediately turned over and over as I held my breath. Stroking his hair with one hand and pulling him in tight with the other, I said, “I know death is scary. I want to stay with you as long as I possibly can.” I could feel him hold me tighter. I held him tighter. “I love that God has made me your mommy. I ask Him all the time to let me be your mommy all your days. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we can trust Him completely. I know it’s all hard to understand, but I want you to know, no matter what happens, God loves you and I love you very, very much.”

Noah, barely six at the time, overheard our conversation and chimed in, “Zach, don’t worry. If anything happens to mom and dad we will go to a nursing home.” I chuckled. Pulling Noah into the embrace, I had boys in each arm. “Well, I think you mean a foster home. Is that what you mean?” Both of my boys were familiar with the ministry of Boys and Girls Town since we’d visited there before and had been mentoring a boy that we met through the organization. “Oh yeah,” Noah said. “We would go to a foster home and have a new family.”

Zach lit up, “Oh, well, that sounds fun! Okay, I wonder who would be my new mommy and daddy?”

And just like that, the conversation went from dread of losing me to having new brothers and sisters and “wouldn’t that be fun!” Then something triggered a complete change in subject and they were on to Star Wars, (thank you, Lord!) and I sat there silent, listening to four and six-year-old brother banter. I began talking to God silently over this fear that had reared its ugly head that morning.

I get pretty mad about death, if I’m honest. I hate it. I want to punch it in the face. I want to go to bed and wake up and find that it’s not a thing anymore. There will be a day that it’s not a thing anymore. It’ll be a distant memory. It’ll be like, “Oh yeah, people used to die. Man, I can’t even fathom that.” I want it to feel like we’re talking about when people used to listen to music on their 8-tracks. “What are those? I think I’ve heard about them before, but I’m not sure.”

How do we talk to our kids about death and dying? All of us have been affected by death. I’ve definitely felt the pain of loss. I’ve buried my father, a husband, a brother-in-law, grandparents, and friends. So I’m not naïve to the fact that life can change in an instant! But when you have innocent eyes staring into your soul, begging you not to die, everything in you wants to say, “You don’t have to worry about that, buddy. Momma’s not going anywhere… EVER.” But that’s not the truth and it’s not healthy to set our children up for disappointment and a false hope. Only God knows the days and the hours I am to live on this earth. I’ve heard parents reassure their children simply to dodge their own fears on the subject, and to keep their children from any anxiety. But I believe I have a parental obligation and God-loving responsibility to prepare my children with the truth about death, even when I don’t like the truth. Although the conversations we have with our children surrounding death don’t make us jump for joy, we turn to the Word and anchor our hope in a God that conquered death once and for all!

When your child asks about death:

  1. Be truthful. Your children want to hear the truth. They want answers. Sometimes you won’t have all the answers, and you can be honest about that. But oh how confusing it is for them if you promise that everyone they cherish most will never die, and when someone does they aren’t equipped for this new reality. Death is hard even if you feel prepared, so setting your children up with the truth will be good for their hearts over the long haul. (Deut. 6:7-9)

  2. You don’t need to linger on the topic, but use those moments as teaching opportunities to point to the HOPE and LIFE we have in Christ here and now and the HOPE and LIFE we have in Christ after For a believer in Jesus, we have an amazing home that awaits us. Heaven is definitely a perk when it comes to the subject of death. Although Heaven is real, not everyone will go to Heaven. Heaven is only for those who have put their faith in Jesus. I wish every single person on the face of the planet would understand how awesome God truly is; that they would call Him LORD and follow hard after Him, for He is the only way to Heaven. Heaven is not for the “good” or the “well-liked.” It is for the sinners who have put their trust in God and been saved by grace through Jesus. So for those of us that call Jesus our Lord, we can cling to the hope that when we breathe our last on this side of eternity, our next will be in the presence of God. (John 14:6, Col. 1:3-4, Heb 11:1-2)

  3. God says “Don’t fear” 365 times in the Bible, one time for each and every day of the year, right? Even in death we don’t have to fear. Pointing our children and our own hearts to the truth that we can trust God no matter what is equipping them for what lies ahead. When those we love die before we were ready to say goodbye, we have a choice to anchor ourselves in the God who has conquered death and trust that He can use even death to bring about beautiful things. (Psalm 118:6, Deut. 31:6, Matt. 10:28)

 

To be honest, I hated to even write on this topic because in my messed up mind, I thought, “Oh great, Lord, if I write about this that means I’m going to die isn’t it? You are going to have me write this thing and put it out there for others to read and then I’m going to die in some freakish accident. And then this blog post will circulate like wild fire and my picture will be on the nightly news with that sappy, soft music playing as a smiling picture of me slowly pans across the screen.” Obviously, I’ve already played it out in my mind in weird, detailed fashion, but after I call myself back down from the crazy-brain ledge, I deeply breathe in God’s love for me and my children. The kind of crazy love that says, “Mom, I love them more than you. Can you trust Me?” The Bible says we are but a mist, here one day, gone the next, but we can trust God with our mist.

So what keeps this momma from finding herself in the fetal position, overwhelmed by “what ifs?”

Easter.

Jesus walked straight into death’s face. Was He scared? The Bible tells us He sweat drops of blood the night before. But it also says, “His face was set.” He knew what He had to do and He followed the voice of His Father right to His death. The Son of God allowed Himself to be murdered so our sin would be paid for. So death could never more be held over our heads. He died so that when He rose again on the third day, He could speak straight to death’s ugly face, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55) He defeated it.

His Word is clear. We live in a broken world and we will endure hard, want-to-hide-under-the-covers-all-day kind of stuff, BUT God is who He says He is and He calls Himself Emmanuel, God with us. So even when you find yourself walking “through the valley of the shadow of death,” you need not fear, for your God is with you. (Psalm 23:4). I love how one father explained death to his child as they drove home from a funeral. A semi truck was passing by and the shadow of the truck covered their car. He explained that if the truck were to collide into them they would die. But when Jesus went to the cross He took the truck in our place. He took on the truck for us, and now when we breathe our last breath, we don’t experience the crushing truck, we experience the shadow of the truck. On Good Friday, He took on “our truck”—death—so we didn’t have to. Now we experience only the “shadow of death.”

Emmanuel. Jesus. That’s His name, don’t wear it out. Well, actually, NO! DO wear it out! Wear it right out. Cling to it. Cherish it. Call it out. Say it out loud. Beckon upon it. Never let the truth of His nearness leave your thoughts. He speaks into our fears of the unknown. You can trust Him even when you don’t have all the answers. And if you’ve never said it out loud, you can call on His name today.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

 

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To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book, Dancing On My Ashes: go here

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

Measuring Moments

by Heather {Spring} Gilion

You are not a good mom unless you track your children’s height somewhere on a wall in your home. Okay, that’s not true. But I do love seeing the scribbled, hash marks along with corresponding dates that remind me: I survived two wild toddlers! Praise the good LORD! My boys love to stand at our measuring spot to see how much they’ve grown.

We giggle and reminisce as we take in all the pencil marks from days gone by. It happens so fast, doesn’t it? Except it was hard for them to understand early on, that I can’t measure them EVERYDAY! We need to let some time pass before we stand proudly to measure the growth. Yet as every parent knows, there are days that they wake up and you can’t help but wonder if they sprung a few inches overnight! “Sweetie, you look so much bigger today! You must’ve had a growth spurt in the night.” Now on the other hand, I’ve been on the receiving end of this “compliment.” Upon entering my four-year-old’s room: “Wow, Mom, you look bigger today! Good job on growing SO BIIIIIG!” Now that’s NOT what you are hoping to hear as you begin your day. “Thanks, honey,” I manage to say as I grab my running shoes and plan to eat carrots for the rest of my life!

 

I had one of these “measuring moments” a few months ago. But I wasn’t standing tall at a wall with my heals pressed against the wood trim praying for another inch. No, I was driving. I was driving on a road I’d traveled down many many times before.

measuring momentsWhen I was in college I knew the way home like the back of my hand. There were times on that road when I cruised well past the speed limit because I couldn’t wait to get home for a little breather and some detox from cafeteria dining. On the other hand, there were times when break time was over and I couldn’t pack my bags fast enough, gladly leaving home in the dust so I could see my friends and that cute guy I pass on my way to Economics Tuesdays and Thursdays. Back and forth. Forth and back. Behind the wheel I made the turns and journeyed my well-acquainted path. I couldn’t complain, my drive wasn’t too long, especially if I timed it right and planned my trek around Rick Dees Countdown. (Alanis and I were tight companions those days.) Cruising Hwy. 73 was undemanding and easy. I knew the turns. I knew the sites. It was my drive.

 

A few months ago, I found myself again driving on this familiar road. The curves and landmarks brought me back to those many trips I’d made on that highway. I remembered that girl that sat in the driver’s seat: Me of twenty years ago. I thought about her. I remember looking through her eyes at life. She was so young. So naïve. She loved Taco Bell, for crying out loud! She thought she knew everything. She wanted desperately to be strong, but she knew the truth—she was a coward. She fought to be less scared than she was. She wanted to not care what others thought of her. She wanted to be confident, but that fact was she was the shy girl. She thought she knew God. I mean, she knew Him, but she wasn’t working too hard to know Him more. She was satisfied in building the life she wanted. She thought she had ultimate say in her tomorrows. She had no idea what the years ahead would look like for her. The tears. The loss. The heartbreak. The awakening. The healing. She had no idea she would come to know the God of the Bible. The God who would not leave her side when she felt alone, lost, abandoned. She had no idea He would ask her to travel a new road. She had no idea He would ask her to be brave and when she said, “Yes,” He caused a courageous woman to emerge. She would be free of the fear of death. She would strive to walk humbly with her God, desiring to love Him with her whole heart. She would not be bound by what the world says about her. She would know freedom—a kind of freedom that she never thought possible. She would leave her “shy” tendencies to use her voice to speak to strangers… crowds of strangers… to brag on her God. And she would like it! She would leave the old girl behind and become something entirely new.

 

Gripping the wheel, tears began streaming down my face. I felt thankful to be in this “measuring moment.” God had taken me by the hand and led me to the wall. He wanted to show me how far I had come. He wanted to show me how “tall” He was making me. Not to praise me, for who can will themselves to grow? The applause must be directed to the One who “makes all things new!” Appreciation given to the One who wakes us from our slumber so we can really live. Adoration to a God who can take even a little girl like me and make something of worth. For I’m not the girl I once was. And that is my grace story.

 

It wasn’t by accident that I found myself on Hwy. 73 that day, for the day before I had been wrestling internally with myself. The day before I had cried for hours. I had drove aimlessly around town. I was empty. Tired. I had been in a season of working too much. Busyness became my norm and I had finally had enough. I was running on empty and desperate for time with my Daddy. I had let good things, gifts from Him, become too important. I knew I hadn’t managed His gifts well and I was confused where He wanted me to spend my energy. I came to Him depleted and tangled in the worries of this world. I was asking many questions: Have I been loving You well, Lord? Have I been loving others well—my husband, my children, my friends? I knew the answer to this. “There’s something wrong with me, Lord! I’m never gonna figure this out, am I?!?! I don’t want to disappoint You!” I was a bit of a mess that entire day leading up to… Hwy. 73.

 

In my internal chaos He came like the calm that only He is. He let the familiar road remind me of the girl that once sat behind these eyes. He let me feel her again. He let me remember how she thought and how she felt most days. He let me remember the me before. He said, “Sweetie, let Me show you something. Stand here. Place your heels against the wall and stand up straight. My how I’ve grown you!” He marked my growth and then had me turn around, and with His arm cradled around my shoulders, He pulled me in tight to Himself as He whispered, “You are growing. You are. And… I’m just getting started. I’m not done with you yet. These questions you are asking, they are good questions. And if you listen to My answers you are going to grow some more. Don’t become weary in the abiding or be content with how far you’ve come. There’s more. Can you trust Me?”

 

I know I can trust Him. He who began this good work in me will be relentless to complete that work for His glory. The work He is doing in YOU is happening! You may not see it, but maybe it’s time for you to be still before Him and enter your measuring moment. We are nothing without Him. And any good that is happening in us is truly because of the grace of God. Yet He brings us to these measuring moments to remind our hearts that it’s all worth it. He’s worth it. And to abide in Him will produce the fruit, will cause growth, will make our hearts rejoice all the more in the God that is our friend and companion through every road we may find ourselves on. Sometimes He just has to place us on the wall and show us He’s at work in us. He’s growing us up. I’ve got a lot of growing to do, but I trust He’s not done with me yet.

 

And just in God fashion, as we conversed about life, this song came next in my playlist that day: “No Longer Slaves”

 

Good thing I’ve had lots of practice crying and driving at the same time. Take a listen and be encouraged today.

 

 

“No Longer Slaves”

Verse 1

You unravel me, with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance, from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone

Chorus

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

Verse 2

From my Mothers womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again, into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

Bridge

You split the sea, so I could walk right through it
All my fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me, so I could stand and sing
I am a child of God

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To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book, Dancing On My Ashes: go here

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

The Invitation to Climb

lessons on a mountain

by Heather Gilion

Summiting a mountain was never on my bucket list. It wasn’t even on my radar until I met my husband, Dallas. My Dallas, however, has a deep fondness for the mountains. Skiing, hiking, it doesn’t matter which, he just longs for the peak adventure. If we talk too much about the mountains he starts to grow a beard immediately. Seriously, I’ve seen his 5 o’clock shadow turn into a shrub just by saying Colorado, backpack, and view in the same sentence—he’s my mountain man.

One thing I’ve learned about a healthy marriage over the years is that even though you will both have different things that make you tick, you should always make an effort to at least embrace your differences and explore one another’s passions. He now knows about infinity scarfs and how to get 40% off at Hobby Lobby. I am so proud.

I, on the other hand, trekked up a mountain because of my love for him.

MY FIRST 14ER

We stood for a few minutes taking in the mountains. Pictures will never do them justice, no matter how many you take. And believe me, I took a lot of selfies and ussies.

Dallas pointed up to the trail, “Look you can see other hikers on the trail.” It took me a minute, but I could see what looked to be ants moving on the mountain. That’s when doubt and I were in agreement, “NO FLIPPIN’ WAY is that going to be me?!?! I’ll never be where they are! Just smile and nod.” I shot Mountain Man a fake smile and squeaked through my clinched teeth, “Wow. That seems so far away. How exciting!” That’s when I saw his beard grow a quarter of an inch.

With a few selfies and exchanges of, “we’re really doing it Harry,” we began our ascent. The truth is, I was already huffing and puffing. I like to blame that on the fact that I’m from Missouri, but it’s the truth. Acclimation is part of the game for non-Colorado folk.

Before I knew it, I was officially on the side of the mountain. The car was getting farther and farther away, and I was taking one step after another. That’s how it’s done, people.

On the mountain you have a lot of time to think—and talk to yourself.

(Here I am internal dialoging with myself…)
“This is pretty cool. It’s not so bad is it?”
“Well, not yet. But what if you have to go the bathroom up there?”
“AHHH! I know. I know. But remember, you drank that coffee early so you could get business done beforehand.”
“True. But what if…”
“Hold on a second. Wow! Look at that view!”
“Oh my gosh, I hope I don’t die!”

On this particular trek there were many rocks. Sometimes the entire path was a bunch of rocks, so many that you couldn’t discern the path. That’s when an experienced hiker comes in handy. Mountain Man could always see the path. He has special mountain eyes, of course. He taught me about cairns that stood as trail markers to help guide our way. I also learned that those going up the mountain have the right of way, so if you are meeting someone on the path the person going down should yield to those going up. Probably because we’re the ones breathing heavy and sounding like we are getting kicked in the gut. Okay, maybe that was just me. Mountain Man was just fine, inhaling the cool Colorado air while running his fingers through the ever increasing bush on his face.

Mountain Man: “Sweetie, are you drinking enough?”
Me: “Maybe.”
MM: “Let’s stop and get some water in you.”

It was in the pauses that I realized the mini steps I’d been making for over an hour had accumulated beneath me and I was actually going somewhere. I was higher. I was farther. I realized I was doing what I had set out to do and it felt good! Of course, it would feel better if I was done. Because it was already harder than I thought it might be, but taking a moment to look back at where I’d come from was just what I needed to turn around again and get back to it.

We were climbing a mountain that was linked with other mountains, and after nearly two hours we came upon the saddle (a gently-sloping low point between two peaks). This particular spot on our journey was the most incredible, beautiful spot we’d encountered up to that point. As we walked up to ridge, it was as if the horizon appeared out of nowhere. The wind was strong, but the clouds seemed reachable. I remember at the beginning seeing “ants” up here! NOW I was an ant to someone else!

PRESSING ON

My legs were a bit weary and my mind said, “Isn’t this view good enough? You could be satisfied with this height, couldn’t you?!?!” But gazing over at my Mountain Man as he was gathering his beard into a small ponytail, I knew I must keep going. And not just for his sake, but the higher I went, the more I wanted to continue. The glory of God’s creation was before me and I couldn’t unsee this—and I didn’t want to. There was pain in this journey, but the beauty of the journey was becoming a prize worth knowing personally.

We moved onward and upward and there were more rocks. The incline at times left me baby-stepping my way up the mountain. {Have you seen those Mt. Everest movies where they are walking like snails? Haha! Yep, totally me.} At this rate I wondered if we’d arrive before Mountain Man’s beard hit ground. But slowly and surely I put one step in front of the other. Mountain Man was my cheerleader. He never groaned at my speed or chastised my ability. I just heard, “I’m so proud of you, honey. You are doing great!” or “Your tush looks nice in those pants.” All were very motivating statements.

The last leg of the journey I kept thinking about when I was in labor. I recalled the intense pain, the moments I wondered if I would die from the agony of each contraction, the promise that before too long I would see the little face that would make all of this worth it. Because here I was, barely breathing, crawling my way up a giant rock, and all I could see was more rock in front of me. I began to wonder, will this really be worth it? Will you get to the top and think, “Hmmm… well, it’s kindof cool up here, I guess.” I just didn’t know if it was going to be worth it.

But then that’s when I heard my Mountain Man say golden words, “I think this may be it! This will be our last push and then we’re there, I think.” I made my way up only to see… we were at a FALSE SUMMIT! AHHHH! A false summit is a peak that appears to be the pinnacle of the mountain but upon reaching, it turns out the summit is actually higher. You can’t see the true summit because the false one is blocking your view. Talk about dashing this girl’s hopes in that moment! But the good news was, I could see the actual summit in the distance… and it wasn’t too far away! So with a few more *we’re-really-doing-it-Harry’s, we made our final accent! (*Obviously, we need a Dumb and Dumber intervention.)

ALMOST THERE

Mountain Man cheered for me. I was cheering for me. My labor was almost over. I was pushing and pushing. I could hear my doctor, “One more push, and you’re done! Come on, Heather, I know you have one more in you!”

And that’s when I stepped foot on the summit. The sky opened up to a 360 degree view. My eyes could not even take it all in. It was too beautiful for words—too glorious to capture in a sentence. It’s like trying to describe the hands of your newborn—and you realize the only thing that comes out is “Wow, look… You have to see his hands!” You can’t describe the beauty; all you can do is invite others into the splendor you are beholding. That’s when you know you are witnessing the fingerprints of God. His marvels cannot be explained with mere language, or captured in a song, or displayed through even the most beautiful of art. We try, and it’s okay to try, but we’ll always fall short. God’s glory leaves one speechless. All I can say is, “Wow! You’ll have to go and see for yourself! I don’t have the words to describe it, just an invitation to experience it for yourself.”

INVITED

I guess that’s how I feel about my journey with the Lord. It feels like climbing a mountain some days. It feels like the journey is unreasonably long and too dang steep. There’s too many rocks and the obstacles in my way leave me wondering, “Why does it have to be this hard?” Internally I wrestle with the risks, the suffering I’m enduring, the uncomfortability of the climb—and at times, I almost talk myself into retreating all together. But it’s in those moments that the Lord calls me to rest and reflect. He gives me a moment to catch my breath and turn around. There are times in my life that I’ve looked back and been bummed, feeling like surely I should be further along by now! And other times I’m surprised that I’ve even made it this far—recognizing the grace and sovereign hand of God that has brought me to this point. There are “saddle” moments when you think, “This is good enough. I could be satisfied enough with this view and head back.” But then you hear the encouragers, your spiritual cheerleaders, say, “But there’s more. You’ve come this far! Let’s keep going.” And so you trek on. You press onward and upward, wondering why you can’t be the one satisfied with the couch, but the truth is, you’re not. You’re not made for ease or settling.

And you put one foot in front of the other.
You persevere.
You obey His voice.
You trust Him.
You place your hope in His promises.
You ask Him for the strength.

And then something beautiful happens—you reach the mountain’s peak. And that’s when you see the journey was not in vain. You see the beauty is that much more spectacular than you dared to dream. You realize there was purpose and beauty even in the pain. You know you can’t unsee this and you would never want to. Being in relationship with the God of the universe changes you. So much so, you want to tell others, but sometimes the only thing that comes out is, “I wish I could describe how much He loves you, but I just can’t. I wish I could put into words how great the climb really is, but my words aren’t enough. But… you are invited… invited to know for yourself—to see Him for yourself. Climb the mountain—He’ll never leave your side and you won’t be disappointed.”

PERSPECTIVE

Sometimes we need to have a new perspective. Fourteen thousand feet high and I was reminded again how small I really am… I am but an ant. But God reminded me, He loves this ant.

So even though you can’t really capture the beauty in a moment, you still try. We took our selfies and breathed it all in. Mountain Man braided his beard, that was now down to his chest, as we discussed being higher than the clouds. And much to my surprise, as we began our descent, I had a 5 o’clock shadow of my own.

And believe it or not, I returned recently and climbed three 14ers in one day!

I hope you climb your mountain.

_______________________

To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book, Dancing On My Ashes: go here

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

What is hindering you?

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by Heather {Spring} Gilion

What hinders you? What trips you up, holds you back, and is a constant entanglement?

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. {Hebrews 12: 1-2}

Sometimes we are intimately aware of what hinders us and sometimes it’s not until God puts His finger on it—or someone we love points it out—that we are aware of areas in our lives that truly are keeping us from running the “race that is set before us.”

A couple days ago my hubby grabbed our boys after school and took them on an outing to the mall to pick out something special for my birthday. It was a spur of the moment outing, so Noah (7) was disappointed when he climbed in the car after school to find out he was heading to all the “boring” stores in the mall when he’d rather be getting home to play with his neighborhood friends. Dallas told me that Noah was complaining most of the 15-minute drive. Daddy took this opportunity to talk to him about selfishness and how sometimes because we love another, we put them first. Noah expressed how he didn’t want to be selfish and wished he wasn’t.

“You are never selfish, Dad.” Noah said.

“Yes, I can be selfish too.” He took some time giving Noah examples of his own selfishness and then how he talks to God about it when those times happen.

They arrived at the mall and parked the car and the three of them prayed before heading into the mall. Daddy led them in a time of talking to God about the real struggle with selfishness and asked Him to help them all be more like Jesus. Afterward, as they walked into the mall, Dallas could tell Noah was heavy-hearted about it all. He was getting a little teary and sad, but Daddy picked him up and reminded him that he and God loved him very much, and that NOTHING would or could ever make that change. After hugging it out, they set off with new zeal to find me the perfect somethings.

Upon entering American Eagle, Zach spotted something “PERFECT for mom!” “Come on follow me, I see something!” They walked all the way to the back of the store to see a pastel-themed cactus tank top. “Hmmmm…” Daddy said, “I don’t know. Let’s keep looking. We can always come back for it if we don’t find something else.” (Thank You, Lord, for giving me a good mate.)

In another store Noah found me a shirt that said, “You had me at coffee.” “Mom, would LOVE this!” He was right😉 I’m already wearing it.

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After a cookie for the boys, Starbucks for Daddy, and a few reminders that “we don’t wrestle in the middle of the mall,” they were off to their final store. As they were walking Noah quickly put his right hand up to shield his eyes. “Oh, I shouldn’t look over there…. I need to cover my eyes.” They were passing Victoria’s Secret on their right. “Hmmmm…” Daddy thought to himself, “That’s interesting. We’ve had some basic conversations about boys and girls, modesty and respect, but this is still a little surprising for a seven-year-old. I wonder where its coming from…”

Noah kept his hand stiff so he wouldn’t and couldn’t see to his right, “I will want to go in there and I just CAN’T look over there.”

Before he could ask Noah about his reaction, he heard the squeal of his five-year-old, “Noah, there’s BUILD-A-BEAR!”

Noah quickly reprimanded Z-man, “No, Zach, put your hand like this! Don’t even look in there! We’re shopping for Mom, not us. We have to stay focused.”

EVERYTHING MADE SENSE. Dallas could stop sweating. Ohhhhh… it wasn’t the voluptuous women that tempted Noah. It was the allure of fur, stuffing, and hearts you can whisper wishes into.

Sometimes you’ve got to do “the Noah.” Hand up, eyes shielded from the hindrance. I have walked past a plate of cookies like that, “Heather, do NOT make eye contact with the snickerdoodles! Don’t do it! NOOOOO!” Or maybe it’s toxic relationships that always lead to gossip. You feel the words forming in your mouth. Man, you want to say it… you’ve just got to! You can spin it, no problem. It’s already justified in your mind! You’ve got to get it off your chest and you are sure your friends will want to “pray” about it too. But then, in the moment you don’t ignore the Voice… His Voice… and you do “the Noah” except you put your hand over your mouth. “Not today!” you declare to yourself. His Spirit and His strength is enough to walk past this temptation. Or maybe you find yourself lusting for a different life, as you pine over all the “perfect” lives on Facebook/Instagram. Or maybe you stalk your ex on social media, just “checking up” on him or her. Or perhaps you secretly find it hard to celebrate the blessings experienced by others because of your own jealousy and discontentment?

I love the imagery in the NIV, it says “let us throw off everything that hinders.” Us—me and you—we throw it off. No one else can do it for us. We’ve got to chuck the sin that ensnares us. We THROW it off! And with His strength, it can be done, even if we have to do it over and over and over and gosh dang it, over again!

So… what’s hindering you? Do you know? Are you aware of the “sin that so easily entangles” you? Or maybe you aren’t sure. Maybe you need to ask the God who loves you with an everlasting, life-giving kind of love, what has got you tied up. You don’t have to fear these revelations, because freedom is at stake. May we have ears to hear and hearts willing to throw off everything that hinders us as we RUN—turning our eyes upon Jesus. He is our prize! He is our strength in the midst of temptation. He is more than enough! He gives us strength even if we are face to face with… Build-A-Bear.

_______________________

To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book: go here

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If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

Dear Easter Bunny, would you die for me?

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by Heather {Spring} Gilion

Dear Easter Bunny,

Would you die for me?

And when you do, can you not stay dead? On the third day, when all hope seems lost, can you rise from the dead and conquer death? Not just your death, but ours too?

Can you forgive my sins? Do your veins contain blood that can wash me white as snow? And can your blood seal my freedom?

Can you be my Rescuer? My Savior? Can you promise that whatever I go through, that I won’t be alone… that if need be, I will be held?

Can you be my friend… my best friend? Will you reveal mysteries to me in the quiet places? Can you speak to me in the middle of the night to soothe my anxious and trembling heart? Can you be that still small voice that directs me to go to the left or the right? Can you make me brave?

Can you give me eyes to see those that are desperate and needy? Can you give strength to these hands and feet to accomplish a mission that is beyond me?

Can you promise that your bunny spirit will live inside of me, making me more like you little by little; more like the “me” I was always meant to be?

Can you prepare a place for me in the Heavens that I can call home? Will you promise me, that at some point, you will come again and make all things right? And at that time, will you wipe away all my tears? Will you put an end to disease, evil, and pain? Will you put an end to goodbyes? (I hate goodbyes.)

Easter Bunny, can you be our only Hope in this crazy, broken world?

No? You can’t do these things?!?! You are not able? Alrighty, then. How about this Easter we both turn our attention to the One who was, and is, and will always be ENOUGH. Although I think you are cute and fluffy and who doesn’t like the chocolate version of you,  you have to agree, you don’t come close to measuring up. Oh my. This Jesus… Jesus…I can’t even say His name without my heart wanting to dance inside my chest, He is what Easter is all about. He alone deserves my attention and adoration this Easter. For He came, He died, and now lives! And I am smitten, just over-my-heels about Him. And He did all this living and dieing and rising, not just for me… but for ALL. JESUS died for all and He’s ALIVE for all!

So no offense. I will eat your candy, and I’ll hide some eggs because my kids and I think it’s fun, but I will worship my Jesus. So take a knee, cottontail, He is King of all!

_______________________

To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book: go here

b59b9-domacover

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

A better-than-chocolate, Valentine #Giveloveaway

by Heather Gilion

When I’m not in the throws of being Super Mom or Super Wife or just Super Crazy,

or when I’m not traveling with my sister Holly sharing Jesus with all my Fristers (friends + sisters),

or when I’m not writing and sharing my thoughts with those on the other side of the screen…

I am painting.

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Photo credit to Ziegler Photography

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Photo credit to Ziegler Photography

A year ago I started doing this thing… I started using one of my talents in a new way. I had no idea I’d be up to my neck in orders a year later, but that’s what happened when I said,

“God, what could You do with this?”

So, yes. I’ve been silent on this blog for far too long. I’m striving to learn balance in all the ahhmazing things God has birthed in my heart to do. But even though I may have seemed silent on the blog, it’s only because my paint brush has become another way I use my voice. So I thought it was time to give my two worlds a proper introduction. Shake hands, why don’t you! I think you are going to like one another.

If you’ve read our book, Dancing On My Ashes, then you know it is FULL of Scripture upon Scripture that God used to speak into my life and bring healing to my bones. His Word gave me direction, hope, fire, home-sickness, joy, peace… purpose. A year ago I prayed,

“God, what could You do with this hobby of mine? It’s Yours! These hands are Yours. My time is Yours. Show me how to use it to point people to You.”

Well, be careful what you pray for, right?

No! Pray. Don’t be scared. Pray them BIG prayers, it’s fun. Well, I’m watching God do what only He can do with a willing heart and refurbished wood and paint. You see, the Scriptures that I’ve treasured in my heart are now hanging on walls in homes all across the country. I started with some of MY favorite verses and then requests started pouring in for me to paint YOUR favorite verses.

“Can you make Isaiah 41:10 for my wife. It was the verse she clung to all through chemo.”

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“I’d love to have a piece with Ephesians 3: 20 hanging in my home. I went to a women’s conference and God really used it to speak into my life.”

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“We are adopting from Africa, and this verse is why.”

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“John 1:5 is our verse. We have been called into the darkness to stand as a beacon of light.”

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“I’m praying this for my grand baby.”

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“Joshua 24:15 needs to hang in our home for our friends and family to see that we are anchored to Him.”

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“Jeremiah 29:11 always seems to bring me back to the truth that I can trust HIS plan for my life.”

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Sometimes I just paint what is on my heart and watch how God will use it.

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And almost every time, story after story would emerge of how God chose to use each piece to display His goodness to His people. A love that is more than just wood and paint… it’s a supernatural love that pursues us. Relentless. Beautiful. Present.

Look where this piece ended up! It was purchased to be placed in a new shelter in Ethiopia through a beautiful organization called “Out of the Ashes.” She sent me a picture yesterday and I bawled my eyes out!

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“Can you paint my mom’s final words she said to my sister and I before she passed away?”

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Other times I have been asked to paint favorite songs…

“My mom’s favorite song is Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) by Chris Tomlin. I’d love to surprise her with it.”

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“My sister and her family want the Creed hanging in their home as the theme of their lives.”

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These three pieces were made for families after losing children. Can you imagine the tears I shed over each of these pieces?

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So this is just a quick look at all the fun God is letting me have in painting truth on wood😉 And it all comes back to this for me.

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HIS Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. I will continue to ask God to use what I have. My gifts at times feel like a couple loaves of bread and some fish, but when we take those things and hold them up to God we can watch what ONLY HE can do with them. I’m thankful to get to paint and meditate on His love letter to His people.

Which brings me to the gist of this post. I thought it would be fun to do a little giveaway. I’m calling it a Give-Love-Away! #giveloveaway

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Here are three pieces and I’m going to give ONE away on Valentine’s Day!

#1 Be Still

#2 It is well with my soul

#3 The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me {psalm 138:8}

I’m also giving away our book, Dancing On My Ashes to the winner! Follow steps one through three below and you’ll be officially entered… #4 and #5 give you an extra shot.

  1. “Like” the “Story Designs” Facebook page: StoryDesignsBySandH
  2. “Like” our “Dancing On My Ashes” Facebook page: DancingOnMyAshes
  3. Leave a comment here on this blog stating which art piece you’d like to win and why. {Maybe you want to enter to win one of these pretty pieces for someone else? That would be AWESOME! Enter to win FOR THEM! That would be in line with #giveloveaway!}
  4. Share this post with the hashtag #giveloveaway and get your name in the drawing twice! Whoop whoop!
  5. Follow the blog while you’re at it and get ANOTHER ENTRY in the drawing!

I will announce the winner on Valentine’s Day! Entry deadline is February 13, 2015, at midnight (CST). The winner must be in the lower 48, unless you want to pay the extra charge for international shipping.

Okay! I think that’s it! Happy liking and sharing and giveloveaway-ing!

{Story3} Suicide Interrupted

In our November {Thankfulness} series we are having a blast sharing YOUR incredible, redemptive God-stories! This one is a doozy! I (Heather) can’t wait for you to hear from Amy Fritz. If you were to meet Amy you might quickly assess she has a rare beauty that she possesses. Sure, she is outwardly stunning, but there’s a beauty that radiates from her soul. Looking in on her life, you could quickly assume, she’s got it all: she’s a newlywed, she’s a tennis all-star, she’s got hair that should be on commercials, and she has the sweetest little giggle when you talk to her. She’s adorbs! I worshiped in the same room with her for years before I learned her story. Can I just say, I LOVE when people share their God-stories because we see His love abound through one another. Watch this beautiful love story unfold… I introduce you to Amy.


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by Amy Fritz

There is not a second of your life where God is not present. Even in the days where He seems far away. Even in your darkest hours. He is there.

If you have doubts, if you’re struggling to hold on, if you’re overwhelmed by fear, or burdened by guilt and shame, this one’s for you.

I didn’t grow up “in Church”…I occasionally went to church, but not very often. I owned a Bible, but other than my name being written on it, I couldn’t identify with it. I knew of a man named Jesus, but I did not know Him. I always saw God as this faraway being that wanted nothing to do with me or my life.

Let me start from the beginning.

I grew up with a single mom and was the youngest of three kids. My mom did everything in her power to give us a good life, and she always put us before herself. During my childhood she decided we would pack our bags and move to southwest Florida to get a fresh start. Things seemed really good for us. I went to a great school, was a competitive tennis player, and even lived on a beautiful, tropical island.

I should have been the happiest girl in the world, right?

But I had my share of failures, secrets, and insecurities.

As I got older I was constantly putting a great deal of pressure on myself. Pressure to fit in, to look a certain way, to get better grades, to please others, to be a better tennis player, and the list goes on and on. I was constantly searching for approval. I thought that if I did all of the “right” things I would have more control over my life, and then nothing bad would ever happen to me

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Well, that wasn’t the case, at all. Because sometimes, you have absolutely no control over anything, and there’s really nothing you can do about it.

I was only fourteen years old when I was raped.

I didn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t tell anyone. I was too ashamed. Was I pregnant? Did I have an STD? No one could ever know about this! I thought that if I just ignored what happened, that it would eventually go away. Of course, I tried, but it never goes away.

My life was a living nightmare. I closed my eyes and it was there. I opened my eyes and it was there. It haunted me. I was broken. I was afraid. I was so alone. The self-blame was eating me alive. I lost all control of everything I ever knew. This girl who used to have it all together, who was happy, was now a complete mess. My world was crashing down on me, and it was happening quickly.

During this season I was running down a dark and dangerous path. No substance could fill the emptiness I felt inside. I was numb. Pills, drinking, cutting, partying, boys—I tried it all, and nothing worked. Maybe it helped me forget for a brief moment, but every morning I would wake up lower than where I started the night before. I was overcome with depression. I was filled with fear, and I was ready to end it all…

One night, on August 23rd 2007, I was five minutes away from doing just that. Ending it all seemed like the only road to freedom.

I remember crying so hard I couldn’t breathe, and being so afraid that I was shaking. I had everything I needed to end my life, the only thing left to do was commit. There was so much tension between my head and my heart. I didn’t want to do it, but I felt like I had no other choice. Out of anger and frustration I began throwing things around my room. In a rage I began shoving a bunch of stuff off a bookshelf. Books fell on the floor, but only one book fell on the floor and opened—my very dusty Bible.

Startled, I caught my breath, knelt down, and began to read.

It was opened to Isaiah 43, which says,

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called you by name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.”

God does not call us by our shame; He calls us by our name.

I read those Words over, and over, and over. I couldn’t get enough of them. The fear began to vanish as God’s grace drew near.

His presence was so real. Those Words were so real. His undeniable love was so real.

The truth is, never once was He far from me. He was there the day I took my first breath. He was there when I was packing my bags for our “fresh start.” He was there… when I was raped. As hard as that reality is, I was never alone. And here He was, in the moment I was about to take my own life, desperate for me to hear that He was near and that He loved me.

That night changed my life forever. I cried out to God for the first time. I was vulnerable with Him. I begged for His mercy. I knew that I could no longer live on my own. I was aware of my humanity, as I was face to face with His otherness. He was greater than anything I had ever imagined or believed. I decided from that moment forward to give everything I had to Him. My past, my present, and my future. Jesus forgave me! He restored my purity, He adopted me as His own, and He filled my life with new hopes and dreams. He set me FREE!

Today, I can say that was over seven years ago. Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of the goodness and faithfulness of God. He saved my life, and I am forever thankful.

I think what amazes me the most, is that God—this awesome, majestic, powerful creator—chose to meet me in such an intimate way to deal with my intimate wounds. In that moment of desperation, He met me right where I was. He knows us. He knows exactly what we need.

It has not been an easy journey, but it has been a remarkable one. God has saved my family and has filled my life with so much love. He has brought so many other godly people into my life through the years that have stood by my side and fought with me. They have prayed with me, shed tears with me, and given me wise counsel. God is continually healing and sanctifying me by His grace alone. I am so undeserving, yet He is still so good to me. His Church is full of broken sinners in need of grace, and I am one of them.

This handsome guy is one of the main characters God has placed in my redeeming love story. This is my husband, Caleb, who pursued me with absolute patience and grace. He is the kindest, most respectful, caring man that I know, and his gospel saturated heart brings me closer to Christ and His love every day.

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Maybe you’re like me or have faced a similar situation and you’re too afraid to tell someone. Let me just say, fear not. It’s not your fault that something like this happened to you. Don’t let shame hinder the healing process. Jesus is able.

And ladies, guard your purity. Guard it with all of your heart. Wait for a man who will do the same. Don’t take purity for granted. Parents, guard your daughters. Husbands, guard your wives. Educate yourselves well, and be aware: 1 in 6 girls are sexually abused, and 60% of those incidents will go unreported. If someone is sexually abused, they are 26 times more likely to abuse substances and are 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Please, don’t take that lightly.

My prayer today is that God would be glorified through my story. I hope this is an encouragement and reminder that He is near and His love for you is unimaginable.

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If you missed the first two posts in this November {Thankfulness} series go here:

{Story1} The 14 questions my husband asked me

{Story2} The Redeemed “Other” Woman

To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book: go here

Dancing On My Ashes (in ebook form) is available through the month of November for $2!

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

{Story 2} The Redeemed “Other” Woman

the redeemed other woman

In this November {Thankfulness} series, we are super-duper proud to introduce you to the woman who changed our diapers and braided our hair. Our mom! She has always been the one we wanted to “be when we grew up!” We could gush all day over our mom, but if we did that you wouldn’t get to hear her amazing God-story! You, or someone you know, might need to hear what she has learned on her journey. We are so proud of her for bravely standing in the light, when most would cower in the closet. We introduce you to, the one and only, our mom, Diane Cary.


God has a plan for your life.
The enemy has a plan for your life.
Be ready for both.
Just be wise enough to know
Which one to battle – Which one to embrace.
-unknown author

by Diane Cary

I was raised in a Christian home, went to church, knew right from wrong, read my Bible on a daily basis as a teen, attended a Christian college, married a Christian man, and was blessed with 6 beautiful children – Holly, Heather, Heidi, Heath, Hannah, and Hunter. So how did I find myself becoming the “other” woman?

My oldest daughters shared their story in the book, Dancing On My Ashes. So if you’ve read it, you know that my husband Evan suffered a stroke that the doctors didn’t think he would recover from when he was 40. You’ve read how there were many ups and downs due to his health. You learned that 9 years after the initial stroke, he passed away. AND THEN… nine months later Holly and Heather lost their husbands, Scott and James. But as you read about our ashes, you also read how our God was faithful. There’s no doubt that we’ve gone through so much, but we’ve also learned along the way, that if we keep our eyes on Jesus and trust God that He will bring us through. HE WILL and HE HAS.

We have learned to take a day at a time.

We have learned that in our weakness, He is made strong.

We have learned that if our heart is broken, we’ll find God right there.

You may think – Wow! What an awesome family because of all the glorious stories you can tell. However, there is one story I am not proud of. A time in my life that I wanted to keep hidden in a dark little corner. A time when I turned away from God and went down my own path. This was a time in my life that I wish had never happened. Have you ever experienced a time like that? Have you ever wished you could go back and change the past because of choices you’ve made?

The Lord has been dealing with me regarding this time. You see, I became the “other” woman. I was unfaithful to my husband. I committed adultery.

I had meant every word of the vows I declared on our wedding day. Every word. So how did I end up breaking these promises? My only explanation: I became a woman who thought only of herself, and as I chose this destructive path, I hurt my husband, I hurt my children, I hurt a dear friend of mine, I hurt her family, I hurt my church, I hurt my Heavenly Father, and I hurt myself.

You see, I had an affair with my boss, the pastor of my church.

It’s still hard to say out loud.

I would like to believe that I was out of my head at this time. I was stretched to the limit. Anyone looking in at my life would’ve agreed. Our daughter Hannah had just been born and shortly after my husband suffered a stroke that put him in the hospital for 7 months. I would drop my newborn baby off at a friend’s home and then spend the day at the hospital. Once Evan was released and brought home, I would get him up every morning and walk him to a lounge chair where he would sit for the day, and then off to work I would go. I spent my lunch hour rushing home to fix Evan something to eat and give him his meds, and then dart back to work. Then at the end of the day, I would race back home to take care of him, fix supper, take care of my children, wash dishes, do laundry, clean the house, make sure homework was done and teeth were brushed. {Moms, you know the routine.} If someone had an “excuse,” I did. But there really are no excuses.

I was so frazzled that I didn’t have time for myself . . . and worst of all, I didn’t “have” time for the Lord. I was running on empty. So when my boss came to me with enticing words, at first I laughed at him and ignored what he was saying. But I think I became a game to him and he began coming on stronger and stronger until one day… one regrettable day…I caved. And once I stepped over that line, I didn’t know how to get back. I wanted to cry out for help, but I didn’t know who to talk to. I wanted to cry out to God, but since I was living in sin, I thought He wouldn’t be listening. I was a mess and felt as if I was all alone. Alone in my shame. Alone bearing my secrets.

Once the affair came to an end, my life did too. I was now a woman of shame. We were shunned by some in the church, which led me to assume my whole church family hated me. I couldn’t blame them. In their eyes I had hurt their pastor. And it was true, I had hurt his family. I was a disgrace to all those I had called friends and family. We left our church home because I was an embarrassment.

A beautiful part of this grace-story was that I was married to a man who didn’t believe in divorce. The fact was: I really did love Evan. Yet when I looked in the mirror, I was face to face with the “other” woman. I didn’t like her. I hated her. Where had she come from? I never planned on becoming her.

For the next 6 years, we worked at putting our marriage back together. It was rough. It was not easy. It seemed impossible at times. There were arguments, days of crying, moments of wanting to give up . . . BUT God.

That’s really it right there: But God, and only God!

He takes our unimaginable, don’t-even-want-to-say-it-out-loud messes and turns them around for His glory and our good! He taught Evan and I how to fill our home and our marriage with grace that abounds. Our Emmanuel, God with us, gave us the fight in our marriage. He also gave us dear friends who didn’t shun us, but stood by our side, fighting for our marriage. During this time, I wanted to move far, far away so we could start over. But for some reason the Lord would not allow us to leave. He forced me to face my past.

When you are a victim in a hurtful situation, everyone feels sorry for you and is quick to be there for you. But when you are the “bad” guy, people pretty much leave you alone. I remember being in Wal-Mart buying groceries and seeing someone from our old church in the distance coming my way. Of course I was nervous to see them, but as we got closer, our eyes met. That, once-upon-a-time friend, stopped, turned around, and went the other way. My heart sank. Didn’t they know that I had asked God to forgive me? Didn’t they know that we were trying to put our marriage back together? Didn’t they know that I was hurting inside? Didn’t they know that I needed a friend?

I think the hardest thing about putting my marriage back together was forgiving myself. Why did I do this and who was I? Many nights I cried out to God asking Him these questions and then one night I felt His tender arms surround me, just holding me. My prayer that night was . . .

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”   Psalm 51:10-12

I felt God’s redeeming love and His forgiveness. God began doing a work in my heart. I was no longer the “other” woman, but God was making me a “new” woman. His woman.

Seven years after Evan’s death, Bill came into my life and what a blessing he has been to me and my kids. A lot has happened since then – even more healing has taken place within me.

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Bill has been God’s gift to me and our family!

Shortly after Bill and I got married, Holly and Heather wrote their book, Dancing on My Ashes. I was so proud of them and so excited seeing all of the things the Lord had been doing in their hearts and lives. What an awesome journey they have been on! Even though they had this beautiful story they were telling, the enemy would come to me and remind me of my past. “Look how your girls have been faithful and strong in God, but you were weak and became an embarrassment to your family. You are such a failure.”

I knew that was my past and I knew that I had been forgiven – it was just hard to forget what I had done. But as God was writing a beautiful story for my girls, He was also writing my story. With Bill’s encouragement, our family returned to my “old” church home! That was a miracle in itself, because for years I had said I would never go back because of what I had done. But “somehow” I found myself back inside those walls. Somehow? No, more like there was Someone wanting me to return to face my past. Heidi, my third daughter, began leading worship there, and asked me to join her as a backup singer. My heart leaped for joy because I love to sing, but at the same time I was apprehensive, I wasn’t sure how the church members would take seeing me again.

I could just hear them: Why is she back? Why does she think she should be up front singing? Can you remember the mess she was a part of? Who does she think she is? Once again, the enemy was beating me down.

One Sunday while I was singing up front, these hurtful thoughts started coming to my mind again. As I closed my eyes in frustration, I felt the Lord gently ask these questions,

“Why are you a backup singer?
Are you singing for yourself and for your glory? Are you singing for these people?
Or are you here to sing to Me?”
And in my heart, I responded, “I’m singing to You, Jesus.”
And He replied, “Then sing to Me.”

As I began to sing, I focused my attention totally on Him and with that, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I felt freedom like I had never felt before. I was so free! Have you ever felt completely free? Freedom that makes you want to dance? Now, I didn’t dance (because I didn’t want to fall over my feet), but I sure was wearing the biggest smile on my face! My heart was dancing, because for the first time I believed God saw me as forgiven, beautiful, NEW! I was no longer “other” I was His, redeemed by grace. He didn’t want my past hurt or sin to haunt me. He had freedom in mind for me. Today my heart sings of His joy and love that makes a “wretch like me” a friend. He is my forever love.

Can God use me with a past like this? Yes, yes, yes!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,
“and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29.11-14

I have experienced His forgiveness.
I have experienced His mercy and His redeeming love.
I have experienced His strength in time of need.
I have experienced a forgiving love from my church body.
I now guard my heart. I make time for my Heavenly Father every day.
I have Jesus! He is my everything! He is my all!

 

wall six

The Wall Six! From left to right: Hunter, Hannah, Heidi, Holly, Heather, and Heath

 


If you missed the first post in this November {Thankfulness} series go here: The 14 questions my husband asked me

To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book: go here

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here