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)

 

_______________________

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

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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

_______________________

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?

IMG_6999

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.

IMG_8538

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

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

{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

Suffering: A journey into the deep

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

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People always say that tragedy changes you. It does. It has.

Fourteen years have come and gone. It’s been fourteen years ago today when I changed. I’m not the same girl I once was. Maybe she went underground when I buried James. I don’t know.

Most of the time it feels like an entire lifetime has passed when I stop and reflect on the Other Heather and the Other Heather’s life. And yet there are fleeting moments that it feels like just yesterday I was standing in my sister’s cute, little house in Calais, Vermont, pulling my hair back into a ponytail to get ready for another day as camp guide for a bunch of campers at Pathway Ministries.

I had no idea that the day would end with so many questions.
When someone you love goes missing…
When you wonder if you’ll ever see them again…
Surely you’re going to see them again? Right?

The fact is, when the life you’ve been living becomes a pile of ashes, there’s no going back. There’s no “undo” button to push for a do-over, as much as you might want one. It’s not an option.

Married one moment. Widowed the next. That was my story, and my sister’s.

But it’s been fourteen years. I never thought I’d be able to say that. But look at that!

{Last year on the anniversary I wrote on coping with hard days on the calendar: No-Good-Rotten Anniversaries. It’s been one of our most read and shared posts, so obviously there’s many of you out there wrestling with some of the same things we are. Feel free to go back and read it if that interests you.}

Holly and I have some new friends from Africa; two women, who are as close as sisters, who lost their husbands in the same accident this year. These widows are beginning their journey among their ashes, weeping more than they’re laughing, aching more than they’re sleeping, but trusting in a God that is near the brokenhearted. I recently got to Skype with one of these lovely beauties. We laughed. We cried. I listened. She listened. She reminded me of me. As I prepared for our conversation I thought, “What would I have said to me? What love was spoken over me in my darkest hours?” She made me remember my journey. She’s broken but she’s clinging. I’m proud of her. Oceans between us, but the hug felt the same.

She said, “I know the answer to this question… I mean, I know God is sovereign and good, so I know the answer to this question,” she repeated, “but… is it going to be okay?”

With tears streaming down my face, I could confidently say, “It will be.”

Today is yet another anniversary where I remember when everything changed. Over the last few days I’ve found myself in deep thought. So here’s what I want to say on today of all days… and I’m praying that it will be a blessing to some of you out there as you journey on. For those who have walked through tragedy, you’re going to get this. Whether loss, rejection, suffering, torment, warring internal or externally—however your “tragedy” may have played out, you began a journey into the deep. This journey would forever change you. In honor of my journey, I want to share a few key lines from a movie I just watched with my boys.

Noah is crazy about turtles. So after a “turtle” search on Netflix we stumbled upon—Turtle: The Incredible Journey.

It is the story of a little loggerhead turtle that begins life on a beach in Florida. The narrator takes you through the turtle’s life into the sea with all its perils and hardships. “But the odds are stacked against her; just one in ten thousand turtles survive the journey through the deep.”

On a side note, I paint as a hobby and I’ll admit, I originally turned on the movie for the boys because I had a pallet to paint. I was enjoying listening to the boys rooting for this turtle. But as I painted, I listened. The narrator may have been talking about the turtle, but I felt as though she began telling my story. Line after line, I took it in. I was rooting for her—for me.

And so she becomes an ocean traveler. Her flippers are made for going not staying.

There was a moment, wounds and all, that I moved into the waters. I was not made to stay. I was made to swim—to swim in the deep. But living after your life is wrecked is not the easiest thing to do. You want to shut down. You want to hide under the covers. You want to run to whatever doesn’t make you feel the pain… even if it’s for a second. But there was a time when I started swimming again, because that’s what I was made to do. I wasn’t made for staying. I was made for going. You were too. So you go. You may cry as you go, but you still go, for you are not alone.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” {Isaiah 43:2}

Time is for her to grow strong, for her shell to harden, for her skin to thicken.

I was growing and didn’t even know it. Obstacles would come, such as sleeping alone, making decisions, fighting off tormenting thoughts, serving others in need, grocery shopping by myself, getting a job, mowing my grass. All seemed like small, meaningless tasks, but God was using each to grow me up. I remember talking to a pastor who reminded me that when his son broke his arm; he obviously couldn’t use it for a while. He had to wear a cast for an extended amount of time. But when the time was right the cast was taken off and he started using it again. At first it felt awkward and a little stiff, but as time passed, he entered back into his normal rhythm of life—pre-fracture. He reminded me that broken bones actually grow back thicker and stronger than they were to begin with. His words gave me a small glimmer of hope. Could that be possible in me? Will it be okay? I mean, I know it will, but how?

She takes her place among the other travelers of the blue highway.

I wasn’t alone. I’m not the only one trying to survive. I’m not the only one fighting for my life. I learned who to “swim” with. But there were others in the waters that at times I couldn’t avoid. Unfriendly travelers I had to face straight on, whether I chose to or not.

The Blue Shark is here too. But the turtle is no longer afraid of her. Her shell is harder.

I remember the time I felt confident in my singleness. There was a strength within me that can only be attributed and explained as an anchor in Christ. A relationship with God had developed that satisfied my longing for a man to call me his bride. I was already “taken,” “sought after,” “redeemed,” “loved,” “cherished,” “His!” So when the enemies of the deep, a.k.a. my Blue Sharks: loneliness, bitterness, solitude, jealousy, anger, memories of my past—as they taunted me to give up or as they tried their best to swallow me whole, I was no longer afraid of the fight. For my shell was harder. I was ready come what may. I was confident that there was indeed One fighting for me, through me, and with me.

The storm threw her off course. But she is not lost. She’s never lost.

At some point within the first few years, new dreams would rise up. Dreaming again was a scary thing for me. To watch your world go up in flames and then to rebuild among the ruins was scary to say the least. But little by little, I would swim in one direction, only to have a storm push me around and seemingly thwart my course. Sometimes there were tears, wondering why I ever dared to dream again! Other times, there was a reassurance within my soul that nothing was lost, because He was in charge of my path. I could count on that. Reassured that He would never leave me or forsake me, I would press on. Pressing on by pressing my ear against His chest. Listening to His heart. Striving to follow His leading. I wasn’t lost. I was never lost.

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” {Isaiah 30:21}

The Loggerhead Turtle’s journey was emotional for me. But just as I finished painting the piece I was working on, I heard this line,

“If she had come here before now she never would have survived.”

I sat there for a moment, my paintbrush hanging on the last stroke. And ever so kindly, I heard God speak to my heart. “If you would have come here before now you never would have survived.”

I sat back and looked at my painting. It was one of those moments for me.

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It was all too much. He’s too much. His kindness to this loggerhead turtle is just too overwhelming. Most turtles die on their voyage. Why am I here? How did I survive? It’s not because I was strong enough or read the right self-help books, or memorized the right Scriptures, or sang the perfect songs for what I was going through… although God did use all of those things at pivotal times along the journey through the deep. I’m alive because of His great love for me. For HE knows the plans HE has for ME! I can only boast in one thing.

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” {Galatians 6:14}

I know for me, today, I’m reflecting on my journey in the deep. There’s purpose in the deep. There’s purpose in the pain. There’s purpose in every leg of your journey. And at just the right time, you will be able to look back and see His hand along the way. This turtle’s journey into the deep has forever changed her life. I’m different now. I’m stronger. A little wiser. A lot bolder. I see life a little more clearly. I love differently. The Other Heather is dead and gone, but new life has risen in her place as today I celebrate the ashes He’s made beautiful in His time.

To my fellow turtles out there: swim in the deep. Your flippers were made for going, not staying. There will be predators that threaten your life. There will be storms that try to throw you off course. You will wonder if it’s worth the effort. But as one turtle to another—swim! Go deep. For He has plans for you… an unforgettable, purposeful journey.

____

Want to hear more of the story?
Holly and I wrote a book about our journey called Dancing On My Ashes.
It’s a beautiful picture of restoration, and recounts God’s faithfulness on every page.
Prepare yourself to weep and rejoice with us.

You can also watch our 3 minute story here.

P.S. Dancing On My Ashes is ON SALE for a limited time

when you order through us:

Paperback $9 {+ shipping/handling} & the first 100 ebooks sold are ONLY $3. Click HERE!

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What I learned running a 5K with my son

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

Noah, my seven-year-old, was eavesdropping on a conversation I was having with my hubby about an upcoming 5K. “I want to run with you, Mom.” The hubs and I looked at each other and I started coming up with all the reasons why that probably wasn’t a good idea. I mean, he’s never run that far, that I know of. He’s all boy, so he basically runs everywhere, all day, everyday, but is he ready to RUN? Is that DFS hotline material? I mean, it sounds like child abuse if I let him, right? Is he old enough to be doing that sort of thing? But every reason seemed to fall flat as we heard his pleading and true desire to mark this off his bucket list. (If 7-year-olds have those sorts of things.)

We came up with a plan: we’ll do a practice run. If he perseveres through 3 miles running with mom through boring neighborhood roads then I’ll say yes.

We laced up our tennis shoes and headed out on our “rehearsal.” Little four-year-old brother, I’ll call him “Mini Me,” was SO distraught as we were leaving that he convinced me that he was up for the challenge too! (Now you’re calling the cops aren’t you? Well, no need.) Daddy Long Legs came to keep Mini Me company if indeed his legs tuckered out.

So, you’re wondering how did it go?

Actually… It was like eating double-stuffed Oreos. It was better than I thought it would be. And I wanted more. It’s always fun when your kids get old enough to introduce them to something you enjoy. The boys and I discussed what we saw in the clouds, I heard their little feet hitting the pavement, and we laughed about seeing worms and birds and cement trucks. They did great! At one point Noah and I left Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me so they could walk a bit. But Noah and I continued our trek around the neighborhood. When he needed a break, we’d walk. I’d point towards a landmark and say, “Do you think you can make it to the trash can up there?” And then off we’d go. During the last mile, I pointed toward a mile marker to see if he could make it there before we walked and he suggested we pick one farther out. “I like to push myself, Mom.” Well, okay, then 😉

Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me were waiting in our driveway to celebrate our arrival. As we entered our street, I told Noah that I usually sprint the last little bit.

“Why, mom?”

“Well, I know I’m about to finish, so I give it all I’ve got. I push myself, knowing that the end is in reach and so I just go for it. Are you ready?”

“GO!” He said. We sprinted. As fast as we could, we ran. We gave it all we had. Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me cheered for us. We made it, laughing, high-fiving, and beaming because we did it!

We completed our 5K rehearsal!

We completed our 5K rehearsal!

A few days later as I tucked Noah in, I told him I’d be waking him up really early for our race. “I’m going to try and get good sleep tonight, Mom, but I’m just so excited, what if I can’t fall asleep?” Noah said as he yawned and drifted off to la la land.

Morning came and as I woke him, before he even had the energy to open his eyes, he grinned and said, “I’m ready for our race!”

We snacked on a banana and grabbed some toast for the road.
We drank our water, arrived on site, and checked in.
With our numbers fastened to our shirts, we stretched and then went one last time in the port-a-potty.

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Joining the other runners, we took turns grinning and nudging one another during the National Anthem because the time had come! I probably hugged him too much, but then again, probably not.

And without further ado… gunshot! The race was underway.

It’s one of those moments in time that I wish I could mentally have on video to replay anytime I wish. Our feet pounded the pavement and our smiles stretched from ear to ear. We were off. “We’re all running together,” he laughed. I laughed.

One thing that’s pretty unique when you’re running with a kid, everyone cheers when you pass by. I LOVED watching his face light up when someone called out a cheer or encouragement his way. Every time, his speed picked up and I would have to push myself to get back in rhythm with him.

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I love this picture because he’s excited that he sees a water station.

We talked. We laughed. We ran. We passed people. We were passed by people. Strangers and friends were cheering for my little athlete. He was working hard. I felt like every few minutes I’d say, “You want to walk a bit?” Most of the time he wouldn’t take me up on it. Or if he would, someone would pass us and he’d immediately want to start up again. He put me in my place quite often, “This isn’t really running, Mom. This is jogging.” Well, he was right. But we were making good time.

We drank our water and I even showed him how to wear it.

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We talked about school, summer, and what he’s learning. We talked about the horse that we jogged by and how creative God was to make all this. He again, didn’t like it when someone passed him so he would speed up as if he was saying, “Oh yeah?”

As we approached the last leg of the race, the anticipation of finishing started to set in. I was so proud of him. I told him so. As I was explaining to Noah that we were about to enter the park and that the finish line was less than a half a mile away, I started hearing more cheers. Strangers and friends were loving on my boy, encouraging his little heart and his little legs to not give up. His speed picked up. I saw him grab his side at one point, “Noah, you want to walk for a minute? Seriously, we can walk, buddy.”

“No, I’m fine.” This kid was booking it. I was almost laughing at this point and it’s hard to laugh and run at the same time, but I had to focus to keep up with him. The cheering continued and there it was… the glorious FINISH line! Mini Me was standing on the side-line waving with all his might. His brother was trucking along, and we had our sights set on the finish line.

We sprinted.
I was cheering.
Others were cheering.
And TOGETHER we crossed the finish line! Our time was 35:36!

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It was glorious. It was a celebration. My partner in crime pushed himself and completed what he set out to do. Was he tired? Yes! But it was a good tired. A happy tired. A satisfied tired as we told Daddy Long Legs and Mini Me all about our great adventure! Now where are the pancakes?

So, here’s two lessons I learned (am learning) from all of this:

1. Take a walk/run with the short people in your life. Okay, maybe your 13 year old is taller than you now, but you get what I’m saying. There’s something about physical activity that makes you feel good, plus you have a destination and a goal that you are moving toward, and you’re doing it together. The company is sweet and the distractions end up being “good” distractions. They usually lead to some real bonding moments.

2. Encouragement is fuel. Noah ran faster when people were cheering for him, to the point I struggled with keeping up, towards the end. What a picture of how we are to live this life. There will be times when you are running the “race” and at just the right time you hear it—applause, the cheers, verbal confidence that others believe in you—and it fans your flame. In that moment, stopping is not an option, even though you may be at your end, strength rises up and you push harder and dig deeper. You are not alone. As a mom, to see the impact that encouragers from the sidelines had on my sweet boy, it was priceless. They became a part of his race! And that’s how life is, isn’t it? When I look at my life and think about all the times I wanted to give up, but at just the right time, God sent someone in my life to encourage me:

When are you going to write that book?”
“You’re doing a really good job!”
“Are you weary? Can I pray for you?”
“I’ve been meaning to tell you that…”

Words can be like healing salve or gas in your tank. The Lord gave us one another to spur one another on (Hebrews 10:24). Applause should never be the reason we do what we do, but it can be just what the Lord wants to use to help you or someone else persevere.

“Just keep swimming” – Dory in Finding Nemo

This has caused me to evaluate my relationship with my kids. Am I encouraging them enough? Do they hear my cheers? Do they know I’m proud of them? How can I speak confidence into their little lives at just the right times? And then, in my relationship with my spouse and in my friendships—am I spurring them on to run with their eyes fixed on Jesus? Do they hear my cheers? Am I using my words to build up and not tear down? Do I use my opportunities enough to encourage my fellow racers? Or do I just assume they know I’m proud of them?

“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” {Hebrews 12: 1-2}

Encourage someone today!

And go run with a short person, you won’t regret it.

{Most of the photos in this post were taken by the amazing crew from the Heavy Duty Rebuilders Duck Waddle 5K Run/Walk.}

Brothers Gotta Hug: breaking up fights and teaching love

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

I LOVE summertime! Being under one roof is one of my favorite things. Yes, yes, I love a good date night or the occasional run to Target without Thing One and Thing Two running the aisles and throwing unapproved items in my cart. But for the most part, I like the relaxing days that summer brings. I’ll admit, we’ve already had a few days of changing out of one set of pajamas only to put on fresh ones for the night. (Don’t be jealous or judge…whichever you’re prone to do.)

My boys are the best of friends.

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{This wasn’t even taken on Halloween. Just a normal day at the Gilions.}

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But…

There are other moments. Moments when their smiles turn into scowls and I can see it in their eyes, they are done playing nice. A car is stolen. A Lego that ought not be played with is now laying in pieces. A beloved, stuffed kitty cat is bait as Thing One runs away from Thing Two. It can happen in a moment. They could have just smiled and given one another the biggest hug while saying, “You are the best brudder in all the world.” But when a line gets crossed, it’s almost like watching the Incredible Hulk take form. Their once sweet little hands that love high-fives and pushing cars through their Lincoln Log city, tighten up into fists. Breathing accelerates, a growl in the form of a war cry fills the room, and one tiny human storms the other. Before you know it someone is crying.

The worst is when you try breaking up a fight when you’re driving, right moms?

The other day, I heard a loud smack and then tears from my four-year-old. “Noah hit me!”

Noah tucked his head in his hands as I sternly asked, “What is going on?!?!” Zach through broken sobs repeated the offense, “Noah hit me!”

I exploded. Even in that moment, I knew it was not the way to handle the situation, but I’d had enough of their lack of love and respect for one another. In my best mom voice I yelled, “No! No! We are not going to do that. God didn’t give us hands to treat one another like that.”

“But why did God make us to hit one another?” Noah asked.

Before I could get out my explanation, Zach, (I’ll remind you again, he’s four!), stepped up, “God did NOT make us do that! We CHOSE to do it!”

The car grew silent. Taken aback, I said, “That’s absolutely the truth. God gave us one another to love, not to hurt one another! As your mom, I’m NOT going to stand for it! It breaks my heart when you hurt one another. But I get it. Sometimes we get frustrated and we don’t know what to do with how we’re feeling, so we lash out. But listen, Noah, God gave you a brother to care for. And, Zach, God gave you a brother to care for. Look at each other. Do it! Look at one another.”

They locked eyes. “You all were given a gift… one another.”

And then Noah asked this: “Who was the first person to ever hit?”

“Two brothers.” Even the answer caught me off guard. The irony of that was almost too much for me.

And then, as if we were in a scripted, cheesy, Christian movie, Noah asked, “What happened to them?”

I’m glad I had cooled down or I might’ve blurted out, “ONE KILLED THE OTHER!” But I have to admit, there was a lump in my throat as the gravity of that sentence played over and over in my head. We arrived at our destination and I was able to turn around and calmly talk to them about the gift of family, the responsibility we have to care and protect one another, and how God has called us to use our hands and our words to build one another up, not tear each other apart.

They were sorry and were soon hugging which turned into another wrestling match. {Yes, right there in the car.}

Two brothers. Cain and Abel. Were these brothers just like my Noah and Zach? Did they laugh and giggle, push and shove, wrestle and joke? Did they laugh at farts and like to be tickled by Daddy-Adam? Did they race one another to the tree or see who could jump higher? The Bible doesn’t give us all the dynamics to their relationship, but they were brothers so I can only imagine how many questions Eve had, being the only female surrounded by testosterone and stinky boys. But unlike me, she didn’t have a mom-gang to vent to via Facebook. She didn’t get those reassuring nods and hugs when they had play dates and shared life over coffee, “You’re not alone. They’re just being boys, Eve.” She had no self-help books on raising boys or how to deal with all the raging hormones. I wonder if she ever tried the get-along-shirt?

The get along shirt via http://danpearce.com

Or did Cain experience time outs or spankings? My thoughts could go on and on…. but the fact is, in the end, one brother was left with the other’s blood on his hands.

As a mom, you don’t get over that, I’m sure.

This mom thing is tough stuff. I want to raise godly men. Men that learn, even as boys, that their hands are not meant to tear down but to build up. For the brothers placed under my care, I want to train them to fight for one another and not with one another. I long to watch two brothers love enough to choose not to raise a fist to the other. I know. I know. They won’t be perfect and sin will raise its ugly head in my children, but I’ll continue to plead for their hearts. Because that’s what it boils down to anyway, right? When we lash out at another it’s because at the root of our disagreement our heart is ugly.

I like what Zachy said, “God did NOT make us do that! We CHOSE to do it!” It is a choice how we respond to one another. We can live always apologizing for our outbursts, (and we should confess and make things right when we sin against one another), but God offers us more than that. He offers strength to overcome the temptation to turn into the Hulk, wisdom to know how to use our words to build up, and love that shows grace even when we believe another deserves wrath. God warned Cain that if he didn’t get his anger under control, sin was crouching at the door. {Genesis 4:6-7} God told Cain that he could rule over that sin. And then in the very next sentence Cain lures his brother into the field and takes his life.

That’s really sad.

I bet Cain never thought that his anger would lead him to that field.

None of us do. So today, as you deal with the anger in your own heart or if you are wearing out your voice breaking up the quarrels-gone-wrong between your children, just remember we all make a choice in how we respond. Dads. Moms. Siblings. Family. Friends. Coworkers. Are you building up or tearing down? How’s your heart? What’s going on in there? What selfishness or pride is leading you to turn into the big green monster?

Part of my role as a mom is leading by example, so today, may I let God reveal the sin in my own heart.

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Glad you stopped by today! We pray that you were encouraged.}

Happy Mother’s Day: Why I’m glad you’re NOT perfect

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

This year for Mother’s Day, we didn’t procrastinate—we came up with the most spectacular gift for our momma! We are rarely ALL together, so we seized the moment and made plans for a mother/daughter photo shoot.

Here we are.

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Holly, Heidi, Mom (Diane), Heather, Hannah

We spent the night before making flower crowns, (which is not as easy as one might think), we coordinated outfits and tried on each other’s clothes. And ta-dah!

But you’ll never guess what led up to this picture right here.

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Or this one.

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I’m serious. You’re not going to be able to guess in a hundred million trillion years.

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You would never know moments prior to these pictures we almost got arrested, our cars were towed, and we were crawling on our bellies under a chain link fence to escape fines, charges, and mug shots. (Yes, even our Mom! Ooops! Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!) I can almost imagine our mug shots, though. {They would’ve been the cutest mug shots EVER, if there could be such a thing!}

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I told you, you wouldn’t guess, because look at our smiles! And we are REALLY laughing in some of these. We “look” like everything is right in the world. Like we don’t have a past or minutes before we weren’t running for our lives! We look like life is perfect and we are a bunch of flower-lovin’ hippies that just want world peace. Right? (And maybe, just maybe, we’re smiling because we’re not sitting in the back of a cop car in handcuffs.)

Sometimes when you peer into another person’s life via one little snapshot you assume you know their story. But the fact is you don’t know the road they’ve walked or the obstacles they’ve encountered or the mess they’ve made… you may just see a perfect little happy family. But life is untidy and chaotic and we can be careless with one another at times.

Can I take a moment to reflect on family for a minute? It’s a lot like this photo shoot from top to bottom. When we come together there’s opportunity for drama, adventure, trouble, poor choices, forgiveness, grace, laughter, tears… raw life. I can attest I’ve been schooled by all of these lovely ladies at one time or another, in a manner that has led to my growth. They have forgiven me and I’ve forgiven them. (Except for that time Holly called me a klutz or when Heidi cut my hair too short. I’m almost ready to forgive… almost.) But to really love one another we need Jesus at the center. And that’s when you get moments like this:

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A bond. It’s quite special, really. It’s called unconditional love. A love that grows as the clock ticks and tocks.

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

In this picture I see it. An awkward, messy, highly hormonal group of girls knowing one another and being known.

Here’s my thoughts on Mothers Day. I’m a fan. Not just because I’m a mom or I have a mom, or that I have the most amazing mother-in-law {Loretta} and mother-in-law {Penny} or because of my “other” mother {Glenda} that keeps me in line. No doubt, these are all extraordinary reasons, but there’s more to it. I think about the times I’ve failed as a mom or the times I’ve been frustrated that MY mom wasn’t perfect. Because of these imperfections I always come running back to grace. I’ve plunged headlong into it’s waters that have no shore. I’ve let His perfection cover my imperfections and I’ve swam in the deep. I’ve needed grace and I’ve extended it. I’ve learned as much by my mother’s shortcomings as I have in the moments she gets it right. In our weaknesses, and downright ugly moments even within the walls of our homes, we hear a whisper, “There’s more.”

This is a weird Mother’s Day blog, maybe, but what I’m getting at isn’t how frustrated I am that these women in my life aren’t perfect, or that I’m not perfect, it is in these shortcomings that I’m forever face to face with the truth that we have a GREAT NEED! There’s MORE to this life than living in the vicious cycle of trying in our own strength and failing over and over and over again. To be in family and to get it “wrong,” is an opportunity for grace to abound—for the gospel to actually play a role in the healing, restoration, and the bringing about of beauty. I’m not excusing our wrongs, I’m just saying, we’re going to hurt one another. But thankfully, if we let Him, He matures us and makes us more like Himself! “I’m finally growing up, Mom!” The ultimate Forgiver gives us this gift of pardon, simply to ask us to wrap it up and give it away to others. When you walk hand in hand with another you are going to be aware of their need for Jesus. {And boy, do my sisters need Jesus! *wink*} So when I look at these pictures and see the smiles on our faces and our flower crowns and our pretty dresses, I also see us crawling under the fence while getting my lace skirt stuck on the barbwire—I see the rest of the story. I see our mug shots in my mind—a picture of what we deserved. I see the entire journey that led us to this money shot. And we smile because we live and receive and give grace.

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When we look at our family, and we see it’s flaws and shortcomings and if we’re honest all we see is a legacy of let-downs, we can make a choice to stop casting stones and to start using those stones to build. What if we bowed low and viewed each stone as an offering to our God? Maybe you’ve even got your rocks lined up, ready to hurl every last one of them. They deserve it, I’m sure! But what if you took your stones and started to build? Loving family can be messy and draining as well as healing, freeing, and legacy building. But stone by stone we build. Not on the sand that shifts and cannot withstand the waves when they come. But we build our home on the rock… THE ROCK.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

We want to build. Our Mom is a builder. {She’s the one in the middle. You might’ve thought she was one of the sisters.} And she’s raising us to be builders—her baby girls now have babies of their own to invite into the legacy building. I’m not wasting my time on sand, my foundation is on the Rock. And the cool thing is we’re building a safe place where family is welcome, flaws and all. So thanks, Mom, for not being perfect.

P.S. We really, really didn’t mean to trespass.

P.P.S. All these lovely photos were taken by http://www.cassieloreephotography.com