{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

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{Story6} I have a brain tumor

Through the month of March, we’ve had a guest series called “This is my story, this is my song.” There were personal journeys of hope, victory, courage, and redemption that you needed to hear! I know, I know, it’s April… but I have another ONE!

This series has been too much fun! We can’t stop… we won’t stop… (Eek! I’m sounding like Miley Cyrus.) I (Heather) can’t wait for you to meet Preston! He’s the first male appearing on our blog! {insert applause machine.} Psh—this blog’s not just for females anyway. I’m so thankful he agreed to share some of his journey with you. I met Preston years and years ago when he was hired as the photographer at the university where I was employed. He is so personable and joyful! Once you’ve met Preston, you won’t forget him! So nine years later, when our paths crossed again, I was ecstatic to learn that he and his wife were becoming a part of our Lifepoint Church family.

When I was praying about who should share in our series, his name kept coming to mind. The first five stories in our series were stories where each person shared things from their past—hard things—but they made it to the other side—up the mountain—so to speak. Preston is not necessarily on the “other side,” he’s walking THROUGH it! He and his wife, Traci, have been beautiful examples to me of worshiping Jesus even when circumstances are hard.

We’re praying that this will encourage those who may be in the valley walking… or maybe crawling… through it.

____________

I have a brain tumor

by Preston Dial

I have a brain tumor. Gets your attention, doesn’t it? It certainly got my attention when I found out in late 2004. My wife, Traci, and I had been married for 4 years and everything was headed in the right direction. We were happily married, attending a wonderful church. We had good friends, a nice home, good jobs, 401ks and a good financial plan for the future. We were on the road to reaching that American dream! I can remember thinking: “God has certainly blessed me.”

That leads up to the big day that changed everything. Some would say for the worse, and honestly, there were times that I felt that way as well.

At the time, I had a successful and well-respected wedding and portrait photography business. I was at my home office, and as I was talking on the phone with my brother-in-law, Alec, my left arm that was holding the phone to my ear suddenly straightened out without me telling it to do so! All I remember at that point was saying to Alec, “I think I’m having a stroke.” Then what felt like a heavy black veil, pulled over my eyes. I had lost all sense of time and can remember when Traci found me I kept looking at her in a fuzzy way. An ambulance escorted me to the ER. A CAT scan showed a golf-ball sized mass in my brain. My surgeon was able to remove 99% of it and I was left with only minor deficits.

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During the time in the hospital, we were visited by more friends and family than I can remember. We were also so blessed by the huge outpouring of love and prayers from people we didn’t even know.

After the surgery, I did have some issues with my fine motor skills on my left side. In fact, when we followed up with my surgeon a few weeks later, he was relieved to see that I was able to squeeze his fingers, because there was a strong possibility of paralysis on my left side due to the location of the tumor.

After the dust settled from surgery and the medical bills started coming in, we realized my insurance was inadequate. A large portion of the medical bills would have to come from our own pockets! We emptied out our 401ks and had no idea where the rest would come from. In addition, I was now considered uninsurable.

The oncologist informed us that the mass was a rare non-cancerous tumor and that the typical survival time was 10 years. The next course of action was thirty-five radiation treatments.

Radiation is a very strange thing. You can’t feel it entering your body at all, however, it is certainly affecting you. I remember as they bolted my shoulders and head to the table with a hard plastic mesh thing so I would not move, I said, “Ok, God, here we go.” I had so many thoughts running through my head as I lay still on that radiation table.

After the first month of treatments my hair started falling out. So I just started shaving my head every day—and still do (which is okay, I’ve been told that I look good bald.) A few weeks later I started to feel the negative effects of the radiation. I was treated with was a small beam of high-intensity radiation. This was shot at me from several angles. The beam goes all the way through and out the other side of my head. The theory is that tumor cells are not as resilient as normal healthy cells and although the healthy cells are receiving the same amount of radiation, the healthy cell will rebuild and the tumor cells will not. Sounds good in theory, but it can really mess you up until your healthy cells can regenerate. In addition, the radiation can give you a major sun burn and that’s exactly what I got. It was some kind of radiation poisoning. It first started on my head and then moved to my face. It was excruciatingly painful. It also itched horribly. The overall experience was so bad that one night, Traci woke up and found me in the kitchen just standing there in complete anguish because I did not know what to do to make the itching and burning go away. She ended up taking me to the emergency room where I was treated.

Life moved on. I was able to get back to work with my photography business. And in just a few more months we were expecting our first child.

We were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We had been able to set up affordable payments with the hospital and I had secured adequate insurance through the Missouri Health Pool. I had some minor issues with my fine motor skills, but I was so thankful that it was not worse. With the exception of our 3-month routine MRIs, our life was back to normal.

When you go through a life-threatening event, you start to look at life differently. You realize how fragile and short life really is. You also quickly learn it’s not the material things that are important, but the relationships with people in your life. Of course, as a Christian, I saw how God could use my experience to witness to others who needed encouragement.

Even though my tumor had been 99% removed, there was a strong chance that it would rear its ugly head back into our lives again. Two kids and almost five years later, the tumor returned. This time there were new chemotherapy drugs available, so in the spring of 2009, I started chemo.

During that following 6 months, I still ran my business. That whole summer wedding season was a blur. I was constantly exhausted and in survival mode.

I was stable for almost 6 months and then a MRI showed more growth. We really started to feel the stress and burden of how my health was affecting our lives. Another year of stronger chemo was suggested. I knew that there was no way that I could operate my studio while going through more chemo. After much prayer and council, we decided I would have to shut down the studio. This was really hard for me.

I began a new job selling timeshares in Branson. It went really well and things seemed to be headed in the right direction. I loved my job, the people I worked with and the families I got to meet. I was typically home by 3 p.m. so the hours were not long. It all seemed like such an answer to prayer.

This chemo round was much harder and affected me very differently, I started getting very weak and shaky; you could even hear it in my voice. I would get sick in the morning and middle of the night, I also started to get neuropathy in my fingers and toes (numbness and pins and needles). I was amazed at how God kept my spirits up and still used me. But ultimately, my sales started to drop and in November of 2010, I was let go.

For the first time in my married life, I had no idea how I would support my family. At this point we were almost completely broke. I was so sick from the chemo, and confused about why God had opened this door and then did not bless me in the way I thought He would. This was one of the lowest points of my life. We were totally reliant on God’s provision.

And God provided.

Not in the way we expected. But He provided. He provided everything we needed through family and Christian brothers and sisters. It was overwhelming. It was humbling. It was a great time of learning and leaning. A friend in the local wedding industry planned a fundraiser for my family and raised enough money for our living expenses for 6 months! We would get random calls from our church to let us know that there had been an anonymous envelope dropped by the office with our names on it. We would open the envelopes to find several hundreds of dollars in them. Another day would come with a call from a friend whose wife’s workplace wanted to give our kids a great Christmas. They delivered several toys and other gifts to our house. It was an amazing blessing. On one hand it was humiliating, but on the other, God allowed us to witness firsthand how He provides by using others to meet our needs.

I was approved for disability and Traci, after staying at home since the kids were born, went back to work. This was not “our plan” of how we wanted to raise our family and this is not how we expected God to provide. It was not our preferred way, but this is how He has provided for us.

I have exhausted my radiation and chemo options and we have decided to pursue more natural options. As it stands now, I am tentatively scheduled for another surgery in early May pending the results of my next MRI.

Having to deal with this tumor for the last 10 years has certainly changed our lives. I can honestly say that it has brought me closer to my saving God, family and friends. It has been full of many uphill battles but also too many joys to count. I can bear witness that God has sustained me and my family. However, it is over the last few years I feel God has used me the most. He has given me a great peace that no matter what happens to me, everything will be taken care of and this has allowed me to be a witness to so many others.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3

Praise be to my great God in Heaven!

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The Dial family: Preston and Traci along with their children, Emma and Max

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Join with us as we pray for complete healing for Preston! God is able!

If you are new to this blog, follow Holly and Heather by clicking the “follow” button at the top of the screen!

Read up on their story: here!

And read why they wrote Dancing On My Ashes.

If you want to know more about who God is go here!
I hope you’ve been encouraged today!

Thanksgiving: One Noodle at a Time

by Heather Spring {Gilion}

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Since Hobby Lobby already has their Christmas decor out, I can write about Thanksgiving, right?

I can get swept away in to-do lists with calendar alerts dictating my day. Frustrations rise up when I have to tie another shoelace or wipe another bottom. I can also get grumpy when I have to realign the pillows on my couch… one more time! Didn’t they see that I JUST straightened them? Or when my husband ends up having another meeting, I can inwardly throw a little grownup pity party! Seriously, are we going to have some family time or not? When all those frustrations, or {let’s get honest} moments that don’t revolve around me, are really opportunities to release “control” over my day and have a moment of thanksgiving…that my husband has a job, or that I have bottoms to wipe, or pretty pillows for my couch.

Or maybe it’s BIGGER than that: a tire blows, I find out someone I care about is in the hospital…again, a friend’s marriage is falling apart, there’s a school shooting, or a family member’s addictions are leading them to pull away. When things are not in our control, or simply don’t go as planned—BIG or small—I’m quick to get frustrated and short. Hello, didn’t everyone get the memo of how this day should roll?

But lately the Lord has been quickening my heart to pause and give thanks. I’m practicing the art of gratitude. I’m giving thanks when things don’t go my way. I’m trusting He’s in the details of my life and having a peaceful knowledge that He is leading me to holiness not a life of ease… and being okay with that.

So, to celebrate Thanksgiving in my heart today, I’m giving thanks for the times that have shaped me, that are shaping me, and that will shape me.

“In everything GIVE THANKS; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

{1 Thessalonians 5:18}

Giving thanks should be like eating spaghetti… one noodle at a time. So, here’s a list—not comprehensive—but today’s noodles:

1. I’m thankful that my dad told me that I was pretty. When I was a teenager, he wrote me a letter {that I still have today} that spoke more about the importance of inner pretty than outer pretty. I might have acted like I wasn’t really listening… but I was.

2. I’m thankful that God’s mercies are indeed “new” EVERY morning!

3. I’m thankful that in fifth grade, when I decided I was going to start cussing, a couple friends told me to stop it. They said I couldn’t cuss right. Instead of learning how to do it right, I decided to speak like a lady rather than a sailor.

4. Even though I do have short, fat toes; I’m thankful that I have ten toes. {I’m wearing flip-flops today… trying to be thankful.}

5. I’m thankful for a husband that tells me when I’m not being nice. This might seem like a weird one, but this sharpening means that he loves me—that he cares about my heart more than my ego. He was given to me to make me more like Jesus.

6. I’m thankful for my two boys that keep me dancing, make believing, and praying! I love learning more about sacrifice and grace by these two characters.

7. I’m thankful for the still small voice that’s within me that guides me, directs me, and points me to the path of freedom. God’s own Spirit inside little old me! What power and fullness resides within my beating chest! Who am I that I should carry around such beauty and perfection?

8. I’m thankful for friends that I can be vulnerable with. I have friends that know me and still love me, friends that aren’t “yes-women” but are God-fearing, God-loving ladies. Oh, and I love a good friend-hug!

9. I’m thankful for taste buds. Working on a banana with Nutella right now, get you some! Yuuuummmmm.

10. I’m thankful for black… its slimming. {#9 and #10 go together}

11. I’m thankful that in seventh grade Jeremy broke up with me because I told him I couldn’t make-out with him. Oh, yeah… and for the break-up with Chris over not being able to go to dances. Oh… and when I got the big dump-dump-a-roo from Brad, Brian, Jay, and Steven. Tears were shed, but God even protects us from ourselves.

12. I’m thankful that my sister Holly told on me when I started smoking in college. The fear of my dad’s wrath was enough to put out my cigs fast!

13. I’m thankful for music that leads me to see beyond this world and realigns my heart as I meditate on what’s true.

14. I’m thankful for mascara.

15. I’m thankful for the storms that have come in my life. When I think about His nearness during my darkest hours, my heart spills over with gratitude. I have never been alone. NEVER. Even when He allowed storms to come, in His perfect way, He stilled the storm in me. Plus, I have a new affection for rainbows—they are a constant reminder that God’s promises remain.

16. I’m thankful that I am not trapped in a pit of bitterness, fear, or anger anymore: from hole to whole. God rescues those that call on His Name!

17. I’m thankful that people can change. I can always grow, change, and be more of who I was created to be.

18. I’m thankful that He’s made me a dreamer. At times it feels as if I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, without a lifeline, but trusting Him is getting easier and easier as I’m witnessing His equipping the called. I’m joyfully dreaming God-sized dreams.

19. I’m thankful for rollie pollies. Enough said.

20. I’m thankful for really good laughs. The kind that make tears stream down your face. I had one of those the other night watching a new hire at Sonic, delivering food on skates. He was clinging to the side of the building as he maneuvered from car to car. At one point he rolled into the side of a car. It was dinner and a show, people! Tears were shed over the new kid. Now I feel bad… praying for his bruises and skillz!

21. Speaking of laughter, I’m thankful for Zach’s laugh when he watches “crazy cat” youtube videos.

22. This one could actually be my list, just this one. If I would let this take root in my heart every morning, there would really be no need for any other number: I’m thankful that I was loved to death. Jesus and the cross is the ultimate act of love. A love that daily motivates and changes me from the inside out.

23. I’m thankful for pimples… they keep you humble. {Okay, I struggled writing this one.}

What are you thankful for? Join me in practicing Thanksgiving today and every day as a way of fighting the rhythms of forgetfulness and annoyed duty. You have no idea what your day will bring, but thanking God for His hand that is ever present in your life will be fuel to your faith. As the sun breaks through to dawn, may His presence pierce our darkness. His light illuminates and fills.

So, who doesn’t like a full belly and a full heart? Are you ready to devour a giant plate of spaghetti? There’s no need to hurry or worry about etiquette. Fill up your plate. Pick out a noodle and enjoy it. Slurp away. Feast, my friends. A heart of gratitude will leave you full.

{Here’s Noah showing you how to eat spaghetti!}