{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

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{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

{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.

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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!