I AM the LORD of the Dance

I have a special story to share with you… and it’s personal.

Here’s a little backstory. I came to know of Tom and his sweet wife Kay about 7 months ago. He and his wife have one of my art pieces hanging in their home. Shortly after their purchase, his daughter realized I had written a book (Dancing On My Ashes) and thought it would be fun to share it with him. After reading the book, Tom crafted the kindest and most encouraging message to me that at just the right time, in God-fashion, ministered to this gal’s heart. He shared, “Your use of words and meaningful phrases spoke to my heart and God used your book to give me new insights into my own walk with Him. You may be interested to know that I am a 78 year old man and a seminary trained ordained minister. And yet, your words gave me insights that were new and fresh.” He encouraged me to keep writing… which I quite often long to dedicate more time to.

To make a somewhat long story a tad shorter, Tom had another piece of art in mind for his home. His daughter thought it would be the perfect Father’s Day gift, so she reached out to me to see if I would be up for creating this special piece. I asked for all the typical details that I need to get a custom piece in the works: size, style, words, imagery, color pallet, etc. After discussing things with her dad she shared that he didn’t have much for me to go off of, except he had a song he wanted me to be inspired by called, “The Lord of the Dance” (an old Irish tune). He also shared that the inspiration for the painting should be based on MY story as told in Dancing On My Ashes. (insert shocked emoji!) Whoa! He also wanted the words, “I AM the LORD of the Dance, said HE.”

I was completely moved and humbled that I was to create such a piece. I prayed. For a couple nights I laid in bed tossing and turning over it. I chatted with my hubby… and… to be honest, I almost said I couldn’t do it. It felt too overwhelming. I was stumped. But I couldn’t say no to Tom, now could I?!?! I shot his daughter a quick email and said, “I don’t know if I can do this. I may have to talk to your dad some more. It just feels too overwhelming. I need more details.” And the moment I pressed “send”… I had a thought, that led into another thought and then another and another. I started to build the design layer by layer. I designed the artwork without even thinking about how I might pull it off, but it was such a unique and beautiful experience. I can hardly describe it except that I can look back and see how God was guiding my thoughts and hands.

I pictured the lyrics in the sky along with music notes dancing in the background. When I think about what the Lord has done in my life, I come back to how He met me on a hillside. When my world became ashes I went to have it out with God and I stood on a hillside in Vermont to tell God I was done with Him. I stood on that hillside looking up into the dark sky and that’s when it happened. He spoke to me. It wasn’t audible, that I know of, but it was crystal clear, “Heather, I know you don’t understand, but I do love you.” I knew that was my crossroad moment, right there on a hillside, in the midst of the worst news of my life, with tears streaming down my face, life as I knew it completely wiped out, my husband gone, my sister’s husband gone… and in this moment I had God asking me to believe that He loved me.

I wanted to run from Him. I wanted to hate Him. But I knew He not only loved me but His heart was hurting with me. I could not deny His love. SO… on that hill I surrendered my life to Him. I said, “I may never understand why You’ve allowed this to happen, but Lord, I humble myself before You. You are God and I am not. And from this moment on I’m trusting You.”

So as I was building the artwork I pictured the hillside, the surrender, the sky seemed to be before me as I heard from Him. And friends, can I just say, that’s where I began to dance… not a physical dance, but a life dancing with my God, letting Him lead, following His moves. It didn’t happen when I’d made it past the year anniversary, or when I moved into my own place, or got on with life (whatever that means?!)… no, right there in the midst of my ashes, I danced. In the midst of the worst pain my little heart had ever experienced, I danced. And He danced with me, guiding my steps. And that’s what we do, we do our best to keep in step with Him.

I sent the family my design idea and they said, “Go for it!”

The painting began.

When I envisioned this piece I pictured the lyrics to Tom’s song etched into the sky along with music notes dancing about. I designed the piece without knowing how I’d pull it off! I had one idea that failed miserably 😉 But then I thought… what if I had the words and music notes preprinted and then I could build the painting on top of that. It ended up being such a perfect option for this project!

I prayed as I began. I mostly paint Scripture or the truth tied to it, and I don’t take that lightly, so it’s not abnormal for me to pray as I paint. But this felt different. With my first stroke I started tearing up.

I told my hubby, “I’m already getting emotional!” He responded, “I’m not surprised, sweetie.”
I built the sky in two separate painting sessions to allow time to dry since I was using watered down paint.
It was finally ready to move to the easel to begin using my acrylic paint.

I turned on some worship music and started creating. It was such a surreal experience that I struggle with putting words to. I would cry, I would have to stop and just lift up my hands and worship God, the memories and the way God has led me through the years came flooding my mind. From the songs that filled the room to the ongoing conversation I was having with the Lord, it was such a sweet time of remembering.

I began with the hillside.
And next came the tree I had envisioned.
I knew I would want to add more coloring to the tree later, but it would need to happen after my textured paint dried completely.
Next I scripted the words. Most of the time I save that until the end… but I couldn’t wait to see it standing in it’s place. His declaration and invitation to enter the dance.

As I began painting myself standing there on the hillside, He spoke to my heart… “I had my own hillside. I had my own tree.” (God dropped the mic on me!)

He wanted to remind me that He is acquainted with our grief. He understands our pain. He had His hillside moment of surrendering to the will of the Father on His tree (the cross) and His hillside teaches me how to surrender on mine. And with that I went to my knees and worshiped the God who is the great I AM!

I let this set for 24 hours. I would periodically come into the room to gaze upon it. To thank God for this opportunity to adore Him in art form.
To complete the piece I wanted to add more coloring to the tree. God’s Light is transforming and makes the ordinary extraordinary.
My Daddy Bill made the frame for this artwork! It was an extra special family affair.

After completing the piece, I was able to work together with Tom’s wife Kay and his sweet daughter Ann to surprise Tom with his painting on Saturday. Surprises are soooo fun! I’m not able to deliver my artwork often, but this seemed like the only appropriate response to a project like this.

We stood and talked about the painting, about the details, about how God was in this seemingly “different” request.

I told Tom if he didn’t like the painting that I would just take it home with me (haha). He was glowing as I shared with him how I truly believe God had him ask me to paint this piece. It was such an unbelievable honor and I’ll NEVER forget these precious painting-moments with the Lord and my sweet time talking about Jesus with Tom.

I loved watching Tom take in the details of the painting. He smiled and said with tears in his eyes, “It’s perfect.”

Here’s a picture of his daughter Ann who wanted to make this gift possible!
I thank the Lord for knitting our hearts together.

I’ll end with this… Tom and I would love to encourage you today by saying, this world is full of heartache and joy, but if you aren’t in the dance you’re missing your purpose. He invites you to dance with Him. You can trust His leading, His steps, His rhythm, His song. He is the God that sings over you: “The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

He offers you His hand, “May I have this dance?”

• If you want to see more art from me, go to Story Designs on facebook or you can go to my website: www.storydesigns.org to see reproductions, tshirts, and mugs available.

•If you are interested in purchasing the book, go here.



For those of you who know us and have been a part of this ministry, you may have heard that our book {Dancing On My Ashes: learning to love the One who gives and takes away} has been unavailable. Our original publisher went out of business, which threw us for a loop… BUT we clung to the truth that God was not surprised by this and we could trust Him with the story (His Story) we were given to share.

It’s been over a year as we transitioned to the re-releasing of our book! We never imagined it would take that long, but here we are. And I have to say, when it came in the mail a couple days ago I cried. I think we both did. I was in Missouri crying and Holly was in Texas crying… and as sister do we called each other to cry and to celebrate! “Holly, I’m doing a cartwheel! Okay… I’m not actually doing a cartwheel because I’m in my 40’s but in my head I’m doing a CARTWHEEL!” We laughed and then we cried. Ha! God has been faithful to use our heartbreak for His glorious work. It’s humbling. It’s emotional. But I can’t help but be in awe of the healing work He has done in and through us and the BOLDNESS He’s given us to tell others about the Father He is. This book has been a tangible way of sharing hope with others. Seeing it in it’s new form is a reminder of His timing, His ways that are perfect, and His plan that goes forth transforming us one by one.

So here’s what’s NEW in the book: Holly and I took the opportunity to tweak some things, add our reflection/study guide to the back of the book (great for book clubs or for your own personal journaling as you read through the book), and we have a fresh new redesign. I LOVE it! I hope you do too!

There’s a couple ways you can snag the book! If you’re local to one of us, you can get it directly from us for $10. We have some on hand and if you live near us, obviously that’ll save you some shipping

McKinney, Texas, friends you can contact Holly!

Ozark, Missouri, friends you can contact me (Heather)! Or you can find them where I sell my {Story Designs} artwork at Little Bluebird Vintage Boutique.

If you want to purchase one directly from us, but need it shipped, they are $10 + $3 shipping. We’re happy to write you a little somethin’-somethin’ in the book before we send it your way. Here’s the link: PURCHASE THE BOOK

•Or if you want to snag it via Amazon, they are $13.99: Click HERE for AMAZONWe pray this book is a blessing to you and to those you pass it on to!
Stay tuned we have some more things we want to share with you.

Heather & Holly

{Of course, feel free to share this with anyone that you feel led to! I know this book will find it’s way into the hands of those that need to read it. I love how God works like that!}

For Mothers and Daughters

We have a Mother’s Day gift for you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

We’d LOVE for you to join the fun.

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

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

Safe to Sleep

safe to sleep -header

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


{by Jessica Luraas}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

A better-than-chocolate, Valentine #Giveloveaway

by Heather Gilion

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

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

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

I am painting.


Photo credit to Ziegler Photography


Photo credit to Ziegler Photography

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

“God, what could You do with this?”

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

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

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

Well, be careful what you pray for, right?

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

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


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


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


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


“I’m praying this for my grand baby.”


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


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


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

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

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


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


Other times I have been asked to paint favorite songs…

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

#1 Be Still

#2 It is well with my soul

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

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

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

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

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

The 14 questions my husband asked me

{November = a thankful blog series! Whoohoo! I thought I’d start the series off right as I’m celebrating a decade with my man. Each week we will share someone’s story of thankfulness. Get ready for some good reads.}


by Heather Spring Gilion

May, of this year, I received an email from my husband. He had questions for me. Oh boy, did he have questions. Fourteen, to be exact. He asked me to take some time to consider them and respond as honestly as I could. With his permission I’m sharing his questions.


Do you feel confident that God has equipped me to lead our family?

Where would you offer areas of improvement regarding the above?

Do you want me to speak into your life?

Do you feel confident that God has equipped me to do so and that I do so in love?

Do you feel overwhelmed?

Do you feel tired most of the time?

Do you feel under-appreciated?

Do you feel confident that I know how to pray for you each day?

Do you feel confident that you know how to pray for me each day?

Would you feel better loved and cared for if we prayed together more often?

The role of a Godly wife and mother can be expressed in a family in a variety of ways.  Here are two that I respect, but their roles are expressed very differently:  {*Bev} and {*Amanda}. (*I changed their names.) If your role in our family exists on a spectrum somewhere between those two, where do you want it to land?  Where do you feel called for it to land?  Are they the same?

What do you need me to know/do right now so I can love/serve you better?

Do you have any questions for me?

Do you know that I love you more than anything else on this earth?

I love you


I’ll come back to these questions in a moment.

TODAY, is our ten year anniversary. We’ve been married a decade! A freaking decade! A mere 3,650 days ago (give or take a few) we stood before family and friends and before our God, and said, “I do.”

“For better. For worse.

In sickness and in health.

In riches or in poverty.

Until death parts us… we do.”

I do. He does. We do. We will.

I write this blog post for a few reasons. If you don’t have a significant other, I’m not trying to throw mine in your face and brag about what I have versus what you don’t. I’m writing this for the widow that is laying alone on her side of the queen-sized bed, wanting desperately for all the wives out there to not take their anniversaries for granted. I’m writing this for the widower that wishes he had one more kiss from his sweetheart. I’m writing this for the divorce’, who wonders what could’ve-would’ve been if different choices were made. I’m writing this for the single lady that watches women who sport a blinged-out ring finger, only to spew negativity, complaining more than applauding their spouse. I’m writing this for the husbands that are desperate to know how to love their wives—to really love them the way God has called them to. I’m writing this for women all over the world that have said, “I do” but don’t.

Because there have been times in the last decade that instead of, “I do” I chose to not. Unfortunately, there have been moments I’ve chosen to shrug and “whatever” my way through an impasse. But by His grace, our love for one another grows and our love for God multiplies.

People say you have to fight for your marriage. It’s true. If you want a thriving, healthy, God-glorifying marriage a good amount of fight must accompany your days. We can get caught up in fighting with one another because, if we’re honest, we are self-agenda-bent divas. (You fellas can be divas too!) But fighting for health in a marriage is not an easy task. Things shift and change. You have new mountains to climb, and valleys to trek. There are job changes. U-hauls to be filled and unfilled. Babies come and loved ones go. Money rolls in just as fast as it rolls out. Health is questioned. The scales go up and up and up (sigh) and then down (yay!) and then up again (sigh). You get that phone call. You don’t get the phone call. You feel numb. Just to feel everything the next month. Or sometimes we sin against one another: Hurtful words are wielded. Time together is wasted. Purity is challenged. Faithfulness is questioned. Hobbies are worshiped. Kids become idols. Time with God is neglected. (Are you tired yet?)

But when I closed my eyes last night, thinking about the last ten years, I thanked my God for the man He has given me. And I whispered in my heart to God, “I do. He does. We do. We will.”

We will. Because God does and is doing and will do. He is fighting for our marriage and offers us into the fight.

There’s this couple in the Bible: Boaz and Ruth. You may have heard of them. When I was single, I remember reading their love story unfold and just aching for that kind of redemptive “fairytale.” A widow, minding her own business, mysteriously finding herself in her “kinsman” redeemer’s field! That sucked me right in! Ruth found favor in Boaz’s sight as she worked to provide for her grieving mother-in-law. As a widow, myself, I remember reading of this Boaz, and waiting for there to be something wrong with him. But he was as great as they come! He was respected among the town, treated others with grace, and at just the right moment… he noticed Ruth among the masses. In a knight-in-armor sort of way, Boaz offered her protection and care. He noticed her inward beauty and spoke only words to encourage her heart. He was careful with her. (If you are curious about how it all went down, you should totally read the book of Ruth from the beginning to end. It’s fantastic.) I remember attending a conference where the speaker encouraged us single gals to find our Boaz and leave the Bozos behind. I wasn’t really looking for a Boaz or a Bozo for that matter. I was pursuing Someone much more important—my Ultimate Companion—Emmanuel: God with us. He was with me and is and will be. But He had a story to reveal, in His timing, he led my “Boaz” to begin pursuing this girl.


Back to the questions…

The questions arrived in my inbox after we had been experiencing a shift in our home. Dallas was striving to lead in our marriage. Reevaluating where we are and the trajectory of where we were headed. There were many tears shed over those questions, but it led to deeper intimacy.

When I received that email, it made me wonder, if Ruth’s story hadn’t come to a close in chapter 4 what would we read about this couple? Had it kept going and going, would we have read about Boaz’s email to Ruth nearing their ten-year anniversary? Would you have read his questions that communicate his love for his bride, for their children, for their sphere of influence? Would you hear his desire to see them thrive and grow?

I think so.

God is writing His love story upon our hearts. We can fight for it or fight against it. But what if we said to one another: I do because God does. And by the grace of God we will.

So even after ten years: I do. I still do. And by the grace of God we will.

I encourage you to share these questions with your spouse. We ask these hard questions to anchor our marriage on the One that holds all things together. We answer the hard questions, giving one another the benefit of the doubt, pouring over our responses with grace upon grace. Seeking to come into the light because that’s where He is… in the light. HE IS LIGHT! And when we are exposed we can honor the Scripture, “Be naked and unashamed.”

It’s been TEN years. Ten good years.

So we love on. We fight. We grow. We celebrate the Scripture and commandment to be “naked and unashamed.” And with that, all the husbands say a hearty, “Amen!”



Want to hear more of the story?
Sisters, Holly Snell and Heather Gilion wrote a book about their 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 them.

You can also watch their 3 minute story here.

Or click below to order your copy of Dancing On My Ashes.



I’m over at Missouri Women Bloggers today!

Hey, I have a guest blog post on the Missouri Women Bloggers site today! The theme was guilty pleasures. This is a quick, funny read… BUT there really is a purpose in my “guilty pleasure” confession.

BEWARE: there’s some bathroom humor in this post.

Read and share… well, if you want to.

Go Here:



{p.s. If you are in Missouri and are female and have a blog… JOIN US! You can register on the website.}


We love. We lose. We grow.

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

It was like one of those frustrating, sappy-love-story movies that you invest 2 hours of your life on, just to bawl your eyes out in the end because one of the main characters, that you’ve fallen in love with, tragically dies! You want to punch the director {and the actors, for that matter}, because your heart doesn’t like to be yanked around, you know! I mean, come on, things are supposed to end up happily ever after! {Especially in the movies.}

Well, that’s how I feel right now. If we are Facebook friends you have seen my recent pictures of Max the dog. We agreed to dog-sit for my mom and dad as they were off visiting family in Texas. “Oh sure, we’ll watch Max! My boys will love this!” I said.

To be honest, my hubby and I are not huge “animal” people. We don’t dislike them, but we’re not the type that have ever longed for an animal in the house. Our motto has always been to keep things simple. To add yet ANOTHER thing to our already busy lives was not high on our priority list. But dog-sitting? Sure we can do that. BUT we had no idea what “trouble” we were getting ourselves into.

Max was not your average dog. He was special. He fit right in and the boys fell in love. A few days into our time with Max, I started to hear, “I wish Max was our dog.” “Can we get a dog?” “I wish Max never had to leave.” They’d even put those words to song. They would be building Legos and I’d hear Noah singing, “I wish you were our dog, Max. I looooo-oooove you, Max.”

We were in trouble.

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I jokingly “warned” my mom that she might never get Max back. I was half kidding. But when it came down to it, we were falling for Max. We loved how he greeted us when we came in the door. We loved rubbing his belly and chasing him around in our backyard. I loved having my new hairy friend follow me around the house.

I started thinking, “I shed more than Max and the hubby keeps me around! So maybe…”

When my mom offered for us to keep Max we were all set to say no, but we just couldn’t. He had to stay! Although my mom loved Max she knew he’d love being around the boys and he’d get a little more attention here. So… you can call us “Suckers,” but we caved. Max was here to stay!


But a sad turn of events happened…

We got a dog, fell in love with the dog, and then had to say good-bye to our dog.

Like I said, it was like City of Angels all over again. The lovebirds are finally together and then Meg Ryan just has to ride her bike without her eyes open! “Open your eyes, dummy! Are you crazy, lady?”

Two-weeks into our doggie honeymoon and he gets sick. We think he’s just got some digestive issues. Or we reasoned maybe the transition, even though he’s happy with us, we wondered if he was anxious from all the change. We took him to the vet to get him looked over. They are more concerned about how skinny he was and his lack of appetite, and they showed us how he had noticeable muscle loss. We were newbies so we didn’t know he should be thicker or be eating more than he was. The vet suggested changing to a better dog food. Sure, not a problem. I had given him a rawhide bone so we were wondering if it was giving him tummy issues. But the vet assured us that wasn’t the issue. “There’s something else going on with this dog, I just can’t put my finger on it.” The vet said. “Watch him closely and let me know if he gets worse.”

He got worse.

By the next evening I was racing him to the emergency vet, imagining a surgery was in his future.

I felt like an imposter sitting in this vet clinic. How did I end up here? I’m still processing that I’m a pet owner. I waited as they looked him over and took x-rays.




More waiting…


Still waiting.

And then the news.

“Max isn’t going to make it.” A chronic illness within his small intestines that had been going on for a while finally manifested itself and it was too late. Two days ago he was his happy self, but today was a different story. Surgery wouldn’t even save our Max. I was faced with putting my dog to sleep. What a failure for this first time dog owner! Oh my word… who does this happen to?

I spent some time petting my doggie. My dog. I took in this beautiful masterpiece. I was so emotional and so in awe of the love I had for him. God had made Max. He created this animal with such wonderful detail. I was thankful for the two weeks I had with Max, learning and understanding more about the bond people have with animals.

I remember after losing my first husband James, I had someone come up to me after I shared my story and they said, “I know how you feel. I lost my dog a couple years ago.” What?!?! Are you serious, right now? Well, I’m not saying that’s completely the same. BUT for that person, and I don’t know their story, but their dog may have been all that they had, a companion to them that they considered family. I have a new compassion for those that have grieved the loss of a furry family member.

I watched him breath his last breaths.

Death is just sad. I can’t wait until the day that death isn’t in our vocabulary anymore.

Two elderly women were in the vet clinic with their coughing doggie. They asked how Max was. “He didn’t make it.” I whispered through my sobs. Their hugs were gifts from my God. They cried with me. A stranger’s empathy spilled into the room and covered my aching heart. I needed that hug.

Now to tell the boys.

We all four bawled our eyes out. We experienced the entire realm of dog ownership in a two-week time period. We loved, we enjoyed, we cared for, and then… we lost.

“We were a family of four. Then we became a family of five… but now we’re a family of four again!” – said through sobs, Zman (5 years old)

“Can we pray him down from Heaven?”

“I’m gonna miss the way his collar jingled when he walked through the house.”

We’ve had a lot of good conversations. Death is hard. In this life we learn, we love, we lose, and hopefully we grow. I have a new appreciation of our great God who expresses His extravagant creativity in His created.

So sometimes you watch that sappy 2-hour movie and want to kick something because you loved just to lose. But today I’m thankful for our short love-story. Max was worth it.

Maybe someone out there is scared to love because of the fear of loss. We aren’t promised the happily-ever-after ending, BUT what we are promised is far greater! In HIM we are offered fullness of joy. We are offered real love. We are offered God IN US! So whether we say good-bye or hello, we can trust that we will be forever changed for the better. The happy-ever-after will come… and HAS come in the person of Jesus.

Love on.

“There is no fear in love.” 1 John 4:18

The Busy Disease

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

There is this tree that stands in my backyard. It’s dying. I didn’t know it was dying until all the other trees were sprouting buds and it remained unclothed. Naked. Well almost. There’s still some sign of life, but it’s dwindling. It’s taller than my house, so obviously at some point it was healthy. But a vine wrapped itself around the trunk and wound itself through the branches and started stealing from it.

It began just like every other tree, I suppose. A seed was planted. The rain came and the earth drank and the seed began its process of establishing roots. Breaking through the surface of the earth, it stretched its arms upward, making its ascent toward the sky. With every passing year it gained height and dimension. It grew. And grew. Birds made their home in its branches. Squirrels zipped up and down its trunk with ease, hunting nuts and racing other squirrely friends. This tree endured winter as the temperatures dropped and the sun hid her face. It stood tall as the ice thawed and the sun gave reason to awaken the buds to come alive once more. But something has happened. My tree is dead…. or is dying. Whichever it is, I’m left to wonder when it’ll have to be taken down before it takes down my house.

I love trees. I love looking at them. I love the different shapes and sizes and styles of trees. Go ahead and say it, you think I’m a tree hugger. I enjoy paper like the next person, and I wouldn’t wish away my toilet paper to keep the shade over my head, that’s for sure. But there have been moments when the mere sight of a tree has sent my heart swooning for my God. The Bible says that God shows some of His invisible qualities through creation, so no one has an excuse.

Nope, no excuses here. God is awesome. He’s a genius.

God said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” {John 15:5}

I’ve been busy, y’all. Way too busy. And maybe you’ve been busy too. I’m confessing here, friends. I’ve let the “busy” wrap around me like a weed, it’s been subtle but destructive, as this busy disease continues to suck the life right out of me. My abiding has been more like fast food dinners or hurried nibbles off of my kid’s plates. Half-eaten cold hamburgers is definitely NOT what God had in mind when He said, “Come and eat!”

 “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” {Psalm 36:8}

“Abide in Me.” He says.

“…apart from Me you can do nothing.” He says.

So this girl became a tree in her mind today. I asked the Lord what kind of tree I was. Aspen? Elm? Or maybe a Sugar Maple? That sounds inviting. Or, a better question—am I growing? Thriving? Or… could I be… *gulp*… dying?


So this is how our conversation went as I confessed my lack of abiding in the midst of the busyness…

“Lord, I want to grow!”

“Abide.” He says.

I stretched out my hands toward the sky. My arms and hands extended like the branches of the tree. I’m still. Still. I haven’t felt that in a while. A tender sway in the gentle breeze calms my spirit. He’s near. He’s been near. With my gaze upward I dream of stretching high enough that I might reach the Heavens. I whisper, “Forgive me, my God, my Vine and Source of Life, for the season of busyness that I’ve let rule my days, hours, and minutes. I need YOU and only YOU.”

“Sweet girl, when you remain IN Me, you are ‘like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” {Jeremiah 17:8}

“God, I have felt the drought, and I’ve allowed the “busy disease” to tangle and taunt me to do on my own. But our mysterious entanglement is what causes me to stand even now. You remain my Source of strength.”

“When you remain in Me you are strong, immovable, and glorious. The roots beneath you are growing deeper with each passing day. This is necessary as the winds come and storms rage. For the winds will come. But don’t fear, my love, for if you remain in Me, you might bend, but you won’t break. You will be shaken, but you’ll never fall. For I AM your strength and you are never alone. For when you remain in Me, I remain in you. Abide.”

“I want to be everything You want me to be. I want to be just like Your Son, Jesus.” As those words left my lips, and with my arms still spread-out before the Heavens, I saw Him. Jesus with His arms and hands stretched out—but He was on a tree. A tree fashioned into a cross. And looking up to the Heavens, even then, He knew we would be. I would be His and He would be mine.

His tree sheds light on this little tree—me.
His tree sheds light on my busyness.
His tree sheds light on why I do everything I do.

The invitation to abide sounds less like another thing to do, but the only thing worth doing.

*He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

{*lyrics: How He Loves}


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.