Suffering: A journey into the deep

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also watch our 3 minute story here.

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

when you order through us:

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

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What I learned running a 5K with my son

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

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

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

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

So, you’re wondering how did it go?

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

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

“Why, mom?”

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

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

We completed our 5K rehearsal!

We completed our 5K rehearsal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Just keep swimming” – Dory in Finding Nemo

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

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” {Hebrews 12: 1-2}

Encourage someone today!

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

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

Heather asked me a very important question

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{by Heather Spring Gilion}

Here’s me and my friend Heather. I met her a couple of years ago at our church. When we learned that both of our names were Heather, we were instantly connected. EVERY Sunday when we see one another we do our little thing, “Hi, Heather.” “Hi, Heather.” And then we hug and giggle. I LOVE this girl!

At our women’s retreat she came over to me and asked me a very important question. With her hand propped on the back of my chair and the other playing with her hair, she stood tall and asked, “Does Dallas treat you like a lady?” With confidence I could answer, “Why, yes. Yes, he does!” I said, “Why do you ask?”

“Well, Charlie treats me like a lady.”

“And who’s Charlie? Your boyfriend?

“Yes.”

“Well, that’s good. How long have you been dating Charlie?”

“Ten years.”

“Wow, that is a LONG time, Heather! So, how does he treat you like a lady?” I asked.

“He opens the car door for me. He puts my seat belt on for me. When we’re walking into a building, he opens the doors for me.”

“Woah…woah… woah… HOLD ON! Charlie puts your seat belt on for you!?! Now, Dallas doesn’t do that for me!” I told her the next time I got in the car I was going to wait until he put my seat belt on for me. It sounded very flirtatious.

Here I am waiting!

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“If you love me, buckle me, buddy!” Ladies, it’s actually very romantical 😉

This little conversation has stuck with me. Here are some take-aways that I’m now sharing with you.

1. I’m thankful for Heather… and all the people that the Lord has allowed me to live life with. There is so much we can learn from one another! I need you. You even need me. We need one another.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10: 24 & 25

There is so much we can glean from one another. I love seeing our Creator’s creativity displayed through smiles and eyes and laughs and hugs and tears and hands. Don’t miss the moments of beauty all around you today! Ask God to give you eyes to see His handiwork displayed in the people that are all around you. Do you see how genius our God is? There is no one like Him! As cheesy as this sounds… you are you-nique! There is no one walking around on this entire planet that is just like you. Your fingerprints, your DNA, your soul is specific to you and only you! {Even if you are an identical twin… you are set apart and uniquely different.}

If you’re engaged in a conversation with me and I start smiling and you didn’t say anything funny, I’m not laughing at you, I promise! I’m enjoying moments of His reflection displayed through your adorableness. For you were made in the image of our God! And to see glimpses of His reflection is stunning and breathtaking. Scroll back to the top of this page… look at Heather! Aren’t her eyes glorious!?! And that smile! She’s always smiling, friends. She is generous with her hugs and hands them out like she’s the richest person on the planet. May we be so generous with our affection and our love toward one another!

The other take-away I gleaned from my convo with Heather:

2. Let your hubby buckle your buckle now and then. And offer to buckle his buckle. That’s sounding more like an innuendo than I’m meaning it to, but however you’re supposed to hear it, HEAR IT! May we find ways to serve and love our spouses in unexpected ways. Hey, wives! I’m speaking to YOU on the other side of the screen there: let’s love our husbands and treat them less like our employees or roommates and more like men that are loved and respected. May we strive to look for ways that send this message loud and clear. It’s so easy to get caught up in the tasks at hand and miss showing real love. I get that you’re busy! I’m busy. He’s busy. We’ll probably always be busy. But how do we weave love and respect through everything we do? In the way we speak, in how we go about marking tasks off our to-do lists, in how we talk to him on the phone, in how we delegate tasks, or how we partner and parent in our home, and how we respond when we’re tired or had a hard day or are on our beloved time of the month. {EEK!} It’s easy to be selfish. It takes work to be selfless. Oh the beautiful things that arise when we love with no strings attached! When we give a back rub without the promise of one in return. Oh to care MORE for another than you care about yourself. {Ouch! I’m stepping on my own toes, here!} It’s when I let the hugs linger and when I don’t rush to look away from his gaze, that I see… I see this human being that I’ve vowed to love and cherish, to be true to, to uplift and support, to frustrate and challenge (*wink* – God’s on a mission to make him more like himself, people… and He uses me!), and most importantly to respect and show selfless love as God has shown to me and equips me.

God, may You give me eyes to really SEE my man! May You show me how to love him the way You designed me to. May You continue to teach me how to speak his love language; how to pray for his heart, mind, and soul; and remind me to join him in the war for the purity of our home. Thank You for the grace that covers my failures as a wife, and the generous gift of Your very Spirit that leads me to even know how to love. For I can only offer love when I first understand Your love for me. May I serve him and accept the ways he serves me.

That’s all I’ve got today. I hope you’ve been encouraged today!

Buckle up! Loving one another is a bumpy ride!

 

 

{Story5} A Journey to Adoption: “I would not change a thing”

Through the month of March, we’re going to do a series called “This is my story, this is my song.” There are personal journeys of hope, victory, courage, and redemption that you need to hear!

I (Heather) am about to introduce you to someone very, very special. She is not only my pastor’s wife—but my friend. She is one of those women in my life that I love watching. She makes serving and loving her husband, her children, and her church family, look easy peasy. She’s probably the first face you’d see greet you if you were to visit Lifepoint; with her welcoming smile and sweet southern accent, she invites you into the family. This lady juggles a great deal with ease and smiles as she strives to abide in Christ. I joke with her that on days I have too much to do, I whisper to myself “What would Christin Harrison do?” {So, for all you momma’s with growing “To do” lists, the “WWCHD?” bracelets will be made available soon! heehee}

Maybe I’ll have her share some of her organizational secrets in another post… but for now, you’ve got to hear a piece of her journey that led she and her husband, Lane, to adoption.

So, have you ever wondered what it would be like to write a letter to your past self? What advice would you offer? I asked Christin what she would tell her 20-year-old self about the journey “past-Christin” was about to embark on. I know this will encourage hearts… and maybe, just maybe, cause you to write your own letter. What would you say?

Here’s Christin’s letter…

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Dear Christin,

So you are about to get married. You have so many exciting days ahead as you look towards your future and all that the Lord has in store for you and Lane. You may think the future is going to be easy, fun, romantic, full of wonderful adventures… and at some points in the journey, it will be. But oh how the Lord has an adventure set before you that you can’t even begin to imagine.

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On your journey, you are going to experience your first hardship even before your wedding can happen. At a routine doctor’s appointment, you are going to find out that you have two eight-pound tumors inside that have to come out immediately. But this surgery will not be your last. Five more will come your way during the first seven years of being married, which will even result in a hysterectomy at the young age of 28. It is going to hard. Painful. You will think that you can’t endure the pain your body goes through, the emotional toil that it takes on your spirit, and the sadness that seems to take root in your soul. But you know what? You will endure—the Lord will give you His strength. You will grow in your walk with the Lord during these years. The weeks, even months, of quiet recovery will be times of growth in your love for Jesus. The Lord will be your Great Physician and you will learn to trust Him with your health. Your marriage will be strengthened from the very beginning when you are just newlyweds. You will learn that Lane loves you unconditionally—no matter what—and those years will be what build the foundation that keeps your marriage strong in the future.

During these same years, you and Lane will be praying and planning to have a family. Doctors will tell you that there is a chance to conceive a baby with the small, one-third ovary that you have left before, but eventually, that has to come out too. Those months of hoping that you will find a positive sign on a pregnancy test will come and go and the disappointment will be there with each negative found. But over time, the Lord is going to do something in your heart. You and Lane will feel the Lord leading you to adopt…EVEN while it may physically be possible to get pregnant. That fact alone will shock many people. They will wonder why you would abandon your desire to get pregnant. That desire will not leave, but instead, your desire to be a mom to a child that is already somewhere in this world will be greater than the desire to wear maternity clothes. You will gladly exchange those maternity clothes for traveling clothes and trade the big belly for a big three-ring binder of adoption paperwork.

You know those children of whom you have always dreamed? They are going to come from two different parts of the world! You, Christin, the girl who loves to be home and is not a big fan of risks, are going to board a plane and travel to Russia to become a mom for the first time. You will be scared. You will wonder if this child will love you. You will wonder if you will have a “motherly instinct” without giving birth to this child. And in one split second, at the very moment you see and hold your baby for the first time, these fears will vanish. Instantly. This little blonde haired, green eyed, malnourished, eight pound, six-month-old little boy will change you forever. You will no longer wonder what it is like to be a mom. You will now know that there is nothing like it. This boy will be kind, tenderhearted, love you and all his family, and be filled with a desire to learn about everything. But most of all, he will love Jesus and serve Him and others faithfully.

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The day will come again for you to become a mom for the second time. This will be the result of many prayers. Not only those prayed by you and Lane, but also by your precious two-year-old son who wants to have a sister.  He will pray faithfully for her. The Lord is going to answer those prayers and be the Provider of all the details involved in this adoption as well. Once again, you will board a plane for yet another country, this time to the country of Guatemala. It is there that you will meet your princess! The moment you see her, your heart will overflow with love. That motherly instinct that you no longer worry about, will abound for this precious child. Just like her brother, this curly, brown haired, brown eyed, petite, six-month-old little girl will transform you. This little one will be caring, filled with love for people, and will want every day to be a party! And like her brother, she will love Jesus from an early age, which will enable her to love others even more than she loves herself.

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So, dear Christin, when the road that you travel gets tough, don’t lose hope! The Lord is in control of your life. Just release your grip on anything else but Him. At times, it will be hard and you will want to change His plan—or even give up! But the Lord will be faithful. Trust Him. His desires for you will become your desires. He will take your worries, your sadness, even the pain, and turn it into complete joy. You will wonder if it will all be worth it. Looking back, in complete confidence, I say, “YES!” I would not change a thing—nothing. Nothing. Just like Isaiah 55:8-9 says, ’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ (ESV) That is the truth. His ways and His plans are far better than anything we could ever conjure up.

Love,
Christin

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I hope you’ve been encouraged today!

 

 

{Story2} Burying your baby

Through the month of March, we’re going to do a series called “This is my story, this is my song.” There are personal journeys of hope, victory, courage, and redemption that you need to hear!

The story you are about to read is incredible! I (Heather) met Sarah a little over a year ago. You know how sometimes you meet someone and your friendship takes off? That’s what happened with us—a deep friendship emerged so effortlessly. I have no doubt, God had our paths collide. [Not only are we friends, but we also have a side business together called Story Designs {by S & H} – after you’re done reading… check out the pretty things we make!]

I can’t wait for you to hear from her! I’ve been praying for THIS MOMENT since she first shared some of her journey with me over coffee! Our kids were off destroying the play room as we were wiping tears and smiling over God’s fierce love for us. I KNOW this is going to bless your socks off!

I’m happy to introduce you to Sarah…

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by Sarah Lombardi

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him,
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for Grace to trust him more

I have been singing that song all my life, but it wasn’t until this year that I began to understand the joy and fullness of putting my complete trust in Him.

Five years ago, on March 29th, I went into labor with our second child. We were very excited about welcoming our baby BOY into the family! Earlier that week the doctor told me it could be any day. I was 37 weeks and full term! We gathered our bags and headed to the hospital. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of fear as we drove in. I prayed silently for peace, and as I prayed, it was like I already knew.

Shortly after we arrived, the nurses got me in a room and started hooking me up to monitors. The nurse could see that I was having close contractions, but she was having trouble finding baby. I continued to pray. After what felt like an eternity, she called in the doctor to do an ultrasound. The on-call doctor wheeled in the sonogram machine and placed it right on Miles. It was very clear—Miles had his hands raised and was still. No heartbeat. Just still. The doctor said, “You see this,” pointing to the screen. “This is his heart and its not beating.”

My world… our world… came crashing down.

Tears came.

All I could do was weep.

My husband and I held one another and wept.

After my surgery they brought in Miles Daniel for me to hold. He was in a bassinet, wrapped in a blanket. They had dressed him in a little hat and a zip-up sleeper. He was perfect. Just beautiful. Miles weighed exactly 4 pounds, so he was little, but oh so perfect. I held him and cried. I just starred at him “asleep” in my arms. I took in every detail because I didn’t want this moment to end.

Baby Miles

Baby Miles

After the funeral and all the family had gone, it seemed like life had to move forward… but I wasn’t ready to move forward. I prayed day and night, “Lord give me faith to trust this is Your will in my life.”

It’s been a process. It’s been a fight. Grieving takes a toll on you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But as seconds turned into hours, and hours to days, and days to months, and now months to years; through it all the Lord has shown me (and continues to show me) how much HE loves US.

Every step of this journey He. Has. Loved. ME!

HE loved this broken momma who had lost ALL of her joy in the Lord.

HE loved this sad wife who became a negative and selfish spouse.

HE loved me and extravagantly poured His love into my heart—healing me bit by bit.

He showed His love through our family, our church family and friends. He took a mother with a broken heart and made her into a mother with a prayerful heart. The Lord has given me a compassion for the hurting, the weary, and the brokenhearted. He has mended our marriage—taking two hurting, selfish people, and showing us how to live and thrive inside a Christ centered, loving marriage.

These five years have been full of tears, but we have begun to see His beauty rising from our ashes. He brought JOY back into my heart and a song:

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take him at his word
Just to rest upon his promise
Just to know thus saith The Lord

I realized how sweet it truly is to put my trust in Him and to believe what His Word tells me. Not just to hear it—but BELIEVE it! Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.’” I began to put my trust back in Him—my Lord, my Savior! I gave Him my whole heart and my life that was broken and bruised… He has healed it!

Exactly two years after we lost Miles Daniel, the Lord blessed us with our third child—our son, Jones Abraham. Jones was born premature at barely 31 weeks. The Lord knew. He knit him together and knew exactly the day he would be born.

Sarah and Baby Jones

Sarah and Baby Jones

I held my precious, Jones, on the EXACT day we lost Miles, two years earlier. “The Lord gives and takes away…” {Job 1:21}

After naming Jones we found out the meaning of his name: “Jehovah has shown favor.”

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. {Psalm 30:5}

We have questions without answers. There are days that I imagine the five of us sitting around the dinner table. I wonder what Miles’s laugh would sound like or how his arms would feel around me. There will be a day that I experience his giggles and his hugs, but until then, the arms of Christ envelop me. His arms are big enough, strong enough, and firm enough to strengthen this momma for the road ahead. He alone holds me together.

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On this road of suffering, I have learned to trust Him. Simply trust. His ways are greater and far better for me! It has been five years and THIS week we will place a stone at Miles’s grave. This year has been a year of freedom and of letting go of heartache. I am ready. WE are ready! “Lord, I trust you!” This stone isn’t for Miles—he is with our Savior! I imagine him dancing along the shore, hand in hand with Jesus! This stone is for mom and dad. We are placing this stone as a reminder: Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!

I will forever sing:

I’m so glad I learned to trust thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, friend.
And I know that thou art with me
Will be with me to the end.

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If you are new to this blog, check out our STORY and how God taught us about rising from our ashes—not to merely survive, but to dance!

Go here to learn more about the book: Dancing On My Ashes.

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{Story1} What God said to me about my eating disorder

Through the month of March, we’re going to do a series called “This is my story, this is my song.” There’s personal journeys of hope, victory, courage, and redemption that you need to hear! I know, I know, it’s still a few days before March, but I can’t wait to get started!

I (Heather) want to introduce you to someone that’s incredibly precious to me. I met her when she was 15 years old (11 years ago!) I had been invited to her church for the weekend, to be among various teachers with the purpose of pouring into a group of teen girls for 3 days. I instantly was drawn to this young lady. We stayed in contact and as the years grew, so did our friendship. It began as mentor/mentee and now I call her friend. Jess loves Jesus. There’s no doubt about that. I’ve always loved seeing Him through her eyes, but for so long these glimpses of beauty would flicker in and out as I could see a sadness roll in. She was trapped. She wanted to be strong enough to kick her battle with an eating disorder. But she wasn’t.

I’m excited for her to share some of her journey with you today. I’ve been on the sideline, as I’ve witnessed this war raging to ruin her. I’ve watched as she’s blossomed into a strong, independent, expressive, and brave young woman. AND… she’s a rapper! {After you read her story, watch her blow up the mic, yo!}

There’s so much I want to say, but I’m going to let HER tell you. So, without further ado… I introduce you to Jess Guemmer. This is Jess’ story of victory.

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by Jess Guemmer

On February 25, 2014, I celebrated one full year of freedom from an eating disorder. I can honestly say I never thought those words would come out of my mouth.

I am a Christian. Christians aren’t supposed to struggle with eating disorders are they? Isn’t that saying that He isn’t enough? That He isn’t all satisfying?

But the truth is, bondage is all I’ve known. For ten years, an eating disorder was my best friend. It was my fix, keeping my inner pain at a minimum. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but I didn’t feel joy at all… I couldn’t—but I also didn’t hurt. The trade-off felt worth it. I was convinced that to walk a joy-less life was far better than dealing with the pain that was at the core of my soul.

After my husband and I moved to St. Louis in May 2012, we quickly got involved with a local church. We made friends: knowing others and being known. Those we were doing life with, began inquiring about us… about me, and it was soon brought to my attention that the way I had been living and wrestling, wasn’t normal, and I needed to seek help. After much resistance and the swallowing of my pride, I finally began therapy, initially treating my eating disorder.

I spent the next nine months doing some intense counseling, much of it geared towards my issues with food and addiction to exercise. However, as my time in counseling progressed, God revealed to me that this eating disorder wasn’t really the root issue. Like an onion, He began peeling back the layers of my heart, working towards the core of my self-protection and self-harm. It was a painful, but a healing journey as I walked through the darkest times of my life, to date.

I remember sitting in the middle of worship on February 20 of last year still wrestling with the Lord. Lots of healing had begun, but my ambivalence with God was still present. I had struggled for nine years to see the victory and freedom that God’s Word promised. I had spent countless days, weeks, and months trying to fix my issues, only to come out angrier on the other side. And in that moment, the word “surrender” flooded my mind.

SURRENDER

It seemed so cliché to me. I was a Christ-following-Bible-study-leading gal, who had shared the Gospel with others, who knew Scripture more than the average person! I knew all of the right answers, dang it! And… the fact was, I wanted to surrender. I just didn’t know how.

I told Him, “God, I want to surrender this, but what if I say that I surrender and nothing changes? Then what? I don’t trust You will come through.”

And God,

in His great love for me,

so gently welcomed my doubts and my lack of faith.

His voice, so powerfully responded, “Jess, You’re not scared to say you surrender because you don’t think I’ll come through; you’re scared to say you surrender because you know I WILL come through and then you will have to give up what you’ve been holding on to for so long.”

I felt like the breath was taken out of me in that moment. I felt frozen—found out. But His words ushered in such clarity. My hang-up wasn’t my mistrust in Jesus, it was my fear to un-clamp my hands and let go of my “friend,” my comfort, the pain-minimizer, the control… my sin.

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Three days later, I was sitting on the shore of a beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The vastness of the Atlantic Ocean and the noise of the water crashing into the shore caused my heart to race, as this euphoric feeling washed over me. The same dialogue began with the Lord about surrender. I echoed my same objections and doubts, and God, in His patience and persistence, responded yet again to His child.

I had a visual come to mind that day. I believe, surrender is a picture of one’s hands held out, offering everything to Jesus. But I had been living with one hand held out to Jesus, wanting to follow Him, and one hand held behind my back, still wanting to do life my way.

That day, on February 25, 2013, I sat on the shore of the Atlantic, held both of my hands out to Jesus and said, “Here I am.” I let the waves wash over me and asked God to make me new. I remember saying that I had no idea what my life would look like from that moment on, but I wasn’t going to hang on to my false sense of control anymore. I wanted God to take the reigns… and He did.

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One year later, I celebrated with my closest friends and my husband. God has done as He promised.

He reached into the pit and pulled me out.

He has loosened the grip that I had with an eating disorder.

He is redefining my perception of myself.

He is giving me balance and victory with food and exercise.

And… He has given me life.

I stand today as a conqueror. I still fight the battle, but my trust in Jesus has grown. I am no longer a slave to sin!

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD. Psalm 40:1-3

Running with my best friend

by Heather Spring {Gilion}

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It’s been a cold winter, but today… TODAY… was a balmy 49 degrees! The sun showed it’s face from time to time, and even though there are still traces of snow, I laced up my shoes for a good old, Valentine’s Day run!

I ran.

I worshiped.

I talked to God.

He talked to me.

I told Him that I loved Him… so very desperately loved Him.

I was running with my best friend. The lover of my soul. The One that knit me together in my mother’s womb. The One that knew my name before my parents chose to write it on my birth certificate. The One who knows my thoughts and still loves me. The One who cares enough to correct and discipline my sometimes know-it-all, rebellious heart. The One that will never leave me. The voice I know intimately, yet the face I’ve yet to see.

Today, I’m thankful for a date on the calendar that love rises to the forefront. Where “I love you” leaves our lips and acts of love come in the form of sweet treats and paper hearts. I’m thankful that God is love and because of this, I know how to love… to really love. Could I have a good marriage outside of the love of Christ? I probably could. Would it be as deep and satisfying? Nope. It’s because my God first loved me that I understand a smidgin of what it means to love others. Would I love my children outside of grasping and beholding the gospel? I would, but it wouldn’t be nearly as deep as it is to love with God loving through me.

So… just wanted to take a moment and say, “Happy Valentine’s Day. You are loved…unconditionally. You are treasured. You have not been forgotten. You are in His thoughts today.” If you knew how much He loves you and how much He wants to say to you, you’d go for a walk with Him too. I think you should. I think I might get off of here so I can talk to Him again.

Why not steal a few moments away with your first love? Close your eyes and set your mind and heart on things above. Let Him capture your heart once again. May we remember today and everyday that, “We love because He first loved us.” {1 John 4:19}

New Year’s Resolutions: Being okay with not knowing where you’re going

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by Heather Spring {Gilion}

We’re a week into the new year.

On December 31st, I asked my husband if we should make any New Year’s resolutions. He thinks they’re dumb. I think they’re kinda fun, but then again I’m a little bit on the competitive side. So mine are really contrived from a game-mentality. When I make a resolution I go through the entire year trying not to lose against myself. On January 1, I glare at myself in the mirror. Threatening myself, “It’s on like Donkey Kong!” Now, the hubs, he’s not competitive by nature. In high school he decided he wasn’t going to play basketball anymore because he just wasn’t “into it,” he had other scholastic aspirations. But what’s one of the first things I hear when someone meets him? “Dude, I bet you played some serious ball in school!” Why? Because he’s tall. He’s so tall when he gets frustrated at me he says, “Don’t make me come down there!” {I’m kidding. I’m kidding. He only says that to the kids.}

So Dallas may not be competitive, but he’s a planner and he’s constant. {He’s also constantly planning, but that’s for another blog.} Like, it’s silly to ask if he’s going to work out or read his Bible or mess around on his guitar or eat oatmeal or give me a hug and kiss when he walks in the house. Or will he call me right when I pour the milk in my cereal? I know the answer to these questions. Of course! He’s constant. He’s my steady-teddy. So, in his mind there’s no need for silly “new year’s resolutions!” If he sees a reason to add something, he adds it. If something needs to be subtracted… done… did it yesterday. “Lasterday” as our four-year-old says.

But for me—change—it takes me a minute. I don’t want to make a promise and not keep it. {Been there, done that.} I weigh the decision—the pros and cons. I have even been known to grieve what I know will be in my best interest. {Like the time I gave up Dr. Pepper. I still meet you in my dreams.} And some “resolutions” I know I’m about to make are not just for a year, but for life. Internally there’s a bit of a fight. I’ve been known to get a little grumpy with those around me when I’m making a change. Change always requires something from us. Time. Learning new habits.  Abandoning “ease” to take on a season of planning and structuring for the new. Giving up or giving in or doing away with or adding onto, it all takes work to arrive at a new normal. Sacrifice.

So, my man didn’t engage my “New Year’s Resolution” talk, {I was thinking about giving up almonds, I don’t like them much anyway}, but he came to me with a New Year’s Evaluation List. It was intense. It covered our relationship with God, with one another, with our children, our roles, our jobs, our dreams, our goals, vacation plans, expectations, and much more, because like I said he’s a planner and he’s constant. {Yet another reason I think he’s constantly awesome!} Dallas led us in a time of reflection and discussion and prayerful evaluation as we embark toward what God has for us in 2014. We’re still discussing. The self-evaluation is still happening. But as two very different people, we must come together as one so we can support and encourage one another when distractions and other “good” things tempt to steal from what we know to be our calling.

I’ll spare you all the things that are swirling around in my noodles and give you the “peak” in all my self-evaluation for 2014.
{peak = the thing that is beyond me but that is luring me higher.}

There are some specific questions I’m asking the Lord, regarding my time and what I spend my energy on. I want to be in-line with His will for my life. Desperate for it, really. And I know myself; I can get a bit distracted at times. But this question seems to have become what lingers at the top of this year’s mountain. It’s what’s haunting me and drawing me all at the same time:

Will you go without knowing?

Because I’ve been asking God a lot of questions lately.
“What are You going to do with this?”
“If I do this, how’s it going to end up?”
“What are You going to do with that dream?”
“Am I waaaay off base spending my time on this?”

Will I go without knowing how things will turn out?

Can I? Will I?

God does not tell you what He’s going to do. It’s taken me a long time to get this. I still catch myself asking for the outcome and begging Him to reveal details. But He answers my questions in a very unexpected fashion: He reveals Himself. He shows me WHO He is and surprisingly, with that, my heart is settled and my faith increased as I go out in confidence. Laying down my expectations and my agenda, this is my daily battle.  But as I understand more of the character of God, I need not wonder if I’m out here alone. I’m not. I don’t have to fret about the details. I just need Him. I place my ear upon His heart and I listen. I open His Word and I breathe Him in. I hold fast to His still small voice that’s ever with me and I obey. I need to be still and know that He is indeed—GOD. I need to trust when He says, “Hang a left,” that the best way is left. I need not fight to turn right.

When I wake each morning, will I go out? I can re-evaluate. I can make a plan. {And my tall hubby is more than happy to help me make one.} Again, there’s nothing wrong with making a plan. But will I be dependent upon Him, come what may?  Will I be flexible, scrapping my plan for His? Will I go and do and be without knowing how this will all play out?

I’m trekking up the mountain, whispering my vow: I will.

I’m Yours.

I’ll go.

I trust You.

I know You are good.

You alone satisfy my soul.

I don’t need to know the how’s or the why’s or the when’s, I just need to, with each step up the mountain, anchor my hope in You. For You, my Lord, will not disappoint.

He alone knows what 2014 holds for me and I’m okay with not knowing… because I know HIM. I will go.

 

You Make All Things New

We are snowed in AGAIN! But as I was looking out my window this morning I saw ice cycles lining my gutters and I was reminded of this video: You Make All Things New. A couple years ago I was asked to write a piece on winter to accompany a Kanakuk Ministries video.

Whatever season you find yourself in today, I pray that you are encouraged by this.

He ALONE makes all things NEW!