{Story 2} The Redeemed “Other” Woman

the redeemed other woman

In this November {Thankfulness} series, we are super-duper proud to introduce you to the woman who changed our diapers and braided our hair. Our mom! She has always been the one we wanted to “be when we grew up!” We could gush all day over our mom, but if we did that you wouldn’t get to hear her amazing God-story! You, or someone you know, might need to hear what she has learned on her journey. We are so proud of her for bravely standing in the light, when most would cower in the closet. We introduce you to, the one and only, our mom, Diane Cary.


God has a plan for your life.
The enemy has a plan for your life.
Be ready for both.
Just be wise enough to know
Which one to battle – Which one to embrace.
-unknown author

by Diane Cary

I was raised in a Christian home, went to church, knew right from wrong, read my Bible on a daily basis as a teen, attended a Christian college, married a Christian man, and was blessed with 6 beautiful children – Holly, Heather, Heidi, Heath, Hannah, and Hunter. So how did I find myself becoming the “other” woman?

My oldest daughters shared their story in the book, Dancing On My Ashes. So if you’ve read it, you know that my husband Evan suffered a stroke that the doctors didn’t think he would recover from when he was 40. You’ve read how there were many ups and downs due to his health. You learned that 9 years after the initial stroke, he passed away. AND THEN… nine months later Holly and Heather lost their husbands, Scott and James. But as you read about our ashes, you also read how our God was faithful. There’s no doubt that we’ve gone through so much, but we’ve also learned along the way, that if we keep our eyes on Jesus and trust God that He will bring us through. HE WILL and HE HAS.

We have learned to take a day at a time.

We have learned that in our weakness, He is made strong.

We have learned that if our heart is broken, we’ll find God right there.

You may think – Wow! What an awesome family because of all the glorious stories you can tell. However, there is one story I am not proud of. A time in my life that I wanted to keep hidden in a dark little corner. A time when I turned away from God and went down my own path. This was a time in my life that I wish had never happened. Have you ever experienced a time like that? Have you ever wished you could go back and change the past because of choices you’ve made?

The Lord has been dealing with me regarding this time. You see, I became the “other” woman. I was unfaithful to my husband. I committed adultery.

I had meant every word of the vows I declared on our wedding day. Every word. So how did I end up breaking these promises? My only explanation: I became a woman who thought only of herself, and as I chose this destructive path, I hurt my husband, I hurt my children, I hurt a dear friend of mine, I hurt her family, I hurt my church, I hurt my Heavenly Father, and I hurt myself.

You see, I had an affair with my boss, the pastor of my church.

It’s still hard to say out loud.

I would like to believe that I was out of my head at this time. I was stretched to the limit. Anyone looking in at my life would’ve agreed. Our daughter Hannah had just been born and shortly after my husband suffered a stroke that put him in the hospital for 7 months. I would drop my newborn baby off at a friend’s home and then spend the day at the hospital. Once Evan was released and brought home, I would get him up every morning and walk him to a lounge chair where he would sit for the day, and then off to work I would go. I spent my lunch hour rushing home to fix Evan something to eat and give him his meds, and then dart back to work. Then at the end of the day, I would race back home to take care of him, fix supper, take care of my children, wash dishes, do laundry, clean the house, make sure homework was done and teeth were brushed. {Moms, you know the routine.} If someone had an “excuse,” I did. But there really are no excuses.

I was so frazzled that I didn’t have time for myself . . . and worst of all, I didn’t “have” time for the Lord. I was running on empty. So when my boss came to me with enticing words, at first I laughed at him and ignored what he was saying. But I think I became a game to him and he began coming on stronger and stronger until one day… one regrettable day…I caved. And once I stepped over that line, I didn’t know how to get back. I wanted to cry out for help, but I didn’t know who to talk to. I wanted to cry out to God, but since I was living in sin, I thought He wouldn’t be listening. I was a mess and felt as if I was all alone. Alone in my shame. Alone bearing my secrets.

Once the affair came to an end, my life did too. I was now a woman of shame. We were shunned by some in the church, which led me to assume my whole church family hated me. I couldn’t blame them. In their eyes I had hurt their pastor. And it was true, I had hurt his family. I was a disgrace to all those I had called friends and family. We left our church home because I was an embarrassment.

A beautiful part of this grace-story was that I was married to a man who didn’t believe in divorce. The fact was: I really did love Evan. Yet when I looked in the mirror, I was face to face with the “other” woman. I didn’t like her. I hated her. Where had she come from? I never planned on becoming her.

For the next 6 years, we worked at putting our marriage back together. It was rough. It was not easy. It seemed impossible at times. There were arguments, days of crying, moments of wanting to give up . . . BUT God.

That’s really it right there: But God, and only God!

He takes our unimaginable, don’t-even-want-to-say-it-out-loud messes and turns them around for His glory and our good! He taught Evan and I how to fill our home and our marriage with grace that abounds. Our Emmanuel, God with us, gave us the fight in our marriage. He also gave us dear friends who didn’t shun us, but stood by our side, fighting for our marriage. During this time, I wanted to move far, far away so we could start over. But for some reason the Lord would not allow us to leave. He forced me to face my past.

When you are a victim in a hurtful situation, everyone feels sorry for you and is quick to be there for you. But when you are the “bad” guy, people pretty much leave you alone. I remember being in Wal-Mart buying groceries and seeing someone from our old church in the distance coming my way. Of course I was nervous to see them, but as we got closer, our eyes met. That, once-upon-a-time friend, stopped, turned around, and went the other way. My heart sank. Didn’t they know that I had asked God to forgive me? Didn’t they know that we were trying to put our marriage back together? Didn’t they know that I was hurting inside? Didn’t they know that I needed a friend?

I think the hardest thing about putting my marriage back together was forgiving myself. Why did I do this and who was I? Many nights I cried out to God asking Him these questions and then one night I felt His tender arms surround me, just holding me. My prayer that night was . . .

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”   Psalm 51:10-12

I felt God’s redeeming love and His forgiveness. God began doing a work in my heart. I was no longer the “other” woman, but God was making me a “new” woman. His woman.

Seven years after Evan’s death, Bill came into my life and what a blessing he has been to me and my kids. A lot has happened since then – even more healing has taken place within me.

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Bill has been God’s gift to me and our family!

Shortly after Bill and I got married, Holly and Heather wrote their book, Dancing on My Ashes. I was so proud of them and so excited seeing all of the things the Lord had been doing in their hearts and lives. What an awesome journey they have been on! Even though they had this beautiful story they were telling, the enemy would come to me and remind me of my past. “Look how your girls have been faithful and strong in God, but you were weak and became an embarrassment to your family. You are such a failure.”

I knew that was my past and I knew that I had been forgiven – it was just hard to forget what I had done. But as God was writing a beautiful story for my girls, He was also writing my story. With Bill’s encouragement, our family returned to my “old” church home! That was a miracle in itself, because for years I had said I would never go back because of what I had done. But “somehow” I found myself back inside those walls. Somehow? No, more like there was Someone wanting me to return to face my past. Heidi, my third daughter, began leading worship there, and asked me to join her as a backup singer. My heart leaped for joy because I love to sing, but at the same time I was apprehensive, I wasn’t sure how the church members would take seeing me again.

I could just hear them: Why is she back? Why does she think she should be up front singing? Can you remember the mess she was a part of? Who does she think she is? Once again, the enemy was beating me down.

One Sunday while I was singing up front, these hurtful thoughts started coming to my mind again. As I closed my eyes in frustration, I felt the Lord gently ask these questions,

“Why are you a backup singer?
Are you singing for yourself and for your glory? Are you singing for these people?
Or are you here to sing to Me?”
And in my heart, I responded, “I’m singing to You, Jesus.”
And He replied, “Then sing to Me.”

As I began to sing, I focused my attention totally on Him and with that, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I felt freedom like I had never felt before. I was so free! Have you ever felt completely free? Freedom that makes you want to dance? Now, I didn’t dance (because I didn’t want to fall over my feet), but I sure was wearing the biggest smile on my face! My heart was dancing, because for the first time I believed God saw me as forgiven, beautiful, NEW! I was no longer “other” I was His, redeemed by grace. He didn’t want my past hurt or sin to haunt me. He had freedom in mind for me. Today my heart sings of His joy and love that makes a “wretch like me” a friend. He is my forever love.

Can God use me with a past like this? Yes, yes, yes!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,
“and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29.11-14

I have experienced His forgiveness.
I have experienced His mercy and His redeeming love.
I have experienced His strength in time of need.
I have experienced a forgiving love from my church body.
I now guard my heart. I make time for my Heavenly Father every day.
I have Jesus! He is my everything! He is my all!

 

wall six

The Wall Six! From left to right: Hunter, Hannah, Heidi, Holly, Heather, and Heath

 


If you missed the first post in this November {Thankfulness} series go here: The 14 questions my husband asked me

To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book: go here

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

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E-Book Sale: Dancing On My Ashes

b59b9-domacoverThrough the month of November, we are selling the e-book version of our book, Dancing On My Ashes, for a special price! Our publisher gave us a price break and we’d like to pass it on to you! Soooo, you can purchase the e-book version of Dancing On My Ashes from us (using our paypal link) for $5! {Our publisher sells it for $13.99, and Amazon sells it for $9.99!}

If you’ve already purchased a copy of our book, but you’ve always thought you’d like to buy one for so-and-so, this is the PERFECT opportunity! No pressure over here, we just want to pass along this price break. We are confident that it will find its way into the right hands at the right time. God continues to blow us away by the incredible testimonies we hear of God working in hearts, minds, and souls. May His good news go forth!

Thankful for what God is doing and has done with our story, which is truly His Story of redemption, hope, grace, and unfailing love! (If you have no idea what our book is about, you can go here and read a bit of our story OR you can watch our short video.)

{Note: After purchase, you will receive an email from us that includes instructions on how to download your e-book! We’ll get that to you as soon as we can!}

SALE ENDS NOVEMBER 30, 2013, at MIDNIGHT.

Here’s where you need to go:

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No-Good-Rotten Anniversaries

nogoodrotten

by Heather Spring

There are good anniversaries and ones that feel… ummm… well, not so good.

Holly and I wanted to write a little something for those that might be in the same boat as we—the “man-that-day-really-stinks boat.” We said goodbye to James and Scott on August 1, 2000. And ever since, that day hasn’t been the same. We’ve traveled to many a place, sharing our story, and we’ve met many others that have their own day—those no-good-rotten days that linger on the calendar, staring us in the face, begging us to crumble under the pain they symbolize.

We’re sharing this post on our “day” in hopes that we can speak a bit about what we’ve learned over the past 13 years regarding difficult anniversaries. Wow, I need to pause for a moment…
Has it really been 13 years?
God is good.

Four years ago, on this particular day, I was nine months prego, and had this amazing moment with God. My no-good-rotten day had actually snuck up on me. That was a first for me! On top of that, some of my good friends were throwing me a baby shower to celebrate Zachariah’s soon arrival. I had agreed to this?! What was I thinking? (a.k.a. baby brain) This all occurred to me on my fifth trip to the bathroom that night. (a.k.a. baby kicking bladder) So all of a sudden I sat there, wide-eyed, in shock that I had not been dreading the day. In fact, I was planning to celebrate on this day! Woah! Talk about God’s redemption at work. As my head pressed against my pillow, in the wee hours of an August 1st morning, I started running through my usual pattern of “anniversary” thought. I recalled what I had done that morning in 2000. I cringed again about the argument James and I had before he left the house. I remembered watching the clock for his return so that I could apologize. I thought about how I went to bed that night not knowing that he was already holding the hand of Jesus… his faith had been made sight. I recalled the waiting, the watching, the bargaining with God, and the “whys.” I remembered the moment when our worst fears were made reality as over 24 hours later we received the news that there had been an accident.

Sigh. Deep breath.

All these memories were running through my mind on that morning four years ago as I curled up underneath my covers. All this remembering created a very odd feeling in me, to be honest. I sat there going through the fatal turn of events, just like I always seemed to do on that day, yet at the same time, my heart’s voice whispered, “Lord, is it okay that I’m remembering?” As quickly as I had uttered those words, another memory transported me to my past. I was on a hillside. I could almost feel the stillness of that dark night as I stood questioning God. Etched into my being, alone before the King of Kings, I came to understand comfort that is not of this world. A broken and desperate widow experienced God’s nearness that proved He indeed loved this seemingly insignificant human being.  He spoke over my life in my darkest hours. Grace upon grace.

“God, I’m remembering… is that okay?” You see, I was conflicted. I almost felt guilty about reminiscing. A few inches to my right was my husband Dallas. I could hear him inhaling and exhaling. I couldn’t be more thankful for the gift God had given me in his companionship. And then to my left was a monitor that hummed with sounds from my son Noah’s room.

“Lord, You have never left my side. Your plans are completely beyond my wildest imaginations!” I said, as I ran my hand back and forth on my round abdomen that cradled Zachariah. “Lord, Is it okay that I’m remembering?” Sometimes you can’t help but sound like a broken record.

In God-fashion, at the perfect moment, He answered my question with a question. (Another one of His specialties.) “What does the name Zachariah mean?”

I was silenced and awed as I recalled my many Google searches, desperate to choose the perfect name for our little boy. I responded, “Zachariah means God remembers.”

GOD REMEMBERS!
GOD remembers!
God REMEMBERS!

God spoke into my August 1sts and wanted me to know that not only should I remember; but I need to understand that He remembers. He remembers those moments even clearer than I do. As I close my eyes and mentally walk the roads of my past, I dare not miss the moments He carried me… us. His otherness still leaves me speechless. And as I linger on each moment in time, He desperately wants me to understand that His love for me has never failed, that He is enough for ANYTHING that I would and will ever walk through, and that He is a God that doesn’t forget. And as I remember, I can rest in the truth that He remembers me… the gal that gets it wrong more than she gets it right. This heart wanders, only to be reminded that His cross is more than enough.

You know I had thought Dallas and I chose Zachariah’s name… but we didn’t. He did. God picked it out and blessed me with the revelation that the sweet little smile I would come to know is actually a daily reminder that God remembers.

It might sound odd, but I can’t stop thinking about Easter today.

Easter is really the only thing that I can think of to compare to tough anniversaries.

Good Friday: complex emotions over the death of one you love.
Saturday: grieving, processing, holding out hope for the promises spoken about Sunday! We wait and hope—believing that LIFE will come from death!
SUNDAY: Our hearts leap as the day breaks on Easter morning and we celebrate the empty grave! Christ completed what He was asked to do on the cross. ONLY GOD could tell death to “shove it!”

August 1 is not the end to our story… or James’ or Scott’s. It’s part of the story, but the story is SO much bigger than that! There are places in me, and maybe you, that beg us to get stuck in our Fridays. We mourn. We don’t move on. We can’t look forward. We get stuck in the pain, trapped in the sorrow of Friday. But we can’t miss out on Saturday! I know Sunday’s the BIG day, but a lot can happen in us on Saturday. It’s a testing of faith—of living out what we believe—of hoping that indeed Sunday will come! We cling to the promise that He will come for us! There will be an end to our suffering, the injustice, the tears, and the horrific news stories! Sunday will be AH-MAZ-ING! But we can’t miss living anchored to hope while we endure Saturday.

With all that said, we share with you 3 things to think about on your no-good-rotten day(s):

1. Remember your Friday. Don’t fight the desire to remember or “busy” yourself in an effort to ignore this natural response to loss and disappointment. If we strive to disengage our heart, we miss moments of growth. So go ahead: remember, talk about it, re-live moments. BUT… don’t get stuck in your “Friday.” At some point, you stop looking back, and you set your eyes forward.

2. Make Saturday your Thanksgiving. You might think it would be a hard thing to do on a day that your heart is so heavy, but I promise thanksgiving is key. Whether it’s mental or you choose to sit down and put pen to paper, once you begin a list of thanksgiving, you may be surprised at how quickly you’ll see the presence of God even in the midst of your darkest day. Gratitude is good for the soul and it is healing to recognize, verbalize, and credit the hand of God. When we focus on our pain, we can get jaded and angry. Thanksgiving opens up our eyes to see life from an entirely new perspective. While you dwell in your Saturday, awaiting the promise of Sunday, build your faith by recognizing the blessings all around you.

3. Set your heart on Sunday. I’ve spent some anniversaries lingering on #1 waaaay too long. I’ve wallowed, licked my wounds, and drug others down with me. If you are a believer, then get this IN you: THIS IS ALL TEMPORARY! This is not our forever home! Eternity is set in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11). Do you feel it? Let the promise of Sunday usher in peace as you are reminded that the suffering we endure here on earth will be incomparable to the hope and glory that will be revealed on Sunday! (Romans 8:18)

Lastly, we wanted to highlight 3 anniversary surprises:

1. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I don’t. Don’t feel bad either way. Most of the time I don’t and it surprises me, it might be because I’ve cried off and on the week that leads up to this day. My emotions are on !HIGH Alert! the entire month of July and then when I expect total meltdown, I have a peace that passes all MY understanding! He’s good like that.

2. Irritability. That’s just a nice way of saying that I can be a bit grouchy and easily angered leading up to my day. (Holly more so than me—just kidding!) Little things that shouldn’t be a big deal suddenly become a BIG DEAL! I call it “subconscious grieving.” I’m thankful for a God that understands our weaknesses and brings healing and freedom from even a July-hot-head. It’s been good for me to understand this “anniversary surprise” so I can fight against it. My sweet hubby and children have shown me much grace and love as they live with this sporadic “side-effect”.

3.  You don’t have to hide. You might be surprised by this, but it’s okay to let others know that a painful anniversary is coming up. I’m not saying you need to post weird, mysterious, FB statuses, but I am saying call on a friend. Be vulnerable. I know you might say, “different strokes for different folks,” but the fact is God calls us to community. We need one another! Don’t wait for someone to magically “remember” your hard day. Invite someone in. Maybe it’s someone you know really well, or maybe it’s someone who “knows” what you’re going through because they’ve experienced something similar.

I know this is a longer post than usual, but I hope that it encourages you on some level today… or on your no-good-rotten day! He can REDEEM your Friday!

If you don’t know our whole story, here’s a link to the book, Dancing On My Ashes. OR Go here for to purchase the book!

I am NEEDY

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by Holly Ann

Have you ever been pegged as “high-maintenance” or “needy”? When I think of high-maintenance, I get a picture in my head of a modern day Fran Drescher from the 90’s sitcom The Nanny. (Have you got her laugh in your head, yet? You’re welcome!) If Fran is “high” on the maintenance-meter, I’m more of a medium-maintenance kinda gal. But am I needy? Certainly not. I’m a strong, independent woman… or so I once thought.

A couple of weeks ago, Aaron and I were relaxing in the living room after a long day and Ava walked in and jumped into Aaron’s lap, “I haven’t had my hug today.” Aaron pulled her in for a sweet hug and released her.  She gave him a harsh face and said, “Is that it?!” Aaron glanced over at me and said, “Well, she comes by that honestly!”

You see, I have developed a little reputation with my husband when it comes to hugs and goodbyes.  Back in June, Aaron took a quick trip where he would be gone for several days. The sole purpose of this particular getaway was for some uninterrupted time with God. As we were saying our goodbyes, he gave me a kiss and hug with some quick pats to the back. I now would like to pause for dramatic effect and emphasize: pats to the back. This is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to a hug shared between a husband and wife. A good pat on the back during a hug is what “bro’s” do. I collected myself in this moment and acted as if I were not hurt and waved goodbye.

A few minutes later, an alien force took over my body and through tears; I began to text Aaron to communicate how I was feeling. Three words seemed to sum it up: “Your goodbyes suck.” (Ok, not my finest moment and in shame, I share this with you.) He responds with, “Are you serious?!”

I would love to report that I bounced back right away and realized the error of my ways, but that’s just not the case. I was an emotional wreck. I realized I was way out of line, but I couldn’t understand why this particular goodbye affected me so strongly. Thus began some SERIOUS soul searching and MAJOR apologies. What is wrong with me??? Why am I so NEEDY? Why was this goodbye not good enough?

After a couple of days of having a good old fashion pity party, God began to open my eyes to an area in my life that needed correction. I started to retrace many previous goodbyes between Aaron and I. There was a pattern of meltdowns almost every time he would leave for consecutive days. But why?!

Almost 13 years ago, Scott Nesbitt (my first husband) walked out our front door with a kiss and quick goodbye. He was scheduled to return home in time for dinner, but I never got to see him walk back into our house. I never got to see him kiss our sweet daughter again. He was killed in a drowning accident about an hour after he left me.

I now realize that I have a deep seeded fear anytime Aaron leaves for a trip. What if I never get to see him again?

Here are the facts:  I AM NEEDY.

But God, in His great mercy, reminds me that it’s OK to be needy, but I’m not being “needy” about the right things.

1.     I Need HIM!

What if I never realized my need for Christ? What if I thought that doing this life alone in my own strength was enough? I fail every day. My security can’t be in my husband, my church, my job, or my family, but in Christ alone. When I am needy, His eye is on me – looking out for me.

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap. – Psalm 113:7

But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay. – Psalm 40:17

2.      We Need EACH OTHER!

My sweet sisters, I need you!  My heart breaks just like yours. I make mistakes on a daily basis. There are times when I find myself to be incredibly selfish, fearful, judgmental, insecure, etc. I need you and you need me! There’s something so special in friendships where you can totally be yourself – friends that you can laugh with, cry with, and unravel with. But ultimately, I need friends in my life that call sin what it is and point me to Christ and His abounding grace. TOGETHER we are something special.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you! – I Corinthians 12:21

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. – I Corinthians 12:26, 27

3.      We Need to PERSEVERE!

When we get our eyes off of our Jesus—our ONLY genuine, bonafide NEED—we shrink, throw fits, and at times attack those we love because we fear our lack of control. But setting our hearts on the One and Only that fills us up and meets our neediness, then, and only then, we can persevere through anything! A determined living that sets our hearts at peace, through anything big or small.

When the kids have destroyed your house over summer break and your dog continues to get into your bathroom trash…PERSEVERE!

When you’re having a bad hair day and the wrinkles on your face are getting more pronounced…PERSEVERE!

When your husband forgets how much you loathe “bro” hugs… PERSEVERE!

When you feel forgotten, alone, and afraid…PERSEVERE!

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. – Hebrews 10:36

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. – 2 Corinthians 9:8

Friends, don’t think for a moment that we can make it without the Lord. Does that sound cliché? Well, this “cliché” is oh soo true! We NEED Him every hour of every day. We don’t need the perfect hugs from our spouse, or even the promise that they’ll always return home to us, we NEED HIM! In Scripture it says,

Few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be take away from her. – Luke 10:42

Mary chose to be in the presence of Jesus.  She realized her need for Him was greater than any other thing. As I write this today, God Himself is reminding my heart that I need Him. Let’s choose His presence. If you have another moment or two, listen to this song and make this your heart’s cry today.

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WW7K67NX

Dancing On My Ashes | The Story

2000 was a life changing year for us. There were moments we didn’t know if we would survive, but God’s love rescued our hearts. For those out there that are hurting, confused, angry… there is hope. Real hope! Our lives are evidence of that hope and a God that is real and His love that’s healing.

Feel free to connect with us on our facebook page: DancingOnMyAshes

To order the book:

Amazon
Tate Publishing

Video made by: Rob Lyons Productions