Category Archives: Faith

BLOWN AWAY

Well hi there, old friend!

2016

Much to my dismay, Kevin and I didn’t get to take our annual “New Year’s Getaway” to plan and dream for 2016. That would be why you didn’t get an enthusiastic blog post full of !!!!!!!!! and confetti and Livspiration. It’s also why you didn’t get a memory post about the best of 2015. And I didn’t post a best nine because EMBARASSINGLY, two of my five selfies were in the best 9! Gross.

But what we did get to do these last three weeks, was pack our rhinocerously big house into boxes with three kids under the age of four. And then unpack it in a size half the space! Doesn’t that sound like fun!? (you can read about our operation downsize here)

My answer is YES! IT WAS SO FUN!

Why? Because two years after deciding we didn’t love our big house anymore, we finally sold it! Ideal timing to move a week after Christmas? Not in my opinion. How about moving in the dead of winter? Suck. How about finding a house in three days when pretty much everything is pulled off of the market? Slim chance.

But once again God’s timing was ridiculously better than ours.

We are OBSESSED WITH OUR NEW HOUSE! Christmas was still sweet and magical. Our moving day was like 40 degrees and sunny. And God’s hand has been on every-stinkin-thing-else.

I was worried my heart would hurt. That I would fear we were making the wrong decision. (add a kid, shrink a house? Seems confusing.) That I might be so sad to say goodbye to the house we brought our second and third babies home to. But those worries never bloomed.

We were shocked at how peaceful our hearts felt through the whole thing. My stress levels probably never got over an 8 (on a 10 point scale…and that was on moving day when I realized I forgot my kids at preschool….30 minutes late and still working on forgiving myself). In fact, this whole last month our stress hasn’t even gone over a 3-4! How is that even possible?!?

I think it’s possible because:

  1. God. “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” -Matthew 19:6
    “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” -Genesis 18:14

 

2. Our people. You know who you are:

  • You bubble wrapped wine glasses.
  • You helped us cleanse.
  • You watched our babies.
  • You fed our grumbling tummies.
  • You brought us coffee.
  • You lent us your trucks and muscles and elbow grease.
  • You encouraged us not to give up…to keep waiting…to follow God’s prompting to downsize even when the rest of the people cocked their heads and said “huh?”
  • You hung out with our kids at the preschool until we finally remembered that we have to pick them up, even on moving day.

I’m utterly speechless about how amazing you actually are. Words just don’t do justice. So I’m going to take you all to Hawaii with all this extra money from the downsize. 😀 Okay, you know I would if I could.

Thank you for all of your encouragement and your love. To say I’m humbled by this move and what God is doing in our hearts is inadequate.

(and to say I’m thrilled about our new back yard being flat, awesome, and a harbor to a hot tub is also inadequate.)

Dream session 2016 might have to happen in the hot tub. ❤

Do what you love and love what you do, it’s your life. Have an amazing weekend!

 

 

God at Work Wednesday: Heather’s Story

I have this friend named Heather who is amazing at being transparent and REAL. Friends like that are such a treasure…and today you get to meet her! HAPPY DAY!

Get those tissues ready because this story is likely to move you. God’s love is moving like that. Oh, and what’s awesome is that she doesn’t omit the bad or ugly parts and just give you the good. God’s power shows up best in our weakness….so without further adiu, meet Heather.

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“I’ve never been the prettiest, the most athletic or the most popular. I was smart and kind, but floated between groups of friends fighting to find my place in the world. I grew up in the church, knowing right from wrong and believing that sinning would send me to Hell. I served on every church retreat and spent much of my time in church or with church friends. I was the epitome of “a good kid”.

And then it happened….

I went to college. There, I went from a young, naïve, church-going 18 year old, to a raging alcoholic within days. That’s what “cool” kids did. Or so I thought. I very quickly fell into an addiction that began to consume my life. I found myself measuring my worth in how many parties I was invited to and how my guys were paying attention to me. I hated who I was and the life I was living but I felt trapped. I wanted to be liked and I wanted to be loved.

My first semester in college I found myself in a relationship with a man that would later prove to be extremely toxic. He avoided my calls, blatantly cheated on me and made sure I knew I was at his beck and call. I felt worthless, like God was punishing me for the decisions I had made. I began to believe the lies of the Evil One that a relationship like that was all I was worthy of, that I could never have more. However, deep in my soul, I knew that I wanted more, I craved more and yet I was digging a hole deeper and deeper, falling captive to the overwhelming grips of depression.

For three years I lived in this hell, a vicious cycle revolving around drinking and trying get a man to love me, instead he cheated on me every chance he got. I vividly remember sitting in my room crying, writing a list of what I wanted my future husband to look like. It included traits like: Godly, kind, loyal, honest, and trustworthy. I sobbed reading the words in my handwriting knowing that this man I was trying so hard to impress didn’t possess any of the qualities I wanted in a husband and also feeling unworthy that I deserved someone who did.

During college I also worked at a local gym and every time I went go to work I would see this man working out. He was quiet, kind and focused. I didn’t know his name or anything about him, but my heart would beat a little faster every time he walked by. I would joke with my co-workers that if I could marry anyone, I would marry him. One day I made this comment to an aerobics instructor I had befriended, when she responded “That’s my son”. I was embarrassed but it didn’t matter, I was still in a “relationship” and why would a guy like that ever look twice at a girl like me.

In early August, right before my senior year of college, my “boyfriend” broke up with me for what seemed like the 100th wants someone who is broken. But the amazing thing about God is that He fixes broken and makes it new again.

That same week, the man from the gym that I had a crush on for over 3 years asked me on a date. We went out and God forever changed the course of my life.

Through Josh, God began to provide hope again. God quietly spoke, “you are worthy”, and I begin to listen. But the voice of the Evil One loudly returned often in the beginning…”he will leave you too”, “you aren’t good enough”, “you’ll never be pretty enough, skinny enough, rich enough”. But Josh would remind me again and again that
those were lies and God’s voice began to get louder.

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I started to feel God’s encouragement and Josh continued to challenge me in my faith. For one of the first times in a long time I felt loved, love from a  man who showed unconditional support and an even greater love. His love mirrored the love of the Father God who had loved me unconditionally from the very beginning.

Josh possessed every quality on the list I had written so many years before. He was the man I had prayed for night after night through tears and desperation and God had answered my prayers in HIS perfect timing.

I wish I could say that once I met Josh that life was easy sailing, but that would be a lie. It wasn’t easy because we are two imperfect humans, so no relationship will ever be without trial. For a long time despite his love and kindness towards me, I constantly worried he would leave me, the Evil One would quietly creep back in. I tried to not let him be close enough to hurt me. I yelled, slammed doors and threatened to give back my ring more than once. I was afraid, guarded and still hated so much of who I was in the past.

I didn’t know how to love or truly be loved. I am so thankful for Josh’s persistence and faith. He wiped my tears when I cried and hugged me when I tried to run away.

As amazing as he is, I serve a God who is even greater, a God that has also been there waiting for me to return to him, crying for me and feeling every hurt that has come my way.

Through a church home, bible studies and many marriage mentors in our lives, God radically changed me and revealed some major truths to me:

1. I am worthy and deserving of being loved because God first loved me
2. God forgives and taught me to forgive myself
3. God can make all things new and beautiful
4. God loves me more than anything and mourns for me
5. God knows and understands what it means to suffer and persevere
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This October, Josh and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage. It has been an amazing ride and I am so thankful he has stuck by my side all these years. I can honestly say we are experiencing the best years of our marriage thanks to God’s redeeming love and the commitment we have for each other.

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My journey has not always been easy or glorious, but I know now that God has written my story so that it may bring someone else hope or healing in the midst of despair.”

 

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 7.26.21 AMPraise God. And you guys didn’t even get to hear how her kids are miracles yet either…I feel a part 2 coming your way at some point.

Who is someone who has shown you unconditional love? Has it changed you?

Are you a Bubblicious Christian?

Jen Hatmaker does it again. Makes you laugh…makes you cry…and makes you wish you were her BFF all in the course of a few minutes.

I’m specifically talking about her revised and expanded book, “Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks your Comfortable Christianity.” I came up with a little review by giving just three disclaimers for the book, then I’ll share my fav quotes and we’ll call it a day.

 Disclaimer 1

There isn’t a single way you can read this book and not get all squirmy living in “the bubble.” Reading it means your heart, mind and spirit are at risk of being disturbed, interrupted and likely changed. Hence the book title.

Disclaimer 2 Every time I read a blurb (since moms of littles have to read 2.2 pages at a time), my head was stuffed, like it had just devoured a banquet of brain food. It is challenging and unsettling because of its gospel-driven ferocity and fervor.  “Interrupted” ain’t your happy-go-lucky-Christian-novel.

Nope. This is raw and gritty and real. It’s a story told by a woman (plus her hubby who pipes in every few chapters) who was asked by God to give up a pretty comfortable Christian life and live differently.  This book will likely challenge your theology and ministry philosophy as well as loosen those strings of materialism that love to tighten themselves around your heart.

Disclaimer 3

It has some stats that will leave you wide eyed.

For example, “Fifty-seven million children worldwide work every day instead of go to school.” And “Someone dies of hunger every 3.6 seconds.”

I have lived basically my whole life under the shelter of a comfortable, Upper Middle Class Bible-belt-ish community. And you know what is easy to do in this comfortable little world? Snuggle up in the safety. Unfortunately, the safe places are where the scales and planks breed. It’s easy to “sorta” and “try to” live out the great commission, but it’s not easy to devote my whole life to it…like Jesus asks and deserves. Sure, I’ve said I want to “go outside of the four walls” … but I have found that difficult to actually walk out.

This book tells the story of Jen and Brandon’s move to do just that: church outside of the church walls, a barefoot church. (There’s a gut-wrenching story in the book of a compelling Easter alter call to give up their shoes…read: new cowboy boots…for the homeless….gah, this story is GOLD and requires Kleenex.) The pieces fell together for a church plant in Austin, TX, and guys, the way they do ministry is breathtaking. It’s different…radical…inspiring. It’s hecka hard to swallow, but gosh darn it, it is Biblical!

The only criticism I have is that I wanted more. Instead of ending, I wish the book had kept going with an epilogue full of what their church looks like today.  I’m thinking they should include a flash drive taped to the back cover with an emotional video compilation of pictures put to song..and some hidden camera vids of their small groups, conversations, preaching, etc. That’s all I got for criticism.

I don’t know, guys. That Jen Hatmaker is outside the box…in such a good, confusing, hilarious, Jesus-y awesome way. Read these quotes from the book and you’ll see what I’m talking about:  

“I’ve never been more aware of my own poverty, foolishness, ignorance, and arrogance. As I get older, I realize I know less about the mysteries of God and more about my own tomfoolery.”

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“Love has won infinitely more converts than theology.”

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 “The ‘come to us’ system is no longer an appropriate response to the paradigms that exist in our world.”

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“On a practical level, why would we expect unbelievers to come to church with no provocation? What do they know of the beauty of the Spirit? Why would they be attracted to an unknown Savior or a community that feels like worshipping Him?”

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“I worry the Christian community has accepted an insidious shift from laboring for others to prioritizing our own rights. We’ve perpetuated a group identity as misunderstood and persecuted, defending our positions and preferring to be right over being good news.”

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“We cannot possibly know all there is to know about anyone without digging deep, getting close, and providing a safe place for people to be known. This takes the one investment that comprises our hottest commodity: time. We invite people in again and again and again, peeling layers back and slowly discovering that God has surrounded us with beautiful people whom He loves. There is no time limit, no statute of limitations. Sharing our lives with dear people to win them to Jesus is the substance of Christianity, the delightful work we’ve been commissioned to.”

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“I am so confident in the gospel and its effect on humanity. The baby is so compelling, and if changing the bathwater introduces more people to Him, then sign me up.”

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“It’s not enough to be theologically brilliant without the heart of a missionary. It’s sometimes intangible work planted in the messy soil of relationships instead of the cleaner territory of theology.”

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And my favorite:

 Interrupted Quote

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The quotes listed are probably only 1/10th of the ones I underlined. AND they’re just the serious ones. There are some hilarious stories and phrases sprinkled Jatmaker style throughout the book.

It’s good stuff & I hope you’re brave enough to read it. Peace out.

God at Work Wednesday: Kevin’s Story

Today you get the pleasure of reading Kevin’s story and (like ALL stories that God is writing,) it’s a goodie 😉 You’ll prob get a good glimpse into how he stole my heart almost 10 years ago.

You guys—I’m giddy excited to introduce you to my beloved. He’s THE ONE I vowed six years ago to spend the rest of my life with until my dying day, come hell or high water.

I could go on and on for hours and days about how much I love him and why…but today I’ll let him do the talking.

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“When Liv and I got married I said to her in my vows that when God saved me he saved my future marriage along with my soul. Before Jesus, I knew there was no chance of me staying satisfied in any one relationship.OliviaKevin-488

I grew up in a very unchurched environment. Church seemed boring and irrelevant,but I would have told you I was a Christian if you asked. Why? Because I believed in God…duh. That all changed my Freshman year of high school, but before I go there I’ll give you a bit of back story.

My parents got a divorce when I was 5 years old. I had no idea the impact that would have on my life. I love my family. I wouldn’t change a thing – but the impacts of a broken home are dramatic.

I grew up idolizing my brother and all I cared about in life was impressing him and his friends. The only things they cared about, at least as far as my young mind could see, were sports and girls…so I threw all of my energy into those two things. I thought the better I could be at sports and the hotter the girl I could pull in, the more approval I would get from the people I respected most. Underneath it all I now realize I was struggling to find my identity. I was insecure. I was doing anything to feel that love and acceptance.

By 7th grade I grew into this young hot shot that every father wanted to keep his daughter away from. I had done way too much way too soon sexually. I thought winning a girl’s heart made me a man. I thought the further I could get a girl to “go” with me meant I was winning. In reality, I had this gaping hole in my soul that would only take and never be satisfied…until Jesus filled it.

Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

That’s Jesus talking. I was drinking from the things that would only make me thirst more. It was like I was lost at sea, drinking salt water, only to leave me unsatisfied and eventually leading to death. But God rescued me. He wooed me to himself. The circumstances are undeniable. It was a perfect storm for my salvation.

My Freshman year of high school I met Josiah and Austin – 2 Christian dudes. We bonded over Boyz 2 Men and Michael Jackson during basketball season (so cool). Josiah’s dad started a church that next summer. My girlfriend made me go to Young Life. It was all working together to get me to Young Life Camp…I reluctantly went.

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For the first time in my life I heard the Gospel in all its simplicity and all its power. It hit home in a new way. I knew I was dirty. I knew I was broken. I knew I needed to be right with God. What did that mean? I never realized that being a Christian meant more than believing in God. There’s a way that this actually works and I was completely uneducated. The bad news was that I was on a path to a perpetual state of unrest and dissatisfaction. Continue the way I was going and I would continue having to constantly prove myself. I would continue believing the mirage that the next achievement would satisfy me. Not to mention, death and hell at the end of this human existence. It was a bleak future to say the least.

The good news…the Gospel…is that Jesus calls me his own through a relationship with him. Not because I earned it, but because he earned it on the cross. He gives me an identity as God’s adopted son (don’t even get me started on that one) and he calls me loved and accepted and forgiven. He paid off the debt that I owed to a righteous and just God. He took the punishment that I deserved. He accomplished it all.

Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Living a life to impress everyone else is exhausting. In Christ there is a peace that simply doesn’t make sense and a joy that is overwhelming. My identity is not found in the financial planning, the achievements, the vacations, the THINGS of this world, not even my family – they are found in the one who satisfies and gives rest. The one who brings life.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

In an achievement driven world what are you finding your satisfaction in? Will it last?”

IMG_2054(Must have more where those wedding pics came from? lol… Click here for a little video montage from our wedding day.)

Encourage her

en·cour·age
enˈkərij,-ˈkə-rij/
verb
  1. give support, confidence, or hope to (someone).
     
    That woman you see walking her dog by herself. That girl at the coffeeshop. That frazzled mommy at Chick Fil A or Target. That friend of yours who drains you. Your spouse. Your crazy kiddos who you desperately want to see go back to school. That loner you know. EVERYONE!!!
     
    They. Need. Your. Encouragement.
     
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    Pour out some joy and (I promise) it will have a reciprocal effect. Say stuff like:
    “Hey you look great today.”
    “You have a gorgeous smile.”
    “Your family is beautiful” (even if they’re the most rambunctious little boogies you’ve ever seen!)
    “Thank you for ________. You are so good at _______.”
    “You are one of the most _________ people I have ever met.”
     
    Carve out 30 minutes to grab coffee and deliver it to someone you love or maybe someone you don’t know well with the sole mission of encouraging them. Send some snail mail love. Too lazy for the USPS? Shoot a text. Let’s simplify even more, just show those pearly whites to someone in need of a smile. 
     
    We are such frail human beings! Encouragement can make the difference someone needs so desperately. For me, words are enough. They are free and so small, but they have changed my life.
     
    Every single time I do a speaking engagement or write a blog and someone says something like: “Thank you so much, that was exactly what I needed to hear today” …I seriously feel like I can change the world. I am filled with joy and fulfillment. I feel inspired and courageous in my calling to write/speak and that tiny phrase someone said to me changes my entire day/week.
     
    On the other hand, anytime I go a week or two without a word of encouragement, I find myself slipping into failure mentality and considering whether or not I should even continue writing/speaking/doing what I do.
     
    WHAT?! I’m SO FRAGILE and frankly, embarrassed to admit my weakness in this way. But I think it’s a common sentiment. We were made to live in community and to encourage one another…yet, we are in a culture of independence (and isolation.)
     
    People are lonely. Lots of us spend our days hunkering down and “doing what we do” and it keeps us from sharing life and doling out ‘words that give life.’ And we start believing lies that we suck. But you don’t suck! You are awesome!!!
     
    Encouraging comes easier for some than others, sometimes depending on how much you were praised as a kid or how insecure praising others can make you feel. BUT, encouragement has the power to change the atmosphere of our friend circles, our community and our relationships…
     
    The people you lord over at work…your lazy co-workers…want them to do better? ENCOURAGE THE CRAPPINESS OUT OF THEM! Say “you’re doing a great job of ______” and they will step up their game. It’s quite opposite of what you might think or expect.
     
    I dare you to encourage your spouse instead of tearing them down when they’re driving you nutso and just watch how that changes the dynamic.
     
    Simply put, human beans need praise. And you should give it away. It costs nothing, brings you joy and could mean everything to them.
     
    Your mission for today: encourage 3 people. Bonus points if you share with me who you encouraged and why.
     
     1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Encourage one another and build each other up…”

God at Work Wednesday: Carly’s Story

Yet again this week I have a miraculous story of God’s rescue to share with you. The situation looked hopeless… BUT CHRIST.  Hear me when I say to you: THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE.

Today i have the pleasure of introducing you to my sweet friend Carly who shares her story courageously and boldly.

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“Growing up, I was faced with a lot of different challenges. I grew up in a non-Christian home where love was not played out. My parents weren’t affectionate to each other, and weren’t affectionate toward me. For example, I seldom received hugs or kisses. Even though my parents were legally married, they didn’t act like it. My dad kicked my mom out of his room, so I was forced to share a bed with my mom. It just wasn’t “normal”.

During elementary school, I went through a very traumatic event. I was molested. Molested by someone that I barely knew, someone that I had only been introduced to a couple of times. I remember this event like it was just yesterday. I remember how hopeless I felt and scared I felt. I remember being touched in a way no one should ever be touched. This event, along with many others changed the course of my life.

After this incident, I started attending church. My mom and I went to my Grandparents house quite a bit, and Grandview Church was only a block away. I started attending frequently…by myself… as a third grader. I continued going back because I felt and saw true love. I didn’t know why or how everyone was so happy but I wanted whatever they had.

Little did I know, the reason they were so joy-filled was because of the Lord.

In middle school, a lot of different events happened in my life. First, I made the best decision I’ve ever made which was to accept Christ into my heart. However, this was another very hard year. My parents separated and I was abused yet again. I was a victim of sexual harassment at my Junior High, and this was the time I started my addiction to pornography.

Yeah, you heard that right. I was addicted to PORN.

It was an addiction that lasted 7+ years. It started on accident. One of the most important people in my life didn’t believe me when I told her about the abuse, so I decided to just search it for myself. I knew that what happened to me wasn’t right and that it was “dirty” but I didn’t know what it was called. I knew about sex, so I decided to type it into the search engine. S-E-X. 

Immediately…I was bombarded by so many images, videos, etc. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it affected my life greatly and caused a lot of destruction in my life and heart.

High school was hard for me as well. I was sexually abused yet again in 9th grade and was also being bullied at school. At this point all I could think was, “What is wrong with ME? What am I doing wrong? Why would this happen yet again?”

I tried telling the school about it, yet no one took action. I talked to the police, yet no one took
action. I also went to my own family members, yet no one took action.

At this point, I felt so hopeless and felt so abandoned. Enter my darkest days. I turned to suicide during the summer of my sophomore year, attempting to take my life many times. It is only by the grace of God that I am here sharing my story today.

Satan had a strong pull on my life that year. I really questioned God. If God REALLY loved me, why would all these bad things continue happening to me? In 11th grade, the addiction grew. I was consumed by pornography. Minutes turned into hours, and hours turned into days of watching, visiting chat rooms, etc. I was enslaved to this sin. I turned to pornography more and more, seeking comfort and intimacy I had never recieved as a child.

I craved affection and attention from everything and everyone. And in a messed up way, porn felt like it delivered that. It was something that I didn’t have to talk to, but it was always there. It became like a friend. And still in High School, no one knew about it…until I moved in with a family from our church, Harvest Bible Chapel. (Melisa and Jim)

I told the parents about my addiction and about all that had happened in my life. Moving in with them was such an incredible blessing. They loved me in spite of my addiction and hurts. They helped me grow in my faith tremendously. They showed me what a Godly (and functional) family can look like and I am so thankful. A couple months after I moved in, Marisa decided that it would probably be a good idea to seek counseling. So she and another youth leader from Harvest took me to an intensive counseling weekend in Indiana called Twelvestones.

Twelve Stones helped me in various ways. They helped me see how deep my sin was, how much it was hurting me and others around me. I learned that I could achieve freedom through Christ and that God could redeem and heal all of the wounds in my life left by other people and myself. I came away from that weekend with a better understanding of how much
God loves me, because growing up, I never felt loved.

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Of course I never once thought this would be “my” story. I never once thought I would struggle with abuse…abandonment…suicide…bullying…pornography…etc. But in some ways, I am thankful for all of it. My story has given me so many opportunities to share Christ and has made me a stronger individual.

And what’s even more awesome is that my story isn’t over yet. It’s still being written. I’m still being changed and sanctified and healed. And it’s good stuff, people.

If God uses me to be a light through others’ pain, then it was all worth it. I have seen tremendous healing in my life, and have experienced what true freedom in Christ is. I just want to share the greatness of our God with everyone. HE IS SO GOOD! But for now, I am just a twenty-year old girl trying to live out this thing called life. “

How beautiful and amazing and courageous is she?!?! Please consider sharing or leaving a comment of encouragement for Carly. We serve a God who still does miracles today. If you need help or healing from past abuse or a porn addiction, visit the Twelve Stones website or the Blazing Grace site.

2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is all you need, my power works best in weakness.”

God at Work Wednesday: Cindy’s Story

Every Wednesday I’m going to be highlighting a story of God moving in the life of someone I know. I think testimonies are the most powerful way to share our faith and change the world. So without further adieu, meet Cindy. Cindy babysat for me when I was a little girl and through Facebook we have recently reconnected.

“I needed someone to rescue me.

It started in my early teenage years … feeling the need to be perfect to fit in…the intense desire to be loved and accepted. I was trying to please everybody else, which made me feel so out of control of my own life. The one thing I could control was my food intake and my exercise.

What started out as a simple attempt to become “healthy” quickly became much more than that and spiraled out of control. I shut out my family and friends. I turned away from everyone that I needed … including God. I felt hopeless. I felt alone. But that did not matter to me at the time because the numbers on the scale were going down…. and down …and down.

I kept aiming for a smaller number each time I reached my “goal”. It was funny … not ha ha funny, but weird funny. I thought when I got to a smaller number, I would be happy and perfect; however, it never happened. The lower the number got, the more unhappy I became.

When I was 16, I was in and out of treatment centers and hospitals for weeks at a time. My eating disorder got worse after each treatment attempt. I was not ready to let go. My family and friends felt helpless. They saw me slowing killing myself, but they could not stop it.

When I was 18, my doctor gave me two weeks to live. I had starved myself down to 79 pounds. My parents had contacted every treatment center they could find, but I was 18 … I was able to refuse treatment. Remuda Ranch, a treatment center in Arizona, had called to do a phone interview with me. They only take patients who are willing to try to get better. I refused their phone call; therefore, they would not accept me. My parents were devastated.

My parents were taking turns staying home with me because I was so sick. I wasn’t even able to get out of bed. It was a day that my dad was home with me. It was a few days after I had refused Remudaʼs phone call. My dad was crying out to God, praying for a miracle. Within minutes after he finished his prayer, the phone rang. It was Remuda Ranch conducting a follow up call. My father walked down the hall to my bedroom with the phone in his hand, knocked on my door, and told me who was on the phone. By the grace of God, I said I would take the call.

Why they called again? I have no idea. I believe that was the divine intervention of a God who longed to rescue me from myself.

Less than a week later, frail–broken-and-on-the-brink-of-death-little-me flew to Arizona. I had so many emotions…fear, sadness, anger, confusion, and in a strange way, relief.

My rescuer was already working behind the scenes, softening my hard and anxious heart. It was there at Remuda Ranch at the broken age of 18 that I (with a lot of hesitation) decided to let go and let God. He intervened and rescued me from the eating disorder (ED) that was draining me of joy, freedom, and life itself. There the Lord met me in my brokenness, took my hand and started walking with me on a journey to healing.

 

This picture was taken when I was at Remuda Ranch (probably 2-3 weeks into that treatment program).  The tube hanging from my nose is a feeding tube.  I had to be hooked up to multiple daily feedings to allow my body to get nutrition.  My body could not handle solid food at that point.  Solids had to be slowly re-introduced.
This picture was taken when I was at Remuda Ranch (probably 2-3 weeks into that treatment program). The tube hanging from my nose is a feeding tube. I had to be hooked up to multiple daily feedings to allow my body to get nutrition. My body could not handle solid food at that point. Solids had to be slowly re-introduced.

I never knew what a long (so very long), hard (so very hard) journey it would be. There were so many ups and downs (and I am not just talking about the scale going up and down). I am talking about mental and physical obstacles I had to overcome. I had to rebuild trust with God, my family and my friends. I had to rebuild trust with my very own body.

Remuda Ranch
This was also taken at Remuda Ranch, about 4 weeks into the treatment program. I was there for 60 days.

Fast forward nine years. God provided an amazing man who asked me to be his wife, and he has been such a gift to me. A couple years after that we decided we wanted to start a family.

When I was in the midst of the eating disorder behaviors, I didn’t know (or maybe I knew but didn’t care) what kind of damage I was doing to my body.  When I went to my doctor (the doctor that took care of me all through my eating disorder) to happily tell her we were ready to start trying to get pregnant, it hit. me. so. hard.

Because of the trauma you put your body through for years and years, you might not be able to conceive or carry children” she said.

I was devastated.

The consequences of my decisions as a young girl had such a massive ripple effect. I was terrified and angry, but again, in my despair God had a plan. I had yet another opportunity to relinquish my plan and control.

*In retrospect I can say with confidence that it’s in the hardest things that we grow the most.*

After a long time of trying, we became pregnant — with the help of fertility treatments and procedures. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl! I was overjoyed, and our sweet daughter has been such a gift. She is one of many amazing gifts that came as a result of God’s miraculous rescue.

If you have struggled with an ED, you know that they can be so gosh darn persistent. Throughout the years, I have battled off and on with control vs. surrender. When I let God get a hold of my heart, I was able to walk in healing and freedom. When I tried to do it my way, I would get stuck in old patterns. This was the cycle, and it was hard.

When our daughter was 3, we decided we wanted to have another child. Shockingly, we naturally became pregnant. Not only did we get pregnant on our own, but there were FOUR sacs in my womb. What?!?!? Everyone was amazed and perplexed. However, the pregnancy did not progress. At week nine, we had to say goodbye to all four babies in my womb. I was devastated and blamed myself because I had slipped backed into my eating disorder behavior before that pregnancy began. My body could not carry one child, let alone four.

But God wasn’t about to give up on me. He was my patient rescuer, and he fought so hard for my heart. Within the few months following the loss, I gained about 19 pounds and we decided to try again. We were naturally blessed with an identical twin conception. God enabled me to carry those two babies to full term and I gave birth to two healthy baby boys! Another miracle given by my rescuer.

This girl who was once told she had two weeks to live…a woman who was told she may NEVER be able to have children…is now the mommy of three little miracles, ages 6 and 2. And miracles are exactly what they are!!!

Picture by Stacia Spraetz, Fall 2013.
Picture by Stacia Spraetz, Fall 2013.

WOW … what a journey it has been!!!

When I turned 35 this year, I had a massive epiphany as I looked at my life through a new lens.

I could be dead. I could be childless. I could have missed out on ALL OF THIS! But God—OH GOD—in His amazing grace REACHED DOWN INTO MY MESS AND RESCUED ME. He knew me and loved me every single day. He waited patiently, He is my healer, and He has an amazing purpose for my life.

This pic (illustrating exactly how my life is ...awesome!) was taken by Emily Hernandez in August of 2012.
This pic (illustrating exactly how awesome my life is!) was taken by Emily Hernandez in August of 2012.

In those moments of breathtaking gratefulness just a few short months ago, God spoke to me. He wanted to break my chains off COMPLETELY. Not partly. Not for a few months. WHOLLY.

After more than 20 years of trying to fight an eating disorder on my own, I let go of my past. I forgave myself and devoted my life to Him. It’s through this continuous surrender that God’s greater plan and purpose for me can take root, and I cannot wait to fully experience all that He has for me!

For anyone who is struggling, I want you to know that there is hope and there is healing. I know there are times when you feel like there’s no way out. It may seem easier to let the ED take over and not fight back. But your true strength will come from handing it over to God and accepting his freedom. He will speak to you and open your eyes to all that He has for you. It’s a life of great purpose we’re promised in the Bible.

“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 a hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11

Satan still tries to use stress and loneliness to tempt me to fall back into old behaviors, but I KNOW that those behaviors will only leave me feeling more stressed and empty. The way I fight back is by reminding myself that it’s Satan trying to pull me down. Instead of turning to those familiar behaviors, I take a “time out” to notice what is causing me to have those ED thoughts and then I do something healthy and productive to get rid of those thoughts … pray, write, read, call a friend … etc.

photo

Please know that I would love to pray for you, chat with you, encourage you, or help you in any way that I can. I’ve been there. I know how alone, scared, and hopeless you feel. But I promise you … there is hope. Do not give up. You are worth SO MUCH MORE!!!!!!!

God is good … ALL THE TIME!!!!!

If you would like to contact me, please leave me a comment below or message me on Facebook.

Be free!

This picture was taken just a few days ago when I went to ______ with my sister and mom, two wonderful women who have loved me fiercely through this whole battle. My heart is so full, and I feel so free!
This picture was taken just a few days ago when I went to Alto Pass, IL with my sister and mom, two wonderful women who have loved me fiercely through this whole battle. My heart is full, and I am finally free!

releasing anxiety

 

Cast your anxiety
It’s not a suggestion, it’s a commandment.

Sometimes, I feel anxiety creep up around me from out of nowhere. It’s not everyday, but it happens. At least weekly. Tightness in my chest. Restlessness. Uneasiness. To be honest, I don’t know why. I’m not in a desert season like I have been in the past, yet I find myself facing restlessness. Oh, humanity.

Anyone else?

A month ago I was exchanging emails with a friend who recently lost her baby. She had to hold her little one’s lifeless body in her trembling arms and say goodbye. Anxiety taunts her and threatens to suffocate. She is terrified of the future and the pain it might hold. She was asking how I kept on when I felt like I couldn’t face another day.

I remembered back to the days when I felt like God’s plan made no sense. When our children went to heaven…one after another…and I struggled so deeply. I was angry and frustrated. Trusting in the Lord didn’t come easily; I was more like hanging on for dear life.

Looking back, I see that God was holding me secure. I wasn’t overtaken because HE didn’t allow me to be done in by the trials that felt so much bigger than I could handle. I was His daughter and He cared way too much to let me be defeated.

I honestly don’t know how I made it through and I assure you, it wasn’t pretty.  But God brings us through stuff. And we’re changed.

As I was typing a response to my sweet friend, 1 Peter 5:7 flooded my heart with a truth that I, too, needed to hear that day.

Cast your anxiety upon the Lord.

The Bible doesn’t say, “Cast your anxiety on Him if you want to have less stress.” It says “Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Loving, yet authoritative.

 First, the command: “Cast your anxiety upon the Lord.”

It’s not optional. God says to do it. Cast it. Let go of it. Get down on your knees and ask him to help you release the gripping anxiety. If you don’t know what to say, tell him that.

“God, I don’t know what to say, but I know I need to let go of this. Help me. I don’t want it anymore. I know you care because the Bible says you do.”

Breathe in deeply. When you release your breath, release your anxiety to God. Breath has been given to us as a gift. Deep breathing calms. Short breathing stresses. As you continue this deep breathing, imagine yourself inhaling the peace of the Lord that surpasses understanding. Let His love wash over you.

When you feel that anxiety creeping back up (even if it’s 10 minutes later), get down on your knees and cast it off again.

Second, the why: “because he cares for you.”

I am so thankful God isn’t an old bearded dude in the sky! He is a tenderhearted Father who draws near to His children. He knows you by name and cares for you. He doesn’t want your life to be invaded by anxiety or worry even more than you don’t want that. He hates to see things steal your joy and hope.

steady your gaze

Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

God cares. Fill your heart with the truth of His word today. Blast that worship music. Pray. Surrender. Be still. Cast your stuff on Him because He cares way more than you know.

(I’m preaching to myself too.)

Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be moved.”

Do you struggle with anxiety or worry? What is God asking you to lay at his feet today?

**Originally written for Mommies with Hope

wanna snoop in my life?

Two weeks from today is opening night! I’m going to be in Quad City Music Guild’s production of Les Miserables, which is totally a bucket list show for theater people. 🙂

I’m a factory girl, a “lovely lady,” a beggar, a grieving sister, and a person excited about the revolution. And the leads in this show are ridic so you should prob get your tickets now. Details here.

Anyway, there’s a line in the show sung by the beautiful Cosette:

“In my life…there are so many things unclear, so many things unknown”
So many things

That’s sorta how I feel right now. The future seems like it could go in so many wild, amazing directions and I’m just along for the ride. Some of the uncertainty, though, totally freaks me out. Here are the 4 areas of life about which I’m feeling nervous and excited for the future:

1) Our house. This one is at the forefront of my mind because we have been cleaning like mad people up in this crib. Crazily enough– the house that me and Kev moved into 1.5 years ago, thinking we would live here forever and raise tons of babies in, has been feeling TOO BIG. Like, we have two kids..(both still practically babies) and 1,300 square feet per person is just a LOT! We had a totally groundbreaking, God-moving conversation a few weeks ago where we both shared that we were feeling led to downsize!!

It was a scary conversation…I might have cried about having to let go of some of the hopes and dreams I initially had for this house, but mostly I was crying thankful tears. I’m so grateful that God moved in BOTH of our hearts. Now future-wise…just feeling a little uncertain! What will showing our house be like while we still live here? Will God bring a buyer? What will actual moving with two toddlers look like? What will our new house be like? Where will it be? Will our new neighbors be as awesome as our current ones? If no one comes to buy it, we’re cool with that too. But we feel like we’re stepping out in faith by putting this house on the market. We’ve done a ton of updates, and feel like selling it would put us in a great financial position to become debt-free, save aggressively, and give generously. These are a few pics of the house if you want to come through it and maybe buy it 😉

House collage

2) #1 leads me to #2. Babies. We always thought we wanted babies…boom boom boom…one right after another. As many as God wanted to give us!! (or 5…probably the lesser of the two). (Hence, moving into a 5 bedroom house.) Now, I keep going back and forth on this one. Part of me thinks there’s something Biblical about the Duggar philosophy…and part of me says (holy mama. I can’t believe I’m typing this) “I think I could be completely content with our two miracle babes.”

I’m not saying I don’t want more babies. BUT, as much as I thought I would be ready to try again by this point (Annabelle being over 1 and pretty darn amiable), I’m just not. And I don’t know when I will feel ready…waiting for God to prepare my heart for that. Obviously, I wouldn’t be upset if I got pregnant…but for right now, I don’t want to hop back on roller-coaster-let’s-try-for-another-baby. #ohmiscarraiagehowifearthee 😦 I love that our family in heaven is big, but I so fear pregnancy. It’s the most intense Love/Hate relationship I have evaaaaa felt. SO, no babies for team Ryan as of right now. As far as we can control it.

3) My writing career. My query letters are at the Ready…Set…when-I-click-send-it’s-GO point. My proposal is being tightened up and edited on a few levels. The first book in my series, “Bearing Hope: Your Inspirational Companion Through the Darkness of Infertility” is in the starting blocks as far as getting an agent/editor goes. On June 7th I will be attending the Write-To-Publish Conference in Wheaton, Illinois and I’m hoping to make some professional contacts and generate some interest in my series. This is a terrifying AND exciting place to be. I know the rejection letters are inevitable, and I’ve actually already gotten one! (Hooray! AND oh crap!) The fears are setting in big time.

The voices in my head chitter chatter back and forth:

“Am I cut out for this?”

“I AM GOING TO BE PUBLISHED”

“I need a more professional website.”

“I CAN DO THIS!”

“My resume is too short.” Etc. etc.

I want to believe in myself with my whole being, but it’s a VERY competitive industry and it’s easy to cop-out and simply give up before I even put myself out there. Why? Because rejection is terrifying. The thing is, I feel called to this. I feel equipped. I feel like I have something amazing to offer, and I am willing to fight an uphill battle to make this happen!!

My book is written in a similar, creatively handwritten style like SARK, and she is a National Best Seller who has been published by RANDOM HOUSE!! If she can do it, I can do it. Plus, I have a gorgeous amazing illustrator named Hannah Slay who has drawn some amazing pics and fonts for me. I KNOW KNOW KNOW my books will change the world for God’s glory! They will change the lives of people walking through infertility, miscarraiges, eating distorders, etc…so it’s WILL happen. It’s just a matter of when…and finding a visionary editor. Will you pray with me for that?!

I am fighting to believe what SARK says: “Have the mentality of ‘they will be lucky to find me.'”

4. My financial representative career. Yesterday I passed my Life Insurance and Disability Insurance exams to become a licensed part of my husband’s financial planning practice! woot woot! My sexy husband, Kevin, has had the honor of growing a thriving practice with Northwestern Mutual since day one of his college intern career 7 years ago. Our dinner conversations have  pretty much been about financial planning for forever, so this is a pretty natural move. It’s also natural because I have already been a part of his team in the marketing aspect for a few months. However, my role is changing for the better. I know I have what it takes to help people in the same way Kevin does, and working in this regard will help expand the reach of his practice and make it more efficient. I am excited tohelp people I care about make wiser and more secure financial decisions!

Kevin’s passion for helping people is contagious, and after a couple years of struggling to find the right person for his team, we made the decision that I will work as an Associate Financial Rep with him for a year or two and see how things progress from there (personally and professionally). The best part is, I’ll still be working part-time hours so I don’t miss a full day with the kids (I’ll miss a few morning hours and then be home when they wake up from their afternoon naps). And bonus: Kev is super fun and easy to work with.

 

SOOOO yeah, Big changes ahead around here.

You guys, life is crazy. We just never know what twists and turns this journey called life is holding. I’m so glad I am surrounded by people who love me, love our kids, and love Jesus. Even with “so many things unclear, so many things unknown” I can hold fast to this passage from Isaiah 46:9-10:

“Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.”

God is in control. It’s all going to be okay. (But I’m definitely wearing a seatbelt because whoa…)

Does anyone else ever experience twists and turns, or is it just me?

It’s a good thing I love change.

Are you still living in winter? Spring is coming…

“As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” -Genesis 8:22


Red, yellow, purple, white, orange…flowers of every color! Walks around the block. Neon clothes. Hilighted hair. Shorts. Playing outside. Green grass. SWEAT!


SPRING (well, more like summer now) FINALLY CAME!! And a glorious, long awaited one it is after one of the longest, coldest winters on record.


{Insert, deep cleansing breath of fresh air!}


We all (at least here in Iowa) whined and moaned to one another, “It’s never going to end. Wah Wah Wah.”


The winter truly felt like it would never end, did it not?! And then one day day, I realized that the wind had blown in a little warmer air, and rain was falling instead of snow. Before I knew it, the grass I thought forever dead burst forth into the truest, most vibrant green I’ve seen in months. Wait…is that snow on the tree? No, it’s buds! Oh, look, there’s a tulip!

Hooray!


Through all of our moaning and groaning, we knew deep down that Spring was eventually coming. Because it always comes. But in the midst of winter, we forget what Spring feels like and it’s so easy to believe the lie that maybe it isn’t coming after all.


I remember one of my winter seasons well. It lasted much longer than four months…it was more like four years. My first three recurrent miscarriages…interspersed with months of struggling to get pregnant. I felt like I was broken. Like I wasn’t a true woman. Would this season of death ever end?


Characteristic of winter, I struggled with depression. God in His mercy gave me enough strength to put one foot in front of the other; He gave me the strength to trust that Spring would eventually come.


We pursued adoption and were chosen by a birth mommy! But then, it fell through. Imagine a blizzard in the dead of winter. We questioned whether there would ever be joy or sunshine again.


The dark and lonely days crept by…but we waited and trusted.


Then came the email..the one God knew was coming…the one he knew about from the very beginning. It was from a beautiful young lady who would become one of the most special people God has ever brought into our lives. She would ask us to adopt the baby boy in her belly; she had been wanting to ask but knew we were set to adopt the other baby.


Through our miscarriages and our failed adoption, God’s plan was being brought to fruition. The season was about to change.


That conversation with our birth momma was the first ray of sunshine peeking through the massive cloud cover. Through those last four months of “winter,” we were sustained.


The most long awaited Spring finally burst forth February 14th, 2012 as I held the hand of our birth-mommy and she delivered Coleton Samuel Ryan into the world. He was a tiny little guy at 6lbs, but you’d never know it by the weight of joy birthed in that hospital room.


Spring. But winter rallied. Three more miscarriages, and with them more deep pain that only God could meet us in. We had always wanted a big family, but this was not what we had in mind.


As we sought hard after the Lord and His plan, we felt just enough courage to try again…not to give up yet in our quest to have a biological child.


The seventh time, God sustained miss Annabelle Hope until her due date. On April 4th, 2013 Spring made another brilliant appearance in our lives.


Image

Spring always comes, but it doesn’t make the winter feel shorter or easier.


Hear me though: The longest, hardest winters make for the most beautiful Springs.

(Are we not all freaking out about how amazing this weather is after the most snowblower worthy winter ever?!)


Maybe Spring is bursting out like crazy in your life right now. Maybe it’s riiiiight around the corner…just a few more days or weeks. Maybe it’s still a long way away. But it will come.


As long as the Earth endures, the seasons will continue to turn. So hang in there.

(For now, join me in giddyness for heaven, when winter will be only a thing of the past)


“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” -Revelation 21:4


When your spring comes, it will be so worth the wait.



*This post was originally written for Mommies with Hope