The Return of My Prodigal Husband

The Return of My Prodigal Husband

“All that I had planned, dreamed and desired to have in a marriage had been stolen by endless doubt, harassing questions and ultimately Scott walking away from God. He had become my prodigal husband. We were now a house divided, not a home of unity…”

Those words.
Words from a post I wrote a little over a year ago titled “My Prodigal Husband“.
Words that still rang true exactly one month ago today…
But MAY I SHOUT a little here at BraveGirl Community today?!! Because…

MY PRODIGAL HUSBAND HAS RETURNED HOME!!! He is REALLY HOME! Can I get an AMEN?!!!

IMG_6070

So they began to CELEBRATE .-Luke 15:24

Friends – I would love for you to praise the Father for His goodness and His faithfulness for what HE has done! I am in awe of His relentless pursuit of my man.

God NEVER gave up on him.
NEVER.

And can I just say that if you are reading this and you are in the wait for your prodigal to return, you’re in the wait for that miracle, you’re in the wait for that answer to a long awaited prayer…We SERVE a GOD who is Faithful and who is ON TIME…even when we don’t understand. I wrote a post titled In The Wait as I longed for my husband to return. I hope it encourages you and reminds you of who our God is.

My “wait” has been a 10 year journey and I have experienced every kind of emotion and heartache imaginable. And I can tell you, with confidence, that I would not trade a single day. Because without each and every trial- I wouldn’t have grown or known Jesus like I do right now. The fruit I am experiencing in this moment is priceless. It’s a sweetness of the Father lavishly loving on His children…It’s a contagious laughter that had been stifled by the lack of joy in my home…It’s a feeling of UNITY where the enemy THOUGHT he divided and conquered…

BUT THEN…GOD.

JESUS is the way maker where there seems to be NO WAY.

Below is a video of my husband and I having the privilege to share a small part of our story.
I pray it will encourage you wherever you are and whatever you may be going through to remember the relentless pursuit of God and that our Hope is in Jesus ALONE. He WILL NOT stop pursuing the one…

DO. NOT. GIVE. UP.

Scott and Cheryl share a part of their journey. Click here to watch: https://vimeo.com/225758712

IMG_6067

Your Sister In Christ,
Signature_Cheryl-1

cheryl profile pic

 

From the Waiting Room

From the Waiting Room

It only took two words to rock my family to the core: brain tumor. Turns out the symptoms my feisty mother-in-law had been experiencing were more than weirdly isolated annoyances. And so on a Sunday night I held my husband as he cried and trembled with fear, imagining the worst and fervently praying for the best. The next day we made the first of multiple three-hour trips to the hospital she was in, and our reality shifted in the way it only can when you receive terrible, life-altering news. Time became suspended. The world as we knew it took a backseat.

Let me add here that we traveled with our three-year-old and three-month-old daughters. Because my mother-in-law was in the ICU, our girls couldn’t go into her room to visit. I ended up spending a lot of time in the waiting room keeping them occupied, looking out the window, and observing the other people I shared that room with. I came away from my time in the waiting room with a perspective I hadn’t thought to have before this experience began.

I’ve never been a fan of hospitals. There’s a stark coldness and a distinct smell that makes me uneasy. Not to mention people don’t usually end up in the hospital because they wanted to be there. There are so many sad stories behind each patient and family member who find themselves laying on a bed or sitting in a vinyl chair. It’s overwhelming and I try to steer clear as much as possible. Until I found myself in that neurosurgery ICU waiting room, I didn’t quite grasp just how many ways a person can experience life-threatening trauma to the brain. Each day I heard snippets of conversation around me with words like “aneurism” and “brain bleed” peppered in the way the rest of us might casually discuss what we ate for lunch. These loved ones huddled in their respective corners came from all walks of life. There were older men and women alongside children and grandchildren. Nobody was immune.

As I eavesdropped on strangers’ conversations and heard the words my own family was speaking, I found myself yearning to connect, to go deeper, to release what was on my mind and in my heart instead of tucking those raw emotions safely away. I saw my husband’s family, and especially his mom, through the lens of their mortality. It mattered that everyone in that waiting room was there for the same reason. The trivial things that usually occupy my mind suddenly lost importance. Who cared if my outfits were on trend and properly accessorized; they just had to be comfortable. Keeping up with my social media feed seemed like a chore I just couldn’t be bothered with. My diet and exercise routine had to be put on hold because I was exhausted from the energy it took to comprehend what was happening to us. Any plans I had made were cancelled. Nothing was more important than being there.

Sitting in the waiting room wasn’t all bad. Without a doubt, my favorite takeaway from the hours I spent at the hospital was realizing all the ways God displays love for His children and actually paying attention enough to notice them. Things like a rainbow, a song, or a ring tone probably won’t mean much to you unless I elaborate…

My mother-in-law saw a vibrant rainbow right outside her window just a day or two before her scheduled surgery. God was saying, “I promise I’m here and I’m not leaving.”

My husband played the song, “Eye of the Storm” for his mom to comfort her during her early days in the ICU. Then we heard that song at least once a day each day we were there. The day after my “second mom” had her surgery, a lady in the waiting room had a ring tone on her phone…you guessed it…”Eye of the Storm!” When I shared with this woman the significance of her ringtone, she wrapped me in a hug and we bonded over the wonder that God uses little things when they can make the biggest impact. I was able to hear her story about why she was there, and I’m still praying for her father, Donald, and his recovery.

Speaking of prayer…the abundance of prayers and support from our friends was the biggest way God showed us He was at work. I can’t even count how many people across the country and even in other nations were praying for our family. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my mother-in-law’s surgery went better than we had hoped, or when she was awake and talking just hours afterwards. I shouldn’t have been blown away when I saw her the next day and she was cracking jokes like always and making sure her kids were taken care of. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I realized how my faith had given way to worry more than I’d like to admit. God reminded me of His tender mercy as I sat with my daughters. He reminded me just how important prayer is – it’s everything!

I realize that our story has had a happy resolution – at least so far. The very night of my mother-in-law’s surgery, when we were in the cafeteria having a snack and taking turns saying goodnight to her, another family was pouring into the hallway, faces red and splotchy, tears streaming down cheeks. Their news wasn’t so happy, and my heart ached for them and the pain they were experiencing in that moment. But for the grace of God, that could have easily been us. And our journey with this brain tumor isn’t over yet. There’s still a lot of healing, physical therapy, and treatment to come. The future isn’t certain, not by a long shot. But as a family, we’ve changed. I can feel it. Whatever we face in the unknown future, whether it be another difficult diagnosis or struggles in the midst of healing, we’ve already come face-to-face with what we say we believe about God. Our faith has been tested, and even as we wrestled with fear, our faith didn’t falter. We could have easily given ourselves over to despair, but instead we chose to daily place our burdens and questions at the feet of Jesus.

There are two Psalms that brought me comfort over the past few weeks: Psalm 33:18-22 and Psalm 37:25-26 & 39.

image

image

Whatever you’re facing today, your Father is right there in the thick of it with you. Let Him be your hope. Trust that He will not forsake you, but will be your strength today. Rejoice in Him, who is your Help and Shield!

With much love,

Signature_Emily

How The Battle Changed Me

How The Battle Changed Me

I remember when the comments first started. They would sting. Walking through the store, I would suddenly be blind-sided by words. Words.

“Look, mommy, that girl has cancer.”

“Look, daddy, that girl doesn’t have hair.”

Sometimes there were no words. Just a darting glance or an uncomfortable parent shushing their child. I pretended not to notice. I learned how to quickly flash a smile to somehow communicate that it was okay. That I was okay with the stares. With the remarks. It was more than this recovering perfectionist wanted to handle.

My daughter’s bare head often draws attention. I have become accustomed to reassuring others that it is not cancer. That it’s only alopecia. Only alopecia. As if that somehow disqualified us from the battle.

A battle for which I was ill-equipped. A battle against whom or what, I wasn’t sure. Little did I know, I was being prepared for heart surgery. I was about to be forever changed by one familiar story and one precious little girl.

The story was David and Goliath. One I had heard many times before. One whose familiarity put it at risk of losing its’ impact, but it’s hard to ignore something that God keeps putting in your face. This story kept finding its’ way to me – in teachings, on the radio, in conversations.

I wanted to get it…to learn what I was supposed to learn, so I read it over and over and over again, for weeks, each time asking God, “Where am I in this story? Show me what I need to learn.”

At first, I imagined that I was David coming victoriously against the giant, but that seemed too easy; almost juvenile.

Then, I feared that I was Eliab, David’s oldest brother who discouraged David from battling the giant. In the name of being “realistic”, I had become discouraging…

“Don’t you hear what the doctors are saying? They said there’s no cure. They don’t even know what causes it. Why should we expect any different?”

I wanted to accept defeat. My husband wanted to fight — for us, for our daughter, for an answer…for Hope.

Still, I continued asking, “Lord, show me. Where am I in this story?” Then, God gave me understanding. I hadn’t been asking the right question. Instead of being so concerned with who I was in the story, I needed to be asking a very different question. I needed to be asking, “Where are you in this story, God?”

When I started asking the right question, the story came alive…

I saw myself, a soldier on the hillside. Crouched down. Terrified and dismayed. The enemy was across the valley shouting his terrible shouts. Taunting,

“Why even bother to fight? Did you not hear what the doctors said? There are no answers. There is no cure. There is no hope.”

My thoughts were distorted. My heart was paralyzed. Without realizing it, I had begun believing the lie.

I had begun believing the enemy. I had begun believing in hopelessness.

But God has a way of changing things…

He sent a David to bring Bread to the battle lines — broken to give life for weary souls. Bending down low he saw what my mouth refused to speak, “This is too much. I can’t do this. I want to surrender.”

But God doesn’t leave His children on the battle lines to fight alone. He enters the battle with us. No…He enters the battle for us. With grace and mercy, He spoke the words my heart desperately needed to hear,

“Do not lose heart. I will fight for you.”

Then, He set off toward the giant. Reaching into the stream he chose five stones. No sword. No armor. Just stones. With stones in his pouch, He stood before the giant who was still shouting, “Come down and fight me. If you win, I will become your subject. But if I win, you become my subject and serve me.”

Most of us know how the story ends. With one stone, David killed the giant and sent him tumbling to the ground. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he severed the head of the giant using his own weapon against him making victory a reality.

This battle is one that God has used to teach me much. 

My battle was not so much about my daughter’s diagnosis, but more about learning to choose which god I would submit to in the face of my trial—

the god of hopelessness or the God of Hope.

Throughout this journey, one message has echoed loudly…”Don’t waste your trials.”

When we face a trial, no matter how big or small, we are faced with a choice.  We must choose whether we will believe God’s promises to work everything together for our good and, consequently, submit to His work in our lives. If we choose not to believe His promises and don’t allow Him to work in our lives, then we let our trials go to waste.

Trials are a blessing that have the potential to deepen our walk with Him.

Through this experience, God has grown me to be a true student of His Word. To truly see His Word as the Bread of Life necessary for the sustenance of my soul. To see His Word as the well from which I draw my hope, strength and peace. My heart reveres Him as Holy and cherishes time spent in His presence. My thoughts regularly turn to Him throughout my day.

God has taught me the importance of being honest with Him. When I was trying to pretend like everything was okay, God was instead giving me permission to not be okay. I had to learn to simply surrender and cry out to Him. I needed to slow down enough to experience the gravity of what was happening.

God has taught me to trust my husband’s leadership. Under the weight of fear and doubt, I was unintentionally hurtful. I learned to pray in new ways for my marriage. Not only for a spirit of unity, but also for a hedge of protection around my husband…from me. I began praying that God would give him a wife worth more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10). I learned to respect my husband’s opinion even when he disagreed with the doctors. Together we learned that doctors don’t always have all the answers. I learned to trust that God was leading him, too.

God has taught me gratitude. He took my grumbling heart and transformed it to see everything as a gift. Now, my heart can recognize even the smallest of gifts…like eyelashes.

God has shown me that He cares intricately for Brianna. Shortly after turning 3, she told me she wanted hair on her head, for the first time. I delicately explained to her how God made her beautiful without hair. But, God had a different idea. A few weeks later, God led me to cross paths with an organization that provides real-hair wigs to children with hair loss. Through this organization, Brianna received the gift of hair. This was a reminder that God has his hand on Brianna’s life and that He is taking care of her.

We never know how God might choose to answer prayers. It’s not our job to know. All He asks of us is to simply trust Him and His plan. Brianna’s story is just beginning. We know God has great things planned for her. She has already touched so many hearts. Through her, God has deepened my walk with Him. He has strengthened my marriage. He has proven that He is taking care of the details of our lives.

The battle has changed me. Some might think…, “It’s just hair.” I know. I tried to tell myself that for a year. I would feel guilty every time it felt like a big deal to me. I didn’t understand why it was so hard; why it was such a struggle.

What I learned is that every battle is personal. I am her mother. It is my nature to protect her. For me, it’s about protecting my daughter’s heart. It’s about shielding her from the arrows that will come when the world starts telling her a different definition of beauty. It’s about helping her find strength, when she starts feeling different.

And now that I’ve been changed by the battle, it’s about sharing with her what I have learned. I will share with her a powerful secret. 

That God gives the biggest battles to His fiercest warriors.

I will train her for battle and teach her to use the right kind of weapons.

Battles are about accepting every ounce of who God is

in every moment and in every season.

It’s about allowing God to work in every circumstance, the good ones and, especially, the difficult ones.

Whatever you’re facing, right now. No matter how big or small. Find your hope in Christ. Cling to Him. Hold onto His promises. He has equipped you for this battle. Hopelessness has been defeated.

IMG_1943 (4)

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

Signature_Guest

Jennifer

Jennnifer profile pic honest conversationJennifer lives in Arkansas with her husband, Jeff, and their four daughters. She is a Christ-follower who doesn’t like to be put in a box. She has experienced first-hand the sweetness of God’s redemptive love and has a passion for helping others see the beauty of God’s way. You can find her sharing stories of faith and encouragement on her blog, www.jennifermariepowers.com. And catch her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/jennifermariepowersblog/

The Quiet Craftsman (a short story)

The Quiet Craftsman (a short story)

I’m learning a lot about The Craftsman. As most steady, reliable artisans do, he takes great care in the details of his creations. Though capable of mass-producing beautiful works of art, he often chooses to instead make each piece unique, intricate, and with just enough “wow” factor to distinguish his creations as something only He could have made.

It’s unfortunate that it took me so long to realize that such intentionality and beautiful customization requires me to sometimes wait longer for the end result. Also, I’ve come to realize that The Craftsman is most quiet when he’s working. I’m here to tell you about the time I mistook his silence for apathy.

You see, we had a meeting; and though it was, admittedly, mostly one-sided, I was clear about exactly what I wanted and when I wanted it by. Because I heard no audible rejections, I assumed we were on the same page with this vision I had cast. I felt confident as I left my orders in his hands and walked out of his workshop on that bright day full of hope.

The door shut behind me, and I went on with my life for the most part. Occasionally, I thought of the plans I had laid out for The Craftsman, but I knew he was the most skilled artisan in all of the world, and that even if he had to tweak my plans a bit here and there, the end result would be worth it.

Some time went by, and I still had not received an update on the status of my requests. Friends began to ask me about it, and I reassured them that my plans would come to fruition because I knew I had left them in good hands. I spoke with confidence, but secretly wondered if The Craftsman would be contacting me soon.

Time continued to pass, and I began to imagine the worst: perhaps The Craftsman had been so busy with other work orders, he had completely forgotten about mine. Maybe they were lost in a pile of dust-covered plans and though he originally had good intentions of getting to them, they were simply lost in the shuffle. That’s when I decided that maybe he needed a friendly reminder of what I had asked for and the deadline for which I had requested.

I approached his workshop door, and in preparation to knock, noticed a small sign hung outside. It read “Just Trust Me.” I wondered whom he had left that note for. After all, I was sure our issue had nothing to do with my lack of trust and everything to do with a small miscommunication or even just an honest mistake on his behalf. I mean, I understand he’s busy. He’s the best there is, and everyone is constantly piling demands on him. I decided I would be gentle in my reminding him of my orders that I had submitted long ago…way before my friends had put their orders in and already received theirs…but that’s beside the point. I’m sure it was just an honest mistake and The Craftsman merely needed me to pop in to remind him that it was my turn. I was excited to let him know that I wasn’t too upset and that I could forgive him.

I knocked but he didn’t answer, so I left a note asking him to please give me a call so we could discuss the status of my order.

After another period of time passed, my patience began to fade as I watched everyone around me receive what seemed like immediate answers to their requests.

One dark, cloudy day, I marched back to the workshop and pounded on the door. It was silent inside and the words “Just Trust Me” stared back at me from the sign on the door.

Shaking my head, I yelled, “I did trust you!” as I pounded harder on the door. “What did I do to deserve the silent treatment?” I implored. “Talk to me! Give me something!”

The silence that followed was deafening, and bitterness flooded my soul as I nursed the rejection I felt. I paced back and forth outside, shaking my head and casting glares in his direction in hopes that he might see me through the window and feel a taste of the disappointment I felt. “THANKS A LOT, GOD.” And with that, I turned and walked away, convinced he had forsaken me.

What I most regret about that day is reacting based on assumptions of what I thought was going on inside that workshop instead of the reality that I was too impatient to discover. What I couldn’t see was just on the other side of the door with the sign that read “Just Trust Me.” What I couldn’t see was the hands of The Quiet Craftsman, dirty and calloused, working around the clock to widdle, carve, sculpt and weave together the most beautiful masterpiece I could’ve ever imagined. What I couldn’t see was His face, quiet and steady, with a tender and loving visage as he thought about me while he worked. I didn’t see him softly smile at the notches as he carved them with careful skill. I didn’t see the tears that spilled out of his eyes and landed on my masterpiece as I yelled at him from outside. I couldn’t see his heart broken by my lack of trust.

What I didn’t understand was that his silence came not from a place of abandonment or apathy but rather from concentration. The Quiet Craftsman was doing his job. The most intricate of masterpieces take time to complete.

Since that day, I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of the silence. I’ve learned that in order for The Craftsman to complete his best work, sometimes he needs quiet. And time. And trust.

I know that the day will come when the door of his workshop will swing open, revealing the most magnificent, breathtaking masterpiece I’ve ever encountered. And the best part about it is that it will be my very own, unique in its character and details.

I returned to his workshop one day recently with a marker in hand. I approached slowly, with fondness and reverence. I smiled and ran my fingers across the words “Just Trust Me,” then placed the tip of my marker on the sign and wrote underneath, “I do trust you.”

qc2

BraveGirl Martha

IMG_4430

The Last Shall Be Light

The Last Shall Be Light

Today I am writing to the rejected. To the ones scarred by the words of others. The ones who sit in silence way too often and feel lost in the shuffle. Those who look different from everyone else in the room. To the ones picked last.

I see you.

But even more importantly, God sees you. He understands your pain because he walked in your shoes, rejected by a world that had no valid accusation against him.

Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as being “…despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…”

The One sent to redeem the world was a man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief. He was more than just rejected; he was despised. Oh precious forgotten one, if ever you’ve been understood, it’s by Him. 

I have no doubt that God has big plans for you. Because of the rejection you have so often felt, you are more keenly aware of those who walk down the same lonely path you do. Your eyes are well-trained to see the pain lying just underneath the surface of other people’s eyes. You are able to see those whom no one else seems to. Pay close attention to your ability to observe such things.

The scriptures are full of reminders that God does big things with those rejected by the world, but my new favorite verse out of them all is Psalm 118:22:

“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

How’s that for vindication? He was and is the biggest, most important, strongest and most essential element of our lives. The world may have cast him aside, but Jesus pursued and completed his God-given mission anyway. He fearlessly trusted His Father and kept his eyes on Him, changing the lives of everyone willing to look upon his face and accept his offer of eternal friendship. If he had allowed the world’s opinion of him to dictate his actions, his mission would have been squashed, thus rendering all of humanity hopeless forever.

Likewise, it is important for us to remember that the world’s opinion of us bears no weight on our value. We are valuable because God made us with care (Psalm 139:13-14); He chose us (John 15:16); and He calls us Beloved (Col. 3:12).

To reinforce this truth even further, allow me to remind you of Zephaniah 3:17:

“…He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

You. Are. Adored.

You are treasured. You are sought after. Your company is desired. You are valued, beautiful, and seen. You are rejoiced over with songs.

If you have a hard time believing these truths apply to you, ask God to speak straight to your heart and make them real to you. I believe there’s nothing He wants more than for you to understand how vastly He loves you.

The greater we understand His love, the less validation we need from those around us. The less validation we need from others, the more confident we become in being a light. The more of a light we are to the world, the less others have to feel alone.

We, the rejected, can be the brightest beacons of light the world has ever seen if we allow God to heal the dark, unseen, and hurting places in our hearts with His redeeming grace. Through Him, we can love the unloved; we can see the unseen.

 

BraveGirl Martha

IMG_4430

 

Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

March 8, 2007-

A time when the world seemed to stand still in disbelief that she was gone.

IMG_3335

It was 10 years ago today that my sweet momma went to meet her Creator, the lover of her soul, her precious Jesus (as she would call him). In one month of time, my mom went from what we knew to be a healthy 62 year old, to a victim of stroke and to find cancer in various parts of her body. I was pregnant with my second daughter at the time, with just about 3 weeks out from delivery. Only one month…one month…and she was gone. Today I don’t share with you my grief or my sorrow, but the unexpected joy that I recall from the loss, the life and the love I have encountered in these past 10 years.

I lived 5 hours away from my mom and I was pregnant, sick and very much waddling around at this point of pregnancy. But I was determined to go and be by her side.  I remember walking into that hospital room, locking eyes with her eyes, only to have to remove myself before the flood of emotion and fear overtook me. She was not able to speak due to the stroke, but she had eyes and a touch of her hand that spoke volumes even in the silence. I collected myself together and went back in to spend time holding her hand…No words exchanged…and really none needed in that moment.

The hospital flooded with friends and family coming to visit and pray over my mom. We gathered to lay hands on her believing in the miraculous work of God and healing over her body. My dear sweet friends from five hours away drove to see her only to bring some laughter to the stale hospital room. RyRy, as we call him, grabbed a hospital rubber glove only to blow it up and make obscene funny noises that brought a half smile to my momma’s face. It may have seemed inappropriate at the time…but man did we need some laughter for our souls!

Nurses would comment how precious or kind my mom was-though she couldn’t say a word. They would come to change an IV, give a dosage of medicine or make her bed comfortable, and somehow, just the touch of her hand on their face brought them to tears. All I can say is they experienced the love and kindness of Jesus through my mom. Her actions spoke louder than words in those moments. She loved to laugh. She loved people. People loved her. One of my favorite memories of that month was my husband staying the night at the hospital with her. Like I said, I was pretty big and prego and the hospital chair wasn’t going to work for me. So my man said he would graciously stay in my place because I so longed to stay with her. Again, no words were exchanged. But I remember him saying, “I did what I know she would love…I read to her from her Bible.”

IMG_3359

I will never forget gathering with my siblings in the stairwell of the hospital to discuss my mom’s current status-and at that moment realizing things were most likely not going to get better-but we were still believing God for big things. I am the youngest of five siblings -and I am sure they would all agree -my mom spoiled me rotten. But hey, I was the baby…so of course I was! So even though my mom was in the state she was in, I selfishly wanted her to immediately get better so we could get back to “normal” life. I would stand next to her hospital bed and she would lay her hand on my belly. I would remind her that she needed to get better to help me finish all the things she was sewing for my nursery -things she had just been helping me decorate a few weeks prior. I would remind her that I needed her to stay so that she could meet sweet Payton. I reminded her that I NEEDED her…and so did this grand baby. I knew things weren’t going to change, but I wanted it so bad. Time seemed to last forever that month and yet it seemed so incredibly short all at the same time. She soon stepped from this fallen world, releasing all pain and suffering and walked into the light of Eternity.

FullSizeRender

One month from her departure from this earth-we welcomed our second Beautiful baby girl-Payton. And can I just tell ya-weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning. And that is what this baby represented…JOY in the midst of sorrow and grief. A tangible expression of the goodness of God wrapped in this incredible and beautiful 7lb baby girl. When I think about God’s timing of it all, how I wanted to be angry that my mom would never meet her this side of heaven, I couldn’t help but be so overcome with Joy. There was significant timing for her birth-for many reasons-but for such a time as this. It was one of the greatest distractions that kept a blanket of peace and joy in the midst of heartache. I remember feeling that the presence of my mom was in the hospital room as Payton made her way into the world. This baby girl is now about to turn ten in a few weeks and boy is she the spitting image of yours truly. My mom would defintely say I am paying for my raisin’-but Oh she would be so in love with this girl. A girl full of life and love for others…A girl who is as messy and scattered brained as her momma….A girl who jumped up on my bed at the age of five insisting that she wanted Jesus in her heart.(She had been asking at that point for almost a year). A girl, who I know, God has BIG plans for -she’s confident, she’s a warrior and she desires to see people healed everywhere. Her Gigi, my mom, would be so incredibly proud. And can I just tell you, the story only gets more beautiful from here…

Momma Sharon (or that is what we have come to know her as) a woman who is a tangible gift from the Father to my family. A woman who came into my life only a few years ago only to bring an unexpected Joy. (Do you see the theme here?) You see, the day I met Sharon was at VBS through our church. And within moments of meeting, I will never forget my words to her, “I know this may sound weird, but you look just like my mom.” I proceeded to stare and then asked her to take a selfie that I quickly sent to my siblings! I couldn’t believe the resemblance. Sharon and I formed a pretty quick relationship which turned into a bond that I can’t describe. Her mannerisms, her handwriting, the way she gets on to me like my mom and even deals with my dramatic self-it’s really quite unreal.

IMG_3344But the thing I am drawn most to about Sharon, that is most like my mom, is her absolute Love and honor for the Lord…She loves Jesus with all her heart, all her soul, all her mind, and all her strength. She pours truth into my life, into my husband, and into my children like only a momma can. She goes to battle in prayer on our behalf only like a momma can. She encourages, listens and soothes a wounded soul, only like a momma can. I am constantly in awe of the goodness of God through my relationship with Sharon. She will never replace my sweet mom but when I look at my 10 year old daughter and I say “Do you want to know what your Gigi was like-look at momma Sharon.” She gets to see a glimpse of what it would be like. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways. His ways are higher, His ways are better and His love exceeds them all.

So in the midst of loss, new life and love, I find an unexpected Joy in all three of these stories. Stories and lives that are weaved together through the Father’s hand and His good plan. Today I celebrate the legacy of Colette, my sweet momma, a woman who taught me to love Jesus with all that I have…  A woman who I know can’t wait to greet you and me as we make our way into Eternity. (I use to tease my mom that she should have been a Wal-mart greeter-I am pretty sure thats her job in heaven). Someday, she will meet this beautiful daughter of mine and I’m sure share stories of what a rebellious child I was and how much she reminds her of me. And she will meet momma Sharon, maybe share a coffee and thank her for loving her girls on earth.

Jesus-I am overwhelmed by the unexpected. Thank you.

Signature_Cheryl-1

cheryl profile pic

 

My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

My Story: Overcoming Social Anxiety

I am a 33-year-old wife, teacher, dog mommy, friend and Pinterest-loving crafter. I am an introvert that loves people. I can be as silly as a 12-year-old and love making others laugh. I am a good listener and love hearing other people’s stories…

…Because we all have a story. And sometimes sharing it with others is the scariest thing we think we’ll ever face because vulnerability can sometimes lead to pain. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that before God formed us in the womb, he knew us. He knew what he was doing when he gave us our character traits and our flaws. Over the past few years, I’ve come to understand that the imperfections within us are meant to serve a purpose. That being said, here is my story.

Growing up, I was thought of as the shy and quiet girl. I clung to my mother’s leg on the first day of Kindergarten and hoped that if I cried hard enough my parents wouldn’t make me stay. In elementary school, I remember playing alone on the playground and drawing elaborate pictures in the dirt with a stick. My best friend was my stuffed, pajama-clad bear named Chuckles.

Once, in the fifth grade, I had to demonstrate a “how-to” project in front of the class. This is my first real memory of experiencing crippling fear in front of my peers. I went with something I hoped would be quick: How to Draw a Snoopy Face Out of the Number 55. Terrified, I went up to the board and drew that thing out in about five seconds flat. There was no pausing to give my classmates instructions. I drew as quickly as I could with trembling hands as my teacher urged me to slow down and explain each step. I don’t remember what kind of grade I got on that presentation, but I do remember from that moment on having an inescapable fear of not only being called up to the board in class, but being called on in any sort of way by the teacher.

IMG_20140806_0001 cropped

Fast forward to high school, where every day was spent making sure I didn’t wear a gray t-shirt to reveal my incessantly sweating armpit stains. I refused to eat anything for lunch at school other than crackers because I feared eating a big lunch would cause my stomach to make gurgling digestive sounds in a quiet classroom. My worst fear was being called on by my teacher to read out loud. The phrase, “We’re going to go around the room and read…” was my absolute worst nightmare, and panic would take over my whole being as I waited for my turn.

Then came college, where there was more of the same. Every day was spent fighting one anxious battle after another. I remember my heart beating fast each and every time I walked to class. I wondered: would I get called on to read out loud today? Would I get a tickle in my throat and have an uncontrollable coughing spell during lecture? I told myself that if things got to too stressful in class, I would just get up and leave, pretending I had an appointment. This is an escape route that wasn’t available to me in high school, and I utilized it one day in Calculus to avoid board work.

At the end of the day, I would go back to my dorm room and collapse on my bed, emotionally exhausted. A suite mate might knock on my door, but I wouldn’t answer, telling her later I had fallen asleep.

When Summer came, while other kids got jobs to further their resume and use towards experience in their field of major, I would stay holed up in my apartment, relying on savings to pay my part of the rent and bills. A day didn’t go by that I didn’t feel like a worthless freeloader. I couldn’t apply for jobs because my anxiety was through the roof. I remember multiple instances of my picking up the phone to call a potential employer then hanging up before they answered because my heart was beating so hard, I knew I wouldn’t be able to talk. One morning I was in bed thinking about how all my roommates were at work and I was wasting another day away, a prisoner to fear. My heart started beating erratically, and I experienced a full-blown panic attack that left my heart physically hurting. I was so worried, I actually called my parents and asked them to drive me to the hospital for heart tests. After all the testing, I learned my heart was fine. I was told to stay away from stimulants such as caffeine. I was also told that anxiety is most common in college-aged women trying to figure out what to do with their lives.

No matter what age I was, a common thread coursed through my life: the concept of embracing who I was and simply being myself was never considered. It took all I had to face each day trying to hide my unrealistic anxieties from those around me. But even though it was the only way of life I knew, I never stopped to consider what might be wrong with me until after I got married.

At 23 years old, I googled “social anxiety.” The symptoms laid out on my computer screen sounded like someone was writing a biography about me. I felt exposed. I felt scared that I had an actual diagnosis which I would forever be trapped in and defined by.

According to Wikepedia:  ”Social anxiety is a discomfort or a fear when a person is in social interactions that involve a concern about being judged or evaluated by others. It is typically characterized by an intense fear of what others are thinking about them (specifically fear of embarrassment, criticism, or rejection), which results in the individual feeling insecure, not good enough for other people, and/or the assumption that peers will automatically reject them.”

Boom. There was my life summarized in two sentences. I cried to my husband that night and revealed to him my secret struggle that even he had known nothing about. I worried he would look at me differently, but he amazed me then and continues to amaze with his understanding and full acceptance of me.

I continued to live life crippled by social anxiety for a few more years. My breaking point came when my job (working for a local magazine) required me to go into a few different stores and pick out products to highlight. This involved me carrying in a notebook and pen and asking an employee to help me with what I needed. I couldn’t do it. I broke down, absolutely overtaken by fear. My husband was my hero that day. He took my notebook and pen and went into each and every store and got the information that I had been assigned to get.

Not long after that, I had a talk with my family doctor. My heart beat and my voice shook as I told him about the relentless anxiety I struggled with every day. He listened and acknowledged my struggle. He affirmed that I had truly been living in a secret hell. It was that day that I took the first step of treatment. And my life has been changed for the better since.

Do I still struggle with anxiety? Yes. But the difference is that instead of not making the call, I’ll make it now, even if I don’t feel the most confident. I put myself in new situations now and don’t hide from the world. I have discovered my real personality when not held back by fear of being judged. I am funny. I love people. I’m goofy and not as shy as I’ve always considered myself to be. I love teaching children. I see the value in complimenting a stranger and look for opportunities to be a light for Christ. And going back to what I said in the beginning about our imperfections being meant to serve a purpose: I am a greeter at my church. I struggle sometimes with stumbling over my words or feeling awkward trying to talk to new people, but I’ve also seen God use me just as I am to make others feel welcome and important. And my desire to love on others just as they are overrides my desire to not talk to anyone out of fear that I might not know what to say to them or might stumble over my words.

Awhile ago, I heard this quote and it has stuck with me: “Imperfections have a role to play in our lives and when we forget that, we become unapproachable.”

Therefore, embrace your imperfections. Don’t waste them. Figure out who God wants you to share your story with and tell it. You will be amazed at how many people will be able to relate and how many lives you’ll be able to touch when you take off the proverbial mask of perfection.

I am sharing my story to bring awareness to a disorder that affects millions of adults in America. If you are secretly struggling with social anxiety, know there are various forms of treatment and I urge you to consult with your doctor about which might be best for you.

There IS life beyond the labels, and that life is one of abundance when we choose to not be held back by what has always kept us bound.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalm 139:14a

 

BraveGirl Martha

IMG_4430

Strength From Suffering

Strength From Suffering

What have I done to deserve this?

I am ashamed by the number of times I have asked this question. Suffering has pretty much taken up residence in my life despite my efforts to do good, act good, and be good. It just keeps coming back, no matter how much I try to take control so it can be avoided.

Things can be moving along beautifully, blessings pouring in, and yet I wait. I wait for the dreaded, all too familiar shoe to drop. It’s a pattern in my life I’ve grown so accustomed to that I anticipate it. What terrible tragedy will happen that will break me wide open again, just as I’ve started to heal from the last one? This is not how God intended for me to live, yet the fear of suffering still festers deep inside of me.

If we are truly living our lives on this earth for Christ, shouldn’t we embrace suffering and all that comes with it? I want His glory to be revealed in me, but am I truly willing to suffer for it? Am I able to surrender everything I hold dear and trust that He is good, no matter what?

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10

Suffering brings us closer to our Savior in a way we never could have imagined. It changes the way we perceive and trust and love others. It gives us a testimony that we can’t help but share so that glory can be given to our King. It gives us compassion for others who are suffering. It teaches us how to pray out of true belief rather than routine. But most importantly, it gives us a longing for our heavenly home, the only place where there is no more suffering.

“There are parts of Jesus we will never know apart from suffering.”  

– Kelly Minter, All Things New

Suffering will come into our lives in many different forms. Loss of loved ones, illness, addiction, violence, and severed relationships are all part of living in a broken world. As difficult as it has been, my strength has come in the suffering and therefore, I would not trade it. Would I have been able to say that while I was in the middle of it? Definitely not. It’s not fair. It hurts so deeply. It’s so difficult to understand and usually we never will. That’s why it’s so important to do all we can to stay faithful in the midst of our suffering. Stay in the Word, pray even when we don’t want to, ask for and accept help from others and seek counsel from the right people.

If you are suffering today, I pray that you feel His loving arms holding you through your pain. I know the feeling of hurting so deeply it actually manifests into physical pain. I know what it’s like to repeatedly ask God how He could let this happen. I know how lonely it can feel. God did not promise us that we would not suffer, but the good news is He did promise that we wouldn’t have to do it alone.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Know that you are not forgotten. You are not being punished. You are so loved. Take this opportunity to breathe in your Savior like never before and search for the beauty buried deep within the ashes with every new day. It is in this sacred place where you will find your strength.

“Jesus, with His pierced side, is always on the side of the broken. Jesus always moves into places moved with grief. Jesus always seeks out where the suffering is, and that’s where Jesus stays. The wound in His side proves that Jesus is always on the side of the suffering, the wounded, the busted, the broken.” – Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

BraveGirl Robyn

DSC_9876

 

Video Testimony-Marriage and Pornography

Video Testimony-Marriage and Pornography

Austin & Hanna courageously share their true story of how bringing our struggles into the light not only opens the door for God to move, it transforms us into a new creation. Watch their courageous testimony of God’s ability to redeem, restore, and create a new path replacing shame with peace, and sorrow with joy. Bravery at its’ finest.

Click the link below to watch…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEb_dxWxCCk

You CAN Sit With Us

You CAN Sit With Us

Have you ever seen those cheeky graphic tees with the phrase “You Can’t Sit With Us” plastered boldly across the chest? Personally, the cute factor of such an isolating phrase is lost on me, but maybe I’m still working through some residual pain of being that middle-school-aged girl who truly was uninvited.

I’m thankful my Savior would never say that to me. In fact, if Jesus had worn graphic tees back in his earth-inhabiting days, I’m sure His would have said, “You CAN sit with us.” And the invitation would have been real and all-inclusive. That’s just how Jesus lived his life; he made a pointed effort to notice the unnoticed and call the unworthy to do big things with their lives.

Romans 5:11 says that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we have been made “Friends of God.”

You guys, we’re in. We’re worthy. Not because of anything we can do but because of everything Jesus did. I’m blown away by this title: Friend of God. My natural inclination is to question my place in Jesus’ group, to feel I haven’t earned my spot, or worry Jesus might notice I’ve crept into his circle and decide to cast me out.

But Jesus will never do that to you or me. He’s the best friend we could ever have.

And because we have been eternally accepted by Him, our lives become part of something so much bigger than anything we could ever accomplish on our own:

Romans 5:2:

“Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of UNDESERVED PRIVILEGE where we now stand, and we CONFIDENTLY and JOYFULLY look forward to sharing God’s glory.”
[emphasis added]

Being a friend of Jesus means so much more than just getting a front-row seat to all the incredible ways Jesus works and touches lives; it means that sometimes we get called onstage to play a significant part. We get to participate right alongside Jesus in getting our hands dirty and changing the world. As members of his crew, we have a purpose, and are delegated unique tasks by Him that only we can accomplish.

There is no one in this world that God can’t use or doesn’t want to use. There is not a person in this world that God doesn’t desire a close friendship with. So if you’re wondering where your place is, go ahead and approach Him with the confidence that you have already been called, and there’s a seat saved for you.

Put yourself back in the cafeteria of middle school. Timid, and clutching your tray, you quickly scan the room for an empty seat near someone who desires your presence. To your surprise, instead of multiple tables scattered across the room, each surrounded by various cliques, there is just one large table. Everyone’s favorite friend is seated at the head, and one empty chair is open next to Him. You make eye contact, and all your anxieties wash away. He smiles with radiant joy at the sight of you and waves you over to the empty chair right next to Him. His friends turn to see whom the object of His excitement is, and upon realizing it’s you, excitedly join Him in welcoming you over.

He stands with sincerity as you approach, looks you in the eye, and says, “You can sit with us. You are wanted here.”

 

BraveGirl Martha

IMG_4430