My Brave Story- Tera Dadiotis

I really can't imagine anything worse than losing a child. It doesn't matter if you carried them in your womb for a month or held them in your arms after they were born, my heart breaks for the families who have had to get the news that they are no longer carrying a baby or to have to bury a child young or old. I know that it breaks God's heart as well. When a woman miscarriages I feel like the world writes it off as something insignificant. It has a lot to do with the sin in this world and in believing a fetus is not human, the biggest load of bull sh** I've ever heard! But not only that, Christians will chalk it up to, "well, you never know, God may have needed another angel." NO HE DIDN'T! I'm sorry, but He really doesn't, we live in a broken world! I'm not saying that the parents or anyone involved caused this by their sin, but this world is dying and because of that really sad and bad stuff happens. That's why we so badly need JESUS! Jesus gives life!

Okay, so I'll get off my soapbox and introduce you all to my sweet friend, Tera Dadiotis. If you want to hear about a couple who pushed through and held onto the promise that God had for them, Tera and her husband, Jimmy, are those people. They suffered multiple miscarriages, lots of fertility treatments and for most who would blame God for their hardship, these two decided to press into what He had for them. The devil will try to push you down, hold you down and make you surrender to his regime and agenda, but the most important thing that we can do when we have fallen down is to get on our knees in surrender to the goodness of who God is. His Word does not return void, When He gives you a promise He will complete it! It probably won't look exactly the way that you envisioned it and it will not be in the timing that you hoped, but God's got this!

Candace

The devil will try to push you down, hold you down and make you surrender to his regime and agenda, but the most important thing that we can do when we have fallen down is to get on our knees in surrender to the goodness of who God is
Tera and Jimmy Dadiotis

Tera and Jimmy Dadiotis

Well, for the past several years I have really grown in my faith. Mostly, because of what we have gone through in our journey of having a baby. My husband Jimmy and I met after we were introduced to each other by some friends, it was love at first sight! We've been together for 7 years and married for 4. We decided to start a family in 2015. We had no clue how difficult the journey would be back then. Perhaps, it was because we were trusting in our own ability instead of God's in the beginning. We tried for a year to get pregnant and then I ended up having to have surgery due to stage four endometriosis. During that time I met a gal at our church who was visiting from California, she told me that God showed her a vision of me with two beautiful children. A month after my surgery we got pregnant, but miscarried at eight weeks, it was pretty devastating. While I was in the hospital miscarrying that baby, that same woman who had that vision was in the emergency room with me and she didn't even live in the state, she was only visiting again. I knew that God was using that to show me He was still with us and that His promises would be fulfilled. We ended up getting pregnant again, six months later, and miscarried the baby at nine weeks. After that, we tried three attempts of IUI and one IVF and all failed. I felt like I was on a roller coaster with all of those hormones that I had to inject myself. That's when I really started to pray and press into the Lord. I asked him what He wanted us to do. I gently felt Him say to me, "Be still and know that I am God."-Psalm 46:10. I knew at that moment that we no longer needed to try to get pregnant but that it would happen in God's timing. I realize that when we work God rests, but when we rest, God goes to work. About one month later we got pregnant again, this time with our little Dimitri.

I knew deep down inside the enemy was going to do anything he could to destroy the process. But I just kept focusing on the scripture God gave me in Psalm 46:10. Of course, I was scared that I would miscarry or that something bad would happen. But the Lord just kept giving me peace and I focused on His promises. Although I did have some complications during the pregnancy and Dimitri came six weeks early, everything turned out the way it was supposed to. The doctors told us when Dimitri was born that he could be in the NICU for six weeks! I couldn't imagine missing out on all that time with my baby after everything we had gone through. So I just kept praying that Dimitri would take the doctors by surprise and that God would give him supernatural strength, health and healing. And that's exactly what God did! Dimitri stayed only one week in the hospital, the doctors and nurses told us that he was taking them all by surprise. That's exactly what I prayed for!

My biggest piece of advice for any couple who may be going through the same process that we did is that miracles happen every day, and God wants to do a miracle in everyone's life. But in order for him to do this I believe we have to be obedient. And when I say be obedient that doesn't mean we have to do things to earn God's grace but actually the complete opposite. It means we need to be obedient and letting God work for us and trusting in Him!

In adjusting to motherhood, I definitely thought it would be much more difficult, but it has been an incredible journey. I think everything we went through makes us appreciate Dimitri so much more. I just put everything in God's hands and I mean everything! I realize apart from Him I can't do anything. So now, being a mama, I need the Lord even more. I need Him to guide me in everything I do especially as a mom.

 

My Brave Story- Tana Johnston

I've known my friend Tana for a long time! We did Little Britches and high school rodeo together. I always admired her as a serious athlete. She had this infectious smile and laugh, but man, could she kick some butt in the arena!!

I was so excited to connect with Tana again after college at our home church. I didn't know her testimony until reading her Brave Story, but I have to say that she still challenges me today even out of the arena to go further and deeper with God. She's a woman who has had major ups and downs and has learned to trust Jesus through them and to let Him take her messes and turn them into something beautiful.

I pray that Tana's Brave Story challenges you, puts you at the feet of Jesus and gives you hope that all you have to do is ask for Him. He's already there waiting on you, just reach out for Him.

Candace

Standing on the shore…

The first time I ever stepped out in faith was a cold and snowy night in February, 2008.  I was stepping away from a broken relationship.  It was the first time I had fallen to my knees and cried out to God.  A God who I knew in my heart was there, but that I had no relationship with.  He was this huge, far off “thing” that I had been taught about, but never had entered into relationship with. 

“God please help me” came from a voice in the still darkness of the house that night that I realized later was mine.  From that moment on, I had such a peace over me that words could not explain.  Not peace over my broken relationship, but peace that I knew I would never walk alone again. 

He calls my name…

God had been pulling at me for quite some time, but I was too caught up in fixing things by myself and too independent to ask for help.  But on that cold and snowy night when I was the most broken, God spoke to my heart.  He was not condemning me about my past or judgmental of my behavior.  He was full of kindness, full of love, full of grace.  His open arms gave me strength and healing. 

He was full of kindness, full of love, full of grace. His open arms gave me strength and healing

Stepping out into the waves…

I had to choose God.  I had to decide in that moment if I was going to trust Him and His plan for my life or if I was going to stay broken.  

Don’t look back…

I was fearful of so many things… What would my parents say?  What would people think?  How would I explain my failure?  What were others saying?  Questions full of fear and rejection flooded me.

Being broken was completely new territory for me.  I had thus far in my life had it pretty easy.  I was a good student and school came easily to me.  I had played basketball and volleyball at a high level and had much success.  I had spent numerous hours in the arena roping because I was determined to be the best.  I had gone to college on a full ride rodeo scholarship and my parents had given me every opportunity along the way to be successful in whatever I chose.  Life had always been about me and what goal I was trying to accomplish.

Reaching for His hand…

For the first time, I was broken and in unknown territory.  How did this happen?  The questions tormented my mind and my soul.  I had let my emotions and my fears consume me.  And that’s where I met Jesus.  He took me in and showed me how loved I was – exactly where I was.  At the time, I had a hard time understanding this but I trusted Him and I pressed in and the deeper I dug into His word the more I read about His loving kindness, the more I believed it and the more I felt it. 

There are always consequences to our actions and it took some time to walk out the mess I had created.  But with each day I grew stronger and more faithful and felt more loved.  Even though it was tough and full of pain I didn’t have to walk it alone.

Take hold…

Looking back over the years I have learned that God is so faithful to His people.  He is right there, loving us exactly where we are in our biggest messes and our deepest sin.  He wants us to grab hold of Him, to trust Him, and to lean into Him because His desire is to grow us, not leave us in the mess. 

Since then life has happened through a different set of eyes for me.  I married an amazing man after God’s heart in 2010.  He leads our family with Godly wisdom and encourages me to walk more like Jesus every day.  In 2013 we found out we were expecting a baby, which was a surprise.  But when I was 21 weeks we learned the shocking news that there were two.  We were shocked, scared, and overwhelmed all at the same time.  We had just settled into the idea of two babies when my water broke at 31 weeks and the babies were on their way.  We were blind to what was coming in our near future… Once at the hospital the doctor sat in a chair across from my bed and explained to us what the process would probably look like having them that early.  I still didn’t fully understand.  My mind was so confused.  As the day progressed my contractions became closer and closer together much to the hard work of the doctors to get them to stop.  They were trying to delay the labor as long as they could, but nothing worked.  At the risk of losing Qwade (baby A) they did an emergency C-section to get both boys out at 9:30 PM that very night.  Both boys were intubated and rushed to the NICU.  Right there, I remember telling God I didn’t know how we were supposed to do this and He whispered in my spirit not to worry, that He was right there.  The next several weeks were filled with ups and downs, good days and bad days.  Lots of sleepless nights and care times every three hours.  A long seven weeks later we got to bring our babies home for the first time. 

We have had multiple health issues with the boys, hospital stays, and walked through some tough things, but looking back over the past three and a half years at what God has done in our family is without words.  He has never abandoned us.  He has used the hard times to refine us and to make us more like Jesus.  He has been faithful every step of the way, through every circumstance He was and still is working all things out for the good.  (Romans 8:28)  I am confident that He isn’t finished yet, He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

And now, God is calling us to a new faith journey to open a coffee shop, The Rustic Cup.  My dream is that the shop will be a place where all can come to experience an atmosphere full of Jesus.  A place full of love, kindness, comfort, and grace.  A place where we can all pause in our brokenness and meet with Him.  To call out to Him.  To press into Him with our whole heart.  To share life…

                Blessings,

                Tana

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3: 12-14 NIV

What does it mean to be Brave?

What does it mean to be brave? I've been bombarded by this question a lot lately. From stepping out and going alone on a project that I've always done with my best friend, to helping my daughter get over her fear of heights at gymnastics, to how to talk to a friend about something I'm deeply passionate about and not offend her.

As I look back on the last couple of years, my life has been a constant state of stepping out of my comfort zone. Kirste and I started this blog almost 3 years ago, back when having a western-style blog was pretty new. We wanted to pour our hearts out from what God was giving to us. It was scary to start, scary to keep up, we experienced lots of blessings and some major criticism. But here I am almost 3 years later, I have few scars, but the good far outweighs the bad. I might be going it alone now since other commitments and passions have pulled Kirste in another direction, but I know that when I step out with God and follow His direction, I cannot fail. I saw a church sign on my way into town today and it read, "Where God guides, God provides." It's very true, but sometimes when you're in the thick of it, you may feel scared, alone and unsure. If we're not leaning into our Father and spending time with Him, we put ourselves at a distant. So many people pray, "God, if it's your will, please let this come to pass..." It's like we try to use God as a magic eight ball, but we do know His Will, it's in His Word. He gives it right there to us, but so many times we miss it because we're not getting into His Word. I'm so guilty of this!! When my day is going crazy, I'm yelling at my kids and getting angry with my husband, I finally sit down and realize that I haven't taken time to come and sit in my Father's lap. I haven't let Him speak His Word into me. Let Him fill me up. My pastor last weekend preached on this exact topic and his words are still ringing in my ears, "live from the lap and not the gap." He explained that most Christians pray to a God "way out there!" And we pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done...way out there." Because that's where we believe God is. But He's not, He's right here, whispering, "come here, climb up on my lap, hear my heart beat. Know that I want only good things for you. I will not tempt you with evil. I sent my Son to die for you, to put to death the work of the devil and bring heaven to earth through you!" Gosh, He's so unbelievably good!!

So as I write this, I just got done taking a huge inventory of my life. What I wanted to keep in it, what I needed to shut the door to so I could chase other opportunities. Keeping up this blog on my own came up. Did I still have something to say? Did I still have a passion for writing? And as I prayed about it, God gently told me, "I still have something to say, so will you say it for Me?" So, here I am. You'll be seeing more of me. I'm still so excited to be sharing more Brave Stories as they come in, but I also want to share exactly what my Daddy is telling me. Whether it be stories of my life, little nuggets that God gives me, funny anecdotes that happen to this "cowboy's wife" or my new venture as a homeschool mama. I want this blog to be about what God is speaking to me and share with my friends.

So I pray that you will continue to join me on this adventure called life. I pray that I can speak life, love and joy into your life through the written word, but mostly I pray that God can use me to reach whomever He wishes through this little blog!

So here's to the adventure!!

Much love,

Candace

My Brave Story- Nila Rhoades

Good morning everyone! I am excited to introduce you to Nila Rhoades this morning. I first met Nila when a friend of mine introduced us to each other at a "moms coffee morning" to help my little guy get to know another face at the new school he'd be going to this year. One thing I have always admired about Nila since I first met her is her ability to voice what is important to her and stand tall where God has placed her in His plan. This woman is an amazing mom of two beautiful little boys, as well as a wife, a business woman, a stay-at-home mom, a friend and a woman in pursuit of Gods Word! I know you will enjoy her story as you read it:) 

Blessings,  

Kirste!  

When I was little, I always wanted to be something cool. I think everyone does to an extent. But, when I was little, I dreamed of being a superhero. Not somebody with a cape, some tights or someone who wore their underwear on the outside of their pants. I wanted to be someone in law enforcement. I dreamed of being in the FBI or the CIA or the military even. When I was in high school, my workouts would consist of passing a PT test for the Army. I poured over the requirements to be an agent with the FBI or the CIA. It would take a lot of college. I always doubted myself, and I think that's the big reason why I never really lived up to that goal. I never had anyone in my life telling me that I could be whatever I wanted to be. I never had that motivator in my young impressionable years that told me to follow my dreams. I was told to go the safe route. I was told not to try anything too scary. When I did go to college I contacted a recruiter for active-duty Army. There's no doubt in my mind that if he had been a better recruiter and followed up with me I would have joined very soon after high school. But again, I was scared. I knew I could do it, and I know I could be good at it so maybe that's why I was scared. Being scared of success is a thing, right? What would people think of a preachers’ daughter who was thriving in a secular male dominated profession? By being good at something in the military or law enforcement meant that I was not going to be the cookie cutter pastor's daughter. It meant that I wouldn't go to Bible College, and I wouldn't marry a preacher boy, and I wouldn't join the ministry, none of which have I ever felt called to do.

When I actually did attend Bible College, as a freshman, people would always tell me, “ring by spring or your money back." I was one of the many girls who graduated Bible College without a suitable suitor in sight, and no money back. Well, that was never a goal of mine, although I wasn't necessarily opposed to getting married in college. I had always thought about that saying and commonly grew to wonder if people thought that when you got married you wouldn't have to worry about what you wanted to be when you grew up and that you'd get to coast through life off your husband’s callings. That may have been true for some, but it’s not true for everyone. The Lord speaks to the man and the man leads the family and "so I don't have to worry about what I want to be when I grow up." This was not the case in my life. In 2009, I looked into pursuing a master's degree in criminal justice, so that I could pursue being one of the three-letter agencies or military. Shortly after taking the GRE I found out I was pregnant with my first son. At this point my dreams for my life were shattered. The calling I thought I had from God, was crushed. I don't want to make it sound like my oldest son shattered my dreams, that's not at all what I mean, and a lot of you moms can identify with me there. When you are in the position of becoming a single mother, I think a lot of remorse, regret and guilt is felt. Not remorse, regret and guilt because you regret your child or feel like you’ll ruin them, but the remorse and guilt you can only feel when a decision that you made intentionally came back to bite you in the butt.

If you want to read more about my story as a single mom click here: http://www.milspecmom.com/ronans-story-of-love-and-adoption/

Fast forward a few years; I still have people telling me on a regular basis that this (military, law enforcement, etc) is something that I would be good at. I’ve been called the top 1% of the shooter population by ex-navy seals, civilian contracts, and other ninjas guys. I’ve also been asked what police precinct I work for or how long have I've been in the military. Each one of those questions stings badly. My husband and I have had long conversations, literally dozens of times, about my going back to college or pursue my dream of being an agent or joining the Army. That's my dream for my life. But, I have a family now. I've got two boys and an amazing husband. How much sacrifice is too much to follow your dreams?

My story is weirder than some. My life is quite a bit different than I thought it would turn out. But, my life is still pretty awesome. I’m married to a good, Godly paratrooper. I have two wonderful boys, one of whom just invited Christ into his life. My husband and I, who both have a passion for firearms, decided in 2014 to start our own training company so we can teach others how to defend their families. I absolutely feel called to be a wife and mother. I love being an instructor. It’s something I’m really good at because of the above-mentioned mindset.

Now, I still might have the ability to pursue one of these dreams. I’m only 30, I have a very supportive husband and family. But any of those options that I choose takes me away from my family for a few months. So again, I must ask myself, how much sacrifice is too much? How can I be the kind of mother I need to be and the kind of wife I need to be, and leave my husband and children for 3-9 months?

It’s not that easy. It will never be that easy. I’ve had these dreams for a very very long time. I could go and join the Army tomorrow. I could work towards joining the FBI or CIA. I could work on advancing my skillset to make myself a better instructor with our firearms instructor company. But, I don’t see those doors opening right now. I could push them open, but I would have to undo a lot of locks first. Does the will of God require blasting through locked doors? I don’t think so.

Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I know that I am called to be a witness of Christ, a wife and a mother. I hope that I’m called to be more than that soon, but for now this is where I am. A teacher in Bible College had a quote that she used often. This is quite literally the only thing I remember from any of her classes, but I think it resonates here,“Grow where you are planted." We don’t have to like the dirt that God has put us in, but we are meant to grow roots and serve Him wherever we are!

1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Right now, I am a wife. Right now, I am a mother. Right now, my husband and I run the security team at our church. Right now, I am a firearms instructor. Right now, I am supposed to grow where I am planted and serve God with the best of my abilities in this moment.

1 Timothy 2:1-4, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kinds and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

I truly believe that there are areas of our lives that God gives us the ability to make decisions in. For example, should I have ice cream for dessert? Or cake? I believe the Lord gives a certain authority over areas of our lives; like what clothes we wear and if our hair is long or short and if we drink diet coke verses coffee. However, there is a caveat to that. Read 1 Corinthians 10:31 again; as long as we are glorifying God in ALL that we do. I believe that He gives us the authority to pick if we want chocolate cake or a cookie for dessert, or if we want brown hair or blond hair.

Lastly, let’s look at Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In the midst of being a wife and mother the Lord has opened a door. I think honestly, it’s been open for a few years, I was just ignoring it. While I was wallowing in my self-pity of “I’m ONLY a stay at home mom!" Thereby insulting all SAHM’s and myself, the Lord was pointing a huge neon sign at a door that I had my back turned to because it’s work! It’s lots of hard work.

The Lord very suddenly and aggressively turned me around through a little comment my husband said to me back in December. “Why don’t you just go back to school? You know it’s paid for.” Then, in a Saul/Paul like revelation, the scales were removed from my eyes and I “saw the light!” The light being the huge neon sign, of course. My school is paid for due to the sacrifice my husband made to join the Army. There are benefits that come with joining and he is able to transfer them for me to use. So, I am jumping in. I’m going back to school. I am scared of the effects it’ll have on my family, but I truly believe this is the Lord’s calling. HE will make a way for me to balance it all. To answer the question that’s probably floating around in your head, I’m pursuing a double master’s degree in “Homeland Security & Emergency Disaster Management."

This degree, although won't land me in law enforcement or a branch of the military, it will give me the challenge that I crave in a civilian setting so I won’t have to be gone from my family for months at a time. It’s literally the best of both words. I will be able to choose employment at a number of county, state, or federal organizations while staying close to home and keeping a somewhat normal schedule. How great is our God?

Although I am scared of what this next step holds I am also very excited. I love being challenged and learning. It’s going to make being a “stay-at-home” mom a lot easier in a lot of ways because I will have that adult outlet that many of us mothers crave. I’ve come to realize that whatever our lives looked like in our head before we realized that we were in the middle of our life already, is almost irrelevant. We are to glorify God where we are in that moment, grow where He plants us and LISTEN to what He says. Even if it’s scary.

Cheers,

Nila 

 

My Brave Story- Megan Holdren

This story was last posted June of 2014 when Candace and I first started the blog. We thought that it was time to bring back some of these amazing woman's stories that you may have not read! This here is Megan Holdren from LiveWire. Candace first met Megan through their high school rodeo days. Candace always appreciated the fact that Megan marched to the beat of her own drum when it came to her style. I, Kirste first met Megan Holdren about 2011 when we were both pregnant with our first kiddos! Candace and I could both agree to say that it's such an honor to call Megan one of our mommy friends! Megan has such a bubbly outgoing personality and brings her creativity into everything that she does. From the way she decorates her house, her personal style and the style of her LiveWire designs Megan is quite a unique creative person! Megan has always been so kind enough to dress Candace and I for our blog pics, as well as donating a good chunk of her time to photograph us during a crazy days outside with kiddos and dogs running everywhere! I know you will enjoy reading more about Megan! 

Megan lives with her husband Ryan of almost 8 years and three beautiful babies in Greeley, CO. Ryan and Megan met in High School, but for the most part Megan knew little of Ryan’s existence. However, from a young age the boy knew exactly what he wanted. So, with some convincing the young man got exactly what he wanted, maybe not what he bargained for, but definitely what he wanted. Ryan is now the Regional Manager for Peak Oil Services, and most importantly one of the best men that ever lived. Before Megan had her firstborn, Paige, she worked in the supply chain of the poultry division at JBS for two & a half years. It wasn't until Paige was 8 months old that she decided to stay at home with her. She has since has had another precious little girl, named Gracie May, 2 1/2 and a dapper young man, Braxson, 1.

During the past 5 years since Megan has been in the corporate industry, she has been very busy. She was the Fashion Editor for Dirt road daughters Magazine, created Live wire clothing line in 2013, and became a Miss rodeo Colorado sponsor the same year. She has made multiple custom gowns for state queens, styled 2013 Miss Rodeo America fashion show, as well as had designs on the runway. LiveWire has a HAT collection with Greeley HAT works in multiple stores including PFI Western, Rods and others. Megan was also featured in the Cowboys and Indians fashion show at Dallas market in 2013.

Upon opening the LiveWire Boutique in November  of 2014, Megan was featured as, "The Best Northern Colorado Boutique" in the Greeley Tribune in May, 2015. Megan styled the 2015 Greeley Hat Works ad campaign with Past Miss Rodeo America Lauren Heaton, as well as styled multiple clients form the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, as well as 2015-2016 and various other award ceremonies. Currently, Megan is working on a Collaboration with Kimes Ranch, called Kimes Kutoure by LiveWire as well as a Collaboration with Katy Jade for an exclusive line in 2017. 

Cooped UP: What and who pushed you to start designing, as well as your own business? Family, friends, God, yourself?

Megan: God definitely pushed me through all of this, giving me the creativity to always have my own style from a young age and to be different in my own unique way. It was definitely hard to always believe in myself, it still is, but I had to learn and start believing and doing what God was telling me to do. This has meant stepping out in new ways, not always knowing the path or what the heck I’m doing, but doing all that I do completely under His covering. Also, relying on friends and family has always been important! One person in particular who was inspirational to me along the way was my friend Kristin at Spur Ridewear. She told me I needed to get my stuff together and start designing seriously. It's awesome how people speak into your life at the exact time that we need to hear it! Kristen was really the person who breathed the “hope” or idea of a line. Trent at Greeley Hat Works saw it and took the idea even further. I just couldn’t believe that people believed in me! Support comes from first God, your family and friends and your peers in your business. 

Cooped UP: Where do you find inspiration?

Megan: Everywhere! In my kiddos, watching movies, people,  but mostly I get inspired when I’m in the Word. I have noticed that when I’m in the Word or listening to podcasts from our church (I have been gone most weekends and can’t be there in person), God just moves in me and my creativity just pours out, uncontrollably. The Word begins to minister to me, and my mind starts to create different things. God shows me what it looks like, like a movie or a commercial, just in a flash. It's always best to write any ideas down that pop into your head because if you don't you will forget! Or, I try to explain it to my husband and he hands me a "pass to the looney bin", either way.

Cooped UP: How do you overcome obstacles in life, family and business?

Megan: It is definitely easier said than done! You have to make choices and stick to them. You can't have guilt for stronghold goals! My motive is family first! Sometimes this means a lost style appointment or a custom look that has to be pushed back, but that's ok. As a business standpoint I’m sure that’s not a fantastic choice, however with a growing family I have to be able to control the amount of time I get to invest in my children. It wouldn’t make sense to quit one arena just to do the same practice in another. Our kiddos are our only true heritage, I’m going to invest in them. I know that God will keep my business at bay while I grow his Kingdom.

Cooped UP: What goals/plans do you have  for 2017?

Megan: I’m so excited to be growing my styling business! You will see new features, custom looks and event styling by LiveWire Style. Also stay tuned for Collaborations with LiveWire and Kimes Ranch, Katy Jade, and Greeley Hat Works!

Cooped UP: What are your 10 year goals?

Megan: I wouldn’t be where I am without the help from others in the industry, friends and people just taking a chance on me. In the years to come,  you will see me at speaking engagements for women, talking about style and who God has called them to be, mentoring women coming up in the industry, and growing my beautiful babies!

Cooped UP: What are 5 principles you want to instill in your kids?

Megan: 

1. Love God 

2. Love each other; I drill that into them, no matter what, your siblings are Gold, no exceptions.

3. You can do anything, but you MUST do something. I don't care what they choose to do in life, I want them to go and do it, and do their best! 

4. Be kind & accepting of people, no one is the same, and that’s on purpose.

5. Don't let others’ actions affect your own, don’t get easily pushed out of the saddle when it get windy stay strong in your calling.

Cooped UP: What advice could you give other woman who may be on the fence about starting their own business?

Megan: Step One: Have cohunes! Being a business owner is hard work! Be prepared. It may get muddy, and be emotionally exhausting, but no one owes you anything! I'd advise them to find someone successful in business. This could be someone you want to be like, and ask them to help mentor you. You will learn a lot from them. Also, do your homework and know "what's what" in comparison to what you are doing in your business. Know the "in's and out's" of the trade. And most importantly, seek God's counsel and wisdom on everything! 

Cooped UP: Looking back now what have you learned? Was it worth it? How has your life changed?

Megan: I learned to stay the course. It's so easy to get side tracked and change what your doing when your work doesn't get the hoped for response. Just keep your nose to the grind stone and stay in the race. You choose to quit, no one makes you. It's been so worth it, I have met so many amazing people along this path that have changed not only my life but my family's. God will place people in your life that stretch you, help you grow and when needed, feed you a good word when you can feed yourself. 

Cooped UP: Think back as to when God first opened the door for you to step out. Has there been anything that God continues to show you about yourself or how to trust Him? And, what does this look like for you? 

Megan: God shows me each day how good He truly is. I know so many people say that same thing, but dang, you just don't know until you know! And then, you just can't believe it!! God changes my path continually, like a river ever changing as it flows. I have found that when you allow yourself to be the dreamer of Gods path, you are just the vessel who follows where it goes. The best choice I have ever made in life is choosing to be the vessel. God continues to grow His kingdom through me by talking and ministering to women. Talking to women about stepping out, looking and feeling like the amazing creature God called them to be. 

LiveWire Clothing Co.

Megan.livewire@gmail.com

(970) 685-7325

My Brave Story- Tracy Glasgow

Tracy Glasgow's testimony brings to mind Chris McClarney's song, "Beauty for Ashes." It's a story of heartache, but from it God turns it to good. Not just good, amazing and beautiful when it's a life given over to follow Him. I love how precious our Father treats us, He never pushes us but just looks us in the eye and holds His hand out to us.

I'm blessed to call Tracy my friend, we crossed paths at high school rodeos and then we were reunited at church years later. I'm so honored to share her story and I pray that it helps heal wounds and urges you to seek out God in a deeper way.

-Candace

My ever growing, ever changing, but always the same…. Testimony.

I was thirty one years old and had never actually sat down and wrote out my testimony on a piece of paper. I had told bits and pieces of it to people, but to be honest for a long time I hadn’t ever really been sure what mine actually was… My life up to that point had been lots of peaks and many valleys. It was one that seemed more like the Grand Canyon. There have been trials and tribulations and there has been love and celebrations. However, through it all, one thing has remained the same and that is my love for my Savior. Ever growing, ever changing, but always the same.

There are days I feel like I am still in my infancy in my spiritual walk and then there are days I feel like I could carry the weight of the world on my shoulders because I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I was thirteen years old at a slumber party when my Dad called and was making me go home early. As any teenager would be, I was angry and not wanting to miss the fun. Little did I know my life was about to change forever. I got in the truck and my Dad told me that my mom had died. Died? What? How? My Mom was sick, but not in the way most would think. She had a mental illness that she battled for years before this. At the time, my parents had recently divorced and my Dad had full custody of my two sisters and I. We were going to therapy, having supervised visits with my Mom… To put it brutally honest, going through things that a child should never have to go through. On that day in the truck my Dad told me, "Your mom took her own life." These words have forever changed my life.

My Mom was a believer, she loved the Lord and I know she was saved. She made sure we were in church. She played the piano. I have memories being in the church plays, being a lamb in the nativity scene during Christmas. One of my favorite things my mom wrote in my baby book is that during the alter-call one Sunday morning I stood up, walked right up there and set my pacifier on the alter. I gave my paci to Jesus and never had it again. I love that.

My sisters and I were so young when this tragedy struck our family. My Dad had taken on the daunting task of raising three girls on his own. Life had changed. My sisters and I had to grow up faster than most kids, my childhood sometimes feels like a blur. For a longer than I’d like to admit there was a lot of anger in me towards my Mom and towards the Lord. I would ask Him over and over why us? Why our family? Why my Mom? I wanted so badly to not be the girl that is growing up without her mother. I know that I am not the only person that has gone through tragedy and I know I am not the only person that has asked God those questions. What I later learned is that God sometimes brings us to a point of total despair and frustration so that we will give up trying to live this life in our own strength and cast ourselves wholly upon Christ. Fast forward to my sophomore year of college I had reached that point. I had been doing just that, living life in my own strength. The hurt, the anger and the sadness had been bottled up inside me. I didn't want to be a victim of my circumstances, so I had been putting on a brave face to show everyone that I was fine, but on the inside I was fighting a losing battle. A battle that I knew in my heart that could only be won by finding the courage, putting my hands in the air and giving it all to the one Person that could take it away. I had not been putting Him first in my life for a long time.

In that moment I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted and God said, “Okay, lets get started!”

However, I had started going back to church with a friend and one Sunday morning my sophomore year, our Pastor told everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes. She prayed that if someone in there that day had been struggling, had been trying to figure this life out on their own, that needed the Holy Spirit to give them strength and direction, to raise their hand… As the Pastor is saying all of this I had this overwhelming feeling inside me that God was telling me, "Wake up Tracy, this is for you." So with one eye I peaked up to make sure everyone had their head bowed and eyes closed. Then, I quickly closed mine again, took a deep breath and raised my hand. In that moment I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted and God said, "Okay, lets get started!" The next Sunday I didn't just raise my hand, I got up, walked to the alter, prayed the Sinner's Prayer and rededicated my life to Christ.

We are meant to "be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."-Ephesians 4:23-24

Paul tells us, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will."-Romans 12:2

Jesus encourages us to remain steadfast through trials. To have complete dependence upon Him for direction, purpose, fulfillment, and strength. To follow His plan for our lives. Life for me, got a lot easier when I figured that out. No doubt there are still a lot of days I have to remind myself to stop trying to control everything and trust that God has a plan and His plan is so much better than my own. And when He designed that plan it wasn't dependent on me being perfect, I’m not. I mess up, I make mistakes, but His grace is bigger than my sins. I truly believe now that God uses the situations that we go through to help shape us and prepare us for where and what He has planned for us for tomorrow. To become something different from what we were, better than what we were, and with stronger testimonies than what we had before.

I do know that even though my Mom cut short the good works that God had prepared for her to accomplish, I know I will see her again in His glorious kingdom. My anger is gone.

I’ve now been married for four years to an amazing Godly man and have a beautiful, healthy two year old daughter. God continues to work in my life daily. Through the trials and tribulations, and the love and celebration. Now more than ever I want and need my heart open to receive His love, His mercy and His unwavering grace. I want to be the wife the Bible teaches me to be and the mother that raises her children to love Jesus and to know that He loves them. I want His light to shine through me and into my home. In order to do so I know I have to continually work on my personal relationship with the Him. Last year I was Baptized - I wasn’t 100 percent sure if I had been before my mom passed away. I know that God had been working in me for a long time and that my story… my path was not straight, it was full of twists and turns and ups and downs and maybe even a little backwards. In His perfecting timing, God brought me to Lee Park Baptist Church in Monroe, NC to show my outward expression of my personal commitment to the Lord with my husband and daughter by my side - To continue my walk in faith and be an example of Him. I have been made new and I cannot wait to see where He takes me next.

So here is my testimony …. for now, but always for His glory. Ever growing, ever changing, but always the same.

My Brave Story- Catie Kershner

Being vulnerable is the first step in letting God use our testimony. In this vulnerability, we most likely show how imperfect we are...but you know what, it sets the stage for us to show good our Jesus is! I love Catie's story because even though she's been very blessed in life, she still has her pitfalls and where she's felt like she's failed. They may not seem like big failures to some people, but she was falling short of what God had for her. Through being real with herself she realized that she needed a Savior. When this happened she could truly step into the abundant life that God had for her. I challenge you to read her story and take a look at your own life. Not in shame or to feel guilt, that's what the devil wants to point out, but ask Holy Spirit to show you what you need to lay down in order to go further with God.

So here it is! It's an honor to introduce you to Catie Kershner and make sure to follow this talented girl on Instagram at @kershnercustomsilver.

Entrepreneur, ranchers' daughter, cheetah-loving silversmith, dog mom to Bruce.

I'm Catie Kershner, owner, creator, one gal show that is Kershner Custom Silver. My dog Bruce is my right hand man and #1 shop assistant. He's really the star of my whole business and if you've met him you know why! He's constantly stealing hearts and kissing babies!!

Catie and her main man, Bruce!

Catie and her main man, Bruce!

My home base is in southeastern Oregon in the tiny town of Jordan Valley, home of the Big Loop Rodeo. I work full time in the Treasure Valley for Natural Resource Conservation Service during the week and on the weekends I do my silver business as well as ranch with my family.  

The epitomy of "ranch girl."

The epitomy of "ranch girl."

We raise beef cattle right there in JV, and much to my father's disapproval, goats!  Agriculture and ranching roots run deep and are big influences in my business as well as everyday life.

Catie and her mom at the Jordan Valley Big Loop in 2015.

Catie and her mom at the Jordan Valley Big Loop in 2015.

I’m not lucky, you have no idea how much I’ve prayed.

When I was asked to write for the Brave Series, fear popped up. The devil’s voice saying, "what will you even say? You don’t have this tremendous story!" I am just an average person this is true, but God made me in his image! I am the daughter of a King! I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, but I started jotting some notes down while waiting for my pickup to be serviced and pretty soon I had three pages of thoughts, ideas, my story of Christ in me.

I’ve often heard how blessed and lucky I am, and there’s no denying it! God has certainly been more than plentiful on the blessings that I have received! But what people don’t often contribute to my “luck” is the gift of Jesus. God gave his only son to save ME from MY sins! And He gave Jesus for you too! It’s a continuous journey for me of furthering my relationship with the Lord and it always hasn’t been a bed of roses, but it all started with on single prayer. 

“Lord I need you more than ever.”

I’ve always considered myself a believer of Christ. I’d attend church, read the occasional devotional, and say my duty prayers, yet I’d never really committed my life to the Lord. I relate my personal journey with the Apostle Peter. In Matthew 26:4, Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

I am worthy! We are all worthy! There is nothing we can do to separate us from the love that God has for us.

Now no one ever has any intentions of denying Christ, but I found myself denying Christ many times. I’ve had my struggles with standing strong in and showing my faith. Similar to Peter, when questioned about or in certain company, my faith would diminish. I would deny Him. Whether out of guilt, I don’t deserve His love. Look at my list of sins. I’m not “Christian” enough. Or out of shame (I know! UGH!), I’ll be mocked for my relationship with Christ. It’s not “cool” to talk about God. All of these excuses were the devil getting into my head saying I wasn’t worthy. But you know what? I am worthy! We are all worthy! There is nothing we can do to separate us from the love that God has for us.

This dog is cool.

This dog is cool.

That single prayer of “Lord I need you,” started a revolution in my life. It’s really your typical story of multiple heartbreaks that brought me back to God. I had been denying Christ off and on for several years. I would still be praying off and on, but I had been devoting my time to people who didn’t believe, so I kept my beliefs quiet.

When the turmoil of those relationships was finally catching up to me, I knew I needed Christ in my life more than ever. I began to pray to God for guidance as to what He wanted for my life. In his timing, God started opening doors and as much as I hated to see it, closing others.

Initially I was filled with fear. Fear of giving up control (hello, control freak here!) I was fearful of the decisions He would make in my life. What if I didn’t like them? Umm Cate, you don’t like the decisions YOU’RE making in your life! Give the King of Kings a chance! He can give you blessings beyond your wildest dreams if you let him!

Catie in her booth at the Bruneau Cowboy Christmas in 2016.

Catie in her booth at the Bruneau Cowboy Christmas in 2016.

It is so hard in today’s society to speak out about Christ and having a relationship with Him. One thing I have found through sharing my faith on social media especially, is there’s a lot more women with a deep rooted faith in God out there and that is so comforting! Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

This year truly has been a period of great transformation for me. Through my relationship with God, I found strength, will-power, and a voice I never knew I had. I made the decision to fully submit my life to Christ because I was tired of the heartbreak, guilt, and fear that was coming out of my own decisions that weren’t rooted in Christ.

It has finally given me peace when I think about all the uncertainty of my future, knowing God has it all planned out.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11. I don’t need to worry about finding the perfect husband, stressing about making my business successful, if it is God’s will it will be done! All I have to do is pray. Pray without ceasing! Because of my faith and willingness to follow God’s plan for me, He will fulfill my heart’s greatest desires (and then some!). With his promises I will patiently wait!

If my following God’s path for my life doesn’t mesh up with society’s vision of what a young, single woman’s life should look like, well then, I guess I’ve never been one who just goes with the flow anyways.

Though I fall short of the glory of God every single day, I know that I am forgiven and loved. I will still continue to walk the path he has for me, even if it is an old cow trail through beautiful Jordan Valley! And if my following God’s path for my life doesn’t mesh up with society’s vision of what a young, single woman’s life should look like, well then, I guess I’ve never been one who just goes with the flow anyways.

 

My Brave Story- Brittney Ford

This ladies name is Brittney Ford! I met Brittney over 8 years ago when my husband got a phone call from his friend Heath saying that he had met this amazing woman! CW and Heath had lived together for a couple of years before they both were married. CW had walked side by side with Heath in his relationship with God and everything that life brought! I remember shortly after Heath had told CW and I about Brittney I was able to share a car ride up to Montana with her and Heath. CW, my husband had been working out of town and they offered for me to jump in to head up to see my husband! I got to know Brittney more that trip and realized how perfectly she and Heath matched together! It's so neat to see the way that God brings people along in our lives when we need them the most and that's just what God did with these two! I know you'll enjoy her story of walking through tribulation, but learning to trust God along the way! Here's her Brave Story!

First off I want to share that Kirste contacted me in May about writing for her and Candace’s blog.  May, guys, as in months ago. Even as I type this, I can feel my flesh rebelling. I have been a faithful reader however I have never felt like I had something “good enough” to say. I have never been very shy about sharing Jesus, however when you see women like Tiffany Davis and LeAnn Hart pouring their hearts out the devil can begin the lies of how unimportant and unqualified your testimony is compared to theirs. But God…God had a different idea and had no problem using the devil’s plans to spread His word. For it was LeAnn Hart’s words a while back that finally pushed me to write this. Mrs. LeAnn said, “If God has given you five words, He has given you five words with authority.” Wow! With that being said, here is what I have to share.

My name is Brittney Ford. I grew up in a little town in Montana with rodeo being the center of everything. I was fairly successful with nationals in high school and college, all of this leading me to the love of my life. For three years, God worked on bringing Heath and I together and when we finally met, I knew he was perfect. He, however, had a heart that had been drug through the mud, was sitting 2nd in the world, and had no time for a girl. However, God had been setting this up without us realizing. Looking back, we are able to see His hand in everything. One common point we had was Jesus. Anyone who has been around Heath knows how much God means to him. As Heath and I’s relationship grew, it was impossible for my relationship with Jesus not to do the same. I had never felt closer to the two most important men in my life. Soon after, we married and had talks about starting a family.

I was able to get pregnant right away. However a couple short months later, our baby had gone to Heaven. It took a whole year to become pregnant again, yet this baby now in Heaven as well. It was at this time I began to struggle with healing.  When the first signs of miscarriage showed, I found a scripture and prayed and believed with all my heart that Jesus would save my baby. When that didn’t happen, I was shaken to the core. I am going to be completely honest, I had a stomach bug a couple of weeks later and didn’t even bother praying because the devil was telling me, “He didn’t fix that other situation, why would He fix this one.” I was hearing him more clearly than I was hearing Jesus. Like I said, full honesty. After lot's of time on my knees screaming, fighting, crying, and finally loving God, I was once again able to trust God’s will for my life. Today I have two daughters (3 and 1), who are the spitting image of their father and more than I could have ever asked for.

Just recently God was able to confirm what I had been building on for all these years. Heath had been rodeoing around the house but decided to go a little further for a little bit over the 4th of July. He was able to win 2nd in Greeley, CO however dislocated his shoulder. Even after much praying, it didn’t seem to get better and a doctor’s appointment was made. After surgery, Dr. Tandy Freeman said Heath’s shoulder would be in the hall of fame of worse cases; his shoulder had been completely torn to pieces. Immediately I could feel my weak spot. Why didn’t my prayers heal him? Little did we know, it was only the beginning of more tribulations. 

Over the next few weeks, our trials would include: a blown water heater that destroyed our master bathroom, holes in brand new truck tires, broken pipes that would destroy our kitchen, a tragic death in the family, accidental death of Heath’s family dog, a few more injuries and then the "big one."

Heath and the girls were driving home from Colorado. He called at 10:30 pm from Amarillo saying it was raining pretty hard and rather than pushing it, I should just book them a room. He said he was going to stop at a gas station until I called with an address. Five minutes later when I called with the information, Heath answered with a panic I have never heard. He half screamed, half cried that he had just been in a wreck. Our car was totaled and it had killed our dog. I could hear my youngest daughter screaming. It was a “scared to death” cry that was forcefully repetitive. I thought it was by far the worse sound I had ever heard until I realized I couldn’t hear my oldest daughter make any sound at all. Immediately I asked about her and Heath said she was just looking around stunned. I was 7 hours away. I jumped in the truck and took off driving. A moment later Jesus and I were deep in conversation. I started praying for the results I wanted as I waited for more news. I told Jesus exactly how He needed to work everything and what He needed to do for it to be this way. It was in that moment that Jesus told me, “I don’t need your help to take care of them.”

 As a mother, that was a punch in the face. But, it was one I definitely needed. So many times we get hung up on the right scripture or the right prayer to “fix” the situation. However it is the fix to what we think it needs to be, rather than what God already has written. Please don’t misunderstand, I fully believe in standing on scripture and praying for things on Earth as they are in Heaven, however a lot of time they get very “person” centered. More specifically, what can I do to fix this? Or how can I pray? Or the worse yet (and yes I’ve been there recently) how come I prayed and it was fixed this time, but when I prayed this time, it wasn’t fixed? We become so centered on what we can do, we forget it is all about Jesus. Not only what He is doing, but what He has already done. When we gave our lives to Christ, we inherit all that He earned on the cross including His protection, His healing, and His will for our lives. It moves from being about us to being completely about Christ. Our vehicle was completely smashed except for the box around my family. Jesus didn’t need my prayers, He already had my family in the palm of His hand.

In the beginning of this I shared how I have had difficulty writing this. I also shared about my amazing husband who has no problem sharing the word of God and has had an amazing platform to do so. This has led me to allow myself to stand in his shadow, allowing what he says to be good enough for the both of us. However, a couple of weeks ago I went to a women’s weekend where they handed out stones to the women. These stones have a word on them that has been prayed over weeks leading up to the weekend. When I got my stone, it said “Anointed.” I felt my heart stir. I felt God tell me that I was “good enough” to share as well. If nothing else, I hope me stepping out encourages someone else to do the same. We all have a testimony to help expand the Kingdom and it may be yours that changes someone’s life. Be blessed everyone!

-Brittney

    

My Brave Story- Shanna Means

The greatest congruency to come out of sharing all these amazing Brave Stories is that no matter what God speaks to so many through the words that are written. For most of these women putting actual words to what God has done in their life is a real "God experience." Most have told me that there are tears involved, they feel Him very intensely and God brings to light how much He held them through valleys where they thought He had stood a far. I smile when I get to hear this because sharing our testimonies is how God ministers to us as well as to others and we are able to move into forgiveness, redemption and into the true calling for what God created us for.

Shanna Means is no different. She heard God's voice, chose to follow it, pushed back against society's standards and is here to share that it was worth it because God is a good, good Father. Through reading her story, let Holy Spirit speak to you and don't listen to the condemning and judgmental voice, that's not Holy Spirit. Listen to the gentle whisper that says, "this is what I have for you if you will follow Me."

In her own words, Shanna is a Santa Fe, New Mexico native who group in rodeo. She went to school to be a speech-pathologist and set that aside to follow her heart and train horses along side her husband full-time. She's a firm believer in living in true freedom, purpose, having as much fun as possible and feeling and looking good doing it. She finds herself inspired by people every day, people who are living their lives based on what God put on the inside of them-not what the world dictates they should be. The Western Revival is a true overflow of her life and her natural compulsion to give people hope, inspiration, truth, a good time and to set them free. The Western Revival (website under construction) is best described as a blogazine- a destination where everything faith, style, horses, people, the western lifestyle and everything in between can be found.

I can't wait for you to take a seat, grab some coffee and dig into to Shanna's words, I pray they go deep into your soul and resonate with your spirit because I know God really wants to speak to you!!

Much love,

Candace

I was twenty-four, happily engaged, finishing up grad school, and trying to plan a wedding.  While I had been “saved” for a long time, it was that year, that I was “transformed”. I am not able to trace it back to a single moment or event. I had just become hungry for God, and answers.  We began to seek him out, starting a real and constant relationship with him.  Through this, we received the revelation of Him being a good Father.  I was finally able to put into words the difference between a relationship and solely religion. We were reading as many books as we could, listening to podcasts, going to conferences, digging into His word, and had learned how to hear His voice when He was speaking. My life was finally open to Him in a way in which I trusted Him enough to invite His will into all areas of my life.  

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

My husband, Chance, and I got home pretty late one night; we had split up to feed and do all the outside chores.  While he was feeding the horses on one side of the property, I took care of the ones on the other side.  As I was feeding, I heard God speak to me.  I can best describe His message as a word of direction, wisdom, or the next step for us. It was clear that His will was for Chance and I to stop having sex until we were married!  He had spoken to me in many different ways, but this time was different. I had heard Him before as clear as you can hear something, without hearing an audible voice. Chance has heard Him speak audibly before. This was different, because of the feeling behind the words. They had such a sense of love, trust, and tenderness behind them.

It had come out of nowhere. I wanted to tell Chance what had happened right away, but I also knew that it wasn’t going to be the easiest thing. After feeding, I went to him to tell him what had just happened. Let me tell you how awesome God is. It turned out that He was kind enough to tell both of us at the same time! The same thing had happened to Chance. It would’ve been much more difficult if He would’ve only told one of us. That just goes to show the nature of God.

The Truth actually sets you free.

It’s important to me to point out a couple things. One, being that nobody had spoken to us about our pre-marital love-life. We had obviously been taught a little bit about purity when we were younger, and we “knew better," but the conviction to change did not come from people shaming us. It didn’t come from rules we were trying to follow, it didn’t come from well-meaning people telling us right from wrong, and it didn’t come from us feeling guilty. We changed because we were crazy enough to believe in a loving God, who speaks to us, and made a relationship with Him the priority. Through that, came a loving, condemnation-free, healthy conviction.  The Truth actually sets you free. There is a huge difference between being set free, and behavior modification.

“When we pursue kingdom principles above His presence, we are looking for the kingdom without a king.” –Bill Johnson

From this freedom-filled conviction, we were empowered to make a change. We didn’t even have to necessarily understand “the why," because we had become so familiar with “the Who."  The next step was simple. It was simple, but it wasn’t easy. The choice was made, and from that point on, we followed His direction.

I had learned a valuable lesson earlier that year, and re-learned it through this: Always recognize the first thought or the first voice that you have, after doing something. It is that thought or voice, that you are most congruent and aligned with.  After making this choice, it was clear that I was battling with what everyone thought about us. I had to focus on one voice and one Truth- even if it meant losing “friends."

“Our problem with faith is not the inability to hear His voice – it’s the willingness to hear others.” –Bill Johnson

They said: She’s already done it, even with other people.

I agree! They’re right! That’s what makes my testimony relatable to other people who have already “messed up."  I actually need Jesus!

              They said: It’s a little too late for that!

I disagree! God makes all things new- even me.

             They said: They’re faking it- there’s no way.

I laugh. Yes, because all of this that we’re going through is worth faking it.

             They said: That’s cheating because they’re getting married anyways.

I disagree. Nobody can assume the difficulty of something until they’re in the middle of it.  It would have been easier for this to not be the topic of our wedding.  

             My favorite: They’re getting religious and weird.

I was puzzled. This is actually a product of relationship. Very well-meaning religious people (who I love and respect) had already tried shoving purity down my throat. That didn’t work. It made me sad to know people immediately associated all of this with religion. The hardest to swallow, were claims from Christians friends, that we were surely in a cult to be making such decisions. What was puzzling, is that we were simply following the very same principle that they had taught to their kids and church youth group.

            Allow me to take you back a few years.  I tried to make the same decision about purity, during a high school relationship.  I was able to ‘follow the rules’ for maybe six months. Why wasn’t I able to make it? I was being fed from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but that tree doesn’t have any sustainable “fruit” to offer.  In the garden, Adam and Eve were told to eat from the tree of life. They chose to eat from the knowledge of good and evil.  The tree of life gives; it gives life, it gives grace, it’s about relationship. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil, on the other hand, takes; it requires our “works," it creates guilt, fear, and mistrust, which leads us to self-righteousness in effort to prove ourselves.  This time, my decision came from eating from the tree of life- not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

God spoke to me saying, ‘I didn’t call you to be of the world.

             Long story short, I eventually ended up moving out, so that we could live separately until the wedding.  Obviously, that was difficult and inconvenient on many levels- double the rent, dealing with questions, rumors, and hurtful assumptions, and having to live apart after spending all of our time together.  I was eventually free from the opinions, but I wasn’t at peace with the example I was setting for other younger girls and couples I knew.  It didn’t feel right to be living together, because it didn’t look any different.  I didn’t know why this was even important to me.  Confused, I studied the subject of ‘living together.' Eventually, God spoke to me saying, “I didn’t call you to be of the world.” Which is what I needed to hear.  Dealing with the opinions of people close to me was hard- but knowing the example it set to younger girls, who look up to me, made it worth it. 

              Turns out, God is brilliant. He’s not holding out on any of us; in fact, he is always trying to give us better than what we are trying to get on our own. God loves sex! I mean, He is the one who created it for us. The enemy can’t create, so he perverts everything he can- including the gift of sexuality.  Trusting God with His original intention, is the best thing we could have done for our relationship. 

             We were able to break soul-ties from past relationships. Our relationship grew in ways I couldn’t imagine.  The best thing though, was that on our wedding night we had something to give to each other- something that we had fought hard for, that we had sacrificed for!  Having that experience, I realized that I would’ve never predicted how special that could be.  Had we not trusted God, we would have really missed out.  Most importantly, I cannot even begin to tell you how it has helped our marriage in ways that there was no way for us to foresee.  We had a clean slate, a strong foundation of nonsexual love and intimacy, and became one, as God originally intended.

“Others of us have grown up in rule keeping, religious environments and have heard the “keep your virginity” stuff for years without a good explanation for why. We’re trying to play the game, but we aren’t set to win because no one is telling us that there’s a trophy worth paying a price for.” –Kris Vallotton (Moral Revolution)

  Like I said, I didn’t understand everything behind what I was being asked to do.  I didn’t find every answer easily spelled out in the Bible. I will say, through a lot of studying, and getting to know the Author of the book, I was able to find answers very clearly. His original intent, found in Genesis, eventually cleared up so much for me.  Obedience to an all-knowing, loving Father, who had our best interests, was just the beginning. Personally, I found that my trust grew as I obeyed, because He was faithful and surpassed every expectation we had.

             The one thing I want anyone reading this to realize, is that grace looks different for everyone. There is always, always grace for your situation.  God is so personal, and so liberating, and so redemptive, that there is ALWAYS grace for your situation.  I only told you what it looked like for us. For you, it may look totally different. The answer may not play out like it did for us. For some people that I have known, it looked like getting married! I know of several girls who physically, had their virginity restored! I know of older women, divorced women, who are as pure as can be, through the blood of Jesus, and are starting over and dating differently. For others, it may look like different dating styles and even different significant others coming into the picture. 

I once had a married woman, with a beautiful Godly family, ask me if I thought her and her husband had a “less-pure” marriage and needed to go back somehow. I don’t have every answer, but what I do know, is that God wants you to look forward. I know the family personally, and was able to point out several examples of how grace had already been at work- starting with their children! In her situation, that was absolutely amazing grace.  I know that if there are any negative residual effects that came into their life stemming from their past, God will redeem and bring healing to that in two seconds. If she felt like she needed to have an honest conversation with God about something from the past she wishes she could change, then she should have the conversation and watch God wipe it clean as if it hadn’t happened. Simple, honest conversations, that we may be afraid to have with Him or feel like aren’t enough, bring unexpected peace and restoration.

Never underestimate the power of grace. It is never too late, your situation is never too bad, and no guilt, shame, or condemnation can stop God from redeeming your situation through love. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Brave Story- Erin Rich

 

Meet my new friend Erin Rich! Although I feel like social media can consume us sometimes in the wrong way, I do have to admit that I love the interactions with numerous people and the relationships that we gain from getting to be a part of a persons life on social media. Without having met Erin in person but seeing her posts on instagram and reaching out to her as a sister in Christ, I love that we get to be a part of each others life by simply, social media photo's and posts. This amazing gal is a beauty. I love love her vintage/western lifestyle. Everything from clothes and style, her life represents one that I truly admire, faith and creativity. As Erin told me, she met her husband in a really funny way. She was out walking at a park one night, 6 years ago and noticed this cute guy playing tennis on the courts. She said to her friend that she thought he was cute and in turn her friend knew him. Erin's friend contacted him and said that her and her friend would like to play tennis with him sometime. The two of them got to talking, about Erin mostly, and he finally worked up the courage to "cut out the middle man" and contact her directly. And, since then they have been together ever since! Erin is a loving and encouraging wife, a mother to an amazing little man, an artist, a Christ follower, and has a passion for creativity! Meet my new friend Erin!  

My name is Erin Rich and I am 26 years old. My husband's name is CJ and we have a rowdy year and a half old son named Jeremiah. I grew up in a Christian family so I've been going to churches my whole life. My father was a Command Master Chief in the Navy so it's safe to say we moved around quite a bit. When I was eight years old we lived in Pensacola, Florida and every Sunday my mom would drive us kids an hour each way to the Bible Baptist Church. Under the preaching of Dr. Peter S. Ruckman I gave my life to Christ. Dr. Ruckman, who went on to be with the Lord earlier this year, had an amazing ministry called "Drawing Men to Christ." He was an incredibly gifted artist who would get to the heart of his message through his giant canvas chalk drawings. As a child all I ever wanted was to be an artist so I related well to his "visual preaching." Every Sunday night I would sit up front on the floor near the pulpit with my drawing pad to try and copy his artwork. I still remember the sermon he preached when the Lord spoke to my heart. It was entitled "You Reap What You Sow." It was then and there that I realized how badly I needed to be saved and gave myself over to the Lord. I'd never been so filled with joy. I couldn't wait to tell everyone about Jesus!

Currently my husband CJ, our son, and myself live on our church's property. Our church, Shiloh Youth Ranch in Sebastian, Florida, is not only a church but a cattle ranch, school, and has small cottages for staff and a few church members. My husband and I were married in January of 2014 and my husband was in "job limbo" at the time. He had been on several out of state interviews and it was really looking like we were moving to Texas within a few months. As we journeyed further along it felt like things kept getting in the way and prolonging the hiring process. In May of 2014 our apartment lease was up and we were essentially homeless and still stuck in job limbo. My parents graciously invited us to come live with them until CJ got the green light for the new job. For the whole summer we stayed with my parents. As for the job in Texas, the plans just completely fell through. This ended up being a total blessing in disguise as the Lord answered our prayer with a more "permanent" place to live that October. The hiring process abruptly stopped and it was obvious the Lord was closing that door. Not long after CJ didn't get hired the company suffered a huge financial loss and let dozens of employees go. Fast forward a few months to September of 2014, when we found out we were pregnant. I'd never wanted anything more in my whole life! But, we couldn't stay at my parents house forever. That October a cottage opened up on Shiloh and we were invited to stay. What a blessing! Talk about seeing the Lord's handiwork. This really brings to life Matthew 6:26, "Behold the fowls of the air for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" And verse 33 of the same chapters says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you." Wow. His plans are so much better than anything I could ever set for myself. 

Growing and maturing as a Christian hasn't always been easy. In fact it never really has been, that's what makes it so sweet. But, the hardest trial I had experienced was after our son was born. I suffered from postpartum depression. I didn't eat for weeks after coming home from the hospital and in turn didn't produce any milk to feed him, leaving me racked with guilt every time I made him a bottle. It didn't help that my poor son had colic and a sensitive tummy. There were lot's of tears shed between the two of us! There were times I couldn't even find the words to pray. I'd just sing old hymns to myself and to Jeremiah. My favorite was "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus." I'd repeat the stanza, "Oh, for grace to trust him more," over and over again. When I was suffering from the depression I went directly to my mother. She's my best (girl)friend and I knew I needed her because she would understand me. It took me a long time to reach out to my husband though. I didn't go to him at first because I wanted him to think I was a strong, capable mother and not struggling. In all honestly, he reached out to me. He finally sat me down one day and asked me to open up and let him in on how I was feeling. Opening up to him and then us continually lifting the issue up in prayer is what truly helped me. It encouraged us to come together and confide in one another. This definitely made us stronger as a couple. Through the tender love of my mother and husband who would pray with me daily and support me, I finally felt that dark cloud of depression lift. I've never felt closer to the Lord in my walk and daily fellowship than since Jeremiah's arrival. He's such a blessing to everyone he meets!

Lately, I've also felt the inspiration to work on art again. I've been seeing and feeling the Lord direct me to something that's both exciting as it is terrifying, writing and illustrating a children's book. For the last 5 years I've worked in an independent bookstore. The first year there I started getting an inkling of an idea for a children's book. I always knew I wanted it to be a western but I wasn't sure what else. No real plot line. When I was pregnant, after finding out we were having a boy, I wanted the story to be about a little cowboy. Using my son as the model and inspiration. But again it didn't go any further than that. Last December, the wonderful lady who had been doing the children's story hour at my store fulfilled her lifelong dream of getting hired as an elementary school teacher full time so she could no longer do Friday morning story hour. I immediately was chosen to take her spot. I was honored, excited, and a bit scared. Kids can be the toughest crowds! I've been doing story hour for almost a whole year and we've had record numbers in attendance, which really helped through our slow season. Recently I started thinking about my book again and I feel now that I have experience with what books resonate with kids and what they like to see and hear.

One early morning in October I awoke at 4:30am and for the life of me couldn't fall back asleep. So I started talking to the Lord. It was then that I got the plot line for my story. It would follow a little cowpoke named Jem who lives on a ranch. Our church property would be the inspiration for the location along with a new calf that was born named Coconut. We had an albino calf a few months back that was a bit of an oddity because he was all white! I'm pretty sure all the cattle here are red angus, but I'm not totally positive on that. Either way it was the only white calf they've ever had! To get back to the plot, it's the time of the year that they have to move the cattle to another pasture so they can start making hay. Jem is helping his dad move cattle and they break for lunch. Dad says to close to gate but in Jem's haste for lunch he doesn't shut it all the way. Jem's cattle dog notices a cat sneaking around the field and causes a big ruckus, in turn frightening all the cows to stampede out the gate. Jem and his dad must then wrangle all the cattle. At the end of the day they've collected them all except poor baby Coconut. In the end they finally find him and Jem learns a lesson about always listening to your parents (Ephesians 6) and doing the right thing. I've always considered my "life verse" to be Romans 8:31. "What shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" So powerful and inspiring to chase those dreams!

Please pray for me in this new artistic venture and pray God's will for this project idea. 

Shine like a light. Eyes on the Kingdom. Hearts on fire for Christ. 

-Erin

 

My Brave Story- Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor and I have a lot of things in common. We both married our high school sweethearts. We married young and started our families. We've both dealt with the ups and downs of our husbands and their bull riding careers and we both love Jesus. But we differ tremendously when it comes to the "fire" we've had to walk through that tests our faith. I'm learning not to compare testimonies because everyone's if very unique because our God created us that way, but I admire and hold in great esteem the woman you're about to read about. She has been through so much, but has remained steadfast in her love for God, never blaming Him, perhaps asking him "why," but she knows for sure that He's a good Father. Get your seat belts on because this is what "Brave" looks like!     

Candace          

Kelly and Cole Taylor

Kelly and Cole Taylor

When I was first asked to share my “Brave” story, I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I am usually a private person when it comes to health issues involving my family. My husband is an even more private person than I am. I also wondered if anyone would even want to hear my story. A close friend kept reassuring me that there would be someone that NEEDED to hear it, and that I would be a blessing to someone out there. Maybe you are that someone.

                Cole and I met and began dating when we were teenagers at 15 & 16, and got married when we were still teenagers at 18 & 19. People thought we were too young, and that it wouldn’t work out. Well, we just celebrated our 11th anniversary by going out to eat sushi in western Oklahoma and a trip to Atwood’s without kids. Sometimes it’s the little things that keep a marriage going! We’ve been through a lot in our eleven years of marriage. My dad once told me that he feels Cole and I have been through more in our marriage than most people will in fifty years of marriage.

                Cole has been around rodeo his entire life, and he is a third generation cowboy. He’s won more saddles and buckles since childhood than I can even count. He made an incredible ride in 2007 in Oklahoma City that sealed the deal for him to qualify for the 2007 PBR Finals. We decided that next year that we would start our family. Calli Paige was born in February 2009. Cole’s rodeo career slowed down a little after she was born. We were both working full time jobs and trying to figure out how to make ends meet. In May of 2010, while Cole was thinking about making a major job change, we decided to spend Memorial Weekend at the lake camping with my parents and some family friends. We had been out on the boat knee boarding all day and Cole had a pretty good wipeout so we decided to call it a day. The next morning he woke up with a golf ball size lump protruding from his neck. We first thought maybe he had pulled a muscle, but he wasn’t hurting at all. It was one of those moments that we knew something wasn’t right. I called the doctor on Tuesday morning and told him I was concerned about my husband. Tuesday afternoon the doctor called us and wanted us to come meet him at his office. Something had to be wrong. He told us that he thought Cole had thyroid cancer, and he had already made us an appointment on Friday in Oklahoma City with an ENT that specialized in cancer.

Tuesday afternoon the doctor called us and wanted us to come meet him at his office. Something had to be wrong.

                We were scared to say the least! How could my 24 year old husband; father to our 16 month old daughter; high school sweetheart; healthy as a horse person that rarely fell ill, have the “c word” thrown at him? The next couple of years felt like a blur. Cole had major surgery to remove the tumor. The doctors also had to remove all of the lymph nodes on the left side and center of his neck, a nerve, and a major muscle connecting from his neck to his shoulder. We ended up at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa after the surgery. We were blessed with amazing doctors and nurses, some of whom have become lifelong friends. He took a round of radioactive iodine treatment to kill the remaining cancer.  After three months, we went back for a scan to find out that the cancer in his neck was not entirely gone, and that a couple very small spots were detected on his lungs. He went back for an even bigger dose of radioactive iodine. The treatment involves 3-5 days of complete hospital isolation followed by an extra precaution of isolation from other people and especially small children for two weeks.  This proved to be incredibly hard on all of us, especially Calli. The second round of treatment was successful! We were later told that Cole’s cancer was classified as stage 4.  After all the treatments and surgeries, we began to try to cope with our once normal life.  Cole was told that he would more than likely never be able to ride bulls again because of the muscle the doctors were forced to remove. He was left with insufficient head-neck stability and slightly limited range of motion in his left arm, which happened to be his free arm. Cancer was the scary news, this was the heartbreaking news. Bull riding was his passion, hobby and career.

By this time Calli was 2 ½ years old and the thought of having another baby was on the back of our minds. We were told because of the intense treatment he had received, we shouldn’t even try to have another child for at least one year. After that year, we could try to become pregnant on our own, but we could very likely need fertility help. Some time had passed and we were both ready to have another baby. We celebrated Calli’s 4th birthday in 2013. I had been so wrapped up with planning her birthday party that I didn’t realize how much time had passed. I called the doctor to make an appointment to confirm what I thought. Sure enough, I was right. I was pregnant! I rushed to the children’s store and bought Calli a “big sister” shirt for her to wear when Cole got home from work. I dressed her in the shirt and we surprised Cole. We were all overjoyed! We had actually been able to get pregnant without help from doctors. I was only about 6 weeks pregnant so we decided we would wait a few more weeks to make the announcement to our family and friends.

                Just a few days later I started having some pain. I checked in with the doctor, but the pain wasn’t severe enough at the time that we were worried. Over the weekend the pain became more intense. We were also warned about a blizzard coming in so I was trying to prepare. Late Sunday evening it began to snow. Cole had been called to work and Calli was sound asleep. I still wasn’t feeling good so I decided to go take a bath. When I stood up to get out of the bathtub I was struck with the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced, followed by a gush of blood. Cole was home shortly after that. You’re probably wondering why we didn’t rush to the emergency room. Well, I have no idea. I really don’t remember what was going through my head at the moment.

                The next morning I called my doctor. He wanted me to get an ultrasound to check things out. We still hadn’t told anybody about our news. We ended up telling Cole’s mom because we needed her to watch Calli for a few hours while we were at the hospital. The snow continued to fall and pile up. The hospital was short staffed because some areas had already received ten inches of snow. They finally worked us in for our ultrasound, but told us not to leave the hospital. A few minutes later a pre-op nurse came to the door and called us back. This was the moment I knew something was wrong. She told us I was having an ectopic pregnancy and my doctor would be in shortly to take me to surgery.  I had heard the term, but wasn’t very familiar with it. The nurse explained to us that we were losing the baby. You know that ugly, hysterical cry that you see people break into? Well I just became that person. In an instant, Cole and I had suddenly switched roles. It was usually him in the hospital bed with me standing by his side trying to be the strong person. This time it was completely different. Our overjoyed hearts were suddenly breaking.

The nurse explained to us that we were losing the baby.

                Cole stepped out of the room to call his family and mine. We hadn’t even told them I was pregnant, and he was now telling them we were losing the baby and I was being rushed into emergency surgery. Under normal circumstances, our families and close friends would have been comforting Cole in the waiting room while I was in surgery. But, we were in the midst of that crazy February blizzard that had dumped close to fifteen inches of snow by this time. Our family couldn’t get to us. We were scared, and only had each other.

                The doctor explained to us after surgery that I had suffered an ectopic pregnancy with a ruptured tube. He had to remove the tube, and we lost the baby. Surgery turned out being the easy part. The next two weeks were the worst. I was sad, angry, confused, thankful, and so many other emotions. I cried every day, but was also thankful that we discovered I could indeed get pregnant. I healed from that surgery, and I was soon back in the doctor’s office pregnant with a healthy baby boy. We welcomed Maverick Rio in late December of 2013. Cole wanted more kids after this, but I was content with the two healthy kids we had. However, as I have learned, God has a great sense of humor. When Maverick was 15 months old I was pregnant again. I often tell people that God had a plan for us having three kids. After cancer treatment for Cole, and a pregnancy leaving me with just one fallopian tube, we still had two more kids.

                Knox River decided to make his appearance a little earlier than we had planned.  I woke up on November 22, 2015 having no idea of what was to come that evening. Cole was planning a day of hunting, and Calli had stayed the night with my parents. Maverick and I had plans of meeting the rest of my family at my grandma’s house to celebrate her birthday. I woke up feeling great! Other than having morning sickness, pregnancy was agreeing with me this time around. And let me just tell you, I was having an amazing hair and makeup day. That will make any girl feel good! Maverick and I loaded up and headed out on our hour long drive to the birthday party. I stopped by my parent’s house on the way and my sister jumped in the car with Maverick and I.

I was driving and began having spotty vision when I pulled out of the driveway. We started down the road anyway. It suddenly turned to tunnel vision. I’ll never forget the panic in the car when I said to my sister, “I can’t see!” She jumped back with a “pull over now!” I had experienced some blood pressure issues at the end of my pregnancy with Maverick so I recognized some of the symptoms. She called her friend that had a home blood pressure cuff and asked her if we could borrow it. We picked it up and went on to my grandma’s house. My sister-in-law just happens to be a nurse and EMT, and trying to not alarm anyone, we called her in the bedroom to take my blood pressure. It was outrageously high, somewhere around 150/104. She insisted that I call my doctor, but I fought her and told her we would check it again in twenty minutes, and then we would call. It was still really high the second time. I was reluctant again, and made her give me another twenty minutes. The third time was even higher. I called the doctor’s wife and explained to her what I was feeling. She said to me, “I’m not telling you to speed, but you need to get to the hospital as fast as you can.”

I’m not telling you to speed, but you need to get to the hospital as fast as you can.

My mom took Calli and Maverick. My sister, my dad, and I got in my car to head to the hospital. I called Cole and told him I was going to get checked out. I really didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I was 37 weeks pregnant so I thought the doctor would probably give me some medicine, and put me on bed rest for the next three weeks. Luckily my sister was driving, because on the 35 mile drive I blacked out several times. She later told me that we made that trip in record time. By the time we arrived at the hospital my blood pressure was so high that was unable to make out words. The nurses were asking me questions, but what came out of my mouth was complete gibberish. My dad was by my side trying to help me as much as he could. I began to vomit as soon as they got an IV in my arm. My sister began calling Cole, my mom, and my in-laws to tell them that we were pretty sure we would have a baby that day. The same amazing doctor that delivered my other two children, and performed surgery on me when I had the ruptured ectopic pregnancy was there trying to calm my nerves. He told me we would go to surgery in about an hour. Both of my children were delivered via cesarean section so I was prepared for surgery. We were waiting on Cole to arrive at the hospital because he had held my hand, and witnessed the delivery of our other children. The doctor came back in the room, looked straight at me with the most serious face, and said, “I don’t order a stat C-section very often, but when I do, I mean business. Where’s Cole? We’re going now.”

Cole walked down the labor and delivery hall just seconds after that. The doctor met him in the hall and explained that the baby was in distress and he would be taking me into emergency surgery. I would be completely asleep so Cole wouldn’t be able to be in the room with us. I literally met Cole in the hallway as they were wheeling my bed to the operating room. I told him I loved him and that I was scared.

The next thing I remember was waking up in recovery in extreme pain. I told the nurses I was in pain, and one of them said, “Honey, the medicine just won’t touch the level of pain you are experiencing.” What in the world was that supposed to mean? They explained to me that they needed to change my gown because there was a lot of blood on it. I didn’t understand that either. I kept asking them where my baby was at, and if he was okay. They could only tell me that everything was fine, and the baby was upstairs.

I don’t remember much else from that day. I’ve struggled with this feeling for months. I was groggy, but I still remember the days we brought both Calli and Maverick into this world. I remember periodically opening my eyes and seeing people crying around me. I remember realizing I had an IV in each arm.  My mother-in-law told me what had happened, but I couldn’t make sense of it. I remember a doctor coming to my side telling me that my baby was in ICU. I can remember seeing Cole sitting on the couch in the hospital room, and a family member taking Maverick out of the room because he was crying.  I will never forget looking at his worried, little face with his quivering lip. He wasn’t quite 23 months old at the time, so he couldn’t even begin to grasp what had just happened.

Later in the evening when I was more alert they explained to me the events of the day.  They put me to sleep in the operating room, and the doctor began making his incision. As soon as he did, blood began to spurt everywhere indicating something was wrong. He was able to find the baby’s head and get him out. My uterus had ruptured and I was losing a lot of blood, very fast. To this day, I’d love to hear the play by play from one of the nurses in the room. From what I understand, it was a pretty wild surgery. My very skilled doctor was able to stop the bleeding, and stitch my uterus back up. When he came out to talk to my family, he told them not to be surprised if they saw blood in my hair. From what I gathered, the operating room looked like a scene from a horror movie. I had to have two blood transfusions, on top of a lot of other medicine. This explained why I woke up with an IV in each arm. Knox River spent four days in ICU on oxygen because his little lungs just weren’t quite ready for the world. He was born at 4:10 pm, but I didn’t get to see or hold him until almost noon that next day. That is hard on a momma! Cole and I were later told that each one of us, Knox and myself, were only given a 50% chance of living. My doctor had been delivering babies for 33 years, and he had only seen this happen one other time, 18 years ago. In that case, he was able to save the mom, but not the baby. We were told that within 3 minutes, we both would have more than likely died.

The first time Kelly got to hold Knox. He was still in ICU and Kelly had just finished recieveing two blood transfusions.

The first time Kelly got to hold Knox. He was still in ICU and Kelly had just finished recieveing two blood transfusions.

I’ve struggled with the fact that I was so close to death, but God spared my life and my baby’s life. My family could have very easily been planning a funeral instead of making Thanksgiving dinner. I barely slept the next few weeks after we were released from the hospital. Not because I had a newborn at home, but because I was scared to go to sleep. I was afraid that if I fell asleep, I wouldn’t wake up. I am not scared of dying because I know I will live an eternal life with my heavenly Father, but I’m scared of leaving my family alone. Maybe that's a maternal instinct kicking in. I'm really not sure. The only thing I do know is that I’m thankful my heavenly Father knew it wasn’t time for me.

I tried to pick just one testimonial, but I felt like they all lead into each other and would give a better insight into my motivation for sharing my Brave story. And to spare you all from reading for hours, I've left out several small details. I had a feeling in my heart that there was somebody out there that needed to hear all three stories. I could probably write a book about how many times we’ve looked death in the eye during our marriage. But the one thing that remains constant is that God has been right in the middle of each event. I once asked Cole, “Why? Why us? Why does everything always happen to us?” I don’t remember his answer, but I know he reassured me that God wouldn’t give us more than we could handle. God must think we can handle a lot! Or maybe he is using us as an example of faith for other couples. I don't have all of the answers. I don't think God intended for us to have all of the answers. I can’t quote Bible scriptures, and I can barely tell you bible stories that most kids know. But I do know, without a shadow of a doubt, that we wouldn't be where we are today if God wasn't right in the middle of our family.  I can also tell you that I serve an awesome, almighty God.

The Taylor kids. Calli is 7; Maverick is almost 3; and Knox is 1. 

The Taylor kids. Calli is 7; Maverick is almost 3; and Knox is 1. 

My name is Kelly. I am a child of God. I am the wife of a survivor. I am a mother of four. I am a laborer and a provider. But above all, I am brave!

My Brave Story- Carol Hogner

This beautiful lady was introduced to us, through email from her beautiful daughter Hannah that shared her "Brave Story" with us earlier in the year. She told us her mom had an incredible story to share. So, meet this beautiful mother Carol Hogner. Carol lives outside Gordon, TX about 3 miles. Carol has a son and daughter that she gave birth to and 2 daughters that she calls her freebies. As Carol would tell you, she got them them the easy way! Carol has a total of 12 beautiful grand babies and 2 great grands. Carol leads a great example of a beautifully blended family because of God's love. As Carol is a grandmother of many she watches her grandson Deuce 5 days a week and ministers across the country on weekends. Carol was nominated for "new artist" of the year 3 years ago for Inspirational Country Music Awards, and Female Vocalist the following year. Carol ministers at team roping's, women's conferences, concerts and anywhere the Lord opens doors for her and her family to go! I am excited and I know she is excited to share her story with you all! The greatest thing of all is that we are all sisters in Christ and each one of us has a different story to share. It's amazing the woman that have stepped out and continually step out to share and encourage other woman! Take a look at Carol's story. 

I was raised in a Christian home and had always been very involved in my church as a youth. I was even the lead singer and pianist for our group at church during High School. I had a good spiritual foundation and it was about to be tested. I had just gotten very far away from my upbringing by this point in my life. My 11 year old daughter, Amber came to me one day and said, "Momma, I can’t hear out of my right ear." I assumed she had fluid on her ear. We were sent to an ENT specialist to have it drained. When he went in he got blood instead of fluid. I knew from the look on his face that  it was bad, and there was something wrong. That began the events that caused me to come back to the Lord. I knew God had not done this to my baby, so I began to read my Bible and any book I could get my hands on to help me prepare for the battle that was ahead of us. I also asked the doctor to let me be involved in couriering information around. I needed to be busy and feel like I was helping somehow, there were lots of preparations to be done.

Immediately he sent us for an MRI. They called me at home that night to let me know that he had determined there was a tumor on her jugular vein. She would need to start storing blood for the operation to remove it. So, he suggested it was best for it be her own blood with ours as a back up if she needed more. She had 3 units of her own blood stored. Her brother and I also gave since we are all the same blood type. Finally the day came for surgery. Trying to be strong when you are about to hand your baby over to a team of surgeons is tough. I don’t care who you are or how strong in the Lord you are. I was just a baby Christian at the time…!

 I remember needing to be busy at this time. I remember writing a prayer on the palm of my hand that morning. I didn’t want to pray anything wrong. They allowed me to go all the way back to the pre-op room with her. I said my ‘lil prayer and was asked to leave. I immediately went to the chapel to go to prayer. When I walked through the door there was a beautiful stained glass window. There was Jesus holding a little curly blonde haired girl in his lap. WOW! There was my confirmation that she was going to be alright.

Alright doesn’t necessarily mean right now though. We had a long road ahead of us.

The male nurse assured me that he would keep me posted, and he did. He was a God send. The first day of surgery was 7 hours long. When the doctor came to report to me he said we couldn’t finish today. He said that she was tired and so were they and that they didn't want to make any mistakes. He said she is young and we want to do this thing right. Any little wrong move and her face could be paralyzed. So they gave her the next day off and then another 9-hour day of surgery.

I remember thinking I wish it was me and not her. She didn’t deserve to have to go through this, no one does. We were at the hospital for 12 days, she progressed and was healing quickly. She had lost the hearing in her right ear and I was concerned she wouldn’t be able to sing. Boy was I wrong!! God held us in the palm of His hand through that whole thing. I learned to trust Him like I’d never trusted anyone before. My little girl is now 37 years old. She has 4 beautiful daughters, 2 are twins. She sings like a beautiful bird when she wants to. This surgery never slowed her down. You would never know she couldn’t hear out of that ear, unless you’re on the wrong side of her, lol. God didn’t cause this to happen but He used it to bring me back to Him. After she was all healed up, I began to use the talent of singing He’d blessed me with for Him. And the rest is history…!

Ain’t God Something?? He can take the bad and make it good. We just have to allow Him to. Psalms 138:8 says, The Lord will perfect those things that concern me… You can believe it!! Trust Him, know Him, believe Him. Decide today that He loved you enough to send His very own Son to the Cross for you. Isn’t that incredible? Faith isn’t believing God can and will do something… Its believing He’ll do it for YOU!!

Trust Him, know Him, believe Him. Decide today that He loved you enough to send His very own Son to the Cross for you.

If I could encourage anyone else in this situation or any other similar situation I would tell them to read the scriptures, memorize them, know them and apply them to your own situation. Know that God wants good for you personally. 

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

‭‭John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As for this one, it's my life scripture:

“The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭138:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lastly, find someone strong in Faith to believe with you.

-Carol

 

 

 

 

 

My Brave Story- Bri Stensrud

The people that I'm drawn to are usually those who challenge me. Bri Stensrud is one of those people because she challenges my heart with the words she posts on Facebook. I met Bri when she worked with the Professional Bull Riders and we've kept in touch through social media. Bri exudes the love of Jesus when you meet her and her Facebook posts line up exactly with the heart of our Father. So many times when my flesh wants to get the best of me, I'll read one of Bri's posts in my timeline and I remember how much God loves and how He chooses love over everything else and how He wants us to choose the same.

Bri now works for Focus on the Family as their Director of Sanctity of Life and Community Outreach. Her and her husband get to raise their sweet four year old daughter, Josie, in beautiful Colorado Springs where they get to hike and ride horses in the mountains.

I pray that you let Bri's words soak in and ask yourself the hard questions that she lays out here. Don't close off your heart to God because of past mistakes or feelings of shame or guilt. God wants to restore you and let you into his overwhelming love.

Candace

I was a drunk 23 year old, throwing up on the side of the street at 2am in the morning when a group of former Bible study friends passed by me in their car and then screeched to a halt.

I’m sure they did a double take.

“Was that Bri?!”

It was a low point for me, as I immediately tried to stand up straight, stretch my halter-top down to cover my stomach, and walk straight in my heels to greet them.

But there was no passing this off, I was a mess. A drunk, hot, mess.

I was immediately embarrassed. I knew how this looked. I knew there was no hiding how far off the path I had gone. Not this night, not at this hour, and certainly not in this outfit. And so without hesitation, when they asked to take me home, I quieted my nearby (drunk) friends and told them I’d be fine, and to continue the night without me, as I needed to go home.

As I sat in the back of the car, directing my Bible study friends to my apartment, the mood was silent. It was really the only sober moment of my night thus far. Nothing needed to be said. No questions were asked. The community of believers in the car- their presence - was palatable enough for me to inherently know the questions they were silently begging to ask. But no one asked anything. We just drove.

No one asked me if I was okay. It was obvious that I wasn’t.

The question that I was asking myself… “How did I get here? Drunk in front of a group of girls I used to lead in Bible study.”

Have you ever felt like that? In a place where it’s pretty obvious you’re in the wrong scene? Your scene might not be you stumbling on bar row, wearing a halter-top, but maybe it still looks like a bit of a hot mess.  Maybe you don’t think people notice.

When people pass you by are you struggling to stand up and walk straight?  You’re probably doing a good job hiding it, or maybe justifying it. Women are experts at this…but only for a limited season.

Maybe it’s your marriage.

Maybe it’s your relationship with your kids.

Maybe it’s your job.

You could be in an affair (emotional or physical).

You could be struggling with addiction.

Picture your scene. Everyone’s scene is different and varied, but –trust me- everyone has a hot mess somewhere in their life that they’re trying to mask.

Everyone has a hot mess somewhere in their life that they’re trying to mask.

Every woman has a place in their heart, or in their life, where they’ve determined to go off track, and I don’t mean in a good way.

You know what I’m talking about… you’ve decided to make your own happiness (apart from God), and the green grass you thought was on the other side of the fence was really a pile of….(you get it).

How do you think you got there?

Here’s the bigger question…when did you buy into the lie that God is holding out on you?

Curve ball, I know. Let’s try that again.

When did you start believing that God wasn’t concerned with meeting your need(s)?

When did you start believing that the solution to your aching heart was_____?

We’ll come back to this.

From the beginning of creation, the Bible tells us that God uniquely fashioned us.

But there was no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping, he took one the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. -Gen 2:20.

But we also know this woman, who was made in God’s image and had the world at her finger-tips (literally), was vulnerable. And while God had given her everything she needed, a seed of doubt was planted in her mind.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’

“You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

I always wonder what Eve was thinking in this scene. What was she lacking that made her entertain this conversation with the serpent? Scripture doesn’t tell us how the woman felt, but we do see her forgetting God’s initial instructions to her and Adam.

Notice in Gen 2:17, God says not to eat from this particular tree, because you will die. But he doesn’t mention anything about touching the fruit. In Gen 3:2, the woman says that God told them not to eat or touch the fruit, and either one of those options would lead to death. Notice the little add on here. It’s important to notice, because the serpent used that small addition to trip her up.  

Let’s also look at verse 3:5, the serpent implies that God is holding out on her. He tells her that God knows she could be like him, and God doesn’t want that; so much so, that God promises she would die if she didn’t listen him. 

Do you see what the serpent is doing here? He’s accusing God of playing games. He’s implying that God is using fear tactics to prevent Eve from becoming all that she could be- all the things she wants to be in her life.

Pretty shrewd, right?

When she took the fruit from the tree, nothing happened. 

Okay then, eating it must be fine too, right? And so she did.

And in Gen 3:13 we see the woman’s scene start to unravel.  The woman isn’t exactly pulling down a halter-top, but she is finding some fig leaves.

            The Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

            The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The serpent gets punished, there are consequences for the woman, and then for Adam.  And these break up the provision and the goodness God had intended for the woman (and her family).  When God allows the consequences of our sin to unfold in our lives, it can sometimes feel cruel. As if we didn’t feel enough shame or guilt internally, the whole world’s gotta know too? The good news is, the grace of God is never far behind the wreckage. Psalm 30:5 says, For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Sometimes God’s biggest and best provisions come out of the mess.

Let’s look back into the hot mess of Genesis 3:

(Verse 16) To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very servere; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.”

(Verse 20) Adam names his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. The Lord made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

(Verse 22) And the Lord God said, The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand take also from the tree of life and live forever. So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

Sound cruel to you?

Let me tell you why it’s not, and why this passage draws me closer to the heart of God.

  1. Her desire was to only be for her husband, and he was to rule over her. Why is this good? The word rule was not enslavement set by God. It was a security for her. A safeguard, not a punishment. Adam was charged with protecting her so she would not be taken advantage of again. In her disobedience, Adam was charged with more responsibility and authority to protect her- to lead her better than he had been before.

  2. The woman was given a name, Eve. Ever notice that the woman doesn’t have a name until after this whole scene? Here’s why this is important. When names are given throughout the Bible they are done so with great distinction and purpose. Names gave individuals their identity. A name was not only what you were called, it was essentially who you were (they were almost one in the same). How good is God, and how gracious was Adam, to give the woman – who literally brought sin and death into the entire world- the name that means “to breathe, to live, or to give life." 

  3. Adam and Even were driven out of the garden forever. How is this possibly an awesome provision? Since Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the punishment for that sin was death. And for the rest of their lives they would find it hard to work the ground, painful to bear children, and be at constant odds between what is right and what is wrong.  This wasn’t what God wanted for Adam and Eve. He had something planned for them- something good- from the very beginning. And God knew, that if he left those two in the garden, there was one thing that would prevent their suffering from ending. Gen 3:22 – “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  If Adam and Eve, in their new sinful state, were to eat from the tree of life they would live forever.  Which is more cruel: To be in constant struggle and pain – forever (never dying), or have temporary struggle and pain- and dying one day only to then be raised up with Christ and live again (restored) in heaven- forever? God wanted their suffering to end one day, and in his graciousness he prevented their suffering from lasting forever.

We get in messes, and then we think, why is God punishing me? Haven’t I been through enough? When the truth is, God has always been for us. He’s always had something good intended for our lives. But sometimes we lose sight of his goodness in the waiting periods. We start to think he’s holding out on us. We think, there’s more to life out there and God’s holding us back. He’s holding us in a less than ideal marriage, a crappy job, a dysfunctional family…name your hot mess. And then the mess eventually becomes a scene and we hang our heads in shame. We scramble to make the best of it, walking as straight as we can in those heals.

The truth is, God isn’t holding out on you. He sees you. And he’s got something great for you!

The truth is, God isn’t holding out on you. He sees you. And he’s got something great for you!

I think one of the bravest things you can do as a woman is trust God with your whole life. Trust that he is who he says he is. And that he can do what he says he can do.

I was 23 and drunk on bar row at 2am in the morning because I was sick and tired of God holding out on me. And my doubt about God’s goodness led me down a path of empty and exhausting disappointments, some which still scar me today.

Trusting God isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s scary. He asks you dig in, work hard, and be patient. It takes courage to deny what the world says you’re entitled to; what the world says God can’t give you.

Be honest with God. Tell him what you need, what you struggle with, where you need him to enter in. I don’t care what you’ve done, thought, said or feel – God is still for you. He is never against you. He wants good things for your life and he is not holding out on you. In his sovereignty and grace he might be putting up some boundaries for you. To your disappointment, he might be asking you to pull the reigns back. But you can trust him.

He is never against you. He wants good things for your life and he is not holding out on you.

I love just about anything John Wayne says, but this one has always stuck with me. I’m sure you know it.

“Having courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”

Be brave ladies, saddle up. Let him enter into the hot messes of your life.

Trust that God sees you.

Trust that God knows your dreams, your hurts, your fears.

Trust that he forgives you.

Trust that God wants the best for you.

Trust that God has not forgotten you.

Trust that God loves you.

 

My Brave Story- Colette Macfarlane

This is Colette Macfarlane. This beautiful woman is a lover of Jesus, a mommy, a wife, and an amazing photographer, along with several other things! I first met this beautiful lady at Candace's house for our weekly work out sessions. Since than she has been adopted into our mommy workout group and has woven a place into each of our hearts with our amazing friendships that we each have been able to create there (shout out to Candace)! From day one she has always been the one with the most contagious smile and laugh, always bubbly, and always open about her life. One thing I really admire about her is that she is the "real her." She doesn't put on an act of who she is. She is real, down to earth and exactly who God has created her to be while embracing every part of it! She inspires me more than she even knows with all of her life. Colette also loves worship, loves ladies ministry, her babies, her husband and cherishes each of her friendships. I am excited for you guys to get to share in reading her story. Her heart is so tender and pure for the love and honor of friendships and relationships. One thing that I saw when I read Colette's story was "Jesus's eyes." The way that Colette explains her heart through this story is the way through the eyes of Jesus with such care and affirmation for sharing this story! I know you wil enjoy! Make sure to share with your friends. Everyone have a blessed morning!

-Kirste 

I have been a believer since I can remember. I was raised in the Catholic Church and went to Catholic Schools in primary school. My dad is a strong believer in Jesus and has always shared that love with me in his spiritual and practical example. I remember growing up we would bring homeless people into our home and give them jobs or feed them and "adopt" senior citizens in nursing homes that had no family. They would join us for holidays or just family dinners. However, when I was 12 my parents had a messy divorce. After that I lived with each of my parents half of the time. My mom and I really had a very tumultuous relationship after that for a variety of reasons. She never really shared my dad's faith and I think that made it even harder. 

During my college years my mom and I had about two to three years where we did not talk at all, and then another two to three years since my second child was born. To make a long story short, I wasn't sure exactly what motherhood should look like. I did my best to earn love by being enough or achieving enough, trying to earn love. I thought that I had healed and forgiven my mom. Then, I had my own children. Honestly it was one of the most scariest experiences of my life. Once I found out that I was pregnant I read as many parenting books as I could trying to make sure I did it "right."

The first gift from God was that He gave me a boy first. To me, this felt like a fresh start, a different kind of relationship that was new to me because it was between mother and son instead of a mother and daughter. Then three and a half years later I had my daughter. What an amazing thing, and what a fireball she is. Every day as being a mom I question my ability. I wonder whether I am good enough, loving enough, involved enough, disciplined enough, etc. But, God is so good. It is amazing what He has taught me through this experience. He has taught me that He can show me how to love. He has taught me that if I follow Him and His example I will be all that I can be for my children. Sometimes this means grace. Sometimes this means discipline, and always forgiveness and love.  He has taught me that He is my parent (even my mother) when I feel alone and want a mothers input or a mothers love. I especially love Psalm 27:7,8,10,11,13 and 14, "Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.  My heart says of you, "Seek his face!  Your face, Lord, I will seek. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.  Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the and of the living." 

God has taught me how important it is to rely on my husband's strengths, leadership, and love. And how important our marriage is to my children spiritually, mentally and emotionally. Although the biggest lesson I have learned is the direct relation to my own mother. I have learned that even though we have had our struggles, that it is my job to honor her and all that she has done for me. Exodus 20:12 says, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God has given you." I have learned that loving someone that is easy to love doesn't show the Lord's fruit in my life. Although, loving someone who is harder to love shows more about my character and what God has done in my life. I have learned that even when you forgive, sometimes you have to forgive again, but that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And, I have learned that God gives you amazing Godly people in your life that you can learn from. He has given me an amazing stepmom, mother in law, and a huge group of amazing peer moms that I learn from and rely on every day. He is teaching me that I will never be a perfect mom and that in trying I actually take away His ability to work in my kids and my life. I have a great quote on my refrigerator that my sister gave me. It says, "The most important thing she had learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one." - Jill Churchill. I have learned that God is an amazing God. He sees the big picture. And, even though we don't like difficulties, or tears, or struggles in our lives or the lives of those you love, that it is in those times when He grows us and refines us the most to make us into His own image.

The most important thing she had learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. - Jill Churchill.

As I think back all throughout my relationship with my mom, it was always rocky, but I have relied on God from a young age through it all. I didn't always know why things were happening the way they were and I struggled at times understanding why someone who was supposed to love me unconditionally showed it in a different ways than I had imagined. However, especially as I have gotten older I have realized that God has done everything for HIS glory and not mine. By allowing there to be someone in my life that is hard to love it gives me the opportunity for Him to work through me. It is something often that I am unable to do under my own power. Through His power I am able to continue to pursue my mother and her heart. Although many times I have done that imperfectly He has been the rock that I knew loved me and cared for me in the midst of my struggle. Unfortunately, my family and I have not seen my mom in about 2 years. Though I can say that my faith is really what motivates me to keep faith that restoration is possible because all things are possible with God. My mom deserves the same forgiveness. She too is a child of God. And I am driven to show the world, and my unbelieving mom that love motivated by Gods love is different. 

It breaks my heart that my mom is missing out on my kids lives because that relationship is important to me. But, it does absolutely give me huge motivations for having a completely different relationship with my own children. I want them to know that they are a gift from God, that I consider them blessings, that the job God gave me is to raise them up in the way they should go and that I expect great and Godly things out of them. And, that I will absolutely unconditionally love them no matter what. I believe personally that it is important for a person to know unconditional love here on earth because it gives them just a taste of how much our Heavenly Father loves us. There are definitely moments and sometimes days that I really feel like I've failed as a parent but then I remember to just ask my kids and God for forgiveness and be thankful for the grace that both extend. I guess the one thing that I would want other moms to know is that God doesn't expect you to be a perfect parent and you shouldn't expect yourself to be a perfect parent. You should realize that the greatest gifts you can give your children are Faith in Christ and to love them. Between those two things it can get them through anything. And, when the days or minutes or weeks or months get tough with your children ask God for strength, forgiveness, and grace. He will supply all and we cannot do this whole journey without him.

I believe personally that it is important for a person to know unconditional love here on earth because it gives them just a taste of how much our Heavenly Father loves us.

-Colette

 

My Brave Story- Amanda Janzen

Living your life to the fullest. It's sounds almost cliché to say, so many times we hear it and we read it, but do we really try to do it? Do we treat each day as if it could be our last? Do we tell those we love that we love them?

One person that I know who lives by this is Amanda Janzen. Amanda is a beautiful wife, mommy and entrepreneur and is also a breast cancer CONQUERER. This women did not only survive cancer, but she kicked it's butt and continues to do it everyday because she lives her life so full and is on a mission to help others do the same! 

I'm so honored to share this crazy-strong woman's Brave Story of faith, triumph, and encouragement! 

Candace

Amanda and her 3 precious girls.

Amanda and her 3 precious girls.

Standing on the shore...

I am Amanda Janzen, 36 years old, married to an amazing husband who continues to love me more everyday. We have 3 beautiful healthy girls that are growing all to quickly. Our daughter, Adelyn, is 6 years old and in 1st grade this year and our twin girls, Cassadee and Emmalee are 3 and started preschool a couple mornings a week this year. We live in a very rural area Southwest of Salina, Kansas. We farm and ranch on the beautiful Kansas prairie, a place I have always called home! My parents farm and ranch so I was raised working and feeding cattle my whole life. Farming and ranching are in my blood and I come from a long line of ranchers! I was raised in a non-denominational church and from a very young age I knew Christ and was spirit-filled. I have always had the Lord as my guide and although I have strayed and tried to do things my own way occasionally, He has always brought me back around and closer to Him each time.

He calls my name...

In September of 2014, I was 34 years old, my twins were only 1.5 years old and I had nursed them until they were a year in April. I was just gaining some normalcy in our crazy life with twins and a 4 year old. That summer I had finally gained some independence from being home bound (any mom of multiples and breastfeeding understands the struggle!) I had started playing in a volleyball league again, getting some exercise running some local 5Ks, traveling a little with my sister, etc. I had noticed a lump on my right breast, very small, but it was deep in the tissue and not superficial. I thought it was just some scar tissue from maybe a bout with mastitis while nursing. One night while playing volleyball it was causing me a lot of pain, I brought it up to my husband who encouraged me to get an appointment scheduled to check it out. My doctor wasn’t concerned but scheduled a diagnostic mammogram and sonogram to confirm, I had no family history and I had always been healthy. On September 22, 2014, my life took a crazy turn of events.

I went from being active, healthy, and in the best physical shape I had been in for a long time to being diagnosed with Breast Cancer at 34 years of age.

I went from being active, healthy, and in the best physical shape I had been in for a long time to being diagnosed with Breast Cancer at 34 years of age. Wow, talk about a total shock – I went through every emotion; Angry – how could God allow this to happen? Scared – I have young babies who need their mom healthy and active and to watch them grow up. Anxious – what was life going to look like for me, surgeries, chemo – I couldn’t let myself go too far. I remember when I found out my biopsy came back positive in my lymph node as well, the ONE thing I didn’t want to hear was positive, it meant a whole other mountain I would have to climb – I pulled my car over to take the phone call from my surgeon. I got off the phone and I couldn’t even collect myself – I wanted to punch my fist through my car windshield. I have NEVER felt those emotions so real, so raw. The phone calls to family are still vivid in my mind from that day. I had to collect myself, I had to find peace in the situation. I found the ONLY way to gain true peace was to lay it at the Lord's feet, I didn’t blame Him, I knew there was a bigger reason, a bigger plan for my life. I just didn’t understand why I was going to go through something so hard. I had to trust the Lord's word, I spoke life into my body, I concentrated on His goodness and love and everlasting peace.

Stepping into the waves...

Life had been busy for me with two young babies at home, it was a struggle to leave the house. We hadn’t been attending church on a regular basis but I was listening to my worship music while I would run and watch church online on the weekends, but this diagnosis was a wake-up call. It made me realize that this life wasn’t just about me and walking through breast cancer, this was an opportunity for me to share my faith with others. This was an opportunity for others to watch the Lord work in my life. Protecting me. Guiding me. Allowing me to have a peace that no one could understand. Bringing together communities in support of my family, blessing us in so many ways – financially, meals, house cleaning, and just so many, many prayers and encouragement. I would say this was no gentle nudge, it was a shaking – a wake up call, of sorts. A wake up call in my health and my spiritual walk. 

Amanda and her sister, Kerry Cramton, one of our past Brave Stories.

Amanda and her sister, Kerry Cramton, one of our past Brave Stories.

At this point, I had to decide with all my heart that I knew he was going to hold me in his arms, the Lord was going to bring me through this battle and no one else! I had to trust in His plan and I knew I had to pray and pray fervently on every decision I was going to make regarding my plan of treatment until I had a peace about my decision. I knew only HIS name could bring me peace, during tests, CT scans, MRIs. I would say his name over and over and over again when I knew nothing else to pray.

There is power, such amazing power is His glorious name!

There is power, such amazing power is His glorious name! Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus and praying in the spirit – I would say His name sometimes for an entire 30 minutes over and over. His peace would come over me. I would listen to worship music in the car on the way to treatment or teachings on the Word. I would put in my ear buds and listen to worship music during my entire chemo treatment every 2 weeks. I continued to feed my soul man so I could be strong and encouraged. I knew He was by my side every step of the way. I NEVER felt Him leave my side nor forsake me.

Don't look back...

Oh the fears, so many fears try to grip you when you are diagnosed with cancer. I had several friends who had been through breast cancer and two other friends that had been diagnosed with colon cancer and were going through treatment that were my age. I lost a sorority sister to breast cancer and another to colon cancer, the fear was real. I feared not being around to raise my girls, I knew they needed their mommy. I feared if my husband would stick around, so many times through hard times such as these, marriages struggle. I feared how I would take care of my kids and husband during chemo and being gone so much. All those fears are real, very real. I feared losing my hair, looking sick, losing my breasts, losing my sexuality, my confidence. Goodness the list could go on and on. I feared surgery and recovery. I feared feeling sick all the time. I feared so many things, although I hate to admit that I let those fears come in. I learned to quickly lay them at His feet and never let them take hold or grip me. Whom or what shall I fear with the Lord? He goes before me and He has an army of Angels to surround me and protect me. I believed that this was the Lords victory to have in my life!!!

Reaching for His hand...

Breast cancer was a blessing in my life. Those words really shouldn’t be put in the same sentence, right? Something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, cancer, and then a complete blessing from God. Breast cancer has given life a new meaning. It has caused me to be more aware of my purpose here on Earth. My purpose is to share my faith and be a disciple for Jesus! Opening eyes to the goodness only the Lord can bring into your life. Caring for others more than myself. Cherishing the little things in life. Spending quality time with my kids and family and slowing down in this crazy, busy, fast paced world that we live in. Putting God first and making time for him daily. Shining my light for others to see, brightly – not just in the back of the room! The Lord has also allowed me to learn more about my body and my health and he has shown me the way to better living through improving my mind, body and spirit. I have focused on keeping his temple, my body, healthy and happy so I can share his love more effectively.

Take hold...

He has given me a passion for health and healing and helping others in their health too. By sharing my story of breast cancer and how the Lord brought me through the hardest time in my life to how He has guided me since treatment ended, I am able to live my life for HIM!! He has blessed me abundantly for staying faithful during the biggest struggle of my life. Was this trial worth it? I can't imagine my life if this trial hadn't happened to me. I know my life is now richer in faith and friendship. I know the Lord will continue to stretch and teach me and mold me into his likeness. For that I will be forever grateful and thankful.

My Brave Story- Kelly Herrick

What do you say about a woman that you find so dear and true to your heart? This woman Kelly, well she's amazing. I have walked alongside Kelly for about 8 years now, although at the start I can't quite say we knew each other as well as we do now. My husband knew Kelly's husband Mark from going to the Cowboy Church back when we had it in the barn. When I married CW, I started to figure out who people were in the church and Kelly was one of them that I always looked up to. She was so kind and always had a smile. At the beginning of our friendship I only knew Kelly as the counting lady at church, and one who loved worship music and could play instruments. Little did I know as the years grew on that we'd get to know each other more and more as we were able to both serve together on our church's worship team. This woman is not only a wife, a mom of three handsome boys, but also an amazing violinist, true worshipper at heart and has an amazing creative writing talent! I am so blessed to call Kelly one of my friends and sister's in Christ! I know you will enjoy her journey through a very vulnerable spot in her life! Thanks so much for opening up and sharing with us!

-Kirste

I am a thirty-something year old mother of three handsome young boys; Weston (6), Trindon (3) and Tate (6 months).  I’ve had the honor of being married to my very best friend Mark for 11 years and counting. As you might guess, being completely outnumbered by boys, my family loves anything outdoors; hunting, fishing, camping, shooting, …you get the point! I am a farm girl at heart, my husband used to joke that he could always just buy me cows instead of flowers if he’s ever in big trouble – but he’s right! I am the ‘numbers girl’ for our amazing church – go N3C! AND, I get to play violin and guitar for the worship team there too. Growing up my family attended church, but it wasn’t until after I was married and God did a miracle to save our marriage that I really gave my life over and started living for Jesus. And, let me tell you, it's been such an amazing ride! Sometimes when I think about my walk with God I think I’ve really only begun to step out in faith. Other times I take a look back and I’m overwhelmed at how good God really is and just what a faith walk every single day has been.

So all that being said, I was pondering, what is my brave story? When did I step out in faith? We often think being brave looks really different and noble and grand, right? But, I think being brave with God can actually look really ‘normal’ on the outside. Perhaps bravery occurs in the battle fought in our minds when we chose to believe the truth and not the lie. As I sat down to write, I really felt like I was supposed to write about my family’s journey to my youngest son, Tate. It is a testimony that I’ve struggled to tell, not because it was all that difficult to go through, but because it wasn’t. It was wonderful. It IS wonderful, so here it goes!

July 23, 2015. That is the day I received confirmation of my suspicion in the form of 2 little lines on a stick. I stood in my bathroom in shock, shaking and uttering explicates under my breath. My two little boys were knocking…no, pounding on the door with that moment’s particular “need." I sent Mark a quick text that said nothing more than “Well, you were right,"n(how’s that for an announcement?!), and tried to go about my day. Inside was a tornado of emotion. I was excited that God had chosen me to be mommy to another baby. I knew for sure it was God because this was NOT my plan! I was scared that I couldn’t handle 3 children, at least not well. But, the most prevalent emotion I can remember was being terrified that I wouldn’t live long enough to find out. Another baby…. Mom of three….What if I die?!

 

In everyone’s life there are moments that define you. They may only be a few ticks of the clock, but they are the moments that stick with you, shaping the way you see yourself for years to come. For me, two of those moments, like a lot of parents, were the birth of my two eldest sons, Weston and Trindon. Words do not explain the love that flooded my heart when I finally got to meet our precious babies face to face and hear their first cry’s. The nearness of heaven was so tangible as God delivered that new little one He had trusted us with. With each of them God added a new facet to my identity, mommy! As amazing as those moments were, the ones immediately following haunted me like a bad hangover. On both occasions I hemorrhaged post delivery and began losing a lot of blood. I remember doctors pushing and prodding and yelling orders I didn’t understand. I remember looking into Marks eyes, usually calm and steady eyes as they filled with confusion, fear and panic. I remember the fearful words spoken in the room until finally God’s presence returned and the bleeding stopped. The months afterward were harder recovery than ‘usual’ deliveries, although I did make a ‘full recovery’. As faithful and good as God was through all of the complications, unfortunately from those moments I added a few new labels to my identity: Weak. Incomplete. Not Enough. Broken.

I never dealt with my feelings of brokenness because I felt like it would seem like I was ungrateful for God’s gift of life and babies and health, (Yep I bought the lie that my feelings don’t matter…again). Because of this, a major push-pull of fear and faith took place the first few months of my pregnancy with ‘Baby #3’. In one moment I would be confident and excited, and the next I would be filled with doubt whether my body would be able to handle another pregnancy and birth. I did NOT want another C-section, but it was a huge possibility. I was a wreck. During this time I would get on my knees and beg God, literally beg Him for answers, peace, help, anything! And, to my great dismay He was strangely quiet. As any good woman (crazy on hormones) does, I asked my sweet husband to pray and get my ‘answers’, and guess what? God didn’t say anything to him either!! One early November morning I was driving into town with the boys asleep in the backseat and I yelled at God …"FINE, if this is how I’m going to die then I guess there’s nothing I can do about it now. I don’t like it but I trust your plan!!”

November 14, 2015. Arise Ladies Conference. I attended my church ladies conference in beautiful Estes Park. I was so excited to be a part of the worship team there and I was getting more energy and feeling baby kick. The ministry was awesome, the worship was awesome, the fellowship was awesome, it was all great except one thing, I STILL wasn’t hearing from God and I was starting to get mad. I was desperate. That afternoon we had a soaking session but instead of feeling refreshed and connected I felt frustrated and uncertain. What was going on?! I walked into the evening session of the conference and I told God, “Ok, I surrender to you, this is your plan and I’m going to let you do whatever you want." I'll let you out of my box. I will follow you and do what you lead me to do, no matter what that looks like…for real this time.” That night Pastor Darin preached on the baptism of fire and as I raised my hands to receive it I heard God clear as a bell tell me, "Kelly I want to restore you. I love you and I’ll never let you go. I want to restore you.”

The months following that went by quickly. I cannot say that everything after that moment was easy. Every day I had to remind myself that God had my best interest in mind. I didn’t know exactly what ‘being restored’ meant, but it definitely spoke life so I liked that! I repeated Psalms 28 all the time: “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”I played songs over and over and over again that talked about being brave and trusting God and walking into waters ‘in over my head’. I had no idea where we were going but I had to trust God for the outcome. And day by day the fear left and the joy came. When people would ask I would tell them that God was out of the box and laugh.

March 25, 2016. I was so close to my due date, which was March 29th. Everyone was doing great but then my doctor dropped a bomb on us. Because of my ‘advanced maternal age’ (really, 36 is old now?!) I had to go into labor on my own before my due date. If I didn’t a C-section was my only other option. I was on the clock! Would I stay in faith or go to fear?

March 28, 2016. I promise I’ll spare you the gory details on this! I went to bed after midnight and the last thing I told Mark is that I needed him to have enough faith for both of us because I just wasn’t sure if I had anything left. I cried and he held me. I awoke to contractions that were consistent. Mom came over to watch the boys and we went to the doc who said things were progressing but not to go to the hospital yet! Mark and I were able to spend most of the day together laughing and just enjoying each other. We were finally admitted to the hospital at 5:30 pm and at 9:00 pm my nurse called to the front desk to let them know where we were at in the ‘process’. She told them, “everything is good here and she is complete…. ." The nurse continued with further medical jargon, but those words hung in the air as they sunk in. In medical terms it simply meant that I was ready to push that baby out into the world (no C-section!!!). But, to Mark and I it was as if God was reassuring us once again of His promise. At 9:34 we welcomed our precious Tate William into this world with no complications! By the way, Tate William means ‘Joyful Warrior’ and my oh my is he!

So why this story? Certainly there are other parts to my story that are more dramatic, perhaps interesting. Best I can figure is that God’s got two takeaways from this. The first literally hit me as I was just writing! Yes, God did restore me physically (hallelujah!), but what He was most concerned with was restoring His identity as King of my heart and restoring my identity too. You see the only accurate way to understand ourselves is by understanding who God is and what Jesus does for us. God needs to have his own personal identity to you before you can have your true identity in Him. When we are able to make him, firmly King in our lives, not likened to an earthly King, or your earthly Father, or an earthly role model; But King, THE King, who is ALWAYS good and NEVER fails, and we align ourselves up to HIM, then, He will begin to wipeaway all of those descriptions that we add. Broken. Not Enough. Ordinary. Incomplete.He wants us to be restored to our original design. His daughters who look to their father with admiration and honor without question in our trust for him.Whole. Enough. Spectacular. Beautiful. Complete. Lovely. Life Bearor.

The second takeaway is simply, don’t quit. Don’t give up. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Align yourself to His word and His people and Just. Keep. Going. It will look different than everyone else and that is OK! There is a dream deep inside each of us that we have put away out fear or frustration or some other lie we bought from the devil. But, it's time to rekindle those dreams and go for it! Perhaps you were born for such a time as this! God will give you the desires of your heart when we line our will up with His. For me, this dream is motherhood and music. I had shut the door on both pretty solidly until God ever so gently brought them back to life. And He will do it for you too. So I ask, what is your dream? Tell God and then hold on for an amazing wild ride!

-Kelly

My Brave Story- Shelly Quartieri

I love meeting people for the first time that right away I know that God has done amazing things in their life and their allowing Him to use them to do amazing things in His Kingdom. Shelly Quartieri is one of those people! I've gotten to know her through numerous PBR events and bucking bull futurities through the last 9-10 years. God's love just pours out of her and if you don't know Jesus before meeting her, you'll for sure know Him after speaking with her. Addictions run rampant in this culture that we live in and I truly believe that God is waiting to help each and everyone of us who suffers from an addiction, we just have to ask and seek Him. He might bring us to a rehab center, AA classes, the hospital or take it away in an instant, but for all of those things to really set us free we must lay our lives down at His Feet and seek Him. Shelly has a beautiful story of redemption from the stronghold of addiction and it's an honor to share her Brave Story of how God is bigger than any addiction out there.

Candace

Today I am fearless. I am fearless of what people are capable of doing to me physically, mentally and emotionally. I am fearless of the mistakes I might make today and what the future has in store for me, because I know God’s got this!  No matter how badly I mess up, His will always prevails for me.  I am fearless today but it didn’t start out that way.

It has never been an issue for me about not believing in God or knowing that there is a God. I’ve never doubted. As a young girl, I would lie on top of the car in our drive way in west Texas, talking to God and asking why my life was so crappy and if He even cared about me. My Mom was an alcoholic and the responsibility of that weighed heavy on a six year old little girl. With such a broken upbringing I wondered how God could allow my life to be so bad. When I was 19, I was caught driving under the influence of alcohol. I spent the night in jail and had 2 years of probation with a suspended license. This was the beginning of my battle with alcoholism. I continued to drink heavily going to bars with very little consequence for my actions. The alcohol ultimately controlled my decisions and I was not able to be the woman God called me to be.

When I was 23 I met my current husband, Danny. He was currently going through his divorce. This was a difficult time for me living in a different state, learning a different culture (Texas to New Mexico) and missing what was comfortable to me.  Danny had two young boys ages 14 months and 2 ½ years old. We dated for two years then married. I instantly became a co-parent with many responsibilities.

Shelly and Danny on their wedding day.

Shelly and Danny on their wedding day.

The next 10 years I hid my addiction well, actually functioning in family life and work. And one day I had to come to terms with my addiction. No one, not family or friends thought I had a problem. I’m pretty sure needing a drink by 10 am justifies a problem! So I checked myself into a rehab. Then 1 year later the same rehab facility again! Alcoholism ran in my family and it is a difficult cycle to break. Getting sober was the best thing that ever happened to me and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. It was not easy for my family either. The trust was gone. The events that occurred and the things I had done seemed unforgivable. I attended an AA meeting every day for years. This is where I learned to pray. Yes, AA taught me how to talk to God and clean up my past. When I quit drinking I gradually began to learn who I was and what I actually wanted. I wasn’t the same person anymore. I was a better person and my husband could see these changes in me. Actions do speak louder than words.

Getting sober was the best thing that ever happened to me and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life

In AA you have sponsor which is a person whom you go to for issues you are having in life. Ten years ago we moved to the ranch to raise bucking bulls and there were no AA meetings and the business around for miles, is a bar 3 miles from our home……ironic? Yep! So, this is when God became my sponsor. He's the best sponsor I ever had. The things God has done in my life, especially in the last 10 years have been amazing, beyond anything I could even imagine.

As I look back today, I can see how God was working in our lives. At the time that wasn’t so evident. We became Christ-followers, learning to have a relationship with God without the guilt, shame and condemnation. It was an awesome time in our lives and I’ll never forget the memories of watching my husband become a man of God.

I’m thankful He brought us into unity as a couple and as a family. Because of Gods’ mercy and grace our family has grown. We are living grace-filled lives and making healthy decisions. I have learned to trust wholly in God in everything --- my finances, my home, my family. Without Him I wouldn’t have any of it. That is the plain truth.

Shelly and her beautiful family.

Shelly and her beautiful family.

As God calls me to do things for Him, I do some willingly and excitedly and some not so willingly, dragging my feet, but He never fails. Once I obey, and fulfill his wish,  the blessings areunimaginable. I know now,  that He knows what He is doing and I trust His covering for my life. I trust that my obedience will render enormous blessing, this is His promise.

It is hard to step out in faith at times, but please know that God equips His callings and doesn’t give us anything we can't handle, because He can handle everything!

 So as I clear all this up for you, I now own the bar 3 miles from my home and am able to fellowship with folks I normally would not have been able to. We also run a ranch, that has hosted for 8 years, the non-profit bull riding/bullfighting &  Bronc riding camps called “Riding on Faith” Camp. I know there are more in the future to come too! HE told me so………. Today I am fearless!

I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you, as you trust in Him…..Ephesians 3:16

My Brave Story- Molly Rebscher

I am excited to get to introduce to you Miss Molly Rebscher. This beautiful blonde has the most friendliest personality and she always has a smile that draws you to her. I first noticed Molly when she started going to our church and a friend introduced us. It is so neat how God pulls us to different people and how we interact with these people. I am truly blessed to have all of the relationships with the people that I do. I especially love how God introduces us to new people to start new friendships that will grow and flourish each other. This Brave Story is a story of Gods faithfulness. Sometimes we may falter away from knowing His goodness, but I encourage you all today to keep your minds open and your hearts open to know that God is faithful in every aspect of your life. Try something new, open a new door and walk through it! Check out Miss Molly's Brave story!!! 

Can you give us the history leading up the point of when you stepped out in faith? 

Deep breath Molly, It’s okay, it’s time to be brave. It’s crazy how insignificant our stories seem, until we truly take a look at where we came from and where we are now. When I started writing I realized that I truly was scared to be vulnerable, and to so boldly discuss my faith. But I decided it was time to be brave, time to open my heart and mouth, and let God work through me to help someone else. 

For a little background I was technically baptized as Russian Orthodox, but did not grow up in a church or in a religious area (Northern California to be exact). But, somehow I always believed there was a God. I was first touched by The Holy Spirit (I didn’t realize that is what it was at the time) in high school on a trip to build houses in Mexico. I believe that this trip ignited a fire in my heart. Freshman year of college I was blessed with an amazing Christian roommate who began to minister to me at the same time as I was dealing with my first devastating heartbreak. This is when I realized I needed God, desperately. I was so broken, confused and lost, but God was really just shaping my life. You would think after this realization that I would have straightened my life out and everything would be great, but that wasn’t the case. The next four years of college were filled with mistakes, partying, heartbreak, and transferring schools. The first two years of college at CU Boulder were filled with me partying and trying to figure out who I was. I remember one night sophomore year I had gone out with my roommates but had decided not to drink. I came back early and just felt so much pain and sadness that I sat on my floor listening to “Oceans” by Hillsong and just cried out to God. 

And I will call upon Your name.
And keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace. - Hillsong United

Even though I was pretty torn up, He was faithful and gave me a way out. I transferred to Colorado State. God gave me a fresh start, in a new place with new influences and a new hope! It's pretty incredible how my life has changed since that night. When I transferred schools, He began to show me that there was a way out of the emptiness that partying was creating in my heart, and what a fulfilling life actually looked like. I began realizing that partying wasn't creating the kind of life I wanted, and slowly God began to show me what a life with Him was like instead. The next year was somewhat similar. I still partied occasionally but knew deep down that God was calling me deeper and I was just stuck in a place of resisting conviction. My faith, and my love for God truly skyrocketed once I found Northern Colorado Cowboy Church last October, and my life has not been the same thanks to Pastor Darin, Lynette and everyone else. I want to encourage whoever is reading this with what I've learned in my most recent, and most exciting adventure in stepping out into what God has called me to do. I have prayed over this, and asked God what message He wanted me to convey, and it’s a message of faithfulness. Over and over again He has shown me His love and faithfulness, despite my unfaithfulness, and I hope you begin to see it in your own life too. 

Faithful You have been and faithful you will be.
You pledge yourself to me and it’s why I sing. - Bethel Music

How did God get "hold" of you? Gentle nudge or a shaking? Did you listen right away or put it off?

After graduating college I wanted to go on a wild adventure. I knew I wanted to settle down eventually, but I just felt a tug at my heart to do something so different than what people expected. I couldn’t just start some typical career and be satisfied. God first got ahold of me by constantly reminding me of my passion for horses, and love for all things wild and free. I realized I was tired of living in a big town and that my heart longed to be free. I had a friend working at a guest ranch in the mountains, and immediately became intrigued. I knew God wanted more for my life than the path I was “supposed” to take, and I decided to take a big risk and open my heart to His plan. 

What was that first step or decision that you had to make?

I knew that I needed to apply to a few different guest ranch jobs, and then pray. I prayed that God would direct my path, and lead me to where He needed me. I prayed that regardless of what I wanted, He would allow me to get the job that He wanted me to have, even if this meant I didn’t get any of them. And then, I waited. Finally I had an interview with C Lazy U Ranch, and was offered the job at the end of it. My heart began to explode with excitement. But, as my date of departure arrived the fear set in. 

 

What were your fears, if any?

I wasn’t nervous about the riding aspect, because I had been doing that my whole life. I was nervous because I realized I would be leaving a church I LOVE, Pastors I LOVE and friends I LOVE. But regardless of my fears, I knew that I had given God total control of the situation, and this is where He wanted me to go. I had a good friend of mine tell me, “Molly, God won’t bring you up there to fail." And how incredibly right he was….!

Looking back now, what have you learned? Was it worth it? How has your life changed?

When I first accepted the job, and even when I first arrived I didn’t know what His greater plan was. At first I was selfish and looked at how it would benefit me. But, oh God’s plan was greater than that. I began to pray for purpose and guidance, but it was difficult at first. I was lonely and missed my friends and church, not to mention physically exhausted. I was also dealing with a pretty fresh heartbreak, which made everything harder. But as time passed, God began to reveal His plan for me. He called me away from a place I loved, away from my comforts, He even allowed me to be lonely and hurt, but only to deepen my reliance and trust in Him. This time of being lonely and somewhat isolated reminds me of a verse from Hosea 2:14 which says, "Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her." The Lord called me out, alone, and began to whisper to my heart about my purpose, and His incredible love and faithfulness. 

Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.

He called me to be a light, and to live out the Gospel in a place where most people didn’t know Him. Up at the ranch I had one sweet Christian friend who I went to church with (shout out to Hannah), but she had to leave for a family emergency and I was disappointed to say the least. As my strength began to fade and I was feeling alone, I was blessed with the most amazing women’s bible study on James. Every single thing in James was relevant to the life I was currently living and James 1:2-4 had never been more applicable. 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

In the time that I was lonely and questioning God’s plan and faithfulness. He was developing a deeper level of strength and perseverance. James was kind of like a love letter that God had written and given to me in a time of need. I was starting to see Him as faithful. But yet, I was still lonely. 

Then the most amazing thing happened. The ranch hired another wrangler, and we found out that in 3 short days she was moving into our house. I began to pray again. Pray that she would be a Christian and the sister I had been missing. And because of just how good God is, she was. We both cried the first night when we discovered that we had both been praying for the same thing. I was beginning to truly believe that God is faithful to His promises. There was no accident we were both here. We are now able to have such sweet fellowship together, reading the bible and jamming out to our favorite worship music. Praise God. 

I’ve learned so much just from this leap of faith that I could probably write enough to put y’all to sleep. And God is still working up here! My story is still being written, and will be constantly added to. But bottom line, I’ve learned that God loves each and every one of us so dearly, and He is forever faithful. If our Heavenly Father calls you somewhere, even if it doesn’t make sense at first, trust that He is ALWAYS faithful and will provide for your every need. Isaiah 58:11 says; The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden like a spring whose waters never fail.

If our Heavenly Father calls you somewhere, even if it doesn’t make sense at first, trust that He is ALWAYS faithful and will provide for your every need.

It is often in the difficult times where God is working in your heart to develop a greater sense of strength and a constant need for Him.  One thing I do know for certain is that God always comes through, even when you’re about to give up hope. Earlier I touched on a few times in my life where I've experienced heart break, which has been sadly a reoccurring theme in my life. That could be a whole separate post, but He has renewed hope in my heart, and with His constant faithfulness I know He will some day send me the most amazing, God adoring man. I cannot wait for that day! I have also struggled with some periods of depression (only a few friends know about this, but I’m being brave!), but as i’ve grown to know The Lord more deeply I have gained a deeper sense of joy than ever before. A joy that is separate from my circumstances. Even on the longest, hardest days there is so much hope and joy in my heart and it’s all due to how faithful my God is.  He has only begun to unveil His greater purpose for my life, but I can promise you this-His plan for each and every one of you is filled with love, laughter, joy and peace. You only need to trust Him, follow Him where He calls you, and have faith even when the water is rocky. 

-Molly

 

My Brave Story- Norma Elliott

This woman not only is a cowgirl and rancher, but an author, preacher's wife and first and foremost a Jesus follower! We started following this woman on our instagram and then I further started following her on her blog thecowboypastorswife.com. There was a story in particular that she posted called "13 More Sayings We Don't Hear Anymore." She wrote about finding a letter from her father in law and the excitement that she had when she found this letter. You will have to read the whole post, but this ministered to me as I had just found something that I had not seen in years. It was such a reminder to me that God is faithful and that no matter what, He's got it. She then stated, "I want to approach God's word just like I did when I found this long lost letter." Norma Elliott has a way of writing that connects you to directly where she is at as she shares everything from living the ranching life, to cowboy church, being a Pastor's wife and marriage. You will definitely want to check out her blog and her most recent book, "30 Ways To A Confident Marriage" that her husband Wendel and herself wrote, just this year. When I asked Norma about the book and her marriage she told me that Wendel and her have been married for 27 years in December (congrats). I love asking people who have been married for a great length of time for any wisdom on marriage! Take a look below at what Norma said about her book and about marriage! 

 

The push came when we were at a rehearsal dinner years ago, you know the one, if you've been married five years stand up, ten, fifteen, twenty. Well, we had been married the longest. In a room of grandparents, parents, friends, we had been married the longest! We were in shock. We have been married for 27 years this December. That was our push to change the numbers. I give the advice that I received as a bride. "Now is when the work begins." I thought this was funny at the time. I had caught the guy, right? I felt like I couldn't love Wendel any more than I did that day. I can honestly say I love him more and he feels the same. God gives us this assignment too. Philippians 1:6 says, "He that began a good work in you, He will continue to perfect it." We had to trust the builder, God and follow His design. Philippians 1:2 says, "work out your salvation...", and the results effect all areas of life, including marriage. Now with that said, check out her Brave story!!! 

-Kirste

Hello! My name is Norma Elliott. I am a wife, a mother, a mother-in-law and a grandmother. I’m a grandmother! For goodness sakes it’s a blast!!! I’m also a cowboy Pastor’s wife, and an assistant ranch manager. I just gave myself that title! I don’t know if the ranch owners are aware that I am the assistant manager but I’ll pencil it in, to be erased if they ever see it. I also am a blogger. I am really nobody. Just an ordinary girl or grandma girl, I should say. I don’t even know if I am brave but I hope that I am. I’ve done several things afraid so I guess they call it brave.

I would say out of the list above I never thought I would be a “pastor’s wife." My husband never expected to be a Pastor. In fact if someone would have told me ten years ago that I would be helping my husband manage a ranch and a church, I would have asked them if they were feeling okay. God takes us to places we never expect, if we can get passed the fear of it!

So that’s where I will begin. My husband, Wendel and I were doing youth ministry at a Leon River Cowboy Church in Eastland, Tx. We were trucking along just fine. We absolutely loved our Pastor and his authentic personality. We began to feel a restlessness. We weren’t sure what it was but felt like there was a change coming in our lives. Our Pastor approached Wendel to ask if he would be interested in being a Pastor in west Texas, close to where he had grown up. He immediately thought no!! He didn’t see himself in this position and I for sure wasn’t seeing myself as an organ playing preacher’s wife. I’m sorry in advance if you play the organ! We both had an idea of what that might look like and weren’t interested. As the words came out of his mouth, I told my husband he better ask God. We began to pray, silently, without mentioning it to anyone else. Then, we called friends to pray with us. We came to visit the current Pastor and his wife. Before we knew it, we were loading the truck, trailer and heading west!

I had much fear about my new position. How could a girl of my age (this was before the grandma thing) possibly be a Pastor’s wife? Would I be good at giving advice. Would I point them to the right scriptures. Would I embarrass myself or worse, my husband by doing something so in my character. Would I laugh when I was suppose to cry or vise versa. I had so much apprehension. What all would be required of me anyways? A Cowboy Pastor’s Wife at that! I’m not sure what you’re calling me to do Lord!?! I am not a confident person and have struggled with this all my life. I began to pray about what I needed to do, I knew I would need to step up in some areas. God have me Hebrews 10:35-36, ”Do not throw away your confidence, as it will be richly rewarded."

I would have no idea what this would really mean and how many situations I would be in that were difficult for me. You know, I mentioned earlier, doing things even though you’re afraid I felt God calling me to get over certain fears I had about horses. My husband on the other hand was raised on a horse. He was also raised on a ranch with four other brothers that rode. His dad managed ranches, ran packing plants, and all kinds of “ranchy” things. My family had not. We had a little family farm at one time. Enough to spark my interest. Somewhere along the way, probably after seeing a few good horse wrecks my husband had on colts, I developed a real fear. A fear that chased me down and tackled me. It became REAL BIG, REAL FEAR, REAL FAST!! Now, no one said to me…"Norma, since you are now a Cowboy Pastor’s Wife, you need to ride a horse, you need to day work, you need to rope, you need to do….xyz!" I was never told that! It had been something God had been dealing with me for years. It wasn’t necessarily the riding part, it was the fear part. Anytime we let fear steal away something that belongs to us, we miss opportunities. I was hungry for those opportunities. Mine just happened to be in this area. Yours might look different. Your fear might be flying, or starting a Bible study, or standing in front of people. But, I bet you can identify your fear, even as you read this post. I knew the more I focused on the fear, the more I was moving away from my opportunities. I had to take action in the opposite direction.

Anytime we let fear steal away something that belongs to us, we miss opportunities.

So, we scraped enough money together to buy me a horse. Not a horse for one of our sons, a ranch horse for my husband, or a colt that had never been saddled. This would be a horse that could be trusted. A horse that I sat on in the pens for 45 minutes before I got up the guts to walk her up the road, with my husband and boys encouraging me the whole way. A horse that babysat me, that didn’t run off, that didn’t try to buck me off. One that wouldn’t be gone in 30 days, 60, or even 90, but was very own. One saddlin’ at a time, God would begin to chip away on the fear that resided in my heart. I would go with Wendel to work for our friends the Nelson’s. They were so patient with me, even when I switched places in the drive. Some days I came home crying because I messed up. Other days I would do something I had never done before, that for me was a small victory, like riding up and anticipating where I needed to be. I’m embarrassed by my fears or what used to be fears. I wish I could say that I was amazing!!! But, one task at a time God gave me more hope, more trust, more confidence! I had no idea I would be doing the things I get to do. I had no idea how this confidence would help me in other areas of ministry, of helping other woman find their opportunities.

Since that time of being held in fear, I have gotten to day work beside my family and wonderful friends. I have experienced the trust worthiness of ranch women who have taught me immeasurable lessons, not only about horses but about life. I have ridden beside my husband to baptize some dear friends, who committed to following Christ in obedience. I’ve ridden beside him, while he performed a very special wedding, it was for a rancher he greatly admired since he was a kid. I also experienced a horseback funeral procession for a cowboy who was well respected in our little community. I’ve also worked beside many ladies, either on their ranches or them helping us. At church we’ve done Cowgirl Gatherings, where you have the option to bring a horse or not, either way it reaches out to women who love the western culture and most of all love Jesus! One of my greatest joys is working beside my husband on the ranches we manage and working along some of the best hands I could ever imagine. Sometimes, I look up and I am with a crew of men and I will think, “You did this Lord!” Other times, when my husband is not too happy because I missed a cow when sortin’ I will think, ”You did this Lord!” I had to add a little humor.

You see, that’s just it. It’s not the horses, living on a ranch, or how “punchy” we think we are. We can elevate those things above God. It’s hard to be brave in the face of fear, even ordinary fear that overcomes you. I guess the one thing I would want someone to take away from this is, find your opportunities even if you have to face your fears. Thank you for listening……..

The Cowboy Pastors Wife

 

My Brave Story- Tiffany Davis

This lady really needs no introduction, in the rodeo and bullriding world, Tiffany Davis is bonafide "household!" If you ever have the privilege and honor of meeting this amazing woman she will make you feel like the most important person in the room, her next of kin and you'll be begging for her do adopt you. She's the real deal when it comes to walking the walk as a lover of Jesus and loving your neighbor. Her story has always been so enduring to me and I couldn't wait to post it her on our little ol' blog. Tiffany, I love you sister and I'm so blessed to call you my friend!

Candace

Tiffany and Jerome Davis

Tiffany and Jerome Davis

Some endure life, others enjoy life.  That’s a decision I had to make in my life many years ago.  There is something about reaching a breaking point that causes us to seek the Lord more sincerely.

In 1998 I was 23 years old and engaged to the greatest man a girl could ever imagine.  We were to be married in May, I had already bought my wedding dress.  I was living the fairytale life everything was perfect.  Jerome was winning everything he had been on. He had only been thrown off 2 bulls so far that year and was leading the world in the PBR.  He had already won the World Championship in the PRCA in 1995 and set a record for the most money a bull rider had ever won in a year in 1996.  We were on top of the world!  Then in a split second everything changed.

Jerome was hit in the face by a bull while he was riding and knocked unconscious.  When he came off he landed on top of his head causing him to break his neck and left him paralyzed from the chest down.  Talk about a game changer!  First, came denial.  Which we are still in because Jerome still plans on walking.  Second, was uncertainty, I was so confused.   I wasn’t sure how to pray, should I be thanking God that Jerome didn’t die, and was it selfish to pray for him to be healed?  Then I got mad, I did not understand why this happened to Jerome.  He was (is) the nicest guy in the world.  Jerome was a good person that treated everyone with respect and kindness.  He was so humble and had the happiest personality of anyone you would ever meet.  He was one of the “Good Guys."  This just did not make any sense to me.  Why would God do this to him, don’t we need some good role models out there?  We were Christians; we said our prayers and read our Bibles.  I just did not think this was fair.

As I was sitting in the corner of the waiting room and having a mental temper tantrum, this lady kept walking by the door looking in.  Finally, she came into the waiting room and said she had heard about Jerome on the local news and felt God had told her to come talk to us.  Oh really…I don’t think she wanted to hear what I had to say.  She proceeds to tell us when she got to the hospital the devil kept telling her to go home, but she decided not to listen to him and she told the devil just to go back to Hell, she was going in!  Now by this point she had my attention and my sleepless sarcastic side found her pretty amusing.  Little did I know this was an Angel that had been sent from God, she went on to answer all the questions that kept circling in my head.  She told that in times like this we get mad and think God is the one that does this but He hasn't.  God loves us, it is the devil that comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).  Boy, did that give me so much peace.  I did not want to be mad at God, I needed Him more than ever.  I could so much easier be mad at the devil, I didn’t like him anyways.  This gave me a whole new perspective.  I turned to God and just started holding on to Him.  John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have troubles, but take heart!  I have overcome the world!"  Okay, God I know this is gonna be a pretty rough ride we have drawn here but Phillipians 4:13 tells us that I can do all things through Christ Jesus.  Even though I’ve got thrown a few times God always helps me back on.  I believe getting down is part of life, but its staying down that will kill you. 

I read once the difference between people who thrive and people who decline over a long period of time, it's not that those that thrive don’t get knocked down; it’s that they bounce back up.  I don’t want to just survive in life, I want to thrive!  I have found that God wants this for us too.  I mentioned part of John 10:10 earlier but I left the best part out.  Jesus says “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  How awesome is this?!  So Filler Up!

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that since Jerome’s accident it’s been a bed of roses.  I would have to write a few more blogs for all those stories, but with our faith I’m still hanging on.

As for Jerome being a good role model, I believe he is an even better one now for how he handles and endures his new life.  I think Jerome has impacted more lives from a wheelchair than if he would have won 5 World Championships.  We started helping 10 years ago with He Paid Your Fees Christian Junior Rodeo which we have here at our ranch.  There has been hundreds of kids and even adults accept Christ in their life at this.  It is so amazing to be a part of something that has saved so many souls.  We also help our church (Traid Cowboy Church) with an event in the spring that has really impacted our community in a lot of the same way.  When you see a hundred people come into the arena to give their life to Christ it fills your heart more than any buckles ever could. I love my life God has given me and I am so thankful for all the blessings including a great family and wonderful friends that has helped us so much along the way.  They are truly a blessing and will never know how grateful we are for them.

Sometimes we must be broken before we realize our most important needs, and that is a deep loving relationship with our Father, that’s when we are made whole.

Sometimes we must be broken before we realize our most important needs, and that is a deep loving relationship with our Father, that’s when we are made whole.  So wherever you are in life keep hanging on, stay strong in faith, and never let go.  God is with you, Enjoy The Ride!

When I am weary I run to Jesus and He refreshes me. Matthew 11:28