I first ran across Warbonnet Hats Works a few years ago on IG. I was drawn to the beautiful designs and colors and for a cowgirl that grew up wearing a cowboy hat every weekend at the rodeo, barrel race or just to work cows, I really appreciate a gorgeous custom hat. I was even more drawn to the people behind the company. A husband and wife team that not only works together, but creates together. Brooklyn McIntosh is the face behind Lady Warbonnet, the women's line in Warbonnet Hat Works.Read More
Deana Lloyd is a woman whom I've not met yet, but I feel honored to share her Brave Story here on Cooped Up Cowboy's Wife. She is such a strong example of someone who took their trial and turned it into triumph by trusting God and taking him at his word for healing, joy and restoration.Read More
The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Jesus laid this rich tapestry out through all of the characters in this story. From the patient and loving father, to the wild and wayward son, I think it portrays our Papa God's heart for his children in such a beautiful way. My favorite part is to place myself in the father's place when he would've seen his son coming back from afar.Read More
Focus... a point of concentration. When we focus on the distractions of this world and how we feel at the moment (hopeless, despair, inadequacy) we are led down a path away from our Father's heart. When we choose to focus and center our lives on His Love and how He sees us we are able to walk into our destiny with the full force of heaven behind us.Read More
Surrender...that's the word that sticks out to me after I read Meghan Gates Brave Story. It's a tale of learning what the price of living in the world versus living a life in Jesus. She found out that although things are not always easy following Jesus, they are worth it. Complete surrender only happens when we realize that Jesus is not asking us to give up who we are but to find our true selves in Him.Read More
Randi Swenson and I began our friendship almost exactly a year ago this month! She's just one of those people that you're drawn to first by their beauty and then once she starts talking, you realize that she's just as beautiful on the inside.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.