Pieces of Our Stories

Pieces of our Story is where our contributing writers share the lessons and wisdom the Lord is revealing to them in their day to day lives.


Sarah’s Thoughts

“Taking a Step Back”

This is my last Sarah’s Thoughts post. We are wrapping up for 2018 and with this closure of our second full year, I believe the Lord is calling me to step away from Share Her Story.

It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I learned so much; not only about my craft and creating a team to bring about a common goal, but about the intricacies and intentionality of God and the absolute beauty He has placed inside women.

My goal when I initially started SHS was that it would be something that I always craved someone would do for me. I longed to recognized, told I was beautiful, and given a space to share the most important part of who I am – my identity in Christ. Share Her Story has come to accomplish this.

However, living two states and a large amount of miles away, has naturally reduced my ability to be as involved as I long to be. My life is shifting and the Lord is calling me to new adventures and new projects. I still believe greatly in Share Her Story, but my involvement has come to an end. When SHS first started, we knew that it was going to be revolving door of volunteers and creatives. Life is constantly moving  and so will people’s involvement. The time has now come for me to take my exit.

Olivia will be heading up all of SHS’ future endeavors. There are some exciting things on the horizon and some new challenges I know our team looks forward to accomplishing. I wait with anticipation to see how Share Her Story changes, grows, and accomplishes more.

I wanted to personally thank every creative that has ever been involved with SHS. It would not be what it is today without you. Thank you for your time, your effort, your creativity, and your prayers. Thank you for all who follow and share what Share Her Story is trying to do. My ultimate prayer is that as SHS moves forward and shares more and more women’s stories, the name of Jesus would be proclaimed around the world.

HE is the true reason we have undertaken this goal. Without Jesus, our stories are not worth sharing.

With deep love and gratitude,

Sarah Umbreit

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As one of the founders of Share Her Story, Sarah has been around since the beginning. Watching the vision grow and seeing the creative team begin to multiple has been a highlight for her over two past years. As the writer, Sarah has written all the content for the site and every  Women of Interest feature, so far, for each project. “Encouraging others with my writing is the best way, I can see, to use the talents God has given me.”


“Motherhood”

Motherhood. Sounds like such a simple word when in fact it carries so much weight. Millions of women have gone before me and raised amazingly beautiful human beings-all with unique and incredible stories. They were the ones that inspired me every day to “figure out” the kind of mother that I wanted and hoped to be. All during my pregnancy with my first baby-a beautiful girl who we would call Evelyn “Evie”-I prayed about the life I hoped she would lead and that I would be strong enough and brave enough to help her navigate through life’s trials.

Fast-forward to her birth and the wake she caused with her arrival. The first baby girl on my husband’s side of the family-a very big deal in a family of all grandsons. She was the sweetest little gem that instantly won hearts with her smiley and easy-going countenance. There was just something about her ability to observe the world around her, taking it all in, that touched people. They were drawn to her in a way that we could not quite understand, but we knew she had a special calling on her life.

As Evie got older I kept feeling as though things weren’t going to be as I expected they would be. Evie didn’t crawl when she was supposed to, she wasn’t as chatty or didn’t babble as most babes her age and showed absolutely no interest in standing or walking. Using utensils was something that we worked on for a year and a half and the skill just never “took”.

I would consider myself a pretty patient person, but when Evie was a year and a half I stopped writing all of these delays off as, she is just taking her time. With some things that was true, she did eventually crawl and walk, but when she started losing skills she did have, that’s when I realized something else was going on that we weren’t seeing. It was so subtle, her slowly losing her once vibrant vocabulary, the fact that I had to start giving her bigger food to hold because she wasn’t able to pick up smaller pieces anymore, and her losing her interest/ ability to flip through all of her favorite books or play with any of her toys.

The doctors, therapists, specialists-the people who were “supposed” to have some answers had none. After an incredibly challenging year of no progress, the welcoming of our second child, and most importantly, God’s leading, we packed up and moved from Florida to Virginia to start fresh and begin a new chapter in our life. Evie was two and a half.

Even after the move Evie’s skills continued to regress. By this point she had no functional hand use, no vocabulary or even word approximations and she started biting her hands repeatedly. Something we had never seen before. The summer after she turned three was one for the books. Our girl was not the same-screaming spells out of turn (that could sometimes last as long as 6 hours), insomnia, restlessness in her own skin, continuation of losing skills and not being able to acquire new ones. She came home from school one day completely out of it. She would stare off into space, hold her breath and then fall back like someone had pushed her down. The next day, when there was no improvement we took her to the hospital.

It was within that hospital stay and the following weeks after, that we were able to get a formal diagnosis of Rett Syndrome, and all that it would entail for her life and for ours. It was on the day that we got the call from the geneticist that the word “motherhood” took on a whole new meaning in my world-noting would ever be as I had imagined it would. My life of raising an amazing woman of God would be entirely different than what I had expected having a daughter would be like.

On that day I became a special needs mom and was plopped into a category that I had no idea how to navigate. You see the thing about being a mother of a special needs child is that about 80, maybe 90%, of the time instead of me having to teach her how to be brave and face the world with a Godly confidence, she is the one teaching me. She does not have an audible voice, so this once painfully shy introvert, who prefers to just melt into the background, has now become an advocate who steps up into the light for the world to see because my daughter needs me to.

God knew what I needed in a daughter and knew what Evie needed in a mother. He was not surprised by any of this, as we were, and because of that I have been able to release any expectations of what may have been had circumstances been different. Despite all of her challenges our girl still has this way about her of being able to see into your soul and make you feel so loved. She still has this anointing on her life-that no amount of hardship can erase. She will do amazing things.

Motherhood is heavier of a weight than I think I can bare at times, but alas I do. It is confusing and feels unjust, for how the simplest tasks for Evie take the most effort, and yet at other moments it is pure bliss and nothing can shatter the beauty of it. I have been broken and put back together more times than I can even remember, and I am sure it will happen a thousand times more. My girl is beautifully and wonderfully made, she will move mountains, change lives, show the love of Jesus to the world just by being exactly who God made her to be, exactly as she is-and will lead me to do the same. Motherhood has caused me to be braver, have more patience, and show more grace than I ever thought possible. Motherhood has made me a better person in ways I could never thank her enough for.

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Website: http://www.evelynsvoice.com

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To donate: Evelynsvoice.com/donate



“Transition”

Transition.

Not typically as scary as “loss” or “change.”  It’s a softer word- not a halting brake, not a complete start over.  It’s just a transition.  A switching of gears or a smooth move from one thing to a similar thing.

Or so I thought.

In my reality over the past two years, transition has been an all-encompassing word for changing careers, moving homes, switching schools for my 3 young children, and losing family relationships as I knew them. There’s no other word that sums up all those things to give a quick answer when asked how I’m doing.  Yet, there’s no word that so falsely describes the emotions involved with such a season. A season full of grief, sadness, anger, fear, loneliness, anticipation, and, well, all the emotions.

What I’m learning as I navigate loss and change (formerly known as transition) is that grace for yourself is essential.  And grace in plenty.

Grace to acknowledge the sadness.  (And feel it without avoidance). Grace to grieve. Grace to let go of others’ expectations and opinions.  Grace to recognize you are operating at 10-25% of your normal capacity and you will disappoint others. Inevitably.

Grace to begin again.  

There’s not much worse for an over-achieving person than starting over and being a dreaded “beginner”.  Learning the ropes, making mistakes, not knowing anything– I’m not sure anything deteriorates your confidence more.

I live in the Washington DC metro area, the capital of competition and comparison.  It’s not the place you want to be a beginner (unless you’re a college graduate). Maybe it’s all crept up on me, or maybe I’ve always been competitive, but something ironic happened to me not on Capitol Hill but at Orange Theory Fitness.  Of all places.

If you’ve never participated in this workout, let me give you a brief rundown.  I’m new to it, but I’ll do my best. It’s interval training that switches between 3 areas: a treadmill, a rower, and floor exercises.  You wear a heart rate monitor that projects your heart rate, calories burned, and “splat points” earned (with your name) onto a tv screen for everyone to see.  

I’m just a few weeks into this new work out, and I check my name often throughout the class in order to see if I’m in the preferable orange zone.  If I’m too in the red, I need to pace myself better. If I’m too in the green, I need to push myself harder. It didn’t occur to me to check out others’ earnings until an acquaintance commented after the class, “How do you earn so many splat points and burn so many calories?  I’ve never been able to get that high, and I’ve been doing this for a year now!”

I felt a little exposed knowing she was checking out my scores and awkwardly blurted, “Uh, I don’t even notice others’ scores when I’m working out…” and then proceeded to find her name on the screen so I knew what she was talking about.

She looked a little embarrassed at that point and shrugged, “Oh I like to look at others, it’s just something fun I do.”

I didn’t think about the weird conversation until the next workout class I attend.  Apparently, this idea of peeking at others’ scores is a good one. Maybe it will help me gauge if I’m working out as hard as I should.  So, on this Saturday class, packed full of fitness beginners and veterans, I start peeking at others’ scores on the screen.

I’m doing well throughout the “first cycle” of the class- hitting the orange and red zone, but I start to notice that there’s one person who is consistently burning more calories than me.  Every time we switch exercises, she seems to work harder. I scan the room. Which one is Felicia26? Oh, it’s probably her, she looks really fit. She must be experienced and knows just how to push herself.  

Not like me– I still have to ask questions to the girl on my right who seems nice (hopefully, I’m not annoying her.)  These instructions can be so confusing. Do I repeat this one? Do I do 20 more and then head back to the rower? I know there are pictures on the tv screens but geez, the coach’s verbal cues are confusing!  Ugh. But I’m still almost at the top. Besides this one chick. Who is Felicia26? It suddenly feels competitive.

If I can find her, then I have a bar to reach, or maybe exceed.  I’m sure tired of being the new kid in the class. I might be ok from a calorie-burning perspective, but I still feel a bit lost with all this weird verbiage.  I feel like a sixth-grader looking for her classrooms on the 1st day of school.  Do I go here? Is this how I use these rope things? What is a splat point again?

I continue to push myself to reach top chick’s bar, still falling short.  I wonder if there’s a way to find out who she is– maybe someone will call her name and I can recognize her from the pack.

The coach says it’s time to wind down and do some stretching.  Oh well, I guess I’ll never know.

Then, he announces, “Everyone give yourselves a round of applause for working so hard today.  Oh, and let’s clap for Felicia… it was her FIRST class!”  

WHAT?!

This whole time… I was competing against a first-timer???  She was red-zoning and killing the calorie-burned count because she was so out of shape and in-experienced.

Everyone claps and Felicia proclaims how happy she is that she didn’t die.

I leave the class and get in my car.  I wonder what does this mean about me that I got so obsessed with who was beating me and went into a shame-spiral for missing cues and asking so many questions.  

I felt a sort of redemption– and defeat.  Redemption that I actually uncovered what was going on and defeat that I became so consumed with this comparison and self-doubt.  What does that say about me and my current circumstances?

This little, seemingly-silly story is a microcosm of my season of transition.

I’m finding that transitioning from the familiar is scary.  Losing the old is sad. Starting something new is humbling. Becoming a cynic is easy.  Living with hope is hard. Destruction can happen quickly, but construction takes intention and creativity and a whole lot of hard work.

And being a beginner can really suck.  

But what I’m also finding is that stopping myself from internalizing all the emotions with seasons of transition is key.  And also accepting that it takes time. As cliché as that sounds. It is not quick. There’s a lot of undoing and a lot of new doing and that doesn’t happen overnight.  

We will get through it.  We won’t be beginners forever.  We will be able to construct a new way of living… from a place of creativity and hope.   And finding the bar for our success or belonging should not be done by looking to the right or the left (or the tv screen above).

 

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Kassie Fowler lives in the Washington D.C. metro area with her husband, Dougie, of 12 years and sons, Caden (9), Logan (7), and Ruston (4).  After working on a church staff for 12 years, Kassie decided it was time to continue ministry through different areas of creativity.  Currently, she works as the Staging and Branding Director for an interior design studio in Washington D.C. and also blogs at www.kassiefowler.com.  Her passions include making things pretty, traveling, wrangling her crazy boys, and sharing words and thoughts that resonate and encourage.

 



Sarah’s Thoughts

“What Jesus Means to Me”

It really boils down to one simply thing – I love Jesus because Jesus has always loved me. It doesn’t matter what I do, say or think, nothing stops the flow of His love for me. Because I am human, and a sinner, whenever I mess up and come running back into His arms, His grace embraces me, cleanses me and renews me. There is no reason for me to stay withdrawn and ashamed. He loves me when I cannot love myself.

That was important growing up. Due to things I won’t go into at this moment, I expected God to heal me of my dwarfism. As I look over my adolescence with adult eyes, I see now this desperation for healing was because I didn’t know how to accept myself. And when, unsurprisingly, God’s will didn’t bend to my own I felt abandoned and rejected by the one who created me with this unacceptable difference. I hated Him in my confusion and saw life as pointless, meaningless, and vindictively cruel.

He was still there, though. Despite my anger and wounds and confusion, He stuck by my side. He didn’t just bind His time either. He was working on my behalf orchestrating things behind the scenes so that the glorious moment when I allowed His love, perspective, and immediate healing into my life, everything else fell in line. It was kismet, but it was not random. It was intentional and hinged on me allowing His love into my life.

His love – the acceptance of all that I was: wounds both self-inflicted and otherwise, my hatred for the things I didn’t understand about Him, the confusion over why my young life looked the way it did; the good and the ugliness of humanity – He welcomed it all, unquestionably, rejoicing, warmly into His peace and acceptance. He wanted until I wanted His vision of who I was to show me how much He loved me.  He wanted to show me that He had always loved me.

And when I forget, again, that God has this all under control, that He is in every detail of my life, when I get distracted by the pain of my days, when I get overwhelmed by what sometimes feel like immense lack in my life and I withdraw, He waits. He waits ever so patiently until I turn back to Him and ask again for His love, for His grace, to embrace me, cleanse me, renew me.

I love Jesus because He loves me. He loved me so much He died on the cross so that when I get confused by the hurt I can turn to Him for answers. Time and time again. His love is ever constant and never stops despite my very real humanity. I love Jesus because He loves me.

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As one of the founders of Share Her Story, Sarah has been around since the beginning. Watching the vision grow and seeing the creative team begin to multiple has been a highlight for her over two past years. As the writer, Sarah has written all the content for the site and every  Women of Interest feature, so far, for each project. “Encouraging others with my writing is the best way, I can see, to use the talents God has given me.”

 



“In This Season”

And oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us all
–David Crowder Band, “How He Loves”
In this season of transition God has me removing things from my life so that I can spend treasured time with my daughter and Him my Abba Father. As I drove to work, I noticed that unlike so many other times due to my busyness, I had time to see how picturesque the sun was coming up, how the breeze felt in my hair with the window rolled down. The waves of happiness kept washing over me much like a small child blowing bubbles or swinging in the swing. Upon arrival to work I badged in through the entrance of the turn style, and as I walked onto the newly paved sidewalk, a beautiful little bird flew down with something in its mouth. Immediately the Lord dropped into my spirit the scripture found in Matthew 7:11…how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him? How much more will I do for you?  I smiled knowing that as we are obedient, season after season to remove the busyness from our lives, we get a more unobstructed view of our Heavenly Father and how much He truly loves us.

Cristy

Cristy Castleberry is the single mom of one beautiful girl Latiara. Cristy is a combat veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). She is the author of Memoirs of Elohim and I; that has a release date of July or August 2018, she is also a Quality Engineer for Engility through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at Marshall Space Flight Center on Redstone Arsenal.  She is a prayer warrior, an intercessor-watchman who devotes her life to serving God and her community by ministering to the broken. She is an advocate for seeing God restore identity while turning victims into victors, the conquered into conquerors, the wounded into the wanted, the rejected into the redeemed, the harmed into the healed, and the real messes of our lives turned into messages. Her passion for God’s Kingdom compels her to serve at church, in her community, and to lead a Lifegroup in her home.

 



Sarah’s Thoughts

“The Private Sector”

What I am about to say is not new . . . It isn’t new, or revelatory, or extreme to anyone, but it is to me.

I was a youth leader for a number of years. 6+ to be exact, but I have stepped away from serving. It is mostly due to moving to a new town and starting a fresh chapter in my life. Yet, there was a part of me that was burnt out and tired, too close to gain the needed perspective. So, as I am finding my feet in my new old-hometown, I have taken a break from serving.

I loved being a youth leader. I loved getting to see teenagers experience the Holy Spirit for the first time (it still makes me weep thinking about it). I loved getting to shepherd their new passion in whatever small amount I could. I prayed and desired for those nights where there was a lack of self-consciousness and those young people would just start singing and dancing, hungry to experience God. I became obsessed with those moments. They fed me and sustained me and I thought that was what a healthy faith looked like. I was blind to my error.

 

I had a revelation as I was praying in group prayer before a particular youth service started – I believe I actually had it before, but it was in this moment that it solidified in my spirit and so my memory keeps it there. As we were coming together I remember it dawning on me that faith is a private thing; that our individual faithwalks are a private thing.

Our faith, and thus relationship with God, is one of the most intimate, private things that exists in this world. I understood this as an idea,  abstractly without much meaning. When I realized it deeply, I had an immense shifting in the projection of my thoughts and beliefs. It suddenly wasn’t about the great Instagram pictures, deep Facebook posts, or the blog with the most followers. Faith was the exclusive relationship between me and God . . . suddenly everything else faded to black except for me and Jesus.

As I have continued with my sabbatical from serving, I have truly come to treasure the private tending of my faith. It has become much more about going to God with the things that are troubling me and truly desiring to know Him rather than being constantly worried about the newest advice I can share with young people. It has become a tender, sweet, ever victorious relationship rather than a mindset where victories are only ever recognized in the outward manifestation of multiple people.

Like I said, this is not a new thing. And looking over the past now, I wish I would have realized it so much sooner but, if you take anything away from what I am sharing today, just know that God isn’t interested in the newest craze, the perfect photo, or the most resounding quote. He is interested in knowing you for the sake of knowing you. He wants to talk to you and help you when you need help.

It is a simple concept, but for me, it is the action of shifting from a public faithwalk to a private one that has made a world of difference to me.    

 

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As one of the founders of Share Her Story, Sarah has been around since the beginning. Watching the vision grow and seeing the creative team begin to multiple has been a highlight for her over two past years. As the writer, Sarah has written all the content for the site and every  Women of Interest feature, so far, for each project. “Encouraging others with my writing is the best way, I can see, to use the talents God has given me.”

 



“Never Meant to Fit In”

A while back I saw this meme.

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I spent a great deal of my life being able to relate to this picture and its caption. I would shrug off the feeling of rejection and of feeling out of place by saying I was a “tomboy” and “guys were just easier/more relaxed to hang around. Women were backstabbing and backbiting and I just didn’t want the drama.” But, I have honestly come to realize how invaluable having other women in my life is.

There is so much to be said about having women around me who are so in tune with Holy Spirit that they encourage me when I need encouraging and speak truth to me when I need truth (whether I want to hear it or not).

I have also come to realize that a lot of the reason I have had such a hard time fitting in with other women is because I was never meant to!

The way we were created different from our spouses to compliment them is the same way we were created differently to compliment our friends and those around us. We all have something unique to bring to the table that is worthy to be celebrated. Some of us are bubbly and loud and some of us are more reserved. Some of us can read a room and some of us can lead the room. Our differences don’t make us invalid, they make us invaluable.
The enemy knows that if he can cause division among us then it’ll be less work for him. He can just sit back and watch us devour each other. I also think the enemy knows that women who are unified, secure in who Christ made them to be, and encourage others in the personhood that Christ has placed in them, are a force to be reckoned with. And he don’t want none of that!

The enemy convinces us that we aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, or just plain ENOUGH to be accepted. In turn, we judge others – women we don’t know – because we didn’t take the time to. So the cycle goes on.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to give each other a chance. Be vulnerable. You don’t have to give them your credit card, just a hello – maybe a little conversation. “How’s your day?” “How’s your family?” You would be amazed at what you have in common with the people you least expect!

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Maggie was raised a city girl, but had dreams of living in the country. By divine intervention she ended up in Huntsville area and finds it to be the best of both worlds! Doing hair since she was 21, Maggie loves making people feel good about themselves and helping them to see the beauty they possess. Her prayer is to bring the peace of Jesus everywhere she goes and that this leads other women to feel comfortable in their own skin and with who God created them to be!

 



Sarah’s Thoughts

“Climbing Despite the Gripping”

I needed a respite; my lungs were burning with the fire of overuse. I needed a respite because I knew if nothing changed I would break . . .

Life will eventually bring you to a place that is outside your ability, your capacity, your intelligence. It brings you to a place where there’s this huge mass in front of you and you don’t know how to get around it. In Christian culture, we call it “the mountain.” There are a slew of verses throughout the new and old testament that allude to this metaphor. So, as a Christian you understand how to handle it. You know exactly what to do.

But actually climbing the mountain, whew boy, that is another thing entirely. I was recently at this point in my life where I was standing at the base of a huge mountain.

I have never in my life dealt with anxiety. I have dealt with fear, especially younger, but nothing like what I experienced a few weeks ago. Everything was clouded and dark. I felt an oppressive weight cling to my shoulders as I stood under the overwhelming presence of that crag.

I used all my favorite de-stressors. I deep cleaned the house. I tried to emerge myself in a new mini-series. I ate. Nothing changed. The deep, oppressive fog would not lift. I prayed, but in the way you pray at night before bed – quietly, quickly, and with little sense of urgency. Finally, on the third day it dawned on me – I needed to battle, I needed to war, I needed to actively, passionately speak into existence the faith I have been developing my whole life. I needed to start climbing.  

And so I did. I found Psalms 91, one of my favorite passages, and spoke it aloud over and over again. First with tears, and then later with boldness. I got angry at this anxiety that had ripped away my peace and deep knowledge of whose I am. I spoke with authority and told my emotions and mind to line up to the Word. I came boldly to the Throne of my King and asked for Him to move on my behalf – not that He had forgotten to, but to remind myself of who He is and realign with His covering.  

It was messy and hard with tears and anger and everything in between. There were moments I had regained my sense of peace and I would reach a plateau, but then I would slip and I have to start climbing once again to regain that ground. Eventually, because God is good and He listens to the prayers of His children, I stood atop my mountain of anxiety.

I regained my peace and sense of identity – I am His daughter and nothing on earth would ever remove me from His grace and favor. But it was difficult.

I am still in this new place in life; I am still on this bigger mountain where what I am learning is hard and goes against my natural tendencies. However, the Lord brought me here. This I know beyond a shadow of a doubt. And so, when anxiety begins to creep in, I know how to face it – head on.

There are still many moments that make me afraid because they are so new, but I have decided to not let fear play a factor. I do these things in spite of the fear because, “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” I have made the resolute decision to climb on.

Eventually, I will make it to the top and stand in complete victory over this season in my life. Basking in the sun of God’s promises and faithfulness in all things. However, until that time comes, my hands and feet with be bloody and sore. It will be uncomfortable, but not unworth it.

I have grown thankful for my mountain. Because, it is in my most difficult seasons that God’s faithfulness, grace, unconditional love are on full display.

Be encouraged today. The mountains in our lives are for our development. They are to teach us victory. Whatever mountain you are facing today, decide to start climbing. Use the tools God has given you in his Word. Put your faith in practice no matter how difficult it may be.

Decide to start climbing. Victory is within your grasp.

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As one of the founders of Share Her Story, Sarah has been around since the beginning. Watching the vision grow and seeing the creative team begin to multiple has been a highlight for her over two past years. As the writer, Sarah has written all the content for the site and every  Women of Interest feature, so far, for each project. “Encouraging others with my writing is the best way, I can see, to use the talents God has given me.”

 



“Loved to Life”

You should know that I wanted to write something feel-good for you. When I heard the phrase in my heart, “Loved to Life”, I thought about all the sweet things that God does to breathe life into us on a regular basis; I hear them called “love notes” and “God winks”. Whatever you call them, it’s all the same God-shaped love showing up in the midst of ordinary moments with extraordinary things.  Each event with details unfolding in such a way that you know God has had His fingerprints all over it. It’s breathtaking to see the Creator of the Cosmos meeting you where you are in the form of a dream at night that brings comfort and confirmation, a kind word from a stranger that’s right on time, or a text from a friend that revives and affirms your soul enough to get through the week. Those are all spectacular, God-love things, but not what Father God was meaning when “Loved to Life” was spoken to my heart.

Have you ever been through a season where God decides it’s time to do an overhaul in your life? I’m talking about the kind of situation where God has decided it’s time to take a stroll with you through the dark and dusty corners of your heart and matter-of-factly declares, “It’s about time we flip the lights on in here, girl.” Can I just tell you that God is not afraid of your “Do Not Enter” signs? Did you know that the Bible says that “darkness is as light to Him”? He is not intimidated by your darkened corners. He is not allergic to the dust that He is so readily about to kick up in you, body, spirit, and soul, when He takes your hand and lovingly walks you into Overhaul Season.

This season of life has landed me in just such a place where I am running headlong into God, having Him restore me to my heavenly factory settings. I am smack-dab in the middle of a reset, coming into who God designed me to be, not what this life has taught me to become. It almost sounds warm and fuzzy, until you’re walking along with God and you realize the darkness isn’t “as light” to you like it is to Him. Things are a hot mess in that pitch blackness; you can’t see anything, but you turned those lights off for a reason, remember? You said you’d never go back there with a “thank you very much” and a “good riddance” as you gladly slammed the door on a lot of painful, ugly things. Now, here God is, dusting off old door knobs.

Have you ever had a body part “fall asleep” before? The numbness may be bad, but the waking up is worse! That burning, tingling awful doesn’t seem to match up with the dead-to-the-world-nothingness you felt only moments before. All that agony is actually your body bringing life back into an otherwise dying appendage. Numbness means there’s something being cut off, and is a great indicator that a flow needs to be restored somewhere to keep things from being permanently damaged or destroyed. God’s overhaul can feel a lot like that. He starts breathing life and bringing light to the numbed areas as only True Love can, and the pain begins to bubble up like a science experiment gone wrong. What is this, anyway? It’s that God-Love coming to resuscitate what the enemy meant to amputate.

What I thought couldn’t be revived in me is slowly being restored; in His way, His terms, His timing. I knew I wanted wholeness, but when this pilgrimage began I wanted it my way. My flesh so desperately desired to “fix and be fixed” I would’ve manipulated God to get my answers and get them quickly (don’t think I didn’t try). God is so good at instantaneous, but He knows that most of us find His love best in the process. The process is where we discover that He is as good and trustworthy as the Bible tells us He is. That step-by-step, inch-by-inch healing is where we see our perfectionism and self-hatred die because His grace is pouring out over us like oil, intermingling with our mess and cleansing our wounds faster than we can say “Hallelujah”. I didn’t ask for the process, but this God of Love knows exactly what I need to get the “life more abundant” that Jesus talked about while He walked this  earth. So He walks me through the shadows and starts digging up old favorites, like rejection and shame, and begins rewriting His truths over all my longstanding lies. It turns out the locked doors weren’t really keeping anything locked up except me.

Dying to self means letting Him have His way in all that is  fallen and rotten about me to make a harvest. Dying to self does NOT mean me killing off parts or hiding pieces I don’t like to save face. There’s no redemption in the storyline where I pretty up my problems or try to bypass God so I can “fix what’s broken”. If God’s knocking on heart doors and we’re shooing Him away from all those less-than-perfect places (I’m really good at shooing) or putting timelines on what He’s trying to do, we can call ourselves living but He knows we’re really only dead gals walking. He wants us to let Him love us to life; taking all the weird, ugly ashes we’re willing to hand over and trusting Him to really, truly make beauty out of every last speck. He isn’t joking when He says He won’t leave you where He found you; He resurrected dead Lazarus, He is certainly plotting to manifest His resurrection power in you and me. If we’re in Him, He’s taking us amazing places (read Jeremiah 29:11 if you don’t believe me) and all our old shame and regrets aren’t invited; turns out they just weigh us down and ruin a perfectly good time.

Maybe this is what it means to be a new creation in Christ: His cross saved us, and it’s that same love that goes on to resurrect, redeem, and restore us after we say “I do” to our wonderful Savior; perhaps the most alive life we can get in Christ might really begin where the credits would normally start to roll.  No matter how I beg Him to, He’s not interested in band-aids that cover up, patches that smooth over, or quick fixes to hide the pain. If anything, He seems more like a gardener digging up deep-rooted weeds than a general practitioner writing prescriptions for the symptoms. It looks ugly from the outside, it feels ugly on the inside, but one day you take a breather from all that digging you’ve done with Him and you realize you feel more alive than you did before. You look around and what you see takes your breath away: you knew He was weeding out all the bad, but when did He find time to prune all the good? That’s God, for you; you thought He was hacking away the mess, and then you wake up to find He was always more interested in nurturing, cultivating, and communing with all the life He’s put inside of you. He is truly good in the ways that we need Him to be. With Him there is no shadow or turning, and no question: stick with Him, and you’re in for the resurrection of your life.

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Ashley is a caffeinated, Jesus-loving creative living and working in the heart of Dixie. She enjoys meaning conversation, thoughtful reading, and brownies are her kryptonite.

 



Sarah’s Thoughts

“The Driving Force Behind Share Her Story”

Share Her Story is now entering its second year and we have grown so much. It has definitely been a learning curve, especially with both me and our other co-founder, Cayla, moving to two different states within a 30-day span. Olivia, our secret weapon AND super-star, has taken on the responsibility of planning, organizing, and executing our Projects with such passion and grace. Honestly, Share Her Story would not exist with my beautiful, kindhearted, bold friend. Thank you Olivia for catching the flame and carrying the torch while I am now a permanent 525 miles away.

Our vision continues to become both more defined and expansive, as we become better at loving on women around us, and continually search for the ways to have a farther, louder exclamation of who Jesus is and what He is doing in our lives and the lives around us.

Like anything new and difficult, I have had my moments of doubt about the impact that Share Her Story really has; even more so now, because I am unable to meet with our ladies in person and be there as they share their stories while experiencing the fun of photo-shoot day and the encouraging that comes with our Preview Nights. Olivia, has kept the negative at bay when she calls me and tells me how the Interviews and Photo-shoots go and about the smiles and words of love these ladies express throughout their time with us.

And so, to start off our new year of beautiful, fierce ladies and all the new content we aim to provide, I thought I would explain my driving force in wanting to start Share Her Story.

For those that have met me in person, it’s not hard to tell I am different from the crowd. At a staggering 4’7”, my stature has been a long journey of acceptance that the Lord has brought me through. I have a rare form of dwarfism called Hypochondroplasia. Not surprisingly, I had a lot of self-rejection and body-conscious issues growing up. When I was 21, the Lord brought me to the starting point in my journey towards body-acceptance, love, and confidence. While I still struggle with my moments of weakness and doubt (like any other woman), I can stand before you now, at 28, and proudly proclaim I love who I am and how the Lord created me like no one else!

I grew up in church, but gave my life to the Lord at 21. I spent the most influential years of my Christianity in the current church landscape. I don’t regret a moment of it. However, what it created in me was this understanding that, in order for me to share the amazing things the Lord had brought me through, in the most impactful way, I would need a platform like Lisa Bevere, Christine Cain, or Havilah Cunnington to get my story out. But sadly, I do not have this status.

Then I realized that very few women do, in fact. There is just a handful that truly have this gigantic and international scope of influence. So, I began to think about the women that don’t work in the church nor have aspirations to have a typical ministerial position (such as myself).

As I dug deeper I realized the women who have impacted me the most do not have the platform that I thought I needed for myself. Then it clicked. Women in all walks of life have something to share, words of wisdom, and life lessons that can save someone else from heartache.

I realized then and there, we need to stop looking to the all-stars of the Christian culture to find our inspiration, teachings, and encouragement.  We need to look to the women right beside us, the ones that are waiting to be recognized and heard – just like we are!

Share Her Story was created to be an avenue for women who work 8-5’s, as coffee baristas, or as stay at home moms to feel heard, seen and recognized. Revelation 12:11 tells us, “They overcame by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimonies.” It is extremely important to continue to share what the Lord has done and continues to do in each of our lives.

I am driven to help women recognize the beauty and strength that lies within them. We all have wisdom to share and we all, on some level, desire to give it to others. Share Her Story was created to facilitate that; to fight against the mindset that we are one mass and instead highlight the individuality of each woman and how God crafts our stories. While we honor the complex and intertwining beauty that is each woman, we bring glory to Him in our drive to bring unity, love and encouragement to the women around us.    

Share Her Story is changing in some of the ways we structure content and the release of each woman’s story, but our passion, heart, and vision are staying the same.

I pray you continue to follow what we are doing and help us share what the Lord is doing in each of these wonderful ladies’ lives. I am excited about what we are going to be doing and know this year is going to be fantastic!

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As one of the founders of Share Her Story, Sarah has been around since the beginning. Watching the vision grow and seeing the creative team begin to multiple has been a highlight for her over two past years. As the writer, Sarah has written all the content for the site and every  Women of Interest feature, so far, for each project. “Encouraging others with my writing is the best way, I can see, to use the talents God has given me.”

 



“Overriding My Passion”

Growing up I was often described by those that know me best, as outspoken, passionate, and sometimes even dramatic.  I am not the quietest and most meek of women. I also have a difficult time withholding the truth from people, so I tend to speak with realness and truth…some might call that bluntness.  I have often been told I am intimidating and carry a presence of confidence with me that makes women (and men) scared of me. Those things are the last two things I want people to see or pick up on when interacting with me.  Confidence has been a journey for me and I have never gotten to the point of being fully confident in myself. Although, by His amazing grace, I have gotten to the point of complete confidence in God, which makes it so much easier to surrender myself over to Him day after day.  I have learned that is the only way I function at my best…when He has all of me. The times I don’t surrender all of me, are the times when conflict comes.

As a child and young woman, (just like anyone else) I had a process to dealing with conflict or just relational issues in general.  For example, my mom and dad always impressed upon the importance of Ephesians 4:26-27, which says “’Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”  I understood early on, why this was important. This is not only talking about going to bed angry, but letting time pass in anger. Staying in your anger towards someone or something, leaves the door open for the enemy to inject other feelings and emotions into the equation. So staying angry even as a child was something I was very conscious and aware of.

As a teenager, it was not that I would stay angry for long but rather that I was quick with my words and passionate about my message.  I found that conflict would escalate quickly, because of my passion, not to mention my unbridled issue with lack of humility. The older I got and the more I experienced in life, the more I became a expert in the subject…whatever subject that may be.  I knew it all and had been through it all, or so I thought. I mean good grief, by the time I was 21 years old, I had given birth to my first child, bought first house, bought my first car, and was battling a very unstable and volatile marriage to a alcoholic and drug addict.  It was not long before I was a single mom, putting myself through night school. It was due to what I was accomplishing through such a turbulent and volatile season in my life, that I thought I was expert on every subject. When talking to other women in similar positions, I began to take this “put on your big girl panties” approach.  This was the beginning of my passion overriding my compassion. If other women I encountered were not performing from a standpoint of victory or “I can do this”, it would eat me up. Often, as a result, the more passionate I was on subjects, the more I would intimidate or blur over my intended message. One of the hardest things for me in life, has been learning how to balance my passion and compassion.

Experiencing the cross, brought me to a whole new subject matter.  It has been a game changer. Understanding the cross, has made me a completely new person.  I am madly in love with a compassionate God. Although now, there is the issue of my passion for God overwhelming my delivery of compassion for people.  The more He reveals to me, the more passionate I get about the freedom that comes with that revelation. Each time, I experience a whole new level of freedom and want to share that with others.  The balance of allowing God to tame the passion and provide the compassion is an intense process. The times that I have realized the passionate message I am trying to get across has resulted in hurt for that person, has brought me to tears.  It absolutely breaks my heart to know that the result can go against every one of my intentions of building them up and encouraging them to be the strong woman I know they can be.

When I fell in love with Jesus, His passions very quickly became my passions.  His compassion on the other hand, has been a bit of a challenge to obtain. I had to learn that without an understanding of His love and compassion towards me, I had an underlining competition with others, a fear of rejection or an offense that would come in.  There was a serious fear of man. My fear of living up to man’s standards and even my own standards, was greater to me, than living up to God’s standards. I realized I was not developing deep, lasting and meaningful relationships because my perspective of others, is mirrored by my perspective of myself.  I was looking at others through the same lens that I was looking at myself with.

God wanted me to see myself through a completely different lens…a heavenly lens.  He wanted me to operate from this lens of grace and love with every word I spoke and every action I took.  God wanted me to see myself how He sees me…with a heavenly perspective. I realized that if my words for myself are not laced with compassion, love and grace then it defeats every point of the cross. It is the love and grace that Christ brought to the cross that empowers us to walk from wholeness, speak from wholeness and operate from a standpoint of wholeness….to operate from HOLINESS.  

One morning He began to speak to me about His creation.  He told me that when He created me, He simultaneously created His Kingdom purpose in me and that is what He sees in me.  He then revealed that this applies to all His children and this is how I am to look at His children…my brothers and sisters in Christ.  To also keep in mind, our life is a journey of Him molding and shaping us to expose that Kingdom purpose.

He wants our words for others, to begin to peel away at the layers of the shell that contains this Kingdom purpose.  Our words, should build up and edify others to shed that old skin and reveal the new. Because the enemy loves to inject that underlining competition with others, that fear of rejection or that offense anywhere he can with women, it is important that we be very intentional with our words.  We also have to be willing to receive reproof. The Bible says in Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.”  I know what your thinking…”OH, well since the Bible says my friend, who did not accept my wisdom is stupid, let me just give her a call and tell her that even the Bible says she is stupid!”  No my dear, that is not the case. It also says in a couple of chapters later, (in Proverbs 15: 1) “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but hard words stir up anger.”

In Philippians, Paul points out that Euodia and Syntyche (sisters in the church) who found it difficult to love each other, needed “to settle their disagreement and be restored with one mind in our Lord” (Philippians 4:2-3).  To get our point across, our words should not always be disguised in tough shell of passion and urgency but laced with love and compassion for our sister’s growth. While some of our relationships are awesome, refreshing and challenging, often times there are those that are difficult, exhausting, stretching and sometimes even draining.  It is in those difficult moments, even moments of conflict, that we are to put on the spectacles of God and look through His lens. It is only through those lens, that our passion for the subject no longer overrides our compassion His people. It is through those lens, we obtain balance of the passion and compassion of Christ.

Alice Brown

Alice is a daughter of the King, wife of almost 10 years, mother of a 18 year old, 8 year old and 3 year old…oh and 2 Great Danes.  Coupled with homeschooling her children, she is currently in her last year at West Coast Bible College and Seminary. She was one of five girls who grew up in Christian home. She is passionate about helping people to understand God’s heart for them, grow in their intimacy with Him and give beyond themselves. In specific, her heart is to show women they can walk in freedom and the empowerment through Holy Spirit, towards a life of success and not defeat.  She enjoys studying the Word of God, journaling and writing for her blog:  http://www.straightenmycrown.com.