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C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 1 - JULY 2015

WHAT IF YOU DARE TO LIVE, AS YOU ARE?

P.03 LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER “Our greatest offering is trusting we truly are Enough and God will cast beauty across the stormiest moments of our lives . . .”

P.13 INTERVIEW EMILY DEAN

OF VERITY VAREÉ “It’s a really freeing beautiful thing to let people see a little beauty in the brokenness.”

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P.19 GRITTY GRACE STORY “I’ve often wondered, how does one give thanks in the midst of war?”


C’est La Vie: THE MAGAZINE

C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 1 - JULY 2015

Raw life. Real worship. Life, as it is.

Amy Hunt FOUNDER + VISION LEADER (Brain, Soul and Heartbeat)

MELISSA ALDRICH VISION FACILITATOR (Spine, Hands and Feet)

CHELLE WILSON VISION GROUNDER (Spirit, Dancing and Voice)

PG 02 ... MELISSA ALDRICH

PG 17 ... AMIA FREEMAN

PG 03 ... AMY HUNT

PG 19 ... TAMMY HENDREICKSMEYER

Enough

As You Are

Letter from the Founder

On Why You Need to Forgive Yourself Gritty Grace Story

PG 05 ... CHELLE WILSON

PG 21 ... DANIELLE ROGERS

Outside

Stained-glass Dreams

PG 07 ... JESSICA LEIGH HOOVER

PG 23 ... CHERI + MATT APPLING

Learning to Love the Friends You Never Wanted

PG 09 ... CLARESA SMITH

The Frustration of a Life Lived Impatiently

PG 11 ... PAULA GAMBLE

A Boy and a Balloon: Gratitude and Grace on the Playground

PG 13 ... EMILY DEAN

The Fight for Life: Suffering and Living

PG 25 ... LISHA EPPERSON

How Letting Down Walls Lets Us See the Love of Jesus Belonging

PG 27 ... MELANIE SELF

Beauty Redefined: Verity Vareé

PG 29 ... HOLLY GRANTHAM And the World Pulses On

mission

A sprawling declaration of real worship through raw, gritty, undisputed, fully-human storytelling, C’est La Vie: The Magazine celebrates no-limits grace that frees and unleashes all of us to unwrap life, as it is . . . and ourselves, as we are.

Connect with C’est La Vie: The Magazine Facebook | E-Mail 01

Layout and creative design by the masterful Heather M Schiefer


C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 1 - JULY 2015

Enough

But, God . . . the God of the whole universe who lives in you, is far more than enough. You, my friend, were never meant to bear the weight of enough.  It is His job to be enough for everyone, not ours.  Our job is to love Him and love others. And while God is enough on His own, He looks down on me and sees enough.

“IT IS HIS JOB TO BE ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE, NOT OURS.”

I bear His righteousness, His perfectness, His enough-ness. The God of the Universe looks down at me and sees enough.  The God Who died for me, the God Who lives in me, sees me as enough. I am not an orphan begging for the attention and approval of those around me. I am the beloved daughter who can rest in her position as heir to the Kingdom of God.  We are the children of the Most High King, even though we shake our head and cower in shame for failing to live this way.  Today I raise my hands in repentance and whisper, “Your opinion, Oh God, is Enough.”

MELISSA ALDRICH

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Might we remind each other of His truth and make it our Daily Bread.

et me make a confession:

I have been in bondage to what you have thought of me all my life. I hear this little chant when anyone comes near to my heart and it goes like this.

“You’re never going to be good enough. Never, no, never. You’re never going to be good enough.” I’ve measured others on how well I think we’ll connect, and I’ve tried hard not to speak to anyone who might hurt me by being less than pleased. I’ve left middle school dances, high school choir performances, college backpacking trips, small groups, and mom-attended play dates melted into a puddle of failed-to-measure-up-again tears.

HERE’S THE TRUTH, FELLOW PEOPLE PLEASERS:

MELISSA ALDRICH VISION FACILITATOR (Spine, Hands, Feet)

WE WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH. 

Melissa Aldrich rarely has it all together, but she knows the One who does. She encourages others (admittedly mostly herself) to see the mess in daily life as real, beautiful grace. With three children born within 25 months, including a set of twins, there’s a lot of mess in her life that needs to be viewed with grace. Melissa is a wife, disordered housekeeper, sometimes writer, dreamer, and Greenville, SC Newborn Photographer.

Someone will always make the crinkly nose face when we tell the story of what really happened at home that day . . . Someone will inevitably tell us we did something wrong, or we’re actively doing something wrong . . . Someone will tell us, once again -- we’re not enough.

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C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 1 - JULY 2015

“There is grace for my imperfections. More than that, there is purpose for them.”

Letter from the Founder AMY HUNT

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closest friends might think. She stood alone and misunderstood, feeling guilty, yet hopeful her hard choice to get her son the real deep help he needed would be more beneficial for all.

unshine is streaming through the window of the coffee shop where I sit and sip a Chai Latte. A baby girl probably no more than a year old is smiling, drooling, and making a mess of the chair she grasps ahold of as she babbles happily. Her mother scowls and apologizes to me for her daughter’s shouts. I see only beauty.

She now sees the improvement in her son and trusts his going away was a good choice, though she feels heat rise within her and sweat start to bead up as she thinks of him coming home for the summer. She doesn’t care so much what people think of her choices these days. She needs people to be with, to laugh and to cry. She needs the freedom that comes from simply being as she is, raw and even a bit resistant for life beyond now.

As I write, I notice the roundness of my belly and I pause to stare at the movement caused by the baby tucked within me. This, too, is a thing of beauty and I smile noticing myself receive it. The journey to arriving at this moment has been long and painful. Accepting its length and the condition of my weathered heart throughout the waiting, I now accept what is – the whole of the story, even though it isn’t how I would have had it.

“THIS IS LIFE, AS IT IS.

Listening to the baby girl blabber across from me, I am captivated by the pink flowers on the tree just on the other side of the glass pane. A couple hundred miles away, my family sees snow covering the ground while spring makes herself known where I am.

I CAN BE AFRAID OF IT, ASHAMED OF IT, AND ANGRY ABOUT IT. OR I CAN SIMPLY EMBRACE IT AND TRUST THAT

GOD’S GOT IT.”

I think of the whiteness and richness of this community where I sit and sip this cuppa. A good friend of mine from Montclair, NJ wouldn’t blend in easily in this place. The pain of the woman who I shared breakfast with this morning can hide among those who look like her and her real life can be somewhat invisible, while this friend of mine and her different reminds me that some things can’t be ignored.

My friend and I talk about differences of perspective as it relates to her black and my white skin. We Go There in our conversation, both of us broken. I can’t fix the world, or the woman I met for breakfast and her fragile adopted son, or the worries that my friend carries for her own son just because he is brown-skinned and not white like mine.

Business trips are a part of my regular life and as much as it hurts to be so far away from my loves, we have learned to accept this life, as it is. In the accepting, I have developed an ability to see in new ways. Contentment has overwhelmed me; this is truly the work of God. In between meetings, I sit and soak up the sights, savoring the solitude and simply sit still instead of scurrying about to fill time and allow myself to be bossed around by all I “should” do.

We all have something that leaves wide, gaping holes in our hearts where we crave to be made whole. None of us is any better than another and I constantly remind myself of this truth when I am tempted to compare my story with hers. We all ache to be healed and to see beauty where there is brokenness.

I think of the breakfast meeting that I had with the woman who finally shared some of her pain with me; how her eldest son – just one year older than my own – is living across country to attend a behavioral school for mostly internationally adopted children struggling with the things that often accompany adoption.

This is life, as it is. I can be afraid of it, ashamed of it, and angry about it. Or I can simply embrace it and trust that God’s got it. I’ve wrestled long and hard, fighting to live with such intensity to prove my worthiness, only to crumble in a heap of exhaustion. As it turns out,

When I saw this woman last fall she was tight-lipped and turtle-shelled about her choices, embarrassed, ashamed, and afraid of what even her

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C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 1 - JULY 2015

muscles weren’t meant to stay constricted so tightly. Life is about the ups and downs that makes a heartbeat.

embraces men and women who are willing to go there . . . every one willing to share their raw, real stories.

I tested whether God is real by finally giving in to who I am and accepting my life, as He allows it to be. I realized that no matter what I did, I couldn’t fix all the wrong. I was tired of feeling not good enough.

C’est La Vie speaks to those who quietly long to be superheroes, yet who quietly wonder if they are enough, and who God says: “You. Already. Are.”

What I found is safety. I am held and treasured, as I am.Sloppy. Careless. Inconsistent.

A sprawling declaration of real worship through raw, gritty, undisputed, fully-human storytelling, C’est La Vie: The Magazine celebrates no-limits grace that frees and unleashes all of us to unwrap life, as it is . . . and ourselves, as we are.

S t i l l , I a m loved . A s. I. A m . We a l l a re. I was chosen to be the mother to the specific boy-men who God created. They are two people I will likely learn much more from than I could ever teach them. I learn more about Who God is, and what love is from the hard trudge through the everyday moments with these people.

This here is a collection of stories by writers choosing to accept a new definition of strong -- by living real and raw, as they are.

THIS IS OUR OFFERING OF TRUST THAT WE TRULY ARE ENOUGH AND THAT GOD WILL CAST BEAUTY ACROSS THE STORMIEST MOMENTS OF OUR LIVES, EVEN IN THE WHIRL AND TWIRL OF THE STORM OR THE MIDDLE OF THE MIST.

The lessons aren’t about my performance as their mother and how I love them, so much as they are about me being Good Enough, as. I. am. There is grace for my imperfections. More than that, there is purpose for them. I am learning an important lesson: it isn’t all about me. In the process of being the imperfect mother to these children, I get the opportunity to see God’s strength move when I am weak. I can trust God will use whatever issues my sons might have in their lives and whatever choices they make to draw them to His heart.

I’ve chosen to accept myself and others as complicated, mistake-prone humans. I’ve chosen to live by faith and not by the attention from others. I am leaning into grace for all of us.

I can trust beauty will bloom . . . even in the midst of my own brokenness.

When we give ourselves and each other permission to simply and fully be, we live as the Warrior who He called us to be.

There is a lot of growing to be had and discoveries to be made, though I have seen God’s faithfulness and I can trust He will continue to lead me – and all of us – in His time and in His ways. When we’re so afraid of what the other person might think about us and we act out in anger or shame, we are not reflecting trust in the One who created us. I have a passion for seeing men and women released from fear and set free to live their real lives, as they are. C’est La Vie: The Magazine is a vision I tried to resist and nearly missed out on being a part of, yet in spite of all my try-hard couldn’t shake. Focusing on the process God’s redeeming love uses to cast radiant beauty across the canvas of our sometimes messy and complicated souls, C’est La Vie provides a steady drip of truth. Each story serves as an offering, elevating the everyday miracles, and featuring writers who reflect on the process God uses in making, sifting, and editing His art through the tornado-like moments of life. C’est La Vie is meant to be sipped and savored, cut-apart, and to inspire. Gritty story writers speak directly of redemption and grace in the midst of chaos and confusion, tackling the question:

AMY HUNT FOUNDER AND VISIONARY (Brain, Soul, Heartbeat)

What are you learning about Him now, in the midst . . . while this story is unfinished and incomplete?

A God-sized dreamy-ideas girl, Amy is passionate about seeing and declaring Real worship lived out. She lives in Central New York with her groom and their two Boy-Men who constantly remind her that she is accepted and beloved, as she is. An early-morning riser, Amy is a self-professed “sky-adorer” and runs hills simply for the view. A mess constantly in need of grace, Amy trusts all is purposed and continues to chase hope in spite of the risk.

C’est La Vie: The Magazine reminds us that grace and redemption is an everyday thing and our greatest offering is to unwrap the grace to simply be -- as. we. are. Talking about all issues surrounding race and gender, C’est La Vie

Follow Amy.

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C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 1 - JULY 2015

“I HAVE COME TO KNOW AND LOVE THE OUTSIDERS; THEY FORM MY TRIBE.”

Outside

CHELLE WILSON

I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!, and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth —  everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. ”

take long, however, for me to appreciate the power of community -an environment where I could encourage and be encouraged, where I could learn, share, and grow. I wandered into and out of a lot of different spaces until I found my tribe. What I found is a limited desire for all of us to seek out the God in each of us. I found more inadvertent affinity groups and less diversity of every kind than makes me comfortable.

(Isaiah 43:6-7, NIV)

It seemed to take me forever to find my people, those who embraced God first and then one another, almost blindly, in Christian Love. I was so shocked at first I didn’t trust it. Almost two years later, I am still there. Why did this community work? Well, it reflects who I am.   

I

have accepted that I exist on the Outside. This acceptance has been a thoughtful process, and as the old spiritual goes, “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey.”

Who am I? I am an (African) American woman. I believe in love and Christian marriage, having married my first love more than 20 years ago. I believe in family. We are fortunate to have brought forth and raised two extraordinary people (our daughter and son) who changed our lives and will change the world. I am a member of the sandwich generation. At 51, I have a living mother and grandmother, and though my father died many years ago, he (dad, educator, theologian, pastor) still looms large and hovers close, as his guiding spirit informs my writing. (Daddy, even now, I measure words with you in mind.)

Though I exist Outside, I know I have never been alone. I have come to know and love the Outsiders; they form my tribe. I had the blessing of fellowship with a writer friend of mine by phone the other day. Writing is an outsider’s job. No matter how social you are, it is the drawing away and observation from a distant perspective; developing the capacity to be comfortably alone with yourself in the quiet . . . accepting things come together in your mind and then out in words when you are alone, set apart, outside of the circle.

Who am I? I am flawed, frail, and fragile, but made in the Perfect Image of God.

But about fellowship with my sister, she also exists Outside. We’ve had numerous conversations about the communion, or lack thereof, of Christian women who write. Some of us come together, though she and I, and so many more, are continually challenged by the homogeneity of it all.

I am everybody, aren’t I? It occurs to me that God is our mirror. This is part of what my sister-scribe and I wrestled with when we spoke. We are made in the image of God. Each of us.

I’ve often wondered about the sameness of Christianity. What is it in a post racial, multi-generational, globalized modern America that keeps us apart when we worship?

Wikipedia defines Mirror as something which “reflects light or sound in a way that preserves much of its original.” 

I scan the writing landscape, and seldom see myself staring back. When I began writing, I did so in isolation. (Don’t we all?) It didn’t

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PERHAPS OUTSIDE IS THE PLACE BIG ENOUGH TO ACCOMMODATE ALL OF GOD’S CHILDREN.

ALL OF US.


C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 1 - JULY 2015

I can now appreciate something my dad taught me so long ago:

WH AT IS I T IN A P OS T R ACI A L , MULT I - G ENER AT ION A L , G LOB A L IZED MO DER N A MER I C A TH AT K EEP S US APA RT W HEN W E

Whenever you are exclusive, by nature you keep out more than you let in. Reflecting on this wise truth gives me great comfort to be on the Outside. Jesus usually spent His time there.

WOR SHIP?

Is Outside where He calls us to gather? According to Pastor Joe McKeever: “As a follower of Jesus Christ, you are not only walking in the footsteps of the Ultimate Outsider but you have been called to a similar way of life. The Lord Jesus “came unto His own and His own received Him not” (John 1:12 KJV). He was an Outsider even in His own place, among His own people, attending His own party. He came to His world and it did not recognize Him.”

Mirrors do not change (nor does God), though what we bring to mirrors (i.e. physically and spiritually) greatly informs the images we see. Our images in the mirror change over time, but The Mirror never will. Believing we were created in the image of God, I declare we are all the same, aren’t we? If this is the truth, why don’t we spend time fellowshipping around what brings us together?

Perhaps Outside is the place big enough to accommodate all of God’s Children. All of us. Maybe I’ll never go in. Would you like to come out and play?

In Isaiah’s words are the command from God to bring “all . . . called by My Name, whom I created for My Glory, whom I formed and made.” Our affinity is that we are His. Matthew Henry explains it this way: “True believers are precious in God's sight, His Delight is in them, above any people. Though they went as through fire and water, yet, while they had God with them, they need fear no evil; they should be born up, and brought out. The faithful are encouraged. They were to be assembled from every quarter. And with this pleasing object in view, the prophet again dissuades from anxious fears.”

“Who am I?

I am flawed, frail, and fragile, but made in the Perfect Image of God.”

Copy Editor. Woman. Wife. Mother. Writer. Liturgical dancer. Tolerater of minimal bull… Bios tell readers who you are. I prefer not to tell; you should know me and decide for yourself. I am contentedly enigmatic, so stay a while if you want to know me. I clutch inherited pearls while tossing my dreadlocks. What’s on my playlist as the rhythm of my soul? Hymns, anthems, jazz AND jazz vespers, hip-hop, Gospel and Gregorian Chants. Vision grounder? Dancers move most assuredly when grounded and aligned. Physics teaches that grounding means lowering your weight center in order for the body to realize greater stability. It is achieved largely through relaxation, or to use a Christian idiom, by way of surrender. When we connect to our Foundation, our movements are powerful. There is strength, balance, lift, and most important, Joy. Grounding, across all areas of my life is not something I have to think about … it is something I am hardwired for ... My gorgeous Boxer taught me so much about Faith, Love, and Trust that I wrote a book about him - Lessons Learned from my Downward Facing Dog: Sermons Preached by Sando. My first love married me nearly 25 years ago, and together with God we have made two beautiful people and a life.

CHELLE WILSON VISION GROUNDER (Spirit, Dance, Voice)

Flannery O’Connor says it best for me: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

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ISSUE 1 - JULY 2015

“WE DONT’ GET TO CHOOSE OUR FRIENDS,

BUT MIGHT GOD GIVE US AS GIFTS TO ONE ANOTHER?”

Learning to Love the Friends You Never Wanted JESSICA LEIGH HOOVER

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wo years ago we moved to a new town. It was a place we wanted to plant roots and for me that meant jumping into the deep end of the pool and finding real, meaningful relationships with other women. I did the brave thing.

with someone who I didn’t really want. Despite the old saying, it seems from God’s perspective you can’t really “choose your friends”. The 1980s were a hot time to name your daughter “Sarah”. I know this because half a dozen of my good friends are named “Sarah,” prompting my three-year old daughter to tell me the other day: “Mama, all your friends are named Sarah”.

I reached out to women I met at library story time. I found a local play group to get involved with where both my daughter and I could make friends. We searched for a church and I plugged in with women there. I knew I needed connections with other women.

I love the Sarahs in my life. They comprise some of my dearest warrior sisters who make me a better wife, mama and woman. That said, not all of my friends are named Sarah. Convenient as it would be to insulate my life with the comfortable company of my Sarahs, I am made for more diversity in my personal relationships.

Friendships with depth require work, vulnerability and pushing through when we want to run.

Some of us bristle at the thought because we’ve been scarred and left half dead by relationships with female friends gone sour. My husband and I have been transient most of our ten year marriage moving between callings and continents and I’ve often used it as an excuse to keep relationships shallow and not push past to the meaty stuff of real life friendships. With this move and stretching our roots to stay awhile I decided I would be all in. I didn’t realize “all in” meant I would make friends

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C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 1 - JULY 2015

While I was busy finding “Sarahs” who love long chats over coffee and Etsy shopping, God was busy placing a handful of women who I just don’t click with in my life. Scattered among my friendships are women who I would not choose.

continuing this very second, of chasing us when we neither wanted Him nor thought we needed Him. There are relationships in our lives where He is calling us to do the same crazy, grace-drenched thing. We don’t get to choose our friends, but might God give us as gifts to one another?

My first instinct when I’ve encountered an acquaintance who rubs me the wrong way has been to block them from Facebook, because we all know we’re not “real” friends until we are Facebook friends these days. Just kidding and guess what? It hasn’t worked. God has brought these people into my up close and personal real life circle again and again.

The friendships we don’t want may actually be opportunities in which we have been invited to invest. For me, that spins the whole scenario on its head. When I look at the women in my life who make me cringe and duck behind another aisle at Target, I am reminded of God’s flat out “no” holding back love for me -- love that doesn’t hide or skimp; instead, it lavishes itself on all the weak and hard places of my heart.

I’m not suggesting that we keep toxic people in our lives. Some people affect our lives so negatively and we need to walk away from them. There are others, though, who I simply find annoying or who have a hyper-opinionated way of communicating. There are women who seem stuck in the seventh grade where their only goal in life is to perpetuate drama, and those who I simply don’t see anything in common with and who, every time I try to carry on a conversation with, I hear virtual crickets.

In his book “Life Together”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.” We all need worn-in, comfy friendships; though, the purpose God has for our relationships isn’t about our likes and dislikes making for a comfortable friendship. More often than not, we are waging a fight for each other’s hearts.

TRUTH IS, IF ANY OF US HANG AROUND ONE ANOTHER LONG ENOUGH THE UGLY RISES TO THE SURFACE.

We press into the hard, we pray into the empty space of our relationships and we watch as God fills those places.

We like to keep the ugly tucked away nice and neat; however, life is messy and we’re messy people and eventually our messiness will come out no matter how much we share a love of Downton Abbey and dark chocolate.

“I DIDN’T REALIZE ‘ALL IN’ MEANT I WOULD MAKE FRIENDS WITH SOMEONE WHO I DIDN’T REALLY WANT.” This is what it means to share life. Our friendships are only as rich as we allow them to be. Friendships with depth require work, vulnerability and pushing through when we want to run. I’ve mulled over why it is God won’t let me get away from a few women who I feel uncomfortable around. I’ve come to the conclusion it is for both them and for me. For a few of these friends I am discouraged and frustrated with their immaturity, pettiness and truthfully, evidence of a real and growing relationship with Christ. If I walk away, if I choose to bolt when I could stay and pursue their friendship, then maybe they’ll never experience the hope and freedom I so frequently claim to walk in. What if I’m God’s tool to set them free? On the other hand, what if they are part of God’s deep work of sanctification in my life?

Jessica Leigh Hoover is a wife, mama, writer and believer that grace is the biggest kind of brave. She currently lives in the hills of Western, North Carolina with her husband and two kiddos. You can find her online at www.jessicaleighhoover.com where she shares tales of life, love, loss, laughter and invites you onto the front porch to do the same.

We don’t learn patience by always being given things in a timely manner. We don’t learn how to walk with someone in the rawness of everyday life if our day to day is always rosy. Virtue is forged in the fire of longsuffering. God pursued us in every possible way. He wrote a story spanning thousands of years, and

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C’EST LA VIE: THE MAGAZINE

ISSUE 1 - JULY 2015

How Letting Down Wa lls Lets Us See the Love of Jesus CLARESA SMITH

It was getting late and I was still at church after evening choir rehearsal. I had my husband nearby and a restless toddler waiting for me. As tired as I was, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything behind. After all, I’d already misplaced my keys, my sneakers, and my child’s dinner earlier that day.

We talked about the joys and pains of motherhood and how God is the only one Who keeps us going. As we were about to part ways, she asked how her family could pray for me. With that one question, I felt tears well up. All I wanted to do was hug her. We hugged as I cried and right there I laid it all out for her.

I glanced at my empty seat, scanned the room, and then I saw her. She greeted me with the biggest smile and immediately asked how I was doing. I wanted to say that I was exhausted . . . thought I looked awful . . . felt too sweaty to be around people . . . and, I dreaded the battle that might ensue trying to put my tired, teething toddler in the car.

That conversation lasted only 15 minutes and it may have been the longest one we’d ever had, though our exchange helped me release the weariness I’d been holding onto for an eternity.

The words never came. All I could muster was a deep sigh. With that one gesture, she could see the weariness all over me. “I know I look tired,” I said. She insisted I didn’t. Trying to redirect the conversation, I asked how she was doing. She said, “Well.” Then she laid it all out for me.

That moment may be a distant memory for her now, though I still hold it close to my heart. It was a moment when I showed her who I was and she showed me Jesus. I saw someone meeting me where I was -without judgment -- and who showed me who she was while showing me love, and giving me nuggets of Godly counsel and wisdom.

I remembered our having a conversation about only asking how someone was doing if you really want to know, suddenly becoming confident I was in good company.

Our conversation together allowed me to see our need to let go of our defenses in order to let others get close to us and see who we truly are.

Letting down the walls is something I must do every time I want to have a real encounter; it’s a chance to let in the love of Jesus.

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“WE SPLINTER AND BREAK WHEN WE TRY TO HOLD UP THE WEIGHT OF OUR WORLDS ALONE.”

“OUR EXCHANGE HELPED ME RELEASE THE WEARINESS I’D BEEN HOLDING ONTO FOR AN ETERNITY.” We have to let go of the pride and the misconceptions keeping us from revealing our struggles, reaching out to a neighbor, or just admitting we need support. Support doesn’t make us weaker; it only makes us stronger. We splinter and break when we try to hold up the weight of our worlds alone. Many of us think being alone is safe because we fear the risks -- the chance we’ll get hurt, have our egos bruised, or become the misfits. Receiving support in true community is the foundation of love. It’s powerful enough to drive out fear, if we let it. It can also show us who we really are, and expose the walls around us. The walls we need to let down.

Letting down the walls is something I must do every time I want to have a real encounter; it’s a chance to let in the love of Jesus. The Love that accepts me as I am, all while calling me to be my best . . .

It wasn’t easy to let down my walls that night at church. The walls that make me walk into a place with people who don’t look like me and feel like an outsider . . .

The Love that lifts my spirits, gives me hope, and helps me carry the heavy loads in life . . .

The walls that would make me see myself as a remedial student among those who knew more about theology, mothering, or anything else I didn’t know backwards and forwards . . .

The Love that reminds me I am part of something bigger than myself, and I matter to those around me. God sent Jesus to die to show us just how loved we really are. He continues to use others to show us that love, wanting us to show that same love to others.

The walls that made me believe I am always the second choice, but the first hurt and rejected.

We can only experience His love most fully when we let down our walls, receive love as its given – even if it’s not as we would have it, and learn to see ourselves as God sees us -- imperfect people who with help, can grow, change and receive the grace, mercy, and forgiveness we need.

ALL I COULD MUSTER WAS A DEEP SIGH.

WITH THAT ONE GESTURE , SHE COULD SEE THE WE ARINESS ALL OVER ME .”

Claresa is an experienced journalist who is the wife of a sciencefiction loving artist and illustrator, and mom to a spirited baby girl. She is committed to finding inspiration for better living, and encouraging others to do the same with her blog. Visit Claresa.

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Belonging

PAULA GAMBLE

“BELONGING IS THE FREEDOM TO BE MYSELF WITH MY FLAWS AND LIMITATIONS AND KNOW THAT GOD ACCEPTS

EVERY

PART OF ME.”

M

ost of us have learned how to make ourselves fit in or at least not stand out as the oddballs in our day-to-day settings. We know how to force a smile and ask about others. We know how to give the quick response or just focus on the positive when really we feel like we may not make it another day. I grew up believing that no one could protect me or keep me safe so I had to fend for myself. I worked hard to make my parents happy by not being a burden, taking care of things, and excelling in school. I lay awake night after night listening to fighting, so afraid something really bad would happen if I fell asleep. I kept secrets and gave my body away, living my life to please others in belief it was the “Christian” way to live. I had lots of friends, yet I felt so utterly alone and unloved. I didn’t think I mattered at all. My only purpose was to sacrifice myself for others.

We ended up being in “the core” of a very unhealthy, controlling, church. It wasn’t until we left seven years later that we realized it was more of a cult than a church. The only way to belong was to conform and abide by the many unwritten rules. I read the Bible through the lens of believing I was “never good enough.” I was convinced that I was condemned to Hell, so I strove to please God by punishing myself.

IT TAKES COURAGE TO BELIEVE THAT WE REALLY ARE LOVED AS WE ARE.

I ended up marrying a strong man who would lead me. I didn’t know who I was, so I followed. He had lots of crazy ideas of what it meant to be hardcore, living “sold out” for Jesus. He didn’t focus on cultivating a relationship and focused most on maximizing our effectiveness for the gospel. I understood his theory, though I couldn’t help to feel hurt, abandoned, and unwanted. I believed I wasn’t worth loving.

It hurt to leave the place where we had made so many friends. I sunk into depression and disillusionment. Who was I anyway? I had learned how to mold myself to be what others wanted me to be, yet I had no idea who I really was. My facade fell apart, and I finally came face-to-face with the hurting little girl inside who was broken, ashamed, and afraid. My life would flash before me leaving me paralyzed in fear often. I broke down.

The last couple of years have been a slow rebuilding of me. I am learning what it means to feel safe, even loved. I am learning to be honest with myself, God, and others who do care about me. I am learning that I am worth seeing and listening to, and it’s not my fault that I struggle -- God understands. He isn’t in a hurry for me to get it right. He is patient with me.

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I am slowly learning to trust.

There’s always hope when we dare to reach out and let our true selves be seen. We are worth love, no matter how long it takes us to believe it.

I had lost hope in humanity. I thought everyone was out to hurt me, but God has placed people in my life who listen and stay with me.

Belonging is knowing there is a Shepherd who will seek me out and bring me back. I have discovered I was never truly lost. I can trust my Shepherd to come -- again and again -- and rescue me from the negative beliefs about myself.

Joining CrossFit has helped me feel like I can be a part of something without having to give myself away. I didn’t have to mold myself to others or subscribe to their beliefs. I can just show up and be accepted right where I am. CrossFit has helped me build confidence as an individual.

Belonging is not something I owe to others in order to gain acceptance. Belonging is the freedom to be myself with my flaws and limitations and know that God accepts every part of me, even the hurting, broken, not-so-pretty parts I want to hide. I have dared to let Jesus see the ugly parts, so afraid he would turn away, and discovered He stays. He clothes me and holds me close. He heals my wounds.

I still don’t go to church. I’m triggered into shame and fear easily. Even as I struggle, I am learning to accept myself and trust God still loves me. It takes courage to believe that we really are loved as we are. I continue to bare my soul to my counselor and close friends. Each time I am surprised that these people continue to stick with me and somehow see beauty in me. I have been abused and hurt a lot in my life, and I am finally realizing I am not beyond repair. I am still a broken, hurting person, yet I am not without hope.

In Him, I am enough even in my nakedness. He gives me all I need, and in Him, I freely belong, as I am.

I AM LEARNING THAT

I AM WORTH

SEEING AND LISTENING TO, AND IT’S NOT MY FAULT THAT I STRUGGLE

-- GOD UNDERSTANDS. HE ISN’T IN A HURRY FOR ME TO GET IT RIGHT. HE IS PATIENT WITH ME.

Paula is a girl from the Midwest on a discovery to claim her true self as God’s beloved daughter. Every part of her life has felt like it has fallen apart and she is in a rebuilding stage. Paula is blessed to be a wife, and the mom of four fun, energetic children, with another on the way! As an optimist, these last few years struggling with PTSD and depression have taught her to embrace the joys and sorrows of life. She is still on a long journey towards healing from sexual and spiritual abuse; in the midst of it all, God has preserved her and she remains thankful for her life.

I AM SLOWLY LEARNING TO TRUST.

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Beauty Redefined

AN INTERVIEW WITH

EMILY DEAN OF VERITY VAREÉ

“IT’S A REALLY FREEING, BEAUTIFUL THING TO LET PEOPLE SEE A LITTLE

BEAUTY

IN THE BROKENNESS.”

Emily Dean is delighted wife to Ethan Dean, and grateful mama to Elisha Dean. One of the greatest opportunities and privileges of her life is playing in their band, Emy&Ethan, and founding their new company, Verity Vareé. She has had many opportunities to delight in her passions professionally through her career in acting, modeling, singing/songwriting, styling, and makeup artistry. With a full plate and full heart, Emy strives to do everything to the glory of God and use every trial in her life to texture and color her story and ministry. Creating and performing is the joy of her heart. She delights in coffee, pastries, pastels, and glitter. Emy is excited to share her heart with you at C’est La Vie.

FULL LENGTH INTERVIEW

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Tell us a little about yourself, Emily.

E

“I realized my desire for outer beauty was God-given and it was linked to my purpose. It wasn’t something to be ashamed of, but to be embraced. I had just been embracing the wrong definition of beauty.”

I am a mom of a baby boy. I’m a singer song-writer with my husband in our band, Emy&Ethan. I do some modeling and acting. I am the CEO and found of Verity Vareé, which is sort of my main gig.

Tell me a little bit about your experience in the modeling industry. What did you love?

E

I loved the creativity aspect of it. Meeting the designers. Obviously I loved the glamour of it all, getting your hair and make-up done. But I loved seeing the designers’ and photographers’ vision all come together . . . You are a canvas so you get to just stand there and see and watch creativity happen; it’s really fun.

I’m hearing you say that God gives everybody beauty. He is as a Creator we are his canvas just like in your modeling days. We are a canvas for His Glory, His Beauty, and reflecting Him.

What deceptions did being a model sow in your hearts and the hearts of those around you?

E

As you developed that definition for beauty, how did that inspire the start of Verity Vareé and what is VV?

The biggest deception is that I thought I needed be a certain size. In my early modeling career I developed an eating disorder.

E

I do want to say that not every model struggles with that, some are just naturally skinny or curvy; that’s their body type. I was struggling with an eating disorder and that perpetuated the lie that I had to look a certain way, dress a certain way, and even act a certain way. You know, you kind of act like you have it all together—which we don’t.

Along with their photo shoots is a one-hour interview with a life coach -- me. And that’s my favorite part: hearing their story and then getting to put together a blog post with the interview and the natural and stylized images. So that’s what it is, it’s a storytelling tool.

I think it’s a really freeing beautiful thing to let people see a little beauty in the brokenness.

Our tagline is “Revealing the truth about beauty through YOUR story.”

How did the truth break those bonds of deception in your life?

E

Verity Vareé is a storytelling process platform for women to tell their stories. It’s a two-part photo shoot with natural photos and styled photos. The reason we do that is so a woman can both express her personality and style, as well as just show her canvas: who she really is when she gets up in the morning. I think that’s a really raw, beautiful part of who we are that’s not tapped into very much in our culture.

It broke it by helping me beat and move out of an eating disorder. The truth that your inner and outer beauty are both gifts from God really just started to reshape my whole world. Beauty is defined as pleasing to the mind or senses aesthetically. When I read that definition I just started pouring over the scriptures about what is true beauty. I realized my desire for outer beauty was God-given and it was linked to my purpose. It wasn’t something to be ashamed of, but to be embraced. I had just been embracing the wrong definition of beauty. It freed me and broke lies and chains by reshaping my lens about beauty.

What are the women’s reactions to seeing their raw natural photos, stylized photos, and interview in your blog post?

E

It’s pretty amazing, even better than I could have hoped. They are all always surprised. Telling their whole story in an interview helps them connect the dots and see the goodness of God in their whole lives. They see their whole life as a story. She’ll see the ups and downs and see the Glory through Redemption and the beauty in the brokenness. She’ll see her own happenings in her heart and in her mind; her tastes and likes and dislikes, and just who she is through God’s eyes. We call it a Reveal, because we’re revealing who they really are. They cry sometimes. Sometimes they laugh. It’s always really cool.

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I have loved watching the Reveals. I appreciate the Reveals of women my age and older, and especially that a majority of your clients are younger girls. You are giving them this message when they are young and vulnerable to the influences (and lies) of some of those in the modeling industry. These younger women are being mentored through a storytelling process through Verity Vareé.

E

“WHEN WE ARE ACTING ON PURPOSE AND IN OUR DESIRES, WE MEET GOD BECAUSE WE ARE RESPONDING TO HIM BY SAYING “YES! THE WAY THAT YOU CREATED ME IS GOOD AND I AM FUNCTIONING IN THAT GOODNESS. I AM LIVING AND PRAISING YOU AND RECEIVING THE GOOD GIFT THAT YOU ARE GIVING ME WHICH IS ME.”

It’s funny you say that because the hardest person to break -- to get the message across to -- is usually the older woman who has lived in the lie longer.

We’re going to change gears a little and move into your personal life. As I mentioned earlier, C’est La Vie is all about the Grace in the raw gritty stories of life. You’re in a raw gritty portion right now. Your husband was recently laid off and you guys have a five-month old. You’re right in the middle of this circumstance that seems impossible. Tell me a little about that and how you are experiencing Christ’s Grace in the daily uncertainty of where His provision is going to come from.

E

You’re learning to trust in God, walk with Him, and let Him cast out fear, and all with a smile.

Well, the tangible way we experienced his Grace was through our new church. Not only did they cover us in prayer, they immediately started sending diapers, a big load of food, and toothpaste . . . it was amazing.

If you could tell men and women one thing about worshipping Christ in the fullness of who they are, in the midst of any circumstances, what would it be and why?

When I told my team -- the VV team -- they were a huge support. They started doing and being the company. Taking on responsibility and supporting and listening. My team rose up and started helping in every aspect. Verity Vareé is a lot of hard work. This team is made up of like-minded women who see my daily life.

E

The way they can worship Him in fullness is going to the Heart of God and meeting God in their desires. Our desires are so instrumental to living a joyful life, and also in bringing us back to the Heart of God. When we are acting on Purpose and in our desires, we meet God. We are responding to Him by saying “Yes! The way that You created me is good and I am functioning in that goodness. I am living and praising You and receiving the good gift You are giving me -- Me.”

The biggest way God has shown us Grace in this time is to call out Ethan’s, my husband’s desires. He runs his own audio production company called Uber S’more Productions. He had always dreamed of doing music full time. Being let go at this job gave him the opportunity to do just that. God showed us Grace that it was just time for Ethan to do that.

Do you have any final thoughts?

I still have this feeling sometimes . . . when is the month going to come that we can’t make rent?

E

It’s scary but when we go to the place of fear we get to experience God and His Grace. There wouldn’t be Grace if we didn’t mess up. It’s cool, too, that this is happening around spring when things are blooming and new life is happening, and we’ve really entered into a season of new life. As entrepreneurs, as Children of God, and as “creatives,” it’s kind of rocking our world in a beautiful, good, and exciting way.

I could just dive into the truth about beauty for hours and hours and hours because I needed it. This company wasn’t created because I figured it all out and now I needed to tell people. It was created because I needed to know for myself why the thief of comparison was so present in my life . . . why I looked in the mirror and rated myself on a scale from 1-10, and depending on the rating my day would be great or not so great . . . why, after having a baby and having this extra pudge, did I feel less valued? It’s so typical, such a common battle, and it’s so prevalent in our culture; it’s something that needs to be addressed. I’m excited and honored to be part of a team addressing it in this unique way; I can’t take the credit for this, I want to spread it out to the team and ultimately to Christ -- it’s His Truth and I just get to tell people about it.

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“The truth that your inner and outer beauty are both gifts from God really just started to reshape my whole world.”

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Just As You Are

AMIA FREEMAN

“ARE WE STRIVING TO LIVE TO A STANDARD BEYOND OUR SPECIFIC AND DIVINE DESIGN?”

J

ust as you are.

There was only one solution to this ‘untreatable’ issue. My “it” became clear. God wanted me -- unfinished, broken, as I was.

What does that really look like?

Some things can only be dealt with by getting honest with selfinventory, prayer and surrender; allowing God to get rid of the fear, anxiety and other junk I had been carrying around as excess weight.

What if, just as you are, is enough?

Most of us recall desperately emulating the style and beauty of the girl in the magazine or duplicating the current popular trends in an attempt to be something or someone else.

What if it’s not? How are we supposed to know?

In her book You’re Loved No Matter What, Holley Gerth wrote, “I believe at the root of every human quest for perfection is a misunderstanding of God’s love for us. Our hearts are made for love, and if we don’t think we can freely receive it, then we’ll try to earn it.”

I had a conversation with someone today about the arguments and attacks we have with ourselves because of failed attempts and how easy it is to get trapped in the idea that we did “it” all wrong. Berating ourselves with the question that never seems to have an answer.

Even our very best intentions still don’t put us closer to who we are created to be. Often times, we find ourselves tangled up in frustration because we still feel incomplete. We set a standard based on flawed expectations.

If I could do it over again would I do it differently . . . But how do we even know we did “it” wrong if we have no idea what the expectations were? The bigger question really is, what is it?

In her best seller, The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst wrote, “I will no longer hold myself to a standard of perfection, but a standard of grace.”

Are we striving to live to a standard beyond our specific and Divine design?

The standard: Grace.

It was February 2014 when I couldn’t walk. When I was paralyzed with pain.

So back to my original bigger question, how can we do it wrong if what we’re doing is measured by Grace?

My entire body deep down in my bones felt like it was on fire. All I had was Faith, though I couldn’t hear God or see the end.

Grace doesn’t look at our flaws and write us off as misfits. On the contrary, Grace sees what we consider to be flaws and sees the Perfect Plan of God.

After months of blood tests and MRIs, I was deemed “ridiculously healthy”. There was simply no logical explanation for the very real pain I experienced.

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“GRACE

ERASES THE STRESS OF PERFORMING. IT REMOVES THE HEAVY BURDENS OF TRYING TO BE SOMETHING OR SOMEONE WE WERE NEVER DESIGNED TO BE.”

What if the “it” isn’t our concern, because “it” is actually Grace? At the core of Grace, we find Love. God is Love. God is Grace. God is our standard. The standard is not to become like the Almighty, All-knowing, Perfect Creator, but to recognize that we were created in His image with every opportunity to learn the true character of God Himself -- as perfectly imperfect as we are. Through the process of living, we come to more fully understand Grace, and we move to that rhythm. No striving, just living continuously in the opportunity to grasp Him and receive what He freely gives.

“Those that wait on the Lord will

Amia is a leading expert in group fitness, personal fitness and spiritual growth. She has been taking the fitness world by storm for over 10 years. Amia is inspired to promote and practice diverse health and fitness programs to keep clients motivated, minimize plateaus, and to increase spiritual, physical, and mental strength. Learn more about Amia at Inneractive FITCLUB.

renew their strength.” - Isaiah 40:31 Grace erases the stress of performing. It removes the heavy burdens of trying to be something or someone we were never designed to be.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

In time, God completely restored my strength. If He did it for me, He will certainly do it for you in His time and with Grace measured just for you.

(Matthew 11: 28-30, MSG)

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Special Feature GRITTY

GRACE STORY

C’est La Vie: The Magazine reminds us that grace and redemption is an everyday thing and our greatest offering is to unwrap the grace to simply be – raw, real, as. we. are. Gritty story writers like Tammy Hendricksmeyer speak directly of redemption and grace in the midst of chaos and confusion, tackling the question: What are you learning about Him now, in the midst . . . while this story is unfinished and incomplete?

On Why You Need

to Forgive Yourself

Though not pretty bow-tied, Tammy reminds us there is beauty in the now, as it is, and shows us a new kind of definition for what it means to be strong, courageously sharing the fractured parts of her heart and her humbleness to grow and learn through the grit.

A Call to Parents of Prodigals TAMMY HENDRICKSMEYER

“Words have a will of their own and declare what needed written, if we are brave enough to let it happen.”

J

ust past the decaying Post Oak tree that fell last year, my house sits on an old pasture. I’m surrounded by dairies and cattle ranches among lush Rye and Bermuda. When driving to our remote farm road, I hug the edge of my narrow strip of asphalt as I avoid divots and ruts. Milk tankers and silage semis compete for road surface, jostled by the indentions and curves. Most of our daily activities require, in the least, an hour round-trip. We go great distances to live here.

to be a good mother and now here was a small person depending on me. I wanted to control every square inch of safety. My daughter came by emergency c-section at a military hospital in Asia, the other side of the world. But once I delivered her, I was overly confident in my ability as a parent. That first night at home with her, the weight of responsibility hit like a ton of bricks. It kept me awake long into the night, checking and watching her breathe, just to make sure.

Six years, I’ve lived here raising two boys. I’ve raised a daughter too, ‘though not here. I also lived a different life back then.

Those hidden memories, long lost on her today, stay with me. She is still the little girl I knew even though she is grown now.

Distance is not just between towns. Souls can be as short a length as crossing our country lane or as wide apart as a swath of the Grand Canyon. Hateful words, poor life-altering choices, and failures have power to create miles between us.

We rarely talk these days. There have been months of silence between small conversations. It is not what I imagined as a sixteen-year old dreaming of one day being mom to a daughter.

I always imagined having a daughter since I was a teenager just learning how to drive. I married while still a senior in high school. Two years later, my daughter came.

Even worse, I was not prepared for the choices I would later make. There’s something about young souls which make us think we have a good grasp on answers. The older I get, the less I know.

Nothing prepares you for the fear of bringing an innocent, helpless human into your heart. I felt as if I’d been dropped off on an island with no other way but survive the fierce storm of scary love. I wanted

The more I learn, the more fragile life becomes. But my story goes the way of Humpty-Dumpy.

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Although my daughter lived with me the first ten years of her life, divorce came and took its toll. Battle lines splintered our bond and the relationship became constant skirmishes. At first she lived with me. Many years. Then she went to live with her father. Between her dad, me, and her paternal grandparents, we were connected by one little girl. Each wanted legal rights. Some days, years even, it felt like Civil War. Lots of energy spent marching into front lines.

open lash marks of self-hatred, and bleed from thorny crowns of selfmockery, piercing our limp frames on the many crosses of past sins.

“I’ve often

Grace alone can seem too meek for our mistakes, too lofty for our lowly choices, too squeaky clean for our filthy rags.

wondered, how

In our filthy rags, we imagine grace needs our help. Perhaps crawling on bloody knees, we feel this is how we must repay. Then we hang our “worthless” heads, never to raise them again.

does one give

thanks in the

But when we stop the mutilation to our souls, face the ugly parts of who we once were, a miraculous Phoenix arises. From the miry clay, beautiful works of pottery are crafted, refined, and strengthened in the kiln.

midst of war?”

Forgiving ourselves helps us embrace the stories lived by our prodigal children. We’re able to listen to their struggles. Forgiving ourselves enables us to stand straighter and firmer for our children’s sake. By the Grace of God, we’re able to go the distance, to the ends of ourselves. It doesn’t erase what happened. Rather, it allows us to swallow the bitter pill. This is costly and bloody when in the throes, but we must stop/cease/end unproductive self-loathing. “THE OLDER I GET, THE

I’ve often wondered, how does one give thanks in the midst of war? And what is the secret to righting relationships gone awry? Where is the magical key to healing such broken-ness between one another? There’s a sick-in-your-stomach desperation when your children are against you. It feels like the worst kind of failure. In divorce, children see divided sides — all or nothing, one or another, either/or.

LESS I KNOW. THE MORE In healthy self-awareness, we remove our pre-occupation with I LEARN, THE MORE our crooked paths (and trying to FRAGILE LIFE BECOMES.” cover them up) and instead, lift our eyes to see the road before us. We move forward and safely navigate the divots left by our heavy loads. Only then will we find the truest road, pockmarked and scarred, is also the one leading us home.

As broken-hearted parents, we limp along. Betrayals nip at our heel, deeply affected by wounds, both ones of our own making and those inflicted on our children. How? As parents, how did this become our lives? I’m sure our children would ask the same for themselves. How did such separation come between us? Never in a million years did we think this would be the way of us, of our children. My daughter is older now with most our battles behind us. I think of her, the way things could have been or could be. I continue to hope for us. Time is a paradox of slow motion constantly moving too fast. For my own sake, I had to heal. Catharsis came through writing, surprising myself with my own hand when words took a life their own. It has taken time. I followed the words which came and the trails lead me to more. Words have a will of their own and declare what needed written, if we are brave enough to let it happen. Part of healing was facing the past by looking it in the eye. Regrets threatened to bury me. Along with regret came every possible lie, crammed into my soul. It’s like having a crooked spine—you can attempt to walk straight, but it’s never upright. Of course there were some truths I needed to accept. But truth and I were buried under shame. Guilt follows with its ominous cloud-secrets, making us sick in our souls.

Tammy is a renaissance woman whose scattered pigeons at Notre Dame, swam the coral reefs of Okinawa, scaled fortresses in Nuremburg, and viewed the Eiffel Tower safely from the ground. From her farm where she occasionally drives a John Deere tractor, she writes for others to see redemptive purpose, beauty, worth, and connection. She’s collaborated on many projects to include ebooks and an ezine, is the Founder and Curator for Outside The City Gate, and coordinates an eclectic gathering of artisans called Sunday Circle Group. Her personal blog is The Art of Fear Not where she encourages us (and herself) to embrace our gifts, talents, and our life.

We can become incapacitated by fear, failure, and mistakes. Moving past them takes faith. And some days that direction can be backwards. It is not easy. It slays us, and is counter to our selfpreservation. Surprisingly, we survive as each new step brings healing and makes us less fearful. Faith changed me. In the past, I horsewhipped myself without any of the benefits I assumed would come from it. In fact, holding on to shame and guilt made things worse. Guilt is a penance never satisfied. We don’t need soldiers to drag us through the streets or abuse us; we do a good job of it ourselves. We nail our own shame-filled flesh,

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Stained-glass Dreams DANIELLE ROGERS

“WHAT I DO KNOW IS WHATEVER HE DOES AND WHATEVER HE CHOOSES, HE WILL BE WITH ME AND HE WILL NOT FORSAKE ME.”

A

And . . .

s of late, God and I have been traveling rocky shores. The dreams I’ve had seem like so much scattered ash at my feet rather than stained-glass visions. The hopelessness I have felt has kept pushing its way to the surface.

“What if the promises I’ve been believing, that God loves me and wants good things for me, are just a load of crap?” (Yes, I really said those words. Don’t judge).

Finally one day it all came rushing out -- a torrent of words that unfortunately drenched my husband and left me brittle and dry.

My husband just listened and asked what I’d say if someone was telling me these things.

For so long I’ve been watching others answer their calls. I have seen the dreams of others come to fruition and felt frustrated as I stood there expectantly, while nothing ever came of my own. God never seemed to call me.

“Well, I’d tell them they’re wrong.” In the end, I eventually realized I believed His promises are for everyone else.

And then it happened. The dream of moving came crashing down around me. We had been renovating our home since we moved in 12-years ago and the house that was more than big enough for two had steadily shrunk as we grew to a family of six. We were so close. Just that short of getting a house that had baseboards and a separate eating area. Silly, I know, though a dream nonetheless.

I cried myself to sleep. I’d forgotten He will not cast off forever, though He allows grief. He shows compassion according to His mercies. The next day I wondered how in the world I was going to convey the truth of God’s love to my children, all the while not really believing it for myself.

When that stained-glass vision of what could be fell and came crashing down, the feelings of hopelessness returned -- those feelings of wondering if where we are is the best that God has for us.

This was a dark, hopeless place to be in. But God.

Are crumbling walls, peeling paint, and holes in my ceilings the best He has?

All stories have a ‘But God’ moment, we just have to look for them. That afternoon I had some rare free time gifted to me by a good friend. Out of the blue she asked if she could send her daughter over to watch my kids.

Does He think that’s the best we deserve? Aren’t we good enough? I felt like He had my face in the dirt. I felt like He wouldn’t let me up and the dirt was where I belonged because I’m not good enough.

God whispered, “I love you.” I headed to our local coffee shop, my favorite spot to just be. As I decided on a drink, and Lisa the proprietor asked if I wanted a grilled pimento cheese sandwich; someone had ordered it, though they hadn’t been able to pick it up and it was already made, still steaming hot from the grill. With a smile, she boxed it up and slid it across the counter to me.

I’d forgotten Lamentations 3:1-33. I’d forgotten we are not consumed because of His mercies. He is faithful even when we are not. We could venture into deep theology here, the ins and outs of how all of us deserve wrath and nothing more, how anything we have is a good gift simply because it isn’t what we truly deserve. I know the thoughts are faulty that swirl through my mind and land in the soil of my heart. We won’t go there today. That’s when I lost it. The bitter tears poured down my face and I dared put voice to horribly sinful thoughts:

God whispered, “I see you.” After my snack I crossed the street to one of my favorite shops, an indiecraft parade of local vendors. I was looking for a pair of earrings to replace the one that got away and that certain pair wasn’t there. The owner and I chatted for a few moments. She commented on my disposition and the sadness she perceived.

“ANGUISH HAS A WAY OF LEAKING OUT DESPITE ATTEMPTS TO KEEP IT CONTAINED.”

“Why? Why are we stuck here? Why do others get the dreams? . . . why do others get the house they want down to the painted brick?”

Anguish has a way of leaking out despite attempts to keep it contained.

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She then handed me a bag of chocolate covered marshmallows (oh, my!) and told me to enjoy them.

be with me and He will not forsake me.

God whispered, “Here’s a hug.”

:::

Several other things happened over the next few days. Crazy, random, yet Sovereignly-ordained things. For instance, my Avon rep put a fullsize mascara in my order and I just happened to be out . . . Loft gave me a free shipping code due to an error on their part . . . the company I had ordered the discounted homeschool planner from sent me next year’s instead of the current year, letting me keep it and the one I had originally ordered.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I started writing this. The days have been filled with emotional ups and downs.

These types of experiences rarely happen to me and for all these to occur in one weekend gave me the confidence to know God was getting my attention, and in ways I didn’t expect.

We keep looking and hoping a home ... the home of our dreams ... would come our way. It’s possible we have found it; we continue to wait to see what will come of this recent find. It’s crazy to think what might be. We still need to sell our current house and put a lot of work into it before it can be sold.

He was gently sending me messages of love when I least deserved them. The tantrum I threw earlier in the week and all my ranting at God – closely rivaling my five-year old’s classic performances -- merited a spanking rather than a hug. But God was merciful and lavished grace on me when I didn’t deserve it. He gave me reminders, a memorial of sorts, to look back upon and see His Love whenever the father of lies whispers falsehood to my heart.

What we see as “crazy” is sometimes the most sensible thing in God’s eyes. I keep telling myself He’ll have to move mountains in order for any of this to happen. He does make mountains move though, when we least expect it.

Though none of these experiences were common occurrences, I’m not trying to convey that God will ‘give you stuff’ just to show His goodness, or this is how He always works. I can’t say how He will choose to work in my life at another point in time, or in another person’s life. The next time I need a reminder, He may do something completely different to get my attention.

Fear lurks and whispers lies. The mantra I’ve claimed in the past comes back to my heart: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding”.

What I do know is whatever He does and whatever He chooses, He will

So often our own understanding is about just that. We don’t know what God is doing -- how He’s working behind-the-scenes. All we see is what is right in front of us. We can’t see when spring really is right around the corner. We just have to trust, though it is unbelievably hard to do while we so desperately want to know that everything is going to be okay. We want to control and to have control. Trusting always seems to come with an exchange -- we have to give up control before we can fully trust. We have to open our fists, unfurl our fingers, and let go. God doesn’t instruct us to trust Him with just part of our heart but with all our heart. He has been teaching me there is rest in the letting go and the trusting. Holding on to fear and control gets so tiring, but God offers us rest if we simply trust in Him. Trusting Him is easier said than done, though it is so worth it. So, about these dreams I have for room to breathe . . . baseboards and ceilings without holes . . . well, they may never come to fruition. Though voicing this truth is such a difficult thing to write, it’s okay. It’s okay because I have a Father in Heaven who sees me and loves me still.

Danielle is an Army brat who has finally found ‘home’ in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She hangs out there with her (hot) husband of 14 years and her four littles. Most days you’ll find her in the midst of unschooling while finding things to research. She’s an INFJ who loves coffee, dreams of quiet, and has a compulsory sweeping disorder (four kids make a lot of mess!). You can find her over at www. daniellerogers.me where she writes about her journey with God through The Quiet and the Chaos.

Know this: He sees you and loves you still, too. In all our mess, in all our frustration and childish anger, He loves us. We have a Father in whom we can trust. Let’s hold fast to this stained-glass truth that will never shatter.

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The Frustration of a Life

Lived Impatient ly MATT AND CHERI APPLING

Patience. It’s a virtue, but it’s never been my strong suit.

I

t’s not that I’m a demanding person, like I say to my wife, “Where’s my dinner? I want it NOW.”

“IMPATIENCE COMES FROM THE FEELING THAT WE SHOULD BE IN CONTROL OF SOMETHING.”

It’s more like, “This was supposed to be done yesterday, why is no one moving as fast as I think (they) should . . . and it’s still raining the weatherman said it would be done by now . . . and I still have about ten things to accomplish before the weekend is done . . . and why hasn’t that person returned my email yet . . . and my kid is crying, when is he going to grow out of this phase?!” You know, it’s like I’m always in a hurry. I want everything to get done yesterday.

Patience Has Been A Slow Learning Process For Me.

“Why isn’t this happening?” we asked ourselves. We had decided we were ready to have a kid. We had made plans. And nature was now deviating from the plan. Month after month, no baby came.

I never expected that one of the most powerful lessons in patience would come not with having a child, but just trying to have a child.

After a year of trying, we went to a specialist. Cheri was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome; it’s basically the common cold of infertility, very common, but easy to miss with general practitioners. A few treatments here and there, we thought, and we would be on our way.

When Nature Doesn’t Follow the Plan Five years ago, Cheri and I decided we wanted to have a child. We had enjoyed a few years of happy married life and decided that the time was “right” to upend everything. We were “prepared.” We made “plans” and so forth.

And yet still, months passed. No baby.

And so we tried. And we prayed. And we waited…

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Trying to Beat the Clock

Earth to spin a bit faster. I want people to hurry up.

Now we were getting impatient. We felt ourselves pushing against the “clock.” We were starting to get worried. We saw our friends taking the plunge into parenthood. We watched their children grow at an almost alarming rate. A year is a huge difference in the life of a child.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I started to let go of impatience as we continued to wait on the baby we longed to hold. I sat with Cheri for a week in the hospital when her treatment took a catastrophic turn and thought “This is how our story goes. There is no sense in trying to rush it.” I helped her get back to health for weeks after, over Thanksgiving and Christmas. We planned on more treatments, but then she got sick again and we had to wait a couple of months more.

As months turned into years in our infertility journey, we started to learn something about the discipline of patience. We began to realize that no matter what the doctor said, she could not make any guarantees. No matter what treatments we went through, there could be no promises. It was still in God’s hands. No matter how much money we threw at the problem, or how much we prayed, we could not make our child appear any faster.

All of this time was spent waiting. There was nothing we could do about it. No amount of wailing or worrying, and no amount of complaining would change it.

The sensation of impatience comes from the feeling that we should be in control of something.

“A LIFE SPENT IMPATIENTLY IS ONE IN WHICH WE ARE NEVER LIVING IN THE PRESENT.”

Impatience is our brain rebelling against a world that is ultimately not under our power. When I feel impatient, I want other people to do and act as I see fit. I want the world to bend to my will. I want the

Living In the Present Rather Than the Future Spending five years waiting for a child changes two people. After five years of waiting, our infant son is here. When he cries, I try to be patient through it. I do not try to rush him through this phase of life. I do not try to make Cheri move faster or try to make other people run on my schedule. I do not do this, because it never works and it only causes misery. A life spent impatiently is one in which we are never living in the present. That was a hard and important thing for us to grasp. By constantly embracing impatience, we were never really here or focused on now. We were trying to be at some other place, in some other time. A life spent impatiently is one in which we are constantly wishing for a future that is uncertain. An impatient life is a life rushed and a life wasted. We do not want to waste any more of the lives we have, trying to rush into the lives we want. We do not want to blow through the next decade, or the next week or even the next afternoon, because they all have their value, even if they are not what we wanted. Every moment of every day has its value, from the few minutes being stuck in traffic, to the years spent stuck in infertility treatments . . . If only we are willing to be patient.

Matt and Cheri Appling are the authors of “Plus or Minus: Keeping Your Life, Faith and Love Together Through Infertility.” Find the book at Matt’s blog: MattAppling.com

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“GRATITUDE IS ABOUT EMBRACING THE BEAUTIFUL DANGER OF THE PRESENT MOMENT.” A Boy and a Ba lloon

Gratitude and Grace on the Playground LISHA EPPERSON

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel

my heart.

to say your nightly prayer.

I was empty that day. Losing little bits of life, even as I wrestled with the physical death and memories of a five-year old friend, the contents of another pregnancy slowly escaped my body.

And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”

Miscarriage and memorial are words that shouldn’t follow each other or be mentioned on the same page. Multiple losses weren’t something I could process that day, so I tried to put my hurt and hopes for the baby that wouldn’t be on hold. What remained expressed itself as a single tear. At that point there just weren’t many left.

~ Maya Angelou

A

few weeks ago, in a rare cleaning fury, I found a picture of my teenaged son and his then best buddy. They stood, no taller than the doorknob behind them, shoulder to shoulder, bright and shiny. Three-year old boys. They were happy and healthy and so much fun. They looked like love.

It was all too much. I had to trust God and His ability to teach me through pain -- to reach down from heaven to help me with this unspeakable thing . . . to accept His sovereignty as it was, though it was certainly not as I would have it.

And then everything changed. Nothing could prepare us for his friends’ cancer diagnosis a few weeks later. Cancer would alter the dynamics of his family, forever. Cancer would take his life. It wasn’t fair. This was the beginning of hospital visits and long term care, of tests and day long sessions watching Scooby Doo. This was the beginning of prayers said on his behalf all over the world. A good day would be one in which this innocent three-year old didn’t throw up from the many medications pumped into his increasingly weakened body.

“CONTENTMENT IS BORN OF A SOUL THAT TRUSTS GOD . . . WITH THE PAST, NOW, AND FOREVER.”

Contentment is born of a soul that trusts God . . . with the past, now, and forever.

I had to hold on. I wouldn’t survive without trusting God for my next breath. I knew I could trust His ability to heal and restore. I needed to trust Him simply because He is God.

I think of that child often.

I pressed in for God-sanctioned satisfaction and the life-altering resolve to be content. Born of deep suffering, contentment eventually grew in my heart as gratitude. The process was evidence of grace, His Gift of unmerited favor.

Shoulders rolled back to release a neck tense with grief, I said goodbye as a bouquet of balloons set free in his honor drifted away. Standing in the center of his favorite playground, I looked up to follow my red one. Tracking it as it floated off with as many dreams broke

In that moment I knew everything I would ever need to know about

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The days are hard but they’re gracefilled. These are the glory days.

God’s intersection with this part of my story. It was the beginning of wisdom and a soul connection to His Divinity. He blessed my hurt and my heart. I had given my heart to God and He showed me I wasn’t alone. Gratitude is the hearts memory. (French proverb)

Lord, help me remember your grace in these days. Help me live these moments well.

But, sometimes I forget. Digging in to the grace of memory helps keep discontentment in

“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.

“I HAVE TO REMEMBER THIS LIFE IS AN

Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

OPPORTUNITY FOR AN ENCOUNTER WITH HEAVEN’S

~ Thomas Merton

AGENDA.” check. It reframes my perspective and encourages me to show up in my life with the offering of living, breathing gratitude -- reverence for the celebration of the sacred little-ish things. Gratitude is about embracing the beautiful danger of the present moment. I have to remember this life is an opportunity for an encounter with Heaven’s agenda. Reaching for contentment clears the way for me to praise the King through an ordinary-seeming day.

It is day four of a stomach virus for my seven-year old. I watched her struggle to recover. By day three I had begun to worry. There’s always a worry that a twist in a typical ailment will turn our little world of love upside down. I’ve seen it happen before. Nothing’s impossible. But God. But grace. I hold the memory of that day on the playground as a perspective checker. I wrestled with God over a hard thing until He changed it ... until He changed me. I remember the sweet release of letting go. I remind myself the delicious truth, God is with us. How grateful it makes me for every day . . . for health and breath and beauty . . . for my fragile faith and the promise of life found in death and in life. When my sweet girl perked up to ask for more soup, I whispered the gratitude of every sickness-weary mama and remembered our little angel-friend. I offered a prayer for his family and thanked God for the lesson, again.

Lisha is a hopeful romantic, lover of Jesus and most things antique. A happy wife and mother of 5, she joyfully shares a warrior song about her 14 year walk through infertility and the semi-sweet miracle of adoption. Lisha works out a life of faith with fear, trembling, and a fair measure of grace in New York City. Follow her blog at www.lishaepperson.com, and here for Facebook and Twitter.

The Creator of Heaven and Earth holds our lives in His Hands. He rules over the perfect imperfection of every detail, and over every struggle and triumph.

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The Fight for Life: Suffering and Living MELANIE SELF

“Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known.”

to do was pray and hold her in the same way that God does. We pray and entrust her husband, a son and father, into His loving care. We may never see each other again, yet I carry her burden with me in my heart as I long to believe that they will grow old together as they raise their children – now, a mere nine and six-years old.

~ Kara Tippetts

I

settle in comfortably by the window between warm streaming bands of sunshine and light. I surround myself with those things I have so purposefully planned on accomplishing during the lingering wait. Looking around the room, I consider my life as it is now – identifying and sharing the oneness in this community of gathered strangers. Every face, including my own, carries the markings of a souls own appointment of surrender to Cancer’s random appearance in our lives. My mother was recently diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. A lumpectomy and now the next phase of treatment, radiation. She checks in and quickly disappears down the hallway for her first of 30 radiation treatments.

The Cancer Center awakens as a spry elderly lady comes bouncing in, humming a tune and clicking her heels. I am sitting by the information desk for those who might need encouragement. She tidy’s up the area and quickly begins a conversation with me as I look her way. She battled breast cancer more than twenty years ago and it returned ten after that. She tells me, “I am eighty-three years old, cancer free and a survivor. Now I knit hats and bring them here for women that will lose their hair. Never forget, life is not free but it is worth fighting for.” Yes beautiful heart, life is a gift and absolutely worth the fight.

“I FEEL IN MY BONES THE TRUTH -- GOD IS FOR US IN ALL THESE STRANGE TWISTS AND TURNS . . . JUST AS IT IS.”

“ Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to

To date, every day has provided a new conversation. Cancer cannot hide its darkness. The Light of the World – Jesus -- calms all restless lives. Today, fear has cast a foreboding shadow on every heart in the waiting area. Could it be true that since God is near our broken hearts and familiar with suffering lives, that we can know Jesus when we walk more deeply there? Of this I am certain. “I want to know Christ – Yes, to know the power of His Resurrection and participation in His Sufferings.” (Philippians 3:10) In the coming days, His Glory will be revealed in shaping us in Kingdom-building ways. We are comforted by the Words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We suffer. He comforts. We comfort others. We grow. “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our Merciful Father and the Source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our trouble that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) Every day of waiting slips into the other. test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Navy folder in hand, one can presume cancer has made itself known and will take another family down a long and winding path. They wait, clearly overwhelmed. I know that face in my bathroom mirror as well. Shock displays itself on the face of a young wife and mother whose 37-year old husband survived childhood cancer, now faces radiation treatment for a spot on his brain stem, as the risks of biopsy are too great. She begins to speak to me as the room clears and all I knew

So many moments of tenderness for this all too soon rookie introduction to cancer as a family member. I wait expectantly, knowing that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

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strange twists and turns. I will continue the fight to honor Jesus with my life. Just as I am. Just as it is. He holds us close like His Beloved Israel. He is for us as we daily walk through the valley, leading us to that glorious forever in heaven, living and loving alongside Him for eternity. I rejoice and pray for strength in the enduring and hold steadfast the confidence my clinging to hope is a reasonable act of service to my God and King. Suffering continues to dredge my heart and life, though I remember I am in control of my mindset. Tonight, I whisper sweet words of devotion and surrender my weakness of heart to my Sovereign God whose providence has met me daily on this new and winding journey. Tomorrow’s radiation will come; I will wait, believing and trusting God. Only He can diffuse the broken life of fear and empower the warrior to believe, to be renewed for the battle ahead, and to trust His glory will be revealed even in this. We settle into rest at this day’s end, and offer this prayer in song: “The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadow he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23)

Fear meets Grace in these moments of the unknown and the overwhelming pain of finding yourself off course. Yet, in the darkness, a wave of hope hovers over every person in the room as we recognize the stories of strength all around. We experience the unending battle against cancer’s attack with such tenacity, though I bow my heart low and wonder if I have that much courage and strength. One-by-one, each seasoned member of a club no one chooses to join encourages another. “You will get through this,” the gravel-like rasp of one heart pleads to another. My heart swells with previously uncovered emotions as I watch and live vicariously through the heart-wrenching fear of a precious man returning to the battle of cancer once again. His humility overwhelms me as I watch him step bravely into the valley of the shadow of death.

Melanie is the Women and Children’s Ministry Coordinator with Motor Racing Outreach, a non-profit Christian ministry, serving the men, women, and families working in NASCAR. She and her husband Monty were married in 1981. Melanie was a career mom and wife while Monty served in the United States Air Force. Monty retired in 1999, and as a couple began working for MRO in 2002. At NASCAR venues across the U.S., Melanie travels and walks with this community of people sharing her heart for Christ to the women and families she dearly loves. You can read more about their life in the fast lane at Melanie’s blog Simple Life Heartenings.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” ~ Helen Keller The time arrives and I reconnect my heart to the reality at hand at my mother’s unexpected and perky “Ta-Da” appearance and seals this sacred moment.

MY HEART DRAWS NEAR AS I SEEK TO HONOR THE LORD AND SERVE MY MAMA. “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” -- John Piper, A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God Tonight, I “feel in my bones” the truth -- God is for us in all these

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“THERE IS A GORGEOUS TRUTH THAT RINGS THE EDGES OF HER ABSENCE — SHE IS NEVER FAR AWAY.”

And the World Pu lses On HOLLY GRANTHAM

I

t happened, again, today.

When my mom’s illness worsened, and it became likely that treatments she was receiving for leukemia were not going to put her into remission, I sometimes let my mind ramble down roads dark and long. And, for small snippets of time, I would imagine my mother’s inevitable death. Those imaginings would end the same way they began — with me gasping for air and choking on fear.

The sun blushed and slowly rose over the curved horizon.

I woke up, stretched, put on clothes, and shuffled into the kitchen to sip coffee and begin breakfast. I grabbed the soft hair behind my dog’s ears and pulled her close for a kiss, pausing, like always, to bury my nose in her musky, sweet smell. I made my rounds to each of my three boys, kissed them on their heads and delivered a quiet “Good Morning” to each one of them. I heard the clunk of the mailbox being closed as the usual smattering of letters and bills were delivered.

Because, how could I still be when she was no longer? Those two realities seemed disparate with the balance of all I had ever known and the idea of navigating my life without her in it seemed nonsensical.

In a pocket of quiet, just before everything tilted towards motion and mayhem, I marveled, once again, that I was here, breathing in and out, thinking, moving, alive.

But since her death, the days? They keep arriving, replete with their own joys and hurts and healing. Days strung patiently and steadily, ripe with love and longing.

It’s been a year since my mom died. A whole book of calendar pages have flipped over and started anew and, still, the world pulses on.

Still, there are moments when I feel the Earth slant, not unlike a wheel slipping off the track, and, just like that, I become attuned to the dearth of her in the universe. In the pinched and silent minutes

I didn’t think it was possible.

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that follow, I struggle furiously to bring an image of her face to mind. The space pulled open by her leaving desperately needs to be filled with the light that was her person. That is the only way I feel halfway righted again.

Do you see the blessed, upside down miracle? My mom still lives! The beauty and the joy, the Grace and the strength that marked her have inked themselves all over those to whom she gave herself; we bleed new life into their imprint.

In that wild conjuring, it is the picture of her head tilting back -smiling wide -- that develops most vividly. This image comes because this was her most practiced posture, a posture of joy. And as soon as that image imprints on my mind’s eye, the ground beneath my feet

This is the only way that I can be when she is no longer. There is a gorgeous truth that rings the edges of her absence — she is never far away. She pulses, alive, into each golden thread she strung and we sing her anthem on the wind.

“AND, IN A POCKET OF QUIET, JUST BEFORE EVERYTHING TILTED TOWARDS MOTION AND MAYHEM, I MARVELED, ONCE AGAIN,

“IT IS THE TENACIOUS ETHEREAL THREADS,

INVISIBLE

THAT I WAS HERE.”

YET STEADFAST, BY WHICH WE ARE HELD SO TENDERLY TO ONE OTHER.”

steadies and I can breathe again. In the wake of such episodes, I’ve become acutely aware of the ways we are tethered to each other. There are the obvious attachments of parent to child, husband to wife, sister to brother, yes. It is the tenacious ethereal threads, invisible yet steadfast, by which we are held so tenderly to one other. Despite the childish belief that my living depended on the continued presence of my mother, it is not untrue that much of who I am was informed by her person. Our conversations, our embracing, our gazing in the same direction — all seemed to bear witness to the miracle of living. These were the obvious gifts. It was their sudden disappearance that sent me so quickly out of orbit. In my prolonged journey through grief I have come to see around the hollow left by my mother’s physical absence. In the lifting fog, I see the gossamer webs left in her wake.

Holly is a wife, very relaxed homeschooling mom, snapper of photos, coming of age writer, and a soul drowning in grace.

I catch her smile as I quickly pass the mirror. I feel her strength as I surmount a tricky task. I channel her stubbornness when I fight for a relationship to be righted. I access her peace and her loving heart in order to champion a soul whose life matters.

Follow Holly

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Lamentations

3:1, 33

THE

STEADFAST LOVE OF THE

L NEVER O CEASES R D

HIS MERCIES

NEVER COME TO AN END THEY ARE NEW

E V E RY M O R N I N G GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS. 31


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so I say, “My endurance has perished;

Great Is Your Faithfulness

so has my hope from the Lord.”

I am the man who has seen affliction

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,

under the rod of his wrath;

the wormwood and the gall!

he has driven and brought me

My soul continually remembers it

into darkness without any light;

and is bowed down within me.

surely against me he turns his hand

But this I call to mind,

again and again the whole day long.

and therefore I have hope:

He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;[b]

he has broken my bones;

his mercies never come to an end;

he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation;

they are new every morning;

he has made me dwell in darkness

great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

like the dead of long ago.

“therefore I will hope in him.”

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;

The Lord is good to those who wait for him,

he has made my chains heavy;

to the soul who seeks him.

though I call and cry for help,

It is good that one should wait quietly

he shuts out my prayer;

for the salvation of the Lord.

he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;

It is good for a man that he bear

he has made my paths crooked.

the yoke in his youth.

He is a bear lying in wait for me,

Let him sit alone in silence

a lion in hiding;

when it is laid on him;

he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces;

let him put his mouth in the dust—

he has made me desolate;

there may yet be hope;

he bent his bow and set me

let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,

as a target for his arrow.

and let him be filled with insults.

He drove into my kidneys

For the Lord will not

the arrows of his quiver;

cast off forever,

I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,

but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion

the object of their taunts all day long.

according to the abundance of his steadfast love;

He has filled me with bitterness;

for he does not afflict from his heart

he has sated me with wormwood.

or grieve the children of men.

He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness[a] is;

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