Saturday, August 1, 2015

A New(ish) Adventure

I'm feeling a bit of déjà vu, as I am preparing for something similar to what I was preparing for 4 years ago around this very time of year. Let me back up...

I am currently a Liberty University student, and am scheduled to graduate next spring. Finishing up my degree (I'm pursuing my B.S. in Psychology/Crisis Counseling with a Minor in Christian Counseling) has been my biggest priority at this point in my life and I haven't thought much about what will happen in my life beyond that, besides the general idea of what I want to pursue for a job and ministry. I'm trusting God will guide me step-by-step. Because of being busy with classes, even being currently enrolled in a summer class that will wrap up soon, I wasn't thinking of doing anything else before I graduate.

As many of you know, I had the blessing of going through the Basic Training at Ellerslie Leadership Training in Colorado for 9 weeks in the fall of 2011. Here's a photo of the Fall 2011 Ellerslie Epsilon Class (I miss these people! There's me in the front center in a pink sweater):


Ever since that precious season growing in the Lord with other people who have become some of my dearest friends, I have felt that my time there wasn't complete. Ellerslie offers a 7-week Advanced Training for those who have completed Basic. Initially, I wanted to go back for Advanced a month after my Basic wrapped up, after the Christmas season. However, I unfortunately was diagnosed with mono and it wasn't possible for me to go. It's all in God's timing. Side note: I highly suggest checking out what Ellerslie is all about! :-)

In May of this year, God was leading me through some personal things that I needed to deal with. I didn't immediately do what I knew He was asking me to do, which needed repenting of. At that point in my life, I honestly felt a lack of direction and was quite frustrated and discouraged.

It reminds me of a quote I read by Terri Foy: "God will not advance your instructions beyond your last act of disobedience."

I was not obeying God and my instructions were not being made clear beyond what I needed to do first. I had to choose to obey Him, no matter the cost, and I felt Him showing me that He would reveal to me the next step of my journey after I was obedient.

I wrote in my journal on May 14th: "One thing I prayed was that I would be willing to do whatever You asked of me, no matter what it is or how much it hurts. I knew You would even have to give me the desire to do it and then the grace and strength to go through with it."

In May, by God's grace and guidance, I did what He was asking me to do (for the sake of this blog post, it's not important for me to share what that was, but I can say that it was a pretty big deal for me spiritually). As soon as I did obey Him, I felt a deep sense of freedom and peace.

I also felt a stirring within me for something different. It's hard to explain, but I knew that a change was coming... some sort of new adventure with Jesus. :-) It's incredible for me to look back and see how in each step, even when I didn't see God's hand, that He was working behind the scenes.

On May 16th, I wrote in my journal: "I got this strong impression in my spirit that I should go to Ellerslie Advanced this fall."

I vividly remember what I was doing that day and how this long-buried dream of Ellerslie was brought to the forefront of my mind, as if it was planted there by God Himself. It came out of nowhere because as I said, it was not something I was considering since I am in college and I honestly didn't think it would be feasible, so there was no point in thinking about it in the first place.

Literally just a couple days after I obeyed what the Lord was asking me to do, I got marching orders for the next step in my journey, something that I was not expecting. But, as I said, I did feel that I would one day be going back to Ellerslie, but I didn't know when, why, or how exactly. So many things in my personal life were pointing to this being the next step for me.

It is actually quite amazing how it all works out so perfectly and how the Lord placed the idea in my mind and showed me that it could indeed work out. You see, it's somewhat complicated, but to try to explain, my school semesters are broken up into two 8-week segments, rather than being the full 16 weeks. So... because of this, I would be taking off the first 8 weeks of classes during the fall semester in order to go to Ellerslie (it would be way too busy for me to do both at once). Ellerslie Advanced will start up in August (shortly after my final summer class ends) and end in October (shortly before the second 8-week of the semester classes begin). I would be arriving home just two days before I am scheduled to fly out to Michigan for a couple days to speak at an event.

I realized that with timing and scheduling, it could work... but I felt hesitant about going if it would change my graduation date. How could that work? Well, because I took a couple of courses this summer, and because my mom told me about something she did when she was in college, I realized after looking into it that I could still graduate and participate in the Commencement Ceremony next May, as long as I had 6 or less credits left to complete at that time. I would have exactly 6 left (the 6 I would be taking this fall). I would need to finish those classes next summer before they'd mail me my diploma, which really isn't a problem.

But what about financial aid, I wondered? Well, the financial aid would distribute accordingly, half this fall, and the other half next summer instead. I know these are a lot of details, but I want to share them to show how God has been intimately involved, even in the smallest of details!

I believe God has shown me NOW is the time for me to go back to Ellerslie. He is so faithful to guide our lives! It also happens to be the last opportunity for me to go. They will be changing the program, making it longer (and not even offering it for several months), and I would have to go through Basic again in order to go through Advanced. It's literally the last time they'll be offering the 7-week program. The time length that it is currently is much more convenient for me at this point in my life (it used to last several months and will be longer in the future as well). Not only that, but after I graduate, I will most likely be working full-time, and wouldn't be able to take those weeks off anyways.

Over the weeks after I initially felt like I am supposed to go back, I prayed, journaled, and earnestly sought the Lord about it. I wanted to make sure it was His will for my life and not just something I dreamed up for myself.

During this time, I listened to a particular song by Sara Groves called "Hello Lord" on repeat. It expresses many things I was feeling. Here are the lyrics (you can listen to it below or by clicking here).

Hello Lord, it's me Your child
I have a few things on my mind
Right now I'm faced with big decisions
And I'm wondering if You have a minute, cuz
Right now I don't hear so well
And I was wondering if You could speak up

I know that You tore the veil 
So I could sit with You in person
And hear what You're saying but
Right now, I just can't hear You.

I don't doubt Your sovereignty
I doubt my own ability to
Hear what You're saying
And to do the right thing 
And I desperately want to do the right thing
But right now I don't hear so well
And I was wondering if You could speak up

I know that You tore the veil 
So I could sit with You in person
And hear what You're saying but
Right now, I just can't hear You.

And somewhere in the back of my mind
I think You are telling me to wait
And though patience has never been mine
Lord, I will wait to hear from You
Oh Lord, I'm waiting on You

Right now I don't hear so well
And I was wondering if You could speak up

I know that You tore the veil 
So I could sit with You in person
And hear what You're saying but
Right now, I think You're whispering


I read a post I wrote about how God led me to Ellerslie the first time and how He provided for me in such beautiful ways. I wrote in my journal on May 30th: "I felt led to read my post about my journey to Ellerslie. I am encouraged afresh and amazed at Your love and faithfulness and how You've led my life thus far. It's incredible how You can grow my faith now in reading about how You grew it 4 years ago."

I carefully weighed all the pros and cons of going (honestly some of the cons were reasons to go. ha!). I considered my motives for wanting to go. I prayed for peace and guidance and for all the details to be made clear. I didn't want to rush into a decision. I was able to talk with a couple friends about their experience at Ellerslie Advanced which really helped in my decision-making (thanks Karen and April!) :-)

Ultimately, I decided that everything is falling into place for me to go. And I feel that I would regret in the future if I hadn't gone, but I don't feel I would regret going. I am single and want to view this time in my life as a gift, fully soaking up all sorts of adventures!

In June, I felt confirmation that it was time to apply. I remember the first time I went to Ellerslie and how I just knew that I was meant to go and at that specific time. I wanted that same sort of confirmation this time around. I waited before the Lord and He showed me when it was time to apply. So, I applied and then waited a while longer, then went through the interview process, then got accepted. And now this week, the very week that the tuition payment is due in full, the money came through (further confirmation I'm supposed to go). And I found an amazing deal on a plane ticket!

In less than 3 weeks from now, Lord willing, I will be leaving for Colorado for 7 1/2 weeks. I am excited, I am expectant, I am certain this is what I'm meant to do. If my Shepherd leads me somewhere, I trust He will provide everything I need. I will be spending a few days with my dear friend, Bex, before things officially get underway on the little campus in Windsor. I really am looking forward to that as well. :-)

I'm not sure why the Lord is taking me back to Ellerslie now after all this time, but He is. Colorado, I'm coming for you and the new(ish) adventure the Lord has planned for me out west. Can't wait to be greeted by warm, friendly faces and those majestic Rocky Mountains. :-)

Ellerslie Lake

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Mentor in Marilyn

The Lord sets up conversations and encounters with others at just the right moment and in just the right way to speak to us through them.

When I was in Virginia a few weeks ago, I went with my grandmother to one of the (many lol) groups she's involved with. It's a Bible study/book study/share testimonies and devotionals/whatever the Lord leads it to be group (aka AWESOME!) They were singing worship songs that evening and it was wonderful! I was fortunate enough to sit beside a lady named Marilyn who has an absolutely beautiful singing voice. Marilyn is my grandmother's friend who was kind enough to sing a couple songs, accompanied by her guitar, at the celebration on Lily's 4th birthday last March.

Anyways, it's interesting that Marilyn went at all the night that I was in town, because apparently she hadn't been going to the group much recently. I believe it was because the Lord wanted us to connect. I was able to share with her a bit of how the lullaby song she sang on Lily's birthday has blessed me over the past year and a half. I recorded it, so am able to listen to it whenever I want. Her voice, the words, the guitar, everything about it is breathtaking. Have a listen:


Marilyn invited me over to her house one afternoon for lunch (which was delicious, by the way... they could totally serve it at Panera Bread or somewhere). My grandmother had wanted us to have the opportunity to share more of our stories with each other, so I was glad to finally be able to do so. She truly took the time to listen to my heart and to share some of her own with me. I cannot tell you how much her encouragement and wisdom impacted me. Her testimony is powerful and God-glorifying even in the midst of deep pain and darkness. I'm still processing the things we discussed. Some of the things are perhaps things I've thought about before, but it is good for them to be brought to the forefront of my mind and to hear them in a different way, coming from someone who has experiences of her own and can speak to me from a place of wisdom and maturity.

For one thing, she shared with me a bit of her own beautiful love story and how the Lord brought her and her husband together. She boldly and adamantly spoke over me that the very thing that might appear to keep me from having the sort of husband/love story I desire could be the very thing God uses to bring us together. Meaning, with all my regrets and struggles over my past, and feeling like I don't deserve a godly man, and in sharing my story so publicly, perhaps God will use that very thing to bring us together. Perhaps he too will have a passion for standing for the unborn. Maybe even having something similar to me in his past? With my own experiences and over time, I am open to marrying someone with a "past" of his own, maybe even with a child. How could I expect someone to love Lily if she were here, but not be willing to do the same? What matters is who someone is today and their relationship with Christ now.

I could hear these things from anyone (which I *have* heard and thought them before) and even if they are true, they wouldn't hold quite the same weight as a woman who married at the age of 45 and knows a thing or two about waiting. And this same woman knows a thing or two about my experiences because she has had some similar and can relate to what I expressed to her. Someone who got married at 18 or 19 and has not experienced these things could say the exact same things to me that she said and it wouldn't impact me in nearly the same way. Our words have weight when we have walked a similar road.

She also said something else to me that I needed to hear. She asked if I am okay with whatever God has for me in my ministry. Would I be content with whatever His plan is, even if it's not what I would choose or what I thought it'd be. If He asked me to give up all my dreams and desires of speaking and writing a book and sharing my story in all the ways I do, would I be okay with that? Because ultimately, my satisfaction and fulfillment cannot and will not come from anything or anyone outside of Him, even dreams that were put in my heart by Him in the first place. If He asks me to entirely surrender them, I have to be willing. I have to always hold them out with open hands because it is He who has written this story, He who holds this story, He who has opened the doors for me to share it. He can close the doors anytime He sees fit too. And I must be ready to be obedient and glad in my obedience.

I must recognize that my status as a mother does not change even if things were to become more quiet and private, even if I never shared another time publicly. I do believe God has much more for me to do in sharing my story, but if He were to ask me right now to lay it down, I honestly know that I would have a hard time letting go. Because maybe I do see some of my status as a mother in what I do for Lily and Luke. But me being a mother does not change depending upon what I do or don't do, just as it does not change just because my children are not growing up on Earth.

Not only does my status as a mother not change depending on what I do, but neither does my status as a Christian. My value and worth to God is not found in what I do for Him. He doesn't love me more or less whether or not I've spoken a certain number of times in a year. He loves me, regardless of how I view my own "performance" as a Christian serving Him.

When I shared with Marilyn different struggles I have, she said something along the lines of how being decades older than I am, relating to my present struggles in her past, she said she realizes more and more how fleeting this life is. And maybe the cares of this world start to fade as we get older and realize all the things that can feel so heavy and all-consuming are really "just an illusion" as she put it. This is just the introduction to Heaven, to Eternity, where we will spend forever, where it's really real so to speak. Those words helped put things in perspective for me and reminded me to be more Eternity-focused.

Marilyn is like a spiritual mentor/mother and I greatly treasure the time we've spent together. I look forward to getting to know her more over the coming years.

Marilyn and I at Lily's 4th birthday celebration
Marilyn singing and playing her guitar at Lily's birthday celebration

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Compassionate Friends a Decade+ Later

The end of June and beginning of July, I was in my home area of Virginia with my mom "house-sitting" and helping to care for her friend's plants and goats (who would've ever thought a goat could capture my heart). ;-) We enjoyed visiting with friends and family, eating at favorite places, and seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains that feel like home.

Anyways, as I have written about before, my grandmother attends Compassionate Friends meetings and has for many, many years. She lost her 7th child, my Aunt Rachel, when she was 3 months old, in 1965.

When I was 15 and living in Virginia, I started accompanying my grandmother to her Compassionate Friends meetings. How many people would willingly choose to go to such a sad meeting? CF is a place of support for bereaved parents. Looking back, I wonder why I ever wanted to go, especially at such a young age? But then God whispers to my heart...

"This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see." -Corrie ten Boom

He was preparing me for the future only He could see. He knew that one day, just a few years later, I myself would be a bereaved parent. My grandmother and I would be connected as women who lost their baby girls.

It was strange in a way going back with her to the same church, with many of the same people. It was so familiar, yet so much has changed in the more than a decade since I first attended one of these meetings. I cannot even remember my life before loving Lily.


As we were leaving that night, a gorgeous pink sunset was waiting for us to behold.


It felt like a reminder from Heaven that our baby girls are with Him, awaiting our homecoming.


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Be Ready or Get Ready

A couple weeks ago, after the first Planned Parenthood sting video was released by The Center for Medical Progress, an opportunity arose for me to talk on a radio station. This particular station is part of a popular conservative news site and they were looking for a young post-abortive woman to share.

A lady I know in the pro-life movement/post-abortion ministry thought of me and asked if I'd be interested in sharing. Honestly, my first immediate thought was saying that no, I was not interested, because it was an extremely intimidating thought!

But, then after thinking about it for about 30 seconds, I said that yes, I was definitely interested. They took my information and over the next hour or so, I was nervous thinking about the possibility of a radio interview, but I was preparing in my mind about what to say, what I might possibly be asked, etc. I went from being nervous to having confidence mixed in there. ;)

Anyways, after a while, I got a follow-up email saying that I was unfortunately bumped from the show because there were too many guests in the queue.

I share all this to say that even though my first reaction was fear, anxiety, nervousness, and wanting to run the opposite direction, I chose to say yes. God spoke to me that I need to be ready to speak whenever He opens up a door of opportunity for me to do so. I ask Him what I can do to be a voice for the voiceless ones, and if He directly shows me what to do, I need to submit myself and walk in obedience.

Not only that, but I also need to rest assured that He will give me what I need... the confidence, the words, etc. It might be scary to me, but He is not intimidated by it and will provide what I need to do what He's asking of me.

It also meant a lot to me that I was thought of as a potential person to share.

BE READY, with whatever God is asking of you... and if you're not ready yet, GET READY. Educate yourself on what is going on so that you will be ready to speak. This not only applies to abortion, but whatever it is God is asking you to speak out on.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Joy and Regret, He's Been My God Through All of It

One of the things I have felt most deeply over the past several years is regret. It has weighed down on my entire being like a ton of bricks. Did I ruin God's plan for my life?

Through the years, when I felt Him and when I didn't, He was there. His sovereign hand was on my life, He was guiding and directing me even when I couldn't see that He was. He has been my God through all of it, through the joys and the regrets. He has been working out His plan for my life, not just in spite of my past which has caused such deep regrets, but in many ways through it.

I haven't ruined His plan for my life. He was not surprised by my choices: my abortion, not saving sex for marriage, my unplanned pregnancies, Lily's life and death. He knew what was to come, even when I was a little girl. And He was always working, weaving the story in such a way that only He can do, in such a way that beauty and light would shine through the deep darkness and sin.

I remember when I was around 15 and I felt this impression on my soul that God was calling me to ministry. At that point, I wasn't sure exactly how that would look or what the specific call was for. He was calling me to something that I didn't even understand yet. Only through my experiences over the next several years would He awaken my heart to what my purpose on Earth is. He knew what was to come and knew that He had a plan and purpose in it all! So much so that He would show little ol' 15-year-old me that He had a plan for my life, in serving Him with my life. The choices that led me to my call weren't made yet, but His plan for my life was already crafted, waiting to be unfolded in His perfect timing.

I have always loved writing and remember when I was in middle school and high school, teachers would compliment my writing (not saying this to brag, but showing God's hand in my life). He knew what my future held, before I had any clue. And I believe He gave me the gifts He did because of the specific calling on my life. He gave me the ability to articulate my story and the work He has done in my life. A big part of my sharing over the past several years has been through writing and it is only through His enabling grace to write that I have been able to do so.

On the other hand, not only do my gifts point to His sovereignty and hand in my life, but my weaknesses do as well. I have never wanted to be a public speaker. In fact, during my adolescent years, I was extremely awkward and shy. In many ways, I am still an introvert and can still feel uncomfortable in social settings. I think I express myself much better in writing than speaking. BUT, God is much greater than our weaknesses and insecurities. Just the fact that I am compelled to speak out and share my story is proof to me that it is God calling me to do so. It is so far outside of my comfort zone. I never imagined or desired to speak publicly before crowds of hundreds of people, especially about a topic so intimate and personal. The fact that God has enabled me to do so shows that His grace and strength meets us right we are. He provides what we are lacking. When I am standing before a crowd speaking, even though I can get nervous beforehand, I feel a peace and I know, this is exactly where I'm meant to be.

These are just some of the ways God has shown me how He's been present in my life always and how what is unfolding right now has been His plan for my life since the foundation of the Earth. He has shown me His sovereignty both in my gifts and in what I lack. I am grateful that I can see these things now. It brings comfort knowing that He has been my God through all of it. And He can redeem the regrets. Ask Him to show you how He's always been there through your life as well because He has been, even when we don't see or acknowledge it.

I randomly turned to a radio station a few days ago and heard this song (I know I was meant to). It made me tear up to think of my God being there with me through it all, the joys and the regrets, and how His hand has always been on my life. In His will, I am safe and I am protected. And nothing can take me away from the love of God or His plan for my life.


by Colton Dixon

There are days I've taken more than I can give
And there are choices that I made
That I wouldn't make again
I've had my share of laughter
Of tears and troubled times
This is has been the story of my life

I have won and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life's been a journey
I've seen joy, I've seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

You were there when it all came down on me
And I was blinded by my fear
And I struggled to believe
But in those unclear moments
You were the one keeping me strong
This is how my story's always gone

I have won and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life's been a journey
I've seen joy, I've seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it
Through all of it

And this is who You are
More constant than the stars up in the sky
All these years of our lives
I, I look back and I see You
Right now I still do
And I'm always going to

I have won and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life's been a journey
I've seen joy
I've seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lily's Name in Canada

Thank you to my friend Rebekah on Instagram for thinking of my Lily and writing her name in the sand in Canada recently. I love how loopy the letters are.


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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Grace to See and Express

Sometimes I can go weeks between publishing blog posts, which is more time between posts than I'd like. In the past several weeks, I believe God had a lesson to teach me in this "silence" when I felt like I wanted to share, but couldn't find the words. It was a strange place to be in because writing is my therapy and I seem to never run out of things to say about my love for Lily (and Luke).

The lack of words showed me that when the words do spring forth, it is only because God gives me what He wants me to share. I don't have the ability to express myself in an articulate way in and of myself. It is only through God's grace. If He wants me to share, He stirs it within me, then gives me the desire and the ability to write what's on my heart. If I'm not meant to share, there's nothing that comes. I take for granted at times that it'll always be there, but that's not true.

He literally provides everything we need in this life. Not only is it He who gives me ability to express what He's doing in my life and what He's teaching me, but it is also only Him who opens my eyes in the first place to the beauty of the story He is writing. I only see through eyes of grace because of Him. If it weren't for Him revealing the depth of the profound and breathtaking beauty of Lily and Luke's legacies, I truly think I would be drowning in the sorrow of this story, rather than choosing to focus on the beauty that has risen in the midst of the ashes.

As I have said many times before, yes, my story is sad, but it is so much more than that. I want people who hear it to walk away pondering on the goodness of God and His power to redeem and restore even the most broken among us. 

So when I share post after post on what God is showing me and how He is using my precious babies in Heaven for my good and His glory, I want to always remember that it is He who provides those words for me to use and He who even provided me with the gift of seeing a glimpse of the marvelous tapestry He is weaving.

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