Feb 29, 2012

Wednesday SHINE....

Today's Reading: Romans 12

Good morning, SHINE girls! ( i always feel like Ty Pennington, the guy from Extreme Home Make-over, when I say this.) 

Happy Wonderful Wednesday!

Listen, do not forget to go to the SHINE weekday give-away post. I will be drawing a name this Friday! Yay!

Didn't we just LOVE Marsha's testimony yesterday? I mean, seriously, she is inspiring. I cannot wait to hug her pretty little neck one day. While doing so, I hope some of her grace, wisdom, and courage rubs off on me. I could use a little! (or a lot!)

Speaking of hugging necks, I hope to have another SHINE party soon. As of today, we have over 550 SHINE girls!! Can you believe it? We have grown a whole lot since January 1st! Spring would be a good time to get together. Let's all pray corporately about this.We could all bring a dish, and have some fun eating and socializing. Yippee!

Ok, my friend, Rebekah, will be posting today. She has awesome insight on Romans and extensive wisdom. She's my friend, counselor, sister in Christ, mentor, role-model, all combined into one pretty little package. 

Be blessed today, girls.

Romans 12

Y’all— I love that Paul’s heart is so full.  He is overflowing with the love of Christ and the Christian walk –  he could explain it a thousand different ways. (Sometimes, I think I am scratching my head-oh the details!)  What I love even more is that no matter how much we explain the love of Christ, it is SO simple.  We can feel it, know it and understand it, so can a child— by one simple act of faith. Life changing.

Ok, for all of the SHINE sisters who have been with us since JAN 1st, you know that our writer/creator of SHINE girls is, Jill Hill.  I love what she has done and as humble as she is, I can say- and she will admit- she is an encourager by nature.  This is her gift.  She is so inspired to encourage, that she lovingly encourages us every morning (don’t you just love that?!) . . . but does the “buck stop here?”

Jill said something to me recently that was incredible.  She said, “when a person is reading the word like we are and being faithful to pray and be with God, the Holy Spirit can work like never before.”

But, the truth is, we have to let Him work. We have to follow his lead— 

During my Sunday morning church service, just before communion, the pastor is leading us in a prayerful confession of sin.  First, silently, to ourselves and then all together, we say:

. . . We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. . .

We say this particular phrase every Sunday.  I have it memorized.  Yet, somehow, the LEFT UNDONE part had never quite hit me like it had that Sunday.  “Left Undone” sounded like thunder all of the sudden.  Now, this might mean different things to different people, but this particular morning, it’s meaning for me was crystal clear!

I want to be a child of God, a SHINE girl, encouraged every day with all of you and by all of you, grounded in the word, grounded in prayer and then I actually want to SHINE.  But, not in the traditional shiny sense.  Well, not exactly.  You see, I want to SHINE, Holy Spirit inspired.

When I heard the words “left undone,”  bullet points started appearing in my mind, one by one, and along with them, faces, names  and acts that I had been reminded of or people who I felt led to reach out to, but had not.  Those are those “left undone” things… that stay undone.  *insert sad face here*  We intentionally turn the volume down on these things down. Who has time?  We do…!

I want to encourage you to make a “left undone” list.  A Holy Spirit inspired outreach.  Your list might be one thing that you have been putting off.  It might be four things, like me.  I started writing them down, right there before communion in my journal; the “left undones” were headed to my TO DO list.  :o)

~Write a note.
~Make a call- just to check on your “left undone” person. (Who is your person? That God reminds you of?)
~Mail a package.
~Go out of your way to pay a compliment.
~Bake a cake?  Yep, I said it.
~Forgiving, maybe-just-maybe?

Whatever it is, give your SHINE away.  If we have all of these loving thoughts inside… that we leave locked away, unrevealed.. oh my! I totally do this!! 

If “every good and perfect gift is from the Lord… James 1:17,”  I don’t want to be leaving the Lord, essentially, locked away, undone! ...Yikes!

 Jill also talks about “red birds,” little events or life moments that are gifts from God. So that when you see them, you know where they came from because they are just so good.  I hope we can help the Lord create a few red bird moments that He has been wanting to make happen.  Encouraging and uplifting those around us!  Enriching lives— are you with me?!

If not us, then who….

Dear Holy Spirit, meet us now. Move through our hearts.  Thank you for all of the ways you have encouraged us to show Christ’s love. Forgive us for ignoring Your call, Father.  Help us to pray now and remember all of the “left undone” things that we need to do in our lives so that Your will can be accomplished.  Give us the courage to love with abandon. Extend us, Lord. Lead us now, in Jesus name we pray, Amen.

P.S. Just writing this now, I have a new list.  One thing is, I need to call my precious Aunt who cares for her sick husband. The Lord has been reminding me to call her for a solid 4 weeks by now.  Brushing the embarrassment away, I am gonna get on board!
I am praying for your list; and ALL of those who will feel the love of Christ from your obedience.  Have you been reminded of something already?
Love you so!

Be inspired today in Romans 12

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of Christians and seek to show hospitality.
Romans 12:10-13

Feb 28, 2012

Tuesday SHINE...

Today's Reading: Romans 11

Happy Tuesday, SHINE girls! Can I just say.....I love you girls! 

Seriously, even when I am in a big huge pit, you girls reach down and pull me up with your encouragement and love of Christ. Thank you so much!

I received the Spotlight SHINE girl's testimony yesterday afternoon. I could not believe how her story came at just the right time for me. Wow. 

Get ready to be blessed...big time.

Sandy Clark's introduction:

What a joy and privilege is mine to introduce this week’s SHINE Spotlight Girl!  I am so blessed to call her my friend and my sister in Christ.  At a time when I was completely burned out as the “preacher’s wife,” God miraculously called my LEM to a new ministry, not in the pastorate.

  We had to find a church home, and this amazing lady became our “preacher’s wife!”  We’ve been through a lot together, and even though we don’t get to spend a lot of time together physically, I know she is always there for me, praying for me and mine and loving us unconditionally.  I could call her for prayer (and have) at any time, day or night.  

She has proven herself time and again to be a faithful friend, prayer warrior and daughter of the Highest.  She has a grown, severely disabled child, lost the love of her life to cancer, and has fought her own valiant battle with cancer.  Yet her unwavering faith has been an inspiration to all who know her.  But wait!!  I don’t want to tell her story!!  I could talk about her all day long because I love her so much!  Please read and be blessed by what our Sweet Lord has to say to you today through Marsha Sandridge.

Marsha's Story:

My dear friend, Leslie Jones introduced me to SHINE Girls.  I’m so grateful she did because this blog has strengthened me in my spiritual walk.  Jill, you are a blessing from the Lord!  I love your transparency, the beautiful ways you express your love to Him and how you encourage us through the Word.

To Leslie and her mother, Sandy Clark, “I thank My God for every remembrance of you.”  You are my sisters, not by birth but of the heart.  We are family because we have blood ties in Jesus!  Your unconditional love is such a grace-gift from the Father to me.  I love you both sooo much!

My life is blessed and highly favored.  Not because I’ve done anything to deserve it, but because of my gracious God!  The Lord has given me a beautiful family: 3 great sons and 2 extraordinary daughters-in-law, whom I love as daughters.  My middle son, Matthew, has autism.  He is severely disabled, but God is using Him mightily for His glory.  He is dearly loved and so precious to my family and me.  Matthew’s behavioral issues and disability is definitely a challenge—but he is never a burden!  By God’s grace, Matthew is a joy.  In our family circle there’s also a little girl who calls me “Nana.”  Gabby is 2 yrs. old, a delight to my heart and a miracle from our Father.

Time spent with my Lord and time spent with family, both biological and spiritual, brings much joy to me.  At one point in my life I couldn’t have truthfully written that about my Lord because my husband and family took place above Him.  So I wasn’t allowing Him to be Lord in my life… I see that more clearly now than I did then.

As a young girl I always dreamed of being a wife and mother.  I married Dave, a wonderful, godly man---my soul mate and dearest friend on this earth.  Dave was called to ministry and already serving in a church when we met.   When Dave proposed to me, He promised that he would always love me “second best.”  That was fine with me; I knew his first love was Jesus and even as a young bride-to-be I realized that there could be no stronger foundation upon which to build a marriage.  My joy increased as over the years God gave us our 3 precious sons:  David, Matthew and Stephen.

However, during the years I was plagued with “what ifs.”  In other words, I was taunted by Satan with some of my worst fears.  Now I was in Christ and He was in me so Satan had no authority to destroy me, but he would threaten to destroy me.  And I’m sorry to say, I allowed him the victory many times because I did not fully trust God.  I didn’t trust Him because I wasn’t digging deep into His Word and spending intimate time with Him. Some of my “what ifs” included:

  • What if I have a child with a disability
  • What if we suffer severe financial hardship
  • What if I get cancer
  • What if my husband dies

All of the above and more came to pass.  I also need to say that many of my fears never became a reality!   But my Father had to bring me to brokenness and in that brokenness I became desperate enough to seek the Lord with all my heart in His Word and through prayer.  The process of brokenness is painful but the product is more than worth it!  On the other side of brokenness lies new intimacy with God and new power to serve Him.  I would not dare say it’s easy or that I would want to go through it again, but this I know:  The Lord has used each situation to purify me and mold me more into His likeness as I’ve yielded to Him.  So brokenness is not a curse, but a blessing!

We can be so scared of what brokenness is going to require us…scared of what God may do to us…scared of the cost of being broken.  With that fear comes spiritual paralysis—I know that so well.  We take our eyes off of Jesus and look at the circumstances we’re so afraid might come our way.  Then we forget about the grace, mercy, strength and joy that God promises He will give us in those times of adversity.

You’ve heard it said, “The will of God will never lead us where His grace will not keep us.”  We never get grace until we need it!  If someone had told me in advance about some of the things I would experience in these past few years, I would have been overcome with fear and been spiritually immobilized.  I would have been focused on a future trial, but without the future grace!  Only by His all-sufficient grace and clinging to the promises in God’s Word have I endured.

I had just fully recovered from cancer surgery, chemo and radiation (that’s another testimony of God’s grace) when my beloved Dave became ill.  The diagnosis was liver cancer; no treatment would help and he was ineligible for a transplant.  We were stunned…heartsick…and went running to the One Who embraced us so lovingly and tenderly.  And oh, how the Body of Christ prayed for us and cared for us!  Even now, it moves me to tears...

Every day I would pray for Dave’s healing, not bargaining with my Lord, not sobbing my heart out, but with perfect peace in my soul.  This was NOT me—this was truly the power of Christ in me, carrying me. What grace…what all sufficient grace!  In those weeks, one particular scripture would come to me as I prayed or read.  I would hear it in a song, in a message on Christian radio, and I would hear the Spirit speak it to me in a still, quiet voice.  Time and time again I would hear, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” (Hebrews 13:5) 

Dave did receive healing, not as I’d asked but on a greater level.  He received his ultimate healing, which came much more quickly than we’d thought. God was merciful in that he didn’t suffer as much as the doctors predicted.  Every day grace was lavished upon us from our Father.  It would take pages for me to give testimony to how our Lord was so merciful, gracious and tender towards us.  He did numerous miracles in our midst---and by His grace we were still able to laugh together…sometimes in the midst of tears.

So my beloved went home to be with his First Love.  And the Lover of My Soul has, just as He promised, never left me nor forsaken me, but continues to strengthen me and uphold me with His righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10)

It was a week or so after Dave went to be with Jesus that I picked up a devotional book to read.  The scripture for the day was Hebrews 13:5, which certainly got my attention.   My heart was overwhelmed by my Father’s love when I saw the explanation of the verse in the original language (Greek) in which the word “never” has 5 negatives.  I love that Father was confirming this truth to me and making sure I “got it!”  It reads, “I will never, never, never, never, never leave you or forsake you.”  That’s Truth, dear sister, and I’ve experienced this promise in ways that could only be attributed to God and God alone!

There’s a gravestone in a cemetery a few miles from my home that has my husband’s name and a scripture that he chose inscribed on it.  When he made that choice, I told him, “It’s perfect---it so describes how you’ve lived!”  The verse says, “My grace is sufficient…” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I now believe the Holy Spirit prompted my husband to also choose that verse for me.  I’m reminded of my Father’s all-sufficient grace every time I visit Dave’s grave.  My name is inscribed on the gravestone, as well.  It doesn’t bother me to see it, instead I’m encouraged to live out the rest of my days as a vessel of His grace…because I’ve received such an abundance from Him.   Even when I am faithless, He remains faithful!

The complete verse reads: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

I am weak…He is strong.   Jesus, Your grace still amazes me—what a wonder You are!
I love You so…with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.  Thank You for giving me the grace to sing with joy:

“Every blessing You pour out, I’ll turn back to praise.
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say…

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name!

You give and take away,
You give and take away.
But my heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your Name.”

In the Grip of His Grace,


Vows and a promise to love "second-best"

The family celebrating Jesus' birthday

Our precious Matthew
Mother and son remembering and missing their loved one

Marsha with daughters-in-law and sons (and granddaughter in the womb)

Nana and Gabby singing "Jesus Loves Me"

Feb 27, 2012

Discussions on Reading Plan Week of 2/27-3/2....

If you want to discuss the Reading Plan for this week...here is the place.

Romans is jam packed with good, good stuff. Praying the Lord is speaking to you.

Prayer Requests and Praises Week of 2/27-3/2....

Please put your sweet Prayer Requests and Praises for this week of 2/27-3/2 under this post.

We love praying for all of you. If we do not respond or comment, it is not because we are not praying.
Please know that. God hears our prayers...each and every one of them.

Love you girls!

“This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:2-3

Monday SHINE....

Today's Reading: Romans 10

so, after I posted this...
i received this in my inbox. it is from another blog that i am subscribed to.
 coincidence? no way.

Good morning, SHINE.

As I write to you now, I am very tired. My eyes are blood shot because I had zero sleep.

I have a doctor's appointment today, and for the last 3 days my mind has been consumed with fear.

Fear of the worst possible scenario.

Here's where I am exposed and you see the many weaknesses in my walk.  Fear is something that I struggle with on a daily, moment by moment basis.

Fear is what keeps me from living the life that He has so richly planned for me.

Fear is where my faith and my flesh meet and battle it out for Truth.

Don't get me wrong, some days are better than others. However, at this very second, my mind and my flesh have gotten the best of me.

It makes me so mad. My faith and love for God is real. Very, very real. He is so intimate with me on a daily basis. He reveals Himself to me in many ways. We are tight.

However, when fear creeps in, my awareness of Him dissipates. Not because He leaves, but because I leave.

I go running to the nearest rock to cling on to for dear life. It is almost like everything goes black and I have tunnel vision. I make up a million scenarios of "what-ifs" and replay them in my little head until I am physically nauseous.

I'm being completely real. I do not know any other way to be. Especially given my tiredness and lack of sleep.

Girls, I would be lying if I told you that I had this fear thing figured out. I don't.

I know the verses to go to, I know the prayers to pray, I know the people to reach out to. However, my flesh gets the best of me, and the disconnect happens.

I say the right words, but my heart and my mind fear the opposite. My head conjures up pictures and scenarios of the future that I  imagine and it frightens me so much.

So, as I read Romans this morning, I had to insert my name in one of the passages. Because today, I am like the Israelites that Paul is preaching to.

Here is the scripture: "For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge." Romans 10:2

Here is the way I translate it this morning: "For I can testify about Jill, that she is zealous for God, but her zeal is not based on knowledge."

I looked up the definition of zealous:  ardently active, devoted, or diligent.

In other words, I am devoted, diligent, and ardently active, but I struggle with the knowledge that God will save me and protect me. I can quote scripture after scripture regarding God's protection, His love, His peace; however, when fear kicks in there is a huge gaping hole in my knowledge.

It seeps out the nearest crevice, and let's the huge ugly monster of fear into this little heart of mine.

So, this is where I'm at this morning girls. This faith journey is a daily walk for me. Yes, the encouragement comes natural, it is a God-given gift. However, the walk for myself is what is the hardest.

If today, you are struggling with some fear, with some doubt, with some "what-ifs", you are not alone, friend. I too, am holding your hand and walking down that foggy path with you.

A lot of times, that strength and that peace will wash over me. Other times, I keep that crevice open for it to slip back out and let the fear make it's way in my heart and mind.

I hear Paul speaking to me this morning, loud and clear. I don't want to be just zealous in my actions and words, but also zealous in my heart and in my knowledge of Him.

Zealous from the inside out.

daily fighting the battle,


"When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." psalm 94:19

Feb 26, 2012

Weekday Give-Away Challenge 2/27-3/2....

After a lot of thought and prayer about what the challenge for this week's Weekday Give-Away should be, the answer came to me today.

As I was folding clothes in my Presley's room, I saw something sitting on her little desk. The second I saw it, I knew what our challenge would be.

Here is what I saw:

The message to me here is pretty profound; and I am not speaking financially either.

Are you a saver or a giver? Or maybe a little of both? Or maybe more of a saver than a giver?

I can whole-heartily say that I definitely save more than I give. I save more for myself. I save the best for myself a lot of times. (okay, most of the time.) If I give, it is often my leftovers and not the first and best fruits.


Yes, that's me. The stingy one.

Not proud.

So, here is the challenge:

Give something away this week. It does NOT have to be of a dollar value either.

Here are a few examples:

  • giving through your time.
  • serving at your church
  • helping a friend in need with dinner or cleaning their house
  • offering to drive a neighbors child to school (since gas is an arm and a leg!)
  • finding something in your closet that you like, but think it may look better on someone else--and giving it away.
  • a gift card that you have not used  
  • homemade cookies for your neighbor or co-worker

It sounds simple, but girls, I guarantee you that the person on the receiving end will be absolutely delighted. Who doesn't love any kind of gift? Seriously, it's the best.

Your time is often the best gift. Perhaps, because it is the most valuable in our busy, crazy lives.

When you give this week, please comment under this section. You can just put: I did it! or anything you want to put. Just make sure you leave your name with the comment. 

Your name will be entered in the drawing this Friday! It is a GOOD prize, girls!! Really, really good!

Our fellow SHINE girl and guest-blogger, Lisa Inlow, has generously offered to provide this prize.

Go, GIVE!!

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 

no more saving,


Reading Plan Week of 2/27-3/2....

Reading Plan for Week of 2/27-3/2:

  • Monday 2/27: Romans 10
  • Tuesday 2/28: Romans 11
  • Wednesday 2/29: Romans 12
  • Thursday 3/1: Romans 13
  • Friday 3/2: Romans 14

Stay tuned in this week, we will be having another weekday give-away. :)

Happy reading, SHINE!

Feb 25, 2012

Saturday SHINE....

Today is my Momma's birthday.

Since the economy stinks and I am not able to buy her some big, shiny, diamond earrings--I am going to write about her.

I know this is not the greatest gift that I can give her, but I hope to be able to convey my love and appreciation for her in my words.

So, here goes:

How do I even begin to describe my Momma? 

There are no words that could possibly describe this unique and precious relationship that she and I share. If I were to ever try and imagine my life without her in it, I couldn't. My life is wrapped up in my Mother in every conceivable way. 

When I am overwhelmed with my children, my housework, my husband, my insecurities, she is the very first person I call. She always listens, no matter how trivial the problem. She makes me feel like I am the only person on Earth when she's around. She always has time for me. Always.

I remember so well being in our little kitchen back in Rex, Georgia. I would watch her, noting her every fluent move. I was smitten with her. I wanted to be just like her. She would cook dinner and I would literally wrap my little legs around the bottom of her thighs and knees and hang on as tight as I possibly could manage.

Yep, I was and still am a Momma's girl.

 She was and still is the most beautiful woman. I remember thinking to myself, if I could only be as pretty as Mommy when I grow up, then I would be so happy.

Not only is she beautiful, but she is the most giving person that I know. She would do anything for anybody. I try to be like her in this way, but it comes so much more natural for her. She never hesitates. 

Have I mentioned that she is also extremely musically inclined? Yes, not only is she beautiful, but she sings, plays the piano, plays the guitar, and probably any other musical instrument. She was even in a band while I was growing up. Pretty cool, huh?

One of my favorite smells in the world is Coppertone Lotion. Momma wore this lotion, not just in the Summer, but any season. I always keep this in stock. I love how it reminds me of her.

Momma's faith is very strong. She has been through a whole lot in her precious life. Every single storm that she faces, her faith gets stronger and she comes out of it more refined and stronger than ever. 

My Momma is exquisite in every way. She really is my hero.

 If you haven't been touched by her, hugged by her, sung to by her, cooked for by her, prayed for by her, listened to by her, coached by her, made to laugh until you pee in your pants by her, then you haven't experienced one of the greatest gifts in this world....My Momma.

I'm so glad God chose her as my Momma.

She truly SHINES the brightest.

Happy Birthday, sweet Momma! See you soon for lunch and a movie!

never cutting the apron strings,


"Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her." Proverbs 31:28


and Then.

Feb 24, 2012

Friday SHINE....

Today's Reading: Romans 9

Happy Friday, SHINE girls! I'm gonna make this short and sweet so that you can get on with your fun Friday.

Today's Friday challenge:

Jump for Joy. Yes, you heard me right, jump for joy.


For starters, our sins are washed clean by the Grace of God and the death of His son, Jesus, on a cross. If that doesn't make you want to jump, nothing will.

So, wherever you are and whatever you are doing....get up and JUMP for JOY!

If you have health problems and are not able to jump do this: raise your hands high with JOY!

Let's show the world that regardless of our circumstances, our HOPE and our JOY is in the LORD!

(Lem, Presley, Me, and Joseph)

"The Joy of the Lord is my Strength." Nehemiah 8:10

still jumping,


Feb 23, 2012

Thursday SHINE....

Today's Reading: Romans 8

Happy Thursday, SHINE girls! How is your week going?

Ok, I am not gonna lie. It's still Wednesday as I am writing this.

Remember how I told you that my sweet love, Lem, started getting up with me in the early mornings? At 5:00 a.m.?

Well, we are now having our morning quiet time together. Which is fine. (I suppose.)

So, with this new routine, I find the best time for me to write (in the quiet) is while my children are at school.

Okay, confession time over....moving on.

Man, are we loving Romans 8 or what? I mean, seriously, half of the (2 to 3) verses that I have memorized in this little brain of mine come from Romans Chapter 8! Some good, good stuff in here, girls.

As I was at my usual Wednesday 9:15 am spinning class this morning, I had an epiphany of sorts. (i love that word--epiphany. don't you? it has a sophisticated ring to it. makes me feel smart. good thing y'all know better. )

 Okay, anyway, as I was spinning on my little bike watching my friend Kelli teach the class, I heard the Lord whispering to me something.

He said this: "Your life is a whole lot like this spinning class. Isn't it?"

I look around going, "Huh? Who said that?"

He then continued with telling me that I could easily "fake" it as I sat here on this bike spinning. The only person who knows the resistance that I have the bike set on is....me. Nobody else in the whole class has a clue if I am really "working" or just looking like I am working hard.

Okay, God was on to something here.

I thought about the million times during this class that I was tired and didn't really want to push hard. I wanted an easy workout. The good thing is...nobody around me would ever know the difference. I could huff and puff, and even force a bead of sweat to come off my face. (Seriously, I can.)

So, what is there to gain by me "looking the part" and not actually "doing the work"?

Absolutely nothing.

Will just showing up and giving the bike a little easy spin help my waistline to shrink?

Nope, not one bit.

However, what happens if I do give it my all for that 35 minutes? What happens when I push even harder than the teacher tells me to push? Or, if I truly stay the course and not for one second turn that knob on the bike to the "easy" resistance?

I will see the results.

No, not immediately, but in a month or two my waist will be smaller, my legs will be firmer, and my tummy will be a little flatter.


All because instead of wasting my time on "easy", I chose to do the work. I was already there anyway. Why not make my time useful?

How does this relate to our faith walk?

Here's what God was telling me:

We can go to church, read the bible, do a little bible study here and there, look the part, talk the talk....

But, are we really walking the walk?

Are we going through all the right motions, but not doing the work?

By work, I mean....keeping ourselves conditioned by:

  • soaking ourselves in His Word daily
  • praying for others
  • obeying
  •  loving
  • forgiving
  •  showing kindness
  •  taming our tongues
  • keeping our hearts pure
  •  putting others before ourselves
  • being truthful

We can look the part all day long girls. We can even make it look real, real pretty. But, what results will we see in the next month?

Absolutely nothing.

When you look at my friend, Kelli, the spinning instructor, you know she works out. You don't even have to ask her. It's obvious.

I want people to know when they see me that without a doubt--I am a Christian. I want my walk to be obvious to all who see me. I shouldn't have to wear a badge telling people I am a Christian--it should be written all over my life.

Let's dig in, girls! Let's truly do the work and start seeing the fruit from it.

 It's good, good stuff.

No, it's better than good. It's the best stuff.

I know for a fact that I am in need of some serious work. I've had my bike on "easy" long enough.

Who's with me?

no more easy street,


"For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." 1 Corinthians 4:20

Feb 22, 2012

Wednesday Night SHINE....

Good night sweet SHINE girls.

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." Isaiah 26:3

May the Lord our God give you rest and peace as you close your eyes. 
Give it all to him, girls. 

sweetest  dreams,


Wednesday SHINE....

Today's reading: Romans 7

Good morning, SHINE sisters!

My very good friend, Rebekah, will be guest-blogging today. My house is still in utter clutter after our little weekend get-away. Laundry is literally seeping through the cracks. (I wish I was kidding.)

So, I asked her yesterday, if she might could put something together for today.

Man, she's good. And quick.

Be blessed, girls.

back to my laundry,


Romans 7
By Rebekah Vepraskas

Today’s reading in Romans 7, is by far, the most underlined and highlighted and written on chapter in my Bible.  I so need Romans 7.
So do you!!
Paul says a mouthful here, so grab your Bibles, read Romans 7 and buckle your seat belts, girls!
This passage is what I base my WHOLE ENTIRE relationship with Christ on… getting this (new to me) concept of sin, the law and Jesus, found in Romans 7, was essential to a new, wonderful Peace in my life.


You see, I was raised in an Independent (super strict) Baptist faith, followed by the Southern Baptist faith, my whole life.  Oh, I knew the law!!!  Slowly, from age 16, 17, 18ish—  I was losing my grip on all of the laws and commandments.  I was very convicted by sin, knowing the rights and wrongs of everything.  I got to the point where I chose not to let it bother me so much.  I couldn’t keep up, I was feeling 2nd rate at church and so I fled.

 Just after college, I was ready to get married and be “Connie Christian” again.  Why not?  It was time.  By God’s grace, one of the 1st sermons I heard was on Romans 7.  Which spoke to my exact weakness in the “law department.”  The reason I ran.  I realized I didn’t have to be “Connie Christian.”  I could just love Jesus, focusing on Him alone, let me explain.

In the Chapter before we learn that:
Sin = death and despair
Holiness = the reward of peace in Christ and eternal life.

So, this sets the scene for Romans 7, our passage today.
We want the forbidden.  Don’t we?  I do!  We have SUCH a tough time with rules and “laws.”
We wanted the fruit, (the apple)  Adam and Eve were tempted with, because it was off limits.  It is our way, as human beings, “wanting what we cannot have.”  Since then, our forbidden fruit comes in all shapes and sizes.

We want: blank ______, many times, because someone said no.

No diving allowed (oh man, I just love to dive.)
No swimming here (swimming here looks like fun!)
No parking (this is the PERFECT spot to park!)
Missing curfew (I only need 30 more minutes and everything would be perfect.)
Drinking to cope (I have to have a drink to unwind at night!!!)
Drugging to cope (No one will ever know.)
Defiling our bodies (I don’t care, I don’t care.)
Unfaithfulness to our spouse (I need to feel special again.)

This is how WE KNOW or we eventually learn that sin and boundary breaking leads to more regret.  We do the wrong thing a lot.  It feels good.  At least for a little while.

In Romans 7, the word sin is mentioned 14 times in the NIV version.  Paul speaks of sin as an “entity” or something that exists by itself. Sinful nature, sin and the law are often brewing in conflict inside us.  All of this has nothing to do with God.  It is basically satan taking advantage of our willingness, as humans, to do/consider doing the wrong thing.

Embarrassing Example:  My husband and I have been married for almost 11 years.  We have a strong relationship and we’re great friends. Recently, he bought us a car that he loves and it fits our family of 5. I mean, HE LOVES THIS CAR— washing it all of the time, armor-all-ing, vacuuming, loving it… this car means a lot to him.
 One day, I was backing out of an unfamiliar driveway, by myself, not long after we bought the car (we were on vacation).  I “took out” a whole section of rose bushes with his precious, beautiful car.  Scratches Galore!  Scratches everywhere! Oh dear, I thought, I can’t tell him.  I didn’t run back into the house. I ran away. I was on my way to drive for 1 hour to visit a friend for lunch and one hour back to the vacation spot.  During that time, I TOTALLY bought into the idea of making up a story.  Yep, I admit it.  I did.  This is not me. But, at the time, satan had me right where he wanted me. 
 We don’t lie to each other.  I am all about taking responsibility.  Yet, in that moment, satan had my attention with holding out the option of my man never knowing the truth. I felt desperate and scared and like I was 15 again. After exhaling all of the nonsense out of my brain, I prayed. God answered in my spirit, “Just tell him the truth. Make it simple because it is.”
 I finally, unwillingly, emailed him and said, “I scratched the car backing out of the driveway, I hit several bushes and the car is badly scratched.” There it was the truth, so simple and yet so hard to face for me.

What’s my point?  Well, what did my sinful nature and satan’s temptation to lie, have to do with God in that moment?  Nothing.  Was it God’s fault I goofed and was tempted to lie about it?  No.  The same as Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit.  …Right?

All of the sales jobs satan does with sin is apart from God.  I am just a pitiful human being who thinks of the wrong thing as an attractive option.

Since Adam and Eve, we want to feed the rebel in us.  We turn from God and blame Him for our hatred of laws and rules.

Back to that sermon that I loved about Romans 7 and the idea of sin in response to the law. In this message, I was so relieved to learn that sin has nothing to do with God; it is just my problem with the law.  The pastor said, “He gave this life to you, to overcome the power of sin.  Focus on your relationship with God, not the rules/law.”

Life with God is not about do’s and don’ts????  Really????  Fantastic!!

We can make ourselves miserable just focusing on the law.  Do we just give up on doing what is right?  Not at all.  We focus on loving God.  Giving every little thing to Him and loving Him completely.

 Luke 10:27: Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.’”

If we hang our faith in Christ on this principle, there is freedom and peace.  A life with Christ falls into place when we love Him with everything we are.

If the “no swimming “ sign was written differently, how would we feel?

“NO SWIMMING (sharks lurk)”

What about “NO SINNING (despair lurks)”

I want you to know that my husband was not happy about the scratches on the shiny car. Of course, he loved me anyway.  I knew he would, right?

Jesus is not happy about our mistakes, just the same, but He loved us so much that He literally gave His life to free us from those mistakes.  Let’s lock ourselves into that kind of grace, love and peace.  It is right there and Romans 7 is our proof.  <3

Love you girls, SHINE on!!

Feb 21, 2012

Tuesday Night SHINE....

As I was driving home from my son's soccer practice, I had to stop and take a picture with my camera.

Here's why:

Today was a crazy day.

This was God's love note to me on my drive home.

He loves us, girls. He really does.

The Lord knows that I am a sucker for a dusky, cloudy sky. So, He gave me one tonight.

"By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me-
a prayer to the God of my life."
Psalm 42:8

Cozy up with Him tonight, girls. He longs for you.

until tomorrow,


Tuesday SHINE....

Today's Reading:  Romans 6

Happy Tuesday, SHINE girls! This is my favorite SHINE day of the week. I absolutely love being able to share your fellow SHINE sister's stories on here.

I have the complete honor of being able to see them first and to cry and be inspired before I post their stories on the blog. It's truly the greatest gift.

It is kind of like a little secret I have that I cannot wait to share with all of you!

Without further adieu...Leslie Jones will be introducing this week's Spotlight SHINE girl.

 Be blessed, friends.

Leslie's Introduction of today's Spotlight Shine Girl:

My heart has been overwhelmed at the way God has been working through Shine Girls! I am so incredibly thankful for Jill and her obedience to the Lord. As I read the comments these precious ladies post I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:4, "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."

I have the awesome privilege of introducing the next Shine Girl Spotlight, my friend and mother, Sandy Clark. Wow...how can I sum up all I have to say about this amazing lady in a few sentences? Before I was born she started writing me love notes and they've never stopped. She has loved me in a way that I can't describe...through the times I've made her proud and the times I know I disgraced her. Her love for me has been unconditional. What a gift! She has faced many hard times in her life but has always trusted in God. She has lived out an unwavering faith before me and help form me into the woman I am today. As I prepared to introduce her my heart was pounding. It saddens me that her story will be something so many of you will be able to relate to; however, I am claiming the scripture above, trusting that God will use my "Mama" to comfort you. 

Sandy Clark's Story:

I’ve been reading shine girls for only 3 or 4 weeks, but it has blessed me so much!  Thank you, Jill, for your faithfulness to Father.  Taking on this 7-day-a-week responsibility is huge for someone as busy as you, and I’m grateful!  Also LOVE it that you’re married to a LEM!  So am I!  There aren’t many Lems around!  My Lem is the 2nd best thing that’s ever happened to me  …  2nd only to Jesus!  He has been faithfully beside me, my greatest cheerleader, for 38 years.  He has stood firm through a lot of storms, holding on to me (and I to him) for dear life – literally.

I accepted Christ as an 8 year old child.  Because of my Mother’s influence and determination to raise her children in church,  I knew I needed Him to save me, to keep me from hell and take me to heaven when I died.  But I didn’t know a thing about allowing Him to also be Lord of my here-and-now life.  Unfortunately, it was to take me many years to learn that.

I believe I experienced rejection before I was born.  I was my Mother’s 6th pregnancy, and my Father was a raging alcoholic.  Research has shown that unborn infants can feel emotions from their Mother and other external sources.  No wonder I felt rejection.  I mean, would you have wanted to be pregnant for the sixth time under her circumstances?  I’m thankful legal abortion wasn’t an option for her then as it would be now.

As it always does, feeling rejected led to anger which led to depression.  Depression is evident in my eyes in baby and little girl pictures.  It has always been my companion, a way of life.  Extreme sadness has always hung over my head like a big, black storm cloud.  I was labeled “quiet” and I was.  I was quiet because I knew that if I opened up and tried to be myself, what came out would not be pretty.  I wanted to be pretty.  Sometimes, though, I couldn’t stop the storm from erupting.  I hated those times because it wasn’t pretty and it hurt other people.  People were hurt  when I allowed the storm to erupt and they left me.

Living with this confusion inside, I lost my identity completely.   I tried to be all things to all people and became a huge people-pleaser because that was pretty, and people liked me when I was pretty.  Quiet and pretty.  Out of the way.  Make other people feel good.  No storms.  Under control.  Focus on control.  Always.

Trying to keep everything under control will wear you out fast!  People pleasing, doing what’s “right”, never expressing true emotions but stuffing them deep into my soul, the depression began to take over.  One more thing to fight back and keep under control.   That takes a lot of focus! 
I became an expert at controlling.  (Insert a big smile here.)    I just THOUGHT I was in control!  Appearing from the outside to be perfect (as long as I kept the storms at bay), I was a mess internally, and the more I did to try to fix things that were out of control, the more I seemed to lose control.  More work on my focus.  More anger.  More depression.

God was always working in my heart, wanting me to relinquish that control to Him, but I didn’t even know I should.  I didn’t understand making Him Lord of every minute of every day, focusing on Him instead of me and my circumstances.  I was, even then, in love with Him, grateful for my salvation, giving and serving Him in every way I could.  But no matter what I did, it was never enough to make me feel that I was good enough.  That made me reject myself, which made me angry, and the storm inside raged on, and I became more and more depressed.  I couldn’t hold it all together and eventually crashed and burned.  Unable to function and care for my family, to get out of bed, to stop crying, I finally got the medical attention I needed.  That was 32 years ago.  Antidepressant medication saved my life.

Not wanting to live on meds the rest of my life, I began to seek answers to the cause for the depression.  It has been a long and arduous journey, and one that continues today.

God has used an obscure little passage from Numbers 21 to teach me about my focus and control issues.  The Israelites were wandering in the desert, as usual, complaining to Moses about how bad they had it, wishing things could be like they were in Egypt. 

 Beginning in verse 4 (Amp.) “…. And the people became impatient (depressed, much discouraged), because (of the trials) of the way.  5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no bread, neither is there any water, and we loathe this light (contemptible, unsubstantial) manna.  6 Then the Lord sent fiery (burning) serpents among the people; and they bit the people and many Israelites died.  7 And the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you;  pray to the Lord, that He may take away the serpents from us.  So Moses prayed for the people.   8 And the Lord said to Moses, Make a fiery serpent (of bronze) and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.  9 And Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole, and if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked to the serpent of bronze (attentively, expectantly, with a steady and absorbing gaze), he lived.”

The Lord has taught me to relate to this story in this way:  the desert represents my life.  Sometimes it is very difficult, and I don’t always have control over what happens.  My sin is the serpents, and there are many around my ankles, biting me, making  me sick and depressed, trying to kill me.  When I focus on them and try to control them, I do get sick and I want to die because I can’t control them at all; my life is miserable, and I fall into the pit of depression.  The pole represents the cross of Christ, and the bronze serpent Moses put on the pole represents my sin nailed to the cross.  As I put my focus on what Jesus did for me on the cross, rather than on the circumstances nipping at my ankles, calling me to self-centeredness and sin, my mind is renewed by the Truth, and I am transformed (Rom. 12:2).  

Father spoke clearly to me that control is just an illusion.  Like a magician’s trick, it isn’t real.  The only way my life is ever in “control” is when I relinquish my control to the One who knows the end from the beginning and how to guide me through this desert.  Some days I do this about a hundred times!  “Here I go again, Father, trying to run the show!  I look to You, I give You control over this “serpent” that is trying to pull me down and kill me!  Thank You for your love and patience with me!”

Getting my focus off of the serpents and on Christ helps me to see all the beautiful desert flowers along the way.  I not only have a Savior and Lord guiding my footsteps, I have my loving Lem who truly loves me as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25).  I have wonderful children who love me and would do anything for me, and I have some awesome friends and church family.  All of these are desert flowers, blooming beautifully and making my life so sweet.

To write about all the details of the things I have learned along the way would require writing an epistle, not just a testimony.  I’ve read hundreds of books, attended dozens of classes, conferences, seminars, been to many Christian counselors, and continued to serve my Lord.  And yes, He is my Lord now, not just my Savior.  All of these have helped me tremendously, but  I’m still in the desert.  Life is still often difficult for me.  I have tried innumerable times to stop taking antidepressants, with a measure of success on several occasions.  I continue to thank Father that I live in a time when I have access to a medication that can help me when I can’t focus.  I am also thankful for what I have learned through the years.  If I hadn’t had a problem with depression, I probably would never have sought Him as I have, and I wouldn’t know the sweet joy of His total acceptance of me.  I have a little sign that says, “Jesus knows me. This I love.”  There is a wonderful Bill Gaither song that says, “…The One who knows me best loves me most.”   A song I love to sing says, “He knew me, yet He loved me!..... When He Was On the Cross, I Was On His Mind!”

Are you a controller?  Give it all to Jesus, daily, through prayer.  Keep your FOCUS on the fact that when He was on the cross, He knew what a mess you would make in your desert, but He loved you and took ALL your sin and  sickness (including depression) in His own body, so that you wouldn’t have to suffer with it. 

Someone should rewrite and give a Christian slant to another of my favorite songs:  “I feel PRETTY, oh, so, pretty!......”    I feel pretty because my Heavenly Father thinks I’m pretty.   I am righteous because of Jesus, fully pleasing to Father because of Jesus’ sacrifice that paid my way, making me “good enough” to be called His child.  Oh, how I love Him!  All praise to Him!

Maybe He will let me rewrite that song!

Focusing on the cross,
Sandy with her love, Lem
Sandy and her whole crew, celebrating the recent marriage of her son 
Sandy and Lem with their great grand-daughter, Dakota

Feb 20, 2012

Monday Night SHINE....

Just wanted to share a little piece of heaven with you tonight.

This is the view from the deck in the mountains this weekend.

Now you see why I feel so close to heaven when we go. ;)

Good night, sweet SHINE girls. Sleep tight. 

Monday SHINE...

Today's Reading: Romans 5

Happy Monday, SHINE girls! Maybe you are home today and the kids are out of school--or maybe your kids are at school and you are heading to work. Or, maybe you are a student in school today. Or, maybe none of the above.

 Whatever the case, I'm praying for your day to be extra blessed.

Monday's are hard, and a little extra prayer never hurt anyone, right?

Since I am out of town and wasn't quite sure if we would have Internet service up here, I asked my friend Lisa to guest blog.

She, of course, cheerfully obliged. I love this about her.

I soon found out that we actually have WIFI up here, so I could have easily posted for today. As God would have it, He knew I needed to hear what He would speak through Lisa.

Be blessed, girls.

Hello Confidence, I've been looking for you!!
by Lisa Inlow

Ephesians 3:16-21
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

Let's look at a few things in this passage:
vs 16 “inner strength”
vs 17 “keep you strong”
vs 19 “be made complete”  “fullness of life”

Secure.  Confident.  Walking Tall.

Ladies, for real, in the past I have struggled with insecurities to the inth degree.

But I knew that was not God's best for me.  I knew in my head I was not walking in how my Heavenly Father felt about me, and that I should be confident in His amazing love for me!  Walking tall, having an inner strength that no matter what human beings were saying or doing to me, that I KNEW with every fiber of my being, who I was in Christ...confident in HIM.  Oh man did I desire to get there.

So I started telling Him how I wanted the insecure-feeding tapes that play in my head, silenced.  I started telling Him that I knew He loved me, but I wanted to breathe it, walk it, live it.  I told Him what was holding me back.  I told Him how I wanted to feel and think, and asked Him to get me there.  I cried.  I wrote in my journal.  I gritted my teeth in expressing my broken heart to Him.

In facing these things head on, I had to do some major forgiving of folks.  I had to do the work, to clear my heart.  I had to do the work of letting go...forgiveness...so I could be renewed.   In my experience it is basically impossible to walk cleanly in Christ love, if I'm holding on to some hurts...it just will not work.

SHINE sisters, we have to forgive.

Matthew 18:21-22
21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” 22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

I kind of picture myself walking around in a love-bubble!  (sounds cheesy, sorry!)  But it's true.  Y'all for years I desired this, but for whatever reason, I couldn't see it, face forgiving...I don't know.  All I can say, is get there!!  Get to a place in your walk with your Savior, of utmost confidence.  His love for you is the real deal.  It does not change based on what you've done, are doing or will do.  It's solid.

Read the above scripture from Ephesians again.  He wrote that to YOU.  And He means it.

Do you have a lump in your throat or tears in your eyes and you're thinking, “I want 'inner strength', 'fullness of life', 'complete' “...oh sister it is there for the taking.

Believe these Words from the Father.  Take a deep breath.  Start talking.  He's listening.  He's smiling at  you!  For real!

Feb 19, 2012

Discussions on Reading Plan week of 2/20-2/25...

Discuss the reading here, SHINE girls.

We love to hear what the Lord is showing you through His Word.


Prayer Requests/Praises week of 2/20-2/24.....

Prayer Requests/Praises for this week.

We love to pray for our SHINE sisters!

"Hear my prayer, O Lord, listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me." Psalm 87:6-7

Sunday SHINE....

Reading Plan for week of 2/20-2/25:

  • Monday 2/20: Romans 5
  • Tuesday 2/21: Romans 6
  • Wednesday 2/22: Romans 7
  • Thursday 2/23: Romans 8
  • Friday 2/24: Romans 9

Happy Sunday, SHINE girls!

Hope your weekend was wonderful! Speaking of weekends, I am sitting here writing you from a small kitchen table overlooking the North Carolina Mountains.

Talk about a view! It's 7:30 am, cloudy, and absolutely breathtaking.

Every time I come up here, I feel so close to God. Maybe it's because of the elevation? Or maybe, because of the peacefulness and the beauty that surrounds me.

At home, I get stuck in my routines, kind of like a gerbil on a wheel. I often forget to get off the wheel, look around and take in the beauty of my days.

It's very hard for me to find peace when the laundry is swirling, the dishwasher is rotating, and the bathrooms are beckoning to be be cleaned.

Many  days, I literally have to force myself to sit down, turn off the ever-constant noise, and be with the Lord. Perhaps, that's why mornings are my favorite.

The world is still sleeping, and so is my laundry and dishwasher.

I feel God the most in these moments. It overwhelms me, in the best way.

Don't get me wrong, I also see God in my children and in the loudness of my days. He's always there. It's just these peaceful times I often crave, because they are few and far between in this season of my life.

SHINE girls, I am so thankful for you. Every last one of you. God knew that my heart needed this ministry. He knew WE needed this ministry.

I'm forever grateful to Him. He loves us so much.

The Lord keeps leading me to this verse, and I want to share it with you. I believe it's His message to us as we seek Him in His Word daily. Read it and feel His love and presence surrounding you, my friend.

"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord." Jeremiah 29:13-14

Rest in that, sweet friend.

forever seeking,


Feb 18, 2012

Saturday SHINE...

Happy Saturday, SHINE girls! No weekend reading, so use this time to catch up on the blog and with your reading.

Our fellow friend and SHINE girl, Mary, is sharing her story with us today. After reading the testimonies of Leslie and Samantha this week, she felt the Holy Spirit nudging her to share.

Be blessed by her story, girls.

I feel strongly compelled to stand with Samantha and Leslie because I have a God story, too (just like you).  Like them, my story doesn't come wrapped in a pretty bow with hearts and smiley faces...it was ugly and I struggled with shame for years.  

Thankfully, our loving God persuaded me that it was really beautiful, not because of anything I did or didn’t do, but because salvation happened as a result.  He literally gave me beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).  Thank you, Lord.

Here's my story - - written for the first time almost 3 years ago and being shared again today.  Be blessed friends.  He loves you so.  <3


May 2009
On being lost.

Last Saturday afternoon, Sloane and I set out for what I expected to be a 45 minute jaunt to Fayetteville for Michelle's baby girl's first birthday party.

We weren't missing this celebration and thankfully I had that mindset because before I knew it, we were more lost than I've ever been. I had 2 sets of google directions from my house to the destination (Michelle's mother-in-law's) and neither of them were any good. I couldn't get Michelle on her cell phone and no one answered at the party.

Sloane encouraged me for the 2 hours that we drove around Fayetteville trying to find the party. She said, "it's ok, Mom - we're not lost". Thank you, Honey - - but we totally are. I have a decent sense of direction (usually) but this time was different, that city is like a maze and I couldn't make heads or tails of it to save my life.

The rainstorm came, my wipers were on high speed and not even able to keep up with all the water that was washing over my windshield. I pressed on and heard a whisper in my spirit, "you've been this lost before, it's just been a while". Whoa. . . I totally have.

My mind went back to that time in my life (over 10 years ago) when I couldn't seem to make even one wise choice for myself. I was stuck in a dead-end relationship for 4 long years. He treated me terribly, my parents didn't approve, I lied to them to keep seeing him and clung to this man in a rebellious tailspin. Finally, I had enough of the poison and said goodbye once and for all.

Not long after our break, I met some co-workers in Virginia Highlands for happy hour. Unfortunately, I had a few too many martini's and instead of driving back to Conyers, I drove to his place and slept over. . .

The next morning, I was mad at myself, another bad choice - I had officially "quit" him, or so I thought and then the walk of shame back to my car. Uggghhhh. I made sure that he knew it was still over and also apologized for coming back to be with him, when I really knew much better.

Several weeks later, I stood in the bathroom and stared at a pregnancy test that was beaming POSITIVE. Oh my God, what have I done??? Everyone, I talked to said the same thing, "you can't go through with this" - "your parents will kill you" - "you're too young, you can't raise a baby" - "you have to terminate the pregnancy".

I felt they were right. I picked up the phone and called him, explained my predicament and told him that I needed the money for an abortion. He agreed to my request.

There were a few lone encourager's who spoke up for this life in my womb, but I tried to blot out their words and do what I felt like was best for me. Only, I was still the daughter of a pro-life activist, I knew better, way better.

Nonetheless, I made an appointment at the Feminist Women's Health Center in midtown, hoping to be prescribed the RU486 pill that would cause me to miscarry and subsequently abort my unwanted baby. I'll never forget how I felt walking into that place a few days later - completely out of place as I quickly noticed I was the minority. Not a single other girl looked like me in the crammed waiting room. I knew that I didn't belong here, those words kept ringing in my head. I blocked out that still, small voice and hurriedly completed my paperwork. All I wanted was to talk to someone who could "help".

Finally, they called my name; I bolted from my seat to a patient room. A woman came in to discuss my options. She told me I was a candidate for the pill (that would solve my problem), but that I had to have an ultrasound before they could administer the pill. Sounded strange to me, but I complied.

To another room I went, where a giant woman with long braids waited for me to mount the table, no words from her mouth, she just motioned and pointed to my spot. I laid there as she moved her wand and probed around to see the life inside of me. She never smiled, she didn't try to connect and her screen was turned away from me. As I looked up at the blank ceiling, feeling unbelievably lost and alone - I thought what a miserable job she had and that I'd be unhappy, too.

After a few minutes she looked at me and said, the fetus isn't big enough. . . you're definitely pregnant but you aren't far enough along to take the pill to miscarry. Huh? I have to be more pregnant to get un-pregnant? I felt like a giant question mark, sitting there, not believing my ears. As I gathered my things, all I could think was that this was the most inhumane thing I'd ever heard. They told me to come back in 2 weeks, they'd do another ultrasound and I'd be able to take the pill when the fetus had grown.

I walked out of that place feeling like I had just left a horror house. I was speed walking to my car and as I crossed 14th street, I uttered these words out loud -
"I have no idea what I'm going to do, but I do know, I'm never coming back here again."
Still amazed at the idea of needing to be further along to terminate this life, I drove away feeling dirty, disgusted and sorry for accepting this "out". I called the father and told him we were having the baby after all. He was thrilled with my decision and I tried to imagine myself with him, co-parents together. Somehow, mustering an ounce of maternal joy and knowing that I'd always wanted to be a mother - just not exactly like this.

The following week, I made an appointment with my OB/GYN. I went in and had all the new mommy testing. They encouraged me and told me that I was making the better choice, my heart was warming up to the idea.

That weekend we went to North Carolina to tell his family that we were going to have a baby. They were also thrilled, everyone hugged us and cheered . . .but for me, it still felt like a dream. I wasn't really, this isn't really, is it? We drove back to Atlanta as a somewhat united front. It was good for us to get away and also good to hear excitement; I was on-board but still wondering how on earth I'd ever tell my parents.

The following Tuesday my belly began to cramp like never before. I wondered why I felt so bad and soon discovered the answer. I was losing the baby that I had just begun to want. I went in to see my doctor and after testing my levels, they said that my progesterone level had dropped dramatically and the pregnancy was lost as a result. Interestingly, this is exactly the same result you have when taking the RU486 pill. Your level drops and you begin to lose the baby.

I believe that God delivered me.  (That’s an actual quote from my Aunt Carole who walked through this whole valley right along with me.  She knew every detail and she loved me anyway, encouraged me to make better choices and never stopped praying for me to find my way back to Him.) At the time, I was so out of God's will and his plan for me that I couldn't even see that immediately, but over time his plan was revealed. 

The sad part of the story is that undoubtedly, if they could have given me the pill that day in midtown, I surely would have choked it down. . .never knowing the deliverance that would be mine.  Many women do not have the same deliverance, they didn't have to come back for a follow-up ultrasound. They didn't have more time to consider their other options. . .No, their need was met on the spot, the termination was immediate and I'm sure the heartache began soon after.

I believe there is no difference between us. . .we both made a choice and it wasn't for life. Thankfully, there is enough grace and mercy through Christ to cover all of us.

I rest in the comfort of these words from:

Romans 8:38-39
(New Living Translation)
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you have found yourself in my shoes, forgiveness can be yours. Trust me. All you have to do is ask, He's waiting to lavish unfathomable grace, if you'll just go there, to His feet and ask. 

If you're wondering how in the world I ever shared such a story, please know that I had no choice. Sometimes, God uses our skeletons for His Glory and I sort of feel like this is His Story, not mine.

I shared it a few weeks ago with my sister-in-law, Sherri and she was amazed at not just this but the salvation that became mine over the weeks and months following. I came to know a God who loved me, in spite of not measuring up and my faith became about a relationship with Him - instead of the long list of rules I'd always been taught, that I could never follow. I had to know Him intimately. And I believe that He met me right where I was at, even in an unlikely clinic. Now, I can confidently proclaim, that I have a relationship with Christ and that's where salvation happened for me.

Sherri really encouraged me to be more open about it and share it with women who could identify, who had been there or possibly know someone who has and hopefully to women who haven't been there but could find themselves in the same situation. . .this is my offering.

Exodus 25: 1-2
The Offerings - God spoke to Moses:  "Tell the Israelites that they are to set aside offerings for me. Receive the offerings from everyone who is willing to give."
And, we finally found that birthday party in Fayetteville. It took forever to get there (almost 3 hours) but it was worth it…so worth it.

The Balicki Family

Mary and sweet Gabby girl.  <3
Gabby, Audrey and Sloane  :)

Fast forward to modern day, God has made me a wife and a mother in his own time and I truly have no greater joy.  These girls are like light and life to me.  So thankful that He gave me beauty for ashes and taught me what knowing Him really looks like.  I love the promise of heaven someday but I need Jesus TODAY.  He walks with me and talks with me.  There is nothing better than knowing Jesus.  I pray that you’ll reach out and grasp that same salvation.  He’s waiting for that call, no matter where you are, I promise.  

Bless you, SHINE sisters.  

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