Restoration Stories – Benjamin David

In 2014 I did something really stupid, something that cost me my church, my dream. I was utterly devastated, heartbroken.

Everyday for the last 4 years I’ve been in deep regret, a regret that has brought about some very deep shame. I would cry, punch the walls, scream, I hated myself. After all, I was just reaping what I had sown.

Unexpectedly these last 5 weeks I’ve felt a call back to minister again, but I quickly shut it down because I believed I didn’t deserve another chance. Yet the voice of Jesus was calling me even though I was inwardly being chocked by shame.

Last night for the first time in about 5 years I responded to an invitation to receive prayer at Freedom Church. I felt something shift but I was unsure what it was. I cried like a baby, I went to bed and slept like a baby.

This morning at church I heard a message about God removing my shame. It was as if the entire message was written just for me. My heart was dancing inside of my chest at the sheer joy of what I was hearing. “I will remove your shame and restore your inheritance- double.”

I’m crying as I write this because it’s been such a journey these last 5 months of inner restoration back to God. A year ago I arrived at a place where I was ready to walk away from God, it was just too painful to believe anymore. It was less painful just to give up.

But, oh the joy of expectation within my heart! I was internally dead BUT Jesus breathed his life into my lungs. He’s taught me to hope again, to believe again. I’ve had repair but now it’s time for restoration. I’m chocked as I wrote these last few words because it’s so opposite to what I believed…I’m not a failure, I’m not cast off, I’m not a bad egg, I’m a good person because God doesn’t make mistakes.

As the minister said, “We’re not failures. God just needs to polish us so we shine with identity, an identity that brings God glory.”

He has restored my soul. -Psalm 23

~ Benjamin David

Connect with Benjamin David Here

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Restoration Stories – Michele Ahlswede

There is power in our testimonies.

WHO AM I?

Forced to be given up at birth.

Adopted into an abusive family.

Lived a life where my mother mentally, physically, and sexually abused me.

Raised in church (abuse hides in the pews).

Graduate of bible college.

Abused but allowed to travel the world.

Abused but gifted with using color.

Beat down told I was nothing, stupid, useless, and would never amount to anything.

BUT FOR GOD, I was covered and sheltered under the Most Highs wings to protect me from the brunt of what the enemy had in store from me.

God had greater things in store for me.

Survivor of 3 abusive marriages, because I had no idea who I was.

4th marriage to a great man of God.

Survivor of being homeless, of loosing everyone and everything I ever knew.

BUT FOR GOD, who worked miracle upon miracle to bring me out of everything.

I was an elected Mayor.

Honored by the Pentagon as Recipient of the Meritorious Civilian Service Award.

Professional Makeup Artist for 35 years in TV, Film, and Production work.

Arrested on felony charges and sent to jail in shackles.

BUT FOR GOD, who had all the false charges dismissed.

Mother of 3 children and grandmother of 6 beautiful children.

Reunited with my Birth family.

Now an ordained minister and Apostle with a healing and deliverance ministry that spans the globe.

BUT FOR GOD, blessed beyond measure.

Not one of my situations defined

who “I Am”, they only refined me.

WHO AM I?

I Am The Storm.

I am a Warrior Princess of the most high.

I am the one who snatches the prey from the enemies jaws.

I am the mouthpiece of God.

I am an extension of His hand .

I teach others to claim their legacy in Christ.

I Ignite the Fire of the Holy Spirit within their hearts.

I help them to receive Everything He has for us.

To be Healed, Whole, and Delivered.

I now fully know Who I Am…

~ Michele Ahlswede

Connect with Michele at Wandering Lipstick

And check out her blog

Restoration Stories – Tim Wright

I normally share my joy with you, but I wanted to share a picture of something that you normally don’t get to see.

My pain.

When I was just three years old, an older boy molested me. He was a family friend. It was both painful and shameful having my sexuality awakened and abused at such an early age. As time went on, I began to orchestrate sexual situations with other children around me, not even grasping why or what I was doing. My inner world was plunged into shame and I began exhibiting predatory behavior as a toddler.

When I was four, my parents marriage dissolved. With the divorce, my inner turmoil only deepened. I believed the lie that I was responsible for my parent’s breakup.

Not long after the divorce, I was at a family’s house that was watching me while my Dad was working. They had two young boys my age. I molested both of them. When the parents found out, they told my Dad that I wasn’t allowed back to their house.

Later that day, my Dad punished me for what I had done, leaving some bruising on my body for weeks. (I would only come to understand just how deeply damaged my own father was years down the road. It has given me tremendous compassion for him, and helped me forgive him. We enjoy a great relationship now.)

The stability of my home had been torn to shreds, and my inner world was filled with sexual shame. I believed the lie that me being a bad boy had cost me my relationship with my Dad.

At the age of five, I molested a cousin who was my same age. When their father walked in and saw us, they immediately called Child Protective Services. I am so thankful that they did.

It was because of that phone call that I began seeing a child psychologist from Pittsburgh, and I received counseling for the sexual abuse that I had both suffered, and perpetrated. Had I not received help at that point in my life, I easily could’ve ended up in prison, took my own life, or took the lives of other people.

It’s taken me many years to begin to process my personal loss and trauma. I’ve begun to realize that receiving physical abuse as a result of my sexual brokenness deeply devastated my inner world. It seemed to fuse those two things together in me: sex and shame.

Sexual abuse is a powerful teacher. It taught me that I wasn’t worth having personal boundaries. It taught me that I had no intrinsic worth, and that I was only good for meeting someone else’s need. I learned to find other people who had no personal boundaries and exploit their weaknesses to feed my addiction, leading to more devastated lives.

My sexual pain turned into a lifestyle of looking at pornography in a desperate attempt for comfort and satisfaction. What a hollow and empty fabrication of intimacy that poison is. I wholeheartedly condemn that cancerous garbage with all of my heart!

When you believe the core truth about you is worthlessness, then prostituting your feelings off on a screen promises satisfaction and comfort without having real vulnerability and trust with another human being. Problem is, it’s not real. And afterwards, all you’re left with is what you started with: yourself and your pain.

Ironically, only as I’ve grown in my deep conviction that the truth about me is that I am a good creation at my core, the compulsion to look at pornography has dissolved away. In being honest with my wife, despite doing tremendous damage to her trust and self-esteem, I’ve found the comfort and intimacy I longed for, and as a by-product, the venomous addiction of pornography dwindled away in the light of other-centered, self-giving love.

But porn wasn’t the only dysfunction my shame caused. I learned to become what others wanted me to be. People pleasing. Fear of man. A non-negotiable need to avoid any and all confrontation. When you don’t love your own heart, you’ll conform to people’s expectations of you, even at the cost of your own thoughts and desires.

Unlike the rest of the world looking at perfectly timed snap-shots of my life on social media (we all do this), my wife sees me without any facade. She takes the brunt of my pain and anger. It’s taken me a long time to stop blaming her for my emotions, and to begin taking responsibility for myself. And I’m still learning.

I’m still learning how to be angry. Hell, I’m still learning that I am angry. And that it’s ok to be angry. In fact, it’s right to be angry with injustice. But as we walk with Holy Spirit, Wisdom shows us the right thing to do WITH that anger, so that we don’t use it as a weapon against others.

No one has helped me to be more brutally honest with myself than my wife, though it has cost her dearly. I almost lost our marriage because of my pain and shame driving me into hell-bent self-destruction. And only by the grace of God, and her relentless patience, have we begun to rebuild our trust again.

Emily has continued to love me well, and has helped me to confront things in my life that I never would have left to my own coping mechanisms and survival skills.

She has shown me love. Hard love. In your face love. A fierce love that refuses to tolerate lies and fabricated fronts. She’s shown me God’s love.

When rage is beat into you in an attempt to fix your bad behavior through punishment, it creates an image of an angry God who mirrors our own rage.

This is why I can’t swallow the theory that God had to punish Jesus so that He could feel good about me. I’ve lived my life as a victim of punishment, and I discovered that punishment NEVER healed a single ounce of my heart. NEVER.

Far from healing me, punishment only sent me deeper into the hopeless chasm of my pain. It also gave me passive aggressive tendencies to punish those closest to me. I am undoubtedly on a journey of being unwound from those lifeless habits.

I don’t need a “god” who has to punish an innocent Victim so that He can look at me through His blood-of-Jesus-blindfold.

I need a God who sees the real me and isn’t disgusted.

I need a God who looks at me and doesn’t see what I’ve always seen: worthlessness.

I need a God who looks at me in my brokenness and doesn’t feel what I’ve always felt: shame.

I don’t need a God who has to punish before He can love me.

I need a God that loves me by nature WHILE He’s the One being punished!

I’ve posted myself with alcohol before, and I’ve posted myself with a cigar before, but I did not anticipate that those two things posted together would illicit such a volatile reaction. However, I’m not surprised.

I understand. Emily ordered a beer on one of our first dates and I was mortified because I was so afraid that someone in leadership from our local church would see us with alcohol. I had no idea how bound up I was with the fear of people’s opinions and judgements.

It’s sad (and embarrassing) that as Christians we call a cigar and a glass of bourbon a stumbling block, yet we willingly swallow the idea of a God who will eternally cook His children in an oven forever if they don’t pray the right prayer or live up to code.

We strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. (And not a Joe Camel! Wouldn’t want to offend anyone with a cigarette reference!)

We wince over offending someone with a glass of wine (even though Jesus compared His blood to wine WHILE drinking wine Himself), but we preach that the Father of Jesus runs an eternal Auschwitz in the sky for anyone who doesn’t believe the right way, making Him infinitely worse than Hitler!

That to me, my dear brothers and sisters, is the real stumbling block. Presenting an image of God that is actually an idol. It’s high time we realize that image of “god” is not the Abba of Jesus Christ. That image of “god” is the accuser of the brethren, Satan.

For someone who has lived their life inside of religious and performance facades, it has been incredibly refreshing to begin embracing integration in my life. Tim Wright is learning how to be the same person in every scenario. And that’s a miracle for me.

That is why for me, immediately taking a picture down of myself with a cigar and alcohol because of people’s opinions, would’ve actually been submitting back to the very bondage that the Lord has been delivering me from!

I do not advocate the abuse of alcohol or any other substance. The truth is, we can become dependent on just about anything when we allow it to take the place of our co-dependency on His presence.

We are designed to drink from the intoxicating New Wine of His love without moderation and in absolute excess! And when we find our unbridled pleasure fulfilled in Christ alone and His indwelling glory, we won’t need to turn to other things to satisfy that inner ache. Then, we’re free to enjoy all things in Godly moderation, with thankfulness and a content heart.

Surely, my heart was not to intentionally damage anyone with my picture. If I offended you, will you forgive me? I love you! If I brought up painful memories of abuse that you’ve suffered or committed, will you forgive me? I love you!

There is one thing that I am wholeheartedly committed to taking down! And that, my friends, is the demonic lie that God is somehow different than Jesus.

I actually want to thank everyone that commented on my picture, both negative and positive, because you were willing to bring your thoughts to the table in a conversation. And that’s what this is all about. Being family.

You don’t have to cover up any part of your story, no matter how deep your pain or loss. Once you realize that Love does not keep a record of wrongs, you’re free to stop keeping a record of them yourself by hiding them in your shame. And once you know the truth about you, letting go of every shameful facade into the ocean of His grace becomes easy.

If you’re a victim or perpetrator of sexual abuse, don’t let your secrets lock you into a prison of isolated despair. It’s a lie that you’ll be safer inside of that delusion. You’re not. You’re safest in the wide open spaces of vulnerability and child-like trust. You’re not alone. There’s a family of believers waiting to embrace you.

Only when we embrace honesty with ourselves about what we’ve lost, can we see for the first time just how found we already are in Him! And in letting go of the facade that we are sinful or broken victims, the truth about who we really are begins to emerge like a tidal wave in our consciences!

We are good. We are loved. We are clean. We are whole. We are perfect. We are safe. We are His!

In 2006, Jesus began giving me opportunities to talk to the people that I had abused when I was younger. He led me to share with them how the love of God had changed me. I asked each of them for their forgiveness for what I had done to them. It was so powerful.

One of them, after hearing my heart, confessed to me that their boyfriend had died recently in an accident, and they were planning on committing suicide the following day. They allowed me to pray for them, and healing tears flowed freely, right at the gas station where they were working at, and suicide broke off of them.

I remember feeling how precious the leading of the Holy Spirit was through confronting these painful situations, and I knew that if I wanted to continue to grow in my intimacy with His love, that I needed to obey His leading. I’m so glad that I did. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had hardened my heart to His tender, leading love.

I haven’t had the chance to talk to my abuser yet. But I’m looking forward to the day where I can. And when I do, I’ll tell him that I love him and forgive him. And that Papa is especially fond of him.

I wanted to break open some of my inside world for you so that you can know and understand more of who I am. I also want to encourage anyone reading this to go on the adventure of following Jesus out of your shame and into His glorious light! You’ll be so glad that you did.

Our Lord wants to take the little bread and fish of your life, bless you, and break you so that the brokenness of your heart can be multiplied to feed the nations!

And just like Jesus told His disciples to gather up all of the fragments of the multiplied bread so that nothing would be wasted, we too find the broken fragments of our hearts, seemingly lost for good, scooped up in the hands of His disciples, waiting for us to discover unfolding pieces of who we really are, hidden in relationship with one another in Him!

I look forward to the next time that we break the bread of our hearts together, face to face.

In His relentless affection,

Tim Wright

http://timwrightmusic.org

Restoration Stories – Heidi Krieghauser

March 12, 2015 began just like any other day. I woke up next to Bill, my husband of nearly 25 years. Bill, was my favorite person. He was everything to me. He was my rock and my comforter. Even after having raised 2 kids, and having seen one another through all of the challenges and victories in life, we still really liked each other.

Bill was one of those very rare men who you could count on always in all ways. He was big and strong and very, very dependable. That paled in comparison to his love for our family, his kindness, impeccable character and willingness to indulge me with a courtesy chuckle at my bad jokes and puns. If Bill was there, you just knew everything was going to be okay.

We were a very typical family who lived in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia. Bill worked for the Federal Government in a position he worked hard to attain. I had been in Real Estate for years and had a career that was considered to have been successful. Our two amazing children, 24 and 22 years old, were both out of the house pursuing their education and dreams of their own.

Both Bill and I were believers in and followers of Jesus. We had served in ministry our entire marriage and had a ministry years before this fateful day called, Christ Stalkers. It was a youth ministry and over the 10 years we were its overseers, there were more than 4,000 youth who came to know Christ as their savior. We had planted churches and raised our family in church. Ministry and a relationship with God was no stranger to our family.

But by the end of that day that had begun like so many of our more than 9,000 days together, my beloved had gone home to heaven. In an instant he was gone. In fifteen minutes Bill went from saying he, “didn’t feel quite right” to taking his last breath as I held him in my arms. He was gone. My everything was gone. He was 49 years old.

After the doctor told me they were unable to revive him and did, “everything they could”, my son, who was home on Spring break, went to call people and I was left alone in that ugly, little room. We all have seen that room on TV where they take the family to break “the news” that looks so Hollywood-inspired, for dramatic effect, but is quite real. I tried to process all of this.

He had ankle surgery and had been in the hospital but was given a clean bill of health. But an oversight by the doctors, who did not prescribe blood thinners, and he died of a blood clot, taking everything from me and our kids. Not Bill. Are you sure? MY Bill? Things like this just don’t happen to people like us!

Who was I now? Since I was 21 I had been his wife. It was painfully obvious to me that I no longer held that distinction when they handed me his ring. The ring that belonged on HIS finger, not in a little bag in MY hand.

He was everything to me! How can I get through this life without him?

For a quarter of a century it had been Bill and Heidi. When people thought of me, they thought of him and vice versa. We were fine on our own but we were much, much better together.

Now, without him, who was I?

And our kids! How can I be everything to them that they needed him to be to them?

The immediacy of the pain was overwhelming and took my breath away.

So, I sat alone, in that ugly little room. Or perhaps it was quite pretty, I don’t know. And THAT is when God, although already very real to me, simply invaded my life in a whole new way.

I opened my mouth and my own words surprised me. Through tears, I whispered, “God, I NEVER questioned you when you were blessing us. I will NOT question you in this.”

HE gave me the grace and the wisdom to speak those words. I am not that gracious or that wise. He is.

I was a Christian for over 30 years but it wasn’t until I was suddenly and unexpectedly widowed that I became a TRUE Christ Stalker. It was in that moment, God ran to me and I to Him.

I needed God for every breath. I had trusted Him before but I had never had to trust Him like I did now. And in the midst of my pain and the vast absence of my Husband I found what I had longed for all my life, the unconditional love of Christ. And God had finally gotten from me what He had put me on this planet for, the absolute reliance on and unencumbered relationship with Him.

Over the last three years, there were times when the only movement forward I was able to muster was an army crawl, on my stomach, in the muck and the mire.

And times when I thought the pain on Bills loss was so overwhelming that I was surprised that I woke up because I thought the physical anguish alone would have killed me.

But in all of that, I pursued and consumed Jesus like never before. And He met me. He never left me. He was pursuing me as I was pursuing Him.

It has been, at times, a heart wrenching journey and I have cried more tears than I ever thought one person could create. But in all of the pain and uncertainty, Jesus has revealed Himself to me in a way I never thought possible!

My life now is a true fulfillment of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

The love God has shown me in this journey is like no other. He carried me when I needed to be carried. He held me when I needed to be held. Gave me strength when needed and has become all things to me always, in all ways.

It is difficult to pick out just one scripture that got me through. God used every verse to speak to and comfort me. But Joshua 1:9 is probably my favorite: Have I not commanded you to be bold, strong and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you, wherever you will go.

What a beautiful promise!!

There is one song that I put on loop whenever I felt like I could not even get through the next second. Some of the lyrics that gave me great hope were found in the song, It is well:

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

Through it all, through it all

It is well

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

It is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe

Even when my eyes can’t see

And this mountain that’s in front of me

Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

Through it all, through it all

It is well

Through it all, through it all

My eyes are on You

It is well, it is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him

The waves and wind still know His name.

~ Heidi Krieghauser

Restoration Stories – Gina Guy Warren

When I was a young girl, I remember my father beating me so badly with one arm on the steering wheel and the other smashing into my chest in the passenger seat of the car. Apparently the car was swerving, so a police officer pulled us over. He asked if all was ok, and I attempted to speak as loudly as i could with my eyes. I needed help but the officer was won over by my fathers poised response. He had a rebellious daughter and he was handling it.

This was my everyday growing up. Two parents who didn’t know how to handle their daughter who was crying out from sexual abuse of another Christian, church going family member, but no one heard the cry nor did anyone want to get involved. All family members knew, and were also aware of the radical physical abuse I would receive once in the four walls of my home.

I married at 22 years old to a man 15 years older. I married my father without even realizing it. Because I never healed from my abuse before getting married, I entered into the same spirit that abused me. I never felt safe within the marriage of a porn addicted Pastor, who inwardly hated me, but I remained faithful as a Christian woman and fought the spiritual fight for 16 years.

My Pain drove me to Jesus literally every hour. I grew, saw Jesus face to face and received my healing all while in this marriage. I faced my accuser which cost me my entire family. Each one, including my brothers and my own parents never spoke to me again nor ever met my daughters. The Cost was great, the healing divine, and the voice of the Groom spoke to this bride daily. A real God, with Real Hope.

It was not easy working through it all and breaking EVERY soul tie I bound myself to but while i was single for 8 years, But i did the work because I KNEW there was a man on this planet for me because I saw HIM in the eyes and heart of Jesus everyday in my prayer closet. (My ex was ordained as a pastor, went from church to church tearing me down, then died of cancer. I moved him into My home 4 years after we divorced to care for him during hospice. It’s what Jesus would do. LOVE unselfishly. He ended up accusing me of attempted murder of which never was I charged. Allegations dismissed)

I Rarely EVER tell any of my stories of which this is only ONE.

TODAY IS MY 3 YEAR ANNIVERSARY.

Some may find this to be an odd way to celebrate but oh, to the contrary.

May whoever reads this Brief glimpse of my story be filled with HOPE. Facing our pain and effects of trauma and abuse will never be pleasant…ever. But the rewards are beyond what you can imagine

All those years I sought the face of God. Not His hands but His face. He told me there would come a man who was pure. Nothing like the men who protected me not, even in the church they turned a blind eye. But God.

He sent me Brian Warren . Pure. Fearless. Honorable. One worthy to be called husband, Pastor, Protector. God healed my broken soul ( mind will emotions) and when the healing came in full, Brian arrived.

I want everyone to know your pain has purpose. I know God is restoring the Faith and the Body of His beloved Bride. Whatever has been stolen from you, 100fold return is in your future. It may require you to face that which is painful, many will leave and not believe you, expose evil, and make decisions that are out of your comfort zone.

Never tolerate mediocrity! Don’t live with an OK marriage. Do something about it! Pray. Focus. Love until you have nothing more to Give! God will remove your abusers or Heal and Restore! Just don’t stay the same. It’s dangerous! He’s the Bride of restoration. He will heal and restore every broken relationship. If they choose Not, just choose Jesus. Keep your focus. You and Him!

I’m a LIVING, whole and Healed testimony that True love exists. Fairytales do exists. Don’t become bitter ladies. Rise up out of the ashes. Look what God can do!

I’m in Love. I’m at Peace. I am whole. When you find this place in God, LOVE finds you.

I’ve been found. I love you Brian Mrunbreakable Warren ❤️❤️. You’re a GOOD man. A true Leader. An example to all men and women. To the Church!! You’re hope to the hopeless. Defender of the weak. I thank God for the 3 years this far. Together we overcome what many marriages wouldn’t and don’t survive because we are ONE and God Himself joined us. It’s impossible to tear apart what God put together. What soul ties, sex and flesh put together, it can and will be torn apart. What GOD joins cannot be broken. He is able to keep what He joins.

Hope Hope Hope. Believe for the best. You are God’s best! You are a reflection of Him! To deny you would be to deny Himself. Impossible.

May Love find you this year in ALL your relationships. First may the marriage reflect how Jesus feels about His church! He’s come to heal! Oh won’t He do it! If He did it for The WARrens, He will do it for you!

~Gina Guy Warren

#2.22.2015. #7yearsOn2.22.2022. #SignsAndWonders. #MiraclesComeTrue. #ALoveWorthFightingFor #Mate2MySoul. #TellYourStoryBringHope2others

Restoration Stories – David Travis Fowler

We all have a past, there’s no denying. As I look back at mine, there is no regret or shame, but lessons to be learned. It’s imperative to always remember WHOSE you are and WHO you are in Christ Jesus. Today, I celebrate DELIVERANCE as a reminder of what the cost was on Calvary. It cost heaven it’s best, Jesus Christ. I’m reminded of how far God has brought me and that His grace abounds much more than our sin.

Jesus delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and placed my feet on solid ground.

My life was chaotic, and addiction/SIN had a stronghold over my life. In and out of jail and toxic relationships was the norm. I had one foot in hell and the other on a banana peel. One night, in desperation, I cried out to Jesus for the first time in YEARS. I remember clearly saying to Him “I need you now more than ever Lord, please help me.” He was listening. He had compassion for me. He rescued me. I’m forever grateful and forever in debt to our Father.

Today, I try to live life to its fullest. God has given me a covenant with the biggest blessing of all, my wife Hillary. We own a successful business, which by His hand, continues to grow. He has shown us favor.

Every Sunday, God has called me to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the local nursing home. It brings my heart such joy. They are a blessing to me.

While not every relationship that was damaged has been restored, I do have FAITH and through PRAYER, believe those relationships can and will be restored in His timing, because he restored the messed up me. I will testify of His goodness all of my days.

In this photo, I hold a token of 9 years of recovery, but more importantly is what’s behind the token….. the Bible, God’s Word. To Christ be all the Glory!

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,

Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, And gathered out of the lands, From the east and from the west, From the north and from the south.

Psalm 107:2-3

— David Travis Fowler

Restoration Stories – Emily Rosen

I have gained and lost 100 pounds

a few times

Up and down, down and up

My body has stretched

and shrunk rapidly

More than I knew

it could

Definitely more

than I ever wanted it to

To those who have never

had their weight fluctuate dramatically

it is hard for me to try and explain

what it’s like to be the same person

in so many different bodies

And it is really hard to explain

what it’s like

to have people treat you

completely differently

based solely

on how they see you

and your body

I remember

arriving at college

painfully slim

eager to please

and hungry

And I remember

when my best friend

passed away unexpectedly

just a few months

into my freshman year

finding myself eating

out of garbage bins

I put on 30 pounds that month

I couldn’t stop eating

I would stuff my face quite literally

till I was so full I would pass out

almost blacking out

from a food coma

and the pain of being so full

and so empty

simultaneously

I have been so thin

I could only shop

in the children’s section

for pants that fit me

And I have been so big

I could no longer fit into a size 16

It is not a fallacy

that people treat people differently

based on how they see them

and what they make that mean

I remember walking down

the hallways of my college dorm

50 pounds heavier than I had been that fall

and people who once greeted me gleefully

pretending not to see me at all

I was bigger

taking up more space

and felt invisible

When I was smaller

I would hear the whispers

the judgements

the speculations

and was constantly being questioned

about what I ate

And I was often celebrated

and attacked

in the same breath

by women who wanted to know

“my secret”

I haven’t weighed myself in 5+ years now

I plan to never weigh myself again

My weight has stabilized

drifting up and down a little

seasonally

But it’s so important to note

that weight

is not

an indication of healing

not necessarily

often not at all

I didn’t know what my body would look like

when I finally stopped starving, binging and purging

I had to trust it would find its way

and that was the hardest deep breath

I ever had to take

As I got healthier

I gained weight

And I remember sitting on the floor

of the bathroom

often

willing myself

not to purge

It was so hard

especially as people started commenting

on my weight gain

assuming I was binging

when I was actually eating less

than I had in years

I do want to stress that

someone’s weight

tells you very little about their relationship with food

There can be such a wide range of reasons

psychological, emotional, mental, hormonal, biological

for why someone’s weight

is what it is

I have been told

I looked “average” and “normal”

even “very healthy”

when I was secretly purging

60 times a day

I have been told I was too thin

when I was eating plenty

but was just so lit up by life

and in love with everything

I was rapidly burning off

everything that crossed my lips

In this picture

I was eating no more than 1,200 calories a day

and working out an hour a day

But my body was so freaked

it refused to drop

even the littlest bit of weight

It was sick of my abuse

and simply refused

to shift even a little

We do not know what someone “should” weigh

We do not know anything

about what is going on for a person

internally

just by looking at them

And we aren’t doing anyone a favor

by judging them

telling them how they should be different

or assuming we know

what is healthy for them

“Tough love” when it comes to body size

is often just a backhanded way

to make shaming okay

And as far as I am concerned

body shaming is never okay

Not to mention

it never actually helps people

get where they want to go

even if they do want to change

The road will always inform the destination

So my suggestion:

Get curious instead

with those around you

and yourself

Our challenges with food and body

are a doorway into

what might really be going on

They’re not something getting in our way

They are the way

And in my experience

they are presenting

for exquisitely tender reasons

reasons that might otherwise be missed

in the business of our day to day

Be gentle

Be kind

Be generous

Be smart

This is how we get to the heart of the matter

always with love and respect

for infinite mystery

I know for one

the girl in this picture

would have so appreciated

a question

instead of

endless assumptions

I imagine often

how different my twenties

would have been

if I knew what I know

now

and if I had been

questioned sincerely

instead of told often

that something was wrong with me

I suppose in many ways

if not all ways

this is why I share in the way I do

so those like me

don’t start thinking

they are crazy too

We do things for a reason

you and me

and there is nothing wrong with you

for reacting

and taking care of yourself

in the ways you know how to

It just might be time to do things

a little differently

if you are wanting something different

Be willing to go deep my friends

Be willing to do the work

And learn to love

the beautiful mystery

that is your body

❤️ Emily Joy Rosen

Image above of Emily referenced in her post

Lead image is Emily now.

Connect with Emily at The Empowered Woman

Restoration Stories – Shanon Roberts 

Hello Friends! I am Shanon Roberts. A wife (celebrating 17 years in February!) and mother of two teenage daughters Kendra and Skye, with a sweet Labrador named Zep, a devoted Morkie named Sadie, and a feisty Doberman named Ollie. I am also a writer, designer and artist, whose calling is to love and nurture my family while also creatively encouraging, supporting and edifying other women on their unique journey with Christ.

This past year, His Year, has been a year of transformation. A year where I have learned through experience, more than ever before, what it is to die to self, or the flesh nature. In this season of transformation and dying, I have been empowered to truly LIVE. Let me explain…

In early October 2016, I found myself bawling like a blubbering baby in the driver’s side of my Toyota Camry on my way home from work. Only about ten minutes into the trip while listening to worship music, the Holy Spirit came over me in a very profound way, with a directive, “You only have twelve months to live.” Note I said directive, not sentence. At the time, my heart felt as though it was a sentence, but now I see where He intended it as a directive.

The encounter was so tangible, once I was home, I spoke with my husband – eyes puffy and swollen, snot seething, poor guy had no idea what he should do! I even called my girlfriend over, to ask her to help with our daughters, should something happen to me. I planned in my heart the conversation with another girlfriend, because she too would be a wonderful godly role-model for our children should I go home to meet my Maker.

The month of October, I continued to return to those moments. Praying, “Lord, if I really only have twelve months to live, what would you have me to do with the time left?” I sensed a variety of things. Love your husband. Quit your job! Love your children. Live it up! Do not go to bed angry. Eat all the things! Seek Me. Drink the wine! Pray. Write the words. Go where I need you to go. Trust where I’m taking you when you don’t know where you’re going. Remain in the will of God; for if that moment ever came to ascend to heaven on high, I did not want the Lord to say to me, “I never knew you. Get away from me…” (see Matthew 7:23). Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself (see Matthew 22:37-39). The latter verse was my life verse, had been for eight years.

Another, Exodus 34:10, He reminded me of, came from a gal who had prayed for me earlier that year and shared, “Listen, I am making a covenant with you in the presence of all your people. I will perform miracles that have never been performed anywhere in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people around you will see the power of the LORD–the awesome power I will display for you.” 

Both verses were revisited and remembered often throughout the course of this past year, when it felt like the kingdom of heaven and the darkness of hell were bopping me back and forth like an inflatable boxing bop bag from the 80’s. Anyone remember those? Fun as a child doing the punching, not so fun as an adult receiving the blows.

I declared 2017 to be HIS YEAR. I wrote it down. I made it the cover photo of my Facebook account (it’s still there if you would like to check it out). This year was going to be His Year. My arms were going to remain wide open and I was going to do my best to cooperate and allow Him to flow through my life in the way He needed to, for His glory and the sake of others, rather than resume in the fetal position if I got knocked down. 

The first couple of weeks seemed to be a foreshadow of things to come. I was ill. My children were ill. My grandfather-in-law went Home to be with the Lord just a few days before my husband and I’s wedding anniversary. This is still His year, I whispered to my soul.

Love your husband. We had experienced many a trial throughout the course of our marriage. God had brought transformation into our relationship. However, we found ourselves separated by night and day differences, as he drove to work at night and I left for my career by day. God really compelled me to press in MORE and believe for a day shift position. I did. My Sisters in Christ did. Perhaps a new shift would lead to alignment spiritually. I believed.

Love your children. Admittedly we had found ourselves in a rhythm of “busy”. God compelled me to pray for them intently, to be filled with His Spirit. He compelled me to write words for them in hopes of leaving an eternal inheritance for their lives, rather than only temporal. I did. He compelled us to set aside digital technology. We tried. We really did.
Do not go to bed angry. The painful reality I had not experienced just yet was that even Christian friends and family will disappoint. Folks will feel threatened, or entitled to judge, or in a position of superiority because of their “seniority” in the Kingdom. Some may just grow plain tired of hearing what God is doing in and through you. Many a night I had to pray, “Lord, help me not go to bed angry”. I also had to pray to not be angry with myself. For some reason, and maybe it’s just me, there was a thought that transformation takes place in an instant. I would become frustrated if I didn’t meet my standards, rather than allowing God’s grace to elevate me to each new place of change in HIS timing. When I didn’t succeed at not going to bed angry, I prayed for a song of worship when I awoke. A fresh beginning at the dawn of a new day.

Seek me. My morning routine continued to be getting into His Word first thing, followed by sharing a post and prayer, and then a half-hour of worship on my commute to work; this was a routine that took several years of attempt and fail to settle into. When at work, I was able to listen to worship music throughout the day, take walking breaks to pray, or listen to sermons from Pastors I trust God had placed in my life for His purposes. 

Pray. I would pray almost all the time, asking God to always be very present in my life, speaking to my heart.

Write the words. I struggled at first, but finally solidified His desire to compile and write Rise Up! Devotions, and released this year. A book once created only for my daughters was now going to be shared with others. I wrestled with giants of inadequacy, fear, failure, the inability to properly edit and identify grammar errors, and promoting. Oh how I loathe promoting. I wanted people to see God alone. Not see me and potentially have it twisted in their minds I was promoting self. But it wasn’t my place to assume. I followed Him, and released the book April 13th, on Amazon.

Go where I need you to go. Among the seeking and praying and writing, He was orchestrating a few mission trips. In March, He sent me to San Juan, Dominican Republic for medical missions with my place of employment. 

Remember the darkness of hell that was contending? Well it took several full on swings while I was in the DR. I grew very ill with a virus and dehydration, combined with what was later speculated by my home doctor to be ZIKA. There was a battle for sure, but I witnessed my husband connect with other men for the Kingdom of God, and I believed it was all worth it. Upon return, my husband began working the day shift at a new organization that was an answer to our desperate prayers. 

God was moving.

In May, He sent me to Guatemala for another medical mission with my place of employment. Again, I became very ill. The illness this time was worse than before, and also required IV medication and saline, just so I could get on a plane to get home. Fear struck me to the core. Anxiety I had been delivered from tried to rear its ugly head. My body wanted to react in ways it hadn’t in years. I seemed to be losing control of my faculties. But I did not lose control of the grip I had on my Savior, and the Word and promises He had spoken to my heart: all the people around you will see the power of the LORD… love the Lord with all your heart and love others too. I decided to write and share. I also decided to continue on with the thirty-one days of prayer He had placed on my heart to lead within the online Rise Up Community. And as surely as I write and you read this in your jammies with a cup of coffee (or tea) on a Saturday morning in November, I near instantly felt the enemy flee at my obedience to the Lord. I made it home.

In June, He again sent me. This time, I would return to a different part of the Dominican Republic and as a chaperone for my daughters who have hearts for mission ministry. Thankfully, I did not grow ill on this trip, as I was proactive in my preparation weeks beforehand. PLUS – I had a message on my heart God was preparing within me. Courageous humility. 

The result of the prayer vigil, and a phrase, that would later become an online six week study. Near the end of June, however, I found a lump on my chest. A doctor’s appointment became a mammogram, a mammogram became an ultrasound, and an ultrasound became a biopsy. I thought, “This is it. This is what He’s prepared me for. My twelve months are almost up.”

The enemy’s blow had me lying on the side of self-pity, defeat and tempted to not move forward with the Courageous Humility study. But the wind of the Spirit came rushing in, lifting me up, and positioning me to stand. The day we kicked off the study, is the day I had a biopsy of the solid mass lurking within the tissue of my femininity. Two days later the report came. Cancer free. 

Keep going. But I couldn’t. I was tired. Overwhelmed. The wind that had so quickly picked me up and set me on my feet, seemed to be sucked right out of me, like a helium balloon on a child’s birthday – but it wasn’t funny. I needed to rest. My doc agreed. Rather than prescribe medications, she instructed rest, laughter and conversation. Yes please, and thank you!

I was able to give the Lord my all for the Courageous Humility study. I was able to spend time with my daughters. I was able to tend the needs of my home. I was able to hear the Lord. My heart for you is your home. It always has been. It always will be. Love your husband. Love your children. Love your community. Help others. Glorify me. Focus on encouraging other women. Focus on your community. Missions may come later. 

In early August, I received the call to again pray. Literally. The Call organization publicly announced on July 27th they were hosting a day of prayer in Washington D.C. on October 9th, titled Rise Up.  Naturally I thought I would be going. Supernaturally, God had something else in mind.

As I sought the Lord in prayer and asked others to pray for clarity, I 100% wanted to go and was ready, but wasn’t 100% sure that’s what He wanted. I sensed I was alone in my prayers. I sensed others, for whatever reason, were exasperated with my requests (after the year I had had at that point, the requests seemed without ceasing) and unable to support in prayer or presence. I desperately clung to the Lord. Only the Lord and carpet threads within my closet hold the secrets and understand the desperation and magnitude of my heartfelt cries. He DIDN’T want me to go. He wanted me to stay and pray in my own community. Not just on October 9th, but every Sunday morning leading up to it.

Right away a place came to mind, in proximity to the courthouse, where I would spend my Sunday mornings. Thank you, God. My first inquiry regarding the space was shadowed with doubt. My second, received with a resounding yes, plus a discount on the space for the day! My invitation to over half the churches in my community and county resulted in one response. One. The Wind remained beneath my wings (thank you, Bette Midler, we’re thinking of your song now!). He continued keeping me upright as week after week I circled the courthouse alone, praying as His Holy Spirit led.

During this time, the Courageous Humility study was brought to a close, and underwent the process of being compiled for a book publication. In parallel, the thirty-one days of prayer in May were captured and also converted to book format. Just for kicks and giggles, the Lord allowed me the opportunity to express my artistic gift once again, and I created works of art for a local exhibit. The main presentation? Jesus at the center of my husband and children. Oh, “Praise God!” you may be thinking, the be-bops from the enemy stopped! Not exactly.

Storms were brewing and downpours came flooding in. My daughter, also experiencing spiritual warfare, was in the throes of her own battle. The Holy Spirit had provided insight and we were slowly working through her challenges. The weekend before I was to travel south to a statewide prayer meeting, all hail broke loose in our home. True colors were revealed. Motives made known. The remnants of spiritual, mental and emotional hail damage lie all around. As if it wasn’t enough to tempt me to stay home rather than go, no measures from the enemy were withheld and I found myself smacked right in the rear of my vehicle by traffic. Are. You. Kidding me?!

Hard conversation and a little loopy, later, I resolved to go to the prayer meeting the next day, regardless. I knew I needed to be there. That evening I hopped in our old beater car to drive down, when one last ditch effort to hinder my obedience came. The car would go no faster than idle. I turned it into the drive of a field, turned off the ignitions and CRIED OUT! “What is going on? I’m trying to do YOUR will! Why is all of this happening?! Car! You are going to start and I am going to get to this prayer meeting, and that’s that!” I turned the ignition, the car started, and I safely made the two hour drive there and back, to the prayer meeting. 

A meeting which was Spirit filled and fanned the flame within my heart to proceed, regardless of the drama. Regardless of the opposition. Regardless of the whiplash. Regardless of no response. Do for God as He has done for you…REGARDLESS.

Two weeks later I reserved the space. A week after that, I released Courageous Humility and Rise & Pray on Amazon. A piece of artwork I had submitted for a magazine had been accepted for their cover. My vacation was approved, it was time to pray and fast. God met me in my prayer closet more than once. He instructed me to maintain distance in some relationships, but to grow closer in others. He reminded me that He had been moving to draw loved ones in as He had placed it on my heart to share gifts, and crochet (not to be confused with macramé, but fun to say) afghans, and feed and nurture with food and the Word, those who at one point had been faithful supporters. He compelled me to pray for the healing and assured me, I may very well be the only one to show up on the day of prayer, but He would be there.

And He was. On October 9th, God was with me all day. Six people showed up to believe God with me, two of which were my daughters. Another showed up by “coincidence”, and we had a good conversation. A shift took place that day. The twelve month anniversary of the directive was on October 9th as well, and I was alive. ALIVE in CHRIST like I had never been before! Thoughts and worries and concerns I had held on to before seemed to pass away. There was a much larger part of my flesh finding itself six feet under in the spiritual earth God had prepared. Old things passing. God, now with a vessel ready for something new, full of trust in His unending faithfulness and love.

In the few weeks since then, God has confirmed to me to be connected to teaching and encouraging. He has restored my artistic gift (a gift and talent I laid on the alter years ago for the sake of my family), to creatively serve others. He moved me to create an online portfolio that captures all He has done and is doing in this life. 

Recently, that portfolio was viewed for a prospective job opportunity with someone who declares the Kingdom, and loves Jesus, and considered me for a full-time position as a graphic designer for an online education program in the medical device industry. Following the position interview and much prayer, God made it clear to continue on right where I am, to better serve both my family and others via His established online ministry.

He is establishing new connections with others through the artwork on the cover of the magazine, released on October 20th. He has also transformed the Courageous Humility study from what began as an online study, to content on the YouVersion Bible App, and promoted this ministry to partnering with YouVersion as a Content Partner. 

He also seems to be inching the door open to speak and share with others.

God is Good! He TRANSFORMS and RESTORES! He will transform the soul willing to keep their arms, eyes, ears and hearts wide open to the Spirit of the living God within them. If we are willing to die to self and truly live for the Lord, He will keep us and see us through when the enemy attempts to reclaim his ground. God will restore, if we will humble ourselves and allow Him to do as He needs for a season, and trust Him to give it back again, when we are able to glorify Him with the gift He provides. And if He doesn’t give it back, His heart is happy when we are content with Him alone.

Be well. Be encouraged. Be transformed and restored by a faithful God whose love and mercy endures forever. God bless.

Connect with Shanon 

Instagram: @shanon_roberts

Website: shanonroberts.com
Ministry~

Facebook & Instagram: @riseupdevotions

Website: riseupdevotions.com