Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My Story

Today I'm getting personal and raw. If you know me personally, you know that I am an open book, I'm not afraid of emotions and tears but I've never written my story out before and laid my heart out for all to see. This is a long post but one I hope you find encouragement in. Grab a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and get ready to see my heart.  
Beautiful Print by Holly Holt
I was raised in two very loving, but split homes for my whole childhood. My parents divorced when I was
a baby so all I knew was two separate homes and lives. My sets of parents worked great together and we all had/have a great relationship, but things didn't feel "right." As I grew, I began to notice that my family situation was very different from those of my friends and I struggled with why my life looked different. This was very hard to understand and grasp when you are 6. Life as a child from a split home can be very lonely when doing it alone because you are moving around and have separate things happening a separate homes and while both my dad & stepmom and my mom tried to include me in all the "fun" and important things, I still missed parts of the everyday life and happenings at each place. Now I do need to say again that my parents were all great and my situation was idealic for what it was but it doesn't mean that it wasn't a hard part of my journey. Then in middle school my mom and stepdad whom I loved and considered my other dad, decided that they were going to divorce. I was heartbroken and struggled through the awkward middle school years with the pain at home, the bitterness towards my dad and depression over all that was happening in my life. Divorce is hard on kids! It fractures their world that they know and forces them to grow up really fast. This was a very hard season in my life.

Finding Jesus

None of my parents had a strong religious set of beliefs and they all believed that I had a right to choose what I wanted to believe. So in 9th grade in my Humanities class, we started learning about World Religions. The stories my public school teacher was telling me about Christianity struck me. I had heard of baby Jesus, but that was really it. The questions came flying to my head and I was so confused as to why I was the only one (it seemed) who had never heard of these things. It was the first tugging's I remember feeling from God. I was open and ready, but so very lost.
Thankfully, God had placed some Christians in my circle of friends and I began asking them questions. One of those friends invited me to her church one night for a Superbowl party and message afterwards and I heard the gospel message presented for the first time. I did not accept Christ that night but my heart was broken open to this new thing and my search ensued. I started attending a variety of churches with my various friends and I was just sucking in all in. Finally, in December 2002, as I was reading a friends borrowed Bible and a booklet she had given me, I accepted Christ by myself in my bedroom one night. I do not know the exact date but that didn't matter, all that mattered was that I had found my Savior!! If you've never heard the gospel or accepted Christ and would like to, here is a link that I think explains it well.

From that point on, I continued to grow in my faith, began getting rides from my friends and my cousin to church every Sunday and dove right into my Christian faith. I found a local Christian college that I didn't even know existed until one of those high school friends asked me to go with her to her appointment at the college. I walked onto the campus for the first time and felt at home. I came home that night and boldly told my mom (not asked, which was rare for me) that I was going to this school. Throughout my college career my faith grew exponentially and I was on fire for Christ. I began working part time in children's ministry for the church that was on the same campus. I met my wonderful husband Maxwell there, who also worked there (and still works there). It was a safe haven and campus of growth in my walk with the Lord.
Photo by Acres of Hope Photography

The Trial

Then in 2010, my husband and I walked through a very hard season. We had moved in with my mom while I looked for a teaching job and when I didn't find a teaching job, we decided to start a family, although my intention was not to stay home full time. We happened to get pregnant right away and were so excited! We told all of our families and then a week later, the bleeding started. I was devastated and rocked to my core by the miscarriage. We decided to try again a month or so after and miscarried again and I was broken. I had prayed and given God the first baby and He had taken it away. I asked all the questions like what kind of God would do this? Why would this happen? I pushed away from God. I still knew He was my Savior and still believed He was God but I was MAD at Him and bitterness and anger took over my heart towards God.

I recently have started seeing this 4 year stage of life that ensued after the miscarriages as my rebellious adolescence in my journey with God. I treated Him as my Father but with an attitude. "I hear you, I know what You are saying, but I don't know that I want to follow it," was my emotion and constant attitude towards God. I questioned Him about everything, why the pain and hurts of a split home, why the miscarriages, why would You take children from this world, why the pain, why has my life had so many hardships, what am I not learning? (Can I just say right here that I am so grateful for His amazing grace and forgiveness!) During this 4 year time, God blessed us with two healthy pregnancies and babies. Aston and Leia are true blessing and we love them beyond measure.

I started this blog as an outlet and something for me to do in my downtime as a now stay at home mom. I worked part time from home for a former boss and worked remotely for him. I had stopped going to church because my babies wouldn't stay in the nursery and my husband who works for our church, kept getting called out and it became easier to stay home then make the effort to go. I did have an amazing Bible study of girls who met at my house who walked me, and still walk with me, through this hard and confusing life. I had a very angry and bitter heart towards God and I rebelled in my own "good girl" way of rebelling by just not meeting with God. I didn't read my Bible. I didn't pray much. I didn't go to church. I stopped listening to Christian music and worshipping God. Maxwell didn't know what to do with me. He stopped pushing because I just became angry when he did. I tried to find joy in this blog, find worth in how many followers I had. Let me tell you: this blog, and my "followers" didn't fulfill those empty places, and my lack of communion with my Father God! Again I still believed, I still occasionally would open my Bible but wasn't getting much from it. I still had a Savior, but I was living in my sin of anger and bitterness. I had joy in my children and loved my life as a mom, yet I was different and was struggling. (I believe once you are truly saved, that you cannot lose your salvation BUT I know from experience that you, in your sin can turn away from God and allow Satan to rule your life and not God. If you have questions about how to have a personal relationship with Christ, I encourage you to go to this website.)

The Healing

Then during the summer 2013, I stumbled across She Reads Truth in either blog or Instagram land and my slow process of healing began. I started reading my Bible again by following She Reads Truth. I didn't read every day, but I made an effort. I started feeling like I needed to be in church, but life with a new baby made that a challenge. However, I knew I wanted Aston raised going to church and believing what we believe, so in January 2014 we committed to getting him at least to Sunday School and if I needed to I would sit in the nursery with Leia or the lobby.

In the past two years, I've taken the road out of my darkness and back to the Cross. It has been a long, healing road, but one that I'm thankful for. I decided I needed to be in the Word daily and began getting up before the sun so I could do that before my son woke up. I started following all of She Reads Truth plans, I joined another Bible study with some older women, and we are going to church as much a possible with two kids who trade illnesses :-). Then in January through someone I follow on Instragram, I stumbled upon Life Lived Beautifully. I began to follow Gretchen's posts and was inspired to keep at it and to give my life fully again to Jesus. I bought her Give Me Jesus journal as well as her Life Lived Beautifully journal and both tools helped to guide me in this year of finding my way deeply back to my God and Father. He was always there, ready to accept me back but I needed to make the choice to turn back to Him.

This is what I've learned in the darkness and now on the other side:
  • God's plans are far bigger and broader then our own and He does not follow our plans but we must follow His (Proverbs 16:1-4,9).
  • We go through things in this life so that we can be used to comfort others with the comfort we have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-11) I've met numerous people who are children of a divorce or mom's going through a hard and painful divorce with kids walking through it and have been able to share my story and give my advise. I've also recently walked with numerous friends through the loss of a child and the understand that I have and the empathy I feel runs deep to the core of my heart. Life is painful and hard and great and joy filled and God is there in it all! He comforts and provides and places people to be His hands and arms of comfort and love. Use your story to help others!
  • God used the miscarriages to show me how much I wanted to be "just" a mom and to trust that God would provide for us if I choose to stay at home and not work.
  • Joy and fulfillment can only be found in Him and not in this World or the things of this World.
  • This blog was not founded or rooted in Christ and I stumbled into a downward spiral of discontentment because I wasn't as good as or didn't have as many followers as... So last summer God urged me to take a step back from it. To focus on my kids, my relationship with Max and most importantly my time with Him. I was nervous to start blogging again, but it is now rooted in God and done for His glory!
  • All our children are His and on "loan" from Him(Psalm 127:3). They are a gift that He has given us and each child has his or her own purpose for the Kingdom of God and however He wants to use them, He will use them. Each little life has a purpose from the moment of conception and we must not hold on to them so tightly that we don't allow God to use them as He sees fit (He will always win). I still do not understand the why's of children dying but God does and I am slowly getting a small glimpse into some of the why's. I've seen how He has used those lives in my own life as well as many others in this world.
  • Life lived in full abandon to God is hard. There is pain and suffering, but He is always with us, never leaves us and can provide us with a peace that surpasses all understanding in it. (Philippians 4:6-7) We must first however give our lives to Him. Believe with our whole heart that Jesus died on the cross for ALL of our sins and will forgive us if we believe in Him and Him alone. If you want to know more about this go here.
  • "It is a good rule never to look into the face of a man in the morning till you have looked into the face of God." ~Charles Spurgeon. This is a quote that has become so true to me. I intentionally get up early every day, even on our weekends, because if I don't start my day with God, the rest of my day falls to pieces. My time with the Lord each morning gives me peace and strength to get through my day. This is where the Give Me Jesus journal has come into play in my life.
  • There is much that God has to teach us in this life. We are to become more like Christ as we move through this life and in order for this to happen, God must work on our hearts and teach us lessons, over and over and that is why we should constantly be in His Word! Some of those lessons are just plain hard and hurt and they aren't usually a punishment for what you have or have not done, they are just part of our journey in this fallen world.
Now let me say that I am still on this healing journey. I still have some deep wounds from my childhood and pain and fears to walk through because of the miscarriages but "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"(Philippians 4:13). I have more to share about miscarriage and loss but now is not the time. But as I walk this journey and grow deeper in my walk with the Lord, I pray that I can be a light and encouragement to someone and bring glory to God in all that I do!

What is your story? What story has God written in your life? What have you overcome or are overcoming in this life? We all have a story to tell and an influence to have based on the experiences and lessons we have learned in this life with God. I'd love to hear your story, so if you'd like to share it, email me or write it in the comments below, or write your own blog post and link it in the comments!

A Life Lived Beautifully

If you know me at all or follow me on Instagram, you already know that I love the ministry of Life Lived Beautifully. I have become a passionate supporter of their mission and products because of what it has done in my life! Life Lived Beautifully's mission statement is this and it reflects what I 100% passionately believe in!

One way I'm working towards living this mission statement is by using The Give Me Jesus in my daily time with God. The Give me Jesus journal has the name of one of my new favorite, heart cry of a song. I fell in love with the song last summer and posted it on the blog then. The journal is a "quiet time" journal which means it walks you through your time with God. It is an amazing (!!!) tool and God has used it to help me walk through exponential growth in my relationship with Him. It has renewed my excitement and love for the Word and has caused me amazing growth as a woman of God.

I may seem like a broken recorded when it comes the LLB and you may think that I get paid by them (I don't), but I cannot express what an impact it has had on my life and want EVERYONE to know about it and use their tools! God is working through Life Lived Beautifully. They aren't perfect people or a perfect business, but they seek God in all they do. I know there are other tools out there and you don't need to use a journal like this to grow in your walk with God but this journal is a great guide and tool. I can personally tell you that Gretchen and the Life Lived Beautifully team deeply pray and follow God in creating these tools and you can sense it when you use them.

I love this ministry and journal so much that I'd like to give away a Give Me Jesus Journal to one of you. I know you will be blessed by it and I encourage everyone to get one because of the depth you will gain by digging deep into the Word of God. You can enter to win below!

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  1. Samantha, thank you so much for sharing. I see many aspects of my story in yours. I have been struggling with doing quiet times but you have inspired me! Thank you!

    1. Marissa, I'm glad I've inspired you. Quiet time with a baby does look different but I'd recommend She Reads Truth. I use to read it when I was nursing! I hope you find something that will work for you in your very trying season!

  2. I was blessed upon reading this, Samantha. Thank you God, for His precious Son Jesus!
    In answering to your questions, I will share a little of my story because in all truth, I can't shut my mouth when it comes to Jesus <3 He's just far too extraordinary!
    I grew up in a Christian home and though Jesus was always apart of my life, He was not yet my life. Of course, being that I was young, I did not understand everything, such as why Jesus had died for me.
    Starting from age seven, I was removed twice from parents by Social Services, had two of my little brothers die, was separated from my daddy for more than one year, and whole lot of other things. During all the pain and sorrow, Jesus was truly all I had and I did pray but... I cruised along for awhile but eventually, went downhill. You can imagine that I was full of anger, fear, pain, and rage because of what had happened... it made me separate from Jesus because I thought He couldn't fix what was broken... I began to look to the things of the world for healing but everything only got worse. It was more of a mind thing rather than anything else... suicidal thoughts then began to coax me into thinking that I had no purpose to live and I thought I'd be better off without living. The only thing that kept me back was the fear of going to hell... but even then, I didn't turn to God. Such an evil presence was gripping my mind. Weeks before I came to the cross, I had stopped all praying; my mom told me I had lost all hope and it was true... but then Jesus stepped in. It was through a video testimony of another girl close to my young age that I realized the reality of the existence of God... I was convicted, finally seeing the truth of where I was - in sin - and I needed to be saved. So I turned to Jesus and accepted Him as my Savior. I was suddenly free and healed. But oh, it didn't stop there. I was so intrigued then about this Man, that I began to seek to know about Him. I studied the gospels and finally, finally found out why Jesus had died and rose for me.... and then I fell in love with Him. And out of simply a deep, pure, and childlike adoration and love for Him, I put my life completely in His hands. And then this glorious quest of walking with Him began. All my time, energy, and existence was then turned to Him and I finally found out the reason why I lived: for Christ. Now I do not say the following to boast, but only boast that Jesus Christ has truly made me one of the happiest girls in the world...literally.. no, not by any physical comfort, money, or pride of life but only abiding in Him, and I find all strength to conquer in this life. Yes, of course it is a daily walk of dying to myself, putting my eyes on Christ and humbling allowing Him to teach and change me all things... spending enough time in God's presence has especially allowed me to do just that. Because as we seek Christ, we find that the source of all true contentment is wrapped up in Him! I have too discovered not only from His word, but by personal experience that all true life, joy, and peace (something everyone craves) is found in complete surrender to Christ and the death of self... I can no longer dwell on the past, for by walking in the Holy Spirit, those pains have ceased to exist, as well as all other fleshy ambitions and so on. If I had any advice to say to anyone at all, it would be to tell them that if they wanted to live, to die for Christ. I too desire to live with reckless abandon to Him. He died for me, can I not then live for Him?... Samantha, though I am a little sister in Christ, I am cheering you on this journey! You'll too remain in my prayers <3 Excited as well to explore BearCub Creations. May God bless you, and your beautiful family as well. ---Abby

    1. Abby, Thank you for sharing your story with me! It's so awesome to see how God can bring us from the depths of ourselves into the light of Him! Thank you for your prayers! And I hope you enjoy Bearcub Creations :)

  3. This is just what I've been looking for! Thank you for being real and sharing your heart! -Jamie

  4. Thank you for the chance to win one of these amazing journals!

  5. Wow, what a powerful story! It takes a lot of courage to be that vulnerable with your pain. Thanks for sharing. :). I've been encouraged by Gretchen and Life Lived Beautifully too. I am really enjoying her on periscope. Have a great day! :)

    1. Hi Page! Thank you! I really enjoy her Periscopes too! Such a nice way to start my day!

  6. I recently found Gretchen and I have found her recent study a breathe of fresh air and I have been hoping to grab a journal to make my quiet time more intentional.

    1. I've been loving the Ephesians study as well! If you don't win the journal, you should totally get one! It's wonderful!

  7. Samantha thank you for sharing our story. Thank you because your story might help others who are going through similar process or about to in the future. Thank God for women like you! God bless!

  8. Samantha, thank you for sharing your story! Thank God for women like you willingly to share to help others in case they are going similar process. God bless!


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