Most everyone knows I’m from Upstate NY. Although my hometown is Corning, I received my BA from the State University of New York at Geneseo. It was 1990-92 when I was there.
The school for the most part was divided into two categories: Upstate NY and NYC/Long Island. Now remember the time frame. Come Superbowl time, it was the Buffalo Bills and NY Giants. Talk about a battle. No, not the football teams. My friends.
When it came down to that one kick that unfortunately didn’t give the Bills a win, my dorm shook. No lie. The uproar between upstate and downstate probably scored on the Reichter scale.
Those were the Jim Kelly years and Geneseo was close enough to Buffalo somehow as an Upstate-er I felt a connection. There were times we heard the players used our track or were on their way to party at the exact places we were at. We had friends of friends of friends who had been to parties. He was part of my college scene by association and again, with that Superbowl moment, embedded into my college memories for life.
It seemed fitting as I graduated and moved on, the Bills kind of faded as well, at least as far Superbowl invitations and national fanfare. I’d hear Jim Kelly news here and there but I was busy carving out my place in Upstate NY.
The next phase where I felt a connection was after college, after marriage, after children. I was evolving as a woman of faith—not as tied to approval as I once was, but still not where I am today. It was the darkest time of my life. My dad was dying. My husband was on the precipice of moving to Ohio for a new job. Our baby was still sick with multiple breathing issues that often had her hospitalized. I wasn’t healed from her near death and how it came at a doctor’s hand. I heard about a women’s luncheon at our local radio station where Jill Kelly would be sharing. I knew Jill was married to Jim and that they had the little boy, Hunter. I thought it would be a nice break to see what she had to say.
Jill’s testimony remains a spiritual marker in my life. As she shared life with Hunter she talked about how each ER visit to them could mean his last. Our situations were different yet I knew that fear she spoke of. How many ER trips we’d endured. Our pede even gave me his personal cell in case I needed it. He had to convince me she was going to live to see her first birthday. When Jill spoke, the grief imploded and I sobbed as she spoke. She was so honest about her past and where her faith was at that moment. Where Jim was at spiritually. Then she shared a verse that was helping her through it all—the therapies, the ER visits, caring for her daughters, encouraging Jim.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8
I grabbed that verse and held on for dear life as we navigated more grief, sickness and change. I followed the headlines as Hunter left this world. I never forgot that verse. As our daughter stabilized I prayed for the Kelly family. I couldn’t even fathom the depth of their grief.
Fast forward and I then read about Jim’s cancer. I lifted up prayers and continued to follow headlines. When I read the cancer came back, I felt my gut drop. I wanted to do something for them, still remembering how Jill’s talk gave me the courage to move forward in faith. How so many great college memories were intertwined with Jim and the Bills. The only thing I could think of was to pray. I wrote one out on the Facebook page, returning that same verse to them in their great time of need.
During this time I saw Erin’s posts on social media. As difficult as her situation was, a young woman already fluent in grief, sharing their journey to encourage others. I saw such a gift in her writing and a maturity in her faith.
And here we are. Kelly Tough is Erin’s account of her life and faith and I want to say more than that, but I’ll wait for my review tomorrow. But for a family I’ve never met, somehow when I read the Kelly name, I always perked up.
And I think I always will.
This started out as a reply to The Common Queen, a dear, dear friend who is cleaning it up on the Internet. Her little blog is going places, and once you read her posts, you’ll see why. In writing you need a voice, and Holly’s got it.
Besides this great post, which got two THOUSAND views in a day, she wrote this one. And it stuck a chord with me.
Okay, so I had to respond. I wrote it on Facebook where she linked. It was a run-on mess because that’s just how it is on FB. So I thought I’d respond here, too. Because you need to read Holly’s stuff, and, perhaps my answer will encourage you.
I know what it’s like to be the fat one. My mom said each winter I gained weight but ran it off every summer, until I didn’t. What no one knew was as I moved into puberty, I had PCOS, and quite a severe case. I’ve always struggled with hormonal imbalance and endocrine stuff. Although there were thin years I remember 5th grade when the weight stayed.
We were in gym class, of course, swimming, and a kid pointed at me and asked the teacher, “Does fat float?”
That 5th grade me stayed with me through the thick and thin. When I became a young adult I was so wounded I thought any attention from a boy would validate me. And honestly, shut that fat girl inside me up. Even when I asked Jesus into my life, I have to say—my eternal destination changed.
My fat girl mentality did not.
The shame and insecurity stayed with me through meeting my husband and marrying him. In addition to other issues, I was so insecure I waited every day for a decade for him to announce he’d seen the light and was on his way. My self loathing was that strong.
When I became pregnant with our second child, I knew deep down we were having a daughter. How I prayed she’d be spared. And while in the womb He whispered to me that this child would be an overcomer. I honestly thought it meant she wouldn’t have the tough PMS I endured. Maybe she’d miss the fat floats insanity.
She was born with endocrine issues that made things a challenge for her immediately. Her weight tripled from her two month check to the next one. Strangers stopped me and said the most horrific things. Things that make the fat float question sound genius.
I thank God because in that season, He was healing my heart and giving me confidence to see the bigger picture, pun intended.
I went through a Bible study by Stasi Eldredge called Captivating. God used that book to set me free. I don’t have the words to explain it, but to say I’m free. I don’t worry about what I look like anymore. I do my best to stay healthy, but that shame? Gone.
I also had a mentor encourage me by saying the chubby girls are listened to. When I give a speech or presentation women listen to me because I’m real. I’m one of them. They can relate to me. I’ve watched women with more skill than me try to speak and the women shot them down. Ignored them. Mocked them. Why? Because the speaker was thin and usually blonde. The audiences couldn’t relate.
When I watch my daughter walk down the hall at school there is such joy on her face. When she hears a comment most of the time she gives a look back that says “I feel sorry for you because you’re missing out on the awesome that is me.” But she’s human. It hurts her, too. I suspect as she matures she will hear more. And I hate it. As she’s grown she’s had additional diagnoses that unless God intervenes, she won’t be a size 2. And I pray she’s okay with that forever, as she is now.
My struggle continues. I went into forced menopause and that made losing weight even harder. I keep track on MyFitnessPal. I walk the dog. I do what I can. And I don’t care what others think or say. Truly.
So to the kid that asked if fat floats, I don’t know or care. But fat has a testimony if you allow it. My fat is a broken place I allowed God to use to encourage someone else. And that’s a plus-size bonus.
This is long overdue. Back in May I found a site I liked a site so much I wanted to do something more than follow it. I decided to feature it on my sidebar that month, and write a post about them.
May’s choice was Chick Lit Girls.
I decided to break my wrist and fall behind schedule in June.
And, I’m late for July.
My goal is to find a blog, website, organization, or ministry that does something positive and offers different ways to engage with them. It might be subscribing to their blog, joining them with their cause, following on Twitter, who knows. I’m kind of making this up as I go along.
By the way, if you would like to be considered, I can’t promise anything, but you can let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. When you do, tell me what site/blog/organization/ministry you are nominating, why, and appropriate links. If I choose your recommendation I’ll place the badge/button on my sidebar for at least a month and write a post about it.
This month I’m choosing Glass House Ministries. I first met Cheri through our affiliation with FaithWriters. She reached out and mentored me both with writing and life as a then mother of a preschooler. I got to know her and her testimony. What I learned about her and her husband, Wayne, was that having a testimony wasn’t all God purposed them for. He also called them to minister to families who need love, encouragement, and hope only Christ can give.
From their website, here is a bit about Glass House Ministries:
The heart of Glass House Ministries was born during a painful season in our family, when both our sons succumbed to the temptation to use drugs and consequently battled with the force of addiction in their lives. As Christians, Wayne and I raised our four children to honor and respect the Lord, doing our best to train and disciple them to live a lifestyle of integrity. The problems we faced with our boys left us wrestling with anger, hurt, and confusion, as we tried to figure out where we’d gone wrong as parents.
We experienced two types of attitudes within the Christian community as we trod this desert. Some came alongside with words of comfort and support, joining us in prayer, as we trudged through the fear and the darkness. Others were less gracious; they prayed for our family, but their looks alone made it clear that they suspected what we feared: that we were failures. We knew we weren’t perfect parents, and the sting of judgment reinforced the shame we already carried.
For a short time we pretended everything was fine, but we soon grew to hate the charade. We decided instead to just be real about our lives and to deal with the problems head-on. As we submitted our hearts to the Spirit’s tender care, we began to see healing and restoration take place in our family. One day we found ourselves coming alongside another family in distress, just as they’d come alongside us during our trial, and soon thereafter Glass House Ministries became more than just a dream in our heart.
For our family it happened to be drug abuse. We could just as easily have been the victims of unwed pregnancy . . . abortion . . . divorce . . . alcoholism . . . pornography . . . eating disorders . . . sexual abuse or addictions . . . depression . . . or a host of other harmful realities we see prevalent in today’s society. The truth is that people make choices that are less than healthy because they are driven by needs they do not know how to satisfy . . . the need for approval, the need for love, the need for acceptance, the need for respect, the need for security, the need for purpose . . . the list goes on.
In our modern-day world, broken homes and blended families are the norm. As many as one in four people will deal with cancer in their lifetime. People live under the constant threat of terrorism. Everyone wants to feel safe, wants to be able to trust in someone or something. But people will let us down, things will not fulfill as we expect, and when our confidence is violated, we easily grow bitter and unforgiving, angry and crippled in our ability to love and relate well. We demand perfection from ourselves and others, so that we do not have to deal with disappointment ever again, and life becomes impossible.
Is your life impossible? Have you finally come to understand that neither you nor anyone else can be perfect? Are you ready to be real? That’s where we found ourselves not so long ago, and we know we aren’t alone. We all live in glass houses. Throwing stones of bitterness and judgment at one another will only result in shattered houses and shattered lives. Misunderstandings, shame, fear, guilt, confusion . . . all these work to keep those hurt by life’s disappointments trapped and silent, isolated and alone; but it doesn’t have to be that way. Real people have real problems and they need a place to go, so we founded Glass House Ministries, a safe place to be real.
Through Glass House Ministries, Wayne and I pray God will use us as a source of comfort, encouragement, prayer, and support, to come alongside others in whatever challenge they face, just as God used fellow-Christians to minister to us in our time of need. We want Glass House Ministries to be a safe haven, a place to freely share and find hope. And no, your life doesn’t have to be in a shambles to participate here. If you are an encourager, and you have a heart to pray for people, you are welcome here. Basically, if you want to be here, you are welcome here!
Wayne and I are not counselors, therapists, or attorneys. We do not claim to have “all the answers.” We do care. We can listen. We will pray. And we will share our own story. Ultimately, it is God Who has all the answers . . . to every imaginable situation we can encounter in this world. We will point people to Him without apology, for it is only through His mercy and grace that our family was made whole again, and it is our heart to see the same thing happen to the people who come to Glass House Ministries.
In addition, Cheri wrote a book to encourage others who are going through a storm. Worth Every Tear is for any parent who is anguished by their child’s choices when as the parent, they strived to do all the right things.
I recommend you buy the book, and follow their blog.
I shared last month that I’m receiving regular inquiries for guest blogging, enough that I set up some guidelines. I’m looking for something specific though, and perhaps you have a story. If so, I’d love to hear from you.
The best posts to me are the ones that feature a testimony from someone who is on the other side of the threshold that can encourage someone still going through the same thing. Perhaps you’ve overcome overspending, or hiding a secret of some kind. I know too many people struggling with addictions, from food to alcohol.
This month is a special kind of story I’d like to read—pregnancy loss of any kind.
January is the month I miscarried, and I never forgot. It’s also the month of Roe V Wade anniversary, and I know that one in four women has experienced an abortion. I know women who have had an abortion (or more), and none of them have announced that to be the joy of their lives. They have had depression, other health issues, shame, and regret.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
I can’t speak to that, but I know some of you can. If you had an abortion and are on the other side of the healing process, you’re invited to share your story here. Encourage other women struggling with their choice by writing your story. Feel free to add your bio and a picture, too. You won’t just be reaching thousands with your post, you will be giving hope to women who are in need.
I’m also interested in overcoming the emotions from a miscarriage blog post, too.
Interested? E-mail me at email@example.com.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Today I’m excited to share an interview with author Leanne Stevenson. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her in person I remember her husband Rob as we both graduated from the same high school and year in Corning, NY. Facebook gave me the opportunity to not just say hi to Rob, but learn about their company, Best Baby Shower.com and find out about Leanne’s book. I’m excited for her and pray this book touches many women. What sets this book apart to me is not just the amazing pictures, but the life affirming Scriptures that go with them. Leanne has a purpose for that, and I think her story will inspire you.
|How did the idea for the Tiny Hands Gift Book come about?
I woke one morning with a vision for a book. I remember telling my girls about it on the way to school, however the thought of writing a book at this time in my life seemed almost laughable. Having two teenagers and a toddler, in addition to being a business owner, time was definitely a commodity. The idea was filed in the back of my mind and life went on.
A few months later, during a prayer time, the book idea came back. So strong, that I just threw out to God, Ok if you want me to write this, just give me a word, or sign or something. I didn’t even complete the sentence when Psalm 45 popped clearly in my mind. I was not familiar with that verse so I grabbed a bible and did not have to read any further than the first verse which said “my tongue is the pen of a ready writer”. God said to me in those few words, “my tongue, your pen.” “You make time in the next few months to get quiet with me and I will give you the words to write for this book.”
Thus began our working relationship and Tiny Hands was born.
When I was first given the word to write this, I did some research and purchased other pregnancy books. There were tons of secular books – even some wth photography of fetal development (however none as nice as ours). There were a few from a Christian perspective with Scripture, however I could not find one as a gift book with both photography and Scripture combined. I feel that one complements the other so perfectly. The miracle of God’s word combined with the miracle of new life. There something awesome about reading and seeing at the same time!
Tiny Hands made a distinct split into two different projects – one message with two very unique audiences. God told me to write the book in two ways: 1) as a gift book for women celebrating pregnancy, and 2) as a booklet for women facing crisis pregnancies. The inner text and photos would be the same for both books, but there would be a unique introduction and conclusion for each.
You are a wife, mom and President/Co-Founder of a business. Where did you find the time to write a book?
Do you have plans to write another?
I will leave that one up to the Lord! I still just consider myself a mom and business owner – not an author that writes for a living. I did so enjoy this project and would certainly do another if the Lord lays it on my heart and helps me through it as He did this one!
God did something in and through you as you wrote the book. Do you mind sharing what He did?
God began to pull something out deep from within me. It was something I was not sure I was ready to face, however He kept telling me that this book was not going to go where I wanted it to go and it certainly was not going to go where He wanted it to go unless I was able to face the abortion I had when I was 20.
This was not a happy time of my life, and I can try to throw out any excuse from not being saved to the lifestyle I chose to live, to the friends I chose to have, but the bottom line was that I was raised in a church and was taught right from wrong by my parents. I just chose to make a wrong decision at that time in my life. I believe when God is ready to do a work/healing in your life, you are not jumping up and down in joy saying, “please Lord, take me back to that time in my life”, rather it is a struggle. Initially, I became defensive and almost defiant. This part of my life was officially “buried” and I did not want to bring it back up. It took weeks of this struggle before I knew what I had to do and that was tell the people I loved the most.
I firmly believe that forgiveness is instantaneous. I know exactly where I was when I was forgiven for the abortion. However, I believe that healing is a process. Even though I was totally forgiven 5 years ago, I still kept the secret buried. To be healed and set free, I would need to be able to talk about what happened in my life 20 years ago. I now understand that the best person to minister to someone who is hurting is a person who has been through a similar situation. God was going to use the Tiny Hands book to reach and help other women facing similar situations to what I faced many years ago.
We all have “junk” in our lives, either from our past or in the present. We would not be called humans if we did not have something to face and overcome. I am honored to say that I serve a God, who will not only forgive you from that “junk” but will use that situation in your life for the better, if you allow him. God is not in the business of taking a wrong in your life and making it worse. He wants to make it better and then wants to use you to help others.
So to break this chain over my life, I had to tell my family. Link by link, the chain broke with each person I told. When I had the abortion, the only person who knew was my friend who drove me. I told my husband one time only before we got married and then it was buried and not ever mentioned again. During this healing time, I told my husband first – not even knowing if he remembered our one time conversation 17 years ago. I then told my two daughters (12, and 14) and what a God teaching moment that was on so many levels. I told my sister who has been active in the pro-life movement and faithfully takes her 6 kids to a local abortion clinic weekly to pray for those inside. Finally I told my mother, who was by far the hardest because I knew the reaction I would receive and how disappointed she would feel because I did not have come to her during that critical time of my life.
Being able to face and talk about the abortion I had in the past has truly opened the doors for me to move forward. I have told the people that would be the most difficult to tell and now feel comfortable speaking openly and freely about my past to anyone. I am ready for God to use me and to use this book to help other women facing crisis pregnancies. It is my fervent prayer that these women will choose life over having an abortion and that through this book, they will come to understand God’s extreme love for them and the baby growing within them.
I’m thrilled that Leanne was obedient in all of these things, and I believe God has a plan for many readers out there who have an abortion experience in their history. I encourage all of you to spread the word about her book, Best Baby Shower.com website, and testimony.
To purchase Tiny Hands that Hold My Heart click here.
To learn more about the Tiny Hands Crisis Booklet click here.
To read testimonies click here.
To contact Leanne click here.
Leanne Stevenson resides in Concord, North Carolina and is a wife and mother of three daughters. She is the business owner of Best Baby Shower.com and volunteers at her church through the prayer ministries and specialized ministries for adults and children with disabilities. Leanne is a board member of the New Hope Women’s Ministry which helps women who have had abortions find restoration, peace and healing through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. This book was birthed through a vision, prayer and God’s confirming word from Psalm 45:1.