Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Inner Views of Tonya Shellnutt

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received."
Ephesians 4:1

Looking back in retrospect, one of the most meaningful new entrances into my life in 2015 was, undoubtedly, the dear lady I am interviewing for this portion of Inner Views.
The way we met was unusual.

Let me explain.
I have been impressed with Concerned Women for America for years,
often seeing news bits with Penny Nance speaking out against abortion and other issues
that are close to my heart.
So, one morning, early in 2015, when I got an email from CWA announcing that the state I live in was, for the first time ever, going to have a State Director for CWA, I was ecstatic.
The email explained that our new director would be a lady who 
was moving to our state from Montana, where she had served as the state director there.
There was a spot to "click" and read more about her, which I did.
There, it gave the opportunity to either email her or call her, to get acquainted.

Immediately, I felt one of those unmistakable Holy Spirit nudges to contact her.
At first, I thought I would email, because the thought of talking to her seemed intimidating to me.
But, the longer I sat at my laptop composing an email to her,
the more that still, small voice kept urging, "Why don't you call her instead?"

I finally decided to be obedient, picked up the phone, and dialed her number.
I found that my intimidation was unnecessary, as my phone call was very warmly received, 
and we were both at ease and enjoyed a sweet and encouraging conversation.
I found that her worldview was the same as mine,
and that the burdens upon my heart, were upon hers, also.

We made plans to meet after she moved to our state, and I hung up the phone inspired
and looking forward to our meeting.

Fast forward past many emails between the two of us to last September,
when my family and I attended a conference to be a part of the Concerned Women for America
prayer team.

There, the new director and I were finally able to meet face-to-face,
and we shared a wonderful time together!
We laughed, but we also cried, as she told her side of the story about that first phone call
and about some of the things she was going through the day I called her.
I had no idea.
Just another example of how God works on both ends of a situation,
and how important it is that we mind God, when we feel His Spirit nudging us to do something.
We just never know what is riding upon that nudge, and to fail to follow His lead 
could absolutely impact the life of another.

This dear lady has become very precious to my heart, and the more I get to know her and work with her, the more the Lord strengthens our bond.

She is training me to work for CWA as a Prayer Action Leader,
and I look forward to what God has in store for this venture in 2016!

I am ever so grateful to her for sharing her story/testimony with us.
I will forewarn you that you may need tissues while reading.
She has been through a lot of pain, but God has redeemed that pain,
and He has turned it into a real blessing to many, including me.

So, without further delay, I would like to introduce to you, 
SC State Director for Concerned Women for America,
Tonya Shellnutt.

Tonya Shellnutt.

Cheryl:  Can you give us an introduction of who you are, a bit about your personal Christian testimony/journey, and the issues that are closest to your heart?

Tonya:  My story isn’t one that is all warm and fuzzy. I had a pretty rough upbringing despite being very loved by my mother. My birth father left when I was six months old, and my mom married a man who was in law enforcement, but who was a drunk. I was sexually assaulted when I was just five years old by a neighbor whom my parents left me alone with. Obviously, the traumatic incident left me scarred and was one that would shape my future negative behavior patterns. When I was 21 years old I met my future husband Rich, and he suggested I enter into treatment for my alcohol addiction. Really it was just a way for me to cope with the traumatic events in my life. I went through treatment and have been sober for 21 years. In 1997, I dedicated my life to Jesus Christ and have been freed from the chains of shame and guilt. My mother passed away in 1997 in a motorcycle accident. That day, I lost my mom and my dad. I do not know my birth father, and, unfortunately, my adoptive dad wants nothing to do with me. I am orphaned from the world’s standpoint, but so loved by my Heavenly Father. This is my story. This is what has shaped everything about how I live my life. I work with women in crisis situations who have been physically abused, dealing with addictions, or just needing someone to mentor them. Everyone wants to be loved and if we can help them bring Hope, then we will see real change and grace.

Cheryl:  For those who are not familiar with Concerned Women for America, will you kindly explain their history, their mission, and the seven core issues they defend?

Tonya:  Concerned Women for America is the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization, with over 500,000 members across the country.

The Judeo-Christian worldview once served as the bedrock of Western Civilization. In recent times, Western Civilization has willingly chosen to exchange the faith and logic of a Biblical worldview for an irrational secularism based on an unthinking and cruel relativism. This foolish exchange is at the root of the glaring injustices of modern American public policy.

Concerned Women for America (CWA) affirms the Bible's unmistakable standard that there is right and wrong; that God is the Authority who established right and wrong by creation and by revelation in His Word, the Bible; that He has sent a Savior, Jesus Christ, to free us from our sin (wrong) by simple repentance and to enable us through the Holy Spirit to do what is right.

Thus, through its Board of Trustees, CWA has established seven core issues on which we focus our efforts. Because the culture war that has engulfed our society makes claims on every area of life, we must set priorities thoughtfully to determine how best to fulfill our calling.

Provided below are very basic descriptions of our core issues.

Sanctity of Life:
CWA supports the protection of all innocent human life from conception until natural death. We also support alternatives to abortion and healing for mothers suffering from the results of abortion.

Defense of Family:
CWA believes that marriage consists of one man and one woman. We seek to protect and support the Biblical design of marriage and the gift of children.

CWA supports reform of public education by returning authority to parents and also accessibility to alternate forms of education.

Religious Liberty:

CWA supports the God-given rights of individuals in the United States and other nations to pray, worship, and express their beliefs without fear of discrimination or persecution.

National Sovereignty:
CWA believes that neither the United Nations nor any other international organization should have authority over the United States in any area. We also believe the United States has the right and duty to protect and secure our national borders. We believe in budget restraint which embodies responsible spending, small government, and a budget in which the U.S. government spends within its means and ceases to steal from future generations.

Sexual Exploitation:
CWA endeavors to fight all pornography, obscenity, prostitution, and sex slavery.

Support for Israel:
CWA believes that the people and nations who stand with Israel and the Jewish people will be blessed by God. We believe that any foreign policy effort to withdraw U.S. support for Israel is in direct contradiction to America’s national interests.

Cheryl:  Of all of the committees, causes, and ministries available, what drew you to this particular coalition, and how did you personally become involved with CWA?

Tonya:  I believe that the prayers of my Great-Grandmother were the blessing of my salvation. She prayed for me and told me stories about the Great Depression. All she wanted for her birthday one year was butter. Butter, nothing else. I couldn’t even imagine, and it inspires me to protect the freedoms that she endured for me. My grandfather was in WWII. The military is VERY important to me. They know what sacrifice is, and there is nothing more inspirational than one laying down their life for another, just as Christ did for us. We are called to reflect that same sacrifice. Why wouldn’t we be involved in causes that inspire others to do the same and reflect biblical values?

Cheryl:  We are in the midst of a spiritual downward spiral in America, yet I am encouraged to believe that God is raising up a generation with a renewed passion for righteousness. On a personal level, as a mother with children still living at home, what do you feel is the single-most important thing, habit, or trait we should focus on instilling and fostering in the hearts of our children to give them the strong foundation they will need in the future?

Tonya:  One of the most important things we must do for our children is to prepare them for the real world. Yes, it is important to shield them from age-appropriate content, but look for every opportunity to be a teachable moment. A lot of the women I mentor have very little coping skills. It isn’t because they were brought up in terrible homes, rather they were not given coping skills to deal with adversity. Kids need to see adversity and how you handle it. They need to see Jesus in us and how we cling to His word and promises and how they help us get through life. More often than not, kids learn by example, not the words we say. Therefore, if we teach our children to love Jesus, life skills, and empower them to greatness, we will see a generation rise up and protect our faith and freedom.

Cheryl:  I absolutely believe the quote that says, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." As Christian women, wives, and mothers, how can we most effectively wield and utilize the power of our influence to promote the cause of Jesus Christ?

Tonya:  Women hold a tremendous amount of influence. God ALWAYS intended it for us to use for good. We have a society today where women misuse their God-given power. I wrote a book about this. It is called Woman Power Revolution. The book isn’t about women gaining power, rather about how our wounds can define how we treat men. If we don’t let God heal our wounds and treat our husbands and children as the Lord would see fit, we can use our power and influence in destructive ways. We were meant to empower others to greatness. God gave us this gift. If we live our lives for selfish gain, rather than seeking how to leave behind a meaningful legacy of courage and intentionality, we fail to utilize our God-given potential. Everyone needs a cheerleader, so encouraging those around us can make a life lasting impact. I like to refer to God’s desire for us to be sparklers for Christ. Light up a room when you walk in!

Cheryl:  Through your involvement with CWA, you are on the front lines of a cultural battleground, fighting a war that must seem insurmountable and impossible to win. On a personal level, how do you stay encouraged to press on and continue the fight?

Tonya:  My story is one that God has allowed perseverance and endurance to be developed into my being. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God gave us a spirit NOT of fear but of power and love and self-control.” When we trust the Lord to walk us through the valleys and we believe He is Sovereign, life is totally doable and we endure for the sake of our legacy which is ultimately God’s story of our lives. Don’t give up before the miracle happens.

Cheryl:  The role of Christian wife and mother is truly one of great demands and responsibility. Adding the obligations of ministry and/or advocacy to that already-overflowing-plate can be overwhelming. How do you find balance?  What advice would you give the woman who is reading this and feeling called to become more involved with CWA, but feels intimidated?

Tonya:  Our first and most important ministry we can ever have is our family. If we neglect our family, we have strayed from the will of God. However, one of the greatest tragedies, in my opinion, is not doing something because of fear. If God has put a desire in your heart, don’t be afraid, and minimize every reason why you can’t. Our families can be inspired by our courage and boldness. I would never counsel a woman to walk with such caution in life that she lives her life paralyzed. There is little freedom in that. God tells us over and over in scripture, DO NOT BE AFRAID. This isn’t a suggestion.

What an amazing and powerful testimony of the redemption plan Jesus put in place as He hung on an old, rugged cross for each one of us!

Tonya is living proof that, through His grace, we can rise triumphant over our past,
regardless how difficulty-ridden it happens to be,
and we can emerge victorious over every obstacle satan has managed to insert into our lives.

Dear friends, my prayer is that you will find hope in Tonya's story.
That you will come to the full realization that Jesus loves you,
and He wants to give you a new start, free from guilt and despair.

We are here to pray for you.
If you would like to share specific prayer needs with us,
please contact me via email, and, if you would like me to, 
I will happily share your requests with Tonya, also, so she can pray for you, too.

Please keep Tonya and her family in your prayers,
as they continue to courageously fight on the front lines of the intense cultural battlefields of our day.
Surely God is using them to portray what it means to stand for His truth.

Thank you for reading, and thank you, dear Tonya,
for opening your heart to us here.
Transparency takes a great amount of courage, and we so appreciate you being willing 
to share your redemption story with us.
I know your testimony will bless and inspire many!


  1. Thank you Cheryl for this enlightning and thought-provoking interview.

    God bless you and your family always.

    1. Thank you, Victor! Your visits and comments are so appreciated! God bless you abundantly. :)

  2. What an incredible story of redemption, grace, and the overcoming power of the blood of Jesus in our lives! So blessed to hear Tonya's powerful testimony! Praying that the Lord will continue to bless the work that Tonya is doing for His kingdom, and for you too dear Cheryl, that the Lord will continue to bless the Inner View as you share the testimonies of people who are making a difference for the kingdom of the Lord! What a blessing these interviews are, and I am looking forward to more!! Have a blessed day my dear friend, and thank you for introducing another precious lady with a triumphant testimony! :)

    1. Oh, dear friend! I am so thankful you are enjoying the inner views! It is such a dear blessing to be able to present them here, and I LOVE Tonya's testimony. I cried as I read it and thought of all she has been through. She is a precious soul, and I am so thankful God brought her into my life. It is an honor to introduce her here. :) Sending you big hugs and much love and gratitude across the miles!

  3. Wow, what a precious and touching testimony! I am truly grateful for Tonya's testimony and the information she has shared about CWA. My, what a ministry!

    Dearest Cheryl, thank you so very much for sharing the "inner views" of Tonya and many, many thanks to Tonya for sharing her story. Much love to both of you!

    1. Thank you ever so much, sweet Stephanie! I so appreciate your sweet visit and words and what Tonya and CWA are doing. Oh, my, if ever there were a time that we, as Christian women need to become proactive, it is surely now. So much is at stake! I am so hoping Tonya's testimony will bless many and give hope and provide an introduction to CWA and all we stand for and are trying to do in these perilous times. Much love to you, dear friend!!

    2. Dearest Cheryl, it was truly a joy and blessing to read this post again. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing with Roses of Inspiration. MUCH LOVE to you!

  4. Awesome interview. No guessing as to where Tonya and the CWA stand. What a great ministry and perspective. I can testify to the fact that our Father uses women of faith to help guide and sustain men in support. That doesn't make us weak, it makes us stronger. Praying for this ministry and all the lives it's touched and will touch.

    1. It is always, always such a great encouragement and inspiration when you stop by, Floyd. Yes, I surely agree with all you said. Women of faith who wield that support in a Godly manner are surely the "help meets" that men need. Thank you for your faithful prayers and support of CWA. I am so thankful God ever permitted such a coalition to be formed. God bless you and your family, brother.

  5. Thank you so much, Suzie. :) I am always blessed by your sweet visits and words. So thankful you stopped by. Happy New Year, my friend!

  6. Cheryl, what a wonderful inner-view, beautiful friend! And Tonya, thank you for sharing such a powerful testament to THE PRESENCE of GOD! GOD bless you both! *HUGS*

    1. And, thank you, sweet Tai, for your precious visit! It is always a bright spot when you stop by!! Love and appreciate you, dear friend. :)

  7. What a special weekend it was to meet you, Zachary and Tonya. Wishing your family a blessed year. We must catch up very soon and learn what's going on with your family!!

    Love and blessings to you, Cheryl

    1. I deeply apologize, but I am not sure who you are? :) OH, my! I wish I knew, so if you stop back by, please do tell!!! LOL! We met so many wonderful people, and I have kept in touch with several, but not quite sure who this is. Anyhow, thank you for stopping by and for your sweet comments, and I send much love back to you, too. :)

  8. Hi Cheryl and Tonya! What an amazing witness to the love of a good man, and the power of the Holy Spirit. What life! And you have overcome so much. So inspiring. I really admire your work for women, especially esteeming life. Both of my children are adopted, and I can't give thanks enough to courageous women who gave them up, so I could have a family.

    Blessings to you both,

    1. Yes, amen, and amen, dear Ceil!! Oh, I was so touched by your last comments about how you are thankful to courageous women who gave up their babies, so you could adopt!!! What a testimony you have of your own! Thank you for sharing that here. Trusting Jesus to bless you for the dear encouragement you bring when you stop by here!

  9. Replies
    1. Thank you for returning the visit, Victor! God bless you, too. :)

  10. Love how you two met and the friendship that came from it! Great testimony of how God uses all of His children, even if we come from a dysfunctional background. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes, God is so good to place those in our lives who will bless and encourage us on our journey Heavenward! So very thankful for your sweet visit, Ann! It was a pleasure to meet you...I hope you come back often. God bless you!

  11. What an inspiration! The Lord accomplishes some amazing things, none the least of which is the tremendous work of redemption - both on the Cross, and in the lives of those who cling to His salvation. Tonya's story was stunning, a vivid testament to the power of God at work. I was so inspired. But also, chagrined and saddened at the plight of this misguided world. Oh that God would teach us women how to exert a positive influence on those we live with, and those we meet along our way. And might we be more supportive of the great organizations that seek to free us from any sort of sin's slavery - CWA sounds wonderful.


    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments, Sharon. It is always such a blessing to see that you have stopped by and left encouragement behind. :) I hope all is well with you. Praying for you!!

  12. Dear Cheryl, I was convicted by your quote, "when we feel His Spirit nudging us to do something.
    We just never know what is riding upon that nudge, and to fail to follow His lead
    could absolutely impact the life of another." I never thought of it that way, that our failure to follow God's lead could impact the life of another, but it is so very true!

    As a new believer, I used to listen to a Christian radio program from Concerned Women for America. I found it so edifying and encouraging.

    I enjoyed reading Tonya's story so much; how God redeemed her past hurts to bring Him Glory through being an advocate for others who may find themselves in similar situations. And most especially for her great desire to preserve Biblical Christianity for a dying world through so many worthwhile programs and services.

    Thank you so much for your deep love for the lost and for God's people by sharing these inspirational stories of God using people like you and me for His great Kingdom work.

    It is always a blessing to visit here. :-)

    1. Thank you for your sweet comments, Karen! I am ever so grateful. That is so neat that you used to listen to CWA's radio program! I know they have been around for a very long time, and it is amazing how God has used them to do so much good. I would venture to say that the impact of their labors will not completely be revealed until eternity. I'm so thankful you enjoyed Tonya's interview. God bless you abundantly!

  13. What a great series! Loved learning more about the Concerned Women for America. Thanks for linking up to Testimony Tuesday!

    1. I am so thankful you were able to learn more about CWA, Holly! It is truly a Godly coalition that is so worthy of our prayers and support. God bless you for stopping by...your visit was such a blessing!

  14. I'm thankful to read this innerview, Cheryl and Tonya! This is a timely word for Christian women of today with encouraging goals for us. Tonya's story inspires me and knowing women like you, Cheryl, are battling in prayer strengthens my hope for America.

    1. Oh, Mary! Thank you ever so much for your dear comments! So very thankful for your visit and encouragement. God bless you in a big way!

  15. How inspiring that you actually picked up the phone and called her in the first place. That took a lot of courage and conviction. It just shows that listening to the Spirit is always the right thing to do! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Yes, dear Lisa! You are so right! God always works on both ends of every situation, and it pays to listen to His still, small voice. Thank you ever so much for stopping by...your presence here is such a blessing!

  16. wow - what a great story of yours - to obey the prompting of the Spirit and see what He really has in mind. Blessings on you and Tonya. next to you at seekingGod inall I do.

    1. And, blessings back to you, too, my friend! So very thankful for your sweet visit! :)

  17. May God continue to bless Tonya as she becomes the director of the program of CWA in your State. I am glad you are being trained to become a Prayer Action Leader. It is amazing how God puts people in our path, and how you were able to encourage her by being obedient to phone instead of e-mail. Her testimony is inspiring and she is a person who understands the pain as she works with woman to learn to cope and become an influence. Thank you for sharing with us here at Tell me a Story.

    1. Yes, it is amazing how God orchestrates our steps and who we meet. He is always in control, and He is always looking out for our best interests. May the Lord bless you for your kind words, sweet Hazel. :) I hope you are feeling better...praying for you.

  18. Cheryl you did a fabulous job with that interview, and as someone who also knows Tonya, it was really great to hear her story and to also hear what God has done and is doing in her life. I am honored to also be a part of CWA because I too believe in their common values and along with Tonya, I believe we need to stand strong upon the Word of God. There is no other option as worthwhile or as rewarding, and one that will one day lead us to our new home in Heaven.