Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Inner Views of Cindy Oriol

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:  But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy."
I Peter 4:13
Cindy Oriol

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.  

Cindy:  My name is Cindy Oriol. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am the fourth child of six. My family consist of four brothers, one whom is deceased, one sister, and mom and dad. My mother came from a very large family. We were always so close to our relatives. Mom loved to entertain, so we always had company come over for the holidays. She loved to cook for them. I guess that is why I love to be around company. 

During my childhood, you could find me sitting on the bed or in a secret place of the house with a book in my hands. I was drawn to reading either Nancy Drew books or the Hardy Boys mysteries. I also loved reading the Harlequin mysteries.

Who knew that I would grow up to become a Christian author— not me. I am so blessed to have that title, but my true blessing is because I get to write about Jesus and the testimony He has placed upon my soul. 

Cheryl:  How did you first hear about Jesus?

Cindy:  I first heard about Jesus when I was around eight years old. My mother would take my younger siblings and me to church with her every Sunday.

Cheryl:  Who was most influential in leading you to the cross?

Cindy:  I would say she, (my mother), was the most influential person to lead me to the cross.

Cheryl:  Name a special spiritual mentor or prayer warrior in your life who deserves special recognition.

Cindy:  I would have to say my soulmate, John, is my special spiritual mentor who deserves special recognition. He really loves to dig deep into his Bible time and check his commentaries quite often. I always go to him when I don't understand something from the Bible or just genuinely have a question. I feel confident that if he doesn't know the answers, he will keep searching until he does.

Cheryl:  What have the last seven years been like for you?

Cindy:   The last seven years of my life have been and still continue to be a mixture of emotions. I have chronic pain throughout my entire body.

I have felt sadness and was diagnosed with PTSD, caused by all the traumatic experiences I am going through.  Also, I grieved when I had to stop taking care of my patients. I was a certified nursing assistant for thirty-five years, working in nursing homes, hospitals, homes of my patients, and at one time, I worked for hospice, caring for the dying. I never really called it a career—my clients were my second family. They loved the professional, loving, caring way I took care of their loved ones. One family called me their daughter..

Angry because when all of my storms began I felt cheated out of my life with John. We had made so many plans to go on mission trips together for the Lord. We were able to go on six of them for which we really were blessed, but we didn't want to be finished just yet. We felt we still had work to do for Him but my health and his started to go downhill.

Joy of just knowing, serving, and loving the Lord and watching Him in our lives and others. To me, there is no greater joy than to be used as a vessel to further His kingdom. 

Loved from Jesus, my family, and prayer warriors. I have received so many loving, spiritual cards and phone calls from them. Some have even prayed over the phone for me.

On fire for the Lord. I know that part of the journey is over for me because of my health, but I wouldn't be who I am today if it wasn't for the Lord. I love how He continues to use me in ways I would have never thought—becoming an author for example.

I have endured in the last seven years being in a wheelchair for a year caused from a life-changing injury. Because of the horrific pain, I begged the Lord to take me home with Him. I was ready to throw in the towel but neither He nor John would let me. I was going out of my head with having so much pain. Later, I was diagnosed with having pancreatic cancer of which He has completely cured me. A year later I suffered minimal side effects from having had a stroke. He has cured me from the side effects. I have a malfunction of my brain-neurons that aren't connecting properly not connected to the stroke. They are caused from trauma. I  have many attacks that mimic seizures. I might start slapping my head, pounding on the table, etc. My shaking is out of control, and I usually fall down . There is no cure for them. Later, I was  diagnosed with breast cancer. Because of the very aggressive chemo therapy, I now have neuropathy in both my feet and hands, plus several other health issues, including FibromyalgiaSciatica, and Piriformis Syndrome, which are very painful.

Cheryl:  During such storms of life, what do you identify as being one of the most hopeless times?  How did your faith in God pull you through and sustain you?

Cindy:  I think one of the most hopeless times during my storms would have to be the not knowing how I was ever going to serve the Lord again. In the past before the wheelchair came into place, I used to go and visit my friends and family members to share the Lord's words with them anytime I could and now I wasn't able to drive anywhere because of the horrific pain radiating—what seemed like fire shooting within  my body. 

One day, while I was praying, asking Him how could I begin to serve Him again, I heard the sweet sound of the Holy Spirit whisper in my ear, "prayer scarves." He told me to give them to whoever was in need of one. I asked the ones that would be receiving one, "what two colors are your favorite?" The feedback was inspiring as they would tell me, "You don't know what this means to me. Thank you very much." I heard feedback from a lady that was going through a really rough day of chemo and needed some encouragement.  I would tell them that it was the Lord, that deserved 
all of the glory, honor, and praise.

Cheryl:  To the reader who is now walking through overwhelming difficulties, what would you like to say?

Cindy:  I would tell the reader who is going through their storms to hold tight to Jesus and never let go. I would say to them, "No matter what adversities we may encounter here on earth, as long as we hold tight to Jesus, we can make it through anything. I would tell them to lay all of their burdens at the feet of the cross and never take them back because once you do that, you will have peace that comes from Jesus. I would share with them this saying that is really helping me through my storms—TESTS+TRIALS=TESTIMONIES.

Cheryl:  What are some of the most meaningful ways others have reached out to you through your trials?  What gestures of kindness made the most difference?  

Cindy:  Some of the most meaningful ways others have reached out to me through my trials are John buys me flowers and is constantly telling me he loves me and he is so proud of how I am not letting these diagnoses steal my joy away from Jesus.

He has shown me in so many ways. While I am having the seizures and falling down, he is right by my side, helping me to get through them by constantly telling me he loves me and that I am all right. Family members have called and came for visits to brighten up my day. We have a large body of brothers and sisters in Christ in our Sunday school group that send me cards with beautiful scriptures written on them. They really help keep my faith strong. Several of them have come to visit and bring us food. A few have taken me out to lunch, just to help make my day brighter.

I have been anointed several times by the elders of the church.

Cheryl:  What are the three most impactful life lessons you have learned through your suffering?

Cindy:  Three most impactful life lessons I have learned through my storms are—
  • It's not about me. It's all about Him. He is the one who deserves all the glory, honor, and praise—not I. 
  • If Christ could suffer, bleed, and die for me on the cross, then surely I can suffer for Him through these storms. 
  • Walking through the valley with Jesus, as He carries me through each storm, He is teaching me lessons about faith, has totally changed my prayer walk, and my faith continues to grow immensely each day. I know that He will continue to carry me through the storms. In His loving arms, I am held.
Cheryl:  How have your trials enabled you to be more empathetic and compassionate to others?

Cindy:  I always was and still am a very compassionate person with a love for everyone. The Lord has given me such a kind heart toward others. I love to hug, pray, and share kindness to make others feel good about themselves. For example, I love to walk in a store, and when I see a woman looking very nice in her outfit, I tell her how pretty she looks. I want people to be treated the way I want people to treat me. Because of the intensity of my suffering, I get a glimpse of what my patients have gone through. It makes me love them even more.

Cheryl:  What is lacking most among the body of Christ, in your opinion?

Cindy:  Churches are being divided/separated by ethnic and racial boundaries— no real brotherly love.

Cheryl:  Please tell us about your book, "Having Joy in the Midst of the Storm."

Cindy:  "Having Joy in the Midst of the Storm" is about an individual woman, me, who has and still am suffering from many storms. Health issues of being in a wheelchair for a year, two different types of cancer, a stroke, seizures, and several more. With the help of the Lord, I want to encourage and inspire others while they are going through storms of their own. I want my readers to know that they aren't alone, and Jesus will carry you through the storms as He is doing for me.

I take you on a journey, as He and I are walking hand in hand and He carries me through the valley and whispers to me in such a gentle voice, "I've got you." I show in my book that everyone of us has a story to tell. We just need to be bold enough to write it and share it with each other. Something special I want my readers to know is that He already knows all of our burdens before we ever go to Him in prayer, and He will either take them away completely or make them lighter.

Cheryl:  What inspired you to write about your difficult journey?

Cindy:  My brother had been approaching me off and on to write a book. He told me that I had a story to share with others and they needed to read it.  So a few years later he approached me again, but this time I also heard the Spirit of the Lord whisper so gently in my ear, "You and I are going to write a book together to encourage and inspire others while they are going through their own storms in life." This book is my shining testimonial given to me from the Lord. I had to share my ups and downs with my readers while travelling through my journey. I want to show them that with the help of the Lord we can do anything. Others can see my faith in this book, in my actions, and in my speeches. I want others to trust in the Lord completely as I do, and that is how the inspirational book "Having Joy in the Midst of the Storm" was written.

Cheryl:  What has the publishing process been like for you?  Please share any advice you would like to give to aspiring authors who are new to the prospect of publishing.

Cindy:  My publishing company, Westbow Press, has shown me nothing but kindness. Anytime I had a question, they would answer it immediately. They have allowed me to play a big part in all of the decision-making. I was ecstatic that I was able to design my own cover. I told them how I wanted it to look— a raging storm out in the carribbean, green sea. It was so beautiful that when I saw it for the very fist time, I cried—not just a cry, but a loud boo-hoo.

Cheryl:  How can we order your book?

Cindy:  My readers can order my book from WestBow PressWalmartChristian Book DistributorsBarnes and Noble, and Amazon.  My interview can be found HERE.  I have also written sixteen articles about different sections of the book oLinkedin.

Cheryl:  Tell us about the people you love most.

Cindy:  First and foremost, I love my Savior, Jesus Christ, and the rest of the Trinity. Some of the people I love the most are John and our entire family, including our precious Shih Tzu, Beau. He has brought so much joy to John and me. I love my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am a people pleaser, so I don't know a stranger.

Cheryl:  What are some of your favorite things to do on an ordinary day?

Cindy:  I love to read my Bible and devotions. I am on the Linkedin Business website, and I enjoy talking to my 554 contacts and helping them to promote their businesses while sharing their links to my other contacts. John and I spend a lot of time together watching TV or going for a ride out in the country with Beau, of course. Every now and then, I love to bring out my crocheting needles.

Cheryl:  Are there favorite sources of encouragement you would like to share with us?  (Favorite Scripture verses/passages, favorite songs that helped keep you going in the darkest places, favorite books/authors/music artists, etc.)

Cindy:  My favorite sources of encouragement are the Bible and my devotions.
  • "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
  • "Be still and know that I am God."  Psalm 46:10
  • "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you,.plans  to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
I love to listen to my Christian music, such as Here's my Heart, Lord by Lauren Daigleand I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me, and—

All of these sources help to keep me grounded in my faith.

Cheryl:  Who in the Bible do you most identify with?

Cindy:  Talking it over with John, we have decided that I most identify with Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, because Mary was the one who washed the feet of Jesus at her home. She took a pound of expensive ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them dry with her hair. I, too, love Jesus with all of my heart, as Mary did. At one part of my life, I was able to wash the feet of others in His most precious name. She didn't care how expensive the cost of the perfume—she just wanted to show her love for Him. I am the same way. No matter what the cost of the storms I have to endure, as long as He is getting all of the glory, honor, and praise, then I would gladly do it all over again. Mary loves the Lord and isn't afraid to show it, and neither am I.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?

Cindy:  I need prayer that the flood gates of Heaven will open and I will be able to share my testimony in speaking engagements, that my readers and sales will grow, and that others will be encouraged from my faith. I am on fire for the Lord, and I want others to see it.

Physically-I am in chronic pain daily, and I have seizures. Last week alone, I had 49 of them. I am worn out, and Satan tries to pull me under, telling his nasty lies, like " The Lord doesn't love you" and "Look how long you have been suffering." I tell him,"Get behind me Satan. I'll stomp on you in the blood of Jesus."

On March 24, 2020, I am going to the Cleveland clinic to see if they can help me with my seizures. Please pray that this doctor will listen to me and be kind to both John and me, and we will finally be able to get to the bottom of them.

Cheryl:  What would you like to say, in closing?

Cindy:  When your life breaks apart, hold tight, and don't let go of Jesus as He carries you through the storms. The storms of life put us all in periods of indecision, loneliness, pain, and even a sense of defeat. The question confronting us is, "How do we deal and face these storms?" This is how I deal with them—humbled, grateful, and inspired.  I surrender to Jesus' healing, grace, and mercy.  I share my personal story of crisis and rescue as I crawled to the foot of the cross and gave all of my suffering to the Lord.

Do you need a miracle? Are you looking for consolation? Do you feel lost and hopeless? I have been there and still am. This book will show you that Jesus is waiting to hold you in His loving arms as He carries you through the storms of life and works miracles for you just as He continues to do for me and all other believers in Him.

It has been pure joy and an honor to be used by Him. For Him to have chosen me because He knew that through the guidance of the Holy Spirit I would withstand the storms and give Him all the glory means the world to me. There is no greater honor than to be used by Him as a vessel to help further His kingdom. My readers, I pray that if you ever have to make decisions such as the ones I have had to make, the very first thing you do is to talk to the Lord, cry out to Him, and then listen to what He says. He will tell you what to do as He has done in my life. During your journey in the valley with the Lord, grab His hand as Satan throws another wave at you. As storms came crashing over me, I was surrounded by His grace, my Rock, and my Healer.

I do not know what tomorrow will bring. I do not even try to ponder on it because I know who holds my hand. I know that I will be completely healed when I get to Heaven.


Thank you, Cindy, for sharing your heart with us here!  I pray that God will lay His healing hand upon you, grant you relief from pain, and richly enhance your realm of ministry for Him!

To order Cindy's book, 
"Having Joy in the Midst of the Storm," click HERE!

To read previous
click the links below.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Love Story of Dan & Marilyn

"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."
Romans 8:28

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Dan & Marilyn"

"The door of the church swung open just as the evening worship service had begun.  The movement of the door caught my eye and I turned slightly to see who it was.  In a moment’s heartbeat, the young man walked through the door with his striking dark hair, brown eyes, and dressed in a white shirt and black pants. In the moment I turned, his eyes connected with mine. We stared at each other for a split second, both taken aback by the emotion shared in a sweet splice of time. Then I quickly looked away, embarrassed that I should have engaged in such eye-to-eye conduct while worship service was commencing.  Closing my eyes, I tried to return my heart to worship, but the damage had been done.  Now all I could see were his big brown eyes and then the questions that flooded my mind… who was he? What in the world had come over me to feel this kind of emotion for someone I’d never even met?

Falling in love at first sight? Why yes, I’d heard of it many times, but never dreamed that this would be my story.  I was sure I’d marry someone I’d known for forever, and never had I dreamed that there could be such a thing as love at first sight, but that is just what happened to us.

As fate would have it, my sister took a liking to him right away, as well as other girls in the church.  He was new in town, had just started a job locally, and was looking for a church home.  His brother had mentioned our little church to him, telling him there were quite a lovely group of people meeting here, with plenty of young ladies his age.  Just recently released from the US Navy, he had had enough of world travel, having just returned home from being stationed in Italy.  His heart was yearning for a wife, a home, and a family.  Of course, he had plenty of choices in our little congregation, with the pastor’s daughter among them.  And indeed, she had taken a liking to him as well.

After seeing all the girls surround him with interest, I decided I wanted nothing more to do with such a scene, and brushed off our eye-to-eye encounter, thinking it to have been just a silly moment.  
A couple of weeks passed, and our new visitor had been faithful to every church service, and befriended my brothers.  My parents had invited him over to our home for Sunday lunch, and while I was kind to him, I never lavished any extra attention on him; my sister had taken care of that department.  She had her sights set on him and I had no intentions of tangling with that at all.

One evening several of our family and friends had gathered at our home to play some board games and some of my family were lovingly teasing him about which girl he had set his fancy on.  My sister began naming names, and pestering him to see who it was he liked.  Up unto this point, I had left the “chasing” up to the other girls and my sister. Finally, he said he was going to name the girl he really liked, and he turned, once again, and our eyes met, this time it was with a sweet knowing, and before he even spoke my name, of course I knew he really did care for me.

As the question was answered and he called my name, as if on cue, the rest of the family disappeared, and it was just the two of us left to visit together at the table.  Playing the dating game was over for both of us, and our hearts were sealed to each other’s from that night on.

Somehow in that very first moment when he walked through the church door, and our eyes met, the connection was sparked, our love for each other began, and we will celebrate 25 years of marriage together this year.  The Lord has been so good, and so faithful to us through the years, and even still, when his eyes meet mine, there is a special connection as our hearts continue to unite in faith, love and joy.

The Lord has blessed us with two beautiful children, and as we walk this road of life together, we are grateful for the hand of the Lord that brought our lives together in such a marvelous, love-at-first-sight way."

Bio:  Marilyn from Mountaintop Spice is an avid hobby photographer living in North Idaho who shares her love for photography with inspirational writings on her blog and with the writing group she is a member of.  Her love for the Lord and ambition as a writer began at an early age growing up in Prince Edward Island, Canada, the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery, whose writings were Marilyn’s childhood inspiration. Leaving the red soil of the Island, she married a Texan, and now lives in North Idaho in with her husband, two children, 20+ chickens, two dogs and the reigning king of the home, Mister Simba, the cat.   Marilyn enjoys seeking out beauty with her camera lens in the Lord's creation around her to share with friends, family, and the blogging community. She blogs at Mountaintop Spice.  Images from her photography can be found at Mountaintop Spice Photos.

A huge thank you to Dan & Marilyn for sharing their amazing "love-at-first-sight" story with us here!  SO inspiring and encouraging to read how God brought them together, how their love has only deepened through the years, and how the Lord has blessed them!  What a blessing their lives are to so many!  May God bless both of you with many more happy, healthy years together, Dan & Marilyn!

In case you missed them, you can read previous Love Story Posts by clicking these links:
The Love Story of David & Wanda
The Love Story of Michael & Karen
The Love Story of Kevin & Cheryl
The Love Story of Tom & Mary
The Love Story of Michael & Jordan
The Love Story of Ed & Sherry
The Love Story of Ed & Janet
The Love Story of Tim & Linda
The Love Story of Calvin & Michele
The Love Story of John & Chelsea
The Love Story of Tim & Regina
The Love Story of Rich & Tonya
The Love Story of Danny & Mary Grace

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Love Story of Danny & Mary Grace

"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
I Corinthians 13:13

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Danny & Mary Grace"

"Danny and I met and bonded over music. The first time I met him, I was immediately taken by his dark eyes surrounded by thick eyelashes. He was beautiful and I knew I wanted to get to know him.

 When I heard him playing “New Slang” by The Shins, our fate was sealed. Not only was he handsome, but also had good taste in music! 

This story isn’t about the moment we fell in love, though. This story is about when I saw Jesus in Danny and knew I wanted to build a life with him. 

Danny is warm. He has the type of demeanor that makes people want to be around him. Strangers open up to him. When he was the sous chef in a restaurant, he would bring warm soup to the homeless in the city where we live. He gave the gloves off of his hands to a man on the street. He called an ambulance and stayed with another man who was overdosing until help arrived. He does these things without a thought. Not that he is without flaws, but he is thoughtful and puts the needs of others before himself.

In 2014, Danny and I traveled together to Île-à-Vache, one of Haiti’s satellite islands, for a servant trip. One morning we left early to walk from one end of the island to the other, to visit another school and provide a meal and activities for the children there. The journey took most of the morning. It was a long, tiring day, but beautiful. 

On our return journey home, we were passing through a small town that housed the largest market on the island. We passed a wall with barbed wire surrounding the top and a large metal gate. Our guide, Leon, paused the group and spoke to someone beyond the gate. He then turned to explain that this was an orphanage run by a Franscican nun and was the only orphanage on the island that took in children with disabilities. Leon wanted to check in on the children and give us an opportunity to visit.

When the gate opened, Danny and I were the first two to walk in. I was a few paces ahead of him. From about 100 feet away I spotted a little girl, around 2 or 3. She didn’t see me, though, she saw past me. She broke into a dead run, straight for Danny. When she was still feet away from Danny, he knelt down and she leapt into his waiting arms. He lifted her up and she started petting his long hair, smiling, and kissing his cheeks. He smiled back at her, looking her in the eyes and just loving her.

In that moment, I felt like I saw Jesus. In the sweet man who would become my husband a little over a year later. In his strong, waiting arms, ready to catch her. In her trusting leap. In their eyes as they looked at one another. I knew then that I wanted to build a family and a life with this man.

Danny and I will have been married 5 years this coming August. We have a two year old daughter named Selah and are awaiting the arrival of our son any day. 

Bio:  Mary Grace resides in Buffalo, NY with her husband, Danny, their daughter, Selah, and two fluffy tuxedo cats. She received her M.S.Ed in English Education (7-12) in August 2019 and is currently teaching sixth grade English to an amazing group of students on the East Side of Buffalo. Mary Grace and Danny are active in their church and have been blessed to serve the Lord in Haiti and in their own community.

Such a sweet, sweet story!  It had me in tears!  A HUGE thank you to you, Danny and Mary Grace, for sharing your beautiful love story with us!  May God bless your lives in a mighty way and may He grant you many more long and healthy years together!

Dear readers, Danny is facing a full hip surgery on March 4th, and he remains in a lot of pain.  Please continue to keep Danny in your prayers for a safe and smooth operation, healing, and a quick recovery.  

I received this email from Mary Grace:

"Hi Cheryl! 
I just wanted to let you know that our son was born!
Nathaniel David was born on 1/29/20 at 10:06 pm. 7 lbs 10 oz and 20 3/4 inches long. 
He is a calm and sweet baby and Selah has taken to him incredibly well. We are so blessed!"

Please join me in praising God along with Danny & Mary Grace for a safe delivery and healthy baby boy!!
What a beautiful, perfect baby boy!  Thank You, Jesus!

And, such a sweet, beautiful big sister, Selah, too!!!

Oh, how precious!
And, how great is our GOD!!

In case you missed them, you can read previous Love Story Post by clicking these links:

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Love Story of Rich & Tonya

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her."
Ephesians 5:25

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Rich & Tonya"

"It was a late spring evening in 1994.  Another night of drinking and numbing the pain of a life full of unhealed wounds, I stumbled across the street from the bar in which I was drowning my pain and passed out on the couch of a family friend.  A few hours later, I heard someone come through the front door.

Rich was just returning home from his night shift job.  He was a roommate to our family friend, and we began to strike up a conversation.  I felt drawn to his quiet, but strength-filled demeanor.  We said our good-byes and I was hopeful we would see each other again.

A week later, I decided I would call him.  I got his phone number from our family friend and reached out.  Surprisingly, he called me back.  We began to have a few phone conversations and then one night I invited him for dinner.

As we began to spend time together, Rich questioned my drinking habits and asked me if I thought I might have a drinking problem.  He had been sober for the last two years and was concerned about my possible problem.  I was adamant that I didn’t have a drinking issue, but his question planted doubt in my mind.  Did I?

My adoptive father was an alcoholic and we didn’t have the best relationship and I didn’t want to be like him.  I thought if I admitted I had a drinking problem, then I would be just like him.

As the months went on, Rich asked me to consider getting help.  To appease him, I went to the local rehab center to have an evaluation.  My mom went with me.  I was hoping they would tell me how to be a social drinker and be able to participate in some sort of out-patient treatment.

As the providence of God was upon me, the center went on to tell me that I was sicker than I thought, and they recommended a 28-day in-patient treatment.  I told them I had to think about it and I would get back to them.

I spoke with Rich and told him what they said, and he told me that if he and I were to have a future together, I needed to go to treatment and be sober.  I really liked Rich and wanted to see where this would go, so I went to treatment.

The pain and agony of going through treatment and bringing up some very old wounds that occurred when I was five years old from a sexual assault from a babysitter was almost more than I could bear.  I needed hope, and I needed it fast.

 I didn’t grow up churched, so I didn’t know about the hope of Christ.  I learned in treatment and AA about a higher power, and I remembered my great-grandmother’s prayers, so I knew there was something to all this Jesus talk.

Rich and I ended up getting married and losing our first baby to miscarriage.  Our second child, a daughter, was born 7 months after we were married.  We continued to go to AA meetings, but did not attend church.

In August 1997, my mother was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.  That very day, Rich and I were preparing to move to Charlotte, NC to be closer to his family and for job opportunities.  I remember driving through the switchbacks of Colorado near Durango crying in total despair and telling Rich that we were going to Charlotte for something bigger than job opportunities.

Turned out that God was speaking to me even though I didn’t really know it at the time.  When we got to Charlotte, Rich told me we would start going to church.  Being in a new town, just having lost my mother, and being newly sober, I was in a total depression.  I had no desire to push on.  I was struggling.  I can remember Rich asking me one particular night why I just wouldn’t let him love me.  You see, I had been so wounded by men that I had build the “Great Wall of Tonya” and wasn’t going to let anyone hurt me again.

I wish I could say that immediately I let him in.  I didn’t.  What we did do, is found a church.  Our church family began loving on us and literally was the hands and feet of Christ.  They were amazing.

As God began to soften my heart and “sift me,” I began to let Rich in to my “protective bubble.” It has taken years and years, but that is the evidence of our love story.  Through it all, Rich has loved me like Christ loved the church.  He never gave up on me, he never left me, and he has been such a reflection of Christ in my life.

Together through it all, we have had two miscarriages, 5 children, financial loss, children with serious health issues, business loss, career changes, broken dreams, death, emotional and mental breakdowns, substance abuse recovery, childhood abuse, and an emotional affair on my part.

How on earth can one couple withstand ALL of that?  Apart from Christ we could not.  That is the beauty of our love story.  By the grace of God, forgiveness, and hard work, we are continuing to write our love story.  Everyday is a new day, fresh with mercy and grace.  We have and continue to work intentionally and sacrificially to ensure that God’s story of hope and redemption in our marriage is one that inspires others to never give up.

We are celebrating twenty-five years this year.  MIRACULOUS.  Only God can take two VERY broken people and cause us to love each other more every day.  We now teach married adults at our local church.  We speak at marriage retreats, expressing the goodness of God and to encourage others to not give up before the miracle happens.

I am so thankful that God gave me the gift of Rich.  What a blessing he is and I couldn’t imagine loving him more, but I know that God is still writing this story.  Not every day is butterflies and rainbows, because we still have the adversity of raising five children and some of them are not walking in the ways of the Lord. But today, we have the Hope of Christ guiding us and in the end we know who gets the Victory.  Our God is a good God even in pain and suffering.
“Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story”-Psalm 17:2"

Bio:  Tonya Shellnutt serves as State Government Relations Director at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the largest religious liberty advocacy organization in the world. ADF exists to keep the legal doors open for the Gospel.

Since joining ADF in 2017, Shellnutt has been working to engage, empower, and protect churches, ministries, and religious institutions across the country. She is committed to safeguarding their religious liberty legal protections. Additionally, Shellnutt works with legislators, policy groups, and grass roots to ensure generational wins.

Prior to joining ADF, Shellnutt was a small business owner for 15 years and served as State Director for Concerned Women for America in both Montana and in South Carolina where she focused on faith and family public policy issues. Shellnutt and her husband have been married for 24 years and have five children. They have taught and mentored married adults for the last fifteen years and currently serve in the married adult ministry at Oakdale Baptist Church in Rock Hill, SC. Tonya is also an author and working on a second writing project. She speaks to various groups throughout the country.

Tonya, how grateful we are that you and Rich shared your story with us here!  I am continually amazed at the grace and mercy of God and how He has brought you through so much!  You are a huge blessing in my life.  May God bless you and Rich with many more happy, healthy years together, may He enlarge your ministry in new and amazing ways, and may your life together shine hope into the darkened corners of the couples you minister to.  

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Love Story of Tim & Regina

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
Proverbs 3:5,6

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of Tim & Regina"

"The first time I saw Tim was at our mid-week week church service in Templeton, CA.  I was new to the church and didn't know many people. He had arrived a little late, and I noticed he was wearing his Reborn Riders colors. The Reborn Riders was a Christian motorcycle club that was one of the church's ministries.

I remember telling my friend DeAnn, with whom I was staying, that I thought he was really cute and he seemed really nice. DeAnn had known who he was because her daughter and son-in-law were part of Reborn Riders, too, and she told me he was a really sweet guy.

I didn't think too much about him for a couple of weeks until the church was having a baptism at a friend's house because the church didn't have a baptismal. I really needed a ride so DeAnn said she would find a way for me to get there.  

DeAnn's daughter called me the morning of the baptism and said that she found me a ride and to not wear shorts or flip flops. (This was before I became a conservative Christian.) I found it odd because it was going to be 95° that day, but I figured that was a church rule.

Well, my ride showed up on a motorcycle. It was Tim! I was so surprised because apparently he was asked to give me a ride, but he was concerned I wouldn't like being on his motorcycle. Oh, I forgot to mention that I had gotten into a conversation with one of the wives who was in Reborn Riders, and I had said motorcycles were fun.

Anyway, I guess you could say, our first "date" was to a baptism! After that, we went to Bible studies together and church-related events. We realized that we were really getting serious. We entered a courtship on July 21st 1992. We got engaged  on August 23rd, but even though we had gotten engaged, Tim wanted my mom's blessing because my dad had passed away in 1984. 

Tim borrowed his parent's van to drive to Riverside because his only mode of transportation was his motorcycle. My mom was overjoyed and gave her blessing.  We were married on February 13th, 1993.

We have had our ups and downs, and there are things about being a godly wife that I know now that I wish I knew back then. 

I'm so grateful God put us together and for the three daughters He has blessed us with."

Bio: Regina makes her home in Arizona with her husband, Tim, and is mom to three adult daughters and "grandma" to one cat and two guinea pigs. Her interests include crocheting, Bible study, coloring in adult coloring books, dabbling at sewing, drinking afternoon tea in a pretty teacup, and reading books. She is especially fond of Anabaptist church history and biographies. Regina also loves spoiling little people in the church nursery where she volunteers once a month. She attempts to keep up with her blog at  Plain Keeper at Home.

Tim and Regina, we are SO grateful you shared your beautiful love story with us!  It was such a blessing to read and to hear how God brought you together and has led you all these years.  I am always so blessed by your blog, Regina, and so thankful for the Godly example you set for all of us.  May the Lord bless both of you with many more healthy, happy years together serving Jesus side-by-side!

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Love Story of John & Chelsea

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Matthew 6:33 

Graphic Design by Zach Smith

"The Love Story of John & Chelsea"

"I had just moved from Indiana to Buffalo with my family and was not in a great place in many ways. I was functional enough after the upheaval and turmoil of a move in the middle of my college experience however, that I was able to get a job pretty quickly at the local coffee house, where I began work as an experienced barista. 

There was this girl, Chelsea, who had just been hired at the coffee house’s other branch,.  I’d only seen her fleetingly, since she mostly stopped by my location to check the register and help with shifts, but I was instantly attracted to her and thought maybe I’d ask her out.

Cue my cowardice. I waited months until they finally consolidated our two stores into one location and we started working together, but even then, it took me forever. She later told me that the weekend I called and asked her out, (for bowling, of all things), she had consciously decided if I waited any longer, she’d say no. But I didn’t, and so we started dating.

It felt very special very quickly. She had not been raised in a Christian household, and I was in the middle of figuring out my own personal faith and relationship to God.  So somehow, even though we came from wildly different backgrounds, when it came to talking about spiritual matters, we quickly found a pretty common language of curiosity and positivity.  The next thing I knew she was visiting church with me—when we weren’t taking walks in the back country or going to see midnight showings of sci-fi movies she never would have picked.

One year to the day after our first date, I proposed, with me at age 22 and her at 19. Of course we heard all the “you’re too young” stories, but we had the same reaction: there was no point in waiting when we were already so sure of it. Two years to the day after our first date, we were married. She had been baptized at this point and both our faiths were growing, but now together. No matter what theological points we may have disagreed on, we both felt that the only way this whole adventure made sense was if God had planned it.

Cut to thirteen years later. We celebrated our twelfth anniversary last year, and have three beautiful children who have her light hair and fair complexion, my crazy sense of humor, and a love for Jesus that cannot be faked. In a lot of ways, our awe and humility at God’s incredible foreknowledge and care increases with time, instead of lessening, because with all that we’ve been through together, getting us together in the first place looks more and more like the opening pitch of a baseball game. 

So much more has happened since then to confirm God’s love for us in that He knew exactly who we were both meant for, and He gently led us separately until we were ready to meet. I told her something yesterday in all seriousness—if I were to make a list of people who have influenced me the most (and for the better), she is right under God with a bullet. If I ever need proof of a loving God, I just have to remember the person He brought into my life and has allowed me to grow and learn with in love."

Bio:  John and Chelsea have been married since May 5th, 2006. They met while working together at a coffee shop in western New York State. They currently reside in Virginia with their three children, Jack (9), Julia (8), and Adeline (2). John is an elementary teacher in first grade with a second career as a voiceover and narration artist. Chelsea manages multiple personal businesses including sheep raising, wool and knitting products, and customized engraving items. They are blessed to be members of New Harvest Ministries in Willis. 

John and Chelsea, thank you SO much for sharing your amazing love story with us!  It was such a joy to get to know you through this post and to hear how God orchestrated the details for you to meet and fall in love.  Chelsea, I am glad you didn't give up on John, and John, I'm so thankful you asked Chelsea when you did!  God had His hand in the whole process, and He so faithfully guided you.  May He continue to keep His hand upon your lives and grant you many long, happy, healthy years together!