June 24, 2016

Festival Performance

The girls have been studying voice the past six months and were invited to perform for a city festival last weekend.

Kaleeya singing "Let it Go".  For all of you who have read my blog for a while, you know why I had tears running down my face during this performance, and why this was the song she chose out of all the songs in the world. (That story here)

(Don't mind the horn at the beginning...a fireman water race was going on nearby at the festival) 


*Jordyn had to miss this day . . . so her performance coming soon (next time)! 

Bostyn performed Little Mix's "Love me or Leave me". I love this girl's hard work and love for singing. She rocked it. 

Bailey also chose a Little Mix song. "Secret Love Song". I love this girls gumption and powerhouse range. 

Thanks for sharing your gift and love of music girls. You have such a unique light that brightens my day! 

June 23, 2016


“Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment. It is a choice to show mercy, not to hold the offense up against the offender. Forgiveness is an of expression of love”
-Gary Chapman

I have glass  embedded in my body. There is glass in my eyelids, on the side of my face, my scalp, and in my forearms. The windshield of my SUV crumbled into a million little pieces during my car accident. Mixed with dirt and gravel you get some nasty road rash. I still remember the nurse in the ER running a steal wool like tool across my injuries to get as much of it out before cleaning and dressing my wounds. I later asked the plastic surgeon why they did not go in and dig out every piece from my body. He explained that it would just cause more scaring and that my body would eventually shed the glass naturally. He proved to be correct for some of the larger pieces. Over the years at unexpected moments glass has worked its way to the surface of my skin and broken free of its prison.
However, it is 21 years later and I still have pieces of glass in my body and I know where every single one is.

I can run my fingers along my skin and feel where they are held captive. I often wonder how long will I keep each shard? Will they always be there to serve as a reminder of what I survived? Will I keep these foreign visitors until the day I die?
Earlier this year I spoke at a conference on forgiveness. I shared my story of the last 20 yrs along with some of the spiritual tools that I have found useful on my journey. It was a good experience. I came away from the conference feeling centered in God’s love and ready to take on what life had to offer.

Then it happened

Not but 2 days after the conference I received news that would put everything I had just taught to the test. It was the kind of life changing news that would cause me to forget everything I knew of forgiveness

I was overwhelmed by the weight of the responsibility that had just fallen on my shoulders. The life altering legal decisions I had to make for myself and my children. I found myself telling God “I did not sign up to be a mother under these conditions.” Asking the question “Why me?” and “How am I suppose to do this?” To intensify the pressure of the situation I discovered I had not dealt with some past experiences entirely. Old emotions erupted like a volcano that had been dormant. Filled with grief, anger, sadness, and feelings of abandonment. I found myself lost and in a fog.

So ironic that it was comical. I had just stood up and declared myself a “survivor” of these events, yet I still clung to anger and bitterness. Just as I still had glass embedded in my body, I found sharp painful emotions enclosed within my soul. Had I done work on these in the past? Yes. Like the glass, perhaps the “bigger issues” had worked their way to the surface but I was surprised to discover lingering pieces of darkness embedded in my heart and mind.

There I was. Faced with a choice. Fall into victimhood mentality or find forgiveness. Like a pendulum I found myself swinging back and forth on a daily basis.

It became clear that I needed a miracle. I petitioned my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to intervene. I needed help to remove the negativity from my soul with the least amount of scaring. I knew it could be done. I had experienced it in the past and believed that it was possible again. It just felt impossible at the moment.

And then the miracle came. The first weekend in April I heard this:
“One key to forgiving others is to try to see them as God sees them. At times, God may part the curtain and bless us with the gift to see into the heart, soul, and spirit of another person who has offended us. This insight may even lead to an overwhelming love for that person.”- Kevin R. Duncan

I started to pray to see this person the way God sees us. It wasn’t long before small moments of compassion and understanding began to wash over me in my daily life. I began to feel acceptance of this new situation in my heart. Hope. Peace. I remembered the overwhelming love and light I was met with in heaven and I know that if this individual were to be in the same position I was 21 years ago, they would have been met in kind. It came down to one simple practice: remembering. I just needed to step back and remember who I was. A divine daughter of God. When I stand in that space and energy I feel God’s love, not the worlds love. And with God all things are possible. Forgiveness becomes possible. Grace seems possible.

 Forgiveness requires small daily commitments. A conscious choice to engage in a partnership with God.  I don’t wake up every morning and think “I am a divine daughter of God”, and leap out of bed like a shiny bright care bear ready to love the world! Instead my mind is usually flooded with my to do list. Or I am met with a grievance of one of my children. Yet I have faith that if I can just remember who I am,  all the anger, bitterness, and pain will come to the surface and leave me.

Everyday I will have to choose. I will continue to be hurt and have to practice forgiveness in small and large ways. Even just today I faced another crushing heartbreak, but I know that because I choose to remember, I choose the grace of God. Grace means “divine means of help”.  I am literally choosing to accept all the help heaven has to offer. Heavenly Father is eager to help me, but He does not work by force. He will not bless me with what I will not receive.

“All that is of God encompasses love, light, and truth. Yet as human beings we live in a fallen world, sometimes full of darkness and confusion. It comes as no surprise that mistakes will be made, injustices will occur, and sins will be committed. As a result, there is not a soul alive who will not, at one time or another, be the victim to someone else’s careless actions, hurtful conduct, or even sinful behavior. That is one thing we all have in common. Gratefully, God, in His love and mercy for His children, has prepared a way to help us navigate these sometimes turbulent experiences of life. He has provided an escape for all who fall victim to the misdeeds of others. He has taught us that we can forgive! Even though we may be a victim once, we need not be a victim twice by carrying the burden of hate, bitterness, pain, resentment, or even revenge. We can forgive, and we can be free!”
- Kevin R. Duncan

How will I remember? How will I find freedom?  Notes on my mirror, meditation, praying, serving, and loving others. It will be a hundred little things. Mostly I will petition my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for grace and do all I can to be open to receive it. Plus every time I run hand across my face or fold my arms to pray.  I will feel the glass in my body. It will serve as a reminder of the work left to do. Like the glass, one day it will all work it’s way to the surface and I will be free.

Post originally written on: Always Annie
and published here with permission

June 22, 2016

and she loves them

There is a mother who is experiencing the ups and downs of a child with disabilities. She wakes each day, not knowing if this will be a day of laughter or tears. When people ask her what it’s like to raise a child like her daughter, she chooses to say, “My child is gift. She is a gift because I did not ask for her and I did not know that she was something that I needed. But God knew. He gave me the perfect gift, which I see now that I both want and need.” Amidst a life of struggle, she would not trade that imperfectly perfect child for anything. Because that gift is hers. And she loves her.

There is a mother who finally got to meet her sweet baby. The one that she prayed for, fought for, longed for, and was ultimately blessed with. And he is perfect. He is everything that she ever wanted. No matter the toil on her body, no matter the stretch on the finances, no matter the sleepless nights, the spit up, the diapers, etc. He is hers. And she loves him.

There is a mother with many children. Many she carried herself, and many who she gave the gift of a family to, through adoption. She now has great-grandchildren and many others in her family to love. However, not a day goes by that she does not think of her sweet son. The toddler son who got called back to heaven too early. The son whose portrait is what their posterity have to remember him by. The one where he's wearing a white shirt with a navy blue and white sailor collar, smiling like the happiest boy in the world. That son is one of many. She spent less time with him than any other child that she has. But death does not change the fact that he is hers. And she loves him.

There is a mother who feels like every day with her teenager is a fight that she will never be able to win. The rolls of the eyes, the back-talk or even worse – the silence. She used to know her child. This was the same child who used to hang on her every word, and crawl into bed with her when she was scared. This mother prays every day to find a way to connect with this daughter who is going through the drama and angst of the teenage battlefield. Because she is hers. And she loves her.

There is a mother who bears the pain and the scars of divorce. She bears more than her fair share, so as to protect her sweet babies from all of the sorrow that could be theirs. She never thought she could love again, but now that he is there in front of her, she is ready to give her children the example of a father that they always should have had, and her heart to a man who will treat her right. She is poised to balance on the tight rope of raising children with both a father and a stepfather, and even though she did not ask for this, she is willing to because those children need what’s best. They are hers. And she loves them.

There is a mother going through the unimaginable pain of a child who was in the right place at the wrong time, resulting in the loss of his friend’s life. She cringes as he endures the whispers and the stolen glances, and she rejoices when love and support are offered instead. She wants to wrap him in her secure embrace and make it like the accident never happened. But she knows she can’t, so she must be strong and be the hand that he can hold to get through this. Because he is hers. And she loves him.

There is a mother who always thought she would grow up, get married, have kids and live happily ever after. But years of infertility told her otherwise. She resigned herself to her new normal and was the best aunt that ever was. And then a bittersweet miracle occurred. The death of one mom made her an instant mother. The mother of a wonderful, teen-aged daughter whose adoption story could only be described as meant to be. This relationship grew and bridged a gap, bringing a daughter to a mother who had lost hope. And a mother to a daughter who had lost her own. It is not always perfect. But she is hers. And she loves her.

There is a mother bearing the pain of a child who has lost their way. The child she loves so much, not seeing their own life for what it's worth and not remembering who they are. This mother grieves every time she questions herself as to what went wrong, and what she could have done better. She grieves even when she knows that her child has free agency and can choose for themselves. Though her heart breaks every day, that child is hers. And she loves them.

There is a mother who is navigating the parenting waters by herself. Her husband fought, but ultimately had to depart this life, much too soon. But this mother has a daughter. A daughter who shows strength beyond her years and has a capacity to lead and uplift that is not known in many teenagers. Her daughter lifted her mother and brother when there was no strength left. This mother watches in awe as her daughter continues to become the child that she and her husband always envisioned. And she is hers. And she loves her.

There is a mother who feels as if she shouldn't be one. She feels too tired, too cranky, too poor, too impatient to do this job that accidentally came to her. She works two jobs just to feed the mouth of the child that she feels she is failing. But when this child grabs her face in his sticky hands and babbles something that sounds like, "I love you," she soaks it in and gathers the strength she needs to make it through one more day. Because he is hers. And she loves him.

There is a mother whose life was turned upside down by infidelity and its consequences. Without warning, her husband was removed from her life and her kids’ lives, by a man's jealous rage and a gun. A young widow with many young children could have fallen to her knees and never gotten up again. But she chose to stand. To stand for those children and live life so that they could live theirs. Because they are hers. And she loves them.

Heartache or comfort. Peace or pain. Embarrassment or pride. Support or betrayal. Disappointment or utter joy. Parenting is filled with twists and turns. But you do what you need to do for those children, because they are yours. And you love them.

There is a mother who had no real example of mothering to follow. She navigated the parenting waters as one without a life vest, holding on to anything that could help her to be a better mother. She sometimes embarrassed her children, or sometimes lost her temper, but she parented with a zest for life and a belief that there was no other job in the world more important than the one she was doing in raising her children. She gave the needed shoulder to cry on, and the consequences that were deserved. She showed what it meant to be truly selfless for your children and she continues to do so, breaking the cycle and providing the best example of mothering to follow. And I am grateful for it. Because she is my mom. And I love her.

Printed here with permission. Original post can be found at: http://www.treasuresandtantrums.com/#!and-she-loves-them/c1a1n/572d66200cf2094051e7364f

by Jillian Romriell of treasuresandtantrums (www.treasuresandtantrums.com)

**Thank you Jillian for sharing these powerful stories with us! I am so thankful for each of these woman and the battles they are fighting to stand for something in their lives.  I appreciate you sending this to me when you posted it for Mother's Day, and letting me share it here today.

June 21, 2016

Dating UP

If you have read my books you know that Shawn and I met on a dating website (Please remember not to tell him I told you this . . . haha) So I am passionate about setting up/making other single people meet and fall in love!

So if you are single, this is me telling you it is time to give it a try. Here is a new dating website that some of my friends have been putting together. Dating up. Real people, background checks. Go check it out. www.datingup.net

Let me know how it goes!!

June 19, 2016

To the dad who walked away

When I heard about your “I will stand” series on your blog, my heart longed to tell many of the stories that have helped me learn to stand in my life. But tonight I wanted to share a letter I wrote this year to one of the main people who has helped me find my reason to stand.

My father.


Dear Dad,

It is me, your little girl. Tomorrow is Father’s Day—again. Another year I will celebrate without you.

For a long time I didn’t understand why you had to leave. I tried to reassure myself that it was not because you wanted to go, but I also knew if that was true . . . you would have come back to me.

So I pretended I hated you. It was easy most days—I got used to you being gone—and I resented you for not being so many of the things I longed for you to be. Life was easy when I hated you, because then I didn’t feel so alone.

The hardest part was when I missed you.

When you are a little girl, everything is about super heroes and princesses being saved. I always dreamed you would come and rescue me from the rollercoaster of chaos and fear of hating and missing you all at the same time.

Because the truth of it was . . . I never hated you. I missed you. I missed you so bad my heart hurt. I missed your laugh, and your smile. I missed your stories and our oatmeal cookies. I missed knowing I was safe when you were close by.  I missed knowing that you would protect me and take care of me. I missed having you by my side.

I missed my dad, not the one who walked away . . . the man I wished you were—the dad you should have been.  

So I waited for you. In my eyes, you were the magic ticket to my happy life again. Every memory I created without you felt wrong leaving you behind. I watched out the window—some nights—praying that this would be the one you would remember me and come home.

But you never came.

So life moved on without you, at least on the outside. My dreams of you coming home grew distant as the years rolled on. Some were harder than others.  There were many beautiful moments, others were dark and lonely—but every day I still longed for a dad to call my own.

Then I grew up. I married and started my family. Times were not always easy. Some days I still dreamed of being the little girl on your lap drawing you pictures of butterflies and hearing your stories of when you were a little boy. Some nights I cried as I rocked my babies—longing for time to rewind so you could have the chance to give me what I was living for them.

My life has been hard Dad, but tonight I don’t write you this letter to put you down for all the things you were not for me. I wanted to thank you.

Thank you for leaving, because it is the broken pieces that you left that came together to make me who I am today.  All those years ago, I thought it was you I needed to be strong. Turns out you played your role perfectly. Because had I not fought to be better than a used and broken little girl, I might not ever had discovered that it wasn’t you that was going to make me happy. It was me . . . and God.

I sometimes wish I would have known you father. Every shooting star, every candle, every turkey bone on Thanksgiving—my wish was always the same. I wished I had a dad who wanted me . . . I wished you would come back and be my father.

But today my wish has changed. I want you to know I forgive you, because without you—and all that you didn’t do—I wouldn’t be me. Because of you I fight every day to make sure my children know they are priceless, and amazing, and worth every sacrifice I have ever made for them. Every day I make sure they never feel like they are a burden.

Maybe God planned it this way after all, maybe in heaven you promised him you would come down as the man who would fail me. Maybe God knew that without that story, I wouldn’t have found Him. Maybe it is my story that makes me the mom I fight every day to be.

I lost a lot of things the day you left—but I didn’t lose me.

So this year I don’t celebrate Father’s Day with regrets of who you weren’t for me. I will celebrate the man who gave me life. I won’t cry for all the years you weren’t there, or the moments in your grandchildren’s lives that you are missing.  

I will be thankful that I have a father—somewhere in this world—who gave me life, because it has been beautiful.

I have a Father who created me in heaven, who thinks I am perfect just the way I am. He will never leave me. 

So please forgive me for all the years I wasted hating you for not loving me the way I wanted to be loved. I have no regrets—not any more—and I hope you have found all the happiness in the world, where ever your journey has taken you.

Mother told me years ago that you were the one who taught me how to walk by holding my hand . . . but when you let go—that lonely day you left me—that is the moment God taught me how to stand. 

Your daughter

June 16, 2016

Bring her home

In the early months of my senior year I made the choice—well . . . or it would have been made for me—to go to Alldredge Academy, a wilderness therapy school for troubled teens.

Was I troubled? Aren’t we all in some way? I didn’t have anything crazy on my record. I had gotten out of a couple dozen speeding tickets, had earrings up and down my ears, and dated many of the wrong kind of boys—so I was a fairly typical seventeen-year-old girl. But what many people didn’t know was I had been through the divorce of my parents the summer before fourth grade and it had left a very deep whole in my heart.

For years I had battled eating disorders. I had so many friends, but many days I felt alone. I was a cheerleader, and could run a mean 400 meters in track, but when I went home I struggled with depression. In my later teenage years I avoided my family and had a hard time building healthy relationships with them. 

I remember stepping foot on that wilderness school feeling very out of my element. There wasn’t a shower within 30 miles. No makeup or shopping malls. Just wilderness.

I was one of the oldest "troubled teens" there, and what I would soon come to learn was my struggles were peanuts compared to what those young kids had seen.

The first week I thought I might die. We were not allowed to talk to each other. I was left alone with my thoughts—the one thing I had spent a lifetime trying to avoid. I didn’t know myself at all. I had become so wrapped up in my sports and friends I hadn’t even had a conversation with myself in years.

Tears rolled down my face every night as I stared out my tent— made out of a tarp—into the dark sky. I felt so insignificant compared to its majesty and never ending existence.

I spent two months at that school—looking back those were the two months that would come to prepare me for the truly hard things my life would bring.

If you would have asked me that first day when I stepped off that plane—to a couple of body guard bouncers that escorted me to a troubled teen wilderness school—if it would have made a difference in my life I would have laughed in your face and said, “Hell no, I am just doing this to humor my over protective parents who think I am a hot mess.”

Little did I know that those two months would save my life.

So what did I learn during my time living in the wilderness? I learned about life. Some of the lessons were taught by the therapist, and others just in my mind and heart. I could write many books of the experiences and lessons I embraced in those sixty days—and maybe someday I will—but tonight these are the three things I want to share:

1.     1. We all have a shadow.    
      A dark cloud of what we think others think we are. Beliefs we have carried around living as truths. And to overcome this shadow first we have to acknowledge what lies it has told us were truths . . . and let them free. We can’t stop living the lies until we let them go. (Remind me to tell you the coolest story about an amazing experience I had when I was letting go of my shadow up a dark cave in a West Virginia River)

2. How to live virtuously

We have to live virtuously to live our full potential happiness. When we aren’t living according to the order of virtue, we cannot feel complete or content in our daily lives. Finding strength in living a virtuous life we can and will be able to better recognize positive things in others and in ourselves. Each virtue builds upon another. Without hope we cannot find faith. Without faith we cannot love. And without love there is no grace. So to fully live a life full of grace we must live the order of a virtuous being. A life of honesty, fidelity, integrity, nobility, and divine power. 

3. How to receive personal revelation

Until my days in the wilderness I never knew I could truly talk to God. I said my prayers, and tried my best to listen to the spirit, but it was in these quiet momentswhen no one else was there to tell me how to thinkthat I learned how to listen to His voice. 

I had always based my thoughts and decisions on what others thought—advice helped me find my way. During those two months I realized the power I had inside of me. I turned to God instead of man for how I should view myself. I asked for Him to give me strength when I felt alone, instead of seeking someone to come and feel that void. And when I asked—He answered.

I learned that when we are unplugged from all the things we think give us happiness and answers—that is when we truly find the source of our strength.

The internet, friends, family members—they all seem to have the advice we need. Many have traveled similar roads, so we cling to the choices they made—hoping that if we follow their course it will lead us down a similar road.  Or we avoid all the pitfalls we saw them climb out of, to avoid pain. Only we don’t realize it is that pain that led them to their greatest joy.

We search for answers in others perfect Facebook version of life, wishing we could be a fraction of the happiness they pretend to be. But what we fail to see is the struggles they have when the cameras are put away. We come to believe if we just follow the step by step advice on our favorite blog, then we will find that road to eternal joy. We are constantly seeking answers, but always wishing we felt like we found them.

So we do what are told. We follow the advice, try to live a similar story . . . but then the end comes and our life still feels void of something. That feeling of incompleteness is the gap that others advice—and online “experts”—are taking that should be filled with truths from our Creator.

Some answers will never be found online. The answers that really make the most impact in our lives will come from God.

He isn’t as distant as this planet makes Him seem. If you are struggling for the right advise you have not found any where in this world, it may be because the answer doesn’t exist here.

Pray. Ask. He will send answers.

(pictures by Susan Thomas)

I have used this gift of personal revelation in my life. It is what has given me strength to stand when the world had told me to give up. It is what carried me when I felt so insignificant and small over and over again.

This life truly is a test—not on who can make the most noise, take the best selfies, or have the most followers—it is a test to see who can remember the power they were born to live.

You are great. You are powerful, and smart, and capable, and loveable. So if you haven’t heard that today—or ever—today is the day you ask God what He thinks. I promise you, even if no one else does . . . He knows everything. The dark days, the lonely hours, and everything in between.

Life is like that cold dark wilderness in West Virginia I called home for two months—and as I hiked its quiet hills I learned to fight for the strength to stand.

 Fifteen years ago my mom sang this song at my graduation from wilderness therapy. It was a very emotional day for all the people in my group and their parents. In some ways it felt like the first day of a new life. 

This last weekend, she sang it again for another graduation so I asked my sister to record it for me. 

Parents, Please don’t give up. Your children are going to strike out—often and hard. Keep praying for them that they can find the personal revelation to understand their worth from the one source who can help them see their value. So they can hear God speak to their hearts. It may take many years, but He hasn’t given up on them . . . so don’t you.

Thank you Mom for being a rock. You always lived your life close to God and showed me how every single day. You could have given up on me many times, but never ever did. Instead you taught me what being a parent is all about. Love. 

May 25, 2016

You are of infinite worth

Had an amazing day today by myself. I was worried about the busyness of life and trying to get inspiration for my conference coming up, but instead was reminded of something I know everyone in my house needs:

To understand their purpose
To connect with God to find their mission
And to learn what their spiritual gifts are

These are three of the reasons we are on this earth. But before we can find the answer to these questions we first have to know our worth and to truly see ourselves as God sees us.

Does your family know they have value? Do you see value in your own life?

These are struggles in all of us. At one time or another in our life we question if we are important, valued, needed, or wanted . . . or worth anything to anyone.

Yet, when someone tries to tell us we are . . . we can't hear it in them as love, until we can find it first in ourselves. And ironically, even when we think we can give it to other, we will fail until we can give it to ourselves. 

So to find love on this earth we have to first find it from heaven. Because the earthly love that gives us a high for a minute--when it comes in the form of another person or thing . . . can easily be taken from us. 

What are your eternal gifts? Do you believe God created you just the way you are on purpose? Do you see that His masterpiece is unique and beautiful (or handsome for you men)? Do you only believe that when things are going your way . . . or even when you make a mistake?

The cool thing about our Heavenly Father is his infinite love. He loves us no matter what. So why can't we?

The truth that the darkness in this world wants you to avoid is that YOU CAN. 

Trauma, fear, anger, hate. Those lies tell you that you will only be lovable when you are void of them. You can only love yourself when those emotions are not present. 


and will be loved forever by God. 

Once we embrace that, our mistakes are less scary. Other peoples words hold no weight, and we no longer take personal another person's issue, even when they try to make it ours. The world looks brighter, because we don't have to worry what hard thing comes our way. It won't change that truth. 

Hard things will come. Most days have a version of them. But hold to that truth. You are not alone. You are not forgotten. And you will always be loved. 

God created each of us with a unique purpose and gifts. Where ever you are, and where ever you have been, has been your journey to find strength inside yourself so when you find your worth it can and will be POWERFUL. 

You are a powerful being, with a warrior spirit fighting to remember truths that have been there all along. A unique beautiful gift to the world. 

A family worth blending: 10 epic fails

Last night Shawn and I were getting ready for bed and decided we needed to do a five minute video on the struggles of being a step parent for our blended family segment. 

Thirty minutes later we had covered 10 of our epic fails. So here you go. Blended families, many of you will relate to some of these epic fails of ours, but we would love to hear about yours! Also maybe a list of 10 of your triumphs that will help others in their crazy cycle. 

We all have a cycle of our unique challenges. Weaknesses in our families. Broken pieces in ourselves.  Insecurities and annoyances. But I know that these are there to help us fight to become stronger. The more we become aware of our personal cycles, the easier it will be to overcome and stop them before they get out of control. 

Hope everyone has a great Wednesday! Thank you in advance for your comments here and on Youtube about your crazy cycle, your families epic fails, and the ways that you have overcome them! 

We appreciate all the emails and stories! Helps this journey not feel so daunting and lonely. All families have challenges, blended or not! So I hope all of you know you aren't alone, on those days when it feels like your house is falling apart and you just want to give up. So many of us have been there. The pain, the fear, and the heart ache that life brings is real! But it is worth the fight. 

Keep fighting families! We believe in you. God believes in you! The real enemy in our lives is not each other. So don't give up! Every minute of every day fight to bring light to your life. It will always win. 

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