Undone {but Firmly Anchored in Him}

God finally gave me an answer to my prayer…in His time

After all of the doctors we pursued came back to me empty-handed, with no answer or direction to offer me, my loving, caring Mom took it into her own hands to find an answer (she, my Dad, and Heath were just as consumed with finding an answer and a cure as I was).  She completed countless hours of research and stayed up many a night in search of a solution. She was convinced I had Lyme disease and encouraged me to pursue a Lyme disease diagnosis. It took a lot of convincing because no doctor even mentioned Lyme disease as a possibility over the years and certainly did not test for it. But, we reached the end of a long line of doctors and still didn’t have a solution, so why not?

After much searching for a Lyme-literate doctor (it is a process, and there are very few doctors who specialize in Lyme disease), God blessed me with a Lyme-literate, holistic physician in Oklahoma City. She pursued a treatment-first approach, in which she treated me for Lyme disease since my symptoms supported the theory, and if it worked, we could assume I had it (at that time, the blood tests available for chronic Lyme disease were not very accurate and there was a strong possibility it would come back as a false negative). This was not exactly the clear-cut answer I had been praying for, but I’d take it. It turns out, my mom was right! She found the answer I had been searching for all those years, an answer no doctor was able to give me! For the first time in years, my health improved. I started to get my life back. I started to get off of the couch! 

Just as I was making good progress – and in large part because I was making good progress – we took a leap and moved to North Carolina to begin a new chapter. We really felt God calling us here, so we came, and now looking back, we’re only beginning to discover the many reasons He has us here.  Y’all, I can’t say it enough…God is always working, and He is always good. After we settled into our new life on the East Coast, it became increasingly difficult for my physician, who was now half the country away, to effectively treat me. I’m not gonna lie, when she told me she could no longer treat me and asked me to find a new practitioner in my area, I felt abandoned and let down—hopeless yet again…but not for long…God was at work again!  

A new friend of mine introduced me to her friend, who invited me to a conference that I uncharacteristically agreed to attend. At the conference, I “just so happened” to sit next to a woman undergoing Lyme disease treatment with a holistic physician she loves and has had great success with. Hmmm…sounds like God at work, huh?! This woman gave me her doctor’s business card, and low and behold, I became a patient of hers too!  This practitioner is an incredible Christian woman who is in tune with the Holy Spirit, who speaks Truth to us, and who prays with us!  Since I’ve been seeing her, I have gotten even more of my life back, and in November 2017, I finally received the official diagnosis I had been praying for for 6 ½ years—Lyme disease plus 5 co-infections of Lyme (ticks are nasty little bugs that don’t just carry 1 disease), all of which were still active and wreaking havoc in my body. 

For the first time in a very long time, I have hope for remission, and I have 6 months to 1 year left of treatment to get me there.  Even if true healing never comes, and if how I’m feeling now is my “new normal,” I’m gonna be okay because my hope is anchored in Jesus. I believe that He is good, He is love, He is faithful, He is working everything out for my good, and therefore, all is well.

Unanswered prayers aren’t a bad thing at all.

My unanswered prayers for all of those years have produced incredible fruit in my life. I understand now what Paul meant when he said in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10: “…and then He told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (MSG)

Along the same vein as the above verse, have you heard the Scarssong by I Am They?  It is beautiful, and I highly recommend listening to it!  I just heard it yesterday on the radio, and something in my Spirit told my ears to perk up. Have you ever had that happen…you’re driving down the road listening mindlessly to the radio and then all of a sudden, the words become so clear, and God speaks a sweet word straight to your heart? He does that for me through music, and He did it again with this song yesterday. I was touched deeply by the song, so I Googled the video with lyrics.  Here’s the first verse and chorus:

“We came up to a new sunrise

Looking back from the other side

I can see now with open eyes

Darkest water and deepest pain

Wouldn’t trade it for anything

‘Cause my brokenness brought me to You

And these wounds are stories You’ll use

So I’m thankful for the scars

‘Cause without them I wouldn’t know Your heart

And I know they’ll always tell of who You are

So forever I am thankful for the scars”

I bawled like a baby listening to it again and letting the words wash over me.  Taking this time to process my last 8 years (something I honestly haven’t taken the time to do because I haven’t wanted to for fear that it would be too painful) has been so sweet. I’ve had the opportunity to go beyond the pain, the dark days, the hopelessness to see, remember, reflect on, and be thankful for all of the good things that have come out of my illness.

I want to share a few of them with you.

If it wasn’t for my illness, I would’ve missed out on countless opportunities to see and experience God, to let Him be my provision, to let Him show up and awe me, to let Him love me and care for me as His adored daughter!  Y’all, God is our PERSONAL God, and He delights in us!  What He allows to happen shapes us, molds us, transforms us, draws us closer to Him.  

I never would have experienced the power of prayer—there is nothing more sacred or powerful or holy than someone interceding for you while holding your hands and entering into your pain. There is nothing more special than someone believing healing and miracles for you when you didn’t believe them for yourself. Because someone did that for me, I’ve been able to do that for others.

I never would have learned how God’s strength can become my own if I hadn’t been ill.  I am reminded of the story of the Israelites in the desert after fleeing from Egypt (Exodus 16). They had to rely on God DAILY for manna, for nourishment, for His provision. Like the Israelites, daily, deep dependence on God became the norm for me just to get out of bed most mornings. But you know what?  He came through for me, day in and day out. He heard my cries and my prayers. His strength truly became my own. I often found myself driving home from work or at the end of a long day thinking, “Wow!  That wasn’t me…that was God! Only HE could’ve gotten me through today!” 

I never would have learned of His incredible provision for me had it not been for my journey. Jesus provided for me every day, not only strength, but resources and people.  He provided ways for us to pay my bills that poured in—through the generosity of family and friends at work who graciously held fundraisers for me. He provided me with the love of family and community—people who were wiling to pour into me, even when I had nothing to give back to them. People brought meals (my sweet sister and friend Heather were the best at creatively cooking around all of my various dietary needs of any given day!) and sent cards and care packages, prayed for me, cried with me, sat with me and encouraged me. My parents sacrificed so much to take me to appointment after appointment all over the country and were there for all of my surgeries and the ugly aftermaths of them. It killed them not to be able to cure me or make me well or find the answers, but what they’ve done for my soul and heart are beyond words and beyond my gratitude. My sister and her family provided pet sitting for every trip we took while I was sick. They gave us peace of mind to not have to worry about our fur babies when we were worried about everything else.  My sister even drove hours to pick up our pups and to bring them back to us.  And Heath—he’s more than held up his end of our vows for the last 8 of our 11 married years. He has done things for me and seen things and experienced things that no husband should ever have to. He stuck by my side and showed me true love, unconditional love, a love I am so blessed to know. He’s shown me deep compassion and dedication. He was there for me every moment, every appointment, every trip, every surgery. He joined me on the couch night after night when I didn’t have the strength to go out. He cried with me in the middle of the night. He prayed with me when I was scared. He bathed me when I didn’t have the strength to move my arms. 

I never would have grasped the idea of “anchored hope” or of true joy. This is the most valuable lesson Jesus has taught me through my illness, and a message I want to proclaim to you: our hope should be in NO THING and NO ONE other than JESUS!  He’s the ONLY ONE who will not let us down. Waves can crash over us, life can crumble all around us, our bodies can fall apart, medications can make us sicker, doctors can come up empty-handed, but if Jesus is the HOPE that ANCHORS us, these things will not phase us like they did me during my illness. So if I can offer one thing to you, it’s JESUS!  Keep your eyes focused on HIM and Him only and you have nothing to fear, nothing that can let you down, nothing that can leave you utterly hopeless.

I’ve been writing this post through tears streaming down my face, through ugly cries and gasps. Looking back at all of these moments, memories, hard times and good, I truly am thankful for my scars. I am thankful for my journey. I am thankful for the good fruit God produced from a seemingly terrible situation. God showed up and showed me His heart. 

And thank You, Lord, for Yourtime and not mine.  As you can see, if I had gotten my way 8 years ago, I’d still be the same person I was back then, unchanged, my heart untouched, and without this testimony to share. Although in those years things got dark and looked bleak, my situation appeared hopeless, and I often wondered whether or not I’d make it though, God knew what He was doing all along. I’ll leave you with the chorus of the Defendersong I mentioned last week, which speaks of God’s goodness and sovereignty and of His heart for us (even when what we perceive is bad and painful):

“Hallelujah You have saved me

So much better Your way

Hallelujah Great Defender

So much better Your way” 

Thank you for taking the time to read about how Christ has undone me. If my journey sounds like something you’re going through and I can be of help to you, please let me know! I would invite you to click ‘Connect’ at the top of the page so I know who you are. I would love to come alongside you, as others (and Jesus Himself) have done for me.

Anchored in Him, Ash

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Undone {on the Bathroom Floor}

Where do I begin?  How do I tell my story?  How do I put the last 8 years into words?

I sit here trying to think of what to write, how to share my story, and I keep thinking about Heath’s recent posts regarding unanswered prayers. I have been sick since June 2011, and for the first 6 ½ (long!) years of my illness, my prayers for an answer and a cure went unanswered. I begged, I cried out to, I pleaded with, and I bargained with God to take my illness from me, to give me an answer and a cure, and when that didn’t come, I pulled away from Him, angry, upset, feeling let down, abandoned, and alone. I felt like Paul probably did when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 12: 7-8 “At first I didn’t think of it (my handicap) as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that…” (MSG)

Hindsight is always 20/20, and now looking back on the last 8 years of my life, I can see that God was always working and that He always had a plan for me all along, even when I couldn’t see it or feel Him. He was doing in me through my illness what He promises all of us in Romans 8:28 “…we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (MSG)

He always had me in His arms, in His sights, in His heart. He was using my illness to do a work in me, in my life, in my heart—to shape me into the person He created me to be. He was pulling me into deeper relationship with Him. I am not the same person today that I was in 2011 before my illness. I am forever changed. I have been given a testimony, an opportunity, to share God’s goodness with you. No matter what you are going through, whether it’s illness like me or something else, don’t ever forget that God is good, He is working, He is love, He is faithful, He’s in control, and that what we want isn’t always His best for us. We have to trust Him and His ways—that what He has in store for us, although it may be incredibly painful in the moment, is infinitely better than anything we could have asked for or imagined (Ephesians 3:20).  

Jesus Met Me on the Bathroom Floor

My illness began with what I thought was morning sickness. It turns out I wasn’t pregnant, and my initial symptoms were just the beginning of a growing list of symptoms. Like a ravenous lion with a gazelle in his sights, I chased down an answer and a cure. I went to multiple doctors in the area I was living in at the time. When they couldn’t find an answer, they referred me to doctors at the state hospital. When they couldn’t find an answer, they referred me to a team of doctors at the Mayo Clinic, and when they couldn’t find an answer, I went to a doctor down in Houston. That entire time, through all those years, I felt increasingly desperate, and I was willing to undergo whatever the doctors told me to to try to find an answer. I underwent 5 surgeries, tried numerous medications, visited nearly 70 different doctors, had so much blood drawn that I can’t even feel the needle anymore, and endured countless tests, scans, and procedures. And after all of that, nothing. No answer. No magic pill. No cure. No hope. I was done. I was spent. I was depressed. I felt all alone. 

I became so consumed with my illness and finding a diagnosis and treatment that I lost who I was. My identity was tied up in my illness. I quit dreaming, and I lost my passion, my zest for life. What did I have to live for? Another appointment that would disappoint me? Another pill that would only give me another symptom, rather than take one away? Another test, procedure, or surgery that would leave me feeling more ill than when I went in for it?  Another blood draw that would reveal that something was wrong but couldn’t specify what? 

I found myself numbing my mind with Netflix show after Netflix show. I watched more Netflix in a few years than anyone should watch in a lifetime. In fact, I wore a nice little dent in our couch cushion; it was so deep it couldn’t be fluffed out. We sold that couch in a recent garage sale because Heath didn’t want that daily reminder of some really bad times looking back at him in our new place. Mind-numbing was easier than facing what was happening to me, not only to my body but also to my heart. My Bible sat at the bottom of my bedside table for years, unopened, collecting layers upon layers of dust. What was the use?

Then, just when I found myself at the very bottom, at the end of my rope, utterly hopeless, completely undone, and in so much pain, Jesus met me on the bathroom floor. The end of me in that moment was just the beginning of Him…

I had gone out to dinner earlier that night with Heath’s family, who was in town visiting us for the weekend. I began to feel so sick after eating a very savory meal and was in pain beyond managing with what medications I had at the time. An undiagnosed illness is a hard thing for so many people to grasp—“but, you look fine” people would say, or “if the doctors can’t find anything, maybe it’s in your head”—and at the time, his family didn’t understand what I was experiencing, enduring, silently suffering. So, instead of going home after dinner, which is what my body desperately needed, we ended up at a new museum that had recently opened. I didn’t get to enjoy this family outing; instead, I went straight to the bathroom, where I sat in the stall, in the fetal position, bawling my eyes out in pain. 

Eventually, we made it home, and the germaphobe in me convinced me to take a shower before collapsing into bed. Well, I physically couldn’t endure it. I didn’t have the strength. So after just a minute—long enough to become soaking wet but remain dirty—I inched my way out of the shower and onto the bathmat. I was empty. I was broken. I was in desperate need. I cried out to Jesus, and y’all, He met me right there, on the bathroom floor. I could feel His presence as if He was physically right there with me. I could feel His arms wrapped tightly around me. And of course, when you experience something like that, you just crumple into the arms of Jesus and bawl even more, but this time, not out of pain or suffering or depression or emptiness, but out of renewed hope and joy and strength, knowing that you are the daughter of The King, cared for, loved, cherished, not forgotten or abandoned. 

Two things come to mind as I relive that sweet, unforgettable moment…(1) the lyrics in the song Defenderthat are so true for me and my life and for that special instant:

“When I thought I lost me

You knew where I left me

You reintroduced me to Your love

You picked up all my pieces

Put me back together

You are the Defender of my heart”

And (2) the words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (MSG)

So, verse 4 is my new hope—that God uses me to come alongside others going through hard times so that I can comfort them just as He did for me.  What an incredible opportunity and calling for those of us who have been through some stuff!  What a gift God places within us to not let our suffering be in vain!  We have been given a testimony, and we get to share God’s goodness with each other, to encourage each other, to remind each other of the hope we have in Jesus, to help each other find joy in the daily struggles. 

I’ll leave you, friends, with this beautiful picture of our loving Jesus and what He does for us amidst our trials. I can’t think of a better stopping spot. Next week, I’ll reveal His answer to my prayers and the fruit that God has produced in my life through this illness. I look forward to sharing with you again!

Anchored in Him, Ash

Undone {and Unanswered} – Pt. 2

(This one is long, but worth it. Promise.) 

Trusting in God is not my default setting.

When my prayers go unanswered, my first instinct is often to blame God – or, worse, to believe the lies that God doesn’t care or isn’t paying attention. In the valley – the deep, dark places where life is crumbling around me – I can pretty quickly convince myself that God is distancing himself from me. It feels at times like He has taken a “spiritual leave of absence” from my life. How can He see me – or others I care about – struggling and still refuse to throw out a life preserver?

When those thoughts creep into my mind, I often find myself forgetting three critical truths about who God is: 

  1. God never meant for us to experience such a level of suffering in this lifetime. Much of the pain and loss we feel is a result of living in a fallen world. The truth is that our God promises never to leave us or forsake us (Deut. 31:8).
  2. Our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, so it is not only spiritually impossible to be separated from God… it is also physically impossible. The truth is that God has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell inside of us (1 Cor. 6:19). 
  3. Although God is able to do infinitely more than we could ever ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20), there are times when he chooses not to – for reasons we cannot always understand. The truth is, even though He always can, He sometimes doesn’t.

My understanding of these truths began in the Summer of 2011. Ashley and I were packing boxes as we prepared to move into our first “real life adult house.” A house we would own and not rent, as we had been doing up to that point in our young lives. As we were packing up, I started to notice that Ash was a little “off.” I asked her what the matter was, and she explained to me that she was feeling nauseous and was experiencing some stomach pain and cramping. My first thought was, “Oh my gosh… we’re having a baby!” Immediately, my mind jumped to becoming a father. We were having a baby, moving into a real-life house… in an instant, I was pretty impressed with just how much “adulting” we seemed to be squeezing into that particular season.

That was what I wanted to see happen. In reality, that was not even close to what was just ahead of us. 

We weren’t pregnant. At first, the doctors thought it was endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that normally lines a woman’s uterus instead grows on the outside of the uterus. There was an exploratory surgery, followed by some initial relief that they did, fact find some tissue where it wasn’t supposed to be. That surgery was followed by recovery, a lot of hoping and praying that this was it. Then came more unexplained pain… and the inevitable let down that we were not at an answer. 

The pain in her abdomen continued, and now there were other pains – joint pain, muscle pain, bone pain – on top of a crippling fatigue. Suddenly, what was supposed to be a joyful chapter in our life together as man and wife was instead transformed into a living nightmare. The new home where we envisioned all these happy moments turned out instead to be my wife’s personal infirmary.

Ash had more surgeries, more tests, more scans, more biopsies. So many theories emerged – lupus, heart problems, rheumatoid arthritis, various syndromes and diseases I had never even heard of. We went at first to local specialists and doctors who were hopeful and drew up different treatment plans. Inevitably, though, they got frustrated by the contradictory examinations and testing. They gave up, not knowing where to turn. So, we were sent packing. We were referred on to the regional hospitals, then the state hospitals, hospitals out of state, and even up to Minnesota to visit the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. More theories, more ideas, more scans, more tests, more surgeries, more pills… but no relief. 

No answered prayers.

I began to lose faith, not only in God but also in the “experts” who I always believed would hold the answers. My hope was put in these doctors and it was badly shaken… eventually shattered. Meanwhile, there I was. Watching my vibrant, healthy, upbeat wife slowly turn a shade of greyish green. Seeing her atrophy on a couch (at one point losing nearly 60% of her muscle mass, according to one of her doctors). She was slipping away from me, and I was powerless to stop it. 

I was having conversations with myself that I never would have imagined having in my mid-to-late twenties. “What happens if I lose my wife?” “What if the family I’ve always imagined having isn’t going to be with this woman, the only woman I’ve ever loved?” “Who am I, if I’m not with her?” God seemed so far away… like he was stubbornly silent in my misery and despair.

Weeks of illness and pain turned into months and then into years. I can’t tell you the number of nights I went to bed hearing Ashley’s gentle sobs as she dealt with her intense pain. I can tell you from personal experience – no amount of melatonin will help you sleep when your best friend is lying awake next to you in unspeakable anguish. That is a truly dark and hopeless place to be. When I close my eyes and imagine what hell might look like, those are the memories and experiences that come to mind. That was life from 2011-2015. For four years, I woke up every day, accepted the disappointment of yet more unanswered prayers and put my head down to try and survive. It felt more often than not that we were just grinding out the clock. 

Yet, here I am today… eight years later. As I sit here writing this, Ashley’s battle continues. However, thanks be to God, in recent years my wife has slowly begun to reclaim the ground of her former life. She has a “new normal” in many ways – new diet, unconventional doctors and complex routines – but she is coming back to life. In 2017, six years after our journey began, Ashley was finally given a formal diagnosis of Lyme Disease, most likely from a tick bite at a summer BBQ back home in Oklahoma years ago. 

Since then, she has been on a holistic treatment plan with a fantastic doctor and we can finally see some light at the end of this tunnel. It has been awful, but yet we both today count this chapter in our life as one of God’s richest blessings. I have never been prouder of my wife. I have never been so inspired by her strength, courage and faith. I have never taken her less for granted.

It was only in her moments of pain and suffering that we arrived at a point where we had to fully rely on God to get us through. It was in our deepest anguish that He brought some amazing people to our side to help us through – people like Ashley’s parents, Gary and Terry, who literally put their life on hold to accompany us to countless appointments, road trips to clinics, and surgery recoveries. They were with us through everything.

In the midst of so many unanswered prayers, God was writing an incredible story for us to tell – and giving us a deep empathy and heart for so many others we have since met who are navigating such similar struggles in their lives.  God could have made Ashley better at any point throughout these last eight years. We both believe that 100%. But He knew that doing so would have cheapened the blessings that have flowed from this season of our lives. 

In reality, Ashley’s illness has been a Holy place in and of itself, teaching us so much about the character and steadfast Spirit of God, instilling in both of us a concrete understanding of our complete and total need for Him every day. It has simultaneously been the worst and best thing to ever happen to us.

My experience with all that Ashley went through was from the perspective of her caretaker, her husband, her best friend. As much as I have wanted to take her suffering away, I have been stuck on the sidelines of her suffering. All I could do was to try and help keep her comfortable and make sure she knew that I was by her side, through thick and thin. She lived through it from a much different angle, and her story is similar… but also very different. 

That is why I am so excited to let you know that Ashley has agreed to share her story on Undone next week as my first-ever Guest Blogger. Hers is a powerful testimony to the strength and endurance that comes from a deep and daily reliance on Christ in the midst of incredible uncertainty. I cannot wait for her to share it with you all.

Until then, may you continue to be reminded that God is in control, and He is FOR US in all things, whether those things are what we are praying for… or the exact opposite. What we go through doesn’t change who God is and what He has done for us. Ever.

In His Love, HB 

Undone {and Unanswered} – Pt. 1

I will be first. I will be the best. I will stand out. I will prove them all wrong. I can’t trust anyone. The best course for me is to go it alone. I don’t need anyone else.

Growing up in brokenness, those are just a few of the agreements I made with the Enemy. Those were just a few of the lies he whispered to me in my childhood that I chose to accept as truth… that I let develop into a stronghold in my soul. Those lies were the compass I oriented the map of my life around. My start in life was unfair, and the only way I would ever feel vengeance or achieve validation would be to out-rank, out-earn, and out-achieve all of those who had doubted me… who made me feel I wasn’t worthy or didn’t belong.

I convinced myself that this was called motivation… drive… ambition. In reality, I was creating a spirit of vengeance and independence. I let lies control my life and shape my path. For a good two decades or more, I ignored God’s plan for my life entirely. 

I put God on pause for a while so I could settle a few scores. It was my time.

Of course, that was all a mirage. Earning a graduate degree didn’t help. Buying a big house didn’t help. Achieving the title of President/CEO didn’t help. Earning a six figure paycheck didn’t help. None of those achievements and accomplishments ever made me feel vindicated or avenged; none of it addressed the true need I had. The “victories” I achieved from my own work somehow just felt hollow. After the celebrations were over, I still went home hurting… unsatisfied. Does that sound familiar?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus addresses this same emptiness in a conversation at Jacob’s well with a Samaritan woman. Both Jesus and the woman are at the well to satisfy a real and immediate need they have – it is hot and they are tired and thirsty. However, Jesus uses the opportunity to teach the woman that – although we are able to seek and find things that may meet our immediate physical needs or desires – there is only one who can truly quench the thirst we have inside of us for something deeper. Jesus is the One, and He offers us not just any water… but living water. “Everyone who drinks this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:13-14).”

In accepting the gift of forgiveness and salvation that Jesus offers us, he gives us something we can’t give ourselves – grace and mercy.

Accepting the grace of Christ has healed much of the damage I inflicted on myself early in life. For example, growing up believing lies about myself, I made an agreement with the Enemy not to let other people get close to me. I kept everyone at an arm’s length. I would only share so much. I would only be so vulnerable. In most encounters, I would offer up the standard fare – work, weather, sports, travel – typical “surface stuff.” What I have realized since recommitting my life to Jesus is that, in order to fully live out His true calling for my life, I need His help to break down my learned defensive mechanisms. My old ways and instincts have to be undone. 

At 34, I am re-learning how to be vulnerable… how to be myself.  

That work doesn’t only happen in private behind closed doors. Christ calls us into community with other believers. I am learning to live out my vulnerability and brokenness in front of others. It is happening in real time with people I love and care deeply about… and it has been amazing. The Lord has brought some incredible people into my life and the relationships I have been able to form with them have been so much deeper and so much more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined. In being honest and open with others, I have discovered so many similarities between my story and the stories of others. It has been a healing experience for me and it has also given me a front row seat to the awesome power with which God can move in peoples’ lives.

So what happens in those relationships when God chooses to let our most heartfelt and sincere prayers to Him remain unanswered, or when we get the opposite of what we believe to be the best outcome? Next week, I look forward to continuing this story and sharing about the biggest unanswered prayer in my life to date. It has taught me so much about who God is and it has revealed to me so much about His plans for my life.

Until then, I pray that you will have (or continue to have) the courage and strength to be open and vulnerable in your relationships with others. Doing so gives God the power to show you His complete purpose for bringing people into our life or across our path. You will be glad you did.

In His Love, HB

Undone {from the Start}

My parents divorced when I was a baby. I have no memory of them ever being married. I have never known what it is like to have my mother and father living under the same roof. I have never shared a family dinner together with my mom and dad at the same table. I never looked into the audience from stage at school to see them sitting together with their arms around each other, cheering me on at my school plays or recitals. When I slip into a daydream of what that might have been like, I inevitably come crashing back to my reality. It hurts.

The reality of living among brokenness is that our dreams can be undone by factors far beyond our own control.

Early in my life, I can remember the lies of the Enemy being whispered over me as I dealt with the impact of growing up in a divorced home. It was easier than you might imagine for a “normal” child like me to feel like my parents’ divorce was my fault– like I wasn’t enough of a reason for my parents to stay together and try to work things out. I remember being angry with God for not seeing fit to give me a “normal life.” My friends didn’t have to pack a bag and go to their dad’s house every other weekend; their dad was at home with them each night after work. 

I felt responsible. I felt inadequate. I felt different.

Those feelings of worthlessness and guilt, if left unchecked, give life to bitterness… anger… depression. When the harsh reality hits that life is unfair and that there are no “do overs,” it often hits like a ton of bricks. It is precisely in those moments that I need to be reminded most of the good, good FatherI have in Jesus. There is real and powerful relief that comes from letting that weight be undone {by Christ}.

There is no such thing as a divorce when it comes to Jesus. He is the only person in this universe who has the capacity and the desire to fully love us, at the same time knowing fully every fault… every flaw. Jesus is the only One who yearns to spend every minute of our life with us, even though we rarely make enough time in our day to meet with Him. He is the embodiment of selfless, unwavering, unconditional love. His Word assures us that He will never leave us, nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6). 

My story unraveled from the start, outside of my control, in imperfect human hands.With the benefit of 34 years of hindsight, I can understand that my parents weren’t perfect people who intentionally hurt me. They were back then just as I am today – imperfect, unsure, and trying the best they could in a messed up world. I can see myself making their same missteps today. Realizing my parents are just as broken as I am has given me the power to fully and unconditionally forgive them for the mistakes they made that impacted me. The truth is, through Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins, we have all been offered a gift of grace and love that we don’t deserve.

Forgiving my parents and understanding who they are in the eyes of Jesus has given me immense freedom from the guilt and shame I carried. That freedom has led me down new and rewarding paths in my walk with the Lord, and has given me such a heart to help others in my community who are struggling under similar burdens. 

Today, I get to share some exciting news with you.

I am honored to be joining the staff of a terrific organization here in Greenville, North Carolina, called the Third Street Education Center. Third Street has a 100-year vision to see generations transformed through the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Third Street exists in three parts – a Christian boys’ academy, a small business and workforce development incubator, and community impact efforts throughout West Greenville. In my new position as Director for Ministry Partnerships, I will be focused on growing and building relationships with those who feel called to support the work of Third Street as we see God rewriting the stories of people living in a broken world through the redeeming power of his Son. 

This begins a new chapter in my story, and I am thankful that you are along for the journey. I invite you to continue watching God do His work, and I thank each of you for your continued prayers over Ashley and I as we buckle up for whatever comes next.

Until next week, I pray that each of you will find the power through Jesus to forgive those who have hurt you – and to release yourself from the chains of un-forgiveness in the process – so that you can truly live out the plans God has for you. There is so much more to the story God is writing through your life. 

No matter what you’re walking through, you don’t walk alone.

If you find yourself struggling with the impacts of divorce (or other burdens) in your life, I hope you will click Connect at the top of my page and let me know how I can walk with you and pray for you as you work through it with the Lord.

In His Love, HB

{Finally} Undone

God has been calling me to lean into my love of writing for some time now, but today marks the first time I finally made a conscious decision to obey Him. I suspect most of you are like me in that you feel you have God-given gifts or talents, but yet you struggle to give them the time and attention they need to truly be developed and used for His glory. If you’re reading that last sentence and thinking, “Sounds familiar,” welcome to the club. You’re in good company, I promise.

I have no idea who, if anyone, will choose to spend their precious time following along as I tell my story here. My simple prayer is that it is helpful to someone – even if that person is the only soul other than me (and my sweet, supportive wife) to ever lay eyes on this blog. If that were the case, it would have totally been worth it. If you think you might be that one person, please know that God called me to do this so that He could speak to you through my story. I prayed that He would allow me to be a tool by which He could reach others – that he would use my story as a way to illustrate how similar we all are at the end of the day in our longing for him. If that one person is you, I hope you’ll click ‘Connect’ at the top of my page and let me know how I can help you and pray for you in your walk with Christ.

Undone. According to Merriam – Webster, one definition of that word means unfinished or not yet done. The other definition, you ask? Destroyed. Destroyed… as in, no longer in existence. Wiped off the map. Completely put under. No more. I know what you might be thinking at this point. “Destroyed was not exactly my end goal when I set out to intentionally follow Christ, so why in the world would you choose to center a whole blog around it?” In short, being destroyed wasn’t anywhere in my grand plans when I started out either. Trust me.

The only problem with our grand plans is that they are not usually God’s plans. The plans we typically make are drafted, approved and implemented by us. We’re the head honcho. We’re firmly in the driver’s seat of our life. When we make the choice to substitute God’s plans with our own plans, Christ’s response is often to lovingly change His mission from “search and rescue” to “seek and destroy.” God has a sometimes not-so-gentle and usually not-so-subtle way of undoing our plans in a way that opens our eyes to our need for His guidance and wisdom in our life. Don’t get me wrong, to be undone {by Christ} is a blessing. Why? Because the plans God replaces ours with are so much bigger and so much better than our own!

Being undone {by Christ} means more of His plans and less of our own.

Whenever I need to remind myself of these truths (which is often, in full transparency), I find comfort in His Word. Many Christians are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, but I love how it is laid out in The Message version. He reminds us there, “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not to abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.” (Jer. 29:11-12) The Lord has His own, perfect plans for our life. By seeking Him and praying for Him to reveal His plans to us, our own “grand” plans (which look small in hindsight) are undone. In the smoldering wreckage of the life we tried to build on our own, we can always take heart in God’s promise that His plans – which He made for us before we even came into existence – are perfect and wonderful, as it says in Isaiah 25:1, “Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”

We don’t need to spend time worrying about how to achieve something God has already accomplished. Instead, we can spend that time praying for God to reveal what needs to be undone – destroyed – in order to make room. Only then can He take his rightful place at the center of our life and reveal His perfect, wonderful plans of restoration for us.

Next week, I will begin to share more about the plans I made for myself from childhood, and when I began to first believe in the lies of the Enemy that it was “all about me.” I promise you, God laughed when He saw it playing out. Before our time together next week, I hope that you will reflect on the things you need God to undo in your life. I encourage you to pray for him to destroy your own plans so that, in the empty, bombed out shell of your former self, He is glorified and lifted up through what comes next…

He is good, and He hears our prayers. If you’d like to share your prayer request with me also, I hope you will click “Connect” at the top of my page and let me know how I can pray specifically for you. Until next week, may God bless you and keep you.

In His Love, HB