Beauty from Ashes…

Short, sweet and to the point…….

A few months ago I was asked to share my testimony at the Angie Smith conference the SBCV just had. I initially was going to say no as I was honestly a bit ‘scared.’ It was a seemingly daunting thought to stand up in front of 800+ women and ‘speak’ this testimony of mine… speak it is much much different than simply writing it. However, I came to the decision that how dare I squash an opportunity to point to the hope and unfailing love of our Savior. So, I did it. And can I tell you that when you are obedient to the Lord and do something that solely honors and glorifies Him, He will indeed give you an unexplainable peace in the midst of what could be an overwhelming moment. He will give you an opportunity that seems so undeserved.
IMG_6424This was a moment where I completely stepped aside and allowed the Lord to use me and speak through me. #lifechanging My hearts prayer in this opportunity was no one would see me or hear my story but instead hear a love story of Jesus Christ.
I share this to say, if you are in the midst of something that seems unbearable…hold fast my friend. He is there. He is faithful.
A time will come in your journey that causes you to realize that when you wept uncontrollably, when it didn’t seem light was at the end of the tunnel, when all else seemed to fail: The One you know remained, He did indeed remain. Because He is faithful and He does redeem and He does in fact use you for His glory. Even when you think it’s impossible, hope peeks thru.
Don’t give up friend, no matter where you are in the storm; you are loved and thought of…even in that moment you don’t think you can breathe….He is there. He is there waiting to breathe new life into the place that looks like it is beyond repair.
He loves you. He will mend you. He will make you whole. He is a good God. He is a faithful God.
He is a Redeemer, a Rescuer, a Mighty Fortress.
He is our God.

If you’d like to hear my testimony here is the video:

Just a note….


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Sarah Vanderford Photography

I know so many of my blogs have been so heavy with emotion and I just felt compelled to write one with a heart full of joy.  I share with you an experience from this week:

I had a little traveling to do this week and one night found me in a hotel room in Winston-Salem.  I had about a four-hour drive there and I have to say, I love long car rides… ALONE!  On those car rides, I am doing one of two things:  listening to music and singing at the top of my lungs OR just talking to the Lord and reflecting. (This is why I love the new “Bluetooth” thing in cars now because people will think you are just talking on the phone not to yourself when they drive by….ha!)  So, I had this time to really just talk to the Lord, reflect over ‘life’ and just praise Him for all He has done and is doing.  And while I don’t think that we have words adequate enough to praise Him for who He is, I use the words He has given me and I love to just be able to speak out loud praises to the Lord…”You are amazing God”, “thank you Lord for all you have done”, “I am overwhelmed by You God” and so on.  Yes, those may sound like song lyrics because it may just be the song I just listened to…ha!  So, after my car ride sitting in my hotel room tears overtook me.  These weren’t sad tears though.  These were tears of happiness, tears of joy, tears of a heart that’s just exploding with gratitude for what the Lord is doing and has done over the last almost two years.  I hadn’t really just sat and reflected on it in quite awhile.  So as I sat in the quietness of a hotel room, it simply overwhelmed me.  For many reasons it did:  One, just simply for all He has done but also something else that was just neat:  —I was reviewing some reports from my blog that are sent to me.  My measly little blog that the Lord put a stirring in me to do just over a year ago.  I really wasn’t sure about this blog thing, never thought I’d be a blogger and certainly had no idea where it would take me…..{The Lord is doing BIG things in my heart and in my life!  These things will unfold as time goes on and I will be excited to share them with you!}  But on this report it told me that over the last year my blog has reached over 8,000 people.   Maybe that’s not significant in your mind or not a big number to you but to me, it flat out BLOWS. MY. MIND.  Please don’t misunderstand me – I am not trying to sing my own praises AT ALL.  Yes, it’s so neat to think that many people have read my blog.  But what I am excited about is the fact that over 8,000 people have been exposed to the redeeming love of an incredible Savior.   Over 8,000 people have been exposed to the hope of a Savior, the grace of a Savior the LOVE of a Savior.  My heart is soaring for that.  And I can tell you this:  because of this very thing – I am thankful the Lord took me through what He did.  I am thankful to have experienced what I did.  Some will never understand that but I would not be who I am today should I not have walked through what I did and if even one person runs into the arms of my God and can experience new life through Him, it was all worth it.

He has restored my soul, renewed my mind, redeemed my being.  I stand amazed in the presence of Christ.

Thank you sweet friends for standing beside, loving and encouraging me through it all.  I am humbled.




One year ago today………

One year ago today it all crashed.  All the plates I had spinning, the balls I was juggling….crashed.  Everything crumbled.  Betrayal, anger, hurt and heartbreak took over.  Hearts were shattered…..many many hearts were broken.  The feeling of desperation and hopelessness was overwhelming for a time.  It is a feeling of being lost and not sure how you are going to make it through until you finally grasp the depravity of the situation and realize the one and only thing you can and should cling to is the hope you find in a Savior.  That Savior is Jesus Christ.

This day has been looming the last few weeks.  I have a frighteningly good memory as far as specific dates go.  That is a blessing and a curse as you often remember things you really don’t want to remember.  Walking through these last few weeks knowing this day was coming, I have talked to my closest friends and encouragers in addition to talking it through with Jeremy.  Everyone has asked “how are you doing?”  “How are you feeling about it…”  Well friends, I can say I walk into it with freedom and peace.  Yes, a tiny bit stings thinking back on it because it was a horrible and tragic day.  However, looking back and reflecting and then evaluating today, I have nothing to hide.  Absolutely nothing.  Zero, zilch, nada.  I walk in a freedom today that only comes from total and complete surrender to the Lord.  What a beautiful feeling that is.  Today Jeremy and I walk hand and hand – nothing standing between us.  Jeremy and I both say we are grateful to have walked this path over the last year.  I am sure you are saying “WHAT?”  Yes friends, we are grateful.  The Lord has created such a beautiful place for us now in our walk with Him, in our marriage and in our everyday lives.  We have learned A LOT that I am excited to share with you in the coming days.  We walk in a peace and contentment that can’t be matched.   Our faith was certainly put to the test – we overcame a great obstacle.  It is only by the grace given to us through Jesus Christ that He has cleansed me and made me new and also made our marriage new.

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I have chosen obedience.  Jeremy has chosen obedience.  The Lord is still working and we are still learning.  Our journey is only getting better.  Through obedience you are blessed with reward.  Do you know what my reward is right now?  A clear conscience. Praise Jesus for that.

I’m excited to share more over the next weeks and months about what the Lord has done and is continuing to do.  Also, what His word says about many things that have transformed my heart over the last year.

Above all – above anything I have said over the last several months remember this:

The greatest reward is to live in God’s presence and enjoy His glory.  Do you know Him?  Let me tell you friends, He is hope.  He is peace.  He is joy.  The ONLY….the ONLY way Jeremy and I have made it this far is through Jesus Christ.  If you don’t know Him today, all it takes is asking Him to come in to your life.  Surrender all to Him and acknowledge He is Lord over your life.  It will be the best decision you have ever made and ever will.

My heart has spoken…..

11807658_10205904253620330_2892730518433644417_oApril, 2015

This is a story about a girl.  A girl who did an unthinkable thing.  A girl who had an affair with one of her best friend’s husband. That girl was me.  It’s a story of a life, a beautiful life interrupted with bad choices, consequences and a redeeming love.  If even one person can find hope in this or if one maybe finds themselves in the situation I was, prayerfully this could help them think through, ponder and maybe stop before they do something that will change the course of life….forever.  My heart’s prayer is to reach even just one.

When you hear of things like this it is so easy to judge and even hate the person.  I say that because I did that.  I have been in several situations through life where someone close to me or someone I have known has had an affair.  And you know what I said:  “How does someone do that?”  “How could she do that to her friend?”  “He obviously has no heart” “She has no morals” “I want nothing to do with that person” and so on.  I judged.  And I judged harshly.  Never thinking I would put myself in that situation and be ‘that girl’.  But I will tell you what it all boils down to….sin. Sin is ugly, sin is yucky, sin is hurtful, sin is hateful, sin destroys.   But sin “looks pretty”, sin “feels good” and sin “justifies”.  When we allow the enemy in, he goes on a rampage. He is on a mission: Steal.  Kill.  Destroy. (See John 10:10)  And boy, he did just that – He stole, he killed and he destroyed.  But praise God my story doesn’t end there.  We serve an incredible God, a merciful God; a beautiful Savior.  And He is our victory!  Nevertheless, there are consequences.  Here is a bit of my story:

It was a beautiful friendship.  This was one we truly believed that the Lord had orchestrated and blessed.  You see, we met each other in another state.  In fact, our husbands met first and became fast friends and then we met.  We had just moved to this state and ended up living just barely a mile away from her and she became a dear friend who was my saving grace in a place where I knew no one.  We began to spend many nights together: cooking dinners, watching movies, playing games and so on.  The 4 of us just had a blast together.  You don’t often come across friends like this.  Several months later something really neat happened:  We ended up moving here to VA at the very same time.  Our stuff literally came up on the very same moving truck.  I mean, how cool is that?  Our friendship continued here, again living barely a mile from each other.  We rarely ever went a day without some kind of communication.  This was someone who I truly treasured in life.  She was loyal, thoughtful, she was an encourager, she challenged me, held me accountable spiritually……goodness, I could go on.   We spent birthdays together, holidays together, vacationed together, I was even there the moment she had her precious baby girl.  We just did life together.  It was truly a blessing.  Then, just 2 short years after this beautiful friendship began, in one summer day, things began to slip.   From one simple conversation that turned into a 3 hour-long conversation late into the night between her husband and I, something changed.  In an instant it changed.  For many months nothing else really happened other than a few inappropriate text messages but all the while my heart became vulnerable.  It was just a slippery slope to bigger things.  The enemy got the toehold: an inappropriate conversation. Two people, close friends….what’s the big deal?  No one needs to know.  Nothing would ever come of it. The occasional glance, occasional text… means nothing right? Wrong.  The second…….the very second you let the littlest thing creep in and you don’t do anything about it, you justify it and Satan sees “go”.  Eight months later,  I crossed a line.  I crossed a line I never imagined in my life I would.  That toehold turned into a foothold.  One text turns into five, which turns into phone conversations, which turns into long chats at Starbucks over a french press.  Justification for everything begins to set in.   A foothold becomes a stronghold.  You start to reason all your actions out so it makes it ok in your mind.  Then you completely let your guard down and any voice of reason goes out the window.  Things you never thought you’d do, you’re doing.  Places you never thought you’d go, you are going.  And somehow in that deceived mind of yours, everything is ok.  Somehow it’s all going to turn out alright.  It feels good and right, so you make it all ok.  This happens when you turn your focus from ‘Him’(God) to ‘me’.  What a scary place to be.  Before you know it, you are telling someone who isn’t your spouse and is in fact one of your best friend’s husband, that you love each other.  You are planning a life together that looks so grand.  We even had a song we claimed was “our song”.   We were convincing each other that somehow the Lord would work this out.  We were “meant to be together” so God would work it out.  WHAT?  I know, from the outside looking in, that rationale seems so absolutely insane.  I know.  But friend, when you are in it, you don’t see straight and it “feels so right.”  Frightening how the enemy is that good at deceiving.

I have an incredible husband.  We had what I thought was a wonderful marriage.  He is an incredible man that treasures me, takes care of me and most important is a solid, strong godly man….a girl could not ask for a more amazing man than what I have.  Yet, I went somewhere else.  I thought something else was better.  It was exciting, new, dangerous and enticing, all wrapped up with a bow on top.  Something I didn’t set out to find, and certainly didn’t set out to get.  Who would purposely think:  “I want my best friend’s husband.  Let me work on that.”  You know?  I promise you friends, I have so many days that I look back and think…what in the world?  You look in the mirror and think:  How did I get here?  How does this happen?

Let me be clear on this:  When little things, even the littlest, are compromised; they become big things.  I promise you.  And then before you know it, your heart is somewhere you never, ever thought it would be and you are entangled in something you never thought you would do.  When you are so deep in sin, you begin to justify everything and somehow in your heart and mind make what you are doing “ok.”

For many months I spoke out of both sides of my mouth.  In the process, I hurt many people.  I said some pretty yucky things about that precious friend I had.  I even spoke of things that were told to me in confidence hoping that I would “throw people off.”  Hoping that by telling them these things they would never think that he and I were “having an affair.”  Oh, the great lengths we go to cover up our sin.  Have you ever heard the saying:  “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”   It is true.  100% no question, no exceptions…true.   The damage I did, the hurt that I caused still takes my breath away.  It’s disturbing.  I totally understand how anyone looking in, seeing what I did, hearing the things I said could think I’m a horrible person, because I would think the same!  But let me say:  I beg you, in this moment to realize:  people mess up.  We are human.  When we allow sin in, it penetrates into the depths of our heart and mind and brings out the ugliest of uglys.  The holes we dig in sin are deep.

This is just the beginning of a story of heartbreak, hope, redemption and victory.  I am still living this story out and want to regularly share my heart — the hope, the struggle, the everything.   But right now, here are some thoughts on my realities of now:

*In the midst of such a horrific situation, there is hope. There is a hope of a Savior.  There is a hope of an incredible God who breathes life into broken-hearted people.  He is our redemption.  The last 8 months I have retreated.  I have stepped away from every responsibility but what was most important.  First and foremost, my relationship with my God.  Second, my relationship with my husband and third, my children.  I had lost that.  I lost all of my priorities for a bit.  So, in order for me to regain that, I had to shut down everything around it and focus wholeheartedly on it.  Friend, I can tell you my relationship with the Lord has never been more real and more present than it has become in the last 8 months.  My relationship with my husband has been restored and where I thought we had a great marriage prior, the Lord has shown me what an incredible marriage can be.  My focus on my sweet boys had been lost and for a while — they didn’t have a “present” Momma.  That has changed.  God can restore.  God will restore.  You have to allow Him.  He can restore ANYTHING — I believe that with all my heart.

*You cannot ever comprehend the destruction your sin causes.  If we don’t listen to the Lord, He will eventually let us go our own way.  When you toy with sin, you are blatantly disrespecting and defying Jesus Christ.  He will try to stop you.  However, if you continue to push on, there comes a time when He will eventually let you choose your own path.  And when that happens, only one ending will happen: disaster and someone (in my case many someones) will get hurt.  For example,  just after this all came out I found myself laying on the bathroom floor with my husband as he wept uncontrollably, looking at me saying “how could you do this?”  “you have broken my heart!”  “What did I do to you to make you want to do this?”  It was the most awful moment of my entire life.  To hear the sobs and look into the eyes of a man who loves you so much and realize that you have hurt him to the core of his being to where he couldn’t physically stand up is the most horrific, heart-wrenching moment I have ever felt.  And I can tell you, I never ever EVER want to go back there.  Another example:  to lose a friend at the hand of your actions that you thought you would have for a lifetime is completely heartbreaking.  To hurt that person so much, they can’t bear the thought of even looking at or talking to me, is agonizing.

*Each time we disregard His Word, we are opening ourselves up to the traps of Satan.  If your actions, your thoughts or your words do not align with God’s word…it’s not good.  If you have to justify it….it’s not good. This principle is SO simple — but when you are in the midst of that moment, we try to make it complicated!    I mean come on, I learned it in Sunday School at age 2:  “Sin is bad. Don’t do it.”  Then we grow up and life happens.  That is why it is SO vital to seek God’s Word EVERYDAY, stay in His Word EVERYDAY!  The enemy takes hold fast.  We are all just one choice, one decision away from that toehold.  I urge you to stay on guard.  Stay in His Word.  Make the Word of God real in your life!  No one grows spiritually simply by knowing facts.  So again, make His Word real.  Obey and apply what you read on a daily basis.  Don’t ever deceive yourself into thinking “it won’t happen to me.”   I swore I’d never have an affair.  I had seen its effects on people.  But, I did it.  Friend, my heart’s prayer for you is that it won’t happen to you.  So, seek Him and stand guard.  Always.

*For someone who has what my counselor calls a “wooing” personality – life is tough right now.  By “wooing” I mean, I am someone who likes to please people, I like to ‘do’ for people, I like to make people smile.  On the flip side, I hate when I feel I have disappointed people, I hate when I think people think negatively of me and I hate when I think people don’t like me.  I want to make everything right and everyone happy.  So, when you do something like what I did: your “wooing” personality is shaken.  We have lost a few friends through this, I have obviously lost many people’s trust and some folks won’t even acknowledge my existence.  It stings.  And every. single. thing. you have ever done is called into question.  The things you have done with the best intentions are twisted into negative things.  Things you have said are manipulated into awful things.  Sadly, some have even made up things about me.  All the while, all I want to do is scream out, “I made a very bad choice!  I promise I am a good person!  I promise the Lord has transformed me!”  But, I can’t.  I have to live this out.  I won’t “fight” for friends.  I can’t try to prove myself.  It’s really not important.  My God is the only standard I have to live up to.  So, I simply pray every single day that by honoring Him, people will see that I am broken.  I am humbled.  That the Lord has done a mighty work in my life through the past 8 months and still is.  He tells us in His Word:  Be still. Trust in Him.  So every day I surrender the day to Him.  Daily surrender.  Some days it works better than others.  And that is why I am SO thankful for new mercies every single morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

In saying all of that, I want to ask something.  I ask you that in the instance you find yourself hearing about something someone has done, sweet friend, please don’t judge, insult or gossip in that moment.  I beg you.  As awful as it is, please don’t criticize.  But instead, let your heart break for them and pray for them.  And if the moment allows, encourage them.  But I plead with you — don’t turn away, don’t judge.  You have no idea what got that person to that point, and how they feel right now.  Let me tell you, when you wake up from the slumber of sin, it is a drowning, deafening, heartbreaking, lonely feeling.