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:

Walking through Restoration

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Sarah Vanderford Photography

This is for the ones who are in the pit and aren’t quite sure they’ll make it out.  Maybe you had an affair, maybe you had an abortion, whatever bad choice it is….just know, hope is not lost.   Rest assured that this sin you have struggled with, its already been overcome by the blood of Jesus Christ.  There is forgiveness and freedom offered through His redeeming love.

Last Wednesday, for the first time in over two years, I began teaching a bible study again.  It was a brand new feeling for me and a joyous one at that.  Friends, this is part of my story of restoration lived out.  This is part of the story that I share to give hope to those feeling defeated or completely broken right now.  You may be in the darkest moments, questioning if the Lord will ever use you again.  He can and He will.  However, this requires hard work and obedience from you.  This is no easy process but one filled with victory when you pursue it.  This is a process that requires true repentance, surrender, hard work and obedience.

Repentance – This is not only confessing sin with your mouth but also with your heart.  We can all say “God forgive me for what I’ve done,” but until you have confessed it in your heart and become completely broken over the depravity and awfulness of your sin, you cannot move forward.  I had to come to a point where I saw Jesus hanging on the cross for my sin and it finally wrecked me.  I wanted nothing of it and fell to my knees.

Surrender – I surrendered every single piece of me to the Lord.  I gave Him the ability to do whatever He needed to do with me to heal me.  He removed me from everything I was involved in.  I knew that in order for healing to take place in every aspect of my life, it was imperative to retreat and focus solely on restoration.

Hard Work and Obedience – Heed wise counsel.  The Lord blessed me with an incredible Christian counselor whom I saw weekly (sometimes more!) for over a year.  {Just a little “soapbox” moment here:  when you are seeing a counselor – get your money’s worth.  What I mean is:  if you are going to spend the money and time to get counseling – actually go in there and be honest with them and yourself.  Otherwise, it’s a waste of your time and your money!}   In seeing her, she spoke Truth to me, redirected my thinking when that was appropriate and gave me biblically based tools to equip me.  In addition to seeing a ‘professional’ counselor, I surrounded myself with wise counsel through friendships.  I kept a small circle of woman close that not only encouraged me but they too would speak Truth to me and corrected me when necessary.  This is all under “hard work and obedience” because when you are given wise counsel, sometimes the pill is hard to swallow in what you are instructed to do.  But, you have to be obedient and do it.  These people are who the Lord has given you to walk this part of your journey out.  Listen and Do.  It is hard.  Some of is it really hard.   It’s got to be because at least for me, I was coming out  something awful.  Really really awful. So, I needed the hard, the really really hard.

Through this entire process, the key is staying in God’s Word, filling your heart and mind with God’s Word and living out God’s Word.  Truth – always Truth.  Through this process, my heart was gutted.  I know, that sounds so terrible but it’s the only way to describe it.  There was so much yuck and filth in there, it needed to be gutted.  The Word of God has been the foundation in which my heart was restored.  It is now filled full of His Promises and His Truth.  Psalm 51 was one I read many many days.  It has beautiful truths and promises throughout.  I want to share a few verses from it:

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. Psalm 51:12-15

  1. I prayed daily for the Lord to give me a pure heart.(v12)  He did.
  2. I asked Him to restore me.(v12) He has and now I am excited to “teach His ways!”(v13)
  3. I asked Him to forgive me.(v14) He has and now I joyfully sing of His righteousness!(v14)

My lips are open now and declaring His love and faithfulness!  He graciously accepts us and forgives us when we come to Him humble, honest and willing.  He loves you friend and He will use you.

I wanted to share the hard part of this because I never want to fill this blog with ‘fluff.’  I don’t ever want to mislead anyone into thinking this journey is easy.  It’s hard work but so very worth it.  And don’t think for a second that the enemy will take a break on you.  He is waiting for you to give up.  He is waiting for you to become defeated.  Don’t sweet friend.  Our Lord has so much more for you.  And just like me, as He renews and restores you, He will give you opportunities to use the gifts He created you with.

As I stood in the classroom last week before the study began, the enemy was steadily trying to get in my head and my heart as he had many times over the last several weeks.  “No one is coming Dawn.”  “They know you are teaching and people don’t want to hear from you Dawn.”  “People think you’re a liar Dawn.”  “You are a scam Dawn.”  And in that moment I said, “you are a liar Satan” and I once again prayed for the Lord to calm my heart and use me for His glory.  He did.  Woman after woman came in that classroom until we couldn’t put anyone else in there.  And in that moment, the Lord spoke to me and said, “here it is Dawn, now let me use you.”

I now have the privilege of teaching His Word again to several beautiful women.  And I now understand what a privilege it is to be part of ministry.  One that I will never again take for granted.  (Yes, I said never!)  I understand that it is not me that’s great, it is Him that works in and through me that is.  Pride has no part in the Lord’s work.  Humility does.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

I don’t know how He will use you and your story sweet friend but He will.   Stay with it, even in the tough stuff because victory is on the other side.

Two Years Later…


img_4884Sometimes I wonder how I even made it through that week.  I knew for a week’s time that I was going to have to confess to Jeremy.  I just had to wait for him to get home from a trip to tell him.  One night that week found me laying on the bathroom floor trying to get even a minutes sleep in between waiting for the heaves over the toilet to subside.  My entire being was distraught thinking about the fact that I may be days away from losing my husband, my children, basically my life as I knew it because of my choices.  Sin destroys you spiritually, mentally and sometimes even physically.  Confession and surrender redeems you entirely.

Today marks two years.  Two years of a journey that has gone from the greatest depths of heartache, betrayal and brokenness one could imagine to victory and hope.  You might wonder why I even ‘remember’ these specific days.  Maybe you are saying, “why don’t you just forget it and move on.”  Well, I’ve definitely moved on but let me tell you this:  trauma changes you – whether it be trauma you brought on yourself or trauma from a tragic accident, whatever trauma it is, it changes you.  That is why I remember.  I never want to sweep it under the rug, not talk about it or pretend it didn’t happen.  It’s my story, it changed me and I don’t ever want to forget it.

 I remember it for Grace:  I never quite understood what grace truly was until that is all that I could truly accept.  Grace upon grace upon grace.  My heart didn’t extend grace to others because I didn’t understand how much I needed it myself.  Yet, when it was extended to me from my God, my husband and many of those around me – it became clear what it was.   And so I remember this day so that I won’t forget how to truly extend grace to those around me.

I remember it for Hope:  Outside of grace the word I have clung to for these last two years is hope.  Hoping for different things at different times but always hope.  About a year before my world crumbled, I had bought a brand new devotional book by Beth Moore called Whispers of Hope. It was a devotional on prayer.  Yet, I never opened it.  You see, my heart was somewhere else, and I had a hard time praying.  How was I supposed to ‘pray’ when I was doing something so awful?  I felt like I couldn’t.  If I prayed, I would have to confess this thing and I just couldn’t do that.  So in those moments, because of myself, my lifeline to the Lord was quiet and that book remained unopened.  That is until everything was exposed; I was exposed and nothing was left to hide.  It was then that I came upon this book on my shelf and dared to open it.  When I bought that book, the Lord knew exactly when I’d open it. This book guided me on the days I was so lost for words, I didn’t know what to pray.  This book, which is also a journal, has written in it some of my most desperate heart cries and gut-wrenching thoughts from those first days and months.  Friend, I haven’t been able to open this book since I finished it.  I can’t bring myself to read the words I wrote.  I’m not sure I ever will.  But, what I know is that even in the midst of writing the agonizing thoughts and brokenness, I would still write out words of hope.  Just little bits of hope. “You are faithful Lord.”  “I trust you God.” Those words weren’t hard to write but at times they were hard to believe.  Yet, He was faithful.  And so, as I continue to walk this journey, I remain hopeful yet for many things.  But, I can say without any hesitation that the Lord has truly healed me, my husband and our marriage.  For that, I am eternally grateful. There are things I have hoped for over the last two years that I have yet to see happen.   When they don’t happen, I simply trust.  I trust that the Lord is working and in His time, I will see those things materialize.  I will not give up hope.

Through this journey I have learned to rely wholly on the Lord. I have learned to extend grace where before I would have rolled my eyes, judged in my heart and turned away.   I have learned that being obedient means completely surrendering yourself and doing what the Lord asks without doubt, hesitation or half-hearted effort.  So because of all I learned, I remember, I reflect and I continue to hope.

One final reason that I remember:  When I find myself hearing about someone in those same shoes, I can walk beside them in the depths of their darkness and say, “I understand.”  I can help them to know the hope of a Savior and the healing of surrender.  And before I start to judge, instead will be grace.  Always grace.


Two years and Hope later, I will continue.





Me7First – I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the response I received from my first blog post.  What an encouragement so many are!  So humbled and so grateful.  In addition, the Lord has already used those words for His glory.  And to that I say:  Praise Him – mission accomplished.

After such a huge story of what we have been through, I thought I’d follow up with how life is today as it has been 9 months since all came crashing down.

I received many text messages and emails after my previous post saying, “oh I’m so sad for you”  or “oh my heart hurts for you.”  I understand that completely and appreciate the compassion.  However, my response to all of that is; don’t be sad.  Rejoice with me.  Be sad for what I did, how it hurt people and the hurt that I brought to myself and my family, but rejoice with where life is taking us now and how the Lord is already using Jeremy and I through our testimony.  Rejoice with me at how the Lord takes these awful horrible things that Satan tries to destroy with and instead creates something NEW and something BEAUTIFUL from them.  Don’t get me wrong: some days life just flat out stinks.  Anxiety and sorrow overwhelm me and I don’t want to get out of bed.  It’s a fight.  Some days Jeremy is sad, or has a question pop in his head or longs for a friendship he no longer has.  BUT and that is a BIG “but” (whoops that sounds funny doesn’t it)…. BUT, in those moments is when we remember grace, we remember that the Lord has even better days ahead.  We stand boldly and firmly in our faith.  We continue to move confidently forward living out our testimony.  It is then that you see God work.  When you sit and stir in sorrow, anger, bitterness, jealousy, secrets – whatever it is – nothing will change.  You will not see His blessings, you will not see Him honored.  That is why daily Jeremy and I both choose to put one foot in front of the other, we choose to glorify Him by each morning asking Him – “how can you use ME today?”

We have been asked or rather questioned on how we could possibly be where we are today.  We have heard:  “there is no way they could be ‘happy’ just 9 months after all this has happened.” Let me be very transparent here for a minute and tell you that this was one of those things that I did myself.  Going back to that “judging” thing I talked about last time.  I too would say – “how can that woman hold that mans hand after what he did to her?”  “how could they possibly have ‘healed’ so quickly.”  “They are definitely faking it!”  and so on…..    Well I found out a little secret:  there is no timeline for these things.  There is no ‘manual’ on what happens when you are in these situations.  Not one person has ever handed us a book that says “on Day 52 you will be angry with each other.  On Day 77 you will cry and wonder.  On day 173 everything will be better!”    The one manual that has led us every step of the way is the Word of God.  {And by the way:  this manual isn’t a “pick and choose” thing.  It’s not whatever verse applies.  It is a “live by every single word it says” thing!  We don’t just choose what we feel is “easiest” or what “we think applies to us.”  Nope…it is an “all or nothing” kind of thing!}  Through seeking His word it has reminded us that God’s timing is NOT ours.  A lot of times we struggle with not seeing things happen in the timing we want to see it happen.  However, on the flip side – when something seems like it is going to take FOREVER to get through sometimes He surprises us and carries us through WAY quicker than we ever anticipated.  I believe the very reason this has happened with Jeremy and I is because of our faithfulness and obedience.  I wouldn’t have believed we would be here.  {Side note – we aren’t perfect, we do still have hurdles to jump and I am still living out some consequences for my actions} Every person, every couple is different.  However, no matter who you are, should you follow every bit of what scripture tells you – healing will come.  One of the things I was told at the very beginning of this was to be completely honest and empty myself of every single thing.  The person said, “It is better to be honest now than to stay in ‘self preservation mode’.  The entire truth will come out.  Better for him to hear it from you than someone else because he WILL hear it!”  So for three days after the fall out we laid awake at night for hours upon hours with me just telling Jeremy every single thing that was said, that was done, anything and everything.  While it was obviously VERY hard for him to hear – it broke down a wall.  It began the healing process.  He saw me broken, he saw me emptying myself.  The fact that truth was spoken from the very beginning – healing could begin.  And it did.  I surrendered everything.  You know who else surrendered?  Jeremy.  Jeremy surrendered his hurt, he surrendered his anger, he surrendered his questions.  That my friends, was amazing.  Can I just brag on my incredible husband for a minute?  To do what he did was a total and complete picture of the love and grace that our Father in heaven has for us.  This man looked past my betrayal, expressed his love for me and told me “I forgive you because The Lord forgave me”.  It wasn’t just words.  He did just that.  He forgave me and hasn’t ever thrown it back in my face.  He is the absolute picture of a Godly man.  I cannot even begin to express to you how incredibly blessed I am by this man.  Don’t get me wrong…..we have tough days.  We have struggles.  The Enemy still creeps in.  But, we are moving forward.  The Lord is daily healing us and has renewed the love and passion we have for each other.  It is all from surrender and obedience…no question.  We are a living testimony!

The other thing we have heard is “I’m sorry you lost friends. That is so sad.”  Yes, it is sad.  Our hearts mourn the loss of friends we had.  But, I also want to quickly say – we have incredible friends that have loved us through this.  They have encouraged us as a couple and stood wholeheartedly not moving beside us!  Even those we knew as acquaintances have become very dear precious friends that I believe we will have for a lifetime.  I also have several girlfriends that have overwhelmed me with love.  It is truly heart-warming to hear someone say to you, “I love you in spite of what you did.  My love for you as a friend has not wavered. We ALL make mistakes and yours is no different than mine.”  AGH!  Amazing isn’t it?  I am so grateful for the unwavering, nonjudgmental and encouraging friendships the Lord has so graciously put in my life!  In addition to all of this, we have an incredible church family that has completely wrapped their arms around us and loved us unconditionally through this.  We could not ask for a more beautiful group of people to share life with.

So, while life and our choices sometimes brings loss, hurt and heartache, the Lord renews and fills that in other ways.  Ways we don’t even deserve.

While this all is more or less a followup, I felt it necessary to share where we are today to not only “fill in the gap” but also to show that beauty does come from ashes.  Our bad choices can turn into great lessons.   Through truth, obedience and hard work – the Lord can and will restore.  He redeems and restores the broken chapters in our lives in ways we cannot even grasp or dare to imagine!

I am truly excited about what our Great King has in store in the next chapters.  Being free in Him and void of secrets, life knows no bounds.  Bumps in the road will come, heartache and sadness still take hold sometimes but He will prevail.  He has already won the victory and for that I cheer, shout and sing praise!  I am putting my seatbelt on, holding on tight to the Almighty and saying “what’s next?”    Join me on the journey…..

More later…..