I was invited to go to a woman’s retreat with ladies from my church and we would join with ladies from Ohio and South Carolina in a cabin in Tennessee. It all worked out for me to go days before it was time to jump in the car. I took my kiddo’s to grandparents in Indiana and then Brookie and Maryland met at my house so I could drive us to the cabin.

I didn’t know these ladies at all. I knew of Maryland but had never met Brooke. Brooke got to my house first and I wrapped my arms around her and said, “Hi! we are going to be best friends in 5 hours!” That’s how long it took to get there.

As we drove we each took turns sharing our stories like I knew we would. As I listened to Brooke’s story about her meeting her husband of 5 years now and how she honored him and spoke of him I was encouraged and convicted. I loved hearing stories from Maryland on becoming a Mother-in-law twice in one year. How she was seeking to respect and honor the new unions.


When we arrived at the cabin (It was really huge! ) I began to feel my heart drop. I felt like all those teen girls that would come to camp when I served in Head Waters that would say, “I don’t know why I’m here.”

That night Maryland was the one teaching. I felt so proud of my new car buddy bestie. I listen and of course was the first to break down and cry. I had been so concerned for my husband working 94 hours a week and not sleeping at all on fire nights. Marylin said, “let’s ask God to give you the desire of your heart that the needs would be met with just the fire job and not a second job also.” She prayed over me and challenged me that it was time to ask and be content at the same time. I had to humble myself and agree. I was so scared to ask God for anything I wanted. I shared about being molested and how I struggle to believe that God wants anything good for me and those connected to me.

Like I mentioned in my last post I could explain to you why and how this event in my life was robbing me of truth to that day!

The next day I had a terrible head ache all day and really felt like what is the point of me being here if God was just going to let me be in so much pain. I did get to share about my heart for painting God’s word and had supplies for all the gals to paint if they wanted to! It was so cool. A vision come to life!

That night we were had time set aside for a testimony. Guess who was sharing? My other new bestie Brookie!

What she shared and how she shared, oh man, I have never heard a testimony like it. I think it was also so powerful to me because I got to hear all the other stuff in the car as she saved her story of coming to Jesus for that night.

Brooke too was messed with sexually as a child. She rebelled in different ways than me but she didn’t have a trace of the old life on her. I spent 5 hours in the car with the woman, and I was shocked by her story because I would NEVER have guessed it. God had truly, redeemed and healed and given her a life and purpose completely centered on Him. As I listened I started to feel this weird, “wait a minute, I don’t sound like her.”  I am not free of my past like she is. I still smell like smoke from the fire. After she was done we had a time of prayer. I began to feel agitated. I knew God was offering me healing right then. I wanted to be healed but I didn’t want it from Him. You see I have been angry at God for 24 years. He could have rescued me and He didn’t. At one point Brookie shared about her years of healing from her abuse and her choices that proceeded. One night she was so angry and crying and asked her Mom, “Why did Jesus let this happen?” A familiar question right? I listened almost breathless for the Mom’s answer as Brooke continued. “I don’t know Brooke, but look at the cross.” When she said that it bugged me. Ugh! What does that even mean!

Back to that time of prayer as Jesus was offering to heal me. I was angry. I was hot. I was sitting on the ground Indian style with my head in my hands refusing to acknowledged the gentle whisper to come. “No, Lord, ” I said in my heart. “why should I come to you when its your fault I got screwed up in the first place!” ” Look up Jess, look at Me on the cross.” I did. My first reaction to thinking about Jesus on the cross with all my pain boiled to the surface was, “GOOD!” “If I have to suffer so should you.” Then the strangest thing happened. It really isn’t strange at all I because this is Jesus we are talking about but it was new for me. As I kept looking as Jesus bloody, and dripping to pay for my sin, its like all my pain and anger and suffering over the years was simply ABSORBED. He took it for and from me. I didn’t have it any more. It was like a digging in the soil of my middle, my heart and he pulled out the broken, and burnt thing in my heart and put it in my hand. I could see it for what it really was and I gave it to Him. See there is  a big difference between “getting over something,” and giving it to Jesus in the great exchange of Beauty for Ashes. The gals prayed over me and I prayed for the man who molested me and asked God to be merciful to him. I released him of any blame in my heart and forgave more deeply than any forgiveness I have ever given in my life.

The next day several other women broke down and I hope made that great exchange with Jesus. Everyone in the room has very serious faces but I couldn’t hold back a giant smile because I was free. I was healed and I knew God was offering the same to them.

Before this, I had settled on the idea that I may just always struggle with this thing. I don’t think that way anymore. When people have pain, or a wound I know God can heal completely! I have a desire to be used in any way He wants. I want to walk with other on this road to exchange their ash for His beauty.



I painted this weeks before the retreat

Isaiah 61

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,

    because the Lord has anointed me

    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

    to proclaim freedom for the captives

    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor

    and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,

    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them a crown of beauty

    instead of ashes,

the oil of joy

    instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise

    instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

    a planting of the Lord

    for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and restore the places long devastated;

they will renew the ruined cities

    that have been devastated for generations.

All my girls where there!

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