So excited to introduce our 3rd and final guest this week! This amazing woman of God has become like a sister to me. I love her and her family dearly and cherish the time we’ve spent in ministry together over the past year and a half. I truly believe God knitted our souls together before we even stepped foot in Florida.
Her story, like Penny and Nancy’s stories, truly captivates me. She has been through quite the roller coaster with her health over the past 2 years. As a woman serving in full time ministry, loving wife and mom – God has shown Jessica some pretty incredible things through all of this.
What are we waiting for? Let’s cut to the chase!
Me: Jess, something happened about 2 years ago that completely stopped you in your tracks, didn’t it?
Jessica: At this point in my life, I was in really good shape. I was 31-years-old, worked out 5 days a week, and eating right.
My husband and I were on a youth trip and out of nowhere I passed out. We thought I just hadn’t eaten enough that day, so we didn’t think much of it. I then started passing out or almost passing out every 2 to 3 days. I went to a couple of different doctors, and all of them said I was fine and nothing was wrong.
My father in law is a hematologist in Tampa, so he sent me to see some other doctors who discovered I was anemic. My blood just kept dropping lower and lower and I was dependent on blood transfusions to live.
I had absolutely no energy. I would go to the grocery store and need a 3 hour nap afterwards. I would wake up every morning and count the hours until my kids’ nap time so I could go to sleep then I would wake up and count the hours until bed time. I literally wanted to sleep all the time.
My father in law, who ended up becoming my doctor, thought I may have leukemia. We were faced with some very real and very scary possibilities of what illness I could have. It was a very long process and a whole lot of ups and downs, but after months of countless tests they discovered I have MDS, which is a form of blood cancer.
Me: It had to have been scary not having a clue what was wrong for such a long period of time. And being told everything was normal when you knew for sure something was going on in your body. What was the first thing you thought of when you heard the variety of diagnoses?
Jessica: When the word Leukemia was being thrown around I really didn’t have a change in my thought process at that point. I was praying it wasn’t Leukemia, however I wasn’t worried or even scared. I knew that the Lord I had served my entire life was with me. The Lord had never let me down and the doubt of Him not healing me never occurred to me. Thankfully we found out it wasn’t Leukemia!
Me: Praise God it wasn’t Leukemia! You were raised in church and have served in ministry for years. Did you question God?
Jessica: My parents are pastors, so I was raised in ministry. I made the mistake of telling the Lord I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife. He obviously has a sense of humor because I married a man and he is now a pastor. I have been in ministry my entire life.
The real test of my faith came in the months ahead of not knowing what was wrong. It seemed like every single thing was worse than the last. I had no doubt the Lord was going to heal me supernaturally. However, with each passing week of blood transfusions and more tests and more questions, it really got to me.
I started to Google things that were possibilities. Bad idea. I got so scared I could hardly breathe. I literally felt His peace leave me in that moment. I was panicked. I wanted to be the one to raise my kids. I wanted to grow old with my husband. I started being eaten alive with “what if’s”.
I went on for a few weeks like this until I just broke down. My husband was at work and my parents came over to my house to pray for me. I was crying in their laps like a child as they held me. They just cried and prayed over me. I wanted to pray I just didn’t have anything left to give. I was empty. They prayed for me for hours and all at once I felt His peace return. I really felt like Jesus put me in a bubble of peace in that moment. I told The Lord I would not google anything else.
I decided I had to be strong, but the problem was that I was still weak. I had to get my strength from the Lord. I accepted that I may see heaven earlier then I was planning on, and I also had this unshakable faith that HE WAS GOING TO HEAL ME. I never doubted that again.
Me: What an emotional roller coaster ride! What kept you going when fear rose up inside of you?
Jessica: Sure, there were times the enemy would come in my head tormenting me with lies, but I would just make myself listen to the voice of TRUTH. This was not an easy thing to do when I was paralyzed with fear. Once I got that peace back, I was not going to let that go again.
The enemy wants us weak in our mind – that is his playground. If we are weak we can not be strong to fight. We have to get our strength from The Lord.
The big thing with not being swallowed whole with fear is that when the lie comes in, take it captive and get it out of your head. Say the truth! The bible says I will live and not die and declare the words of The Lord. I would just repeat truth over and over and over again.
I also have an awesome husband who was there for me every step of the way. I have an awesome church family at Praise Cathedral and they prayed for me when I had no words to pray for myself. I know I am healed today in no small part do to their faith and their prayers for me. They took my sickness as theirs and I cannot tell you how much they ministered to ME during that time.
Me: Such an incredible support system! Not only from your immediate family, but your church family as well. I truly believe that perspective can change everything. What advice would you give others going through a similar situation themselves or with a loved one?
Jessica: I would say don’t get swallowed whole by your circumstances. Jesus is bigger then any problem we face. He never promised it would be easy in this life, He just promised He would be with us.
He did however die for us and by His stripes we are healed already. I believed the Lord would heal me supernaturally with all my heart. He chose to heal me with the help of doctors. He decided to do it differently then what I believed, but He healed me all the same.
I would also say the Lord isn’t put off by your questions. He wants you to lean on Him. It’s ok if we have moments of doubt – that doesn’t make us faithless… It simply lets us know we are in need of our Savior to save us once again.
Allow whatever you are going through to strengthen your faith in Him. He will build you better and stronger every single time….if we let Him use it all to mold us and fine tune us. You never know how He will use what you are going through to help and further the kingdom of God.
As Jessica said, we are not promised an easy life here on this earth. We live in a sin-filled world full of hardships that we can choose to either drown in or overcome.
How do we overcome, you ask? Revelations 12:11 says we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the words of our testimony. And these 3 incredible women have done just that. They’re not perfect by any means, but they have shared heir struggles and what The Lord has taught them through their brokenness.
One thing about brokenness is it teaches us to fully rely on God.
I pray you have been blessed and encouraged this week from hearing real stories of real struggles of real women who have been touched by a mighty God!
Please share with someone! And comment below! We would love to hear your stories!
Live Life Unscripted,
Please help me welcome Nancy Montoya! She was the first mommy-friend who reached out to me when my husband and I were traveling with his nursing job. It landed us in the beautiful town of Pueblo, Colorado and she was the smiling face who greeted and instantly befriended us at church. She’s such a beautiful woman of God, inside and out!
Nancy is a loving wife and mother of 4 beautiful girls. She is such a selfless individual and her positive perspective, despite fighting for her daughters life time and time again.
Me: It’s so exciting as a woman to discover there’s a precious life growing inside of us! Tell us about your pregnancy with Lily.
Nancy: I was a clueless 17-year-old when I became pregnant with Lily. We didn’t know while I was pregnant that she would be born with disabilities. We first found out when she was 3 months old. Her not being born perfectly healthy hadn’t even occurred to me. I was more concerned about how my life would change and how I would be able to give her the kind and loving home I had growing up.
Me: You and Jacob got married and soon after, found out some terrifying news as new parents. The doctors couldn’t believe she was even alive. What a miracle baby! You said you didn’t know anything was wrong until she was 3 months old. What happened?
Nancy: Initially we had noticed her eyes weren’t tracking and I thought she may be blind. Then she suddenly began dropping weight. My mom actually had a dream where Jesus appeared to her and told her to bring Lily and I to the hospital. We went to the hospital the next day and were completely stunned.
Her doctor came in and said a phrase I will never forget. With tear filled eyes he said “the outlook is pretty grim” and began to explain that Lily was born without most of her left and middle brain. As a result she was missing most of her optic nerves, her pituitary gland -the master gland- her hypothalamus and other parts of her brain. He was amazed she was alive and did not think she would survive and at best be, for lack of a better word, a vegetable. I cannot put into words the mind shattering, soul crushing, heart breaking feeling that became my reality.
Me: Girl, I can’t even begin to imagine. As a mother, my heart breaks for you! Were you and your husband believers at the time?
Nancy: It was 9 pm, an hour after visiting hours were over, and Jacob and I who were not saved looked at each other and simultaneously said “we need God”. Not 30 seconds later the pastor of my church knocked at our door. He was there to pray with us and for Lily.
We accepted Jesus and in that moment I had a revelation about the absolute power, purpose and provision of God. I was overcome by His peace and was able to just completely rest in the knowledge that He has already dispatched my help before I ask for it and that He alone holds my baby’s future. And when I have nothing to give He is more than enough. I have been fortunate enough to operate in that understanding from that moment forward.
Me: I love it that you found Christ in the middle of your greatest trial. How awesome is that?! With the challenges Lily faces on a daily basis, were you at all fearful to have more children?
Nancy: I have an autoimmune disease called ulcerative colitis that became active about a month after Lily was born. For years I was so consumed with her constant care, but years later when her health became stable, I weeped for another child. My disease kept this dream from becoming a reality.
One night after being particularly upset, the Holy Spirt woke me up with a whisper – “read 1 Samuel.” I read of Hannah who wept before The Lord for a child and The Lord opened her womb. I took this as my promise from God.
A year later at a revival in Lakeland, Florida we were worshipping in the alter when an evangelist from Africa we had never met grabbed me fe behind and said, “The Lord says it is your time to have another child. You do not have to fear. Your disease will not be an issue. You will be healthy and the baby will not have any of the struggles Lily had.”
We stepped out in faith on that word and a week later I was pregnant! Evangeline was born healthy and I have been the healthiest during my pregnancies. God is so good!
Me: I have chills reading this. Wow, wow, wow! What a timely word from The Lord! What would you say you have learned through this journey?
Nancy: I have learned that it is easy to truly lay my burdens at the feet of Jesus. That there is a peace that comes from true brokenness before the Father. That I can do nothing good in and of myself and only God in me brings forth love and life. And that I am blessed to have been so broken that I got to experience complete and utter reliance on the Father for my every moment.
Because it is so easy to believe the lie that we have things under control and we are doing just fine all by ourselves. The truth is we need to be desperate for Him everyday. We need Him to direct our paths. We need His strength and His peace and His hope and His joy. Because those things from any other source are fleeting. They will not endure. We can only truly obtain them and sustain them if they have come from the Father. His faithfulness and provision is ever evident in my life. And I am just so grateful to have been freely given such a perfect love.
Me: Such a beautiful brokenness. Your story is such an amazing picture of grace and mercy. Even at your lowest, God lifted you out of the pits of despair and showed you His loving kindness in a way you had never experienced before. Absolutely incredible.
What advice would you give to someone going through a difficult situation right now? And how has your perspective changed everything?
Nancy: I would say that living in victimhood is a choice. And as Christians we are not exempt from a pain free life. On the contrary, Jesus told us “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world!”
When living through the darkest nights we all have a choice to make. Will I let this defeat me and rob me of the peace and joy that was freely given to me? Or will I cling to the promises of my Father and trust that He will deliver me, restore me, protect me, provide for me and help me?
God is good to keep His word. And His word says He already overcame everything that could ever attempt to overcome you!
Thank you so much, Nancy, for sharing your heart with us! God has truly blessed you with a beautiful family who have learned together that perspective changes everything.
We still have one more story with share with you! Don’t miss out! Check back this weekend to hear from Jessica Shonebarger about how God held her during one of the scariest storms in her life.
Share this with a friend if you were encouraged today! Remember – perspective changes everything!
Life Life Unscripted,
I’d like to introduce to you someone who has made such a huge impact in my life. This woman has spent countless hours with me in prayer, laughed until we’ve cried and rejoiced as God has brought us to exciting new doors to walk through.
One thing is for sure – Penny is a mighty woman of prayer. She loves Jesus and you can see Him illuminating the room through her contagious smile.
Meeting this incredible woman of God, you wouldn’t have a clue of the road she’s walked down. But she’s ready to share her story and we’re praying it will set you free!
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Me: You’ve never had it easy, that’s for sure. How early did the abuse start?
Penny: From the time I was a small child, I recognized that my father could love other children, yet he was verbally abusive to us. He was so cruel to my mother when her she became ill and it cost him money at the doctor. He was a workaholic and a control freak. He would go as far as writing down the mileage of the car as he left for work so he knew if she went anywhere. My father would never let her befriend anyone at church. Looking back, I think he was scared she would disclose what was going on at home. He was a different man at church than at home. And he hid it well.
Me: As if the emotional and physical trauma wasn’t enough already, the beautiful life you had growing inside of you would never make it to your arms. Do you wonder what she looks like?
Penny: All the time. After I gave birth to my second child, Jamie, I always wondered if my daughter was normal. I wonder if she knows she was adopted. I never spoke to anyone about being pregnant. No one knew for years I had even had a child. I honestly thought for once I would have someone to love me. Then my father had the baby taken away from me the moment she was born. I’ve wondered if she’s struggled with weight because I always have. I’ve prayed she didn’t struggle with that. Every time I babysat someone’s kid’s I have thought about her, especially if they were girls.
Me: You and your father had quite the strained relationship. Tell us about the day your world stood still.
Penny: My father hadn’t felt well for some time and had been to the doctor. They couldn’t find anything wrong with him. I think he felt guilty for being so angry with my mother being sick and that guilt triggered his suicide. He couldn’t handle the pain he felt or the guilt of how cruel he was to my mother when she was sick. After talking with my brother and I for hours, he walked to the back of the house and I heard a noise from the back room. He laughed and said he was putting his pistol away and it went off. A few moments later I heard it again and he had shot himself with a shotgun. He had 4 days by himself at home but waited until I got home to do this. It was the ultimate rejection from my earthly father from a man who was supposed to love and nurture me.
Me: You remind me so much of Job. He was tested time and time again, yet remained faithful to The Lord. Even when he had lost his family and his friends were kicking him while he was down, he continued to trust in God. Do you find it hard trusting God, your Heavenly Father, when your natural father abused and abandoned you?
Penny: Yes. I went to church and heard Psalm 139 and read for myself that I was wonderfully made by God and that He loved me with an everlasting love, but it was hard to grasp that concept. I compared God to my earthly father. And every relationship I had with a man followed that grueling path of abuse. God in heaven is nothing like our earthly father. God never abuses us. He never abandons us. He will never stop loving us. The bible says nothing separates us from the love of God.
Me: Jamie is such a sweetie. And he LOVES the ladies! You said the devil has really fought you hard as a mother. Tell us a little about that.
Penny: I had seizures the whole time I was pregnant and Jamie was born with brain damage. I believed God was punishing me by giving me a disabled child for my promiscuity and giving my first born child away. The devil spoon-fed me those lies for years. But now I know that’s a lie straight from the pits of hell.
Me: For those going through a difficult situation right now, what advice would you give them?
Penny: What the enemy means for your bad, God will turn it around for your good. God definitely has a way of birthing something so spectacular through our pain. We just have to hold on. God has a way of wrapping all of our mess up into a ministry to set others free – if we will just let him. We can’t effectively minister to others until we have been there ourselves. We always have a choice. We can either get bitter or better. We can’t blame God for the decisions we have made, because we will reap what we sow. But it’s not God’s fault. What takes place in our lives is not to destroy us. It’s to help mold and make us for what God has called us to do. Everyone has a story to tell but not everyone shares it. We have learned to mask it and walk through the doors of the church and feel utterly alone. Everyone is hurting. We have to get real with God about ourselves before we get real and transparent with others. Thankfully, God uses cracked vessels.
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A big thank you to Penny Bartee for sharing her story with us! We pray you realize you are not alone in your situation. Struggling with suicide, abuse and emotional trauma for years, she has overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the words of her testimony. Revelations 12:11
Is God asking you to speak up? Listen for His voice. He loves you so much!
Live Life Unscripted,
Don't miss out! We have 2 more incredible ladies to hear from this week! Share this if it blesses you!
Some days will either make or break you.
Some are filled with such uncontainable joy and laughter. The birth of a newborn, answered prayer for salvation of a loved one, and the love shared between a husband and wife on their wedding day. Beautiful, incredible, breathtaking moments.
Then there are those when it’s all you can do to crawl out from underneath the covers. When getting up is painful because of what the day holds. Routines become mundane and difficult leaving you breathless.
James 4:14 compares our life to a morning fog that is here for a brief time then fades away. A vapor. Here for a moment and then it’s gone.
This week, we will be talking with three godly women who have walked through extremely difficult situations.
Life is short and we are not guaranteed tomorrow, so we can either abandon the outside world and remain in the fetal position in fear of what’s in front of us or make the best of the life we’ve been given.
Perspective changes everything.
We can’t control the paths this life leads us down, but there is one thing we can control – how we let them affect us.
No matter what comes our way – sickness, financial turmoil, death of a loved one, abuse – we cannot allow things to distort the way we view God.
No matter what you’re facing today, God is still faithful. He still loves you. He still has a plan for your life. He still cares for you. He holds your life in the palm of His hand and He knows every tear, fear and frustration. Just because you’re face to face with a ten foot giant does not mean God is any less God and any less present in your situation.
Please check back often this week! You don’t want to miss these ladies testimonies!
Please feel free to share your story with us! Share with someone who needs a little encouragement this week!
Love you guys!
Live Life Unscripted,