Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Wildflowers from Winter Story

Today I am honored to participate in Author Katie Ganshert's Wildflowers from Winter Blog Hop. Katie asked me to share my story, along with many others, on May 3rd & 4th. You can learn more about Katie, her debut novel Wildflowers from Winter, and today's blog hop at Katie's Website.

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"The snowiest of winters bring about an abundance of wildflowers come springtime." ~ Katie Ganshert


My Wildflowers from Winter Story

I was born into the most amazing family on Earth. My parents, siblings, in-laws and many extended relatives have surrounded me with unconditional love and have cheered me on every step of the way.

I grew up in a small, tight-knit town on the banks of the Mississippi River where my husband and I have chosen to raise our own family and where my mom is the mayor. We're blessed with friends and neighbors who understand the true meaning of community. For ten years, before I stayed home full time with my kiddos, I had a fantastic job as a historic site guide, spending the day with great coworkers and people on vacation.

I met the love of my life when I was sixteen. He's handsome, smart, kind and full of powerful wisdom and insight - and best of all, he's crazy about me, too. We have four adorable children, two girls and twin boys and we live in a home near the river I love. God has given me every desire of my heart. I am blessed, no doubt about it, I know I am.

I'm wildly and passionately in love with God. Every fiber of my being resonates with my Creator. Each decision I've made has been guided by my belief in Jesus. I know I'm valued, chosen and called by Him and I feel honored to be His child.

On a beautiful summer day in 2006 I had my second child, a healthy little girl. Up until the delivery everything was text book perfect, but right after she was born there were some serious complications. I was rushed into the operating room for an emergency D & C and I was put under anesthesia. Some time during the procedure I started to wake up when I wasn't supposed to - although I didn't come to my full senses. Not comprehending what was happening, I began to panic. Enough of me was conscious to know something wasn't right, but I couldn't pull myself from the abyss. In that semi-conscious state I thought I was dying, but where was Heaven? I didn't see any of the things I had always hoped to see. But, more importantly, I didn't see Jesus. All around me was white emptiness and the only thing left was my thoughts - for eternity. Just me and the panic, forever.

I was screaming for help and thank God my doctor was close enough to reassure me. I remember hearing her voice come through the fog of fear - it was like an anchor. I went back under anesthesia and my nightmare was over. I was never near death and I came through the surgery just fine, but at the time I thought I had been. I lost so much blood that I required a transfusion the next day and it took my body a good three months to fully recover - but it took my mind and my heart much, much longer.

In the weeks and months that followed, I began to have panic attacks. I kept reliving the vivid memory of that moment when I thought I had died. I cried all the time. I began to hate myself for letting the fear take over me. I was filled with guilt and remorse for missing out on the joy of my infant's first months and the look in my two year old's eyes when she saw me cry. I wondered if I would ever come out of the panic. I didn't think I could ever trust God again. I imagined my husband having to raise our children alone because I was going to be locked away somewhere.

I became insecure for the first time in my life. Who was this scared, pathetic woman? What happened to the confidence and joy I had experienced in life? I was not prepared for this at all. My foundation, the bedrock of my existence was shaken. Where had God been when I needed Him most? I questioned everything about my life and my faith. It consumed my every waking moment. To say I was overwhelmed with fear would be an understatement, it sucked the life out of me. Before my feet touched the floor each morning I was overwhelmed and exhausted with it. There was no rest for me.

I didn't tell people outside of my immediate circle, though I did speak about it a lot to those near me. Some of you may be reading this now and be shocked to hear it. Some of you saw me on a regular basis and had no idea. I didn't speak about it because it was a very personal experience and, to be honest, I was ashamed for not being able to control the fear, for having so many insecurities and for questioning my faith.

On and off for years, I dealt with the pain and fear from that experience. I asked God constantly why He allowed it to happen, but I wasn't given an answer.

"He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver." Malachi 3:3

I was put through the Refiners Fire and each little piece of my life was subject to the intense heat. I examined every area - and what I found left me disgusted. Yes, I had led a blameless life, I had made good decisions and I had no regrets, but I saw that I had been self-righteous. My world revolved around me and I took credit for my talents, my accomplishments and my faith. I was selfish, prideful and opinionated. I was judgemental and my expectations for myself and others was set too high. And this was just the beginning. God took me deep into my heart. He showed me that my heart was a garden, His garden, and I saw the beautiful flowers He had planted there. Flowers planted through His Words spoken to me and about me, but they were being choked out by weeds. Weeds that had been planted through believing lies since I was a little girl about who I am and who the world expects me to be. The garden in my heart was a mess.

But Jesus came.

I remember the day I felt him enter my garden to tend to my heart. He began to identify each weed and then He pulled them out, one by one. Every day He would show me another weed that needed to go and He told me the roots had to be removed or they would keep coming back. It was a very painful process and it left big, deep holes. But slowly, ever so slowly and gently, He cultivated and healed the soil of my heart. And then, one by one, He began planting new seeds of faith, hope and love into my heart through whispered promises from His Word. I can still close my eyes and see Him quietly working there as we fellowship.

It was the hardest experience of my life, but also the most beautiful. Together we're still pulling out weeds and working at getting to the root of them. Every once in a while a new weed will pop up and we'll deal with it, but my garden is now in full bloom again and it is a place of rest and beauty. As the seeds He planted continue to grow, they will produce a harvest of fruit in my life, which I can give to others through my words, my actions and my love.

It would take me a lifetime to convey all that God has done and shown me through this process. The way He's woven into my life people and circumstances to show me His glory. The deep understanding and insights He's given to me as He continues to reveal Himself in little and big ways. For the first time in my life, I have an incredible peace deep within my soul and I am left standing in complete and utter awe of the Master Gardner. The doubt and the fear have been uprooted. What I am left with is a beautiful garden of flowers from the deepest of winters and a hope beyond all comprehension.

I believe God has a mighty plan for my life - and yours. He wants to come into our hearts and clean out the mess and begin to restore the garden so that we can display His beauty.

After five years, God answered the question on my heart: why did all of this happen? He planted the answer deep into my heart soil and whispered a promise there, which I will hold for all of eternity and which will produce an abundance of fruit in His perfect timing, for His glory.

And, four years later, God gave us a double blessing for the pain, our twin boys.

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

Do you have a Wildflowers from Winter story? Are you still experiencing the winter, longing for the wildflowers to bloom? I'd be honored if you shared.

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Today Katie has generously offered to give away a copy of her debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter, to one of my commenters. Everyone who comments before Monday, May 7th at 12:00 a.m. will be entered into the drawing. Please leave your email address in the comment form to be notified. If you'd like to receive my reply to your comments, please click on the "Subscribe to Email" link at the bottom of the form.

38 comments:

  1. That was absolutely beautiful and inspiring.

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    1. Thank you for taking time to read my story today.

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  2. Thanks for sharing something so deep.

    I went through a crisis of faith when I first came down to TX and the "money" didn't come in for the DTS and struggled with doubt & insecurities for the next couple of years, putting my hubby through...yeah. I actually have an embarrassing story about my son's birth at the birthing center in throws of not labor but a retained placenta (worse than the labor) & emergency trip to the ER that affected my faith for a while...maybe I'll email you :) if you're interested.

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    1. Jennette, thank you for reading my story and for sharing some of yours. I had something similar to retained placenta after Maryn was born, I'd love for you to email me your story. :)

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  3. Wow! Gabrielle. Thanks for sharing your story. I see now why you related to my story last Friday on Katie's blog. As I read your story, especially about the panic attacks and wondering where the person you'd been before had gone, I could feel it all with you. But how glorious for us both to have seen God bring good - most important a closer walk with Him and a greater desire to live our lives for His glory - out of our struggles. I would encourage you to continue telling your story. I'm convinced there many more young women out there who need to know they're not alone. God can and will use you to help start them on their journey toward victory!

    I've already read Wildflowers from Winter, so don't enter me in the drawing. Great book, by the way!! Definitely on my books worth reading list!!

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    1. Thank you for the encouraging words, Teri! I've shared this story with only a handful of people, but when Katie emailed me and asked if I would share my own Wildflowers from Winter story, not knowing what it was, I knew I was finally ready. I'm excited to see what God has in store.

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  4. This is so true, Gabrielle. God often uses those dark periods in our lives to draw us nearer to Him and reveal the areas in our lives and hearts that need to be restored and renewed.

    What a beautiful testimony! So glad you shared!

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    1. Thank you for inviting me to tell my story and thank you for giving all of us this opportunity to share in your debut celebration! I'm excited to read your book - I'll be sure to share my review on my blog.

      I'm looking forward to reading everyone's Wildflowers from Winter stories.

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  5. I know what it's like to doubt and keep it hidden because you've always been full of faith and people expect THAT of you. Thank you for sharing your story. "To God be the glory, great things He has done."

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    1. It's a hard place to be, but God's faithfulness is amazing in our time of need. I'm so thankful He came.

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  6. What a beautiful, moving testimony, Gabrielle! Keep shining your light for Him. God will use your story to inspire and bless someone. :-)

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Gwen. What an awesome privilege to think that God would use my words to inspire and bless people. :)

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  8. Gabrielle, this is such a great testimony of God's work in our lives and the peace only He can give. Thank you for sharing your heart and encouraging me today!

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    1. Thank you for your story today, too! This post is only a drop in the bucket to all that He's done and shown me in my life. I'm amazed and humbled by His love for me.

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  9. I think I am going though some of this fire.
    My mom left out her medication and my 2 year old son ate four days worth of anti-inflammatories and anti-depressants. As we sat in the ER trying to wake him for the second time with no response, I felt my knees wanting to collapse beneath me. I have never been so full of fear in my life. It also gave me a new revelation of Jesus' decision to take my place on the cross because I would have endured anything for the life of my child in that very moment.
    Months earlier I read "Heaven is for Real" not only on my own but then I read it aloud to the kids. I recalled how it told of the boy near to death and how he told his dad that he was sitting with Jesus, just talking, the whole time. I prayed and begged for that to be happening and that God would let me keep my son.
    Thankfully, a sleepless night in the ER was the only effect of all the drugs but I have been trying to fight the anger, distrust and unforgiveness for the MISTAKE my mom made. I, too, have then turned on myself for my unwilllingness to let go and give this to God.
    Twice now, just like in the book, my son has told me that he sees Jesus. Just today he told me that he was walking with him at the park and last weekend he told me he was riding in the front seat of the car with us. I see all the blessings in this but I think it's me trying to pick the weeds. As fast as I can tear them out they are multiplying. Then I sit and God says, "would you like some help?" I say no thanks I think I've got it. Wouldn't be the first time I've been called subborn. This is fairly fresh and I am keeping this wound from healing. I have hope because I know there is reason for the fire .

    1 Peter 1:7
    That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

    Thanks for sharing your story. We do church on our own at home and I miss out on getting to praise the Lord for His works in people around me. It's encouraging!

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    1. Tes, my heart was pounding fast as I read your story. I can't imagine the fear you felt in the ER. Praise God that your little guy is safe.

      As you talk about tearing out the weeds and they keep multiplying, I could relate. When I tried to pull out the weeds in my own heart, I could never get to the roots, so as soon as I thought they were gone, they'd come back even thicker. It's only when we allow Christ to tear out the root and we let go of the fear, unforgiveness and bitterness, that we finally have victory. It's hard to understand when we're in the Refiners Fire that there is a purpose for our struggles and pain, but I can guarantee that there always is. God is calling you to go deeper and to find out what He is whispering to your heart. He only allows the suffering when He knows it will bring forth more of His Son in your life. I'll be praying for you as you walk through this hard experience and you and your family are always welcome to come to Little Falls Alliance Church!

      Thanks for joining the conversation today. Your words also encouraged me.

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    1. Thank you for reading my story today.

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  11. Gabrielle, I'm commenting a day late, but what a story! Thank you so much for sharing. And thank you, Jesus, for working in our lives in the midst of pain!

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    1. I'm so happy you stopped by, Melissa - it's never too late to comment. :) I enjoyed reading your story today! I'm amazed at the faithfulness of God, in all our lives and in every story.

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  12. Hi Gabrielle. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm blessed to read what a loving, supportive family you have. I know what a panic attack feels like and the embarrassment that goes with it. I haven't written about that part of my life much, but I did write a story for Chicken Soup and (wouldn't you know that's one they accepted!) it's just coming out in the new book this month: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Stress.

    Embarrassing or not, there it is. You've given me courage by your sharing.

    (Is my e-mail in the form? I didn't enter it but it knows who I am... I want to be in on the drawing!)

    Hey, just thought of this--I have some copies of that new Chicken Soup for the Soul book. If you'd like to do a drawing for one or two of those, I'd be happy to mail them to whoever wins.

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    1. Dianne, thank you for stopping by and for the encouraging words. I didn't share this story for almost six years because it is embarassing and you don't want people to define you by your experience. I know how far I've come and I know I'm walking in victory - a victory that I would love to see others walking in, so I felt it was time to start sharing my story.

      I would LOVE to give away a copy of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book! Thank you for that generous offer. I'll have my drawing on Monday and I'll contact you with the winner!

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  13. Gabrielle, so glad you were able to share this experience with us. It's so hard when we can't see WHY God lets us go through things like this. I'm so glad he whispered a promise to you and carried you past your fears. And thanks for being so open about the "weeds" in your life. We ALL have them, no matter how perfect things seem!

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    1. You're right, Heather. No matter how things seem on the surface, people are dealing with weeds in their life, whether they want to admit it or not. Being real and honest with one another helps us to be real and honest with ourselves. Thanks for stopping by today!

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  14. Wow, I love that God gave you twin boys, that is so powerful and true to our Savior. He will do abundantly more then we could every dream or imagine. Thank you for sharing your story.

    mafinnegan(at)finnegan(dot)yahoo

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    1. Melissa, thank you for stopping by today. After the birth of our second child, and everything I went through afterwards, I was deathly afraid of another pregnancy, but God brought me to a place of healing and then He began to put the desire in my heart for another child. I was ready to walk out in faith, hoping for a better experience. When we found out we were having twins, I knew instantly that God was pouring out a double blessing in our lives! The boys are named Judah, which means "Praise God" and Asher, which means "Happy & Blessed." We praise God because we are happy & blessed!

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  15. Beautiful testimony, many of us have struggled with fear in different areas. I know I have. I love your honesty in sharing the beautiful things that came out of the pain.

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    1. Thank you for joining the conversation today, Julia. Fear is a nasty tool the enemy uses, but it can be a beautiful way for God to bring about beauty, if we let Him.

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  16. I, too, have had my faith tested in my 15 year struggle with infertility. In my time of testing I know God did not want me to explore medical procedures. I knew He was using the struggle to draw me closer to Him, I just needed to listen and find out what He wanted me to learn. In the end it was a lesson in obedience and the miracle of two beautiful children, born 16 months apart. I see the blessings of God when I look in their eyes. He is faithful!

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    1. He is faithful and your story is a living testimony in my life!! Thank you for coming on to my blog today and thank you for sharing your story. I just read another Wildflower from Winter story on Jessica R. Patch's blog that was similar to yours and I thought how amazing your story would be to share on this blog hop today. I'm hoping and praying your other dream comes true soon...!!!

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  17. What a frightening experience! I'm so glad you were able to allow God to turn it into something so beautiful.

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    1. One time, while I was going through the fear, I heard Beth Moore speaking about the suffering God allows in our life and she said God never says yes to the suffering unless the ultimate outcome is for GOOD. I held on to that promise, that God would bring something GOOD from all the fear - and He did! And you're right, in order for God to take a painful situation in our lives and turn it into something beautiful, we have to allow Him to. Thanks for joining the conversation today - I'm excited to get over and read your post!

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  18. This is only my second stop on the blog tour and I'm fairly certain by the time I read even 2 more, I'll be a tear stained wreck. I once left out my thyroid meds and my 2 year old son fed them to himself and our lab. Sadly, my husband had ZERO grace and railed at me in the ER. The nurse sneered at me thought I was a bad mother, both because of the meds, and because I couldn't get my 2 year old to drink liquid charcoal. The doctor was lovely and assured us that since most of the pills were still there, the only effects would be a hyper toddler and a hyper dog. For 8 years after that day, no matter what happened to any of the kids, *I* was always at fault. I was sad and bitter for years and prayed ALOT about my feelings. Until one day someone didn't tie the leash on our beautiful lab, and the poor sweet, boy was hit by a transport truck and died a painful death 2 feet from my husband, who had to then dig a shallow grave bury Digby in the woods. As horrible and sad as that was, someone learned about what withheld grace felt like, and in a very difficult manner. I told him I was sorry that Digby got killed, and then he said "It was all my fault". I never mentioned his neglect again. And not once since then has he said, "why did you let that happen?" whenever something bad occured.
    God will use any thing, any one, any place and any event to remind us of what His grace is. That hard lesson cost us our dog, but it provided a way for my darling husband to see what witholding grace and forgiveness will do, which is the ice cold ruin of a marriage.

    I still miss my dog, but I have 4 healthy kids and a very healthy marriage.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story today, Jenny. I agree, God will use whatever He needs to get our hearts in the right place with Him. I'm sorry you lost your dog, but I am so thankful that your marriage is in a healthy place now. I hope you enjoy the rest of the stories on Katie's blog hop!

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  19. Beautiful, vulnerable testimony, Gabrielle. He always meets us in our need; we just usually think we need it sooner than He does. So thankful you let Him in as Master Gardener of your heart.

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    1. Thank you for reading my story, Julie.

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  20. Such an amazing testimony, Gabrielle! Thank you so much for sharing what God has done in your life, and continues to do.

    Sweet Blessings,
    Michelle

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Your comments are my favorite part of blogging!