It has been said that “what breaks you becomes your passion”. This is true for me. When I look back over the course of my life, I can see that the brokenness I experienced in 2010 was, so far, the most defining point of my life.
I was raised in southeast Tennessee, in a beautiful mountain valley. It’s fair to say that I was a passionate and angsty child; feeling my feelings deeply and often escaping to The Field behind our cramped 1 ½ acres to lie on my back in the grass and ponder the meaning of life. As a teenager, depression and feelings of worthlessness hounded me. I wondered if I would ever feel happy, and if life would ever not feel hard.
Emotional turmoil was an impetus for me to write. Journaling became my therapy and my clarity; I think there are around 30 diaries lining the upper shelf of my closet.
May, 2009 found me at 21, fresh out of nursing school and swept up in a romantic relationship that my parents did not bless. I hated them for trying to tear away the thing that had finally brought a sense of security to my life. The relationship went underground, as we started seeing each other in secret. We planned to get married. He was my world.
But deceit brings darkness. Working in a stressful job as a new RN and fighting in secret for a relationship that I couldn’t live without, the crushing weight of darkness made me feel like I was losing my mind. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think straight. I wanted to tear out of my own skin, just to get some relief from the pressure.
2009 drew to a close and, knowing I needed to get away, I signed up for a term at SMBI, a small Bible school in PA. When I was elected to Student Council in the first week, I was aghast. These people elected me because I looked like an upstanding Mennonite girl. They didn’t know my secret sins; the things I was hiding. I remember (to my shame) that I didn’t feel so much like a hypocrite at their faith in me, as irritated by it. Later that week, I scoffed inwardly when my StuCo team suggested that our term theme be “Passionate Brokenness”. What a stupid buzz phrase, I thought.
But as I dove into my classes and started forming friendships, God began to soften my heart. The defensiveness that I came to SMBI with began to melt away as I experienced true love and support from the people around me. One of my teachers, Frank Reed, took a special interest in my life. He was, and still is, an example of godly leadership and care. As I opened up to my roommates about the secrets in my life, I was met, not with judgement, but love and truth. In my classes, the Bible was taught with grace, and Scripture became a thing that could transform rather than merely arbitrate.
In the greenhouse of this spiritual atmosphere, I began to see that something needed to change in my personal life. I also realized that the changes wouldn’t happen in one 6-week term, and that I needed ongoing support and accountability.
In mid-January, I began to pray that God would make a way for me to stay at SMBI for another term. I couldn’t ask for more time off of work, so if He wanted me to stay, He would need to make it happen. I decided to pray until the end of January, when I would need to make a decision.
On the evening of January 31, I broke my right arm in a snowboarding accident. I left that ER that night with a cast and doctor’s orders to take 8 weeks off of work. It was the beginning of the season that would change my life.
Pain is a funny thing. Something as small as a splinter in one’s foot can become a consuming irritation. Debilitating injuries provoke a pain that is awful and consuming. Complicated concerns suddenly seem unimportant while the most basic realities are magnified. Pain makes the obvious impossible to ignore. It makes us needy, and sometimes, desperate. It forces us to depend on others and lay down any preconceived notions of self-sufficiency.
After breaking my arm, I experienced all these effects of pain. I became dependent on others. I was weak. I was forced to slow down and pay attention. For the first time in years, I could not ignore the reality of what was going on in my life.
My right arm was broken, and so was my heart. It was as if a veil had been ripped off my eyes. As I saw clearly how I had lied, broken trust, damaged relationships, and put a person before my Savior, I was devastated. Scripture became my sanctuary as I grappled with all I had done and sought reconciliation at the foot of the cross.
One of the most precious passages the Lord led me to during this time is from Psalm 51. Tears washed down my cheeks as I read David’s plea for cleansing; one that I echoed: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions…Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow… Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” (1:7, 8) I couldn’t believe what I was reading. “That the bones which thou hast broken.” Passionate brokenness. In His passionate love for me, God needed to break me – but with the promise that He could put me back together and cause me to rejoice, a Hebrew word which means, “to spin around under the influence of great joy”. After the preceding years of depression and spiritual darkness, this picture of freedom and joy made me weep.
When you break a limb, it will not heal correctly unless it is set properly. After the doctor set my arm, my friend took me to the pharmacy to fill my prescription. In a fog of pain, I received a call from the doctor’s office, “I’m sorry. The doctor looked at your x-rays and believes that the bone is not set correctly. We need you to come back so we can reset it.” I asked what would happen if I didn’t. They said my arm would be fine for the first few years but later would likely develop arthritis and chronic pain. I went back.
Spiritual brokenness works the same way. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Cor. 7:10, NIV) I knew that in order for the cleansing pain of brokenness to bring new life to my heart, I needed to allow it to be complete. The relationship had to end.
I wish that “doing the right thing” would always feel good. Often, it doesn’t. For me, repentance and a desire to follow Jesus didn’t change what this romantic relationship meant to me. It didn’t alleviate the pain of shattered dreams and loneliness. It did give me grace to walk, day by day, in the trust that out of my “valley of Achor”, He would build a Doorway of Hope. (Hosea 2:15)
The extra time at SMBI was an important part of my personal healing. I felt cocooned in the love and support of my peers and mentors. It was a season of resting and building strength as I prepared to return home.
Pain has the unique property of connecting us with others. Mine certainly did. As I shared my story of loss, repentance, and healing, others began sharing theirs with me. I realized – really, for the first time in my life – that everyone has experienced pain. It’s like a thread that stitches us all together. Hearing my friends talk about their experiences with pain, another binding thread emerged: the longing for wholeness in spite of suffering. We want to know that our pain won’t be wasted.
As I shared my story and heard the stories of other women, I realized two important things. First, many women were facing spiritual and emotional struggles alone. Perhaps as a by-product of our conservative culture, there seemed to be a great deal of silence around personal suffering. Silence in suffering is isolating and unhealthy. Wholeness and healing comes from openness and honesty – with God and with others.
The second realization was that the wholeness we long for comes only in seeing Christ for who He is. Too often, we seek to heal our brokenness by bolstering our self-worth, becoming more confident, or practicing vulnerability. There is merit in these things. But they do not have the power to transform. I found healing, not in looking at myself, but at God. Focusing on His attributes, it is as if I become see-through. Standing transparently thus next to Christ, it is His radiance that shows through. It is His power that equips me. It is His identity that reassures me of my own status as a child of God. This message is one that is often lacking in Christian women’s literature.
As I pondered these two realities, the seed of an idea began to form. In the summer of 2010, I felt a nudge from the Lord: “Use your love for writing to encourage other women facing hard things.” This was the beginning of what would become Daughters of Promise.
For a few months, I prayed about what form this idea should take, eventually settling on an email newsletter. The name followed. “Daughters”, because I wanted to remind women that who they are is defined by Whose they are; “of Promise”, because Scripture tells us that if we believe in Christ, then we are heirs of the promise made by God to Abraham. Our identity is redeemed; our sin covered; our inheritance secured in heaven.
The first issue of Daughters of Promise was 10 pages long and designed it in Microsoft Word. I knew nothing about graphic design (it shows!) but I sure had fun dumping fonts and garish color combinations onto the page. I wrote a few articles and poems and included an excerpt from a book that expounds on the idea of being a “daughter of promise”. The first issue went to friends and a few of their friends… and that’s how Daughters of Promise started.
Could we say that the rest is history? For a few years, the thought of a print magazine never even crossed my mind. By early 2013, a few of my friends had joined as regular contributors and I had more content than I could fit into my little 10-page newsletter. I started designing (still in good old Microsoft Word) content in a traditional magazine format and publishing digital copies online. Soon after that, readers started asking if print copies would be available.
Making this switch was a big one. I had to ditch Word and teach myself Adobe inDesign, create a website, figure out how to sell subscriptions, and find a printer. It was a learning curve, but the euphoric feeling of opening that box of 100 copies of our first ever print issue made it all worth it.
Since then, DOP has grown to a 112-page quarterly publication. The aesthetic, target age, and quality has changed. Where I started the newsletter to focus on teenage/early 20’s single woman, the magazine now focuses on women navigating independent adulthood in marriage, motherhood, careers, etc.. Appreciated within the conservative community for its beautiful aesthetic and high-quality materials, the magazine also offers a platform where women from diverse ages and experiences can share their stories.
The mission of Daughters of Promise remains unchanged: to bring wholeness and healing to women through an identity anchored in Christ.
I look back on the near-decade that has passed since Holy Spirit gave me the nudge to start this ministry. Amazement fills me. It was never my intention to create what DOP is today. The goal was only to help women talk about their stories and find healing through the living Word. God has taken this tiny endeavor and turned it into more than I could have dreamed. Today, Daughters of Promise is one of my greatest passions and continues to be a ministry where women find hope, truth, and beauty to transform their lives.
Pain is never a waste. Brokenness is never the end of the story when the Healer is involved. This is my testimony. The Lord took me from the rubble of rebellion and darkness to the sanctuary of redemption and restoration. The years have brought other pain; they always will this side of eternity. Yet, God’s faithfulness has not wavered and He has turned my valleys of sorrow into doorways of hope.
Whatever your story, I leave you with this hope: “Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God's story never ends with 'ashes.” (Elisabeth Eliot)