Living in Pain


Living with chronic pain is an interesting thing. It is an invisible life stealer. Your life is consumed by this thing completely outside of your control, yet so few of those that live outside of your home will ever understand the battle that you face every day. Due to a sprinkling of good days, pulling up your bootstraps and pushing through, and pain medication, the pain is invisible to everyone but you. On most mornings when I wake up, as much as I would like to get up, spend time in the Word with a hot cup of coffee, make breakfast for my 5 beautiful children, and begin a day just like many others, I cannot. Chronic migraines now dictate my day.
Typically, I wake up to a piercing pain in my head feeling as if my head will split in two. It is a pain so familiar that it brings tears to my eyes to even think about. Getting out of bed is not an option. Thankfully one of my sons will come in with a cup of coffee and encourages me to stay in bed because he will take care of his siblings by making breakfast. This will buy me a little more time to rest until I have to pull myself from the sheets and drag myself to the living room where I try to be present. IMG_7576Depending on the time of year, we somehow get through homeschooling, have movie day, or sometimes, things get a little better as the day progresses. Around mid-day, again one of the boys will make lunch and then put the twins down for naps and get them a snack when they wake up. Finally, as the day is drawing to an end, Zac will arrive home and I get to return to my dark cave (my bedroom). He would make dinner, give baths, and put the kids to bed. Then like ground hog day, we do it all again.

I have dealt with migraines from a young age, but it was not until about two and a half years ago that they became chronic. When it comes to treatments, I have tried them all. The list is way too long and very disheartening.

While only being 33, I have missed so much of life in two and a half years. Birthdays, anniversaries, parties, church, kids sporting events, and school things. At times I have missed them all. And, then to think about what my kids have missed out on makes my stomach churn. I have learned to cope with the pain. I have mastered the ability to put a smile on my face and get through life. Though the pain and debilitation is real, I will not let the enemy rob me of my joy and the life I am called to live. I have held on to Romans 5:2-5, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” I will not lose focus on my call and rejoice in the hope the Lord has for me. Through my suffering the Lord has shaped my children. When they see me in pain they pray, they lay hands on me, and we trust the Lord will heal me. It might not be in our/my timing but in His perfect timing. In the midst of this storm I trust Him.

This past month while I was taking part in the Freedom Challenge, hiking in Wyoming, I had a taste of freedom that I have not had in a long time. It was beautiful. IMG_6439I was migraine free for the majority of the trip. I had healing on those mountains, and I am so grateful and thankful for the Lord to show me His perfect love and mercy in my time away. On my first morning away I opened my bible to Psalm 41:3, “The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.” I clung to this scripture. Since returning home the migraines have come back, but I will not lose hope. I will continue to fight for myself, and most importantly my family. As a mother, the best way I can lead my children through my health issues is to show them to always trust, take heart, and know that the Lord has a plan. In the midst of our storms. He knows us by name, and with our sufferings, He is producing a beautiful character.


FullSizeRender (1)Carisa Stark is a 33-year-old lover of her Lord, life, and her family. She has been married for 12.5 years to her best friend Zac. They have five incredible children, Ezekiel 11, Ethan 9, Violet 7, Joy & Hope 3 years old. She enjoys hiking, crossfit and finding new yummy vegan recipes. She spends most of her days homeschooling and running a very busy house of 7.

What Gives You Life?



According to a 2013 study published in The Atlantic, the average age to marry in the U.S. is 27 for women and 29 for men. The correlated article noted that college-educated women marrying later are likely to have a higher annual income than those who marry earlier. In 2013, studies like this one stuck to me as fact, being a new graduate with big plans for herself—moving to a big city, delving into a marketing career, and making enough money to live independently while still enjoying life’s little luxuries.

Looking back, I would love to see the look on my 22-year-old face if I told her that she would meet the man of her dreams at a brewery, reject a dream job with a big L.A. marketing firm, be married within a couple years while still in San Diego with an engineering-based job, and be haphazardly fired from that job another three years after that … yet still be happier than she could ever be because it was exactly where God had placed her.

erin-brandon-wedding-0484Now, coming up on the one-year anniversary of being married to an amazing man who has grown alongside me in our walk with the Lord, I’ve learned to be grateful for what I have but to also do everything I do with purpose, and in the name of Jesus.

Colossians 3:17 reads, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Admittedly, three and a half years ago, I translated this as, “I will be the career woman I’ve always imagined myself being. In the name of the Lord.”

It wasn’t until recently I realized doing “whatever [I] do, whether in word or deed,” didn’t necessarily mean doing whatever it was I had planned for myself in the name of Jesus. Being as stubborn as a mule, it took God’s will of pulling me away from a busy work life to what seemed like a dead halt. Putting so much of my personal value into my work and title, this loss felt devastating. Immediately I began searching for positions, reaching out to contacts and, one after another, I was turned down—even from positions that I knew I had in the bag. It was the strangest thing, and with every rejection I felt my confidence being scraped away because my personal value was tied so much in my work when it shouldn’t have been.

So I started busying myself with little hobbies throughout the week and between job searches. Sometimes I thought they were a little useless when it came to finding me a job, and, in all reality, they were. But I needed something to pass the time and rest my eyes from a pixelated computer screen. I studied new recipes (I learned how to fluff an egg, made a meringue, perfected a recipe for chocolate chip cookies), studied some helpful home economic lessons, created a spreadsheet to manage our household budgets, started catching up with old friends and family, and picked up painting again. I felt like I was becoming a person that I didn’t know; no work-related traveling, no meetings, no negotiations or team projects. I felt like I was becoming a house wife—and I was—but it wasn’t until a couple weeks in that I realized that wasn’t a bad thing at all. I knew I had to start things myself and if anything, this time off allowed me to build discipline and personal growth to find out what I was good at—what mattered to me. Knowing how to care for of our tiny apartment to make it a home wasn’t something I was used to doing, but it was such a refreshing, rewarding objective that I enjoyed doing. Looking at a clean apartment with a happy husband at the end of the day gave me something to be proud of.

A few weeks later, my recipes had improved, I started a small art collection that became part of a small art business, and started working alongside my husband as a marketing director for his family company.

At first, the idea of working with Brandon worried fullsizerender-5me because working side by side with your husband isn’t for everyone, and I’ve been one for categorizing my life—my husband is my husband at home, my co-worker is my co-worker at work. It’s been about two and a half months now, and I can’t complain! In working together, we’ve both learned to lean on each other so well in providing the support and pushing each other in day-to-day activities.

With an understanding of this new intuition—listening to the Lord and doing things that are life-giving in His name—the two of us are entering a new chapter of our life with a new perspective.

With every day that passes, I remind myself that sometimes trivial-looking things mean so much more than they do at first glance. If they calm your heart, give you happiness and allow God to speak to you, they’re valuable experiences.


IMG_1826.jpgErin L. Steele spent her childhood traveling the world as the Air Force allowed her family to explore exciting new places. After graduating from San Diego State University with a B.S. in marketing, she took on a dueling position as a product manager and marketing specialist in the gaming industry. Today, she is a marketing director for her family’s company by day, an artist/outdoor enthusiast by night (and weekends), and a wife to her beloved husband of almost a year 24/7. To see some of her most recent artwork, click here.

Choosing to Walk a Narrow Road

By Arianna McGowen

As part of a school assignment in 7th grade, I looked up the origin/meaning of my name. I laughed at the sight of words like “very holy” and “set apart” because those words could not have been farther from describing my 12-year-old self. It was not until I met Jesus in 8th grade that He would begin to heal me, change me, and invite me to live life a better way. The way He intended. A way in which holy and set apart could be true descriptions of me.

Because my life has changed dramatically since becoming a daughter, it is easy for me to give credit to Him for all the beauty in my life. If God did not get ahold of me when He did, my life would be the epitome of every evil thing. Knowing the extent from which I have been saved has always made me motivated to serve God. I believe when you can remember your life before Christ, and when you can remember all he has healed and changed in you, realizing how much you have been saved from, you not only gain energy to serve Him but you have grace, patience, and love for those who are not in Christ yet (Psalm 77:11/Ephesians 2:12).

As someone who operates best when having a clear understanding of rules, requirements, and expectations, I have found great security in learning what my role as a daughter in Christ looks like. Knowing what is expected of me has helped keep me from becoming derailed and distracted by the world. Knowing the way I am called to operate gives me a way to stay healthy, through measuring myself and properly aligning what is off. Going into High School I couldn’t dismiss the fact that I knew God required me to live as: a light, holy, set apart, a foreigner, a reflector of Jesus, and as someone living in the world but not of it. In no way did I walk perfectly because of my apprehension, but I knew that I could not live polluted/defiled AND as a light. I knew I had to pick one.

FullSizeRender-2Choosing to serve God and live as a light meant choosing the narrow road talked about in Matthew 7. Choosing the narrow path is not easy, glamorous, or popular. I quickly realized that choosing the narrow path was challenging, heavy, restraining, lonely, and difficult. It was heavy to carry the weight High School entailed on its own (AP classes, sports, friendships, home life, etc.) but even heavier when adding the weight of what it meant to live for Jesus (being intentional with people, leading Christian clubs, seeking the lost, being responsible for souls, living as an example to non-believers, etc.). It was heavy, and hard, and burdensome. I messed up countless times. I sometimes adopted the Israelite mindset of feeling like life would be so much easier without God leading me (Exodus 16:3) because there would be less to worry about if I focused on “me” instead of “the world”.

To any of my sweet sisters who can relate to this and need a refreshed vision for serving Him, the answer might be simpler than you think. For me, it was found in the first and greatest umbrella commandment Matthew 22:37 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. What the Lord showed me after much frustration was that I only ever felt the weight of serving God when I operated out of task, chore, checklist, and obligation. It was in the moments of feeling genuine love from, and for Jesus, that my load was not overwhelming or heavy. Serving God and feeding his sheep became a response to the love I felt for Him.

The amount of weight did not change (in fact, it most often grew) but the weight I knew to be so heavy felt impeccably light when I loved God wholeheartedly and did things out of His strength and not my own. I knew that knowing Him and loving Him needed to be my motivation for action because I burnt out easily doing things for personal rewards, approval, and progress. Because I loved Jesus, I wanted others to know him too. Because I feared him, and cared about what pleased his heart, it was easier to say no to sin. Because I loved God, I loved his people and ministered to them. When God was not honored, I couldn’t help but speak up.  When God was offended, I became offended. Because I loved God, I wanted to imitate Him. Because I loved Him, it brought me great joy to seek and care for the lost. Because I focused on Him and not myself, I could hear his voice lighten the load by telling me sweet things like “loneliness is normal and healthy, because you are picking a road not many choose. A road that leads to life” and “I love you so much. Let me carry your burdens. Lay them before me. Rest.”

When you feel yourself getting tired, I pray you rest in Him more. When you feel yourself getting dry and plateauing, I pray you chase after His love harder. He is pleased in seeing us operate out of love instead of our own agenda. He enjoys filling us up and carrying our weight when we choose the narrow road leading to life in Him. He delights in us when we give up the things of the world for the pure sake of knowing Him. And it brings Him great joy when we advance His kingdom out of daughtership instead of servantship. When we live in such a way that declares, “As a daughter, I want to advance His Kingdom. Not because I know it is asked of me, but because I love him. Because I am an heir. And because it is my Kingdom too!”




My name is Arianna McGowen and I am 17-years-old. It is upon attending The Father’s House that I began a relationship with Christ when I was 13. I went to Escondido High School my freshman through junior year and graduated from Bayshore this year. God has gifted my heart with a passion to establish justice and righteousness for those who are oppressed (Isaiah 61). Because of that, my hope is to go to Law School and work towards becoming a Lawyer. As for now, I am looking forward to being a part of the next class of Immersion here at TFH.


Cali to Calí



In May I returned to Ecuador after a quick visit home in California. I spent time visiting with family and friends, attending weddings and birthday parties. I made sure to pay visits to all of the essentials; the ocean, Target, In-N-Out, Chick-fil-A, and REI. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at home. There is something special and comforting about returning to the familiar.

Upon returning to Ecuador, I transitioned to a different part of the the ministry I am working for, called Youth World. While I am continuing in the similar type of work, I am now operating out of the offices of El Refugio, a retreat center outside of Quito. This transition required me to move from my city apartment to the small town of Calacali, known by the locals as Cali. Although close in proximity to Quito, it is unlike the loud and congested capital city. El Refugio is on the southern edge of this culturally rich mountain town. Without a car or bike, I have plenty of opportunities to walk the culturally rich streets Calacalí.


As I head into town from El Refugio, I walk down the tree-lined dirt road that leads me off the 300 acre property. I turn left out of the gate on to a brick road and am quickly greeted by the barking of the stray dogs that run the streets. Along the way, I pass dozens of simple cinderblock and cement homes. While sidewalks line the two-lane roads, the people of Calacalí elect to walk in the middle of the streets. As I walk to the heart of this chilly mountain town, I pass several locals with whom I greet with the customary “Buenos Dias”. Normally the greeting is returned, however at times, I am met with a surprised look. As a blue eyed North American woman, I truly stand out as foreign. There are less than a dozen North Americans living in this town of 4,000. (If I am being honest, at times I am tempted to cover up my light skin, eyes and hair to fit in).

After twenty minutes of avoiding crazed dogs, dodging the rogue soccer balls and uncomfortable stares, I arrive at the central square of town. In the center of this small park is a monument commemorating the French scientific expeditions to analyze the curvature of the earth. Originally these scientists marked this area the middle of the world with the longitude and latitude of 00’00’00”. While the equator does run through Calacali, the “middle of the world” was later confirmed to be just twenty minutes down the road in the neighboring city of San Antonio. Founded in 1572 this town is more than 200 years older than the United States as a nation.

In the afternoons the central square is a buzz. The latin music blasting from the local dvd store sets the rhythm for the whole area. The older men and women sit on the cement benches chatting, while the school children gather to organize a soccer game or to share a snack. The smells of fresh baked bread and empanadas fill the crisp mountain air. The people of Calacalí are primarily farmers or tradesmen, extremely hardworking while simultaneously relational and friendly. Families are large and interconnected.

At first glance a life in Calacalí represents poor and simple life, however as I have spent time with the people of this community I have seen another part of the picture. What this town lacks physically is made up ten fold. Calacalí is set on a foundation of rich culture and history. Community, family and hard work are stabilizing pillars. The community is necessary to life.

Growing up in North America, community seemed like a luxury item, something to selectively add to your calendar when you have time. In Calacalí, community is not an add-on; it is an essential.

While there are few Christians in this town, the residents demonstrate a life in community much like what we see in the early church. Life is communal. Clothing, food, cars, and homes are shared. If someone needs medical treatment the community bands together to find a way to pay bills. They say that if there is food for six people there is food for seven. As a result of this shared life mentality, everyone is cared for and has enough.

This way of life has challenged my individualistic thinking and behavior. At times, I do not want to share.

I would like to eat my Doritos in peace rather than having five pairs of dirty hands in my small bag of chips. However, I am reminded that Christ gave everything for me. I am humbled, as I do not deserve his grace, forgiveness or mercy yet, he gives it freely. Out of this humility and gratitude, should not I extend the same to others? I am challenged to live my life with open hands. I am learning how to share much more than my bag of Doritos.

Galatians 6:2 calls us to carry each other’s burdens. Throughout my time here in Ecuador, I am learning to stand by those in my community to take their yoke upon my shoulders and to carry their load, and to allow others to do the same for me.

Life in Calacalí is has little resemblance of life in California however, somehow it feels like home. Parts of my being have become alive in this small Andean town. Surrounded by volcanoes it holds a different type of beauty than that of the Californian coast. I am so blessed to call both of these places home. I guess I am just a cali girl through and through.


Learn more about her time in Ecuador by reading her personal blog →!blog/zojx2

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IMG_6162_3964Grace grew up in Escondido and has been a part of the The Father’s House church family since 2006. During junior high and high school she was involved in the youth group. She graduated from San Pasqual in 2011 and then moved to Massachusetts to study Economics and Outdoor Education and to play field hockey at Gordon College. In the Fall of 2015 she followed the Lord’s call and moved to Ecuador. In Ecuador she occupies the dual role of small business developer and backpacking guide for the ministry called Youth World based in Quito, Ecuador.

She is able to apply both of her fields of study to further the Kingdom. Wherever she is in the world, Grace can be found outside playing sports or climbing mountains. She loves adventure and connecting with God through nature.