"For Thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: Thou art my trust from my youth."
Nearly every Tuesday, I slip over to the blog of a sweet, precious sister in the Lord,
and I link up one of my latest blog posts.
While there, I find needed encouragement, and I leave refreshed in spirit.
Many of you already know and love her, but for those who may not have met her yet,
I am so happy to introduce her to you today!
Holly Solomon Barrett is a Jesus-following minster, writer, mother and YaYa from NC. Holly is a survivor of domestic violence and has served churches for more than 20 years in a variety of volunteer and staff ministry roles. She currently serves as Director of Communications for the ministry of The Crossnore School in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, where she daily shares the stories of children finding hope and healing. Holly writes at Reclaiming A Redeemed Life and podcasts weekly at Living A Redeemed Life. She enjoys teaching and speaking opportunities wherever they may arise, sharing the story of redemption available to all. Holly has two adult children, one son-in-love, and three of the most beautiful grandchildren ever.
With gratitude, I present to you the
Minister, Writer, Mother, and Grandmother,
Minister, Writer, Mother, and Grandmother,
Cheryl: What was your childhood like?
Holly: I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s. It was definitely a different time. Like most mothers at that time, my mom stayed home with my brother and me. We walked to school. We went to church. We rode in cars without seat belts! My dad was a minister, and so much of our life was spent within the church and actually in the church building. Mom went back to work when I was about 10. So at a young age, I learned to do a lot around the house…cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc. By the time I was a teenager, my dad had retired from the ministry, so we finally stayed in one place longer than 2 years! My brother and I finished junior and senior high school at the same place we started! We continued to be active in church of course, and I had jobs, boyfriends, and great friends from that time period. I’m still in touch with my four best friends from high school. Honestly, I have to say it wasn’t as idyllic as it sounds. Being a minister’s family is hard, and it was really hard back then. My dad was often the only staff person and thus, the only one everyone called for whatever needed to be done. He was gone a lot. And suffice it to say that I had a rebellious streak as a teen. The most formative thing for me was not growing up in a grace-oriented church where I soon realized that I wouldn’t measure up. So if I wasn’t going to measure up anyway, why bother trying to keep all the rules? I have great memories from my childhood and teen years…but I’m really glad that part of my life is behind me!
Cheryl: When you were growing up, what did you most want to be?
Holly: A writer and a teacher. And a wife and a mom.
Cheryl: When did you become a Christian? What were the circumstances surrounding you turning your life over to Christ?
Holly: Well, now that is two separate questions! I became a Christian and was baptized when I was almost 19 at the beginning of my freshman year in college. I was involved in a very large campus ministry at a state university. The next 12 to 13 years were filled with major ups and downs! So the answer to the second question is that I finally turned it all over to Him around age 32 when I got divorced and became a single mom of two littles. There is something about feeling like a failure that makes you willing to give up control! But it was more than apparent when I turned my life back to Him that He had been waiting the entire time and was ready to heal and redeem all the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:27).
Cheryl: What inspired you to begin blogging? Tell us about Reclaiming A Redeemed Life.
Holly: My dream to be a writer had never died. There were many years when I hardly had time to read a book, let alone figure out how to write even a paragraph. But as my children grew up and left the nest, my hours were suddenly much more free. By then blogging was a thing. and I started reading blogs. It wasn’t long before I thought, well I could do that! So I built my first blog on Blogspot, wrote a few posts, and let it sit there until I gathered up the courage to hit publish. My first blog was a ministry-related blog. I was doing women’s ministry then, and wrote to encourage and inform the women at my church. That was in 2009. In 2012, I went through some training with Amy Carroll at Next Step Speaker Services as God was directing me to step out into my own blog that wasn’t connected to a particular ministry. So Reclaiming A Redeemed Life was born. I write about faith, family, and spiritual life lessons we can learn in the every day. I’m passionate about Scripture and the application of it in our lives. And I want to encourage everyone to live in the redemption that is ours on the day we are saved. That leads us to the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10:10. Also turns out that God really knows what He is doing, because in the same year that I started my own blog separate from a ministry blog, I got laid off from my church staff position. Love how He always prepares us for what’s coming next!
Cheryl: What was the darkest time of your life? How did your faith in God sustain you during this time? What advice would you give to the reader who is now going through a similar trial?
Holly: There have been several. My divorce was the right thing to do to protect my children and myself, as my former spouse was an alcoholic abuser. Children should never grow up in domestic violence. Then there were the several years that I dealt with a serious stronghold of sin and received a huge light bulb moment in Scripture that catapulted my recovery journey. The year my nephew died in a car accident two weeks before my son graduated high school was a year my family will never forget. And the year I was laid off from a church was especially painful, as I was unemployed for almost a year to the day, and went to live with my daughter and her family for five months. Any one of these things is enough to knock you off your feet and it is only through the grace of God that you get back up. And I’m not sure that my faith didn’t waiver during any of those things…that’s pretty normal, I’d say. But there were several things that sustained me through all of these trials: God’s Word. It is always true. It is always reliable. And when I keep my nose in the Book, my head and my heart have much less chance to wander off on their own. The second thing is community. God’s people are not perfect, but I’ve found they are always present. To pray, to hold my hand, to cry with me, whatever I’ve needed. It is true that community works, and there is no better community than one drawn together by the Spirit of God. I would encourage anyone going through difficulties to find a community that will love and support you, and will also point you to God’s Word and His plan for your life.
Cheryl: What are you most passionate about?
Holly: So many things…my family first. I have two adult children and a son-in-love, along with three grandchildren. Those six people are my very heartbeat. Second, is living in the redemption God gifted me. I don’t ever want to go back to living in captivity or living in a half-life of rules and fear. Jesus set me free, and I want to stay there! And finally, sharing God’s love and His Word with people who don’t know Him. That sounds really ministerial, doesn’t it? But really it’s something we can all do every day in our every day lives. We don’t have to be in a church building or at a worship service or small group. We don’t have to stand on a street corner preaching or walk around with our Bibles to pull out at a moment’s notice. We can simply live our redeemed life every day, trusting God to bring the Divine appointments He chooses into our lives, and being people who care about others. That speaks volumes to the people we meet every day who are hurting and searching.
Cheryl: Can you tell us about your ministry? When did you first feel the call of God upon your life? What was it like to become an ordained minister?
Holly: I never set out to be a minister, since I lived the life of a minister’s kid! But when I came back to the Lord in my early 30’s as my marriage ended, I felt an undeniable call to use my gifts in kingdom service. So I spent 20 years in volunteer ministry, while seeking a full-time paid role. I served in divorce recovery, youth ministry, women’s ministry, and adult education. I finally was hired as a Connections Minister with the responsibilities of guest services & newcomer assimilation, community transformation, women’s ministry, and adult Bible studies. It was a big job, and I loved it. It’s also where God began to challenge my assumptions about ministry and what we do inside the church building vs. outside the building. When you start working in the community, that will happen! Today I work as Director of Communications for the ministry of The Crossnore School. We are a Christian organization providing a group home for children from families in crisis. We have two campuses and currently serve nearly 300 children in different programs including group homes, single-family foster care, adoption, outpatient therapy and medications management, day treatment, and intensive in-home services. It is a privilege every day to tell the stories of the children we serve.
Cheryl: When are you happiest? What fulfills you the most?
Holly: I am happiest when I get my way! Just kidding. Sort of. :-) Isn’t that true for all of us? But I truly find the most joy in being with people…especially my family. There’s no joy like the joy of being a grandma! Or YaYa as my grands call me. I am most fulfilled when I feel like I’m doing exactly what God wants me to do…whether that is in a larger life calling or within a moment where He calls me to be present and serve.
Cheryl: Describe your current ministry endeavors. What are you involved in now?
Holly: Well, my job takes up the majority of my waking hours. But I love it! I am truly getting paid to write now, and it’s awesome! Otherwise, I write a lot and am working on a couple of books. I enjoy conversations with fellow believers on my podcast, Living A Redeemed Life. And I enjoy the occasional opportunity to preach at my church or to speak at conferences or retreats. I’d love more of those opportunities too!
Cheryl: Who do you credit as being your most influential spiritual mentor? Tell us how this person has enhanced your walk with Jesus.
Holly: I don’t think I can choose just one person, but rather three different groups of people. All three were groups of three other women with whom I entered into prayer and accountability relationships during very formative times in my life. The first group was when my children were younger, and I was just beginning to seriously walk with Jesus. The second group was when I was dealing with my own recovery. And the third group was when my children were leaving home, and I was trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life. All three groups of women always kept me moving towards Jesus. They prayed over me, grieved with me, and celebrated breakthroughs. They supported my decisions and were honest enough to tell me the truth in love. I miss them desperately as we have scattered about the state and the country now. I currently live in a tiny town and have had difficulty establishing relationships in a very isolated and insular community. So I look forward to the day when I can be in similar relationships again. Over the last few months, God has called me into relationship with three other women who all live in different states. What began as relationships in the online community have now spilled over into real life, and we get together in person, meet in Google hangouts, text, and call one another as often as possible.
Cheryl: Describe the legacy you hope to leave for your children and grandchildren. What are some of the things you hope they remember about you most?
Holly: I just hope my kids and grands know that I love them beyond all reason. I always told my kids that I love them all the way around the world and back again. That become truth when they both deployed (at different times thankfully) and were very, very far away from home! I hope they remember that we had fun together, that I was encouraging and not judgmental as they lived their own lives, and that I thought they were the best people on the planet.
Cheryl: If you could sit down with anyone, living or dead, and ask them for advice, who would you most wish to talk to? Why? What questions would you ask?
Holly: I think I would call together all three of my prayer and accountability groups. I stay in contact with most of them at least through Facebook but that’s certainly different than our relationships used to be. I’d want to hear how they are experiencing God now, how they are ministering in their communities, and how they feel I have done since we were close. I’d like to talk about how we can serve God better in this stage of life now.
Cheryl: How do you stay encouraged? Are there particular Scriptures, hymns, books, or other resources that you would like to recommend to the one who may be disheartened and ready to give up?
Holly: As I mentioned before, I have to keep my nose in the Book. I have to stay connected to God’s people. And I have to have outlets to serve within my gifting and calling. I love worship music but don’t listen to a lot outside of worship services. I also enjoy podcasts and there are a lot out there where you can be encouraged and learn from others. For anyone who is ready to give up, I’d say find community. Find a place where people will love and listen.
Cheryl: What would you describe as being the biggest challenge you have ever had to face, and how did you overcome it?
Holly: My recovery journey was difficult, no surprise there. I was captive to a stronghold that I thought I would never leave behind. But God showed me in Romans 6 and 8 how Jesus had overcome death, and I finally realized that the same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead was available to me today. It was available to resurrect me from captivity and for me to draw on every day to fight temptation. Having a group of women around me who knew all the bad and ugly parts of it and loved me anyway was transformative. They weren’t afraid to love me and they weren’t afraid of the truth…either hearing it or speaking it. They were available when I was struggling. They prayed for me. They made plans with me about how I would avoid my particular temptations. They held my arms up as I battled through this season and are a large part of my victory. Most importantly, they always pointed me back to the truth and love of our Father.
Cheryl: How can we pray for you at this current season of life?
Holly: You can pray that I will be content and patient in whatever circumstances God chooses for me right now. I love what I do and love my life, I just don’t love where I am living right now. I’m a city girl who doesn’t live in a city. That could change though, and I need to just wait on God’s will and timing! Thanks so much for praying for me.
And, thank you, dear Holly, for being willing to take the time to share your heart with us!
You, my friend, are such a blessing!
Please add Holly and her request to your prayers, dear readers.
Sometimes, when God wants us to make a change, He allows us to feel a stirring of discontent.
I look forward to seeing what great things He has ahead for Holly!
God bless you for reading, for your support and encouragement,
and for every time you visit and comment here!
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