Grit and Grace Writers
Darlene, President of The Grit and Grace Project, is crazy enough to jump in the deep end then realize she may not have a clue where she’s landed. She has spent her adult life juggling careers in the music business, been an author, a video producer, and also cared for her family ... some days drowning, other days believing she’s capable of synchronized swimming.
Don’t be fooled by Ashley’s quiet presence. She’s an internal processor who just might overthink from time to time. When she’s not caught up in her thoughts, she’s usually writing them or enjoying the thoughts of others. She’s a wife, new mom, and lover of all things pretty.
Marlys is a speaker, award-winning writer (Cascade Awards 2019 and 2022), and Chai latte enthusiast. She loves getting outdoors—would rather lace up hiking boots than go shopping—and has a passion for encouraging people to live well in the hard and holy seasons of life, having embraced her share of sorrows and losses.
Caroline Beidler, MSW is an author, recovery advocate and founder of the storytelling platform Bright Story Shine where she has released several eBooks including 10 Practical Ways to Make Your Recovery Shine. With almost 20 years in leadership within social work and ministry, she leads Creative Consultation Services, LLC., a business focused on creating sustainable addiction recovery support services. She is also a Research Collaborator with the Lyda Hill Institute on Human Resilience at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and a team writer for the Grit and Grace Project and blogger at the global recovery platform In the Rooms. Caroline lives in Tennessee with her husband and twins where she enjoys hiking in the mountains and building up her community’s local recovery ministry.
Torrie is a Mixed-Race woman who passionately writes as a voice for her community. Her essays and articles have been published in multiple online publications, including Grit and Grace Life and (in)Courage and several podcasts where she aims to educate others on the challenges and experiences of the Mixed-Race community.
I am an educator and write online at www.michellewallishurst.com My favorite topics are faith, chronic illness, hope, relationships and middle age. I love to read, write, hike and nap. I drink in all the coffee, tea, wine and books I can get my hands on. I used to run long races, but now I mostly run errands. I struggle with faith, questions, complicated relationships, pain and details like where I put my keys. I often don’t know how I feel until I see it typed out. I know both how important and scary hope can be. I find myself questioning my small and ordinary life one minute and the next minute being absolutely overwhelmed by the beauty of it.
Kathy Izard is an award-winning author and speaker who helped bring transformation to Charlotte, NC in homelessness, housing and mental health. After a twenty-year career in advertising, Kathy made an unexpected mid-life change to begin housing those experiencing homelessness. Since 2008, she has helped lead community efforts to raise over $75 million to build housing including Moore Place, and a mental health treatment center, HopeWay. Through writing, speaking and coaching, Kathy draws upon her own path to purpose to help others find what is calling them. As an author, Kathy writes inspirational nonfiction for adults including, The Hundred Story Home which received a 2017 Christopher Award and a new release, The Last Ordinary Hour: Living Life Now That Nothing Will Ever Be the Same. Her illustrated children’s book A Good Night for Mr. Coleman helps kids understand the complex issue of homelessness and the idea that one person can make a difference. Kathy’s work has been featured on the Today Show and NPR inspiring people to be changemakers in their communities. Learn more www.kathyizard.com
Amber is currently a full-time wife and mom, whose past careers include journalism and bank management. When she isn't neck-deep in room-mom duties or laundry, she can be found in the driver's seat of her minivan chauffeuring her four girls to gymnastics and soccer. Grief warrior, football fanatic, collector of lip gloss, wannabe health nut, humor addict, completer of bucket lists, and drinker of coffee... music is her love language. Her three guinea pigs, two cats, and one dog think she walks on water.
You don’t usually have to wonder what Julie’s thinking. Her personal mantra is #beboldandjustbeyou so she shares her heart, her humor, her fitness and fashion tips, and frequent embarrassing moments willingly. She’s winging it. Motherhood, her eyeliner, everything.
Meaghan is the most extroverted introvert you’ll ever meet. An East Coast transplant living in Texas, she spends most of her time wrangling 3 kids, her husband, and a giant dog. When she finally gets a free minute you can either find her tucked in on the couch with a good book or in the kitchen, attempting to create magical meals (and sometimes succeeding).
This Grit and Grace Life hosts, Darlene Brock and Julie (Graham) Bender cross generational lines and draw from life experience to discuss all things life—from the boardroom to the bedroom, car-lines to college, being single, married, or single again. Combining the two traits found in all women, grit and grace, they laugh, share insights and explore the road taken to find strength every day.
Parents of 5, this couple went from ranch hands to a tiny house filled to the brim with life. Starting a new business (Creative QT), birthing their 5th child and moving to farmland all at the same time led to a discovery that what they needed was the same thing every parent needs — a little structure and organization for their family to allow for a little Creative Quality Time.
A lover of coffee, Pilates, and anything that involves being with her family and friends, Amy Geiger has been a classroom teacher for the past 10 years. Married to her best friend with two little ones at home, she's learning how to embrace the tensions of working full-time while raising her small kids.
Angela grew up on a farm in the Midwest. She has been married to her husband Mark for 28 years. They've lived in six different states and have two beautiful children. Angela works in policy and payer relations for the laboratory industry and is living life to the fullest as a breast cancer survivor.
Ashley Chesnut serves as the Associate Young Adult Minister at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and she’s the author of "It's Not Just You: Freeing Women to Talk about Sexual Sin and Fight It Well." She has a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a Certificate of Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. When she's not at the church or meeting with girls, you can probably find her at the farmer's market or trying some new local restaurant.
Ashley is mother to a daughter in heaven and wife to Kyle. She is a lover and a helper. She is known to brake for squirrels, stop on the side of the road to save a turtle from becoming roadkill, and can cuddle with puppies all day long. Coffee would make her mornings so much easier, but she just can't bring herself to like it. She's a friend of grief and an ambassador of joy. She feels honored to have this opportunity to share her story with you.
Audrey’s favorite things are an old pair of broken-in boots, fresh cut flowers, glitter, and leopard print. She can be found chasing after her two daughters, running a few miles here and there, doing a little traveling, hosting some parties, reading a few books, and whipping up some fun things in the kitchen.
Barbara Hill is an East coast girl at heart, and after two amazing years living in Southern California working with Propel Women and the A21 Campaign, she has relocated to the big city of Chicago, Illinois to complete her licensure as a mental health counselor. She is a coffee-loving freedom fighter, worship leader, and blogger. Connect with her on Instagram (@barbshill), Facebook and her blog, The Edges of His Ways.
Belinda is the author of the book An Autism Journey of Hope, whose education prepared her for working with Autistic children, but the birth of her autistic daughter taught her even more. Her hobbies include reading, spending time on the lake, volunteer work, traveling, and being with family and friends.
Beverly is a Carolina girl who loves shaggin (that’s a dance) on the beach, picnics in Central Park, Broadway shows and eating fried chicken. She is passionate about family and friendships. She is a dreamer and believes whole heartedly good can come out of most situations.
Chelsea is an aspiring writer and watercolor artist living in colorful Colorado with her dashing husband, Michael, and their two cuddly cats. Chelsea enjoys exploring historic mountain towns with Michael. Above all else, Chelsea loves Jesus and is passionate about loving His people and furthering His kingdom by utilizing her skills and abilities.
Cherie spends her time overseeing her business, volunteering as a chaplain at the state hospital, writing for her blog, and speaking at women’s events. Cherie lives with her husband in Bow, NH and together they have four daughters, one grandson, and a grandchild, affectionately referred to as Baby Bird, arriving in July. She enjoys hiking, cooking, cello lessons, and creating beautiful spaces.
Cherrie is an author, speaker, and life coach. She is passionate about sharing her story with other women and offering hope and purpose through the stormy seasons of life. Cherrie and her husband, Mack, are recent empty nesters living it up on their new adventure and loving their imperfectly beautifully blended family of five kids and five grandkids.
Courtney Dow, MEd, CRC, is the Director of Out of Darkness—a non-profit organization of the Atlanta Dream Center. She's a native of Atlanta, GA and a graduate of Auburn University with a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling. Dow previously worked at the International Labour Organization, a department of the United Nations, before joining the NightLight International team in 2005, where she worked until November of 2016. Courtney has assisted victims of sex trafficking from the United States, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, India, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Turkey, and Uganda. In 2012, she received Auburn University's Young Alumni of the Year Award and was featured in the “Young Influencers List: Fifty change makers on the rise” in The Catalyst Leader: 8 essentials for becoming a change maker by Brad Lomenick. Courtney desires to see people who are in bondage to the abuse of their past set free.
Emily is a Midwestern girl sweating in the South with her hubs of one year and cat, Felicia. She’s a musician (she plays 10 instruments!) and singer and loves making people laugh. When she’s not writing she's planning meet-ups, volunteering, or playing board games with her hubs. She's also a huge fan of air conditioning.
Eve lives on a farm in the northwest Georgia mountains with her husband, 21-year-old son, and various other family members as they wander in and out, transitioning between homes, jobs, schools, or naps. Eve loves writing what she learns in her daily life. "My life is a wonder-full mix of family and friends, football games and diapers, gardening, chores, church, and faith."
Jessica is a 31-year-old baseball wife and flight attendant. Currently residing in Palm Beach, FL, she with her husband, has moved 18 times in the last 8 years, including overseas. It’s taken a lot of Grit and Grace, as newlyweds, to learn how to navigate her and her husbands’ careers while keeping God at the center of their marriage and lives.
Jennifer Taylor Wagner is a certified fitness instructor and successful blogger. She is passionate about challenging the way we think about health and wellness, and regularly writes on the topics of healthy living and body positivity. Whether it’s hosting online webinars, speaking in auditoriums, or chatting at MOPS meetings, she is committed to helping others find hope in their journey. Jennifer lives in Virginia with her husband, Phil and their two kids. Visit her online at jenniferwagner.co
As a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mama of 5 kids, Jessica Girado expresses herself through art and instills creativity in her kids every day. She runs her own Etsy shop, does photography, writes occasionally, enjoys creating things, and shares wellness. She recognizes that beauty in doing hard things ultimately builds character and faith, creating beauty in the simplicity of living.
Karen DeVault is a story teller and published author. She has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Guideposts. As a columnist for Women to Women Michigan Magazine, she tells inspiring and humorous stories of her outdoor adventures, from mule riding in the Grand Canyon to swimming with manatees.
Kate likes to keep things real and writes about family, decor, and organizing on her blog housemixblog.com. She and her husband, Marcello, and have three kids. Kate is from the Midwest and Marcello is from Italy, but they call southwest Florida home. At their house there is lots of pasta, It-lish (speaking in half Italian and half English), dancing, yelling (usually the good kind), and general chaos.
I am a survivor. I am a single mom to 2 large boys (ages 18 and 15). I have walked through an abusive marriage and seen God's victory in my life. I started writing at the request of my biblical counselor to help process some of the trauma that I've been through and found it comforting to tell my story not only for me, but for anyone who has walked a similar path. I believe that God was there every step of the way even when I didn't "see" him. I'm from Virginia and continue to heal through writing.
Katie Roberts has been writing stories since her Sophomore year of high school. It was a given that she graduated with a degree in Journalism since her father named her after Katie Couric. Her life philosophy includes this, "When life gives you lemons, you throw the lemons away and go get coffee."
Kelsey was a basketball player turned pageant queen but is now a professional packer and mover living out of her pink suitcase. She loves making friends anywhere and breaking shy people out of their shells. If you can’t find her, chances are she's lost in one of her multitude of books.
Kim is a nature-loving, latte-sipping single mom of three. She lives in a charming town just outside of New Orleans. She’s been a nurse for 13 years and loves what she does. She’s also passionate about reaching single moms with encouragement and inspiration. Kim is joyfully living a life of blessed chaos!
Laura is stay at home mama of two beautiful boys, one having special needs. She's learned that there is no merit gained in mothering; only love, mercy, and forgiveness freely given. She believes she has gained so much by throwing away prenotioned stereotypes and clinging to the the truth of the bible. In the world of autism you quickly realize that the little things are the big things!
Loren fell in love with film production while growing up on music video sets in Nashville, TN. She thinks with some serious balance, and lots of coffee, you can do it all. This has led her to a nomadic life from California to North Carolina working for a few months at each stop in film production for major studios (she even made a cross country road trip with a toddler in tow and enjoyed mostly every minute). When she is not on a production, she enjoys sidewalk chalk, adventures in the park, and just playing as much if not more than her son!
Lucy is a Mom of two who has a passion for creative play and spending as much quality time with her family as possible. Working part-time for Creative QT and juggling family life makes her well qualified to share insights on maximizing time together over surviving the unavoidable kid clutter. She also enjoys using her training as a teacher to help parents engage in meaningful play and STEM-based learning activities with their kids.
Lydia is a former teacher who traded in textbooks and grading papers for the glamorous life of wife and mom. She blogs to show the raw, unedited and vulnerable experiences of marriage and motherhood to fellow wives and mothers. She writes about tips, tricks, and honest truths to help you cope with the daily chaos that accompanies us every step of the way.
Maddalena is a former wife, Federal manager, PTA President, current mother, music impresario and fledgling writer. She started her Internet writing site, “Midnight Missives and Musings” to talk about all of these things and more. Maddalena has had her work published in online magazine sites: Insidewink and Harness Magazine as well as a recent reading of her work on The Monologue Podcasts. She was born in Italy, raised in New York and calls Los Angeles home along with her two sons.
Maureen Beville has worked in the field of health promotion and wellness for more than 20 years. After having a corporate career, she now owns and operates Dwell Yoga Studio in North Texas where she has the opportunity to teach Christ-centered yoga. Maureen is a wife and mother to two daughters. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and exploring new places, watching her daughters play volleyball and sitting by the ocean any chance she can get.
Megan is a work-from-home mom of four, ranging in ages 3-11. She has been married for nearly 15 years, but those years have not come without struggle. As a military wife, she managed to coach, obtain her Master's in Special Education, teach in the classroom then leave the classroom to stay at home with her kids. She is currently writing a book about the post-partum depression that had left her and her husband broken. Having dealt with the struggles and the growth during this season, she is now finding her place and value in this life.
Monique Jackson King is a believer in all things that make the heart smile! She has always felt a tug at her heart to write and spread love and hope through her words. However, it wasn't until she experienced a sexual assault that resulted in the conception of her daughter, followed by a series of subsequent "tough" circumstances that she rose to the challenge to find healing through her pen.
Nicole is a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Connecticut where she lives with her husband and one year-old son. When she is not counseling or chasing her lively toddler, she enjoys writing about topics that combine faith and life and connecting with readers on her blog: nicolezasowski.com and her Instagram account: @nicolezasowski.
Born and raised in Miami Florida, Phylicia is all about being sassy but at the same time being classy. She’s a full-time student at Florida Gulf Coast University where she studies Communication. Aside from being full time student she’s also an Undergraduate Admissions Representative and Tour Guide for the university.
Rachel Pieh Jones is influenced by living in the Horn of Africa, raising Third Culture Kids, and adventurous exploration of the natural world. She is the author of Stronger than Death: How Annalena Tonelli Defied Terror and Tuberculosis in the Horn of Africa. Visit her at www.djiboutijones.com and stay in touch through her Stories from the Horn newsletter.
Sara loves communicating with women about God's Word and His truth for their lives. Through her wit, humor and fun God-stories, Sara invites the audience to experience their own life-changing adventure with the Lord. When she’s not working you can find Sara curled up with a cup of hot tea and a good book.
SarahBeth is a coffee-obsessed country music junkie with a love for others and her sweet little boy. She lives life to show others that offering up the pieces of a broken life can once again come together in the most beautiful of ways. Her passion for writing and speaking, as well as her jewelry line, the What Was Broken Collection, reminds women that they are bigger than their struggles and their past. Their story is beautiful, and they can wear it well.
Shannon made her way from Michigan to San Diego to Southwest Florida back to Michigan again, where she lives with her husband, twin boys and adorable daughter who rocks an extra 21st chromosome. When she is not with her family, tending the house, or behind the chair doing hair (she's a hair stylist), yoga, reading and drinking lots and lots of coffee are what fill in the rest of her time.
Shannon DeGarmo knows what it means to be a bounce back woman. At age 26, she woke to the sick realization that her husband was living a double life. Within months, he was in prison and she was suddenly a single woman with two young children, a mortgage, no job, and no college education to fall back on. Shannon’s poignant story is one of denial and betrayal, followed by personal discovery and renewal. On a road filled with despair, she experienced the power of faith in God and herself that allowed her to believe that her very best days were ahead. In a remarkable comeback, she sold her house, moved in with her parents, returned to college, and earned her bachelor's degree in teaching and master’s degree in education, while navigating raising her two wonderful children. She is happily re-married, and finds purpose and joy in encouraging women to discover their true identity and divine destiny through the same faith in God that rescued her.
When she isn’t working her own business, chasing her toddler or waddling around very pregnant she is helping her husband with his custom woodworking and leather making business. Shay lives in a historic 100 year old home, enjoys antiquing, loves DIY projects, being in the ocean and spending time with her family.
Sheena is a classically-trained ballerina, millennial, idea creator, and community-focused collaborator who believes in taking cookies out of the oven 2 minutes early. She’s a sailboat-living yogi with attitude who enjoys poetry, popcorn, and randomly planting vegetables for strangers to discover later.
Tanja Maduzia has always been a creator. She jokes that “you'd be hard-pressed to find another 8-year-old who took sidewalk chalk art and crafting projects during rainy-day recess more serious than me." Taking that passion into adulthood she is the go-to celebrity invitation designer for high profile, luxurious events, and influential clients through her company By Tanja.
Taylor was born and raised in South Carolina, and after a few years in Raleigh, NC now calls the beautiful city of Greenville, South Carolina home. She met her husband, Neal at the University of South Carolina and they have been married for almost four years. They laugh a lot, stay up way too late every night (it's basically college all over again but with a husband and no homework) and have a miniature poodle, Jet, who thinks he is a human child. If she had it her way, the food pyramid would primarily consist of tacos, chocolate ice cream, and breakfast food (She know's what you're thinking and the answer is yes, she WILL be your personal trainer). She loves mornings, reading a good book she can get lost in, and spending quality time with her husband, friends, and family. She can quote way too much of the TV show The Office, and her favorite movie is When Harry Met Sally. She's passionate about men, women, and children across the globe experiencing freedom, and is the founder + owner of Milk & Honey Market, an online fair trade boutique.
When Ashby isn't having lightsaber wars with her four energetic boys, you might find her teaching yoga on a paddleboard, scuba diving with her hubby, or making her own kombucha while putting an essential oil on anything that will hold still. Not all at the same time, although she's not opposed to such a notion.
The Grit and Grace Project will periodically have guest contributors who are willing to share their challenging stories. When they do, we are thankful, but we are also aware that sometimes this can open them up to comments that will potentially cut at the tender skin of healed wounds. When we have one of those writers, it is our choice to keep them anonymous. Personal stories shared are excellent teaching tools, and their corresponding lessons can still be learned while never knowing a name.
Kristen is a flight attendant, a fire wife, and new mommy. She serves on the board of directors at Harmony International School, where she formerly taught English in Kanagawa, Japan. Always a writer, Kristen freelanced for fun publications such as the Pensacola News Journal, Bella Magazine, Japan Travel, Brewhoppin.com before finding a writing home at Grit and Grace Life. She is working on her first non-fiction book. Kristen spends her free time enjoying her local area of Napa Valley or adventuring internationally with her family, preferably in Japan! A survivor of suicide, a holistic wellness advocate, and registered Yoga Teacher, Kristen dreams of opening a wide world of adventures, life lessons, and wellness techniques to her readers.
Dona Middleton was born and raised in a Northern Virginia suburb just outside Washington, D.C. After a chronic illness derailed a thriving Marketing career, Dona now considers her family, faith, writing, and health as her top priorities. Dona is an avid fitness enthusiast, dog lover, and library nerd. She enjoys writing about relationships, raising children as a single mother, navigating the business world with chronic illness, and finding love and purpose in all aspects of life. When not in the gym or library, you can find her spending time with her faithful Golden Retriever, Buddy.
Rachel Greening is a University of Toronto graduate, mom of three, and author of the children’s book If My Oak Tree Could Speak. She has published with Just Between Us magazine and has been featured on websites such as Her View From Home and In The Quiver. She is an active member of Hope Bible Church in Oakville, Ontario and is never too far from a cup of coffee. Rachel's writing and other works can be found on her website: rachelgreeningwrites.com.
Kim believes everyone has a story, we’re all looking for something more, and we all need help to get there. She’s a personal growth enthusiast who journeys with others as they move toward spiritual and emotional character development. Recently retired from 30 years of full-time ministry to women, her story continues in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Kim loves to write, teach and speak. She’s also a volunteer counselor for Respero.org and a qualified Townsend Leadership Coach. Kim’s husband and best friend Dave is also retired from full-time ministry. They've joyfully raised their blended family of five and are overly attached to their nine exceptional grandchildren. They enjoy all the biking, hiking, and year around sports the outdoors offers.