All the interviews and stories we publish are special. There are always some that stand out more than others to each of us. This is one of those interviews that stood out to me, and it holds a special place in my heart. Dianne poured her heart out to bless each of us. She speaks to us today about her literal physical healing, how she and her husband elevate the home and festivities and how they put Jesus at the center, and the role of health in a Modern Witnesses’ life. Prepare to be inspired.
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: Recently I was reading the Song of Songs again, this time in the Passion Translation, and there is a part where the King says to the Shulamite woman, “…For I find the promised land flowing within you.” (4:11) This actually brought me to tears (well the whole book in The Passion Translation did) especially after the personal journey I’ve been on with the Lord. I found it as His direct acknowledgement and recognition to me (and us) of just how He greatly cherishes every effort we make to fully surrender our hearts to Him and allow Him to do a deep work, the clearing out of all of the other stuff, even when it’s uncomfortable, so that He can actually dwell inside of us. That’s the promised land. What we consider so yucky inside, our shortcomings and failures, He considers beautiful when it’s all yielded and surrendered to Him.
“[T]he clearing out of all of the other stuff, even when it’s uncomfortable, so that He can actually dwell inside of us. That’s the promised land.”
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: I feel like I’m always going through a process of spiritual growth in some way. This year in particular, I’ve been putting my heart and soul back before the Lord again, inviting Him into every part, surrendering every part to Him, and just allowing Him to tear down the hard places and rebuild with His truth. It’s an interesting and vulnerable place to be, but so good, and it seems like a work that’s been in progress for years now. The more I think, “I got it now!” the more I realize there’s always more. If we let Him, He will keep taking us from glory to glory.
It’s also really been on my heart to have a deeper revelation and understanding into who Jesus really is (Ephesians 1:17-19) and to see Him not just through a religious mindset or even false assumptions, but to actually see Him as a human who is indeed alive today, personally connected and acquainted with us, a friend, a companion, someone that can so relate to all of the things that we face, someone beyond what is known on the surface and the idea I have had of Him all of my life.
I believe just that revelation alone, the truth of who He really is going deep, deep inside of us, dwelling in our hearts and not just our intellect, gives us the ability to see Him rightly and is really the answer to a lot of the things we in search of in this life. Then we can truly begin to understand and access the abundant life of Christ that is available to us and through us because we understand that He’s actually dwelling inside of us; it’s Him in us that is everything we need and Him in us that will Himself do all of the things that we usually try to help him do. It seems like somewhat of a simple concept, like something we all should naturally know, but it’s not… even Jesus’ disciples didn’t always see him rightly, and they walked with him in the flesh daily.
“If we let Him, He will keep taking us from glory to glory.”
Profession: My professional background is in the legal field where I spent 15 years working as a paralegal in the area of personal injury and for some of those earlier years, simultaneously worked with youth in our local juvenile justice system. After the birth of my second son, I came home full-time to care for my kids and also used the opportunity to formally pursue other interests and passions.
Health problems I had in the past led me to change my lifestyle and dietary habits, which is something I am passionate about and I have since formally pursued and obtained heath coaching certifications and started my own business. I have also started to do some writing about my faith, personal testimonies and experiences with the Lord. All that to say, I am a mom of two all the time :), a health coach (Todd Health & Wellness) and a faith writer… and of course, I am open to any other adventure the Lord wants to take me on.
A one sentence bio of yourself: I am a married mom of two, who lived a whole life before this one, found who I really am through the fire, a messy perfectionist, a deep thinker, an over-analyzer, an extrovert sometimes, an introvert many times, a little edgy, a lot of passion, was once reckless in the world, now reckless for Jesus.
“[F]ound who I really am through the fire–“
When did you first encounter God? I was raised in church by my parents, made a conscious decision to give my life to Jesus at age 7, was baptized shortly after and very involved in church as a child. Even though I was always very sensitive to the Lord, I didn’t always feel connected, accepted or good enough and as the years went on I was drawn to the influences of the world.
For most of my teenage and young adult years, I spent on both sides of the fence, even teaching children’s Sunday School for years as a young adult but simultaneously living my own life with my own agenda in the world, many times recklessly. The older and more independent I became, I drew further away from God and threw myself into my social life, relationships and my work, always looking for validation and worth in those things. I had lots of fun times in the world, was very independent, had a lot of experiences (though not all great ones), accomplished some things, was a go-getter in many ways, but I always felt unfulfilled inside.
God was definitely what was missing in my life, but the truth is that I just wasn’t ready to fully surrender my heart and life to him (although I would certainly always pray to Him to save me from the dire situations I would find myself in). I felt more confident, more in control and less judged while in the world but that was a false reality and inside I was never at peace, never fully content and never satisfied in my soul.
I started having health problems in my mid-20’s and started slowly coming back to the Lord. After I met my husband at age 29 and became engaged within a couple of years, we both began marriage counseling at my home church and started attending church together regularly.
However, within months of getting married, our lives completely changed when we were given some very serious and difficult news regarding my health. It was at that point that we returned to God fully in desperation for him to intervene in my circumstances and thankfully, despite our failures and years of living our own ways, the Lord was right there waiting for us. On February 7, 2009, just one day after we were told my entire colon had to be removed due to complications of Crohn’s Disease and after months of being told I could possibly have colon cancer, we were invited to a prayer group at my brother’s house where the Lord encountered us powerfully. That night both me and my husband were truly marked and changed in my brother’s living room, and we have never looked back since. We have had the honor of walking out this life together with Jesus, not perfectly by far, but in every single circumstance, including my health and so many other things, the Lord has intervened and brought us out better than we ever were before.
“[J]ust one day after we were told my entire colon had to be removed due to complications of Crohn’s Disease and after months of being told I could possibly have colon cancer, we were invited to a prayer group at my brother’s house where the Lord encountered us powerfully.”
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? Without a doubt, prioritizing my personal time with God, sometimes even with no time limit and allowing Him a chance to really speak to me (instead of me always doing all of the talking) and giving Him the opportunity to do whatever He wants to do in me.
It has been critical and life changing. Spending time with the Lord has been a priority for me for years now, but I have recently gone through a long season where after some disappointments, some things I didn’t understand, some difficulties, challenges and a lot of waiting for changes in circumstances, brought me to a place where I really had to just lay everything down (my expectations, my problems, my circumstances, even my dreams, my desires, my goals) and seek Him above everything else.
I’ve made it my life, my very first priority, before business, before chores (not much of a choice there, *laughs*), before so many of the things that can keep us busy even just in day to day life. Time with the Lord is never wasted time, and I have seen the fruit of this time deep down within my heart. And I’ve also seen my motivations for the use of my personal time with Him shift from seeking Him only to change my circumstances to actually seeking Him in order to know Him more. It’s been life-changing.
“Time with the Lord is never wasted time, and I have seen the fruit of this time deep down within my heart.”
Just read/currently reading: I have recently been reading the gospels again in different translations and the Song of Songs. I also just started reading The Saving Life of Christ by Major W. Ian Thomas, which has been transforming.
Honestly, I feel like I’m always studying, reading, re-reading and referencing various scriptures, books, websites, articles on a variety of topics. I pretty much look up everything I have a question about. I also regularly refer to various health and wellness books and resources, particularly ones that have helped me in my own personal journey (The Maker’s Diet Revolution, Planet Heal Thyself, Prime Time Health, Switch on Your Brain, etc).
However as much as I read, I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a “bookworm.” It’s actually rare that I ever sit down and read an entire book, unless it’s with a group or for a class. I’m more of a researcher, and I tend to have a lot of different books and resources on my radar, all at once. I also don’t read a whole lot of fiction or for entertainment, though I did a lot of fictional and series reading as a pre-teen and teen. So, maybe I am a bookworm after all! A cool one, though!
Top three essentials: Bible, journal, phone or computer. And if I’m on the go, I definitely have to throw in lip gloss and sunglasses, *laughs*, so maybe my phone could then count for my traveling Bible, journal and computer.
How did God speak to you recently? That He wants my soul to abide in well-being (Psalm 25:13), and He’s continuing to show me areas of my heart and mind that He wants to bring healing. He never stops healing! And he never stops speaking, we just have to stop and listen!
“He never stops healing!”
Hobby: I like to watch a good chick flick or love story, decorate and shop (although I don’t do much shopping these days). I love coffee/tea dates with friends where we can chat endlessly and I especially love to sit outside at cafe’s or restaurants when the weather is warm. And without question, the beach. That’s usually where you’ll find me in the summers.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:
- Prioritize your personal time with God. Read and study the bible, listen to teachings, worship, pray and sit with him often. He wants to have a personal relationship with us and spending quality time with someone is one of the key things that contribute to a good, solid relationship.
- Fill your mind and home with the right stuff. What you allow in, can influence not only the atmosphere around you but most importantly, the state of your heart.
- Always keep a group of strong godly women or mentors around you and stay teachable. The influence of, discipleship from and the prayers from older women during my faith journey, and life in general, has been invaluable. Not to mention, we simply need each other. We’re never going to know everything, there will always be room for learning and growth, and a fresh and wise perspective from someone else can be just what you need at times.
Favorite person in scripture? One of my favorites is Esther, for her dedication to prepare for the King, her approach to finding out what pleased him, and after she found favor in his sight- her boldness, courage and willingness to lay it all down even to the point of losing her life for the sake of truth and to save her own people. She rose to the occasion at a pivotal point in time ultimately changing history. It was a moment where the past, present and a need in the future collided, bringing her to her point of destiny, and the thing that she was actually born for. I too want to be ready, and I want to be bold and courageous!
My most favorite though is Jesus. There’s so much I could say as I did above, but just for the sake of simplicity, I just think He is so much more relatable than we tend to naturally think. And the examples He gives us in scripture were constantly against the grain of what was expected and challenged the religious standards of that day, yet we know He was sinless, perfect and being led of the Father so we know He always had the appropriate response to every situation.… it’s so interesting. He just doesn’t always do things the way we expect him to, then and even now.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? It’s crazy because I have a completely new and different life than I had before. Before I surrendered to the Lord, a lot of my decisions, characteristics and relationships were tied up with so much hurt from the past, insecurities and just a matter of searching really.
But the Lord has encountered me on every level and saved me, not only physically with my health but also emotionally, and He has healed me inside of so much and continues to. So what I would want people to see when they look at me is that He’s not just a story, He’s real, He’s practical, He’s really acquainted with us, He heals, He restores, He redeems, He satisfies, He really loves us, there’s hope for every circumstance, and there’s nothing is impossible for Him.
“He’s not just a story, He’s real, He’s practical, He’s really acquainted with us, He heals, He restores, He redeems, He satisfies, He really loves us, there’s hope for every circumstance and there’s nothing is impossible for Him.”
Favorite season? It’s always been spring and summer, especially summer. I love the warm weather. One of my most favorite things is sitting outside on a warm day or night. However, these days I am also loving the change of seasons. I actually look forward to adjusting to a new groove in the fall and the slower pace that winter can bring, not to mention the holidays are great too. I’m really trying now to embrace each season for what it is and the changes it brings.
Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving has probably always been my favorite holiday. I love gathering with family and feasting together. I’m the baby of 6 kids and just about all of my siblings are married with kids, some even with grandkids now, so holidays are usually full of great food and lots of kids running around.
Christmas is also beginning to become a favorite now that I have kids of my own. I love all of the activities between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the holiday movies, the lights (though I love lights in my house even when it’s not Christmas), the church programs, the extra time with family and the excitement and anticipation of the children. Having kids has inspired me to try and make each holiday festive in our own way and something to look forward to because I realize this is the time they will develop memories that they can look back on fondly in the years to come.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: In addition to traditional holidays, we also try to observe many of the biblical feasts and festivals in one way or another in our home. Also, this is not necessarily a tradition but my husband and I set aside a couple of nights a week for an hour or so after the kids go to the bed to pray, worship or listen to a teaching together. We used to do things like this often before having children, but we made it a point early last year to again make this a priority.
We each have strong personal relationships with the Lord, and we go to church together as a family, but this special time together in our home strengthens us as a couple and as parents to our children. We also often take communion in our home as a family during meal times. Most of the time, these things are done very casually (prayer, communion, etc) in our home and are done right alongside the craziness that a house with young children and four distinct personalities can bring, but we just try to build a culture in our home that includes Jesus in everything we do and invite him into the chaos. It doesn’t always feel so spiritual, but we just pray that our efforts are making a difference, especially in the lives of our children.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? I don’t know. I’ll probably be speechless at first. I have no idea what I’ll ask but trust me, once I get talking, I won’t be able to stop *laughs*. There’s so much I want to know. But first, can we go to the Throne Room? I want to see it.
Thing you want to raise awareness about: I mentioned earlier some of the health problems I struggled with. In 2006, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and later with Crohn’s Disease, and I suffered severe complications. These issues brought me back to my faith in God in 2009, and He has moved in such a powerful way in my life.
I am now a healthy mother of two and on no medication (after being told this would never happen)! Of course, I give all glory to God for saving and healing me, which He did supernaturally on so many occasions throughout my health journey. However, the Lord also practically led me to take better care of my body, including changing my diet and lifestyle. I know first hand the importance of how diet and lifestyle can influence your health and also contribute to many serious diseases like the ones I suffered from, and even cancer.
We need to be healthy so that we can do the work that the Lord has set out for us to do, and it’s only wise to care for our bodies. As a health coach, I want to meet people where they are, give them education and practical information of things they may not know of that could adversely affect their health and tips for healthier alternatives and substitutions.
In conjunction with this, another big part of my personal health journey with the Lord was simply learning what the Bible has to say about sickness and disease and that it is truly God’s will for us to be whole and healthy in every way, in our physical body and also in our heart, mind and soul. I also learned quite a bit about the correlation between our emotions, past experiences and how the way that we view ourselves can also contribute to our health.
A good Christian book that gives more insight on this is, A More Excellent Way to Be in Health, by Henry W. Wright. The Lord has healed so much in me over this last decade, including past traumas and experiences, things that I really didn’t even realize had such a deep impact on me, so I just want to encourage others to allow God deep into those places because there’s just so much freedom and healing available.
“We need to be healthy so that we can do the work that the Lord has set out for us to do, and it’s only wise to care for our bodies.”
What do you usually do before 9 a.m.? It all depends on the season I’m in and the commitments I have. This last season has been a little different. Typically I’m up by 7 or earlier, many times put on worship music while making breakfast and lunches for my family, make sure my boys have school stuff together, school agendas signed, get the boys bathed and ready, fight over what clothes to wear, and run out the door a little before 9. This has been my schedule for the last year and I order my day and any commitments I have after that.
However, there are plenty of seasons when my schedule isn’t as flexible and I wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. to have my time with the Lord before the house wakes up. When that happens though, I’m usually joined by one of my kids. I literally think they have a built in alarm that goes off because the moment I’m up, they are not far behind!
Define Christianity in a sentence: True Christianity is surrendering your heart to Jesus everyday, which to me means having a true relationship with Him, seeking Him first above everything, bringing all your stuff before Him (the good, the bad, the ugly), allowing Him to love you into wholeness; then all of the outward things we are usually concerned with like loving God, loving people and doing good, can rightly flow out of that foundation.
For more Dianne:
Personal Instagram: @dianne_s_todd
Personal Twitter: @diannestodd
Personal Website: www.diannetodd.com
Business Instagram: @toddhealthwellness
Business Twitter: @toddhealthcoach
Business Facebook: @toddhealthandwellness
Business Website: www.toddhealthandwellness.com
Until next time, keep witnessing!