Dawn Barton: As crazy as this sounds, all of these heartache things have been a gift in my life, because when you have the curled up in the fetal position pain, you also get to experience and understand what unbelievable, beautiful, amazing joy is.
Joy: God’s Antidote to Pain with Dawn Barton & Ashlyn Grayce – Episode #201
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today we speak with two women who remind us that even though life is always changing, God is always with us, and we can rely on Him for peace and joy: author and speaker Dawn Barton and singer/songwriter Ashlyn Grayce.
Dawn Barton’s joy is, as she says, unstoppable, and she’s on a mission to tell the world that despite all the countless things in our lives that are out of our control, there is one thing we can absolutely control: we can choose to embrace joy. Dawn has come to this realization after walking through more heartache than most can imagine. But through it all, Dawn has seen God redeem so many of her darkest moments and use those times to transform herself and the people around her, which she shares in her new book Laughing Through the Ugly Cry.
Dawn Barton: I am Dawn Barton, and I am a woman who has been in the world of sales for thirty plus years. I was a top producer in a direct sales company, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and I was a number seven sales director in the company. I had a dream that I fully admit makes me sound a little kooky, but I had a dream to write this book, and I left everything that I knew—cars, paycheck, everything—to take a leap of faith to write about joy.
I am somebody who has lost a child, a sweet precious daughter. I have been raped, and the assailant was caught, and we went through a full jury trial. I have had Stage 3 breast cancer and survived. My mother had a brain aneurysm, I lost my sister to cancer. My husband battled with alcoholism, he’s four and a half years sober. I’ve had so much that I think gives me every excuse in the world to be not joyful. But I really want to scream from the mountaintops why we should be joyful and why it’s a choice.
“I’ve had so much that I think gives me every excuse in the world to be not joyful. But I really want to scream from the mountaintops why we should be joyful and why it’s a choice.” – Dawn Barton
A Mother Loses a Baby Daughter
So losing a child, even twenty-eight years later, that pain never goes away. I am convinced that pain is pain is pain. We had nine months with her. As a mom, you can close your eyes and you can feel their touch, and you can even smell the smells. You just can, at certain moments of your life.
But from a spiritual aspect, to go from having that and then not, I don’t know how any parent can lose a child and not question faith just a little, just to say how, just to understand, because we want to understand, of course. We won’t understand on this side until we’re with God.
Talking about Madison is a hard thing, because I still don’t know the answers. Maybe that’s what makes it so hard. But I do know that my choice to see her is a precious gift. That is my choice, and I hope that people who have had that kind of loss can take that step back and go, “Oh, I got to have them for that season of my life.”
The Redeeming Power of Choosing Joy Despite Pain
I believe that joy is a choice, because I think that there’s moments when we’re sad and when we’re in the depths of sadness. And first of all, we are all fully allowed to have sadness and hurt and pain and devastating moments in our lives when we don’t want to get out of bed and we are sad and we are in pain. And I fully believe we have to go through that season. But then there comes a choice, when the day finally is there, where you say, “I have to get up today.”
If you’re having a pity party—which I love to throw them, but I rarely get much of an attendance when I throw them—you have to set a time limit. If you want to have a cry fest, you want to have a pity party, I will give myself an hour to be miserable, feeling sorry for myself, and then I say, “In one hour, I have to dah dah dah dah dah.”
But when we’re in more of a deep sadness, I don’t think we can necessarily put a time limit on that. But there does come a point where you just have to start doing proactive things, like turning on happy music, going outside and feeling the sun on your face, being around people that make you happy even when you don’t want to be around people. And for the love of Pete, like, take a shower. Bathe. And that sounds so silly, but sometimes a shower and bathing is the most difficult thing you can wrap your head around, and that’s okay. Just know that nobody’s going to make you. It’s no one’s job to make you feel better but yours.
“It’s no one’s job to make you feel better but yours.” – Dawn Barton
I remember when I was having the hardest time through the throes of cancer, and I would fill up a great big bathtub and get in and cry and cry, and just say, “God, you have to take this. I cannot do this anymore, not another day. You have to take it.” And it was almost like I was closing my eyes and throwing my hands in the air. And I would feel Him grab my hand, like with a little kid. You can grab their arm and fully pull them out with their hands. And I felt like He would do that with me. And when I came out, I was the happy kid again.
So I think it’s on purpose behaviors, and asking Him, and giving it to Him, surrendering it to Him, but also doing the little things in your life like lighting a candle, turning on music. Sometimes it’s putting makeup on, sometimes it’s just being around the one person that will not say so much, but they’ll just be with you and they’ll deliver ice cream at the same time. Those are good people. Stay with those people.
I think it’s important to have a friend that will say, “This is enough. It’s time for you to get up.” I remember telling a girlfriend of mine—I wasn’t even sad. I was kind of having a little bit of a pity party, and it was during the struggles of leaving a career that I was really good at, stepping into something I didn’t know and wasn’t good at. And on a phone call to me, she said, “Stop it. Stop it. You are a strong and powerful woman. Stop.” And that’s all I needed to hear. Like, Oh, yeah.
“I think it’s important to have a friend that will say, ‘This is enough. It’s time for you to get up.’” – Dawn Barton
So sometimes you just need to be that person to somebody, because there aren’t enough friends that are bold enough sometimes to say these kind of “stop it” things. And we need it.
“Hug her longer. What if it’s your last time?”
I think what’s really unusual about the relationship with my sister Kim is that most of our lives, we weren’t particularly close. We were very different. I have more olive skin, she had very fair skin. I am somebody who just had one little hole in each ear and that’s it. And she would have two-to-three piercings, she thought tattoos were neat. Because we were so different, we weren’t particularly close on a regular basis until she was diagnosed with cancer.
So cancer was a gift for my life, but also her cancer was a gift in our relationship. And we had six months of just this unbelievable time that the cancer brought us together, and we laughed a ton, and it was just this sweet season. We had different types of breast cancer. Mine was stage three, hers with stage two, so I couldn’t even fathom that she would die from it, because I survived stage three, so there’s no way she could die from stage two.
Every year, our family got together. We do it for New Year’s, we would go to a state park in Louisiana and rent these cabins and just honestly, we would get together for two, three days and eat. I would love to tell you we did deep, quality family things but we never do. We just eat.
And when we said goodbye, when Kim and I were saying goodbye, I had this thing that just said, “Hug her longer. What if it’s your last time?” And I thought that was such a morbid thought, I was mad at myself for having that thought. And also, I was determined to get a photographer while we were there to do family pictures, and I had a photographer come out to the state park, and everyone was annoyed at me, like, “I can’t believe we’re having to do family pictures.” And we did family pictures.
Ten days later, I got a call that she had passed away in her sleep at night.
I was so thankful in looking back at that, that was God’s nudging for us to take those pictures, to have that memory with her. I remember our last hug like truly it was yesterday. I can feel and I remember not wanting to let go. And I think that’s that little gift God gives you, sometimes just that feeling of, “Don’t let go. Hold on a little tighter, a little longer, this time.”
“I think that’s that little gift God gives you, sometimes just that feeling of, ‘Don’t let go. Hold on a little tighter, a little longer, this time.’” – Dawn Barton
Turning Grief into a Beautiful Legacy
So Kim died right in the middle of what I called my Million Dollar Year. I was racing for a massive goal with my company. I was trying to do something that hadn’t been done. I had a very small team, and we were trying to achieve one million dollars in sales that year, and it had rarely been done in our company, and it’s certainly not been done by a team that was as small as ours, but also a team that had never come close. We had done numbers that were a third of that, and to take that kind of leap, well, people were laughing. You know, like, “It’s just not going to happen, girl.”
And when we hit that halfway mark in the year, I thought, I’m going to have to reposition to my team that we’re not going to make this million dollar goal. And my sister was so behind it, she loved what we were doing. She loved it, she was so excited about it.
And then Kim passed away, and I knew that I had every excuse in the world to step back from the goal and to not do it, because who would ever say anything to me? I just lost my sister, I was allowed to fall apart and to not hit goals. I was just allowed to.
And I felt Kim say this to me: “Don’t you blame me for not hitting your goal.” I just could feel her. “Don’t you blame me for not hitting your million dollar goal.” And so I asked my mom and dad, and I said, “How would you feel if I kept racing in her honor?”
Kim dying became the reason for something great happening, not the reason why something didn’t happen.
And sometimes—I’m hesitating to say this, because sometimes we do fall apart and we’re allowed to and it’s okay—we can use that to fuel us into even more of the thing God has planned for us. And I know that had I not done this thing, then this next phase of my life could not have been done. So we just made that the rest of the year. It became everything. We had shirts made. We had it everywhere, #kimsmillion. And everywhere I went, every party I did, I told the story of my sister. And I knew that when I achieved this goal, I would be standing on a stage in the Dallas Convention Center in front of 10,000 women, telling them the story of my sister, and her legacy would be spread so far and wide and her story would be known, because she was the reason why. She became our reason why. And we did succeed.
You know, sometimes reaching great big goals and doing things is one single story in your head. And for me, it was making a phone call. I refused to make a phone call at the end of that year to say, “Mom we didn’t hit Kim’s million.” I kept imagining myself saying, “Mom, we finished Kim’s million.” I was so grateful that a girlfriend of mine actually filmed me secretly making that phone call to my mom, and crying and telling my mom and dad. They stayed up to midnight, until the numbers were in, and I called them in Oklahoma, crying, and I said, “Mom, we did it. We did. We did Kim’s million. We did Kim’s million.” And so I’m so glad that I used tragedy as the fuel for something that was beautiful.
“I’m so glad that I used tragedy as the fuel for something that was beautiful.” – Dawn Barton
The Real Source of Joy: Jesus
Narrator: A big part of Dawn’s joy and peace comes from her strong relationship with God. And as she was growing closer to God in her faith walk, one of the tools that helped her was Jesus Calling.
Dawn: It was given to me as a gift. I was early in my faith journey, as in doing more of a deep dive in a relationship with the Lord. So that was a really important daily walk through for me. It was easy, it was simple, it was to my heart. And it’s funny because as I’ve grown in my faith, I feel like it’s evolved. I feel like the Bible does that, too, it’s this ever alive thing. You see things so differently as you evolve in your faith journey, but the way that it plays probably the biggest role in our house is the Jesus Calling for Kids, and having my daughter read it. It’s actually a very big part of our lives.
This is a passage from Jesus Always on October 11th:
I am your Strength and your Shield. I continually work—sometimes in wondrous ways—to invigorate you and protect you. The more fully you trust in Me, the more your heart can leap for Joy!
I want you to trust Me wholeheartedly—resting in My sovereign control over the universe. When circumstances seem to be spinning out of control, grab onto Me, believing that I know what I’m doing. I orchestrate every event of your life to benefit you in this world and the next.
While you are in the throes of adversity, your greatest challenge is to keep on trusting that I am both sovereign and good. Do not expect to understand My ways; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways and thoughts higher than yours. When you respond to trouble with thanksgiving—convinced that I can bring good out of the most difficult situations—I am pleased. This act of faith encourages you and glorifies Me. I rejoice when My struggling children give thanks to me in song!
I love this passage, because I think it’s exactly everything that I was saying. It’s everything that I believe, it’s what’s in my heart, it’s what’s in my soul. And that is to trust Him, that He is the source of joy. He is the all, the everything. When I finally learned to surrender and hand over that control, I just felt that much more joy in knowing that He’s got me in all situations and everything.
Narrator: Find more of Dawn’s infectious energy and wisdom, including her brand-new book, Laughing Through the Ugly Cry: And Finding Unstoppable Joy, at dawnbarton.com.
Stay tuned to country music singer/songwriter Ashlyn Grayce’s story after a brief message about exclusive editions of Jesus Calling products you can find online at Costco!
Find peace and joy in His presence with deluxe editions of Jesus Calling and Jesus Always available exclusively at Costco.com! Each book features a beautiful leathersoft cover in ruby or royal purple, including eye-catching gold foil details and an easy-to-read comfort print inside. These exclusive editions of Jesus Calling and Jesus Always are now on sale for only $19.99! Visit Costco.com today and type “Sarah Young” in the search bar to find your copy of these exclusive, deluxe editions of Jesus Calling and Jesus Always—and pick up one for a friend, too!
Narrator: Our next guest is up-and-coming country music artist Ashlyn Grayce. Ashlyn grew up in a household surrounded by music and likes to tell people if you ever came to her house as a kid, you were going to get serenaded. Ashlyn taught herself to play guitar at a young age and carried this love for music into her adult life, pursuing her own career as a performer after graduating college and playing well-known music venues and festivals all over the country. Ashlyn’s faith is a huge part of what goes into her songwriting and her performing, and her hope is that by being vulnerable with her own story through her music, she can help others as they seek healing for the hurts in their lives.
Ashlyn: I’m Ashlyn Grayce, and I am from Nashville, Tennessee. I’m a singer/songwriter, born and raised in Nashville, and have grown up in the music industry my whole life. I’m super close with my family, and they’re just so supportive of everything I do.
Music was introduced at such an early age for me as well as my little brother. We had and still have so many instruments, I can’t even count them on my hands. All the way from guitars to dulcimers, drums, literally everything. And so we just spent so many nights playing music and kind of jamming out as a family and everything. And it’s funny, because whenever people come over to our house just for dinner, just to hang out for a little bit, it always turns into just a big jam session.
For as long as I can even remember, I was at everything with my mom and dad. I have pictures with Alan Jackson holding me on stage when I was probably three or four. I would go to pretty much everything with my mom and dad, whether it be just like a small showcase or songwriter night or a pitch meeting with my dad. It was just literally all music, all the time.
Faith to Go New Places
Faith played a huge part in my family, and I remember my parents bringing me stories at night and then praying with me every night and just really, really focusing on that relationship with God and everything. [They were] always teaching me and my little brother to put all of our trust and hope and faith in Him, so He was definitely a huge part of my life growing up.
Actually, one of my songs that I wrote called “601” is talking about how I grew up singing songs and praying with my family and all that. And that is the address of the house that I had grown up in. [When my parents] had first gotten married, it was a small, old little rundown thing, and my parents both put a lot of hard work into it and fixed it up and everything. And so that’s where I grew up, and then that’s obviously where my little brother grew up as well. This was a few years ago now, but we had moved not far at all, maybe like twenty minutes or so [away]. And I had been driving by the house, and they were bulldozing it literally right as I was driving by. And it really hit me so hard, it hit me a lot harder than I thought that it was going to hit me.
But when I had driven by it, and I actually was seeing all the work that my dad put into building our treehouse, I was just picturing us sitting around in the den, around the fireplace, playing guitar. And, you know, all the memories that we had there of painting the walls together and putting our little handprints in the driveway and stuff, it just tore me apart. And so I just pulled all that emotion out, and poured it into a song. it was just something that was so special to me. But I also think that so many people can relate to that song because people are moving all the time. And that’s not an easy thing, especially if you have been in a home like my family had been in that home, for over twenty-five years. So that’s definitely not an easy thing. It’s just so powerful that one three-minute song can really change the life of a listener or someone writing it. It made me feel so much better, and it felt like I had a weight lifted off of me.
“It’s just so powerful that one three-minute song can really change the life of a listener or someone writing it.” – Ashlyn Grayce
A Heart for Children
You know, I like to say that everyone is my audience. I really like to write my songs where a fifty year old could relate to it, but also a twenty year old could, or even like a five year old. Kids really have a huge, huge part of my heart. I absolutely adore kids, and actually teach a class at my church and have been doing it for a while for Pre-K kids, so ages four and five. And now I’m also doing a Bible study thing, we call it House Church, every week where I have some older kids as well.
But whenever I write a song in my mind, I think, Okay, is this appropriate for a four year old? If a four year old in my class were to hear this song, I do not want the parents to have to turn it off and be like, “Oh, we need to listen to something else.” I just try and keep all my songs very appropriate and very positive and uplifting and happy.
And actually, fun fact, I had gone to the beach—this was several years ago—and I’d gone to the beach and I was in the pool. And I had just started talking to this family with three little kids, and we wound up staying in touch ever since that trip to the beach. And we would write one another back and forth. They were several years younger than me. And I was at Lifeway Christian, and there was this Jesus Calling book that was for younger kids, and I wound up getting that and sending it over to the family with the three kids. And they still use it to this day. The oldest girl will message me, and she’s like, “I absolutely love this devotion book.” And I mean, I just think it’s such an amazing thing. I feel like every single day the devotion in it really hits home to exactly what you’re going through, and everything is like to a T. I think they are just so amazing. I absolutely love Jesus Calling, I have the book right next to my bedside table and everything.
I’m going to read a passage from June 11th.
Trust Me and don’t be afraid, for I am your Strength and Song. Do not let fear dissipate your energy. Instead, invest your energy in trusting Me and singing My Song. The battle for control of your mind is fierce, and years of worry have made you vulnerable to the enemy. Therefore, you need to be vigilant in guarding your thoughts. Do not despise this weakness in yourself, since I am using it to draw you closer to Me. Your constant need for Me creates an intimacy that is well worth all the effort. You are not alone in this struggle for your mind. My Spirit living within you is ever ready to help in this striving.
I do get nervous and everything before I perform, and especially if it’s with people that I’ve never met before and all that, it just can be kind of a lot. And sometimes I do feel like the fear kind of gets in my head, and I unfortunately overthink sometimes. Especially when I’m overthinking and focusing on that fear that I have inside of me and worry and doubt and everything, it really does drain your energy. My favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 41:10, and it says, “Do not be afraid, for I am your God.” And I just think that it’s so important to not be afraid and know that Jesus is right there with you every step of the way. And before I sing my songs, I’m always like “Hey, this is for you. I know that you’re with me. And even if I mess up or forget a lyric or whatever it is, this is for the glory of you and it’s all gonna be okay.”
“I just think that it’s so important to not be afraid and know that Jesus is right there with you every step of the way.” – Ashlyn Grayce
Narrator: To find out more about Ashlyn and to listen to her latest music, please visit AshlynGrayce.com.
If you’d like to hear more stories about finding joy in tough times, you may enjoy watching our video with teen actress and author Alena Pitts on our YouTube channel at YouTube.com/JesusCallingbook.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, Country music star Eddie Montgomery spent thirty-three years being one half of the country supergroup Montgomery/Gentry until his partner, Troy Gentry was killed in a helicopter accident. Eddie talks a little bit about how life changed after losing his partner and friend.
Eddie Montgomery: There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about him. I miss that big smile of his, that big wooden spoon, he was stirring the pot and doing something and pulling practical jokes. You know, after about thirty-three years looking to your left, man, it’s different.
Narrator: Do you love hearing these stories of faith weekly from people like you whose lives have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, leave us a review so that we can reach others with these inspirational stories. And, you can also see these interviews on video as part of our original web series with a new interview premiering every other Sunday on Facebook Live. Find previously broadcasted interviews on our Youtube channel, on IGTV, or on jesuscalling.com/video.