Long before our two-hour lunch was over, I knew I had found a new friend in Teresa Rilling, an author, motivational speaker and pastor’s wife who had driven from Sylvan Lake to Cochrane to meet me.
Teresa loves bling — stacks of bracelets, rings on every finger, necklace and earrings, eyeglasses to match her red jacket with rhinestone studs. It all said “pizzazz and fun” and the message was not a lie. Teresa is warm, authentic, as good at listening as speaking, always ready to laugh, able to cry.
Teresa and I will be leading workshops at the same event at Crossroads Church in Red Deer AB June 17, 18 where Lysa TerKeurst will give the keynotes. Teresa will be presenting a workshop on leadership. A natural leader and visionary, Teresa has a calling that takes her beyond the church conference and into many business boardrooms teaching, motivating and equipping.
Before leaving the restaurant we swapped books and hugs and promised to meet again soon. I opened Teresa’s independently published Just Breathe as soon as I got home and did not get up from my chair until I had read every word. I couldn’t put it down. A more beautiful story of restoration and redemption after the hideous thievery of her childhood by a sexually abusive grandfather, I have never read. Talk about following God one yes at a time into wholeness!
After eight years of being abused, from the age of two until 10, Teresa believed the horrific lies she was told: “This is all you’re good for and you’re not worth anything more than ‘poop’.” Her grandfather’s abuse ended with his death and Teresa enjoyed momentary relief and a sense of freedom until her unmet need for attention and love drove her into her own season of abuse as a promiscuous teen. She became the girl other girls’ moms told their daughters to avoid.
New Year’s 1976 found Teresa sin-sick and desperate as she looked into the mirror and hated what she saw. She called out to God for help. Crying, she begged for God to show Himself to her in some small way. And He did. Peace flooded her soul so much it felt like the room was filled. She took all of her pain and sin to Him and found acceptance and forgiveness. She was never the same again.
The story of how Teresa met and married a pastor, raised a Christ-following family and responded to God’s call to ministry as a pastor’s wife and speaker is a journey of many small yeses. Typical of so many women who were abused as tiny children, the horror was locked up deep inside — a “black spot” secretly buried under layers of over achieving, over eating, over-everything! — until her early 30’s when an awakening occurred, literally. Teresa’s past was revealed to her in a dream and when she woke up she had to face the reality of her stolen childhood and spoiled innocence. There were a lot of tears on the road to wellness. She was sustained through it all by the love of her husband Jim who told her he was “in” for the long haul, no matter what it took.
If you are looking for a speaker for your next event who will make you laugh, touch your heart, and give you hope for your deepest pain, contact Teresa Rilling and you’ll get much more than a speaker, you will find a new friend.