I love a good story! Stories captivate our imaginations, impact our lives, and have the ability to shift whole cultures. Swapping stories with a sweet friend over a cuppa hot something is just the best. It's a joy to welcome Eva Marie Gugino to Story Swap today! (Every Saturday I post a Story Swap feature on my Instagram).
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself. What does a typical day look like for you?
My name is Eva Marie Gugino (Eva Marie being my first name, which is very confusing for most people as double first names are not very common!) I am married to Wade, a cartoonist, and we own our own business, GooGenius. We will supply cartoons for any need, we teach online drawing lessons to all ages, and we are working on a series of children's books that teach character traits and social skills. We have five kids (3 girls, 2 boys) ranging in age from 25 to 7 (with a 9 year gap between our 16 year old and 7 year old). I work with my husband in our business (he is the artist, I am more admin and behind the scenes cheerleader). We are homeschooling our 7 year old (2nd year, so still learning how to do this!), I volunteer as Women's Ministry President at our church as well as the Presbytery Level Co-Coordinator for Great Lakes Presbytery (PCA). We have one child out of college, two in college, one is a sophomore in high school, and the homeschooled 7 year old. We are also still coming out of a season of care-giving for my mom who passed away last year. I am still navigating the emotional and mental side of that, as well as still sorting through her things. And we are trying to renovate a few small areas of our home. All that is to say, no day is the same as the day before. I like to make to-do lists but rarely finish them and usually feel like my days are putting out the fire that is the most urgent (this is something I'd like to change!).
2. When and how did you meet Jesus?
I was raised in a culturally Christian home but attended a new age church as a child where we were taught that sin isn't real, that Jesus was a good man and the best teacher, and we could all be like Him if we just realized our oneness with the Universe. As a teen my family quit going to church all together as my mom had a major disagreement with the (new) pastor. I had long spiritual discussions with my mom throughout my school years that often focused on reincarnation and what we learned from one life to the next, on psychic readings (she had some and I did, later, as a young adult). I attended LTL camp (Loyal Temperance Legion) around the age of 12, a gift from my grandmother, and there I prayed with a counselor to accept Christ. I took a Bible home and tried to read it, but never got out of Genesis. Later, as a Freshman in college I had a Christian friend tell me I was going to hell, to which I said "I'll see you there." I didn't believe in sin and, therefore, didn't believe we needed a Savior and figured her judgement of me was at least as bad as anything she thought about me. I always believed in God, however, (that there was a God and He was good and He loved us and wanted the best for us). At the age of 24 I was living in Paris pursuing a modeling career and was pregnant with my first baby. Wade was worried that, if something awful happened and I died during childbirth, I would not be in Heaven, so he asked me to pray for salvation. I told him I wouldn't as I didn't believe in that, but that I would pray that if Jesus was who Wade was telling me He was, that He would reveal Himself to me and help me to understand. Thankfully I didn't die during birth for my first or second baby. I did spend these years in Bible Study (loving it), talking with Wade and his Christian parents, attending church, asking lots of questions, and trying, unsuccessfully to defend my beliefs. At the age of 30, while pregnant with baby #3, I was reading The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. Toward the end of that book he gives a definition for sin - "the propensity to rebel and commit wrong-doing", and, for whatever reason the Holy Spirit lifted the veil and in that moment I saw, understood, and believed. I could see that - the propensity to rebel and commit wrong-doing- in the best Christians I knew. Sin suddenly made sense, and I could see it in everyone. The stumbling block was removed and I became a believer - though I didn't tell Wade for a couple of days.
3. What are you passionate about?
This is a hard one for me to answer. I am passionate about my faith, I love studying the Bible and theology and I love leading/teaching studies. I am passionate about my family, and family in general and the importance of good parenting. I am growing in my passion for home schooling and have always been passionate about good education, healthy eating and alternative/natural healthcare.
4. How are you making the most of your current season of life?
My feet are in many seasons. With adult children - one who walked away from the faith and our family, two in college (one senior, one freshman), one in public high school, and one in early (homeschool) elementary - it is hard for me to feel like I fit in any one label. We are not empty nesters, though some of our friends are. We are not young parents, going through the early school years for the first time, though some of our friends are. I have just finished almost 10 years of caring for, to one degree or another, my parents who both had dementia (my dad died in 2019 at which time my mom moved out here. She was diagnosed in 2020 and died in 2022). Our business is 15 years old but still small (just Wade & I) and we'd like to see it grow. So, each day I do what is needed that day. I try to accept the challenges God has given me and know He has brought them in my life for a reason. I try to be present for my family and the family of Christ and I, as Oswald Chambers says, "do the thing that lies nearest".
5. How do you prioritize the Word of God?
This is an area I am continuing to work on. I rarely have long period of times for focused study, which I would love but is nearly impossible in my current schedule. I do devotions everyday, I am planning on starting a Bible course with my homeschooled daughter - for her, but I know I will learn by teaching her. I help plan, I attend, and I sometimes lead Bible Study at our church as well as women's events and retreats. Bible Study and Sunday school are two of my most favorite things to do each week, and other things will be left undone in order to complete the lesson, if necessary.
6. What has God been speaking to you about and how has He moved in your life recently?
In the last year several issues have come up that I have dealt with in the past that are very hard for me. (Finances, issues with our wayward daughter, relationships with a friend). Each time these come up I wonder why they are coming up again - have I not dealt with them? Why is this coming up again, in different circumstances, with different people? It has caused a lot of pain, introspection, and ultimately has led to me to, once again, simply trust God with my life, with my friendships, with provision for my and my family. I do not know why difficulties repeat themselves, but I know God is working in and through me in each circumstance - what I need to show those around me is my faith in Him, regardless of how things look on the outside.
7. What is the biggest thing you've had to trust God with?
Our oldest daughter. She walked away from our family and our faith seven years ago. We have little contact with her by her choice. We know she is not stronger than God and we pray for her salvation, the opening of her eyes and the lifting of the deception she is under.
8. What story is God writing with your life?
If I were to try to answer this with much thought, I'd end up telling you all the things I want my life to be. and what I think He should be doing with my life. Really, all that matters is that He is writing a part of His story with my life.
Eva Marie Gugino was born and raised in upstate New York. At the age of 19 she took a leave of absence from Cornell University and moved to NYC to pursue a modeling career. After a few starts and stops she found herself in Paris where modeling ended and marriage and motherhood began. Along the way she has worked with special needs children, taught English in French Public Schools, worked in the clothing industry in both manufacturing and retail, and has been an extra in a Hollywood movie. Eva Marie now lives in Michigan with her husband, Wade, the three of their five children still young enough to live at home, two parakeets, and a fish. Together, she and Wade own GooGenius, a cartoon company through which they serve private and corporate clients as well as teaching online Draw Club and writing books for children.