#49 A Heart Overwhelmed With Hope

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

Hope is frightening. It is often met by pain and disappointment and it is one of the biggest risks we are asked to consistently take. Hoping for love when you feel unlovable. Hoping for financial provision that seems all too impossible. Hoping for the salvation of a family member who wants nothing to do with God. Hoping for your dreams to one day finally become reality.

After graduating from college, I found myself lost with no idea what direction I was going. I stopped believing for the best. I numbed myself to dreaming, to hoping. There was pain that came from having expectations, only to see them shattered or unmet. So I retreated back to my own personal limits, my own well-kept yard of not risking. And my heart began to wither. I could feel it slowly losing heartbeats. I let go of dreams, desires, expectations—and the vibrant life in my heart began to dull. I couldn’t feel God and I couldn’t hear Him clearly. I felt abandoned and dry, like I would die of hunger for Him.

Hope seemed all too risky. And keeping my heart safe within its walls was surely the way to keep it unharmed, right? Why love? Why hope for the impossible best? Why hold on to dreams that are so far out of reach? My heart continued to fight back to Him. But God, always concerned for the health of my heart, never stopped pursing it. I felt everything I wanted to feel as He drew my heart to hope again. As he found me at my breaking point—weary, anxious, desperate. He breathed life into my heart and it began to beat like never before.

Faith sees, and hope feels. Faith sees where there is nothing yet to see (Hebrews 11:1). It sees the invisible and looks past impossibility. Whereas hope—hope feels it coming. It’s that lurch in your soul. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know when, but I feel it coming. Something amazing is coming. I feel the provision. I feel the longing in my soul and I will not numb it with doubt. I will let the longing deepen. When I choose not to hope that there is the best in store for me, my heart becomes sick. And hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). That must mean choosing to hope gives my heart life. That day it hit me. That day I will never forget. I felt God faithfully wrap His arms around me. And I gasped for air. Alive. I felt so alive. My heart began pumping again. He had overwhelmed my heart with HOPE and has continued to every day since.

Undone by my sudden lightness, I became aware of the necessity of hope. Regardless of the circumstances, regardless of how many times I had been disappointed, regardless of the impossibilities that stood before me or the lack of visible breakthrough, I had decided to choose hope. Even when it hurt. That’s the thing about hope; it’s painful more times than it’s not. And many times we are tempted to block out the thing that hurts, insisting that our life would be better without the pain. The reality is that yes, hope is painful, but it keeps us alive. We can’t numb the hunger pains and the desires for the best to come our way. So I will keep hoping. I will no longer numb the hunger pain. I will continue to let hope grow, creating a light that shines of God and His promises. I will forever choose hope that is founded on the truth and goodness of the Most Holy One. Not only has He overflowed my heart with hope, but I have felt a duty as a daughter of the King to bring everyone to hope. Our Father gives hope to the hopeless, and that is exactly what He has done for me.

Not all our stories will always turn out exactly how we dreamed them to be, and there are no promises that our lives will always be happy and without pain in this world. But one thing we can be sure of is that our God will eternally be faithful. He gives me the unwavering hope that some of the best days of my life have yet to be lived.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#48 A Medley Of Human Empathy

Photo by Nick Key Photography 

But it hit, for him, out of nowhere.

A healthy life, a wife, a little daughter, ministry, work.  God had always provided but this was nothing like the former.  It was the ordinary and unthinkable: cancer.  And over a matter of weeks a world that was common and nurturing plummeted into groggy confusion.  Normal disappeared.  It was just survival: shaking, feverish, cold.  But though life felt remote, heaven did not appear.  That escape seemed to brush reality with weightless fingers and then disappear into isolation.  For life did not remove disease and neither did disease remove life.

And that was what suffocated: the isolation.  No one could really comprehend the pain of it, the reality of being lost in lifelessness but still, oddly, alive.  Misunderstanding hit, maybe, harder than disease.  Explaining it was like trying to describe a dream where why and how and what were loosely dangling from everywhere but general comprehension.

There was also the experience of trying to fit a conversation about a life unmade but not hopeless within the tiny box called small talk.  They would ask how he was.  But the few seconds of “Hello, how are you?” weren’t enough to tell the truth and a white lie seemed conventionally non-transparent.  It caused him to feel other than himself.  It was tough to be truly honest in those situations.  You’d run the risk of sounding totally depressed on one hand or trite on the other.  And he was neither.

But there were those thousands of pieces, placed with divine intention, into life and into disease, just the same.

That was the beautiful thing.  People were influence for the heart of God, which is presence.  It was a real “with us” kind of emergence.  The un-shattering and unification of interconnected humanity.  There were tiny bits of God darting in through a reality of living compassion and kindness, each an easy passageway into rampant grace.  As each person embodied the real, the Real arose.  It was Jehovah shooting alive through lips and acts and living bodies.

Though the Father did, in the end, give health – this wasn’t the care that really struck.  A Provider was named and the name was “He Sees Me.”[1]  And his eyes were, somehow, human and many.

And, though she’d always been there, a woman emerged as rock.  She was embodying the vows of marriage even as he did – in cancer and in clarity, sickness and health.  The essential combining of the couple emerged in ways that had been, before, unseen.  The practicality – the behind the scenes of cancer – was cared for with loving kindness.  He was survivor, and she managed it all – the keeper of order, of life.  God was seen, through her dedication, as Destroyer of Chaos.

And a small girl emerged.  This was the joy!  The shining and small, curly haired toddler was his and she knew nothing other than true, glistening life.  Death and sorrow and pleasurelessness were not found within her own youth.  And so the beauty of child-like and beautiful ignorance danced to a beat different than pain and isolation.  She was a bright gift from the Immortal to temporal.  From Daddy to daddy the blessing was daughter.  And her laughter made life brilliant within the shadowed lair of cancer.  The Spirit of God glowed warm.

The impossible began to take place.  In a way, the wholeness was always there – the fragments were always together.  The pieces of kindness and understanding, laughter and practicality fit together into the shape of God.  The God who sees! The God who could be seen through created image working out his kindness.  Piece by piece the shattered leapt up and lived!  It became bright, a medley of human empathy beating out the presence of God.

[1] Genesis 16:13; El-roi

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#47 Three Times In Three Hours

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

Something very curious happened to me several years ago when I was traveling by myself for a work assignment. While eating dinner alone at a restaurant, I was catching up on some reading in Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford. I read about the main character, Father Tim, preaching a sermon on the verse in the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

When I got to my hotel room, I turned on the television and Joyce Meyer was preaching a sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

Later that night I talked to my son on the phone and asked him how his day went at school. At that time he attended a Christian school and he told me that they had a speaker that day who had spoken on the verse in the Bible that says we are to give thanks in all circumstances.

Now I had heard it three times within the span of three hours! This seemed like too much repetition to be a coincidence. I felt that God was sending me a clear message. In the months that followed, a tragedy occurred in our family and I needed that message of gratefulness in all situations. I clung to that verse and tried to find something to be thankful for each day, even on the worst days.

God knew what was to come and He prepared me in advance. Intentional thankfulness was challenging but helped me get through the terrible situation as it unfolded. I began to look closely for something to be thankful for each day and there were always many things. Eventually, practicing gratefulness became a habit, and I am now a more positive and happier person overall because of it—because of God’s message to me.  Three times in three hours can’t be a coincidence. God knows even the hairs of our head. God knows what is about to unfold in our lives and just what we need to help us. God sustains us in tragedy. Praise be to our God who loves, sustains and provides for us and for his holy Scriptures that nourish ours souls and guide our daily steps.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#46 A Foundation That Will Never Fail

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I have been a follower of Christ for almost two years. In those two years, I have undergone massive changes for the better. Two years ago, I could not dream of being happy without alcohol or without a boy’s attention. Two years ago, I was drowning in self-hatred, deep grudges, and comparison.

It was my sophomore year of college. I was living with three strangers that I didn’t get along with. I was working at a job that was draining me. I had failed two classes the past year, so my motivation was non-existent. A few nights after I became blackout drunk and threw up on my floor, I was at such a low point. I was angry, confused, and hated myself. Out of nowhere, and after five years of avoiding God, I started to talk to Him. The conversation wasn’t nice. I was mad, confused, exhausted, and I didn’t understand God. I was whisper-yelling at Him. I let everything off my chest that had weighed me down for five years, and just cried. I didn’t show any mercy or grace in that conversation.

What was amazing was how much grace God showed me. He listened to my tirade like a loving Father. As soon as I was done, He gave me a simple location to go to. It was a church-like location, and I had avoided church before. The first time, I went to the location, but I didn’t go in. The next week, God gave me the same location. I went into the building, found a random person, and asked for help. From there, I sat down and cried; I talked to three different people that night, all who showed me the same thing God showed me: Grace.

Fast-forward two years: I have given my life over to Christ, and while it was amazing, it has not been easy. I have had daily struggles and successes in following Jesus. However, the effort I have to put in is worth it. I am no longer that sad, angry person that relied on human attention and occasionally liquor to make me happy. I now find happiness in everything. I have an identity that no human can ever give me: daughter of the Most High King. I now have a foundation in a relation that will never fail me nor forsake me. I am not scared and confused; I am filled with childlike excitement to learn more. That couldn’t have happened if not for Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s patience. Each day, I am still shown grace upon grace by God. Each day, I seek a deeper relationship with Him; each day, He shows me more of what my heart and soul need. I fail daily, but He continues to be the loving Father that He was on the day I was at my lowest point. The thing that has brought me back countless times when I felt like I was too much to handle, too much of a burden for God—is grace.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#45 Speaking Hope One Tattoo At A Time

 Photo by Lang Thomas Photography

A burst of hope running through each human’s genetics was how he recognized God. Something you just gotta find. And there was one day followed by a thousand wondering cerebral flashes that drew him into Christ.

“If it had been a movie and you’d have taken a still frame, it would have looked so creepy,” he said, rediscovering a past life as he spoke.

In an elongated, scraping instant, skidding down a sidewalk, the car finally flipped. He smashed into a fence at the edge of a decay-ridden cemetery. Trees were bare of foliage. Perforated leaves, unreal and flimsy, were wandering around edges of shadow. It was black-ink dark.

“Please, God. Don’t let me die.”

This was the strange, life-giving, incoherent second when God became. And, for a moment, there was someone who might be compassionate enough to care and powerful enough to save. But his body was unconscious in the center of absence—graves and tentacle-like trees surrounded. There was, somehow, less than nothing. Land absent of life, prosperous with death.

A car passed like a revelation. Someone saw. Someone came.

For months, from within his own depths, the Father began to appear, not as a confusion or a blur. Real. Alive-making.

God emerged from a triggered question: “Why would I think to pray?” Imploring a God he’d never heard of? A petition from no knowledge? In his mind, church was a place of irrelevance and God was even less existent, less than nothing.

It was Monday night youth group he chose to try, because it wasn’t anything like that kind of stereotypical church-for-nerds. His Marilyn Manson T-shirts weren’t snubbed, and the other youth were attracted to his unknowing transparency. Not terribly long after, he committed to Christ in the only kind of sold-out way offered—baptism.

Slamming through his self was finally life! Not just lack of death but a kind of erupting and drumming Freedom. It caused his soul to breathe. It connected him to a fellowship of connective people. Church. He had to be part of it. He needed it like some sort of nourishing drug. But he didn’t burrow into it.

He began to apprentice at a tattoo shop. The guy in charge of the place liked his designs and asked for more. An inside-the-chest battle began. He needed to pay the bills. He didn’t need to get into everything that tattoo parlors bring. And he did everything but ink. It clawed at his existence: divergence between an occupation bizarre for ordinary Christians and looming costs of life.

A tattoo artist? He didn’t grow up wanting to be one. He lived in a turbulent home. In one slow moment of his childhood, he became the man of the house and had to visit his dad in prison only one Saturday each month. Through it all, though, he’d always been full of the calm of artful design.

And now he began to see God in deficiency. It was like negative space drew the outline of a Savior. His best connection to Him was through lack—seeing the absence of God in humans. Understanding their Fatherlessness made him aware of his Father-fullness. Including millions of people who lived with less than nothing—the absence of God—the tattoo shop was where he was supposed to carry out a calling. To him, the presence of God was made clear in this place of real people.

“I feel more comfortable around people who have no concept of Jesus—other-side-of-the-tracks people.” The kind of people who are so disconnected from God they are surprised to meet a Christian. Christians are, to them, a tiny, forsaken minority—if they exist at all. And if they exist they aren’t the kind of people who believe in the dude called Jesus or a Father who asks for everything.

But because of his own giant, faithful, whole-body tattoos and his straight-edge lifestyle, the ones getting their mark ask him about it all. And sometimes that burst of Divine hits them and they realize they can talk to God even if they are some crazy criminals.

This guy doesn’t look for and find the people who have a grudge against God; they come to him—every day. They feel annulled from church or unknown altogether. Not wanting to know because of no knowledge, they are void of God and no one talks to them about real Hope.

But, through him, one tattoo at a time, God does.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#44 Giving It All Away And Trusting Him

Photo by Trevor Rapp

Working for a nonprofit organization was never my plan after spending thousands of dollars going to college. I expected to go right into grad school and spend more money to get a great job and make lots of money. That’s most Americans’ plan, right?

Well, my plan quickly ended when I asked the Lord what His plans were for my life. I accepted a position at a campus ministry on the University of Kentucky campus. I learned that I would need to fundraise my salary. Before this, I had never asked anyone but my parents for money, so asking friends and strangers for money wasn’t something I was comfortable with. I found myself in prayer begging the Lord for boldness and wisdom on how to fundraise.

My fears were quickly shattered when the Lord led me to read a story in the Old Testament of a woman whose husband died and left her and her sons with debt. In biblical times, if someone had debt, their children would be taken away to serve and pay off the debt. This mother went to a prophet to ask what she should do. The prophet instructed her to give all of what she had in her possession to her neighbors.

When reading this story, I was confused and afraid for this widow. Give what little she had away? What was this prophet thinking? I imagine the widow didn’t understand either, but she trusted God. She went to fill all her neighbors’ jars of oil up with the one jar she had. Incredibly, she had enough not only to fill her neighbors’ jars, but had enough oil left to live off of for the rest of her life and pay off the debt!

This is what the Lord did for an obedient widow. I clearly heard the Lord tell me to give what little money I had away and to trust Him with fundraising and with all my finances. I obeyed. Two days later, I looked in my mailbox and there was $900! I was shocked, overwhelmed,  and grateful—and I believed. It’s true; the Lord provides. He still provides. If we sacrifice, trust, and wait, He provides. God is a provider!

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#43 Embracing My Identity In Him

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff 

I was always uncomfortable when someone asked for my testimony. Not because I had an intense or private story, but because I was “born going to church” and felt like I didn’t have a testimony to share. I thought my “getting saved” story was boring. But let me tell you, I eventually realized my story didn’t have to be about finding Jesus, but about when His love and grace turned my “religion” into an intense, intimate RELATIONSHIP with Him.

My titles growing up have always been: Goody-Two-Shoes, Christian Girl, The Innocent One, and Preacher’s Grandkid. I’m pretty sure I was in church as soon as my mom got over the fear of her firstborn child interacting with everyone’s germs. I was never a rebellious one and I’m quite the rule-follower, but deep within me I wanted to be known by anything other than these names. Quite ironically, being called “the Christian girl” and known as “the preacher’s granddaughter” brought me great shame for many years. I knew I was supposed to be in church, I knew my mouth and choice of words were supposed to be a fountain for His glory, and I knew He was supposed to be a permanent resident of my heart—but I hated drawing attention to the fact that I knew Jesus and that He loved me. Even more, I hated having to always live up to the higher expectations that preachers’ families are held to. On top of that, I also found my worth in what guys’ opinions were of me, what my scholastic accomplishments were, what the community of people I was surrounded by thought of me, and how many minutes I sat on the bench during a ball game. Those were labels I was trying to earn, yet forever failing to obtain them.

Throughout my years of college, I tried to push forward even when I couldn’t find the correct direction to go with my life. I didn’t want to let my family down by confessing that I no longer wanted to do what I had planned and that I was honesty clueless, because they had so much hope and expectation built up for me. For once, I wasn’t ashamed of one of my titles—I was ashamed of the lack of ability to title myself, as every college student frantically seeks to title themselves with their future career.

So… my love for travel, desire for missions, and the final attempt of secretly trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life (before everyone finally realized that I had no more of an idea than the rocks beneath my feet had for me), I ended up in Peru for a month doing a medical/dental/public health combined fellowship. I was at my lowest point spiritually and mentally. Fortunately, I was cut off from most communication due to lack of service, and after a few weeks I found myself sitting atop my host family’s roof looking down at my feet. This was my unanticipated God moment. This was when my life was radically changed and my heart was set ablaze.

My first thoughts were: “Sorry God, I have failed you. Decisions I have been making aren’t what You would want for me. Why is this so hard? I’ve believed in You my whole life and went to church even when I didn’t want to. Are you even listening to me? Why can I not be known as myself, instead of constantly being labeled by Your name, especially when it’s in an insulting way? Why can I not figure out what path You want me to go down and what You want me to be? Why do I still feel so empty and worthless?”

And I felt Him shake me and say: “Gosh, I’ve been yelling your name. Why aren’t you listening to ME? Why are you ashamed to be known as my daughter and labeled by my name? You keep telling yourself that you can’t admit to others your struggles and that you can’t find direction in life, because you don’t want to be labeled as a failure. So you kept walking your same path. FINALLY, you’ve finally admitted to me, your Father, the one who is NEVER disappointed in you, that you are lost in more ways than one. You’ve refused to walk through the door every time I’ve put the life path I have for you right in front of your face, but you’re about to walk through it because I’ve finally got you in this moment of surrender and you can’t ignore my call now. Aren’t you finding pure joy serving during your dentistry days in Peru? Joy can only be found in Me, and I’m trying to get you to see that My mission for your life is dentistry. This is how I want you to serve My kingdom, so go ahead and slap on your earthly label of ‘dentist.’ And why are you always running from Me? You know that only makes Me chase you faster and harder. Stop making all these decisions that you know I wouldn’t choose for you, and stop trying to find your worth in earthly things and earthly people. You know that only I hold your value—and you are far more precious than rubies or gold. Come to Me, My child, come closer. I’m re-igniting your flame. There is no shame in Me, the Lord. You are not a “Christian” girl…for Christianity is not a religion—it’s a state of being like Me (Christ). This is not a religion; this is a relationship…for you are My daughter… My daughters and sons are My most prized possessions. You have known My name and of My works your entire life, but you have not known Me as the person of Christ that I am, as I desire to be known.”

After a few minutes, I looked up at the vast mountains that encircled me in all directions. The scripture reading (Psalm 121:1–2) at the beginning of the song “Shoulders” had been stuck in my head for many preceding months, and in this moment it replayed again and immediately gave me chills: “I look up to the mountains. Does my strength come from the mountains? No; my strength comes from God. The one who made heaven and earth, and the mountains” (For King & Country). I realized…He created the earth upon which I am sitting. He created the heavens that provide eternal refuge and healing from the corruption we face in our current days. He created the mountains, upon which He has come to encounter many of His followers in the Bible (and I believe He is encountering me on one now), and of which can be moved with the faith of a mustard seed. And, among all of His creations, He delicately, lovingly created me, like a masterpiece from a ball of clay in His hands. Everything is His creation, for everything is His and should be labeled as so. Including me.

We serve a loving, never-forsaking, steadfast, faithful God. Once we realize all that He is, all that He has created us to be, and the loving relationship He has intended for us to be in, we can find peace, passion, purpose, our life’s path, and our true, shameless titles. In that moment I realized that I, a follower of Christ, shouldn’t be labeled by anything other than something that honors Him.That identity in Him is NEVER shameful, even when today’s society places shame on us.I began to love my labels and even add a few more to myself, based on the identity of who He truly is and who He says I am. Even more, I realized that through Him we are all held to an even higher standard than any society could ever hold a preacher’s family to. Despite stumbling blocks and a human’s sinful nature, I’m trying to challenge myself to that standard daily.

My new titles are: Disciple of Christ, Ransomed, Forgiven, Follower, Servant of the Kingdom, Vessel, Soldier, Daughter of the One True King, and Future Dentist. And I’m proud of them.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#42 Standing In The Place Of Light

Photo by Shining Light Photography

It was December of 2011 and I was a single mom with a high stress job and multiple chronic health issues. It was the week after Christmas and I was mentally and physically exhausted. I had a rare opportunity to be alone for the night at a cabin on the lake. No phones, no television, no Internet, no responsibilities. I wanted to be alone—alone with God. My life was not healthy. I was anxious and overwhelmed. Life was just too busy, too hard, too stressful. I knew that I needed a change but I didn’t know what or how. I needed God’s help.

I arrived in the afternoon and built a fire. I read parts of several books, including the Bible, and spent time praying for God’s guidance. At dusk, I went outside and stood by the lake near the dock. The sun had nearly set but there was a line of bleeding orange in the sky to the right of the dock. That was west; I took note of the location and went back inside.

The next morning I woke early as planned. It was still dark. I dressed warmly and left the comfort of the warm cabin for the promise of a sunrise over the lake. I walked down to the dock and stood near the railing to the left. I reasoned if the sun set to the right last night, then the sun would rise to the left, the east. I stood on the dock facing east for a long time, listening to the birds, and expectantly waiting for the first glimmer of light. I prayed that God would reveal His will for my life. I longed to feel God’s presence and hope. The water lapped against the shoreline and still I waited. There was no sign of daybreak. Silence. “I am looking for you, Lord,” I prayed.

I felt that if I could experience God’s glorious sunrise and be flooded with that first light, that somehow I would be reassured and feel hope. But there was no sign of the sun, only a light gray band under the dark gray sky. I thought perhaps the dawn would be this way—gray with no color, a black sky fading into a white sky. I began to lose hope. The wind had gotten colder coming off the water and I walked back to the cabin to start coffee. As the coffee perked, I stayed inside, my face pressed against the sliding glass door, still watching the sky. A bit of color appeared—a lavender ribbon separating the layers of light gray. And then much further to the east an orange light blazed through the shadows of the tree branches in the distance.

I knew the beauty would come and go quickly. My gaze was steadfast as the light became brighter, and the eastern sky filled with brilliant hues of pinks, purples, yellows, and orange. The lake began to glisten under the light, and then the most interesting thing happened. A solitary ray of light illuminated the inky water. It was a most distinct ray of light that began from the sunrise and traced a straight course across the lake to the very spot on the dock where I had stood nearly an hour ago, searching into the darkness for the sunrise and God.

I quickly walked down to the dock and stood in the place of light. The experience was so beautiful. It was as if God Himself were revealing His presence and glory to me. Though my question about how or what to change in my life had not been answered that day, one thing was sure: I had a renewed sense of hope and peace. I knew that God was with me and that He would show me the path for a healthier life. And He did.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#41God Did A MIRACLE In My Life

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

Going into sophomore year at the University of Kentucky, I never could have imagined the struggles that would soon flood my life. I began going to frat parties that typically ended with me being boozed, sick in a bathroom with strangers. I was searching for my identity, and in doing so, I began to get into a relationship with a guy who I believed was amazing and genuinely cared for me.

However, it turned out that I was not the only girl he was in a relationship with and I began to compare myself to the other girls he was seeing, never seeing myself as good as them—not skinny enough, smart enough, involved enough. I started to feel so worthless, that I let these attacks in my mind begin to take a hold of my actions. I suffered from bulimia for three months—the three LONGEST months of my life.

It was such a mind-trapping and soul-gripping time, that one night I finally broke and cried out for God to come rescue me. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but the enemy continually told me it was right, and that I was trapped for good. But little did I know, God was beginning to do miraculous works in my life the very next day. An old friend of mine that I hadn’t seen since elementary school reached out to me, inviting me to this thing called Passion. Passion is a conference that takes place in Atlanta, that hosts thousands of college students facing the same struggles, trials, and everyday life issues that I was facing. I found God redeeming, restoring, and loving my soul just in that short time, where His love shined through all the darkness I was facing. He assured me that truly He had never left me, and that despite my past, nothing could hold me back from Him.

Jesus stands with open arms; all we have to do is run to Him and He will make all things new. I went back to campus and became involved with the local campus ministry CSF. I found a home with a group of spectacular girls who opened their arms to me, loved on me, prayed for me, and lifted me in ways that they didn’t even realize.

Now, God is pouring into my heart more than ever. I’m hearing from Him daily, and feeling a stir in my heart that I’m meant for an unimaginable purpose to pursue Him and help others along the way. God did a MIRACLE in my life, and I want others to know that He still is the God who performs miracles, every day, for ordinary people, with an extraordinary plan. Through the pain, there is purpose, and Jesus is there the entire time, just watching and waiting, saying, “You should see the plans I have for her, and she doesn’t even know it yet. Just you wait.”

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#40 Never Had I Felt So Close To Heaven

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I’ve asked God for many years that before I leave this earth I wanted to step foot onto African soil. I never knew exactly why this was such a strong desire for so many years, and as each year passed, I began to wonder if this prayer would be answered.

On March 25, 2016, I lost my job as an RN recruiter with no forewarning—no two weeks to plan my future, direction, or to give me time to tell my husband that my income was gone. But I had this crazy joy and peace down in my soul that I could not explain. It was then I knew God was up to something. I just wanted to be ready to say “Yes, Lord.”

Within five days I received a text from an awesome man of God stating that I was supposed to go with him in three months to Swaziland, Africa and do a women’s Christian conference. My response was, “I just lost my job, and as much as my heart desires to be in Africa, there is no way.” He responded, “If you will have faith and believe, God will provide.” Wow! He had said a mouthful. I had been asked several times to go to Africa on different occasions but it was never the right time. So I began fasting and praying, and it wasn’t long before I had my answer. Now, how was I going to tell my husband that besides losing my job, I have got to raise thousands of dollars within three months to fly across the world? But God…

When I shared my heart and what God had spoken to me, I began to hear faith rise up in my husband—and I know nothing but the love of God could prepare me for what happened next. My husband said, “Not only do I support you going, but I am going with you!” Tears began to stream down my face uncontrollably and I started praising God in my kitchen, knowing without a doubt God was about to answer my long-time prayer request.

Now the hard part (or so I thought). This is where our faith becomes truly active. I knew the cost for me was a little mind blowing—but now with two of us? The price just doubled, but God continued to remind us that there is NOTHING IMPOSSIBLE with Him! We had only three months to raise about $8,000—and me without a job. I knew this was a God-Sized Assignment and that we needed to take it one step at a time.

To make a long story shorter, we launched a Go Fund Me page for the first time in our lives. It was humbling and exciting to see how God was going to work this all out! Our first 24 hours we had $240, and as each person began to fill our page with their donations, our hearts were filled with so much joy as we got closer to our goal. To God be the glory—we raised all the money for the trip and for even enough for spending! That is the kind of God we serve.

Now the best part. We arrived in Africa with my friends and another pastor that we fell in love with. We had a team of five people. We began ministering from the time we landed, and the bond that was formed during our two-week stay was phenomenal. The country is absolutely breathtaking! The people are so loving and embracing. But their love and hunger for God was more than amazing!

The day before the women’s conference began, women were walking with huge baskets on their heads, a bag in each hand, and some had a baby they were carrying around their waist. They were walking with excitement and anticipation, coming to the church to spend the night in order that they would not miss the opening session of the conference. The church was built from concrete blocks with a tin roof and concrete floors. These women don’t usually get the opportunity to have a conference just for them—sermons geared to their hurts, needs, and desires from God. Some of these women never went home; they stayed each night in the church, and each morning the ladies of the church would bring them breakfast—which usually consisted of boiled eggs, bread, and juice. I am a minister, and never have I seen such devotion.

After the conference there was a nightly revival. I realized that all these women could not go to bed until the revival was over and the church was emptied. My husband and I realized that these beautiful people were teaching us what it means to truly serve God with your whole heart. No matter the situation, no matter what we don’t have, we just need to serve and love Him for who He is. We had it all wrong. And as the tears began to stream down my husband’s face, we both realized why this trip God ordained was the right time.

God had me do an altar call, and as I was ministering, I noticed there was not one chair that still had a person sitting in it. All the women came to the altar for prayer, and I was reminded of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. The whole church so was filled with the Presence of God that I could hardly breathe. Never in my Christian life had I ever felt so close to heaven. It was then that a new purpose for my life was being formed within my soul.

My husband…I can hardly write this without my soul being overwhelmed as I think about his transformation and what God was doing in his heart while in Africa. His prayer life changed and he was called into ministry while we experienced God in such a deep way. That’s why this time was the right time! The families we ministered to, the lives we touched, and those who touched us in very special ways have changed our lives. I told the people of Swaziland that I felt like I had traveled all this way because I had family here that I had never met. What a joyful reunion it turned out to be! Because of this trip, we now have a new commitment to God, we worship differently, we love deeper, we see through God’s eyes instead of our own, and we live to please God in anticipation of being able to spend an eternity with Him.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.