#92 A Life of Kindness

 Photo by Erin E. Photography

This is my friend Joanie. She carries the kindness of God with such depth that one encounter with her will leave you changed. When I was about 10 years old, Joanie came into my life as a friend of my mom. Their friendship is a story for another day. For the first few years of their friendship, I would see Joanie periodically, but I did not know her well. Joanie was a single mom of four children, a student at Asbury, and had a full-time job. As you can imagine, she was a busy woman. But, she was never too busy. Never too busy to love. Never to busy serve. Never too busy for an encounter with God or His people.

When I was around 12, there was a day that I stayed home from school because of strep throat. This is certainly very common, and not something that I would expect anyone to think twice about. This particular case of strep throat taught me an important lesson about caring for others. Joanie showed up at our door that day with tea and limes and honey, a Haitian remedy for a sore throat. The way that she served me that day made me feel so cared for, even though I really didn’t believe my little case of strep throat was worth stopping for.

Fast forward a few years. I am 20, and I am sitting across the breakfast table from Joanie, chatting about life. I ask her to tell me a story, and she begins to tell me about a young girl named Holly. When Joanie was around 12, living in Haiti where she grew up, a young girl named Holly captured her attention. Holly was younger than Joanie, and was always dirty with torn clothes. Over the years, Joanie and Holly began to talk, and Joanie decided to start sharing her food with Holly. Joanie didn’t have much, but she did have a mom and a dad and she felt privileged. Holly had no mom and no dad, but she did have plenty of chores and responsibilities. Joanie thought it was too much for a young girl, and she continued to give her food or spare coins whenever she could. In Joanie’s words, “It’s just what you do. You have food and you share.” Eventually, Joanie went to college and got married and moved on. She didn’t see Holly again. Many years later, Joanie had moved to America and was at a thrift store in Florida. Another woman in the store recognized Joanie and asked if she knew her. It was Holly! It was only after they exchanged numbers and talked on the phone that Joanie realized who it was, and began to remember how she had helped her back in Haiti. Holly had found a way to the United States and to college! All these years, Holly had thought of Joanie as someone she couldn’t have made it without. Joanie was so moved by seeing Holly and hearing how her life had turned out. She couldn’t believe that her kindness to her so many years ago had such an impact! In her words, seeing Holly “reminded me of my real story. It was a teaching moment. That’s how God works, people to people.”

As I sit across the table listening to Joanie tell of this story, I can’t help but think of my own story about Joanie bringing me tea. I ask her if she remembers it. She doesn’t really. I am like Holly. Joanie’s kindness to me burns in my memory and continues to inspire me. But to Joanie, these moments are just her life. According to her, it’s just what you do.

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.” Ephesians 5:2

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.

#91 God Shaped Hole

 Photo by Erin E Photography

I met my ex-husband right out of high school. At the time, I believed in Jesus and that He died for our sins, but it was more of an “as-needed” thing. God was in a closet and I brought Him out when I needed Him. My ex-husband was into drugs and alcohol when I met him and I became consumed in that lifestyle with him. He made it clear that he had no faith, and to win his affection I made the decision to agree with him in that. I definitely felt it was important to be a good person and respect other people’s beliefs, but my attitude toward God was, “That works for some people but I don’t need that.” 

I lived with him for about a year before I got pregnant. I knew that from the beginning he had an issue with not being able to be faithful to me. This had been a big problem for me, and when I found out I was pregnant I said, “If you are going to continue to live this way, I can’t do this. Are you willing to do this with me and only me? If not, this needs to end now.”

He decided to stick together and even though he had broken my trust over and over in the past two years, I gave him a chance. We got married when our son was two years old. About six months later, I was sitting alone at a park watching my son play and a couple came over and asked me if they could pray for me. I wanted to respect them and even though it felt really awkward, I let them pray for me. They asked if they could pray for anything specific. I said “No,” so they just prayed a general prayer over me. 

A week or two later, a few of my friends from a previous workplace wanted to get together at a coffee house. I was running late and rushed in really stressed. As I was walking in the door, I saw a girl I graduated high school with and she was on the phone. She grabbed my arm, smiled and said, “Hi! How are you? My pastor is on the phone. Can he pray for you?”  I thought, “He better make this fast because I am late!” I took the phone and her pastor prayed that God would show up in my life. That was it. 

I got my coffee and sat down with my friends. They were all quiet. Finally, one of them said they had found out from a reliable source that my husband was having an affair. In that moment, I felt an unexplainable peace, like God was wrapping me up in a hug. While I was still sitting there, we called the girl and she admitted to the affair. It was a pleasant but somber conversation. Again, I had a supernatural peace. 

I was encouraged by my family to work it out with my husband and decided to try. We stayed together for another four to five months after I found out about the affair, but I kept finding messages, emails, and porn. I felt like he wasn’t going to be able to stop. I had also dealt with some abuse. I had never felt as lonely in my entire life.

We divorced when our son was three. After this I felt like God really pursued me. My thoughts started changing. Out of the blue, I had a desire to take my son to church. I had been against that the whole time I was married. It was a miracle that I felt the desire to go to church. After going to church every Sunday for a full year, I gave my life to Christ. 

During this time, God used the sermons to speak to me in powerful ways. One Sunday, the pastor said that there is a God-shaped hole in our hearts. We can try and fill it with whatever, but God is the only One that can fill that empty space. Unless He fills it, we will be constantly searching and unfulfilled. That really connected with me because that is what I had been trying to do—fill the hole with drugs, alcohol, and men. 

In another sermon, the pastor talked about the fact that people will always disappoint us but God never will. God did not create the world to be the way that it is. I was a completely broken person when I heard this message, 23 years old, divorced, with a four-year-old. I had started dating someone and our relationship was not honoring God. I was stressed financially and emotionally. My whole life had been a series of disappointments from people that I loved and trusted. 

After hearing that sermon, I completely surrendered to the Lord. I finally said to God, “I can’t make decisions in my life without You.” I was ready for God to take over. I was ready to be obedient.  I call this the day I was truly saved. My relationship with God really started that day. Looking back, I can see how God brought me to that place. He was with me the whole time and was so patient to wait for me to give up my pride. When I was ready, He welcomed me with open arms. He redeemed me. 

I felt God leading me away from the man I was dating. I wanted a God-honoring relationship, so I walked away.

That was in June of 2013. In the fall of that year, I started a BSF Bible study with some women on the Gospel of Matthew. I immersed myself in the Gospel and was completely changed by Jesus. As I got to know Jesus better, I realized that if I ever remarried, my husband would have to be sold out for Christ. 

Friends had fixed me up with a man right after my divorce—before my life changed. He knew right away I was not right for him. He was a man of great character, a Christian who was committed to living a God-honoring life. And at the time we first met, I was a “train wreck.” We became Facebook friends after we first met, and over the next few months he noticed that I was changing because of what I was posting on Facebook. We decided to meet for coffee. His love for Jesus was so evident. He told me, “I’m not looking for someone to fulfill me. I’m looking for someone to partner with me in serving Jesus.” He shared that he had gotten a divorce because his wife had an affair. It had been a devastating experience for him. I could relate to him—we both knew what it felt like to be betrayed. 

We are now married and I see the difference between a marriage with Christ and a marriage without Christ. God has revealed to me what He created marriage to look like—the emotional connection, the intimacy, and supporting and serving each other while partnering to serve others. 

But it hasn’t all been easy. We struggled to get pregnant, and our first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. A few months later I became pregnant again and the Lord gave that baby an extra chromosome. We struggled through the pregnancy, and still do to some extent, to accept that our child will face unimaginable circumstances at times. BUT—God has given me freedom from circumstances in that I have peace in the midst of uncertainty. It is a joy to go through life’s challenges with Jesus and a husband who is so supporting. God provided a strong, compassionate, prayerful husband who trusts with me that God is sovereign, God is in control, and He knows what He is doing. God is so big but He is also in every tiny detail. He sees the whole world but walks intimately with his kids every step of the way. God doesn’t abandon us when we struggle to believe. He is rock solid—forever unchanging. He is redeeming every broken detail of my past. He is in the business of forgiveness and is patiently loving me in my successes and failures every day. 

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.

#90 Lifted Out of Darkness


Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

In January of 2016, I was diagnosed with bipolar depression after being admitted to the Behavioral Health Unit at a local hospital for an almost-suicide attempt. After being diagnosed and put on medication, my moods started to level out and I began to feel “okay” again. 

Fast-forward to mid-June of last year: My moods suddenly shifted again, darkness surrounded my mind and heart, and I was having a lot of suicidal thoughts and had even planned my death and had begun to write a few letters that I was going to mail before I killed myself. I didn’t tell anyone that I was struggling again (though I’m sure my mood change might have been obvious to some friends) because I had been doing so well and was ashamed that I had fallen again. 

One day before I had planned to commit suicide, I was texting a friend. Almost out of nowhere, she responds to a text that I sent and says, “Look, I JUST got back from a funeral and I really don’t want to have to go to yours.” I hadn’t even hinted to her (at least I don’t think I did) that I was planning on taking my life the next day; and needless to say, I didn’t. 

Several weeks later, I asked her why she said what she did and her response was that God had told her to say it right then. She doesn’t know it, nor does anyone else for that matter, but her obedience to God in that moment saved my life. God used her words to break through deepest darkness that I had ever found myself trapped in and set me free. It’s clear as day that God placed her in my life for that moment so that He could bring glory to Himself through her obedience to Him and faithfulness to me as a friend. If He hadn’t shown Himself in that moment, I wouldn’t be alive to tell you how high, deep, wide, and strong His love is for us. 

Life has not been easy since then and, admittedly, I’ve still occasionally had suicidal thoughts. Instead of allowing the darkness to consume me, I think back to that moment and remember that there are people here on earth that love me deeply and that I have a Father that loves me immeasurably more than that. Thanks to a friend who showed friendship and obedience to that same Father, that moment, those words, that feeling of the deepest love has made all the difference in my life. 

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.

#89 That is True Love


Photo by Lucas Wiman

One day back in November I was in a pretty sour mood for most of the day. I was having bitter feelings toward a person who really had done me no wrong. These feelings kept attacking me throughout the day because I felt hurt by the person. 

I was feeling miserable by the time my campus ministry meeting started that night. The message spoke to my heart because it talked about how desperately we needed God to perform surgery on our hearts to free us from our sinful nature and habits. I went back to my dorm and felt drawn to my knees. I started to pray, “Father, show me what true forgiveness looks like.” He cut me off halfway through the word “forgiveness” and put an image in my head of Jesus on the cross. He was beaten and had blood pouring down from him. He was bruised and in great agony yet He called out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” God told me, “This is true forgiveness.” 

Then the vision in my head went back to just before Jesus was crucified. I was on the platform with Jesus; one of us was about to be set free, the other was going to the cross. I knew my sin and that I was deserving of the punishment, but in my selfishness I thought to myself, “I hope that they send Jesus to the cross, because if Jesus goes to the cross then I can be free.” Jesus looked over at me and says, “That is why I came; go and sin no more.” God said to me, “That is true love.” 

With that vision I was finally able to really grasp Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. He taught me love and forgiveness in a very powerful way that left me in awe. How awesome our God is!

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.

#88 Never Alone


Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I was a military wife whose husband was deployed to Iraq. As anyone who has ever had a spouse deployed knows, this can be a very lonely and stressful time. All of the parenting is on your shoulders. I do know that without my walk with the Lord I could not have held up and been as supportive as I was. 

But one day my whole world was rocked. It is a day I will never forget—the day my child contemplated taking his own life. My son had fallen hard for a girl in his 10th grade class. But unfortunately, as time passed, she decided to end their relationship as it was; however, my son was not ready for this reality. I could tell he was in a depression and I sought help for him.

Counseling helped, but he was still “in love.” One morning he refused to go to school, and after an argument, I finally got him on the bus. I went to his room—not something I ever did before—but I was compelled to go in there for some reason. That is when I found the note that said he could not go on without her. 

Of course I fell to my knees and asked God what I could do to help this hurting boy. I called his counselors at school and let them know of my concerns and they watched over him for me that day. 

I was home when he walked in the door. He was furious with me and locked himself in his room. I pleaded with him to let me in. I did the only thing I could. I fell to my knees and prayed like I have never prayed before. I didn’t know what to do, but I prayed. 

I went to his room knowing it would be locked, but fortunately it was unlocked. Please, Lord, show me what to do. A clear voice said, “Be still.” 

I found him lying on the floor staring at the ceiling. What do I say, Lord? 

“Nothing,” said a voice, “just lie down.” 

So I laid on the floor beside him, not touching but close enough to feel him. We laid on the floor for what seemed like hours; I truly lost all sense of time. I remember stretching my little finger out and touching his hand. He grabbed my hand and said through tears, “Mom, my heart is breaking!” We hugged, we prayed, and we talked. I was emotionally drained from a very long battle with the devil for my son. 

As I was going to the kitchen to cook a meal with my son, I stopped to get on my knees once more to say, “Thank You!!” We weren’t out of the woods yet. He still needed more therapy, but at least I still had him. I know that no matter what difficulties lay ahead, I am never alone.

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.

#87 Send Someone


 Photo by Renee Toole

I think there’s something to be said about the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world being concerned enough and humble enough to be involved in the affairs of our little daily lives. You see, this is what makes our God different than other gods. Our God doesn’t sit up in the sky, listen to us calling out to Him, and turn away from us. He’s the God of heaven and yet He cares about answering our sometimes minuscule requests just so He can show us that He is who He says He is. Our God cares enough about His kids to show up for us in the little things. 

I was in a coffee shop a few months ago sitting by myself and journaling some prayers. I was simply asking God to send me some people that I could pray for or share the gospel with. I kept writing for a good while until I looked up to see two people standing in the doorway of the room I was in, looking for a seat. All the seats in the shop were taken except for the ones at my table, so they were stuck with me. I welcomed them and went back to writing. They had important things to talk about and I had prayers to write, right? 

As I kept writing and praying, it dawned on me…I had just prayed for God to bring people for me to pray for and a few minutes later two guys waltz right in my room. My heart started beating fast and my hands got clammy, because I realized that these were THE people and God wasn’t going to let me leave until I did what He was asking me to do. 

I kept praying and praying for an opportunity to talk to them as they went on and on about past wars and potential jobs. While I was praying and waiting for a pause in their conversation, God was stooping low to give me the words to say to the young man He wanted me to speak to. He was letting me in on things about this guy and giving me specifics…things I would have no way of knowing on my own. 

The friend of the young man went to the restroom and I knew this was my shot. I began a conversation, asking questions that aren’t normal conversation starters, because God had already told me things about him. I asked to pray for him and he agreed somewhat hesitantly, but assured me that nothing was wrong with him and he was perfectly happy with his life. I think he must have thought that something has to be wrong with you for you to pray to God. 

Well, God was so good and showed up for me during that prayer. My heart was beating out of my chest the whole time I was praying because God was asking me to be really bold with my words. I was clueless as to what I should say—but lucky for me, God wasn’t clueless and He spoke through me and provided words when I felt speechless. I looked up at the end of the prayer and I could tell that he was baffled as to how I knew the things I did without knowing him. His friend had come back in the middle of the prayer and was equally confused. They began asking questions and trying to figure out what my “agenda” was or if I was going to school to be a preacher, which I thought was hilarious. That’s when I got to explain the gospel and our call as Christians to simply love people and tell them about Jesus wherever we go. I could tell that they were curious. Their faces revealed that they had never heard of the things I was telling them about. My parking meter ran out, so I left, trusting that God would take care of the rest and send someone else to water the seed that He had allowed me to plant. 

A month and a half later I’m in the same coffee shop. I’m alone and there are no other seats in the place. The SAME guy walks in and looks around for a seat. He’s stuck again. He looks at me and says, “You’re the girl! I remember you!” and takes a seat at my table once again. He brings up the prayer and conversation from last time and obviously wants to talk about it. He begins asking questions about what it means to be a Christ follower, what sin is, and if he can still go to heaven even if he “sins or whatever.” My heart was ready to bust from happiness because God’s grace is just so simple. After answering several questions, I mentioned that he must come here all the time, since we ran into each other again. He replied, “The only two times I’ve ever been here is when I’ve run into you.” 

I think God does these things to remind us that He’s all around us even when we are just going through our everyday lives. He wants our everyday lives to be an offering to Him, but He doesn’t leave us to do that on our own. He joins us and offers us His hand every day if we will take it, and leads us on daily adventures for His glory. We don’t have to live mundane lives. We can make our days extraordinary if we accept God’s invitation and allow Him to intervene. I think He’s making Himself known to us in little ways all the time, so that we have enough confidence in His “realness” to share that about Him with others.

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.

#86 Gradual Change

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

My first outing after I was released from the hospital as a baby was to go to church. Fitting, as my dad is a pastor. 

I have grown up in the church, reciting Bible stories since I can remember, and I have always been deemed the “good child” of my five siblings. I came to college with a good foundation, ready to take on a broken campus. The devil had every intention of wrecking that plan and taking me down a different path. 

My freshman year I was simply lost. I was seeking approval in a long-time boyfriend, in the social scene of college, through my GPA, and just about every place that I knew I was going to be let down—that was where I was searching. 

My story does not have an earth-shattering moment where I turned my life around, but that is okay. Jesus wants to change your heart gradually over time, just like He wants to change it in a drop of a hat. That same year, I interviewed for a camp for the upcoming summer. I received the job and that summer changed my whole view on life. My heart was being renewed and God was showing me the “dirt” that was buried in my heart that I needed to remove. I learned that I no longer needed approval from a boy; I no longer needed the partying and drinking phase of college; I no longer needed a good GPA. What I needed was Jesus. That summer I learned how to solely depend on Him and fully trust Him with His plan for my life. That summer taught me that I am enough and I have all I need in Him. 

My second year of college has looked totally different. My life is so free! And it is my own! I am no longer bound by a boy, and I am no longer bound by the stereotypes of what college “should” be like, because Jesus tells me I am loved. And Jesus tells me that I am known by Him. How wonderful is it that the God of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE knows exactly what we need?! He knows the inmost part of our heart, He knows what we like for breakfast, He knows if we prefer coffee or tea, He knows what makes us happy, and He knows us better than anyone else. There is no boy, drink, party, grade, etc., that will ever compare to the love and freedom you can find in Jesus! And the amazing thing is that He wants to give it to you. He wants you to turn from whatever is holding you back, and He wants to wrap you in His arms tell you that you are loved and that you are enough. 

I have found my hope and it is in Christ and in Him alone. No one/nothing else will bring you the eternal hope that we have when we fully surrender our lives to Jesus Christ. And when you do, you will feel that freedom.

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.