#118 God Came Close

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

May 17th was my original due date. And to be honest, I thought I’d be pregnant again by now. I thought May 17th would come and go and I would be a new kind of happy, glistening with hope and pregnancy glow, excited for our new healthy baby to enter the world.

But that didn’t happen.

I still remember the day and those moments so clearly. I had been waiting so long to see our sweet baby for the first time; nothing beats the anticipation of that first ultrasound. I have never been so elated. But the tech was quiet and said, “Let me go get the midwife…”

A few moments later, we heard the words “no heartbeat,” “not meant to be,” and “miscarriage.” I have never been so heartbroken. In the days following, it was all I could do to pull myself out of bed and move to the couch. My mom came over and cleaned the whole house, cried with me in between doing dishes and dusting. Friends came. Some shared their own stories of loss. Others brought flowers and food. Over a few weeks of processing and mourning, I began to see our baby in Heaven, wrapped in the arms of Jesus, and bouncing on my grandfather’s knee. I began to see the gift of perfect life that our tiny love had been given. It may be weird to say, but it was almost hard to un-wish what had happened.

I comforted myself with thoughts of quickly getting pregnant again. Of moving on to a healthy pregnancy with a different baby that couldn’t have existed without losing the first. Again, I expected to be pregnant long before that first due date ever came. And well, I was. Four months after losing our first, the test was positive. And so was I. Positive that this one would be fine. That the first one was just a fluke, part of the unlucky 20 percent. God and I had a deal, and I knew this one would be perfect.

But three days after my test turned positive, I started to bleed. One week later, I miscarried our second baby. The first time I was devastated. The second time I was angry. Angry at God. I asked him, “How could You do this to me? The very thing I begged You not to do?”

I was completely broken. And that is when God came so close. In my pain and anger, in my suffering, the God of the Everything felt as close as my skin. And in my deep desperation, as I asked the Lord why He hadn’t delivered what I so desperately wanted, He whispered to me this truth, “You won’t get everything you want in this life, but in the middle of every single ‘no,’ my Son is always your ‘yes.’” In my pain, can I have more of Jesus? Yes, every time. In the middle of my anguish and despair, in my disappointment and brokenness, is He drawing near, giving me more of His comfort and love? Yes.

I am learning over and over again that this life isn’t about getting everything I want. It is about getting more of Jesus. May 17th has come and gone, and while I still hope to be pregnant in the future, I am full of Christ today.

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.

#117 Simple Laundry Room Prayer

 Photo by Erin E. Photography

I overreacted. I know it now and I knew it when it happened.

My husband was getting ready for work and had made a comment that just hit me the wrong way. I don’t even remember exactly what he said. But it made me mad. He was nearly ready to walk out the door and I wanted to say something back to him to let him know I did not appreciate the comment. But I knew in my anger that my words would be harsh and it would not lead to a meaningful conversation. He was going out the door to work and this wasn’t the way I wanted to say goodbye for the day. I had been down this road before and knew that my careless, angry words in the heat of the moment could lead down a rabbit hole of more and more hurtful words—not productive, not constructive, but tearing down kind of words.

I needed God’s help to control my urge to say angry words that I would regret. I went to our laundry room and prayed. My prayer went something like this, “Lord give me your words, not my words. Help me see my husband as you see him, with love. Help me be loving to him.”

I walked out of the laundry room calmer and when I looked at my husband at the back door in his suit dressed for work, I was overcome with gratitude to him for the way he provides for our family. And I noticed how handsome he looked in his suit. With God’s help, I was able to pay my husband a sincere compliment spoken in love and gratitude. God heard and responded to my simple laundry room prayer to overcome my petty irritation and help me love my husband.

What a gift to be able to rely on Him in all things, no matter how small. God cares. God listens and He will help.  

For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:5

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.

#116. Darkness Into Light

 Artwork by Jacob Cecil

I grew up the daughter of a pastor, the oldest of six kids. Ever since I can remember as a child, our family was involved in international missions. The first time I went on a mission trip I was seven years old. This shaped my heart with a global perspective. One year on my birthday my dad encouraged me to have an adventure. “You’ve always had a heart for the nations. Don’t stay here in the United States and miss out on pursuing your dreams.”

I was working as a nurse at time. I had no debt and nothing tying me down. His challenge took me by surprise and I wasn’t quite ready at that time. But the idea kept playing over and over in my head and I began to seriously pray about it. I quietly explored mission options in different nations, though I didn’t feel called to a specific country. After weeks of praying there was an opportunity to serve in Central America, and God confirmed that this was the opportunity I was to take.

I contacted a specific ministry I felt led to serve and they were willing to have me. I signed up to work with them for five months and I thought that would be the extent of my adventure. By month four I began to hear stories of little girls working in prostitution in the country where I was serving. I started exploring why this was happening.

At that time, in 2009, there was limited information on sex trafficking and its impact and pervasiveness. So a friend and I went to a little town close to the border where we had heard this was happening, trying to understand the complex nature of this problem and if there was a way to help. We took multiple trips to this border town and developed relationships with churches and local authorities. Through those relationships we learned more about what was happening and the factors that led to the exploitation of women and children. We decided to throw a Christmas party for the women and children who were working in prostitution near the town where we had been establishing relationships. This was at the border of two Central American nations. Our purpose was to establish relationships and let people know we were there to help. It took a lot of hard work, fundraising, and prayer to plan that party. We worked with border patrol and immigration officials from both nations. We partnered with local churches from both nations, and churches in the United States also supported our effort. We brought food, presents, games, and generators. During the planning, we had not met one woman that could attend our party, but we continued to pray and trust God that women would attend. The weekend of the party we passed out flyers and waited with expectant hearts for what God had in store.

On December 5, 2009, 25–30 women and children showed up to our party. They couldn’t believe that someone would want to throw a party for people who worked in prostitution, and we were overjoyed that so many people came! We had spent months of prayer and fasting preparing, and it was the most amazing feeling to see God show up this way! We were able to share the love of God and Jesus, and for two to three hours the women and children were simply our honored guests. We were just there to let them know they were loved and seen. One of the head immigration officials who was there said, “There’s so much light here tonight—and I’m not just talking about the generators!”

This party was the catalyst of my journey to help men, women, and children involved in and affected by sexual exploitation. The party furthered our understanding of the great need to help. That weekend launched our ministry. We developed a vision and passion to end exploitation not only in that area but in the whole nation I was serving as a missionary. After that event, while I was so encouraged by what I had seen God do, I was also fully aware that if I committed to help in this way, I would be staying longer than five months, dealing with dangers, and learning a different language and culture. I recognized the complexity of this type of ministry and my lack of experience in this area. I knew that I would be away from the support of my family and church community back home. When I said yes, I weighed the cost and I did so with much prayer and fasting. But I felt that God was truly calling me to this type of ministry in this particular place, and I knew that what I lacked, I could rely on God to provide.

Over the years God has sent countless amazing people to help—people with experience, knowledge, talents, resources, and strengths that I don’t possess. I wasn’t drawn to help survivors of exploitation because it was sad and terrible; I was drawn to the redemptive side, partnering with Jesus to see freedom come. It was a journey with God of learning lessons and learning from mistakes. I had a photo of the little legs of the children of the women in prostitution from the night of our first event, the Christmas party on the border. I often looked at that photo and thought, “What if the world looked different for those little legs. What if they could have a different future?” I became passionate about prevention, ending human trafficking before it could ever start. I had a passion that a child would never have to be exposed to it. There was much trial and error in such a huge task. We did much research and outreach to inform our programs. At that time there were limited resources on how to do prevention of exploitation in a programmatic, replicable way. We were pioneers of sorts. We started to learn all the factors that put people at risk and make them vulnerable. We tackled the prevention side through a relational lens because this is the way we felt God was calling us to work.

That was over seven years ago. And the photo of those little legs on the bench has been my constant reminder of why I fight. Today I am amazed at the number of people God has allowed our team to serve. I have met many wonderful men, women, and children. I have seen God make crooked paths straight. I have seen God turn the seemingly impossible into possible. Enemies have become friends. Dark has become light. Hopelessness has transformed to hope. I have witnessed the power of love against shame, hate, and violence. I have seen love bring freedom.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:11–12

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.