#112 Life of Revision

 Photo by Erin E. Photography

God likes to do a little revision.  

This new jolt of confusion, however, was a long-laid plan. It was one that had begun years earlier, while working in garbage-dump living conditions in Peru. He’d fallen in love with those people. And, at that moment, he’d known his life was meant for people of Hispanic descent. To that end, as a young man, he’d pursued degrees in Spanish and international politics. To that end he’d begun teaching ESL. To that end he’d lived his life. It was the right career. It was the right path.

Everyone said this new change would be the worst mistake of his life. But that day, sitting across from a poster of himself as a debt-free college student who had planned to enter missions, he signed papers to pull out of his education. Re-education began—not an erasing of anything but the mysterious pulling of form out of void.

A few weeks earlier, prayer had led to this moment. A touch of intention. A moment of admitted fear. Tension began to grow. It was a decision that more than one person thought was foolish. At the beginning, even he’d thought it’d just been the regular fatigue of college hitting him with thoughts of escape. Quit school?

Who quits school when they have good grades and no debt? But that was the raging message beating in his heart. He didn’t really want to do it. He didn’t. It wasn’t him. He was scholastic; he was cut out for school. He was going to serve God with his degrees. He was. So, they wrestled. They wrestled to see if this unheard of and impractical change really was from God.

To him, though, God was Friend. There was close trust there. But this was asking him to do something not only unconventional, but something seemingly unwise. The words, however, kept coming: “Listen, I have some really cool things for you, and you can have them if you want, but you’re going to have to obey me.”

Suddenly, it felt like a big, enjoyable surprise was waiting for him—like he was already holding it in his hands. He just didn’t know what it was yet. So, there he sat, expelling himself from college, from dreams, from future. Wide-eyed secretaries and advisors stared him down in an office meant to offer education—and there he sat, denying it all. And there God sat, right with him, condoning it all. Staring back at stunned office workers was the God of Future. Dwelling in unknown, the Knower began to rise.

And hope began to grow like a child—full of the not yet, but already present.

The next day, however, was frightening. Had this young man just given up the rest of his life for an unknown vision? Had he given in instead of giving up? And which one of those was really right? Known path was instantly traded for something intangible. Was it really God he’d trusted?  

He realized he’d been sharing his identity with the world’s view for a long time and giving that up made him feel about as tall as a mouse. Now, instead of “successful, debt-free student,” his label was “college dropout.” And it was for no tangible reason—only a prayer: conversation that gave direction from a persevering Friend.

And God was with. God was Best Friend. In that, there was calm trust and excited anticipation.  

He asked God for a small sign. His heart wanted to know again the faithfulness, to know the Carrying Power. He wanted to know he’d obeyed. On that day, however, there was a void of Presence. On that day, there was no sign. On that day, there was vast hope, but hope was not made real.

“Oh, my goodness, I am not prepared for this!” was his first thought on the following evening. And then, seconds later, he remembered the words of the Lord for him, “I have amazing things for you.”  

That night, instead of just a few teens arriving for the youth group he led, over 25 Hispanic youth arrived. Kids whose first language was Spanish. Kids who had absent fathers, not enough food, no sense of safety—they lived with a heartbreaking understanding that they were an afterthought to family and society. Kids who, without having broken any law themselves, were dragged into becoming the product of their parent’s huge and uncaring choices.

He had no degree, yet every class and every experience from Peru to that moment had been in preparation for this. But it hadn’t been him. Of course not. He hadn’t planned this. It was God’s bend in the road, carefully prepared years ago—in fact, eons ago.

Along with attending school and working full-time, he’d never have been able to love those teens the unconditional way they needed. So, quitting school paved the way for this God-given and miraculous ministry. God hadn’t stopped carrying him. God’s friendship had prepared him.

The story, even now, continues to become. Hearts are given to Jesus, baptisms take place, teens choose to drastically change their life’s trajectories. Just a few weeks ago, a youth walked 25 miles in the rain to come to a safe place. And in between the lives of youth and leaders, another Friend lives.

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.

#53 Listening Taking A Leap Of Faith

Photo by L. Smyth Photography

I have recently been praying and asking that the Holy Spirit would move in me by revealing opportunities to love others, and that when those times come, to give me the boldness and conviction of heart to act.

I am a freshman in college and over winter break I had the privilege of being able to go on a winter retreat offered by one of the campus ministries. I knew that this was a chance to have open ears for different things the Lord might want to show me through worship, fellowship, and messages, and to refocus to keep my eyes on Christ as I headed into the second semester. I was tempted to think it was a chance to get rest that was much needed, but I have been on retreats before with friends, and I knew that there would most likely be very late nights and little sleep.

During one of these late nights, I sought out one of my friends who is a staff member at this campus ministry to pray over me before I returned back to school in the spring. She pulled in another staff member to pray over me as well. Right when we were about to start, three girls whom I had never seen before approached us to talk to one of the staff members they knew. Due to the fact that we were about to start praying, the staff member asked if the three girls would like to join us in prayer. Initially I did not know how I felt about this, but it was not a huge deal. If they wanted to join, why not? There was no harm in it.

The two staff members began to pray over my life. These two have prayed over me before and when they did, I could hear the Lord’s voice and His direction over my life because of their incredible gift to hear from the Lord and speak His truth. Once again, God blew me away with the things He wanted to reveal to me through the prayer of these two.

But the Lord was not finished working in that moment. After the group had finished praying over me, one of the staff members began to speak directly to one of the three girls who had joined us. He said he felt that the Lord was telling him specific ways in which He viewed her and how she was going to serve Him in the future. She replied that he was spot on and that she had been working through these same things he had mentioned.

He then asked if we could pray over her, and she agreed. This is where I witnessed God move and work the most. People in the group begin to pray different things over her including the identity that God has given her. As we prayed, I recalled how I had been asking the Holy Spirit to move in me. I did not know this girl at all and was content to listen and not pray out loud over her. As people continued praying over her, they were saying various things that had to do with the Lord being pleased with her. I kept waiting for someone to actually say this phrase—that the Lord was pleased with her just how she is. No one ever did.

I felt my heart begin to pound and my chest get tight. I really felt like this needed to be said, but did not know if I had the place to say this over someone I had never seen until 30 minutes ago. That was it—I made up my mind that this was placed on my heart for a reason and that I needed to say it. I spoke up and said, “I know I don’t know you very well at all, but I feel like the Lord wants me to tell you that He is completely and fully pleased with you. You can stop striving. He loves you for exactly who you are and where you are at.”

As soon as I said it, the girl burst into tears. She had heard exactly what she needed to hear from the Lord in that moment. I had never experienced anything like this, where God used me so directly to influence another’s life to reveal His truth in their life. I was stunned and filled with joy. Not only did God answer my prayer to fill me with the Holy Spirit so I may be led by Him more, but He showed me that if I would just be willing to be aware of His voice, listen, and take more leaps of faith, He would show up in big ways.

I am extremely encouraged and thankful for a faithful, attentive Father. I am grateful for the prayers of the staff members who spoke truth over my life and convicted my heart. God was certainly glorified in that. But God had even bigger plans that night. He orchestrated every person in that group to be brought together for a specific purpose so that His will would be done and His Holy Spirit would move, calling His children back to Him in love. It was not I, but He that moved in hearts that night and was faithful to my initial request to be moved by the Holy Spirit to act. He is worthy of our trust, faith, and praise.

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.

#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.

#28 Twin Christmas Blessings

Photo by Erin E. Photography

 My church back home in Chicago participates in Operation Christmas Child, and one year they were handing out boxes and came across a set of twins. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough boxes to give one to both of them, so they gave them one and said they could share and split things up. When they opened the box, God appeared in the most amazing way. It just so happened that the person who packed the box put two of everything inside. So both of those kids got a toothbrush, school supplies, and each got a couple of the same toys. It’s one of the most amazing stories I have ever heard.

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.

#19. Showing Me His Heart

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

 My freshman year of college I was depressed and hopeless. It wasn’t like me. I used to chase after what I thought was Jesus and I used to be happy. But my life had changed and I was defined by drinking, smoking, and filling my life with lies and “friends” who were actually just people that were just as depressed and hopeless as me. I would do whatever it took to feel like I was having fun. I replaced joy with temporary pleasure.

Halfway through the year I decided that I wasn’t going to continue living this way, so I decided to sign up for a summer camp. I wanted to go on staff and be a counselor. I mean, I liked kids and I would probably meet some cool people, so why the heck not? Not to mention, I would be getting paid.

The rest of the school year went on and I had Jesus on the back burner. It’s difficult to stop living life in a pattern that you’ve created for yourself. Finally, summer arrived and I was going to camp. To make an extremely detailed story short, Jesus wrecked me. Through leadership, community, and unconditional love, Jesus showed me what life should look like through Him. Leading kids at camp challenged me and put me in situations where I had nothing to rely on except for Jesus and His wisdom. The community at this camp was so uplifting. The friends I made, especially toward the end of the summer, helped to set a foundation for myself going into the school year. I remember praying at the end of camp, asking God to provide me the same kind of community when I got back to school. All I could think about was how horrible the year before was. I had no idea what Jesus was going to do. I came back from camp, got involved in one of the most amazing college ministries in the United States, and never looked back. Jesus has outdone what I asked Him to do, and has provided me with something so precious. I have an endless amount of friends and people constantly pouring into me. I even have the opportunity to pour into others and lead like I did at camp. Jesus can do so much once you make the decision to seek Him and give up everything else for His heart.

I’m learning and growing more and more every day. Each phase of life I go through is showing me more and more about His heart. I can’t wait to see where my faith will be and where the faith of everyone around me will be in the next six months. I know Jesus is doing radical things in this community.

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.

#17. Learning Not To Hide Hardships

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

 Last night at the Bible study I lead, our group of girls sat in a circle and went around calling out wonderful qualities and spiritual gifts we saw in each other. It was a night of laughter and encouragement, and our hearts were full by the end of it. For me, the 20-year-old women told me they were encouraged by my positive and giggly personality and my peaceful presence. My eyes brimmed with tears at their kind words and also at the path I realized God has rescued me from.

Sometimes Christians will talk about what they think their life would’ve looked like had they not given their life to Christ. For me, I am certain I would be dead from suicide. I grew up in a stable Christian family and had a wonderful childhood, but at the time, I did not see it this way. I believed that no one in my family loved me. I felt invisible and unwanted. I was always too much and not enough. The first time I cut myself was in fifth grade and the first time I made myself throw up was in ninth grade. I thought seriously about suicide at different points in fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, and again during my sophomore year of college.

I became a Christian in seventh grade, but unfortunately, my struggles continued. I knew Christians were supposed to “struggle” with sin just like everyone else, but I never saw any Christians who really were. Everyone was doing what they were supposed to, and I was dying inside. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I didn’t want anyone else to find out, so I kept my fears to myself.

The Lord grew His love in me throughout high school and college and I slowly began giving my whole heart to Him in new ways. But when I lost my grandmother my sophomore year of college, suddenly all the hurt and loneliness I’d struggled with came back. I wanted to die. I was hurt that no one around me was noticing my struggle and, at the same time, I was desperately trying to hide the severity of my depression. I knew Christians weren’t supposed to want to end their life, so I hid my shame.

Breakthrough began when I started telling people—people who loved Jesus more than they loved me. First my roommate, then my mother, then slowly the people around me. God loves to use His people to love us better, and that’s exactly what He did once I stopped hiding.

Sometimes I still feel indifferent to everything, unmotivated, and down, but I don’t need to hide this from anyone, least of all my Father. I am freer than I have ever been. Once God convinced me to let go of my desire that no one would ever know this part of me, I began to see the fruit of not hiding sin and hardships.

The girls in my Bible study know pain, discouragement, grief, and hopelessness, and God uses me to provide the community and empathy that I longed for during those dark times. We are all better together. God has used us to encourage each other and usher in His peace and love.

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.

#10. What You Were Created For

Photo Nicole Tarpoff

 It was late January of my sophomore year of college. Life seemed to be crumbling down around me. My family was in shambles—lies, poor choices, conflict, pain. My heart was broken by a man I thought I trusted. My desperate, sinful choices were overwhelming, like a longing never fulfilled. And in the pit of confusion, I was once again caught in the same traps that the enemy laid before me the previous two decades of my life.

In the midst of each raw circumstance crashing down around me, my mind was even more unsettled than that. I was in the middle of an identity crisis—one I had been battling since birth. Failure. Shame. Heartache. Worthlessness. I couldn’t figure out WHY I was here again. Same mistakes, same fear, same outcome. I had “given my life to Jesus” a year and a half prior to this moment. Aren’t things supposed to get better? The questions, the heartbreak, the sense of failure—all were haunting me as the conviction of the Holy Spirit stirred deep. Will I ever get up from this place with victory?

I truly didn’t know. It was on this night (with these longing questions) that I sung out to the Lord in agony on my bedroom floor: “You know when I rise and when I fall. When I come or go, you see it all. You hung the stars and You moved the sea, but still You know me. . .” The truth of His pursuing love began washing over me in these lyrics. The song continued, “Nothing is hidden from Your sight. Wherever I go, You find me. You know every detail of my life. You are God, and You don’t miss a thing.” The lyrics of Steffany Gretzinger’s song became like an anthem in the pit. It was a moment of DECLARATION over the raw, exposed, bleeding places in my life.

In my wailing melodies, a Strength entered the room. It was sudden and clear. A simple whisper, more powerful than the pain, spoke like a arrow into my heart, “Are you ready to surrender everything?” The presence of God came into the room. It was a revelatory moment. I heard no other words, but with absolute sureness I saw that I must pursue Him for everything He is and says that I am. I saw the condition of my unhealed soul, filled to the brim with wrong beliefs and perspectives that were not in line with His. In this moment of clarity, He was allowing me to make a choice: to keep on going in my path, or to abandon everything I knew and walk toward a path where I could see no end without cost. I made a choice with reckless but hopeful abandon that this moment would change everything.

He made it very easy for me to see the path to take that night. It was almost like a surrender of my will for His. What an exchange of glory! I genuinely asked Him to have everything. It was the night I took a step toward healing. Little did I know it was a massive leap toward discovering who I REALLY am. Not who the world says I am, but One much more eternal than that. He comes to heal the brokenhearted. He comes to set the captives free. He pursues us in the darkest pit. He doesn’t love with conditions. He is true. He is faithful, even when we aren’t. He loves us too much to leave us in our state, but also loves us too much to force His way. He is kind, and His kindness leads us to repentance.

My life changed FOREVER that night. It’s been over four glorious years since this time in my life. I never knew what would be waiting on the other side of surrender. I never understood how paramount saying “yes” to Jesus can be. Our obedience, even when it doesn’t make sense and you know it may hurt, is worth it! He is GOOD—so, so good. I never imagined the anchor He could be for one who KNOWS what it means to be a daughter of the King. Life doesn’t just “get better.” It’s better than that; we learn who we are in any season! We see who He is, holding tightly to these constant promises. Trials will come, but they can’t dictate our unwavering hope any longer. We are free from being tossed by the waves. We are identified by His image. It’s a love stronger than our strength. It is the power of God Himself indwelling in us. It’s our inheritance as children of God.

Pursue healing. Chase the true reality of His promise. You’ll find His Presence is what you were created for. I sure have.

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.

#9. God Used The Pain For Good

Photo Nicole Tarpoff

I am a sophomore in college and just spent my summer working in Texas—1,600 miles away from home—as a camp counselor. We didn’t have access to our phones most of the time, and I truly missed my friends and family. But I learned so much about how to sacrificially love others. We were trained to put the campers first in everything and to sacrifice ourselves for our campers. I was with my campers 24/7 for weeks, and with God’s help my goal was to pour out His love to each one with all that I could. By the end of camp, I was emotionally and physically exhausted.

But there was a friend back home, who was like a brother to me, who I wanted to be with as soon as I could. His grandfather had died the week before. I had missed the visitation and funeral because I couldn’t leave the camp early. I loved my friend and wanted to be there for him in his grief, just as he had been with me so many times before—especially when my dad died when I was 11 years old. I called my friend before I left camp and promised him that I would walk with him in the days ahead as he dealt with the grief of losing his granddad that he loved so dearly.

And then before I boarded the plane to come home, my mom told me that another good friend’s dad had just had a heart attack and died. My heart broke for my friend, as I knew that he had a very close relationship with his dad. He was with him when he died. Thankfully, this time I was able to go to the visitation and funeral. Less than 48 hours after I landed, I was on my way to this visitation and funeral. 

The morning of my friend’s dad’s funeral, yet a third friend sent a text to me saying that his dad had just died. Again, my heart broke, and I wanted to go to my friend and be with him. And so the day after I returned from one funeral, I left home to attend another and comfort another friend in his grief.

It seemed like one death after another . . . one heartbreak after another. Tragedy upon tragedy. In those moments, it’s easy to question God and lose hope. But I knew from my own experiences that God is never closer than when we are feeling most hopeless and heartbroken (see Psalm 34:18). Having lost my own father, there is a special bond, a special understanding, but also a special pain that comes with being in these situations at funerals and visitations. The memories that come back are difficult.

However, God uses this pain for good (see Genesis 50:20). My tragedy eight years ago, when I lost my own dad, helped me understand the pain and grief of my friends in a way that many could not. I believe that God used that experience to help me comfort others (see 2 Corinthians 1:3–4). Ultimately, I cannot provide healing and true comfort that the heart needs. But what is special about sharing in deep tragedy and sorrow, is that it gives us the opportunity to speak about real hope and ultimate healing of the heart that only God can provide.

In the midst of this week of death and grief and sorrow, when my heart broke for my friends and my main goal was to love and comfort them, God found a way to love and comfort me. I was looking for something in my car the day I arrived home from camp and found a note that I had received at my high school graduation. It was written by a wonderful family friend about the man God had molded me into in light of the trials I had been through in my own life. I had forgotten about the note, but God had not forgotten and knew exactly when to put this message before my eyes. Here is what it said:   

      Like a lighthouse, you are a strong and steady presence of hope at the very place where the waves of life crash onto the rocky land. You are a light bearer for those who are storm-tossed. Christ is the light within you. He shines through you with compassion for the lonely, strength for the weak, love for those lost at sea. Be not afraid. That light within you can overcome any darkness.        


Only God, in His perfect timing, knew how much I needed this reassurance in that moment with such trying times up ahead. He knew my anxious and inadequate feelings as I prepared to offer whatever comfort I could to friends who needed it so dearly, and who were especially looking to me with anticipation, as they knew I had been through a similar tragedy. I would be lying if I said that my soul did not feel the burden of this. However, just as only God can, in my time of need, He was there to give that gentle yet so powerful reassurance that indeed I should not fear. He would be my strength. My friends did not need me in this time; they needed the Lord and the comfort, hope, and light in darkness only He offers. He reminded me that it was the light and hope of Christ that He had shown me in my life that could overcome any darkness. 

God knows our deepest needs and He always provides.

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.

#4 Breaking Chains of Shame

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

My God story happened my freshman year of college when I woke up in a fraternity house. Unclothed and unaware of thestranger sleeping next to me, I was flooded with confusion and guilt. I abruptly got up, went to my dorm, balled my eyes out, and thought: “I feel disgusting. What am I doing?” I then thought, “I feel like God probably has a purpose for my life, but I don’t think this is it. Why am I here? This is not what I was made for.”

In that moment, something in me switched. Little did I know, that little thought was really Jesus knocking at the door of my heart, saying, “Let me in. Come. Come know me. Come taste and see.” So I came. In the beginning of this journey, I started to attend our campus ministry to get my life together. I didn’t want to feel so horrible about myself anymore. What I didn’t expect was for God to transform me from the inside out. But that’s what He did.

When Christmas break came around, my Bible study leader dragged me to a conference in North Carolina where I heard Marian Jordan Ellis, founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries, speak for the first time. She was gorgeous, full of life, and she spoke with authority (and a little sass). I loved it. After her sermon, she kicked all the guys out of the room for “women’s time” where she shared her full story with us. She let it rip. She was so real and raw with us, and as she was talking, I felt as if she were speaking right at me. She was pointing out all the shame that we had felt, all the hurt, and all the heartbreak. After being rocked by the fact that our struggles were so similar, she began to talk about her love: Jesus. As she talked about Him, she got choked up and teary-eyed simply telling us how beautiful He is and how He had changed her heart forever. Hearing her speak about Him as if He were so close, I realized that this woman really knows Jesus. This woman really loves Jesus.

I thought to myself, “Okay, I don’t feel as guilty and dirty as I did before, but I feel like there’s more to this Jesus thing than I thought there was. God, I want to know you like that. I want a heart that loves you like that. A heart that loves you more than anything else in the world.”

WOW. Never underestimate the power of prayer. I soon realized that God will never say “no” to a prayer that asks to know Him more. This revelation caused transformation in my life. As I sought Him, He showed up. He opened my eyes to see, and He started blowing my mind. So I prayed for more. “God, I can’t really understand the Bible without you. Please give me understanding.” Prayer answered. More and more, God broke off my chains of guilt and shame, awakened me to His love, gave me understanding of His word, put a fire in my heart, immersed me in amazing communities, gave me true joy, showed me that He SPEAKS to us (WHAT?!), let me see Him miraculously heal my friend’s broken foot right before my eyes (WHAT?!), and brought LIFE to my dry soul. A once depressed, shameful freshmen girl became a new creation—a set free, redeemed, and cherished daughter of God. My life went from complete darkness to light in one year of college.

But He didn’t stop there. As I was reminiscing on that powerful memory of hearing Marian Jordan Ellis, I stopped by her website to see more about her ministry. I noticed that she hosts events all around the nation that gathers college women to hear her story, and it said to contact the “redeemed girl” email. I sent an email, never expecting a reply. Shocked, I read her response: she would be able to come in January 2016.

Following this email, God did all the work. He provided funds to host the event, the venue, and a team of 25 college women from all over campus to lead, plan, and pray for this event. Believe me, I am not administrative. God did all of this. After a semester of prayer, growing in confidence and leadership, and getting the word out, Redeemed Girl Ministries arrived in Lexington, Kentucky all the way from San Antonio. At 7 p.m., we opened the doors of our classroom building to almost 400 college women who showed up for this “Girl’s Night Out” with Marian Jordan Ellis. Boy, they didn’t know what they were stepping in to. After her fun and energetic introduction to these sorority women, Marian, once again, let it rip. Her testimony brought this room to tears, and the Spirit of God encountered these girls. Light hit darkness. Desert souls tasted living water. Jesus walked into these girls’ lives, and hearts were opened. People realized—many for the first time—that they are worth dying for. Over 100 University of Kentucky girls accepted Christ for the first time that night.

God has been bringing waves of revival to Lexington this year, and this was one of them. And it all started with one lost girl whom God gave eyes to see. Thank you Jesus. You’re not finished with us yet, and this God story is not even close to finished. “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.This one will say ‘I am the LORD’s…’ and another will write on his hand ‘The LORD’s…” (Isaiah 44:3-5).

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.