#176 Finding Safety in Vulnerability

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

Several years ago, one of my best friends died from cancer. I still go regularly to his family business and take care of the orchids in the reception area. A few weeks ago, I was there watering the orchids, and the receptionist asked me if I had enjoyed my vacation to Florida. I knew going down this road of conversation could be difficult, but I also knew that God would want me to be honest.

“We didn’t go on vacation,” I said. 

“Oh . . . why not?” she asked.

“We had a family tragedy.”

“I’m sorry. What happened?”

“My grandson . . . . We aren’t sure what happened, but we believe he committed suicide.”

The next Sunday I was teaching the young couple’s class in Sunday school. A new couple joined our class. I knew the man, as he had attended a Sunday school class I taught several years ago. He introduced me to his wife and said they had just recently gotten married. We began our lesson by talking about the scripture verse, and then I felt God leading me to share the conversation I had about my grandson. When I shared with the group what I had told the receptionist, the young bride of the new couple burst into tears. She finally composed herself and asked if she could speak. She shared with the group that she had attempted to kill herself three days ago. The other couples came to her, showing their concern and care. They prayed for her and encouraged her. It was very powerful . . . I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the room.

God knew this young woman’s pain. He knew she needed healing and support from others. God led me to a moment of honesty and vulnerability with the class, and that opened the door for her to feel safe to share her own pain. Now she has been brought out of isolation and has a community of friends who can love and encourage her. It is amazing the way God works.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

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.

#138 Softening My Heart

Photo by Killian Rose

On July 25, 2015 I was sitting on a motorcycle at a stoplight when a Dodge pickup truck driven by a drunk driver hit me from behind going 45 miles per hour. I was crushed between the truck and the car in front of me. My pelvis was shattered, my colon torn in half, my liver lacerated, ribs broken, arm broken, lung punctured, and the carotid artery in my neck nearly severed. I woke up under the pickup truck in so much pain, thinking, I have to get out from under this truck. I prayed, “God help me!” I was flown by helicopter to the university hospital. The paramedics kept saying, “Stay with us, stay with us,” which made me think I was dying.

When I came out of surgery, the doctors told me that I wouldn’t be able to have kids, I couldn’t go back to college for at least two years (I was 19 years old), and I would need to go to a rehabilitation hospital for a year to learn to walk again.

On my ninth day in the hospital I was able to move from my bed to a chair. I was released to my home, not a rehabilitation hospital, but I was still healing from multiple broken bones and was not able to bear weight on my legs. I had to have help brushing my teeth, getting a shower, shaving my legs, and going to the bathroom. My mom died when I was 14 and at the time of the accident my father was a single parent. He was happy to help me with all of the personal care I needed but I hated that he had to do all of those things for me. It was very humbling.

In October, I went back to doctor and found out that my bones were healing more quickly than expected. The doctor prescribed physical therapy and by the end of four weeks of physical therapy, I was able to walk with no severe limp. So instead of one year of inpatient therapy in a rehabilitation facility, I was able to walk with one month of outpatient therapy. In fact, this fall I hiked eight miles on a nearby mountain trail. I am so thankful to God for the remarkable healing! I was also able to go back to college in one semester instead of staying out two years.

After the accident, I experienced more than just physical healing. My mom’s death had been unexpected, a complication from a surgery. We had been so close and it was very hard for me to lose her. My dad is the pastor at our church and my mom had been the worship leader. She was also a teacher at my school. I missed her everywhere—at school, at home, at church. I felt like I couldn’t even go to my pastor for help because it was my dad and he was grieving too.

Years after my mom’s death, my dad got engaged to a woman, but I wasn’t nice to her and didn’t accept her. Accepting her meant I had to let go of my mom and I couldn’t do that. I missed her so much.

I hardened myself to protect myself from the hurt. I had closed off myself against relationships. Before the accident, I didn’t love myself and I didn’t think anyone else loved me—not even God. After the accident, so many people took care of me. There was an overwhelming sense of love and support of people rallying around me. I realized how many people loved me and that God had never stopped loving me. And despite how I had treated my dad’s fiancé, she showed me love and grace and took good care of me. I now see that my anger and bitterness had been hindering my dad and younger brother too from fully healing. Now our home is a place of real peace and it is a life-giving place to be.

Through this experience, God has softened my heart to receive and give love to others. I had internalized so much anger and hurt that it festered into external thorns. I tried to hide it and act okay, but I was hurting people. I didn’t want to accept that I hadn’t fully grieved. I had to realize the internal hurt. It was like a coffee cup with a hole in the bottom—I got all filled up on Sunday at church, but it would quickly drain out and there was no complete deliverance from my pain. I had to acknowledge the hole so that God could heal the hole and I could experience complete healing. And this is what has occurred. God is making a beautiful picture from the broken pieces.

The person driving the truck was a 20-year-old female driving on a suspended license, two times over the legal alcohol limit. Nearly a month after the accident, I was contacted by the commonwealth attorney about pressing charges. He recommended a 20-year prison sentence with the possibility of parole in 17 years. I told him I wanted to pray about what to do. I talked to my dad and the chaplain at my college. I was being asked to make this decision at 20 years of age. I wondered how I could send someone to jail for 20 years. And what if she had kids? I knew what it was like to lose a mom. I didn’t want to take a mom away from her children. But I also didn’t want her to go back on the road and harm someone else.

My chaplain talked to me about restorative justice, which is a model where the offender knows what has happened to the offended and they plan what is best for the recovering offender so that they don’t offend again. I met with the commonwealth attorney and asked about restorative justice, but he said there was nothing like that in our state. Regardless, I didn’t want her to serve a 20-year prison sentence. Instead, she was sentenced to five years of probation with six months in jail and another six months in rehabilitation and 100 hours of community service. Her conditions included random drug screening and sobriety tests and maintaining a full-time job. The attorney was shocked that I didn’t want her to be punished more severely. He said with her alcohol level and the extent of my injuries, he was surprised that he wasn’t working with the surviving family in a homicide case.

Fast forward a year, and I got a text from my dad that the woman had been called in for her random drug screening and she drove to the courthouse with a suspended license and drugs in her system. Since she violated her conditions, she would have to go to jail for 20 years. I had gotten a lot of compliments from people about the grace I had shown her and I told them it was God impressing upon me to do this. But when she violated her conditions, I got so angry with her and thought she spat on my grace. And then I realized we do this with God—we spit on His grace. I have done this. It was humbling to realize this and it helped me to be less angry and more compassionate.

Even though I still suffer physical pain and limitations, God has brought good from the accident. Because I lost my mother, I have been able to comfort other young people who have lost a parent from a place of really knowing how difficult it is. I have personally experienced great physical healing, but the greatest healing has been the spiritual restoration of self-worth that is not based on me following handed-down religious traditions, but instead is based on God’s grace. I am confident that there is nothing I can do to undo His love for me. 

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.

#133 Blessing with Zinnias


Photo by Trevor Rapp

For years, my dad grew zinnias for me every summer at our family farm. Dad and I would go to the farm nearly every week throughout the summer and harvest the zinnias. I had bouquets of these colorful flowers in my house and in my office. The flowers made me smile. When I looked at the zinnias, I was reminded of my dad and also of my heavenly Father and His beautiful creation. My dad passed away the last week in October in 2016. It was the last week of the zinnia harvest. We cut a final bunch of zinnias to be displayed at the church at his funeral. He would have loved that.

My dad and I were very close. We were both dentists and practiced together for years. I have missed him terribly since the day he died, but as summer approached, my grief rose to a new level. The family farm was sold in June. My dad was gone, the farm was gone, and there would be no zinnias this year. But then our church announced the need for volunteers in the community garden. I asked if I might have a row in the garden to plant some zinnias and was permitted to do so. Two months later, hundreds of beautiful zinnias were blooming in the garden.  

There were so many flowers! We wanted to share! The church gave me permission to cut the zinnias to share with residents at a local nursing home. At first, I just made flower arrangements for the dining room and common spaces. But then I found out from our church care team that there were a few residents in local nursing homes that had requested visitors. The care team suggested that I take some of the zinnias to these residents.

My children went with me to take the flowers to the first nursing home resident on our list to visit. We walked down the long corridor of the nursing home with a beautiful bouquet of zinnias, looking for her room. We finally located her room and peeked inside. Sitting beside her bed was a woman I had known for many years. She was a dear friend of my father’s! She and her sister, who was the resident we were delivering the flowers to, grew up in the same small community with my dad. She was thrilled to see us! She introduced all of us to her sister. “This is Bobby’s daughter and grandchildren!” Her older sister smiled. She had suffered a stroke and was not able to communicate, but her twinkling eyes said it all. I put the flowers on her bedside table and held her hand. She smiled at me with a knowing smile. Her eyes locked on mine, and then with a frail hand, she reached up to touch my hair.

We stayed a bit and visited. As we left, I thought about what had just happened. The first person to receive the zinnias we grew in memory of dad was someone who grew up with him in his small community many miles away. Because she couldn’t communicate, I would have never known that she knew Dad if her sister, my dad’s dear friend, hadn’t been visiting her at the moment we arrived with the flowers. God was in that moment.

Since then the flower ministry has blossomed and God is blessing many nursing home residents with beautiful bouquets of flowers. But I will never forget the first resident that we visited and the connection to my dad. What a gift it was to me to give the flowers to someone who knew and loved my father. He would be so happy that this dear woman was the first recipient of the zinnias we grew because of him!

I am so thankful to God for providing the opportunity at our church community garden to grow the flowers and share with others as this has provided much healing for my grieving heart. I am also so thankful to my Heavenly Father for the gift of my earthly father and the hope through Christ of someday being with him again. 

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.

#84 Measuring Life Differently


Photo by Trevor Rapp

A little over four years ago, as I was sitting with my mother in the hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, monitoring her first chemo treatment for cancer, I received a very unexpected phone call. The captain of the local fire department delivered a stunning message: “I’m sorry to inform you that your house is on fire.”

I couldn’t have been more shocked. We’d only been in our new dream home for six weeks. I’d hung the final picture on the wall in the great room the previous evening.

“Thanks for calling,” I said (it felt silly to say that). “I’ll be there as soon as possible.” I hung up the phone and promptly called my wife. Fortunately she wasn’t home and neither of us had any idea as to the cause of the fire. She said she would go home immediately. I arrived about an hour later.

Driving up to the scene was a surreal experience—two fire trucks, an ambulance, and five police cars added to the trauma of it all. A group of neighbors stood on the sidewalk. We joined them as we all watched the firefighters throw our household furnishings into a large pile of charred debris just off the right side of the porch. A gaping hole in the roof, just above the fireplace, indicated the area where the fire had begun.

All of our family albums, wedding books, and baby books were in plastic containers in the basement. A single ember burned a hole in the floor in the living room and landed directly on top of the containers downstairs. Nothing else in the basement caught fire, only our most cherished possessions—family pictures and irreplaceable mementos of the past.

Darkness was beginning to converge and I realized we had nowhere to go and no clothes other than what we had on. I called a nearby hotel and explained the situation. An hour later we were guests there, room 106.

It took six months to rebuild, as we navigated from one hotel to another, one apartment to another. Here’s what I learned on the journey.

The things we think are permanent…aren’t.

God is permanent. He never left us, never forsook us, or let us down—not once.

Some things are unexplainable. We should save our easy answers for math problems, not human suffering.

It could’ve been worse. We could’ve been sound asleep when the fire started. We could’ve been killed.

People are wonderful. So many neighbors and friends called and offered assistance, even inviting us to move in with them.

Our stuff isn’t as important as we think it is. Sometimes it takes a catastrophic loss to truly understand that.

God can redeem anything.

A year later, my mother passed away from her two-year struggle with cancer. Nine months later I was diagnosed with cancer…just six weeks after I began a new job. After surgery and two years of treatments, I’m now cancer-free. God has been at my side through the entire journey.

Shortly after my diagnosis, my wife and I were walking in our neighborhood on a lovely autumn evening. As we walked, she said, “I can’t believe my husband has cancer.”

I stopped, hugged her, and said, “Honey, remember one thing: I have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me. We are more than our bodies. We are spirit, soul, life, and personality. We mustn’t ever forget that.”

Many of us need to measure life differently. Some need to live moment-by-moment, rather than looking back or too far ahead. I’m grateful for the entire journey.

God loves you, despite your deepest trials. I’m convinced that He sheds two tears for each one of ours. He’s like that, you know. He cares. And…He redeems it all.

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.

#79 A Passion And Joy For Heaven


Photo by Trevor Rapp

It’s 12:50 a.m. and I can’t sleep. Tears are streaming down my face and thoughts are rushing through my head. Seventeen days ago my dad died unexpectedly. He had major health problems but he was the definition of a warrior, and death was never an option. But on a normal day, like today, he left this earth to be with Jesus. 

Even now, 17 days later, it doesn’t feel real. I’ve never felt such strong emotions about anything before. I don’t know how to act and I don’t know what to think. But I want to tell you one thing—this is just the beginning of my story. 

Over the past year, God was preparing me for this life-shattering moment. At the time, I had no idea. Last semester, I led a small group through a book called Through the Eyes of a Lion—a book written by a man who lost his five-year-old daughter to an asthma attack while she was helplessly lying in his arms. The author explains that pain for a believer is a microphone to those without Jesus. It’s all fun and games until you have to love Jesus even when you can’t find the strength to get out of bed in the morning. People outside of faith begin to watch you as you struggle through heartbreak, in whatever form it may take. They think, “There is no way she will still love Jesus after that.” That’s the funny part; that’s the punchline. The pain doesn’t diminish, my heart still aches, I still cry all the time—but God. But God makes it possible. 

I have suffered a lot of pain, even prior to my dad’s death. I lost my 15-year-old cousin in 2012 to a freak drowning accident. I share these things not expecting a pity party, but for you to see that Jesus really does change everything. I can say that with confidence and I would share that with anyone. It is an honor to be trusted with pain, for God is near to the brokenhearted. The world will tell you that your story is over, but I promise you, this is just my second wind, and it’s going to take endurance. 

Since my dad passed, God has instilled in me a passion and a joy for Heaven! Not just for myself, but for others. I do not want anyone that I come in contact with to not know or see the reflection of Jesus—because if they don’t, everything I have said is inapplicable. If you are going through pain, do not rob yourself of grieving. We are all human. But also, please do not disqualify yourself from Heaven. God lost his only Son so that you and I would have the hope of the same reunion Jesus experienced as He returned home to the Father. There is a confidence in my heart that I will see my dad again because of the Father’s promises. 

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.

#78 Just Four Words, “I Love You, Child.”


Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

In 2011, between high school graduation and moving onto campus at a private university in Louisville, I handed my life over to Jesus during one summer week with my church in Florida. And that made all the difference. I’d known a lot about God from a lifetime of Sunday school, but doubted He could be trusted; I had a thing for expecting everyone to harm me if I let them get close enough. So, choosing Christ would be “all things new”—or it would be nothing new. 

That fall, a few months into my newly-surrendered life, my life fell apart. Not that it was perfect before—but disordered eating and self-loathing were old habits and a well-hidden way of daily life. They were my miserable lot, I assumed, for being myself—however long I lasted. As tradition, my 18th birthday in September brought a visit from my grandpa. He understood me. He just did. He was proud of me, and if I close my eyes I can still see his crinkly, smiling blue eyes, and hear him humming “You are my Sunshine.”

But two weeks later, an afternoon brought a missed call and voicemail. I still hate voicemails. A family friend had accidentally called me instead of my dad. The only words I heard were, “David, I’m real sorry to hear about your dad”… Something, something, “sudden.” … Something, something, “if you need anything, let us know.” My world went dark. I remember making frantic calls to my mom and dad, and making a grief-stricken spectacle of myself on campus main. 

Grandpa. A violent stroke and tiny chance. An early morning drive to North Carolina—but no, he was gone already. Like Grandma four years before. Like Poppy two years before. Something broke in me. I lost it. In the weeks that followed, my barely-managed depression took control. Any efforts to keep college friends ceased; my vision blurred; everything happened to me from a mile away, like people tapping on exhibit glass. I was achingly lonely. I was terribly afraid. Nothing could break into my dark cloud; I couldn’t break out. And the enemy ramped up the old accusations, “No one even sees you and life would be better off without you.” I already believed that; the sharp, new grief made me desperate. Yet, just months before I’d stood on the ocean shore and told God I’d give Him my whole life, if He’d have me. The Bible said He would, so I’d begun reading every day and now kept on, fighting to catch a glimpse of Him—in case life with Him could save me. It’s not hyperbole when I tell you I whispered Isaiah 41:10 under my breath wherever I went those days, over and over: “So do not be afraid, for I Am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I Am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My mighty right hand.”

But fear filled me; dismay wracked my body with sobs when I was alone. I fled to my room whenever class let out, barely interacted with roomie and friends, rarely ate but did so alone, beat my body into submission at the gym with music drowning out the people. Alone. Alone. Alone. Better that way. Safer that way. “Help me, God.” Out of control. But I’ll remember this forever, and my life has turned into a shout of “My Abba is trustworthy,” because of this: Yahweh keeps His promises. He is with us and He holds us. 

I was stumbling to a late-semester exam on medical Latin and Greek roots, no thought in my mind but dully flipping my notecards, when I stepped foot onto the crosswalk between buildings, almost to class. Suddenly—no, a car didn’t hit me—a voice tore through the heaviness drowning me. Four words. While the world just mumbled and roared in the distance, the voice split the static like a trumpet blast, calm and matter-of-fact, softly like a wedding vow. Out of the blue; out of the blackness. I can’t say it was audible. No one else was in sight. But I heard it. I stopped. My cards dropped. And tears filled my eyes. I actually saw the sun shining. My fog cleared the tiniest bit. Rescue. Belonging. Hope. Just four words. “I love you, child.” That wasn’t my study material talking. It wasn’t self-talk (goodness knows I used a cruder vocabulary for myself). No, the Father’s voice broke in like the voice of a friend: I knew it, though that was the first time I’d heard it. “I love you, child.” Each one of those words meant a world within itself to me: All that He is. Loving. Me. His child. He saw me; He sees me. He loved me; He loves me. 

That day on the crosswalk, He began a process of healing wounds and growing courage in me that still carries me through daily life. His love changed me utterly, and changes me still. Simply, I found someone I could trust. Profoundly, His faithfulness meant that my old fear-driven patterns of playing small, starving myself, and putting up walls were not for me anymore (even if the process of laying those down is a marathon and sometimes feels impossible). In the following months and years, He kept calling me to leap out in faith and catching me when I jumped with arms outstretched. I transferred to Asbury University at His nudging, stepped into worship ministry in front of crowds, moved to the Dominican Republic for a summer, worked with middle-school kids, learned to be a leader on campus, and made friends who called out the courage in me and fought for me in prayer. The Father did that. I handed Him my life almost six years ago, and I have to laugh in awe and thanksgiving at the difference Jesus makes in a broken soul (and the way He continues to heal me of daily fear, and calls me “whole”). I stand here a new creation—all things are new.

I cried again writing this, feeling the pang of loss again. Pain is real (and we know that even Jesus wept). But these promises are just as real: The Lord is strong enough to hold you up and hold you together. You will not drown in grief or fear or rejection forever. When you receive His grace, the only thing that will last for eternity is His limitless love. And You are loved. Your hope for healing and freedom is well founded in Christ. Joy comes. In this life. I promise. I pray over these words as I scribble them down, that the Spirit weighs them down with mercy so you believe them now if you don’t already: The God who left heaven for earth to love us in person, who died to give us life, who conquered the grave once and for all, and who still scatters all darkness to shine resurrection light on tear-stained faces… He has loved you forever, and will love you forever, and He can be trusted. He does not rip the rug out from under you. He sees you and calls you by a better name than the painful ones seared onto your heart, by others or yourself. He hears you and He is at work bringing about what is good—that you would know Him and live fully in His love. He is right here, closer than breath, ready to speak if you ask Him (and sometimes if you don’t). 

This isn’t fluff. These aren’t platitudes to tide you over. This is reality. You can lean your whole weight on Christ; He will not give way beneath you. You can show Him everything about you; He will not walk away, but run to you. You can kneel at His feet, and hand over everything you have and all you think you are into His hands; He will not dash you to pieces. He will redeem your life from the pit. He will crown you with gladness, remove your despair. He will sing over you. He is who He says He is and does what He says He’ll do. He is good. The Word promises that. And He lives it out. Life is unpredictable and broken sometimes. Jesus is not. His love for you is sure and it is wholehearted. Take my word for it, sure—please do—but take His word for it. He is good. Draw close to Him. He draws close to you. Trust Him. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

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.

#60. Bible Study Friends

Photo by Ashley Brown, Shining Light Photography 

Some people have a large group of close friends. I had one girlfriend. One. She had been my best friend for my entire adult life, which was no easy task. Being a wife, mother, teacher, and volunteering in my community and church—all while suffering from a chronic illness—had taken a toll on “girlfriend time.” Catherine had been my friend for 25 years, and while we often went months at a time without seeing each other, we spent hours on the phone at every opportunity. She knew my struggles and health issues, and she loved me anyway.

Although I had been a Christian since I was 10, I had spent little time on my own in the Word. I was busy and exhausted, but I suddenly had a strong desire to read the entire Bible. My mother encouraged me to do so by buying me a special Bible that was marked with a passage to read each day, starting at the beginning. Halfway through Leviticus, I was ready to quit. The book of Numbers sealed the deal, but God wasn’t finished drawing me closer to Him. I was invited to a Bible study during lunch at work. The leader, Faith, used a Bible reading plan called Life Journal, which included passages from both Old and New Testaments in the daily reading. The plan included journaling. I was to write down one verse each day, make an observation, and record how I would apply it to my life, and end with a prayer. By the end of the year, I had read the entire Bible once and the New Testament twice. God had begun to weave his Word into my heart, and I still continue to use that method daily.

Oh, how my relationship with the Lord changed from that time spent daily with Him! I felt Him speak to me through the passage each day. The reading was so closely related to my situation or needs each day—it was like He wrote it just for me. I felt like I finally grasped His love for me, and appreciated what a wonderful God He is! I wanted to be more like Him. I wanted everyone to know Him better. Why had I gone so long without caring to read this wonderful book and spend time with Him?! I wanted everyone to read it!

I felt God nudging me to start a Bible study in my home using this plan. “Lord, are you serious? You know how tired I am. I don’t have room for company. Why didn’t you want me to do this last year before we moved and downsized? I haven’t even painted here yet. What do I even really know about the Bible? I just started reading it.”

But quickly, my shock turned to submission. “Okay, Lord. Today, I will lay down my pride and be obedient. I am going to call my friend Catherine and get on Facebook and invite all my Facebook friends to come to my house to a Bible study. Please blind their eyes to the dog fur tumbleweeds in the corners. Please give me the strength to clean the toilet.”

I began to pray and prepare, and I invited everyone I knew to Bible study. A few weeks prior, a group of high school classmates was planning to get together for dinner and a movie. The morning of our outing, I was so convicted about the movie choice, I decided I would leave after dinner and not see the movie. Sabrina had made the same decision, and during dinner we bonded over not seeing the movie. A horrible storm knocked out the power to the mall, and no one else was able to see the movie either, which still to this day gives us the giggles. When I posted the Bible study invitation on Facebook, Sabrina heard God tell her, “You need to do this.” After some protest of her own about going to a Bible study at my house, where there would probably be “a bunch of cheerleaders from high school,” she obediently messaged me for details. Isn’t it funny how the devil constantly whispers insecurities into our ears?

At about this same time, I was feeling led to invite another former classmate, Kathy, through private message. She had just moved back to town and her girls and mine were very close in age. I could tell by her posts on Facebook that she loved the Lord. Her husband is a pastor, so I invited her with a few insecurities of my own. Who am I to ask the pastor’s wife to a Bible study? Will she be offended by that? I hadn’t seen or talked to her in years, but she came also, as did my friend Catherine.

Over the next few months, I was hit with several incredibly difficult challenges and life changes. I became more ill and had to take a medical leave of absence from my job. Then, tragically, Catherine was killed in a horrible accident. She was only 42 years old. I can’t tell you how many ways God worked tangibly in my life during this difficult time. I feel like I could write a million God stories of my own if only I could recall the many details. The most profound way He worked was providing through that Bible study, two godly, precious girlfriends that bless my life in countless ways. I often think about what I would be missing had I not put away my pride and fully relied on God to give me the strength to have the Bible study. What He asked me to do to “serve Him” was really for MY benefit!

During the dark times that followed the beginning of that Bible study, I was blessed with friends who would hold me up and pray with me and for me even when I was unable to pray for myself. He blessed me with the responsibility of a group meeting in my house that kept me committed to spending that precious time with Him. God provided every need I didn’t even know I had, and He continues to bless my life with the friendship of these beautiful, God-fearing women. While He brought one friend Home to be with Him (praise the Lord, hallelujah, thank you, Jesus!), He already had worked a plan to bring two friends into my home to minister to my broken heart. What an awesome God He 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.

#31 God’s Open Arms

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff 

I am a sophomore at the University of Kentucky, and four weeks ago on August 1, 2016, my brother passed away due to an overdose. The emotions that hit me when I discovered this were indescribable, and crying with my other older brother is a memory that will forever be branded into my mind. While this moment was tragic for my family, God was able to use this instance to guide me back to Him, and I hope that He uses me in the days to come to aid others with their losses and struggles.

My dad is an associate pastor, and my mom is involved in anything and everything to do with our home church. I committed my life to Christ at an early age, and as a child, I was at church every time the doors were open. My dad was even the one who got to baptize me—a precious memory. My older brothers were always quite rebellious, and in my head I was deemed “the perfect child” at a very early age. This is not something you want to have in your head.

Going into middle school, I went to all the camps. I sang on the worship team, went to all the conferences, and had a daily devotion. I loved going to church and loved having God in my life. While my late older brother during that time was struggling with addiction and choices, I was a prayer warrior for him. There were many nights I wailed, crying out to God for my brothers and their salvation. While things were up and down with them, I considered myself a steady person in a steady relationship with God.

Now enters my desire to please people and for everyone to like me. While this may seem like a trait not as harmful as others, going into high school and college, this is terrifyingly dangerous. All of a sudden, in my junior year of high school I was in a new relationship, and shifted into a different friend group. I wanted to be liked and I wanted to be considered cool by my new set of “popular friends.”

Wanting to be cool in high school means doing and partaking in a lot of things that can elevate your status. I got swept up in being cool, and started going to church less and less. While I may have thought I was becoming popular, my relationship with God was becoming less than lukewarm. I wasn’t praying daily, and probably could not have told you when the last time I had cracked open my Bible.

Rejecting God at this time made me feel like I was achieving an even better status with my peers. All of a sudden, it was senior year and I was committed to go to the University of Kentucky. Looking forward to the start of college, all I could think about was, “Big SEC school and sorority.” I was looking forward to the new adventure, but nowhere in my mind did I even consider God fitting into that plan. Sure, my dad made me visit BCM and CSF on my college visit, but I knew that being 1,400 miles away from home, my parents wouldn’t know if I attended or not.

So going into freshman year, you guessed it—I pledged a sorority and continued on my path of sin. Freshman year was a whirlwind. I rarely talked to my parents, which I now realize was because of the guilt I felt deep down for doing many of the things my brothers had done in secret. I rarely went to church, only going a few times when I had felt I was an extra bad person. When I saw others claiming to be Christians and doing the same things I was involved in, I would laugh to myself and call them hypocrites. But as Matthew 7:3 clearly states, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

That summer I knew I needed to make a change, but due to my own selfish desires, I was not prepared to do that. I wanted all the benefits of having God on my side, without being on God’s side. I hated going to church, knowing the sin that weighed me down.

On August 1, 2016, I lost a brother; but on August 1, 2016, I rededicated myself to God. I cried out, “Lord, I need you. I can’t do this without you.” In the coming weeks, I had the strength I needed, provided by our Almighty God.

I recognize I need God in my life, and that I need God on my side. Every day I wake up and ask how I can be a witness to my friends, co-workers, and peers that day. The day I finally confessed my sin and guilt, it was as if a 10,000-pound boulder was removed from my shoulders. I cried for a while and my heart ached at the amazing and awe-inspiring forgiveness our Lord gives us. My daily devotion was Nehemiah 1:9 where God says, “But if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.”

Knowing that even though I have messed up, and I am not “the perfect child,” God has me and is always waiting for me to return to Him with open arms.

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.