#244. My Story Isn’t Over

I have spent over half my life in prison.

All totaled, I have been to prison four times. The sad part is that none of that prison time helped me; to be honest, I truly think it made me worse. I had gotten to the point where I didn’t care to break the law, as long as I didn’t get caught. And for the most part I didn’t even care if I did get caught!

I truly believe that God led me to Addiction Recovery Care (ARC). I’ll never be able to put into words what God and ARC have done for me. While going through the program, I have learned a lot about myself and have come to understand the core beliefs I developed over the years were wrong.

My parents did not care much about me. I didn’t realize how much this would affect me growing up, and I tried to act like I didn’t care, but deep down I was dying inside. They lost custody of me when I was nine years old, and they never looked back.

My aunt and uncle stepped in and did their best to raise me, my brother and my sister. My uncle, who to me is my father, worked all day every day to try to make a living for us. He worked himself to death to take care of us — no matter what. He always tried to instill in us a good work ethic. He taught us to always be honest and do the right things no matter what.

My aunt and uncle were raising us, along with their four kids. They loved us when no one else loved us, and to me that’s what matters most. They were young and doing the best they could with seven kids. Honestly, they did a great job, cause no matter what we went through or what we did, they always taught us right from wrong and always made sure we were safe.

My aunt and uncle decided to get all three of us involved in sports and, we all were really good at something. I played football, basketball and baseball every year. I started in all three. When I was 12, my all-star team went to state in baseball, and I helped pitch for us at the state tournament. So, to say I excelled in sports would definitely be accurate. In high school I continued to do the same.

I think I remember my junior year the clearest. Maybe because it would be the last full year I would get to play. That year in baseball I batted 108 times. The first game of the year we played Allen Central and I struck out swinging twice in that game. The next 106 at-bats I would only strike out one time and end up with a batting average of 608. I had 69 base hits out of 108 at-bats, with six home runs and a slugging percentage of over 1000. That year I made the all-district team and became the only player on my team to make all-region. In football that year, we went 11-2, losing the regional championship game to Paintsville.

In my senior year, our first game was against the Hazard Bulldogs, thought to be the best team in our region. I pitched that game. I remember it well because Alice Lloyd College scouts were there. We only played six innings because our lights were torn up. In six innings you can only get 18 outs. I ended up striking out 15 batters and pitching a shutout against the top team in the region. We beat them 2-0. That game would be the last of my high school career.

My life changed forever on April 17, 2003. I was charged with two counts of first degree assault, two counts of first degree burglary, and two counts of first degree robbery. From that point, my life spiraled completely out of control due to drugs. After several months of being locked up for crimes that I didn’t commit, I started to lose hope in anything and everything. I honestly couldn’t see how this had happened to me. All the doubts and all the fears started to set in, and I began to believe the jailhouse talk. How the justice system isn’t fair and how it didn’t matter if I had done the crimes I was charged with or not — I would be going to prison.

I was hurt and angry, lonely and sad, you name it. I was a kid in a man’s world. I heard talk of a couple other inmates making plans to escape. I didn’t want to be there anymore, so when they brought it back up, all I knew is that I was broken and ready to go. That night, I joined them in trying to escape. A guard ended up getting stabbed, two others ended up getting assaulted, and my situation just got a whole lot worse.

After doing a lot of time in the hole [solitary confinement], I finally got to take my original charges to court. I was facing 120 years, but I didn’t care. I was just ready to have this all over with. To say I had lost hope in everything would be an understatement. By that time, I was almost completely broken.

It took me a couple of years to do so, but I ended up getting acquitted for all those charges I’d originally been locked up for. I remember falling to my knees and crying like the kid that I was. I thought I could finally shut the door on that part of my life. But I had to face the new charges, the escape and assault of the guard. I clearly remember how I felt as I watched my so-called codefendant walk out of the doors that day, and me having to stay behind.

The rest of me broke.

In my eyes it mattered that I shouldn’t have been in jail for something I didn’t do. However, all that mattered to the prosecutor was that I wouldn’t testify against the one who stabbed the guard, so they sent me to prison. I ended up making parole the first time up but the damage to me was done. I had no trust in the justice system and wasn’t ever going to listen to another judge or cop in my life.

Over the next nearly 20 years, I was in and out of prison, descending deeper and deeper into addiction. Each time I was released, I turned to drugs, since that’s how I dealt with everything. My lifestyle had become just like the quote you’ve heard that is often attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

I ended up catching more felonies and going back to prison two more times before serving out a 13-year sentence walking out of the doors of the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in 2014.

I was “dope sick” from heroin and/or suboxone. The first time I ever touched any of those was in prison, so I truly believe prison only hurt me and never helped me in any way.

I was strung out and hating life. On Nov. 14, 2014, while I was taking a part off of a vehicle, the car fell on me. It pinned me to the ground, broke my pelvic bone and my back, and nearly shut down my kidneys and other organs. When I look back, I know in my heart I was supposed to die that night, but God spared me and, at the time, I had no idea why.

I was a pitiful excuse of a man who had let life dictate every decision he had ever made. I was paralyzed from the waist down for several months and didn’t know if I’d ever walk again. Depression became a part of my life. I turned to the only thing that would numb my pain, the only thing that would help me forget all my past failures, hurts and hangups — drugs.

I burned every bridge I had ever crossed, and I hurt almost everyone I had come into contact with. I wasn’t the father I wanted to be, the son or brother I wanted to be. I was hopelessly lost and didn’t know what to do or which way to turn so, as always, I turned to drugs.

In 2016 I got in trouble again. I ended up serving five years in a prison in Virginia. When I finally got out, I was so tired, I didn’t have much strength left in me. Over the next couple years, I went on a meth binge. Boy, I thought I was bad then. Meth was a whole new and different kind of animal. I had done it before, but this was different. It’s all I thought about. But, like I said, I was breaking the law, running from the law, always angry. I was exhausted and coming to the point where I didn’t even want to live anymore. I had already overdosed twice and thought the only way I was going to stop was to end it all.

One night before coming to treatment at ARC, I decided to go and trade the car I had just bought for a gun, so I could end it all. That night I went to the drug dealer’s house to talk to him about trading. I was done. I couldn’t stop hurting the people I cared about, so one way or another, I was going to stop it. While in the house, little did I know that God was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. My car was towed away. As I look back, I realize that if that had not happened, chances are I wouldn’t be here today.

A few days after my car got towed, I ended up getting a DUI and, in doing so, I received a court order to complete Phase 1 at Lincoln Oaks drug rehab center in Annville, Kentucky. All I was worried about was completing Phase 1 and then going back to my miserable excuse of a life. Along the way things started to change; my mind started to clear. At first I saw treatment as a hindrance, but then I started to see it as an opportunity to change my life.

The people in the ARC program were different. There were no degrees that made them different, it was their life experiences, they had been where I was. They knew me and what I had gone through because they also had lived my experiences in their own way. They suffered heartache, pain and loss, and they had come out on the other side. They were living the kind of life that I had been dreaming of. I was so tired and hopeless, but these people who had previously been incarcerated, who had lived lives of addiction similar to mine, they were sober and productive members of their society.

For once in more than two decades, I began to see hope. I started to believe that it was possible for me. I truly believe God used ARC and the people there to show me the way.

“This is your way out if you want it; then here it is.”

They saw something in me that I thought had died; and they believed in me. Every rehab center that I went to, I saw people who were just like me. People who had been beat down by life like I had, people who suffered great pain but were taking the necessary steps to have a better life. From the directors to the residential staff, none was any different than I was. They kept talking about how if I did certain things and applied the tools I had learned, I could live the life I was meant to live. This gave me hope, ’cause no one saw the silent tears. The heartache. The constant pain I was truly in.

People only see what we allow them to see. And I never let anyone close enough to see anything about me. The botched suicide attempts. The overdoses. For once in my life I had true hope, and there is no price tag on that. Jesus hung on the cross for that hope. He died to give broken, misguided, helpless people like me a chance at life.

So, here I am, more than two years sober, and people from my community reach out to me and look to me for help in getting into treatment — me of all people.

I am married for the first time in my life. I have a beautiful, Christian wife with a gentle soul and a huge heart. I am a father to my kids, I’m actually a big part of their life now, I am no longer the family disappointment. I no longer have to worry about spending the rest of my life in prison or dying with a needle in my arm. God and Addiction Recovery Care are helping me live a life free from the chains of addiction, something I never thought possible.

All the bridges I once burned are no longer burnt.

Someone once asked me, “After all the time you wasted in prison and addiction, what’s one year (in the program) compared to the rest of your life?” That is one of the many things that has stuck with me. So, I gave myself a year to complete the entire program, internship and all. And here I am living the rest of my life free, truly free. I am a husband and father and blessed to have a job helping others — just like me — at the place that saved my life, ARC. Today I have purpose in my life and I wake up every day and thank God for that.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future.”  — Jeremiah 29:11

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. — Isaiah 30:21

#127. Journey to Jordan: Mt. Nebo Encounter

 Photo by Pam VanArsdall

I stood on Mt. Nebo in the spot where God showed Moses the promised land that he would never enter. My heart was filled with wonder at the thought of Moses’ journey of faith in God and in the promise of a nation.

Moses has always been one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament. Perhaps it’s because I can identify with him in the fight against slavery. He was an abolitionist, used by God to free the Israelites from captivity in Egypt. Moses faithfully led the Israelites for years in the wilderness.

The Israelites’ journey and their struggle to trust God is often a great parallel to my own journey of faith. The children of Israel struggled to trust God. They complained, doubted God, and at one point thought that slavery in Egypt was better than freedom in the wilderness. Yet in all of that, God provided everything they needed to live.

So many times, I have found myself struggling to trust God in the unknown seasons. Fear has sometimes become more comfortable than faith, but just like the Israelites, God has always provided for my every need. He patiently leads me out of the wilderness of fear, doubt, insecurity, and discouragement and into freedom.

I wonder if Moses was disappointed to not enter the promised land? He fought hard to free his people, so maybe leading a great nation toward freedom was enough.

Looking out at the vast view of Mt. Nebo toward Jericho and beyond, the word freedom came to mind.

Freedom is a word that I feel I so often take for granted. Over the years, God has taught me the power of freedom when He called me to be a voice in the social justice movement.

I thought I had a good grasp of the word freedom, until I spent a day in Jordan visiting the baptismal site of Jesus and the place where Moses stood to look out at the promised land—two places representing promises made and promises being fulfilled.

To walk where Jesus actually walked and remember why He walked the earth truly captivated my heart. Bethany Beyond the Jordan and Mt. Nebo represent the journey of slavery to freedom.

To anyone reading this, do you feel stuck or enslaved to an idea or a lie about yourself or God? How has your journey from slavery to freedom been? Maybe fear has been your captor? I don’t know what point of your journey you might be in, but I do know this: He created us to walk in the freedom of the promise of being His sons and daughters.

As we pulled away from Mt. Nebo, tears came to my eyes as I realized that I had left a part of myself on top of that mountain. The encounter I had with God, looking out on the same vista as Moses did so many years before, changed my life. I felt challenged to surrender every fear and doubt to God.

In that moment with God, on the same mountain where Moses once stood, my heart was renewed at the reminder of the goodness of God. 

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.

#75 The Check Came Early

Photo by Joy Monét Photography

In June of 2012, I needed to pay the bill for my son’s surgery, and we also had a leak in our basement that was quite costly. I didn’t have enough to pay my regular monthly bills with the extra costs of the surgery and fixing the leak. I considered getting a part-time job, but just didn’t see how I could manage, since I already had a full-time job. I maintained faithfulness in tithing 10 percent of my income and trusted that God would provide.

By the middle of the month, I really needed to pay my bills. I prayed the night of June 17th that God would help our family financially, and again before work the morning of June 18th. When I got to work that morning, there was a check in my mailbox for some extra work I did in May. This was work that I had done every May for several years, and the paycheck for this work usually didn’t come until July—AND this check was for more than I had expected! I am so grateful to God for His faithfulness! 

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. 

#70. Angel In The Pasture

 Photo by Laura Wilkerson Photography

I am a mother, wife, and dental hygienist in Alabama. My husband Mark and I and our two children Hannah (18) and Landon (12) live in rural North Alabama on Mark’s family’s farm. He has always owned cattle, and loves the hobby.  

In 2006, I worked for a dentist who used to be a veterinarian. He had several horses and we seemed to have a connection immediately. I told him I always wanted a horse but my husband was against it because he thought it would “chase his cows.” I came to work one day and Doc pulled me aside and said, “Debbie, this has been on my mind for a few days now. I know you said your husband said no horses, but I feel like I have the horse for you. So you and Mark come over and look at her; if she doesn’t work out with your cows, you can bring her back.” I said, “Great! I’ll talk to him.” Doc had a nickname for me—he always called me “Sweet Angel.” I went home and Mark agreed to look at the horse. Doc mainly had Haflinger horses and a few quarter horses and then the horse he had in mind for me. My husband agreed that we would take the horse! I asked Doc her name and he was not sure. So he went to ask his wife who wrote it on a Post-it. When he got back in the truck with us he said, “Guess what her name is?” He handed me the Post-it, with the name Angel!! He said, “See, I told you she was meant for you!” 

In April of 2007, I went to the pasture where I met up with Mark, Hannah, and Landon. When I got to them, my husband asked me to check on #34 (a heifer) who had calved that morning. I took Landon with me on the four-wheeler, and went down to the pine thicket, where the cow and calf were. When I was about a half-acre away from the cow, I turned off the four-wheeler and walked a step or two to see if the calf was nursing on the heifer. All was well! I turned to look at my son—and felt the ground shake! I turned around and mama cow was running full speed, head down, and I had nowhere to go! If I moved, she would jump on my son, so I was “quickened” to let her hit me in the back! She threw me around seven to eight times, as I desperately prayed for God’s help. “God, I need you! Please keep my kids safe; let someone hear me!” 

Finally, my husband got to me, and said, “Debbie, please get up, she coming back!” I couldn’t feel anything below my head, and had already accepted that I was going to die. But I didn’t want another woman raising my children! Then Mark said, “The cow has Landon!” I immediately got up and ran over to a tree, and Mark was at a tree about six feet to my right. Our daughter Hannah was told to stay in the barn lot and pray. 

In front of us we saw Landon’s motionless body lying on the ground, and the cow was jumping over him like she was on a trampoline! With every jump, I just knew she was going to stomp him. We were praying for a miracle. Mark ran in and got him out from under her 1,100-pound body and we saw he was alive! But, it wasn’t over, as now the cow was after them! I prayed even harder! 

Just then, out of nowhere, my horse jumped the fence and ran like she was coming out of the heavens, and turned around and bucked that cow in the head several times as it chased her! We were able to get to the other four-wheeler and get to the hospital for help Landon had stitches on his ear and bruising. I had several broken ribs and about eight vertebrae fractures and a football-sized hematoma. It took about two years for me to get better. There are many more details to this story, but one thing I DON’T want to forget—my horse’s name is Angel. And she truly is! I saw God in her that day.

I have always “known” who God was. In fact, I don’t remember ever doubting that He was real. As I grew to an adult, I started diving into His word more and more, to learn who He really was and what my relationship with Him was. I prayed my family would always keep Him number one in everything and strengthen our faith. This miracle that happened to us was a great blessing! It taught our family that God is never late, His timing is perfect, and that we can always trust Him because His ways are not our ways. If we seek Him, He will carry us through. 

I’ve always heard all my life how stubborn I am; I thank God He made me with passion and drive. I could have chosen to let this destroy me and my family by becoming bitter from three years of surgeries, severe pain, and depression. But I didn’t! I was determined to get better. He held me, and I cannot let Him go! It will be 10 years in April, and my faith is stronger than ever. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m sure not where I used to be!

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.

#65 A Nebraska Blizzard

 Photo by Chelsea Jo Photography

The snow was blowing sideways and the wind was howling. It was becoming dusk and hard to see. The car’s engine was starting to miss. Being in the middle of this snowstorm was no fun, and we were in the middle of Nebraska heading toward Omaha. And…I was six months pregnant. What were we to do? Lord, help us.

My husband and I have family and friends in Gothenburg, Nebraska, and decided to visit for New Year’s weekend. Friends were going to be there from other cities and it sounded fun. So we went, not knowing that a big storm was on its way to the Plains.

Saturday night, it began lightly snowing and when we went to bed, the wind picked up. The next morning was Sunday. Normally, we would relax, go to church, have lunch, and head home for the three to five hour trip. But when we looked outside, bright sunlight was shining on 10 inches of snow. It was beautiful, like diamonds glistening in the sunlight. Ten inches is a lot of snow and we didn’t know how the highway would be, so we decided to leave right after breakfast. We were driving a rear-wheel, Chevy Caprice and had taken only the minimum amount of clothes, none of which were helpful in storms. We did have coats and gloves, but we hadn’t taken any boots or hats. No extra blankets, flashlights, or food. We had no tire chains and in 1971, no cell phones.

We headed out to the interstate highway. It was smooth sailing from Gothenburg through Kearney. But as we arrived near Grand Island, the snow started falling. We had caught up to the storm. It started out very light but within 30 miles had increased to where we slowed down to 30 mph and started using the windshield wipers. We continued and started seeing cars in the ditches. The roads were snow-packed. The snow blew sideways, hindering our vision. It looked like a transparent veil. We slowed our speed to a crawl.

It was late in the afternoon and starting to get dark. Semi-trucks were disappearing off the road to stay at truck stops. Traffic trickled down to very few cars. It was at this time that our car’s engine started to miss and sounded terrible. My husband said, “Start looking for a hotel or place we can stay, because we are not going to make it home today.”

As we approached exit after exit, we looked for a hotel sign. There was none. I said to my husband, “I think there is a Stuckey’s gas station and quick shop at the Seward/York exit. Maybe we should get off there.”

As we approached the exit, we could see that the exit ramp was completely full of cars and semi-trucks, and with the snow, we couldn’t pass them. The ground blizzard was creating two-to-three-foot drifts. My husband brought our car under the overpass and parked it there. “We’ll just have to walk to Stuckey’s on a direct path because the frontage road will be all drifted in,” he said.

We got out of the car, buttoned up our coats, put on our gloves, and climbed up the hill next to the overpass. Keep in mind that I was six months pregnant and wearing slacks, a loose maternity shirt, a dress coat, and penny-loafer shoes. My husband was wearing slacks, a shirt, a man’s dress coat, and dress shoes. Fortunately they were tie shoes. Not exactly blizzard-worthy outfits.

How did we feel that dark, snowy, windy, and cold night? Anxious. Were we doing the right thing by getting out of the car and walking a half mile to the Stuckey’s? Would we get caught in the snow? Would anyone find us? As we made our way across the field separating the frontage road and Stuckey’s, we abruptly came upon a chicken wire fence. We hadn’t seen it as we walked, due to the snow and wind in our faces. We had to climb the fence!

My husband went over first and helped me over. One shoe dropped off and promptly filled with snow. It was found and we continued walking. Snow filled both shoes as I attempted to plow through the drifts. I said to my husband, “I can’t make it.” He said, “You have to.” I said, “My shoes keep falling off and I have to find them. I’m getting too tired.”

We looked up to see two men walking from the Stuckey’s store toward us. When they got to us, one picked me up. I’m not a little girl, but 5’8” and pregnant with child. The other gentleman took my shoes and my husband, and led us to the store. When we got there, we stepped into the entry, shook the snow off our coats, and turned to thank the gentlemen.


We asked those around us if they had seen the men that were with us and had brought us in. NO ONE HAD SEEN THESE MEN!

Had God sent angels to rescue us? We believe He did. Our fears had been in vain. God’s merciful hand had provided help…and He promised He would never leave or forsake us. In God’s love and kindness He provided His precious Son, Jesus Christ, not only to save us in a snowstorm, but to die for our sins, be resurrected in power so that we might have a relationship with Him, and live with Him eternally in Heaven.

Our time here on earth was not finished. God had other plans for us. Our times are in His hands. As believers, we know we are in His hands and He is molding and perfecting us to be more like Him until He takes us home.

We have gone through many “God sightings” since then and have recognized His hand and are thankful. These trials have grown our faith that He will never leave or forsake us and will be with us always—for which we praise His Name.

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.

#61 “Rediscover” Coffee



Photo by Ashely Brown, Shining Light Photography 

I grew up in Vermont not going to church until sixth grade when my mom met a Baptist pastor that lived down the street from us. We started attending his church, but when he moved south we stopped going.

I knew there was something bigger, but God wasn’t significant in my life until my early thirties. I started to feel something was missing in my life. I felt like God needed to lead my life and I began to go to church. In 2008, the company I worked for offered me the opportunity to go to Australia and work. I immediately said yes, as I felt God was calling me to go so that he could heal me and prepare me for my future.

Meanwhile, one of my business clients who lived in California kept talking to me about a man she felt God was leading her to tell me about. I knew I would be moving to Australia soon so I really didn’t think it was a good time to meet someone. But on Valentine’s Day I was out with friends and they talked me into texting her and asking her for a photo of him. He was with her at the time and she sent his photo and I sent my photo back to him. I told him I would be leaving for Australia in just a couple of months. But we began communicating often.

Then my paperwork for departure was delayed and so he flew to Rhode Island, where I was living, to meet me. It was the most magical weekend of my life. I knew I had met The One. In May, I flew to California to see him and he proposed. Shortly after, my paperwork was approved and I moved to Australia.

I knew no one, but I found a church and went every Sunday. I woke up every morning and read Scripture, walked to and from work praying, and then read Scripture again at night. There was so much healing, forgiveness, and acceptance during this time. I don’t think I could have had a healthy relationship if I hadn’t had time to heal. In December 2008, I returned to the states working for the same company, and in January 2009 we were married. I was able to work from home so I could live in California with my husband who was a winemaker there.

Two sons followed and I continued to work from home for the same company, which was a true blessing. But my husband and I felt that someday we would work together in hospitality. We thought it would be in the wine business, and our church family had prayed for us and told us the same thing but that it would be something parallel to winemaking.

In 2010, we went to visit his family in South Africa. We visited wineries and one had a coffee roastery. While we sipped our cappuccinos and looked around, we both felt “This is it. This is what we are supposed to do.” Then somewhat randomly my husband met up with a friend from high school that he hadn’t seen for years and he told us about a man who was opening a coffee roastery in Cape Town. We went to Cape Town and ended up touring some very hip coffee shops. In the airport on the way home we were thinking about what to name our coffee business. There was a sign that said Daily Offerings. That was it.

In 2011, we bought a coffee roaster, put it in our kitchen, and began roasting. We both completed barista and roasting training. I began selling coffee at farmer’s markets and wine events. Interestingly, coffee roasting and wine making are similar (parallel, you could say). My husband is a soil scientist, and for both coffee roasting and winemaking, you must know about the type of soil and growing conditions and how this impacts the flavor. For both coffee roasting and winemaking, you must be able to execute the right process to bring out maximum flavor, and finally, you must have the palate to be able to taste and pick out the notes in both coffee and wine.

By 2014, we had decided California was not where our new coffee business would be. My grandparents and uncle lived in a small town in Kentucky and we visited regularly. We really liked Kentucky and felt sad when we had to leave. It felt like home. We decided Kentucky was the place and both felt Lexington was the city. My husband found a space downtown across from the convention center. After we opened, we really saw what God’s intention was. We never set out to become a “Christian coffee shop.” Our business plan was to teach people about coffee and our tag line was “rediscover coffee,” but “rediscover” meant something else. God led us to start worship nights. Some people have even accepted Christ here. One particular day we had about 15 customers and every one of them was focused on God. Pastors meeting, people praying over one another, another reading the Bible. One of the customers said to me, “Do you feel it? The Holy Spirit is so thick in here right now!” I just started crying. Even non-Christians say they like the feeling here.

We left our financial security, our jobs, our home, our friends, to start over completely. We were operating on faith. We trusted that God brought us to this place for a purpose and we see Him daily working through our business. We pray, believe, and trust in Him—and He is faithful.

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.

#37 I May Not Understand, But I Trust

Photo by Shining Light Photography

This story was written while I was working in the Philippines with the International Justice Mission to free slaves.

600,000-800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80% are women and girls. Up to 50% are minors.

     US Department of State Trafficking in Person Report 2007

Slavery is the second largest global-organized crime, generating $150.2 BILLION Per Year. That’s more than the combined revenues of Amazon, Google, and Ebay every year. 

     International Labour Organization

The average cost of a slave today is $90. The average cost of a slave in 1850, in the American South, is  equivalent to $40,000 today.

     Free the Slaves

Nearly 1 in 5 victims of slavery is a child. The average age a teen enters the sex trade in the United States is 12-14  years old. Four billion people are living outside the protection of the law. 

     The United Nations

Discouraged. Dispirited. Disheartened. This is what my soul feels as I read these facts. With out-of-this-world statistics like these, how am I ever supposed to have hope? Working in this fight against human trafficking has almost left me feeling useless, worthless, and hopeless. These statistics aren’t mere numbers, but a harsh truth and reality in our world today. What are you to do when you live in a world where slavery still exists? When you actually witness women being sold—SOLD—for sexual acts against their will? How am I supposed to feel when I hear stories of pimps getting away with their dehumanizing actions because they are not facing any consequences, WHATSOEVER? High profits, low risk? Why not? They are not being punished or held responsible for their unlawful acts and are left to exploit even more women and children. What am I supposed to do when I see a foreign man walking down the street alongside a girl that is less than half his age? He has traveled far and wide just for one night of temporary pleasure and satisfaction, by paying for a girl that could be younger than his very own daughter. What about the stories I hear over and over again of actual families exploiting their very own children on the Internet? What are we to do when we provide every resource possible to a rescued victim, that promises her a new life and future, but yet she believes she is nowhere near worthy, and wants right back where she began? She doesn’t even want to be rescued.

You know what you are supposed to do? Have hope against all odds. Guess who is on our side? JESUS CHRIST! The Savior of the world. If God is for us, who can be against us? Whom shall I fear? NO ONE. When I feel as though nothing I am doing is making a change; when I feel like I have to keep doing more or figure out the answer to this global tragedy, I am reminded that this is not a “Brianna story”…. this is a “God story.” And the best part about this story is that we already know the ending. GOD WINS! Though I feel incapable, I feel worthless, and I am confused out of my mind, God has made known to me His promises. It’s nothing that I can do, but all that He will do.

Just read the story of Abraham.* Abraham received the promise of God that he would have a son when he was 100 years old, but Sarah was old and barren. Despite his old age and weak body, he still believed that the Lord would see His promise to him through. And He did! “Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say ‘it’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.’ Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said” (Romans 4:19-24).

Abraham became the father of many nations because he had faith in God’s promise. Though it seemed impossible, God came through, as He always does. This is no surprise. “Abraham was first named father and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding not to live on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do” (Romans 4:17-18). I want to have faith like that. When I stand on a mountaintop overlooking God’s mighty, intricately designed and crafted creation, how could I ever doubt His overarching power and sovereignty? How can I doubt Colossians 1:17 when Paul claims: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together”?

In His timing, justice will reign. Slaves will be rescued. And God will have the victory once and for all. I may not have the answers. I may not understand why the world is so broken. But that doesn’t shake the faith I have in the Lord. The odds may be against us, but God is for us. I will never stop believing or trusting that. I am banking my life on it. One thousand percent. Join with me in believing this. When all seems impossible, when you’re at your breaking point, believe that God has already won. Say yes to the mission He has called you on, and don’t look back. Have faith and hope in Him. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1Timothy 6:12).

Let’s pray for the girls God has rescued. The ones that are healing. The ones deciding whether they are worthy of His love. And the ones we have yet to reach. Pray for the abusers, the perpetrators, the lost, and the broken. Pray for their heart to lean into Christ’s and to break free from the bondage in this world. Words will never describe how thankful I am to be part of such a massive mission. And no matter how big it may be, how impossible it may seem, I will not give up! Because Christ has not given up on me. In due time, we will see the glory of the Lord prevail. And I can’t wait for that day! He has shown me His glory through His people and His creation. Because of what He has shown me, I will trust Him for that which I cannot yet see. Because of what Christ has done in my life, I have joy, assurance, confidence, complete trust, and surrender, despite the odds the world keeps throwing my way. I encourage you all to hold on to your hope against all odds. I promise, you will not be left disappointed.

“What do you mean, ‘if I can?'” Jesus asked, “Anything is possible if a person believes” (Mark 9:23).

*This message of hope through the faith of Abraham was brought to me at a breaking point while serving with the International Justice Mission combating human trafficking. A dear friend wrote me a letter before I had even left for the journey to the Philippines, and in God’s timing, I opened it when I was feeling hopeless. God is with us, everywhere we go, friends. Into the darkest corner of the world, He is there, making it light.  

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.

#29 Difficult Times Deepen Faith

 Photo by Erin E. Photography


“When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” Psalm 94:19

A few years ago I went through a period of doubting—not about God’s existence, really, but about..I don’t even know. Maybe it is better described as a time of confusion. I felt a distance and separation from God that was unbearable, a “spiritual drought” as they say. I was also feeling guilty because God had provided many blessings to me and I felt I had no right to question.

This vicious cycle of feeling distance from God, then doubting, and then feeling guilty, led me to seek guidance from my pastor. When we met, he asked if there was anything in my life that might be leading to the separation—maybe something I needed to deal with, like a particular sin. We talked through this and I committed to self-examination, as well as to ask God to reveal anything in me that might be leading to my feeling of distance from Him, so that I could appropriately deal with it. Before we ended our meeting, the pastor suggested that I keep a journal in which I would regularly write down my prayers and God’s answers to those prayers.  

Trying to heed the advice of the pastor, I bought a spiral bound notebook for the purpose of keeping a journal. I must admit that the idea of writing in a journal on a regular basis stressed me out because my life was really busy. I was a working, single mom. When could I carve out time to do this? I was working many hours in my job and had many family responsibilities. But deep down I knew that this was too important not to do.

Over the next five years, I poured out my heart to God on the pages, filling one and then another notebook with my fears, joys, sadness, failures, and successes. Recently I sat down with the journals to read through them cover to cover—something I had never done. I was amazed by what I read. Over and over I had asked for God’s help in the little and big things of life and consistently God had responded. And when God didn’t give me what I asked for, over time I could see why and the good that came from it. The global perspective of looking back over the last several years, versus the usual perspective of a slice in time, gave me new insights as to why certain prayers weren’t answered. It was for my own good and for the good of others. 

This documentation of the day-by-day faithfulness and wisdom of God with numerous specific examples has tremendously deepened my faith. I am scientist and skeptical by nature. I have studied the Bible and have read numerous books on apologetics—many of which have made convincing cases for the Christian faith—but this personal documentation over the years of my own experiences and God’s faithfulness, THIS is what has made a profound impact on my faith.

On the first page of my very first journal entry, I wrote, “Lord, I ask that you use this difficult time to help me grow stronger in my faith.” Indeed, God did. If I had never experienced that difficult season of doubt, confusion, and distance from God, I don’t believe I would have started a journal and many of the wonderful things God had done for me over the years would have been forgotten. This difficult time in my life DID without a doubt deepen my faith and I am very thankful to God. 

But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;

I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.

They are constantly in my thoughts. 

I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. 

Psalm 77:11-12

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.