#195 God Renewed My Mind

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I was born in 1956 and lived on a farm with my parents and two sisters. My parents were sort of sharecroppers. Our rent was free but my dad had to farm the land, and my mom had to do all the ironing and work that normally black people did back then. 

We moved to Lexington, Kentucky, when I was about five or six. I got into a lot of trouble at school because I had a speech problem. I stuttered really bad and people made fun of me, which caused fights. The teacher would always call on me to read, knowing I had a speech problem. I hated going to school. One day the teacher sent me home with homework, and I asked my mom and dad if they could help me. They told me they couldn’t read and write. I thought if they could make it without being able to read and write, then I didn’t need to go to school. I dropped out in the seventh grade because I got into trouble fighting.

I started hanging with guys in the streets when I was about 10. They were driving big Cadillacs. I didn’t realize what they were doing to get those cars. A couple of older guys liked me. They would give me silver dollars to watch the girls. They made their money on prostitutes and drugs. That was the only role models we had in those days. Drug dealers, pimps and thieves.

I was about 13 years old when I started stealing and robbing. I ended up going to about every juvenile institution in the state. At about 14 or 15, I was sent to Woodsbend Boys Camp. A young man lost his life there. They tried to charge me and another boy with the murder, but it didn’t happen the way they said it did. I wasn’t convicted, but that young man’s death haunted me for years. That was the first time I had been around somebody who died. When I got out of Woodsbend, I went back to stealing in the streets. My parents didn’t have much money and were struggling. I felt bad for them and I wanted to help them. There was a lot of racial tension and blacks were trying to find to their place in society. I still remember when a food train came into the city to give out food to people who couldn’t afford to buy it. I went with my mom and two sisters to get some food. My mom was next in line, but a white lady got in front and told my mom to go to the back of the line. That lady called my mom all kinds of names.

When I turned 18, I was charged with theft by unlawful taking and detaining a female. The young lady had been babysitting my sisters, and I picked her up to take her home. She told her mom that I made her do things but this was not true. They sentenced me to four years in prison, and I did 13 months. I got out in 1977. I went back to the streets doing all the wrong things. In 1979, I ended up with a five-year sentence for possession of a forged instrument. I got out in 1981; then got another charge for robbery and assault.

I was given a life sentence because of the new persistent felony offender law. I was told I would never get out of prison or see the outside world again. I was sent to a maximum security prison and saw a couple of people get killed. That changed my life. Something clicked in me. I thought about my mom and dad and that they never had an education. I thought, “I’ve got all this time. I should at least get my GED.” I didn’t get into any trouble. I studied and got my GED, then they transferred me to another prison for good conduct. I decided to try a college course and eventually got an associate degree. I got another degree for hotel management. I also learned a trade in furniture upholstery. The way I viewed people and life was changing. I was at this prison for 10 years before I was eligible for parole. They denied my parole and told me I would never be allowed to return to Lexington. 

In 1992, I was transferred to Bell County Forestry Camp for good behavior. This was almost like a halfway house getting me ready to return to society. While I was there, I met a young lady and we began corresponding with one another. I explained to her that I couldn’t return to Lexington, which is where she lived. I asked if she would move to Frankfort, which is close to Lexington, and she agreed. I had been saving money all those years. I sent her money to get an apartment. She got the apartment and got in touch with a parole office in Frankfort telling him that I was going up for parole. He said that he wasn’t willing to allow me to come to Frankfort with my criminal record. She continued to talk to him and he agreed that I could come to Frankfort, but he wasn’t willing to let me move in with her without getting married.

I went to the chaplain at Bell County Forestry Camp, but he said he couldn’t marry us because they didn’t believe in interracial marriages. They let us go to another church to get married. We ended up being married for 21 years. During this time, we had a home and I had a good job where I worked for 17 years. But I got comfortable and complacent, thinking I wasn’t going to make a mistake. I ended up getting a DUI that violated my parole. I went back to prison for a year. I was out for another seven years, but then I got another DUI and went back to prison again for two years. 

I got back out and it was hard to pick up the pieces. I went to a halfway house. My wife asked me for a divorce, which I could understand. I got a new job working at a factory. My nephew came to the factory and told me my mom had died. I left work but told my supervisor my mom had died before I left. We were trying to make arrangements for the funeral. On Monday my supervisor told me I no longer had a job. I lost my mom, my job and my wife all in one week. I was devastated and started drinking a lot. I don’t know, maybe I was trying to commit suicide by drinking myself to death. 

In 2018 I got sent back to prison for absconding, which means I didn’t report to my parole officer. The parole board gave me 15 months. This time I was at Blackburn State Prison. I started attending a program called Alpha. I was told by some people that the people at Alpha would help me find a home. The first person I met was Greg (story #193). I told him that I wanted help finding a home. He said, “We don’t do that. But you can come and listen to what we are talking about.” I went back and then continued to go to the Alpha meetings every time they were there. I had never met any group of people who were so humble. They weren’t judgmental. They would sit and listen. Greg asked me if I had a Bible. I told him I had had a few Bibles in my life but never opened one. Some of the films they would show in Alpha had me in tears. I was really being touched inside by something. I didn’t understand it. I kept reflecting over my life and my childhood. I was the only one left alive from the people I grew up with. I thought about being told that I would never get out of prison. The Alpha program showed me that I might not have believed in God, but God believed in me. They taught me that God has me here on earth for a reason. I began to see how God was working in my life. Honestly, going to prison saved my life. I wouldn’t have gotten an education or training. I would have been dead. Somebody in the street would have killed me or I would have killed myself doing something crazy. And I wouldn’t have gone to Alpha. God changed my life through the Alpha program.

I am out of prison now. I feel good about who I am and where I am in life. I have a new job, which is a great blessing. I know many people are out of work these days because of the coronavirus. I still connect with the guys from Alpha every day, and I read my Bible every day. They are some of the greatest people I have ever met. They have become my best friends. They have mentored me and helped me to understand so many things. 

I don’t know why it has taken me so many years to realize that God loves me, even if nobody else does. God is forever loving. God is all-knowing. One of the hardest things for me to do was to change my way of thinking. God has renewed my mind. If God can change me, He can change anybody. Every day I try to help someone out. I didn’t do that before. I am in great pain when I see someone suffer. I’m not saying I am perfect — by no means. I am a work in progress and God is leading me every step of the way. Sometimes I open up the Bible and don’t understand what I read. I ask God to help me to learn what He wants me to learn, and then I come back later to the Bible and I do understand it. 

I am happy for the first time in my life. I mean really happy. I really don’t have anything. But I have God in my life, and I am peaceful. Don’t give up on God. Don’t give up on yourself. Your life is a gift from God. 

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Romans 8:18–19 (NLT)

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.

#194 Learning to Love Again

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I grew up in America’s white middle class. I was raised Catholic, and I am grateful I grew up in a home where God was important. I went to Catholic schools for 12 years and then went to college. I have always been active in sports. I played a lot of soccer, including playing during college. 

I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and got a couple of really good jobs after college. In my mid-20s, I got involved in a bad relationship with a lot of domestic violence. I was stuck in this relationship for about three years. The person I was with was involved in illegal activities, including drugs. I knew what he was doing, but there was so much violence. I was just focused on surviving. 

When the police came to our house, my abuser said to me, “If I’m in trouble, you are in trouble, too.” He testified against me in court and said things that weren’t true. I had drug charges, but I wasn’t involved in drug deals. We shared a home and a bank account, which was a problem. I never sold drugs and never had a drug addiction. But addiction definitely could have been part of my story as a way to escape. I think I was headed in that direction. 

I was sent to prison with a five-year sentence in Marysville, Ohio. I served four of the five years. Going to prison actually saved me. The violence had gotten really bad and more frequent. I believe I would have either been killed or would have killed him to protect myself. While I was incarcerated, I was free from all that, and it was such a relief. As crazy as it sounds, I can honestly say I am glad it happened.

I believed in God before I went to prison. Before I got involved in the bad relationship, I had really begun to pursue a relationship with God. But that was put on hiatus through the relationship problems. While I was involved in the relationship, we went to church together. It was a matter of show for him. For me, it was a way to convince myself and everyone else that I was fine. It was very difficult to accept and admit that someone had taken every part of my life away.

My journey with God in prison began when one of my friends sent me a picture of Jesus walking on the beach. It said, “You never realize God is all you need, until He is all you have.” I remember sitting on my bed and reading that. It was the beginning of me starting over. It was the beginning of me letting God tell me who I was again. Because of the relationship, I had no idea who I was as a person anymore. I had been listening to the voice of the man who was abusing me. I had let him tell me who I was. 

In prison, I began to dive into scripture, trying to find out who God believes I am. I wanted Him to teach me to be the person He originally created me to be. I was excited to learn who that was. I also went through the process of discovering love again. I had become very jaded about “love.” For three years, I had someone tell me they loved me while they were abusing me. I had to go through the process of believing that God loved me, that others could still love me, and that I still had the ability to love others. God taught me how to love again and what love means. 

I read the book Redeeming Loveby Francine Rivers. I cried so many times during that book. I put myself in that book — as someone who had run away and didn’t feel like God loved me, yet someone who God kept pursuing and loving. I felt like God was saying to me, “I’m still right here. I’m still right here. No matter what, I’m still here.” I hung on to that. 

I went through scripture and read about the Proverbs 31 woman. These were all the things I wanted to be. I felt like God was telling me I could still be that person. When I went to prison, my confidence had been destroyed. I went through the process of regaining confidence, but it wasn’t coming from me. It was a different confidence. Before my confidence was dependent on something that I did to earn it. Now my confidence comes from God. Even when I am weak, He is strong. I have learned that God has it. Now I just see myself as a willing vessel for His plan in my life. I have confidence that He will unfold that plan and guide me to become the woman He created me to be. 

Until the COVID-19 shutdown, I was working for an optometrist and enjoying sports and going to the gym. I still attend the same church that I attended prior to going to prison. I am involved in their prison ministry. When I first heard about their prison ministry, I thought, “There is no way I am going back to a prison,” but God kept nudging me. Diving into that has been really awesome. I walked into the same prison in Marysville where I was for four years. I walked in and walked out on my own accord. It was a total redemption story. God brought it full circle in that moment. I thought, “God, You got me here and saved my life, and now You have brought me back to the same place to be a source of hope.” I am also a board member with a nonprofit that helps people affected by domestic violence. This has been very healing, too. God already had the whole thing planned out. Everything that was a struggle — everything that was a negative in my life — has become a positive. I have wonderful people in my life that I would have never known. God worked so much good in what Satan meant for evil. 

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

I have learned that God is so loving. He knows so much about me. He knows everything I struggle with and everything I am good at. The unconditional love of God is something you will never experience anywhere else. It’s always there. It’s never-ending. It’s the best relationship you will ever be in. 

No matter what it looks like or what people are telling you right now — there is hope. You might not believe it every day; there were definitely days I didn’t, but there is a story that is already written for you. It is an amazing thing to be on a journey with God. Having an open heart and spending time talking to God and listening to God is so important. The more time you spend with someone, the better the relationship. It’s the same with God. I never wanted my time in prison to be for nothing. Don’t walk out of prison without the relationship with God. Don’t waste the time. Don’t waste the time. 

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 2 Corinthians 4:17

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.

#192 Formed in the “Suddenly’s” Part 3

 Photo by Andrew Schacht

“Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!” Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, why did you doubt?” The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! Truly, you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 14:28–33).

About two months ago, I had a morning in Spain that is still having a ripple effect on my life. And it started with me breaking away from my normal routine to get a closer look at one of the many beautiful gifts the Lord has given us. Spontaneity is not really a new thing for me. Usually, it’s quite the opposite. I believe that when you are walking with the Lord, the beauty of life is found in those spontaneous moments with Him. So, I tend to seek them out. From experience, I do submit to the idea that living a disciplined lifestyle creates more freedom. However, the day that I want to share about was one of those where I chose spontaneity over structure. And the Lord radically met me in that place. 

5:30 a.m. wake up. 6:06 a.m. pick-up in the mini-van. 6:20 a.m. at the gym. That was my routine, along with six of my brothers, each morning of the week during my first three months in Mijas. I was incredibly blessed that the Lord surrounded me with a group of men who loved deeply and were willing to walk, battle, and pour into one another’s lives daily. That routine and group of men quickly turned into one of the most life-giving forms of church I have ever experienced. I was pulled closer to the Father’s heart more consistently in that 30-minute van ride than most Sunday morning services I have sat through. But on this particular day, a day that has been one of the most influential and prophetic days of my life, I decided to break away from my normal routine in hope of finding something different. Instead, I decided to head down to the Mediterranean Sea in the complete darkness of the morning to watch the sunrise from the beach. 

As I walked out onto the beach, the chilled breeze off the waves swirled about, waking me up and almost welcoming me into its tranquil space. I watched from the shore as one of my good friends, who I had gotten a ride down to the beach with, paddled off into the distance toward the horizon line. I sat contently by myself in the silence of the morning with only the smell of the coffee in my hands and the sound of the early waves to accompany me. As the stars and moon began to slowly drift away, I set up my phone to capture a time-lapse of that shift from darkness to light. I was at peace. In my comfortability, I began asking the Lord to speak to my heart and meet me in that place. Well, like He always does, He answered. But, like He does so often, it was in a way that was completely different than what I was anticipating. As so many times before, He showed up with an interruption rather than things going how I planned. 

After about 10 minutes of sitting in the stillness of the morning, I heard a noise next to me that took me off guard. One of the beach workers who was setting up chairs had accidentally knocked over my time-lapse set up. Selfishly, I was initially irritated because the shot I was hoping for had been ruined. Nonetheless, I set my phone back up and hit record again. As I began to walk away from my phone, I felt very clearly in my heart a thought — more of an invitation — from the Lord. “Come get in the water.” My first response was without pause, “Absolutely not. Way too cold.” As I made it back to my warm coffee, I felt it again. “Come get in the water.” Back and forth in my heart this exchange happened for the next several minutes, until finally I decided to say “yes,” instead of having to say “what if” later on. In my life, I have found that the moments where I decide to say “yes” have been the very moments that have shaped my identity, introduced me to freedom, and brought me across the globe on an adventure with Him. So again, even when I am reluctant at first, I tend to seek them out.

After taking off my hoodie and chugging the last sips of my coffee, I slowly began to make my way out into the low tide. At this point, the sun had not yet broken the horizon line. But, the Lord had pulled out his best color palette, filling the sky and the reflections off the water with His favorite pastels. With no one else on the beach and standing about knee deep in the chilled sea, I felt it again but this time different. “Take another step with Me.” I could tell the Lord was stirring something in my heart, but wasn’t completely sure what it was yet. Now, I was about waist deep in the water. “Take another step with Me.” This continued until I was about neck deep in the cold Mediterranean. Once I got to this point, something happened inside my heart that I don’t think I have completely grasped, nor do I think I will ever fully understand. 

In that moment, a sudden sense of boldness, energy and adrenaline came over my body. Without really thinking or knowing why, I took off on a dead sprint swim toward the horizon. Overcome by this flash of life in my body, I swam harder and harder off the coast toward an unplanned and unknown destination. After what seemed like, I can only guess, but about five minutes of this dead-sprint swim, I finally halted to a stop. Up out of the water, salt and hair in my eyes, I quickly gasped for air. Absolutely exhausted from that burst of a swim, each breath brought more and more attention to where I was. Treading water to catch my breath, I realized that I had swam way further off the shore than I ever thought I could go.

Without warning, a sudden sense of fear and panic began to creep into my head. I am a good swimmer (shout-out to a few years on the Hartland Swim Team), but by no means would I call myself an endurance swimmer. At this point, I had absolutely exerted all of my energy and strength during that sprint. I quickly made note of a few things. One, that I was so far off the coast that I could not touch the bottom. Two, I was not completely certain that I could make it back to the shore. Three, there was absolutely no one near me or on the beach. In a sense, I stepped out and had gotten myself into a place where I wasn’t sure if my own strength could help me. 

As I spun back around to face the horizon, I began to slowly calm myself and my breathing. Completely surrounded by the utter magnitude of the Mediterranean Sea with only the faint sight of the shore behind me, I was completely isolated in this theater of beautiful colors and potential fears. It was in this moment that I knew exactly what new revelation the Lord was trying to reveal to me. It was in this moment that I knew what this morning was all about. Once again, I heard His voice in my heart.“This is where I want you to live. This is where My love is made perfect. When you step out — into a place beyond your strength — so that you can be fully engulfed in My presence and love.” 

You see, similarly when Jesus called Peter out of the boat, this last season of life has felt like that ‘sudden boldness’ Peter was overcome with. I have felt more alive and more free than ever, which has led me time and time again to places where I am not sure if my own strength can hold, and I feel like I am beginning to sink. Like the morning I am describing, I continue to see these moments as invitations from the Lord to step out of the boat of life and walk on water with Him. I am also keenly aware of the stirring waters that must be stepped over to get there. However, one of my favorite parts of the Mark 12 passage, which is much of what the Lord was trying to tell me on this particular morning, is the simple phrase, “Jesus didn’t hesitate.” Jesus didn’t sit there while Peter drowned and scold or mock him for not having strong enough faith. He didn’t rebuke him for being afraid of where He was at because of his boldness. Instead, He didn’t hesitate to reach down and pull him up out of the water. He was right there to pick him up, to refocus his sights on Him, and to allow Peter to experience something completely impossible without Jesus.

Continually choosing to risk and live in a place where only His power could make things happen, and being bold in all aspects of my life, was exactly what the Lord was wanting to show me. It was through this morning swim that He was trying to invite me to step further out into the depths of His love, beyond my own strength and engulfed in His presence. As all of this was passing through my head, immediately the sun broke the sea’s horizon line, and I was welcomed to one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life. It was as if He was confirming everything I was feeling in that moment. Floating in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea, I was completely surrounded by overwhelming colors of His beauty and love. 

The experience I had on that morning is one I will never forget. Thankfully, I did slowly but surely make my way back to shore. As the Lord continues to invite me deeper into the unknown with Him, I will continue to give Him my “yes” and not focus on the churning waves around me. Even if those invitations mean being on the other side of the globe away from my friends and family for the holidays. Even if those invitations mean having to wait nine months to meet my new niece. Even if those invitations lead me out onto choppy waters. 

And when I do begin to feel the waves around me and start to sink, I know He will not hesitate to reach out His hand to pick me up. To continually step out of the boat and onto the water with Him is a life worth living. And to that kind of life, I say, “yes.”

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.

#191 Formed in the “Suddenly’s” Part 2

Photo by Aly Badinger/1558 Visuals

“ ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You’re almost there, right on the borderof the Kingdom of God’ ” (Mark 12:32–34).

My home in Mijas, Spain, is in a quaint Pueblo village, nestled in the mountains on the border of southern Spain. The Melting Pot, a hostel that hosted my friends and me this last weekend, breathes life through the winding streets of Tangier, Morocco, on the border of northern Africa. As I write this, I am sitting on, as my brother, Jonathan, would say, a “big ole water bus” (boat), floating across the Mediterranean Sea in between the borders of two continents. On the border.

Coming to G42, a nine-month leadership training academy (Generation 42), I told myself I didn’t have any expectations of what this journey would look like. On the surface that seemed to be truthful, due to the fact that I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what class, community, practicum or this growing process would entail. However, I failed to realize that I buried one giant expectation in my heart. The expectation that through these life-changing experiences and incredible teachings, I would, “transform and build myself into everything I was designed to be.” Now I know that might seem like a pretty solid expectation going into such a crazy life change. I am not naïve enough to believe that I would have taken this leap of faith, had I not thought it would change my life for the better. But, as I’ve been unpacking much of my life over the last two weeks, I’ve been wrestling with where this stirring in my spirit was coming from. Slowly and methodically the answer has begun to bubble to the surface, and with each day was becoming more and more clear. I began to see that it was not the idea or the expectation of being changed that was the issue wrestling inside me. Rather, it was my idea of how that dream and transformation was going to happen

You see, for the last 22 years, I have been living life on my own strength. Sure, the Lord has, without question, given me gifts and abilities to have a solid work ethic and push myself in my life. However, the reality is that most of my existence has been me trying to use my own gifts to foster a relationship with the very One who gave me those gifts. All my life I believed that if I used my hard-working mindset, my own intellect, or my insatiable desire for something more — I would get there. I believed that if I used, “all MY heart, all MY understanding, and all MY strength” to relentlessly love God and others, then I would fill the void and quiet that stirring in my heart. I thought it was to be through MY strength that would I get there.

I came across Mark 12 at some point in the last few weeks, but it wasn’t until these last few days that Holy Spirit showed me why I seemed to stumble on that passage. Much like the man in the scripture, I came to the Lord with my own answers of what it means to be in the Kingdom of God. I believed that in my own understanding I knew the right answers and how to do it: 1) Love God and 2) Love others. I then poured all my strength into tirelessly seeking to love the Lord and those surrounding my life. Striving, out of my own desire to feel love, I took these instructions in my own strength and have been struggling to fill that void in my spirit. Much like the man talking to Jesus, I was close but not there. I was “on the border.”

The first time I read that Mark 12 passage, I believed that Jesus was telling the man that he was close to the Kingdom of God as a compliment and reassurance that he was doing the right things. But the more I began to sit with the scripture, Holy Spirit began to show me that it was not a reaffirming thing for this man, but rather a helpful lesson. Jesus was trying to show him that there was still something missing in his understanding of what it truly means to be living presently in the Kingdom of God. Much like the Israelites wandering close to the Promised Land, the Lord doesn’t want us to live on the borderof our promised inheritance. Rather, He invites us to live fully and truly into His design for us on this earth. Not on the border looking in. 

Just like this man, I had left out the most important part of the equation: that I was to understand and live in the knowledge that I was designed to be fully and overwhelmingly loved by the Father. You see that’s what the man was missing in his answer. He knew that he was to love God. He knew he was to love people. He was almost stepping fully into God’s plan for us. But what caused Jesus to respond with, “You’re almost there, right on the borderof the Kingdom of God,” was that He was missing the biggest piece. His answer needed to include understanding that he was designed to be loved by the Father.

 

That stirring in my heart and that restlessness in my spirit was coming from the fact that I hadn’t come to truly and fully comprehend that there is nothing I can do to be more loved by the Father. There is nothing in my own strength that is going to make Him love me more. There is no accomplishment that will bring me more of His affirmation of my value. There is nothing in my past that will hold Him back from loving me today. There is no version of myself that I have to become for Him to fill me up with His love. Exactly who I am today is exactly where He wants me to be, and He loves me fully in that place. He has plans and dreams for me, but His love is not dependent on my execution and completion of those things. He is a potter and I am His clay. He doesn’t just want the finished result of a beautiful product; but rather, He cherishes the process of molding and shaping me with each day. And that’s where I am at right now. Sometimes I feel like I am spinning around and around aimlessly on His pottery wheel called life. But it only takes a quick second to look around and see that His hands are cupped around me crafting and forming me with each day to understand that it’s His plan and He’s got it! 

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.

#178 Longing for Love

 

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I didn’t think I had a “testimony.” I grew up in a Christian home, always believed in God’s power and love, and never had anything I saw as life-changing happen to me. I thought my story would be boring, nothing anyone would want to hear, until I heard MY story being told by someone else at my church. She had a story that was so similar to mine that I no longer felt alone and “typical,” and that my life was not as similar to others’ as I thought. I know the things I’ve gone through have shaped me, but I never imagined they could help others from feeling alone like she helped me. God’s word tells us in Revelation 12 to conquer with the word of testimony, so here’s mine.

My story began in Amarillo, Texas where I grew up. My mom married a man when I was 4 years old after a messy divorce with my biological father, and my stepdad quickly became the father figure that I knew. Eventually, his drinking became alcoholism, and his emotional and verbal abuse became physical. I’ll never forget the night when my mom called to tell me not to come home because she didn’t know what he would do to me. He found himself in jail for assaulting my mother and grandmother, and divorce quickly followed.

When I left for college, I took with me a longing to be loved. My father figure had not shown me a father’s love, and he had not shown my sister and I how a woman should be treated by her husband; he had betrayed my trust and love. During my first semester in college, I began drinking, partying and looking for love in the wrong places. Friends and men treated me poorly and I became involved in a relationship my freshman year that looked functional from the outside, lasted 3 years, but was unhealthy and abusive – first emotionally, then physically. After living together for two years, one day I realized I shouldn’t have to wear long sleeves to cover the bruises on my arms. I packed up, bit the pride bullet and moved back in with my parents.

In the midst of this, in my sophomore or junior year, I started going back to church because I knew something was missing from my life. The first time I went back to my church I attended in high school, I felt a rush of emotions and began to cry because I knew I was home. It took some time, but I started getting involved, serving in guest services and other volunteer opportunities. At this point in my life, I felt like I was living two separate lives. My church life was filled with joy and supportive friends, and my day-to-day life was darkened by sin, fear, and pain. After moving back in with my parents, I never fully felt the joy God intends for us through contentment. I jumped from fling to fling looking for the love I needed, not realizing I already had it.

Before my last semester of college, I moved to Kentucky to live with my sister and help around the farm while she was pregnant. Her husband was a truck driver, so he wasn’t home much, and it gave me some time with my best friend. I started going to a church in Lexington. At the end of the summer, I returned home to Texas to finish my degree, and I realized the path God had intended for me. After graduation, I moved back to Kentucky to live near my sister and niece, and to get a fresh start.

I decided my fresh start would be centered around Christ, the only rock I had in life, the only true example of agape I had known. I needed to make friends and thought church would be the best place to do that. After a short email to the church I had attended over the summer, I got involved in a dinner group that met every other Thursday for fellowship and food. The first time I went, I had to force myself to go and talk to people, but the people I met were so welcoming and made me feel right at home. I found true friendships, encouragement and accountability in this community of young people who loved Jesus. This helped me realize that not all people take advantage of you – there are good people who truly care and can be trusted.

Now I lead a Bible Study for 8-10 women from the dinner group every week in my home. We talk about where we struggle and how God can help. I am so thankful that God provided a new community for me; there is always someone to talk to and to hold me accountable. Before, I never felt I could talk to my friends about God. Now I have a group of friends that shares my love for God.

When I talk about God to others, I always call Him my Rock. He was there for me when times were ugly and painful, and never threatened to run out or hurt me. He is the same God for me now that He was in Texas during those times I never thought would end. He provides unconditional love to those who feel unlovable, forgiveness to those who have burned bridges here on Earth, and is a father to those whose fathers have betrayed them. Growing up, when approaching my step-dad, I always wondered, “Is he having a good day?” before I even considered asking a favor or starting a conversation. This is never the case with God our Father. We can approach Him anytime and always trust Him to listen. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, constant, unchanging, loving, and always with us; “Immanuel.”

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.

#175. The Desires Of My Heart

 

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

My parents didn’t take me to church but I went with a neighbor regularly. I LOVED church growing up. I went to every camp and on every mission trip. I was really smart in high school, and by all appearances I was set for life. My parents were together and my dad had a good job as a policeman. Everything should have gone well. But a few months after I graduated high school I was raped and then as hard as I had run toward God, I began to run away. When I drank or did drugs, everything was okay. I didn’t have to think about things that were painful. I started to find my identity when I was high. All of a sudden, I could express myself and had no social awkwardness. I was the girl who would do anything, the girl who was funny. Even though I had grown up in church and loved Jesus and I knew He loved me, I didn’t connect my identity with Christ. So, what that meant was that I was always searching to find my worth in friendships, performance, and relationships. I didn’t find any worth in me apart from these things.

My moderation switch was broken. I was either going 100 miles an hour or sitting still. My drug addiction was no different. Balance was missing from my life. Anything that happened to me was either the best thing that happened or the worst. Being high leveled out my perception of extremes.

I ended up pregnant and still couldn’t quit. I started getting arrested. At one point in all of this insanity, I took my daughter to my grandparent’s house and didn’t go back to get her. I knew that I couldn’t take care of her and she would have a better life with my grandparents. I sought treatment but I didn’t think I was a true addict. I couldn’t stay clean after treatment, even after multiple treatments and multiple jail stays. My addiction got worse. It went from pain pills to heroin to meth, and then I started making meth. At this point I was living in a house without electricity and water. In October 2012, I came home and the police were waiting on me. I was charged with manufacturing meth and facing 20 years in state prison. Eventually it was dropped to a lesser charge and I ended up with a four-year sentence. I served 11 months and that was enough to keep me straight for a while.

When I got out of jail, I got back involved in church. I no longer blamed God for the rape. I had surrendered my drug addiction to God but I hadn’t surrendered any other aspect of my life. I was still seeking my identity in the wrong places. I went from horrible relationship to horrible relationship and got pregnant again.

During this time, God started working on the heart of my daughter’s father. He was very angry (and understandably so) that I had left her with my grandparents, and I thought that I would never see her again or even hear her voice. But after I got out of jail, he allowed me to see her and she started living with me again. She was 4 years old at the time. I got a good job and then had the new baby, and between all these responsibilities I stopped going to church. I thought it would be okay to start drinking. In my mind, I was a junkie and alcohol wasn’t a big deal. But just like everything else, I had no moderation and very quickly I was drinking every day. A friend sent me a message that said, “I have relapsed.” I know he was reaching out for help, but when I went to meet him, he had drugs and I asked for some. I began doing drugs again after that.

I had hoped that I had overcome my problem with addiction, but this relapse extinguished all hope. It was like someone poured a bucket of water on it. I tried to stop but couldn’t. Thankfully, my family intervened and said, “You are going to treatment, or you are on the street.” I found out about a residential treatment center and called on Monday, but they said they didn’t take my insurance. Tuesday I called and asked which insurance they accepted so I could switch, and they said they had a meeting and decided to take my insurance! Wednesday they called and asked if I could come the next day. I said yes and arrived there on Thursday, August 11, 2016. Two days later the house where I had been doing drugs was raided by police and everyone in it went to jail. Wow! Praise God for His perfect timing.

The treatment center sat at the top of a mountain and I remember the driveway up to it was so long. I was so broken. I had had such a hope that I could raise my kids and have a job to support them. I thought I was doomed to live a life of constant relapse. I knew that my older daughter’s father had taken her once and I was terrified that he would take her for good. I was afraid my family would take my younger daughter. I didn’t know if I wanted to live another day. I had NO HOPE that this place would help me. I had been to so many treatment centers that couldn’t help me … why would this place be different? The first two weeks my attitude was just to “do my time” until I could get out. I received a letter from my employer saying they would not hold my job, which meant I wouldn’t have a way to support my children when I got out. This drove me further into hopelessness.

I’m not sure how long it was before I started opening back up to God again, but slowly and without a definite starting point, it happened. I began to find my true identity as a daughter of God. I learned that I don’t have to be the best to be loved. I can be myself and be okay with myself and know that people love me. During treatment, I found out about the Peer Support Academy, an online program that I could do at the end of my treatment to get certified to help others with addictions. This was a career path—a way I could support my family. Learning about this opportunity gave me hope. After I finished treatment, I completed the training and became a peer support specialist. In May, I was hired as full-time staff at a residential center. In August, I was transferred to the corporate office where I currently work with the chief of staff. All of my strengths are being used in my job now. I get to make a difference in people’s lives because I am sharing hope and showing them that change is possible. Life is still really hard but there are so many blessings! When I look at where I was a year and half ago and where I am today—I never thought this would be possible. There were many times that I had hoped that I would OD and die, because it was the only way I saw out of the prison of addiction. But God didn’t let it happen. He had other plans and He didn’t let me go.

Now both of my children live with me again and I’m a mom. I was just able to buy a car this year. I am renting my own house. I have never been able to do that! I feel like God is just saying, “Let me give you the desires of your heart!” When I was in high school I loved participating in mock government activities and conferences. Earlier this year I was asked to talk to state legislators about my story and advocate for treatment for addiction instead of incarceration. It isn’t mock government anymore!

When I was in treatment, I made a list of qualities that I wanted in a life partner. I had been in unhealthy relationship after unhealthy relationship and I made a commitment to stay single until God showed me the man that would fit all of these qualities. After many prayers asking God to show me this man that He had picked out for me, He finally brought us together. October 3, 2018 I was privileged to marry the man that I had been searching for. Not only did he have all of the qualities on my “list,” but he has qualities that I didn’t even know that I needed. I am so blessed to be able to worship God with a husband that loves Him as much, if not more than, I do. 

When I was in treatment, every day we were asked questions. One was:

“I want to be someone who__________.” My answer was “someone who my children are proud of.” Last year a regional newspaper published my story and my 9-year-old daughter cut that article out and wrote, “Good job, Mom!” and taped it above her bed. This is the child that I was never to lay eyes on again. God is a God of restoration. The Bible promises that God will restore all the devil has stolen, and He is doing that, and more, every single day of my life.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

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.

#174 When God Steps In

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I grew up in a very small town. I had wonderful parents and one brother. My childhood was happy and uneventful. I was close to my father and he suggested that I consider taking care of people for a living since I had been a caretaker for several people in our family when they were sick. I decided to take his advice and pursued becoming a nurse. From 1994–2001 I worked as a nurse in a hospital. Life was pretty uneventful at that time.

Then three things happened that I couldn’t deal with. My brother was killed by a friend, my mother was dying with breast cancer, and I had a hysterectomy.

I was so angry with the man who killed my brother. I fought in court trying to send him to prison. Not long after that I got hurt on the job and started using the pills I had been prescribed for an injury to help my emotional pain. I never thought addiction would happen to me, but I became addicted to the pills that took away my pain.

After my mom died in 2004, I got in trouble, lost my nurse’s license, and went to jail. The board said I would never get my license back. The judge wanted me to have treatment for drug abuse and I spent three months in jail waiting for a bed to open up in an addiction program. I was able go to a faith-based residential treatment center where I spent 180 days in treatment. The people were so loving there. They tried to show me beauty where I saw none. They started talking about things my mom had tried to talk with me about—about Jesus. 

While I was in treatment I had terrible insomnia. Someone suggested that I pray when I woke up during the night. I took their advice and I prayed that God would reveal Himself to me and give me peace. It was gradual, but the Lord did reveal Himself to me and give me peace. When I got out of treatment I found my mom’s Bible and it was like a love letter to me. She had written all sorts of things in the margins. These were the same things I had heard in treatment. 

The treatment center was named after a young woman who had been killed by a teenager over a $30 drug debt. One night I heard her father speak. He talked about forgiving the teenager who had killed his daughter. He said that he had given the teen a Bible and asked for mercy on him with the authorities. At this point I was still harboring so much anger toward the man who had killed my brother. When I heard this man speak, it was the first time I thought I might be able to forgive the man who killed my brother. I thought if this man could forgive the person who killed his daughter, why couldn’t I forgive the man who killed my brother?

The state nursing board said I would never get my license back. But the staff at the treatment center encouraged me to try to get my license back, and eventually I began working toward that. After I graduated the treatment program, I went to work at the treatment center as residential staff, taking care of clients and their needs. One of our clients was the niece of the man who killed my brother. Her mother (the sister of the man who killed my brother) came to visit her, and when she came through the door she cried and I cried. At that exact moment, I could see how everyone was a victim in circumstances of my brother’s death. I could see not only what it had done to my life but what it had done to the lives of his family. This experience was so healing for me. This was the event of forgiveness I needed. 

I continued working at the treatment center and continued pursuing reinstatement of my nursing license. It took me three years to meet the requirements. One year ago today I got my license back. Now I work as a nurse at the very treatment center where I did my rehab. Most of the time we have 20 people in treatment at the center at one time. It is a wonderful thing to see all 20 people get their worth back and see the glow back in their faces. Most have been abused, and when they come in they are hopeless and sick and don’t think they can beat the addiction. They feel it is bigger than them. And then God steps in and they go from being a victim to being victorious. By taking the hand of the next person, they develop muscles and get stronger. By helping others, they get stronger themselves. This has been true for me as well. 

God is good and God doesn’t put things on you to be harsh. He is there to help you get through things if you will let him. Now I pray before everything, and that helps me. God knows just what you need. God knew I needed to forgive to be healthy and whole again, and He helped me to do that by speaking to me through the father of the girl who was killed and by softening my heart through the tears of the sister of the man who killed my brother. God responded to my prayers for peace. I have a peace now that I never had in my life. Things that used to bother me don’t bother me anymore. God answered my prayers to reveal Himself to me. He put people in my life to point out His beauty and lead me to Him—my mother, the staff at the treatment center, even finding my mom’s Bible. God made a way for my nursing license to be restored even though they said it would never happen, and He has given me an even more meaningful and fulfilling nursing career than I had before. Over and over God has been faithful and given me what I have needed. 

The way I feel about Jesus now is different than the way I felt as a child. He is not harsh and judgmental. He is a heavenly Father that is there to help you deal with life. Even when you fall, He still wants to hold your hand. 

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19)

#171. In His Way

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

When I was born and the doctor spanked me, he said I had the loudest set of lungs he had ever heard. He said, “He’s going to be a preacher!” My mom always took me to church growing up, and that was the greatest thing she could do as a parent. At 16, I received the Lord and was saved. For the next two years, I was a model young Christian man. I sang in the church choir and attended services regularly.

I always loved sports growing up. I was cut from the basketball team in high school but played baseball and was pretty good at it. I played baseball in college and also helped with the college basketball team. The head basketball coach was one of the youngest college coaches in the country and he became my best friend.  He was one of the winningest coaches in the history of the college.

Unfortunately, I got hooked up with the wrong crowd. I started smoking and drinking. Sin is pleasurable for a season, but when the season is over it’s like gravel in your mouth. I quit going to church. I stopped seeking God’s will in my life, and I became my own god. Any time you take your life in your own hands, it’s going to lead to failure.

My dream was to be a head basketball coach. It was all about me. I wanted to build my name up. When I graduated college, I got hired as an assistant basketball coach at a high school. The drinking got worse and I missed a lot of work. I developed a gambling habit and missed almost every Friday to go to the racetrack. I was let go from this job and got a job at another high school as assistant coach and was there three years. My dream was still to become a head coach, and the opportunity presented itself when there was a head coaching positon open in the mountains of Kentucky.  

I got recommendations from my college coaching friend and ended up getting the job. I thought my dreams had come true. I was finally a head coach. Everything went wrong, but it was all part of God bringing me back to Him. When the team started losing, I started cussing out the players because they were not fulfilling my dreams. I couldn’t move up in my career with a losing record, and I blamed the players for our losses. My drinking got worse. For three years, everything went downhill. I got a reputation in the community and there was a push to remove me as coach. Finally, the superintendent said, “There isn’t support for you. We are going to have to let you go.”

I was at rock bottom. I had been fired and had a bad reputation. I bought a 12-pack of beer and was going to drink my sorrows away. That night the Lord spoke to me and said, “Come on home. I love you.” I prayed, “Lord, I have made a mess of my life. Take my life and make something of it.” I recommitted my life right then and asked God to do whatever He wanted with my life.

I started going to church again and got very involved. God took drinking from me. I knew every time I took a drink it was breaking God’s heart, and finally I just threw it away. I was out of work for eight months after I got fired. I got a job sacking groceries. My first check was $60 from the A&P grocery, and I put $6 in the plate. God has truly blessed me. I eventually got a very good paying job. I got hired full-time by UPS as a 32-year-old, and that was such a miracle because at that time they were hiring people younger than me.

One year after I was fired, I married the librarian from the high school where I had been the basketball coach. I thank God for her. She is a wonderful woman and has been a true blessing to me.

God transformed me so much that the high school invited me to preach the baccalaureate service in the gym where I had been cussing the basketball players just two years before.

God also called me to preach. I realize now that He was preparing me to preach through all of my background. I had been a teacher for seven years at three different high schools. You must be a teacher to be a preacher. I was also a coach, and coaching a team is like pastoring. You want a team to play together in unity as one. A church is successful when everyone works in unity.

I was ready to preach but didn’t find a church for two years. In 1990, I accepted a short-term job at a Baptist church, filling their pulpit while they looked for an interim pastor. They liked me and asked me to also preach at their Mission Church, a very small church way out in the country with only 12 people attending. I accepted and was preaching two services on Sunday morning and two Sunday evening. My wife and I fell in love with that little mission church, and one day the parishioners asked if I would become their main pastor. I was still working at UPS when I became their pastor and kept my job at UPS, working as a bi-vocational pastor until I retired.

I have been at this church for 27 years. I’m the only pastor they have ever had. It has been amazing what God has done at that church. We now have over 200 attending. We started a Christian school in the building 15 years ago. Since I have retired from UPS, God has opened up many other ministries. We want to take God’s love beyond the walls of the church. We go to the homeless shelter in a bigger community nearby and have seen many come to Christ. We run a bus from this shelter to our church, welcoming our homeless friends to our church and showing them the love of Jesus. We have a prison ministry, a ministry at an assisted living facility, a high-rise complex ministry, and a ministry at a drug rehabilitation center. 

There is nothing in our little town—even the post office got moved. But God is reaching many people through media. Our services are on the Internet, and we have two television programs airing in five states.

I still love sports, but God took that away as an idol. God has used my love of sports for good. Years ago, the radio station asked me if I would do some play-by-play on a radio sports program. I ended up doing a sports talk show as a hobby. Many people got to know me this way, and this helped when I began preaching and we began airing the services on television.

Now my life is about Him and not me. God took everything that I desired and gave it to me, but it was in His way and I had to surrender to Him first. It was kind of like the wrestling of Jacob with the Lord. I was totally broken that night, and God blessed me. What I thought was the worst night of my life, was really the greatest night of my life. He totally transformed me.

God is loving, gentle, restoring, and long-suffering. He is forgiving, forgiving, forgiving. He doesn’t look at our faults; He looks at our faith. He saw my heart even in my wild and undone times. He knew what He was going to make out of me even when I couldn’t see it. I cannot praise Him enough for everything He has done.

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Hebrews 12:11 KJV

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.

#170 God Knows My Heart

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

My parents were divorced when I was 3 years old. My mom was married nine times and we moved every two or three years. I was surrounded by drugs growing up. I was 5 years old the first time I saw cocaine being used. My dad wasn’t involved in my life in a meaningful way, and as time went on he spent less and less time with me. Many times, I can remember having my bag packed and watching for him to come and get me for the weekend and him never showing up. To fill the void, I ran to the streets. I started smoking cigarettes and hanging out with kids that huffed gas and White Out. At about 15 I met a friend who introduced me to alcohol and acid. Our moms would buy us alcohol thinking it was safer for us to drink at home. I needed money to buy a car and went to my dad. He gave me marijuana to sell. I started smoking marijuana with my mom and dad. When I was about 20 I was introduced to cocaine.

In 1998, I had a car wreck while speeding over 120 miles per hour. This is the first time I went to jail, but the charges were dropped. In 1999 I went to jail for possession of marijuana. This was the year my son was born. His mom and I had both been meth users and he had serious health issues from birth. His lungs were not producing oxygen. He was in the hospital for weeks but thankfully he responded well to treatment. We took him home and two hours later Child Protective Services came to our home. We had periodic drug tests after that. In 2000, my son and his mother were in a bad car wreck and she was killed. Miraculously, he only had a few scratches. I wanted to be numb after this. He went to live with his maternal grandmother and that gave me the freedom to do what I wanted, which was to indulge in meth.

I went to prison in 2001 and was in and out of prison for over a decade. During this time, I learned to manufacture meth, and my relationship with my son was non-existent. In 2013, I was put into solitary confinement in prison. There was no window and no interaction with people for five days. It was unbearable. I prayed, “God, if you are real, get me out of this room.” In two days, they moved me to another room with a window. But I felt this was a coincidence. Again, I prayed, “God, if you are real get me out of this jail.” Not even 36 hours later they came to get me and moved me to another jail. There I met a guy who convinced me to read the Bible. I read the Bible for about two weeks and this softened my heart. On August 18, 2013, I cried out to God and received Christ and the Holy Spirit. I had a spiritual experience that night that changed my life. The experience was like liquid love. Everything was broken off of me. I no longer had the desire for drugs after that. Everything was changed. Another inmate said to me, “I’ve never seen a change in anyone like I have seen in you. I want what you have.”

In 2014, I got out of prison in one state but I was facing a 20-year prison sentence in another state. I asked the judge to lessen my bond and he cut my bond amount by 90%—from $10,000 to $1,000. My dad and a friend posted my bond and I was able to spend time in a halfway house and spend some time with my son before going back to prison. My 20-year sentence was cut in half and I began serving my 10 years in July 2015. This was the best time I had ever spent in prison because I went back saved and I met some wonderful people. I witnessed to my roommate and prayed for him and for his release, and he was paroled. In two years, I had the opportunity for parole. Everyone was skeptical because it was so unlikely given my history, but I felt strongly that I would have favor and that they would grant me parole. When I went before the parole board I told them if I was paroled, my plan was to go back to the halfway house. They granted me parole.

 

I spent six months in the halfway house, and as soon as I got out I started going back into the jail to minister. I am now a part of Residents Encounter Christ (REC), an organization that has three-day weekends with inmates to teach them the Good News and bring them into a relationship with Christ. God has prepared me for the ministry I am doing now, offering hope and bringing people to Christ and discipling them. I spend time with the Lord every day. The power of the Holy Spirit is the only way I have the strength to live the life I am living now. It is an honor to bring Him glory and exalt Him.

 

God knows our heart and wants to give us the desires of our heart. He is restoring my relationship with my son. I am so thankful for the many ways God protected him over the years. I can now see all of the little and big things God did to save me and draw me to Him. I’m so thankful for God’s love that is beyond our understanding and that He answered my cries for help and changed me. I am a new creation and His power in me strengthens me every day.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

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.

#169 The Little Church by the Creek: Surrender

 

Photo by Brianna Rapp

I have been a Christian for 23 years, and about four years ago I started attending the little church by the creek. In this four years, God has used this place to expand my perspective and revelation of who He is and how He works. Each year our church holds a tent revival in our town, and each year I have been blessed and challenged by the messages which have come forth there. Last year I was coming out of a particularly long and difficult season in my personal and professional life. My father had become disabled and I had been caring for him. Our daughter had nearly lost her life to her longstanding drug addiction. I was beginning to feel that my job of 13 years was no longer appropriate for me, but fearful of change and loss of income, I continued to stay. As the tent revival was coming to an end on Sunday night last year, I was powerfully touched by the Holy Spirit. I felt that God was calling me to a new level of surrender to Him. I remembered my baptism that night as a symbol of my willingness to surrender and go deeper. Since that day I have been able to let go of the feelings that I must keep everything together. I have let go of the illusion of control. I found a good caregiver for my father. I have been able to turn my daughter completely over to God, knowing that He loves her more than we do and is reaching her in ways we cannot. I left my job at the end of last year and have been able to begin serving God within my church, and most recently, my community, as an ordained chaplain. God has provided and I have peace that I am in His will and He is more than able to lead me. None of this would have happened without the little church by the creek.

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.