#148 Little Church by the Creek


I grew up in a divorced family and lived primarily with my mom. Although my mom kept us in church growing up, my dad was agnostic and not a believer. I was exposed to pornography early in life and this led me down a bad path, taking more of a hold when I was in high school and college. It was then that I believe it became an addiction. I met my wife my last year of college. At the time, I had so much guilt and shame about my addiction. I was the perfect Christian kid on the outside but was dying on the inside. In a way, I had abandoned my faith and what I believed, even though this is not what I wanted.

God broke through to me through the church my wife and I attended. I was invited to go to a Promise Keepers event with some men from the church. It was there that God broke through my hard heart, and the journey back to Him began. My wife had known there were some issues but she didn’t know everything. I knew I needed to have the hard talk with her. After this conversation, I got connected with a sex addiction program at the church. I attended for three years but couldn’t find consistent sobriety.

What finally broke the addiction for me was a 15-week class called Perspectives. This class wasn’t about addictions. Instead it was about missions, about God’s perspective on the world and what our mindset should be toward ministry. At the end of the class, I feared that my whole life I had been holding back from completely surrendering to God. I had been afraid that if I fully surrendered to God, He would call us away to “Far-away-astan” and this had held me back. By the end of the class I was willing to surrender and go wherever He wanted me to go. I had gained such a heart for the lost. It was at this point that the addiction went away.

Now, years later, I am convinced that anything we surrender pales in comparison to what we get of God and from God. Jim Eliot said it well.

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
― Jim Elliot

When I think back on my story and what I have learned about the nature of God, it would have to be that He is so gracious. Knowing that I grew up in the church and walked away, but He continued to pursue me and pour out grace until He brought me back. And I am so thankful that He did.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”                                   

Isaiah 30:15

Out of the fullness of his grace he has blessed us all, giving us one blessing after another.
John 1:16

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.

#132. A Beautiful Masterpiece

 Photo by Ashely Rainwater Bilbro

In eighth grade, I started having terrible migraines. They lasted for months on end and I didn’t know what was wrong. Medication didn’t help. My parents took me from doctor to doctor—one even thought I had brain tumor, but I did not. Finally, a doctor determined that my migraines were related to hormonal issues. He told me that there was a new drug on the market, that it wasn’t FDA approved, but that he thought I should try it. He said that it caused weight loss but that I could afford to lose weight.

Perhaps I had blossomed a little more than the other girls in my eighth-grade class, and I did come from a big Greek family and we loved to eat, but I was by no means overweight. The words of my doctor about losing weight really bothered me. I thought, “Even my doctor is telling me to lose weight.” But I didn’t speak these things out loud. My doctor also told me to exercise more. After the first 5–10 pounds that I lost, I got some compliments. I realized the medicine was making me lose weight quickly, and things began to spiral out of control. I became obsessed with what I was putting into my body. By end of eighth grade I had gone from 120 pounds to 90 pounds. My parents attributed the weight loss to the medicine. But I was constantly restricting my food and over-exercising. By the time I entered high school, I had lost another 15 pounds, and eventually I got down to 65 pounds. My parents thought I was eating but I was giving food to the dog or hiding it. They didn’t understand why I was losing weight and took me to multiple doctors. Finally, when I was alone with one doctor, he said, “Is there something you want to tell me?”

I broke down and told him, “I can’t get ahold of myself. I don’t know why. I want to be smaller. I want to be beautiful.” This secret had been choking me and I felt great freedom in telling the doctor. He reassured me that he knew how to help. He connected me with another doctor who began meeting with me once a week. At my first appointment, he looked at me and said, “I am really not quite sure why you are alive, but there is a God up there and He has a big plan for you.” The doctor said he had never treated anyone in such a serious condition from an eating disorder. My heart rate was less than 30 beats per minute (normal is 72). My bones were brittle from malnourishment, but none were broken. When he related it to me like that—that my life was in grave danger, and in fact he seemed surprised that I was alive—I knew things needed to change.

I realized that I had a problem. I needed the Lord to give me peace. I needed His love to pour over me and change my life from the inside out. I recommitted my life to the Lord. I was raised in a family of committed, dedicated Christians. But I had been drawn away to earthly things. The number on the scale dictated my worth, not the fact that I am a child of God. We live in a world where we compare ourselves with others and it is very tempting to fall into that trap.

It took a few years and I had a few setbacks, but I am much better now. I am happy and healthy with no irreversible damage. I am now getting my PhD, and it is surreal to think of the change in my life.

But it is still a struggle for me. I can’t do this without the Lord. Every morning I still feel ugly and undeserving. But I start my day in prayer, and that changes me. The Lord is right there saying, “Your worth is in Me.” I know that God has a purpose for my life. I can use my experience for God’s glory to help other people who feel trapped. I am closer to the Lord than I have ever been. This is how God’s grace has worked in my life. I want to embrace His grace instead of questioning it. I want to embrace it and pass His grace and love on to others.

I have a Type A personality and it was hard to surrender, but this is what really saved me. I just let Him take over. I had to turn to the One that created my life and give my life to Him, surrendering to Him every day. Each day I say, “Okay, my day is Yours. Tell me how to go about it.” This can be applied to anyone’s struggles. Whatever it is, God can get you through it.

I have often meditated on the verse from 1 Corinthians and thought, “This is the least I can do for Jesus—honor Him with my life, and that includes my body and how I treat it.”

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

1 Corinthians 6:19–20

God has never forsaken me. He is always there. I feel like my life was a broken vase. God has glued it back together into a beautiful masterpiece and I never want to go back. 

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.

#95 Abundant Grace


Photo by Ashley Brown, Shining Light Photography

I grew up in a white-collar home with two loving parents, but we weren’t what you would call a “Christian” family. We began attending church when I was a pre-teen, but it was just a Sunday thing—nothing more. I was a good student and a well-behaved kid, so everyone was surprised when I eloped with my older boyfriend at age 16. It was rocky from the start—as any teenage marriage would be. He wasn’t faithful, and over the two-year period we were married, he left many times. By the age of 19, I was a single mom, working two jobs to make ends meet and staring at a stack of unpaid bills. 

One night, I went to a club with some friends to hear a local band. This particular club had girls dancing from 5–9 p.m., before the band came on. One of them struck up a conversation and, by the end of the night, she had convinced me to come back and audition for a job. I worked in the “adult entertainment” industry in two different clubs for a couple of years. There was nothing glamorous or positive about it. I felt degraded, abused and alone; and had to get high to even face getting on stage.

After two years of what felt like hell on earth, I applied for a grant to go to beauty school. I was one of the lucky ones—it’s very hard to get out of the industry once you’ve stepped into it. I worked my way through school and the day I graduated, I left the clubs for good. I worked in a local salon for several years, then married and attended UK. Later work experience included advertising, public relations, community development, and outreach at a local church. A true hodge-podge of jobs, but now it’s amazing to look back and see how God used all those different work experiences to prepare me for what I’m doing now.

In 2000, I had a conversation with my daughter and a friend about reaching out to women in the “adult entertainment” clubs. We brainstormed with my son, who was a bouncer in one of the clubs, for ideas on what would be the best way to help the ladies. He wasn’t a Christian, but he truly appreciated the “good things” he saw our church doing—mission work and outreach to special needs families. He said, “Bring food. Nobody eats well here—they always eat fast food.” None of us knew how to cook, so we asked our friends and soon we had a team of women providing food, and a few good friends with a heart to go into the clubs with us.

Weekly visits to the clubs allow us to develop true relationships. We are very respectful to everyone—providing love, food, and other resources, without judgment, to all of our new friends. When people ask us, “Why are you bringing food to us?” we let them know that God loves us and we love them, and just want to help. Women respond because they know we care. 

In 2011, we felt God calling us to do more, so we began praying, and we prayed for a solid year. January 1, 2012, one of the women we’d served in the clubs was murdered. She’d moved from the clubs to online escorting and street prostitution. The phone call about her death solidified our next step. We met with the police to see how we could best help women working on the street. Before the day was over, the police had already referred a woman to us who needed help. 

Since that time, the ministry has continued to evolve. 

We still deliver to the clubs every week and have developed strong relationships with our friends there—allowing us to help them with community resources and other appropriate assistance.  

The street ministry has grown to include a drop-in center downtown. Women from several churches have transformed a former crack house into a beautiful refuge for at-risk women who receive delicious food, clothing, toiletries, referrals to social service and community resources, and life skills classes. We are often blessed to celebrate birthdays, baby showers, and other special events. Most of the women we serve are homeless, so they often take advantage of our living room to rest throughout the day. And when a woman is ready to make significant life change, we assist with referrals to detox and recovery programs. 

All of the women we work with—whether in the clubs or on the street—have experienced trauma of some kind: childhood sexual abuse, rape, physical abuse, trafficking. We’ve seen God at work—miracles of change in women’s lives. We see women getting sober, reuniting with families, and becoming stable and productive. Four weeks ago, one of the first women we met in the clubs in 2000 was baptized—we’d been praying for her for 17 years! 

When I think about my own story and the nature of God, the one word that comes to mind is GRACE. Because I experienced God’s grace the way I did—so undeservedly, so abundantly—it’s pretty easy to extend grace to others. God took every mistake, every wrong turn I made, and used it for good! 

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

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.

#46 A Foundation That Will Never Fail

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I have been a follower of Christ for almost two years. In those two years, I have undergone massive changes for the better. Two years ago, I could not dream of being happy without alcohol or without a boy’s attention. Two years ago, I was drowning in self-hatred, deep grudges, and comparison.

It was my sophomore year of college. I was living with three strangers that I didn’t get along with. I was working at a job that was draining me. I had failed two classes the past year, so my motivation was non-existent. A few nights after I became blackout drunk and threw up on my floor, I was at such a low point. I was angry, confused, and hated myself. Out of nowhere, and after five years of avoiding God, I started to talk to Him. The conversation wasn’t nice. I was mad, confused, exhausted, and I didn’t understand God. I was whisper-yelling at Him. I let everything off my chest that had weighed me down for five years, and just cried. I didn’t show any mercy or grace in that conversation.

What was amazing was how much grace God showed me. He listened to my tirade like a loving Father. As soon as I was done, He gave me a simple location to go to. It was a church-like location, and I had avoided church before. The first time, I went to the location, but I didn’t go in. The next week, God gave me the same location. I went into the building, found a random person, and asked for help. From there, I sat down and cried; I talked to three different people that night, all who showed me the same thing God showed me: Grace.

Fast-forward two years: I have given my life over to Christ, and while it was amazing, it has not been easy. I have had daily struggles and successes in following Jesus. However, the effort I have to put in is worth it. I am no longer that sad, angry person that relied on human attention and occasionally liquor to make me happy. I now find happiness in everything. I have an identity that no human can ever give me: daughter of the Most High King. I now have a foundation in a relation that will never fail me nor forsake me. I am not scared and confused; I am filled with childlike excitement to learn more. That couldn’t have happened if not for Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s patience. Each day, I am still shown grace upon grace by God. Each day, I seek a deeper relationship with Him; each day, He shows me more of what my heart and soul need. I fail daily, but He continues to be the loving Father that He was on the day I was at my lowest point. The thing that has brought me back countless times when I felt like I was too much to handle, too much of a burden for God—is grace.

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.