#215. The Ultimate Father

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I born to a 13-year-old mother. I came home from the hospital with my grandmother and was raised by her. I grew up in the West End of Louisville in a rough neighborhood with lower income white and black people. The parents wanted their children to have better lives than they did. I went to church regularly with my grandparents, which was an important part of building my Christian faith. 

I was in ROTC all four years of high school. I graduated on a Saturday and went to Marine Corps boot camp on Monday. The first trial of my faith was when I went to Afghanistan while I was in the Marines. The Muslim soldiers stopped five times to pray each day. These men were my age and were willing to put their weapons down to pray. I wondered if I would put my own weapon down for my faith. I was brought up in the church, but I had never seen conviction like that. I had never really seen someone who was willing to put their life on the line for their faith. 

A few months later, we were securing buildings to make sure they didn’t have weapons. We were going into homes and trying to speak to parents. I learned that they were just like us. They weren’t evil. They were just trying to raise their children to have better lives than they did — just like the parents back in the West End of Louisville. 

What helped me commit my life to Christ was the change I saw in the lives of people I grew up with. I saw people who were raised in sin and hate who, over time, experienced a change in their life. They began to serve God. Any questions I had about Christianity were resolved because I saw what Christ did in the lives of people when they accepted Him. Their lives were radically changed.

During my time in the Marine Corps I didn’t go to church a lot. I did do a lot of praying in combat. It is true what they say: There are no atheists in foxholes. Before we went out on a combat mission, we held hands and prayed together. I never met anyone in the U.S. Marines who refused to pray before a combat mission. 

When I was a young Marine, I came home on a weekend and went to a club. I met a young lady and six months later my grandparents told me that a young lady was looking for me. I was 22 years old when my son was born. Over the next eight years, I went through child support and visitation. I didn’t have more children until after I was married when I was 30. 

After my first daughter was born, when my son was eight years old, I did a blood test and found out he was not my biological son. But he is still my son. Here is how God worked this out. My grandfather was not my biological grandfather. My grandmother was divorced and he was my step-grandfather. But he loved me and treated me as his own child. That prepared me to deal with what happened with my son. I had no other way to treat him but the way I was treated by my grandfather. God prepares us for things coming down the pike that we don’t see coming. I have three wonderful grandkids now. They were just here Father’s Day. My son just got out of the Army himself. He is the older brother to the girls. We are all family. 

I always had a curious mind. I got my undergraduate degree on active duty and got my graduate degree when I got out of the Marines. I worked with Toyota for about 13 years in quality management and then another 10 years for Honeywell in corporate quality. In 2012, I left Honeywell and started two UPS franchises in shopping centers.

Prior to this, in 2000, I had a motorcycle accident. The doctor prescribed pain killers and this was the beginning of years of struggle for me with pain pills. In 2012, I had a second motorcycle accident. I was given more opiates. Opiates change the way you think. I had gotten in trouble before but it was nothing serious. There had been no real consequences other than money. 

By 2016, I was in real trouble and that’s when I lost my UPS stores. I had to short sell my businesses and face the consequences of what I had done. I went through the next three years going through that, then I went through a physical amputation. My right foot was amputated six inches below the knee. I got through my amputation on Tylenol and muscle relaxants. I committed to myself that I would not put another opiate in my body. Generally, pain won’t kill you unless it triggers a cardiac arrest. But I knew if I took opiates again, it would have destroyed my life. Right when I thought I had faced the worst thing in my life, then there was something worse. 

But everything that we go through is to make us who are are supposed to be. I am a man of faith. If you believe in the Bible you can’t expect that your life will be any different than the experiences of those people in the Bible. Job was a good man, prosperous and blessed and yet he suffered greatly. I came from the West End but had become prosperous with a six-figure salary, properties and businesses. And then it went away. I am 52 years old. I never thought I would be missing a part of my body. It is trying at times, even though I know there is good that has come from it. 

I am in training to become a minister. I talk to people about giving their lives to Christ and the change that will come from that decision. If I am doing something that is sinful or wrong and you are my friend, I want you to call me on it. And I do the same for my friends. I love them and stand by them, but I call them out when they are doing something wrong or sinful. One of the positives that has come from my amputation is that I have found that people listen to me more attentively now.

Everything that God teaches us in the Bible, is put there to protect us. Living life by the teachings in the Bible leads to a life of peace. Even though on the outside I am down one foot and receive disability, I am happier than I can ever remember being. I sleep well at night. The PTSD is even better. I have more peace than I’ve had in my whole life, despite how my outer body looks. As we grow and mature in our Christianity, we have internal peace. This allows me to conduct my life with more serenity than I have ever experienced before. 

I have discovered that God is the ultimate Father. Nearly every parent wants the best for their children. I believe that is what God wants for us as His children. That is why he has given us the guidelines in the Bible. He has given us everything we need to be successful. All I have to do is to accept His will and work every day to adhere to it. I won’t be perfect but I can try. 

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

#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.

#135 Peace in the Storm

 Sketch by Sam Joslin

We had been married for a year and nine months when we found out we were expecting our first baby in September of 2015. I remember looking at the test and bursting into tears of thankfulness, then seeing the look on my husband’s face of sheer and utter excitement. At the time, I was in my first year of teaching first grade and was anxiously anticipating being a mother, pastor, and teacher. I felt physically healthy during the beginning of my pregnancy, but my emotions were a rollercoaster. My husband and I were dreaming daily of baby names, nursery colors, and future family vacations. We were on cloud nine and prayed daily for a healthy baby. On October 8th, we had our first appointment for an ultrasound. We both got teary when we saw the tiny speck of life on the black and white screen, a small flickering heartbeat in the middle. Our doctor expressed some concerns at the time that our baby was measuring very small for its gestational age of nine weeks, but that it was common and shouldn’t cause any issues to arise.

The following week was a whirlwind. I started having some problems and was fearful that something could be wrong. My doctor checked and the baby’s heartbeat was noticeable, strong and flickering as before. One week later, on October 16th, I went back to the doctor for a third checkup in the same week. My husband and I could tell that there was something wrong when the ultrasound technician went quiet, the screen out of view. She left the room to get our doctor, and in my spirit, I knew what was to come. Our sweet doctor came in and told us there was no heartbeat to be found. We’d had a miscarriage. The words our doctor said blended together, a mix of “it’s very common” and “you can always try again.” My husband and I felt defeated, like we were broken somehow, and we leaned into each other heavily in that moment. In the midst of trial and pain, it’s easy to get angry with God and what we perceive His plan to be.

The days to follow were very dark and hard, yet there was an abounding peace that followed my husband and I. At the time, we were meeting in our house for our home church, and my husband, a pastor, considered canceling that Sunday so we could grieve. The message he had planned the week before was about finding peace in the storm; we knew we needed to have church in our home, and to this day are thankful we did.

The weeks and months following were blurry, emotional, and frustrating. I felt the peace of the Lord, but was still so upset that I wasn’t pregnant. It felt like everyone else I knew was in the middle of a healthy pregnancy, glowing and excited on the little squares of social media. I was given the strict order that we could not try to get pregnant for four months. As those months went on and 2016 started, I had several friends experience miscarriages. They reached out to me for comfort, guidance, and advice. My heart ached for them, but I knew that as much as my miscarriage was painful and part of my story, it was my job to share the hope and peace that God had provided me during the process of our miscarriage.

In the fall of 2016, we decided to try and start our family again. We were settled into our new house, I had started a new job that summer, and we were ready. We felt slight disappointment when a test came back negative during those first couple months of trying, but knew that it would happen. I attended a worship night with Bethel Worship in Nashville in the middle of October, the middle of our season of trying to get pregnant. A girl prayed over me as I shared my heart of wanting a baby. She prayed into my life words of encouragement, telling me that I was already a mother, that the Lord was preparing me, and that I was Hannah in His eyes (meant to have children with strong faith). At the end of her long and tearful prayer, she hugged me and shouted, “Congratulations!” She was celebrating what was to come; she was calling out what wasn’t as though it was.

Two weeks later, I was standing in the line at Walgreens, pregnancy test in hand, ready and anxious to take it the following morning. As the cashier handed me my receipt and the bag, she looked me so sincerely in the eyes and told me “congratulations.” Walking to my car, tears filled my eyes, and I felt in my spirit that that wasn’t just a hopeful phrase from a stranger; it was a prophetic promise from the Lord that we were going to have a baby. I went to sleep with peace and woke up early the next morning and took the test. I saw the word “pregnant” display on the screen.

Today, I am 29 weeks pregnant with a very healthy baby boy whom we will soon welcome into our family. My pregnancy has been filled with overwhelming peace, health, and joy. We haven’t been fearful and have trusted the whole time that our baby is healthy and that the Lord is taking care of us. The Lord is so faithful to keep His promises. The things that He begins in you, He will finish and will bring to completion.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

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.

#119 Let Go and Let God

Photo by Lynnesy Catron Photography

Right after we got married, my husband and I began trying to have a baby. I got pregnant but had a miscarriage at 10 weeks. My husband and I prayed often about our desire to have a child and we continued to try, but after 18 months we sought a fertility specialist. For six months I was on fertility medicines, hormone injections, and for three months we tried intrauterine fertilization. Nothing was successful. We decided to let go and let God handle it. We knew He had a plan for us.

Three months later, with no fertility intervention, I became pregnant. My pregnancy was normal, with no complications or sickness. It was truly a joyful experience. Close to my due date I went into labor and was admitted to the hospital. I was hooked up to a monitor and the doctor began to go over what to expect. Then she just stood there and watched the monitor. She told us every time I had a contraction the baby’s heart rate dropped drastically. After about one minute she said, “We need to do a C-section NOW!”

They rolled me down the hall and the anesthesiologist came up behind me, put his hands on either side of my face, and told me to just look at him as he gently explained to me what was happening. I believe that God sent him to me in that moment of uncertainty, as his words were so comforting to me. There was no time for an epidural. They gave me general anesthesia and I was out.

I thought once our baby was born, he would be okay, but when I woke up I saw that the nurses around me had on royal blue scrubs. I work at the hospital and I knew that royal blue scrubs meant they worked at the Children’s Hospital. The neonatologist confirmed this. “Your son is very sick.” Our son, Henry, had a bowel movement (meconium) while he was in utero and had inhaled a large amount of this. His lungs were coated and he had no lung function. The doctor said he had never seen a baby survive with that amount of meconium in the lungs.

In the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) they struggled to intubate him, trying three times. The doctors tried standard treatments but all failed. That night we saw him for the first time in the NICU. I took pictures of him and talked to him but I have no memory of it. God protected me from seeing him that sick. It would have been too much for me to handle.

When we got back to my room that night, my husband I prayed out loud that God would save him. We knew it would take a miracle. The last resort was to put Henry on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO. This is the machine that people are put on when they have a heart transplant. They pump the blood out of the body, put oxygen in it, and then pump it back into the body. This comes with the risk of the brain bleeding and permanent brain damage, but Henry’s chance of survival was very low without this treatment. We prayed about what to do and with God’s guidance decided to proceed with ECMO.

At 2 a.m., the surgeon placed a cannula in Henry’s neck and hooked up the ECMO machine. Henry improved immediately. After seven days, he had improved so much that they were able to discontinue the treatment. After one month in the NICU, Henry had recovered and we took him home. Henry is now two years old and has no developmental delays. Everything is perfect physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Throughout this whole experience, I never felt scared or hopeless. I felt very peaceful. I knew that God had brought us to that point and there was no way He would abandon us. God’s peace and hope transcended the fear. 

Looking back now, it is clear how God worked in advance to save Henry. In December 2013, I was offered and accepted a job in administration at a large university medical center. This was just six months before Henry was born. This allowed me to have new insurance that would cover the care. The total cost was $500,000 and my out of pocket cost was only $200. More importantly, because I switched jobs and insurance plans, Henry was delivered at the university hospital where there was a team of highly trained medical providers, with experience and training in the very procedures that were needed to save Henry’s life. The neonatologist was very experienced in lung problems in newborns. There was a surgeon available who was experienced with ECMO at the very time Henry needed him. There was an ECMO technologist available to ensure the machine worked properly. Because the ECMO treatment is so expensive and risky for newborns, a leadership team from the university hospital has to vote on whether or not to allow the treatment. This team was available to vote and they voted yes. The ECMO treatment itself was not even offered at the hospital where I would have delivered had I not changed jobs. In fact, I believe that there is only one other hospital in the state that offers ECMO. Everything fell into place for Henry to receive life-saving care. God gave us Henry and then God saved Henry. He is a pure joy and blessing to us.

Our second child was born a few months ago—a healthy baby girl. May God be glorified for everything He has done and continues to do for our family.  

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.

#105. Missionaries in the Mountains: A Light in Adversity

 

Photo by Amy Wallen Photography

My husband and I moved from Central Florida to become full-time missionaries in the mountains of Kentucky. God has been so faithful to us. We have many stories we could share! 

Last summer, my husband found out he had throat cancer. We prayed, “Lord, we don’t know why this has happened but let this be for Your glory. Let us be a light for You.” A line from Lauren Daigle’s song Trust in You really resonated with us: “I want what you want, Lord, and nothing else.” 

In September, my husband’s treatments were successfully completed. But on December 26, he began coughing up large amounts of blood. We went to the nearest hospital, but 5 pints of blood later we were on our way to the bigger regional hospital where he spent nine days in ICU. Thankfully, God got us over the mountain in time to receive care from the right doctor at the right hospital. 

This was such a frightening time for me, but God reassured me. I felt the Lord impress upon me these words: “He is my child. I will take care of him.” I received a peace that passes understanding, and I released my husband completely to Him. 

God answered our prayer to be a light. He gave us the opportunity to love on people. We met many hurting people in waiting rooms who needed hope. We were able to encourage and pray with them. We also had the opportunity to encourage and pray with some of the health care professionals we met during this time.

In the midst of adversity, God did more than we could ask or imagine. He provided comfort, peace, healing, provision, and many opportunities to minister to others. We are grateful.

How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.

Psalm 31:19

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.

#98 Four Hours Alone with God

 Photo by Laura Wilkerson Photography

I was 23 years old and I had “known” God my whole life but I hadn’t really committed or surrendered my life to Him. I went on a prayer retreat with 20 guys at Land Between the Lakes. My pastor told us to go out for four hours and pray by ourselves. I was thinking to myself, “What am I going to do for four hours? How am I going to pray for that long?” For the first hour I was just trying to get into prayer and trying to get the distractions of the world out of my head. I was still thinking about what I needed to do at home and all the things I could be doing. I was trying to break away from the world, but I was just in my head. I spent the second hour just feeling a little conflicted. I was both embarrassed and convicted that I had been thinking about myself and my life only for the past hour. I hadn’t been thinking about anyone else; I was just thinking about me. Then, in the third hour, I walked to the water and began to pray. During this time, God moved in a powerful way and gave me a Bible verse, 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” When I thought about this verse, I realized that anxiety had been killing me.

This verse resonated with me so much because there are no other verses in the Bible that directly say, “He cares for you.” I remember saying it out loud over and over. I was walking around the lake yelling that verse—shouting it! After saying it several times, the verse changed to something much more personal. I could hear in my spirit God saying to me, “Matthew, cast your anxiety on me because I care for you right now, because I love you right now.” I began to really understand all these different attributes of God—that He loved me and cared about me.

I began to walk around the lake taking in the beauty of everything. I was looking at the lake and suddenly realized that there were so many waves in the water. There was no wind and no reason that the water should’ve been so rough and restless. As I watched the waves, I thought to myself, “That restless water is like my spirit.” I saw that there was a rock by the water that never got covered by the waves coming in and out. It should’ve been covered, but somehow it was the only rock that wasn’t getting wet or getting swept away. Finally, a wave came and water covered the rock. At that moment, I knew I needed to be baptized. I wanted to be covered in water just like that rock, so I ran to my pastor and told him I wanted to get baptized.

 

The other guys on the trip gathered around me and prayed for me and I felt the overwhelming presence to bow down before the Lord and pray. After we prayed, we ate lunch and all went down to the shoreline and I was baptized at the lake. It was the perfect moment.

A few hours later we had dinner by the lake where I was baptized. I felt such a peace in that time, and there are two events that happened then that I will always cherish. One man said to me, “It was great having those six guys praying over you.” When he said that, the only thing on my mind was that I had felt seven hands when they were praying over me. I had six guys huddled around me and I could feel everyone’s hands on me, but ten to fifteen seconds into the prayer, a hand came from nowhere on my back—a hand that was so powerful and strong. It was warm and firm, yet soft and tender at the same time. And the placement of the hand was right in the center of my back. I honestly believe that extra hand I felt was the hand of God.

The second thing that happened that I will cherish forever is looking out at the lake and seeing that the once restless lake full of choppy waves was now the stillest, most peaceful lake I have ever seen. I felt like the stillness of the lake reflected my renewed and peaceful spirit after being baptized. I kept thinking, “God, I love you.” From that moment, I have been dedicating every day of my life to Him.

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.

#91 God Shaped Hole

 Photo by Erin E Photography

I met my ex-husband right out of high school. At the time, I believed in Jesus and that He died for our sins, but it was more of an “as-needed” thing. God was in a closet and I brought Him out when I needed Him. My ex-husband was into drugs and alcohol when I met him and I became consumed in that lifestyle with him. He made it clear that he had no faith, and to win his affection I made the decision to agree with him in that. I definitely felt it was important to be a good person and respect other people’s beliefs, but my attitude toward God was, “That works for some people but I don’t need that.” 

I lived with him for about a year before I got pregnant. I knew that from the beginning he had an issue with not being able to be faithful to me. This had been a big problem for me, and when I found out I was pregnant I said, “If you are going to continue to live this way, I can’t do this. Are you willing to do this with me and only me? If not, this needs to end now.”

He decided to stick together and even though he had broken my trust over and over in the past two years, I gave him a chance. We got married when our son was two years old. About six months later, I was sitting alone at a park watching my son play and a couple came over and asked me if they could pray for me. I wanted to respect them and even though it felt really awkward, I let them pray for me. They asked if they could pray for anything specific. I said “No,” so they just prayed a general prayer over me. 

A week or two later, a few of my friends from a previous workplace wanted to get together at a coffee house. I was running late and rushed in really stressed. As I was walking in the door, I saw a girl I graduated high school with and she was on the phone. She grabbed my arm, smiled and said, “Hi! How are you? My pastor is on the phone. Can he pray for you?”  I thought, “He better make this fast because I am late!” I took the phone and her pastor prayed that God would show up in my life. That was it. 

I got my coffee and sat down with my friends. They were all quiet. Finally, one of them said they had found out from a reliable source that my husband was having an affair. In that moment, I felt an unexplainable peace, like God was wrapping me up in a hug. While I was still sitting there, we called the girl and she admitted to the affair. It was a pleasant but somber conversation. Again, I had a supernatural peace. 

I was encouraged by my family to work it out with my husband and decided to try. We stayed together for another four to five months after I found out about the affair, but I kept finding messages, emails, and porn. I felt like he wasn’t going to be able to stop. I had also dealt with some abuse. I had never felt as lonely in my entire life.

We divorced when our son was three. After this I felt like God really pursued me. My thoughts started changing. Out of the blue, I had a desire to take my son to church. I had been against that the whole time I was married. It was a miracle that I felt the desire to go to church. After going to church every Sunday for a full year, I gave my life to Christ. 

During this time, God used the sermons to speak to me in powerful ways. One Sunday, the pastor said that there is a God-shaped hole in our hearts. We can try and fill it with whatever, but God is the only One that can fill that empty space. Unless He fills it, we will be constantly searching and unfulfilled. That really connected with me because that is what I had been trying to do—fill the hole with drugs, alcohol, and men. 

In another sermon, the pastor talked about the fact that people will always disappoint us but God never will. God did not create the world to be the way that it is. I was a completely broken person when I heard this message, 23 years old, divorced, with a four-year-old. I had started dating someone and our relationship was not honoring God. I was stressed financially and emotionally. My whole life had been a series of disappointments from people that I loved and trusted. 

After hearing that sermon, I completely surrendered to the Lord. I finally said to God, “I can’t make decisions in my life without You.” I was ready for God to take over. I was ready to be obedient.  I call this the day I was truly saved. My relationship with God really started that day. Looking back, I can see how God brought me to that place. He was with me the whole time and was so patient to wait for me to give up my pride. When I was ready, He welcomed me with open arms. He redeemed me. 

I felt God leading me away from the man I was dating. I wanted a God-honoring relationship, so I walked away.

That was in June of 2013. In the fall of that year, I started a BSF Bible study with some women on the Gospel of Matthew. I immersed myself in the Gospel and was completely changed by Jesus. As I got to know Jesus better, I realized that if I ever remarried, my husband would have to be sold out for Christ. 

Friends had fixed me up with a man right after my divorce—before my life changed. He knew right away I was not right for him. He was a man of great character, a Christian who was committed to living a God-honoring life. And at the time we first met, I was a “train wreck.” We became Facebook friends after we first met, and over the next few months he noticed that I was changing because of what I was posting on Facebook. We decided to meet for coffee. His love for Jesus was so evident. He told me, “I’m not looking for someone to fulfill me. I’m looking for someone to partner with me in serving Jesus.” He shared that he had gotten a divorce because his wife had an affair. It had been a devastating experience for him. I could relate to him—we both knew what it felt like to be betrayed. 

We are now married and I see the difference between a marriage with Christ and a marriage without Christ. God has revealed to me what He created marriage to look like—the emotional connection, the intimacy, and supporting and serving each other while partnering to serve others. 

But it hasn’t all been easy. We struggled to get pregnant, and our first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. A few months later I became pregnant again and the Lord gave that baby an extra chromosome. We struggled through the pregnancy, and still do to some extent, to accept that our child will face unimaginable circumstances at times. BUT—God has given me freedom from circumstances in that I have peace in the midst of uncertainty. It is a joy to go through life’s challenges with Jesus and a husband who is so supporting. God provided a strong, compassionate, prayerful husband who trusts with me that God is sovereign, God is in control, and He knows what He is doing. God is so big but He is also in every tiny detail. He sees the whole world but walks intimately with his kids every step of the way. God doesn’t abandon us when we struggle to believe. He is rock solid—forever unchanging. He is redeeming every broken detail of my past. He is in the business of forgiveness and is patiently loving me in my successes and failures every day. 

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.

#52 You Have Never Been Alone

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

When I was 15 I fell into a relationship. Being so young, I never expected that what was about to happen over a span of three months would completely change who I thought I was. As the relationship fell into unhealthy patterns and abusive ways, I unknowingly went into a quiet and dangerous submission. I was pushed and pressured, and eventually my body was completely exploited. At the end of three months, he decided he was done.

I never spoke about what happened, and I let the shame and guilt of what we had done lay silent. I quickly accepted the lies that I could never be pure again, which caused a very deep chasm of depression and loneliness. I was overflowing with hate for myself, and as high school went on, I figured I had already done the “biggest” sin, so why does it matter what I do now? I turned to drinking, hating my family, and receiving “love.” I don’t think words will ever suffice for the drowning feeling of shame I felt.

My junior year of high school I went to a Young Life camp, and there God started to tell me the simple, clear fact that I have never been alone. I was never alone in his basement; I was never alone in the brutal fights that went on in my house; I was never alone when I was too drunk to see or when I felt like I was dying of hunger pains from not eating. His words, “You have never been alone” have carried me through the years and I am constantly reminded that I will, forever, never be alone.

In the spring of my freshman year of college, I had been on depression medicine for a year and decided to switch because of insomnia. The weaning process was one of the worst experiences of my life, but because of it I was debating if I had enough energy to go on a campus ministry spring break trip. I thought going home and watching TV for a week would cure my anxious mind and unsteady thoughts, but for some reason, I decided to take the 16-hour bus ride. I was immersed in love from people who told me truths about myself, and after a friend prayed over my depression and my brain, I played with the thought of not going back on medicine. Ever since sitting on the hard floor crying with her, I have been free and at peace for seven months.

I finally know what peace is. God has done incredible and amazing things through a girl who was too afraid to speak because of shame and guilt. But now I am free and am waiting for what my God will do through a girl who is no longer silent—who knows what true peace and love is. I have awakened, and I have a voice because of Him.

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

Matthew 6:26-27

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.

#23 What Was Missing

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I was first introduced to the idea of having a relationship with God when I was 14 years old, but I didn’t really comprehend the incredible blessing it was to have and build a strong relationship with God. I went to church and youth group meetings, but eventually stopped going and didn’t really think much about it. I wasn’t necessarily a rebel during my teenage years, but I definitely had my moments of selfishness and unkindness.

Fast forward to my freshman year in college where I was faced with many different challenges and obstacles that I never had to face before, and I knew that I needed something more in my life. I started going to church with a few close friends while living in Portland, Oregon, for the summer. The church we attended was amazing and I knew that this was what was missing in my life for the past five years. Over that summer, my relationship with the Lord grew and grew, and I accepted and trusted in the Lord again. Something I vividly remember was taking communion for the first time; I’ve never felt more at peace than I did in that moment. I knew when I moved back to Utah that I only wanted to keep building my relationship with God.

I decide to be baptized on February 14th, 2016, and since then my life has been so abundantly blessed. Without the relationship I have built with God, the trials that I face would be nearly impossible. I’m so grateful for God’s grace and the blessing to have such a loving and amazing God to serve.

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.