#185 Praise and Purpose in Pain, Part 2

 Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

Does every girl grow up dreaming of reaching the stars? I sure did. From the tender age of two or three, I remember craning my head back, marveling at the night sky, and being awed by the beauty of God’s creation. As I grew I wondered about seeing His works from a new perspective, what it might be like to escape Earth’s atmosphere and explore all that vast space. Growing up I thought my path to the stars would be through NASA. As a freshman in high school, my parents took me to visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration campus where we met with people who gave us information about the steps of pursuing a career with them. My path and passion for space seemed to have a straight trajectory at that point, but what I didn’t know was that passion would be a shooting star, shining brightly, and falling quickly into darkness at the age of 15.

On June 7, 2017, Jacob, my 23-year-old brother, was in a car accident and tragically passed away. I was 15 years old at the time. The moment my brother died every desire to go to NASA dissipated. I was overcome with a deep need to fall into worship and into praise of the LORD who had created the heavens, who had given so lavishly to me, and who now had taken away. I felt myself drawn to my piano… 

So that you might fully understand the magnitude of this change, let me backup for a moment. 

Starting at age six, upon the prompting of my parents, I had unenthusiastically taken piano lessons. Learning to play was born out of duty and obligation simply because my parents wanted me to, not because of my own desire. I never sang and had no real interest in music.

In February 2017, a few months before Jacob’s death, I was in a youth group and they needed someone to play the keyboard. Because I was trained, I agreed to help. Shortly thereafter, the worship leader had an evening when she couldn’t sing and asked if I could fill in for her. I sang for the first time that evening, but again it was an act of service, not of passion. My worship was dutiful, not driven from the deep wells of my soul.

When Jacob died in June, all of that shifted. An intense need to call out to the LORD through song burst into life. Every moment of solitude after my brother’s death drew me to my piano. Worshipping God was the only thing I wanted to do. I didn’t play out of anger or frustration. No, I was never angry with God about losing my brother. I truly trusted Him with it. Yet, I was overcome with my need to talk to the LORD and nothing expressed it the way music did. The song that carried me away in praise during this painful time was “What a Beautiful Name” by

Hillsong. Since it was such a balm to my soul, my parents asked if I would be willing to sing it at Jacob’s funeral.

Until that point, my worship was a sacred space between only the LORD and myself. Agreeing to this request was letting those closest to me, and to Jacob, join in with the pain and the hope I was feeling. I had never sung for my extended family before, but when I sat down at the piano the day of the funeral, the Lord took all nervousness from me. He filled me with His melody and with new purpose. At that moment, I felt God’s call into a career in music. Just as my parents invited me to sing for Jacob, God was now extending His hand and inviting me to sing for Him.

Four months after Jacob’s death, with “What a Beautiful Name” still on my lips, I made a video of the song dedicated to my brother. The video reached many people, including a talent scout in Nashville who asked me to meet with him to share my story. Although unexpected, this turned out to be the first confirmation of my calling from the Lord. I went to Nashville in January of 2018 and met with a recording artist manager. I was overwhelmed with peace the day we met with him and I knew God was going to do something special, but I was only 16 years old and my family wanted to proceed cautiously.

Over the next year God gently guided me in this calling. He planted a seed in my heart the day Jacob died, and now I saw it growing slowly, delicately, and with such beauty. I was (and am) in awe of His guidance. As my family and I trusted him during this time, He faithfully showed us each step. I began working with the manager, took voice lessons, and even went to Nashville to put my thoughts and prayers to music. What an honor it was to work and praise alongside such talented Christian song writers! After that first big writing session, the LORD sent another

confirmation. Three Christian music labels contacted my manager to request meetings with me.

I met with them throughout the summer of 2019, in May, June, and July. Each time I was given the opportunity to talk with other believers, to meet with record label executives, and to explore the depths of my grief and the heights of my eternal hope through the songwriting process. In August, all three labels asked me to join their teams. After much prayer, I decided to accept the offer from Capitol records. I will be moving to Nashville in June 2020 and with their help will be releasing the songs that I have written. I look forward to the days ahead, to inviting others into that sacred space of worship. I can’t believe that the LORD has opened a way for me to lead others into praise. He is so worthy! I want God to get all of the glory in my story, in the hard parts and in the redemption.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered

a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10

After he died, we found this verse in Jacob’s apartment, written in his own handwriting. We felt like he was talking directly to us and we have clung to this verse. Jacob was my best friend and I will always be heartbroken by his loss. But somehow in the midst of all of the pain, God has taken the deep crevices of my grief and let them run over with golden praise. I find myself wanting to be like the woman with the expensive alabaster jar, breaking it over Jesus and

anointing him with the most expensive thing I own, my own heart. God has given me a purpose, and that has been a great gift to me in this sorrow. I have learned about His faithfulness. I have learned that when God promises you something, He fulfills His promise. He does not let you down. When you choose to trust God, blessings come.

Thinking back to those childhood days when I had my life all planned, I can see that my desire to explore space and reach the stars was really a deep desire to grow close to the Father and to worship Him in a new way. He has provided that to me, just not on the path I expected. God took my longing for the stars and said–Look higher, child.

Look to the Creator of the stars.

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:

Who created all these?

He who brings out the starry host one by one

and calls forth each of them by name.

Because of his great power and mighty strength,

not one of them is missing.

27

Why do you complain, Jacob?

Why do you say, Israel,

“My way is hidden from the Lord;

my cause is disregarded by my God”?

28

Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

and his understanding no one can fathom.

29

He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.

Isaiah 40:26-29

This is what I have found in this journey– my God is faithful. In my own weakness, He is strong. May my lips forever praise the name of the LORD!

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.

#157 All Things Are Possible

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

One Sunday, I met a new friend after service. He was sitting down waiting to chat, so I didn’t realize anything was wrong with his body. As we prayed, he explained the emptiness in his heart. I shared about the love of Jesus and he gave his life to Christ. Peace, love and joy flooded him! He then told me a story about his health. Five years ago, during back surgery, he had been left with constant pain that was a 10 on a 10 scale. The surgeon had nicked a nerve, making his left foot drag. Due to difficulties with pain meds, he chose not to take them. In the process of adopting two small children, he underwent yet another back surgery and had seven spinal fusions. His mobility was severely limited, but he was still convinced that God was going to heal him. I called my teammates over, and as we prayed, the pain decreased in half, then decreased again, and then was gone! He stood up to walk around, and his foot started coming back to life. As he walked, more motion came back. We stood and talked for a bit, which he had been unable to do without excruciating pain for years!! He wept with gratitude, joy, and relief. There were lots of tears all around. Praise Jesus! He came back to our meeting the next day and shared his testimony. He was able to bend and reach past his knees and had been on the floor playing with his kids all afternoon. He came back the next day and was able to reach down and touch his toes, which, with seven spinal fusions, is impossible. As Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” I pray the same way when people are healed as when they aren’t. It’s a mystery to me why sometimes miracles occur and sometimes they take more time. But I’ll keep praying, believing, and celebrating the beauty of what only He can do. Our God is a healer, He is good, and He loves to restore. Yay Jesus!

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.

#89 That is True Love

 

Photo by Lucas Wiman

One day back in November I was in a pretty sour mood for most of the day. I was having bitter feelings toward a person who really had done me no wrong. These feelings kept attacking me throughout the day because I felt hurt by the person. 

I was feeling miserable by the time my campus ministry meeting started that night. The message spoke to my heart because it talked about how desperately we needed God to perform surgery on our hearts to free us from our sinful nature and habits. I went back to my dorm and felt drawn to my knees. I started to pray, “Father, show me what true forgiveness looks like.” He cut me off halfway through the word “forgiveness” and put an image in my head of Jesus on the cross. He was beaten and had blood pouring down from him. He was bruised and in great agony yet He called out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” God told me, “This is true forgiveness.” 

Then the vision in my head went back to just before Jesus was crucified. I was on the platform with Jesus; one of us was about to be set free, the other was going to the cross. I knew my sin and that I was deserving of the punishment, but in my selfishness I thought to myself, “I hope that they send Jesus to the cross, because if Jesus goes to the cross then I can be free.” Jesus looked over at me and says, “That is why I came; go and sin no more.” God said to me, “That is true love.” 

With that vision I was finally able to really grasp Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. He taught me love and forgiveness in a very powerful way that left me in awe. How awesome our God is!

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#88 Never Alone

 

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I was a military wife whose husband was deployed to Iraq. As anyone who has ever had a spouse deployed knows, this can be a very lonely and stressful time. All of the parenting is on your shoulders. I do know that without my walk with the Lord I could not have held up and been as supportive as I was. 

But one day my whole world was rocked. It is a day I will never forget—the day my child contemplated taking his own life. My son had fallen hard for a girl in his 10th grade class. But unfortunately, as time passed, she decided to end their relationship as it was; however, my son was not ready for this reality. I could tell he was in a depression and I sought help for him.

Counseling helped, but he was still “in love.” One morning he refused to go to school, and after an argument, I finally got him on the bus. I went to his room—not something I ever did before—but I was compelled to go in there for some reason. That is when I found the note that said he could not go on without her. 

Of course I fell to my knees and asked God what I could do to help this hurting boy. I called his counselors at school and let them know of my concerns and they watched over him for me that day. 

I was home when he walked in the door. He was furious with me and locked himself in his room. I pleaded with him to let me in. I did the only thing I could. I fell to my knees and prayed like I have never prayed before. I didn’t know what to do, but I prayed. 

I went to his room knowing it would be locked, but fortunately it was unlocked. Please, Lord, show me what to do. A clear voice said, “Be still.” 

I found him lying on the floor staring at the ceiling. What do I say, Lord? 

“Nothing,” said a voice, “just lie down.” 

So I laid on the floor beside him, not touching but close enough to feel him. We laid on the floor for what seemed like hours; I truly lost all sense of time. I remember stretching my little finger out and touching his hand. He grabbed my hand and said through tears, “Mom, my heart is breaking!” We hugged, we prayed, and we talked. I was emotionally drained from a very long battle with the devil for my son. 

As I was going to the kitchen to cook a meal with my son, I stopped to get on my knees once more to say, “Thank You!!” We weren’t out of the woods yet. He still needed more therapy, but at least I still had him. I know that no matter what difficulties lay ahead, I am never alone.

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.

#33. God Of The Impossible

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I have been healthy all my life—until August 2015. It started with cold-like symptoms. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, but after a few days I got worse. I went to the ER and the doctor said I had a virus and to let it run its course.

I continued to feel worse but made myself go to work. My symptoms began to change. I broke out in a rash on my arms, and my lymph nodes in my armpits and on the back of my head swelled to the size of golf balls. I went back to the doctor the next day, and he did bloodwork. That night he called me and told me that my white blood cell count was over 100,000 and that normal is 10,000. He told me that I needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately and that I would be getting a call from the admissions office of the cancer center shortly because I had leukemia.

I didn’t panic like I thought I would. In one ear I could hear what the doctor was saying, but in the other ear, I heard a small voice say, “It’s okay.” I had peace. I started packing my bags and heard that voice again, “It’s okay.”

The first thing they did was a bone marrow biopsy, but something went very wrong. I was in terrible pain. They had to call in the chief of staff to take over. They had wanted to start the chemo as soon as possible but had to wait because of the complications from the bone marrow biopsy. I developed a serious infection that raged through my entire body. The infection even filled my stomach and I had to have a tube inserted through my nose into my stomach to pump out the infection. I had a dangerously high fever, which was destroying the cells in my body. They gave me ice baths and antibiotics but couldn’t get the fevers down.

Finally God brought the fever down and they were able to start the chemo one week after I was admitted. But then another problem…they placed a line in my arm to give me the chemo drugs and I developed blood clots, which started to travel through my bloodstream. This was life-threatening, as the clot could lodge in the heart, lung, or brain. They started me on blood thinner injections three times a day in my stomach. The chemo drugs were given to me continuously, 24 hours a day for seven days. This made me so sick. I had a reaction to the chemo and more high fevers with nearly constant vomiting.

Through this all I had a peace. I was praying and kept hearing, “It’s going to be okay.” Many people were praying for me. My father is a pastor as was his father before him, so I had a close relationship with God and knew how to pray. My sister was documenting what was happening with me on Facebook and thousands of people were following what was going on and were praying for me. People from all over the country were sending me messages of encouragement and praying for my healing, telling me how they were inspired and their faith had increased because of my story.

I was supposed to have four rounds of chemo, and after the first round, they did a bone marrow biopsy to see if the chemo had any effect. Miraculously, there was no sign of leukemia in the bone marrow! None! The doctors said the results were astounding to them. It is very rare for a person with my type of leukemia to be cured after only one round of chemo. It was so unexpected that the doctors said, “It wasn’t us. It had to be a greater power.”

Even though there was no sign of leukemia, the doctors wanted to make sure everything was gone, so I went through more chemo. My immune system was wiped out and I had to wear a mask all the time. I got a bad infection in my thumb and arm and had to have multiple blood transfusions, but I stayed positive, kept a smile on my face, and praised God through it all.

After two more biopsies and still no leukemia, my doctor gave me a clean bill of health and said I didn’t need the last round of chemo because my results were so good. God delivered me not only from the mental anguish and physical pain and disease, but also from financial struggle. I was unable to work for 10½ months and my medical leave had run out. I was down to my last penny and my coworkers came to my house and gave me $2,000 they had raised through a fundraiser at work for me—where people paid five dollars to wear jeans for a week. This program is continuing today and my coworkers now vote on different people to benefit from this money in my honor every month.

I now have a whole new outlook on life. Little things that would have stressed me out or made me angry don’t bother me anymore. I have become a more grateful person. And I have learned that there is nothing too hard for God. He is a God of the impossible. No matter how dark it may seem, no matter how bad the diagnosis, God is able to change the prognosis.

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.