#213. Praying Wives: Control Less, Pray More

Photo by Brianna Rapp

Have you ever felt, as a praying wife, that your husband is “getting it wrong” on a big decision for your family? Not in a prideful way, but genuinely you have discerned in your spirit that a decision needs to be made differently. These moments can be very hard as a wife. You may be the wife who deeply trusts and respects your husband, remaining prayerful in the midst of a life-changing decision for which you disagree. But, if you’re like I was a couple years into marriage, driven by anxiety instead of security in the relationship, you didn’t keep your mouth shut.

My husband was in the middle of a major life-changing decision. He was pursuing a job that looked perfect on paper. He is a pastor, and this opportunity was a pay raise, a great community at a large church with tons of resources. I knew it would’ve “pat his back” as an accelerated career move. However, I just had a sense — this isn’t it. 

After every interview, he would ask me what I thought. You see, he needed me to be supportive. He was agonizing with the idea that pursuing a ministry career path could be detrimental to the security of our family. His insecurities about this trajectory made this option so promising to him. He needed me to be excited. But what did I do after every interview? Let’s just say this, the sensitivities were always aggravated — tension always increased in our home. And honestly, I do believe God was speaking to me in prayer — answering our prayers for clarity. 

I went into the hiring process with him open-minded. But as I prayed, I felt more and more “off” about the entire option. To whatever end, my opinions didn’t stay prayerfully considerate of his feelings. I always made sure that by the end of the conversation that my thoughts were heard. 

What this did would take a couple years to undo — for us to find trust and safety in decision-making again. I really wounded him. I made my husband, whom I love and trust, feel like I would be controlling his life and future as long as we were married. Sure, there were absolutely two-sides to the wounding. I don’t think I was a brute, but I was strong and he was already insecure and struggling. I rubbed dirt in the open-wound though my abrasive opinions. Has any wife ever been here? Regretful of how you attempted to control, even in the name of what you believed was right? 

Ultimately, he was offered the job. Yet, being certain that I did not support the opportunity, he turned it down. I felt so guilty. You could feel the tension and bitterness building in our relationship. He could’ve had a pay raise, a great community of support, and a job that made him feel valued as a leader. Yet, I was perplexed because “If this was the Lord, shouldn’t it not be this way?” At the same time, I was relieved to know we didn’t go against the confidence I felt in prayer. But I wasn’t expecting to get a bitter, blaming husband out of the deal.

All I could do, yet again, was pray. And this time, I didn’t use my big mouth to try and walk us out of this place we found ourselves in. God knew we needed a miraculous confirmation that it was truly Him. I was desperate. I was out of control, and I needed Jesus to step in and protect me and protect our marriage.

About a month went by, I was still hearing the regret daily. He was bemoaning the decision, and had no future prospects that gave new hope. But every day, I was praying for a breakthrough.

One Sunday morning, we were attending our local congregation at the time, and there was a woman in the back of the church crying. She was encountering the Presence of God, and my husband went to the back to check on her. As he came closer, he saw it was a woman from the church that offered him the job. She was on the hiring committee that unanimously voted to extend the offer. And now, she is in the back of the church we are attending in tears. My husband approached her, reintroducing himself, and asking if she needed prayer for anything. She shared a bit about what had happened to lead her there that morning. She was going through the Starbucks drive-thru on the way to the church she regularly attends, when she sensed strongly that God told her to attend the church we were at this morning. She was having a personal encounter with God, but as they wrapped up praying together, she said, “I knew that one day God would allow us to cross paths because I needed to tell you it wasn’t the right job for you. Everyone wanted you, and I felt pressured to vote in that direction by the committee because they needed unanimity. But as I prayed about it, it would’ve stunted you and it would not have been the right fit for your flourishing. I am glad you didn’t accept it. I want you to know, I support that decision. You made the right call.” 

My husband broke down when he realized the Presence of God had chased him down to affirm His voice. It wasn’t my thought. It wasn’t my conviction. It was God. It was His love and affection for my husband, His calling and purposes. It was God’s crazy love and blessing over our marriage — to guard us and protect us. It was prayer that positioned us for restoration and confirmation. 

God hears our prayers, wives. And a prayer for unified blessing in marriage, this is a prayer he always answers. I learned many pivotal lessons through this experience. I don’t need to control. I need to pray. 

#212. Praying Wives: Something To Live For

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I married my high school sweetheart. Bob and I had known each other since first grade. I knew he had a good heart and I believed the Lord brought us together with His blessing. I was young and idealistic, full of hope and dreams for a bright future together. Fifteen years later at the age of 35, I found myself living in quiet desperation. My husband and I had good jobs. We lived on the property of a golf course where my husband was a PGA pro. Our three daughters were wonderful and a source of much joy. Yet something was wrong with our family.  Day after day, hour after hour, I was forced to deal with the fact that my husband was an alcoholic and drug addict. Oh, there were days we could hide it from the outside world. There were moments we pretended it wasn’t a fact and tried to laugh and have fun together as a family. But always in the back of my mind I was waiting for something to trigger him, to set him off and send him into erratic behavior directed toward me or the girls. We never knew when or why that would happen. Once he began to drink, his rules were the only rules in our house. He would drink all night, unable to work the next morning. Our girl’s room was the only sanctuary they had. They were afraid to invite their friends to our home because of what their daddy might say or do. Not only was his behavior awful, but his language was also worse. He didn’t care who heard what. I didn’t know how to deal with these terrible problems.

 
I remember going to a golf tournament with him. He promised me it would be a good weekend without drinking and that we would have fun together. The first night I found myself in the motel room at midnight wondering where he was. His promises had quickly been broken leaving me upset and frustrated again.  Left alone, I questioned my life, and began to talk to the Lord. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to come face to face with Jesus Christ in a way I had never experienced before. But before this happened, things went from bad to worse. My husband was arrested for public drunkenness and everyone in our little town knew it. He was the “town drunk.” I had accepted Christ as my Savior when I was ten years old. I have always had a deep love for the Lord. I was active in my church and when I married that continued. As each child was born, I made sure they were in church. Rarely could I get Bob to attend church with me. Mostly he would only go if the girls were in a program. When I asked him to attend, he got indignant, saying that Sunday was the busiest day of the week at a golf course and how could I expect him to be gone. I made sure the girls went even though they knew that Dad didn’t think it was worth it. 


I’ll tell you some of the things I did wrong. I wrote letters to people who had overcome the battle of alcohol. I called members of my husband’s family. I asked friends to talk to him. Five times I went to the pastor of our church but could never really tell him what was wrong. I could only sit there and cry. I got mad at Bob, went along with him, ignored the problem, and tried to reason with him. I reached out for any solution that sounded reasonable. In August of 1975, I began to feel ashamed of myself. I found that if I encouraged Bob to drink more, he would pass out sooner and I would have some peace and quiet.

 
One evening that August, Bob had finally passed out and I went to our back porch, a quiet haven for me. Everyone in the house was quiet. Outside everyone was gone and the peace and solitude that our old worn-out porch offered were just what I needed. I was physically and mentally exhausted from juggling three jobs, keeping the girls busy and having no answers. I had upset Bob that night. I don’t know what I did to upset him but when he drank it didn’t take much.  I sat down, soaked in the night noises, and sighed.  I hugged my knees and rested my head on my arms and the tears began to flow. I cried out loud and I thought about whether anyone could hear my sobs and if they did would they even care. I thought, “I am of no use to anyone.” I felt reduced to a scream, a tear, a cloudy mind. I was unable to function, a blob waiting to crawl into a hole and stay for a long time. Many other nights this same summer I had come here knowing there had to be a way out, wanting to help but just not sure what I should do. I can remember screaming on previous nights, “God, why is my life like this? What good am I to anyone? Why don’t you just let me die?” And then I would always feel so guilty because I couldn’t pull it together. I couldn’t find an answer.

 
That night in August was different. Out loud, in sobbing tones, I said, “Lord, I’m at the end of my rope. I’ve tried all I know to try. I don’t know anything else to do. If you are listening to me, please, please help me.” And at that moment my tears and sobs ceased. That shocked me. I had been sobbing so hard I was shaking, but it just stopped. I felt very warm inside and very calm. It was not a sensation I was familiar with. For the first time in an exceedingly long time, I didn’t feel alone. The Lord spoke to my heart and said, “I am with you. You can go on. It will be alright. You are my child. And you have three children to care for. I will help you.” The Lord had been waiting for me to turn it over to Him. He probably said, “Well, finally she is going to let me handle it!” At that moment, I knew everything was going to be alright. God was listening and He cared. He could see my heart and He was there. I didn’t know how everything would be alright, but I knew He was giving me strength and love to face tomorrow.  Positive thoughts began to come into my head. “I can like myself once more. I can begin to be a better mother. Our girls need me. And Bob with all his problems needs me more than ever. With God’s guidance and wisdom, I can be a good wife, the wife Bob needs me to be.” I finally gave up my problem to God and said in effect, “Lord, take over.” And He did… in more ways than I could ever imagine! The evening breeze stirred the leaves on the huge elm tree in the back yard. I suddenly was aware of the beauty around me. I stood up slowly as not to shatter this new atmosphere. I went into the house and looked in on our three girls, my heart was so full of love for them. They looked so fragile and beautiful as they lay there sleeping soundly unaware that a miracle had just taken place, one that would deeply affect their lives forever.

 
At last, I knew I must work on myself. The Lord helped me by sending a friend who invited me to a Bible study. There I began to study God’s word in a fresh way. I made my heart vulnerable to others in the Bible Study and they began to pray with me for Bob. The more I learned about the Lord, the stronger I became. I was able to exhibit a kinder spirit in my home, my emotions were more stable, and I had a wonderful hope inside knowing the Lord himself lived within me and was helping me become more than I could dream.

 
I never thought of divorcing Bob. When I looked at him, sometimes I could see the 17-year-old boy I fell in love with. I could see the gifts and talents hidden from view. I could see the man I loved to be with, to laugh with, to share with. All those things were still there, they were just hidden. One of my greatest desires was to be a good wife to him. Taking care of him made me happy. I knew without a doubt I couldn’t abandon him. I would not give up on him. With the Lord’s help, my love for Bob and a deep sense of commitment and purpose kept me going. After I realized the Lord was in control, the thought occurred to me that I might be the only one exhibiting a Christian walk in front of Bob.

 
In November of 1975, Bob was converted at an old-fashioned revival meeting in the Laurel County High School gym. The Lord took away the desire to drink immediately with no withdrawals at all. Bob took no more drugs. He was able to fellowship with fine Christians who provided encouragement and love. It took almost 2 years to work through everything we had gone through to put our marriage back together. Our daughters had a dad again. Bob went back to college and seminary at the age of 40. He started two churches in Kentucky and became a full-time evangelist whose calling was to share this story about the grace and love of our Lord. We began traveling all around the world and Bob preached and taught. We had amazing experiences and met many wonderful people.  God even used Bob’s golfing expertise to evangelize. Bob would invite men to play a round of golf with him and while they were playing, he would share his testimony and invite them to attend revivals where he would be preaching.

 
Bob preached his last revival in 2006. He passed away in 2008. My trust in God has grown so much since my husband died. As I reflect on my life, I can see now that God was guiding me all the time. He reassured me and encouraged me in the difficult first years of our marriage. He gave me an unexplainable peace even when Bob was out of control and I had no idea what to do. When I surrendered the situation to God, He worked things out in wonderful ways that were beyond anything I could imagine. God provided years of extraordinary experiences and opportunities. He sent many people to encourage us, mentor us, pray with us, and provide for our financial needs. I am deeply grateful for the wonderful people God put in our lives and the part each person played in our story. It isn’t our story at all. This story is God’s story and the glory for every step of our journey is God’s alone! 

#211. Praying Wives: There Is Nothing God Can’t Do

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

For much of my life, I wished for that “Damascus experience” others had described . . . a sudden insight that is overwhelming and life-changing.


It seemed to me that such a transformational moment in time would be the confirmation that Christ had truly entered in, and all things past were gone. But, instead, I was blessed (now I see it as a blessing!) with the early and constant faithfulness of God that has been revealed over and over again in my life. I now understand how God began a good work in me and has refused to let me ever get too far away from His efforts to work in me to completion.


I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were married over 50 years, before my dad passed away in 1993, way too early! I had a great childhood and was surrounded by family who instilled in my brothers and me the importance of acceptance, unconditional love, and constant support. God was always a big part of our family. We weren’t wealthy, but our family sure had everything we needed, and often what we wanted as well. My parents taught us to be grateful for our blessings, particularly for our family. As a result, I am thankful for and treasure relationships. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love deeply. I’m loyal to a fault and when I care, I really care! Although this trait has blessed me immeasurably, it also has its consequences. My depth of love can be equal to depth of grief when relationships are lost or damaged. So, along this journey, I have loved and lost but, in the end, love is always greater!


I have great memories of our church as a child. We started attending when I was four years old, and it’s the only church I have ever attended. It has always been a big part of my spiritual formation. I remember a particular night at youth group, when Jesus became much more personal for me. I made a commitment to give my life to Christ and to try my best to live my life the way God prepared for me. I have not always been an obedient child of God, but my desire has always been to do things His way.


During high school, I met a guy I dated for six years, until the summer of my senior year in college when we married. We began to live the life I had always imagined . . . the house with the white picket fence, two beautiful children, a dog and a goldfish! And then, things changed — dramatically and quickly. My husband became very ill. He was diagnosed with adult-onset type 1 diabetes. He struggled with the reality of that disease, and I found myself trying to own it for him, which was impossible and did not serve either of us well.

 
Soon after his diabetes diagnosis, he began to use alcohol in excess and became a very serious alcoholic. Alcohol and diabetes don’t mix and, as his life began to deteriorate, so did our marriage. I never imagined being divorced. In fact, my faith wouldn’t let me even consider it for a long time. But the consequences of his drinking became more than I could handle. Although my family and friends were there to love and support me, it was still very overwhelming.  I soon learned that it is in our times of desperation that we are closest to God.


About two years after my marriage ended, my ex-husband died. I was 32 years old with two children, ages five and seven. I was lost and confused, but God’s faithfulness prevailed. His grace, mercy, power and love sustained me in ways I still cannot fathom. That faithfulness has been the theme of my relationship with God. It is only when we admit that we can’t do life on our own and completely surrender to God that we experience real victory. I am a bit of a control freak — I like to do things my way — I struggle with that. But I learned that my efforts to control things were really futile. Everything always works out much better when I let God do it His way.

 
My professional life was always such a gift. I was a health and physical education teacher for 30 years and loved every minute of it. I had such incredible friends who loved and supported me throughout those first months and years of being a single mom, living on a teacher’s salary.  And, of course, like He always does, God started showing up in unbelievable ways. I began to receive unexpected income, transferred to a teaching job I had always wanted, and then — the greatest blessing happened.

 
Some good friends wanted to introduce me to a friend of theirs who they were just sure I would enjoy dating. As I began to live into my new life, I had pretty much decided that dating was out of the question. I remember they told me three things about their friend, Greg: He was a police officer (Are you kidding me?), he was pretty much committed to being a bachelor (Where can that go?), and he was almost four years younger than me (I already had two children). But they also said we had “so much in common” and insisted I meet him. I didn’t say yes or no, but they must have heard yes. A few nights later they arranged a chance meeting that changed my life forever! There he was — this tall, very handsome man in uniform. My children were with me and I remember my son ran over and said, “Man! Can I see your gun?” I thought then, “Well, this will be short-lived.” Greg laughed and didn’t seem to be scared off. Before he left, he asked if he could call me, and this time I did say yes!


Greg called me shortly after that and we started dating. We dated for a little over two years and to say it was a learning experience for both of us would be a real understatement. He had been in only two serious relationships before we met and was scared to death of commitment, especially with two children involved. I had built a secure wall around me and was at a place where I was determined to never let anyone hurt me again. That kind of gets in the way when trust is a cornerstone of any relationship! Then, God stepped in. He eased Greg’s fears, helped me tear down that very unhealthy wall (that sometimes wants to creep up again) and grew a love that has been simply amazing!


In 1985, Greg and I got married. Although neither of us had any idea how to create a new family, we began that journey together. The children had loved him from the start and within a few weeks, they asked Greg if they could call him Dad! Without hesitation he said, “Of course” and I could tell it thrilled him. They also said they didn’t like having a different last name, so we began to talk about how we could change that, too. On the Friday before Father’s Day, a precious friend of ours performed our legal adoption ceremony. The children took Greg’s name, as well as his heart, and it has been that way ever since. As I look back, I see that God was busy working, not to just repair my broken, untrusting heart, but by sending an angel to my children and me. Greg has been an incredible dad, and he is the best “Cappy” I could ever imagine to our six grandchildren.


When we met, Greg was not actively involved in the church or living out a personal relationship with Jesus but, somehow, I knew it would happen. I trusted that God would work in his life. While we were dating, he started going to church with me. We attended a Sunday school class together with people who were older than us. During that time, Greg learned a lot about prayer. I had asked for prayer for his safety and for advancement opportunities at the police department. He was uncomfortable with that because he thought God was too busy for those kinds of things. Gradually he learned just how personal God can be. Although he first went to church to please me, he soon genuinely wanted to go. Worship became an integral part of our marriage. In the midst of all that, he was searching. Without question, he believed in God and that Jesus had come for his salvation. But he hadn’t pursued a personal relationship with Christ. It was head knowledge but not a heart relationship. I prayed for that transformation and knew God would, in His time and in His way, show Greg just how much He loved him.


Around 2000, Greg went through a tough time. He was discouraged about several things and kept it to himself for a long time. I had become overly involved in leadership at church and in my career and didn’t see what I needed to see. I had not made Greg the priority I should have. There was a period when we were struggling and really had to reevaluate where we were going. During those days of difficulty, God was saying to me, “I’ve got it. I’ve got it. Just keep loving him.” And I did. During this time, my prayer was that the Lord would draw Greg to Him and that Greg would allow God to heal and comfort him. I prayed that the power of the Holy Spirit would consume him and bring him to a place of complete surrender. I also prayed to protect my heart from building walls against being hurt, to keep me in God’s arms and not to let me run ahead of where God was going with Greg. I wanted to be a partner in Greg’s journey but I also realized I couldn’t change things, only God could.

 
To no one’s surprise, God answered my prayers. One day Greg asked me what he could do that would help me. I felt like this was my opportunity to offer him the only solution I knew would work, so I asked him to go see the senior pastor at our church. He agreed and the rest is, as they say, history! They had a great conversation and prayer in the sanctuary and Greg had that “Damascus experience” I had always longed for!  He gave his life to Christ and experienced a transformation that has been remarkable to witness. (#193). This was one of those mountaintop moments in life when you realize God is so present and so faithful. When I look back to those few months of “struggling,” I see clearly what was happening. We live in the midst of a spiritual battle in this very lost and broken world. As a result, there are times when the enemy especially targets us. It’s usually when we are doing something pretty right or when we are very vulnerable. In our case this battle became real when we had allowed our relationship to become vulnerable. Satan saw our vulnerability as an opportunity to do his evil work. As we both stepped back and let God take control, He stepped in and squashed it.


I was born to be Greg’s wife. I have no doubt about that. I also know I was born to be the mother of our two amazing children, even though they came to me first. Right now, it’s hard to reconcile those two things but I know someday God will make it perfectly clear! Greg often says I am the reason he became a Christian, but that’s not exactly accurate. It was God’s pursuit and Greg’s surrender that allowed for his salvation. But I will say I sure did want him to know and trust Jesus. After Greg surrendered his life to the Lord, our journey together took off like a rocket ship. He became the spiritual leader in our family and we were real partners in marriage, parenting and everything else God put in our path. God has given us incredible empty nest years with Greg leading and teaching me. Something I really cherish is when we pray together. At first, we would simply ask one another how we could pray for the day ahead. We have continued that practice and the majority of our mornings we begin our day in prayer, thanking God for this incredible life He has given us and asking Him to use us to bring others into relationship with Him.

 
About 15 years ago we went through a health scare when Greg was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It’s a story of God’s powerful healing love. During that time neither of us had the first fear that things wouldn’t be okay. When he received the cancer diagnosis, the first thing we did was get on our knees and pray. Then and always, prayer has been the wind beneath our wings. We have trusted God with our lives in every way. 


Recently God has led us to prison ministry leadership roles. It has been a remarkable experience, one that neither of us could have imagined. We know that like every other “leading,” if we get out of the way, God will be faithful to do His good work in and through us for the glory of His Kingdom. It’s our privilege to watch Him work! Praise God from whom all blessing flow!


When I stand back and look at the life God has given me, it is truly incredible. His faithfulness has been the theme of my life. There is nothing God cannot do. He is so good and so big and so willing to bless us, if we are willing to receive God’s blessing. 

In my life, I have found my favorite verse of Scripture to be true:For I can do everything through Christ,who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). 

#188. Listening To God

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I grew up in a loving family. We went to church every Sunday morning. I am one of three children, all girls. I went away to attend college and became a nurse. I moved back after 10 years to be closer to my family. Family is so precious to me. I have been working as a nurse for 21 years. 

Jody was really more of an acquaintance than a friend. We grew up in the same county but attended different high schools. I knew of him in high school because he was a great basketball player and was well known for that. Years later when we both had daughters about the same age, I was the coach of a softball team his daughter played on. We had some conversations during that time, but we were still more of acquaintances. We are friends on Facebook, and I noticed that he had made some comments that he was having some decline in his health. The comments were a bit vague, but as a nurse I picked up that he wasn’t doing well health-wise.

I sent a message, telling him that I was praying for him and that I hoped things were getting better. He sent back a nice thank you. Maybe a week or so later he made a comment that a friend or two had tried to be a kidney donor and hadn’t matched. It clicked with me then that he had chronic kidney disease. As a nurse, I have taken care of people on dialysis and have seen the terrible effects of chronic kidney disease.

I remember after reading his Facebook message, I was lying in bed resting from a shift at work. The thought came to me—it was like running into a wall—“Why are you just praying for him? Why can’t you do something more?” I know God put that thought there. “Why stop with praying?” I thought of his three young daughters. I am one of three daughters, and I can’t image having grown up without my dad or having him so ill he couldn’t have participated in my life in a meaningful way. I just kept having the thought, “You can do more than just pray.” I knew that God wanted me to do more than just pray for those girls and his wife. I needed to do what I could to make sure they had their husband and their dad. 

I reached out to Jody and told him I would like to do more and asked him who to contact. He was hesitant. Then a couple of weeks later, I reached out again and again said, “I would really like to do more.” He then gave me the information about contacting the transplant coordinator at the hospital. Interestingly, even though the transplant coordinator works for a big university hospital many miles away, he also grew up in our county. I contacted him and they mailed me a packet of questionnaires, which I filled out and sent back. Later the coordinator called me and let me know that I was ready to move to the next step. After that was the blood work and urine test to make sure I was healthy enough to donate my kidney. There were no maybes or buts. Everything was perfect. The initial bloodwork was done in February to see if I could proceed, and it appeared that I was a perfect match. I believe it was God ordained. During this time, there was a lot of time for me to reflect. I think we all go through a time of wondering what our purpose is. I believe every turn in my life journey led to me to give my kidney. I felt a complete peace about it. I had no hesitation, no worries. I gave up drinking soda and taking ibuprofen to make sure the kidney I was going to donate would be as healthy as possible. I believed at the time that God would take care of me and He has taken care of me. 

In April I had to go to the hospital to meet with a social worker for a mental evaluation and more physical tests like an EKG and chest X-ray and more blood work to make sure I was still that perfect match. I talked to the transplant coordinator. You have to have specific markers in your blood that match. The more markers that match the greater the chance the transplant will be accepted. The whole process was like rolling down a 100-mile highway with no potholes, no red lights, and nobody breaking in front of you. You just go. 

In July, 10 days before our surgery, Jody and I both had appointments with the surgeon. We met with him separately but were in the waiting room at the same time. That was the first time I had seen Jody since he had been on dialysis. It weighed on my heart that he didn’t look well and reconfirmed my decision to give him my kidney. There was a kind Christian woman in the waiting room who had given her kidney three weeks prior to her dad. Remarkably, she was also from our county. It was as if God was providing people all along the way to make us feel more comfortable with the process. The woman was very helpful. She filled me in on what to expect, which was a blessing to me. 

Our surgeries were on a Thursday. There was a wall between our bays in pre-op. They took me back first. When they were getting ready to take me back to the operating room they said, “He is beside of you.” I asked if I could see him, and they rode my stretcher to him. We linked hands (my sister and me and Jody and his wife) and he said a prayer. They offered anxiety medicine before taking me back, but I refused it. At no time did I have anxiety. We had to wait on the surgeon for 15 minutes after I got into the operating room, and even then, I had no nervousness. I was calm. Even when I woke up afterward, I messaged a friend to see if she wanted to go for a run. I walked to Jody’s room and went in to see him. My whole family was so supportive throughout the process. My mom brought two balloons to the hospital. Jody’s balloon said, “It’s a girl!” 

It has been a little over two years out now. I am wonderful and have had no problems. I continue to donate blood on a regular basis and keep an eye on my blood pressure which has been fine. I have had no ill effects from it and I don’t intend to have any ill effects.  

In September, Jody preached a sermon in a church in our county. I attended the service and Jody looked so healthy. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I try to encourage people to be organs donors while they are still alive, and they will actually see the benefit that the recipient gets from it. I get to see that now. People knew Jody for his basketball, but he is so much more than that. He means so much to so many people. I get to see that joy is restored in his household and with his friends and in his church. He is back to doing the things he loves like golfing, things that the disease had taken away from him. I get to relish in his joy, and this a great gift. His youngest daughter turned six today, and she has her daddy here for her birthday. 

I try to encourage people to not doubt what God puts on their hearts and to be willing to listen. We can ask God to speak to us, but we have to listen to God and not doubt that He will take care of us. If I never receive another blessing from Him, I couldn’t ask for any better earthly life than what He has provided for me. 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 

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.

#182 Unceasing Prayer

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers

My father passed away when I was four years old, leaving my mother who didn’t have a job or even a driver’s license. She remarried and I had a great relationship with my stepfather. He was such a humble and serving man. He taught me how to really serve people. My mother’s family was of the Old Regular Baptist faith. Her father was a deacon. My mother wasn’t a Christian but she attended church. As a child, I didn’t understand what was being said in church, and when they prayed, I slipped out to play in the creek.

I met my wife when I was in kindergarten. We married after I graduated from college with a degree in civil engineering and mining engineering. Early in our marriage, my wife was a Christian but I wasn’t. She tried to get me to go to church and I went occasionally, but I wasn’t committed. Each morning on my way to work I dropped off my two aunts to work at the Five and Dime. One morning, my Aunt Silvy said, “We are having a revival at church and you are coming.” April 15, 1986, I attended the revival with my wife. As the evangelist preached, I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to follow Christ. I was baptized the next night. My mother was present. She had never made a profession of faith and she wasn’t happy with me.

I started actively serving at the church, first teaching the fifth-grade Sunday school, then sixth, then seventh and eighth grade classes. Our youth classes exploded. We had a fantastic time with the kids.

About a year after I became a Christian, I lost my job. We had just purchased our first home. We signed the mortgage on our new home on a Friday and that Monday I got laid off. I told my wife, “God will provide. I know He will.” Two days later, on Wednesday morning, I got a phone call out of the blue from a guy who used to be my former basketball coach. “I just lost my engineer. I need a new engineer. Do you know where I can find one?” I said, “I think I do!” I started the new job the following Monday. We were faithful in our service and God continued to provide.

Eventually the coal company I worked for was bought out by another large coal company and they only kept two people. I was one of the two.

I was very grateful to keep my job. About a year later, the chief engineer at the coal mine left and they asked me to do this job. I worked every Saturday for a year. I finally took a Saturday off to get my wife something for Christmas and my boss called and said, “Where are you?! I need to talk to you. The VP of operations is leaving and I want you to take on that role.” I agreed and did both for about a year, serving as both chief engineer and head of operations, requiring 10 to 12 hours every day. I was still teaching the youth and serving as a deacon at church. My excessive work schedule was really hard on my wife and particularly for my oldest child who was around seven at the time. My wife was busy with our two youngest who were babies, and I was always working. I came home every night overwhelmed and exhausted but not to the extent my wife was. She is a great mother and wonderful wife, always being there for our children while I was away. I am a very fortunate and blessed man!

The president of the company was a very hard boss. He was hard on me. But he taught me a lot. He called himself a sinner man, but there was still an influence of God at our company. He cared about the men and their families and understood the importance of a good job to support their families. In 2001, my boss retired and I was asked to become president of the company. I went from being responsible for a couple of people to 348 people. Two years later, the coal business tanked and our parent company claimed bankruptcy. The market was so bad that we couldn’t sell the coal. A new CEO reorganized the company and took the company public, which gave us the funds to help us out of bankruptcy. After the reorganization, I was asked to take over a second location for the company and then was responsible for a little over 800 employees. In 2013, the market declined again and the company filed bankruptcy and split up, but I was allowed to stay on by the new company that acquired our company. All employees were laid off except about 40 people, but within a few months we were able to hire people back. Then in 2016, we were unable to stay open. I had to tell the men that I couldn’t give them any hope of a future at the company. That was the hardest day of my life.

I received six month’s pay from the company, and after that a different company put me on retainer as a consultant, and when they no longer needed me, a friend provided some work which provided health insurance. I have continued to ask the Lord what He would like me to do in this new season of my life, and while I sometimes find it hard to wait for the answer, I have experienced joy in the unknown. I am at peace and know that God’s got it. I am just open to wherever and whatever the Lord leads me to. In the meantime, God is allowing me some down time, and I have been able to spend time with my wife (we are going on 36 years of marriage), our three sons, and grandchildren. God has blessed me beyond measure, and I am so grateful.

I recently started teaching a young adult class at church. I encourage them to get out and take what they have learned and apply it out of the church walls. I tell new Christians, “God has a calling on your life, but you have to keep seeking and you will find what God wants you to do. Wherever you are, you can have an impact. You just have to love people.”

Several years ago, my stepdad passed away. At his funeral, my mother made a decision to follow Christ. She was 64 years old. I had been praying for her since 1986. I prayed for her every day that God would touch her life. Never give up praying for someone you care about. Never give up.

I also prayed for my boss (who called himself “sinner man”) and many of the men who worked at the coal company. I prayed that the Lord would touch their lives too. I would tell the men, “We have this in common: we are put on this earth by our heavenly Father to love each other and help each other and take care of our families.” Many men came to know Christ during their time at the mine. And then one day, I got a call from a friend who said my old boss had accepted the Lord. I saw him later and hugged him, “I’m so happy for you.” He said, “I guess you heard. You were right. It does make a difference in your life.” I told him, “I’m a sinner man too. But the Lord takes our sins and they are covered and forgiven.” I told him that I had prayed for him for years. Never give up praying for someone you care about. Never give up.

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.

#161 In Awe of the Light

Photo by Brianna Rapp

When I was 21 I did something that I felt I had to do, something that I regretted the moment I did it. Afterward, every aspect of my life was shaken, and not one moment went by that I did not feel the repercussions in my mind, body, spirit, and every relationship of what I had done.

It was not until seven years later that I went to confession. The priest was so kind to me. I felt so liberated after praying the prayers he instructed me to pray and felt encouraged to talk to God. Now the gate was open.

A few months later at work in the hospitality industry, I was walking from the back toward the cafe counter via the seating area, and I saw a tall man of about nearly seven feet in a suit with neck-length, wavy hair talking to another man. I noticed him, not for any particular reason, but as I was walking past them I felt this man look at me—not in the way we normally look at people but as though he were looking at me through his spirit, and I felt him touch my heart.

As I walked to the barista counter, a latte came up with the docket number four. I turned, and there he was, sitting facing my direction with a black number four waving me in. I walked, looking perhaps a little embarrassed because of what I had felt;after all, this was just a man. But as I walked toward him he looked straight at me and said, “I believe you’re looking for me.” As I placed the coffee down on the table, I replied gently,“Yes, and I found you.” Although I did not look up at him, the power in that moment was magnetic; I felt like someone wanted to get to know me, wanted to talk to me, wanted to make me smile.

I walked away, did another round of clearing tables, and came back out. He was not there, but had left a half-finished latte. And as I approached our barista and asked him if he saw the man at table number four, he confidently said, “Nope.”

That day will live with me always. I know there is no physical evidence of who this man was, but it happened for a reason. I knew what he was saying and what the experience was saying to me. I was so inspired by this moment that I started reading true stories and testimonies of encounters with God, stories of miracles that have resonated with my spirit.

One day I lay on my bed, and spoke to God as though I were speaking to my friend—freely, without discipline in my words, and with no restraint, just purely myself. I fell asleep, and during that sleep He let me see something that is now burned into my mind and heart forever. I heard a voice—a deep, kind,trustworthy voice. In that moment, I did not know who it was, but I felt completely at ease. He said my name. I was in awe of the light I saw. It started off as a small circle like the sun and then grew bigger, slightly changing color in each domain,getting brighter and brighter until it filled my eyes. It was stunning. But that was not the best part. It was what I felt. He was pleased. Happy. Elated. I could feel how much He loves me, how much He loves the world—and it was breathtaking. No earthly pleasure could come close. I then woke up.

Now my soul isn’t as heavy and unbearable anymore. All I did was something simple: I reached out my hand, and in return He granted me His Kingdom.

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.

#159 Posture of Dependency

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

My wife and I married in December of 1996. Having a family was very important to us and we both desired to have multiple children. I got a new job around the time we got married. Toward the end of 1997 we started trying to have a child. We tried for seven to eight months but couldn’t get pregnant. After several tests the doctor told my wife, “I think you are infertile and won’t be able to get pregnant without some help.” We weren’t sure how we felt about that. We decided to pray and seek the Lord’s counsel. We had received this news from the doctor on Friday, and on Sunday the church elders prayed for us. We prayed and fasted our first meal of the day for a week. The next Sunday the elders prayed with us again. Monday morning my wife took a pregnancy test and it was positive. We got another pregnancy test and it was positive! We called the doctor and he said, “You all need to come in. This is strange.” He pulled out her chart and said in his 20-plus years in practice, my wife was the first person he had not given a pregnancy test to. He did a pregnancy test then and she was seven weeks pregnant! She had actually been pregnant at our last visit with him when he told us he thought she was infertile and needed help getting pregnant! We didn’t see this as the doctor’s error. We saw this as God taking us through a journey of faith. He wanted us to decide if we could trust Him with our decisions.

Around this time, I was starting my work as a minister and we had little funds. During the summer when my wife was pregnant, we had two cars and one broke down. It was not fixable and my job required travel. We knew having just one car was not going to work but we didn’t have the money to buy a car. My mom had access to the Federal Credit Union and we secured a loan there. We had 30 days to get the car. But I was uneasy about it. I felt like we needed to trust God. I asked, “Lord, is this another opportunity to trust you?” On the last day for us to buy the car under the terms of the loan, my mom called and asked if we were going to get the loan. I told her no. This was August.

Our baby was born November 13 and still no car. Three days after she was born, I received a phone call saying there was a car available if I wanted it. The only stipulation was that I had to drive to Birmingham, Alabama and play a round of golf with the man who was donating the car. It was a Ford Taurus, and we had it for years. That was in 1998. We moved in 2003, and one day when I was driving home from work I had a wreck and totaled the car. That car had been used by missionaries and had been used to lead several guys to Christ. I sent a message letting people know the car was totaled and telling the story of the car—how we got it and how the car had been used for ministry. Within 30 minutes we had two offers to replace the car!

Getting the car was another way for us to see God and trust Him. We were starting a new ministry and I think God was fostering in those early experiences a posture of dependency of being able to trust Him. This has helped us to trust Him in other things over the years. Those experiences were foundational for us. We know that God is trustworthy and we are so thankful for His continued care throughout the years.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

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.

#153 Mission Focused

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I grew up in a conservative home and decided to attend a small Christian college because of its conservative values rather than its faith-based mission. I was accepted to law school after college, but before I began, I learned that my mother had terminal lung cancer. My mother insisted that I not delay my law education and I complied with her wishes. My mother died the week of my second semester law school final exams. I was 23 years old and not ready to lose her. I coped by drinking too much, and this became a way of life for me. I graduated law school, passed the bar exam, and became a prosecuting attorney, all while drinking excessively. I was an alcoholic, drinking my paycheck each week and sometimes missing work because of drinking binges. 

On December 11, 2006, the court bailiff came into my office, shared the gospel of Christ, and led me to the Lord at my desk. Everything changed after that. I have been sober since that day. The gentleman who led me to Christ was also a pastor, and I began attending his church. He had been an alcoholic too and knew what it was like. He was a tremendous support to me and carried me through. A few months later I met the woman who would become my wife.

In 2008, I resigned as county prosecutor and started a non-profit organization to help other people with drug and alcohol addictions. I began by simply connecting those who needed help with treatment programs. This was a needed service in our region, as we live in one of the worst areas of the country for drug abuse. I felt God was calling me to do more, specifically to open a Christian addiction recovery center. There were some major roadblocks to overcome before this could happen. Our biggest problem was finding a suitable place for the recovery center. We had worked on several buildings to get them ready to become the center but couldn’t get any approved because none met the requirements for a residential treatment facility. We had been working for almost two years to open a center with no traction, and finally I realized that there was a house that I had previously leased that might be the building. I had leased the house with a purchase option because of something I had experienced in prayer. I had felt God telling me the building was to become a house of prayer. So, I leased it thinking someday it might become a place for prayer retreats. I never anticipated it might become our recovery center. I asked the fire marshal to do the inspection on the house and he said, “Finally, you are going to open your center!” The house had been a bed and breakfast and had been grandfathered into the building code. Within two months we were open as a Christian residential drug treatment center. And today the house is definitely a house of prayer. 

There was another big hurdle. Money. I had no income and we had a new baby. It had become difficult to even buy diapers. We just couldn’t keep it up with no money coming in. Then I met a Christian businessman and he told me that God would provide if this was His will. One morning in 2011, I woke up at 5 a.m. and went to pray. What I heard in my prayer was that I was approaching things the wrong way. I was approaching drug treatment like a church would, but instead I needed to learn from secular addiction treatment programs. I researched different secular drug treatment programs around the country for a place that most resembled the people and problems in our area, and then with a leap of faith, I spent all our money to hire someone from the addiction treatment industry in Florida as a consultant. Very quickly she showed us that we could be reimbursed from insurance and Medicaid for the care we were providing. This was a game changer and provided the income that we needed to not only continue providing care but to expand.

We now have nine residential Christian addiction treatment centers and four outpatient centers throughout the state. We recently opened an addiction treatment center for pregnant women. Our board wasn’t sure if the time was right to do this, but I felt strongly God leading us to move forward. There was a home for sale in our community that seemed the right size and layout for the maternity center. I had a good feeling about it when we arrived to look at it. The former owners had moved out and nothing remained except a plaster statue of Jesus holding a child in His arms on the front porch. We purchased the home and it now serves as a beautiful place of community where pregnant women and their newborn babies can receive the love and help they need. After purchasing, we learned the home had belonged to a Christian obstetrician. We kept the statue of Jesus holding the child and it is now in the entryway of the home as a reminder to all who enter of Jesus’ love and care for His children.

We have been mission focused from the beginning, and this is still a big part of what we do. We provide pastoral counselors and chaplains and help those going through our program to discover God’s love and grace. The chaplain at the first center we opened is the gentleman who led me to Christ in my office in 2006. The faith-based part of our program doesn’t replace clinical treatment. It comes alongside it. Our model of care is a holistic approach, including spiritual (soul), clinical (mind), medical (body), and vocational (purpose).

Our model is to combine job training and residential treatment in a faith-based environment, and this has been very successful. Every person who completes our recovery program has the opportunity to participate in our staff internship program in which they are guaranteed a job with us at their one-year clean mark. We now employ 200 people at an average pay of $37,500 with benefits, and 70 of those employees are graduates of our own treatment programs!

Each day I continue to seek God’s guidance, wisdom, and provision. I pray often and write down prayers and what I sense as God’s leading throughout the day. When our steering committee meets, we begin with praise and worship music, prayer, and a short message. After this, I share ​what God has given me in prayer. Often, we step out in faith and make business decisions simply because we believe that God is leading us to do something and we trust that He will provide. And He has. God has held us together in difficult financial times. The Lord always comes through just in time. 

One day a month we close the doors at every office at the company. We gather for Convocation, which is a time the whole company, including residents in our treatment programs, comes together to worship corporately. The residents sing and share testimonies. It is very powerful . . . the best day of our month. No business is conducted on that day. It’s when we ge​t out of the way so that God can go behind us to fix our messes. God has the whole company to Himself that day. God is definitely at the stern of this ship. He continues to lead us, provide for us, restore us, and love us.

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.

#151 Little Church by the Creek

 

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

In 1997, my sister was taken to the hospital because of a problem with her foot from diabetes. I had been to

visit her and for some reason that night when I came out of her room I decided to go to the bathroom before getting on the elevator. When I got out of bathroom and got on elevator to go home, a woman on the elevator with me was very upset. She told me her husband was very sick and she felt very alone. We got off the elevator and walked out to the parking lot together.

I am a caring person, but to ask a complete stranger if I could pray with her in a hospital parking lot … this was out of my comfort zone. But I felt God calling me to do this, so I asked if I could pray for her. I felt that God told me, “You have got to be Me to this person.” I vividly remember standing in the hospital parking lot at dusk, huddled with her in prayer, snow coming down around us.

I prayed for a sense of peace for her and healing and comfort for her husband. God has given me many opportunities in the past to do something similar, but this is the first time I said yes and I’m so glad I had the courage to do it. It only took a few minutes to share His love with someone else. I felt so blessed that God had given the woman a sense of peace and comfort and that I had a part in that.

I have learned to always be available for God to work through me and that when I do, God will show up and show me what to do. God is faithful. He will equip you. He equipped me and gave me the words to say to the woman in the hospital parking lot. I had that ability before that encounter but was afraid or embarrassed to do anything. But when I obeyed what I felt God calling me to do, He equipped me with the words to pray. Since that time, I have felt God urging me to pray for people and I now respond to those promptings. 

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.