#173. Then The Doorbell Rang

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff 

When I was growing up my family didn’t go to church. But I wanted to. I was saved at a youth convention when I was 12 years old. It’s been a long journey, and there have been times that I haven’t been as close to God. But I’ve always felt His hand on me and I have felt His guidance.

After I retired as a high school librarian in the public school system, I became a librarian at a local college. During this “retired” season of my life, God began to lead me on a new journey. I’ve always had a heart for teenagers and I saw in the newspaper that a lady who had a pregnancy center about an hour and half away was coming to our town to see if someone would open a pregnancy center in our town. Her center was the closest one to our town and she had so many girls from our county that she couldn’t serve them all.

There were seven of us that met with her about starting a center in our town. We decided that we would open a pregnancy center and I would become the director. Initially, we had no money but God put together a caring board of directors who had experience and talents that really helped. We raised $18,000 through a baby bottle drive that allowed us to lease a building downtown for the center. We had spent nearly all the money preparing the building and preparing for our clients. We had no other money coming in and no one really knew about us. We didn’t have many clients—I think we had had one client, and I wasn’t sure she was really even a client. We had no donors. I was pretty discouraged. I thought, “What have we done?” I went to the post office to see if we had gotten any donations in the mail. None. I walked back and went into the back room of the pregnancy center. I prayed, “God, I feel like you called me to do this but I’ve always been a librarian. I don’t know if this was in my mind or your calling.”

Just then the doorbell rang and a lawyer walked in. He said,“There’s a group of us that have gotten together and we love what you are doing and want to support it.” He handed me a very large check. This was an immediate answer to prayer and the confirmation and encouragement I needed. We have never looked back. God continues to provide and His timing is always right.

The pregnancy center has been open 12 years now. We are in the far-most corner of Eastern Kentucky, and we had nothing like this in our area. We serve both men and women of all ages from 12 counties and three states. What we do for each person varies because each person is different and has different needs. We are part of Care Net, a national group founded in 1975 by Dr. Harold L.J. Brown with the advice and encouragement of the late Rev. Billy Graham and the late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer. We had to take training to be an affiliate.

We teach GED classes and try to get the young women to finish high school and get into college. We teach parenting and life skills classes and we have a fatherhood program. We even have a new grandparent’s classes because so many of our clients have been addicted to drugs, and the grandparents raise the children,so we are trying to help the grandparents. A lot of things have changed since they were parents. We host a girl’s night out and a grandparent’s night out. We have a program for ladies who have had abortions, to help with guilt. We provide counseling and a Forgiven and Set Free class they can take. We have a lot of hurting people in Appalachia that need material items, so we have a Bundle of Joy room/store in our center. The room is filled with light and organized beautifully by a volunteer by item type, size, and gender. We have many clothes, blankets, shoes, and other items that food stamps and WIC (Women, Children, and Infants Federal program) doesn’t pay for—like wipes, diapers,and even new car seats. Clients earn baby bucks to shop, by doing things like taking their baby for a wellness check or taking a parenting class.

The main thing we are doing is trying to save lives. We are very gentle when we talk about saving baby’s lives. We want to let the girls know that God hasn’t given up on them because family and friends have given up on them. Girls feel embarrassed, scared, and hopeless, and we minister to them at a brokenhearted time. They often feel very alone. I imagine my 16-year-old granddaughter in that situation. I wouldn’t want her to be judged and alone. I would want her to have support, compassion, and love.

Shortly after we opened, a pregnant teen came to us for help. Her parents were so angry that they disowned her and she lived with her grandmother who also wasn’t very happy with her. When she delivered her baby, we took a collection of brand-new baby clothes and accessories as a gift to her in the hospital. Her room was dark and she was by herself. I said, “Hi! We’ve come to celebrate your baby!” She said, “Nobody has celebrated my baby.” I showed her the gift we had brought and her face lit up. As I held up each tiny garment for her baby, I could see hope on her face. That’s really the main thing I want to give the girls…compassion and hope. This young woman went on to become a nurse and her baby is a thriving 10-year-old girl! We saw her not long ago and she told my husband, “You wouldn’t believe how my life was changed because of the pregnancy center!” This is just one example. I have seen God change so many lives through the center.

I remember one evening after the center was closed and I was working late, a young woman came into the center because she saw the light on in my office. She had been on her way to get an abortion. God’s timing is always perfect.

Another time a teenage girl came to the center very upset because she wanted to keep her baby, but her mother was adamant that she have an abortion. I talked with both the girl and the mother together but there was no resolution. I had done everything I knew to do. I asked the mother if I could pray and she agreed. When I prayed, I laid my hand on the mother and said, “God I’m praying for things that are not as though they will be. I pray that you will reveal to her that this is her grandchild.” His Spirit filled the room. The woman was not a Christian, and she got saved that day. Her grandchild is now is 1 year old.

We get no federal or state money to run the center. God provides through His people. We have three big fundraisers, a baby bottle drive, the banquet for life, and a golf tournament. You can just see what God has done. I have discovered that God’s mercies are new every morning. His faithfulness is great. I know that things that are not possible with man are possible with God.

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.

#58 God Reached Down And Said, “I’m Here.”

 Photo by Laura Rush, Esther Bloom Photography

I was 27 years old and pregnant with our second child, already having an energetic two-year-old daughter, Lise, brightening up our lives. We had moved to Vermont from Wisconsin where my husband Jim did his medical internship and residency, so not only was I far from my family, but my husband spent long hours at the hospital.

We had joined a wonderful, new little Methodist church, and I enjoyed directing the children’s choir. As my pregnancy progressed, with each doctor’s visit my blood pressure was rising. Finally, two weeks before my due date, I was diagnosed with alarmingly high blood pressure, signaling the dangerous situation called “pre-eclampsia.” At the appointment, my doctor told me I was to go directly home and to bed where I was to stay. As a nurse, I was stunned and scared as I picked up my daughter from a sitter. I knew that this lively two-year-old wouldn’t understand my needing to be in bed. And it was only 3 p.m.—long before my husband Jim would be home.

I took Lise out of her car seat, went in the house, and sat down on the bed. I gave a simple cry out loud, a prayer of just seven words—the only ones I could think of: “God, what am I going to do?” Within literally a couple seconds, the doorbell rang. I went to answer it and standing there was a woman from our little Methodist church, Bev. Bev had never been to my house before. I didn’t know her well. But there she was, saying, “I was just driving down Williston Road (a main road that went by our neighborhood) and something told me to stop in and see you. Can I take Lise outside to play until Jim gets home?” So she did, and I laid down until Jim got home and we could make some arrangements for child care.

I truly believe every so often God reaches down into our lives to tell us, “I am here!” And God knows what we need even before the prayer comes out of our mouth! We just need to be open and alert to the possibilities. This story took me a long time to share, because it was so deeply and profoundly special to me, that it felt almost a breach of privacy to tell someone about it. The first time I told it, it was with tears. Now I love to tell it! And to this day I call Bev my angel.

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.