#221. A Second Chance

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

After dealing with a spirit of rejection all my life, I made the worst decision I could have possibly made. It was Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011. My wife and I had been divorced for three years, and I had been dating another woman for about seven months. Everything was going well in our relationship. We had even talked about getting married, but that night she called to tell me she wanted to break up. Once again, the rejection hit me — this time full force. I just couldn’t take it any more.

I hung up the phone and immediately began to plan my suicide. I called my mom but never said what I was going to do. Then I went to bed. The next morning (Thursday, Sept. 15) I got up and wrote a note for whomever. Then I dialed 911 and told the guy on the other end what I was going to do. He tried to talk me out of it, but I said that I’ve had enough and hung up.

I then went outside and sat on a stump with my pistol and waited. When I heard the police pull up, I put the gun to my head and pulled the trigger. Lying on the ground I was still conscious and could hear everything being said around me. One officer said it was a bad angle, and I probably wouldn’t make it. Then they picked me up and carried me to the ambulance. They laid me on my side and put my head on something hard. As they drove me to the hospital, I began to choke on the blood collecting in my throat. I tried to lift my head to cough but the attendant shoved my head down.

While going to the hospital the male attendant was telling jokes and laughing with a female attendant. He told her I was losing too much blood and wouldn’t live. When we arrived at the hospital, I lost consciousness.

I don’t know how many days I was unconscious, but when I began to wake up, I could see faces, though somewhat blurry, and hear voices, but I was unable to talk.  Eventually my vision cleared up and I could talk again. My mother and sister were there, along with some friends from the church I attended.  

Three weeks to the day that I arrived, I went home, though very weak, as they did not allow me to eat anything.  Not even a drink of water.  

When I started dating that woman, early on I remember saying to myself, “If this woman breaks up with me, I’ll kill myself.” I did not realize that what I had done was make an inner vow, which opened the door for the enemy to come in. I had never heard of an inner vow until I was home and recovering. I heard a man on TV explaining what it was.

The same year I tried to end my life, my ex-wife and I were remarried on Christmas Eve. My miraculous, full recovery and marriage has given me a new appreciation for life. I also have experienced God’s love for me in ways I had never experienced before. 

I understand now that God was not rejecting me. It was the enemy rejecting me by using other people. This spiritual warfare had me convinced that I was not wanted and not loved by anyone. Those were lies and I bought into them.  

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.(Ephesians 6:12)

#220. He Gives Strength to the Weariest of Souls

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

As a child, we never went to church. My parents were born and raised in a coal mining community of West Virginia. They were both the product of poverty and religion gone mad. The foundation of their lives was built on a belief that true “religion” was about who could not get bitten when the rattlesnake was passed their way. Sometimes, I imagine that my parents viewed their entire life as a church service, just waiting to see which one of them would survive the poison.

I am the youngest of three substantially older siblings who were on their way “out the door” as I was “on my way in.” My parents were the owners of a donut shop, which meant they both worked from 5 p.m. until 5 a.m., so my siblings were burdened with the responsibility of caring for me and seeing that I was fed and entertained. I am certain that between my two sisters, this was not a responsibility they were happy about! So, from early on, I was left alone to entertain myself while my parents worked, slept or went out.

For my mother, daily drinking was a true way of life. A diagnosis of diabetes led her to become sober when I was about 12. Funny thing is that with that one decision to make her life “better,” it seemed as if ours became worse. Our house was never one that had a pattern. I lived in total chaos, not knowing what to expect on a daily basis, but that chaos was the only thing that I knew, and the comfort level of the craziness was, at times, the only normalcy I could hold on to. We went from weekly drinking binges to weekly AA meeting splurges, only to find that she was never ever satisfied with any of the outcomes. She was self-consumed. Eventually, I was the only one left at home, left behind to deal with her misery and anger. She had nothing of herself to give and she demanded so much from me.

When it came into my life, I’m not certain, but God gifted me with a keen sense and a creative mind, making it easy for me to be a leader. In the past, like my mother did, I have used that gift to my advantage. Not to glorify God as He intended, but to glorify myself and my behaviors. If I would have allowed God to open my eyes, I would have seen that satan had been invited into my life through the portal of nonchalance and unawareness.

Looking back over my life, I see how God protected me. Many times, in my childhood, I was in vulnerable and dangerous situations. For many years, I didn’t realize that God was my Protector, Provider and Defender. I had no clue until I heard about the Gospel. So, back then, I said it was “luck” that protected me.  I spent so many years running from everything that I knew to be “normal.” 

All of that came to a complete halt when I became an incarcerated convict in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. It was then that I was able to stop running long enough to let God get a firm grasp on me. I had the opportunity to complete a Christian program based on Bible principles in prison. We were trained in scripture so that we could apply it to our lives when were released. The program was designed to be inmate-led. All of the participants in this program lived in one dorm, and there were two female inmates who predominantly taught our classes (character and scripture memorization). This program opened my eyes to the love that God offered me. I felt acceptance from God, acceptance of who I was becoming through His word. 

God took the time that I spent behind bars to mold my soul, to create in me a love that was unfailing, unbelievable and undeniable. He opened my eyes to peace and a firm foundation of trust and calmness. So much for “jailhouse Jesus,” huh? It is real and true and I am a living testimony of His grace. But, as I received the knowledge of God, I never received His grace through salvation before I came from behind the walls. There was great wisdom within the walls. I learned so much and gleaned so much of that knowledge, but I just never accepted Christ as my Savior. Instead, my time in prison was a time of building trust in Him. Since I had never had anyone to lean on in my life, it was difficult for me to develop trust, but I was learning.

Upon my release from prison, I was quickly thrown into the reality of life. The husband that I thought would be there with open arms had since found someone else. My household full of furniture that I thought I would have available to me had been given away months before to anyone who would come and get it. And, any thought of a past life that may have waited on me while I was away was just that, a thought. Visibly there was nothing left of my former life, and as I tell the ladies that I minister to today when I speak to them, “God will remove all hindrances from you when He changes you.” He knew that if anything from my past would have been waiting on me outside the gates, my heart would immediately run back to the place that He had just delivered me out of. Not the life I would have chosen, but with separation and knowledge, I could not have asked for a better blessing. With the hard reality of being alone and still not having committed my life to Christ, I turned back to the bottle. 

My mother passed away in 2000 and my father died in 2007, so loss was not a stranger to me. After I was released from prison in 2011, my sister, whom I had not had time to make amends with, died of a massive heart attack eight months after I was released. The loss of my beloved sister was the final blow to an otherwise broken soul. Then, the only reason that I lived was to drink until I died. Days turned into weeks, and each and every day for three months, I drank myself into unconsciousness. Secluded from life, I wasted everything that I had on the bottle. I would drink until I passed out, wake up again, curse God for keeping me alive, and drink again. I knew that the Master existed, I even led my own mother to Christ hours before she died, having the faith that He existed, but not accepting His love for me personally. Not yet.

It was the love of my dear friend (story #219) who would ask me to go to church for a revival service. It was her love for me that kept bringing her to my doorstep to check on me, often afraid of what she might find. It was her commitment to not letting me die alone that urged her to consistently reach out, as all the others had given up hope. In one moment of strength that, at that time, I saw as weakness, I allowed her to take me to church. In one moment of time, I surrendered to the call of the Master. At that altar, I prayed that He would take my life and He, in His audible voice told me this: “I have heard your prayers and I will answer them. If you take one more drink you will die, but you will not live with Me in Heaven.” Only God knew that I would leave that altar saved unto His Kingdom and delivered completely from the horror of alcohol.

So many things I needed to tell my loved ones. My children, still angry and wounded from my incarceration, were not even speaking to me. I had spent many nights on my knees asking God to change me into the woman that He wanted me to be and that He would reunite me with the boys. Two years of praying and crying, praying and crying. “Please bring about a change in me that is pleasing to my sons,” I would beg. After two years, God granted that request with my older son. He was the hard-headed military son who had originally demanded that I seek help. He is the one who found me after a two-week drunk and had to call the ambulance. He was the one who uttered the words “Mom, the ambulance is here and the whole neighborhood is watching. Now, am I going to have to carry you out like a drunk or are you going to walk out of here like a woman?” Those were some of the last words he said to me before I went to prison. He is the one who asked to see me first when I came home two years later. I can’t explain the conversation that we had at dinner. I can’t remember the words that I used to ask his forgiveness. But I do remember this phrase, “You’re my mom, and I will always love you.”

His brother, on the other hand, wasn’t quite as forgiving. He was not ready to see me, notbecause he was angry or hurt, he just didn’t need me in his life. He had a great career, a wonderful wife-to-be and a fulfilling relationship with God. I had never been there for him, so he went on about life as if I were not involved, and I wasn’t. But each week I would message him, just to tell him that I was thinking of him, that I was praying for him and that I loved him. Three years of prayer and petition and one day, a response. At 4 a.m. on a Monday morning in July 2014, I sent the usual message. “Son, I love you and I pray for you always.” And at 4:17 a.m., the reply, “Mom, it’s time we get together for dinner. Would you let me take you out Friday?” God hears a praying mom. He would take no apology or reasoning. He only wanted to start a relationship with his mother. He wanted nothing of the past and could only focus on our future together and his upcoming marriage in August. To my amazement, he and his bride-to-be handed me an invitation. The wedding was a few weeks away, and they both graciously involved me in some decisions of food and pictures on their big day. As I left my house on the wedding day and during the entire two-hour drive, I could only weep to God, thanking Him and asking Him to allow me to sit in the back so I could watch from a distance. I asked Him to honor one more request, that I just be able to see my son’s face as he took on the responsibility of leading his new household as a Godly husband to his wife. “Just let me sit in the back. Please do not let me get in the way,” I prayed out loud as I drove. But my God saw things differently. As the pictures were finished and the wedding was about to begin, I started to find a seat in the back row. “Mom, where are you going?” I heard. “Honey, I’m going to grab a seat so I can see you.” The next words were priceless…“Mom, you have to sit up front today. That’s where the moms go.” So, my oldest son took me by the arm and escorted me to the front row. So I could see. So I could feel what it was like to be forgiven. So I could be a part of this new life. So my faith in a loving God could be reaffirmed and I could share this story with those who need hope of answered prayers.

Wrecked by Grace . . . The Adult Child of a Demanding Mother. The Adult Child of an Alcoholic. The Adult Child. Convict. Convicted. Transformed. From a family tree of addicts to the aftermath of a life of bad decisions, the season of my life has to equate with fall. From the most hardened love demands of a mother to a love that is tender and forgiving that I have with my Heavenly Father, the leaves of my life have fallen in due time. Bits and pieces of me have been scattered throughout my life. Pieces of the real me. Pieces of joy and pain, laughter and tears. Pieces that seem to have the most majestic colors in the latest season of my life. Not the soft colors of spring, nor the stunning colors of summer. My life reflects the majestic warm colors of autumn, pleasant to gaze upon and sometimes a mere wonder that the leaves survived the harshest heat of past days.

One month after God delivered and saved me, my calling to correctional ministry began. I met a woman from our church who had a ministry team that went inside the Pine Bluff Area Office of the Arkansas Community Correction facility once a month to speak words of hope and testimony to the residents. At that time, the facility was open to all ex-offenders released at least 60 days who had been given permission from their parole office to travel outside the county.

From the moment that I went into the compound, I knew that God had opened a doorway for me to minister. I felt the pull of the Spirit and heard the words “This is the reason that you have lived behind the walls — so that you can be an image of hope to these ladies.” In the coming back, I knew that my life was coming full circle. I knew that God had allowed every bad decision, wrong turn and misguided step to place me in prison. He knew I would have faith enough in Him to tell my story to those who were still battling. I was taken out of the war and now, with God’s help, I am walking back into the battle to lend a hand to others.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to go back into prisons and tell people that God is for them and not against them. His love reaches far, further than they have ever been. As strong as any addiction or stronghold that has them unable to move, He is more powerful and can give strength to even the weariest of souls.

God’s character is fully merciful and compassionately just. He does not waiver and He cannot be manipulated. That is the best part of the Grace of God. In reality, justice sets us free. Justice is the blend of the strong hand of the Lord because He loves us, the repentance that draws us closer to Him and the ability to forgive ourselves of the past through His strength.

And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. — Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NKJV

#196 Living on Assignment

 Photo by Sophie Goforth

God saved me from death eight years ago but, more importantly; He gave me a new beginning when, by all rights, there should only have been a tragic ending. 

My name is Melissa and I’m a recovering addict, but much more, I’m a redeemed child of God. I am a writer by trade, and have done well in this career; although I have failed miserably as the author of my own story. The story I tried to write of my life was one I insisted on filling with excitement, money, power, control, and all the love and adoration I could stand. I wanted the perfect modern-day fairytale, and I wanted things to go my way, on my terms. However, the sad story I strung together for four decades was pretty on the outside but a total mess on the inside. It was completely empty, yet filled with selfishness, shame, regret, loneliness, unresolved anger, addiction, and despair. My tragic tale included bad choices, bad characters, and a very bad outcome. 

On January 29, 2012, God got tired of the way I was writing Melissa’s story, and closed the book on it. 

Prior to this, I was the hero of my own story. I appeared to be an empowered, single mom who was in control of every career move. I had worked as a reporter and had worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. I have met astronauts and had my accomplishments recognized on the floor of Mission Control. I have the only Hello Kitty doll that’s traveled to space! I was a successful woman on the outside and a total train wreck on the inside. I struggled with excess for a long time — excessive need for attention, excessive need for stimulation, and excessive need for alcohol to dull and/or enhance every situation in life. I was horrible at relationships, constantly thinking I needed the attention of men, and unable to control my drinking to the point of not remembering the night and, eventually, the days before. The character Melissa, whom I didn’t want people to know on a deep level, was not a nice, pretty person. She caused so much hurt with her drunken words. She didn’t care for her precious daughter like she should have, and she found herself being in trouble with the law around every corner. She even spent the night in jail after passing out in her running truck in a parking lot one afternoon. 

You would think after all that mess, and so much more, it would have prompted a change of heart. But even a weeklong stay in the hospital with pneumonia, brought on by a weakened, alcohol-induced state, didn’t change my heart. Destroying essentially every valuable relationship as a drunk didn’t change my heart either. Even threats from my parents to take my daughter from me because I was an unfit mother didn’t change my heart. In all my despair and shame, I was still prideful and stubborn. I was unwilling to do the work I needed to get my life on track. I wanted help but I wouldn’t budge. I still wanted to control my own story. I couldn’t get on top of my addiction, so I would pray and pray to God asking Him to save me from my every mess, which He did over and over again. But was I grateful, was I remorseful? Did it change my heart? NO! I just made bigger messes. It was the pattern in my life that kept me away from God. Even worse, I was a master at hiding my true self and making life look perfect to those who barely knew me. I kept those who knew the truth about me shut out as much as possible. 

I kept all my lies, deceit, and charades in motion until a dreary Sunday afternoon on January 29, 2012. That’s the day my world fell apart. My sodium level bottomed out and my body was depleted of all the nutrients it needed to live. 

I had essentially drank myself to death. 

In front of my four-year daughter and elderly father, I collapsed face-first and started convulsing. I don’t have a memory of it, but my dad told me later that I began throwing up and had blood coming out of my mouth. My dad called 911. My daughter was crying and the ambulance came and took me away. They didn’t have time to get me to the trauma center at the university hospital because they said I would have been dead on arrival, so they took me to a local hospital. When they wheeled me in, I was frothing at the mouth. My friend Gabe, whom I call my angel Gabriel, happened to be the nurse on duty. He was stunned to see me like that. They had already done CPR, and they couldn’t get me to breathe. 

I was dying. 

Gabe, who now calls me Miracle Melissa, told me he was so worried I wasn’t going to make it. Another nurse walked in and bluntly said “Oh, she’s going to die.” He could tell I was fading fast so he prayed over my body. He prayed for God to intercede and for me to live. It was out of medical hands at that point. In the two days that followed I was unconscious and on a ventilator. But, in that time, my entire life was transformed. 

While I appeared nearly dead to the world, I was on the other side and had an experience that was so profound it altered the course of my remaining life on earth. I was alive in this world physically but in every other way I was living on the other side. It’s funny, I didn’t believe in near-death experiences until I had one. I don’t want to be the crazy near-death lady, but it is what it is. There really are no words to describe what I experienced, but I will try my best. 

It was the “realest” experience I have ever had. I went through a life review, vividly experiencing my life from birth until the moment I collapsed. Not just seeing it, but truly experiencing it with all my senses, including smells. It was wonderous and upsetting all in one. I relived a lot of joyous times but also saw how my negativity had overwhelmed my life. I saw how I had taken for granted all the blessings — and third and fourth chances God had given me. My time on the other side was filled with Jesus, full of grace, advocating for me. I pleaded with God to return me to my daughter Sophie. I didn’t read the Bible, so I didn’t know that it says Jesus is my Advocate (1 John 2:1). God had mercy on me, allowing me to come back to life. I woke up knowing that the most important thing in life is the love we give and the love we allow other people to pour into us. When I was allowed to return to life, I was given two assignments, clear as day. Number one, “get my life right.” Number two, “tell my story.” I have spent every day since then trying my best to do both. Even though I’m not perfect, God still gives me grace. He knows I am trying this time. I wasn’t trying before. The first person I shared my story with was my nurse, and she just sat down and wept. She said she had been praying for God to show her He is real.

Miraculously, I experienced no health issues after my brush with death. But the spiritual experience radically changed my life. I have more than 3,000 days of sobriety. I was the one who couldn’t go more than three hours without using alcohol or drugs. I know now without a doubt that God and Jesus are real and that our time on earth is just part of a much, much bigger picture. This knowledge has not only convicted me to live better, but it has freed me mentally and emotionally to live a bolder and more vibrant life for the Lord. I now let my life shine bright for Him, which is something I never did before. Before, my life seemed well put together, but it was depleted in every sense of the word. Without a personal relationship with Jesus to depend on at that time, I was crumbling quickly under the stress, sadness, and emptiness. My collapse represented where I was with life in all aspects, physically, emotionally, mentally and, above all, spiritually. 

Now fast forward to this moment, and for me to be walking bolding in the light and standing strong is nothing short of a miracle. Any one that knows me can point to that collapse and say the experience changed me forever. My life was still a mess when I woke up. It wasn’t perfectly put back together instantly. But I learned that I had to let go and give my problems to God. And He has pieced my world back together in incredible ways. 

I was baptized in my early 20s. I believed in God but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. But God didn’t give up on me. I knew God wasn’t punishing me. The life review was so important because it showed me all the chances God had given me. I have to push myself to share my story because I don’t want to be labeled crazy. I never knew that telling my story would set me free and point others to Christ. My story is not Melissa’s story. It’s God’s story told through Melissa’s life. I now serve people in active addiction and recovery, using my story. God has turned my mess into my message. Every day I get to use what was my shame to help pull people out their own personal hell. I know where to look for them in that darkness because I’ve tried to hide there too. 

God gave me the chance to get my life right, but I had to let Him take over as the Author of my story. I am still in awe of the way He has transformed me from life as an addicted, twice-divorced, single mom — stumbling through deep, dark despair — to someone living as a sober, devoted mom, grateful friend, and active church member who loves life. I have watched my daughter grow, rebuilt relationships with my parents, reconnected with friends and now I have a great Godly man in my life who loves me AND my redemption story! I’ve been transformed by the Lord into something beautiful. He has allowed me to connect with hurting hearts in my job — there is nothing that compares. 

The story God has written for me is beyond what I thought I deserved or would ever receive from Him. Honestly, all I had to do was to hand Jesus the broken pieces of the mess I had created over the years and let Him rebuild my shattered world. From there, Jesus took control, and I have never looked back. 

Don’t give up until your miracle happens. God is there. You just have to reach out and be willing to do what He calls you to do. 

“…. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah  29:11 (NIV)

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.

#175. The Desires Of My Heart


Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

My parents didn’t take me to church but I went with a neighbor regularly. I LOVED church growing up. I went to every camp and on every mission trip. I was really smart in high school, and by all appearances I was set for life. My parents were together and my dad had a good job as a policeman. Everything should have gone well. But a few months after I graduated high school I was raped and then as hard as I had run toward God, I began to run away. When I drank or did drugs, everything was okay. I didn’t have to think about things that were painful. I started to find my identity when I was high. All of a sudden, I could express myself and had no social awkwardness. I was the girl who would do anything, the girl who was funny. Even though I had grown up in church and loved Jesus and I knew He loved me, I didn’t connect my identity with Christ. So, what that meant was that I was always searching to find my worth in friendships, performance, and relationships. I didn’t find any worth in me apart from these things.

My moderation switch was broken. I was either going 100 miles an hour or sitting still. My drug addiction was no different. Balance was missing from my life. Anything that happened to me was either the best thing that happened or the worst. Being high leveled out my perception of extremes.

I ended up pregnant and still couldn’t quit. I started getting arrested. At one point in all of this insanity, I took my daughter to my grandparent’s house and didn’t go back to get her. I knew that I couldn’t take care of her and she would have a better life with my grandparents. I sought treatment but I didn’t think I was a true addict. I couldn’t stay clean after treatment, even after multiple treatments and multiple jail stays. My addiction got worse. It went from pain pills to heroin to meth, and then I started making meth. At this point I was living in a house without electricity and water. In October 2012, I came home and the police were waiting on me. I was charged with manufacturing meth and facing 20 years in state prison. Eventually it was dropped to a lesser charge and I ended up with a four-year sentence. I served 11 months and that was enough to keep me straight for a while.

When I got out of jail, I got back involved in church. I no longer blamed God for the rape. I had surrendered my drug addiction to God but I hadn’t surrendered any other aspect of my life. I was still seeking my identity in the wrong places. I went from horrible relationship to horrible relationship and got pregnant again.

During this time, God started working on the heart of my daughter’s father. He was very angry (and understandably so) that I had left her with my grandparents, and I thought that I would never see her again or even hear her voice. But after I got out of jail, he allowed me to see her and she started living with me again. She was 4 years old at the time. I got a good job and then had the new baby, and between all these responsibilities I stopped going to church. I thought it would be okay to start drinking. In my mind, I was a junkie and alcohol wasn’t a big deal. But just like everything else, I had no moderation and very quickly I was drinking every day. A friend sent me a message that said, “I have relapsed.” I know he was reaching out for help, but when I went to meet him, he had drugs and I asked for some. I began doing drugs again after that.

I had hoped that I had overcome my problem with addiction, but this relapse extinguished all hope. It was like someone poured a bucket of water on it. I tried to stop but couldn’t. Thankfully, my family intervened and said, “You are going to treatment, or you are on the street.” I found out about a residential treatment center and called on Monday, but they said they didn’t take my insurance. Tuesday I called and asked which insurance they accepted so I could switch, and they said they had a meeting and decided to take my insurance! Wednesday they called and asked if I could come the next day. I said yes and arrived there on Thursday, August 11, 2016. Two days later the house where I had been doing drugs was raided by police and everyone in it went to jail. Wow! Praise God for His perfect timing.

The treatment center sat at the top of a mountain and I remember the driveway up to it was so long. I was so broken. I had had such a hope that I could raise my kids and have a job to support them. I thought I was doomed to live a life of constant relapse. I knew that my older daughter’s father had taken her once and I was terrified that he would take her for good. I was afraid my family would take my younger daughter. I didn’t know if I wanted to live another day. I had NO HOPE that this place would help me. I had been to so many treatment centers that couldn’t help me … why would this place be different? The first two weeks my attitude was just to “do my time” until I could get out. I received a letter from my employer saying they would not hold my job, which meant I wouldn’t have a way to support my children when I got out. This drove me further into hopelessness.

I’m not sure how long it was before I started opening back up to God again, but slowly and without a definite starting point, it happened. I began to find my true identity as a daughter of God. I learned that I don’t have to be the best to be loved. I can be myself and be okay with myself and know that people love me. During treatment, I found out about the Peer Support Academy, an online program that I could do at the end of my treatment to get certified to help others with addictions. This was a career path—a way I could support my family. Learning about this opportunity gave me hope. After I finished treatment, I completed the training and became a peer support specialist. In May, I was hired as full-time staff at a residential center. In August, I was transferred to the corporate office where I currently work with the chief of staff. All of my strengths are being used in my job now. I get to make a difference in people’s lives because I am sharing hope and showing them that change is possible. Life is still really hard but there are so many blessings! When I look at where I was a year and half ago and where I am today—I never thought this would be possible. There were many times that I had hoped that I would OD and die, because it was the only way I saw out of the prison of addiction. But God didn’t let it happen. He had other plans and He didn’t let me go.

Now both of my children live with me again and I’m a mom. I was just able to buy a car this year. I am renting my own house. I have never been able to do that! I feel like God is just saying, “Let me give you the desires of your heart!” When I was in high school I loved participating in mock government activities and conferences. Earlier this year I was asked to talk to state legislators about my story and advocate for treatment for addiction instead of incarceration. It isn’t mock government anymore!

When I was in treatment, I made a list of qualities that I wanted in a life partner. I had been in unhealthy relationship after unhealthy relationship and I made a commitment to stay single until God showed me the man that would fit all of these qualities. After many prayers asking God to show me this man that He had picked out for me, He finally brought us together. October 3, 2018 I was privileged to marry the man that I had been searching for. Not only did he have all of the qualities on my “list,” but he has qualities that I didn’t even know that I needed. I am so blessed to be able to worship God with a husband that loves Him as much, if not more than, I do. 

When I was in treatment, every day we were asked questions. One was:

“I want to be someone who__________.” My answer was “someone who my children are proud of.” Last year a regional newspaper published my story and my 9-year-old daughter cut that article out and wrote, “Good job, Mom!” and taped it above her bed. This is the child that I was never to lay eyes on again. God is a God of restoration. The Bible promises that God will restore all the devil has stolen, and He is doing that, and more, every single day of my life.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6

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.

#158 Restoring a Sound Mind

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I was raised in a divided home. My dad was a party guy and drank a lot. My mom dragged us to church every Sunday and Wednesday, but was very angry. Her life didn’t end up the way she expected, and there was a very disappointing feel in our home most of the time. Growing up I thought I would much rather be like dad because he was having much more fun. He was eventually hurt at his job in the coal mine and there was no financial help for us after that. My mom worked with a direct sales company to make ends meet, and this meant I spent more time with my dad and we got even closer. After my dad got hurt, he got depressed. My mom began to resent him even more because he wasn’t providing for our family.

I was a good kid and made good grades, but I always compared myself to others. In high school, I pulled away from the good group of girls, and started hanging out with a different crowd. When I was 15 I took my first drink of alcohol and it was like I couldn’t go back to being good. My view of God was that He was harsh and you had to be perfect to come to Him. I felt like I had destroyed being able to be loved by Him, so I began a downhill spiral. When I was 17, I was in a car accident and got my first prescription for pain pills, and things quickly got out of control.

I used the MRI I had from the car accident as the “proof” I needed to get pain pills. I graduated with honors from high school and then went to college. When I was 19, I met a man at a bar and after knowing him nine days I dropped out of college and moved to Columbus to move in with him. I thought I was okay through all of this. I was using drugs daily, even though I had a job as a dental assistant. I lived with the man four years and the relationship was very abusive. His main source of income was selling drugs, and that became a big part of my life too. His mom died and she lived in Kentucky. So, we moved to Kentucky and were living in a car for six months. When it started getting cold out, I went back to my mom’s home. The man died a few months later.


After he died I started getting in a lot more trouble. The next year and a half I worked on and off at a gas station. I became an IV drug user and then could not function. It was then that I realized that I really had a problem. I could no longer hold down a job. I started stealing and getting arrested. In 2010, I was in a really bad car wreck and the money to pay my medical bills came to me and I kept the money. I became worse than I had ever been. I got arrested and then got a DUI and went to court. The prosecutor said, “I’m going to make sure you do a year in jail if you don’t get help for your addiction.” My mom stepped in and talked me into doing drug detox. On December 2, 2010, a residential Christian addiction recovery program opened in my town and I began my journey to recovery there.

I was really scared. I didn’t know if I would ever have a sound mind again. I had racing thoughts. I would read and not recall anything I had read. Things just didn’t click. I had been intelligent in school and it was terrifying to think I may not ever be able to function normally again. But it kept getting better. I can remember the first time I could remember a scripture verse and write it without going back to look at it. I finished the program and was offered and accepted a job at the Christian addiction recovery center I had attended. Eventually, I went back to college and finished my degree in psychology.

Recently, God has helped me discover more about who I really am. I have transitioned from working at the Christian addiction recovery center to a career in business, but there is still a lot of ministry involved in my job which I truly enjoy. I’ve discovered that I thrive in leadership, especially when I am provided opportunities to encourage and inspire people.  

God is so good and so loving and always working things out for good even when we don’ know what He is doing. He never left me through all of the dark days of drug addiction. He was there every step of the way, calling me back to Him. I am so grateful for the changes He has brought about in my life . . . and I am most grateful for His love.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

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.

#154 Steve the Cat

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I had the honor of sharing the devotional last week at a local Emmaus board meeting. It was not my turn, but God laid on my heart the burdens we see each week at our local Mission. Because of this, I am reminded of Steve the cat and his horrific journey to us and to his glorious and miraculous recovery.

I shared from Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn…” We had been alerted through our weekly prayer walks that some of our old friends from our days of church ministry had resurfaced in the neighborhood and perhaps as many as 20 are living in one location. By observation, it is obvious that they have fallen victim to those old demons. If we are reading what we are seeing correctly, its heroin, and they are all knee deep in it and it’s heartbreaking.

Steve the cat came to us on a recent Thanksgiving night while we were in New York City for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Our cat wrangler and sitter Mike realized that he had gained a new face and that little Steve was in trouble. You see, Steve had a raging infection in his body leaving him blind, emaciated, and in cardiac distress. He was dehydrated, had lost his ability to stand, and somehow found his way onto our deck through the cat door and found one of our pillowed cat cubbies where he prepared to die. However, like so many times in life, our God is in the little details, nudging us along and allowing us to see where He needs us to be.

When we returned, we scooped little Steve up—all three pounds of him—and headed to the local animal clinic, trying to decide if Steve would make it or if it would become just comfort measures for his last few and sad days. The veterinarian went to work giving Steve liquids and antibiotics and sending us home with a grocery list of do’s and don’ts to try to save our little gift from death. She told us that the outcome and his condition was grim.

This is where God stepped in, because Michael my best friend from grade school mailed a huge box of high fiber, high protein cat food to us after the loss of his cat Buddy, arriving the same week we began Steve’s rehabilitation. Slowly, through the shots, treatments, and food, Steve began to improve. I think we can honestly say that it took six to seven months before my wife and I ever said aloud, “I think Steve is going to make it.”

Isn’t Steve’s story just so God? The metaphor of how it is that we must come to Him broken, dehydrated, emaciated, and preparing to die so that the God of the universe will step in and begin our own journey of restoration, hope, and redemption. That choice is ours because He is waiting, praying that our face will turn to Him. We have a saying around our ministry: “You have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired,” and we have seen God meet person after person right in the midst of their death march when they finally become sick and tired.

I closed our devotion time with the first line of Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” So for us, our season and our time is now, intentionally Jericho-prayer-walking the house of our 20 old friends and verbalizing the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the good news that He is there with us, just waiting for these young kids caught up in the demons of Satan to be sick and tired of being sick and tired.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

We celebrated our second anniversary this past Thanksgiving with Steve the cat. He is healthy and vibrant, and although he will never regain his sight, he is just one of the guys around the house. He has been known to chase his sisters through every room and across the entire length of the house. Steve gets into swatting matches with his brothers and thankfully allows us to sleep on one side of the bed as long as we do not bother him in his position lying sideways in the middle.

God is in the details, indeed.

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.

#145 Little Church by the Creek

Photo by Trevor Rapp

I grew up in a house where my mom was a believer but my dad not so much. There wasn’t much exposure to church or religion. I got married when I was 20 years old to my high school sweetheart. I was immature and apparently not really ready to be married. We had some rough times the first year of our marriage. We decided to separate. I stayed in our trailer and my wife moved out.

During this time, my brother and I played in a band around town and in bars. I did a lot of partying and drinking. This went on for three months. One night I sat on the edge of my bed and said in my head, “Why did I ever get married? This is the life that I want.” I woke up about four hours later, my eyes wide open and said, “What in the heck am I doing?  I’m screwing up my marriage, and I’m screwing up my life.” I called my wife and said, “What are you doing?”

She said, “I’m up. I’m at the apartment. Come up and see me.” I went to see her and when she opened the door we both started crying and hugged. I didn’t know it that night, but her dad had her scheduled the next day to file divorce papers. To me, this was God telling me that what I was doing was stupid, that it needed to stop, and that there was much in the future for my wife and me.  

That was my first brush with God. I was thinking the exact opposite four hours earlier. It wasn’t me that woke me up to transform the way I thought. It had to be God. There is no other explanation. That got the ball rolling for me to really believe in God. I feel like when God decides to work in you—He WILL do it. For me to change that much that quickly…it was like being hit by a truck, but that’s what it took—something really dramatic to change the way I was thinking.
The life I lived those three months is one of my greatest regrets. My wife has forgiven me but I hate that I hurt her. We have been married over 20 years and have a very strong marriage now. When I talk about it with my friends, I tell them I didn’t think enough of our marriage covenant.  It was like I was dating my wife. I didn’t see it as a covenant with God. But I do now and the experience has actually strengthened our marriage, showing us that with God’s help we can overcome anything. God has used it for good.
God wants us to know that even in our darkest times He is still there. He was speaking to me on the edge of that bed even when I wasn’t a believer. He speaks to all of us if we are only ready to listen. He changed the way I thought in the snap of a finger. It was a powerful moment for me and the beginning of my journey as a Christian. At first it was a slow incline, but the last few years it has shot up like a rocket. Once I started putting God first, everything started falling into place.
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.

#134. Beautiful Brokenness


Photo by Trevor Rapp

My life began from a chance sexual encounter between my mom and dad in between my dad’s prison sentences. He was already divorced from my mom at the time. My mom was addicted to drugs and my father was an alcoholic. My grandfather asked his brother to rescue me and my two brothers. He was dying and couldn’t take care of us himself. I was four years old when my great uncle obliged my grandfather’s request and adopted us. My grandfather had asked my great uncle to take us because he “loved children.” My great uncle was a pedophile. He had been caught on numerous occasions, but charges were never brought. 

After he adopted us, he moved us to a children’s home/school and he got a job there as a house parent. My great uncle sexually abused me from the time I was four years old until I was a teenager. While I suffered terrible abuse at the hands of my great uncle, the school was actually a wonderful place. God brought people into my life who genuinely cared about me and invested in me. 

My best friend’s mother was one of these people. She truly loved me and was very good to me. Another was the offensive coordinator at our high school football team. I was the quarterback on our team and this man mentored me. He was a great role model. He loved his wife and showed me what a healthy marriage looked like. He spent time with me, taking me hunting and fishing. He took me to church and provided guidance that helped keep me from going down wrong paths. These caring people played a significant role in God’s redemption in my life. 

God provided for me in other ways. I got a generous football scholarship to the Citadel. This was a full-ride scholarship that the Citadel provided specifically for someone from a children’s home. But this didn’t turn out as I expected. I redshirted my first year, but my second year I felt confident—I was playing well and had made the first team on many special teams. Citadel had promised to add me to their roster, but before the first game, I found out they had not added me to their roster and I was ineligible to play. This was so difficult for me. I felt rejected, betrayed, and sensed of loss of identity. I tried out for the baseball team and made it, but I wasn’t good enough to play. It was this dark season of my life that created fertile soil for the truth of the Gospel to grow in my life. 

My junior year, my now wife invited me to a Campus Outreach event. It was here that I heard for the first time about a personal relationship with Christ. I accepted Christ and was baptized. The Campus Outreach director began investing in me and mentoring me. When I graduated, I became a staff member for Campus Outreach. When I was a team leader at a Campus Outreach retreat in Florida, I found out my biological father was living nearby. I went to visit him. I hadn’t seen him for nearly 20 years. He didn’t recognize me when he answered the door. When I told him who I was he became nervous and started shaking. He smoked one cigarette after another and talked non-stop, telling me all the bad things he had done in his life. As I was driving away, I began sobbing. Years of pain came pouring out of me. I couldn’t stop crying. I drove to see the director of Campus Outreach and shared what had just unfolded. Until this moment, I hadn’t told anyone about the abuse in my past. I felt God opening my heart to come out of hiding and share the whole story. He listened without judging but with acceptance and love. He hugged me and he and his wife prayed for me. A new trajectory began for me this day. A journey of healing had begun. 

I went to see many counselors but none really connected. I was in seminary, married with a three-year-old daughter and a son on the way. Life should have been good, but I was falling apart. It was at this time that God provided a counselor that truly helped me. She forced me to wrestle with my story, voice my deepest fears, and access my rage. It was difficult, but over time God revealed important truths to me and empowered me to become a man. Through counseling, God brought great transformation. God has healed the brokenness of my past and brought restoration to my identity and my relationships. 

God is using the pain of my past to help others. I now serve as an associate pastor at an inner-city church. Because of what has happened in my own life, I have a special ability to sense pain in the lives of others. This sensitivity, combined with the empathy that comes from the deep knowing of pain in my own life, opens up conversations and creates connections with people. I can share my story… my brokenness and God’s plan of love and redemption. God can make the brokenness in our lives the most beautiful parts about 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.