#192 Formed in the “Suddenly’s” Part 3

 Photo by Andrew Schacht

“Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!” Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, why did you doubt?” The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! Truly, you are the Son of God!” (Matthew 14:28–33).

About two months ago, I had a morning in Spain that is still having a ripple effect on my life. And it started with me breaking away from my normal routine to get a closer look at one of the many beautiful gifts the Lord has given us. Spontaneity is not really a new thing for me. Usually, it’s quite the opposite. I believe that when you are walking with the Lord, the beauty of life is found in those spontaneous moments with Him. So, I tend to seek them out. From experience, I do submit to the idea that living a disciplined lifestyle creates more freedom. However, the day that I want to share about was one of those where I chose spontaneity over structure. And the Lord radically met me in that place. 

5:30 a.m. wake up. 6:06 a.m. pick-up in the mini-van. 6:20 a.m. at the gym. That was my routine, along with six of my brothers, each morning of the week during my first three months in Mijas. I was incredibly blessed that the Lord surrounded me with a group of men who loved deeply and were willing to walk, battle, and pour into one another’s lives daily. That routine and group of men quickly turned into one of the most life-giving forms of church I have ever experienced. I was pulled closer to the Father’s heart more consistently in that 30-minute van ride than most Sunday morning services I have sat through. But on this particular day, a day that has been one of the most influential and prophetic days of my life, I decided to break away from my normal routine in hope of finding something different. Instead, I decided to head down to the Mediterranean Sea in the complete darkness of the morning to watch the sunrise from the beach. 

As I walked out onto the beach, the chilled breeze off the waves swirled about, waking me up and almost welcoming me into its tranquil space. I watched from the shore as one of my good friends, who I had gotten a ride down to the beach with, paddled off into the distance toward the horizon line. I sat contently by myself in the silence of the morning with only the smell of the coffee in my hands and the sound of the early waves to accompany me. As the stars and moon began to slowly drift away, I set up my phone to capture a time-lapse of that shift from darkness to light. I was at peace. In my comfortability, I began asking the Lord to speak to my heart and meet me in that place. Well, like He always does, He answered. But, like He does so often, it was in a way that was completely different than what I was anticipating. As so many times before, He showed up with an interruption rather than things going how I planned. 

After about 10 minutes of sitting in the stillness of the morning, I heard a noise next to me that took me off guard. One of the beach workers who was setting up chairs had accidentally knocked over my time-lapse set up. Selfishly, I was initially irritated because the shot I was hoping for had been ruined. Nonetheless, I set my phone back up and hit record again. As I began to walk away from my phone, I felt very clearly in my heart a thought — more of an invitation — from the Lord. “Come get in the water.” My first response was without pause, “Absolutely not. Way too cold.” As I made it back to my warm coffee, I felt it again. “Come get in the water.” Back and forth in my heart this exchange happened for the next several minutes, until finally I decided to say “yes,” instead of having to say “what if” later on. In my life, I have found that the moments where I decide to say “yes” have been the very moments that have shaped my identity, introduced me to freedom, and brought me across the globe on an adventure with Him. So again, even when I am reluctant at first, I tend to seek them out.

After taking off my hoodie and chugging the last sips of my coffee, I slowly began to make my way out into the low tide. At this point, the sun had not yet broken the horizon line. But, the Lord had pulled out his best color palette, filling the sky and the reflections off the water with His favorite pastels. With no one else on the beach and standing about knee deep in the chilled sea, I felt it again but this time different. “Take another step with Me.” I could tell the Lord was stirring something in my heart, but wasn’t completely sure what it was yet. Now, I was about waist deep in the water. “Take another step with Me.” This continued until I was about neck deep in the cold Mediterranean. Once I got to this point, something happened inside my heart that I don’t think I have completely grasped, nor do I think I will ever fully understand. 

In that moment, a sudden sense of boldness, energy and adrenaline came over my body. Without really thinking or knowing why, I took off on a dead sprint swim toward the horizon. Overcome by this flash of life in my body, I swam harder and harder off the coast toward an unplanned and unknown destination. After what seemed like, I can only guess, but about five minutes of this dead-sprint swim, I finally halted to a stop. Up out of the water, salt and hair in my eyes, I quickly gasped for air. Absolutely exhausted from that burst of a swim, each breath brought more and more attention to where I was. Treading water to catch my breath, I realized that I had swam way further off the shore than I ever thought I could go.

Without warning, a sudden sense of fear and panic began to creep into my head. I am a good swimmer (shout-out to a few years on the Hartland Swim Team), but by no means would I call myself an endurance swimmer. At this point, I had absolutely exerted all of my energy and strength during that sprint. I quickly made note of a few things. One, that I was so far off the coast that I could not touch the bottom. Two, I was not completely certain that I could make it back to the shore. Three, there was absolutely no one near me or on the beach. In a sense, I stepped out and had gotten myself into a place where I wasn’t sure if my own strength could help me. 

As I spun back around to face the horizon, I began to slowly calm myself and my breathing. Completely surrounded by the utter magnitude of the Mediterranean Sea with only the faint sight of the shore behind me, I was completely isolated in this theater of beautiful colors and potential fears. It was in this moment that I knew exactly what new revelation the Lord was trying to reveal to me. It was in this moment that I knew what this morning was all about. Once again, I heard His voice in my heart.“This is where I want you to live. This is where My love is made perfect. When you step out — into a place beyond your strength — so that you can be fully engulfed in My presence and love.” 

You see, similarly when Jesus called Peter out of the boat, this last season of life has felt like that ‘sudden boldness’ Peter was overcome with. I have felt more alive and more free than ever, which has led me time and time again to places where I am not sure if my own strength can hold, and I feel like I am beginning to sink. Like the morning I am describing, I continue to see these moments as invitations from the Lord to step out of the boat of life and walk on water with Him. I am also keenly aware of the stirring waters that must be stepped over to get there. However, one of my favorite parts of the Mark 12 passage, which is much of what the Lord was trying to tell me on this particular morning, is the simple phrase, “Jesus didn’t hesitate.” Jesus didn’t sit there while Peter drowned and scold or mock him for not having strong enough faith. He didn’t rebuke him for being afraid of where He was at because of his boldness. Instead, He didn’t hesitate to reach down and pull him up out of the water. He was right there to pick him up, to refocus his sights on Him, and to allow Peter to experience something completely impossible without Jesus.

Continually choosing to risk and live in a place where only His power could make things happen, and being bold in all aspects of my life, was exactly what the Lord was wanting to show me. It was through this morning swim that He was trying to invite me to step further out into the depths of His love, beyond my own strength and engulfed in His presence. As all of this was passing through my head, immediately the sun broke the sea’s horizon line, and I was welcomed to one of the most beautiful sunrises of my life. It was as if He was confirming everything I was feeling in that moment. Floating in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea, I was completely surrounded by overwhelming colors of His beauty and love. 

The experience I had on that morning is one I will never forget. Thankfully, I did slowly but surely make my way back to shore. As the Lord continues to invite me deeper into the unknown with Him, I will continue to give Him my “yes” and not focus on the churning waves around me. Even if those invitations mean being on the other side of the globe away from my friends and family for the holidays. Even if those invitations mean having to wait nine months to meet my new niece. Even if those invitations lead me out onto choppy waters. 

And when I do begin to feel the waves around me and start to sink, I know He will not hesitate to reach out His hand to pick me up. To continually step out of the boat and onto the water with Him is a life worth living. And to that kind of life, I say, “yes.”

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.

#191 Formed in the “Suddenly’s” Part 2

Photo by Aly Badinger/1558 Visuals

“ ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You’re almost there, right on the borderof the Kingdom of God’ ” (Mark 12:32–34).

My home in Mijas, Spain, is in a quaint Pueblo village, nestled in the mountains on the border of southern Spain. The Melting Pot, a hostel that hosted my friends and me this last weekend, breathes life through the winding streets of Tangier, Morocco, on the border of northern Africa. As I write this, I am sitting on, as my brother, Jonathan, would say, a “big ole water bus” (boat), floating across the Mediterranean Sea in between the borders of two continents. On the border.

Coming to G42, a nine-month leadership training academy (Generation 42), I told myself I didn’t have any expectations of what this journey would look like. On the surface that seemed to be truthful, due to the fact that I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what class, community, practicum or this growing process would entail. However, I failed to realize that I buried one giant expectation in my heart. The expectation that through these life-changing experiences and incredible teachings, I would, “transform and build myself into everything I was designed to be.” Now I know that might seem like a pretty solid expectation going into such a crazy life change. I am not naïve enough to believe that I would have taken this leap of faith, had I not thought it would change my life for the better. But, as I’ve been unpacking much of my life over the last two weeks, I’ve been wrestling with where this stirring in my spirit was coming from. Slowly and methodically the answer has begun to bubble to the surface, and with each day was becoming more and more clear. I began to see that it was not the idea or the expectation of being changed that was the issue wrestling inside me. Rather, it was my idea of how that dream and transformation was going to happen

You see, for the last 22 years, I have been living life on my own strength. Sure, the Lord has, without question, given me gifts and abilities to have a solid work ethic and push myself in my life. However, the reality is that most of my existence has been me trying to use my own gifts to foster a relationship with the very One who gave me those gifts. All my life I believed that if I used my hard-working mindset, my own intellect, or my insatiable desire for something more — I would get there. I believed that if I used, “all MY heart, all MY understanding, and all MY strength” to relentlessly love God and others, then I would fill the void and quiet that stirring in my heart. I thought it was to be through MY strength that would I get there.

I came across Mark 12 at some point in the last few weeks, but it wasn’t until these last few days that Holy Spirit showed me why I seemed to stumble on that passage. Much like the man in the scripture, I came to the Lord with my own answers of what it means to be in the Kingdom of God. I believed that in my own understanding I knew the right answers and how to do it: 1) Love God and 2) Love others. I then poured all my strength into tirelessly seeking to love the Lord and those surrounding my life. Striving, out of my own desire to feel love, I took these instructions in my own strength and have been struggling to fill that void in my spirit. Much like the man talking to Jesus, I was close but not there. I was “on the border.”

The first time I read that Mark 12 passage, I believed that Jesus was telling the man that he was close to the Kingdom of God as a compliment and reassurance that he was doing the right things. But the more I began to sit with the scripture, Holy Spirit began to show me that it was not a reaffirming thing for this man, but rather a helpful lesson. Jesus was trying to show him that there was still something missing in his understanding of what it truly means to be living presently in the Kingdom of God. Much like the Israelites wandering close to the Promised Land, the Lord doesn’t want us to live on the borderof our promised inheritance. Rather, He invites us to live fully and truly into His design for us on this earth. Not on the border looking in. 

Just like this man, I had left out the most important part of the equation: that I was to understand and live in the knowledge that I was designed to be fully and overwhelmingly loved by the Father. You see that’s what the man was missing in his answer. He knew that he was to love God. He knew he was to love people. He was almost stepping fully into God’s plan for us. But what caused Jesus to respond with, “You’re almost there, right on the borderof the Kingdom of God,” was that He was missing the biggest piece. His answer needed to include understanding that he was designed to be loved by the Father.


That stirring in my heart and that restlessness in my spirit was coming from the fact that I hadn’t come to truly and fully comprehend that there is nothing I can do to be more loved by the Father. There is nothing in my own strength that is going to make Him love me more. There is no accomplishment that will bring me more of His affirmation of my value. There is nothing in my past that will hold Him back from loving me today. There is no version of myself that I have to become for Him to fill me up with His love. Exactly who I am today is exactly where He wants me to be, and He loves me fully in that place. He has plans and dreams for me, but His love is not dependent on my execution and completion of those things. He is a potter and I am His clay. He doesn’t just want the finished result of a beautiful product; but rather, He cherishes the process of molding and shaping me with each day. And that’s where I am at right now. Sometimes I feel like I am spinning around and around aimlessly on His pottery wheel called life. But it only takes a quick second to look around and see that His hands are cupped around me crafting and forming me with each day to understand that it’s His plan and He’s got it! 

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.

#190 Formed in the “Suddenly’s” Part 1


Photo by Aly Badinger/1558 Visuals

“If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:12–14 NIV).

June 2, 2019

One of the biggest things that the Lord has taught me over the last few months is intimacy. Intimacy with Him. Intimacy with my own heart. And intimacy in the relationship I have found with the Father. For those who know me, it will come as no surprise that I am pretty much an open book when it comes to my personality and the details of my life. Despite this, the Lord has been showing me the beauty found in keeping the intricacies of our relationship between just us. However, this is one of those intimate details I feel like the Lord has been leading me to share, so that His glory and goodness may be seen. 

A few months prior to graduating from college, I felt the Lord pulling on my heart to step out in faith and pursue Him in ways that I never had before. This was a weird sensation for me because over the last few years, my faith had been pretty much nonexistent. I was in a place of doubt and was living in intentional denial of the Lord. Still, God never wavered in His pursuit of my life. Despite this dark season, I was unable to shake this feeling, so I finally decided to meet God in the middle and to take a leap of faith. This led me to signing up for a monthlong mission trip to Nepal through an organization called World Race. The result of this leap of faith? A radical change of my life, my plans, my identity, and my future. But, how did I get to that point?

As I prepared for Nepal, I had this kind of “picture perfect” idea of what my trip might look like. I figured in my head that I would go on this mission trip, and it would lookreally goodto those surrounding my life. Growing up in a small, private, Christian school, I always felt an expectation to create this outward image of what my relationship with the Lord looked like. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my experiences throughout high school, and I’m even more thankful for the incredible friends, families, and mentors that it brought into my life. However, whether it was my own expectations or just a product of the environment I was in, I always felt like I had to put on an outward appearance of being in this amazing walk with the Lord. 

And the biggest problem? I was good at it. I mean really, really good at it. I could talk the talk, craft eloquent prayers in front of groups and overall just create a persona that made it look like I was on fire for the Lord. However, the reality of my heart could not have been more drastically different from the image I was portraying.

So when I arrived in tiny Gainesville, Georgia, for my weeklong training camp before leaving the country for Nepal, I was not really thrilled about it because it wasn’t exactly the start to the “beautiful” mission trip I had envisioned. However, those days in Gainesville changed my life forever. My faint prayer before leaving Lexington for Nepal was that the Lord would make Himself known to me in ways I had never experienced. And from the moment I touched down in Georgia, He did just that. From the shuttle ride to training camp to the first of many worship sessions to gathering around a picnic table eating meals with complete strangers, the Lord showed me His love and presence. It was the first time in my life that I had been surrounded by a group of people who were uniquely and genuinely on fire for the Lord with no motives other than living recklessly for Him. 

As the Lord began to move in my heart over the first few days, I felt like He was calling me to completely surrender my life to Him. Sitting in one of our last worship sessions of camp, I had this immense feeling in my heart that I wanted to start my life over again and that the Lord was calling me to baptism. Little did I know this would be the beginning of not only new life, but also of my God story, which would lead me to quit my job to go to Spain for training at a Christian leadership academy (G42). However, I still had a propensity to want to create this ideal picture of my transformation. I sat in that worship session fighting against that feeling right then and there. Instead, in my head I figured I would wait until I got to Nepal, where I could have my baptism somewhere beautiful, like under a waterfall or in one of the serene rivers tucked on top of the mountains we summited. Well, once again the Lord stepped in with His blueprint instead. 

Not being able to shake this feeling, I sat there amongst my disbelief and skepticism. Feeling like I could escape the Lord’s timing for my own timing, I prayed, “Lord, if this is what you want for my life and this truly is you right now, give me any sign of water.”It’s almost comical that I believed that this, something so small as a sign, would be too much for the Creator of the heavens and earth to manage. Yet still, I sat there almost proud of myself, believing I had escaped His alter call then and there, for something I believed would be more a beautiful act in Nepal. 

Sidebar. Let me be the first to say that in many ways I have had a faith like Thomas in the Bible (John 20:25). Meaning, I always figuratively felt like I needed to really feel the holes in Jesus’ wrists to truly believe in Him. Essentially, I was extremely skeptical and doubting of the Lord. Healings, signs, prophecy, all of it I thought was a big load of bologna. Well, the Lord humbled me and changed my skeptical heart over and over again throughout my trip, especially during this moment. 

About 10 minutes of worship had passed since I prayed that skeptical prayer when, all of sudden, a girl unknown to me from another group walked up on stage and asked for the microphone.

“Hey, I’m Kirby. Over the last few days I have been really praying that the Lord would speak to me. I had originally thought the Lord was going to speak to me, but I feel like He right now is wanting to speak through me. During the last few minutes of worship, the Lord really laid this image on my heart of this strong and beautiful cactus in the middle of the desert. The cactus had all of these big thorns all over it. And as I got closer to this cactus, the thorns one by one started falling off, until there were none left. Once the last thorn had fallen to the ground, the top of the cactus came off, and there was just this overflow of water pouring out of the top. I don’t know what that really means, but I just feel like the Lord meant that for someone tonight.”

Woah. I sat there in disbelief. I mean real disbelief. The kind when you have just seen a crazy magic trick or a car crash right in front of you. And again, I sat there and tried to rationalize in my head that surely this was just a coincidence. But, it wasn’t. Feeling that the Lord was giving me yet another opportunity to take a leap of faith for Him, the same way He did by putting Nepal on my heart, I decided I had to answer that call once again. 

Still a little in disbelief, I found one of my trip team leaders and told her that I felt the Lord was calling me to get baptized. Fast forward 24 hours and I was on the verge of giving my life over to the Lord: In tiny Gainesville, Georgia, in a kiddie pool, in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of strangers around me. And it couldn’t have been more beautiful. Whatever idea I had in my head of Nepali mountains or waterfalls to be baptized in, none of it could have measured up to the peace and freedom I found in that lukewarm, kiddie pool water. 

The beauty of this part of my story is that it’s simply the beginning of many moments and experiences the Lord has orchestrated in my life over the last few months. However, despite the reasons for the different experiences that have led me on this journey, the Lord has kept one theme throughout each moment. A lesson that is both terrifying and freeing. In each part of my story, the Lord has shown me that to surrender to Him is to trust Him with a leap of faith. And when I take that opportunity and jump into the unknown for Him, He blesses my life immensely and then opens the next door for me to step through.

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.

#181 Blessings from China

Photo by Jeff Rogers 

I have had it on my heart to adopt since I was a young child. After having two biological children, my husband and I began to prayerfully explore adoption options. Our idea was to adopt a healthy baby because we felt like we couldn’t handle special needs, and didn’t think we could do foster care. We started the international adoption process but faced one closed door after another. After becoming pregnant with our third child, we just assumed the adoption idea was over.

A few years later my husband told me about studying John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” My husband said, “we don’t have to die for someone to lay down our lives. I think we should look into adoption again.” I was all in! That very day I got an email from Rainbow Kids who helps to find families for kids all over world who are hard to place. There was a little girl from China who caught my eye. When I looked deeper I realized we fit every adoption qualification for China at the time, though we didn’t those few years back. We started the process and there were lots of details that can only be explained as God’s work. Although we had said we couldn’t handle an older child or a child with special needs, we realized those were false barriers. It didn’t have to be a healthy baby. We could do anything with God’s help! Our beautiful daughter was revealed to us in September 2015, and when we saw her date of birth, we knew she was ours despite her special needs. She was born the very week my husband and I had the first conversation about moving forward with adoption again. God was in this!

When we traveled to China to adopt our daughter, we were privileged to visit the foster home she had lived in for the past 6 months. What a blessing that was! But my heart went out for the children still there. One little boy with the same special needs as our daughter specifically tugged at my heart. After we left, I begged my husband with no avail to let us go back and get him. I continued to pray for him, and he was eventually placed with a good family. But it was still in my heart that we needed to go back to China.

The following year, our adoption agency began looking for volunteers to help with a camp for harder to place children in a Chinese orphanage. The idea was to get to know the children beyond their picture and information on a paper and advocate for them. The agency asked me to go. I went and spent two days in the orphanage with these precious children. One of these was a sweet 10 year old girl with Down Syndrome. My best friend (who is a special education teacher) had seen this little girl’s picture before I left and told me to pay special attention to her because it had always been her dream to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. She was the first child I met…and I knew she was special! I knew my friend would love her but I couldn’t tell her to adopt the child. I didn’t want to force or seem pushy. When I got home I told my friend, “you would love her but I’m not telling you what to do.” Adoption is difficult and expensive. But with the support of our community, my friend went to China and brought her home! She is truly a blessing to so many. Also during that time, I had another friend who adopted another little boy from our camp. He is now my little girl’s best friend and is an amazing child!

Months after my trip, my heart was still breaking for one particular boy in our camp. He was about to become ineligible for adoption because he would “age-out” at age 14, and we were having no luck finding him a family. He was fun, smart, and super brave. He didn’t talk much, but he smiled a lot. He was a great kid—but who was going to adopt him? I read the story of Moses telling God that he wasn’t good enough to go face Pharaoh in Egypt but how God promised to be with him to help him. And I realized something. God wanted me to go back for this boy. I wasn’t equipped for this job, but God would be with me. After having major conversations with our children because we didn’t know what to expect about adopting an older boy, they simply said, “he needs a family. He will be our brother.” We raced to get him home with us before time ran out. That was in 2017, and he has now been home with us a year and a half. It is evident God is blessing us with this young man. I am unbelievably thankful God wanted me to be his mother.

When looking back over this story, I realize it is far from over. I really feel like I’m in the middle of it. God continues to teach me important lessons. I have learned that sometimes we simply limit ourselves and God helps us go beyond what we think we can do. Sometimes you just have to step out and let Him work. I have also seen God shapes us through the difficult times, and we can help other people because of our own struggles. I have also learned to be patient and trust God. God delays our requests for reasons we don’t know or understand until later. Most of all, I’m thankful for my children and that God protected them while they were in China and protected us in all of our travels. The children bring us much joy! They have a hope and a future and they are loved.

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.

#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.

#167 The Pilgrim’s Path

Photo by Conor McWay 

“We have no idea where we are, we haven’t seen any other people for over an hour, and it feels like we’ve been wandering aimlessly through suburban Spain—but now there are factories everywhere…where are we going?!”

I was standing in the middle of a Spanish industrial park outside the city of Burgos, wearing a 20-pound backpack filled with all the belongings I would need to walk 500 miles across Northern Spain. My feet hurt, I felt lost, and I was annoyed. So, I very maturely articulated my inquiry to my husband, Conor, with complete calm—which meant I was whining and one step away from stomping my feet. How did I get here?

Conor and I had a wonderful first year of marriage; we made friends, and somehow, all of my siblings ended up moving back to the area where we grew up. It was a truly great year, but it was becoming more and more apparent that Conor was not meant to be in law school. He would often become whom I (lovingly and affectionately) called “self-deprecating Conor.” After Conor’s first year and summer of law school it was clear that he was not going to continue.

We had lost our plan before I even realized that it was one. Without realizing it, I had created the next three years (and beyond) in my mind: I would teach as long as Conor was in law school, when he graduated we would move to wherever he was offered a job, we would live in a fabulous city, he would be a lawyer, money wouldn’t be a problem, I could use our expendable income to fund my dream restaurant, all my siblings would move to live close to us, and we’d have beautiful and magical babies who wouldn’t cry and would never need their diapers changed…you get the gist.

Without law school, I didn’t know what our future would bring, how long I would have to teach, what job Conor would find, what Conor would be passionate about if not law, how we would ever afford a house—let alone my dream restaurant—and when we would have our non-magical, probably super loud, screamy children. If it wasn’t my idea of the perfect future, it would be horrible.

It was during this F-5-level worry spiral, among other moments during our first two years of marriage, that showed me two very big flaws in my thinking. One, I was thinking as an I, not a we. And two, I was thinking of my plan, instead of being open to God’s greater plan. This spiral of doubt was caused by my own insecurity, my lack of faith, and my singular thinking.

One day, while talking about how lost we both felt, my sister-in-law suggested that we go on the Camino de Santiago and it sounded so…right. It’s not that we hadn’t talked about going on the pilgrimage before, but this time it felt like a way to be found. Conor and I started talking and dreaming about going to Spain to do the Camino, then staying abroad for a while. We could live and work with family, friends, or acquaintances and spend some time adventuring, eating great food, and discerning what we are called to do next. We came to the realization that we want to be totally open to God’s call and follow where He is leading us next. We would take the year to listen, surrender, and discern.

Intellectually, it seemed crazy, but it just felt right. We quit our jobs, said goodbye to family and friends, and left on a one-way ticket to begin our year of pilgrimage and discernment. As reluctant as I was to give up the reigns, I knew life would be so much better if I stopped trying to control it.

Well, when I say I “knew,” I mean I wanted to know and I prayed for trust—but I couldn’t seem to stop trying to control. Though the beginning of our Camino was a prayerful, beautiful, and moving time, I still slipped into old habits. From memorizing the mileage to planning my next coffee stop, I was struggling to let go and follow the yellow arrows and shells that indicated the way. Less than two weeks into the Camino, I was totally doubting why we even came to Spain, let alone that we would find our way on the path into town. After trying to solve it myself, studying the map, and searching for an arrow, I shouted for a sign. Finally, I got a sign in the form of a neon bike vest and a shiny silver helmet.

“¡Buen Camino, peregrinos! ¿Estån buscando el camino?” A biker appeared, as if out of nowhere. He was simply asking if we were looking for the way, but his words touched so much deeper. I needed a sign that we were on the right track. I needed to let go and admit that I was lost. But not just lost outside this city in Spain, I had lost my faith in God’s merciful plan. I was desperately seeking the way, without asking for help. I needed to trust that the way had been prepared for me. Once I let myself be vulnerable, finding our way back to the pilgrim’s path was as simple as two turns and a bright yellow arrow. Suddenly, we were surrounded by backpacks, hiking boots, and scallop shells (all familiar Camino accessories). We had found our way, by embracing how lost we were. Each day following, instead of being worried, I was comforted with the knowledge that I am not in control. Conor and I are, and will continue to be, well taken care of.

Since the end of our Camino and our year abroad, Conor and I have continued to live “planless” as we call it, though that name is somewhat misleading. We live trusting in a much greater plan. We don’t need to know tomorrow’s walk, we just need to trust and listen during the walk today.

The Camino taught me many lessons. Well, to be honest, that Camino continues to teach me many lessons. An adage adopted by many pilgrims is “As in the Camino, so in life.” Through the Camino, I learned that sacrifice and humility are crucial to partnership and love. I not only had to sacrifice my comfort for Conor on more than one occasion, I also had to humbly admit when I needed help. This is a lesson we live constantly in our marriage. I learned that with God, and only with God, I truly have an unbelievable strength. With His help, I can achieve wonderful things. And I learned the beauty, peace, and joy that come with surrender. It is a gift to have total faith that God’s plan is better, more complete, and so filled with love. God has taken care of the big stuff and He continues to take care of the details. I just need to surrender and know He has prepared the way. 

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.

#147 Little Church by the Creek


Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

Several years ago, a lady spoke in our church about a project to help orphans in Russia. She talked about the opportunity to go to Russia to visit the orphanages and help. My husband and I had never been on a mission trip. We both clearly felt the Lord calling us to go to Russia, which is interesting because I am really not that fond of working with kids! It was December and the trip was in May. The cost was $3,000 per person, so we needed $6,000 for the two of us to go. We were struggling financially and were in a lot of debt at the time. In fact, just ten days before we heard about the Russian trip, we had filed for bankruptcy. We didn’t have a dime and thought, “How do we do this?” But we felt called us to go so we moved forward and applied for passports, trusting God to provide everything we needed.

In March, we attended a meeting with people from different states who were also planning to go on the trip. All donations toward our trip had to go to the organization, so before this meeting we didn’t know how much had been donated toward our trip. I felt going into the meeting that the amount was $740. When we found out at the meeting that the amount donated toward our trip was $740, I was so happy I jumped up and down. Even though this wasn’t close to what we needed, it was confirmation and we were more confident about our call to go. 

The day the money was due we found out only half the money we needed had been donated. We didn’t understand. I called a friend who was the pastor in another town (at the little church by the creek) and told him we didn’t have enough money to go but that the organization had given us ten more days. He asked who else we could ask to donate. Our regular pastor really hadn’t been that supportive of our going on the trip and I didn’t understand it because it was through his church that we learned of the opportunity to go. Our pastor friend at the other church asked if we could talk to our pastor about it. But I didn’t want to do that. I just kept asking other people for donations. I felt God calling me to talk our pastor and during church I felt God telling me that I was harboring bitterness toward the pastor and that I should ask for forgiveness. The message that day was from Philemon and was all about forgiveness. During communion there were different stations set up and the pastor stood up front. I walked up to him and said, “I need to confess. We don’t have all our money for the mission trip and I have kind of held it against you.” He said, “You jumped the gun. We are getting ready to bring out the bucket of love.” At the end of the service we had all the money we needed for our trip. Had I chosen to stay hurt and not gone to him and asked for forgiveness, I don’t believe God would have provided the money. 

My husband and I went on the mission trip. I now have a real heart for missions and have been on multiple mission trips since then. But I believe the first mission trip experience wasn’t about the mission itself. Instead it was for me to see God in a new way and to see myself as a forgiven person. I am finally able to trust God completely and no longer be led by fear.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

Jeremiah 33:3

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.

#128. Journey to Jordan: John the Baptist

 Photo by Pam VanArsdall

There is this man I have never met but heard often of his life and legacy on earth before he died.

It was on day seven that I found myself alone at the top of a place called Mukawir, a fortress belonging to Herod Antipas where John the Baptist was imprisoned and then killed. I had come to Jordan to help in the filming of a short piece on the Biblical sites of Jordan. Every day held some new adventure and it was the most I had ever been in the front of the camera. However, day seven proved to be the most memorable of adventures. Just me, on top of the ruins of a fortress and a drone filming me overhead. Somehow we had managed to choose a time in which there were no other tourists. Mukawir held an incredible view of the Dead Sea and on a clear day, the towers of Jerusalem. I had time to worship and be with Jesus after filming my scene. I stood looking out into the sea and down the hillside to the various caves that John the Baptist was believed to have been held. 

A cave wouldn’t have been unfamiliar to this man as he had been known to call a cave his home. Jesus called him, “the greatest of men.” A simple life he led and yet supposedly some scholars argue that he was treated well in captivity as Herod Antipas carried some fear/respect for John. But the thing I wondered most is not found in any document or Bible verse. What were John’s final thoughts before his life was taken? It was so quiet on top of that mountain. Just the wind was all that I could hear. As I reflected on the famous life taken at the very spot I stood, I was humbled. John lived and died for a cause greater than himself. I can imagine he suspected he would die and that he felt his cause and message worth the cost.

John the Baptist was a man who had been given the job of preparing the way for Jesus. This job had required consistent preparation, waiting, hoping and trusting. Finally, the day comes and Jesus walks down the hill and is baptized by John. Then shortly after this event, John is arrested and placed in prison (Machareus/Mukawir).

Once again, he is waiting and hoping and trusting. At one point, he even sends his disciples to check that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. 

In reflecting on this man’s life and important role in preparing people for one of the greatest gifts the world would ever receive, I was humbled. To be standing in the place where this man breathed his last breath made me realize how easy it is to become disappointed or disillusioned when waiting and hoping seem to stretch out longer than we anticipated. To trust as deeply as John did, to the point that he dedicated his whole life to the mission of preparing the way for Jesus, required sacrifice and absolute surrender to God. And maybe his final thoughts were on the deep hope he carried of a greater understanding of things yet to come.

“….we who have taken refuge may have powerful encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us, which we have like an anchor of the soul, both firm and steadfast, and entering into the inside of the curtain, where Jesus, the forerunner for us, entered, because He became a high priest forever….”

Hebrews 6:18-20

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.