#132. A Beautiful Masterpiece

 Photo by Ashely Rainwater Bilbro

In eighth grade, I started having terrible migraines. They lasted for months on end and I didn’t know what was wrong. Medication didn’t help. My parents took me from doctor to doctor—one even thought I had brain tumor, but I did not. Finally, a doctor determined that my migraines were related to hormonal issues. He told me that there was a new drug on the market, that it wasn’t FDA approved, but that he thought I should try it. He said that it caused weight loss but that I could afford to lose weight.

Perhaps I had blossomed a little more than the other girls in my eighth-grade class, and I did come from a big Greek family and we loved to eat, but I was by no means overweight. The words of my doctor about losing weight really bothered me. I thought, “Even my doctor is telling me to lose weight.” But I didn’t speak these things out loud. My doctor also told me to exercise more. After the first 5–10 pounds that I lost, I got some compliments. I realized the medicine was making me lose weight quickly, and things began to spiral out of control. I became obsessed with what I was putting into my body. By end of eighth grade I had gone from 120 pounds to 90 pounds. My parents attributed the weight loss to the medicine. But I was constantly restricting my food and over-exercising. By the time I entered high school, I had lost another 15 pounds, and eventually I got down to 65 pounds. My parents thought I was eating but I was giving food to the dog or hiding it. They didn’t understand why I was losing weight and took me to multiple doctors. Finally, when I was alone with one doctor, he said, “Is there something you want to tell me?”

I broke down and told him, “I can’t get ahold of myself. I don’t know why. I want to be smaller. I want to be beautiful.” This secret had been choking me and I felt great freedom in telling the doctor. He reassured me that he knew how to help. He connected me with another doctor who began meeting with me once a week. At my first appointment, he looked at me and said, “I am really not quite sure why you are alive, but there is a God up there and He has a big plan for you.” The doctor said he had never treated anyone in such a serious condition from an eating disorder. My heart rate was less than 30 beats per minute (normal is 72). My bones were brittle from malnourishment, but none were broken. When he related it to me like that—that my life was in grave danger, and in fact he seemed surprised that I was alive—I knew things needed to change.

I realized that I had a problem. I needed the Lord to give me peace. I needed His love to pour over me and change my life from the inside out. I recommitted my life to the Lord. I was raised in a family of committed, dedicated Christians. But I had been drawn away to earthly things. The number on the scale dictated my worth, not the fact that I am a child of God. We live in a world where we compare ourselves with others and it is very tempting to fall into that trap.

It took a few years and I had a few setbacks, but I am much better now. I am happy and healthy with no irreversible damage. I am now getting my PhD, and it is surreal to think of the change in my life.

But it is still a struggle for me. I can’t do this without the Lord. Every morning I still feel ugly and undeserving. But I start my day in prayer, and that changes me. The Lord is right there saying, “Your worth is in Me.” I know that God has a purpose for my life. I can use my experience for God’s glory to help other people who feel trapped. I am closer to the Lord than I have ever been. This is how God’s grace has worked in my life. I want to embrace His grace instead of questioning it. I want to embrace it and pass His grace and love on to others.

I have a Type A personality and it was hard to surrender, but this is what really saved me. I just let Him take over. I had to turn to the One that created my life and give my life to Him, surrendering to Him every day. Each day I say, “Okay, my day is Yours. Tell me how to go about it.” This can be applied to anyone’s struggles. Whatever it is, God can get you through it.

I have often meditated on the verse from 1 Corinthians and thought, “This is the least I can do for Jesus—honor Him with my life, and that includes my body and how I treat it.”

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

1 Corinthians 6:19–20

God has never forsaken me. He is always there. I feel like my life was a broken vase. God has glued it back together into a beautiful masterpiece and I never want to go back. 

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.

#82 He Sees Me White As Snow


Photo by Morgan Worley Photography

I asked Jesus into my heart and was baptized in third grade. I grew up in the church and was lucky to have the opportunity to learn about God and the Bible multiple times a week. I knew all of the stories. I knew all of the facts. And that’s what my faith was: facts. I never understood how to take these facts and turn them into a relationship with God. 

I had been a believer for 10 years by the time I got to college. But throughout parts of my time in college, there was someone in my life who was pulling me away from the Lord. The relationship was never pointing to Christ, and this person quickly became an idol in my life. This made it very easy for this person’s emotionally and mentally abusive words to soak into the core of who I was. As a result, my identity was formed around these harsh words. 

I am unimportant. I am unlovable. I am unworthy. I am unwanted. 

I lived with this identity for close to two years before finally I couldn’t take it anymore. I began meeting with a woman from a local church for biblical counsel. We met for four months. She helped me work through many passages, but one day sticks out to me above the others. She told me to write out all of the reasons I needed forgiveness from God and pray through 1 John 1:9 in the time between our next meeting. When we met again she asked if I had asked God for forgiveness. She was puzzled when I said I hadn’t. She had me read 1 John 1:9 aloud. “But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness.” Then she asked me if I believed what this verse said. Of course I believed it; it was another one of the facts that I had memorized as a young child. Jesus came and died on the cross for the sins of the world. Easy. But then she asked if I believed this for me. 

Tears immediately started rolling down my cheeks. I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t comprehend Jesus would do that for me. But it’s true. Not only did Jesus forgive me of my sins, but He blotted out the stains the sin left. When God looks at me, He sees me white as snow. After two years of asking all the wrong questions, I asked for forgiveness and He renewed me in the same instant. 

And now I have a new identity. I am a daughter of the King. I am chosen in Christ. I am created in the image of God. I am adopted by the Father. These truths ignite a fire in my soul because I know that my identity and worth come solely from the One who fearfully and wonderfully made me in His image—praise God! 

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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.

#62. Life Without A Plan

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

Most of my life has been all about the control I can have. I have tried to control how I want my life to look, I have controlled my food intake and exercise until I formed an eating disorder, I have controlled my perfectionism until it has eaten me alive. I have controlled how I want to get attention from boys, and how I want my life to look like after college. The list goes on and on.

I’m a control freak—if you couldn’t already tell. But a year ago last Friday, I gave up something that I was begging to keep control of: my dating life. You might think that this is silly for me to give up control over, but to me, it’s not. In fact, it was the biggest area of my life that I have not given to Jesus. I want to date my way. I want to do things the way I think are right, and when it came to dating, I thought that I would have it all under control. I would find a boyfriend my freshman year of college, date until our senior year, and get engaged in the spring and get married and then graduate college with a new husband and a white picket fence. None of that happened!

My freshman year I struggled and looked to guys to find my worth. My sophomore year my perfectionism broke. My junior year I switched majors and friends. And coming into my senior year, I am just done with giving up a year of no dating. Yes, a whole year!! Can you imagine the control freak in me dying right now?? It was a struggle. But something that the Lord has whispered to me throughout my year of no dating and still continuously speaks to my soul is this: “You are enough. I am the creator of the universe. I love you so much, that I want to take all of the burdens that come from controlling everything and I want you to give it to me. I will take care of the rest. Live life without a plan, and just love and be loved. I will take care of the rest.”

Jesus is so good about pointing us in the direction we need the most work in, and He pointed me to my dating life because he knew it needed some work. This past year, I have learned so much about how my worth is in GOD alone. I might be single until I’m 35, which still makes me wince a little bit (I’m not gonna lie), but it makes me remember that if I’m still single by then, that’s ok. I would rather be single and in love with Jesus than hating my husband and white picket fence life that I had so envisioned for myself for so long.

Here’s the thing: This year, I have learned that I am not in control of anything. I don’t even control my heartbeat. If God can make the earth rotate, then surely I can give Him control over the things I shouldn’t be in control over in my life, because sometimes I can’t even control my hair in the morning! This last year, I have taken strides to love others, not have a plan, and follow the Holy Spirit’s guiding. Since doing this, it has led me to a summer job in Texas, new friends, a newfound confidence in myself, and a passion for people and ministry.

Giving up control of just ONE part of my life that I held on to so tightly has given me the freedom to live my life with reckless love and openness. I hope that everyone can give up the thing/person that they hold onto so tightly and rest in the presence of God. Giving up control was not easy at first, but it is something that I have never learned more from. I am thankful for the Holy Spirit’s nudge to relinquish it, because now, I can truly say that I live in freedom.

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.

#59 Resting In His Love, Trusting In His Plans

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

Undesirable, unlovable, worthless, ugly, sinful, never good enough…

What do all these things have in common? They are all LIES that have been whispered in my ear for years by the Devil—lies which I wholeheartedly believed. I’ve grown up knowing in my head that these are all lies and that my Father in heaven adores everything about me—but believing this truth was a totally different story.

I grew up singing along with Veggie Tales, chanting John 3:16, and saying my prayers before bed. I knew that Moses parted the Red Sea, Noah built an ark, Esther saved the Jews, and Joseph had a really awesome coat. Most of my life these were just stories holding no truth or evidence to how powerful, loving, and simply amazing the Lord is.

As I grew up, I was able to put on a mask and be a “Super Christian” by day, and a girl with an empty and broken heart by night. It was almost like I possessed a superpower, knowing exactly what to say in small groups, going to the right church events, posting the most inspirational Bible verses, and knowing all the words to worship songs on Sunday. Nobody knew that behind closed doors there wasn’t a girl with a heart full of joy and laughter, but a girl who was drowning and desperately needed rescuing.

My junior year of high school I started battling with depression and feeling weaker than ever. I would go to school with a smile on my face each day, and come home feeling defeated. Crippling insecurities followed me everywhere I went, a feeling of worthlessness consumed me, and my heart was absolutely empty. I was diagnosed with a mood disorder and prescribed medication, which I thought would surely “fix” me. The medication helped lessen the constant sadness, but the emptiness in my heart remained.

I realized that I needed more. I needed my Father. I came to a breaking point where I knew that no amount of medication could “fix” me and that only my Father could heal, restore, and rescue me from the life I was living. I finally took off my mask and exposed my weaknesses and struggles. It was amazing how freeing it felt to be a woman who was finally living for the Lord. I started to listen in small groups—not just focus on saying the right things, not just memorize words to worship songs but understand them, and not post inspirational Bible verses on Facebook but onto my heart. I needed to learn who I was in the Lord, and fight the lies the enemy had fed me for so long.

The Lord’s presence, guidance, and love became so evident in my life as I continually pursued a relationship with Him. I am now a senior at the University of Kentucky, and looking back at both the trials and victories I’ve faced, I see how God has always been by my side. I’ve gone through really low valleys and high mountains, but I know that I was never alone, and that the Lord has always been fighting for me. He knows my every thought and intention, and sees all my failures and sins, but loves me unconditionally. His love has healed me, given me comfort, strength, and peace.

I had let my problems and fears hold me back from glorifying Him and being the light that I was created to be for so long. I am now able to rest in His love, trust in His plans, and glorify Him in all that I do. My prayer is that through every season of your life that you passionately pursue the Lord and stand strong in your faith. You are saved, adored, and loved beyond measure.

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.

#55 A Daughter Of The One True King

Photo by Morgan Worley Photography

Today I decided to take the first step in faith toward taking control of my future. However, the most important thing to note is that I am NOT in control; I have absolutely NO control over how my life turns out, nor do I have any control over the circumstances and situations that have happened in my life thus far. I can’t turn back the clock and make things change and manipulate them to work out the way I wanted them to originally. And that is okay.

For the past several months or longer, I truly struggled with feeling God’s love. I could pour love out to others all day long, but I always felt so lonely, so unseen, so undesirable and unworthy of this thing called love. I would walk around with a smile on my face all day when I was with friends or family—and while I was truly happy during those moments, I always felt that something was missing. I fought my battles with that darkness in the dead of night—fighting back the LIES the Devil was placing in my head. During these moments, I never would allow my joy to be touched by this darkness that lurked in my life.

If you don’t already know, there is a difference between joy and happiness. You see, joy is eternal. It is the hope that we hold onto that we will one day see our Great Creator’s face, that peace will one day not only be something we’re searching for endlessly but that we get to feel every day we live. Happiness is temporary. You know that moment when you see a really cute dog and you get overly excited and ask the owner if you can pet the really cute dog? (P.S. you always ask to pet the dog, but that’s not the point.) If you get to pet the really cute dog, you become filled with this sense of happiness, but soon you’ll forget the dog and the feeling that you got when you petted it. Happiness is temporary; it fades. Joy does not. Joy is an all-consuming, never-ending, hope and peace within your soul. It’s that moment when you take the first sip of your hot coffee (or tea) sitting on your front porch at 6:30 a.m. when the birds are chirping, bees are buzzing, sun is rising, stars are fading, and the world begins to wake up, yet all seems still and calm.

Through my recent struggles, I began placing my worth and value in this person, or that job, or this grade. I viewed who I was and who I am through the lens of this world—wanting to be accepted by people or family, essentially holding onto the old and letting the new slip between my fingers. I began believing the lies this world told me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried in the last couple of weeks—but I was beginning to have to use my toes for help.

So today, I took my first step in faith to begin living my life the way God has intended me to all along. It’s a blind walk; I don’t know the treasures that are set before me, but I do know that whatever it is, it will be magnificent. I was always that girl who believed people around me are worthy of SO MUCH; that they are worth everything the world has to offer through God’s blessings; that they are worth the best of the best. But I never believed that for myself. Today that changed. As I prayed this morning, I dropped the weight of my burdens at the foot of the cross and asked Jesus to pick them up once and for all, because I could no longer carry the hurt and the weight that was pressing on my heart. I could no longer bear being sick to my stomach, not being able to eat, because I hadn’t said my peace to that person; I could no longer bear feeling like I was worthless and undesirable. And in that moment I heard the words, “You are the daughter of the one true King; walk with that knowledge.”

God and I have played tug-of-war with control here lately. “I am strong,” I would say to myself—but in all reality, I am the weakest link, and the only reason I am as strong as I am is because I have a God who loves me through my hardheaded moments, who goes to battle for me when I don’t even know it, and who carries me when I am not even strong enough to stand on my own two feet. When you only see one set of footprints in the sand, who do you think did all the walking? I promise it was not you.

Today I found the love I’ve been longing for. In Romans 8, God shows us the extent of His glorious love. The beginning of Romans 8 talks about our sinful nature, stating that because of Jesus being sent to die on the cross for you and I, we are no longer condemned if we belong to Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). By letting our sinful nature control our minds, this can lead to death (if we do not repent of our sins and ask forgiveness, we can be condemned to live eternal life in hell), but by letting the Spirit control our mind, this can lead us to life and peace (if we live to reflect God’s Spirit and give God the glory in all the things we do, this will lead to a life of eternal peace in Heaven). God’s Spirit joins with our spirit when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, affirming that we are adopted as His children, and that because we are adopted as His heirs together with Christ, we share in His glory—but we must also share in His sufferings (Romans 8:16–17).

These few verses showed me that even in the midst of my sinful nature (i.e., trying to take control of my life, creating worry, letting my anxiety and depression defeat me and not allowing God to do His job), He still loved me. He waited patiently for me to turn back to Him with full force. From Him constantly poking me on the forehead saying, “Sydney, I’m right here; hand it over, let me take care of it. You can’t handle this on your own”; to Him literally picking me up and carrying me when I felt like I just couldn’t get out of bed; to this point, right here, where I’ve handed my life back to Him—He loved me through it. He didn’t walk away when I got mad at Him; He didn’t leave me when I constantly doubted Him.

Today I allowed myself to “be still and know that [He] is God” (Psalm 46:10b), and by doing this, I heard God speak truth into my life: Romans 8:18–19 “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are,” and Romans 8:38–39 “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I found God’s love and I am so excited to pursue Him as the one true King. Today I found my worth; I found my strength, my hope, my one true love—and though I know times will come where I fail Him (in fact, daily), I am finally able to stand firm in the belief that I am not alone. I know that I am truly loved and that my future is secure. It is okay to walk a blind walk; in fact, while it is definitely scary, it is also fun. I am the daughter of the one true King, and I deserve to be treasured as such. So do you! To the sons of the one true King, you are just as treasured, just as valuable, and just as worthy of a love so great. “Only in darkness can you find the diamond.” Persevere in the darkness; allow yourself to grow closer to God in a time where there seems to be no light. It is always in the times when God seems so distant from us that He is truly just holding out His hand waiting for you to let Him help you up. Matthew 11:28 NLT says, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

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.

#41God Did A MIRACLE In My Life

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

Going into sophomore year at the University of Kentucky, I never could have imagined the struggles that would soon flood my life. I began going to frat parties that typically ended with me being boozed, sick in a bathroom with strangers. I was searching for my identity, and in doing so, I began to get into a relationship with a guy who I believed was amazing and genuinely cared for me.

However, it turned out that I was not the only girl he was in a relationship with and I began to compare myself to the other girls he was seeing, never seeing myself as good as them—not skinny enough, smart enough, involved enough. I started to feel so worthless, that I let these attacks in my mind begin to take a hold of my actions. I suffered from bulimia for three months—the three LONGEST months of my life.

It was such a mind-trapping and soul-gripping time, that one night I finally broke and cried out for God to come rescue me. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but the enemy continually told me it was right, and that I was trapped for good. But little did I know, God was beginning to do miraculous works in my life the very next day. An old friend of mine that I hadn’t seen since elementary school reached out to me, inviting me to this thing called Passion. Passion is a conference that takes place in Atlanta, that hosts thousands of college students facing the same struggles, trials, and everyday life issues that I was facing. I found God redeeming, restoring, and loving my soul just in that short time, where His love shined through all the darkness I was facing. He assured me that truly He had never left me, and that despite my past, nothing could hold me back from Him.

Jesus stands with open arms; all we have to do is run to Him and He will make all things new. I went back to campus and became involved with the local campus ministry CSF. I found a home with a group of spectacular girls who opened their arms to me, loved on me, prayed for me, and lifted me in ways that they didn’t even realize.

Now, God is pouring into my heart more than ever. I’m hearing from Him daily, and feeling a stir in my heart that I’m meant for an unimaginable purpose to pursue Him and help others along the way. God did a MIRACLE in my life, and I want others to know that He still is the God who performs miracles, every day, for ordinary people, with an extraordinary plan. Through the pain, there is purpose, and Jesus is there the entire time, just watching and waiting, saying, “You should see the plans I have for her, and she doesn’t even know it yet. Just you wait.”

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.