God-Breathed Stories: 30 Women Share from the Heart

When I embarked on 30 Days of Story, I honestly thought…I will get to read amazing stories, my readers will get a break from my world and get to read inspiring stories, and God will be glorified as we all witness his faithfulness in new, tangible ways.

That much was true.

I also thought I’d copy and paste stories into my blog and that’d be it.  After all, I am not really the writer.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Writing became a full-time job in November.  And, I loved every moment.  I was blessed by each conversation, each editing decision, each comment…I really have no words.

The women I met – those who wrote stories and those who commented – have taught me much.  I am so thankful God chose for our lives to intersect.  I have made new friends, found a mentor, and begun a book.

And, while all that’s great, I am most in awe of God’s work through the stories.  Because these women were faithful in sharing their stories, He was glorified.

And glorified.

Even this morning as I sat at the dentist, the sweet gal “buffing” my filling thanked me for the stories  – who knew she read?  Not me.

But, God knew.  He used the stories to make himself famous and connect those who most needed one another.  Wow.

As I closed the series, I was continually asked one question:  Where’s your story, Sarah?

I fully intended to share my story on December 1, and many knew that.  Those who know my story thought it was time and supported the decision. However, as that day neared, God interrupted that intention in a few ways…

One…through Twitter, I won a story coaching session with Elora Ramirez. Elora and I have a Skype date this Friday.  I feel it’s wise to have this session before sharing.

Two…some work has to be done before I share.  It’s not finished.  So, God whispered wait.

Three…it’s hard to write your own story.  Harder than I thought.  As I prayed with and over the gals sharing during 30 Days, I began to fully comprehend the weight of putting your life on display for all to see.  But, as my friend, Elisa, wrote “our stories are not written on paper nor stone but inscribed on our hearts. And they are meant to be shared with others as a way of teaching about who God is and who we are in Christ.”

I want Christ to be glorified through my life.  That’s my reason for being…that He may be glorified.  So, until God’s worked on my heart, and I can pen my story in a way that clearly demonstrates who God is and who we are to be in Christ, it’s not ready to be published.  For now, my story still smacks a bit of me, my hurt, and my anger.  I can read it in my “voice.”

So, I wait.  I pray.

I also encourage you to write your story.  Not for a blog, but for Him.  If you have trouble getting started, I recommend this post and activity from Elora:  The Life Inventory.

I had to complete this inventory before my story coaching session, and it’s been fun, gut-wrenching, and revealing.

Story.  God has written mine and yours.  Whether you like the story He’s chosen for you or not, please use it as a witness to others.  Show others how He works in and through suffering, sin, and setbacks.  Tell the story, then share the gospel – the greatest story every told.  I promise you’ll see lives changed.  He redeems  – just read these stories…

Marla Taviano ~ There’s No Happy Ending {Story 1 of 30}

Laura Waits ~ Trading in the American Dream {Story 2 of 30}

Andrea McNeely ~ A Tremendous Grace {Story 3 of 30}

Keri Verwolf ~ Called to Honduras {Story 4 of 30}

Ali Hooper ~ A Wretch Like Me {Story 5 of 30}

Leigh Anne Hudson ~ Too Far Gone? {Story 6 of 30}

Teresa Henry ~ Forgiven and Free {Story 7 of 30}

Marilyn Yocum ~ I Don’t Want This to Be My Story {8 of 30}

Ruth Chowdhury ~ Fighting Anxiety {Story 9 of 30}

Lisa Copenhaver ~ Free Indeed {Story 10 of 30}

Krysten Case ~ Redefining Our Good {Story 11 of 30}

Jennifer Ireland ~ ‘Season’ of Redemption {Story 12 of 30}

Kathleen Krueger ~ When God is Silent {Story 13 of 30}

Amber Berry ~ Sharing the Load {Story 14 of 30}

Marissa Henley ~ The Real Story {Story 15 of 30}

Renee Fisher ~ I Survived My 20’s {Story 16 of 30}

Maria Keckler ~ I Lost My Job, Where is God? {Story 17 of 30}

Heather Ward ~ A Heart for God {Story 18 of 30}

Elisa Pulliam ~ Pain into Purpose {Story 19 of 30}

Jennifer Rollins ~ Tragedy to Triumph {Story 20 of 30}

Rochelle Ruiz ~ The Christmas Miracle {Story 21 of 30}

Robin Anderson ~ Giving Thanks for His Plan, Not Mine {Story 22 of 30}

Brooke Fradd ~ The Little Things {Story 23 of 30}

Valerie Ashcraft ~ The Pain of Infertility {Story 24 of 30}

Tiffany Board ~ I Go for Him, I Go for Them {Story 25 of 30}

Aidan Rogers ~ Not Enough {Story 26 of 30}

Morgan McKeown ~ SEEing Others {Story 27 of 30}

Pilar Arsenec ~ The Struggling Christian {Story 28 of 30}

Sundi Jo Graham ~ Addicted to Food {Story 29 of 30}

Tricia Goyer ~ His Bigger, Greater Plan {Story 30 of 30}

Deepest, heartfelt thanks to each of the ladies who shared in November.  I can’t thank you enough.  Your love of and faithfulness to your Creator is evident and inspiring.

Tricia Goyer ~ His Bigger, Greater Plan {Story 30 of 30}

Both John and I are “set the GPS” and GO-type of people. We like to know how far it is to our destination and how long it will take to get there. When we stop for gas, we hate to see the time loss. If we could figure out how to fuel our car and empty our bladders without stopping, I’m sure we would.

If only it would be so easy to plot such a course through life. To know your destination, to set your course, and GO. But God has a way of redirecting, doesn’t He? What I thought would be a straight path often includes a detour at every turn.

In my BSF group, we were reading about Paul’s Second Missionary journey. As we read in Acts 15:36-16:10 Paul knew who he was traveling with and where he was going—or so he thought. Neither of his plans worked out. I love the question my Bible Study lesson posed:

 Are you willing for God to change your life’s direction if He wishes?

 I had to smile at myself when I read that question. Faces, voices and names filled my mind—gifts from God’s redirections.

Just this morning I received a Christmas photo and email from a couple I met in the Czech Republic on a mission trip. I had never planned on going there…until God turned my heart to the people and I felt a stirring within: “Go.”

Yesterday I received a call from one of my WWII veteran friends. I first met Tony 10 years ago when I was interviewing men from the 11th Armored Division for my novel From Dust and Ashes. He called to thank me for my Christmas card and to see how I was doing. When I first started writing the novel I never planned on writing about WWII or interviewing veterans, but I felt God’s stir: “This way.”

This morning I was reading through Facebook posts from many of my teen mommies (many who are no longer teens!). Some girls I mentored years ago have school-age kids now. Some girls are still Freshmen and Sophomores and they’re still looking forward to their babies to come. When I set my mind on “ministry,” I was thinking 3-year-old Sunday School class. I never imagined loving on teen mothers. I never realized how the mentorships would turn into friendships that would last for years and years.

This Christmas season, one passage has stirred in my heart the most. It’s a passage I’ve read over but haven’t thought about much—except for this year. Every time I read these words I feel God telling me to slow down and pay attention:

Matthew 1:20-23

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—’God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term: Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”). MSG

Joseph was a guy who had his GPS set. Like every Hebrew man he knew he’d build a room on his father’s home, marry, raise a family, and pass on his trade to his sons. Yet, God decided to change things up, and He set Joseph’s life in a new direction. Two parts of the above passage make me smile. First, that Joseph was trying to find “a way out.”

Too often we try to find “a way out” of God plan. Why? The plan usually isn’t direct, or easy. It often looks like  “hard circumstances”–something we’d pray ourselves out of if we could.

But God often has a bigger, greater plan than we realize.

The second section that stands out to me is, “This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term.” I love that word-picture. An embryo is fully planned, just undeveloped. All the DNA it will ever need is present; it just needs time to mature.

As a Hebrew man, Joseph no doubt knew the Scriptures. Had an inkling stirred within when he read Isaiah’s words: “Watch for this: A girl who is presently a virgin will get pregnant. She’ll bear a son and name him Immanuel (God-With-Us)” (Isaiah 7:14)?

Did Joseph have any idea HE was part of that plan? That that girl was his future-wife and that child his oldest son? I doubt it.

Joseph looked for a way out, yes. A way that would keep him on his intended path. But out of obedience to God, Joseph allowed the One he served to mess with his GPS, and his life was never the same.

Perhaps the beginning of a great plan will grow and come to full-term through YOUR obedience to God. Have you ever thought about that?

Just know this, that if God is asking you to change your life direction in the coming year, you can focus on one thing. “God is with us.” He is with YOU. Trust that God knows your destination, set your gaze on Him, and GO.

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For more than a decade, Tricia has drawn from her experiences as a teen mother and leader of today’s generation, to be a voice of hope and possibility for teen girls, pregnant teens, mothers and wives.

Married to John for over twenty years and the mother of four, Tricia believes ordinary women can accomplish extraordinary things with God’s help. She shares this message in her 30 contemporary fictionhistorical fiction, and nonfiction books and through speaking engagements across the country. Her invitation to women everywhere is to cast aside discouragement and fear to live real life, inspired!

You can read more about Tricia and her award-winning books on her website.  You can also connect with her on her blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

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As God would have it, I am posting Tricia’s story as the final one.  She poses the question:   Are you willing for God to change your life’s direction if He wishes?
In December of 2011, here’s how I would have answered that question:  Yes, I am willing…sorta.  God, could you check with me first?  Could we compare notes to make sure you know the desires of my heart? I’d like to be prepared.  
Today, I answer, Lord, you know desires in my heart that I don’t know.  I am thankful You will do whatever it takes to lead me where ever you need me to go – in any direction. I’ll follow.  
This time last year, I had my world under control. I had walked away from my teaching career to stay at home, focusing on my roles as wife and mom.  Before I quit, our lives were crazy and all that crazy could be traced to a mom with a schedule that didn’t allow for her to fulfill her God-given role and helper and servant to her family.
By December, I had it all figured out.  Homeschooling, homemaking, blogging (some, not much), etc.  My life had turned 180 degrees.  Some of it was God’s calling; some of it was self-imposed.  Life was perfect.
Or, so I thought. There began my story.  A story filled with revelations about marriage and covenants, about parenting and homeschooling, about God’s unconditional love, about serving and loving, about friendships, about being unteachable, about…well, I’ll share it soon.
Like Joseph, God set my life on a new path this year. I wanted a way out, too.  In fact, I made a “way out” plan…on paper.  It blew up in my face in more ways than one.  This “fixer” learned she could not fix some people, some situations.  She had to let go…of her plans, her expectations.
Why?  Because when God began to move in my life, revealing His plan for me, I was in awe.  He had a better plan for Joseph.  He has a better plan for me.  He has a better for you.
The calling I thought was on my life?  Similar but it looks much different now.  The one type of ministry I hated and thought I’d NEVER do?  Yes, you guessed it.  THAT’s the ministry am I feeling God say…Go…This way.  The map I was following?  (Better know as the Sarah’s plans and thoughts +  the Bible = God’s plan for Sarah) Gone.
He’s shown up and surprised me so much this year through trial and joy that I will follow.  His plans are indeed beyond mine…different, but better.
I pray you’d answer Tricia’s question with a resounding, “Yes! Lord, take my life.  It’s yours.  I will follow you anywhere.”  When you feel God stirring…Go.  Don’t look for a way out.  Instead, out of obedience to Him, follow.  Your life will never be the same.
And…I am beyond excited to have Tricia sharing today!  I am also thankful to participate in a Facebook group with her. Each week, she takes time to ask for a prayer and a praise.  She provides links and advice to “writer moms” and allows us to share our writing and/or favorite blog post. She’s been a great encouragement to me as I learn to manage a quickly growing blog while writing my first book with another author.
Thanks for sharing, Tricia!

Sundi Jo Graham ~ Addicted to Food {Story 29 of 30}

I was always overweight. Eating was my way to cope. I ate when I was sad. I ate to celebrate. I rummaged through the cupboard when I was bored.  Surprisingly, though, I had no idea I had a food addiction. I guess you could say the denial ran deep.

I remember the day it hit me. It was March 2009, and I had been eating healthy and losing weight in the last five months. My best friend was getting married, and I was the maid of honor. The wedding was a month away, and I had to have my dress taken in several times. I was excited!

But the excitement wouldn’t last long. My dad passed away unexpectedly in February, and the wound was still very fresh. Actually, I was in denial to the fact that he was gone.

I pulled into the drive thru of the frozen custard and burger shop with plans to order a salad. The next few moments were a blur. When I “came to” I had eaten a pork tenderloin sandwich and cheese curds and was missing my dad terribly.

In that very moment, the reality hit me…

I was addicted to food. It was my drug of choice.

I had just soothed my emotions with greasy food and a watered down soda, not even knowing what had happened.

I was devastated. Full of shame. Overwhelmed. Angry.

That day was a wake up call for me. A step into the reality that though I had lost a lot of weight, I hadn’t really dealt with the addiction. I learned not too long ago that addiction is a symptom of a deeper problem. That’s so true. My addiction to food was simply a symptom to cover up the sexual abuse. To hide the shame of abandonment from my alcoholic father. He was an addict in one way and I was an addict in another way.

I would love to say that I don’t have any struggles and that I haven’t found myself using food to cover up the deeper symptoms. But I’d be lying. There have been times since that day in 2009  I’ve found myself in a similar situation. However, I will say those days are fewer and far between.

Joyce Meyer often says, “I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.” That statement is so true.

God and I have walked a rocky road together since that day, but I’m so grateful  I don’t walk that road alone. I’m not where I need to be in my fight against food, but I’m certainly not where I used to be.

I’m slowly learning that I don’t have to have everything fixed overnight. I struggle with that sometimes.

I’m a “fixer.”

I’m always working on giving myself grace and accepting the grace that God offers, especially when I find myself emotionally eating.

But that’s the power of His grace. It’s free. It’s a gift. It’s for me and you. Regardless of how I ate yesterday, today is a new day and his grace is new and fresh too.

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Sundi Jo is a writer, speaker, and small business owner, making her home in Branson, Missouri. She is the author of Liar Liar, a manifesto that will challenge you, change your heart, and lead you in the right direction to believe the truth about your true identity. You’ll find her engulfed in the social media world, spending time with friends and family, hanging out in a pair of jeans and flip-flops, or writing. Find Sundi Jo on Facebook or Twitter (@sundijo).

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If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that my story is very similar to Sundi Jo’s.  I struggle with food addiction and emotional eating.  I, too, lost my dad.  He was a wonderful father, husband, and friend.  I am still a daddy’s girl at heart and miss him very much.

While I am still in process…still losing weight, I am thankful my husband has joined me for 21 Days to a Hunger-Free and Healthy Holiday.  We started on Monday. Both of us feel better already.  We donate $1 to the Latrobe Street Mission for every mile we run (11 miles so far); $1 for every day that we faithfully record our food in My Fitness Pal (me) or Lost It (Steve) and stay under our daily calorie goal; and $0.50 each time we feel we’ve chosen healthy over unhealthy.

I am also thankful to him and the friends/fellow bloggers who plan to join me in the Pound for Pound challenge, beginning January 1.  For each pound we lose, we will donate a pound of food to Latrobe.  Those joining us will donate their pounds of food to shelters and food banks close to them.

If you’re overweight, have a food (or any) addiction, or eat emotionally, please know God loves you…just as you are.  But, He loves you so much that He wants to help you change.  God doesn’t want us to be a slave to any addiction.  When we’re emotional or struggling or unable to overcome, He wants us to turn to Him, not food.  He wants us to steward our bodies well.

That’s where I am.  I am embarrassed that I am overweight when I meet people through the homeless shelter and on my trips to Honduras who have little or no food.  That’s a problem  When obesity and hunger are both epidemic, something is out of balance.  I want to do my part to change that.

Thankfully, when I struggle, when I want to eat whatever, when I want to give up, when I can’t say no…God can.  He can help me say no.  He can help me overcome my struggle.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Thanks for sharing, Sundi Jo.

Pilar Arsenec ~ The Struggling Christian {Story 28 of 30}

I had an entire month to write this and I kept stalling. When Sarah first asked me to share my story, I agreed. Although, I struggled with the prospect of sharing.

I have been through a lot in my life, more than I care to recount. I will spare you the details as it would only glorify the devil.  Let’s just say, I have had a hard life as I am a survivor of various abuse.

I am also a struggling Christian.

The Christian walk hasn’t been an easy one for me. I have been following Christ for twenty-five years and continue to struggle.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easy for me either. Forgiving my abusers or forgiving those who have wronged me.

I intellectually know and understand God has forgiven me, yet and still, I have a difficult time forgiving those who have hurt me.

I had a choice to write something else, but chose to write this.

I am not the Christian I ought to be.

Yes, I have some good qualities, but for the most part, I should be further along in my Christian walk and maturity.  I am not further along because I’ve made bad choices in my life.  These choices lead me down wrong roads. As a result, there have been many repercussions.

For most of my Christian walk, I’ve always felt like the turtle in the back of the race, always trying to catch up with everyone else.

Perhaps I am not the only one who feels this way? 

Maybe you have struggled in your walk with Christ too?

On the outside, you are faithful. You go to church. You attend bible study. You do and say all the right things.

On the inside, you struggle with your faith, you doubt, and you want to give up. But you’re too afraid to admit it.

Let me just tell you… you are not alone. There are many Christians in the same boat and one of them is me. Truthfully speaking, we are all under construction. A work in progress. And that’s ok.

God meets us where we are and offers us grace.

I’m so thankful for His grace. Aren’t you?

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Pilar Arsenec is a legal secretary by day and a writer by night. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, writing, singing and cooking. You can connect with her on her blog, Ordinary Servant.

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For most of my Christian walk, I’ve always felt like the turtle in the back of the race, always trying to catch up with everyone else.

Have you ever felt like Pilar?  I have.  Many times.  I love to study and read, but no matter how much I study God’s word, I always discover more.  More I need to know.  More I need to understand.

I reflect on past years when my walk with God stagnated…didn’t move back, didn’t move forward.  I simply stalled.  I also see years I jumped back thanks to poor choices, purposely turning my back on what I know to be true.

But, the good news is…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Grace.  God give us grace – unearned favor.

Unearned.  You can’t earn more.  You can’t work and get more.

It is by grace we have been saved through our faith in Jesus, his death, and his resurrection.  We have not been saved because of who we are or what we have done.  It is a gift of God. A free gift.  No earning possible.  You aren’t saved by works or deeds or goodness.

I am thankful to Pilar for her openness.  Often, it’s hard for us (i.e. Christians) to simply say…I don’t get it. I am struggling.  The outside looks awesome, but the inside is messy.  Really…that’s everyone’s story.  None of us really has it ALL together.

I will always remember this part of a prayer from my Walk to Emmaus: Lord, be with the one needs this most and with the one who thinks she needs this least.  

Both people…those who “think” they have it all together and those who admit they don’t need Christ…need Him equally.  So, run the race Christ has set before you.  Not your neighbor’s race or your spouse’s race or your child’s race.  Your race.  Run slow…run fast…whatever God has for you.  Just run toward Him.

Morgan McKeown ~ SEEing Others {Story 27 of 30}

December 1995

From my journal – I have failed in everything especially the attempt to find me. I walk blindly through the dark, searching for—I don’t know what.  Something to fill the emptiness? There is a light to guide me, yet I choose not to follow. I am not good enough to be in that light. Through I know it will accept me. Darkness is all I see, all it is, is reality.

At 14 my life was consumed with depression, bulimia, suicidal thoughts, and toxic friendships. Although I had truly committed my life to Christ the summer before, all I could think about was death. I was slowly killing myself, constantly longing for God, yet running further and further from Him.  I learned to put on the mask of competent Christianity: on the surface everything was perfectly arranged, underneath I was unraveling.

December 2005

I was done.  The relationship I thought would end in marriage had left me broken and alone.  The only contents in my refrigerator were cans of Diet Coke and a Costco sized bottle of Malibu Rum.  Up to that point, my job as a youth director at a church and my frenzied good works were enough to submerge my ever-present, crippling insecurity.  After the breakup, all I had pushed down came bursting out.  At the age of 25, I was burnt out, done with ministry, and fantasized about being done with life.

March 2006

My friend, Joy, enthusiastically exclaimed, “Morgan I heard about the most amazing trip!  You would love it!”    Not much excited me, but I was willing to hear her out.  “There is this trip called the World Race.  You get to do mission work in 11 countries in 11 months.”  From the moment Joy said those words, a host of butterflies took up residence in my stomach.  I couldn’t sleep that night.  I knew right then everything was going to change.

July 2007 while on the World Race

From my journal – I started out these three months in Africa broken for myself, for what I had been through and the things I had suffered in my past. Now my heart has changed, been healed, and I am broken for these children; for injustice; the cycle of poverty; childhood rape; AIDS; and lack of education.  I am torn to shreds by children shivering in rags. I feel emptiness for the kids who only get food sometimes. I’m in pain for their lack of medical attention.

At the same time, I know it’s not mine to cure. I can’t solve my own problems let alone solve the problems of one of these children. I have to choose trust. I have to choose to believe in the God of scripture who loves justice and champions the poor, the widow, and the orphan.

Every time I sit today I begin to cry. God why the pain? Why the sin? Why the injustice?

I understand you have to have the pain to know the beauty, but God my heart has been ripped out, torn to pieces. Tandi has AIDS, babies raise babies, children are raped. God, children are dying!  God, do you hear my voice crying out for them?

Jesus I know you died for them. Can you please hold them, feed them, educate them and teach them Your grace and love?

Then God responded, “Morgan, every tear you cried today was actually my tear. I was crying through you.”

Today

God used 2007 to painfully shred the mask of competent Christianity I was so comfortable hiding behind.  I was wrecked by a Kingdom reality much bigger than my own and thrown into a story that includes orphans in Swaziland, sex slaves in Thailand, and students desperate for the gospel in China.

Since The Race, everything is different.  I decided to intentionally live in community.  My sister and I started a non-profit homeless outreach called Fill-A-Belly.  We serve around 200 people a week who are in need of a warm meal and genuine friendships.

I’m a full-time missionary, but I live in San Diego.  My job is to lead mission trips and work on local events that promote awareness of what’s happening in Swaziland.  I LOVE it!

This weekend I was teaching the parable of the Good Samaritan at an Orphan Awareness event for youth.  I asked them a tricky question, “What was the first thing the Samaritan did?”

After a lot of answers, one girl understood what had to happen first, “He SAW the man hurting.”

Before 2007 I was too busy constantly rearranging my own insecurities to see anyone else hurting.  The World Race helped me SEE others.  Some days my worldview still becomes selfishly myopic, but thankfully God has given me honest friends that whip my butt into gear and weekly conversations with the homeless that remind me to get over myself!

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From Morgan:  I’ve always loved missions but that passion came alive in 2007 when I went on the adventure of a lifetime, The World Race.  I traveled to 11 countries in 11 months and did mission work in a huge variety of settings.  Since The Race I’ve led four trips back to Swaziland, my favorite stop.  This summer I had the amazing, blister-filled, opportunity to walk, yes walk, 122 miles across Swaziland while raising awareness for HIV/AIDS.

In 2008 my sister Molly and I started a relational homeless outreach called Fill-A-Belly.  When Molly first came up with the idea I responded, “homelessness isn’t really my thing.”  I’m pretty sure, when I said that, God laughed!  I had no idea that 5 years later we would have our own non-profit, be empowering thousands of wonderful volunteers to feed 200 people weekly, and that our outreach nights would be the highlight of my week!

I live in San Diego with 4 incredible roommates and 2 rescue Pit Bulls (who are cuddle-aholics).  I love speaking and writing, and currently blog at www.morganmckeown.theworldrace.org.

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My greatest honor during 30 Days of Story has been messaging with some of the authors before they post.  As Morgan and I “chatted” about her post, she found it difficult to land on just one thing about which to write.  After visiting 11 countries in 11 months, starting a homeless ministry, and walking 122 miles across Swaziland, one has lots to write about.  She’s seen God’s faithfulness in many ways and in many places.  As we “refined” what she planned to write, I got to thinking…

Shouldn’t we all have much to say about God’s faithfulness?  Even if we’ve never been outside the country…in our daily lives, doesn’t He prove Himself faithful?  He delivers me safely to my destination even though I am a terrible driver.  He uses others to speak into my life at just the right moments even though I can be unteachable and sarcastic.  He answers prayers and provides even when I don’t know how to pray.

He is faithful.  Always. Maybe we just don’t notice.  I pray you stop and take note of His faithfulness and love today.  I did –  and was overwhelmed by the evidence of Him at work.

I am thankful to Morgan for sharing.  I hope her story not only encourages the adults, but also the teens I know that read.  There’s hope, gals.  It’s found in Him…and Him alone.

Aidan Rogers ~ Not Enough {Story 26 of 30}

I oughta be ashamed of myself.

I think.

Because regardless of what else I have ever attempted to be – and I could list so many good words here like writer or friend or woman or daughter – the only thing I have ever fully been is simply Not Enough.

The problem with Not Enough is that Not Enough feels like Not Anything, and pretty soon, it starts feeling like Not Welcome.

The rule was: if I wasn’t interested in living up to my role in this family, I was free to leave.  And if I was neither interested in keeping my role or leaving freely, I could be removed.  Living up didn’t mean trying; it meant doing.  It meant succeeding at meeting every expectation.

Not a day went by that I didn’t feel as if I was earning my keep.

Nor did I always earn it.  In one rough time, I was no longer worth it.  Everyone has their reasons, but to a girl who was starving for a place, what happened could not have been more painful.  My parents packed me in the backseat of the car four times over 18 months (three in the middle of the night) and drove me away.

To leave me.

They walked me into these hospitals, explained to the staff that I was “not functioning well in the family environment,” and that they didn’t know what else to do.  I remember vividly the first facility.  After talking with me, the staff looked straight at my parents and said, “We don’t really have a reason to keep her.”  My parents replied, “Well, we can’t take her home.”  And they walked out.

There wasn’t a place for me.  I was Not Enough.  More than that, I was also Not Worth Fighting For and sadly, Not Worth Fighting With.

If I thought I was close to finding a place, there was always someone to pull me back.

When a community project I’d helped coordinate earned me an invite to Oregon – my first plane ride – dad insisted on chaperoning the already-chaperoned trip.  He spent weeks beforehand and the entire first leg of the plane ride telling me he didn’t know what we were doing there; I couldn’t do this, and he didn’t know why he was letting me try.  We deplaned at the only layover and he rented a car and drove me home, cussing most of the way.

When I was ready to move off to college, mom packed her car and drove behind me the hour or so to my new campus.  Via cell phone, she spent the trip telling me she didn’t know why she was giving her day for this; we both knew I wasn’t going to stay there.  And why were we even doing this again?  There was no way I was going to make it at college, no way I would even try.  I stayed.

Stuff like this.  Here I was looking for a place to land, a place to be, and I couldn’t have it.  (Seriously, in the case of the plane, a place to land.  But I was looking forward to college, too, and the chance to really explore who I might be if people would stop telling me I wasn’t.)

It wasn’t just family, and in the case of family, it wasn’t malicious.  It was just broken love, and that’s another story entirely.  But I was the kid who ate lunch alone.  I was the kid who worked on every group project alone.  I was the kid who was Not Enough of a kid to bother being around.

The college I’d stayed at and was starting to find freedom in discovered my history as I wrestled with severe post-traumatic stress.  They decided I was Not Pure Enough to be a part of their campus, purely because of my story, and there was no place for me there.

No place for me anywhere.

All I’ve ever wanted is a place to be.  A place where I make sense.

Then one day, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and saw plainly Not Enough.  I saw Not Anything.  And I saw Not Welcome.  Looking into my hollowed eyes, I couldn’t blame my world.  There’s just not a place for this.

I longed to be something enough.  Just a small shred of enough was enough.  Let me be anything.  Because if I’m anything, then maybe there’s a place for me.

I was thirsty for affirmation.  Affirmation…but I would settle for appreciation.  Maybe a little respect.  Just notice me.  Notice what I’m doing here.  Notice something about me, anything about me, and tell me that I’ve done something.  Tell me I can build on that and someday turn my something into enough.

I was performing, but if we’re being honest, I wasn’t even trying any more.  I would never be enough.

Several years later, I caught another glimpse of myself in the mirror.  I hadn’t planned on it, but there it was.  One moving shadow that made me turn and look.  There I was: Tired.  Burdened.  Entirely Not Enough.

I stood there for a second, then another.  A minute passed.  I just stared at myself, trying through clouding eyes to not see Not Enough.  Trying, for just those few minutes, to see something more, or at least something different.  “What are we doing here, God?” I spoke through tears to the mirror.  “Who is she?”

She is you, He answered.  She is everything I created in you.  She is smart and funny and beautiful and gifted and blessed and forgiven and wholly Mine and so completely you.

But what does it matter, I asked Him, bawling by this point, if there’s not a place for me?

There’s a place for you, child.  It is right here.  In you.  In Me.

Looking into my His hallowed eyes, I knew.

We’ve had a lot more moments like that.  My God is faithful to answer me as many times as this fragile heart needs to hear Him.

These days, I’m all wrapped up in this mischievous sort of love.  Because in God – in this love – is the place where I make sense.  It’s the place where I’m landing.  And I’m starting to live out of it and live it out of me.

More often than even I realize, I find myself sneaking around just to leave love for people.  In secret, because I don’t need them to notice.  When I’m caught loving, I just flash an impish grin, shrug my shoulders, and change the subject.

I was totally just lovin’ on you.

You oughta be ashamed of yourself, they smile back.

Eh, maybe.

But I’m over being ashamed.  I have my place.  I know my place.  And I’m loving it here.  This is where I was meant to be.  Not Enough is a myth.

Because that girl staring back at me in the mirror?  She’s Aidan enough.  And the God standing next to me?  He’s God enough, too.

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From Aidan: Please do not let this be the only piece of my story you read.  Over on my blog, this week is story week because I have many other things to say about stuff like this.  Today, in particular, I want to share more with you about what crazy, messed-up, broken love is.  So please, come visit me at Ransomed and make sure you know the whole story.

Aidan is the author of Recess with Jesus and Prayse (coming in 2013), as well as the Ransomed blog.  She is honored to share devotional thoughts with her congregation at Franklin Church of Christ, where she also coordinates a portion of the women’s ministry and a monthly newsletter, Within.  In her spare time, Aidan enjoys woodworking, art, engineering, and loving on people, as well as music and dance.  She believes that the greatest answer is asking better questions and the greatest example is simply living, and loving, out loud.  Aidan is living in Indiana with her messed-up, “love you anyway” family and two dogs.

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Affirmation.  Isn’t that what we all want?  Someone to say, “You’re doing a great job!  We accept you here.  We love you.  Thank you!”

We want others to notice us; we want to feel we matter.   We want to feel included.

I can identify with Aidan…I think we all can.  There’s always something else you’d rather have or someone else you’d rather be.  But, God didn’t make you to be someone else – or have what he/she has. He fearfully and wonderfully made you to be you.  I often wish I had a quieter, gentler spirit.  But, I don’t.  While God can work miracles, I don’t think He ever intended me to have that kind of spirt.  But, he’s taught me to admire it in others…to learn from it when I see how their quietness works for Him – instead of envying it.

Being around those who feel like life is a competition is draining.  Don’t be that person.  Don’t begrudge and envy others.  We are all people, living in this world in the best way we know how.  Lift others higher.  Rejoice with them in their successes.  Cry with them in their tragedy.  It’s how God wants us to be…to love.

And, ultimately (as Aidan said), affirmation can truly be found in only one place:  Christ.

Thanks for sharing, Aidan.  I am thankful for your courage to verbalize what many only think and feel.

Tiffany Board ~ I Go For Him, I Go For Them {Story 25 of 30}

I grew up in church. I come from an incredibly loving family who gave me a nice house, nice things, and too much good food. We are a close-knit family.  We are trash-talking Steelers’ fans, and we love playing cards on Saturday nights.  My friends are the best in the world. I’ve never had any big medical problems just some stitches (mostly stemming from something my older sister conned me into).

That’s me…your typical, middle-class, Jesus-loving, small-town girl. And yet I’ve always had something weighing heavily on my heart: Why me? Why haven’t I had to face tragedy in my life? Why am I so blessed? (Please, don’t stop reading here. I’m not whining…really.  There is a point.)

“Sometimes God puts those in the front of the line to help those in the back.”

This quote changed my way of thinking and has since led me on many adventures for God.

My first adventure came in 2011 when my best friend, Carrie, asked me to travel with her to Africa.  Zambia to be exact.  She’d spent a year serving as headmistress at a school on a farm called Sons of Thunder. Of course I wanted to go! I wanted to see the places she talked about and meet the people she called her family.

But, Satan came running and instantly put questions and fear in my mind. HOW COULD I EVER AFFORD A TRIP TO AFRICA? Soon, I had the answers. When those near and dear to my heart heard I wanted to go on a mission trip, they became Christ’s hands and feet. They started sending money before I even had to ask.   I knew I had to go not just for me, not just for Carrie, and not just for Christ; I had to go for the people who couldn’t.

I had to go for the elderly men and women supporting me because they physically couldn’t go. I had to go for the women supporting me who had small children and couldn’t go. I had to go for the people who had jobs and couldn’t take time off. I had to go. And now, every single time Christ lays out His plan for me that requires money I don’t have, I go.

I go for Him. I go for them.

So, I went.  I embarked on the long journey to Zambia (both literally and spiritually) with a few church members and my best friend. Because of my deep commitment to  Christ and willingness to “help those in the back of the line,” I was willing to give of myself  – even if it meant an 18-hour plane ride.

For 2 weeks we worked on the 10,000 acre farm,  Sons of Thunder.   We ministered to the farm residents and labored in love at the Sons of Thunder School. Many times as I stood under the hot African sun, I felt goosebumps.  I could feel the greatness of our God. In fact, “those in the back of the line” taught me more than I could ever teach them.

My deep commitment and openness to God came again this summer as once more I boarded a plane and travelled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I spent a week built five houses, fed over 200 people, spent time with a homeless ministry, and served food at the local dump filled with trash as far as the eye could see.

I don’t write about these trips to say “Hey! Look at me! I serve Christ all over the world! My mansion is going to be bigger than yours!” I want to show people that God can take anyone, even someone without a “story” to tell, and use them to be His hands and feet.

Luke tells us that “For whom much is given, much will be required.”  Listen.  God will speak. And God will use you. You may not be called to travel out of the country to serve, but you ARE called to serve.  You are called to “go and make disciples” – here or there.

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From Tiffany: I come from the small town of Mineral Wells, West Virginia. I now live in Elkins and teach 7th grade English at Buckhannon Upshur Middle School. I met Sarah at the Walk to Emmaus and knew instantly we were kindred spirits.

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Tiffany’s right.  We met Thursday evening at Emmaus (Tiffany a table leader, me a pilgrim), and we were friends by Friday afternoon.  We have the same (sarcastic) sense of humor and much in common. I love her.

Tiffany’s talk at Emmaus resonated with me, and while it has nothing to do with her post, I can’t help but share what God used her wisdom to teach me.  She spoke of how our relationship with God influences all other relationships.   Indeed, a deep relationship with God is the root from which all other relationships grow.  It seems so simple.  But, it’s not.

I know pastors, church leaders, and “good” Christians who don’t love people. They like them or tolerate them.  Their relationships with others aren’t deep because the root needs tending.  Sure, these people are sympathetic to tragedy.  But, they don’t “get down in the ditch with a person,” truly loving them.  That’s a “root” problem.

I also know pastors, leaders, friends, and Christians who love, love, love people.  This genuine love of others is born from their relationship with Christ.  It’s obvious.  They love Jesus and it pours out onto others.  They see people – all people, including those who are different or hold different views – as image bearers of Christ.

Tiffany’s teaching at Emmaus convicted me of allowing my pride to get in the way of loving others.  When I served in church leadership, I considered myself on the “right” side – God’s side (ridiculous). I thought the Bible-studying, reading, praying people (me included) loved our church more than the others.  Sigh.  How wrong I was.  At some point I stopped seeing those who thought differently than me as image bearers. I got wrapped up in my way of thinking – the right way  – and failed to love others.

I justified my wrong thinking and actions easily, calling their way “unbiblical” or my actions “ok” because the other side was doing the same…”meeting or planning” outside of the real meeting and often with people who weren’t intended to know.  I know…all unbiblical.

Sad…but Satan got a foothold because I lost my root.  I thought the unbiblical actions of others justified my unbiblical actions.  Pride separated me from Him, causing me to lose my way, getting caught up in the importance…in being “in the know.”

While I have repented, I still hate thinking of that season.  I’d lead so differently now.  That’s why I am thankful for those, like Tiffany, who lead the line for those of us at the back who have much to learn.  Those of us who need a good example.  Tiffany’s talk at Emmaus transformed the way I see my outward relationships with others as a reflection of my inward relationship with Christ.

Thanks for sharing, Tiffany…and for helping me to see that while giving deeply of myself risks hurt, it’s worth it. For His glory.

Valerie Ashcraft ~ The Pain of Infertility {Story 24 of 30}

Sometimes it’s surprising how one single horrific event can greatly impact one’s life.

During Spring Break in 1997 my innocence was stolen and a threat on my life was made. In solitude, I carried the pain and shame of what happened, and that was too much hurt for a young woman to endure. To cope with this trauma, I began self injuring.  While cutting was painful, it was easier to deal with than the emotional hurt.

Because of this self-destructive streak, I ended up in some very unhealthy relationships and became both a figurative and a literal punching bag. I had absolutely no self -worth, no faith, no hope.

I was lost in the darkness. Anxiety, fear, and pain were the only normal I knew.

Finally in 1999, I met a new friend who I would eventually marry. God placed Michael in my life when I needed someone the most, and in reality, he saved my life. Although the anxiety attacks didn’t stop, my everyday fears became more manageable.

With Mike’s love and support, I was able to stop cutting. We married on October 19, 2002, and it was the best day of our lives to that point. Our life as newlyweds was like any other couple… we were contagiously happy, moved into our first home, and began planning for our future.

In September of 2003, I began having lots of abnormal bleeding. I could cope with the bleeding, but the pain accompanying it was the worst I’d ever felt. I finally gave up my stubbornness and sought medical care in January 2004. After many tests and procedures, the doctor diagnosed me with moderate-severe endometriosis. He advised us to start trying  if we wanted children because my reproductive health could not be guaranteed. We were absolutely shocked; we’d been married for 14.5 months, and while we were planning to have children,  we’d planned to wait a few more years.

God had other plans for us.

So we took a leap of faith. We started trying for a baby. Weeks turned into months, months into a year, year into years. We sought medical interventions, paying completely out of pocket because fertility diagnosis and treatment weren’t covered by our insurance.

Finally a success… I got pregnant! Sadly, that happiness didn’t last long. I lost that precious babe. More months and years went by with multiple successes and failures.

I became angry, bitter, confused. Both my faith and marriage were compromised. I felt so lost.

Then, in 2010, an answer to prayer. Our amazing son was born. He came to us in a way that had God written all over it. Although I was not able to carry him myself, I couldn’t love him more than I do. Sean is our miracle boy and for me living proof that God does exist, which is something I’m ashamed to admit  I questioned through my infertility battle and pregnancy losses.

Since Sean’s birth, we have continued trying to expand our family. We’ve added more pregnancy losses and failed adoptions to our story. We have no idea what the future holds, but through the highs, lows, and in-betweens, we take one day at a time and do our best to trust in God and the path He has for us.

Sometimes it is so hard to comprehend why things happen the way they do. But each day offers new opportunities and life experiences…most when we aren’t even looking for them. The bond and relationship I have with my husband and son are so intense and beautiful partially because of the suffering and pain leading up to them. My boys are my life.

I’m incredibly thankful God gave me those gifts.

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Valerie lives in Heath, Ohio, with her husband, Mike, and her son, Sean.  She lives her dream daily as the full-time mommy to Sean.  Valerie’s passion is educating others about  and supporting those struggling with infertility.  Some of her journey through infertility, loss, and parenting can be found at www.thebabyquest.com.  You can connect with her at rayne1120@gmail.com or on Facebook, Valerie Sullivan Ashcraft.

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Infertility is a topic near and dear to my heart.  I have witnessed the pain and heartache that comes from both infertility and miscarriage.  I have found myself asking more than once, “Why, Lord, are children born into abusive homes when I know a safe, loving home waiting for a child?”

Some days “His ways are not our ways” is too hard to accept with our hearts even if we know it in our heads.  But, we know God works all things together for good. We know He loves each baby…each of His children… each of us more than we can even fathom.  We are each fearfully and wonderfully made, and He knows the number of hairs on our heads.

Yes, He is in control; He is sovereign.  In that, we find rest and peace.

Today, I am asking you to pray for those who want more than anything to be moms.  Those who are infertile, and those who have miscarried.   Thank you, Valerie, for sharing, for raising awareness about this issue, and for supporting those walking this path.

Brooke Fradd ~ The Little Things {Story 23 of 30}

My life is the American Dream.  My husband and I are hopeless romantics.  We have 2.5 houses and a community pool.  With no children (of the regular or furry variety) to care for, we can pick up and go whenever we take a notion.  I have a relatively easy job with excellent benefits; he is a real estate agent bringing home the big bucks. (Or no bucks, whichever way the game of straight commission sales is going on any given month.)

And if I’m honest, I’m rarely grateful for any of it. 

I want to be a missionary, but God won’t let me.  Or rather, I want to live the glamorous side of the missionary life – being bold and on fire for Him, traveling to exotic places, not getting trapped in the humdrum, first-world American life.

Instead I am called to live on mission, the one playing out in Smalltown, Tennessee every day. 

Four years ago this month, I ignored God’s word and pledged my life to a man who doesn’t share my faith.  I was convinced God didn’t have a plan (or at least a good one) for my life and decided to do things on my own.  While I don’t regret marrying my husband, I have since repented of my rebellion.

Living out 1 Peter 3:1 isn’t easy, but I know it will eventually be worth it.  I look forward to the day when going on a new adventure won’t just be for the fun of it, but rather for the growth of the kingdom.   For now, however, I begin each day asking God to open my eyes to the word that needs to be done here.

Some days, I see nothing out of ordinary.  Serving the Lord means getting up at 6:36 each morning, having my morning coffee as I break open the word, then heading to work to sit at a desk for 8 hours.  After punching out, I go home to prepare dinner, do some chores, then snuggle with my darling to watch some TV before bed.

This past Sunday, however, I was blessed to have one of those days so clearly touched by God it gives me chills just thinking about it.  My morning started volunteering at a local race.  I had completed (and totally rocked I might add) a half marathon the day before, so I sat this particular race out.   Or rather, I stood this race out – in an intersection with a reflective vest and flag pointing the racers across the street, showing them the way.

I had a free coupon, so after the race I found myself at a nearby fast food restaurant finishing up my Bible study for the morning.  A few kind words and the offer to assist the worker with a spill cleanup (while the spillee never looked up from his smart phone) gained me the smiles of a couple fellow restaurant customers as I headed out the door.

On the drive home, my gaslight came on.  I’m a planner and a numbers geek, so I’d done the math and knew I had plenty of gas to get me home and back to church that evening.  For some reason, I decided to stop and get gas one Interstate exit before mine.  While logistically waiting until later made more sense, I felt compelled to stop.

I considered it a no-brainer, then, when Mr. Charles Grayson approached me asking for any assistance I could provide.  My own toes were cold from standing outside during the race, so I couldn’t imagine a life seeking shelter under the gas station canopy.  More important than the $10 cash, I acknowledged him as a person.  I looked him in the eye, had a conversation about how cold it was, shook his hand, and told him I would be praying for him.

After an afternoon relaxing and attempting to manage my blessings (anyone else have such a full closet there is a need to put the summer stuff away and the winter stuff out?), I headed to church to work the audio booth for Sunday evening service.  The message preached was from Acts, my current book of study.  If not for the need to work the service, I might not have bothered going to church, but the sermon blessed me.

I grabbed a sack-full of Krystals on the way home from church in an attempt to cheer my husband up.  He’d received bad news about a big deal he’d been working on while I was gone, and even the mention of those tiny little burgers perked him up.

It’s the little things.

Sometimes, I am blessed enough to see a thousand, tiny glimmers of God’s love in one day, giving me strength and encouragement to persevere through the mundane.

Until my Saul has his Damascus conversion experience and together we set the world on fire in Jesus name…

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Brooke and her husband, Jay,  live in Tennessee.  She’s a wife, runner, AV geek at church, and the “best aunt boo ever” (as proclaimed by her niece and nephew). Brooke currently serves God by showing up five days a week to a boring but stable government job, gaining and losing weight (more clothing sizes to donate), and occasionally serving dinner to the homeless “under the bridge” via the Lost Sheep Ministry in Knoxville.

You can connect with Brooke on Twitter.

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Brooke’s story is perfect for Black Friday.  Yes, I shopped from 8 pm to 1 am.  Yes, it was worth it.  Cleared out my son’s list for under $100.  Awesome!

Yet, this morning I thought of Brooke’s quote: And if I’m honest, I’m rarely grateful for any of it.  

I have struggled since coming home from Honduras, for I am more aware of excess – particularly my excess –  than ever before.  The new van we were about to purchase?  Still on the lot.  Seems like a ridiculous purchase considering our van still runs fine even if I am not a fan of the crashed side.

That’s a no brainer,but what about the smaller purchases?  Beyblades, Skylanders, a new GPS, a mini iPad, Just Dance 4, etc?  I am grateful?  Are my children?  While I think we are, it’s bigger than that.  Are these things hindering us from following Brooke’s advice as we are called to live on mission, the one playing out in Smalltown, Tennessee every day

My family – and yours – is called to live on mission.  Everyday.  The one playing out in Smalltown, [insert your state/country here].  God wants each of us on mission in his/her corner of the world. Is the “stuff” interfering with our mission?  Draining resources we could be using elsewhere?  Draining time we could spend together and serving others?

I am afraid that’s a “yes” – except I am not sure where the line is – yet.  That’s going to take a family meeting and prayer.  [to be continued…]

What about you? What’s “mission” look like  for you?  For your children?  Mothering well by pouring into your family/children?  Supporting your family at a 9 to 5 job that you don’t even like?  Volunteering at a local food bank?  Packing a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child?  Helping an elderly lady carry her groceries at Walmart?  Serving in the youth ministry at your church?  Spending less this Christmas – and maybe longer – to free resources?

 

It looks different for everyone, but that’s the point. God has a plan for each of us…a mission for each of us.  Brooke gets that, and I love her honesty about it.  She’s following God’s plan, after admittedly rejecting it, even though her mission doesn’t look like what she wants it to.  So, even if being on mission doesn’t look like you think it should, stay faithful to Him.

I promise He will stay faithful too.

Thanks for sharing, Brooke!

Robin Anderson ~ Giving Thanks for His Plan, Not Mine {Story 22 of 30}

I met my husband twenty-six years ago. Within three weeks, I knew he was the man I would marry. We married 10 months later and began our life…our wonderful, normal life.

We bought a house and remodeled it. Our plan was to work and prepare for the time when we had children so I would have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom.

We had it all planned out…our wonderful, normal life.

After trying seven years to have a baby, I finally found out I was pregnant on New Year’s Eve. The house was finished, my husband had a good job, and I was able to quit my job and become a stay-at-home mom.

Again, we had it all planned out…our wonderful, normal life.

As we celebrated my son’s third birthday, my husband, Mark,  felt a pain in his right side. A few weeks later he went to his doctor. The doctor said he had a hernia and scheduled a CAT scan. We never gave it much thought, except my husband would miss a few days work for surgery. But, we were not prepared for what we heard that day.

It wasn’t in the plan.

The scan revealed a mass…a very large mass that had grown around my husband’s right kidney. It was cancer.  After many tests, we learned it was testicular cancer. The cancer had metastasized and spread to his lower right side.

That was the day my wonderful, normal life changed forever.

I called on my friends and family, and we began to pray. I called different churches, placing Mark on prayer chains across the country. That was our only hope. We needed a miracle.

After the original cancer was removed, Mark endured three months of high-dose chemotherapy.  The doctors said my husband was cancer free, but the cancer returned three months later. Although the doctors gave my husband a 97% cure rate, the cancer came back with a vengeance. This was not in the plan!

There was only one option left for Mark:  Seeking treatment at a hospital in Indianapolis that specializes in testicular cancer. My husband would have two bone marrow transplants. We left immediately.

Our family lived in Indianapolis for two months. Until this point, we had lived on our savings. But now we had no income and only had the financial support of family, friends, and our church. God was so faithful. Not one bill went unpaid and all the expenses were paid during the two months we lived in Indianapolis. We let go of our pride and accepted help from others – even people we didn’t know. This also was not in the plan.

Early one morning my son was with my parents at the apartment we rented next to the hospital, and I was going to sit with my husband who was in isolation, waiting for his white blood count to build after the second bone marrow transplant. Everything was going according to plan. The tumor in his stomach was softening and the treatment was working.

I stepped into the elevator on the first floor of the hospital. I was alone. That was very unusual for early in the morning. There was always a wait for the elevator, and yet I was the only one on it. The doors closed and I hit the button for the fourth floor. When I found an opportunity to pray, I would pray. So I began to pray and asked God to heal my husband. I remember praying for a complete healing, and then, suddenly, my prayer changed. I said out loud in the elevator…

God, I know you can heal Mark. I know you can give him a complete healing. I will give you all praise and glory no matter what the outcome. I give it all to you! You are in total control of my life. Take it and walk me through. I have always had a plan and tried to take control of my life, but please take it and have your way.

I let it all go. I gave it to him.

I felt as if a warm blanket was being wrapped around me. My whole body relaxed. I truly felt it was God wrapping his arms around me and holding me. Philippians 4 speaks of the peace God gives  – a peace the world cannot understand. I felt it that day. I knew no matter what happened God would take care of my family.  I stood in that elevator completely in awe of how much my Heavenly Father loves me.

He does not want us to hurt; however,  he will use circumstances in our lives to bring us closer to him.

After the two bone marrow transplants the cancer was gone. To this day, my husband’s doctor calls him the “Miracle Man.” He always tells us that my husband should not be here. We always tell him that God had other plans!

That was 16 years ago. There have been other scares along the way. Ten years ago, Mark had another tumor in his stomach. It was also cancer. The doctors were able to remove the cancer by surgery. Again, God was in control.

Our life has totally changed. My husband became a Mr. Mom and stayed at home to raise our son, and I went to back to work. Sometimes we think we have everything figured out. It is always good to make a plan, but as I found out, I needed to make sure it was God’s plan. It is so easy to become caught up in what the world thinks is the perfect life, or the normal life.

I wanted the perfect, normal life. I now have a new normal. A new, normal life that I  live one day at a time, giving each day to Him.

Enjoy the day and savor all God has given us. Not the material things that he provides but our families, our health, our freedom… fill this Thanksgiving Day with God’s goodness. Sure, I still have a long-term plan,  but I know it can change at any minute. God wants us to be prepared,  but make sure you surrender to him daily and let him show you His plan.

In Philippians, it says to be content in whatever state you find yourself. I am content in my new, normal, wonderful life. My life may not be what I thought it was going to be twenty-six years ago, but it is much better because God is in control. God is so faithful. Just remember to let him show you his plan for you life.

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From Robin:  I live in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania with Mark and my son, Jerry. Mark is healthy and doing well. Jerry is 19 years old and attends West Virginia University (WVU). I work at WVU in the Office of Research. I am on the worship team and Mark and I work with the youth and young adults at our church.

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Robin and I worked together at West Virginia University.  I know God placed me in that office in that season because he knew I’d need a friend and a mentor.  He sent me Robin.  I was newly married and soon-to-be a new mom.  I was unprepared for both.  Robin listened as I navigated my first year of marriage, my pregnancy, my first year of motherhood, my first house, and my faith.

As I reflect on all Robin walked me through, I am in awe of and thankful for how God worked through her.  When I met Robin, Mark had just been declared “cancer free” for the second time.  She was working so Mark could stay at home with sweet little Jerry.  Most days, I knew she missed Jerry and wanted to be at home.  But, her faithfulness to God’s plan for her life left an impression on me. She had a faith that I wanted.  Her daily life oozed Jesus. I know – without any doubt – Robin planted a field of seeds in me during the two years we worked (and shopped and laughed and cried) together.

Today (and every day) I am thankful for Robin – and people like her.  People who are a vessel, willing to be used by God for His glory.  People who sacrifice time, energy, and resources to mentor, disciple, and love others.  Those who live out their faith in a tangible way.

Thanks, Robin – for sharing…for who you were to me…and for who you are today.  I love you!