Finding Him in a Day at Home {Day 1}

Choosing to write for 31 days about something revealed daily has this planner a bit disconcerted. There’s no writing ahead or scheduling.  Just looking for Jesus each day and waiting. Listening. And on a Saturday when you don’t leave the house much…when you spend the day at home wading through the to-do list…it’s hard to stand back and say…wow. I saw Jesus in the dos and the dishes.

But,  friends, just as I made that joke, He said to me…well, I am here…

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I provide these jobs and tasks. I give you the gifts and grace to complete them. I connect you with each person. You can pay the bills because I provide. You can wash the dishes because I give water and soap and food and a stove and electric. You can answer emails and make graphics because I position you on a ministry team for such a time as this. You can help others. You can pray. You can even listen to your alma mater play football on the radio because that school is part of the story I’m writing for you.

The sweet text from your daughter?  Loving you even though it’s not your weekend. A reminder that I am sovereign, especially in child rearing.

Your son’s sympathy for the opposing team’s field goal kicker? (You should know…we won because he missed!) That’s a gift of grace and mercy as you teach him compassion.

The open window and autumn breeze?  All me, Sarah. The book you read before it’s  released?  A gift from Me to you.

You scroll through Facebook and sit in a warm, cozy home because of my provision. You match missionary pictures with retreat registrations because I’ve given you the privilege of Revive.

The Revive gal who checked in with you this morning?  I connected your hearts and she followed my nudge to love you well.

The bed you got out of? The shower you took?  The car you drove?  The meals you ate?  All me.

The coffee from Tim Horton’s, and the woman who made it? She’s my child. She served you today. Your love of Oh, Come All Ye Faithful? I wrote that. (Yep, I listened to Christmas music today.)

So where did I see Jesus today? In the mundane. In the normal of my life. In a day when I was feeling a bit cooped up at home. Working.

He showed up there.

And without this intentional seeking, I think I’d have missed him.  My messy house and to-do list would have hidden him.  Thankfully, He tapped me on the shoulder with a big A-HEM!  And said, “I’m here.”

Where did you see him today?

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!

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.

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.

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

It was December 24th, 2010, Christmas Eve, when I sat in that dimly lit room, in a chair I had pulled as closely as I possibly could to the side of my husband’s hospital bed.  My arms were wrapped around his cold legs because they were the only part of his body that wasn’t strung with tubes or crowded by machines working to support his comatose body.

Worship music I had requested be continually playing in his room helped to soften the rhythmic sounds of the breathing machine, beeps from empty drips, and regular announcements over the loud speaker.  Worship had gotten us through other challenges in our 21 years of married life together, and I knew that if my husband could hear anything, he’d want to hear worship. God had given us the blessing of being able to lead worship together as a couple and it was one of our passions. Our eyes are off of our circumstances and on God in worship.

The circumstances were serious.

On the evening of December 21st my husband had suffered cardiac arrest while playing basketball in our church gym. At least 45 minutes had passed since my husband collapsed when the girls and I finally made our way over the icy roads to him. We felt a sense of urgency to pray for him when we arrived at the church.

We could see my husband lying on the gym floor when we entered the building. Paramedics and brothers in the Lord surrounded him. Later we were told they had already shocked him three times before we arrived…still no heartbeat.

My heart raced and I felt something rise up in me. I knew  God still had things for him-for our family- to do. I felt moved to go to him and speak life and breath over him in the name of Jesus.  The medical team decided to shock him again…and after that, I heard someone say, “We have a pulse.”

He was airlifted to the hospital. When I arrived I was told that only 10% of people who suffer from a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive, and those who survive usually have serious complications. I had been warned, as they put his body into a cool-down induced coma, that because of how long he had gone without a heartbeat, he would likely have brain damage. The nurse had instructed me to be ready with plans in the event he didn’t make it.

I understood how serious it was, yet I had peace and even hope because of who our God was and who He had proven Himself to be in our lives. He had moved many mountains; He had healed; He had delivered; He had saved. He was Our Awesome God!

So I was trusting.

Life’s challenges allow room for God’s miracles. I had surrendered the whole situation to God and trusted Him, no matter what happened. I do remember, however, asking him to allow our family to see as many miracles as possible through whatever challenges lay ahead of us. It was my desire that our girls would see that even when there are extreme challenges, God is faithful and good.

As I sat there next to him on December 24th, I realized that the next morning my husband would be taken off  the medications, machines, and pumps so we could, as the doctors had told me, “See what we would get.”  Those words were ringing in my head as I considered what we might face the next day. Prior to this, I had not wanted to allow the possibility of anything other than a complete recovery come to my mind.

So there we were. I was grateful that as a couple, we had tried as best we could to honor and appreciate  one another. I don’t think one day in our married life had gone by without a verbal expression of love for one another. Our lives were rich from “making memories” as we always called it.

But I wanted more time with him.

I wanted more adventures with my best friend.  I wanted  a daddy for my girls. I wanted to laugh, dance, and make music together again as a family. I didn’t know “..what we would get..” in the morning, but if  these were our last moments together, I didn’t want to leave his side.

Suddenly something stirred within me….this was Christmas Eve. The next morning was Christmas! Our friends had taken our girls home with them for a Christmas Eve celebration, but the reality that the next day was Christmas just then hit me. Wouldn’t it be just like God to raise up my husband on Christmas? I realized if that was going to happen, I needed to be rested and ready to greet my husband when he woke up in the morning.

So what happened the next day?  The Christmas Miracle of 2010!  It wasn’t hours, days, or months before my husband woke up, as we had been warned.  It was minutes…a complete miracle!

The next few days were busy ones as we moved from one miracle to the next.  I don’t know or understand why God heals one person and not the next, but I do know that for some reason my husband was touched, and we were given the gift of another day of life together. We were  rejoicing as my husband passed all physical and neurological tests, proving that his brain was fine. The doctor was trying to stump him with questions about his past, dates, basketball teams and such, but he passed them all.

Since that Christmas of 2010 there are three things I have tried to do. First, I try to cherish every day we are given as a gift, because it is. Second, I try to tell those I love how much they mean to me even if I look foolish.  And third, I try to embrace the challenges that life brings knowing that it is in those sometimes desperate moments where we see God’s greatest miracles.

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Rochelle lives in Nisswa, Minnesota, with her husband, John Paul, and daughters Brianna and Matteya.

John Paul and Rochelle were brought together by their common love for music and their love of God; a love that has only deepened as the years have passed.  They are both known for their sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit as
they minister as worship leaders, through concerts, and evangelistic outreach and speaking to groups about the passions that are dearest to them, such as Deeper Intimacy with God, Worship, Becoming Who God Made You to Be, and Home Schooling.

You can contact Rochelle via email:  JohnPaulandRochelle@JohnPaulandRochelle.org or ruiz@tds.net

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I met Rochelle through my friend, Marla.  This quote from her story captured me immediately: Life’s challenges allow room for God’s miracles.  Over the past 21 days, I’ve emailed or chatted with many who struggle with the suffering in the world.

Bad things happening to good people.

But, what I love about each story is seeing how life’s challenges – all of our suffering – allows room for God’s miracles. As Rochelle wrote,  “I try to embrace the challenges that life brings knowing that it is in those sometimes desperate moments where we see God’s greatest miracles.”

Today, I pray you embrace the challenges.  Take hold of each challenge and see it as an opportunity to grow closer to Christ.  See it as a chance to witness a miracle, a life change, or a much-needed lesson.

In our weakness, He is strong.

 

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

I was fired from a job I had worked for five years because my doctor filed a worker’s compensation claim when I got hurt at work. Long story short –  my boss was infuriated there was a claim.

I was devastated.  I had NEVER been fired.  I had lost my sense of purpose.  I loved being a dental hygienist; it was part of who I was.  God began mending my wounds, helping me to see I was more than a dental hygienist:  I was his child.

I drew closer to Him; He was holding me in his hands until I was ready to be on my feet again.  Months went by and I was making strides, reconstructing my life’s purpose…or so I thought.  My friend always says if you want to make God laugh  – make plans!

Some friends that live near me walked in the evenings, so I started joining them.

On June 24, 2010 there was a strong thunderstorm.  The winds knocked down our corn, so my husband and I were working in the garden, pushing the ground back around the corn.  The gals I walked with came to the cornfield to meet me.  This was the opposite direction from our normal route.

Both of my walking partners had young children. One usually pushed her children in a stroller, but because of a rip in the stroller, her husband told her to leave the kids with him.  She did.  My other friend left her kids there too.  Because those kiddos stayed behind, I asked mine to stay home.  So, usually we have children with us; on June 24, we did not.

This shows the mysterious ways of God; He takes care of us even when we are unaware.

I live in a rural area.  The road we walked is a two-lane road.  It is busy at times.  So we followed the rules of walking; we faced the traffic.  We also walked in a V, the two experienced walkers in front and me the point in the back.  We stayed on the side of the road, and when vehicles came, we got completely in the grass on the side.  If there was room, we walked in the grass. I was having some much-needed girl time and then…

The next thing I remember is waking up in an ambulance crying in pain.  My husband was over my head, telling me I had been in an accident, and they were taking me to the hospital.  I regained consciousness again in the ER, and through excruciating pain, asked what was going on.   What had happened?   This time my sister was there telling me they were taking my wedding ring off and she would keep it…out I went again.

I remained unconscious for 12 days.

As we were walking, a drunk driver crossed the yellow line, came over in a driveway, and struck me from behind.  I hit the girl to my right as I was thrown into the air some 40 some feet.  The driver continued about 100 yards before stopping.

I was face down in a ditch.  The girl on the right, Stacy, ran to call 911. The girl on the left, Jana, stayed with me.  I was knocked out.  Completely lifeless, she thought I was dead.  The drunk driver started backing up; she had to hit the back of his truck to keep him from running over me in the ditch. He mumbled some kind of gibberish and peeled out.  He took off, leaving us there.

The first house Stacy came to was my aunt’s house.  No one came to the door, so she ran to another house.  Stacey didn’t know my aunt had been on her front porch, heard the commotion,  and ran inside to call 911.  Meanwhile, I was starting to suffocate in the mud in the ditch, so Jana rolled me over.  You are not supposed to move people,  but it was either let me suffocate or roll me.

I was still unconscious.

Stacy was running up the long driveway to another house, and she started to panic, feeling she couldn’t run anymore…she prayed God help me get to the house.  The next thing she knew, she was at the porch.  They called 911, and the lady brought her car down the hill to block the ditch so no one could hit us.  Stacy took a neighbor’s car to get Aaron, my husband.

As we were waiting for an ambulance, the girls recalled a lady with whom they went to church is a nurse anesthetist.  This lady never answers her phone.   She asks you to leave a message, and she calls you back.  But she answered and came.  She put me on oxygen, which she carries in her trunk, and began to assess my condition.  She told my friends to call 911 and tell them to send a helicopter.  I wouldn’t make it to the hospital in an ambulance.

In the meantime, the police arrested the guy who hit me.  He had hid his truck and had gone to bed.

I was loaded in the ambulance and taken to meet the helicopter.  I want to thank the people who allowed the airlift to land in their field.  I had a head laceration, cracked sternum, multiple rib fractures, liver laceration, and a ruptured spleen.  My vertebrae spines were cracked off.  I had multiple sacral fractures.  My right hip was fractured in five places and ripped off my spine.

When the doctors first came to talk to my family, they gave NO hope.  There was too much damage.

So people started praying.

Prayer chains were called.  Our church camp,  which happened to be in session, was awakened and asked to pray.  People called upon the Father, the Healer, to touch me and the people taking care of me.

More X-rays were taken before they could do surgery.  The doctors couldn’t explain it, but my X-rays were now different than before!

THANK YOU, JESUS! The doctors couldn’t explain why, but my family could:  GOD!

Sustaining my life was touch and go after the first surgery because of internal  bleeding.  I spent weeks in the hospital although it was supposed to be months.  Again, the healing power of God was AMAZING!  The doctors couldn’t explain why I was doing so well, healing so fast.  I would smile and tell them I was being taken care of by Jesus!

Still, it was no easy road to travel.  The doctors didn’t know if I would ever walk again.  It was wait and see.

As I reflect on that day in June and the days that followed, I can see God’s hand clearly.  There were numerous miracles.

We didn’t have any of our children with us; they would have been killed instantly.

If the other girls would have been hit,  they probably would have died because they are shorter than me.

The ground I landed in is usually hard and it’s very rocky, but it was soft with mud.  WOW!

I didn’t have a scratch on my face.  AMAZING!

There was unexplainable healing from one X-ray to another.

Finding an orthopedic doctor to repair my hip seemed impossible, and we still don’t know exactly how we found him, but we found him.

During my time of lucidity from the pain medicines and other drugs, God sent me visitors that gave me peace.  As I was trying to distinguish reality from crazyiness, He was there.

As I was trying to get back to my children, people rallied together and gave money, time, and resources to aid my family.  My church family supported my family in my absence.  People took our children places to keep them busy.

I asked God not to take me from my children while they were still young.  And, he answered.  Thank you , God!

While I have left many things out of this story, I want others to know that God worked through this tragedy.  God spared my life, and the story of these miracles spread. I got to tell others how God protected and healed me!

How humbling this has been for me.  I have been taught and read about how God loves us unconditionally, but I got to live it and feel it.  And, honestly, at times I felt so unworthy to have his power and love. Thinking…I am  so unworthy; I don’t deserve this much love. 

When I was fired, I wondered…why is this happening to me?  But, looking back, I know God was not surprised.  He knew what I was about to face; he knew I needed to be stronger.  So, when we don’t understand why things are happening,  remember…IF we focus on God and trust fully in him, He is working all things together for good.

I have learned to keep God first.  He truly will take care of us.  Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  How sweet to know that God is ALWAYS there for us. In the wee hours of the morning,  he was there.  Anytime I needed him  – he was there.

He also taught me forgiveness.  It’s not been easy.  But,  the man who did this to me was fighting a war of his own.  I pray for him to be healed of his addictions.  I pray  he accepts Christ as his Savior.  I struggle at times as I try to rationalize why a man that has put me and my family through this pain and anguish, the anger, gets to go to heaven if he chooses.

But John 3:16 says “WHOSOEVER.”  My sins are equal to his.  I don’t need to rationalize anything.  I trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding and he WILL direct our paths and our hearts.  I love the LORD and am AMAZED at his glory!

He is a loving and forgiving God.  He wants us to be the same. 

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Jennifer Rollins lives in West Virginia with her husband, Aaron, and her two children. Because of her accident, she is disabled, but loves her roles as God follower, wife, and mom.

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Jennifer and I were friends in high school. We attended Poca High School in Poca, West Virginia.  We were (and still are!) Poca Dots.  Yes, you read that right.  Our school’s mascot is a Dot.   I considered unearthing a picture of us together, but the 90s hair deterred me:)

I remember the day Jennifer was hit.  My sister called me and explained the accident.  She said, “they don’t think she will make it.”  Each day I’d check in, and each day I’d hear the same:  She’s still unconscious.    I asked my care group to pray.  I prayed.

Then…she’s awake and she’s healing.  Miraculous.

I also remember the trial and sentencing of the driver who hit her. Nothing about the ordeal seemed “fair.” But, Jennifer didn’t pray for “fair.”  She asked God for the driver’s salvation.  Wow.  What an example of forgiveness to us all.  Her prayers for the man who forever altered her life demonstrate her love of God and his creation.

I am so thankful to you, Jennifer, for being willing to share this traumatic event.  I know there’s much more to the story…and the recovery …than you wrote.  Thanks so much!

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

I arrived in London like a turtle. On the exterior, I came off as a strong, independent, confident woman. But beneath my shell was a frightened girl traveling uncharted territory. I pressed on alone. A stranger in a strange land with strange new people. To be honest, not much has changed in twenty years.

I’m even more a stranger in a strange land as a believer in Christ.

I was at a crossroads, becoming a young women but ill-prepared to walk into my future. Coming from a home laced with dysfunction that had been handed-down one generation after another, I was an empty and battered vessel willing to receive any form of attention and acceptance. I was searching for love and security, hope and promise. No one could meet my unrealistic demands.

No one but Him.

In a quiet surrender, I gave my life to the Lord, declaring that I would take the promise of heaven to be my own. I gave up trying to be good enough to get into God’s favor, acknowledging for the first time that my sin was not my own to bear. Based on behavior alone, no one would have known that Jesus became my Lord and Savior that blustery November night in London, but time would certainly reveal to all that Jesus found His place, permanently, in my heart.

When I arrived home shortly before Christmas, I was certainly a changed woman, ablaze with passion for God, wanting every area of my life to be adjusted according to Biblical truth. No more partying. No more cussing. No more unhealthy relationships. A new Bible. A new church. New friends through a Christian group at college. A new routine and lifestyle.

Before long, I was a college graduate, and within the year I was married and living at a Christian boarding and day school with my beloved husband, one of the key players in my journey of faith. Three years later, the Lord blessed us with the birth of a beautiful baby girl, and twenty-six months later, we welcomed the birth of our second daughter.

The outer woman not only had a spiritual makeover, but a life makeover. However, the inner soul was still carrying around old baggage, unsure of how to lay it down at the cross. Even though I believed that God forgave me for all my sins, I didn’t know how to reconcile my past with my present, so I simply suppressed every emotion and feeling. Each day my ordinary experiences triggered painful memories. Not knowing how to deal with what was really bothering me, I blamed everybody and everything else for my short temper and irritability. I developed new routines and constantly adjusted expectations, desperately hoping that would lengthen my fuse. Nothing worked.

It was a tiring and stressful life, trying to be the good Christian girl on the outside and feeling pretty horrid on the inside. The more I read Scripture and sought to live accordingly — especially in terms of having a gentle and quiet spirit — the more I seemed to go in the other direction. My mounting anger reached an unexplainable intensity. It would have been easy to blame it on the stress of my third pregnancy with twins. Or later on sleep deprivation. Or on the traumatic death of a friend.

I was so sad and angry, but no one knew.

When I walked out of the house, my face was perfectly made up, clothes freshly put together, and smile plastered on my face. Yet at home I was unpredictable. Emotional. Frustrated. After one explosive moment with my oldest daughter, my husband attempted to call me in to account. Defensive, I rebuked his rebuke. We were in the crazy cycle of hurts, disrespect, and constant disappointment at the state of our life. It reached a point where he said plainly, “I don’t think you really love me or the kids, or you wouldn’t be treating us this way.”

Life stopped short that very moment.

I felt as if I hit a cement wall and fell flat on the floor from the impact. I knew I needed to get up, but going forward seemed impossible. Retreating may have been my knee-jerk reaction, but pride kept me from sleeking away. I turned to my sister-in-Christ, Emily, for support. She did what a true friend should always do — speak the truth in love. “You need to get help.” I nearly flung my coffee cup across the table at her. I wasn’t convinced it was time, but I knew something had to change. God was moving in my heart.

After years of trying to do life on my own, without full surrender to the Lord, it was time to completely let go of the baggage stored inside my heart.

However, the spiritual surgery required to repair my broken heart required the expertise of a Christian counselor to help me unpack the hardened areas of my heart while bringing me to the Cross in prayer, seeking Jesus as my ultimate healer. About a month into counseling, I came to see that many of my points of anger were deeply rooted in suppressing deep feelings of rejection, shame, guilt, abandonment, and unforgiveness. These are common side-effects for anyone suffering post-traumatic stress linked to any sort of trauma — not only in severe cases such as war, but in ordinary life where anything from the death of a loved one to childhood abuse, violence, poverty, substance abuse of a parent, and many other sources of pain — all trauma has the potential of leaving deep wounds within a soul that are often too hard to deal with at the time. The emotions become suppressed in an effort to survive, yet these hurts and beliefs also stunt spiritual and emotional maturity.

Because I refused to experience the Lord’s full forgiveness for my sin, even though I intellectually knew Jesus already paid the price, and also resisted forgiving those who hurt me, I was stuck in a rut of bitter pain. But as I acknowledged the hurt and identified the circumstances as well as people involved, I was able to release it to the Lord and embark on the forgiveness process.

Slowly, over time, the anger has been replaced with a softness in my responses to others, especially my children. The frustration has been replaced with an eternal perspective and a palpable peace, even in trials.  Life isn’t perfect and my reactions aren’t always beautiful, but messy grace marks my reactions more than bitter anger revealing God’s hand at work in me time and time again.

This process of unpacking my stony heart was one of the most painful, most precious, most necessary experiences of my life, but it yielded remarkable and beautiful transformation. And it is ongoing.

Ephesians 3:7 CEV – God treated me with kindness. His power worked in me, and it became my job to spread the good news.

The Lord has graciously taken my greatest wounds, healed them totally, and turned my life story into my life calling, providing endless opportunities to share the Good News and testify about His transforming work as mom, mentor, friend, writer and speaker. Through the sanctification process, God continues to shape me — and you — into the likeness of His Son, writing our stories for His glory and good purposes. May we count it a privlege to tell of them often and boldy to all who are willing to listen to the sound of a Holy God scribing His love into the human heart.

(Portions of this story have been excerpted from Elisa’s ebook, Experiencing Life Transformed.)

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Elisa Pulliam is a life coach, mentor, ministry leader, and speaker passionate about encouraging and equipping this generation of women to impact the next generation with relevant Truth. Her deepest desire is to facilitate heart and life transformation in others by offering practical, easily accessible, and Biblically sound life resources, which she shares at More to Be and Passion and Purpose Life Coaching. Connect with Elisa at www.elisapulliam.com and Twitter @elisapulliam.

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I met Elisa while serving on the launch team for her book Impact My Life:  “Impact My Life will enable you to see yourself being used by the Lord, right here, right now, for the benefit of those people perfectly placed in your corner of the world.”

That’s exactly why I love this book.  It helped me to define and embrace my role in my corner of the world.  I could finally see myself being used by the Lord, not leaning on myself and my gifts, but truly allowing Him to use me.

Right here. Right now.

And, I don’t need to wait for that magical moment when I am “healed” or “fixed” or “perfect” or “super Christian.”

As Elisa writes in her book, “Our qualifications [to mentor and be used by the Lord] come from the Lord…it’s a willing spirit that matters, not life experience, a gifted personality, or a seemingly perfect life.  Expertise and degree qualifications do not matter to hurting hearts, lost souls or women hungry for love wrapped in truth.”

God also used Elisa to teach me that “Each lesson learned is a lesson to share.  Each act of God’s grace is an act to proclaim.  Each moment of sin overcome by repentance is one to brag on God about.” 

That’s why I love stories.  That’s why we share stories.  That’s the heart of this 30 Days of Story.  And…

That’s why Elisa and I are coauthoring a book full of stories that point to Him “for the sake of building others up in the faith and pointing them toward Jesus.”  

When Elisa contacted me and asked if I’d coauthor a book, I was honored.  Collaboration and writing have begun.  You can look for our “yet to be titled” book on May 1, 2013.

Thanks, Elisa, for sharing your story and wisdom!

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

Last fall I mentioned to my doctor that I get out of breath easily. I was working out more consistently and harder than I ever had in my life.  I told him I thought it was just me – I was turning 40 soon!  And, everyone has their “thing” that makes life challenging.  He disagreed and had me get a few tests.  I had a breathing test done and an echocardiogram. The tests came back normal; I was done.

The doctor wasn’t done.  I was sent to a local cardiologist.

This cardiologist listened to my whole “breathing” saga.  I was born with pectus excavatum.  When I was born the doctor told my parents if the sternum had been any closer to my heart I would need surgery.  That was a green light to us, and we never thought much about it. I never even thought I looked different as I grew!  I always told myself to “push on through” when I’d get out of breath because I thought it was just my pectus excavatum bothering me.  I didn’t want that to stop me!

I learned to adapt through the years.  I realized I wasn’t cut out for track in middle school after I had enjoyed running short distances in elementary school.  I exercised on my own through aerobics, weight lifting, and walking.  I was always up for a new challenge.  No matter what activity I engaged in,  I was always dead last.  I had learned not to let it bother me.  Through the years, I asked doctors if my pectus excavatum should cause me to get out of breath.  They all said no.

My husband, Patrick, asked me to talk to my doctor in my early 20’s, I had an echocardiogram that came back normal.  We had been studying abroad in Europe together through Oklahoma Christian University for  a semester.  I puffed my way up the Swiss Alps.  Patrick was concerned, but I was so used to this – I had always been this way. The doctor told me to continue what I was doing, stop and get my breathing under control, and go again.  I was used to quietly recovering and usually no one noticed.

Until this past year.

My children were telling me I was getting out of breath a lot.  It was getting harder to recover quietly.  People started asking me if I was ok when I exercised with them or walked up a stairway with them.  I got so tired of explaining, I would just say I had a breathing problem.

I had more tests done, and quite frankly, I was getting tired of them!  After a CT/angiogram test, EKG, stress test, and TEE the answers came together.  My oxygen dropped down to 70% on my exercise test.  The CT scan showed my pectus excavatum was putting pressure on the right atrium of my heart, and my heart was actually caught under my sternum.  I also learned for the first time I had an ASD, a valve that had never closed at birth.  I was sent to Cleveland Clinic for more tests and to visit more doctors.

Open heart surgery was necessary to save my life.

If I did nothing, and I considered that an option, I would develop congestive heart failure, need a lung transplant, have a heart attack, or other physical failings.  I found out that 3.0 was a severely deep pectus excavatum; mine was 8.8.

I was going to endure a brutal surgery.

An incision was made under my breasts.  The cardiologist cut into my heart and repaired my septum and put a ring around my tricuspid valve.  That decision was made in the middle of the surgery because my sternum was so deep it had caused my tricuspid valve to be indented.  Then, the thoracic surgeon cut the bone out from underneath four ribs on each side of my sternum, lifted the sternum, and pulled the ribs and sternum together with  a titanium plate. Several screws were  put in place to keep the sternum lifted. I was in surgery about 7 hours.

I truly had to LET GO of control like never before. 

I had to overcome fear.  

I remember standing in the kitchen one day and praying to God…I’m so tired of being scared, GodPlease help me!  I don’t want to cry all the time.  That exact moment the Christian song I was listening to changed from singing to someone reading scripture:   “I am holding your right hand. I will help you. DO NOT FEAR!”

I immediately looked up the scripture in my Bible:  Isaiah 41:13.  I said that verse out loud over and over again until I quit crying.  What a heavenly gift!  I felt like God had just gently embraced my tear-stained face and said, “Do not fear, Heather, I’m HOLDING your hand!”

My husband and I were determined to not let Satan steal the joy from our lives before this surgery.

Life was still going!  We had  a lot to be engaged in, and I wanted to be present fully, not fearfully “waiting” for the future!  Without speaking it, a little part of us wondered if I would survive the surgery.  We wanted to enjoy each day and continue to serve our awesome Heavenly Father and Lord Jesus Christ!

One night I went to bed trying not to tremble with fear.  My husband held me and said Psalm 23 aloud for us.  I fell asleep and woke up to a bright light in my face.  I thought the neighbors were having a wild party.  Squinting, I realized it was a beautiful moonbeam shining on my face!

I heard a strong, clear, deep voice say, “Who put the moon in the sky?”

“I did, and you’re worried about your surgery?”  And then….laughter! The strong, clear, deep voice changed to laughter.  It reminded me of my Dad’s laughter.  I felt incredibly safe. I fell asleep smiling and laughing as I pulled the sheet over my face to block the moonlight – what a heavenly gift!

I shared those gifts with my loved ones and took them with me on May 24, 2012, as I was rolled into surgery.  I had no idea how many more challenges awaited me after surgery.  But, with Jesus as my strength, I am here today!

I praise God and give Him all the glory for more gifts than I can name here in HIS Story! I’m breathing like never before.   I still get excited when I dash up a set of stairs and don’t get out of breath – let alone when I run and walk up hills!

No matter what trials we experience or blessings greater than we can imagine here on earth, Jesus Christ tells us life can be full as we look forward to heaven!

“The thief comes only to steal and to kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

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From Heather:  I have found myself in different places and situations throughout my 40 years of life, and I’m thankful God has held my hand every step of the way.  I can’t imagine life here on earth without God.  He is my everything!

God blessed me with a husband better than I could have imagined for the past 17 years.  We are looking forward to celebrating our 18th wedding anniversary this December.  We have three children:  Cassidy (14), Nathan (12), and Bridget (7).  Life is full and I’m so very grateful.    I love my family and enjoy being a stay at home mom.  I have kept up my elementary teaching license through the years.  Before we had children, Patrick and I both taught in Japan for a year and then following that I taught second grade in Texas.

I’ve always tried to remember that life is an adventure and I’ve learned (definition of learned here-struggled at times) to enjoy being in the moment wherever I am and to see what God has in store.

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I consider meeting Heather a divine appointment.  I listened at Women of Purpose 2012 as Heather shared her story.  We’d never met.  But, I had joined hands with my husband and prayed for her on May 24 – the day of her surgery. (Heather’s brother, Grant, is my husband’s friend.)

I also knew Heather’s husband, Patrick, well.  He’d been my marriage counselor for years.  We knew so many of the same people, but still, we hadn’t met. When we spoke after the conference, it seemed as if we’d known each other awhile – like we should have met already.

As we talked, she stood in awe of how many prayed for her that day and since – people she didn’t know.  I stood in awe of a God who orchestrates our lives so lovingly that we meet those who impact our journeys at just the right time.

It’s my honor to share Heather’s courageous story.  Her faith in the face of fear is a lesson to us all.

Thanks for sharing, Heather!

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

1992—“the year in the doldrums,” as many called it—was a year of recession, unemployment, and uncertainty. Sound familiar?

It was the year Sam lost his job eleven times in twelve months, starting shortly after the birth of our daughter—the year I (Maria) desperately needed to know that God could be trusted…

It was also the year the bank repossessed our brand-new, recently paid-off Ford Bronco because we could not afford to pay a $4000 balloon payment for one year of insurance that was added after a small accident (long story)…

The year I blew the engine on our old Plymouth—our remaining working car—while driving in 105-degree weather without air conditioning, with our baby girl wilting in the back seat…

The year Sam blew the engine on an old donated station wagon…

The year a bicycle found in a dumpster became Sam’s only mode of transportation, which was stolen a week later…

The year Sam slept on our friends’ couch for weeks and borrowed their truck to come home to us on weekends…

The year I cried every time the phone rang, knowing it was either a bill collector or Sam calling to tell me he had been laid off—again…

The year we had twenty dollars in our pocket, an overdrawn bank account, and an eviction notice on the table notifying us that we had ten days to pay $1,300 in back rent…

God, Where Are You?

Day after day I cried out to God, echoing words I had found in the Bible, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear!” (Hab.1:2a). As a new Christian, I wanted to believe that the Father whom I had just welcomed into my heart was not a figment of my imagination—that His love for His children was real.

Sam and I were about to find out that God was doing something, just like He was doing something in the days of the prophet Habakkuk when He responded, “Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe it if you were told” (Hab. 1:5b). It’s true. Had He told us what He was doing in our lives, I would not have believed it.

He Was Growing Our Faith

Sam was laid off ten times when ten tire stores closed their doors. We knew that if he lost one more job, we would be in deep trouble. There were no more tire store chains! When it finally happened, Sam walked into the house carrying the full weight of shame and defeat on his shoulders. My anxiety over the eviction notice we had just received was only shadowed by the ache in my heart when I saw the pain in my husband’s eyes. I could read in every line of his forehead what he refused to say out loud—that he felt less than a man for not being able to provide for his wife and newborn child.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when it happened, but childlike faith erupted within me. “God loves us! He would not throw us out on the street!” I shouted. A fire within me ignited and began to consume my thoughts—a fire that contradicted reality and led me to do what I refused to do for the first years of our marriage. I stopped acting like a damsel in distress and became, instead, the builder and keeper of a fortress for our family, for my husband—I became an oasis for his weary mind and body, so God could renew his strength before another day of battle.

I ran to the bedroom and could not find Sam. He had retreated to the dark bathroom like a wounded animal. When I found him, he was sitting with his face in his hands. I sat on the edge of the tub next to him, ignoring the dark cloud around us. With a quick preamble, “Please don’t say ‘no’ until you hear me out,” I hosed him down with ideas that took shape the minute I opened my mouth. We would pawn his shotgun, rifle, and my wedding ring—which we would get back, I assured him. With the money, we would start a “husband and wife cleaning business.” It would not take much; we had a shelf full of cleaning products from previous years as Amway distributors. “Honey!” I said. “Everyone will love us! We will be the most professional, hard-working, and trustworthy cleaning team ever!”

Within an hour, we walked out of the pawnshop with $180 in our pocket. We spent $80 on groceries, diapers, baby formula and a tank of gas. We spent $30 for layout and printing of 1,000 bright yellow fliers, and then used $20 to buy matching shorts, T-shirts, and old towels at the local thrift store. We spent the rest on essential tools for a new cleaning business—buckets, squeegees, brooms, and a mop.

He Was Showing Us the Power of Prayer

Our first prayer after we were ready for business went something like this: “Lord, we know you will take care of our needs. You already know what they are, but we want to ask for a miracle this week. We need $1,300 in seven days or we will be evicted. Will you direct our steps? Will you bless our new business?”

Two days later, while attending a potluck, an old acquaintance we hadn’t seen for weeks sat next to us. “What are you doing these days?” she asked. We told her the story, minus the prayer request. “What a coincidence,” she said. “I’m getting ready to show a building I manage to prospective renters. I need to have the inside windows of twelve floors cleaned,” she said. “Would you be interested?

Would we be interested? “Of course,” I said before Sam had the chance to analyze the situation and the fact that we had no prior experience cleaning windows. The next morning, we sat in her office and confessed that we had never bid for a job before. She quickly turned to her computer and typed one for us. “I want you to win the bid,” she said, “so you need to come in lower than the company we’ve used for years. Could you do it for this amount?” She handed us the paper. Bid amount $1,300.

For six consecutive nights, Sam and I cleaned windows and glass office partitions from 6:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m., talking about God’s goodness until we were too tired to scrub, squeegee, and talk at the same time. I had never felt so tired and refreshed at the same time, and this was just the beginning of the journey!

He Was Teaching Us to Wait on Him

I wish I could say that during those months I was a model of trust and faith every minute of every day. I wasn’t. God was taking care of our needs on a daily basis, but the provision often came at the last minute. The $1,300 check, for instance, was cut only minutes before our eviction deadline. Our friend had to pull several strings to produce immediate payment rather than waiting for the customary 30-day billing period.

For someone who likes and needs to be in control, waiting on the Lord is never pleasant. That was a lesson I needed to learn. It is a lesson that has, more than any other, served me well.

He Was Proving that He Keeps His Promises

When I first read the story of the Israelites’ journey in the desert after God delivered them from slavery, I said, “Why would they doubt, grumble, and complain so much when they just saw God part the Red Sea and shower them with manna from heaven?” I think I now know why. They were, like Sam and me, utterly human creatures getting reacquainted with the faithfulness of their Father. God knew that only in the desert, devoid of everything that gave them a false sense of security, would they realize that when He promised to take care of them, He was telling the truth.

He Was Saying, “You Can Trust Me!”

It’s hard to believe that nineteen years have passed since those tumultuous struggles, and that the economy once again has brought us face to face with job losses and other financial struggles. The difference, however, is that this time around Sam and I have not doubted God’s goodness even once—because we’ve been through worse times before and found out that He truly can be trusted!

How About You?

Is the uncertainty of this economy making you wonder whether God can truly be trusted? Why not put your trust in Jesus, who said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). He keeps his promises to those who put their trust in Him. You can do so today by praying a prayer like Sam and I prayed many years ago:

Dear Jesus, I’m weary from walking in this world alone. I recognize that I’m a sinner I want to put my trust in you. By faith I believe that you came to this world to die on the cross for my sins, so I could have a relationship with God. I believe you rose from the grave after three days, conquering sin and death. Please come into my life and begin to show me that you can be trusted. Thank you for saving me.

If you just prayed this and meant it, you are not alone in walking through the uncertainty of these times.  God said, “I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).  He is telling the truth–you can trust Him.

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Maria Keckler is a writer from San Diego, California.  She and her husband, Sam, and have been married for 23 years and are proud parents of a daughter now a college freshman.  They are passionate about helping others find hope and victory through Jesus Christ–just as they have for more than 20 years.

You can read more from Maria on her blog, The Write Day, or follow her on Twitter.

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I met Maria through the Kingdom Journeys book launch team.  Her blog helps inform my writing and my faith – love that!

Maria’s journey through financial difficulties is one to which most of us can relate.  Growing up, my dad lost his job to closings and downsizings a few times.  I know my parents struggled more than they revealed.  Now my dad is gone, and I got to spend a few special summers with him growing up because he jobless.  Those summers mean more to me than any designer jeans, cool car, or electronic device ever could.

We didn’t have money, but we had each other – time together.   A lesson for us all.

Thanks, Maria, for sharing this difficult time in your life and marriage.