Mary's Story

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 I was raised in a Christian home. No drinking / smoking/ Church 3 times a week..after hearing a sermon in hell at age 6 I decided I didn’t want to go there, and got saved. Lived my life under the assumption that I would go to heaven when I died..no thought / teaching of daily walk/ daily surrender/ abide in Christ ..loved our at 18, went to Radiology school in Atlanta. Started experimenting w all the evils preached against in my home.
Got married @22 to someone who financially able to care for me ( was raised in a middle to low income Family) so quit work. Life was a constant party/ drinking/ drugging our every night ( he worked tons) life of the party and everyone’s free ride. Tons of drugs / grew pot in the basement in the 80s.., but sometimes wondered if this all there is?? Would I go to heaven if I died?? As I had left behind all childhood spiritual training. 8 yrs into the marriage and 2 boys .., I realized ( w intervention by 2 Jewish men) I was an alcoholic/ drug addict.. my life was a wreck and my marriage falling apart. I didn’t know where to turn .. but I got down on my knees and cried out to God “HELP ME IM AN ALCOHOLIC “ ... it was like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders, when I cried out to Him..,I started going to AA meetings ..they advised me to get in my knees every morning and ask Gods help to do for me what I could not do for myself.. don’t drink and drug..that was 31 years ago..,life got worse but I got better., my marriage ended.,bad relationship choices followed. But I remained sober/ clean... today I have been married 29 yrs to someone I met in AA .. we have 2 more adult children who have never seen either one of us take a drink. All 4 adult children walking w the Lord now.,my husband and I active in our local church.. we still attend AA meetings.. I volunteer at a women’s recovery home once a week, leading bible study there., I volunteer at a thrift store run by local church, and do lay counseling..I have just become a Chaplain for the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.. I am a volunteer w Samaritans Purse. And help on rebuild projects when available.. God has brought beauty from my self destructive lifestyle I choose for myself for 10 yrs.,today I choose Christ ., His ways.. His plans .. His Lordship.. He is Holy .. He is just.. He alone is good..

Melissa's Story

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 Everyone experiences unplanned things in life, some of which can be life-altering. For me, I never considered that I would need to find the strength to overcome what is now one of my life’s greatest challenges. I thought I had my path all figured out; get married, get pregnant and have a baby. Instead, I was faced with unexplained infertility. And, after years of struggle, I finally have strength to truly embrace the impact infertility is having on my life.

In the beginning, it felt like an isolating topic with limited resources. Only a few in my close circles were aware of my situation until six months ago when I felt God nudging me to share our story. That nudge, guided me to officially launch a blog called “Living in the Wait”. My short experience blogging has allowed me to embrace everything I was keeping inside. But a higher purpose for my blog, is to provide even a small bit of hope, encouragement, peace, resources and support to others experiencing difficulty conceiving.

Jennifer's Story

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Ever since I was a young girl, struggle seemed to be part of my story. When I was 5, my parents divorced. At an early age I was exposed to much darkness – anger, many forms of abuse, neglect. Growing up I was taught about God and about putting one’s faith in Jesus – asking forgiveness for one’s sins and that we would go to Heaven when we die. While I was taught that God was a good God and that He loved us (me), the focus was more on Old Testament teachings of law rather than New Testament teachings of grace and faith. It was more about what we should and shouldn’t do, rather than the gift of grace and the relationship that Jesus desired with each of us. The desire to be accepted was such a struggle even as a little girl. I struggled to feel accepted at home and struggled to be accepted at school. When I was 9, I became very ill and was hospitalized. Family dynamics on top of being very ill became another struggle. Growing up, my friends all lived with both of their parents (their mom and dad were still married). I felt so detached because I felt none of my friends could relate to what having a divorced family felt like. I had step-parents, too (another thing they couldn’t relate to). I began to make choices that would displace the feelings that I had temporarily for something that was pleasing at the time. Alcohol, promiscuity, pornography – those were a few of my “go-to’s”. When I entered high school, I continued to search for that acceptance that I’d been seeking and began to struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide. I believed that the loneliness and the insignificance that I felt could be solved if I just wasn’t here anymore. After all, I’d accepted Jesus into my heart and asked forgiveness for my sins – I had nothing to worry about, right? My college years were filled with more poor decisions, which led me further into the darkness. I found acceptance with men and the pleasure I could give them. In 2000, I was involved in an accident that doctors believed I wouldn’t survive. I miraculously was released from the hospital after spending close to 3 weeks in the Intensive Care Unit. Jesus was in all the details. He is the reason I survived. I believed that He had something special He was going to use me for after that. Two years later, the serious relationship that I’d been in was no longer. I was too much. The emotional side of me was too much. He was interested in other women…with less baggage. That broke me. That was the longest and most serious relationship I’d ever been in and I wasn’t sure how I was going to go on. God blessed me with a mentor that spoke truth and purpose into my life. Mentally and emotionally, I was still in the darkness and God was slowly revealing His light to me. Life was so lonely. “Sure, there may be light somewhere out there and sure God loves me, but I can’t do this. What’s so great about me that He saved me from the accident that was supposed to kill me?” Confusion. Loneliness. Anger. Bitterness. Sadness. Regret. “Why did I have to be so emotional? I’m too much. Too much for someone else. Too much for myself.” This was it – now was the time to exit stage left and save myself from this misery. But God had other plans. He kept me around and helped me to see there were people that truly loved me for me. I came to see the darkness for what it was and was able to begin calling out the lies that I’d so often believed. I began to get involved in church, attending a singles ministry and being more regular about reading my Bible. Life was good – I now felt accepted. Within the next year or so, I got involved in another serious relationship – one that would last nearly a decade and was extremely toxic. That darkness, those choices – it was all very familiar to me. Misery loves company and that was most definitely what this relationship was. The tension that filled our home was heavy - I was suffocating, yet I couldn’t bear to hurt someone else.  I stopped going to church because I was being convicted – I knew that the choices I was making and the way I was living weren’t right. Years passed and in late 2011, we gave birth to our precious son. He was truly a miracle! From the moment I saw him, my heart was forever changed. I’d always dreamed of being a “mom” but could never imagine how truly wonderful it was until then. As I looked into his eyes and cared for him daily, I began to really question the relationship I was in and the effects it would have on our son. In January 2012, my stepdad was killed instantly on his way to work one morning. His death shook our family and it was during that year that I had clarity about the relationship I was in. I was no longer meant to raise him in that home. In early 2013, I moved out and was now a single mom to a sweet 1 ½ year old. I knew that I’d made the right choice to leave that relationship, but the loneliness and hurt that came were unbearable. I made the most of the days my son and I had and loved them so much, but when he was at his other house the emptiness of the home was too much. I would do whatever I could to escape the depression and darkness that were lurking nearby. It all became too much. I decided that I couldn’t do this anymore. His life would be better without me here. The inconveniences I had caused for those around me would be done. Everyone’s life would be better if I were gone. I attempted to take my life and again, God was near. He met me on my bathroom floor and reminded me that I was “chosen”. I wasn’t put here on Earth just by chance or with some big dream that possibly I may make something of myself. I was created by and for God, even before the formation of the Earth. He designed me just as I am and created me for a specific purpose, which no one else can fulfill. When I was released from the hospital, I was able to see so clearly, yet again, where God was in all the details. He saved me and spoke to me that if I were to trust in and follow Him, He would give me the desires of my heart. I may still feel broken, but He put me back together. Life would still hurt, and I would still experience valleys, but He would be with me every step of the way. Today, my son is in first grade and thriving and joy-filled as ever. God allowed me the opportunity to go back to school and further my education, to better provide for my son and I in the future. I graduated in June. He provided a mentor for me through Flourish at Passion City Church - someone who would walk with me through life, share wisdom they’ve gained through their walk, while speaking truth and life over me, continually pointing to Jesus. He surrounded me with a group of women that are Jesus followers and that support me and challenge me to be a better me. He brought a women’s gathering (The Grove) to the city when I was in desperate need of community. He began the healing process in me, in a way that only God can, and through healing prayer, counseling, etc. – the deep pain and hurt from my past has now been brought into the light. His Light. I am walking in freedom that I never knew existed for me. I am now able to confidently declare that I am accepted. I am chosen. I am forgiven. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I have a purpose. I am loved.

Danielle's Story

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It’s grocery stores for me...I’m not sure when it started but the number of times I have walked the aisles with tears streaming down my face are too numerous to count. As I slowly push my cart, head down, hoping no one is seeing my emotional display I can’t help but notice the mothers that have their sweet babies trailing behind. I watch as they pick out school snacks, favorite breakfast cereals, asking for input, “Which chips do you think daddy would like best?” And my heart breaks a little more with every aisle I turn down. Being a wife and mother is the one thing I have longed for the longest. It’s the one thing I’ve cried the hardest over. It’s the one question that I just want the answer to. Why? Why hasn’t this happened for me? Didn’t you create me for this? Haven’t I done everything right? I was having one of these very raw, anger filled conversations with the Lord and when my rant was done, I heard Him whisper gently….

 

“Danielle, I do not promise you marriage. Where in my Word do I say ‘If you love and serve Me I will bless you with marriage’? I have eternal promises that are available to you right now and this is where I want you to focus your affection, I long for your attention to be here.” In that moment I was confronted with my own belief of God. Do I really believe that He is good? Do I really believe that He longs to bless my life with good things? If the answer is “yes” I have to trust that if being a wife or mom was the best thing for me right now, I would have it. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that after that revelation I never struggle. Every Mother’s Day that passes, every time I'm on social media and see that, yet another friend is engaged or pregnant, my heart aches, but I have learned that comparison robs me of joy. So I pray through the pain, and cling to what I know is truth; that He is good in ALL things. When I choose to invest in Biblical truth, He is faithful to provide me with peace and joy overflowing. It’s moments like these when the scripture, “I have come to give you life to the fullest” becomes my reality! I can honestly say that I am now living a life that feels SO full and rich in His constant love.  

Morgan's Story

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I grew up with supportive, Christian parents and was saved by the ripe age of 9. However, in my teen years I became disenchanted with religion; I still believed in God, but I put my faith in making good decisions with the right intentions. I was a Christian, but not a Christ follower. My morals and reasoning fell more in the grey areas. I tried to find purpose and love through drinking, partying, and promiscuity. Every relationship was meaningless and shallow, which increased my insecurity, desperation, and self loathing. Because of this, I was in a mindset to accept “any” form of love. My boyfriend was extremely controlling and abusive; I was constantly told how worthless I was, but how lucky I should feel that he was even with me. I thought that was love. One day, after finding out I was pregnant and telling my boyfriend, he stated, “You either get an abortion, or I’m leaving you.” I had built my value, worth, and life around him and his love; only for it all to crash in that one statement. I wasn't even worth it to stay? I said, “I’m not getting an abortion.” And he left. 

 

Clarity washed over me. I loved this baby like nothing else in the world. I would do anything for this child. There on my bathroom floor, on the worst day of my life, God met me. He met me at my lowest, and said, “That’s how I love you. Like a parent to His child.” I finally understood what I had been looking for and running from all my life. That love I had been searching for was Jesus. Unfortunately, I had a miscarriage a week later; however, I know that God orchestrates amazing grace, faith, and glory through even the hardest of stories. I am a beautifully, wonderfully and fearfully made daughter of God. He loved me so much that He died for me. I’ve felt a fraction of that love for my little baby, so I know how amazing His love is. I was given this story, not because God is cruel, but because we live in a sinful world and bad things happen. God is caring and omnipotent, and turns these sorrowful stories into my good and his glory. So, I live my life; not sad at what has happened, but amazingly grateful for what He is doing with me in the future. 

Billie's Story

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I am continually in awe of how God relentlessly finds ways to show me that I am seen, heard, and loved by him. This year has brought some heavy challenges to bear...death, loss, exhaustion, another death and more loss. Ashes being sprinkled amongst the top three months of this year already. Just this week the bottom seemed to have fallen from under me without warning. I am an entrepreneur, but I work to support my business and I was let go. I asked why, what did it mean? Why now and what now? Though in the midst of a tornado of ashes, this still voice called me out of my focus on the enormity of my circumstance and reminded me that I had been through worse. It was true; I had been through worse and instead of panicking I decided to not only remember but to run to the one who had brought me through. It was the second Monday of the month and that meant it was The Grove night. I am a member of Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA, and if I am within the metropolitan area you will find me at The Grove. But just hours earlier I had received my devastating news. Emotionally I wanted to just go crawl in my bed and disappear, but when I played back all the perfectly orchestrated moments that lead me to the other side before, I decided to trust the voice and go to the gathering.

I was ready to hear from my Father and be cradled by his all-consuming love. I needed answers, peace, and the power that only He could give to move forward in patience, understanding, love, and humility. And you know what? He showed up! He showed himself BIG AND BEAUTIFUL as he always does. He met me in the depths of my pain and fears and lifted my spirit. I sang my praises to Him at the top of my lungs. I let go and lifted my hands to receive Him completely unashamed and unconcerned with how I looked to those around me. I cried the ugly cry. This was real, raw and a true release. I could physically feel the tornado of ashes falling to my sides. The weight, the shame, the fear, all of it. Only left was a sweet offering of beauty. It was all ok. It was ok to be hurt and broken. It was ok to cry. It was safe to let go, and I am so very thankful that I did. My circumstances may not have changed, but I have because of him and that changes everything. Amen!

Gemma's Story

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Hi my name is Gemma Gurney from the beautiful North Coast in Northern Ireland.  I’ve submitted my story and now I’m forwarding you a photo of myself. 
I’ll send you a copy of my story here just to make sure you get it. 

Much Love & blessings Gemma x

"Broken But Blessed" encapsulates my life. My Mother wanted to abort me, she rejected me from birth violently beating me yet her abusive words cut deeper than the beatings. My Father was also abusive and he used religion to tell me I was cursed and born evil. My Grandfather sexually abused me and silenced the voice God has given me. From the age of Ten years old until I was 16 I lived in 13 different foster homes and 1 children's care Home. I was abused in many of the foster homes and through all the years of confusion, fear ,abuse, learning difficulties, rebellion I was dead on the inside and said nothing, I had no voice. 

I believed In God all my life I knew religion but I did not know Him intimately or relationally. Now married to my childhood sweetheart our second daughter was born severely disabled with a rare syndrome and it made me angry at God and I stop going church. I then began to intentionally pursue Jesus and found Him in the most Gloriously kind loving redeeming way that I'm recked for anything other than to show & tell the world about the Goodness and love of God.  Psalm 18 (TPT) gives expression to how God redeemed my life. 
Today We have many testimonies to Gods goodness with our 4 children having diagnoses,surgeries,a tumour and almost dying BUT God. God has begun to bring healing to our daughter in a way the world is watching with celebration, anticipation and it's awakened hope and Faith in the hearts of people around the world. 
My life was very broken BUT my life is BLESSED beyond expression as my reward everyday is the intimacy I have with Jesus. It's the beautiful unconditional exchange that the cross of Jesus gives to ALL Beauty for ashes, Hope for hopelessness, Faith for doubt, Wholeness for brokenness and Freedom from sin,shame and condemnation. 
The invitation to you today beautiful girl is to simply come as you are and say “Yes” to Jesus, say Yes because You are worth freedom, healing, joy and the fullness of Life that Jesus died for you to have. 

Gemma Gurney
Northern Ireland 

Sarah's Story

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I was as free as could be. Growing up I had no care in the world, never thinking twice about my body or the food I ate. However, blindsided by a series of events that turned my life upside down, chains began weighing me down from all angles faster that I could keep track of. Chains of my family splitting apart, for the second time. Chains of loneliness. Chains of broken friendships. Chains of feeling unwanted. Chains of deceit. Chains of suicide. Chains of low self esteem. All of these chains led to feeling out of control in every area of life - yet, I craved control more than anything else. Falling into the downward spiral of controlling my food - and into anorexia - I felt more out of control than ever. Hitting a low of 96lbs, I was made to sit out of running, my passion and outlet for sanity with all else going on. I pushed everyone who loved me away. I blamed everyone but myself. I allowed competitiveness to break friendships.  I began hating my body and every aspect of my life.

 

Fast forward two years, to a Florida cross country state championship title. Physically and mentally healed from my past. Relationships restored. And greatest of all, seeing God use my ashes to help others as I began sharing my story on an IG account and blog he led me to create, @freshfitnhealthy. 

 

Nowadays, you'll find me helping people worldwide transform their health to honor their bodies as a temple of God. See, I used to find peace and comfort through having control; but now I realize that the greatest gift I have been given is the freedom of knowing there is Someone better in control. I used to try to fit in with the world around me; but now I realize I’m called to stand out like an alien and do crazy things.  I used to believe “all things were possible” except for some things, putting limitations on the promise, but now I realize that when Jesus said “all”, He meant all. I used to be ashamed of my past, striving to forget it all; now I see there is beauty in remembering it. I used to think freedom was found in having power to break the chains; but now I realize it’s much easier to surrender and simply ask Jesus for the keys to unlock them. And most importantly, I've realized without a doubt that: 

 

He will remain right by our side in our darkest moments.

He will help us reach our potential in this life.

He will turn victims into victors.

He will turn our ashes into beauty.

He will break our chains.

He will unlock our freedom.

He will give us victory.

If only we ASK and BELIEVE.

Dodi's Story

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First place district, state, national public speaking winner. Outgoing. Numerous friends. This was my life.

Now, after one and a half years of marriage, a quarter percent of my brain damaged due to being thrown against the wall, into broken windows, and broken sheet rock; I found myself lying to my friends and family, hiding myself from the world of bruises, not recognizing the person reflecting back at me.

Verbal and physical abuse. Even so, I went back each time because the words of his threats kept ringing in my ear, he had control of me. I became lost to the person I use to be; believing now in the lies. 

Becoming pregnant led me to believe 'this will help', but I quickly found out he didn't want children, telling me, “if you want this marriage to work you'll have to get an abortion.' One week later he dropped me off and when he came back to pick me up 'it' was over. 

Days turned into weeks and living life of abuse continued, but now I battled the thoughts of 'what did I do? Who and what have I become?' 

Secrets, lies, and daily abuse led me to start drinking to numb the pain.  Two years later, I found myself pregnant again. My mind became filled with deceit of not telling my husband. I couldn't go through another abortion so I found myself seeking help through the Catholic Church, which I once attended. I hid the pregnancy until I knew it was past the time. It was then, I found myself curled up on the floor being kicked in the stomach. 

My safety-net was the moment  I was hit by semi, flipping my car over and being life-flighted to Cleveland Metro Hospital which became my residence for awhile. In and out of consciousness, all I heard was the doctor say I didn't hear a heartbeat. Finally, I hear (thu, thu, thu) it was faint but it was there...the babies heartbeat. I was safe. I was away from him. 

I gave birth to my first a girl; I named her Kayla Shai.

Coming home I quickly realized nothing changed. I looked down, Kayla in my arms crying as I now realized I couldn't protect her. I couldn’t let her live this life, I wouldn't allow it.  As he went to the back bedroom, I quietly grabbed the keys, and snuck out the door.  I laid Kayla in the passenger seat, and sped away to my parents house. It was then; I shared with my family all that I had been hiding.

Being a divorced single mom and wanting inner peace so badly I started searching for something to achieve that. In search of who I was, I packed up my car with what I could and I headed south with my daughter. Ohio to Georgia just five weeks after the divorce was final.  Not knowing what was ahead, I just knew we needed a fresh start.

Not being good enough was more than just a feeling, I was really racking up those labels. 

The apartment above me lived a single mom with a boy same age as Kayla. Every Sunday she invited me to church and every Sunday I would decline her offer. Two years later, on a Wednesday she asked if she could take Kayla to Awana's; she referenced that it was a lot like catechism, so I allowed it.

I knew that Sunday I was going to get a call to see if I wanted to go to church again. Immediately I was already ready and waiting. I had questions, after my daughter’s recap of Awana’s. Three years later, on December 9, 1994, after listening, analyzing, and asking the pastor questions every Sunday, I found myself on my knees crying out 'Jesus take my broken life and restore the shattered pieces'.

During this season, before understanding and knowing who Christ was, God placed a man in a position at the appointed time in my life that only he would be able to break through. His name was Richard, and he displayed every biblical characteristic: Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Self-Control. Faithfulness.  Through his display of this love the walls around me slowly started to come down. On October 8, 1994 he became my husband, and immediately became daddy to Kayla and shortly after to Sean who was born 12/23/1994.

After becoming a Christian, I didn't know what to do next. I didn't have 'that mentor' so I found myself just being an attendee and falling into the roots of 'doing good-works'. 

When my father fell ill to cancer, I heard the congregation encourage me to prayer. When my father breathed his last, hatred began filling every bone of my being exclaiming that “There is no God” and “Prayer doesn’t work”. I was numb.

Three months later I spent three hours at the grave site going through each emotion: Crying.  Cussing.  Screaming.  Blaming.  And again Crying.  Cussing.  Screaming.  Blaming. As the sky turned purple, rays of sunshine fell right on top of my father’s grave, and at that very moment pins and needles entered my head and filled my arms, stomach, legs, feet. I couldn't move. Everything became quiet, as a voice said “'Your prayer was answered. You prayed. Take my father if he is going to suffer'.”

I fell to the ground wept, 'Jesus you are real!'

In 1994, I accepted Christ. In 1996, God caught me and I started living for Christ. When we got home every version of scripture we owned, was dusted off, commentary, Word study, laid on the floor. I was going to know WHO MY FATHER IN HEAVEN was. And I haven't stopped. 

I have been asked on several occasions, would you change anything. And my answer is no.

My story is what prepared me to be able to listen, speak and pray for those that He has put in my path that are going through the same storms, that I walked through.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-7 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

I am NOT a victim, but I am a victor who can face her tomorrow, because He lives.