God’s Story ~ Some Encouragement for Your Week

This month I’ve rounded up some of our most popular God Stories from the past four years to share with you. These are stories from women who have been in your shoes, stood where you are, and have seen God show up in their lives. They aren’t endowed with superior strength, but like you, they serve a God who is. These are His stories…

“When I Started Listening” by Kristi Dye: This is one of my favorite of God’s stories from the last several years. I can’t tell you how often God brings to mind the lesson he taught Kristi about being a student of our children.

“God’s Story ~ Kelly Tyson”: In this one Kelly shares about her struggle with anger. Something many of us can relate to. Find out the lessons God taught her through a painful encounter.

“God’s Story ~ Sandi Schwab”: God’s story in Sandi’s life is about his steadfastness in the face of difficult and painful changes, even the loss of a child.

I pray you are blessed by God’s stories shared by these women this month. If you would like to read more of God’s Stories as shared by our readers over the past fours years click here. If you have a God Story you’d like to share, I would love to hear it! Please click here to find out more.


God’s Story ~ Kristin Weis with The Demand Project

Jason and Kristin Weis


Last Fall I sat down with Kristin Weis, one of the founders of The Demand Project. She explained that The Demand Project is an organization located in Tulsa, OK, whose mission is, “Fighting to eradicate sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.” They do this through four areas: Prevention, Prosecution, Rescue, and Restoration.

As we talked, she shared her and her husband, Jason’s, God Story of how The Demand Project began. Their story is an amazing journey of God’s provision. Join me this month for Part 1 of their story about how God first prepared and called them to this work…

Tara Cole: Were there ways you saw God preparing you for this ministry beforehand?

Kristin Weis: I did! In the church we were going to, we got involved with Whiz Kids. We were tutors. We also started to work at the Children’s Hospital, and even if we would go in and hold babies all day, we would do that.

Then we did another mission through the church. It was called Lifeboat 14. Lifeboat 14 is named because that is the only lifeboat that came back for the Titanic victims. We had an apartment complex where our church would bring the ministry to the apartment complex.  We rented it out through the church, and we would bring the kiddos in and do Bible studies with them, teach them how to cook, play games, and pick up trash in the neighborhood.

We were trying to change the lives of the people just in that community. I think that’s where our strong sense of changing our own community versus going out and telling the whole world how to live while we’re dying right here came from. I think that’s probably where that was birthed. So in working with kids, we knew that we would do something in this, and Jason and I did all this together.

One thing that is awesome about Jason and I is you don’t always find that spouse who has the other half of your mission. The other half of your calling. It’s interesting how The Demand Project is built because we have the Prevention, Prosecution, Rescue, and Restoration.

We both do the assemblies and the prevention, but then he takes over the prosecution with legislation, the cyber investigation, and the law enforcement. Then I come in with the rescue and restoration part of it. So we’ve broken the organization out to be two-fold. It’s four titles to it, but he’s got a whole half and I’ve got a whole half, and we meet in the middle and do it together. So it’s pretty amazing how God did prepare this.

Tara: I saw where you all had heard the news report in 2004 of a little girl who was abused, and then you picked up your family and moved from Colorado to Oklahoma. Why did you all choose Oklahoma?

Kristin: I know. What a strange place to go to a training ground?

Tara: Yes!

Kristin: When we saw that story, and we believe she was two, and we heard everything that happened, we heard about the thousands of people who watched [the abuse] online. We’re fighters so that just boiled our blood and made us so angry. We didn’t know where to turn, we had no idea what to do, but we knew we needed to do something.

So I was going to see a prayer minister, and I told her that we wanted to figure all this out. She was praying for me, and she could see that there was a lot more to the calling on our lives than what we knew. Her strong, strong suggestion and I say it nice like that, but it really wasn’t a suggestion, it was God saying, “This is what you’re going to do.” She said, “You need to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Go to Victory Bible Institute (VBI), and you need to go and get trained up for what you’re about to do because the very thing you’re fighting can destroy you if you’re not careful.” I didn’t really know what she meant at the time because I’m thinking, “Nothing is really going to destroy us that we’re fighting.” But you don’t know how perverted it is and how emotional the fight gets.

Even just driving in today, I was having one of those mornings. I hadn’t even put on my eye makeup yet because I was having one of those mornings. Jason is overwhelmed with cases with predators, and the case doesn’t just start and end after he gets them. Then you’ve got to do all this stuff in the meantime while we’re trying to do all these events, and I’m trying to work with my rescued girls, and it’s just getting to be overwhelming.

And I don’t know why, but I passed by a house in Jenks. I had a really horrible feeling, and I imagined almost the story we had seen [on the news], and it just crushed me. All the way to work I was feeling that empathy for a child starting their day out being raped. You know most of us start our day out by eating breakfast, getting our clothes on our back, putting on our shoes, maybe we’re yelling at the kids to get in the car, “We gotta go!”  But the trauma these kids have to go through every day.

So when she said that I don’t think we quite understood the depth of it.

But then we got to VBI. It was a miracle how it happened. It was right when the housing was plummeting. No houses were selling around that time. We were in a cul-de-sac in a nice neighborhood in Castle Rock, CO, and when we put our house up for sale. Well, let me back up…

When she tells us we need to move to Tulsa, Jason says, “Absolutely, no way, are we moving from Colorado to Oklahoma!”

Tara: Right, it’s the opposite!

Kristin: (laughter) Yeah, totally opposite. My family was in Colorado. My mom had Sjogren’s disease, so she was dying, and we had the only grandchildren in Colorado. So this was not going to go over well.

When she said to go and Jason said, “No.” It took one year from the time she told us to go and for every door to shut on Jason to get him to the breaking point of understanding we needed to go. But in the meantime, we started to do off campus classes through VBI, and it just wasn’t enough. It was awesome to learn the power of the Lord. We were going to church. Jason had never been to church before he met me. So we knew God, but we didn’t have the revelation of the relationship with Jesus.

Tara: I understand.

Kristin: You get that. Very different. So we started to get the revelation as we were with the prayer minister. We started to change churches and go more charismatic and more Holy Spirit led.

After that year, I went back to the prayer minister, and she said, “This is the time for you to go. You need to go home and tell Jason he is to quit his job. You’re going to bear the burden of all the money until you leave. Get all your affairs in order, and you need to go.” I said, “Okay, let’s just stop this right now. That is plenty for me to do. Because now I’ve got to go home and tell him.”

So I go home and sit him down, and I say, “Here’s the deal. The kids can go to school at Victory…” He broke emotionally, and he said, “Let’s go!” So that was that moment where we put the house up for sale. Like I said, no houses were selling, ours sold within a few weeks. From the time we figured out we were going to go, it was six weeks. We had told the family. They thought we were going to ruin the kids. My mom could not believe I was leaving her. We got the house up, came to Tulsa, found a house, enrolled the kids, enrolled ourselves, and we’re here within six weeks. It was huge, and we had been in Colorado for quite some time.

So we ended up going to VBI and trying to dive into what was this trafficking thing is, and that’s where our path began.



If you’d like to learn more about trafficking today and how you can help, please visit their website: TheDemandProject.org. There you will find out more information about trafficking in the US and Oklahoma, and ways you can give and help.


*Photo Credit: TheDemandProject.org/about

God’s Story ~ Just Let God


Just Let God


There was a season in my life when everything seemed hopeless and grey.

My exteriors would have belied the hurricane of emotional turmoil swirling in my heart and mind.

I had a loving husband, three young children, a solid roof over my head, a ministry calling and worthwhile work in which I was engaged, and many people around the world who loved and cared for me.

And yet, the demands of life seemed overwhelming, pulling me down into a vortex of hopelessness.

I felt the first hints of this impending storm around the time when our children were 5, 3 and just under a year old. During this season our ministry colleagues retired, and we took on the full responsibility for carrying a local outreach to international college and university students.My husband and I had always been partners in this service, but he also held a full-time job as a high school teacher. In the practical day-to-day, the bulk of the demands of both kids and ministry fell squarely upon my shoulders.

My husband and I had always been partners in this service, but he also held a full-time job as a high school teacher. In the practical day-to-day, the bulk of the demands of both kids and ministry fell squarely upon my shoulders.

It all felt like too much. The little ones vied for my time and attention. I wanted so badly to do a good job being their mommy.

But email requests kept pouring in from students, some local, some soon-to-arrive. Relationships with volunteers, donors, and local churches required constant attention, too. I felt overwhelmed by expectations to carry on the ministry at the level we had experienced so far.

Too many people needed me. I had lost my sense of self.


Sucked Downward


As this sense of desperation grew, I began to feel dead to life. Dark and dangerous thoughts often popped up in my mind. “Just turn off that cliff…No one else understands…No one cares if you disappear; they will not even notice.”

I remember one particular day I was standing in front of my washing machine, transferring what seemed to be endless loads of clothes into the dryer. Inside I knew I should be thanking God for the gift of those little lives.

But what screamed in my head? Sinister messages: “Life is so useless. Everything is the same. Nothing changes.”And yet, even then, as a follower of Jesus. I knew, intellectually, the Hope of the World should dwell in me. Why was I so dark?

And yet, even then, as a follower of Jesus. I knew, intellectually, the Hope of the World should dwell in me. Why was I so dark?

In my mind, I understood that an intense, spiritual battle for my heart was being waged. But in the midst of it all, I felt so helpless to change.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this too. Your exteriors tell the world, “I am happy. Life is good.” But inside there is a raging storm.


How could I escape this downward spiral?


All I can say is God, in His mercy, rescued me from this morass. I cannot claim I followed a 12-step program or even offer some quick-and-easy solution here.

But still, I did learn a few major life lessons as I traveled through this time and moved into a new and lasting season of wholeness, purpose and vision.


1) The first step was recognizing the battle.


And admitting I needed God’s help to overcome.

Although, I had become dull to the spiritual work of our loving God during this time, my husband and I soldiered on in daily prayer. We enlisted prayer from a few others with whom we were close as well. I knew we were fighting a spiritual battle.

As the school year wound down, my school teacher husband was around more, and this seemed to lighten the load and my spirits. I felt the darkness lifting. Some.

I had been training for a triathlon in early September. It would be my third. I felt this might help break through the cycle of darkness.

But the morning before the triathlon, I woke up with the most intense neck pain I’ve ever experienced. Immobile. Healing from that took almost four months of working with a chiropractor and physical therapist.

A friend who noticed I was hurting (and not just physically) suggested I consider attending a “women’s silent retreat” his wife, much older than I, attended regularly. She found it to be a profound experience. Maybe so would I.


2) The next step was allowing myself time to be still and listen.


To listen to the right voice. To listen for what God – and He alone – was saying to me.

The retreat came at just the right time, in the heart of fall, as the days shortened and the temperatures began to dip. Although my recovery from the neck injury was not complete, I was feeling much better and decided to go.

Being still and listening was not something I had been good at. I’m usually an energetic Type A. My season of despondency only seemed to heighten a frantic worry over the checklists of my life.

The design of this retreat was brilliant. An overall framework with brief (15-20 minute) sessions, followed by one–two hours of open, “free” time, to hear how God is speaking to you. Although the leader had prepared an extensive set of materials, she advised us to use them only if God directed. She wanted us to be open to His leading.

And then, on a drizzly early November day, God spoke to my heart.

I was gazing out the window at a deciduous tree with just a few leaves hanging on.

“You are that tree. My life is still in you, but you have lost your joy.”

Whoa! It was clear and simple as day. Over ten years later, I can still remember the exact words. And they were so true.

I pondered them for a while. God was, of course, right. But what was I to do with that?

I prayed. I journaled. I searched Scripture. I called out to God from the depths of my being. I cried. Oh boy, did I cry!

The next day, He answered my question. Again, in an unmistakable way.

I was walking out in the woods on a clear “after-the-rains” morning. The crisp air filled my lungs while the sunshine filled my heart.

God directed my eyes to a particular redwood tree. Rising in front of me, this redwood tree commanded reverence.

Then, the Voice. “I am making you into that tree. Let me.”

That was it! Although I’ve experienced many “God moments” before and since, His message to me has never been clearer. I had my answer.


3) The final step is trusting God’s promises and clinging to them.


Since that time, I have been letting God turn me into that evergreen redwood tree.

I cannot say the path has always been easy. Nor can I deny moments when self-doubt has entered my mind.

But really, self-doubt should be there. It is God we must trust after all.

I claim the promise He made to me to make me into the redwood if I would just let Him. This is backed by so many promises in Scripture: He is with me “even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps 23:4), He has a plan and purpose for my life (Jer. 29:11), He is working “all things together for [my] good” (Rom. 8:28), “He who began a good work in [me] will be faithful to complete it” (Phil. 1:6),  “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…” (Eph. 2:10), and so many others.

I’m not yet the complete evergreen redwood tree He intends. But since that time I’ve learned to stay my mind on my Master, and He has granted me perfect peace (Is. 26:3) even in the toughest times.

I hope this will encourage you as well. He wants to make you, too, an evergreen redwood tree, healthy for others, to live out your calling and be effective as a builder of the Kingdom of God.

Just let Him!



Caroline DePalatisCaroline DePalatis is Founder and Interculturalist at Culture Weave, a new venture offering tools, training & community to help those with a heart for the world better connect across cultures. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (CA), Caroline has walked with Jesus since college, is a wife of 30 years and a mom to three awesome high school & college-aged emerging adults. She loves sharing from her life experience and over 20 years of intercultural service and work with International Students, Inc. to inspire and equip others. She also finds herself on a perpetual quest to discover the finest dark chocolate opportunities on the planet. Website URL: http://cultureweave.com/


First Image Credit: Splitshire on Pexels, Creative Commons, no attribution required. https://www.pexels.com/photo/nature-fashion-person-woman-1002/


God’s Story ~ God is Still Faithful: A Young Mom’s Experience of Rare Cancer

Henley family 2011


“I’ll be a little disappointed if this lump isn’t cancer,” I told my husband after returning home from Bible study in October 2010. In that evening’s lesson on Isaiah 12, our teacher exhorted us to glorify God in front of a watching world by trusting him in the midst of suffering. As I scribbled notes furiously, I couldn’t help thinking of the biopsy I had scheduled for later in the week. My faithful Father was preparing me for the outcome by showing me His purpose in suffering: That His name would be glorified by my dependence on Him and continued praise of His character.

Less than a week later, I received a diagnosis of angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer with a five-year survival rate of 30%. I was a busy mom of three young kids—my boys were 6 and 4, and my baby girl was 18 months old. I had expected to grow old with my husband and see my kids grow into adulthood. And suddenly, I was fighting to see my 35th birthday.

But my story isn’t simply the story of cancer. My story is the story of God’s faithfulness, in the past, present and future.


God was faithful.

In the nine months following my diagnosis, I received seven rounds of high-dose chemotherapy. Five of these rounds took place 600 miles from my home, at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, as part of a clinical trial. I received five weeks of radiation treatments followed by surgery, all at MD Anderson. I spent 14 weeks away from my family, and I missed New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and all three of my kids’ birthdays that year.

It broke my heart to be away from my young family, especially since I didn’t know how much time I had left with them. And the logistical challenges were a nightmare. Every time I was tempted to despair, God proved Himself faithful again.

He provided a wonderful nanny who left a secure job to love and serve our family. He provided a Christian couple in Houston—the in-laws of a friend-of-a-friend—who not only let me live in their home for months but treated me like I was their daughter. Six friends took time from their jobs and families, each spending a week caring for me at MD Anderson. On the days when sadness and fear overwhelmed me, the Lord comforted me in the midst of my pain.

Meanwhile, an army of friends, family members, and acquaintances kept all the plates spinning back home. They fed my family, drove my kids to school and piano lessons, decorated my home for Christmas, donated money and frequent flier miles, and never stopped praying for us.

None of it was easy. And yet, God showed us over and over again that He was walking with us and providing for us every step of the way.

What trials has the Father walked through with you? How did you see His hand providing for and sustaining you?


God is faithful.

As a cancer survivor, God has called me to minister to other women with cancer. I now intentionally befriend women with a life-threatening illness, and sometimes it brings heartbreak. I have visited friends in hospice care and watched too many children walk into their parents’ funerals. My prayer list of cancer fighters, survivors, and grieving families is growing longer every month.

By nature, I am a fixer, a problem-solver, a here’s-a-book-let’s-solve-this kind of friend. As God leads me into situations I can’t fix, I’m learning to depend on Him and trust my friend’s futures and families to His faithful hands.

Often the sadness caused by cancer is more than I can bear. When my emotional well runs dry, I have nowhere else to turn but His sustaining grace. As 1 Thessalonians 5:24 promises, “He who calls you is faithful.”

The Lord who calls us to challenging assignments is faithful to provide what we need to complete them. {Tweet this!}

What hard tasks has God called you to do? How are you being stretched by the assignments He gives? How can you see His faithfulness on display in these challenges?


God will be faithful.

My experience of cancer didn’t end in September 2011 when my oncologist said I was cancer-free. Frequent checkups, the need to be vigilant about suspicious symptoms, and the scars that result all serve as constant reminders of my changed health status. No matter how hard I try to move on, the cloud of fear lingers overhead: “What if it comes back?”

The mind of a cancer survivor is a battlefield. Some days, I don’t think about cancer at all. And other days, a weird ache or pain can send me into a complete panic. It is a daily fight to trust the Lord when I don’t know His plans for me. I’ve spent many late nights praying over my sleeping children and begging God to let me hold their babies someday. And I’ve spent more late nights pleading with Him to give me the faith to trust Him if He says no.

In my weakness, He is faithful to pour out His grace. He meets me in my fear and gently reminds me that His faithfulness endures forever. He demonstrated the extent of His love by sending His Son to die for my sin and make my future with Him secure.

I can look at my past and know His faithfulness is real. I can look at my present and know His faithfulness is true. And I can look at the cross and know His faithfulness exceeds my finite understanding. So I can face an uncertain future, knowing I belong to a faithful Father who loves me.

What about your future frightens you? How can the truth of God’s faithfulness in your past, your present, and your salvation encourage you?


Marissa HenleyMarissa Henley is a follower of Christ, wife, mom, and latte addict who blogs at www.marissahenley.com. Her book, Loving Your Friend Through Cancer: Words and Actions that Communicate Compassion, is available on Amazon. You can connect with Marissa via Facebook,Instagram, and Twitter.

When God Surprised Me With His Mercy, Part 2



Timid Raccoon

Image Credit: Morguefile.com

Continuing my story from last month of how I found love after a failed marriage and vowing never to marry again…

From my perspective, I had chosen so poorly in my first marriage that I did not trust my judgment of character. Fortunately, I have a group of support people, whose judgment I do trust. My mom, who is one of them, happened to come to visit during that Fall. So Sunday morning, after early services, I spotted Danny in the church atrium by the front doors. I drug mom over to meet him and introduced her to Danny.

That afternoon Mom and I were discussing Danny. She would ask me a question about him and I would say, “I don’t know, but I can email him and ask.” This continued through the afternoon, “Well, what about this?” I would email and ask. Danny would answer back. “What about that?” I would email. Danny would answer back. And so it went. That is really how I started emailing him regularly. It occurred to me as we emailed back and forth that had I simply trusted him with my phone number, we would probably have had one conversation a couple times a week and been done with it. As it was, we tended to shoot text-type emails back and forth anytime both of us were off work/school – he was in school at the time we met.

Danny: “How was work today?”

Me: “Grueling. What about school?”

Danny: “Ah. It was okay.”

Me: “What genre of books are your favorites?”

Danny: “Religious and self-help.”

Me: “May I ask you another question?”

Danny: “You can ask me anything you want.”

Me: “But will you answer truthfully?”

Danny: “Yes. I feel like an ancient city with no walls.”

Me: “How old was your son Michael when he died?”

Danny: “He was three days from turning 18.”

Me: “I am so sorry. : ( “How did he die?”

Danny: “He was murdered.”

Me: “I’m so sorry.”

Danny: “The instrumental song on the CD I gave you is played by Michael. It is a song he wrote.”

Me: “I will listen to it again now that I know.”

And so it went. I would ask a question, he would answer. Every now and then, he would ask a question. I was very mistrustful. Honestly, how did I know he wasn’t an ax murderer? So I Googled him. I discovered he really did have a child who died – I found his name listed in an old Compassionate Friends post. Also, he really did have his flight instructor’s license. A family member ran a background check on him for me – he passed. I looked to see if he was on the Sexual Offender list – he wasn’t. But there was one more test.

I had a dear friend who had her master’s degree in Psyche nursing, and my daughter is a Licensed Professional Counselor. If they could not spot a personality disorder, who could? In late January, my daughter came to town. I invited my dear friend, her husband, and Danny to supper. Danny says that he knew it was a dog and pony show. He came anyway. He was engaging, held up his end of the conversation, and talked knowledgeably on many subjects. In short, he passed. No personality disorders identified.

It would have been a whole heap easier had he not passed, but that’s a story for next month…

Hugs and blessings,


God’s Story: When He Says “Go!”

World Race desert


I never wanted to go on the World Race. The 11-countries in 11-month mission trip sounded like fun… to watch from a distance.

You know, hear the stories, read the blogs, see the pictures.

I wasn’t interested in actually doing it.

There was no part of me that wanted to live in a tent in the middle of nowhere. No part of me that wanted to ride in a truck bed with 20 of my closest friends. No part of me that wanted to live on a $3/day food budget.

But there was also no part of me that wanted to say no to God and miss out on the adventure He had for me.

So I made a deal: I’d consider doing the World Race if there was ever a primarily Spanish route that started in January.

That had never happened before. They didn’t have focused routes at the time. All the routes hit at least three continents spending a majority of the time in Asia and Africa.

Until January 2014.

The first-ever all-Spanish route only hit two: South and Central America.So I applied.

Because when you make a bargain with God, you’ve got to follow through.

To say it changed my life would be an understatement.

It would also be expected.

You can’t spend 11 months living out of a backpack in lesser-developed countries and expect to go home unchanged.

Here’s the reality of it: God showed up.

He showed up in my heart, allowing me to see things through His eyes, feel His presence, and taste His goodness.

He showed up in bus station attendants allowing us to make an IOU when we tried to pay in the wrong currency.

He showed up in a market with fresh vegetables when the only other food we could find was over-fried chicken.

He showed up in the form of sporadic luxuries like a washing machine and an internet connection.

He showed up in the form of a taxi when we thought we were stranded in the middle of a Peruvian desert, hours from civilization.

Our host had arranged an escort for us to their church plant in a remote desert village of southern Peru. The guide picked us up from our church home (another church plant in a small town), walked with us to the first taxi stop, arranged cab fare, and rode shotgun to the second stop.This time, she had to barter a bit more to get a reasonable price but if some of us laid down in the trunk, all five of us Americans, our escort, and the taxi driver could all make it to the town.

Getting to the site was relatively easy.

Painting the church was slightly more difficult given the lack of a ladder to reach the ceiling.

No worries, if you put the roller on the end of a broomstick and stand on the pew up against the wall, you can reach pretty high. Then you jump to get the rest but make sure you land on the ground because the wooden pew can’t handle your body weight coming back down.

This was the only Christian church in the desert community—our host would not have planted a church there if there were already one.

Needless to say, the locals were very curious as to why some Americans were in their town.

And the Americans were struggling to find snacks or safe water to purchase from the little shop next door. We settled on ice cream—pre-packaged and refreshing in the dry desert heat. During our ice cream break is when we discovered the problem: our escort asked us how we were getting back. We’d (falsely) assumed she would be escorting us back.


We were stuck.

Super stuck.

We did the only thing we knew to do: finish the painting job to the best of our ability and begin walking back towards the next town hoping to find a taxi, a good Samaritan, or a cell phone signal. Based on how long it had taken us to drive, we figured it’d be at a several-hour walk to go the whole way back to the taxi stop but, at least, an hour until we ran into anything helpful on our journey.

Luckily we had plenty of daylight left and strong legs. We laughed at ourselves for how we stuck we managed to get.

We laughed at ourselves for how we stuck we managed to get. There was nothing else we could do.

So we walked.

We walked past bamboo shelters alongside the road. Every few hundred feet stood another one—generally four walls with or without a door in the frame. Homes.

And we walked.

Reapplying sunscreen.

And we walked.

Barely twenty minutes later a taxi came down the road into this remote village.

His car was full.

And headed the wrong way.

So we just smiled politely and kept walking—clinging to hope and enjoying the journey. Sure enough, a few minutes later the same taxi returned our direction empty.

We were rescued.

Once again God provided. Once again He had proven Himself faithful.

He said “Go.”

And so we did.

We went to the only church in a remote village in Peru.

We went to one of the highest cities in the world.

We went to the slums and the suburbs, the beach and the bush.

We went where He asked, where He invited, where He led.

And He brought us back—not as we were but as He wanted us to be.

It wasn’t the earthquakes we endured or the sleeping on the floor or the bleaching our food that made is different.

It was the faithful Father.

We came back different because He is faithful, trustworthy, and caring.

I am different because He is good.

Katie AxlesonGod calls Katie Axelson His daughter and lets her earn a living as a writer, editor, and speaker. She wrote about her World Race experience in a book called Jesus Shoes: Following His Footsteps Through the Latin American Mission Field. You can connect with Katie and find her book at KatieAxelson.com




If you have a God Story you would like to share, we would love to read it! Find all the details and guidelines here

{God’s Story} How God Gave Me a Husband

We’re on a break from our study this week to give you time to catch up or spend extra time with your family. See you back here next week! Here is a God Story from my dear friend, Shea Mathis. I pray it blesses you as much as it blessed me the first time I heard it…


God's Story Shea Mathis


My history with the Lord is one of convincing. Call it legalism, upbringing, or whatever else you like, I came to know the Lord through fear and trembling. I’m reminded of the old hymn that sings, “twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.” The Father longed for me to know the fullness of him, not just knowledge of the void without him. And thus began his journey to convince me that he didn’t just stamp my passport to Heaven; he purposed to walk with me, bless me, and transform not just my view of Him, but also of myself. {Tweet That!}

He started slow (I could have scarce believed for more). But he picked up the pace shortly after I graduated from College. He knew the deepest desire of my heart was to be happily married. I had given up dating years before and chose to trust God to deliver my husband to me (which was petrifying considering I wasn’t convinced he even like me).

There was this goofy kid, Morgan, who liked to hang out with my family. He was one of a scant few friends I had in Texas, so I didn’t mind that he was 4 years younger than me. When I came home from college in the summers, I helped out with the youth group at my mom and sister’s church. That’s where Morgan and I originally met. He was one of the seniors the kids looked up to because he walked closely with the Lord and cared little what anyone in the world thought of him. For all his strength of character and devotion, he was still a goofy kid in high school.

Fast forward a few years and Morgan has gone off to his Freshman year of college, and I’m living at home with my parents looking for my first post graduate job (with little success). Morgan was dating a girl he believed God had told him would become his wife. The problem was she quickly lost interest in him after he left for school. For some reason she didn’t break up with him…all year. The following Valentines Day, he was driving home to take her out on the obligatory holiday and to ask her what she wanted to do with the relationship. The Lord had strictly instructed him not to break up with her.

Four years earlier, Morgan’s dad had abandoned the family in such a violent manner that all of the children were deeply scarred. Morgan had developed a talent for keeping people away from his vulnerable heart. He would date girls and then quickly find an excuse to break up with them before they could sever the relationship (and reinforce his deepest fear that another person would abandon him). It was this destructive habit that the Lord intended to eliminate by not allowing Morgan to break up with his girlfriend. Instead he spent 6 months being “rejected” by a person he was committed to love. Those six months taught him that he could and would love his wife to the grave even if she didn’t love him back (a conviction I’m deeply grateful for); he also learned to receive his acceptance straight from God.

On his drive south he got stuck in traffic. Not slow sluggish rush hour traffic. The boy put his car in “park” and commenced to studying right there on I-35. Since that’s the most boring thing to do and he has ADD, it wasn’t long before his mind began to wander. He wandered right into the purpose for his trip and began to pray.

“Father, why do you want me to marry this girl who doesn’t love me. Why can’t I marry someone like, Shea (yep, that’s me)?”

“Why not Shea?” he replied.

“Because she’s old! And She’s in school in Texas, and I’m in school in Oklahoma.  And besides, she’s like, 24!”

“No she’s not; she’s 23.”

Flustered beyond belief, Morgan huffed back at God, “I don’t believe you, and I don’t believe this conversation unless the next time I see Shea she tells me how old she is without me asking!”

Roughly an hour later, he was at my house. I welcomed him into the living room where I was ironing. As I worked, we chatted about life and I complained that earlier that week my dad made fun of me for being old, “but I’m only 23!” I declared. Morgan turned beat red and laughed nervously. I assumed he, like my father, was teasing me. I had NO idea what was really going on.

The next day was Valentines Day, the make or break date with his girlfriend. After an awkward dinner, the two of them sat in the car and he described what he was looking for in a wife. She assured him that she was not that. Dutifully, he resisted the urge to break up and left it to her, “okay, well think about it and let me know what you want to do.” Within the week she broke up with him.

The next day on his way back to school, Morgan stopped to see the man who had helped him recover from the devastation of his parent’s divorce, Dr. Jerry Stettheimer. Before entering his counseling office, The Lord told Morgan to talk to him about me.  You’ve probably guessed by now what he said next, “No! Dr. Jerry listens to you.  If you want us to talk about Shea, tell him yourself!”

Right here we can stop and thank God for his merciful nature.  He’s actually quite patient with insolent children! Dr. Jerry and Morgan talked for a couple of hours and as Morgan walked to the door to leave, behind him he heard, “What’s this the Lord is telling me about you and Shea?” Slowly Morgan turned to face Dr. Jerry; no way was this really happening! He conceded and told the story. Dr. Jerry asked if he wanted to marry me.  “Some day,” he replied. So Dr. Jerry suggested he write me an email to see how I felt about him and what I thought of the idea of marrying him.

That email got lost in my junk folder; poor kid! Three days later we discovered the mishap. When I understood what he was asking, my heart contorted in confusion. On one hand, NO WAY! He was basically my dorky kid brother. I hadn’t an inkling of attraction to him. I knew him in all his irresponsible goofiness. And NO, just NO!

On the other hand, he was perfect for me. He put God first in his life; he respected and valued women more than any young man I’d ever met; he could play piano and guitar and write music; he was funny; and I could see us lined up perfectly on paper. But that was on paper. What about in my heart? I was terrified to say yes, and I was terrified to say no. So, I asked the Lord. He said that I didn’t love him yet, but some day I would.

I let Morgan down gently with a hint of possibility for the future (Morgan has a different version, but he’s not writing this so you get my version). From there on we corresponded in emails and got to know each other on a deeper level than we had before.

Two months after the first email, I had a dream about Morgan. That dream was the first time I felt differently about him. Up to that point I could understand why we would work as a couple, but I didn’t feel it. I talked to Dr. Jerry about it and he gave a small chuckle and told me to tell the Lord I didn’t believe the dream meant anything unless I had two more like it that week. I had three more! Through this, God changed the one thing that stood in my way of embracing Morgan in my heart. There is a great deal The Lord was doing in Morgan on his end, but that’s another story. For my part, I was falling in love.

For now, I’ll skip the journey Morgan walked that led to our chat on Friday April 9, 2004. Morgan had come to town for the weekend. His sister’s birthday happened to fall on Easter Sunday that year and she asked him to come home to baptize her on her birthday. That Friday night he came to see me first. We talked for hours. Around 11:00 we both realized that we were hungry and the only restaurant open was IHOP. Over pancakes, he finally chocked up the courage to ask me about the email that changed everything.

“Why do you think Dr. Jerry had me write you that email?”

Knowing the background I countered, “Did Dr. Jerry prompt you or was it the Lord?”

He confessed.  So I continued, “If I had similar promptings would you want to know?” He assured me that he would.  So I told him about the dreams. From there we talked about a relationship between us.

One week later to the day, we were engaged. Four months later we were married. And have been happily so ever since (almost 11 years as I write this). It pains me to stop the story there. I told you that this was the beginning of a journey. Any true lover of Lord of the Rings, or Star Trek, or the Jason Bourn movies knows that the beginning of the story is just that…the beginning.

God has done infinitely more to woo me, tear down walls, and rebuild a fortress in Him where I find myself now. But he began by giving me the mouthpiece for his love. I couldn’t believe him directly at the time, when he affirmed me, but I couldn’t deny when he spoke through my treasure, Morgan, words that no person could conjure, words that spoke to my broken places and words that changed all my presuppositions. The Lord has done many things for me, but first he gave me the deepest longing of my heart.

Shea Mathis I hope you have been blessed by the God Story Shea has shared here. I met Shea and Morgan shortly after they were married in 2004, when they came back to college in Oklahoma that Fall. Shea quickly became one of my dear friends, and I love how she and Morgan brought God alive for me and others in our small group by sharing how God worked in their lives. They now have four precious kiddos.Their love for God and their family is contagious and continues to transform those they meet. 

{God’s Story} How I’m Learning to Trust God through Celiac Disease

Trusting God

When Tara first asked me to share a story, I really wanted to share a finished one. I’m sure you know the feeling. Everyone loves a nice story, that is not only encouraging and inspiring, but begins and ends definitely and has all the question marks neatly wrapped up. The problem with sharing a finished story, however, is that the most significant stories in my life right now are still waiting to be wrapped up. That does not, however, negate the fact that God has been teaching me powerful, convicting, compassionate, and merciful lessons every single day.

One yet-to-be-wrapped-up story in my life (and surely the one to which I’ve devoted the most of my attention) is the story of my son, Joshua, and his impact on my whole family’s health. Joshua is almost 5 years old, has textbook (though unofficial) Celiac Disease and what now amounts to about 20 food allergies, and is somewhere on the high functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. Because of this, and what seems very likely to be Celiac Disease in my husband, my family embarked on a healing diet (the GAPS Diet) which takes most people about 2 years, but takes some 5-7. We are on year three.

We are here on year three and yet, while we see many little signs of healing in Joshua every day, not one of his allergies has been officially healed or reversed, yet. My husband has had 3 allergies reversed, and I’ve had a few discovered and now am en route to healing. Our baby girl was born a year into this protocol and she has only one allergy that we know of. That is actually a huge sign that we have benefited from this way of life.

Other signs are the fact that, while on paper his seasonal allergies are still off the charts, we have been enduring one of the worst allergy seasons on record and he has had barely a sniffle. My husband, daughter, and myself all caught a nasty respiratory bug and Mr. Immune Compromised again escaped unscathed. Clearly, healing is taking place. Three years ago, my poor little man would had a faucet for a nose from February until November, and had gotten a few chest infections as a result. This year he had a few sniffles, but no long-term congestion and no scary, wheezy, I-don’t-want-to-let-him-go-to-sleep breathing.

But the food allergies that stop my heart every time another child with food lurches toward my son, those are still present.

We work very hard, though, to keep him safe, and by Christmas 2014, it had been a good long while since he’d had an allergic reaction. And then we went to church.

It was actually the Sunday before Christmas, and our church was doing the big Christmas production we’d all been planning. I was getting ready to sing, while my husband cared for our two little monkeys in the fellowship hall. He was changing Joshua’s diaper on the floor, when something made its way onto Joshua’s hand. We still aren’t 100% sure, but our best guess given the circumstances was that it was a corn-containing face paint that some of the dancers use.

He rubbed his eyes.

I was finishing my song when I looked up to see my husband at the back of the sanctuary and his “try not to look worried” face. I could tell that something was wrong with Joshua, so as soon as I finished I hurried up the side of the room to where he was in the back. Joshua’s face was puffed up like a balloon.

We later learned that this would have been the perfect time to give him his Epi-pen Jr. Before you start wondering how we couldn’t know, when you’ve never had to use it the line seems to be very thin. I have since learned that the rule of thumb is that a reaction involves two or more systems. He was swelling AND having trouble breathing. This means it’s an Epi-pen moment.

We didn’t know that at the time, though, so my husband informed me that he had given him a double dose of his specially compounded Benadryl, so that sent me worrying on the other end of things, that we had possibly over-medicated him. We all went back to the fellowship hall and waited to see if more urgent care was needed.

The swelling was coming down. His breathing improved. He ate some of his “ice cream” that we bring with us most Sundays. I started to calm down from crisis-intervention-mode. And that’s when I started to feel angry. Why was this even still an issue?

Angry might be too strong a word. Honestly, I was feeling pretty desperate. Desperate and frustrated. We decided that the best thing to do was to leave church early and keep an eye on him at home, where we knew there was less of a chance of a second contamination. And as I loaded the car, I had some words with God.

“God, I really just don’t understand. You said, ‘Walk out your healing,’ and that’s what we’ve been doing…But where is the healing??? Why is he still having these reactions? I need something, God. I need to hear from You. I need to understand.”

The heavens were pretty silent as we got the kids into the car, and honestly, my heart felt heavy like it hasn’t in a long time. Once home, we got the kids inside, and let Joshua curl up in his daddy’s easy chair, where we could keep an eye on him but he would be comfortable. The swelling was slowly but surely coming down, but the poor kid was wiped out from the Benadryl. He looked pretty awful.

Suddenly, I remembered a word that someone had received as they prayed for us, a couple years ago. They told me to sing. Sing around the house. Sing Joshua’s healing. Sing, sing, sing. And I started singing the very simple but powerful chorus, “Break Every Chain.”

If you are unfamiliar, the lyrics say,

There is power in the Name of Jesus

There is power in the Name of Jesus

There is power in the Name of Jesus

To break every chain, break every chain, break every chain


There’s an army rising up.

There’s an army rising up.

There’s an army rising up,

To break every chain, break every chain, break every chain


I hear those chains falling (repeat) (Break Every Chain, lyrics and music by Will Reagan and the United Pursuit Band 2009)

When I got to the part where I was loudly declaring over him, “I hear those chains falling!” And my sweet baby boy took my breath away. From his curled up position on that chair, he sat up and raised up both his hands. He just began to yell out very long yeses. Five times he yelled, “Yes!” and I just stood there, amazed. I was crying, and I said, “Joshua, did you just say, ‘Yes?’” He said that he had and I just allowed that bewilderment to wear off a little so I could think of what should come next. Aside: I feel compelled to point out that the way he responded is not something we see frequently at church or do around our own home, even. It was not a learned behavior.

I started to sing Break Every Chain, again, and he said, “No, not this one. Sing, ‘Because I’m happy…’”

Now I was amazed and convicted. Even my little (then) 4 year old knew when it was time to stop pleading and start praising. He was still looking pretty rough. He was still exhausted. But he had broken through to God while I worshiped over him, and now he knew it was time to rest in what God was doing.

God spoke to me through my son, that afternoon; through his willingness to just surrender himself in the middle of horrific circumstances, and through the grace and the strength he was leaning on. What God ministered to me in that moment was this: “I know you don’t understand what’s going on right now, but you can know that I am in control. I know this hurts you and scares you, so remember this. As much as you love and care for that little boy, as much as you would give your life for him, I love him even more than you ever could. And I love my own Son more than you could ever care for Joshua. I love Him, and I endured His suffering, all so I could bring you close to me. What you’re going through right now is a teeny, tiny glimpse of what I went through for you.”

He doesn’t magically “disappear” every trial and hard circumstance in our lives. We don’t get an easy button, and we were never promised one. But we were promised that God would be in every moment of every trial. He is right there with us, and He is deserving of praise, even when we don’t have the outcome we are praying for. {Tweet that!} And He is holding us so close, so tightly. He is weeping with us when we weep, and rejoicing over us when we rejoice. He is near.

Joshua still has allergies. Physiologically, there are a few different puzzle pieces that we’re working on to help optimize his health. His sensory issues have limited his diet even beyond his allergies, because he struggles with different textures. So some of the important healing foods on our diet, he won’t touch. We’re waiting for an opening in the therapeutic feeding program into which he’s been accepted. Then we can start working in some of the healing foods that he no longer eats, which will help jump start that healing. We’re looking at some other options, too. But, as much as those things matter, they don’t matter to this moment, this lesson. What matters is simply this: God is near. He is with us. He loves us. And no matter what our circumstances look like, that will never change. {Click to Tweet!}

Melody Joy is a friend I met through OverACup’s online Bible study group several years ago. She is one of my favorite people I’ve never met. Her heart for God and her insights into His word have taught me so much over the last few years. I pray you have been blessed as she shares her heart with you today. 

God’s Story ~ Trials of the Heart, Jacqueline Anderson

God's Story Jacqueline


God is amazing! That’s what I heard over and over. Really, I am sick of hearing that. Go away and leave me alone!

After I got married, I never thought of having children. I was one of three and my parents were taking care of my sister with issues and my brother with ADHD. I was left to myself most of the time.

My husband and I traveled wherever we wanted, spent money, and did what we wanted, then I turned 30. Ladies kept telling me, “Your eggs, are diminishing, you’ve got to have kids, now.” So we tried, morning, nooners, and night for years. Not once did someone tell us that we needed to go to a doctor to see if we had working parts before we could have a party in my lady parts.

So, at the age of 33, in June, I was having issues with paralyzing of my left arm. “Ah, too many hours at work.” Work was 15-18 hours many days of the week. “That’s what is causing this.” In October, I went blind in my left eye. “I have got to do something now.” One eyed Jacqueline would look silly. I went to the eye doctor, and they found a tumor in my eye. He told me that they would not be able to do surgery, but they can keep an eye on it. He set up an appointment with his neurologist friend to see about the paralysis. In January of the next year, I got to visit with Dr. Jay.

Long story short, a brain tumor, surgery, and many years of memory loss, sensory issues, not being able to listen to music because of ear pain, feeling that I was dumb at work and that people looked down on me, becoming an introvert, and looking to God for support.

In 2012, we tried to have a child, but decided to go through DHS. Nightmare with our worker. Who in their right mind doesn’t call back in 8 months to let you know what is going on and then lies over and over again about there not being kids in the system. I am the only one who can say I’m not in my right mind, since I have a hole in my head? Come to find out our worker put our paperwork in the pike for adopting a teenager, since my husband taught high school and we helped with our church teen group. We wanted a baby! My husband’s swimmers were tested and he was told that the swimmers were misshaped. He was devastated.

We prayed to God for guidance. We adopted a teenager, well a trial run for her and us, it failed. Once again, failure in our lives and my husband became a nobody. We had no marriage, no interaction, two separate people living in the same house in two separate rooms. He was at the bottom. I prayed every day July 2012-January of 2013 that he would be okay. That he would try adopting again. That he would believe that he did not cause all of this mess.

The second week of January, he hugged me and said, “Let’s try adopting again.” We looked into Catholic Charities. God was leading us down another path. Catholic Charities was heartfelt, comforting, and we fell in love with all the caregivers there. We met other couples who were unable to have children, a support group, finally. We were approved July 2013, and waited for a child.

In July, a very exciting event happened, my husband said, “Let’s do it.” “Whatever honey.” In August, 12 days past my usual time, I decided to take a pregnancy test. “There is no way that’s a positive sign?” Four tests later, same result. I walked into the living room with the stick. “Honey, you are never going to believe this, it says I’m pregnant.” “Are you sure?” “Let’s go to Walgreens and get some more.” Nine tests later with the same result, pregnant. We still were not convinced. Two days later, a call from Catholic Charities, “We have a baby for you.” We sat on the bed, “What do we say?” We prayed, and then said we were pregnant and please give that child to another deserving family.

During my whole pregnancy, I did not have sensory issues, ear pain, migraines, seizures, blindness, and I blared the music, the first time since Feb. 28, 2010.

Our son was born April 17, 2014.

God has his own timing. He shows us his path every day, and we have to trust and believe in him. Our perfect God gave us a perfect child so that we can raise him in His name.


I’m so glad to share my friend, Jacqueline’s, God Story with you this month. I first meet Jacqueline on the night her husband shared their God Story with our church and announced they were pregnant. Since then I’ve come to know her, and just love her heart for God. I pray you were as encouraged by her story as I have been. 

God’s Story ~ “Chaplaincy” Amy Gaskin

God's Story Amy Gaskin


As a kid, my heart would leap in terror every time I heard an airplane fly overhead. I assumed it was the sound of Jesus returning in the clouds from whence he left, to send me to my just reward. I was pretty sure my just reward was eternal damnation. Living near an air force base, this was unfortunate theology. My existential despair was temporarily alleviated at age twelve as I was immersed in the watery grave of baptism for the forgiveness of my sins. However, my fears were reignited when I realized I could still sin once I dried off.  Fanning the flames of everlasting fire were gospel meetings, summer camps, youth rallies, ladies days, and late night talks that reinforced my belief in a grueling master of a God who expected nothing short of a sinless life. No matter how relentlessly I studied my Bible, or meticulously I attempted to follow the letter of the law, Hell followed me around. I fell asleep each night to the horrific realization that nothing I offered was enough to merit salvation.

It wasn’t until I was thirty years old that the concept of grace entered my life. A wise friend had picked up on my spiritual misery, and we engaged in a long conversation about Jesus. Little by little, the importance of the cross became clearer. Jesus went from a mystical, irrelevant background character in The Story of God’s Wrath, to the flesh-and-blood, here-and-now hero of The Story of God’s Love.

One Sunday morning, while teaching second graders about the resurrection (a story I had read and taught countless times before in my eighteen years of teaching), my heart finally caught up with my mind. Just as the veil tore in two in Matthew 27, the wall between myself and heaven came down. In that moment, I was convicted of my salvation and was freed from the bondage of sin. All the spiritual anxiety I had carried since I was a little girl vanished.

Without the weight of sin on my soul, the world around me seemed to expand. Everything was bright. I began seeing God in places I never thought he belonged.  No longer did human beings look like vile sinners to avoid, but images of the Creator to love. The Bible changed from a rule book that perpetually condemned me, to a meaty redemption story of a people coming to know God. Bible study became fascinating and evangelism became intuitive when I realized that salvation looked exactly like love in action. My faith had never been stronger, and I had a spiritual peace that widened and deepened every day.

Inside my church family, however, I made myself very small. I had a difficult time figuring out how to be an active part of a congregation of people that I loved, without perpetuating a graceless theology in which I was finding little truth.  After speaking privately to several elders on the issue, the conclusion was drawn that if I wanted to shine my light in areas outside the traditions of the congregation, I would need to find an outlet outside the church.

This was hard to accept at first. I had grown up assuming I’d be an active, integral part of my faith community. It was a loss that I had to spend some time grieving. Eventually, I learned to make my faith tangible in more ecumenical ways. Like Nicodemus, I snuck around to learn more about Jesus. I engaged in deeper friendships with people in and outside my faith tradition, and discovered like minds and stealthy allies among them. I hosted studies in my home so other women and I could boldly dig deeply into the meat of the word,  creating a safe space to ask hard questions and respond to the gospel authentically, without fear.

A seed was planted during a conversation with a woman who had formerly been incarcerated. She explained the disadvantages of only having access to male spiritual leadership in institutional settings.  As a woman, she said was much less likely to share, open up to, and be receptive to men. She believed that having a fellow woman enter her space would have provided a rich opportunity to study, learn, and talk that was not only more effective, but comforting, healing, and empowering. She encouraged me to consider a career in chaplaincy.

The more I learned about the field, the more I realized it was ideal work for someone with my personality, skillset, and faith. I presented the idea to friends and family members who knew me well, and they unanimously agreed that a chaplain was “a very Amy thing to be.” Professionally, I work as an artist and musician, which requires introspection and an ability to communicate with people in unconventional ways. My background in sociology has  led me to serve my community as a crisis worker in various settings: sitting vigil with dying hospice patients, as a respite house parent in a children’s home, and currently, as a foster parent. Reflecting on this, I realized the intersectionality of my life’s work arrived at spiritual care, and I decided to pursue the path to become a board certified chaplain.

The vision for my ministry is simple: whether as an artist, sociologist, or chaplain, I want to advocate for the intrinsic human right to wield an imagination. Without imagination, we have no empathy, compassion, or ability to see beyond our own interests. I believe Theology is ultimately the study of the human ability to imagine something bigger than ourselves. I want to care for people spiritually, and help them on their journey to finding peace in that Something Bigger. I believe everyone needs a safe place to explore their beliefs, and I am passionate about actively working to carve out these places.


11787335_850861810459_233317313_nAmy Gaskin a friend from college when I went to Freed-Hardeman University. She has a house full of kids and is still managing to return to school for her Masters in Divinity. I love how even on Facebook she’s always encouraging those in her circle of friends to think critically about those topics that are important. You can find more of Amy’s thoughts and stories on her website amygaskin.com


God’s Story is a monthly guest post in it’s 3rd year on Over A Cup. If you have a God Story of your own you’d like to share, I would love to post it here so it can encourage others. Please contact me at: tlcole@overacup.org