Showing items for 'MyStories'

#MyStory :: When God Says Go

Posted by Cara Campbell on

In less than a year, God has completely turned my life upside down. My family and I began attending the Church at Severn Run about two and a half years ago. Though I missed my old church, I tried to get in the swing of things, participating in the college-age Connect Group, SMASH, and working...

Showing items filed under “MyStories”

#MyStory :: Barbara Martin - Serving in the Dominican Republic

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As Barbara Martin walked into the church building on Sunday, she was approached by her husband, Youth Pastor Chris Martin. He made her aware that the youth team traveling to the Dominican Republic was in need of a female chaperone.

She politely declined.

Barbara Martin did not want to go to the Dominican Republic (DR). She had no interest in the heat, the bugs, and the number of out-of-her-comfort-zone experiences there would potentially be on the trip.

She walked through the doors of the worship center and find her seat. Unbeknownst to her, God had called Pastor Drew to share about missions. During that time, Barbara felt the Lord tugging at her heart and knew that he was calling her to meet the need for a female chaperone. She walked out of the worship center that morning and into the commitment to go with the youth mission team to the DR.

The team spent their days in the Dominican Republic building a house for a woman and her children. Barbara said that children came from all over to witness the work being done. She and some of the team were able to love on the neighborhood children while work on the house was being completed. The children had dirty clothes and most had no shoes. The team handed out snacks to the children and to most, it was a precious gift.

Barbara saw dirty clothes, dirty children, mud walled houses, the heat from the stove where the fire was fed all day, more dirt, bugs, dirt that became mud when it rained, rain that did not cool the air but instead made it more oppressive, sewage that began to mingle with rivers of mud that flowed around and sometimes through the houses, more dirt, and more heat.

To be honest, little about the trip was enjoyable for Barbara.

However, God spoke very clearly to her about several things.

Sometimes, when we answer God’s call, like Barbara did to go on the trip, we believe that since we’re being obedient everything will be sunshine and roses. We think that beautiful blessings will flow out of God’s abundant love for us and it will be the best experience EVER because we are in God’s will for our lives! But, that’s not always the case – at least in terms of sunshine and roses. Paul, for example, was obedient to God’s call and he ended up in many uncomfortable places, not the least of which was prison.

But our work for God is not in vain.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:58)

God used Barbara’s experience in the DR to teach her about gratitude and dependence on Him.

Barbara witnessed the woman’s house being built and saw how she and others in the community were so dependent on God for EVERY THING. Barbara realized that in our blessed, American lives where so much comes easily, she is often not dependent on God for 30 minutes, much less dependent on him to provide everything and meet all her needs.

“The more (stuff) I have, the more I take for granted and the more I don’t depend on God,” Barbara said.

Barbara does not want to go back to the Dominican Republic. It was not a “fun” experience, but perhaps her obedience enabled the Lord to reach her on a level, out of her comfort zone, that she would not have allowed him to penetrate from the comfortable surroundings of the familiar.

In the dirt, heat, and discomfort of a foreign country, God showed her she should be doing much more at home. Barbara changed her perspective on missions and learned that she doesn’t have to go to the DR to make big changes for the kingdom of Christ. There is much to do in her community and in the lives of people she comes into contact with every day that will bring others closer to Him.

If you find yourself serving in a way that you don’t enjoy, ask God what he is teaching you. Then seek out somewhere you can serve that better meets your gifts. And remember that nothing we do for the Lord is in vain.

 

 

 

#MyStory :: Corbin Pearce - Making Connections Through Serving

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In October I ended up serving at Winter Relief, although it was not quite my plan for the night. I came for the youth Bible study, but it was cancelled because the church was hosting the Winter Relief guests. I decided to go up to where Winter Relief was happening and I met a man with a really heartbreaking story. He told me about how he loved to work. He explained to me that his son was a heroin addict, and his life had gone downhill. He used to be a great student, physically fit, and very smart. He could have been a programmer and had a good life. Instead, addiction had destroyed his life, and he was living on the streets.

This man told me he was working so he could get his son off the streets. Every day he would give him money so he could rent a hotel room, or buy food. Of course, addiction tends to affect priorities so the money would often go to drugs instead of housing. Still, there wasn’t much else this man could do, every day he could he would bring his son to the addiction treatment center, but if he didn’t want to join the program, no one could make him.

So, here was a father who was just doing everything he could to give his son a chance to recover his life, even at his own expense. It vaguely reminded me of the prodigal son; his father didn’t care what he was wrapped up in, he only wanted his son to be okay. As I listened to this man talk, more and more I wanted to pray for him. This was kind of a new and weird experience for me, because I’m not the best at praying for people and I get nervous about praying in public. But God wouldn’t take away the feeling I was having that I had to pray for him. Eventually I asked him if I could pray for him and his son.

Lately I’ve been in a lonely spot in life, and that’s made life depressing for me. When I started praying with this man though, it was really strange…I felt like I suddenly had a real connection with someone. In that short moment I wasn’t lonely. Having that common relationship and trust in God, and having the willingness to call on him together brought us closer in that moment, and that destroyed my loneliness.

It seems to me that when we connect with other people and do what God is calling us to do, we can feel more fulfilled and happier.

Jackson – Therapy for Dog and Human

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My wife and I attended Northern Chesapeake Sheltie Rescue’s annual picnic on September 23rd. This year we went alone as our own Shetland Sheepdog, Chipper, passed away last spring. 

We have been grieving his loss ever since and this picnic was a good opportunity to get reacquainted with those we had met over the years as well as to get our Sheltie fix.

Jackson is a nine-year-old rescue Sheltie who, in the first seven years of his life, was kept confined and isolated in a barn with little to eat or drink. He was abused and even though being in a loving home for the past two years, he still bears the scars and fears of his former life. When he was first rescued he did not bark and now he is happy to join the other shelties with his new voice.

 

Jackson is devoted to his adoptive mother and follows her everywhere, but he is afraid of strangers. At the picnic, our families sat near one another. Jackson was skittish and wary of my overtures of friendship but, under the watchful eye of “Mom,” I was able to pet him and, eventually, lift him up onto my lap. 

Once there, he was happy and felt safe. Together, we experienced about an hour of mutual therapy.

Since his adoption, Jackson has been slowly healing from his abusive past and is becoming more comfortable around other dogs. However, he remains timid and fearful of people. His healing will be a lifelong process, which has been helped by the adoption of two more sheltie rescues to mentor him in his loving home. 

It was certainly a pleasure on my part to not only be able to extend love to this sweet sheltie, but to know that – as he was giving me therapy – I was also showing him that he could be loved by other people. (The world is not as dark and fearful as he thinks.)

Despite our time together, just a short time later, as we were departing, Jackson again shied away from me. His wounds run deep, as so often do the wounds in our own human hearts.

Many of the shelties at this picnic come from abused backgrounds. That is why they have been rescued and adopted into loving homes. Most are very friendly and approachable. A few, like Jackson, need more time and encouragement.

It occurred to me that people are like that, too. We all come with our own – very mixed – baggage. There is no one universal approach to healing. We must be alert to the nuances of each situation and story.

For those most wounded, like Jackson, patience, persistence, and love are required. Like some people, Jackson expects the worst from others, including those who may intend no harm and actually have pure love to share.

Jonah Goldberg notes that, almost uniquely among animals, dogs “can read human body language and expressions.” For wounded creatures (human and animal), suspicions and fears can paralyze us and dull our senses. (Our perceptions are not always reality.)

Darkness has a way of blinding us to truth, to love, and to the good that surrounds us. It can blind us to the wounds within other people. And it can blind us to the love that our heavenly Father wants to share with His children.

In our case, we have Jesus to share with others. Let us help heal the Jacksons of this world with the love of Jesus, one encounter at a time, moment by moment, until the Light fully dispels the darkness.

If you’ve experienced times when God has picked you up, placed you on His lap, and lavished His love on you, then share those experiences with others. You never know whose heart might be healed. (It might even be your own.)

 

[Jackson’s mom emailed me writing, “Thank you for 'seeing' Jackson as he is.” It made me think; do we see God’s creatures through His eyes or through the lens of our own prejudices, pain, and fear?]

 

Finding Our True Worth in God

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#MyStory : Beth Fabianski

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

God performs the most amazing miracles in people’s lives every day. Each of us has probably experienced one without even knowing it. He can take the broken pieces of our lives and form them into a tapestry of great beauty and worth.

Such was my life about a year ago today. I was in the middle of one of the most difficult experiences I had ever been through, the death of my oldest sister, and on the cusp of other hardships that I would endure throughout the coming year. I had just lost about 160 lbs. and remade myself. My sister dying put that into perspective. Not much else mattered when she was gone. 

The funeral passed and we settled back into the rhythm of our normal lives. Thanksgiving and Christmas were around the corner. We tried to glide back into the spirit of the holidays, but this year they did not come. I was a changed person, altered by the hole my sister had left in my life and other chasms created by childhood occurrences.

I journaled frequently back then, and one of the stories I chose to borrow from that fall was the story of Joseph. I had related to this story frequently when I was a child. It was reassuring, the way God never left Joseph behind. He took every bad circumstance Joseph was in and made it something beautiful. I wished that God could rewrite the narrative to my life like he did with Joseph! 

Before the holidays came, I was gutted, emotionally. I was left a shell of myself just occupying space. I no longer wanted to live, and planned to remove myself from the world. I wrote a letter, explaining this, to my primary doctor, a friend of mine. He received the letter, contacted me and convinced me to go to an emergency room for care. I did this, and began a year-long odyssey that took me through six hospitals for stays of about two weeks each!

For now, I was happy to be home for Christmas. I rang in the New Year at another hospital and finally landed in Norwood Hospital in Massachusetts. There I received electro-convulsive-therapy, or ECT. Unfortunately, I did not understand the side-effects of the treatment well enough. I finished an in-patient course of ECT with my short-term and most of the memories from the past year gone. To this day, I don’t remember being in the hospital, at that point, and I remember none of what came next.

While I was in Norwood, one of my sons let it slip that my husband had lost his job. I didn’t work. We depended on his job for our entire well-being. His bosses were trying to reduce expenses and figured that getting rid of Paul would eliminate a huge amount of expense.

Poor Paul was never even able to mourn the loss of his job. I needed to be comforted and he needed to find a new job. He never got a chance to mourn. He started looking for a new job immediately.

We hoped he would find one that would allow us to stay in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, things did not work out that way for us! We wound up moving to Maryland at the beginning of the next month. While the thought of a new home excited us, leaving our home of many, many years was difficult. Paul and I were forced to leave our home and our three grown children. Everything was brand-new, including the doctors that I would now be forced to see.

All the relationships I had developed over the years were now gone. I had to find and acclimate to new doctors in Maryland. I was not happy. Matter of fact, I made Paul’s task even harder by digging in my heels and being reluctant to go. We did, however!

As we settled in Maryland, I slowly found new doctors and put my trust in them. There are times when you know God has you by the hand and is directing your steps. Because ECT had improved my disposition so much, I decided to chance the memory problems again and subject myself to it. I discovered a hospital that had an ECT program, Johns Hopkins, and they were accepting new people into that program. Everything lined up right and I could enter! 

Not only was I accepted into the program, but the doctors at Johns Hopkins cared about my memory difficulties very much. I was assured that they could administer ECT without the catastrophic memory side effects I had experienced at Norwood. I continued in the ECT program, which was far superior to the one in Massachusetts. My mood improved and there was no residual memory loss as there had been in Massachusetts. This was how the treatment was supposed to have worked. 

As that fall began, I was feeling renewed! Paul and I joined a wonderful church where we clicked almost immediately. Bible studies began that September, for the fall, and God made sure I knew he was speaking to me once again. I had no idea what they had chosen to study for that fall study series. At the first meeting, it was revealed that we would be studying the story of Joseph. It was a story of how Joseph’s brothers had meant him harm, but God chose to use the circumstances for good, and how he can do that with any circumstances.

The next group I went to had also chosen to study Joseph for the fall! I was being surrounded by God’s message to me through Joseph! God could take the most horrible year I thought I had ever had and turn it into a thing of beauty! Maryland was no longer a punishment, it was our home! I had a job and a church and friends.

I found myself working again, nothing earth-shattering, but a job that allowed me to earn a little of my own money for a change. I didn’t feel as dependent. Through so many situations, God was showing me the worth I had as an individual. It was amazing! I realized that if I didn’t see my own worth, I would be in that constant state of self-loathing and worthlessness. Living with self-worth and love, I could see a future for myself. Just as God had stayed by Joseph’s side throughout his trials in Egypt, he also stayed by my side in Maryland and showed me just how valuable I was to him and to others.

Now God has me here, standing on the threshold of a new life. I don’t find that statement over exaggerated: physically, God has had me renewed at Johns Hopkins and, spiritually, he has remade me himself!

I don’t know where I will go from here; I just know that I am in a state of renewal unlike any I have been in for years and years, if ever. I look forward to my future, I am excited to become all that God has created me to be! I am thankful for all the individuals who have helped me recreate my life and myself. 

Know that anyone can recreate themselves with God’s help. Joseph became so much more than he ever imagined he could be. I am happy. This alone is something I never thought I could achieve in this life. Everything that is to come will be frosting on the cake!

 

#MyStory-Hillary Battle: What Happens When You Share Your Faith

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Why is it so difficult to have real conversation about our personal relationship with Jesus, especially with non-believers?

When given the opportunity, we are quick to say that God has incredible power to transform lives, but we belittle the example of transformed life that we know the most about…our own! What wonderful changes we could make if we were better able to allow others, including non-believers, to see our daily walk with Jesus. We would be able to change lives by introducing them to a faith that is real and alive. One Severn Runner, Hillary, was willing to share her story about how she did just that. 

“I was working as a therapist in a prison. I was ready to make a career move and had applied and accepted a conditional offer for a new position, but was waiting in a holding pattern for almost two years. It was easy to write it off as the pace of the federal governments hiring system, but in hindsight, I think God was keeping me there for a reason. Over that time other coworkers left only me and my coworker, Emily, on our team. Working in prison you find any reason to get out during the day and we regularly began getting afternoon coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. I was under the assumption that Emily was a Christian, not the “I believe in God” type, but the active Christ following type. I am not really sure why I thought this, but I did. Our conversations over coffee were about relationships, family, and daily life. Our conversations got deeper and turned to issues of faith. I thought I was having deep conversations with a person who shared my beliefs and was coming from the same place of faith. I openly shared my thoughts, questions, and experiences. We talked about our churches and I was surprised how little she seemed to know about hers, but didn't think much of it. After several months, Emily shared with me that she had gotten baptized. I was so happy for her, but it was also the first time I recognized that she hadn't been in the same place of faith as me during our conversations. She told me how our conversations had been a part of her journey. Shortly after, I got a start date for my new job and left Patuxent [Institution]. It is hard to think that God didn't keep me there to have that experience with her – to share my faith freely and without inhibition because I didn't know I was sharing with someone might reject it.”

Wow! What a great misunderstanding that turned out to be. But there were a lot of ways that God was moving in Hillary's life to orchestrate the seemingly coincidental relationship she developed with Emily.

“I think God was working through me to share faith with her and draw her into the accepting community of faith. She got into a dating relationship that quickly became an engagement during that time and my marriage, Wes' and my involvement in YMP (Connect Group at Severn Run), and the other Christ centered couples we knew were able to be examples to her of what a Christ centered relationship can look like. Because she was my friend, I shared with her some messy and vulnerable times Wes and I walked through – and I think that realness was impactful for her. God was working through her and the situation to teach me to be bold in sharing my faith – I never would have spoken so openly if I had known there was a risk that she wouldn't be receptive. 

Another thing I think is important is that in sharing with her, I talked about struggles, questions I had, barriers between sharing faith with my family, etc. A lot of times I feel like when sharing my faith I need to have the perfect thing to say or have it all wrapped up in a pretty package with a bow, but real faith is evolving and is sometimes difficult which is just as important to share.”

 

It’s easy to relate to Hillary's feelings on why we hold back when sharing our faith. We are worried about how we will be received, but the person on the other end really just needs to hear Jesus speak through our life's story. When we think we are “improving” our story by focusing on getting everything just right, we are probably just getting in the way.

“My main takeaway from the experience is how differently would I talk about my faith if I was never worried about rejection. I hope that others would hear that too – how differently, how much more frequently, how much more vulnerable would we be talking about our faith if we acted like everyone we talked to was a believer?” - Hillary Battle

Let us know:  How does this encourage you to be more bold about sharing your faith in everyday situations?

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