Growing

God Doesn't Waste Pain

photo-1431291463544-2abf2e673e29.jpeg

All along there was Jesus.

apex anthologies

During my time with Anthologies, I have heard and read many stories. Some are filled with joy, some are filled with blessing, some with suffering, and some with pain. But all of them display God’s work through human lives. I sat down with Cathy and was quickly made aware that this story is one of pain that reveals God’s steadfast presence, His provision, and His use of the pain we cause each other to reveal Himself to us.

The story of Cathy’s childhood is replete with pain: physical and mental illnesses, dysfunction, alcoholism, misery, injustice, abuse, abandonment, suicide, and legalism.

Hers is a story of how sin wreaks havoc in children’s lives, of how people either knowingly or unknowingly bring such deep harm to each other that some only see escape in death.

Hers is a story of a schizophrenic mother forced to live in institutional care away from her children, repeatedly attempting suicide, eventually cancer took her life.

Hers is a story of a father abandoning children emotionally and physically; a father that divorced his mentally ill wife, remarried and brought one of his daughters with him when he moved to Florida, leaving the others behind.

Hers is a story of siblings torn apart, some forced to live in abusive and crowded foster homes; a brother who passed away from leukemia and another who committed suicide – his step-daughter died from an accidental overdose just 9 months after.

Hers is a story of a Baptist-run foster home with instability due to legalism and constantly rotating foster parents; sometimes they were good, sometimes they weren’t.

Hers is a story of having just enough to live through college and summers where a home wasn’t guaranteed.

But that is not all of the story. All along, there was hope. A hope that can’t be undone by pain or erased by sin.

Cathy encountered Jesus while living in a Baptist-run foster home. She watched a Christian film at church that day and accepted Him as her savior and Lord. She remembers seeing a rainbow in the sky that evening, marking the beginning of her transformation into a woman of faith. She finally met Jesus, the same Jesus who carried her family, sometimes unbeknownst to her.

All along there was Jesus.

Jesus who strengthened Cathy through her suffering with a work ethic that got her into Cedarville University despite a lack of resources, showing His truth through Ephesians 3:20, which has become her life verse. He blessed her with extended family and friends to provide a home each summer.

Jesus who saved her mother with His grace, healing her enough to get her out of the institution and back to her children before cancer set in.

Jesus who revealed Himself through the brother who died while still in high school from leukemia; sharing the gospel through his testimony to all who would listen.

Jesus who led her father to salvation, and during his third marriage to a Godly woman brought her remaining siblings into his home.

Jesus who showed her brother His love and gospel through Cathy before he took his own life; and showed her Psalm 116:1-6.

Jesus who brought Cathy and her sister into His service using their testimony to fuel His ministry; Cathy serves the mentally ill and her sister works in an inner-city ministry, creating Christ-filled rap music.

Jesus who empowered Cathy with grace to comfort her sister-in-law with the love that only He can generate as she endured the loss of her husband and daughter just months apart.

Jesus who brought a man into Cathy’s life with whom she can share her love of Jesus for a lifetime; together they have three children who all love and serve the Lord. They consider their house church to be family.

Jesus who gave Cathy a love for us that she would share her heartbreaking story of pain and ultimate redemption so we could know the truth of our Lord Jesus even more than we do now; and bring comfort to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

As Cathy says, “I want to be used by God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

 

Author: Jonathan Allain

Learning to Trust His Plans

photo-1431263154979-0982327fccbb.jpeg

I want people to know that God has given us passions and desires for a reason. He has given each one of us gifts and abilities, and He wants us to use them to bring Him glory.

As a child, Christianity was always something that came easily for me. I grew up in a Christian home, attended church and youth group each week, went to a Christian school and had plenty of Christian friends. It wasn’t until I went off to college that my faith truly became my own. apex anthologies

After high school I attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Although Miami was a public university, I knew they had a strong Campus Crusade ministry on campus where I would still have plenty of opportunities to grow in my faith and be challenged. My personal challenge going into college was to step out of my comfort zone and see that my faith was my own and not something that had always been decided for me.

Upon arriving at Miami, I applied for the Interior Design program and was denied. Although I was disappointed because design had always been a huge passion of mine, I quickly decided it was clearly not God’s plan for my life at that point in time. He had bigger plans. I enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program at Miami and met many wonderful, godly friends and was given opportunities to serve and love God’s children throughout my four years there.

Through my involvement in Campus Crusade, the Lord grew me immensely in my walk with Him. For the first time in my life, I learned what it looked like to spend daily time in the Word with the Lord and to be accountable to others. I developed many positive relationships with godly women who to this day challenge me and love me. I was involved in a Bible study with other women my age, led a Bible study for younger women, and even went on a spring break evangelism trip to Rome, Italy. I surrendered control over areas of my life that I had held onto for years and saw God work in wonderful ways. Junior year I started dating my now husband, who is such a strong man of God and always points me back to Him.

apex anthologies

Like many recent college graduates, finding a job after college was a challenge. I really struggled with knowing what the Lord’s plans were for my life in the years following graduation. Being a planner at heart, I hated not knowing what was next. As my friends continued to get jobs and I didn’t, I asked myself questions like, “Why me?” and “What is my purpose?” Missing the community of believers I was surrounded by at Miami, I deeply craved a sense of belonging and a feeling of purpose.

Since graduating in 2011 I have been placed in numerous roles in various schools within the education system. Although some have been more challenging than others, one thing has always remained the same -- my desire to be creative. Through many challenging years, the Lord taught me that my job title neither defines nor limits me. Though my job path was somewhat unsteady at times, I was able to pursue some of the other passions the Lord had placed on my heart such as wedding planning, home improvement projects, interior design and blogging. I started a personal blog in 2012 as a creative outlet and a place for me to use some of the gifts God has given me. Today, I have teamed up with another Dayton creative to start a collaborative blog and I am still in the classroom as a Reading Intervention Specialist.

Through my story, I want people to know that God has given us passions and desires for a reason. He has given each one of us gifts and abilities, and He wants us to use them to bring Him glory. To be completely honest, I still do not know what the Lord’s plans are for my life. Each teaching position I have held has been short-term, meaning at the end of each school year I am left not knowing what’s next. This time of the year is always an anxious one for me as I feel like I am walking around with a huge question mark above my head. Although I may not know what my future holds in terms of a career, I do know that He holds my future and I can rest securely in that. Year after year, I find myself trusting God to show me a way and provide and year after year, He does. Giving up control can be hard, but in the end it is so rewarding. God’s plans for our lives are immensely bigger and better than any plans we could dream up for ourselves. I am excited to see where the Lord takes me from here and how He chooses to use the gifts He has given me in new ways.

 

 

Author: Jacqueline Brown

Going Deeper

bb2a742c.jpeg

Going deeper began to be about living within the understanding that this was something quite bigger than meeting a need and being done; it was a call to treat and love each person as a family member.

Glen Shelley and his house church are making moves in the city of Dayton. They are living missional lives right here, right now.

apex anthologies

apex anthologies

apex anthologies

What began as packing and delivering backpacks to the homeless downtown before Christmas has turned into a regular, heart-invested, intentional pursuit of the people of Dayton.

“After our first time doing the backpacks we met a man named Darrel and a few others and we decided to ask them to visit our house church,” explains Glen.

Taking time to get to know these people led to having meals with them and ultimately culminated in a separate house church on Monday evenings simply to love them well.

Glen sat with Devin and Eric, two of Glen’s house church brothers, around a table at Panera Bread, sharing their story with me, and the passion became contagious.

“It has been a catalyst for going deeper in relationships with them,” says Glen. “We met a gentleman named Darrel; he needed food, but it was clear that he needed companionship just as much.”

They came to find out that Darrel was sleeping under a bridge. It was in the collection of these pieces of their lives that Glen and his house church knew they needed to, and desired to, be much more than simply people who dipped in and out of their lives.

“They are not projects. Each person we meet and take time to know has expectations – they can be hurt, they can be disappointed; they are real humans and they need real human love,” says Glen.

Their house church was faced with a serious question head on – what does it mean to go deeper?

Going deeper began to be about living within the understanding that this was something quite bigger than meeting a need and being done; it was a call to treat and love each person as a family member.  

Since this outreach began and this house church has been formed, they have found themselves being asked to think outside of themselves.

“I got a call at 9 PM from someone that needed a ride home, but he was in Indianapolis. It had to stop being about my comfort level being disrupted and more about showing someone I cared,” says Glen.

So they piled into the car and drove to Indianapolis and brought him home. If there is one thing they’ve learned through this act of obedience, it’s that the viewpoint should never be “us versus them,” but always all of US.

Glen and his house church have seen more than anything that everyone has a story; “these people didn’t wake up one day and choose to be homeless. They are not ‘less’ by any means – there are circumstances and fragments of a storyline being written that lead people to their current situation.”

“We don’t want to pound anything into them; we just want to love and care for them. We just tell them, ‘we just wanna love you,’” says Devin.

It started with backpacks. It became fellowship and shared meals; relationships are being built and poured into and now, they are able to see integration to larger fellowship. Members of the house church are starting to come to Apex and pursue baptism, as well.

“When we are not with them on Mondays, there is constant communication,” explains Glen. “They need to be picked up, they might need money for bus tokens, sometimes they simply need someone to talk to, to listen, to hear them.”

As a final thought all three men have come to, and rest, at this powerful point – they’re real people and they have real needs.

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? –Isaiah 58:7

 

 

Author: Steph Duff

Photographer: Hilary Tebo

Copyright © · All Rights Reserved · Apex Anthologies