Stories

Everyone has something that is unique to them, a journey, a friendship, an experience that can spark imagination, inspire compassion or move others to action. Check out a story today and then go create one of your own.

When God calls sometimes we decline the call and other times we answer the phone.

As Russian military burst forth onto Ukraine soil my soul was distressed. War is horrendous, but this time I knew people in the country and it felt personal to me. As the world seemed to look on and do nothing I prayed, prayed and to be honest…yelled at God to get involved. I have a Polish born friend who was also distressed and we tried to figure out what we could do to help. We tried our own way and found a dead-end path.

Then the God call came in and I answered. On Sunday night at 8pm we found out there was a shipping container that was being loaded with as much humanitarian aid they could gather and headed for Poland on a plane to help Ukrainians, Wednesday. So with a hopeful heart but low expectations we forged a plan and told God, “you’re in charge, we are just the servants.” My friend said she would drive her truck with anything we could gather down to Chicago on Tuesday so it could be loaded in time. I was in charge of getting the word out. That meant 24 hours to act. I sent out word to our Lifegroup, homeschool communities and a few local friends. We were hopeful to maybe fill a pickup truck but by 9pm Monday we had to rent a large Uhaul trailer!

God filled my garage with diapers, formula, medicine, bandages, blankets, clothing and so much more. I can tell you it wasn’t me, I just answered the call. I actually felt like Noah – I was obedient to God and he made it all fall into place. Because of this first test of faith, I believe God is sending my friend and I on a much bigger mission. Please pray over us that God would take control, make the path straight and clear, give us His wisdom, give us His discernment, grant us the full protection of His hand and His armies and make us invisible to the evil one and his minions. Is God calling you? Are you going to answer the call?

The Challenges And Blessings Of A Blended Family

Jess O.

Brianna graduated from high school on Sunday. Wow! What an accomplishment! And our blended family five-year anniversary is coming up on July 1.

Now that I have more time to take a breath from the craziness that is graduation week, I have had more time for reflection: Where our family has been, how far we have come, where Brianna has been and how far she’s come. I am just so overwhelmed with thankfulness for where we are. We have been blessed beyond our own imagination.

When Brian and I were dating and talking about marriage, we knew it wouldn’t be easy.  We knew the odds were against us. We knew blended families were hard.

We did our homework. We went to counseling for both of us and as a family (before we were a family). We read, we learned.

Our favorite book (and also a terrifying book) was called “The Smart Stepfamily,” by Ron Deal.  We joked that this book was created to steer you clear of blending a family because it was ALL of the things that could possibly go wrong. And there are MANY!

We also knew we’d have teen daughters to start our marriage, which is not an easy task as a nuclear family, let alone a blended family. We learned this statistic: It takes five to seven years to fully blend a family. That’s terrifying when you realize that, at the start of the blended-family journey, your oldest is already 13!

BUT … We also knew we that God loves us and has a plan for us and a future for us. He wants happy, healthy families who love Him and put him first. He wants the best for us and for our children.

Brian and I danced to our first song at our wedding reception to “The Marriage Prayer” by John Waller and his wife Josee. We sang these lyrics below, believing God would bless our family as long we put Him first. The more we love Him, the more we can love each other and together bring Glory to God.

“Father, I said till

Death do us part

I want to mean it

With all of my heart

Help me to love you

More than I love her

Then I know I can

Love her more

Than anyone else

And bring her in

Your presence today

Make her what

You want her to be

I pray to hear her heart

I pray she’ll love you more

I pray to cherish and serve her

And we’ll bring you glory today, I pray

(Josee Waller):

Father, I said till

Death do us part

I want to mean it

With all of my heart

Help me to love you

More than I love him

Then I know I can

Love him more

Than anyone else

And bring him in

Your presence today

Make him what

You want him to be

Lord, help me love her

As you love the church, your bride

(Josee)

Help me submit to him

As I submit to you, my life”

And here we are: Our oldest is 18 and headed off to college. Wow … we’ve made it five years!  We’ve come a long way since those pre-marriage counseling meetings. And our family is still growing, but we are closer than we’ve ever been.

God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams. So very thankful today.

God’s Opinion Is The Only One That Matters

Jenni N.

I’ve had the honor and heartbreak of watching a friend battle cancer for almost four years now.

Hers is not the “dying with grace and dignity” story. In fact, she is combative, uncooperative with caregivers and really, really angry. She has deliberately pushed most of her friends and family away.

This cancer is relentless as it continues to literally take everything from my friend — her health, her job, her money, her mind, her impulse control and her ability to be of service to God and to people.

My friend is one example of “everything we are” being tied to a job title, money in the bank, ego and self-reliance.

I am another example.

For the majority of my life, I believed my worth, value and purpose were tied to being an employee, wife, mother, church worker — and, yes, to other people’s opinions of me. Worse yet was how my opinion of myself was based solely on positive accomplishments in all of the above.

It was exhausting. It still is — when I forget whose child I am and whose opinion of me truly matters.

Several years ago, God moved in my life in such a way that I was on the verge of losing everything (husband, kid, job). The only thing left was God.

He was enough then and He is enough now.

This is also what my friend is experiencing. He is enough!

God does not value her less because of the cancer. She is His child. His opinion of her has not changed because her body and mind can no longer be out in the world doing His work. Even her own opinion of herself does not change His love.

So on good days or bad days, God’s opinion of us is the only one that matters.

God Is Our Common Ground

Kirsten A.

Many years ago, I took a class in conflict resolution, in which I learned this: The easiest conflicts to resolve are those in which all sides agree on the desired outcome, but disagree on how to get there. The most entrenched conflicts are those in which people neither agree on the desired outcome nor on the actions that should be taken.

It’s crucial to find common ground.

What do we do then, when we have none? What happens when we agree on nothing?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since Jan. 6, when thousands of Americans stormed the U.S. Capitol while Congress was in session to confirm Joe Biden’s election as the next president of the United States.

In those Americans’ view, the insurrection was a last-ditch attempt to save democracy.

In others’ views, though, it was the exact opposite — a domestic terror attack designed to undermine, to overthrow, democracy.

Where is the common ground in that?

It may not exist. Right? We can’t always find common ground in our beliefs. But that doesn’t mean we give up. So we have to search more, dig deeper, to find our common denominator, the common ground on which we can find understanding and build relationships.

We have to dig down to find God.

I say “dig down” because He’s covered up in a lot of layers we put on ourselves and others. Political party affiliation. Liberal or conservative. Rural, suburban or metropolitan. The state we live in. The color of our skin. Our gender. Our economic status.

That’s a lot of stuff to pull off. God, though, is always there.

God is the foundation of all humanity. He created everyone, believes in everyone, and has a purpose and plan for every person on earth. Even for the people we don’t like very much, the people we think are crazy. God loves them, too.

Maybe that’s a simple lesson. But our world revolves around conflict, and I find it easy to buy into it. And I have to regularly … very, very often … take myself down a notch or 12.

“God loves them. God thinks they’re incredible. God put them where they are, made them who they are, for a specific purpose, to spread His love and do His work in the world, in a way only they can. Just like he made me.”

In God’s eyes, we’re all the same.

HE’S our common ground.

God Doesn’t Care About The Mess

Kyla S.

Today all the kids sat and were engaged in church as we watched the service online in our living room. I’m not sure what was different. I know the song “Holy, Holy, Holy” may have had something to do with it as that is one of our family favorites.

It was so refreshing to see them sit and be engaged. I was just struck by the beauty of how it looked to have them sitting next to each other and what it might look like in the future when we would be able to attend church in person again.

I was reminded of how this beautiful moment in the midst of our disaster of a home is so representative of how Grace shows up. How Grace always shows up in the most unexpected ways. How Grace shows up in the midst of our mess and how Jesus comes and meets us wherever we are.

Even in a messy family room in the midst of a pandemic.

The First Thought Is God’s

Sheila A.

I recently read a newspaper account of a pastor in Cleveland. His neighborhood and congregation have been deeply affected by the pandemic and economic fallout. He recounted how a family came to ask if he had any blankets: They’d been sleeping in their car since being evicted.

“They didn’t ask for money”, he said.  “Just a blanket to keep warm”.

I was sad, angry, humbled, convicted — all at the same time.

My first thought:  “I have some extra new blankets – I’ll send them to Cleveland!”

My second thoughts: (as Pastor Jeff says):

– My blankets aren’t warm enough. And there’s only three of them.

– The pastor and family will think it’s weird to get three blankets from Wisconsin.

-The blankets might be stolen sitting on the church doorstep. Is their church even open?

-They’ll be offended.

-Shouldn’t I give them to someone closer to home? I’m supposed to be a neighborhood well, after all.

-Who is my neighbor anyway?

Fortunately, that last question has been answered for me (Luke 10: 36-38)

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

I sent the blankets yesterday.

Household Well: Loves To Try

Amy M.

“A Household well …

Welcomes in Jesus

Engages with Neighbors

Listens for insight

Loves to try.”

Here is what “loves to try” looks like for us:

On Thursday I taped an invitation on the 21 doors on the fourth floor of our apartment building. The invite is for tonight … 4th Floor Friday Fun: An open house happy hour to meet the neighbors.

We will have some snacks and we asked people to bring their own beverages. We will have name tags — and we have absolutely no idea who will come.

But we are giving it a try! We have no agenda but to engage with our new neighbors and get to know them a little better! We are looking forward to what God will do.