Come and See What God Has Done

Our stories are so powerful. God uses each and every one of our stories to make us more like Him. He is the author and finisher of our faith, and He weaves the most incredible testimonies. 

I was honored to have the opportunity to help three women share their stories live on stage in front of 2,000 other women at Momentum 2017.  I had read their testimonies countless times before that night, but even I was not prepared for the mighty movement of the Holy Spirit when they shared. I sat there crying, overwhelmed by God's faithfulness and promise in our lives.

Being a Christian doesn't guarantee a perfect life. In fact, God tells us clearly in the Bible that being a Christian is going to be hard. We are going to face trials, pain, hurts. We are going to be persecuted. We are going to doubt and think about our lives before Christ. We won't be happy all the time. But being a Christian means we have hope that can never be taken away. Accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life and living life for Him means you get a life so much greater than this one! He lives within us, daily working on our behalf, even if it doesn't feel like it. That's the thing: faith isn't based on feelings. 

Wherever you are at in your walk with God, know that He wants all of you. He wants you to surrender everything else you're chasing and run after Him. He's writing your story in an incredible way that only He can. 

So come and see what God has done: in the lives of these three women, and in your own life. Trust Him. Then go and tell. Shout your story for the world to hear. 

If you want to talk more about Jesus Christ and faith and what-the-heck-is-all-this-stuffshoot me a message. I love meeting new people, whether virtually or in person, and gabbing about life. 

And if you'd like to know more of my story, you can read my testimony here.

Truly, He makes beautiful things.

Elise's Story: Strength Through Him

Where do I even start with Elise? I'm so grateful for this girl. When I emailed friends during the summer to let them know I was starting this blog, Elise was the first one to reply back to me and volunteer to share her story. We didn't know each other that well, but she spent two hours on the phone with me talking about everything from Jimmy Fallon to Jesus. She is one of the strongest, most courageous people I know, and I know her story will touch many. Thanks for sharing your heart, Elise.  M

I moved to New York City from Texas about three years ago and fell in love with it. I had visited all throughout high school and knew the city like the back of my hand. I knew it was dirty and messy and hard. I knew what I was getting myself into, but I wanted to invest in this place. I found a great group of friends, really plugged into a church, and I was in a really good spot with the Lord.

I remember thinking that I never wanted this season to end because it was so wonderful. I worked 10-hour days, would go on a 4-mile run after work, and then meet up with friends, no problem. I lived a very New York lifestyle. I was literally living the dream.

And then life changed drastically.

It was April 2013, the first day after a long winter that it hit about 55 degrees. I went to Central Park, laid my towel down in Sheep Meadow, and read. It was wonderful.

After this, I noticed something on my leg, and I honestly thought it was just an ingrown hair. It stayed there for a while, so I assumed it was a spider bite. Almost two months later, that bite was still there. My mom, a nurse, also thought it was a bad spider bite.

By June, though, I felt very sick and very tired all the time. I honestly thought I was burning the candle at both ends. Oh, I'm just doing too much. I need to rest more.

I visited my primary care doctor to test for vitamin D deficiency. The test came back clear. The doctor patted me on my back and sent me away. Each week, new symptoms kept appearing. Every Friday I could tell a difference between my last Friday. I would get numbness and tingling in my hands and feet. The next week I would have trouble walking in a straight line. Sometimes I would walk down the street, veering left and right, like I was walking on a cruise ship. I would have this thing called air hunger—trouble breathing and having a full breath—and that’s when doctors started getting worried.

So I saw a neurologist in Texas, who conducted a bunch of different tests. They thought it was MS for a long time. After four or five months of not knowing what was wrong with me, I began praying I had MS. When my MRI came back clear, I broke down in tears. I simply wanted to know what was going on with me.

Every doctor said I was the picture of health. But fall of 2013 was a blur of different ER and doctor’s visits. A pulmonologist. A cardiologist. A rheumatologist. No one could figure it out. I felt helpless.

At this point, I was angry with The Lord. What is happening to me, God. November rolls around, and I am a hot mess. Tired all the time. I can barely finish a full day of work. Yet I could throw myself onto the subway, put on makeup, and people thought I was okay. A lot of doctors said I must have anxiety or be too busy. I assured them it takes a lot to stress me out. I was always known for having it all-together. But this time, I was falling apart.

I went home to Dallas that Thanksgiving. While riding in the car with my mom at one point, everything went dark. Like a bolt of lightening hit me. I suffered a seizure or a mini stroke. The best of the best doctors in NYC and Texas still didn’t know what was going on. They thought it was psychosomatic.

When I flew back to New York City, I almost passed out on the plane. An ambulance had to get me in the middle of Newark Airport. It was terrifying. That’s when my mom flew up. Our last-stitch effort was to visit an infectious disease expert. I had all these blood tests done, and the doctor said it looked like my body was fighting off something but it was gone now. He sent me to a psychiatrist. My doctors were passing me along to one another because they had no idea what was going on.

I remember walking around the Upper West Side, taking in the New York City Christmas scene and thinking this was going to be my last Christmas.

By Christmas, I decided I needed to move back to Texas, attempt to figure out what is going on. I remember walking around the Upper West Side, taking in the New York City Christmas scene and thinking this was going to be my last Christmas. I am really thankful for my 24 years. It’s been a fun ride. Now it’s time to exit this season in peace.

I remember walking and almost thinking I was going to be hit by a car, so it would be quick. It’s such flawed thinking as I look back. But I was so sick. Everything felt so hard, and I didn’t think I could do it anymore.

Once I moved home to Texas, I was determined to get answers. I researched and narrowed down my symptoms to MS and lyme disease—and I already knew it wasn’t MS. I thought of that bug bite I got back in April. And the more I read, the more I learned how lyme disease testing isn’t reliable. The guidelines for testing haven’t been reviewed in years, insurance companies don’t want to pay for it, other companies are lobbying the CDC. There are all sorts of investigations and politics at play. I thought, Whoa I don’t want to do this. What am I getting myself into?

I felt like the Holy Spirit was telling me, This is my way, walk in it. I had this very clear, quiet sense of knowing what to do next.

I saw a chronic disease doctor in Dallas and told her my whole story. She believed it was lyme disease. By this point, I had lost 10 or 15 pounds in three months. This doctor just looked at me and said, “You’re too young. I will be at your wedding day. I refuse to let this take you.” She prayed for me; she wouldn’t give up on me. She was a godsend.

The Holy Spirit was telling me, This is my way, walk in it.

This was when I decided to start long-term antibiotics. In terms of treatment, antibiotics are controversial. My own family was divided about what my next steps in treatment should be. But I knew I had to try antibiotics to survive.

I felt so alone, like I had this mystery disease and no one really knew how to treat it. I felt abandoned in a way. A lot of my friends didn’t know how to handle it, and it’s my fault, too, because I didn’t know how sick I was. I thought I would go to Dallas, fly under the radar, and not let people into this really scary and controversial part of my life. 

But I needed community and joined a women’s group at my church in Dallas. These girls faithfully prayed with me through everything. I kept thinking, God where are you? Yet His hand was in all of this.

My body was too sick to handle the antibiotics, and I went on a natural protocol. That spring was like a spring of my soul; slowly, I started to improve. At the same time, I found myself in the middle of this heated medical debate: Insurance companies like to say lyme disease doesn’t exist, and doctors get in trouble for prescribing long-term antibiotics for a disease that a small percentage of people think don’t exist. 

I thought, Okay, Lord, if I can get even an ounce better, I want to use this energy and this story to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.

With that in mind, I returned to NYC in May of 2014. I began sharing my story and got involved with the biggest lyme nonprofit in the world. I was really scared about being vulnerable and people thinking I'm crazy. The Lord has been so faithful in that, helping me to use my story to glorify Him and His people, to fight for the rights of the marginalized. 

I’m finding beauty in trusting that my identity is in the Lord. I want to do whatever He’s given me with excellence. I’m used to being a New Yorker, where life revolves around what I do and getting crap done. And as a Texan, the mantra is pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get it together, which is so not the gospel. We women think we’re supposed to have it all together. To be educated, stylish, fit, and have great careers. We value strength and independence and achievement.

I began antibiotic treatment that October. I really wanted to make New York work, to a fault. I am stubborn. Come May of 2015, in the midst of heart palpitations and passing out on the street, I knew I needed to be somewhere else in order to heal. I returned to Texas.

People will tell me that I seem so joyful, so I must feel great. But really it’s because I have a source of joy that’s greater than me—the one constant in life I know I can rely on. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Even when friends or family or doctors fail me, I can turn to the one who has never failed me and will never fail me.

This is my portion that has been given to me. I am constantly saying, Okay, Lord, how can I fight this well and with courage?

I have a source of joy that’s greater than me.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to cry and be vulnerable. We don’t have to have it all together. Let’s have grace with ourselves. God has been showing me what I consider to be good and what He considers to be good. I understand now that what really matters is who I am in Him and trusting God with the rest.

With the Lord, there are ups and downs. Like any relationship that is worth fighting for, you are going to have those moments when you’re angry and frustrated. I have felt a lot of anger toward Him. For the longest time, I would just run away. Now I know that instead of disengaging, I have to constantly wrestle with Him. The best people we’ve known throughout history have experienced loss, suffering, and defeat.

Currently I am home in Dallas. Doctors say it could be 6 to 18 months until I’m in remission—or longer. I've realized I can’t do this on my own. I need Him. God is sovereign, and He sees the big picture. He is the one who gives me joy and strength. He has got this.

Follow Elise on her blog and on Instagram

Meaghan's Story: Famous in His Eyes

I first connected with Meaghan over social media. Our mutual friend pointed out that we both worked in magazines, both had a passion for telling stories, and both loved the Lord. After plenty of tweeting and tagging back and forth, we finally met up in person last winter for coffee at our mutually favorite cafe. Instant soul sister. I'm continually encouraged by Meaghan's faith and her wisdom beyond her years. She's sharing a snippet of her story below.  Love you, Meg! — M




My name is Meaghan O'Connor and I currently live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as a Digital Marketing and Social Media Specialist for Young Life, an international ministry non-profit. I spend my days scrolling through Instagram and climbing red rocks and mountains in my free time. If you would have asked me this time last year what my life would look like today, my guess wouldn't have been even close. I would have probably told you that I'd be living with roommates on the Upper West Side in New York City, chasing my dreams as an up-and-coming magazine journalist. Yep, just like I said, not even close.

After spending three years at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, I moved to New York City with the intention of staying there for a while. In fact, I was almost certain that New York City would be the place I'd develop my career, raise a family, and build a life. Ever since middle school, I dreamed of working for a major magazine. Seventeen, specifically, but since I knew how hard it was to get my foot in the door, I knew I'd be happy with any of the big ones. You know, the ones people recognize and buy regularly at the grocery store. 

Something deep in me wanted to be recognized, too, I think. 

Something deep in me wanted to be part of an industry that people were really impressed by. A superior, competitive, glamorous, and influential one. I was living with the suspicion that once I got in the door, once I had the job, once people knew my name, I'd be happy. Many of us live like that, I think. Like we're on a never-ending race to the next thing, the thing laid out before us that we think is going to make us happy. The cool and hard thing is that once we achieve those things, once we realize that those things will never really fully satisfy us, we are ultimately lead closer and closer to the only thing that does, Jesus Christ.

December of last year, I saw a random job posting on a Young Life social media page. Young Life is a religious non-profit dedicated to sharing the gospel with kids all the way from middle school through college. We're one of the largest international ministries in the world, operating in over 90 countries and in every corner of the United States. I had been involved with Young Life ever since I was in middle school, first as a student and then eventually as a leader while I was in college. I saw and experienced the deep impact that Young Life and my leader had on me while I was still growing, questioning, and learning about the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.

I noticed that the people I met through Young Life were some of my closest friends. That they loved me and accepted me like I hadn't experienced before. That they were interested in my story, my scars, and my struggles. That instead of running away from those things, they would run straight into the mess. That they lived in a way that modeled Jesus Christfull of abundant life, acceptance, and deep love.

I reached out to the HR department, hesitantly, knowing that the job was located in Coloradomany, many miles away from New York City. Early in the interview process, I was sure that nothing they would do or say could convince me to leave. Even though I loved Young Life, potentially more than any other organization I could think about working for, I was really scared to leave all of my magazine dreams and New York City behind. A few months in, however, I found myself on a plane to an in-person interview in Colorado Springs. I left the interview more certain than ever that I wanted the job. That I loved the team. That it was really the perfect fit for me. 

Except that taking the job would mean that I'd have to leave New York.

They gave me a few weeks to make a decision. I think I knew in my heart, right after I left that interview, that I was going to do it. That I was going to take the job, go all in. Even still, I went back to New York City, my heart and head heavy with the thought of leaving. Of saying goodbye to friends and communities I'd been pouring into over the last few years. I was (and am still) the brand champion for investing in people, investing in placeseven though you have no idea how long you are going to be there.

But back then, as I started to think about leaving, part of me wished I would have been a little more reserved. Prepared myself a little better for leaving. Because honestly, leaving felt like ripping off a really terrible Band-Aid. Like somehow, the Lord was playing a joke on me. Like he had convinced me to pour myself out in New York City, to make deep friendships and connections, all the while knowing I'd only be there for a few years. 

I also felt overwhelmed with all the logistics, what it would take to quit my first job, to leave magazine journalism (potentially for good), to pack up all my things and move them across the country. It'd be a lot. And I think that during those few weeks, while I was still in "decision mode," I started to learn just how much power New York City had acquired over me over the past few years. The fact that I knew I wanted the job, but was letting a city stand in the way, proved that. It proved that New York City had become somewhat of an idol for me. I was looking to the city for happiness and fullness and pride. But it's a city. And it would would disappoint me. And in fact, it did, a lot. But it was almost like I was so blinded and in love with New York City that it was hard for me to see those things.

If you ask any of my friends about me, they'll tell you I love adventures. That new adventures and risksthings like moving across the countryfuel me. That I love the challenge of making new friends, building a new community, making new connections, falling in love with a different zip code. Those things are my jam.

But what people won't tell you is that all of those things, while wonderful, are also really hard. And my first few months in Colorado, after I finally decided to take the job, weren't perfect. (Regardless of how beautiful my Instagram page looked.) They were really hard. And full of loneliness and doubt.

As I was learning more about what it means to be brave, to embrace the unknown with arms wide open, Jesus was there to remind and reassure me that I am never alone. That He would provide everything I needed. That He'd help sort out all the logistical things. That being an important and influential magazine journalist wasn't actually going to give me any sense of worth. That I'm already famous in His eyes, and that's really all I need.

For more, follow Meg on Instagram and check out her blog post on leaving New York City.

Emily's Story: Delivered From My Fears

I've known Emily for three years. We met during an internship and have been friends ever since. Emily is one of the bravest people I know, with a true fire for Jesus that emboldens everything she does. She's also super fun to be around and can dance like nobody's business. Emily's been a huge force in my own faith journey, but she has been on quite the journey herself. I'll let her tell you about it in her own words. — M

When you and I met right out of college, I was really going through a hard time. 

My mom and stepdad were getting divorced. As the oldest of six kids, I felt like I had to hold things together for my siblings. Meanwhile, I had just gone through a breakup of my own. Then I moved myself across the country for an internship in a small Pennsylvania town where I knew no one! 

I couldn't see it then, but I was depressed. Just a total mess. I knew that I needed to pull it together. At the same time, I couldn't do it on my own. I joined the local church, which is when my faith became really real. Before, I was pretty delusional about my faith. I wasn't behaving like a Believer.

I had been in a relationship with a non-Believer for almost a year and was really lost. Once that relationship ended, I felt ashamed for how I had walked away from God and feared He no longer would love me. I thought I had disappointed him beyond repair. I felt like damaged goods for future relationships and just about myself in general.

My struggles became so apparent. I realized that I wanted to be wanted. 

For so long, I sought that fulfillment from other gods—guys, my career, my body. I craved the attention of men. I was determined to be the perfect student and have the perfect career. I had also engaged in an eating disorder for years. I had so much shame from chasing these idols. They didn't fulfill me, and I was seriously unhappy. I started seeing a counselor and really plugged in at church. I was prescribed antidepressants, which helped me significantly and I take to this day. I was beginning to be open with my struggles.

I needed grace. For the first time, I felt how much I needed it. 

When that internship ended, I took a job in Dallas. Again, I knew no one. Honestly, I felt like I didn’t fit in there. 

But God wanted me in Texas. I think He brought me there just to be a part of The Village Church. My apartment was literally two miles away from The Village's main campus. I didn't even know what The Village was until I moved there. I immediately joined a small group. We were involved in each other's lives and were very honest with each other. I had never had that kind of intense accountability; I needed it. 

God put this group of Believers in my life during a season of great guilt and shame. I remember I had drunkenly hooked up with this guy, and I felt so disgusted with myself. Again, it went back to that whole desire to feel wanted. I really didn't want to tell my small group about it, but I did. They put hands on me and prayed for me. By confessing it, God was teaching me to let it go.

I had chosen such brazen sins against God. It had become a spiral of "Well, I've already done x, y, and z, and I can't make it up to God now." Because I hate making mistakes. I hate being wrong. I'm a perfectionist. But I've learned God doesn't go, "Oh you've been a good girl this week, I'm going to bless you."

It's not about being good or bad.

God doesn't work like that. That's where His grace came in. The thing is, I already had it! The Holy Spirit was working in me. Even though I didn't love myself at the time, God did. And that is what kept me hanging on. 

My time in Texas was a season of giving up a lot of pride. God was breaking down my walls. He was showing me that getting help for a struggle doesn’t make you weak. It's quite the opposite. Being perfect is not attainable. Accepting that, and knowing God still loves me, has been life-changing.

About nine months into living in Texas, I was laid off. That's when the feeling of loneliness really hit me. But God was there. I look back and see that layoff was a blessing in disguise. The Lord brought me back to Pennsylvania, to work full-time at the same company where we'd interned. It was what I like to call a "pillow landing." I was emotionally fragile from being laid off and starting all over again. It was my third move in as many years. I needed familiarity, and God brought me that. 

My faith continued to grow. God was teaching me so much. And a year later I was laid off again. I was a 24-year-old college graduate with two layoffs in the books! It definitely hurt my pride.

Yet this second time around, I had a much different mindset. God wasn't punishing me or trying to make my life worse. He was using these experiences to grow me.

A lot of my identity was wrapped up in what I was doing and where I was working. I began to realize life is not about that. God is going to provide. I had prayed about whether this job was a good fit for me, and God took me out of it. He also provided a new job at the company within two weeks. 

I see how fulfillment doesn't come from relationships or work, or from my own striving. I don't have to prove anything to God. He loves me in spite of me. I don't have to earn anything through Him. What I have to do is trust him and continually refocus myself on him. I have to surrender my life to Him. I really think that the Holy Spirit has worked in me with my pride, my depression, all of my sin. It's so easy for me to get stuck in my own head. I think so much of life is giving Him control rather than thinking, "Oh my gosh, what if I do this and all these other things happen?"  I take everything one day at a time. He is going to lead me in whatever happens. He's going to give me what I need each day.

It's not about me. It's not about what I've done--He has done everything. 

I know if I'm not where I'm supposed to be, God will put me someplace else. That's part of trusting. I know I'm not working for an organization; I'm working for God. That motivates me. To think you have no purpose where you currently are, well, I just don't believe that's true. God is going to use you wherever you are. 

How do I keep trusting God? I pray for faith! I'm never going to say, "Oh, yay, for suffering. I know this is going to be good for me in the end." I'm real about it: "Okay, I'm really struggling today, Lord." I bring anything and everything to Him, saying prayers throughout the day. That helps me to not feel anxious or worried.

I really like Psalm 34 right now, especially verse four:

I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.

He is delivering me from my fears. God is all ears and all eyes. He knows. He hasn't abandoned me, even in my suffering. 

God is telling me, I am here. I know. And now keep going.