Welcome back to Monday’s Life Change. Today, I’m excited to share my dear friend, Barbara with you. She and her husband Allin have walked closely with us over the past 6 years and they are one of the friends we call when we really need to talk. I’m not sure we’ve ever met a couple who is more intentional with their kids and each other. Barb’s life displays the grace she has been given in Christ. Here is her story:
As a young girl, I grew up in sunny Miami, Florida about a 10-minute walk from the ocean. My parents loved each other and loved me. I went to a Christian school where my 5th grade teacher led me to the Lord. I was so excited that I told my church-attending parents about this Jesus. They began to inquire about this Savior and shortly there after accepted Him as their Lord as well. We got plugged into a growing church and all seemed to go “perfectly” according to my plan. Scripture says, many are the plans in a man or woman’s heart, but it is the Lords purpose that prevails. God’s purpose for my life is not my perfection or my plans.
Even though I was saved, there was a growing problem that was engulfing me. I felt pressures to perfectly perform on the honor roll, at piano competitions, and cheerleading. These appearances began to wear at my heart. I had so many feelings and desires that didn’t line up with the scripture being taught at school and church. I was also deeply bothered by the hypocrisy that I saw on all fronts. The social norm at youth group and at my school comprised of saying one thing yet actually living however you wanted. I had a real inward struggle with living out my faith.
My plan for outward perfection ended in a life changing accident where I spent the majority of the summer and my senior year in and out of the hospital undergoing 12 surgeries. The inward scars, doubts, struggles and pain now manifested themselves in physical scars and my “perfect world” was shattered. God wanted my heart, not my perfection or my performance. He was trying to get my attention, but I didn’t want to listen.
This threw me into the beginning of a very long journey from perfection to people pleasing to seeking pleasure. I began to live a life of immorality with my boyfriends and compromised all the things I said I believed. I tried dulling the pain and drowning the pain of my failed performance with partying.
I went to a Catholic university where professors dissected the Word of God, stripping its power by teaching it as fables and “good” moral lessons. Students who believed God at His Word were mocked. My faith was reduced to attending church with a hangover. My pursuit was full-fledged rebellion and worldly pleasure, which continued well after graduating from college.
After teaching 2nd grade for a year, I became restless again. A friend of my current boyfriend was a flight attendant for a major airline. I secretly applied thinking it sounded so fun! I was accepted and a year later took time off to study in Germany to become a translator on international flights. As I became fluent in German, I met a young man from Munich who caught my eye. We dated and later married and a few months later, I gave birth to my first son.
Within 12 months, I became a mom again to a little girl. Our marriage was very complicated and laced with unhealthiness.
During that time, my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died. A few months later, after much marital trouble, my husband left my two toddlers and I and moved back to Germany. Then my grandfather, who lived my entire life with us, died. All the men in my life were gone and I had two precious little faces looking to me, as well as a grieving mother.
The quest for perfection that plagued my youth, the rebellion and sin that laced my twenties, and the loneliness that engulfed me after 6 months of loss left me shattered. Here in the midst of my personal weakness, the Lord began to show me His power.
I recognized a still small voice calling me back to the faith that found me in 5th grade. In the midst of my suffering, Jesus met me and flooded me with His peace. I had no idea how I was going to make it, yet I tangibly felt His presence and knew I wasn’t alone. The Lord was able to begin the rebuilding process that continues to this day. I no longer strive for my perfection but acknowledge the power of Jesus Christ that is present in my weakness.
An important part of my healing and God’s provision came into my life at a garage sale of all places! I met a man who actually lived for the Lord and honored me in every way as we began a friendship, dated and eventually married. Allin’s new God ordained purpose was not only to be my husband but a father to my children. He was able to officially adopt and raise my children and love them as his own.
I was blessed beyond measure. But a haunting question plagued me. Why me?……Why was I given a second chance to live for the Lord, to have a healthy and Godly marriage, to raise my children in an intact family and to heal past hurts? God’s plan is redemption. I finally understood that I could never earn this or perform “good” enough. Though the plans of my life had failed, the amazing grace of God has given me an eternal purpose and calling in this world. Instead of asking “Why”, I now marvel at” How” God can use me to give His hope to others.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Father of compassion and the God of all Comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
God gave me his power to overcome my weaknesses not so I could sit around and feel happy, but so I can be HIS agent of comfort to those in trouble! This excited me and became a life verse for me. As I prayed for the Lord to use my life and my home for His comfort, He faithfully answered by sending many precious ones. Some stayed the night others stayed for years but I pray that each of them felt the comfort the Lord extended to them through my redeemed story.
God’s comfort pours through a ministry in Raleigh called Hope Reins where I have had the privilege of serving as a founding staff member. This non-profit ministry comforts hurting and broken families by providing equine-assisted outreach connecting a rescued horse and a hurting child to find hope and healing. We use our stories and the horse stories of brokenness to display God’s amazing redemptive power and comfort. It was here, that I met our newest son.
He came to Hope Reins after losing both his parents at age 5 and at that time he lived at a ministry house/school that came to Hope Reins for sessions. He now lives with us full time and is a daily reminder that the Lord does use all the things in our past when we are able to surrender them to Him to reach the ones that He loves with the comfort of the Gospel.