The Miracle of Friends

The value of friendships means so much to me, and the heartache of a divorce reinforced how important friends can be.

After 30 years of what I thought was a strong marriage, my husband left me. I was devastated. My children, family, and friends were as shocked and hurt as I was. And it was their love that sustained me.

At the time, I was the secretary at my church, and the concern and love the staff bestowed on me went far beyond friendship. In addition, many friends reached out to me. I had seven close friends in town who let me know I could call, and they always came to be with me. I knew my friends were sincere, and this meant so much. They didn’t just pay lip service to my needs, they followed up and contacted me every few days.

One friend carpooled with me to work, and every day I cried. She cried too. I felt so sorry for her because she heard me drone on about the same disbelief and hurt day after day. But, she kept listening until I had no more tears to cry.  It took months before the tears were traded for any sort of true contentment.

Divorce is a painful and often isolating experience, but God provided support through so many friends.

Each phone call, hug, dinner, and trip shared with my friends brought healing to my broken heart.

If I did anything right, it was to embrace the love of others. When friends connected with me, I learned to say “Yes,” instead of “No,” or, “I don’t feel like it right now.” Looking back, I said “Yes” each time someone reached out.

When the phone rang, I answered. When friends invited me to dinner or a movie, I always went. I never turned anyone down.

Thinking about those days more than 30 years ago, I see much of my recovery came from those who surrounded me. And when others ask me for advice on how to handle a situation like mine, I encourage anyone not to isolate themselves.

When we are at the bottom, we need a miracle. I found my miracle in friends, God’s gift to bring me through the darkest time of my life.

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Faith? Or Common Sense?

My wife and I had just moved to Atlanta so I could begin my first job out of college as an Engineer. She found a job teaching high school math. Life was good. It was time for us to start our life together. A new city to explore. New friends to make.

However, a few months in, we sensed God leading us back to Nashville. At first we pushed the feeling down attributing it to home sickness, since we are both from the Nashville area. Why would God bless us with these terrific jobs only to call us to leave a few months in? However, the feeling wouldn’t go away and we started to get more confirmations.

Finally, things came to a boiling point. Out of the blue, my wife received a job offer in Nashville. What do we do? Do we throw away common sense that says before we move I need a job as the main bread winner of the family?

After a lot of prayer, we decided it was time for a leap of faith. My wife would accept the job. Since we needed my income, I would stay in Atlanta until I could find a job in Nashville. We knew this would be tough but we felt peace. It would be okay.

The peace lasted until I said goodbye to my wife and dog, and was sitting in the apartment alone. I have never felt so alone in my life. What insane decision had we just committed to? I was 23 and had only been in my first post-college job for 3 months. Who would hire a recent graduate who left a job that quickly? As one month turned to two, my fears worsened. Is this what taking a leap of faith is supposed to feel like? Having faith was increasingly harder, especially because His time schedule was clearly different than ours. We started saying that maybe I should quit and move even though I hadn’t found anything.

Finally, after three months, I got an interview. A few weeks later, the job–finally–came through. Better than that, we made it through.

Looking back, I see the waiting put us in a better situation than we could have imagined. And we learned that the leaps God calls us to don’t always come with a pretty bow on top.

Leaps, when they ask us to toss aside common sense, require patience and trust in the uncertain. However, if a leap is truly what God calls us to, we just put one foot in front of the other. Though His timing tests us, He opens doors, only requiring us to walk.

Without that leap a little over three years ago, we might not have been a position to take another leap, which we call 1st Faith.

Meet Matt here.

We want to hear your story–tell us here.

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Washing Feet in the 21st Century

FROM KIRK WALDEN, EDITOR: For regulars here, you know 1st Faith is where anyone has an opportunity to tell a story of faith. Why? Because one of the strongest ways to build a friend’s faith is through telling our own story.

A story which captures me is the one of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It’s a story only mentioned once in the four gospels, but even today Christians focus on this moment’s significance and lessons.

Clearly, this act was one of servanthood. Here is a king, washing his followers’ grimy, calloused feet. This doesn’t make my bucket list of “must do’s.” But it was for Jesus.

Which creates a question. What is a modern-day equivalent of foot-washing? May I offer one, which I often overlook?

In today’s world, we’re wedded to IPhones, Droids, laptops. We’re filled with social media. Any conversation is easily derailed by the distraction of a call, a “Let me just text him/her back really quickly” or a need to rush off to the next thing in our busy lives.

Today, we don’t worry much about dirty feet. Still, our lives get messy. Sometimes, the only way to wash off our emotional dirt is to vent to a friend. Modern-day foot washing? Listening. Listening, really listening, matters.

Our modern dirt pops up when we face the real-life challenge of living out our faith in a mixed-up world. When the wind and rain of circumstances hits us from all directions and we try to make sense of things, our spiritual feet get dirty. Our dirt may not be some sin, or a situation demanding a quick fix. It’s just stuff. Messy stuff.

Jesus, on his final night, stopped. He took time to thoroughly wash each disciple’s feet. And we can be sure He listened to his friends as He carefully cleaned those feet which journeyed alongside him over three years.

Sometimes, the best example of servanthood is two available ears. No judgment, no quick fixes, no pat answers.

If we offer this gift, perhaps our friend will experience refreshing as the overwhelming circumstances of life wash away. And the feet our friend needs to walk this journey are once again clean, ready for the next step, wherever it leads.

What’s Your Story? Tell us Here.

Find us on Facebook, and on Instagram (@Real1stFaith)

No Boat for You!

There’s a story which—at first glance—makes me look at Jesus and say, “What were you thinking?” It’s in Luke’s account (Ch. 8), the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man.

A quick refresher. Jesus calms the sea, then when he and the disciples get to the other side, waiting for them is an absolute whack-job of a man with brutish, chain-breaking strength who terrorizes everyone. He’s naked as a jaybird, yelling at everyone.

When Jesus shows up, the man falls at Jesus’ feet, begging Jesus not to torment him. In short, Jesus expels the man’s demons into a herd of pigs, who then jump off a cliff. The man suddenly becomes sane, and asks the question any of us would, “Jesus, can I come with you?”

This makes sense, right? But incredibly, Jesus said, “No.” He sent the man away, telling him to return to his house and tell others what God—through Jesus–did for him.

Weird. It looks like Jesus is choosing favorites, saying—like Jerry Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi—“No boat for you!” But at 1st Faith, we see something amazing in this moment. Jesus is telling this man, “All you need is your story. Just tell it.”

Today, it’s easy to focus on learning the right verses, or crafting the correct arguments to convince others to believe. It’s intimidating. Soon, we decide sharing our faith just isn’t our thing. But perhaps, all we need is our story.

In the end, this guy went out and told “the whole city” what Jesus did for him. I bet people listened and a lot of hearts turned.

The lesson? Our stories of faith encourage others, and can change lives. This platform—1stFaith—is for you, to tell stories.

Here, we don’t ask only the perfect, or the smartest, to share stories. We want stories from real people living real life. Transparent people, like the man in Luke 8. Getting in the boat wasn’t for him. Because he had all he needed—his own story.

Remember a time when your faith grew? Tell us at 1stFaith. Together, let’s change the world—with your story.

We want to hear your story–tell us here.

Like what you see at 1stFaith? Support us here.

Find us on Facebook, Instagram (@Real1stFaith) . . . & Twitter, too.

No Boat for You!

There’s a story which—at first glance—makes me look at Jesus and say, “What were you thinking?” It’s in Luke’s account (Ch. 8), the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man.

A quick refresher. Jesus calms the sea, then when he and the disciples get to the other side, waiting for them is an absolute whack-job of a man with brutish, chain-breaking strength who terrorizes everyone. He’s naked as a jaybird, yelling at everyone.

When Jesus shows up, the man falls at Jesus’ feet, begging Jesus not to torment him. In short, Jesus expels the man’s demons into a herd of pigs, who then jump off a cliff. The man suddenly becomes sane, and asks the question any of us would, “Jesus, can I come with you?”

This makes sense, right? But incredibly, Jesus said, “No.” He sent the man away, telling him to return to his house and tell others what God—through Jesus–did for him.

Weird. It looks like Jesus is choosing favorites, saying—like Jerry Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi—“No boat for you!” But at 1st Faith, we see something amazing in this moment. Jesus is telling this man, “All you need is your story. Just tell it.”

Today, it’s easy to focus on learning the right verses, or crafting the correct arguments to convince others to believe. It’s intimidating. Soon, we decide sharing our faith just isn’t our thing. But perhaps, all we need is our story.

In the end, this guy went out and told “the whole city” what Jesus did for him. I bet people listened and a lot of hearts turned.

The lesson? Our stories of faith encourage others, and can change lives. This platform—1stFaith—is for you, to tell stories.

Here, we don’t ask only the perfect, or the smartest, to share stories. We want stories from real people living real life. Transparent people, like the man in Luke 8. Getting in the boat wasn’t for him. Because he had all he needed—his own story.

Remember a time when your faith grew? Tell us at 1stFaith. Together, let’s change the world—with your story.

We want to hear your story–tell us here.

Like what you see at 1stFaith? Support us here.

Find us on Facebook, Instagram (@Real1stFaith) . . . & Twitter, too.

Washing Feet in the 21st Century

FROM KIRK WALDEN, EDITOR: For regulars here, you know 1st Faith is where anyone has an opportunity to tell a story of faith. Why? Because one of the strongest ways to build a friend’s faith is through telling our own story.

A story which captures me is the one of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. It’s a story only mentioned once in the four gospels, but even today Christians focus on this moment’s significance and lessons.

Clearly, this act was one of servanthood. Here is a king, washing his followers’ grimy, calloused feet. This doesn’t make my bucket list of “must do’s.” But it was for Jesus.

Which creates a question. What is a modern-day equivalent of foot-washing? May I offer one, which I often overlook?

In today’s world, we’re wedded to IPhones, Droids, laptops. We’re filled with social media. Any conversation is easily derailed by the distraction of a call, a “Let me just text him/her back really quickly” or a need to rush off to the next thing in our busy lives.

Today, we don’t worry much about dirty feet. Still, our lives get messy. Sometimes, the only way to wash off our emotional dirt is to vent to a friend. Modern-day foot washing? Listening. Listening, really listening, matters.

Our modern dirt pops up when we face the real-life challenge of living out our faith in a mixed-up world. When the wind and rain of circumstances hits us from all directions and we try to make sense of things, our spiritual feet get dirty. Our dirt may not be some sin, or a situation demanding a quick fix. It’s just stuff. Messy stuff.

Jesus, on his final night, stopped. He took time to thoroughly wash each disciple’s feet. And we can be sure He listened to his friends as He carefully cleaned those feet which journeyed alongside him over three years.

Sometimes, the best example of servanthood is two available ears. No judgment, no quick fixes, no pat answers.

If we offer this gift, perhaps our friend will experience refreshing as the overwhelming circumstances of life wash away. And the feet our friend needs to walk this journey are once again clean, ready for the next step, wherever it leads.

What’s Your Story? Tell us Here.

Find us on Facebook, and on Instagram (@Real1stFaith)

The 10-Year Diagnosis

In 2007, during my first year of marriage, I became incredibly ill. My body unleashed attacks upon itself as an autoimmune disease viciously assailed my pancreas, intestines and finally, my entire colon. In weeks, I went from years of barely experiencing more than a cold, to knowing medical specialists by first name.

I found myself making repeated visits to the ICU during the second trimester of my first pregnancy. An extended hospital stay followed the birth of this baby boy. All of this while my husband was on deployment in Afghanistan.

Eventually the Red Cross got involved, bringing my husband back to the States, quick and in a hurry, mid-deployment. I didn’t find out until later that my doctors weren’t sure I was going to make it.

At twenty-five, I was taking 46 pills a day to trick my body and stop it from rejecting my vital organs. I was told this was my new normal. There would be no cures, but only extensive management of the overwhelming symptoms. In fact, the only “cure” for the inflammatory bowel disease—only a portion of the many physical challenges—would be a complete removal of my lower GI. An increased risk of cancer would require labs and screenings every six months, and if that wasn’t enough, I was told, “No more children.”

Doctors educated me on my 10-year outlook. “You might get flare ups down to a manageable level, but you’ll never see 2017 without colostomy bags and hip replacement, because of the extensive steroids.”

I was scared, pissed off, exhausted, worried. And so very sad.

More than 10 years have now passed since that chapter in my life. Many of my friends are surprised to hear this is part of my story, because life is so amazingly different now.

I’ve watched as God turned my fear into trust. In these 10 years He restored my health, healed my body, gave me two more healthy children, and strengthened my marriage through tremendous stress and financial burdens. And, God took my pity and showed me a life of thankfulness.

These 10 years have been calendars full of miracles. And friends, I mean legit, medical professional head-scratching miracles.

In 2007, the thought of 2017 was one of dread. Instead, it was a year of celebration. Now, I know how quickly life can change.

Today, I look forward to the lessons and blessings each day brings.

No matter where this moment or any other moment has taken you, whether low or scary or sad, hang in. Your story is still being written.

What’s Your Story? Tell us Here.

Find us on Facebook, and on Instagram (@Real1stFaith)

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