Faith takes on many different forms. It’s present in everyday relationships, and in life’s tragic moments.
This month, we asked readers to share their stories on faith. Here are their poignant tales, ranging from how faith has played a role in their life from saving marriages to ending child abuse:
- Table of Contents
1. WOE (Derrick Hayes)
2. Unconscious to Conscious (Mikaya Heart)
3. Faith Got Me Through it (Monika M. Wahi)
4. Personal Growth (Candace L. Talmadge)
5. Crawling Out (Janet Oberholtzer)
6. Learning Faith (Rosemarie Ashley)
7. Freed from Being a Child Abuser (Kathy Collard Miller)
8. Starting a New One (Vic Magnet)
A few years ago my life hit rock bottom. My ex wife and the mother of my children said she no longer wanted to be with me. I wanted to start over so I moved from Alabama to Georgia.
Mind you, I had limited money, no job, and no place to stay. A childhood friend said I could sleep on his floor until I could get back on my feet.
It was my first Friday night in a new city and my friend ask me to go out and dance. I refused at first but I later realized I needed to get out for some air.
I asked an attractive young lady named Kim to dance and we grooved until the lights came on for us to go. We exchanged numbers. I never expected to meet someone so nice so quickly. Even crazier is that she lived 90 miles away.
I was thinking about how my life had changed and I said “woe.” I looked into the bible and I saw the word woe. I also wanted to see how the dictionary defined woe. Woe meant trials or tribulations. In life a woe to you might be a job loss and to another it might be a broken relationship.
One day I was thinking how I could reinvent my life so I wrote down the word woe on a piece of paper.
As the document spoke to me it revealed that woe now meant WOE as in Word of Encouragement. From there I received this slogan. “Before you leave work or go to sleep tonight, give someone a WOE, a Word Of Encouragement.”
I shared my concept of WOE with Kim and we decided that before we end our conversation each night someone had to give a WOE. Since we first danced we have been together for six years.
Unconscious to Conscious
Some years ago I fell off a horse onto my head, and lay unconscious in the dirt for several hours.
As I came to, very slowly, I realized that I was on my own, I couldn’t move, and the nearest help was
half a mile away. In the next instant I found myself in the nearby house (half a mile away) where help was available.
I was taken to hospital where they said I had serious concussion and was not to be left alone, then they sent me home. All my friends were very worried about me, but once I had warmed up and taken painkillers, I felt fine, and spent the next few days just looking at the beauty around me, appreciating life on a different and deeper level than ever before.
One of my friends got upset because she said I wasn’t being careful enough, and I simply replied, “I know that I will die when the time is right, and not before, and in the meantime what is important is that I enjoy life fully.”
That is the way I have felt ever since that experience. I know I am taken care of on a very profound level, and whatever happens, even if it seems difficult at the time, is for the higher good of all. I move through life motivated by trust in this — which you might also call faith.
~ Mikaya Heart, life coach and award-winning author
Faith Got Me Through it
In my family, my mom is Christian and my dad is a non-practicing Hindu, and I grew up with no interest in religion. In my 20s, I found myself overweight, suffering from severe depression, and full of anxiety. I had been suicidal before in life, and I was feeling at wits end from this, as
well as the stress of grad school and work.
I had worked in the health field, and saw research that said if people prayed, it was good for their health, it didn’t really matter the religion. I decided to just basically figure out how to pray to any god to get my health and not feel suicidal, since nothing else (medications, counseling) had worked.
I saw that in Hinduism, one way to pray was to do yoga, so I realized that, as a busy grad student, I could pray AND exercise at the same time if I got “faith” through Hinduism. This was in the late
1990s, when no one was really doing yoga.
This started me on a true spiritual journey. First I figured out yoga and lost weight. Then I figured out meditation, and Ayurvedic practice for eating/life balance (this is part of the Hindu system of medicine). In 12 years, I went from being overweight, depressed, and anxious to being slim, healthy, happy, spiritually centered, and I even teach yoga!
It’s not really religion I have, it’s more “faith”, as you say. Without it, I’m not sure I’d be here. But now, I’m pretty sure I will never go back to how I was more than a bad day now and again.
Make a wish
It wasn’t exactly the kind of personal growth I had been pursuing for the past two decades. The physician’s voice over the phone one July evening back in 2006 stunned me with unwelcome news:
“You have an acoustic neuroma.”
This is medical-speak for a non-cancerous tumor that grows out of Schwann cells, the nerve cells in the ear that specialize in helping the brain turn vibrations into decipherable sounds. Only about one in every 100,000 or so people grows an acoustic neuroma large enough to cause hearing loss, according to the Acoustic Neuroma Association.
So that was why the hearing in my left ear had faded away years earlier.
If it is not removed, an acoustic neuroma enlarges slowly but continuously and becomes life-threatening. When I explained the pending surgery to my family of punsters, tumor-humor was inevitable. One of my older sisters made cracks about the operation being the Schwann song for this tumor and highly nerve-wracking to boot. I rolled my eyes, secretly wishing I had thought of it first.
Late at night, however, I wrestled with other thoughts and unacknowledged fears. I could not bear the prospect of not being able to soar to the strains of the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah, of never hearing the voice of God in a child’s giggle, of not being able to laugh at the calls of a mockingbird imitating a blue jay.
How can we truly live without the occasional melodic cascade of a waterfall or the soft tinkling of wind chimes? Without the wild, mournful call of a loon across a lake, or a woodpecker’s rat-a-tat-tat puncturing the misty forest morning?
Without hearing “I love you” from the ones we most love in return?
People who cannot hear lead highly successful lives, but I didn’t think I was brave enough to join their ranks. Without the sounds of life, I would be devastated.
Self-pity tears slid down my cheeks. I wailed silently, Why me? Why have I lost the hearing in one of my precious ears? An answer immediately filled my head. You never expect to hear the good news, so why do you need two ears?
Ouch! That shoe more than fit; it pinched painfully. I had to acknowledge that I always had expected to hear only bad news, never anything positive. I was the perpetual pessimist, convinced I was simply being a realist.
Behind that conviction, however, was my deeply held self-judgment that I was not worthy of good news, that I could expect nothing but bad from life. Even deeper within was my dread that for some reason I would lose the hearing in my other ear and go totally deaf. I did not dare admit that fear to myself or anyone.
My worldview holds that physical disease reflects emotional, spiritual and mental dis-ease. Physical ill health originates in and reflects issues of the heart and from two decades of accelerated personal growth, I also knew it takes more than a mental attitude adjustment to heal these types of limiting beliefs and fears. It involves a fundamental alteration of the very soul essence that we are.
By 2006, I had undertaken soul-deep personal change many times, and it had helped me free myself from many of my limiting beliefs, including the one about never being worthy of good news. But there was still that nebulous something that I could not even put a name to, much less acknowledge or release, at least not yet.
The surgery went off without a hitch. It was the least of my problems. My immediate post-operation challenge was relearning how to maintain my balance with only one working inner ear. Half a decade later, when I am fatigued, I often over-rotate when I take a deceptively simple action like turning a corner.
I learned through the experience that recovery, like love, cannot be hurried.
I improved bit by bit most days, but there was no rushing the pace. When I tried to push it, as I invariably did, my body had a way of returning the favor, and it wasn’t pleasant.
My body’s resistance to being rushed through recovery was humbling — especially to a person who had always taken pride in being independent. Instead, I depended on my partner’s unstinting loving care and on my parents for financial support. It was my lesson in how interdependent we really are on one another, whether or not we care to admit it.
None of us is an island – especially during recovery.
After my physical ordeal lessened, my emotional and spiritual issues lingered. The worst of them came to a head just days before Christmas in 2009, when my working ear became impacted with ear wax. I was nearly deaf and at a near breaking point, barely able to cope with my secret terror until I could get an appointment with the doctor who originally diagnosed my acoustic neuroma. He quickly solved the physical problem by cleaning out my ear.
I cried right in his office, I was so overwhelmed with relief and gratitude. It made that Christmas even more special.
Over the holiday, I thought a lot about my experience and finally put a word on what had made me so utterly miserable for 30 excruciating hours. It was dread, an emotion that had been a part of my being for as long as I could remember. I had worked on healing myself diligently and deeply, yet could not let go of unyielding, all-pervasive, unreasoning dread. Heeding my inner promptings, I knew I needed to talk to God about it.
People often pray that God will grant them something. In a prayer-like meditation, I discussed my dread with my creator, who agreed to take away the dread that was not mine to begin with—that I inadvertently picked up and carried through well-meaning misunderstanding. Instantly I felt a subtle yet profound sense of release.
I also entered a period of intense transformation through letting go of specific emotions that were not mine yet were holding me back. The following June I tripped over a speed bump and fell onto a concrete parking lot. I lay unable to get up without help, feeling profoundly helpless (and clumsy). While my broken fingers healed, I discussed helplessness with God and let go of helplessness that was not mine.
I knew something was different the first time I tried to swallow a bite of a meal after that healing session. Until I let go of helplessness that didn’t belong to me, it was getting more and more difficult for me to swallow. Food often got stuck in my throat and slid down slowly and painfully. Not any longer. I could even down large pills that I had never been able to swallow before without breaking them into pieces.
Choking on helplessness that wasn’t mine.
The physical confirmation of the emotional healing prompted me to make a point of searching within for other emotions that might not truly belong to me. I was getting better at recognizing those “background” emotions that I had always felt, even without cause. I realized another one of them was anxiety. I often still felt anxious for no apparent reason.
On Thanksgiving morning in 2010, I got up early and lay on the couch in the living room, pondering anxiety and how crippling and unhelpful it can be. Then I felt a voice saying, “Now you know how I felt, and what a long struggle it was for me to release anxiety.”
Of course it was God. I knew it and celebrated, giving thanks for my Thanksgiving Day visit. God took away the anxiety that wasn’t mine, and slowly I have felt my anxiety diminish, with occasional spikes.
In early 2011, I realized that frustration was another one of those feelings that I always felt for no apparent reason — a hallmark of taking on frustration that did not belong to me. God took the frustration away, and now people and situations that would have really upset me before no longer ruffle me.
About a week after letting go of frustration that was not mine, I went to the doctor’s office and my blood pressure, which had been high for decades, was 106 over 58. That was a little too low. I was able to trade an $80 per month heavy-duty blood pressure prescription for a $4 per month lighter weight generic medication.
All this letting go had real, positive financial impact.
My experiences in letting go have taught me that a physical crisis like a blocked ear or a nasty tumble is a personal growth message, that my heart and soul have unresolved issues I need pay attention to and resolve for my own sake. I am learning not to wait for a crisis to seek healing.
I have also come to understand that, for me at least, it’s not about overcoming outward adversity. To heal and free myself, I look within myself for that which troubles me. I can heal only that which truly belongs to me, and give up to God that which does not belong to me.
Through my lifelong journey of personal growth, I have learned that fear, like dread or anxiety, ultimately is not real, even if it looms so very large at the time I feel it. Fear has power over me only when I have not taken back my own power and given back to God that which was never mind to contend with in the first place.
There is always hope.
I grew up and lived in a strict traditional Mennonite culture until age 20 and then spent the next 15 years in a conservation evangelical culture. In both of those cultures, I was taught that God is good and just. And he causes and/or allows everything to happen for a reason… usually for our or someone else’s good, but we don’t always know why. So when I faced a horrific trauma that changed my life and left me with pain, limitations and a deformed leg, I though that spiritual mindset and my faith would carry me through… instead I sank into a severe depression to the point of writing my obituary because I wanted to die.
One minute I was on a run on the beach, the next minute I almost lost my leg and my life in an accident. My pelvis and legs was either fractured, crushed or wounded. For 48 hours, I hovered between life and death. Once I stabilized, doctors debated whether they should amputate my left leg. They saved it, but between that and all my other injuries, they didn’t know if I would ever walk again. Thankfully four years later I was able to run again, but not before going to hell and back.
When I woke up 12 days post-accident and realized all the injuries I had, I expected a tough physical recovery, but the emotional and spiritual trauma that followed totally surprised me. I spent about two of those years on the couch angry and depressed thinking that I must be a really awful person since this happened to me.
The thing that helped me begin to crawl out of the dark pit of depression and recover well was allowing myself to go through a spiritual renewal. I quit God as I knew him and allowed myself to start my spiritual journey over. I allowed myself to read, research and explore things, topics and books I always been told not to go near.
Trying to deal with my new circumstance with my old spiritual mindset was the most depressing thing I’ve ever done… allowing myself to form new spiritual mindsets was the most freeing thing I’ve ever done. No, I don’t have all the answers, but I sure have more peace.
Learning faith is my primary life lesson, presented in various circumstances as I graduate to each new level. I was raised with spiritual tools to manifest my intent, so from an early age I used creative visualization, focused thought, meditation, self hypnosis and positive affirmation to create my world. My lessons in faith are about the things I can not directly control.
The first profound example of faith was about meeting my ideal life mate. I was 12 when I realized I didn’t just want a boyfriend. I wanted someone with whom I connected on a deep level. That wasn’t easy in junior high school. I didn’t really date until college, where I made a seriously karmic connection with all sorts of drama that I didn’t get over for a decade. Bound to not let THAT happen again, I closed my heart and built a wall.
Then at 31 years old, I still Knew there was an ideal life mate for me but I was growing impatient. I had a list of his characteristics, did inner work to attract him into my life and waited until I got to the point I didn’t need him to feel complete. I came to peace with the idea of being single for the rest of my life. Then we met. He came in an unexpected package. Within weeks, I knew I was his wife. Woosh – my life was forever changed. That was 18 years ago and our relationships continues to grow stronger. That is my standing example for the lesson in faith currently in progress.
I always make “sound” decisions … but not always for the right reasons. Case in point: College/Career. I abandoned my passion after being convinced to develop a “marketable” skill in business instead of following my heart into entertainment. I earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business administration, leading to a successful career … until the global economic collapse. Living in metro-Detroit as an established expert in mortgage originations with a reputation for honesty and integrity, I began feeling the recession in 2005 – a year after recording my first original song. I closed my once profitable business in early 2008 to seek salaried employment as I established a brand of empowering music. I created a video about this last week called “Challenge of Faith and Passion“.
My brand of music is guided by intuition and synchronicities, propelled by the results of choosing a career at the epicenter of economic doom and refusing to compromise my integrity for a pay check. I have had more success in music than I could have imagined while I sang into my hair brush, performing to my stuffed animals in my bedroom … as I continue to seek a means of financial support through traditional employment and by creating a new model for success as a singer/songwriter.
I can’t live without financial support – not in the world as it is. I can’t change the job market – that appears to be seeking very specific role, department and industry experience I don’t have. I’m not interested in earning a living in any of the established models for singer/song-writers. When I ask my intuition “What next?”, the answer is continue to “Do the do” and “Wait”. My fear based decision of business school was to always have a means of financial support. My love based decision to return to my passion seems to be testing my resolve to attract my ideal occupation.
It would be nice to have an ending to this lesson in faith. In the mean time, I am learning to appreciate every moment, release expectations and trust my life path is in divine order.
Freed from Being a Child Abuser
I was at the end of my rope. My anger toward my two-year-old daughter, Darcy, was getting worse. “Oh, God,” I prayed again and again, “deliver me from this anger right now! I’m afraid I’m going to kill Darcy in one of my rages.” But each prayer seemed like it bounced off the ceiling because nothing ever changed.
Whenever I tried to figure out what caused my anger, I concluded, “It’s Larry’s fault!” My husband, Larry, worked as a policeman and real estate agent, had a flying hobby, and he was never home. I hated him. “If he would just stay home and help me, I wouldn’t be acting like this.” It was easy to blame him.
During one particularly angry day when I’d hurt Darcy again by kicking her, I remembered Larry had left his off-duty service revolver in the top dresser drawer. It seemed to call to me and I thought, “I must take my life, otherwise I’m going to kill Darcy.”
But then the Spirit whispered, “But what will people think of Jesus if they hear that Kathy Miller has taken her life?” Only the thought of smudging Jesus’ reputation made me not use that gun that day, even though I had no hope of deliverance.
But God was faithful. A few months later, God began the healing and deliverance process. God didn’t answer my prayer for an instantaneous deliverance, but little by little over the following year, He revealed to me in many different ways the reasons for my out-of-control anger and how to lay hold of His help.
Not only did I become a patient mom, God also healed our marriage. Today, Darcy is a 36-year-old wonderful mother and Larry and I recently celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary.
Starting a New One
We live in Poland. I am Swedish, born and raised in South Africa, and my wife Joanna, is Polish. We have 3 grownup daughters.
Early in our relationship we both misunderstood our communication. I became confused and my wife became bitter.
Joanna left me for another man. After spending three months trying to woo her back, we went to a family psychologist, who said we should split as we will destroy each other.
Feeling like that was the last door slammed in my face, I left and with our eldest daughter and started a new life 300 miles away.
One night Joanna woke up and felt God’s love and decided that we should get back together as a family and make it work. I did not trust her and now I was the difficult one. Her boyfriend became nasty, so I traveled back to take our younger daughters as I was afraid he could hurt them.
Joanna said she was coming with. We are both stubborn, but good stubborn beats bad stubborn, so I helped pack her minibus and we headed back to our new home.
It took me six months before I trusted Joanna that she was serious about really trying. We recommitted our marriage and started the long road to recovery. With God’s help it is possible to heal the wounds in our soul. With God’s strength we have been able to overcome those negative feeling that destroy relationships.
We did not try to recreate our old relationship. We started a new one with our focus on God’s help.
That was twenty-three years ago. Now we are each other’s best friends and lovers. We have learned that we do not fall out of love; we grow into love. Working through difficulties strengthens us and deepens our love and respect for each other.
Our daughters have left the nest and we have started a new life in Poland, helping young single mothers who grew up in the state orphanage system, to adjust to adult life and cope in society. Our experience has equipped us for this new phase in our lives.
[Photo credit: Karmen Meyer]