“…Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in Him, for He shields Him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between His shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12
If by sharing one’s story, others can be encouraged and pointed towards Jesus Christ, then I will continue to share. I’ve witnessed over and over again the power of personal testimony, and the most powerful stories are those that illuminate Jesus above highlighting the life being shared. Today’s story is one such story. It is a story that collides passion with surrender. Her Story is one of endless love and devotion to Jesus Christ in the midst of painful, repeated surrender. Typically, when I share a “Her Story”, I will write it from my perspective. However, she was able to capture into words the beautiful script of her story in such a way that I feel compelled to leave it as it is. Today, I’m going to let her share her story with you. Written through years of faith and tears, hers is a story of surrender….
“I grew up in a solid, Christian home with a very close knit family. When I was 14, I was watching a documentary on the slums of Calcutta, and it felt like my heart literally leapt out of my chest and landed on the floor. I knew I had to go there. I remember running home and begging my parents to allow me to go to India, and they gave me permission to spend a summer there when I was 15 years old. Up until this point, I knew of God but didn’t have an intimate relationship with him. It was in a small yellow tent in Vijayawada, India that God broke my heart for his people and drew me into a close commitment with Him.
I returned home full of passion and desire to commit myself completely to ministry. I attended Moody Bible Institute and received a degree in Bible and Theology, which of course provided me with little direction vocationally. I guess God knew I needed wide-open spaces instead of a narrowly channeled direction to accommodate all my wild passions! Right after college, I decided to move to Kenya and spend time living in the slums. I adored my time there building relationships with the people and living simply. Being in Kenya further propelled my heart into a desire to minister abroad, but one country alone would not do. I had a fire in me to travel the world sharing the gospel! It was around that time that I found out about a new mission endeavor called the World Race. It was an 11-month trip around the world. Immediately my heart was racing. It felt like a perfectly designed trip for me! After a period of waiting, God allowed me to apply and go in 2007. I spent over a year traveling, learning, laughing, holding orphans, building churches, praying for the sick, loving the unlovely, and ultimately getting totally wrecked by the Lord.
I specifically remember one night in Mozambique. The missionary we were staying with woke us up early and told us that he knew of an orphanage outside the city that didn’t have very much due to a recent typhoon that had ransacked their area. There were probably 30 or so children there who didn’t have a thing to call their own. He tossed and turned all night thinking about how these children were sleeping on the cold, dirt ground with no beds or blankets. So he decided we would bring those orphans straw mats and blankets to make it through the cold nights. We were happy to help. We arrived at the village and distributed the goods, promising we would return to stay for a few days. When we did, it was an incredibly humbling and joy-filled experience. The orphanage was not a building at all. It was a UNICEF tarp held up by four poles. The children ran out and took our hands to show us where they had put their new mats and blankets. They were so proud. That night, I laid on the cold ground beside them, hoping to sleep even a couple of hours. As I read my Bible, there were two children lying beside me staring at me with their deep brown eyes. As I tossed and turned all night trying to find a moment of comfort and warmth, I heard noises of shuffling to my right. When I woke in the morning, I found the two children nestled next to my side fast asleep. It was the simplicity and beauty of these small moments that stole my heart. Although it may not come with all the bells and whistles most people desire to hear about in world missions, I was forever changed by days like that.
I returned home after over a year of traveling to a life where I had nothing. I had no job, no furniture, no car, and no community. I had given everything up to leave for the World Race. Reintegrating into American life was extremely difficult, but the Lord was only preparing me for greater things. After the World Race, the Lord graciously led me to a job in Ohio as a Resident Director at Malone University. It was a huge step of faith moving somewhere that I didn’t know anyone and starting fresh, but I was passionate and excited to mentor and walk alongside college women. I have been at Malone now for four years, and they have been incredibly blessed years. I have the opportunity of overseeing a building of 222 upperclassmen women. I have had the privilege of closely mentoring over 40 women, and I thank God every day for the honor of serving Him in a way that challenges me, allows me to use my gifts, and is outrageously fun! Working as a Resident Director has also given me the chance to use my summers off to continue traveling (the other part of my heart). I’ve traveled for fun to places like South Africa, Costa Rica and Japan. I also was able to lead trips to Haiti, Thailand, Swaziland, and Israel.
All in all, I have had an incredibly blessed life. I’ve done the most random jobs from working and living on a sailboat to working for a gynecologist. I have traveled the world several times, visiting more than 33 countries in my short 30 years. I have friends and family I love. I currently have a job that I get excited about waking up to do. Most people look at my life and say it is perfect. They say they wish they could have my life. But most people don’t know the pain I have experienced in one specific area. They don’t know that I envy the one thing they have that I’ve never been able to experience. It is the one life long mystery that I have never been able to solve.
When I was in college, I remember someone telling me that they were married at the age of 30, and it was the best thing they ever did. I recall thinking, “Gosh, that will never be me! That’s so old!” Being in a relationship was something I desired greatly. Even as a five year old, I confessed my feelings to the boy I liked on the playground, only to be rejected because he said he would rather play football. All through high school, I pined after boys I liked only to watch them date other girls. Throughout my college years, I cared deeply for men who never returned my affections. Honestly, most of the time I didn’t even desire marriage even as much as I desired someone to ask me out on a date. All of my high school and college years were dateless. I had incredible male friends and was so grateful for them, but I never was pursued.
Throughout my twenties, I was following the path God set out for me. Yet while my plans were great for marriage and family in those years, I didn’t even see one date. I started to feel a great sense of shame at my lack of ability to attract men. My insecurities rose to the surface, and I started to blame my single life on everything that was wrong with me. Perhaps men thought I was too obnoxious, too crazy, too fat, not attractive, too bold, too messy of an eater, too dominant…and the list went on and on. I examined every part of my life but couldn’t bring myself to change who I was just to find a man.
I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but there was a point in my mid-twenties where I had a revelation. I realized that I couldn’t explain my singleness. As much as I wanted to have a reason for why I was still single, I simply couldn’t explain it. It was a mystery. God gently started to take my heart and speak his Fathership over me. I am so loved by my creator. He designed me for a specific purpose. If there was something I couldn’t explain, I just had to trust that his plans were different from my own. Though there continued to be nights of heart-wrenching tears, God was lovingly guiding me down a path of singleness for his glory.
Last October, I turned 30 years old. It is an age I never thought I would arrive at as a single. I’ve watched my friends all marry and have children. I’ve watched them begin a life with their spouse. As a 30 year old, I’ve never even known the joy of holding someone’s hand. It’s incredibly painful. I’m crying even now as I type this because though I know it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God and his plan for me, it doesn’t take away the sting of rejection and hurt that accompanies unfulfilled desire. But this year especially, I have come to a place of total surrender. It is something I always said I was doing but never truly knew what it meant.
In A.W. Tozer’s book The Pursuit of God, he talks about the time when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. God knew Isaac was the most important thing to Abraham. As one reads the story, it seems cruel, but at the last moment, he spared Isaac and allowed Abraham to regain what his heart loved. A.W. Tozer states that God in effect was saying, “It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there.” That statement struck me at my core. True surrender is not the absence of desire. It is reprioritizing our desire. God is so jealous for our hearts and to be the sole fulfiller of our deepest yearnings. Also, surrender does not always promise peace. I still have moments of unanswered questions, deep loneliness and unrest, but it is surrender that teaches me to trust more fully.
My life was altered a few years back by a verse I’ve read my whole life but never thought deeply about. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” The part that caught my attention was “do not lean on your own understanding.” In all matters, we tend to lean on what we know and what we believe to be true. That is what informs us. This verse beckons us higher to a place where we do not depend on our own understanding. Some things are beyond what we know. I found that in the area of my singleness, I was only trusting God with parts of my heart. I was only giving Him partial trust because I wanted to hold on to some of the control myself. I realized the only way to really live fully was to relinquish full control. If God chooses to give me a mate, that is great. If He doesn’t, He is preparing me for something far greater.
I share my entire story not to flaunt the experiences I have had but to boast in my God who has so graciously filled a vacancy that the absence of marriage has left. I may have never met the people I met, had the conversations I have had, seen the places I have seen, or learned the things I have learned if I had gotten what I thought I wanted. This doesn’t take away the questions, the pain or the loneliness, but I’ve come to embrace the belief that one of God’s greatest acts of love for me has been keeping me single. I am so grateful for a God I can fully trust and surrender completely to.”
Her story is truly one of surrender. Choosing to surrender the deepest longings of our hearts to the Lord, content in knowing that He may choose in His love to withhold the fulfillment of those desires…..that displays absolute surrender and genuine faith. Her story breathes surrender and faith. Over the past 10 years of my friendship with her, God has shown me glimpses of Himself through her life. I’ve yet to meet another soul on this earth with equaled passion for life and love for people. Her desire to make God known is the defining characteristic of her life, and that is the most radiant, beautiful thing about her. She has been my friend, my sister in Christ, my roommate, my teammate, my bridesmaid, and has truly been one of the most treasured friendships that I have. Knowing her has made me know and love Jesus more. Being around her has caused my heart to break for the nations. Spending time with her has ignited my own passions to serve the Lord. This world has truly been made a better place because of her life, because of her story. I am honored and blessed to know her and call her best friend. Stacy, you radiate God’s love in the most tangible way. Watching you embrace the broken, hurting, and discarded people of this world has softened my heart for the Lord in ways you’ll never know. Thank you for loving Jesus the way you do. Thank you for letting HIM pursue you with His love. I love you forever.