Recent Video Stories

A Valley Girl: Yolanda Stith's Story

    I was born and raised in Southern California in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of greater Los Angeles.  It was there that the term “Valley Girl” became popular.  It held special significance to me, not only because I came from The Valley, but because valleys are often a metaphor for pain and suffering.  I am a Valley Girl in every sense of the word.
Married with a three year old, my husband and I tried to have a second child and failed. I was diagnosed with secondary infertility and entered a fertility program.  During this time while in prayer, the Lord told me that I was going to have a baby boy.  I marked the date in my Bible, “November 1984.” Five years later, after stopping the infertility treatments and surrendering my plan to have another child, I gave birth to a baby boy—Benjamin (Ben).
Little did I know that this Valley Girl was about to embark on a journey that would last many years.  The years of infertility were hard enough, but the son that God promised me was going to take me to places I never in my wildest dreams imagined would be so painful.
     Benjamin was not any easy baby and as he grew up, he became even more challenging.  He was later diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder) and ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)—a classic case.
The adolescent years with Ben were even more difficult, but it wasn’t until his junior year of high school that things started spinning out of control.  His behavior was becoming increasingly rebellious and defiant.   We tried everything we could think of in an effort to help Ben; private schools, rehab--twice, a faith-based boot camp and lots of counselors and therapists, but nothing seemed to help. Our home became a war-zone. 
I could not understand how this happened.  We were good parents.  Ben was never abused. We loved him and spent time with him.  We were very involved with church and ministry as a family; our whole lives were centered on God.
Years later, at a Women’s Retreat the Lord spoke to me.  He told me that Ben was going to be arrested and go to jail and then, two years later, He told me again.  Just a few weeks later it happened. He was sentenced to 18-months in the county detention center, and when he was locked up, so was I.
     I sank into a deep, dark depression.  The pain and suffering from watching my son slip away into a life of drugs and criminal behavior were too much to bear. It was during this dark valley that God was growing me; growing my faith and dependency on Him moment by moment.
     Nearing the last six months of Ben’s incarceration, he was sent to a Pre-Release Center for good behavior with the expectation that he would come home under house-arrest.  The day that he was scheduled to begin house-arrest, he was caught with contraband and was handcuffed and immediately sent back to jail to finish out the last six months of his sentence.  In addition, he was given an extra 30 days for his violation.
     I was not only devastated by this event, but I felt completely abandoned by God.  I just could not understand why He would allow this to happen; none of it made any sense to me.  I had been praying for a miracle and was certain that God was up to something big and then this happened. 
     When Ben completed his time and came home, he told me about the gang he joined after one of his rehab visits and the immediate regret right after he did it.  He explained that the only way to get out of a gang was either in a body bag or by order of someone very high up in the gang. 
     When Ben’s house arrest was terminated and he was sent back to jail, unbeknownst to me, God was up to something big.  One of Ben’s cell-mates just happened to be in the same gang and he just happened to be the highest ranking member in the jail.  He liked Ben and the two became quite close during those months. Every week Ben went to chapel services, bible study, and helped other inmates study for their GED exam.  Recognizing that Ben was different, that he was not like the other gang members, he wanted to know how Ben got caught up in that kind of life.  Ben confided in him that he wanted out and this cell-mate of his arranged for him to be un-initiated just before his release, which involved a free-for-all beating from five other gang members.  God arranged to get Ben out of the gang by sending him back to jail and providing just the right cell-mate!  As my son shared these events with me, tears streamed down my face, as I realized the magnitude of God’s faithfulness.
     Since my son’s release three years ago, my circumstances have not changed.  Ben continues to struggle and fail, but through this valley, I have discovered that Jesus is enough, even when everything else is lost.  I know Him, and His love for me in ways that I never would, had I not walked through this valley.  I don’t just know that He is faithful because His Word says so, I have experienced His faithfulness.  This valley has become a gift from God to grow me and to reveal His grace through my pain and suffering.  I have learned through experience that Jesus is not only my Savior, but my Life, and Life in the valley is where God’s glory shows up best!
 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for                        You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Ps 23:4

Roller Coasters – Emily's Story

Brent and I had been married for 16 years. We had been through quite a bit. In the midst of many physical illnesses, we had two wonderful children who really have been a blessing. We were ministry minded and when we were turned down to move overseas to work with some missionaries; we sought the Lord as to what he wanted us to do. We started dreaming of owning our own business where we could be light in the dark and reach out to people.

During the first 14 years, I sensed there was something wrong in my marriage, but when I would go for counsel, it always came back to me and my issues. I even sensed something on my honeymoon. Either I was projecting onto him what I was feeling from my upbringing or I was not respecting him or was not thinking the best of him. So, being the conscientious wife I was, I took these to God and went to work on these issues. The problem was that no one I talked to could believe that Brent was doing and saying what I said he was. I had well-meaning “counselors” tell me that I was the problem and that I had expectations that were too high. I really didn’t think so, but wouldn’t that be pride to disagree?

So, I went my merry way and journaled my feelings and I think that’s what kept me sane. Yes, I did have issues; I came from an abusive childhood. Perhaps I was putting on Brent what I had experienced from my mother. She was critical, emotionally and physically abusive. But in looking back, it was as if there was a veil or cloud around me and I couldn’t see clearly.

Once I received prayer for the health issues I was experiencing, things started to clear up for me. I was seeing things in Brent, in our marriage, in life that bothered me. He was becoming increasing more critical, more demanding and controlling. His remarks cut to the quick. I was beginning to believe what he was saying about me to be the truth. Was I going crazy??

Then, I was warned by the Lord to be ready for the ride of my life. I imagined a roller coaster and love riding them. I can honestly say it has been one long, bumpy, scary thrill ride for the past 11 years. Just when I think it is coming to an end, I am surprised by yet another turn…oh well.

The Lord revealed to me that Brent was struggling with a sexual addiction and I was crushed. How could he do that to me? Our business was thriving; we were respected in the community. We were in leadership in the church.

For several years I was committed to not being another “Christian marriage gone wrong” statistic. Although I had the right to divorce, I questioned whether or not that was God’s best plan for us, for me, for the kids. Surely he could restore our marriage. Surely Brent would do whatever it took to repair what was broken…I knew I was!

After four years of Brent saying he was working on his issues, he said he was clean, he said a lot…when it came right down to it, he was not working on anything, decided it was too painful to deal with his addiction and refused to go to counseling because in his words, the counselor was on my side. For the most part, he wouldn’t own up to his problems, blamed me and criticized me.

What the Lord was doing in me was totally awesome! I was growing in compassion; I was exposed to a whole new world of hurting people. The Lord was my strength, my comfort, my companion and my hope. I began to experience this roller coaster ride with Jesus; I was not alone.

Jesus understood how I was feeling. He experienced betrayal, lies about him, rejection, physical and emotional pain and abuse. I certainly wouldn’t wish what I went through on anybody, but I wouldn’t trade where I am in the Lord for anything. Many, many tears and pen strokes marked this crazy ride, but hanging on to Jesus for dear life was what saved me. No, my marriage didn’t get restored, but God has promised me that Brent’s and my relationship will be.

Today, I am still on a wild ride as I try to discern my future career and wait on God for a job. I have been scared, anxious and fearful, but when I turn it over to God, I hear him tell me that I am his beloved daughter. That he will take care of me. I just need to rest in him, trust him and follow his lead. I am learning to take it one day at a time. So, today, I am not discouraged! Rather, I am encouraged and hopeful not because I see a job offer in the future, but because my God loves me and has promised to take care of me. Therefore, I will not be shaken, I will not be afraid and I will choose to live in the present with him.

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