Joy Comes in the Morning

To submit your testimony, contact me.


If you would have told me I would one day write a Christian fiction novel I would have laughed.

Hard.

I was raised Catholic and knew of God, but I eventually got to the point where I just didn’t want to know Him anymore. I was fine being me, putting me first.

In fact, it was the only thing I lived for.

For those who aren’t familiar, living like that eventually catches up to you. You can ignore it, push the dark feelings back into your mind’s closet. But it’s still there. An unsettling undercurrent that just never goes away.

My breaking point? Five years ago. We were living in Louisville and had managed to rack up $70,000 in debt. Mind you, we had previously been pretty flush and co-owned a growing business. But God allowed our missteps and greed to get the better of us, and soon we were looking at a whole mess of debt. 

During this time I, of course, was writing the Great American Novel. It was going to be the best thing anyone had ever read, and therefore, was much more important than my friends, my family, and the niggling feeling that I should honor anything other than myself.

Ha. Fat chance.

I poured my entire soul into that book. I had landed an agent. It was sold to a small publishing house, a group of fellow writers I knew online who started their own literary imprint because every other “big time” publisher had turned down my glorious masterpiece.

Needless to say, the book wasn’t a stellar success. It got published and even got some favorable reviews.

But it just seemed to…fizzle out.

So there I was: in debt, a literary failure, and nobody to blame but myself.

I turned to yoga to “chill out.”

It became my religion, and it helped to numb the pain of the reality of my life, but there was still something missing.

Enter my sister-in-law.

She became extremely adamant that we go to church with her. Her church was a mega church, a ginormous building that I lovingly nicknamed “the monstrosity on the side of the road.”

There was no way I was going to set foot in there.

Which I held true to…for a while.

Something strange started to happen. I started having demonic attacks.

I told you it was strange.

They happened at night when I was still awake. My body would become paralyzed, and I would will every cell in my body to move, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t scream. I could move my eyes only to glimpse my husband sound asleep as something that looked like a scaly gargoyle or alien being (I totally believe when people say they see aliens. I just don’t think they are what they think they are) would slowly make its way toward me across the bedroom floor.

There was also the spinning.

I had been doing hardcore yoga up to this moment, and I think I nudged open some sort of “portal.” I know that sounds like absolute lunacy (trust me), but I truly think I gave my heart to something other than God, and that particular thing found a way to weave its way in.

So sometimes, I’d be paralyzed and this feeling of buzzing energy would come over me, and the next thing I knew, it would feel like I was on top of the ceiling spinning around. My body was on the bed, I was aware of that, but I was not. That part was more frightening than seeing the demons because something about that power felt very wrong. 

And yet, some part of me didn’t want it to stop.

This went on for some time, and every evening, I’d say Jesus’s name to make it go away. Yes, me. The girl who denied God and wanted nothing to do with Him. But oddly enough it all did go away whenever I said His name.

I just pretended it was a coincidence. You know, like any level-headed human who’s being attacked in her own bedroom and spends her evenings spinning on her ceiling.

Or something.

I decided to go to my sister-in-law’s church. I told myself it was just to placate her, but I knew it was something I needed on a very deep level. And the message I heard was an instant hit to the hurt: Jesus loved me.

Me.

A selfish thirty-year-old wannabe best selling writer who had absolutely no space in my life for Him.

Why?

It was the question I continued to chew on as the days wore on and the demons continued their onslaught. I convinced my husband that we needed to keep going on Sundays, something he was reluctant to agree to at first, but eventually decided it couldn’t hurt. What else were we doing on Sundays?

A change began to occur in me. My heart softened. The old bravado of who I was and everything that defined me began to melt away.

Finally, for the first time, it was just me and God. And there’s not much posturing you can do when you realize the immensity of something like that.

So one night, three months in, I gave my life to Christ. I was in my bed, covers to my chin, deeply terrified of the night ahead. But I knew innately that I didn’t have to keep shouldering this burden. So I gave it all to Him.

That night? I slept soundly for the first time in a long time, and I haven’t seen the demons since.

One of my biggest roadblocks to ever considering following Jesus was the corny, sugar-coated American Christian lifestyle one seems to adopt when making this decision. Rest assured, that facade is a total lie. My life has been nothing but a deep commitment to Jesus and the gritty endurance it takes to sacrifice for others.

There is nothing sugary sweet about denying yourself for the glory of God.

But what does exist is the covering of His love and protection and the promises He affords us. At the time I gave myself to Christ, we had gone from being on top of the world financially to living in debt. I knew that as soon as I submitted to Christ, He was going to open doors for us to get back in good standing. 

Today? We’re out of debt completely and set to pay off our house in the next three years.

No magic wand. No prosperity gospel. Just a good Father that’s equipped us every move we’ve made in His name.

I could go on and tell you all the unbelievable things that have happened since that night when I was terrified and gave it all to Christ. But then we’d be here for days. Instead, I leave you with a prayer. That you will search your own heart, give up your own pretenses and the idea of what you have to be in this life. This world is nothing if not a liar and will do anything to keep its claws in you. Release them through confession and following Jesus alone.

Because weeping may come in the night, but joy comes in the morning. 

– Ericka Clay

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Mark 5:36 NIV

You can learn more about Ericka here.

First Grief Then God

To submit your testimony, contact me.


To any who read this, I pray that my testimony of Jesus Christ will bring inspiration and if you don’t have a relationship with Him as I do that this may bring you into one. 

For over 33 years of my life I went through just like many supposed Christians do, knowing about what Christ did on the cross but it was as if hearing that was a school lesson. Just information but without real understanding. I went through my own share of troubles, depression, bitterness, anger at many who had hurt me either real or imagined, and thought I had the answers I needed. 

I didn’t realize this before but the Holy Spirit had already been working in me for decades and speaking to me to help me make the lifestyle choices I made. My dad Danny is a smoker and has been for longer than I have been alive and I can’t remember how old I was when this happened but one day when I was either 1 or 4 he put a used cigarette butt down still smoldering and I picked it up to try it, not knowing any better. I remember coughing so hard it hurt and he tells me that I ended up with tobacco all over my face, which I don’t remember, but in any case, I remember hearing someone or something say that “You don’t want to do that again do you?” and I knew right then that I never would. 

The second time the Spirit spoke directly to me was when I was 8 and I started seeing tv ads talking about how many people are killed every year in drunk driving accidents. Even at that young age I understood what a terrible thing that is and how it had ruined families. I started wondering what I could do to never contribute to that horrible statistic and if possible what I could do to stop it then one night in bed I heard a voice again telling me that if I never drink then I would be guaranteed never to kill anyone by driving drunk. That night in my bed at the young age of 8 was when I swore that I would never drink a drop of alcohol and I keep to that promise to this day.  

The third time happened when I was 12 and in junior high school. At least 3 of the girls who were in school with me were pregnant at the time. I had been starting puberty and had an idea of what was going on but I saw that the girls’ lives became a mess because of what had happened and also their children’s lives were harsh also. That got to me and made me hurt inside for them, and I knew that I didn’t want to make a mess of anyone’s life that way either. That was when I heard the Spirit for a third time (though I still didn’t realize it at the time) telling me that if I waited until I was married to have sex then it would be much more rewarding and that the children born from that would be blessed. At the time it was more from a desire to protect because I know now that I could have caused just as much pain & suffering by taking many different women to bed and having children with them from that age on but I made the vow that I would wait for marriage because no girl’s life would be turned upside down because of my having sex with her outside of marriage and no child would be brought into this world by me unless it was with the woman I married. 

 That point was also where my depression started because of the rotten sense of pride. I had the idea that I was somehow above others who did these things or was somehow better than they were. When I would get slapped down by the authority figures for saying something about what was going on it would hurt and it made me angry. 

This was late 1987 and that was when other things happened that made me retreat into a shell. My parents had been having problems and they divorced just before Christmas that year. For a 12 year old who had strong opinions and was put down by supposed friends because of those, the divorce hurt pretty badly. The following March, my grandfather (my dad’s dad) passed away from a heart attack. I had been around him and my grandmother quite a lot and I was close to them both so his passing was a major shock. The family was devastated too because he wasn’t exactly ruling them all but they all were either kept in check by him or both loved & respected him. I remember him being kind and loving but he could be stern when he got angry even though I don’t ever remember him being angry with me. He and my dad both had taught me about what it means to be a man and how to treat women, and he also started teaching me about faith in Jesus. On a side note, my dad had become disillusioned by church because of an incident at the church we were going to when I was 2, and the church refused to help a member family who had literally lost everything in a house fire, so my dad wasn’t much for church in general and still isn’t to this day. 

The 3rd thing that happened to me happened after my grandfather’s funeral when I went back to school. I was understandably was shattered and I can’t remember how many friends tried to be comforting but some shied away. One girl started getting close to me and was getting cozy too but after a few days of this at school I got the gumption to ask her out but she laughed me off and asked who would want to go out with me. It turned out that her boyfriend at the time had put her up to it and she went along. That completely ruined me and I sank into a deep depression and into a shell, not really wanting to talk to anyone or do anything. The church I was going to at the time was little help because they kids there in the youth group were doing the very things they would preach against and that was making me angrier and angrier but I was so deeply hurt by all that had happened that I just couldn’t say anything about any of it. That was when the bitterness over what that girl did to me set in and festered along with the things going on with the church youth group I was around. I sat in my shell sad, lonely, and pushing away those who wanted to help but even in all of that I could hear the Spirit telling me to stop and rest here in the shell and He would tell me when the right time would be to come out, so I waited, only doing the bare minimum to get by in school and interacting with others as little as possible. This was in early 1990. 

In late 1992 I decided to move out from my mom’s and move in with my widowed grandmother because I loved the city of Texarkana, missed it badly, and heard the Spirit say that with my mom was not where I needed to be to heal properly. My grandmother was a woman of great faith and great strength in many ways, and the things she taught me helped me start truly healing from the things that had happened. Very briefly in that time I considered suicide because I was hurting that deeply but a Superman comic came across at the exact moment I needed it. The main character was suicidal himself but after gaining powers of his own and getting back to his apartment then seeing the gun he wasabout to use, he said, “It’s stupid really, even thinking about killing yourself. Just because all your yesterdays suck, it doesn’t mean you should stop tomorrow. Because you never know what it’ll bring.” That along with the Spirit saying that “Things will get better and your time will come.” kepe me from going any farther than that.  

Flash forward to 2005. I had managed to get through college and was looking for work here that would do well but was not having success. I had started coming out of my shell during college and hadn’t found anyone I wanted to ask out. I’d joined eharmony.com and had run across a couple of scammers trying to get me to give them money but I finally met someone who appeared to be real. Her name was Amy and we emailed back and forth for a few weeks then she told me she had cancer. She’d kinda expected me to quietly vanish after telling me that but she was very pleasantly surprised and about a week later I asked for her phone number. I called her the day after she gave it to me and we had a good long conversation about a lot and she was genuinely caring about so many things. That started a good deep genuine friendship and we had both said early on that nothing could really happen between us because of her condition but I knew this was going to be special.  

I will spare the details of her initial cancer surgery but it started in her mouth and after that surgery she had to learn how to talk all over again and wasn’t able to eat any more, having to go on a feeding tube. 

Amy and I would spend hours just talking about a lot of matters and I got her turned onto the show Whose Line Is It Anyway, and my impressions of the performers made her laugh often when we were on the phone. She’d told me a number of times that she needed to laugh after the things she’d been through. One thing about me I haven’t mentioned yet is that I am a movie buff and have been ever since my parents took me to see the original Star Wars in 1977 when I was 2. I’ve been enjoying movies of almost every kind since then but I had not had any interest in seeing the Pirates Of The Caribbean series until Amy turned me onto them. She’d talked often about how good they were and how well they were made so I watched the first one and was hooked. We shared so many nights talking about them and also about faith in Jesus. I remind you that I was like many who thought I was Christian but didn’t realize that I’d never accepted Jesus in my heart. One thing Amy told me that really started me thinking about a lot of that was a prayer she told me about after her cancer had confined her to a chair. “Lord, this stinks, it hurts, I hate it, but I know You are in control, You have a plan for me, and I’ll be obedient to Your will even from my chair.” She and I both said a lot of things that made each other think deeply, laugh, and we shared such deep details of each other’s lives, mistakes, and experiences that even though we had not met in person, we knew each other so well that we could tell what the other was feeling or thinking in just the first few words even if we didn’t realize it. In mid December of 2007 Amy said that a few friends had come over and noticed the picture of me she had by her chair. When they asked her who that was in the picture she said “my boyfriend” and when she told me about that later in the evening after they’d left she asked me if that was ok. I said yes but after that evening I really started rethinking our relationship and realized that I had fallen in love with her and had loved her dearly for some time. I told her about this revelation a day or 2 later and she said that she’d felt the same but didn’t grasp it until those friends of hers came. 

That was when I started making a plan. I was working at Wal-Mart at the time and the store was being remodeled and almost rebuilt. Nobody was going to be allowed to go on vacations until it was finished in June of 2008. I started planning to take my vacation in August to give the vacation rush time to cool off but I was going to go to Minnesota, propose to Amy, and hopefully marry her as soon as it was possible. This was the very first time I had been in love and she had made me happier than I had ever remembered being. All of us knew she didn’t have very long but I wanted to make her remaining time in this world as happy as she had made me. That was not meant to be because she passed into glory on April 23, 2008 at 8:10 am. We had thought that she had at least a year left and possibly more but we learned the night before her passing that her lungs were almost completely full of tumors and fluid. The miracle was that she lived as well as she did because she never did get the unbearable pain that many cancer patients have, and she was able to keep pace when playing with her 2 young nieces just a week before her passing. She was a living and spiritual miracle in Christ in many ways. I told her once that she had a lot of admirers here because of her strength in dealing with her cancer but she immediately replied that she’d rather the Lord get the admiration because it was His strength that kept her going. 

Amy’s passing away was devastating for me and it was made bearable at the time because of how far her condition had advanced, but that was the Spirit reminding me of that fact. I managed to get bereavement leave to go to her funeral and made it to Minneapolis the morning of the funeral. I know now it was the Holy Spirit giving me the strength to keep it together because I was one of 3 who spoke, sharing memories, sharing our love for her and shared that I wanted to marry her. Amy’s parents and family were more than gracious and accepted me as if we did get to marry. Her aunt Lisa told me that my being in her life brought a light to her eyes when someone would even mention my name, and that Amy seemed overall happier than she’d been since her diagnosis. 

After her funeral and coming home my grandmother noticed how low and how sad I was but that I wasn’t as down and depressed as I was after all that happened in 1988. My grandmother was another major influence in my life because I had lived with her through all of this that happened with Amy, she knew how I felt, how much I loved her, and had even talked to Amy herself a few times. My grandmother had been an integral part of my healing emotionally and she was a lady of faith herself but she never shoved Jesus down my throat like others had in years past. I moved in with her and she showed nothing but loving graciousness, support, and was a most wise teacher is many matters. She needed me though as much as I needed her because she was the kind of lady who wanted & needed someone to take care of, but even with that she knew I was getting better emotionally and taught me that all I’d been through was preparing me for all that happened with Amy. Now it was time to start over in my search to find someone to love, but my Lord had other plans. 

For a few months I muddled through work, and still had not made any new friends, had been building my movie collection but there wasn’t any real joy in it or in much of anything. On October 30 of that year, 2008, that night I was sitting at my computer after my grandmother had gone to bed and was watching the 4’th Rambo movie. Not for the first time but that movie, as horrifically violent as it was, was making me think about Amy because here was a character who was tougher than most people could have been and Amy was real life, still tougher than most people had been. I was listening to Stallone’s commentary watching it this time and the last scene was making me think even more about Amy because Stallone was talking about the character being almost completely alone during all 4 movies. That made me think about how alone I felt before meeting Amy, and how alone I felt all over again now that she was gone. The very last scene was of Rambo walking all alone on a highway back to His father’s horse farm. I was as close to falling apart in despair as I had ever been but that was another time the Spirit spoke directly to me in the still, small voice but I heard it as clearly as I can hear music when it plays on my ipod. He said “Hey, listen. She’s with Jesus now. If you accept Him then one day you’ll get to see her again but here’s the best part. You will never ever be alone again.” 10:39 pm on October 30, 2008 was the time I finally accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior after over 33 years of thinking I already had. I did break down in tears at that instant but instead of despairing, I was feeling the Holy Spirit coming into me and filling me. I hadn’t felt such joy since the first time Amy told me that she loved me. I knew almost nothing about Jesus and didn’t realize the extent of my sins but I accepted Him as my Savior because I didn’t want to be alone. 

Immediately I could feel the Spirit starting to work in me and at the time I didn’t really have a church home because I had lapsed from attending Trinity Baptist some time before that. The Spirit told me that I needed a fresh start at a new church home and I was looking into several churches here in town. Some didn’t hold any interest for me but I got a nudge from the Spirit when I came across FBC-Texarkana’s website and started exploring that. I started going on the first Sunday in December and heard my first sermon from Jeff Schreve, then when I went the next Sunday I knew that this was where the Spirit wanted me to be because I could feel the nudging to move my membership here but I was held back from going forward and making my profession. I was told to wait for the next week and I officially joined the church on Dec. 21, 2008. I continue to learn and grow from Pastor Jeff’s sermons and learned more in the first 3 months going there than I did in all 33 years I’d lived before that. He and I have spoken a number of times in his office and he was quite impressed by the choices I’d made in my lifestyle but it was the Spirit’s work in me that makes my testimony valid. I learned that I could do absolutely nothing on my own and that it is only through the Spirit leading me and my faith in Christ that makes anything possible. 

 About 3 years after all of that, I met a lady online named Heather. We started talking about a number of things deeper than many couples when they are first meeting such as how we viewed specific matters of our respective relationships with Christ. To her surprise she and I have agreed on every aspect. We’re talking about a lady who is J.B.U. educated and learned more about some theological matters than I have as of yet so she knows her Scripture and our Lord. For my part my spiritual education was only a few short years old and mainly from my pastor at the time. When we talked about our lives we shared everything and frankly I didn’t hold back when I told her about my past. The few women I had started to talk to after Amy died would disappear on me or shove me into the friend zone just as Amy said supposed friends did when she told them she had cancer. Heather was different because she loved the story.  

When things turned serious between us then my story meant more to her because in her own words “I knew that if you loved that deeply before, then you could love that deeply again.” She was absolutely right. The only requirement I had in choosing who I would marry was that she at the very least accept the fact that my past was what it was and I let the Lord handle the rest. She lived in Rogers, Arkansas at the time while I was in Texarkana but after about 5 months of talking (almost every day in one form or another as I had gotten to with Amy) we met in person when she came to Texarkana just after Thanksgiving of 2011. We had agreed to meet at a local Baptist bookstore there and after having a coffee we went someplace where we were completely alone and could talk in total privacy. I did not want the local gossip mill to start working on us so we talked about more private matters and in the end shared our first kiss. That moment was when I knew I wanted to marry her. We could have slept together and nobody but us and the Lord would have known. Both of us were sorely tempted but she had wanted to wait and I had my vow so as badly as we both wanted to make love at that moment we did not.  

That Sunday she came to church with me and knew already that she loved me as much as I had fallen for her but it became deeper for her when she saw that I was working with the Special Friends class since her youngest brother Dave has Downs Syndrome. My ease working with them (with Downs and those disabled without Downs) made me more endearing in her eyes but at the time I didn’t realize it. Having fallen in love for the third time (first Amy, then Jesus, and now Heather) and after having been reborn and being rebuilt bit by bit, it had dulled my senses to a degree but I knew what I had wanted to do dealing with Heather, praying that if it was the Lord’s will that He would bless the plans I had made and the life I wanted with her. 

I was still living with my grandmother and I had wanted to have her meet Heather but that weekend I wanted to have time with her by myself to see if it was time for them to meet. The hours at the job I had at the time made it tough for me to go to her and my grandmother’s health was declining so I decided to wait until travel was easier. Christmas came but on the 27’th my grandmother fell for the first time. Her condition was bad enough that I had her taken to the hospital and she didn’t come home. New Year’s Day of 2012 she passed away. 2 days before that she was in a comatose state and I had my last words with her. Her heartbeat had been high and her vital signs had seemed to indicate that she was in an excitable state. My stepmother and youngest brothers were in the room with us but when I leaned in to have what turned out to be my last words with her I told her about Heather.  

My grandmother and I had talked often over the years we were together about the kind of woman she hoped I would meet, fall for, and eventually marry. Heather is the woman my grandmother wanted for me because she fits what my grandmother had hoped for in every single way. Able minded and educated to be fit for a career but willing to stay at home to take care of it and the children we would have, stubborn enough to have a no nonsense attitude and not take any crap from anyone but knowledgeable enough of Scripture to submit the right way to the man that God had picked, and as willing to love me with her whole being as I would be, with only God being loved more. When I whispered in my grandmother’s ear that Heather is the very woman that she had been describing for all of those years then my stepmom said her vital signs slowed and she seemed to relax for the first time since she had been in the hospital. The peace in my mind over telling her I intended to marry Heather and her relaxing after I told her seemed to be a sign of her giving her blessing. 

The next time Heather and I were together was a few days after my grandmother passed and just a day or 2 before the funeral. This time she stayed with me in my home while my dad and stepmom were there too with my brothers. She saw how my family had started to implode and had even sat in on the discussions on how we would deal with the fallout of my grandmother’s passing. As hard as it all was, there was the peace of knowing that she was at last with Jesus and not suffering her degrading body any longer. In the middle of the discussions, my middle brother Wyatt said to us that he knew we would get married and that he could tell because of the way we looked at each other. 

The signs of divine intervention really showed themselves with the story if my proposing to Heather. After waiting to marry Amy and having her passing happen when it did, I did not want to wait to marry Heather. A lot of prayer and planning went into finding the right ring and the right time to go to her and propose but I knew the Lord would handle the details that I didn’t know about such as a time. I found rings at Wal-Mart, of all places, that had cross designs prettier than those I had seen anywhere else so those rings were pretty much dropped in my hands. Of course needed to be resized and I had made plans to go to Rogers on a Tuesday to be able to go to a prayer meeting at the church she was attending. The rings had taken longer than expected to be resized because the store where I bought them had accidentally forgotten to send them in when they had initially said they would so the store had the shipment with the rings delivered express. The Tuesday that I had planned to go to Rogers turned out to be that Valentine’s Day but I was in the middle of a romantic daze with my intentions, the lingering fear that I would be turned down, the grief over my grandmother, and dealing with the fighting from 2 of my grandmother’s children to realize what day it was. I had arranged a few days off from work to go to her but I was working that Tuesday and couldn’t leave until the freight delivered to that store had been processed and made ready for sale. Calling the Wal-Mart didn’t bring any news on when the rings would be arriving but the freight was finished with only 10 minutes before I was could leave and make the trip in time to go to the prayer meeting so I rushed to the Wal-Mart to check for the rings one last time, and if they weren’t ready then my proposal would wait. That scared me worse than the fear of her turning me down but when I got to the store they said that the rings had literally arrived about 5 minutes before I walked in. After a profuse thank you to the store and paying for the rings I hurried back to my car and started the longest physical drive I had made up to that point. I was absolutely sure of my intentions and prayed that the Lord would guide my actions in this as I ask His guidance in all things. The trip went smooth and I went to a gas station that she wanted me to go to so she could drive to her church and have me follow her since I didn’t have any idea where it was. It would have been a dumb idea to propose in a gas station parking lot and as crazy as I am, I’m not that crazy. I ended up proposing on bended knee right outside the doors to the fellowship hall just before 6 pm that day. 

I had not met any of Heather’s family before that night and she didn’t know when I was going to propose. All she had said of me to that point was that I was a friend but that night she was able to introduce me as her fiancé and her dad was the one who took our engagement pictures. The people who were there had quite the surprise when she introduced me and showed off her ring. That evening was eventful because I met most of her family for the first time. I had brought my laptop with me and was playing a Lego game on it when her youngest brother Dave came to sit in my lap. That was a turning point because Dave can be a measuring point to tell if someone will be a good fit for the family or not. His climbing into my lap convinced everyone there because he hardly ever climbed into anyone’s lap. 

We didn’t do the usual sort of marriage counseling since we lived 5 hours apart and doing it by video call wasn’t a viable option so Heather’s pastor at the time Jack suggested we go to a marriage retreat called A Weekend To Remember that was having an event in Rogers a few weeks after she and I met with Jack to talk about all of this. In another case of divine help, the event was held in Rogers that time, and my pastor from Texarkana, Jeff, and his wife were 2 of the headline speakers. 5 weeks of counseling sessions crammed into 3 days was both fun and intensely informative, leaving us more affirmed that we were making the right choice by marrying. 

We had a short engagement. I proposed on Feb. 14, 2012 and we married on June 9, 2012. Our marriage had a full list of hard times just in our first year together. From a miscarriage to 3 full moves, there should have been enough fights, arguments, disagreements, or whatever you want to call them that would strain many marriages. Heather and I however have yet to get into a major disagreement. Our method for dealing with the issue when things get stressful is to step back and see where our irritation/anger over the situation is really coming from and we figure out how to deal with whatever is happening.  

To honor the only past relationship I have, I had wanted to name the first daughter I would have after Amy but by the time I met Heather, all of the joy and frenzied planning that went into all of our proceedings almost made me forget that part about naming a daughter but Heather was the one who first said that she wanted to name our first daughter after my late fiancée. I had not brought it up and said that I had planned to tell her about that but had forgotten to say it just yet. We had planned several baby names just in case of whatever might happen. Boy or girl, or twins, both sexes together or mixed, we had the names settled quickly.  

Our conflict resolution has never had us resenting each other and we make sure to keep Christ at the center of our marriage. The rest of my marriage with Heather has had a lot of struggles but whatever has happened to us has only made our bond stronger. From family trouble on both sides, to money troubles/job loss, to our spending habits, and even down to how we wanted to arrange our home every time we have moved, so far the closest we have come to a real disagreement is which actor was the best to play Alfred in any version of any of the Batman franchise. Much of the time we have such a connection that we think of the same things before the other says it. Praying about how to deal with things the right way has proven to be the best way since many times our own way would have been disastrous. Having Christ as our center just shows us that trusting Him in all we do is the only way to have any kind of good life, whether in times of plenty or in hard times of whatever nature. 

– Pat Fyffe

You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ “You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life.

Lamentations 3:57-58 ESV

My name is Pat Fyffe. After losing my teenage years to a depression induced mental exile, I emerged to find that I was an heir to a strong legacy of faith left when my grandfather passed. But to inherit that legacy, I had to sweep away the family that he had build with my grandmother and have faith of my own. To do so, I had to become, as Scripture describes, a new creation. I became a disciple of Christ. The above testimony is how that came to be.

Learning to Be an Artist for Jesus

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Ever since I was four-years-old, I wanted to be an artist and storyteller. The artist dream was mostly extinguished by the time I became an adult, when I became an atheist and nihilist and lost joy in nearly everything I once loved. It wasn’t until Jesus saved me about four years ago that the love of art was reawakened in me, and I believe God gave me back that desire to pull me out of my depression and the frustration I was experiencing because I wanted to tell the world about Him and didn’t know how. Shortly after I was saved, I felt highly motivated to paint a picture of Eve. I had a canvas and some paints tucked away, and I finished the painting of Eve in less than twenty-four hours. As soon as it was finished, I wanted to paint more. So, I created more paintings of women in the Bible as I read through scriptures, and found that painting calmed my impatient mind and helped me slow down and digest God’s Word. 

Painting led me down a path where God slowly showed me direction, one step at a time, with no clue as to what the future would bring. I was led to join an art guild, develop a friendship with a non-believing artist (who I pray for daily), show my work in galleries and juried art shows where I met lots of believing and non-believing artists and admirers. I garnered praise, sold some prints, and even had my work make the cover of a couple of magazines. I say all this not to brag, but to point out that none of this was according to my plan for my life. It was more like I felt Jesus tugging at me, putting me in certain places or putting certain people in my life, helping me down a road I would have never taken on my own.

The praise I sometimes receive for my work makes me feel like an impostor. I know better than anyone (except for, of course, Jesus) that the only work I am actually doing is painting (which is the desire He gave me) and saying “yes” to the opportunities He puts in place for me. I’m never reminded more of my unworthiness than during the actual creation process. Whenever I start a painting, my little studio quickly become a timeless vacuum that sucks me in and forces me to confront my sins head on: selfish ambition, frustration, envy, impatience, ingratitude, self-absorption – they all weigh down on me and my hands, and I can’t make anything beautiful come out. I literally paint in circles, going over the same lines, over and over, and expecting something wonderful to happen or for something stunning to emerge. It’s not until I call out to Jesus in my frustration and bitterness and ask Him to help me – to make me not so me – that I begin to let go, feel those sins lift off me like smoke, and I can find the joy and worship in creating, and the excitement in working for Him and His kingdom. When I experience this joy, I feel the tiniest pang of sadness that I have such a short amount of time on this Earth because I want to do this forever.

As I work on a painting, I can actually witness Him guiding me – placing ideas and helpful techniques in my path, or in my head, that I couldn’t find on my own while painting in circles. And I become so grateful and amazed, and I wish I could explain it to whoever compliments my work, and say something more profound than “I couldn’t have done it without Jesus, or “to God be the glory,” because they never truly get it. I have a hard time telling people in a short exchange the miracle that occurs when I paint; how, every time, it starts with me and my sin, and ends with grace, forgiveness, and the weightlessness that comes from leaning on Jesus. In the process, I’m reminded of the goodness of the Gospel every minute. 

I’m grateful this post has given me the opportunity to say what I sometimes have a hard time saying:

  1. Without Him, I’d be dead in my sin, and I wouldn’t be painting.
  2. Without Him, I would never finish a painting. (Side note: as insignificant and strange as it sounds, Jesus actively makes me better at painting. I could show a slideshow of the stages of each of my paintings, and point to the exact moment where I got stuck and Jesus stepped in. It’s like night and day.)
  3. Without Him, I’d have nothing but doubts, a heavy dose of meaninglessness, and no direction. I only paint because of Him. Because I truly believe that this is something He wants me to do.

I love being an artist for Jesus, though this is all fairly new and I’m still a bit clueless. I often feel conflicted about how to serve others with art without becoming lost in the world of envious comparison and serving my own ego or mammon, but I’m not convinced this is something I need to have all figured out. Right now, I’m focusing on directing it all towards Him, and then, with time, I know He will show me how to use my art for others in a way that doesn’t put me and my “talents” smack dab in the middle of everything, like a sad little shrine to myself. I pray that opportunities keep arising, that seeds are planted, interest in the Bible is sparked in nonbelievers, and that His will is done, in whatever way that includes the art He puts in my heart. 

– Veronica McDonald

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flash I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20 KJV

Veronica is a Christian artist and writer and the creator of Heart of Flesh Literary Journal. You can find her on Twitter.

Life of A Christian Comic Book Artist

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Lord willing, come January 13, 2021, I will have been in the Lord for exactly 20 years.  It’s been a long journey that has gone much too fast.  20 years full of great blessings, godly deliverance, and devastating losses—but God bestowed strength.  Endurance.  Perseverance.  All of these things have allowed me to live a life that is so much better than I deserve.

When I was in the 4th grade a friend of mine brought a Wizard Magazine (look it up) to school and I officially fell in love with comics at nine years old.  It became my obsession.  I studied the medium and the creators in the industry, planning to be a comic book artist superstar someday.  Nine years after that I would find myself on the cusp of accepting Jesus Christ, and I was determined to transplant this dream of achieving comic book superstardom into God’s will.  Submission to God is a concept that we as human beings often struggle with, and I was no exception.  As I grew in faith I learned that submission is not a one-time act but a daily choice.

When I was added to the church I had never once considered that my goals might change.  Even more so that my goals might need to change.

I was naïve.  

Whether I knew it at the time or not, I was under the impression that serving God was being added to my itinerary rather than becoming my itinerary.  If I had to cite the primary difference between being in the comic book industry as a Christian and not, it’s that the Christian does not create his or her art to entertain firstly.  The Christian creates with the mindset to glorify God firstly, and then to entertain.  This is a foreign concept in the commercial art industry (comics are essentially commercial art) as the audience is often perceived as the ultimate “god” involved—it’s a sales-driven arena–therefore all content is geared toward selling to the demographic.

I slowly began to realize over time that the industry I had been training to be successful in was not very welcoming to people of the Christian faith.  I had thought that my belief in Christ would not only not interfere with my ambitions but would propel me ahead with forward momentum.  But the industry I had come to love as a kid seemed to be taking an ever-increasing passive-aggressive stance against those that didn’t share similar beliefs to the majority active in comics.  My comics aren’t drawn in a Marvel or DC house style.  They don’t contain NSFW elements.  I omit, censor, and/or unglorify swear words, gratuitous sexual imagery/innuendo, hyperviolence, and anti-Christian philosophies.  In an industry that has largely been geared toward adults since the late 1980s, this can hurt your popularity and momentum.  To discover that my refusal to include these things in my comics caused my efforts to be lost in the shuffle was devastating, and it took many years of struggling with depression, self-reflection, and constant prayer to recover from it.

Flashforward to 2020, and I’m in a healthy place creatively.  One thing that I had been in denial about was the talent God gave me to write and speak.  It was always commented on throughout my childhood and adulthood, but my response for many years was, “That’s cool, but I want to be a comic book superstar”.  It wasn’t until I had a short story professionally published in an anthology book in 2015 that I felt I could no longer bury that talent.  I’ve now finally come to a place of maturation that allows me to not compare myself to other artists around me.

I’m currently writing the first draft of what I hope will be my first novel.  The working title is Lunar Romance and I’m having a blast doing it.  The ideas are flowing and the pressure is gone because I now fully understand that God is in control.  He’s always been in control.  And I am so thankful that He was merciful enough to allow me to catch up to His rhythm for my life.  Submission to God’s plan for your life makes living so much easier.

I still make comics.  I just no longer make them with the intention of following in the footsteps of those around me.  I create with the intention of following in Jesus’ footsteps and although that doesn’t match up with the dream of a love-struck nine-year-old that pored over Death of Superman comics instead of doing his division classwork–that’s okay.  In fact, it’s better than okay.  It’s golden because none of us are long for this world and some things are more important than dreams.  Life is more important, and more important than that God, because God is life.

This has been quite a challenging year for us all, but my hope is that 2021 will be full of victories both great and small.

I’d like to thank Ericka for allowing my voice to be heard on her platform, and I look forward to continuing to use my words and pictures to entertain in a morally significant way; for that is my goal every single time I put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard.

-Daniel Brian Mobley

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Matthew 16:24

Daniel is a Christian comic book artist who is currently working on a novel. You can visit him on Instagram and view his art work here: https://junebugpress.storenvy.com

Faith Through the Storm

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The story is from my 3rd missions trip to Haiti, as my church was going weekly to help after the earthquake. I was selected as the team leader being the most experienced this time around.

Days before we were scheduled to leave, a hurricane was headed right for us. It was too late to reschedule our flight so we could leave sooner, so we’d have to ride out the storm in Haiti. Most of us were from Florida so normally we’re calm during hurricanes, but being in a country with little to no shelter that is known for bad flooding from storms–especially just being after the earthquake–we were worried.

Being the team leader, everyone kept coming to me with concerns and asking for updates. I admit even I was worried.

The next morning, I was alone on the balcony overlooking the land and asked God to please tell me what to say or do. I sat quietly listening to the animals waking up to the sunrise and quietly heard “Matthew.” I opened to the book and kept listening. I then heard “eight.” I waited for a verse but heard nothing, so I began reading the chapter. When I got to verse 26 and read it, I froze. I felt God’s calm and assurance. I went down and joined the team for breakfast and told them what I had read. We all felt better. And sure enough, just like in the verse, hours later we were informed the storm turned north and was no longer headed towards us.

I stopped trying to figure it out and asked God to help us stay calm. He went above and beyond and moved the storm. 

“He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”

Matthew 8:26

Phil is a born and raised Floridian, a Christian, husband, father and 8 time 100-mile finisher. You can visit him at www.heelstriker954.com.