Unfolding Stories Podcast Episode Four: The Long Road Home.

Episode four of our encouraging, new Christian podcast, Unfolding Stories, is live on all major podcast platforms! See below for links to this episode.

This time around we hear testimony from Jill. Jill is the mother of last week’s guest speaker, Andrew—good to hear from a mother and son duo!

Listen to Jill’s son, Andrew, on his episode of Unfolding Stories>>

Jill always considered herself a believer in God, but she realized she had to do more to gain a full, genuine relationship with God when her life was turned around by divorce and cancer. Jill discovered that through her own work, plus finding a home church she loved, she was able to get closer to God than ever before and begin to heal from life’s challenges.

Picture of this week's guest speaker Jill. Jill recalls how God was always in her life, but because the center of her life once she found herself, and her church home. Listen to Jill's Christian testimony on the Unfolding Stories podcast.

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See below for the transcript of Jill’s testimony.

Sometimes, people walk away from a saving relationship with God because they find themselves in a painful situation with their own church. While this is undeniably heartbreaking, it’s something that can be overcome. We have some great recommended resources to help, if that’s where you find yourself now:

Front cover image of the book, Healing Your Church Hurt, one of our recommended resources for this week's episode of Unfolding Stories, our Christian testimony podcast.

Healing Your Church Hurt by Stephen Mansfield, was written by a pastor of 20 years who left the church due to his own church hurt. This book will challenge you to break through the bitterness and anger and get back to God. If you’re ready to choose healing, Mansfield will walk you through it with brotherly love, showing you how you can be better than ever on the other side.

Front cover image of the Abundant Life Bible in New Living Translation. This Bible helps new believers to find the fullness of life offered in a relationship with Jesus. From this week's episode of Unfolding Stories, our new Christian testimony podcast.

The Abundant Life Bible offers insights about living the abundant life through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Topics such as joy, peace, dealing with life’s tough issues, and more offer practical guidance for daily life. This best-selling Bible will help guide you in all seasons of life, bringing you closer than ever to God.

Not sure how to find a church home? Check out tips for this and other topics for new followers of Jesus on our dedicated new believers’ website >> Unfoldingfaith.org

Here is Jill’s Unfolding Stories testimony:

When I was very young around 2-3 years old, I attended a Community church in the small town of Ralston, Nebraska. It was a neighborhood church with an attendance of about 300 people. My mother and father both sang in the choir and my father taught an adult bible study. My two older sisters sang in the young choir. I was too young to really remember, but based on pictures I look back on, my mother always dressed us in cute little dresses with patent leather shoes and lacy white socks. I was there through 2nd grade. At that time my parents decided to start attending an Episcopal church in Omaha. My sisters and I were never sure why we changed, but I remember it was something about Episcopalian being my Mom’s baptized religion. She wanted to get back to an Episcopal church for all our continued religious upbringing. There was not a lot of youth activities, but my sisters and I took a catechism class on Saturday mornings.

In my teens, I was a competitive swimmer. I wore a Saint Christopher necklace when I swam. In fact, I never took it off. I believe he was the saint that was recognized as a martyr. Some questioned if he even existed. I have no real reason as to why I chose Saint Christopher, but I thought he would watch over me and bring me luck.

After High School, in my 20’s, I would sometimes feel the need to be with God. Maybe something happened in my life, whether it was a break up with a boy or an argument with my parents or friends, I would stop at church in the night and kneel in a dark pew, talking to God. Sometimes I would be crying, other times I would just be sad, but being there and talking to him would bring me some comfort.

After getting married and having our children (Erin and Andrew), we baptized them as Episcopalian simply because we did not have a designated religion of our own. My husband at the time really didn’t care whether we attended a church or not, and because we moved so frequently through Erin and Andrew’s childhood, we never really made it a focus in finding a church. I remember the kids saying prayers before bed and we would always say grace before dinner, but other than that, there really wasn’t any connection to God.

Traveling back to Omaha to visit my parents, I would always go to church with them. Besides the stiffness and structure of the service and the songs that I never understood, I would feel some comfort and closeness to God. I would then travel back home, and I would think about going to church, but because my husband never showed any interest, I was put off going on my own. I would bring it up to him repeatedly but was left saddened each time he didn’t want to go.

My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 76 and over time the cancer spread to her liver. Her health started to decline quickly, so as a family we decided to contact Hospice. I lived in Chicago at the time and they were in Omaha. I would travel in for a week or so to spend time with her and my Dad. I noticed at that time something was different with my right breast, but thought it was nothing since I had just had a Mammogram, 2 months prior.  My Mom passed after a few weeks under the care of Hospice.

After the funeral and having some time to grieve, I scheduled an appointment with my Gynecologist. After a few tests and a lumpectomy, a biopsy confirmed I had breast cancer stage 0. I remember thanking God for catching it at such an early stage. The recommendation, which ended up being my treatment option of choice, was a double mastectomy. My surgeon got out all the cancer, so no additional treatment was needed. I would often wonder why God had chosen me to survive when so many others where perishing from this awful disease.

In 2010 I divorced my husband of 30 years. I chose to wait until our children were both out of college and independent. After my divorce, I had the urge to find a church where I could grow stronger in my Christianity. I had a few friends that invited me to different churches that they were attending, but I never felt a connection with the congregation or the church.

About 2 years ago, I attended church with a girl I met at the gym. As soon as I walked into the lobby I knew it was the place for me. I immediately loved the music at this non-denominational church and have adapted to singing along and even opening my hands up in worship. I can totally relate to the messages and try to apply them in my daily life. I saw the potential for volunteering and I found myself branching out to other activities within the church. I joined the Alpha course. I volunteered in children’s ministry. I started to attend other services during the week. I felt closer to God. I found myself engaging in prayer time and writing in a journal. I was thinking more about God and Jesus, daily. I started to feel happier and smiling a lot more. I decided to get baptized about a year after I began attending and will cherish that experience for the rest of my life.

I attended an Alpha course retreat in Wisconsin. It was my second time attending and I looked forward to meeting new people and feeling a closeness to God. The second time I attended the retreat I experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit during one of the sessions. I felt the warmth enter my body. I felt it in my knees. I felt it in my hands, arms and in my heart. I had heard people talk about their experience of the Holy Spirit but never thought it would happen to me. I felt a bit sad that for so long I questioned the truth in the words of these people. I would think, how come that doesn’t happen to me? Why am I different? What am I not doing? Is my faith not as deep or sincere as these other people? I feel bad I ever questioned them after experiencing it for myself.

After a few months, I decided to invite my son to a service. There is nothing that could make a Mom’s heart feel more blessed than to have their son find God and start enriching their faith. He didn’t come right away, but eventually he joined me. He felt a connection to this church just like I had felt. I’ll never forget my happiness that day. I truly believe that God brought Andrew to church, He just did it through me.

I have found my church home, and a place to worship God.

I now thank God for everything that goes well in my life. He is responsible. If things take a turn for the worse, I think how God would want me to learn from it. I play Christian music now and absolutely love Cory Asbury. I can’t get enough of his song “Reckless Love.” My whole life is different now. The only thing I wonder about is understanding my purpose. How does God want to use me to spread his word? I have so much to learn and so much further to go in my spiritual journey, but I know I am taking the right steps that God will guide me. I have faith.

To learn more about the Alpha course, and discover if one is being run near you, visit https://alphausa.org/try.

If you enjoyed the episode, please rate the series and subscribe to the podcast, there will be a new episode released each week for the first season. We know you’re going to love all the amazing testimony of God’s work in the lives of ordinary people.

Feeling compelled to share your story with us? Send us your testimony! In no more than 1,000 words, tell us what happened to you and how God has changed your life. Email us at unfoldingfaithmail@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing your story, and who knows, perhaps yours will be featured on the next series of Unfolding Stories.

Not sure how to tell your testimony? Here are some tips:

Try writing down your story in a way that would make sense to share with others. Keep it short; four or five minutes is great. And remember to always make it personal and keep Jesus at the center of your story—highlight what he has done for you.

Describe what your life was like before you found your faith and how you came to trust in Christ. Finish with what it has meant to you to know him, the blessing of sins forgiven, the assurance of eternal life, and other ways your life or outlook has changed.

Listen to Jill’s son, Andrew, on his episode of Unfolding Stories>>

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