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How Do I Pray For a Lost Loved One? by Barry Bennett


Me Too! by Al Johnson


A Blueprint for Identity by Caroline Leaf
perseverancerockI’m sitting here on a beautiful spring day making flash cards to study for my final math exam, and my eyes are welling up as I think about how the Lord has helped me, and how far He has brought me. In just a few days, I will wrap up my first year of college—25 years after finishing high school. It’s a huge milestone for me. I didn’t think I’d even be alive to graduate high school, let alone attend college. But, here I am.

When I was in junior and senior high school, I struggled with life, and I made a lot of bad decisions. I was lost and hurting. When things got hard and the going got tough—at home, school, or in relationships, my default response was to high-tail it out of there. I skipped school, and I ran away from home. Drugs and drinking became my escape. Every time there was a problem, my coping skills involved running away, masking the pain, violence, and ‘looking for love in all the wrong places.’ At that time, I was so depressed, I didn’t care if I lived or died.

“Any temptation you face will be nothing new. But God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But He always provides a way of escape so that you will be able to endure and keep moving forward.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Then, my now husband, Jon, came into my life, and I started to get glimpses of what a better life could be like. I started to have hope for my future. I started putting in the effort, but I still had undeveloped skills in so many areas. Jon supported and encouraged me to press forward and not give up. 

I applied myself, and with Jon’s help, I became the first person in my family to graduate from high school. 

This was a massive accomplishment for me. It chokes me up sometimes when I think about how special it was to wear a cap and gown, walk with my class, and get handed my diploma on graduation day.

Then, I became a mom right out of high school and worked as a nursing assistant in a nursing home for a couple years. It was there that I realized how much I loved spending time with the elderly and taking care of them. I couldn’t get enough of hearing their stories. Helping them with their most basic needs and helping them feel loved and valued felt like an important role, especially seeing how many people didn’t have any friends or family visiting them.

I eventually quit working to be home with my kids full-time, and after we began attending church and dedicated our lives to serving God, we made the decision to homeschool our daughters. That took some convincing because, well, this is the same person who struggled so much, hated school, and barely graduated. I felt very inadequate, but Jon continued to encourage me in it, while supporting our family financially so I could stay home with them. 

Consequently, it was through teaching my kids that I acquired a love of learning for the first time. I was learning right along with them, and it was such a gift in my life. I was able to homeschool the kids for fifteen years, all the way to graduation, and I am thankful to God I had that opportunity. Those were years that I will always hold dear and remember as some of the sweetest times in my life. God had a plan in it—not only for my kids, but also for me. 


Exactly one year ago today, I was thinking about what I want to do, now that my kids were grown. I have been working at my church, and that has been an incredible blessing in my life. The Lord brought me back to my nursing home days, how much I love helping people, and how much I adore the elderly. He spoke clearly to my heart to enroll in college for nursing. Not once in the past two and a half decades had I even entertained the idea of going to college. Not one time. It was as though the Lord just dropped it in my heart. And I knew it was Him. After discussing it with Jon, he wholeheartedly agreed. I immediately began the process and found myself sending for my high school transcript and applying for college for the first time.  

When you do something like this in your 40s, it can be a little intimidating. I remember feeling so nervous to take the college placement test last summer. Although I felt fairly confident that I would do well on the reading and writing sections, math has always been my weakest subject. I had a flashback of when I dropped out of pre-algebra in eighth grade and took alternative math classes just to get by. As expected, I scored pretty low on the math section, and that day confirmed all the hard things I remembered about math. It was like reading a foreign language. (And who thought it was a good idea to put letters in math anyway?) 

But I knew that God was leading me to do this, so my confidence to move forward came from knowing His grace would be there to help me every step of the way. That day, I came home and told Jon, “I did really badly on the math portion. But I can learn this. I can do hard things!”

There is an endless list of things that we all struggle with in life. What’s hard for one person is a piece of cake for someone else. We’re all different. 

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Life is full of choices. No matter what has happened in the past, I get to choose—every day—the direction I want my life to go. I get to choose joy or unhappiness in times of hardship or uncertainty. I also get to choose whether I want to put in the hard work to learn algebra for the first time at age 42. I am training my brain to understand difficult concepts, and it’s been hard. But I’m doing it. It’s a baby step toward my goal of becoming a nurse. 

As I sit at my kitchen counter finishing my math flash cards, I realize how much my faith has been strengthened this past year. I continue learning to walk in and trust God’s plan for my life more each day. He has been there in my times of need, and He has never abandoned me when I had questions. He has seen to it that I have people on this journey with me who are supportive, positive, and loving.

I can see, looking back, how God has been preparing me for 25 years for what I am doing today. One step at a time. This is proof to me of His limitless grace and His continual, unrelenting pursuit of us. His love knows no bounds, and His kindness leads me daily into His loving arms.  

“…When you have done as God requires of you, you will receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:36)

I want my life to be pleasing to the Lord more than anything else, and I keep pushing myself because I want to make a difference for Him.

As I persevere and push myself to do hard things today, I will be ready and equipped to say YES to all that He wants me to do tomorrow.

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jon julie
Julie Larson
cfaith managing editor
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