God Story

How God Used A Nightmare To Birth A Ministry

How God Used A Nightmare To Birth A Ministry

by Susan Panzica

In my nightmare, my daughter, who was studying in Australia at the time, was abducted and sold into slavery. I remember every agonizing detail of the dream, from the faded floral pattern of the peeling wallpaper in the stairwell where they grabbed her to the dread in her eyes, the terror in my heart, and my panic. It would take me 24 hours just to travel there and by then she'd have disappeared into the abyss.

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Stop. Look Up. Give Thanks.

Stop. Look Up. Give Thanks.

by Diana Jones

My husband started a new position as Dean of Students/School Counselor in a charter school in a low-income and high-risk neighborhood. While a wonderful opportunity for him to serve the community, it means longer hours away from our family. I am now the parent in charge of drop off, pick up, homework, dinner, and after-school activities, plus I’ve got full-time job.

The transition hasn’t been easy for me! [Continue Reading…]

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The Long Road to Belize

The Long Road to Belize

By Micalagh Moritz Beckwith

It has been two months since my husband and I packed up and stored most of our earthly belongings, gave as much as we could away, placed what was left into four suitcases, and flew to Belize, Central America. As we said goodbye to friends and family with much reminiscing and tears, we were reminded of just how amazing and supportive our community was. [Continue Reading...]

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Susanne Says - Are You Stuck? Have I Got the Resource for You - Part 2

Susanne Says -  Are You Stuck? Have I Got the Resource for You - Part 2

by Susanne Ciancio

Last month I shared about a wonderful resource I highly recommend to our Circles of Faith community called Foundations of Freedom. It's a five-part DVD set presented by Bob Hamp, a pastor who also has mental health credentials/licenses.

I will continue to write about the content of the series and why I'm so excited about it next month.  This month, however, I would like to devote my space to a dear friend's wonderful testimony about how the series impacted her life.  [Continue Reading...]

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How a Home Filled with Anger and Tears Was Transformed

How a Home Filled with Anger and Tears Was Transformed

by Beth Stiff

When my son left for boot camp to become a sailor, the only item he was allowed to bring was a Bible. He had never owned one as we had not been a church-going family. I determined that if all he was allowed was a Bible, then a Bible he would have.

I purchased a small Sailor's Bible and stuffed it with photos. Post-it notes were also stuck to various pages telling him how proud we were of him and how much [Continue Reading...]

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Refined by Fire

Refined by Fire

I held the rod as carefully as I could, melting the glass, slowly turning, round and round, in the blazing orange flame, hoping to create as perfectly round a glass bead as possible. It was my first time. I was afraid of getting burned, but so enamored with the melting stick of glass, that I found myself moving closer to the flame. The edges of the bead glowed bright orange in the flame, and I sat mesmerized. [Continue Reading...]

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Taking One Step Back… Toward God

A woman from my church who'd been reading my book So You're Not Wonder Woman?: How Your Super Power Can Change Your Life, about my past life, wanted to know: "Did you really have lots of moldy laundry and piles of dirty dishes?"

She clearly didn't believe me. I understand. I look like I have it all together. [Continue Reading...]


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Breathtaking, the Revised Edition – Why It’s Worth Another Loo

Breathtaking, the Revised Edition – Why It’s Worth Another Loo

I picked up this book because I had read, and liked, the first edition. If you haven’t read the original book, here is a quick synopsis.

The original book (no longer in print), simply called Breathtaking , is a compilation of emails the author, Amber Payne, (then Metz) wrote while she was waiting for a double lung transplant. Only 19 at the time, Payne’s lungs had been so damaged by cystic fibrosis that she described her condition as, “trying to breathe through a straw.” [Continue Reading...]

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Love on the Hill

Love on the Hill

God calling...

Though I was born in New York, my parents are from Peru.  I visited when I was young, but it had been 15 years since my last visit. I had no plans of returning anytime soon.

I didn’t anticipate that God would put a love and concern for others, especially abused children, in my husband’s and my heart.  [Continue Reading...]

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Abundant Living Becomes a Reality

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A year ago, I found myself at a major crossroads in my faith journey.  I began to seriously entertain life questions that I had been grappling with for years.  Why wasn’t the promise of abundant living found in the Bible a living reality to me?  Was it Biblically correct to embrace faith-filled suffering?  If so, could my suffering prove to be God’s “BLUEPRINT” for me to develop a deeper sense of felt joy?  Is redemption revealed through suffering?

Revelation of God’s Goodness

Captivated by the very possibility that God could bring about a depth of joy through my suffering, I began to feel comforted.  A newly discovered sense of HOPE was taking root in my heart.  Gradually, my human will was being postured to “KNOWING” what Father God had in store for my life.  Never once did I fathom that my decision to fully surrender my will to His blueprint, could lead to a revelation of the Goodness of God! 

Hoping Without Knowing

I began my intentional journey of not knowing, but hoping, by yielding my control to understand.  I practiced being gracious to myself as the process of surrender beckoned me to come closer to God.  I realized that the questions I had grappled with for so long; were actually the very longings of my soul hungering to know God as my Father.  God wants me to know Him through and through.  He is deeply concerned for me and cares immeasurably for me.  His commitment to conform me into the very likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29) is the very cry of His heart.  Knowing this leads me to the very reservoir of God’s goodness and mercy towards me.

Gaining Victory

Redemption was revealed to me when I surrendered to the unknown destination of faith my major life experiences of journeying through and gaining victory over many years of manic depression and trichotillomania (an impulse control disorder characterized by compulsive hair-pulling).  It is a true reflection of the very real and felt presence of Father God’s manifested goodness towards a once deeply broken, in spirit, me.  His goodness graces me with deep love, compassion, and empathy towards countless victims of painful childhoods.  It goes beyond my sake and comfort in life and allows me to reach others.  Through my journey God helps me to  give a voice to the voiceless victim, who longs to be released from the deep fear of exposure and rejection.

Running the Race of Life

Father God’s goodness galvanized my understanding of what it means to be His beloved daughter.  It frees me of my own limited human comprehension of a father’s love shown to his biological daughter.  God’s goodness teaches me the inward truth that I too, with all my human frailties, am forever dependent on the gift of free-flowing Grace of His heart. It is available to assist me when I fall short of drawing life and courage from being in His Presence.  As I embrace that Grace, I am, in part, mastering His art of defining the joy that was set before Him, in the aftermath of His death on the Cross, for you and I.  In joy and in suffering, I can now run the race of life with confidence.  “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 NIV).  

Celebrating the Journey

With great expectancy in my “faith journey,” I no longer view my life as a moment by moment sorting through of painful memories, dead promises, and endless looping questions. I am on an infinite symbolic journey on Highway Psalm 27, always keeping my mind’s eye on Exit v.13. This way, despite every road I have traveled down, I can now celebrate my life journey, and travel free of the cares of this life. With a full heart I say: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13 NIV). 

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Maryann L. Hayles is the Co-founder and Managing Partner, Inner Healing for The Center for Emotional and Spiritual Development - Website is www.emotionalspiritualcenter.org. Email address is mhayles@emotionalspiritualcenter.org.  She oversees the Emotional and Spiritual Health segment for Christ Church Women's Ministry.  Maryann is a passionate follower of the lover of her soul - Jesus Christ and delights in seeing broken people healed, restored and fulfill their God-given destiny. She is the proud wife, of 11 years, to Rupert A. Hayles, Jr.

photo credit: paul bica via photopincc

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When a Boarder Moves Into Your Home and Into Your Hear

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An engagement memento box from Chris for our 25th anniversary

Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.   Psalm 139:16

We grew up, five kids, in a big old house with lots of bedrooms. Then one by one, we left our home to go to college. So for many years, our home was a place where we all came and went, regularly. Holidays and summers were times of reuniting.

One of the ways my divorced mother was able to hold onto the homestead was to rent out a room or two to a boarder. This was a common occurrence in our college town. All you really had to do was hang up a sign on the college community bulletin board and you pretty much had your pick of possible renters.

So it was no surprise when a boarder moved in shortly after I left for my senior year at Boston College.

 Mom and I would chat every couple of weeks. There were no cell phones, no texting, no personal computers or Macs, but we did have a landline house phone in our on-campus apartment (fun times!).

One evening in October, Mom called. She was full of excitement.

“Have I got a boarder for you!” Mom practically burst through the phone.

“Really? Tell me…”

“Well, he’s really cute. He’s a poet, getting his masters at Columbia. And he has the most adorable daughter. You are going to love him.”

“Hmmmm…sounds good, Mom. Guess I’ll meet him at Thanksgiving.” And our catch-up conversation continued.

I was intrigued…

Sadly, when I arrived home from BC, I found out that Chris’ dad, only 45 years old, had passed away. As a result, Chris was home only briefly, but long enough for me to see that indeed this guy was really cute and sweet…and long enough to make him a batch of cookies to bring to his grieving family.

I went back to college, more intrigued, but there really hadn’t been time to get to know Chris at all. 

Still, I definitely had a crush and my roommates were all ears as I told them about Chris the boarder. I also began writing in my journal, which was filled with prayers asking for God’s guidance. Could this guy, who just happened to live in my home, in a bedroom downstairs from my room, be the man God had in mind for me? It seemed too good to be true.

Christmas vacation came and went. Chris and I passed by one another in the hallway, but spent no time together. This was fine since I was busy living my life, reconnecting with friends, having a holly, jolly holiday.

During Spring Break, I headed down to Florida with two carloads full of BC seniors. On the way back, Easter Sunday, we all camped out at my house for one night before returning to BC. Chris and his mom stopped by and my mother invited them in for a visit.

I was so nervous and excited. My heart was in my throat, my palms were sweaty, I was flitting around like a fool!

Oh yes, I had a growing crush. There was something so innocent, so good about this guy. He was genuine and real…and I had had plenty of experience with superficial immature game-filled relationships.

I left for my last month of college life. One of my roommates said with absolute certainty, “You are going to marry that guy.”

My roommate and my mom were right…Chris and I have been together 34 years, married for over 27.

When people ask me where Chris and I met, I exclaim, “Right in my very own home.”

Some would say fate brought us together; I call it divine intervention. And I’m very thankful!

What’s your story? Where or how did you meet your spouse? Tell us HERE!


Elise has been married for 28 years and is mom to four mostly grown girls. She is a writer, editor, writing coach, and blogger. She believes we all have stories that matter--big life bios and small meaningful moments. Elise believes our stories are a reflection of God’s glory and are meant to be shared. They have the power to inform, reform, and transform. She loves God, familly, friends...and really likes travel!

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Community in the Good Times and Bad

by Diana Jones

During the time we were serving as small group leaders, I received a voicemail from a woman in our group that concerned me. I couldn’t make out the words because she was sobbing; I called her back right away and when she answered, she told me that her adult child had been murdered. I immediately prayed and went to be by her side at the police station where her family and friends had gathered and were mourning.

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Community 101

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I was born in the Bronx but grew up in Queens, NY, where I didn't know many of my neighbors. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to meet them or be in relationship with them, but the norm on my block was not to engage. As I entered the workforce and rode the A train, the people I did pass by on a daily basis might give a hesitant nod letting me know that was as far as they were willing to go, socially…Community seemed to be a four-letter word!

Once I came to be in relationship with Jesus, married, and moved to New Jersey, my husband and I joined a church that emphasized uniting people to God and people to people . They promoted Life Groups, which are small groups that met twice a month in the homes of volunteer leaders for worship, prayer, fellowship, and Bible discussion. For the first time, we realized that God wanted us to be part of community. Even though this had become our desire, I was a little hesitant.

The Bible says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Yet I had reservations…

What was community supposed to look like?

Who were we going to meet?

Would we fit in? 

I realized that I was struggling with fear of rejection. This had deep roots. I grew up knowing my father hadn’t wanted more children when my mother was pregnant with me. And I was raised feeling like in order to be accepted and valued by my dad, I had to perform (clean, work at an early age, etc). My childhood, together with several other experiences, led me to build up attitudes and behaviors to avoid rejection…

BUT, God didn’t give me a spirit of fear (and I’m a New Yorker who doesn’t like to be pushed around), so I needed to muster up some courage! 

I chose to believe and trust God with my fear, so we took the first step of obedience by signing up to attend a small group. During that first year, we learned how to knit our lives together with others by sharing our life experiences, a meal, and prayer. After a while, community started to feel natural and I started to look forward to spending time with these precious people while growing in my relationship with God.

Fast forward eight years, even though we are no longer part of that congregation, we are still in relationship with several of the people we met in that small group, and I am so thankful for that.

Community rarely happens on its own. Relationship MUST be intentional. It may take facing your fears, getting over your past, and/or taking risks, but take the first step by getting involved through a local church, prayer group, book club, or Bible study today. We were made for community.

Won’t you join me in experiencing community and new relationships in this season of your life? You won’t regret it!

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Diana Jones is a compassionate wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She is passionate about sharing God's love and all that He has done throughout her life. She is also looking for opportunities to grow spiritually through reading, prayer, singing and being in fellowship with others. She is thankful for the opportunity share her stories here at Circles of Faith.

photo credit: Grzegorz Łobiński via photopincc

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Staying Married When it's Hard

Staying Married When it's Hard

by Martha Wentz

Growing up, I remember hearing people say, “The wife is always the first to know when her husband is cheating on her.” Of course, that never made any sense to me. I would question, “If a wife knows that her husband is cheating on her then why doesn’t she just make him stop?”  

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The Three Cs of Staying Married

The Three Cs of Staying Married

by Elise Daly Parker

When I first met my husband Chris, 33 years ago, I had all kinds of romantic notions about what love was…and what it would be like for us to be married. And there have been plenty of romantic moments laced throughout all these years. 

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