"Faith comes by the hearing of God’s word but only with rigorous testing will its measure increase. To that end, any David willing to dance before God with all his might must first count the cost of being despised by others in exchange for his Father’s delight. If you consider yourself a sheep in the fold of Jesus, one that hears His voice and follows, then I have a question: What would you do if He asked you to raise your hands and worship Him on the front porch or in the supermarket? Or maybe while in the mall or jogging with your iPod? The question is not whether we think it’s unnecessary or even senseless but instead whether we know the sound of His voice and are consumed by obedience to it."  

~ Kevin Adams, Wake Up My Faith

Before Trusting God

There was a time in my life when I only knew of God, but didn't know Him, certainly not His voice. I lacked so much knowledge about Jesus or living in Christian faith, and for most of my younger years I didn't really care one way or the other.

I didn't know things most Christians know and understand - like prayer and how powerful it can be, or the popular Sunday school stories in the Bible, or even God's valuable promises. I also didn't know how or why we should worship God because I was never trained up in the ways of the Lord.

At 8 years old I was baptized into the Mormon church by my grandfather. I chose to be baptized for no other reason than peer pressure. Everyone. I mean everyone I went to school with was doing it and if I wanted to fit in with the crowd, I needed to get baptized too. {side note: I am now Presbyterian}

Only a few months later mom told my brothers and me, "I'm not going to force you to go to church. If you want to go, I'll make sure you get there, but if you don't that's okay too." We all stopped going.

I lost my friends - their parents wouldn't let them associate with a girl who didn't go to church, or so I was told a time or two - and bitterness toward religion sprouted in my heart. I spent most of my school years labeled as one of the "stoner" kids because I wasn't religious. Never mind the reality that I never used drugs, not even to this day.

My parents were divorced and lived in different states, so mom did a lot of single-parenting, even after eventually remarrying. My stepdad had no children of his own and while he was a really nice guy, he wasn't a go-getter willing to jump in and help out all that much.

I think quite honestly, she didn't have the energy or desire to deal with the commitment of church on Sunday and everything required in-between. I don't blame her for taking what seemed to be the easy road out at the time. She has always been an honest, loving mom and she gave parenting everything she had.

Unfortunately, all of this meant I didn't grow up surrounded by a loving, accepting and supportive body of believers. I became a very lost girl with virtually no self-worth. I thought the only way I'd be filled with happiness was to have lots of cool stuff. Lots of money. Lots of friends. Lots of anything and everything I felt I didn't have during my childhood.

I dreamt of the day I'd be able to escape that small town and find the life I imagined would be so perfect.

Perhaps you've also longed for the lifestyle I was dreaming of:

  • I would earn and hoard as much money as possible, then find and marry the perfect guy so I could have my happily ever after with him.
  • We'd have a big family of perfect kids, and I'd be the perfect mom and wife.
  • We'd live in a perfectly large and beautiful home decorated with class, and we'd drive fancy cars with automatic controls and leather seats.
  • Our home would most definitely NOT be located in a small town with a lot of gossip and little opportunity.
  • Our summers would be spent traveling pretty much anywhere we wanted to go, most likely some Caribbean island, and we'd live life to the fullest.

There were two problems with this "dream life."

  1. God was not a part of it.  Not in any way.  I didn't pray or consult with him about what He wanted for me.  Nor did I know the value of including Him!
  2. We live in a fallen world.  There is no "perfect" when our focus isn't on God.

Instead of being smart about it, I made poor and immature choices. Sure, I made progress in some areas - I did extremely well for myself financially without a college degree.  And I failed miserably in other areas - I married way too young, to someone who was verbally and physically abusive, and had a drinking problem. We separated after 5 years of marriage and legally divorced a few years later.

During that time of separation I partied a lot and lived pretty irresponsibly as a young adult. Although I never realized it at the time, looking back now I can see God never once left my side. He kept  me safe and out of trouble. There's just no other explanation for it.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the Lord, "and will bring you back from captivity." 

~ Jeremiah 29:11-14

How I Developed Faith and Learned to Trust God

One day I met Mark.  He was successful, smart, and attractive. And those striking blue eyes! I was immediately drawn to him.

I would get lost in his eyes as we shared hours and hours of conversation. We had both made our fair share of mistakes and we completely understood each other.

Our relationship was quickly filled with romance and laughter.

He was the perfect gentleman - so chivalrous - opening doors for me, pulling out my chair, and showering me with words of love and affirmation.  I fell in love with him hard and fast.  He wasn't someone I could simply imagine spending the rest of my life with.  I couldn't bare the thought of NOT spending my life with him.

We took our relationship to the next level and moved into an apartment together in a family-friendly town closer to where his daughter lived, but new to me. The weekend of our move, I found myself on the phone with directory assistance asking where the nearest hospital was.  Mark couldn't catch his breath and was doubled over wheezing.

We would later learn that an upper respiratory infection had attacked his heart muscle causing significant damage, resulting in a diagnosis called Cardiomyopathy.

♥ ♥ ♥

Here's how the doctors explained Cardiomyopathy to me:

Cardiomyopathy is a disease where the heart muscle becomes enlarged and doesn't have enough strength or squeeze to pump the blood where it needs to go.

Take a look at your fist. That's about the size of a normal, healthy heart. Sometimes an upper respiratory or viral infection (this was what happened to Mark) can attack the heart muscle and cause irreparable damage. When this happens, blood doesn't get where it needs to go efficiently and this can cause a build up of fluid in the lungs and other places ultimately leading to congestive heart failure, or worse.

A normal, healthy heart has an ejection fraction (measurement of how well your heart is pumping blood) of 55-70 percent. Mark's ejection fraction was 10% when I took him to the ER.

♥ ♥ ♥

We were told Mark's only hope would be to have a heart transplant, so he was moved to a hospital with a transplant team that could run tests and get him on the wait list. Shocked does not even begin to describe how we were feeling.

Late one evening after spending the day by his side in the ICU I left for rest and a shower.  While in the shower I had a full-blown emotional breakdown.  I couldn't believe any of this nightmare was happening and I felt completely helpless to stop it.

I let the emotion flow. It was the first time in my life I had ever cried out to God. I was sobbing and begging Him to fix everything, to make Mark whole and healthy again. I screamed at God for allowing it. How could He bring this gift of a man into my life, let me fall in love with him, and then threaten to take him away from me?!

Fear and grief consumed every ounce of me and I poured it all out to God right there in total vulnerability.

The next day, I witnessed my man boldly claim the words "God has already healed me."  I didn't understand - here he was connected to heart machines in the ICU - healed? Really? But I clung to his strength and his absolute steadfast faith because I didn't have any of my own.

A week or so later, Mark walked out of the hospital well on his way to recovery determined no doctor would be cracking his chest open any time soon.

And at 26 years old, I opened the word of God and started really studying it for the first time in my life.  That was 14 years ago.  Since then, God has used multiple life events to develop and nurture my faith.

There was:

  • Becoming a stepmom before I ever even conceived children of my own.
  • 2 years of infertility and the gut-wrenching emotion of wondering if I'd ever experience the joy of having my own child.
  • Juggling full-time employment and a three-hour commute with family life and motherhood.
  • Job stress.
  • A two year old whose tantrums were so out of control I was certain I was the worlds worst mother.
  • Then, an unexpected pregnancy.

Conceived without fertility assistance or without even really trying to get pregnant, I believe our little Abby was a special token of God's love, gifted to us as a reminder of His love and miracle work in our lives. He knew the true test of faith our next season would be.

Abby was born Nov 19th, a few days before Thanksgiving.  She was only 5 days old when our nightmare began.

First, a letter from the state of CA arrived in the mail, indicating Mark had a warrant out for his arrest, for felony hit and run, $50,000 bond.  A road rage incident had occurred resulting in a vehicle being run off the road, rolling, and injuring the driver.

Mark was innocent of course.  It was a case of mistaken identity - his car was one of thousands of red cars on the freeway during morning rush hour traffic.  But how do you prove you didn't do it, or even see it, for that matter.

For months fear and uncertainty loomed over us as we waited for God to provide a miracle.  If He didn't, Mark could go to prison for 4 years.

What would that mean for me and the girls?  Not exactly the way I wanted them to bond with their daddy, through prison bars.  And I would be forced into a single mom role, working full-time to provide for our family on less income than our lifestyle required. I couldn't bear the thought of not having the man I love home with us, either.

What would prison do to Mark?  A man of faith, but physically fragile because of his Cardiomyopathy.

We had so many thoughts of what-if, and we were just overflowing with emotion, yet all we could do was hand it to God and trust He would fix it.

Mark used to tell me, "I don't know how He's going to do it, but when this is all over with there will be no doubt that it was resolved by the hand of God."

Still, we couldn't help our human nature. We worried. Mark's fate would rest on the judgment of jury members who didn't know anything about the good, honorable, upstanding man he was. That he was not the kind of guy who would run someone off the road and then drive off like nothing ever happened.  He was once an Eagle Scout!

Another One of God's Miracles

A week before the case was set to go to trial, my stepdaughter, Lauren, while driving home from work spotted the vehicle described in the police report and snapped a picture of it, making sure to capture the entire license plate.  It was a vital piece of information that was missing.

The hand of God had just handed us the answer to our prayers - another miracle.  The authorities questioned the driver, and he confessed.

One crisis behind us, (we could breathe again) but another was right around the corner.

The Layoff

The large company Mark and I had been working for closed down in response to the recession, letting everyone go.

We were so broken. So weary! We had reached a point where we just wanted to run away from Southern California.

God provided an open door.  We were both jobless.  We had a nice nest egg to live on but it would only last a short time in that high cost of living.  And we really never wanted to raise our daughters there. (Suddenly a safe, small town was looking better and better!)

So we prayed. We listened.

We heard God's voice. It made no sense. There was no good plan in place. But God was telling us Go!  Get out of California.

The Lord had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing." 

~ Genesis 12:1-2

We took a leap of faith and with no job lined up, made the decision to move back to Western PA.  Mark's parents were here and this would allow us to be closer as they aged and suffered health problems.  Plus the kids would be able to get to know their other grandma and grandpa.

Everyone thought we were crazy.  Even Mark's dad (who would have his grandchildren living nearby for the first time ever) tried to discourage us from making the move. But we trusted God. We had no reason not to. He had proven His love and protection over and over. We couldn't see how this time would be any different.

So we moved.

I cried big ol' crocodile tears as we said goodbye to our life and our home in California. I knew this was the right decision though.

There were hard lessons we still needed to experience - many of which were centered around pride and money. Our season of unemployment was long. It was humbling, and hard.  We lost everything.  It was financially devastating.

Mark was horribly depressed and humiliated.  He lost confidence as he was passed over by prospective employers, time and time again.

→  Too old.

→  Over qualified.

→  Previously over paid.

→  Lacking one trainable skill.

We relied heavily on his family for support, which crushed Mark's spirit.  And mine.  We had always worked hard and were very capable of supporting ourselves.

I would suggest that I could go back to work, but he struggled to be okay with that option.  If I did, It would only make him feel worse.  He knew how important being able to be a stay at home mom was to me.  He strongly felt God had provided a chance for us to get out of living the rat race.

Did we really want to step back into a lifestyle where money ruled our every breath or did we want to learn to live on less and live a more meaningful life?

Plus he was trying to get an online business up and running while also continuing his job search. So we pushed on, waiting for God's plan to unfold.

In life's storms, the wait is often the most difficult part to deal with.  I fought feelings of anger, resentment, impatience, loneliness, and hopelessness.  Mark fell into a deeper depression.

We both felt judged by the world around us. Even by well-meaning family and friends. Mark's identity had been completely wrapped up in what he did for a living and the kind of provider he was for his family.  After all we had previously been through, he'll be the first to tell you this was his greatest trial.

But God is so good.  Through all of these overwhelming thoughts and emotions He spoke to us, comforted us, and in our daily coping, changed us for the better.

In late 2010, The Holy Spirit nudged me to use my love for writing and start a blog.

My first blog, one you may know me from initially, ChristianSuperMom.com was born. There, I wrote about motherhood, marriage, and faith. Before switching over to RosannCunningham.com, my previous website had welcomed over 125,000 visitors during 2013 and reached every continent in the world. Glory to God!

God also fueled my passion for running, and pushed me to sign up for my first half marathon.  I spent 5 months training to run 13.1 miles and loved every moment of it. Never before have I felt so close to God then when I was out for a long run. The half marathon was my own personal run for God - a powerful reminder that God is always there, carrying me when the road is too hard to travel.

Then God pushed me to write a book about our journey and how I had coped through such a long season of unemployment.  It was a book that would speak to the hearts of women everywhere who had unemployment haunting the walls of their home or who were otherwise facing difficult times.

You may have heard the saying, "God doesn't call the equipped.  He equips the called."

I felt very unequipped to write a book.  I would write a few chapters, and then walk away for a few weeks because all I could think was "who am I?  I'm a nobody!"  Whenever I did that God would send someone my way (via my blog) asking how to cope and for prayers because their husband was also out of work and they were thinking of ending their marriage over it.

So I'd write more of the book.

I was going to self-publish it so I gave myself a deadline for it be published before the end of 2011. I wanted us to earn some money, even if only $5 before the year closed out.  It would give us a glimmer of hope.  Something to celebrate.

But God's timing has a purpose, and it's not necessarily lined up with our timing or our purpose.

After more than a few days of frustrated efforts teaching myself the technology side of self-publishing, I was ready to upload my book to Amazon Kindle and Barnes&Noble Nook.  Of course, I rushed. So I made errors, had some editing mishaps, and lacked a marketing strategy of any kind.

After about 7 months of writing, editing, walking away, etc., January 2nd, 2012 the book was live and available for sale.

As we celebrated a big accomplishment, the phone rang and my husband was asked to meet for an interview with a local company.  Weeks later he was working full-time again in the industry his career had always been in.

Only God!

He got all the glory as our circle of witnesses saw His hand at work in our lives.

UnEmployed Faith wasn't traditionally published, but God has used it in huge ways to encourage women across the nation.  Many reached out to me, and as a result I formed a private Facebook support group where they can come pour their hearts out without feeling like they'll send their man into a deeper depression.  They inspire and encourage one another and storm the gates of heaven in prayer.  I'm in awe at how God took something so painful in our life and made it beautiful.

Mark sometimes tells me I saved his life the night I drove him to the hospital all those years ago. But I didn't. His faith is what saved him. On the other hand, I believe he saved me.  Meeting Mark and facing the circumstances we've gone through together, was part of God's plan.  Had I not met him, I wouldn't be a sinner saved by grace.  I wouldn't be the passionate follower of Christ I am today.

This story isn't something I share often around town or in face to face conversations. Admittedly, I don't even discuss it around local family or friends. I don't want to spend a lot of time dwelling in the past, because I know that isn't God's will for me.  Plus I'm actually kind of shy. I do believe God wants me to share my testimony, and I do so whenever He prompts me to.

That said, if you're still reading this, perhaps God meant for you to hear what I'm about to say:

I don't know what it is you're struggling through, but God knows.

Don't give up.

Don't live in fear.

Don't conform to what the world expects from you, but instead live life passionately for God's purpose and in His daily presence.

Read your Bible. Meet with God in prayer every day. Be obedient in what He's asking you to do. Give Him credit for the great things in your life, and rejoice in the storms.

God is doing great things in preparing you for the next  chapter in your story - in His plan for your life.

He is a God of miracles and no matter how bad things seem in your world right now, I want you to know God's got it.

Let go. And Let God.

Trust in The Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.

Want to hear more from me?  I'm happy to come speak at your next event!  Learn more here.