From Ashes to Beauty: A Story of Transformation
What is Transformation?
Transformation has multiple applications. Scientifically, animals undergo metamorphosis, elements change through nuclear processes, and cells alter genetically by introducing plasma. Transformation in the spiritual realm, although perhaps not visible, is equally, if not more, impactful. Spiritually, a person’s sacred life can undergo a fundamental change.
In the Bible, transformation means not to “...be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:2 (NASB)
We do this by renewing our minds, which will manifest in our outward actions. It is when we choose to be drawn near to God through the blood of Christ.
When Tragedy Strikes
The night started out like any other. Chanel was taking care of her three children after returning home from a day of hard work. Since her husband worked long distance, Chanel called him. They chatted, had a minor disagreement, and then said their goodbyes. Chanel routinely woke up to a text from him due to the time difference. There was no text the next morning.
She assumed he was upset from their squabble the night before. The day persisted and still no word from him. She began to worry. Then, the call from his aunt came: he had been taken from this world unnecessarily and abruptly.
Picking up the Broken Pieces
Left behind was Chanel, their two children together, and her teen. Where to turn? What to do? She immediately took time away from work to be with her children. She needed them. Without them, she felt she would have lost it more so than she did. She informed the children’s school of their situation and took them out for a few days.
The school counselor was a special angel, organizing and applying on behalf of Chanel, for assistance programs. Being that Chanel’s financial income was unexpectedly cut in half, there were struggles ahead. The holidays were closing in. She was wrought with angst at not being able to afford gifts for her children. The children were heartbroken, at six and four, with the loss of their father. Having a normal Christmas was all that Chanel hoped for. The community surrounded Chanel to keep her family uplifted and supported.
Finding Treasures at ToyZone
One of the programs the school counselor had enrolled her and her children in was Chase Oaks’ ToyZone. ToyZone is a store Chase Oaks hosts at Christmastime, where families can shop for their children at an extremely discounted cost.
Last year, our Woodbridge Campus was excited to host a ToyZone store at Hartman Elementary School in Wylie, TX, that benefited children in need. Parents invited to the event were able to shop for just $10 per child. Each child received a free coat as well! Gift wrapping was also provided.
Chanel arrived at ToyZone beyond grateful. She looked and looked for two hours, thinking what would make her kids happiest. While looking for coats, some women approached her, and she shared bits and pieces of her story and then continued browsing. Once her items were selected, she waited in the hospitality area while her gifts were being wrapped. It was there she met a woman named Donna.
Right off the bat, something was different about Donna. Chanel could feel her genuineness. After chatting for a few minutes, Donna asked to pray for Chanel. It was at this point Chanel knew God had brought her to this place at this time. Unbeknownst to Chanel, Donna had been praying all morning for God to let her truly impact a life that day. Chanel had been praying for a church home, one that was humble, genuine, and sincere. God was answering prayers.
Searching for Home
Chanel had previously been part of a small family church in Cleveland. When she returned home to the DFW area, she tried several churches seeking that same fit. She was like Goldilocks with the three bears: the porridge was too hot and then too cold, the chair too big and then too small. The first church she tried did not feel welcoming to her. Another had great community impact, but she felt the preaching was condescending. She continued with persistence, trying new churches. A third had a beautiful establishment, but she did not feel an overwhelming presence of God. She was just not finding her fit.
Back at ToyZone, after Donna prayed, she hugged Chanel. And it was a real hug. Donna invited Chanel to church the next day. Donna wasn’t sure if Chanel would come but waited with eager anticipation.
She shared her contact information to make sure Chanel could reach her and to remove any potential barriers to her coming. Donna told fellow church friends to keep an eye out for this new woman attending. Chanel took the leap and showed up. She was home after the first service.
Her children were home as well. Chanel’s teen daughter begged to stay during the second service so she could attend Studio 56 (a service for students in grades 5-6).
The service brought Chanel to tears. The Word was poured into her with sincerity. She felt welcome and was astounded by how humble the pastors were. She said, “It was beautiful to feel that we are all on a team!” She now wakes up on Sundays with eager anticipation to join her church family.
The Journey of Transformation Begins
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” -2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB)
Similar to the verse above, Chanel has become a new creature, rising from the ashes of her pain. New and better things await her. Donna and Chanel continue to maintain a close relationship.
Approximately three weeks after attending her first Sunday worship service, Established was mentioned. It was yet another answer to prayer for Chanel. She knew she had to participate. Established is a 10-week small-group experience that takes you through the foundational elements of Christianity and discipleship. Something powerful happens when people take a season to journey with God and others; Chanel yearned for this.
Donna Duren knew the leaders of a new Established group. She introduced the leaders, Mark and Donna Gleason, to Chanel. Another divine connection was made! Chanel joined their new Established group and even met a woman with very similar experiences as her own. Her husband had died five years prior. This woman and Chanel are now close friends sharing fellowship as well as clothes for their children.
The Gleason Established Group has made it to eight weeks although not without bumps and barriers. Chanel’s older daughter wanted to attend church during the week, but it was the same evening as Chanel’s group, leaving her two youngest without supervision. Finding childcare for her two youngest proved difficult. God continued to intervene through His hands and feet.
The Gleasons are grandparents, so they have all that’s needed to care of little ones. Every group meeting, Donna and Mark set up a special play area for Chanel’s two kids and make special snacks. Her teen daughter attends her church group and carpools with fellow friends. This is a testament that God will make a way as obstacles are put before us.
There is something within all of us that longs for something more—something more in our relationship with God, something more with other people, something more with our life, purpose, work, church experience, and faith. Established provides this “something more.” All members of the Gleason Group have connected to the extent they will not disband after 10 weeks but will transition into an ongoing LifeGroup.
Transformed to Make a Difference
Established was just the beginning for Chanel. She has only attended Chase Oaks since December 2017 but feels called to join the Care Team where she can actively pray for others. Chanel didn’t want to turn to the “world” who took her husband. She wanted to turn to God who she knew would take care of her. This decision has produced endless fruit.
Out of her pain and crisis, she has been able to make a difference in not only her own life but in many more lives. She took the leap of faith. And she ultimately experienced transformation.
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” -Ezekiel 36:26 (NASB)
How Can We Experience Transformation?
“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:10 (NASB)
The nonconformity to the world does not primarily mean the external avoidance of worldly behaviors. You can avoid all kinds of worldly behaviors and not be transformed. The Christian alternative to immoral behaviors is not a new list of moral behaviors. It is the triumphant power and transformation of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ—our Savior, our Lord, and our Treasure. Ask the Father today to renew the steadfast spirit within you!