Brokenness always leads to bigger in the hands of the ultimate Rebuilder
When Kristan Dooley met a first grader fighting an intense form of cancer amid unimaginable living conditions, she pleaded with God to make sense of it all. God handed her the word bigger. “It didn’t take long to realize bigger wasn’t just for Yosselin,” she writes about the first grader. “If we surrender to God’s process, He will take the broken things in our lives and work them out to be bigger. And what He rebuilds will never be broken again.”
Through the experiences of people like Yosselin and Kristan, and the lives of biblical figures such as Nehemiah, who was divinely burdened by the broken walls surrounding Jerusalem, you’ll discover a God who isn’t intimidated by any degree of devastation. In fact, He loves to make bigger from what’s broken.
Bigger will open your heart to God’s brand of boldness and restoration, allowing Him to work bigger in your marriage, your children, your friendships, your church and community, and guiding you to be bigger in your faith, your fight, and your future.
He longs to be greater in you and through you. Step into the impossibleand start living bigger with God!
What people are saying about Bigger:
“Every day you are presented with literally hundreds of opportunities to say yes to God.” I love this! . . .It’s not like there’s only that “one thing” He’s asking you to do. If you miss one, there are countless other opportunities to say yes to Him. Jillian Wilhelm, college student
Kristan shares her heart and bares her soul as she wrestles with God through the trials she faces. My faith was strengthened as I read how God worked through each situation in her life. Terry Evick, elementary education teacher
About the Author
Equipped with a master’s degree in Christian Education from Cincinnati Christian Seminary and twelve years of ministry experience, Kristan Dooley loves taking people deeper into their relationship with Christ. She writes for InWord Resources, speaks at churches and events, and is launching a mission community in an abandoned firehouse in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.
Read an Excerpt
The Start of Something
We met Yosselin in January. Yosselin was the reason I thought I needed the word bigger. She sat next to my daughter, Ella, in their first grade classroom, which is a miracle in and of itself because I never intended to put Ella in school. I spent the entire summer wrestling with God over the school issue. I assumed my surrender was coming in the form of doing whatever it took to educate my children outside of the public school system, but the lack of peace inside left me wondering what God was trying to say.
Turns out surrender came in the shape of Wyandot Elementary School, where Ella would start first grade that year. Ella and Yosselin became quick friends. In November Yosselin was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rapidly growing form of bone cancer. She had a tumor in her right femur and numerous nodes in both lungs. When the cancer forced her out of school and into chemo, Ella noticed.
Every day, she came home, "Mom, Yosselin wasn't in school today. Mom, Yosselin was sick again. Mom, do you think she is on vacation? Mom, do you think she is okay? Mom, will you call Ms. O'Keefe and see if Yosselin is alright?" On and on she went, every day, relentlessly. Something wasn't right and Ella sensed it.
I sensed it too, which was part of the reason I didn't want to ask. Knowledge brought responsibility and that scared me.
But eventually Ella's persistence wore me down. I e-mailed Marilyn, the girls' teacher: Hi, Marilyn, Ella has come home every day for a few weeks now concerned about Yosselin and her absence. I know you might not be able to talk about what's going on but with Dave and I being pastors at the Vineyard, we would love to know if there is anything we could do to help this family.
The next morning, as I rounded the corner to walk Ella to class, Marilyn was waiting for me by the lockers. I could tell by the look on her face things were not okay. My heart sank deep into my stomach. Every part of me wanted to turn around and not hear whatever it was she was about to tell me. She pulled me aside and let me in on what was going on with Yosselin. Yosselin had cancer. The cancer had spread so rapidly that doctors immediately pulled her out of school and put her in chemo. Her future was unknown at this point. All that was known was that her family was in for the fight of their lives.
A few weeks later, we picked Ella up from school and headed over to meet Yosselin and her family for the first time. Little did we know the bigger things God had in store for our families. Pulling into their driveway, we met Yosselin's grandma and grandpa, Keith and Tammy Randall. Keith and Tammy had full custody of Yosselin and her little brother, Freddy. Not surprisingly, the news of Yosselin's cancer brought reality crashing down in their world. They were nearing the end of their strength and needed more of God, not just in a physical, healing way, but also in a spiritual, relational way. They needed bigger.
As if the news of Yosselin's cancer weren't bad enough for this devastated family, the house they were living in seemed to be falling down around them. Over the past two years the family's house had been severely damaged by floodwaters. The force of the water under the floorboards of the house literally shifted the foundation, leaving this family in extremely hazardous living conditions. They were in the middle of repairing the flood damage when the cancer was discovered.
Yosselin, now on a walker because of the tumor in her right leg, had been moved downstairs into the unfinished front room of the house. Her new room broke my heart. The room was less than ideal for a little girl battling off infection. A makeshift floor allowed Yosselin to walk through the room on the walker. The open chimney and windows were covered in plastic in an attempt to keep out the drafty January air and in the corner sat a portable toilet because Yosselin could no longer make it through the crooked bathroom door on her walker. My eyes were drawn to the little pink get-well balloon that hung on the powdery, unfinished drywall over her bed and as I stared at it, my heart shattered into a million pieces.
In a matter of weeks, this little girl had been stripped of so much. It was hard to breathe as I imagined my own daughter facing what Yosselin was facing. I choked back tears and tried my hardest to be strong, but picturing Yosselin in this room for the next year, fighting off infection and circumstances she didn't ask for, made it hard to swallow.
What do you do when your child has cancer? How do you maneuver in such an intense reality? The level of brokenness going on in the life of this family overwhelmed me. As we sat at their kitchen table that cold, dreary afternoon and listened to them describe the past few weeks, my own problems seemed to slip away.
It's a natural response to want to fix broken things. No one wants to look into the eyes of a hurting, broken person and have nothing to offer them. But there would be no quick fix for Yosselin's situation. Unable to fix this families' broken-ness quickly brought me to the end of myself. I would soon discover that at the end of myself was exactly where God wanted me to be.
"Can I share your story with my friends?" I asked Tammy before we left. "I can't make any promises, I don't know what we can do, but I know people who pray and I would love to share this with them." Through her tears she hugged me and told me the more people praying, the better.
Backing out of their driveway I turned to Dave, "Okay, what do we do? How do we fix this?"
Dave looked at me with huge tears in his eyes, shook his head, and murmured the words I feared most, "We can't fix this. They need a new house. This house needs to be torn down and a new one put in its place."
I don't think we spoke the rest of the night. We drove home in silence, we ate dinner in silence, and we went to bed in silence. We were both too overcome with grief to pretend everything was normal. I could not undo what I had just seen. I could not push away what I was feeling. God broke my heart for this family. It was in pieces, completely nonfunctional, useless pieces.
The next morning was when God gave me the word bigger. That's why upon first hearing the Spirit whisper "bigger" over my heart I assumed the word was for Yosselin. I needed a word for what this family was facing. I needed something to help process all we had encountered, something to make sense of it.
I thought bigger was for Yosselin, her family, and their situation. I was right, but the truth is, bigger was for so much more. I love how God is so massive and so good at what He does that He will allow the brokenness in the lives of others to show us the brokenness in our own lives. I had no idea of the journey I was about to begin. I had no clue how my prayers for more of God on behalf of Yosselin and her family would shape the next year of my life. I never would have guessed how bigger would be what God used to do a transforming work in my life.
I thought it was for Yosselin. I thought it was for the Randall family, for the cancer, for the broken-down house and for everyone that would watch as God showed up again and again to do what only He could do. Man, was I wrong.
Surrendering to bigger moved my family into a place of action. Now we were able to see how little we could do on our own. We needed God to do something we couldn't. Nothing was impossible with Him, but everything was impossible without Him. Embracing bigger on behalf of Yosselin and her family meant stepping into the impossible and expecting God to show up.
While we waited for God to do what only He could do, we started doing the things we knew how to do. We knew how to buy gas cards, provide meals, and show the Randalls they were not walking this road alone. My dad and Dave put together a plan to rehab the front room Yosselin was living in. If she was going to be stuck inside the house between chemo rounds, we wanted her room to be the happiest place it could be. With each step, every donated meal, and every picture someone hung on the wall, I pushed myself to remember what God had told us and I prayed for bigger.
When we are faced with circumstances out of our control, God's heart is to do more than we ever asked or imagine possible, but God had to first get us to the place where we would be willing to believe the impossible. God delights in small beginnings because those first steps are always important faith builders. With each step He showed up and each time He showed up miracles took place. With each miracle our faith increased and our ability to believe in more grew.
One evening while we were painting the walls of Yosselin's beautiful new room, Dave pulled me out of the crowded space with a concerned look on his face. "Do you realize we have all these people here painting these walls and God is going to tear this house down and build a new one?"
Absolutely, I knew that. I had already begun to recognize the dream God was birthing in our hearts. I was realizing the bigger. Bigger wasn't fixing this broken house, bigger was tearing it down and building a new one. I recognized what God was doing in me. He was increasing my faith so I would trust Him to do the impossible in the future. My prayer was that He was also doing the same in my friends as they worked. Small beginnings are necessary steps.
We don't jump from the broken to the bigger; it's a process, a one step at a time journey.
Over the course of the next ten months we rallied together and followed God as He led us toward bigger on behalf of Yosselin and her family. Healing was essential. A new house was crucial. This family recognizing how big God is and how much He loved them was necessary. We worked hard, but God worked harder. Piece by piece the project came together. God opened door after door in order to ensure we continued progressing toward bigger. There aren't enough pages in this book to tell you all of the amazing things He did as we continued the journey.
In June, we moved Yosselin and her family into temporary housing so their existing house could be torn down and construction on the new house could begin. It came together exactly as needed, until one evening we were standing together in a brand new, $300,000, handicap-accessible, fully donated, completely furnished, breathtakingly beautiful house.
The night of the house reveal I looked in awe and amazement. This is what He meant by bigger. He meant these people, this team, the past ten exhausting months, the impossible dream. He meant the Randalls, who trusted a complete stranger's belief in God's goodness. He meant the neighbors crowded around outside the house with welcome home signs and cameras. He meant the local news stations, who caught wind of the story and wanted to share it with the world.
This was bigger. Bigger than I'd ever imagined possible. It was hard to believe eight months earlier I struggled to breathe as we prayed with this family we had just met and now here we were on the other side of brokenness, made breathless yet again, only this time not by the destruction surrounding us, but by the faithfulness of God. I am still in complete awe of all God accomplished as we followed Him through the bigger process of rebuilding.
The crazy part is, the entire time God was working through me to move Yosselin's family toward bigger, He was also working in me to move me toward bigger. He is so multifaceted like that. God was not only interested in rebuilding Yosselin's brokenness; He was interested in rebuilding my brokenness. Partnering with Him through this project changed me.
While walking with Yosselin God gave me a taste of all He is capable of. He opened my eyes to what living in step with His Spirit looks like. He exposed me to His heart and invited me into the unknown. I learned God is the only qualified rebuilder of what's broken. Only He can put lives back together in a way that makes perfect sense.
Before meeting Yosselin, my daily prayers included me asking God to show me who He really was. I was longing for intimacy with Him. I knew there had to be more. After Yosselin, God had not only shown me who He really is, but He had shown me who I really am. A transformation took place in the deepest part of me. He had changed me. He changed my relationship with Him.
Something was different between us. The connection we had was much stronger. I burn for Him. I ache to hear His voice every day, all the time. I long to follow Him wherever He wants to go, to see the world the way He sees the world. At the end of myself, I realized the most important thing I could do was connect to Him. I had found my most productive place, in His presence. I had made a life being busy for all kinds of good things, but somehow missed the best thing.
On the other side of brokenness, people are different. On the other side of brokenness, Yosselin was different. She knows Jesus differently. She may look like a normal little girl, but she isn't. She encountered the presence of God in her brokenness. He came down to her, picked her up, and pieced her back together. Not only did He heal her body — she is completely cancer free — but He also healed her soul!
On the other side of brokenness, Keith and Tammy are different. They live differently, they love differently, they trust differently. On the other side of brokenness, my community is different. We see ourselves differently, we see our kids differently, and we see God in our lives differently. On the other side of brokenness, I am different. I know God differently. We have been through the fire and He has proven Himself bigger.
THE PROMISED LAND
Moses was a faithful leader of the Israelite people for years. After his death, his protégé, Joshua, was left with big shoes to fill. As Joshua stood looking at the Jordan River, he must have been shaking in his sandals. Standing behind him, his people may have been confident in their new leader, but surely Joshua struggled to believe.
How in the world was he supposed to follow Moses as leader? Was he ready for the task at hand? Had he studied hard enough? Did he have the right connection with God? What if he failed? What if his people rejected him? Joshua's many fears and doubts left him ample ammunition to postpone stepping forward into the unknown. No one would have blamed him for choosing to stay this side of the Jordan, where life was smaller but predictable. Maybe he should just settle.
Then God spoke to Joshua,
"Moses, my servant, is dead. Get ready! Cross the Jordan River! Lead these people into the land which I am ready to hand over to them. I am handing over to you every place you set foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the wilderness in the south to Lebanon in the north. It will extend all the way to the great River Euphrates in the east (including all of Syria) and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to resist you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone. Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them. Make sure you are very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep. Do not swerve from it to the right or to the left, so that you may be successful in all you do. This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful. I repeat, be strong and brave! Don't be afraid and don't panic, for I, the LORDyour God, am with you in all you do." (Josh. 1:2–9 NET)
After receiving his charge, Joshua's doubts turn to anticipation. He turned from fear to face his people, "Go through the camp and command the people, 'Prepare your supplies, for within three days you will cross the Jordan River and begin the conquest of the land the LORD your God is ready to hand over to you" (Josh. 1:11 NET).
Joshua knew God promised His people a land that was bigger. He promised them a land full of abundance and life. They could not, however, get to this land by staying where they were. Crossing the Jordan into the unknown was an essential for reaching bigger. The land was theirs, they could believe it, God had promised it to them, but the journey there was going to be tough. It was going to require great strength, bravery, and careful attention to the Truth. As they marched forward, panic was not an option, because God was with them. He was leading them to bigger. Their job was to stay focused and follow.
Just like the Israelites, God has a bigger promise for each of us. The change I witnessed in my family, friends, and community and in myself are what led me to believe bigger isn't only a word for Yosselin. God really will do more. He really is inviting us into an incredible journey. He really is capable of taking one word and blowing our minds. He is the rebuilder of all things broken and His plans are limitless.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Bigger"
Copyright © 2015 Kristan Dooley.
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
SECTION ONE: BIGGER THINGS
1 The Start of Something
2 Broken? Not Broken?
3 Nehemiah’s Bigger
SECTION TWO: THE BIGGER JOURNEY
4 Hard Questions
5 Letting It Go Deep
6 Believing in Bigger
SECTION THREE: THE BIGGER JOURNEY
7 Bigger Prayers
8 Catching Your Breath
9 Turning Around
10 Battling the Mind
11 Staying Surrendered
12 Stepping on My Ladder
13 Outclimbing the Enemy
SECTION FOUR: LIVING OUT BIGGER
14 The Reality of Bigger
15 Bigger in My Faith
16 Bigger in My Fight
17 Bigger in My Future