The following is a story of how I came to know the grace Jesus gives and was first featured on GracefullyTruthful.com - an online Bible Study for women. On the website, many women's "Faces of Grace" stories are featured. To read more of those stories, click here, and to read mine... just keep reading...
I remember the picture clearly. It was a little boy holding a telephone with the cord twirling up to the wall. The story that went along with that picture completely changed my life. That story said that if you ask Jesus into your heart, he will always be there. All you have to do is talk to him, just like you can talk to someone on the phone. As I read that story with my mama at our kitchen table, something inside my little five year old soul clicked. It all made sense. I made mistakes. I told lies, stuck my tongue out at my mom, called my cousin a butt head, and I needed Jesus to forgive me of my sins and come into my life to help me not make those mistakes any more! That day, with my mom’s hand in mine, I asked Jesus to come into my heart.
And that was the beginning of everything.
But, like everyone, I still made mistakes. I called my brother a poopy head and pantsed a girl at school. I would go to church on Sunday and sing out in my “holiest of holy” voices “I’m so glad, I’m a part, of the family of God! I’ve been washed in the fountain, Cleansed by His blood!” I would smile proudly as I raised my hand in Sunday School, “Jonah was swallowed by the giant fish because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh!”
And as I grew up, learning more about Jesus and his love for us, I began asking the question that I still find myself asking some days… “Just how long is forever?” Because my preteen brain just couldn’t imagine dying and being in Heaven forever. And then there was that whole dying thing… HOW am I going to die? WHEN am I going to die? My young mind would try and bargain with the Lord, “Just let me get married and be a mommy first, PLEASE?” One night I found myself sitting on the steps going down to our basement crying tears of despair and fear, my little shoulders shook as I tried to imagine just how long forever could possibly be.
And then I heard this song…
“Sin has lost its power
Death has lost its sting
From the grave You’ve risen
I repeated those words again and again and mulled over the meaning in my brain. And then one day, for the first time, I could sing that song and genuinely mean that death has lost its sting. That sting of fear that came as quickly as the word “death” could slip from my mouth, was no longer there. And with that came surrender.
“At the cross you, beckon me
You draw me gently, to my knees
I’m lost for words so lost in love
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.”
Without that tinge of despair and that joy-stealing thought of death, I was free to fall more and more in love with Jesus. I began seeing Him as my healer, as a friend, as a savior, and my comfort. I began high school with a goal to show this Jesus, that I know and love, to every single student and teacher.
Then came my senior year and with that, hundreds of broken promises. Things I promised I would never do came and went. I literally felt like any control I had over my life was slipping through my fingers as I desperately tried to grab onto any little piece that I could. One night, it became too much. I sat in my car in full makeup and costume from a dance performance I had just finished, and I was done. “Why, God? Why me? Why am I so alone? Why am I so lost? Why am I hurting so incredibly much?” I started my car thinking, “Surely God can’t use me alive, so maybe someone will come to know Him through my funeral.” And then, my phone rang. “Kendra, where are you? Come over and watch a movie with me!” My friend, my only Christian friend at my school, was clearly listening to the Holy Spirit that night.
I still messed up a lot after that. I was still a battered and broken teenager. I would search for the Lord’s voice and try to listen, but the static and chaos around me seemed to mute out anything God was saying to me.
In the months following, after sharing with my parents my deepest and darkest secrets and struggles, I began healing. Healing came in the form of many church services, counseling, an incredible roommate who wouldn’t ask questions when I needed to cry, but also held me accountable, sharing my story with others, and a four month mission trip to Kenya, Africa…
“Kendra, I can tell you’re still living in the past. You’re still claiming your mistakes as your own and refusing to live in the Grace that God has brought to you. When the Lord heals, He heals 100%. Every time. And tonight, I want you to declare that healing and that grace. I want you to own it!” My team leader offered me her hand as she helped me step onto the couch in the sitting room. “Close your eyes and repeat after me.” I closed my eyes. “I am redeemed!” “I am redeemed.” “That’s not loud enough, Kendra.” I took a big breath, “I am redeemed!” “I am made new!” “I am made new! I am forgiven! I am a new creation! I am beautiful! I am not defined by my past! I am a whole person! I am healed!” As I opened my eyes, I knew that I really was a new creation, and my heart really was completely healed.
That was just four years ago. So much life has happened since! I have precious twin girls who spent some time in the NICU, and a precocious toddler who keeps me on my toes.
I’m glad that we don’t have the option to go back in time and change things, because I would avoid a lot of the pain and hurt that I put myself through and I can see now how God has used that for His glory. I cannot live in regret or daily dwell in the past, so I move forward, celebrating every day that the Lord chooses to use my life to impact others. He is continuing to make something beautiful out of my extremely messy life. The absolute best way I know to show Him how grateful I am for His redeeming love is to allow Him to use me in whatever capacity He possibly can. Some days that looks like serving another mama, other days it looks like silently praying for someone as I sit on my couch and watch my daughters play, and still other days it looks like purposefully pursuing a friendship with another woman.
My life is a life with a purpose, because HE has a purpose for me. I will live that out every single day that I am alive, and I will declare that God is a God of third and fourth and twelfth chances! He is a God who loves us because that is His nature, and he is a God who has forgiven and redeemed me.
Read His Words Before Ours!
2 Kings 4:8-17
Twelve years ago, I met a woman we’ll call “Marcy”.
Marcy’s children and I went to the same school and attended the same church. I knew Marcy’s children better than I knew Marcy, but over the years, we served together in different ministries at church and grew closer.
Marcy and her family live in a beautiful home, her husband has a solid job, and from the outside looking in, it appears that Marcy has everything she needs and even wants. That’s all pretty surface-y, but I’m guessing we can all imagine someone with Marcy’s lifestyle.
However, I know something else about Marcy….
I know she and her husband live out selfless generosity.
All without saying anything to anyone.
The only way I could possibly know this is if I were a benefactor of their open-handed generosity… which I am.
Marcy has opened her home over and over as a welcome place for discipleship, worship, blessing, celebrating, and feeding others. Including me.
I’ve watched Marcy open her arms to people of all walks of life… sometimes she doesn’t remember their names, but she never forgets a face! That Marcy would literally give the shoes off of her feet to someone… and she has.
My mom once told Marcy the shoes she was wearing were adorable and that I would love them. Finding out we wore the same size, she literally took her shoes off of her feet, handed them to my mom, and told her to give them to me.
Marcy’s husband has used his profession to assist my parents on the mission field at no cost to them. Together they bought my entire cart full of Christmas gifts when we ran into one another at Target, where they were purchasing food to serve to parents with sick kiddos. This couple has poured themselves out to love others in countless ways as they have discipled, mentored, and given away what they had for others. Marcy told me once that nothing they own is actually theirs, it all belongs to God.
The reason we’re even calling her “Marcy”, is because many of the times she has given to me, she has sworn me to secrecy. She and her husband live out Matthew 6:1-4 with extravagance! While I could go on about this couple and their generosity, they would humbly remind me that living with open hands and hearts is simply the means by which they are called to further the Kingdom.
Marcy reminds me of a woman in the Bible whose name also isn’t mentioned… perhaps because her heart was so similar to Marcy’s. She wasn’t concerned about being remembered only about living generously.
This nameless woman is known as the “Shunammite Woman”.
Like our friend, Gaius, she isn’t well known, but from Scripture, we do know she was wealthy, married, and perhaps most importantly:
she used hospitality to love others well.
The benefactor of her gifts was a prophet named Elisha.
Elisha and this woman somehow met when he visited her town. She insisted on feeding him. (Which I can only laugh at because I literally try to force-feed my brother every time he visits. “Are you hungry? No? Are you sure? Here, I made spaghetti last night, let me just reheat some for you. I also have salad and brownies and coffee and the lesser-known sparkling water, Bubly!”)
The Shunammite Woman must’ve been a pretty decent cook, because after their first encounter, Elisha stopped by her house to eat every single time he visited. I can’t imagine the conversations that occurred, but there is no doubt that Elisha shared about the One True God, Yahweh, with this woman and her husband. Before long, the Shunammite Woman referred to Elisha as a ‘holy man of God’ and had a room built just for him on the roof of their house. They fully furnished the room and welcomed Elisha and his servant readily.
Many of us have guest rooms and happily welcome visitors throughout the year, but to actually construct an entire room specifically for a guest-turned friend is radical.
Elisha wasn’t family.
This wasn’t a neat Airbnb designed for income off of Elisha.
This was love and hospitality and generosity.
After becoming aware of the work the One True God was doing through Elisha, they used what they had – a rooftop – to support God’s Kingdom work in their community,
expecting nothing in return.
I’ve been writing this Journey study while sitting in my church’s building watching the hustle and bustle of daily church activities occur. Just a moment ago, friends of mine who are empty-nesters, came over to chat and I asked why they were here on a Thursday morning. “Oh, we have four camp counselors staying at our house and we told them we’d come see them at camp today!”
Open handed generosity.
This same couple has opened up their home again and again for Kingdom work.
After becoming aware of the work the One True God is doing, this couple used what they had – a home with empty rooms – to support God’s work in our community.
Sisters, it doesn’t take much for us to demonstrate incredible hospitality like Marcy, the Shunammite woman, or my empty-nester friends.
Each are using what they have – their homes, their love for people, and their love for the Father – to further the work God is doing.
We don’t need a secure job with a steady income, just an open heart.
Maybe all we have is a pull-out couch, bottomless coffee, or cold water on a hot day.
God takes our willingness,
our open hands,
and open hearts,
and He builds His Kingdom!
This study first appeared on GracefullyTruthful.com and is property of Gracefully Truthful. For more studies like this one, visit the website!
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