Grace Story


Hello, love. 

This my story of the grace of God. 
This is gonna be long, ok? 
Might want to pour a fresh one.
There’s not really a way to cut this short.
And it goes back…way back. 
A lifetime.

I.

My mom tells me I accepted Jesus when I was 3 years old. I love knowing that something in me responded to the gospel at such a young age, but I have no recollection of doing so. What I do remember is sitting at my family’s dining table at six, bawling my eyeballs out as I begged forgiveness for my sins and asked Jesus into my heart. 

In the arms of my mother, a red-faced baby brother screamed and cried as I prayed to the Lord. I was glad he was louder than me, because his wails drowned out my profuse repentance while begging God to save me. In some way, I felt that it gave me a bit of privacy, a place to hide as I brought my shamed, scared and sinful self to God for salvation.

At the ripe age of 7 I sat in a pew at a local church for my first exposure to all things apocalyptic: a viewing of the infamous 70s film Thief in the Night. Fear took root in me then, fed and watered over the next several years from acquiring a belief system that said the pre-trib rapture was not biblical and Christians like me would go through the great tribulation, reject the mark of the beast, and be killed for our faith.

We had no doubt this would occur in our lifetime. The only important things were saving souls, preparing for the end, and living a holy, obedient life. 

Stricken with fear at seven years old, I would cry hot tears into my pillow at night, unable to sleep and unable to shake the terror. I was terrified of the antichrist, of being tortured, of being ripped away from my family, of accidentally blaspheming the Holy Spirit, of nazi-like police, of not being good enough, of being rejected for some sin I forgot to confess, of being imperfect, of everything. 

I did not know anything about grace. But there was a seed of kindness planted through the patience of my father who took seriously the theological despair of his seven-year-old. I don’t remember all the things he said, but over time his patient conversations carried me to a point that felt bearable enough to get by. I don’t know how I would have made it otherwise, because an unshakeable paralysis was born in my youth that continued for many years. In my teens, futility & depression nearly killed me, because what was the point of anything? All my creative dreams were foolish and had no place in an apocalyptic world where no one would be reading novels or wearing custom-designed dresses or planning beautiful weddings or decorating homes or doing anything other than trying to survive. When your only foreseeable future consists of dodging the antichrist until you finally get your head chopped off, writing love stories is stupid. Hoping to get married is stupid. Sewing pretty things is stupid. Learning to play guitar is stupid. But learning what native plants are edible? Learning how to live without electricity? Reading how Corrie Ten Boom hid Jews from the Nazis? How to be faithful unto death? All of these were important. All of these things would be useful to know during the apocalypse.

I finally came to realize I was either going to die in the tribulation…or die waiting for the tribulation. As a perfectionist who very much wanted to please God and my family, I never experienced the typical teenage rebellion that some do, but at nineteen I thrust everything end-time-y out of my mind and refused to think about it for almost twenty years.

But wait. Let me back up. It wasn’t only about the apocalypse.

II.

One of the first things I ever learned was that if I wanted someone to love me, I had to earn it. 

You don’t just hand love out for no reason. (Why so selfish, Hil-la-ry? Everything is not about you.) There’s other kids to love. Other folks to spend time with. You have to prove why you deserve it, why you are worthy, why the gift of love should be bestowed upon you. But there’s a catch. You’ll never actually be worthy. You’re a despicable dog, a filthy rag, a terribly sinful wretch of a person who deserves the fires of hell, and no matter how hard you try to obey and be good, you’ll never actually be good enough. Because you’re a sinner. 

But from time to time, a few scraps of love will fall from the table into your starving and famished mouth. You’ll swallow them. You’ll feel guilty. 

You’ll want to kill yourself, you feel so guilty.

III.

I was the firstborn in a large family, and most of my formative years were spent working for love. 

Around nine or ten I was given a nickname: “happy helping Hillary.” I was the ‘second mother,’ the happy helper. And because I longed for acceptance, approval and love, and wanted to please God, and did not want to be rejected forever or sent to hell, I became a militant perfectionist. Perfection was a matter of life or death.

We were desperately poor, but we trusted God to meet our needs, and glory to God, He did. Through literal miracles we never went hungry for food. But inside, I was dying for love. 

By the time I was twelve I discovered the million-dollar-secret: when I was obedient, godly, and helpful, that’s when I got the love and approval I craved. For a fleeting moment, I was a good girl, with no reason to repent for taking up space. My existence was justified. I was useful. I was justified by my usefulness to others. I found salvation in work, which I thought made me approved unto God. My acts of service, labor and self-sacrifice made my life matter. When I did something for someone else, I was worthy of being alive. 

With the years came hormones, emotions, and despair. Depression crept into my life like the slowly-darkening edges of an aging photograph. So did exhaustion and shame.

Being the firstborn child in my family, I heard often that I was responsible for the actions and hearts of my younger siblings. “They are watching you,” I learned. And not just them; so was the world. 

Whenever I failed to be godly, obedient, helpful, kind, patient, or perfect, the burden of knowing that I might lead my brothers and sisters astray or damage my Christian witness before a lost and dying world heaped guilt and shame on a soul already staggering under the weight of it. My depression grew worse. I was not a happy helper but a desperate, despairing one. The horrid truth dawned: I was a sinful burden who, no matter how hard I tried, could not be perfect. I failed constantly. I caused pain and stress to the ones I loved. I always made my mother cry. I was a huge, sensitive, emotional, evil disappointment to my father. I didn’t show the patience and love of Christ to my siblings. I was a walking embarrassment to everyone, including God, because I was gaining weight, had ungodly dreams for my adult life (who will need a fashion designer when the economy collapses? Besides, fashion is worldly), because I got impatient with my younger siblings, was a terrible example of holiness, was tired all the time, argued with my mom, and no matter how hard I tried, could not overcome sin or be perfect. 

I wanted to make myself die. 

But if I did that, I thought for sure I would go to hell. 

My only recourse? More. More of what I already did. I felt that my presence, my very being, was a constant source of stress and disappointment to my parents. Helping out through labor and work was the only way I knew how to apologize and hopefully make up for some of the pain and burden I caused simply by existing. 

Physically, I was exhausted. Sometimes I think there are no words in the English language to explain how weary-down-to-my-bones and my soul I felt. But this brought guilt, too. Because if I was tired, how much more tired must be my mother? I heard this over and over as more children were born. “Your mom must be so tired!” Yes, of course she was. The least I could do was not complain, keep helping, and try to become like Christ. To be humble and obedient. To sacrifice and die to my flesh, even when my flesh just wanted some rest. 

At fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old, exhaustion became my holy offering because it meant I could take up my cross and die to myself. Suffering refined me and made me more like Christ. 

I wanted this so much. He was perfect.

IV.

Over time my family withdrew more and more from the world. We withdrew from churches and many other Christians. Our doctrine became harsh, gaining strength through fear-based, guilt-driven theology that put heavy emphasis on behavior, actions, lifestyle, sin and holiness. I knew nothing of grace except that it was God’s undeserved favor. What I understood about grace was that I, as a sinful child, was just as wicked as a child molester or murderer, because sin is sin and grace is the only reason I was not in hell. 

But I could be, if I fell away. I could lose my salvation at any time, especially if I sinned willfully. If I became worldly. If I wasn’t holy enough. 

Yet I also learned that I would never be holy enough, because of my sinful human nature. So my heart—at twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen—became ravaged by a polarizing theology that taught: 

Keep trying to be holy, for God is holy. But remember: you are a sinner. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be holy enough. But if you give up trying, that’s sin. If you grow weary or lose heart, that’s sin. It’s the weakness of your sinful flesh. If you follow your flesh, you are turning away from God. And if you turn away from God, you’ll go to hell.

I knew clearly what the Bible said. Jesus warned of the folks who came to Him and protested, “Lord, Lord.” To them He replied, “I never knew you.” If the righteous are scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and sinner appear? 

I was a sinner. And this filled me with dread. 

So for years, quaking and trembling, I was obsessed with perfection and holiness. I begged forgiveness daily for my sins. For being a terrible witness for God and a terrible daughter and sister in my family. I wrote pages and pages of confessions, apologies, and tearstained prayers in my journal. I cried over it and prayed relentlessly. I read my Bible daily and memorized pages and pages of Scripture. I fell asleep with holiness and perfection on my mind. I sank into deep despair when I failed. I wished I could die constantly; I believed I deserved it, and I was not immune to wondering if anyone would miss me or be glad their burden was gone. But mostly it was due to the staggering fear and shame and tiredness. I was never good enough, never worthy enough, deserved no mercy, and the fact that I was “loved” at all was the undeserved patronization of a high and holy God. 

The threat of hell loomed over me as constant and intimate as breathing—not always by others, for I was well-versed in Scripture & this sort of theology, and my worst tormentor was myself.

V.

I was raised to obey God, regardless of the cost. Even when it meant going against the flow, and especially when it required making incredibly difficult choices that would garner condemnation, accusations, persecution or rejection from others. We knew the world hated Jesus, so it would hate us, too. If we weren’t reaping some kind of criticism or judgment for our holy and peculiar lifestyle, we weren’t being holy enough. 

Our convictions led to an unconventional way of life: to become as self-sufficient as possible, live off the grid, and follow strictness in the home. It led to authoritarian control and being trained what to think and how to believe. My eyes learned to strain and search everything for evil or deception; I became vigorous and suspicious. Nothing was exempt from scrutiny, because scripture warns that “even Satan masquerades as an angel of light.” Daily we judged whatever happened to come up: media, government, food distributors, school systems, churches, local officials, doctors, modern medicine, banks, books, messages or music on the radio, news sources controlled by those with an “agenda,” clothes, careers, personal choices, lifestyles. We questioned others' hearts, intentions, mind and motivations. We criticized people who had Internet, who used cell phones, who sent their kids to public school or dyed their hair or who “didn't want to know the truth.” We judged people who used modern medicine, were “trapped in the world,” who took advantage of modern conveniences, who owned a checking account, who went to (or encouraged) college or higher education, women who moved away from home before they got married, people who were caught up in “the system,” who went to big mega churches, used birth control, or hired a babysitter for special date nights. Folks who were “tolerant,” which meant they were soft on sin. 

Anyone who was not like us.

To us, this was righteous judgment. Holy conviction. The proper discernment of a people set apart, who knew the truth, who lived according to the Bible and whose purpose was to convict others. The others needed to be convicted. They were worldly. They needed to feel guilty, repent from sin, learn the truth, and live in self-denial and holiness. 

Because if they didn’t turn away from the world, if they were weak and addicted to the comfort and convenience of the world, they would give in. Only the weak ones, the deceived and worldly ones, believed in a false teaching known as a “pre-tribulation rapture.” They just wanted to escape. But we knew there was no escape. And if the others were not willing to become uncomfortable, or to give up their worldly lifestyle and become wiling to suffer, they were weak. They would take the mark of the beast. They would go to hell.

As a child and young adult, 1) anxiety over the end times, mark of the beast, and the antichrist, 2) dread of death, hell, and the torments described in the biblical book of Revelation, and 3) my obsession with sin and perfection led to an unbearable, suicidal, impossible-to-hold weight. 

Amidst unspeakable inner and outer turmoil, I left home at nineteen and entered “the world.” 

VI.

The unfulfilled hunger for love eventually takes its toll. And it manifests in many ways. I realize, now, that for me, it showed up as unbelief. I did not believe I was lovable as-is, and I didn’t believe God. Who would love this? This sinful, evil, rotten thing I am, not even worthy to be called a person? How could a perfect, holy God love such a wicked, wicked girl? Sure, my eyes read the words: “for God so loved the world…” but remember, I was not of the world. I was actually trying to be faithful, godly, and pure. I wasn’t someone “out there” to whom redemption was offered. I had accepted Jesus when I was six and lived my whole life trying to be good. I was a blight on the inside.

I grew up with strong faith, but my faith was no match for the tenderness of a young girl aching to be loved. A young girl who felt faceless and unmemorable in a sea of others—just one of the kids, one anonymous face in a crowd, one soul in a million souls. How could I be loved when there were so many other children? So many other women? So many trillions of people throughout history that God made? What made me special enough to qualify for love? How could there be enough love to go around? 

And yet I did not want to be loved at the expense of others. To me, love was something you quickly ran out of, like patience, like money, like time. I did not want others to be any less loved. So I found a new and twisted way to justify the pain, so at least it felt bearable. I gave it spiritual purpose. I told myself, then I will sacrifice. I will be less-loved so that others can be loved. I will give love. I will love and love and love. 

I became fiercely codependent and attached myself to whomever seemed kind. I loved them intensely the way I wanted to be loved. I gave service, devotion, gifts, words, at-the-drop-of-a-hat presence, anything and everything. I wasn’t promiscuous—I still feared hell and the displeasure of God—but I made terrible choices in friendships and employment. I had horrible boundaries and relationships drenched with toxicity. I wanted to prove my love, but underneath it, I wanted to prove I was lovable. If I was lovable then God was justified in loving me, and maybe He wouldn’t send me to hell. 

When grace appears 

One evening in January, many years ago, I stood on my balcony, crying and alone.

I was married by now, and the healing love of my husband had laid a foundation of hope. He saw the wicked me and loved me anyway. He saw the overweight and ugly me, and loved me anyway. He knew and saw everything I hated about myself, and continued to love me in ways I believed. 

In the south where I live, January can be luscious. I remember that night as a poem on my skin. The wind felt balmy and soft; the stars glimmered after dusk, sweet and serene. I looked at the stars and suddenly realized that I was seeing them with my own eyes for no other reason than so that I could see them. For myself. I could see them, and I didn't have to work for it or give this seeing to anyone else. In that moment, all this beauty was given to me. 

I remember touching my eyes, and in those moments, illumination burst through my entire being. In a lifetime of “doing,” where I learned that it was holy to work hard, sacrifice, and give my Self completely away, I also learned that nothing belonged to me. I had no right to good things or beauty. If I had anything good, it was mine to work for, share with others, and to sacrifice. Nothing felt sacred in the sense that it was private, with protective boundaries, worthy of holding close and treasuring and keeping. 

And yet here I stood, gazing at stars with my very own eyes, eyes that were given to me for my own benefit and pleasure. Not because I was perfect. Not because I earned them. They were given to me, simply because God is good. Eyes are good. They make life a lot easier, richer and far more beautiful. And I got to keep them. I had something beautiful to keep for my very own. 

And revelation poured into me: this must be love. It was grace, but it felt to me like love. It was like I discovered a thrilling secret: I have eyes, and this person over here has eyes, and we both get to see, and my seeing doesn't take away from theirs, and theirs doesn't take away from mine. 

This moment. 

This was the first moment I began to understand. It wasn’t immediate, this understanding. But a holy doubt began to tremble with hope in my heart. Maybe? Maybe I am loved...just because? Maybe I am loved...even if I don’t do anything to earn it? Could I be loved...just because I was born? I have eyes just because I was born. And these eyes are the sweetest gift. Imagine going through life without eyes! And with these eyes I can see stars and words and flowers and the face of my beloved husband and the smiles of my nephews and so much indescribable beauty. 

And the God who made me and gave me this good gift of eyes—He gave them to me before I could earn them. I didn’t have to earn my eyes. And look at how good this gift is. I could be a bad, bad, evil and wicked person…yet I still have the gift of these eyes. 

This is when I first began to believe God’s love…through the revelation of a kind gift He gave to me without any conditions, expectations, or promises to be holy and perfect. I didn’t have to earn them and I didn’t have to be good to keep them. Could it be? Yes. Still more years passed before that seed bore fruit, but as the Lord began to heal my heart, He healed my unbelief, too. I learned what love is—WHO love is. He opened my eyes and showed me the truth I’d read hundreds of times: that while we were still sinners, because of His great love for us, Christ died for us. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us...” (Titus 3:5a, 2 Cor. 5:21) 

Slowly I came to understand and believe that not one act of service can make me more or less loved in His eyes, because His love is not based on what I do or don’t do. His grace is not based on what I do or don’t do. The free gift of eternal life is not based on what I do or don’t do. 

I could sit here for the rest of my natural life and not lift a finger and He would not love me any less. I would not be any less saved. Just the same, I could work myself into the grave through service & sacrifice, and not be any more saved, more righteous, more holy, or more loved. 

Because it’s not about me or anything I can do. It’s all about Him. His perfection. His holiness. By giving His life on the cross, Jesus took my sin and gave me His righteousness. Because of this, in the eyes of the most high God, I am perfect. 

VII.

Late autumn. 2016. My mom.

“Have you heard about that star?” 

I had not. “What star?” 

“Some star or something. It’s in Revelation 12. It’s supposed to do something on September 23 next year.” She’d heard about it on shortwave radio but knew I had the Internet and could find out more. “Just look it up.”

And with that, by the grace of God, I was snatched up and dropped in front a heavy, locked metaphorical door to face the fears of my childhood.

That door, mentally scrawled with “end-time-y things” across the front of it, splintered open. At my mother’s urging, I Googled the Revelation 12 star and what I discovered riveted me. But that was just the beginning. I suddenly felt a hunger like I’d never known to dive into theology and really search out whether all the beliefs I held about the end times, doctrines, and salvation were true. Over the years I held so much at arm’s length, including the finer details of my faith, but now it was time. I couldn’t explain it, but I knew it, I felt it, I heard it. 

God was moving.

But deeper darkness lay just around the curve.

VIII.

I never stopped being a Christian. 

For awhile I stopped calling myself one, unsure of labels and meanings. For a season that lasted about four years I held my faith at arm’s length, frustrated with what felt like Christianese but also afraid and doubtful of Father God. Like the wicked and lazy servant, I judged Him to be a hard man (Matt. 25:24-25). When I determined that the God of truth was not who I thought, I wrote about the god who died. I overflowed with questions that seemed too big to hold back, but too sacrilegious to speak out loud. I whispered them. Wrote them. Explored them in the dark night, in the shadowlands of my soul. 

I believed in Jesus, but didn’t know what else was true. I experimented with labels—trying them on, peeling them off. I called myself “spiritual, not religious.” I called myself a “mystic” and then “Christian mystic.” And then nothing, because no word seemed to be honest. I needed a spirituality that was comfortable with mystery. I needed to not try and dissect everything through intellectual discourse, or to try and explain faith. I needed “I don't know” to be enough.

During this time, I experimented and explored many things. I did and wrote things I'm now ashamed of (Rom. 6:21), things I still have trouble putting into words. I created sacred space around faith and held a lot of it at arm's length because I needed to rest. That was the only way I could move forward despite the pain and the questions I had no answers to.

Because if I thought I knew pain before, this season of unraveling brought a new wave of heartache that plunged me to an impossible level of grief. It’s hard to write about without tempering the drama. A few years before, in obedience to the calling of God, I did something extraordinarily difficult. The aftershocks in my world took years to find peace. And now, this? Would the pain never cease? Into this new struggle came a deeper sorrow. 

I don’t want to turn my story into a melodramatic, self-absorbed tale of woe and I am not seeking sympathy. The point is to share the glorious mercy and grace of God. Some of the details are hard to write about, and most I can’t even. I have been foolish in my life. Despite my quaking fear of hell, and my obsession with holiness, perfection, and sin, I have sinned very much. Sins of the heart, sins of the mouth, sins of the flesh and mind. Sins of unbelief.

I came into the idea that maybe one has to become the worst possible sinner they could think of, the kind of person they judge the most, or the kind of person their loved ones despise the most, criticize and reject, in order to know if the love of God is true. 

Would you still love me if…? 

That question haunted me like a shadow. It was the deepest, most secret cry in my heart. And following that if…? was a whole litany of sin and shame. 

In my foolishness and unbelief, I tested God. 

I found that God indeed did love me if. 

It seemed others didn’t. 

This pressed me into the beginnings of a profound loneliness I called exile. Love was on one side and I was over there on the other, in the wilderness and in the fog. 

Fill in your own story, here. 

IX.

When I followed the revelation star, I had no idea what God was doing, but I felt like I woke up in shock. Everything came flooding back—the dread of the end times, the futility of what’s the point?, the fear. 

I could not deny the material I’d found. A celestial alignment happening on September 23, 2017 did indeed seem to point to a prophecy in the very middle of “Apokalypsis Iesou Christou,” or what we know as Revelation. 

What does this mean? What if these really are the end times? What are we facing in these prophetic days? What if He is about to be revealed? 

Those were my questions as 2016 drew to a close.

Again: pain. The first month of 2017 brought tragedy to my husband and I. As we stumbled through the following weeks and months, grieving and in shock, I continued to study the revelation star. I also began to read a book about perfectionism and shame that I picked up at a late-night bookstore run. Events around me felt like darkness closing in, but I had no idea about the depth of it. As I read and journaled through the book, willing to sort through the sordid roots that choked me, I became assaulted by a shame storm so fierce that it felt like my entire lifetime of shame, from the time I was a tiny child, gathered itself into a ball and crashed into me. I could barely breathe. It felt like a sinister, deliberate plan to crush the life out of me. For the first time in my adult life, I seriously thought about suicide. Twice that week, unexplainable hives broke out all over my body. During that week, I received a strange and demonic invitation that startled me into a new sort of awareness: this is real. This is spiritual warfare.

On a black night in March, basically dying, I cried out: “I will no longer follow the voice of condemnation!” 

The next morning I awoke and could actually breathe. I hadn't realized how heavy the weight of condemnation felt in my lungs, but I awakened to lightness and peace. In those quiet early morning hours, a phrase came to me unbidden: “Christ the healer.” I believe now that the Spirit of God was gently introducing me to my Savior (John 16:13-14), the One who despised the shame and went to the cross, and by whose stripes I am healed. But what I did then was to Google it. 

I found a book by that same title, written in 1924 and posted online. I started to read, and I started to sob. I read the entire book that day, bawling my eyes out, and ordered a copy of my own from Amazon via same-day Prime. And I read the whole book again over the next day and a half. It spoke of salvation in a way I had never heard of before. It spoke of faith and healing. It spoke of a God who cared about this body we live in, my own body I’d hated my entire life because it could do nothing but grow fat and sin. 

But this book suggested that I was loved. All of me…even my body. My healing mattered to Jesus. He did not die just so I could barely escape from the hell I deserved, or live everyday in penitence, guilt and shame. He did not die so I could elevate suffering as the obligatory path to holiness. He came so I could be healed. He came to save me, yes, and to give life, and life more abundantly. (John 10:10)

The truth soaked into me like water in a thirsty land.

I am not here to recommend the book—I’ve not read it since that time, and the nuances of my beliefs are drastically different now as I’ve grown in understanding. But the Lord used this book to awaken a hunger in me for Scripture. 

X.

In March 2017, I bought a new Bible.

As a dutiful, godly child, I lived in the pages of my Bible. It was often read aloud in my family and I studied it faithfully on my own. It was a “should,” and a reason for awful guilt on the days I missed it. 

I thank God for such a thorough biblical foundation. Regardless of questionable doctrines and ways I lived them out, His word was in me. Even when I stopped reading it. Even when I adopted a skeptical approach as a mystic. You know, the guys who put together the canon—didn’t they hate women? Didn’t they have an agenda? How do we trust the origins of it? How do we know they correctly translated the original manuscripts? Is it really inerrant? What about the contradictions? I didn’t read the Bible much during this time. Instead, I read about it.

All that time, despite my struggle with labels and questions and deception, I never stopped ‘being a Christian.’ 

But sometimes I wonder: was I actually saved to begin with?

When a Scriptural hunger awoke in me, other than a few Psalms and Proverbs, I read the entire Old and New Testament in less than three months. Those days, I’d pack up my husband’s lunch and kiss him goodbye for work. I’d refill my coffee and sit down with my Bible only to look up eight hours later with him coming through the door, and me sitting there with nothing ready for dinner. I devoured the written word. I couldn’t get enough. I’d read it a million times before but I felt like I was getting it for the first time. It was alive to me, nourishing places I didn’t know were starving, but were now filled with rejoicing. I researched theology. I studied prophecy. I fell in love with the Old Testament, reading entire books at a time like a novel I could not put down. The Holy Spirit transformed my prayer life and taught me more than I’d ever learned. He led me to sermons, teachers and pastors who helped exegete Scripture. I received what felt like twenty years’ worth of seminary—no disrespect to degreed theologians—in about six months. My theology changed. My beliefs changed. My friends disappeared. The landscape of my business changed and unsubscribes rolled in. For a time, I stopped listening to music and watching movies. Not from a thou-shalt-not point of view, but because I literally had no desire for them. My desires changed. The most astonishing part: I wasn’t even trying. None of it was from me. 

Out of it all, the biggest transformation was that I finally understood the gospel.

Glory to God; I finally understood grace.

And that thing you’re supposed to get when you confess your sins and ask Jesus in your heart? That I thought you have to work hard to keep hold of, and could lose at any time? 

Salvation. Yes. I finally understood that.

I don’t know if my six-year-old sobbed-out version of the sinner’s prayer “worked.” I do know God is faithful, and I know He helped, guided and kept me throughout my forty years of life. I clearly remember answered prayers and His presence during difficult times of heartache, obedience and grief. So even though I wonder sometimes if I was born again before, I do know that salvation happened to me in March 2017. I was drowning. God, as literally as ever, plunged His holy arm down from the heavens into a swirling toilet of darkness, condemnation and shame to save me. And the fruit He has born in me since is fruit that can only come from the Spirit. Seeds planted long ago have burst into being, and it is all because of the love, faithfulness, and mercy of God who knew my indescribable foolishness. He saw all the ways I questioned, doubted, and did not believe. I tested Him, and He did not leave me. I was afraid of Him, and thought lies about Him and myself, while He suffered long and remained kind. He heard the sinful things I said and saw the sinful things I did. He knew and saw everything I hated about myself, and all the ways I expressed it. And He continued to love me in ways I believe. 

So now, for the rest of my life, I get to tell you how good God is. 

Not because I learned some religious-sounding words or kept myself in perfect moral behavior. (I didn’t, but nearly killed myself trying.)

Not because I’m afraid that if I don’t, I’ll go to hell. 

Not because I think I’ll lose my salvation. (I won’t. It’s impossible, actually. I know that now. Because it’s not about me.)

Not because I have a quota to reach or a witness to maintain.

But because it is true. And our Creator is kinder, more patient, gracious and loving than our human minds can understand. He tenderly does the work. I can only babble like a little baby trying to thank Him for His mercy and tell you what He has done for me. 

I have been forgiven much. And I love Him so. With all my heart, mind, body and soul. 

love, hillary


“…Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Eph. 5:14)