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 married an incredible, grace-filled man (that’s a whole other story) where our wedding and our marriage has been centered around grace, forgiveness, and redemption. We had twin baby girls who spent some time in the NICU, which cultured my passion for loving on other NICU mamas. And I now focus a lot of time and energy loving on other mamas, in whatever form I can.
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. I cannot live in regret or daily dwell in the past, so I move forward, celebrating every day that the Lord gets 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 how 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.