Today, Grace speaks to us about what she has learned in a difficult health season in her life, lessons on what it means to raise awareness and what ‘light housekeeping required’ means to her.
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I think the things I remember most from my childhood are knowing I was loved, but feeling like I didn’t fit in – I think a feeling we can all relate to on some level!
I grew up in an interesting family. Both my parents worked in academia, but as professional musicians they were also involved in traditional music ministry (my father, a choir director and my mother, a church organist). My brother and I went to a private, Christian school. Neither of my parents are Christian. When I was 7, we moved from Louisiana to Georgia and transferred from a Christian to a non-Christian private school, and my parents stopped working in church. But some little bits and pieces stuck for me. I think I always had a sense that God was real, even when it wasn’t what I was taught or raised to believe.
My brother, 2.5 years older than I, has a congenital heart disease that brought a lot of challenges when we were young. This meant that my parents’ attention was often much more focused on him. Both of us were enrolled in music lessons, and my brother had a lot more natural talent than I did (he’s now a professional organist!), so I often felt like I wasn’t quite measuring up. By middle school, I felt like a fish out of water. I didn’t have many friends and was bullied after a rumour was started that I was a lesbian. I wound up changing schools and seeing a child psychiatrist, who diagnosed me with clinical depression at age 12.
I became a Christian early in high school, and when I look back on my childhood now, I can see the faithfulness and sovereignty of God woven throughout. Even feeling “other,” feeling left out, feeling like I wasn’t as good as everyone else – these things helped shape me into a young woman who was desperate for God and open to His will for my life.
“I think I always had a sense that God was real, even when it wasn’t what I was taught or raised to believe.”
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-) – such a beautiful piece of Scripture praising the Lord! It shows such faith on Mary’s part, to know that all the glory belongs to God, but also to humbly recognise the significance of her being blessed and favoured by God. I love that in praising God, Mary isn’t solely focused on her situation, but she remembers God’s past faithfulness and justice and the steadfastness of His character. It’s such a powerful reminder that the works of His hands are never isolated events, but all parts of a greater story that He’s inviting us into. Mary’s Magnificat inspires me to consider if I praise the Lord for what He’s done for me, or for who He has been, and what He has done, for all mankind throughout history.
“[F]or he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him, from generation to generation.” Luke 49-50
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: Stewarding spiritual gifts. Because my profession is not in full service of my spiritual gifts, (I have spiritual gifts of teaching and discernment, but I’m not a full-time teacher/writer/speaker) it can be challenging to find time and ways to use my gifts in my local community.
In the last year, God has taught me a lot about the importance of stewarding gifts and allowing them to grow, and the more I grow in spiritual discipline, the more I realise the urgency to use our gifts in whatever capacity possible, rather than falling into the trap of thinking maybe our gifting is for a different time, season or place. Sister, your gifts are for here and now! Let’s use them!
Profession: I work as a senior-level administrator in the non-profit sector.
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? Some Light Housekeeping Required – I’ve had this book title rolling around in my head for about six years! When I first moved to Australia (where I now live with my husband and our son), I was hired as an au pair and signed a contract that specified “some light housekeeping required.” But about 90% of my job was housekeeping! It sounds like a small thing, but it set off a chain of events that radically changed my life. If I ever wrote a memoir, it would start with the story of that job, and that contract, and all the things that happened because of it.
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? I think I’ve been quietly encountering God my whole life, without even realising it. I actually remember going on a family vacation once, before I had made a profession or faith or understood the Gospel, and finding a little devotional in a bedside table that talked about how the true Christian has a constant thought of “I love God” in their mind. I spent that entire family vacation trying to train myself to think “I love God” on repeat to become a Christian!
But I think the first real encounter I had with God was the night I was saved. I had been struggling with depression and suicide ideation for over a year and had just been dumped by my first boyfriend, whose mother had recently died. I wanted to go with my friend to a youth retreat about an hour outside of town, but my parents said no. My mom decided, though, that she’d drive me to the Saturday night worship service as a compromise and wait in the foyer. At the end of that service, there was an altar call. I remember having the sensation that a hand was physically pulling me from my seat down to the front. I kept resisting, telling myself I’d go if someone I knew went down. The music played for so long – I’ve never seen such a long altar call since that night – and finally, the physical pull was too strong, and I walked down to the altar.
When I got home that night, I sat in front of my bedroom window, asking God to explain it to me – what it meant for me to love Him, to believe in Him and to live for Him. As I prayed, a light filled my window (it was around midnight) and my room grew warm, with this feeling of total security. I knew, without a doubt, that this was the presence of God, promising to guide me in my faith and keep me secure.
How has your relationship with Him changed you? How has it not changed me? As a 15-year-old, my relationship with God helped me begin a path of healing from mental illness. My relationship with God has given me a sense of self-worth and it has brought meaning to my life. My relationship with the Lord is forever changing me, thankfully! I am always growing in sanctification – growing towards more grace, more kindness, more mercy, more fruifulness, more Christlikeness. I think mostly, my relationship with God has made me open to a relationship with God, which allows me to be a person willing and ready to be changed.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? It has been a hard season! Early in 2019, I was hospitalised due to severe hip pain and loss of feeling in my back and right leg. We found out not long after that I had stage 1 bone cancer and would need a hip replacement. In the middle of all of this, I was made redundant at work, my husband went back to university, and my baby became a very rambunctious toddler. And I learned that what the Bible says is true: suffering produces perseverance.
It’s true that God can bring growth from times of abundance, but I’ve learned time and again that there is a specific kind of growth that comes from suffering – from having our faith refined as we understand more of Christ’s own suffering. And it’s this reality – this promise – that has helped me grow spiritually. At first, it wasn’t growth, but just clinging to God. But God, in His kindness, never leaves us just clinging. He draws us nearer to Himself and makes us more like Himself. So, the suffering helped me grow spiritually. The clinging to God in desperation helped me grow. And His Spirit, ever-present and always working, caused me to grow, because in spite of suffering, I clung to God in desperation.
“But God, in His kindness, never leaves us just clinging. He draws us nearer to Himself and makes us more like Himself.”
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?):
I recently finished reading None Like Him by Jen Wilkin, and The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. None Like Him taught me so much about the character of God, and why it’s important to remember that being an image-bearer of God doesn’t make me identical to Him. The Hiding Place taught me to look for the goodness of God in impossible circumstances and to remember to always be merciful, even when anger would be easier.
Top three essentials: This is a tough one! Burt’s Bees Chapstick, always. A good book (anything by Ann Patchett). And a slice of homemade chocolate cherry pie.
How did God speak to you recently? Recently, God spoke to me through Psalm 19:7-9, which says, “The instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one’s life; the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise; the precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad; the command of the Lord is radiant, making the eyes light up. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether righteous.”
I read this psalm on January 1, as part of my reading plan and felt like through it, the Lord was reminding me of the purpose of His Word – that each part serves a specific purpose in helping us discern His voice. It was like a prompting from God to not desire one aspect of His Word or character apart from the others, but to seek Him wholly and entirely. Not just His testimony, but also His instructions. Not just His precepts, but also His commands. Not just worshiping emptily, but fearing Him rightly!
Hobby: I’m an administrator by trade, but a writer by midnight oil. I love to write, sing, play piano, and read. I’m also a big fan of the great outdoors and will take any opportunity to go for a good bush walk (that’s Aussie for “hike”).
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong:
Read your Bible daily, join a local church, and don’t give up on those two things if your relationship with God doesn’t feel super emotional or spiritual.
I think we often think about spirituality through the lens of practicality, because it’s easier to accomplish tasks on a list than to invest in vulnerable relationships, and it makes us feel like we deserve success. But our relationship with the Lord isn’t a checklist. For me, spiritual strength is about the discipline to stay committed when I don’t “feel” spiritual, just as I stay committed to my husband and our marriage when it doesn’t feel super romantic.
I think faith can be a lot simpler than we think, if we can pare it back to basics – be in the Word, because this is God’s voice and primary mode of communication with mankind. Be in the church, because this is where we learn to understand the Word, where we are discipled and disciple others, and where we become the hands and feet of God. And be committed, because there will be seasons where you don’t see or feel the fruit of Scripture reading and church attendance.
“I think we often think about spirituality through the lens of practicality, because it’s easier to accomplish tasks on a list than to invest in vulnerable relationships, and it makes us feel like we deserve success.”
Favorite person in scripture? I don’t think I could pick just one! There are so many people in Scripture that I admire. I love Hannah, Samuel’s mother – I am overwhelmed when I read her story of faithfulness and prayerfulness, and her willingness to give back to God a child she so deeply longed for. I also love Deborah, a female judge in the Old Testament.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? I want them to learn that He is faithful. He is good. He is kind. He is just. He is worth worshiping. I hope my life, the good and the bad, shows people the worthiness of Jesus.
How do you engage with your community? I’m a huge believer in the importance of engaging with local community, especially in a time when so many people focus more on social media engagement. We engage by being active members of our local church (this means we signed a covenant membership with our church, we both serve at church and we’re active in a Bible study).
We try to engage through hospitality as well – we are quick to extend invitations and stop for chats with our neighbours, and we don’t leave it up to other people to initiate friendships.
We’ve come out of a season where community engagement meant receiving a lot of help from other people, so we’re praying and considering new ways we can serve others! Outside of church, we both engage in friendships with coworkers, and we try to be fully present in our workplaces, so we can get to know more people and invite them to do life with us.
Favorite holiday? Christmas! I love the length of the season (4 Sundays/weeks of Advent and 12 days of Christmas), how it brings our focus to Jesus, how it points us to and prepares us for Easter, the food, the gifts, the cheesy Hallmark movies… I love everything about Christmas. For 2019, I actually wrote a 12-day devotional for the 12 Days of Christmas, and I would love to eventually write a longer reading plan to delve into the misinformation we have about the birth of Jesus, and how it impacts our celebration of Christmas.
A goal you have? I think I’m in the minority when I say that I’m not a very goal-oriented or ambitious person, so goal-setting is hard for me! At the moment, one of my biggest goals is to focus on my health – over the last few years, I’ve struggled with learning to manage an autoimmune disease, as well as recovering from an unexpected, emergency hip replacement at 29 years old, so there’s been a lot of physical and mental trauma. I’ve done a lot of work on my mental health, so now, I’d like to focus on my physical health – not just managing symptoms and trying not to be sick, but actually enjoying the body I’ve been given and stewarding it well.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: You might have guessed it from my favourite holiday, but one tradition we have is celebrating the full Advent and Christmas seasons. We decorate and start “preparing” for Christmas on December 1 and we keep the celebrations going until January 5. I even put together a little 12-days of Christmas calendar that explains the symbolism of each day – kind of like an Advent calendar.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? It’s probably a bit of an annoying answer, but I don’t think I’ll ask any questions. I truly think to be in the presence of God, at the throne of Christ, in the true and better Eden, all my questions will either already be answered, or they won’t matter anymore.
Thing you want to raise awareness about: Oh, so many! I want to raise awareness about Christmas (seriously, Jesus wasn’t born in a stable). I want to raise awareness about mental health in Christian spheres. I want to raise awareness about the dangers of complete loyalty to one political party. I want to raise awareness about healthy sexuality, in and outside of marriage. I want to raise awareness about fast fashion and sustainability, about the joys and blessings of motherhood, about gun violence, about Biblical literacy and everyday theology, about womanhood and adult friendships. There are so many things, and I think this is why community matters on a local level. I can never speak to all of these things, especially not on social media. But I can listen to and learn from people who agree and disagree with me. I can read articles from all sides. I can serve my local church with fervour and create meaningful relationships that lead to meaningful discipleship, which leads to a harvest beyond what I can see. I think most of us are passionate about multiple things, and it can feel exhausting. But when we go back to the day-to-day moments of life, we can raise more awareness than we realise. So, maybe the number one thing I want to raise awareness about is that raising awareness doesn’t have to happen on a global scale to be meaningful, and it doesn’t have to go viral to have an impact.
“So, maybe the number one thing I want to raise awareness about is that raising awareness doesn’t have to happen on a global scale to be meaningful, and it doesn’t have to go viral to have an impact.”
What does your morning routine consist of? Most mornings, I’m up at 5:30 or 6 am to spend time in the Word before my son wakes up at 7. Then I juggle getting ready for work while making breakfast and playing race cars (or getting Teddy dressed for daycare, depending on the day) before heading to the office. On weekends, I sleep in a little more and then have a little one-on-one time with Teddy before Stephen wakes up. Once we’re all awake and ready, we usually head to our favourite cafe for coffee and donuts before going to the park for some fresh air. Since my husband isn’t much of an early bird, I’ve learned to really value the quiet time to myself before the day begins!
What is on your nightstand? A lamp, a picture of my dad and me at my university graduation, a dish for my wedding rings and Lord’s Prayer locket, a book of poetry and some Chapstick. There are usually some matchbox cars in the mix, too!
Define Christianity in a sentence: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself.