Growing in Grace: Jessi’s Story

“There I will give her back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.” Hosea 2:15a

“I will be like dew to the people of Israel. They will blossom like flowers. They will be firmly rooted like cedars from Lebanon.” Hosea 14:5

*****It is that time of year again: Fall stories! Wholehearted Woman Ministries’ mission is helping women be fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ and courageously on-mission for Him – one heart at a time.  One of the ways we do that is by sharing real-life stories of Christian women both past and present who have decided to follow Jesus wholeheartedly in this way.  No matter what season of life you are in, God is calling you to a place of deep and wholehearted relationship with Him.  We pray that each story told is used by God to fashion your individual heart, to know and experience Him even more deeply, and to joyfully do His will to His glory!  “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.” (Psalm 107:2) Read on!     

*          *          *

When my husband and I (Jenni) first met Jessi and her husband, Devon, little did we know how special they would become to our family. Some dear friends from church invited them to join our married couples small group, and shortly thereafter we realized that our young son would also have them as children’s church teachers in his class on Sundays. Today, they are also parents to their beautiful daughter and run a thriving business together. God has given them a sincere and ever-growing love for Him, for His Word, for each other, and for the lost, hurting, and vulnerable.

Jessi’s story is one of God’s grace and love. He pursues us and makes what is broken into something beautiful. Jessi has said YES wholeheartedly to following Jesus as a wife, mama, and daughter of the King, and we cannot wait for you to read her story. May the Holy Spirit use it to minister God’s truth to your own mind and heart. May it challenge and encourage you to live for His glory and to do as 2 Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the honor both now and on that eternal day.” This is Jessi’s story… 

Ever since I can remember, church has been a constant in my life. I grew up in a Christian household where my mother led numerous bible studies every year, she hardly ever missed a morning quiet time with the Lord, and my dad was always vocal about his love for God. If you had asked me as a child if I believed in God, I would have said yes, but the relationship side of things was strictly between God and my mother. Things between God and me were effortless. I believed in Him, and that was enough for me…until it wasn’t.

My most consistent childhood dream was to see the world and experience all of the different cultures. So, when I was in high school, I signed up for a mission trip to Germany, knowing my parents couldn’t say no because it was a “mission trip.” When I arrived, my sightseeing dream was shattered and was confined to a singular park in Munich that we went to every single day to prayer walk. But, despite my selfish ambition, God met me on that trip, and that’s when I started to understand more of His character.

When I returned, my family and I went on a lake trip the next day, and I got to bring my best friend. Waking up that morning at the lake, I knew I didn’t want things to go back to normal, so I read the Bible out loud to my friend, and we prayed together for the first time. What started as a beautiful morning ended up being the worst day of my life. We got in a tragic jet ski accident on the lake that day while I was driving. My friend was in critical condition, and the odds were not in her favor. However, by the grace of God, her life was spared, and so was mine.

Throughout that time in my life, there were many Christians that told me that because of my new commitment to Christ, the enemy caused the accident out of his rage, and the Lord allowed it. I could never wrap my mind around why God would allow such devastation. My friend was never the same after the accident, physically or mentally; I lost every companion I ever had due to the lawsuit that took place quickly after, and I was completely alone. Fear and loneliness crippled me, and I walked away from my faith. I was angry with God like never before, which led me down a very sinful road.

Fast forward to when I got married, my husband and I decided it was time for both of us to lay down our pasts and pursue God again. Now, I am aware that it was really God pursuing us. But, we plugged ourselves into church, started reading the Bible together, and began to pray for change within ourselves. My husband and I started with elementary teachings and preached the gospel to one another for the first couple of years of marriage. Our love for Jesus really established there. It became more than just religion to us, and I started to want a relationship with Jesus more than I was afraid.

As our relationship with Christ grew, so did conviction. We started to confess a lot of sins to one another and found that there was active sin taking place in our marriage that was crushing us. The shame, pain, and weight were so much that we knew we couldn’t do it alone, so we simply gave it all to God. Per His request, we offered ourselves as living sacrifices to God on a daily, and He truly did the rest. He started to teach us what purity should look like in a marriage, and he held our hands through the entire refining storm. I’ve never felt so much agony in that season. But I also have never heard the voice of God so clearly. He was truly our comforter, leading us in His gentle way to the place He called us to be.

As I look back to that time of our marriage, my heart is so grateful for the growth that was produced during that time. I’m one step closer to the person God created me to be, and you can be too (Ephesians 2:8-10). The real question isn’t if it’s possible to change into the person God created you to be; it’s whether you are prepared for the cost of praying for change. When Jesus explained what it takes to be a disciple, He made sure His followers considered the cost. In the same way that hardship comes with being a follower of Jesus, so does growth. You cannot grow without facing pain. Pain is the price of potential. Pain is a part of my story, but so is freedom, peace, and joy because my Father is the one who turned my affliction into my testimony.

“For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory…!” (Psalm 84:10-11)

*           *           *

For more stories like this one, SIGN UP below for our emails, and check out the book The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters  by sisters and co-authors, Jenni Walker and Beth Doohan.  With heartfelt messages that will challenge your faith, stories of other Wholehearted Women, and reflection questions to dive deeper, this is a great resource for personal devotion or small group study!

Now available through Barnes and NobleWestbow PressWalmart, and other bookstores.