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  • Writer's pictureBecky Willey

Amazed By Grace Journal - March 2014

So excited to begin a journey this month of being Amazed by God's grace. #amazedbygrace

Day 1 - I am thankful to have been raised in a home where I experienced grace and mercy from Day 1. I don't remember a time when Christ wasn't central in our thoughts and conversations. I am grateful to have had parents who faithfully drove us to church each Sunday and sang songs about Jesus with us all the way there and back. One particular Sunday when I was 5, I remember telling my parents about what the SS teacher had told us about salvation. I knew that I was a sinner and I needed a Savior. I needed to tell Jesus I was sorry for my sins and ask him to forgive me. I needed to tell Him that I wanted Him to live in my heart forever. I talked to Mom about this and at that young age, I gave my life to Jesus. Although I didn't fully understand the magnitude of God's grace at the time, I am thankful for an innocent child-like faith and the amazing journey of accepting and living that grace out more fully every year.

Day 2 - God's grace sometimes saves us from what could have been. So thankful that I was born into a home with a very intense, persevering and loving earthly father. A man who was willing to hold the door as a 3-year-old little girl lay kicking and screaming on the other side. A man who many many times sat with me in my room and explained why he had to spank me to punish me for my rebellious behavior.... and continued to spank me (in love, not anger) until my will was broken and my heart was repentant. A man who refused to let me leave the house dressed like I wanted because I didn't understand how the male mind worked. A man who looked me straight in the eye at age 15 and told me he would quit going to work and accompany me to school, church and every social activity I had scheduled if I continued to lie to him and break his trust.... and he really meant it! Had God placed me in another home, I shudder to think where my life would have ended up. God's provision of a stubborn, strong-willed father for this stubborn, strong-willed daughter is one of the biggest blessings of my life. Thanks Dad! #amazedbygrace

Day 3 - As I have been reflecting on God's grace in my life, God is bringing so many things to mind. Things I took for granted perhaps, but that have carefully formed me and developed me into the person I am right now. My goal this month is to recognize those for what they are....part of a master plan that was set into motion long before I was born. Glimpses of God's grace!! His plan to use my life to bring him glory...all of it.....the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Anyone who knows my family or me has heard the story of Great Grandma and Grandpa Phillips. How God rescued a lowly sinner in his 30s and drew him to Himself. Clifford gave his life to Christ after attending a revival meeting because his Mom was in town and he didn't want to disappoint her. God captured His heart that day and he went on to start many rescue missions in California and minister to the "least of these" every day that he had breath with the good news of the Gospel. I could write a book about how his influence has molded and shaped our family for generations and I would not have enough ink.

However, what I am truly blessed by is that Grandpa Phillips asked The Lord to give him 4 generations of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that love Jesus and serve Him faithfully. Guess what...God answered that prayer with a resounding Yes..... and I am the 4th generation! That means that it is my job, by God's grace, to carry on this legacy. To pray for the next 4. To teach my daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren the heritage of a faithful God.

I remember talking to a dear friend - Rhonda Maki - who told me she was jealous that she didn't have a "Grandpa Phillips" in her family line. She and Scott were the first in her family to come to Christ. I encouraged her to be the "Great Grandpa and Grandma Maki" in her home. That when her children and grandchildren looked back, they would be thankful for the godly heritage that began in a high school auditorium in 2004!

No matter where you are in your family tree, realize that the impact you have or don't have for Christ on the next generation rests with you. Live your life for an Audience of One and model that for those who come behind. I'm glad Clifford and Estelle did! #amazedbygrace

Day 4 - Before my freshman year in high school, I was diagnosed with scoliosis with a 32-degree curve in my spine. The doctor wanted to put me in a hard plastic brace to be worn outside my clothing. I was devastated. For some reason, he gave us time to consider our options and I began to pray like crazy.

6 months later I returned to the doctor and my back had "corrected" itself by 8 degrees. A brace was now much more optional so we chose to forego it. The doctor couldn't explain the change. (Although he thought my summer swim team may have helped) I boldly told him "Nope that's not it!! God heard my prayers and healed me!" This moment is indelibly etched in my mind as seeing God answer prayers. A stone of remembrance in an impressionable teenager's faith journey. A way for me to be #amazedbygrace

Day 5 - I had a rough year in early high school. I rebelled against my parents' rules and did things I am not proud of. Although it looked like I was having a blast, I was miserable on the inside because of my sin.

One particular night, I had gone out of my way to make a very bad choice. Plans were set, lies and deception were in place. Right before I went on with my plan, I had an overwhelming feeling of dread and decided to change my course of action instantly.

The next day I ran into Great Grandpa Phillips. (see Day 3😊) He asked me what I was doing at 11:00 last night (the exact moment I changed my plans). I must have looked panicked as I asked him "Why?" He said that he was woken up from sleep and felt drawn to pray intensely for me! I thanked him and acted like it was no big deal. It was!! Even in my sin, I knew God, in His grace, had intervened to help me make the right choice. #amazedbygrace

I know this post is out of chronological order....but I am making an exception today.

Day 6 - 2013 Was the hardest, most difficult year of Rob's and my life. (It was very tough on our girls as well) God is good and sovereign and we all came to know and depend on Him in ways we never would have without the pain. But that story is for another time.

In May, we were scheduled to go to Phoenix, Arizona for a ministry trip. I was going to do a women's retreat for Harvest North Phoenix and Harvest Chandler and Rob was going to preach at both churches on either end. We thought it might be a nice way to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary at the same time (with 2 girls in college my dream of a week in Aruba was not to be 😊) At the last minute, we learned that this would be 1 of only 2 weeks that all 3 girls would be home for the summer. This Momma did not want to miss that so Rob graciously offered to let them all come.

God, in his grace, knew exactly what our family needed. We had perhaps the best week of our lives. Not because of the beautiful weather and generous accommodations that were provided for us (although it was amazing!), but because of the people of God around us! No one in Arizona knew our story or our pain and we were too raw to even share it....But Bill & Pam Borinstein and their boys Blake and Brett, Adam & Renee Peters Bailie and Seth & Lori Tacheny Kleeberger(along with many others) loved us and ministered to our family --- all 5 of us! We had a blast! Their words and love were like healing salve to our wounds. We laughed and made forever friends in such a short time. (An added bonus was that Adam actually bought Rob his first pair of "cool jeans" which was something I had been trying to do for 20 years !!!)

God used these people and those we served to minister to us that week in ways I cannot even begin to express. I still get choked up thinking about it.

Jessica called us a couple of months ago and said that for her last Spring Break of her college career, she wanted to go somewhere warm. She emailed her "friends" in Phoenix to see if she could stay with them. Rob sent me to surprise her for 4 days. I am back here with the same people that God sent us to last May. My heart is overflowing with love and gratitude to The Lord and for the Harvest Bible Fellowship. His grace is sufficient and is often abundantly found when you most need it and least expect it! #amazedbygrace

Day 7 -"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land." Psalm 143:5

Reflecting back on the driest season of my life with the Lord! I was in high school, I was in a bad relationship, I was sinning and lying to my parents constantly, and I was absolutely miserable on the inside. I was stuck and couldn't get out!

Praise God for parents who fought for me. Praise God for the grace of them discovering a note that I had purposely torn up and thrown away because they were hanging a mirror in my room and they dropped the screws into the wastebasket that held the note. (Coincidence? Absolutely not! God's grace for sure!)

Praise God they had the courage to step in and forbid me to continue in the relationship. Praise God for a girlfriend Angie Braio Criner) who gave me godly & hilarious advice when I told her I was running away Praise God that He softened my heart and allowed me to accept this provision from Him on my behalf.

The burden was lifted, my relationship with my parents improved and the spiritual dry season ended. I could pray and enjoy the Lord again. It was tough, but I am so thankful that God saved me from a "life that could have been" #amazedbygrace

Day 8 - Looking back and seeing God work in difficult times is good, but it is easy to get stuck there with regret if we aren't careful. Thankful for a God who restores and redeems by His Grace!

SO today is a bit more fun! I am thankful for God's grace in my life by placing me in healthy growing churches for most of my life. Today I want to remember Sun River....and beyond!

When I was in Junior High, my family decided to take a leap of faith and leave Arcade Baptist, a healthy growing church in Sacramento, to start Sun River Church in Rancho Cordova. We began meeting with a core team on Sunday nights and planning to be involved in a new work of the Lord! I was a kid so didn't think much about it...just went along with the fam!!

It was small. Amy Wilch and I were the Junior High Group! We all planned and prayed and planted a church! It was amazing! The church grew under great preaching and leadership and I grew in my faith as well. Paul Thome was my youth pastor and although I probably drove him nuts.....he taught me well about what it means to live out my faith! forward 24 years!!!! God calls us to plant a church in the Quad Cities. Jessica is in Junior high and is one of 3 girls in the youth group. My girls don't think about it much, just go along with the fam!!!

We started small (with 2 other couples). We began meeting with a core team on Thursday nights. We planned and prayed and planted a church! It was amazing! The church grew under great preaching and leadership and I grew in my faith as well!

I love this story! I love how God was preparing me as an early teen for something He would do in my life 25 years later! Thankful that the church is what He uses to reach the world for Christ and thankful to have been a part of it since Day 1! #amazedbygrace

Day 9 – Sabbath

Day 10 - So I finally left my high school days behind (so I thought) and moved across the country to attend Wheaton College. It was a fresh start and an amazing year! After my freshman year, I returned home for the summer to work. I also had the opportunity to counsel for a week at the church camp that I had attended most of my life.

I had a blast and loved the girls in my cabin. It was so much fun and I remember going all out and coming home the next week exhausted, with both knees bruised and battered and a smile in my heart for all God had done.

I remember one camper and moment above all the rest. This sweet little high school girl had had a rough time of it and was currently living a sinful life and was full of guilt and shame. We sat up late talking one night and I was telling her that she could be free of that if she would ask forgiveness and allow God to help her. She looked me right in the eye and said that I had no idea what it felt to be her!

She was wrong. I wasn't sure what to say. My past was my past and I had locked it way in a little box and banished it for good. But at that moment, I heard the Lord nudging my heart to get out the box and share with her how He had redeemed and restored me. I said a quick prayer and shared my story. Her eyes were wide and full of tears. We prayed together and she recommitted her life to Christ.

God used that moment to show me that He was writing my story and He could make beauty from ashes if I would trust and allow Him to use me as He saw fit. God is a God of second chances and He doesn't waste our trials. This was the beginning of me learning this. I am so thankful for His grace in the trial as well as His grace in using it to help others.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 #amazedbygrace

Day 11 - So Day 1 I talked about the most important decision I ever made - to give my life to Jesus! Well, about 15 years later I made the 2nd most important decision - to share my life with Rob Willey as his wife! God is the giver of all good things and Rob is the best gift He has given me!

How does grace play into this you may ask? Well…I had no idea the magnitude of the decision I was making as a 19-year-old girl. A cute guy asked me to borrow a pencil in Computer Science class, and I said yes. Once I heard through the grapevine that he might be interested in asking me out, I went out of my way to make that convenient for him! I asked him to help me study for a test on Parameters (even though I knew the material and got an A). I figured out where he sat in chapel and managed to walk by on a fairly consistent basis, and I knew when he would be checking his mail and decided that was a good time to check mine! I thought he was cute, funny, and loved Jesus; and I needed a roommate my senior year, so when he asked me to be his bride, I immediately said yes!! (I do believe that there are more critical things to consider when considering a spouse, but he made me feel higgly-piggly so I didn’t think much beyond that!)

Knowing what I know about marriage now, I would definitely say that I probably should have given that decision a whole lot more thought. Rob IS exactly what I needed (and still do), but I don’t think I "got him" because of any wisdom on my part. I know the fact that Rob’s Mom and my Mom both began praying for our future spouses the moment we were born, played a whole lot into it. I also know that my prayers as a young girl that God would be preparing my husband for me, were answered perfectly in Rob Willey! As well as Rob’s prayers for me. I am thankful that God took 2 fairly immature college students and directed our paths to run smack dab into each other! Looking back, I so see God’s hands bringing us together and keeping us together (more on that later).

God’s grace saved me from making a bad decision when it came to choosing the man I would spend the rest of my life with. In fact, God’s grace guided me to His best for me! We have a painting in our bedroom that says, “The Lord must have brought us together!” and I am so thankful that He did!! #amazedbygrace

Day 12- Thankful today for a God who answers our prayers as He sees best and not just how we want him to!

Yesterday I wrote about the wonderful man I married at the ripe old age of 20! Well, as many of you know, we had a very rough start. We were both selfish, strong-willed and stubborn and found many things to fight & bicker about constantly. A couple of months in, I decided that I wasn’t a big fan of marriage. It showed me MY faults and I didn’t like being accountable or submissive to Rob. Sooooo…..I wanted out! It wasn’t about not liking Rob — I loved him very much — I just didn’t like being married to him Since I knew that divorce was not an option for us biblically, I looked at other options. I went with one that seemed pretty easy. I prayed and TOLD (not asked) God that I wanted either Rob or me to die a painless death. It would get us out of the marriage, and I knew we would both go to heaven. I told God I didn’t care who died as long as it was painless……and unfortunately, I meant it.

Thanks be to God that He chose not to answer that prayer the way I wanted!!! Rob and I had a rough go of it, but we worked through our issues and our marriage made it! In fact, 25 years later, I love our relationship and can’t imagine life without him

A few years in to the marriage, I shared this with Rob. He shook his head at me like he usually does when I say something ridiculous and told me that he thought the first year of our marriage was great! Go figure!

I love how God has used our rough start to minister to others who are hurting. I am also thankful that God is God and I am NOT! #amazedbygrace

Day 13 - It’s amazing how encouraging it has been to look back and see God’s work of grace in my life. Helps keep me vertically focused most of the time! Unfortunately, my emotions and circumstances can still draw me down into discouragement. That was where I was headed fast on Tuesday.

Exodus 2:25 tells us that God sees our hurt and our pain and HE KNOWS! He knows our heart, he knows the hearts of others, he knows our situations and he knows exactly what we need!

Tuesday morning I found a sweet note from a young mom in our church thanking me for a couple of conversations years ago that I can hardly remember. This was followed by a quick lunch at a new restaurant with sweet friends. I received goodnight and good morning texts of encouragement from 2 staff wives. A dear friend who I treasure and miss, asked me to her house for coffee. Our amazing “car guy” (aka a close friend from church) came through in amazing ways to help Julia deal with slimy auto repairmen in Indiana. And finally, a sweet gal at church left an awesome belated Christmas gift for me that I absolutely love along with encouraging words and a fun story as well!

Small things in and of themselves, but BIG things used by God to encourage this weary heart! God keeps writing the story…………#amazedbygrace

Day 14 - I am writing this post as I sit on an airplane somewhere above the Pacific Ocean on my way to Hawaii with Anna for her Senior Trip. You see, my parents have graciously taken each of my girls on a special trip to celebrate high school graduation. As an added blessing, I have been allowed to tag along for two of them!

So, let me back up. I grew up in California and decided that it would be a fun adventure to go to Wheaton for 4 years for college. I could experience a new part of the country, attend one of the best Christian colleges in America and then return home to continue life with my family. Obviously that last part didn't happen.

So I spent the first 10 years of my marriage wishing WE could go back "home." Unfortunately, Rob was a bond trader so it was Chicago or New York for us! Fast forward to 2004. We knew were going to plant a church somewhere. We just didn't know where. I wanted to go WEST! Rob sat me down and told me about the Quad Cities (2 hours WEST of Wheaton! ).

Here's the thing....Rob believes strongly in One Wife, One Life, and One Ministry so I knew wherever we ended up is where we would stay. My only hesitation was that my kids wouldn't be able to really get to know my parents if we lived in Iowa, so I took a deep breath, prayed about it, opened my hands and gave that desire to God. I told him that I would trust Him, hold loosely and be ok if it meant not living near my folks. I did ask Him, that if that were to happen then I would like to have our mansions on the same street in Heaven! 🏡 I stopped fighting, trusted God and chose contentment.

Fast-forward a couple of years. Rob asked my Dad to come on staff at HBC Davenport all the way from California...and even more miraculously He and Mom came...and moved in half a mile from us. My girls got to grow up with their grandparents. So many fun memories....Wednesday night dinners, term-paper editing parties, sitting together in church, too many volleyball tournaments to count, band concerts, lunches out, birthday dinners, and even graduation trips to Hawaii.

God had a plan. He knew what was best for all of us and by His amazing grace (though undeserved and unexpected) we all got the precious gift of Papa Dave and Grandma Judy! Aloha #amazedbygrace

Day 15- Sometimes God's grace is a restraining grace that protects us from what might have been.

In the late 90s, a friend visited me from California for a couple of days and then I drove her to Rockford to meet up with her business contact when we were done. It was Sunday afternoon and I dropped her off in the parking lot of an office type building. Since I had a long drive home, I decided to use the restroom first. The building seemed to be empty but I went downstairs to the ladies room. I am a fairly oblivious person so I hurried in to the stall to do my thing. FOR SOME COMPLETELY UNKNOWN REASON, I glanced under the stall wall before sitting down. What I saw made my blood freeze! In the corner of the stall next to me was a pair of men's tennis shoes attached to a pair of jeans - standing perfectly still in the corner. I immediately flew out of the stall, ran up the stairs, jumped in my car and sped out of the parking lot. I don't think I stopped shaking until I reached home.

To this day, I don't know for sure who was in that bathroom. I truly believe it was a man waiting to attack a woman in the abandoned building. Had I not had the urging from the Holy Spirit to check the stall, I might not be here today. God's restraining grace protected me that day and I am truly thankful! #amazedbygrace

Day 16 - Sabbath! "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus" 2 Timothy 2:1

Day 17 - Grace has been defined by so many in so many ways. John MacArthur describes it as the free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners. I really like this idea!

So....Rob was a great basketball player in college. After his senior year, he actually had an agent and considered going overseas to play. We decided to get married so I could go with him. Plans changed (perhaps because of the sovereignty of a holy God working in our lives ) because of 2 things:

1) When Rob asked his agent if he could take his new bride with him, she replied, "Yes, but it would be like taking a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a banquet!" (We didn't particularly think this would be a great way to start our marriage)

2) I had been assigned to student teach with Judy Vandermeulen at Edison Middle School and we had heard that she was an amazing math teacher and mentor.

Because of these 2 factors, we decided to stay put. I had a phenomenal student teaching experience with a talented and godly mentor. Judy was amazing and taught me so much about not only being a great math teacher, but also about ministering to junior highers and doing it with excellence. She made me a better teacher than I ever could have been without her, became a dear friend, encouraged me in my walk with Christ and hired me right out of college!

Rob went on to get a great job as a clerk at the Chicago Board of Trade, which led to a successful 11-year trading career. (+ He seemed to really like PB & J )

I don't think we had any idea at the time that a kind and benevolent God was operating sovereignly in our undeserving lives to mold us and guide us into the people that we are today.....but I am so thankful that He was! #amazedbygrace

Day 18 - So, my driving is not that great. I always drive too fast and I often fail to notice the cars and objects around me. Just last month I rear-ended a guy at a stoplight because he didn't turn fast enough on red! (You lose!) Needless to say, I married a VERY careful driver. In fact, he is very careful in everything that he does. I think he has gotten one ticket in the last 25 years...and that was a speed trap!

I remember the first time he knew I was a bad driver. I had borrowed his car when we were dating and "accidentally" ran into a metal pole in my dorm parking lot. I wanted to call my Dad so he could fix it, but knew I should probably call Rob instead. I had no idea how he would react, but was thrilled that he reacted amazingly well (I think the fact that he was madly in love with me probably helped! )

The second year of our marriage, I totaled our car on a raised manhole cover and I sideswiped a lady's Cadillac at work with my Father-In-Law's new truck. I was terrified. However, neither Rob nor his Father seemed to mind. They extended grace to me though I did not deserve it.

Throughout the past 25 years, I have given Rob many many opportunities to extend grace in regards to my driving abilities (hitting multiple cars as I backed out of the driveway, plowing into the garage door, ripping the side mirror off the car, & multiple traffic tickets including 2 in 2 days) Reacting with love and patience once or twice would have been admirable, but he has gone above and beyond. I wish I could say that my driving will be exemplary from this day forward, but that probably won't be the case. I am thankful to be married to a man that loves me anyway and gives me grace on a regular basis. I feel blessed! #amazedbygrace

Day 19 - The Lord blessed Rob and I with 3 beautiful daughters - inside and out! They are the joy of my life and my best friends. They are all unique and different from one another and have thus provided challenges on how to raise them each the way that is best for them individually.

Jessica and Julia had similar beginnings. They slept through the night at 6 and 8 weeks and were fairly happy go-lucky kids. I didn't read books on what to do, just followed my instincts and prayed a lot. I thought that Rob and I had this parenting thing down when #3 - Anna Joy - made her entrance into our lives.

She was beautiful with curly hair and a large personality from the start. She was not ever happy unless she was held, was always verbal (by this I mean talking/screeching/singing/whining) and did not even think about sleeping through the night until 10 1/2 months!!! She was high maintenance from Day 1 and quickly learned how to push every button that I had. I yelled, screamed, cried and read books to try to figure out what I was doing wrong....

I remember my Mom saying to me when she was a toddler that it was very good that God had placed her in our home because in any other home, she would either be in complete control of the whole family or dead.

I also vividly remember the day God used Anna to break me! She was 3. I was 32. We had just had another battle and I was weary. I had almost lost my cool and had literally retreated to my closet in order to avoid hurting her. I fell on my face and cried out to the Lord. I said, "God....I love this child, but she brings out the worst in me. I don't want to hurt her but I am at the end of my rope. I can't do this by myself!"

I almost heard God answer me audibly that day. He said, "I know it! I've been waiting for you to realize that. I am here to help. You just needed to ask." That day was life-changing for me. John 15:5 became my life verse. Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING." From that moment forward, I began every day asking God to give me the strength and self-control to make it through the day! He was faithful!

I am so thankful to have learned this. Every good thing I do is a gift and comes from The Lord and His living in and through me. Every bad thing I don't do is because of the grace He has given me. I never want to try to live life alone and apart from the Vine again.

I am also thankful for my curly-haired, strong-willed 17-year-old Anna Joy. She brings life and energy to everything she does and is a natural leader. She can still push my buttons occasionally, but I wouldn't trade the joy she brings for anything! I can't wait to see what God will continue to do with her life as she continues to yield to His will and direction. #amazedbygrace

Day 20 - So this was my view at dinner tonight...

After dinner, we went to a presentation called Tour of the Universe which basically had us looking through a very expensive telescope at stars, planets and galaxies..."young" blue ones and "old" red ones. Needless to say I was quite overwhelmed with the magnitude of our universe as well as being quite awed by the One who created it. It made me feel quite small and inconsequential. .....AND THEN I REMEMBERED.....Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them......The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork....I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.....For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life....For by GRACE you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God......

And somehow I no longer felt inconsequential, but just grateful for a God who made me and sees me and loves me and saved me by his marvelous grace! #amazedbygrace

Day 21 - So in 1996 Rob and I were living a great life in Wheaton. When he wasn't downtown trading or home with the kids and me, he was serving at church. Me too. I was the Director of Children's Ministries part-time. He was a deacon and teaching our Adult Bible Fellowship on Sundays. But something was missing.....

He approached our Pastor about doing something more personal and less "institutional." Pastor Ellsworth told Rob he would keep his ears open. A few weeks later, Rob received a phone call. Our church was going to "sponsor" a Christian ex-con who was coming out of prison. The pastor was wondering if Rob would be Eddie Wells' spiritual mentor - this meant meeting with him weekly for discipleship and having him in our home all day every Sunday. This was definitely "personal."

We were nervous. We knew very little about this guy. Frankly, we had 3 young daughters and weren't sure how "safe" it would be to have this stranger become such a close part of our life. We agreed to pray about it. As Rob prayed, this is what God kept saying to him:

The grace that saved you is the same grace that saved Eddie. If your faith is real, you have to do this. I agreed.

We met Eddie.....and loved Eddie...were challenged by Eddie....and grew in our faith because of Eddie. He became a part of our family and when he remarried Phyllis (after she had divorced him in prison), she became a part of our lives as well. Eddie and I like to joke that he is the reason that Rob became a pastor. There is definitely some truth in that. God used Rob's relationship with Eddie to foster in him the desire to influence more and more people for Christ. And it all started because the ground at the cross is level and grace doesn't care about where you came from, the color of your skin or what you have done in your life. I'm so glad! #amazedbygrace

Day 22 - One of the benefits of writing about grace for 31 days straight is that my mind is constantly thinking about it - 24/7! God's grace towards me. His grace towards others. My grace towards others and others grace towards me.

I wonder... What am I missing? Where can I catch glimpses of God's grace that I have previously overlooked? Does the world understand grace the way a follower of Christ does? Am I showing God's grace through my life to a watching world?

Well, imagine my surprise when I visited the airplane lavatory on my way home from Hawaii and found a "definition" of grace on the soap dispenser. Here it is - perhaps one of the worst ones I've seen! Pure grace: With clean hands we find our grace. We realize the slate can be as clean as we allow it to be.

What?!? Isn't the true definition of grace unmerited favor....especially when our hands are dirty?!

Grace has nothing to do with us. If our hands must be "clean" before we find our grace, we will never receive it. Our forgiveness and redemption will always be what God wants and allows for us, not what we "allow it to be."

No fun story today. Just gratitude that God's grace has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him. I don't have to earn it. I just receive it and trust in the One who freely gives it. And I certainly don't find it in an airplane bathroom! #amazedbygrace

Day 23 - Sorry, forgot my favorite verse the first time I posted

Amazing grace

How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me

I once was lost, but now I'm found

Was blind, but now I see

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear

And grace my fears relieved

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed

My chains are gone

I've been set free

My God, my Savior has ransomed me

And like a flood His mercy reigns

Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me

His word my hope secures

He will my shield and portion be

As long as life endures

When we've been there 10,000 years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We've no less days to sing His praise,

Than when we first begun.

Day 24 - I will try to make a very long story…..somewhat short! Remember when Rob began mentoring Eddie in 1996? This began a stirring and a calling on Rob’s life. God was giving him a desire to minister to people who were hungry for the truth of God’s Word. Early 1999 found Rob on his knees in prayer (for the first time in his life) crying out that he would go anywhere or do anything that God wanted him to do as long as God gave him direction. He knew it was time to be done with trading and to move into ministry - either by becoming a pastor or missionary. I was fairly oblivious to all of this. I had definitely seen God softening Rob’s rough edges and I loved the changes, but was fairly unaware of the depth of what was going on in his heart.

Mid-1999 Rob could contain it no longer, He came to me and told me that he was sure God was calling him into ministry. I immediately responded that he had heard the Lord wrong and he needed to go back and trade. Our life was good. Our life was easy. We served. We tithed. We gave. And my daughters wore matching Gymboree outfits on every major holiday. I was comfortable and I didn’t want that to change! So Rob took that as a sign that I wasn’t ready yet and he did not push, but began to pray for my heart to change. GRRRRRRR

The next 6 months were some of the most miserable of my life. I felt like I was fighting against Rob and God and I didn’t think it would end well for me. I was searching for a verse that said that God needed my money more than my heart and I could not find one. (I would have made it my new life verse if it existed!) I knew this was from the Lord, but I didn’t trust him to take care of me. It was a crucible time for me. I had always thought that I believed the Bible, but the truth was that now, when I really needed to trust what it said, I didn’t know if I could. God brought me to Matthew 6:25-30. In the past I had always thought that these were nice nature verses. Now they jumped off the page at me -- “Do not be anxious about your life….Look at the birds….are you not of more value than they….consider the lilies…If God so clothes the grass, will he not much more clothe you? OH YOU OF LITTLE FAITH!” That was my problem. I did not have the faith that if God called us somewhere, He would provide for us. I never really had to ask God for my daily bread because my freezer had always been full. I had to make a choice.

So, by God’s grace, I took a deep breath and decided to trust Him. I remember going to Rob with tears in my eyes and standing behind him with my arms wrapped around his waist (He is 6’7” and I am 5’5”) I said, "When I stand here I cannot see where I am going and I am scared to death. But I believe in you and I know that God is leading you, so I am willing to step out in faith and go with you wherever He calls." I guess the rest is history!

By early 2000 Rob had liquidated his trading firm and gone to work for the post-prison ministry he was volunteering with. A year and a half later, Ron Zappia asked him to come on staff at Harvest Bible Chapel Glen Ellyn. 3 1/2 years later we moved to the Quad Cities to start Harvest Davenport. I am thankful that God was gracious to me in my unbelief and equipped me with enough faith to follow Him! #amazedbygrace

Day 25 - One of my favorite things about the Lord is how He sometimes surprises you with unexpected grace when you least expect it! He did that last summer.

Our family is crazy about 2 sports - basketball (thank you Rob) and volleyball (thanks Julia and Anna). We recently added another favorite. ⚾

Our next-door neighbors hosted a local QC River Bandits baseball player in their home. We had a neighborhood cookout and invited Austin Elkins (“Catfish") over one evening. We loved him! His Dad is a Pastor in Texas and we immediately hit it off. Soon after that, he showed up on a Sunday morning with about 6 other players. They filled the 2nd row behind us and we had a chance to meet a couple of them in the lobby after church.

Later that week, he introduced us to Dan who had just moved into town. He was living in an icky apartment sleeping on a mattress on the floor. My Mama’s heart instantly sprang into action and I asked Rob if he could stay in our basement. Rob thought we should meet him first (whatever!) so we had them over for BBQ. We loved Dan and invited him to stay with us.

About that time another new guy entered the scene. Mark Appel had just come to the Quad Cities after being drafted #1 in the MLB draft. He wasn’t staying in an icky apartment, but he loved the Lord and was looking for some “Sick Fellowship" so we invited him to come as well. What a blast we had! We aren’t so used to boys, so Rob appreciated the added testosterone. But mostly we loved getting to know these young men.

One particular night stands out above the rest. We sat in our family room with Dan and Mark until way past midnight and talked and prayed together. Dan left the next morning for a High A team in California. Mark stayed the remainder of the summer & basically became a part of our family. He and Anna bantered like siblings and we had tons of late night Nertz games with a whole lot of SWAG!!

During that time we also had the opportunity to have Bobby, Jordan, Lance, and Rio in our home as well. We got to see a lot of baseball games and were there to cheer them on as they won the championship. I entertained them all with my utter lack of baseball knowledge, but they didn’t seem to mind the home cooking.

We basically loved on these amazing young guys and were blessed even more in return. We have continued to stay in touch and last night Julia and Rob had the opportunity to have dinner with them all in Orlando for Spring Training. Needless to say, I am a HUGE Houston Astros Fan now!

A couple of months ago, one of the guys texted Rob. I want to end with what he said:

"Belated Merry Christmas Mr. Willey. I thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas card you sent. Having some guys over may have been the highlight of your year, but I know that being able to meet you and your family and to spend time praying together and discussing the Scriptures was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life - not even considering baseball. It was very special to meet you all and I remember you, Becky, Jessica, Julia, and Anna regularly. It was an eternally impactful experience for me. May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts as we come into a new year of his blessings."

The summer was amazing even without this encouraging text! But sometimes God goes a little crazy with extravagant grace just because He wants to! Go Astros!!! #‎ amazedbygrace

Day 26 - I can tend to be pretty selective when it comes to grace. I LOVE God’s grace for me. I’m also all about grace when a friend extends it TO me… when I speak before thinking and hurt her feelings.

What I’m not so crazy about is when God extends it to those I think don’t deserve it or even worse, asks me to do the same.

This is a constant growth area for me and I love how God often uses children to teach and convict the rest of us grown-up-types. Let me tell you a story…...

Jessica was in 8th grade. She was a quiet, sweet, shy, rather naive, compassionate kid. I had spent many hours praying that she would find a dear Christian friend at school when we moved to the Quad Cities. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen. I remember an afternoon when she was telling me about a conversation she had had with a girl in study hall on Monday. This girl spent the entire time explaining in full detail to Jess her weekend escapades. They included drugs, alcohol and sex with her older boyfriend, along with much profanity. I was mortified. That my sweet girl would have to hear all of that garbage……so as Jess was talking, I began to plan….

1) Call the principal

2) Explain the horror of what my child had been exposed to

3) Demand she be put in a different study hall

4) Make plans to enroll her in a Christian School next semester

5) OR Homeschool her until age 25

While I was deep in thought about MY plans, I glanced back at Jess. She was still talking to me, this time through tears.

“Mom, isn’t it sad that this girl didn’t grow up in a home like ours with parents who taught her right and wrong? I feel terrible that she feels she needs to look for love and acceptance in all the wrong places. My heart breaks for her and I am so glad that God put me next to her so I could listen to her and help her."

Oh. My. Goodness.

My daughter was seeing this little girl through the eyes of Christ. She was extending God’s grace to her.

I wasn’t.

Lord forgive me.

Day 27 -

50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.

60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career.

80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.

70% don't have any close friends.

At any given time, 75% of pastors in America want to quit.

I have always heard these statistics, but really didn’t give them much thought. I was thankful that God had so clearly called us into ministry and loved the blessings that we had received by obeying that call. I felt we led a “blessed life” and didn’t really understand what was so hard about all of this.

Until 2013.

It was hard. It was painful. It was lonely. It was awful. I hated to see my husband hurt. I grieved for those around me. I felt like I had been punched in my gut. And it was really tough to see my girls suffer and become disillusioned with the life that had brought them so much joy in the past.

I wanted to run away and considered it almost daily. But God in His grace wouldn’t allow that. God in His grace gave us just enough light for the step we were on. When we thought we couldn’t make it one more day, God was there. When I had a bad day, God gave Rob a good one. When Rob and I sat in the dark on the couch ready to throw in the towel, God sent Anna to flip on the lights, order us up and out! When I considered spending the day in bed, Julia or Jess would send a text or verse that managed to get me going. I’m not sure how we made it, but I know it was only because of God’s grace.

His grace is sufficient…when we are weak, He is strong…His grace is found in the wilderness…we find mercy and grace in times of need…from His fullness we receive grace upon grace….it prevents a “root of bitterness”…it strengthens us….and it is enough.

I’m not sure I was ever more happy to bid farewell to a year than I was this New Year’s Eve. There are still scars and lessons learned and lost relationships, but joy comes in the morning. Reflecting back on all God has done in my life this month has given me confidence that we are still exactly where we are supposed to be. God’s grace gives me hope that we won’t become a statistic. #amazedbygrace

Day 28 - God's restraining grace keeps sin from running rampant in our lives, it holds back natural consequences of some sin, and reserves God's wrath for the unbeliever until judgment day.

God steps in at times and “reminds” us that what we are about to do is not a good idea: thereby saving us from the natural consequences of our potential bad choice.

As a mother of 3 girls, He often uses them in my life to help with this. Two years ago I was at a volleyball tournament in Chicago with Anna. Julia had come along to help coach. For those of you who participate in sports, you know how easy it is to get caught up in the drama and gossip that is associated with that. I pray before every tournament that God will guard my lips and keep me positive.

After a particularly “dramatic” match, I sat down with some moms and entered into a conversation. I thought I was doing a great job! We were “discussing” the coach’s choices and I was showing great restraint (so I thought!).

I left the conversation feeling quite good about myself. And then my dear Julia pulled me aside. She had been helping out on the bench and let me know that although the moms were not happy, she completely agreed with the coach. I responded, “That’s great honey. Didn’t I do a great job in that conversation? I wasn’t nearly as negative as all the other gals! ”

She glared at me a bit and rolled her eyes. "Mom, those ladies are not your standard. God is. And you blew it!"

Ouch! Out of the mouth of babes. Correction never feels good, but I’m thankful that God goes out of his way to find ways to convict and change me into a person whose words almost always “give grace to those who hear.” #amazedbygrace

Day 29 - Psalm 68:6 says God sets the lonely in families…I love this about him.

I realize we have absolutely no choice about the family we are born into and I have mentioned earlier this month how blessed I feel to have been born into mine.

We have a bit more choice about the family we have later in life. I chose (or was chosen) by the fabulous Robert Lynn Willey and I am forever grateful for that. After a couple of years of being the “Dynamic Duo,” God blessed us with 3 beautiful daughters in rapid 2-year succession! Jessica Lynn joined us in 1992, Julia Christine in 1994 and Anna Joy in 1996. They have been the joy of my life.

They have taught me to see God’s love for me as His child in a whole new light. I have understood much about His grace and mercy towards me as I strive to teach them how to live well and learn from their decisions, but help them avoid pain and suffering in life as much as possible. (Realizing of course that sometimes this is unavoidable). They have brought me to my knees and to tears and to abounding laughter time and time again. I understand forgiveness and restoration and love and compassion in ways I never could have without becoming a mother. Although we will return to being the “Dynamic Duo” next year, and if I hover here to long I can become anxious, I know that God has great plans and abundant grace in store for us. My family is amazing and I love them sooooooo much!

God has given us an opportunity to become part of another amazing family as well when we receive Him as our Lord and Savior - The Family of God. In fact, He binds us together in local churches in order to reach the world for Him.

As I look back over these last 46 years, I am thankful to have been involved in many Bible-Believing, Bible-Preaching, Christ-Exalting churches. I was born and baptized at First Baptist of Los Altos, and spent my elementary years at Arcade Baptist where I attended Caraway Street, memorized the books of the Bible and heard faith stories about George Mueller. I had the privilege of launching Sun River Church and under the leadership of Thom McKee and Paul Thome, made my faith my own as I developed into a godly young woman. At First Baptist of Wheaton, I dedicated my daughters, learned what it meant to serve faithfully and was mentored by one of the godliest women I know, Shirley Webster. Leaving there was one of the hardest things I have ever done, yet God’s grace sustained us. We joined up with Harvest Bible Chapel Glen Ellyn (now Naperville) where we learned what it meant to be a part of a church where “people were being added to their number daily” and truly worshipped the Lord in Spirit and in Truth with dear friends both old and new. From there, we had the opportunity to launch Harvest Bible Chapel Davenport which I consider one of them most exhilarating, amazing, wonderful, awful, scary, faith-deepening privileges of my life. So many life lessons learned these past 10 years with so many more to come.

Families. Wow. I can’t think of a better way for God to show us daily how to give and receive grace. This is where the rubber meets the road and God meets us exactly where we need him! #amazedbygrace

Day 30 - Friendship. Such a simple concept, yet so confusing as well. This is an area I see women (including me!) struggle with constantly. Proverbs 18:24 says "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." It is biblical that good, true friends are few and far between, but as I look around me, I always seem to think that everyone else has TONS of best friends, and I don't. I hate to confess how many hours of my life I have wasted feeling sorry for myself because "I don't have any friends." Facebook, Twitter and Instagram don't make it any easier. When I begin to compare my "friends", "likes" and "favorites" to others, that takes me nowhere fast!!!

As I look back on my life, I realize that God has given me a few really true blue friends, and lots of great other gals to do life with seasonally, spiritually, topically or "for a time." In high school, I had a group of 5 amazing girlfriends and we did everything together. They really blessed my life those 4 years and challenged me, encouraged me, and made me laugh. We still remain Facebook friends across the country and to this day I treasure the time we had together.

But it got a bit confusing after that. College friends were great, but boys and studies and jobs quickly got in the way. Then there were teaching friends and church friends and neighbors. For years I had a "best" friend in Caryn Thornton as we raised our little girls together. We had 2 great family friends who we did everything with in the Irvins and Hansons. But as we moved to Davenport, those friendships became cherished memories.

I refused to buy into the lie that Pastor's wives didn't have friends and God blessed me with 3 gals that I knew would be LIFELONG friends. I could be myself and they would love me unconditionally forever. Oops! One moved, one left our church and one just slowly drifted away. The loss was real and left a void. So I decided to do what most of us do...wallow in self-pity and feel sorry for myself!

But you know what happened. God was there. He heard my cries and tears and wallowing and sent grace. Grace to not buy into the lie that more is better. Grace to see that "best friends" don't always exist, but willing ones do. Grace to open my heart up and allow myself to be vulnerable again. And you know what He did. He opened my eyes to the wonderful realization that friendship is not all about me but about others too. He made me realize that instead of wondering who would be MY friend, I could become a friend. And he sent me the blessing of a new friend who was straightforward and fun and exactly what I needed! But He also showed me that I can't put all my hopes and dreams on any one gal to be my BFF! People can always let you down. God never does.

So for now, I am trusting that He will provide me with the best friends for me and I will love them fully and hold them loosely.......trusting that God will always be the one who "sticks closer than a brother" and He is the best friend ever! #amazedbygrace

Day 31 – Grace. Wow. What a month it has been. When my friend Jill Shable Anderson challenged me to begin this journey, I was a little nervous. How could I possibly look back on my life and find 31 different evidences of God’s grace? (About halfway through when I thought I had nothing more to say, I regretted that I hadn’t chosen February for this experiment instead ) But God was faithful!

Reflecting has been such a wonderful thing to do: to see the continuous hand of the Lord on my life working behind the scenes to lead me, guide me, protect me, rebuke me, challenge me, hold me, comfort me, encourage me and so much more. I admit there were times when I couldn’t see His hand working at all, and some instances when I still question why certain things happened. But this month has shown me that God is faithful, He has a plan and I can trust Him. Which leads me to perhaps my favorite kind of grace – Future Grace!

I have no idea what the future holds! Right now I am a bit stressed because it holds prom, 2 graduation parties and an Empty Nest, but honestly there is so much more I could be anxious about! Three dear friends of mine were diagnosed with Cancer this year and their future is quite tenuous. A classmate of Anna’s was killed tragically in a car accident last week snuffing out her parents’ hopes and dreams. Broken marriages, prodigal children, loneliness and fear are all around me. On top of that, Scripture tells us that in this world there will be persecution. But do you know what this month has shown me?

God’s got it!

The same grace that has been there for me these last 46 years will be there for however many I have left. And then after that, I will get to bask in God’s grace for eternity!

John Piper defines Future Grace this way: “By future I do not merely mean the grace of heaven and the age to come. I mean the grace that begins now, this very second, and sustains your life to the end of this paragraph.”

God’s grace is dependable. No matter what the future brings, I can be confident that God will give me the grace to deal with it. He has never let me down and He isn’t going to start.

Do you believe this is true in your own life? Perhaps you haven’t thought much about it until now. Maybe you should write down some of your “Glimpses of Grace?” God so wants to reveal Himself to you!

Would you take a minute and think about what God has taught you by “listening in” on my stories? It has encouraged my heart so much to write them, and it would encourage me to know how God has spoken to you through them. Feel free to message me or leave a comment below!

I’m not sure exactly what God will continue to teach me through all this, but I do know that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it!

“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32) #amazedbygrace

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