Portraits of Grace – Erica Madden

Living Grace

I would like to preface this devotional with a little about myself. I have been saved for 12 years. I am married to my best friend and soulmate. I am a stay-at-home mom to our 3 daughters and our Boxer fur baby named Nova, the first lady of Eldorado Baptist Church in Troy, NC, a piano teacher, and a lover of the Lord. I am not worthy of all the many blessings He’s sent my way.

He’s God, and He’s good!

I could begin to tell you about the grace that was extended to me as a 15-year-old girl when Jesus passed by my way on April 20, 2007 and saved my hell-deserving soul. About the grace that brought me up out of the horrible pit of miry clay I was in and placed my feet upon the Solid Rock and established my goings. How He put a new song of praise in my heart and made me a new creature altogether…but time would never allow me to tell you the whole story.

I could begin to tell you about the grace it took as a young teenager, saved out of the bus ministry, trying to live a godly life in a not-so-godly home, dreaming of having my own family one day, and how He so graciously gave me the desires of mine heart and allowed me to marry a preacher! And I could tell you about the grace He poured out when my dear pastor was taken to glory just 2 weeks before He was to marry us.

I could tell you about the grace He gave when I birthed all three of my children by c-section (not an easy or peaceful task!) I could tell you how His grace and mercy filled that hospital room for 8 days while I cuddled and rocked my newborn as she struggled to breathe due to RSV.

I could tell you all these different stories and situations where God has expressed His grace, but I could never begin to tell you the whole of how God has been gracious! 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee…” That word “is” puts this verse in present tense. It doesn’t say “was” or “will be.” It “IS” sufficient! That means that every single moment that I live, His grace IS sufficient for me! Whatever problem or situation I encounter, His grace IS sufficient for me! It is living grace! It is an active and functioning grace that meets me right where I am, day in and day out.

As a wife to a pastor, I need grace! As a mother to two toddlers and an infant, you better believe I need grace! As a  daughter, a sister, and aunt, a friend, and most of all, a child of God, I need grace! What a glorious feeling it is to know that whatever I may face, there is new grace there waiting for me. As one of my favorite songs puts it: “Grace not yet  discovered, Grace not yet uncovered…And He’ll give new grace I’ve not needed before.”

What about you, friend? Have you tasted of the Lord’s grace lately? Remember, His grace IS sufficient for every need!

Portraits of Grace – Emily Knight

Who am I? I am a Bus Kid! I started riding a bus to church at age six. I currently serve as a teacher at Mount Hebron Christian Academy, a missions school outside of Monterrey, Mexico. My pastor is Jonathan Ashcraft, a third generation missionary. This July I will officially join the Ashcraft family when Tommy Ashcraft and I will be married. 

I am a Bus Kid. I started riding a bus to church at age six. My parents were eventually reached through the bus ministry and began attending church regularly and growing in the Lord. When I entered third grade my parents enrolled me in the Christian school.  Although I was baptized when I was younger, I never truly understood or had a personal relationship with the Lord until age thirteen.

After high school, I went to Hyles Anderson College to become a Christian school teacher. After a few years of teaching in a small school in rural Ohio, God led me to move to Toledo where I attended Lewis Avenue Baptist Church in Temperance, Michigan. For reasons known only to the Lord, the Pastor had inadvertently hired two people for the same position. The other teacher was given the job, but I knew it was the Lord’s will for me to be in that church. I prayed for and found a secular job the same day. 

My second week there I joined a bus route and shortly thereafter gained a young teenaged bus girl as a worker. Little did we know then just how perfectly intertwined our lives would become. I gave my all to the children and youth God allowed me to reach in my seven years there. I grew to love many of those kids like I hoped I would love my own children had I had any. But one, Jenny, became extra special.  Jenny genuinely wanted to do right. I don’t remember her ever saying, “Why? What’s wrong with that?” Rather, her questions were more along the lines of “How can I do more for God?” She respected and honored me as she did her Mom who did not attend church. She sought advice and spiritual counsel and followed it.

Shortly before Jenny left for Hyles Anderson College, God led me to move to a school in Arkansas and resume my teaching. At this point it had become clear that Jenny was the reason God had moved me to Toledo at all. Soon Jenny met and married a wonderful young man, Jonathan Ashcraft. Even before they had children, they approached me about joining their ministry and becoming the teacher for their children and others of their ministry.

The portrait of grace I am attempting to paint with this story is that of faithfulness. Throughout this entire narrative is the thread of God’s faithfulness. He has been good to me throughout my story. In every step I have simply trusted and obeyed.

I influenced numerous young people throughout my many years in the bus ministry. God gave me one to return tangible gratitude. God gave me one who wanted me to love and teach her children as I had her. God gave me one who has made me feel truly appreciated. God gave me one who loved me back as her own family. Every good gift and wonderful blessing I am experiencing in this stage of my life is a direct result of my faithfulness to God’s plan, specifically service in the bus ministry.

I would not change one decision. I would not trade one valley. I would not skip one season of heartache or discouragement. So, friend, if I could say one thing to encourage you today, it would be: “Keep trusting God.”  Know that you serve an all-knowing, all-wise, and    all-for-your-good God. There were many times, as I am sure you have also faced, when my path seemed dark and my life seemed  pointless; but I kept trusting. I believed God had only my good in mind. He used me to bring much good to others, but he has brought so much to me because of my faithfulness to Him.

There is no way to compare the blessings God has in store for us to the comforts or relationships He asks us to yield to Him. God is good. God is faithful. Keep trusting and keep obeying.

{The story of Jenny’s teen years is available on Amazon and Kindle, coming soon in Spanish: “Where’s the Next Jenny?”}