I cleaned out my hope chest today. Head carefully hunched over as the smell of cedar met my senses while I tossed memory after sentimental memory into the trash. I know. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit remorseful, but it’s been on my heart for awhile. It was just something I needed to do.

It’s all still there, you know? Woven into the garment that makes up this girl, Jennifer.

Because stories never die. They beg to be put to use as they fall from lips that spew them proudly, even when those lips aren’t proud to have had them happen in the first place. Yes, they plead with us to be told so they might be of some good.

There’s something about recognizing His story at work. My life…this single strand of earthly flesh running parallel to the overarching theme of His love story for me. I’ve noticed it before, but there’s a change now…an almost pivotal shift in the direction of my thoughts as I stop the silent, internal regret and embrace how it all comes together on this great big loom of life. It blends the negative colors of my world with all the positive ones and makes this gospel mystery a tapestry worth putting on display. Bad choices and all, the veil that hangs with all of my right and wrongs intricately woven into testimony that goes to work for Someone’s glory.

But it’s hard to share the dirt. The mess ups. The wish-I-hadn’t-done-thats. Because disappointment is hard.

Especially when I disappoint myself.

Story telling is easy when I talk about what life is teaching me. The ins and outs of what I pick up throughout my years as a wife. As a mom. What I glean as a child of God. How to save money at the grocery store and how parallel parking just seems to get harder for me each year instead of easier.

However, sharing tainted testimony is altogether different. There’s an exposure that resembles those nightmares of walking through town in naught but a cute pair of shoes.

But what if we’re given a green light? The highway all to ourselves as we let our wheels wander from one shoulder to the next and discover freedom for ourselves…. What if we are given the go to speak raw and unfiltered and give flight to our stories that carries with it a saving grace in those saddle bags as we cruise down life’s narrow road?

I’ve learned it over time. Each year brings with it another piece of the puzzle and just when I think I’m topped off and filled with knowing all my eccentricities, He drops another precious gem in my lap. Strengths and weaknesses, alike, but beautiful still.

Like discovering where my heart lies, not just with family and close friends, but within the world outside that realm and how it’s an ache that just doesn’t go away. I’ve learned that I can’t live by my own strength. I’ve made peace with the fact that pride has been clutching me tighter than I’d like to admit. I’ve learned more about friendship…the hard way. I’ve turned over rocks that have been hiding secrets down in the earth beneath them where suppression fooled me into thinking they were gone for good.

I’ve struck gold on a few occasions, too…

Like finding that confidence I thought I’d been born without. Or that counting blessings is power in my hands and unleashes grace like never before. I’ve learned that Sabbath rest is critical and that it’s ok to let go of the routine if any given day calls for it. I’ve even realized that my emotions, always evident and shaming me, really aren’t so shameful after all.

It gives us the means to share redemption stories in ways that we can’t convey by holding His word in our hands as we look someone else in the eyes. Eyes that turn cold at the thought of believing a single word behind those 66 books contained in my hand, but eyes that can’t deny the words of my own life. The words woven into my tapestry.

Our own experience. Our own deliverance.

I tossed the last bit of junk in the trash and closed the lid on that empty hope chest. A small pile lay next to me and I stared down at the items worth keeping. Some pictures, a few items from our wedding and my senior tassel.

The rest…well, the rest I exchanged for a tapestry.

The enemy cringed. He knows I’ll tell those stories instead of locking them away in a box, afraid to let go or be seen or dealt with. I’m letting my Maker’s weaving be evident. And all of those glorious colors working together to make me who I am. Past and all. Hanging proudly on that wall.


Over the last year I’ve taken a lot of time trying to figure out where this writing is going. Leaving behind a career and learning to embrace a calling that primarily focuses on my family has been so easy some days…and so hard on other days. I’ve been looking for ways to avoid sharing the hard stuff. But me and Him…we’ve been working through all that stuff. It’s not done. Never done. But it’s taking shape into something that makes sharing gospel in the form of my own redemption worth sharing. I never knew when I retitled my blog “This Side of Grace” that I would honestly learn what that meant – in full force. I look for it now, grace. I don’t brush it aside like it’s something I don’t need. Something I’m too good for. Because it’s honestly become the air that I breathe…

Linking up with the following authors this week:

Holly S. Barrett for Testimony Tuesday
Holly Barrett

Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory

Holley Gerth and Coffee For Your Heart