// Beauty Out of Ashes: My Story //

We’ve all heard the phrase “Beauty Out of Ashes” before. When I heard it the first time, I thought “that’s a cute phrase.” I kept going, though. Not even really thinking about the depth of the meaning.

Here’s my story:

From a young age, I heard the name Jesus. I knew Bible stories, I had heard the Gospel. Though my family didn’t attend church regularly, I had heard about Jesus through many forms.

My grandparents took the role as my parents because I came from a childhood of abuse from my parents. Violence and dishonesty were a part of our every day life in my family. Normally your family is your safe place. I longed for that idea as a child. My trust was completely broken. I thought, “if I can’t trust my family to be loving, then who can I trust?” At 12 years old, I had made up my mind that I would never trust anyone again, and then I decided something else as well: that I didn’t want to live anymore.. I shared with one of my friends my thoughts of suicide, and by the loving grace of Jesus, she made me talk to my school counselor. From then on, I received counseling from all of the abuse I was facing. I was diagnosed with depression, and received treatment. I still wasn’t satisfied, though.. I didn’t have Jesus.

When I was in 6th grade, I started playing tennis. I played throughout middle school and high school. My freshman year of high school, I wanted to play singles. I decided that if I couldn’t find my worth and value at home, I would at least find it on the court. If I could play tennis well, I would be good enough, right? Not quite. Though I wanted to play singles, I was actually placed in doubles for the first few matches. If you’d like to hear a little bit about the humor of God, here it is. [Many, many times I had been invited to church by individuals, but I always said no, because I refused to build relationships with anyone else. I was afraid that I would get hurt again the way family had already hurt me.] Guess what, my tennis partner, Sara Freeman, started inviting me to church! I thought, “this is just great…” But it truly was great. It was more than great. After several times of declining her invitation to church, I finally agreed to go. Honestly, it was just to say I did it. [BUT GOD]. He relentlessly pursues us, doesn’t He? After a few months of attending church with her, I was actually at another church when I accepted Jesus. It just so happened that my family had been invited to another church one Sunday. On that Sunday, April 24th, 2011, I gave my heart to Jesus.

You see, God had been pursuing my heart for a really long time. Through my friend, yes, but He had also been pursing my heart through my family: the hardships, the abuse, the pain. Though I know that God did not intend for me to face abuse, what I can tell you is that He had every intention to use it, and He most definitely has. On April 24th, I realized one important thing: that God never intended for me to carry my burdens on my own. For years I never shared with anyone that abuse I faced, because I was ashamed. What a lie from satan! I asked for forgiveness of my own sins and gave my heart to Jesus because I realized that He died for me: He died for my pain, my struggles, my sin. I was in need of SAVIOR. I was in need of REDEMPTION. Through Jesus I was able to see His steadfast love for me, that He was for me even when I wasn’t for myself, that my sins were forgiven. I was able to see that He was faithful and gives grace beyond what my mind could comprehend. Praise God for His grace and mercy. Praise God for His pursuit of us.

Right from the start, my faith was persecuted. Other than my grandfather, my family did not know Jesus. Many times they did not understand why I chose to live for Him. They persecuted my desire to go on mission trips, asking, “why would you go on the other side of the world? How do you know ‘this Jesus’ will take care of you over there?” God quickly taught me stand up for what I believed (and please know that He is STILL teaching me that!). When I was 17, God put on my heart to start praying with patients in my nearby hospital. Trust me when I say I was a nervous wreck at first, but I was so restless that I could not ignore the prompting on my heart by the Holy Spirit. Through praying with people in hospital, I was able to see many hearts encouraged, and many people come to know Jesus. I was blown away by what God had in store. He had a plan. He knew that there were broken hearts that needed to be healed. A few months later, God also put on my heart to start praying with my family. My answer was quickly, no..NO..NOO. How could I do that? They already call me crazy! God had been using His prompting for me to pray with people in the hospital to also strengthen me to pray with my family. Something you should know is that I always pray for God to make me restless until I listen to Him. [Bold, I know. But it works!] Believe me, I was completely restless. I knew that I had to start praying with my family. One small bold step after another, I started to pray with them. Night after night, over the course of a few years, it got easier and easier. After a while, my family started to say, “we should pray tonight, something different happens when we pray.”

One night in March of 2015, I was talking to my grandmother. She said, “you know, we can never be sure that we are going to Heaven when we die, but I sure hope that I get to go.” In that moment, I was able to share the Gospel with my grandmother again, and that night at 67 years old, my grandmother decided to give her life to Jesus!!! In the same year, August of 2015, I invited my mother to church with me again. On August 2, she, too realized that she was in need of Savior and was transformed by the Gospel!!! I remember my mother saying, “I finally understand why you want to serve Jesus. I realize that I cannot make it without him.” I have 3 little sisters, and since then, I have also been able to watch them come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior one by one. GOD. IS. GOOD.

I could never be more thankful for Sara and her family for pouring into my life, especially my spiritual life, from the very beginning. Her family was a true picture of the Gospel, that what satan intends for evil God can make good, no matter what it is. Her family took me in as their own, and are still a significant part of my life today. I pray that everyone has a family like Sara’s in their life.

Though I faced many hardships as a child, it was beyond any reward that I could ever dream to be able to watch my family come to know Jesus. I could never take credit for the transformation that God has done in my family. Only He gets the glory. God has also taught me what true forgiveness is, both His forgiveness towards me, and my forgiveness towards my parents. This is a true testimony of the power of God: that He does whatever He pleases, and that He can save anyone.

Though I know Jesus and realize more and more each day that I am desperate for Him, I still struggle, as we all do. I have still had to receive counseling and medication for my childhood and depression. I have realized that sometimes God shows us His healing through physical forms of treatment, whether that be counseling, medication, or whatever it takes. It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way. Sometimes we need help. Through my healing I have experienced a deep understanding of God’s heart towards me, and in a way that I would have never experienced outside of my hardship. I’ve experienced the saving grace of Jesus. He has taken my pain and made a beautiful story.

When I think of my story, I think of Hosea 6:1-3 which says,

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.””

Through my grandparents and Sara’s family, I have seen a sweet picture of grace. They have showered me with love that I could never earn, and reminded me of the truth of Jesus over and over again.

Along with my grandparents and Sara’s family, there have been many, many more that have an encouragement in my walk with Christ. Thank you to you all, your encouragement has meant more than you know!

God can use hardships to draw us close to Him. Through hardships we realize how desperate we are for the love and saving grace of our Lord. I could never be more thankful for my story, for God has used it for His glory, and His glory alone.

Now, I desire to encourage broken hearts who are lost and in need of someone to speak life into them. God reached down to save me and mold me into His image (and is still doing so!) He can do the same for you. Whatever you’re facing or have faced, God sees you. He hears you. He plans to make beauty from your ashes. That is what our God does best.

Just a reminder to you that satan has not won, God has. God’s Word is not bound by anything /2 Timothy 2:9/. His is the name above all names.

© Copyright Kayla Rivers All Rights Reserved

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