Forgiveness & Grace

Growing up in a legalistic denomination, I didn’t really grow up with a good understanding of what forgiveness and grace was. True forgiveness and true grace.

A couple years ago I was hurt deeply by some people, people that should never ever want to intentionally hurt me and my family. I’ve harbored unforgiveness, anger, hatred and malice in my heart since. I made anger and bitterness my idols.

I swore up and down that these people did not deserve MY forgiveness. They didn’t deserve anything good to happen to them.

It wasn’t until recently that I’ve started going through this sort of group therapy through my church. It’s called Redemption Groups. The goal is to understand that we are suffering sinners, to meet Jesus in our suffering and to see Him as our Redeemer through it.

I shared my story with a group of incredible women. A lot of crying out of anger. A lot of seeing myself as the victim, faultless, and sinless.

My incredible facilitators lovingly showed me that I’d been in habitual sin these last couple of years–the anger, the bitterness, the hatred, the malice.

I had to repent. Learning this about myself broke me. I am a suffering sinner. Not just suffering. I’ve sinned against God by living this way.

As I was driving to Oklahoma this past week for my best friend’s wedding, I felt the sudden urge to turn the radio off and pray. I knew the Lord wanted me to pray about forgiving those people that hurt me. But instead I avoided that topic and prayed about some other things that seemed to be a bit more convenient to pray about. Then it was like I had run out of words and the Lord, yet again, brought “forgiveness” back to mind.

I immediately started crying (I’m driving down a highway, y’all). I begin talking to Him out loud as if He’s sitting in the passenger seat. I tell Him I want to forgive them and release this invisible grip I’ve had on them but I just don’t know how.

He led me to repentance right then and there. Not just confessing my habitual sin but truly repenting, choosing to turn away from those sins and placing Him in His rightful place. I asked Him to forgive me. I was completely overcome by His forgiveness AND grace!

Now follow me here, readers…this is where it gets real good.

He asks me “how do you feel when you give a good gift to a friend?” I respond with “Well, I’m proud to give them the gift, cant wait for them to receive it, they’re gonna love it. I feel so much joy” He says “THAT. That is the attitude to have when you give my forgiveness as a gift.” I was blown away. I needed that illustration to understand that it’s not ‘my forgiveness’ I’m giving. It’s His forgiveness that’s been first given to me as a gift. It’s much more costly.

THEN…

For the first time, I was overcome with compassion for these people. The Lord had softened my heart towards them and told me that they are lost in their sin. They don’t know any better as unbelievers. But me, someone who claims to follow Christ, I betray Him daily. I used to think I was better than them. But I am NO better than them. It’s almost like I’m worse because I know what I’m doing when I sin against Him. But they are lost. They don’t know any better. How could I hold that against them?

I told Him that I release them, finally. I let go of the grip I’ve had over them because I want them to experience the very thing I was experiencing that moment in the car– His forgiveness and grace!!!

As I told the Lord that I forgive them, (by name, I might add. I couldn’t do that before.) I felt a heavy weight lift off my chest. I felt like I could breathe. When I spoke their names, it didn’t follow with a curse and it didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth.

HOW?! How can so much change in my heart in a matter of 1 hour in a car?!

 

Friends, His forgiveness and grace.

Relinquishing my control, turning them over to Jesus so that He can do His perfect work in their lives. So that they can experience His grace and forgiveness. THAT is a better story than me having this invisible grip over them, than me wishing bad things on them, than me thinking I have the power and control to hurt them the way they hurt me.

He is better.

I’m one of “those girls”

We’ve all heard of the multilevel marketing businesses…some people know them as pyramid schemes. I’ve judged, as I’m sure you have, every one of those businesses. I’ve also kind of judged those girls that sell it.

“Surely it doesn’t really work”

“This can’t cure cancer”

“I’m not buying multicolored leggings that aren’t flattering”

“Wraps? Like lettuce wraps or …?”

“A pink drink that cures all? uhh”

I think we all know someone who has become an independent distributor of a product. Sometimes it’s someone we haven’t even spoken to since high school. As soon as I was added to a group page for these products, I was the first to leave them.

But it turns out, these ladies (and sometimes men) who sign up and decide to market these products actually believe in them! It’s worked for them. It brings them joy, it’s given them financial freedom, it’s given them more time to spend with their babies and spouse. They love these products…otherwise they would not be one of “those girls”.

In 2016 at a Gateway Church event I sat behind a lady who had lipstick swatches all over her hand. My mom and I marveled at them quietly betting that she had just come from Ulta or Sephora. During one of the breaks my mom asked her about them. She then demonstrated how smear-proof and budge-proof these lip colors are by wiping her hand and none of the product came off. My mom and I looked as if we were watching a magic show. She explained that the product was called Lipsense and told us everything about it. She gave us her card and that was that. Mom and I talked about it the rest of the night, clearly hooked on this magic lipstick.

A whole year went by and we had never purchased it. I don’t know why. Life got busy, I guess. I was thrown into a Lipsense Facebook party by a girl I went to Bible College with. Her and I were never friends, we ran in two different circles but we were social media friends. I was so close to leaving that group but decided to stay and learn a little more about Lipsense.

I quietly lurked online and was a mere spectator. I didn’t not join in on any of the fun games she was playing, didn’t chat with anybody. I was convinced I needed to try it for myself. So I bought Lexie Beary and Glossy Gloss. WOWOWOWOW.

It didn’t come off, bleed, feather, smear, fade or transfer after a night of eating sushi, a drink and dessert (cake).

I talked to Jon (husband) and asked him if I could buy more (budgets, amirite?). He asked if there were any deals or discounts. After talking to the girl who is over the girl who’s party I was in, she told me I could sign up as a distributor and get my products for a discount!!! She said I didn’t have to ~sell~ or ~push~, I could just use it for me.

So I signed up…took the plunge and became one of “those girls”. Y’all I was and am HOOKED. I was so impressed by these lip colors and glosses that I wanted to genuinely share that excitement with my girlfriends and family that love makeup and that don’t ever wear makeup.

We have more than just lip colors too. We have foundation, mascara, eye liner, lip liner, eyeshadows, skin care and highlighter!

I’ve been in this business since February of 2017. I truly believe in these products just like the other girls that sell stuff. My thing is, I can actually prove to you that these products work. And you can prove it to yourself too.

If you’re interested in trying a lip color, buying a gloss and color, buying foundation, color matching or you just want to see the masses of products I own– LET ME KNOW.

You can follow me on Instagram: themrskknowles

My Facebook page for all things beauty: Keilah Knowles Beauty

Follow me, ask me questions, challenge me! Playing with makeup and learning about it is all I ever want to do with my life…and maybe become a mother someday. I’ve helped three brides find their perfect wedding Lipsense colors, I’ve done several make overs and would love to do more! Senegence (the brand that Lipsense comes from) is for any age. You’re not too old or too young to use it!

Every woman is beautiful as she is, accentuating her favorite features is my favorite.

#NotMyChurch

So, if you’ve read my last post then you know about my religious upbringing and where I came from. If you read my first post then you know I am married —and marriage comes with some uncomfortable changes and compromises.

Coming to Texas my family and I started attending Christ for the Nations Church in Oak Cliff, Texas. We detoxed there from our religious ways of thinking for about 5 years. God then called us to Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.

Gateway was my church. I learned so much there. Every Sunday I came in hungry for the Word and I left each Sunday completely filled. I heard the BEST of the best lead worship every Sunday. Songs that had me weeping, arms thrown in the air.

…then I met Jonathan.

Jon didn’t grow up going to church. It wasn’t until he found The Paradox Church while he was a student at TCU. The Paradox is part of the Acts29 Network. We are a reformed church which, if you google, it shows that we hold to Calvinistic doctrine of salvation.

Jon invited me to visit his church early on in our relationship. Worship was nothing like Gateway’s. It was like…rock music with like…yelling. The sermon felt like it was 72 hours long and way deep and lecture like. Felt like I was sitting in a college lecture class. Communion was an every Sunday thing. Also, like 1% of the church actually raised their hands in worship. Like, what?

After church Jon asked me if I liked the service. Now, I didn’t want to lie so I just nodded my head. Not trying to rock the boat in my first relationship, ya know?

Later on in our relationship when we had “that” talk about where we were going, Jon decided to casually drop this on me: “It’s a good thing you like my church because I’m not planning on leaving it.”

…………Uhm. WUT.

This meant he was taking me away from Gateway…God’s chosen church!!! The only church that is doing it right!!! Who did he think he was?!?

When I learned about the whole Calvinist crap I pitched a fit. I strongly dislike Calvinism and people who associate themselves with Calvinism. I knew too many of them in Bible College and they were easily the worst people there. All they do is argue theology and doctrine and tell you why they’re right and you’re wrong. Forgive me for never wanting to associate myself with them in a church setting.

You know how people would always do the #NotMyPresident during the election? I did #NotMyChurch anytime I was asked what church Jon and I attend.

I had the hardest time connecting with the ladies in our City Group (which is essentially a small group). It was mostly because I didn’t want to connect with them because in my heart I begged Jesus to not let us stay at this church for very long.

It took me well over a year for Jesus to do a work in my heart. I can’t give you one date as to when I fell in love with my church, my pastors and our worship. It was like I just realized I didn’t dread coming to church, I looked forward to our different kind of worship, I didn’t actually hate the ladies in our City Group. I actually consider those girls great friends. I loved that I didn’t have to agree with their doctrine of salvation (#JesusDiedForEveryone), I am free to talk those disagreements and misunderstandings out with those who believe differently than me without judgement or fighting (unheard of for Calvinists!).

My loving pastor does not shove Calvinism down the congregation’s throats, he preaches the Word and only the Word. Literally. We spent 2 whole years going through the book of Genesis chapter by chapter, verse by verse, line by line.

All this to say, I never thought that I’d leave Gateway. I didn’t think Jesus could change my heart so much. I didn’t think I could go from #NotMyChurch to #ILoveMyChurch.

He can work the impossible, my friends. He really can. I love being part of the Paradox Church.

Bet you didn’t know this

I don’t speak about it often…mainly because I am rarely in a place where this topic has a place. But when I do find myself in a setting where I can bring it up, it’s like a neat party trick that guarantees dropped jaws and “are you kidding? YOU were one of THOSE?”

From birth to the age of 15, I lived in Southern California before moving to the greatest state (read Texas). During those 15 years my family and I were part of a very religious, legalistic, controlling denomination. They’re called The Apostalic Assembly. You probably haven’t heard of them. Perhaps you’ll be a bit more familiar when I describe to you what they look like.

Women could not:

Wear makeup. Wear pants. Wear jewelry (not even a wedding band). Cut their hair (not even a trim). Wear open toe shoes if you were in stage ministry. Could not be in stage ministry unless you were on the praise team or choir. The woman must always cover her head with a veil before entering the church. Both men and women could not go to the theater to watch a movie (what?). They also believe they are the only religion/denomination going to Heaven (what?).

This is what I grew up in. It was all I knew. My dad was second generation pastors kid in that. It was all he knew. It was a disgusting place of controlling men and sad, submissive wives. It was (is) a place of hidden sin in it’s leaders, sin that would be brushed under the rug because image is what matters most.

Romans 10:9 – Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, YOU WILL BE SAVED

You’re asking “Keilah, why’d you quote scripture?”

Thanks for asking, you’re so good at questions.

This group of people believe that baptism saves. Sorry, if that was true, then I got saved like 100 times every summer in my pool.

Baptism is the outward symbol to the inward change. We go from death to life when we go through those waters. Think of baptism as my wedding ring. My ring shows you that I am married to my super hot husband. It is a physical, outward symbol showing everyone that I am a taken woman (because they’re all pining over me, right? 😉 ) Taking my ring off does not make me any less married. It does not automatically mean I am no longer married, right? The same goes for baptism. It shows to my friends and family that I have made the decision to be obedient to Christ, did as He did and died to my flesh to be raised back to life. Not being baptized does not make me less of a Christian. It does NOT determine my salvation.

This church pushes baptism to add to their numbers, they also push the proof of receiving the Holy Spirit in the evidence of speaking in tongues. If you did not speak in tongues, whoa, you were not on the right track. Speaking in tongues is a gift. A gift. That means not everyone is going to have this gift and that is okay. It is not life or death if you don’t speak in tongues. But don’t you dare say that in their church. Receiving the Holy Spirit was dramatic, sensational, emotional, showy. Running the aisles, rolling around on the ground, shaking, yelling. This was an average Sunday morning.

I made the decision to be baptized when I was 14 years old. I was urged by my youth pastor to make this decision slowly, to not do it because all my friends were doing it because it was the thing to do. My youth pastor knew the truth and he tried to help me understand. At that time my parents were both in the depths of depression. The Lord was tugging at their heart for their attention, calling them out to make the move that needed to be done. I had to be baptized. I needed my church and my friends to know that I was saved. So I got in that tank, looked around the crowd gathering around for my parents. My mom was in the back of the church, I could barely see her. My dad sat a few rows back from the tank, his arms crossed looking so depressed and lifeless. That was the moment I knew something was wrong, I didn’t feel right. I went under the water, came back up and proved with the evidence of speaking in tongues that I was “saved”. Everyone rejoiced, but my parents sat there.

Not long after, we left the church, sold our home and all our belongings, and moved to Texas with just the clothes on our backs. We began attending a non-denominational church where the Lord began to detox us from the garbage we were taught our whole lives.

Freedom.

I came from that mess. It’s not who I am. I still sometimes battle with legalism and religiosity. But I have a community who can call me out on it lovingly and show me grace. I have a Jesus who isn’t concerned with how I dress or how much makeup I wear. Because wearing a skirt and looking homely doesn’t make me saved or “set apart”. I made the decision to get baptized–the right way, for the right reasons (I sound like a Bachelor contestant) on May 1st 2016 at The Paradox Church where I attend.

I pray the Gospel reaches those that are still lost in that religion. Because they don’t know freedom in Jesus. They know control. That is no life to live.

Betcha didn’t know this was my history, my background. I hope you can’t see the traces of it in me, but I also love that it is part of my testimony and the grace of Jesus truly saving me.

 

 

 

Find God’s Match For You

Does that title sound familiar? If you guessed Christian Mingle you are correct, my friend!

For those of you who don’t know what Christian Mingle is, let me fill you in in three words– christian online dating.

“Keilah, is this an #ad?”

No, it’s not. I wouldn’t say that dating site is for the faint of heart. I’m going to share with y’all how my sweet husband and I got our start!

Early 2013 I took a shoe box and began to write on notecards prayers for my future husband. When I moved out for summer from the dorm, the Tulsa wind blew the lid off that shoe box causing me to lose many of those notecards. The only prayer I remember writing was that if whoever he is was in a relationship that the Lord would cause it to end and soon because I was ready to meet him.

Christmas break 2013 my mom and I were sitting on the couch watching Hallmark movies and knitting. Yes, knitting. A commercial came on for Christian Mingle. We both laughed and my mom jokingly said “KK, you should sign up!” That night I set up an account and started browsing. Came across quit a few losers. Also, some not-so-christian guys. I had the account for maybe a week until I was ready to just cancel it.

*Enter my future luvuh*

He sent me the initial smiley face. There were three people in his profile pic and not one of them attractive. I smiled back just to be nice. He messaged me and out of the masses of gross men, he was the first to be genuinely interested in who I was. He didn’t ask for money, he didn’t ask me to come over to his house when his mom was going to be out, he also didn’t tell me I was supposed to mother his children (yeah, these are all things I heard).

After a couple of hours of chatting he asked to meet me at the Starbucks in Southlake Town Center. I lied and said I had family in town for the holiday.

WAS HE SERIOUS?! WHAT A PSYCHO

We became friends on Facebook and we messaged for the rest of Christmas break on messenger. I went back to school in Tulsa, OK and he continued to talk to me. I was weirdly starting to crush on him. But I could NEVER tell any of my friends for fear of being judged! We ended up exchanging numbers and agreeing to have a Skype call to make sure we weren’t being catfished by the other.

That first Skye call was 4 hours long. 4 HOURS. I did most of the talking, obviously, because I was nervous as hell. Also, he was FREAKING CUTE.

We continued to Skype and text for 3 months. All without my parents even knowing (LOL because I always told my parents everything). We agreed to finally meet in person, face to face when I came home for spring break. That week I was coming home was when I told my parents that I was meeting a guy from Christian Mingle at starbucks.

*Cue mom freaking out and dad acting remarkably calm*

Their demands were that he meet them the day after meeting me–which was also the day before he was taking me on our first official date. He agreed.

I walked into Starbucks, heart racing, so incredibly nervous, seriously considered just driving away. But oh, I would’ve missed out on the greatness that is Jonathan Austin Knowles.

He stood as I walked in. That’s when I knew. Not kidding. Want to know how I knew? He was so tall I had to look up. 6’4, ladies and gents. Also, blonde hair, blue eyes. *Swoon*

He hugged me, not even a side hug y’all. Breakin all the Christian dating rules! We sat and talked for a couple of hours. The only thing I remember was the sweat accumulating under my eyes. I didn’t know I could sweat there. #TheMoreYouKnow

Remember when I said my dad acted very cool, calm and collected? Well, he was circling the freaking Starbucks the whole time.

Next day he graciously met up with me and my parents (and Caleb) at Chuy’s. Super awkward lunch. But when we finally all said goodbye for the day, my parents gushed about how much they liked him!

Jon had planned out our first date: Dinner at BJ’s and a MAVS game. Y’all I spent the day googling “How to eat pasta in front of your crush” while shoving fistfuls of hot cheetos down my throat.

He showed up at the front door with two bouquets of flowers. One for me and one for my mom! Can you say swoon?

At the game, we sat awkwardly with our hands in our laps, keeping a safe space between us. Until I asked for a selfie. He put his arm around me and once the photoshoot was done, HE KEPT HIS ARM THERE. I could’ve thrown up the two pieces of pasta I ate for dinner. The butterflies were out of this world.

Later that week we went to the Fort Worth Water Gardens and walked around the Stockyards. On March 20th, he asked me to be his girlfriend. My first boyfriend. My last boyfriend.

10 months later Jonathan took me to Bass Hall to see Beauty and the Beast. Afterwards we walked around Sundance Square where he popped the question. I shouted at the security guards “HE JUST PROPOSED TO ME!”

Of all the ways I imagined meeting my future husband, online was not even an option in my mind. Be open to the plan the Lord has for you. Trust Him. Trust that He is still holding the pen that writes your story. Don’t think you have it all figured out…because chances are you don’t. And that’s actually really okay.

Oh yeah, remember that shoe box of prayers I mentioned that flew away? That one prayer I remember praying? Jon had a relationship that ended around the time that I wrote that prayer down. Boom.