This is Her Story: The Moment the Rug Was Pulled from Under My Feet.

Mykea Atkinson is the proud mama of an amazing 15 year-old, Reagan, who attends Marion High School in Marion, S.C. She is the assistant principal at Easterling Primary School in the same district.

At the age of forty-four, she feels more blessed and energetic than ever working with students, both at her school and Marion Baptist Church. Her favorite past time is hanging out with her adopted “fam” that is made up of some amazing guys and gals from her youth group, past and present.

A year and almost four months ago, I lost my beloved.

I say my beloved because the titles husband, friend, father of my child are too weak. The definition of beloved is “dear to your heart,” and when you have been with someone more than half the life you’ve lived, they are your beloved.

Every day is hard.

The town I work and live in is a constant rush of memories because we grew up here, dated here, spent so many wonderful and hard times here. There is not a corner of this town that doesn’t flood me with heart-warming and heart-wrenching memories. Even the church I attend, we grew up in, got married in, and attended as adults. From songs on the radio to certain foods, every day is a struggle to embrace the joy this life has to give.

When my husband, whom I had been with since I was a senior in high school, took his life last December, I felt as if my life was destroyed. It made no sense……..but this is when I fully began to understand God’s purpose for my life.

It is sad to say that although I have a strong faith, I had wavered with my dedication. Some years were better than others. But God had been preparing me and I didn’t even know it. After years of encouragement in my church, I was reading my Bible daily and being discipled….so why wasn’t my life perfect?

And then it happened…….the whole “rug pulled out from under your feet” moment.

It was when I had no choice but to fall to my knees and say, “God, you’ve got to have me because I certainly can’t do this,” and that’s when I knew my mission. Yes, I say mission because it is clearer now than ever before, and it came through hurt and pain. It came through tears and heartbreak. It came from hopelessness and confusion.

You see, through the loss of my beloved in such a heartbreaking and shocking way, I was made to do what I should have been doing all the time.

I just gave it to God! I was diligently in my Word; I was talking to Christian mentors; I was praying, but – most importantly – I was saying, “God, please direct me.”

It was not until I was at rock bottom that I was humble enough to realize that ONLY through Him are all things possible, and I am screaming to the world – THERE IS JOY THROUGH SORROW!

It is easy daily or during holidays to miss a loved one and focus on hurt, but what God wants us to do is reverse that and be thankful and focus on joy and blessings. I am thankful for my life and my time with my Heath because it gave me beautiful gifts such as my daughter, my in-laws (who are parents to me), many friends, and such joyful memories. I am thankful for the pain because it has awakened me to the fact that my mission here is to love on people. Yes. I didn’t list my job or academic goals. I know now it is simply to love on people. It is to love on my many youth I spend time with, my teachers, my students, my friends, and as many people as I can. It sounds hokey, but I have never been clearer in my direction and purpose. I am here to give joy and show joy, ESPECIALLY to be an example to others who are struggling.


We only have to embrace it and open ourselves to what our Lord blesses us with every day! People come to me and say, “You’re so positive…….so happy,” but I’m here to tell you I am nothing without God. Nothing. Today I see the beauty and joy in every little and big thing, and it is because through my sorrow, I have realized my blessings.

Should I have done this more before? YES! I was thankful, but not enough. Do I wish a tragedy had not pushed me to this realization? Most definitely! Am I thankful that at forty-three I had the epiphany? You bet!

I am not the only one hurting. Most people are hurting in some way. But do not let sorrow still your joy! Instead let it be a foil from which your blessings shine that much brighter. I am a beyond imperfect sinner who daily struggles, but I have a wonderful God who also blesses me daily and through Him I see the joy in my life. My favorite verse that I keep on a sticky note in my Bible is Jeremiah 29:11 and it has gotten me through some very hard days.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

WOW! My daughter, Reagan, and I have lives forever altered, but I have no fear because God has plans for us. We will use our sorrow to show joy and blessings. No matter what you have or are going through, DO NOT LET SORROW STEAL YOUR JOY! God is good and he can use us in any situation. I am still a work in progress, but I know my God has great things in store for my life! I plan to be joyful in all circumstances. Some days are harder than others, but God is so good!

Don’t let sorrow steal your joy.

Turn your hurt into a mission.

You have so much to be thankful for because God Is Good!

Mykea Atkinson, Guest Blogger

This Is Her Story: Trim the Excess.

Arlia M. Frink lives in Darlington, SC, where she studies poetry. She has a passion for children’s literature, northerly foods, and music of most genres.

If you ever need to find her, it’s best to check the nearest library or coffee shop. You can also find her on Twitter @arliamarie.

At the start of this year, my lungs were recuperating from the vestiges of a clingy pneumonia that made me wheeze like a hippopotamus attempting to tug skinny jeans up her hips. Not a pretty picture, and definitely not pleasant sounds. But, in the midst of my rattling chest cough and consistent exhaustion, I prayed the same thing I pray every January 1st: Lord, give me what you would have me work on this next season, this year.

And when God’s quiet voice resounded through my being with Trim The Excess, I was too tired to laugh as Sarah did, so I told God that I had nothing left to take, that I had nothing of value, let alone excess, to trim.

And then God did what He does best—He began the process of proving me wrong.

I believed I comprehended how deft, how sharp God’s pruning shears are, but in the last two months I have learned new definitions of excess and unimagined reasons for trimming it.  My, how deep the roots of pride are entrenched. How complete the selfishness of the flesh.  But oh, how necessary the pain of surrender. How necessary the freedom of an already liberated child.

For my excess, as God knew, held me so close, so tightly, that I could not breathe any better than when pneumonia wrecked my lungs.

Let me clear, I am not speaking of the excess of material possessions, although collecting an unnecessary amount of physical belongings is often a result of a much deeper attempt to secure the intangible with the tangible. No, I am speaking of the excess, the dross, those behaviors and beliefs that masquerade as holy truth and are worthless providers of sustenance to your soul, your heart, your mind, your spirit. I am speaking of the deepest crevices of a stony, cracked heart crying out to remember when it was turned to flesh and redeemed to spirit.

For what is more excessive, more unnecessary or devoid of nourishment than anger, than denial, than pride? Oh yes, these are the excesses and extras that must be trimmed.

They must be, for when I, we, choose the smallest of ideas, of notions, even unconsciously, over the truth of Christ and His work, then we leave our abundant life unguarded for the thief to steal.  Yes, examining the hardened parts of your heart requires vigilance and resolve and faith that you are not surrendering everything you have fought for only to be abandoned. I will not lie, this process is hard. And it hurts. Oh my word, does it hurt. Not all the time, but enough that you become acquainted with the exquisitely humbling knowledge of the totality of your depravity and the wholeness of grace.

And when you arrive at this point, you will ask yourself: Am I satisfied in my God? Do I believe, trust, that He is all, that His feast is more? Or am I afraid that I need too much, and that He and His trinity are not enough? You will realize what a silly heart you possess and how small is your understanding, how short your memory. You will dare to claim that a column of fire or smoke would provide everlasting obedience, as the everlasting God inhabits your living temple and you still turn away.


During those moments when you question whether progress, or growth is even occurring, whether you will ever be able to breathe again— rest assured, renovation is indeed taking place. We do not serve a God constrained by time or circumstance. We do not worship a Christ who worried over splinters when the cost of purchasing our lives meant iron driven into His body. And we do not follow a Holy Spirit defeated by death.

And so this is the beautiful fight we engage in with each inhalation: that our bodies cry out to satisfy themselves, but our spirits crave with an insatiable hunger for communion with our God. Nothing more, and nothing less, than what remains after trimming the excess.

                                                                                                                                  Arlia Frink, Guest Blogger

This Is Her Story: Beauty Can Be a Beast

Jessica Griggs Brown is simply a wretch of a woman who is lavishly loved by her Savior.

Like a school girl with a goofy crush, she is married to her best friend.  Together, they fumble their way through the mystery of marriage while raising a ridiculously handsome, athletic teenage boy; a sassy, sweet, precocious princess; and a chunky lil’ dude who has completed their family in a big way.

Always a Clemson Tiger, she sports the color orange with a great deal of pride.  Front porch rocking stills her soul and the smell of tea olive trees reminds her of home.  She can always be found with a cup of coffee in hand.

Jessica is madly and deeply in love with Jesus and adores watching other women fall head over heels for the King of Kings.  She promises to the leave the Light on for you over at


Illusive and fleeting, she has wrestled with the word long and hard for many years.  The struggle to grasp something so deceitful is futile and exhausting.  For she spent far thousands of days believing beauty was something you either were or were not.

She took the stage of an imaginary pageant at such a young age; comparing herself to all the queens that paraded around her. Magazine covers would scream at her; taunting her to be thinner, blonder, tanner, smarter, taller. Eventually, she no longer recognized the girl staring back at her from the bathroom mirror.

Everywhere she turned fun house mirrors followed, pointing and laughing at her.  She decided if she couldn’t beat them, she would join them.  So, one day, she stood back and pointed and laughed at the reflection staring back at her. The more the ravenous canyon of her soul growled, the less she fed it. She traded truth for lies and feasted on an endless buffet of empty promises of earthly satisfaction. Lies from the Enemy, festered in the wound of self-loathing, warped her entire image.

When the stick figure of a woman staring back at her reflected a blimp, she briefly thought there might be a problem. But she drowned out the still, small voice with happy hour and the company of friends.  Ironically enough, the hour always felt less than happy.

The weeping, howling desert of her heart was a wasteland of mistakes and poor choices.

Then one day, it all changed.

Tucked away at the end of Main Street in the sleepy little town of Pendleton was the quaint little house she rented.  One afternoon, she sat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and stared, for what felt like days, out of the picture window.  Spring was just beginning to bloom and the sheer extravagance of such beauty caused her eyes to leak.  It was just the stillness she needed to hear the whisper of her heart.  She searched high and low for the Bible she had packed when she first made her journey to those foothills nestled just beneath the Blue Ridge all those years ago.  The jacket of dust should not have startled her like it did.

For months, her shaky hands would flip and search those pages for something that would begin to fill the abyss of her heart. Her Type-A, white-knuckle grip of control, overthinking self would get frustrated and want to throw in the towel.

 But Love kept calling her name.

After months of digging in and pulling the weeds out by the root, she was swept off her feet and into a love story she never could have imagined for herself.  It is a love story with the King of Kings; a King that is enthralled with her beauty.

She often finds herself reflecting on that season in her life.  A season so dark she stumbled and fell and crawled towards happiness, but always found herself empty-handed.  When Light broke through the darkness, beckoning her home, she picked herself up bloodied, beaten and bruised. She was a slave, chained in sin; until the Prince of Peace marched straight into the slave market and bought her back.  He paid a price much too costly.  He sacrificed His own life so that she could live in freedom.  The longer she walks with Him, the more she believes that beauty is nothing more than a reflection of the heart. For a gentle, quiet spirit that loves the Lord is the most beautiful of all.

In His infinite wisdom, He gave her a daughter. There is something about having a girl that has helped her accept who she is in Him. Without using words, she is teaching her daughter to love who she is; a masterpiece handcrafted by the Creator.  By learning to finally appreciate His handiwork over her own life, she shows her daughter how to accept her own tiny beauty. She does her best to teach her tiny princess that beauty is not in the size of our thighs or the color of our eyes. Nor is it found in the clothes we wear and the style of our hair. Every day she prays that her daughter is comfortable with who He created her to be. Because moments are wasted when we compare ourselves to the queens around us.

We tend to find ourselves when we seek who we are in the One who created us.

It has taken years for her skin to fit.  Her skin was stretched and distorted and pulled tight to fit shapes never created for her.  Then it was stretched and distorted to bring forth life; a shape that fits her well.   Every now and then, the mirror will moan a pathetic lie in her ear.  Some days she nods her head and believes the lie. Other days, she has to dig deep in those moments to uncover the Truth.

Mirrors can be the loudest and worst liars. 

More often than not, she looks at the girl in the mirror and knows Whose she is.  She clings tightly to His promises and whole-heartedly believes that He does not make mistakes.

She now finds herself in a season where she is leading women of all ages in pursuit of the One who loves them best.  She is living proof that Jesus uses the ill-equipped and least likely.  Jesus created a pure heart and strong spirit within her; a heart that begs to pour into the lives of others so that they may know a love like none other.  Her earnest prayer is for women of all shapes and sizes and colors and backgrounds to know the unrelenting, unchanging, unashamed love of the One who is enthralled with their beauty.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

She may not wear a crown with a sash and an armful of roses.  But, when she sees herself through the lens of His love, she feels like a beauty queen.

Every woman should wear the crown and feel the same. 

You are altogether beautiful, my love;
    there is no flaw in you.

Song of Solomon 4:7

                                                                                                           Jessica Griggs Brown, Guest Blogger

This Is Her Story: We’re Not at Happily Ever After Yet.

Carmen Smith is a 31 year-old wife to an incredibly handsome, incredibly bearded fellow and
mom to one precious daughter, Charlotte Grace. She and her family currently live in Florence, SC.

Carmen values discipleship of women and loves playing a small role in true bible literacy of women. She blogs (sometimes) over at  On a typical day, you can find her chasing her toddler, fighting insomnia, or laughing at a viral video or meme. Or a combination of all three simultaneously.

Social media brands have claimed stake on the word “stories.” Instagram stories. SnapChat stories. Sometimes you find yourself in the throes of living vicariously through someone’s “story”. Celebrating with them, laughing with them, or even hurting with them. What seems to be consistent, though, is there is always a piece missing. You never get the full story.

My outside story: A combination of a bearded stud of a husband, a REALLY (really) cute little girl, and in general, a lot of fun.

My inside story: Deep pain and grief.

When I came to know the Lord at 25 years old, my life changed very quickly. Within a year I met and married the love of my life and within another year we realized the Lord was calling us to be parents WAY sooner than either of us thought (especially me).

Our outside story: A happily married couple who, in December of 2014, made a fun announcement to social media telling people to hold on to their stockings because our first baby was on its way.

Our inside story: We had been to several doctors because after trying for almost a year, I knew something wasn’t right. It was not only sadness, but real anger with the Lord (and everyone else) every time I got another negative pregnancy test. I knew something was wrong. Better yet, I knew the problem was not with Jordan; it was with me. was broken. My body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to. Yes, we got to make that announcement to social media and it was a day I will never forget, but on the inside, I was terrified. Terrified it wasn’t real. Terrified that nobody would even care enough to celebrate with us. Honestly, I was terrified that someone who had been trying to have a baby like we had would be offended or broken hearted at our announcement just like I had been EVERY time someone announced their news in the time that we were trying.

Fast forward to 2016. Our daughter had turned one and we both knew that the whole “accidental” or even natural pregnancy thing wouldn’t happen for us. We knew we would need more help to make my body do what it was supposed to do to even prepare for a baby. We knew the Lord was able. We trusted and we prayed. We were ready to grow our family. We made the appointment to talk to our doctor about starting up the treatments again like last time. Only the Lord had a surprise. We got pregnant on our own. Naturally. We were floored. We couldn’t believe it, but we also knew that God was in it from DAY ONE. We went to Charleston to celebrate our anniversary in October and to quietly celebrate between us two that we were getting to expand our family.

Our outside story: Husband and wife celebrating a wedding anniversary, window shopping at fancy stores and eating all the food we could indulge in this side of the sin of gluttony.

Our inside story: A visit to an ER. At dinner, I felt a gush of blood at the dinner table. Something was wrong. Sparing many details, the Lord, again, showed up. The baby was FINE! We cried with one another and celebrated how faithful the Lord was. Monday we came home and went to our doctor and saw that precious baby moving its arms and legs. Our radiology tech (who also goes to our church) celebrated with us at the Lord’s provision. We talked with our close friend about her taking pictures of us to announce the pregnancy 2 weeks later on a Sunday.

That Monday everything changed. I had my 12 week checkup. I just didn’t feel right. The past two weeks, my pregnancy symptoms that were SO STRONG just slowly started going away. He checked for the heartbeat and couldn’t find one with a Doppler but since it was early, he wasn’t concerned but sent me to ultrasound. Our same ultrasound tech that celebrated with us 3 weeks prior was the one who then had to tell us, “I don’t hear a heartbeat, guys.” Total darkness came over my entire life in that instant.

The Lord and I wrestled hard in the next little while. I don’t know that I’ve felt this kind of anger toward the Lord before. There were days where I very much hated everything and everyone. I told my therapist I saw through this that I just don’t feel like talking to Him or reading the Bible because I’m just so mad so I’m avoiding him instead. He so kindly reassured me that I actually am connecting with him but right now my connection is a fight. It’s a wrestle and that’s okay.

I never had a father figure growing up but in 31 years of living, almost 6 years being His daughter, I truly feel this is the first raw father/daughter moment we have had. We’ve had our moments. Trust me. But in this moment, it was me, slamming my door in my room like a teenager because He told me that I couldn’t have something that I asked really nicely for and thought I was ready to handle. I’m sitting on my bed weeping and screaming, “You suck! You don’t love me! I thought You trusted me” and what I’m doing is hoping He does not try to come into my room, yet looking up through my tears to see if I can find the shadow of His feet at the bottom crack of my door. I am secretly waiting for Him to turn the handle, come sit on the bed with me, and gently put his hand on my leg and let me yell at Him and cry even louder.

Our outside story: We are moving on and finding joy in the small things.

Our inside story: As recently as last month, in another round of our fertility treatments, we got a positive pregnancy test on a Monday, a positive pregnancy test on a Tuesday, had blood work done on Wednesday, and got the call Thursday it was negative. Chemical pregnancy. An early miscarriage. Again. To say my anger was rekindled towards the Lord is an understatement.

My flesh is bent to run. I’m an avoider. Let me tell you – this pain does not go away. This is not something you can run from. I even had a sweet friend tell me that this may be the Lord’s way of telling me that my running has to stop. My avoiding Him has to stop. In the Bible, James tells us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us. The reality is He already is near. I know He’s here. To be honest, I can try to say all I want that I haven’t heard Him speak since that day but even through my “I’m not talking to you” days (which I’m still struggling to get out of) all I heard over and over when I was begging Him to tell me where He was were the words “I’m here.” The reality is, that has to be enough.

Praise be to Christ that He has put into place women close to me to speak life into my areas that seem dead. To speak light into areas that still seem dark. I could not do this alone. When my emotions get the best of me, I have to be surrounded by women who can remind me of the truth. His truth. That His grace is sufficient and that He is my gift. In the end, our life is not measured in the tangible gifts He gives. Our gift is HIM. He initiates, sustains, and fulfills. He is our source, supply, and goal. We haven’t lost hope. We aren’t sure how our outside or inside story will end, but we know that He is working even when we feel abandoned and forgotten. To Christ alone be the glory and may His light shine brightly through our pain.

                                                                                               Carmen Smith, Guest Blogger

When a Dream Dies

One of the coolest things I (Lindsay) have gotten to do recently is editing and formatting devotionals for Cookie as she enters the final stages of an amazing writing project (more on this at the end of the post :)). With her keeping her writing focus on that project this week, I am back at the blog today to share more on how my story with Jesus ties into what He is up to on the crazy ride of Tenacious Grace.

dreamdies2Sometimes Jesus says yes. Sometimes He says no. And sometimes He says not yet.

In April of 2012, as I was praying, Jesus whispered three things in my spirit and gave me clear instructions to “have faith.” Excited over the revelation and clarity I quickly wrote them down on a post-it.Post-It

I felt like all three of these things fell into the “not yet” category, but I stuck the post-it on my desk to serve as a reminder of where Jesus was taking me.

Then over a year passed. And instead of God drawing me closer to these opportunities, my circumstances seemed to be pulling me farther and farther away.

Holding onto hope became hard. And eventually I just couldn’t bear to look at the note without feeling discouraged. I felt pressed to let go. So…with a heavy heart, I pulled the post-it off and placed it into a folder.

Some would say I was giving up on God. I felt like that myself. I thought maybe I had misunderstood Him; or He was just letting me down. But I was wrong.

I didn’t realize it then, but sometime in the year after I had written my post-it note, I had gotten wrapped up in following Jesus for the purpose of seeing those promises fulfilled. My joy became tied to whether or not I thought I was getting closer to where God was taking me next. And God wanted my joy to be solely anchored in the fact that He was with me now—no matter what season I happened to be traversing.

As I bitterly let go of my dreams, Jesus stripped me of unhealthy ambition, idols, and pride. But over time I eventually and amazingly found myself in a place of peace — free of striving and straining.

I learned that when we get overly infatuated with the idea of what’s next, we will unavoidably lose sight of the purpose He has for us right where we are. And even worse, our God-given dreams can unintentionally become our gods.

Through that season He replaced my iron-fisted grip on my dreams with an open-handed hope. Where I could still have faith for the future, without obsessively looking for ways to bypass the present.

It’s been over three years since I wrote that post-it note. I had forgotten about it until I recently sat at the computer and saw a link to a devotional I wrote for my church’s blog. Then suddenly a wave of excitement hit me–reminding me of that post-it and all that Jesus has done since I put it away.

I searched my folders and found the note. Reading it I was overwhelmed with gratitude to Jesus. When I wasn’t paying attention He brought me full circle — providing every single opportunity that He had whispered over my life three years ago:

* ministry with C

* a women’s group

* the writing team

Alone I may have chalked them up to coincidence. But together they stand as a testament to His faithfulness in my life.

…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…

And as for the star on my post-it labelled “Ministry with C” — let me tell ya, Jesus is up to something of the Ephesians 3:20 variety in the form of Tenacious Grace.

Recently I got to spend a few days sitting in a studio, watching Cookie do what God has so beautifully gifted her to do. Teaching in a way to help people find Truth, strength, and hope in Jesus.

I’ve been able to attend and work alongside her through each of her previous Bible Studies. Listened to her do her thing on the NewSpring stage. Seen her speak at women’s conferences, in small groups, and in churches around the community. Jesus never fails to speak to me when Cookie teaches. Getting to partner together with her in what Jesus is doing is one of the greatest blessings of my life.

As Cookie, Kay, and I continue moving forward and assembling the nuts and bolts of Tenacious Grace we’d love your prayers. And here are a few things we’d love to share with you:

  1. Cookie is fully immersed in the final stages of writing a devotional book that will accompany her upcoming video Bible Study. Expect lots more info on this amazing resource soon!
  2. Cookie will also be speaking at several churches and ministries in the coming months, and if you’d like more information about having her speak at your church or event check out the SPEAKING page. We’d absolutely love to come and serve you!
  3. If you would like to stay up-to-date on all that Jesus is up to in Tenacious Grace, head on over and like our ministry Facebook page. We’d love to connect with you there!