I’ve told this story a bazillion times but it’s the best story of my life, so whatever. On February 4, 1986, at about 8:30pm, I opened up my heart and let Jesus come in and my life changed forever in that one moment.

I could never repay or fully convey what took place, what that transaction meant of Jesus basically saying to me, “Your sin is dead. And I love you. And we’ve got a crazy life to walk through together.”

But for the rest of my life – and into eternity – I get to try to know my Creator better and walk with him and live a grateful life that hopefully feels like an acknowledgment to him of all the deep, deep good I believe he’s done in and for and through me.

So as I look back on this 28th year of walking with Jesus, here’s what this year has brought me, more than anything else.

I have experienced and shown more grace than I ever have in the twenty-seven years leading up to this point combined.

I have been welcomed into the fold.

I have been allowed to speak.

I have been asked to share my pain.

I have wept over my mistakes and received grace, not from the ones I’ve hurt, but from others in their place.

I have been reminded that everyone on the planet could despise me and Jesus would still think I was something to behold, someone to die for. 

I have looked others in the eye, literally and metaphorically, and I have moved on.

I have opened up my life to people I, in a previous, harsher version of myself, might have perhaps kept some distance from, and these have been some of the sweetest surprises.

I have relished attempting to be grace and speak grace and live grace so that hopefully, maybe, someone else would be nudged to give it freely in those really jagged moments when a clenched jaw and furrowed brow would have been easier.

I’ve just really come to this place of realizing that not only have I been given huge grace,  but it has been withheld from me (to be clear: never from God, but from those who claim to follow him), and it was in those times of withholding that something shifted in me. You’d think I would’ve become harder. But then Jesus…  But then Jesus does what he does and so I didn’t do what I maybe normally would’ve done. Jesus wouldn’t let me become harder. I instead have wanted even more fervently to show grace to others.

Twenty-eight years ago I opened my heart wide. And Jesus, in his sweet tenderness and wisdom and power, has been opening it and opening it and opening it ever since.

And I will be forever grateful.