by Jenelle Garden

About 17 years ago a simple second chance was given to me that changed the trajectory of my whole life.

My husband, Isidro, and I have been happily married for many years. We have two beautiful daughters and are surrounded by family and friends, and an awesome church that we love. But it hasn’t always been such a drama-free existence or relationship for Isidro and myself.

We met in high school, and as many of you with teenagers might know, those “coming of age” years of adolescence are often packed with a lot of needless drama, hormones, and instability. Isidro and I were a bit of an odd couple, even at sixteen and seventeen years old. We came from different family backgrounds, cultures, socioeconomic statuses, languages, and traditions. We met through mutual friends at school one day, during our lunch period, and we enjoyed a playful friendship that quickly developed into young love. We had an almost-instant connection, one that was hard to describe. It was unconventional, because on the surface we had very little in common, but somewhere in our Spirits we knew that we were meant to be together.

Though neither of us were perfect, we both had a relationship with God, since before we’d met. Though we didn’t discuss religion or our relationship with Christ much at that age, and though neither of us had families that regularly attended church, we both knew that there was a higher power that we answered to.  I think we even recognized on some level, that it was God who had brought us together.  

But, as life often does, especially in the late teens, life has a way of providing all of the right distractions to divert us from God’s path for our lives.

Speaking for myself, I was very scarred by some of the experiences in my childhood.  Though both of my parents loved me tremendously and tried to protect me, I had a deeply rooted feeling of abandonment from my father having left my mother and I at a young age, and I also had a lot of resentment over the hostility my mother had often openly expressed toward my dad and his wife. There was plenty of love in my family, but also plenty of drama.  I guess that’s why I didn’t identify LOVE as being something safe and stable. It seemed to me, to be just as fleeting as so many other emotions (and people) I’d seen come and go in my youth.

But Isidro was different. Somehow, he offered me a mature-beyond-its-years kind of trust and stability that I had never seen before. I have to believe it was God-inspired in him, as he too had come from a tumultuous family background.  Though in many ways he was a typical teenage young man, not always very studious or eager to comply with authority, toward me he was almost a saint. He treated me like a princess and loved me almost unconditionally. 

Unsure of how to receive this kind of drama-free love from anyone, I subconsciously mistrusted Isidro’s intentions, and without meaning to, I did all the things that God’s word warns us against.  Where God’s word in Corinthians describes love as patient and kind, I was quick to mistrust and sometimes very unkind with my thoughts and words. Where God’s word instructs love to keep no record of wrongs, I was quick to feel victimized and question Isidro’s motives, at every turn. I’d pick arguments and create drama, waiting for him to prove to me that he was what I expected him to be: untrustworthy, unkind, unloving. He never proved to be any of those things. The more I pushed him, the more he responded with love. The more drama I created, the calmer he remained. I soon saw that he was secure in himself and that my behaviors couldn’t change who he was or how he behaved toward me.  So… while many less hard-headed young women might have learned from that and changed their own behavior, I decided to make a different kind of change.  I decided I should end the relationship.  At the time I reasoned with myself that his lack of emotionality during our little childish spats was simply a lack of feeling toward me. I reasoned that the fact that we sometimes sat without talking for minutes at a time, was based on the fact that we had nothing to talk about (instead of enjoying the peace of just being together). I decided that our backgrounds and families and cultures were too different and that there would always be too much to overcome between us (instead of enjoying our differences and learning from them).  So, I broke it off between us, ignoring everything in my spirit that screamed at me, “You’re making a huge mistake.”

Sometimes it’s so easy to ignore that inner voice and let our intellect outsmart our common sense, isn’t it? I still recall that when I told Isidro that we should just be friends, his reaction was exactly the opposite of what I expected.  There was no drama. He was not angry, nor was he eager to get away from the crazy, damaged girl and her drama. On the contrary, he seemed quietly sad, and yet unmoved in his love for me.

Our break up lasted just a couple of months. That seems like an eternity when you’re a teenager, though looking back now, I think it barely even counts as a break up.  What’s more, we remained friends throughout those months (often even holding hands and sneaking the occasional extra hug or kiss on the cheek).  We weren’t very good at playing the part of a broken up couple.  And yet, for me, just knowing that our future together was in question, made me feel so restless to my core. Soon, it became clear to me that all my many excuses for not being with Isidro were little more than what the bible describes as “foolish wisdom.” As much as I’d reasoned with myself that I’d made the right decision, my spirit said something different. When I saw Isidro, I longed to ask his forgiveness and for a second chance at being the partner I knew he deserved.  

To make a long story short, I eventually did get to do just that, and when I did, Isidro was there with an undeserved grace and kindness, welcoming me back with open arms. We’ve been pretty inseparable ever since.

Sometimes, I reflect back upon the fact that if Isidro hadn’t exhibited all the virtues of love that the bible describes in Corinthians, and if he had kept a record of my many wrongs, we might never have come back together and grown into the couple that we are today. I thank God for the second chance to love and be loved by that young man, who is now my amazing husband.

I want to offer encouragement to anyone reading this, who might find themselves in the midst of a turbulent time in their relationship. If God has called you to be with that other person, and you are safe in doing so, be patient. Be calm. Be kind.  Be steadfast and strong in the Lord.  As Paul encourages us in Colossians: “Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive…” Remember that each of us, even those who are in the position of giving forgiveness, have been given a second chance too: “So (we) must forgive others, since the Lord forgave us. (Colossians 3:12-15).” God bless you! 

Have you had a second chance at love? Share your comments below! 

Jenelle Garden is a first grade teacher, mother of 2 beautiful girls and married to her high school sweetheart. Jenelle recently joined the Beautiful Ministry as a small group leader and enjoys sharing her love for Jesus with other women and feels most blessed as she draws closer to God through fellowship. 

by Julie Jaunese

I LOVE my job.  I mean it; I truly love going to work each day.  Was it always this way?Pretty much, yes, but there was a time when I had a job that was difficult right from the start.  In order to understand I need to take you back to July 10, 1984.  My husband and I would have a breakfast date every few weeks and then we would go into a store called “Calico Cat” and browse. My husband said he had seen a sign in the window saying “Help Wanted” and he thought I should apply.  So July 10, 1984 I began a journey of 15 years of loving every day I went to work at Calico Cat.  Times changed though and my daughter had our grandson and moved with him to Jacksonville.  I began longing to have a job where I didn’t have to work on the weekends. I prayed to find a job where I could have weekends off so we could visit Jacksonville. One night a friend called and asked if I would be interested in working as a general manager for a business owner. I met with the business owner who assured me I wouldn’t need to work as hard as I was and I would never have to work weekends.  Even though the owner said “no weekends” I didn’t feel like this was where God was directing me.  I needed to go to Him and ask if this was the job for me.  I prayed and prayed and believed then, and still believe now, that God was using this job to move me to a new job, which started in May of 1999.

On my first day of my new job I cried all the way home from work.  I was asked to come to the owner’s home and she would show me the ropes before she presented me to the employees in her stores. The first day began with me doing things I really felt were illegal, which is why I had the tears.  After I had been there for three months, I was advised to begin praying and asking God to show me something great that I could hang on to that would give me excitement and happiness in this job.  And then, three months later I was advised to ask God why he gave me this job.  At nine months, after working weekends and many 60 to 70 hours a week, I began praying that God would release me from the job and give me a new job.  About two days later the owner and I were working together in the back room of the store and the owner made a comment that was in disagreement with the Bible about the behavior of a single person.  I said “Can you show me in the Bible where God said that, because that is in disagreement with His word.”  At that exact moment I felt relief.  I then knew why I was in that job for 9 months; to deliver that one line, to give the owner an opportunity to listen to God. Two weeks later I worked my last day and began looking for a new job.  I finished working that Saturday, took Sunday to rest and then I went to a temp agency. 

At the temp agency I was given a test covering Microsoft Word and Excel.  I did great on the test for Word but I needed to put together an excel spread sheet following their directions.  I put it all together and made it look perfect – I did all of the addition and subtraction in my head and put in the correct answers.  When I finished the test and went into my interview, the woman was pleased with the work I had done.  I told her that I had done the math myself and I didn’t know any formulas.  She didn’t seem alarmed and the next morning I began working my first temp job.  I was there for two weeks, and then was going back and forth between different agencies. I was offered jobs at both of the first two places I started, but I didn’t feel like they were where God wanted me. The Tuesday of the next week I went to work in the place where I have worked to this day.  I spent 6 weeks as a temp before I became a permanent employee of Moffitt Cancer Center as the administrative assistant in the Rehabilitative Services department.  My actual start date was July 10, 2000.

I loved my job at Calico Cat and I managed one of the stores for nearly 15 years before I left, but had I gone directly to Moffitt and began working in an office, I think I would have been like the Israelites, looking backwards.  I think God made it more like the book of Job, where He gave me some desires of my heart knowing that when I had the desires fulfilled I would not like them at all. The job at Moffitt has helped me grow – my skills have grown far beyond my wildest dreams. I pray that if you follow God’s hand and then find out you are not happy with the outcome that you will look at what God is teaching you and see it as a blessing.  The blessing always comes from doing God’s will, even when it is not easy to do.  God has you in his hand and will bless you. 

Has God ever given you a green light in a new job and then you wonder why He allowed you to leave a job you loved to take a job you ultimately hated?  Share your thoughts and comments below! 

Julie Jaunese has been married to her husband Michael for 42 years. She has two daughters and three grandchildren. She works at Moffitt Cancer Center and hosts two women’s small groups, the Yada Book Club and the Fabulous Fems. Mike and Julie have been part of Grace Family Church since it began with 40 people in a house.

Failures are a part of life…and God responds to our failures by giving us second chances as we call upon the name of Jesus. During the month of September, we will be hearing stories from our Beautiful writers of how God gave them second chances! We hope their stories bring you encouragement, hope and faith.  

by Dani Catherine

“It’s who she is…I don’t think she will ever change,” I heard my friend say about me to another friend, regarding my night of being drunk and not remembering a thing.  I was in my early 20’s at the time, and as I was speeding into unhealthy relationships, being more consumed by parties than focusing on making a living, I saw my life crumble in shambles.  

As I found myself alone, heartbroken, and barely hanging on by a thread, I hit rock bottom…and as I was at the bottom, I stumbled upon the rock of Christ; a rock that I knew of but never wanted to grasp. I knew my life was being wasted, and the only way my life would be redeemed was through Him.

I found myself so desperate and crying out for a second chance. I wanted a second chance at relationships, friendships, being a daughter, a twin sister…a second chance at life. Just like in Psalm 51, as King David cried out for a second chance, so was I. In Psalm 51, King David asked God to blot out the stains left on his life by his sin. He so desperately wanted God to forgive him of his failures and wash away his sins…and He did. He created in him a clean heart and his joy was restored. And just as King David was made new, I was too.

Of course it was heartbreaking to hear that friend lose hope and faith in me, but it made me strive to know something greater than guilt and shame; it brought me to Jesus. Because of Gods second chances, I truly know what love is and I truly know that life is worth living.

Jesus died on the cross to wash away our sins. Because of Jesus, we don’t have to live in the bondage of sin. Whatever rut you have wandered into, however trapped or alone you feel, know that Jesus can free you and change your life. If you’re reading this, and feel you can’t be forgiven, you can. God is gracious. And remember, God is a God of second chances.  

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11 

What do you want a second chance at? What scriptures help you get through moments of shame and guilt? Share your thoughts and comments below! 

Dani Catherine works at GFC as a Ministry Assistant and has a passion for helping others! Dani loves to bake, eat ice cream, paint, snap photos and spend time with her loved ones…especially her dog, Jeter!