Grace Notes

Ark Encounter/Bright Lights Conferences/Speak Truth in Your Heart Conference

Speak Truth in Your Heart at the Ark Encounter


The Lord’s ways truly are always bigger and better than ours.  While I (Grace) thought Bright Lights conferences were declining now that Sarah and I were married, the Lord had our biggest conference yet just around the corner!

Most importantly, the responses that have been coming in from attendees about how the Lord used it in their lives have been amazing. SO ENCOURAGING!

I am still taking it all in … thinking about all the volunteer members He added to the team to do social media, video promotional, decorating, graphic design, music. We don’t know what is ahead but we know the Lord always does His work that is BIGGER AND BETTER than what we can ask, think or dream. For those who took time to pray with us, please take time to thank Him now with us!

On a more personal note, I wondered, “How am I, with two little girls (who are both still nursing!), going to lead singing, speak, and do skit parts all throughout the day? And what about the 9-hour drive with my 9-month-old who hates her car seat?”

I want to take a minute to praise God for His kindness. There wasn’t even one time I had to go up on stage (which was about twenty times) when one of my girls was crying for Mommy. Praise the Lord. Many Bright Lights staff took time playing with the girls. Maranatha took naps in arms. Hosanna had a blast. (Pictured here is Ellen, one of our BL leaders with an energy level like Hosanna😆.) The Vrbo we stayed at had tons of toys.  Additionally, just ONE DAY before we left, the used van we’d been looking for came into the lot and we bought it. That made the trip so much easier. My mom traveled with us. SUCH a help.
What are God’s plans for the future? How will He meet the continued needs of the Bright Lights ministry for staff, expansion, updates? He is a big God and He answers prayer!



Announcements/Witnessing Conferences

Announcing: Second Witnessing Weekend!

My husband, Josiah, and I (Grace) have found our current season of life (caring for our toddler and baby) to make travel more difficult. Last year my husband had an idea that worked out really well: we ran a “Witnessing Weekend” from our home. We kept the attendance small, and loved being able to really get to know those who came. We are scheduling another one this year in March! To give you a feel for what it’s like, I’ll post photos and reports from last year below.

It was a simple, low-key event in our home where we taught some basics about witnessing and then put it into practice together at the mall.

Several of the attendees were new to witnessing, and it took a lot of courage for them to share the gospel in a busy shopping mall! We had many good conversations at the mall that day, and it was a highlight of the weekend. A couple of the attendees told us it was their favorite part, despite their terror beforehand. 🙂

We are so encouraged to see the Lord raising up laborers for the harvest and had so much good fellowship through the course of the weekend.

We scheduled some down time for singing and get-to-know-you activities.

All food and housing is included in this event. (Since Josiah and I live on the same block as my parents and Sarah and Andrew, we are able to divide the housing among our three houses.)

New special friendships!

This year we plan to witness both at the mall and at the St Patrick’s parade in our city. See more information and register here.

Family News

2022: Mom and Dad’s 50th Anniversary Year

Looking back on 2022, one of the highlights was celebrating my parents’ 50th anniversary! We rented a cabin for a few days back in April to celebrate.  My dad decided that they would celebrate their 50th for a year starting with 49 and he made custom polo shirts that say “49ers going for the gold.” They wore them all year.

We appreciate my parents’ example of keeping their romance alive after 50 years!
They frequently go on romantic dates and get-aways, and my dad has a whole collection of love songs he has recently written to my mom. He sings them to her at night before bed, I hear. We think he does pretty well for only knowing a handful of chords on his guitar. 🙂 They tell us that being empty nesters isn’t so bad!
My mom often exclaims that it’s a miracle what God has done in their marriage. They are quick to share about the rough spots and friction they’ve had in the past and how, with lots of prayer and growth, their marriage has become increasingly close as the years have gone by. Happy 50th, Mom and Dad!
Witnessing Conferences

Josiah and Grace, Witnessing Training Travels

Last weekend Josiah and I had the excitement of teaching a weekend of witnessing training sessions to a couple dozen youth at a church in Indiana. It was a great encouragement to us to be with them and see the spiritual fervor and love in their local church body.

Josiah sharing about the simplicity of the gospel

Sharing stories after we went out witnessing at a Christmas event downtown

Josiah and I especially enjoyed participating in the 1 1/2 hour prayer meeting that this church family has every Sunday afternoon. It was special to see the joyful participation of so many young families who stay together all day for spiritual fellowship.

We were invited to speak at this church because we got acquainted with a man and his wife who attend the church at the Alliance Homeschool Leaders Conference in September where Josiah and I did the same training course with the group of teens. Below are a few photos from that event.


There are challenges to traveling and teaching with a one-year-old, but thankfully Hosanna loves making new friends.

Josiah and I organized our teaching in such a way that when one is sharing, the other can watch Hosanna. Our teaching sessions are short, sprinkled with video clips, and ending with discussion and interaction. Topics include overcoming fear, articulating the gospel with accuracy and power, eliminating excuses, using gospel tracts, listening yet leading, having pure lives, and living with our eyes set on the Bema (judgment seat of Christ for believers).

Announcements/Bright Lights Conferences/Radiant Purity Conferences

Online Radiant Purity Conference, Feb 12-13

We are praising God for over 700 who have registered for the upcoming Online Radiant Purity Conference scheduled for February 12-13! Moms and daughters will be joining us from 10 countries: Canada, Chile, Germany, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, Singapore, the UK, and the United States.

This will be our first-ever Radiant Purity conference online. It is for girls ages 12 and up with the purpose of encouraging them to seek the Lord with all their heart in their teen years, trusting His ways in the area of dating/courtship. We are so thankful to be able to reach many moms and girls through video conferences during this time of COVID. 1,200 girls and moms attended the Strong in the Lord conference online recently and we look forward to seeing how the Lord uses this upcoming Radiant Purity conference.

Sarah has recorded some new content before and after each session of this conference. (The sessions were recorded live in the past.) She and her husband Andrew also added a new session together.

My husband Josiah and I recorded a testimony about what the Lord taught us in our relationship. See our three minute promo:

Each girl and mom who register receive a Radiant Purity Journal (a conference handbook which will be mailed in advance). Each mom will receive a guide for how to make this a special and meaningful time with their daughter. I hope many of you can make it! See more information here.

Bright Lights Conferences/Bright Lights International

Online “Strong in the Lord” Conference in Ten Countries

In July, we hosted our first-ever online Strong in the Lord Conference. We had been praying that we would be able to finish this project for years, and are really thankful to my brother Stephen for coordinating the videography and the editing for these online sessions. It was exciting to see the Lord bring it together and a little shocking that it actually happened after all of these years!

More than that, it was very exciting to see the response—600 moms and daughters were able to join us from 10 countries (Australia, Canada, China, England, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Mozambique, Slovakia, and the United States). Most of all, we were thrilled to hear wonderful feedback about how the Lord used it in girls’ lives. Praise the Lord.

The sessions were recorded live at a previous “Strong in the Lord conference” but Sarah also included a special welcome and conclusion for all the girls online. Her husband Andrew joined her too.

About 15 families from Indonesia joined us for our online conference last month. After they finished each session, they met each other over zoom to share what they had been learning. It is really encouraging hearing about the creativity and ideas of various families who participated!

It took this special group of ladies from Mozambique almost double the time to get through the sessions since they had to stop continually for translation, but they did it! Now they have a heart to reach more young ladies in their church, and the vision to start training programs for young ladies.

It was really special to hear all the ideas that moms had about how to cultivate special times with their daughters and make it memorable for them. Here are some fantastic ideas we received from moms:

• “We took walks together each day, and we had special lunches and treats. Just simple pleasures enjoyed together.”

• “I gave them each an invitation to the conference and they really liked that. … During the conference I took them for a walk around the block individually to give them an opportunity to process anything privately that they wanted to and that seemed to go really well. Not everyone had things they wanted to share and that was fine, we just enjoyed the walk together, but some of them did and it was helpful for them to have an outlet to discuss without all the sisters around.”

• “My daughter and I stopped at a local coffee shop and picked up one of our favorite drinks and headed to a park to watch some of the videos. It was a nice change of scenery and a break from sitting in the house.”

• “I bought them special gel pens and stickers.”

• “The first night of the conference we watched Sarah’s wedding on YouTube while eating popcorn and enjoying special chocolate treats that we rarely eat. The morning of the 2nd day of the conference we spent time doing spa type things as mother and daughter before we started the first session … We really tried to make it a whole weekend of fun. Something to remember.”

Some took time in the schedule to make some fun crafts

These sisters reenacted the “folly wisdom” skit together.

Here are some encouraging things moms shared after completing the conference with their daughters:

• “I saw renewed love for Jesus and a willingness to read the Bible more. … This was like a breath of fresh air to our souls.”
• “[My daughter] … is so excited to serve the Lord right now”
• “We loved the skits, testimonies, teaching time, Scripture study, brother and sister time….excellent!!!!
• “If you are wondering if it is worth the time and investment let me tell you IT IS. The truth in this conference is life-changing and necessary for all young girls. And to do it alongside mom is a joyous added blessing.”
• “The truths your daughter will learn are just invaluable. It [is] so well put together. We had fun learning, as well as laughing. My daughter was excited to do another session and loved the homework.
• “My girls have never seen young people give powerful testimonies like that and they were inspired and it made a big impact.”
• “[Hearing] the girls’ testimonies, it really resonated with my 12 year old daughter. I think she could really relate to their feelings and struggles…”
• “we have LOVED LOVED LOVED every moment of this conference”
• “The skits were a particular hit. We were laughing and having a good time.”

Rachel was in Sarah (Mally) Hancock’s Bright Lights group when it first started in 1996 and now she and her daughter, Ellie, were able to go through the conference together. It is so encouraging to see the Lord raising up the next generation of young woman seeking Him. From one generation to the next, may the name of the Lord be praised!

We ran out of materials last time, so we wanted to schedule a second one as soon as possible. The dates will be November 13-14th, and we also have just placed a large order of handbooks so that we have plenty for this conference!

For more information or to register click here.

Family News

The Devastation in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I’ve already posted about the difficulties Josiah and I had from the derecho wind storm last week, so I thought I’d share a bit about how the storm looked from the rest of my family’s perspective and a broader look at our town.

My dad was with Sarah and Grandpa at the Bright Lights office when the storm hit. He writes: “When it seemed that the wind had died down, we ventured upstairs. The building next door had fallen down and was laying in the street. We had water coming through our ceiling by our back door, but I didn’t see any other immediate damage inside our office. I wanted to go home where Rebekah was, but I couldn’t get out of the parking lot. The whole lot was a mountain of 2 x 4s. It was the whole roof of the building across the street. The alley the other direction was also blocked by debris. Lots of people were now outside, even though it was still raining pretty hard. There was so much to do. The guy from the pizza shop next door helped me move the dumpsters and debris from the alley so I could get out. But getting home was another story. Every road was blocked by trees, downed power lines and debris. I had to zig-zag for 15 or 20 minutes to go the 1 mile from the Bright Lights office to home. At home, I found we lost 5 of our 11 trees and lots of branches. Our biggest tree was laying on our garage, but our damage was light compared to many others.”

The building next door to Noah’s Archive.

A tree fell on mom and dad’s garage.

Sarah and Andrew had tied their special swing to the huge pine tree in their back yard to make sure it stayed secure in the wind storm. They never expected that the entire tree would fall on the neighbor’s garage.

My mom was alone at home while so many trees in their backyard were crashing over.
“Are you downstairs?” my dad texted.
“Yes. Where is the safest place? This is scary,” she texted back.
“Get under the bed” my dad texted her.
“I can’t fit” she said.
“Go into the bathroom (no windows)” Stephen advised.
Thankfully no trees hit the house!

The more we all saw what had happened in our city, the worse it was. Most of the large trees were down. In fact, the city of Cedar Rapids estimates that we lost approx 50% of our tree canopy covering. Chainsaws and generators were sold out all over town. Gas stations were closed because they had no power. Driving in town was very difficult with many impassible roads. The city implemented a curfew from 10pm to 6am. Over 400,000 people lost power. No one knew when power would be coming back.

Power lines were everywhere–strewn across roads, yards, trees and branches. It felt like Cedar Rapids, the 2nd largest city in Iowa, had just become a war-devastated 3rd world country. Much food was lost. There was no garbage pick up. On the positive side, we had a beautiful view of the stars. An army of bucket trucks and crews for tree and electric work have been on our streets for two weeks now.

Andrew, Sarah’s husband, cooking outside. They went 10 days without power but did greatly appreciate a generator that friends shared with them.

Church on Sunday was a bit different as the service was held in the parking lot instead of in the building. At least there were many freshly cut logs to use as seats. Andrew, Sarah’s husband, was the scheduled speaker. Guess what topic he had been given weeks earlier? Jesus calming the storm.

The Bright Lights office and Noah’s Archive bookstore remained without power for about 12 days. Just three days ago the power came back on. Yay! No more packing orders by flashlight!

Neighbors have bonded together and Christians all over town have had many opportunities. The National Guard has arrived, Samaritan’s purse and other Christian groups have arrived, and most of the city now has power again. It is going to be a LOOONG time for our city to heal. Amazingly, only a few lives were lost through it all. The Lord has protected and He is working, using this tragedy for many open doors.

“The LORD hath His way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum 1:3

Family News

First Year of Marriage Adventures

When we received a text from my brother about a severe wind storm coming Monday morning, August 10th, I took my hanging plants off their pole and set them on the ground, and felt satisfied with my preparations. Little did we know what was about to happen.

The first thing I noticed as the storm began was my heavy potted tomato plant on the back deck — gone. It had been tied to the side of our deck and the wind pulled both right off the deck. That’s when I realized something unusual was happening.

“Um, JOSIAH!” I called to my husband, who works from home now.

Outside the window, huge thick trees began bending over like the inflatable tube men you see advertising businesses. We learned later that the straight line winds were up to 140 mph. From our basement we were thankful we could text my family who were experiencing the same severe winds four miles away. Josiah and I heard crashes upstairs and the sound of water.

As soon as the storm was over, we found a broken light fixture, broken deck, and water coming through our ceiling in multiple places.

But that was nothing compared to the devastation we began seeing as we opened our door. Our neighbors across the street, Bekah and Ryan, were on vacation but they asked us to text them a photo of their house. It wasn’t pleasant having to send them this photo:

They weren’t the only ones. House after house in our neighborhood had huge trees down. Later we learned that this is was what happened throughout our entire city.

“Knock! knock!”

Neighbors came to warn us of a gas leak outside, saying I shouldn’t leave the house for the sake of our unborn baby’s health. Apparently there were gas leaks all over town.
We are used to tornadoes where damage is very specific to one area–not a windstorm like this that affects the entire city at once!

A kind neighbor with a chainsaw helped Josiah remove the large limb from our roof. Another neighbor lent us a worn tarp to put on the roof. It had holes, but was better than nothing. We put bins around inside under the dripping ceiling to catch the water. We couldn’t vacuum up glass inside because we had no power. We couldn’t open the fridge or freezer in fear we’d loose what little cold air we had in there.

After canned black beans and tomatoes for supper, it was dark so Josiah and I went to bed by candlelight. We talked about the crazy day for a half hour, then blew out the candle. A few minutes later we heard an unwanted sound. “Drip.” Then, “Drop, drip, drip.”

“Josiah, did you hear that? I think it’s dripping on our mattress,” I said.

We could tell the drip was increasing, so we got up to place a bin underneath to catch the water. We decided we should move our mattress, and we were about to do so, when the entire ceiling above our bed fell. Chunks of drywall, insulation, and ceiling crashed down onto our bed and bedroom floor.

Had we stayed in bed one minute longer, the heavy jagged drywall would have landed on us (and our almost-born baby). As it was, it merely scraped my calf as I was walking away. Had we fallen asleep, we wouldn’t have heard the drip or moved. Had our baby already been born, her little body would have been under the drywall too (her bassinet connects to our bed). We’ve been praying for the Lord to protect our baby girl and we saw Him doing this very clearly.

Josiah and I decided to sleep downstairs. The next morning I woke up starving and ate another can of black beans. Not only was electricity out, now cell coverage was gone also. Our house had glass covering one area and insulation and drywall covering another, neither of which we could clean up yet. Being 39 weeks pregnant, we were just thankful contractions didn’t start during the storm!

What a blessing it was to have my brother show up bringing news and some supplies for us, and then my parents shortly after, bringing more tarps to help Josiah put on the roof.

Josiah and I kept having more and more little difficulties. Would our tarps keep water out in future rainstorms? Would our kitchen ceiling cave in too (it was looking like it might!)? Did we need to evacuate completely? How can we get the help we need to fix our house when all of Cedar Rapids is in the same shape? When will we be able to vacuum our carpet? Josiah already had one piece of glass or a splinter in his foot. And how will we get our yard cleaned up with no chainsaw? How can we help our neighbors more?

Days after day was going by without power and we had no idea when it might come back.

We had been ready for the baby, but not anymore! Freezer meals for after our baby’s arrival were eaten or tossed. The bassinet with freshly washed sheets was now filled with scratchy insulation. The suitcase I had packed for the hospital was filthy. Oh well. At least we tried to be prepared! I figured. My doctor’s office’s phone lines were also down and emergency measures were being taken there too.

Dad and I, working on getting glass or a splinter out of Josiah’s foot

The Lord helped us so much.

A good friend who does construction came over and gave us great help and advice. Josiah and I stayed with Stephen for three nights since he had electricity at his appartemnt, 30 minutes away. What a restful oasis.

The Rathke family brought some relatives and a chainsaw over to our yard and did in 30 minutes what would have taken Josiah hours. They still didn’t have power themselves but were going out around town helping people.

Our baby still has not come, but we are getting set up for her again and we have been given a fresh glimpse of our God’s powerful protection. It’s scary to think about what could have happened when the bedroom ceiling fell and I’m reminded that no matter how hard we try, we cannot fully protect ourselves, or our baby. If there is one place that you think you should be safe, it’s in your own bed at night. Yet without the Lord’s protection, we are not even safe there. Psalm 127 says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.” I am so thankful that we have a mighty Protector.

You may be wondering how the rest of my family were affected by the storm? You can read about their side of the story in this post.

Bright Lights Conferences/Strong in the Lord Conf.

Strong in the Lord Online Conference Preparations

Many packages have been assembled and shipped from the Bright Lights office to moms and daughters registered for the online Strong in the Lord conference, happening on July 24-25th! Each mom and daughter who register receive a Strong in the Lord handbook. Mothers receive a Conference Guide and suggested schedule to help them facilitate the weekend.

Please pray for hearts to be prepared and changed as moms and daughters watch the sessions together.

There is still time to register! See more information here: here.

Announcements/Family News

Baby Arriving Soon!

This blog has been pretty quiet, but our lives have been quite the opposite! Two engagements, two weddings, and a baby arriving next month!

It’s hard to express our excitement as Josiah and I prepare for our baby’s arrival. The last few days have been spent with activities such as birth education classes, setting up our stroller and car seat, and storing snacks in the freezer for Josiah for the hospital … anything I can do that might prevent my super queasy husband from fainting during the experience! I cannot have my mom or a doula or anyone else at the hospital because of COVID, so I need to keep Josiah conscious if possible. 🙂

Josiah and I have thoroughly enjoyed our first 8 months of marriage, and it’s hard to know how to adequately thank the Lord for all that He has done for us. I am reminded that this earthly gift of marriage is just a picture of good things ahead, just a shadow of the Lord’s goodness. How much more reason do we have to rejoice because God has made us alive together with Christ that “in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5).

I hope to start updating this blog again with some reports from what the Lord has done / is doing in our lives.