Winners Announced…and Some Beautiful Women of Faith…

I really wish I could send everyone who entered a Threads of Hope book and take everyone with me to the Women of Faith. It’s a lot more fun when everyone wins! But this time, that’s not the case. Thank you to everyone who entered.

Threads of Hope Winners:

Congratulations…please email me your address ASAP so that I can send you your book! I look forward to participating in this upcoming Walking With You with each of you. Even if you didn’t win, remember that you can download the book online for free!

The winner of the Women of Faith ticket is Stephanie Gerken. (While I do know who Stephanie is in real life, she is no relation to me! She is an older sister to a high school friend of mine and the daughter of one of my former teachers (who was more recently a co-worker, a dear friend, and someone on MY list of women of faith). I actually have come to know Stephanie better more recently through this blog and email, since her daughter Chloe went home to heaven last year. She is a beautiful woman of faith herself!) Stephanie had trouble leaving her entry in the comments, so she emailed it to me. Her words were such a blessing and inspiration as she shared about her grandmother, Ileen, that I just have to share them here.

(If you did not win a ticket, but still plan on coming, we would love to join you for dinner either Friday, Saturday, or both! Please email me if you’re coming!)

Stephanie’s Woman of Faith Entry:
Thank you for this wonderful request, Kelly. This is something we should ponder far more often. Praise God that he has inspired you to encourage all of us to consider these “daughters of Sarah.” [1 Peter 3]

Choosing just one of these women in my own life seems like an insurmountable task! I have been blessed with several inspirational women, including my mother, Ruth Bloor, and you. During this last most challenging year, your walk of faith and willingness to share have been a lifesaver to me. When I felt as if I were drowning in grief, you were there, Kelly. Your ministry soothes, guides, and exhorts so many broken hearts. It is breath-taking to see how the Lord is working in and through your life.

For the purpose of the Women of Faith conference, however, I will focus on my grandmother, Ileen Steffen. I consider it a great blessing that I was her oldest grandchild because I was able to bask in her unconditional love for 26 precious years. From my toddler days into my 20s, I longed to stay overnight with Grandma like some people anticipate sleepovers with their best friends! Thankfully, I was able to do that at least once a week – and I think that is probably a conservative estimate.

I loved snuggling up with her on her sofa as she read her Bible each night. I learned early that her Bible was her most treasured possession. I remember waking up sometimes in the middle of the night and finding her on her knees in silent prayer. Back then, I had no idea the trials (and yes, there were many triumphs, too) she was facing quietly, prayerfully, and faithfully.

My grandmother was selfless, she persevered through tragedy and great anguish without complaining, and I saw in her each one of the fruit of the spirit.

Her love? lt was boundless; her joy was tangible. Her peace was the God-given peace that passes all understanding. Her patience? Legendary. I have often told my children about the time I accidentally knocked over a gorgeous plant pedestal Grandma Ileen had made in her ceramic class. She didn’t even blink as it sat in pieces, intermingled with dirt and a mangled fern.

Then, of course, was her kindness, which helped make her the teacher others still inspire to emulate. I remember a young student whose mother had passed away. Although I was no older than 5 years old myself, I vividly recall how Grandma tried to comfort the student and step in as a motherly figure. Years later, while enjoying yet another sleepover, I quietly watched as she wept and prayed throughout the night for a student who had lost his life while crossing the railroad tracks on his way home from school.

My grandmother’s unfailing goodness was demonstrated each year in her second-grade classroom, where boldly defying all political correctness, she would decorate a bulletin board without fail. It proclaimed Matthew 7:12.: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you …” She lived that verse and expected nothing less of her students. She also led them in prayer each morning – all in a public school. Given all of these examples, it is probably not necessary to expound on her faithfulness.

As for the last two fruit of the spirit, gentleness and self-control, Grandma combined both as she calmly faced experiences that leave others bitter and cynical for a lifetime. No matter with whom she was interacting – a 3-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, a teenager sporting a less-than-respectful attitude, or an elderly patient with dementia she visited in a local nursing home after her retirement – Grandma exemplified the kind of gentleness Ephesians 4:1-3 calls all of us to exhibit. “ … Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Through much pain and loss, she persevered, and I know not a single time where she lost control. Her forbearance is something I only hope to one day fully attain. Her self-control was perhaps never more evident than in the final year of her life. She was dying of cancer, but due to her penchant to persevere and never complain, many months passed before she was diagnosed.

When the devastating diagnosis finally came – just three weeks before her death – the disease had spread to nearly every major organ and her bones. To think that she had endured such indescribable pain for so long is unimaginable. Maintaining such self-control.during those long, painful months could not have been possible if not for the power of Christ sustaining her.

My grandmother was a woman of faith unlike any I have ever known. As I reflect, I wonder if she ever knew how strong her Godly impact was on my life. She was my “Titus 2” woman: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Many of those concepts seem counter-cultural today, but even as a young wife in the early ‘90s, I definitely lacked in almost every one of those areas. She, however, seemed to shine brilliantly in each one and I have endeavored to follow in those faith-filled footsteps.

When I began this tribute to my grandmother, I referenced the “daughters of Sarah,” in I Peter 3. Several years ago, I shared my testimony during a church retreat. As must be obvious by now, Grandma Ileen played a role of great consequence in my life and witness.

During my testimony, I shared the I Peter passage about her because of how much it reminded me of her life. “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” [1 Peter 3:3-6]

Her “inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” was evident to me throughout her life. My greatest hope is that I will someday be able to attain what Grandma Ileen did through unspeakable tragedies, heart-breaking trials, and miraculous triumphs.

And finally, Kelly, I would be remiss if I did not express how deeply grateful I am that you have encouraged us to write about our women of faith. Until now, I have not spent enough time explaining Grandma Ileen to the great-grandchildren she did not have the opportunity to meet this side of heaven. My daughter, Hannah Ileen, and my brother’s daughter, Grace Ileen, should especially know more about the cherished woman for whom they were named. May God richly bless you for offering this awesome opportunity.

It was such a blessing to read the “women of faith” entries…I’d love to read more about the women of faith in your lives. If you would like to share a woman of faith in your life, please leave a comment here…just for fun and a little inspiration and encouragement!


  1. Seriously?!? WOW! Yay me!

  2. Allison (Ali) says:

    eek – i never win anything lol. :)

  3. The Gerkens says:

    Wow! I'm speechless and that doesn't happen very often! Thank you so much, Kelly, for this oh-so-joyful blessing. I would have never been able to do this if not for your generosity. God bless you for recognizing and acting upon the Holy Spirit's nudge when you ordered the tickets. I truly do not know how to appropriately thank you, but I am praising the Lord that you honor and glorify Him as you do. May you and your family be abundantly blessed by His power, protection, peace and love!

  4. Wow, I am really excited about participating. Thank you!

  5. Congrats to all the winners! That was so wonderful what Stephanie shared with you. Truly, her grandmother was a wonderful and Godly woman.

  6. Jennifer Ross says:

    What a beautiful testimony. It really makes me look at myself, and realize that I need to be a little more tender in areas of my life.

    I downloaded that bible study. I can't wait to start it:)

  7. What a wonderful tribute to a woman of God!! It is amazing the legacy a Godly woman leaves! Congratulations to all your winners and I will be praying for your Bible Study–it sounds like it will be an incredible journey of healing!

    Thank you for being His instrument, Kelly!

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