Just Grace: God’s Amazing Grace in the Life of an Ordinary Woman

What if your greatest fear came true? Grace was only fourteen years old when hers became reality—and when God began to teach her about His amazing grace.

Grace Jordan Hamrick was born in 1936 into a large family in rural South Carolina. She and her seven siblings, mom, and dad, and maternal grandmother crowded into their small, but happy home. Rambunctious and strong-willed, Grace was full of life and seldom afraid of anything, until she crashed her dad’s new car into a tree.

In those days, teenagers in South Carolina received their driver’s license when they turned fourteen, but Grace had been driving since she was twelve. Her father confidently handed her the keys to his new car so she could drive herself and her cousin to the country club.

Grace wanted to show off the car’s great pickup speed and powered it right into a tree. Aside from a scratch on her cousin’s forehead, the girls walked away unharmed. But Grace’s father worried about her—and the doctor had told the family never to worry him, because he had a severe heart condition.

All night long, Grace’s dad watched over her as she slept. What if she had an undetected internal injury? What if she didn’t wake up? They’d already lost her oldest brother in a car accident years earlier.


The next night while Grace babysat her nephew a few blocks away, one of her sisters called. She sounded awkward and vague and then hung up. Something was wrong. Grace snatched her nephew out of his crib and rushed toward home. Her sister-in-law picked her up along the way. When no one said a word, their silence confirmed her worst fear.

Grace wrote about this life-changing night: 

I ran into the house, which was now filled with people, and saw my mother sitting in a chair, wearing a green velvet dress. I fell at her feet and buried my head in her lap, crying, “I killed him! I killed him! I killed him!” My mother must have still been in shock because there was no response from her, verbally or physically. Her dress was covered in blood. Daddy had died in her arms. It was his heart, and he had hemorrhaged to death. . . . From that day on, my world was never the same, and neither was I.1

A cyclone of grief ripped through Grace’s family. Her mother numbed herself with alcohol and emotionally (and sometimes physically) abandoned her kids to raise themselves. She left young teenage Grace suffocating under the guilt of believing she’d killed her father—and certain her whole family condemned her.

“After his death,” Grace said, “it seemed every time I did anything that met with my family’s disapproval, someone would say, ‘You’ve caused enough problems in this home!’”2

In college, Grace married Larry Hamrick and hoped to escape the haunting memories. She and Larry raised their three beautiful daughters and lived the life of a carefree, happy family.

For a time.

A Hopeless Abyss

In time, the memories began to whisper. Fear of losing her husband and daughters brought on panic attacks. They worsened after one particular visit with her mom. Grace’s mom told her that as a young toddler, Grace had kicked her pregnant belly and killed the baby inside.

It was an easy lie to sell a woman already convinced she brought evil upon those she loved. Grace’s childhood doctor refuted the preposterous story and explained that the baby died because of natural causes. But the feeling of shame and guilt was too strong to offer Grace much relief.

A psychiatrist put Grace on medication. She supplemented the medicine with alcohol. Despair enveloped her.

“Secretly,” she remembered, “I wanted to die. I kept hearing a voice that said, ‘If you really loved Larry and your girls, you would kill yourself because you’re just a bad person—you harm people.’”

As her mom had, Grace hid her alcohol addiction from the world. Each day, she sank deeper into a hopeless abyss. The drugs meant to help her dragged her into profound darkness. Terrified, Grace committed herself to a treatment center. Once they weaned her off the psychiatric drugs, she leveled off. But only for a time. Guilt and shame continued to haunt her.

God Is Moving

Sometime later, “Susan,” an old drinking and card-playing buddy from Texas, sent Grace a series of long, Scripture-filled letters telling about the joy and peace she’d found in Christ. Grace had gone to church her whole life and called herself a Christian, but she didn’t understand the true salvation Susan described.

Meanwhile, Larry attended a church retreat and surrendered his life to Christ. Larry rejoiced, but Grace fumed. 

He quit drinking and smoking, and that bothered me. I had lost my drinking buddy. I was angry. How could I fight God? My husband had changed because God had changed him. For about a year and a half after that, I felt like Larry was trying to change me, and I rebelled like crazy.4

In April 1976, Susan came to visit. A group of Grace’s friends wanted to talk with her about her letters. When the friends arrived, Grace disappeared outside, where guilty thoughts tormented her. Grace, Susan loves you so much, and all she wants is for you to sit with them as they talk.

I battled with this thought. Finally, I just grabbed my pack of cigarettes and marched back into the house. I found them, of all places, downstairs in the sitting area of our bedroom. The women watched as I sat down on the carpet in the doorway of our bedroom. I wasn’t going all the way into the room, because I was trying to distance myself from this religious conversation.

One of the ladies was confessing something she was doing that was not good. I sat in the doorway a little away from them, puffing away on my cigarette, thinking, Grace Hamrick, you think you are so bad, but you haven’t done that.5

The Showdown

“What happened next is hard to describe,” Grace said.

But I had no sooner had that thought when it seemed as if God reached down, grabbed me, and said, “Grace, you and I are going to have a talk.” It felt like He shut me up in a soundproof booth with Him. . . . 

All the Bible verses that I had been reading for months flooded my mind. God was speaking to my heart, and I knew He was saying to me, “Grace, you say you know Me, but your heart is far from Me! You are so busy comparing yourself to everyone else because you are always trying to find somebody else that you feel is worse than you. It is not about you and them. It is between you and Me. I am a Holy God, and you have sinned against Me.”

Romans 12:1–2 came to my mind, and I thought about what Christ had done for me on the cross. The next thing I knew, I felt like there was a searing hot iron behind my eyeballs. I know it sounds strange, but the tears streaming down my face felt incredibly hot. I felt deep conviction in my very being. It was like God was saying, “You have offended Me.” A deep sadness came over me. I was so sorry for all the wrong I had done.6

A battle raged in Grace’s heart as she counted the cost of following Christ. Finally, the battle ended.


Grace prayed, “God, I can’t quit drinking, cussing, smoking, or change my life. I really am a basket case. But I’m not mine anymore; I’m yours, and if anything is going to come of my life, You are going to have to do it. I can’t; I have tried.”7

“From that moment on,” Grace said, “my life changed drastically. . . . Was I ever tempted to smoke or drink again? Yes—many times. But each time, I would cry out to God to keep me from giving in to the temptation, and He always—without fail—answered my prayer.”8


Grace recalled another big change: “In the past I would try to read my Bible, and it made no sense. But after that day, God put such a hunger in me for the Word that I couldn’t seem to get enough. I began to understand things I had never understood before. The most incredible journey of my life had just begun.”9

Part of the journey included Grace confronting her anger toward her mother. Any love she’d felt toward her mom had vanished in light of her mom’s alcoholism and the way she’d treated Grace. But God convicted her of her unforgiving heart.

When her mom was diagnosed with cancer, God used it to bring them together. Grace only lived a little over an hour from her mom, so she determined she’d obey the Lord and care for her mom to the end. But her feelings battled with her convictions.

I would walk in her house, praying “God, You love her, so please, You are going to have to fill me with a love for her because I don’t have it.” In the beginning, I was there only in obedience, but God began to change my heart. Over time, God gave me an incredible love for my mother—to the point that I just wanted to hold her. It had been many years since I could stand to touch her or have her touch me. It was wonderful to see and experience this enormous change in my life.10

Amazing Grace

Over the months, Grace continued her weekly visits, pouring out love on her mom and sharing her testimony. Grace’s sister Anne also shared with their mom. Finally, in the summer of 1979, Grace and Larry were attending a weekend conference when she received a message—“You need to call your mother.”Fearing the worst, Grace rushed to the phone and received the most surprising news. “I’ve trusted Christ as my Savior.” The Holy Spirit must have kept Grace from fainting. The joy of her mom’s salvation overwhelmed her.

God’s Grace Toward Me

I didn’t know any of Grace’s story when I met her almost twenty years later. I heard her speak about believing in God’s faithfulness, and I longed to know and love God’s Word like she did. The next week, I called her. “Grace, you don’t know me, but will you mentor me?”

I could hear the smile in her voice. “Honey, I’d love to.”

God’s amazing grace was about to change another life.

Each week, Grace opened God’s Word and walked me through the truths of Scripture that had transformed her. She taught me the glorious attributes of God and the power of obedience to the Lord. And each week she lived out what she taught.

I watched her walk with peaceful faith when the doctors diagnosed her with CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia). Through searing pain, many heard her declare, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”

I didn’t even see her faith waver when her beloved husband of 50 years was diagnosed with bone cancer. But I saw her cry. I witnessed holy grief and stood amazed.

It wasn’t until Grace wrote her book that she noticed the similarities (and vast differences) in two of the most painful moments of her life.

The night my dad died, I sat at my mother’s feet with my head in her lap, longing for comfort as I cried out, “I killed him!” There were no words of comfort, no hope—just total despair. She sat there because I’m sure she felt immense grief and hopelessness, too.

Fifty-six years later, as I sat at Larry’s feet with my head in his lap crying, “Lord, I want You to take me, too. I don’t want to live without you, Larry.” It was not hopeless despair I felt but a longing to go with Larry. I would not only be with Larry, but also with the Lord. Larry’s words of comfort and encouragement to me were in stark contrast to what happened when dad died.11

Together, Larry and Grace spent the last few months of his life proclaiming the goodness of God to all who would listen.

We all listened.

A Legacy of Grace

After Larry’s death, Grace asked me to help her write the story of God’s grace in her life. She wanted her children, grandchildren, and anyone else who’d read her book to know of Christ’s power to transform even the most broken life. 

Hearing about Grace’s past changed how I felt about everything she’d ever taught me. Now, her teaching carried more weight. If she could endure what she had suffered and trust and obey God, what excuse did I have? How could I ever again doubt the power of God’s grace or the rewards of faithful obedience to Christ and His Word?

Grace Jordan Hamrick isn’t perfect—she’d insist I make this clear—but each day, she fixes her eyes on our perfect God. She sets her heart and mind to trust and obey all He’s said in His Word. And she teaches others to do the same—no matter the cost. 

As we celebrate all sorts of “(un)remarkable women” this month, we hope you’ll consider the fact that God uses unremarkable people like you to do extraordinary things for His kingdom every day. Could He be prompting you to take an ordinary step toward something remarkable by supporting this ministry with a fiscal year-end gift? When you give today, we’ll send you the first volume of our booklet (Un)Remarkable: Ten Ordinary Women Who Impacted Their World for Christ,as well as an advance digital copy of the all new second volume, (Un)Remarkable: Ten More Ordinary Women Who Impacted Their World for Christ. We can’t wait to get these stories into your hands. 

Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace: The Transforming Power of God’s Amazing Grace in the Life of an Ordinary Woman (Bloomington, IN: CrossBooks, 2014), 16–17.

Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace, 17.

Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace, 29.

Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace, 33–34.

5 Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace, 36–37.

Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace, 36–37.

7 Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace, 37.

8 Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace, 38–39.

9 Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace, 38–39.

10 Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace, 38–39. 

11 Grace Jordan Hamrick, Just Grace, 86.

About the Author

Jean Wilund

Jean Wilund

Jean Wilund is passionate about leading women into a greater understanding of the Bible and a deeper relationship with God. She serves Revive Our Hearts as a member of the blog team and a moderator for the Women's Ministry Leader … read more …

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