I would be dead today without the grace of Jesus changing my life. It’s a fact I cannot deny and if I had died 15 years ago, it would have been totally my fault. I’ve written about this before, but today I feel led to connect the dots between the parts of my story. It’s really about how Jesus changed my life two major ways, both are directly due to His magnanimous outpouring of grace.

Candy Thief

We were on our weekly grocery shopping trip. Each week Dad gave us a dime when we got to the checkout if we didn’t run screaming through the aisles. My brother and I were good that day, but when we got to the checkout, Dad told us he didn’t have enough dimes for us. He needed them all for the laundromat we were going to next.

My brother was three. He didn’t care. I was seven and I wanted to buy the candy that I bought every week. So I secretly grabbed some from the shelf in the checkout lane and slid them into my coat pocket when no one was looking. Long story short, my brother saw me eating it in the car and got me in trouble.

Dad took me back to the store and had me confess to the manager. Then Dad paid for my sins with the precious dimes meant for drying the clothes that Mom and my brother were washing. As we walked out of the grocery store, I looked up at Dad and saw a tear trickling down his cheek.

That was the moment I realized that I was a thief, albeit a candy thief, but a thief nonetheless. I was a sinner just like the preacher hollered about every Sunday night. I needed Jesus. That night I cried out to Him and asked Him to forgive me, wash me clean and save me with His grace so I could go to Heaven when I died.

Fire Insurance

That night all I was after was fire insurance. Instead, I got the whole deal. I got grace. I had no idea what it meant, but it sounded nice and sweet. I had no concept that my sins—past, present and future—were totally forgiven by God’s grace. I just knew Jesus delivered me from the prospect of burning in hell’s lake of fire.

I knew I was finally on the train bound for glory, so I didn’t have to worry about anything else ever again. I was in. No one could revoke my ticket. My destination was set.

I had no real idea of what God’s grace was all about. I had no idea of the sheer power and magnitude of His grace to set me free from my human tendencies to do whatever I wanted. I’m extremely grateful to my parents, especially my dad, for living a godly life in front of me. All I had to do what what He did.

Balancing Act

I was living a good life, but I still didn’t totally get what it was all about. For years I saw living the Christian life as a series of do’s and don’ts. Don’t smoke, drink, cuss, yell, scream, wear makeup and a number of other things. Instead go to church, be nice and use your talents and abilities to serve God.

It was like a balancing act. How many good things did I need to do to counteract out any wrongs I had done? There was one huge bad habit I had that I could not seem to get away from. It wasn’t one of the don’ts that I learned from Dad. By this time, I had a developed a close enough relationship with Jesus to know that there was one problem in my life that He was deeply concerned about.

It was my habit of eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted it and however much I wanted. I had allowed this dangerously bad habit to creep into my life. The first time He warned me about it was in my morning quiet time when I had been married about a year.

Move My Mountain!

I had just read Matthew 17:20 where Jesus tells the disciples that they couldn’t cast a demon out of a boy because they didn’t have enough faith. Then Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

I stopped and wrote in my journal, “Jesus, I have a little faith, but I have a mountain of flesh on my body. How can this mountain be moved?” At that time I weighed over 200 pounds and was headed towards 250. I was very concerned about my weight.

This is when He gave me my lifestyle change plan. He said, “Stop eating sugar. Eat more meats, fruits and vegetables. Stop eating so much bread.” I wrote it down in my journal, but It wasn’t a plan I liked.

I know it was His plan because that was not something anyone had ever told me before. The idea of not eating sugar wasn’t something that was on everyone’s mind back then. Even though I knew it was what Jesus desired for me, I flat out said to Him, “No. I can’t do that.”

Death Sentence

For the next 30 years I tried to lose weight my way, which only resulted in me gaining up to 430 pounds. Fast forward to 1998 when a cardiac surgeon told me because of congestive heart failure, I had five years to live unless I lost 100 pounds and kept if off.

Once again I went on another diet, but found myself gaining the weight back quickly. Although the story’s too long to tell here, suffice it to say God finally got my attention. I had made sugar and high-carbohydrate-content foods my idol, my god, the thing I felt I could not live without.

That is a spot reserved only for God. Finally after years of struggle with my weight, I decided to do things God’s way. I surrendered sugar totally to Him and put Him back on the throne of my life. When I did, I learned a massive truth about grace. As Kris Vallotton says, “Grace is the power to do what I couldn’t do one second before.” That was so true in my life.

Grace Brings Surrender

When I stopped trying to lose weight my way and surrendered my weakness and inability to do what I knew He wanted me to do, His grace strength took over in my life. The words of Paul rang true.

“He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you; for My power is being perfected, and is completed and shows itself most effectively, in your weakness.’ Therefore, I will all the more gladly boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may completely enfold me and may dwell in me. So I am well pleased with weaknesses … for when I am weak, in human strength, then I am strong, truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength,” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 AMP).

God is strong all the time, but His strength really shines when I admit I am weak and I can’t do this by myself. When I laid down all my self-effort and asked Him to take over, He wrapped me in His grace and led me to victory.

From Death to Life

It was my second major come-to-Jesus moment. It was the time when I finally understood the power and effectiveness of God’s grace. It’s the same power that raised Christ from the dead. (See Romans 8:11.)

That same power led me out of all my man-made rules into a deep, abiding walk with my risen Savior. Up until that point, in many ways, I had just been going through the motions. The day I surrendered my food addiction completely, Jesus changed my trajectory from certain physical death to a whole new definition of what abundant life in Him looks like.

Jesus rescued me, helped me give up sugar, led me to lose over 250 pounds, set me back on my feet again and pointed me towards my destiny. To say He changed my life is an understatement. He turned my life upside down.

I was saved by His grace at age 7, but as an adult set in her ways my life was transformed by His grace flooding my life with purpose, peace and power. 

Now I am living in the overflow of His grace.

How has Jesus’ grace changed your life?




Teresa Shields Parker
Teresa Shields Parker is a Christian weight loss author, coach and speaker, who has lost more than 250 pounds. Her book, "Sweet Grace: How I Lost 250 Pounds and Stopped Trying to Earn God's Favor", is the number 1 Christian Weight Loss Memoir on Amazon. Her other books include: "Sweet Journey to Transformation: Practical Steps to Lose Weight and Live Healthy", "Sweet Freedom: Losing Weight and Keeping It Off With God's Help", "Sweet Change: True Stories of Transformation" and "Sweet Hunger: Developing an Appetite for God".

She also offers Overcomers Christian Weight Loss Academy and VIP one-on-one coaching program, both available under the weight loss tab. To book Teresa for your next event, check the Speaking tab on her website. Also check out her blog and Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast under the tabs by those names.