Sunday, January 17, 2016

Stretch Out Your Skin: part 1

I found her homeless, lost and scared in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike on Galveston Island in 2008. Ms. Armstead was 87-years old and the evidence of her long life had been washed, tossed and left for debris in one night’s windstorm. I met Ms. Armstead in a hot, humid, roach-infested hotel room, and she couldn’t find her son.

All she had in there with her was a Bible and a diamond bracelet. The bracelet was debris that had washed up with the hurricane floodwaters. She found it when she accidentally ran her shopping cart over it during her daily walk to the grocery store.

I visited Ms. Armstead often, holding her hands, wiping her tears, answering her phone calls, and finally making a few calls of my own. It wasn’t long before we started meeting in her new rental house – all it took was loading her up in my little Ford Ranger, calling every imaginable social service office on her behalf, locating her son, doing her grocery shopping, coordinating church and medical services, and signing her lease myself.  

Technically, I was her crisis counselor…
I might have stretched the boundaries of that slightly. She became a family member. I remember the day my cousins bought her a dining room table, and the day we picked up couches for her and decorated her house. I remember bringing my grandma, mom and sister to visit her, swapping stories and photos, and the day she anointed my sister and my head with cooking oil - and we felt equally blessed and worried about breaking out.

She lost everything except her faith. The less she had on this earth, the more she reached for God.

She would stay up all night on some nights crying out for the brokenness of her community. I can still hear her shaky little 87-year old voice, weeping and praying “the blood of the lamb” with a toothless mouth over me and every single person who walked by her house.

She always, always, always prayed for me. She prayed fervently about my wedding day, and she dreamt prophetically about it for the year and a half I spent working with her.

At the end of 2009, when I told her I was leaving for South Africa, she wept with my grandma. She sent me with her blessings, the blood of the lamb, and that diamond bracelet to wear on my wedding day.

In 2015, I wore that bracelet in South Africa on my wedding day. And walked down the aisle with two blessings greater than Ms. Armstead could have known she had prayed for.

My husband, Chris, and I drove by her home when we got to Texas. I didn’t expect Ms. Armstead to be alive anymore because our letters of correspondence ended a few years ago. I just wanted to bring that handsome answer to her prayers to see the place where the prayers were lifted and where the dreams of him were birthed.

A woman from her church was going to check on her house right as we drove by, and she told us Ms. Armstead is in a nursing home after a bad fall and would turn 94 the following week!

Days later, I walked into the room where she napped and cupped her enormous, age-softened hand in mine. The second she opened her eyes, she said my name as loud as her voice would allow, and she wept. She said, “You’re married. I knew it. I never stopped praying for you,” as I flipped through the wedding album and told her stories about Chris, Lifa and South Africa.

It was like we never missed a beat. She could barely speak; her skin has lost all elasticity and only loosely drapes her fragile bones; but she is still Ms. Armstead. She told me she couldn’t take care of herself anymore, and she just wanted to go home to Jesus. She was tormented with worry for the salvation of her granddaughter and great-granddaughter, and she just wanted to rest.

I held her hands, and I kissed her nose. I looked deeply into her tired eyes, and I spoke loud and clear, “You’ve lived a good life, Ms. Armstead. You’ve done well, and you’ve done your part. You can rest now.”

I made a promise to her that I would take on the burden of praying for her family members, and she could rest. I saw relief wash over her glassy, gray eyes. She said it would be our last time to see each other, and she blessed me and choked up with her hands on mine. She said, “Just tell people about Jesus, baby.”

I kissed her forehead over and over again.
It was the softest skin I’ve ever felt.
Thread-bare by a life well lived.
Skin stretched thin by a 94-year pilgrimage of lamenting for the lost, inhabiting His Word, and reaching and reaching and reaching for heaven.

I prayed for her and told her that I am spending my life with a husband who looks, sounds, walks and talks just like Jesus. I told her we will spend our lives telling the world about Jesus and every prayer she prayed for me was answered. The storm that seemed to sink it all brought about prayers that would literally reach the nations and bejeweled the arm of this happy bride in the process.

As she held my hands in her soft, life-stretched-thin hands and told me, “Just tell people about Jesus, baby” she put her strong mantle on my family and me. I gave her permission to rest, and told her we would pick up the work from here.

I remembered the passage of promise for the desolate woman that told her to increase her space because her legacy would stretch far and wide. “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide.” The literal translation for that passage, written in a time of animal skin tent dwellings, is “stretch out your skin”.

Ms. Armstead has stretched out her skin and increased the inhabitants of the Kingdom of God. She made every one of those 94 years count.

So we pick up the work from here, and we remind each other:

Stretch our your skin, and make it count.
As long as you have skin to stretch, make it count.
Because when you reach, when you spend you skin on what will still matter when your skin won’t stretch anymore, it counts.

When Ms. Armstead closes her eyes for the last time on this earth, after she’s shed that final tear and she leaves that old, tired, stretched out skin, we will continue, on the wings of her prayers to the ends of the earth. And even greater than that, her Bridegroom will put a shiny diamond bracelet on her arm, kiss her brand new skin, and say, “Well done, my beautiful bride. You told people about Jesus, baby.”

From Isaiah 54:
“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities…” 
“Afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will rebuild you with stones of turquoise, ayour foundations with lapis lazuli.
I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.”

Ps: It feels good to be BACK ON THE BLOG. A new year of great things ahead! Stay tuned for more changes, a new website, and the part 2 installment about a boy named Benji.


  1. Such a beautiful story Kacy on this lovely Sunday. Thank you!

    1. Thank YOU for reading. :) Such a sweet memory to make while back in USA.

  2. Such a beautiful story Kacy on this lovely Sunday. Thank you!

  3. A WONDERFUL story! Thank you for sharing it with us.


    1. Thanks Lisa! Great to hear from you! It was a sweet, sweet time.