Women God Uses

By Jenny Riddle

Women don many hats throughout their daily lives, and the sheer overwhelming nature of trying to balance them all can often leave women feeling more like functional gears in a machine than the unique and purposefully created image-bearers they are. Women are more than the hats they wear; they are daughters of God, made purposefully and uniquely for His delight and His good work. No two are alike, nor did God intend for them to be. There is no set of ideals that can capture the fascinating personalities, characteristics, quirks, unique beauty, and purpose God has created in each woman. In celebration of this truth, read the following stories of three women God created and called.

Jessica Gray Roberts

Delighted, Grateful, Adventurous

Jessica Gray Roberts, who goes by Jess with her friends, has an easy, full smile and a contagious spirit of wonder when she talks about people. Jessica’s eyes and voice fill with marvel when she considers how God has created people who overcome; people who try, fail, and try again; and people who have been wounded but still smile. She explains that when she looks at people, “I try to see the spirit of what makes them do what they do.”

One may think that Jessica’s view of people would be founded on a life emphasized by overwhelmingly positive relationships and unfettered happiness. On the contrary, her story is full of trauma and pain. But it is also a story of God’s intervention to use her unique personality and her experiences for His purpose.

As a child, Jessica always wanted to live overseas. God created her with a love for and fascination with the international world. She was always up for an adventure. After a childhood involving the trauma of abuse and neglect, Jessica would find her way into international adventures by marrying Yance Tell Gray, a soldier in the U.S. Army. With an impending deployment, the couple eloped in December 2003. Despite the challenges of military life, Jessica wanted to be an Army wife forever. She soaked up her identity as a soldier’s wife and allowed it to become the essence of who she was as a woman.

Jessica and Tell celebrated the birth of their daughter, Ava, in April 2007, while Tell cheered on Jessica via telephone from another deployment within Operation Iraqi Freedom. Five months later, on September 10, 2007, Tell was killed in a rollover accident following a mission in Baghdad, Iraq. Jessica was now alone, with herself-proclaimed identity “shattered.”

God pursued her in that grieving space. Jessica had grown up knowing about God and Christian ideas, but she describes her spiritual life prior to Tell’s death as “apatheist.” She knew some things about God but did not care enough to develop an ideology or to allow Jesus to impact her worldview. When faced with the intense pain and reality of death; however, Jessica’s mind exploded with questions, and her heart became receptive to God’s pursuit. She found a Bible in her house and awkwardly began looking up verses from sympathy cards, despite not knowing how.

During this time of searching, Jessica became acquainted with another soldier, Rhodes Roberts. Rhodes had known Tell and was in the same Army division in Iraq at the time of his death. Rhodes displayed incredible kindness in the way he lived his life. His character and strong faith in Christ made him a soft place to land throughout Jessica’s spiritual questions and struggles. Through his patient answers and the Spirit’s moving, her “eyes were opened to the reality of God,” and the process of her salvation took root and grew.

Jessica and Rhodes recognized a kindred spirit with one another and were married in 2009. Four years later, their daughter Elloree was born, and the family moved to Haiti a year later as part of their work with Vapor Ministries. Jessica was finally living internationally as she had dreamed, but circumstances brought them to Birmingham in 2015. With a desire to return to international ministry, Jessica sought out opportunities to serve others through the ESL program at The Church at Brook Hills. She volunteered her time in evening classes and was a constant gospel presence.

Early in 2918, Jessica entered international water again as she and Rhodes brought home a daughter, Leeona, from China. Jessica’s experience as an adoptive mom threw her ideas of motherhood into disarray. She remembers, “As a mom, before Leeona, I really thought I was winning at parenthood . . . Adoption has been the greatest reminder that if there is anything good in my children, it’s because of the grace of God.” Adoption opened Jessica’s eyes to the difficult realities of trauma, not only in addressing Leeona’s needs but in the need to address her own past. God led her to reach back and deal with the trauma of her childhood and the grief of loss. She is grateful because “God has not turned His face from me. I wouldn’t have been able to experience God yanking me back if we had the cookie-cutter experience” as a family and never experienced the need for utter dependence on Him.

Even while doing the hard work of addressing trauma and attaching to her new daughter, Jessica remained a faithful volunteer in the ESL ministry. Her desire for international service never wavered. In 2021, she was offered the director position of the ESL ministry, which she humbly accepted. With two ministry locations in Birmingham now, approximately 170 students representing around 30 countries attend ESL classes. Jessica’s face lights up as she explains that internationals are her “favorite human beings on earth.” She is delighted by their cultures, journeys to different places, food, dress, music, and celebrations. But what fascinates her most is how Christ unifies everyone.

Although she still desires to live overseas one day, Jessica finds contentment in knowing that God knows her needs, loves her, and has purpose for her wherever He leads. God has created Jessica uniquely, with a heart that wants to serve others and to know them. She has a distinct gift for seeing others through a lens of amazement at God’s creativity, beauty, and delight. He is using all of Jessica’s life—her personality, her character, her experiences, her hardships, her desires, and her dependence on Him—for His purposes.

Although she often feels ill-equipped to do what God has called her to, Jessica is grateful for “what God has done in her life and how He has loved her.” He rescued her and filled her with a heart of thankfulness and delight. She delights in God, she delights in people, she delights in her family, she delights in running and exercising, and she delights in being used by God. She is a woman God uses.

Brennan Warren

Confident, Fun, Energetic, Joyful

Working as a nurse in the intensive care unit during COVID, Brennan Warren became acquainted with the stark and lonely realities of death. Her experiences grew a desire in her heart to help people face the end of their lives in a “better” way. She wanted to help people die with dignity, comfort, and grace. So, Brennan left the ICU and became a hospice nurse.

As a result of her daily interactions with end-of-life and dying, one will not find Brennan watching dramas on television. Instead, she gravitates toward anything that will make her laugh. She seeks fun and enjoyment in the everyday aspects of life, as she leaves a trail of laughter and smiles wherever she goes. As she explains, “There’s not enough time to be all mad and serious. I like to try and have as much fun and light as I can.” Brennan lives in a way that not only assists people in dying better but in living better. She helps people see the beauty in being joyful, even in a world full of brokenness and death.

Brennan fits a lot of life in the hours she is given. In addition to being a nurse, she also teaches cycling and weight training classes at her gym. No doubt, her class attendees leave feeling healthier physically and emotionally through exercise and laughing.

Between caring for others, exercising, and being a mom, Brennan has no time for trendy fashion. She most often wears gym clothes or scrubs and goes makeup free. There are occasions when she accessorizes heavily—with her cello, which she has been playing since seventh grade. (In sixth grade, she chose the viola because she felt compassion for the instrument no one was choosing. She could no targue with her instant love of the cello, however, and switched the next year.) Brennan describes music as something that “takes me out of the heaviness of life.” She embraces contract opportunities to play formally for special occasions and churches. Through this avenue, she spreads joy through music to others who are wearied by the noise of everyday life. Brennan especially delights in playing her cello outdoors, where her love for music and God’s creation intersect in a beautiful display of His creative nature.

Whether she is holding the hand of someone who is dying, sweating on a bike, or playing her cello at a wedding, Brennan is unafraid to be the lighthearted, on-the-go woman God created her to be. But no matter what adventures Brennan finds, she finds being a mom as “the most profound experience.” Brennan and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters: Afton, 6, and Ava, 2. In 2020, Brennan and Daniel were in the process of international adoption. As a result of changing circumstances, they decided to switch to the domestic program. Brennan dove into the new journey as she had with the rest of her life –with passion and fun. Brennan set a challenge of raising $10,000 for their adoption. If others helped her meet that goal, she promised to shave her head completely and donate it all to Wigs for Kids. Although a frequent donator of her hair, she had never shaved it fully, but donations reached beyond her goal. Brennan stuck to her promise and confidently sported her shaved head, appreciating the utmost ease of hair styling, or lack thereof.

Her hair would still be quite short when the Warrens met Ava in April 2021, eight days after her birth. Ava was born addicted to methamphetamines, and Brennan fought tenaciously to give her the best possible start in life. She explains that even though they don’t know what the future will look like for Ava, “God is going to help us through any issues related to that prenatal trauma.” Brennan is confident in who God is and His faithful presence through the mountains and valleys of life.

She is also confident in who God created her to be, and she is not too shy to say, “I’m awesome because I was created just how the Lord wanted me to be.” Though she doesn’t always feel like she fits in, and she wonders how she could possibly be responsible for raising children when she’s “disorganized and frazzled,” her family always encouraged her to be herself, and she is comfortable with who she is. One should not mistake Brennan’s confidence for pride or fun for apathy. Quite the opposite, her confidence is rooted in believing God created her in His image, and she wants her daughters to hear the truth of their value in Him. In having fun and spreading joy, Brennan reflects God’s light to show creativity, beauty, and peace in a world marred by the heavy weight of sin.

God did, indeed, create Brennan in His image. And He created her uniquely to display His character, His beauty, and His unwavering faithfulness to a world that needs confidence in an unchanging God. She is a woman God uses.

Katherine Wates

Determined, Persistent, Advocate, Bold

When Katherine Wates sees a need, she describes herself as having “the can’t help its.” She explains, “I just have to do something.” A doer by nature, she is always willing to put her hands and feet to work. These personality traits developed even further when she spent time in Africa throughout her life. The church where she grew up was steeped in global missions. Katherine was able to spend summers in places like Kenya and Zimbabwe, where she experienced what life was like without running water, power, or motor transportation. She learned that “people’s lives are different, but they are not less or better.” She was entrenched in what it meant to serve others, even when their lives may look very different from her own. Through these journeys, her ability to empathize and love others was rooted deeply.

With a heart for missions and service in her community, Katherine pursued an education degree and desired to teach in a Title 1 school. Katherine delayed her formal teaching career after college, however, to spend a year in Uganda. There, she taught preschool and worked with single women within a family preservation ministry. The work there inspired her to consider how she could “transfer that ministry back home.” Foster care was the direction she felt God calling and equipping her, and she was “determined to do what God called.” Her decision to get involved with foster care influenced how she made life decisions, including whom she would marry. When she met Garrett, the man who would become her husband, they realized they had a heart for foster care together. After marrying in 2020, they completed their licensure and became foster parents in 2022.

The Wates have experienced four foster placements to date. Since becoming a foster mom, Katherine has recognized the unique way God has created her. Unafraid to speak up, “God has made me with the ability to advocate for others,” she explains. She loves to support and champion the parents of the kids in her care. Katherine admits that circumstances can be difficult, but her personality and life experiences encouraged her to never “give up but keep advocating for these babies” and their parents whenever possible and safe. She commits to loving them with everything she has for as long as she has the opportunity.

As a result of teaching at a Title 1 school and being a foster parent, Katherine has many opportunities to love people in a variety of ways. She recently saw a picture from a visitation between a child in her care and his mom. The visitation room was lacking in supplies, comfortable arrangements, and a calming aesthetic. With her determined personality, Katherine contacted her case worker and asked to help redo the visitation rooms. She is working with the social workers to complete the rooms and started an Amazon wish list so that others can join in serving foster families too.

In her classroom at school, Katherine recognizes that many of her young students need to know they are “loved, seen, and safe” with her. Through her life experiences, God has grown her heart for grace and empathy as well as a determination to love others, even when doing so isn’t easy.

Although Katherine claims that she is a “perfectly flawed and very, very average person living on a lot of grace,” she also admits that she is “not a run-of-the-mill person.” She takes unique paths in life, is quirky, is often out-spoken, and is not afraid to say yes to what is difficult. People often describe her as “super” or “a saint,” but Katherine maintains, “There’s nothing super about me except that I was bold enough to say yes.”

As a foster mom and mom to a new biological daughter, Birdie, God allowed Katherine to develop confidence and truly understand that although she may be flawed and in need of grace every day, “I’m exactly who God created me to be.” She knows that God has molded her into someone who sees needs around her and asks, “If not me, then who?” He has made her into an outspoken advocate who is not easily deterred from her goals. He has grown her into a woman who sees challenges as opportunities for God to work through her. He has created her to love tenaciously and empathize gracefully. He has created her for the work to which He has called her. She is a woman God uses.

These three women are a celebration of God’s creativity. He has crafted each one uniquely and placed them where they can flourish in who they are in Him. How has God gifted you? What experiences, characteristics, resources, or skills do you have that could be used for God’s purpose? If you are looking for opportunities to use your passions and unique gifts for God, explore and pray for God’s direction in how He can use you.