Grow in Grace with Kathie-Lee Gifford

When we talk about growing in grace, Kathie Lee Gifford is a shining example. She is an American icon, a talented actress, musical artist, and television personality. And she’s been through so many things. Yet, she continues to live a life epitomized by grace and love. When asked where her tenacity and drive come from, Kathie says she is a lifetime student of God’s word and reads it every day. And, when she reads it, “nobody in the Bible retired. They kept doing what God put them on this earth to do”. Kathie Lee loves to work and she thinks it’s a valuable gift God gives us for our purpose, our self-worth, and our growth. Being responsible to meet a deadline or keep people employed, and then mix that with the Holy Spirit, gives her purpose every morning and keeps her going. Kathie Lee says she learned from Paul Newman long ago that, “If I’ve got a pulse, I’ve got a purpose.” She has never entertained the idea of retirement. She has walked with the Lord since she was twelve years old, and while she doesn’t know how many days He has for her, she looks forward to finding out.

This curiosity and sense of adventure is part of her continued growth. She has found genuine joy and is the happiest she has been in years. But she shares that, “Happiness is different than joy”. She has always been a joyful person because of her walk with the Lord but happiness comes from the word “happenstance”. Happiness is related to our circumstance whereas joy is not. She could find joy even in many sad and stress-filled moments, and did, but she is thankful to have now found herself in a rich, warm, and fun season, full of happiness too.

And Kathie Lee has known hard circumstances full of controversy, accusation, betrayal, loss, and hurt. Many single parents have experienced those too and end up feeling rejected and a deep sense of loneliness. Kathie Lee is no stranger to those feelings. She has walked through many hard things, but she emphasizes she has never walked them alone. “If people have a real relationship with the Living God, not somebody we visit for an hour in some building”, they don’t have to walk them alone either. She says she is so grateful that she has never separated the spiritual and the secular in her life because we each just get one life to live and living a life of purpose in God is where she finds joy.

Kathie Lee can look back at her life and see that God was with her every step. The Israelites came through the Red Sea and forgot in an instance that God had delivered them out of 400 years of slavery, kept them safe from the ten plagues, and provided escape from the Pharoah as he was chasing them. Yet, they get to the other side, and basically say, “What’s for dinner?” They forgot so quickly what God had done for them! God had to take human form to come and save us because we are human.

Kathie Lee has seen God at work in real and miraculous ways over the last five decades. She is certain in her belief in Him and His reality. She is excited about what God is doing and what He has done in her life. Our testimony cannot be taken from us. Instead of asking, how can I get through this as quickly as I can, we need to ask, what can I learn? Because transformation happens in the struggle and that becomes our testimony which is indisputable. We carry that forward. As Kathie Lee looks back at all God has done, her confidence and conviction in God and His presence is unshakeable.  

“Every good and perfect gift comes from above, streaming down from the Father in the heavenly realms, who does not change like the shifting shadows.” (James 1:17),  Kathie Lee has clung to that truth even as this world has continued to change. And especially this last year! God keeps reminding her that what others meant for evil, He intends for good. She is broken for people who don’t know God loves them.

Kathie Lee was married before she was married to Frank Gifford. “It wasn’t a good marriage; it wasn’t a marriage at all.” She felt rejected and invisible, heartbroken, and lost. She walked through it day by day. She had waited for marriage and thought she had married someone with the same values. Instead, Kathie Lee found herself in a loveless, sexless marriage for six and a half years. The kindest thing that he ever did for her was abandon her because it finally set her free. She had come off the road with Bill Cosby only to find out that he had left taking some of her possessions with him. She had been praying and believing that their marriage could be saved, stayed faithful as she waited. She walked that alone with Jesus and a few dear friends. They urged her to divorce but she didn’t feel freed up to do that. When he filed for divorce, Kathie Lee felt free, but she still had to process how deeply she had been hurt.

Divorce seems final but it is often after divorce that our healing must begin in earnest. Kathie Lee found herself making moral decisions she would never have made before because she had experienced so much rejection. She has forgiven her ex and she recognize he wasn’t able to do better than he did. And, says Kathie Lee, “If you want to stay miserable for the rest of your life, decide not to forgive someone.” At some point, Kathie Lee met Frank Gifford and they found their way back to God but then he betrayed her too. She had eleven wonderfully happy years with him, madly in love. They had their children. Her career was going well. Her family was healthy. And then, Frank was unfaithful to her and it was all over the tabloids. Kathie Lee saw the enemy at work. Frank was vulnerable and the enemy came to steal, kill, and destroy. He’s the father of lies. Once again, Kathie Lee was able to forgive, and this time, very quickly because she was so aware of her own need for forgiveness. In her book, she talks about how forgiveness is hard but if you can’t forgive your husband, “forgive your children’s father”. Forgiveness doesn’t mean things go back the way they were, especially after betrayal. Kathie Lee knew there was a lot of work to do. She went to counseling and learned and grew so much.

That lesson in forgiveness is one that helped her in other circumstances too including later false accusations. The media wanted to destroy her family even after she was working so hard to take care of AIDS babies. There were lies being told and it felt like she was being hit by a mac truck. During this time, a friend provided a place to meet away from the press. When Kathie Lee was able to get her eyes off her and her pain, she was asked to meet with the cardinal for a few minutes afterward alone. She had been under such vile attack in the press with never a kind word from anybody. The cardinal put out his arms to her and said, “Oh Kathie” with such mercy. He just held her and let her sob. She had to be strong and couldn’t let them see her broken and afraid. She held her head up high. That man provided an embrace for her and he said, “Kathie, let me tell you something that may help you through this. Our Lord did not change the world so much with his miracles. He changed the world with his suffering. If you are willing to suffer this injustice for His sake, He will bless you for it.” Kathie Lee wasn’t aware about sweat shops before and she didn’t run any of them. She was unjustly accused. And she shares that if you are going through some injustice, being accused of something in ways you don’t deserve, pray for those who hurt you, forgive them, and keep looking to Jesus because we can rest in the truth that what others mean for evil, God means for our good, for His purposes, and His glory.

We are so inspired and encouraged by Kathie Lee’s faith, her confidence in God’s word, and in living out His truth. She truly is a beacon of hope and a shining example of growing in grace.

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