girlfriends of grace Women share love of God, passion for others in live broadcast

Michele Vowell | Kentucky New Era

Shellie Cheirs, of Madisonville, (left) and Hopkinsville resident Niecy Hillis share a laugh during a recent Facebook live broadcast of their inspirational talk show "Girlfriends of Grace." The program, which broadcasts at 1 p.m. each Wednesday, is designed to help women specifically cope with life issues by addressing them using the word of God.

Filled with a passion for helping others, Hopkinsville resident Niecy Hillis and Shellie Cheirs of Madisonville reach out to the community through an hourlong, inspirational talk show every week on social media.

"Girlfriends of Grace" broadcasts at 1 p.m. each Wednesday via Facebook Live. The program is designed to help women specifically cope with life issues using the word of God.

"How do you incorporate what you read, what you know from the word into your everyday life in a really practical way?" Cheirs said.

"We have a passion for helping and teaching others to navigate life with the Bible, their relationship with God," Hillis said. "We love talking and we love people. We both wanted to do a talk show. We've been talking about doing it for a long time. Finally, we just said, 'We're going to do it.' "

During the talk show, Hillis and Cheirs share their personal testimonies with viewers while referencing the Bible, inspirational books and podcasts in their discussions.

"For me, it's being able to see God's power to change you. Life happens to everybody," Cheirs said. "I started out in the street as the girl who wasn't wanted, on drugs and everything you can imagine. I want people to know there's nothing great about me, but there's something great about my God."

A friendship

The talk show hosts first met when Hillis attended a budgeting seminar Cheirs was leading at church.

"We just hit it off from there. Our relationship just blossomed from friends to she's like a big sister to me," Hillis said. "She's very knowledgeable. I admire her because she's a woman of faith. She's a minister too, but she lives congruently (with) what she teaches and preaches. It's no variation. She's the same all the time."

At the time, Hillis had been going through some life changes and struggling to find the answers. She turned to Cheirs for help.

"When I met Niecy, it was almost like she wanted to be somebody different than who she was," Cheirs said. "I had just come out of a very broken place in my own life. Whenever we met, she was where I had come from. My heart really just broke for her. I really had a lot of compassion because I remember not finding a lot of real people for me. I do believe God just formed a sisterhood. I do believe it was a divine connection."

The broadcast

Both women of faith and mothers, Hillis and Cheirs bonded over the Bible, common interests and life experiences.

Cheirs said she suffered from depression for several years.

"I was a Christian and the people around me could not tell me how to get out, how to get help," she said. "I knew God enough that I knew that's not what He wanted for my life. He was the answer. It took almost two years to walk out of that place (of depression) with him."

A single parent, Hillis said she has been on welfare and lived in Section 8 and public housing.

"I can relate to a lot of the struggles," she said. "My job, I feel like, is to help other women to know that you don't have to stay stuck where you're at. God sent Jesus so we could have life and life more abundantly. I always wanted to know what that abundant life was about. I had to crawl out of the mud to get to where I'm at now. I still have a way to go, but I know that in telling my story it will help other women."

Their interests and desire to help others evolved into "Girlfriends of Grace." Broadcasts started in May.

"I didn't realize that grace is the invisible power of God to help me in my everyday life," Cheirs said. "Once I got a hold of that, everything changed. It was my heart's mission to share with our other girlfriends."

Both Hillis and Cheirs have some media experience. Hillis worked for a time at the Kentucky New Era. A Murray State University graduate with an electronic journalism degree, Cheirs was a former news director at WKAG-TV 43.

"I enjoyed television. I went to school to be Oprah," Cheirs said, smiling. "Life has changed and the desires have changed, but I still enjoy helping people."

Today, Cheirs is a counselor and owner of Caris Counseling and Behavioral Health Group in Madisonville. Hillis is an apartment manager at Woodland Heights Apartments in Hopkinsville.

Cheirs said "Girlfriends of Grace" gives her the opportunity to discuss some of life's puzzling questions.

"Life hasn't been easy for either one of us," Cheirs said. "Life can devastate you if you let it. How do you allow the Lord to let you bounce back? How do you allow the Lord to allow you to become resilient or to see the good when everything around you looks bleak and bad? How do you trust that good is coming?"

Hillis said she participates in the live talk show to pay it forward.

"The reason I put myself out there is because of people like Shellie who have helped me," Hillis said. "I was stuck and had no clue what to do. I struggled with basic coping skills. I prayed a lot of times for help. I try to give back."

In one of their recent broadcasts, the spiritual sisters shared their thoughts about the topic, "People-Pleasing Problems."

"Women struggle with that," Cheirs said. "They struggle with what people think about them. We struggle with (the fact) that we can't be everything to everybody ... How do you let yourself off the hook as a woman and not feel bad for not being superwoman?"

To tune in to their talk show, search for "Girlfriends of Grace" on Facebook and request to join the group.

"Helping people to know if you want something different in life, it's obtainable. There's things obtainable in God," Cheirs said. "I want to help people to have a different life than the life they're living. That's my heart. That's what I love to do. I love to see people's lives change."

Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or mvowell@kentuckynewera.com.

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