All About That Grace (‘Bout That Grace)

image“Oliver, please stop talking about this stuff,” Luke pleaded.

Oliver rolled his eyes, looked at me and replied, “What do you think someone like me is going to talk about? Oooh look at this food. It is so good. Haha, I’m not going to talk about stuff like that!” 

“Yea, Oliver. We all know you only like talking about deep stuff,” I said laughing.

Luke then rolled his eyes and said some sarcastic remark. You know, the usual big brother remark. We all laughed because what Luke said was actually pretty funny. A sense of humor is the one common bond we all have in this house. Luke and Oliver are polar opposites when it comes to conversational topics. Oliver can talk about deep subjects for hours on end. Luke likes to move on after a bit and keep things light. Luke gets weary from thinking too much and Oliver gets exhilarated from thinking too much.  You get my point.

Oliver finished his snack and then came over and sat on the couch next to me. “Mommy, we sure have talked about some good stuff today. Haven’t we? We talked about Jesus. Then Heaven. Then…”

Something Oliver had talked about got me thinking about something that always weighs heavy on me. He wanted to know why everyone doesn’t believe in Jesus. Why do people believe in different things? What exactly is it that other people believe in? I love to counter him with other questions. So, I asked him what we should do if we have a friend who has different beliefs. Do we stop being friends with them? His response was awesome. He said no, not at all. You should be even nicer to them.

Grace, give them grace.

It was a proud momma moment, but it was also a good reminder to myself. I’m telling you, my kids point me back to Christ with their childlike faith! I love it. Anyhow, back to my point. Christianity is all about that grace. That’s what sets us apart. We can tell people the difference between right and wrong. We can post scripture on Facebook. We can tell them to go to church and get involved. We can wear our ‘Jesus Loves Me’ t-shirts. We can do everything we feel Christians should do. But, if we are not ending everything we do and say with explaining and showing the power of God’s grace, we are failing terribly. I am failing terribly.

We are not just failing, we are driving people away from the beauty of the cross––the one thing we all yearn for and need. God loves us so much that he offers us grace powerful enough to work through us despite the fact that we will always fall short. Good stuff, isn’t it?

Next time I want to differentiate between right and wrong…next time I want to post scripture…next time I want to invite someone to church…next time I want to show or display my Christianity, I will end it with what every imperfect human needs to hear. Why? Because it’s all about that grace (’bout that grace).

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23-24)

 

 

Easy like Sunday Morning

bible-1031288_1920I’m easy like Sunday morning…

That song popped up in my head this morning. I guess it goes to show how much sarcasm is simply wired in my brain. Oh boy, at least I make myself laugh. ‘Cause let me tell you, this lovely Sunday morning started out as anything but easy.

My youngest had a hard time staying in his Sunday school class. We eventually bribed him. Mom of the year award, right? He eventually walked in the classroom and plopped on the floor with his arms crossed. Just as sarcasm flows through my veins, stubbornness flows through Oliver’s. At least he isn’t crying, I thought and off I went to meet Matt to head to our bible class. After I checked on him a couple more times, that is.

After dealing with that, we weren’t eager to get to class. We went, of course. It took a few minutes and a few deep breaths to be able to focus. The subject was on slowing down, something I actually just blogged on recently. Gotta love the way God reinforces things for us. There is something about slowing down that sometimes leads us to feel guilty. We shouldn’t, but it’s as though we feel we can’t say no. We feel like we are being lazy if our calendars aren’t filled to the brim. Anyway, the leader even had all of us stop and sit silently for a full minute. Powerful to think of a room full of adults in complete silence.

After class and before worship started, Matt whispered how he was glad we went to class this morning. I nodded and added how funny it is that Satan works hard on those Sunday mornings when you really need to hear something. Satan sure is a jerk!

Like I have said before. Don’t just turn to God. Turn away to God. Turn away from the busyness, the distractions, and all the other noise of this world. When we don’t stop and sit at the feet of Jesus––when we don’t stop and study His word––just think of what we are really missing. His still small voice is what we are missing and that is what we need more than anything in this crazy world.

Without the Black and White

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I remember the first time I watched the Wizard of Oz. My mom was excited to have all of her children old enough to watch one of her favorite movies. My brothers and I sat on the floor in front of the tv, my parents on the couch, and all of us chomping on popcorn. Remember the aluminum foil pan popcorn? That was the ish back then. Anyhow, I could barely sit still when I heard the MGM lion roar. The movie started and… it was black and white? I had to sit through an old black and white movie?

My mom told us to just watch and pay attention. It would be amazing, she said. I trusted her and I also knew whining would just get me sent to bed. So, I waited. Dorothy opened the door and the beautiful colors captured me. I remember my mom’s giggle as she listened to us kids ooh and aah. It was a magical moment.

It became an annual tradition to watch the Wizard of Oz. Back then, we didn’t have On Demand. We had to wait until it came back on television. Now, we don’t know anything about the excitement of waiting like we did back then. I remember when we recorded it for the first time. I could watch it whenever I wanted. Woohoo, right? I thought so until I watched it a few times and the family tradition faded. The fun in waiting ended. I learned the magic isn’t so magical without the waiting.

As a kid, I never fully appreciated Good Friday. It wasn’t a nice day to think about. Jesus having to die was sad, it wasn’t exciting. It was like the beginning of the Wizard of Oz. All I wanted was for the door to open. I wanted the beautiful color, not the black and white. I wanted to hear about Jesus rising from the dead. I was a kid so I would be lying if I didn’t also admit I wanted the Easter egg hunt, the pretty dress, and the candy (of course). All I wanted was the magic, not the things leading up to the magic.

I now love Holy Week. I love the reflection and the humility it brings. I always try to carry the beauty of the “black and white” into the “technicolor” and the days beyond. It is easily my favorite week of the year. It sort of snuck up on me this year, though. Tuesday, I kept thinking of how I wanted it to slow down. I wanted to feel the waiting a little bit longer.

It wasn’t until Wednesday night during my class that I felt my usual Holy Week feelings. I told the kids we were going to have a (sort of) Last Supper together. They were excited to say the least. It took them a bit to calm down and I almost thought it wasn’t going to work out.

They did calm down. I read the verses as we talked about how it must have felt to be there. How did Judas feel? Peter? Jesus? We passed out bread. We talked about what it meant. We ate. I poured grape juice. We talked about what it meant. We drank. They were engaged. The verses were familiar to them and of course they started talking about communion. We talked about the steps they need to take in our church to participate in communion when they are older. I got my Holy Week feeling back. Funny how teaching has a way of helping me as well. I guess it goes to show why it is important to use your unique gifts and talents.

Even as an adult I try to rush to the magic at times. I have to remind myself to stop and trust God. I look back and see the beauty in the steps leading up. I thank God for the steps leading up––no matter how hard they may be at the time.

Without the blood shed on the cross, we can have no salvation. Without the black and white, we would not have the color. It is the same with life. We must not rush to get to the color. We have to wait and see and feel the beauty in the black and white. It is only then that we can see and feel the true beauty and magic in the color.

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This is a painting I had my class do on Wednesday night after our lesson. This was my son’s. I loved the colors each kid chose. I loved seeing the anticipation they felt waiting to see their finished project. I especially loved their smiles when I oohed and aahed at their work. 

This Thing Called Grace

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I think of the crushing weight that pressed on His beautiful soul. The beauty He held, I can never fully grasp. I try to comprehend. I close my eyes and picture the cross. I picture the events leading up. I skim over the hard parts. My body clenches at the very thought of trying to endure even one lashing. The driven nails are pulled out by my selfish need to fend off pain before it ever really begins.

The purpose of His dying was so I could be free from the yoke. Yet, there are times I forfeit the lightness that was so freely given to me. Why do I trample on my clean soul? Why do I worry, I fear, and I forget?  I hold a beautiful opened gift and I sometimes wrap it back up and tuck it away for a rainy day. Maybe not always, maybe not as much as I used to, maybe not as much as others…but enough to feel the chains that bind.

Now, here’s the thing that gets me every time. I do not need to shed any blood or endure any of what He did. I do not need to earn His love or His approval. All I need is faith. He sees me as me. Not as the world portrays me to be…not what I portray me to be either. He…loves…me.

Whenever I tuck this thing called grace away, he gently helps me unwrap it. He reminds me of my worth. He places His finger under my chin and lifts my head. It is because of this I am led to never stop striving to love as He loves me.

My Garden

IMG_1821In this life, faith is a never ending journey. I love that it is. I reflect on where I was and where I am going…and I am astounded by the power of the Holy Spirit. Lord knows I could never have done any of this on my own. I try to peek through the present to imagine where I will be five years from now. Will I be where I am now?  Will I have taken a few steps back? Or will I be more mature than I could possibly imagine?

I feel as though I am currently in a lonely stage of my faith. Wait? Aren’t Christians supposed to walk alongside each other?  Yes, I believe we are. I also believe sometimes He sets us apart to be alone in our own Garden of Gethsemane. Our puny sense of garden can never compare to Jesus’.  Maybe, though, it goes to show our sufferings should bring us to our knees in thanksgiving and thus strengthen us for our own crosses we bear. Our crosses, in comparison to His, are like feathers gently tickling our backs.

This morning, I was driving to the gym.  I was exhausted from yesterday, a horribly stressful day. Our dog had a medical emergency and almost died. Seriously, we skipped church to take him to the emergency vet.  You know we do not take missing church lightly here in this household.  But, like my sweet Oliver said, “It’s okay we missed to church.  Ranger needed us to and that was more important this time.”  Our dog is stable as of right now, but boy oh boy talk about wiped!

Rein it back in, Stace.  

So, I was exhausted but forced myself to go workout. On my way, loose prayers were running through my head.  I saw a group of three ladies running along the path together and thought how nice it would be to have that in my life. So, I started praying for a good friend to come along in my life. I feel as though I need someone close by.  I am someone who loves people and friends, but more I love having that one friend. My introverted self needs that one friend to lean on. I especially miss that with my faith journey right now. I’ve missed that in my life for quite a while. I do have awesome friends and don’t feel lacking in love, it is just I sometimes need more closeness than a group can provide. Make sense?

I know, I’ll never be close to a true Garden of Gethsemane moment. Right now, though, I feel as close as I ever could or ever have in the past. I feel weight and it is making me tired.  I see people asleep. Just like Jesus wanted the disciples to be awake, I want people to rise from their slumber. He urged them to pray so they would not enter into temptation. He wanted what was best for them. He wanted the will of God to be done. But, they couldn’t carry it through at the time and fell asleep. He was only a stones throw away, but yet alone. He had to be.  I can feel His humanity in that moment, can’t you?

We aren’t all meant to be awake at the same times or in the same ways. Although, I do yearn for someone to connect with where I am in my journey, I realize it is okay to be alone sometimes. God knows why I must be.

The deity of Jesus separates me from ever relating to the full power of the garden. The cup he wanted taken from His hands, I can never feel the full weight of. What had to happen, no human could ever endure. It had to be the Son of God; it could only be the Son of God. I try to place myself in His journey, only a sliver I can feel.

By the grace of God, my garden is but a speck of dirt, my nails are merely annoying splinters, and my cross a feather. My garden is my time with God. It strengthens me for times in my journey I must go it alone. Well, not really alone because He is always wth me. Duh.

 

 

Never Apart

bible-1031288_1920The Word was once just a book.

It contained truth and knowledge.

It told me how to live and love.

It was something to study and put to practice.

And it was good.

But that all changed.

The words began to stir and come to life.

One by one they sharpened.

One by one they pierced my soul.

No longer did I want to depict the world’s eye view of it.

I saw the significance of the Law.

I saw the significance of the Gospel.

I saw how they can never be torn apart.

Because one without the other is simply not enough.

You can be doing it all right and still be wrong.

It is only with Him, not on our own, that we realize…

The Word shows His love.

It is grace bestowed upon us through His blood.

Without it, there is no salvation.

Without it, there is no freedom.

It is what opens our hearts to the law and changes us from within.

See, the Gospel without the Law is just a pile of words.

You or me without both are just a pile of flesh and bones.

It is the Law together with the Gospel that sets us apart from the world.

It is both.

Death

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I’m dying.

The air doesn’t fill my lungs…

as it did in the past.

My body aches.

Every step I take is slower.

I hear a voice.

I reach out.

All I feel is empty space.

Empty promises.

I close my eyes and pray.

His Word fills the emptiness.

I let out my last breath.

I am free.

New air fills my lungs.

The pain is gone.

My path is clear.

My steps are boundless.

This truth is where…

my peace is found.

I no longer live,

it is He who lives in me.

Through the power,

through His endless love.

I am brought back to life,

time and time again.

Caution: Road Block Ahead

imageMy normal twenty-minute trip of taking Oliver to school took me about 45 minutes this morning. Even my alternative route was closed.  So I had to go another way, then another, and another. I got home and made myself a cup of coffee before I took off again to go shopping…by myself. Any parent knows the joy it brings to shop alone. I cannot tell you the frustration I felt when I looked out my window and saw my road was blocked. Yep, I live on the corner of a court with no other way out. I felt trapped and completely ticked.

All I could think of was how the construction is messing with my life and plans.  

I took a few deep breaths and then sat in my favorite chair. My 72 pound lap dog jumped up on my lap and nestled in. Ranger’s drowsy eyes looked up at me before his big wrinkly head landed on my hand. He loudly exhaled and then closed his eyes.  Within a minute he was snoring.

Apparently my dog was quite pleased with the construction that led to my being trapped. I rubbed his head with my free hand and began to relax. I realized I probably needed my dog and favorite chair more than I needed shopping. I began to sip my coffee and my thoughts carried me away.  I wish I could say they carried me away from construction, but it was not so.

It dawned on me how easily we become frustrated with road blocks. Sometimes it is all we think about.  Sometimes it trickles down into every aspect of our lives.

I’m not speaking the literal sense of a road block. I’m sure you’ve already picked up on that, though. You may even be nodding you head and are thinking of a situation in your own life. You are ready to move on. You want to go where you think/know you want/need to go, but you just can’t get there for because of the stinking road block.

Presently, I do not have any major road blocks. At least none I am aware of. I can recall the ones I’ve had in the past. I remember the frustration. I remember the only if’s. Only if…then my life would be better. I could accomplish more. I could be a better mom, spouse, friend, or whatever. I could be more faithful.  I could be more…

What we fail to see is the significance of the road block. God needs for us to stop so He can do the construction needed within us and around us. He is the one who knows the best path. We need to trust Him when He takes us on unexpected or inconvenient ways.

Amazing how with just a twist of perspective, the meaning of trapped and inconvenienced transforms into our ever-loving God fixing and beautifying us and our path called life.

To Stay Afloat

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I have always wanted to buy an old house to fix  up.  Old houses have character that a newer house cannot compete with.  That probably will never happen, but a girl can dream, you know. It isn’t just houses, anything old excites me.  I don’t know how to describe it.  I think it started as a child.  We lived in this old farmhouse. I remember the creaky wooden steps. I remember the floors, the cabinets, the built in shelves, the scary basement. I remember the old barns we would explore and play in.  I remember all the little details that most people would overlook.

My love for old things carried on through the years.  I blame mostly my dad for this love of old things. He would buy wooden boats.  We would spend the winter fixing them up. It was hard work.  Me being the smallest, I was always given the job of climbing down by the engine.  I had to pull out the leaves and whatever else was down there.  I don’t miss that part.  My favorite part was redoing the cabin.  Sanding, staining, and varnishing the wood was fun to me.  I felt as though it was our living room of the boat. I am all about making things feel comfortable. My brothers were more into the exterior part. The things that made the boat float.  My dad taught us how to work hard.  Our boats showed us, literally, how hard work pays off.  Putting the boat in the water for the first time and wondering if it will stay afloat.  When it did…aah…what an amazing feeling!

I think of life much like I do of old wooden boats.  You need to put work into it to stay afloat.  Think about a time when you let things go.  Those cracks in whatever area of life you let go start holding in water and then eventually you feel as though you are sinking. You grab your bucket and start throwing the water out, but the water keeps filling back up. What you really need to do is fix the cracks.  In order to do that, you may need to pull your boat out of water.  Sometimes all you need to use is a sealant. Other times you need replace some of the wood as well.

Spiritual life is the same.  I think that is where many people get confused.  You don’t need to earn your salvation. Jesus did the work for you. But you do need to do some work if you want your faith to grow. What happens when you fall out of prayer and you slide away from reading His word? You will start sinking right back into the world and worldly thinking.

We need to protect ourselves from the exterior things that wear us down and we need to protect ourselves from the things (sin) within ourselves as well. As christians we need to continuously seal and repair our cracks so we can stay afloat. The more afloat we become, the more we can help others stay afloat and see the love of Christ.

Best Delivery Ever!

I have just had a rough day today.  I can’t or don’t even want to explain it. There is so much on my mind and just too much going on that has worn me down.  (Insert crazy face.)  I don’t even know.  I hate complaining and I hate talking about these things.  Sometimes I feel I don’t have the right person to talk to.  I have people that I trust…but sometimes I don’t want to burden them.

I went to bible study this morning and usually that gives me peace.  Not today.  No, all I wanted to do is leave.  I never feel that way.

Then, there’s the kid who is having a rough time adjusting to summer.  I truly think I need to make a schedule for him.  Maybe that would give him the sense of order he needs. He gets himself in trouble.  He doesn’t act like himself when there is any change.  I guess that is something I will always struggle with when it comes to him because I am the complete opposite.  I can adapt to change like a champ.  Maybe I need to start meeting him in the middle more.

I feel like lately I have been saying, “Ugh life!” way too often.  You know, this happened to this person and that is happening to that person is all I keep hearing.  I know it will all pass.  It is just it feels like it all happens at the same time!

So, I ordered new shoe racks and they arrived today. Exciting isn’t it? The boys always love playing with boxes like all kids do.  Today they played delivery man.  First up was Luke hiding in the box, then Oliver, and then crayons.  When they told me I had one last delivery, I figured it would be something like dirty socks or something.  They assured me it would be the best delivery ever.  It really was the best delivery ever––my bible.  Needless to say, my mood changed instantly.

Life is going to be life.  Things get rough, busy, overwhelming, sad, irritating, and so on. But then we get these little moments that remind us of the best delivery ever. We don’t even need to pay for this delivery, well maybe you do need to pay for a bible…it isn’t ok to steal. But what is free is his love. He is always there for us and His word is always there to turn to.

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