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, as well. My mind is too weak. 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 up like no other. It is because of this I am led through the Holy Spirit’s power to never stop striving to love as He loves me.

Where did our villages go?

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Yesterday morning our power went out. Literally, a minute later I received a phone call from Luke’s school. He had been to the health room twice with complaints of not feeling well. Luke is very much a “I’m fine” kind of person, much like his mom in that aspect. I picked him up from school expecting the worst. Having a sick kid is not fun. Having a sick kid when you have no power equals a nightmare.

I’m not going to lie, I was a bit anxious and “woe is me” for a bit. I brought him home and he was feeling okay. So, I waited for the moment his stomach pain would return. I soon found out power would not be returning any time soon due to high winds. It was time to prepare for the day and night.

Since Luke was feeling okay at the time, I told him we had to go to the store for a few things but to let me know if he started to feel bad and we would get home asap. There was a different feel to the store. Workers were standing by the door because the winds were preventing the doors from opening on their own.  Other workers were outside helping people load up their bags so the carts wouldn’t roll away. People were speaking more to each other. People were helping each other. I know the workers had to help more, but it was as though their spirits were lifted doing so. It showed in their sincere smiles and in their words. It showed in the way their faces lit up when they received thanks for their going the extra mile.

We got home and Luke was still feeling okay. Still, I was waiting for him to get sick. He wanted to help prepare for the night and I decide to just let him. He stepped up like a little man and together we gathered our supplies. He replaced batteries in flashlights, cleared space for our sleeping quarters by the fireplace, and broke up sticks for extra kindling. He didn’t complain once. He joyfully helped me out, just as the workers at the store helped us out.

We picked Oliver up from school and the same thing happened to Oliver. He wanted to help and he did so joyfully. After our work was done I started a fire. Then we talked and played board games until Matt got home from work. When Matt got home, he fired up the grill and made some chicken as the sun went down. We lit candles and settled in for the night. Our dinner was simple and peaceful. After dinner, the boys told a couple shadow puppet stories and they drifted off to sleep. Oliver woke up once during the night and had a hard time settling back down, but he did eventually. Overall, things went better than expected.

This morning when our power came back on, I got a little sad. I know, roll your eyes all you want. The thing is, I loved the simplicity. I loved being unplugged from our regular lives for a day. It felt more authentic. More importantly, I saw the village we have forgotten about.

In our lives, there are many comforts and luxuries. We are lucky to have them. My husband is a hard worker and he takes such good care of us, and I am not ungrateful in any way. It is just, with all of our comforts and luxuries we have become a little too self- sufficient. We don’t need each other as much. Or at least we pretend we don’t. Seeing how obviously people were joyfully helping each other shows how much we do still need our villages. Why does it take high winds, no power, and uprooted trees to remember that?

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The Truth

I am a Christian.  That may mean nothing to you. To me it means everything. I am a Christian in the sense that it truly defines me.  It defines me as much as the fact that I am Stacy. A female who was born to Max and Mary. A sister to Tony and Jason. A wife to Matt. A mom to Luke and Oliver. It is who I am and there is nothing in this world that can strip me away from who I am.

I understand how others view some Christians. Sometimes it is hard to live out the faith I feel because I fear rejection from others. I love people and I love when people like me. It will always be a struggle. I like peace and I love to connect with people. When someone I am close to (or was close to) starts attacking my faith, my very truth, sometimes I hide and other times I get angry and defensive. I am human.

Human. That about hits (actually slams) the nail on the head. I think most misunderstandings about Christians stem from the fact people forget we are human as well. You cannot separate the two. Humans are sinners whether they believe in God or not. Believers and non-believers are more alike than some Christians want to admit. That is where Christians need to change if they want others to see and feel their truth. Part of loving your neighbor as yourself has to start with seeing our common bonds. What separates us is not our lifestyle, our political beliefs, our morals, and definitely not our deeds. What separates us is our faith in Christ. It is in our knowing Jesus died on the cross for our sins of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

A few months back, I got a little down. I felt as though being a Christian nowadays was not as easy as it was before. So much has changed, even in the last few years. We are faced with issues we never had to unless it was an issue someone close was dealing with. You know, unless we were forced to. We could easily live our lives in our own little naive bubbles. Not anymore.

It has taken this last few months of praying, reading the Bible, and listening to differing opinions (which I love to do) to see what a great time it is to be a Christian. I was feeling fear over all the separation in our nation and between our brothers and sisters in Christ. Now all I feel is inspired. We are being forced out of our bubbles. We are being forced out of our church as a whole, out of our denominations, out of our individual churches. Everything is out in the air and our church doors cannot remain shut to them any longer.

I think we all got too comfortable. We all got too settled in our traditions, in our “style” of worship. Why should we even care about the style of worship. You know what I mean?  We stopped seeing and listening to each other. We got too busy counting the number of members and remembering who missed one Sunday morning that we stopped loving our neighbors-the ones sitting next to us in church and the ones who have never walked through the doors of our church. I think that has resulted in people permanently leaving the church and people choosing to never enter. Sad.

Like I said, we are being forced to face all of the issues we have ignored in the past. It is a good thing. Now we have a great opportunity. No, it is better than great. It is tremendous opportunity and really a responsibility (as well) to show the world what it really means to be a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N…and what it means to have C-H-R-I-S-T  in our H-E-A-R-T’S. We need to be the light of the world, not just the light in our bubbles.

Exciting, isn’t it?

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My little old soul…

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I’ve been a bit shaken up the last few days.  Our dog, who is very much a part of our family, almost died. There’s still a chance he will not recover. So far, though, he’s doing well and tolerating everything as well as could be expected.

Long story short, Ranger had a lot of different things going on. He was prescribed some anti inflammatory medicine and had severe adverse reactions to it. He ended up becoming septic and needed abdominal surgery. There are many more details I have left out, but that is the gist of it.

This morning, Oliver and I went up to see him.  Oliver wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up and so I had to explain what all the tubes and etc. were for. He was very careful with our dog and gently pet his head. Then he checked out the other dogs and asked different questions about them. He was simply fascinated with the entire Animal Hospital.

Once we got home, we talked more about Ranger and reminisced over some Ranger stories.  We looked at pictures. We smiled and laughed, but then my laughter turned to tears. I suddenly got overwhelmed and couldn’t help it.

My sweet Oliver looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said, “Mommy, please don’t cry. Crying comes from fears you haven’t faced. Face your fear and pray. You need to pray, Mommy. That’s what you do.”

I shook my head. “How are you so wise at the age of four?”

Oliver just smiled. He amazes me. He is wise and kind and creative. At such a young age, he always points to God in the little and big things of life. My goodness, I love my little old soul.

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Rise and Love Through His Love

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I run to the masses. My march falls into the rhythms of this noisy world. The chaos consumes my weary soul. It never fails. I end up tripping over my own feet. So, I watch as the world marches on. I am left behind. I get lonely.

Then He reminds me…I am never alone.

I lie in His pasture. I bask in His presence. I soak up His peace. I build my strength. He tells me to rise. He tells me to go.

Again, I run to the masses. This time, I march to His beat. I am alongside the world, but not in its midst. His power works through me. I plant seeds. I am shade for those who need rest. I am whatever He needs me to be. I tell my story, I tell His story.

We will always fall, but His pasture is always there for us when we do. Because of His unfailing love, we have the strength to rise and love through His love.