I’m Like Them

“We misunderstand God altogether if we think He deals coarsely with our souls.”
Henry Drummond

My journey through Lent this week has given me new thoughts on old stories. The stories were part of the daily devotions from Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter. I revisited the story of Jesus driving the merchants out of the temple for buying and selling there.

Am I like the merchants?

I reread the story of Thomas who declared that “unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” John 20:25

Am I like Thomas?

The story of Peter is another one. Not only did Peter fall asleep in the garden when Jesus asked he and his other friends to keep watch but he denied he knew him. Peter turned his back on the very One he confessed as the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Am I like Peter?

Yes. I’m like them.

How many times have I tried trading with God….tried to get something from God in exchange for my faith or good deeds? “Look what I’m doing God. I’m serving and giving and studying. I’m working hard for You. Now bless me. Make my life comfortable and give me what I want.”

I’ve been the one not believing….not trusting until I can see. “Show me Lord, then I’ll trust You.”

My denial doesn’t look the same as Peter’s but I’ve turned my back on the One who loves me with an everlasting love. By not following Him. By not loving others. By withholding forgiveness. By causing others to feel less than.

But God doesn’t deal coarsely with our souls.

God is kind when He reminds me that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

God is patient when I have doubts and fears. As Jesus did for Thomas, in His mercy He will give me the “grace of interior vision, the gift of the opening of the heart, and of its surrender.”

God is tender with me when I’ve turned my back. It was Jesus who turned to look at Peter as he was denying him for the third time. (Luke 22:61) There wasn’t judgment in Jesus’ eyes. There was love.

And I am thankful for His kindness.

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”  Romans 2:4

For more thoughts on our Lenten journey visit my friend, Joy, at her website A Life-Giving Moment.

Confess

Against the Odds

My parents’ story is an “against the odds” kind of story. They were like the rest of us, trying to make it the best they knew how. Learning to make a life, raise kids, work their jobs, and have fun while doing it. They got it right sometimes but they got it wrong other times.

I don’t hold the wrong parts against them.

We’re all learning as we go. Not one of us has it all figured out. Still we wake up each day, try again, and maybe do better than we did yesterday. But we don’t give up and we don’t give in to the idea that it will never change or that we’ll never learn. We keep at it. Sure we go through trials, we have pain and sorrow and bad things happen. But by the grace of God we make do with what we’ve learned so far.

And we forgive. Then our hearts are softened and all of the sudden we realize we see people differently. Even the ones that caused the pain.

Because you love people better when your heart is softer. And you’re better prepared for the next thing life throws at you. You’ve learned how to weep and laugh and do it with those who are weeping and laughing.

And at the end of your days, someone will say your story is an “against the odds” kind of story.

It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, and sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools-friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty-and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do’. And mostly, against all odds, they do.

                                                                              Anne Lamott

Abrupt

Full of Grace

This is grace.

So is this.

img_2790

094

And this.

It’s the beauty of a pale blue sky or a fiery orange sunrise.

It’s your feet in the sand. And a love note. And a really good hug.

It’s evident within the intricate design of nature.

img_3993

You see it in the eyes of children and hear it in the laughter of friends.

It’s the snowy white of a cotton field ready for picking. Or the blackest of nights with a million glimmering stars.

And when you catch a glimpse of a shooting star streaking across the sky you’ve experienced it.

You can smell it when breakfast is cooking and taste it in a homemade chocolate sheath cake.

You feel it when you remember a time long ago that makes you smile.

It’s every single breath you take.

We are surrounded by grace.

We just have to pay attention.

The 2016 Rundown

I look forward to 2017 with even greater anticipation than I did 2016. And 2016 didn’t disappoint. It was a wonderful year of growth and I did a lot of new things. In one of my January posts, titled Rising, I reflected on the amazing things I saw because I made a change and decided to do something new.

Some of the “first evers” for me in 2016:

  • Ate the Paleo Diet for 12 weeks
  • Ran an 8K in May
  • Ran the Spartan Race in Nashville in August
  • Ran a 10K in October

I chose to take on these physical challenges and have learned from all of them. Mostly I learned the importance of training and doing it with others. There’s something special about being part of a group working together toward a tough common goal. I wrote about it in my post Together.

There were more new things for my family in 2016. In February we moved from our home of 13 years into my newly renovated childhood home. Our home is beautiful but there were some adjustments for us. We are no longer in a rural area and it interfered with my morning runs. I lost my running groove…..or so I thought. I just had to embrace the new and wrote about it in Embrace the New.

Throughout the year I continued issuing my Live Like it Matters Challenges but I wrote more than ever about my childhood and the legacy my parents left. Living in my childhood home has brought a flood of memories and it’s been a wonderful gift of healing, new perspective and renewed gratefulness. Some of those posts are Memory, Groundwork, Quitting, and Mama.

We went on our annual trip to the beach with many of our favorite people. It’s a special place and does our hearts good to be there. I highlighted it in my post This Place.

My son moving to Texas last year for a job, then moving to Colorado this year provided a lot of inspiration. His courage to take bold steps into the unknown is fascinating. We visited him in October and it was one of the best trips ever. I wrote several posts as a result of the trip: Possibility and Shine are two of them.

I was finally able to put into words some of the difficulties of 2013, 2014 and part of 2015. I’d start the posts, then stop. Try to start again, but no words. They just wouldn’t come. More times than not, something is worked out within me when I write and I knew I needed to write about these things. At last something broke inside of me and the words came for the first post called Linger. It took months for the other healing posts to happen but I found the words. I’ve received more comments on those posts than others because everyone has experienced loss, grief and heaviness. Those posts are called Gone and The Dark .

We had a great holiday season. We gathered with family and friends several times. On Thanksgiving I ran my 2nd Turkey Trot and significantly improved my time. Our son came home the first week of December so we celebrated Christmas with the extended family early. Christmas gets more and more special with each passing year.

God is good and 2016 has been full of blessings. But what God did within my own heart in 2016 is the most momentous. He has given me a clearer view of what’s important. I want to love extravagantly because that’s the way He loves me.

Now I will let Him teach me how to do it.

All-Time Favorites

Wonderfully Wild

When I was young I thought I knew exactly how I wanted my life to be. I dreamed and planned and prepared the best way I knew how.

Not that all of it was for nothing. It wasn’t. Plans are good. We should know where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.

But all the planning in the world can’t prepare you for the wonderfully wild life of love and grace and faith and hope.

 

In response to the Weekly Photo Challenge Bridge and the Daily Prompt Tame.

Overflowing

I sit here in wonder………….my heart overflowing with thankfulness.

Thankful to the Giver. The One who gives me all that I have.

Thankful to the One who turns it all into something good. My mistakes and rebellion, my faith and doubt, the joy and trials and all the pain, the good parts and the ugly ones too.

In wonder of the Heart Changer. He’s mending the broken places and softening the hardened ones.

Praising the One who loves extravagantly and is teaching me to do the same. Patiently.

He never gives up on me. He’s always with me.

Thank You God.

You are a good, good Father.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.            I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Quitting

The sound of the doorbell startled me. When I opened the door the man asked for Wayne. Before I answered him, the man asked if I knew him. He had a familiar smile but his face was aged and different. And the voice……..the voice was familiar too. For the next few seconds my brain tried to match a name with the kind face and his recognizable voice.

Before I could make the match he told me who he was. I was glad to see him and especially happy that he came by to see Daddy.

Daddy would have been thrilled for the visit. The man was shocked and saddened to hear that Wayne, my dad, had passed away. After he gave his condolences, we caught up.

It was a strange mixture of emotions…….remembering what was, learning what is, and trying to summarize thirty years of life in thirty minutes or so.

Then he asked the most amazing question. “Did your dad ever stop drinking?”

Oh how I wish he’d have known the man that Dad had become. The gracious man that cared for Mom so tenderly while working his job from his home office. The man that overflowed with generosity…….with his time and resources. The man that forgave so easily because he knew he’d been forgiven so much.

Daddy stopped drinking in 1990 or so. Never took another drink.

He quit to save his life.

His quitting saved our lives.

And who knows what else his quitting did. Whatever it did, it was good and right.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.          

                            1 Corinthians 15:10

Names

Salty

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV)

I don’t make the most of every opportunity. In fact I believe opportunities fly past me as I rush from place to place.

Jesus made the most of every opportunity. He noticed.

Everything.

Jesus would never avoid going down the cereal aisle when he saw your daughter’s friend’s mom coming from the other end.

Instead, Jesus would smile at her as he walked toward her. He would ask her how she was doing. Then Jesus would listen as he looked into her eyes. And he would be genuinely interested in what she was saying. Your daughter’s friend’s mom would leave knowing that she mattered. She would be so uplifted by that short but real conversation that she would go home and do the same for her family.

Then maybe her husband would do the same for his hurting co-worker the next day. And her teen aged daughter might reach out to a lonely classmate.

One conversation with Jesus can change everything.

What if I do the same? What if I take the time to notice? What would happen if I slowed down enough to see those around me. Not just see, but notice. Speak. Listen. Love.

It starts there. With the opportunities. At home. In the grocery store. At the salon. In your neighbor’s yard. At work or church.

imageBe salty. Not in the bitter, aggressive, sassy kind of way.

But in the way that brings out the best in others…..”seasoned with salt” as the verse says.

Someone needs you to see them.

Someone needs you to smile and say hello.

Someone needs you to listen.

Be salty and live like it matters.

Grace

“……and life itself is grace.” Frederick Buechner

What inspires me? I’ve pondered this and there are thousands of inspirations around me everyday. But the reason for those inspirations is grace.

Grace is why we have the things that inspire us.

How can a photograph capture the air in my lungs? Or the sound of laughter? Or adequately express the joy of new parents?

I can’t photo the warmth of a campfire or truly capture the awe inspired by star-gazing.

The mystery of marriage or the connection of friendship can’t be photographed. Neither the triumph of victory or the “coming through” of a dark season of life or the endurance of someone suffering physical or emotional pain.

Or love. The kind that transforms us and causes us to want to be better than we are. The kind that is so deep and high and wide.

It’s grace.

And the One who created all of it is the grace-giver. He is why we enjoy every good thing. He’s the mountain maker and the One who fills the oceans. He made every living creature on land and in the seas.

He gives us rainbows and roses. He gives us Dads and dandelions, sisters and seashells, babies and ponies. The moon and blue moons, too.

He’s the One breathing life into each one of us. The One who loves us, came down to us, and died for us.

That’s grace.

Grace is here. Now. All around us.

IMG_1980

God, Creator of the heavens – he is, remember, God – Maker of earth –
He put it on it foundations, built it from scratch.
He didn’t go to all that trouble to just leave it empty, nothing in it.
He made it to be lived in.             Isaiah 45:18 (MSG)

In response to The Daily Post’s Profound.