Tag Archive for grace

New Year’s Resolutions for the rest of us.

This post is for women who can barely get ready in the morning without littles banging on the bathroom door, for the mom who is nursing a baby and trying to train toddlers, the one who can barely eat a meal while it’s warm without an interruption.

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This post is for the mature woman who is caring for an aging parent  whose days are more like one continual stretch, dotted by doctors appointments and scares at the ER.

This post is for all of us who are caregivers by choice and nature, whose days and schedules are not our own.

This post is for all of us who want to make New Year’s resolutions but who are too scared or too realistic to try anything “big” because big dreams require chunks of time and we don’t have that right now.

Me? I’m in a season of homeschooling and carpooling and caring for a just-turned-3 foster son whose needs are ever evolving and whose care consumes most of my days. So setting anything but the most basic goals is not a realistic option for me.

As Katherine Brooks pessimistically replied to Anne of Green Gables hopeful ideas for her future–“Bend in the road? There’s no bend in my road. I can see it stretching out straight in front of me.”

If you’ve chosen a life of caring for others and your schedule is not your own, and there’s little to no “bend in your road”, and you’re feeling a little down about that, wondering if your life will matter, here are a few thoughts I’ve been processing myself, that I hope will encourage you.

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  1. Success is not defined solely by doing great things. Success is doing small, faithful things with great love.
  2. Success is not reserved for the woman with no boundaries or constraints on her life. Success is doing what you can with what you have. Many of the greatest inventions were born out of need not abundance.
  3. Your quiet time may not be as quiet as you like, with toddlers on your lap or interruptions that you can’t avoid. Remember that Bible reading is only half of the equation. Meditation is the secret weapon that brings change and peace. So even if you’ve only got 5 minutes to read the Bible, you will benefit greatly by meditating on what you’ve read throughout the day. I try to write one truth on a 4″X6″ card to remind me of the verses I want to think about that day.

Reading is the exposure to the Scripture, but meditation is the absorption of the Scripture.

Donald Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life

When living your daily life, even when your time is not your own, you can still grow spiritually by asking this simple question before you act or react: “What will bring the most glory to God?”

Spiritual growth can happen no matter what our circumstances because God uses ordinary days to mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus.

  • So on the days when you feel like you have no control over your situation (kids sick, dog throwing up, money tight) ask, “What does the Bible say about this situation?”
  • When you are unsure about the future, ask “What truths about God do I know for certain?” and meditate on those.
  • When you are frustrated or feeling stuck, ask “What is God teaching me about contentment and godliness today?”

For all of us with no foreseeable bend in our road, we may not have grand goals or plans for the next year, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t set our heart to seek the “things which are above, where Christ is”. And isn’t this what true spirituality is all about? Seeking God’s will and glory faithfully, right where you are, trusting Him with every detail of your life?

Happy New Year, friends. May we all be faithful wherever we are and love God and others more in 2017.

Grace for the Mom Who Isn’t Enough

Wipe the counters. Empty the trash. Vacuum the rug. Make the coffee. Wash the cups. Fill the dishwasher. Empty the dishwasher. Change the laundry. Pick up Cheerios. Pick up Legos. Swiffer the floor. Change the diaper. Answer the phone. Fill the sippy cup. Check the mail. Write the check. Fold the laundry. Brush the teeth. Feed the cat.

Dizzying, this mother-life. Constant. Always moving, never seemingly making progress.

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Nothing will hit you with the stark reality that you are not enough like motherhood will. You quickly realize that you don’t have enough of anything–energy, time, organizational skills, wit, wisdom, patience, or maternal instinct– to parent these kids like you dreamed you would.

Our suspicions seem to be confirmed when we check social media and notice that our friend’s kids are wearing matching outfits and hairbows and they’re all “off” to ballet lessons. You notice your smiling friend seems to have the Kate Middleton blowout, and she’s clutching her coffee in neatly-manicured-hands.

And with every click, we are measuring ourselves and mentally keeping track of our deficiencies.

Click. Oh, she’s on a missions trip with her kids! Wow.

Click. Oh wow, they’re on vacation at that beautiful resort.

Click. What a sweet husband she has. He’s always sending her flowers and wisking her off for dinner. 

Click. Look at how amazing her decorating is. That house looks like it should be in a magazine!

Click. Oh, look at her surrounded by all her friends. They always have so much fun. I wish I had just one close friend like that.

Doesn’t social media feed the notion that everyone’s enough but you?

I had a day like this recently. I was going on day three of barely any sleep because my little guy was suddenly crying at night and needed to be rocked. I was also fighting sickness.

I pulled myself out of bed earlier than normal because my to-do list was long, poured myself an extra-large cup of coffee, plopped down on the couch and admitted to God, “Well, here I am. Completely overwhelmed before the day even begins, exhausted, moody, and ridiculous, but here for whatever I can get today.”

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I’ll admit to you right now that my flesh hates to come to God. I hate to admit that I’m needy. I feel like a beggar and who wants that? I want to be like my friends in the pictures who have it all together! But I’ve learned that my feelings are rarely truth. God tells us to come. He implores us to come! Because he wants to satisfy. He tells us to come with nothing in hand and be filled.

I love this paraphrase/commentary of Matt. 11:28-30

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG)

Bleary eyed and half-heartedly I read:

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

God’s power made perfect in the midst of my weakness.

Yes, please. That’s what I need.

When I agree with the Bible and admit that self-dependence is NOT a Christian virtue, nor the trait of a Spirit controlled woman, I can embrace these truths when I am depleted that give me hope:

I am never left to fend for myself and I am not parenting these kids alone.

God gives me exactly what I need in the moment. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want/lack.” He takes care of every one of my needs.

I do not need to conjure up the strength to do this thing right. I have God’s strength to cover my weakness.

God promises grace for today. I don’t need to worry about the tomorrows, because God doesn’t dole out grace for all.of.the.things I could ever worry about tomorrow. He deals in today.

No matter what I feel, God called me to parent these kids. This wasn’t a freak lottery. God is sovereign and in His wisdom, you are “it”, dear mother! Yes, you have inadequacies like we all do. Yes, you’ll struggle with issues your friends may seem to conquer with ease. But God does not call you to do something that He doesn’t equip you to do. While parenting is hard, we are not left comfortless. We have the Holy Spirit to cheer and guide our daily work.

My life doesn’t have to look like my friend’s life. God called me to this. He ordained my place and time. He wants me to rejoice and live it out!

Could it be that weakness is a gift? On those days when we are most aware of our own frailty and feel like a failure before we begin,

on the days when we are most vulnerable, is it then in those moments that Christ can work in us and through us in visible ways by the power of His might?

And isn’t it when we are the frailest that we’re also hyper-aware of His work in us and through us and we’re most prone to thank Him and give Him the glory?

So instead of beating yourself up for having limitations or for lacking ability, let’s give thanks for anything that causes us to press in to God and to rest in His sufficiency.

What is lacking in your life? Could it be that God will use that deficiency to keep you close to Him? Praise Him for it and rest in Him.

The Grace Table

Today I want to talk about one of my favorite topics, hospitality, and the concept of stewarding our homes as grace-giving spaces where others find favor and kindness under our roof (or in our presence) whether they deserve it or not. I want us to envision our kitchen tables as little hospitals, thus hospitality, dispensing grace like medicine to anyone God sends our way.

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I know that concept of hospitality can trigger stress. I know that. We immediately begin comparing and think of Martha Stewart. Though hospitality does include meeting the needs of others through work in a physical way, I want to assure you that a hospitable spirit is not something that we conjure up on our own. Rather, it’s the result of and the out-flowing of the unmerited gift of God’s abundant grace towards us. The word grace comes from the Greek charis, hence your kitchen table can become the grace table— the chari-table place for many acts of worship and service.

Here’s how it works: 

God —->freely gives us His unmerited grace—->we receive grace—->we respond to that grace—-> by freely give grace to others.

Grace begets grace.

I found it interesting in my study that another word stems from the Greek word for grace (charis)–the word gratitude. Have you ever noticed that the more alive to grace you are, the more humble you become and the more gratitude becomes your norm?

How can you do anything but PRAISE when you deserve death and hell by choice and action and instead get joint-heir status with the perfect, beloved Son of God? Completely justified. Just as if I’d never sinned. Just as if I’d always obeyed. Mind blowing and praise producing (gratitude!!) all wrapped up in one.

And when we forget what God has done, when we forget that we were the debtor who needed forgiveness, we set out to make our debtors pay. We set out to punish. We are blind, forgetting what kind of person we were. Complaining follows because ingratitude is always the response of someone who thinks they deserve more than they were doled out.

As Christians, God’s grace transforms our hearts, which transforms our speech, which gives us something worthwhile to say–words of gratitude to God– thanksgiving, praise, and glory-words that point others straight to Christ.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15

The sacrifice of thanksgiving—gratitude—the fruit of our lips.

Obviously, we are not under the Old Testament law, but this is a reference back to the OT sacrificial system, to what were known as “thank offerings”–purely voluntary offerings that could be made to show your heart felt gratitude for all the Lord has done in our lives. And this is what our praise is–voluntary acknowledgement of our great God.

Are you looking for opportunities to serve? Have you considered that you can become a conduits by which God’s grace flows through you to others who:

  • desperately need to see His goodness in an unkind world
  • don’t necessarily deserve or want our favor
  • oppose us
  • despite-fully use us
  • are unlovely and overlooked

Do you see people as sinners made in the image of God? Or do you judge them and categorize them, putting yourself on a little pedestal as you look down your nose at this different breed of sinner than you?

Do you see that heroine addict as a person made in the image of God who doesn’t know His love yet? Someone you might reach?

How about that homeless person? Do you assume all the worst about why he is where he is, or do you try to love him into the Kingdom of God, leading him by the hand?

As women, we have the unique opportunity to speak truth into the lives of other women who need hope and help. This can’t be done if God’s grace is not pulsing through your own spirit.

Our homes can have an impact, and they are one of the most underutilized tools in evangelism today. Invite someone in today.

If you have a kitchen table, or a coffee table, or a dorm room for that matter, I want to encourage you to use these things for the sake of the gospel. Your home can be a little chari-table spot, a bright light in this dark world where you can make a difference for Christ.

Hey, What Are You Looking At?

It’s that time of year.

We began our homeschool year this week and as I evaluate where each child is, the old tendency to compare surprises my heart yet again. Comparison is always a cruel tormentor:

Maybe we should have done that curriculum all along. Why is she struggling with these math facts? Did I use the wrong method? Did I not spend enough time with this child laying foundations? 

Panic creeps in as we compare our “right now” to some dreamed up version of what life must be like in the Joneses house.

The snare of compare. (pdf here)

Sometimes I wonder if the Lord feels like calling to me, HEY, What are you looking at?! Get your eyes back on Me!

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Where He Leads me, I will follow.

Do you ever feel this way? Maybe you don’t homeschool, but do you wonder if you should perhaps be feeding your kids all organic food, or decorating your home like so and so, or maybe you should try the child raising techniques that the Joneses seem so enthusiastic about?

It’s easier to follow other people’s methods than to follow the Lord.

It’s easier to take our cues from flesh and blood, from what can be seen and measured, from the confident homeschooling mom who seems to know just what she’s doing, than it is to walk by faith.

There are no glaring advertisements when you walk by faith. No printed confirmation tickets to where this ride is going to take you. No money back guarantees if you didn’t enjoy the ride.

But the just shall live by faith. Even in matters of child raising and education.

When we look to Him and set our gaze on His Word, peace ensues.

The comparison ceases as we step-step-step gently in the path He’s provided for us.

The glorious truth is that Jesus will lead us if we are willing to follow.

And although it’s fine to ask for help and wisdom from seasoned women who have had great results, we have the promise of generously, “liberally” given wisdom, to anyone who asks in faith.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

I know from experience that it’s easier to hop on Google than it is to sit and pray.

I know it’s easier to talk to a friend than to pray.

It’s easier to try to do more and be more in the pursuit of excellence, but what God wants is your faith, and with that faith, He’ll perform for you. Do you believe this? Do you believe that God can take your humble efforts offered up in faith and multiply them and make them powerful for His kingdom?

When our eyes are gazing on Jesus, we can be confident that He’ll guide us through prayer and His Word.

I will let you in on a little secret: Jesus can answer your child raising questions. I can testify to this many times over. I can remember needing practical life wisdom for several issues with our kids. I would pray and ask the Lord to make His will clear and let us know how to deal with this child. I remember kneeling by the side of my sleeping stubborn toddler’s bed. I was to the point of a near break down after a particularly bad day, and I begged God to send me answers. I can tell you that He always did either through a book, or wisdom from an older woman. And once I prayed about it and left it with the Lord, I was in “wait and see” mode. I was expecting answers, and He never disappointed. We have an open ended invitation to ask God for wisdom any time we lack it. It’s one of our BEST resources. God loves your kids more than you do, after all!

My encouragement for you is to follow God on the path He has prepared for you. Keep your eyes on Him. Your life, home, ministry, and family dynamics may look totally different than mine. God has made us all unique, and He’s leading us, by His grace, to the end He has planned for us. Our job is to trust Him, obey His word, live a life of holiness and FOLLOW.

Don’t try to make your path match the Joneses. Follow Jesus.

 

 

All Women Need Grace School

What if I told you that every woman I know should attend Grace School? Not the manners and poise kind of grace, but the one that re-teaches you about a very common word in scripture: grace.

We learned in grade school that “grace” is “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”

Remember I told you a while back I’ve been studying the word grace in my personal devotions and that one verse in particular stumped me for a few days? Titus 2:11. I know. It’s a common verse and one that we memorized as children. But, it speaks of something that teaches me to be godly, and I just realized that it was not at all, at all, what I expected:

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly , righteously,and godly, in this present world;”~ Titus 2:11,12
Now, I know that we are supposed to live soberly, righteously and godly.

But how does God’s grace teach us to live soberly, righteously and godly? Doesn’t a knowledge of God’s commands, proper doctrine, long lists of laws and community standards give us that instruction?

Why God’s grace?

I opened my Strong’s concordance to see if my definition of grace was accurate:
Here it is: Grace
  • that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness
  • grace of speech
  • good will, loving-kindness, favour
  • the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.

I’ve been mulling this over for a few days, and here are my personal thoughts. Mind you, these are not based on really anything in scripture, but my own experience, which may or may not be correct.

I believe God’s grace teaches me to deny myself and live godly:

Because when I fail and receive grace, I am unafraid to try again. Perfect love casts out all fear. Fear is a huge inhibitor for women in all kinds of relationships. Fear of rejection, reprimand, fear of failure and disappointing people. When I know that God is gracious, I am less afraid to take the next step in my Christian walk.

Because grace compels me to want to be better. When I fail my husband, and he gives me grace and treats me with love instead of doling out the same foolish behavior I’ve given him, it not only convicts me, but it endears me to him even more. Grace makes me even more aware of my own sinfulness. It pricks my heart and convicts me of sin. It says “You are living like a prodigal when you are really a child of the King.”  Grace leads me “home.”

Because grace makes  me love the Gracious One. When I am sinful and know I deserve reprimand, but instead, God gives me grace or, worse (better?) blesses me instead of punishing me, gives me yet another chance, can I tell you how much that endears you to a person?  Grace whispers, “Don’t be afraid. You are safe.” Safe. How many people can you really say that about in this world? Your heart is safe with them? Or your secret is safe with them? With God we are safe and secure. God has no ulterior motives to expose you or demean you. We can trust Him. He’s already laid out his purpose: to do you good. And he proved it by dying on the cross for us.

And when I not only receive but understand all that I have in Christ, it frees me up to live like Christ. I can then extend grace to other believers. I don’t have to prove myself to them. I am already loved by the King of Heaven. I don’t have to promote myself or protect myself, or fall into the performance trap. I can rest in all that I am and have in Christ and exclaim with the saints of all the ages, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, ” and “grace will lead me home.”

What are you learning in Christ’s school of grace this week?

GraceLaced Mondays

Free Gift: Grace

Sometimes when life gets hard, here we forget that the same gospel that rescued us is the gospel that makes living for God’s glory possible.

We were once under the curse of sin, and headed for destruction. But God intervened, rescued us and is now restoring us to look like his son and our Saviour, Jesus Christ and to make us useful for His kingdom.

Sin had done a number on us. We chose it, loved it and were  under its curse. Our  sin separated us from God. And we sought it. Knowingly.

Romans 1 tells us that we all start out with a knowledge of God. Then we digress. We become unthankful, unwise– though we think we are enlightened– and we become fools.

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools,  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”

We dreamed up a God of our own liking. Something that would fit what we wanted. This is different for every person. Some worship the earth, rocks, idols made of wood, money, etc. Whatever you are pursuing in your life wholeheartedly is your god.

And the scary thing is that God lets us make our own choice.

Pretty miserable place to be…

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us” intervened.

Jesus came to save us because we could not save ourselves.

No amount of good works, church attendance, feeding the poor, helping the homeless is going to help. Why? Because God makes the rules, and He said that grace is what saves us. Through faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

Jesus said , “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

If God made all things, he has the final say. Period.

You may think this post unloving, but it is actually the epitome of love.

Imagine a friend who was dying of cancer, and she really believed that by sucking on a rock, she would be healed. Would you hem and haw and say “She really believesthat what she is doing is right. Who am I to say that chemotherapy is the way to go?”

No, that would be absurd. That would be living a fantasy. No matter how earnestly she believed that sucking a rock would help her, she would be wrong. And you could at least tell her about chemotherapy and hope she listened. The point is, you would warn someone you cared about if you believed that they were believing a lie.

It is the same with the gospel. It is a free gift. It is because of the amazing grace of God. It is ours because he loved us. That is just the way God is. But it is your choice. You can accept it or reject it. But, realize that your choices have eternal consequences.

Once you have trusted your soul to Christ for safekeeping, he will enable you to live for him. The same grace that saves you is available to help you to live each day for His glory. If your life is a mess of sin and despair, look to him for grace. “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, so that you ALWAYS having all sufficiency can abound to every good work.

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Grace When You’ve Blown It.

Have you ever really blown it?

I mean, really blown it? You fight with your spouse, or spew hurtful words to the kids you’ve spent your life nurturing and caring for. You wish you could reboot your day and start all over again and take it all back. But you can’t. You feel mean and ugly and disgusting inside.  You loathe yourself.

This is when you run for grace. To the cross of Jesus Christ. Because grace is for sinners like you and me.

On the cross, Jesus died for all of my ugliness. He took the payment I deserved.

The payment for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ…

God loved me so much, that He gave His one and only Son,His spotless perfect Son, to die a death He didn’t deserve, so that I would not get what I had coming to me. I deserved hell because I was a God hater and a sinner by choice. I chose the  sin and loved the sin. But now there was no working the sin off. No paying for it myself. My good works can never undo my bad works.  You can choose the sin, but you can’t choose the consequences.
But…

Ephesians 2: 4-9

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–  not by good works, so that no one can boast.

He died to save me from myself. All I have to do is cling. To trust Him and depend on Him for the grace and mercy He offers.

I am  a debtor. I am in awe of this amazing grace.

Do you have questions about whether you are right with God? Let me encourage you visit this site or contact me. I would love to talk to you about trusting in Jesus Christ.