Tuesday, February 24, 2015

a picture of grace

Grace.  Grace is one of my favorite words.  We hear and say that word so often.  We sing it.  We talk about it.  We attempt to live it.  But what does that look like, to live in grace?

My Big Mama was the picture of grace.  Big Mama is my great-grandmother, and she has been in Heaven for several years now.  And, no, she was not a big lady.  I'm honestly not sure where the name came from.  She was my mom's grandmother, and that's what she was called.  She's been in Heaven for a few years now, but I can still see her washing dishes by hand, and I can still hear her humming old hymns.  A child of the depression, among the dishes she washed were plastic cups and utensils after Sunday lunch with a big family.  When I was not quite 9, I saw my need for grace and accepted Jesus as my Savior, following Him to be baptized.  The Sunday I was baptized, my sweet Big Mama gave me a small, silver cross, and it is one of my favorite gifts I've ever received.  She dipped snuff, a habit she picked up from her younger years of working in a mill, but she gave it up for Lent one year and never looked back.  Big Mama's hearing wasn't the best, and when she couldn't understand you, she would ask you to repeat what you said.  If she responded with words, she heard you.  If you got a sweet smile, a nod, and a pat on the arm, she had no idea what you said.  She could hear my sister best of all though, and no one really knows why.  

I'm sure there were times, after raising her children, loving her grandchildren, and watching many of her great-grands grow into young adulthood, when it all seemed heavy.  When her beloved husband died before I was born.  When she buried two of her five children and one of her grandchildren.  When divorce worked its ugly way through the families she worked so hard to provide a firm foundation.  Through the struggles I knew of, the many I was sheltered from, and the many more that I feel sure she kept from all of us, there is one thing my Big Mama always made sure we knew- no matter the circumstance, Jesus will meet you there, and His grace will be all sufficient.  

I recently read The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts.  You should read it, or at least check out her blog here.  Her words have moved me to think more about Heaven, to build real and honest community, to love big with my hands open to whatever the Lord sees fit to give and to take.  To know that, even when life is hard and it hurts and I don't understand, especially then really, to know that I know that I know that there is goodness to be found and grace to meet me there.  There is grace for every moment- every joyful moment, every tearful moment, there is goodness and there is grace, and- the best part- it's enough.  

So what does that grace look like in our every day life, our morning rushes, our lunch hours (you lucky dogs!), our coming, our going, our quiet dinners (or rushed dinners, depending on the day), our work, our play?  How do we live that grace?

I don't claim to have all the answers.  I don't pretend to even have a piece of them.  But I do strive to live openly and honestly.  And grace can take many different forms.  Forgiving those who have hurt you, even if they are not sorry.  Accepting decisions you don't agree with without complaint (I'm not talking compromising conviction.  Use discernment.).  Making eye contact and genuinely asking "how are you?" and waiting to hear the answer.  Cleaning up a mess that isn't yours.  Fixing something you didn't break.  Putting the dishes on hold for 3 minutes to take time to dance.  Praying over a friend who is right in the middle of the valley of the shadow. Repeating yourself one more time, with patience and minimal sarcasm. (note to self...)  Sometimes it's being silent.  Sometimes it's speaking up.  Taking a deep breath in traffic.  Taking an extra turn at a less than desirable task.  Looking over the towel in the floor for the 129th time (sorry, husband!).  Whispering a prayer when you just want to scream.   Loving the best you can- from the center of who you are, as my favorite translation of Romans puts it.  Resting in the knowledge that Jesus is waiting to meet you in each moment, to cover each moment in His grace, and for your heart to know that it's enough.  

What does it look like, when you put actions with your love and walk in grace?  Who is the picture of grace in your life?  

Growing in grace, 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

When Words Don't Suffice

There are many times where I just don't know what to say.  I know what you're thinking- a teacher, a blogger, a Chatty Cathy- this lady has too many words!  But sometimes words will not suffice.

I am the worst at knowing what to say in times of grief and loss and disappointment.  Okay, maybe not the worst, but it's definitely not my gift.  I'm an over-thinker on so much in my life, and so, during those times, my wheels that already turn nearly constantly go into overdrive.  I start thinking about what the right thing to say is and when the right time to say it is and if it's really my place to say anything at all and what happens if what I think is the right thing really makes things worse and how I'll deal with it if I do make it worse and...it's really quite exhausting.

And so, more often than not, I just don't say anything.  Which is arguably as bad as or worse than saying the wrong thing.  Because at least if I say the wrong thing, I've acknowledged the hard.  The last thing I want to happen is for someone to feel like I don't see or notice or like I'm ignoring their hard.  Their tears.  Their grief.  Their loss.  Their pain.  Their despair.  It's not because I don't see or feel these things.  It's because I feel them so deeply.  And, quite frankly, that makes me uncomfortable.  Oh, my selfish heart- it does not like to be unnecessarily uncomfortable.

And this is why I love math- because I am a creature of habit.  More than rules and habits, I love math because you don't have to feel whether or not you agree that 12 x 10 is 120.  It just is.  Every single time.  12 times 10 will give you 120.  Doesn't matter if you're talking jelly beans or dozens of doughnuts or flowers or 12 dimes or 12 tickets that cost $10 each or just a value in a given problem.  It's constant.

It's one of the many reasons why I love Jesus- He is constant.  He is only good.  And He is sovereign.  Not for a moment will He forsake you. (If you could hear Meredith Andrews' "Not For a Moment" as you read those words, we should be friends.  If you didn't, you should go look it up.)  Do you know that?  Do you know what it does for your heart when you really, truly know that?  He is constant- always.  Not often there, not sometimes shows up, not around most of the time, but constant.  He is ONLY good- not mostly good, not usually good, not good 99.999% of the time, but only.  That's it.  Good.  He is sovereign- not kind of in charge, not pretty important, but the ultimate authority.  He is all of those things and so much more, and not for a moment will He forsake you.  Not for a moment.  He doesn't sleep.  He never gets tired.  He never walks away.  He will not leave you.  He will not forget you.  He died for you before you ever loved Him back.  He died for you even if you never love Him back.

You've never had a friend like Him.  And you never will besides Him.  Not because your friends aren't lovely, but because your friends aren't God.

Having the right words in the midst of life's hard is not my gift.  One option is for me to be silent.  And sometimes, that's the right option.  There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under Heaven.  To embrace and to refrain.  To love and to hate.  To weep and to laugh.  To mourn and to dance.  To search and give up.  To keep and throw away.  To speak and to be silent.  See Ecclesiastes 3 for a more extensive list.  My prayer is that I become more and more receptive to what God is doing in every season of my life.  That I believe Him and trust him to help me believe when I can't see how.  That He will help me know when I should speak and when I should be silent.  And when it is time to speak, that He would not only make it perfectly clear to me but also give me the words.  Because mine often aren't sufficient, but He is all-sufficient.

He more than me,