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.

We are Moana

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I must confess, the movie Moana ignited a bit of inspiration. There may have been a few times I pulled out my phone to take notes for this exact moment of sharing my thoughts with you. I’m laughing at myself, but at the same time I must embrace it. I think we can and should find inspiration wherever and however we can.

The day before, the subject of life journeys was planted during a bible study, so it was already somewhat on my mind. We discussed  Mary’s journey to be exact.  Yes, I know Christmas is over…but we are a group of busy moms who get behind from time to time. That is much the norm in the journey of motherhood.  Things never play out exactly as we have set out in our minds. There are more bumps and bruises than we ever thought possible.

Anyway, I enjoy making parallels between peoples lives. It allows me to feel connected. It helps me to see how even we really are. Although Moana is a fictional character in a fictional plot…the core of the story (not the entirety of it) is powerful and relatable in our ordinary lives.

The following may seem to be quite the stretch and in a way it is, but this is truly a glimpse into my over-thinking head and how it functions. No, this movie was not biblical. There are just parallels I decided to point out. Was there worldly thinking scattered throughout this movie?  Yes, of course there was. Just as there is worldly thinking scattered in my own mind. It wasn’t a Christian film. But despite that being obvious to most, I feel it actually is important to point this out. At the end of the day, I want you to know our power comes from God, not ourselves as the world will try to tell us. That point is by far more important than anything else I am about to say…

The water chose Moana to embark on a journey to save her people. God calls us to do the same. She felt a pull in her do be doing something more-something different than what her little world was telling her to. One time she went into the sea like she thought she should and it ended in disaster. It left her feeling lost and confused. It was because it wasn’t the right time, she needed to know more. She simply was not ready.

When the time was right, she knew it. She got into her boat and off she went. She felt brave, encouraged, and empowered. Then, things got messy. We all know how messy life gets, even when we are doing the right thing. Can I get an “Amen”?

Her boat flipped.  She got tired and scared.  She got angry and yelled at the water (just as we do to God). The water would gently pick her back up and placed her back on the boat when she went overboard. The water picked her back up…but did not make her journey easier.

Moana made it to Maui and was disappointed. He was not what she was expecting. He was not the hero she envisioned. How many times have we felt the same. Maui doubted the water and even asked why the water couldn’t bring the heart back itself. Many in this world ask the same sort of questions about God.

There was even a point where Moana tried giving the heart back to the water. She went back down and got it. The rough waters didn’t calm because she decided to carry on. Maui didn’t magically become easier to deal with. Why did she do it? Nothing could silence the voice inside her. Nothing can silence the voice inside any of us. Sometimes we need to work on how to hear it. Sometimes we choose to ignore it.

God will never force us to answer His call. It is out of His love for us that He doesn’t use force. It is hard to wrap our heads around it…I know. He doesn’t calm the waters of life. But He is always there with us. Always.

You see, I am Moana. We all are. We are called, in our own unique way, to restore the heart of the Lava Monsters who have had their hearts stolen by the world. One difference (and there are more) is that we are still on our journeys. Our happy ending is yet to come.

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.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
-Galatians 2:20

Soon You’ll be Forty Years Old…

DSC_0157Matthew,

I cannot believe your fortieth birthday is next week.  When I think of when we first met and then think of our life now it amazes me. I think of all the years in between…everything we’ve been through…wow.  We really are doing this. We really are continuously building a life together, for better or worse. I think we have seen both.  It is inevitable there will be good times and bad.  Life. That is life.

I remember our early days of flirting by tossing pumpkin guts (Is that what you call it?) at each other. Who would’ve thought after all these years that we’d be married with two kids? I’ll never forget the summer we spent at the beach.  We pretty much lived moment to moment.  I won’t share all our memories on here, but those are just a couple that I go back to when life gets crazy.

All I know is that there is no one else on earth who knows me and loves me like you do. Anytime you ask me to write a blog or remind me I haven’t in a while, I am reminded how much you care about me. You are a good person, Matt.  Don’t you ever forget that.

Time seems to speed up the older we get, it really does. It will seem as only a few moments have passed before I am thinking, soon I’ll be forty years old. I don’t like to think about myself as being forty, but as long as you are by my side I will be just fine.

Before we know it, our kids will be grown and forty will seem young.  I cannot wait to see you as a grandfather. Heck, maybe we will even have a granddaughter. How weird would that be to have a girl in our life?

Oh my and then before we know it, we will retire. I’m seeing us as snowbirds for sure.  A nice condo on a beach somewhere? We’ll be walking along the beach and I will turn to you and say, “My dear, soon you’ll be seventy years old.  Where did the time go?” You will lean down, kiss my forehead and say, “I don’t know, babe. Did I take me medicine this morning?”

XOXO

Beauty

img_7989Once upon a time, there was a monster named Beauty.  The other monsters in town laughed and made fun of her. Because, truly, who has ever met a monster with such a name?  You see, Beauty’s mom held a secret that most monsters do not know, or even care to know.  I’ll tell you this secret in just a minute.

I am certain by now you are wondering the obvious.  What did Beauty look like?  Was she the fairest of all the monsters?  She certainly was not.  She looked like a monster, of course.  Her ears were made of leaves.  Her teeth were gnarly and yellow.  She belched a lot, was by no means graceful, and she always had dirt under her fingernails.  The only thing pretty about her was a blue and white bow she wore on her head.

One day, on her way home from Gross Skills School, Beauty watched two monsters growling at a little human girl.  Beauty felt something inside of her she could not quite understand.  This something was surely something they never taught her at school. It grew the longer she watched and it grew to the point she could no longer remain crouched behind the stinky garbage can.

She stood up and ran over as quick as she could.  The little human girl was trembling.  The monsters were laughing.  Tears streamed down Beauty’s cheeks.  She didn’t know what made her do this, she didn’t even know what it was called.  Her arms wrapped around the little human girl and she gently squeezed.  She whispered, “It’s okay, don’t pay attention to them. I will protect you.”

The other monsters did not know what to make of any of this. They ran off yelling, “We’re telling Mr. Pimple on you.  You’ll for sure get kicked out of Gross Skills School.”

“Thank you, monster.  I never knew monsters could be so kind.  What is your name?” The little human girl asked.

“My name is Beauty.  What is your name?”

“Beauty is a perfect name for you.  My name is Penelope. Maybe we can play someday.”

“Maybe we can,” Beauty said.

The two hugged again and then parted ways.  Beauty went home feeling happy, but also sad and confused.  She went straight to her room and sat on her bed made of stinky socks. She was afraid she’d be in big trouble when her mom found out what had happened. After a while, her mom came in and sat next to her.

“Beauty, what’s wrong?  You never even ate your snack of sour milk and moldy grapes.”

“Mom, something happened today and I’m just so confused.”

Beauty told her mom everything.  Her mom patted Beauty’s head and said, “Well, my dear, that is why I named you Beauty. I knew from the moment our eyes met that you were no ordinary monster. I saw your beauty, I felt your beauty. It was then I realized beauty is about the love you hold inside your heart for others. It is about embracing that love regardless of what everyone else is doing. Don’t ever let the monsters of this world tell you otherwise.”

The End

(This is dedicated to my beautiful niece who drew this picture and asked me to write a story about a monster.)

From a Manger to a Cross

fullsizeoutput_e.jpegI apologize to anyone who read my post last year…or other similar ones, but things lay heavy on me and what else am I to do?  I feel there is more depth this year than last and am wondering next year if it is possible to transcend further into whatever it is you’d call it that I feel post-Christmas.

Life starts shifting back to normal. My kids are exhausted. My house is a disaster.  I’m exhausted as well.  I’m a bit of an introvert.  I absolutely love people, I love to be around people. I also need and crave calm and quiet at times.  I need both.  I need time to reflect and get lost in my own mind. When there are many things I need to get done, like before Christmas, it sucks my energy.  I become a bit recluse trying to do what needs to be done.  Plus, this year I was sick and couldn’t rest trying to get it all done. I feel like I need to buy a t-shirt that says, “Sorry, I really do like you, but I’m peopled out.”

I am looking at the heaps of gifts scattered throughout our house and tell myself I’ll organize it later.  I feel grateful for my family and for my husband’s family.  We both have pretty low drama and intact families, at least compared to the norm.  My kids are shown love and it is almost too normal for them to have the best of everything. I do my best to show them how blessed they are for all these things. We give back and I allow the boys to to be a part of choosing where and how we do so.

Obviously, I want to have my good life. Who wouldn’t?  I feel blessed and I thank God for all we have.  But, I feel a pulling inside me that just keeps growing.  When did it start?  I think it has always been there my entire life. It is just that sometimes I feel it to the point it physically hurts. I see what I have and I see what others don’t have and it makes me sad. The older I get the more I see and feel it.

Lately, I don’t think it is enough to just recognize it.  It isn’t enough to donate clothes and old toys.  It isn’t enough to donate money, goats, and so on to the poor.  It just doesn’t feel like I’m dong enough.  No, I’m not going to give up all we have to go wander the streets with my family to make myself feel better.  I truly don’t know what I feel like I should be doing.  I’m in this praying, waiting, praying stage.  I’m practicing what I preach to others.  Give it to God and wait on His answer.

I sit here staring out my window and reflect on the life of Jesus. It began in manger, a feeding trough. It ended on a cross, Him literally nailed to it. Everything in between the two was not a life fit for a king. Yet He is the King of Kings. Through the world’s eyes, no one would ask for such a life. He was not rich or powerful. He lived a life full of sacrifice. I think about sin and how we easily can sin on a daily basis. There are sins we fight daily and it takes great sacrifice not to succumb to at times. Think of all the sacrifices He made to live a sinless life. We know He was tempted. Yet He chose a path we could never.  We are too weak to live a life such as His.

We rely on grace and many times take it for granted.  We chew on the bread and sip the wine.  We know what a blessing and gift it is to partake in. Yet most times, at least to a certain extent, Monday morning comes around and we fall right back into worldly thinking.  We may read the Word and try to teach our kids the best we can. We send our prayers.  We serve in the church. But, we don’t love our neighbors as we should and we surely don’t spread the gospel as we should.  We don’t step out of our comfort to live the life God is calling us to.

The crazy part is God loves us despite all of this!  

We know this because He sent His son to live a life we could never live and to die a horrible death to save us from ourselves. We are saved because of our King who began His life in a manger and ended it on a cross. He lived that life and here I am living my easy peasy one…and it doesn’t quite seem right.

My Shield and Thorn

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I love to help people.  It is something deeply rooted, so deeply rooted, I believe it takes up the largest part of my personality. I care for people to the point it hurts.  It’s the thing I cannot change.  It’s the thing I look for in others and cannot understand when they could care less about helping others. How can you not want to help?  

I get frustrated when I see people who refuse to help when it is needed. Those are the times I bite my tongue, those are the times I pray for understanding. Most times, I see the reason why. Sometimes all I see is a hardened (selfish) heart. Then I pray to understand the pain that caused their heart to harden. I pray and even when the understanding doesn’t follow, I tend to let go. It does eat away at me when I cannot see the cause. But, it eats away at me more when I have harsh feelings toward a person.

Does the inability to stay frustrated–the wanting to always see the why behind the negative make me weak?  Maybe it does.  Maybe I am too kind and too sensitive.  I may be one who gets walked over my entire life. The thing is, I accept this “weakness” God has given to me.  I know it is better than holding hate in my heart.  It’s better than always being disappointed in people.

It is a struggle to stand firm in my kindness, knowing it as both a strength and weakness. I will always pray for understanding within myself and within others as well.  I will always hold some doubt and over-think this part of me. Satan will continue to use this against me.  He’s mean like that.

It isn’t always easy and I fail at times to place my trust in God. Despite my stubborn ways, He never fails to bring me back to the truth. My kindness is my shield and my thorn. It is more a beautiful shield, though, in this sometimes ugly world.

What is your shield and thorn?