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Category Archives: Grace

Well done….

 

“Well, what do I get if I do that?”

An all too common question. What is in it for me for serving, for being kind, for meeting an expectation?

People are often surprised that I do not demand that my kids do more chores. Earn their keep around the house. Perform duties in order to be rewarded for all the “good” things they have done.

It’s true. I don’t.

I have tried every chore system known to man (or rather, woman). Every velcro stripping, popsicle pulling, washi tape plastering, dry erase board posting, laundry clip moving chore chart on Pinterest. None has lasted. The only thing successful among any of these charts has been the endless arguments over who gets to do what chore, and earn what silly reward.

So, we keep it simple. We teach them how to respect each other and the adults in the home. That in our home (and beyond), we are spoken to with words of love, and no one leaves a room when asked to stay, without completing a discussion on an issue. We praise the daughter who decided to check the mail without having to be asked. Or the boy who fed the dog, just because he wanted to help. We deposit these moments into our memory banks so that the next time that girl wants an impromptu play date, we can remind her of her frequent mail drops and quickly say “yes.” Or that boy runs out of ice cream, and we remind him of the time he did not let the dog go hungry, and we can quickly hop into the vehicle for a quick trip for fro-yo.

But there are also times we remind them that in life we are not rewarded for doing good. We won’t always be praised. Sometimes we will be unappreciated or overlooked. However, we do our little bit of good anyway. We keep giving to others anyway. Even if you don’t get in return. Even if people don’t do anything to earn it. Even if people aren’t even very good.

Why?

Grace. Undeserved favor. We don’t deserve it. We have no reason to expect it. Yet it is freely given.

Just as God gave us.

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan. 2 Timothy 1:9

We didn’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. He gave it anyway. He loves us anyway. Even if the world may not notice our good efforts. Even if we may be overlooked, and it may take a lifetime. Grace was our reward. And, one day, all of those small efforts we make will be acknowledged when He looks at us and says “Well done. Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Now, that’s one fine reward. Don’t ya think?

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2019 in Grace

 

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The One who stays…

Give up. Left. Let go. Abandoned.

These are the things that may swim around in our hearts and heads when we choose to relinquish control of a situation. When we choose to let our children, despite our prudent advice, follow their own path. When we choose to untie the strings that bind us to a past of hurt, and even the people who were part of it. When we choose to speak the truth in love to others we care for, instead of always “making nice” about how we feel about their choices or the way we are treated.

When we choose to simply take a step back and stop doing all the human intervening and fixing, our human hearts start to believe we have been left, or that we are failing others.

Here’s the truth:

The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t-not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again. James 5:16-18,MSG

This means, I only let go of the string. I drop all of what I was trying to control, even the parts of that person I wanted to fix and manipulate, at the cross. I leave it up to the One who can truly change lives. My job is to ask God to fix it.

We never leave. We never abandon ship. We never give up. We always hope. We always love. For those of us who have God in our corner we are praying tear-stained prayers for that prodigal son or daughter. We are screaming at God in our cars on the way home asking Him to help us help you. We are desperately asking Him for miracles. Praying for the sky to open up, and for God to rain down His blessings on you.

We just may not be present to watch someone continuously make poor choices. To keep swooping in to save the day. We are desperately praying and waiting for the day that God will do that.

Because we know He is a God that never leaves. Never abandons. Always hopes. Always loves. Will make things new. And will bring healing to the broken. We can’t do that without Him.

So the ones who stay, rely on Him to do what only He can do. We pray. We ask for Him to work in the lives of those we love. And we stop doing all the work, so He can work.

But we never leave.

We are the ones who stay.

Asking for help from the One who stays.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2019 in Grace, Mercy

 

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Only One can “fix” them…and it’s not me

“Well, we can’t wait for you to work your magic on this one!”

And, yes. Sure. I couldn’t wait either. But, magic? Was the idea that I had magic dust in my pockets to make people do what needed to be done, destined to deem me a failure?

What was the “magic?”

The “magic” was the thought, and a common misconception that counselors, or anyone else in a helping profession, including doctors, pastors…are known to “fix” people. That it is their sole responsibility to fix what is broken.

See, that comment about “magic” made by a colleague at that particular time, though surely meant as a compliment, placed undue pressure and responsibility for me to do all the “fixing.”

I need to fix this kid. I need to ensure he/she makes good choices. Makes progress. Is changed.

I absolutely have to guide them from taking the wrong path. I have to make them listen. Behave. Never err from where I am pointing. Tame the impulse to act or speak without thinking.

I put a huge amount of pressure on myself to work my “magic.”

To “fix” what was deemed broken. Wave that magic dust in my pocket, and have everything and everyone fall neatly into place.

And, I can’t handle that pressure. I am bound to fail. Miserably. Magic dust and all.

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

He holds the “magic.” He holds the answers. He protects. He takes on that responsibility. And, while I like to think I hold all the magic to make change happen. To know that they will always make the right choice. I just don’t.

I do have something that is pretty magical. I have the reassurance that God will restore and repair what needs to be fixed. My job isn’t to do it on my own. It’s certainly not to take all the credit. To manipulate someone to listen to make myself look good or “magical,” and make anyone here honor me and my supposed success (or failure).

My job is to offer prayers for each child’s “fixing.” To ask Him to provide me the words that will touch a tender heart. Ask Him to show me how to come along someone who needs a little “magic” to help them handle tough stuff. I don’t get the credit. I ask for the Father to work His magic, and I watch and praise Him while He does His work!

So next time you find yourself trying to fix everything or everyone that is broken.

Next time you feel the pressure to be the perfect parent, raising perfect kids, who make perfect choices, only to realize you are failing.

Next time you find yourself trying to figure out why that individual got burned on a hot stove again. Why those kids just won’t listen. Behave. Do what is expected.

Next time you expect someone to wave a magic wand, remember the one who truly fixes. And pray that folks will come to seek Him for their “fixing.” Call on Him to restore the broken, because he is the only one who can “fix.”

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2018 in Grace, You Make All Things New

 

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Take me as I am

Those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. John 6:37

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When I was a teen, I hated country music. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. It was not the era of Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, and Keith Urban. Instead their was Joe Diffie, Dwight Yoakam, and Wynonna. And the songs were really all about what country music jokes were made of.

However, when my parents moved closer to my grandparents, and my brother and I spent many a summer afternoon walking to their house, the twang of the songs grew on me.

And I grew to love the no nonsense words of Miss Shania.

She taught me that any man of mine had to be proud of me. That certain things should not impress me much. I could color my hair. Do what I dare. And after a long day I needed someone to rub my feet, and give me something to eat.

Then there was ole Faith…who taught me this: All I really need is honesty, From someone with a strong heart, and gentle hand. To take me as I am. 

So, I had a standard.

However, as faulty humans. We don’t always live up to that, do we?

We expect a little too much from each other.

We expect that prior to any relationship we need to have all our junk together first. We rarely take anyone just as they are. Or, we take them. Then try to mold them into what we want them to be.

This is exactly how Charlotte Elliot came to know Christ. Who is she, you ask? She is the writer of the hymn “Just As I Am.”

Bound by depression in her 30’s, her minister paid her a visit and spoke to her about God. She dismissed him. Dead set on needing to “have her junk together” before she could accept this God in her life.

Her mentor and minister’s words: “Come just as you are,” were just the words she needed. She became a Christ follower that day.

It was 14 years later when she would write “Just As I Am.”

These words from that hymn are enough to make me thankful that He accepts me in all my messiness, in all my chaos, with all my junk.

“Just as I am, tho’ tossed about, With many a conflict, Many a doubt, Fightings within, and fears without, O lamb of God I come! I come!”

There are days I am crippled by worry and anxiety. If I didn’t have a God who accepted me in my tangled doubts and fears, I would not make it through.

I am thankful He sees past my twisted thoughts to the person I am outside my head. That He sees past my wretched faults, and accepts me just as I am.

He is and always will be someone with a strong heart, a gentle hand, to take me as I am.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2018 in Broken, Yet Beautiful, Grace

 

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He didn’t “deserve” it either…

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“Does it really even pay to be nice?”

This is how the conversation started with a fellow, empathetic friend of mine. Going over the many times we have felt like doormats in the last few months. You know what doormats are, right? They get stepped on. That’s what we had felt like. We had given and given and given. Opened our hearts and like a doormat felt walked on, stepped on, and worn out.

“I mean, this being like Jesus stuff is hard. I just don’t deserve to be constantly treated like dirt.”

However, I am pretty sure Jesus didn’t either.

I don’t claim to be Jesus. But, I am called to be like him.

I can’t feed 5,000 with two fish and five loaves, but I have fed the hungry…and received nothing more than a grunt in return.

I haven’t raised a man from the dead, but I have tried my hardest to bring dry bones back to life…and been spat on.

I have tried to teach others that true love offers forgiveness and grace. Looks at people as more than their imperfections, mistakes, and flaws…and been ridiculed for being too “soft.” Not “hard” enough on them.

I may not be the man who walked on water. But, I have jumped in some earthly fires hoping to save some lost sheep. Felt like I have only been burned, and wondered why I was the one forsaken.

This being like Jesus stuff is hard.

He was despised and rejected-a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised and we did not care. Isaiah 53:3

My methods, teachings, and practices may be questioned by the authorities just as the Pharisees questioned the teachings of Jesus.

I may wander the wilderness or the desert, and be tempted to give up on God by the cunning schemes of the devil.

I may have people abandon me in my time of despair, or sell me out for their personal glory.

I may be scoffed at. Mocked. My outstretched hands reached out in love may be rejected each and every time. I may suffer in His name. Just so others can see His light.

And, I may not deserve it. I may deserve better.

But, I didn’t shed blood for a sinner like me. I scoffed at the one who did. Mocked him. Turned from him. Sinned against the one who gave His Son for me. I didn’t deserve His love.

Yet Jesus gave it all.

He suffered again and again. Knowing it may never be given in return.

Yes, this being like Jesus stuff is hard. But, if he could bleed and die so I can know what perfect love feels like, then I can take a couple grunts. Some criticism. Some abandonment. Some rejection. Some tears. Some suffering.

He felt it all. He gave it all. He deserves it all in return.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2018 in Grace, Like Jesus Does

 

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To the Mom Wondering Where She Went Wrong

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Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Dear Mom, I see you there. Weary. Worried. Wondering where you went wrong. I know you worry about judgment, condemnation, and the whispers that you must have done something wrong. There must be something you did for your child to turn out this way. It’s bad enough you define yourself as the mother of a deadbeat, a drug addict, a dealer, a thief, a murderer….but the world does, too.

And, I know you hang your head in shame. Wondering the same things the world does. Asking the same questions.

Where did I go wrong? What didn’t I do right? I was a bad mom. I wasn’t there enough. I worked too much. Drank too much. Thought about myself too much. Focused on the church too much. I neglected my son, my daughter. And, look where it got them.

How do I know this? Because I am the daughter of a mom who asks the same questions. The daughter of a mom who wonders how her son turned out so different than she expected. One who wonders where she went wrong.

I have listened to the cries of my mom as she shares how her heart bleeds each time she hears the comments about my brother. About her parenting. About her failings. And, yes…in some ways she did fail. And, you probably have, too. Guess what? So have I.

I have also sat in the visitation room with you as you play cards, share stories, and love on the son or daughter you want so desperately to be able to come home.

I watch you as you leave each time. As you give a gripping hug. As you wipe the tears from your eyes as you leave the one you love more than life itself.

And, I know when you go home you will earnestly pray that your son, or your daughter will reach for and receive the redemption and grace of Christ. Just as I do when I leave the visitation room one Saturday each month.

Just as I pray my brother will feel God reaching him in the confines of his jail cell.

That he will know how deeply he is loved by me, by his dad, by his mom. By God.

Unconditionally. Despite flaws. Despite his sins. Despite his past mistakes.

That he will know he can turn away from sin and live a life that is blameless before Him.

That the world will accept that this gift is given to him, just as it is given to us.

That it is given to your son. Your daughter.

Given to a deadbeat, an addict, a dealer, a murderer, a thief.

Given to an absent mother. An alcoholic mother. A selfish mother. The single mother. The young, unwed mother. The mothers, who despite what they have done, love their children, and cry at night wondering where they went wrong.

Given to all who have sinned. Including you. Including me.

So, Mom. This letter is for you. I see nothing to condemn in this visiting room. Only what can be used for His glory. Keep praying for that wayward daughter. That prodigal son. The one the world has given up on. The one you may have wanted to give up on yourself, because you just couldn’t handle the judgment of all those around you.

He is watching. She is watching. I am watching.

And, Mom. You did just fine.

Your son will be fine.

Your daughter will be fine.

Because grace is given to all. Whether behind the walls of our homes. Or the walls of a prison. To us all.

So dry your eyes. Hold your head high, and stand tall in the face of the world’s criticism remembering that the God that has saved you, will one day save them, too.

Sincerely,

A fellow daughter…and another mom who wonders where she may have gone wrong.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Grace, You Make All Things New

 

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A Hand-Me-Down No More

Hayley Fashion

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

I am a bit of a fashion maven. It’s true. I love clothes. I love how they feel. I love how they can define one’s personality, enhance a figure, and be the cloth that covers up how bad we may feel. I like that on those days I can at least look great, even when I may not feel it. I also like how one piece of clothing is different for each individual. And, this love of fashion, and it’s ability to be recreated into something different began as a young child.

I never had the trendiest clothes growing up. Nothing I wore looked exactly like anyone else’s, and I wasn’t heading to the mall to keep up with what my friends were wearing. Since my aunt and I were so close in age, I ended up with many of her clothes instead. Things I deemed “old,” because they weren’t mine. Some items that were obviously no longer in style. At least according to my classmates’ standards.

Instead of protesting to my parents whom I knew could not afford to keep up with all the new “fads,” I did what any young, budding fashionista would do. I started taking these “hand-me-down” garments, and making them “new.” Adding bits and pieces of my personality. My style. A belt. A necklace. A scarf borrowed from my mom’s closet guaranteed that the focus would not be on my old clothes, but my “new” accessories. And, when that didn’t work, I just cut my losses, and spilled enough juice on some of them so I could guarantee I never had to wear them again.

Knowing that the only way to make that “old” garment new, was to trash it.

God can do the same for us. He can take our old selves, and transform them into something new.

But, we have to trash a few things along the way. A few of the old, hand-me-down garments we used to wear.

Like our selfish desires. Our disobedience. Our crummy attitudes. Our hate.

Instead He gives us new garments such as self-control. Obedience. Faith. Brotherly affection.

But, he doesn’t want us to throw these things on every now and then as new accessories to simply cover up our old ways. He wants us to trash the old things like a juice-strained dress.

With a little prayer God can fill our hand-me-down hearts with love.

With time He can shift our hand-me-down attitudes to those of acceptance and understanding.

With praise He can change our old hand-me-down complaints and grumblings to words of thanksgiving.

With fellowship He can transform our hand-me-down loneliness to belonging.

With service He can change our hand-me-down selfishness to selfless and Christ-driven dreams, goals, and desires.

Until all of those old things. Those old ways. Those hand-me-down garments have been trashed for good, and the only things that remain are the duds no fashionista can emulate on the cover of a magazine, or in the halls of a school.

The garments of Christ. The ones that define us far better than any hand-me-down every could or will.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Grace

 

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