Amazing Grace

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“You’re like God”.

His words took my breath away.

I had heard of kids saying similar things, but this was my kid and, well…quite frankly, he knew better. He had to be confused…or maybe I misled him. Man, did I ever mislead him!

My mind flooded with memories of all the mistakes I’d made in his short life. The time when I fed him sweets and then forgot to brush his teeth, and the time when I forgot to feed him at all. The numerous times he’d seen me lose my temper, raise my voice, or storm out frustrated.

He’d seen me rude.

He’d seen me impatient.

He’d seen me unkind.

Unloving.

Unforgiving.

He had to know I was imperfect in every way.

And I was his, “like God”?

In that moment, it was hard to imagine a less suitable comparison. This picture of an imperfect God my son had painted over a lifetime living with an imperfect mom had to be corrected. Still saturated from the flood of emotional memories, and barely audible,  my own voice somehow managed to reply simply:

“How so, babe?”

His answer challenged me.

“Well, you always love me. Even when I sometimes don’t listen, or I throw a fit. Or even if I have to go to time out, you always love me the same. That means you are like God. That’s the same as like he love’s me”.  And suddenly I understood.

Grace.

Favor unearned, undeserved, and inexplicable apart from a holy God.

It was grace.

My son wasn’t confused, nor was he misled into thinking his mommy was something more than what she was. He understood God was perfect and he wasn’t trying to create Him in my image the way I’d sometimes done when I loved something. To him, I am “like God”, because I am covered in grace.

And my love for my children is just a reflection.

If you do everything else wrong sweet mommas, do this right. Teach your children about grace. Teach them that it was by grace that they are saved (Eph 2:8-9), and that their confidence is found in it (2 Cor 1:12).  Tell them God is able to make all grace abound in them, that always having all sufficiency in everything, they will have an abundance of grace for every good thing they do (2 Cor 9:8). Teach them grace was given to each of us (Eph 4:7), that we are justified by it (Titus 3:7), and stewards of it (1 Peter 4:10).

Look, I know you have a lot of things you need to teach them. Teach them those things too! But teach them to value grace above those things. And if you do that, precious friends, your children wont just receive grace, they will distribute it.

And THAT has the power to change the world.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” 1 Peter 1:2

Did this blog encourage you? Why not share it with a friend? And while you are here, you might also enjoy, Surviving Elly’s World.

Praying for you! That you will walk in grace, and that the world will know from where your confidence comes!

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’til death unites us: fighting for marriage

People sometimes joke their spouse will be the death of them; mine really is, and I’m glad.

My husband Nick and I met and married in three months. I’m sure people assumed I was pregnant, I wasn’t. I just felt ready. I knew exactly the kind of man I wanted to marry (seriously, I had a list), and Nick exceeded my expectations. He sort of came at me like a freight train and, even though I was a little off guard, I was totally smitten.

We were ready

I cared very little about the details of our wedding. We even considered just going to the courthouse but the very idea sent my mother into a panic. In retrospect, I’m glad we had a wedding, it was awesome, and if I could parade around like a princess in my wedding dress every day I would… in fact I am wearing it right now. You know I’m kidding right? Back to the wedding… in 3 months we met, we got engaged, and got married (I think we went on a date too, but I honestly can’t remember if we were already engaged at the time). It was fast, but I was ready, and now looking back, I had been ready for years, and so had he.

Not that we were desperately seeking soul mates or anything, but I had decided long before meeting Nick that when I got married I would not stay married until death separated us, I would stay married because death united us.

Marriage isn’t about two separate lives coming together and hoping to beat the odds and somehow make it work, marriage is about two people dying and becoming one flesh.

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh”. Gen 2:24

God intended marriage to include total unity. The price of unity is death.

We were wrecked.

Our first year of marriage was really hard. To say we argued a lot doesn’t really describe what was going on in our heart and in our home. I felt lonely, needy, clingy, and I let my mind dream of a non-existent man who could bear the weight of my emotional baggage. I was dying. Nick felt suffocated, tricked, trapped, and frustrated that I wasn’t more of what he needed and less of what he could do without. He was dying. On more than one occasion I stormed out of our house with an empty suitcase, loaded it up in the car, and drove around the block until I remembered I had no place else to go. (Yeah, living on an island that first year was definitely God’s plan.) I always hoped my theatrics would entice Nick to run after me, desperate to make things right, he never did. I hated him for it. I was dying. Nick closed himself off emotionally and retreated to an office full of books and void of the constant dripping that was his new bride. He longed for days of old, when he could surf every day, leave his clothes on the floor, and eat what he wanted, when he wanted it. He wished I wasn’t so needy and emotional, and he hated me for it. He was dying. Death is sometimes painful to experience and is always painful to watch.

But there were days we woke up dead. Those days were different.

We were different. On those days we were a team, but not just a team, more like an impenetrable force to be reckoned with. It was powerful, bigger than us, stronger somehow. We were better together, we were one, and we magnified the Lord as one.

O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34:3

Some will say we just needed time, but the truth is what we needed was Jesus. We needed Jesus to shed blood on our selfishness, to cover the multitude of our sins with His love, and to give us a new perspective on unity in marriage. We needed to learn that unity in this life was possible if we are willing to die for it.

We are willing.

Seven years and two kids later our marriage is perfect. We never fight, he always loves me, I always respect him, our children are insanely cute (at least that part is true- see pic). The problem isn’t even that our marriage isn’t perfect, the problem is that we are not perfect, so we die and let Christ rule in our heart and in our home. There are still days when our marriage is threatened by that man and woman we thought we’d killed…our former selves. So we kill them again, and again, and again, and each time we do, the bonds of our marriage are strengthened by the God in our heart. There is no unity without death, only a battle of the wills.

So, is it worth it? Heck yeah it’s worth it. He is worth it, I am worth it, we are worth it, but more importantly, God is worth it.

See God created marriage as a picture of His union with the church. The church united by His death. Sometimes it seems as though the gates of hell are set to destroy marriage and families, but by God’s grace, the gates of hell will not prevail.

It’s worth it…if you are willing to die.

To the married reader:

I hope you die. I hope you die every day, twice, maybe three times a day if that’s what it takes to strengthen the bonds of unity. I hope you lay down your life and fight for your spouse, because you are stronger together. Even in your weakness, as you submit to God’s will, He will be strong on your behalf.

To the unmarried reader:

Whether you are divorced or never married, I hope you die. I hope you die every day, and are united with Christ in heart and mind. And if you do marry, I hope you are prepared to wake up dead to be united to your spouse.

When marriage is the death of you, something far more powerful survives.

If you need prayer for your marriage, lack of marriage (single gals :0) ), or want to share a testimony of how God united you and your spouse through the death of your self, please leave a comment. I love to hear from you.

Praying for you this week, for your marriages, that they would be radical, restored, and resilient. And please, pray for mine too. This is how we change the world.

 

 


No extras.

“All the world is a stage, and all the men and women are merely players” William Shakespeare

I was in a movie once. In fact I was in an Academy Award winning movie. I played the role of, “a girl”, not “the girl”, but “a girl”. It was a role I was born to play.

Okay so I was just an extra, and there is a slight chance the academy award had nothing to do with me… actually there is also a chance my scene didn’t make it into the movie … I never saw it. Anyway, for the purpose of bucket list #354 “Be in a movie”, check.

Being an extra is a little like crashing a wedding. You come all dressed up, but the party is not for you. I was so excited for my big role as “a girl”, until I got there and realized it wasn’t quite as special as I hoped it would be. I don’t know what I expected, but being crammed into a room with 50 other extras who were all treated like a huge headache that wouldn’t go away, was quite a surprise. The important people on a movie set are the actors and extras aren’t actors…not really…they are more like props. We use props to make something artificial seem sincere, but the prop can’t tell the story. It was awkward, and a little disappointing to realize the best part of being an extra is getting to say that you were in a movie. Yep, pretty lame claim to fame.

Have you ever felt like life is one giant movie but you definitely aren’t a main actor? Maybe you’ve even wished you could be cast as someone else. I know I have. In a world that loves us some celebrities, it’s easy to feel like my role is not that important. But God says I matter, that I belong, and I have the power to tell His story. With God there are no extras, my role is just as important as any other actor. In short, “I am kind of a big deal”, and Christian, so are you.

Here is what the Bible has to say about our role:

  • You are known by God (Rom 8:29; 2 Tim 2:19)- Hands down the most famous director knows you and has from the beginning.
  • You were chosen (Rom. 8:30; Eph. 1:4; 1 Peter 2:9)- God does not make mistakes, you’ve been chosen to play a role in God’s story…He could have played it Himself, but He chose you.
  • You are accepted (Rom 15:7, Eph 1:4-6; 1 Peter 2:10)- You don’t have to hide away as though you don’t belong, you are accepted and welcomed!
  • You are watched (Psalm 121:7-8, Prov 16:9)- not only does the director look your way, He won’t take His eyes off you, and He will direct your every step.
  • You are important (Psalm 96:3; Isaiah 12:4; Matt 28:19-20)- You are important because people need to see Jesus, and He has chosen you to play His child.

You are not a prop, you are a principal character. You can tell a story with your life about a God that saves. There are no extras. No one can play you better than you can.

His audience awaits.

Praying for you this week. That God will pour out His Spirit and make you bold so that many will hear His story through yours.

The 1 gift you can’t return

Words are a gift, use them wisely.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who live to give, and those who live to receive. Here are 8 characteristics of each:

  1. Receiver’s motto, “The gift is for me, so it’s about me.”
  • Will return a gift card (there are websites now that make it possible for you to sell your gift cards for cash)
  • Difficult to surprise because they are particular about what they like
  • Easy to shop for because they usually tell you exactly what they want
  • Don’t usually consider the givers feelings when returning gifts
  • Give less often but with more consideration
  • Gifts from them are well planned and thought out
  • Gifts from them rarely need returning
  • Are not offended by returned gifts
  1. Giver’s motto, “The gift is from me, so it’s about me.”
  • Rarely returns gifts
  • Will withhold gifts if they think they wont be received
  • Easy to surprise because they rarely tell you what they want
  • Hard to shop for because they rarely tell you what they want
  • Don’t always consider the receivers likes/dislikes when buying gifts
  • Give often
  • Gifts are spontaneous
  • Takes offense to returned gifts

Whether you consider yourself a giver or a receiver, there are some things that can never be returned, words. Words have the power to hate and the power to heal, and once you give them, you can never take them back. Similarly, if you fail to give the words that bring healing, you may not get another chance.

What is the solution? Watch your words.

Psalm 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.

When God monitors our mouth we can be sure that the words we speak will bring others healing or bring us conviction.

If you’ve spoken hurtful words, you can’t take them back, but there is something you can do.

  1. Remember– Take responsibility for your words by remembering them. This might keep you from re-using them in the future.
  2. Repent– Admit that what you said was hurtful and make no excuse for your lack of self-control. Ask God to forgive you and help you speak kind words in the future.
  3. Reconcile– Go to that person. Don’t assume it will just blow over. Humble yourself by apologizing and ask them to join you in praying for self-control with your speech.

If you’ve held back encouragement, start today! Don’t let your own insecurities hold you back; tell someone how special you think they are!

Join this conversation:

Are you a giver or a receiver? What are some characteristics I missed? What are some obstacles that cause you to speak hurtful words or withhold encouragement?

I’d love to pray for you.

Asking God to edit our words this week.

Lv Shaena

The Stand

I should have minded my own business, that’s the lie I heard today.

When I saw a woman weeping, And I couldn’t look away.

**

I couldn’t close my eyes, she wasn’t going anywhere,

and it seemed a little awkward to pretend I didn’t care

**

I had no remedy for her heartbreak, Nothing I had quite seemed to fit.

I was helpless to console her, but somehow I would not quit.

**

I couldn’t heal her broken heart, I couldn’t take back what she lost,

And how could I convince her, anything was worth the cost?

**

You see, I’ve never lost a child, but then, even if I had

Her pain would not be my pain, and she’d still ache just as bad

**

What she needed in that moment, I was powerless to give,

But I told her about a God, who sent His son that she might live.

**

He’s counted every teardrop, and He knows each star by name,

And although sorrow overwhelms us, by His mercy, He sustains

**

It took 10 minutes from my day, To stand and listen to her share,

And I saw joy in troubled eyes, amazed that anyone would care

**

To take 10 minutes of my time, on a pretty normal day,

To stand and listen to a stranger, when I could have walked away.

**

I should have minded my own business, besides, what would people say,

Certainly, I had an angle, or some great reward along the way.

**

So here it is, my driving factor, the motivation of my heart,

There are too many hurting people, and loving them is just a start.

**

If I don’t give them Jesus, I’ve not really loved at all.

I’ve just covered up their wounds, and laid thin padding for their fall.

**

He is the only one who heals.

He is the only one who saves.

He is the alpha and omega.

He is the Name above all Names.

**

And He came to break the chains of sin, to set the captives free,

But in minding my own business, I forget, those are the chains, that once held me.

***************************************************

Sometimes I meet people who make me want to be more like Jesus. Not because of what they do, but because I realize I am powerless to help them. He is enough.

What are some of the obstacles you face when reaching out to hurting people? I’d love to pray for you.

God bless you as you grow in love.

I Hate Tansformers

When you’ve done all you can and it still isn’t enough, surrender.

I hate transformers. Not the movie, no opinion there, but the plastic toys that transform from car to robot. If you don’t know what they are…seriously? Maybe hate is too strong a word, I really really don’t like them. They are impossible to transform. I suspect manufacturers make transformers to drive people crazy, and people give them to my son to see if I will curse.

There are three kinds of people when it comes to transformers, or any other challenge, and I have been all three.

  1. The Quitter: If something is hard, it just makes sense to quit and move on to the next toy. Never mind the cost that have gone into buying it or that fact that it had only been opened moments ago, this person just quits.
  2. The Determined: The determined person will spend hours trying to transform that little car. She will work until her hands are cracked and bleeding, and if Bumblebee still looks like a confusing piece of plastic, the determined person will just break off any parts that look strange and attempt to pitch the toy as one-of-a-kind. Winners never quit, even in trivial matters.
  3. The Surrendered: The surrendered person is often birthed after the death of the first two, when the child of said toy is still crying. Instead of re-fashioning the toy, this person recognizes they cannot transform it alone and sends the child to ask his father.
Here is the deal, in this life I will face challenges. Jesus said it in John 16:33:
In this world you will have trouble
Real challenges, real troubles, but the person I become is up to me.
Some of those things, will challenge every ounce of faith that I have. I will feel helpless and broken.
I won’t quit.
There will be times when I do all I can and it still wont be enough. Times when my heart will break and although I would give anything to change a circumstance or situation, my determination will not be enough.
I won’t be determined.
Jesus said:
Take heart! I have overcome the world
In this world I will face challenges, but He has overcome, and Christ in me is enough.
I will surrender.
In my surrender I will recognize I can’t do it on my own. I can’t heal broken hearts. I can’t set the captives free. I can’t make beauty from ashes. And I can’t make all things work together for good. But He can. And so I cast my cares on Him, and trust that He will sustain me, and that in Christ, I will not be shaken.
If I can learn to surrender in the little things, like transformers, maybe I’ll develop a pattern that will enable me to trust God in the big things.
Sometimes God uses seemingly insignificant things to teach us powerful truths. I invite you to share yours, I’d love to hear them. Do you have a testimony of surrender in something small that prepared your heart for something bigger?
Praying that you will surrender everything you are this week.

The Common Snob

Times they are a-changin’. If I thought snobbery was only for the rich and famous, I now know that is a lie. The truth is, snobs are common, and anyone in any situation has the potential of becoming one.

The other day, at my neighborhood grocery store, I noticed a woman carrying the stores recyclable bag. I too had a recyclable bag with me. If you aren’t saving the planet one plastic bag at a time, it’s possible you do not know what an elitist club that users of recyclable bags belong to. Trust me, it’s kind of a big deal. Since membership in the “bag club” at an organic market is relatively common, it really best to display your recyclable bag at the neighborhood market where it really gets noticed. See, the bag say’s, “I care, and I am doing my part. So PLEASE don’t ask me to give a dollar when I get to the register”.

After seeing a fellow member, I had to impress her with my membership badge. So without hesitation, I flipped my bag on my shoulder, and proudly displayed the logo from the organic market down the street. It was as if to say, “I prefer organic, but I’m feeling crazy”.

As soon as I flipped the logo out my face started to become hot. I was so embarrassed by my foolish pride. I struggled to pull my bag off my shoulder and throw it back in the cart, hoping the woman did not notice. If you’ve ever tried to do anything in a panic, you know it is nearly impossible to emote grace and ease. From the look on the woman’s face, I must have looked like the bag was attacking me. We exchanged uncomfortable smiles as we passed each other and I made my way the checkout counter. My hope was just to make it home without any further embarrassment. The whole event took 4 seconds.

Yes, times they are a-changin’. Now, a snob can be anyone.The world offers so many insignificant club memberships and we race like ox to the slaughter to become a part of them. But the secret no one wants us to know is that membership in these worthless clubs only distracts us from what really matters. Memberships exclude, Jesus invites. William Faulkner said, “A snob has to spend so much time being a snob that he has little time to meddle with you.” I definitely see truth in that. I was so focused on showing that woman my cool logo and then, consequently, running away from her in shame, that I never stopped to think maybe there was another reason we at the same place at the same time. Proverbs 16:9 says,

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps

Since God knew we would meet, I doubt His plan was for me to show off, but it could have been to teach me this lesson. You see, I learned that I could have told her about another kind of membership, the kind based on the incorruptible and not the insignificant. I could have looked at her and told her about Jesus, but my pride blinded me, and all I could see was me.

Pride blinds us from seeing people and caring about their needs, and none of us are immune to it. Every so often, it’s good for me to take inventory of the things I do without even noticing, so that God can transform the hidden places of my heart. Even if being a snob is common, I don’t have to be one.

The irony of the bag incident is that later I returned to the store for plastic grocery bags! If you ever see a woman quadruple bagging her cereal box you might want to pray for her. She could be a recovering common snob just like me.

All God’s blessings are possible through Jesus! Hope you will receive them this week!