I’ll Tell You What’s So Amazing

What’s So Amazing About Graceyou ask? Sweet Moses! Got a year?

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There are some questions we humans don’t even realize we have percolating in our hearts. That is, until we are confronted with the monotony of day-to-day living and we begin to wonder what else there is out there.

Right?

Have you hit that wall yet?

Because, I remember that wall.

It hurt.

At the time I slammed into it, I wasn’t interested in answering The Big Questions. I was, however, interested in scaling those walls. For some reason, I never chose the easy way. Skinned knees and a bruised heart were what met my attempts to climb it.

And author Philip Yancey is genius at distilling answers to life’s biggest questions down to the studs. What’s important?

Love. Love is always the most important.

And once Love found me, I became consumed by the Grace that came with it; both taken in and given out. Considering myself a sinner, and chief among them, I couldn’t get enough of God’s undeserved but freely given grace.

Yancey was the author who famously penned,

“God loves people because of who God is, not because of who we are.”

Indeed!

If you haven’t heard that yet, I’ll give you a minute. Because, truth.

Nothing, and I mean not a thing this side of heaven, will be able to keep you from God’s love and grace, once you want it. It’s like discovering a devil dog dispensary. Once you know it’s there, you can’t help but go back again and again.

And, in this very year, where election politics and race politics and gender politics are tearing at peace like a dog after a bone, I find so much of what Yancey wrote in this book to be a comfort. And a reminder.

“Politics draws lines between people; in contrast, Jesus’ love cuts across those lines and dispenses grace.”

I want to keep cutting across lines, like Jesus did. And I want others to keep cutting across lines toward me, too. Despite writing this book fourteen years ago, the problems Yancey calls attention to – the human problems we all experience – remain the same.

“Religious faith—for all its problems, despite its maddening tendency to replicate ungrace—lives on because we sense the numinous beauty of a gift undeserved that comes at unexpected moments from Outside.”

Lots of us feel “outside” an issue, these days. Grace reaches the hand across and says, “Love,” instead. I’ll tell you what’s so amazing about grace, it’s the outstretched hand.

I like that very much.

I need that even more.

And I always will.

Yes indeedy.

Well well well, this is the last book. I missed yesterday as our sweetgirl came down with a nasty case of Strep. But, I appreciate the grace to finish. If you missed any of the other books I named in this Best Books Ever series that I wrote for the Write 31 Days Challenge, click the button below and check them out. And thank you for hanging out with me (almost) each day in October. 

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Passionate Fiction

After reading a fictional account of a woman so desperate to hide her beauty that she would pour Drano on her face to end it all, I realized that Lisa Samson’s characters would never bring me comfort.

I’ve now read every piece of fiction that Lisa Samson has ever written. Not one character or story left me comfortable. But, each character certainly did beckon me into their hearts. Every one has invited me to question my own motivations – spiritually and personally.

And the stories that Mrs. Samson concocts are riveting.

In the The Passion of Mary-Margaret, I was moved to tears. It wasn’t just the stunningly crafted sentences or the angst of longing for a life that isn’t meant for you. It wasn’t the harrowing way the main character, Mary-Margaret, and her precious Jude ultimately reunite. What could possibly go wrong when a nun and a man living in the red-light district come together?

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Tears fell as I saw my propensity to love only on my own terms. They fell again as I saw the enormity of shame’s shadow on a person’s soul. And they fell, yet again, as I could only imagine sacrifice on the level that Mary-Margaret was able to pour out.

The best books do that, don’t they? They transport you into a world where anything is possible. Even ultimate sacrifice. And it somehow makes perfect sense.

I will tell you that this book was not wrapped up in a nice neat bow of finality. That played with my mind for a good long while after I read the last word. But the end is just right for these characters.

Lisa Samson is a writer who is expert at pointing to the light refracted in the midst of dark lives. Our humanity, Samson constantly points out, is no match for God’s Divinity. And His mercy and grace take forms we can only begin to make out in the murk of ordinary living. In the very first pages of this, one of my favorite pieces of fiction, she writes:

“The mercy God gives us is our own  to receive, and while sometimes it overlaps with others’ like the gentle waves of the bay on which I now sit, for the most part, the sum and substance of it, the combination of graces, is as unique as we are.”

Truly. I have experienced this for myself time and again. Reading it only heightens my awareness of just how often Grace comes and mercy reigns.

And once again, I’m drawn to a book where Love wins. I probably always will be.

As I’m also continually drawn to Grace. And, I pray I always will be.

Yes indeedy.

If I could break out in song, I would totes start singing “Livin’ on a Prayer”, right now, because I’m halfway there! My participation in the Write 31 Days challenge was tentative at best, this year. But, I heeded the call to just write, and I’m so thankful. If you’ve missed any of my previous posts on the Best Books Ever, click the button below.

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Time for a Tune-Up

Typing away in the other room while a playdate ensued, I heard the voices of my Sweetgirl and her friend carrying loudly in the air. They were singing along to a popular song about sunshine in their pockets. One of them was out of tune. Jarringly out of tune. But, singing along no less enthusiastically.

Isn’t that just the way we humans do, sometimes?

We become glaringly out of tune with what’s good, true, honest, or noble. And we can’t even hear it.

Maybe that’s just me.

Sometimes, Grace has to swoop in on the raised eyebrows of one forced to listen to each off-key note, to get my attention. Other times, Grace opens my eyes to the words set before me.

That’s exactly how He found me this morning, wedged between Sweetman and Sweetboy on the shiny wooden pew at church. Listening to a message about our very human and very real need for second and 432nd chances, I felt my attention shifting to the list of things to be done this week. Because, clearly, I am intimate with the notion of third and 303rd chances.

Soon, I began considering my lunch options after church was done. IHOP was firmly on the short list.

But Grace reminded me (yet again) that church isn’t ever “done”.

And nothing shakes me from my irreverent reveries like a call to worship.

The opening notes were strummed and I realized we were about to sing one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”.

I stood up, perked up, and prepared to sing, thinking, “Oooh, I love this one!”

God wasn’t finished getting my attention, though.

Nope.

As we skipped to the third verse, my eyes read what my heart already knew.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord,
Take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above.”

Now Grace had my full attention. Just some of what was out of tune sprang to mind:

  • The willingness to read one more chapter of the latest story over one more chapter of The Greatest Story
  • My eagerness to join conversations about others without grace even as that very grace was being heaped out upon me
  • Forgetting the joy that comes out of sacrifice as I stubbornly refused others’ needs for my wants

Friends? Forget about my inability to carry a tune, physically. Singing The Truth in that moment, my heart’s distance from the heart of God felt like a million spiritual miles away.

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Clearly, it was time for a little tune-up.

And God, in His boundless beautiful grace, whispered love. He tuned my heart to His, as He has countless other times.

Yes indeed.

I left church this morning reminded that I don’t need a tune-up because I’m bad, but because of my human ability to become dissonant. Oh-so-easily.

And, because Grace is always good, He tightens those loose strings. He replaces the frayed ones. He adjusts the pitch.

He gently brings harmony back to my heart.

Thank you, God, for binding my wandering heart to thee.

Maybe It’s Just Me

Brad Paisley got it right. When he described his girl as “sunshine mixed with a little hurricane”, I’m pretty sure he was describing Sweetgirl. That kid is a whirlwind of toothless eight-going-on-eighteen.  Ahab and The Nana would surely describe me similarly… plus a few teeth. And pounds. And years.

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The times I have to watch my Sunshine hide behind clouds of doubt or insecurity, though, because of the way others treat her, it’s my own inner hurricane that starts brewing.

I can’t be the only one who identifies with the inner hurricanes I see within these tender-hearted girls. Self-doubt is a powerful ingredient in an emotional storm and it surely does seem like there are far too many of us huffing harsh words out onto others in hopes that we will feel smarter, prettier, more popular, and even seen. We whip our attitudes around and lash out at others in an effort to boost our own meager confidence. We think more highly of ourselves than we ought in hopes that we matter more than the next girl.

And none of it does a single thing to advance love, joy, peace, kindness or goodness.

No. In fact,  witnessing how hurtful and mean girls can be toward one another is distressing. Watching the devastation left in the hearts of the hurt is heartbreaking. Too often this meanness starts a vicious circle of behavior: Be hurt. Hurt another. Feel better. Be hurt again. Hurt another again. Feel better again. And on and on it goes.

And, I’m tired of hearing that this is just how girls are with one another. Responsibility gets to fly off on the shoulders of Blame, that way. And, assuming that girls will determine social hierarchy with little emotional fallout makes about as much sense to me as throwing a non-swimmer into a pool and saying, “Good luck with that swimming thing.”

Comments sharing how there will always be mean girls fall hard on my heart, too, because I’m a firm believer in doing what you can. Don’t we all remember the Starfish Story? We can throw one starfish starving for it’s watery habitat back, and it will make a difference for that one single starfish, won’t it?

Aren’t the hearts of girls worth just as much effort and attention?

With their increasingly younger noses perpetually pressed to their smart phones or tablets, and seeking social acceptance there, it seems obvious that guidance is needed. We adults need to be checking in often enough to know who and what these girls of ours are trying to get their self-worth from.

And, while we’re at it, where are we trying to get our own self-worth from?

As I’ve mentioned here and here, I do believe our worth is something a few of us adults need to be reminded of, too.

Or, maybe it’s just me.

What do you say we work on battening down those hurricane hatches together?

God knows Grace gushes in my general direction because I desperately need it.

Often.

Can we agree to work on showing, not telling, our girls how to treat themselves, first. Can we remind them again and again that they are created in the image of One who loves them more than any Facebook or Insta “like” ever will. And can we do that together, by caring more about the eyes watching us refresh our screens than those on our screens.

Sweetgirl needs some help learning how to combat The Mean with the truth that we are each a special God-designed mix of sunshine and hurricane. Especially as we boot up for a new school year.

And, quite frankly, her mama can always use some more work in that area, too.

Always.

Yes indeedy.

Who’s with me?

If Grace Had an Instagram Feed

What would it look like, do you imagine?

If Grace, the actual I-died-so-you-could-be-loved-perfectly-forever, had an Insta feed, what pictures do you figure we could scroll through?

I have a few ideas. You must, too.

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I’m guessing Grace will get a kick out of posting pictures of my favorite snack foods with snappy captions like, “Devil Dogs in 2 easy steps!” or “Swiss Cake Rolls for Days!”. And Grace will use a beautiful filter on the pic and He’ll layer over the verse from Proverbs about all things in moderation and He’ll know… He’ll just know that I’m straining against the constraints of my diet and needing a pass for the cheat treat I just had.

I think one would probably have to be a picture of horses nuzzling on a beach with the caption, “Listen Missy, horses need love, too.” And Grace would know, He’d just know that I’d be reeled in by the beach scene. He’d know I couldn’t look away and that He could use my nemesis, as I’ve mentioned here and here and here and here, to remind me that I don’t get to decide who gets love and who doesn’t.

But I think one of my favorites would be a puppy pie pie (and it really wouldn’t matter what kind, as long as it wasn’t a hairless Chihuahua because, He would know that I just can’t even). And anyway, this puppy would be on a boat with it’s hair all wild in the wind, with the caption, “Dog Hair, Don’t Care” to remind me that even when the wind is whipping, He’s got this.

And I am absolutely certain that I’d see a picture of pigs flying. Can’t you just see it? Heavenly pigs winging through the air! And, of course, He’d know that I wouldn’t be able to resist seeing those animals flying and I would, of course, need to thoroughly examine the picture and investigate whether it was modified. And he’d use this one to remind me that Hope is alive and well and flying high, despite what it seems like in the world.

The one I won’t be able to stop liking, though, is the one Grace will put up of my Sweetman in a beach chair with a big ol’ pile of books stacked up in the sand next to him. Man. Candy. Mine. And Grace will just know that I’m needing a reminder (in that post-argumentative moment) of all that I love about That Man. And it’ll totes work, too.

Oh, but you just know that Grace will snap a pic of my sweetkids, at their very cutest of course, on a lake. Or, in a lake. And He’ll be sure that I’ll admire those stinkin’ cute kids while at the same time turning my nose up at the lake (because, Ocean). And I can imagine the caption would be something along the lines of, “Lake people are people too,” because He hears my every inner thought. Especially about lake lovers.

Because, I’m human. And, indeed, sometimes very human.

But Grace doesn’t worry about that.

He knows.

And loves me anyway.

I think I’d like that Insta feed. And I’d be scrolling through it all the live-long day.

And Grace would get all my likes.

Yes indeedy.

**My Instagram feed isn’t nearly as exciting, but in case you missed it, I do indeed have one. Click here to go there.**

Silently Correcting Their Grammar

Few things slay my inner grammarian like hearing someone botch a perfectly good word or phrase. Folks do it “alot” (ahem).

And I’m silently correcting their grammar.

Hearing Americans talk and write about the Republican and Democratic “cannidates” could spell disaster for the future of our country. And, I’m talking about the mispronunciation of candidates, not the potential election results.

I’m silently correcting their grammar, and praying for the elections.

Listening to a young lifeguard friend tell about the time she had to swim “acrosst” the bay to make sure someone didn’t “drownd” while goofing around in the surf, makes me cray-cray.

I’m silently correcting her grammar, while thanking God for her bravery.

But, for all intensive purposes, I think it’s best if people stop using that phrase. Because, for all intents and purposes, it’s being used incorrectly.

Providing me another opportunity to silently correct grammar.

And I make jokes with my other grammar abiding friends about this private act of silently correcting others’ grammar.

Never once did I give it another thought.

Until…

jokingly used a phrase with my sweetkids the other day. “Listen up peoples!”

And my children not-so-silently corrected my grammar.

Humility…I am still learning it.

Parenting, it is a mighty teacher.

Oh, yes indeedy.

I am trying to train those children up in the way they should go. But, Lord? Could my training not come back and hit me upside the head so very often?

While my defenses rose and I felt the need to shout-explain, “I know that!”, I felt Humility, Himself, knocking on my heart’s door. With each knock, there was a growing unease in my soul at my many silent corrections.

Proverbs 3:7 harked back to mind,

“Don’t be conceited, sure of your own wisdom.”

But, as usual, grace laps over the edges of my spirit as I submit my desire to know more to His desire for me to love more.

The rest of that “train your children up” verse? It says to do so in the hopes that when they are old, they won’t depart from it [their training].

I’ve departed. Oh, how I’ve departed again and again.

But Grace…

I’d like to stop departing now. Please, and thank you.

In the meantime, I’ll stop silently correcting grammar.

Thankfully, there is no statue of limitations on grace.

For the Quitters Among Us

Let me start by admitting I go by another name. It’s true. While “Missy” is certainly one way to turn my head toward the sound of your voice, so is “Quitzilla”.

As we wrap up our study of The Five Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit by Nicki Koziarz over on the P31 Online Bible Studies’ blog, I’m reminded of my “other” name.

And I don’t like it. Or her. (Quitzilla, not Nicki Koziarz, because she? She is LOVELY!)

This person inside of me who doubts she has what it takes to see a new adventure through to completion? I don’t care for her.

And, I know I’m not alone. Friends share constantly about issues they quit over and over again. We all seem to have issues that just can’t seem to be overcome.

  • The weight that won’t come off
  • The relationship that won’t heal
  • The risk we just can’t seem to take

 

Slowly, I’m seeing the patterns of behavior where my inner quitter starts getting most vocal. No surprises in the patterns, either. The enemy of my soul, the one who won’t quit trying to turn my eyes from He who makes everything possible, will press on. It’s my job to see when I’m most prone to hearing his hollow tune over the steady song of my Savior.

And, I think I’ve nailed down how I can do that best.

Just do the next thing.

Simple, right? It should be. But, I tend to get wrapped up in the whole goal. What is my end game? And, I start looking down the barrel of that goal and I get tunnel vision. Big time.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who forgets to take it one step at a time?

Recently, Sweetman and I had to make a financial decision that hurt. It ruined a perfectly good summer vacation plan and put a wedge in some perfectly wonderful friendships. What I most wanted to do, as Sweetman and I approached this hurtful decision-making process, was quit. Flat out throw caution and wisdom to the wind and do what I wanted to do. And that Quitzilla voice roared the whole time we wrestled with the choice before us.

But God…

He keeps reassuring me our resolution was not just the wise thing to do, but exactly what we needed to do to be good stewards of all He’s given.

And He has given much! He has blessed when I deserved less than half a devil dog. He had seen fit to right too many of my wrongs. He washes me new with grace and mercy All The Days.

Moving forward is a matter of taking that next right step.

I’m quitting the quitting.

Yes indeedy!

What’s hard for you for you to quit? What gives you strength to keep going?