Tuesday, October 23, 2012

day 23: grace that transforms

Five years ago, I was in a rush. New to college, I was ready for life to move fast.
I had my schedule, and I was ready to go. I knew dates I wanted to be married by, yet there wasn't a guy in sight. I knew when I wanted to make this amount of money, I knew where I wanted to live, I knew it all. It was pride at its worst, and I was full of it. Bursting, really. I wanted all the attention on what I had done. Where I had gotten myself.

And then grace stepped in. Seemingly slowly at first.  My mind started to waver at the thought of medical school. I wasn't quite as sure as I had been for all those high school days. The plan began to crumble. And the plan began to change. God was changing the plan, and in the midst, He was changing me.

A move to a completely "off the map" city, new job, and another move later, He's still changing me.  I recently got a promotion at work and Sam asked how I felt. "Thankful" was my response. And I think about that girl 5 years ago. She might have had a different answer. When I see that it's Him giving me grace, I'm thankful; when I think it's me, I'm prideful.

 But in the transformation, it takes a bit of rubble. It's hard to build thankfulness in a heart where pride rules. There's been some hard days, and raw grace that has torn down the hard places in my heart. At times it has seemed like a war zone, flesh constantly fighting spirit. And yet, in the rubble is where I know He's working. Grace is transforming.

 He's changing me, and He's not done yet. Thank God He's not done yet.

Friday, October 19, 2012

day 19: practice grace

Grace isn't natural. I want to punish those who do wrong in my eyes. It might be with judgement, with my silence, or even with pity. I want them to get what they deserve. But when it comes to me, I want to be shown grace every time. Isn't that the heart of selfishiness? I want these things for me, but I'm unwilling to show them to others.

This weekend, when that person is getting on your nerves, or you can't take what they are doing for one more minute. Or even when you've failed your own to-do list, practice grace.  Take a deep breath, and let it go. Give them the listening ear they want. Give yourself a little grace and ask for some help with that list.

Practice grace.  It's not natual, and it's going to take some time to learn. Come back Monday with your grace story--I'll be sharing mine.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

day 18: hopeful grace

Yes, I realize I've completely fallen off the 31 days train. But since this subject of lavish grace is so important to me, I'm still going to be writing all of the posts. They may just come late, or not it order, or whatever. There's grace for that.

side note: today marks the day I've been with my husband for 5 years. 5 YEARS!

I can remember the 6th grade awards day like it was yesterday.  I was new to my school, wanting to make a lot of friends and a good impression. I had hoped for many awards, but one stood above them all. Student of the year.  It would make me noticed among my peers, praised by my parents, and proud of myself.  I sat in my chair, hands sweaty as the school principal called names. Mine wasn't called.  My lip began to quiver, tears began to well up, and I thought my one big chance was over.

Grace isn't like that. It never leads us down a road where it disappoints us. Sure, there are times it seems dark; times where we don't see the next turn. We don't see the way out. With grace, we can be free to let our heart hope, knowing that where He leads us, there is hope.

With our family, right now, we are torn between two wonderful paths for my career. I have dreams, hopes of a PhD, but I also see myself in a life of nursing. We're hopeful for both, and we're trusting the decision to Him. Applying to both, hoping only in Him.

Because He is the only solid thing to place our hope in.  When all else fades, He will remain, and I hope that you are hoping in nothing less.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

day 16: law, grace's enemy

Do you know the story of the prodigal son? The one where a father loses one son for a number of years, and his eldest says with him. Yet when the younger son, who has behaved recklessly returns, the father gives him the party and celebrates his return?

I always sympathized wit the older brother in that story. He had done it all right! He deserved the party!  I felt like I knew him. The rule follower. The good kid. Under-appreciated and overlooked.

I loved law. I loved the rules. It was black and white. Good and bad. And yet, when we divide it so starkly-we all fall on the side of bad. We've all screwed up. I just thought my version of screwed up was the best.  And yet, what I've come to learn is just different. I'm no better than a man who cheats on his wife. I'm no better than an alcoholic. It's all sin. I sin differently-but we are all in just as much desperate need of grace as the other.

I had just allowed myself to believe that I could negate my sin by living under the law. And that grace was for those who were desperate.  Law teaches us we don't have to be desperate for grace. We've almost got it--just with a little more work.

Monday, October 15, 2012

day 15: grace in the lacking

There's this disconnect for me when studying and writing about grace. Because the truth is, I'm not good at it. If I'm honest, I'm critical, judgmental, and very prideful. I love law. Grace is something others are good at. Me, I've got other gifts, but grace isn't one of them.

I'm not good at grace when it all isn't going as planned. I'm not good at it when things don't go my way. I'm not good at it before coffee, or after 10pm.

Grace seems to be for those who have it all together. Those who are running their household like it's a walk in the park. It's something I'm striving for, but haven't quite reached.

But yet, by definition grace isn't something we can do. It's something we are given. Maybe if I'm so bad at it, have I fully received it in my life? Not just as the cross starting point, but in the mess. Do I let grace rule in the Thursday night cleaning of the kitchen? Or is grace for Sunday, and law for the rest of the week?

There are lots of areas in my heart and in my life where law rules. In those dry and dark places, it's time for grace to take over. To find grace in the lacking.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

day 11: unmerited favor

I buff myself up sometimes.
In the car, in the shower, grocery shopping.
It's disguising how often I do it.

"I'm doing so good! I have a job, I love our house, I've cooked dinner every night this week."
"I look awesome. My outfit rocks. It's a great hair day."
"I'm so happy. I've worked so hard for this life."

And while some of this is true, and I think it's good to feel confident about our looks, there's a lot of I in there. Things I've done, things I should be praised for.

And yet, the truth is so far from that.  The truth reads so differently.

I'm a sinner. I'm selfish. I judge others easily and am very critical.
I've done nothing to deserve my husband, my house, my  job.

The difference? Grace. Grace takes the ugly truth that is, and by unmerited favor makes it the beautiful mess of my life.  If we walked around each day knowing who we are, yet celebrating the difference in our lives because of grace, how much more beautiful the world would be.

I hope today, you see what your life is and celebrate what grace has made it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

day 10: quiet grace

Grace can sneak up on you.

It can find you in the quiet of the morning with a coffee cup in hand, a cool breeze that breathes life back into your worn out day.
It can find you as a whisper in your mind amonst a day that screams to-do lists. A quiet whisper that says "slow down."
It can find you through the voice of a friend, a spouse.

Grace can be so quiet. In a world that's loud, in your face, and harsh, grace is a quiet, tender whisper that soothes and brings life.

Today, I hope you find and focus on a quiet grace gift you've recieved.

Friday, October 5, 2012

day 5: treasure hunt

Grace is everywhere.
It's in the little and in the big.  My eyes are blind to the graces, the gifts at first. But with new glasses, new eyes. I begin to see.

The quiet cup of coffee in the morning, the sunrise over the hill. The job promotion. The date night. The conversation.

With new eyes, the graces abound. And I reliaze they've been there all along. It's not the graces that are new. It's me. He's changing me, daily, and today, for the first time, I get to see the graces I've been missing.

As we head into the weekend, won't you look through different eyes to see the graces?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

day 4: defying grace

Most of my life, I've lived in defiance of grace.  Unwilling to let myself be given a gift of any kind, believing that working for what I earned was better. It's pride, and stubborness at the core, and I didn't want a handout from anyone, much less God.

So with every good grace, every praise from a teacher, I puffed myself up. I was something. I was achieving, climbing, making something of myself. 

My heart in this was hard. I measured people by what they did. The success of their career, their house, kids, anything. I looked at life by the measures we can see and those material things that are of little worth, and I judged. Left and right, anyone I could see, I whispered harsh criticism. It's ugly and it's shameful, but worst of all, it's true.

Grace to me is so foreign. It's so humbling, and so unnatural. I want to do it all. And yet, I must submit that I can't do anything, but I can only receive what is given to me by another.

Oh yes, I have good moments. When the house is clean, and I've had two cups of coffee, and it's not a work day. When the whole world aligns and all is perfect, then, and only then, am I good at grace. But in the real days? The ones where I snap at my husband and I rush and I stress. Those days I leave grace on the bedside table when I wake up.

But that's grace. It's for us too. The ones of us who know our hearts are mean and judegmental and hard. It's for us most of all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

day 3: a first glance

I was 6. I had lied about brushing my teeth once again. (gross, I know). I was caught red handed and I kept lying to get out of the lie.  I knew it was wrong, and yet there didn't seem to be any other option. I wanted out of the situation, and so I lied. But she was on to me--as mothers are; she knew my game.

And when, though tears, I finally confessed to my mom that I was lying, instead of the punishment I thought was coming, it was something else entirely.

A hug, and quiet, loving words. "Lauren, I love you. You are my daughter and I just want what is best for you. But please don't lie to me."

I deserved punishment. I thought yelling, shame, and being grouded was headed my way. And yet, something different.  Isn't that what is always offered to us by God? Something unexpected, different. So refreshing, and so undesereved.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

day 2: authentic grace

I've noticed in life that the littlest changes can make the biggest difference.
A new haircut, painted nails, even a new tea towel makes me feel like a new woman.
The seemingly small becomes big, and my thoughts, mind, and attitude are renewed. And while the world around me hasn't changed, I've found that a little bit of me has. 

But when something's off, I seem to feel it in every fiber of my being.  When all the rules and expectations I have of life come crashing to my feet, I feel it. I don't take it well, and I feel ripped.

Grace is like that--it isn't human. It's not something we do well, it's not a great idea that we had. And it doesn't always feel natural. It, at first, feels foreign. I want to fight it, flee from it, and reject it.
As much as I'd like to take credit for it, and avoid the subject of grace being Jesus, I can't. 
Grace is bigger than humans. We are bent inward, and grace reaches it hand outward to a hopeless people, offering the gift of hope. The only grace worth knowing is His.

While we talk this month about grace, know that all grace is not of us. Grace, a gift in the truest form, was a gift to us.

Monday, October 1, 2012

31: lavish grace

last year, when I first discovered the Nester and watched as women all around the nation wrote for 31 days about a single topic, striving and reaching toward a goal, I wanted to be a part.
but the issue?
I discounted my words.
I'm not an expert at anything.
and writing for 31 days on a single topic?
why waste my breath and the space?

but a year has gone by, and 31 days has rolled around again.
and while not a lot is different, my heart is changed.
I'm still by no means an expert on anything.

the difference from last year is this:
I want to write. Grace is a truth that I better want to learn.
and by writing it, I learn it. 
I'm not claiming to be the most grace-filled person.
but I know that lavish grace exists, and I'm digging into it for 31 days.
won't you join me?

day 5: treasure hunt
day 6
day 7
day 8: grace is free
day 9
day 10: quiet grace
day 12
day 13
day 14
day 17
     day 18: hopeful grace     
day 20
day 21
day 22
day 24
day 25
day 26
day 27
day 28
day 29
day 30
   day 31