Category Archives: grace

A Wedding Dance with Redemption . . .

 

My eldest son got married two weeks ago. It was a grand affair. Quaint. Intimate. On a mountain and in the company of family and friends. I thought a lot about my son that day while sitting next to his father in our designated, front pew. We had the best seat in the house, but then again, in sharing life with this extraordinary twenty-five-year-old man we call “son”, we’ve always had the best seat in the house. What a privilege to watch him grow over the years and to witness him standing before his bride and speaking his oath to love her for the rest of his earthly days. It’s a day I won’t forget, one that sows deeply into the soil of my heart and that heralds a grand “hallelujah” for the grace that has passed ahead, within, and behind us, low these many years.

It takes a lot of grace to grow a boy into a man. Our story is no exception. In fact, our story begs for grace, has relied upon grace to get us to this season in our lives – a day when two parents, who once made those same sacred vows to one another only later to break them, were able to sit side-by-side and celebrate the child born out of their love. You can imagine the baggage that I carried into that chapel two weeks ago, the internal wrestlings that were begging to take the stage. But it wasn’t a day for baggage and wrestlings. It was a day for grace and for making peace with a past that I cannot change but, instead, can honor for the fruit that has blossomed despite my disobedience.  

This was and continues to be my wedding dance with redemption, when the past works for me instead of against me. When the glass is less dim and more transparent. When I can see clearly through the brokenness to gather up some wholeness. When the Groom extends his hand and his heart in my direction and repeats the oath he spoke to me in the past saying:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.

I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel.

Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.

Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit.” (Jeremiah 31:3-5)

This is my “again” . . . again – one of the many agains I have known because of the mercy-filled, extended hand of my Groom, Jesus Christ. His love is timeless, knows no boundaries, and never tires of the grace-dance. Instead, his love is ready.

Ready to draw me in.

Ready to rebuild me.  

Ready to re-teach me the sacred melody.

Ready to sow within me the seeds of eternity.

Christ’s love is ready, and Christ’s love is enough to carry any broken and burdened soul through to present wholeness. He loves his bride, and his oath is his word. No sin and no shame are a match for his strong affection and sacred affirmation. Love wins the day, and the Groom takes his Bride.

A wedding dance with redemption. The grace-dance with the Redeemer. My dance. Your dance. God’s dance.

Won’t you take hold of his hands, friends, and take hold of your tambourines? The music’s been cued. The wine’s been poured. And the Groom has given you his word . . .  

This is for forever.

Hallelujah! Amen. So be it. As always . . .

 

Peace for the journey,

worn out to wearable . . .

“There’s something in there, Elaine. I’m not quite sure what ‘it’ is, but there’s something in there.”

So says my artist friend while staring at a pile of scraps in her attic sanctuary. To the casual onlooker, those scraps don’t look like much. Just a pile of colorful leftovers—cast-offs from somebody’s closet and the thrift store down the road. I cannot see what she sees on the front side of her creating. I can only be thankful for her visioning that leads to a finished product that is both beautiful and functional.

A recycled masterpiece!

In wearing her treasures across my body, I carry history into the present. Threads of yesterday are delicately woven into a tapestry that tells a story. My story.

Scraps to salvaged. Parts to whole. Old to new. Worn out to wearable.

Yes, this is my story. And all it took was the visioning of the Artist to see what I couldn’t see. To imagine what I couldn’t imagine. To pause before the scrap heap and to say,

“There’s something in there. I’m not quite sure what ‘it’ is, but there’s something in there.”

A functioning something. A beautiful something. A recycled masterpiece fashioned by the Master, pieced and woven tightly together by threads of sacred love. History into the present . . . a lot of times past that count toward tomorrow.

So here I am – a garment comprised of yesterday’s scraps, sewn up with a lot of grace-splashes. And it works. I work because I am his work. There simply isn’t any other reasonable explanation for how this is all turning out so well – my life.

How grateful I am for the quiet pauses in a day that lend themselves to creativity. To climb the attic stairs and to imagine through to the other side of the scrap heap. To house (even if just a little) the creative pulse of the Creator within me. To have the light coming through the window to crystallize and clarify the blueprint. To remind me when I so often forget that …

“There’s something in there.”

There is something in there, friends. A holy something. A God something. Whether you’re staring at a scrap pile in the mirror today or whether your work is on the table awaiting a hem line, there’s something in there. The Artist has his eyes on you, and he’s working with the end product in mind.

What you’ve yet to see, he has already seen. What you cannot imagine, he has already imagined. His visioning is holier than yours and his patience enduring. The word on the street is you’re going to be a masterpiece. In the Master’s hands, how could you be anything but? Trust him with and for the finishing details. Give him your scraps and watch him create.

Grace looks beautiful on you, friends. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

PS: If you’d like to learn more about the artist, Lisa Dixon, and how you might secure one of her valuable treasures, please visit her Etsy sight by clicking here . What’s your favorite item? Let me know in a comment, and I’ll enter your name into a drawing to win a secret treasure from her stash. You can also find Lisa on facebook by clicking here.

Surely

“Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” –Hosea 6:3

Surely . . .

One of my favorite descriptors attached the Lord and his presence in this world. Surely he will appear. Surely he will come to us.

When will he appear? When will come?

When we acknowledge him and as we press on to acknowledge him.

Surely Christ is already here, but as our hearts become more attuned to his presence—more inclined to notice him in the everydayness that often escapes our perception—we realize that his fingerprints are all around us.

He cleanses afflicted thoughts with rain from his heavenly storehouses.

He colors gloomy dispositions with brilliant yellows and greens from his artist’s palette.

He softens prickly attitudes with the tenderness of a petal.

He enlivens dulled senses with the aroma of new birth.

Surely he has walked in this garden, long before I took notice. The life he has planted in this place has sprung forth as fresh grace, enriching the soil and enlarging my heart.

I am not alone in this garden of goodness. God is surely here, and so are you, friend. Today I pray for you the cleansing, coloring, softening and enlivening revelation of our Creator in your little corner of the world. If your thoughts are afflicted, your disposition gloomy, your attitude prickly, and your senses dulled by circumstance, then I invite you to step outside into the garden of grace.

Acknowledge the Lord; press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, the Lord will appear. Not to frighten us nor to harm us, but to give us his kingdom . . . one petal at a time. Oh the rich favor and promise we hold as kids of the kingdom!

Peace to your house this day; the kingdom of God is near you.

Are you looking for a devotional to add to your daily walks with Jesus? I still have copies of Peace for the Journey. Click here.

Are you or is someone you know walking through a suffering season? Click here to learn more about Beyond the Scars, a gentle companion for the wounded heart.

What I Learned this Year (top ten from the Lunchroom Lady)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” –Galatians 6:22-23

 

Well, it’s official. This lunchroom lady has hung up her apron for the summer. That’s what my kids call me . . . the “lunchroom lady.” I remember the moment the label first surfaced on our first day of homeschooling two years ago. I was busy tidying up the kitchen after feeding my two students in our makeshift cafeteria (a.k.a. the dining room) when I heard my son playfully utter his request:

“Hey Lunchroom Lady, may I have another slice of pizza?”

I laughed back then. But after two years of making lunches, administering educational plans, keeping records, and keeping the peace between sibling-students, I don’t feel much like laughing anymore. Instead, I feel like crying. Why? Because I’m just not convinced it’s working for us—mostly for me.

Maybe because of the guilty feelings I carry about altering their social scene. Maybe because my personality isn’t well-suited for round-the-clock, child supervision. Maybe because, at forty-eight-years-old, I’d rather be pursuing other goals.

Am I hurting them? Am I hurting me? Probably – at least to some degree, and this is a difficult wrestling. These next several weeks will tell the rest of the story—whether or not my “want to” will resurface for another year of more of the same. I can’t imagine it will, but time has a way of adjusting emotions, reshaping feelings into something lesser than what was first felt and believed. What now seems so traumatic will (in coming days) seem less severe. Perhaps then will be the time to make decisions regarding my children’s educational needs, not now while stress threatens to muddy the waters of reasoned responses.

As a parent, I have a responsibility to educate my children, and as a citizen of the United States, I have a legal obligation as well. Accordingly, I can either allow the state this role or I can assume my position as the “lunchroom lady” as well as the many other roles that naturally surface alongside as requirement—teacher, principal, janitor, recess monitor, and the like. For a variety of reasons, my husband and I made the decision to homeschool our two youngest children a couple of years ago. And today, on the backside of our 180 days of compulsory attendance, I’m wondering about the depth and the strength of our learning.

What did we learn? Was it enough? Was it worth the investment?

I can’t speak for my kids, but I can offer a few thoughts about the depth and strength of my learning this year. Here are a few “take-aways” written on my final exam, a few tips from this lunchroom lady for those who choose to follow in my footsteps:

1) Selfishness doesn’t belong in the lunchroom; be prepared to take the test anyway.

2) Not every good idea is the right idea; choose rightly and be at peace.

3) Independent learning can foster laziness; when no one is watching, it’s easier to default to lethargy rather than industry.

4) A wise lunchroom lady understands that she must feed her soul before feeding others. Living it in reverse promotes crankiness.

5) Test days make poor study days; study daily, and you’ll walk more confidently and peacefully through the exam.

6) Manners are free; poor etiquette comes with a price tag.

7) The cafeteria is never really closed; after lunch comes supper—family life after the school day ends. Keep the apron handy as well as the Kleenex.

8) Strap on the Holy Spirit; pray for his fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). It’s going to be a long day (see #7).

9) Grades are good indicators but aren’t always accurate reflectors of the rest of the story.

10) Lean into the rest of the story. This is the curriculum that matters the most.

And there you have it—a few closing thoughts from the lunchroom at Peace Academy. As you can tell, my kids weren’t the only ones who learned something this year. I was a student as well; truth be told, I probably failed more exams than either of them combined. It’s a sobering thought and, perhaps, a driving force behind my tears in recent days. At the age of forty-eight, I never imagined this would be my classroom—the curriculum that God would use as the crucible to refine and purify my heart. It’s my strong impression that we still have some work to do.

What did I learn? Was it enough? Was it worth the investment?

Time will tell, but until then, I must lean into the rest of the story . . . my story; read some more of the text and add a few lines of my own. This is the curriculum that matters. This is the course of study that counts for the kingdom, and this is the life I have chosen. God has generously laced this journey with his marvelous grace so that, no matter the grades on my report card, there is more than enough mercy and love to pass me through to forever.

Grace is not an excuse for failure—for not showing up to the classroom, not listening up to the teacher, and not living up to my learning. But grace is what it has always been—available. Available to catch me, cradle me, renew me and reshape me when I fail. Grace keeps me in step with God’s Spirit and, every now and again, he uses me as his conduit therein. Because of this truth (this overriding understanding that I am duly enabled by God’s grace to be a dispatcher of his Spirit), I am able to move forward beyond the stressors of this academic year and to consider a next one.

Maybe right now, you’re in the midst of a difficult learning season. You didn’t plan on adding this curriculum to the heavy course load you’re already carrying. Instead, it added you, and you cannot imagine making it through to the exam, much less passing it.

Take a moment to breathe. Take a moment to read, again, the ten tips from this lunchroom lady. Take a moment to pray over each one, and then take more than a moment (take two or ten or twenty) to consider #10. Lean into the rest of the story, and see if God doesn’t have something further to say to you. What you hear in those moments might just lend you enough strength and depth to walk the curriculum through to the finish.

Keep in step with the Spirit and keep company with his available grace. Against such things, there is no law. Instead, because of such things, there is life and, every now and again, there is laughter.

“Hey Lunchroom Lady, may I have another slice of pizza?”

Maybe, Son. Just maybe.

What difficult classroom are you experiencing in this season? Is there one particular tip from the list above that God is using as a prompt in your heart? Never underestimate the rest of the story. It just might be the best of your story in the end.

Click here to learn more about Beyond the Scars – a tool to help you or someone you love examine the rest of the story under the lens of grace. Peace and prayers, friend.

Photo credit – Copyright: chris_elwell / 123RF Stock Photo

Search and Work

“But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; … There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.” –Deut. 12:5,7

~~~~~

To that place I must go, to that task I must apply my hand.

These words have been my portion this year, the great search of my heart and the great work of my hands. Great, because all search and duty rooted in God and in the advancement of his kingdom are great undertakings. Worthy pilgrimages. Excellent yearnings.

If I’m honest, the now, almost four months of search and work in 2014 have felt anything but great. The search seems to have yielded little; my work the same. This has been an odd year of spiritual shaping. The soil of my heart has been disrupted by distractions, a few of them welcomed as friends but most of them shunned as intruders.

Family commotion. Ministry complications. Writing dilemmas. Homeschooling stressors. Medical concerns. The list is full and, consequently, so is my heart . . . full of so very much. It’s tough to process some days, difficult to discern the next steps God would have me to take in each situation.

Where would I be without Jesus? Where would I turn if not to his Word? How would live if not for his sustaining grace that carries me from strength to strength?

Strength to strength. Yes, I see it in my mind’s eye and, by faith, I’m holding on to it in my heart. These have been valley days, times of grunting it out in between mountaintops. I know this; I’m not surprised by this, and, oddly enough, I’m learning to be OK with it – this seemingly endless wandering from peak to peak. This is how God is building my faith muscles, and while it’s not a new teaching strategy for him, it feels raw, new, and every now and again, great to me.

Why great? Because there is strength in movement and because there is great peace in relinquishing one’s heart and feet to the valley floor after years of trying to walk the tightrope suspended between two mountains. For so long, I’ve prayed about that place I must go, and that work I must do. It doesn’t seem as if I will ever reach that place of understanding and rest. What does seem to reach me, instead, is the ever-present search and work of the present.

This present. Commotion. Complications. Dilemmas. Stressors. Concerns. This is the valley floor, and this, too, is the place of God’s dwelling. To search for him here and to work for him here, well, this is something great, someone great to take hold of in the valley. Steady as we go, we walk these next steps together. I will not tumble to my death; instead, I’ll be held tightly through to the finish line.

To that place I must go. To that task I must apply my hand.

That that? Jesus Christ – the search and work of my present and my forever. By his grace and for his glory, I am sustained. I am blessed. And I am . . .  

Kept in peace.

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