Grace for the Moment


You’ve probably heard the saying, “Sometimes He calms the storm, sometimes He quiets the child” (or something like that). That’s what I would like to discuss on this Tuesdays Together…God’s goodness in the giving and the taking away, in the storms and in the calm. Many people praise God when they get the physical miracle, the tangible healing we can see with our eyes. But, God is still good when we don’t get the answer we hoped for.

It’s probably no surprise that God’s grace is one of my favorite things. His grace and mercy are what whooed me to Him in the beginning. I was a sinner desperate for forgiveness, in need of a Savior…one who would love me always and never leave. It wasn’t until after I walked with Him a little while that He began to teach me about the sufficiency of His amazing grace. It was through my own desperate need, through my grief and weakness that I learned that His grace was all I needed.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I pleaded over and over again for the lives of my Faith and Grace, for the life of my Thomas, for the life of my sweet mother. And, he answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” I learned that healing comes in various forms. Sometimes the Lord touches directly, healing immediately in a way our eyes can see. Sometimes He heals through medicine or doctors. And sometimes, He heals both body and soul by taking His child home to heaven. All are healing, all are miracles, all are worthy reasons to give Him praise.

Do not think it is less of a miracle that He takes your loved one to heaven. Do not consider it an unanswered prayer. For although your pain and loss are great, your loved one’s homecoming is celebrated and his healing is complete. Do you know that: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Ps. 116:15)?

The other thing about His grace is that it often comes in the moment it is needed and not a second before. We have sufficient grace for the day…for the moment. He doesn’t tell us about tomorrow. In fact, we are admonished not to “worry about tomorrow”. He gives us grace that is sufficient to carry us through right now. It is always there…and it is always enough. That is what He promises…not a perfect life of ease. But a life filled with the perfect amount of grace.

I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Yes, our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.
~ Psalm 116: 1-9

The Beauty of the Body

Welcome to this week’s Tuesdays Together in the Word. To join us, please click on the button below:

For a time, I so enjoyed spending Tuesdays sharing nuggets from God’s Word on DeeDee’s Tuesdays Together meme. But, alas…summer beckoned and we took some time off from our Tuesday sharing. We are back this week with some thoughts from 1 Corinthians.(Can’t wait to catch up with the other ladies on this journey! I’ve missed you girls!) There really was so much that could be said about love and Jesus having the victory over death. Lots of great stuff. But, I would like to write this early Tuesday morning about one of my favorite subjects: the beauty of the body of Christ. In case the title of this post or the phrase body of Christ is confusing to you, let me clarify. The body of Christ refers to “the church”…His people, His followers. Believers make up the body of Christ.

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. ~ I Corinthians 12:4-6

Oh, I love it. Almost nothing blesses my socks off more than seeing how the Lord uses different people with various gifts to come together to fulfill His purposes. I love it! I’m getting excited just thinking about the beauty of the ways God has worked in the lives of those around me. Take Sufficient Grace Ministries for example. God has laid different burdens on each heart, but all come together with the purpose of reaching out to minister to grieving hearts. He has drawn people with different gifts together to serve this purpose. Ladies with servants hearts, willing to use their various abilities and talents have joined as one. Those with the ability to sew make beautiful burial gowns and Comfort Bears. Those with a heart to pray intercede on our behalf. One with a talent for creating jewelry makes matching mommy/baby bracelets to give as keepsakes for grieving mothers. Gifted photographers offer their time and abilities to make sure that families have lasting, tangible memories of their time on this earth with their precious babies. Those with the gift of encouragement, encourage. Those with a gift of music, minister and worship through song. Some share through speaking and writing with words given by the Holy Spirit. Some have a compassionate heart. Some great mercy…some abundant grace. Some, a word of wisdom and some a listening ear. Some have great hospitality. Some are wonderful administrators…organized and orderly. (Not so much me, but some!=)

You see, we are who we are for a reason. It is no accident the gifts we have been given. Our interests and abilities have a purpose. They have been placed in our hearts to be used to serve the Lord and minister to His people. Every one of us has the ability to be used in some way. The beauty of the body of Christ is that all have a part. Nothing is wasted. God can use all of us, and every part of us. And…He wants to! He doesn’t waste anything. And, every single part matters. We all have something to give. Doesn’t that just blow your mind?

After speaking of the various spiritual gifts in verses 4-10, this one jumps out: But one and the same Spirit works in all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. ~ I Corinthians 12:11 God determines what each person’s gifts and abilities will be. The Holy Spirit works in all these things.

There are many ways that we members come together to form the beautiful body of Christ. For as the body is one and have many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. (I Corinth. 12:12) There are many parts to our physical bodies, and all have a role. We have eyes, toes, fingers, legs, arms, etc. All are part of the body. All different parts. We can’t all have the same part. We can’t all be eyes, or legs, or arms. There must be different parts…different roles to play.(Speaking of roles, in theatre it is commonly said, “There are no small parts, only small actors.” Well, that saying is somewhat true in this sense, as well. Nurturing our children and caring for our home has no less importance than say, leading worship. In many ways, it may have greater value. Yet, each part serves a purpose. God desires an obedient, willing heart. We are to be used for His glory, not our own.) But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if we were all one member, where would the body be? But indeed, there are many members, yet one body. (I Corinth. 12:18-20)

I shared ways that different members use their abilities and gifts through Sufficient Grace Ministries. But, there are many other ministries that God works through the same way, and we are are still part of the same body. God has laid it on my heart to serve in one way that meets the needs of some, and another person ministers in another area, filling yet another need. Our God is creative and He works in amazing ways in the lives of the willing hearts of His people. We must recognize and encourage one another…rejoicing in whatever way that Christ is preached. Too often, it feels that different ministries are divided, instead of encouraging one another to grow and continue the good work God has begun in them. We are one…part of the same body. And, all are necessary and useful to Him. And, if one member suffers, all members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all members rejoice with it. (I Corinth. 12:26)

In many ways, we need to be reminded to love and encourage one another. Which, I suppose is the reason that I Corinthians 13 comes next in the Bible. But, that chapter deserves it’s own post, so I will just leave you with this. Be the person God has created you to be. If he has gifted you with an ability, use it for His glory. If you aren’t sure how to do that, ask Him to show you. He is just waiting to answer that prayer! And, you will be abundantly blessed and amazed to see what He is able to do in and through your life!

The Gift of Right Now

Welcome to this week’s Tuesdays Together in the Word and a combined Wednesdays Walk. Both seemed fitting. To join us, please click on the button below:

Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. ~ James 5:7-8

When my oldest son, Timothy was young, I was quite confident in my own abilities as a mother. My ideas about parenting were very black and white. If you do x,y, and z you will achieve certain results. While far from perfect, I was consistent in discipline, abundant in love and nurturing, and taught him God’s word as well as his A,B,C’s. I also cared for several other children in my home day care. It was a joyous season of life. I was a young mom, and able to juggle my motherhood duties with ease. I potty-trained several boys at once without flinching, cooked lunch daily for a hungry brood, lassoed the little ones for story-time and naptime, sang to them, taught them to pray, laughed with them, survived the chicken pox plague of 1990-something, and counted it all joy. I thought that if I just did it all right, my child would turn out a certain way. He would be obedient, love the Lord, love America, love his mama, and just be a fine young man. While all of those things may very well come to pass (and in many ways have), I have learned a little since the days of my early motherhood. Some things that have turned my mommy-philosophies upside down and inside out.The path to getting to that point is not going to be as smooth as I once envisioned. It may not look anything like my plan, but it may bring forth fruit that I could never have imagined.

I was one of those moms who swelled with pride, thinking that my child’s good behavior was a result of my successful parenting. I would sit at a restaurant with my well-behaved Timothy, looking at other wiggling children…thinking that those parents must not have taught their children to sit still in a restaurant. Tsk…tsk…

Then, it happened. Two things that have turned my mommy-world upside down.

1. My oldest son entered adolescence, and formed his own strong opinions, some of which are not of those that I so carefully taught him. He is trying to find his own way in this world, deciding what he thinks of this or that. I remember being shocked when we entered this season…shocked with the possibility that he would not necessarily choose to follow what we had always taught. (which actually for the most part, he has chosen well, so far. It’s just the possibility that vexes me.) Shocked by the sudden lack of control. Shocked that my ideas of parenting a certain way to achieve a certain result were not fool-proof.

2. God gave us James. James has never fit exactly into a rigid mold with all my iron-clad ideas of mothering. He has always marched to the beat of his own drummer, requiring creative, purposeful parenting. James was the little boy wiggling in the restaurant…no matter how many times I would take him out to eat and encourage him in the art of sitting still. (As a matter of fact, an appalled mother sitting near us, once leaned over the booth and said, “Could you please make him stop being so obnoxious?” Granted, her disdain in my opinion was not warranted. James (maybe 2 at the time) was walking back and forth on the booth and smiling when he got to me, putting his arms around me and giving me a bear hug. The woman was in the booth behind us. And she was afraid he might bump her when he reached to hug me. He likes to live life large…and loud. He ran up the church aisle at the bible school program screaming like a wild, crazed native, having somehow escaped my grasp and removed his shirt in one fell swoop. I stood horrified as everyone else laughed. Poison control knew my voice by the time he reached his first birthday. He’s had a cheerio up his nose, swallowed a lego, been stuck in a swing, and choked on dryer lint (don’t ask). He has always had his quirks. Some of them easy to adjust to, and others that are more challenging. Parenting him has been a stretching experience… incredibly joyful and requiring a great deal of focus and energy.

And…to all of this, I say…what a gift. What a freeing gift these boys have been to my life. Yes, my mothering-ideas have been turned upside-down. I have learned that I truly need to trust the Lord for their lives as well as my own. I am going to mess up and so are they. (By the way, I don’t judge other parents anymore…especially when their children are wiggling in the restaurant.) They are individuals, created by God…not little mini-me’s meant to fit a mold of my choosing. (By the way…about the mini-me thing. It’s really not that appealing. What our children often magnify are the qualities in ourselves we would rather not have revealed let alone magnified!) While it is important and necessary to keep planting seeds of God’s word, wisdom, and truth…they may not grow exactly the way I have in mind. And, the growing takes time. There is a shaping and molding in the hands of our loving God. We can plant and water the seeds, but it is God who gives the increase. Like a farmer waiting for his crop to yield it’s fruit, we must wait patiently for the seeds to grow.

God is teaching me about grace with my children…and grace for me as their mother. Every time their behavior was less than perfect, I used to wonder what I was doing wrong. (Incidentally, this attitude was never fruitful for any of us.) I would get focused on their performance and mine, forgetting the more important thing. Forgetting the importance of love and relationship. I am still learning. But, His grace is sufficient…for me and for them. Most of the battles are better fought on our knees in prayer.

I leave you with this…a lesson that even as I was teaching, it was I who was being taught. James and I were on a bike ride a couple days ago. He was so caught up in what we were going to do after the bike ride…so anxious about whether we would go swimming or not, that he was missing the joy of the bike ride. The sky was blue with big, fluffy clouds. The birds were singing. There was a slight breeze, and it was the perfect temperature. All around us was beauty, and the world seemed to sing praises to the Creator. But James was missing it. He was grumbling and complaining…missing the opportunity for joy. I could have simply scolded him, given a lecture and let my own joy slip away in the process. (Something I have probably done many times.) Instead, I smiled.

“James, stop your bike and sit under this tree with me, ” I said as I pulled off the road and into the grass at the park.

“Why? What are we doing,” he half-heartedly grumbled with an anxious sigh.

“Sit down, honey. You are so worried about what is going to happen next, you are missing the gift of what’s happening right now.”

As the words left my mouth, I knew that they were as much for me as they were for him. God was speaking to my own heart, teaching me the very thing that was being spoken to James with my own lips.

“Look at the sky. See how blue it is. See the different shapes the clouds make. Now, close your eyes. What do you hear?”

At first he said stubbornly frowning, “I hear kids swimming at the pool. And I’m not.”

I smiled again, “What else do you hear?”

“The wind moving the trees.”

“Birds.”

“Children laughing.”

“The motor of a car driving.”

We opened our eyes, and talked about how we can see the wind blowing the trees but we can’t see the wind. Kind of like we can’t see God, but we can see the what He does in our lives. We can see the world that He made. Peace settled on James’ face and mine.

“God gave us the gift of this beautiful day. Right now, we are on a bike ride. We have the opportunity to enjoy it, or miss out worrying about something else.”

“Can we get back to the ride, now?” James asked.

So, off we went…riding our bikes…surrounded by the beauty of the world God made…living in the moment, relishing the gift of right now. I think He was smiling with us, don’t you?

A Little More On Faith

Welcome to this week’s Tuesdays Together in the Word. To join us, please click on the button below:

I am so torn this week because of the wealth of wisdom in this week’s Tuesdays Together scriptures. But, I wrote last week that I would be talking a little more about faith on this Tuesday’s post. So, I will stick with the plan and leave the book of James for another post.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
~Hebrews 12:1-2

Can I just say, I am fired up this morning to write about the Hall of Fame of Faith! Just like His word says, I feel encouraged to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us…to run with endurance the race set before us…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Whoo-Hoo! (I can sort of hear one of those sassy Shania Twain songs in the background and part of me wants to say a feisty, “Let’s Go Girls”! And, for the record, I don’t even listen to country music much!) Reading their stories…being reminded of what our God has done…strengthens us to continue on. We are broken vessels…imperfect…full of flesh, weakness, and flaws. And do you know what? So was everyone mentioned in Hebrews 11. What they did have, though, was faith. They knew they could look to God and place their trust in Him.

Now faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen.
~ Hebrews 11:1

Things not seen. I can’t see God, in person with my human eyes. I have walked places where I couldn’t see the answers to my questions…where the hope I had was in something that I couldn’t see. It is a believing without seeing. What I can see is the evidence of the hope we have in Him. The evidence of things not seen. I can see His hand working in my heart to forgive someone who has wronged me. I can see His hand in the beauty of the world that He has created like a fine masterpiece (displayed magnificently on the golf course, I might add!=)) I can hear evidence of His existence in the sound of a newborn baby’s cry. As well as in the songs of praise that arose in my heart and lifted from my lips as I said goodbye to my sweet Thomas. In the daily grace that is poured out on my family, I can feel the evidence of things not seen…the substance of things hoped for. He is. And He does great things in our lives.

I remember night after night as I sought answers and comfort while waiting for our Thomas, I wanted to understand faith. In Hebrews 11, we find that without faith it is impossible to please God. Now, I was a little mixed up, wondering if it was my lack of faith that had placed me in this position. Was it because I didn’t have enough faith that we had lost Faith and Grace and were facing the loss of Thomas? And what did faith look like? I wanted to please God. Was I faithless because I was afraid…because I didn’t want to walk this path again…because although I knew He was able to save Thomas, I didn’t know if He would? I couldn’t see the beginning from the end. So, when I read Hebrews 11, I was looking for the answers. Help me understand this faith you require. What does it look like, Lord? Should I know with complete confidence what will come? Or is it a blind trusting?

So, I read of Noah…and how he obeyed “being divinely warned of things not yet seen“. Noah built the ark before one drop of rain fell. God told him to do it, and he did…even though he did not yet see what was to come. Abraham obeyed God, going when God said to go. (Heb. 11:8b) “And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” He went…not knowing…by faith.

You may think I’m a little crazy, but the fact that they were no different than you and I really gave me comfort. They didn’t know the beginning from the end any more than we do. Maybe I thought that they had some insight…some extra confidence in what was to come…something we lack in modern times. They didn’t know where they were going or what was coming next any more than we do. They just trusted in their God. And they weren’t perfect. Read their stories. Abraham lied. Sarah laughed when told of God’s promise that she would bear a son. Noah got drunk. David committed adultery and murder. Moses also killed a man.

And…they didn’t even get to see all the promises fulfilled…at least not while they still walked this earth.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. ~ Heb. 11:13

But now they desire a better, that it, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. ~ Heb. 16

Friends, they did not see the entire promise fulfilled this side of heaven. Some answers will never be given until we are in heaven. So we look forward to that promise, resting our faith in that hope. He has prepared a place for us, even as we feel like strangers on this earth.

Reading on in Hebrews 11:23-39, Moses “endured as seeing Him who is invisible”, Rahab “did not perish with those who did not believe”. And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson, and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens….

It goes on to talk about those who were tortured and gave their lives in faith…”of whom the world was not worthy”. Folks, these people messed up. None of them were strong on their own. None of them were exempt from moments of doubt and weakness. All of them had moments when the darkness seemed so threatening. Read the Psalms and you will see how David wrestled, and yet he is called a man after God’s own heart. It isn’t about the strength of these individuals that God holds up as our example. It is about the strength of their God. They had victory because of Him. They were made strong through their weakness. They didn’t have all the answers. They didn’t even always do it right. But, they trusted in their God…who is able. His glory shines through them. They knew where to look. When doubt threatened…when fear overcame…when they couldn’t see the answers…they knew where to place their trust. It wasn’t about their performance…their ability to do it just right. It was about God’s promises…His strength…His ability. They overcame…they are counted worthy…because they called on the Lord in the day of trouble. They relied on Him.

When I think of what they faced and how they endured, I am greatly encouraged. We are surrounded by their witness, strengthened by their testimony. They are cheering us on. And we could insert our own stories…not to lift ourselves up…but to glorify our mighty God.

By faith, Kelly Gerken, carried Thomas within her womb…not knowing whether he would be healed this side of heaven or taken home to be made whole. On her knees, she tearfully cried out for protection from the fiery darts of the enemy in the dark of night. By faith, she clung to the promise that she couldn’t see, believing the Lord when He whispered to her heart that the answer was not hers to know until the time came. That whether on this earth or in heaven’s glory, her Thomas would not die, but would surely live. When He asked, “Do you believe this?”, she said “Yes, Lord. I believe.” Out of her weakness, she was made strong. By faith, death lost it’s sting as she sang songs of praise to the God who held her as He carried sweet Thomas home.

I could write for days…more of what He has done. I pray that you are encouraged by their testimonies. They were just people walking with the Lord, sometimes stumbling along. But, their God was and is faithful. As Hebrews promises: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb 13:8) You serve the same God they do. The same God who carried and strengthened and used the lives of Noah, Moses, Abraham, David…and so many others…offers you the same strength, hope, and promise. We have the same opportunity to shine for Him…to tell the stories of His faithfulness. Our stories are still being written. There are promises still to come.

I would love to hear your own “By faith…” stories if you wish to share them here. Not to exalt us…but to bring glory to our amazing God.

So, what are we waiting for?

Let’s Go Girls…

Poured Out and Spurred On

Welcome to this week’s Tuesdays Together in the Word. To join us, please click on the button below:

There is a lot that could be said this week, especially from the scriptures in Hebrews. These words on the subject of faith have carried me, encouraged me, strengthened and enlightened me many times on this journey of walking with Jesus. Especially during some of the darkest valleys, I have found myself in Hebrews. At the end of myself, on my face…wondering about this thing we call faith. I have written a little before about this and I’m going to be sharing again on Thursday’s Walking With You some of what the Lord has shown me about faith through trials. So, I will try not to get too lengthy here. I do, however, wish to share just a little of the message of perseverance and hope the Lord is speaking to my heart this morning as I read through His word.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess, for He who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. ~ Hebrews 10:19-25

Isn’t that just the way to start our day…with these beautiful words of encouragement, strength and truth?! Whoo-hoo, those words encouraged my weary heart and soul this morning. I won’t lie…I’ve been a little weary. It happens from time to time. And, not always with an easy-to-pin-point reason. But, it happens. Sometimes, even as the Lord’s blessings pour in, weariness threatens. Usually the best cure for the strength-sapping discouragement that rears it’s ugly head is to fix our eyes upon Jesus, but we will talk a little more about that next week.

As we look to Him this week, what do we find? We find hope…and not hope that is fleeting or dependent on circumstances. Not even a hope that depends on our meager faltering faith. But hope that is depends on our God, who is faithful. We are cleansed from our sin and unrighteousness by the sacrifice of Jesus…and we can rest securely in the promises of His Word. It is a full assurance we have in Him. A secure hope. Unwavering.

So, after we rest in the knowledge of our secure hope in Him, what are we strengthened to go and do? Encourage one another, of course. Take time to consider how we may encourage one anther, spurring each other on in love and good deeds. I love this. This is what we’ve been talking about. This is the beauty of the body of Christ, his people, serving in love and encouraging one another to continue serving in love. Beautiful goodness….I love this!!!!

I’ve been feeling a little poured out lately, but even as I write these words, I can feel Him ministering to my tired spirit, renewing and filling me up. As we read on in Hebrews 10, there are even more words encouraging us to persevere, to continue on with the path the Lord has for us. What do we do when we are feeling down-trodden and weary? Discouraged with wavering hope and meager faith?

Remember those earlier days after you received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. ~ Hebrews 10:32

I don’t even know if there is room in this post to write about the depth of meaning in this verse for me. The truth is that, while we would never ask for the the trials in our lives, they are the times when I can look back and see God working in and through them. I can see how closely I clung to Him, on the darkest of days. At the time, I certainly did not feel like some great example of faith. Of course, I didn’t really understand what that looked like. In the moment, we are often just clinging to Him for survival, for comfort, for hope, for the strength to take our next breath. But, as we look back, the perspective is different. I would never hold myself up as some great example of faith or the poster-child for how to walk through sorrow. I know my weaknesses and doubt too well. I know all the flaws and fears I felt. But, as time goes by and life goes along without tragedy in all of our days, I have noticed that we don’t always cling as tightly to Him once the danger has passed. Once, we are brought through our wilderness, we sometimes grow comfortable. We (or at least I) cling less tightly. So, when I look back at the day I felt most forsaken in my life, I know the brokenness. I know the weakness. I know my doubt and fear. I know my little faith. But, I also know that somehow…in the darkness of that day and heavy weight of that night, a strength arose that did not come from me. My part was small…I didn’t know much. And I was no match for the accuser before me, but I knew the One to cry out to. And, I did. I came…crawling, desperate, on my face, drowning in tears. But I came. And opened His Word. And poured out my broken heart. Sometimes, I read the words I wrote on that fateful night when we had heard that our Thomas was incompatible with life. And I stand in awe of the faith displayed. I stand in awe of the God who put it there…the God who could draw me near when I felt forsaken. The God who could, with His still small voice, overpower the darkness and stand me firmly on the ground in the great test of suffering before me. Some days, I wonder where she went…that girl. Then, He stands me up again.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while,
“He who is coming will come and will not delay.
But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.”
But we are not one of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. ~ Hebrews 10:35-39

We must hold on to the confidence we have in Him. We must not shrink back.

O.K….I meant to talk about chapter 11…the Hall of Fame for Faith. But, this post is growing way too long (sorry). So, what I will say is this: As I read these words many years ago in the dark of that night when hopelessness threatened to swallow me, something struck me for the first time. I wanted to understand what faith was. I wanted to please God. As I studied those who were considered faithful, I noticed something…they weren’t perfect. They had moments of weakness, sin, doubt, and fear. And, do you know what else? They didn’t know the beginning from the end. They were walking as we are, with pieces of the puzzle. They had to rely on God, just like we do. We read their stories and we see God’s hand. We see, just as when we look back at our own stories, how the Lord worked…His plans and purposes fulfilled. We see the promises granted. But, they didn’t know that in the moment that they trusted Him. They had to believe in what they couldn’t see. And to hope in what they were certain of. More on this next Tuesday. And also more on those who didn’t get to see the promise…stay tuned…

On a completely different note, I can’t leave without sharing this verse from Proverbs 14 (that really deserves it’s own post!): The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Praying that we would always speak and act in such a way that builds up our house (our family). Lord, strengthen me and remind me to be a wife and mother that builds up and not one who tears down.
————————————————————————————-

One more thing, and then I will leave you to ponder. Rachel at Once Upon a Miracle is still taking comments in order to support Sufficient Grace Ministries (she is generously giving $1 for every comment.) While we are grateful for her gift and we know that it will help many families through the efforts of this ministry…the bigger reason I hope you will take the time to visit her site is because I want you to read Gracie’s story…to be blessed by the love of this beautiful family and the God who has carried them on this journey. And I want the world to know sweet Gracie. This family has stepped out in faith and “love and good deeds”, and I want them to be encouraged…to reach their goal of 500…not just to benefit our ministry…but to encourage them as they have encouraged us. So, please take some time if you haven’t already, and read their story, and pray for this family…and leave a comment to support them and Sufficient Grace. Thank you so much to all of you who have left a comment, and those who have supported us in so many ways. We love and appreciate you all very much.

Walking in Love…Walking Together

Welcome to this week’s Tuesdays Together in the Word. To join us, please click on the button below:

For the past several weeks, I have been abundantly blessed by the beauty of the body of Christ serving together, lifting one another up in prayer, giving of their abilities to further God’s kingdom, to reach out in love and support to those who are hurting. As I read your stories…the stories of courageous mothers and families who have said good-bye to their precious babies. Beautiful, loved, wanted babies. My heart has broken for each of you. For each of you, I have prayed, and even some, my children have prayed for. Beautiful blog friends have reached out in love and support. We have continued to reach out through the ministry God has given us. And…I have had it on my heart to do more. So taken with your journeys…your stories, there has been a tugging at my heart to walk with you a little more.

Having said all of this, my heart is so broken over some recent happenings in the blog world…some ugliness that I cannot even imagine. I want to be free to reach out in the love of Jesus to those who are hurting. To show love to those in need. That is what we are called to do. As I have shared…I have seen this done beautifully, recently. But, I have also recoiled in the face of some of the ugliness out there. And, part of me wants to pull back…to not put myself out there. To walk away instead of walking with others even more closely. Part of me wants to put up walls of protection against those who are not honest…those who would deceive or take advantage…and those who would lash out in hate.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ~ Ephesians 4:1-3

How I long that we would bear with one another in love…how I long for that unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…

What does it look like to “walk worthy of His calling”?

…you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have giving themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. ~ Ephesians 4:17-19

…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does it’s share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. ~ Ephesians 4:14-16

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. ~ Ephesians 5:1-2

So…in the spirit of walking in love, I’m stepping out, despite the part of me that wants to hunker down and shelter in. For all of those who are grieving or hurting and feeling alone on your journey…I would like to walk with you…to offer a little hope and encouragement. And, while it is hard to visit everyone at varying times, I have been thinking of a way to encourage one another as we gather in one spot.

Although I never attended a support group, I have been considering hosting something on this blog that would be a way to support those who are grieving. I want to offer a place that lifts up, a place that points toward hope. It would be biblically-based, of course. Maybe like a bible study with the purpose of offering comfort for those who grieve? I’m still praying about the details…but thinking I would maybe put up a post with scripture, a message, and some interactive questions, and put up Mister Linky for others to post on the same subject. You could post in the comments if you don’t have a blog. It may be helpful even for those who don’t wish to publicly participate, but can take comfort in reading along with us that they are not alone on this journey. Even if you are not in the days of new grief, you could offer your wisdom and support on the subject. I would love if some of my blog friends who have been carried through their grief by our loving God, experiencing the beauty from the ashes would join us as well, sharing their wisdom. So, we could come together from varying places in our journey and support one another.

Thinking of maybe doing this on the 15th of each month? But, I’d love to hear your input…or to hear if anyone is interested in Walking Together. For those of you who have allowed me, it has been a great privilege to walk with you. And, I pray that we may continue to walk together, to build up and encourage one another in love.

By Grace Through Faith…It is So Not About Me

Welcome to this week’s Tuesdays Together in the Word. To join us, please click on the button below:

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

When I was expecting our twin daughters, Faith and Grace, there were many complications. I lay awake in a hospital bed for weeks, praying, waiting, hoping, resisting doubt and fear. When we heard that we were expecting identical twin daughters, almost immediately, Ephesians 2:8 came into my mind. For it is by grace through faith you have been saved… Grace has always been my favorite name, and that verse has always spoken to my heart. It was not something I did to earn salvation, but a precious gift from our Savior. So, it seemed fitting. And, they no longer were known as Baby A and Baby B, but Faith Elizabeth and Grace Katherine. I’ve been talking a little about names and what it means to have someone know your name. Their names had deep meaning, and more than I even realized.

Webster’s definition of grace: “unmerited help given to the people by God….”. Unmerited. Undeserved. Given freely, not because of anything we did or could ever do to earn it. Grace that covers us. Grace that is given to us daily in a sufficient portion to meet our needs. Abundant, beautiful grace. Grace that saves…grace that carries…grace that comforts. I learned about His grace through being their mother. And I kept learning long after they left this earth.

At first, I thought that they were just beautiful names from a meaningful verse. When asked by one of our doctors why I chose the names Faith and Grace, I said, “Because it’s going to take a lot of both to get through this!” But, even their situation…twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome made sense with the words in the scripture. Because in the condition of twin-to-twin the “lines are crossed”, so to speak. One baby, (Faith) gets too much fluid, blood flow, and nourishment, and the other (Grace) doesn’t get enough. In essence, Grace literally received her nourishment, her life…through Faith. And they were intertwined. Needing one another for survival.

Interesting…It is by grace through faith that we are saved. What I didn’t know is that there would be more. Carrying and saying good-bye to my Faith and Grace was only the beginning of learning about the faith and grace spoken of in these verses. Carrying our Thomas, we learned about true faith. Not the pretty word we Christians throw around…thinking it has something to do with us. Somehow, if we just have enough faith. Oh boy, do we miss the boat on that one. True faith is not some pretty little thing. It is found in the nitty-gritty journey through this life. It is not never feeling doubt or fear, but trusting in God anyway, when you are most afraid and filled with doubt and questions. Trusting when you don’t see. Believing without seeing. Believing when you don’t get the answer you want or when there seems to be no answer at all. Praising Him in the storm. Trusting Him to carry you. Surrendering to the arms of our sovereign God. Blessing Him when He gives and when He takes away. It’s not about how much faith I have or how strong it is. It’s about how mighty, able, powerful, all-knowing, merciful and good my God is.

If carrying Thomas taught us about faith, then meeting him taught us about grace. The all-sufficiency of His grace meeting us in that place of unknown sorrows. And replacing what Satan meant to break us, to destroy us, to darken our hearts forever…with joy overflowing as we met our son. As he filled my arms, and as the presence of the Lord filled the room. I sang, “O Lord, You’re beautiful…Your face is all I seek…For when your eyes are on this child…Your grace abounds to me.” And it did. It abounded, surrounded, lifted and carried me.

And none of it…not one ounce of it was about the strength of my faith, or my ability to conjure up or earn one ounce of the unmerited gift of grace poured out over me. It was only the beginning of the outpouring. It has flowed freely into my life since the moment I asked Jesus to come in. The “works” we are allowed to take part in today are just gifts…immense privileges from Him. Not because of anything we have done. Not because we are worthy…we are so not. Instead, we are just His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared for us…so that we should walk in them! He made us for the purposes that we serve today. Each of us have specific works that He has prepared for us to do. We just walk in them. If we are walking along the path of this life, following Him, we will just gently stumble upon what He has for us…as He leads us. The gifts and abilities that we have been given are no accident. They are gifts…given to us by our Father…for the purpose of serving and glorifying Him. And in turn, blessing His people. All we have to do, is keep walking.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…
~Colossians 1:9-10

What Matters

Welcome to this week’s Tuesdays Together in the Word. To join us, please click on the button below:

Busyness abounds in our lives. We rush around with full schedules, running here and there…working, building, making a home. Many of the things we are doing are good things, fun things, necessary things. But they still take our time and focus. Almost everyone around me seems a little stretched for time, a little busy. And, I am most certainly included among those who are frazzled and at times even overwhelmed with the day-to-day demands of this life. I’ve written many times about it…about my jumbled priorities and disorganization…about feeling overwhelmed. Much of it is necessary. Much of it is good. But, how much of it really matters? And how much of it could we do without?

This week’s scriptures are excellent words to remind us of what really matters, starting with this:
For when he dies he shall carry nothing away;
His glory shall not descend after him.
~Psalm 49:17

Psalm 49 talks about those who focus all their time and energy on building wealth and glory. Please don’t misunderstand, we have to work to make a living and we should focus some of our time and energy on that. We have to make a home, pay our bills, support our churches and ministries. But, how much of our focus is on material things? Are we seeking to have more than we need…to always have something more or bigger? Are we seeking glory in the things of this world? And, I love the message of this Psalm…you cannot take any of it with you. What does it really matter? What really matters is where we will be spending eternity…not how much stuff we accumulated on this earth and how much glory we achieved.

So…what really matters? What should really be the focus of our attention, the desire of our hearts, the attitude with which we approach the day’s agenda? Let’s look to Philippians chapter 4 to find out.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

We are not to be anxious or overwhelmed when we look at the needs before us…but instead we should pray with a thankful heart, and trust the Lord to handle what lies ahead. In return, He fills us with peace as a trade for our anxiety…and not peace as the world gives us. Not a fleeting moment of peace, but a deep abiding peace that comes from a loving, able God…a peace that is not dependent on circumstances…a peace that surpasses all human understanding. A peace that guards our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Oh…sweet peace.

What should we focus our thoughts on?

Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. ~ Phil. 4:8

Guess what, if you read to verse nine, you’ll find that the trade-off for focusing our thoughts on the things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely and of good report is…more peace. Peace sounds so much better than frazzled and overwhelmed…so much better.

Another good place to be…resting in the arms of our Father, trusting Him to meet our needs…no matter what state we are in. No matter how things look with our limited human eyes. Knowing that He is not only able…but willing to meet all of our needs.

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~Phil. 4:11-13

How can we learn to be content everywhere and in all things? Because, we know the One who promises to meet all of our needs according to His riches and glory…

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. ~ Phil. 4:18-20

A Little Love and Encouragement

Welcome to this week’s Tuesdays Together in the Word. To join us, please click on the button below:

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ…
Philippians 1:3-6

I love the body of Christ. Love my church family. Love the ladies (and the gentlemen) who serve with me in ministry. Love the mothers who join me in lifting weekly prayers for our children at Moms in Touch. I love the total strangers I have met in blog land who pray for, encourage, inspire, and walk with me. Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. And I do pray for you, joyfully and fervently. What fellowship we have in the gospel, in the good news of Jesus.

And…I love the next part. Love this promise. He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ. He is not finished with us yet. He began the work in us…the process of making us a new creation in Him. And He will not quit until we are complete. That’s a promise. He is working in our lives. Weaving a tapestry, using everything that comes into our lives to complete His good work. There are moments of amazing joy and victory…moments of great, heartwrenching sorrow and defeat. There are lessons learned. Sins and repentance. Our tears, our laughter, our will…all part of the tapestry. Our quirks, our strengths, our weaknesses, our dreams, our longings, every thought, every desire of our hearts…woven together. And, oh…what a beautiful tapestry it will be when the master Creator finishes His good work. How beautiful we already are to the One who sees us as we will be…not as we are in our unfinished state.

Can I just say that out in the cold selfish world, we don’t often hear such loving sentiments? We don’t often hear that we are treasured, that someone is grateful for our part in their lives, and that we are prayed for. This is not so among the body of Christ. After Paul thanks God for his fellow believers, he prays further. We see the love in the body of Christ in Paul’s words: And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and in all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~ Philippians 1:9-11 What if we prayed this way for one another? What if the world actually operated with such love and respect for one another? Even within the body of Christ, we don’t always operate in this way…we don’t always encourage and pray. Sometimes, sadly our words are even discouraging. Lord, help us to have a heart that loves this way…a spirit that encourages. May we spur one another on.

There is so much about encouraging and truly loving one another in sweet unity in these verses in Philippians.

Stand fast in unity…worthy conduct…strength in numbers…
Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may heart of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries… Phil. 1:27-28

And specific instructions on how to treat one another…
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. ~ Phil. 2:1-4

There are so many more nuggets…wisdom exhorting us to do all things without complaining or disputing. (As a mama, I have used these words many times to exhort my little men – and to remind myself when the “I dont’ wannas” overtake me!) But I want to leave you with this. Many who read this blog have suffered terrible loss. Many come with broken hearts due to various struggles. The following verse reminded me of the hope we have in Jesus…that He doesn’t waste anything in our lives…that He has plans that are good, a future and a hope for us.

No matter what we face. If there is one purpose in our lives, one truth, one goal, one theme, let it be this:
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel… ~ Philippians 1:12

In all things, may He be glorified…and may He draw us closer still…and may more come to know His saving grace…

Love to you all…

Liberty

Welcome to this week’s Tuesdays Together in the Word. To join us, please click on the button below:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. ~ Galatians 5:1

Freedom. Men have longed for it, bled and died for it, written about it, spoken fondly of it, and fought to protect it. Families have risked life and limb for the promise of it.

Freedom…liberty. A beautiful gift we enjoy in this great land of ours. A land where we can worship as we please, work where we wish, send our children to the schools we choose, and vote for leaders to uphold the law of our land. We have choices and freedoms that we enjoy and maybe even take for granted everyday. The freedom we enjoy came at a price. Brave men and women have given their lives for the freedom we hold dear. Wives have waited at home, praying for husbands…for the fathers of their children…praying for their safe return. Mothers have said good-bye to sons (and daughters).

Yes, our liberty comes at a dear price. And, although we speak of being free…are we really? We enjoy so many choices, and opportunities are all around. But are we truly free? Are we free from the burdens of sin, selfish choices, our past, debts, the opinions of others, the cares of this world? Do we walk and talk as one who has been freed from the yoke of bondage that once held us in it’s grip? The ways of the world that we once followed?

Just as we enjoy freedoms in our country because of the sacrifice of generations of brave men and women, our freedom from the bondage of sin came at a great price. Jesus gave His very life to buy our freedom…to pay our debt…to grant us complete liberty in Him…the ultimate opportunity of a new life, a new identity. He promises to make us a new creation in Him, cleansing us and forgiving us of our sins…freeing us from the bondage of all that entangles us…all that wears us down, all that is keeping us from being the person He intended us to be. He wants us to be free to spread our wings and soar.

I often find myself feeling burdened and entangled. Sometimes it is with the day-to-day schedule. The to-do list. The mounting disorganization of my house, my purse, my car, my office/basement, my thoughts…my entire life! I don’t always “feel” free. Sometimes I feel like the prisoner who has been set free, and stands in the cell with the doors wide open. He just has to walk through. Like I’m holding my breath and waiting for life to begin. Like I’m just putting my head down and surviving the day, instead of really living the most of each moment. Seeking what the Lord has for me in every breath. The prison walls have come tumbling down. He has granted me complete freedom. He wants to see me fly… and sometimes, I just stand there.

Please don’t get me wrong. I know that I am already completely free in Him. He has already granted me that freedom, and in many ways, I do take His hand and experience the joy of walking in liberty. But sometimes, I sense that there is more freedom from the burdens of this world…that He has something more for me that I have yet to grasp. A different way to live. A freedom that I sometimes experience…sometimes I have tasted a hint of what He has for me. Sometimes, my flesh is quiet and my spirit feels fully free…unburdened, unentangled by the cares of this world, complete. Other times, it is a great battle to stand fast in the the liberty by which Christ has made us free…a “taking every thought captive into the obedience of Christ” battle.

Why is it a battle? Because I grow weary when I try to go out over and over in my own strength. I grow weary of the ways of this world, the inadequacies of my flesh, the ugliness of my sin. Weary of my out-of-order list of priorities. Weary is not good.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. ~ Galatians 6:9-10

And…what helps us to keep from getting weary? What reminds us of the beautiful freedom we have in the arms of our Lord? Encouragement…how I have longed for encouragement today. And, I found it in His Word. (Big surprise!) :)

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. ~ Galatians 3:12-13

So, we must stand fast in liberty…Keep our eyes on Jesus, and Keep on Keeping on in Him…abounding in love, resisting weariness, and resting in the promise of the sweet freedom that is ours if we surrender all to the One who set us free.