When I first started this month long writing challenge, I wasn't sure I would have enough to write about. And in that first week I wasn't so sure I would be able to follow through with writing everyday. But somehow I did it. There were lots of late nights and early mornings, lots of wondering if it all even matters and lots of getting caught up.
But this month has taught me quite a lot about myself and about grace. It has helped me see myself as a writer and helped me know what I need to do in order to write.
I quickly learned, that with the topic of grace, and learning to accept grace, there are endless words and stories. I'm naturally very observant and aware, but I have to chose to see the grace in everything. And when I open my eyes to see grace, the mundane begins to look a bit more miraculous.
I also learned although I definitely need to write everyday, I definitely don't need to blog everyday. There are amazing people like Ann Voskamp and Seth Godin who can get away with posting amazing words everyday. But in this season, I just need to keep writing. But I now know I can be way more consistent in publishing on the blog, even though I don't need to do it everyday.
I'm proud of myself for getting through October. October was hard and exhausting and draining. But I'm mighty excited that November is here. Now I get to take what I learned about myself and my writing habits and pour myself into my book. Now I get to take what I learned about grace and keep fighting for it. Because it wasn't just a fight for a month, this fight for grace is a fight for a lifetime. And it's a fight that is so worth it.
Hospitality has always been part of my life. Whether it has been watching my parents use their home for parties and Bible studies and other events, or having an open invitation families houses of my church in college, or just going to different friends homes throughout life, I've seen the power hospitality has to make someone feel loved, appreciated, welcomed, cared for.
I've seen how hospitality can open doors for wonderful and hard conversations, about this life and the next.
I've seen laughter and tears happen in the safety of hospitality.
Sweet Jesus meets people in the sweet grace of hospitality.
We moved into our own home the first weekend of September. It is a little town home perfect for our family. Is the house itself perfect? Well, no. But it is a home provided by the Lord and perfect for this season. And it is our prayer that the Lord would use it for His fame and glory, that He would use it for whatever His purposes may be in our lives and in the lives of others.
And I'm learning that using our home for God's glory and purposes means it doesn't have to be perfect. By all means, we will definitely take care of our home. We know that it doesn't matter what the bank says, our house is the Lord's. Despite the mortgage, our house is a gift from the Lord. But my type A personality and tendency to always need things clean and organized means I have to learn to invite people into our real lives, our messes, our chaos. I have to fight for true hospitality, not a perfect hospitality.
When we give grace to ourselves to invite people into our homes despite the messes, we actually give grace to others because of the messes. When we allow others to see our lives, our hearts, our homes, we allow relationships to be made on a deeper level. When we put "people above projects" (a phrase from Lysa Terkeurst that I just LOVE) we invite Jesus to work in our own lives and also invite others to see Him.
Hospitality allows people to see and experience grace. The God who came and dwelt among us continues to meet us in our homes. The God who makes our hearts His home, uses our hospitality to draw others, and ourselves, to Him.
I am an introvert. And I've had to learn to be okay with that. I wrote about it once way back before Katherine was born. And now I'm the mama of a two-year-old and guess what? I'm still an introvert.
I've seen others post about the introvert life this week and that always makes me smile and feel known.
Crystal Paine (Money Saving Mom) shared a Huffington Post article entitled 23 Signs You're Secretly An Introvert which is quite accurate. And then she posted about learning to not feeling guilty about being an introvert. It is always encouraging to read someone who thinks like you and understands you. Even that little reminder from Crystal helped me to know it is okay, and necessary, to accept yourself and to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
And if you follow Jen Hatmaker on Instagram you probably saw her post a shirt about introverts. That one definitely made me chuckle. It's just so true though.
As I grow and walk through more of this life, I'm learning to embrace who God has created me to be and have confidence in that. It is not always easy. I don't always know what will energize me or what will drain me. Sometimes it just depends on the place, on the people, on the circumstances. But the more I take time to process the times I have become overwhelmed or have shut down, the more I can learn and grow, communicate to others and encourage others. The more I learn about who God has created me to be, the better I can do what He has called me to do. And the whole process takes grace; the whole process is grace.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
God's grace created; God's grace saves; God's grace prepared; God's grace sustains. It is by God's grace that I am saved. My salvation is not a result of anything I have done. The only boasting I can do is in the work of Christ, in what God Himself has done. And as I accept His grace and see His grace in all things, I also must accept that I am His workmanship.
Our kind, loving, gracious God created each of us uniquely. We are His workmanship. And He prepared works for each of us to do, works that can only be rightly done with our unique personalities and traits and giftings. As we walk in the works God prepared for each of us, we walk in grace. As we walk in the works God prepared for each of us, we spread His fame and glory to the nations.
So, I'm learning to embrace being an introvert, in all its awkward glory. Of course, I'm definitely not saying we should embrace the sin in our lives. I'm saying there is beauty and grace in embracing who God created us to be. It is in that embrace that we begin to fully embrace grace and live out our unique callings.
I struggle with worry and anxiety. Fear tries to tackle me and leave me paralyzed often.
I could keep that to myself, hide those struggles since other's can't see them anyway. It might seem easier to do that. But I want to be transparent about my struggles. I want to be real about the things in my heart; dealing with sins that aren't visible can lead to pride. I want to encourage others in any way I can; the only way I can do that is by being authentic. But ultimately, transparency isn't what we are called to. We are called to repentance.
And I often have to repent of fear and of worry, of anxiety and of stress. There is no doubt that I must be continually immersed in the Word of God to let grace and love overtake fear and worry. And prayer must continually happen to remind me of my dependence on the Lord, realign my heart to His, and let gratitude fill my heart.
There are also times when the Lord uses music to speak to my soul. Some songs can calm my heart and remind me of the truth of the gospel in a powerful way. This song does that. And I pray it does for you too. It is by grace alone that I am no longer a slave to fear and am a child of God. What an amazing, humbling, powerful, wonderful gift and truth!
No Longer Slaves
The authors of the letters in the New Testament often greeted their readers with the words "grace and peace" in some form. The phrasing grace and peace occurs 17 times throughout the New Testament in greetings. Yes, many of them are from Paul, but there is still a repetition worth looking at.
Romans 1:7: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
God's Word is powerful and it does not return void. And that is true even in the greetings of the letters. The phrase "grace and peace" holds power. There is deep meaning and significance in the phrase. The part of speech used, the joining of two different cultural greetings, the implications, the repetition all come together to make "grace and peace" a truly beautiful greeting.
These two articles give great insight into this powerful phrase:
"Grace and Peace: How a Simple Salutation Points Us Toward a New Society" by Al Hsu
"May Grace and Peace Be Multiplied to You" by John Piper
When I wake up in the morning, I want grace and peace to greet me.
When I walk through the day, I want grace and peace to be multiplied in and through me.
And when I fall asleep at night, I want to rest in the wondrous and extravagant grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
May grace and peace rule in our hearts and our homes so that we might spread His grace and peace to the nations.
I am no hoarder, but I am quite sentimental. I have been prone to hang on to things gifted or earned. Every note written to me, every card sent to me, every knickknack and gift given to me has traveled with me through the years. I also kept everything school related. The report cards and tests, the projects and papers never went in the trash. (And I really do mean all of them, from kindergarten through college.) I had boxes and boxes from things from school.
Before heading to school at Union from Florida, I went through the majority of my school stuff and recycled a good bit of it. But I still hung on to way too much. Then, after Spencer and I got married, we went through everything as we unpacked. Once again, a good chunk was recycled. And then when we moved from Jackson to Nashville last year, we sorted through what was left of it, and found more to get rid of. We narrowed our collective school stuff down to a small bin. And it felt great!
But looking back, it is funny how at one point what I thought I needed and couldn't get rid of, were the very things that were easily recycled later on. It definitely took me some time to sort through it all. Sometimes time gives us the perspective we need.
We moved just over a month ago, and I stumbled upon a few papers that probably shouldn't have made it through all those previous cut backs. They were just a few papers, so it wasn't a big deal to hang on to, but it still got me thinking as to why I felt like I needed them. Why hadn't I thrown them away before?
The more I thought about it, the more I realized it all goes back to that desire to achieve, to accomplish. Clinging to all those report cards, test scores, and grades revealed that I found my worth and value in my accomplishments. For many years, I over-committed and overachieved because, even if I didn't realize it at the time, I needed to accomplish in order to be of worth and to be respected, to be loved and make others proud. And that translates to trying to earn love. It has taken me several years to realize that. And it will probably take the rest of my life to fight that tendency.
That is why I have to fight for grace.
I have to fight that tendency I have to earn, to achieve, to accomplish, to work. I have to fight to simply receive. The Lord is continually reminding me, grace is not earned but given by Him, gifted by Him. Grace is not something to achieve, it is a gift to receive. I cannot do anything to earn or accomplish grace. And that is the beauty of it, the mystery of it, the majesty of it.
As we try to live more minimalist, it is definitely easier for me to not hold on to things. And as the Lord works in my heart, I am getting better at seeing when I am trying to earn love or acceptance. I am grateful the Lord never gives up on us. And I'm grateful for Grace that not only saves us, but also sanctifies us and sustains us.
May we live today in light of the glorious grace we have been given. May we live with gratitude and joy because of His saving, sanctifying, sustaining grace. May we rest in a grace that isn't earned but gifted.
Last Sunday, I shared with you a talk that Dr. Steve Brown did at our church. I definitely recommend listening to it if you haven't yet. He also delivered the sermon last Sunday. And although we were in the toddler class during church, we listened to the sermon while we were driving home from Knoxville yesterday. And once again, I highly recommend it.
Dr. Brown talks about what to do when you find yourself continually sinning, when you're not getting better. He looked at Luke 22:24-34 where Jesus discussed who was seen as the greatest after the disciples argued about it. And He told Peter about his coming denials of Him, but also told him to use the times he turns away to strengthen other believers.
Luke 22:24-34 says:
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
Dr. Brown has a unique way of reminding us of the beauty and majesty of grace. He speaks straight to the heart with truth. He is funny and honest, and he speaks in an approachable, practical, and compelling way. After listening, I felt encouraged and spurred on. Dr. Brown gives a refreshing perspective on sin and grace. If you find yourself messing up, going back to sin, or just struggling to see how God can use you (which I'm pretty sure is all of us), this is a wonderful message for you. Download the podcast from Immanuel Nashville and let your heart be strengthened, humbled, and inspired. Be reminded of the amazing grace that is poured on you, even when (and especially when) sin creeps in.
Worry and anxiety, stress and fear can quickly overtake the day. No matter what are individual struggles are, we have a very real enemy who tries to divert our attention away from Jesus in whatever way possible and we live in a culture that constantly pulls for our attention. But no matter what we face or what is happening in our lives, the truth is Jesus is on His throne. He reigns on His throne no matter what is thrown at us and no matter what our mindset is. Jesus reigns.
Jesus came to earth as God and as man, died on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended into heaven and reigns until He returns for His bride, for His Church. He did it all as Prophet, Priest, and King. And because He is the ultimate and perfected Prophet, Priest, and King, we have a Lord that is the Word made flesh and the Truth incarnate, a Lord that gave us the way to God and intercedes for us, and a Lord that rules and reigns on His eternal throne. The gospel is such a marvelous miracle.
And a beautiful part of the gospel is an invitation to pray, an invitation to commune with God. Jesus gave us that ability to pray. Prayer is a great mystery and a great gift. We must remember prayer is not something to be taken lightly. But we also must remember if we have trusted Jesus, then we can approach God with a holy confidence. And as we approach Him, our hearts can rest in the truth of who He is. Our hearts can be comforted knowing we are approaching the throne of grace. In prayer, we are approaching Grace Himself.
And Grace is there; Grace is near. In worry and anxiety, stress and fear, in the struggles and pains of life, Grace beckons us to come. Grace listens. Grace lavishly gives mercy, help, comfort, grace, peace, forgiveness, love.
Brothers and sisters, whatever you are facing today, know there is One on the throne of grace ready for you to be near, to speak, to receive. There is One on the throne of grace helping in your time of need. And just knowing there is One on the throne of grace is deep comfort.
***To read about the throne of grace in Hebrews 4:16, please look at a sermon from C. H. Spurgeon delivered on November 19th, 1871. Spurgeon eloquently and beautifully talks about this powerful verse and what it means.***
I stumbled upon the music of Austin Stone Worship recently, and then learned about their new album, This Glorious Grace, through Jamie Ivey's podcast. And I must introduce these two things to you!
Seriously, ladies. You'll definitely want to subscribe to The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey because it is just so fun and endearing. Jamie interviews one lovely lady for each episode and they chat about all sorts of things. It's funny, refreshing, encouraging, entertaining, and heartwarming all wrapped up in a cozy hour. I always feel like I know Jamie and her friends afterwards. The Happy Hour is a sweet gift to listen to.
And this is for both the ladies and the fellas: the music from Austin Stone Worship is beautiful and powerful. It is musically rich and theologically rich. Their music is a gift to this generation of worshipers. It centers around the gospel and takes you to the feet of Jesus on His throne. And the title track from their newest album is one that reminds us of the beauty and majesty, awe and wonder of the grace of God.
May the words of this song be our constant, daily prayer.
I'd love to know your favorite podcasts and music! Let me know in the comments what you're listening to!
Yesterday I wrote about the grace that meets you in the early morning hours. I wrote about the transforming grace that meets you in the discipline of waking up early and being with Jesus. Little did I know I'd be reading my own words in the middle of night last night and reminding myself that grace would meet me there, too.
Katherine has always struggled with sleep. It has slowly gotten better though. Nighttime definitely isn't as rough as it was two years ago, or even a year ago. We've just learned to adapt to what our family needs to do in order to stay sane and get sleep.
Last night, Katherine woke up at some point after midnight so upset. Fear had completely gripped her. I'm not sure if she had a bad dream or was just scared when she woke up in a pack-n-play and couldn't find us, but she woke up and cried a terribly awful cry. In those moments of just trying to help her catch her breath, I held her and prayed for the peace of Christ to wash over her. I prayed for grace to hold her. I prayed for Jesus to comfort her. I prayed for her little mind to be filled with calming love instead of crippling fear. Eventually she calmed down, and we all went back to sleep, but those awful cries shook my soul.
Those cries made me think of the countless people who are up in the middle of the night for so many different reasons. Loneliness, despair, anxiety, fear, physical pain, babies, emotional turmoil, work, distress, and such much more can be companions in the night. Those late night hours can be bleak and desolate and discouraging. But even in those late night hours, there is grace.
In the dark, grace arrives as light. In the silence, grace whispers the truth. In the pain, grace remains all sufficient.
The dark, the silence, the pain of the middle of the night brings real and raw prayers. The middle of the night hours foster authentic communication with Jesus. Those sacred hours remind us of our complete dependence of the Lord. And that dependence is surely grace.