I'm definitely not a night owl. I wouldn't say I'm a morning person either though. But more importantly, I am in the process of being a disciplined person.
Sometimes that means staying up late to read or write or prepare for the next day; most times that means waking up early to spend time with Jesus and write and mentally prepare for the day; and always that means fighting to not let my feelings dictate my actions.
I never want my feelings to take my mind, my speech, my heart hostage.
So that is why I'm trying to consistently wake up before I want to, before my body is ready to. And the beauty of being disciplined in one area of life is that it helps you be more disciplined in another. Being a disciplined person does not come easy, but beauty and grace abound in the process.
I'm learning that I don't have to happily jump out of bed when the alarm goes off. I just have to get up. And it is in the getting up where transformation happens. A slow, monotonous, hard transformation, but transformation nonetheless. And grace always meets you in transformation.
There is something sweet about meeting Jesus before you meet others. When the Word whispers to your heart before the world pulls for your attention, feelings are better managed and perspectives are more eternal.
When you awake to grace, Truth walks beside you throughout the day.
The transformation to being a disciplined person takes effort and time, dedication and self-control. It takes strength to know when to say no and when to say yes. And that transformation is ultimately a transformation to be more like Jesus. And that, dear friends, makes it all worth it.
October has been a crazy month for us. We shot four weddings in three weekends. And although we love working together in photography, we were left exhausted. Some might not be exhausted after that, but for a full-time teacher and a stay at home mama of a two-year-old it is a lot of work for a "side hustle."
But I'm so thankful for the way Spencer works so hard to provide for us and invest in our future. My respect for him continually grows. He's been working so hard, and I was very thankful when we were able to take this past weekend and just be. A restful weekend was exactly what we needed. Sometimes throwing out the to-do list is the best way to let grace wash over you. Going to the zoo, spending time with family, having a fire, watching football, celebrating my mom and Katherine's birthdays, and playing with the toddlers at church made for a lovely weekend.
And when Monday came, we talked about how good it was to head into the week rested and refreshed. Sabbath rest is essential. Soul care is crucial. And for someone who is prone to working constantly, I have had to learn to rest. I have to be intentional about setting aside time to not do. I'm learning the importance of taking time to just be and not just do.
This weekend was a reminder to us of how good rest is. It reminded us of how needed rest is. Rest gives you strength. It helps you persevere and press on. Rest is a gift. It doesn't have to be earned. Rest in an invitation to sit with Grace. A Grace that encourages, equips, empowers. A Grace that beckons us weary travelers to come.
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
Have you ever read a book that completely changed your life?
If you have, I'd love to know what it was! (Let me know in the comments!) And if you haven't, can I recommend two things? The first, read more, friend. :) Whatever genre you like most, dive into a book in it. And then maybe go outside of your comfort zone and read something from a different genre. Borrow one from a friend or the library. Download an audio book. Pick up one from a thrift store. Words have great power. And there is a unique, transformative power in the written word. Secondly, I'll recommend this book to you: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I definitely have a list of life-changing books (I'll share my top five after this October series), but this one is at the top of the list and so beautifully deals with the topics of gratitude and grace.
Ann's work, One Thousand Gifts, radically altered my perspective on life and outlook on life. She expands and deepens the meaning of gratitude. She notes early on in her book, "Satan's sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave" (page 15). God's gifts are grace. And when we accept them with gratitude, we accept His grace. Living a life of gratitude is living a joyful life of reflecting God's grace.
Ann comes to Luke 22:19 in her search of a meaningful life: "And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'” She poetically investigates those words in the final hours of Jesus' life and the weight of them.
I thumb, run my finger across the pages of the heavy and thick books bound. I read it slowly. In the original language, "he gave thanks" reads "eucharisteo." I underline it on the page. Can it lay a sure foundation under a life? Offer the fullest life? The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning "grace." Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.
The connections with these words are a bit lost in English translation. But when we go back to the original Greek, we can see how intricately woven these words are. And if we want to live lives of gratitude and grace, we need to see how these two things cannot be separated. And in fact, gratitude and grace and joy cannot be separated. "Grace, thanksgiving, joy. Eucharisteo. A Greek word...that makes meaning of everything?" (page 33).
God's grace is in all things. And when we respond to His grace, to His gifts, with gratitude, with thanksgiving, we increase our joy. The more I say thank you to Jesus, the more I grow in joy. The more I say thank you to Jesus, the more I see His grace in all things. And a life lived with eyes to see grace and a heart that responds with thanksgiving is a life characterized by joy. A life of meaning, depth, beauty, fullness.
May we live in light of His constant grace with gratitude and joy. And may our grateful and joy-filled lives point others to the Jesus who broke bread and gave thanks and then went to the cross. May many be drawn to the gospel because of lives of eucharisteo.
Voskamp, Ann. (2010). One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link or on the picture below & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!
Some people have voices that make you lean forward, soak up every word, and want to listen to for hours. Dr. Steve Brown has that voice. And he not only has a compelling voice, the words he speaks are real and raw and true. He speaks truth in an approachable way. His authentic honesty draws you in and points you straight to the real Jesus.
Dr. Brown came to our church this past Friday and spoke on "Endless Grace for Dead-End Religion." He looked at Matthew 23 and Luke 19 and how Jesus wept over the city. He explained today "what we are missing is the tears....Jesus showed mercy with tears." Tears are extremely powerful. Whether in our relationship with God or with others, tears bring humility and vulnerability, compassion and empathy, grace and mercy. Tears unite in a world that continually tries to tear apart.
The stories Dr. Brown tells, way he speaks, and message he has will make you fall in love with Jesus. His talk will remind you of the kindness of Jesus, the compassion of Jesus, the love of Jesus. You will be showered with grace as you listen. The talk is up on the Immanuel Nashville podcast now, and I'm sharing it because it's a must listen. It is beautiful. And if you're anything like me, your heart will be happy after listening to it.
Sometimes we all need the reminder of how amazing grace is. The mystery, the gravity, the weight, the astounding nature of it can be easily forgotten in our culture. But music has a way of speaking to our hearts in a unique way. And This is Amazing Grace (written by Josh Farro, Jeremy Riddle, and Phil Whickam) beautifully points us to our God on His throne.
I love this reminder of the God I serve, love, and obey. He is powerful and mighty, loving and holy; He is beautiful; He is in control. And I want my life to constantly sing of all that my God has done for me. I want my life to be a song to Him. A song that points others to Him. A song of the grace of Jesus with gratitude to Jesus. When I focus on His grace, gratitude overwhelms me. What an amazing God we serve. May we live in light of His grace and His glory.
This is Amazing Grace
We've shot four weddings in three weekends and we are tired. Tired might be an understatement. I know that might not sound like much to some, but when one of you has a full-time teaching job and the other is a full time mama to a two-year-old, the extra work shooting and editing is a lot. We are so grateful for it though. We are building our photography business and loving it. Being able to do something we both love together is so wonderful, and we are thankful for the opportunities we get to do that.
But long days and late nights and early mornings add up. And when Katherine fought naps hard yesterday and today, I cried several times. I just needed a break. Just for a few moments. And I needed to get some work done while she slept.
But I finally realized that wasn't going to happen. And through tears I started saying thank you to Jesus. I started counting graces. As I did that, my mindset started changing. My tears kept coming, but I was able to see the bigger picture. I was able to smile. Counting graces gives us an eternal perspective. As my gratitude expanded, my grace towards my daughter expanded. As our gratitude grows, our ability to give grace to others grows.
I'm thankful for that reminder today. Sometimes we learn the most when we feel like we have nothing left to give.
Today is October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. What a precious, sacred day. All day my mind has been on those who have lost little ones. My heart aches. I haven't experienced that loss, but I've seen others I love dearly walk through it. It is an unbelievably harsh valley to walk through. But the grace that comes in the midst of grief is astoundingly amazing. I've watched people deal with loneliness, heartache, questions, and grief. And I've watched people do it with a beautiful grace that can only come from God.
I don't have eloquent words or new thoughts. I just want you who are mourning and remembering today to know you are not forgotten and your sweet little ones are not forgotten. You mamas (and daddys) are brave and strong and beautiful. Keep pressing on and keep telling the stories of your glory babies, your angel babies, you babies. You are not forgotten and they are not forgotten. You are loved and prayed for. Your stories, their stories matter deeply. Jesus is near, to you and to them.
Psalm 34:18 "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."
***If you know someone hurting, grieving, walking through suffering (no matter what type) check out the wonderful ministry of Bottle of Tears. You can find such special gifts to pass on to friends to provide a little bit of encouragement and comfort.***
While exploring a bit between the connection between gratitude and grace, I came across a sermon from John Piper from November 26, 1981 entitled Grace, Gratitude, and the Glory of God. And it pretty much sums it all up!
So I'm going to point you in John Piper's direction today as he explains the connection so well. In this sermon, he looks at 2 Corinthians 4:15, "For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God." He looks at the context of that verse and then dives into the meaning of gratitude by the Greek words, our experiences, and how it all ties in with grace. He points out, "Grace is charis and gratitude is eucharistian because gratitude is a response to grace." I love Piper's words about the Greek words that help us better understand the grace-gratitude connection:
Almost all English translations miss a beautiful opportunity to preserve in English a play on words that occurs in Paul's Greek. Paul says, "It is all for your sake, so that as charis extends to more and more people it may increase eucharistian to the glory of God." The Greek word for thanks is built on the word for grace: charis becomes eucharistian. This could have been preserved in English by the use of 'grace' and 'gratitude' which show the same original root. So I would translate: "It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase gratitude to the glory of God." The reason this is important is because when we try to define thanks or gratitude, what we find is that it has a very close relationship to grace. Unless we see this relationship, we really don't know what gratitude is.
I love learning about the meaning of words, and I especially love learning about connections like this. It encourages me and challenges me to be a person of gratitude. Piper sums it up well when he says, "Gratitude is joy toward God for his grace." His grace can be seen in all things. I want to reflect that grace by joyfully choosing gratitude.
May we be people who live lives of thanksgiving that point others to the grace of God.
Piper, John. (1981, November 26) Grace, Gratitude, and the Glory of God http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/grace-gratitude-and-the-glory-of-god
Gratitude is beautiful. And I'm convinced it is connected to grace. Grace displays itself through gratitude. And a grateful person displays grace.
Recently my husband and I spent time with two completely different groups of people. One evening we walked away smiling and talking about how much of a gift it was to be around them. The other night we walked away simply exhausted. What was the difference? Gratitude. One group of people continually expressed kind thankfulness. They treated everyone with respect; they laughed a lot; they enjoyed the time spent together. The other expressed entitlement. They treated some with respect; they complained a lot; they spent lots of time arguing.
Those differences made me think of the power of gratitude. So I'm going to explore the connection between gratitude and grace a little this week. If you have any thoughts or insights or stories, I'd love to hear them!
I don't know what you have faced today or what season you are walking (or running or crawling) through. No matter what you are facing, know that His grace is sufficient to sustain you and carry you through.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I've been reminded of that today. I'm completely exhausted. Drained in every way. But God is good and faithful. Every day and in every season. And even when you feel like you have nothing left, He gives His strength to persevere. He gives His peace to comfort. He gives His grace to sustain.
Friends, if you are feeling weak, know you are not alone, and we can rejoice in our weaknesses. Because when we are weak, we are strong. Keep pressing on. His power is being made perfect in you.