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Posts Tagged ‘grace’

Pet Peeves. I’ve come to the realization that pet peeves are just subtle forms of complaining but acceptable because we all have them (plural). Many of us could make a list: Top 10 Pet Peeves (and still have plenty left over for a second or third list).

There are those who specialize in grammar, harping on “their/they’re/there” and “accept/except” and “lay/lie” and of course, “you’re/your.” These people have become more vocal as texting and social media posting have become the norm. At least once a day I see a post on my timeline bemoaning the lack of proper grammar on Facebook. Personally, I won’t repost any cute meme if it contains a misspelled word…I’m guilty of being a Grammar Czar.

Maybe you have issues with technology…more specifically, those of us who are trying to keep up with technology. Do you do an eye-roll when encountering one of us old people trying to learn a smartphone? Yes you do…admit it. Do you sigh in exasperation when you text and text and text, with no response…not even a “k”? Or maybe you deplore the overuse of emojis.

I have a tech pet peeve list: GPS that takes me to the wrong address, iPhone batteries that don’t hold a charge (Thank you, Apple), and computers that (fill in the blank). Enough already – that list could get long real fast.Pet_Peeve_Toilet_paper

Then we have those whose pet peeves surround their idea of acceptable behavior, always willing to judge others on bad parenting, disobedient children, too fast/too slow drivers, tardiness and loud public conversations on cell phones, etc… For every behavior, we have someone who doesn’t like it.

Let’s admit it. Pet peeves, especially those that surround someone else and their behavior, is judging. You are assuming you are right, in whatever opinion you have, and the other person is wrong. We would all agree that none of us are perfect (especially when it’s us), but we still want everyone else to be our definition of perfect.

In the morning I grouse about slow drivers on the interstate and on the way home, I complain about the fast drivers speeding by me. Thank God for the “edit” button on Facebook postings because I have typed so many grammatical errors, I could fill an English textbook.

In an ongoing attempt to make better choices, I’ve been working on my decision to complain, instead of expressing gratitude. I proclaimed a “no complaining day” this past week. It was mildly successful – mostly because I posted a “no whining zone” sign on my desk and posted about it to keep myself accountable. But every day? It’s hard. So, once again, I’m making the choice to give people (myself included) some grace. To show love, instead of judgment. To offer a smile, instead of a frown, when I see something I may not agree with. I’m not going to compromise my convictions…but they are MY convictions and as long as no one is being hurt, I can live with a little public cell phone conversation.

P.S. Scripture shows a history of complainers who got what they deserved…some major heat and a few extra years in the wilderness.

“Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.” Numbers 11:1

“My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore God has blessed You forever.” Psalm 45:1-2

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I was pretty stuck when thinking about what to blog about today. Most of the day I was nursing a bad attitude. I was irritated about almost everything, spinning anything to my “Poor me” perspective.

Then…I received a very nice surprise. My favorite (and only) sister walked into my office. She had come to town unannounced to get some freelance work done and suddenly, my gloomy, rainy, crappy day got a ray of sunshine. 

Isn’t it cool how God knows what we need when we need it? Many of you will call it a coincidence that my sister just happened to surprise me on a day when I was feeling blue but I’m not one who puts much stock in coincidences. I believe God cares about me, and desires to send “suddenlies” into my life. I believe God wants to show me His love, His grace and His favor in the everyday circumstances of life, even to orchestrating surprises to lift my spirits. 

My beautiful sister surprised me with her visit today, but she didn’t surprise God. He knew how blessed I would be to see her face, feel her hug and of course, listen to our laughter together. And now I have some together time to look forward to. No more gloomy day – now all I feel is warm and cozy. 

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“Please, sweet baby. Just go to sleep.” The poor mama was almost in tears. So many late nights trying to get her young son to sleep. She knew that once he settled down, he would be fine, but he was stubborn and just would not fall to sleep without her presence. Their apartment was too small to allow him to “cry it out” which was the suggestion almost everyone gave the new parents.

“He’ll stop soon enough. Let him cry.” Well, he must not have listened to their advice because he could cry, and cry, and cry, without wearing down at all. Conscious of their thin walls, and trying to be good neighbors, they could not allow the noise to go on very long. So far, her only solution was taking him out of his crib and resting with him on the spare double bed in the baby’s room.

“Please, sweetie. Just sleep.” Her pleas met deaf ears. His eyes stayed bright and alert. The baby giggled and cooed as his mama snuggled with him on top of the handmade quilt.

“Lord, help me. I don’t know what to do.” She had prayed every day (and night) for a solution. She knew God cared about every facet of her life, even the amount of sleep she got, so she knew He would give her guidance in this area too.

Finally, when she thought the only solution was sleeping in that double bed every night, she had a sudden thought.

“Sing.” Sing?

“Lord, I’m not a very good singer. I don’t know very many lullabies.”

But that still, small voice kept whispering, “sing.”

Wracking her brain, she tried to think of pop tunes, or lullabies or even hymns to sing to her brown-eyed baby boy, but she came up empty. Except for one little tune with simple lyrics.

“He won’t care what I sound like. He’s just a baby. He won’t even remember.”

So she started to sing…

“O Lord, You’re beautiful.

Your face is all I seek.

For when Your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

I wanna take Your Word and shine it all around,

But first help me just to live it, Lord.

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown,

For my reward is giving glory to You.”

Over and over, she sang the lyrics to this simple chorus, until it was no longer just a lullaby to her baby, but a song of worship from her heart. She didn’t just sing the song, she prayed the song. That little baby didn’t miraculously fall asleep the minute his mama started singing, but he watched her and he listened to her and his little spirit eventually grew quiet. Each night, she sang to her little guy until one night, she didn’t have to. He fell asleep on his own, without her off-key voice and simple songs. Sleep, blessed sleep.

David_Mom_asleepLooking back on those nights, I don’t remember my scratchy eyes (and voice). I don’t remember the sense of helplessness or even hopelessness. I don’t remember feeling like a stupid new parent. I remember the peace that came over my little boy, the intimate times of worship in that small bedroom, the quiet presence of the Holy Spirit as I sang that simple, but powerful, song to my firstborn. I didn’t realize it then but God answered my prayers. Not just the one asking for David to fall asleep, but the one embedded in the song. Because God’s eyes weren’t just on me, His eyes were on my child. And what He planted in my little boy – a love of music, a desire to worship and a boldness to give glory to God wherever he goes – started in that little apartment in the middle of the dark nights when he refused to sleep until his mom sang the lyrics to that Keith Green chorus, over and over.

I’m grateful for that little song. I cry every time my beautiful daughter-in-law sings those words while her husband, my little stubborn brown-eyed firstborn son, accompanies her on guitar or piano. It’s still the cry of my heart. Not so my baby will fall asleep, but so my soul awakens to the grace and glory of God.

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attributes_of_godMy “30 Days of Gratitude” list has me contemplating the attributes of the God today. Imagine having to pick one attribute that I’m most thankful for. That’s like picking my favorite candy bar or my favorite child. Impossible. God is omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, holy, sovereign, infinite, transcendent, self-sufficient, wise, faithful…and so much more. For the sake of needing to blog today, I’ll pick one attribute of God that touches my heart the most…the mercy of God.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

“The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and sin…” Exodus 34:6-7a

Have you ever watched your children misbehave and you knew you should discipline them so they won’t disobey again, but instead of giving them what they deserve, you hug them, snuggle them, and tell them how much you love them. That is mercy. Showing kindness and compassion, instead of judgment.

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34

God continually shows mercy to those who love Him. He also shows mercy to those who don’t know Him at all. As our world continues to taunt Him, to reject His Son, to flaunt sin and lawlessness, God shows mercy…over and over and over.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” Romans 2:4-5

I am so thankful for God’s mercy to me. He did not give me what I deserve but instead shows me His love and grace and mercy…day after day. I am so grateful.

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today_grateful

In this first day of intentional gratitude, I want to remind you of those unexpected blessings we all receive…and when I say unexpected, I mean, never-in-your-life-thought-this-circumstance-would-turn-out-to-be-a-blessing blessing. Like being unemployed.

If you know my husband and me at all, you know we recently spent six years with no full time job and very little income. It was tough – for my husband, because, you know, men look at having no job as having no meaning in life. He struggled a bit (I’m kidding, he struggled a lot)…and had quite a few conversations with God about the whole thing. But that’s his story to tell.

It was a tough time for our kids because everything they relied on appeared unstable. They weren’t sure where we would live, how we would live, where they would finish high school, and how we were going to pay the bills. Now that I think about it, those were mostly my worries – I’ve never asked what concerned my kids back then…I should probably do that.

Nevertheless, looking back, that whole six year time period was full of God’s blessings. He provided finances for every single obligation (we paid every bill and always on time). Out of the blue, people would stop by the house to give us money saying, “God told us to give this to you today.” God blessed us with the emotional and spiritual support we needed. I read and studied the Word, and prayed on my long walks, crying and begging God to give us something, something to put our hope on…and He never let us down. Don and I had more and deeper conversations. God gave us supernatural health during a time when we had poor insurance coverage, and then provided a way to get better coverage, for the whole family, right before our son started travelling with his band. I could go on and on with story after story…not the time or place.

We learned a lot about ourselves. We learned about humility, and trust, and faith, and grace. We learned that we don’t know very much, but that God knows the beginning and the end. We learned that some people will stick with you, no matter what, expecting nothing in return. We saw God’s hand at work in our kids as He provided funds for college and travelling, when we had nothing. We cried buckets of tears – in frustration and sorrow, rejoicing and thanksgiving.

Am I glad we were without a job for that long? I’m not sure. It was rough. Our Christmas’ were sparse. We ate at home, took no vacations, purchased no new clothes. We had no church to call our own, but we were privileged to help a couple of congregations transition to new pastors. We learned a great deal about what is really important. Family. Real friends. Health. Our own relationship with Jesus, away from ministry.

 

And most of all, we learned God’s promises are true: He will never leave you or forsake you – even if you don’t have a job, even if you are struggling with poor health, even if you are in a difficult circumstance. He is your Rock and your Redeemer. He will turn your mourning into dancing. Ask Him to show you the unexpected blessing of this tough time and watch Him show up. God will never fail you.

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Kris_aging_gracefully

As much as we fight and complain, all of us want to get older. Because the alternative is obvious and no one really wants that road. But the path of aging is fraught with potholes and deer crossings and railroad tracks. Some places are well-paved, four-lane highways and others are one curve away from a two-lane dirt track made by migrating yaks. Aging isn’t pretty. But it is necessary and that means it’s my attitude that’ll make the difference between facing it with dignity and grace or petulance and irritability. We’ve all known those cantankerous old people…and I don’t want to be one.

I’ve never been too worried about getting older. My hair began it’s elegant slide toward silver back in my mid-30s. I was too cheap (and lazy) to purchase stock in Clairol so I’ve been au naturale for quite some time. And I’m perfectly fine about it. Oh, once in a while I’d make a joke about being the only gray-haired mother with preschoolers, but in reality, I am comfortable in my skin (or hair, as the case may be). (Side note: I’ve noticed the recent trend of young women coloring their hair gray – I wonder if that makes them cool or me cool?) I’ve been blessed with good health and with my recent weight loss and healthy life style changes, I’m looking forward to many more years to love and live. But I am on the back side  of my 50s and my body has given me a few signs that it’s not as young and agile as it once was. I’ve recently had to start taking a medication just because I’m now an “older woman.” Pretty much hate that.

So what’s necessary to age gracefully without succumbing to society’s marketing of youthfulness forever? First – admit it. Second – accept it. Third – Get past it.

Admit it – say this after me – “Yes, I’m getting older. Yes, my body is changing. No, I don’t have to look 15 (or 25, or 35 or even 45 for some of us) anymore. I am beautiful, inside and out, just as I am.”

Accept it – ok, we can talk the talk, but can we walk it out? Accepting the reality of our aging means acting it out in all we do. No more putting ourselves down as “the old lady” in the group (hey – I’m preaching to myself here). Take advantage of the wisdom that comes from living life. Feel free to buy clothes you like wearing and add some color. Everyone looks better in color. And remember, beauty comes from the inside so work on that inner beauty thing. It’s way more valuable than any lift, tuck or injection.

cartwheel

Lastly, get past it. No more fixating on our age. It’s really just a number. “You’re only as young as you feel.” Nope – because somedays I feel 80 and somedays I feel 16…and that’s when I do something stupid. Like a cartwheel. More accurately, you are only as young as you determine in your heart you are. So, if you’d like to attend a concert with all 20-somethings, go for it. (I do it all the time – with the intention to never embarrass my children in attendance.) If you want to go rock climbing and have the ability, do it. If you want to learn a language, take a cooking class, run a 5k, get a dog, change your hair color, join a gym, buy a motorcycle, teach a class, write a book, volunteer at a homeless shelter, get a job, travel the world…go for it!

God has given us a number of days – He has a purpose for you and me. I want to live in such a way that God’s purpose is being fulfilled everyday. I don’t want to be one of those old ladies who look like they suck on lemons every morning. I want to embrace children and the elderly. I want to smile at strangers. I want to give love out of the abundance that Christ has put in my heart. As my husband often says, “I want to be saltier salt and brighter light.” It’s my choice and I choose to have a wise heart and youthful spirit, even while my body ages, gracefully.

 

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sorrow_longing_tears______by_Westia

(Note: A year ago I wrote the following article and it received the most views of any blog I had ever written, including any since then. Because it’s Black Saturday – that day of sorrow between Good Friday and Easter – and because recently so many friends are going through this grief journey, I’m reposting.)

I’m on my next to last “blogging through the 40-days of Lent” adventure. Today’s topic is hard. A lot of the other blog posts have had some difficulty, but this one today – giving up sorrow – is tougher than most. Because how can I presume to tell you how to grieve or when to stop. So I won’t. But I will encourage you not to allow sorrow to overwhelm you (forever). To choose to step outside your sadness for a few minutes each day…until you can look and see the deep grief is behind you.

I have a dear friend who lost the love of her life last summer. He had been ill and yet the suddenness of his passing was a shock to all of us. He was a wonderful man, loved and respected by so many…a great husband, father and grandfather as well as a supportive and generous friend to me and my family. The grief has been overwhelming for his wife, children and grandchildren. But each one has taken the baby steps necessary to continue to live their lives and honor the memory of this dear man.

My friend shared some of her grieving process with me. Losing a husband is different than losing a parent. The “oneness” feels broken. The grief includes anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, feelings of loss and even rejection. People’s attempts to comfort her often left her emptier, not encouraged; sadder, not exhorted. “You’ll always have your memories” turned into a trite phrase because it’s the remembering that hurts the most.

So, for those of you who are “walking through the shadow of death,” please know that “life sucks sometimes.” (Thank you, Ben Rector, for those poignant and truthful words.) We must keep going – we have responsibilities, we have people who count on us, we have a Father God who loves us unconditionally, even when the grief is so deep that you can’t get dressed or face another human being.

Try to get one thing done….mark one thing off your “to-do” list. Put sorrow away for a couple of minutes and face your day. Do a little more each day, or week, or month…than you did before. Meet someone for coffee. Write a few “thank you” notes. Bake a cake and take it to someone. Watch an episode of your favorite comedy and give yourself permission to laugh a little. Call someone you haven’t seen for a while. Read a new novel. Take a walk. Buy a new pair of shoes. Indulge in a rich, chocolatey dessert. Take a friend to a movie. Pray for someone else who’s facing a similar situation.

Jesus was a man of many sorrows, according to the prophet Isaiah. He knew suffering and grief. He knows your pain and sorrow. Lean into His grace today. He’s more than enough.

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