Amazing Grace

I think, more often than not, the grace that people are afraid of, is the grace that sets them free. Being scared to be honest, taking off the mask, openly admitting struggles, voicing the bitterness, expressing the misunderstanding. These are all hard and they all take grace.

We tend to think “GRACE” means happy go lucky, peaceful, even “easy”…I know I did. But, now I view “GRACE” as strength, courage, the ability  (only way) to do the “hard thing”. Cheap grace is easy. God’s grace is power.

If we are called to a life of grace, God will allow a lot of pain. How else would it show? Showering those who have hurt us with grace is straight from God and goes against our flesh. When we allow ourselves to admit hurt from others and recognize the need for grace in ourselves, the power of grace is revealed. Showing grace to those who have hurt us, frees us and surprises others in today’s world. Just as I know that I don’t deserve God’s grace, they know they don’t deserve ours. It’s a gift we decide to give. Like God’s grace to us.

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22 (ESV)

I’m thoroughly convinced that the ONLY way to do this is by grace. Now, that’s power! When you think you’ve been hurt one to many times, when you think you can’t take one more lashing or bloody heart. When the person you never thought would or even could hurt you, does. Because we all fail each other. Remember, the grace of God, is not cheap. It’s the only thing that will heal your heart. Receiving it and sharing it.

Do you need grace? Give it.

I can think back on those I have hurt and I praise God for the grace they’ve shown me after the fact, I knew I needed it and that they didn’t have to give it. But, oh the sweet picture of Jesus we get to see when they do. It’s truly a gift.

Jesus bled and died for us because of His grace towards us. When we run out, He is our never ending source.

That person that comes to mind, that situation that won’t go away, that conversation that scares you, that hidden struggle….May God grant us the GRACE to forgive, release, lean in, and admit. That all takes a supernatural courage and that comes from His power. The power of grace. It truly is amazing.

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He is BIGGER…

Jesus is bigger. He’s bigger than the church pew you just sat in. He’s bigger than the separation with our kids. He’s bigger than the guilt we carry.

He’s bigger than your divorce. He’s bigger than the sermon you just listened to. He’s bigger than the quote you just shared. He’s bigger than the diagnosis you just received. He’s bigger than differences in theology. He’s bigger than the school you attend. He’s bigger than our mistakes.

He’s bigger than the foods we eat. He’s bigger than the feelings we have. He’s bigger than the words that we write or say. He’s bigger than our intentions. He’s bigger than our fears. He’s bigger than the devil.

Claiming the Name of Jesus is the biggest thing we can do and best choice we can make. When we are overcome with joy, in the depths of despair, when sadness washes over us, when misunderstandings run rampant. Claim His Name.

If there’s TWO things I pray my girls see and remember in me, it’s the grace and love of Jesus. What more can I give?

More of You, Jesus. Less of me.

For YOU know better than I….

 

I Hope You Dance….

This is how Mama dances…

Co-parenting is hard. When both parents want the kids all the time. When both parents want to be involved and at every milestone. Switching weekends and sharing holidays, scheduling trips, and forgetting clothes. When one parent doesn’t like the school choice of a parent or the new relationship of the other. When both parents want their kids in different activities. When both parents have different priorities and dreams for their children. When they attend different churches or one stops going altogether. When both parents care deeply for the kids but one couldn’t care less about the other parents feelings. When both parents….tug of war.

Parenting is hard enough….

My girls dad and stepmom have a more flexible work schedule than I do. Girls asked, so they signed them up for dance lessons. Not just dance class, but multiple classes, even elite companies and competitions. Lots of money and lots of time go into this.  A lot of “my time” with the girls is affected by their dance schedules now. But, theirs is too. Lord, help me. They pay for it and they make sure they get there (since I’m working when most of the classes start).

I can’t help but feel out of the loop, it’s more their thing than our thing. For me to nix it altogether just because I could or because I want them in different activities doesn’t seem fair either. Girls would wonder why?? So, I do my best to support, but it’s hard and it hurts.

Their dance schedules have taken over our lives. Four nights a week and weekends. It just feels like too much. I don’t like it when they miss church for it, I don’t like it when they miss school functions for it, and I don’t like that they aren’t on school teams because of it.

Once again, I feel held hostage by what he wants to do. I also feel like they’re missing out on other things and overextended. But, then I go and I watch them dance. I see the passion in my oldest’s eyes when she does. I see the improvement, confidence, posture, and elegance. She prays about dance. She wants to go to class, she wants to succeed, she wants to keep dancing. How could I deny that? So, I will say “thank you”. Thank you that they even have the opportunity. Because if it were just me, they wouldn’t. This isn’t easy, ya’ll.

I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure co-parenting lately. It’s stressful. Honestly, I have felt more pushed around than primary custodian because of all this. I feel like if this were my idea, I would get an earth shattering “No” from him. But, because it’s his or hers, it’s expected for me to go along with it. I’m not telling them what’s happening, they are telling me. None of this is easy.

I’m sure many of my issues with dance go back to my childhood. Dance was a “no no” growing up, in all forms. Of course, I wanted to. I think about how I have always loved to dance with a pure heart. I think about how beautiful a first dance is and how sweet a father/daughter dance would have been. I also think about how David danced before the Lord. I think about the athleticism involved, the artistry, creativity, and the outlet for expressing emotion. I think about the good things…but still worry about so much.

Once again, I struggle with what people will think and which battles to pick. But, Jesus says, “Look at Me”. In all things, all these hard and new things, I will look to Him and ask Him to calm my anxious mind and thoughts and trust that He is working. I think I will look back one day and say “Thank the Lord they danced.” May they never feel the shame associated with it that I did.

I pray for protection for my babies, their dreams, and their hearts for Him. That they flourish and that they dance to His glory. Meanwhile, I will go to every competition, recital, and performance I possibly can. The alternative would be to miss out on something they’ve grown to love, are talented at, and have a heart for. I thank God for their health and legs that can leap and plié and point. I pray that His will be done in their lives and that His grace abounds in mine. Because, I need it. Lots of it.

He knows my heart. He alone knows and holds theirs….

To my girls, I’d like to finish this by sharing a song that has always brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat, because it’s beautiful and true. I mean this from the bottom of my heart…. Whether it’s writing, drawing, singing, playing, going on that adventure, staying close to home, or twirling in your tutu….I hope in whatever form it comes, when you get the chance to sit it out or dance….please dance.

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance….” — Lee Ann Womack

When All Else Fails….

When the phone call is not returned. When you’ve reached out multiple times. When your plans fail. Whatever it may be. When you’ve done all that you can do…

We blame ourselves, take criticism to heart, seek to please the unappeasable, wear ourselves thin, burn candles at all ends, over plan, over apologize, overwhelm, and over think. We fear rejection and seek comfort. We wonder why we’re left out and then isolate because of it. We filter our words for fear of abandonment. We worry about the future and squirm over the past.

Can we seek God’s love in the midst? Can we share openly when each one of these come to knock on the door of our hearts and ask Him to answer it? Can we ask Him to usher it out when, even thought we hate to, we swing the door wide open. In our humanness and struggles is where we discover and swim in God’s grace the best.

Maybe it’s not a habit that holds you captive, but a deep sadness. A relentless fear. An insatiable need for control or perfection. An insecurity from childhood. A difficult parent or the loss of a child. A regret. Maybe it’s not what you’ve done, but what you’re scared you may do. Let God in and share. Let THIS be the gateway for relationship. Let THIS be where your intimacy grows with your personal Savior. Let THIS hard painful thorn usher in the beauty of Jesus. Not my Jesus, but yours.

And each time it rears its ugly head, claim His precious Name. He died for this. He died for you. And He died to bring you an eternity of peace from it soon and very soon. Let THIS keep you homesick for heaven. Let THIS be used to the glory of God in your life. Let THIS be what brings you closer than you’ve ever been to the One who made you, claims you, and redeemed you.

If THIS is what brings you to your knees (emotionally, physically, mentally), let it be in front of the cross. Because THIS is why He did what He did…for you.

Because when all else fails…Love never will. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Work in Progress

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I KNOW I’m a work in progress. I have to be, or else I’d be in a world of trouble. Romans 8:28 says “in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him”. I need to claim that promise and move forward with it daily. Some days I’m flying high and feeling good, some days I’m just the opposite. Some days I’m super sensitive and some days I’m just irritated. I believe it’s a human condition that the devil loves to prey on. He wants us down and out. He wants us to lash out and freak out. He wants us to throw caution to the wind and thow a fit. Then, after he gets his way, he likes to sit back and smirk while we cry, try to compose ourselves, and make amends to whomever happened to be in the line of fire.

How can we compose ourselves when our buttons are pushed? Proverbs 29:11 (NIRV) says “A foolish person lets his anger run wild. But a wise person keeps himself under control.” Will freaking out and lashing out make you feel better? Yes, in the moment, as would many other things. But, ultimately, it will have brought you down to the button pusher’s level and given them exactly what they wanted. They want you to get crazy, act crazy, and fight……so they can smirk.

Nowhere does it say we shouldn’t stand up for ourselves or that we have to agree. On the contrary, 2 Timothy 1:7 (CEV) says “God’s Spirit doesn’t make cowards out of us. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self control.” The Spirit’s power is true power. The power to stand up for yourself and/or others in a loving way. This is exactly why we can’t mistake kindness for weakness. It takes alot more strength to respond with kindness in some situations than it does to retaliate in hate and hostility. By all means, stand up, speak up. But, don’t lose control. That’s exactly what the devil wants because it will not resolve the situation, the conflict will continue, and peace is not made by either parties.

What about when we lose it anyway? GRACE. We talk a lot about forgiving others and extending grace to others, but let’s not forgive to extend it to ourselves. This is HUGE for me. I’m more apt to dish out grace to everyone BUT me. It’s important that we view and love ourselves for who we are in Christ. His beloved kids. Our kids temper tantrums absolutely makes them difficult to deal with at the time, but it never alters our love for them. We can get so down on ourselves for how we deal or dealt with a situation, that the one we need to forgive and love on most is ourselves.

Let’s all remember who we are to Him, how much He loves us, and show ourselves mercy too.

Dating?!?!

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I’ve never been a good dater. And, I’ve never been interested in “playing the field”. My “dating” past before marriage consisted of about 4 long term boyfriends. I must be more of a relationship person than a dater because dating does not come naturally to me whatsoever.

Nonetheless, it’s been three years since my divorce and  I do have the desire to remarry one day, so dating has to happen, right? Once again, God tells me to trust that He is working and that He will teach me along the way.

One thing I’ve learned through my dating experiences is that I’d rather hear crickets than be with the wrong guy after what I’ve been through. Maybe one day I’ll expound on this story, but in short, I’ll just add that I never knew the extent of what human beings are capable of until I went through my divorce and started dating again. It has literally pried my eyes open. Which was shocking, scary, and painful, but God knew I needed to know.

Dating is tough personally for multiple reasons. I’m a mom and I work full time, therefore I have limited free time. I want to be an example to my girls. I want to protect my girls. I want to honor God. I want to grow together in a healthy way. I don’t want to get hurt…..who does?  I don’t want to hurt others. I also don’t want to settle for anything less than real love. The counterfeit comes off pretty perfect at times. And, I have been fooled before, hook, line and sinker.

Because of all this, I pray for discernment and God’s will every single day. I ask Him to expose and remove the deceptions and distractions. I ask Him to cover me in His grace and wisdom and help me to enjoy the process, which is so difficult for me. I ask Him to help me!

Another thing I’ve learned is that the perfect man for us will not be perfect, and I can’t expect him to be because I’m not. He’ll have flaws, struggles, and baggage just like I do. But, we will be able to share these struggles with each other because……he’ll be a communicator.

We’ll connect. He’ll be a listener. He’ll make me laugh and smile. He’ll be strong enough to handle my sadness and fear when it flares up because…..he’ll be my friend.

He’ll love me in spite of my insecurities and my past. He’ll hold me just because he wants to. He’ll encourage my passions and love my love for Jesus. He won’t push me, he’ll relax me. He won’t rush me, but walk alongside me. He’ll know that love is sacrificial. He’ll pursue me. He’ll understand me and appreciate my personal weirdness.

He’ll pray for me. He’ll be proud of me and my story. He’ll love the Lord and want to follow Him all the days of his life. He’ll love us so gently and consistently that trust and peace will follow.

This may sound like a lot of pressure to put on a man, but I yearn to do the same things for him. To love him well and to love him anyway.

Blending two people and two families isn’t easy and I don’t expect it to be. But, I also believe that with the right partner, it can be beneficial and beautiful. And that’s what God specializes in: Beauty from ashes.

Far From Perfect…

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I’m far from perfect, but I am forgiven and deeply loved.

Being a mom reminds me of this when my kids get in trouble. My oldest daughter got in trouble last week and is grounded this weekend because of it. Downside of having a grounded kid and being a single mom, other than the obvious disappointment in her behavior, is that all our plans were cancelled. This weekend we are all kind of grounded. Upside is that now all our closets are organized!

Her dad and I discussed her punishment with each other and with her. We are standing firm and united in dealing with this situation and taking it seriously. Which is good….and hard! Even though discipline doesn’t come naturally to me, I have to work on it and remain firm because her behavior made me very sad. The nurturing part of parenting comes a lot easier to me. Regardless, this needs to be addressed and followed through with. And we are…

When our kids get in trouble it reminds me of how much God loves us regardless of our behavior. He forgives us and loves us no matter what, but there are still consequences for our choices. Our God is a God of so much grace and love that He does discipline us. His discipline is why so many turn away, but it is because He loves us that He does so. A parent who disciplines their child, loves their child and wants them to learn from it. Discipline isn’t easy! Parenting isn’t easy! It’s hard on us all. But, worth it. Just like God’s discipline. He disciplines us because He loves us enough to. And wants to teach us through it.

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT)

Being a parent opens our eyes to many acts of love. Providing, comforting, teaching, nurturing, playing, laughing, listening, forgiving, reminding, transporting, helping, clothing, feeding, AND disciplining are all ways we show love to our children. As does God, only better. He is the perfect Parent. And, because He is perfect and I am far from it, I am forever thankful that He is helping me raise my girls. I need Him every day.

Just like my love hasn’t changed for my daughter because of what she did, His love never wavers for us. He loves us before, after, and during our mess ups. Our behavior doesn’t dictate God’s love for us. His love changes our behavior. When we KNOW He loves us, we don’t want to hurt Him. The more we know Him, the more we are aware of what hurts His heart. We don’t like to hurt those who love us and He loves us the most. This is what changes our behavior. His forgiveness. His grace. His love.