When my son was a tiny newborn, I started singing Amazing Grace to him each night. I did it mainly because it was a song I knew multiple verses to (six to be exact!), and I had grown tired of the children’s classics. In those dark nights, and some dark days, I would rock and rock him while he struggled with falling sleep, and I struggled with fatigue. I would make it through the six verses I knew, and then I’d start over. It was a way to pass the time during those hours that I would be rocking and not sleeping.
I didn’t think about it much at the time, but it served as a reminder to me (daily) of God’s love for us. It was a way to keep my mind on the bigger purpose. My purpose wasn’t just getting my son down for a nap or for the evening, but my bigger purpose is to help my son learn of the God who loves him!
Amazing Grace speaks to me. More specifically, this verse: “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear. The hour I first believed.” What a great gift God gives us, from the moment we accept Him as our Savior, to eternity. Every day. Every hour of every day.
Motherhood has not always been easy for me. (Shocker! Right, moms?) I struggled as a new mom. The idea in my head was very different from the early reality. We made it through those early months, and it truly has gotten better. Motherhood has, in fact, made me a better person but has also seen the worst of me. Lack of sleep, hormones and enormous responsibility can do that to you. I’ve learned of strengths I never knew existed, and it's brought to light the weaknesses that require me to rely on God … and God alone. I’ve often thought of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” How relieving to realize that you don’t have to be strong in all moments! It’s in those moments of weakness that God’s grace is extended, and His power gives you strength. And I’ve never needed His grace and strength as much as I do now.
We just had our little guy dedicated at church. The verse we used during the dedication was Luke 2:40, "And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.” Amazing Grace has not only been a song for my life, but it’s becoming a song for his. Now, as my baby has turned into a toddler, he has started requesting I sing Amazing Grace on those nights he’s scared or struggling to sleep. How precious. How comforting.
Thank You, Lord, for your grace. Thank You for your love for all of us.
Mercy and Grace in the Midst of the Storm
I have been pondering for weeks now what to write about for a follow-up to the session Claire and I lead on Mercy and Grace. Shortly after that SHE event, our family was delivered some life changing news. Henry, the four year old nephew of my brother in law, Joe, and my sister, Michelle, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He underwent surgery almost immediately, and surgeons were able to remove 50% of the tumor. No more treatment will be done at this time, and Henry is currently under hospice care. When you hear news like this your mind begins to buzz with millions of questions and emotions. Whatever emotions or questions you may be asking as you read this; I have already felt or asked over the last month. On Halloween, the local news station in Georgia did a story on Henry. I will link it for you to watch, but be prepared, you WILL need tissues.
As I watched the video, I was overcome once again with a deluge of emotions. Yet, as I reflected back on it today, I see lessons that Father can teach all of us. When Claire and I lead our session, we never said that extending grace and mercy to yourself and others would ever be easy. It is a struggle and a battle. He wants us to lean on Him and His strength for EVERY NEED. The Kelley family is doing that right now. They are in the midst of leaning on Father to meet their every need right now. They are not only doing that, but they are proclaiming the HOPE that can only be found in Jesus during this time. The fact that the news station did not edit Jessie’s words about her faith shows that Henry does have a story to tell. Is this the story Ian and Jessie dreamed their son would tell?? Of course not, but they are just following Father’s hand as He leads them through their story. "We believe that Jesus's heart is for us, and for Henry, and for healing and restoration," Jessica said. "We may not see that on this side of glory. We'll still be with him in a short amount of time, forever."
In one of the most poignant parts of the video, Jessie described a recent experience with Henry.
"We were throwing pennies in the pond and I said 'You're supposed to make a wish before you throw the penny in the pond. What do you wish for? If you could do anything in the world right now, what would it be?' And he said, 'This.' And it was the most amazing lesson to me to just enjoy the moment with him, that there is joy and peace because right now, my little boy is throwing pennies in the pond and we can smile and we can cherish that to a new level."
Children can teach us so much. They see the world in such a different way than we do. Sometimes, we just need to sit back and take a look around us and be thankful for the situation we are in right at that moment. I did that recently as I sat with some friends and thought back to when I first got involved with Total Woman U. It was amazing to sit back and see how Father’s hand had guided me and lead me to where He has me today. That road was not smooth and straight…it was bumpy and rough and lead me through some tough times, but without them, I would not be where I am today.
Henry’s situation is not fun nor is it something any of us would want our children to go through. I just know that when these kinds of tragedies rock our world, there is someone who can keep us from falling. Father holds us up in such an amazing way and makes Himself known to all those around us. Jessie, Ian, Henry, and Miri Kelley are allowing Jesus to shine through them wherever they go. Do they have rough days?? YOU BET THEY DO!! Please pray for them over these next few months. Continue to pray for a miracle. Our Father can do amazing things. Pray for peace in the midst of this storm and for comfort.
I am praying for all of you that Father can give you His perspective in the midst of your circumstances. Know that ALL of the ladies on the TWU team love you and pray for you. Next time, I will be reflecting on a song by Matthew West on our perspective.
I love you!
http://www.11alive.com/news/article/262491/3/Henrys-Last-Holidays Story Link
This week's follow-up is a bit different. After Claire's blog post, one of you sent us 2 poems you had written as well as a great quote. Darla, you were touched by her blog and we were touched by you!
We postponed our next follow-up so we could share these poems and quote with you. It is so beautiful to hear how God speaks differently to us all. These 2 poems say SO MUCH and we know you'll be blessed by them as we were.
Thanks to Claire for writing the personal post last week, and thanks to Darla for sharing parts of her journey with us.
Blessings to you all this week!
"Perhaps that is the very reason we are in this world where sin and sorrow and suffering and evil abound, so that we may let You teach us how to react to them, that out of them we can create lovely qualities to live forever. That is the only satisfactory way of dealing with evil, not simply binding it so it cannot work harm, but whenever possible overcoming it with good. "
Behind my wall
I find myself again
Sheltered and safe, no one can get in
A place I go to heal
And hide away
What I must remember
This is not a
Place I can stay
Isolated and hidden
No harm can come to me
But over time and
With a prayer or two
God will help me see
To be His servant
And messenger of His word
Behind a wall
I can not be heard
Take a chance
On the people He sends my way
We're here to learn from them
Trust in who He sends
Getting hurt is a maybe
But God will guard my heart and
Catch me if I fall
His hand waiting for me
Reaching behind my wall
The Bible says to me
Sometimes this road is filled with obstacles
That I did not see
Can I find it in my heart
To forgive the hurt and pain
I know that when I can forgive
There's so much I will gain
A sense of peace and freedom
A burden lifted from my heart
Dear God teach me to forgive
Please show me where to start
Forgive myself and others too
You can show me how
There is no more waiting
The time to begin is now
Forgiving is the first step
To start my walk with You
Dear Jesus take my hand
Show me what to do
Show me how to break down the wall
And give You more of me
To forgive means to trust in You
This is the life I seek
Be with me as I take that first step
Sometimes on shaky ground
It is in Your grace and words
The next step can be found
God amazes me with the way He orchestrates our lives and situations. Months before the opportunity to lead the session on Grace and Mercy at the Becoming Conference, God allowed circumstances to come into my life that required me to give, receive, and understand those ideas in a deeper way than ever before. It has been difficult and painful, but also humbling. I’m seeing that to give or receive true Mercy and Grace, we have to be humble enough to recognize where we stand in comparison to a Holy, Worthy God .
The need for mercy and grace, whether from God or man, comes from the fact that a wrong has been done. Romans 3:23 states it clearly: “For everyone has sinned, we all fall short of God’s glorious standard”. Yet I love the way it is put in the Message: “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinner and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, GOD DID IT FOR US. Out of sheer generosity He put us in right standing with Himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and RESTORED US TO WHERE HE ALWAYS WANTED US TO BE. And He did it by means of Jesus Christ”. WOW! What I cannot do, God did for me. I am placed where He wants me to be, though I can’t get there myself, nor do I deserve it. I am nothing, and did nothing of merit. He did it all! There is no value in my actions, and immeasurable, eternal value in God’s actions.
My circumstances have shown me that before I can give mercy and grace, I must understand that it is not about what I do or do not deserve. Though someone may have wronged me, or done wrong, that is not truly the point. The point is what God has done FOR ME, and what He wants to do in the life of the other person. It is not about justice, judgment, or even the other person repenting or changing ways. It is about me following the example Christ set before me. Because if I really got what I deserved, where would I be? Humility and a clear picture of who I am and Who God Is quickly puts things in perspective.
But – that does not erase the consequences of actions. Sometimes God gives us Mercy and Grace, but we still face consequences. “…Don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It is the child He loves that He disciplines; the child he embraces, He also corrects. God is educating you, that’s why you must never drop out …God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best” (from Hebrews 12, The Message).
I think of my little girl. Her Daddy and I love her, so we discipline her. She faces consequences so she can learn to live in a way that is better for her. To not discipline her would stunt her growth and maturation, keeping her from becoming a mature, kind, responsible adult. The same thing applies to our relationship to a Heavenly Father. Consequences come to help us grow, not in order to punish, humiliate us or harm us. The purpose lies in our greater good. Yet even then, Grace and Mercy are there – because truly our sin should bring death! (see Romans 6:23).
When I bring this back and apply it to my personal relationships, the understanding of humility is vital. Someone may wrong me, but I have a choice about whether or not to extend Mercy and Grace. The relationship may change because trust and safety are destroyed. That is often a consequence in relationships. It takes time to rebuild trust and safety with someone. I can give God’s mercy and grace, because I have been given a good beyond what I deserve. I can still humbly seek God and ask Him to make me wise as to how to best rebuild and restore that relationship into one that glorifies him and works for His purposes. These things are choices that require much humility, focused effort, and prayer.
I am also learning that pretending the wrong never happened and never dealing with it THROUGH THE FILTER OF GOD’S MERCY AND GRACE is a dangerous thing for all involved. True healing won’t come for either person in the relationship. Removing those God-given consequences might keep the other person from learning the lessons God intended for them. It could stunt his or her personal and spiritual growth. I just have to stay humble enough to constantly and prayerfully ask God how to proceed so that His discipline helps good come, rather than my discipline (or revenge) taking over. I need to seek His wisdom on how to rebuild and restore the relationship in a way that is better, and even healthier than before. Going back to what was there before is a recipe for disaster, and does not allow room for God to grow us through the difficult circumstance. Once again, I have to realize it is not about what I deserve, but about what God has done and is doing in the lives of everyone involved.
It all comes down to a few very simple questions – What do I truly deserve? Who am I truly living for? What do I want my life to be about – God’s ways or my own? Every day of this journey is a day of growth – becoming a bit more merciful, acting and reacting a bit more like Jesus. Yet, being Christ-like is something worth BECOMING!
Thanks for being part of the journey with me.
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