Daily Grace

Recently I was reading a book (can’t remember which one!) and came across the phrase ‘daily grace’. Even though grace is not a new concept for me, for whatever reason the added word ‘daily’ made this phrase literally jump out at me. Maybe it was because I was struggling with anxiety the last few weeks or because I was feeling at my wit’s end. I have struggled with overthinking, though it is an issue which is going away as I learn how to take control of my thoughts and feelings.

Grace has been defined as unmerited favor or favor which is not deserved. I sometimes speak to others about giving grace to themselves (and myself), and I especially like to encourage caregivers and those beginning the grief journey after the loss of a loved one to give themselves grace. It’s far easier to give grace to others than to be gracious to ourselves.

What does giving grace to ourselves look like? For me, giving grace to myself means I stop the negative self-talk. It means I quit talking down about or to myself. Hubster and I never allowed our kids to speak unkindly to each other or about themselves so why would I permit myself to speak negatively about myself? As a parent and role model for others, I set the example. Giving grace to myself means I take a break when I am tired or exhausted. It means I pray for myself and the things on my heart and mind. Maybe it means I sit on the porch one evening instead of tending to the weeds or checking email. It means I pet the dog or hug a kid.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I read in Scripture that the mercies of the Lord are new every morning. I like to think grace and mercy walk hand-in-hand. One concept really cannot survive without the other. Just as mercies are new every morning so also our grace and graciousness to ourselves and our fellow humans renews each day.

I have never been a parent who understood when parents in other homes have asked their children to leave for whatever reason. Hear me out, I get that sometimes there are things which cannot be resolved. I chose a very long time ago that this would be something I would never do to one of our children. Have I come close to changing my mind? Perhaps! I’ll not define that clearly since I don’t know if my kids will read this or not! 🙂 The reason I have chosen to avoid this step as a parent is because I don’t believe it is something God would do. God/Jesus are the epitome of grace. If I cannot extend grace to an erring child, how do I expect them to want to know Jesus?

Daily grace means I choose every day to pass along the kindness and goodness of God to my sinful soul to those around me who may appear undeserving of such love and kindness. How dare I keep this blessing to myself? Every day I receive grace, every day I give grace to myself, every day I pass the grace of God along to another.

Earlier this year I traveled to India, an event which changed my life. I still keep in contact with a few of the people there. When I ask them how they are doing, their answer is always, “By the grace of God we are well sister.” By the grace of God. It is an answer which never fails to make me stop and think a moment about how and why I am still alive on this earth.

Daily there is grace enough for me and to share with you.

How do you show grace to yourself so that you can pass it along to another?

To change….

This is my sister-in-law, Donna. Today we reminisced. Today we laughed and cried. Today we decided we needed to do some things differently than have been done not because they were wrong but to catalogue memories and change the future. Today we talked about the things we hope to do and have occur for our own families and for our dearly departed sister’s family. There are no pictures of the 2 of us and Deb. There are no pictures of Deb and I. A fact we mourn. Today we took a picture.

Here we are after our visit. It’s getting towards late afternoon. Our hair is messy. Our bodies are weary from emotions spent. Here we are as we are in all of our raw and real. Grieving yet full of the hope of the knowledge that one day we will see Deb again.

I am grateful for the relationship with both of my sisters-in-law. No regrets regarding our friendship. The only regret is the lack of pictures and not seeing each other more.

It’s been many months since we’ve all been together, and yet the only place I want to be is with all of the family.

This in between place…

As I sit here on yet another Sunday morning of quarantine/social distancing/soft lockdown, whatever you want to call it, I find myself in a place of confliction. (Okay. My spell check doesn’t like that word!) A place between rest, a heart full of overflowing affection for the hurting people around me, a heart filled with thanks and praise to a God who sees me in all my wretchedness and still chooses to dwell IN me and WITH me, and yet to the conflict of fighting off anxiety about when and where and how is all this virus upheaval going to pan out.

I’ve been reading “The Way of Abundance” by Ann Voskamp who writes in beautiful imagery to which my soul-being relates. This morning I read of a God who gives us new mercies each morning not because we deserve it but because it’s an affirmation of his plan, his working, the purpose he desires to fulfill in MY life. He looks at me, at you, and he looks at us with eyes full of love, not because of anything we have done-it’s his grace, which we than are able to look at others and share that same eye-love and so share the communion of Christ to a hurting world.

We love, not because of what we have done, but because he laid his life down so we could be redeemed. Our wretchedness becomes holy because he covers it with his love and mercy, his death and resurrection.

I have been struggling to be a heart at rest. I want to DO when all I need is to BE because HE will enable me to DO when the opportunity arises. I need to BE content to wait, to be faithful in this in between time.

Today I choose again to be content with what I have in my hand…with what I’ve been entrusted…an empathetic heart, love for those around me, a farm, a garden, my family…and I will make a conscious effort to be more still before God during this time of social distancing. I want to come out of this a better person, a more at rest person than when I came into it. I want to go deeper in understanding Christ. I don’t know what that will mean exactly, but I know my redeemer lives and will keep me and my heart and life secure til he calls me home.

How the light gets out…

Today I’ve been reading about brokenness and the abundant light it brings into our darkened world. Not many of us care to be broken by things. If you’ve ever experienced a broken bone, it is often characterized by a flash of nausea and lightheaded sensations followed by pain. Emotionally, when we are broken, we may suffer anxiety or depression. Spiritually, brokenness can feel as though we are alone without hope. It can feel like God is silent.

Often times we say we feel abandoned by God. For a long time I felt that was a terrible thing to say. God would never abandon us! He is always with us. We are taught all the wonderful things like God’s omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience in Sunday School. We are not taught how to handle life when we feel alone or abandoned or broken. When life hurts, then what?

In the hours leading up to the crucifixen, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He wept, not only normal tears, but drops of blood in his great distress and agony.

Before his death, he taught a great crowd of people some basic life principles. These can be found in Matthew 6. Among these principles, one stands out…Blessed are those mourn, are sad, who cry, who feel the loss for what they love—for they will be comforted and held by the One who loves them. Only if you have ever grieved and understand the loss of someone or something you hold dear, do you understand the peace and calm of being held.

When my mother died, a dear cousin flew in for the funeral. Just before our family was ushered in to the sanctuary to be seated, he came over to me and held me in his arms. All noise ceased, and I was simply held. It felt as though the arms of Christ himself held me. I have never forgotten that moment. On the airplane leaving India, I felt held as the tears ran down my face leaving the new friends and family behind. Now as COVID-19 ravages this world, I still feel held, in the middle of all the disappointments of life screeching to a halt.

Often when a friend or family member is hurting, I remember the verse that says, “he is near the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (The reference is Psalms somewhere.)

When we ask “where is God?” we are asking the wrong question. This is a question looking for a cause-effect, a blame to cast. Often the difficulties in life come so that the power of God can be seen through it, in spite of it. Not all brokenness needs blame…brokenness leaves cracks for the light inside us to get out. Brokenness is the window to the darkened world to show the love of Jesus.

In the middle of our brokenness it is difficult to see the redemption occurring. It is most often when we push through the pain and the hurt and begin to find healing that we will begin to see the light that shone in our darkness. It is not easy to feel broken, to feel the grief. It is in our brokenness that our light shines out to the world.

Love brings brokenness. Love brings light and LIFE(!) to ourselves and to others. Keep loving. The world knows we are Christians by our love…our love shines through our brokenness!

Love decides everything…

Often I’ve said I wish I didn’t care so much about people and situations. Often I’ve wished I didn’t feel deeply. Empathy, some call it. Often I’ve wished I could look at a situation and say, “Screw it!” To be honest, I truly don’t wish to be callused towards people and their situations.

Over the last year I have struggled and prayed about what I am to be doing with my life. I loved working with the people of our community, and that felt ripped from my life. It felt like because I cared too deeply, it cost me my job. Nothing seems to be working out except to stay home! And when I pray about direction, invariably I end up reading about love and it’s power to change people and lives.

Today I read from Ann Voskamp’s book, The Way of Abundance. The first chapter came at me. This is what she writes:

Love decides everything…go fall in love with grace and mercy and the only One who has ever loved you to death—and back to the realest, abundant life. The world is begging us all to get out of bed…to hold the hand of someone who doesn’t like us, to lean in and listen to someone angry and grieving and doubting the likes of us, to give a bit of ourselves to those who feel like they aren’t given much real space at the table. Read the headlines, read your news feed, and then defy the dark and go fall in love with kids raised in different neighborhoods than yours. Fall in love with God in the faces that tell different stories than yours; fall in love with people who think and live and walk in circles far different than yours. Sacrifice for someone…

Each day we have choices about who or what we will spend our time doing. It’s been a hard adjustment coming home to a culture where there is abundance and entitlement and hoarding and so little gratitude . It doesn’t help that my arrival home was tied closely to the onslaught of coronavirus. I had just witnessed and lived among precious people who exuded genuine joy and gratitude in the middle of their poverty. I witnessed sharing and caring and looking out for each other. I witnessed what the abundant life is truly about: love.

The giving of unconditional love brings a harvest of love back into ones life. When we share our love we are given more in return, and we experience abounding joy. The more love we give away, the more we receive. Yes, I’ve said that three different ways because it’s the point. Love decides everything.

Loving hurts. Loving is painful. Loving brings fulfillment. Loving is joy and peace. Loving is freeing to yourself and others. It is the most excellent way. Enjoy this song…

When life causes an adjustment…

I opened the email for the weekly writing prompt and saw the word is “adjust”. I gave a dry chuckle under my breath. Adjust, eh? I thought. Is this not what we all are doing right now?

I arrived home from India on March 11…or was it 12? It is all running together. We knew from the bits of news we’d hear that coronavirus was spreading and it was time to get home. Get home we did and just in time. I had no idea how much of an adjustment this would be.

We arrived home to toilet paper and other weird things flying off grocery store shelves. I was battling fatigue and the emotions of leaving people behind whom I had come to love knowing that when the coronavirus hit there, life would get really hard for a lot of people. They would have a lot of adjustment.

The news reports quickly turned to advisements of staying home, quarantine. I checked the CDC, India wasn’t even on the list of countries under watch. I had to dig deep to find the instructions that anyone arriving from India to the USA should self-quarantine for 14 days. So, even though I’d already been checked by an alternative medicine therapy and knew I was clear of the virus, I “self-quarantined”. I continued to struggle with my health a bit though never symptoms of the coronavirus. Self-quarantine? That’s an adjustment.

Life continued to be filled with adjustments…canceling travel plans to visit our granddaughter, the canceling of events we had plans to attend, making contingency plans for serving clients at the food pantry, trying to determine what was wrong with my sewing machine as I was trying to sew masks for healthcare workers, talking to ones we love in all their far away places knowing some were dealing better than others, getting word that kids won’t be able to come home for who knows how long…a week filled with adjustments, mostly bittersweet.

Though I sometimes, honestly, am weary of those who constantly spiritualize everything, the fact is that we are created spiritual beings, and as such, every experience is a spiritual experience of some sort. Though there was an ebb and flow of emotions and events, one thing has remained steadfast: trust.

My trust in God has remained. As I have prayed so many times over the past 2.5 weeks since arriving home, one thing I have tried to do is always be thankful. I have found these verses to be my stability in all the adjusting: Philippians 4:6,7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God, which transcends ALL understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Emphasis mine.)

Many people talk about having an attitude of gratitude; one doesn’t need to be a believer of God to be thankful for the goodnesses of life. We can also be thankful for the hard times of life. I’m thankful, in the middle of this virus, for people who are being healed, for a renewed sense of the blessings of get togethers, for the ability to share my talents with others (even though my sewing machine isn’t cooperating), and that technology allows us to converse with our family and friends. I am thankful that the God who sees us here in America also sees the souls in India who need hope, too. We have so many things for which to be thankful. Start a list! This is the secret I’ve found to surviving hard times!

Adjustments are not always easy, and one thing I have learned, my attitude of gratitude can help turn a terrible thing into a better thing. I’d love to hear some of the things for which you are grateful!

India 2020

How does one describe India? It has a smell, bustle, sound, and culture like none other…well, I don’t know that for sure, but I imagine it to be true. People kind of shook their head at me when I told them I was going to India, and that it indeed was the first time I was going to be off the continent. “Why? Why would you go there first? And with people you don’t know very well?” and they’d shake their head and give me funny looks. I smiled at them and shrugged my shoulders. Why not?!

Arriving in India was hugely unnerving for some reason. Maybe it was that I had finally arrived or that the airport we flew into felt like we were stepping back into a communist era time frame. I wish I could say that it didn’t take me almost three days to acclimate, a fact I am not proud of and a fact which made me unhappy with myself.

It is almost impossible to adequately write about the experience except that, after I was home for a day, a dear friend and I chatted in the wee hours of the morning about the trip. Terry asked some great questions, and so I will use her questions to help me continue to process the experience.

  1. What was the best thing about your trip? The best thing about the trip was meeting the people. What do you say about Kiran, Grace, Penny, Joshi, Prasad, Madhavi, our drivers, our servers, the kitchen staff, the kids, the village people, the fishermen…??? But the kids…200+ kids who are happy, sparkling eyes, joyful, who didn’t fight, who recognize they are getting an opportunity at life they wouldn’t have had otherwise!!! They are amazing creatures who filled my heart to overflowing. They hugged me and pinched my cheeks and asked me about my family over and over and over again. They drained the battery on my phone looking at pictures of family, friends, our home…I started to make sure I had a full charge on my phone before evening when we spent time with the kids! The people were the best thing about this trip.
  2. What was the most beautiful thing? There were so many beautiful moments. Visiting a small village where 6 homes were built to replace what fire had ravaged. The girl who hugged me tight and whispered, “Mom.” The woman who is HIV positive who melted into my body for a hug. The slum children who were so grateful for their egg and cup of milk once a day. The boy who closes his eyes in worship and sings his heart out. Kissing the soft cheeks of an older lady. Giving new saris to old women and widows. A young boy who grabbed my hand to walk beside him. Praying with one of the kitchen staff who was having some physical problems. Greeting the people of the towns and cities with a smile and being smiled at in return. Sharing Holy Communion with brothers and sisters who face suffering for their faith.
  3. What was the most spiritual thing? Our first afternoon was spent in the village where several families lost their homes to fire. As we were approaching the special tent and seats they had prepared for us, and I was simultaneously also freaking out inside, a butterfly flew by my side and disappeared into thin air. Butterflies tend to show up for me when I need a sign that all is well. A few days later, I was again doubting my existence in India. I looked down the street and saw a large heart which reminded me of the logo of a caregiver friend’s “business”, er, ministry. I had no further questions about the purpose of my existence in India.
  4. What do I think about the trip right before I fall asleep and thank God for the experience? I routinely check my world clock to see what time it is in India and several other countries where people I love happen to be living. Then I think about what I was doing at that hour (normally getting up to start my day over there). Then I think about the kids and wish I was there to give them a high five and tell them to have a good day. I think about their joy. The music they sang. I think about their daddy and am amazed by the scope of his ministry, not only to orphans, but also to the poor, the widow, the orphan. I look at pictures and watch the videos. I blink back the tears, yes, even still. Then I pray for all of them to be safe and strong, to have wisdom and discernment for now and the future. I pray that God will supply all their needs. And I dream about going back.
  5. We had a full range of experiences: visited friends in slum villages, dump village, fishing village, HIV village. Went on the boat into the Bay of Bengal. Handed out clothing. Handed out eggs and milk to children and pregnant women. Attended a ladies prayer meeting and a Sunday service. Visited the city and supported the economy. We bought their clothing and dressed up. The ladies at the orphanage blessed us with flower for our hair. We did henna. We played games, taught games, learned games. We listened to children read English homework, recite their times tables. We listened to dreams of kids who want to stay in India and those who want to come to America. We helped chop food in the “kitchen” where we met a monkey one day and dealt with crows every day. We lived outside, except for sleeping, for TWO weeks!!! We rode in an auto rickshaw and watched our lives flash before our eyes. We survived security screenings as well as customs and immigration in India and the USA. And we ate. so. much. food. Amazing food.

I’m still not sure how this experience has changed me. What am I to do with what I’ve learned and experienced? I don’t know. I hope, as time passes and I will once again reflect, I will be able see the difference this experience made in my life.

Even more, I hope my life made a difference for someone there.

on becoming grandma

Reading this little blurb tonight got me to thinking how much I wish it were true that our momma’s are in the sky polishing the sun by day and the moonbeams by night. Wouldn’t it be something if we could just glance up and see them with their polishing cloths just flitting by keeping things neat and tidy? I know my mom would be one of those!

These days I’m missing her a bit more than normal. I miss her phone call to tell me it’s snowing, and to tell Hubster if he were there she’d throw a snowball at him. I miss her gift giving at Christmas…yes, I like to receive gifts. I miss her asking about the kids. I miss her soft old lady cheeks. I miss her singing to me, “you are my sunshine, my only sunshine….” I may even miss her calling to tell me she needs to have something done. Now. Okay, so I don’t miss that.

I especially miss her now that I’m becoming a grandma. She’s missed graduation parties, wedding showers, weddings, baby showers, babies…all the milestones in the life of a family.

I got to thinking the other day about becoming a grandma. What does one do when they don’t remember being rocked or snuggled by a grandma? What does one do when they never ran into grandma’s kitchen for cookies? What does one do when they never went on walks with a grandma? Or helped her in the garden? How does one know how to do these things when you didn’t know a grandma?

And then I remembered…my mom! She is my example, and a good example is what she was. I expect that being a grandma is just like being a mom…though I’ve been told it’s better. God willing, I’m about to find out!

Direction

north
south
east 
west

left 
right 
up
down

over there
over here
beside
between

go 
stay
be careful
watch out

listen
pay attention
proceed
stop

direction comes
in many forms

shall you go
shall I stay

which way shall I go
which way do I turn

so many questions 
to go along with direction

"...and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will heard this command behind you: 'This is the way. Walk in it.'" 
Isaiah 30:11

This was written as part of the Five Minute Friday Writing Group. 

https://fiveminutefriday.com/2020/01/09/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-direction/?fbclid=IwAR1-27qq5CedHjAtUFqtIBOZ1fzJfMILO2d2bjb8RYWRiKHyY_DM6YeojNA