"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Gift Undeserved...Grace

My mind, and heart, has been reeling with this question "Why me?" for a while now. It's not a poor-pitiful-me  attitude of "Why is this happening to me?", but a what-have-I-done-to-deserve-Your-grace  attitude, as in, "Why do You love me so much and give me so much?" I'm currently reading the book "One Thousand Gifts" by Anne Voskamp. It's a wonderful book with so many insights to ponder. In chapter five, I found the following thoughts to be that which caused my heart to search more deeply of what I've been unable to voice on my own...
Without God's Word as a lens, the world warps... 
Who deserves any  grace? ...Why are we allowed two? Why lavished with three? A whole string of grace days? ... 
Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life...And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcomes that suffering... 
...emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy.
Wow! Each one of those phrases say so much by itself, but when you put them all together in the chapter of the book you get a sense of the One True God who loves me (us) so much that He gives me, a sinner, grace sufficient enough to overcome suffering to where I can experience joy. He gives me a chance at new life through His suffering on the cross. But do I recognize such Grace when given...or do I miss out?

Grace, as defined in the dictionary, is "the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God; a gift undeserving". We Christians often think of God's grace in the ultimate sense - His gift of salvation. But I believe the Lord grants us graces every day in little ways and big ways...often unnoticed by us in our busy lives.

I have asked the Lord many times why am I still without a husband and children when all of my friends have been richly blessed with such. I have been content with singleness for quite a while, but lately I have been asking, "Why am I single...?". Before my mind even comes to the end of its thought the Lord answers me {every time} with, "But look at what I have given you. I have given you family and friends to share your love and joy with. I have given you classrooms of children to not only teach, but to mentor."  My head bows in shame with this realization that I have not seen these facets of my life in this manner before; these graces from God that I have received. I realize {each time} in that moment, all of God's grace He has showered upon me. How could I have missed this? And what's more, I begin to notice with an open heart that Jesus has graced me in other areas of my life too that I have taken for granted, or worse, which I have seen as a burden.

I can remember how angry I was with God 14 years ago when I was to leave Nashville and move back to Florida to work in the ministry. I prayed about that move for three months, to know His Will...within the first month He gave me His answer - I was to move back to Florida. Oh how I was angry with that answer, so I kept asking/praying. Thinking - hoping- He would change His mind. (That's a funny thought) "How could He ask this of me?", I questioned. Yes, I was needing a new job and was praying for a new job, but not in a different state and especially not for a job that paid less than the job I already had! Leaving Nashville meant I was leaving what I thought was my dream and potential to have a career in the music industry, and I was no longer going to be within driving distances of my sisters. How could Jesus want this for me? What was He thinking?

GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES!! I knew this then...I know this now.

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all you heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight."
(Mom, Grandmom, and Dad...March 2011)

It doesn't matter why I was being sent back to Florida...it's not for me to understand, just do. I knew there was a reason for me to move back, but I was not privy to it - yet. Voskamp said, "Without God's Word as a lens, the world warps." His Word has allowed me to see clearly {now} His grace of bringing me home to Florida...to be with other  family members - my grandmother, Mom and Dad. I've found if I want my life to be more in focus to His will I must be in the Word. We may not understand His will, we may not always like His answers, but He knows best! GOD DOES NOT MAKE MISTAKES!! And sometimes, He even allows us to see why He gave us the answer He did...as He did for me in my coming home. Why was I sent home? I was to be closer to those family members who would need more family support in the coming years; support during their cancer crisis. What a mighty grace He granted me so many years ago.


Okay, let me pause here and state a simple fact for those who may be asking, "Then why does God make the bad things happen in our lives? How could this be in His will?" God Almighty is good and perfect and righteous and loving and just...He does not cause bad (evil) to happen, but He does allow it to take place so we may turn to Him in our faith during the crisis. Did you know He will not give us more than we can bear?...
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
As I quoted from Voskamp earlier, "...emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy." Often in our crisis of grief and/or despair we become empty and unable to find comfort. In that emptiness is our opportunity to find God's grace, which will then lead us back to joy.

In those moments when we may perceive "bad" as happening in our lives, THERE IS GRACE...
  • Your car is totalled, but no one got hurt.
  • You got laid off, but now you can spend more time with your loved-one who is sick.
  • You're stuck in traffic at a dead-stop for 3 hours, but you're not part of the fatal accident 500 yards ahead which is the cause of the traffic jam.
  • Your child is born with a disability, but is healthy in every other way.
  • Your loved-one passed away, but did not suffer and is now whole again with Christ in heaven because they chose the Lord's gift of salvation.

Find the Graces that the Lord is giving you each day and you will find your Joy!

There are so many areas of my life I often ask "why?", and so {now} I try to find the grace within it. I only wish to understand what I have done to deserve such grace so many times over. But I guess that's the point of grace...it is a gift undeserving and freely given.

Romans 11:6 states, "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace." 

The God of All loves me so much He gives grace freely, because I am His child and He loves me unconditionally. I have done nothing to warrant such Grace. If anything, I continually give Him reason not to love me. Woah! Thank goodness God is God and not you or I.

Soooo...I'm single...in my twenties, I was content with singleness; I can even say happy. In my thirties, I have questioned why I am single. He has shown me though - in my singleness - some of His graces:

 1 I have a career I love that offers the capability to pay my bills; 2 I own my own house and was taught in my upbringing how to fix things when they break; 3 I have close and trustworthy friends I can lean on, who are also fellow believers in Christ so as to hold me accountable to Him. 4 I have the honor of playing my guitar and singing with the Worship Team; 5 I am blessed with the opportunities to perform in the Community Theaters.
What  marvelous grace He has given me!

I am truly blessed with Jesus' grace many times over. And it all started at the cross with Jesus, and my repentance and then acceptance of His Grace. "Out of the darkness of the cross, the world transfigures into new life. And there is no other way. It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace. And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcomes that suffering."  (Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

I ask, Why me?  Voskamp asked, "Who deserves any  grace? Why are we allowed two? Why lavished with three? A whole string of grace days?". Even in the bad situations, there is always Grace...we just have to look to Him and His Word to see it.

In His grace I find joy and thanksgiving... and I am blessed!

May you see the grace He gives you each day, and therefore, find your joy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Innocence of God's Wee-One

It's my Spring Break this week...one of the perks of being a teacher in the public school system. With that perk comes the freedom to do whatever my little heart desires for an entire week. Well, my heart always enjoys being able to go to bed as late as I want with no consequences the next morning, because I can sleep in and take a nap the next day...if I want.
So far, I've been enjoying the opportunity to spend my days (and into the evenings) with a friend of mine and her family. She has the sweetest boys...6 years old, 3 years old, and newborn. Awe, I could just eat 'em up with love! The middle boy (I'll call him Wee-One for this story) is so sweet, caring and sensitive to others; he said something today that pretty much made my world stop for a moment in time.

Picture this if you will...
His mom, grandma and I were sitting on the couch enjoying conversation while Wee-One was playing in the room, too, talking to himself, asking us questions from time-to-time and then continuing to play. I rather enjoy watching kids play like that. It makes me nostalgic for such innocence and freedom to be a child. When, it seemed as if out of the blue, Wee-One asked me if I had a daddy... yep, just like that, my world seemed to stop for a moment while my mind and heart pondered how to answer the innocent question from one of God's children. Since my dad's passing 9 months ago, I have answered many questions about my dad's death.  And I have told the story of Dad's battle with cancer many times. But none of those times caught me off-guard like this question from a child with such innocence in what he was asking me. I answered him with a bit of a lump in my throat, "Not anymore, Sweetie." And thank goodness his mom came to the rescue and finished off the answer with, "He's with Jesus...Jesus wanted him to be up in Heaven with Him; just like my daddy is with Jesus too."  (paraphrased)
Wow!...tears started welling-up in which I quickly tried to pull them back.
That emotion has not reared it's head in a few weeks, I thought to myself.

With such an innocent question from Wee-One, I realized I will forever have unexpected moments and emotions at unexpected times about my dad. I am learning through my journey, when I put all my cares and worries to the Lord each morning He will provide comfort for me throughout the day. Several scriptures give me this assurance:

(Matthew 11:28-30) "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

(Philippians 4:4-7) "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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."

(Romans 15:13) "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

I am like a child wanting the comfort of my Father when these unexpected emotions hit. In these nine months of Daddy's passing, and my one-month since beginning my grief-journey, I have learned to lean into the pain, and memories, and then lean on Him to find my feet again to keep walking the journey. I will always have a spot on my heart where I miss Daddy, but it won't always be a painful wound. It can be an innocent question from a small child in which a friend helps me recover the answer so I can keep walking on.

My Spring Break is just beginning! I look forward to seeing how much more I will grow in Christ's little lessons of comfort from Him with the most unexpected of deliveries...like that of the Innocence of God's Wee-One.

With Jesus' grace,  Terri

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I Am Not My Own

One of our special bonds we share...silliness
The Twins
Did you know I am a twin? That's right. I have a twin sister - Tarra. She is older by three minutes. That makes me the baby in the family. :-) Growing up, we shared more than just our birthday. We shared a bedroom, which I understand is not just isolated to twins. We shared how we dressed. Although, I believe my mother did try to change it up a bit with different colors for each of us, but the same outfit/pattern. We always got the same gifts, which was no fun if you were the second one to open your gift. But what I remember most as a kid was our title given to us by others...it was never, "Is Terri and Tarra coming over?". It was usually, "Are the twins coming?". I am not my own...I share DNA with another. We are ferternal twins, so (in our case) we only share 5 of 15 markers. I must also admit, we have shared physical pains, thoughts and emotions even when miles away...you know, that "twin thing" that happens. With all that being said, I love being a twin! There is a special bond that only twins share, and I would not trade that for anything. I am blessed to share so much with another.

Tamra and me
Let me state sincerely at this point that I love my older sister, Tamra, just as much, but it's a different relationship than what Tarra and I share.

As a teenager and young college student, I remember wanting to find out who I was...as an individual. As an adult, looking back, I realize no matter what I may do to find myself, I am not my own because I am a twin and therefore, will always have a part of Tarra in me. I will always belong to her in a special way, and she to me. It will always be our birthday.

Isn't that the way it is with all of us though? We are not our own! We are Christ's, He is ours...if we have accepted Him as such - our Lord and Savior. We share a common DNA with Him...the Holy Spirit. As a Christian I have that special bond with Jesus. He is my Friend (John 15:12-17), my Counselor (John 14:26), my Comforter (Isaiah 66:12-13), my Savior (John 3:16-18)...

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, the Bible states, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

We, being human, are born sinners and through Jesus' Grace we are saved. (Ephesians 5:8 "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of Light...") We are not capable on our own to live as Christ would have us. That is why we are given a manual - the Bible. It is not just the best history book out there, it is the Words of God...from His lips to our hearts ("All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16). Follow His instructions and life may run a little smoother. Warning though: life will not be without its troubles and trials. If anything, we may have more... ("In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,..." 2Timothy 3:12)

I, as all of us, have that sinful nature born in me and therefore, will always fall short of God's glory. I am struggling with that fact every day.Why would God the Father continue to love me and seek me each day when He knows I will never be able to attain even a slice of perfection so to be with Him? He knows this! That is why God sent His Son, Jesus, so we may one day come before Him in glory, washed white as snow through the sanctification of His blood, and by the Spirit may we approach the Throne. Oh what a glorious day that will be! I am His! I am not my own! And that makes me very thankful and blessed.

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:14-19)

In Him,  Terri

Friday, March 2, 2012

Who Am I?

In my first post I showed you a glimpse of who I am - a child of our Creator, broken spiritually and emotionally, but on the mend. I am a woman clinging now to the scriptures that I grew up reading and studying, but in the past six years I chose to set aside my relationship with my Savior to venture on my own. Did I wake up one day saying, "Okay, Lord, I don't need You anymore. I'll find You when I do need You again."? No! It was gradual. I stopped going to what was my church at the time to search for a new church that had a Single's Ministry. The problem was, I never started visiting other churches until about two years after I left; and then my visits were sporadic. By year three, Satan had already convinced me I didn't need a church family. I figured as long as I was reading my Bible and talking with God every day everything was hunky-dory. But it wasn't. Deep down inside I knew that it was Satan talking, giving me these thoughts. Oh how the Holy Spirit kept trying to get my attention through those years...and I kept brushing Him aside wanting to sleep in, not have to dress for church, dreading the visitation period of finding a new church family. You know how it is...I was finding any excuse to stay away from the one place I needed to be most.

Since I have returned to Him and started building my relationship with Jesus again(Praise God!), I ask myself, "Have I ever become the Bundle of Capital P's I grew up in church singing about?, or have I fallen so far away from Him that my ministry has been placed in jeopardy."

Oh how I want to know if I am a Promise to the Lord of All, if I am a Possibility to do many great works for Him in His name, and if I am a great, big, bundle of Potentiality through which "I can do all things through Him who give me strength" (Philipians 4:13). Who am I...really?

It seems like a coincidence, but I know better that's it's the Holy Spirit...that since losing my earthly dad, I have found my heavenly Dad once again and surprisingly to me with His arms spread wide ready to clutch me to His chest as I run back to Him emotionally and spiritually broken. Who am I that He would wait so long and without any hesitation take me back so easily? Who am I that He would want me back? I am broken spiritually and emotionally, how can I be of any use to Him?

Through my "grief journey", I am facing many emotions that stop me in my tracks with such force and when I least expect them. They ambush me! These "ambush emotions", as they are called, scared me when they first started happening. It was unlike me, crying uncontrollably and seemingly without reason. I have always been one to keep my emotions in check, and only express them to others when I felt "safe" to do so. But lately I'm being flanked on all sides by these ambush emotions. Unable to stop them from erupting for others to witness the attacks. I have felt as if I were going crazy...and I found myself shouting internally WHO AM I ? WHERE IS THE TERRI I KNOW ? And wouldn't you know, I was answered. The answer: this is normal for my grieving (and for many others in their grieving process)...the ambush emotions, the roller coaster of feelings. It is my new norm since losing my dad. I am not crazy! In the moments that I am ambushed, I am learning to walk through the difficulty and pain. Through the times of bombardment I am learning to lean on Christ and the comfort that He will give. That comfort may come in the form of the Holy Spirit embracing my soul while I am curled up in the fetal position, or the comforting words of a friend I have come to confide in, or maybe even a comforting hug from that friend. I am learning that my joy is coming back one day, but I must walk through the journey to get there. The Lord promises "I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow"  (Jeremiah 31:13).

The question still arises...Who am I that the Lord would notice me after being gone - by choice - for so long?

Those three small words pose such an enormous question - who am I? I'm reminded of a song by Casting Crowns.  It says...
Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the bright and morning star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wondering heart?
Who am I, that the eyes that see our sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?

"I am Yours"

I am a sinner saved by Grace and reborn in His image. I am His...Chosen! I am a Promise. I am a Possibility. I am a great, big, bundle of Potentiality.

Have you come to that point in your life when you realized you were a sinner and you have asked forgiveness of those sins (Romans 3:2;, Romans 6:23); you recognized Jesus as the ONLY way to eternal life through His Holy and pure sacrifice on the cross, and then rising three days later to live with the Father in heaven? (John 14:6; Romans 10:9-10,13; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-9)...
May you then know that you are His Chosen as well, and through your relationship with Christ may you come to know your Bundle of Capital P's.

I am His,  Terri