Everything you’ve done.
Everything that has been done to you…
has a purpose.
God has a plan for you.
Tap into the Source who will redeem it all. God is for you.
Everything you’ve done.
Everything that has been done to you…
has a purpose.
God has a plan for you.
Tap into the Source who will redeem it all. God is for you.
Stop living the myth.
How many times, inside the church, outside the church, have you heard well-meaning people say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle”?
I’ll be blunt: that’s a lie.
I can’t find that verse in any versions I’ve read of the Bible. And I’ve looked. I searched for it page after page after exiting a NICU unit so many years ago, leaving my newborn inside an oxygen tank, puffed up and swollen, purple, floppy like a ragdoll, hematoma on the side of his head, one eye unable to close, struggling for air.
“My Lord, you think I can handle…that?”
I begged for the assurance that God believed in me…that God thought I could handle it. Because I surely didn’t. I crumbled internally when well-meaning people with well-meaning words assured me, “if anyone can handle this, it’s you.”
You crazy people.
Are you facing uphill burdens that seem to be more than you can handle?
Is it too much?
I believe God sometimes gives us exactly what we can’t handle because He wants to be our strength, our safety net and our rope. He bought, purchased and invested in us with the blood of His son…and if He has that much sunk into us, why wouldn’t He want to illuminate our burdens and LIGHTEN it all with His love?
This life, it’s just not easy sometimes. When burdens seem to wash over you and waves of trials are larger than the strength you have in you, when you feel there’s no place to turn, there is. Turn to Him.
Tell Him that you can’t do it. It’s at that moment He can do His best work.
I didn’t get that at the time of my difficulty. I searched for scripture telling me that I can handle it all, but I took scripture and emphasized the wrong part of the sentence. I twisted Philippians 4.13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I put on my very best Sunday smile and repeated. I…can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, yes I can. I can. I can do all things.
And then…I fell apart on the shoulder of a highway, pounding the steering wheel of my car as I saw my baby turning bluer and bluer on my way to the emergency room. The emergency room visits were too frequent, the long days at the teaching hospital and specialists were draining. Trying to maintain a bit of normalcy in the midst of chaos for a two-year-old who often had to tag along, and watching my husband sink under the burdens of financial worry as he strived to keep a business alive.
It was more than I could handle. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12.9
In that moment of reality I cried out. And then I heard Him. A voice. An audible voice, sort of coming from behind my head. He said my name, and He told me that He knows I can’t. He said,
“Give it to me.”
Warmth, love, power, courage and energy surged, truly surged. from my head to my toes and then through my arms. I put my car in drive and continued on.
That was a moment I am sure I will never experience again. However it has become a life-long lesson:
Give it to Him.
It’s only then, that I can continue on.
I was not alone. You aren’t either. Nor were so many others in the Bible who experienced trials far more than he or she could bear. Look at Elijah the prophet in 1 Kings. He felt so alone, even after the profound miracles of God’s power were displayed in him…even power can feel like it’s more than we can handle sometimes. It made Elijah weak and he cried, “I have had enough, Lord.” Scripture tells us an angel of the Lord came back to him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 1 Kings 19:7
God knows when it’s too much. That’s where He will meet you on your journey.
You can do all things, you really can.
But only through Christ who strengthens you.
I’m breaking out. Away with the predictable soft and sophisticated portrayal of grace.
I stepped into my blog thinking grace is supposed to look pretty. Grace…calm, soft and soothing.
But Grace too, is surgical. It cuts into the flesh, replaces the heart, sews up the wound and leaves scars to remind us what took place in our lives. Ezekiel 36.26 says, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
Grace doesn’t arrive as a trickle, it swells through floodgates. I am the dam that holds grace back if I dare place boundaries around it and call it charming. I fool myself if I think I can contain it in the pastels of a blog.
Grace is bold. Grace is honest and raw, meeting us right in our unloveliness.
Ironically then, I’ll share that neither am I, the soft, muted colors used to launch the design of this blog. I laugh at myself every time I log on and see “dainty”. But I designed it that way because it’s a visual from a point in my life when the Jesus community conveyed to me grace is soft, pretty and comes in a pastel-personality…that grace earns joy-awards, is fortified with courtesy and looks quite lovely tied in a bow of encouragement.
Hear me on this: the community wasn’t wrong, grace is all that.
But my bold confidence is also grace poking others to be their best, pushing them towards a glimpse of what God sees in them…even though I never won joy awards and my candor may have stung more than it inspired.
Grace poured from heaven the day I discovered very simply…neither side, me, nor this Jesus community was ready for each other. We still all serve Jesus as He equips, directs and guides us, and we each receive grace from Him. That was bold, vibrant grace for me.
Just as Solomon was not quite prepared to adequately steward over all he was given, we, as leaders in this Jesus community were not prepared to redeem the blessings of each other. At least, not before we understood how to interpret the colors of each other’s human-grace needs.
I came from a community of people radically sold out to Jesus, moved 725 miles away, and found a new community of people radically sold out to Jesus. But all those miles and a generational divide from one community to the next can feel like planets away, even when communities share common goals. When expectations and people are very different, the lenses of grace can get cloudy.
In the new community we “got” the cultural nuances between New Yorkers and the Midwest…the need for speed vs. an abated pace, the aggressive vs. passive. It was challenge enough in itself, yet, we all recognized the distinctions. What we probably missed a little too late was the interpretation of inter-generational grace: how each generation extends and receives personalized grace.
Landing on the cusp of turning 50 and suddently inside a leadership team primarily consisting of Generation Y created unexpected ministry tension. Unexpected, because the same generational tension did not exist in my workplace. Why?
Because of grace.
Immersed in the field of marketing and design, it is my job to stay current, identify trends, work with emerging generations and embrace change. I do. But in the secular workplace where grace should exist, it’s not what is measured.
But in the Jesus community, it is. Freely we receive and freely we should give. But what is human-grace to Generation Y, the “trophy kids” who learned love from helicopter parents that reassuringly protected with care, kind words and instant encouragement? How is grace delivered to Generation Jones who learned human-grace through rewards of indulgence purchased with loyalty, hard work and commitment? Generations divided with enough of a gap to be parent/child, but now face-to-face peers with unspoken expectations.
We didn’t understand the grace each other needed.
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 1 Peter 4.10
The unmerited favor I could have, should have extended to my Gen Y friends was praise for the attempt and encouragement in effort. Tragically, I missed it. The unmerited favor my Gen Y friends could have extended to me was follow-through, communication and accountability. They missed it. We moved forward standing on our generational platforms with clueless assumptions and grace flowing into places neither side needed. We extended grace, it just wasn’t received because it wasn’t the grace the other side needed.
But there’s a greater side of Grace.
There is no right, there is no wrong. Sometimes we just have to look for the places we need to extend unmerited grace.
Pray daily for the grace needed in the moment.
It’s hard to fathom grace, grasp grace, process grace, acknowledge grace, receive grace. Regardless, the grace of God follows whether we turn towards or away. It’s the shadow that pursues. As we step into His light its evidence walks with every step. As lights dim we strain to see it, but grace remains.
Rest in that. Embrace your identity as His beloved for a moment.
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. Ephesians 2.4
Now, reread that first phrase in Ephesians. Because of His great love…
and take the next step.
Breathe in, and extend the grace given to you.
Even as it hurts.
I drove the winding dirty road, past dunes and seagrasses violently dancing in the tempest of the wind. I don’t even know what I snuck out to escape, only that the momentary retreat from the reality of the day called me apart. Masked under my own pretense of quiet and solace, my heart generated a murmur that rustled “run”.
I stopped short at the base, an existence of life now dormant, looming above. A bulky cortex anchored deep into hard-packed sand and rocks, stretched high its crooked arms and bellowed towards the sky. Entangled, ensnared with vines at its base, barren, so close to heaven’s doors…but falling short of the glory reaching to touch it.
There stood my mirror.
How can my limbs reach to the skies, yet resist to bend and supplement what heaven has done? My life spills stories and whether my mouth moves or not, it flows in attitude.
The wind breathed: extend grace.
Lied to, cheated over, talked about, talked down, cut off.
The wind called: extend grace.
We bleed, nurse wounds, wallow, and ruminate.
The wind cautioned: extend grace.
Grace isn’t weakness. Grace is Life that surges into the limbs causing pliability to bend against the forces. Our surrender to the grace –receiving and giving– is what keeps the limbs from breaking.
Yes, even as it hurts.
I am thankful. Truly thankful for the grace.
Grace that I shunned for years…because I did not choose to claim it in full.
But without the grace, who was my God in the twenty-three years I journeyed with Christ…yet never unwrapped His grace?
My God was I AM, the God who swept into my life and clothed me in His grace and mercy, adopted me as His, despite who I was or what I had done. My heart embraced this knowledge, my head could not fathom.
He was my God, who cut through all my junk and called me, “saint”. I am humbled.
He was my God who gave me my first born son and taught me what it meant to love with an agape love, to love without self, to abandon everything to pure nurture…simply because His love oozes.
He was my God, who blessed me with another son and confronted me with my own pride, who filled me with a love that overflows beyond what others think of me. He gave me a son who taught me a love that is far deeper than my own reputation.
He was the God who stuck by me, after emergency rooms and hospital stays and evals and diagnoses and deep, tear-filled conversations with my husband that it was just hard; too hard to have another child and do this again. He was the God who walked in with me to the women’s shelter as I gave away all my infant-things of clothing and carriers and tools, and smiled on me.
He was the God who bestowed Psalm 37.4 deep in the womb before I even packed all the infant things into my car. He was the God who knew the desire of my heart and gave us a sweet girl with a beautiful, tender spirit, and closed the circle in our family.
He was the God who encouraged me with His Light during long nights of work, as He helped us tuck little ones in and then filled me with His presence until dawn broke through.
He was the God who placed me in community, a healthy, vibrant community of others whose hearts were sold out to Him to help me grow into the grace that didn’t seem to quite fit me.
He was the God, the third cord in the strand in my marriage, who wove us together to press on, no matter what.
He was the God who slipped in behind the wheel with me as I tearfully said good-byes to the proximity of very much loved family and deep-rooted friends, good-byes to the immediate energy of the city that I thought would always be next to me and good-byes to the beauty of the Hudson Valley. He was the God who drove with this mom, three teens and a dog to a new life and join my husband, seven hundred twenty-five miles from where we ever thought we’d be, because it was His will, and He is good.
He IS the God who watches over me as I sleep, wakes me in my mornings, sings over me, and extravagantly loves me. He is the God who calls me holy in His grace.
Scripture reassures me, my head and heart embrace it.
For this I am thankful.
He is I AM.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1.3-6
I love walking the beach for the calm it invites in my life, for the perspective it gives me and for the beauty and treasure found in simple detail. And I especially preserve delight in uncovering the quiet splendor in a shard of beach glass.
What is it about a forsaken fragment of what it was meant to be to be… cast off, useless, inconvenient and neglected, that time and abrasion transform it into a highly prized gem? It’s the scuffs and scrapes that develop this jewel, its imperfections that provide its individuality and beauty.
As I walked the abandoned beach last week, amidst the pebbles and smooth rocks I spied my first slice of beach glass of the autumn season. Treasure! As I reached down to claim my jewel it suddenly suggested to me… Connor is my beach glass.
My dream and expectations for what he might have been has changed. But who am I to determine in my dreams what he should have been, what he could have been? I live with who he is. Beauty on a beach of pebbles. Blending in, but standing out. Glowing in his uniquely frosted patina… sometimes tossed, sometimes tumbled by life, but strengthened by the process.
It’s his individuality that shines in the sun.
I’m grateful for the treasure that resides in my son.
The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you. Deuteronomy 7.6-8