Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pursuing peace...

 "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." 
1 Corinthians 14:33

Peace: n.  freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.

I have been thinking so much about peace these past few days.  Really, more like relishing the absolute feeling of peace I feel as of late.  It seems there is always chaos about us, whether in the news or in the workplace, family chaos, let's be honest, church chaos, marital chaos, parental chaos... it just seems there is always something lurking about just waiting to steal our peace.

The definition of peace is "the freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility."  Really?  Is there such a place?  Is there anywhere we can go where we can be completely and totally free from disturbance?  Is there really a place of peace and tranquility?

I think there is.  1 Corinthians tells us that God is not a god of disorder, but of peace.  It just makes me aware that when we have these feelings of chaos and unrest, it is not God's will for our lives.  He is a God of peace. Take that one step further, meaning, He is our place that is free from disturbance.  He is our place of quiet and tranquility.

You know, my life is not free of disturbance.  I am just like everyone else.  I have days when work gets under my skin.  I have moments when my children's bickering gets them sent to bed early.  I have unresolved family issues.

This year alone my husband lost his grandfather.  Five weeks later he lost his grandmother.  A few short months after that, he lost his cousin.  I battled cancer, his mother has been ill for several weeks and work is hectic.  No one is exempt.

But God is not a god of disorder, but of peace.  I remind myself of that every single day.  These past few days, although I have been sick, my kids have been sick, work is crazy and being flexible is an art, I am more at peace that I have been in my life!

This time of year, especially around the holidays, we can find ourselves in a place of serious unrest.  It will eat away at us, if we allow it.  Today I am baking pies.  I have my turkey brine ready.  My house has been cleaned.  I'm taking in the moments that I'm home with my children.  I'm relishing the sound of their voices.  I'm really enjoying the smells floating through my house.

Yes, there is chaos.  Yes, there are areas of disorder.  But my God is a god of peace and I will rest in that alone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Only By His Grace,


Monday, November 24, 2014

My grace is sufficient for you...

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

What powerful words those are: "My grace is sufficient for you."  Meaning, 'my grace is enough."  I used to think, "grace is great, but  I could really use some _________ right about now."  I think I understand more clearly now.

You know, it doesn't have to be cancer that makes you realize what it means for grace to be sufficient for you.  Last week, someone guessed my age to be far older than I am.  Let me tell you, that took a lot of grace.  I choose to believe that it's because my hair is short. At least that's what I'm telling myself.  But in that moment, that insignificant moment, of prideful vanity, it took grace not to cry.  It took grace, not to be wounded.  It took grace not to crawl under my desk and hide.  It took great grace.

This week both of my kids are sick.  We had plans.  We had things we were going to do.  It's Thanksgiving week.  My kids are out of school and here we are, stuck at home, waiting out a fever, missing school programs and performances.  It is taking grace not to be disappointed.  It is taking grace not to feel self-pity.  It is taking grace not to crawl into bed and cover up my head because our plans have been changed. 

Paul said, "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me..."  Sometimes we have one thing that just lingers and we plead that it will be lifted from us.  Other times it's a hundred niggling little things that pile up into one disappointment after another, and we plead that it will lift.  

But His answer to us is always the same: "My grace is sufficient for you."  Why?  Because his power is made perfect in weakness.  When we persevere under pressure, when we stand and face the mighty trials, when we muster the strength to keep going day after day, when we choose joy, when we cling to hope, when we wait for our rescue, His power is made perfect in our weakness.

As I look in the mirror, I see a few more wrinkles than I did this time last year.  I see a woman with shorter hair.  I don't have the legs of a runner or the toned abdominal muscles I had a year ago, but by His grace I'm still here.  

I have said from the beginning, "if this is the path God has chosen for me I will walk it with as much grace as I possibly can."  I'm still learning about walking gracefully.  I don't have to just walk gracefully through the trials of cancer.  I am called to walk gracefully through the sicknesses of my children.  I am called to walk gracefully when people injure my pride.  I am called to walk gracefully when my plans get changed.  Why?  Because it points others to Christ.  When he is our strength others see him through us.  

So, I won't hide under my covers today.  I won't look for another remedy for wrinkled skin.  I won't allow myself to feel disappointment and self-pity over plans that change.  Instead, I will remember that, "My grace is sufficient for you."

Only by His Grace,


Friday, November 21, 2014

"If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling!"  Job 23:3 NIV

You know what amazes me about Job?  It's his heart toward the Father.  It makes me want to examine my own heart as I think of the every day trials I face.

Think back to what Job went through.  He was stricken with festering leprosy, he lost all of his children, and yet in his absolute distress his heart's cry was, "If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling."  

My heart would cry out for healing.  My heart would cry out for restoration.  But Job did not cry out to be healed of his disease, nor did he cry out to see his children restored.  His cry was first and foremost that he could find his savior; that he could be near him in his dwelling.

When we suffer trials of many kinds we often find ourselves resentful, or discouraged because we have been stricken.  But Job, even in his suffering, turned toward the father and longed to be where he could be found.

I learned the hard way.  When every hope was stripped from me I learned to press into the Father first.  And you know what I found when I did?  I found that nothing else mattered other than his presence.  I found that no other hope offered to me even came close to comparing to the presence of the one and only who could rescue me.

Oh, that my heart would remember this lesson.  Oh that I wouldn't fall back into selfish thinking and cry out for whatever I deem best, but rather that I would press into my Lord and let him minister to me as I wait in quiet submission.

Only By His Grace,


Thursday, November 6, 2014

One Year Ago Today...

1 Peter 5:10 NIV says, "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

One year ago today I was diagnosed with aggressive, high grade bladder cancer.  PET scans showed questionable lymph nodes and to be perfectly honest, survival percentages were slim.  One year ago today I started planning my funeral.  One year ago today I started thinking forward to all I would miss as my family continued on without me.  One year ago today I was given the worst news of my life.

But, true to His word and faithful to His promises, God of all grace, after allowing me to suffer for a little while has himself restored me.  This week my CT scans came in clear.  Everything they saw three months ago was shrinking, everything they worried about three months ago is resolving itself.  Everything is clear.  My doctors are pleased with my outcome and my prognosis. 

I have been restored.  My faith is firm.  My heart is steadfast.

I am thankful He keeps His promises!

Only By His Grace,


Into the Wilderness...

I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.  Hosea 13:5

Charles Spurgeon wrote, "Yes, Lord, thou didst indeed know me in my fallen state, and thou didst even then choose me for thyself. When I was loathsome and self-abhorred, thou didst receive me as thy child, and thou didst satisfy my craving wants. Blessed for ever be thy name for this free, rich, abounding mercy. Since then, my inward experience has often been a wilderness; but thou hast owned me still as thy beloved, and poured streams of love and grace into me to gladden me, and make me fruitful. Yea, when my outward circumstances have been at the worst, and I have wandered in a land of drought, thy sweet presence has solaced me. Men have not known me when scorn has awaited me, but thou hast known my soul in adversities, for no affliction dims the lustre of thy love. Most gracious Lord, I magnify thee for all thy faithfulness to me in trying circumstances, and I deplore that I should at any time have forgotten thee and been exalted in heart, when I have owed all to thy gentleness and love. Have mercy upon thy servant in this thing!"

This may seem an odd thing to write, but as I read this devotion written by the great Charles Spurgeon, my heart was moved at the thought of how Christ is with us in our sufferings, in our troubles, in the trials.  He is with us in the darkest of nights, in the storms and the worst of the worst circumstances.  He is with us.

I wonder how many times we are allowed to go into the wilderness just because He longs to be near to us.  Isn't it so that when all is well, our hearts wander off, our devotion wanes, our need for him dims?

Do you recall the story of Jesus going with the disciples into the garden to pray?  He asked them to tarry there with him, and they fell asleep.  How often does he go with us into the dark and dismal places, and yet, when we are asked to go into the dark and dismal places we resist?  Could it be that our suffering draws us closer to him and him to us?

We are given the directive to "Be still and know that he is God."  It is a difficult thing to be still when all we want is our suffering to be shortened, our pain to decrease, our sadness to be lifted.  

When has he ever led you into the valley of the shadow of death when he has not gone with you?  When has he ever placed you in the boat tossed about on life's ocean, when he wasn't with you?  When has he ever given you a mountain to climb when he wasn't by your side?  

Yes, He goes into the wilderness with us, he is in the shipwreck, he is on the mountainside, and he is in the valley of the shadow.  Every time we go, he goes with us.  Are you willing to quiet your heart and go with him?  Not every path is clearly lit, not every road is clearly named.  Not every outcome is sure.  

Nothing is promised; not tomorrow, not today, not our next breath.  One thing I know, he will not leave or forsake us.  Wherever his path leads us, he too will go.

Only By His Grace,


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Grace upon grace; mercy upon mercy

Grace means to get something you do not deserve; unmerited favor.
I have been given a great amount of grace these last few months.  I dare say, probably more grace has been given to me this past year than in all the days given to me in my life.

My outcome was bleak.  But even in the darkest of the darkness, I had hope.  There was always hope because I believe in grace.  I believe in God's unfailing grace, his unmeasurable grace, his unending grace.  Grace has been bestowed upon me in ways I cannot fathom nor explain.

Mercy means you do not get a punishment that you deserve; compassion, forbearance.  God is abundant in grace and mercy.
The thing that was placed on my life, I cannot say that I did not deserve.  When I think of the sinful state of the human soul, I realize that there is no penance, no work, no striving that could ever be great enough to remove the blight that mars my heart.  

But that's the beauty of grace - it does what we cannot do ourselves.  God's great grace grants us unmerited favor and removes the corruption from our hearts.  His mercy offers us what we cannot deserve on our own; a second chance, a new beginning.

Even as recent as yesterday my heart was overwhelmed again at the thought of this scar left on my life and the lives of everyone in my family.  Not only does this week mark the one year mark of my cancer diagnosis, but this was also my 6 month scan.  Every test, every blood workup, every PET scan, every CT scan, every MRI they order I wonder if they'll find something.

And then I remember again, God's grace and his mercy.  I cannot earn these things.  I cannot deserve them.  I cannot buy them or speak them into existence.  I can only trust His unfailing kindness and his merciful heart.  

I am thankful for His grace because it gave to me something I did not deserve, another year, another month, another week, another day.  I am thankful for His mercy because it removed from me the death that was almost certain.  

Every day of my life I am thankful for the grace that has been bestowed upon me.  Every day I am thankful for his mercy because it is what keeps me going.  

Only By His Grace,