Finding Hope in Amazing Grace

In my Bible study this morning, I was led to sing a hymn. It was Amazing Grace.

The fourth verse brought special meaning to me in this early hour:

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come;tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

The last few months have been a bit of a challenge in one particular area of my life—we all have those times, don’t we?

…thing is, it’s been an unexpected area, with predictable yet unexpected antagonism. I have standards—we all do—and those standards have suffered repeated violations which continue to interrupt the productivity of my time, my heart, my vision, my experience and even my ethics.

I’m being vague, I know. Please extend a bit of grace to me for my intentionality. There are others involved, and some caring discretion is needed.

Toils and snares

Grace has been what has brought me through them in the past, oh so many times… Grace is what will bring me through them now.

The book from which I was reading also recommended reading Romans 5:1–5. Well…that was a completely awe-filled thing to suggest!

Let me share those verses with you (from the New International Version), and understand that I’ve added the bold words, because they stand out to me and propel me forward:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Do you see the AWEsomeness of His Word? Oh, it is simply incredible!

Each day is a new day, and I needed to sing out those words this morning, and I needed to be directed to read some of my favorite hope-filled verses this morning. My Heavenly Father and my incredible Savior knew what I needed, and with an open Book, a voice and a precious Word, my cup was filled. My daily bread was gathered. The table was set before me.

I am grateful to always find hope in His amazing grace.

 


 

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The Quest for Life’s Purpose & Meaning

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


Jesus replied:  “Love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with
all your mind.” This is the first and greatest
commandment. And the second is like it:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
All the Law and the Prophets hang
on these two commandments.
~ Matthew 22:37-40

The Comparison Trap:  Week Four, Day Five… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

As Christians, we often wonder what our purpose in life is meant to be. We wonder where God might be leading us… how He might be calling us… what He would want us to be doing with our life on this side of eternity.

Seeking and searching for those answers can lead us toward love, peace, joy, and hope, and they can lead us into darkness, depression, addiction or hopelessness. There is often a great struggle to find our purpose.

The Bible is the powerful Word of God.
It full of His words to us.
It is full of instruction.

Authors have made millions speaking at seminars, workshops, writing self-help books, and promoting their latest and greatest methods for figuring out our lives. Truly, the answer to finding our purpose can be summed up in these four Scripture verses.

The answer is:  Love God and love others.

Sandra reminds us that, “when we choose to honor and celebrate one another, we are honoring and celebrating someone precious to God.”  She goes on to say that, “Doing so serves us well by cleaning out envy and jealousy, but Jesus reminds us that it also serves God well.”

Jesus is the one who spoke the words of the Scripture above. He calls us to love God and to love others. This is His purpose for our life, and when we are willing to embrace it, we will be filled with the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Not only will we be filled, but we will also be a part of filling others.

It is a beautiful thing to “love others well by applauding their accomplishments and celebrating their skills.”

It is a beautiful thing to be loved by God, to love Him, and to love others.


 

The Struggle with Choosing What Matters Most

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 


Better one hand with tranquility
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.
~ Ecclesiastes 4:6

The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Four… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the devotional include:

I’m totally guilty of having two handfuls with toil and feeling as though I am chasing after the wind. Totally guilty. I have a lot of tranquility in many areas of my life, but I’ve been guilty of compartmentalizing certain segments of my life, too.

In today’s devotional, Sandra Stanley asks a few questions based on the childhood game, “Would You Rather?” The first question really made me think. It’s not that I haven’t thought about it before… this time, though, I think I was supposed to think about it in the context of today’s Scripture verse. That is something I’ve consciously avoided doing before today.

Sandra writes, “Would you rather get the promotion that everyone in the office is vying for or have consistent nights of dinner around the table with your family?”

I don’t think a promotion like that exists at my job, and if it did, it probably wouldn’t take me away from dinner with my family, but the concept of increasing my work time and realizing how that could impact my family did hit me square in the head when Sandra asked that question.

I was an at-home momma for 18 years. I’ve homeschooled all three of my kids, volunteered as a team mom in every sport or activity in which they’ve participated, have enjoyed serving at my church, have helped my husband with a home-based business, and I’ve found fulfillment in cooking great meals for my family and caring for my home. A few years ago, circumstances with my husband’s career changed, and I knew the time was coming when I’d need to consider re-entering the outside-the-home work force. Sixteen months ago a door opened to that possibility, and fifteen months ago I walked through that door.

I enjoy it, but almost too much. Other than now having only one child left to homeschool through high school, none of my family responsibilities have been lessened over the last year or so, even though I do now work outside of the home, too. If I’m really honest with myself, my home-based responsibilities have actually increased in this timeframe.

But I like my work. I work in an aspect of ministry, and being able to do so does my mind and soul some real good! I really cherish the opportunity to help people build personal relationships with God and with others. It’s hard for me to look at what’s written on the photo above, because my job in ministry does contribute to that which lasts… those relationships and bridges I’m helping to build really could last well into eternity.

In this season of my life, there’s another ministry to which I’ve been called:  I’ve been called to care for and minister to my family as the primary caretaker, teacher, and source of income. The ministry of lovingly caring for my husband and my children is important, and I need to make sure I’m focused and available to meet those needs. The relationships and bridges I help to build here are also an investment which will last well into eternity. It’s just not time for me to be spending more mental and physical time at my job than I do in my home-based job.

Based on the Scripture verse for today, the photo with the artistically-crafted reminder, and the insight-filled Challenge of today’s devotional, I really do need to focus upon and dwell upon more of what matters most, because one has a shorter season left than the other. Even though my work time and my home time are both spent “ministering” to how I’ve been called, my primary ministry is to my family. It won’t be long before my youngest child graduates from high school. It won’t be long before my husband will, once again, be able to help to support our family.

My “someday” for whatever is to come will be here soon enough, and when it does come, I can trust that God will open the right doors through which I can walk. In the meantime, it’s important for me to stop toiling in my mind, worrying about the money I need to support my family, and chasing the wind that challenges my contentment in the ministry of being fully present for them.

It’s a season, and soon enough, the wind will change. For now, I need to focus on the tranquility of that one open hand, find a way to help to open up the clenched fist in the other one, and breathe in the peace and satisfaction of knowing that finding balance for all of us is what matters most. The “more of what matters most” is them, and today’s devotional has been a reminder for me.

 


 

 

 

The Search for Contentment Continues

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 


I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4:12-13 

The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Three… Some of my reminders and my takeaways for today include:

Paul inspires me. I want to learn to be more like Paul, who was always striving to know more of Jesus and to live by the path the Lord had prepared before him.

His contentedness awes me. Like many of you, I’ve read and studied his story. With all he had done in his past life (before meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus), and with the beatings, shipwrecks, sufferings, hardships, time in prison, and challenges he faced, he was still able to know that finding his own strength and purpose through the strength of his Lord was his pathway to contentedness.

I haven’t met Jesus on a dusty road, nor have I been physically blinded by His presence, but I’ve traveled on roads of uncertainty seeking His answers, and I’ve been blindsided by quite a few harsh realities in life. I’ve lived seasons of being well-fed and with plenty in my life, and I’ve gone through seasons of hunger and emptiness, begging to be relieved of my heartaches and hurts.

Comparing these seasons to one another can be a trap, and when I’ve failed to reach out to Him, failed to dig for His hope, and when I’ve chosen to close His Word in frustration and wondering, then I’ve fallen into a trap. The snare has only seemed to tighten when my focus has been on comparison and discontent.

Just like you, I’ve, too, looked around me and asked, “Why me?”

In Day Three, Sandra writes, “The habit of praying and reading Scripture before my day gets going loads me up with the strength and perspective I need to resist the comparison trap.”

I’m still working on finding my perfect peace in contentedness, but I do know that the more I allow His presence to fill me, to surround me, and to overwhelm me, the more contentment and patience I find in my circumstances. The more time I spend dwelling in Scriptures and reading through His Word, the more I continue to learn that it truly is Him who gives me more of His strength to be more of the woman He is calling me to be.

When I dwell in His Word, I dwell in His presence. It is there I find His peace.

 


 

 

 

Finding Hope in Removing What Is Dead

Fern

I couldn’t take it anymore. There was no real appearance of life, but I wasn’t ready to toss it in the trash.


A few years ago, my husband and sons bought me a beautiful, bushy fern for a long-empty pot and wrought-iron stand which sat in the foyer of our home. It was a Mother’s Day gift…one that was simple and full of life.

My history with indoor plants isn’t good. Look at any one of the six plants in my home, and you’ll see that I am not disciplined enough to care for them the way they need to be cared for. Their hues are various shades of decomposing green, there are always an abundance of “dried” leaves and stems, and all of them scream to be fed, watered, and nourished. Houseplants just aren’t my thing.


I’d had enough with the looks of this fern. It was now ugly and without much life. With scissors in-hand and a big trash can underneath, I began to cut away at the fronds. There were a few green sprigs attempting to emerge from one side of the pot, but it was more dead than alive. By the time I had cut away all that was dead, the plant looked like a hair style from the ’80s…back when large combs held large hair in place swooped over to one side of the head. (oh, the 80s!)

It looks pretty lopsided now, but I think it has a fighting chance at survival, as long as I can remember to water it a few times a week.

I didn’t want to throw it away. I’m glad I didn’t, because when I finished with trimming away what was dead, it reminded me of me. There was a little bit of life left in that pot. It was just enough with which to start over.

My life looks very little like it did five years ago. I thought I was alive and living a nourished life back then, but I’ve had the feeling my Caretaker needed to heavily prune and trim away what was dead. I, too, needed to do some pruning in my own life…pruning of habits, mindsets, expectations, unproductive hopes, people in my life, and some unhealthy emotions.

I pruned.
He pruned.
For a time, I wondered how I’d survive His pruning.

Can I regrow?
Can I bloom in new ways?
Can new life be reborn from what was dried up and ugly?
Can I survive the tearing away  
(it was more than a trim) of the old life in order to become more beautiful, more abundantly full, more nourished, and more prepared to sprout new life?

Yes.
I can.
With some help.
I am, and I will.

I have high hopes for my fern. It reminds me of me. 

I hope to one day look at it and proclaim that removing what was dead was exactly what needed to be done to bring about a second chance at living.

It reminds me of me.