"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Grace for a Cracked Little One

photo source
It cracked!  Oh no!!  

It cracked and we both instantly felt afraid.

Straight through the delicate, beautiful, pink flowers was an obvious crack.

Mom!!!  Mom, what do I do!?  The look in her eyes was sheer panic. I felt it, too.

The heat of shame flushed down my neck as I realized what had just happened.  The borrowed tea cup had just cracked!

They had freely given my daughter this precious item to use... but, it had also come with a warning.  Be careful!  Please be careful, she had said, it is very fragile.  She had been careful!!  I watched her carefulness.  Proud of her, I watched as she heeded the generous warning...

But it didn't matter.  This precious piece of history was now leaking tea...  it had cracked.

My girl had just needed one more tea cup and saucer for the Christmas tea she was hosting.  Last minute, we asked around... neighbors.  And, this one was given.

It was 50 years old.  Bought on a honeymoon to commemorate a marriage.  A precious treasure that was then stored away... hardly ever used.  But, freely given.  They wanted her to use it.

And, she had been so very careful with it!

But, it clearly cracked and leaked.  We both felt afraid and ashamed.

Mom, what do I do!? 

In that moment, I calmly advised her to lay it down.  She had done her best, I told her.  We would deal with the problem after the party.

Lay it down, my sweet girl. 

Go enjoy your party.  Enjoy your friends.  It is not a worry for now.  Lay it down. 

Sweet girl, they will be graceful.

These last words were spoken with a hopeful prayer behind them.  Oh! Father, help them to be graceful!

We hang on so tightly to things, don't we!?  We treasure this world and our homes and our bodies.  We grasp and we grab and we just tug a bit tightly.  Or, at least, I do.  When our world and our bodies and our things break---we feel angry, we feel hurt.  It hurts when our things crack.

What grief might this cracked-precious-thing bring to my dear friends?  The thought made my stomach turn.

The Christmas tea went off without another hitch.  The giggling and singing of girl-friends wafted through the house.  She had moved on and enjoyed!

But, she hadn't forgotten.  After the laughter died down, the games were finished and the party was over, she looked at me again with fear.  Go with me, please, Mom!  I need you.   We walked hand-in-hand.  We walked the tiny, delicate, now-damaged memento home to her owners.

Do you know what they said...

The word grace hardly even describes the response.  It felt bigger, sweeter, and even more tender than grace.

The minute my sweet girl confessed the crack, those old eyes sparkled and even laughed a bit with light in them, "Oh!  Honey! Don't you worry another minute.  I am so sorry you were troubled about it at all.  Honey, I am going to heaven soon... and I am NOT taking this with me!"

I am not taking this with me! 

As we left, I thanked her for her grace.  She chuckled out loud this time, "Oh, dear! If I can't give grace at this age, then none of us have hope!"

My girl and I left their home with a lightness in our step and praise on our lips.

I guess we had many lessons to learn that night...  a lesson in trying your best and things still cracking!  A lesson in letting things go and enjoying a party anyway.  I think we had a lesson in prayer and hopeful expectations.   And a lesson in repentance and humility.  A lesson in the giving and receiving of grace.

Most certainly we both had a lesson in what really matters.  In holding a bit less tightly to this world.

A lighter hand.  A looser grip.

If it cracks a bit... it really is okay.  There is grace for that, too.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How I Wish I Had Gold!

photo source
I received an early Christmas gift last week and it was a massive surprise.  Extravagant and unexpected, this gift shocked me when I saw it.   My kids now fondly call this gift "The 'Oh my goodness!'" Apparently, that is what I said over and over again when I saw it.  I was so surprised!  Those were the words that came out...  "Oh my goodness!... Oh! my goodness! ... Oh! my goodness!"

In reality, these were hardly words and mostly just raw emotion.  I was overwhelmed.  I was so thankful.

Tonight as we were singing some familiar Christmas carols, I was struck with a line in one of the songs... "so bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, king to own Him"  (from What Child is This?).  As I sang these words, I had this unexpected, deep, almost-groaning-desire well up within me and my soul whispered a prayer...  Oh! Jesus, if only I had gold.  

Oh! Jesus if only I had gold.  I would lay it down.  I would lay it at your feet.  

I was overwhelmed tonight with the thought of This extravagant gift.  Jesus.  "a son given"  (Isaiah 9:6)

Jesus.  Given.  And, my heart was washed with a sense of awe and an "Oh! my goodness!" that was beyond words.

What can I lay down tonight in response to This Amazing Gift--- Jesus, my brother?  My friend.  My loving and grace-filled Savior.  My redeemer.  My everything!  How can I say thank you?   Words fail me.

I could lay down this extravagant Christmas gift given to me last week.  Yes! Absolutely, in a heart beat.  I lay it down.  But, really, it would be just pittance.  Pittance.

What can I lay down, Lord Jesus?  I will bring it...  I will lay it at your feet!

What is my gold?  What is my incense and my myrrh?

There is only a deep, welling desire to worship.

Oh how I wish I had gold!


"Haste! Haste to bring Him laud..."  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Darkness Can Do Me In

photo source
These dark, northern hemisphere mornings can just do me in.

The alarm rang this morning and it was just entirely too early.  It felt so very dark.  And... so very cold. Every fiber in my body wanted to stay in my warm and cozy bed... and stay in my warm and cozy sleep, too!

I didn't want to get up.

I just plain did. not. want. to!  Do you ever feel this way?

With a quick, whispered plea-prayer for help, a strength from within pulled and tugged me out of bed.  One foot in front of the other.

These are the moments I am so grateful for the day-in-and-day-out quiet times in God's Word.  Each day, I journey downstairs in the early morning and I eat a meal from Scripture.  In prayer, I drink from my Father's well of grace, love and goodness.  He feeds me on His Truth--on Himself.  These daily meals are the drink, food and spiritual calories that my heavy feet are desperately reliant upon when the truly hard mornings and hard days come.

But, today's early morning darkness and chill didn't dissipate with my quiet time.  It didn't dissipate with my forced-exercise (me forcing me, for clarity sake!).  I. dont. want. to!  was all that really bounced around in my soul.  Like a child having a tantrum, my body and my heart fought each morning's step... each routine.

It didn't dissipate when the sun finally did rise and my children bounded down with joyful greeting.  It still lingered when we began to read God's word together as a family.  I still wanted to go back to bed.

But the routine was there and the Truth was not far behind.   Truth began to speak tenderly into my heart in these moments.

Truth pushed me out of bed and followed me downstairs.  Truth sat with me, in tender patience, as I wandered aimlessly about in my "time-with-God".  Truth followed me into the kitchen this morning and then into the bathroom.  In fact, Truth from last week's God-meal flooded into my mind as I threw myself into the shower...  "My soul finds rest in God alone.  ...Find rest, O my soul!"  (Psalm 62)

Like a quiet voice, these words wafted across my mind.    Find rest, O my soul.

It was in that moment something seemed to alter and awaken.  In that moment the Truth seemed to find a home in my hungry heart.  Ah... my soul seemed to say... ah!  Yes! 

My soul needs rest.  Rest. 

In God alone.  

Find rest, O my soul, in to God alone.  Find rest, Stephanie, in God alone.  

These words, God's Truth,  filled me and moved me and washed over me as the water rinsed my shampooed hair.  His Truth had followed me all morning long and He was, indeed, all the rest I needed today.

For today, I am not done-in by the darkness and the cold.

"Surely Your goodness and Your mercy will follow me all the days of my life!"  (Psalm 23)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

You are Here

Photo source
For a while now I had been trying the Prayer of Examen and finding myself quite frustrated.

Each night as I would prayerfully consider my day, I had trouble really remembering or getting in touch with what I had experienced internally.  I could remember the day's events, of course, but had a hard time expressing to God all that I had been feeling in that given day. The "Examen" step where you are to "pay attention to your emotions" as you analyze throughout the day was frustrating and felt unhelpful.  Apparently, I generally walk through a good portion of my days very much unaware and very much in auto-pilot.

So, I have been trying something "new" these past few weeks.  I am trying a "Stephanified-version" of the Ignatian Examen.  Maybe we could call it the Examen for the Unaware.  Or the Examen for the Memory-Impaired.  Whatever you want to call it, I have been trying something new!

And there is something big and beautiful shifting inside me as a result!

Three or four times a day, I attempt to purposefully stop whatever I am doing.  (I do have alarms that ring to help remind me!) I stop and internally ask one simple question:  Where am I or where have I been these past hours?

photo source
Someone told me the other day that Larry Crabb calls this "a red dot moment".  That little-red-dot.  You know when you walk into a shopping mall and are looking for the shoe store or the card shop.  The mall's large directory stands looming before you and you scan.  You look for where you need to go, of course.  And, then you scan for what?  What do you find? ...A little red dot and the words, "You are here".  That little red dot helps you tremendously, doesn't it?  Now, you can find the card shop.  But, if you don't know where you are in relation to that large map... you could be stuck.

Maybe it is an overstatement, but I have felt slightly stuck for years.  Years and years I have been asking God for more awareness and more consciousness of His Presence throughout my day.  I think He is answering my prayer in a strange and unexpected way.   Where I have been asking Him to show me Himself... He is teaching me to see myself, instead.  I think He is teaching me to really see myself.  Where am I?

I am not "looking" for Him perse, anymore.  I am trying to find me.  And, in return, I am seeing Him!  He is showing Himself to me.  As I become more aware of where I am,  I am sensing Him with me... in the processing.  In the awareness.  He is with me right in the "red dot moment".

I stop.  I ask myself, Where am I?  Where have I been these past few hours?

...sad.  upset.  ...harried. ...overwhelmed. ...joyful. ...irritated.  ...worried.  ...prayerful. ...peaceful. ...fearful. ...angry.  ...annoyed.  At any given part of my day, I can "be" in any of these places.

There is something shifting inside me.  I believe the Holy Spirit is shifting something deep within.  Awareness seems to be the key.  I don't even feel a great need to analyze or judge these "places" or these "feelings". They just are.  Realities.

They are just true.  And, they are covered and contained by Him and in Him.

As I have been watching these moods, these feelings, these reactions... I am seeing some patterns.  God and I will need many new discussions about the whys of these realities.  Why do I feel this way, for example... when this or that happens?  But, for right now, that doesn't seem to be the point.

I know where I want to go.  I know the "shop" I am aiming for:  more awareness of Him and His Presence.  I am realizing that first I need to know better, or figure out more truth, about where I am before I journey toward that End.

"How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self? Grant, Lord, that I may know myself, that I may know thee.” ~St. Augustine

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...