Tag: grace

the trouble with grace

As the days of summer “vacation” dwindle, I find myself looking for a moment to exhale.

The beginning of summer was pretty peaceful, quite possibly because our little darlings were spending three-ish weeks away and I was napping every afternoon in first-trimester lovely exhaustion.

But the weather got hotter and the kids got more restless and the workload of life has gotten crazier, and my second-trimester blissfulness has not yet kicked in. I’m a little crabby, and to be more specific, I am frustrated. Like, with everything.

I sat in a Bible study this morning in which the main topic is grace (this was part of my work day… one of the perks!) I thought about how grace first really captured me, for real, just moments before I found out Miranda was on her way. (full story here).

And tonight, as I dish out heated up pizza to the kids, on the fifth night Daddy is away and the edge of my sanity, I am telling myself in an inward chant that grace is for everyone.grace-by-nathan-furr-free-photo-12440

Grace. Is. For. EVERYONE.

Does that ever just frustrate the crap out of you?

Grace is for whatever neighbor called our out-of-state landlord to complain about our shrubs needing a TRIM.

Grace is for the people who ask questions and then talk over you when you try to answer.

Grace is for the child who asks you for her cup when it is closer to her than it is to you
– or the one who throws her (thankfully, plastic) plate from the living to the kitchen,
– or the one who complains about the spices on the pizza and then about the bread used for her dinner-substitution sandwich
– or the one who repeatedly gets you up at 1:30, 3:30, or 4:30 in the morning.
– or the one who whines for a playdate and then fights with her friend the whole time.
– or the one who is all of the above :)

Grace is for the one who asked you to do something and then doesn’t acknowledge it was done, much less say thanks.

Grace is for the well-meaning person who says all the wrong post-miscarriage things.

Grace is for the toxic personalities who only speak negatively.

Grace is for the ones who complain about what is wrong but refuse to be part of change.

Grace is for the people who forget you, ignore you, or never see you in the first place.

Grace is for the ignorant, the mean, the judgmental, and the selfish.

And you know what else?

Grace is for me – who made every form of bad relationship choices in her teen and young adult years.

Grace is for me – who lied for years to cover those tracks.

Grace is for me – who gets so easily defensive and has difficulty taking criticism.

Grace is for me – who sometimes chews on hurt feelings or righteous indignation like Hubba Bubba until the flavorless lump nearly chokes me.

Grace is for me – who wishes someone would help sometimes but refuses to ask for it.

Grace is for me – who could definitely stand to be a better listener, a better mama, a better soul.

Grace is for me – who sometimes indulges so deeply in loneliness that I am also refusing to see those around me.

Grace is for me – who feels inadequate over frozen pizza dinners, lost patience, and those stupid shrubs.

Grace is for me – who after so much learning and acceptance of grace, still falls into the trap of pursuing perfection so that I will please myself, the people around me, the strangers on the internet, and my Heavenly Father.

Grace is for me – because He is already pleased.

Grace is for you  – whether you identify with pieces of this list or have one of your own.

Grace is for us.

Grace is for everyone.

 

Advice for a Tuesday {grace}

I am running around enjoying a week of staycation with my 29 favorite family members and writing like crazy for some external deadlines (YAY for external deadlines!) So today I gathered a few stray thoughts that are coursing through me and tried to organize them. Whew. Maybe there is something here for someone besides me.

“If you want attention, be there so people can give it to you.” – Buffy Summers

How many times in my own life have I longed for attention? Oh, dear God… it has been the bane of my existence. And you know what God did? He gave me a husband and two little girls who want my attention… all. the. time.

field day

On one of the last days of school, I finally got the chance to volunteer for something: Field Day. After three hours outside filling water cups and feeling sorry for the primary teachers who were leading these kids around on one of our first truly hot days of the year, I surprised Randa by crashing her lunch hour, also for the first time in the school year.

The look on her face? Something like mine was the day she was born: Surprised. Awestruck. Proud. I hope I never forget it. I hope I never forget that in all I try to do to Be Somebody and Make Lasting Contributions, that sitting beside my daughter for 25 minutes at a sticky lunch table will matter forever. She held my hand the whole time. How blessed am I?

 

“Every ungracious moment means someone doesn’t understand grace.” – Ann Voskamp

Lately I have been struggling with how to properly reach and teach and mold our youngest. At 5, KK has perplexed me more than all her siblings put together. We recently completed, shall we say, a season of anger (more on that some other time). I am trying a new leaf with her: grace… Grace to allow her to figure it out… Grace to leave her in her bedroom yelling about what she wants to wear instead of yelling back at her… Grace to listen to her calmly and reasonably, with accentuating hand gestures and nuanced facial expressions, describe to me for 10 minutes yesterday morning in what ways our family annoys her.

cool like KK

…Grace to get where she needs to go, because God made her – not me – and God knows I perplexed my parents every bit as much, and God’s grace led this same child, on Sunday morning, to ask if we could go pray with her former pre-school teacher, and to place her little hand tentatively on this woman’s back, and go through the motions she has learned about asking God for help.

Grace. Sometimes it’s a shout of elation, and sometimes it’s a sigh from our very souls.

 

“It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” – Chinese proverb

Around us, circumstances always bubble at a simmer. Even when things aren’t boiling over, isn’t there always the potential of such?

grace

In the last few years, I’ve been taught {the hard way} the balance of “kick the door down and make it happen!” and “be still and know…” It’s a fragile balance, for sure. I mean, raise your hand if your mind was blown the day you learned that “God helps those who help themselves” isn’t in the Bible?

Anyway, here is where I have landed on this issue.

1. Ask God for help.

2. Help yourself. If He closes a door, you will know by it hitting you in the face when you walk into it.

I think one the most important things about grace is knowing its source. While it is so crucial that we receive it, and so necessary that we give it, it is vital that we look to God for it… not our parents, our children, our spouses, our pastors, our friends. Because they, because we, are human, and we will always fail. God gives life, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. If someone you love doesn’t accept that, or understand it, how can she give it to you? If you find yourself in a dark place today, in an uneasy or even hopeless place, don’t look at the person next to you for the grace you need to make it. God has enough for all of us. Grab on to His grace, light the candle, and be led out of the darkness.

Grace is not about what you do. We are all given grace because who we are, and we are God’s children… – Kelly Burton :)

Just as I am, established by grace

Ten years and one day ago, I was an adulteress and a fornicator. Those were the correct terms according to the Bible. I had been in love with a man for nearly five years, who up until 6 months prior, was still married. And not only that, but I acted on my love for him. I lied to everyone I knew, including myself. I rebelled against Biblical teachings that I knew to be true. I moved in with him shortly after his divorce. And all the while, I yearned for forgiveness, grace, and a second chance.

On March 28, 2003, I was given one. The worship pastor of our then-church was given permission by the senior pastor (who didn’t feel he could do it himself), to perform a simple matrimonial ceremony in the church conference room. My parents were there, along with Rod’s children and two special friends who had “been there.” Our marriage was made holy in the eyes of the Lord that day, which is all that should matter.

Our adultery, our mistakes and failures, will never be “right.” They will never be justified. They have been forgiven… by God, by Rod’s first wife, by his children, and by many of the people hurt as a result. But that will never make those decisions and actions “Ok.” I don’t condone them, stand by them, or recommend them.  But somehow, nor do I regret our relationship.

How can I?~

theburtons_grace

There were many, many “believers” who extended grace to us right from the beginning. And there were many who only did after years. And there are some who still have not. And there are some who went to their graves without doing so. Ten years, two babies, and a whole lot of life and learning later, *I* am still learning to extend grace to those who did not have it for us. I have even had to smack myself down for not having IMMEDIATE grace for people who have gotten themselves into a situation similar to ours.

Good thing I don’t have to be God. His grace is without hesitation or condition. It is there because He loves us, and there every time we seek it. Please understand: I know I do not deserve the life I have. I do not deserve God’s grace. I do not deserve to have been embraced first by a community of ministers and then by the staff of a local church, getting mentored by pastors to become one myself. And though I did not wake up one day and decide, “I am going to love a married man with little kids and hopefully inspire him to move ahead with a divorce!,” the ugly things people called me were at one time very accurate labels. And yet…

There is no explanation why God has blessed a formerly adulterous couple with an amazing life and beautiful family and opportunities to minister to others, except that He loves us. He loves us as much as He loves the one who has never committed a sexual sin. He loves us as much as He loves the pastors and church leaders who have to make very difficult decisions when it comes to dealing with complicated relationships. He loves all of us who are still learning just how far His grace will go.

just as i amI have seen a lot of words thrown around lately about what grace is, what marriage is, who we should love, and what we should hate. I generally steer clear of the marriage debate, because God knows in conventional eyes, my marriage is not a traditional one. I know what the Bible says, and I have seen God move in miraculous ways, so it is my conviction to choose my words and my battles carefully. The fact is, we don’t, won’t, cannot know exactly how God’s grace works. In my adult life, since ‘getting right with God,’ I have fancied myself a bit of a Grace Hippie, and yet, I am learning things now (from my pastor, with my pastor & my church), that are blowing my mind about God’s grace… as my friend Kenny has said, His grace is crazy! That isn’t a liberal or new age notion; it’s older than the songs in our hymnals, if we still have those! That is God’s love stripped down and set free from the interference of religion, the misinterpretations of the misguided, and the agendas of the self-righteous. That is God’s love saying that not just the fallen and publicly redeemed Davids and Sarahs and Pauls will be with us in Heaven, but maybe the Delilah, the Lot’s Wife, the Judas – those hopelessly weak, distracted, sick, and used – will be as well.

God created us, He knows our flaws, and He sees our souls. If we struggle and fall, if we are confused and make a mistake, and if we are ignorant and think we *are* living the right way, I believe He is merciful! Furthermore, if it turns out that God’s grace is BIGGER & BETTER than what we have all been taught all our lives, and because of that more people will be in Heaven…isn’t that a GOOD thing?

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4

I know the Bible also says we must reach out to Christ in faith and turn from sin. Along with that, it tells me to grow in grace…to administer grace to others… to set my hopes on grace. We are not all equipped exactly in the same way and at the same time to do those things. Of course, we need a Savior, whose grace, another old song tells us, is greater than all our sin.

I do not have all the answers. I do simply pray that everything in my life, my words, my relationships, and my marriage, point people to the love of Jesus. HIS LOVE empowers us to overcome any sin, obstacle, and failure.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. – 2 Peter 3:18

Days of reckoning

Post-September 11, 2001, Martina McBride’s stunning song about domestic violence was used with a different, just as chilling and significant meaning:

Days of reckoning are not fun. On September 11, 2001, I was in a much different place in life. Of course, much of my own life was swept aside and seemed meaningless for a time. But my days of reckoning from my mistakes were on their way.

They aren’t fun, those times when we must face our mistakes, take responsibility for our actions, live with the consequences. I thank God every day for the grace He gives; I know every day that I don’t deserve the fully satisfying life I have. I know His love surrounds me in the form of my family, especially in the two precious children He allowed Rod and I to have together.

But there are still consequences and there will always be. And we have no one to blame for those except ourselves.

~

Who is to blame for the heartbreak, the tragedy, the world-changing Tuesday, September 11, 2001? We will never know all their names, and some of them will get away with it, here on earth. But there is a day of reckoning, when all those who do evil, unabashedly, without shame or regret, will have to pay the price for what they did, for the lives they took and the ones they ruined.

~

Independence Day… now that’s a friendlier term. Most of our American life is spent freely making decisions, whether they are wise or foolish, generous of selfish. Again, I often make incorrect decisions…usually stemming from my impatience or anger. I say things I either don’t mean or shouldn’t say out loud. But one thing I have reckoned with is a desire to tell the truth.

Today the truth is: I am aggravated by some of the circumstances of our blended family, but I know the consequence of my own actions means I cannot control or change those things. The truth is, I am more apathetic about September 11, 2001 than I ever dreamed I could be; not because it is any less important, but because the day-to-day of my own grown-up life has distracted me. The truth is, I can still barely stand to watch footage from that day, but I will, to remind myself of what was lost and also of what a beautiful, though short-lived, aftermath of unity took place in our country.

We lost it then, and looking around at our so-called community, while I see a lot of good and coming together and paying it forward, as my friend puts it, I also see a lot of judginess, small-mindedness, and lack of compassion.

~

It’s not secret on this blog or anywhere else that I believe in the sanctity and sovereignty and salvation only through Jesus Christ. And today, that is the only truth I really view as stable and sure. In a world where towers as high as the World Trade Center can fall, so can so many other things we view as permanent.

Today the truth is: I believe one day the weak will be strong, the right will be wrong. But the stone? It’s already rolled away, and thankfully, it covers every wrongdoing I make, every one that you make, if only we ask.