grace: noun ˈgrās a manifestation of favor [mercifulness].
Life is finally beginning to feel a little more settled for our family. Our house is starting to feel like a home (with the help of a bit of paint to brighten things up) and only a handful of unpacked boxes remain. It feels good.
Christmas was wonderful. We made a conscious effort to keep things simple. Our children each received a few small gifts. We spent the day with dear friends. Jesus was honored–for it is all about Him that we celebrate.
And in the midst of it all–the wrapping paper, the gifts, the birth of our Savior–I marvelled once again at His astonishing grace in my life. Amazing grace that my heart simply cannot fathom at times.
Grace which is always, always sufficient.
It was one month ago that we drove up the long and winding mountain road that led us all the way back to our old home–the one we left just eighteen months ago.
I confess that I was totally thrilled to leave this place last year. I remember heading east with joy indescribable and great anticipation in my heart. The feeling of elation only intensified with every mile that took us farther away from the freezing cold winters which, to me, truly felt like they would never end. Everything in me could not wait to get our little girls with Down syndrome to a lower elevation where they could thrive–and my summer-lovin’ self to a much warmer climate. Having lived in the southern hemisphere for most of my life, I found adjusting to a very cold climate for the first three years that we lived here extremely hard.
Oh, the joys of beginning a new chapter in our lives (sans snow!).
But, as you know if you have journeyed with me for a while, many lessons were to be learned along the way. The biggest one, of course, being learning the hard way what it means to truly die to self and put my complete trust in my God. I thought I had learned that lesson many times over in the past. I really did. I often went through experiences which I thought were the kind where the Lord was teaching me to put my absolute trust in Him. Yup, I totally thought I had arrived and had the whole surrender thing all figured out and wrapped up in a nice little box with a nice big bow on top!
But hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? Those little “experiences” really were just trial runs for what was to come. God was building my faith one little “experience” at a time.
Needless to say, we arrived on the east coast in May last year and immediately set out to put our roots down so deep that even a Category 5 hurricane could not uproot them. No one, and I mean no one, was going to move us from our beloved promised land.
Ah, yes. I have failed so many times in my life.
And in the last eighteen months I have failed more times than I care to even count. I used to think that I was a pretty strong woman. I used to think that there was not much that I could not handle. I used to think that I could face any mountain and weather any storm.
That was until the Lord called us to walk the most challenging season of our married life. A season that would stretch and challenge every aspect of our lives. A season that would not make any sense at all to us…but all the sense in the world to Him. A season when everything would be stripped away and we would be forced to rely completely and utterly on the ONE who called us by name.
A season which would take us full circle.
And bring us back.
To the snow. And the cold. And the winters which feel like they will last forever.
Back to the place I vowed and declared in a loud voice that I would NEVER return to.
Yes, this little spot on the map that I could not wait to leave behind, He has brought us back to.
It was with a lump in my throat the size of a tennis ball that we drove back into our driveway one month ago. I fought back tears as we walked back into the house I was all too happy to leave behind. I asked the Father many times as we headed west, “Why, God?”
“Why not there?”
Silence. Every time.
No answer from heaven.
The truth is that I don’t have the foggiest idea why. I don’t know why God chooses to do most of the things He does (and has done) with His beloved people over the years. Three men jumping into a blazing furnace, a tiny man to fight a giant, wilderness experiences for a ton of years, a teenage mom to give birth to the Savior of the world? Seriously? It’s all crazy–the whole lot of it.
But ultimately it is ALL for His glory! Every trial, every crazy experience, every unanswered prayer, every twist and turn along the road. HIS glory…not ours! All we have to do is follow. And then…
His amazing grace follows.
I have been so mindful of His grace in this season of my life. His awesome, steadfast, truly amazing grace. His manifestation of favor in my life. I am so undeserving of it. I whine, I lose faith, I question, I doubt, I wonder, I take my eyes off the Father.
Yet, He pours grace down like rain upon my life–and it is always enough in any season I endure.
Always plentiful. Always more than enough to get me to the other side.
“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
And so, as the apostle Paul did, I will boast in my weaknesses. Without Jesus, I am completely useless. I love what The Message version of the Bible says about that same scripture in 2 Corinthians.
“My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”
I am slowly but surely learning to embrace my weaknesses–to see them as a way for my God’s strength to be made perfect in my life. For it is only through Christ that I can do all things. When I am weak, He is strong.
I arrived back in this winter wonderland just a few weeks ago with so much dread in my heart. I knew that I knew that we were making the right decision to return (because really, we simply had no other choice), but oh, how I much I longed to stay right where I was.
Today, as I sit writing this, with the snow thick outside my window and freezing temperatures which are here to stay for a long while, I can only but marvel at my God who truly does work out all things to the good of those who love Him. My heart is changing. My perspective is changing. I am seeing things differently to how I did before. I can even begin to think about the months to come and not have that old feeling of sheer dread consuming me.
His amazing grace.
Life truly is just so fleeting, isn’t it? We have only one shot at it. I stood in the store a few days ago and Billy Graham’s latest book caught my eye. I opened it and read a few pages. In there he speaks of how he is nearing the end of his life and how quickly it came. He speaks of heaven and all that awaits him when the Lord finally takes him home. Reading this man of a great God’s thoughts and ponderings on living life to the fullest and just how fleeting our time here on earth is really gave me a healthy dose of perspective.
Does it really matter where I live?
Does the weather even matter one single bit?
Potentially, I can go through my entire life longing for something else–something bigger, better, warmer, more suitable for my needs–and never find it.
Just a vapor. That’s all it is.
Following Jesus with reckless abandon is ALL that really matters in this life. He and He alone is the only ONE who can give me the grace to endure any circumstance and any situation He allows me to go through.
I have such a long way to go. But I am learning, slowly but surely, that for those who surrender to Christ, we really do lose our lives when we give Him full reign to do whatever He pleases with us. And when we say yes…
No matter what.
My journey continues. The Lord has been good to us in this place. Doors of opportunity have flung wide open and we are walking through each one of them. We’re listening carefully to His still, small voice which gently leads and guides us, and we’re trusting that He will use our family however He pleases. Our lives are not our own–we belong to Him. We long to be clay in the hands of our Maker.
“I’ll just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Cor. 12:9
And daily….I’m learning to abide.
Head on over to Anthony’s blog to read the first part of an awesome interview he did.