Words Like Honey

The thing about self-discovery is that it rarely reveals itself with positive feedback. What is often unearthed is a reflection of bad habits, personality imperfections, or spotlighted quirks. These newfound revelations do, hopefully, lead toward the betterment of ourselves. It is a process. I found myself in the big, thick, messy middle of this progressive self-discovery several months ago when faced with some seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I was ill-prepared to be faced with harsh critics, feelings of doubt and defeat, and insecurities that poured like water from a pitcher. Everything I tried to do to be a solution to my own issues led to more issues. It became a cycle of situation, attempt to handle situation, attempt blows up in face, new situation. Exhausting. There were days where I would talk to God and tell Him that I was trying my best to stand up for myself, to be a problem solver, to not give in to difficulties facing me. For weeks, it seemed to me that there must be an “On Vacation” sign hanging from Heaven’s door because my Guide was not answering me.

This brings me to a Sunday morning in February, tired and a bit untethered. I was reluctant to get dressed and get my family out the door for church. My husband nudged me with a wink and a not so subtle, “You could probably benefit from church this morning.” That’s husband code for “maybe Jesus can fix your mood.” I gathered my thoughts, readied myself and our little girl for church, and truly asked God to speak to me in some way.

The message dealt with speaking words of positivity and having a stronger willingness to walk away from the perils of negative commentary. A challenge was even issued to the congregation. The Go 24 Mission: Go 24 hours without participating in negative conversations while simultaneously committing to not be the source of contention on any level. At first, all I could think about was how I wished people who had recently wounded me with their words, actions, and responses would have chosen the path to positivity and had the foresight to see that words are hurtful. I became agitated that I was sitting in church listening to a message about such things when I had been on the receiving end of unpleasantness by others. And then, it happened. Self-Discovery started its slow climb. It did not smack me in the face like a cold wind or present itself in dazzling lights. But, it did seep into my thoughts little by little. It started with me declaring to myself that I am known for being positive. I am known for being an encourager. This would be no problem for me. I do this daily already. With that ever-so-humbling pat on the back to myself, I started to reflect on the happenings of days prior that had served as an emotional catalyst to my then current state of mind.

Attention to all – – It should be a very clear warning that God is trying to speak to you when you find yourself proclaiming, “Well this message is definitely not for me.” That means it most likely definitely is.

Ok, so the Lord had my attention. Now, to figure out how me, an optimistic, peace-making, loves-people-deeply-person needed to hear and apply a message about being more positive after dealing with people who seemed to pride themselves in tearing me down. Sounds backwards, right? But, I knew. I knew the Holy Spirit was trying to speak to me and to help my human brain decode this cipher. I was not sure how I could become kinder, more understanding, or further committed to no contention. It was not too difficult to accept the Go 24 Mission. I got this. Bring on Monday morning. I’m ready. And then, the slow self-discovery climb turned more into a sprint.

Within seconds, yes seconds, of my day beginning, I found myself face-to-face with someone wanting to interrogate me on what I might know about a situation that did not even involve me. I had details but did not want to be any type “source of contention,” so I politely responded that I was unclear on the whole situation and was just praying for those involved. In a surprising turn, the person became wide eyed and agreed that praying for them was a good idea. My response derailed the potential conversation that would do nothing more than fuel contention. Contention is what I like to refer to as a fully loaded word. It has powerful synonyms that paint quite the picture of its definition.

To be contentious is to be surrounded by or engulfed in disagreement, dispute, argument, discord, friction, strife, dissension, or disharmony.

If I engage in a conversation about someone that lacks any resemblance of positivity or redemption, then I am holding the spoon and stirring the pot. I’m cooking up some contention not disposing of it. I kept telling myself that I don’t add to stressful situations. I don’t make matters worse. I am a fixer. I spread joy. I sprinkle sugar. Don’t I?

That Monday was teeming with self-discovery. I could not even grasp everything the Lord was revealing to me. At home, in my workplace, in the grocery store, in a parking lot, at a playground, I was faced with choice after choice after choice. Choose to be a part of a negative conversation or walk away. Bite my tongue and hold back the rhetoric I felt I had every right to share. Respond to a disparaging comment with a simple, lighthearted reply.  Remain alone with my thoughts rather than vent all in the name of feeling better.

You know that saying that talks about not being able to change others but try to be the change yourself? Ok, so, I was determined to connect the dots with what God was telling me. Be the change. See the difference. Stand the victor. I chose to tackle the issues I was dealing with head on and I was going to extend this Go 24 Mission to do it. The first week was one of the loneliest weeks I have had in a long time. Not to mention, I dealt with the fact that I had to hit the restart button on the mission numerous times because of my failed attempts. Loneliness and failure. Yep, those words really energized my already fragile mindset. But, alas, I felt a directive.  Over a two-week period, I walked away from dozens of conversations that I began to see had no clear purpose other than to attach themselves to an already negative issue. I began to develop a keen sense of when and where contentious dialogue was going to take place and detoured myself from it. And, most shockingly, I began to understand the unbridled ways of my own mouth when it came to serving as a source for further instigating contention. Me. The happy, smiling, bring-your-own-sunshine-to-every-situation-girl.

I love being around people. They fuel me. I love being a hostess. Give me any reason to throw a party or set up a room for gathering. I want to know everyone’s name and favorite color. Tell me your preferred beverage. I will try to bring it to you. Let’s talk. Extroverts unite!

In this Go 24 Mission, I was not only dealing with having to hit the reset button consistently, but I had to remove myself from everyone in order to be quiet myself or not be part of someone else’s noise.

In those quiet moments, I longed to talk to people. But, this mission was taking me to a place that I can often find uncomfortable. It is a place of stillness. And, in stillness, self-discovery takes over. I began to download scriptures on my phone…the kind with pretty visuals. Holy Memes. I would read and re-read them. I would put them in the context for my current season of life. I would pray. I had many conversations with the Lord during these couple of weeks.

As I was mining through the scriptural gems that were discovered, such treasures as Proverbs 16:24 settled in my soul. It states, “Gracious words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”

I also got knocked over by the glaring sheen of Exodus 14:14 declaring, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” And, the ever simple, yet so profoundly difficult declarative, Matthew 5:14 told me to “Be the Light.”

A substantial amount of time has passed since I dove head first into my Go 24 Mission. It changed my circumstance. It changed my environment. It changed me. I am a better person because of this mission. Still flawed, yes. Still prone to negativity. Sure. I am closer to the Lord because of this mission. I am learning to love, forgive, and encourage in a new way. I am also learning more each day of what it means to speak with lips of honey rather that a mouth of discontent. I have no doubt that this will be a constant struggle with bruises along the way, but I am also confident and excited about its redemptive, gracious, life-giving benefits as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Season of Construction

I have experienced many different seasons in my life. Some have been fruitful, others informative, and still more have been variants of adventures, chaos, and stress. Seasons do what is expected of them. They come and they go. Many times it is clear what purpose they served while being in them. Others are not as easily categorized. I currently find myself in a particular season that appears to be a merger of the two…a clear season with a purpose and a veiled season of uncertainty. There are times where I feel like I’m standing in summer while winter holds my hand. I am unable to make conclusions due to the ambiguity of where I am fixed. And so, several weeks ago, I began praying, talking with the Lord, making known my contempt for a season that’s served as a myriad of emotions. It has been exciting, confusing, frustrating, hopeful, disheartening, and a blessing all rolled up together. Summer meets winter.

The Lord knows me to the depths of my core. He is not surprised in the least that I am calling out His name and asking Him to give me an explanation of my current season. I like things to be labeled…clearly written out in an organized fashion. I like signs. I like knowing that a green light means go or that a yield sign means proceed with caution.

What I am not fond of is being put in a position where I am surrounded with perplexity as to what constitutes as a sign. It’s as though the Lord emptied out a 500 piece puzzle and chose not to leave the box with me for reference. I simply don’t know what I am looking at.

My 4-year-old daughter loves puzzles. I’ve never been one to embrace the practice of analyzing shapes and color schemes so that I may match up a disconnected array of pieces. It’s stressful. Sure, there is a certain pride one can take in the finished product. Who doesn’t like a finished puzzle? But the process…so daunting and repetitive. I watch my little blonde dynamo work on her princess puzzle daily. Attempt after attempt, she plugs pieces together that don’t fit. Rather than get frustrated, she keeps on with her persistent attitude. I could learn a lot from her 4-year-old tenacity and hope. She realized early on that she can fail and yet still somehow get to the big picture if she just keeps trying…holding strong to the belief that with time, patience, and a keen eye, the pieces will eventually fit.

I recently purchased a construction site puzzle for my nephew for Christmas. He is a big fan of bulldozers, cranes, excavators, and large dirt piles. His puzzle got me thinking. I find it nerve-racking to be anywhere near construction. Those vehicles, like the ones on the puzzle, indicate that there is a work zone nearby. Something is either being built, repaired, or torn down. And, inevitably, with any construction site, there is deep digging, loud noises, movement, change, and detours.

After wrapping the construction site puzzle and mailing it to my nephew, I started seeing construction vehicles everywhere. There was massive road work near where we live. A new restaurant was being built just down the road from my daughter’s school. An additional wing was being added to my go-to grocery store. And like a bucket of ice water being poured on my head, I had a moment of clarity. My season, the one I am in now, is not identifiable because it is a season of rebuilding, remodeling, and refocusing. I am under construction. It is not a bad thing. It is just unfamiliar territory. With construction comes both the tearing down of structures as well as the creating of new pathways…summer meets winter.

I read a quote this week by a renowned graphic designer, Björn Berglund. In talking about his eclectic and unique view of design and typography, he said, “Old ways won’t open new doors.”

I had to take a moment to breathe as that resonated with me. I am not under construction because the Lord wants to see me fail or because He enjoys seeing me wade through the weeds and rubble. He is answering my prayers. I’ve prayed for some time now for change…for a new season…for opportunities to guide me for His purpose. I have spoken and continue to speak the musings of my heart to God. I am starting to realize that I can’t simply build on top of a previously poured foundation and attach new frameworks to my pre-existing structure. Some things in my life are going to have to be rebuilt, redone, or completely made new.

In looking at scripture, Philippians 4:6 came across my computer. I stopped and read it. Verse 6 is often recited and shared from many pulpits and found within many devotionals. It reads, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.” (MSG).

It was verse 7 that really stood out to me. The Message Bible translates it like this – “Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.”

When I am under construction and my puzzle pieces are all over the floor, I need to be looking to my Heavenly Father who knows who I am wholly, fully, and completely. He is working on me…constructing me in this season for the seasons ahead. I may not understand and feel confident in my parts of the puzzle and how they all connect, but I feel quite certain of God’s wholeness and how He views me. So, no flip flops for this season. No heavy coats. Just some hard hats and a willing heart to be led to new doors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventure of Change

I have never been one those adventurous souls who loves taking risks, making big changes, creating a new normal for the thrill of it and so on. I thrive on routine and structure. Making a plan is such a calming thing to do. Beyond the token holidays that are filled with festivities and décor, another favorite day of the year for me is July 1st. Why, you ask? That is the day that office stores put out on display their 12-month calendars for teachers (they run July to July). Oh, the joy of a new calendar. Fresh lines, blank spaces, a world of opportunities waiting to be documented. And, add in highlighters to color code activities and Post-It notes, you’ve got yourself a wild and crazy planning party.

I’d say that the other end of the routine spectrum is spontaneity. Closely aligned with that, would be the “go-with-the-flow” ability. It is safe to say that spontaneity is not in my wheelhouse, nor is “flowing” with things that require a plan (as I feel all things do most of the time). Although, this is the way I lean, that doesn’t mean I am incapable of being spontaneous. I can be and I have been, but it is not a regular occurrence. I recall a time in my early 20s when I was working with teenage girls in our church as a youth leader. We were having a pool party extravaganza. I told my co-leader that we should tell the girls to all jump in at once and make a big splash. It will be fun and “spontaneous.” I proceeded to tell our crew of girls to line up around the pool, hold hands, and wait for me to count to three and then we would jump in and make a splash. My co-leader grinned, fully aware that this was me attempting to be spontaneous. All I could do was embrace this me moment and grin back at her after I realized why she was so entertained. It’s true. I need organization in my life. Some might even say, I need control. It’s not so much the situations I want to control, it is the outcome of those situations. Yes, splashes can be made, but I need to prepare for them and make sure I come back up from the deep, blue depths.

I recently embarked on an adventure of grandiose proportions with my husband and daughter. We moved out of state…from TN to NC. This means new…everything. New jobs. New home. New neighbors. New church. New pre-school. New Mexican restaurant. Oh Lord in Heaven, please let them have great queso & salsa like our little place down the road. New doctors. New hairstylist. Oh Lord in Heaven, please let them understand my natural highlights and work with them as they cover my gray strands of wisdom. New grocery store. New roads and interstates. The list continues.

As with anything I write, I try to come from a true, raw perspective. I’ve known we were going to move for a few months now, but have hesitated to write about it because of the level of anxiety attached to it. When I first started this blog, I told myself that the only way it would truly reflect me was if I allowed myself to be honest about living a Christian life riddled with a lot of anxious moments all the while struggling to hold a firm grip on my determination to be a positive, joyful, optimistic person. So, for all you “new is scary” folks out there, allow me to be your mouthpiece.

Once we decided to take this leap of faith in moving…a move we felt led by God to do, my thoughts immediately started spinning in many varied directions. There are days when I am beyond excited for this new adventure and days where I want to hug my calendar, embrace my lists, and run to the nearest landmark I know. I want to have breakfasts, lunches, and dinners will all the amazing people the Lord has put in our lives during the almost 10 years we have lived in Tennessee. I want to take walks, go shopping, and just sit with the people who make me laugh the most. Though I realize that miles do not determine the sanctity and validity of friendships, I still find it hard to breathe at times knowing I left people I love…people I am used to seeing on a regular basis. I have to remind myself that I was once new in TN. God led, He provided, and we were blessed. Of course, every moment had not been a celebratory occasion, but even in our obstacles, we have learned and we have grown. So, I have been telling myself that God goes before me. He proves Himself time and again when we trust Him.

I am a big proponent of The Message Bible. It changed the way I studied God’s word. It helped scripture come alive and become applicable in my life. Being someone who loves words, I relished in having this version as a guide to what I was reading. And so, when it came time to find a scripture, I found this little gem in Deuteronomy 1:8 (MSG).

It states, “God is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry.”  Those words shall be on repeat in my life’s soundtrack over the next few weeks and months.

I’d like to acknowledge also that for people like me (the worriers, the anxious, the take-a-deep-breath-it’ll-all-work-out-proclaimers), change does not have to unveil itself as a massive life altering event in order for stress and fear to ensue. Change is an obligatory trigger for uneasiness and apprehension for the people in our faction. Let’s forget the life altering process of moving states for a moment and focus on smaller matters at hand. I waited for months and months to upgrade my email account from the “classic” layout I was so accustomed to seeing and interacting with. New font. New color scheme. New positioning of tabs. Ugh – the chaos! Notice the word NEW again. Many people see that word and probably think of something being shiny, untethered, fresh. Sure, ok, I agree those are synonymous words, but new also means by definition, “just beginning, beginning a new, regarded as better than what went before it.” See, that is what gets me. What if my attempt to jump into the NEW does not turn out to be better than what went before it.” Hello insecurity, it’s me, Farrell. So, for the sake of all involved, let’s just use the “classic” version of email for a little while longer. Let’s just use the “classic” version of life for the time being.

The hardest part of admitting this kind of anxiety is that there will be a majority of people that cannot relate. I have friends in my life who wake up hoping new things happen to them…anticipating and awaiting change. They seek out risky adventures. Oh, the horror. But, I also know that by being true to who I am and how I feel will hopefully help others that deal with this type of roller coaster emotions when it comes to change, will connect with me and what I have to say. There is so much freedom in knowing other people are in the same boat as you or at least in a similar nautical situation. I have to return to the scripture…my shining diamond amidst my fog of anxiety. “He won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry.”

I dare say that I will never leap into the arms of change like it is a long-lost friend. But, what I am focused on doing is to shake the hand of change, look at it eye to eye, smile, breathe deeply, and embrace the realm of possibilities that could await me if I trust in myself and in God’s guiding hand.

Whether your NEW involves an enormous U-Haul truck such as my story or another life altering moment that will shake your distressed mind, take heart. I do not believe that the Lord is trying to pull out the rug from under your feet or from under mine. Do we like change? No! Does it cause us to eat antacids and put cold, soothing compresses on our faces? Yes! But, as much as it pains me to admit this, I am convinced that there are wonderful, amazing things that only NEW can bring to our lives. Just remember to press that repeat button…“He won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry.”

Finding Forward

To say that I do not have strong map skills is a gross understatement. As a young adult, I struggled to identify north, south, east, and west. Ok, total moment of honesty. Right now, as I look around, I have absolutely no idea which direction is which. I own it. I embrace it. I’ve accepted it. It’s baffling to many who know me to see the depth at which I become discombobulated at the very mention of these directives. Once, in my early years of college, I went to visit my best friend who had relocated out of our quaint little town to the bustling metropolis. I wanted to go visit her, but I knew that meant taking down great directions and successfully implementing said directions. This was pre-GPS, folks. Gasp! I know, I know….the horror.  In what had to be an act of angelic intervention, I made it to my BFF’s apartment. I tried to convince her of the magnitude of my accomplishment. And then, after our visit, it was time to go back to my home. “It’s just like how you came here,” she said. “It’s easier going back,” she said. “Just follow the signs,” she said.

Well, I’ll save you some details and just focus on the fact that as I turned out of her apartment complex and began my journey home, I turned in the wrong direction immediately out of the gate. I ended up almost two hours out of the way. She was stunned. She could not believe that I got so lost so quickly. It was a defining moment in our friendship. It was the moment where she knew that I was directionally challenged…far worse than she ever imagined. And so, from then on, she came to visit me. It was just easier that way.

I also like to laugh at the fact that in today’s age, I have a false sense of directional confidence because of my GPS navigation. I have it enabled on my phone as well as having a mounted GPS in my car. One can never have too much direction when one has such dire abilities. I type in a new address with the self-assurance that I will get where I need to go. Why? Because I just hit the Get Started button and a nice lady tells me to “turn right.” There are a few things in addition to Jesus and my family, of course, which I can’t live without: sweet tea, salted caramel anything, Chapstick, and my GPS.

So, now that you know my dark secret…my map skill insecurity…my direction disconnect, you can process a bit more of who I am a person. And, you can follow me across the bridge to where I am leading this conversation. The idea for this blog entry hit me in the face as my ideas often do after a string of events linked together made me focus on directions. This time, however, there was no map needed. There was no complicated list of route markers to follow. When I feel lost, whether it be emotionally, spiritually, or literally, I pray for God to guide me. This new year has brought me face to face with many defining situations that I needed to find my way out of or find my way to. And, in many cases, they were situations that required more navigating skills than I seemed to have.

I had tears in my eyes one night just calling out to God seeking His voice…His leading hand. I reminded Him of past events and reiterated my current situation (as though He didn’t know my story). Everything seemed so busy in my head.

I was overthinking my problems and underestimating the Lord.

And then, I forced myself to be still…to be quiet. I knew there must be a way to tackle some of the things that were hitting me head on that were causing me to crawl into my hole of insecurity and watch on replay the tapestry of chaos that I felt was being weaved. As I sat in my comfy mercantile chair (my personal thinking tree), I had an image pop in my head. It was of me looking at a map with an utterly confused look on my face. Yep. That seems about right. Giving me a map is like telling my four year old daughter to go make dinner. The effort will be there, but the result will be disastrous.

And so, I waited and tried to listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice. What do I need to get out of this idea of me with a map? And then I wrote down two words – – – Finding Forward.

Opening that map is not about locating the furthest southwest point. It is not about identifying the nearest national park. It has nothing to do with the interstates or the surrounding towns. Opening that map for me meant learning how to do one thing. Find Forward. I spend more time that I care to admit concentrating on things that happened in the past. I question redundantly why things happened the way they did.

I rewrite endings to stories that have already been told. That serves no purpose…no healthy purpose anyway. Not for me. I have to embrace the idea that the only direction I need to be able to recognize is forward.

I turned to my Bible.

There I found Isaiah 43:18-19 (The Message). It reads, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”

Don’t keep going over old history. I feel like I need a billboard outside my home that says that. I could look out my window when I am over-processing and uber-analyzing something that has happened and remind myself to move on. I already feel like there are not enough hours in the day to do all that I need and want to do, so why do I choose to waste minutes upon minutes reliving what is now historic?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

My old non-sense. That is the mess behind me. I am now on a new mission. I am to find forward. That is where I want to go. That is the simplest directive, yet one of the hardest to follow. But, with determination to step one foot in front of the other, I am going to move on. Disappointments happen. Frustrations are a part of daily life. People will be unkind. Fear is inevitably going to set in. Times of soaking in doubt will sneak in when I’m not looking. The point is that I don’t want to travel backwards when these life situations occur. I don’t want to dawdle. I want to know that I am with intentionality each and every day finding a way to accelerate…to chase what’s in front of me and be grateful for the opportunity to overcome.

The Grace Equation

I have felt for a few weeks now that I wanted to write about grace.  I pondered the specifics of that blog. I imagined that it would be pretty straightforward regarding the subject matter. I felt strongly about the topic of grace being the centerpiece of my next writing endeavor and I just knew the words would come. They would hug me like a warm blanket and pour out like a pitcher of cold, sweet tea. Alas, that was not the case. I did what any writer would do after inspiration failed to follow an idea. I figured that topic was not what I needed to dive into. I briefly abandoned the notion.

It is almost comical at this point how often I expect God to give me words without challenging my thinking first.

Recently I have discovered that when I think of grace, I also think about love, kindness, and forgiveness. Every single time I tried to sort out my thoughts, those words fenced in the idea of grace…an outline of grace’s perimeter. And so, for me, I could not write about grace in singularity. It is more of an equation. I’ve never much enjoyed math in any form. I love being engulfed in literature, vocabulary, and anything related to the written word. I’ve spent the majority of the last decade and beyond educating young minds in those very subjects. I faintly recall the one year where my principal told me she needed me to embrace flexibility (code talk for “I am about to tell you to do something you don’t want to do”). She asked me to step in and teach an advanced math class. That year was beyond tough for me. I knew the ins and outs of English & Language Arts and so on. But, I had to take an active role in studying, working out math problems, and double checking my work every night before I taught it to my students. It did not come easy to me. I finished out that year truly having accomplished something, but exhausted over the process. The next year, I was thrilled to return to my roots of teaching literature and writing. No more equations for this girl!

It seems fitting that the Lord would speak to me and connect my musings with math. Once again, I had to write out, categorize, and study the parts of the grace puzzle before I could present it to anyone and explain how I feel it is put together.

As I write on the topic of grace, I must acknowledge my precious, wonderful mom. She was my best friend. I lost her to cancer when I was 23 years old. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of her. And, being a mother myself now only magnifies how much I miss her. That is an area for further discussion at a later point. What I relate to with this particular post in reference to my mother is that she exuded grace. It radiated from her. I watched her love my father, who on many occasions was difficult to love. I witnessed her give to others when she had so little herself. I saw her forgive what many would consider unforgivable. I surveyed her effortless ability to show love unconditionally. She was the embodiment of grace.

Allow me to reflect on the happenings of a few weeks ago when I was forced into a situation where I was on the receiving end of a sharp tongue, unkind words, harsh criticism, and hateful rhetoric. I remember asking myself WWMD. What Would Mom Do? The great thing about that question is that I knew the answer. My mother would do what Jesus would do. She would be quick to forgive, rush to extend grace, and above all else, love. I am purposeful in modeling my life after my mother. I fall short much of the time. But, I persist, despite fatigue in doing so. I have found myself time and time again dealing with situations beyond my control that ask a lot from me – to forgive when someone has wounded me deeply….to lift up and encourage others who have torn me down….to unconditionally respond with grace, kindness, forgiveness, and love. I can’t tell you how many times I have told the Lord that I just need a break from situations that I keep having to repeat with people throughout my life.

I looked deeper into the word, grace. How does everything connect? The word, grace, itself is multi-layered in its definition make-up. It takes on various parts of speech and can be used in wide variety of contexts. It is synonymous with the following words: favor, acceptance, enhancement, blessing, respect, decency, & suspension. In order to extend grace to someone, you must be willing to agree to a lengthy checklist of agreeable terms. To give grace to someone is to say, “I will show you favor over consequence and punishment.” To give grace to someone is to say, “Not only do I accept you and your flaws, but I will respect you in spite of the fact that you’ve given me reason to doubt you.” To give grace to someone is to say, “I will suspend whatever judgement and derogatory thoughts I have and replace them with an open palm to take your hand in mine.” To give grace to someone is to say, “I will not only overlook the issue at hand, but I will go above and beyond to enhance who you are though reassurance and loving guidance.” Grace is an equation.

You have to face the problem, the person, the circumstance head on, and agree that your bitterness, frustration, and fear don’t allow you to remove essential variables from the calculation toward grace.

I’ve been accused in my life as being someone who doesn’t always stand up for myself….as someone who can get walked on by others with more dominant personalities and such. I have had people close to me frustrated that I have extended kindness to others who have either disregarded me or been unkind in their actions. There is indeed an often difficult balance of being a strong individual that simultaneously surrenders to the call of grace and forgiveness. When recently faced with an emotional interaction with someone close to me in which no grace was put in my direction, I called on the Lord to be my words for me. I was determined to fight my battle with love. I was determined to “slap” my antagonist with grace until it left a memorable red mark on their cheek. Kill them with kindness is how the saying goes, right?

In all seriousness though, I choose grace because God is grace. I choose acceptance because God accepts me. I choose to love because God has called me to love.  It doesn’t matter which side of grace you find yourself today.

You are always going to wake up either being someone in desperate need of grace to be given or you are going to be the person whom God is leading to give grace.

There is a line from a Matthew West’s song that says, “There’s a war between guilt and grace and they’re fighting for a sacred space, but I’m living proof, grace wins every time.”

I would rather lay my head down on my pillow each night knowing that I erred on the side of grace rather than withholding it. I implore you today to give grace freely. Forgive. Choose to tell people that God has placed in your life that you care about them. Find any opportunity you can to make someone smile. Give selflessly with no conditions, no strings attached. Suspend your anger. Love. Simply love.