Archive for January 2016 | Monthly archive page

A Year of Grace

Jan
2016
04

posted by on Faith, Joy

4 comments

Honestly, I could not tell you what my 2015 resolutions were. I’m sure I made them. I may not have gotten as far as writing them down anywhere. If I did, it’s probably a list on a random page of one of the 15 spiral notebooks that float around my house. These notebooks serve as to-do lists, grocery lists, random writing down of information during phone calls, random doodling during phone calls, sermon notes, writing ideas, and coloring books. There is no rhyme or reason. Type A people, you should just stop reading now because this is probably stressing you out…

Wherever that list may or may not be, I don’t have any recollection of it. But I think it’s safe to say that if I did make goals for 2015, they were not achieved. 2015 was, for me, an unexpectedly challenging year. Of course I did anticipate that when we adopted and grew our family rapidly and basically turned our house into an elementary classroom it would come with challenges. But I think I felt that we were “settling,” in a sense, as we began 2015. Now I look back and think, yeah, that whole settling thing ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

2015 brought a lot more questions than answers. I encountered new dilemmas, particularly with our children, for which solutions seemed, and continue to seem, elusive. I found myself often feeling overwhelmed, weary and directionless. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t, to put it succinctly, just get my crap together. There’s this picture on Reagan and Eva’s wall and one time Josh and I were laying on the floor in there (you know, because sometimes you just run out of energy and lay down on your kids’ floor) and Josh said, “That’s a picture of your life. You’re that giraffe. And those 4 giraffes are comin’ at you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” And I laughed until I cried partly because it was funny and partly because it was so painfully true. These kids are trying to stampede me pretty much 24/7 (Do giraffes stampede? Probably not. And that’s not even a verb. Whatever, I’m sticking with it).

Giraffes

So, this may be a bit of an overshare, but honestly, I wish we’d all just share this stuff more so I’m just gonna dive on in. In March of this past year, I began to struggle with anxiety. Not “Oh gosh, I’m so nervous about my upcoming job interview” anxiety. More like “Why do I feel so freaked out all the time” anxiety. I’ve never been an anxious person. So it took me a while to figure out what was going on, and eventually I ended up sitting in the ER because of shortness of breath and chest pain. Once all the tests had been done and the consensus seemed to be “it’s probably anxiety,” I just felt so ashamed, so silly for ending up in the ER because I was having a panic attack. Other people have stressful lives. Not me. I have a great life. What is wrong with me?

But as I talked to those I was close with, I learned that this is not an uncommon thing. Actually, it’s very common. I am not alone in this.

(Just as an aside, I am not talking about anxiety disorders here. For many, anxiety is a constant, physically painful struggle that requires counseling and sometimes medicine. I’m talking about getting to this point where your body basically says “You are way too stressed out and I’m here to tell you to do something about it already!!”)

This experience got me thinking. What is making us all so stressed out? What is making me feel so stressed out?  So out of necessity, I had to start really evaluating my life, how I was spending my time, what I was doing with my energy. And that’s pretty much how I spent the rest of the year, trying to reduce stress. And yeah, I went to the doctor and we talked about all the things I need to do. Exercise more, sleep enough, get time to myself, etc. And all of that is good. And I’m glad I have some tools that help me cope when I start to freak out. But mostly this year of trying to regulate my stress levels or whatever has just led me back to the same two things again and again.

  • Our expectations for ourselves, our lives, our children, are ridiculous. We all want to be interior decorators and gourmet chefs and entrepreneurs and organic gardeners and beauty queens and super-moms and super-wives and presidents of the whatever. We want our lives to look like a Pinterest board. It’s unattainable.
  • But more importantly, my bigger problem was this: I like to be in charge. I like to run things. I want to be God. And I can’t be. And because I can’t be, I panic.

There’s a free antidote to both of these issues but it’s sometimes a hard pillow to swallow.

Grace.

This year, if I learned one thing, it was that I want to understand grace. I don’t want to have a small view of it. I want to walk in it. I want to know the abundance of it that is promised to us in Scripture.

In October, when our family spent a week at the beach, I finally got the time to read a book that one of my best friends recommended, Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid. There’s a lot that I love about this book, but the main idea that has really stuck with me is that grace is just so scandalous. Even as I read this book I found myself second-guessing everything, thinking, wait a minute, that can’t be right. And then looking it up in Scripture and thinking, Oh. That’s Biblical. That really IS how grace works. It makes no sense to our works/wages mentality. It cannot be earned. I can’t good-works my way into or out of it. I can’t keep it in a neat and tidy box and get it out when I think it might help me. It doesn’t work that way. In fact, the more I think I can contain it, the more I end up avoiding it altogether.

Real, scandalous grace is for the sinners. It’s for the weak. It’s for the messy and messed-up and tired and confused and overwhelmed. And that’s exactly who I am. It’s who we all are. Grace is where God’s strength meets our weakness.  We aren’t meant to stand on our own and do all the things and impress everyone around us. We aren’t meant to be God. We’re meant to receive His grace from His ocean of steadfast love and faithfulness and display for those around us that it is not WE who are great but the One we serve.

Grace means I can say yes when I’m able, and no when I’m not, without condemnation or guilt, because it is God who directs and strengthens for the tasks He has assigned. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”

Grace means I can see beyond the lie that a perfect home or healthy meals or a toned beach body or great vacations or the best parenting method or a huge savings account or WHATEVER is going to satisfy. Instead I can say “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.”

Grace means I can’t make my children anything. I can entrust them to a faithful God while I obey, instead of constantly wringing my hands, worrying that any wrong move on my part will keep them from the Kingdom. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

Grace means I don’t have to know everything or have all the answers or be the smartest person in the room. I can be weak and weary and not feel like that’s the end of the world, but instead like that’s the best place to be to better know my Savior. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Most of all grace means I’m ever looking ahead. Because true Grace points us forward to our final rest. We aren’t meant to be satisfied here. We aren’t meant to figure it out. We aren’t meant to have all the answers. We’re meant to receive grace and long for the one Who bestows it. Long for the time we’ll be with Him and the concerns of this life will be a dim memory. “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Any good work or success in this short life is born out of grace, out of dependence on love for the Savior. Apart from Him, we have no good.

So, yeah, I’ve made some 2016 resolutions. And they’re around here somewhere. And I may or may not be successful in them. But this I know. A year of Grace is better than a year of success.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things you can abound in every good work.”