A Grace Note: A Slow Changing October 


Dear Reader, 

And there it goes, October, quietly passing by. The most beautiful October I can remember. These warm lingering days of autumn have been a blessing I didn’t even know that I needed. But I so needed this. I needed a year to dwell in the changing seasons. Many years I blink and autumn and her splendor have already gone, and winter has snapped in far too early. But this year has been different. Maybe it’s because my life has slowed down so very much. Maybe it’s because my season of waiting has dragged on across weeks, and months, and seasons, and years. Maybe it’s because I don’t know what’s next…but the earth spinning gently always changes in beautiful ways, God designed it that way. And He designed us to change in slow beautiful ways too. We can’t control all the outcomes of our dreams, but we can keep faithfully and gracefully spinning on with the earth as it holds us during our little while here. Maybe it’s not the dreaming or the planning that fulfills the desires of our hearts, maybe it’s the faithful living in the light of our heavenly destiny that does. And our dreams, while seemingly high and sometimes looming, are not even close to the beauty of the reality that God has written on the pages of our lives. Christ has gone to prepare a place for us, and we have gone on living this life to prepare for that place and to prepare space in our hearts for more time with Him. Friends, the changing of seasons in our lives is as natural and life giving as the changing of seasons in this world. Expect change and you can expect growth. And expect Jesus to show up for you in every single new season you feel your life transforming into. Every new season prepares us for the next. Each one eventually passes by, and each is graciously replaced by the Father with something new. It’s how we know we are growing, it’s how we mark the passing of time. Change is part of God’s plan for us, whether He is changing our perspective, our lives, or our minds…He is out to change us, in the most beautiful and eternal ways.

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer

A Grace Note: As October Passes By 


Dear Reader, 

We were driving home today and I noticed that the trees blurring by us on the highway weren’t quite as full of their autumn splendor as they were when I snapped this photo a few weeks ago. Where foliage once filled, now there are only a sprinkling of yellows clinging on to the outermost branches, just waiting for the breeze to strengthen enough to carry them away to where the rest of autumn’s golden blanket lies below the bending arches instead of above them. And there are two days left in this blessing we’ve named October, and then the strength of November will hustle in and the holidays will fill our minds and our time and soft flakes of white will soon mingle with the yellow and red whisps of Fall along our sidewalks and on our rooftops, and the world will freeze…will pause…in silent Thanks to the Father God who has graciously given and who beautifully resurrects life from even the coldest months that cover us and who has held us in His warmth all these last days of summer and now autumn. I was just thinking today how Good and Beautiful is our God and is our Christ, and how I don’t want to miss out on His handiwork this year while the seasons gracefully change. I look at His creation and I am more than compelled to give Him thanks and to thirst for His mercy and to dwell in His Grace. We love a Good and Faithful God and we are saved by a Humble and Sacrificial Christ. We are entering a month of Thanks, and I pray that this coming November will be a month of powerful prayer and Thanksgiving among God’s people and that His joy will be made known and that His heart for us will be made evident in this world. Christ said that the world will know we are His by how we Love, and maybe we show our Love for Him by kneeling down in humble Thanksgiving and rising up in the Joy of Redemption by the Lamb. Just some thoughts as this October passes by and as we welcome with thankful hearts the blessing and provision of November. 

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer

A Grace Note: Intertwined Stories


Dear Reader, 

It’s my Mama’s birthday today, and all I can think about is how strong she is, and how deeply she loves us kids, and how heavily she has impacted my life. So many days I get tossed around by the gusts of this life and I forget to really see the people who have forged their love into my life and who have helped to craft my soul into something more beautifully intertwined with the story of God’s creation and with His people. God’s People can sometimes feel like such a huge term, such a vast eternal concept…and yet my Mama is God’s person, and my Father is God’s person, and my sisters are God’s people, and my neighbors and my friends, and those people who live their lives in close proximity to my own. And suddenly “God’s People” feels more like home, feels entirely personal, and small in the best way possible, and yet huge. My Mama was God’s plan for both me and her, and maybe this idea that we are so intertwined and so connected and that we belong to each other, maybe that’s what God meant by establishing His People as a family…that we would never feel alone because our stories are always so strongly intertwined with one another. My mama has made sure that I never feel alone, and she has broken down walls for me, and she has laid a foundation for my life, and she has shared her own life with me, and she brought me into this life. And I’m so thankful that I am a part of her story and she is a part of mine. And I’m so thankful for this little thing called heritage that God has created. I’m so thankful that God intertwines all of His People’s stories, because when we realize our stories are all apart of each other’s, we realize how important everyone is on a deep level that can’t quite be described but can be experienced.

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer

P.S. Happy birthday, Mama! I am so thankful for your strong spirit, your kind soul, and your incredible story. 

A Grace Note: Grace in the Changing Seasons of Life 


Dear Reader, 

There are days during autumn when leaves fall like whisps of beauty down from their heights and fill our paths and sidewalks and yards with a blanket of golden heavenly warmth, and we experience something almost otherworldly as the seasons exchange their greens for golds and soon their golds for white. And I can’t help but feel overcome this week by how I have almost refused to change with the seasons of my life gracefully. The earth goes so gracefully from one season to the next, trusting its creator and moving forward without reluctance on to something new, and yet at the same time on to something old and timeless. The trees trust their maker and He clothes them in each new season with glorious new dress as they circle back and forth from death to life. Each new season has its own beauty, its own purpose, its own crowning glory. And I watch the world in its natural state do this so effortlessly, and yet I am so reluctant to let the seasons pass in my own life, almost as if I’m afraid beauty won’t come with a new season. But God proves it over and over again, year after year, that the world keeps spinning and changing and He keeps not changing in His promise to continue to bless and to love us and to make beauty rise from ashes and fallen leaves and lives that seem bare. We change and we grow and we rise. And this is the cycle that God has so lovingly instilled in us. New seasons can be met with strength and certainty that the one who created them knows where He is piloting the ship, knows what beauty He has destined to arrive at what time. Embrace your season today…it’s something I’m still learning to do, something God is still showing me how to do. All is Grace, friends. 

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer

A Grace Note: Hope in the Heavens 


Dear Reader,

Our hope can only be found in Jesus. It can’t be found in future plans, in doctors, in politicians, in ourselves. I was thinking on Monday how Jesus knew how hard our lives would be, He knew the battles we would face. He knew what was coming for us. And He never says that in this world, we will find peace. He never promised us easy roads or smooth paths. He told us, with full knowledge of what was to come for us, “In this world you will you have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The road to Heaven is hard and wracked with refining moments. Our world as it keeps on spinning on its axis keeps on spinning more out of our control, but it is never out of God’s control. He holds us steady. He holds our hearts. He calms our storms. He parts our waters. He walks on seas and ascends into clouds because this world can’t hold Him, and it can’t hold us. And there is such beauty in that. Our very world, the one we were born into, seems to reject us because it knows we don’t belong here…it knows who we belong too. God does not want you to go through infertility, or illness, or death, or emotional hurt, or abuse, or disappointment. He loves you more than that. Being endowed with free will means that we get to choose Jesus over this world, Heaven over hell, Peace over chaos, Healing over pain. If we are only looking to the people and to this created earth for hope we won’t ever find it. Hope only comes from above. Freedom only comes from our Savior. And Peace only comes from our Father God. Look up and not around today. Keep looking way up high. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”. All is Grace, friends.

In Him, 

A Fellow Grace Wanderer

A Grace Note: A Hope that Crumbles Fear


Dear Reader,
I needed a break and am taking some quiet time this morning to reflect on the Goodness of God and dwell in His rest before heading out the door today to conquer some big battles and hopefully receive answers. I took this photo while I was hiking with my sister this last weekend and this capture of almost blinding light searing through the tree tops has stolen my focus. Even through the beautiful moments of life, God’s love and His light are still more beautiful than anything on this earth. The hard days that we face are only fleeting, but the beauty of the Grace of God is eternal and the warmth of His Heaven will always be our Home. We walk this Earth not knowing what comes next in this life but are assured of what definitely comes in the next life. And really the next life, our Heaven life, is just an extension, a continuation, of the Life that has already begun in us. We aren’t mere mortals and our hearts and souls are not fleeting. Our God holds those things in His strong hands and He tells us that nothing can touch us there. We are more than conquerors. We are more than this life. We are children of God, Redeemed and Loved and now Eternal, because Christ has promised that even though we die in Him we Live. Even though our earthly dreams may die, our souls and their purpose will still live on with Joy. We have Life to the fullest, Life everlasting, and a Hope that breaks mountains and slays our giants and crumbles our fears. I don’t know what comes next in this life for me or for you, but I do know that Christ and Heaven and our Father God wait for us at the end of this story and at the end and in the midst of our fleeting fears. All is Grace, and God is bigger than what you face today. 

In Christ, 

A Fellow Grace Chaser

A Grace Note: Why America’s Leaders Don’t Define You


My husband and I traveled to Yellowstone in August and my mind is fixed on this photo that I took while we were there. The God who created the universe also created this rushing river and those rising pines and that glorious cover of light which arises each morning to faithfully awaken the earth. My husband pointed out this morning that in last night’s debate, neither candidate said “God bless America”, and I think the realization of that is breaking my heart just a little, because I look at this photo and I remember how God has richly provided for this nation of wanderers and home seekers and those who seek refuge and freedom, and I just can’t understand why we wouldn’t ask Him to keep blessing this land. But I remembered that this nation has provided religious freedom, and with that freedom from religion. And my heart aches because no I don’t think the government should tell you what to believe or what to think, but I do long for America’s people to see and to know that there is more freedom in Christ than this country could ever offer, and with His freedom comes rest and peace…not rhetoric and lies. If your heart is hurting from watching the debate, and hearing the heartbreaking rhetoric of those who desire to be our leaders, take heart in knowing that our citizenship is in Heaven and that this world is not our home. Take heart that Heaven is also a place for the home seekers, those who seek refuge, and those who have wandered. Heaven is the ideal, and while America struggles in her efforts to even come close to that, all we can do as citizens of Heaven is to continue to love, continue to pursue peace, continue to lead lives of humility and of the Gospel. Our earthly leaders don’t define us, only our Heavenly leaders do, only Christ does. And so even if our leaders never utter these words again…we who are of Christ continue to do so, God bless America and her people. We are the land of the free because of the brave, and the brave are those who keep striving for peace. 

The Height of Grace: Humility in Ministry


Have you ever struggled with pride? It’s something that I’ve been learning to juggle the last couple of weeks. I was telling one of my mentors recently that I really have a hard time accepting positive feedback or compliments, because I’m so wary of becoming prideful. This is especially true when it comes to what I write about. I write about Grace and about God and about Christ, and honestly it just doesn’t feel like any of the truths God is sending out into the world through me are really anything I can take credit for. They are His actions I speak about. They are His words that I build from.

And so for me, to pursue my dream which is to write for Christ, is also to find a balance between what is healthy encouragement and what praise I direct toward God. With social media it is all too easy to get caught up in the how many likes, how many shares, how many comments, how many views, aspect. I have found myself clicking multiple times a day on my social media apps to check the updates and the stats. It can be overwhelming, both if a post is doing well and having to keep up that type of quality, and if a post is not doing well and questioning whether or not I have really done God’s will in writing it. I have found that I begin to experience burn out when that becomes my focus, and in return I struggle to produce the type of quality content that God’s Kingdom deserves.

Lately, I have been praying that God would give me words to keep and words to share. In other words, that I would know what God wants me to store in my heart and what God wants me to send out into the world. While I am not in formal ministry, (my ministry is really only this blog at the moment), I think this bodes true for any of us serving God by speaking to the world about Him. We have to continue to maintain and to grow in our own personal relationship with God. We can’t keep pouring Grace into hearts and lives if we are empty. And friends, if the social media aspect of our ministry is draining us…then we need to summon enough Grace to walk away for awhile…to go out into our boats across the sea like Christ did, and just be with God on our own.

Even if you’re not in ministry, it can be true for any of us followers of Christ. We feel as though going out into the world is more important than the sitting at Jesus’ feet. We are called to be on mission, but we weren’t called to give up our own Grace. We weren’t called to exhaust our relationship with Christ.

This is the height of Grace, that God who is higher does the work that only One who is Holier can do. He does the building. He lays the foundation. He opens the windows and the doors. We simply walk inside. We sit in His presence. We overflow with His message. We experience His love. We witness His faithfulness…and we yearn to be like Christ. We hunger for humility, and we thirst for Grace. We cover ourselves in prayer, and we take time with the Father. And we love others, we lay down our lives and our egos and our pride for the world…just like Christ did. Because we know that something better than all of those things is coming.

And this is what we all need to know, that Grace can only come from the God who created it. That life giving words can only flow from Him. That anything we manage to build in this life is actually established by the God who lays the foundation. It is in Him, and through Him, and by Him, that we have our being. And it is by His power that we have the work that we do set before us.

He may be using you to bring His people home to Him, but He is also speaking to you to bring  you there as well. God is doing mission work in your heart too.

Matthew 6:43-45 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

Our mission work should be the overflow of our  hearts. And to have an overflow means that we first must be full. If we are running on empty because we’ve poured everything that God was intending to fill us with out into the world to essentially build a bigger base, then we will not reach a point of overflow  again and our ministry will essentially become something we use to build our own kingdoms…instead of God’s.

Our words should be an echo of what God has already said. We look for the best ways to spin the story, the most beautiful words with which to most accurately display the splendor of our God, but God doesn’t really need our dressing up. He’s already more beautiful and powerful than we make Him. All He asks of us is that we remain honest and true to Him, that we stick close by His side in Grace, that we keep looking up towards His face for assurance, that we keep our ears tuned to His voice, and that we reflect the Life of Christ. That our own lives remain filled with the fullness of His Grace. And out of the overflow of all of that building up in our hearts…our mouths will speak words worthy of the Kingdom and our ministries will exude the humility of our Christ.

This is the height of Grace, that we who are nothing possess everything in Him. That our words are washed clean and poured out through the filtering, refining, and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. That our hearts are filled to the brim with life that God places there. It is only out of the overflow of these things building up in our own hearts that our ministries can point to Him.

Ephesians 3:14-20 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

 

 

 

A Sunday Grace Reflection: To the Top of the Tower

Holy Hill located in Wisconsin


Sometimes church steeples poke their heads out high above tall trees full of golden yellows and rich reds, almost as if to say “you’re not looking high enough, look higher still”. God’s ways are above our ways, and His light and His love shine down on us from even the highest heights. No depth can keep you from Him, you always only need look up…above the tree tops, above the steeples, above the clouds. Keep looking up to the God whose face shines brightly down back at you, and I think you will find that He can make you rise from ashes, He can make you rise from the lowest points of life.

 

Holy Hill located in Wisconsin

So yesterday we climbed to the top of the tower to maybe see if we could see the world as God sees it, and do you want to know what we found when we got to the top? That God was higher still. And while we couldn’t reach His height we found that He wasn’t out of reach. Because our God who is higher, loved us enough to come lower, and to live where we live and to breathe what we breathe and to suffer what we suffer and to carry our cross. Way up high is a kingdom we haven’t seen yet, and yet there is a God we have felt and who has felt our hearts. It doesn’t matter how high we climb, it matters how high we look. If we are always looking up to the one who is higher, it is in Him we will rise, and in this rising we will live.

The Beauty of Grace when God takes His Time


Have you ever just felt a surge of inspiration from God? A sudden uplifting in your soul even though nothing has really physically changed? I had been feeling so down about so many things the past couple of weeks. I had gotten caught up in pursuing dreams that I just could not force into fruition. And I lamented that maybe I had heard God wrong, that maybe what I thought He had put on my heart was not what He meant.

I had a conversation with a dear friend and mentor of mine last night. I had asked her advice on something that I knew only she could help me with. She spoke from experience as she guided me through the next steps that she recommended I take. And I kept thinking, “Praise God for this friend!”. She wasn’t telling me that the road was going to be easy, and she wasn’t giving me some secret short cut to bypass the hard road, but she spoke the truth and she spoke God’s Grace in the process. While she was explaining the difficulties of obtaining my goal, I realized that although I had been desperately searching for a way in and was dreaming about overnight success, the truth was that I was hungry for fulfillment in the work of God. Often times the work of God comes without a pay check and it comes without overnight celebrity status. The work of God doesn’t always happen in an instant. While it can, many times that is not how God chooses to work because God chooses to work in ways that will produce the most beautiful end result…and always, always, this takes time. Even when God instantly healed people in the Bible, or instantly calmed the storm, there was a lifetime leading up to it…there were relationships formed first…there was a backstory to what God was doing.

It is so easy to get caught up in the “what am I doing for God” and lose sight of the “what is God doing for me right now”.  I want to encourage you today as I have been encouraged. God gives us dreams, and He plants things deep in our hearts that only He can make grow. We are only the seed.

Our God is the God of eternity. His timeline just keeps going on and on and on. We live in a world that thrives on instant gratification. We have smart phones, and texting, and the internet, and we hardly have to wait for anything. I’ve been wondering lately if all this instant gratification has led to a lower appreciation, a lower satisfaction, and an avoidance of contentment in my life. Maybe the reason I hate to wait for things is because I have completely forgotten how to wait in the first place.

But throughout the Bible this is what God asks of His people, to wait, and to know with the waiting comes the revealing of beautiful things. His people waited for a Savior, Abraham waited for a child, the Israelite people waited to enter the promised land, Jesus waited three days before rising from the dead, and we are now waiting for the return of our Savior. And in all of these things, God’s Grace and His unfailing Goodness has been proven over and over again.

Psalm 27:13-14 “I am still confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Being faithful in waiting is what God has called us all to do. God is not our smartphones. He doesn’t reply to text messages the instant you send them. He is not scrolling through social media every second of the day because He is afraid He will miss replying to something the second it’s posted. No, God is better than all of those things. His time is being better spent. The things that take time are often the things that are most precious to us, they are the things that last. They are the things we pour our hearts and our souls into. And they are the things that we are most grateful for in the end.

If God has asked you to wait on something, know that He is actively allowing time to create a beautiful Grace in your life. He makes us stronger in the waiting, and He makes the end goal so much more beautiful when He finally reveals the final product.

Rejoice in the wait today my dear friends. Know that God has not forgotten your story, He is simply perfecting it. Your life is worth more than the instant gratification of this fast paced world. It deserves to have more time spent on it. It deserves to bask in Grace for awhile. The answers to your prayers may feel like a long time coming, but they are so worth the time being put it into them. He hears you…He values you…and You are worth the time. Know that the answers to your prayers are also worth the wait. Hold tight friend, beautiful things are coming.

1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

My friend by the way is Michelle Johnson, author of God Loves You Circle and Scriptures and Scones. She has the kindest soul and God is so beautifully using her for His kingdom. If you’re looking for some early stocking stuffers or just a new devotional maybe you could click on these links and check hers out? (She doesn’t know I’m plugging for her right now but I totally love her and know you will too.)

Scriptures and Scones by Michelle Johnson    God Loves You Circle by Michelle Johnson