Grace

As kids, my sister and I loved doing puzzles. Our lineage is almost exclusively engineers and teachers, so we were destined to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. Whether the puzzle involved numbers, words, or pictures, we were all over it. On more than one occasion we have been known to snatch the last piece out of the other’s hand (Rebecca’s favorite trick) or to hide the last piece until the other sister was haunted by the glaring gap (my specialty). When we would go to a restaurant, we would try to stump each other with math problems. (I know, we were cool kids.) Whatever the puzzle, we saw chaos and wanted to bring order.

I treat life much the same way.

I dump out the puzzle of life and begin searching for the edge pieces to help frame the lesson God is teaching me. I write out the problem, determine the variables, and balance the equation. I talk out the situation, filling in all the boxes to the matrix logic.

Always sorting.

Always searching.

Always striving to make sense of things.

There has always been one type of puzzle though that I do not indulge in: knots. Untangling Christmas lights? Nope. Matted balls of string? Get away. Cords that have been jumbled? Send help. I think one of man’s greatest inventions has been electronics with retractable cords.

I don’t like knots because there’s no clear starting point. You just tug and hope something gives. It is inevitable that you will get the string 99.9% untangled, only to discover a small pretzel-shaped knot in the dead center of the line. There is so much doubling back and gathering and scrunching and I’m convinced that half of the time I’m just tripling the number of knots. I am only adding to the chaos.

My life is currently a knot.

I have no picture on the box or number on the opposite side of the equal sign. When I tug and pull there is no movement; I am well aware that the knot is only tightening. I am left with a clump. It feels useless.

It’s not uncommon for someone to comment on how self-aware I am. I’m grateful each time He opens my eyes to see how different aspects, events, or characteristics relate and influence one another. I like to see the puzzle making sense. But right now the only thing I’m aware of is that there’s a lot I don’t know and can’t figure out. So what now?

GRACE.

I’ve written nothing short of seven alternative paragraphs to follow that one simple word. Each paragraph gets carefully typed out only to be deleted, always falling short of what my soul longs to convey. So rather than fumbling towards what my heart is trying to express, I will lean on Truth. The phrase that God keeps bringing to mind is the beginning of 2 Corinthians 12:8: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I am very much in the midst of the beginning stages of this whole grace thing. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve tried to recruit friends to help me untangle this knot, only for them to gently urge me to accept the grace that has been given to me.

So here I stand. With a knotted, jumbled, imperfect lump of what I think at one time resembled my life. What I am quick to deem as worthless, God embraces as precious. He doesn’t expect any different of me. Why should I?

 

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Prayer

10…..9…..8…..

The mental countdown had begun.

7…..6…..

I could feel the grooves on the inside of my cheek from where I had been biting it for the last hour.

5…..4…..

I could hear the fast “thump thump thump” of my shoes echoing down the tiled hallway.

3…..

I swallowed hard. The lump was still there.

2…..

If I could just make it to the bathroom I could avoid the questions. But what if someone saw me before I left? Flushed. Wide-eyed. Panicked.

1…..

The click of the stall lock functioned like a marathon gun. The gates opened. My tears freely flowed down my face.

I would be lying if I said this was a one time occurrence.

 

 

I really wanted this month’s focus to be on prayer. I have been practicing praying in different ways (journaling, through song, praying Scripture, setting reminders, etc.) As we walk around campus, I’m praying for the people we pass and those we are about to meet. I’ve seen God answer very specific prayers as well as what it looks like to come before Him daily to lay it at the foot of the cross.

But I wasn’t expecting God to teach me about prayer through weakness. With every turn He has been reminding me that I am nothing without Him.

It’s really natural for me to pray for other people. I am so grateful for this! But it is hard for me to pray for myself. I don’t want to admit that anything is wrong.

There is nothing that will humble you faster than living in a foreign country.

I have learned that I have to prepare for battle. Or what feels like battle: Language class. Campus evangelism. The grocery store. Every time I step foot out my door the enemy is looking for opportunities to get a foothold.

Y’all. The enemy attacks hard. And if I’m being honest, he’s gotten the better of me a few times. BUT, he hasn’t won. I’ve started getting faster at acknowledging the lies I’m believing. I’ve started getting faster at remembering to pray against the enemy’s attacks.

Here are a few of the lies I’ve heard, what I’ve learned to pray, and truth that I choose to believe.

I am not enough.
God, remind me that you have a purpose for me.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

I am a failure.
God, remind me that I am not earning your approval.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

I am a lost cause. 
God, remind me that you are making me more into your image.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

I am not as loved or effective as my teammates.
God, remind me that I get to celebrate my teammates and not be in competition with them. You are using all of us for your glory.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…(Romans 12:4-6)

I am defeated.
God, remind me that you restore.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

I have let God down.
God, remind me that your power is made perfect in weakness.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Prayer isn’t just an emergency flare. Prayer aligns our hearts with His’. I’ve noticed that as I pray more – for my friends, for injustices, for my own heart – I am comforted by His presence. There’s a familiarity that brings immense comfort…and as I spend more time with Him, I’m more in step with the Spirit.

If I wasn’t constantly faced with my weakness, I wouldn’t turn to Him.

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