Grace, When Life’s a Mess

Sometimes life is a mess. We have financial issues, parenting issues, relationship issues, job issues, you name it.  Life can be messy.

Perhaps you are dealing with aging parents. Maybe it’s a teen who refuses to believe you know anything at all. Or maybe it’s health issues that you are powerless to change.

Where is God when life gets ugly? When the mess threatens to bury us like a landslide, what is He doing? Is He even noticing us in the middle of our mess?

And what if we made the mess ourselves? We can all remember a time when a poor decision caused us unpredicted difficulties and we’d wished we’d never done it.

But in the midst of all of this is grace.  Grace.

What is this grace I speak of?  It’s God coming into our circumstances and taking us in His arms. It’s Him listening to our hearts pouring out the grief we feel and understanding every word. It’s God speaking quietly in our ear, “Rest, my child, I can handle all of it. I hold everything in my hands, including you.”

Hear Him speak. Feel His comfort. Rest in His grace.

“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. “ – Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

What I’ve Learned in 52 Weeks

On a cool Friday morning, exactly 52 weeks ago, I stood in the doorway and watched the EMTs guide my husband, Randy, into the back of a truck with bright red flashing lights. In the pre-dawn darkness, the lights reflected off the trees and houses announcing to the world that something had gone terrible wrong in the neighborhood.

After a 12-day hospital stay involving a long list of tests, blood transfusions, difficult procedures, and finally, answers we didn’t want to hear, we left the hospital with a drastic change in our life course. End-stage liver failure would be our traveling companion for the rest of the journey.

Now, a year later, I’ve learned some things that have made a significant impact on my life.

I thought I knew that life was fragile and not to be taken for granted. But over this last year, and especially those days in the hospital, waiting for answers and watching my husband struggle with so many challenges, I gained a fresh perspective. I learned that I can not only trust that life is precious, I can find things to be thankful for even in the challenges.  We have learned better eating habits, we have learned to be intentional about each day. We realize that we may not have another.

Sometimes we can hear people say, “We don’t know what tomorrow holds,” and it can sound cliché because we hear it said so often. It’s not a statement to be brushed aside. We have learned to truly “seize the day” and it has made us stronger.

I’ve learned that although we can still struggle with our mortality and wonder about, or fear the future, those future days are not here. All that is here is today. If we lose today because our thoughts are constantly on what may happen in the future, we’ve lost the only thing that really counts. This day. This opportunity to make something good out of the moment we are in right now.

We still struggle some days. Still feel like we are living with a ticking time bomb with no idea when it could go off. But aren’t we ALL doing that?  We all know that we have a finite number of days on this earth. But when we are healthy, we can push those thoughts aside and decide to “worry about that later.”

When you have been given a terminal diagnosis, you suddenly realize that someone has turned on the timer and it really is ticking away now. So what do you do with that?  You have to keep getting up in the morning. You have to keep paying bills and making phone calls.  You have to go to the grocery store and put gas in your car.  You have to decide to LIVE just like you did before and not fall into the temptation to just sit down and wait for whatever is going to happen. The fact is…we are ALL terminal. We just don’t have something in particular to blame it on yet so we can conveniently ignore this fact.

I’ve also been reminded that family is precious. Even though I don’t always agree with the choices my sons make, my love for them overwhelmed me as I watched them rally around their dad in his most difficult trial. They showed up, they stood by him,  and they prayed for him. Sometimes they don’t really get that it is an ongoing challenge for us but I know they will show up again when we need them to.

This week we will celebrate the year God has given us. We will be thankful for the days we’ve shared that seem like a bonus. We’ve made so many wonderful memories this year that we may have missed if we hadn’t made the decision to be more intentional about our lives.  I am grateful for the way our circumstances have forced us to take a closer look at the grace and mercy of God.  Each day is a gift.  We are perhaps, living in a more genuine way than we ever have before.

One thing I can still say for certain is, God is good. He has been faithful to us every minute. Nothing has happened that He hasn’t been there to guide us through every detail.  We are grateful that Randy is stable right now. That could last for another day, or a year or a decade. While we pray for many more years together, we have become content with today. This is what we have. Today.


God’s Word is full of promises. He tells us that if we do things His way then what will follow will be good. He has a lot of “if – then” statements. He’s laid it out simply so it’s easy to understand. But it isn’t always so easy to do.

One place in scripture that really speaks to me is in Proverbs 2:1-5. It lays out a list of actions that we are encouraged to take and then it tells us what will result from those actions.

Proverbs 2:1-5

“My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding: For if you cry for discernment, lift up your voice for understanding: If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures: Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.”

When I read those verses, I see several actions that the Lord encourages us to take. When we see words or phrases like: receive, treasure, attend, incline, cry out and speak out, seek and search, we must make a choice. We can choose to do those things or we can ignore them. But what might we be giving up if we chose to ignore God’s directions? Verse 5 says what we gain is the ability to discern the fear of the Lord and to discover the knowledge of God. Really? God really says we gain discernment and that we can discover His knowledge if we are willing to follow his instructions? Yes!

We must take Him seriously and when we do He has treasures for us that are not found anywhere else. Only God has all knowledge and He promises to share it with us when we do the things He’s told us to in the beginning verses of Proverbs 2. What an amazing offer! What are we waiting for?

Yes I Can, But I Won’t

How many times in the last week have you seen something in the news or heard someone talking about something that is legal but you know is not pleasing to the Lord? Probably more than you can count.

We could list many things that are indeed legal in our country, or elsewhere in the world that we know are against God’s directives. The ones we think of first are things we probably all agree on. But there are other things that we might not agree on. We might have different ideas about what is “okay” behavior and what isn’t.

Those areas are what I believe Paul was addressing in First Corinthians 6:12 where he says “”I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but I will not be mastered by anything.” (NIV).

The discussion was actually about meat since there had been arguments about what was okay to eat and what was not. Paul’s point was the sometimes it doesn’t matter if it’s allowed or isn’t allowed. You are called to a higher standard. You are called to holiness and sometimes that means choosing NOT to do what everyone else is doing. Sometimes it means choosing to do something so that you don’t have a negative influence on those around you whose faith might be weak.

One example that might help make this clearer is that of a parent and child. There are topics and in some homes even language that could be considered less than appropriate for children to hear. Some parents who don’t even consider God’s ways will choose to change their behavior for the good of their children. There may be no law against it but they know that it is in the best interest of their child.

As children of God, we can all do with less worldly influence. But that means we need to join together and choose to live above the standards that we see around us. We need to be willing to look at our options and consider how our actions influence those around us. We need to be willing to say “yes I can, but I won’t.”

Instead of following the crowd, we would do better to consider what we are told in Romans 14:19: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

The Reason You Only Have One Shoe

Do you struggle with worry? Do you become stressed about the future and what may happen down the road?  God tells us in His Word that we are not to worry and not to be afraid.  He wants us to believe that He has everything under control even though what we see may try to convince us otherwise.

If you find yourself worrying often, you probably are walking though life with a limp. You see, if you are constantly fretting about the future you may be guilty of living by a very old saying. “Waiting for the other shoe to drop.” When we worry about what’s ahead of us, we can find ourselves  in a position of increasing dread as we expect the worst.

So if you are “waiting for the other shoe to drop,” you may be walking around with one shoe! Have you ever walked wearing only one shoe? You may get a back ache, a sore foot or experience other symptoms caused by limping along without the proper foot gear.

Ephesians 6:14-15 says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” 

God doesn’t want you to limp through life. He wants you to be assured that you are ready for whatever life sends your way. You can’t stand firm and ready if you are only wearing one shoe.

God wants us to look ahead with anticipation not dread. He wants us to trust that He has a plan for us and believe that it is a good plan.

Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

We cannot wait expectantly if we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. We cannot trust and worry and the same time.