What 31 Stories of God’s Grace Have Taught Me

Well here we are friends….Day 31 of the Write 31 Days challenge. Last year was the first time that I participated in this challenge and I never imagined the ways it would bless me; new friends, an amazing community and so much more. And this year was no different. I was blessed by participating again. I met many wonderful new bloggers and continued to be blessed by blog friends who I met last year through the challenge. This community is a community that blesses me each and every day.

This year my series, of course, was 31 Stories of God’s Grace. Throughout my series, I shared stories of my own life, had friends share grace stories from their own lives and even managed to write about grace and bacon (Not exactly sure how I mustered up the ability to write a somewhat cohesive post but I did) I have learned and relearned so much about grace this month.

I have been reminded that what I often think is not a very graced filled life is actually very grace-filled. I learned that when I am at my weakest, yearning daily for God to answer my deepest desires, God is there right alongside me or sends individuals to walk with me when God cannot be there–God’s grace in my midst. I have learned that by sharing these stories of God’s grace, we can make an often invisible God become visible to the world around us.

Again and again throughout these 31 days, I have been reminded that God’s grace always prevails; God’s grace is always and ever enough! In fact, the truth is that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. May we never take that grace for granted!

“For it is by grace through faith that you have been saved, it is not your own doing but a gift of God”—-Ephesians 2:8 (New Revised Standard Version)

I hope that you too have been reminded of that promise throughout these 31 days; that grace is this beautiful unmerited gift that is not wrapped in an elegant bow but rather is simply set out on the table for us to receive it. I also hope and pray that these dear stories of God’s grace don’t leave you where they found you but bless you beyond your wildest dreams.

Thank you for journeying with me over these last 31 days. It has been such a joy to share these sweet grace-filled stories with all of you. May grace reign down on all of YOU, my dear readers and friends!

“Now God has us where God wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust in him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role! If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. God creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.”–Ephesians 2:7-10 (The Message)

Grace by Phil Wickham (I never heard this song before tonight. 
It seems so fitting for the ending of my series)

You’re Just Going to Have to Give Me Grace, Friends!!

This is Day 30 of 31 in my Write 31 Days series: 31 Stories of God’s Grace. I also am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Bacon.”  (Yes you read that right!) Write for five minutes; unedited.

Friends, I am sorry but you are just going to have to extend grace to me tonight. Throughout the 31 days of October, I have left my Fridays open so that my series and the FMF prompt would work together. But tonight I am at a loss,friends…tonight’s prompt of all things is BACON!

Now I’m not someone who hates bacon. In fact, I rather enjoy bacon, but I am not sure how I can tie together grace and BACON! I could write about how we say grace before we eat a meal…before we eat some bacon. “Come Lord Jesus be our guest, let this “bacon” to us be blessed.” I could write about how bacon is a gift of grace when we are trying to eat healthy. Sometimes you just have to sidestep and indulge in something unhealthy.

But that seems a little far fetched, so tonight, I am asking you, my readers and friends to extend that grace that I have been talking about all this month. A grace that is always given to us by God and is always and ever enough! Have my 31 Stories of God’s grace blessed you and changed you? Will they help you more freely offer grace to others…like me tonight? I hope and pray that is so.

So I am going to continue this post by sharing some of my thoughts about BACON. I am a girl whose mother often made breakfast for dinner which we later dubbed “brinner.” A yummy brinner would include some yummy scrambled eggs, a piece of toast, and some super crispy bacon.

I also love BLT’s! They are one of my favorite things in the summer months. There is something so incredibly tasty as I bite into that sandwich with its juicy tomatoes dribbling down my chin and  crispy bacon that crunches as I bite into that sandwich. (I seriously am licking my lips and craving a dedicant BLT now!)

So, may you enjoy some bacon this week (and the next time you eat some bacon, remember this Five Minute Friday prompt in the midst of my 31 Days series and how we need to extend grace to one another!)

The Unlikely Suspects

Mary was chosen to give birth to the Christ child.
Sarah gave birth to a son at a very old age.
Noah was chosen to build the ark.
David was chosen to fight Goliath.

These are only a few of the stories that I think of when I reflect on God’s grace in the Bible. There are so many more stories that embody what it means to be blessed by God’s grace. And, like these characters in the Bible, God chooses us too. God often chooses the most unlikely of people to receive God’s grace.

I never imagined that I would be the one to attend seminary. But God saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. And placed professors, advisors and friends who continually graced me with God’s grace.

I wouldn’t have worked at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp for seven summers if God hadn’t shown grace to the camp director who hired me.

God’s grace again and again has a way of showing up in the most unlikeliest of people and in the most unlikeliest of places. As a single 37 year old, I cannot even begin to imagine the emotions Mary felt when she was told she would give birth to the Christ child. Yet she fulfilled God’s call for her life. And I will bet the minute she held her infant Son in her arms, she was overcome with great emotion and love; trusting in the gift of God’s grace for her family and especially for her newborn Son.

David was in not so many words the runt of the litter. Yet God chose him. David fought Goliath and even won! Another example of the mighty power of God’s grace in our lives. God’s grace doesn’t ever leave us where it found us! It is a gift that is always placed on the table for us to receive.

Through these Bible stories and through the stories in our own lives, I believe that we can begin to see a glimpse of God’s grace even in the midst of our own darkness.  We began to show the visibility of a sometimes invisible God. I am reminded of these words from Paul Tripp that I shared in a blog post in September titled The Visibility of God’s Grace. Tripp writes: “I think my job is to make the grace of an invisible God, visible, wherever I am!”

Because I have received this gift in my own life and seen the power of this grace in my own life, I will continue to show it others so that together we may see the visibility of God’s grace in our own lives and on our own journeys of faith.

LAST CHANCE FRIENDS!! (Giveaway deadline is October 30th) DaySpring is celebrating all the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2000 writers this month. To enter to win a chance for a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, click here! Good luck and thanks so much for reading.

Grace and Morning Calamities

According to Miriam-Wesbter’s dictionary, grace is defined as “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification; a virture coming from God; or a state of sanctification.”

This morning I am especially thankful for God’s grace! Last night, when I was walking home from work, I noticed that my driver’s side tire looked rather low. This morning I had an appointment to be at one of our local television stations to film some “Lutheran Moments.” (We all take turns doing these) Before heading there, I stopped at a near-by auto body shop so they could fill my low tire. They filled them and then came out to tell me that my tire was ready to blow and needed to be repaired. They averaged out the tire pressure on all the tires so I could at least get around town for the day.

On my way back, one of the main roads was being shut down because some house movers were moving a house. The guy stopped me and I rolled down my window to see what he wanted. He told me that the road was shut down because they were moving a house. I pulled off into the nearest business parking lot and waited for them to move the house. But, my driver’s side window wouldn’t roll back up. It was stuck in the down position. And, of course, there are snow flurries today too!!! So I dropped my car off at the auto body shop to have my window and my tire fixed.

Isn’t that the way it works, friends? It always seems to happen in pairs. This morning I am thankful that God’s grace allowed me to get around town and not miss out on my appointments. I am thankful that my car is safe even though the window may be stuck in the down position. I am thankful that I was able to get a few errands done before I arrived at the television station.

But I will admit that at first, I was looking awfully hard for God’s grace this morning in the midst of these calamities. Yet God always shows up…even in the midst of the chaos.

My Not So Graced-Filled Life

“How long, Oh Lord, will you forget me forever? Oh how these words penetrate my heart. I so deeply yearn to be a wife and a mom, but at long last, I am still a single woman. I love my job and my life, yet there is something that I so deeply wish for. It is an area of my life where I always find myself looking for God’s grace because this is not at all how I pictured my life.

I scroll through my Facebook feed and read the news of a new birth, a new home, a new engagement, a new marriage…. I will admit that I am extremely happy for these friends and family. Yet my heart hurts so deeply. It is brokenhearted! And there is not enough chocolate to cover the pain of this ache in my heart. I want to hold my own child in my arms. I want to spend my Friday night cuddled up to someone special. But what if that is not the story God has for my life? 
And if that is not the story God has for my life, I have to remember to receive God’s grace with open hands. That is not an easy pill to swallow. Yet in all truth, I know that God is finding ways to show God’s grace to me. God has a way of showing up in the most unexpected places and in the most unexpected people.
Just the other day,  I returned home from a weekend at a youth gathering. In my mailbox, there was bills and other junk mail, but there was also a package wrapped in brown paper packaging that caught my eye. I set the mail down and put away my clothes etc. After opening all of my mail, I finally opened my package. It was a gift from my friend Susan that she got while she was attending Allume. The gift was a book titled “Beautiful Uncertainty: Singleness, Surrender, and Stepping Out on Faith” by Mandy Hale. The book actually is an advanced reader copy. I thought I was going to have to wait for the book to come out, but Susan thought of me and sent this book and sweet note in the inside cover.  Her words “I pray it speaks to your soul” are another gift of God’s grace in my life!
There are days in this single life of mine that my life is not so grace-filled at all! I question where God’s grace is in the midst of yearning and questioning if God will EVER answer the deepest desires of my heart or if I will have to surrender knowing that this is not the story God has in store for my life. I honestly don’t think God would give me these deep desires for so long if they weren’t going to be eventually answered in my life. 
The single life can be so lonely. The single life can be so full of waiting and wondering. The single life can be so full of uncertainty. Yet the single life, especially when it feels like it is not so grace-filled, is more grace-filled than I can ever imagine! God has a way of showing me God’s grace through one of the hardest seasons of my life. And knowing that, I trust and wait for the gift of grace in the midst of this season of singleness in my life. Yet there are days that is so much easier said than done. No amount of chocolate or peppermint ice cream will make up for God’s grace which is always and ever enough! 
Readers, don’t forget to register to win a $500 DaySpring shopping Spree. 
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Today I am linking up with some of my favorites: Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story, and Holley and Coffee for Your Heart.


Where is God’s Grace?

As I have been sharing the stories of God’s grace, many of my blog friends and readers have pointed out to me how God’s grace is evident throughout my life and my stories. That may be true. But I want to be 100% honest with you friends. Sometimes I don’t always see the evidence of God’s grace in my life or in the world. There are many times when I question where God’s grace is! I look and look and still cannot always find God’s grace.

When the church isn’t welcoming to all God’s people, I find myself asking “Where is God’s grace?”

When another horrific event happens in the news, I again keep asking “Where is God’s grace?”

When my friends are battling the darkness of depression and cannot find the light, I continually ask “God, where is your grace?”

When relationships are already broken, I ask again and again “Where is God’s grace?”

When I struggled in seminary, I asked “Where is God’s grace?”

When my parents divorced, I also asked “Where is God’s grace?”

I have a feeling that you do not always see God’s grace either. I’ll bet each and every one of us has played a game of hide and seek trying to find God’s grace in our midst. But the truth is that God’s grace is often right in front of our noses and eyes. God’s grace is available to all God’s people but we can’t always see it or find it. Yet God’s grace is never beyond any of our reach.

“There is no life so deeply and tragically sinful that it’s beyond the reach of God’s amazing rescuing grace”–Paul Tripp

Readers, don’t forget to register to win a $500 DaySpring shopping Spree. 
Click here for a chance to win.

A Little “Amazing Grace”

One of my favorite hymns is the hymn “Amazing Grace.” There is just something so incredibly beautiful and holy about the words to that song. I remember it being played at my Grandpa Sam’s funeral. My mom /aunt’s cousin had promised Grandpa they would sing it at his funeral, but this cousin couldn’t be there so he recorded it and had it sent to us to be played. It was so cool!

I am wiped out today….spent Thurs-yesterday afternoon at a youth gathering. It was fun, but it was tiiiirrriiing! So I am keeping it super short today so I can get in a nap! This isn’t the traditional hymn, but it is still one of my faves by my fave Christian band…Jars of Clay! Enjoy my friends!!

Readers, don’t forget to register to win a $500 DaySpring shopping Spree. 
Click here for a chance to win.

Extending Grace in Unusual Ways

I am so excited to introduce you to another blog friend; my friend Colleen Mitchell. Colleen is another gift in my life. Colleen and I have Voxed about many of things in our lives. Colleen and her family remind me of what it means to be a servant of Christ. She has a gift with words that always touch my soul. I hope her words today bless you too.

I have spent a lot of time, okay, I have procrastinated a bit, trying to decide what I wanted to share here since Tara invited me to be part of her 31 Days series. As a missionary in Costa Rica, I feel very privileged to always live aware of God’s grace and how it carries us through our days. God’s presence is so tangible to me in so many ways that sometimes it can be hard to articulate it.

In the past few days though, I have been blessed over and over by one of my favorite sounds—the beeping that indicates that a Voxer message is coming through on my phone. (If you don’t know about Voxer, you MUST check it out in the app store and let me know when you have downloaded it.) Hearing that sound brings me joy because I know that it likely means there is a word of encouragement, a prayer, or a just a good talk waiting for me on the other end.

You see, I like to joke that in addition to my missionary life, I have a side ministry—I exercise the ministry of Voxer. In all truth, one of my greatest struggles in our missionary life is loneliness for real community. When that loneliness is really plaguing my heart, it can result in me having a difficult time being fully present to our ministry in Costa Rica. Not because I don’t love it, but because when you are too focused on your own empty places, it can be hard to pour into others.

I long begged God for the grace of real community—friends who would surround me in my faraway home and remind me that I am not alone. I never imagined an app would be the answer. It may be an unusual way to extend and receive grace, but for me, the friends who have reached for me from faraway places and poured into my life through voice and text messages, pictures and prayers are pure grace. They give me the strength and focus I need to keep doing God’s work on a daily basis.

On the flip side, Voxer allows me to be an encourager and cheerleader for women I love and want to support even though I may never get to be part of their real lives in person. There is deep grace in being about to care about what matters to someone you care about. I am renewed by being able to see outside my own life and encourage someone else in her calling. Extending grace allows me to see the rich grace in action in my own life even more.
Perhaps a walkie-talkie app seems a strange way to extend and receive grace. For me, that is all the more proof that it is, in fact, pure grace, God’s hand transforming something seemingly ordinary into something holy and sacred. I get a little glimpse of what heavenly communion looks like through an app called Voxer and the women who reach for me through it. What more do I need to know that God is active and present to me in tender, loving ways? What more do I need to know that His grace is real and gives us all that we need to continue to love him and serve him well?

What unusual way do you extend and receive grace in your life? How does it remind you that you are seen and loved by God?

Colleen Mitchell is a wife, mother to five sons, missionary and writer living in the high mountains of Costa Rica. She serves alongside her family bringing faith, hope and love to communities around the world, and she works out what it means to live the Gospel as an adventure at http://www.blessedarethefeet.com

Joy Comes With The Morning

This is Day 23 of 31 in my Write 31 Days series: 31 Stories of God’s Grace. I also am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Joy.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

“Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning!” –Psalm 30:5

This has become a  favorite verse in my life. It really began to appear in my life after the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. My friend Renee, her husband Ben and Ben’s cousin Jon were in Haiti when the earthquake struck. I was in Gettysburg PA as a small group leader for the Diaconal Ministry formation event. Eventually we received the news of Ben’s death. My small group was to lead  worship that night we found out Ben had lost his life in the earthquake. As people entered into worship, we had Ben’s version of  Psalm 30 playing through the loudspeakers.

Ever since this song has become one of my favorites. It also is such a beautiful joy filled promise! Even in our darkest times, God finds a way to eventually show us light; to show us God’s grace at all times and in all places. God’s grace shines the light even in the most gut wrenching places. We just can’t always see it or find it.

Our lives are full of brokenness, sadness, celebrations, and joy. It is during those times when it feels like it is going to be night forever when God especially offers God’s grace. God knows when the morning and that joy will return.

For me, the joy has come in seeing my mom live a joy- filled faith-filled life. The joy has come in seeing a new relationship form where it once was broken. That joy has come in seeing friends finally get pregnant again after trying for so very long. I have seen that joy come in God’s grace being offered again and again and again!

If you are feeling like it is a long dark dank night, please know and trust in the promises of Psalm 30. That night soon will come to a close and you will be awakened to God’s grace as the sun begins to rise and a beautiful sunrise is spread out for your eyes to see.

“Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning!”–Psalm 30:5

Mourning into Dancing–Ben Larson

Sometimes Grace is Pain

These words are eloquently beautiful and remind me of the power of God’s grace in my own life especially as a daughter of someone who has lived daily with a mental illness. Without our journey, I wouldn’t be who God has called me to be. I also wouldn’t have been blessed in telling our story to others. Or in the words of Brene Brown, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do!” (Funny thing since “brave” is my One word 365 for 2015. And another blog friend recently commented to me that she feels that my brave is in telling my/our story)

Our story begins shortly after my sister was born. Mom had a nervous breakdown. Both my sister and I spent lots of time with our grandparents as Mom was treated for her illness. Dad was busy working and earning money to pay for the doctor’s bills.

Growing up, it seemed like Mom was in the hospital at least once a year. And so as we grew up, I quickly grew up faster than I should have. When I was almost five and my sister was two, we moved back to North Dakota so my Dad could help his family farm. As I got older, while Dad was farming and when Mom was sick, I had to take care of my sister and I. I grew up really fast! Mom’s illness turned our world upside down. Yet when she was well, Mom was the best mom in the world!!! (If you don’t believe me, read this post I wrote for my friend Erin’s blog)

My sophomore year of high school, my parents divorced. It took a lot of courage for our dad to utter the words “It’s not that I don’t love your mom anymore. It is that I cannot handle this illness.” Looking back now, I see those words as words of grace as they seemed to soften the blow even if just a little. But I will also say that those words of grace tasted awfully bitter rather than sweet that day.

My senior year of college, Mom’s lithium level got to high which caused her kidneys to shut down. It was a very scary time. Mom spent several weeks in the ICU of a local hospital. We weren’t sure if Mom was going to make it, but she recovered. However that incident aged Mom a lot. She moved into a nursing home and has been living in a nursing home ever since. In fact, my sister and I became her legal guardians when I was attending seminary.

It would be so easy for me to be bitter about Mom’s illness. And there was a time I questioned God daily about it. But over the years, I have learned so much from my mom’s illness and our journey with a mental illness. I have learned to live each day to the fullest and not take a single day for granted.  I have learned what it means to love and be loved. I have learned that we have a God that, like Jacob did, we can wrestle with throughout the courses of our lives. (If you want to read more about our journey, check out my 2014 Write 31 Days series: Being a Daughter: 31 Days of Mental Illness)

But, most of all, I have learned the power and gift of God’s grace in my life and in our life. Mom is one of the most caring, faith-filled women that I know. Her actions continually remind me of the gift of God’s grace in my life. We could have lost Mom my senior year of college, but we didn’t. We could have kept our story of mental illness locked inside our hearts. But instead by unlocking our story from our hearts, we have been blessed by others and been blessed in return. Most of all, what I have learned is that there is power and grace in telling our stories.

Readers, don’t forget to register to win a $500 DaySpring shopping Spree. 
Click here for a chance to win.