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

The Sweetest Thing (A Guest Post)

Happy Saturday friends! I am beside giddy to introduce you to my friend Karrilee. Have you ever met someone and felt like they were a kindred spirit? I have felt that since we connected through the Five Minute Friday Community, Write 31 Days, etc. I feel like Karrilee is my soul sister in so many ways so I was beyond delighted when she said YES when I asked her if she would write a guest post for my space. I cannot wait for the day that we get to meet InRL. Her words are pure gift and I pray they bless you today my dear readers and friends! 

Grace… it truly is Amazing!

I actually wrote about it twice already this week over on my own blog as part of my 31 Days series… but one never really tires of talking about grace!

As I prayed about what to share, Tara mentioned the ‘live’ date for this guest post and, well –there was my answer!

October 17th…

Maybe your calendar, too, informs you that Saturday, October 17th is “The Sweetest Day” this year.

To be honest, I’m not even really sure what that means, but I know when we were picking our wedding date some twenty three years ago, getting married on “The Sweetest Day” seemed just about perfect, because –of course!

Grace was definitely present on that Sweetest day. (Happy Anniversary, My Honey!)

But I look back over my life and I can see how Grace has been present on all of my ‘sweetest days’.  Grace was there at my traumatic birth and many, many days in the hospital following my early arrival.  Grace was there when I got to go home, despite all the declarations of my final hours… Grace was there for birthdays and new puppy’s and first crushes.  Grace was there with new neighbors and best friends… on vacations and summer breaks and Christmases galore!  Grace has showed up for every major celebration and highlight in my life.  Yes, Grace was there even before I knew Him or knew that He was there!

And then, Grace poured out on the day of my Salvation, at my baptism, on my wedding day, for the birth of our Girlie, and so many other sweetest days since then!

But Grace shows up in the not so great days too!

Grace covers on our dark days –in our hard seasons, when sweet is nowhere to be seen and all we taste is bitter!

If you have been around my little corner of the interwebs much lately, you will know that I have fallen completely in love with this new CD… as in, I can’t quit playing it on repeat! It is gorgeous, and powerful and full of –you guessed it—Grace!  I promise you that I didn’t plan this, but this is how God flows… as I typed out Bitter, I could hear this song. I hope you will take a moment to listen to it, and to hear it too!

~ Bitter/Sweet by Amanda Cook, Brave New World

Grace, right? That is grace because He really does make all things new!
He really does turn the bitter into sweet and winter into spring!

Grace –Jesus really, who IS Grace—
He’s with us on ALL of our days
–the heavy and the light,
–the dim and the bright…
Grace is beside us
and within us
on the days filled with cold, or with heat…
with bitter or with sweet.

In fact, it’s been on some of my darkest days that Grace has flooded in to light the way!  It’s been the times when darkness clouded my vision and my hope was shaky at best, and I was weighed down with doubt that I have felt a stirring down deep and caught a glimpse of Grace that lifted my vision higher. Grace reminded me of better days and a bigger vision. Grace reminds me of promises and prayers that have yet to be answered and fulfilled!

Grace walks beside us… urges us on… and carries us when we have lost our strength. When all we have in our hands or hearts is bitterness, His sweetness overcomes and overwhelms and oh how He invites us to the table of Grace and how He beckons us to taste and see that He is good!

I recently heard someone describe Grace like this:

“Grace enables you to be so in love with Jesus that you walk and look and love like Him!”

Now that kind of Grace – God’s Amazing Grace –

could take ANY bitter day, and make it sweet!

May His Grace find you, and fill you, and pour out wherever you go!

May He take every bitter thing, and make it sweet!

Happy Sweetest Day, my friends!
Speak Life. Be Love. Shine On.

Karrilee is a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. She is a writer, reader, pray-er, photographer, artist, beach lover, laugh seeker…serving God to the best of her ability. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband where they are new empty nesters to their only girlie. They are also co-leaders of Dad’s House, a new church plant in their hometown. She is passionate about diving in deeper with the Lord and inviting others to discover His love for them. Her life message is…Speak Life. Be Love. Shine On. Karrilee loves to share her heart and what the Lord is speaking to her over at Abiding Love, Abounding Grace.
You can connect with Karrilee on her blog, Abiding Love, Abounding Grace.  She is also all over Bossy Social Media (and clearly has a love/addicted relationship with it!) You can find her on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram as well!

Carried This Far by Grace (A Guest Post)

Hi Friends! I am so excited to introduce you to my blog friend Melissa who blogs at The World According To Plaidfuzz. Melissa and I, like many of my blog friends, met through the Write 31 days challenge a year. Melissa has always been an encourager and always supported me in my writing. I feel like we have known each other much longer than we have. Melissa lives in Iowa with her husband and daughter. She also has two stepsons. 
January 28, 2015 started like any other day. I went to work and made it through the day. I met a friend at Starbucks for a quick cup of coffee before I headed home. We complained about our husbands, asked how each other’s kids were doing, and savored some adult conversation. On my way home I called my husband to let him know I was on my way. He proudly informed me that he was cooking me a gourmet dinner from a recipe he had found on Pinterest. I was only a few blocks from home when the phone went dead.

In the next twenty minutes our entire lives would be turned upside down. A pan on the stove had caught fire. Panicked, my husband threw water on it. A tower of flame shot up the wall and set off the sprinkler system. What wasn’t destroyed by fire and smoke, was irreparably damaged by the thousands of gallons of water that poured out of the sprinklers and into our home. By the time the dust settled, we had lost almost everything.

For the next month we lived in a hotel while we waited for our apartment to be repaired. I spent the bulk of that month on the phone for nearly 8 hours a day, arguing with the insurance company, meeting contractors, and trying to expedite the repair process. Our move in date was pushed back 3 times. Once we moved back into our apartment we discovered that they had taken the insurance money and run. Mold was creeping up the walls, cupboards were sagging from the walls. The management gave us 24 hours to sign a 12-month lease, or give a 30-day notice to vacate. We gave our notice, not knowing where we would go.

I immediately posted a status on Facebook, letting people know we needed to find a place to live, quickly.  Within 5 minutes one of my salon clients, who had moved away, messaged me letting me know she had never sold her house and that her tenants were moving out. It seemed perfect, it was in our price range, it would be available at the end of the month, and she would allow us to have our dogs there.

But, in the fashion we had grown accustomed to, things didn’t go that smoothly. The tenants wouldn’t give a firm date on when they were moving out – if they were moving out at all. We spent the entire month on pins and needles, not knowing if we would have a place to go. While we were packing up our apartment I fractured my foot (less than a week after spraining my hand. I’m a hairstylist, I need those things!). Literally as we loaded the last piece of furniture into the Uhaul we got the phone call – they were out! We could not only move into the house, it was 3 days early!

We drove right over to the new house, ready to start a new chapter. Once we opened the front door we quickly realized that new chapter would have to wait. The previous tenants had trashed the house. There was garbage all over, inside and out, huge stains in the carpet, filth on every surface. I walked around laughing most of the day – I thought I might finally be cracking up.

Where was God’s grace in our situation? Why wouldn’t he let us catch a break? I remember, while we were living in the motel, a friend said to me that she could see God’s providence in our situation, even though it seemed bleak. While our insurance company eventually turned into a nightmare, they were a Godsend during the first 24 hours. They set us up with a place to stay, and hired people to take care of the apartment so I didn’t have to set foot back in it until it was renovated. While some of our closest family and friends were nowhere to be found during this time in our lives, we received an overwhelming outpouring of support from my blogging friends, and my Young Living acquaintances. Most of these people had never even met me, but day after day we would receive gift cards and packages in the mail. The gifts we received from these virtual strangers not only fed us the entire time we were in the motel, they allowed us to immediately replace things like shoes and toothbrushes without wiping out what little savings we had. I still tear up when I think about their generosity and how much it meant to my family.

Even though getting into our house wasn’t a smooth process, we went from a second-floor apartment, to having a house with twice the space, a fenced in yard for our dogs, and we were even able to pick out our own paint colors since the whole house had to be renovated. If you doubt that God has a sense of humor, consider that our one-car family now has two oversized garages plus a car port. God provided this house MINUTES after we found out we needed it.

Through this whole chapter of our lives I have learned to look at the big picture. Not to doubt that God is piecing things together with my best interests at heart (Romans 8:28), but to stay under the trials and endure – consider it joy (James 1:2-4). Comfort leads to apathy. This year my faith has been tested, my marriage has been tested, and sometimes I even felt like my sanity was up for grabs, but I grew. Corrie Ten Boom said, “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”

Since the fire we have dealt with job loss, the death of family members, car problems and health issues. “This isn’t your year,” people have said to me over and over again. But it has been our year. Though I wouldn’t have orchestrated a fire to force us to take a leap of faith and move, but that one domino knocked over so many more – some extremely painful, but most extreme blessings. 

God’s grace isn’t always obvious. Sometimes it seems like He has turned his back on us. (Believe me, I read through the book of Job more than once when I was in that hotel). But when Christ is all you have, Christ is all you need. His grace is so much more than I could come up with, or even comprehend. And now I am able to say, I am so thankful for that fire, because without it, we wouldn’t have been carried this far by grace.

Testimony Tuesday

Good Morning Friends! It is Tuesday which means Testimony Tuesday over at Holly Barrett’s place. Today I am visiting at Hollys and sharing my own testimony of faith.

My journey of faith has not been easy. In fact, there have indeed been times when I have questioned God; “Why us?” “Why our family?” Yet in the midst of all of my questioning, God has shown God self to me in ways that I never imagined….Read the Rest!

Gentler With Us (A Guest Post)

During the 31 days, I met many new people through their blogs. One of the people I kept running into was Emily McFarlan Miller. Emily and I both chose “gentleness” as our OneWord365 for 2014. Emily asked me to write about what I had learned during the course of the year so I did. Today I am guest posting at Emily’s place.

That is the thing, my friends: God is so much gentler with us than we are with ourselves.As I have lived into my #oneword365 this past year, that is one of the biggest lessons I have found myself learning. Throughout my life, I have seen how God has been way more gentle with me than I have been with myself….Read the Rest Here