Grace Beyond the Lines

Recently, at a writing conference, the speaker talked about how we as children learn these beliefs about ourselves and  then we carry them into our adult lives.

As he spoke, an experience from third grade popped back in my mind. I had completed a worksheet for English. The content was absolutely one hundred percent correct; however, I had not stayed within the lines. My freshly learned cursive writing had extended beyond the given lines. I was required to stay inside from recess and fix my “mistake.” For a quiet, shy young someone who already aimed to do the right thing, this only fed into my drive for perfection.

This perfectionism has been a constant companion into adult life. It drives my performance, my anxiety, and my fears.

Last fall, God really began unravelling some of this root of the need for perfection. It has been a slow unravelling, but I no longer believe that perfection is the goal.

At work, we talk about redefining success as progress not perfection. I may not like mistakes, but I can embrace them as part of my growth.

Today, I am grateful for the grace of second chances. I am grateful for the freedom to not be perfect. When we walk in His strength, His grace is sufficient.

Sometimes, following a God given dream involves taking a risk. You may just have to look, write, or walk beyond those “safe” lines. What the world views as a mistake may just be the very path He has set before you. Pray, listen, and trust.


Extend Grace

“Extend grace, mom. Extend grace.”

I looked at my thirteen year old son. He was right, but I wasn’t quite ready to admit it. That vicious thing called pride was still hovering in my heart.

 It had been a conversation…me sharing about my day, and my husband looking down at his phone absorbed in something and not fully listening to me. He claimed he had been listening, but hearing is not the same as listening. 

My son’s sweet voice chimed in again. “Mom, you’re not perfect, either.” 

The wisdom of an almost 14 year old…such a perceptive child. 

Extend grace. These were the same words that I had heard from my friend over the weekend. 

 Deep breath. Pride swallowed. I accepted my husband’s apology and extended grace. 

I have much to learn from my son.  I am amazed and reassured that he does listen to me. It is always humbling to hear your words returned back to you. He reminded me of exactly what I needed to hear that night. Extend grace.

Who do you need to extend grace to?

Sometimes, we need to consider  things from a different perspective. I took this picture while writing from a view that overlooked the pond. 

The view was inspiring for writing, but I noticed the imperfection in my photo. Droppings from a bird stained the window. Would I choose to focus on the imperfection or the beauty in the view?

It’s like that with life. Do we choose to focus on the imperfection of the person or situation or do we choose to extend grace?

Our perspective makes all the difference.

I’m a Mess…

“I’m a mess.”

She uttered those words as though something was wrong with her. I looked at the woman standing beside me and reassured her that in someway or another, we are all a mess.

Everyone is fighting a battle of some sort.

There is a song by Citizen Way called When I’m With You….  
These are the things that I need to pray cause I can’t find peace any other way. I’m a mess underneath and I’m just too scared to show it. Everything’s not fine and I’m not okay.. 

The song goes on to say that when he is with Christ, then his real person can break through .

This song has been a huge source of comfort for me. The truth is, we are all fighting our own battles. 

The other night while playing games, my son was beating his dad and me in an intense game of Spot It. He was laughing and then said, “I need a day to feel okay and today ain’t that day.” Granted, this was in the context of losing his winning streak, but his quote has been on my mind a lot.

A lot of days, we don’t always feel okay. Whether it is worry, stress, illness, or anything that threatens to steal our joy, we certainly have a lot of reasons to not feel okay.

Thankfully, God’s love and peace and joy in our life is not dependent upon our circumstances. It takes trust to say, Okay, God, I don’t feel okay, this doesn’t feel okay, but I am going to trust You

This is where I am.. learning day by day, moment by moment, to let go of my desire to control and try to fix everything and just be okay with not being okay and trusting God instead of allowing worry and anxiety to take over in my mind.

It is a work in progress. I am a work in progress.

We are all fighting battles of some sort. We all have days when don’t feel okay. We all have days when we feel like a mess.

Trust God. Be kind to others. Listen to them for you may be the person God uses to shine some joy in his/her life. And, likewise, there are people God places in our paths to brighten our days when we don’t feel okay.

Beautifully Broken

A new year stirs up all sorts of ambitions, resolutions, goals… Whatever you want to call them. Personally, for me, a new year finds my thoughts very reflective 

What went well last year? How have I grown professionally? Personally? Spirituality? Where are areas I still desire to grow? What are my dreams?

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

This year, I want to delight more in the Lord. I desire to grow deeper in my relationship with Him. I want to continue to learn to trust more when in the past, the anxiety would consume me. I desire His peace.

God listens to our voice. When we cry out to Him, He listens. As I walked through a valley recently, I cried out to God. He did not remove me from the situation, but rather, He revealed to me His faithfulness. Instead of calming the storm right away, He walked with me through the storm and comforted me with His peace.

At my chiropractor appointment the other day as I waited for my receipt of payment, my gaze lingered on the desk calendar. It read… Sometimes, God allows something to happen in our lives that only He can fix so we get to see Him fix it.

What’s “broken” in your life right now? A relationship? Your current job situation? Your finances? Maybe you feel like you are a complete mess and are broken beyond repair. 

God loves us as we are. He takes our brokenness and can make something beautiful out of the mess we are in. 

Maybe, this year instead of planning all these resolutions to lose weight, get organized, eat better…We need to simply cry out more to God, listen to His voice, and trust that He can and will do something beautiful with our brokenness this year.

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple, He heard my voice; my cry came before Him, into His ears. Psalm 18:6


A Weekend to Remember 

My husband and I took advantage of a buy one get one free special a few months ago. If you registered for the Family Life Weekend to Remember marriage retreat, then your spouse was free. Always looking for a chance to travel and a good deal, we decided to go.

It is Sunday morning. The past two days have been wonderful. The speakers have been amazing and real as they have shared insights and honest stories from their own lives.

In a short while, we will be heading to our final few hours of our weekend experience. These past few days have opened our eyes and hearts to a few things and have given us an opportunity to focus our undivided attention on another. 

No matter where you are in your marriage…whether it is amazing or on the brinks of falling apart, whether you have been married a day or 40 years, the Weekend to Remember is a great experience. They are held in multiple locations throughout the US. For more information, visit their website at Family Life Weekend to Remember.

Remember, when our hearts are open and willing, God uses our imperfections for His perfect will.


One Step Forward…

The Write 31 Days challenge of October has passed. I hope my reflections on gratitude have been encouraging. The truth is, I have needed those God given snapshots of Gratitude moments as reminders myself of Who is in control. It certainly is not me.

A few weeks ago, my friend asked me to walk a labyrinth with her. As I slowly walked the path, I found myself face to face with the need to slow down. As I walked, the phrase do the right  thing played over and over in my mind. Like a broken record, the words repeated and repeated. As I approached the center, two rocks stared back at me.

Create freedom

Create freedom? Freedom from what? 

I prayed, knowing God had a message for me in those words. I needed to wait and listen to understand.

Fast forward….the weekend ended and I went back to life. Life happened as it does. As life happened, I realized the control of anxiety and fear in my life. 
Anxiety can be consuming. It starts as a fear then it escalates into all kinds of thoughts. Worry spirals quickly. Your stomach clenches. Your head might hurt. You lay awake at night. It feels so alone.

Thankfully, I have an amazing friend who has been encouraging throughout my struggles. I realized that what I need freedom from is the gripping hold of fear and anxiety on my life. 

I attended a Casting Crowns concert this past weekend and the lead singer and youth pastor Mark Hall shared that following Jesus is simply doing the next thing He asks you to do. And then the next thing. And next thing.

I have been praying over these words, focusing on one thing at a time instead of being consumed by all the worries of everything that needs done. Instead of worrying about doing the right thing, I am choosing to focus on the next thing.

This is a journey. It is not an easy one, but I have support and encouragement. I have Bible verses taped to my desk at work. I read them often. I pray a lot. If a need a quiet moment, I sneak away to the bathroom for a moment of solitude to refocus.

If you are dealing with anxiety, know this…you are not crazy. You do not have to travel this journey alone. Hope exists. 

This verse has been a huge source of hope and grounding for me:

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34 the Message 

Life is not always easy, but God always promises hope and peace so you can take one step forward. 

Whose Perspective are you Focusing on?

As I sit here in the darkened living room, I hear the rain falling against the capped chimney. I hear my son breathing softly as he sleeps on the couch…his favorite thing to do on the weekend. The rain could easily match my mood if I let it. I have just finished a hard, hard week…conflict, tension, confrontation, disagreement, difficulty…I find myself questioning if I could have done something differently or handled a situation from a better approach. It all seems like too much. Like a giant rock in my path…



The decision I have to make is will I let that rock define me…will I let that rock stand in my way…will I let that rock discourage me??

Sometimes, a rock stops us dead in our tracks. Sometimes, a rock is in our path to make us pause and reflect. And sometimes, a rock in front of us might signify that we need to take a detour to find our way back.

I’m still reflecting what the rock in my path means exactly. I do know this, though. When we see rocks in our path and feel discouraged, it is easy to start looking around at other people’s lives and wondering if we were somehow forgotten about…

It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap…it’s easy to think everyone else has everything else better off than we do. Just spend a few minutes on Facebook. Most people don’t highlight the worst moments of their days on Facebook. Most people don’t share their marriage issues, their issues with kids, their hard days at work on Facebook. We see a snapshot of something good on Facebook and then we can easily think that everyone else has something great going for them, and we are well….missing the mark somehow.


What window are you looking through? Whose view are you focusing on? Your view which is often focused on feelings and the present situation? Or God’s view which promises He will use everything in our lives to grow us and move us forward?

I found myself falling into the comparison trap earlier this week, and a convicting thought infused my mind.

When I compare myself to others and see my accomplishments, my life, my career, my fill in the blank, as less than someone else’s fill in the blank, then I am undermining the work that God is doing in my own life.

He has gifted each of us with different gifts and talents. He has each of our lives on a different timeline.

When I take my focus off Him and onto worldy perspectives of success and happiness, it leaves me feeling empty and less than worthy every time. So, even though my life is not perfect, I will remember I am God’s work in progress.

Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls-Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills. Habakkuk 3:17-19 NKJV

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