Life has needed a lot lately in the way of soft spaces—space for a whole lot of trying, a whole lot of unknowing, and a whole lot of blah. It has needed the kindness of a good friend who has reorganized my perceived boundaries of grace. And in her abundant kindness I am finally learning how to be kind to myself. Read More »
I know I’m not alone in the sea of people whose lives are changing, whose futures are uncertain, and who are puzzling again with questions about who they are, where they’re going, and whether it’s worth the road it takes to get there. I know I am not alone among those who need purpose, excitement, and truth to speak. Because life cycles and we change and books end and do we really have to do all of this again? Read More »
Life here as I see it, as I leave it, is beautiful, but it has come to me broken and has often been hard to receive. It has taken a long time to experience this love and belonging. Time, mistakes, curve balls. Getting here hasn’t been quick and it hasn’t been simple. It has been rough building and steep climbing. At times it has been comprised of so many downs, I have doubted whether our general trajectory was looking up at all. Read More »
“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” – Psalms 139:5-7
I have always taken comfort in times of uncertainty that He is the God who goes before me–that He prepares the way, and is in my future before I ever get there. It’s somewhat easy for me to trust Him with the things that have yet to happen, but recent history has challenged how well I trust Him with the things that lie behind. A few weeks ago as I was taking my 7 minute drive to school, I tuned into K-Love thinking, I bet there’s something playing right now I need to hear. Sometimes those 2 or 3 songs that carry me down the 44, give me just what I need to approach the day right. It’s almost my last ditch effort at perspective readjustment on days when there hasn’t been time for anything else!
Chris Tomlin was singing his new song, “I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind…” I was struck. He stands behind me! How had half the impact of this reality never made its way home? I wasn’t scared about my future, I was scared about my past. I was scared of the things I couldn’t do anything about–the things that had already passed through that small window in which I have the chance to alter them. We are powerfully present in our lives in only a sliver of time. We don’t get to go backwards and forwards and make adjustments based on lessons learned and perspectives gained. When today comes, I greet it with today’s wisdom, today’s resources, and today’s state of mind and heart. And then today leaves me, and it goes into a part of my life I can’t pick up again. Tomorrow isn’t so scary because it still has so many chances. Yes, it’s unknown and uncertainty gives fear, but it also gives hope. Where is the hope in yesterday?
He stands behind. I got excited and relieved. Although it’s hard for a time-constrained brain to comprehend, I knew with sudden sureness that the comfort of trusting a God who stands in my future could be applied to a God who simultaneously stands in my past. He’s still there. He’s still working it out. He hasn’t let yesterday go. He’s not done with it yet. Though I can’t do anything, He can, and wherever He is, there is grace, and grace makes beautiful. Trust means not only that I move forward with confidence of a good future, but that I let go with surety that He will take care of the things I no longer can. The deepest beauty and freedom of a life surrendered is that nothing is beyond redemption for a God who stands behind.
I’m not sure that it’s possible to graduate from the subject of grace. It has been as consistent a theme in my life as any, and the one that stands tallest when backwards gazing on what my life has become today. These days, these months–when I look at them, I see answers to what seems to have been prayers of a lifetime. These answers have come to me in adventure, surprise and poetry. But none of it has come without some kind of peril or heartache. None of it came the way I thought of it in my prayers. But the lives that make the best stories are exactly this kind. They are ones with unexpected answers–answers that come in packages we were never looking for–packages of struggle giving birth to glory, and tears that make way for song. The best of lives contain lessons learnt from unbecoming tutors.
When I look at this season, this life, I see much of this lesson learning and prayer living. But the thread that weaves through it all–the line one can put on the end of each story, or anywhere in between, is, “and then there was Grace.” It is what transitions every tragedy into beauty. It is what rearranges the chaos and calls it a life worth living. It is the “however” of life. One day, or a whole season, can turn on this word “grace”. The arrival of grace is what transforms our vision and opens up the back road of hope.
My story could go something like this: I prayed for a world of things I had never seen and knew not how to get to, and then there was grace, and grace brought me into a dream. I encountered all my fears and insecurities to live inside that world, and then there was grace that triumphed fear with love. I walked with people I loved and their battles and wounds became companions of my own journey. But then there was grace, and grace knew how to love deeper and go further. Onwards the story goes. I encountered rejection and grace showed me how not to throw away life’s sharp cuts. Grace came when I failed and came again when I ran out of space in my heart for others who had done the same. Above most other things, mine has been a journey defined by the power of grace to rewrite all that has been written.
I still catch myself whispering those words, “and then there was grace,” when I reach a moment in need of transition. I rarely know what will follow–the second part of the sentence–but I know that for every sentence that needs it, there is a “however”. There are some things in life that we need to know, and others we don’t. Knowing that there is grace is the first; what falls on the other side of grace is the second. And here, trust is so simple, so beautiful and scary, it actually makes me cry. It seems almost incomprehensible to entrust to grace what we cannot control or understand. But this grace is something so deep to rest in and I know that as it has marked the days behind me, it will continue to show up in the days ahead.
So if you ask me, or I ever ask myself, how I got here, though the story could start with a dozen different challenges or trials, you can be sure that it will always turn with the words, “and then there was grace…”
I have a fascination with those my friend and I have defined as the cool people, that is, those who live their lives and present themselves in such a fashion that the rest of us admire. These are the people who know how to wear six different layers all at once without looking frumpy, who master the unmanageable task of wrapping scarfs, and come up with all the creative ideas you wish you had thought of first. Cool people know how to do bizarre things like design pendants out of salt dough and make their own jam. They have organic gardens, their doors are painted red, their kitchens look like magazines, and they are always making things for their cute babies. Cool people keep blogs that total strangers read, own fashionable rain-boots and always seem to be naturals both behind and in-front of the camera.
Their lives are something totally other-than, better-than perfect. They are creative and inspiring. We watch the lives of the cool people because we are amazed by their transforming powers. They transform all of life into story and art. They are confident in expressing themselves and seem impossible to bring down. Even when life is not so picture perfect, they make melody and poetry out of it.
I have decided that what makes these people so cool is not the lace and mason jars and organic vegetables. Cool people are cool because not only do they embrace life, they create with it. They give themselves permission to be who they are against all doubt, and live towards beauty, regardless of the imperfections. Because of this, cool people live with grace, and that grace on a life is what polishes the rough places to a shine. Grace makes beautiful. Grace gives confidence, and the confident bring the beauty of who they are to the world.
At times I am convinced that the only bad days or moments are ones in which we fail to remember… fail to see today in light of yesterday, and put everything inside the bigger picture. I don’t have to go very far in my remembering to put grace back into today. Somehow looking at the past always seems to readjust my perception of what today truly is. There is no way I could have anticipated the ways that my life has twisted and turned. Even things I have long envisioned with hope, still strike me with awe when they happen. To be here is a dream. Even moments of temporary discomfort are still moments within this dream.
If I hold today’s problems in my hands, I am discouraged and overwhelmed by their complexity. But anytime I look at the road behind me, I begin to see hundreds of tiny handfuls just like these, paying tribute to grace and faithfulness. Thankfulness is the first response to any moment I remember to look back. And when I see yesterday’s problems covered by grace, thankfulness paves the way for hope. I look less at the little problems cupped in my hands, and begin to see promise in tomorrow.
The only way for me to truly remain downcast is if I forget, because looking back always reminds me that in some way, today is a dream in which tomorrow only gets better.