Sunday grace

The day dawned magnificently, after rain and lower temperatures that enticed me into long sleeves.

With coffee cup in hand, I headed to the car, driving the miles to a long-awaited promise. The sky boasted shades of red and pink as the sun broke into the night, and my heart was eager for the day.

Parking my car, I walked to the church with Psalm 103 on my lips.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!
 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:
 Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases,
 Who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle‚Äôs.


I was greeted by the women, beautiful women who had set their alarms early to arrive ahead of the crowd, who came to serve with smiles on their faces. And the joy of the Lord shone round about.

We came for Cultivate, to hear Kelly Minter teach from passages of Matthew 8 and 9, stories familiar to any who had grown up in the church. But today they were fresh, new, breathing, because the Word of God is active and living, its razor sharp edges penetrating my soul and spirit, judging the intents of my heart. I marked my Bible and took pages of notes so I wouldn’t forget.

We praised and worshiped in song with hearts and hands lifted to the only One worthy of our adoration. The music was a tender balm to my weariness. Tears washed my eyes so I could see Jesus.

At lunch I chatted with friends young and older, enjoying the fellowship of women who are dear to me. Smiles radiated on faces as we savored the experience of this day in August. Hugs were part and parcel to the love we felt.

Time flew and I was not ready for it to be over. Had we really been there seven hours? It didn’t feel like it, this taste of heaven’s atmosphere where God’s daughters are in one accord, bound together in unity and purpose.

What made the difference in this day among other days? I’ve pondered that.

We planned, prepared and prayed for it. We did our homework through Kelly’s Bible studies through the years. We were expectant and hopeful, desiring a fresh touch from our Father. We came with our hands open to receive.

And He did not disappoint. His glory was all around, and we opened our eyes to see it.

Is it possible I might experience God like this more than just one special day in a year? Is it me who holds back from receiving all He wants to give? Am I too busy with lesser things to fix my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith? Do I prioritize time with Him and open my eyes to behold wondrous things from His Word? Do I put His commands in practice, keeping a humble, submissive heart?

Can I really have as much of God as I want? Didn’t my Father once tell me to believe and see the glory of God? And didn’t He prove faithful to His promise? Yes He did!

Then I shall believe and expect to see Him.

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

I remember being a fearful child.

Afraid to sleep by myself. Afraid for my mother to be out of my sight. Afraid to be left alone. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of strangers. Afraid of failure. Afraid of what others thought of me.

Life experiences force us to face some of our fears.

I cried on the first day of school, unable to comprehend being away from my mother all day. But I overcame, finished the day, finished first grade and the next eleven years to graduation without my mother holding my hand.

When I was old enough to stay at home by myself, I kept my bouffant hair dryer turned on, it covering the mass of pink curlers like a balloon. The noise of the dryer kept me from hearing any unusual sounds in the house while there all alone. I learned it was OK to be by myself.

When mother sent me next door to the neighbors’ house in the dark, I quoted Bible verses memorized in children’s church all the way there and back to keep the demons away. I learned to enjoy the night seasons.

Somehow I managed to stand and giver a report in school, though my stomach ached with anxiety while I waited my turn. I’m still learning I can “do it afraid” when I speak to a crowd.

Life made me face some of my fears and overcome them.

Still, fear hunts me down, hides in unexpected places, rises up without warning, and screams unspeakable things. Other times, fear comes like a whisper, planting doubt and uncertainty in my unsuspecting mind. “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

And I hear a question proposed to me, like it was proposed to twelve men two thousand years ago, a voice familiar and beloved:

“Why are you so afraid?”

If I try to formulate a reason, the words flounder and fail in the explaining. I must be in a similar fearful company since Holy God pronounced so many “fear nots” throughout Scripture, enough for every day in the year.

I ask myself, why are you so afraid? What is there to be afraid of? Is not He who holds all creation holding me?

Fear not because God is with me.

Fear not because He will never leave me.

Fear not because my times are in His hands.

Fear not because He hears my prayers.

Fear not because He is working all things for my good and His glory.

Fear not because darkness is as light to Him.

Fear not because He will give me strength for the task.

Fear not because He will help me.

Fear not because He takes away my shame, disgrace, and humiliation.

Fear not because He is God and there is none like Him.

Fear not because no one can snatch me out of His hand.

Fear not because He has a hope and a future for me.

Fear not because He loves me with an everlasting love.

I hear the power of His voice, His commanding strength, His gentle entreaty, “Why are you so afraid, my dear one?”

I respond in faith, humbly bowing, “Lord, with You there is nothing to fear.”

Monday grace.

Monday grace

We sat across from each other in the restaurant, cups steaming with our hot beverages. We talked as friends, sharing the details of life, catching up months of intricacies and essentials. It had been too long since we communed like this.

She told me about opening her home to neighbors, friends, people in general, and I listened, wondering how she did this so easily, so lovingly, so Christ-like. I’ve benefited from her gift of hospitality on many occasions, how she does it with ease, an open heart and an open home.

I pulled out of the parking lot with those thoughts lingering, asking myself if I could do that. Could I throw open the doors and invite the needy in?

It’s much easier to welcome friends, companions, those who share common ground. It’s not as threatening when I am familiar with the faces around my table and we chit chat. But what about the stranger, the alien, the widow and orphans, those less like me? What about those who are too troubled for me to offer an easy remedy?

Yet, aren’t they the ones God bids me to love? Isn’t that the way He loves me?

The call came late in the evening, from one with whom communication is mainly via text and cell phone. She asked if she could come spend the weekend, and the intonation of the words told me there was something more to the phrases she used.

In a vulnerability I don’t often have myself, she said she needed a place to stay for a couple of days, a safe place. After asking more questions and seeking Sweet William’s insight, knowing his perception is often better than mine, I said, “Yes. Come.”

She arrived with her baggage and burdens, her tears and her hurts. We opened the door when she knocked and said, “Welcome.”

That night as I lay in bed, I prayed for the peace that passes understanding to fill this house and fill our hearts, the very Presence of peace who brings comfort in chaos and provides shelter in storms. The Host who embodies the glad welcome and complete acceptance, was abiding with us.

My own heart opened a little bit wider. And it was all grace.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace

I made a couple trips down our lane to pray last week. I stopped at the place where a fence post used to stand, a place where my father prayed when he was alive. I felt anguished for God to hear me and there is something about that spot of earth that called me.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

The old post is long gone so I stopped where I could remember it standing. Then I took off my shoes for this was holy ground. God hallows any place where He meets us, and this was my rendezvous with Him.

Before long I was on my knees, face toward the ground, tears streaming down, words uttered out loud. And I wondered what my neighbors might think if they saw me. It didn’t matter.

After a time of pouring out my heart, I arose and knew I was heard. God was near and gave me peace for a simple act of obedience.

I ponder prayer. Is it about me while at the same time being very much about God? Is the mere act of praying a way of Him drawing me to Himself? Does He encourage me to pray so I will seek Him and find Him because He is always seeking me? Do problems come our way to draw our attention away from things that matter little to focus on things eternal? Does prayer bring me to a point of total surrender when I’ve run out of my own options and have no strength left?

After years of praying, I’m still figuring out prayer, its diamond-like facets bringing color and beauty to my life. Just when I think I might have it figured out, the light changes, and I’m left in wonder again.

Like a parent who sees her child in distress and says, “Come tell me what’s wrong,” my Father bids me come and pour out my heart. I know He hears and I know He cares about what weighs me down. I lay my burdens on Him because they are too heavy for me. I trust Him to do what is right. I trust Him to love me and to love those I pray for. I trust Him to be strong and good. And that is enough.

At the place of the old post, I rose from my knees, put on my shoes and walked home, feeling lighter. I gave my concerns to the One who knows what to do with them. I prayed. My God heard. I know He is working whether I can see the intricate details of His plan or not. He is always working on behalf of His children.

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

When the temperatures rise higher, making everything harder, and the pavement is hot on Maisie’s paws and the grass crunches under my feet from lack of rain;

When I go to bed with prayer concerns on my heart and wake to them the next morning;

When family and friends suffer and I can’t be there to do anything;

When life just feels grueling and impossible to figure out;

When trouble knocks on my own door and intrudes without a welcome;

When my questions mount up quicker than my answers;

Then I press in to look for simple graces.

Like a pink balloon on the neighbor’s mailbox announcing the birth of their baby girl.

Like the small wren with the big voice greeting me each morning on the deck.

Like fans blowing air across the bed at night.

Like the cooling shade offered by trees growing strong and full in the yard.

Like the evening shadows playing against furniture;

Like the aroma of a newly opened bag of coffee beans, a promise for the morning.

Like zinnias blooming by the walkway and a sudden appearance of pink ladies.

Like an hour spent with a friend in honest conversation.

Like brown-eyed susans and peppermint in a vintage canning jar.

Like the comfort of Scripture and the relief of laying my burdens on Jesus.

Life can be hard. But I know God has not forgotten us. He has His reasons. His throne room is filled with mercy and grace for times like these. He bids me come.

Tears run down my face and I run to Him.

Monday grace.

Monday grace

Becoming. That is where I am. Already and still in process.

Viewing my life from birth to birthday, I see where I’ve been and where I am. The years impart wisdom that only comes from living out my days.

I am becoming more comfortable in my skin, wrinkled and sagging as it is. I see how God is working in me through experiences of trouble, joy, sorrow, hard work, celebration to become more the person He planned when He fashioned my DNA.

There were days of hiding behind my mother’s skirts, fearful of who I was. Days when I wore a mask to hide who I might be. Days of putting on a costume in effort to conform to another’s expectations. Each was uncomfortable, and without being able to put it into words, I knew it wasn’t who I was meant to be.

Like an onion being peeled, layers of covering slowly, sometimes painfully, fell away, the pretense and pretending of trying to please and appease, of trying to be like someone else. Only let me be who God made me to be with no apology.

In no way does this give me permission to be rude or offensive, to commit sin or disregard the doctrines of Scripture I believe to be good and right. Nay, in following God’s commands I walk in the utmost liberty.

I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.
— Psalm 119:45 NLT

I am free to follow where He leads, to use the gifts He gives, to accept my personality strengths, to recognized my weaknesses and cooperate with my Creator to change where needed.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
— Philippians 1:6 NLT

I am not where I can be, fully who I was made to be. But I am becoming.

Christ in me, I become more and more, year by year, the woman He is calling out. “Will the real Peggy step forward and live out her purpose?”

I reach toward Him.

Monday grace.

On mothering a boy

Before the days of ultrasounds and 3D imaging, I was left wondering if I would have a son or a daughter. When I became pregnant, there were no expectations of knowing until I could hear my doctor proclaim at the time of birth, “You have a boy” or “You have a girl.”

I don’t recall a secret desire for either. I just wanted a healthy baby. People told me they predicted a girl, something about the way I carried the growing life nestled under my heart. Some were convinced and gave me dresses at the baby shower given by the ladies of my church.

When I consider the morning sickness that lasted all day long, the girth of my belly, the stretch marks, the pain of labor and eventual C-section, it was all worth it. Seeing that beautiful round head as my doctor announced, “It’s a boy” veiled everything else.

The first time the nurse brought my son to the room and placed him in my arms, his eight pounds felt like the weight of the world. Realization hit me that I was responsible for this child. How could God trust me this much and was it really such a good idea?

I hoped to parent as I had been parented, with patience and kindness, lovingly nurturing my son and teaching him the ways of a world brand new to him. I failed a lot.

I was determined he would not be a shy child like I had been. I didn’t understand introversion, extroversion or personality types. What I knew was how I’d suffered from being painfully withdrawn. So I encouraged him to speak up, say hello, don’t hide behind.

One day while riding an elevator, this small boy of mine was friendlier to strangers than I was, and I knew I had nothing to do with that. This was who he was. His very own personality was blossoming before my eyes. I would discover him rather than make him into someone I thought he should be.

More than anything I wanted him to know Jesus loved him and to learn to love Him back. We went to church a lot. I read Bible stories. We talked about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I tried to point him in the direction of the cross while being woefully imperfect at modeling Christ-like character. I prayed for him.

When it became apparent that he would be our only living child, I packed away the dolls, small china dishes, a little bed and high chair my dad made for me, things saved in case we had a daughter.

We made room for trains and guns, matchbox cars and star wars figures, drum sets and bikes that let him do tricks down our lane as he called, “Watch this, mom” over and over.

I stayed up hours at night with him to help with homework. I walked the halls of the school, confronting teachers and going to bat for him, mustering courage that didn’t come naturally to me. I fought for my son, my inner mama bear emerging if I thought he was being treated unfairly.

He grew into a handsome teenager and girls looked his way. I turned over the keys to my recently acquired, new-to-me blue Nissan Maxima so he could take his date to the prom. He never knew how often I stood at the window watching him drive away from the house, praying for his safety, that he would return home in one piece.

I tucked him into bed as long as he would let me. Sometimes after a tiring day of working a job and working a home, he’d be in the mood to talk, and I knew these were precious moments. I hope I patiently listened despite my weariness. I hope that’s what he remembers more than when I was in a rush, was frustrated or short tempered.

He became and man and chose a wife, and I knew things were going to be different for me. I determined I would love the other woman in his life. I also understood I had been displaced from being the most important one.

Years fly by, as they do. Time, distance, and circumstances have taken us on our own paths. He isn’t close enough to drop by for a cup of coffee like he once did. But when he calls, my world lights up. His laughter is sweet like honey. He probably doesn’t realize how his voice on the other end of of my smart phone is sunshine on what might be an otherwise cloudy day.

As I look back over the years since his birth, I see how his very first tottering baby steps were leading him toward independence. His first day of school, learning to drive, finding a job, going to college, all of that was designed to take my baby boy into adulthood, toward becoming a man able to stand on his own. Had I considered it, I might not have been so anxious for him to learn to walk.

After I sent my boy a picture of the birthday box I mailed on Tuesday, he texted that he had forgotten. My response was, “I remember. I always remember you, your birth, your life.”

I identify with Isaiah 49:15 where God describes his love for Zion like this:

Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.

How could I forget how he changed my life forever? How could I forget the child I loved when I only barely knew he existed? How could I forget this one who is always in my thoughts and prayers? I cannot forget.

I find it beautiful that the Creator gave us the privilege of sharing in the creation of life so we could understand on a smaller scale His magnificent, ever-faithful, unconditional love.

It’s my boy’s birthday today, and I thought of him first thing this morning, before I plugged in the peculator, before I washed my face or prepared to read my Bible. I thought of him. I can’t help but think of him. He is part of me in a way too mystifying to understand.

He has children of his own now and we have an understanding between us. His love for them mirrors my love for him. We get it, this inexplicable attachment and devotion, going deep into the heart and soul of us.

I heard this recently, that the heart has secrets no language can ever express. Indeed it does. For I will never be able to describe in words how I feel about this boy of mine.

Let it be enough to say, he is my son and I love him.