August in Review

August has been a really crazy month for me. I lived in three states, visited ten states and the District of Columbia, spent time in two countries, worked two jobs, slept in ten beds, ate everything from microwavable popcorn to calamari, drove too many hours to count, packed and unpacked and repacked and forgot something every time, and finally, somehow, ended up back at college to begin my senior year.

I don’t know how it happened – I just know that I am here. Believe me, part of me loves the thrill of adventure, the excitement and calculated risk of trying new things and doing something crazy. However, when I first got back to school, I went to bed around 9pm every night because I was just so exhausted and felt so out of control. It took a couple really great chapel services, some time with God, reconnecting with old friends, and even tearing down a closet door to re-center myself.

Adventure is really fun and I believe that everything I did this August and this entire summer was a benefit to me personally, but I am also reminded that I am so introverted that I have to be alone to recharge. It has been nonstop for weeks upon months now, and I’ve learned that I must rest! I have to use precious time, like the weekends or a spare hour here or there to be by myself, to workout, to read, to eat or have coffee with friends, to sleep.

I was made to glorify and enjoy God forever. Sometimes in my pursuit of service for Him or enjoyment of His gifts, I forget Him. Let me remember that resting in God is where I get my strength to do everything else he has called me to do.

If you fall into the need-time-to-recharge-or-I-might-die category, go do it. Don’t think that you can somehow be okay by ignoring your innate needs to be alone or to do nothing for a time. Rest is good. When we recharge with God, he will give us what we need to keep going.

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

– II Thessalonians 1:11-12, NLT

Senior Year: And It Begins

As I begin my last semester of on campus undergraduate college, I wanted to share a couple things with you guys.

The first is that community is so good. So, so good. I realize now how much I missed it over the summer and I pray that I will learn how to seek it out intentionally. I am a very introverted person, so “community” is, in general, a very scary thing, but I am learning how to love it very much. It happens in the house I’m living in, the buildings where my classes are held, the church I attend, chapel services I frequent, among many other times. I have decided to make an effort to seek it out, embrace it, and trust it more this semester, next semester, and on into the future. I need it.

The second is that God knows what he’s doing. Today at church we sang a song that repeated the line: “You make all things work together for my good.” I couldn’t sing it after I realized what I was saying. God literally makes all things work together for my good! It doesn’t seem like it when my room is a mess and I don’t have enough room to put anything and our closet doors are broken and while the house is pretty nice, I have a long walk to class and work. But it is the truth. He makes all things work together for my good. All things. All things work together for my good and His glory. If I’m pursuing his glory, my good will come out of that. Even if it doesn’t look like my good. It is. Because He is good.

My friend Hannah is the RA in the house I’m living in this semester. She likes to make really cool crafts, and I noticed a mixed-media piece she did when I visited the dorm she lived in last year. I was glad to see that same piece in our house when I moved in yesterday, and pleasantly surprised as to where she hung it — right beside my room. Here’s the piece; you’ll understand why I was blessed to know I’ll see it everyday!

Hannah's piece: Grace Upon Grace

Perfection

I have long been a fan of the People of the Second Chance movement, especially of their encouraging blog posts and thought-provoking instagram photos. I found that when I was struggling with the realization of my shame, there were people who knew what that felt like. I know now that there are people who also know shame, and there are people who also know grace. They may not have it entirely figured out, but they know how to pick themselves up and keep trying. This is very encouraging to me. Inspired by POTSC, I began writing posts on second chances.

POTSC Grace

I still follow POTSC and read some of their material, and I was pleasantly surprised to see another encouraging photo from them today. It says, “I will hold myself to a standard of grace. Not perfection.”

Apparently this is not a new saying, either. I Googled the sentence and multiple sites showed up, mostly blog posts from women who had been impacted by the quote. For example, Emily Ley writes about balancing family and work and a lady named Natalie discusses perfectionism, but I especially enjoyed Bailey Jean’s post on her blog Anchored in Love.

Bailey quotes Philip Yancey as saying:

[Grace] contains the essence of the gospel as a drop of water can contain the image of the sun. The world thirsts for grace in ways it does not even recognize… Trace the roots of grace, or charis in Greek, and you will find a verb that means ‘I rejoice, I am glad.’

Sidenote: I just might have to read Yancey’s book.

But back to the post, Bailey presents the idea that much of our stress and anxiety comes from the unneeded expectations of perfection that we place on ourselves.

We are not called to perfection, because that’s not what Matthew 5:48 means. We are called to maturity and wholeness. We are called to grace. Just as we have received grace, we ought to treat those around us with grace. In my initial post for my OneWord365 project on intentional grace, I wrote:

I believe this is the time for me to move. To be adventurous. To act on what he’s shown me. And what has he shown me? That He is good. All the time. That He is just and merciful. That He is forgiving.
That He is full of grace.
And if God Himself is not angry with me, who do I have to fear? If God Himself is not upset with me, what can anyone or anything else do to me? If I know that God is forgiving and accepting and gracious towards me, how will I then treat others?
With intentional grace.

That is all well and good, but it means that it is currently the middle of August and I am literally back where I started, back to the very first page. Like, the third-of-January page.

The difference this time around is that I now have a better sense of what grace could look like in the real world. For example, grace means not holding myself to impossible standards. It means giving myself freedom to mess up, back up, and try again. It means paying what my grandma calls “the stupid tax” when I may overspend financially or theoretically. It means not getting upset with myself over my performance or my outfit or my lack of planning ahead or my forgetfulness. It means that even though my new purse has quickly begun to resemble Mary Poppins’ bag, I will not speak negatively towards or about myself if and when I forget something I need.

I will be patient with myself. And I will be patient with others. I will be kind. I will realize that I have been set free from the requirement to be “perfect enough,” and I will seek out ways to show others that they don’t have to be perfect, that I will accept them for who they are and for who God says they are and for who they will become in His timing. And in His grace.

Because it all goes back to that, doesn’t it? I cannot live in grace or show grace unless I have been saturated with the grace of my Father God.

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

– Romans 5:21, NLT

Grace is a Waterfall

 ὅτι  ἐκ  τοῦ  πληρώματος  αὐτοῦ  ἡμεῖς  πάντες  ἐλάβομεν  καὶ  χάριν  ἀντὶ  χάριτος·

(For of the fullness of Him we have all received moreover grace upon grace.)

– John 1:16

In the first chapter of the book of John, the author presents the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, explaining that out of God’s “abundance” or “completeness,” He gives “grace upon grace” to his children. The Greek reads “charin anti charitos” and means literally “favor/grace in place of grace.”  (Greek found here.)

Niagara Falls / Horseshoe Falls
View from the side of Niagara Falls (Horseshoe Falls)

A more popular English translation reads:

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.

This grace does not stop. It does not falter. It is like a pounding waterfall, never letting up its continuous flow. From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.

And I cannot understand it.

I have been attempting to understand this concept of grace for a long time. Most recently, I chose “grace” as my OneWord for 2013, a word I would focus on and try to grasp through blog posts, prayer, meditation, conversations, and life experiences. I have written more than a dozen blog posts regarding grace at my previous blog and I even created a Pinterest page for thoughts, pictures, and quotes.

It was the beginning of May this year when I got upset about how I just don’t understand grace. I felt as if I were “rebelling” against God’s free gift, as if I could choose whether or not to make it a part of my life. Or can I?

I mean, how could a perfect, holy, omnipotent, omnipresent, all-knowing God not only not give me what I do deserve (mercy), but then give me what I don’t deserve (grace)? I am not the kind of person who has doubted God’s love, and I tend to take it for granted often, but considering that he doesn’t hold my sin against me, that he doesn’t see my sin when he looks at me… I doubt his grace almost every time I think about it.

This is the first post on my new blog, part of a website which I have been working on for some time. I decided I wanted to name this blog “Grace Upon Grace” because this journey to understand, or even attempt to live within, God’s overwhelming and encouraging grace is not going to be contained to the year 2013, or this OneWord project, or even this stage of my life. In fact, I anticipate to struggle with this for a very long time because I don’t think God can ever be completely understood. If I could actually wrap my mind around him, he would not be worthy of my praise. I know this will be a journey because developing a relationship with God is a journey. Learning to live as who he says I am is a journey.

So I invite you to join me.


This is my personal blog, where most conversations about God, Grace, and becoming-an-adult will take place, but I you can check out my blogs for overseas student teaching and my 30 Before 30 Project. You can also read old posts at my previous personal blog.