Greasy Grace

Yesterday afternoon, I sat in one of our (many) local coffee joints. I nursed a badly-needed double shot mocha and waited for my friend to arrive. A thought popped into my head. It’s not a new one, by any means. What if grace is greasier than we ever thought? When I say grace, I don’t mean her.

grace kelly(If you don’t know who this is, see me after class). The lady in the picture probably never got greasy. Ever.

We spent a good chunk of time on Saturday at BoomShaka. Ruby’s birthday shenanigans got delayed due to her illness last weekend. Still can’t believe she’s 12 now! BoomShaka involves jumping, climbing, and generally catapulting yourself into pits of foam.

boomshaka foam pitThat rectangle filled with multi-colored items is rather amazing. The blocks are about 5″x 5″ and look like this:

foam cubes.jpgAs we stood in line to sign waivers for the kiddos, I read the instructions posted on the wall. Only one jumper per trampoline at a time. No running. You must wear regulation socks, ones you brought with grippie suction on the bottom, or bought at the front desk. Yikes! Last but not least, do NOT bite the blocks.

Um. Okay. Sidenote: A lot of the blocks *did* have nibble-marks on them. Wasn’t me.

What does this have to do with greasy grace? I’m getting to that.

Ruby and her two cousins walked to the trampolines. I had an hour to play with them. I trailed behind, taking it all in. Being a smidge older than 12, I had no plans to hurt myself. I stepped gingerly onto the trampoline.

“C’mon, Mom!” Ruby urged, face one huge smile. She bounced next to me on her own black square.

I jumped up and down. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face, either. We visited nearly every station. One of Ruby’s cousins, the fearless one, swung off the trapeze straight into the enormous pile of foam waiting below. Not me. I struggled with the idea of jumping into the foam. Was it really for adults, too? Would it be enough padding?

Finally, after watching the girls jump in, I tried it. I bounced off a trampoline and cannonballed into the chunky abyss. It was…soft. I didn’t hurt anything. I tried to wrestle myself free of the foamy pieces. It was hard to break the surface of the moving pile. I pulled up and grabbed the lip of the hole. I managed to scramble to a standing position.

That was graceful.

After that, I didn’t care. I kept jumping into unsuspecting towers of squishiness, making sure no small children lurked in their midst. I swung out on filmy curtains over yet another chunky pool. But what I noticed about the little kids – toddlers – is they fell on their faces in the blocks. They didn’t care. They didn’t worry about getting hurt or maintaining their dignity. What dignity? In fact, they almost floated on the top. Their slight mass didn’t depress the foam like the rest of us did. Our greater mass sent us sinking quicker and harder. Gravity is a cruel mistress.

The thing is, all of us could get out. The foam, acting as a sort of grace agent, allowed us to get back on our feet and jump again. And again, and again. You know what? It was fun. I watched Ruby regain her inner tigress as she scaled the rigging over a pit. She clambered across a string of swings to get to the other side. She bounced up and down the line of trampolines, confident, joyful and at peace. All the girls could flip and skip and know they would come out fine.

Isn’t that the point? Yes, I’m a great advocate of having fun. We’re so serious as Christians, and especially as adults. We don’t try new things. We fear making mistakes. We don’t want to look bad, or worse yet, sin and miss the mark.

But grace. Perhaps it should have a capital G: Grace.

Grace allows us to fall down and get back up again. We can try something new, something that scares and excites us, all at once. Grace means we have freedom to fail. We can shrug, stand up, and dust ourselves off if it doesn’t work out. We can forgive ourselves and others and move on, when situations cause pain. We don’t  have to stay down, stuck in the pit like some dinosaur glommed to a La Brea tar pit. The pit is temporary, and it’s cushioned with multifaceted grace.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. – Ephesians 2:8

 

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Super Friday

fresh prince friday

(source)

I ran three miles this morning. I wanted to do more, but that’s all I had in the tank. This week has felt chock-full of Fridays. I loved it. The kids got out of school. Jonathon’s almost done with the house updates. Our vacation looms at the end of this month. So much to look forward to. And now, the weekend. Plus, I got to meet with several good friends this week. I have one more on tap at lunch today. What a bonus!

“So does that make this Friday a super Friday?” Jonathon asked me yesterday. I don’t know what it is, but I’ll take two, please. Super size me!

But…I may or may not have eaten a donut yesterday. And some dark chocolate chips.

Ahem.

I’m finding as I run more, my body craves more food. Most of the time, I answer it with more protein and/or fiber as well as good carbs. But not always.

I don’t crave the sweets like I used to. Not at all. I like that part. Food tastes better. I can savor it and get the sweetness out of it. Dried figs, oranges, apples, berries all fill the need much better. My energy holds steady all day long.

Sometimes, my guard slips. I make poor choices. Well, there seems to be no thought involved at all. No thinking required, simply open mouth and insert donut. But I can get up and go again the next minute, the next hour, the next day. I don’t have to give up. I am learning to forgive myself and move on. I don’t have to stay down. If nothing else, I hope I learn that one concept from this year of no sweets.

It’s grace, people. Grace tastes the sweetest of all.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. – Hebrews 4:16

 

Tuesday Tuition

I’ve really been battling perfectionism lately.  I am not perfect.  Just want to put that out there.  I don’t do everything “just right” at home.  I sometimes yell at the kids.  I have been known to say contemptuous things to my husband. I even rail at God in moments of great frustration.

As for work, well, I’m doing the best I can.  Sometimes the learning curve feels incredibly steep.  I’m getting it.  But I’m not there yet. I’m finding it hard to extend grace to myself.  I don’t want to put anyone out.  The truth is my particular job – records management and projects and purchasing clerk – affects many people.  Everyone in our group, in fact. I touch the files that touch everyone else.  At times, I delete files that others need.  Yep. Complete accident on my part.

The projects part overlaps into both realms. It also encompasses invoicing, buying and selling of services and other items.  I facilitate closing out projects, too. These tasks help others do their jobs. I’m starting to see how it all fits together.

I want to know all this information yesterday.  I want to have some kind of Vulcan mind meld, or Matrix-like upload straight into my little gray cells.

Alas, nobody can do this for me.  There are no shortcuts here. I have to go to work, day by day, work on the things I understand, ask questions when confronted with unforeseen circumstances and go on. I imagine more mistakes – hopefully minor ones – lurk in the future. I must apply myself with diligence.  However, I will fall down.   But I will get back up again.  I’m thanking God today for employers and coworkers full of grace and kindness.  Now, if I can only extend it to myself.

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. – John 1:16

Graceling

I’ve been thinking about what we’re born to do.  I just finished a book called Graceling (pub. 2008) by first-time novelist Kristin Cashore.  Ruby picked it out for me. I would have walked on by and picked up another mystery of some kind.  I loved it. This fantasy is set in a land of 7 kingdoms. The kingdoms, for the most part, fight and war constantly, never forming lasting alliances.  Born among these people, Gracelings come along.  A Graceling is someone who has a certain “grace” or innate ability to do something, far above what’s considered normal.  Every Graceling reveals their status by age 5 or so, because their eyes turn different colors from each other.  Our heroine, Katsa, has one blue and one green eye.  Once a Graceling shows him or herself, they are shipped off to the king first to see if they can be of service.

Of course, the king can’t use most kids’ abilities.  The king doesn’t find holding one’s breath for a long time particularly useful, nor excellent swimming.  Once a child’s grace reveals itself and deemed worthless to the king, he sends the children home.  But they never quite fit anywhere; the regular people shun them, for the most part. Extraordinary powers frighten others. This is the norm in every kingdom but one:  Leonid.  There those graced receive honor and special treatment.

The plot captured my interest right away.  Katsa discovers at age 8 that she can kill, quite by accident. As a niece of the king, she becomes his special enforcer, trained to fight and to torture and kill if necessary.  She doesn’t like this but feels trapped by her powerless position and her particular ability. Nearly friendless and an orphan, she forms a special Robin Hood type of council to start taking care of the other kingdoms problems, all in secret.

What attracted me was the concept of having a certain type of grace.  Because we all have something we excel at, right?  It may take some practice and training to get our facility to a place of expertise, but our skill has a sense of God-breathedness to it. It isn’t like anyone else and we know it didn’t come from us.

As the book moves along, Katsa realizes her grace isn’t killing as she’d thought.  It’s something much more valuable and helpful.  It made me think how many times we let early experiences shape our thoughts about ourselves.  “I’m just a shy person” or “I’ll always like books more than people”.  “I’m not made that way.”

In God’s economy, all our graces service a purpose and have worth. He won’t ever reject our abilities because He gave them to us. Yet maybe our graces evolve all the time. Can they stretch and bend in order to serve others and God’s plan? I started out with a love for the written word and some innate musical ability. I took up cooking and learned to love baking. I’ve cultivated athleticism and administration. What else is there? What about you? Because you are a Graceling, too.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. – I Peter 4:10

Friday Feeling

Happy Friday!

I decree a dance party today.  Enjoy.

I’m realizing more and more how much I need the Lord’s presence.  Heck, how much *we* need His presence.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

I’m seeing God’s grace in situations where it simply shouldn’t be there. Without Him, well, it’d be a lost cause.  People coming back from aneurisms.  Others getting up from sickbeds. Friendships restored and hearts healed.

I’m overwhelmed by His mercy and kindness.

Go forth today, and be excellent to each other.  That is all.

Dogged by Grace

The dog looked at me with a wary eye.  Was I friend or foe?

I laid down my small offering of lunchmeat turkey breast and leftover sandwich bread with mayonnaise on it.  I placed it all in a bowl and slid it through a hole in the fence. He looked thinner than the last time I’d seen him.  Pink skin showed through just above where a collar should be, the fur ripped out by frustrated flea-scratching.

“Here, boy,” I said.

He thrashed around in the bushes, up and down the hillside a couple of times.  I couldn’t tell if it was out of excitement or fear. Finally, he stopped and looked at me. We gazed at each other.  Several seconds passed. Then, hunger overcame any fear.  He pushed his square nose into the bowl and pulled out the bread.  Gulp! Each slice disappeared in one gulp.  His brown-black fur shone in the sun. Next he gobbled the meat.

In between bites, he looked at me as if to say, What are you going to do about it?

I looked up at the pale blue sky and thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Not that I would be a dog, mind you, but starving.  Homeless.  Lost. Alone and scared.

This dog lives behind our garden fence.  He’s rather bony and not a young pup anymore. He traverses the hill on grooved paths, has a little nest with a donated blanket and generally looks out for himself.  Several of us whose homes abut the hillside feed him. He belongs to no one anymore and actively avoids acquiring a new owner. Ruby named him Max.

We’d like to own Max. We would rig a living space for him in the carport.  We’d take care of his basic needs and show him affection.  But Max, badly abused by his last nomadic master, will not cotton to new management.

Are we any different?  God comes to us in big and small ways.  “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Yet we resist. Our last encounter with Jesus or His so-called people left us bloody and broken. We want nothing to do with church, thank you very much.  And God can take a hike, too, for that matter.  Why didn’t He stick up for us?  Where did He go, on vacation to Bermuda? Or even for those of us who don’t eschew the fellowship, we don’t want to get too close to anyone.  Past betrayals and hurts put us on guard, our invisible walls forever too high to scale and too thick to break through. So we attend church on a regular basis, get in our cars and go home. No muss, no fuss.

We hope to woo Max to us, in time.  We’ll continue to bring him food he loves.  We’ll talk to him,our voices soft and low, the metal fence still separating us.  Maybe, just maybe, we can reach out a comforting helping hand and bring him in from the cold.

God’s grace remains for you, friend. People will fail us in this life.  They make promises they can’t keep and lash out from their own pain. But…He is calling you today. Whether you believe or not, He is still there.  He longs to care for you. He longs to be your friend and for you to walk with Him. He has all that you need. Will you let Him care for you?

Metamorphosis

A peep into the future.

A peep into the future.

I love having kids, but sometimes I lose my cool.

“I’m bored!”

“Do I have to do that?”

“It’s not my turn!”

Let’s not forget my favorite, the all-purpose eye roll.

Sigh.

We spent time at the park today.  Ruby played with her cousins, lifting herself up high on the swings.  Other kids filtered in and out of the park, enjoying the partly sunny day and the freedom of summer. My sister-and -law and I chatted and ran interference now and then.

We watched a really chubby kid dominate the tire swing.  He needed a couple of kids to push him and get him moving.  Other kids shot hoops at the far end of the playground.

Our kids clambered on the play structure.  They went down the slide.  They chased each other in an impromptu game of tag. A small group of kids, school friends plus cousins, wandered over to the big trees by the fence. Each tree probably has 100 or more rings, trees you can’t hug by yourself. When the posse returned, they had something to show us.

“Look what we found!” Ruby’s cousin proclaimed, holding up two fuzzy caterpillars. I took a peek.  Both had yellowish fuzz with a black underskin. One was just over an inch long.  The other measured only about a 1/2 inch. Frankly, I’d call them rather ugly.

Ruby pouted and stated *she* had found them.  Her cousin kindly surrendered one.

“It’s a baby one,” Ruby said.

Ruby peered at her hand. I poked it.  It felt alive but didn’t move much.

Caterpillars have a temporary existence.  They turn into butterflies.  And so these kids aren’t what they will be:  kind, responsible adults.  They have the makings now.  They’re funny, smart, generous, agile, you name it.  Only sometimes it comes out as complaining and arguing. Sometimes it looks like they can’t sit still and don’t follow directions.  Their behavior may be ugly at times. They’re still becoming. This calls for  more patience and grace. Butterflies aren’t made in a day.  Neither are great grownups. Truly, we’re all being changed day by day.

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. – 2 Corinthians 3:18