Grace Tells Another Story

Has this ever happened to you? The very day you are painfully aware of how undeserving of grace you are, God showers you with it. You’ve blown it again, messed up, failed, fumbled everything and, although you’ve confessed and asked for forgiveness, you’re ready for the scolding you know you should receive. And then you get an affirming email from someone that makes you smile. Or a friend prays with you about a project or interview you feel nervous about and it goes well. You notice you’ve lost two pounds! While you’re still reflecting on these blessings, you receive a care package from an out-of-town friend.

This type of thing happens to me a lot! And today has been one of those grace-filled days. Case in point: I received this bundle of love from my girlfriend Salena in Kitchener, Ontario. (She knows I’m a huge fan of DAVIDsTEA!) Thank you, sister! ♥

goodies

By the way, don’t you just love the RAOK card she included? I can’t wait to use it! (Actually, there are two. Double the fun! I think I will also make my own for future use.)

RAOK

Back to the topic of grace. . .God’s gentleness and mercy are so much more powerful and moving in those moments I know I don’t deserve them, because I know it’s all about who HE is and not who I am. (Please note: I’m not suggesting that we should sin so that we can later experience God’s grace. Romans 6:1-2 fits perfectly here: What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”)

There’s a lot I can learn from God’s grace about showing others compassion and understanding, about giving second and third (and fortieth) chances, about seeing the soul and its pain behind a person’s actions. Is there anything sweeter or stronger or more generous than grace, especially God’s grace?

One of my favourite contemporary songs about grace is MercyMe’s “Grace Tells Another Story.” I hope it will bless you today:

They say don’t waste your time
You simply cannot find
an ounce of good within the heart of man
They say we’ve got to lay
in the bed we’ve made
and live this life without a second chance
but I’m inclined to say there must be something more.

We’ve been told that the heart is just too far gone to save
but grace tells us another story.
Where glory sends hopelessness away,
oh, grace tells us another story. . .

And though we may not understand why
You’d give us another chance,
We praise You who lets us start again.

What do *I* have to be depressed about?

“A 27-year-old woman was initially diagnosed and treated for depression with suicide ideation. Thirteen months later, kidney stones, an elevated parathyroid hormone, and elevated calcium levels led to a diagnosis of primary hyperparathyroidism. The patient was treated for hyperparathyroidism by resection of the superior right parathyroid gland. When the calcium levels were regulated, the patient’s moods, concentration, and memory were back to baseline.” (Source: The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Sept. 2010. The rest of this article continues here.)

I rarely talk about this but sometimes I experience brief lapses into depression. I’m not sad or unhappy. Nothing’s wrong. I just feel stuck. It’s a symptom of a physical condition called primary hyperparathyroidism. Most people with PHPT don’t get it until their sixties or seventies but I was in my late twenties (yay me for being so special!) when a kidney stone led to my diagnosis. PHPT occurs in 112 of every 100,000 persons (that’s only 0.11% – yay me!) The article above also states that, for about 20 percent of patients (again, yay me!) “the symptoms of PHPT include fatigue, weakness, kidney stones, depression, decreased bone mineral density, abdominal pain, and anxiety.”

I don’t talk about feeling depressed because part of me is afraid people will say, “What do YOU have to be depressed about?” I have a great job, a wonderful family, stability and security and, most of all, a joyous relationship with Jesus Christ. But that just goes to show you how far we still have to go in understanding what depression is. Yes, some people are just sad and gloomy and negative all the time and a lot of that may have to do with their choices and attitudes. Many others, however, cannot control when depression will hit them, when their bodies will betray them. I thank God that my bouts are brief and infrequent.

As much as I hate how all of this feels when it does flare up, I’m thankful for the insight it has given me into the lives of those who are clinically depressed and really suffer. I have more compassion for them now. It also makes me wonder how many people are walking around feeling depressed (or experiencing instances of depression) when a simple visit to the doctor and a blood test might reveal a treatable cause, such as high calcium levels, as in my case.

I would encourage you, if you or a loved one experiences inexplicable bouts of depression that are unrelated to any issues or problems in your life, to talk to a doctor about it. You may be surprised to find that it’s something manageable.

In case anyone’s wondering, I don’t take medication for this condition. I have had surgery a few times to try to correct it but it looks like it’s back. At this point, we’re just monitoring my calcium and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels and I’m dealing with the down days by not being hard on myself and through prayer. God is good and He’s got my back!

“I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

Link

Best of this week

Just for fun, here are my favourite links and finds from this past week:

1. Positive news story: Caitlin Prater-Haacke’s inspirational response to bullying

2. Awesome new-to-me toy that I am definitely buying (for myself!): Kinetic Sand

3. Ridiculously gratifying and nostalgic time-waster: Inspirograph – Here’s my first design, which I kept simple:

inspirograph

Have fun!

 

A long, long day. . .

Here are some interesting facts about what a typical human body accomplishes in a 24-hour period:

  • Your heart beats 103,689 times.
  • Your blood travels 168,000,000 miles.
  • You breathe 23,040 times.
  • You inhale 438 cubic feet of air.
  • You eat 3.25 pounds of food.
  • You drink 2.9 quarts of liquids.
  • You lose 7/8 pound of waste.
  • You speak 4,800 words.
  • You move 750 muscles.
  • Your nails grow .000046 inch.
  • Your hair grows .01714 inch.
  • You exercise 7,000,000 brain cells.

Whew! It’s tiring just thinking about all that activity! No wonder some days seem impossibly long. (By the way, how cute is this pajama top? I might have to get one!)

Actually, how long a day feels has very little to do with the quantity of things we do. These facts (accurate or not) don’t tell us anything about the quality of the things we do in a given day, and that’s what makes the difference.

  • How meaningful and focused was your quiet time with God?
  • How kind were you to someone who needed a touch of grace?
  • How wisely did you spend your time and resources?
  • How much attention did you pay to the people around you?
  • How honest were you?
  • How positive was your attitude about a tough situation?
  • How aware were of the beauty of nature around you?

It’s good to occasionally take stock of how we spend our days. In Ephesians 5:15-17,
we read:

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

 

New Column: Creative Connections

This is turning out to be an exciting year for me in terms of writing projects. Besides the release of my latest book for tween girls, Truth, Dare, Double Dare, I’ve had two new columns launch this fall and was just invited to write for a women’s ministry website. Here’s the scoop:

1. I already shared the link to my ChristianWeek column, but here it is again for quick reference (or for those of you visiting my blog for the first time. My column is called “Faith That Follows” and my first piece was “Choosing What Is Better.”

celebrate this day2. My “Creative Connections” column on Nicole O’Dell’s Choose NOW Ministries website launched on Friday. Please take a look, and leave a comment if you have a moment! Click here. (And here is my “about” page at CNM.) My first article is titled “Make Every Day an Occasion” and includes this original artwork by me.

3. In another month or two, I’ll be writing for FullFill, an online magazine for Christian women.

Before I sign off, I want to wish all my Canadian friends a Happy Thanksgiving (it’s tomorrow, October 13)  and remind everyone that…

The optimist says the cup is half full.
The pessimist says the cup is half empty.
The child of God says, “My cup runneth over.”

Also: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)

One of my "calligraphy" doodles in my art journal.

One of my “calligraphy” doodles in my art journal.

Give Thanks Anyway! (plus freebies)

Here in Canada, we’re getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving on the weekend. (I like that ours is a good deal earlier than Christmas, unlike in the U.S.) So this is my Thanksgiving post. :) I don’t know whether this anecdote is true but it’s still a very effective parable that I wanted to share with you…

In Budapest, a man went to the minister and complained: “Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?” The minister answered: “Take your goat into the room with you.” The man was incredulous, but the minister insisted. “Do as I say and come back in a week.”

A week later, the man returned to the minister, even more distraught than before. “We cannot stand it,” he said. “The goat is filthy!” The minister instructed: “Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week.”

A radiant man returned to the minister a week later, exclaiming: “Life is beautiful! We enjoy every minute of it now that there’s no goat, only the nine of us.”

Sometimes we forget to be grateful for what we have—or we don’t even recognize our blessings—because we’re too busy complaining about our circumstances and wishing they were different. But a little change in perspective can make a huge difference.

Speaking of complaining, this past weekend I attended a women’s retreat where I was helping out as part of the planning committee and as an emcee. My friend Fernanda created beautiful Bible verse prints for all the attendees—a different one for each woman! When I saw mine, my first thought was, Hmm. Interesting choice. It’s not the most uplifting verse in the Bible. But a second later, I knew that it was the best verse she could have chosen for me. (And, no, she wasn’t trying to send me a message!)

A “nice” verse would have grabbed my attention for a few seconds and then sat prettily on my shelf. This one? I couldn’t shake it all weekend. It felt like God had handed me a heart-flashlight. I found myself checking every response I made to see if I was grumbling.

You know what? It was a real challenge. And that’s great! I could have grumbled about the verse (which would have been painfully ironic) or I could have been thankful for it. I chose the latter.

As Thanksgiving rolls around this weekend, let’s all take time to thank God for everything. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, let’s give thanks anyway! God is good . . . all the time.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Before I sign off, I want to share a few freebies with you. A week or so ago, I had a fun little quiz on my Facebook page and I promised the winners I’d create digital images of their favourite verse or Bible quote. Below are the final results, which you are free to use and share as well. (The first one features a Montreal sunset I shot a couple of years ago.)

[P.S. Don't forget about the giveaway for my new book, Truth, Dare, Double Dare going on until Wednesday!]

handsProverbs 3:5-6

It’s here! It’s here! *squee*

*** Don’t miss the link to a giveaway somewhere in this post! ***

Back in May 2009, less than two years after the release of The One Year Designer Genes Devo, I sent my agent a proposal for my second book. I never imagined that David C. Cook would make me an offer for a two-book deal. Truth & Dare was published in October 2011 and, three years later, I’m excited to welcome my third “baby” into the world! Truth, Dare, Double Dare‘s official release date is today, which means retailers like Amazon will finally start shipping out orders. Double Dare

Over the last week or so, I’ve mailed out copies to the girls (young and a bit older) who contributed their exciting, real-life stories of courageous faith to Double Dare (my nickname for the book). It’s been amazing to get positive feedback already and I’m looking forward to finding (and sometimes sharing) reviews. There’s one specific review I really want you to check out, though, especially as there’s a giveaway (for a free copy of Double Dare) that you can enter at the bottom of the blog post. Click HERE!

giveawayYou’ll want to look for this graphic and then simply sign up. I hope you’ll also tell your friends about the giveaway and share the link on social media, on your blog or by email. Thanks!

If you have a copy (or plan to get one), would you please consider writing a review? I can’t begin to tell you how encouraging and helpful each review is, no matter how short. You can post yours on your own blog, on Amazon (or any other retailer’s site where my books are sold), on Facebook, etc. When you do, please come and let me know in a comment here and also share the link.

Okay, let’s get this party started!

Note: Canadian friends, a friendly reader just gave me a heads-up that Chapters is having a sale and offering free shipping (no minimum) until October 2. Woohoo! Here’s the link. Thanks, Julaine!

Mission Trip Musings

Several weeks before I left for Armenia, one of my friends at church suggested I prepare to share at our September ladies’ fellowship meeting some insights from my mission trip. It would have been simple to give a report about our activities, but I had to think a little deeper about what God had taught me during those three weeks.

Here’s what I shared about things I either learned or was reminded of:

  1. Good hospitality has very little to do with the size of your home, the fanciness of
    Typical hospitality in Armenia -- Families just pull out the closest table and bench or chairs and then fill the table with the best of the food.

    Typical hospitality in Armenia — Families just pull out the closest table and seats and then fill the table with the best of their food.

    your dishes or the amount of food in your fridge. It has to do with being willing to open up your busy schedule and let someone else into your time and space, focusing on them for a while instead of on yourself. (See Romans 12:13 and 1 Peter 4:19.)

  2. Joy, courage and hope have little to do with your physical health, the amount of money in your wallet, your job stability or the current circumstances of your life. They have to do with how much you trust God and believe in His promises, how willing you are to obey without conditions, and how loose your attachment is to anything the world offers.
  3. It’s never a bad idea to share the gospel with someone and to challenge them to consider eternity and their relationship with God. Many people are much more ready to hear the gospel than we might assume they are. If they’re not interested, they’ll tell you. But if they are, you will be glad you acted! (See 1 Peter 3:15 and 1 Thessalonians 2:8.)
  4. You can’t carry everyone’s crosses; you are only called to carry your own. This was a message my father emphasized a few times in conversations with people. Yes, the Bible tells us to bear each other’s burdens, but to the extent that we offer support and encouragement to someone who is struggling or hurt. . . not to the extent that we try to solve problems that only God can help them with.
  5. Families are of utmost importance and we must work hard to nourish and protect them. I interviewed a village pastor for an article I’m working on and he said something I’d never thought of before: When God created Adam and Eve, there was only the family—not a nation, and not a church. It was later that He established a nation and much later a church. Any nation and church can be strong if its families are strong. And the first family that must be strong is the pastor’s family; that helps the other families in the church be strong through good leadership and a good model. We need to pray for our pastors, our leaders and their families! [Note: October is Pastor Appreciation Month!]
  6. I also picked up an interesting metaphor from this same pastor: Christians may all be sheep, but some of us don’t produce wool, milk or meat. Jesus, our Shepherd, doesn’t need pets. He wants sheep who are willing to follow and obey Him. . . and be productive!

What are some things God has taught or reminded you of lately? I’d love to hear from you!

So You Made a Mistake. . .

A Philadelphia legal firm sent flowers to an associate in Baltimore upon the opening of a new office building. Through some mix-up, the banner on the flowers read, “Deepest Sympathy.”

When the florist was informed of the mistake, he let out a shriek and exclaimed, “Then the flowers that went to the funeral said, ‘Congratulations on your new location!'”

Oops!

Have you ever messed up? I’m pretty sure we all know what that “Oops!” or “Uh oh!” moment feels like. Some of our mistakes are harmless or even funny. Others can have devastating consequences. Some of our mistakes are unintentional. Others are deliberate sins. In all cases, we must do our best to:

  1. humbly admit our wrong-doing,
  2. ask for forgiveness,
  3. make things right with whomever we wronged, and
  4. not make the same mistake again.

We won’t necessarily always receive forgiveness from other people but it’s reassuring to know that “if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

mistakesNot only does God forgive our sins, but He also promises to forget  them, too—something only He can do! “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)

The question is: Are we learning from our mistakes? James 1:23-25 says:

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

Don’t let your mistakes or failures define you and don’t let your past sins paralyze you. If you’ve taken the necessary steps to make things right, ask God to help you move forward, armed with the maturity and wisdom you gained from the experience.

Go on. . . You can do it!