Finding Grace.

 

 

It was late one fall morning—my husband had taken the kids to school and I was here with one baby in the bassinet and the other baby sitting in her crib playing with toys so that mommy could make the bed. The phone rang and I grabbed it off my dresser.

“Dad called on the way to school. He said bring a box to work.”

Bring a box to work. As in, pack up your things—you’re not working today.

I can’t remember if I stood there and listened or sat down to hear him out. All I know is that by the end of the conversation, it was clear. My husband doesn’t have a job…again. We’d been through this before—before our first anniversary. And here we were again, going around the same mountain again, back at square one. Except we’d learned a few things this time.

When I set that phone back in place, I set myself in gear for the day.

“This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. Thank you, God, that this is not the end. This is only the beginning.” My hands set to making the sheets of my bed as I declared God’s promises over my husband and our home. “Thank you, God, that You are Jehovah Jireh, my Provider. This is not going to be a bad week. This is going to be the best week ever.” Smoothing out the comforter, I repeated it to myself. “Best. Week. Ever. Thank you Lord, In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

God gave me the grace I needed that day–He still does. There’s something about God’s grace that makes every situation shine a little brighter even on the edges of a dark cloud. There’s light around the edges. There’s a good situation fixing to turn up. There’s going to be a better day. The grace of God.

Grace—(n.) 1.a: unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification; b: a virtue coming from God (Merriam-Webster.com)

The first mention of God’s grace in the Bible is in Genesis 6:8. God has just looked at His creation, and “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually.” (vs. 5, AMP).

Only. Evil. Continually.

God’s heart was grieved. He made these people—man and woman. He created them for fellowship. He created them for relationship. But here they all were—running around acting in ways God never intended, turning their backs on God, living in sin and shame and constant evil. Didn’t they even care? Like a son who has turned his life over to drug or alcohol abuse, like a daughter who hooked up with a guy that doesn’t honor women. You know what I’m saying?

No. Just no.

This is not what parenthood is supposed to look like. This is not what I created you for, child.

God was so disheartened by their sin that He was ready to wipe it all out—wipe everything off the face of the earth—and just. Start. Over.

Have you ever been there?
God was there.

Living in the face of continual evil.
There.

Like a slap in the face of God.
There.

“So the Lord said, I will destroy, blot out, and wipe away mankind, whom I have created from the face of the ground—not only man, but the beasts and the creeping things, and the birds of the air—for it grieves Me and makes Me regretful that I have made them.” (Gen. 6:7, AMP)

Then verse 8 says:
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (vs. 8, NKJV)

Noah found grace.

He experienced God’s favor.

That is my prayer. Will you speak this prayer with me?
God I want to find grace in Your eyes. Your loving favor is so precious to me. May I always honor Your Word and Your plan for my life. I pray that my thoughts, my actions, my heart would line up with what You created me for. Thank You for Your grace at work in me. I declare the grace and favor of the living God over my husband, over each one of my children and over my own life. In Jesus’ Name I pray, AMEN.
Where do you find your life in this story? Is there an area you need God’s grace in your life at this moment? Are you experiencing the grace of God today?

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Loving your Kingdom Man: 3 Steps to Happy

This summer, I have been writing about the love in our lives…and making room for more.  More love.  We are expressing more love for the Father, and we are taking time to receive more of the love of God in our lives.  Now, I want to look at loving the people in our lives.  For me, that starts with loving my husband.  Let me preface this by saying that we have never had a storybook marriage.  My sister has a sign above the doorway in her den that says,

“We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.”

I always said that my sign would probably say,

“We may not have our act together, but together…

we have an act.”

Go ahead and picture it, add a bluegrass country background, and get Joaquin and Reece to sing the soundtrack.  We are the Johnny and June of homeschool parenting, believe it or not.  When it’s good, it’s really good and when it wasn’t, well… you get the picture.

I just don’t want you to think I’m sitting up on some gated community patio sipping lemonade in a designer outfit with my hair and nails done up to perfection, trying to tell you something that I haven’t actually lived.  This is my life.  It is real.  It is gritty as the sand in a Smoky Mountain creek bed, but I do believe that God has cultivated a pearl out of the grit that wasn’t there before.

When I look at loving my man, I look to Jesus.  I have heard it said, “God made me, and He knows how to fix me.”  I believe the same is true for our relationships–especially the second most important one in our lives.  God knows how to fix what’s broken in your life and marriage.  Believe it or not, He also knows how to cultivate joy in that same relationship.

So, how does that happen, exactly?  It’s not a magic fix.  But, it is a “Promise.”  It takes a little work…and faith…and patience.  Sound familiar?  (Hebrews 6:10-12)  Here’s what I would tell my 12 years ago self, fixing to head into a rip-roaring bluegrass rollercoaster:

1.  Be Quick to Forgive…

God sees it all.  He knows what the outcome will be in every situation, but it’s kind of like I tell my kids:

If you try to “take care” of the problem your way, then I won’t be able to take care of the problem the right way.

When we choose to forgive the person we are married to (that means we lay down our “right” to respond or lash out), then we are leaving room for the Holy Spirit to free us and take care of the situation.  Forgive.  Forgive them.  Forgive yourself.  Live free.

2.  Honor Him.

Looking for little ways to honor your marriage partner is actually honoring God.  It’s not huge.  It’s not complicated.  But, it makes a really big impact.  At my house, I know that most mornings my husband will need a shirt ironed for work, and every morning he will appreciate a travel mug of coffee sitting on the kitchen counter.  Those are two things I try to do every day to bless him as he goes out the door, no matter what.  Ask your husband what he needs or do something little that he will appreciate every day.  It makes a difference.

3.  Pray for Your Kingdom Man

The most impact of anything that I have ever done in my marriage has been PRAYER!!!  I have read and prayed aloud through Stormie Omartian’s The Power of a Praying Wife.  I have read through the Scriptures and said them aloud with his name in them.  This summer, I picked up a book that my mother bought him for Father’s Day 3 years ago.  (Fun fact:  My husband would rather drop off the face of the earth than read a men’s self-help or marriage book.  He is a Mitford fan!)

Tony Evans’ Kingdom Man is packed with treasure about who God made your husband to be.  I began dissecting this book and praying & confessing aloud the principles of God’s Word over my husband.  (In my next post I’ll throw in a couple of these prayer confessions.)

All of this prayer has made a huge difference!  I remember reading a Dutch Sheets book that likened prayer to little sticks of dynamite, each one charging the wall of our circumstance.  They all add up!

Praying the Scripture over my marriage has really softened the rough edges of our relationship, smoothed over our differences, and shined up our love life!  I can truly say that we are two new creations in Christ!

How about you?  Maybe you are smooth sailing in your marriage and haven’t hit any bumps in the road.  Maybe you are a 25th anniversary plus veteran!  (If so, please add some comments for the rest of us!)  Maybe you are not currently in a relationship and can store up some wisdom from God’s Word for later (or apply these principles to bless others in your life).  Go ahead and comment!  Be a blessing today!

Where It All Began…

I was straightening shelves and putting out sales product in the Christian retail store where I worked, pregnant belly pushing my work apron to its limit.  There in the women’s interest section, I heard my husband of nearly a year walk through the door.  It was the middle of the work day, and he asked if he could talk to me for a minute.  Something’s not right I felt on the inside.  There was someone else on the floor, so we walked to the back room where my inventory desk was located and I waited to hear what he was going to say.

As we walked into my workspace, surrounded by the product that was already coming in for the Christmas season, I found that my sneaking suspicion was correct.  Looking back, I think it was the Holy Spirit trying to give me a quick,

“Are you sitting down?  I think you should sit down.”

Thank you, Holy Spirit!

“Nicki,” he said.  “I lost my job today.”

There it was.  Just before the holidays (both Thanksgiving and Christmas), months before our first anniversary, right after we had just settled into our first house (it was tiny but it was ours), well into our first journey of growing a tiny human being, we experienced something that we never expected to happen.  It was unthinkable.  It was unplanned.  It was unwelcome.

But God…

God had a plan for us, and I believe He still does.

God cared about this little girl from Kentucky and her husband and unborn baby.

God made a way for us over and over and over again–and He still does.

In the midst of it all, I found out who God really was.

So this is my message to the woman whose life hasn’t turned out how she planned (I’ve got plenty more stories where this one came from), to the person who has had life’s rug ripped out from under them, to anyone who is experiencing burnout and letdown…

God still cares, and He is still there.

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

(BibleGateway.com, NIV translation)

When we are experiencing the unexpected and unwelcome, as a wise woman in my life often says, “God is not undone by this.”  He has a plan.  He has a way out.  All we have to do is go to Him.

So, how about your life?  Where has the Lord been faithful?  Where are you asking Him questions or believing for His help?  What Scripture has been your lifeline?  I look forward to hearing from you.

Grace to You,

Nicki