Tag Archives: Grace

Difficult Grace Transformed…

Sue’s Note: Earlier this year I wrote several blog posts about grace. The January 8th post was entitled, “Difficult Grace…” Today’s post includes excerpts from that entry as well as a section called, “The Rest of this Story.”

     The medical report my family doctor gave me sent chills up my spine.

     The research I set about to do on reputable Internet medical sites added to the foreboding.

     The specialist I saw was very nice, very professional but also very straight about potential possibilities.

     I tossed and turned through several sleep-deprived nights.

     And, then…

      I determined I was going to dig in my heels of faith and trust God—no matter what the outcome of my medical condition might be.

     I resolved to discuss the situation with no one but my husband—and, of course, God. I talked to God A LOT about it.

               I poured out my fears.

                    I requested God give what I felt certain would be the best outcome.

                         I asked for strength to accept any outcome.

                              I searched the Bible for verses to bolster my faith.

                                   I reminded God—as if God needs reminding—about what seemed to be biblical promises.

     After almost three months of extensive—and expensive—testing, I re-visited the specialist.

     The medical report he gave me resulted in a huge sigh of relief. There seemed to be nothing to worry about—at least for the present. “We’ll monitor the situation yearly,” the doc instructed with cautious optimism.

     The doctor’s office was only a 10 minute drive from home. I was thanking God for His good grace when my ears perked up by something a radio minister was saying on the Christian station to which the car’s radio was tuned. I don’t know what program was on nor do I know who was speaking—I didn’t normally listen to that station—but the words I heard landed with tremendous impact.

     “Sometimes God’s best grace is difficult grace,” the speaker said.

     Difficult grace! Is that what I’d experienced for nearly three months? Yes, those months through which I’d traveled were difficult—really difficult! Yet, along the way, my chilled spine developed into stronger spiritual backbone. Instead of scrambling for pity from others—my typical go-to behavior—I was empowered to stand firm with only the support of my husband and my God. After an intense immersion in prayer and Scripture, I emerged a more faith-filled woman.

     During that difficult time, I experienced:

           Grace that distilled dread into determination.

                Grace that taught me I can trust truly a truly trustworthy God.

                     Grace that fueled fear into faith.

                          Grace that subdued scary thoughts and sleepless nights.

      To be perfectly honest, I prefer the kind of grace that paves a pleasant path. Yet, when I look back at this experience, I realize I learned valuable lessons.

  • No matter how difficult, I will receive strength needed to keep moving forward.
  • An unseen, but real, guide goes before me.
  • Peace is possible even when problems seem impossible.
  • Difficult grace is designed to build my faith.
  • Even during life’s most difficult moments, grace will find me!

The Rest of this Story…

      This past week I had my third yearly visit with the specialist. He came into the office where I was waiting, shaking his head slowly. “I’ve never seen this before!” The doctor explained the diagnostic test done three weeks ago was within normal range. He said this was the first time he’d ever seen anyone with my condition who had a normal test range.

      One additional test was done in the office. That too was normal. We joked about me being a “boring” patient. I told the doctor, where my relationship with him was concerned, I like being “boring.” He agreed boring was good. Then he cautioned me not to forget about him completely, adding, “But, I don’t think we need to see each other for two more years!”

      So, what was my response to this good report supposed to be?

      Smugness that I’d finally figured out how to get God to answer my prayers and grace to work in my favor?

          Yikes! I hope not!

      Guilt because of all the precious people out there who ask and ask God to answer their prayers, and an answer doesn’t come?

          No, guilt isn’t necessary. It’s okay for me to rejoice in this good gift from my Heavenly Father.

      Entitlement to instruct others in the “right” way to exercise their faith?

           “Please, Lord! Help me to NEVER do that!”

      I believe the answer to my question can be found in these words spoken by Jesus:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT)

     And, so, I conclude: my response to divinely imparted grace is to love God more and more and to allow that love to be translated increasingly into greater love for others.

     Whether you’re in a season of happiness or a season of difficulty, my prayer for you is that you’ll be able to see the gracious imprint of God’s grace in whatever this day brings…

Sue Reeve

 

Woven by Grace

by Sue Reeve

     “Ding!” The cell phone reminded me a personal Facebook message awaited. I recognized the picture of Mary, a lady I knew only casually. She reads my blog on Facebook, and I always appreciate her “Likes.” Mary messaged me to say she enjoyed the blog and wondered if I ever spoke.

     Here’s the truth about writing and speaking. I am much more comfortable sitting behind my computer typing thoughts from my heart than I am standing before a group sharing those same thoughts. I feel ‘safe’ in my cozy home office. I don’t worry about whether my hair is fixed, whether I’ve applied makeup or even if I’m still wearing comfy pajama pants. Since I don’t know who’ll be reading what I write, I don’t wonder often if my words will be accepted. I know my primary purpose in writing is to point my readers to a never-changing God in our always-changing world, and I know God—who without a doubt loves me unconditionally—is pleased more by my obedience than with my ability.

     Frankly, I don’t feel quite so confident when standing in front of an audience.

     In spite of this, I told Mary I’d love to speak to a group of 40-50 women of all ages during their church’s women’s spring event. The theme, “Woven by Grace,” excited me. If you’ve been reading Listening on the Journey for any length of time, you know I absolutely love the topic of grace. I am the recipient of so much grace from God, and whenever I have the opportunity to encourage anyone to take a journey into God’s grace, I do so eagerly, feeling both humbled and privileged. Here’s the gist of what I had to say to this group of precious women on May 10th.

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     The writer in me desires to craft words accurately, and I often consult the dictionary for word meanings. Here’s what I found when I looked up the words: Woven, By and Grace.

     Woven – to be formed by combining various elements or details into a connected whole.

     By – as a means of conveyance.

     Grace – a demonstration of favor, especially by a superior.

     These individual words cause me to conclude that every single event, every element and every detail of our lives move us toward demonstrating God’s loving and masterful design.

     One of my most prized possessions is a tallit—or prayer shawl—handwoven especially for me by my friend, Anni. Each individual silk strand was taken in Anni’s skillful hand and placed on a wooden loom. Every aspect of the tallit is intentional. Each different color, each hand-tied knot has special meaning.

     I’ve draped the tallit over this small table to remind you and me we are being woven with favor into the woman God designed us to be.

     I bought this wooden sign displayed on the tallit at our local Farmer’s Market last summer. Its message resonated truth the moment I saw it:

The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot keep you.

     The grace God weaves into our lives is done with utmost intention. Each event, element and detail is woven with precision and purpose. Our poor choices may cause a design flaw or delay, but even those, when taken in the skillful hand of the Divine Weaver, become part of God’s masterpieces—you and me. The very thought of this astonishes me.

     My friend, Terry, whose communication skills I admire a lot, told me to have only three points in every talk, so tonight, I’d like to talk about three ways God’s grace is woven into our lives:

     1) God’s grace is woven into our insecurities;

     2) God’s grace is woven into our insufficiencies; and finally,

     3) God’s grace is woven into our incredible potential.

     In the next Listening on the Journey blog post, I’ll talk about how God’s grace is woven into our insecurities. Until then…

May you recognize the deep significance God is weaving into your life…

Sue Reeve

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The grace God weaves into our lives is done with utmost detail and intention. Each event, element and detail is woven with precision and purpose.

The Little Girl Inside our Story (Part 1)

“When we…own our story, we gain access to our worthiness….When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness…lives inside of our story.” The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene’ Brown

     Embedded within every woman’s story is the story of a little girl. The voice of that child is powerful, and can drown out the more mature and accurate voice of the grown-up woman the little girl becomes.

     In the next four Listening on the Journey posts, my friend, Bethany (a pseudonym), will tell her story. Bethany is one of the most resilient women I’ve met. Her ‘little girl’ story—a story filled with abuse and betrayal—is one with which she struggles on a regular basis. But, Bethany has determined to walk into her story rather than trying to outrun or ignore the past pain and shame that threatens to keep her from embracing this truth:

She is a lovable, significant and worthwhile woman!

     Rather than distancing herself from the danger in her childhood story, my friend is choosing to rescue the ‘little girl’ in much the same way a brave bystander is willing to rush into a river to save a drowning child. Sure, there’s risk in this decision, but in doing so, Bethany seizes the opportunity to transform a potentially tragic tale in a way that benefits not only her destiny, her family’s future and ultimately, her legacy, but will benefit others with similar stories.

     Thank you, Bethany, for your willingness to share your story with Listening on the Journey readers.

Ready to Disclose

Bethany’s ‘little-girl’ Story (Part 1):

     As long as I can remember, I have been interested in people’s stories. Everyone has one, and everyone’s story is unique. Some people experience more joy than sorrow. Some people endure more abuse than kindness. I used to think this was unfair.

     But, as I’ve learned to embrace my story, I’ve realized if I allow the hard and unfair life experiences to shape me into who God created me to be, I can live a life filled with richness and joy—perhaps even more than if my childhood years had known more kindness and justice.

     As much as I’ve always been interested in people’s stories, I’ve always had a desire to share my own. Maya Angelou said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Walking around with the burden of an untold story can turn a woman into someone she was never meant to be. So, as part of my healing, I’m going to share my story publicly for the first time.

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It is well for the little girl inside our story to consider the best way to disclose.

     At church I kept hearing about the Grace of God. I had grown up with an angry God who couldn’t wait to punish me. Grace was hard for me to wrap my head around.

     I can’t say there was one huge incident that made me seek help. I think I simply came to a place where I was so tired of who I was that I had to find a way to change. One night after I put my kids to bed, I decided I had finally had enough.

     There was a woman at our church who always captivated me when she spoke. Her relationship with God seemed so real. When she talked about Him, it sounded like she was talking about a friend. I sent her an email that night asking if we could meet.

     I didn’t even know what I was going to say. I was terrified. The day of our meeting, I was a mess. I thought about canceling so many times, but staying stuck where I was seemed worse than finally being real with someone.

     I ended up telling her everything! (to be continued…)

Sue’s insights concerning disclosure:

     Like Maya Angelou said so eloquently, bearing an untold story inside is agonizing. Exposing a story that’s been hidden in dark recesses of our heart to the light of truth is the beginning of healing and liberation. The way in which we disclose the treasure that’s our story, however, is critical and deserves careful consideration. That ‘little girl’ in our story has the potential for enormous strength, but after being kept in the dark for so long, she is fragile. She needs time and loving help to grow strong.

     I’m not a mental health professional or expert in childhood abuse, but I believe the following points deserve consideration before disclosing a painful childhood story.

    Listen to that voice inside that says, “Okay! Enough is enough!” – This Scripture refers to the children of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness, but the message is one worth remembering: “Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear…” (Hebrews 3:7 & 8b MSG). Even if you need to use some stern self-talk, don’t allow your ‘big-girl’ voice to dismiss or minimize your ‘little-girl’ story.

  1. Choose carefully to whom you disclose and how much you disclose – Jesus told his friends:  “Don’t give holy things to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls before pigs. Pigs will only trample on them, and dogs will turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6 NCV). Sometimes we assume a certain person can be trusted, but women have been left feeling betrayed by family, friends and even clergy, who were not equipped to deal with their story or were not trustworthy with their story.
  2. Pray for wisdom before disclosure! – I have never been disappointed when I’ve asked God for wisdom. James 1:5 is a verse I’ve turned to over and over again. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (NLT)
  3. Trust the ‘still small voice’ of God’s Spirit that speaks to your spirit – After you’ve asked God for wisdom, watch and listen. If you feel an ‘interior nudge’ to trust, take even a baby step of trust. If you feel a ‘check in your spirit,’ hold off. A little motto that helps me make a decision is, ‘When in doubt, DON’T—at least not right now!’

     Next time, Bethany will tell some of the painful details of her story, and we’ll explore: ‘My Story’s Sadness – an Obstacle Too-big?’

May you be filled with grace and wisdom as you ponder your ‘little-girl’ story…

Sue Reeve