“Fourteen-Eleven”

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I hesitate to write this post.

Why? Because it’s a little embarrassing.

I have been given a lot. That is an understatement. In the way of earthly goods, I live in a really nice house, I have a closet full of clothes, I have plenty of food… I could go on and on. I also have a family that for some bazaar reason is crazy about me. But those are small in comparison to the fact that God has placed me in a home that loves and follows after Him. I was born into a home that already believed that the Bible is the True Word of God, and that Jesus is the Messiah. I can’t describe just how overwhelming it is. God has literately poured out blessing upon blessing on me.

So often I think and ask “Why God? Why would You give me so much when others have so little?”

And then He says, “You have been given much so you can give much. You are to be my hands and feet, giving all for My sake if I ask it of you. You are to love the unlovable, touch the untouchables, reach the unreachables. The poor, the desolate, the unpopular, the ugly and unwanted. That is your mission, Grace. Your life is to be spent reaching those for My glory. Those whom the world esteems the lowest are highest in My Kingdom – treat them as royalty.”

That’s my mission. That’s my calling in life.

But no, I don’t always live with that attitude. There are plenty of days I sit on the throne of my life and selfishly run it.

Like last Thursday…

Early that afternoon there was a battle raging in my soul; I won’t go into all the details now for time sake. But I was angry with myself and throwing a royal pity-party. Honestly, it was the display of selfishness you’d expect to see from a 4-year-old, not an almost 20-year-old. But God in His grace did not leave me there. After many selfish tears and thoughts rooted in pride, He opened my eyes to my selfishness and areas of my life I was clinging onto.

Selfishness.

I repented. I surrendered.

There was much joy in that.

Lord, try me again. Try me again. I’m ready. I’m surrendered.

He did.

(Oh praise Him for that! When you ask Him for trials or testing to grow you, be sure that He will.)

And even though I’d asked Him, I wasn’t prepared for the area of my heart He’d touch next.

That evening, I ran an errand to Joann’s craft and fabric store with my Mom and sister. I wandered my way into the clearance fabrics, and after a while I noticed a man passed by.

“How are you doing, this evening?” An employee asked.

“I’m alive, and that’s saying a lot,” replied the middle-aged black man.

His clothes were worn, but not tattered. A construction-worker vest peaked out beneath his dark coat. Our eyes met. I smiled. “Hi.” “Hello.”

He hesitated for a few seconds and then walked up to me. “I’m being bashful… I’m sorry. I need to ask you something. Ok, I’m just going to say it. I need “fourteen-eleven”… My brain locked up for a second as he continued talking about things. What in the world is a “fourteen-eleven?” He mentioned something about his job, something about his house, and needing just “fourteen-eleven” more for a place he and his wife could stay the night.

It hit me. Oh, it’s $14.11. He’s asking for fourteen dollars and 11 cents.

I panicked. No one had ever approached me asking for money before. The thought crossed my mind “what if he’s just making it up?” It was awkward. It was inconvenient. I didn’t really know what to do.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t really have cash on me.” I replied knowing full well that I had some.

“Oh that’s ok, I’m sorry to bother you. I know God will provide someway.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said again sympathetically, almost tagging on a “I’ll pray for you.”

Are you not disgusted?! That I would pretend to hurt and sympathize with him, all the while knowing I had what he needed? It makes my stomach turn.

There I stood in the fabric isle transfixed, replaying the whole scene over in my mind again. What have I done? Out of my selfishness I lied. I’ve been selfish with what God has freely given me. What would Jesus have done?

What if that were Jesus?

I felt sick. What if it had been Jesus? I would have gladly given what was asked and more. But what does His Word say? Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto Me. (Matt 25)

I pulled out my wallet to see how much cash I had in it.

Fourteen dollars. No way.

I grabbed it and some change and started searching for him. I ran around the store, I checked outside. I looked around the store again, combing every isle. I check outside again. He was gone, no where to be found. The golden opportunity to show be the hands and feet of Christ was gone. I missed it because I was to consumed with myself and my wants. I did not have an outward focus.

How different it could have been if I had let the Lord truly sit on the throne that day… “Here Lord, my life–take it, spend it, use it!!! Make a fool out of it for Your sake if You wish. Only let it be Yours today.” If I had been living with the behavior of heaven–where those whom the world despises and call out as inconvenient are held high, and precious. Oh how different would my response have been!

Twice that day God showed me areas of my life that were tangled in selfishness. Twice I was so consumed with myself that I didn’t see what God was doing around me. Even as I type there are things He’s wanting me to pry my grubby little fingers off of. It’s going to be uncomfortable, it’s going to be inconvenient. But so was the Cross, and that’s what we’re called to do.

 Luke 9:23 – And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Deny ourselves and carry a cross? Yes… And follow Him. And when you follow Him, you too will wind up at Calvary.
I’m not really sure how to end this post… These are things that I’m still learning and haven’t mastered yet. But slowly I’m learning to answer “Yes Lord, I’m willing” when He asks something of me. I have far to grow, and know I will be challenged from the moment I rise tomorrow morning.
So while this might be the end of this post, it’s the beginning of asking for the eyes and heart of Christ. It’s the start of asking Him to so fill me, that He lives and works through me.
Oh friend, won’t you join me?
-Grace Elizabeth

A silent denial

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A thought hit me as I prayed this morning: “have I also denied my Lord?”

In my mind’s eye I saw a dark, cold dungeon. The air was filled with the putrid stench of rotting flesh and rats. In the corner of one cell sat a large figure hunched over, eyes closed and lips moving in prayer. His body bore wounds that told of many beatings, some fresh and some reopened.

He sat there and prayed for his persecutors, his family, his church, and begging God for strength to endure to the end. His persecutors had beaten him time and again telling him that he had but only renounce his faith and he could be set free. They told him he could even continue to worship his God if he only said the words of denial and would no more preach. To merely let him go would mean he would be free to share his faith and many would believe as before. And whenever they killed the “Christ followers” twenty more would spring up in his place because of his martyrdom. But if he relented, if he gave in and denied his faith then no one would believe or respect him after that.

However this man was unwavering in his devotion to God. He would not be silent. He would not be ashamed or afraid of what man would do to him. He would continue to share the Gospel with all those he came in contact with. He would never deny his Lord.

But it got me thinking… I wonder… Have we done that which we would never dream? Have we–have I denied my Lord?

I imagine often of persecution, imprisonment, and even death for the sake of Christ. Something much like someone holding a gun to my head and asking “Will you say you deny Christ and never evangelize again?” I look them in the eye and say with a resolute passion, “no, I could never and will never deny my Lord.” (and then they pull the trigger…? I just hope that if persecution does break out here in America that I will be seen as a threat).

But perhaps our culture has already played the part of the persecutor and has beaten and threatened us until we no more share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re scared. We’re ashamed. It’s uncomfortable. I myself succumb to those lies and fears.

We’ve never verbally denied our Lord, but just the same we’ve kept our faith secret and silent, content to just blend into this world. Silently we have called the things of this world our lord and forsaken our First Love. If the world or the culture can get us to be silent and blend in then they’ve won – to them it is better then just killing us off because we will only seem weak and ineffective. And the truth is, that if we Christians are living according to God’s Word then either the culture will change or crosses will be erected.

I guess what I’m trying to communicate here is that our silence is denial. Denial of our Lord, denial of the Great Commission He has given us to fulfill.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.      Matthew 28:18-20

My heart aches to know that within the past few weeks I’ve been in conversations where it led to planting seeds about the Lord, but I chose not to because I simply wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t looking for ways that I could plant Gospel seeds, and when the situation arose I found it more convenient to remain silent on the topic. I don’t want to live as one that has denied the Lord. I want to live boldly and to lovingly proclaim the Gospel to others. I will not hide my light under a bushel, but put it on a candlestick.

Come Christian, you are called to be a light to the world – not to imitate the darkness. To shine forth with the radiant Gospel of Jesus Christ. Oh let us not deny Him in spirit! Let us call Jesus Lord and let our walk be self-evident to that fact.

~Grace Elizabeth

Simply joys~

I sport a baggy, comfy sweater with my hair piled into a messy knot on the top of my head as I sit down. The house is dark and quiet–quiet at last. Although there is a beauty to be found in the noise of a house full of people, I treasure the quiet too. Perhaps it’s this time of year, the weather, or the black coffee… but there is an overflow of memories, praises and lessons from this fall so far and I’m thankful.

Yes, thankful for things like…

-The opportunity to learn and start on my Doula certification.

-Iceskating with sweet cousin and little sister… I might as well have been flying and dancing in the air.

Iceskating!

 A Grandmother willing to give up her week to help us paint

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The countless inside jokes, times of laughter and fun that happen every single day around here… Siblings are the best.

The fragrance of fall: chai, candles, the fireplace, that cold fall scent in the wind…

-Opportuinities for this little Texas girl to wear sweaters.

-Many little hands learning the skill of basket-weaving. Stories. Laughter. Wednesdays.

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-Heart-felt prayers with dear friends in the parking-lot. Marveling at my God’s power as He had worked mightily in the lives of the ones I prayed with. Mightily indeed.

-Rotten milk and finding the lesson in it.

-Deep discussions and driving lessons with my Dad.

-Indian/Mediterranean treats.

-Friends in Christ whom when you ask “how are you doing?” it is always meant and answered at a spiritual level. And conversations that could go on forever about the Lord.

-Morning devotions with family.

-Forgiveness, grace, and lessons… oh so many lessons. Oh so much more to learn.

-Learning to choose joy. Like earlier this week as we were getting ready for some last minute, out-of-state guests I was frazzled. And I showed it. Little sis wanted to know what was wrong–why I wasn’t being “me.” I tried justifying my attitude, but then the Holy Spirit pricked my heart. My attitude wasn’t helping anything and it wasn’t honoring my King. Even though it was the last thing I wanted to do, I smiled. “Abba, help me choose joy.” And I began to sing to the Lord. As my praises wafted through the house my heart was transformed from one of complaining to one of praise. I want to be a woman of joy, a woman of praise–not ungrateful or complaining!

-Encouragement in the form of conversations, e-mails, verses and comments.

-Oh and Jesus. My precious Yeshua. Learning afresh of His love for me–letting the beauty of 1 John 4 sit in. Longing to know Him and His love for me even more. There is Joy in His presence.

These things are just a few–only a drop in a bucket. And so I slip into bed whispering thanks and asking Him once again to draw me nearer.

-Grace

To do him good…

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It was after church services a few weeks ago and I found myself holding a precious little treasure in my arms. This treasure was about 4 months old and he owned a pair of blue eyes that I’m sure could steal anyone’s heart. In my conversation with one of the moms, I mentioned just how much I desired to be a mother of my own precious little treasures one day.

She began to reply, and I was sure she was going to give me the “contentment speech.” You know, “be happy and serve God where He has placed you and in His time He will bring along ‘Mr. Right’.” Thing is, I am truly happy with my life; I feel full. I only want the next phase when God says it’s time. Overall, I am content. But she surprised me–she didn’t discredit that desire, instead she encouraged me. She told me that those were God given desires and she truly believed He would fulfill them. It was neat to hear that. It was so different for that desire to be affirmed.

Like any girl, I’ve carried big dreams about my knight in shining armor. I’ve known some girls to write very extensive lists on what they want their husbands to be. Oh sure, it’d be nice if he could sing and play instruments well, if he were a good writer, spoke several languages, was romantic, and was really athletic–the list could go on and on. But what my heart has craved and my prayers have echoed is that he would be a passionate lover of God; that he would have a dynamic relationship with the Lord.

For if a man loves God–truly loves and follows after Him and has a humble and teachable spirit, then everything else will fall into place. No, he won’t be perfect, he will fail just as much as I do. We won’t be perfect, but we will grow and learn together. That’s part of the beauty of it.

Occasionally I put myself in the place of the kind of man I would like to marry and make a list of the kind of woman he would want to marry and then I work on those things. Do you desire a man of prayer? Become a woman of prayer. Do you desire a man that meditates on God’s Word? Start meditating! What about a man that is involved in ministry? Become a woman that serves and ministers to those around her. (I’m writing as a girl to girls, but it works the same way reversed).

We can daydream, we can wish about our Knight in Shining Armor. But would we be the kind of woman he is looking for?

And this doesn’t only apply to our “spiritual side.” Wouldn’t the man of your dreams appreciate an organized house and a well-cooked meal?

It really boils down to this: become the kind of person you’d like to marry.

No, we won’t be perfect–we’ll fail. I can promise you that. But this season of singleness is so precious. We are given such a precious gift from God. We have time to prepare, time to develop our walk with the Lord, time to reach out to others… If you’d like somewhere to get started, Proverbs 31:10-31 has some great pointers. *smile

Verses 10-12 says:

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

Will we do our husbands good all the days of our lives? Even before we know his name? Are we preparing for him, being faithful to him, and building a foundation of trust now?

That’s where I’m at right now. That’s a little of what I’ve been learning this year–to become the woman my Knight would be seeking for. Time is so short, and I’ve already wasted so much of it. And truly, if we are living fully for Jesus now, obeying Him, seeking His face, loving Him and allowing Him to change us, then we will become the person our spouse needs. As we focus on Christ and lose ourselves in Him, I believe everything else will fall into place.

Today I purpose to do my husband good as I follow after Christ.

 

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A Servant’s Heart

It’s been a good start to the year.

As I begin to type, I hear raindrops gently beating on the window. After a dry summer, rainy days have become especially dear to me. So peaceful…and the smell of rain? Beautiful.

I pause and glance down at the keyboard and see on my wrist a bracelet that my little sister, Christiana (7), gave to me for Christmas. It has Matthew 22:37 on it:

 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  

She couldn’t have possibly known how much I love that verse, and how much it means to me. Oh, my aim is to love The Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind.

Father, give me Your heart to love You with…
I am totally incapable of loving You the way I should.

Ah, the Lord has been showing me much lately in the way of being at home and the selfishness of my heart. For some reason, I’ve always had this vision of when I get older I’ll suddenly be this super-amazing Christian.

Someday I want to pour myself out to others…
Someday I will be a joyful servant to all…
Someday I will show the love of Christ to every needy heart…
I will be ever so diligent and patient…
And whatever I do I will throw myself in wholeheartedly in service to the King.

But my Lord says, “No Grace, that’s who I want you to be right now–in your own home. I want you to invest in the lives of your siblings, and serve them joyfully.”

You see, it’s so easy to go to someone elses home, or church, and serve joyfully and be oh so “picture perfect.” It’s so easy to be a good Christian and pour myself out to others. But what about when I’m at home (when there is no one to impress)? Do I always give my very best? When something is asked of me–in my home–do I jump up to joyfully serve, and go the extra mile? So often I only give the minimum, and only that after a sigh.

If this is the case–if I only work and serve when there are those to praise me– then I am become one who works for the praise of man. Is that my pursuit? Is that what I’m living my life for?

Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. (Col. 3:22-24)

Oh! How convicting this passage is to me; for you see, I am one who thrives off of the praise and approval of man. To say I like people to think and say good things about me would be an understatement…so much of what I do is rooted in pride.

The whole fact that I care so much about what others think of me, shows a lack of love for God. If I truly did love God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind, then everything I did would flow out of a heart of love for God.  Instead is this pride and self focus…this is really a hard thing to admit.

Oh I want a servant’s heart.
A heart that thinks not of ones self, but considers others first…
A heart that is selfless and sacrificial…
A heart of all-consuming love, leaving no room for pride…
A heart where God has first place.

 The really sad thing is, everything that I do on earth with a motive of pride will burn up as hay and stubble when I get to heaven. That two seconds of praise that I worked for was my reward; I won’t get rewards for the things done out of a motive of pride. Oh! May every motive be inspired with love for Christ!

Lord, I want to live for You and love You more…I want to bring glory to You, not me. But I am so inadequate, oh help me!

He is helping me–ever so faithfully helping me, leading me, guiding me, and holding my hand. I am learning to serve Him and not man…and doing it heartily. No, I cannot give Him any less than my best. Anything He asks me to do I must throw my whole self into; whether it’s something small like doing laundry, dishes, mopping floors or something big like feeding the hungry, winning souls, going on the mission field. Whatever it is I am to do it heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto men.

There’s so much more I could say on this, but for fear of boring I’ll stop–for now. May you serve Christ, dear friend, joyfully, willingly, and heartily.

All for Christ’s glory (and not mine),

Grace

Psalm 16:11

Broken cisterns and Living Water

This morning I decided to start working my way through the book of Jeremiah, and thought I’d share some gems. Honestly, I chose Jeremiah because I thought that it would be a tough read with all of the judgments and prophecies in it. And I want to learn to love and delight in reading all of God’s Word, even if it’s a list of names; not just picking and choosing what I love to read out of it.

So before I began, I prayed. O Lord, show me something out of Your Word, anything. “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.”  He did not disappoint me.  

I suppose the first thing that made me stop and think was Jeremiah 1:5-9.

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

How wonderful is it to know that God formed me for a distinct purpose and plan. O Master, let me only follow the path that you have ordained for me…I need Your strength.

“Then said I, Ah Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.”

Often I feel so inadequate or too young to accomplish anything for God’s Kingdom. But see, little things like age or disability don’t stop God. Watch how God turns around and does something beautiful with little Jeremiah.

“But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for though shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. Then the Lord put forth His hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.”

O my Lord! Would You do the same thing with this little girl, as You did with Jeremiah? Would You touch my mouth, and put Your words in my mouth? Yes, even in this faltering, little mouth. Oh may everything these lips utter bring honor and glory to You…how often they do not.

These were good and encouraging, but just a warm up for Jeremiah 2:13:

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

After reading this verse I paused to reflect—something here seemed all too familiar. Forgive me as I fumble around for the words to describe what the Lord showed me through this. (This will be a very ruff explanation of what it means to me).

You see, God created us with a void inside that only He can fill. He created us for something exciting—a full and exciting relationship with Him. But so often, instead of pursuing a relationship with God, the Fountain of Living Waters, we set up idols–we hew out our cisterns. But the thing is, our cisterns are broken and cracked, and can’t hold any water. So what do we do? Out of desperation to feel full, we do the same pointless things over and over again. We spend countless hours on the computer, joking with friends, reading fiction, and etc. (These things in and of themselves aren’t bad necessarily, it’s when we let them become idols). But the water [fulfillment] only lasts for a short while, and then leaks out just as fast as it came in, leaving us dry, broken, and empty. A broken cistern is anything that you replace the Fountain of Living Waters with, good or bad: Friends, family, relationships, books, computer, school, drugs, addictions, etc…

I have seen this pattern many times in my life. First, I have substituted The Fountain of Living Water for a cheap imitation, a pathetic broken cistern. Then I try to fill the cisterns with something “exciting” (because having the Fountain of Living Waters coursing through your veins is thrilling, so we try to leave something “exciting” in its place). But it only fills me up for a short time because the cistern is broken, and holds no water. So I fell empty. And then I try to fill myself up more and more with the same things, but it only left me emptier still, and more broken than before. The only way to get out of this rapid cycle of emptiness is to replace your pathetic, broken cisterns with God’s Fountain of Living Water. I promise, when you do this you will become alive, full, and yes, your cup will run over.

            To me, this is such a beautiful picture. And I wouldn’t have seen it had I not asked the Lord to open my eyes. He is ever faithful to me; always answering my prayers when I pray according to His will. Hmm… Lord, I praise You and exalt Your name.

I don’t know if any this makes any sense to anyone but me. Often, what is the greatest find and treasure to me, is a simple fact to everyone else. But if perhaps, this does make sense, then join me as I examine myself for the cisterns that I have hewed out in my heart. And let us allow the Fountain of Living Water to flow out of our lives.

All for Christ’s glory,

Grace

Psalm 16:11