I was a born procrastinator. Much to my mother's chagrin I was born a year late. I was due in December 1981, but was born in January 1982. My mother was pregnant for 42 weeks. My parents missed the tax credit. I was expensive and caused pain from the beginning. They adored me anyway.
On more than one occasion I waited until the night before to tell my parents about a huge science fair project. I deserved a failing grade. My parents taught me mercy by pulling more than one all-nighter piecing together an acceptable project to turn in the next morning with bloodshot eyes.
Today I see God's mercy played out over and over again. We deserve to fail. We deserve punishment, but He loves, blesses and forgives.
My first born son's due date was December 29. He was born November 12. He came almost 8 weeks early. We were NOT prepared. My water broke spontaneously and he was born four hours later. Our baby showers were scheduled for later that month. We procrastinated in making any purchases for the baby until after we had a chance to inventory what we were generously gifted...which left us with little of what was needed when the little man arrived. We did not have a car seat to bring him home. There were no diapers, wipes or baby soaps in our possession. While we were given a hand-me-down crib, it was not assembled and we didn't own a mattress. I didn't have a hospital bag packed. I didn't buy any postpartum clothes or supplies. We still had two Lamaze classes left and I hadn't finished reading the third trimester pregnancy chapters in the book my doctor had given me, let alone the chapters on labor and delivery and infant care. We were caught completely unprepared.
God's grace showed up in the form of bags full of hand-me-down clothes, hospital visits from dear fiends and pastors, overwhelmingly generous baby gifts, a huge bag full of food and snacks to carry us through our NICU stay. His grace was seen through the expertise and gentle care of the doctors and nurses who cared for us. My dad came to the hospital every day to sit with the baby while I got a chance to shower and go to the cafeteria for food. Home cooked meals were delivered to our front door night after night. We had done nothing to deserve these gestures of love and generosity, yet they were given selflessly with joy. Grace given freely.
Procrastination doesn't pay, but mercy and grace are overwhelming. I learned my lesson. I just started the third trimester of my current pregnancy and my hospital bag is already packed. Now I buy, wrap and ship Christmas presents in July. I set goals to finish reports for work at least a week early. Our freezer is stocked with extra loaves of bread and a side of beef. Life is far more relaxing and pleasant when we prepare in advance and I'm learning to look for ways to extend Mercy and Grace to those around me.
The lesson is deeper than to-do lists and due dates. No one knows what tomorrow holds. Only God knows our individual expiration dates- when He will call us home. What is He calling us to for which we are procrastinating? Is there someone to forgive? Or perhaps we need to apologize and ask for forgiveness? Maybe we need to tell someone we love them...or more importantly, that God loves them. Maybe we need to tell someone about Jesus.
Brothers and Sisters let us put procrastination aside and pursue Grace and Mercy with everything in us. Time is fleeting!
P.S. Mom and Dad- I'm sorry it took so long for me to learn this lesson. Thank you for your patience!
Allow me to wax atrotheophilisophical for a moment. It’s six AM in the middle of January and I am currently sitting on the sand at Cannon Beach in Oregon. This isn’t the kind of beach where you go out and catch waves at the crack of dawn. The waves are far too small. This isn’t the kind of beach where you splash around in the water. The water is far too cold. This isn’t the kind of beach where you lay out and soak up rays in your bikini. Come on, it’s Oregon! No, this is the kind of beach where you stand and appreciate the wonder that is God.
I came out here by myself. I am literally the only one here as the sun is not quite up yet. It’s peaceful and quiet.
Yet amidst the peace, just a hundred feet away, waves are constantly crashing. Over and over, never stopping, even when I’m not hear to witness them. They come closer in and go farther out all day long with the tide. It’s a constant clash of water against land.
I look to my left. In the darkness, I can still make out the form of Haystack Rock rising up out of the water. That rock that the Goonies used to find One-Eyed Willie’s treasure now shows me the God doesn’t do things on a small scale. This rock towers over its surroundings, beckoning gawking eyes, curious children and thousands of selfies every day.
By even Haystack Rock seems small when I look up. On this clear morning, millions of stars greet me in a dusting of brilliance across the dark sky. The constellations are easy to spot so I took out my phones Star Map app and looked at what they all were. The ancients has some serious creativity when they thought three bright stars together looked like a man holding a sword. But then I realized, these are the same stars those ancients looked at thousands of years ago. They are ancient themselves and they were just given to us by a Creator for us to enjoy! God could have left the sky black or made the earth reflect more light or even made the stars as spots of light but he made them into their own suns with their own galaxies, each one sitting light years away from another!
The ocean, the rock and the stars are immense, spectacular, and beautiful. They did not just happen. This kind of thing takes some creativity and an overwhelming kind of genius to create it. I’m standing in literal awe of it this chilly morning.
I wonder if God does to? I wonder if God says “Hey, that came out pretty good!” or “Oh wow, that wave made a fantastic crash against Haystack Rock!” or, my favorite, “Wait until the humans discover this REALLY awesome star they haven’t even found yet!” Does God marvel at His creation like I do? It’s hard not to.
Now let this blow your mind: that same God who made the ocean that covers the globe and gives life and chaotic beauty, that same God who made Haystack Rock pop out of the ocean, that same God who made trillions of other astronomical bodies spread out so far that we may never discover them all before Jesus returns, is the same God that says “I love you and I want YOU to be my child!” I mean...WOW!! Just wow! I hate to be one of those guys that brags about what his father does for a living, but look outside... see that sky? MY Father made THAT!
I should probably finish because the sun is coming up and hiding the stars and the tide is getting really close to my feet. Let me encourage you with this: Just take a minute to look around and realize that this is all a gift from our Creator. Take a minute and think about how much is there that we can’t even see. Take a minute and thank God that He loves you enough to give it to you expecting nothing in return. Take a minute and say thank you
I have moments when I feel like an impostor. It often comes when I’m with a large group of people, even more often with the dreaded semi-organized-group-of-women events.
I turn off my car in the driveway and sit in the gathering darkness. I’m slightly late—intentionally. I exhale a hard sigh of resolution. Why did I agree to come?
And then I’m inside, in the warmth of a close group of bodies. I’m wondering where to sit—in that solitary chair by the door, or on the end of the couch by those women I don’t know? I’m wondering if I dressed appropriately, suddenly self-conscious of my wardrobe and the ways my body is slowly changing with age.
In the crowd of people I don’t know and partially-know, I feel awkward, like I don’t belong. What if they realize I’m not that cool? Not that stylish? Not that pretty? What if they realize I’m not as well read? That I haven’t actually read that philosopher or that work of classic literature? What if my jokes aren’t funny? What if…?
I’m worried of being found a fraud. I’m worried of once again being the awkward elementary school girl, sitting with her back to a brick wall, with the latest message that her friends have moved on to others.
My insecurities make me long to be seen. They also make me fear what people will see. So much of my focus can be consumed by what I am presenting to others—am I beautiful, engaging, funny, smart-but-not-too-smart? I can spend so much energy trying to make myself seen. I fear being overlooked or invisible.
If I close my eyes, I can see myself there, sitting on a grassy hill behind the church. Winter had finally released its clutches, and the grass was vibrant in its new growth. I sat with my knees pulled to my chest, my heart full of questions. Why couldn’t I escape these insecurities? What drove them, feeding them with the rumbling of my empty stomach? What would set my mind free?
The words came then, clear, loudly inaudible: Look at Me, Diana.
My eyes shot up from the ground. And in a moment that proved that real life can have even more contrivance than fiction, my eyes, shifting from the earth, focused on a rough wooden cross that stood hitherto unseen before me.
The thoughts came like a flood. That when my eyes were focused on Him—on Christ my Savior, His love bleeding out—I could see myself rightly. I could see how loved I was, how seen I was. I was set free from my need for perfection, of the need to prove my worth. If I looked at Him—not at myself and not at the imagined gaze of my fellow students and friends—all the clamoring voices demanding I be good enough fell silent.
And that’s when the second phrase cut in—disarmingly clear: Make them seen. Make them known.
Since that afternoon, years ago, I’ve taken those words as a sense of calling. Look at Me, Diana, and make them seen and known. In my moments of clarity and obedience, I’ve turned my own desires to be seen and known by others, to be noticed and applauded, and turned that energy and concern towards making sure others are known and seen.
My Father in Heaven turns His eyes to me. He is the God who sees. He sees me—the best parts and the worst parts of who I am—and He delights in me as His child. This offers me the security to be free of people-pleasing, approval, and the desperate desire to be noticed and lauded by my fellow humans.
I’ve come to realize that most of us are secretly afraid inside—afraid of what people will think, afraid of what they’ll see, afraid of what they’ll do when they see us. Most of us are like little children, looking over our shoulders to see if someone is watching as we play and twirl and jump.
We put on a show in the hopes of being noticed. We drive ourselves to unrealistic standards of perfection. We obsess over the perception of our bodies, our brains, our achievements. And we cover up the parts of ourselves that could give any hint of our failure, weakness, or imperfection…of our humanity.
So when I find myself in those situations when my insecurities rise like floodwaters, drowning out my joy, drowning my ability to love my neighbor, I try to call myself back to the love that seeks to consider others more important than myself. I work to make them seen.
I listen to stories. I ask them of their family, their work, their play. I look for the delight on their face and chase after it. I try to set aside my pride and be more concerned with making them the most important person in the room, the star, the seen-one. I practice hospitality—the spirit of welcome that meets people as they are.
And, in God’s ironic way, I don’t have to stifle those insecurities—they simply quiet and fade away. And I’m free to be who I am. I’m freed from my introspection and navel-gazing. I’m free to love.
Find more of Diana's encouragement at her blog www.dianagruver.com
Wall of Faith: Tara
Today my husband had to get up at 3AM to be at work at 4AM. He was to drive to a location north of Seattle (about 4 hours from where we live) and pick up a large load of steel and sheet metal for his work. He frequently drives for work as he has his CDL license. So off he went with a 40 foot trailer. He didn't check in as often through the day as he normally does. I knew he would have a stressful day and didn't bug him. He sent me a text around 11AM saying that he had arrived and was loading. Hoped to be on the road within the hour to head home.
I didn't hear from him again until 4pm, when he sent me a photo of his truck and trailer loaded to the gills. It looked like a very heavy complicated load. Made me nervous for him just looking at the photo. I also was aware of what time it was, as when you drive with your CDL for work, there are certain rules that tell you how long you can be on the road or "on shift" before you are required to take a 10 hour rest break to sleep. He was pushing it. We talked on the phone briefly before he headed home and I asked if he should stop and stay the night before heading home. He was irritable and really just wanted to be home. "No" he said, "I'm just going to drive straight home." "I didn't get on the road till 6 or so, so I'm okay, I just want to be home." "Okay" I said, "Just be careful and stop if you get tired. If you're close enough to home I'll come get you and you can leave the truck." This was 4:30pm. We hung up and I left work to go pick up our girls.
It was POURING outside. I mentioned to a coworker as I left "hope you're not made of sugar!" and we laughed at the image of him melting when he walked outside. I drove in the pouring rain about 25 minutes to get my youngest. She's still in daycare. I shared my concerns for Josh with my daycare provider. They are like family and were also concerned. We both hoped for the best and I headed off to get my other daughter. I told Avery, my youngest, to say some prayers for her daddy when we were in the car driving to get her sister. I prayed with her and we asked God to keep her Papa safe (I had said "pray for your Dad" and Avery says "You mean Josh?" haha! She is a card). We prayed that he would keep Pop awake as he drove, and help him to make it home safe and sound. We arrived back in Ridgefield, and picked up Shelby, my eight year old. On the way home I shared with her that her Pop had had a hard day and we needed to pray for him to make it home safely. The girls and I arrived home. I had this overwhelming feeling that we needed to pray for my husband right at that moment. I stood with my girls by the backdoor and we held hands. We stood in a little circle, as I reminded them that the bible tells us "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them"(Matthew 18:20) We prayed in turn for Josh's safety. For him to be protected, for God to watch over him as he drove home. To help him drive in the dark and wet weather we were having, as he doesn't like driving at night. To keep him awake and let him arrive home safely.
I knew he would be home super late, and his typically Monday chores would need to be done. I enlisted the girls and talked to them about how we are a team, and our family helps each other, and we are going to do our chores, and Pop's chores too. Avery set in unloading the dishwasher and Shelby cleaned cat boxes. I rounded up trash and we took out the recycling.
10 minutes later I hear my phone, it's a text from Josh, I can tell by the ring tone. It just says "Call me". My heart sinks into the pit of my stomach. I call him "I'm in trouble" he starts in. He had stopped on the side of the freeway, as his load shifted on the trailer from the wind. As he's stopped trying to tighten down his load a state trooper pulled up behind him. A piece of metal had come loose and had come off the trailer. There had been an accident a few miles back. He didn't have many details, just knew that he had to stay put and was waiting to hear from the state trooper who had gone to check on the accident, and also waiting to hear from his employer. I could hear the panic in his voice. He wasn't coming home tonight, we both knew that. His load was unsafe. He explained that it was a lot of sheet metal, which bends and flexes and he had tried his best to secure it. He didn't even know that a piece had been lost. The state trooper had escorted him to a safe parking lot where he could call me.
Being so far away from him and not able to be there to help is an awful feeling. I was instantly angry that this had even happened to him. I had prayed, the girls had prayed. Come ON God! Where are you? How can you leave him on the side of the road? He could have been killed! Someone else may have been killed, we don't even know! UGH! I was so angry for him, and terrified for him too.
I tried to comfort him, reminding him that he was covered by the insurance of the company he works for. That even if there was an accident, that the insurance would cover everything. He may get a ticket because of what happened, but that would be all that we would have to deal with. And we can handle that. "What can I do to help??" I asked him. He needed a hotel room for the night. He didn't know where he was even. Some park and ride along the freeway.
He had to go and take a call from his employer, I checked his location on my phone, (THANKFULLY we share locations with each other, and I could see right where he was, and was able to find a hotel room just up the street). I reserved him a room. He called back, and I suggested he get an uber to the hotel if he was unable to drive the truck. He did just that, and called me again once he had checked in, taken a shower, and had a moment to rest.
The state trooper had come back after we had hung up the phone before he had left for the hotel. She brought back the piece of sheet metal that he lost. The car that it hit had a broken windshield. Nobody was hurt. She said "His insurance will be calling your employers insurance" and she left. She didn't write him a ticket. Everybody was okay. He was okay, and safe in a hotel room.
We got off the phone and I just started crying. I had been so angry in that moment when I heard what had had happened, that I didn't stop and realize that God had answered my prayers.
Josh was safe. Nobody was hurt. He wasn't out driving in the dark and crazy weather. He's able to rest and sleep. He has people coming tomorrow to help him transfer some of the load to another truck and get it all home safely. And that in the exact moment that Josh was risking his life on the side of a freeway with cars zinging by in the dark and pouring rain.. his family was huddled together in prayer, asking God to keep him safe. And God was listening.
And you know what? He did just that. Sometimes answers to our prayers don't look like we think they should. Sometimes he answers our prayers and we don't even realize it. I truly believe that we were all part of a miracle tonight. We trusted Jesus to keep our loved one safe, and what could have happened, didn't. Josh could have been stuck on the side of the road. The vehicle that hit the metal from his truck could have been killed. That vehicle could have hit somebody else and it could have been horrific. I'm sure whoever is in that car probably isn't too happy that I'm sharing his broken windshield as an answer to my prayers, but it really is.
When you pray, be prepared to be awed. Be prepared to hear God's answer, as HE decides to deliver it. It may not come wrapped up in a perfect bow. He may not fix everything that's broken, and he may not right every wrong. But he does hear our prayers and he does answer them. Sometimes the answer is "no." Sometimes it's "not right now." Sometimes it's what we least expect, and feels like a travesty. But in reality, it's exactly what we needed in that moment.
As I did my morning walk at the Mall today, I took notice of all the merchants who were setting up for their daily business behind the locked metal gates and mesh screens. And a truth hit me! They are so brave and courageous!
My thoughts had just so happened to be on the events that have happened over the last couple months: Las Vegas, New York, Denver, and a simple church in Texas. We hear of mall shootings, church shootings, school shootings, and the list is endless. Yet, somehow, we as people still have the courage to not let these things stop us from living life!
“God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (I Timothy 1:7)
We are born with distinct coding in our DNA. We can gloss over the fact we have certain traits or bents. We can deny it. We can fight against it, even with some success. But it doesn’t change the fact that the coding is still there.
We are created in God’s image. Period! We have the spiritual DNA of faith. We can gloss over it, deny it, and even fight against it, but it doesn’t change the fact that God’s coding is still in us. It is prevalent everywhere we turn as we see people still moving forward with courage regardless of the adverse and painful events that hit our lives.
Getting up in the morning…. Takes courage.
Going to work and school… Takes courage.
Seeing a therapist or counselor… Takes courage.
Taking care of our families when we may be battling a health problem… Takes courage.
Attending a sports event regardless of past bombings… Takes courage.
Playing in a sports event regardless of past crippling sports injuries… Takes courage.
Paying of a debt…. Takes courage.
Going to the grocery store regardless of past robberies and shootings… Takes courage.
Driving a vehicle regardless of past deadly car accidents… Takes courage.
Saying hi to a stranger… Takes courage.
And the list continues……
The words from the chorus of a recent Skillet song have sunk so deep into my spirit… “If we’re gonna fly, we fly like eagles
Arms out wide.
If we’re gonna fear, we fear no evil
We will rise.
By your power, we will go
By your spirits, we are bold
If we’re gonna stand, we stand as giants
If we’re gonna walk, we walk as lions
We walk as lions.
And how does a lion walk? Always aware and always ready, but not afraid. We still take precautions…. But not in fear.
Next time you feel fear, remember your Godly wiring.
The devil may think he has won a battle, and my heart aches for those precious people whose flames were snuffed out way too prematurely. But, good still somehow surfaces through it all… and ultimately, God already won the war a long time ago.
Wall of Faith: Katie
My precious cousin shares her story this week for Wall of Faith via a YouTube interview. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in for an amazing story of redemption. Jesus seeks to save the lost - and he loves us all.
At almost four years old, my little boy zooms around the house in a cape and yells "Super hero to the rescue!" When I bring home groceries he proclaims, "I'm strong! I can carry that for you Mom!" And goes to grab the biggest box in the trunk. He loves to test his ever growing strength by wrestling with his Daddy. When he can tell that I'm distraught, he pats my back and tells me,"Don't worry Mom. Dad and I will protect you." He's my little Super Man and he melts my heart. He's my gift from God. We are overjoyed to announce that God is sending him a sidekick this spring.
One day you will learn that Superman was the figment of imagination of two teenage boys in the 1930's. You'll realize that Star Wars is fun, but fake. I pray that someday you will grow up and put childish things away and find true heroes. Men who really lived. My sons, may you make these men your role models-
Have limitless faith like Abraham. When things seem impossible, know that all things are possible through Him.
Know how to apologize and forgive like Jacob and Esau. Brothers are a gift. Take care of each other.
Listen to your elders and take their advice like Moses listened to his Father-in-Law Jethro. Listen to your Dad, Grandpas, Uncles and Pastors. They are good men. Follow in their footsteps.
Choose your friends wisely like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Stick together. It's easier to take a stand when your friends are holding you accountable.
When others mock your faith, keep believing and obeying like Noah. God will keep his promises.
Persevere and live with integrity like Joseph. Do the right thing even when it's hard and it seems like no one is looking. God sees all.
Be humble and give wise counsel like Mordechai. Be aware of world events and act on behalf of those in your care. Know others are watching your example.
Do not try to live on your own strength and abilities. Know that the joy of the Lord is your strength and point to God as the source of your talents like Sampson ultimately did.
Face your giants with courage knowing God is the one who fights your battles like David. Like him, be a man after God's own heart. Live your life after his lead and care for the weak like David took care of Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth.
May God give you wisdom like Solomon. Don't ever be afraid to ask for guidance from God. Read, memorize and apply the book of Proverbs.
Be like Boaz. May you earn the respect of your co-workers and neighbors and respond generously to those in need. Love each member of your family well.
Bravely take on big, God-size challenges and stand back and watch God do the impossible like Elijah. But know that Elijah needed food, sleep and rest. You need this too. Eat healthy, exercise, brush and floss, go to bed at a decent time, nap...take care of yourself. You are a temple of the Living God.
Superman had his weakness. Kryptonite was his downfall. These biblical men were far from perfect. Some lied, cheated, some committed adultery and others murder...They were sinners. But they all believed in the one true God. Their lives and stories pointed to the ultimate Hero- our Savior, our Redeemer- Jesus.
When you struggle with pride or frustration with life, wrestle with God like Jacob.
When you question God's plans and directions, inquire him like Gideon and praise him like Job.
When you doubt the faith, test the evidence like Thomas.
Speak truth boldly like Peter and Paul. Encourage others like Barnabas. Hold unswervingly to the faith, no matter the cost, like Stephen.
Know that these heroes really lived. Follow their lead. All of these men are heroes of faith. My prayer is that you will both be counted among them.
A little over a week ago I threw my lower back out. Bad! It was literally crippling at first. After a few days of being completely out of commission, my crowning glory grew to being able to make three cups of hot cocoa and getting through an entire shower.
Mobility is returning gradually and I have been able to introduce more normal activities slowly each day. I celebrate these moments!
Last Friday, my dear friend, Kathy, accompanied me to Costco to help me with the stooping and lifting as I pushed and leaned on the cart. I could have washed that woman’s feet! I must say, I have recently fallen in love with grocery carts and have a whole new appreciation for them!
As we sauntered down the cereal aisle we passed by some boxes of Annie’s Toaster Pastries.
Me: “Toaster Pastries!”
Kathy: “Annie’s too!”
Me: “Healthy Toaster Pastries!”
Me: “ No! I must resist. We are watching our spending to pay for Sheppard’s schooling and conquer debt. Toaster Pastries are not a necessity.”
We head on down the aisle and turn onto the next aisle where low-and-behold a Costco worker was stocking shelves, and what was one of the items waiting patiently to be stocked? You guessed it! Annie’s boxes of Toaster Pastries.
I shot Kathy an “Oh!” look.
Me: “Must resist.”
We then make our way to the following aisle and wouldn’t you know? God sent an angel in the form of a young man who was serving samples of…. Yes! …. Annie’s Toaster Pastries!
Me: “It’s a sign.”
Kathy: “ Yes, it is.”
Me: “ Three times now.”
Kathy: “ Yes.”
Me: “ Three….Trinity….. I’m supposed to buy these Toaster Pastries.”
Kathy, bursts out laughing.
So, yes, I left Costco that beautiful, sun-shiny rays from heaven, September day with a lovely, brightly colored box of Healthy Annie’s Toaster Pastries.
As I relayed my (ahem) “God-led” journey to Annie’s Toaster Pastries to my husband, Mark, he responded with a laugh, “ Now, that is quirky faith!”
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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