Tuesday, January 31, 2017

God Is Not a Librarian

I suppose I better write about the first lesson associated with sow before I get too behind. We're already on to the second lesson, but it might be awhile before I can put words to that one.

As I've mentioned, sow is my word of the year.

Well, more like a version of sow.


Sow means to plant (seed) by scattering it in or on the earth. I like that. I like doing things with my hands, baking, crocheting, creating. Sowing.

I like to not just sow something for the heck of it. I like results. You take flour, sugar, butter, salt, and a little almond extract and you can make the most delicious shortbread cookies. Warm and flaky and buttery.


But you don't just throw the ingredients into a bowl...you sow them.

I am a sower.

But I am also sown.

See the God of the universe, the One who created me in His image, He loves me so much that He won't leave me the same. He sows things into me to make me who He created me to be. The me before sin, the me after redemption.

He sows things like love. joy. peace.

And grace.

He is teaching me that grace can be sown.

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about how sometimes we feel we need to have things a little (ok, a LOT) more put together. Especially when it comes to devotion time with the Lord.

We've both been through some major life changes the past year (marriage and babies...me the marriage, her the baby), so, naturally, life will look a little different.

We need adjustment time.

I encouraged her to give herself some grace as she adjusted.

Later that night, I was thanking God for the grace period following major life change.

And I realized something about grace.

It's not a grace period.

It's grace. Period.

God is not a librarian giving you a grace period. (But thank you to librarians everywhere for that wonderful 5 day grace period. Does that actually still exist?)

The God of your soul is giving you grace. Heaps of it. Every day. Forever.

No grace period needed.

I don't know about you, but that makes me take a deep deep breath...in...and...out.

He isn't going to start fining you for needing Him 6 months into your marriage when you are still finding your rhythm.

He isn't going to charge you for not sitting with him for uninterrupted lengthy periods of time every day right after having a baby (or when you don't have a baby, for that matter).

He isn't going to add to your tab when you open Candy Crush for the 18th time in a day instead of YouVersion.

He will give you grace. Period.

Grace to learn how to grow relationships as home and family shift.

Grace to learn how to incorporate time with Him into every day tasks.

Grace to learn how to tune into His voice as the voice of a crying, babbling, cooing little one suddenly enters your world.

Grace to learn how to embrace humility and retrain old habits.

What area of your life do you need to recognize as covered in grace?

Where are you sitting in guilt or shame and instead could be walking in freedom?

Where are you feeling less-than or overwhelmed and need to just surrender to the One who holds all things together so we can let all things go?

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Squirrel Watching

This morning I got to sit in my favorite spot and have devotion time. The spot that took awhile to find. The spot where I feel relaxed and open and cozy (but not too cozy). There are a few reasons why it's my favorite place in our house to spend time with God.

It's the holiest room in our house.

Sound strange? Let me explain. We were encouraged in our pre-marital counseling to make our bedroom the holiest place in the house. A protected space. A technology free space (goodbye treadmill and TV). Aside from a few lamps for practicality, it is candles and clean lines and clutter-free. It is a sanctuary. With soft grays and creams and yellows, a few accents of lively green. And don't forget the blackout curtains (if you ask me, they're a must).

But those blackout curtains cover a glorious window that overlooks a wooded area behind our house.

Reason number two why this cozy spot is my favorite: a view of nature.

If I prop a few pillows up at the end of the bed, it's the perfect place to sit and gaze out the window while I read, journal, think, chat with God. In the morning the sun streams in and it almost feels like God is washing me clean, warming me with His presence, filling me with peace before sending me out into this world.

This morning there was no sun. I awoke to an overcast and rather gloomy day. But you know what? These days are some of my favorite. There is something energizing about them for me. For some reason I feel the space and capacity to be in my own thoughts. I don't feel guilty about not going outside. I can stay in and be and do and think. Oh man, am I ever an introvert!

As I sat in my spot this morning, my gaze drifted out to the woods. On days like these, it's easy to pick up any movement, any little critter that might be scurrying along or fluttering by. You don't have the rays of sun to shield your view.

I was reading Psalm 139 (one of my all-time favorite chapters of the Bible). It about how God formed me, created me, knows me. (If you haven't read it, go do it...right now.) As I let God's reminder of these words sow into my soul, I looked out to watch a squirrel on our fence.

I love watching the movements of animals. They can be so graceful, confident, unsure, powerful. In the case of the squirrel: funny and quirky. His movements were jumpy and skittish. But I watched in delight from my cozy spot. Knowing he had no idea anyone was interrupting his morning scavenging.

I was just admiring God's creation, His handiwork. His creativity. His beauty.

In a squirrel.

And then it hit me: this creature was most certainly created by God and deemed by Him "good."

But what about us? Humans? Man and woman? We were created in His image. And deemed by Him "very good." (Check out Genesis 1.)

Do I look at humans and see "very good?" Do I admire the way we were created, our unique personalities, our character traits, our genes?

The way we were ALL created in His image.

It reminds me of a time with my mom and sister. We were on a family vacation in Maine (which also happens to be my favorite spot in the US). We had a little time to kill as we waited for my dad and brother to join us for dinner - at Rosalie's, I'm sure. It is after all my favorite pizza place on the planet. (This was back in the days before cell phones were widespread and you had to just set a time and place to meet up later in the day and whether or not you were ready or had ample time to kill, you met at that pre-determined time and place...crazy, right?!)

The three of us were sitting on a park bench on the side of a street filled with shops in the quaint town of Bar Harbor. It was a busy summer evening with many passersby. We were chatting and people-watching which led to chatting about the people we were watching...in not the most positive way.

And then my mom challenged us: what if we came up with one positive thing to say about every person that walked by. What if we left the negativity and judgment out of it and focused on a beautiful feature.

It was so. much. fun.

Older retired couples, younger couples, families on vacation, dread-donning hippie college students, townspeople, workers.

Something positive about them all.

That memory has stuck with me all these years. And I was reminded of it again this morning while watching the squirrel.

We are all created in God's image, the most beautiful, holy, perfect being of all.

Do I see that?

Do I love people for how God created them?

Do I look at them and really see God's beauty?

Do you?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The List

This whole idea of goals for 2017 has me all tangled. I love making goals. I love lists. And crossing things off lists.

But I sit down to write goals for 2017 and I'm stuck. I've made lists of goals for the year before. I even crossed a few things off the list. But this year is different. I find myself waffling. Feeling directionless. Undefined.

Maybe it's because I know myself well and how I leave lists unfinished. And this one matters. It's significant. I want to be better. I want to actually complete the list. But...it's me. The one who doesn't have her mess together. The one who doesn't always live with consistency. I can manage to brush my teeth twice a day and floss every day. EVERY DAY. And yet I can't seem to manage other small tasks that would bring great change in my life. Consistently.

Or maybe it's because of so much change last year. I took on a new last name, on one of the most joyous days of my entire life! I said goodbye to life as a Cooper and became Mrs. Perry. Stephen and I celebrated 6 months of marriage on January 1st - and what an incredible 6 months they have been! So many joys, a lot of focus as we've learned to be students of each other, a lot of growth, surrender, prayer, the list goes on an on. And somehow, in the changes of a new name, a new home, a new role and title, I'm finding myself the same.

The same sin. The same disappointments. The same failures (and gratefully, I know failure is not final). There was mess and grossness that covered me as a Cooper. And wouldn't you know it, it's there as a Perry too.


I became acutely aware of this when my introverted self needed to be extroverted for a very extended period of time.

I became emotional, weary, needy, selfish, grumpy, short. A whole list of things I'd like to never see in myself again.

I had that moment where the realization hit: I don't really like me.

I don't say that to be overdramatic. Or negative.

But the reality is, in my sin and brokenness...I am gross.

Sitting with God in my sin is something I'd rather not do. It's not a comfortable place to be. It's painful and messy and it sucks. To be honest, I don't do it very often. Not near often enough. But repentance is a necessity. Something I'd like to do more of in 2017 (goal #1?).

And the unbelievable part is that God doesn't leave me to sit in my sin. (Hallelujah!!!)

He covers my naked, vulnerable, prostrate, helpless, broken self with His righteousness. (Thank you to my incredible accountability partner for this gentle reminder last night.)

His grace.

He makes me to walk with strength and dignity.

That is only possible through the hope of His Son, Jesus Christ, because there is nothing strong or of dignity in me...on my own. (I am reminded of this at 5:30 am when I roll out of bed to start a 12 hour shift...no matter how I might try to perform...the strength just isn't there.)

But with Him I am made new.

And that's really what I'd like to be.

Made new. Consistently.

I went back to my still empty list of "2017 Goals" and thought, what would it look like to be the person I want to be, the person God wants me to be? Who is that? What does she look like? 

She looks like a whole lot more discipline.

And she walks with a whole lot more patience...for herself and others.

And she'd have to live in grace.

That word. Grace. It is probably the most complex word I know. It is a word where you can read the meaning and think you understand, but you really have no idea what it means. Until you need it. Heaps of it. Again and again and again.

And then you think you've got it. Grace. I am covered in grace. I walk in grace.

And then you realize an even deeper need for it and you wonder if you ever really understood it to begin with!

Enter: my word of the year.


Oh, sweet Jesus, would you sow grace into me? Would you make me a garden where grace is sown. Make my life graceful.

Grace. Full.

I am reminded of a year ago when we attended Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker. Watching the ballerinas? Talk about grace! I wrote about it here.

That is a new version of me. A me where grace is sown.

So my goals are still being written. I struggle to release my vision and embrace God's. Sometimes our goals don't always align.

wake up early every day.
be productive.
get things done.
finish lists.
blog more.
read more.
exercise more.
eat healthier.
budget better.
think with more focus.
journal more.
love your job.
be a better wife, daughter, sister, friend.
have a consistent morning routine.
have a consistent nightly routine.
disciple more.
protect simplicity.
more Jesus.
more grace.

That's my list of unmeasurable goals. Basically every area of my life could use change. That's encouraging. But it's a start. Now I take that list and let God have His way with it.

He can cross things off. Add to it.

Heck, He might even crumple the whole thing up and start fresh.

A fresh start? That sounds nice. Thank you, Lord, for mercies every morning (Lamentations 3:23).

I will surrender and sit in His grace and ask Him to write my "2017 Goals" list. Maybe then, by His grace and the power of His Spirit, I might actually complete it.