Where’s The Grace?

Do you remember the Wendy’s commercial from the 80’s with the grumpy old lady bellowing out, “Where’s The Beef?!”

That got me thinking about the demands and conditions we put on our relationships. In a desperate effort to get our own needs met and demands fulfilled we neglect this key area in our relationships and so I ask the question, “where’s the grace?!”

As a therapist, I have the great privilege of walking through some of life’s most fragile moments with people; death, divorce, infertility, parenting, as well as addictions and marriage counseling. Regardless of the issue a client comes in with I am seeing a common thread…grace.

While we are all sinners and all desire God’s unmerited grace toward us, we have become stingy with extending grace to others and to ourselves.
We hoard it as if it were a discontinued item on the clearance aisle. We insist that others earn the very grace that God so freely lavished on us or worse, we justify why the person is not entitled to it at all.

So just what does it look like to withhold grace?

1. Expecting/demanding something from the other person that you are not willing to reciprocate.
2. Being unwilling to forgive or accept personal responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behavior.
3. Taking responsibility or blaming yourself for things outside of your control.
4. Refusal to accept the other person for who they are and where they are in the process.

This is dangerous territory.

We may attempt to justify withholding grace due to our own deep hurts and wounds; other times it is the direct result of sinful choices. In either case it grieves Gods heart when we refuse to extend the grace that has been lavished on us so freely.

How have you experienced…

Grace withheld by another?

Grace freely given?

God’s lavish grace?

Let me know what you think about withholding grace and how that has impacted you and your relationships.

The Spaces In Between

It was the summer I turned seven. The youngest of four, I was skinny, quiet and afraid. This day seemed like many other summer days I had known, and yet it is etched in my memory.

I knew what awaited me and yet lacked the ability to control my own fate.

As I lay on the big four – poster bed that dwarfed my room, I could hear the sound of kids playing through the open window. I wished I could join them, but that was not my decision to make and I knew better than to fight it.

I remember the feeling of cool sheets and a breeze from the open window as it fluttered around me, gently sweeping over my skin and through my hair.

I think it is this moment of tenderness and peace amongst the dread that stands out in my memory the most.

From my place on the bed, I watched the breeze blowing the curtains. They floated with ease and grace as they danced with the wind creating intriguing shadows in the afternoon sun.

Warm summer winds filled my room with the sweet smell of freshly cut grass mixed with the lingering scent of fabric softener on my pillowcase.

These sweet aromas were a stark contrast to the putrid smell of sweat, hot breath and angry words.

As I lay there with veiled tears and bitter pain, I would retreat to a place where no one could hurt me.

In my imagination I would fill my room from floor to ceiling, using up every molecule of empty space. I would stack beds, dressers, desks, lamps, bookshelves, bicycles and anything I could think of to protect myself.

This was the game I played in my mind to protect my heart and soul from the devastation that was being done to my body.

I felt broken, dirty, damaged, lost and ashamed. Worse than that, I had no words.

As I attempted to fill the spaces in between, I was unaware that there was another force at work in my life; this force was the Lord God Jehovah-Rapha.

It would be many years before I would come to know God and begin a relationship with Him, but I see how He protected me, provided for me and prepared me for life in Christ.

As I look back, I see Gods fingerprints all over my life. It is not the life I would have chosen but I know that God has redeemed my circumstances for His glory.

God has taken a fragile, broken, lost little girl and has redeemed and restored me. He has grown me into a woman who loves Him deeply. God has created in me, a heart to know and love Him and to help others find wholeness, health and healing through a relationship with Christ Jesus.

So friends, I hope if you find yourself in a broken, shattered or fragile place, that you will seek the One who can redeem any circumstance or situation.

God can restore us heart and soul and bring us to a place of healing, when we surrender our hearts to Him and allow the Lord to have His way with us.

I know it is difficult to trust after betrayal and hurt, and so does God. He gave His one and only Son Jesus as a sacrifice so that we could live in right relationship with Him.

He knows a thing or two about trust… will you trust Him with your heart today?

I’ve Become My Mother!

My mom is one of the most extraordinary women I know. She has handled the storms of life with strength, grace and resilience. I have learned so much just from watching the way my mom has chosen to live her life despite her circumstances.

I am fortunate to live near my mom and enjoy the benefits of a close relationship. My mom is one of my best friends and I am so thankful for her and the time we can spend together.

As I raise my own daughter I often find myself saying, “Oh my gosh, I’ve become my mother!”
When I was younger I would have been offended, but now that I am older and wiser I am proud to be like my mom.
So…I’ve decided to share some pearls of wisdom I have learned over the years.

Be kind to animals – they give love unconditionally.

Make your bed everyday, because it feels better crawling into a made bed at night

Clean your fingernails and take good care of your hands – it helps you make a good first impression.

Say Please and Thank You – people are nicer to you when you are nice first.

Be generous. Someone else always has it worse than you do. So buy the girl scout cookies, the candy bar and put your change into the bucket at Christmas when the Salvation Army volunteers are ringing the bell outside of WalMart.

Work hard; give your best effort it says a lot about your character.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, you can’t do everything by yourself.

What goes around comes around. This one took me along time to fully understand – but boy was she right on this!

Say I love you to your kids; your husband and your parents because you never know when it will be the last time you say it.

Be a person of your word. Do what you say, and say what you do.

Be kind to the grocery checker, the waitress who brings your food and the customer service person at the store. They might be having a bad day too, and their job is no less important than yours.

Money cannot buy class.

Once in a while have the cheeseburger, fries AND the milkshake.

Don’t forget where you come from.

Treat people the way you want to be treated.

Chose to take the high road.

Forgive, Forgive, Forgive.

I love you mom…Happy Mother’s Day!

Forgiveness

We’ve all heard the saying forgive and forget.

The Lord God Jehovah-Shalom (means The Lord is Peace) is our ultimate example of forgiveness.

He loves us with such immensity that He chose sacrificial love as the vehicle to bring about reconciliation.

Forgiveness is more than just a nicety in life it is a necessity.

The bible says in Psalms 103:12 that when God forgives “He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west” and that “He remembers our sin no more” Isaiah 43:25.

When we sin against God and confess our hearts before Him, He forgives. More than that He does not hold it over our head when we sin again. There is no, “I knew you’d blow it again” from the Lord and that is a huge relief.

On a day-to-day basis most of us are more than capable of forgiving and forgetting. We can handle the run of the mill offences and transgressions. We are able forgive and remember no more what had been said or done.

What happens when we can’t or won’t forgive?

How do we handle ourselves when there is a major offense? What do we do with the deep hurts, the personal infringements that are affronts to our character and the betrayals that level us leaving us incapacitated, sucking air and wondering what just hit us?

Relationships are hard and people are unpredictable. Infidelity, divorce, betrayal, disappointment, gossip and manipulation are but a few of the scenarios that leave us wounded and hurting.

When we are wounded deeply many of us implode. Sometimes when the hurt is so great, we curl up and we begin the slow process of becoming overtaken by hurt and bitterness. We die emotionally and spiritually because we refuse treatment from the Great Physician.

Sometimes we get stuck and we are unable to get past the offense. We choose to hold onto the hurt. We carry it around with us and we make a choice to remember.

Not only do we choose not to forgive, but we also choose to remember…with great clarity and detail the offense. We can bring it up the scenario in a nano second and before we know it we are back in that place of hurt.

I know of what I speak.

I was hurt deeply many years ago by a person I considered to be a close friend. The hurt eventually caused us to step out of friendship with each other.
I had forgiven her and yet it still hurt. I justified my reasons for how I felt. Yet, I failed to acknowledge my role. My responsibility was to forgive and forget.
Over the years we lost touch and I eventually put this hurt out of my mind.

So, just this week I had coffee with this same person who I had been hurt by many years ago. The purpose for our get together was something all together different.

Toward the end of our time together she asked me if I remembered that conversation from years gone by. Truth be told, I was ashamed because I remembered it too well. She began to set the table for me as to her mindset during that time. It helped me understand her perspective better. She apologized for what she said and how she behaved and then proceeded to ask for my forgiveness.

I was stunned.

I had a decision to make. This time I had to decide if I was really willing to forgive AND forget.

Today I choose forgiveness and pray that God gives me the grace to remember no more.
There is great freedom in forgiveness.

If you find yourself in conflict or unable to forgive, check out these links below as a place to start.

May the God of Peace grant you the ability to remember No more.

Grace & Peace ~ Karen

Forgiveness is a choice R. Enright Ph.D.

Forgive for Good Dr. Fred Luskin

The Peacemakers – Ken Sande

Guest Blogger – Lori Hanson

Today we welcome to “the couch” my first ever guest blogger – Lori Hanson

I have the privilege of knowing Lori from church and recently got to hear her share her story at our women’s retreat. I know you will be as touched by Lori’s writing as I am. She is real, raw and transparent as she shares her journey with Jesus, from mud cakes to lavished grace.

The song playing is called “Beautiful Things” by Gungor – this was part of Lori’s inspiration for her writing.
The media player can be found at the bottom of this post.
Here is a brief introduction from Lori – ENJOY!

Being a stay-at-home mom meant living on a limited budget. I quickly learned the art of treasure hunting at Garage Sale and Thrift Stores.
Ok, the thrill of the hunt for a bargain, borders on addiction for me.
The other day I came across a beautiful edition of the story of Pinnochio. As I reread it, I was reminded of how much I connect with his character.
He too was formed by his Master who lovingly crafted every details of his being.
Pinnochio’s embarks on a journey to prove his significance and he runs into some shady characters along the way.
They boast that they’ve much better things to offer him then his father can provide. He chooses to believe them only to find out they were worthless lies. In the end he realizes that life begins and ends in the arms of a Beloved FATHER.

This got me to thinking and I wrote in my journal the following thoughts called:

OUT OF THE DUST
by Lori Hanson

Mud cakes, dirty confections – oxymoron statements, sweet and putrid lumped together. How does he take broken things, vile things and make them beautiful?

Is it my presentation of ragged perfection or His inner cleansing making me new? He uses base ingredients to bring forth life nourishing elements.

The enemy, father of lies, in fairy godmother clothes, says you are just a “little puppet made of pine. Wake unto me and the gift of life will be thine.”

So I open my mind and soul to the falsehood that life comes only to the brave, truthful and unselfish.
In my good little “Christianese” I listen to my limited conscience, which more times than not chirps a song of should and should not.

The constant worldly rhythm lulls me into thinking I have arrived because of my striving, good little Pinnochio that I am. I have to go through my donkeyland of pleasure performing feats that seem so satisfying, but eventually turn my beautiful hands into calloused hoofs and my songs of grace into pleading brays for approval.

The enemy’s whisper that I am a puppet “made of wood” is only a half-truth. I am not just a piece of kindling detached from the source of life, but a branch on a verdant vine.

God is my substance and righteousness. All my self-striving will only bring me to the belly of the whale of hopelessness, starving for someone to come save me.

And save He does and saved He has – by Jesus, not by Jimminy.

Not to belittle my importance, but the brave truth is that my significance and very being spring forth from a God who breathed life into a mud cake.

My approval came from His son’s performance. My worth echoes from the beginning of time when He said “It is very good” – In my weakness, while yet a sinner, before I loved Him.

Oh praise Him – for He makes beautiful things out of the dust

Grace & peace to you as you soak in the grace of God!

~Karen~

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Casting Stones

We’ve all done it. At some point in our lives…we’ve picked up our stones and cast our judgments and assumptions on another person without taking time to check our heart. We hurtle insults, disparaging thoughts & comments that are intended to malign with every stone. We do untold damage to the person we have targeted, to ourselves and to those around us who get caught in the crossfire of our arrogant speculation.

I’ll be honest…I did it this week. I found myself making judgments in a situation with someone who appeared to be shirking their responsibility. So I quickly determined with accuracy and precision that this person was a flake, a slacker, irresponsible and disrespectful. I did not give this person the benefit of the doubt. I did not even consider that there might be a reason for their absence. I assumed…and we all know what happens when we “Assume”.

Imagine my surprise and dismay when I got an email a few days later from this person whom I had sentenced in my heart. I learned that I was wrong…horribly wrong.
The person I had deemed to be irresponsible had been in the hospital in a coma and recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. This single mother of a 7-year-old little girl with no family to speak of and few friends was confiding in me the very person who had unknowingly been her judge and jury.

The sting of regret, remorse and guilt flooded over me and left me feeling sick. I could hardly control the grief and sadness I felt for her and her unfortunate situation and then later for myself and for the ways I disappointed God and myself.

Scripture is pretty clear about not judging others and about our responsibility to honor God with our hearts, thoughts and actions. In this situation I failed. I had to make a decision about that failure…would I allow it to eat me up or would I lay it down before the throne of grace and allow God to use it to teach me and draw me closer to Himself.
I choose the throne of grace and pray that the next time I will be able to extend the same grace that saved a wretch like me.

Matthew 7:1
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Luke 6:37
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
 That saved a wretch like me.
 I once was lost but now am found,
 Was blind, but now I see.

I have a secret

I have a secret. And in the spirit of self-disclosure I have decided it is time for me to come forward and share. It’s one I have keep to myself for years. I have been too embarrassed to tell anyone about it. I think I should know better. It’s bad for my health. It’s a guilty indulgence. I feel some shame over the fact that I sneak my indulgence. I get it when no one is looking. I cover up that I have had it and feel guilty as soon as it is finished. I make excuses as to why I want it and pretend like it’s for someone else to avoid judgment. So, what exactly is this secret that causes guilt, shame and embarrassment yet keeps me coming back for more?
I love hostess cup cakes. Yep – there I said it. Hostess cupcakes.
Little chocolate cakes infused with artificial white lard filling and carefully placed chocolate lard icing complete with faux white swirls of decadent goodness.
When I eat them I am transported in time to when I was a kid. For a moment I am carefree and aware only of the taste of chocolate and I am intoxicated by the frosting.
Now I know that many of you are thinking, “that is a lame secret”!!
But before you judge let me say this. We all have things in our life that we are ashamed of. Maybe it’s a bad habit like biting your fingernails, or watching Real Housewives of New Jersey, or gambling money you don’t have, abusing prescription drugs, viewing pornography, having an inappropriate thought life or that you engage in self defeating self talk and distorted thinking.
When we hold onto something that causes us to feel guilt, shame & embarrassment we give that thing power over us. The funny thing about secrets…they gain power and strength when they stay in the dark. The secret whispers things in our ears like, “if people knew what you were really about” or “you are dirty and bad because______.” We buy into the lie and make a pact to keep it to ourselves and play pretend that all is well. The secret tells us we are bad, we are less than, that people won’t respect us, that we are not worthy of God’s love. But I have learned that secrets lose their power when we bring them out into the light. Once addressed in the light of day, in the light of God’s grace, love and forgiveness the secrets that once held us captive lose their grip. When we are able to confess our sins, our secrets and our struggles to the Lord and yes even to one another an amazing thing happens….we experience freedom. So in the immortal words of William Wallace of Braveheart fame, we stand in Christ and shout….FREEDOM!

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Galatians 5:1
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

John 8:32
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:36
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Beauty in the broken

What does the word fragile mean to you? The dictionary defines it as; breakable, weak, thin, vulnerable, flimsy, unsubstantial, easily destroyed or not strong. Those words usually bring about images of glass, china and other delicate objects. Recently I have been challenged with the fragile nature of our heart and our spirit as I have walked with a dear friend as she wrestled with deep hurts.

In our culture Fragile is generally looked at as a weakness. We tend to value strength rather than tenderness. There are times in life when we face situations and obstacles and are able to handle what life throws at us with ease and grace. Then there are times when the assaults are unrelenting, deeply personal and cut to the quick of our heart and soul. We are left feeling battered, beaten, bloody and broken.

It is in these times of deep hurt that we find ourselves fragile and vulnerable. What we want is to wrap ourselves in bubble wrap so as to avoid the jostling and jarring of life, love and relationships. We want to be insulated and protected from all possible hurt and humiliation. But like a Ming Vase or Waterford crystal or the infamous Leg Lamp, we were not created to remain wrapped in bubble wrap and stored on a shelf. We were created to be used. We were created to be held and put on display for God’s purpose and glory.  Sometimes while on display we get knocked over. We get chipped, dented, dirty and broken. Our hearts get manhandled and misused. We get hurt in relationships where we once trusted another with our heart. We experience abuse, grief, illness, depression and humiliation. We want to run and hide. We self medicate, we deny, we place blame and we try desperately not to let others see us in this fragile state.

There is however no shame in being fragile, broken or tender. Jesus came to heal the broken hearted, He came to heal the sick and the lame. He came to offer life and life eternal. The question is, are we willing to let Him have His way with our heart? When we are broken and shattered and pieces are missing of our heart, it is hard to trust and believe that God can restore us. He can and will restore our faith in Him, ourselves and in others if we admit we are fragile and broken. For there is beauty in the broken.

Proverbs 4:23 NIV

Guard your heart always, for it is the wellspring of Life.

Loved

What a difference a week makes! I am happy to report that my sweet house guest has found a forever home! I think the look on her face says it all. I know that I learned a lot this week from my new friend and am thankful for the experience of learning what it is to lead with my heart.
May you love others as freely as God loves you – without reservation, expectations or demands.
Grace & Peace….Karen