Grace, Grace, God’s Grace

Why am I sitting in my bed at midnight watching Bonanza and eating tortellini??

Let’s just say I have sleeping problems.

But while I’m sitting here, I’m once again struck in awe at God’s grace.

I have anger issues. I have friends who struggle with lashing out. I have friends who struggle with forms of immorality. I have friends who struggle with bad attitudes. The list goes on and on and on and on.

No good Christian admits to those things. Right?

We gasp, “Oh, no, *I* don’t struggle with any of those things. True Christians don’t have those kinds of problems.” AKA, “I’m a perfect saint.”

Or, if we were to really look underneath their saintly garb, we would find a depraved sinner just as guilty as we ourselves.

But we don’t want to see that side, do we?

Because who hasn’t struggled with anger in some degree? Who hasn’t said something they regret? Who hasn’t dealt with immorality in some way? Who hasn’t had a bad attitude when something doesn’t go their way? I dare you to find one person who hasn’t dealt with all of the above. And if you find one person (which you won’t), you’ll find that they’re liars who just want to hide their sins beneath their pile of guilt.

We’re all sinners. We all sin. Multiple times every day. And we will never be perfect. We will sin until the day we die.

But here’s the good news for you, my fellow sinner. The grace that covers my anger covers yours. The grace that covers my lashing out covers your lashing out. The grace that covers my selfishness covers yours. The grace that covers my bad attitudes and rebellion covers yours.

It’s beautiful.

It’s because of what was accomplished on the cross. The blood that flowed freely from the deep holes in Jesus’ hands and feet, the blood that ran down from His head, the blood in His sweat that dripped from His body, all was poured out so that your immorality could be canceled in the eyes of God. It was shed so that Lauren S.’s anger would be wiped away. It was shed so that your bad attitudes would no longer blot your record.

Because now all that remains is a page as white as snow.

Sin had left a crimson stain – He washed it white as snow.

You didn’t deserve it. No more than I do. And God alone knows that my sins from the past 24 hours alone would condemn me to an eternity in hell.

He didn’t want that for me. It broke His heart so much that He sent His Son to endure the pain of hell so that I could be free from that debt.

This is why it’s amazing grace. It wasn’t deserved. It came at such a high cost. But His love for us far out-measured the price that had to be paid. He literally went through hell itself so He could hold you in His arms forever.

Talk about insane love!!

And when my sins were wiped away, it wasn’t just left an empty slate. My hatred was replaced with forgiveness. My anger was replaced with crazy love. My immorality was replaced with righteousness. My lack of self-control was replaced with redemption. My transgressions were replaced with justification. All of my sins were wiped away completely, gone forever, and replaced with love and grace. The angry, self-centered, bitter, immoral, judgmental, jealous, hateful Lauren was forgiven and freed. Forever and ever. It was covered by the grace of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

Help Me Out?

Hello to my faithful readers!

This isn’t a normal post. (In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, I’m prone to do irregular things sometimes. Coupled with the fact that I’m already abnormal, it makes my life… interesting.) This is a post where I’m asking for your help.

Yes, you, personally.

Those of you who have been reading the longest can see it – my blog has taken a few turns over the past couple of years. It’s because my blog reflects my journey, and naturally my spiritual journey has had some leaps and stand-stills these past two years.

(It’s almost been two years since I started blogging, let’s just go with it.)

Lately, my posts have been more of “my life is X right now, it’s been really hard and AAAAH CRAZY STRESSFUL but God is still good, isn’t His grace wonderful??”. It’s been more of “Discombobulation At Its Finest” than “My Thoughts on Contemporary Christian Music“. And so now I’m curious as to what y’all think about that…

Help me out here?

What are your personal thoughts about the turn my blog has taken over the past 6 months? What are some things you wish you could see, or are happy to be seeing now? About the content, level of personality in writing, etc.?

I could use your feedback. Yes, I blog to share my journey with others, but I want it to connect with others, and I need to know how best to do that! The only person who can help me reach that goal is you.

And while we’re at it, here’s a shout-out to my faithful readers (you, of course!)! You are who I blog for – without your support, by reading and your comments and all the things, it would be pretty pointless for anyone besides myself. Thank you for reading!!

Life’s Story

The look in her eyes showed me that my life had made some sort of a difference to her. I hadn’t known her longer than three hours, but already my heart had touched hers.

It was sort of overwhelming.

She was just a younger version of me, about six months behind in maturity. Which isn’t saying much, but we’re talking about our maturity on this journey of ours as we walked along the same path.

I’d been where she’d been. I had the same scars, the same hurt, the same fears.

We were alike, she and I.

Except I was a few steps ahead of her. I was a little closer to reaching the finish line than she was. So I could grab her hand and pull her to her feet, give her a pat on the back, and give her a push to keep going.

Even though I was still crying my eyes out myself.

I’ve often sat there in the dark, wondering, Does my life even make a difference? What’s the point, anyway?

I saw it in her eyes. The way she looked at me as we sat there together on the windowsill at midnight, in the place that felt like hell. It was reassurance. My life was just as valuable as hers. Which is actually saying a lot.

The race has been hard. And long; terribly long. And I’ve tried to quit a few times. But I had someone to pick me up, give me a hug, and gently nudge me toward the end of the road.

I stumble along in the darkness screaming and shaking my fist, and God doesn’t answer.

Does my life even matter anymore? What’s the point, anyway?

The answer was in her eyes. Yes, my life does matter. I am making a difference. Even if it’s only for a day, in the heart of a girl I’ll never see again.

Because you see, we weren’t all made to be the hero in the story.

Sometimes, we were created to be the voiceless character from the hero’s past, who made a subtle difference that changed the course of history. The Author wrote us into the story not to be the person who saved the world, but who molded the world-saver into the person they were, who set the stage for the salvation.

The voiceless character is just as important as the hero.

The princess isn’t more special than the servant girl. One gets recognition, the other stays in the humble shadows, but both are crucial to the survival of the kingdom.

Life is our storybook. We’d like to write it with ourselves as the fearless, brave hero, who changed the world with our lives. We wait for the Cinderella moment, to go from abused slave to beautiful princess.

And time only leaves us with a mop in our hand, and another floor to scrub.

But without a clean floor, how could the prince and princess dance?

Your life matters. My life matters. Our existence, our choices, our actions, are changing the course of history. It’s just up to us whether it’s for better or worse.

I’m not sure what the Author has me doing in the grand Story of Life. But whatever it is, I’m the character He wants me to be, playing the part He wants me to play, making the difference and paving the path He wants me to for the hero to make the grand entrance.

And the same goes for you, my friend.

God’s Not Afraid of the Hospital Room

At the time of this writing, I’m sitting on a hospital bed, scratching this out with pen and paper. (I’m home now as I’m publishing this. Let’s thank the Lord for a moment, seriously.)

I think I’ve reached what feels like a safe conclusion: the Lord doesn’t enter the hospital room with you.

I know it’s not true. I know it’s blasphemous. “The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Tell that to me when I’m wondering if I’m going to die.

I’m cold, I’m sleep-deprived, and I’m scared to death. I’ve got a needle sticking out of my arm spurting blood into a tube, and I’m wondering where I’m going to spend the night.

It’s been a long… year.

It feels like God stayed outside when I walked through the hospital doors. Like He would never enter the room with me because of who I am and what’s happened to me.

I know it’s wrong. I know He’s with me everywhere.

But something feels very lonely and forsaken about a hospital room.

I don’t feel safe in paper scrubs. I don’t feel safe huddled under a thin, scratchy white blanket, with a nurse probing me with questions and doctors examining my wounds, trying to enter my mind and assess if I’m going to be safe or not.

It’s hard.

I’ve never felt quite as alone before, quite so far from God as right now. Usually, it’s when I’m alone in my room that God feels far away. When I’m out and about in public around other people, usually not so much. But right now… God seems so distant.

Literally, like He stayed outside the hospital room and is waiting for me to come out.

But it’s simply not true. He’s right here beside me, and that’s what I have to tell myself, no matter what happens to me or where I go. He’s always here with me.

Some of you know what I’m talking about. Some of you reading this have medical conditions that leave you asking “Why?”, that have you believing God’s on the other side of that door.

He’s not. He’s right here. He is with you. AND HE IS NOT LEAVING YOU.

It’s His love for us even when we don’t deserve it. It’s His grace when we’re so unworthy. It’s who He is and who that makes us.

He’s not leaving. And He doesn’t have a fear of hospital rooms.

Through the pain, the darkness, the loneliness, the fear, He promises – that’s a promise from *God* – that He will not leave you or forsake you. Even in the pit of hell. Even through the darkest night. Even in the hospital room.

 

Discombobulation At Its Finest

July 8, 2016

I remember those beautiful childhood days.

Sitting in the back of the van on the way to ballet lessons, knitting while cranking up the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle tape so you could hear it better.

Digging up mud to build a small church in your backyard, and collecting all the dried grass clippings to feed the horse you would have one day.

Waking up to the smell of bacon and the sound of coffee beans being ground.

Running into the living room on Christmas morning in eager anticipation, smelling coffee and cinnamon rolls and seeing the fire warm the room with its soft glow.

Those were beautiful times.

Where am I now?

I’m not sure, to be honest.

This past week, I pretty much lived at work. Which wasn’t bad. It’s just a new experience.

My friend probably hates me. But at least she’ll be alive to do so.

I’m hungry, but that’s nothing new.

I’ve still got a stack of books over there on the shelf to be read. And I wanted to get them read before the end of the month, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. (There’s been life, ya know?)

I wake up to the sound of either Dylan running and yelling, or silence and snoring. Depends on what mood I’m in that day as to what time I wake up.

I sit in the back of the van on the way to a dreaded meeting, cranking up AP so I can drown the world out.

I don’t think the mud church would have worked out, anyway.

Dreams laugh at me as they shatter in the dust. And I just stare at them as they die before my very eyes.

There’s nothing new under the sun.

I’ve got work tonight. I enjoy the shift, most of the time. It’s been pretty fun to work that time of the day, so I’ve got my hopes up for tonight. We’ll see though.

We’ll also see if I can operate on four hours of sleep. It’s been a long night, and today promises to be no better.

(Which is why I’m typing this at 6:00 in the morning, after two episodes of Bonanza and a half hour of tossing and turning.)

When did I become a teenager? I would have sworn that yesterday was my 8th birthday. (Pigtails and everything, y’all. I was a child prodigy for being able to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on the piano with my right hand.)

That wasn’t supposed to happen.

My mom told me yesterday, “Welcome to the adult world.” She was half joking, but there’s a small percentage of truth in what she said.

The days of the smell of bacon in the morning and building mud churches have long since ended. There’s a new chapter that’s begun, whether I want to read it or not.

Funny how life doesn’t ask you if you want it to happen. It just, does.

*we interrupt this session for a quick yawn* *I’m tired, people*

My life isn’t about me anymore. I’ve got people involved in it. There are other hearts to hold dear and to love. Other hearts to love me. Other hearts to be loved. And it’s all as it should be.

I don’t know. I’ve wondered if I care too much.

If I had the choice, would I go back to reading the Magic Treehouse series in my pink shorts? Would I go back to singing at the top of my lungs on the trampoline, dripping wet from coming straight from the pool?

(You don’t know joy unless you jump out of the pool to get on the trampoline. Talk about fun.)

I’d like to say yes. *laughs* I was so naive. And not just because I was 8. There was a world of things I never knew I would face one day.

But to go back then would be to give up what is now.

It would mean giving up the hearts that I love and that love me.

It would mean giving up the lessons I’ve learned, the challenges that have caused me to grow, the victories I’ve won.

It would mean giving up the moments that have become some of my best memories.

I don’t think I could do that.

God sends these things into our lives for reasons. Even if we don’t understand them.

Because let me tell you something. There IS a purpose.

So my naive, fun-loving, bratty 8 year old self, you enjoy your life. Don’t take it for granted. You’re more blessed than you know.

But to my anxious, dark, hurting 16 year old self, you enjoy your life, too. Don’t take it for granted. You’re more blessed than you know.

Hope in the Face of Death

I saw its face today.

It was dark, ugly, menacing; it threatened to take something I love away from me forever.

Death looked me in the eyes, asking me if I was ready to face it, if I was ready to give it a heart that I held close.

I said “No”.

I’m not ready to lose it. I’m not willing to give up that heart, to stand by idly and watch Death seize the heart.

I won’t do it.

But I can’t stop Death. I’m powerless, even though I hold the key to Life. I can’t keep Death away, no matter how hard I fight it.

The fight against Death feels hopeless sometimes. We watch it strangle those we love, playing its lethal game and taking prisoners the hearts we hold so dearly. We can fight it with all of our strength, until we collapse on the couch at the end of the day, tears streaming down our face, and we shake our fists at God for letting Death win.

But God didn’t let Death win.

He is the key to Life.

He is the promise of redemption and freedom, life and light. He won the battle in the end.

Death is *not* the end. It may feel like it. It may seem like it. The darkness cloaks Death so it hides the light of Life. But the light is still there.

I’m watching Death cradle the heart I hold so dear. The hardened, vulnerable heart I love. I can’t do anything else – I’ve fought Death with every weapon I have.

I can only fall on my face and beg God to release the heart from Death’s hands.

He is our hope in the face of Death. Whatever happens, God is the light of our salvation, our Life in death.

Death can win a battle. It has won many battles over the course of history. But Life has won the war, because our Lord is the King of Life. He is our hope in the face of Death.

Update of My Life

*sits down with dubstep remixes streaming through my headphones and prepares post*

I know I’m a negligent blogger.

(My sincerest apologies, y’all.)

I know I keep saying that I’m really busy. And that’s the truth, honestly. I’m dealing with a TON of different things right now, and honestly I can’t really say them here. It’s different medical issues, combined with the challenges of growing up, combined with life itself, and… Yeah.

Y’all know what I’m talking about, right?

It’s just, been hard. And long. And dark.

I figured I owed y’all a bit of an explanation, though. I can’t tell you much, and honestly you don’t want to know that much. But I thought I’d just say a little bit, since y’all have so nicely and patiently put up with and supported me during my negligence.

God’s allowed me to face a really hard trial for a little over a year now. It started out as mostly just stress (and honestly a bit of a bad attitude as well), but then it grew into a lot of junk that no one ever wants to deal with. And I’ve been diagnosed with some things that, yeah, no one wants to ever deal with them either.

I’ll admit something that I hate telling people, for various and good reasons. I’ve had moments of being angry at God throughout this trial. They’re not often, and during this season, He’s drawn me closer to Him in ways I didn’t know, but there have been times when I have literally yelled at Him in anger.

So, yeah. It’s been hard, to say the very least.

My mom made the comment several months ago that my posts have gotten darker over the past year. I had a friend make the remark that the girl who ran the blog had changed since she knew me.

It’s true. I’ve changed, a lot. And honestly, I don’t know if it’s for the better of for the worse. My head and heart are in a conflict there.

My choices say that I’ve changed for the worse. You look at my decisions in life, and… Yeah.

But my heart says something different. And that’s kind of what I want to talk about here today. My heart says that God has worked some things out for His glory, despite the diagnosis and the choices and dark days of anger.

You see, He’s taught me about several things through this trial. And three things immediately stick out to me: His grace, what it’s like to truly be loved, and what it’s like to love others.

(We’ll break this down bit by bit; don’t worry, I won’t overwhelm you with random things in my life. There *is* a point to this post.)

Firstly, His grace. In case you couldn’t tell, in January, I finally learned about the grace of God. Do a search of posts from January and February, and you’ll see what I mean.

PEOPLE. I still get chills thinking about it… There is no condemnation any longer. There *was*. But there isn’t anymore. That sin I committed this morning? That sin I committed yesterday? The one I’ll commit tomorrow? Yeah, those – He doesn’t see them anymore.

Are you scratching your heads, too? It doesn’t make sense. BUT IT DOES.

It comes down to His love. The most joy-giving thing you’ll ever know, I promise you. It’s love that literally frees you. The blood of His Son has freed you; He bled and died because He loved you THAT MUCH. It’s incredible.

I could go on and on and on. I really could. But I’ll save that for another time. Another ramble, perhaps. (Or maybe not… My Bible’s right here on the couch beside me, maybe I’ll form a post right now and post it later and we’ll carry on like nothing happened.)

But since I’ve already talked about that before, we’ll move on.

Last year, before I moved, I went through a really hard time of feeling lonely, like I didn’t have any friends. I mean, I had friends, but I didn’t feel like I had anyone I could be real with. No one that really cared, really knew me, who could really see beyond the smile I gave everyone. No one saw what was beneath the mask.

(I actually prayed that God would let there be some lonely girl in Pennsylvania waiting for me when I moved there, so we could hit it off and be best friends and she would completely understand me and yeah. It was going to be perfect.)

But God knew that I needed something sooner than that. So He let me move to figure out how to place people in my life and use the ones that were already in my life to teach me some lessons.

Can we pause here just to say, God’s lessons are frequently insanely hard?

He doesn’t do things the easy way. Did you ever notice that? We read about how following Christ is hard, and we agree and repeat the words ourselves… But then we face a trial of our own and say, “God, why is this so hard?!?!?!” He’s sitting there going, “Ummm, I told you it would be… You made that decision when you chose to follow me and give me your life. I’m your Lord, so just know that I’m holding your hand through this, okay?”

*resuming my loneliness rant*

Albeit, He had people come and go over the past year. People I thought would stick with me for a long time just left. People I expected to be like those who just left have hung around. (What did I ever do to deserve that? Oh, wait, I didn’t – I just serve a good God.)

It doesn’t make sense, really.

*pausing again to interrupt with an important interruption*

God doesn’t make sense. And I’ve come to see that more and more over the past year and a half. HE DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. But what’s even better, is that’s okay.

He’s not supposed to make sense. If He made sense, He wouldn’t be God. He wouldn’t be infinite, and we wouldn’t be finite. That’s why we question and doubt. And it’s okay.

*let’s pick this up and see if I can keep going without interrupting my train of thought by chasing rabbit trails, shall we?*

He orchestrated the people in my life to meet the needs I had, each at their own time, some longer than others. What’s really cool as I think about it is, my friends have played different roles. Some I feel comfortable telling things to, others I don’t – but they’re all still there, supporting me in their own unique ways that God placed them there for.

God gave me a best friend who’s always there to listen, hug, preach, whatever I need, to help, a friend who cares more than I ever thought was possible. (And who worries too much – stop it, okay?)

He gave me a friend to let me ramble about random things, who actually really understands what I’m going through, and gives me permission to call them at midnight when I’m dealing with stuff. (And is amazingly beautiful, just so everyone knows.)

He gave me a friend who doesn’t understand what’s going on, but loves in the best way they know how.

He gave me a friend who makes me laugh.

He gave me a friend who gives great e-hugs.

Isn’t God just amazing?

*Hang on. We have to enjoy the soft grass I’m sitting on here and the sun turning a golden orange as it sets. And the fact that I just had a peanut-butter filled donut. God is amazing. Okay? Okay, carry on*

I’ve learned that even though it feels like I’m alone, that I am NOT alone. Not only is God always with me, but He’s given me friends that truly love me. Even when I don’t feel it. Even when we’re in a fight. Even when it hurts and times are hard. Even when I make stupid choices and pay the consequences. I am still loved.

And now… Yikes. I could say a ton about learning to love others. But I won’t. For time’s sake, you understand.

But wow. This trial has taught me a lot about a world of pain I never knew existed. Well, I guess I knew somewhere in the back of my head that it existed, but I had no clue about what it t meant or how real it actually was. I didn’t know how you felt dealing with a trial like this, what it looked like, or how much you would question God.

I didn’t know the pain. But I do now.

And God’s using that for His glory.

I can hold the crying sister who struggles with stress.

I can pray for the brother dealing with darkness.

I can love and be loved.

And it’s liberating.

I can feel it like it’s my own pain – because I’ve been there. I can help others who know my struggles, only because I’ve dealt with them myself.

If God hadn’t had me dealing with this trial, I would never be able to hold the broken heart of my sister and feel my own heart breaking for her. I would never be able to know the pain of hurting for my brother in his own fight. I wouldn’t know how to respond or help or pray.

But I know now.

Only because of God.

(Isn’t that how all things happen anyway?)

And I hate this trial with everything in me. But in the pit of hell or the highest point, God is with me. Right? Right.

His grace *is* enough. I can do this. And He is strengthening me with every passing day.

And for you, my brother or sister, He is strengthening you, too.