Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Life of Mercy

Last week, I began a new project.  I would call it my second book and it kind of feels like my "magnun opus."  However, I really haven't put any of the ideas down on paper yet, well, in any readable form of prose someone else would want to look at.  I have notes and I have lots of little shadowy ideas floating in my noggin, but for now, it is a seed that has to germinate.

(That and I have really need to complete two other books already begun!)

I think in titles and (so far) this new adventure is called Life of Mercy.  That's the kind of life I want to have.  I would say my life is pretty well stocked in the grace department, but when you have faith/trust/love in Jesus - it is meant to move you.  Grace isn't meant to only be taken in - it is meant to be given out.  Our lives of faith are like a roundabout intersection - we go in one way, encounter God in the middle and come out in a totally different direction with a new heading.  We never stop in the middle - we keep going.

Perhaps you, like me, have ended up like the Griswald's in National Lampoon's European Vacation - where you get in the roundabout with God and just keep going in circles, saying "Look kids!  Big Ben!"  But eventually, you come out.  You have to - and hopefully it is in the direction God wanted you to go in the first place before you got stuck.  After having lived in a country where traffic was dictated by roundabout intersections - I am positive going in a circle isn't how we are meant to live.

We are supposed to go in, be turned around and come out in another direction.  That is the whole purpose of an encounter with God - to change us to go in His direction.  Call it repentance that is the driver for this, but change is the point - change for the better.  Experiencing intimacy with God, by His grace, is meant to cultivate mercy towards others.  Our hearts are meant to be softened when we take in His grace, so that we are enabled to dish out mercy (rather than the other, harsher but very human, responses we are so accustomed to dishing out.)

This has really struck home this week as I'm giving a talk to a MOPS group Friday on our experience with Sophia's cancer.  But it began even before that.  When we lived in Trinidad (the roundabout country), I realized with dreadful certainty that I was an angry Mom.  Granted, I was under the stress of transitioning from the corporate world to being a stay-at-home Mom and all under the umbrella of moving to a foreign country where my husband worked 12 hours a day and my kids were both under 5.  Even taking all of the enormity of our situation into account, it was a crushing discovery that I would rather yell and spank my kids than cuddle them.  I wasn't an abuser, but I wasn't patient or kind or gentle or any of those other fruits of the Spirit.  It took a lot of prayer and a lot of study to realize the problem was definitely not them.  It was me.

I was completely unmerciful.

This idea of grace in - mercy out has worked it's way into a lot of situations over the last 4 years and I'm relieved to report that The Lord has transformed my heart towards my girls.  I still yell and fuss, but it is much more like a wave pool than the Tsunami my anger used to be.  It's normal Mom fussing versus Monster Mom.  But even that needs more work.  In every situation, in every relationship I have - I have been shown ways to be more merciful.  It usually has involved letting go of the expectations I have of the way the other person should treat me.  It takes discipline and focus on how much grace I have been shown to be able to love a person just as they are. 

That is exactly what the life of mercy is about.  Knowing how much God loves me as I am, enables me to love other people as they are.  And if I'm really being honest, it gives me permission to love myself.  I have a terrible habit of shackling myself with rules and regulations so I can look in the mirror and see myself as acceptable.  God has been breaking those bonds too.  I don't know that you can really love God or others completely the way He designed until you forgive and accept yourself.  Hopefully, as I grow in grace, I can learn to actually love myself in a healthy, non-narcissistic way.

I don't have to do it all on my own.  This morning, on the way to school, I told the girls something that I meant to encourage them, but it ended up changing me.  Natalie is, as usual, working to discipline herself to focus and pay attention, rather than misbehave and talk during class when she gets bored.  (Poor kid, the sins of the mother and all....)

So, as we were reviewing this principle of focus and attention, I reminded her that God didn't just help her that one time she really had it down for several months, He is available to help her all the time.  He lives to help us if we would just take a second to hear the Holy Spirit whispering, "Natalie....God wants to help you!"

That set off a whole discussion with Sophia about the Holy Spirit, where He is (in her heart) and what He does for her (I repeated the same whisper.)  But it articulates this point.  A life of mercy was never meant to be lived without a constant influx of God's grace to make it possible.  He lives to intercede for us - to bring us the help right when we need it.  We just have to hear the whisper. So, I'm trying harder to listen.

I've been writing on my books a lot, which takes up a lot of my creative energy.  Preparing for this talk has freed up my schedule a bit so I can focus on getting ready for that - but The Lord blessed me with the message in its entirety yesterday, so I was ready to write on here again.  Thank you for walking this faith journey with me and I look forward to telling you more about living a life of mercy as it is revealed to me!

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