I don’t have a whole lot to say on the recent terrorist attacks in Paris other than it has been inspiring to see so many good people in this country rally together in unity in the aftermath of a terrible night. I feel as “safe” here as anywhere, as the unfortunate reality of terrorism is that it can happen anywhere. My part in this fight, I feel, is to never let fear win out. And with that, a favorite reminder of mine from none other than Mr. Rogers. Turns out he has wise words for more than just children…
Also, the Eiffel Tower was re-opened post-attacks with a brand new outfit that looks pretty magnificent…
Now for what I’ve been reading. I’m behind on my monthly read reviews, although I’ve covered some quality books over these past three months. A few of my favorites:
The One Thing by Gary Keller – National bestseller by real estate mogul Gary Keller. Although widely used to improve business, this book is applicable to any aspect of life. The main jist—while we think we may want more, the real truth is that we actually want less. This book is designed to help bring to light what matters most… “By focusing their energy on one thing at a time people are living more rewarding lives by building their careers, strengthening their finances, losing weight and getting in shape, deepening their faith, and nurturing stronger marriages and personal relationships.”
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson – Based off Psalms 120-134, this book is written as an encouragement to the modern spiritual pilgrim. We are a society with a largely right now approach, but the secret to deep and meaningful spirituality is a long obedience in the same direction… “Discipleship is a decision to walk in his ways, steadily and firmly, and then finding that the way integrates all our interests, passions and gifts, our human needs and our eternal aspirations. It is the way of life we were created for. There are endless challenges in it to keep us on the growing edge of faith; there is always the God who sticks with us to make it possible for us to persevere.”
If by Mark Batterson – One of my all-time favorite authors (who wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Circle Maker) just came out with another book. It took me only a handful of days to finish and it definitely didn’t disappointment. Batterson has a unique ability to inspire adventure in everyday life, the mark of a life lived by faith even more than reason or practicality… “If is a powerful little word. Some people are stuck in “if only,” trudging through lives marked with regret. But God wants us to live lives marked with possibilities, with the “what if” attitude that looks forward to the future with confidence. Why? Because the answer to “If God is for us, who can be against us?” is “No one.” God is always on our side. Every day, in every way.”
Run with Horses by Eugene Peterson – Can you tell I’ve been enjoying Eugene Peterson’s writing lately? Fantastic book about living our best life based on the book of Jeremiah… “We all long to live life at its best―to fuse freedom and spontaneity with purpose and meaning. Why then do we often find our lives so humdrum, so unadventuresome, so routine? Or else so frantic, so full of activity, but still devoid of fulfillment? How do we learn to risk, to trust, to pursue wholeness and excellence―to run with the horses in the jungle of life?”
-I’ve enjoyed several different articles from Relevant Magazine. If you’ve never heard of Relevant, it’s a magazine which is a “leading platform reaching Christian twenty- and thirtysomethings. Covering faith, culture and intentional living, the stories we tell are at the intersection of where a Christ-centered life is really lived. Our magazine is not about “being relevant” (whatever that means)—it’s that God is relevant to every aspect of our lives.”
-And, because we like food in our household, there’s been plenty of recipe-reading. I love cooking during the winter, and with Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s time to start planning!
-Better Homes and Gardens’s make-ahead holiday side dishes
-Just made this easy take on Coq au Vin the other night and it was husband-approved!
Now for past months’ reads:
July and August:
- The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer
- Get Out of Your Own Way by Robert K. Cooper
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton
Trent and I like to take advantage of days without practices or games to travel if at all possible, even if it means a short day trip. There are few things we enjoy more than experiencing a new place together. We never knew how much we loved to travel until we started, but after almost seven years of living overseas, it’s safe to say we’re hooked. There’s something about seeing or experiencing things for the first time, but together, that we find to give so much life and joy to our marriage.
This past weekend, we made the short hour and half drive to Annecy. Annecy is a small town of just over 50,000 situated on Lac d’Annecy in the southeast of France. It is near the Swiss border, and even has a slight Geneva-like feel. Although I must admit, Trent and I preferred the smaller-scale, much less expensive and (dare I say?) slightly more picturesque Annecy.
Here are some pictures from our day…
If you’re just now reading for the first time, you can catch up in a little more detail on how over two years of trying for a baby has led to the discovery I’m not God, but that’s not a bad thing after all. And then there was the lesson in celebration. That was just before I talked questions and answers. Today is all about three loaded words: grace, grief and guilt…
Grace, grief and guilt. Never, sometimes and always. Respectively.
That tends to be the way we live our lives. Never knowing grace, at times engulfed in grief and always grappling guilt.
I’ve become quite familiar with the three g-words in my struggles with fertility, but I never thought much about them until recently. Grace was just a word thrown around in church or said before a meal. Grief was an emotion outwardly inappropriate except for those asterisked events—a death or a nearly-there diagnosis. And guilt? Well, guilt I just accepted. An underlying and yet constant part of life, I figured.
You might have children. You might not have children. Heck, you may not even want children. Regardless of where you’re at on the offspring spectrum, I bet you can relate to this much of my journey—absentee grace, occasional grief and an ever-present but obscure sense of guilt.
First there’s grace.
A beautiful word, isn’t it? I love the idea, but it turns out I have trouble with the act. I struggle having grace for others. Graceful is hardly how I feel like responding to off-handed and insensitive comments not meant to hurt, but painful just the same. I struggle even more having grace for myself. Some days are harder than others living in a body that lately feels more of a vehicle for disappointment and dysfunction than a temple for a soul.
Ironically enough, even greater than my difficulty in displaying grace for is my accepting grace from. There is a God who’s fashioned my every fiber and forgotten my flaws, yet I’d rather role up my sleeves choose to believe I need to work my own way to perfection.
The truth is, if I can’t receive grace, then I can’t give grace. Like so many other things in life, it starts at the top. If I can’t concede there’s a God who finds me more than acceptable and utterly enough, then I surely won’t see myself that way. And everyone around me? They’ll hardly have a chance. Grace starts by getting before it’s ever able to be given.
And one more thing. You might be wondering why all this grace-talk in a time of desire and discouragement. I can’t really say. I guess in all my prayers for a baby it just sort of found its way to my heart. That seems to be the way it works. For as pure and perfect as grace is, it always gravitates to the ugliest places. And perhaps that’s why this messy season of life has me discovering it anew.
Perhaps grief is easier to discuss in words written more than spoken.
What is it about the word grief that brings with it feelings of uneasiness? Our society seems to prefer it behind closed doors, if at all. But I’ve come to believe that grief, to some degree, is good. And not just in those rare moments of serious loss and heavy heartbreak. I’ve spoken at large on the significance of celebration, but here’s something to consider: Sometimes grief is the first step toward celebration. It’s true! We grieve life’s small losses in order to give them up. For me, it means mourning a story I wanted to write. Grief lets me loosen my grasp on what I thought should have been or could have been in order to make space for what will be. To grieve well is to give. To give up on control. To give up on answers. To give up on selfish desires and short-sited suppositions. And when we do this—this good grieving—we become flexible to a future written by a God who works all things for good. More than good, in fact, for the best.
We could write novels on guilt, couldn’t we?
This may be too bold of a statement, but I think there’s hardly a grown up alive who doesn’t fight guilt on some sort of level. By the time we reach the age of adulthood, we’ve lived enough years to mess up enough times to know the silent destruction of guilt. We’re heavy with guilt from the things we’ve said and the things we failed to say. There’s failed marriages and the failed money management. There’s parents who hold guilt from their past, and those who harbor guilt from the kids they’ve produced. Or, if you’re like me, there’s the guilt of not being a parent at all. I wake up every day next to a man who deeply wants something I can’t provide, and the poisonous propensity in all that? Shame. Shame is guilt in feeling form. It didn’t take too long into infertility for me to come to a frustrating conclusion. For all my husband’s unconditional love and spoken reassurance, the guilt in my gut just wouldn’t go away. I guess something that has its origins from the inside can’t be wiped away by someone from without. Believe it or not, guilt isn’t something with which we’re supposed to live. Its roots were never meant to take hold in our hearts. This all sounds good as head knowledge, but how do we really put it into practice? How do we live lives free of the guilt burden we were never meant to carry?
The answer’s in the inverse.
You see, we go our whole lives void of grace, touching on grief and steeped in guilt.
But the answer to full life is in the inverse.
Grace, grief and guilt. Always, sometimes and never. Respectively.
Only when we first accept abundant grace can we afford it to ourselves and others. Only when we grieve well the past can we hope well for the future. And only if we live an always grace life can we know a never guilt existence.
In my struggles with fertility, I have found this to be the only answer to living a free and full life.
So won’t you join me today in living out the inverse?