A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Month: August 2016

Honestly: A push for more truthful parenting

I was fascinated—no, dismayed—recently by a manners advice columnist in a popular magazine. The columnist ruminated,

The question is: When should kids be inducted into the White Lie society that they will inevitably join?…The white lie, used judiciously and with compassion, can be a form of social grace.

 

Really?

Let me shoot you straight. Perhaps this is a defiant little foot-stomp of mine against a cultural phobia of Making People Feel Bad. I see it in myself, profoundly—that I often care more about people feeling bad and liking me than I do about gently speaking truth, or protecting them. Obviously this does not justify abrasiveness (it’s way too easy to use “telling the truth” to justify obliviously steamrolling a neighbor). I firmly believe it’s not full truth unless it’s expressed with love.

But why not create a culture of truth in our families? Is it really grace if we’re not honest?

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12 Ways to Pray for Your Child’s Teachers (FREE printables!)

12 ways to pray text

In celebration of the new school year–and since many of you are new to this blog in the last year–I’m reposting these specific prayers for these individuals who powerfully influence our kids, families, and communities day after day. 
Download this list free here as a pdf–great for Bible studies, personal use, or this format for church bulletin inserts. I’m hoping it’s a great way to kick off loving on the teachers in our lives and cheering them on throughout the year. Please share if you find this useful!   -Janel

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Just Right: Perfectionism vs. the Pursuit of Excellence

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(Okay, those of you who know me personally: thou shalt not laugh.)

I used to think I was a perfectionist.

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Guest post: What satisfies you?

Moment of truth: When I was a young mom, a baby on my hip and three toddlers/preschoolers welded around my knees, rising early for a quiet time simply did not happen. Part of it was that Mommy-radar kids possess—the one that somehow senses She Has Awakened, and it is now time for the pitter-patter of little feet to commence. Part of it was sheer exhaustion, nursing through the night or pregnant for literally five years; a REM cycle is simply too key to being a happy mommy. So I would fold open my Bible at night, after the last drink of water/trip to the bathroom/I found an owie on my toe routine. And just before my eyelids fell in exhaustion.

But now that I have passed that precious and grueling season of survival, there is something magnetic about curling in the quiet with my God, as the gray light turns softly pink, and before my now-taller children shuffle out for breakfast. It has become my “me” time. It is my time to be embraced, much as I seek to envelop my kids in their bedheads and still-warm PJ’s as they emerge. The Psalmist writes it succinctly: Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

And this prayer, whether my quiet time works out as planned or not—this begging of God to satisfy me—has become a vital element of my day.  I’m thinking about this on Barbara Rainey’s Ever Thine Home blog again today. Hop on over and check it out!

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31 Anything-but-Vanilla Methods to Bring Fresh Flavor to Times with God

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Victories of a different color: The Olympic Refugee Team

It’s a bold team, considering the climate of politics this year.
Well. It’s a bold team, considering the brash confrontation of reality required for these athletes to simply step onto the stadium’s spongy track there in Rio. After all, beneath whose flag would they walk? And who would fund their sportswear, their tickets? Something says their uniforms weren’t designed by Ralph Lauren.
No, this group is stitched together by something else entirely.
Perhaps it’s hope.

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Not the way I saw it going in my head: On second-guessing decisions

 

I think perhaps a reader phrased it best a few weeks ago:

[My husband] and I have wrestled with our “calling” to adopt years ago. We clearly felt it, and we have second guessed it almost every day since then, wondering what were we thinking? Did God really call us to this or were we just emotionally carried away, or as [this post] put it, is it an act of worship? I think in my naïveté, I assume that if I obey what I think God is clearly placing on my heart, he will “reward” me somehow with happiness and not trouble. My very wise husband points out that this is very bad theology!

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Give us this day: On bread and other minor miracles

The landscapes of my childhood are so different from those I view through my artfully barred windows. Instead of the lush, rolling hills carpeted with banana trees—Lake Victoria a slice of silver peeking from the top—our farmhouse rested in the center of miles of Midwestern fields, flat as a sheet of green construction paper. Though spread with a dull gray in winter, I can still hear the rustling of summer’s emerald cornstalks when I close my eyes.

One similarity I love about life in Uganda and life in central Illinois is the proximity to life cycles. From my mom’s garden with its rhubarb and asparagus and frothy heads of broccoli, to the ten chickens I presently have slaughtered about every six weeks for our family’s sustenance, there is something simple and good—something sobering—about seasons. About not simply grabbing my bag of chicken breasts from the price club freezer, but making a few portions smaller. Because actually, something else will need to die when our little family requires—requests?—more.

And this is what I have been thinking lately: That “give us our daily bread” is perhaps more evident when I am not merely sliding the cellophane off a perfectly shaped loaf from the store, which I picked up and gently tossed on that little shelf in my cart.

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Author Christa Parrish (one of my current favorites), in her novel Stones for Bread, helped me to wrap my mind around the intense labor poured into a single loaf of bread. Historically, bread involved not only the typical rigorous farming efforts of plowing, watering, scything. As a farmer’s daughter myself, I know too well that hopeful gaze at the sky for rain (the drought of ’88 is still seared in my memory), or the prayers for rain to stop, for frost to hold off. And that’s modern farming. I wasn’t threshing wheat, or  hunched over a stone, grinding our flour, hauling water from a river, or carefully laying a fire and stoking it.

Even now, the loaf landing neatly sliced on my table is actually the result of a number of highly complex activities begun months ago—years, if you consider the tending of the soil, the inventions of labor-saving machinery, the investments of the farmers in equipment and otherwise. God’s also arranged the arrival of electricity to the kitchen or a mechanic; the provision of fuel for the delivery truck, of marketing and human resource personnel to make sure there’s a company existing for this very purpose.

Daily bread in my mind has come to stand for what I need; what my body requires to sustain itself in this day. I ask for “daily bread” in my ability to thoughtfully and graciously parent and, say, not become the Incredible Hulk when my child launches something destructive over the stair railing. I need daily bread for the energy from my feet hitting the concrete floor in the morning to the time I tuck them (much dirtier now) beneath the blue coolness of the sheets at night. I repeatedly request wisdom for this blog, actually; I still liken that to waiting for manna, trusting God will reveal something of Himself to me that might be something I can share with you.

Daily bread, in all respects, then, is requesting not just soft, crusty slices on my children’s plates. It is an entire series of elaborate orchestrations God conducts to simply meet the need that sometimes, like a Pop Tart, simply arrives in my hand unceremoniously and just as quickly. When I worked in publishing, this included selling a number of books for me to keep my job and receive a paycheck. Here in Africa, it means God providing for a number of financial supporters (whom I steadfastly adore) who generously remember to sign up for automatic withdrawal or stick a check in the mail; generously sacrifice month after month after year. And this is on top of all the actions it took simply to make my bread from people around the world. (I generally eat around three times a day.)

I have thought often of Gandhi’s quote since moving to Africa: There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread. Now, there are so many gifts of grace required for bread, I may just see God all over bread itself.

Perhaps it’s also amazing that, thirty-five years into this, I at times struggle with unbelief in his intimate, intricate care for me.

Give us this day our daily bread is coming to mean for me a far greater trust in minute miracles, in which God sustains all the living beings looking to His hand–loaf after loaf.

 

Like this post? You might like

Why Cook? The eternal aspects of food (er, beyond Twinkies)

When God packs your lunch

Barley, Love, and Blogging (Or, another small lesson from a 3,300 year-old-woman)

Yeah, but does God so love individuals? (As in, me?)

 

 

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