Tag Archives: grace


Vulnerabilities: My journey through Psalms (103)

I debated on writing this post because my intention is not for people to feel sorry for me or to feel bad. The whole reason I started this blog was to promote my writing, which, as it happens, tends to focus on the vulnerabilities real people struggle with every day. So, as I was reading Psalm 103 I realized a lot of what I have been feeling is exactly what others have felt for thousands of years. Because, after all, we are humans and we struggle with a vast array of emotions that are interconnected throughout our lives and our own histories as well as the world’s history.

Eve ate the fruit, not because she was hungry, but because she was curious and eager to prove herself.

Abraham slept with Hagar because his wife Sarah was impatient and convinced God needed her help.

Bathsheba had an affair with David because he was rich and powerful, but also because he was there when her husband wasn’t.

We all do dumb things when we are curious, eager to prove ourselves, impatient, “helping” God, and alone. And at some point, we have all felt each one of these incredibly human emotions.

I’ve always found the holidays to be particularly challenging in that respect.  A plethora of human emotions washes over me during this time of the year. Joy in celebration, sure, but also…

  • eagerness to prove
  • impatience
  • a need to “help” God
  • loneliness

Every year I want to prove I am giving and happier to give than receive. Have you ever felt this? An inexplicable desire to prove, to no one in particular, that you are the ‘best’ giver? Maybe I’m alone in that, but sometimes when I’m busy trying to prove that I forget what the point of the gift is in the first place. Interesting how our desire to prove ourselves often proves nothing but our own selfishness. Ouch. It’s a good thing God “redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies” (103:4), because I definitely don’t deserve such grace.

My impatience is probably award-winning too. When I want something, I often want it right then. Especially if it has been promised to me, or if I don’t understand the purpose of waiting. And this one doesn’t apply just to the holidays. I am impatient and often live for the next moment rather than the moment I’m in. The mantra “I’ll be satisfied when…” is not one I am particularly proud of.  Fortunately, even in my impatience, “the Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (103:8).

And he doesn’t need my help. Even though I sometimes try to give it to him, he doesn’t need it. Ever. My impatience often leads to my own foolish decisions acting outside of God’s plan, but “He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever” (103:10). Which is good, because I probably deserve his wrath with the number of times I have tried to be in control (as you’re all probably aware given the number of times I’ve written about it).

What I struggle with the most this time of year is an echoing sense of loneliness. That’s stupid, right, since I have an amazing family who loves me and makes sure I know they love me. I have great friends who do the same! I’m not complaining in this post, just being honest. This year, it hit me particularly hard. As a 32-year-old single woman, I’m in a particularly weird life stage. Fitting into a ‘group’ just doesn’t happen, and that is never more evident than this time of year when people are throwing so many parties that couples have to turn down invitations because they’re overbooked. It’s not that people mean to leave out someone like me, but they think ‘oh it’s a couples party they won’t enjoy themselves,’ which is probably true because being the 3rd wheel sucks just as much. Or, in contrast, the single ladies are all a decade younger so the ‘party’ isn’t as enjoyable because our life experiences are just so vastly different. I’m not saying I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself or in a state of depression–that is far from true. These are just observations I made over the past few weeks, particularly when that echo bounces around in my head, especially this year since I lost my beautiful chicken nugget, Emma, who in all her canine glory always made me feel so much less alone in the world.

Again, please don’t read this wrong. I’m not writing this to whine and complain, to make people feel bad or sorry for me! I’m writing this because God knows these feelings, all of them are what make us human and “he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (103:14) even when we are wrapped up in our own self-importance, indulgences, and even pity.

Ultimately God is good. He “gives righteousness and justice to all” (103:6) and his “unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the Earth” (103:11).

Because we all need that grace and mercy every once in a while.

After all, that’s why we celebrate Christmas, God’s grace and mercy made flesh. Accessible forever, for everyone. And that’s something worth celebrating. 

The Artist’s Way Week 3: Grace, Ashley, it’s about Grace.

“It’s my experience that we’re much more afraid that there might be a God than we are that there might not be […] possibility is far more frightening than impossibility […]” (Julia Cameron)

Most people see faith and science as being mutually exclusive. They’re not. The more I think about it and the more I study, the more I see that science requires faith and vice versa in more ways than we really want to admit and maybe in more ways than we really see. And in a lot of ways this is absolutely terrifying. Why? Because science=fact. And faith being fact means that we are not as in control of our fate as we would like to be. It also means we have to get up off our asses and get something done, because there is actually more to life than just particles randomly floating in space. There is a design, a purpose, a reason. And, quite frankly, that is terrifying to a lot of people, myself included.

I can’t remember ever not believing in God—a creator. I may have questioned it, but to me it takes a lot more faith NOT to believe in God; however, being accountable to anything or anyone is downright terrifying (It’s why “I’m going to call your Mama/Daddy” can still strike fear in the heart of the even strongest teenagers…). Now consider idea of a Cosmic Critique—that’ll bring you down from narcissistic cloud nine and into the reality of having to deal with all your past—both good and bad.

But as Julia Cameron points out in The Artist’s Way, “We say we are scared of failure, but what frightens us more is the possibility of success.”

Why? Failure is what we expect—what we’ve been told to expect. What we think we deserve, and maybe what we’ve been told we deserve our entire lives. So it becomes our mantra. What it becomes is comfortable.

Success is unknown.

The fact of the matter is, failure is not what we are designed for despite what the world might hawk. We were actually created for perfection—for success. Genesis 1 details man’s purpose from the very beginning–“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them […] God saw all that he had made and it was very good […]”

God created us for success, but we began a pattern of self-sabotage early on. Now, we can debate the value of having introduced knowledge of good and evil into the society all day (and I have my senior English class do this—so fun), but this moment is when shame is first introduced into society. As a result, every day we battle recovering from shame and failure. But what if we understood that success is not to be feared, but embraced as our destiny? Shame is not—or at least should not be—the norm. Recovery is a long arduous process, but it is possible, and the outcome is beautiful.

“Ask and you shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened to you…” These words are among the more unpleasant ones ascribed to Jesus Christ. They suggest to possibility of scientific method: ask (experiment) and see what happens (record the results). Is it any wonder we discount answered prayers?”(Julia Cameron)

But it’s not passive, it’s active. And it is a choice. As artists—as humans we have to take that step to recovery. I love what Julia Cameron says in week three: “Action has magic, grace and power in it.” Grace. Jesus has grace too, the ultimate grace and recovery is multifaceted, rooted in a deep seated need for grace.

But you have to want it. Seek, and ye shall find…

Just be prepared for what’s on the other side of grace, whatever it may be.