Doin' It Halfway Since 1996

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

Easy Peasy Recipe: Ham and Beans

So, the other night, I fixed the easiest, most simple (and probably cheapest meal) I have in my recipe collection. I don’t think it’s particularly special to my family and probably pretty common.

Ham and Beans. This isn’t really my recipe, but my grandmother’s. Though, I’ve modified it so I can use my fancy schmancy new fangled kitchen gadget, the slow cooker.

Anytime I eat this, it conjures memories of walking through my grandparents’ door, to be greeted by the smells of leftover Thanksgiving goodness and love. In fact, every time I make it, I find myself relocating for five minutes to the ten year-old version of myself and sitting across from my grandfather at the dinner table. One of the important elements of my relationship with my grandfather was his attempt to pull me out of my perpetual grumpiness. Eating this meal reminds me always of his calling me a grump lovingly and jokingly until I finally pulled out of my prepubescent emotional slump and laughed alongside him.

As a child, I used to imagine my great-grandmother, who I remember mostly from pictures, teaching my grandmother how to make a good pot of ham and beans. As a young woman, on a visit home from college, I inquired of my grandmother how to make it. And she taught me. Later, when I married, I realized how integral this same meal was to my husband’s fondness of his grandmother as well. So it has become a favorite of ours, and now of our girls’. It’s almost a family legacy in a bowl.

Tonight is the first time I’ve made this meal since the tragedy. And it’s making me miss my grandpa. It’s making me miss the house that was a childhood haven. It’s making me miss my family.

It’s making me reflect on all the love my grandparents showed me through my life. It’s making me thankful for the time I had with Grandpa and encouraging me to spend more time with Grandma.

I share this recipe so that you can also enjoy some good old comfort in a bowl.

I always save the bone with some meaty pieces from our holiday meals (generally Thanksgiving, Christmas, and/or Easter). It’s a trick that grandma taught me. I put it in a zip lock bag and freeze it until I’m ready to make this meal.

Ham and Beans

1 Ham Bone with meaty pieces

2 cups dry navy beans

1/4 cup chopped onion (any variety will do – this time I used red because it’s what I had)

1/4 chopped green pepper

The night before, rinse and sort 1 cup dry navy beans. If you need a good tutorial on how to do that, visit this 5dollardinner.com tutorial – just ignore the part when it come to cooking them.

Soak them in eight cups of water in the slow cooker overnight (don’t turn on the slow cooker, just let the beans soak).

In the morning, pour the beans and water into a strainer. Remove any split, broken, or shriveled beans. Give the beans one more quick rinse.

Dump the beans back into the slow cooker and cover with eight more cups of water.

Add the ham bone, onion, and pepper. You can add salt and pepper, if you’d like. I find the ham salty enough to flavor the beans.

Cook on low for eight hours or on high for six hours.

When the beans finish cooking, remove the bone (and any tendons that come off) and shred any big meaty pieces, returning the meat to the slow cooker with the beans.

Serve with your favorite cornbread and Enjoy!

 

Unplugged.

I’ve been absent for quite awhile.

My local friends know that I’m still around. My family still hears from me occasionally. I still update my facebook statuses.

But for some reason, I’ve needed to take a break from the online world. I haven’t really been tweeting. And I most certainly haven’t been posting.

Homeschooling is keeping me busy. I remember a few years ago, when I began seriously consider whether or not homeschooling was the path our family should take, another mom who I really respected told me, “Homeschooling is a big deal. It’s such a big deal, that many things you once considered essential to your life become less so. You have to choose what’s important. When you homeschool, your child’s education must be at the forefront of your life.”

Another homeschooling friend who I’ve met more recently, told me BEFORE she started homeschooling, “I think that when you homeschool, you better be able to provide your child as good as, no, an even better education, than they can get with the alternative.” (which, in both our cases, is public school).

I’ve taken those two statements to heart. Because I know how important her education is AND because I want her to be the best her possible, homeschooling trumps the blog (she’s reading beautifully, by the way – which was one of my big goals for her this year).

Another reason I’ve been absent is because I started a series based on poster prompts about grace from People of the Second Chance.

To be honest, I haven’t felt very gracious lately. I dislike hypocrites. And I don’t want to be one. So I just haven’t been posting about grace.

I’m sitting here tonight, contemplative, though.

While my kids wind down from Awanas, I thought I’d write a little bit.

I only crossed two things off my to-do list today; the list had about twenty items on it.

Having a picnic lunch was not on that list. But, it’s what we did. Because the weather was nice today. Because my kids begged for us to do it. Because my life isn’t about crossing things off my to-do list.

I forget that a lot. But I really need to remember it.

Had I failed to jump at the opportunity to let my kids eat their lunch on a picnic blanket in the front yard, I’d have missed this conversation:

“Mom, what does ‘wet blanket’ mean?”

“It means that someone isn’t very much fun.”

“You’re a wet blanket.”

“Well, if I were a wet blanket, then we wouldn’t be having a picnic lunch outside today, now would we?”

“Oh. Well, you’re a dry blanket.”

And then I laughed. Which I haven’t done a lot of lately. Conversations like that are good for the soul. Conversations like that only happen when I stop worrying about all I have to do and just let life happen.

Have you had any “letting life happen” moments lately?

Never Beyond – On Wearing Masks

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you give a second chance?

I kind of really completely incredulously laughed out loud when I saw the People of the Second Chance poster this week.

Darth Vader. Really? I mean, I know that there would be fictitious bad guys. But really?

I thought to the delight of my husband I might need to watch the Star Wars episodes again, but a quick trip to IMDb gave me a good refresher on this villain’s history (check out the link for a brief synopsis if you haven’t seen the movies, which begs the question “Where have you been the last three and a half decades?”).

But, like most conversations that People of the Second Chance start, this one got me thinking. And while I feel a little silly talking about a character like he’s a real person, I’m going to have to for the sake of this discussion of grace.

Darth Vader wasn’t always a self-assured bad guy (of course, it took George Lucus sixteen years to make us privy to that information, but I digress). He used to be sweet, enslaved, Anakin Skywalker. From a young age, he was told he was destined for greatness. His destiny plotted over and determined by those who wanted to use him for his supposed power. He was a victim to political games. Though a Jedi, he still was captive to the human heart. He knew loss, he knew love, he knew greed and power. He felt betrayal, even if it wasn’t always real. Eventually, his anger and bitterness overwhelmed him and turned him into a ruthless, cold-hearted killer. Instead of fighting for good, he turns to the dark side and becomes its champion. Eventually he dies in a battle to the death with his son. At the end of it all, he asks to be un-masked and receives redemption when son and father encounter each other face to face for the first time.

Ahem. Give me a second as I wash the nerdiness from my hands. Alright. Commencing grace discussion in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

For whatever reason, when I think about Darth Vader, I always remember the shriveled old man under the mask. I assume this is because I was very young when the first movies came out. When I saw this part of the movie, I realized that he was just a man, and not really all that scary.

Aren’t we all a little bit like Darth Vader?

No, not the ruthless-I-wear-a-scary-black-plastic-helmet-mask-and-can-and-will-kill-you-with-a-thought Vader.

I’m talking about the please-take-off-this-mask-and-see-me-for-who-I-really-am Vader.

There is a longing in all of us to be known. But, for whatever reason, we think that’s impossible. Or at least we act like it is.

We wear masks all day long, no matter how worn they are, no matter how cracked they are. We think people can’t see through them. No, we HOPE that people can’t see through them.

Conversely, we are just as content to continue looking at others’ masks without really expecting to see the real person behind them. Whether we only see the mask presented to us and take it as real OR we see the broken, cracked, faded mask and choose NOT to see what’s behind it, we humans sure like our masks. And we don’t usually wear just one. We have one for our families, one for our co-workers, one for our friends, one for the people at church. We have A LOT of masks.

Photo Credit: Flickr by user Robert Louden

Every night we take off our masks and face ourselves in the mirror. We wonder, for a brief second, what people would think if they could see the real you staring back at them.

“No!” we tell ourselves. “It’s too shameful. Too scary. Mustn’t let them see the real me. They’d hate me. They would never believe the things I’ve done, what I’ve said, how I’ve acted. Every bad thought, every insecurity, every ugly thought, every scar must continue to stay hidden.”

We look at our worn masks, some chipped by stones thrown at us. Others are just old from wear. They’re cracked and the paint is chipping. We tell ourselves that our masks are enough. We’ll put them away for the night, fall into bed from exhaustion of juggling all our masks, and then pick them up again to put them on in the morning.

We’re scared that if people really knew us, if they really saw who we are, they’d reject us.

Being transparent is a weakness because being transparent shows the weaknesses.

But aren’t you tired of fighting? Aren’t all those masks you’re carrying heavy? Have you traded the real you for an inaccurate imitation?

Aren’t  you peeking through the cracks of your masks mentally begging the person on the other side to see you, the real you – the broken, needs forgiveness, longs for authenticity, overwhelmed-and-drowning-in-a-fallen-world you?

I’m going to tell you a little secret:

Grace makes un-masking possible. It makes it bearable. It even makes us more human.

When we accept grace from God, we’re also required to turn around and generously give it.

Suddenly, masks are silly.

When you bring grace into play, we’re all equal. We’re all the same. We’re all in desperate need of it.

Your scars, my cuts, his bruises, the bags under her eyes from endless nights of crying all become completely normal. We’re all so very broken.

But we’re all so very within reach of redemption.

Un-masking is difficult at first. Because sometimes, people do reject you. Sometimes, the other person refuses to let go of his or her mask.

But my experience has been that taking off the mask, or refusing to put the mask on in the first place, makes way for the most incredible human relationships.

I have found that when I lay it all on the floor, when I show off all the imperfections that are me, people suddenly feel at ease.

They don’t feel like they have to keep holding up that mask. They are willing to share some of their imperfections. They want to be real.

It’s what I long for, people.

AUTHENTICITY.

None of us are perfect. Masks are unnecessary. I don’t want your mask. I want the real you.

The raw-bruised and battered by the world-imperfect-tossed out-despised by men-accepted by Christ-grace covered you.

So, let’s not wait like Vader until our dying breath to take off our masks.

Let’s step out into the light. Let’s expose our true selves. Let’s know and be known. Not just to God, but to each other too.

Never Beyond – Mike Tyson: On Being the Prodigal’s Brother

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you give a second chance?

Christians LOVE the parable about the prodigal son and for good reason. It’s an example of God’s extravagant grace toward us.

Even if we don’t realize all the cultural implications of Jesus’ day in the parable, we love thinking about how God runs to us and lavishes us with his love.

Stop for second and take a minute to read Luke 15:11-32.

Often times, we identify quite easily with the son who has rudely asked for, received and squandered his inheritance. The bitter taste of the world and fair-weather friends still lingers on our tongues. We can relate to his being in the pit of pigs, wondering if he even has a chance to go home and be a servant for his father. We rejoice in the thought of the son’s repentance. We are thankful to know that God loves us as much as the father loved his son.

It makes us feel good. It makes us feel loved. It makes us feel wanted.

But there’s more to the parable. The prodigal is not the only son. There’s another son. A more responsible, diligent, faithful son.

This son, the eldest, has dutifully obeyed and followed his father. He has done all that he was supposed to do as a son. He’s worked hard and taken care of the family business. He’s stayed with his aging father. He’s been the good son.

But then his black sheep brother returns. Repentant.

And the father throws him an extravagant, lavish party to celebrate his return.

The older brother is angry. He complains. He’s bitter. He doesn’t understand why this terrible son receives such a compassionate and gracious reception. He refuses to embrace his brother as the father does. He refuses to come inside to join the party.

The father, full of love, says to him, “‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:31-32)

The parable begs for an ending. We don’t know if the older brother decided to join the celebration or if he decided to stay outside and wallow in his bitterness.

This week’s People of the Second Chance Never Beyond poster depicts Mike Tyson.

You know him, right? If you’re a child of the 80s like me (man, I’m getting old), you probably remember him as a boxing legend. You may have played Mike Tyson’s Punch Out on the old school Nintendo system. You might also remember him as a really bad guy. He has a pretty long rap sheet. I won’t list it here. But do an internet search and you’ll find a myriad of websites that list his sins for all the world to see.

Just like the younger brother, he lived in excess. He partied hard. He was (and still is) famous. He was important by the world’s standards. He’s probably tasted all the world has to offer. The people who enjoyed his success dropped him when things got bad. He hit rock bottom and the entire world got ringside seats to watch his downfall. When he fell, he fell hard. When he fell, those who claimed to love him began to hate him. Everyone believed he got what he deserved, including me.

I would imagine that it’s been pretty lonely for Mike Tyson.

On Sunday evening, Mike Tyson tweeted this:

I don’t claim to know Mike Tyson’s heart. What I do know is that repentant sinners receive lavish love from God the father. If Mike Tyson has God like he says, if he has come to his senses, if he has repented – then God the Father ran with open arms to validate him as son. He gave him a robe. He gave him shoes. HE WAS FORGIVEN. Mike Tyson received the same measure of grace that all the rest of us prodigals have (in case you were wondering, that’s an overabundance, never-ending, gushing with loving kindness, eternity’s worth of grace).

Forget about Mike Tyson for a second. What about the people in your life? You know, that person you can’t stand at work? The mother in play group who is ALWAYS bragging about her kids and putting down your parenting styles? Your black sheep relative who everyone in the family hopes can’t make it to the family gathering? Your neighbor whose dog keeps tearing up your flower bed? What about those people? You might be the prodigal’s brother if the thought of God running to them (like he did you) to lavish his love upon them makes your stomach turn. But the truth is that the fountain of grace from which YOU and I drink is the same fountain of grace offered to them.

When that truth sinks into our thick skulls and hard hearts, do we want to be like the older brother? If that person we despise comes repentant before the cross, are we going to complain and argue and try to explain to God why someone like Mike Tyson (or our co-worker, peer, relative, neighbor) shouldn’t receive a party and someone like us should? Are we going to really believe that our duty to God and all the “good” stuff we’ve done for God gives us more merit? That somehow we deserve more because we think we made better choices for ourselves?

When someone else is the prodigal, especially if it’s someone we don’t particularly like, we have a choice. We can either pout outside the house sipping from the cup of bitterness OR we can rejoice, go inside, and party it up because “he was dead, but now he’s alive. He was lost, but now is found.”

Which will you choose?

If you want to hear the sermon that inspired me this week and helped me write this post, click here. Just want to send a thanks to my pastor Mark Cary for sharing these words of wisdom.

Just a woman at Panera

We happened to be at the entrance at practically the same time.

She wore all black, a sleeveless top, flowing black pants, and cute little wedges. Her designer sunglasses sat on top of her head. In her nose, a tiny diamond stud.

She didn’t look at all like the sort of woman who would be struggling with an infant in a car seat, but she was.

I remember all too well the awkwardness of those infant car seats, so I opened the door for her.

It must have been enough. Because in the few minutes it took for the three or four people ahead of us to order their food, I heard a very condensed version of her life story.

It started as an innocent conversation.

“Today would be a nice day to tan.”

“Hmmm. It is a nice day outside.”

“Oh, I never tan outside. . . “

From tanning, to body image, to being too fat to wear her pre-pregnancy clothes, to her lousy husband who told her she needed to lose weight, to how she used to starve herself to be skinny, to how she knew she needed to exercise but hated to go to the gym because she was either judged by skinny young girls or hit on by creepy old guys, to how she wanted to be skinny again so her husband would stick around, to how she didn’t want to be divorced, but that he didn’t love her, but that she didn’t want to be divorced, to how awful he was too her, to how it’s gotten her down, to how she has depression, to how she’s not suicidal, but how she has depression and her mom has it and her brother has it . . .

I nodded and listened. Because she barely took a breath between sentences.

Her baby, smiled and cooed in the car seat. With beautiful, big, baby blue eyes.

The few words I was able to get in were, “You have to be healthy for you and not let anyone else tell you who you are or should be.”

Would you share all those things with a complete stranger while waiting in line at Panera? I know I wouldn’t. I wasn’t sure why she did.

I stood there a little uncomfortable, but more concerned. This woman needed something.

She needed someone to tell her that it was ok to be her. That she was important. That she mattered.

I can only hope that I conveyed that in the few minutes we shared.

Because as quickly as our conversation started, it ended when our food was delivered and she said, “Well, have a great day!”

And that was it.

She and her baby were gone.

I was left standing there, holding my Thai chopped chicken salad, wondering just what happened.

And I prayed. Because I didn’t know what else to do. I prayed for her situation. I prayed that she would know her value. I prayed for her baby.

She shared more in five minutes than most people will share in a lifetime. Maybe because she felt like she could tell a complete stranger. Maybe I looked like I wouldn’t judge. Maybe because I opened the door for her. Maybe she would have told anyone and I just happened to be the person who was there. I really don’t know.

I don’t know why. But she felt like she could tell me that. So she did. And I just listened.

I don’t know if I’ll see her again. But I don’t think I’ll ever forget her.

Never Beyond: What I’m Expecting

All week long I’ve been posting about grace, forgiveness, and second chances – all inspired by the Never Beyond Poster series initiated by People of the Second Chance.

On Tuesday I wrote about Absent Parents.

On Wednesday, I wrote about Forgiving the Ex-Boyfriend.

On Thursday, I wrote about Giving myself second chances.

And today, I’m posting my first vlog (video blog). It’s my first, so be gracious.

People of the Second Chance (POTSC) website

People of the Second Chance Facebook Page

@POTSC Twitter Feed

AND . . .

After making my video today, I found out that they are also on Pinterest. So, check them out there too.

I really look forward to taking this journey and I hope you are too.

Never Beyond: On Giving Myself a Second Chance Every Day

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you forgive?

All week I’ve been posting on Grace, Forgiveness, and Second Chances.

Tuesday I posted about Casey Anthony and Absent Parents; Yesterday about broken relationships.

Flickr Photo by user darrenjsylvester

If I had two personalities, I’m sure that one would be named Judgmental Jackie and the other would be named Martha the False Martyr.

Here’s a conversation the two women would have regularly:

JJ: Wow Martha, you sure slept in late today. Do you plan on even doing anything today?

MM: You’re right. I stayed up too late last night. The day’s almost over. I might as well go back to bed.

JJ: You know, I have this friend who has ten children. She gets up at 5, nurses her baby, gets breakfast going, has her children ready to go by six. Then they all have devotions at the kitchen table before sitting down to a five-course breakfast. She also homeschools and all her children play at least three instruments. They’re very intelligent. The three oldest ones are spelling bee champions. I think she only cooks whole foods, in fact, I’m sure she does. Her children are all so well-behaved, polite and responsible. She and her husband have the perfect marriage. They never argue and they’re so happy. Even though she’s had ten children, she still looks as fit and young as she did on the day she graduated from high school. I think she’s working on writing her third novel too. She’s amazing. You could never be like her.

MM: You’re right. I’m a terrible mother, a terrible wife, and just an all around terrible person.

JJ: You know what you need? More prayer time. More devotion time. More Bible study. I’m pretty sure that you aren’t doing all you can to be closer to God. You’d better work on that. I have a friend who is a missionary overseas and she cares for orphans. She’s pretty amazing. You could never be like her.

MM: You’re right. I’m a terrible Christian. I could try and try and try and I’ll never be as good as your overseas missionary friend.

JJ: You know what else? Your house is a wreck. Why can’t you keep it clean? It’s amazing that you can get anything done in this house. You need a schedule. You need to clean more.

MM: I am a pig. An awful, terrible, no good, can’t do anything right pig.

JJ: There’s something else I’ve noticed about you Martha. You have a lot of anger. You yell a lot. You aren’t patient. When you do yell, you are very, very mean. You’re also very ungrateful. Don’t you know that people would kill to have what you have? But you’re just so angry all the time.

MM: I’m a terrible, terrible human being.

JJ: And you remember how you were such a terrible friend to that one girl when you were in middle school? You were so mean to her! You talked behind her back. You made fun of her to other people. You pretty much ruined her life. Even though you haven’t talked to her in years, you probably made her lose faith in all humanity and are the reason why she can’t have healthy friendships.

MM: Wow. I didn’t even think about how badly I might have hurt her. How can anyone even like me? I can’t believe that anyone is even my friend.

JJ: I’m pretty sure you’re the worst person ever.

MM: I’m pretty sure you’re right.

All day long, Judgmental Jackie would verbally quarterback sack Martha the False Martyr.

All day long, Martha the False Martyr would believe it all, take it to heart, and fall into a very deep depression because she was such a terrible, weak, unloved, ugly human being.

Do you ever tell yourself your own set of lies? Do you find yourself believing those lies?

I have hated myself more than anyone else ever could.

I have disappointed myself in so many ways. I haven’t lived up to the unattainable perfection I’ve expected of myself. I accuse myself almost every day of not being smart enough or good enough or Christian enough or diligent enough or whatever enough.

I am the accused. I am my own judge, jury, bailiff, and prosecutor. Every day, I’m on trial.

And every day, I give myself the same sentence, “GUILTY!”

Guilty of pride. Guilty of anger. Guilty of disbelief. Guilty of lust. Guilty of hatred. Guilty of doing what I shouldn’t and not doing what I should. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

At the end of every trial I throw myself into the cell of false rehabilitation in the prison of if you just try harder.

But my verdict doesn’t matter.

Because forever and always I wear a crown on my head that says, “NOT GUILTY!” And underneath it says, “Debt is Paid In Full”.

By my standards I am an utter failure. A mess. Unforgivable.

By God’s standards I am loved. I am chosen. I am Forgiven.

I have to stop living in my self-made prison of lies and accusations.

I have to believe what God says about me, not what I say about me.

I have to believe that I am never beyond his extension of grace, that I am never beyond his healing touch, that I am never beyond his using me to glorify himself.

I have to forgive myself for being human. Because He has.

He’s paid for my fallen humanity.

He’s paid for yours too.

Never Beyond: On Forgiving the Ex-Boyfriend

Today’s post is a continuation of the beginning of the Never Beyond series inspired and encouraged by People of the Second Chance.

Yesterday I wrote about Casey Anthony and Forgiving absent parents. If you missed it, click here to read it.

Also, I’m guest posting over at Speaking in Faith for her Wedding Wednesday post, sharing about the “for worse” moments in marriage. She and I would both love it if you swung by to take a peek.

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you forgive?

All week I’m posting on grace, forgiveness, and second chances.

Photo Credit: Flickr User Nichelle <3 [Misses Flickr!

There’s this guy I dated. A long time ago. Before my husband. Before I was really a woman. Before everything changed.

I think that he liked me. Before I got all crazy girlfriend-ish.

He may have even loved me a little bit. I’m just not sure that it was the right kind of love.

And he took a lot from me. He only took it, though, because I gave it.

The kicker is that about three months into the relationship, I knew it wasn’t right. I knew in my heart of hearts that he wasn’t for me. Forget the whole “The One” thing. We just were not supposed to be together. Period.

But I thought I could change things. I basically told God that he didn’t know what he was talking about and I was going to do what I was going to do. That was my first act of disobedience.

Then a few months later, I felt him slipping away. And I really, really liked this guy. And I really, really wanted him to like me back.

So, I gave him the one thing I hadn’t given him yet.

I gave him all of me. More disobedience.

He stuck around for awhile. Because it was easy to get what he wanted.

We had a few good times, we had a few bad times. We argued a lot. We were on-again-off-again for awhile. I’d always initiate a break up because it was my way of seeing how serious he was. But we’d always get back together.

Because I had given him all of me, because I had led myself to believe that I was going to marry him (whether he wanted to marry me or not), I expected that he give all of himself to me too. I started to get insanely jealous. I was jealous of his friends. I was jealous of his time. I was jealous of everything that he was ever involved with. The disobedience continued.

But, eventually, he got bored. Eventually, my jealousy was too much drama for him. Eventually, he decided that I wasn’t enough.

One day, he dropped me. He told me that he didn’t love me anymore. He let me go.

I was devastated. I was disappointed in myself. I was ashamed.

I still remember sitting on the floor sobbing. I don’t think I was sobbing for having lost him. I think I was sobbing for having lost myself. For having let myself go so far off the path I knew to be right to pursue a lie.

I felt like a shattered mirror, like I couldn’t even recognize myself in the broken shards of glass; the reflection was not who I ever expected or wanted to be.

It was my first rock-bottom.

It was the first time I realized that in my own strength, I have NOTHING to offer God.

It was the first time I realized that a broken heart and contrite spirit were the ONLY offerings I could bring.

It was the first time I had to truly forgive someone who hurt me deeply.

It hurt for a very long time. In some ways, I’ll always be wounded from that relationship. But I forgave him.

Fast Forward 15+ years later. I’m such a different person from the girl sitting on the floor sobbing for her lost identity.

It’s amazing to see what God does when you bring sin to light.

Grace is so peculiar like that.

One of my favorite passages is John 3:19-21:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

When we come out from behind the shadows, from the darkness that is so inherently our nature, when we are honest with ourselves and each other about our sin, amazing things happen.

We learn that we’re not alone. We realize that we’re pretty much all alike, that without Christ’s work on the cross, we are nothing.

When we come into the light, when we embrace truth, we can start to heal. We can start to love. We can start to forgive each other.

I still try to hide in the shadows every once in awhile. It’s where I was born and it’s difficult to shake off the old.

But being Christ’s means I’m always being pulled back into the light. The truth about me becomes quite obvious.

I don’t have it together. I’ve made many, many mistakes. I don’t love like I’m supposed to. I hold onto grudges. I’m prideful, judgmental, and arrogant. I lie and cheat. I don’t honor my parents like I should. I envy my fellow man almost every day. I am a complete and utter failure.

But I belong to Christ. And gosh darnit, he’s going to keep working on me. He’s going to keep pulling me out into the light.

In the light, my imperfections are quite apparent. But, just like a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel, he molds and shapes and makes me into vessel of his love and mercy and grace.

Day by day I’m learning to be more comfortable in the light. I’m learning that imperfections = beauty, when they are held in God’s hands.

Never Beyond: On Forgiving Absent Parents

This post is a response to the Never Beyond poster series from People of the Second Chance. The question: Who would you forgive?

All week I’m posting on forgiveness, grace, and second chances. Join me?

POTSC Never Beyond Poster - Casey Anthony

Casey Anthony.

If you don’t know who she is, I’d be surprised. Her trial was one of the most highly televised trials in our country’s history. Twitter and Facebook allowed for to-the-minute updates about testimonies, and ultimately her verdict. I barely followed the trial. I was on vacation when I heard she was not guilty. BUT I heard about her. I knew the gist of the case. I understood why people were so angry when she received a verdict of NOT GUILTY.

The trial revolved around her lying, her excessive partying, the absence of remorse that her daughter was missing, and then evidence showing that she killed her own child.

The prosecution could not prove to a jury that she did it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

So, today, she walks free.

A lot of people are mad about that.

When I consider Casey Anthony, grace, and second chances, I’m forced to reconcile my opinions about absent parents.

You know, the ones who left. The ones who checked out emotionally. The ones who’ve shrugged their responsibilities and expected someone else to pick up the slack. Even the one who the entire world just “knows” killed her own daughter.

I believe parenting is one of the highest responsibilities we as humans can have. We are supposed to love our children. Protect them. Give them the best that we can give. I take my responsibility very seriously.

I’ve known a few absent parents in my day. I don’t like them.

If you know me at all, if you’ve spent any time with me fact to face, you know about one in particular. You know how I feel about her, about how she acts, about what she did, about who she is.

If you don’t know me personally, let’s just say that my opinion of this particular person is low. I’ve yelled at her like I’ve never yelled at another human being. I’ve said things to her and about her I never thought I would say. I find her to be the worst brand of parent. I have placed at the same level others have placed Casey Anthony. Without classifying it as such, I’d say that if I were to hate another person, how I feel about her is as close to hate as I can get.

Those are not words of a person redeemed by grace.

The truth is that a person who embraces grace should never feel that way about another human being. A person who embraces grace loves. A person who embraces grace forgives.

But for this particular woman, I’ve drawn the line in the sand. I’ve put her into a box labeled, “unforgivable” thrown it on some random storage shelf in the back of my mind and tried to forget all the horrible things that transpired in our dealings with each other.

I put her in that box because it’s easier to focus on all her faults than to accept my own blame. It’s easier to focus on how much I think of the awful things she did than to own up to my own sin. It’s easier to nitpick at all her splinters and attempt to hold them up to my plank and say, “See! She’s so much worse than I am.”

But when I think about People of the Second Chance, when I think about Never Beyond, when I think about Casey Anthony, I’m wondering if it’s time to get that box back out, sort through every single heart-wrenching reality, accept what happened, forgive her, forgive myself, and move on.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do that. I’m still very mad and hurt by everything that happened.

I still wear it on my sleeve like a combat badge because I want the world to see how I was wounded in the battle, but I still survived the war.

I want people to agree with me, to tell me I’m in the right, that it’s ok to still be mad.

I want to give up on this woman who I consider to be as bad as everyone thinks Casey Anthony is.

But that’s not what grace looks like, does it?

God hasn’t given up on me. God hasn’t given up on Casey Anthony. And God hasn’t given up on the woman at whom I can’t seem to stop pointing my finger.

I have held onto this anger and it has become a millstone around my neck. I’ve fallen further and further into the depths of my own self-righteousness. I’m drowning myself in my own bitterness and self-pity. To hold on to this is to dig my own grave.

My duty isn’t to judge and evaluate every single action, weighing it against some high moral code that I myself can’t even reach. My job, no my privilege, is to forgive. Not once. Not twice. But seventy time seven. To remember what happened, to confess it, to lay it down at the cross, and realize that everything that happened is cancelled debt.

Cancelled debt. Paid for. Made new. Whole. Restored. Reconciled. Renewed. Holy and blameless in His sight.

That’s what forgiveness looks like. That’s what grace makes us.

Both of us.

Her AND Me.

Who is your unforgivable person? What would it look like if you forgave?

Never Beyond and People of the Second Chance

People of the second chance (@POTSC on twitter) are running a poster series called Never Beyond. It will include 25 posters of well-known, famous bad guys – people who have hurt society. I’m anxious to see the posters that will eventually become a touring art exhibit. I think it will be quite thought-provoking.

It’s making me think about second chances. It’s making me wonder about the lines I’ve drawn. It’s making me want to spend this week contemplating and praying about what areas in my heart need grace and change.

It’s making me want to commit to writing a post each day for the next four days about different people in my life who need the grace I have received in abundance, the people from whom I’m withholding it.

Because being a Christian is all about second (and third and fourth and fifth) chances, renewal, reconciliation and rebirth.

Being a Christian is all about grace. Radical, mind-changing, heart-changing, life-giving GRACE.

Will you join People of the Second Chance and me this week? Think with me. Pray with me. Let’s see if we can become people who really do believe in second chances.

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