Sinking in the best way possible

Dear precious friends,

Despite my apparent neglect and lack of communication, you are so loved. It has been a while since my last post, but there hasn’t been any stories that top the last blog. Come on, you know that one was totally hilarious.

Albeit, I’ve decided to go ahead and blog about something God’s been teaching me lately.

Grace. It’s a short and sweet word that takes over a lifetime to unpack. My heart is constantly reminded that although I know this wonderful God of grace, I never outgrow the depths of His gospel. I’m always sinking in His beautiful mercy and grace.

This is Michelle.

I’m constantly being refined by literally everything around me. Yep, it is really annoying sometimes and painfully humbling. I am seeing my ugly, heavy sin. I’m seeing where I need growth, repentance, and grace upon grace. I was talking to Michelle last month about some of my struggles with receiving grace from God. She said one of the most truthful and insightful things, “Mary, when you bring your sin to the cross and you repent, you don’t have to walk around with it attached to your foot. It’s dragging you down. You’ve been forgiven. It’s at the cross.” [Insert facepalm]. Le duh! As Michelle would say, “Erps.” I know these things, but my heart and actions sure don’t show that to be true. Again, “Erps.”

I’m seeing God show up in amazing ways through friendships here, ministry, family. etc. It’s also that season of seeing truly how faithful God is in His plans for me. Today I was able to talk to a friend from when I was “living” in STL years ago. I am, in the most powerful way possible, reminded of what He saved me from and what my life could look like right now. Gosh, I’m so humbled by His grace and His love for me. It’s amazing.

So, here is one of the worship songs I’m currently obsessed with. I know this post wasn’t really about anything specific, so sorry about that. I just love these nights when my heart is overflowing with thankfulness and wanted to share that with all of you. God is faithful and He is great!

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Jeremy Camp:ReWind

Well, there are so many things to say that I can’t quite think rightly of any which thing to speak of first.  That’s the kind of mood I’m in. Enjoy. I have been singing a little ditty in my head for a little over a week now. The song: There Will Be A Day, by Jeremy Camp and Mary Smith. Allow me to divulge…

Senegal is dirty. I don’t mean disgusting and filthy, I really do mean there is a lot of dirt. We’re located right around the same area as the Sahara belt and the ever present drought continues to worsen our crusty condition. Our apartment, no matter how many times a day I sweep, always has a wonderful film covering our white-tile floors (don’t even ask me why anyone would put white tile across an entire apartment here…). Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, my feet have become permanently stained, and no this is not from my meticulously scribed tattoo.

As a part of attempting to keep my bedsheets clean, I either wash my feet before bed (this doesn’t always work that well because the walk from the bathroom to bed re-dirties my feet) or use baby wipes to remove the numerous impurities from my delicate pieds. One night a few weeks ago, I decided to go the baby wipes route. After seven, I repeat SEVEN, baby wipes my feet were still dirty. And what’s worse was those seven wipes were my last.

I defeatedly swiveled into bed and longingly stared at my feet as if they would magically transform into professionally pampered and polished feet.  It was then that the lyrics just came to me: “there will be a day with no more dirt, grody feet, dirty sheets, but until that dayyyyy…. la la la. etc.” I know, I know. How did I come up with such brilliant lyrics? Like I said, it just came to me.

So, this blog actually has no pupose except to inform you that for the past week and a half my sheets have been trampled upon by my very own contaminated feet, but there is hope that one day (this week?) I will have clean sheets. And that there will be a day when I will look back and actually miss sweeping our apartment multiple times a day (ha, trust me.. that day has not yet arrived). I’m going to miss looking down at my dirt lines on my feet and thinking, “Man I got so tan today,” only to be reminded that I’m still so white after a good scrubbing (you think I’d learn this one after 3 months…). I’m going to miss the constant reminder that beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news.  I’m going to miss seeing the leftover journeys from the day on the roughened bottom of my feet.

I know we aren’t even half-way through with our internship here, but I really have come to love the little common inconveniences. Not that I delight in them or anything, but I love the feelings of uncomfortability they produce. I love knowing that this world cannot satisfy and that I am a sinner. I love seeing how easily common inconveniences can cause me to fall short because it automatically shows me the vastness of the grace and mercy of our holy and righteous God. I love the growth that comes from being frustrated, feeling defeated and unsure. Don’t get me wrong, I do not love my sin, sinful flesh, and sinful reactions. In fact, I hate those things. But, when I’m weak I am able to see that He is strong. When I’m defeated, I can rest in the truth that He is victorious and has made me victorious. These times of inconveniences are bitter sweet, but when I have an eternal perspective they are just sweet.

They are just sweet.

“I, the preacher of this hour, beg to bear my little witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days, and when God has seemed most cruel to me he has then been most kind. If there is anything in this world for which I would bless him more than for anything else it is for pain and affliction. I am sure that in these things the richest, tenderest love has been manifested towards me. I pray you, dear friends, if you are at this time very low, and greatly distressed, encourage yourselves in the abundant faithfulness of the God who hides himself. Our Father’s wagons rumble most heavily when they are bringing us the richest freight of the bullion of his grace. Love letters from heaven are often sent in black-edged envelopes. The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. We may not ask for trouble, but if we were wise we should look upon it as the shadow of an unusually great blessing.

-Charles Spurgeon”

Chipping Away At The Polished Exterior

One thing I’m learning is how much I fall short. I’m not sure if this lesson is actually coming from ministry work or if it’s just coming as I’m getting a deeper and more full understanding of grace.

This whole week I’ve been putting all of my responsibilities on hold. I really can’t tell you the reasoning behind this. I know I need to continue support raising, finish my Doctrinal studies, and finish 4 books, but there has been a heavy exhaustion over me. I am learning that I ran the race well in some parts, but I’ve not finished well. I got caught up in what I thought I was capable of doing (not relying on God) and what I expected from others. When others weren’t meeting that expectation, I was getting bitter. Tonight there was a sin that God revealed to me, and I’d been fighting it for a few days. Without going into too much detail, it really was a heart issue that stemmed from a lack of trust in God and my own self-seeking pride.

I sat down tonight and picked up my Chris Tiegreen The One Year: At His Feet devotional and got hit in the face with some biblical truth. And as God is sovereign, it applied directly to my heart and my situation. It was over Mark 7:14-23:

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable.  “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them?  For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

“They (Pharisees and religion) all attempt to reform the visible result of sin without treating the internal condition. Jesus is the only remedy that cleans a person from the inside out, if we will let Him.”- Tiegreen

My heart is the issue here. I’m pretty capable of living within the “American-Evangelical Christian boundaries.” The polished exterior isn’t the issue. It’s truly what’s on the inside that counts. I have this circular effect/flow model going on in my mind. What I do, or my will, affects my heart, but my heart determines my will. What I mean by that is if I choose to deliberately go against God’s will or promptings through the Holy Spirit, my heart begins to become calloused, hard, and cold. Before this act of disobedience, my heart was probably not in the right place and it was not aligned with God’s. My heart was more than likely focused on self gratification, praise, and satisfaction and self-worth in other things other than the Lord Himself which resulted in my actions of going against God. Therefore, then, my actions of sin pulls me further away form Jesus which affects my heart which snowballs into a big mess.

How much smaller and less devastating would it be for us (preaching to myself) for us to catch the snowball before it starts taking off of the top of the hill? Humbling myself before God in repentance and asking Him to not only forgive me but to continue to change me to be more like Christ is the answer.

“The problem many of us have faced (or continue to face) is that we can restrain our outward behavior while retaining all of the evil thoughts within us. What we’ve changed is our appearance, not our hearts… (The solution is) the habitation of Christ Himself in our hearts by faith, and our constant, conscious reliance on Him (and cooperation with Him) to change us from within.”- Tiegreen

I can’t imagine what we would all look like if we didn’t restrain what we were entertaining in our minds and hearts. I can’t even begin to tell you what a mess I’d be, let alone how many times I’d be married. (You girls know what I’m talking about!) If God looks at our hearts, what does it say about my heart that I am entertaining these resentful attitudes towards fellow believers and not repenting of it? How can I just not “act out” my attitude and claim to be well? I am still struggling with the flesh, therefore, I am not well and am in a constant state of needing God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness (Luke 5:31).

I’m learning more and more that when I see something critical/harsh come out of my mouth it is an overflow of what’s going on in my heart (Luke 6:45). That is a sign that I need to check my heart and see what’s going on in there. Also realizing that my desires are to reflect God and honor Him and if they aren’t, again, heart issue.

So, I’ll leave you readers with this song. It’s super sweet because it was the first worship song I ever learned, and it carries so many precious memories alongside of it. And here’s the last bit from Tiegreen. Sorry this is so long and messy. Again, I am human and in need of grace just as much as the next guy. I appreciate the grace you’re giving as you read this. Please be praying for my heart and my attitude.

“If this is your struggle-and you are not alone- resist the way of the flesh. Do not be content with covering the outward manifestation of an unclean heart. Invite Jesus to do an inward work, conforming your heart into His pure image-not just once, but constantly. Believe that He will, and see what happens.”- Tiegreen

Mercy and God’s Faithfulness

My devotionals blew my mind this morning! The Tiegreen devotional I mentioned two posts ago made me think about how little I really understand God’s mercy. I think I’ve come to expect His mercy instead of realizing that I don’t deserve it. I deserve condemnation, but God, so lovingly and so freely, gives us mercy. Often times, I find myself holding onto that mercy instead of extending it to others.

Having been abundantly blessed with God’s mercy-the unmerited grace and forgiveness we’ve received for our rebellion against the Most High-do we stand in judgement of others?- Tiegreen.

This is me. I fail to extend the same grace that has been so sacrificially given to me. As hard as it is to see my sin, it is humbling to know I’m not perfect. And this summer I’ve both hated and thoroughly enjoyed being humbled! As much of a pain as it is, God is able to work wonders in the meek and humble.

For the other part of my quiet time I go through a Psalm and one chapter of another book (right now it’s Ecclesiastes). It was so funny how God orchestrates how often the Psalm study and Tiegreen’s devotional to correspond with one another.

My favorite verse of Psalm 40 was verse 11,

As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!

Mercy again! 🙂 I wonder sometimes if I miss what God has to say to me. Today is one of those days where I know I’m in tune with Him. And that’s awesome because what God has to say is awesome!

Mercy is extended from God. He alone saves. He is faithful to do what He’s promised because of His steadfast love for us. God’s steadfast love for us is the reason why Jesus was sent. And that is a beautiful thing.

Caitlyn, Jasmine and I had plans to go to the water hole today, but it was raining so instead we watched Monsters, Inc. Slightly childish I know, but there was something super sweet about all of us cuddling up on the couch in our pj’s to watch a Disney movie. After the movie, we went to Aretha Frankenstein’s. That’s seriously one of the most amazing breakfast places to eat. They specialize in freakishly large pancakes. 🙂 If you’re ever in the ‘Noog you should eat there! After Aretha’s we went to The Knitting Mill.

Here’s some pictures from today. Enjoy them!

Scary much?
too excited!