Is Grace Enough?

There is a song that has that has captured the way I have been feeling recently about grace and what it means to me. It is called “Walking On Water” by NEEDTOBREATHE and if you haven’t heard it yet I highly suggest giving it a listen. The song is pretty simple and doesn’t differ much from other songs on Christian radio but the lyrics caught my attention yesterday. The chorus goes…

“There’s no turning back
Nothing in the past
My eyes on You again
Can’t see nothing at all
But Your outstretched arms
Help me believe it
Though I falter
You got me walking on water”

Those last two lines became very meaningful to me in an instant. The definition of falter is to start to lose strength or momentum. I think that at all points in our relationship with Christ there is a moment where we start to lose strength or momentum. Each of us faces doubts, lies, discouragements, and so much more that may cause us to forget the point in pursuing a relationship with Jesus. Every believer and nonbeliever has faltered but that word doesn’t even begin to describe all that we do wrong in this world. Yet, the next line is ” You got me walking on water”. This line reminded me that even when I falter, fail, sin, or mess up beyond belief, God’s grace is bigger than it. He loves me so much that even when I do the exact thing He doesn’t want me to do He’ll still have me walking on water with Him.

Now, I know that whether you are a believer or not, you have heard this so many times. Easter wasn’t long ago, so the idea that Jesus loves YOU so much that He died for your sins is probably fresh in your mind. We talk about this love and grace so much I feel like we allow it to lose meaning. In all honesty, I sometimes allow grace to lose meaning in my own life. I reach a point where I feel so unworthy and broken that I think, “His grace has to run out sometime,” but the truth is God isn’t marking down strikes every time I stumble. He’s not keeping track of your mistakes either.

We know Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He didn’t do this so that we would be forgiven for SOME sins, He did it so we would be forgiven of ALL sins. We cannot allow ourselves to believe the lie that we’ve gone too far or that we’ve done too much wrong to be forgiven. No one deserves this forgiveness God offers us, but we are all able to receive it through His grace. This such exciting news! I have yet to find an alternative to this grace I am writing about. I can’t begin to imagine another person, place or thing that would accept me with all of my flaws and forgive and forget all of my mistakes.

I believe that to begin understanding the deep importance of God’s grace we must do three things.

  • We must believe wholeheartedly that grace is powerful and ENDLESS. We need to surrender the lies that are put in front of us everyday that make us believe that we can’t be forgiven.
  • The next thing we need to do is extend that same grace to those around us. When you understand God’s grace and how exciting it is you’ll want everyone to know about it! Look at those around you the way Christ would. Do not see their flaws, their mistakes, or their sin but see that they’re someone who is loved by Jesus just like you.
  • The last thing we should do is the one I believe to be most important. Never become blind to the grace in your life and the grace around you. Our lives are so busy we forget to be aware. We forget to celebrate that God was gracious enough to even allow us to live the lives we do. We miss the instances when someone extends grace our way or we miss opportunities to do the same. When we ignore grace we allow it to lose meaning. It becomes lyrics in a song rather than the backbone of our lives.

His Grace is like nothing else and will always be enough no matter who you are.

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There Will Be Miracles

When I was 11 the nurse at Smith Middle School noticed the small curve in my spine and a few weeks later we received a letter suggesting I get x-rays done. I remember getting x-rays done for the first time like it was yesterday. The nurse told me I had 3 curves in my spine. The top curve hit 17 degrees, the middle curve was 32 degrees, and the bottom was 19 degrees. Following this initial appointment came more x-rays, MRIs, brace fittings, doctors appointments, and movement of my spine. By the time they actually put me in a brace that fit my largest curve was nearing 60 degrees. My parents were frustrated and I was beginning to become  insecure about the way I leaned to the left and how my rib cage stuck out on one side. On top of my bizarre posture I had a ridiculous looking, plastic sleeping brace that I dreaded wearing during sleepovers. As if middle school isn’t awkward enough. Little did I know this was the beginning to a really incredible story.

When I was 12 my doctors decided that I needed to have another brace made because the first one wasn’t working. As my mom and I pulled into the hospital parking lot to have yet another brace fitting something that still brings tears to my eyes occurred. We had K-Love, a Christian radio station, playing on the radio. As we parked the car the DJ began telling a story about a woman with scoliosis. As he read the story my Mom and I looked at each other in amazement. The woman he spoke about had scoliosis her entire life but one morning she woke up and had grown 2 inches. She had been 100% healed. Crazy right? It was a little too crazy to believe that it was just a coincidence, even at 12 years old. God began working in my heart in that moment.

Throughout the rest of middle school and high school we tried many alternatives to surgery. We held onto that promise that I would be healed but a promise couldn’t keep me from being in pain. As my biggest curve worsened I had to quit ballet and I began avoiding any clothing that would reveal I lean 60 something degrees to the left. I think throughout high school I went to the swimming pool 3 times. My pain started to become unbearable when doing almost any physical activities. Still, I was confident that I would be healed and I had decided years before that I was blessed to be as healthy as I was and scoliosis was not something to complain about. I had accepted the way I looked and went about my normal life until returning home from South Africa in November.

I wrote in my last blog that when I returned from South Africa in November I completely threw myself into fundraising and avoided dealing with my back. It had been years since I had considered surgery but some symptoms that had never affected me before began when I got home. I was constantly short of breath and was experiencing pain in my chest. I couldn’t even run up a flight of stairs without feeling winded. I assumed that these were just results of being really out of shape but when stabbing pains began in my back I knew something was wrong. After my fundraising had failed and I was unable to return to South Africa we decided to get my back looked at. To my surprise my spine had moved even more despite the fact that I had finished growing years ago. At 74 degrees my spine was crushing my left lung and messing with my heart. The doctor recommended I get surgery as soon as possible. Although I had spent the last 6 years believing I would miraculously wake up healed one day, I immediately had peace with the idea of undergoing surgery. I felt God’s presence in that doctor’s office so much that I was holding back tears as he explained the surgery. I KNEW that it was what I wanted to do so the surgery was scheduled for exactly a month later.

Tomorrow will be three weeks since I had spinal fusion surgery causing me to grow almost 3 inches (I feel like a giant). It had been years since I had thought about that story we heard on the radio but with everything that was happening I was reminded. It got me thinking about that promise I had held onto. For years I had prayed for one miracle but what I got was many, many little miracles that have changed my life. The overall timing of this surgery is a miracle in itself. It is not a coincidence that my spine moved 11 degrees and all these symptoms began during the only time in my life when I am not enrolled in a school or working full time. If the symptoms didn’t begin and my spine didn’t move I would have let my spine sit at 63 degrees for the rest of my life. I will also forever hold onto the idea that modern medicine and the capability of surgeons today is incredible and a miracle. In seven hours my wonderful surgeon, Dr. Sachs, had changed my life and given me the ability to live the rest of my life standing up straight. The miracles don’t end with the surgery either, they began months before.

If this surgery didn’t become a part of my plan I am certain I would have left again and gone to South Africa on a another trip, meaning I would have been working non-stop and fundraising again. As amazing as that would be I wouldn’t trade the last 2 months for ANYTHING. Sure, they were crazy but the 2 months before surgery I had some time off. I couldn’t work which gave me the ability to be a part of some incredible things and more importantly meet some irreplaceable people. I had the opportunity to join the team of a pretty awesome new church plant as well as attend a small group for the first time ever. All of a sudden I was meeting new and remarkable people everyday. These individuals have poured into me, prayed over me, and will be a part of my life for the long run, I’m sure. Each one of them is a miracle in my eyes. I had gone from most of my friends either living 1000’s of miles away or being in college to having a support system here in Mount Pleasant. On top of all the people I met outside of the hospital the many people I met in the hospital before surgery blew me away. Before you get major surgery you have to have a ridiculous amount of tests done. We decided to knock out almost all of these out in one day and that day is maybe one of my most memorable. I was unaware of this but my surgeon had written on my paperwork that I was a missionary. Every doctor or nurse I met that day asked me about it which always puts my mind at ease. One interaction that stands out above the rest was my meeting with an anesthesiologist. My biggest fear going into this was that the anesthesia wouldn’t work for me. I had no reason to believe this but all of my anxiety was rooted in that one idea. The anesthesiologist immediately asked me about South Africa when he sat down and proceeded to tell me about his own mission work. He ended the meeting by praying over me. That doesn’t normally happen during doctors appointments! The miracles still didn’t stop with just before surgery but continued after.

I was in the hospital for 4 days following surgery. Although I was on a LOT of medicine and don’t remember much there are some things that stand out. The obvious miracle of my spine going from 74 degrees to 18 (which was better than expected) stands out of course but for whatever reason I remember certain nurses and doctors so well. One nurse in particular, Ivory, was a blessing to me and my parents. Her grace and ability to manage the mess that I was kept us sane. She was in awe of my results and told me over and over again that I have to write a book about this journey. For now a blog will have to do. Ivory stands out above all others but every nurse and doctor we met over those 4 days was absolutely wonderful. I am completely aware that this isn’t always the case and I wish I could individually thank each of them.

Today was my first follow up appointment with Dr, Sachs. I am recovering perfectly and faster than I ever expected. I have had lots of time to reflect and think about these miracles. I know that to someone else these stories may not seem like miracles but I can’t look at the last two months without seeing God’s perfect orchestrating. I can’t look at the new people in my life and not think that God placed them in my path. I know that I didn’t get my overnight miracle but I don’t want it anymore. I will never be able to mutter “thank you Jesus” enough to show how truly grateful I am for everything that has happened and for all of the new people in my life. I have learned that miracles don’t always involve overnight fixes or immediate healing. Miracles can be in the people you meet or the way things line up perfectly. Sometimes miracles can be found in your biggest disappointments or let downs. Don’t overlook God’s intervening and believe it to be a coincidence. Don’t overlook your little, everyday miracles.

We’re NOT in Control

On October 21st I posted a blog about my plan to return to South Africa in January. Obviously I am writing this from my couch in Mount Pleasant, SC and not from South Africa. The last month of my life has been a crazy one all starting with the day I was supposed to leave. By the time January 8th came around I was only 53% funded for my trip and I was heartbroken. I mean HEARTBROKEN. I missed my students, my host family, and my friends and had looked forward to seeing them again since the day I returned home. On top of that I had spent the previous two months trying everything I could think of to fund raise the money I needed. I was disappointed, confused, and once again heartbroken. I hated that I wasn’t going back and hated even more that I didn’t know why.

Despite not being able to go I had to make the decision to be angry or trust that there was a reason why I was “stuck” at home. I started praying everyday that God would reveal something to me that brought comfort to that fact that I was here in the states and not in South Africa. I knew in my heart that their was an underlying reason that I didn’t get to go. It really wasn’t long before God revealed the clear reason. Later that week I had decided that I wanted to get some x-rays done on my back. Since I was 12 years old I have had scoliosis and have always dealt with some level of pain but since returning home my pain had increased. During those two months I was so busy fundraising I decided to just ignore the pain and deal with it later. Well it was later, so there I was in the doctors office getting x-rays for what felt like the thousandth time. It had only been about a year since I had gotten x-rays last so the results shocked me a bit. My spine had moved around 10 more degrees making my curve 74 degrees. We weren’t left with many options and had to quickly decide whether I was finally going to get surgery or not.

After praying about it my family and I ultimately decided that now is the right time to get this surgery. This Friday I will be getting spinal fusion surgery and growing two inches! I had quickly gone from being confused to having a reason why. It was all a part of a greater plan, God’s plan. Now, I know that the “reason why” isn’t always discovered within a week. I don’t know why God put it on my heart to return to South Africa if I wasn’t going to end up going. I don’t even know why I have scoliosis. I do know that because I am home I have gotten to be a volunteer at an amazing new church. I know that I have made irreplaceable new friends in just a few weeks. I know that I wouldn’t trade the last month for anything.

As people we plan everything even when we don’t mean to. We always have a picture in our minds of how we would like our lives to turn out. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this but I think we have to accept that even with a plan we are never in control. Things change, plans fall apart, this is nothing new to you or me or anyone else. I think the way we handle these disappointments can really make a difference in what happens afterwards. If I am being honest, even after finding out I needed surgery and realizing that now is more than a perfect time for me to have it done I still wanted to be in South Africa. I wanted to be with the people I miss so deeply but that just wasn’t included in God’s plan for my life right now. I had to learn to embrace this and learn from it. I am so incredibly thankful I did.

“Stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God! Do you know how God controls the storm and causes the lightning to flash from His clouds? Do you understand how He moves the clouds with wonderful perfection and skill? When you are sweltering in your clothes and the south wind dies down and everything is still, He makes the skies reflect the heat like a bronze mirror. Can you do that?”

Job 37: 14-18

God is in control of our lives as much as He is in control of the clouds and the sky. He knows the reason why even when you don’t. His understanding of our world is much bigger and deeper than our own. It is something we will never be able to grasp on this earth. When things go wrong don’t run from Him. I know it is easy to shake your fist and be angry but clinging to Christ in times of disappointment or heartache is what will bring hope and comfort. Trust in His plan and not your own. Do not let a change in your life break your faith. We are not in control but someone much greater is and that is something I am thankful for!

In less than five days I will be undergoing surgery that I wasn’t even considering a month ago. I believe with all of my heart that this is where I am meant to be even if it’s not where I want to be. Holding onto Christ through this has resulted in much greater things than being angry would have. Even if you don’t understand why don’t let go of the truth that His plan is better than our own. He’s always got us!

Breaking Down the Walls

I am not the first to say that everyday of our lives we put up metaphorical walls between family, friends, strangers religions, genders, countries, and races. I think it is safe to say our world is far from perfect. It is even safer to say that each and every human being that walks this earth is as well. We all carry different baggage. We all have our own story or testimony, no two are the same. Like I said, I am not the first to say this, I am sure that you have heard this or maybe you have said it yourself. We KNOW that we all come from different circumstances so WHY do we put up these walls?

What are the “walls” I am writing about? These “walls” are divides that appear when we make snap judgments and decide to no longer get to know someone. “Walls” appear when we fear being vulnerable and shut down. “Walls” appear when your morals are questioned and opinions shamed. “Walls” appear when you decide to choose hate and criticism over love and acceptance. These “walls” are misunderstandings,  miscommunication, and missed opportunities. These “walls” keep us from living everyday with love and joy. They keep us from friendships, partnerships, peace, and cooperation.

In South Africa “walls” can be seen from space. As you know, until 1994 black and white races were not allowed to associate with one another due to apartheid. Things most certainly didn’t change over night after apartheid ended. As of today the divide stands clear as day. This realization was, of course, shocking for me to witness given the environment I grew up in. I think for most Americans who have never seen such segregation in their lifetime would be shocked as well. I talk about this divide a lot when trying to describe South Africa to someone who has never been. I have been talking about it so much that it got me thinking about our “walls,” the ones we don’t even know exist.

Has your opinion ever been shot down and your guard gone immediately up? Have you ever had someone learn about your beliefs and stop calling? How often do you learn of someone’s opinion and decide they’re not the “type” of person you want in your life? Have you ever discovered that a friend is more different from yourself than you thought and stopped pursuing the friendship? Chances are you can answer yes to all of those questions whether you want to admit it or not. I will be the first to say that I have caused “walls” and ran face first into them. We are all human and can’t get it right every time but how different would our lives be if we were slow to judge and greeted EVERYONE with love?

Think about a time when you were being completely and utterly difficult but someone kept pursuing a relationship with you because they knew your circumstances during that time. Think about how different your life would be if they hadn’t really gotten to know you. Imagine if we approached every situation that way. We should be judgement free and stand with open arms to everyone who enters our lives. Maybe if we start living and loving this way we would have less conflict. Maybe snap judgements would become a thing of the past and everyone would be accepting of each other. Divides would fall and new friendships would be born.

How can we keep these “walls” from being built? Just a small thing that I try to practice in my everyday life is to never assume. Never assume anything about a person you don’t know! Instead of assuming, ask! Get to know a person no matter how different you may be from them. I have learned some of the most valuable lessons and made the most amazing memories with with people that I lack almost any similarity with. Less assumption will keep your heart and mind open to making all kinds of new friends wherever you may be.

Less assumptions will build more relationships and less “walls” but what about the divide between groups who believe differently? Can’t we make this a thing of the past? I am surrounded by individuals who lack beliefs and those who pursue their beliefs every minute of every day. I can say with 100% certainty that I love all of my friends and family no matter where they think this earth originated from. Nothing saddens me more than watching someone completely drop an entire relationship because the other individual’s beliefs differ from their own. Why can’t we get to know those who think differently than we do? Why can’t we love each other despite those differences? Learn why they believe the things they do and maybe you’ll get the chance to share your heart and your story. Paul tells us in Romans 14: 1-4…

“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will only eat vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.”

Lets NOT put God in a box because the simple truth is He loves everyone no matter what. Lets be open to learning new things and meeting others outside of our one minded community. Lets stop building these “walls” between one another. Lets love each other and accept our differences. Lets be open to learning about someone’s opinions and beliefs instead of shutting them down. Lets look past the end of our own noses and fill this world with a little more joy and a little less hate!

What if?

“Opportunities, many times, are so small that we glimpse them not and yet they are often the seeds of great enterprises. Opportunities are also everywhere and so you must always let your hook be hanging. When you least expect it, a great fish will swim by.”

This quote, said by Og Mandino, is taped next to my bedroom door in hopes that I will read it before leaving my house each day. I have been home from South Africa for a month now and I have had somewhat of a chance to process the things I have learned and experienced. Recently the idea of pursuing every opportunity placed in front of me has weighed heavy on my heart. This concept isn’t hard to understand but as I have mentioned in earlier blogs sometimes it takes being thrown into a new place where you do not know a soul for the light bulb to turn on. In South Africa I was given a choice. I had to choose whether I was going to be intentional about building relationships, meeting new people, going out of my comfort zone, making the most of every opportunity OR to ignore opportunities, shy away from taking risks, and leave without having learned a thing.

This concept is easier said than done. I am not an overly outgoing person and I think more than anyone I hate to be embarrassed. It took all of me to shake that little feeling that keeps us all from leaving our normal tendencies behind and forgetting about the comfort of staying in the background. I would constantly be in my head but so would God. He was always telling me to just ask that question, dance with that kid, play that game, and talk to that stranger. Once I took that initial step I never looked back. I was left with a new friend, a great memory, and the question, what if I didn’t take that step?

Lately I have been asking myself that question a lot. What if I DIDN’T talk to her? What if I DIDN’T ask him how he was? What if I DIDN’T play that game? What if I DIDN’T reach out to them? To be honest I am overjoyed that I am able to ask myself those questions. Though the answers to those questions are scary to think about in reality nothing will change the fact that I DID do those things therefore I do not have to ponder for long. This realization quickly led to a not-so-comforting one. The question we often ignore, what if I DID? 

I simply can not stand that dreaded question. I do not miss the times when my mind would be fogged with, What if I was just a little nicer to the guy serving me coffee? What if I had taken that job that I was perfectly capable of? What if I did go see that movie with them? What if I went on that trip? This question scares me so much that I have decided I no longer want to be able to ask it. The idea of missing any opportunity that God has placed in my path is absolutely terrifying. Opportunities as big as going to Africa to just asking someone to grab a cup of coffee are important. I have yet to regret taking an opportunity that I have felt God place in my path. The idea of never having to ask myself, what if I did?, has been helping fill my journey with countless astounding and new things.

We are called to pursue Christ with every waking moment as well as pursue the things He has placed in front of us. With every moment that you are pursuing new opportunities and Christ, God is working within you. He is changing your heart to be more like His. He is walking alongside you every step of the way. God does this on purpose! There is no such thing as a coincidence, let me assure you. When you find yourself in a situation where one thing just seems to lead to another for the greater good of your life and others, I promise it is the work of God’s orchestrating. I have been practicing reminding myself this each morning. I tell myself that it is the Lord’s day, that every conversation, every moment, every unexpected turn is an opportunity. I remember to not shy away from the kindness of a stranger, to always smile even when it is not necessary, to love EVERYONE you meet whether you want to or not, and most importantly live life like Christ.This has made all the difference in my life at home and in South Africa.

I know that what I am writing down at this very moment may sound crazy. Believe me I know that it isn’t possible to be in a good mood all the time. Some days I am so overwhelmed with how much I miss Africa or frustrated with this broken world that I just can’t make conversation with everyone I meet. Sometimes I am too tired or don’t feel good enough to say yes to absolutely everything. Let me assure you that I am not writing this to persuade myself or anyone else that we are required to turn everyday into something exciting and new. There will always be days of routine, filled with things that seem mundane, but sometimes those days have the most opportunities. Even just going out of your way to carry someone’s groceries or asking someone how they are can be an opportunity that we have the option to take. Don’t look past the mundane, don’t let a routine get the best of you, and don’t forget that God is walking with you everyday so there are bound to be little amazing moments everywhere. You just have to open your eyes enough, be intentional, and never let yourself ask the question, what if I did?

What did you do in Africa? 

As the end of the trip rapidly approaches, I catch myself trying to figure out how in the world I am going to explain my experience in South Africa. I was often asked before coming on the trip, “What will you be doing in Africa?” I truly didn’t have an answer to this question. Experience Mission does an incredible job at keeping members from having little to no expectations by very briefly explaining what we will be doing. For this I am thankful because it made my experience that much better. I learned to not ask questions, trust my leaders, and live in the moment. But now I am on the other end of the trip. Now I know exactly what happens on South Africa immersion. The challenge is finding a way to sum up what my team, my new friends, and God did with words.

When going on a mission trip, particularly in another country, doubts are bound to cloud your mind at one point or another. Will these people like me? Are we making a difference? Am I really supposed to be here? God, are you sure this is the right path for me? What am I even doing here? All of these questions have crossed my mind at least once throughout the last few months. On immersion we shy away from your stereotypical mission work. We don’t paint buildings, build schools, give money and clothes, or stay for short periods of time. Sometimes outside opinions about not completing work that you can physically hold can make you ask yourself those questions. I can’t send pictures back home of a new church we built or all of the kids holding gifts. What I can send home is pictures of the new friends I have made. I can write down their stories and share them with my family. I can pray for the people I have met because I have learned their names and their stories. I have built relationships; relationships that will have a long term effect on myself and my new friends. Much more of an effect than a building they could have built themselves or gifts that give kids the wrong idea about why missionaries visit them.

I wish I could express in words the difference it makes when you become friends with someone and do life their way. They become important to you and you them. I have had countless wonderful conversations with men, women, and children and in each one I have learned something new. We are kind to one another, we help each other out, and we give thanks whenever necessary. That is friendship. Friendships that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Well what does being friends with someone do? Why did I fly half way across the world to make new friends? It is because of the Kingdom. Bringing the Kingdom is a concept I couldn’t understand until I came to South Africa. Romans 14:17-19 tells us,

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.”

If we do this, if we love everyone the way Christ loves us then we’re bringing His Kingdom down. That is what my team did. That is what immersion does! We just make friends, we laugh, we talk about Jesus, and we listen. I love my friends here and I have learned so much about myself, life, and culture from them.

The best part about creating these relationships for me is the fact that I get to return. I have been giving the opportunity to continue to get to know these amazing people and love them like Jesus does. I am so ridiculously excited to see them all again in a few months. I get to continue to bring His Kingom to this beautiful country with a new team and I pray that I will continue to see a difference in people as I open up to them and vice versa.

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Fallen in Love with Grace

What is grace? We hear about on Sunday mornings, sing about it in worship, and see it painted on our Christmas ornaments. We pray for God to have grace on us and on others. We get the concept but do we really understand grace? Have we forgotten the depth of what it is? 

We can find the basic explanation of grace in Ephesians 1:7…

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.” 

We know this right? God sent his one and only Son to earth to die on the cross for our sins. Grace is God’s free and unmerited favor toward sinful humanity. Basic Sunday school lesson, right? Then why do we so often overlook it? 

Before coming to South Africa I struggled to understand. Like most kids who grow up in church, I could tell you the definition. I could give you examples but I didn’t know what it was like to look around and see God’s grace at work. It was everywhere I was I just didn’t pay any attention. 

Over the last few months I have witnessed brokenness and hurting like never before. My heart has been shattered and my spirit crushed by some of the things I’ve seen. I have become angry and saddened by the world we live in. Justice became a struggle within that no one around me could help resolve. 

One day in particular brought me completely to my knees. I could no longer hold back the tears but I didn’t feel angry anymore. I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders and the only prayer I could mutter was a thank you to Jesus for leading me to the people I had met. But that didn’t make any sense. The hurt I had just witnessed was the most raw and real thing I had seen in this community. My heart was broken but I wasn’t mad at the world anymore I was just thankful. Why was that? 

I then realized that I had seen grace! I felt the grace, heard the grace, fell in love with the grace. God showed me that He loved these people despite their situation, despite the things they had done and will do. He loved them so much that he gifted his grace to them. In the darkest places on earth God’s grace is at work. 

Realizing this was like putting on a new pair of glasses. Grace became a hidden gift in every horrible situation. Don’t get me wrong, witnessing the brokenness doesn’t get easier. Your heart will still break because His does too. Only now I allow Him to show me where He’s working. I see this incredible amount of grace in every life around me and my own. I get excited, I jump up and down, I praise him for His grace everyday. I do this because grace is everything. It is by God’s grace that I am in Africa. It is by His Grace that I have anything at all. I don’t deserve one minute of the life I have lived and loved so far but grace has gotten me here. It all goes back to that one act of grace we often forget…

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.” 

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