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The Restoring Power of Grace

Last night, I watched the power that grace can have on a person’s life.

I attended my high school’s basketball games…both of them (JV and Varsity).  It was Senior Night, and I wanted to honor my basketball son…the young man I taught three years ago and have been providing game day snacks for the past two years, and another young man I taught four years ago.  Both are amazing human beings…polite, hard workers, and great examples to their peers.

I had the added bonus of watching a current student of mine play in his first game this season.

This young man had previously been unable to play because he had been academically ineligible.  With the end of the first semester last week, new grade point averages were configured, and he’d fallen short by one point.

He asked me for grace…the chance to get the one point he needed to be able to play.

I’d said no.

At first.

After a chat with a fellow staff member…someone I respect immensely…and a bit of soul searching and praying, I decided to have the student redo a major assignment he’d blown off.

He floated into my classroom the next morning, and I was proud to put a more-than-passing grade on the completed work.

He’d earned his point with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears…pulled an all-nighter…probably a first for him.

Thus it was that I found myself watching as the game began; he was in the starting lineup.

His coach, who had never asked for any special favors, had visited my classroom yesterday morning before school started…thanked me for working with the student and for giving him another chance.  He’d told me that this student was an excellent athlete and would be a key player next year.

Let me tell you…watching this young man play was a humbling experience.  He scored between fifteen to twenty of the team’s points.  Our guys won the game…by a slim margin of five points, I think.  It was a nail-biter of a game.

After it was over, I told my student congratulations.

He hugged me…pure joy on his face.

He thanked me.

He told me he’d never let himself get in that situation again.

I then told the coach that he hadn’t been wrong about this young man.  The coach thanked me.

Honestly, this was less about me than this student of mine.  He took action when given the chance.

Had I not extended grace, he wouldn’t have learned the lesson of the assignment.

He also wouldn’t have learned a bigger life lesson…that laziness will bite you in the rear if you allow it to become a habit.

He might have given up on me, as a teacher.

I believe that I’ve laid some groundwork that will be key to his success in the next few months as we prepare for the state reading exam and, possibly, the last two years of his high school career.

I think I learned as much as he did.

I learned that although I can and should be wary of students who might try to manipulate me into getting what they want, there are exceptions to the case, and that I’ll never know until I take a chance on someone.

I was reminded that there are a lot of gray areas when it comes to handling students’ individual situations.  I tend to think in black and white.  The gray in the middle is hard for me to navigate through.

I learned that God will make His will known to me through the use of others and to be sensitive to those times.  Trust me.  It became very obvious by the end of the day that this was something I had to do.

I hope that this experience will one day point this young man to the saving grace that Jesus extended when He gave His life on the cross.  I am so grateful for that forgiveness…the chance to redo things in my own life.  It’s only right that I do the same for others as well.  In my humanness, I sometimes forget.

Grace Instead of Gruffness

I am a work in progress.

People often think I’m sweet.

My friend, Barb, knows otherwise.  Well, so does my family, truth be told.  But Barb is the one who likes to say, when my horns come out, “That’s just proof that Jesus ain’t done with you yet.”

So true.

Still, though, as Lysa TerKeurst says in her book, Unglued, the goal should be to seek after imperfect progress rather than perfection, which is unattainable.

This summer has been one of rest…one of reflection.  I have wondered over these last couple of months how I will do when tested.

My first real test came a few days ago when someone responded to a message that I’d accidentally “replied to all.”

She wasn’t aware that I was going to see her message, and let me tell you that she had some very, very unkind things to say about me.

She and I have a history that goes back many years.  Things were said back then, and relationships were broken.  We’ve hardly spoken since.

After I read her message, I sat in shock.

I flashed back to the events that had led to our original break.

I remembered the emotions and the anger that had surrounded me during that time.

It had been a very bad time for me, personally.  I’d recently lost my dad and was dealing with the shock that accompanies losing someone unexpectedly.

I read her message on Facebook several more times.

I considered my options…should I respond and if so, what should I say?

I remembered Lysa’s words of wisdom…gifts from the Lord to my thirsty soul.

I sent this woman a response that did not accuse.  It subtly let her know that I had seen the response she’d crafted, but I didn’t jump in to defend myself.

I told her that I wanted to put everything behind us so we could deal with the big issue that we need to deal with.  This is something that is going to take both of us, in cooperation, to complete.

I also told her that during the intervening years, my heart had softened.

I used to be a person who flew off the handle.  My emotions always run just below the surface.

I still erupt sometimes, but I tend to suppress a lot now, although my face still shows how I feel.

These ten-plus years have changed me, though.  My experiences in life as well as my walk with God have matured me.

It has been the lessons I’ve learned in Unglued that have left their mark and have been the catalyst for the most recent changes in my heart attitude.

She responded to my response (are you keeping up) very quickly and told me that while my heart may have softened, her’s has not, and that she will probably always be bitter.

The anger runs strongly through her veins still.  However, as I read those sad words along with the rest of her message, I almost felt her desperation and longing to believe what I was saying.

I responded one more time, trying to be careful not to fan the flames that are obviously still burning.  But, as Lysa suggests in her book, I laid things out in a very honest way that did not excuse her from the role she had played in the division between us.

I ended my note by asking for her forgiveness.

I haven’t heard back from her.

I don’t know if I will, but in the meantime, I will be praying for her.

This, too, is huge for me.

I don’t know about you, but praying for those who hurt me is pretty low on my to-do list…right below having my toe hairs pulled out one-by-one.

I’m not telling you this story to glorify myself, because I know my heart all too well.

All glory goes to God for His hand that stopped me from writing something like, “You are seriously not over this yet?”

It is my prayer that this woman will draw comfort from the grace I extended.  By not being gruff, I did not give her any fuel for her anger.

I hope that one day she will see that God can heal the heart.  In fact, He’s the only person who can…if she allows Him to.

I heard the song on the radio last night while I was cleaning the kitchen, and I thought of how much we need God in our lives…to help us fight temptation…to get through life’s challenges.

Another Milestone

Do you hear that?

What, you may ask? All you may be listening to is silence.

Well, that’s because my children are busy doing homework. Today was the first day of school, and a couple of the teachers decided not to waste a moment, digging right into the course material. Good for them! After a summer spent beating the drums to the latest tunes on Rock Band, the Chick children need their brains to be stimulated.

For Soccer Chick, this was a regular day. She is now officially a Junior.

Rockin’ Rooster, on the hand, had a big day. It was his first day of high school.

Last night, as I was driving to church to pick them both up from youth group, a slow song came on the radio, and I got misty-eyed as I began to think about Monday morning’s event. How well I remember his first day of kindergarten. Rooster was my buddy when he was a tot. After Soccer Chick started school, Rooster and I had two glorious years to ourselves (at least until 2pm). He ran errands with me, almost always without complaining. Even after he started preschool, I always picked him up in time to eat lunch together.

The day he started kindergarten was rough for me. It was the first time in many years that I had to go home to a quiet house. Being a stay-at-home mom was the best, except for that morning. I walked aimlessly around the house, feeling like one of my appendages was missing. It was…my four-foot walking stick was no longer glued to my side.

In my sorrow, I went to my local ice cream shop and ordered my favorite treat. I was the first person in the shop that day, and I sadly told the owner my story. She commiserated with me as only another mom could.

I remember the relief I felt when Rooster walked out of school that day, as I eagerly waited with the other parents. He had survived, and so had I.

So, the tears flowed down my face last night as I drove. As I pulled into the church parking lot, the following song began playing on the radio:

I do not believe in coincidences. God sees us in our need and provides comfort and wisdom when we need it. Such was the case with the timing of this song. My favorite hymn has always been Amazing Grace, and this modern version is incredible.  God was reminding me that His grace would see me through, and it did.

Rockin’ Rooster got up with his alarm clock and was dressed and ready for devotions when I emerged from the bathroom this morning. I prayed for my children after we read from the Bible, and throughout the day, my thoughts turned to him a few times. Once again, just as I did ten years ago, I eagerly waited for him outside of the school. When he split off from the swarm of kids, I released a contented sigh. My son was fine.

He had survived.

And so had I.

Only by God’s grace.

Praise the Lord.

Humbled to Serve

Ms. Jeans Blanket

Ms. Jean's Blanket

I’m not sure if you remember my posts about Ms. Jean, Knitting_Guy’s mom who had a recurrence of cancer. A group of knitters from KnittingHelp.com, and a couple from Ravelry, joined forces and knit up a variety of goodies. The group decided to make a blanket. We wound up with 30 squares, which one knitter seamed up and another made a border for. The above picture is the finished blanket.

In the last few months, I have immersed myself in charity projects, and I am LOVING it! There is something very rewarding about doing for others without expecting anything in return.

I have received a lot of kudos for the initiative I’ve taken in organizing some of these projects. I’m embarrassed by this. I am only doing what I’ve been called to do…serve. And I’m humbled that God allows me this privilege.

Where does this drive come from, though? Many people don’t understand…what with the hectic schedule I have traveling with Soccer Chick, raising two teenagers and a husband, and until recently, attending college…how I continue to put in the hours I do in service to others.

My desire, along with the energy, comes from a deep-seated concern for people’s salvation. I was reminded of that this morning and two weeks ago (missed last Sunday) at church. My favorite time during the service is the praise music. There is something very powerful about the words we sing each week. As I sing, I think about my friends and the trials they are suffering through. Many of them are not Christians. They have told me this. My heart hurts for them. Some are enduring nearly unbearable burdens. I long for them to know the presence of the Lord…His steadfastness…His plan for their lives.

During the praise songs, I shed tears for these friends. And I shed tears out of thankfulness for my own salvation and the knowledge that I serve, not out of selfish motives or out of any good within myself, for there is no good there, but out of a desire to glorify the One who has turned my wretchedness into something beautiful when filtered through His grace.

I truly am humbled to serve.

AuburnChick’s Grades Have Come In!

Well, I’m being lazy right now. I want to post pictures of the stuff I’ve been knitting, but I’m too lazy to get up and get the camera.

So, I thought I would share a good tidbit. Y’all know that I finished taking finals the week before last. Well, one of my professors had already sent me an email letting me know that I had an A in his class. One down, one to go.

I’ve been sitting on pins and needles waiting for the other grade. Basically, I’ve been nervous…afraid that someone is going to pull the rug out from under my feet and tell me that I have to take another class.

The class I took (that I’ve been patiently awaiting the grade for) was Military History of the United States. Why in the world would I take this class, you might wonder. Well, basically I had no choice. As a history minor, I had two classes left to take, and this and the other one (History of England, 1689-present) were the only two upper level classes offered this term.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the Military History class. What a different perspective I have now! But, the professor, who has a great reputation, was tough. I made a 75 on his mid-term…very unlike me. I also had been given two 80’s on papers that I had written. Again, unlike me. I’m used to making A’s on everything. In fact (not to brag), I’ve carried a 4.0 since I began my journey as an adult college student. I did not intentionally set out to do this, but when, term after term, I received A’s, well, it just seemed natural to expect that out of myself.

However, with this being my last term, I was just ready to be done. So, I was concerned. What would I make on my long paper and final? Would I pass? At this point, I realized that I would not make an A, but I just wanted to make a C or better. Last week, I found out that I made a 100 on my long research paper! Wow! After the 80’s, it was a pleasant surprise. So, I waited for my grade on the final, which I thought I did o-k-a-y on, but not great.

Who, in their right mind, can be expected to know the details of air combat during the second world war or the Vietnam War? Not your average female, that’s for sure.

Anyhow, the professor just sent an email letting us know that everything had been graded. I nervously clicked on my shortcut to get me to the school site, dreading every moment. Clicking on the link that said “Grades,” I had to close my eyes and take a deep breath.

Grade on Final: 100

Huh? What’s this? How did I do that? You mean I answered both three-page essay question thoroughly and, most importantly, correctly???

Grade for the Term: 91%

Huh? That’s an A, right? I quickly retrieve his syllabus to check the grading scale. Yep, 90-100 equals an A.

I started crying tears of joy and relief. I passed. More than that, I maintained my 4.0.

It’s tough to be a perfectionist. I learned some lessons along the way. God does not expect perfection…just my best. And that’s what I offered, through His grace every day. I was ready to settle for less than an A, believing that I had honored God with my efforts. That’s all He asks. He provided the icing on the cake. Wow!

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