Trading Rules for Grace



These days, I'm trying to be grateful for who God made me to be and appreciate my strengths for what I'm created to do. I'm making an effort to stop the comparisons, put less emphasis on following my self-imposed rules, and I'm trying to give myself a little grace. Growing up, I was always wishing I were someone else. I wanted blonde hair instead of brown. I longed to be blessed with grace and coordination so I could be a ballerina or figure skater instead of the last one chosen for sports teams in gym class. I dreamed of being the chatty, popular girl at school instead of the girl everyone called shy and bookish. 



Even now I tend to focus more on the parts of me that I think need some improvement rather than appreciating the strengths God gave me. I think if I just follow my own rules to be intentional about every word I say and if I make a Herculean effort to think before ever speaking, then things should go swimmingly. But of course they don't. 

I get bogged down in over-analyzing and replaying the thoughts of what I think are mistakes. I still get anxious when I meet someone new. I try to stop myself from saying things I never intended but this only makes me pull back and get quiet. And then this extreme caution to avoid verbal blunders gets in the way of being myself. These rules seem to trip me up and drive me a little crazy. Because keeping them all the time, every time, is nearly impossible.



But when I realize can't keep my own rules, there's grace. An acceptance of who I am from God, the one who made me. Who asks me to stop whatever I’m thinking about myself and others and turn my thoughts to him. These thoughts turn into prayers. Or turn to scripture.  

There’s something about God’s words that do something astonishing. They change me. I stop trying to control my circumstances and trust them to God. I see what’s beautiful instead of offering a criticism. And I find that I’m amazed at the ways God invites me to come alongside him with opportunities to use the strengths he’s given me. Even though I may sputter and stumble.



My friends think they’ve heard me wrong when I say I'm co-leading a Facebook group since I’ve long resisted joining Facebook. But I’m in the thick of it with the website (in)courage. 

My co-leader Sara suggested we schedule a get-to-know-you chat last week. I had no idea what to do but hoped I’d figure it out as I went along. At first it was just me and Sara answering each other’s questions. As I stared at the screen, a second member of the group joined our conversation. Then another. And another. One arriving home after her workday in Canada. Another on the subway in New York City. Several of us in Florida, and one shoveling snow in Indiana.

And afterward we all said we came away encouraged just by connecting with each other. Through typing our words on Facebook. Which probably seemed perfectly normal to them, but was awe-inspiring to me. 



I’m starting to recognize the places in my life where I’m determined and courageous and thoughtful and encouraging. I’ve started giving thanks –- out loud so my ears can hear it. I'm turning my thoughts upward, to God and all he has for me. I want to go wherever God is taking me on this journey of my life. I trust him to work everything for good for me. Whether I'm soaring or my feet are firmly planted on the ground, I’ve come to appreciate that nobody else can tell my story like I can. 

And those things I wish I could change when I was growing up? I've discovered that they just happen to be the core of who I am. God uses them so I can connect with others in all of my relationships. The books I read gave me a love of writing words. My lack of athleticism made me sensitive to notice where others need a little encouragement. And I suppose I could change my brown hair to blonde if I really wanted to. So I've decided to trade some of my rules for grace. And last week, I added a few blonde highlights to my hair just to make one of my oldest and dearest dreams come true.



I'm linking up with fellow God-sized dreamers today at GodSizedDreams.com as they share how they celebrate God's strengths in their lives. Click the image to read their stories! 


Comments

  1. Though you may not love Facebook, you are the perfect person to lead an (in)courage group! Im sure you are going to form some wonderful relationships!

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    1. Brittany,
      Love your unflagging support and your faith in me for Facebook! :)

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  2. Sweet message...I can relate to a lot of this! Grace for ourselves and others is huge. God's love is so evident in mercy and acceptance.

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    1. Hi Jenn,
      I've missed you and your blog! Thanks for your encouragement - love hearing from you!

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  3. I think it's amazing you are leading a group to encourage others. You always have the right words to help someone find their way in hard times.
    Christy

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  4. I think sometimes we set expectations for ourselves that are even higher than God's expectations for us. I once heard a phrase 'let go,and let God". Your article epitomizes that. God made you beautifully, and blessed you with many wonderful talents. Anothe great article!

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    1. Sharon,
      Yes! Letting God take care of it -- He's got his -- I believe it!

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  5. I can relate to so much of this!! And yes I love that we had similar pictures for the post today! :) Thanks for sharing your heart here!

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    1. Kristin,
      Love linking up with you all at God-sized Dreams -- thank you for the opportunity! :)

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  6. Yes-so many of the things about ourselves that we see as weaknesses are the very things that turn out to be our strengths! I have to remind myself each day, that God loves and sees every part of me, and He thinks I'm more than good enough. Great post-so glad you linked it up!

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    1. Alecia,
      Thank you for your insight -- it's true that God loves to use our weaknesses to allow us to do amazing things! I've so enjoyed linking up with you all! :)

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  7. Wonderful post, Valerie! I think you just described me :-) ! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. I'm so glad we share a kinship with our strengths and weaknesses -- love that! :)

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  8. Valerie, you are such a blessing through this blog. Keep up the good....GREAT work!

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  9. I can identify with a lot of what you said and as one who has had the pleasure of meeting with you and talking with you, you are the perfect person to lead the (in)courage group. You are also very easy to talking to and very encouraging. Keep on keeping on!

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    Replies
    1. Susan,
      You are an encouragement to me! I'm so glad you joined our group and it is a true pleasure serving with you on Monday nights! :)

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