In Praise of Inwardness

…history will reveal that the Church has gained or lost power exactly as she has moved toward or away from the inwardness of her faith.

— A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man

Some may say that there is a decline in writing, blogging, and quality posts in today’s Christian blogosphere, but lately I’m thinking it has less to do with blog burnout or a fading platform, but rather the loss of something more elusive than we may want to admit: The secret, inward life of a believer.  

This thing that makes the written word accessible to all immediately and in real-time in today’s information-driven newsfeed, is also what keeps us – writers and creatives – on the edge of frayed and frazzled instead of fed and overflowing. And I’m deeply convinced that what I want is fed and overflowing.

But somewhere in the last decade, the machine of RSS, social media, and blogging, has so seduced us with the desire to perpetually produce more, that we have forgotten the value of the hidden life – the quiet, offline, unannounced, unglamorous, costly, slow-producing work of meditating on the death, life, and resurrection of Christ and how it applies to our daily lives. We can’t easily draw from a well that runs dry, and so many of us run with low to empty tanks.

While God’s merciful love and saving grace never runs out, we feel we run on empty when our accessing and applying of the Gospel daily is reduced to short, shallow drinks, rather than deep, thirst-quenching draws.

We are efficiently modern women, sometimes to our own detriment. For us, the throne room of God has a revolving door, and we are constantly in and out…pleading our case, then sprinting back out into the field to run our race. People are waiting out there! I’ve got work to do! Get back to me via text, okay, Lord? 

Abiding is to enter into his presence (because he’s made it possible!) and to linger longer. It’s to step in and rest, rather than keep our foot in the door, with one ear to the outside noise and its demands. It’s believing that what happens in the holy of holies, in the inner room, in the unseen secret place with the Lord…is more effectual, more valuable, more needed than anything easily observed or noted.

The power I long to have to fight sin and to live in the real joy of my faith? It has more to do with my inner life than I realize. Tozer’s warning is timeless and timely:

“…history will reveal that the Church has gained or lost power exactly as she has moved toward or away from the inwardness of her faith.”

We may have more opportunity to share the power of God’s love far and wide than any other people in history, but we may also be more apt to cut the legs out from under that opportunity by the neglect of the consecrated, secret life of our own lives, as believers. 

How merciful is God, to cause us to feel depleted, dry, or worn out in seasons of great production and opportunity. He’s good to remind us: There is no substitute for the work done in the closet on our knees or with our hearts in the inner room. 

If you follow me on Instagram, or have journeyed with me here, you know that the Lord has written my story in some unique ways that have opened some incredible opportunities. I’m so honored to have a community of 40K joining me at Instagram, and for GraceLaced art to reach so many in so many countries. I’m grateful that these words here can go out as testimony and exhortation…and I’m regularly in awe that our creatives gifts can be used in these ways. But, if I neglect in myself, or neglect to point you, dear reader, to the inward life, I’ll have misaimed. 

The worst thing a book can do for a Christian is to leave him with the impression that he has received from it anything really good; the best it can do is to point the way to the Good he is seeking. The function of a good book is to stand like a signpost directing the reader toward the Truth and the Life. That book serves best which early makes itself unnecessary, just as a signpost serves best after it is forgotten, after the traveler has arrived safely at his desired haven.

— A.W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man

Let these words be a signpost that points our hearts and eyes to the truth:

He is worthy. He is all. And lest we think we must hurry on to our next conquest, He is waiting for us in the secret place…in the shelter that’s been made for us to draw near

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1) 

I’m praying for this to be ever-true and more so with each day in my own life…and in yours, friends. 

Because of grace,

I’m so honored that you are here. If you enjoyed this blog post and would like new posts to come directly to your inbox, I invite you to subscribe to GraceLaced Blog here.

In Praise Of Doing Poorly What Fear of Failure Keeps Us From Doing At All

For what seemed to be the entirety of my childhood, I allowed the fear of not doing something (perfectly) well keep me from doing it at all. There were times I pushed past those feelings and tried out for team sports I wasn’t terribly good at, but by and large I spent most of my youth as a closet pre-quitter. 

The thing about quitting is that everyone agrees that no one should be a quitter; and yet all of us have more than enough excuses for why we simply can’t do this, that, or the other…

But, I recently was reminded by pastor/author Dr. Rob Rienow (Visionary Family Ministries) of this poignant quote by G.K. Chesterton:

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

Chesterton did not mean that the goal in our endeavors is to aim for mediocrity, but rather that we ought not let the fear of mediocrity keep us from doing something worthy at all:

The line, “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” is not an excuse for poor efforts. It is perhaps an excuse for poor results. But our society is plagued by wanting good results with no efforts (or rather, with someone else’s efforts). We hire someone else to work for us, to play for us (that is, to entertain us), to think for us, and to raise our children for us. We have left “the things worth doing” to others, on the poor excuse that others might be able to do them better.

— American Chesterton Society

So, here I am at the start of the week, staring down the list of all that I’d rather give up on, for fear that I cannot, will not, or may not do it to the degree that I find acceptable. What’s on your list? Homemaking? Exercise? Homeschooling? Walking with the Lord? Pursuing a dream? Kindness to your husband

Could it be that the most important things that you could be doing today are the very things that are worth doing, EVEN IF DONE POORLY?

Could it be that there is no one better to do these worthy things than you — not because you are the most qualified, but because you are called?

Could it be that, like me, you have allowed yourself to be a closet quitter in your mind? Whether motivated out of pride or fear, our choosing to withdraw effort to what we think we not “good at” may ultimately be an issue of worship and belief. 

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”  (Samuel 16:7)

He sees you, friend. Not for all that you believe are your failures, insecurities, or ineptitude…but for the forgiven, regenerate, and transformed he’s bringing about in you.

We don’t have to be quitters because our perfection is not what’s keeping us abiding in Him or doing what He’s called us to do. We add nothing to His perfect atonement…He is faithful. All we add is praise. That’s enough for me to press on today. 

Perhaps you need to be brave today, and just take the first step? Friends, He is faithful for your brave.

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.

— G.K. Chesterton

Pressing on in faith and not fear.

Because of grace,

I’m so honored that you are here. If you enjoy this blog and would like new posts to come directly to your inbox, I invite you to subscribe to GraceLaced by email.

The Futility of Stapling Fruit

Up until a few months ago, I had a dead potted Meyer Lemon tree sitting near a sunny window in my house. It was a Mother’s Day gift from my guys, and after all my efforts to be a conscientious potted citrus parent, the beautiful and fragrant tree just didn’t make it. For months I convinced myself that the plant was merely resting, and that it would return to its full glory. It didn’t. It’s waxy leaves all fell off and the ends of its branches were brittle. How I wished it could have just continued to look pretty on the outside! But, the plump little lemons also fell off one by one…because something was not right inside the tree.

Paul Tripp gives an illustration in his book, Instrument In The Redeemer’s Hands, in which he likens our pursuit of change in our own lives and in the lives of others, as unto heart change–at the root of our lives–not simply artificially produced fruit for appearance sake:

“…If a tree produces bad apples year after year, there is something drastically wrong with its system, down to its very roots. I won’t solve the problem by stapling new apples onto the branches. They also will rot because they are not attached to a life-giving root system. And next spring, I will have the same problem again. I will not see a new crop of healthy apples because my solution has not gone to the heart of the problem. If the tree’s roots remain unchanged, it will never produce good apples.”

Perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to our growth in Christ is oftentimes our own ability to counterfeit fruit:

1) Maybe we are impatient with the work it takes to change, so we speed things along by looking looking or acting the part.

2) Maybe we are too prideful to deal with the sin in our own lives, so we conceal and obscure with shiny and appealing personality traits.

3) Maybe it’s hard for us to receive grace, so we try and earn our way to leafy verdant branches.

4) Maybe the thought of being a dead or “almost dead” tree is too embarrassing, so we’ve learned subtle ways to staple fresh fruit to lifeless limbs.

And when we do so, the fruit NEVER LASTS. The only two places we end up are either discouragement (giving up) or guilt (trying harder.) Either way, without healthy and life-receiving roots at the heart, we will simply never know the freedom that abiding in Christ brings.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4) 

Friends, let us not be fooled into thinking that anything true or lasting will come of us attempting to produce fruit on our own, apart from the Spirit’s work in and through us, by way of redemption and the blood of Christ. 

LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, and SELF-CONTROL.

Perhaps reading those fruits leaves you feeling condemned. Perhaps you see those fruits and feel hopeless. Perhaps you hear that list of fruit and you think them platitudes in a sea of good intentions.

Allow me to encourage you with this:

If you feel condemned, remember that there is no condemnation anymore for those that are IN CHRIST. (Romans 8:1) 

If you feel hopeless, remember that our hope is not in our own ability or in this life, but in Christ alone. (1 Corinthians 15:19)

And if you think the fruit of the Spirit is trite and inconsequential, a platitude of sweet virtues that only constrict and constrain, consider what the Apostle Paul tells us is the reason for which the Spirit produces these fruit:

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

So, by freedom, through the Spirit, by way of love, and in pursuit of serving one another…let us settle for nothing less than real fruit.


I’m so excited to release the new Fruit of the Spirit prints and folded notecard sets today. Thank you for supporting my shoppe, but most importantly, for sharing in this community of grace. I’m honored!

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Tozer’s 7 Rules For Self-Discovery

We’ve made self-discovery a national pastime.

But, I’m not so sure that who I really am that is a mystery, but who I want to become. You see, who I truly am is made evident…

Rules for Self Discovery:

1. What we want most;

2. What we think about most;

3. How we use our money;

4. What we do with our leisure time;

5. The company we enjoy;

6. Who and what we admire;

7. What we laugh at.

― A.W. Tozer

And the findings from my self-discovery often don’t quite line up with who I want to be…who Jesus is…or what I will be about for all eternity.

Because what we choose to do when we don’t have to is who we truly are…

I’m over at For The Family today with more thoughts on what it is to prepare ourselves for what will be eternally valuable.

I invite you to join me there today!

Because of grace,

Don’t miss a single post! I’m so glad you are here…if you enjoy this blog, I invite you to subscribe to GraceLaced by email!

What To Remember When You Forget

Some truths simply must be repeated and remembered. For me, it’s the truth that I belong to Christ.

I don’t have to try hard to be distracted and discouraged in the mundane of my daily life. It doesn’t take much for me to have spiritual amnesia…to forget what my life is truly about, and WHO it is I live for. 

We spin our wheels, wring our hands, and work ourselves silly to gain what we want in life. And we think we own all that we acquire, all that we possess.

When really, we are merely stewards and strangers. This is not our home, and we are not what we own…in material things, yes, but also in the emotional needs, hopes, and dreams we either have or that slip through our fingers.

We have all loved and lost, invested and given away, trusted and forgiven.

Life is full of thinking we are right around the corner from having what it is we think we need to thrive or survive…

…when all we really NEED, all we really HAVE, all we will every really experience fully, is Christ alone.

We hold our breath and wait to live. We think we will start being who we want to be at the next mile-marker. We hope for a season or a circumstance that is not yet here, or may never be. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.

It doesn’t mean we stop striving or stop pursuing. It just means that everything we work toward or work for is in response to everything that has already been given…

HIMSELF.

Christ gives us himself, and he is enough.

And perhaps this is why the words, “All I have is Christ” means so much to me. 

I’m thrilled to finally offer prints of this hand drawn chalkboard in the shoppe

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone 
And live so all might see 
The strength to follow Your commands 
Could never come from me 
O Father, use my ransomed life 
In any way You choose 
And let my song forever be 
My only boast is You 

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ 
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life 

All I Have Is Christ by Sovereign Grace Music

Because of Grace,

 

Don’t miss a single post! I’m so glad you are here…if you enjoy this blog, I invite you to subscribe to GraceLaced by email!

In Praise of Limitations

There’s something in me that chafes at being hindered. Here’s the little game of mad libs I find myself playing. Let’s see if you’re familiar with it as well…

If I had more money, I could ________.

If I didn’t have to wait for _________, I could __________.

If it wasn’t for ________, I’d already be _________.

If I was good at ________, I could _________.

If only my kids would _______, I could ________.

If I wasn’t bound by ________, I would _________.

…because it is so easy to think that the world would open up for us if we had more options...and fewer limitations

But did you know that all the colors on the color wheel can be formed from the three primary colors: red, blue, and yellow? 

If given a choice, I’d purchase one of every tube of paint in every color. The various shades and hues are enticing, and the possibilities seem endless. With names like Ocean Green and Yellow Ochre, my paintings promise to come alive if I were to have just a few more tubes of paint. 

But, in reality, I could experience the full range of colors by only having three. In fact, I might become a better painter…and understand color more fully…were I to be limited, bound by only what’s necessary.

A canvas can be strewn with every display of color with nothing but the basic three. What gives it vibrancy and depth in color is not the amount of pre-mixed colors available to an artist, but the artist’s wisdom in using what she has available to her.

 

Limitations only keep us from relying on ourselves; they cannot limit what knows no bounds. 

And so it is with this day we’ve been given. We can be paralyzed by what we don’t have, what we lack, what we can’t get past…what we believe are limitations. Or, we can anticipate the full spectrum of what can be accomplished through the hands of the Artist.

We are limited and finite…He is author of rainbows. 

Hope For Reshaping The Family Legacy

When we decided to take all six of the boys on a plane to San Francisco in order to celebrate my grandparents’ joint 95th birthdays, my heart was to introduce them to the heritage they’ve been given…and to establish the legacy we will choose to leave as a family. It was likely the boys’ last chance to meet and spend time with their last remaining great grandparents.

Hope For Reshaping The Family Legacy
Hope For Reshaping The Family Legacy

When we decided to take all six of the boys on a plane to San Francisco in order to celebrate my grandparents’ joint 95th birthdays, my heart was to introduce them to the heritage they’ve been given…and to establish the legacy we will choose to leave as a family. It was likely the boys’ last chance to meet and spend time with their last remaining great grandparents.

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It had been five years since I’d seen my grandparents, and they had aged so much. I cried happy tears to have these memorable moments with them, but honestly, there were some regretful ones too...tears over the time lost due to distance, language barriers, and family fissures.

There are so many stories my kids and I will never know about them, because sometimes it’s not just the language of the tongue that is standing in the way of communicating, but the language of the heart…

Recording an interview with my grandparents
Recording an interview with my grandparents

…and so I pulled out my iPhone and captured 34 minutes of interview time with them. It was everything I hoped for, catching their voice and thoughts digitally…and yet, so far short of what it could have been. I think we assume that the heart softens and the bitter memories fade when one is old and approaching the end. But, that simply isn’t always so…

…and it reminds me of what Randy Alcorn has said:

If your treasure is in heaven, then with every day that passes, you are moving closer to your treasure. If your treasure is here on earth, every day is sadness as you move further away from what is most valuable to you.

I asked about their childhood…about how they met…and what they would tell their younger selves…

Photo Nov 02, 5 27 46 PM
Photo Nov 02, 5 27 46 PM

And some of their responses were surprising to me. I wasn’t prepared for the lack of joy that accompanied their responses. I pictured a beautiful collection of wise words and fun untold stories. But what I have recorded are memories of regret, pride, and what could have been. They were not answers I’d like to give at the sunset of my life, but they served to remind me that the Lord is at work to heal and bring fruit to future generations as HIS name is honored and shame and culture no longer serves as gods in our family…

I left the voice recorder running while I took a deep breath and spoke words of truth to my 95 year old grandparents…words that reflect a life transformed by the hope of the Gospel; a life not bound by culture, guilt, and self-worth.

At 38, I have a fraction of their life experience and life lessons, but know the redeeming love of Christ exponentially deeper and greater. That is hope indeed.

My grandparents’ words are not the end of the story. Jesus’ words through the testimony of our lives redeemed IS. And our 34 minutes included those words of home and gratitude…and my grandparents’ subtle acknowledgement of that hope. I pray that acknowledgment would bear fruit in these remaining years of their lives.

Christ came for the ugliest of all family histories. In fact, he so stood for redeeming the dysfunctional family that he chose to use the most colorful genealogies to accomplish his good will in redemption.

Every generation in every family knows heartache and brokenness. My family is not all that different from yours. You have your stories…and your untold stories.

But, God….

I love those two words.

…but, God…he redeems families, and is turning what was ALL ABOUT THE PAST to becoming  ALL ABOUT WHAT IS TO COME.

And, therein, lies the hope for every family. Every war-torn family marked by strife, hurt, shame, loss, and unbecoming secrets. Because of the cross, change can happen in YOUR generation. He is our only hope.

Hope for Reshaping The Family Legacy
Hope for Reshaping The Family Legacy