Grace Wins

Veins that were once full of poison are now full of grace. I never share my story anymore. I share where I came from, but never the details. These veins have seen things. They are broken and scarred. They’re ugly….But, Grace wins. Grace wins every time.

“Words can’t describe the way it feels
When mercy floods an empty soul
A broken side begins to heal
And grace returns what guilt has stole.”


We all have stories. I have the courage to share.

“No more lying down in deaths defeat
Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah
Grace wins every time”


The song was written by Matthew West. The tattoo is in memory of Matthew Wesley. Similar names, because God is funny and loves details. Grace saves us all and all in different ways. #gracewins

What is your story?

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Death is a Lie

It’s been a year.

God uses the broken, the undeserving, the unwanted, the least of us. He doesn’t call on the qualified. He saves the shattered.

Is my story that of redemption? Does my life reflect your grace? This is often what I ask. This is where my mind goes. I forget….it’s not about me.

My life is shiny. Of course it is filled with grace and love. I made it that way. I let God shine through me. More than not, I make it appear that way. So is it God really shining…or is it me?

I hear stories of redemption often. I tell my own when I feel pushed. I give pats on the back and receive them. But, what am I doing now? I don’t show that I am broken. I don’t show that I am unwanted. I am not a least of these on the surface. I have a home, a family, money, food….just because I was saved does not mean it is a get out jail free card for the remainder of my life. I. I. I.

A year ago we lost Matthew. There was no winning story. It’s a story of abandonment, struggle, sadness, fear. Where was God? Where was the redemption we all crave to see? It appears I have it in my shiny life, why couldn’t you?

I’ve struggled with God. I’ve been mad. I’ve been defiant. “Why couldn’t you get sober and be a person?” “Why did God save me, but not you?” How selfish of me. Thinking I was the only one saved…thinking I was the only one being used by God.

I’ve wrestled for a year. My marriage has been affected. My parenting has been rocked. And in the midst of drowning, I have been thanking God for the grace that saved me that I couldn’t feel anymore. I’ve been thanking Him for the grace I felt 5 years ago, but not for the grace today. Because the grace today cannot compare with the grace from 5 years ago…in my twisted thoughts.

Then today, wisdom was given. Matthew’s story is that of pure grace. There is nothing but redemption there. This world is an evil, scary place. It overcame you, just as it has me. You are now with God and I am here in His will, at least that is what I would like to think and what I pray for…although my ego tends to get in the way more than not. He saved you. He redeemed you. Death is a lie. Jesus overcame the grave. Jesus overcame the world.

Just as a parent will always love their child, God always will love us. When He sees us suffer, He suffers. When this world over takes our souls, He feels it. He saw you. He used you. He changed lives through you. And once He saw enough breaking, He poured grace over you and brought you home. Your favorite quote of all time was Vonnegut’s, “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.” Life hurts. Death does not. Now for you, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts anymore. That is the ultimate redemption. There is nothing but joy.

It’s not about me. It’s not about Eli. It’s about grace. I didn’t need to hear the words I am sorry. You didn’t have to become a rockstar dad to show God’s mercy. Through God I forgive you. Just as I forgive myself. Just as I forgive the addict on the street corner asking for money. Just as I forgive the person who flipped me the finger driving. Just as I forgive the person who criticized my work. We are all God’s children. There is no room for hate.

Christians get in this mindset that everything needs to be smiley all of the time. That we need to celebrate our saving day and say wow look what God did there! And we share our stories of redemption like badges of honor. “oh look what God did for me here!” “God saved me!” “I was pulled from the ashes!” I get in this mindset too. But, I never talk about the bad, or the struggles. I keep them secret. Because after all, I am saved and am a child of God.

But it’s so twisted! It’s not about me! It’s about God! I am still broken. I am still a sad story. If I have too much to drink will it make me a bad person? Will I be forgiven? Will God still use me? If I go out tomorrow and stick a needle in my arm am I no longer a child of God? People will say, “may God pull her out.” Which is great intention, but instead what we as christians need to do is love without the judgement! People look at me and scream grace! People look at Matthew and scream no grace! and that is so backwards. We are the same. We are both children of God. Both used by our creator for His glory. Just because his sin was more apparent than mine does not make him less qualified. God uses the unqualified!

Noah was a drunk and he built the freaking arc! I am so tired of people thinking the only people God uses are the sober, the clean…it’s not true! When I have too much wine, He is still using me! and he is still using you! Sobriety doesn’t get you into heaven. Faith gets you to heaven.

Matthew was not a bad person. We are all bad people. This is not tragic. This is beautiful. It is the ultimate story of how God provides. He provided Matthew with what he needed…and that was to pass over. That’s grace.

So please, do not think of today as a tragedy. But, open your eyes with love. See the grace that has been so freely given. God loves us all. Do not judge one another. Life is too short to be angry. Love. Just love. Please just love.

Stagnate

:cease to flow or move; become stagnant.

Something crazy happened last night.

I felt deep embedded shame. I experienced this moment of pain. The roots I buried deep underground and covered with layers upon layers of busyness and activities came alive. They sprouted a little seedling that silently crept up to the surface. This was a seed I didn’t realize I had even planted, watered and were sunning until BAM “here I am!” it appeared. It burst from my heart and scared the hell out of me!

I choked. The words came out to a group of friends in a moment. In a moment I spoke it into existence.

Now people know my secret. Now I realize it’s there! My skeletons are now dancing freely on a table in front of me and they are laughing. Fear has enabled them to taunt, harass, and multiply my shame.

I said, “It’s been 5 months since my son lost his father from an overdose. This father wasn’t a dad, he became a guy we barely recognized. And I still don’t have my shit together. I am sitting on paperwork that needs to be dealt with and handled. And I sit and stare at it. I keep us so busy and running so I can say that I don’t have the time. This has caused bruises in my relationships. It’s raised feelings that I thought were dead. It’s embarrassing. This needs to be done. But I don’t like the messy. So I sit and stagnate”

I’m watering this stupid ugly seed with my smelly stagnate water….

Now my words are out there and my skeletons are entwined in a waltz of dirty dancing for others to see. I am now accountable.

It’s the little things that trip us up and make us feel dirty and unworthy. This “thing” is so small and silly, and yet, I hold it. I take it to bed with me, I shower with it, I feed it….and why? And now it rests in my hands. It wraps around my wrist like a bracelet for all to see with a shake of my hand.

I fall to the cross. God help me face this. Be with me. Walk with me. Show me what to do. Love me. Help me be free of this bondage.

Humble

:having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance:

Nothing like a little humility to set me straight.

After my last post I started the research journey of lent. Which seriously means I read Facebook posts and blogs. God speaks through people, so those are total accountable resources! Right? Real stories! I opened my bible too….online….on my computer screen, for truth. I pulled sources together, cross referenced things, listened to God.

I heard this over everything:

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18

I’m pretty sure this was God covering my mouth and telling me nicely to shut up. I had to take a step back and ask myself, “Mandy, who are you fasting for? What is your purpose in this? It’s not even a real fast, what are you doing? Who’s applause do you want?”

Then I felt conviction. I felt humility. I felt a little dirty.

In came grace. Right on time. Real grace. I said He would catch me. He sat me down, rubbed my head and said, “Oh child of mine, you have so much to learn. Great enthusiasm though, keep it up!” Then I woke up humbled, renewed.

I started this thing to learn, learn I have and learning I am and will continue to do so. But I will do so quietly. I won’t complain to co workers or mention it at home. I will just do it with obedience and with silence. Of course after this blog entry I will start. I was convicted again on even writing about this, but after prayer and reflection and listening to God I believe I am to share it. To walk with Christ is to give glory in all we do to God. I just learned something HUGE and was caught beautifully by His grace.

I open myself to wisdom, ask for it and seek it. With wisdom comes humility.

I am humbled.

So strange to say and an even odder concept….I am honored to have been embarrassed by my words because the wisdom that came from my humility has humbled me and has made me in awe of my creator. God is so beautiful and so full.

And this is the purpose of a fast that I have come to realize….to have a spiritual awakening. To reflect. To curl up on God’s lap and say “God, I need you right now, more than ever. Catch me. Teach me. I love you. You fill me. You are not of this word. Thank you.” and to do so quietly. Intimacy with Yahweh.

More truth could be revealed and it will humble me more and I will be grateful.

Lady Wisdom or Lady Folly

I am addicted to sugar. It’s better than booze and drugs, but lets relate and not compare here. So, I am throwing in the towel, taking the plunge, going off the deep end and am going to deal with this the only way I know how.

Enter in glittery Jesus with snazzy background music!

Who’s the guy who takes away the sins of the world? ….Jesus

Who’s the guy who catches me when I fall?…..Jesus

Yeah!…and guess who is going to bail me out of this mess!?……same Jesus

It’s time for lent. What a coincidence! Wait…..this Christian doesn’t believe in coincidences, but believes that God is a master at bringing the universe together for his children babies and that includes ME! So lent is sort of a weird thing to me. I’ll be honest. I feel like people do it to just do it and feel all spiritually without knowing why or how they are doing what they are doing. So usually I don’t participate for that reason. I don’t even know where lent started or why. I just know its the 40 days pre cross. It’s not even biblical. I also know that God reveals wisdom when we seek with our hearts, so maybe this year that knowledge will be revealed. And maybe not. I have been google searching though, today, just a little.

So drum roll please……..cymbal crash!  CRASH

This year I am going to do this. I am going to sort of fast for Jesus. Why? Because I do all things for the glory of God. The bible tells me to do that. (1 Corinthians 10ish look it up, it’s good) So I will jump on this lent bandwagon and throw sugar off the back end. I will do this in the name of Jesus because he is my savior and he is who rescues me when I make messes.

I keep thinking of Paul, also in 1 Corinthians….I’m in Corinth today, my thoughts just keep jumping to this book. Which, my friends, is NOT coincidence. THAT is the nudge of God. So I am fearfully going to listen to that nudge and surrender my love of sugar and also read 1 Corinthians again tonight while researching lent.

OK, 1 Corinthians 9…at the very end Paul talks about beating his flesh. I am going to hugely paraphrase, my apologies to the bible scholars in advance, but I will quote it too just so it’s there,

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

So here he isn’t speaking of actually hitting himself, but of self discipline. Or maybe he was a cutter. Maybe when he spoke about the thorn in his flesh he was LITERALLY speaking of a thorn. Mystery solved! I’m spreading rumors, sorry Paul. We all have faults and thorns. I’m not judging! Anyways. We must stay disciplined. We must stay sharp. We must deny ourselves desires of our flesh and wants of this world. If I give into my flesh, engorge on what I want and give into temptation, then who am I worshiping? My God or myself? I will choose God. I will deny myself. Physically speaking I will do this with sugar. I will keep myself sharp and keep this temple of my soul healthy. Breaking my flesh to strengthen my soul.

As I was reading “The Best Yes” today by Lisa Terkeurst I was “coincidently” reading a chapter with the same theme. Proverbs 9. It compares 2 women, wisdom and folly. It is so so good. So good I will paste these goodies too!

Wisdom has built her house;
    she has set up[a] its seven pillars.
She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
    she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servants, and she calls
    from the highest point of the city,
    “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
To those who have no sense she says,
    “Come, eat my food
    and drink the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways and you will live;
    walk in the way of insight.”

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
    whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
    rebuke the wise and they will love you.
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
    teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
11 For through wisdom[b] your days will be many,
    and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
    if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

13 Folly is an unruly woman;
    she is simple and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house,
    on a seat at the highest point of the city,
15 calling out to those who pass by,
    who go straight on their way,
16     “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
To those who have no sense she says,
17     “Stolen water is sweet;
    food eaten in secret is delicious!”
18 But little do they know that the dead are there,
    that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.

So we have 2 women. Both call out “Let all who are simple come to my house.” They are in the same location and asking the same things. The difference is Wisdom has prepped, practiced and self disciplined herself. She is ready. There are no short cuts there. She is living. She is fruitful. I love this. I am Lady Wisdom, not perfect, never said or will say that, but teachable. I am prepping my body, heart and mind for eternity. I am kicking the sugar to the curb in the name of Jesus. Squishing my wants for His will.

It was sugar or social media. Ha…I can’t get out of bed without social media. Real talk. I choose the easy way out really. After all, I am not Jesus.

Spirit Spit

I couldn’t contain my excitement. I was up at 5:30.The only pink shirt I own was about to be all up on this bod! I’m a themed dresser and I hate pink, but it was women’s conference day, day 2! Walking Confidently. I was fired up and in pink.

We were completely loved on and poured into the night before by the spirit. I imagined this was roughly 1/10th of the energy Peter felt as he huddled in a room with the other disciples and some believers as the Holy Spirit entered into them via God’s fire spit. God spirit spit melted into their skin, instantly penetrating their veins and filling their hearts. It was good. God spits fire, he really does. It’s in the word….you can’t deny it.

 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:3-4

Now, I didn’t see any actual fire tongues, but I could feel my heart heat up and beat faster. It was totally a Book of Acts moment. It was good and I was ready for more.

My oldest had other plans. I woke him up Saturday with praises. He has many gifts and talents, but winning is NOT one of those! He makes running look hard. Like seriously, you see this kid run and you will never want to run again because it just looks like pain. He was at a birthday party the night before and played laser tag. He came in last place, but was so excited that when he reminisced the story, I had just assumed he did well. It wasn’t until the morning, when I found the score card that I realized he was in last place. My heart melted. God doesn’t make us winners baby, but he surely gave us the gift of good sportsmanship!

Then…

“Eli can you turn down the ipod (Chris Tomlin music of course) please, people are still sleeping…..Eli more please, I can still here it on the other side of the house.”

“Fine!” He screamed as he turned it off and slammed it on the table. This ipod is hanging onto life. It’s barely there….literally barely there, half of the screen is already chipped off and somehow it still works. Like, you can’t be slamming and dropping this thing. It probably works because Chris Tomlin possessed the dang thing to play just HIS MUSIC! AHHH, he haunts me!

Well this was, of course, not ok and resulted in the ipod being taken. Moans. Then,  there was no milk because I forgot to get some. Moans. So Starbucks brownie for breakfast day! Calories don’t count during Women’s Conference day so game on! Cheers! I ordered chocolate milk and not hot chocolate. Moan. The tears. The tears. I was just making Eli’s life hell apparently. I finally broke and yelled….hard. More tears…and Tomlin singing about waterfalls and streams of mercy. It was just too much. Just way to much water, AND IT WAS WOMENS CONFERENCE DAY!!! I should be the one with the waterworks on while having some spiritual, fire tongue, spirit spit, God revelation moment darn it! Oh the irony.

Against all odds, he somehow remained in my car and I threw my hands up and laughed, eventually. I said, “Boy! You can’t rain on my parade. If you don’t want to eat that’s cool. If you don’t want your chocolate milk that’s cool too! More sugar for me because today calories don’t count!” We marched into that conference messy. We still showed up and we showed up ugg–aaa–lleee. He looked like a meth addict all red faced, eyes swollen and 4 scabs on his face from who knows what, boyhood perhaps? We were a sight! The baby just woke up and was in pajamas still and me…well I was angry and exhausted, already. I ran to my friends and asked what was wrong with my child!? They laughed and said absolutely nothing.

I was reminded. God doesn’t call us to become perfect people. He doesn’t call perfect people. There aren’t even any of those! He calls the messy. He calls the meth addicts and the meth addict look a likes. He calls the moms who fall apart and yell. He draws close those who throw up their hands in defeat. He grabs those hands and pulls them out of the water and guides their feet to walk on it! We struggle so He can shine. If we didn’t have trouble, God couldn’t show up. There is no miracle to take place if nothing is in need of some miracle making. He doesn’t remove us from adversity. He shows up in it. So then when we move and live and love in those terrible, ugly life moments people see a God at work in us. We praise him in the rain and the waterfalls of tears and He shows up and wipes them away. He never promises us a life of ease, but He promises us comfort and peace. Jesus says:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” John 16:33

So take heart my friends. Seek his comfort and it will be given. Show up messy and he will love on you. I walked out of that conference with confidence in my chaos. I am a mess, a beautiful mess, and that is ok. In my imperfect reflection  I can see His perfection because He shines through my cracks and brings light to the world. I just have to sing His glory loud and proud, give credit to where it is due. It’s not me that does the good stuff, it is Him in me. I am the one who yells, He is the one who redeems it. He showed me comfort through love from His people, my friends, who laughed and said “girl me too, you are not alone!”  And that my friends, is a truth that I can walk confidently in.

Guide to Learning of Self (Mandy Edition)

People often question, “Who am I?” “What do I value?” “What are my morals?” “What kind of person do I want to be?” and so on. Often, these times of “self discovery” lead to trips around the world, or on journeys in your (mostly) single life. You meet people and leave people, become a gypsy. It’s all under the “YOLO” “Self-seeking” “I’m finding myself” “All about me time” “Imma do me” attitude.

…I think this is crap. But this is me thinking.

AND I think these are all beards. They are all cover ups. Beard A way to run. A way to avoid. It is a way to become someone you are not. It is a way to hide behind the excitement. When someone says something you don’t like you say “Peace out!” and throw up your deuces. Yes, you now have a pocket full of experiences and have enjoyed life. Pat yourself on the back. But the path of self discovery, I believe, doesn’t truly begin until 2 things happen.

1) Marriage

Nobody will be quicker to point out how bad you suck at life than your spouse. Those late nights used to be ok. The socks on the floor and pile of dirty clothes left in the bathroom after you showered used to be fine and unnoticed. You quickly realize that consequences follow actions and that they come in good and bad versions. Once, in your past and pre married life, you used to preach on forgiveness and on love….then you realize what a hypocrite you are because these ideas quickly retreat and hide under the bed when confrontation evokes. It used to be so easy. You used to love from afar, but now you must be accountable on every little thing.Oh boy! Look out! This means if you don’t cook dinner because you were to busy saving the world of the PTA, guess what!? Who cares? Dinner isn’t cooked so the world at home ends! Let’s see how well you can be all loving when that happens!

2) Children

Have you ever seen a mini human become so angry and loose patience in an instant just because 2 lego pieces wouldn’t connect correctly, or because the homework computer program won’t connect properly? Connection problems grrrr.  I’m sure you have seen this. Then there is that EUREKA moment… aka SHIT moment! You think, “I do the same thing!” Ever hear your child spew words of hatred because they were taught by example to snap when they get angry and to fire back with words? Have you seen your child protect what is theirs because they weren’t taught to share? Or if they were, they were taught out of discipline and not understanding. They share out of fear, instead of from their heart because they were never taught that human connection is worth more than their toy. Want even more of a challenge to finding self? Be a single mom. Then you can’t blame your child’s mouth on your spouse or their messy habits on them either. You are their #1 influence. BAM!

Self discovery….is mostly discovered with others.

Of course I have a perfect marriage and perfect children so I can’t relate to the above. My only defect is that I am simply to awesome. The fingers don’t all point to me here.

Fingers

Life is a path to self discovery and I am learning that I am just beginning to learn who I am.

Search my God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. -Psalm 139:26

Failure is always an option, but it is never final. There is always grace and there is always hope. In all that good stuff there are struggles. The struggles are the cracks and in the cracks the light will shine. C’est la vie!