If you have visited here before, you can probably see that I have changed the name of the blog again. I started blogging at 4URuthie to tell the story of our journey to adopt our 1st daughter. I changed it to Mountains for Maggie when we were praying for God to move mountains on behalf of our 2nd daughter. Well now it is no longer just Ruthie’s or Maggie’s stories. It is now our family's story, and the stories of those we share life with, as we Conquer Mountains together. Both ConqueringMountains.net and 4URuthie.blogspot will lead here.

About Me

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I am a pastor's wife, mother of 4 kids (2 adopted and 3 with special needs), physical therapist, and photography junky. This is where it all comes together for me. Feel free to join along as I process life out loud.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Learning to Walk by Grace

I have been doing some thinking over the last few months about Grace and Faith.  I open my book with a short piece on them because I think understanding their relationship is critical to how we "conquer mountains" (the title of the unpublished book.  And, yes, that is a plug).  Anyway, I have discovered more recently that Grace and Faith are also critical in how we conquer the everyday.

Do me a favor.  Hang with my theology lesson for just a minute, because I think you might find some encouragement and a challenge on the other side, but the theology can't be skipped.

Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we are saved by grace through faith.
Colossians 2:6 tells that as we were saved we should also walk.

In other words, we were saved by grace through faith and we should walk by grace through faith.

Let's start with a few observations on grace:
1. I have seen grace defined 3 ways- forgiveness, help, and unmerited favor.  Which definition you use I believe depends upon the context within which you apply it.
2. I would like to argue that most Christians identify with grace.   Not only do we get it because we are saved but we are happy to apply it to our lives as well.  I mean who doesn't want forgiveness, help, and unmerited favor.  Sign me up- right?
3. I believe that we use grace most as we work out our salvation in the everyday.
Phil 2:12 tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
We need grace for that.

Hang with me.

My observations on faith:
1. Faith, simply put, is the belief that God is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do.  It is not that He will move in the way you want Him to.  Faith is rooted in His identity and His plan.  Those who walk in the most faith not only profess this but it is reflected in their response to that belief.
2. I've observed that the majority of Christians do not walk through faith as well as they walk by grace.  Perhaps that fear and trembling is too much to overcome.  It doesn't generally cost us anything to walk by grace but the cost of walking through faith can be perceived to be too great.
3. I believe we walk through faith most when we are faced with life's mountains.  Those mountains can be steps of obedience like going on the mission field or they can be handed to us like a cancer diagnosis.

Here's the application:

One thing I have observed in the adoption community is that it is filled with people who have a lot of faith for what God can do through the process.  They trust Him to come up with exorbitant amounts of money and for the process in general.  They align their will with His will and watch in awe as He moves.  Where they struggle is after the adoption when it comes time to walk out the everyday by grace.  

I have never been a long term missionary, but I wonder if their experience is the same?  I wonder if they exhibit enormous amounts of faith to leave everything that is familiar and safe to them and move to a place of uncertainty but then struggle once they are there to walk by grace in the everyday.

Here is why I think this happens.  Walking by faith is exhilarating.  Seeing God do, what others say is impossible, and experiencing it personally, leaves you wanting to walk in that over and over again.  I know when my life slows down and looks "normal," I panic.  I wonder if I am somehow missing God's will.   This is how I have spent the last few weeks and what God is teaching me through it, I am sharing here.

I struggle (and I don't think I am alone) to walk by grace.  My subconscious forgets that God not only exists and calls us to the mountains but He is also in the plains and that is okay.   It does not mean that we are disobedient or that He is no longer using us or speaking to us.  Plains and valleys often have a negative connotation but if we step away from that we can remind ourselves that most ministry takes place in the midst of every day life, in the plains, and between the mountains.

I made a little chart to help me process this. It is pretty self explanatory but the picture on the left represents people who operate great in every day grace but fear what faith may cost them.  The graph on the right represents those who don't mind taking steps in faith but struggle to find contentment when life is ordinary.

Message for Faith people- I don't have a secret formula for you because I am walking this with you.  I too love to see God move and struggle with the fear that my time is wasted when I am not participating in something bigger than myself.  What has been encouraging to me is the reminder that God is just as present when I am playing Jenga on the floor with my nine-year old as He is when I am standing in a Chinese orphanage.  I am praying for contentment between the mountains and that God would show me His glory in the quiet as much as He does in the chaos.

Message for Grace people- If you have been struggling with guilt because you haven't sold everything and moved to Africa, be encouraged that you can let that go.  You are still participating in the Gospel right where you are.  I want to encourage you though that if you can't think of a time when you have really stepped out in faith to follow God's call outside of your safety zone, you are missing out.  There is nothing cooler than seeing God move mountains first hand.  I encourage you to step beyond your fear and trembling.  Ask God to enlarge your borders and call you to greater things than you can do alone.  You won't regret it.

Ideally we would all look like this version of my little graph that took too long to make in Photoshop. :)  We would operate fully in Grace and Faith.

My husband made a great point when I was talking to him about this.  Who in the middle of a faith crisis couldn't use more grace (help, forgiveness, and unmerited favor) and who in the middle of the valley couldn't be encouraged by the faith reminder that God still is who He says He is and still does what He says He does.

May we all walk completely in grace and faith and may we find contentment and power where ever God has us.

Here is a picture from our every day (because the grandparents will want a picture).  Maggie teaching the alphabet to her new friend, Abby.

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