An Elephant Themed Baby Shower

Life has been full lately. I won’t bore you with a list of all the latest life happenings (though I am working on a post for next week to somewhat explain my absence from this space. and yes, there will most definitely be a five things post the last Friday of the month. I know y’all like those posts!), but I wanted to at least give you something lovely to look at in the meantime.

My crazy talented sister-friend-roommate, B, threw a baby shower for one of her friends at the end of April, and I got to help out behind the scenes a bit and then take photos of the event. I mean, how amazingly adorable and thoughtful are all these elephant details???

And although babies are no where in my near future, I’ve already made her promise to paint some cute canvases for my someday nursery. Grin.

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When Rules Become a Burden … and the Reality of Grace

Some days the rules I try to live under become heavy, weighty, burdensome.

I feel desperate for freedom, for a rescue

And I feel more like a Pharisee than a follower of Christ.

I feel trapped, chained, stuck.

And it never makes any sense to me because I actually like rules. I’m comfortable with rules and their black and white decisiveness. I prefer to be given boundaries … a box of acceptability, lines to color within.

the reality of grace

But lately they just feel like a heavy burden of “shoulds” and expectations that I was never meant to live under.

I may be a rules girl, I may be comfortable there, but what if there’s more? What if there’s different? What if Christ has broken the chains that I’m still trying to live within? What if there’s far greater freedom in this life with him than I ever dared to imagine?

And no, I don’t mean that there’s all of a sudden a license to sin or to break his commands or to live outside of his word.

I’m not talking about the sort of rule avoiding that’s disobedient and separate from God.

I’m talking about recognizing that I’m actually using the rules to keep him at arms length, using the rules as a sort of hiding mechanism, and using the rules to try to somehow earn his approval by my own perfectionist ideals. And that’s just plain wrong.

I’m talking about living in the reality that the gospel is about grace and forgiveness, not hiding in shame.

I’m talking about running to God in surrender rather than running from him or earning my way to him.

I’m talking about following and obeying the rule of Christ in my life and about seeking him first before I ask for any other voice of affirmation or approval.

Because what if I was never meant to even attempt to live under some of these rules and expectations that still threaten to shame and overwhelm me …

the ones that say because I’m not journaling during my times in the word at the moment, then maybe that time doesn’t actually count?
the ones that say because I didn’t complete all of my fill-in-the-blank Bible Studies, then maybe I didn’t really do it right?
the ones that say because community looks different than it has in the past, then maybe I don’t value it enough?
the ones that say because my world is in some ways shrinking for a season, then maybe I’m not following Jesus closely enough?
the ones that say because most of my prayer times are in the car or the shower, then maybe I’m not intentional enough about communing with my Savior?
the ones that say because I don’t have a regular “spot” to spend time with the Lord and it never looks the same day-to-day, then maybe it’s not a priority?
the ones that say because I’ve allowed myself to stay home from church recently when I’ve been moderately sick or even just over-tired, then maybe my commitment to the body of Christ is waning?

And somewhere in me I hear the words that Paul wrote to the church at Galatia … it’s for freedom that I’ve been set free. And echoing louder still the words that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus … it’s by grace I’ve been saved, not by works.

And I look at all these rules I feel trapped under and they’re all works-based. They all look like items to check off. And how did I get here? And how do I find my way back to the truth? And how do I live in the freedom that’s mine in Christ?

Because it IS mine. Just as HE is mine.

And the guilt and the shame that I heap on myself because I’m breaking my own “rules”, because I’m failing to live up to my own self-imposed expectations?

It’s not of him.

He speaks of abiding, of being with him, of walking with him, of listening to him, of trusting him, of resting in him.

And while those things are not necessarily always simple, they’re not burdensome. Because his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

And as I repeat the truth of Scripture to myself over and over again, I realize my gaze has slipped. Because the works-based rules force my eyes off of Christ and on to self. And from that place, my perspective is just plain off. It’s not right. And it never will be.

And as I look at him again, as I fix my gaze back on him – the one who is author and perfecter of my faith, the one who prepares works in advance for me, the one who equips me for what he calls me to, the one who cares about the details of my life, the one who draws me close and holds me there, the one who knows me and claims me and gives me my identity, the one who makes me more like himself – I realize this is what coming home feels like all over again.

And no, this world isn’t perfect.

I mess up and fail and fall short again and again.

There’s struggle and hurt and heartache, but never despair, because there is always hope. Because there is always his presence in the midst.

He goes before.

He hems us in.

He’s won the victory.

The chains are broken.

The rules have no power.

I am forgiven and I am free.

And I will keep preaching this truth to myself over and over again. I will keep writing it, I will keep praying it, I will keep speaking it out loud to myself in the car.

Even when I don’t feel it … even when it seems like I’m trying to convince myself to believe what I already know in the depths of my being to be true … I will continue to cling to this with every last drop of energy … even if that means giving it my last, my all.

Because this is the gospel. This is the reality of grace.

This is the truth I rest in.

5 Things I Learned in April

1. I made Aunt Sarah’s coconut cake for my family for Easter again this year. It’s still amazing. And super simple. But it looks impressive. Which of course I failed to document this time around. But it’s really just a win all the way around.

2. Shopping for baby gifts is hands down the best kind of retail therapy. Seriously. I could forever shop for baby items for friends and never get overwhelmed or bored. So much enjoyment from such a simple thing.

5 Things April

3. I learned a new word this month thanks to my sister-friend-roommate: laxity. It simply means being lax or loose. Please don’t ask me why I had never heard of this word before.

4. Sometimes closed doors are God’s protection. This has been such a powerful and shaping lesson that I don’t think I’m quite done learning and a truth that I’m certainly not done resting in.

5. And along those same lines, this:

“What may feel like overwhelming sorrow or trauma is nevertheless
within God’s compassionate plan.
He is not premature in what he allows.
His compassions never fail.
When you understand that image of God’s compassion,
you can rest there.
You can know that you are cradled within God’s perfect care for you.”

- from God Is Just Not Fair by Jennifer Rothschild

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*linking up with Emily P. Freeman at Chatting at the Sky as we all share different things we learned in April*

Photo of the Week 2014 :: Sixteen

photo of the week 2014 sixteen

A photo from the archives for this week’s photo of the week …

Because the cross and everything that it represents – the life, the death and resurrection, the power, the victory, the immutability, the perfection – of my Lord Jesus Christ will forever be the place of ultimate soul rest.

He is Risen!

Happy Easter!