A Game of Grace

“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” – Psalm 103:8

An act of grace that I experience everyday, but often overlook, blind-sighted me this past week.

I’m a collegiate volleyball player with only a handful of matches left before I join the NARP (Non-Athletic Regular Person – no offense intended) life. I have played 122 games under the guidance of my coaches before realizing their forgiving and gracious nature that so closely mirrors that of Jesus (If you’re reading this, thank you for doing way more than what’s required. You both are awesome!).

My coaches are disciplined. If you wear the wrong shirt to practice, or wear it inside-out in some of my teammates’ cases, you run. If the team falls short of a goal, we run. If you forget your team notebook, also jokingly referred to as the volleyball bible, you run. If you forget to collect grade reports from your professors, you run. And the list goes on and on. We have rules that we are expected to follow, and when we fall short – and all of us have – we run. After completing the fun-time (don’t let the name fool you), egg, or suicide, the incident is forgotten and we move on.

I don’t know if you’re catching my drift, after all it took me almost four complete years to realize it, but that is a pretty darn good example of God’s grace. In the Old Testament we’re given rules to follow, but we cannot live up to the expectations of those rules. Knowing that we couldn’t walk in righteousness without a crutch, God sent His son to follow all the rules in flawless fashion. What a stud. After 33 perfect years, Jesus died a criminal’s death on a cross that WE deserved as sacrifice for all of our sins – past, present, and future. All we have to do is declare and BELIEVE Jesus is Lord and that He resurrected from the dead and our sins are graciously forgiven.

Although my coaches display grace and forgiveness, our debt for breaking the rules still has to be paid. Here’s where God’s grace becomes an absolute steal for Christ followers. While my coaches say do *insert consequence* when we mess up, Jesus says our mistakes have already been forgiven at the cross. We don’t have to pay back our wages of sin because “the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Yes, God wants us to realize our mistakes, but He doesn’t want us to dwell on them. He simply wants us to repent and believe.

Although our debt has been paid, that doesn’t mean we won’t sin. Just like I have forgotten to turn in grade reports and my team has failed to reach a goal, in our walks with Christ we will face bumps in the road. During those hard times, and the good times, we’re repeatedly given God’s grace through Jesus as a crutch to help us limp through the pearly gates onto the streets of gold.

I can’t praise God enough for the beautiful example of His grace displayed through my coaches. As thankful as I am for their presence in my life, I am eternally grateful for the grace shown at the cross.

Grace and Peace,

Meredith

“But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved!”                       -Ephesians 2:4-5

Storm Warning

To say the least, this year has not gone how I expected. When I moved back to Austin for the fall semester, I was on a mountain top with high hopes for the upcoming school year.  I’d been playing the best volleyball of my life and was surrounded by people that were encouraging my spiritual growth.  I quickly descended into the valley after landing on my setter’s foot in an extra practice session called by some of the team.  A second degree high ankle sprain that threatened to keep me off the court for six weeks was the first of many trials I’d face as the year progressed.

 

Last night I found myself laying in bed talking to God about the past 10 months.  I told Him about all the big plans I’d had for the year and He responded with Jeremiah 29:11.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

The problem with my plans are in their very foundation. They were MY plans and not God’s – they were destined to fail from the get-go!  Despite the court time I lost in volleyball and all the trials I’ve faced since, I know God has something greater than I can fathom in store for my life.  I just have to take a backseat and let Him take the leading role in my life.  I need to master playing the background.

The past week Austin has been the target of mother nature’s fury (I’d like to take a moment to thank her for all the free car washes – I’m saving money with every rain drop!).  I’ve been woken up many times to the sound of thunder and car alarms set off by close lightening strikes.  In the midst of the dodging rain drops, I’ve realized our lives sometimes mirror that of a storm.  The storm hits hard and then the eye passes over offering a glimpse of peace before the end comes barreling through.  The aftermath is destruction, but there is always reconstruction.  The beauty of a storm, as well as the beauty of the sinless blood shed at the cross, is found in the reconstruction.  Just as a storm washes away the old for reconstruction, the blood of Christ washes away our sins and revives us from our sins.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” -Titus 3:4-7

I’m a fan of pinterest and in a moment of procrastination during finals week I stumbled upon the following quote:

If there is anything I can take from my experiences this year it is that once again God has proven His plan is way better than my own (sometimes I need to be knocked in the head a few times before I learn my lesson).  The moment I found myself lying on the gym floor crying my eyes out with an ankle that refused to bear my weight, I entered the valley and had no idea what the Big Man upstairs was up to.  I know in my heart of hearts I was playing for Him. Volleyball wasn’t my idol, yet for some reason starting in our first match wasn’t apart of His plan for me.  As my coaches and teammates checked in on me in the training room I constantly asked God “Why? Why me, again?” I thought I had learned my lesson the year before when my idolization of volleyball was struck down by a strained abdomen that kept me off the court for two weeks.  As Philip Yancey so eloquently put it, “faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” I stopped questioning God and started trusting Him.  At the end of the season God answered my “why”. No, I didn’t get the starting position I desired right after I recovered (praise Jesus for His healing hand – He cut my recovery in half and I found myself practicing a mere three weeks later!). My playing time was scattered, but I was blessed to play a part in my team’s appearance in the NCAA Regional Tournament for the first time in six years.  Despite losing in the first round in 5 sets by two points, it was the experience of a lifetime I got to share with a team and coaching staff I love more than words can describe.  To top it off, in January eight of my teammates attended Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ annual College Advance.  If that would have happened had I not taken that fall I will never know, but it turns out that nasty ankle was a blessing in disguise and His plan made perfect since in REVERSE!

At this moment in life, the storm has passed, there is mass destruction, but I serve a Lord that promises reconstruction.

If you’re going through a storm, weather it knowing good things are waiting in the reconstruction!

Much love,

Meredith

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” -Romans 8:28

We Are Women of a Different Status, 31 to be Exact…

This one’s for all the beautiful ladies:

 As women in 2012, we are haunted by messages from society telling us we have to be a size 0, heavily endowed, and covered with makeup while flaunting our figures, but what is God telling us about who we are and how we should behave? He encourages the exact opposite. He thinks modesty is the best policy, makeup is unnecessary, and wants us to flaunt our inner godliness rather than our outer “hotness”. We are beautifully created in His image and our bodies are a temple for His Holy Spirit. He created beauty in all shapes and sizes and hates the lies about our “imperfections” that society feeds us. It saddens Him when we behave in the manner society encourages. When we fall to those lies it causes us to forget who we are in Him and we inadvertently assist our brothers in stumbling in their walk with Christ. I don’t want to be a stumbling block, I want to be a building block (A little side note – the man you really want will love you for your inner beauty and godliness rather than for how you look on the outside…the guy who loves you for that is a keeper!). My prayer for myself and my sisters in Christ is that we continue to be molded into Proverbs 31 women and overcome the lies of this world!

As I have struggle with society’s lies and am working towards embodying Proverbs 31, the following verses have encouraged me and helped me battle the lies:

“So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.” -Genesis 1:27

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” -Psalm 139:14

“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but the woman who fears the Lord will be praised.” -Proverbs 31:30

“You are absolutely beautiful, my darling, with no imperfection in you.” -Song of Songs 4:7

“Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes; instead, it should consist of the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which is very valuable in God’s eyes.” -1 Peter 3:3-4

I encourage you to watch this video and embrace your Proverbs 31 status!

Mission to Memphis: Day 1

“It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:26-28

12 hours in a van…who’s pumped? THIS GIRL!!!

I’m headed to Memphis, TN right now to serve our awesome Lord with 14 of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve been anticipating this trip since October when I said “yes” to God’s call. For those of us who have ever questioned God’s plan for our lives, I can confirm the Big Man upstairs definitely knows what He is doing. This trip is a complete and utter blessing as its door opened up during a rough season of life where James 1:2-4 was getting me through the day. Just another example of how He provides! When God closes one door he opens another.

As of now, our itinerary isn’t set. At least two of our projects will include sharing the Gospel at a university and cleaning up a graveyard that was used as a prostitution site. Whatever other jobs are thrown our way, I have no doubt God’s will WILL be done! I’m just excited for the opportunity to share what God has done in my life and to be His hands and feet. Every chance I get to serve, I’m in awe of God’s ability to use a sinner like me for His glory – His grace is seriously overwhelming! My prayer is that as the week progresses maybe, just maybe, the love our group shows to those we’re serving will plant a seed for God to grow! 🙂

Grace and Peace,

Mer 🙂

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'” -Matthew 28:18-20

Meet Mark, Jenny, and Kiera – three of my awesome siblings in Christ that I’ll be serving with this week in Memphis!

Jesus: The Ultimate Valentine

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

It’s Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air, flowers are being delivered and bellies are growing from a plethora of heart-shaped chocolate boxes, all of which have become symbols of Hallmark’s biggest holiday.  Despite receiving a cookie from my coach after 6am practice (Happy Valentine’s Day!) and a bag of M&M’s from my professor – I know, pretty good haul 😉 – it hit me hard this morning that the greatest Valentine’s gift doesn’t come in a heart shaped box. In fact, the best gift I’ve ever received came in the form of a blood stained cross (has Hallmark sold one of those lately?).

Despite my opinion that we should show love daily, Valentine’s is meant to be a “special day” centered around showing affection towards the ones you love most.  As a Christian the greatest act of love I’ve ever felt was that fateful day when my sinless Savior was tortured and hung on a cross for every sin I’ve ever committed or will commit.  Chick-flicks – my favorite movie genre (Yep, definitely going to see The Vow tonight with my lovely FCA ladies) – constantly emphasize loving someone enough to take a bullet for them and that is exactly what Jesus did for us.  He was sinless, yet suffered the most shameful death of His time to save our lives (I’d just like to take a moment to emphasize He died for us WAY before we were even thought of on this earth – pretty awesome, right?)…now that is true love.

I’m going to pose a challenge for today: Don’t dwell on the gifts you receive or your relationship status. Instead, bask in the love of Christ, keeping your eyes focused on what is eternal.  After all, Jesus doesn’t give us gifts that will wilt or be devoured in a few days (or in my case, minutes) – He gives us everlasting life! 🙂

Praying you are overwhelmed by Christ’s unconditional love,

-Mer

“We love because he first loved us.” -1 John 4:19

Oh and my favorite artist, Jimmy Needham, released his latest single on iTunes today! Check it out when you get the chance! “If I Ever Needed Grace” -Jimmy Needham