Friday, February 12, 2016

Gifts of Grace

Little Jaidyn didn't quite make it in the pic
Tonight Randy and I decided, since Sundays are usually pretty busy for us, that we would take the kiddos out this evening for Valentine’s Day. And since we received a gift card to Panera around Christmas time that’s exactly where we decided to go! We went to the one closest to us and as we were waiting in line, we heard the lady behind the counter say that they were out of bread bowls. Ya’ll, bread bowls are why we go to Panera. So we packed the kids back in the van and drove to the next closest Panera. (Did I mention we like bread bowls?)  We got in line…again, ordered our food and sat down. 
As Hailey and I went to get our drinks, a lady in line commented on our children and asked me how many we had. I told her “four”. Typically when I tell people how many kids I have they comment on how I must have my hands full or how they have NO idea of how I do it. Other times they just smile at me awkwardly and walk away like I’m crazy or something. I don’t think four is that many, but I don't know, maybe it is...who knows!
Anyway, this lady did not do any of those things. Probably because she, too, has four children of her own. She was older than me and has three boys in their twenties and a middle school girl. She told me how much she loved the craziness that a large family brings and how she often misses the noise that used to echo in her halls. We talked a few minutes, I thanked her for the encouragement and we went our separate ways. 
As we were finishing up dinner and while Randy was taking Jaidyn to the restroom, a middle school aged girl walked up to me, handed me an envelope and told me to enjoy my evening. As she walked away, I opened the envelope and there inside was a $100 gift card to Panera. I watched as the girl went to sit down and she sat in the same booth that the lady had sat down in earlier. I was floored. I could not believe someone would spend that much money on us…on me. As we left, we walked by her table as she sat there with her four children and we thanked her for her generosity. She told us to enjoy. She smiled and said she remembers what it was like. 

The funny thing about that gift card is that it is not just a large sum of money to one of my favorite places to eat, but it really is a gift from the Lord. You see, something I have been really struggling with lately is grace. The gift of God’s grace. When I opened that envelope and realized who it was from, my mind immediately began trying to figure out some way I could make it up to this lady…some way I could show her just how thankful I was for what she had given our family. But I really had nothing. I mean seriously, we bought our dinner with a gift card someone else had given us! 

And sometimes when the Lord blesses me with something my mind immediately tries to figure out some way I can repay Him. Just the other day I was sitting in the car thinking about how our house situation has just kind of fallen in to place. We felt the Lord leading us to look in Greensboro even though we had found a house in High Point that we really liked.  Then about a week later He just kind of dropped the opportunity for a house in Greensboro in our laps.  About a week or so later, after we had been looking over our numbers and wondering how it was going to happen, He then dropped a financing option that was going to work perfectly for us right in our laps. 
So there I was, sitting at that red light…thinking, I just don’t understand. I mean, I know God is good. But I also know that I am so not good. Why would He want to give this to me? So often I look at my life and my struggles and the sin that I know that lurks deep within my heart and I think….Why would He do this for me? Why would He be so good to me? Why would He give up His Son for me? Why would He waste His time on me?

But that’s the thing about grace. It’s not about me. It’s not about what I’ve done. It’s not about what I haven’t done. It’s not reciprocal. It’s not dependent upon what I can do to repay or make it right. It is a gift. A free gift. “For by GRACE have you been saved. It is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9) And believe me, I would probably be boasting. 

Paul tells us in Romans 3:
“We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in HIs gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing His life for us…Can we boast then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.” 

And before I go feeling like I can’t muster up enough faith…Paul tells us in chapter 12 that it is God who gives us the faith. Paul David Tripp reminded me in his devotional book New Morning Mercies (which is what I actually read this morning…another gift), “Not only is your salvation a gift from God, but faith to embrace it is His gift as well. But here is what you need to understand: God not only gives you the faith to believe for salvation, but He also works to enable you to live by faith…You don’t have to hide in guilt when weak faith gets you off the path, because your hope in life isn’t your faithfulness, but His.” 

Just like that lady at Panera looked on me with compassion tonight, our Father looks on us with compassion. He is the Giver of good gifts. And whether or not our house situation works out, He is still good. He has given me so many gifts already and He has given the ultimate Gift in His Son. He gives the gift of freedom from sin and death, both in this life and the life to come…the gift of eternal life with Him…the gift of faith when I’m prone to wander and prone to doubt.  And I’m so thankful for that reminder tonight of the gift that God gives freely to those who put their faith in HIm. And, of course, I’m thankful for the many bread bowls that are to come! :)

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