Our Daughter's Birth: A Lesson in Grace

Standing in the ultrasound room recently with my bride, my little boy, my mother-in-law, and our precious friends Zane and Hannah was (as Zane put it) "surreal". Our Daughter's Birth: A Lesson in Grace

Toes, fingers, ears, eyes, lips, so many details...Ribs were clearly seen and I was fascinated with the baby's spine.

The anticipation was high, waiting to hear if it was pink or blue, but we were also very thankful for all the other measurements they were doing, to make sure our baby is as healthy as possible.

"See that right there?  It's a girl!"

Total elation.  Of course I cried. I saw bows and frillies and pinks and purples and yellows and polka dots and explosions of lace and Minnie Mouse and oh my gosh I am going to have a daughter!!!

In the moment, I completely forgot about our experience with Ben's birth. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced.  Doctors and nurses in space suits.  A big plastic mat on the floor, the size of a whitewater raft, tools and lines and needles and tears and "OH MY GOSH....you want me to do what?  Look where?  Do you KNOW what's going on down there? No thanks, I'm fine right here.  I'm a good hand holder."

Talk about a mess!

It was overwhelming and there was this SMELL I will never forget. The whole thing was enough to make a dude lose his appetite for days.

But then...

Then I saw a head, then a shoulder, arms and in the blink of an eye the doctor was holding a perfect, crying, baby boy. Still messy, but perfect in my eyes.

When they laid him in my arms, I immediately knew I would run in front of a train for him. I'd never met him, but I knew I would kill or be killed for him. There was nothing I wouldn't do for this tiny baby boy. I didn't even realize that I had quickly and completely forgotten the mess he was and the mess he made.

Isn't that just like Grace? Grace hears our cries of desperation, wraps comforts us, and forgets everything else. It's as if it never happened. I pray that Grace captures you and bulldozes the walls you have built today.

Broken

"Trade your brokenness for His."

That's what Paula Jones said last night and those are the words that are still resonating in my soul today.

She started by handing each person a slip of colored paper.

"I've been broken many times." And she tore her paper in half. "The church has broken me more times than I'd like to admit. I've nearly given up on the church, but I've never come close to giving up on God."

And she tore her paper again.

"What about you? Take your paper and hold it in your hand. Think of the first time you were broken. A boyfriend or girlfriend broke your heart, your Grandma died, your parents divorced, you were molested, your Dad hit you. Whatever the case may be, think of the person(s) involved and year your paper."

And we did.

Hearing the paper shred echoed through my soul like timpani.

"Keep tearing your papers in half as you think of the name of each person who caused your brokenness."

And we did.

"Now think of situations that broke you. Church hurts, loss of a job, being falsely accused, being lied to..." The list went on and on.

And we continued to shred our sheets.

And I wept.

I wept for the pain that I had held inside. I wept for the most-recent experiences that I allowed to silence me. I wept because I really didn't care about ever getting involved in ministry again. I never wanted to give another minister my trust. I never wanted to give my vulnerability to anyone else.

I wept because I was broken.

And then she pulled a towel away from a large plate of bread and said, "This is my body, broken for you."

It started to click.

On the cross, Christ was bruised for our sins, pierced for our failures and shortcomings, he was punished so that we could have peace, and the stripes on his back from all that torture guarantee our healing.

He was broken in our place.

Perfection took persecution.

Holiness was humbled.

The Savior was loaded down with our sins.

He was broken for us. For you. For me.

He was broken for you and me.

God is familiar with brokenness. It's not new to Him.

So one-by-one, we placed our torn pieces on the table, ripped a piece of bread, dipped it in the juice, and traded our brokenness for His.

I stood back against the wall and peered around the living room: about fifty people had gathered to worship together. Fifty broken hearts. Fifty people who have walked through pain. Fifty people who have been angered. Fifty people who have been betrayed at some point. Fifty people who watched a dream fail. Fifty people who failed themselves.

A room full of fifty people, each willing to say, "I'm broken, but I'm not dead. Give me Jesus".

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Anxiety: Not Your Grandma's Kind of Worry

This is a guest post by someone I think the world of.  The author asked to remain anonymous for now, and I completely respect that decision.  We are all at different points in our journey. --Steve

I am a perfect person. Well, if you ask just about anyone. I was the kid that teachers adored and other kids hated. I always made the highest grades, I always joined the most clubs, and I never broke any of the rules. This was not the result of having helicopter parents or a tiger mom – I was, and still am, my own toughest critic. As an adult, I continue this rigorous self-evaluation. Even though I have a wonderful job that many people would give up so much to have, on a small level it still bothers me that it doesn’t require the college degree that I worked myself to the bone to acquire. I strive to be perfect.

That’s probably why it took me so long to admit that I have a problem.

I worry too much.

It sounds like a fake problem, right? Like something that only a middle-class young woman who has had a pretty comfortable life could concoct. That’s what I always assumed before, too.

Suppressing my stressful and worrisome thoughts began causing even more problems. It started a few years ago, a string of isolated incidents that slowly but surely grew closer and closer together: the panic attacks.

Sleepless nights filled with unnecessary calls to 911 and/or reckless sobbing because I was sure, absolutely sure, that I was dying. It feels like a blood clot was breaking loose in my veins, like my arms are going to fall off, like someone is sitting on my chest and strangling me at the same time. The two times that paramedics actually inspected me, they said the only thing that was wrong with me was high blood pressure, and that I was likely from hyperventilating.

It got to the point where I felt like I was going insane. I was plagued by worry and panic at all times. If my husband was five or ten minutes later getting home than I expected, I would practically be in tears, just knowing that he was dead somewhere on the side of the road. I would stop several times on my way home from work to check under my seat to make sure that a snake hadn’t managed to sneak into my car during the day. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even know what I was worried about. I would just be mentally paralyzed by terror.

It was awful.

One Friday, after spending three nights up worriedly Googling the symptoms of heart attacks and blood clots, I had the worst panic attack of my life. It was there, early morning, on the side of the road, surrounded by sirens and emergency responders with a portable EKG machine hooked up to me and a blood pressure cuff around my arm once more, that I realized I could not take it anymore. I scheduled an appointment with an internal medicine doctor, and he diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder and asked me if I’d like a prescription for Klonopin.

Ashamed, I said yes.

I was ashamed because I’d always thought that people who depended on medicine to help them deal with their anxiety or depression were weak, that they just couldn’t get it together, that they were – dare I say – not all there. I didn’t need medicine to help me. I just needed to buck up and stop worrying so much. And then when I realized deep down that I did need medicine to help with my worrying problem, I started worrying even more about the stigma attached to it. Worrying about what my husband would think. What my friends would think.

About a month later, all I have to say is that I didn’t realize how unhappy my anxiety made me until it was gone. So many fears are just…gone. I sleep at night. My husband is in awe of how much I don’t worry about one or the other of us dying. I have never felt so free.

If this is you, don’t tell yourself it is just a funk, or that you need to “just stop worrying.” Get the help that you need and deserve. You are destined for greater things than this. Make no mistake: accepting anxiety as your fate, or as a personality quirk, can only harm you. It is nothing but a hindrance between you and the ones that love you, and most importantly, our magnificent Creator. Banish it from your mind, from your soul, from your life. You won’t be sorry.

This is my story. I am a survivor. Grace is messy.

"From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story. A story says, I survived." --Fr. Craig Scott
There are two family members I should have been able to trust with my life.  God gave me the grace to forgive them both for hurting me in two different ways.
The first family member is, (it is still hard not to call him "the sperm donor" rather than "Dad"),  was my father. Any man can donate his sperm, but it takes a man to be a Dad!  I was about three-years-old and my sister was about eighteen months when my Mom left him and filed for divorce.  He was and remains an alcoholic.  Mama gave him a choice:  his family or his bottle.  He chose his bottle.  He hit my Mom, causing her eardrum to burst.  He did take her to the doctor on the military base, but when the doctor wanted to talk to him, he left her there.

"When you live in an alcoholic family or an abusive family, you tiptoe. you don't want to step on any mines." --Glenn Beck

She raised us as a single parent, which was so hard on her.  She would work two jobs, doing her best to provide for us.  When I say he chose his bottle, I mean every dime he got his hands on went to buy his alcohol for the day.  He did nothing to help provide for my sister and me.  Mama always wanted my sister and me to take piano, dance and get involved in other extra activities that she knew would help us grow and build our confidence.
She did the best she could, being both Mama and Daddy to us.  He would tell us he was going to send money and never did.  I can't tell you how many times Mama had him put in jail for non-payment of child support.  It never did any good.

"Forgiveness is like the murderer who goes before the Judge and sincerely apologizes for everything he has done and tells the Judge he is a brand-new man.  While the Judge appreciates his change of heart, the man is still going to jail." --Ron Cox

It wasn't until last Summer at camp that God gave me the grace to forgive him once and for all.  No, I do not talk to  him.  It is best that way.  I have always hung on EVERY word and longed to be his "daddy's girl"; never happened and never will.  I am Abba Daddy's little girl.  He is the one I call DADDY! I love my earthly dad as Christ commands, but that is all I can do.  God gives me grace everyday to walk in forgiveness toward him.

"Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime." 

--Herbert Ward

The second family member was an uncle on my Mom's side of the family.  When I was four or five, he started sexually abusing me.  Because I was so young, I didn't understand that is was wrong.  The abuse lasted until I was thirteen or fourteen.   Somewhere between my 8th and 10th birthday, I realized that it was wrong and began to feel ashamed.  I didn't know what to do.  I was too ashamed to tell anyone. The only person who knew was my sister and I would not allow her to tell a soul.  I remember when I told Mama,  I wrote her a note and left it in the bathroom for her to find.  Bless her heart, she didn't know what to do.
This was back when it was taboo to talk about and she didn't want me in this situation but at the same time didn't want to hurt any of the family.

PLEASE DO NOT JUDGE MY MAMA!!!

Mama had been so beat down by her biological dad until my great-grandparents adopted her.  (Technically, this was my great-uncle who did this to me.)  She told me to stay away from him when we were at my great-granny's at the same time.  She always felt so bad for not doing something about him  She would apologize to me when we talked about it years later.  I never held it against her, I knew my Mama's heart and what she had been through.  She had a quiet, sweet spirit.  At the same camp in 2012, God gave me grace to forgive my dad and this uncle.  I held my dad to blame for the sexual abuse.  If he had been the daddy he was supposed to be, I would not have been in that situation.

But...

What Satan meant for evil against me, God turned it to His good.  I have risen from the ashes and received God's beauty and God gets all of my praise.  I am a SURVIVOR through God's incredible GRACE!

During that camp, God also revealed to me that I was mad at Him for taking my Mama in 2010.  I knew deep down that I was angry at Him, but I did not want to hurt Him or let Him down.  He gave me the grace to realize He can take my anger.  I was able to give Him all of my anger and in return He gave me His grace for all of this.

His grace is sufficient for me.  

This is my story of my messy grace, what's yours?
Kelly

This is my story. I like alcohol...a lot. Grace is messy.

Here’s the meat and potatoes without wasting your time with 700 extra characters. I internally struggle with alcohol consumption.

Not internally as in how much I consume, but rather the implications it has when I ask myself why.

Being an extrovert, [mostly] only child who was single until the age of 31 I did a lot of social drinking... A lot. Most of the time it was honest and moderated by my conviction and most of the time I would drink two more beers than I should have because I am good at hiding my level of intoxication.

Most of the time.

At 23 I was drunk for the better part of 6 months because I learned the hard lesson that sometimes people only want you around for what you can offer them, and when that thing is gone so are they. I went from being the lead singer of a Christian Rap-Rock band [yes this was in the early 2000’s] to a bartender who drank almost as much as I served. This is when I learned how to hide. While working I would have a plastic cup next to me that magically got the excess of the drinks I wanted to try after making them. Only to then drive to the bar with my sober co-workers and slam as many shots of Jagermeister with a Miller Lite chaser as we could in the only hour of freedom we had. I finally quit that job in order to distance myself from the routine, and it worked, mostly.

See, most of the time I was able to have a few drinks and call it a night. And most of the time I would fall asleep with a half full beer because I was ready to be done, but I wasn’t ready to be done. Booze wasn’t even necessarily the “thorn in my side”; that was women, but booze kept me social... I’ve never needed to drink to “have a good time”, but if we’re having a good time, we might as well have a drink, right? Yeah, most of the time.

As a husband and father of two I had to come clean to my wife recently and tell her a couple of things about me:  1) I have likely spent more money on booze than any other one thing in my life. 2) If I’m being honest, which was my goal, then she would have to tell me if she ever thought I was drinking too frequently [even if that be two beers a night]. About half way through our marriage [our one year anniversary is in November), I had a beer at like 11:45am with my “lunch” and a few days later my wife graciously told me that she noticed and wanted to bring it to my attention. If you’re confused that I have 2 kids it’s because one of them is my step-daughter.

If I am not honest with myself, God, my wife, and you then it is incredibly easy for me to mask how much I drink, but as I mentioned in the beginning the most important question is “Why?”. So here is my check list; I hope it helps you reevaluate some part of your life and forces you to be honest with yourself, God and those closest to you.

Am I drinking because I’m stressed?

Am I drinking to help me sleep?

Am I drinking because beer is delicious?

Am I drinking because it’s something I can control?

Am I drinking to remain socially relevant?

Am I honoring my God and my family?

 --Dennis Gable www.behonestordie.com www.nakedchristianmen.com

#behonestordie

My Friend Roger

The Introduction

He weighs nearly 500 pounds and is wearing house shoes, sweat pants, a black pullover, and a fedora that's seen better days.  This self-proclaimed panhandler had a small cardboard sign that read, "JUST ASKING FOR GROCERIES".

The sidewalk was busy at 6pm Friday night, especially at the corner by the light.  The funny thing is that even with the hustle and bustle, we spotted each other from 1/2 a block away.  He had a good (nearly toothless) grin and a five o'clock shadow.

"Hey buddy, how's it going?"  Probably a dumb question for a middle-aged hobo.  "I'm doing great--just asking for money for some bread and milk."  So, off we went to Harmon's Market, which was "just a couple of blocks away".  After crossing a few streets and several blocks later, I learned that his name was Roger Mysiano, he's Italian (go figure with that last name!), originally from Massachusetts, spent 15 years as a cab driver in San Francisco (drove Meatloaf around once "the cheap bum wouldn't give me a ticket!"), has been a dishwasher, worked in a prep kitchen, has an ex-wife and an adopted daughter (lost contact with both of them), and speaks to his brother every Tuesday morning.

I studied the faces and body language of passersby, both on the sidewalk and in the market, as we rolled and strolled and talked like old friends.  did I mention Roger was in a wheelchair?  "That's what 15 years in a taxi will give ya."

Everyone is hungry.

When we made it to Aisle One (the bread aisle), we scoured the shelves of bread, and suddenly he spotted the 9-grain bread that we have often in the Austin home.  "That's the best bread I've ever had!  My friend Lorraine once made me a sandwich with mayo, tomatoes, and a pinch of salt.  One of the best sandwiches I ever had!  Is $4.69 too much for ya?"  Four dollars and sixty-nine cents: that's 1/2 the price of the glass of wine I'm having as I write this.  "No, Roger, I'm thrilled to get it."  We got two.  He was so humble, thankful, and surprised.

What if it's God speaking?

After we purchased the milk, a cup of coffee, and paid, we headed out the door.  "You know what's funny?" Roger asked.  "I had just asked God if he would send someone soon, so I could go home early today."  You should have seen his face when I told him that I was trying to take a nap at the Hilton, was restless, and God told me, "Go take a homeless man to dinner."  He laughed loudly, exclaiming, "You actually thought that in your mind?!" And I replied, "No, Roger, God told me to get up."  He was ecstatic about the groceries, and after telling me all the local food joints, he was preparing to catch the bus and head back to his "neighborhood".  He was completely unassuming, when he realized that I was wanting to treat him to dinner.

He too fat.

Half an hour later, we made it to the Chinese buffet and he was telling me just how much I was "gonna love this place".  We barely made it through the door when the Asian hostess said, "We have no room."  I think I was just as hurt as Roger, and certainly more appalled.  The sad thing is that this is what he has come to expect.  "How long is the wait?"  And she replied, "Very long.  No room.  He too fat."  He lowered his head a bit, turned toward me and said, "Fish and chips?"  Yes, Roger, fish and chips.

Eye of the Needle

We met three other homeless folks on the train to the restaurant and as they made small talk, Roger introduced the group to, "my friend Steve--he's from Alabama."  My friend.  Yep.  We're friends.  I listened to Steve (how ironic) tell me how they had stuff thrown at them all day, been yelled and cursed at, "and do you know the only people who ever help us?  POOR PEOPLE!"

Selah.

Steve quoted Scripture and told me that "Rich people never help.  They just drive by in their BMW's, roll up their windows, and make terrible faces at us."  He reminded us of the story in the Good Book, where it talks about rich people, Heaven, and the Eye of the Needle.  "Really tough for rich people to get there."

Once Roger and I made it to our long-awaited fish and chips, we got settled in, and he began his John Pinette impersonation.  Obviously, they favor in size and accent, but his deliver was spot-on.  I laughed for the next ninety minutes.

Teary-eyed Gratitude

As our time came to a close, I thanked my friend for wonderful food and great company, shook his hand for the second time, and gave him my address and phone number (as requested).  I will be looking for my Portuguese sweet bread in the mail from Roger's brother in Massachusetts.

I walked around in a daze, teary-eyed and full of gratitude.  I stopped on a particularly dark portion of the sidewalk, under a tree, looked up at the sky, and said, "Thank You."  As if my perfect night wasn't enough, Abba bent down and softly spoke into my ear, "I took care of Roger because I love him, and I will always take care of you, too."

Thank you, Roger, for showing me a very raw and beautiful side of poverty.  May I never feel secure in my stuff again.

Be well,

Steve

“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries." Matthew 10:29-31

You don't have to hurt.

This week has personally been the hardest week I have had in more than a year.  I was wounded by someone very close to me: someone who has been shown quite a lot of grace.  It really hurt.  I was shocked and stunned and all I wanted to do was run far away.  I wanted to disappear.  I wanted to be a turtle and slide back into that shell and let the world pass me by. I left the situation almost as soon as it started, because I just couldn't take it.  I was hurt, and this person hurt some of the people I love most in my life.  I packed up my little boy and my sweet wife, and we booked it out of there.

I hoped that a few days of distance would allow things to cool off, in hopes that we could reconcile and move past this whole nasty, horrible thing.  That didn't happen.  Things only became worse; so, after much prayer, talking with my wife, my two best friends, and my counselor, I decided to make a hard decision to separate myself from this person until further notice.

Forgiving someone does not mean that you have to be their best friend after the fact.  Forgiving someone doesn't me that you have to allow them to hurt you again.  Forgiving someone doesn't me that you can't protect yourself in the future.  You can forgive and move on with your life.  You don't have to walk around with bitterness and anger, but you can walk away from a potentially hazardous person for the sake of your own mental and emotional health.

It is okay to tell someone, "I forgive you, but I will not give you the opportunity to hurt me again."

You do not have to be a doormat in order to be a Christian.  Turning the other cheek doesn't mean you stand around, just waiting to be smacked around.  You don't have to be surrounded or deeply connected to people who don't support you.  Surround yourself with people who are in your corner and believe in you.  People who truly love you and are glad you're on the planet.

You CAN stand up for yourself, knowing that God is for you, that He will never fail you, that He is constant and trustworthy and loving and compassionate.

People will fail you. 

Circumstances will let you down.

Sometimes this life absolutely sucks, but God will never forget us or stop loving us.  Ever.

Safe and Sound in the Father's Love

This morning, BT and I woke up, watched "Veggie Tales" and "Curious George" for a while, and then ate breakfast.  Immediately following our grub time, he said, "outside" (very enthusiastically).  So, we headed out to play in the backyard, barefoot and with our pj's on.  Side note: I just cut the grass yesterday, and the dew hadn't dried yet, so we were sticky with grass! As we played in the backyard, there were times he would want me right there with him, pushing him in the Little Tikes car or on his tri-cycle.  Other times, his curiosity would get the best of him and he would have to see what that black soot in the fire pit felt like, or if he could open the back gate, or mess with the water hose and wind it round-and-round, saying "wee!!!".  He is so cute on his Fisher Price four-wheeler, too; he will press the "gas" and drive like a wild man across the back yard, until he hits the fence, which results in whining, asking for my help, or just giving up and getting off.

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He plays really well all by himself much of the time, but he loves when I get on his level, too.  He has a few balls in the yard and he has figured out how to bounce them on the patio, but the most fun for him is when I squat down and we try (keyword) to throw the ball back and forth.  I love that he is still too young, innocent, and sweet to realize that Da-ty really isn't all that cool.  I hope he never figures it out. 

The funniest thing was seeing him put his big yellow ball in the driver's seat of his Little Tikes car and then try to fit himself in there, too.  He was frustrated and confused and finally figured out that they couldn't both fit in the driver's seat.  He picked the ball up, turned around and looked out the back and yelled, "Da-ty!" in a way that demanded and begged for me to come get him out of his predicament.  I am so thankful for his sense of independence, but I have to admit that I really love when he wants my help.

At one point I found myself, sitting on the bench in the back yard, thanking God for this little boy.  I am so blessed to be his Da-ty.  And then He showed me a few things:

  • We complicate our relationship with Him, when all He desires is simple love and childlike faith.
  • When we hit a wall, He is always willing to come turn us around.
  • He loves to be on our level, He is thrilled when we want to spend time with Him, or need Him to get down low with us.
  • Many of us journey out of childhood and think we are far too cool for a real relationship with God.  We are too cool, too capable, too self-reliant, and too smart.
  • It's time to realize that there isn't room for two in the driver's seat.
  • God the Father loves when we call on Him.

As I type this, Ben Thomas is snuggled up next to me in the recliner, fast-asleep.

When is the last time you allowed yourself to rest, safe and sound, in your Father's love?

Kids are Disgusting

I have an 18-month-old little boy.  BT is full of life, curiosity, love, and stubbornness.  He's my joy, my challenge, my daily workout, and my constant reminder that God's love is never-ending. Due to our wacko work schedules, I am able to be with him nearly every weekday morning until around noon.  I love my Mr. Mom time with him, but it does mean that I get to experience the gross side, which many Dads may not ever see.

I was changing his diaper this morning.

Yes.  A poop diaper.

He had eaten two waffles and most of his Momma's oatmeal, which had explosive results.

So there I was, already stressed out, before I even took his diaper off.  Why?  Because I'm a weak little man?  No.  Stressed because this child INSISTS on shoving his hands into his poop.  It drives me crazy.  Seriously...it's so gross!

We went thru the regular ritual of me taking off his diaper with one hand, while holding his hands back with the other, but he broke away (like he always does), and in .5 seconds, he had brown fingers.  What's worse?  A second after that, he had a brown face.  Frustrated doesn't even cover it.  I have warned him and clearly shouted "NO!" a thousand times....argh!

Here's the deal: Mr. Poopface doesn't only like to play in his butt gravy, but he also shoves his finger up his snotty little nose.  His Momma says they should make a patent on his snot, because it is so sticky they could likely repair military jets with it.

Poop and snot...and then there's drool.  Why are kids so nasty?!  He is still waiting on one final bottom tooth to come in, which makes him drool like the dog from "The Sandlot".  Remember that dog?  Gag me with a spoon.

What's my point?

It's this: BT is my little boy, my joy...and even though kids really are disgusting, he's mine.  He's sometimes filthy, sticky, and smelly, but he's all mine.  When I look into his eyes, I see myself.  He's not a carbon copy, but he is obviously mine.  BT has many of my characteristics, and he is fully dependent on me to provide for his every need.  When he finally slows down for the day and comes walking up to me with both arms up, saying, "Da-ty", all I want to do is scoop him up and snuggle with him until we fall asleep.  I love him: snot and all.

And yes, our Father feels the same way about us.  Sometimes our behavior stinks, our attitude is disgusting, and the grace we show to others is a "sticky situation", but our Abba still looks at us, waiting for the moment when we turn to him and ask to be held.

Finding God in the Midst of Adversity

"Stevie, you know a little something about adversity."  That's what my old Grandpappy said yesterday, during our conversation.  He's my old buddy and has stuck by me through thick-and-thin. And he's right.

Not to toot my own horn, but I have had my own share of struggles and setbacks in the last several years, but through it all, God has been with me.  Some hardships have been at the hands of others, and some have been because of my own wrongdoings.  I've screwed up plenty.  But through it all, God has been with me.

Reading Joseph's biography in the book of Genesis (Chapters 37-48) creates a beautiful picture of God's Grace and Destiny in spite of some pretty rough personal adversity.  Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers (but God was with him), he was falsely accused of rape by Potiphar's wife (but God was with him), he was thrown into jail (but God was with him)...get the picture?

God's hand was on Joseph's life through every test and trial.

Adversity sees today, while Grace sees the big picture.

Adversity locks us in jail, while Grace sets us free.

Adversity tells us lies, while Grace preaches Truth.

Adversity calls us to give up, while Grace says, "just a little longer".

Adversity says, "not a chance", while Grace says, "have you met my God?"

You could read most of the story of Joseph with a negative outlook, thinking God had turned his back on Israel's beloved child, but in the end, you see that God was setting Joseph (and the family who betrayed him) up for greatness.

In the worst drought in Egypt's history, Joseph's family was spared, because God was with Joseph through it all.

Israel (or Jacob) thought he would never see his son Joseph again, but in the end of the story, he is even blessed to see Joseph's children!  God had the big picture under control.  The story wraps up with Israel praying a most-beautiful blessing over his grandsons, much like something my Grandfather would have prayed over me through the years:

The God before whom walked     my fathers Abraham and Isaac, The God who has been my shepherd     all my life long to this very day, The Angel who delivered me from every evil,     Bless the boys. May my name be echoed in their lives,     and the names of Abraham and Isaac, my fathers, And may they grow     covering the Earth with their children.

God, teach us by your Grace that even when we face adversity, you are with us.