Last week I wrote about the struggles I’ve had in my relationship with my paternal grandmother and what it means to have a “Heart of Grace”. If you missed it, you can read it here:
A Heart of Grace
Today, I’d like to share with you a little bit about my other grandmother, or as I called her my Granny. God has put many wonderful women in my life. They have all inspired me to be better, taught me something that I needed to know or lifted me up when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But of all of these amazing women, two stand out in my mind and influenced me the most, my mom and my Granny.
Whether you were young or young at heart, a relative, friend or neighbor, Granny was known as Granny to everyone she met. She loved that title and everything it meant to be a “Granny”. Granny was so many things. She was tough, independent, smart, funny, loving and most of all joyful. No matter what life threw at her, Granny was a joyful person!
At first glance it doesn’t look like Granny had a lot to be joyful about. Her life was not an easy one. When she was just eleven years old, she began cleaning houses for her neighbors to earn money to pay the family’s rent. Her father was an elderly man by this point and could no longer work. Her mother had several younger children to look after, so it was up to Granny to pitch in and do what she could to provide for her family.
Granny married my Papa when she was sixteen. The war had ended and getting married was the thing to do. They had four kids right away. Papa got a job delivering the mail and Granny became a housewife. Their life together was shaping up. But then tragedy stuck their young family. Their daughter, Connie, who I’m named after, died suddenly when she was one month old. Granny and Papa were heartbroken. The same year, Granny lost her grandmother and then her mother. She was close to both of these women and the loss of her child, grandmother and mother in such a short time was devastating to her.
Some of my best childhood memories are of spending time at Granny and Papa’s house. Growing up my brother, cousin and I spent most Friday nights with them. We had great adventures in their backyard, made tent forts in the spare bedroom and I tap danced on their coffee table. I would sit on Papa’s lap and eat Corn Flakes with him and I confided all of my secrets to Granny. When I was with them, I was home. It was a great way to grow up.
But tragedy was about to strike our family again. When I was thirteen, my uncle was murdered. Granny and Papa lost their only son. Two of their four children were gone before their time. The heartbreak was almost unbearable. Granny once told me that losing her daughter, Connie, was horrible, but losing her son was so much worse because they had all of those years together. The grieving process was hard and long. There were many tears, but also many stories shared, and yes, laughter. Through all of this, Granny remained a joyful person within.
How is it possible to remain joyful in the face of such dire circumstances? Because, Joy is not about your current circumstances. It is not a fleeting feeling but rather a state of being. As Christians we receive our joy from the creator of joy.
In your presence is fullness of joy;
At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
When David wrote these words he too was facing dire circumstances in his life. But he was able to look past those hard times and see the goodness of God. God promises us that in His presence we will find not only joy, but a complete joy, full of His unending love for us. At God’s right hand is our Savior Jesus. In Him we find salvation, acceptance and pleasure in spite of our current circumstances.
Granny laughed often, but wasn’t afraid to cry. She reminisced about the good times and talked about the bad without fear. She remembered her loved ones who were gone too soon. And she found joy in knowing her Savior. Granny showed me how to do so many things in life, but the one I think of most when I remember her is the way that she shared her joyful spirit with everyone around her.
We may not feel joyful at times. But we don’t have to look far to find it, because God has promised us that in His presence we will have fullness of joy.
If you are feeling that joy is something that is unattainable and you don’t know where to turn, seek God, pray and ask Him to help you. He will show you His joy.
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Hurt, resentment and bitterness, these are the feelings that I’m struggling with lately.
During my childhood, I tried to have a closer and more meaningful relationship with my grandmother. I wanted to feel loved by her and to spend time with her. She always had time for her friends and her church activities. But when it came to me it seemed that the more effort I put in, the less I got out of it. I remember talking to her during my teenage years about this. I cried and asked her to spend more time with me, but she made it clear that I wasn’t her top priority. It was at this point in my life that I gave up. I realized that I would never have the relationship with her that I desired. I had to learn to accept the fact that she wasn’t capable of having a close relationship with me and move forward.
I want to be clear, I love my grandmother. She has some very admirable qualities. She was always a “prayer warrior” and faithful to her ministry visiting the elderly in nursing homes.
Now, she’s the one in the nursing home and her health is failing. Her memory has suffered greatly and she can’t remember the same things that I do. She’s only able to think of herself and her immediate situation. This past week, all of those past memories and feelings have resurfaced. I thought they were long gone, but there they are, hurt, resentment and bitterness. Hurt that I tried so hard to be close to her, resentment that she rejected me and bitterness that I will never have that relationship I desired.
But I don’t want to be filled with these negative emotions. I want to have love and compassion for my grandma. I want to be an encourager and friend to all of the people God has put in my life.
It’s in these moments that I realize how much I need “a heart of grace”, but that’s not something that comes naturally to me. I have to continually work on it and ask God to give me that heart of grace. I need Him to remind me that He loved me so much that He sent His Son to die for me and that I need to show that same love to everyone around me.
So I ask, “How can I obtain a heart of grace?” The answer is simple, yet seems so hard right now.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Grace is the forgiveness of wrongs committed and comes from faith in Jesus. None of us deserves God’s grace, but He willingly gives us this free gift because He loves us and because we believe in His Son. If we are looking for grace, we will only find it in Jesus.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Grace, mercy, peace and love, these are the things that we find when we pray. Because we serve, Jesus, our High Priest, we can boldly go to Him in prayer. We can lay our burdens at His feet knowing that He will provide all of these things to us in our time of need. He is always willing to hear our prayers, and He is the One who will never reject us.
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9
When I put into practice seeking God and praying for my needs, then I am learning to have a heart of grace. Every day brings a new opportunity for me to show God’s grace. I don’t have to let hurt, resentment and bitterness control me. When I’m upset I can turn to God and choose to practice His grace because His grace is sufficient for me. With time, maybe it will become second nature to me.
Even though, I may not be able to erase the past or rid myself of those hurtful memories, I can ask for God’s forgiveness for my negativity. And I can extend forgiveness to the people in my life. I can choose to have a heart of grace.
Are you struggling with a past hurt? If so, I pray that you will seek God’s grace, take that hurt to Him, lay it at His feet and accept His love and acceptance for you.
P.S. Hi there! If you would like to read the second part of this post which is about my maternal grandmother, or "Granny" as we all knew her by, you can click on the link titled Joyful here or the picture below. Thanks!
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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It’s the time of year that we set aside to show our loved ones how much they mean to us. The reservations have been made at the best restaurants, the cards, candy and roses have been purchased. But for some of us, especially those who are single, this can be a very lonely time of the year. We’re left to wonder what’s wrong with us. Why can’t we find that special someone to share our life with? Am I just plain unlovable?
But there is someone who loves us! Someone who is always there for us and is always faithful to us!
Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
God’s love for us is everlasting. He loved us from the very beginning of time and He continues to love us now.
This love that God has for us can be seen in so many ways if we just look for it. So, how does God show His love for us?
1. God sent His Son, Jesus to die in our place.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Our sin has separated us from God, but He loves us so much that He was willing to send His only Son to die for our sin. I don’t know anyone else who would even consider sending their child into the world to die for someone else! God definitely loves us!
2. God has made us a part of His family.
Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!
1 John 3:1
Jesus died for our sins, and when we accept Him as our Savior we are automatically adopted into the family of God. What a great honor that we can call God our Father! We are no longer alone in this world, we have a family all of our own. God loves us so much that we can now call Him our Abba Father or Daddy. (Romans 8:15)
3. God doesn’t give up on us.
Because we are human we have a sinful nature. Throughout our lives we will continue to sin even if we are saved and even if we don’t want to. It’s just a part of our nature. But God doesn’t give up on us. Even when we mess up or walk away from Him, He continues to be faithful and completely loyal to us. The word “everlasting” from Jeremiah 31:3 literally means “loyal”. And Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:23, “Great is Your faithfulness.” Because of our sin, we don’t deserve His faithfulness and loyalty. But it is in God’s nature to give it to us anyway. We can rest assured that He will always be there for us.
Maybe you are feeling unloved today. But God wants you to know that you are loved by Him! He wants you to feel that love surrounding you every day. And He wants to have a close and personal relationship with you. God’s love for you is everlasting. He has always loved you and He always will. Whatever things may happen in your life, He will love you. No matter who may come and go in your life, He will love you. God’s love for you is so deep that there is nothing that can separate you from His love.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height not depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If you would like to share how God has shown His love toward you, please leave a comment below or visit me on social media. May God bless you!
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Writing this post is one of the hardest things I’ve done. No one wants to admit their failures or have their deepest darkest moments brought to light for everyone to scrutinize. In this age of Facebook we all strive to appear perfect. But the truth is… none of us are perfect. We all fail to live up to the standards set by our peers, ourselves and more importantly God.
The most amazing thing about God is, if we are in Christ, then there is no condemnation. No matter what we have done, Jesus has saved us. And even more amazingly, God not only forgives our sins, He forgets them. He will never use them against us or bring them up again. They are forgotten.
I, even I, am He who blots out your
transgressions for My own sake;
And I will not remember your sins.
So, with my weaknesses admitted, I begin my story.
I was raised in a Christian home. My parents taught the Bible in our house and we attended church regularly. They gave me a firm foundation in the faith and I am very grateful for that gift. I grew up in the same church that my dad grew up in and I considered it my second home. It was in that church that I was saved. I remember asking my mom what it meant to be saved and since she was a new Christian at the time, she took my brother and me to see our pastor. In his office, I knelt down by a chair and he led me in a prayer to accept Jesus as my Savior. It was also in this church that God called me to be a missionary. I have so many wonderful memories of growing up there. It was a great place filled with wonderful people who invested in my life by teaching me to love the Lord.
During my teenage years, the leadership of the church changed and little by little the dynamic of the church changed too. I became disillusioned with the church as a whole. My call to serve God as a missionary became a distant memory. I decided to leave the church and my family made the decision to support me. It was a hard decision but we made it together. We joined another local church and although it was a great church, I felt that there was something missing. I didn’t feel that closeness with God that I had before. I decided that I didn’t need church anymore and I could love God on my own. That one decision changed the course of my life in a very negative way. They say hindsight is 20/20 but I wish I could take back that decision to leave the church. One bad decision lead to another, then another, and then another. It took me to a very dark place where I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.
I moved from Oklahoma to California for school. I wasn’t attending church at the time and I was not living my life in a way that was pleasing to God. It was during this time that I meet my ex-boyfriend. It started out okay but turned bad quick. I moved in with him, yet another terrible decision that changed my life forever. Having premarital sex is a decision I will always regret. The relationship between my ex and I became toxic when he became verbally abusive to me. His ex-wife made many threats toward me and his teenage daughter was always acting out. I felt trapped and boxed in. The walls were closing in on me but my pride wouldn’t let me give up. I thought if I stayed I could change things, but they only got worse. I was scared and on edge all of the time. I didn’t know what would happen to me from day to day.
It took a lot of bad things happening to me for my defiance to subside. God had to bring me to my knees before I could see a way out of the horrible life I had created for myself. I hadn’t talked to God in a very long time. The relationship that was once so close between us was nonexistent on my end. But God didn’t give up on me, He was always there waiting for me to come to my senses. During a trip home to visit my parents God spoke to me. I was just walking down the hall of my parent’s house when I heard a loud voice say to me, “You don’t know how long your mom has to live and you’re needed here.” That statement from God hit me like a ton of bricks. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with my mom but I suddenly knew deep in my heart that I had to get out of the life I was living. It wasn’t easy but I moved back in with my parents. It was supposed to be temporary but soon after the move we found out that my mom had liver cancer. The temporary living situation turned permanent so that I could care for my mom full time. This may seem like a mean thing for God to do but it was the only thing that would bring me to my rock bottom. When I reached that bottom, God was there to pull me out of the pit. My mom had her own thoughts about why God would allow her to have cancer and I will save that story for another time. But I know that it was God’s way of bringing me back to where I needed to be, safe in His arms.
I recommitted my life to Jesus Christ and it was a life changing decision. This time in a very positive way. God forgave me immediately but it has taken me years to forgive myself. God has restored what was lost during those dark years. He has reminded me of His great love and grace. And He has reminded me of His call on my life so many years ago. When all seemed lost He made a way.
Even though it hurts me to think about my past mistakes, I know that I am loved by God. He has forgiven me and He has forgotten my sins. The terrible life I once had is no more, and I am now a fully restored daughter of God. In His perfect timing, He reached out His hand to me. My recommitment to Jesus Christ had a profound effect on me. It’s something that I take very seriously. I have dedicated my life to living God’s will for me, whatever that may be. Jesus died to save me, so I now live for Him.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
My purpose in sharing my story is not to talk about myself, but rather to show you the love and forgiveness of our Heavenly Father. The blood of our Savior, Jesus, covers all of our sins. If you have accepted Him as your Savior then the past is the past. You can move forward with confidence knowing that you are forgiven and your sins have been forgotten.
Whatever your past holds there is nothing you have done that God won’t forgive. All you need is Jesus and He is waiting for you with open arms! Come to Him and He will give you rest. If you would like to know more about how to accept Jesus as your Savior, I encourage you to read the section “Accepting Jesus”.
This is my prayer for you today…
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
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About the Artist
Connie Rowland is the Artist and Blogger behind Master's Hand Collection, a series of Christian artwork that depicts God's hand in our lives. Each picture features an inspirational word spelled out in American Sign Language with a corresponding Bible verse. Check out the About page for more info on Master's Hand Collection and Connie.
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