Tag Archives: grace

Present and Loved: Meet Margot Starbuck

Being present to life, to loved ones, and especially to God all ends up being connected to deeper issues inside of us. How do we see and know God as God really is? What do we understand about ourselves and who we really are? I’m so excited to invite you in on a conversation with a fabulous writer, Margot Starbuck. Margot is the author of several books, including her brand new title: Not Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God.

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MS_square_photocredit_Scott FaberMargot, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Sure. I’m a word nerd; I’m the author of five books and love speaking to audiences around the country. I live in Durham, North Carolina, where I’m a mama to three fabulous kiddos—ages 12, 13, 15. So when I’m not inspiring audiences, I’m yelling at them to pick their stinky socks up off the floor and to stop leaving Flaming Hot Cheetohs wrappers in the den. I can also be found cheering at soccer games, baseball games & volleyball matches.

Untitled-19I love the title and subtitle of your new book: Not Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God. What is it now that most surprises you about God or God’s love?

I’d say the biggest surprise is the way in which God’s love is different than our human experiences of it.

We catch glimpses of God’s gracious face, God’s steadfast listening ear, in the faces of those around us but, by nature, no human being can love us perfectly.

Still, we learn what it means to be in relationship with an “other”—in God’s case, a holy other—from the faces around us. We learn whether we’re worth showing up for and sticking around for. And, unwittingly I think, we project that onto God.

My biggest surprise was discovering—in my BONES—that God’s gracious face, God’s love, is categorically different than what I’d received from humans. It doesn’t mean I don’t see those peeks of God’s face in others, but it does mean that I’ve encountered a reliable presence who does not fail.

This month on my blog we’re looking at the theme “be present”—at how we can live more attentively to God’s presence in our lives and, more broadly, at how we can really be rather than just skate through life. How do you most naturally connect with or experience God’s faithful, loving presence in your life?  Continue reading

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On Guts, Garbage, and Abundant Grace

We need grace for the brokenness, sin, pain, and garbage in our lives. And, thankfully, God gives us grace abundant! In and through this grace, we find the courage to share our grace-story. And boy, does it take courage!

One person who absolutely embodies such courage is Elisabeth Klein Corcoran. She’s walked through a lot of difficulty in recent years as she has journeyed through marital separation and then divorce. And yet God’s sustaining grace has enabled her to use her own story to minister to others. She is the author of Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage and Unraveling: Hanging On to Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, along with several other book and article (like this gutsy, honest TCW article.)

Have you ever wondered how God can use your past, your pain, your failures, or your brokenness? Keep reading . . .

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1940242_10202979925681396_1861604236_nElisabeth, tell my readers about yourself!

I have been writing and speaking for about thirteen years.  I’m a single mom to two great teenagers.  I seriously have the best girlfriends in the world. I love my church, my home, my dog, and going for bike rides (if spring will ever come back!).

This month we’re talking about grace on my blog. What’s one way you’ve experienced God’s grace at work in your life recently?

Over the past three years of walking out of my marriage through a difficult separation and a painful divorce, grace was withheld from me by other believers, more than I’d like to acknowledge. I’ve had people who say they believe in God look me in the eye (or metaphorically look me in the eye when they sent me an email or posted a comment on my blog) and tell me they disapproved of me or asked me why I hate men or questioned my salvation. Really harsh stuff. And in those moments, every single time, it did damage to my soul. And in those moments, you’d think that my heart would’ve just grown harder or colder or I would’ve put my guard up. But what ended up happening – only because of the goodness and sweetness of God – is that he used the pain that I received over and over when grace was withheld from me to make sure that I became a person who didn’t withhold grace from anyone, even on non-divorce-related issues. And I am so grateful to say that I have really grown in this area, showing grace to people and in situations that the old me never would have. It’s ended up being a really beautiful gift.

1620115_10202982464304860_871306973_nYou recently wrote the book Unraveling which candidly chronicles your painful journey through a difficult marriage and then through divorce. What gave you the courage to share such an honest and raw story — and to face some of the really hurtful feedback you’ve had to deal with?

I had three sources of courage to write so openly about my story. Continue reading

2 Strange, Miraculous Gifts

Our guilt and pain . . . can even become avenues of life and light and love.

That’s the statement with which I ended last week’s post. So how can guilt, pain, flaws, and brokeness lead to something good? Something beautiful?

true storyI believe there are 2 strange and miraculous gifts we are given in and through our experiences of guilt, sin, pain, and failure. The first is the gift of conviction, and the second is the gift of a grace-story. And of course, we are given these gifts in and through the grace of Christ and his redeeming work on the Cross.

Read these 2 excerpts from my new Bible study Surrender Your Guilt and consider how God might be prompting you to receive and to respond to these gifts. (Excerpts are ©Kelli B. Trujillo, published by Wesleyan Publishing House, used with permission)

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Conviction vs. Condemnation

Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery (John 8) provides us with a powerful snapshot of the difference between conviction and condemnation. Did her sins deserve condemnation? Absolutely—and Jesus’ gracious actions toward her in no way “excused” the sin of adultery. But Jesus did not condemn her—the person she was. Instead, he spoke convicting truth into her life: “Go now and leave your life of sin” (8:11). Jesus directly acknowledged the sin and told her to leave it behind. Rather than the hopeless, dreary, ever-worsening, and (for this woman) even deadly future of condemnation, conviction offered her hope, clearly envisioning for her a new way of being. God’s gift of conviction helps us see that we can be set free and start anew! Continue reading

On Fissures and Faith, Cracks and the Cross

I shared last week about the importance of letting go of guilt—and embracing grace.

dry cracksNow some of you may have read that post and muttered under your breath, that’s easier said than done. Because we don’t have a magic-miraculous-memory-marker that can scribble out the mistakes we’ve made as if they never happened—even though we’re forgiven, we may still remember them. And also there are times when we know we should feel guilty—when we’re deeply (and healthily) aware of our shortcomings, flaws, propensity to hurt others, self-centeredness . . . our sin.

And so we must see that “letting go” is part of the conversation rather than the final statement on guilt and grace.

Another critical aspect of experiencing grace—of really living in its power—is courageously seeing our flaws and failings, acknowledging them, and even (strangely) treasuring them.

Wait, what? Was that a typo?

Nope.

Because here’s what I’ve been learning from some amazing, spiritual writers. In What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey discusses what happens “when I begin to see myself as a sinner who cannot please God by any method of self-improvement or self-enlargement. Only then can I turn to God for outside help—for grace—and to my amazement I learn that a holy God already loves me deeply despite my defects. . . . Our wounds and defects are the very fissures through which grace might pass.”

And Max Lucado evokes a similar imagery: “Grace. Let it, let him, so seep into the crusty cracks of your life that everything softens. Then let it, let him, bubble to the surface, like a spring in the Sahara, in words of kindness and deeds of generosity.”

Fissures. Cracks. Fractures, chinks, rifts, and wrinkles. The lines that mark our living. The painful memories. The dogged habits. The heavy regrets. The spur-of-the-moment ugliness.

Our guilt and pain, our failures and flaws, are the means through which we experience the grace of Christ. They show us our need. They bring us to the Cross in penitence or desperation.

And they can even become avenues of life and light and love. 

On Guilt, Grace, and Letting Go

This month journey with me through the theme “Surrender Your Guilt.”

stones handSo often we go through life holding on to guilt, burdened by secrets, harboring hidden pain, or listening to the scolding voices of self-condemnation. We let false messages about ourself, our worth, our failures, and our inadequacies dog us through life. We carry around lies, sins, failures, weaknesses, and all kinds of assorted junk.

And we need to let go.

In honor of my new book by the same title, we’ll explore how God’s grace enables us to do just that. Grace is so much more that we often see; it’s deeper, more expansive, challenging, life-giving, compelling, absolute and complete . . .

My list could go on and on! But to start things out, let’s focus on 5 amazing truths about grace that have been heartening me, changing me, healing me, inspiring me, and calling me.

1. Grace forgives us.

2. Grace convicts us.

3. Grace costs us.

4. Grace empowers us.

5. Grace sustains us.

I wrote an article exploring these 5 critical ideas in depth — it’s FREE on Today’s Christian Woman.com.

Here’s the start of the article, “Freedom in Forgiveness.”

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If you would have asked me two decades ago as a Christian teenager about God’s grace, I could have easily explained it. I might have told you about the acronym “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense” or maybe I would’ve explained the idea of “unmerited favor.” I may have outlined some of the theological squabbles about grace and salvation among various Christian traditions. And I definitely would have quoted Ephesians 2:8–9 to make sure you understood that it’s free.

But now, decades later with some life under my belt? I’d tell you today that grace is bigger, deeper, and more expansive than a simplified acronym or a theological transaction. It’s like that saying, “The more you know, the more you realize all you have to learn.” I’m discovering that grace is much more and does much more than I was able to understand in my youth. And I’m certain that decades into the future—when I’ve walked through more joys and heartaches and hopes and fears—my experience of grace will be even richer.

The God of Grace

So what is grace? In Scripture, “grace” draws together several key biblical concepts. In the Old Testament, it’s the “favor” God shows (hen in Hebrew); it’s being merciful and compassionate (hanan); it’s steadfast love (hesed). In the New Testament, the Greek word charis builds upon these concepts to communicate the favor of God understood, particularly, through the lens of the forgiveness and redemption we find in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE ON TODAY’S CHRISTIAN WOMAN.

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Join me in conversation this entire month as we explore how to live guilt-surrendered, grace-enriched lives!

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Do: Shine!

“. . . in which you shine . . . like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:15).

“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

star nightMy new Flourishing Faith Bible study Shine Your Light explores service, compassion, justice, action . . . the doing side of our faith. Take time to journey through this excerpt as we wrap up our discussion on doing.

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 “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18b). Faith—believing in the good news—is intricately interconnected with action. Just as faith demonstrates itself in works, works proclaim our faith to the world. Our actions, demeanor, words, character, and way of life declare a message!

. . .  One powerful theme interwoven throughout the book of James is that what we believe ought to show itself in what we do and how we act:

• We’re to truly listen to God’s Word and respond by doing what it says (1:22-25)

• As believers in our compassionate, just, and merciful God, we’re to live the good news by caring for the poor, vulnerable, and overlooked (1:27; 2:1-13).

• Living the gospel means loving our neighbors as ourselves—and that includes seemingly “unimportant” people (2:1-13).

• Belief in the gospel demonstrates itself in our actions (2:14-26).

• Our actions and demeanor reveal that we are aligned with a new way of thinking as we live by values “from above” (3:13, 17-18).

• When God leads us to do good, it’s imperative that we respond (4:17).

• Materialism and injustice toward the poor are absolutely contrary to the gospel (5:1-6).

• Intimacy with God through prayer empowers a gospel-transformed life (5:13-20).

. . . What can you do today to proclaim the gospel through action? Continue reading

Savor Everyday Mercies

How do we cherish our families? Part of it comes in learning to see the beauties hidden in the small moments of life. So I’m very excited to introduce you to my dear friend Darcy Wiley — a great cherisher of moments. Darcy blogs over at Message in a Mason Jar and is “Mom” to three kids.

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Darcy, tell my readers a bit about yourself!

cherishfamilyThanks for hosting me, Kelli. It’s a joy to be at your place today. I always say I’m a world traveler turned stay-at-home mom. I try to go about my domestic life with the same eye for discovery that I had during my decade adventuring abroad. The kids definitely keep things fresh. The world is an amazing place when filtered through the lens of a 6-year-old boy, an almost-4-year-old girl and their baby sister. We love to ride bikes, do gardening, read books, go creek stomping, and lots of other things. Full-time motherhood is a pretty amazing gig when you think about it. I take a lot of pictures, but my real favorite way to gather mementos and to process a meaningful experience is in the written word. Right now, I’m in a catch-22, where the kids give me all kinds of material but often my work of caring for them leaves me with very little time for writing a complete piece.

As you reflect on the last few months, what has God been teaching you about cherishing your family?

I’ve been learning how love needs space to flourish. To me, that means clearing the schedule as much as possible to allow for unexpected challenges and to allow time for interacting without the grumpiness that hurry brings. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable that I say no to a task they think I should volunteer for. But anytime I’ve given into false guilt at the expense of my family’s sanity, I’ve regretted it.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the pull between my two callings of parenting and writing. A few weeks before my daughter was born this spring, I had put a lot of creativity and time into the Take Heart series on my blog. As much as I loved that, I found myself surprisingly excited about being forced to slow down on posting in order to focus on the intense neediness of a newborn. It has been a re-centering time when I felt the privilege of tending to my flesh and blood as my first priority. In fact, as much as I want to share my thoughts and feelings and writing pieces with a greater population someday, I feel the Lord often reminding me that these children are the masterpiece I’m sending out into the world.

It’s so easy to take loved ones for granted. Cherishing them is a choice! What are some ideas you have for concrete ways women can cherish their families? Continue reading

PERFECTMOM . . . not!

I did a really dangerous thing a few years ago. . . and then I did it again.

book-001.jpg

I wrote a book about being a mom.

Faith-Filled.Moments.coverAnd then I wrote a book about parenting.

Am I NUTS????!?!?!?

Here’s the danger: We live in a culture — and particularly a church-culture — enamored with the false god of the “perfect family.” Magazines, books, blogs, and  Pinterest feed this obsession of family perfection — ideal meals, fantastic activities, lifelong memories, problem-free relationships, etc. And tied into this is the pressure to be PERFECTMOM. To cook, clean, craft, parent, work, love idyllically. (It’s not a new pressure! Check out the family picnic instructions from an earlier era!)family picnic

So let me say, right off the bat, that my books on parenting (The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival and Faith-Filled Moments) are not — I repeat NOT, NOT, NOT — written from some perspective of me having it all figured out, doling out advice to PERFECTMOM wannabes. NO WAY. My writing is always about the journey — and I’m a fellow pilgrim on the road who trips up just as much as you. (Check out my bruised shins for evidence!)

So . . . this gigantic “disclaimer” sets me up to share part of the vision for my newest devotional guide Cherish Your FamilyIf your family is ideal and you’re PERFECTMOM, then you don’t need this book. But if you’re a human being — a woman who loves your family and has a dream to love them better even as you stumble along the way — then I hope this excerpt ministers to you.

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But . . . Family Life is Hard!

A happy Christian family.

What came to mind when you read these words? A family of perfectly-behaved children who pray reverently during nightly family devos? A couple with endlessly romantic love for each other—who frequently pray together, never fight, and have a problem-free, passionate sex life? Some idealized myth of a Christian family that’s forever out of reach? With some fairy-tale “perfect Christian wife and mom” who you’ll never measure up to? Continue reading

Cherish Your Family

What words would you use to describe family life? For most of us, it depends on the moment we’re asked! We might say joy, laughter, bonding, closeness, cuddles, smiles, wonder,  joy, love, delight, acceptance. Or we might say exhaustion, frustration, end-of-the-rope irritation. Or we might say pain, hurt, betrayal, loneliness.

cherishHidden behind these words are other realities of family life that we may not realize as we hum through the busy nature of daily life: the testing, the opportunities to grow, the conviction and means to change we find in family life.

“Family” looks different for each of us. It may be a decades-long, empty-nest marriage. It may be marital singleness but, of course, an ongoing connection to siblings, parents, nieces, nephews. It may be a marriage and a house full of kiddos. It may be a house full of kiddos, but without a spouse at one’s side. It may be marriage without children. It may be beloved grandchildren. It may be some other arrangement of relatives, of friends, of loved ones that make for us a home, a family.

However you define your “family” one thing is certain: Mixed in with the joy and delight, there are hurts, misunderstandings, frustrations. And through it all is a challenge — an opportunity — to more deeply love the loved ones in your life. To stretch far beyond instinctive self-interest. To choose forgiveness over bitterness. To choose hope over discouragement. To choose appreciation over that ever-looming temptation to take others for granted. To treasure. To embrace. To cherish. Continue reading

Grace, Hope, and Presence — Meet Charity Singleton Craig

Readers, I’m so happy to introduce you to my friend Charity Singleton Craig. Charity is a writer-buddy of mine who is a big blessing in my life! Along with her day job, Charity edits for The High Calling, writes for TweetSpeak Poetry, and crafts great essays on her blog (CharitySingletonCraig.com) and other places. 

Charity, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

charityI am a writer who tells stories of grace and hope. I recently got married for the first time at age 42, and I’m also a step-mom to 10-, 12-, and 14-year-old sons. My life is all about transition these days.

This month we’ve been exploring how we can experience the presence of God. What’s one way God has “shown up” in your life recently?

It’s not a new way, but he has been showing up in His Word. With all of the transition going on in my life, I haven’t been experiencing devotions or quiet time at the same time each day like I have in the past. Instead, I reach for the Bible app on my iPhone when I can’t sleep and find Psalm 127, or I listen to a sermon while I am running and hear about Moses’ impossible calling, or I read to our sons out of the Teen Guys Bible Devotional at dinner. I am not just finding truth in those instances. I am finding God and Him guiding me precisely in the way I need in that moment.

We often tend to think of amazing spiritual moments when we talk about experiencing God’s presence – but we can also encounter him in “little” ways. In normal life. In regular circumstances. In average experiences. Do you agree? How have you encountered or interacted with God in “normal” life?

Lately, my encounters with God have all been in normal life. Recently, I was pulling weeds in the flower beds for the sixth or seventh time this summer. It feels so pointless, pulling the same weeds over and over. In that moment, God appeared, reminding me that sin can sneak up if I am not continually rooting it out of my life, teaching me that caring for things or people requires leaning in close and getting dirty, and calling me to persevere when life feels tedious. All of that, right there on my knees in the landscape.

You’ve journeyed through cancer. What encouragement would you have for readers going through similar difficulties for ways they can experience God’s presence during fear, pain, or heartache? Continue reading