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With the Rain

"Be gentle to yourself."
These words were as foreign to me, once, as they are to her. Hands cup steaming mugs, drawing warmth ~ she, a chocolate chai, and me, a dry cappuccino with whispers of cinnamon and vanilla. It rains, outside. Gray and cold, yet here we snuggle cozy, speaking close. Heart close. She speaks in chorus with the younger me:
     "But I don't know how."
     Oh how I understand. There was a time I didn't know how either, or even know in the first place. But I did know I was evil, fallen short, and that with every sin, every thought, every breath, I nailed Jesus to the cross. Again and again and again. Just being was disgrace.
     I sip warmth. The cafe murmurs. "What would you say to your friend, if she told you everything you said to me now?"
      "I would tell her not to be so hard on herself," she replies thoughtfully, and sets mug on table. "That she can learn from her mistakes, that she's only human. God still loves her." She smiles a little. "But that's different."
     I watch rain slide sideways in the wind; umbrella curls up as someone runs to the door seeking solace and coffee. "Why is it different?"
     She shrugs. "It just is."
     I know why it was different for me, when I had that conversation before. It's different for those of us who struggle to believe we have anything worthwhile to offer. That esteeming all others better than ourselves really means to consider myself a blight on the earth who should never have been born. Who would want such a person? Who would love such a person?
     We are silent for a moment. Our soundtrack pulses against the window; chocolate and freshly ground coffee make a heady aromatherapy. Without, altogether delicious.
     Within, soul-ache.   
     "You matter, you know." I speak softly. 
     All-cried-out eyes trace cup; they are empty, shadowed. She shrugs. "To whom? God loves me. That's enough, isn't it?"
     "Well, yes, but." I search for words. "What does His love mean? What does it make Him, and what does it make you?"
     She is quiet, although desperation seeps from still frame, the frame He remembers with mercy...
    For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
         So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
    As far as the east is from the west,
         So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
    Just as a father has compassion on his children,
         So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
    For He Himself knows our frame;
         He is mindful that we are but dust. (Psalm 103:11-14, NASB)

     I weep, reflecting on shortcomings and sin and regrets.
     He reigns, remembering my frame.
     What does this mean for me? He knows how I am affected, what I love, what I need, what is hurtful. He knows all the nuances of shadows and light that play in my heart and mind and spirit, the emotions, the fears, the faith. And He shows grace, redeeming.

     "I just want to be good enough." Her voice breaks into my thoughts. Oh so familiar, again!
     I tiptoe using words; sometimes conversation bruises tender places, and other times it heals. "Sometimes good gets in the way."
     She looks up at me, blinks. Head tilts, bewildered. "What?"
     The words of Christ burn in my heart:
When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:12-14, NKJV)
     "Jesus doesn't call the good people. He didn't die for the good people. Maybe you're carrying a burden you aren't meant to carry?" I say it gently, praying. The rain keeps watering the world. I taste cinnamon on my lips.
     She draws breath. "Hmm. Okay..."
     Grace, she is delicate, residing with the lowly, given to the humble. "Perhaps if you are gentle to yourself, and see yourself as He sees you, you will understand?" I am hopeful.
     "Maybe one day," she says, unsure and tired and old, but the light comes back into her eyes.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;  and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not
to bring to nothing the things that are...(1 Cor.1:26-28)

Discover grace with us on Fridays and link to discoveries of your own...


  1. Hillary, I love your writing style. It's so poetic and comforting. It helps to soften the blow I often take to my heart when I read your work.

    You openly explain so much my daughter wanted to say to me, but feared my defensive reaction too much to speak. Instead she retreated into depression and despair, and I spent years trying to coax her out again. Slowly she opened up, and as she did, she became defiant, deliberately challenging us parents, "You love me, huh? Well how about if I do this? Do you still love me, huh?"

    Painfully, shamefully, repeatedly - my pride broken, all my dreams of creating the perfect Christian child dashed- I would affirm- "yes, even still I love you".

    I am crying as I type this. What was life to me- the wonderful Word of God- became death to my daughter. I think of Saul insisting David wear his armor to face Goliath.

    That's what all the devotions and character training and constant quoting of Bible verses was to my child. I put an adult's armor on her tiny frame, and expected her to march around in it. I expected her to grow into it, and one day be a Giant slayer because of the godly training in righteousness she received.

    Instead, the visor kept her world dark and constrained her ability to see the beauty around her. The weight of the armor limited her range of motion and wearied her constantly. Defeated, despondent, she simply stopped moving and collapsed, numb with failure.

    Ashamedly I confess that I first saw this as rebellion. I would yell at her- get up! get moving! why are you so resistant?! Finally a friend mentioned depression, and I looked it up on the internet and BINGO. My precious daughter was depressed.

    Well, it was the beginning of a road to healing, one in which I had to (and still have to) chunk out all my expectations of the "godly girl of virtue" I held dear. I had to (and still have to) remember our frame, that we BOTH are but dust, and that Christ came for sinners, not the righteous. This includes me, as I knew all along.

    But it also includes my daughter, which by my training I had sought to make righteous. Imagine had I succeeded, how would she ever come to know grace?

    Grace is not something we can train or teach. It is experienced, and it is only experienced by those who need it.

    Well, I've gone on long enough. Thanks for writing, Hillary. Keep it up!

  2. This comment is amazing...I wanted to pull out parts to quote and realized I'd be quoting the whole thing. Thank you. {{hugs}}

  3. Quote any or all. Maybe it will spare some young girl the pain I put my own precious daughter through.

    Peace and good will, SS

  4. Shadowspring - i think what is so powerful about what you have written is your heart. it is less about what you did than it is about what you are allowing God to do.

    my mother was abusive in different ways, but she was and is defensive of her behavior and treats it flippantly. when i gently confronted my parents about the abuse they inflicted upon me, she accused me of seeing a therapist who had brainwashed me.

    as a mother, i try to see through my daughters' eyes. just last night my 12 yo had one of those 'share my hurting heart' conversations with me. she doesn't like many things. i am not perfect. the divorce, her special needs sister, our blended family, my shortcomings. there are times to simply say, "i'm sorry. you're right. i need to change/work on that."

    perhaps the most life-changing experience i had was at a woman's retreat about 15 years ago. i was 30 and had just forgiven my mother - a journey that took me ten years to complete. the speaker talked of her godly parents and godly home - it was so perfect. but after she spoke i was driven from my seat to talk to her (a first ever for me; i was very private and never showed public emotion). thru tears i could not stop i barely got out, "i've forgiven my mother." and then she said one of the most powerful things to me. she said she had to forgive her mother, too.

    i realized right there that no matter how perfect or how hard we try as mothers, we will still need our children to forgive us. we will still hurt our children. we will still wound them. so the best thing i can do is own my stuff and ask for forgiveness ... and teach and model forgiveness.

    my mother treats everything with flippancy. "it's the generational sin!" ... "all three of you girls married someone just like your dad!" what i hear her saying is, "too bad; tough life." what we need her to say is, "i'm sorry. i messed up. i hurt you. i was wrong. and i'm sorry. i cannot change what i did, but what can i do to help you now."

    cudos to you for being the latter. God will take what satan meant for evil and make it into something beautiful.

  5. This was an incredibly beautiful post and an incredibly beautiful comment by Shadowspring. God's love can be a heavy burden to shoulder when we don't feel we deserve it, when -- despite knowing we can never be perfect -- we feel our worth depends on our sinlessness. I think "Journey to Grace" is an apt name for this series. Grace feels nearly impossible to accept some days, but at least we're continually getting closer to it.

  6. I fall so many times and every time He's there with His arms wide open as I "choose" to turn to Him to receive His love grace & truth. Thanks for this reminder of it's not what I can do for God but it's what God's doing for me.

  7. God is here, in this post, in your writing, in your life, friend. i'm so glad you linked up. you help me know him. beautiful. e.

  8. That was a very transparent, but beautiful and truthful story Shadowspring. I know that it was not easy for you to bare your soul like that on this blog. I think more people need to see heart-felt stories like the one you just told here.

    This was also a touching post, Hillary. I thought of "Luna" when I read it. Keep up the good work!

    Someone Who Still Cares

  9. wow. those were words that i needed to hear. i am one that considers myself a blight on the earth who should never had been born. thank you for writing. i needed to read that today.

  10. alittlebitograce...I weep with you. you matter. Praying for you...thank you for stopping by.


    :-)Thank you, and likewise!

    Thank you, everyone, for your lovely thoughts!

  11. Thank you Hillary! This resonates. I don't have to be "good enough" anymore. It is an impossible standard. It is like a climbing a mountain that never has a summit; it just keeps on going forever.

    But I can let Him love me. I can let Him take my mistakes and make them into something good. Like growth and maturity. Like a little step. Every little step IS success. I have come to believe that He rejoices in the little steps I take to believe His love, and then to love others the way He loves me.

  12. Shadowspring, thank you for being willing to SEE and SHARE, even though it may be through tears. You bring healing. :-)

  13. Thank you. I still struggle to feel good enough for God. Grace expressed this way is a new concept for me.

  14. When my ex-husband tricked me and defrauded me by using my love for my children, and my faith and the legal system..some including my son asked me, "why don't you carry your cross?". I promptly threw my, "cross" in the ditch.
    Over time, Jesus picked it up, wiped it off and carried it for me.
    That is Grace.


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