How To Get Real, Unexpected Relief When You’re Just Finding It Hard

Six times my mama lies in ER this past week, waiting news.

Good doctors can have degrees and no answers.

My sister gives up long days and advocates on knees and in waiting rooms and Mama and her, they sing hymns and drown out clocks and fears.




I rub Mama’s feet during the short nights and the late watches.

I massage the bare weary arch of her feet and I tell her that I love her. I tell her that hair looks lovely wound high and falling. I tell her that she is never alone and her hand feels like thin white silk in mine and some dog to the south barks in the night.

Mama touches my cheek.

She murmurs it. “Thank you. Thank you for coming.” I tell her she’s laid her life down a thousand times. She shakes her head, glasses slipping further down her nose, another tendril falling. Sacrifice stuns in all its costly loveliness, all it’s love.

The glow of the bedside lamp washes the wall behind her and our shadows stretch long on the white.

This is the gospel of grace. Grace laid it’s arm down a beam and grace never stops reaching out, reaching for you, reaching straight across walls and through fences and over barbed wire laws.

Grace in the going and the giving and this is the how you accept the Gospel.

The gospel isn’t only what we accept; the Gospel is also what we extend.

The grace we’ve received from the heart of God is the grace that extends our arms to the world.

And two of the cowlicked sons, they rant bombastic ugly at each other over an unmade bed and a mess of electrical doodad parts.

And it isn’t even 9 in the morning and they don’t get the hair or the temper off anyone strange.

The Farmer says it quiet to sons, that all this hollering,  “This is not living the gospel — “

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and I’m the railing mother whose sin reeks, who needs Christ’s nailing and more than a tidy bit of grace and how do I keep falling hard everyday and tripping all these kids too?

How can a mother do so much everyday and know she does so much wrong? Sometimes holding a kid is this wild prayer for God to just hold it all together.

And when the Farmer softly asks sons, “Who can extend grace and live the Gospel here?” I turn to our boys and look in eyes and I see me and them and the ache of us and what had Spurgeon had said:

“…. it is certain that the Christian does grow in grace.

And though his conflict may be as severe in the last day of his life as in the first moment of conversion, yet he does advance in grace —

and all his imperfections and his conflicts within cannot prove that he has not made progress.

~ Charles Spurgeon

Christianity isn’t about growing good — it’s about growing grace-filled.

The grace we’ve received from the heart of God — is the grace that extends our arms to the world.

Why in the world did I keep telling the boys to be more Christ-like as if He was a ladder to ascend, to progressively strive to be more sanctified —

when being Christ-like is about being grace-filled, not about ladders but about laying down and reaching wide?

Christianity isn’t about growing good, it’s about growing grace-filled Christ-like.

Like Mama that night — The true beauty of advancing in years is the truth of advancing in grace.

And I sit on the edge of a knotted up bed with boys and a tangled life and the boys have to know what I’m just repenting of: “The Gospel isn’t basic — it’s what all believers breathe.

Why did I ever think the Gospel was only elementary and not all encompassing?

This is the Gospel that I don’t just need, but need to live and preach to me. Like a rubbing of the hurting places, a drowning out of fears.

This preaching gospel to yourself daily isn’t cliche — it’s critical. Otherwise it’s your very life that’s in critical condition.

When you fail and you bleed fallen and you’re the mess just wild to somehow make it, it’s inhaling the Gospel that heals — Blessed assurance, Jesus assures: You don’t have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps — you only have to pull close to God.

It’s the gospel in shorthand and pure relief: My hope isn’t built on my performance but on Jesus’ righteousness.

The flesh is always performance driven and everyday I need to become Cross-centered again.

And no one needs the Gospel only once — because all the bad days need the Good News of His grace again and again.

I touch a boy’s hand, us red-handed sinners. The Gospel isn’t a one time message for the unbeliever but the constant miracle for the imperfect.

This changes absolutely everything: Evangelize yourself everyday.



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So when the whole crew of them come banging in from the barn at the beginning of the week, I just tell them all outright because I’ve doubted too much —  but not this.

That the answering machine has the very best message ever, like the whole angelic realm has descended in full choral glory right here and the limbs of all the trees bear burn marks.

The boys dive for the machine. The Farmer grins, eyebrows raised. I laugh through the house, arms raised in a hailing of holies, like wonder can get in your bones like belief.

“You have ONE new message.” The machine grinds out this indifferent digital monotone.

Kai and Levi hunch over the black box, ears turned, eyes waiting round.

And I stand in the kitchen before a sink erupting encrusted pots and pans and prayers and I flagrantly challenge the machine’s automated apathy: “And it IS. the Best. Message. Ever.” There’s a message that cleans up every mess. Mine.

And there it is, all static but all amazed, a little girl’s voice recorded on the machine: “Helloooo?”

This little lisp voice echoes on the recording. Levi half chuckles.

Kai lights — “Oh, it’s little Lia… !”

“SSShhhh.” Levi elbows him quiet. Shalom pushes in between brothers and the Farmer stands with the fridge door open like a beckoning in —

“This is Lia?…” How can that dimpled little niece already be 5?

The whole house leans and waits and — the news finally comes like a cure.

“This is Lia — and I accepted Jesus as King of my life and Lord of my heart last night… Goodbye!

And the angels crescendo and the trump full resounds and the Farmer laughs mercy with a pitcher of orange juice and joy straight descends and the Gospel isn’t just the hope of the unsaved — the Gospel is the very heart of the already saved.

The Gospel isn’t only what we believe in –– because the Gospel is ultimately what we. live. out.

And I stand in the kitchen and boys tussle and angels celebrate and Mama somewhere sings — and breathes in, breathes out —  and one little girl beats with God.

And this comes like relief:

Inhale Gospel — and exhale grace in this place….

And strange how it’s happening, even in December —

how everyone is starting to breath more than just a little easier…





Related: Want to preach Gospel to yourself through what can be the hard & hectic month of December? Yeah, you and me both — I’m such a mess with chronic soul amnesia, who has to constantly evangelize myself everyday, preach Gospel back to myself every day — so I scratched out these because I desperately needed them for me —  free 25 No-Stress Manifestos for every day of December,  like an Advent Calendar for Big People, so we unwrap *Jesus* & not *stress*, so we unwrap the joy of the Gospel and not more of the weight of this world   … just for you: Free Stress-Free Holiday Sticky Notes for Your Soul, right here:

And calming my soul in profound ways this December? Morning quiet times, unwrapping the steadying, assuring Gospel in The Greatest Gift … and then giving my  kids the very greatest gift every evening of December, the Gospel in Unwrapping The Greatest Gift.