Five Minute Friday (on Monday): accept

Version 2

I set the shoes in an orderly row beside the door. He comes behind and throws them around the rug.

I fold the shirts into a neat stack. He yanks the stack off the couch.

I turn on the vacuum with my foot and set out across the carpet. He comes behind me and, imitating me, turns it off with his little foot.

And so it goes. His “helping” seems to double the work, which never ends at the best of times.

And I wonder: is this the actual state of my good works? As I try to be about my Father’s business, do I make more messes than I clean? As I try to be like Christ, do I heap more sins upon His cross? (Oh, yes.)

And yet, though I grow frustrated with my baby, my Father invites me into His labor, needing my help not at all, and makes of my messes something beautiful — He gets glory, even from these. And in the end? The Lord accepts these feeble efforts, and welcomes me home, saying “Well done.”

More-FMF-Square-Images-11

Belatedly linking up with the Five Minute Friday crew, writing on last week’s prompt, accept. Click the button above to visit the link-up.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

Five Minute Friday: future

I walked down the aisle to “O God Beyond All Praising,” a magnificent poem by Michael Perry, set to Holtst’s magnificent “Jupiter” theme.

Crouch-10

The second verse says:

Then hear, O gracious Savior, accept the love we bring,
That we, who know your favor, may serve you as our King.
And whether our tomorrows be filled with good or ill,
We’ll triumph through our sorrows and rise to bless you still,
To marvel at your beauty, and glory in your ways,
And make a joyful duty our sacrifice of praise.

“Our tomorrows.” I worry about those. On our first date, my man told me of his rather audacious dream to move one day to a place that terrifies me. I prayed and questioned and said “yes,” and walked down the aisle to sing that song. But I still worry.

And when I imagine various futures, they don’t look like triumphing through sorrows — the potential sorrows are much much too large for me to envision any triumphs this side of glory. Isn’t that the point, though, in Hebrews 11? “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar . . . they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.”

There is triumph in that better country, surely. But also grace in the here and now. Not yet for any imagined sorrows, but grace enough for every sorrow that becomes a reality.

A friend recently told me how she wants to live “an impossible life.” To be able to look back and say that she could never ever have done it apart from the grace of God.

I like to live comfortably within my own perceived abilities, with that grace as a safety net, but unnecessary. Foolish me! As if apart from grace I could accomplish one heartbeat of my own making.

But His grace is sufficient. He makes His beauty shine through the sorrows, so that we may marvel at ways higher and more glorious than ours, so that He, “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God,” receives “honor and glory forever and ever.” (1 Tim. 1:17)

Amen.

FMF-Square-Images-2

Today I join the FIRST link up on Five Minute Friday’s new website! Use the button above to read more on this week’s prompt, future.

©2017 by Stacy Crouch

happy returns

I don’t remember what it felt like to wake up that morning, the one rainy Saturday of the entire fall.

How do people live through such days? Days that you enter knowing they are going to change only everything?

How does an indecisive, usually fearful girl keep on, one step and then the next, toward voluntarily making a forever promise? How does she still have an appetite?

It must be grace, must it not?

Grace that on a morning when I might have felt panicked, rushed, and full of tears, I felt an immense calm.

Under the raining, we were wrapped in a warm glory, and I remember being amazed by how many people were there, and I remember that my face hurt from smiling.

I haven’t the words to write the meaning of a year of marriage, even if I knew the meaning, which I’m not sure I do. But the same grace that gilded that very first day has touched every day since.

I remember that my hand trembled in his, and that I laughed and cried through the vows. And that we were so very glad.

We remain so.

 

©2016 by Stacy Crouch

 

Five Minute Friday (on Monday): find

So I find it to be a law, Paul says, that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

Sin is crouching at your door, the LORD warned Cain. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.

You must rule over sin. But you are enslaved to sin, sold and law-bound to keep on sinning, and how is a slave to rule over his master?

He must be set free.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! 

Crucified with Christ, the body of sin is brought to nothing, for one who has died has been set free from sin.

Thus we live and walk, no longer slaves of sin, but sons of Almighty God, set free from the law of sin and death, declared righteous, loved with a love from which nothing can separate.

Oh, yes, evil lies close at hand, but there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

I find this to be good news, indeed.

find-600x600

Today I link up with Kate Motaung and her Five Minute flash mob of writers, writing on her prompt, find. Click the image above to visit her site.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

Thus we

Five Minute Friday: relief

relief

The door opens and I turn to see who it is: a man who mumbles an apology: “Hey, sorry about the noise.”

Only three students were in attendance when my eight o’clock class was to begin — they increased to ten before the end.

My ten o’clock was full, but the students were rain-drenched, having run through a downpour to reach me in that dry library corner.

Days like today, when my alarm was not quite enough to force me awake in the early darkness, the routine itself is a relief: tasks and the clock in alignment, so that I need only obey, not initiate.

Even teaching is a form of obedience: this is my job and I do it, sandwiched in a hierarchy, so that I feel safely between this and that.

This is the relief of Isaiah 30, the grace of the Teacher who promises we shall weep no more:
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

relief-600x503

Today I join Kate Motaung and her Five Minute Friday writers to write on her prompt, relief. The button above will take you to her site.

©2015 by Stacy Nott

2014: learnings

Today I join Emily P. Freeman of Chatting at the Sky to share things I’ve learned in 2014.

what-we-learned-in-2014

I thought it was going to be just things learned in December. Thinking through the whole year was harder. But here are a few of many, many things learned:

1. Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s daily Bible reading calendar is both helpful and profitable. It has you reading in four different spots in your Bible every day, to read once through the OT and twice through the NT and Psalms in the course of a year. I downloaded and printed the bookmark-calendar from this site, and that was really helpful.

2. I actually like teaching 8:00 am classes. I like driving to work in the fresh part of the morning. I like the extra effort it takes to greet eight o’clock students. I like noticing who was up early and who barely got up for class, and seeing how those are different people on different days.

3. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s story of how the Lord drew her to himself is moving and challenging, and the book in which she tells her story The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith is well worth reading. Here’s one gem among many from the book: “I know that I don’t choose. God chooses. He rules and he overrules. We walk in faith and (at times) terror, but we walk nonetheless.”

4. Having consistent friends in my life whom I see regularly and who love the Lord and challenge me to love Him more is a wonderful thing. I love my Clinton community!

5. Taking a month of 5-days-a-week summer classes can be a treat.

6. And linguistics is cool.

7. It is possible to be at the latter end of your twenties, possessing a Master’s degree and having taught college courses for three and a half years, and still to be consistently assumed to be in your first year or two of college.

8. Nabeel Qureshi’s story of how the Lord drew him to himself is also moving and challenging, and proved particularly helpful to me in making me recognize that people who are Muslim are still and always people first. Read my review of his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, here.

9. My baby brother is getting married this weekend. Contrary to what one sometimes hears, having my baby brother get married does not make me feel old; it just makes me feel that my baby brother is getting married at an impossibly young age. (Which he actually isn’t.)

10. Numbering my days: I’m grateful for the ways God’s been teaching me to do this and reminding me that this life doesn’t belong to me.

11. Sometimes, when it looks like God might say “yes” to a long asking, it seems maybe scarier than the idea of Him never saying “yes.”

12. I can make and survive solo road trips on roads I’ve never travelled through states I’ve never visited. I still like to have maps in the car, but the GPS also became my friend in 2014.

13. I seem to have visited and revisited, here and in my journal, the idea that life is full of frightening things, and that we are told, over and over, “do not fear.” 

14. Teaching American and British lit surveys during the same semester is fun because of the way I can start making connections for myself, drawing all the small pictures into one larger picture.

15. ISIS. Ferguson. Malaysia Airlines. Boko Haram. Gaza. Yazidis.
It’s been a year of learning about hurting.

16. #BringBackOurGirls #BlackLivesMatter #YesAllWomen
But I’m not sure that hashtags effectively help the hurts.

17. Saudi Arabians typically have two simultaneous and elaborate parties at their weddings: one for men and one for women. (I’ve never been to a Saudi wedding, but I’ve learned about them.)

18. It is hard to get a squirrel out of the courtyard of a three-story brick building when once it has got in. But a squirrel can survive a flying leap from a third-story balcony onto an iron table and a brick pavement.

19. People in Taiwan celebrate the New Year twice: once in the Western style with a countdown and a ball dropping, and again, a month or so later, at the Chinese New Year in the Chinese style with gifts and family visits and lots of red decorations.

20. Years have ways of always overturning my expectations and being better and harder and more surprising than I could imagine. But the Mighty One has done and continues to do great things. Here at the end of another year, my soul magnifies His name. He is good.

©2014 by Stacy Nott

upon grace

What do I need to write on a long day of December rain? What do I need to write on a day when I’ve simply felt pale blue? What do I need to write on day when I spend hours trying to say things and feeling discouraged at not finding the connections, the words?

P1030591

I need to write truth. I need to breathe truth, inhaling it with every breath, bearing it in my blood to the crown of my head and the chilly extremities of my toes.

What is truth? Truth is that each of these breaths, each of these heartbeats, is grace, happening without any conscious effort on my part. I don’t have to tell myself to keep being alive because these being-alive processes are built into my system and guided by One much wiser than I. I would kill myself trying to keep my heart going at an appropriate rate, unable to think of it consistently enough, unable to keep thinking of it in my sleep. But He guides each beat of each heart on this planet, and He never sleeps.

Truth is that I am every bit as inadequate as I feel. I am never enough of any of the things I should be. No, leave “enough” out of the question completely: truth is that nothing good dwells in me.

Truth is that I do not deserve love, but I am loved. Truth is that I was under a righteous judgement destined for death, but that the righteous Judge made Himself my Savior and gave His life for mine. Truth is that I was dead already in my sins, but God loved me with a great love and made me alive together with Christ. Truth is that I am the recipient of the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in kindness toward me in Christ Jesus.

Truth is that the God of the universe, the God who created time, made Himself small and submitted to the constraints of time and the pains and indignities of a mortal body that we might enter eternity with Him and be clothed in glorious immortality.

Truth is that long days of December rain after nights of too-little sleep need not cause blue moods, because they cannot alter the fact that Christ is my sufficiency. Truth is that if I am never able to write another coherent word, the important Word has already spoken: He became flesh, dwelt among us, let us see His glory.

Even on difficult days, from His fullness I receive grace upon grace.

©2014 by Stacy Nott