Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Grace vs. Mission

There's so much that happens in a day; in a life. Today I pulled myself up by my boot-straps and scrubbed the bathroom floor with vinegar. I smell like a pickle. I licked eight envelopes closed - all medical bills. I bought chicken on sale and browsed the lighting aisle of Lowes with my best pals, Silas and Charles. I had dinner with my family (Haven included).

This is my life. It's nothing new. It's a gift and a blessing and many times it's straight-up boring.

What is new is the constant undertow. My thoughts have shifted in recent years. It's officially something from which I cannot hide.

There are many who say that we don't have to go looking for our purpose in Christ. We don't have to try so hard. We shouldn't be searching to find something to do or be when all there is to see is Grace. I understand every point. I see the kernels of truth.

But for me, Grace and Mission are linked at the elbows. They found me together. I looked Grace in the face and found myself wanting to run red-rover between the two and join them right in the middle. There was no choosing. No overlooking.

Don't we want to share the Grace that found us? What if it requires some searching? What if it is really hard work?

I used to love the philosophy that all I needed to do was sit at home and fluff my throw pillows and wait for God to bring someone to my door. If he did, I would be nice to them. (Being nice = Being the hands and feet of Jesus, right?)

Let me be clear, I don't think we all need to be forming Bible studies in the McDonald's play area on the bad side of town. We don't need to search so hard that we contrive something uninspired.

But we need to search. My heart should scan the horizon every single day looking for that opportunity that needs me to go to it.

We've discussed my recent Mission Fail 'til we're all blue in the face. But here's one thing it's teaching me: Mission is not community service. It's not signing up to serve pizza to the poor kids then checking it off the list and resuming regular life. Mission is a heart condition. It's loving the little girl for exactly who she is even if I happen to be in "regular life" mode when she screeches from the monkey bars, even if it's not convenient and I'm not in the mood.

Man, I liked it better when I thought it could pencil it onto my calendar with Calvin's doctor's appointments and nursery duty. I could prepare myself then. I could put on my "missional" britches and greet every single Olivia* with a smile and a Popsicle. I could do a little good then go on home to fluff with a clean conscience and a small, lingering sadness for the grubby faces that smiled up at me earlier in the day.

Friends, I'm not even close to half-way there. It scares me. It makes me jittery to know this in my head before it has settled into my heart. I like to compartmentalize. I'm really good at it. I appreciate the conveniences of a well-planned life. I'm not so great at surprises.

The thing is, Jesus isn't going. He has already gone. A big part of me wants to sprint straight to where He is. I don't want to miss it. Another part tells Him it's a dumb idea to take doughnuts to the girl at the Verizon store. Give me a more normal task, God, and I'll probably do it.

This is the stretch. Right here is the strain. I'm not where I should be. I'll never be "there". But He's going with or without me. That's something I really didn't consider a few years ago.

It seems like a start.

Any and all adoptive parents: Stay tuned tomorrow! I have an exciting plan up my sleeve for us.


  1. I want to stay at home and fluff too. :) But you're right, there is a call to open eyes and open hands, and in the end, I want that more than comfy time on the couch. And I think the joy comes fuller the more we live it...still discovering that part.

  2. I think you've nailed it. Doughnuts? seriously? :) That made me giggle as I pictured it and her looking at YOUR phone in awe, but I also know that God has some pretty crazy ideas that when we do it--we get a glimpse of Him. Sweet. I want that.

  3. Take me with you... I'm disgruntled... Left searching but trying to serve where I am in the meantime. Maybe that's what I call this... Serving in th meantime.

    1. Serving where you are is totally the point! It's just that sometimes we need to look outside the walls of our own life. God has us where we are for a reason, right? (And hopefully the reason is more than learning to live with a carpeted kitchen.) ;)

    2. I love "serving in the meantime" but you are so right that sometimes we look too hard when it's right in front of us. I had that same "aha" moment a few months ago.

      Here's the link (no spam, I promise):

    3. Yep. Serving... But feeling the call that He is just preparing me for more.. This meantime is prep time..

  4. 1. I skipped church tonight. I went to church. I skipped it. I never went inside. My plate feels full and I couldn't take the loading it up with more from someone else- their prayer requests. So, I skipped.

    2. If God tells you to bring me doughnuts- Listen. And know I prefer plain glazed Krispy Kreme, but apple filled will do.

    3. You are the bravest girl I know.

    4. xxoo

  5. yes to Joy's #3. i agree, heartily!

    you motivate me more than you will ever know.

    ps. i didn't write you back. argh. sorry! i will. i think i got it when i was cooking dinner for our neighbors and i really needed to turn my focus on high... otherwise i end up using vinegar rather than vinaigrette. and we know how that turns out. : (

  6. This image of Grace and Mission being linked at the a word, YES! It's that constant state of being ready to serve in the day-to-day right where we are, but at the same time not getting stuck in the comfortableness of our routines. But following Jesus and joining Him in the work He's already doing seems like a good plan either way!

  7. Wow, I can barely admit these things to myself, and you write about them. Amazing to me. I struggle most with the fear of what I might be called to do, even though I know He will (and does now) carry me through. I need to get beyond knowing the mission will be too big for me, because that's the point. To big for me, but never for Him. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts with us. I am so thankful.

  8. You speak volumes to this new Mama....the last time I followed God's voice and didn't flinch, we moved to a small town with no jobs on the horizon. Now, my husband is going to school full-time and we have a new baby, still sans jobs. There is an unrest that rises from the Earth when we look at the big picture, but God is in the details. He is in the small moments as well as the life-altering. I have had to seek Him through the quiet amongst the chaos and grab hold to the promise for the grandeur of Heaven. You never cease to inspire.

  9. I'm officially excited about whatever you have up your sleeve. Also, and I hope I can write this in a way that expresses what I mean...I love your Olivia story. It reminds me of a story Anne Lamott might tell filled with brokenness and grace all entangled until it's hard to see where one ends and the other begins. Because it's hard, or really impossible, to separate the two. Olivia doesn't need you, she needs a Savior, and the truth is your dispensable, like everyone else on the planet. God doesn't need us, but he chooses to use us if we will surrender and be willing. But your story perfectly shows how the person who is hurt by our refusal to let God's grace flow through us is ourselves! Choosing to be a conduit of grace changes us! And you realized it. And you'll never be the same. And God will take care of Olivia. Her destiny is in His most tender of hands as is yours. I'm so grateful for your sensitivity to His leading. Your whole Olivia story keeps messing with my heart.

  10. you are perfectly made. and you write about it so well. xoxo

  11. I love how much you encourage and inspire others to do the work of God just by sharing your stories of your own faith journey. Love it. You have such a good heart Shannan.

  12. Once again I had to quote you on my facebook status. "Mission is not community service. It's not signing up to serve pizza to the poor kids then checking it off the list and resuming regular life. Mission is a heart condition." Because I daily need to be reminded of my heart condition. His grace continues to change me and show me His mission.

  13. You are precious and God is using your words to reach deep. Thanks for being willing. The world is hard on a soul willing to be transparent. Praying God's protection on you as you continue to share the truths He is showing you.

  14. You have been given a sphere of influence..that is your mission field. I went to a wedding recently and the pastor told the bride her number 1 was to insure her husband and children were to get to heaven. I love that thought. So glad I found your blog. Lots of thinking and feeling going on

  15. Amen....I am in the same place! Love your words about mission. Was just reading James this morning about faith and good this quote in the commentary, "Faith is the root, good works are the fruit." We need both meeting in the middle at the elbow ;-)
    Thanks for being such an inspiration ~ God Bless!

  16. This is beautifully challenging. Don't you wish the "Olivia's" would all just gather and one place and wait for a time that is most convenient for us to bless them.

    You're so right. Being missional is a heart condition: a gospel-soaked, gettin our hands dirty, people loving even when we're running late and have to get dinner in the oven, heart condition.

    Thanks for this.

  17. how did you get inside my head today?
    oh, man.
    i am a selfish, selfish girl, but i SO want to serve the Lord RIGHT HERE. RIGHT NOW. i try, but He knows it stops at my comfort zone most days.

  18. Mission IS a heart condition. Perfect! Love it! And I agree that grace and mission go hand and hand or arm and arm as you said. I'll admit I spent years in the "signing-up and showing-up" department instead of living it out in my day to day-ness with eyes and heart wide open to every opportunity.

    You said "yes" when God began to give you a new sense of direction and I just love coming here and seeing Him prepare you for the role. Now tell me, did you get the doughnuts? Girl, doughnuts are NEVER a dumb idea!!!!

  19. Boy, this goes with what I've been chewing on, that dreams are heavy things to carry. I mean the kinds of dreams - big, God sized - that He births in our hearts that are unique to us. Callings and vocations specially tailored to fit us, our personalities, passion, talents, and abilities. Carrying them out takes blood, sweat, and tears. Literally.

    But they change the corner of the world we're in, that's what, and the blood, sweat, and tears bear fruit.

  20. 'mission is a heart condition.' (wow do i love that. and hate it. as tends to happen when God nudges me via your blog.)

    i am learning loads (and it's mostly painful learning) about how it looks to actively love when i am so not in 'mission-mode,' and oh do i have leagues to go. it's hard and messy and tiring, but i just don't want to miss out on what He's doing.

    carry on, my friend.

  21. Your message is always so beautiful. I was away from blogging for 40 days and I'm so glad to be back so I can check in here and get full of everything you let the Lord say right through you.

    Except I shouldn't read before I've had coffee. Bad things happen. I read that you bought *children* for sale and browsed the *lightning* section at Lowe's. (And, you're welcome for all the traffic that will now come your way by people Googling "children for sale". Eek.)

  22. This has been on my heart for awhile... and I don't really know where to start... so I just keep putting it off and "fluffing"... thanks for bringing it to the forefront.

  23. Mission is a heart condition is going up on my fridge, girlfriend. Amen and amen. Living out the gospel is a whole lot more exhausting than I realized but when I do it, when I get down and dirty in it, I am filled beyond filling. This post has me shouting, "Here I am Lord!" from the top of my dirty clothes pile!

  24. I'm so over myself. You know, until I want something. Now.

    But, I mean, when we are no longer defined by the doing of missions (I did it...yay me!) and instead find ourselves over-the-top deeply loving the One who accomplished the changes the entire game.

    We're gonna screw up. Fo sho. Me more than you. But honestly...that's why I'm over-the-top loving this God...cause He still loves me through it. He still accomplishes something through it. He takes the mess of me and calls it a treasure and molds beautiful things from it.

    Love you, sister friend. Your authentic and this SC girl loves that.

  25. Beautifully written...Your blog always gives me food for thought and today I am amazed by your words.

  26. read this earlier, coming back to comment...
    i'm struggling right now, and in the midst, wondering where me being missional fits in.
    and it fits in right here. in my everyday.

    my apartment building managers hired me today, part time job, opening and closing our fitness center each day. easy peasy.
    the people i am already meeting, after ONE day, w.o.w.
    i see huge potential for relationships. jesus shining.
    lots of coffee invites and maybe more. who knows.
    god's in the sock rockin' business, so i'll just wait.

    but he heard me. i prayed to be useful, because i feel SO otherwise.

    thanks for this. and as always, i love you and am lifting you and yours up to the king!

    can't wait to hear the adoptive parent news!


  27. perfectly said.
    love your heart.
    they are linked together and you can't sit at home and wait on God to bring someone to your door.

    for the record, i seriously don't think your Olivia situation was a missional fail. it was flesh wrestling with spirit, and every single one of us deals with those battles. do you really think it was a fail? you grew in's that a fail? Jesus taught you something...that's not a fail. am I being bossy? I think I am.

  28. Oh, Shannan. Your writing challenges me in the best kind of way. I am so guilty of waiting for God to bring some needy person to my door. And I don't think the Olivia situation was a fail. Nope. Just the first round of God challenges that teach you and ready you for the next round.

  29. It's loving the little girl for exactly who she is even if I happen to be in "regular life" mode when she screeches from the monkey bars, even if it's not convenient and I'm not in the mood. -- so true. how often i find myself in the same situation, i'd rather not number the times. bless you for your courage here/this post & the Olivia* one. you most gifted one are a gift! :)

  30. Are you reading my journal? I feel like a picked scab right now. How can I possibly express how joyous it is to know you are running this race too BTW my oldest is three. Wow. Just wow. So I get you there.

  31. Are you reading my journal? I feel like a picked scab right now. How can I possibly express how joyous it is to know you are running this race too BTW my oldest is three. Wow. Just wow. So I get you there.

  32. I love this, it resonates so deeply with me! Right now, my husband is playing hide and seek at the park with all the neighborhood teenagers while I sit here and listen for our own kids . . . serving where God has put us - it's beautiful and messy and grace-filled and joyful and hard all at once :-)

  33. Amen; well put. I like how you string words together - I have these thoughts and inner-struggles, but don't know how to put them to words. You are a voice that is clear and honest, thank you.

  34. amen amen amen! "We don't need to search so hard that we contrive something uninspired." (sorry for delay, i'm new! just catching up!)