Posts in Guest Post
Waking up to God’s Grace {Guest Post}

Today we are taking a break from our normal DWITW 365 posts to share a bit of what God has been teaching our sister Laura Swain through her time spent in the Word.

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 “Rollercoaster” is the cliché I would use to describe my life right now, high-highs and low-lows. And a fair number of nauseating corkscrews that make your knuckles go white and your voice go hoarse.

Things have become much harder now that my twins need a more predictable rhythm day to day. My kids and I are virtually housebound as we decode the secret nap schedule that only the twins know and are reluctant to divulge completely. My older girls and I are feeling stir crazy and a bit isolated.

I have never felt closer to the Lord than I do right now, though. I have never wanted to know Him more. I have never been hungrier for Scripture. And at the same time, I still face daily struggles with idols who have names like “Alone Time” or “Feeling Appreciated.”

I’ve been praying through this and feeling so mystified about it. God, why is there such ugliness in my heart when I was just relishing every morsel of Your Word a few hours earlier? How could I feel so close to You and still lose my cool like that? The juxtaposition of my attitudes has been surprising to me. But it doesn’t surprise God.

I’ve just finished reading the Pentateuch as part of #DWITW365. I am only about 150 days behind (haha!) but I am chugging along. At the end of Deuteronomy, we see how tenderly the LORD shares some ugly truths with his beloved servant Moses. In Deuteronomy 31:16 God says to Moses: “You are about to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves with the foreign gods of the land they are entering.” Gulp. He goes on to say that because they break the covenant He will no longer dwell with them. This is starting to sound a lot like Genesis 3. And then: “For I know what they are prone to do, even before I bring them into the land I swore to give them” (v. 21).

He blesses. We rebel. He corrects. He reminds us who He is. Then He takes us where He has promised us we will go, in full knowledge that the cycle will repeat again and again and again.

Well, you don’t have to be God to know that these people are prone to do this. The entire story so far has been about God performing literal miracles to save this people group (who, by the way, he calls HIS). The people He longs to be with, the people He wants to save the world through, the people He calls, delivers, raises up, and meets in the desert. And that glorious goodness is met by their complaining that they wish God had left them in slavery in Egypt.

So these people will leave God and the Law and call their prosperity their own? Shocker. Sarcasm aside, what does shock me is that God still takes them there! He knows what they will do in the promised land and He still makes them victorious to possess it and call it their own!

Today I texted some friends asking for prayer because I was feeling frustrated with my flares of anger. Beautiful that they are, they responded to my ugly sin problem by blessing me. “Hey, why don’t you drop off the girls so they can join us for a pizza and game night?” And, “Hey, I am dropping off a brownie in your mailbox.”

On the way back from dropping the girls off, I ran through the Burger King drive-thru. Little did I know, this seemingly quick stop would take nearly an hour out of my day. I was chill for the first 20 minutes: listening to vintage Steven Curtis Chapman and praising God as the twins were miraculously quiet in the backseat. But when I began to realize I had been forgotten – abandoned in the “please pull up and we’ll bring your food out to you” zone – I began to crumble. I’ll save the entire story for another day, but that anger I had just been praying about came spilling out of me so fast. Want to know the song that was playing right before it happened? “Only Natural” by SCC. You really should give the whole thing a listen. Part of it goes like this:
 So mirror, mirror look again,
 You’ve seen the fool that I have been.
 But did you see the grace that covers me
 Not to do anything I please;
 In fact, grace is the only thing
 That makes me what I am not naturally.
 Its supernatural power brings life out of the grave.
 It gives sight to the blind man,
 And it will not let me stay…
 Only natural, only natural.
 I’ve got the spirit of the living God alive in me,
 Giving me power so I don’t have to be
 Only natural.

I was face to face with grace. And grace looked a lot like brownies and pizza and games and prayers from friends that have seen my most broken parts. Yet I am like an Israelite who forgets. And like He did with the Israelites, God is good to say to me, “Hey you, look around at the piles of precious food, friends, and practical love I am making fall from the sky to feed your soul. Also, I saved your life. And, I love you.”

He blesses. We rebel. He corrects. He reminds us who He is. Then He takes us where He has promised us we will go, in full knowledge that the cycle will repeat again and again and again. This is what we are “prone to do” (Deut 31:21). And faithfully loving us is what He is prone to do.

The good news is that what comes naturally to us is not the way it has to be. Just a chapter earlier in Deuteronomy, Moses is summarizing his last speech to the Israelites. He has been imploring them for nearly the entire book to love the LORD only and follow His Law, not turning to the right or left. And then he says:

 

This command that I give you today [to love the LORD and follow his Law] is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

 

Of course, we know that we could never do this perfectly. That’s why we need a Savior! And He’s also given us the Holy Spirit – the one that lives inside of us – who empowers us to follow God, even when it is not the natural thing to do. He calls us to this unnatural living and gives us what we need to do it! It is not “beyond our reach.” And as I yield to Him and allow Him to cut out the ugliness in my heart, He is not surprised by what spills out.

Lord, I have seen the sin cycle of Israel and lived it myself. I don’t want to do what comes naturally to me. I want to live freely, live as your child, redeemed and forgiven and empowered by your Spirit to obey you. Thank you for working in my heart, patiently and persistently. Thank you for equipping me to do what seems upside-down to the rest of the world. Teach me what “unnatural” living looks like. Make me hungry for your Word and help me understand it and apply it. Amen.


Laura Swain wants to live in a world where her kids sleep until 8am. When she's not outside in the garden, you can find her on the floor reading with her kids.

One of her favorite passages in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 (NIV), which ends with: "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Dying to Self {Guest Journal}

We are so pleased to welcome our sister Victoria Baker as a guest writer on the blog today. 


Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
— Matthew 16:24-26, NLT

Right now, the Lord is teaching me something sacred and painful, yet completely life-giving. What may you ask is this? Wait for it...wait for it... dying to self. Yes, He is teaching me what it looks like to take up my cross and follow after Him. To be okay with the world not seeing Victoria: but through her death, seeing Jesus. He has paid the price and died in my place and gifted me with Himself.

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At a young age, I came to know and believe in Jesus. He was a friend. He was where my mom and I would sit down and pray, where I felt peace. As the years progressed and life was life, I found my understanding of Him changing. I was discovering how much I was leaning on my own "strength" (which is really nothing) and through years of eating disorders, anxiety, OCD, and perfectionism, He drew near. He drew near to the little girl who lived in a world of people pleasing, approval needs, and fear. He began to show me how much shame and guilt was a part of my life. He began to show me that I was His and He never wanted me to try and atone for my sins in human ways. He began to flip my world upside down and inside out.

In college, I was baptized. Late high school into early college was when He and I went deeper and deeper; my faith became what felt like my own. He began to show me how tangled I was (even more than I realized) and he held me dearly. He began to shift my understandings of what love looked like, what my identity was rooted in and how I was secure.

As a perfectionist, security was something I cherished. He showed me how nothing was secure in my life apart from Him. Because of what He had done, I could rest securely. This is something that even to this day I am growing in. Even in my failures and flaws. He peeled off so many layers. He was patient as I denied Him so many times, choosing myself and other things. He continued to carry me to the foot of the cross and to His throne room.

Soon, the nations began to captivate my heart and international outreach became a passion. Empowering women and seeking to find the beauty in the mundane was the adventure my heart longed for. He met me in sunflowers, in tears, in praying for widows and in the ridding of myself. I returned from a year abroad and struggled to resettle at home in Miamisburg. I revisited old struggles, OCD panic attacks, eating disorder lies and falls, as well as seeing again the vastness of my brokenness. He began to speak to my heart in new ways: pictures, metaphors, whispers. The truth of His Word, which had been proven through all of this to be alive, gained even more momentum despite my continued failings.

Over the past few months, the Holy Spirit has been laying many prayers on my heart. Even the prayer for me to ask the Lord to mold my prayers while praying! He has brought up heart motives, marriage, perseverance, humility, dying to self and truly growing in living out what loving people and loving Him looks like.

As a dreamer by nature, He is growing me in practicality and I am stoked for His continued workings. He continues to teach me that apart from Him I can do nothing. He reminds me that self-flogging does not make us right with Him: only the power of His blood can do that. He continues to teach me to take the posture of a humble servant. He continues to grow me in walking in grace. He has helped to grow the desire to be nothing, and for Him to take full stage.

Dying to self is hard. It's a lifelong thing. It doesn't end. I have been around for almost 26 short years and have barely skimmed the surface of growing in this. But He remains faithful despite my faithlessness. He reminds me that I never have to be perfect because He has already paved the path and simply desires for me to keep my eyes on Him. However He asks me to die, so ultimately I may live, is for the best: for He is better. This truth has been echoing in my heart as I reach for him and I cry out to be rid of me; the me who blocks so much life.

He reveals that He is Perfect Love. And perfect love is a humble servant.

Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
— 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, NLT

This morning, I was sitting in a coffee shop and I was reminded of a picture: a rope that is tangled. I was reminded of how Jesus and the power of His Perfect Love enters into our lives and helps to untangle us. We are freed of ourselves, the ones who are all tangled within and afraid of being nothing. He unties the knots, and in the process, helps us to see that there is no fear in love; but hope. Hope in losing ourselves for the sake of the Gospel and for His name. We have hope that like Paul says, it is only Jesus and the power of the Spirit that allows us to keep our bearings and become to a Jew like a Jew, a slave like a slave, and to sit in wisdom.

Oh, how Love is on the move. Oh, how newness and deeper understandings are on the horizon. He is making all things new, and that includes our understanding of His love and how in it, there is no fear.

To be a servant. A humble servant. To simply be okay with being a clear vessel, a rope. For people to grab hold of the good news, resting in Christ and holding onto the rope; by the power of the Spirit and all by His doing, following the invitation and taking a seat at the table...where a spot has been prepared for them!

He is life. As I grow in getting out of the way, He shows how much true life is found in Him. He is fully satisfying and abundant. He continues to show with patience and love that He is better. The dying of me will allow for more of the invading of Him!


Victoria wants to live in a world where servanthood is the desired career of choice, love is tangible, and self is tossed at the door so people may see how life is found no where in self but in Christ.  When she's not teaching young kiddos how to grow in a love for reading, you can find her sitting around the table soaking in conversations, out and about in the forest, and exploring the beauty that breathes around her. Whimsy, adventure, truth and grace inspire her as she is uncovering the beauty of humble servanthood. Her favorite Scriptures are...Philippians 3 and Psalm 103!  Feel free to connect and share in conversation anytime: victoriabaker193@gmail.com.