Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Grace


Grace - "dispostion to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency" (Merriam-Webster dictionary)

Grace is a gift of infinite worth - given away with no ulterior motives or expectations. Simply given - unearned and often undeserved. Having heard much about grace in recent months, I decided to go in search of it. Not in scripture or sermons - but in the world around me. I'm well aware of the magnificent, overwhelming grace God extends to us. His unmerited favor. I wanted to see if I could find the grace He calls us to give to one another - grace that sometimes goes against the grain of our human nature. We have a tendency, I think, to want the grace we give to be a bit more "merited."

My husband and I walk in our local mall when the temperatures begin to climb over the ninety degree mark. We aren't the only ones, and some of the other walkers have become familiar to us. I often noticed one particular lady. About my own age, she walked with purpose and set a fast pace. We began to wave across the mall and cheer one another on with an encouraging smile as we made our rounds.

I didn't see her for quite a while, but I chalked it up to our erratic schedule. Then one day I spotted her walking with slow, halting steps beside an elderly man....

Let's take a look at grace. I'm at Laced With Grace today. Please join me.

Blessings,
Linda



Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Perfectionist


"You're such a perfectionist!" 

She didn't say it in a mean way, but it took me by surprise. Me? A perfectionist? Surely not. I am far from perfect, and I certainly don't do everything perfectly. I think I mess up far more often than I get it right.

Yet when I took the time to think it through, I saw the truth in her words. She didn't mean I was perfect. She meant, I think, that I'm overly concerned with what others think. I thought back to the times I've ripped out whole pieces of knitting because I noticed a tiny mistake I'd made at the beginning. I also had a tendency to give up if things didn't go the way I expected them to. I'd rather not do it at all, I thought, if I can't do it well. 

I wasn't just critical of my performance. My behavior came in for a fair amount of criticism too. I could lose a night's sleep agonizing over something I said - or something I had failed to do. My need for approval, I realized, formed an integral part of my perfectionism. 

Several years ago we bought five acres of land on which to build our new home. It had great potential but cedar trees covered nearly every square foot - crowding out the beautiful oaks. So we hired someone to cut down the cedar. We tried to save as many oaks as we could, but a couple fell within footprint of the house. We had to cut them down. However, all the rest remained. Some looked to be over one hundred years old - majestic oaks that has seen things we could only imagine.

One small oak, in its struggle to reach the sunlight had grown crooked. Compared to the others it didn't look like much, but I longed to keep it. Something about it spoke to my heart. We gave it sunlight and space to grow. Over the years it has grown taller and fuller, but it has never grown straight. 

Please join me at Laced With Grace. I'll finish telling you the story of our crooked little tree.

Blessings,
Linda

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Catching Up


I have sadly neglected my small corner of the internet in recent months. To the few who continue to visit, I apologize and thank you for your kindness.

I seem to be in a season where the writing is stopped up somewhere around my heart. A season where life often weighs a bit heavy. It's been a busy time as well, but I have come to the conclusion that there is no season of life where that isn't the case. The "busyness" comes in different forms - but come it does. If I'm to write, I can't use that as an excuse. The truth is, even when I've had a day with a bit of space in which to write, I fritter it away doing other things.

Some have said perhaps this is just a season where I need to take a rest from writing. That sounds like  wise counsel to me, but something inside pushes against it. The thought of not writing doesn't sit well. I think I have another story to tell.

I hadn't intended to say all of this. I just wanted to let you know I'm still here. I've been posting pictures and writing small devotionals on Instagram and also linking them to FB. If you'd like to follow me there, my user name is simply @lindachontos (Instagram) and Linda Chontos on FB.

I'm going to try to begin writing here again once a week. I'm also going to try to get started on a story. If I'm completely honest, there's a little fear involved. I'm not sure I have another book in me. My book was met with such kindness, and I'm afraid I won't be able to pull it off again. There - I've said it!

Now I'm going to do what I did when I wrote "Sleeping Dogs." I'm going to ask the Lord to partner with me - a bit like Father Tim who was always so grateful when the Lord was "in it" with him. I'm going to give Him my fears, receive His peace - and give it a go.

Thanks for "listening," dear friends,
Linda

Monday, April 3, 2017

Seasons of Suffering




“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in Me that does not bear
fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He
prunes it, that it may bear more
fruit.” John 15: 1-2
Earlier this week I did some work in my flower garden. I had a new pair of pruning shears, and I was ready to do some necessary trimming. In spite of an unusually mild winter, we had one night where the temperature dipped below freezing, and the leaves of my Oleander froze back. They needed to be trimmed back to make way for new growth.
And so I went to work. Being a girl with a very vivid imagination (something I never seem to have outgrown) I pictured Miss Oleander cringing when she saw me coming with those sharp, new shears. “Oh no. Here she comes again. She’s going to cut away with abandon, and it hurts. Why can’t she just leave me alone? I'm doing just fine without all that unnecessary pain.”
However, being just a bit wiser than my sweet little plant, I knew something she did not. The painful cutting she dreaded was exactly what she needed to grow stronger and more productive.
To learn the "fate" of Miss Oleander, please click over to Laced With Grace. I'll meet you there. Thanks so much.

Blessings,
Linda

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Beauty



For many the world has become a frightening place - filled with ugly and evil things. Every day, 24 hours a day, the air around us is filled with the most recent terrifying, discouraging news. As if that were not enough, social media all too often becomes a place filled with angry, hateful words tapped out with little thought of the consequences. 

I passed this little patch of verbena on my walk yesterday. Each violet colored bloom is made up of tiny flowers. Together they formed a wild, beautiful bouquet.

The Hand that planted them chose to put them right next to an ant hill. And not just any ants. These are fire ants, a name you will fully understand if you have the misfortune to be bitten by one. They stealthily crawl onto your person and deliver a vicious bite before you are even aware they're there.
And yet, He chose this place - an ugly, dangerous place.

In spite of their surroundings, they grow - and not just grow, they flourish and fill their small space with beauty. They are a sweet picture of a life lived well in the midst of difficult circumstances. They bravely do just what they have been created to do and, in the process, bless those around them.

Blessings,
Linda

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Good Gifts


A few weeks ago we hosted our Supper/Bible Study small group at our home. We prepared a large pot of chili, rice, salad, crusty bread and butter and apple pie for desert. It took a while to decide on a menu – something we could cook ahead of time and have ready when we all arrived, with rumbling tummies, at our house after Saturday evening church.
Part of the decision was which butter to serve -salted or unsalted. When I married my husband, I made the switch from salted to unsalted. I’m the one who adds salt to practically everything so I looked on it as a bit of a sacrifice. Over the years, I grew accustomed to the taste and even liked it. However, a little yearning for salty butter remained.
In order to ensure everyone’s happiness, we bought both kinds. Ah, I thought, here’s my opportunity to indulge in what I’ve been missing. After everyone had been seated and served, I helped myself to a slice of bread, slathered it with salty butter and took a big bite. To my amazement, it didn’t taste as delicious as I remembered. All that longing and anticipation, and it just didn’t live up to my expectations.
For the rest of the story, please join me at Laced With Grace.

Blessings,
Linda

Monday, March 6, 2017

Finding Joy


Blessed to have heard, and embraced with all my little girl heart, the gospel message at an early age, I wanted nothing more than to please God. Truthfully, I wanted to please everyone - so of course I wanted the Lord to be happy with me. Evidenced by the many times I raised my small hand to receive Jesus into my heart. I guess I wanted to make sure He hadn't missed me - or, perhaps, that my Sunday School teachers understood I was a good girl.

Looking back at that little girl now, I feel a tenderness in my heart toward her. How easy it is for young to minds to process doctrinal teachings, words that don't translate well from adult language to that of children, and come up with a unique theology all their own.

I remember sitting in rapt attention, listening to visiting missionaries, evangelists or people of my own acquaitance give their testimonies. Invariably, at least to my young ears, the one unifying theme was a resistance on the person's part to the call of God on their life and, after a series of disastrous choices, ending up in the very place they had so hoped to avoid.

Ah well, I thought, this means I will one day find myself in the deepest, darkest jungles of South America because I can't think of a scarier place to be. And, obviously, God always makes you go where you least want to be. I will be doing good, but I won't find much joy. Thankfully, I've gotten over that and see things a bit more clearly. Or have I?

Have you ever felt this way? Let's finish the conversation over at Laced With Grace. 

Blessings,
Linda