I Stand Amazed . . .

I stand amazed at God’s love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness!

I stand amazed at the second chance He gave me with Christ’s death and resurrection!

I stand amazed that He continues to give me chances to do His will and follow His path!

I stand amazed at the patience He has for me!

Psalm 40:5 “Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”

Ephesians 5:2 “and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Colossians 3:10 “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Matthew 3:8 “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”

Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

A reflection from this old, retired teacher, Grammy, Christian, sinner, and one who God loves and gives so many chances.

This week I have been working in the yard around this 70-year-old home, a home my in-laws built for their family of three boys. As I worked to pull weeds, uncover the old plants, and plant new seeds and bulbs, and nurture the flowers that have been blooming for years, I started thinking of the work that God does for me every single day of my life. My husband and I started giving this home a second chance about 5 years ago, and when we first opened its doors and saw the dirt, clutter, and hodgepodge of neglected possessions, I was overwhelmed with the sad state of this home and the reasons why it had become such a mess. With a lot of hard work and patience, we now have a home filled with love, laughter, flowers, and memories that I feel my in-laws would love and enjoy, just like they did years ago when they first built this home. We still have work to do, but we are here to spend our retirement years, so every corner will eventually bloom and grow as it was originally intended. That is when I started comparing this home and the work we have done, and the second chance we have given it, to my relationship with God. Oh my, the patience He has shown me. The love He has given me! The work He has done!  The guidance He has shared with me! The many CHANCES He has given me to follow His plan and to bloom for Him, to bear fruit for Him! He never gives up on me! He is there every step of way, nurturing, pushing, guiding, and directing my path and my actions. He only wants what is best for me, just like I want this home to bloom and grow again and be all that it can be! As much hard work and money we have put into this home for the last five years does not begin to compare to the hard work, patience, love, and guidance that God has given me for these almost 65 years. I can do no less for this home than God has done for me. Just like these beautiful tulips planted by mother-in-law years ago that continue to bloom every year and grow more beautiful in their color, my relationship with God is worthy of hard work and devotion so that it will continue to grow and flourish day after day!

We are given many opportunities in life to bear fruit for God, and quite often in an area we failed in before. There have been situations in my life, and I am sure there will be more situations in my life, where I will fail God. I feel like I failed the people I was supposed to reach out to or show God’s love to, and yet God continues to place me in similar situations or with the same people, giving me more chances to bear fruit for him. His patience and determination for me to follow His plan knows no boundaries. God gives us multiple chances, and with each chance He gives us we get another opportunity to bear fruit for Him, to follow His will, and grow in our relationship with Him.

I look at all the second chances He has given me, and I am completely amazed at His patience and love. People have often asked me how I knew I wanted to be a teacher, and all I can think of is that at first and for the longest time, I did not want to be a teacher. I wanted to be a Baptist preacher! I know, right, a female Southern Baptist preacher. I took that desire so far as to major in Religion at college, and graduate with my BA degree in Religious Studies with a plan to go to seminary. Yet, God had other plans and through a series of events and due to His incredible patience with me, I went back to school but not to seminary. I went back and received my BS degree in Special Education. God was not through me yet though, and through another series of events I enrolled in Furman University and earned my MA in Education, Learning Disabilities. God’s plan! His patience and His many chances placed me in the right situation and were the beginning of 27 years of teaching and working with students of all ages, abilities, and races. God placed me in each classroom, and His patience helped me grow and mature, and hopefully bear fruit for him with those I taught and with my colleagues. I cannot tell you the number of times, the moments, the decisions made, or the actions taken where I believe I failed in bearing fruit for Him, yet each day I woke up with the determination and perseverance to try again, to be someone in His image, loving, caring, forgiving, and patient with each student, each parent, and each colleague.

Then there was the second chance in love. From marriage to my high school sweetheart, school, and starting a family to his death, and then to my second love, our family, and life together, God gave me second chances to grow and mature as a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. With each situation I was given second chances and opportunities to grow in my relationship with Him, and thereby bearing fruit for my children and grandchildren. There are days that I wonder how badly I failed in my relationship with my husband, my children, my family, and even my grandchildren. Have I lived a life as an example of God’s love, patience, and care for the ones He placed in my life? Again, I stand amazed at His love and patience with me as a wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, and sister.

Those are parts of the big picture in second chances, but just think about all the little moments that God has given me second chances. Daily decisions or actions, thoughts, and relationships. It is overwhelming to consider all the second chances He continues to give me every day! I stand amazed! Second chances reveal a God who is guiding and shaping us, molding us into His image. Second chances show us a God who loves us enough to encourage us to grow and bloom, to bear fruit in His image. I thank God every day for those second chances.

Oh, but the true amazement comes when you consider the second chance He has given each one of us! Before Christ Jesus, I was broken, and living in sin. Yet as John 3:16-17 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” I am not worthy of such a sacrifice, but I am worthy in God’s eyes. You are worthy! God’s love knows no boundaries, it is endless and unconditional. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and through His atonement on the cross we were given a second chance. He took away our sin so that we can begin to experience Him, so we can experience a relationship with Him, and grow each day in His image. How incredible! We are God’s children! He has given us everything, His love, His forgiveness, His mercy, His grace, and He gave us life! I often wonder how He can be so patient with me, and John 3:16 is all I need to remember. He loved the world, He loved me, so much that He gave us his one and only Son. With that love comes patience, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

I stand amazed at His willingness to die for my sins on the cross.

I stand amazed at His love for me, His love for each of us!

I stand amazed at His forgiveness for my sins, our sins!

I stand amazed at His grace and mercy for each of us!

My heart has been heavy lately with feelings of hurt and even anger! Hurt and anger directed towards those I love and have known a lifetime. The heaviness in my heart has caused sleepless nights and sad moments. The other night I went to bed in tears because of these feelings. As I laid down though, I felt a comfort and a touch that let me know I was not alone, and it gave me a peaceful night. I let go of the hurt and angry feelings and began to think more of how God would have given me second and third chances in these situations, and as a Christian, as one of His followers I can do no less. Just as God is patient and forgiving with me, I need to be just as patient and forgiving with those in my life. Do not let me fool you though, forgiving is hard. Letting go of those hurt feelings is difficult. Yet, as I worked in the yard this week, I started thinking about how small these situations are compared to the situations I have been in and God has forgiven each one. God has bestowed such forgiveness towards each one of my transgressions, how can I do any less towards those I love? Just like the flowers, the plants, and this home – all of whom needed a second chance, I can do no less than to work hard, with patience and determination to set things right with the ones I have found it hard to forgive.

Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

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