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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Visiting

I'm blogging tonight on SixtyFeet. Come see me!

Or better yet... go see them.

I posted a few weeks ago about mission trips to Uganda with SixtyFeet. Y'all told me you were interested. And now, the time has come -- our 2012 trips are officially open for sign-ups!

On our partner site, Visiting Orphans, there's also information on the 2013 Mother-Daughter trip that I'll be leading with my big girl, Madeline.

What's that? You've never been on a mission trip before (or you've never been to Africa before) and you don't know if you could handle it? You don't know if your husband/children/work/other responsibilities could manage your absence?

Well, follow along with me on my upcoming trip... I'm leaving for Uganda in only 10 days. YIKES! I'll be blogging from Africa and Dan will be blogging from home. We'll let you know how it's going for each of us -- so you'll get the best (or the worst) of both worlds.


By the way... some of you have asked what items are needed in the remand homes that SixtyFeet serves and what things you could donate for my trip. Typically, we like to purchase our supplies in Uganda whenever possible, in order to support the local economy. But this time, I am hoping to purchase and deliver a Betty Lukens felt set for Bible time at the facilities we serve.


Those babies are not cheap -- $359, in fact. But they are SO worth it and they really make the Bible teaching time come alive for the children! In fact, the Betty Lukens set our last mission team brought was the hit of the trip... so now we want another one for our other facilities.


Anyways, if you'd like to contribute something for this trip, please consider making a small donation to SixtyFeet in support of this purchase.


Have a great weekend, friends and don't forget to check out the trip information on SixtyFeet and Visiting Orphans!
Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Rumors are TRUE!

Remember when I posted a few weeks ago about the incredible Created for Care Retreat, organized by my friend Andrea? I'm sure you do -- because after my post I received tons of emails from ladies who were interested in/planning to attend.

And then, after registration opened and closed in less than 9 hours, because all 450 spots filled up THAT fast... I got even more emails asking if there was anyway I could help some of y'all squeeze in.

It was absolutely crazy that the retreat sold out so quickly. And a major bummer that so many women who wanted to attend and needed to attend did not have a spot. In fact, today there are over 250 women on the stinkin' WAITING LIST!

Well ladies... wait no longer! Where there's a will, there is a way for my crazy friend Andrea. Against all odds, she's found a way to make a second Created for Care retreat happen!!!

Same beautiful location, same content, same awesome low price... different dates. In fact, the SixtyFeet ladies and I, and many of the break-out leaders and speakers, will attend BOTH events!

Registration for the second Created for Care retreat begins TONIGHT... 12:01am EST (which is techincally tomorrow, I guess).

Anyways, go HERE to register -- and don't miss it this time!

Also, if you're already planning to attend the January retreat but would like to switch to the March retreat, that's fine too... but you need to let the team know ASAP. Simply send an email to CreatedforCare@gmail.com and write "SWITCH" + your first and last name in the subject line. It's that simple!

Alright, so there's my friendly service announcement for the week... head over to the Created for Care site for more information to get yourself signed up. I would LOVE to see you at either event!
 
Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ignorance is Bliss

I'm just back from North Carolina, attending my grandmother's funeral.

I got the news that my Grandma passed on Thursday morning. I needed to make it up to North Carolina to be with my family -- but with Dan in Africa I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. Purchasing $800 plane tickets for myself and all five kids was clearly out of the question. In fact, flying alone with all five kids was clearly out of the question.

I considered loading everyone up in the Yukon and making the long drive by myself. And I thought about looking for babysitters for the weekend.

In the end, I was able to purchase a plane ticket with skymiles and several precious friends and family members offered to help out so I could travel alone to the funeral. Well, almost alone. This was my travel companion getting herself all buckled in on the airplane:



Baby Charlotte was the obvious candidate to join me on the trip. Mostly because she flies for free, still being under the age of two. But also because she is a little, delicious ball of pure delight and being around her makes people happy.

A number of family members thanked me for bringing Baby C along this weekend. In the way that only a 21 month old can do, she lightened the very heavy mood and the sadness of the day.



During the funeral, she sang and danced and paraded up and down the aisle of the church until I finally had to take her outside. She could be joyful and carefree while the rest of us were sad because, truly, she had no idea what was going on. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

It actually sounds pretty nice, doesn't it?

There are matters over which I wish I could claim this same blissful ignorance in my own life. In this world, there's such hurt and suffering. There's poverty and sickness and injustice -- and sometimes I wish I could just close my eyes and pretend none of it exists.

Sometimes I'd like to be like Baby Charlotte -- to sing and dance and parade my way through life without a care for all this heavy orphan care, third world stuff that we do with SixtyFeet. Sometimes I want to spend my money irresponsibly and spend my time wastefully. And sometimes I do. But I'm not proud of it.

The emails Dan has sent me from Uganda, just this week, have cut me to my core. The things that he's seen and experienced on this one, single trip -- some of them are just plain shocking.

Sometimes I wish I didn't know so much about this stuff. But I do. And if you regularly read this blog or read anything on the internet or watch the news or read a newspaper... you know too. You don't have to run an orphan ministry to know these things.

Today, over 20,000 children died of preventable diseases, such as malaria. Today, more than one billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. Today, over half the people who live in Uganda live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.00 a day.

And because we know about it, we are obligated to help.

"Don't excuse yourself by saying, "Look, we didn't know." For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve." Proverbs 24:12, NLT

We can't claim blissful ignorance without any care for the world's poor. As God's people, we are responsible to act. Exactly what you do and how you respond is between you and the Lord. But we're all responsible for doing something.

And anyways, as someone once told me... ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is just ignorance.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Village

Whoever said it doesn't take a village to raise a child clearly is not living my life. That person does not have five children, a husband in Africa and an unexpected out-of-state funeral to attend.

That person does not have incomplete homeschool lessons all over the kitchen, piles of dirty laundry and almost no food in the fridge.

And obviously, that person also does not have have my friends or enjoy the blessed sense of community that I'm privileged to be a part of.


To the countless friends who jumped in and stepped up to share my burdens this week, I cannot thank you enough. You're my "village" and I cannot imagine how I'd ever live this crazy life without you.


It definitely takes a village. And by the way, that quote wasn't invented by Hillary Clinton. It's a centuries-old African proverb. My African peeps know what they're talking about here.


Thank you, dear, selfless, loving friends. I won't name names, but you know who you are.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And the traveling companion is...


Those were some good guesses, folks.

Colleen, I'm still laughing over the image of Willie Nelson serving in Uganda with my husband this week.
But alas, we can't all be winners...

It's not Shaun Groves.

Not Mac Powell.

Not Chris Tomlin (although, by chance, Louie Giglio also happened to be on Dan's flight to Uganda today).

The correct answer came from... commenter #26! Kimberly, you got it, girl! Send me your address.
Yes, indeedy… Dan’s traveling companion is none other than the amazingly talented:




DANIEL BASHTA!


Daniel is the writer and owner of the crazy popular (and powerful) song “Like a Lion” that you’ve probably heard covered by David Crowder. Yep. If you love that song (and you probably do), buy Daniel’s album to hear the original.

Both Mac Powell of Third Day and Kim Walker of Jesus Pursuit make guest performances on Daniel's new album. It's pretty amazing. This is his rookie album --it shot to the top of the charts, received rave reviews… and yet Daniel’s not out promoting himself this week. He’s in Africa.

WHY he’s in Africa with SixtyFeet is a different matter entirely and I'll tell y'all about it in a few days. But for now -- go show Daniel some love, people. This guy has his priorities straight. Daniel’s album is available for purchase here.

Your prayers are appreciated for the team on the ground this week. I'll keep you posted!
Sunday, September 18, 2011

What the World Values

We went apple picking this weekend for the Annual Owens-Harty Apple Picking Extravaganza. Since 2008 we’ve been piling our families into two SUVs and driving an hour and a half north of Atlanta for the best apple picking in Georgia.

Here’s a picture of the junior apple pickers in 2008 (minus 2 year old Davis who had gone somewhere with Dan to escape all the girliness):



And here’s the crew from yesterday:


As you can see, we’ve grown quite a bit over the years. Joy and I have 9 children between us. That’s a lot of kids, y’all.

I have five children and Joy has four, with an adoption in progress. Even with the multi-racial thing aside, that’s enough kids to turn heads in stores, to raise eyebrows at the park and to constantly trigger that well-meaning but rather irritating comment “wow! You sure have your hands full!”

And I often find myself wondering why. I mean, what is the big deal with big families? Who cares if I have four small children and a baby on my hip and two of my children are black and we take up an entire aisle in the grocery store?

Big families are counter-cultural. Having lots of kids and then adopting more is just plain weird. Because it smacks in the face of everything our American culture says we should embrace:

Leisure time

Wealth

Travel

Privacy

Life

Liberty

And ESPECIALLY the pursuit of happiness, baby.

Dan and I have decided that we’ll live for more than those things. Because those are not God’s values. In fact, His are the opposite.

Love

Service

Humility

Peace

Dying to self

Tomorrow, Dan leaves, again, for Africa. SixtyFeet business calls. We’ll miss him and he’ll miss us. He’ll miss the boys’ soccer game, my 35th birthday, and all week with his beloved girls.

But our family is weird different and we try not to value what the world values. We’ll kiss Dan good-bye tomorrow morning and, as always, we’ll just be proud of him for going. After all, there's more to life than soccer games and birthday parties.

Even better – this week, his traveling companion is a guy whose value system lines up with Dan’s exactly. I’ll save the details for a post later this week but you should know this: Dan is traveling to Uganda this week with a seriously cool dude.

He’s a crazy talented musician (who y’all might know) who just released a new album. In fact, his album is currently ranked in the top ten on the itunes chart. But he’s not out promoting his new album or doing concerts this week… instead, he’s going to Africa to serve with SixtyFeet.

How’s that for not valuing what the world values? I love it.

By the way, I have an extra CD of the musician traveling with Dan this week. I’ll give it away to the first person who can correctly guess who it is. Just comment below... More later!
Thursday, September 15, 2011

Seasons

Down here in Georgia, the summer heat is dwindling away and the signs of fall are everywhere. I always look forward to the changing of the seasons… by the time a new season rolls around I’ve gotten sick of the heat, the cold, the pollen, the dead leaves and whatever else has gotten on my nerves over the last three months.

I tend to spend the last few weeks of most seasons wishing it away and looking forward to greener pastures. Then the season ends and, oddly, I’m sad and I miss the old one. So it is with my children. In parenting, I go through seasons. I get tired and frustrated and bored and I wish for greener pastures…And then once they’re gone, I just want them back.

When we adopted Hannah and Joseph, it became an entirely new season around here. We all had to make a lot of changes and, with each change, I grieved a little bit. Delighted as I was to have our new ones home, there were times that I mourned for the way things used to be. (Side note: I do not feel guilty or like a bad adoptive parent for admitting these things on my blog. I experienced the same kind of feelings every time a new child entered my home – whether by adoption or the regular old way. It just takes time to adjust to having a new person(s) join your family).

One change that particularly bothered me was the new bedroom set-up. Last December, both Madeline and Davis had to give up their own rooms, their space, their clothes, their toys and their own everything in order to make space for their new siblings. Hannah moved in with Madeline and Joseph moved in with Davis. So we had a “boy room,” a “girl room” and baby Charlotte had a tiny nursery down the hall, next to the master bedroom.

Neither Madeline nor Davis ever complained about this arrangement, not for a minute. They shared their rooms, they shared their things and they delighted in this. I know these are valuable lessons for my children to learn. And I want them to learn to share, to sacrifice and to understand that they are not the center of the world and they never will be. But I still admit, I had a really hard time with this one.


I mostly struggled because this new “roommate arrangement” changed our family dynamic and our routines so drastically. I missed the way things used to be…especially with Madeline. Madeline is my oldest and anyone who knows her will tell you -- she’s something pretty special. I used to sit on Madeline’s bed and talk with her at night, just the two of us. After the adoption, we still sat and talked – but it wasn’t quite the same.

I tried to cuddle with both girls under the covers and read to them at night, just as I'd done with Madeline. But, at first, this was hard and um, rather unpleasant. Not only was reading and listening an entirely new skill to Hannah and Joseph, but they both came to us not speaking a single word of English. Neither of them were particularly interested in sitting still and quiet at all – but definitely not for long chapter books, with no pictures, being read in a foreign language. It was a struggle and it was a bummer and I really took it hard… because this was my special time with Madeline. I was entitled to this. This bedtime routine was my God-given parental right. Or so I thought.

So I responded in the way that any reasonable, mature, Christian adult would: I pouted for a while. Sometimes I cried and stomped my feet. I complained to my husband and my friends and sometimes I complained to God. But ultimately, I knew I had to ask Him to soften and change my heart on this matter. And little by little, He did.


Bit by bit, we fell into a new normal -- it wasn’t the old way, but it was a sweet new routine. Over time, Hannah and Joseph learned English. They both learned to sit still, to listen and to even enjoy books. I learned to choose a better variety of books at different reading levels.

But, most importantly, I learned to make extra room in my lap, my heart and my life for whatever God was calling me to do. After all, as a "wise woman" once taught her children, you're not the center of the world and you never will be.

It's not about us. And the more tightly we cling to our stuff, our plans and our ways, the less likely we'll be to fulfill His purpose for our lives.
Monday, September 12, 2011

WWJND?

I've been studying James 3 this week. "Taming the Tongue." Personally, I think it's one of the hardest chapters in the Bible.

Radical sacrifice? I'm good with that. Caring the for orphan? Check. But taming that tongue of mine? Not so much. It's been a life long struggle for me and it probably always will be.

Dan and I might be crazy but we're sure not perfect. We're sinners, in need of grace, and we mess up all the time. Especially where our big mouths are concerned. Recently, my friend Alysia, (y'all know Alysia, by the way -- she's written on the Crazy Blog a number of times) shared with me about a major mess-up. A "Christian fail" as she calls it.

I've asked Alysia to share her story below because hearing it blessed me immensely. It was a great reminder that I'm not the only one who struggles constantly occasionally. At the end of the day, we're all a mess. We all fail. And still, Jesus loves us.

So without further delay, I give you...
 WWJND?
By: Alysia C.

WWJND? No, this is not a typo. This stands for "What Would Jesus NOT Do." You've seen the cute shirts, the bracelets, the Christian fish, the WWJD letters. I don't own any of those. For me, this is probably a good thing. In getting dressed each day I really can't be sure if I'd represent Christ well if I were wearing one of these. Sometimes I feel the best thing I can do for the Gospel is lay low and go as unnoticed as possible. 
I ran an errand the other day. It was going to be a simple run to our local Farmers Market. Just an innocent trip to the grocery store to pick up some necessities before our new wee one needed to nurse again.
This was one of about 3 times I've ever left our 4 month old at home with my hubby. Little one and I have been pretty attached at the...well, not the hip...but you know what I mean. I grab my diaper bag (because I'm on kid #3 and now my diaper bag doubles as my purse) and head out.
Upon entering the market a lady approaches me to tell me she is going to have to take my bag, as they do not allow backpacks in the store. WHAT? I've been shopping here for years and I've never been hassled. I explain that it's my diaper bag, that I only have an hour to shop because I have a new baby at home, that I've never been asked to do this before, and that I had no intention of giving her my bag thank you very much. Then I walked away and headed to the organic apples.
I'm immersed in apples when I'm approached by a rather large security guard who apparently made sure he had his Wheaties that morning. He proceeds to tell me that I have to give him my bag. OK, close your eyes. Imagine me and Wheaties Man. Now picture this scene unfolding in your mind:
I tell him that I'm really disappointed that I have to do this, but I understand that it's a rule and so I'll respect it. I then hand him my bag and decide this could be a great moment to share about Christ with him. I offer to grab him a cup of coffee for his service to protect us all at the market and then I ask him if he knows the Lord.
Are you picturing it? Well that is exactly what I did NOT do. Nope.

Now close your eyes and imagine the polar opposite. Imagine a woman who has decided that this man's very attempt to take her bag represents all that is unjust in the world. I proceeded to inform Mr. Wheaties of the rampant rate of identity theft, of the fact that it should be my Constitutional right to carry my own bag through the store, that he's wasting the very little time I have to get my stinkin' apples, and that I have everything in the world I need in this bag and I have no intention of leaving it with some strangers behind the bag check counter.
He tells me to put my valuables in a plastic produce bag. We exchange more dialog that includes everyone in an 8 foot radius hearing exactly what I think about these stupid rules and how they should not apply to nursing moms who are a carrying diaper bags for purses, for crying out loud!!
Finally, I realize I'm beat and make a big, dramatic deal about emptying out everything in my bag into this little produce bag. Which involves an awful lot of slamming and huffing and puffing.
I then slam my bag down at the bag check table and give another speech to the lady that ratted me out. And proceed to call my hubby on my cell phone loudly explaining what happened and describing the involved employees as a bunch of communists.

As you can see the whole things was handled very, very poorly.
Did I turn the other cheek? Not so much. Did I act in love? Nope. Did I do what Jesus would have done? I think we all know the answer to that. This would be called a "Christian FAIL." This was definitely not a bright shining moment for me. I was not a "city on a hill", a "lamp on a table", or "salt of the earth." Instead, I was a landfill of anger, a charred match of rebellion and a dose of vinegar.
But, for reasons I may never understand on this side of Heaven, Jesus still loves me. He loves us like we really, truly are. We don't have to be perfect. We don't have to act like amazing Christians all the time. We can fail, flop, and flounder and, miraculously, we still have the hope and promises of Christ.
My petty and self-justifying response was wrong and grieving to the Lord, I'm sure. But how grateful I am that He is my Father, that He forgives me, and that He's already paid the atoning price for my sin.
I can rejoice in knowing His mercies are new every morning and leave this all behind. But, just in case...I'll leave those WWJD T-shirts behind too.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9   

Thank. You. Lord.
Thursday, September 8, 2011

Just a Glimpse

If you were on the ground in Uganda with SixtyFeet this week, here's a glimpse of what you'd see:



This is my dear friend, Joy. She's holding hands with a child prisoner at M1. Those are real bars. And that's a real cell. And that's a real child. God's child.

This is a time of worship and thanks with child prisoners. Ponder those words for a moment... and then view this picture:



And below are some thoughts from one of our team members, Christen, describing her experience at M4 on Tuesday of this week.

"As I sit listening to the rain pounding on the metal roof, she lays against my chest, sound asleep. It took a few minutes for her to warm up to me enough to let me hold her. My eyes burn with tears and my heart breaks for this beautiful little girl. She's naked and I hold her close to myself, afraid of her becoming too cold. The temperature quickly dropped as the rain came down and I wish I just had a blanket to help shield her.

I pray over her, hoping the spirit will speak through me because my words fail. If I was to guess, this little girl is about two but I am starting to realize that the effects of malnutrition make it very hard to tell. I gaze into her sad eyes and wonder how long she has been here, how she was brought here, and where her mommy and daddy are.

It's clear that the caregivers in this facility love the children dearly and are very protective of them. They care for them the best that they can with the limited resources they have available. But it's not a substitute for a loving family with a Mommy and a Daddy.

It was beautiful and yet heart wrenching to watch the older children step up and care tenderly for the younger ones. When it was time to leave it was painful to hand that little girl back into the arms of a young girl who is still just a child herself.
 

The pain I have seen here in the last couple days has felt like more than I can bear at times. But I have also seen such genuine joy and love for Jesus that it is almost just as overwhelming. I have seen things that I pray I will never forget. I plead with my Jesus to change my heart forever."

And this is just a typical day on a SixtyFeet mission trip. Join us next year or join us in 2013. But definitely, join us. As Christen says, it will change your heart forever.

More trip details are available on the Visiting Orphans site. Or email missions@sixtyfeet.org for more information.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Too Good Not to Share #4: Imaginative Kids

Growing up and all the way through college, I studied Latin. I actually have nearly a decade of Latin education trapped inside my brain. And I do mean trapped... as I can't seem to remember a single word of it these days.

Several years ago, Dan and I were at a polo match. We were looking at the barns and noticed a Latin inscription carved at the top and Dan, recalling my superb level of Latin scholarly-ness, asked me what it meant. I studied it for a few minutes and then answered, with complete seriousness: "I think it says something about horses."

Yep. All those years have certainly paid off. Big time.

Now that I'm a homeschool mom and I am easily swayed by peer pressure, I've decided that my children should also study Latin. I mean, I'd hate for them to be stuck at a polo match someday and unable to figure out that the barn is for the horses. Or worse.

So I've begun subscribing to this Latin educators catalog. It has some great curriculum items and some interesting articles. And one of them, I must share with y'all tonight:



10 Sure Ways to Destroy the Imagination in Your Child
by Anthony Esolen

1. Keep Your Children Indoors as Much as Possible
2. Never Leave Children to Themselves
3. Keep Children Away from Machines and Machinists
4. Replace the Fairy Tale with Political Cliches and Fads
5. Cast Aspersions upon the Heroic and Patriotic
6. Cut All Heroes Down to Size
7. Reduce All Talk of Love to Narcissism and Sex
8. Level Distinctions Between Man and Woman
9. Distract the Child with the Shallow and Unreal
10. Deny the Transcendent

To put it another way, in my own non-poetic words, the How Not To Destroy Imagination: Make your children play outside as often as possible. Teach your children to self-entertain. Don't buy toys that require batteries. Allow your children to explore new things. Stick with the tried and true stuff and avoid the latest fads. Turn off your TV (or better yet, don't own a TV). Read, read, read. Especially classic fairy tales like the Brothers Grimm. Encourage and nuture your children in their personal relationships with the Lord -- and talk to them about the way He's real and present in your own life.

Creativity and imaginations are gifts from our Creator and it's our responsibility to use them and encourage our children in this. Dream big, for nothing is impossible with God.
Sunday, September 4, 2011

On A Mission

Just yesterday, the SixtyFeet mission team departed for Uganda. Included on this trip were several of my girlfriends from Atlanta -- Joy, Cathy and Laura, my pastor, my husband's dear friend, Judd, and a handful of other crazy, amazing folks from all over the country.

I organized this trip myself and I'm so proud of the precious souls traveling this week. The team is made up of everyday, ordinary people with an extraordinary thirst for God. It consists of moms, dads, businessmen, medical professionals, young singles and the like -- who desire not just to hear the gospel but to go forth and live it.

There are people who claim that short-term missions trips are not about rescuing, fixing or saving. These same people will tell you that short term missions are a foolish waste of money -- how could one possibly expect to accomplish anything with real and lasting results by spending a week or two in a foreign country?

And to those people I'd say this: you're dead wrong. Because short term missions do rescue, fix and save. Just not in the way you might think. Short term missions rescue us. Me and You. The people who travel on these trips. The people who raise the money and take the time out of their lives to go and see, firsthand, how the rest of the world lives.


They rescue us because they cause us to see the world in a new and better light. They cause us to recognize the value of overseas ministry and to embrace our responsibility to our Christian brothers and sisters in the third world. They cause us to live more simply and to use our money more wisely. They cause us to make better choices and to live for something bigger than the American dream.

These trips change us forever. They rescue us from ourselves. They keep us from wasting our lives. And that is money and time well spent -- because it's a eternally invested.

I'm headed back over to Uganda myself in one month. It's about time. My spiritual batteries need some recharging and, personally, I think Africa is the best place to do it.

Shelly and Joy with Boaz, Uganda Fall 2010

Later this week, one of the trip participants will be blogging live from Uganda, right here on the Crazy Blog. She'll give you a taste of SixtyFeet missions work and share some personal stories about our team on the ground the children we serve.

If you're so brave to consider joining us for such a trip, check out upcoming trip information on our partner site Visiting Orphans. Dan is leading the trip in January 2012 and I'm hoping to lead a mother-daughter trip in the spring of 2013, along with my daughter, Madeline.

Go and visit. See it, smell it, taste it. You'll never be the same.


"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27, emphasis mine
Thursday, September 1, 2011

Now THAT Was Grace

I was out this week enjoying a rare, brief moment of solitude. I wasn't doing anything special or exciting -- just an appointment with my optometrist. But hey, if it means I get to be alone for a few minutes, I'll take it.

I was driving along, basking in the peace and quiet, listening to some praise music. I glanced down, for just a second, to grab something laying on the passenger seat. And then it happened. I rear-ended the car in front of me.

My hands started shaking, my stomach tightened into a knot and a lump formed in my throat. STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!! I can't believe I just did that!

The car in front of me was a BMW. A nice one. It looked pretty close to brand new. And I just plowed into the back of it with my big ol' Yukon XL. Perfect.

A nicely dressed man got out of the car and went to examine his rear bumper. I threw the Yukon into park and started digging for my insurance card and registration.

Less than a minute later, the man approached my window. I rolled it down and braced for the worst. I was at fault, I deserved for him to really let me have it. But this man did the strangest thing... he smiled at me. "Hey, don't worry about it" he said. "It doesn't really look like anything major. Just give me your cell number and I'll call you if anything comes up."

"Sir, are you sure?" I asked him. "My neighborhood is right up there. Do you want to pull in and take a closer look?" He smiled again. "It's fine. It's almost dinner time. I'm sure we both need to get home." And with that, he hopped into his BMW and drove away.

Whoa. I sat for a second not really able to comprehend what had just happened. Did that just happen? Did I just do something completely stupid and irresponsible and I got off scot free? As if it never happened?

And then there was nothing left to do but put the car back into "D" and drive it home. It wasn't until that moment that I realized I was so overcome with gratitude and relief that tears were actually running down my cheeks. When I turned into my neighorhood a few moments later, I distinctly heard the Lord whisper to my heart..."and that, my child, was grace."

True grace isn't just NOT getting what you deserve. It's getting way more. Grace is a smile and a kind word when you deserve a serious tongue lashing. Grace is excessive patience in a stressful situation. Grace is gentle humility towards a person who has wronged you.

I've replayed the rear-ending scene in my mind about a million times this week. I've gone outside and examined my bumper, looking for evidence that this thing really did happen. It's caused me to ponder the miracle of grace afresh.

It's prompted me to demonstrate grace, not just mercy, but grace -- when my children really have it coming to them. It's prompted me to humble myself towards others and to smile and offer an encouraging word -- when that's the last thing I feel like doing. Grace is the gospel. And the gospel is grace. It's getting way, way, way more than we ever imagined.

When you've experienced grace firsthand, you can't help but extend it to others. And, if you're a Believer in the Lord Jesus, you have definitely experienced grace. Spread it around.

"Justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. And grace is getting what you absolutely don't deserve." --Cathleen Falsani