The Gift of Grace

This is the second post in The Grace Series. To read the first, click here.

Freely you have received, freely give.

God’s gift of grace has been freely given to me through the sacrifice of His only Son. I freely receive this grace, and I freely give it, or at least I want to. It is hard to freely give to others because it always costs me something. The grace-gift costs me my pride, my convenience, and my comfort. It costs me my to-do list, my system of doing things, and my vision of how things ought to be done. It means I have to lay it down, lay it all down.

Selfishness is so heavy.

When I empty my arms of all this heavy burden, the grace-gift freely flows. The laying down is hard, but the giving is easy. It is joyous. It is holy. This grace-gift is hardest to give when I am tired, spent, or fed up. Sometimes, I don’t want to give grace, because my people don’t always deserve grace. They hurt me, ignore me, and sin against me and each other. But this is exactly when the grace-gift is most needed because Grace has the power to demolish strongholds.

How can I, the recipient of the greatest, undeserved Grace-Gift of all time, not also extend undeserved grace? This is exactly what Grace is at its heart. The undeserved favor of God.

Freely you have received, freely give.

Grace means that I think the best of others, see the best in others, and love them like they already are the best versions of themselves. I do this because it is what Christ has done for me. Christ loved me when I was an enemy of God, completely outside of His covenant of grace. He extended the best kind of grace.

I was dead, you see, and He made me alive. He reached down and breathed the breath of life into my soul, and I became a living being. And God saw what He had re-made through His Son, and He called me very good.

Freely you have received, freely give.

No one can ever offend, hurt, or betray me more than I have offended, hurt, and betrayed my God. And yet, He loved me anyway. How can I not also love others in this way? I must. I am commanded. I am compelled.

Giving, receiving, and living in the place of grace is my calling as a child of God and a follower of Christ. It is my greatest joy, and often my greatest struggle. In the day-to-day rhythm of my life, Christ invites me to dwell in the shadow of the cross, where His grace abounds to me.

To read the third post in The Grace Series, click here.



  1. Matthew 10:7-8 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come  near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received; freely give.
  2. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  3.  Genesis 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
  4. Genesis 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.


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Sweet Magnolia

In the shady canopy of our mountainside home, a sweet magnolia grows. Every April, delicate pink and white blooms grace its slender branches. This is our tenth spring here, and I think it may only be the second time our magnolia has had so many flowers. I love my tree. It is beautiful.

Not everyone agrees. True, the branches are rather spindly. Even in its fullest bloom, it looks a bit sparse. Judged against other more magnificent magnolias, it is surely not the grandest. But I think it may be the strongest.

You see, our sweet magnolia is growing in less-than-ideal conditions. We have quite a few trees on our property. Sometime long ago, some forebear of our home decided to plant this magnolia in the shade of three large sugar maples. I question the gardening wisdom of this, but I am grateful. The little tree serves me well.

My sweet magnolia is the only tree in our yard with branches low enough for a birdhouse. A gourd that a friend grew, hollowed, and painted deep, rich-red hangs from a low-slung branch. I watch small birds come and go through its tiny opening while I drink my morning tea.

More recently, my darling husband gave me a bird feeder for Christmas. In winter, we sit at our table and watch cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, wrens, and woodpeckers take turns eating the seeds. One morning, we watched in delight as a very determined squirrel did some rather impressive upside-down aerobic maneuvers in an effort to grab his share of the bounty. We only saw this once, and thankfully, the squirrels seem generally disinterested.

The magnolia adds early spring color to a very green, mostly shady landscape. While it is in bloom, the towering maples are just barely budding, giving it a short window of full springtime sun. Once the maples are verdant, the magnolia has long dropped its petals. Beautiful, broad green leaves appear, giving shelter to the birds that gather in its branches and providing a low canopy in that little corner of the garden.

My magnolia reminds me of a song that my daughter and I love to sing. The song is actually about wandering from home, but we love the refrain, “Wildflowers don’t care where they grow.” I always think of that song whenever I see flowers growing in impossible places, not caring that the landscape is less-than-ideal. This is how I want to be, and how I want our children to be: growing, blooming, and thriving, even though our circumstances are not always sunny, well-watered, or nourishing.

Someday, God will restore the garden He perfectly created in the beginning. And He will restore me, His child, to perfect relationship with Him. When that time comes, there will only, always be ideal growing conditions. Then I will walk in His garden, and I will sit in the shade of the sweetest magnolias.


My sweet magnolia, in all its springtime glory.



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The Babbler

The Babbler sits at the corner
His voice an instrument
Broken since birth
What does he say
What does he say
And comes forth words
Like a muddied stream
Which none can understand

The Babbler sits at the corner
Give him some paint
Give him a brush
What does he say
What does he say
Watch the brush dance
As it renders a secret  world
That only he can understand

The Babbler sits at the corner
Give him some paper
Give him a pen
What does he say
What does he say
The pen glides gently
And speaks of hidden things
So that all might understand

The Babbler sits at the corner
Give him a flute
He needs no notes
What does he say
What does he say
Close your eyes to listen
To the song he could not sing
So that you may understand

Aidan Raudenbush

I am so excited and proud to publish my very first guest contribution, this award-winning poem by my 13-year-old son. He is a spiritually intuitive young man.


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It’s Time to Go

After my aunt passed away, my mother asked me to speak at her memorial service. Other friends and family spoke about her outgoing, vibrant personality, the way she filled up a room when she entered, and the funny things she did and said. She was a great storyteller. Since others covered those parts of her life, I spoke about her faith. 

In loving memory of Lynne Walker DiGilio.

March 6th, 1952-September 2nd, 2017

I am Julia Lynne, Lynne’s niece.

We call her Auntie Lynne.

Auntie Lynne was not a religious person, and yet in her own way, religion was important to her. She liked going to church when she could, and she understood the importance of God in her life, even though it seemed she struggled with exactly what that was supposed to look like. She was raised Baptist, joined the Unitarian church in her town, and often visited a Catholic parish with her dear friend.

This past June 25th was an unusual Sunday because I was home alone. My husband was away with our boys on a father/son camping trip with church, and our daughter was on a service trip with our youth group. Because I was alone, I got ready quietly, and actually had time to think. I thought of Auntie Lynne. I prayed for her. I thought that I should call her and invite her to come to church with me. I did.

Knowing Auntie Lynne, I wasn’t confident she would answer the phone, but she did! The first miracle.

She was so happy to hear from me. I asked her if she wanted to come to church. She hemmed and hawed about getting her old, aching bones ready on such short notice, but she said yes! The second miracle.

Anyone who has ever made plans with Auntie Lynne knows that you can never be totally certain she’s actually coming until she gets there. I told the elder at the door and the usher in the back to watch for her, saved her a seat, and prayed she would really come. Just as the service was beginning, she came hobbling into the sanctuary, leaning on the cane that supported her through severe back pain. She was a few minutes late, but she came! The third miracle.

The pastor preached on II Corinthians 5:1-10. He began the sermon by telling us that this passage is frequently read at funerals, but that it is not really meant to remember the dead ~ it is really meant to encourage the living.

Auntie Lynne kept looking at me in disbelief as he read and spoke, because the words so directly applied to her life.

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Awaiting the New Body

5 “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

We know how Auntie Lynne groaned in her body, and how that affected her spirit. She was weary and world-worn, and told me that sometimes she wished she would just die, because she said, “What’s the point?” But the words of verse 7, which were the theme of the sermon, “Walk by faith, not by sight,” grabbed hold of her heart and changed her.

She started reading her Bible, and, in her words, “actually understanding what it says.” This was new for her. In the past, she had tried to read her Bible, but whenever she did, she said it was like a wall came down that kept her from understanding. That broke my heart, so I rejoiced in this new insight. The fourth miracle.

“Walk by faith, not by sight,” became Auntie Lynne’s mantra as she faced new health problems over the summer. She decided that she would undergo tests and seek treatment as needed, because she was going to let God define her purpose and keep living as long as He kept her here.

But still, she struggled. She groaned in her earthly tent. Through His Word, prayer, and a few more visits to church, the Lord was preparing Auntie Lynne all summer for the late night or early morning hours of September 2nd or 3rd, when He called her home. September 3rd was a hard day, and I could not watch when they carried her out, even though I knew she had left her earthly tent.

That night, I had a dream. It was not a normal dream that comes in whisps and shadows and flies away in small bits with the morning~it was the most vivid dream I’ve ever had, and rather than fading with the morning, it remains clear in my mind as time goes by.

Two angels stood at the end of Auntie Lynne’s bed as she slept, and said, firmly but gently, “Lynne, it’s time to go.”

She hesitated and said, “Really?”

They answered, “Yes,” and each angel reached out a hand for her. She rolled up out of bed, whole, and beautiful, and dressed in white. She took their hands, and she was gone.

After a lifetime of resisting God’s call on her life, she finally received the gift of Grace that he had so long been waiting to give her. And then she was free to go.

Psalm 91:11-12

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Revelation 7:13-17

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”

This is what God has done for Auntie Lynne. She is before His throne, dressed in the white robes of Christ’s righteousness. Someday, I know with the sure hope of God’s grace through His Son, Jesus Christ, that I will see her again.

You, my dear friend, can know it too. God is calling you to walk by faith, not by sight.

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The Hammer

Smashing hammer
Shattered heart
Blow by blow
Torn apart

The hammer falls
The hammer falls
The hammer falls
The hammer falls

Shattering blows
Bit by bit
On a heart
That turns to stone


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The Place of Grace

The first in The Grace Series.

Where can my searching, seeking, wandering, longing soul go to find grace?

The place of grace is found in the shadow of the cross, where Love poured out His life-blood and the heart of the Ransom actually burst because of His great love for me. This is the grace I need. This is the grace I long for. I rest in the shadow of this grace and I am washed. I am reconciled. The righteousness of the Ransom, the Righteous One, is reckoned to me. Me. Amazing grace! How can it be?

I come to the cross for cleansing, for pardon. I cling to the cross because I have nowhere else to go. If I were to turn back, to reject this grace, where then would I go? You alone, O LORD, have the Words of Life. Life is more than breath, more than sleeping and waking. More than work and rest and recreation. Life is eternal. And the Eternal Life-Word is Christ. There is no life apart from Him.

This Life, this New Life, is imputed to me. Imputed. Attributed. Credited. Transferred. A spiritual blood transfusion that brings me back to life. The Righteous One, the Holy One, the Perfect One, the Sinless One, spilled His blood for me so that I could become the Ransomed One. God, the Righteous Judge, looks at me and says, “Not guilty.” Oh, but I am guilty. You have no idea how guilty I am. And then He looks at me and says, “Made whole.” Oh, but I am not whole. I am wounded. You have no idea how wounded I am. I am bleeding out.

Over this guiltiness, this woundedness, this bleeding out from the wretched mess of sin and hurt and shame lies the shadow of the cross. The Ransom takes his nail-scarred hands and gently binds up my wounds. He softly whispers, “You will not bleed anymore, because I have bled for you.” Then He applies the healing balm, the soul-balm that heals my broken heart. Because of this great love with which He loved me, this great grace by which He saved me, I can be His hands and feet to bind up the wounds of others. I must be.

For me, Wife and Mother, this starts at home. Home is our place of grace because the shadow of the cross lies over this place. We extend grace to one another in light of the far greater grace extended to us. And we open our doors and our arms and our hearts wide to welcome others that they may also receive this grace. We give grace because we have received Grace. We cannot give what we have not received.

Freely you have received, freely give.

Come, Sinner. Come, receive His grace. Receive it wholly, fully, and completely. And then give grace — as freely as He has given it to you.

This post is the first in The Grace Series. To read the second, click here.



  1. Ephesians 2:8-9  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
  2. John 6:68  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
  3. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  5. Psalm 147:3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
  6. Matthew 10:7-8 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come  near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received; freely give.
  7. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
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You Complete Me

“You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you,” the saying goes.
But “Jesus loves me, this I know.”

He loves me, he loves me not.
He said he did, but then forgot.

“My Jesus I love Thee,” my lips shall repeat.
Only in Him am I made complete.

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Who Am I?

Who am I?
I am a mother, a daughter
A wife and lover.

Who am I?
I am a teacher, a student
a woman and child.

Who am I?
I am the strong one:
a friend and confidant.

Who am I?
I am smart, funny,
loyal and brave.

I am a child of God,
Who Jesus came to save.
Forever, that is who I am.

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Reflections on the Man-boy at 15

This post has been sitting in my drafts for months, since the Man-boy actually turned 15 last June. All the ideas were there from the start, but for some reason, I couldn’t get the words out right. I’m still not sure I have, but I figured it was time to post it before he turns 16. I guess that’s the complication of mothering a Man-boy. You’re never really certain if the words are coming out right.

Our eldest son just turned 15. He is in a unique position in our family: technically a middle child, but also the oldest of our three boys.

As the mother of one girl and three boys,  I have observed first-hand a truth that somehow offends our post post-modern sensibilities: boys are different than girls. Generalizations are always dangerous, I know, because they’re so general. But I hope we can agree that a generalization is not a specification, and I hope that you will allow me this one.

As man-boys go, this one has a lot of energy. A LOT. He needs to be constantly active, but, thankfully, not in the way that gets him into trouble at school. The engagement and tasks there are enough to keep him busy, but when he comes home, he has to choose what he will do. And this is where he struggles. Having to choose can mean choosing nothing, which is never a good choice, especially for a 15-year-old man-boy. We have remedied this in several ways: involvement in after-school activities, helpfulness tasks at home, and odd jobs for our neighbors.

This remedy is perfect for the man-boy because he is task-oriented, hard-working, and high-achieving. His work must be meaningful to be appealing to him. While we are still working on defining cleaning up after himself as meaningful work, he has already learned the value of minimalism. He likes to be organized, and he understands that this is much more easily accomplished if he has less stuff.

Man-boy is an observant learner – a watch-and-do kind of kid. He has always been this way. When he was Little-boy, it was more obvious. I loved to watch him watching, because I could see how hard he was thinking about the process of what he saw. He watched his daddy fixing things, and he watched his mama cooking and cleaning. He had a toolset, a working vacuum, and a working leaf blower by his fourth birthday.

Little-boy also watched children playing. He was trying to figure out their games. When he comfortably understood what was going on, he decided if he would participate or not. I did not push him. What would be the point? His preschool teacher told me about halfway through the school year that he had just finally started participating in gym. I wasn’t surprised. Or worried. That’s just who he is. He has to understand first. Then do.

Despite this lack of gym participation in his preschool, he has grown into an athletic young man who has no problem participating in gym, soccer, karate, or any of the other physical activities he undertakes. He even completed a Warrior Challenge with his sister, dad, and aunt. Standing on the sidelines for four and a half months when he was five years old did not scar him. It gave him room to breathe. And to become.

Little-boy attended preschool when he was five, because he wasn’t ready for kindergarten. Not because he didn’t know things, he did. He passed the kindergarten readiness test with flying colors. But he didn’t pass the “away from Mommy” readiness test. On test day, I had to pry his white-knuckled, clutching fingers from my pants and hand my screaming, writhing boy to the pretty, young kindergarten teacher. God bless her. She gathered him up in her arms and took him into “the room” to be tested. He stopped screaming 35 seconds after she put him down and aced the “what I know” stuff.

I was relieved that he was deemed “ready” by the school, but visions of prying that screaming boy off my legs one hundred and eighty-five times that year gave me pause. He wasn’t ready, really, because he needed to be with me. So we started with preschool, just three mornings a week. Then, because we moved when he was six, he didn’t have to go to school all day that year either.

Instead, I homeschooled him for kindergarten. For the first part of the school year, he was taught at Grammie and Pop’s because we were living at their house between house #1 and house #2. That was a chaotic time, but we got to prolong the blessings of the early years when siblings are first best friends and the days are wide open to stories, play, and home. Because he was homeschooled, I had the privilege of teaching him how to read. He has no memory of this watch-and-do experience because it was so fluid with what we did in our home anyway. I read books to him, as I always had, snuggled up on the couch, and he read too. Eventually, he read more words than I did, and then, one day, he just read. All by himself. 

As parents, we teach our children all kinds of things every day, particularly when they are small. All of these lessons are important, but there is something profoundly magical about teaching a child to read. Suddenly, he didn’t need me for that anymore. And so it went with many things: doing things all by himself, and not needing me anymore.

Ultimately, the decision to delay kindergarten that we had long ago wrestled and prayed over was a gift to him and to us: the gift of time. Little-boy had time to grow and become at his own pace, and while being the oldest in his class was sometimes difficult in the middle school years, Man-boy is not just surviving high school; he is thriving.

Because really, what is the big rush anyway?

We rush our children through childhood, dutifully “preparing” them for the grown-up world, piling on expectations and complications that their little shoulders were never meant to carry. We’re so busy getting them ready for adulthood that we forget to let them be children.

And then we cry when they’re gone.

Seriously, we are ridiculous.

Slow down, Mama.

Just yesterday Man-boy was a baby, a toddler, a preschooler, and a scrappy little boy that smelled of sweat and mud and sunshine in that little-boy-musk way. Then one day, he lost that little-boy musk. I didn’t know that it had happened, until it was suddenly replaced by an other-worldly man-boy stench that is hard for even a mother to love. When he hugs me after soccer practice, and makes sure I get a full, olfactory-offending inhalation, I must admit, I miss that little boy smell, because it really is gone.

Someday, Man-boy will be a man. I’m sure, though, that like his dad, he’ll never completely lose the boy part of himself. I hope he doesn’t. I hope he never loses his energy, or his love for his family, or his love for his Savior. And someday, I pray that my Man-boy meets a lovely young lady that balances his energy, loves her family and his too, and most of all, loves his Savior as her own. When he finds her, we’ll all know it, because my hugger will finally pucker up. And that’s how we’ll know she’s the one.

Until then, we’ll watch and pray.

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Scar Stories

The scars I bear tell the story
Of what has wounded me
Like the Savior bore His scars
When He hung upon the tree
See here, His hands, His feet, His side
My scars are buried deep inside

Can’t you see the way I am?
Is it so hard to understand?
Soul-scars, wounds that cut so deep
Rob me of my nightly sleep
Jesus, Savior, scarred for me
So that my scars could be set free

Victorious, I, a Conqueror rise
With my Savior to the skies
The scars that mar the soul remain
But Jesus took away the pain
Healing hands by Him applied
The soul-balm which for me He died

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