Tag Archives: grace

Jenny Call: Grace Upon Grace

12.29.15 197‘Tis the season…
to survey (and contemplate cleaning up) all the mess generated by holiday festivities,
to think about getting back to healthier habits (thanks to the holiday festivities),
to remind the kids to be grateful for all the gifts they have received,

and in reality…
to give up on all chores and resolutions and instead binge on Netflix while the kids fight over their gifts.

According to Target, tis the season to prepare for Valentine’s Day and Easter. Following the church calendar, we are still in Christmastide, but when I went to the store two days after Christmas in search of a good deal on a tree for next year, the Christmas merchandise had been wiped clean with just a single aisle of reduced price wrapping paper and two shopping carts full of assorted goods. In the place where the trees once stood were racks of candy for Valentine’s Day and Easter.

We are nothing if not forward-looking (at least when it comes to consumerism).

I don’t want to rush to February 14th, though, and overlook the New Year’s holiday as I always appreciate the chance for introspection and reflection. The problem comes, though, when I’m quick to remember all the negative things and forget about all the good.

I’m a recovering perfectionist, and the visions of how things “should” be play on an endless loop in my mind. Advent and Christmas are the “perfect” times for me to confront my obsessive tendencies with how things “ought” to be, but I usually pursue my unrealistic expectations, which more often than not, end in bitterness and disappointment.

And I wonder why my kids can’t learn to be more grateful.

I preached about grace this Sunday as I tend to speak on what I most need to hear. In case I wasn’t getting the message, an unfortunate series of events on Saturday night resulted in my computer’s blue screen of death, losing all of my files (including my sermon), and the complete removal of Microsoft Word.

It was tragic, and yet also a lesson in what is not within my control. I went back to my text and felt anew the hope of John chapter one:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (vv. 1-5)

It is both humbling and a relief that God is the Word. It is not my words that make a difference, but I have the privilege to point to the Word, the Logos. Just as John was a witness to the light, my job is to testify to what I have seen and received. That takes me to my favorite line:

“From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”  (v. 16)

Grace. I can’t think of anything I need more in my life.

My head is full of the deafening noise of judgments, rules, and guilt about what I could have done better as a person, mom, and minister. And God whispers into the chaos, “Grace”.

And not just simple grace, but an abundance–grace upon grace. Surely I have fully received that again and again, and this gift of God is a promise that I can count on receiving forever.

Grace will be my word for 2016.

I want to share it in my ministry, my speaking, and my writing. I long to show it more to my family: to my aging mother and grandmother, to my devoted husband, and to the two kids that demand it the most (and yet share it freely with me).

But first I must receive grace myself. As I accept my failures and am still able to see myself as God’s beloved, may I be less critical and judgmental with those I love.

May 2016 be the year of grace and graciousness for all of us.

Jenny Call is writer, mom, and university chaplain at Hollins University. She blogs at www.hopecalls.blogspot.com.

Jenny F. Call: Ordinary Miracles: Grace Upon Grace

Of the many words that could be used to describe me, “graceful” would not be at the top of the list.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the most common usage is a way of moving or behaving that is controlled, smooth, and attractive. This is not my gift. I have often bemoaned the fact that I didn’t take dance lessons as a child, which surely is to blame for my clumsiness and poor posture. But perhaps it’s innate as years of (somewhat sporadic) yoga practice and chiropractic visits have not remedied the problem.

I’m also not so good at showing grace (in terms of offering mercy) in my family life. I’m quick to judge and find fault and can hold on to a small slight for years (just ask my husband). It is difficult for me to accept things as they are in reality when I have already envisioned how it “should” be in my head.

I’ve held on to scars from spiritual hurts as well. There’s the church were we worshipped for some time whose tagline “a place of grace” makes me cringe. I’m still healing from some of the wounds that were inflicted there.

But grace keeps inserting itself into my life.

First it was a friend, a spiritual sister from Jamaica, whom I met last summer in my D.Min. cohort. Grace is not her given name, but is the perfect chosen name for one who is so full of spirit and so full of God’s hope. Her words and the way she carries herself are such pictures of God’s favor. She is a reminder to me to trust in God to be my strength and salvation.

Then there’s the new “member” of our family, an American Girl doll named Grace Thomas, who reminds me of how my daughter is learning this virtue of grace as she navigates her way through relationships and becoming who she was created to be. While I see dollar signs and more clutter when I look at this Grace, the doll is a companion that my Maryn favors, one that enlivens her imagination and allows her to dream about who she will be.

Maryn loves nothing more than when we are drawing pictures of Grace Thomas together or creating recipes like the ones that Grace would make in her bakery (sold separately, $500). Styling the doll’s hair gives us time to sit together and just be, to talk about whatever is on our minds. That is a grace that I don’t indulge as often as I would like.

11159552_10153159530145490_682536037669364566_n

Last night at bedtime, I was running out of energy and patience. After a long day of work, household chores, and wrangling two kids hopped up on the energy of a school-free summer, I didn’t have much left to give.

But Maryn found me in my bed where I was hiding out until it was time to get them upstairs to bed. She asked in her sweet voice, “Want to read me a book?” That mini-me knows the way to my heart.

I looked at her selections and smiled, wondering at her emotional intelligence and insight. Perhaps it was unintentional, but regardless, it was grace. They were good reminders for me and for the one who follows in my footsteps.

1908145_10153284293275490_8716529328366454950_n

In these encounters, I’m learning more about the other dimension of grace as unmerited divine assistance, a virtue coming from God, or, as I learned in church growing up, an undeserved gift. “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

It is easy for me to think of what I lack (patience, time) and hard for me to remember the gifts I receive in grace every day. For these ordinary days are full of demands and mess, frustrations and disappointments.

But they are so full of beauty as well. Perhaps grace is not being delivered from the things that stress us, but it is receiving them with gratitude, understanding that the grace is in the mess of our daily lives.

11202581_10153200476920490_6985782411563504085_n

Jenny Frazier Call is wife to John, mom to Brady and Maryn, and university chaplain at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. She is working on her D.Min. in Educational Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary, and when she has time, enjoys writing at www.hopecalls.blogspot.com.

Melanie Storie: Resolution: A History of My Life in This Body

I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

7
I am in the bathtub. I sing and play. I wash myself. There is a light brown spot on the back of my leg where the meat of my leg kisses the back of my knee. I scrub at the spot. I scrub and scrub. Until I realize the spot isn’t dirt. It is part of me. I can’t change it.

13
I am in junior high. I am pale and skinny. Knock-kneed and awkward. The other girls are getting boyfriends. The boys don’t notice me. If they do, it’s to tease how tall I am. How white. How skinny. My nose is big. My family gave me this nose like socks at Christmas. Later, I learn to make fun of my nose before others do. I call it a Mack truck nose so everyone will laugh with me and not at me.
I hate my one-piece bathing suit because it pulls uncomfortably and makes my hip bones stick out. But good girls wear one-piece suits – and tease girls with bony hips.
One day, Nostradamus predicted the world would end. That day, I forget my clothes to dress out for P.E. on purpose. I hate the way my legs look in shorts. And if the world ends, who cares if I have to walk laps outside in my favorite jeans and sweater? I walk and pray for Jesus to come now so I don’t have to dress out and show my knobby knees ever again.

17
I have filled out in all the places I am supposed to fill out. I get more attention from boys, but I am wary of them. After all, a few years ago I was knock-knees, Mack truck nose, brace face. I remember.
I can’t tan. I freckle a little. I burn. The other girls go to tanning beds before prom. My mom won’t let me. There is skin cancer in my family. I am white. White and bony like a skeleton. I am prone to fainting spells. The doctor tells me to drink milkshakes to gain weight. I think they are all going to my chest.
I am the lead in the spring musical at school with my best friends. I feel confident and strong. I love the dresses I wear onstage and how I look in them.
A month after the show, a lady recognizes me in the grocery store. She asks me if I was the lead in the play. Yes, I say with pride. You were good, she says, but so skinny. Don’t you eat? Believe me, I do, I laugh. I leave the grocery store and go get another milkshake.

21
I am about to graduate from college and go to seminary. I am still tall, still pale, still unhappy with my nose, but I can walk into any store and buy almost anything in my size and it looks good. I don’t realize at the time how good and wonderful this is. I have a lot of cheap bikinis. Even though I am white, I look good in them.
My hips aren’t so bony anymore. In conversation with one of my guy friends, I tell him how much I want to have children one day. He tells me I don’t have “child-bearing hips.” It bothers me because I’ve always hated my bony hips.
I work at a chain steakhouse restaurant. I hate my uniform. It is truly ugly. One night, a handsome guy (who meets my rule of being taller than me) sits in my section. He has the best blue eyes I’ve ever seen. He tells people later when we relate the story of how we met that he liked how I looked in my uniform.

26
I’ve just birthed a 9 lb. 1oz. baby boy. With the final push, the doctor let me reach down and pull this slimy, wailing love into the world with my own hands. (I briefly think of my guy friend who said the thing about child-bearing hips. Ha, ha!!) This little boy has relied solely on my body for nourishment for nine months. I ate tons of vegetables, drank gallons of milk, and consumed the more than occasional foot long chili cheese hotdog. For twelve months more, I will nurse him. He depends on me, on my body to survive.
When I take a shower for the first time after the birth, I look down at my body and I barely recognize myself. I will never have bony hips. Not bony anything. Not ever again.

37
My body has had two babies and nursed them. My body eats and exercises. My body hugs people who hurt. It watches too much TV and reads a lot of books. It laughs. It cries. It is wonderfully made.
My right foot has a bunion that makes shoe shopping a dread rather than a treat. Where I used to grab a pair of jeans from the clearance rack as I breezed through a store, I now take ten pairs to the dressing room. Which pair will be long enough? Which ones will cover up my belly?
My belly. In college, I wore the popular midriff bearing tops. Now, I laugh at the thought. My belly is stretched and fleshy. The nine pounders demolished it. I shop for tankinis, bathing suit bottoms with skirts, bathing suit tops with extra support. I nursed two boys for a year apiece. They literally drained the life from my chest.
I go to my family reunion. My grandpa has died. Cancer took him from us. But I see his nose everywhere. On uncles and aunts and cousins. It is my nose too. It spreads out all over my face when I smile. And I like to smile.
This white, white skin is my grandma’s skin. She was beautiful and pale. She loved to hold my hand. My soft, white hand.
I make a decision. I get out the tape measurer and measure the body I have. The one that was given to me. The one that I’ve earned with healthy eating and Zumba and chocolate cake and nine pound babies and belly laughs with my husband. Maybe it’s not the one I want or the one from my twenties when I didn’t realize how good I looked because I was always comparing my body to someone else’s. I realize that one day I’ll look back on this thirtysomething year old body and wish I’d realized how wonderful it was.
So, I order it: The green and white polka dot 1940’s style bikini. Maybe I have no business wearing it. Maybe I’ll toss a t-shirt over it in a panic whenever we take to the beach. But, I’m wearing it. I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. I’ll see you on the beach in my bikini. You can bring the milkshakes. This time, we’ll drink them just for fun.

Storie pic

Melanie Storie is a graduate of Catawba College and Campbell University Divinity School. While in seminary, Melanie married Matthew Storie, served as a youth and children’s minister, had a son (Aidan, 12), and finally graduated – while eight months pregnant with her second son (Owen, 9). Melanie has served churches in North Carolina and Virginia as Minister of Children. Recently, she served with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Alabama. Melanie currently lives in Independence, Virginia.