The Mystery of Grace

It is so easy for me to turn my faith into a checklist or a series of tasks. Did I go to church? Check. Did I serve in some capacity? Check. Did I pray for someone other than myself? Check. All of those things are great, and I hope that they are always byproducts of my faith. But I was recently hit hard by these words from Romans:

“Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes¬†in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…” -Romans 4:4-5

If you are like me, one of your next thoughts will be: why? Shouldn’t I have to work hard to earn something as significant as salvation? This is my favorite part:

“That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace…” -Romans 4:16

It seems I am in a constant cycle of forgetting and then relearning God’s radical grace for us. He wants to give us salvation as a free gift so that we aren’t merely slaves to a master, striving to earn love and acceptance.

Think about it- if you gave a really precious and thoughtful gift to someone you love, and they received it with joy but then the next day showed up at your door asking how they could work for you in order to pay off the cost of the gift, wouldn’t you be a little insulted? The crazy thing about what God has given us is that we could never work hard enough to earn it, which is why we needed Jesus to obtain it for us. So us standing at God’s proverbial doorstep every morning, asking for another checklist to complete, is utterly worthless and entirely misses the point of receiving His gift by grace.

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Maybe one day I will crumple up all my checklists for good and learn to live continually in the freedom of God’s grace. Until then, I will keep relearning it over and over again, day by day.

“I do not understand the mystery of grace- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.” -Anne Lamott

Charleston

Over the weekend, I went to Charleston for my sweet friend Kate’s bachelorette party! We had so much fun strolling the streets, looking at beautiful houses, playing hilarious wedding games, and eating incredible food.

We arrived on Friday night and made chicken tacos at the house before going to The Vendue. I wasn’t on my photo game that night, but it was a really fun spot with a pretty rooftop bar that had lots of umbrellas and twinkly string lights.

Our first stop on Saturday morning was Welkin Coffee for some caffeination. When we asked about cold brew, they told us that instead they did “Japanese iced coffee” which is hot coffee over ice. I got one with almond milk which was delicious, but didn’t sway me away from my beloved cold brew!

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We then went on a walking tour of the city, which was beautiful and magical and made me wish I could move there yesterday. It downpoured halfway through our tour, which was kind of fun and a welcome break from the 100 degree heat.

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doorway

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For lunch we went to Tabbuli, which I did not photograph because I got the Jerusalem salad which our waiter neglected to tell me was nothing but chopped cucumber and tomato on a lettuce leaf. Womp womp. I would definitely try this place again, though, and just order something else!

The afternoon was spent walking around King Street and then heading back to the house to relax a bit. Walking tours are no joke! Since our dinner reservations weren’t until 9:15, we decided to eat dessert first. We went to Carmella’s where we played Matrimony (if you want to feel super uncomfortable and laugh a lot, play this game!) and ate insanely good desserts. My favorite was the berry cheesecake.

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Dinner was at Poogan’s Porch, which I had heard lots about and couldn’t wait to try. It was totally worth the 9:15 reservation! They started off strong with fluffy biscuits that were honestly the best I’ve ever tasted, especially when topped with melty honey butter. For my entree I went with the vegetarian dish that consisted of farro, mushrooms, tomatoes, a few other unidentified veggies and a sauce that was out of this world. I would order this again a million times.

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Sunday began with a visit to Black Tap Coffee where we did a crossword puzzle and drank lavender lattes (oddly delicious!) and laughed about how Instagram has taken over the world. I think we saw everyone in there ‘gram their drink… us included. ūüėČ

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Before we left Charleston, our generous bride-to-be treated us to brunch at Cannon Green. This place was amazing! There was a DJ playing techno-ish music, our waiter comped our mimosas, and I basically felt like I was in a really trendy greenhouse the entire time. They started us off with mini scones (I’m such a sucker for anything mini) and then I ordered the avocado toast. I really wanted to branch out, but the minute I saw this on the menu I knew there was no turning back. Definitely a good choice! I’d also love to go back and order their shrimp and grits.

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Charleston is just so charming and full of delicious food, picturesque sights, and kind people. It was the perfect place to spend a weekend celebrating one of my best friends as she prepares for marriage!

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Weddings

I absolutely love weddings. They so often have that fairy tale quality to them ‚Äď love, elegance, and a dashing prince charming who has come to sweep his princess off her feet.¬†Thank goodness I’m not idealistic at all, right?

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At the same time, though, weddings terrify me. Particularly my own. Not because of the actual marriage part ‚Äď that part I’m thrilled about! It’s that whole thing where over 100 pairs of eyes will be on me as I walk down the aisle and probably bawl my eyes out when I see Josh. It’s the part where we will have pictures immortalizing us in that moment forever and hanging on the walls of our future home, running mascara and all.

In other words, our wedding has brought out the side of me that I wanted to pretend didn’t exist; the part that is vain and prideful and insecure. I’m definitely not saying it’s bad to want to look nice on your wedding day. I certainly want that, as I’m sure all brides do. I think where it crosses a line, and where it has on occasion for me, is when the main focus of your wedding day becomes on appearances and not about the covenant you’re making with God and your spouse.

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Since I refuse to let my vanity and self absorption get in the way of our wedding day, I’ve been trying to change my mindset regarding it. In Colossians 3:2¬†it says to set our minds on things above and not on earthly things, because what is seen is transient and what is unseen is eternal.

That’s what it comes down to ‚Äď is our wedding day going to be about transient¬†things or eternal things? Is it going to be about how my arms look in pictures or is it going to be about making a lifelong commitment to my best friend and promising both him and God that I am in it until death do us part? Of course, there will be aspects of it thrown in just for fun- appetizers and dinner, a tiered wedding cake, flowers, and all that jazz. Those details will hopefully add some happiness and beauty to the day, but they are by no means the point of why we are gathering.

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Josh and I have both read Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage¬†and cannot recommend it highly enough. This paragraph had us both¬†in tears:

Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’‚ÄĚ

Those words snap me back to reality. What a shallow view of marriage I have when I make our wedding all about how I look and how the venue will be decorated. The pressure for women to look “perfect” on their wedding day is out there and it is real, but I want¬†to fight that pressure in order to bring more joy and depth and meaning to the¬†day and to the vows we will be making.

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Josh and I decided to have the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:6 inscribed inside both of our wedding bands. It says, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one¬†separate.” That is what I want our wedding day to be about. When I think back on the memories we will make that day, I don’t want to remember if my hair was perfect or if I looked skinny¬†in my dress. I want to remember how I felt when I formed a covenant with Josh, when we walked down the aisle together at the end of the ceremony as husband and wife, when we danced with friends and family, and when we laughed at the¬†many¬†things that will certainly not go as planned. When the cake and the flowers and the guests are all gone, I want to know that our wedding day symbolized more than that. I hope that instead it points to the great love Jesus has for each one of us, and to the commitment Josh and I are making to live out that love¬†with each other.

[All photos courtesy of Rebekah Senter Photography]