Off and Running: A Year of Greater Grace

by Dec 27, 2016Cultivate, Deepen3 comments

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way,
reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.
Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this,
but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.
I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”
Philippians 3:13-14 in The Message

It’s two days after Christmas, and each festive gathering is still fresh in mind. As I sort through the moments that make up this season, I find plenty I want to remember forever and some marked by small decisions I hope I won’t repeat.

Both the highs and lows have a place. Each holds a lesson to teach me, and I have begun to discover some specific areas where I long for him to meet me in the New Year. These are places I deeply want Jesus to come in and make me more free and full of his love.

The recent season has taught me that when my feet are strengthened to run, it’s often because I’ve felt known and loved by others—by the gracious spirit and vulnerability they show.

In contrast, when my feet have tripped on the encumbering tassels of my own failures, it’s often because of my perfectionism, my desire to fix the problem in my own strength, and being a little too caught in a process of unproductive introspection to remember his banner of grace over my life.

What or who has recently given you strength to run with fresh energy, and how?
What trips you up, and why?

In this season, I have loved the moments when I found strangers in the busiest places who offered warmth, a reassuring arm squeeze, a little extra help, and a shared smile when others had just lashed out in stress and hurry.

(Dear Charitable Strangers:
Thank you. You were my saving grace at Costco on several occasions.
With love, The Mom with the waving toddler in the baby backpack.

I also savored the moments when all the things that don’t really matter have faded into the background and I simply watched grandparents read to my son or joined in full belly laughter as my family began a new tradition of a wrapping paper fight after the gifts had been opened.

And those moments I wish I could redo? They were the picky, grumpy moments when I made a big deal out of a small preference (Sorry, honey). Or when I was too focused on unfinished tasks to sit down and enjoy a moment.

I’m no longer anxious about these failures, thanks to forgiveness. But I’m thankful to see them and the contrast of the emotions they birthed when compared with the moments of laughter, joy, connection, and grace I got to give and receive this Christmas.

Jesus has used these dissimilar moments to whisper two centering qualities I want to abide in throughout this next year. I’m keeping these qualities simple and central in my heart both this Christmas and until Advent rolls around next year.

The words are thankful and flexible.

These ways of being are like anecdotes for my tendency to miss out on loving people well due to expectations and perfection.

I refuse to habitually miss out on moments that matter because I’m frustrated with unrealistic expectations or beating myself up with perfectionism, thinking I need to get things together a little bit more before I really show up for others.

This journey won’t be perfect—that’s the catch—but I’m stepping out with a new and constant celebration of Grace. Rather than beating myself up for what’s behind, I will strain forward to the good opportunities ahead (Philippians 3:13-14).

Abba, may Your grace mark my footsteps, announce Your coming, and leave Your fragrance behind.

This invitation to journey deeper into grace, not perfection, is for you, too.

Here are some questions that can help you articulate his unique invitations for your life in the year ahead:

What moments did you accidentally stumble upon that brought joy, freedom, and love in this season? How was Christ present in those moments?

How can you begin to make those kinds of moments a habit, a transforming, central part of who you are?

What qualities of Jesus might come to describe you in this New Year?


  1. Laurie Stunkel

    Oh Sarah this is perfect timing for me in my life and with the holidays approaching rapidly! I have always struggled with enjoying the holidays since I got married back in 1978. With 3 sets of parents who all could not be in the same room with each other it was always a major struggle for me to enjoy any of the holidays and celebrations. Especially Thanksgiving and Christmas! As I look back now on countless years of stress and worry that would first start in September with the question of “Where are you going to be for the holidays this year?” and that in the later years even started in August, I realize now that what should have been wonderful times of being thankful and joyful were feelings of dread which years later still emerges EVERY August for me although we no longer have little kids as they are adults now and we live in another state so we usually are alone for all holidays. How sad that my whole married life I have struggled with such disappointment with the holidays instead of being able to overcome my feelings of sadness each year as they approach anew! Well your post has encouraged me to try a new way to feel this year, a joyful and thankful way to live during the holidays and also everyday as I seek to be more concentrated on all of the blessings that I do have in my life that God has given to me and my family! I also am learning to daily “live in” those feelings of gratitude that should be overwhelming me because of the multitude of things that I have to be grateful for! So I thank you for the reminder of God’s forgiveness and our own ability to learn from our mistakes in the past so that we can enter into each new day with a clean slate, not shackled by our responses of the past. But with a new freedom to have a better day and also a great and new holiday season in my life!

    • Sarah Bond

      Laurie, praise God for bringing hope and gratitude through this post to rebrand your holiday season with his joy! May we each ask for His eyes to see what he has planned for the season ahead and to enter into it with deeper peace and a spirit of abundance because of his great kindness towards us! (Psalm 103). I’m grateful for what your own journey is speaking to me today! Hugs!

      • Laurie Stunkel

        Thank you for responding back to me Sarah! It holds me more accountable to the things that I have said knowing now that you have read it! Thank you again for your encouragement in this journey of life!
        Hugs back!! ~Laurie

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