Grace

Grace

On Thanksgiving morning last year all was calm and quiet. No family present or coming. No one from my family, my husband’s family, or our family. This was new, and I felt lonely. But across the miles greeting me that morning was an email from a childhood friend—a blast from the past and a surprise.

Margaret and her four siblings lived on a farm next door to my grandparents whom we visited for two weeks each summer. Two weeks full of fun— feeding baby calves, playing hide-and-seek in the hay barn where we could move bales around to make secret spaces that were hard to find, celebrating her birthday, catching tadpoles.

We grew up. I stayed east of the Mississippi. She married a farmer in Kansas and taught school until her eyesight failed. Our ability to communicate diminished. Our friendship seemed like something from the past. And then last year she got a computer that allowed her to see email with large print. Suddenly we again could be actively in touch, sharing the dailyness of our lives and our families.

So it is her message that arrived first that morning and reached out to my loneliness. Who would have thought, all those years ago, that our lives would be intersecting when we were older than our parents then were? We couldn’t even have imagined being as old as we are now. What a surprise. What a gift. Grace.

Grace is unexpected, unmerited, life-giving goodness.

Queries:

When have you experienced grace?

What helps you notice it when it happens?

Prayer:

Reflect back over the past 24 hours. Notice the moments of grace—moments you especially appreciate, moments that glow as you remember them. Make this a regular practice.

For further reflection:

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God . . .” (See Luke 17: 11-19).

“Bless the Lord, O my soul . . . who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy . . .” (See Psalm 103).

Trusting in the One Who Gives Life

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3: 5). I memorized this verse as a child. If it could live in my heart as well as in my memory, my life could flow more peacefully.

I had felt spiritually dry and adrift. I wanted to do something or read something that could change my condition, but was at a loss about what that could be. I felt anxious, but I knew I had to trust and wait, as uncomfortable as that was. A few days later I was on my way to Charleston for a family occasion over the weekend during which I would have some time to read. I went to my bookshelves. There was a book whose title drew me. I didn’t know the book and was curious what it might say. Sure enough, when I was waiting in my motel room and picked up the book, the words poured from the book and into my heart. It was just the right book at just the right time. I’ve had that experience enough times that you would think I would trust in its happening and be able to avoid the anxiety.

Someone made discouraging comments to me about my writing, saying that my topics were too big to cover in such a short space. The one I was writing that day left me certain that she was right, and I felt blue. I prayed that God would send me encouragement if I was to keep writing. My low spirits have been lifted often by something unanticipated that seemed like a special gift from God, so I prayed remembering that kind of experience, trying to avoid getting stuck in my feelings. That afternoon, when I went for a haircut, the woman who cuts my hair had recently come back from a family funeral. Before we knew it, she was telling me about her spiritual experiences and some times of being hurt. When I told her about what I was writing, she was very excited, because my words directly spoke to her condition and encouraged her. I left with a nice haircut and a cheerful spirit. Wow! What a quick and joyful answer to my prayer.

A blessing of being older is being able to remember past experiences that remind me that God is trustworthy. When I can relax into that confidence, I can let go my need to control, and I can go forward with curiosity instead of anxiety and despair.

Queries:

How well are you able to trust in yourself? In God?

What experience of surprises that seem like gifts do you remember? What might help you notice them?

Prayer:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).

For further reflection:

Read the story of Jesus and the woman of Samaria, John 4: 1-30.

“I am about to do a new thing . . .” (See Isaiah 43: 18-19).