Awakening Grace

She lays her head in my lap, blond hair spilling over my knee.  Her eyelids flutter and I count the freckles that dot her nose and cheeks. We sit on the red couch, still in our pajamas, quiet and still, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  A small, warm hand finds mine.

“Mommy, can I have my oatmeal now?”

“I’m sorry, honey.  Your tummy needs to get better first. Would you like some saltines instead?”

“No…I just want to be here with you.”

It is Thanksgiving Day.  This morning my five year old daughter didn’t get to finish her oatmeal for breakfast.  After a few warnings of “My tummy hurts,” she let it all go.  Poor thing.  So much for the oatmeal, let alone sweet potatoes and pecan pie.  It was decided that I would stay home with her today while my husband and son traveled the hour north to Dayton to be with his side of the family. I helped Steve load up the food we had prepared and gave him instructions on how to finish baking the sweet potato spoonbread.  As they pulled out of the driveway I returned to the living room just in time to pull back my daughter’s hair as she made another dash for the trash can.

As I write this, the rest of my family is probably passing the cranberry sauce, listening to the laughter of nieces and nephews, and recounting graces and “remember when….” stories.  Later there will be football and walks in the woods.  I do miss being there.  I am thankful for family that has traveled hundreds of miles to be near, and whom I will get to see soon–but I will have to wait.

This isn’t how I had planned on spending Thanksgiving. Yet I am grateful that I can be right here, where I am needed right now, with thermometers and medicine bottles cluttering the table.  I nibble on some toast in solidarity with the sick one and pull her close, knowing that this, too, is all part of grace.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 

As I tuck her into bed I pray that healing rest will wash over her body.  I give thanks for the gift of this precious girl, and for the many blessings that fill life to overflowing:  family, friends, food, a place to live, education, faith communities….the list goes on.  These are the gifts that are tangible and solid — things I can too easily take for granted, like the warmth and light of the sun.  They are the first things I think of when someone tells me to “count my blessings….”

Cherished as these gifts are, I can’t stop here.  “Giving thanks in all circumstances” means I have to go down into the caverns of my heart to find the hidden treasures that lie sleeping in thorn-covered tombs.  These are the blessings that I have only been able to uncover in the darkness. They are harder to grasp, sometimes feeling as though they may slip through my fingers.  I have to remind myself that they are always there, though I often only recognize them when my calloused heart heaves with pain.  These are the gifts that are often hidden in sickness, disappointments, mistakes, and failure: joy amidst sorrow, guidance in times of chaos, restored relationships, complete and total forgiveness,  and favor when I least deserve it.  I pray for strength to awaken these gifts and bring them into the light.

 

Healing.  Trust.  Forgiveness.

Grace.

Everything is grace.  Each one of my circumstances is wrapped in grace, if only I open my eyes to see it.  When I see a sick child, an elderly neighbor walking her dog, or a homeless man with tracks up his arm, I need to see His grace pouring down over it all.  I need to see grace swooping in to knock out my pride.

Today I am grateful for this: the snow-white  forgiveness of my ugliest blood-soaked sin.  The faith of my husband.  The trust of my children.  The healing wave of love that pounds pure against my deepest wounds.  I catch a glimpse of grace and I crumble in thanksgiving.
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From Sand to Rock

“Mom! I forgot what sand feels like!” my son exclaims as he gleefully plunges his hands into a mound of cold sand. We are on a beach on Lake Erie. The temperature is hovering around 50 degrees, and B, dressed in  sweatpants and a fleece pullover, eagerly begins to dig a trench that will soon rival the Panama Canal.   I sigh and wonder aloud how it’s possible that a 7 year-old could possibly forget the feeling of sand  between his fingers.

It has been almost a year and half since we moved our family to Ohio from the south coast of Massachusetts,  where beach trips were a weekly (sometimes daily) event. The only sand he’s experienced lately has been in sandboxes either at a friend’s house or on the playground. But the experience is different. Playground sand is clean and sifted and is contained in a small square or pit. Beach sand is raw fun, a vast playground bordered only by waves and beach grass. It is peppered with shells, rocks, and seaweed — telling a story with each treasure found buried beneath.

I watch my children and their little cousin dig and pile, creating pits, lakes, bridges, and cities. But  through all of their planning and constructing, one thing becomes apparent: sand is fickle. It doesn’t stay  where they put it. Add a bucket of water, and an entire sand city is brought to ruins. The children design another layout for a city that incorporates a newly formed lake. But this plan, too, is washed away  by the torrent of change.

I think about the passage of the foolish man building his house on the sand and the wise man building his house on the rock. I identify too easily with the foolish man sometimes. I am often swayed by whatever thoughts or ideas sweep into my mind at any given point. They ebb and flow, at times chasing the rational away and send me down a rabbit-hole of fear and doubt.  The sand shifts beneath my feet and I feel myself fall.

Often I imagine my life like a “choose your own ending” type of book.  “Hmm..” I think. “I wonder what would happen if:

a.   One of my children becomes gravely ill or disabled?

b.  Something happens to my husband and I’m left alone with my children?

c. Steve or I get a new job that moves us to a different location?

d. God calls us to move to a foreign country and I can’t communicate with anyone in my language?

What if….?”

Don’t get me wrong. I happen to like change.  Call it a fear of commitment, control issues, or just plain boredom, but I’m usually trying to figure out my next move. This is where I get into trouble. When I think of all the possibilities for my children, my husband, and myself,  I often suffer from “analysis paralysis.” I try to see every possible angle of every possible situation, good or bad. I try desperately to figure out the big picture, even though I know God only shows me one step at a time.  I  am afraid to say, “Yes. This is where I am. This is what I’m doing right now.”

Because, I mean, what if I’m *gasp*  wrong?

But I am slowly learning. I am not powerful enough to derail God’s plan for my life, or the life of my family. What does it mean to “build my house on the rock?” It means trusting that God has put me where He wants me. It means giving up control. It means giving all He asks and taking all He promises. Sometimes God calls us to move. Often He calls us to wait. I find it much more difficult to wait. Sometimes it’s harder to stay the course and finish than it is to start something new. Jobs. Families. Marriages. Friendships. Living  arrangements. They all need to be built on the Rock. When He wants something to change, I am trusting that  He’ll let me know. I pray that I have ears to hear and a heart to obey.

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2)