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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