Having just sent Joy off to Scotland where she is very pleased to find herself the happy owner of a sea view--if only for a time!--I'm a bit nostalgic this week. How does it all go by so quickly? And yet, I'm so grateful for all the moments in my memory with my sweet ones. This memory happened several years ago and is still a good reminder to me of the moment it takes to breathe deeply and extend grace when my nerves are frayed!
It had been a very long weekend, many years ago--the third such weekend in the string of conferences one winter. Lots of wonderful women chattering, asking questions, sharing hearts; speaking, praying, encouraging, laughing. One more conference done, with four more to go before our 20-day mission trip ending the season! We were leaving the hotel to spend a day with friends. Everyone's adrenaline was down and our tempers were short. I was bone-tired, finding myself feeling the weariness a little more with each year. The girls had been working long hours at registration, putting up boxes of books, setting up tables. They had spent countless hours running cash registers and putting gifts and chocolate out for all the women to enjoy, going to bed late, and getting up early. Everyone did their job as expected without being asked or checked on. Our family all knew the routine and what was expected as we worked together.
As we were to check out of the hotel, Sarah and Clay and I were walking down the hall to the elevator. Just then, Joy said, "Hey, wait! I want to get my sweater out of my bag." And as I turned around to look at her, she reached into her bag and accidentally emptied the entire contents of her suitcase on the hall floor, sending hair bands and brushes, shoes and books, shampoo and lip gloss, socks and a swim suit rolling everywhere.
A sharp, "You need to be more careful! Why did you hold up the suitcase when you were unzipping it instead of setting it down?!" was right on the edge of my tongue. I did not feel like putting down my suitcase, computer bag, purse, coat, and Clay's shoes that were all barely juggled in my grip, as I knew I'd have to if I were to help her. But, something inside me nudged my heart. I pictured this sweet teenage girl, working, greeting, smiling, and helping without complaint all weekend long. I knew this was not the time to scold or to be impatient, though I felt all of this on the edge of my attitude, waiting to spill over.
I put all the things I was carrying down and walked toward her. "I am so very sorry it all fell out. You must feel so frustrated and if you are as tired as I am, you could use a real rest! Let me help you. By the way, did I tell you how amazed I was at how hard you worked this weekend? You were such a trooper. You are handling yourself like a pro. I can't believe you can work such long hours without anyone telling you. I really appreciate you, honey, and know you must be bone tired," I chattered as I picked up and folded and placed everything back into the bag alongside her.
How thankful I was that the Holy Spirit had put his finger on my heart. I saw eyes of anger and defense change into gentle eyes--glad to be understood. She really didn't drop this whole bag of clothes just to further irritate me on a tiresome morning! And she really was a great 13 year old.
Grace--a cup of cold water to a thirsty body; a bouquet of flowers on a winter window sill; a kind patient timely word; a rescue to a four year old who drops his whole plate of food or spills one more cup of milk; a cup of tea for a hormonal girl; a back rub and chocolate chip cookies to an overwrought teen boy; instrumental music and a candle lit with a warm meal for a grumpy husband so worried about finances when he comes home from a hard day of work.
Grace is the undeserved and unforeseen act of kindness and patience that totally changes moments. It is the noble soul exercised toward the humble, needy, and grateful.
I am so very thankful that I have received so much grace from my wonderful heavenly Father. He keeps loving and giving and bearing with me through all my immature and awkward moments of life. Grace changes everything and redeems amazingly.
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed ..." 2 Corinthians 9:8
How might you show grace to someone in your life who desperately needs it, today?