Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Everyday Grace

Earlier this week I found myself driving downtown very early in the morning. I was tired and out of my routine. As I drove towards the sky rises and into heavier traffic I found myself looking inward and focusing on myself. Thoughts about the kids, school work, behavior problems, dinner, budgets, writing tasks and work crowded my mind. Typical working mother multi-tasking. If my brain were a computer I would have 20 tabs open at once. It is no wonder so many of us are just so tired all the time- our brains are always on the move!

I found my way to my destination and, in my typical fashion, circled the block a few times trying to figure out where I should park. As I drove past a well manicured green space something bright blue caught my eye. Foxes! A family of over-sized colorful, movable foxes were peeking out from behind a group of trees. Last weekend my family and I wandered into a group of over-sized and colorful snails hiding out in the downtown library courtyard. We then saw similar birds in another part of the city. The foxes made me smile, remembering the fun surprise happening across the snails had been for my boys. "These animals must be all over the city!", I thought to myself. For just a moment, those computer tabs in my brain shut down and a warm feeling crept in. 

I remained confused as to where to park and so I pulled in to a small lot. The attendant stopped me and I assumed he was going to take my payment so I began rooting around for my wallet, barely making eye contact with the bundled up gentleman at my window. "Good morning!". He greeted me happily. His smile beamed at me. Warmth crept in a little more. After taking the time to ask me why I was downtown he suggested another parking garage just down the street that would better suit my needs for the day, and that was less expensive. He lost business in his little parking lot because he was doing the right thing for me. Warm. Warm. Oh so warm!

As I pulled in to the parking garage down the street the attendant flung open his window. Again, my expectations for whatever interaction we were about to have were low. "Good morning!". Here was another human being smiling at me again. After telling me to have a "most amazing day" he waved me on. so.much.warmth.

Everywhere I went that day my interactions were the same. Police officers, city workers, cafeteria employees and fellow citizens were going out of their way to show kindness and respect to one another. Smiles were waiting down the hall as I turned the corner. Doors were held. "Please" and "Thank You" were repeatedly offered. And with every pleasant interaction any frustration I had carried with me into the city that day melted away. Sometimes our fuse is just ready, isn't it? There are times that one frustration after another pile up and before we know it we are primed to explode at whatever the next frustration might be, regardless of how small. Like many people, I am no stranger to the short fuse. Often, for seemingly no reason at all, I am ready to explode, anger living just below the surface.All the time, it seems. I am two inches from an angry outburst all.the.time.  But on this day, pleasant interaction after pleasant interaction slowly extinguished that fuse. Just think how much we could all move forward along whatever path we are individually on if we all treated each other this way. One big train of warm fuzzy feelings, winding through our families and communities. 

I was driving home that evening when the sunset painted the sky. I am usually inside the house during this time of day, especially during the colder months, when the sun sets earlier. I am rushing to finish my work day and then rushing downstairs to start dinner and homework, and then rushing out to after school practices and scout meetings. Sunsets are not usually on my radar. But on this day I had no choice but to enjoy the beauty. And it was spectacular. 

The grace of God is in the ordinary. In the every day. We know this, of course. In theory, we understand this and we have been told this many times in our lives. We see this ordinary grace in literature, we hear it in songs on the radio and our ministers share it with us over and over again. But I think we tend to forget. We tend to ignore the mundane and focus on the wait for the Big Sign

But what if that big sign doesn't come? What if we spend our entire lives waiting? What a tragedy that would be, to miss the every day grace. To miss a brief but tender moment with a child because we are rushing out the door. Grace lost. To lose focus on a conversation with a loved one because we are so focused on getting to our destination on time and so instead are thinking about the traffic that surrounds us. Grace lost. To miss sharing large, colorful animal statues with my boys, because I was annoyed at the change in my routine that brought me downtown in the first place.  Grace lost for sure. 

There is a bigger picture, though, than the simple fact that God is in the details. He is also in the pain and suffering and even the little frustrations we face every day. What if these hard moments are God's way of saying "Pay attention!". "Open your eyes and LOOK!". How many of those moments have I missed? 

"Pay attention! Your child's behavior is trying to tell you something!"

"Look at your husband, right now! Watch this gentle moment he is having with his son!"

"Open your eyes! Your coworker is hurting." 

Hard moments are tough. They can be physically and emotionally draining. They can sometimes feel like huge setbacks, or bring big feelings of disappointment. But they are also the times we so often remember. The moments that live in our hearts, whispering to us to make a change. Maybe it's an adoptive mother who will never forget the look in the sunken eyes of the children at the orphanage where her child once lived. That hard memory of having to walk away from all of those little ones, leaving them behind, knowing they don't understand why there is no love, yet, for them, might lead to a heart whisper that leads to a lifetime of working for orphans.  That call from a friend announcing the death of her marriage might lead to a heart whisper of thankfulness in a relationship and a desire to work harder to sustain a marriage. That hard moment of seeing another mother fall apart at the set backs of a special needs child, yet again, may lead to a heart whisper to get involved, to become a part of someone else's village. Yes, hard moments are tough. But they are needed. They are wake up calls from God to do something. To notice something. To stop running and just be, if only for a moment. 

Grace in the ordinary and hard moments bring His love for us alive. Maybe it's a warm feeling brought on by the goodness of others, a fox statue or a colorful sunset viewed from the windshield of your car in rush hour traffic. Or maybe it's a big push found in the heart whisper we hear as we sit in  the ruins of yet another disappointment or set back. They are easy to ignore, the warmth and the whispers. Open your eyes! Look! The moments are everywhere, aren't they? 

What warmth have you felt, or what heart whisper have you heard today? Share your comment below. 

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