Of the many words that could be used to describe me, “graceful” would not be at the top of the list.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the most common usage is a way of moving or behaving that is controlled, smooth, and attractive. This is not my gift. I have often bemoaned the fact that I didn’t take dance lessons as a child, which surely is to blame for my clumsiness and poor posture. But perhaps it’s innate as years of (somewhat sporadic) yoga practice and chiropractic visits have not remedied the problem.
I’m also not so good at showing grace (in terms of offering mercy) in my family life. I’m quick to judge and find fault and can hold on to a small slight for years (just ask my husband). It is difficult for me to accept things as they are in reality when I have already envisioned how it “should” be in my head.
I’ve held on to scars from spiritual hurts as well. There’s the church were we worshipped for some time whose tagline “a place of grace” makes me cringe. I’m still healing from some of the wounds that were inflicted there.
But grace keeps inserting itself into my life.
First it was a friend, a spiritual sister from Jamaica, whom I met last summer in my D.Min. cohort. Grace is not her given name, but is the perfect chosen name for one who is so full of spirit and so full of God’s hope. Her words and the way she carries herself are such pictures of God’s favor. She is a reminder to me to trust in God to be my strength and salvation.
Then there’s the new “member” of our family, an American Girl doll named Grace Thomas, who reminds me of how my daughter is learning this virtue of grace as she navigates her way through relationships and becoming who she was created to be. While I see dollar signs and more clutter when I look at this Grace, the doll is a companion that my Maryn favors, one that enlivens her imagination and allows her to dream about who she will be.
Maryn loves nothing more than when we are drawing pictures of Grace Thomas together or creating recipes like the ones that Grace would make in her bakery (sold separately, $500). Styling the doll’s hair gives us time to sit together and just be, to talk about whatever is on our minds. That is a grace that I don’t indulge as often as I would like.
Last night at bedtime, I was running out of energy and patience. After a long day of work, household chores, and wrangling two kids hopped up on the energy of a school-free summer, I didn’t have much left to give.
But Maryn found me in my bed where I was hiding out until it was time to get them upstairs to bed. She asked in her sweet voice, “Want to read me a book?” That mini-me knows the way to my heart.
I looked at her selections and smiled, wondering at her emotional intelligence and insight. Perhaps it was unintentional, but regardless, it was grace. They were good reminders for me and for the one who follows in my footsteps.
In these encounters, I’m learning more about the other dimension of grace as unmerited divine assistance, a virtue coming from God, or, as I learned in church growing up, an undeserved gift. “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16).
It is easy for me to think of what I lack (patience, time) and hard for me to remember the gifts I receive in grace every day. For these ordinary days are full of demands and mess, frustrations and disappointments.
But they are so full of beauty as well. Perhaps grace is not being delivered from the things that stress us, but it is receiving them with gratitude, understanding that the grace is in the mess of our daily lives.
Jenny Frazier Call is wife to John, mom to Brady and Maryn, and university chaplain at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. She is working on her D.Min. in Educational Leadership at Virginia Theological Seminary, and when she has time, enjoys writing at www.hopecalls.blogspot.com.