Sometimes you don't see the grace in your day until it has already passed. And other times, your eyes are so wide open that grace smacks you in the face and you almost have to laugh at how real God is.
After I was stuck with a small thorn in my side, and contemplating marinating in a mix of self pity and guilt, grace stepped in. A baby that was handed to me, and slept on my chest for 40 minutes. The unexpected voices that sang Amazing Grace at morning mass. The coffee date with a friend who craves the knowledge and wisdom of faith as much as I do. The half hour call with my kids therapist who put me ease, assured me everything was OK, and made my life feel less in crisis than it usually does. And then Carol.
Unplanned, I stepped into the church for one last prayer before heading home. Carol was there. "Oh, I didn't recognize you", she said. Carol is in her 80's, and she was looking frail. "You lost weight" I told her, as my arms wrapped around her tiny shoulders. "I had breast cancer" she flat out told me. Which means that that time at Panera when I was picking up dinner and ran into her and complained about how hard my move into the new home was...she had breast cancer.
"Oh no" was all I could get out of my selfish mouth.
She asked about my Bible Study, and we briefly talked about life, and before we parted she asked, "Would you say a prayer for my husband? He is in hospice at home now. I have a care taker there."
I told her of course, and asked for his name, but all I could think was, "good grief, does it ever get easy?"
And with her sweet, soft face, and snow white hair, she smiled, and as if reading my mind she said, "You know, I remember when my father was in his 70's and I asked him, 'Dad, is it easy now??' And after dead silence, he finally answered. He said, 'Carol? It is all hard.'"
Then with a twinkle in her eye, she shook her head smiling and said, "but we keep on trucking."
Carol left and I walked up to the altar, got down on my knees, and stayed at the feet of Jesus. Through tears I asked Him, "Why IS it so hard?" and before I could get an answer I opened my eyes and focused in on His hands. The nails. The wounds. And like a bolt of lightning I realized-of course it is all hard. Look at you. Nailed to the cross. MY nails in your hands. You are up there for me. For my hard stuff. What better way to get close to you than to to do the hard stuff with you.
I don't pretend to ever think that any good thought I have is ever my own. Nor do I pretend that the baby on my chest, the dear friend and coffee, the lyrics "amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me", the encouraging words over the phone, or running into Carol, were all things that happened by me. Because of me. It is HIM. It is His grace. And His grace swirls around me, around you, around all of us. It is in the baby's breath, and in the 80 year old eyes, it is in the hard stuff he gifts me with, assuring I stay planted at His feet, the strength that keeps me trucking on and on.