Last weekend my family drove out to the countryside for a graduation party. The guests of honor were a pair of siblings. Their mom was my babysitter growing up, like a pseudo-big sister. She gave me the BEST hand-me-downs (remember Guess? jeans, Clinique bonuses, and neon jewelry??) and she named her Cabbage Patch doll after me. I was a junior bridesmaid at her wedding 27 years ago (how is that possible?!) and she was at my wedding 16 years ago.
And so to the country we drove, to eat cake and let my kids run in the abandoned pasture and celebrate her kids, now grown and flying the coop.
I grew up with her in my life because our moms were best friends. We had Easter dinners and egg hunts at their home. We would go trick-or-treating in their neighborhood, ending at their house with a candy dump in front of the fireplace. Every Christmas, their mom would cross-stitch a personalized ornament for each of us; when we got married, our spouses received their own. And now our kids have their own growing collection of hand-stitched ornaments too.
Slowly, over time and through widening gaps, the friendship between our moms has fizzled. But ours hasn’t.
On that celebration day, even without the original friendship present, my family was welcomed with tears and open arms. We were issued firm invitations to visit their beautiful home up north. My kids were lavished with love and gasps of ‘how much they’ve grown!’, and they reciprocated with how much they treasure the cross-stitched ornaments and books they receive every Christmas.
It was grace on full display, glittering and showing off as it shone like a department store window at Christmas time.
The next day was Father’s Day, and in church we sat behind a pew that was stuffed with a family. Sitting crammed together, shoulder to shoulder, all in black, with a grieving dad in the middle of the crew. Only weeks prior, his 13-year-old son died in a bicycle accident. Over 800 people attended the funeral. Our community has rallied and cried, our own middle schoolers asking hard questions and learning how to process the loss of a friend. I dropped a casserole on his doorstep that day, blinking back tears at the basketball set by the front door, fully aware of the futility of comfort in noodles and melted cheese. On that bitterest of Father’s Days, he was in church and his family was with him. Surrounding him. Passing tissues to one another during poignant moments in worship. Remembering and questioning and praising still.
It was grace, quietly and undeniably on display like the calm beauty of a loon floating on a glass-surfaced lake.
My husband is traveling for work this summer, and recently he was gone for a week. Three of our four kids were also away that week at various camps, so it was just me and my two-year-old at home. One morning after dropping him at daycare, I stopped on the way home to pick up my Target order (diapers and sparkling water — must-haves.). When I checked in, a little popup surprised me. I could order Starbucks and someone would bring it to my car alongside my diapers! What in the name of glory! I added a vanilla sweet cream cold brew and a little sandwich, and sure enough, when the young Target employee arrived with the cases of diapers and sparkling water, he also handed me a Starbucks bag right through my open window. Inside was a neatly wrapped sandwich, and my iced coffee stickered closed and standing upright in a drink holder. The ordinary extraordinary of that bag overtook me, and I almost cried right there in the parking lot.
It felt like extravagant grace sweetly on display, like a cold glass of fresh iced tea on a hot summer’s day.
That night, my toddler awoke around 2 a.m. He was crying for his daddy, and all I could offer him was my own arms. And a drink of water. And a clean diaper. And a snuggle in my bed. Before long he was snoring away and I was wedged into a fraction of my bed, little feet firmly planted on my back and a pudgy hand holding my hair. He slept soundly and while I drifted in and out of sleep myself, it was a gift to see his thick eyelashes drifting over his cheeks right there beside me. Barely over a decade ago was I awake at night, praying for a baby at all. And now an embarrassment of riches with four, all beautiful and growing up so fast I can’t keep up. That night, I tried (as all moms do) to take it all in because we know how fleeting it is, even while parenting is as hard as it gets.
It was grace sleepily on display, cozy and reassuring as a bedtime story under a warm handmade quilt.
This is the ordinary, extraordinary, grace of God. When we pay attention, we see that it oozes and seeps through each crack in our lives. It shows up and shows off in big and small ways, both loud and quiet, not clamoring for our noticing but patiently waiting for us to turn our heads and hearts to its glory.
And when we do, it can change everything.
Where are you seeing the grace of God these days?