I’ve written about grace before, but I have to say, the concept is still a bit like calculus. Theoretically, I understand the basics. Practically, it is pretty hard  to apply to everyday life.

Then there are moments where I feel like grace knocks me on my butt and makes me take notice. One instance was a warm summer day in Cameroon when I was with some friends heading back from a farming training. We’d spent the better part of the afternoon in a red van, driving back to our village. I was daydreaming, looking out the window at the verdant green hills and yellow banana trees. The sky was full of those puffy white clouds that seem cartoonish. Heavy with tropical rain, the undersides are droopy and silver, while the tops are whispy and the brightest white you can imagine. There was a moment when the sun shone through those clouds just so. The rays were visible above and below, reaching eternity one direction and falling on rows of crops and tiny huts in the other. It took my breath away and I felt goosebumps raise on my arms.

I knew I was feeling God. It was grace, but I didn’t yet know it.

When we arrived in the village an hour later, there was a message waiting. My dad had sent along a note — through a ridiculous process because email was just reaching West Africa — to let me know two things: Mini had given birth to her first son, Bennett. Both mom and baby were doing well and sent their love. And also, my great grandmother Clarice had passed away in the night. My GG was another strong,  instrumental woman in my life. She not only taught me Scrabble but also why it is important to embrace being a woman and see femininity is a gift. She was maybe 4’8″ when she passed away at 93, after decades of slowly shrinking and bending forward. Her hands were constantly aching from arthritis, but she never let her crooked fingers stop her from playing a board game or wrapping her arms around her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

It was timely her death was marked with a much anticipated birth. Nonetheless, I cried harder than I had in a very long time until finally an African friend humbled me by saying they didn’t understand  “great-grandmother.” The short life expectancy brought my pity party to a close, so wrote a letter of celebration to Mini and looked to the sky with eyes as puffy as the  ethereal clouds, certain GG was (and is) watching.

My faith makes many in my life uncomfortable. I try to talk about things like grace with a soft voice, inviting questions but never pushing. I am quick to flush when others poke fun; I don’t know that relationships become any more personal or vulnerable. I can say my time with God is usually peaceful and fulfilling. I always feel loved and quite often feel more blessed than I can imagine.

Today, in need of a deep breath of air, I took a walk at Tempe Town Lake. With unseasonably windy and colder weather, I clutched the hem of my linen skirt and listened to my sandals flip flop as I made my way around the lake’s edge. My ears were full of whistling, my mind in prayer, my fingertips light purple from the chill. I have the terrible habit of living in the future, not the present. More than once, this unfortunate trait has brought great and unnecessary heartache. I know better, but it is weeks like these when I fully recognize my humanness — when ugly emotions bubble to the surface and I find myself an overly sensitive, tender mess. My stomach clenches with anxiety and I stop eating. I toss and turn and can’t find the comfort of consistent sleep. My mind races and my heart pounds. I feel like I’ve got an elephant standing on my chest. Needless to say, I am not full of grace.

Ironically, it’s these moments when I am most open to noticing grace elsewhere. Again, the sunshine spraying through the clouds this afternoon at the lake. A friend who picks up the phone with exactly the right words to say. Another willing to pray with me until I can find comfort. And yet another who wrapped me in his arms and just let me cry until I felt better. A day at work so satisfying that’s left me feeling more confident and content with my career than I have in a long time.

Some would chalk these up to coincidence — yet another tie to calculus. Instead, I can’t help but think intention, grace and faith are at play.


29 Replies to “Grace”

  1. When the elephant is standing on your chest and your heart is pounding, you are full of grace…the grace God has given you to feel deeply and to care about the world around you. Even if you don’t feel it, God is very near you at these times and gives you the grace to feel, to care and to get up tomorrow and go about your daily activities and pass his grace to other people through your words and actions. You are very much full of grace.

  2. Kelly,

    From someone who used to live in church and hasn’t now been in … well years I’d like to let you know your post touched me. Grace is such a hard concept to understand and your right; it’s a bit like calculus. The thing is, when you truly experience it – suddenly understanding isn’t so important anymore is it? I guess that’s the beauty of it.

    My point is to share this with you – you are a special woman, who touches lives in many ways. You touch them with your giving, your compassion, your blog and your spirit of humanity. We love you and while I know some things are disappointing or painful, just know it is the experiences (both good and bad) that help us grow into who we are meant to be. We love you and are praying for you.

  3. You are blessed to have experienced Grace. Your life full of Grace has touched many. And many feel that Grace because of the many good things you do. Dios te Bendiga, Kelli-

  4. I think you are great by offering gentle words about grace and about your belief in God. That is a wonderful thing. I think we need more Christians to do this. We need more people who are kind, open, and tollerant. Our neighbors and friends need to see that the essence of being a Christian is accepting flaws, forgiving, and loving.

    I belong to a homeschooling support group. It is mainly made up of more left-leaning people who happen not to believe in God. There are a few though…including myself…who are somewhat left-leaners who do believe and even though nobody pokes fun…there are those that have been totally turned off and put off in the past. I try, as much as I can, while not perfect, to be an example of the “sort” that believes.

  5. Kelli-
    I have a hard time finding my personal balance with God and my Christianity. I don’t feel like I’ve been able to correctly iron out my feelings or beliefs and I’m usually one of those people who cringes or leaves the room when a discussion on religion or God starts up, but I wanted to let you know that I genuinely enjoy reading your posts and thoughts about God and your church. I never find you “preachy” or awkward in any way and love that you are so open and honest. So I just wanted to say thanks for having your blog be such a welcoming honest space.

    I always refer to moments like you describe as my soul stretching because that’s what it feels like to me- God and the universe sending me something to make my soul reach up a little higher and open a little wider. Lovely 🙂

  6. I feel grace looking at a child smile, a flower blossoming, wind carrying the smell of grass, the earth smell after rain….little things like these. And thanks to my parents for my name.

  7. I don’t share your exact faith but I love this post. It is so beautifully written and eloquent and inviting. You have a way of talking about faith that is welcoming, nonjudgmental and very honest. Thanks for this!

  8. Gosh Kelli this is wonderful! Your sharing just makes me want to give you a big ole hug. Hang in there, you are very special and just remember its not our time but God’s timing that matters most, along the way you are making a difference in many lives! God Bless!!

  9. Blessing Kelli. Thanks for your beautiful insight and words. May you be be wrapped in the arms of the One who gives perfect grace, mercy and love.

  10. Kelli,

    Thank you so much for sharing this lovely post. Amazing how often when everything seems so large and overwhelming we take pause and notice grace in the little things.

  11. It is when we need grace most (the elephant on our chest) that God’s grace is most available to us (friends who will hold us, pray with us, the beauty of nature). Thank God you are able to recognize the grace in your life and share it with us. This too shall pass.

  12. This is, without a doubt, the most beautiful word picture you have ever created. It left me shaking.

  13. I wish I could give you a real hug instead of a (((virtual))) one!

    If our lives were perfect we’d never seek God. It is so refreshing to look at this creation and know that He is there. It makes me thankful that He made it for us not to just live in, but enjoy. Whether it be when the sun shines through the clouds, or my favorite, when I’ve been deep in prayer and step outside while it is still dark and immediately see a shooting star.

  14. Kelli, since you are a fellow bible reader, I’ll share with you 2 Corinthians 12:9 …My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…. (NIV translation).

    Lots and lots and lots and lots of hugs to you.

  15. thanks so much for sharing Kelli. I love your description of grace. it is something free, something unmerited, something undeserved…yet HE gives it to us anyway, and sometimes in the most simpilist of moments.

  16. Kelli, I’m happy that you can find that place. I’m having a little difficulty with faith at the moment. Too many losses in too short a time. Hopefully it will come back soon…ciao

  17. Peaceful moments to you my friend and lots more of those graceful moments too! Hope things are looking up soon. Sometimes it’s so hard to not look to the future! xo

  18. Kelly:

    You definitely have a way with words. You could not have said it any better than they way you did. I think it was Grace that was using you to speak to those of us who read your blog. We all touch each others lives in ways we dont know.

    Thank you!

  19. this is a beautiful post, kelli. you write so honestly about your experience of grace, and i am touched that you shared this with us. thank you.
    sending you big, warm hugs–

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