It began with the laundry. I was folding some cloth napkins, thinking how much I liked the design. Then I remembered buying them at the Villeroy and Boch shop in Strasbourg, France. We were on a trip to the Rhineland to visit plumbing factories, a reward for having sold so many fancy showerheads to our ritzy customers. How grateful I was for having had such an opportunity, the result of a job I had enjoyed so much. As the cleaning day continued, I began to see the things I loved in my house in a new light. Each one came with a story; a trip, a gift from a friend, an heirloom I’d always admired. Each story was filled with people and places that were so special. I walked the whole day in gratitude for the objects themselves, and for the relationships they represented.
This is the first home I have owned. I thank God every month when I write the check to pay the mortgage. What a blessing to live here, to make it my own with the paint and fabrics and objects that make me happy. What a gift to have this security. I wish I could claim a right to all of this which makes me so happy; my home, my work, my friends. But I was reminded again that it is all a gift, pure and simple. That I live in a land where my parents were able to choose their work and be rewarded well for it was not my doing. That I got a good education from public and private schools and the chance to go to college was there for the taking. The connections which got me work I loved and the loving friendships which enriched my life were not earned, they came as a bonus, a gift of grace.
There never has been a time in my life when I didn’t know Jesus. My parents and grandparents brought me to church, told me Bible stories at bedtime and taught me the habits of a Godly life. And so when chaos hit my life, I had the tools of faith to remind me that God was present and that whatever brokenness I was experiencing was still under God’s control. Disaster only seemed to make faith more resilient, proving that nothing could separate me from God’s love and God’s presence. Another gift. Not earned, not willed, just received with gratitude. Despite my lack of attention to God’s presence on the comfortable days, it was there. Despite my carelessness and thoughtlessness about other people, God’s love was a constant. Despite my demands for what I though I should have, God always gave me what I needed. I am afraid I often just took it all for granted. And still God showered blessings on me. It turns out that the gifts at the heart of the life I love are the result of God’s grace. From the lovely napkins bought on a trip to the forgiveness of my ungratefulness, God’s grace is gift that makes life possible. Faced with the richness of such grace, I am speechless. How can I possibly say thank you enough? Perhaps the only answer to grace is a life lived awake and aware, a life in which I give instead of grasp, a life in which I see the need around me and respond with compassion. May the grace of God which has been so present in my life, continue to inform my heart and make it possible.
Prepared for The Central Oregonian Faith Page, August 26, 2011