Have you been the recipient of grace lately? It’s a swoosh of comfort; a balm of healing; an ointment of relief.
Have you been the giver of grace lately? It’s a nod of affirmation that needs no words; a squeeze of the arm, a spark of warmth in the eyes.
Some of my work includes greeting the public. We are Human Services, so there’s a steady of stream of humans in need of services including family help, parenting classes, addiction referrals, mental health providers and housing.
As a Christian, I am called to serve others with the love of Christ.
As a Christian in a government-run organization, I am restricted in the earthbound realm. Even so, I am wholly free to share His grace in surprisingly easy ways: by showing kindness on the phone, by listening carefully to the client who is confused and distraught, by spilling a bit of laughter into a tense moment.
Grace is tangible; you can feel it rush to the place of pain.
Maybe you’ve heard the story of the small boy who learned that his neighbor was grieving the loss of his wife. The boy asked his mom if he could go next-door and see the man.
When he returned home, the boy’s mom asked what he said to comfort the sad neighbor.
“Nothing,” he replied. “I just sat in his lap and helped him cry.”
Grace is light and airy, but oh! It is profoundly powerful, rippling into a needy world.
Infusing it with hope.
Last year, in preparation to lead a women’s conference, I wrote a poetic essay about the activity of grace. I hope you like it; I hope you recognize the winsome contrast of grace to the stuff we often experience in the day-to-day.
The world is a fist. Grace is an open hand.
The world loves a snappy comeback. Grace loves a kind word.
The world runs from pain. Grace runs toward the hurt.
The world thunders, “Me first!” Grace whispers, “You first.
The world upends. Grace mends.
The world abandons. Grace abides.
The world quits. Grace perseveres.
The world shrugs. Grace hugs.
The world mocks. Grace grieves. Grace re-frames everything.
If you like the idea of grace, giving and accepting it, you might like this children’s book, Will You Hold My Story?
Today, a writer I greatly respect—who is herself a widow—recommended and endorsed Will You Hold My Story for widows. It was such an encouraging surprise for Laura Warfel to publicize this little story. Her act is an act of grace towards me and also towards her followers who seek steps ladders.
In the workplace, in church, at home — wherever your day takes you, Grace is a currency we can all exchange with goodwill and generosity. We can trust the quiet, capable, dynamic activity of grace to heal and heighten and bolster up.
About the Author:
Kathy Joy enjoyed being a popular Christian radio DJ in Colorado for many years. When her husband wanted to move to Pennsylvania to live on a 65-acre farm, Kathy accompanied him with their two young daughters. Four years later, Kathy Joy found herself a widow raising two teenagers. To stave off despair, she began writing three everyday celebrations in a journal. Friends on Facebook began prompting her to write a book, and so the beginning of the Breath of Joy series began. Kathy now works in human services, speaking wonder on the weekends to grief therapy groups, motivational corporate meetings, and women’s retreats. Some of her topics include Vision Board workshops, Being a Harbor Pilot, Mirroring the Savior, The Fifth Season, and Bless Your Socks Off..
Reprinted by permission from her December 19, 2019 blog, Coffee with Kathy.
This message is bathed in hope for the parent who has not heard from her kids, who might not see them at Christmas.
I want you to know it won’t always be this way.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while,
will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10
My late husband, Roger, was fond of saying, “Let’s make the kind of memories that keep the kids coming back home – even when they’re grown.”
Oh! How I loved Roger’s enthusiasm for special calendar dates – particularly Christmastime and All Things Winter.
To commemorate the First Snow, he and I wrapped a “snow gift” for each of the girls. For gift-wrapping, he used the funny papers.
He was thrilled at the arrival of egg nog in the dairy section – he went nuts with the stuff, pouring it into his morning coffee and grabbing enough cartons to store in the freezer “to get through the winter months”, he would say.
For years, we bundled the girls and searched tree farms for just the right tree to grace our Colorado home.
Every Christmas Eve, he read from Luke’s account of the birth of Christ; when our daughters became readers, they read it out loud to the family.
We had an advent calendar.
He sang the carols, often adding verses he made up on the fly.
He insisted on driving us around the neighborhood to look at the festive light displays.
He was big on memories and minimal on material things.
So many rich traditions, steeped in the wonder of raising our girls; the sweet simplicity of being a family together.
Four months shy of Christmas 2008, Roger died.
The girls were 18 and 15.
A black shadow passed over our little snow globe of a family.
What if they don’t come home?
For three years of emotional drought, they didn’t.
It was dreadful for me, the surviving parent.
A mom who is unsure of her child’s safety and well-being is a pile of misery, and that’s what I was during those lean years.
I won’t go into the whys and the pain of those whys. Grief is weird. A sudden loss can unravel a lifetime and reorder it into something scary, chaotic, unknown.
We all respond in different ways. My daughters turned from me, not in open rejection or hostility, but in the throes of sudden, unexpected loss.
What if they don’t come home?
Christmas during those years was the stark reality of an empty chair, a huge hole he once filled with his larger-than-life-laughter. The emptiness was intensified by my fractured family.
And that star? The one shining in the east? That star was shrouded in a fog of grief and worry; I couldn’t see it through the haze and maze of guilt, fear, anger.
All I could feel was the dull ache of my heart, thumping along in spite of wanting to disappear, to fold up inside my pain.
I’d become an exile to my husband’s family, through a sad myriad of misunderstandings.
Being an outsider to in-laws, that’s pretty hard to deal with. Being an outsider to your own kids – that’s impossible to endure.
Then, we had a series of fun celebrations together. Endearment was restored like a chain of Christmas lights getting the dud bulbs replaced so that the whole string twinkles, unbroken.
Covid 19 has crimped the style of families everywhere. For our safety, holiday celebrations are limited, shops, even grocery stores, and home celebrations closed down. We are given tips on how to keep children safe and parents informed during 2021.
During Thanksgiving, people posted humble but joyful pictures of their small feasts for two, three, and even singular plates on social media. They called it the war of light and loveliness on the darkness of this holiday season. Still, when I called my own mother to tell her that I had been exposed to the disease at work and could not risk her health, she wept. She and I both sat alone with our thoughts this Thanksgiving, like many others.
My adult girls remember their dad’s corny jokes. They ask about his favorite movies, then they watch them. But, there are many episodes of tragic family attitudes and events in our history, and probably in yours, that haunt our current decisions and lives. Parents are blamed for decisions they didn’t have the wherewithal to tackle; they should have been wiser. Children are not excused because they were trained up better than that.
Helplessly, we grapple for promises of better days from the only One who can provide these to us.
The Lord has promised to restore what the locust has eaten.
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
Does this promise mean today, tomorrow, or next year? I believe He does restore our souls in mysterious ways, and we can depend on that, but it doesn’t always look the way we want it to look. And, this is why our faith is often called a “walk of faith” “traveling in darkness” “running the race” because we don’t bear our weights in vain. They make us stronger.
We honor Roger’s memory in small, sweet ways. We laugh a lot, we cry some, we laugh some more.
His name is a regular part of our conversation.
Before, we avoided saying it for fear our brittle voices would break and scatter on the floor.
We can now dream of the future and we know the strength of forgiveness, the binding up of wounds.
My daughters call regularly to check in on me; my oldest planned a June wedding and made it happen even in the pandemic, and it was a landmark memory I will always cherish.
It’s not a Hallmark movie; there are still some things quietly coming to the light to be dealt with as we continue forward.
Cars break down, we have health scares, there are often misunderstandings to be ironed out. The point is, we’re doing life together again – as an extended family finds ways to do so.
This year, I celebrate the many times the kids and I have been together. It has been a hard year once again, but I am stronger and more creative than I once was. They will come home for Christmas another time.
And that star? The one shining in the east? That star is a glowing reminder of God’s presence, His longing to be in a relationship with us. He traveled from His heavenly home and spiritual body to become human and to wander in a strange, unwelcoming place. It meant everything for Him to do that.
Have you ever wondered what’s happened to all the working lighthouses? How could they be defunct? What takes the place of helping a vessel to anchor or to its pier in safe harbor?
Harbor Pilots are, by sheer tenacity, a remarkable crew. The job requires round-the-clock availability, a complete understanding of the local waters, hazards and weather conditions, and the agility to climb a 30-foot rope ladder up the side of a large vessel.
Our harbor has them. Any port of call has them; these sailors are navigational experts regarding local waters.
When a ship comes into unknown waters, the harbor pilot maneuvers a small craft right up to the big rig, climbing up that ladder and getting behind the wheel to steer the vessel into safe mooring.
And so it is with the staff I work with.
There are a few who understand the aim in a specialized way. They can plot the course for shoreline and safe harbor in waters that most of us have never seen prior to this. We don’t want to encounter nasty surprises, do we? What will we do if a rock pierces the hull?
While most of us are sequestered with our laptops and zoom sessions focused in on the target for the day, someone with years in the industry will come alongside and prove their maturity and faithfulness by soldiering our vision through our company’s performance of the necessary tasks.
Tasks, such as security, handling delays, sorting through the troubled complaints and defunct systems, and steering the crew into the final destination with wisdom and other hands-on assignments move us beyond the irritations and angers and abnormal shallows.
These are our harbor pilots – these comrades who are sailing in to assist our somewhat lurching, unsteady building to navigate in unknown waters.
In rough waters, how does a ship or smaller boat find it’s way around sandy banks, jutting rocks, and unusual winds to safe harbor? Guided by the strength and knowledge of someone who has a firm grasp of the way around the banks that would beach us, that’s how.
We all experience waves of gratitude and relief as we are coming to the shoreline.
We are all in this together – but today, let’s take a moment to applaud our unsung heroes, our unseen administrators, first responders, our essential leaders.
A collective “thank you” from all our various ports of call; our kitchen table offices, our cell phones, laptops and heart connections everywhere are warranted. You are worthy deckhands, but it would mean there’s nowhere to land without the harbor pilot.
Can you list one or two harbor pilots in your most choppy, unpredictable waves of life?
Later — when we are all back together — tossed, tested and polished bits of beach glass will emerge gleaming in our midst.
What treasures we will discover.
Kathy Joy, writes the Breath of Joy coffee table series. Simply Summer, Ah, Autumn, Winter Whispers, and Singing Spring. These books make for exceptional “thank-you” gifts and acknowledgments of special someones in your life.
It’s important, though, to remember the former elements of “normal” are still with us, if we will only take a minute to notice.
Take fireflies for instance. What a wonder a single firefly still is to me!
There’s a quote that’s traveled with me for a long time. It’ on my fridge:
Normal Day, Do not let me pass you by in search of some Rare and Perfect Tomorrow.
Mary Jean Iron
This power-packed memento has been a mainstay through all of life’s seasons. With every move, every new fridge, this little saying has traveled with me as a reminder of the splendor in little moments.
The little ordinary moments are ever-present while we sigh and long for: Brighter tomorrows, better sleep, happier children, perfectly manicured lawns, stronger connections, brighter lighting, exotic destinations, more flawless skin, shinier memories…
Here’s the thing. When we are off chasing after a happier reality, the one we’re IN is quietly passing us by.
I’m not asking you to embrace The Summer of Covid, but I am suggesting you uncover the good stuff inside this interval.
Your “normal” will look different than mine.
Here’s mine. The texture of my kiddo’s voice on the phone; it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about – the sound of her voice is life-affirming.
The smell of towels that have been line-dried in fresh air and sunshine.
Summer kids riding by my window on their bikes and skateboards.
Dandelions gone to seed.
Waking to sunlight,
That first sip of coffee,
the hypnotic hum of a lawnmower,
Old Glory rippling in the breeze.
a real letter in the mail,
my music jam,
fireflies in the whisper of dusk.
Not everything is a joy-bringer; some things are a slog through scary passages. But still – not everything is skewed into some narrow margin of “the New Normal”. We can still count on the ordinary, normal things. And those will sustain us.
Kathy Joy writes for The Daily Jab, for Books for Bonding Hearts, and for her own blog, Coffee with Kathy. You can transition directly from ordinary to extraordinary with her Breath of Joy seasonal coffee table books. Find out more! Sign uphere for inspiring posts from this author!