Sometimes grace comes wrapped in inconvenience, in tension, in waiting, in a delayed flight or an extra long line. On those days I have two choices: bitter or better. A friend from my college days often reminded me to check my perspective, to be aware that I was always making choices to live bitter or better. And so I’ve tried to implement this plan of “save the day”. You know the feeling when a day is getting out of your control – when you thought it was as bad as it could get and then you find your two year old drawing eye liner on the white walls. Those are the days we have to save. We save them by finding grace in the tension of what’s lost, in the mess that led to laughter, in the wait that provided needed connection to a stranger, in the rain that made you be still.
Tonight one of those amazing thunderstorms rolled in – the kind I wish for all summer long. Rolling thunder and torrents of rain. I had to cancel plans to run across the bridge, but who cares when you can snuggle up at home and feel the epitome of safety and cozy.
But then the power went out and my African-trained survival system went into panic mode. Before I realized what was happening, I had gathered candles, checked to see how much battery was remaining on my computer, and removed several frozen items from the freezer to be consumed immediately. I realized that I was panicking a little, but didn’t know why.
And then I remembered. This is America. Within minutes I was choking back very real emotion as the sweetest southern voice on the other line said, “I’m so sorry you’re without power. We’ll have it back as soon as possible.” I breathed a sigh and remembered: when the power goes out here, it doesn’t last for weeks.
With that I decided to embrace it. Power outages in Africa quickly lost their romantic edge. Because when the power goes out and you can’t find one of your babies, it’s just not funny. After a while, though, we learned how to make the best of the dark. Lighting candles, we’d rescue the dark chocolate from the quickly melting mini-freezer, gather the babies around, and pull out the musical instruments. If dinner was still in process, we’d stack the dirty dishes in the sink where they disappeared from sight as quickly as the candle-bearer moved back into the living room. Sometimes dark is a blessing – especially when it hides pending housework.
Then we’d sing. Babies would drum and guitar and violin would remind us that joy is not dependent on electricity. We never liked the dark, for sure, and after several days of it not much could raise our spirits, but the music. The creativity of our God astounds me – that he would allow us to produce and enjoy this endless source of beauty just for fun.
So tonight I turned on this new favorite and just let it wash over me.
I took the time to sit and revel in the nearness of a handwritten note – this one from a little girl who was writing to tell me her daddy had died. We have peace because he’s in heaven, she wrote. And all of the sudden my power outage seemed so insignificant. And another note from a friend, handwritten (she said) just for old time’s sake. Just a hello, but it means so much when the person sending it took the time to write their own words across paper and seal it the old fashioned way.
And then there was time to play the instruments that don’t need electricity to fill the house with grace. Harmonies that sound sweeter to me with long shadows cast across the wood floors.
I like how all goes still when the power’s out. Even the animals sit for a spell.
I stop to notice steam and throw the newly sprouted alfalfa on top of spicy perfect-for-rainy-day soup.
Grace comes in all different shapes and sizes. Today it was rain and clouds and lights that wouldn’t turn on.
Where did you find grace today?