I woke up this morning and welcomed a new year; today I turn 36. I've been thinking a lot about grace and desiring to live a more grace filled life. Grace is a word that is thrown around a lot and seems to mean different things to different people. The dictionary has several definitions, the first being "elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action" and another being "favor or goodwill". I like that grace can be both a noun and a verb; it's a gift we're given and something that becomes an action. My favorite definition of grace though, is the one in my Orthodox Study Bible. It simply says that grace is "the gift of God's own presence and action in His creation".
If I believe that God is "everywhere present and filling all things", then grace is everywhere. It is within me, it is in my children, it encompasses our very lives. It is not an impersonal force, but a loving presence, one who changes everything. So if I believe that life is infused with this marvelous grace, why do I so easily forget what's important, get irritated with my family, frustrated over dirt tracked across the floor again or a myriad of other trivial things? I desire to be a channel of grace to those around me, to be filled to overflowing with love and joy and peace. But the reality falls far short, and I sigh in frustration, or snap irritably at a precious child, or speak critically to my husband. Instead of speaking peace to squabbling siblings, my anger escalates with theirs, and we end up splintered instead of healed.
So many times, every day, I apologize for my impatience. And without fail, my children are quick to forgive, ready to move on. I receive this humbly, and in that moment, I remember the presence of God with us, of grace. I have only to open my eyes to see the Everywhere Present one filling, always filling us. We may slosh and spill anger and yet He pours grace; grace in every situation if only I will open my heart to receive it. In the muddy tracks on the floor I can choose to see and breathe thanks for the healthy strong legs of my sturdy little ones. In moments where brothers and sisters are fighting I can remember that there have been times we didn't know if we would be able to have any more babies, that each one is a precious, longed for gift.
In the giving of thanks, eyes and heart open to the grace all around, freely given. In the presence of God life is infused with beauty, favor is bestowed freely. My hope, my prayer, for this new year of my life is that I will see grace. Not just in the lovely moments, but in the times of chaos and hardship too. And as it's given, I want to give it to others, particularly to my children. St. Paul exhorted Timothy to "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus". As I give thanks today for the life God has given me, I desire to co-operate with Him in making beauty out of ugly things and to see the world through the eyes of grace.