Scraping for Grace
Last summer an old friend found this blog and sent me an email.
It brought me to tears. But the part I remember most was where he told me it was okay if I broke down once in awhile.
I knew what he meant. He was giving me permission to be less than perfect.
I thanked him for his wise words. But I also told him the truth, which was, I wasn’t faking the decision to be happy. In fact, cancer – somehow – increased my capacity for joy.
I’ve not felt much like breaking down these past three years.
I’ve gotten tired. I’ve gotten sore. I’ve gotten frustrated. But I’ve never really felt like I’m falling apart.
People tell me that’s incredible. I’ve just thought it seemed the only thing to do. I didn’t have time, energy, or space to let myself break down.
And then came last Tuesday.
For any of you who’ve expected a serious collapse at some point, well…
It finally happened.
Almost a week ago now – has it really been that long? – I took the girls to a local bookstore. We looked at toys; we read stories. I talked Noelle into trying Adventures in Odyssey instead of more Veggie Tales.
As we went to the cashier, I remembered something David had said about a store credit. I pulled out my phone to call him.
The phone blinked at me.
Two missed calls – David Meredith.
I scrolled over to text messages. Nothing. David always texts me if he doesn’t get through. I tried calling – straight to voicemail. I texted him – where are you? When he didn’t respond after five minutes, I texted again – what did you say about that store credit again? They can’t find it.
But he didn’t reply.
Frustrated, I paid for our things, got in the car, and turned on the newly-purchased Adventures in Odyssey. The girls complained at first – Mom, TV is so much better than this radio thing – but quickly became engrossed in the story. As I pulled into our garage fifteen minutes later, my phone rang.
David Meredith, mobile.
Finally, I thought.
But he wasn’t in the mood for small talk either.
Where were you? he begged.
His voice was croaky. Is he getting a cold? I wondered. I sighed heavily. Just what I need, on top of all the rest, is a sick husband.
I recounted the events of the day, irritation creeping into my voice. You didn’t answer my calls, I said.
He was quiet. Then – I’m at Surrey Memorial.
What? I gasped.
Somehow my vibrating fingers turned off the car. David fired out random facts over the phone as they came to him: I’m in emerg. They put me under. They gave me drugs… chest… pain.
Okay, I nodded. Okay. He’d had that before; each time he’d gone to the ER it had checked out normal. The doctors said he was anxious.
But this time the pain didn’t go away.
Someone at work broke a door down. They put me in an ambulance. My heart rate… too fast. Nothing … worked.
So they put me under and shocked me back.
I’m not sure what to call the sound I made when I heard that. I think perhaps the closest word is shriek.
Noelle reached out and grabbed my hands. Why are you crying, Mommy?
I closed my eyes and counted to ten.
I’m sorry, kiddo. Deep, deep breath. Everything’s fine. Daddy just had a scary day.
But he’s fine?
Yes, he’s fine.
Noelle frowned. Daddy’s had scary days before, Mommy, and you’ve didn’t cry then.
I forced myself into nurse mode.
Get the kids food. Assess the situation.
I scrambled to get coherent information from my now-post-anesthetic husband. What did the doctor say? What drugs did they give you? Are you staying overnight? Where are you?
He relayed my questions to the nurses. They answered in reassuring tones, but I could hear the pause – the one I give to patients when I really don’t know what’s going to happen but I know they need something to hold on to.
We’ll see what happens, they said.
David took several shallow, uneven breaths, then: Can you come?
It was almost dinner. We were going away the next day. My kids were starving. I needed to pack, clean, and finish an assignment.
Of course I’ll come.
My whole body shook as I packed up the girls. I’ve dreamed things like this before. Each time, I’ve woken in tears. And each time, the steady snoring of my husband reassured me that it didn’t really happen.
Not this time.
I kept trying to reason with myself.
It must be a dream.
We’re dealing with too much already; why would we be given something else?
I mean, this stuff gets evened out eventually, right?
Everywhere I turn, I see people under stress. Some sag with the weight of the world, others grate that things aren’t happening exactly as they planned them.
I’ve been… edgy… for awhile now. As things have gotten harder, I’ve worked to keep anger out of my words, my thoughts, my tone. Who wants to be around someone who lets their trouble color everything they see?
I’d been doing okay until Tuesday. But now…
I can’t hold my tongue anymore when someone tells me their biggest problem is whether they should go to France or Italy this summer. I’m in constant battle with the raging bite that threatens to engulf the next person who complains about a problem comparable to hangnail.
I scrape for every smidge of grace I can find, and it seems like there’s none left.
And that’s when it hit me.
We lack grace for others when we don’t feel like much grace has been given to us.
In other words – what comes in, goes out.
I know there’s no grace left in me. But fortunately, I also know that I am not left alone to handle all this.
And if I look at it right, there were little scraps of grace left all the way along this whole week.
Last month Noelle had asked me, Mom, have you ever seen a miracle?
My answer was immediate: yes.
Her sweet voice sighed. I haven’t.
I smiled. I think you have.
She frowned, then gasped. I missed it? Where? When?
I took a deep breath. My smile got deeper. Together we remembered two days where she was really worried about something. Contrary to probably every parenting book on the planet, I pointed out everything that could have gone more wrong and didn’t.
After a few minutes, she smiled with me. Those were miracles?
Yes, girl, I said. Those were miracles.
And, let’s face it: sometimes those tiny things – the small escapes or good fortunes – are the only miracles we get.
This past Tuesday, my best friend got an extension on life.
That’s a pretty big miracle – one I didn’t even know to ask for.
That best friend also got the right people to pay attention to something he’d worried about for months, even years. He sees the cardiologist next week.
Those of you familiar with our health care system know that’s a miracle in and of itself.
But that’s not all. In fact, as I remember these last seven days, I see detail after detail far too provisional to be coincidence.
I’d initially ignored these small miracles because I was so caught up in how unfair it all was.
But as my six-year-old forced me to remember, there was grace all along.
So, if any of you feel like me, that the world seems to be spinning off its axis, that you don’t manage problems so much as brace yourself for the inevitable breeding of stress with more stress into grand-baby catastrophes, know that, again… you are not alone.
That’s grace right there.
But more than that, know that no matter how hopeless your situation seems, no matter how steep the hill you’re climbing gets, there is at least one other person who stubbornly chooses to believe that there is –
– still grace –
for each step along the path.
And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss it.
Excellent post, Lana. Sometimes finding that little bit of grace helps to make the difference and helps us realize that we aren’t alone. I find that sometimes I am very short with people as well when I am stressed, etc.
I hope that David is okay and is able to get better soon. Praying for your family.
Thanks Melissa! We’re so grateful for your prayers and well-wishes. I can feel people asking for grace for me, and I’m so grateful!
Oh lana, your posts always leave me amazed at how you can write so positive, uplifting and yet so down to earth real. I’m so thankful for your family for that huge miracle! Praying for all of you guys! definately miss talking to you at work.
I miss talking to you at work too! We’re so grateful for your prayers – and I’m so grateful you got something encouraging out of this! That means a LOT to me!
Lana, this all sounds so familiar. I will be praying for sound medical advice and answers for you guys, and that you will continue to be deeply aware of God’s presence walking with you through all of this. Glad David is ok and got help in time. Hugs to you!
Thank you Sarah – I bet it does sound familiar, hey? Thanks so much for your prayers, hugs and support.
Lana. I remember you leading worship at TWU, I remember your husband, who helped me do research on projectors, I remember your friendship with Suzanne…I pray that God will continue to give you the abundant grace that you need. I could be the author of your post today…only the words don’t flow in the same way..and only now, have I realized many of the smaller miracles. That’s all that we have to hold on at times. Will keep praying for you as you play the nurturing role for your family. Your children have become miracles themselves as you related their stories.
Hi Marg, thanks so much for your encouraging comments… I can so see David helping you with the projectors! Thank you for your prayers, I can feel people asking for grace for me. I feel emboldened by the knowledge that others feel very similarly to me. Perhaps together we can give strength to each other! And you are absolutely right about my children – I’d not noticed that before, thank you for pointing that out. They are indeed miracles.
Wow! First, Praise God for so many things. I’ve been very patient waiting for news about David. The eloquence of this piece almost made it worth the wait.
I’m guessing this was a little harder for you. It’s generally easier when we suffer ourselves than when we have to watch someone we love suffer. I’m glad you found the grace and saw the miracle so readily. And don’t think for a moment that these lessons have little impact on the girls. It just doesn’t show up so much until they’re older.
Silly me, I thought I could safely take you guys off my prayer list.
So many only see God’s grace, love, and provision when the results are positive from our human point of view. You have been truly blessed by seeing them when circumstances were still on the dark side. Thank you so much for sharing them so eloquently. I wish more people would read them and learn from them.
Lastly, Wow! Give David a gentle hug from me. And tell him from me, “God isn’t finished with you yet David; the best is yet to come.”
Once again you make a wise observation about our family. Yes, here’s the awful realization in this for me: while I’ve focused on my own suffering for three and a half years, my husband has helplessly watched me and not known what to do – or completely understood. If he’s felt like i do now, well, I see things more clearly from his perspective now.
As for the rest, well, there’s another post in there somewhere. I hope to get it out soon – with more information, as we get it.
Thank you so much for your prayers. We feel grateful to be on the list.
And thank you for sharing this with others. It means a lot to both of us.
I will indeed give a ‘gentle’ hug 😉 with your message.
What strikes me most from this is your comment that the biggest miracle for you in this is that God answered a prayer you didn’t even ask for–giving your best friend an extension on life. Certainly grace in the largest sense of the word! And it reminds me of one of my favourite verses in Exodus where the Israelites are freed from Pharaoh and heading out to the promised land, but God leads them “in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea” (Exodus 14:18). This is my favourite because it reminds me that the most roundabout circumstances, events, journeys can be for my own good, even if I don’t realize it. Seems to me that you are keeping your eyes peeled for God’s grace as you walk this tremendously rocky path. And what a testimony it is to take the time to encourage others to do the same, even though it would be easier to remain insulated, isolated, and irritated.
So special how you could teach your daughter about grace in the midst of turmoil.
I see God has given grace for the moment. That’s how He does it… not too much ahead of time.
I pray you continue to see it as you look back and see the footprints.
Thank you, Anneliese! I hope the girls see grace in this. I will keep asking for that. Bless you for your prayers and encouragement.
Your words always leave me with goosebumps. Probably because they hit home. Thanks for sharing your struggles.
Thank you for sharing YOURS! We so appreciate your encouragement today.