Stories for Christmas – Part 3: Touched by Grace
Note from Melodie Davis: The writer of this week’s special story for Christmas is Elizabeth Raid, who lives in Newton, Kansas, with her husband, Lou Gomez Jr. They have five children and 13 grandchildren. This story (now slightly abridged) was included in a story anthology, Fifty Shades of Grace: Stories of Inspiration and Promise, published by Herald Press in 2013. Used by permission. Perhaps you can enjoy it while reflecting on your Christmas blessings as you sit by the Christmas tree or wherever your favorite meditation place is.
Touched by Grace
by Elizabeth Raid
A cup of hot chocolate and a fireside chat with myself seemed the appropriate way to spend the last hours of the year. Endings and beginnings often cause me to wonder and ponder: Where have I been this past year? Where am I headed? Of course, it’s fun to review one’s physical comings and goings—trips to visit family at a distance, work-related travels, road trips with my husband that offer the opportunity for extended conversations.
But the end-of-year review demands more than the trivial or temporal. What is the state of my soul?
But the end-of-year review demands more than the trivial or temporal. What is the state of my soul? How has my spiritual life changed these past months? What have I learned about myself and about others? Has my relationship with Jesus remained stagnant or deepened?
Questions of this significance call for another log on the fire and a second cup of hot chocolate! Rereading my journal from the year’s beginning revealed what I feared. I still felt stuck in my life. A troubled close relationship had not improved. In fact, it had worsened in the past months.
No new doors for employment had been opened. Instead, I’d experienced a pay cut due to financial difficulties in the organization. Aging parents had done only that—aged and required more hospital stays and caregiving. When I looked beyond my own little personal situation, the picture only became grimmer and darker. National tragedies and raging wars engaged much of the news and affected millions of lives. Out-of-control access to guns that became weapons of mass destruction invaded the safety and sanctity of churches, schools, and homes. Violence and fear became bedfellows in the constant struggle to control and overpower the other.
My despairing thoughts consumed my energy as I drained my second cup of hot chocolate. If I continued down this path, I could easily be sucked into the ways of this world: greed, power, control, fear, violence—the vicious cycle that has ruled our world for centuries.
During Advent, I’ve often heard and repeated the words “Come, Lord Jesus, quickly come.” I knew that Jesus was the answer given as God’s gift of grace to this broken, yearning world of ours. I just wanted to feel that gift manifest in my life as well as know it with my mind.
I lit the Christ-child candle, still sitting on our table even here at the end of the year. As I watched its gentle flickering, yet constant light, I began to breathe more slowly. The earthy scent of the pine branches on the lit Christmas tree, waiting their final hours before becoming branches that would be tossed out and blown in the wind, began to ground me in the goodness of God.
I remembered the sweet voices of my six- and nine-year-old grandsons who last evening sat on the piano bench with me and sang “Silent Night, Holy Night” and “Joy to the World.” My husband had surprised me by setting the table for our company and washing the dishes and cleaning up afterward. My heart warmed with love for this caring, kind man in my life.
My daughter in a distant state called to thank us for the gifts and the many ways I’d helped them this past year. She wished us a happy New Year. In a new way I felt the nearness of that parent-child bond that even age cannot sever.
The aging parent had returned from the hospital to the care facility in time to be surrounded with loving family members for Christmas. A period of calm came before the next health crisis.
Over the past year, my intentionality for more silent space had been realized through monthly group spiritual direction. Spending time with like-minded souls who also yearn for a deeper relationship with Christ encouraged me in my own spiritual journey.
I recalled a Christmas morning dream where the troubled relationship with a family member was healed. There were hugs, smiles, and laughter passed around. With thoughts of that reassuring dream and other moments, I felt the Christ child born again in my heart.
These soothing sights, sounds and memories calmed my restless spirit. In the new year, I will still need to learn to listen longer and more deeply to allow space in the silence for God to grow in my heart. God is still at work in my life! (Fifty Shades of Grace, 229–232)
Elizabeth received her master of divinity from the Earlham School of Religion, a Quaker seminary in Richmond, Indiana. She participates in Bethel College Mennonite Church when she is not assisting in her husband’s pastorate. Elizabeth also wrote Howard Raid: Man of Faith and Vision, published by Pandora Press.
As a Christmas remembrance, we’d love to send you a pocket planner calendar from Another Way for 2016. Just write to MelodieD@MennoMedia.org or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802.