Glancing across the auditorium to find someone to snap a picture of our family near the beautiful Christmas tree on the platform at the front of the church this past Christmas eve, I noticed a trio of women standing cautiously to the side. Two were about my age, while one was much younger.
Thrusting my camera at one of the older women who looked least likely to flee, I hurriedly explained how to use the camera—and she complied with a smile. Soaking in the scene throughout several shots grouping various family members together, she made kind remarks about how “perfect” my family was, and how beautiful everyone was dressed, and how great the children looked. I could sense a longing in her.
Taking my camera from her worn hands, I asked her if I could return the favor and take a shot of her and the other two women. She smiled and, after allowing her the time to cover her tattooed arms and rearrange her shawl to cover her bare chest, I took several shots, assuring her she looked great.
I took the time to arrange the women in a group and then asked if they wanted the younger woman by herself. It was an opportunity to welcome these women to our church, to reflect on God’s goodness and graciousness. As I told my daughter a few minutes after the encounter, “But by the grace of God, there go I.”
My mother was a single parent with four children who raised us pretty much dirt poor—but not at all dirty. Nonetheless, when we first started attending a huge church in Arizona, I had moments where I felt we would never fit in. Faced with hordes of people wearing very nice clothes and having two-parent families, my confidence melted away. What made things better was when gracious individuals extended genuine smiles, caring car rides, and steady friendships. We were made to feel truly welcome—and soon we learned that truly it’s what, or Who is on the inside, that counts. And that gave me the confidence to hold my head high.
There is that knowing born deep inside that comes from having once been lost, but then being found. It’s just a generation away for me. And then it’s the unbelievable awe that comes from knowing I am in Him, I am in Christ and He is in Me—by His Grace He saved me.
This past Sunday I felt all of that again. At that same platform where just weeks ago those women reminded me of that grace—my son and daughter-in-law stood with their beautiful family, dedicating my granddaughter baby Ella June to God and themselves to God in raising her. Oh, how great is His grace.
And as if that wasn’t enough, my husband John baptized Joey, our 6-year-old grandson, who was dedicated six years ago in that very same place.
Now is our new song, “But for the grace of God, here we are!”
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