Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November Grace

Photo by Gisela Francisco
Several years ago, I led a Bible study on grace.  Being a word person, I spent quite a while exploring the history and meaning of "grace" itself. One of my happiest discoveries was the link between the words "graceful" and "grateful."  Etymologically, the words are identical; both come from the Latin "gratia," meaning "beauty," and "favor, goodwill." In English, the words have evolved to articulate the symmetry of grace: to say one is "graceful" means she has received gifts of beauty, strength, or goodwill. To say she is "grateful" means she has acknowledged offered thanks for these gifts.

My favorite definition of grace is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, obsolete.  For a time in English, "grace" referred to "the part in which the beauty of a thing consists." I think this definition is ready for renewal.  As fallen men and women, our beauty does consist only in the grace we have from God: the grace we have of being made in God's image; the grace of the Christ, who restores that image in us; the grace of love, which the Holy Spirit bestows so that we may love one another into beauty. 
For the past several years, I have come to see November as a season for remembering what it means to be full of grace. Thanksgiving is, more or less, a secular holiday, but I have come to celebrate it as the golden day in a holy season of gratitude. Along with many others, I have set aside November as a time to publish the reasons I am thankful.  For the next month, until ordinary time surrenders to the watchful hope of Advent, I will be posting short entries each day on the reasons I give thanks to God.  

I invite you to spend this month naming grace with me.  Only by looking carefully at the gifts we have received can we see how beautiful our lives really are. 

Today I am grateful for peculiar ways of showing love.  Last night, Jenn and I realized that we show love to one another with tea leaves. You see, we drink lots of tea in this house, and rather than tea bags, we usually brew our tea from loose leaves. One advantage to using loose-leaf tea is that you steep the tea more than once. The second infusion, however, is usually weaker than the first. It is a small but real act of service, then, when one of us gives the first-steeped cup to the other.  To someone who does not drink tea, this act of love might go unnoticed. But we notice. Not only I am grateful to live with people I can serve and accept service from, but I am grateful that as a household, as a peculiar little family, we have already developed our own unique ways of showing love. When Jenn offers me the first cup, I accept it with thanks, breathe in the fragrant steam, and take the first sip of grace.   

What are you grateful for today? What fills you with grace?


  1. Brittany WilloughbyNovember 2, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    In response to your question and your sharing, I wanted to post what made me especially thankful today. What was suppose to be a continuation of a regular Spanish tutoring session turned into a man telling me part of his life's journey and him pointing to God's presence within the struggles. I am always thankful to hear people's stories, but the sincerity and hope with which he told his story along with it being interjected into an everyday, routine part of my work life was a particularly abundant blessing.

  2. You would know the latin, or at least the rudimentary latin, from Mrs. Steppe alone. This is E of Atlanta, GA, formerly of South Vigo High School.