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Receiving unexpected grace via the U.S. mail

Grace can be hard to put your finger on, like trying to grab at fog or hold onto a breeze. I remember even back when I was writing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism that I struggled to define it in a way that would make sense to people, especially people who maybe had never really contemplated that word before and what it might mean in their lives.

To make matters worse, we Catholics get into categorizing kinds of grace: sanctifying or deifying, habitual, sacramental, and even special graces and states of grace. If we’re not careful, it can make grace feel like something so complex and lofty that we begin to think it’s not something that ordinary, just-struggling-to-get-through-every-day kind of people can get without some special training or anointing, but it’s yours for the taking. It’s beautiful and powerful and a gift that we get for no other reason than simply showing up in this life and turning toward God.

The catechism defines grace as the “free and undeserved help that God gives us.” Most of us, I think, recognize grace when spiritual help arrives at the most unexpected but most needed times. For me, grace arrived this week in so many disguises, in the cupcakes and wine that a friend anonymously left at my house with a note reminding me that God is good, in the private emails from so many thoughtful and supportive people, in the form of a speaking engagement I had booked months ago but which brought me to the exact place I needed to be this week to regain some spiritual sanity and breathe deep of God’s beauty alive in the people of faith around me.

And it arrived yesterday in fabulous fashion, when I was feeling physically, mentally, and spiritually spent, like maybe all of this stuff I’ve been doing here lately was just getting in the way of my relationship with God rather than serving as the the way to the one who is The Way.

I had actually been laying down, feeling like maybe the flu or some sort of virus might be coming on, and Olivia walked in and said, who is Cathy A….. (Tricky last name there.) And I sat up and said, “She’s another Catholic writer I know.” (Although she is much more, a soul sister.) And I walked into the kitchen to see what she might have sent me, and there in a little pouch in a padded envelope was the beautiful silver necklace you see in the photo above, simply stating, “GRACE.” In that moment I felt such a flood of love surrounding me, from people I have never even met but who are with me on this journey, people who show me the face of grace every single day.

This necklace has double meaning for me since I know that Cathy had taken note of the fact that I named the baby I lost through miscarriage Grace. And so this is grace coming to me from all directions and lifting me up and carrying me forward.

So, as it turns out, grace isn’t so hard to define and sometimes we can even lay our hands on it and hold onto it, in the people around us, in the unexpected moments and signs that show up on our literal doorstep and on the doorstep of our heart. To every person out there who has blessed me with this grace, who has shown me God at work in my own life and the world around me, I say thank you. I will be praying for all of you and holding you in my heart.

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