We just concluded a vacation that we had spent months planning. Every route, every lodging: planned. Every person we intended to see: planned. Every site or event we were going to attend: planned. All costs: planned.
What we didn’t plan was a sudden illness.
We had just finished time in Texas with dear friends, time at the Gulf of Mexico being beach bums, time exploring San Antonio and Waco, time digging for diamonds in Murphreesboro, and were planning to spend some time in Hot Springs, and then on to see family and then HOME!
But now time was not on our side. After supper in Hot Springs, the Hubs became suddenly and violently ill. There was no warning. One moment he felt fine. The next he was retching…. at both ends…. if you know what I mean. I wondered if he had food poisoning, but we had eaten the same things for the past several meals, and I was fine. As his illness continued into the night, it became apparent he could not travel the next day. He would have to have immediate access to a bathroom, and that’s just not possible on the road.
I wasn’t sure what to do. We knew that lodging in Hot Springs was scarce this time of year. But I talked to the innkeeper early the next morning, explaining our situation. He said he would work out something, and he did indeed work his magic, allowing us an extra night. He went beyond that, bringing us some supplies, offering to take the Hubs to the ER. Hubs was able to rest and somewhat recover. We will always be grateful for the compassion of the innkeeper and his wife. Grace.
We left Hot Springs a day later, and traveled those winding, hilly, curvy, heart stopping drop-dead-beautiful Ozark scenic routes in Arkansas. Those routes will clench your stomach under normal conditions; Hubs was not experiencing normal conditions. Nevertheless, we safely made it to Missouri to see our relatives. Grace.
We had a great time seeing the aunts, the uncle, the cousins, having dinner together, sharing stories, laughing…. and then my sister called to say they were taking Mom to ER. Argh…. we were still a day’s journey away….. and we can’t drive at night. We stayed over night at a cousin’s home and intended to leave as early as possible in the morning. But the Hub’s bug found my digestive system suddenly… without warning… during the night. The only difference is that mine was accompanied with chills, shaking, and deep muscle and joint pain. My cousin graciously offered to let us stay another night, but we feared that, if not already done, we would pass on the bug to her and the rest of the family. But we did stay longer that let me rest some. Grace.
I probably should have stayed the extra night. The trip back on this last leg was excruciating. The pain intensified to the point that I was moaning and crying. Hubs was doing his very best to reassure me and get me home safely. And he did. He was not feeling good, and I was feeling worse when we pulled into our driveway. But we had made it home. Grace.
Grace is something that we receive which we do not deserve, nor have we earned it. It is a freely given gift. Nothing nor nobody owed us safety on the roads or places to stay in the situation we were in. It was grace. But grace has the habit of being generous and expansive… over the top.
Here’s what happened when some of God’s people heard of our situation. One family offered to drive down to get us…. drive thru three states…. and bring us and our car back home. There is no way we deserved kindness like that. Grace.
Another family came by with a fruit basket, overflowing with grapes, apples and oranges, to help us to a healthy recovery. We had never done anything to deserve that. Grace.
Another family came by with two kinds of soup, a loaf of bread, cheese, and fresh veggies. Grace.
It was an overwhelming compassion, a kind generosity….. a grace prompted by God. Truly, it brought tears. We are still trying to recover from this illness, and grace will see us through.
You might dismiss my story by saying that people are just naturally kind and helpful, and that grace has little to do with it. I certainly will allow you this opinion, and I agree that many (not all) people are kind and helpful. But I stand by my belief that God knew our situation and that He provided just what we needed just when we needed it. Grace.
It reminds me of a wonderful verse of Scripture:
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thess. 5: 18).
Note that it doesn’t say to give thanks FOR everything. Just to give thanks IN everything…. meaning in the midst of everything going on. In the midst of an illness and uncertain travel, we gave thanks that God provided the innkeeper, the cousin, the friends, the safety and provision. Grace.
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
–Julia H. Johnston
O Father…. Thank YOU for YOUR ultimate grace: granting me life with YOU forever in heaven through the sacrifice of YOUR Son. Thank YOU for the little grace notes that carry us through this life time. Thank YOU for the grace that sets YOUR plans over our plans. In the name of Jesus,