After church, I stopped by our favorite nail salon. Joey used to spoil Taylor and I and act like it was a big deal for the two of us to go get pedicures together. The ladies who work there are mostly from the same family. I suspect there are at least two generations of women pampering us, if not three. They were always happy to see us as mother and daughter, and I received the same warm greeting Sunday afternoon. One of the matriarchs waited until I was at the manicure table and then joyfully asked me, “How your daughter?” her Vietnamese accent forgetting the s. My nail tech just looked at me and said something in her native tongue that sounded more like a melancholy song than it did a sentence, and I spoke over her saying, “I’m sorry – we lost her. She was killed this summer.” Her own mother’s heart broke and with eyes wet with tears she whispered, “I’m so sorry.” She answered her colleague with more sad foreign tones. To me she whispered, “I’m sorry” again, and I tried to comfort her by offering my thanks, “It’s okay. Thank you for remembering her.”
She whispered again, “She was so beautiful, her hair, the smile…” her voice catching her tears again.
“This is the air I breathe…”
Worship Sunday centered on the topic of spiritual disciplines, specifically fasting. The pastor’s premise, God’s hopes and dreams for our lives, began by asking us to think about our hopes and dreams for our own lives or our children’s lives. I had enjoyed the praise music, had concentrated on the words of the songs instead of the stage that held her picture on August 1st and settled comfortably, I thought, to listen.
My mind responded instantly, “All things holy – you must not want me here if you want me to listen to a sermon about the hopes and dreams for our children.” Joey’s arm reached around my shoulder and the urge to turn on my heel and exit the sanctuary subsided. The sermon is over discipline, after all.
He mentioned the misconception that we have as believers of God as a “cosmic genie” granting our wishes or denying them.
“Arrgh!” I turned on my phone and began reading email.
It’s amazing which phrases our hearts and minds hear or don’t hear depending on what hurt we’ve carried into worship with us. These struck the angry chord that often plays within my heart as I prayed for her safety every day of her life. My old friend, Punishment, tried to push me out of my seat. Still, I sat. Eventually, as the pastor explored the depth of the relationship that we can have with God, he mentioned that God hurts for us, and I remembered a verse Rebecka sent to me…“You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights. Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.” Psalm 56:8
“In all your ways, acknowledge Him…”
It occurred to me sitting there somewhere between feeling sorry for myself and trying to worship that Amazing Grace isn’t just a sound or isn’t a sound at all. Grace is the countless messages you sent last week. Grace is an envelope from OSU, the Theta’s in Stillwater sending their light to us in scripture, a letter from my mom, a text from my neighbor, a hug from a mom who lost her daughter years ago, and countless other acts of selfless love.
Perhaps, you are our counselors. You who read and pray, who read and respond, or who read and cry are our amazing grace. Perhaps the prayers your righteous hearts give much and consequently, we are left lighter, stronger, and on a straighter path.
“…and he will make your paths straight.”
“This is the air I breathe.”