Do you see grace?

If you want others to be happy practice compassion. Dalai Lama

Sometimes I want to give up.

I look at these people, standing in the hot sun, waiting in long lines up to three afternoons a week, just to get a couple Walmart bags of free leftover produce from a grocery store or day-old bread from the bakery or whatever size bars of soap that some sweet soul donates along the way.

Are we helping? Does anybody change? What good are we really doing?

I don’t see the girl fall. It’s a hot Wednesday afternoon in Alabama. She’s in line with her mother and they’re not yet to the shaded side of the building.

She starts going down. A guy in line near her (I should know his name by now and also his twin brother’s but I don’t) sees it happening and rushes up. He catches her before she hits the ground.

Another lady in line (ugh, I don’t know her name either but I know her face; she has a job nearby and we give her clothes for work) also sees what’s happening and pulls out her cell phone. She dials 911.

I catch up with them as Winston is escorting them into the prayer room so she can sit down and cool off. Color is returning to her cheeks, but she still looks faint. Her mother is calm. She says this happens.

The paramedics find us and check her out okay. She refuses their offer of a trip to the hospital.

They say she can drink so I rummage around back and find a warm coke, thankful she asked for it that way. Winston and Mary Beth cut into the food line to gather several big bags of food for her so that her mom can take her home and not have to return later to get what she needs.

I wait with them in the prayer room, then finally remember to actually offer prayer. I see the mother is disabled herself—I’d noticed a heavy limp—and the daughter tells me that her mom not only cares for her, but for a total of fifteen people in two houses. Some are family, others are just strays who need help.

Lord, have mercy. I pray for healing, for rest, for peace.

But I’m also praying for me.

Lord, keep me hoping. Keep me compassionate. Keep me seeing grace.

A few more minutes pass. The mom leaves to get the car. I ask Ricky, a friend in line, to lend a strong arm to walk the girl outside to the car. He gladly does.

The girl thanks us for everything.

But I need to thank God for everything.

The outward happenings of any situation—whether a near fall or a line full of hungry people or a volunteer struggling to see grace—are minor details compared to the major things God is doing on the inside. Of each of us. The girl needing help. Her fellow compatriots in line. Her mom and the volunteers and the paramedics and Ricky. And you reading it all.

  • Are we seeing grace or not?
  • Are we believing grace?
  • Are we being grace?

Lord, keep growing my heart to see more, believe more, be more. Grace.

We close her car door and the next thing needs to be done so we all move along. Nobody goes down today. . . .

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.
Psalm 71:14

God has shown you his grace in many different ways. So be good servants and use whatever gift he has given you in a way that will best serve each other.
1 Peter 4:10 (ERV)

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sharing at OneWord365

40 thoughts on “Do you see grace?

  1. Mary

    Oh friend, I’ve told you before that I admire you. How brave you are to be out there doing good deeds such as this. Nobody goes down…yes, I pray that nobody goes down.

    My husband helps out regularly at our church’s food pantry and making home visit to the needy and the stories he shares are heartbreaking. I’m so grateful for people like you and him that do this necessary work. I do not feel called to do this. Doesn’t that sound awful? But I don’t. I have prayed about it, been to the pantry to see how it works, I just do not feel it is my calling.

    Thank you for sharing your heart, friend. I’m always so glad I stop here!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Oh, don’t think I’m brave, Mary. 🙁 I’m so not. I finally do feel comfortable helping at Manna House but it’s because I have to bargain with God every week. All I can promise him is that I’ll just show up; anything beyond that is all on him.

      And there are so many things, even there, that I don’t feel called to do, so never feel guilty if this isn’t your thing. I’m glad God gifts us with different interests and abilities. It’s a great big world with lots of different kinds of people to love, in lots of different kinds of places. We need to stay spread out. But I do hope you and I show up at the same place sometimes because I so want to meet you in person. 🙂

  2. blankfloyd

    (Gulp) I feel the sting of conviction… It’s so easy to get calloused and not see each person as a child of God in need like all of us. I wonder sometimes if our spiritual needs are far more desperate than their physical ones… Thanks for the reminder of Who we’re called to serve and care for, each one of those children represent our Savior.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I wonder that too, Floyd–God is gracious to meet our spiritual needs as he shows up through us to meet physical needs. Who else but God could do such a thing?

  3. blankLinda@Creekside

    You live grace, Lisa. It seeps out of your overflowing heart, it spills on to each one who is blessed to share the pathway with you.

    We see it here in this online space you have shaped and molded. And we are all changed because of being in community with you.

    Hugs, my friend. And blessings on your week, on your walk, on your service to Him and others …

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You have grace-filled eyes to see me in that way, Linda. But I know I’m not near the blessing to others as I’d like to be. But God keeps showing me other people who are, and that helps me see how it can be done. Thanks for being one of those people!

  4. blankLisha Epperson

    Hi Lisa! I feel your weariness. Just the other morning I sat in my car watching the line form in front of. The food pantry. The pantry is directly across the street from a newly developed luxury condominium. I sat and prayed. The line grew to extend around the corner. My thoughts were like yours – what can I do? How is this right? Is anything really helping? Because the line, year after year seems to get longer. But I know there are deeper stories taking place in the hearts of the people on the line, in me and even the residents of the luxury condo. God is moving and grace is working. Bless you for doing the work you do. You are his hands and heart when you offer prayer , a witness to the truth that leads to change. Amen.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for getting this, Lisha. It makes me think of Jesus saying that we’d always have the poor with us. I know he wants to do something in US as much as he wants to us to do something with them. “God is moving and grace is working”–thanks for this.

  5. blankSherrey Meyer

    Lisa, thank you for being the image of grace in action as you share this story. I know you didn’t share it to receive compliments or glory, but what you have shared is the fact that we “can see grace” all around us. But first, we must keep ourselves aware of the “all around us” spaces. Grace is anything and everything done on behalf of those nearby who are in need. Or perhaps even family members in need. If we but look and pray, we’ll see grace every day. Thanks for a beautifully poignant post.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      “If we but look and pray, we’ll see grace every day.” So true, Sherrey. That’s what I want to do. Some places it’s harder to see grace than others, but we can always find it if we’ll look–and if not, maybe God is wanting *us* to place it there….

  6. blankSharon

    A wonderful, convicting story. Yeah, I need to ask God to continue to keep my eyes open for the plight of others. All too often I get myopic about my own life. Jesus always had His eyes open for those who were in need, and He ministered to them.

    Lord, teach me to love like You did…

    GOD BLESS!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I love reading the scriptures where Jesus would look at people and have compassion on them. He definitely saw through directly to others’ needs. I hear you about wanting your eyes to be more open; that’s my prayer as well. Thanks for sharing.

  7. blankAndrew Budek-Schmeisser

    There is a phrase that came into vogue a few years ago (though it was first defined in the 50s) – “compassion fatigue”.

    It was first used to describe the somewhat hard attitudes of first responders – I have been one, and I can certainly relate. The first time you put an expectant victim on the dead pile, it’s a big thing. But you get used to it. (Expectant means, in this case, expected to die.)

    But the term’s been adopted by suburbia, and I have heard comfortable upper-middle-class people justify turning away from charitable work because they have compassion fatigue. They just get SO TIRED of seeing commercials asking them for money to support worthy causes, and it’s SO HARD to think of starving kids. It can really throw a shadow over planning a Thanksgiving feast.

    There’s a natural human tendency to want to step back and “let George do it”.

    But George is in Afghanistan, trying to put tourniquets on IED-severed limbs, and he’s in Somalia, braving the warlords to get food to people who have watched their entire clans die.

    It’s up to us. If we can’t hold compassion in our hearts, we are obliged to practice it with our hands.

  8. blankCaleb Suko

    So often I fail to see the grace of God and the greater picture that he is painting in the details of life. Looking back it’s always easier to see but I think it’s important to remind ourselves regularly that God is at work right now in every situation.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      God in the now. Yes. That’s what I have to remind myself of often, too–he is always here and always working and always loving, even when I can’t see or understand. I’m sure you wonder, yet see, God working his grace in Ukraine….

  9. blankAmy Jung

    It seems the Lord serves me most often with insights/conviction/encouragemnet/wisdom when I’m opening myself to serve Him. This post makes me want to put myself out there more. May he continue to give us the desire and willingness to give compassion and receive compassion.

  10. blankKelli Woodford

    Lord, have mercy … I echo that prayer AND the one for compassion.

    I love that you had eyes to see Jesus who showed up in the seeming nonchalant neighbors who assisted this girl in her time of need. Oh, how he still walks among us in disguise. Indeed.

    What a beautiful contribution to Unforced Rhythms, Lisa. Thank you.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      It was definitely cool for me to see some of the people who usually just “take” be able to “give” when the situation called for it. I do believe there are so many people who want to help if they are just given the opportunity. Jesus walking in disguise…yes–thanks, Kelli!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      And I wonder how many exponentially more grace opportunities are available that we never even see… So thankful for the God who sees all and can direct our vision as we’re capable of seeing.

  11. blankBeverley

    We are doing something big in our little church just now, we are working together to do something bigger. I keep hearing whispers of ‘i’m not sure if i can?’ I just reply ‘pray about it, it will happen, you will know what to do and how to do it.’ They sigh, they nod and hopefully they will go and pray for grace too.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      That’s how to do it, Beverley…trust that he will show the next thing to do, and then the next after that. And give the grace to do it. I’m excited for you and your church.

  12. blankMia

    Dear Lisa
    Oh, I am sure we all wasn’t to give up much more times we would like to admit! But it there where I have learned to draw closer than ever before to our Lord’s heart! It is actually amazing how close He us to the brokenhearted.
    Luv XX
    Mia

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Good point to raise, Mia. He IS close to the broken-hearted, always. And he will always give us the strength to keep going on if we’ll keep returning to him. Thanks for the encouragement, friend.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You’re sweet. And grace-giving. 🙂 Maybe it’s hardest of all to see grace coming out of ourselves? I definitely desire to be more of a grace-giver than I am.

  13. blankMichelle Anderson

    Oh boy Lisa. God is speaking to me so much about who I am, who he wants me to be, how he wants me to be, even through reading stories like this one. They keep popping up everywhere creating the breadcrumb trail of where he wants me to go, leading me to the ones HE needs to reach. Your story is another breadcrumb. Thanks for writing.

  14. blankCarey

    Thank you for this. I have recently been convicted of how we say we’ll pray when we should actually pray right then and there. We need to be grateful, giving, loving. This fits perfectly with where God is leading my heart in recent months. Thank you for sharing this experience. Beautifully written. (Found you through the Trusting Tuesdays Link Up.)

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Yes–if we’d just pray then and there, it’d take care of things. I’m trying to get better at it. I want it to be my first thought, not an afterthought. Thanks for this, Carey.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      That’s what I thought too. 15 people! Goodness. She needs all the help she can get. Continuing to pray God’s grace surrounds her as she blesses so many.

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