defining grace

It was a balmy, mid-October day in Cape Town, and life was clipping along at its usual, steady beat.

The proverbial foot had been lifted from the accelerator long enough to take a Sabbath rest, and we had just returned home from church.  I can’t remember if lunch had been devoured already, or was yet to be prepared, but my husband called me to the rust-colored, fake leather chairs and told me to sit down.

He handed me an envelope, and I paused, perplexed.

It wasn’t our anniversary.

It wasn’t my birthday.

I looked at his face for a clue, but it was a blank slate.

Slowly opening the mystery envelope, I pulled out an itinerary.

A round-trip plane ticket.

For me.

From Cape Town to Michigan.

Departing less than two weeks from that shocking moment.

My mouth fell slack as I read and re-read the sheet of paper in my shaking hand, trying desperately to process what seemed an impossibility.

The trip would allow me to be ‘home’ with my cancer-stricken mom for her 59th birthday.

I was speechless.

Though I had been remarkably blessed with a handful of trips home during my stay in Cape Town, none of those visits had ever fallen over her birthday.  As a result, it had been eight years since we had celebrated her birthday together in person.

But that year I would.

If somebody asked me to define grace, I would tell them that story.




The story of God’s radical favor, completely and utterly undeserved.  The story of His shocking generosity, sealed in a pure white envelope and held out to all who would open a palm to receive.  The story of His surprise, unexpected gift of redemption for no particular reason other than grace.  The story of airfare, paid in full and granted for free, bound for glory.  The story of an itinerary, printed on robes washed clean with the blood, booked to spend every birthday from now through eternity eating cake with the King.

I took that wrapped up present with its perfect, unobtrusive bow, and clutched it with grateful arms, and then I climbed into that too-good-to-be-true gift with a full and heavy heart.

I clung to words sent to me by a friend, after I had confessed that I was nervous about what I would find on the other side, without the glossy cushion of a computer screen to soften the blow.  I was scared to see how bad my mom had gotten, how much the cancer had gnawed away.

But my friend said simply, “Just enjoy it.”

So I did.

That birthday ended up being my mom’s last birthday here on earth.

And it was grace.


Now it’s your turn!  What defines grace for you?  What story from your life had grace painted all over its cover?

Link up or leave a comment below!

Joining today with the (in)courage community group, Grace Writers.

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16 thoughts on “defining grace

  1. Kate, I had tears when your husband handed you the envelope… your story had me from the beginning and moved me throughout. What a gift you have! Thanks so much for sharing this story! I’m sure your mom loved it…

  2. Eish! It brought tears to my eyes also. Just like that was a free gift to you so is God’s grace. Nothing we can do to earn it or keep it. It is ours as believers.

  3. A beautiful parallel on grace today, Kate! I’m so glad you were able to spend your mom’s last birthday with her. I’ve had similar grace moments in my life and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. Our God is so very GOOD. Thank you for letting me link-up today. Feel free to link-up on my site, as well today. 😉

  4. A lovely picture of grace. Grace in grief is a lesson God has written on my heart throughout several seasons of loss. There such a power in his grace-gifts when they come during the dark times. Thank you for sharing so beautifully.

  5. Pingback: Remembering Grace | Annie Rim

  6. I loved reading this story of grace, Kate. Yes, I had tears in my eyes as I read. Just beautiful. It’s always a little indescribable when God reaches down—just because—and meets us at a heart level with a gift like that. I’m so glad you got to be with your mom for her last birthday. I’m guessing that may have eased her home going for you.

  7. Oh Kate, I’m weeping and my heart hurts and also rejoices that you were able to spend that time with your mom. Such beautiful words. Grace sweet grace.

  8. What a beautiful view of grace you were given and share with us.
    We’ve been traveling this week but I have an old post that I think fits this prompt perfectly. (Of course my blog is called LivingInGraceland so grace is something that often comes to mind.)

  9. A most beautiful post! A most beautiful picture of grace – it is completely unexpected, invading our lives & never leaving us quite the same. I am so glad I stopped here from Tell His Story this morning. Blessings!

  10. Kate, what a beautiful definition of grace. You had me on the edge of that seat with that envelope. I think I must have processed 100 different ideas before I read the words that told us what was inside. Indeed, it was grace as it was your mom’s last time to celebrate with her daughter. I’m so glad you got to be there in person and to enjoy it as you say you did. Blessings to you. I enjoy reading your words…

  11. Hi Kate! I am coming over from Twitter.
    What an unbelievably generous, thoughtful and loving gift. I’m sure I wouldn’t know what to say. What joy you gave your mother! She must have been just as amazed to see you as you were to see that ticket.
    I felt grace when we got the call about our first child. We were on an adoption list, and he finally appeared! It sure brought me to my knees…

  12. so beautiful. there isn’t anything like an unexpected gift at just the right time, whether we know it or not! amazing! pure grace for me was a girl from church coming to watch our baby so we could pack for Uganda yesterday!

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