My husband’s parents, Bill and Ruth.
Peter’s father passed on Sunday after a long, brave battle with Parkinson’s. He was a husband, father, grandfather, Chemist, Photographer, and a kind, noble gentleman. I love this photo of Bill and Ruth – it’s filled with youth and love…and the promise of their bountiful future together. They were married 57 years. Raised four children. Even in the very last moment, Bill and Ruth were together. Side by side, in their home. Ruth tirelessly cared for Bill day and night, until his very last breath. I greatly admire their love and dedication. Day after day, year after year, they honored one other, during the good times and not-so-good that comes along in life.
The word Grace keeps coming to mind.
Our youngest daughter’s middle name is Grace, which my husband loved because of its Biblical meaning. I have to confess, aside from naming our sweet little one, I’ve never really given deep thought to the word Grace. Until one chilly January morning this year. Our family was having breakfast at a hotel in Columbus, Georgia. We were making our journey from the Atlanta airport back to the beach. Groggy eyed and hovering over my cup of lukewarm coffee, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation from two servers calling 2012 “the year of Grace.” One was explaining to the other that her minister told them in a church service that the numbers in 2012 added up to 5, which in the Bible, represents God’s Grace.
“How sweet,” I thought to myself, and went back to sipping my nearly cold coffee.
But a small, still voice inside of me said “Seleta, pay attention.”
Reluctantly, I inched my way a little closer to the two women talking and sheepishly asked if they could tell me more. I felt really stupid. Here I was, this scrappy white girl in glasses eavesdropping on two ladies having an intimate chat. But I was greeted with kindness. In a matter-of-fact tone, the one lady told me that her minister explained that God’s Grace establishes, strengthens, and settles our hearts after we’ve been wounded in any way. Her brown eyes stared heavily into mine when she said, “Grace is the love that pours from God’s heart.” She spoke to me as if we had been friends for years. I realized I needed this message. I thanked her and felt a warm surge fill my spirit.
To this day I’m so grateful to the kind women who stopped and took a moment to tell me more about Grace. I even made a little graphic as a reminder.
Seven months later, I’ve learned that Grace also means growth. And I can’t sit here and tell you growth is always fun. It seems this year has brought a few trying experiences. Ones that insisted we grow and develop more faith. I’ve learned that in each experience there is a lesson…and an opportunity to grow in faith. Instead of sinking or giving up, I’ve tried to stop and think about the lesson. And to find God’s Grace, which is always neatly tucked inside like a precious gift.
Monday was my birthday. Peter was in Atlanta with his mother and siblings, preparing for his father’s memorial service. I was here with our children. I spent a great deal of time thinking of Peter’s father…about his steadfast spirit and dedication to his family. And how he and Ruth have always lived their lives with Grace. I also thought about how precious life is. And how I’m grateful for each and every moment we have with each other.
An avid scuba diver, the sea was a large part of Bill’s life. When Peter was a young boy, Bill used to sing a song to him about sailing and the sea. He passed his love of all things aquatic to Peter, who also became a scuba diver and joined the Sailing club in college. Peter will never forget one particular journey where he sailed in stormy seas, and even thought he might not make it back to shore. I saw this quote and thought it tied in beautifully to the topic of Grace.
Grace is there for us in the not-so-smooth waters during our voyage. I’m grateful for the days with glassy smooth water, and for the Grace that comes with the choppy seas.
I dedicate this post to Peter’s father, William Henry Howard. A man of Grace. You will be missed. And never forgotten.