Best Gifts: Grace Upon Grace
“At Grandmama’s house…I can have ezer. I. want!” – (translated: “At grandmama’s house I can have whatever I want.” This was a claim I felt entitled to as a spoiled, four-year-old little girl, and this is something that my family likes to remind me of often. It was true though; I felt delighted in and loved so much that I began to feel entitled to it as well as accustomed to it. Emma Jo’s daily vocabulary towards most and specifically towards her grandbabies consisted of “Well, honeys,” “Sure, darlins,” and “Precious ones.” While she exuded Southern charm, her love was genuine and those words authentic, far from anything fake or empty. Both she and my granddad loved to spoil my sister and me, especially around the holidays. Their love and gifts allowed me to receive and believe in their delight in me.
She always lavished good and thoughtful gifts on everyone and always fulfilled all our favorite things from our Christmas “wish lists.” Her generosity extended from gift giving to the way she served and cared for those around her. She marked little traditions that provided a comfort and excitement about the holidays which beckoned a season of celebration. Whether it was coffee cake on Christmas morning, hearing her sing, “It’s beginning to look-a-lot-like Christ-mas…” as she fluttered around the kitchen, making the grandchildren sit atop the stairs until all the adults reached their coffee fill in the morning before present opening, or the way she carefully attended each conversation, she provided a warmth, a welcoming, a security, and an unwavering joy. I felt delighted in and special because of her. I adored this woman. She was a woman of God who consistently pursued her relationship with the Lord and from whom I learned a great deal about faith.
She passed away my freshman year of college. Without her and with changes in family and in life in general, or perhaps due to the inevitable fact of getting older, some of the comfort, joy, delight, and excitement of the holiday season has dissipated. The holidays can now leave me with a taste of reality, the finite, yet a thirst for something more. I do not hope for or anticipate the material gifts as much as I once did. Through the years there have been different kinds of losses which have made family smaller and the togetherness feel less…well, together. I think this tends to happen to most of us, if not all of us, as we grow up. Hardships and changes can numb us to the gifts and joys of the season, making the holidays feel less exciting over time. Brokenness and limitations reaches all of us and appears different to all of us as well. Loss and grief can cloud our “seeing” of the good things, even around such a joyous season.
A friend recently enlightened me to the truth that I do not trust in God’s promises to me or believe that He gives good gifts. Through the years, my hope and anticipation of material gifts has dwindled. Strange how it was not always about the tangible gift, but it was more about the feelings of hope, anticipation, and love gained from a bow-topped box. It was knowing that I was thought of and loved in the purchase and cost of that gift. These days, I find that a lot of that is lost and that feeling delighted in can feel foreign. I hated this to be true about myself. I want to trust and believe in His promises. I want to fully grasp the cost of Him sending Jesus, and I want to consider the thoughtfulness in Him sending Him the way He did. I want to be reminded of the true Joy of this season and fully receive the best gift ever given. I want to know and understand His delight in me. For what better and lasting gift is there than Jesus? What would it look like to live out of that place, of utter delight, and not just in December but all the time? To remember and anticipate all the other blessings and glimpses of redemption that is to be forever seen soon and very soon. So, this season I hope for it to be different. I hope to trust and know there is only One who desires to give good, true, and lasting gifts to His children. One who provides warmth, welcoming, joy and delight. God delights in us so much that He gives the ultimate gift of grace and salvation by giving us Jesus. “And from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” – John 1:16. ‘Tis the season to reflect on this gift and the implication He has on our lives.
Mollie Johnston moved to Charlotte from Tennessee to pursue her master’s in Counseling at Gordon-Conwell and currently works as the receptionist for The Barnabas Center.