Tonight I was reading in 1 Corinthians 10 and my eyes slid across this passage. . . “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” It simultaneously brought tears to my eyes and made me smile because those few words were the answer to a prayer I had breathed only moments earlier asking for God to show Himself gentle to me. See those words are like an old friend taking my hand and leading my heart because of the spiritual mentor who helped me learn them. So as the words hit my brain the memories of her diligence toward me flooded over me, I thought to myself, “That’s from Psalm 24,” and sure enough when I glanced down at the footnote for confirmation, there it was . . “Psalm 24:1.”
That Psalm is the first Scripture I clearly remember memorizing and it was Nanny, my paternal grandmother, who went over and over every syllable with me—in the KJV no less . I’m certain there were other verses I memorized for the Sunday School classes she took me to but that Psalm – at least part of it—was different. Not only was it huge to my little person mind, but I recited it in front of the whole church at the Vacation Bible School program. Angela L. said the other half.
I was about eight or nine I think, but unlike the age that I have to work to recall, I have perfect clarity of how I felt . . . I was terrified. I don’t remember Angela L. looking at all nervous which must’ve made the ashen colored fear on my face stand out all the more to the parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who were there. I distinctly remember thinking that I could either look at all their expectant faces or I could recite the Psalm, but I couldn’t do both. So, rather than look at what seemed to me to be thousands upon thousands of people in the pews, I closed my eyes. . . .and I didn’t miss or stumble over a single word.
Now Nanny had worked with me on that Psalm all week long. She made certain I could say that thing forward and backward . . .not just my part but Angela L’s too. I was so afraid she would be disappointed or embarrassed because I hadn’t stood straight and tall, I hadn’t looked the congregation straight in the eyes with the steadfast confidence of someone whose Grandma had made certain she knew her part. I hadn’t done any of the things she had helped me prepare to do. I had closed my eyes and tilted my head down to speak but if she was disappointed in me, she didn’t let me know it.
Instead, she put her hand on my shoulder—the one with all the extra skin that I liked to press into big ridges and then smooth down before I went to sleep at night—and she said, “That was beautiful. Psalms are written to be prayed. Your eyes closed and head bowed was perfect.” I remember that evening and those words so clearly—not that it was good enough, not that it would do. . . .”it was perfect.” The tears are sliding down my face right now and I can feel her perfect hand, the one with the extra skin, on my shoulder.
Oh how I am praising God for bringing those words of love and that touch of grace to my mind this very moment. See, when I opened up my Bible this evening, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by my own imperfections and shortcomings and I asked Him to lead me to a tender word from Him, to be salve to my heart because I felt so less-than. And this is where He took me . . .to this tender memory, to this gentle touch and the echo of my Nanny’s voice. . . “it was perfect.” Thank you Lord.
It fits so well with all that He has been showing me lately about the beauty that women of all ages, occupations, and personalities bring to their worlds. He’s just been putting them in front of me everywhere I go. . .pretty places and not-so-pretty places.
I walked into a public restroom and bent down to scan the space between the bottom of the door and the floor to see what one might be empty. My eyes stopped and my heart took in a picture that spoke a thousand words. Now the photo isn’t too clear because it isn’t exactly the place where you take a lot of time to focus your camera but if you look close you’ll see three little pairs of feet engulfed in a sea of white toilet tissue facing one another sideways and . . . one pair of larger feet, toes touching the ground, facing forward. I expected to hear some harassed and helpless sounding shrieks come from behind that pink stall door, but instead the voice of grace poured over my ears, “I just need a minute and then we’ll be done.” Her tone was soft. She spoke tenderness to those babies. Not a harried response or a sharp retort within earshot and she had no idea anyone was listening. She was grace come to life. . . making her world a more beautiful, softer, grace-filled place. I never saw her face but I know she’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever encountered.
A few days after that, I worked out at a fitness center and the Mom, Daughter, Wife, on the elliptical beside me got interrupted not once but four separate times – twice by her daughter, once by her dad, and once by her husband in the span of about 15 minutes. And that beautiful woman, who had no idea anyone was watching, kept a posture of love the entire time. She never folded her arms once. Never shot a look that could kill. Never did the long exhale through her nose. Nope. She poured love out on every single one of those interruptions wearing skin . . .she made her world a more beautiful, kinder, love-filled place. She was drenched in sweat, wearing her heart on her sleeve, and she was radiant to me.
The following morning I was walking on a flower-lined sidewalk with a friend and a woman about our age came up behind us. We invited her to pass through because we were more concerned with chatting than with keeping up a good pace and she was so pleasant as she walked between and eventually passed us. She turned back as she made her way by with a smile and explained, “I’m not as quick as I used to be with this limp. I have spine cancer and I’m afraid I overdid yesterday. I just finished radiation but I wasn’t going to miss this vacation with my husband and kids.” No bitterness. No this-isn’t-fair cadence to her words or her stride. Just pure devotion . . . .selfless, heartfelt, devotion . . .she would not be brought to a stand still. She was tenacity in motion and she made her world a more beautiful place.
And then there was Eloise and Yaya. Two complete strangers to me. Eloise, about 2 years old, and Yaya who was about 70 years her senior . . . granddaughter and grandmother playing in the pool. Eloise full of energy and spunk in her little retro bathing suit flitted from one thing to the next, chattering the entire time. Yaya never told her to quiet down or suggested they take a rest. She engaged fully in every toddler utterance that came from Eloise’s mouth. She was wise enough to soak in every moment that was passing between those generations and you could tell from the look on her face that she was treasuring that day up in her heart. She may not have had the zip her grandbaby did but as a friend who has many grandbabies of her own often tells me, “my speed might be gone but the stamina is still there!”
Yaya was in it for the long haul with Miss Eloise. She would not be deterred from loving all out and all in where Eloise was concerned. She was enthralled with the little girl before her and Eloise was enamored with her Yaya and they were beautiful .. . .they made their world a more beautiful, love-out-loud, treasure-the-day, live-this-moment place.
I don’t know if any of those women have confessed Christ as her personal Savior or not. I hope so, with everything that’s in me, I hope so. But the truth is, God can display His glory and impact my life through whomever He chooses and for this moment in time He chose them. His plans don’t need our approval to move forward and for this season in life it appears that His plan is to increase my awareness of the beauty of women and tender my heart toward them in a way I’ve not experienced before – – not just the ones I’m blessed to know but the ones I may never meet.
These encounters changed me. None of those ladies know how they impacted me. None of them know how they lived out loud, loved out loud, and brought beauty to my world. . . .but they did. And YOU, sweet, sweet Sister, YOU are those women.
You’re the daughter, you’re the mom, the grandma, the wife, the friend, you’re the sister making the world a more beautiful place. A softer place. A grace-filled, love-filled, life-filled place.
Your lives aren’t easy—the toilet paper tangle on the floor is sometimes as good as the day gets. But you do the messy stuff and you make even that crowded stall, with all those feet, a beautiful place to be. You reach out a hand with extra skin, lay it on the shoulder of one you love, and you make life better. Your tenacity for life, your pure devotion, they make your world beautiful.
I know it’s easy to feel as if we don’t bring much beauty to our circumstances. We get too caught up in the imperfections and the shortcomings, but I assure you Beloved . . .
and He will display His glory and His love through you. . . . with or without your approval.
Every time you choose a posture of love over a posture of impatience. Every time you refuse to be deterred from being fully with the ones you love. Every time you do the daughter-mom-wife-grandmother-friend-sister pour out grace, love, and life stuff. . .every time you are YOU, you make the world a more beautiful place because you, my Sweet Friend, are a glimpse of His glory.