One tiny word that will change your life.
We know, because grace has forever changed our lives.
D.G. and I met in college and D.G. remembers one conversation in which he asked me this question: "Tiffany, what do you think it all boils down to? I think it boils down to love." And D.G. remembers my saying "God doesn't have to love you ... and that is grace." He said that this conversation was life-changing theologically for him because it changed his thinking and his actions in that moment.
We have seen grace lived out in breathtaking and humbling ways. We both grew up with parents and in small United Methodist churches that took the covenant they made at our baptisms as infants seriously. They loved and nurtured us in grace. Whether it was teaching a Sunday school class or a note on our birthdays, our lives were impacted in powerful ways through the grace that was lived out before us.
We have seen grace lived out in places and people that have forever changed us. Yet, nothing left an imprint of grace quite like our journey to be parents. We had been married only a few years when we decided, as most young couples do, that it was time to start our family. Yet one year ... four years ... 10 years and still no baby. We saw multiple doctors and braved tests, procedures, rounds and rounds of fertility shots and surgeries. We had to grieve that what we both prayed and hoped for was just simply not going to happen as we had planned. We were barren.
God doesn't stop
One night, in the midst of the endless fertility treatments, I woke up and had a deep sense that God was saying something very important. When I woke up the next day I read these words over and over: "Stop. I will do this, so my glory will be revealed."
So, D.G. and I stopped. But the grace of God did not; in fact, God had only begun!
A friend called me to have coffee and said that God had put on her heart to have a fundraiser for us. Our family and friends surrounded us and threw an adoption fundraiser. We began the adoption process even though we knew that we had exhausted our resources with fertility treatments, and yet, at every step, family and friends gave us exactly what was needed to continue.
Step by step of this journey, we were amazed by grace. The grace of God practically poured out for us by those around us. Those moments when we grew weary, they did not. Friends surprised us with a baby shower for a baby that we had no word was coming any time soon .
We received the call one day that a birth mother had chosen us. She was due in a month and wanted to talk with us. I will never forget that first phone call with Vanessa, our birth mother, in which I said "Vanessa, I want you to know what you are getting yourself into. See, we did not wait 12 years just to adopt a baby. We want to adopt you." Vanessa told me that she didn't understand, but D.G. and I knew that it was no coincidence that Vanessa was brought into our lives.
We flew to meet Vanessa a few weeks later and we heard her story, which was becoming our story. We marveled at the fact that the baby God had chosen for us was sitting before us in this amazing woman who was making such a selfless and gut-wrenching sacrifice. She said with conviction that she knew that we were the parents for this little baby and that the baby chose us.
We lived grace as we got the call to come for the birth of a little girl. I stood in the delivery room as the doctor placed a beautiful baby girl into my arms.
We each chose a name for this little girl. Vanessa chose Rachael. D.G. chose Trinity, and I chose Grace. Grace Trinity Rachael.
Grace does amazing things to us. It makes strangers family.
It was grace that blessed us with our first baby shower with Gracie at the inner city mission where I served as the executive director. How humbling to see decorations, food, a cake and gifts that we knew were purchased with widows' mites out of sheer love for us and for this little girl.
Grace upon grace.
I hear God's grace every time Gracie calls her tummy mommy, Vanessa, or asks to pray for her when we pray. I receive God's grace every time Vanessa calls me to talk about her life and says, "I love you"... words that are deep with meaning for all of us. I share God's grace every time I tell someone the amazing story of how D.G. and I became parents. Grace in every detail.
There are many grace moments in each of our lives: moments that we must cherish and share because it is in this sharing that we realize that God is at work among us. God doesn't have to love us, and yet God does so powerfully. That is grace. And we are called to live out that grace in practical ways.
Each of us has a story of grace to share. You might never know when you are the bearer of the grace in a way that changes someone's life. D.G. made a deep impression on me early on in college because he would always leave a generous tip for servers and clear the table to help them. And his grace doesn't go unnoticed because we have seen time and again that waiting tables can be a thankless job and a small thoughtful blessing or note goes a long way. We have had strangers become friends because of the way that D.G. shows grace to those who serve us.
Bearers of grace
Teaching our children to be bearers of grace might seem a daunting task, but children watch and learn how we live out grace to those we encounter. It can be as simple as taking your children to give their artwork to those in the nursing home or keeping homeless care packages in your car to share God's grace.
Children learn grace by seeing us live it out daily. The children at Bee Creek United Methodist Church where I serve were challenged to be "secret agents" of God's grace and to bless others. One girl surprised her mother by cooking breakfast and packing the lunches and left a simple note of blessing. Simple acts of grace.
A powerful prayer practice for me has been to transform the way that I look at Facebook. Instead of reading mindlessly, I read with eyes of grace: asking God to direct me to see those who might need words of hope or encouragement. If you see someone hurting on social media, reach out in a tangible way. There are needs all around us and social media connects us in ways that were unimaginable even a few years ago. The needs are spelled out for us; we simply must have our hearts tuned into see the ways that we can live out God's grace.
I will never forget the one day when I walked into D.G.'s office at church and saw a moment of grace that took my breath away. Gracie was sitting in her daddy's chair, holding a cup and loaf of bread ... blessing them the way she had seen her daddy do so many times.
Grace: the grace that takes each of us from being alone and small and transforms us into hands and feet that share God's grace with a hurting world. That is grace. Go and live out that grace.
The Rev. Tiffany Hollums, a deacon, and the Rev. D.G. Hollums, an elder, are members of the New Mexico Annual Conference. Tiffany is serving as Student Minister at Bee Creek United Methodist Church in Spicewood, Texas. D.G. is the former minister of online engagement at United Methodist Communications.