I was paying for my Goodwill clothing purchases recently when I dropped a quarter on the floor. My favorite cashier asked if she could come around and pick it up for me but I told her I could get it, it just wouldn't look very graceful!
I was stunned at her reply. She said I was always graceful, especially in the way I talk and the way I walk. Who knew anyone was looking? I thanked her and mumbled something about inheriting this from my mother. Her words stayed with me all day.
That is partially true as my mother was adamant about looking good when we were out and about. She would tell me stories of when she was a poor widow with children who wore hand me downs but she made certain the clothes were washed and ironed.
Even though she worked as a waitress when I was a child, her white uniform was always ironed and she budgeted to have her hair done at least every other week. Remember those hair dryers with the huge space age looking hoods? This was when a lot of women had their hair "done", often once a week if they could afford it. The cost at that time was very low.
Although she had a wicked sense of humor and often stated the most humorous "truths" to her children and grandchildren... which in my home we called Mamaw-isms"... I came to realize that she had learned to guard what she said around people she didn't know.
Now, what makes her graceful way of looking and speaking especially unique is that my mother was the rebel in her very conservative bordering-on-legalistic home. I have been told by my oldest sister that the mother I knew who was in her 40s when I was born was different than what she was as a teenage mother to my two oldest siblings from her first marriage.
It wasn't until after my mother passed away that I started putting the puzzle pieces together that probably explained why she was so upset when I became a born again Christian in my teens. Mom's entire background in knowing God was greatly darkened by words spoken to her out of legalism, especially by her older sister and probably extended family members.
She loved to listen to hymns and enjoyed watching Jimmy Swaggart and other preachers on television. Which, when I was growing up, was usually broadcast on Sunday mornings. Yet, she let it be known when I told her I had given my life to Christ that she hoped it was another short-lived phase I was going through.
Well, decades later I can assure you it was not a phase. My mother would, many years later, accept Jesus as her Savior, too. However, she was never able to find real rest and peace in Him and now I realize it was because of the early condemnation she felt because she was so different than her family.
Although I am an only child of my parent's marriage, I am my mother's eighth child and I know very much what it was like to be different than the rest of your family. Except instead of being the black sheep because I was wild and crazy, I was different because I was of a different generation from my siblings (a couple had older kids than me) and especially... because I had become a Christian.
I was fortunate because while I felt that rejection from most of my siblings and their spouses (not all of them), I didn't from my mother and that is what counted. She may have not understood at first but she was very gracious in allowing me to follow my faith. She even drove me to to the local Christian coffeehouse once a week before I had my driver's license, where I found fellowship and later shared Christ with young people.
Mom talked of her own mother so often that I felt like I knew her even though she passed on when I was a toddler. Mom always spoke of her as a "Southern lady", which meant she was graceful and gracious. I have come to realize that the older mom got, the more she became like her own mother.
My mother may have rebelled when she was a teenager but her mother had an affect on her that never went away, in spite of the rebellion from her Christian values that she saw as condemnation.
That is where my thoughts took me that day, being a pondering kind of person. I wondered how much of being graceful is taught and how much of it comes from within. I came to realize that being graceful can be taught and it is something that we can do without thinking about it.
However, what I want to be known for is hopefully being gracious. I think that is what the cashier meant when she said my speech was graceful. For I always try to be gracious to people, even if it comes only by biting my tongue and making a firm decision to watch my words.
Being gracious is something we can learn from women we know personally
as well as women we know only through their books or other media. I think the reason I have enjoyed watching The Daily Connoisseur on YouTube is that she offers reminders of how to be graceful and gracious.
I am learning that to have gracious speech, I must be filling my mind and my spirit with gracious words. Of course, the Word is the most important and I think Psalms are words that fill me with joy even at the darkest moments. Sometimes I read through Revelation (no, really) just as a reminder that the Battle is the Lord's and He has a gazillion angels to fight for His people.
Although I watch a few YouTube videos for information that leave me feeling at least a little anxiety, I have learned to balance what I watch with gracious watching and listening. While I have vlogs like The Daily Connoisseur and some of my favorite simple living vlogs to watch, I don't depend on them only to balance anxious words with gracious, peace giving words.
Even with my eyesight declining, I do still make an attempt to read pretty magazines, cookbooks, and my old books not available for listening, I have used my Audible credit for books to fill my imagination with good things (good novels) and books that are a balance to fear and anxiety.
Right now I am listening to The Divine Adventure by Rebecca Friedlander. I already loved the two documentaries she made about the Celtic Christians that are often shown close to St. Patrick's Day on a couple Christian networks I get with Direct TV.
I believe they were filmed at the same time for there is a slight overlap with one concentrating on the lives of the Celtic saints from the time of St. Patrick to the other documentary going in the direction of the modern revivals of Scotland and Ireland.
The Audible version of the book is narrated by the author, which I enjoy since I have seen her interviewed on a few programs. She has a way of bringing you along with her on her journey with spiritual disciplines and why they are important for today's believers.
Yesterday, I listened to the book during a power outage that resulted from storms going through our part of the state. I had the book downloaded so it was an easy decision to use this time to enjoy more of her book.
The last chapter I listened to before the lights came back on (and I could finish what I had been working on before the storm) was the chapter where she talks about the visit to Swiss L'Abri for a few days with her brother as they took a break from filming in Europe.
It was so enjoyable and reminded me of the legacy of the Schaeffer's all these decades later. In her book, Rebecca talked about how Edith was such a gracious host and put together delicious meals for those who traveled there seeking wisdom (and receiving Christ). Her meals and hospitality were essential to the ministry of L'Abri.
The modern day staff of L'Abri let her look through the original Schaeffer chalet and kitchen. She realized how simple it was, that the kitchen was small by American standards and that the room where they had their famous discussion was also small.
She shares how she was at first disappointed by how normal everything looked and then realized that was a lesson in itself... anyone can show hospitality and share Christ even with their own normal homes. It was the gracious hospitality and love shown in those simple places and simple tasks that turned it into something special.
Rebecca then shares about how visiting L'Abri affected her own decision to set up a beautiful area for hospitality on the back patio of her tiny cottage where she lived in Southern California at the time. Her description of turning a plain patio into a warm, welcoming, and magical place for people to have fellowship around a restored table was the result of that Truth she learned at Swiss L'Abri.
I hope others may still find me graceful, although my daughter knows that I can fall up a flight of stairs! So, graceful walking has limitations. But I have come to realize that to become and remain gracious, I need to be in fellowship with the God who is grace personified. He who saved me by His grace.
We live in a world that has pretty much lost gracious speech, dress, and actions. This is the time when God's people can shine with His grace and His peace. I wonder if that is actually what my favorite cashier saw, not so much my own grace or graciousness... but the Holy Spirit within?
All I know is this... without the Holy Spirit coming and living within when I was a teenager... without decades of Him forming and shaping and teaching me... I doubt very seriously I would be called gracious today.
As in all things, there is a reason the saints in Heaven throw down their crowns at the foot of the Savior.
Mentioned in this Blog Post
The Divine Adventure Spiritual: Practices for a Modern Day Disciple... info here.
The Daily Connoisseur on YouTube... here.
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Image: Grandma's Garden by Robert Duncan