It was a balmy, mid-October day in Cape Town, and life was clipping along at its usual, steady beat.

The proverbial foot had been lifted from the accelerator long enough to take a Sabbath rest, and we had just returned home from church.  I can’t remember if lunch had been devoured already, or was yet to be prepared, but my husband called me to the rust-colored, fake leather chairs and told me to sit down.

He handed me an envelope, and I paused, perplexed.

It wasn’t our anniversary.

It wasn’t my birthday.

I looked at his face for a clue, but it was a blank slate.

Slowly opening the mystery envelope, I pulled out an itinerary.

A round-trip plane ticket.

For me.

From Cape Town to Michigan.

Departing less than two weeks from that shocking moment.

My mouth fell slack as I read and re-read the sheet of paper in my shaking hand, trying desperately to process what seemed an impossibility.

The trip would allow me to be ‘home’ with my cancer-stricken mom for her 59th birthday.

I was speechless.

Though I had been remarkably blessed with a handful of trips home during my stay in Cape Town, none of those visits had ever fallen over her birthday.  As a result, it had been eight years since we had celebrated her birthday together in person.

But that year I would.

If somebody asked me to define grace, I would tell them that story.




The story of God’s radical favor, completely and utterly undeserved.  The story of His shocking generosity, sealed in a pure white envelope and held out to all who would open a palm to receive.  The story of His surprise, unexpected gift of redemption for no particular reason other than grace.  The story of airfare, paid in full and granted for free, bound for glory.  The story of an itinerary, printed on robes washed clean with the blood, booked to spend every birthday from now through eternity eating cake with the King.

I took that wrapped up present with its perfect, unobtrusive bow, and clutched it with grateful arms, and then I climbed into that too-good-to-be-true gift with a full and heavy heart.

I clung to words sent to me by a friend, after I had confessed that I was nervous about what I would find on the other side, without the glossy cushion of a computer screen to soften the blow.  I was scared to see how bad my mom had gotten, how much the cancer had gnawed away.

But my friend said simply, “Just enjoy it.”

So I did.

That birthday ended up being my mom’s last birthday here on earth.

And it was grace.


Now it’s your turn!  What defines grace for you?  What story from your life had grace painted all over its cover?

Link up or leave a comment below!

Joining today with the (in)courage community group, Grace Writers.

Photo Credit: