The Alphabet of Grace

Morning, afternoon, evening-
the hours of the day, of any day,
of your day and my day.
The alphabet of grace.

Frederick Buechner

Last month I told you about the origins of Braille in my monthly review of what I learned in February Findings. I was intrigued by a boy's persistence in trying to communicate. He didn't have the letters until he connected the dots into a language. A revelation.

Learning about Louis Braille and his fingertip language got me thinking. Isn't that what I am always trying to discover, a way of speaking about my interior architecture in a way that connects us together? Aren't we all trying to translate the Holy we touch beneath our fingertips into a plain spoken language? Aren't we trying to connect body, heart and soul?

We are blood and bones walking around on this third rock from the sun breathing oxygen and doing the ordinary things of life. At the same time, we are soul and spirit walking around in another country, another home, learning another language. Extraordinary!

As mortals crafted in God's immortal image, we walk in two worlds, both made by God and both REAL. Jesus taught us that.

With His own feet in this dirt, He walked around in the Father's heart and saw with the Father's eyes. He spoke the language of His time and another one that is timeless, a language of the heart made with different letters. And the two are laced together into a new sound for us who will listen. There is a language larger than life and yet beneath my fingertip and yours.

I was visiting my daughter and her little family recently at the time of day when life quiets down after dinner. She put Sweet Pea to bed and suddenly it sounded as if we had thrown open all the windows in the house. Croaking frogs began their twilight symphony around the small backyard pond. Boy, did they have something to say, at least until Rowdy-the-wonder-dog bounded into the back yard, his cape flapping through the screen door, and silenced the lot of them.

A few days later, I was running in the woods near my home when I realized there was language all around me, birds on the branches, light through the trees, a thousand shades of green moss sprouting on every stone. All of it speaking to me. Some say that nature is one of God's children and I believe it is true. The stones do cry out. I didn't hear a word per se, what I heard was something like singing. I felt notes beneath my feet on the wooded path. Emmanuel.

I have been thinking about this other language. It is made of sounds and streams of notes riding on the wind. It speaks as the stars in the sky, always present yet half of the time invisible; in darkness, shining through holes in the fabric of the night. It is music that drifts like snow on the porch steps when I open the planked door at a cabin in the Cascade mountains.

It is the singsong bubbles rising from the Wonder's lips (my grand babies) when they babble. I promise they are speaking a language, secret and true. There is a cadence that resembles conversation with pauses and emphasis in what seem to be right places. Certainly, they are learning our language, but they seem to know something of it that we cannot quite hear. Have you ever marveled at a barely older sibling translating the babblings of a littler one? They understand and translate for us. How can they possibly know?

This language is a sound I am learning to hear, something I remember. I can't quite put my finger on it, still, I can feel it beneath my fingertips as Braille. It has letters well-worn and better for being handled and loved threadbare as the Velveteen Rabbit. This is the kind of language I am talking about, between playing in the raspberry canes and burning up with fever and being healed. In that span (a life) we all just want to be seen, to be heard, to be forgiven and to be real. It might be extraordinary for just how ordinary it is.

The sounds of everyday life are building blocks for a the resurrected life. They are an alphabet of grace and we are swimming in surround sound.

Frederick Buechner says,

I am thinking of the humdrum events of our lives as alphabet. I am thinking of grace.

I heard a woman on the radio talk about her husband and the way they had a dialect all their own, a language between two wedded lovers and friends. She called it "the language of us". She said it wasn't greeting card sentiments or even those three little words, "I love you", but the tiny bits and pieces of everyday.

Every. Ordinary. Day.

If there is a God who speaks anywhere, surely He speaks here:
through waking up and working,
through going away and coming back again,
through people you read and books you meet,
through falling asleep in the dark.

Frederick Buechner

The woman on the radio described the language of us as inside jokes, remember whens, small I-guess-you-had-to-be-there quips, movie references and the shorthand of forty years of marriage. Mike and I will celebrate thirty one years of marriage this spring and our own language is still being compiled every simple day we continue our life together, often without us realizing it.

I cannot tell you all of the language of us, some of it is secret, but I can tell you it includes an old orange bicycle, a wedding in May, a stucco house in San Antonio, Bluegrass music, the sweat and happiness of raising four children, losing his father Henry much too soon, a cabin in the Oregon woods, double bi-pass heart surgery, lots of chips dipped in salsa, glasses of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, dreams of a tiny farmhouse on a big piece of land and bits of Texas sky.

That's the thing about a language of us, it unfolds over time, ordinary time. It will not be hurried except perhaps in crisis. And in crisis, I've seen that a dialect can go either way, to brokenness or bonds.

The language of us is spoken and unspoken, but always thriving in commitment, faithfulness and true love. Much can be "said" in the silence between us.

For me, there is a language of us between me and my sister, me and my family, me and and a few true friends, and most certainly between me and my husband. There is a braided language of us between me, my Savior and the Holy
Spirit. It is playing out in everyday life and swirling in creation.

The longer I have known Jesus and continue to spend time alongside Him, the more I realize how little I know Him. I mean that in the best possible way. If I am honest I will tell you, Jesus is elusive, or maybe it is me who bobs and weaves. Though I recognize His way and His words more often and in more places, our relationship is a living, breathing, weaving one that I can never quite grasp. Blooming might be a better word for it. There is always mystery there, unanswered by popular opinion, and even by the day before. It is new every morning.

The pearly grays are a time when I first tune my ear to the alphabet of grace, that language of us. These are conversations between me and my Savior about plain old things in ordinary life: my dog's last days, my brother's chronic back pain, these words I write to you, my friend's next home address. Starting my day listening intently helps me hear the music all day long, but the more I play the Game with Minutes, the more I realize this music, the alphabet of grace, continues in my sleep for I wake up with it on my lips and humming in my ear.

I want to tell you all about my faith and have you say, "Me too!". I want to hear you tell me about yours and say, "Me too!". I would say that is why I sit at these lettered keys everyday.

There is an alphabet to discover, an alphabet of grace.