Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Year of Grace

As a child I read the Little House of the Prairie books constantly--so much so that my two older sisters and I read one set of the books into oblivion. The writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder greatly influenced my childhood--I liked to wear my long brown hair in two braids, my older sisters and I played "Little House" all the time (despite being the youngest of the three, I was alwaysLaura), and, at eight, I even won Honorable Mention in a state-wide illustration contest by drawing a picture of the family in their covered wagon.

A more subtle influence from these books shaped my understanding of certain words. Copperplate writing or scarlet fever, storm cellar or headcheese--I encountered these "vocabulary" words for the first time in the pages of these books. Most of the words were easily understood from context clues or a quick answer from Mom. Occasionally, though, context clues can lead a reader (especially a seven-year-old reader) astray, and sometimes stick with that reader into adulthood.

"A Year of Grace" is the title of the very last chapter of the very last book (The First Four Years) in the Little House series. This is the shortest of all the books (it was published after Laura's death, and was never really finished or polished by her). It is an account of the first four years of her marriage to Almonzo Wilder. Although Laura never really wanted to be a farmer's wife, that was Almonzo's profession, and so when they married they agreed to try farming for three years. At the end of the third year, they decided to try just one more year. That extra year (the year of grace) turned out to be a year of trials. They lost their crops to wind storms. They were in debt to doctor's bills and the bank. Their house burned to the ground. And their newborn son died just three weeks after his birth.

The title of this chapter was my first introduction to the word "grace". The contents of the chapter led me to believe that "grace" was equal to very hard troubles. Then, sometime later, I learned about grace in church. Ah, I thought, that's what it means--they had such a hard year that they had to rely on grace--the divine help from heaven. It made such perfect sense to me that way--one would need divine help to get through a year like that.*

This past year has been a year of grace for me and my family. Various serious health problems have reminded us all of our mortality. But I'm grateful for my initial misunderstanding of "grace". It stays with me to this day--very hard troubles = grace. I know it isn't theologically correct, and yet it helps me through my difficulties by redirecting my focus to heaven. It forces me to be aware of my blessings and the very real presence of the Lord in my life.

*(It wasn't until much, much later--high school at least--that I realized that the title was likely referring to adding a "grace period" of an additional year to their farming experiment.)


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  • Grace is an anchor principle for me. I love the Bible Dictionary definition that (paraphrasing a bit) it is divine, enabling power to assist us in doing that which we cannot do on our own. I appreciate your testimonies and faith that radiate here. God bless!

    By Blogger m_and_m, at 1/29/2007 12:25 AM  

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