The Grace of God, Right There On My Living Room Wall

As I write this, I am sitting in my living room looking at a recently-taken photograph of our entire family. The fact that all nine of us managed to be in the same place at the same time is something of a miracle all by itself!

The photo was taken Dec. 14 by a good friend of ours, Scott Myers, who also attends The Crossing. He has an amazing eye for photography – rare, in my opinion. Somehow, he took nine people – two adults exhausted after a day of work, and seven excitable, talkative kids ranging from 3 to 19 years old – and got us all to look relaxed and (dare I say it?) attractive. During the shoot, he made it look like it was “no big deal” to get nine people looking good all at the same time. I shudder to think how many pictures it took to capture this moment.

These past few weeks, I find that I can’t walk by this picture without stopping for a minute to stare at it. Believe me, my lost-in-thought gazing does not proceed out of female vanity, or even a mother’s pride in her family. Yes, I know what it’s like to feel that, too…but this is something decidedly different. This photo represents so much more to me than just a good shot of my husband and our kids. For me, it represents relentless rivers of God’s grace poured directly upon my head.

Some of you may know that Warren, my husband, and I were both married once before, prior to Dave Cover remarrying us in May of 2004. When we met, I had three kids from my previous marriage, and Warren had one daughter. He also was helping his ex-wife raise another daughter, not his own. We married and immediately began working together to raise five kids. Some “honeymoon period!” And yet one of the reasons we married so quickly (within 12 weeks of meeting…now there’s an interesting story!) was because of the supernatural way in which those five kids got along. Their connection to each other seemed, in many ways, to be as instantaneous and ordained as ours was with each other. Their love for each other was (and is) the grace of God in the lives of two families.

Somewhat overwhelmed by the daily grind of raising five kids and coordinating nearly everything we did with ex-spouses, we decided that we would not try to have a child together. To be honest, neither of us were terribly young anyway – Warren was in his 40’s already, and I was already what doctors euphemistically call “advanced maternal age.” It was a solid, practical decision. And then, only 18 months or so after we married, we found out that God had other ideas regarding His plan for us. Elijah Lewis Mayer was born in August of 2006, looking just like his daddy. He is three years old now, and the resemblance between my husband and our son is striking. In this latest family photo, Eli and Warren are cheek to cheek, two sober faces surrounded by seven smiling ones. Eli’s birth is the grace of God in the lives of two divorced sinners.

Then in 2008, we received an e-mail from Christian Fellowship, where some of our kids went to school, indicating that there was a girl in South Korea who “only” needed a family to invite her into their home in order to attend school here in the U.S. Warren once again had a rare charismatic moment, and my solitude-loving, introverted husband said he thought we should offer to open up our home to this stranger. God brought Ga Yeoun halfway across the world and solidly planted her under our roof – and into our hearts. She lived with us for 10 months and forever became a part of our family. Having recently visited us for the holidays, we made sure we took our latest family picture while she was here, so the photo on our wall could accurately represent her place in our hearts. Ga Yeoun’s inexplicable arrival in our home is the grace of God in the lives of our entire family.

So this family picture has seven kids crowded around us, two of which have zero biological connection to either of us and yet are forever loved by all of us. I look into their faces, each and every one, and I see so clearly just how far I fall short of acknowledging the grace of God in my life, even when it’s living right under my roof.

So I think (a lot) about what tremendous lengths God will go to redeem brokenness. In the winter of 1997, Warren was living alone and very methodically drinking himself to death in a ghastly student apartment downtown…with no shower. He had to go to the Student Rec Center on the MU campus just to clean himself up! Back in 1999, I was very busy leaving my first marriage in search of happiness that I was convinced I would find in another relationship; I spent the next four years looking for it with one man, and then another, blind to the sin I was living out right in front of my older children. Warren (somewhat reluctantly) gave his life to Christ in July of 1997, and while I can’t pinpoint my salvation like my husband can, I felt Christ drawing me toward Him in the fall of 2002.

This history of ours often feels like a lifetime ago, but it’s not. It’s all too easy to recall the details of our old, obviously sinful lives, and it’s in that context – memories of an old life still so fresh – that I look at this family photo today, this visual proof of what God has done in our lives in very recent history…and I am humbled by His love for me, His grace poured over me. This photo reminds me that I have absolutely no clue what God is able to do, how faithful He is to His children (even those who repeatedly disobey and dishonor Him) and how much it now makes sense to put everything I have or am into His hands and let go. Amazing grace, indeed.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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