Choosing Grace.

If you ever find yourself empty from something you cannot know or name, find a stretch of ocean, a field or a mountainside, or even clouds or trees. Because there are a thousand simple ways to fill your tired soul so you can remember how to be, how to see, and most importantly, how to breathe.
— Victoria Erikson
Overlooking Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz.

Overlooking Natural Bridges in Santa Cruz.

Driving to Half Moon Bay at 6:30am on Saturday morning, I was both stunned and surprised to see small droplets of rain falling upon the windshield. It had been 100 degrees in Dublin just a few days earlier, and I was unprepared and caught off guard. I didn't even pack arm warmers for the ride, naively expecting it to be sunny and 70.

It reminded me of how everything we experience- thoughts and feelings of both pleasure and pain, community and isolation, are all like a weather pattern, coming and going, appearing, and then passing along.

It seemed particularly apropos given that my usually 'sunny and 70' mood had changed in the last 24 hours, and my current state of vague blah-ness and somber mood was matched by the grey clouds and the foggy conditions.

We started down Highway 1, and every few miles I wiped off the raindrops on my sunglasses that shrouded and obscured my vision so I could focus on the road right in front of me. I was literally and metaphorically pedaling through the fog as J just listened and offered space. I realized how much-needed these rainy days of life are. How they offer introspection and reassessment of our lives that just don't come when the sun is always out. What a poignant reminder of how we should allow the chillier, often messier 'storms' into our lives, understanding that they too, are simply weather systems, coming and going.  And they are just as necessary and nourishing to our soul's landscape as the sunnier days.

You know what happens after awhile?

The sun always breaks through the fog in due time. And my mental clarity in my head and my heart followed suit.

View along West Cliff in Santa Cruz, 50 miles in...

View along West Cliff in Santa Cruz, 50 miles in...

We arrived safely back into Half Moon Bay with 100 miles in our legs, and salt and goofy grins all over our faces. I was starving, my mouth salivating in anticipation of enjoying the Olive Walnut bread/hummus sandwich at San Benito Deli. We sat down, exhausted and anxious to get some real food into our stomachs. I was getting ready to take a huge bite of my sandwich when everything came to a screeching halt.

There was mayonnaise layered on both sides of the bread.

I don't do mayo.

I shot J a desperate look, not wanting to be a prima donna, but also knowing that I couldn't eat this if it had mayo all over it, and I was thisclose to entering the 'hangry' state.

I sauntered back into the deli, knowing it was my fault for not specifying 'no mayo' but also secretly hoping for a miracle. The woman behind the counter looked at me with tired but kind eyes as she listened to my request. She took my sandwich, made me a brand-new one, and even wrapped up the old one, placed it in a bag, and instructed me to "give it someone who might enjoy it." She didn't charge me for my new sandwich. Instead her response was, "You've just ridden 100 miles and you deserve a good meal." It made my day how someone could be so kind to me. 

We were about to leave, and my heart was overflowing with gratitude for the exceptional woman who served me up with much more than a hummus sandwich that afternoon. She served me grace. I walked up to her as she was cleaning the deli, and handed her a tip as a small token of my gratitude. She refused it at first. She hugged me instead. Then she started to cry.

It turns out that the day before she had experienced some deep pain caused by a friend. And it was in this absolute place of isolation and pain that she needed to feel love. "Your timing was so perfect today. This was exactly what I needed," she replied. No, it was exactly what we needed. I realized she had the power to change the entire ending of my day if she had reacted negatively to my request. But instead, she chose compassion. She chose grace. And grace is a circular blessing.

In fact, the whole day felt very much like grace. Grace being the unexpected blessings, the unearned bounty. The kind of blessing that comes whether we work for it, or deserve it, or ask for it, or pay for it, or not.

There's Big Grace- the kind that involves a cross and unconditional love.

But there's also everyday grace- the kind that's found in smiling at the stranger standing in line next to you at the grocery store.

The kind that's found in letting another car merge in front of you during rush-hour traffic on a Monday.

The kind that's found in the small air pocket tucked behind a friend's wheel to protect you from the headwinds of life.

The kind that's found in hummus sandwiches without mayo.

The choice is ours. We all have the opportunity to choose in each interaction, in each moment, in each breath.

Will you choose grace?

Update: Today I received a thank you email from Marie. If you visit Half Moon Bay, drop by the San Benito Deli and give Marie a huge hug. And order the hummus sandwich on olive walnut bread...just specify no mayo.... ;)