Learning to live with grace


Everyone needs grace. I find I hold people to my standard. Oh me. I’ve always believed what a person puts into life they will also get out of life. I’ve held many a person’s feet to the fire without grace. I hope I’m changing. Judging is an ugly thing.

At the end of May, I was sitting in the crowd of thousands waiting for the 2014 graduates from a prestigious Christian university in California to appear. The first person I recognized, whose name started with an A from the art department, was the first person to receive her diploma. Seven hundred and forty-eight graduates followed her.

I leaned over to my daughter and said, “I don’t believe it. Annie is leading the graduates. The last shall be first.”

My daughter laughed and said, “Oh, that’s good.”

I had flown to Long Beach on May 1 to attend my granddaughter’s three-person senior art show. The show was a big chunk of their grade. The art students had known about it at the beginning of their senior year and had worked on it all year. Maybe all knew about it, but all didn’t do it. I guess that is where grace comes in.

Our granddaughter had diligently worked on her assemblage show. She had nine finished pieces. She had labeled each piece, and framed her concept statement. Her parents had come two days earlier to help her putty holes and paint from the previous week’s show. Her father built shelves to hold her pieces. All was well.

Each artist was to bring a part of the refreshments. Annie was to bring fruit, Beau was to bring cheese and crackers, and our granddaughter, Tiffany, was to bring desserts. Two days before the show, Beau and Tiffany were hanging their pieces, adjusting the track lighting and sweeping the floor. Tiffany, my daughter and myself shopped for the refreshments the day before. We had lemon squares, brownies and chocolate covered strawberries, and they were all arranged beautifully on trays for the refreshment table.

When I arrived May 1, the day before the art show, my daughter said, “Annie is still painting on her show.”

“What? She’s had all year; what is she thinking?”

Each senior art student was given their own 8×8 studio for the year. Annie was in her art studio and was painting on Sunday evening, listening to music and being inspired. The show was Monday night at 6 p.m.

I noticed Annie’s work and I almost offered to paint her wrap-around canvases. I said to my daughter, “I hope if she doesn’t frame her work, she will finish the sides, which have messy drips and paint on them. I could do it so easy, since I’ve been mixing paints for years. I could get a perfect match. Should I offer?”

“I’m sure she’ll know to do that.”

“I hope so, it looks like the devil.”

At 5:30 Monday night, we were all at the gallery except Annie. They said Annie was still painting on her paintings. Her mother and sister wanted to know where the wall paint and drop cloth was since she didn’t have all of her pieces finished to hang. They were removing nails from the wall. In their nice clothes, Annie’s mother and sister were painting the area where the art pieces were to go.

At 5:45, we all said, “Where’s Annie?”

“Oh, she’s still painting.”

Our granddaughter, in her nice flowing gown and high heels, pulled the 20-foot ladder to Annie’s side. She climbed the ladder and adjusted the lighting over Annie’s pieces for her.

At 5:50, Annie’s mother and sister brought in the fruit and put it in the refrigerator. I said, “Do they know to arrange it and put it on a plate? We need to help out.”

Beau was on target, his girlfriend was there arranging his part of the refreshments. Everything was ready except for Annie’s part.

Annie came in at 6 p.m., at the same time the art show began. With a piece of paper and scotch tape, she taped her concept on the wall. She had no titles on her pieces. I went up to Annie and asked her to explain her show to me. She really didn’t want to talk about it. She had a dynamic concept, she could really paint, but she didn’t execute any of it.

And, of course, I noticed the raw unfinished wrap-around canvases. I said, “I should have helped her out. I could have finished them for her.”

My daughter said, “No, it’s her grade. I don’t feel sorry for her, she’s had all year to get ready for her senior show.”

My granddaughter, who is the sweet sensitive one, said, “I feel sorry for Annie. She should be enjoying her art show. She’s embarrassed how she looks, she doesn’t want any pictures taken of her.”

My daughter said, “Maybe, the show is overwhelming to her. Her mother and sister are enjoying the show and they aren’t taking care of the refreshments.”

I offered my sentiments. “For crying out loud, she’s a senior and is getting her degree in fine arts. She doesn’t know better than to have a show like this?”

The university bought one of our granddaughter’s pictures for their art department. This was the first time that one of their students did an assemblage show. Our granddaughter looked beautiful and she was basking in her first real art show. I was basking in her and her diligence to follow through. She got an A+ from both of her art professors on her show.

During the course of the month of May, one of the family members would say, “Can you believe it, Annie was still painting at 6:50?”

“I can’t believe it.” I had to add my two cents. “Someone paid for Annie’s $200,000 schooling. Does she know the opportunity she had? It’s one of the best art programs in any university in the country. Her art show was a total mess. She now holds a degree in fine art from a prestigious university.”

“And, who am I to say anything? I don’t have an art degree from any university. But, I do know to replenish the refreshment table at an art show.”

Annie received her art degree on graduation night. Great scholars followed in line to receive their diplomas. We all shook our heads. “I can’t believe Annie is leading the brilliant minds of 2014.”

It’s all about grace, and I didn’t give Annie the grace she needed. I didn’t even want to give her grace. Oh me. I’ve got the problem. I’m the undone one here.

Final brushstroke: The Lord said the last will be first. Those who worked only an hour shall be paid the same wage as those who worked all day. That thought used to make me mad, until I understood what He was saying. Grace is free; no one can work for it. If you get it the last hour of your life or the first, you get the same. He said, I paid the high price with my very own blood.

Annie will be standing with her diploma and I’ll be telling the Lord, she didn’t do what she was supposed to do with her art show. She didn’t refill the refreshment table.

He will say, “I gave you grace. All I ask is that you love and show grace. Did you do it?”

“Well, no, I was too busy worrying about the unfinished edges on Annie’s artwork.”

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This story was posted on June 19, 2014.