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She is slumped on the couch …
all grumpy and mad, her lips pursed in a dramatic pink pout.
“Why didn’t you name ME Elizabeth Grace?” my littlest girl asks as she punctuates her big sister’s name with a hiss of frustration.
I set down the laundry basket I’m lugging through the living room and turn my head toward my four-year-old complainer.
“I sa-a-a-a-id, why didn’t I get Lizzy’s name?”
Her blue eyes churn indignant like a thundercloud on a hot summer’s day, and my fiery fifth-child crosses her arms in front of her chest in a theatric harrumph to accentuate her dismay.
I bite my lip in restraint, try not to laugh at the female fanfare spilling from my dramatic diva, and I shuffle to the couch where my preschooler sits sulking.
I push back those straggly blonde bangs hanging haphazard across her forehead and slump lower on the cushions so we can perch head to head.
“I didn’t name you Elizabeth Grace,” I murmur gently in her ear, “Because when you were tucked in my tummy, God gave me the name Magdalene Hope.”
I let my words dangle long and quiet in the air, the sound of Maggie’s sniffled breathing ticking off the silent seconds. Then I take my little one’s hand and gently rub my thumb across her palm. “And once God whispered that name to my heart, I knew that’s exactly who you were going to be. Our one and only Maggie Hope.”
My strong-willed girl raises an eyebrow and sighs, her vexation melting into sadness. “But I just want Grace in my middle, too,” she explains. “Right between Maggie Moo and Bwuxfort…”
She slaughters our fine Dutch surname, adds that silly pet name to the mix, but her gaze is so earnest that I’m not even tempted to giggle.
Instead I pull my littlest one onto my lap and rock her ever so slightly on my knees. And as I rest my chin on her tangle-haired-head, I understand her wish.
Grace in the middle.
Who doesn’t need that? …
No matter where life on this earth begins or how quickly it ends, we all need a little grace in the middle.
Beginning with purpose? That’s how we were made.
Ending in joy? Our Savior promises that.
But making it through middle? That’s a different story.
The middle is where hours creep long and the view wanes dim. It’s where the starting block feels like a distant memory and the finish line looms like an impossible dream.
The middle can douse our dreams, derail our zeal, and diminish our faith.
It can make us desperate. For mercy. For hope. For grace.
When the baby’s teething and the toddler’s tantrum-ing, we need grace in the middle.
When the dishes pile high and the laundry’s run wild, we need grace in the middle.
When our souls are empty and our calendars are filled, when our doubts are noisy and our accolades are quiet, we need grace in the middle.
When dinner’s burning and our patience has gone up in smoke, when our best isn’t good enough and our worst is magnified, we need grace in the middle.
When our marriage is faltering, when a friend has betrayed, when we want to stay in bed instead of face another day …
Grace in the middle …
When our teenager has missed curfew, when the cancer continues to grow, when our bank account is a drizzle and our tears a steady stream; we need grace in the middle.
When a cloud has covered the moon and the sun has yet to rise; right in the middle of the darkness, we need grace.
Grace to take one more step, to utter one more prayer, to risk rejection one more time.
Grace to choose gratitude instead of grumbling, hope instead of despair, faith instead of faltering.
Right there in the middle is where we need Jesus most of all.
We linger long on the couch, me and my girl who wants a new name.
We rock and cuddle and listen to the patter of rain on the window, the hum of the washing machine a floor below.
And instead of offering my mopey Maggie a lecture on the grandeur of her given name, I simply hold her right there in that middle place of wishing for something different and trying to accept what really is.
And this mom living somewhere between my beginning and my end reminds my littlest girl of one simple truth (Because sometimes we just need to say it aloud for our own road-weary souls) —
There is only One Name worthy of our wishing, one name deserving of our dreams.
And when we keep that name in the middle of our madness, He offers hope in our beginning, glory in our end, and grace for every moment in-between.
Jesus. Just Jesus.
Out of His fullness, we have all received grace on top of grace.
– John 1:16 –
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