The Grace Jar #4

I was six when I graduated to a two-wheeler without training wheels. I cannot remember if my parents bought the rusted 1960 bicycle that had belonged to someone else before me for my birthday or for Christmas, but I believe it was for my birthday. Daddy took it apart, sanded it down, painted it pink and white, then put it back together. The tires were good, the seat just fine. All he needed do was add those fun streamers that came out of the padded handlebars. Mine were alternating colors of pink and white. If you didn't know that the bike was secondhand, you surely couldn't tell it. Daddy had an eye for perfection and detail. I remember being so proud of it, right down to the training wheels, which I used for a few months.

Then came the Saturday--it had to be a Saturday--when Daddy decided I was experienced enough on two big wheels and two small ones that it was time to graduate to only two. I was both nervous and excited. Anxious as he grabbed his tools and wrenched those baby wheels off. He then took both me and the bike to the road that stretched like a taut ribbon in front of the house, held the bike upright, and told me to climb on. "Don't be scared," he said. "I'm going to hold on to you."

And he did. For several turns--back and forth--Daddy held on to the seat and ran beside me as my feet pedaled as fast as they could.

Then, during about the fifth or sixth turn, as I neared my friend Marguerite's house, I realized Daddy was no longer beside me. That he had let go. I panicked. The bike began to wobble until down I went.

I righted myself and the bike, crying. When I turned to look toward our house, there stood Daddy, hands on his hips, a summer breeze blowing his cotton, shortsleeved shirt. "You're all right," he called out. "Get back on and ride back to me."

And so I did. All the while, Daddy clapped in approval of my feat. Then, when I reached him, he grabbed the handlebars to stop my ride, gathered me into his arms, and hugged me, saying, "You did it! See? You can do these things!"

Encouraged, I immediately jumped back on the bike and took off …

This would be my mode of transportation for the next decade. I zoomed all over town, the wind in hair and, sometimes, bugs in my teeth. A bicycle took me to the homes of my friends, to the pool, to softball games ... to anywhere I wanted to go. But always--always--no matter where I went, I always returned home to where my parents and brother waited. The safety of my own home. My own family.

As I've struggled recently with the contents of my grace jar, I have remembed those moments with tenderness. Whatever is out there--whatever pulls me away from the safety of home--home is still where I return.

No matter how low the grace jar gets, even if it goes empty, I know where to find the grace I need. Home. Not the address where I live. No ... home. Within the safety of God's arms. God's words. His whispers to my heart.

All I have to do is turn around and pedal.

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