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Recently I was talking with some friends in a spirituality group and we started discussing what grace is. I define it as a gift freely given from God, with nothing expected in return, and liken it to spiritual sugar drops that God rains down upon us. Merriam-Webster on the other hand defines it as “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” What is your definition of grace? Likely a mashup of these definitions, with your own spin on it, as gleaned from personal experience.

For me, grace can take many different forms and shapes. It could be a text from a friend who I haven’t heard from in a long time, an email that is an answer to a much-desired prayer or something as simple as my guardian angel protecting me from a potential fender bender. Some days it’s simply asking for and receiving the strength to make it through a challenging meeting or a grueling schedule.

Why is it important to notice the graces we have received in our lives? I believe it is a way of noticing, of paying attention to the work of God alive and well, less we fall prey to thinking that sometimes God is napping on the job and not noticing us. The esteemed poet Mary Oliver, in her poem “Yes! No!” says “to pay attention, that is our endless and proper work.” My hypothesis is that the more you pay attention to the sugar drops in your life, the graces will start to multiply. Is it that we are really receiving a larger quantity of these free gifts? Probably not. Rather that you are opening your eyes to what has been there all along.

And what is an appropriate response to the graces that show up? I believe it is a simple, humble and heartfelt thank you. This could come as a fist pump in the air, a quietly whispered “thank you Jesus” (or as my aunt likes to say, “praise be to God”), or an exuberant exclamation of “YES!” The point isn’t so much how you express your gratitude but that you do express it.

So as the graces continue to show up, notice them and give thanks. God is most definitely noticing us noticing God and smiling.

Ellen Kelly is a spiritual director. She earned a MTS from The Jesuit School of Theology

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