Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. Forgiving means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin.
- Desmond Tutu
Shawnelle Eliasen will be writing for Guideposts.org about the day-to-day life of a woman of faith and mother of five offering reflections on marriage, parenting, friendship and more.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. (Psalm 92:4 ESV)
The morning is young. A whisper of gray. While Lonny and our sons still slumber, before the quiet unravels, I slip from bed. It’s March cold in this old house, and while coffee’s yet a warm thought, I head to the closet to reach for my robe.
My closet is really a hall with doors at each end. A hundred years ago it was a hidden passage, but someone has since lined the walls with cupboards and cabinets. Now it’s where I keep my things. Just inside the door, on a hook, hangs my robe. But on the opposite wall, on nails jutting from plaster, hang five frayed muslin squares.
The handprints of my boys.
I’m in and out of the closet a dozen times a day. Most of the time, I hardly notice the prints. They fade into the busyness. Like a nick on the banister or a loose edge of paper on the wall, they’re there but I don’t see them. Today, though, the prints pull my attention.
Today they pull my heart.
Logan, our 21-year old, brought the first square home when he was a preschooler. It was a Christmas gift, and his small-boy prints form a circle, fingers out to make a wreath. Grant, our 17-year-old, made the second one at preschool, too. His small palms printed a pyramid. A lopsided Christmas tree. By the time Samuel (now 12) was a toddler, we were home teaching. I’d pressed his palms on fabric at home. Eight-year-old Gabriel’s toddler hands had been hard to still, but his prints were captured, too. Isaiah, now 6, had squirmed and laughed from his belly when I’d painted his soft hands with a sponge-tipped brush. We’d both gotten green in our hair.
I smile as I remember. The handprints are traces of love.
It’s like that with God, I think as I pull my robe from the hook and wrap in its warmth. He’s with us. In this home. In our lives. I sprint through the hours in a breathless way, always in a rush. But if I’m still enough, quiet enough, if I slow down enough, I can see his handprints. Maybe it’s an encouraging word from my husband. Or the simple sweetness of a boy’s kiss on my cheek. It could be God’s glory in the way the evening sunlight stretches over the river. Or the way his living word moves from my Bible to the deep places of my heart.
His handprints show his presence. They’re traces of his love.
I stand in silence for just a moment longer, but soon there’s rumbling overhead. A stampede in the stairwell. The youngest three are ready to greet the day. Next there will be clatter in the kitchen. Chatter and laughter and noise. Spoons will clank on dishes. Dining room chairs will scrape hardwood floors. Life will ripple through this old place, and the day will surge ahead.
I’m ready to join the bustle, because the Lord is with us.
And I can’t wait to see his handprints of grace.
Lord, thank you for the goodness that you bring to each day. Amen.
Shawnelle Eliasen and her husband Lonny have been married for twenty-five years. They have five sons and raise their bevy of boys in an old Victorian near the Illinois banks of the Mississippi River. Their sons, Logan, Grant, Samuel, Gabriel, and Isaiah, range in age from twenty-one to six with Shawnelle home teaching the youngest three.
Shawnelle has been writing for six years, contributing regularly to Guideposts magazine, Daily Guideposts devotional and other inspirational publications. She would say that life with her men moves faithfully, on fast forward. But it’s her heart’s desire, her passionate prayer, to see God’s goodness and glory in the fullness of her days. She longs to see Him in the unexpected moments, unexpected places, changing the ordinary to extraordinary and bringing quiet, sustaining grace.