The keys have been dropped. Freedom is here.


Grace and the Candy Cabinet

Posted on June 16, 2014 at 9:00 AM

“Finally, it’s getting a little lighter,” I think as I take the first sip from my beloved coffee and stare out the kitchen window that faces today’s pink-hued glowing mountains. I love daylight savings time – and the hope that the longer days bring – but the darker mornings make time management a challenge when I only have a few hours to run before the kids wake up and our busy day begins. On the fridge next to my marathon training program – the one that’s almost entirely highlighted pink now as I start on my 15th week of an 18 week program – is a circa-1977 picture of my Nana and Grampy. Although I glance at this picture dozens of times every day, this morning the picture somehow looks different.

As I step out the front door, the sky is about a dozen hues of pink as the sun yawns awake and shoos the clouds away. It’s only 28 degrees, but there is no wind and I am grateful that I can finally take a run outside where I can take part in the day’s glorious new beginning. My mind returns to the picture of my Nana on the fridge when it occurs to me that for some reason I am seeing her in a new light – through different lenses. Everyone that knows me knows that my grandmother was the most influential and unconditionally loving person in my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her, or recount some wonderful memory of her to my children, or share something of her spirit with my friends.

It was almost impossible to pinpoint what made her so special – from the time I could actually remember her as a very young child to the time she passed away when I was only 22. But, as I try not to trip over myself as I’m being hypnotized by the transformation of the sky into the dawning day, it’s all becoming very clear. In the words of Tullian Tchividjian via Twitter, she was the “human embodiment of the way God loves.” She was grace. Her love was one-way love – unconditional, always abundant, and incredibly pure. She shared a kind of love that made you always want to love her back. Hers was a love that never pressured me to be better, or do more, or to hide my failures, or to try to be perfect.

As I’m heading up my first hill on the long and narrow Titan Road, I think about why I run. I used to tell my friends that running gives me the ability to think and compartmentalize my life and start each day with a clear head and a lighter heart. But, it was on my Thanksgiving run less than five months ago that I learned the most profound thing about myself. On that run, as the sun was shyly waking up in the east and the moon was bidding adieu in the west, I was embraced by God’s presence. The scene was surreal, but my mind was completely clear. How was it that I never realized that on every run, I pray? But, how could it be? Who was I praying to? I had never really had a relationship with God. What I knew of God was only what I learned from my Nana and a distant understanding of Him in Catholic High School where the ritual and the works clouded and confused my understanding of His amazing grace and unconditional love.

I may have never known who I was talking to on these runs, but God did. He never let me out of his sight – and every run was our time. I sigh as I notice the busyness of the day starting as cars rush past me on the way to school and work, and my mind returns to Nana and the story I recently shared with a friend about the Candy Cabinet. From the time I can remember, my Nana had a beautiful, antique buffet as part of her dining room set. In the right side of the cabinet, she kept two kinds of candies – York Peppermint Paddies and Hershey’s Miniature Chocolate bars. In my parents’ home, a cabinet like that would have been off limits – the law would ring in our heads that we could never take from the Candy Cabinet without asking. And we knew, honestly, that asking would reap no reward anyway. But at Nana’s, this Candy Cabinet was always open. We were free to take from the Candy Cabinet at any time. No reason. No questions.

Having free access to the Candy Cabinet, however, produced some very interesting behavior. Because “the law” was not in play with Nana, I was never even tempted to steal from the Candy Cabinet, nor did I ever take more than I really needed or wanted. I knew she was not obligated to give me any candy and I never felt like I had to do anything to earn the candy. The Candy Cabinet represented my Nana’s love and how she manifested the grace of God. Hers, like His, was one-way love – the unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. And that was the kind of love I had longed to receive ever since her passing over 23 years ago.

I’m almost back home when I glance at my watch. This run took me a little farther than I actually had time for, which means I will probably be late for work today. I look up, smile slyly, and think, “I got this.” With the understanding of grace, I am now free to continue being the person I am with the comfort that it’s only human to be imperfect and I will be loved no matter what. When I fall, I will have a safe place to land. I now run, not to set myself free, but rather because I’ve been set free—set free by a God who loves us in our weaknesses and failures, who doesn’t require strength or success prior to loving us. A God who loves me like my Nana did: a love with no strings attached.

I open my front door and hear the kids chattering, but before I do anything else, I walk straight into my dining room and open the right hand cabinet of my Nana’s buffet. I inhale deeply – something I’ve done hundreds of times since I inherited this beautiful piece that no one else wanted. It may be just a vivid memory or my imagination or hope, but I’m certain I can still smell peppermint and chocolate and my Nana. Kneeling down with my head in the Candy Cabinet, I feel the grace of the most loving woman ever to put her hands on my face, kiss the tip of my nose and tell me that she loves me just because I’m hers – something I now hear on every run, with every prayer, watching every sunrise.

This post was written by Callie Skokos. 

Categories: Guest Contributors

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Reply Callie
10:01 AM on June 17, 2014 
Thank you for reading and for sharing Angelia. She left a beautiful legacy and I'm just now seeing it all in a new light. I was blessed to have her and will cherish her memory.
Reply Angelia
9:29 PM on June 16, 2014 
What a beautiful picture of Gods grace. I love this story about your nana and how there was no law when it came to the candy. My grandma is very dear to my heart as well :)