Not Unlikely After All: Spotting God’s Gifts All Over the Place
Last week I wrote about how sometimes we find gifts from God in unlikely places. Sometimes we look around, or look back, and can see how He births beauty from even the ugliest or most broken situations and relationships. And when we see those gifts, we are stunned. I gave the illustration of the beautiful almond blossom tree that was growing straight out of a rocky hillside along a two-lane country road I frequent. At the time, the tree’s striking, glowing beauty against the backdrop of the dirty, rugged wall of hillside took me by surprise and immediately reminded me of how God sometimes shows up in places I might have never expected Him to show up. Sometimes He brings beauty out of some of the most painful, seemingly hopeless situations.
Since then, I’ve driven that country road almost every day and I’ve discovered something else surprising: the fact that those beautiful blossoms were growing out of that craggy hillside wasn’t that uncommon after all. As a matter of fact, within the last week and a half, all the blossom trees around here have gone buck wild. They are in bloom almost everywhere I look. As a result, I’ve noticed many many more little blossom shoots growing along that craggy country roadside from last week— sometimes growing sideways like the one I photographed, sometimes growing “the right way.” And always: when their delicate petals are backlit by the sun, I am in awe. And if I can get a whiff of their scent? Hmmmmmm… that literally stops me in my tracks if I’m on foot.
And it’s got me thinking: maybe God’s beauty and His gifts and the way He redeems broken people and broken situations and broken places isn’t all that uncommon after all?
These blossom trees are everywhere— they’re in the country, in the city, and even alongside the freeway around here. And actually, when I think about all God has done in my life, all the ways He has provided for me, all the ways He has brought me peace in the midst of chaos and hope in the midst of heartache… I realize that, once again like these gorgeous trees, He is everywhere. His beauty is everywhere. The way He redeems and lavishes grace on us is everywhere. The way He whispers hope and truth and courage and healing to me— even when I am in despair or anguish or even anger— is actually not rare at all.
True: sometimes I can’t see His beauty. Sometimes He doesn’t do it the way I would expect and therefore I don’t recognize his gifts. Sometimes the redemption piece of the story hasn’t arrived quite yet and so I am in a season of winter expectation, longing for the day when all that laid dormant will finally open up and unveil beauty once again. Sometimes I have seen the circumstances around me— my old high school boyfriend who cheated on me, my sometimes hard-to-navigate marriage, my miscarriage a few years back, my friend’s cancer-ridden child, my seemingly ever-present struggle with Anxiety— and I have wondered what God had up His sleeve: “How will He bring something good out of even this?” I’ve often pondered throughout my life. And yet… He does. He has. He actually does it all the time.
I can name example after example of times I’ve seen Him drop beauty into my darkest moments. Even just after my miscarriage— although that was the darkest and most painful season I can recall, I can still honestly bear witness to the ways He blessed me and brought me beauty and goodness in the midst of that pain: thoughtful friends who cared enough to offer to watch my kids for me so that I could be alone; family members who were willing to listen and to pray for me; a husband who wasn’t too proud or hardened to weep with me; a big, dopey dog whose sweetness melted and ministered to my heart in a way that no human at the time could. Yes, it still hurt, but God was also very much there. I was never alone and I was never without His redeeming hand at work in my life.
I could go on to recount more of His surprise gifts in the midst of hardship: I could tell you about the beautiful friendship He is cultivating between my friend and I as I walk alongside her while her son fights cancer. Or how, just when I feared I would be a hot mess forever, He showed me an herbal supplement that had the ability to calm down my hormones and, thus, relieve me of my hormonally-related Anxiety. Or how, back in my got-no-money college days, He inspired a friend to stop by and give me a new/used couch within 5 minutes of my sitting on my furniture-less floor and asking God to please provide me with a couch to sit on.
This is what He does. It’s who He is.
The moment I saw the blossom tree growing parallel to the road last week, the blossoms were actually glowing from being backlit by the sun. In photography terms, this is called “the lampshade effect.” Unfortunately, by the time I drove back there a few hours later to take a photo of the blossoms, the lighting had changed dramatically and they no longer had that striking “lampshade effect” going on. They were still beautiful, but less remarkable than when they had first caught my eye.
And that’s true about God’s gifts and His grace as well, isn’t it? Sometimes we miss His kindness, His tenderness, and even the ways He is redeeming something… because it’s not lit up quite so obviously. Or because we aren’t looking at it from the right angle or maybe we miss it because we are too busy looking elsewhere and so we pass it up unknowingly. Sometimes we have to be diligently paying attention in order to recognize the gifts and grace we so desperately want.
Whatever the case, may I gently remind you today that there really is beauty around you? That God really does have forgiveness and mercy and even something new and refreshing in store for you? Look for it. Know that even if you can’t see it, perhaps that’s because it’s simply not springtime yet… but… it will come.
Psalm 18:16, 18, 28, 32, 35
He reached down from on high and took hold of me… the Lord was my support… my God turns my darkness into light… It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure… Your right hand sustains me.
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What about you?
When have you noticed God blessing you in the midst of a dark or painful time?
Please feel free to share your comments or your own journey in the comment section below.