I am grateful for small things today:
- diminutive crab apples, food for hungry birds
- fine curlicues on a yucca plant
- delicate veins of a husk cherry
- seed head of a stunted purple coneflower
- gossamer “wings” of milkweed seed.
The sun sets so early now that I didn’t think I’d have time for a walk outside before the light failed, but I decided a short stroll was better than none.
If I hadn’t gone, I might not have discovered the silky filaments of the milkweed.
If I’d believed the lie that a small amount of time was worthless, I would have missed a comical robin hopping branches, gobbling crab apples.
I wouldn’t have seen the setting sun ignite a translucent oak leaf.
The wooly bear caterpillar would have inched away unobserved, miniature pumpkins would have remained hidden under frost-withered leaves, and the year’s last violet might have been mowed instead of celebrated.
If I hadn’t I hadn’t taken advantage of the few minutes available, I might have missed these small gifts of grace and lost the opportunity to give thanks.
And I would have missed the miracle of joy that came with a grateful heart.
Small things, the stuff of miracles . . . do you remember this story?
a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish John 6:9
Jesus . . . took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. John 6:11
Gratitude peels away the veil of the mundane, whether it’s fishes or flowers,
and reveals the miraculous. Gratitude opens a way to experience a joy that satisfies. The people in the crowd were seated (they stopped); they heard or watched Jesus give thanks (gratitude); and they ate as much as they wanted (joy and contentment).
For small things, the stuff of miracles, I’m grateful.
Revisiting a post from 2013
If you’re a fan of the Little House on the Prairie books, you’ll remember the blizzard that forced Pa to tie a rope connecting the house and the barn, so that he wouldn’t get lost when he went outside to care for the livestock. White outs aren’t fictional; visibility in a snowstorm can be reduced to feet instead of miles.
In blizzard country, it can snow and blow until you lose sight of the horizon, as it did here two weeks ago. I measured the increasing severity of the storm by objects I lost sight of–first the horizon, then the neighbors’ houses, then the road, and, last, the trees in front of our house. A white out. A foot of snow fell overnight and into the next day, and the wind whipped the tiny flakes into drifts four feet high.
It’s easy to lose perspective when your world becomes smaller and smaller, when all you see are the storms of life roaring around you, when the barn disappears.
Maybe a loved one has died.
Maybe you face a seemingly endless task of caring for family members.
Maybe your financial situation is precarious.
Maybe the results of the latest lab test are disheartening.
Maybe family members who should have loved you, haven’t.
Maybe the doctors are mystified and can’t figure it out what “it” is.
Sometimes I feel like Laura, peering through the frosted window, struggling to see the barn during a white out. I begin to doubt God’s love and care for me when I am in the middle of great trials. At times I empathize with Job, thinking that God
. . . would crush me with a storm
and multiply my wounds for no reason.
Job 9:17 NIV
Eventually, storms end. Skies clear. Howling winds subside. What is left behind?
Drifts of sparkling snow,
gorgeous blue shadows,
bright, moonlit nights.
What is left when our personal trials pass? If we cooperate with God and allow him to work in us, the beauty of a changed character remains. God can take the inevitable storms and use them to transform us.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4 NIV
James speaks of a joy during trials, a joy that is hard to imagine when we are in the middle of a difficult time. But this joy isn’t the same as gleeful happiness. In fact, we may actually be in pain.
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
I Peter 1:6 NIV
We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
Romans 5:3-5 MSG
Who wouldn’t want to be more patient, more mature? Who wouldn’t want to persevere and have a stronger faith?
Me. Sometimes. I can get so tired in the middle of the blizzard, I lose my perspective, and I don’t want to move forward. Those are the times you can pray for me, and if you get disoriented and weary during stormy trials, I’ll pray for you. And during the next white out, let’s follow that rope to the barn.
* * * * *
Christmas is a season of shining lights, glittery ornaments, and glowing candles. We celebrate Jesus’ coming as the light of the world, but it can be a dark season, a time of tears for some whose hearts are still tender from a recent loss. Even if we’re not feeling the “Christmas joy,” God is right there with us. Today I’m sharing a story about loss and comfort written by Brockie, one of the women in my prayer group.
Ever have those moments that come from nowhere. You know, those moments of grief and loss that are overwhelming, and you couldn’t have seen them coming from a hundred miles away? I had one of those today in the coffee shop. Frank Sinatra music was playing, and I found myself lost in my dad’s voice, singing with his quartet . . .
“and then I go and say something stupid like I love you.”
I sat with my three-year-old daughter by my side, wishing Dad was here to hear her sing “Away in a Manger” a hundred times this season. I kept thinking how much he would love to watch my high-school-aged daughter make that left handed lay up that looks so smooth in her basketball games.
How proud Dad would be of the older boys and their academic accomplishments, as well as the wonderful young men they have become (all the while wearing the great socks that he would give them at Christmas time). So if this is your first Christmas without a loved one or your 50th, I pray you will find the words of Isaiah, repeated by Matthew to be comforting:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’). Matthew 1:23 NIV
May you find God’s presence near to you in the middle of your grief and sorrow, and may you know you are not alone. Blessings!
Photos by Barb Briggs