Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. Touch, taste and smell your way into the holy and hidden heart of it. For in the final analysis, all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.
I walked onto the plane, baffled.
After a 3-hour whirlwind of events, I was leaving Los Angeles with my beloved blackberry floating somewhere between LAX lot C and Terminal 2 – a solid piece of my sanity seemingly up and disappeared. My electronic companion that contained every contact I’d made since college, every photo I’d taken since the dawn of the flip phone – and the phone I could write entire emails on without ever having to look at the keyboard (MONEY!) – was gone.
Or so I thought.
My best friend and I had been all smiles as we had finished up our Southern California tour. Two tired girls on our way back to Boston, exhausted to our core and ready to crash hard on our red-eye back to the East coast. When we arrived at our gate, I looked at her as my stomach dropped, realizing my phone was still traveling World Way on a luggage ledge in a transport shuttle.
Graciously, the man sitting in front of us could tell something was up. He asked if we were okay, and after a few moments of sizing him up, being the trusting travelers we are … we spilled the entire situation on him. To our complete awe, the man flashed his badge and in hushed voice so as not to freak the rest of the crew around us out, whispered,
“I’m undercover LAPD. We can find your phone.”
What carried on for the next few hours was a movie worthy series of events. Calls to undercover officers, a text request to LAPD Detectives, a declaration, top level importance, of an amber alert for a missing cell phone. (Pretty sure the LAPD had a heyday with the hilarious requests …) While we waited for responses, we sat and chatted with our new friend about his health, his faith, our journeys, and the many mysterious and incomprehensible ways in which God works.
After exchanging information and saying our goodbyes, I remember walking on the plane thinking, “God, I have no idea what you are up to – but if this all had to happen in order for your goodness to be displayed, so be it.”
When we landed, hindsight hit. There was a message on my friends phone from my mother, a bit frantic, who had just gotten off the phone with the LAPD. Apparently, Officer Hatch had personally packed and placed my little pink blackberry in the mail himself, shipping it to my home address 3000 from the lot in which it was left. While I was 30,000 feet over the Rocky Mountains, my heart knowing nothing of the mini miracle happening below me, the solve was literally underway.
Hindsight, clearly, is 20/20.
We recognize it once it comes and when all the pieces of a story begin to reveal their place and purpose in the grand scheme of things.
But what does it look like to give gratitude now – before hindsight ever hits? In the moments we are in where the stuff of hindsight is being made?
Moments of conversation that end in seeming devastation, sending our hopes and expectations plummeting. Years of waiting for the thing we’d hoped desperately for, only to find out it’s seemingly never coming. Minutes between meetings to breathe prayers of invitation for the Holy spirit to come, asking God of the universe to intervene in ordinary moments. These are the moments we undoubtedly look back on and think “gosh, if had only known then what we finally know now…”
Gratitude is a decision, not a feeling.
Thankfulness is not a matter of circumstance, but of focus. The mindfulness to slow ourselves long enough to consider the subtle gifts of life – the sacred, the simple – takes practice. Our lives are too full – our busyness too blinding – for the gifts of life to bring themselves to our attention without some intentionality.
Refining our focus, according to Pastor Bill Johnson, is exactly how we love the Lord God with all our minds. Exercising the muscles of our minds means using our intellectual capacity to draw to mind what the Lord has done to foster our faith for what is now and what is coming.
… to give thanks is an action and rejoice is a verb and these are not mere pulsing emotions. While I may not alway feel joy, God asks me to give thanks in all things, because He knows the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving. – Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
It happened again the other day when I lost my wallet at one of my favorite little coffee shops in town… (Clearly – I have an issue. I could have sworn I tossed it right back in my purse…!)
I drove home, frustrated with the time I did NOT have to spend tracking down a lost wallet. But as I pulled in my driveway, the thought hit me, ‘What besides my wallet am I missing here? What do you want me to see here, Lord …?’
Slowly, everything came into focus. I started praising God for what I DID have. That I hadn’t lost my phone – or my passport, or my laptop. That the girls at the shop had graciously taken my number in case they’d found it, and that the friend having coffee at the shop offered to take a second look. That I had gotten to sit in life-giving, eye-opening conversation with a friend – undistracted – well before chaos in my head had ensued.
I walked in my house and got on my knees
This was quite possibly the one and only reason I needed to lose my wallet in the first place. He brought the 6 year old story of the pink blackberry back to mind, and when I got up, I scrolled back in my email inbox, remembering the sweet exchanges we had with our LAPD angel, baffled at how much he’d cared so cheerfully for such strangers. Letting the memories calm my heart, I jotted our friend a RAG note and took comfort in the gift of knowing that in my unknowing, God was at work. That nothing is lost in the universe. I let him fill my mind with possibilities of why this needed to happen (and they were pretty out there). But it worked. I decided to hand it over completely to him.
Then, I took a nap.
I woke to a phone call from the coffee shop owner.
“Alexis? I think we found your wallet!”
Again – the wash of rest came over me. This time- grateful for how I’d handled things, and for the gratitude that came in the process.
Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant is a seed that plants a giant miracle. Do not disdain the small – the whole of the life – even the hard – is made up of the minute parts. And if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. – Ann Voskamp
If we are living the hindsight making moments right now, how do we want to do it? What do we want to look back on and with confidence say, ‘Thank you, Lord, for helping me steward that well.’
We know our greatest strength comes through faith.
In rest and repentance is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 32:18). We even know our call is to count all things joy, even and often when they don’t add up to any sort of logical sense. It’s the main mission of the believer to choose trust over trembling, faith over, fear – believing in the moment of NOT seeing that He is up to something more, and we do not have to understand.
Your theology is best expressed when your availability and your interruptibility – the ability to be broken into. But never be afraid of broken things – because Christ is redeeming everything.
Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way
I’m catching myself in the middle of it all again, this Thanksgiving week. This time, nothing is lost – so far. But as I seek direction for 2019, longing for insight with the next season and craving certainty where things continue to stay uncertain, I’m ready for some hindsight to show up!
As I wait, I’m choosing the perspective I want to look back and say I had. Gratitude, for the most random and wonderful of things. For the bookshelves sitting in front of me and the words on each ink-filled page. For the hours of life lived that went into the stories there, and the tedious month, years!, spent putting it on paper. For the candle burning bright right in front of me, and the timeless light of Christ.
Just for these things… I am grateful.
Thankfulness – the joyful recognition of GRACE regardless of circumstance – is never to be practiced in moderation. So lavish it on this Thanksgiving season – regardless of scenario, situation or struggle. And let your mind rest in knowing that the God who sees all hindsight grants abounding grace to those who seek his glory – right in the middle of it all.