Unexpected Blessings

By: Marcy Barthelette

I wonder how many of us would have thought when our pandemic was declared last March that we would face November still knowing little about the virus that has, at least temporarily, changed nearly every aspect of our lives in one way or another. Yet, here we are, and with all the turmoil surrounding our daily lives, I can think of no better time to recall a few instances when an unexpected blessing has quietly affected my life even more than a pandemic ever could.

The first that I recall was a long time ago and extremely personal to me. Ken and I had merged our families, and at the time of this particular blessing, the kids were all high school students. It was my birthday and when I walked into the kitchen, I found a handmade card on the counter. I don’t really recall its contents because that wasn’t what mattered most to me. This card came from Ken’s daughter, one of our kids who really wasn’t sure she wanted me as part of her family but had taken her precious time to make something for my birthday. I’ve never forgotten that simple gesture that came to mean so much. We had lots of bumps along our road together, but she grew up and became a mom. She learned that filling that role is no easy task and I learned to respect her mama bear, no holds barred approach to motherhood. We’re friends now and I attribute the beginning of our friendship to that little card.

That same daughter has four sons and the youngest has always been nothing short of a human tornado. He never stops. As we were on a sports outing in Arkansas and our daughter wanted to visit Crystal Bridges Art Museum, Ken and I were pretty skeptical of taking our little whirlwind into such a sophisticated setting, but mama bear wanted her boy exposed to some culture, so we went. Just inside, Ken saw one of the museum guards and told Kannon (he is appropriately named) that if he misbehaved, that man would take him off to jail in a heartbeat. Kannon gave all the guards a wide berth but really started getting into the exhibits. The best reaction was to an oversized bust of a man in exquisite detail, so real looking you’d think he could speak. Kannon stood, absolutely transfixed, not moving a muscle for what must have been forever in his world. I don’t know if he remembers, but I recall that moment of pure joy like it was yesterday.

And then, on Christmas a few years ago, en route to see the SDC lights, Ken amazed Kannon with his knowledge of all things related to trivia. He stared in wonder as Grandpa answered question after question. Later that evening, Kannon and our other whirlwind crowded into Grandpa’s lap to watch videos on his iPad and would have stayed for hours had we not made them settle into bed. I treasure the photo I have of Ken enjoying those two crazy kids who never stop for anything and how much they were enjoying their grandpa. Miracles never cease!

Ken and I don’t give each other anniversary gifts. We usually go out to a restaurant that is a favorite with both of us, a place where I can have seafood and he can enjoy “real” meat. But last year, in the middle of the night before the big day, he sent me a YouTube link to one of the songs sung at our wedding. I listened to it several times that day and recalled that special day we became one family. That was a beautiful blessing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about last year when we traveled to visit family in Texas and Florida, walked along sandy beaches, climbed mountains, witnessed nature reclaiming areas scorched by fire, camped in beautiful places all around southwest Missouri and welcomed our kids and grandkids into our home for Christmas. I believe God gave us those moments to treasure and help us through these difficult months in 2020. He loaded our memory cup to overflowing and I will be forever grateful.

So, as I think of this last year, I recall many small but mighty unexpected blessings that will influence my life as profoundly as those from the more distant past.

We were a few weeks into the pandemic when I realized I needed to thank God for my comfy bed in a comfy home with plenty to eat. I dreaded the summer heat because I feared we would try and skip our daily walk together. But we didn’t and those sunsets blazed across the sky in appreciation for our commitment to taking care of ourselves. I wonder how many times I glanced out a window and found butterflies enjoying a tasty treat from the gorgeous garden phlox in our yard. And I was finally able to identify an insect, the lovely clear-winged hummingbird moth, that I’d seen last year but couldn’t manage to photograph. Our trees this fall have certainly surprised me. I was sure the drought would diminish their parade of colors, but they have been breathtaking in their brilliance.

I can’t leave out a couple of other little surprises that really brought me joy. Our youngest daughter’s family lives in the country and their internet and cell signals are less than stellar. The phone has become so bad that we can’t talk at all and text messages often take days to arrive. But one night a few weeks ago, our daughter and granddaughter called, and their voices were crystal clear. Their server had provided a booster that was supposed to provide a better signal and it worked. We caught up with each other’s lives. Rachel told crazy kid jokes and we all roared with laughter. I made silly grandma statements that brought rounds of giggling from all of us. It was so much fun! But their phone hasn’t worked since. On my birthday they called, and we couldn’t understand each other so Rachel decided we would text. I had no faith in that plan, either, but God cleared the airwaves between us, and we spent the evening texting back and forth. She sent me a selfie with a big heart drawn around it. It was a great birthday gift.

I promise this will be the last one. Early in the pandemic, I thought it would be nice to get a texting conversation going among the wives of the church handymen. We had been going out to dinner monthly but that had stopped along with nearly everything else. We had a great time and after an absence of conversation for days or weeks, someone would pick it up and we’d be off and running again. For a while we seemed to forget, I guess we got lost in our own little worlds, but then someone picked it up again and I’m so glad because we learned that one of us had had emergency surgery and was diagnosed with COVID, another had received a cancer diagnosis and all of us were weary of isolation. Together, we were able to lift each other’s spirits and I hope we will remember to do that often. We all need the company of others, either in person or through our technology.

As I close, and I’ll not include any quotes this time except my own, perhaps the message of our pandemic is that we need to be content with simple things. Paul was content when he had much or when he had little. Last Saturday, Pastors Phil and Sarah shared in Focus Worship that we need to simplify our lives. Sarah cited an old Shaker hymn, Simple Gifts which contains the words, “Tis a gift to be simple, Tis a gift to be free…” OK, I’ve written a novel and added a quote, but it is so relevant in our current situation. Be aware of all the blessings in your life, expected or unexpected…and simplify!  

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