The best gifts are usually the ones I would have never even thought to ask for because I couldn't possibly imagine the joy that they would bring to my life.
This is my account of a few of those unexpected gifts...
My husband and I were looking to purchase our first home together. We scoured the neighbourhood, traipsing through one home after another to no avail.
Despite dwindling hope we decided to check out one more home that came on the market in our preferred location.
After the tour, my husband and I gave each other "the look." Could this possibly be the one? Was it too good to be true?
Then Kenneth looked over at a photo in the living room and began to laugh. The photo was of a family who we have known for years at our church. We realized we were in the midst of one of those divine moments.
Unexpected Gift #1 Our Home
The couple graciously accepted our offer and we became the grateful owners of a new home.
There was another crucial part of the story that we were not even aware of at the time. When we shared the news with my mother in law she was overjoyed and explained that she had been praying all along that we would find a home from a Christian family from our church.
That day I immediately placed Mum on my call a friend for prayer list. I was convinced she must have a special direct line with God!
Unexpected Gift #2 Prayer
My mother in law taught me that unexpected gifts happen when we lift up prayers on behalf of one another.
The story would not end there.
The purchase of our home came with another very unexpected present.
The very first Spring uncovered a beautiful oasis in the backyard of our new home. I had no idea at the time what joy, knowledge and life I would receive in the years to come from this gift we inherited.
Gift #3 The Garden
Glorious strokes of colour would burst through the soil.
The canvas would evolve and transform with each changing season leaving fragrant scents at every turn.
The anticipation of what I would discover in the garden each morning became a delightful gift in itself.
The garden became a place where God's creatures (wanted and unwanted) would come to play, rest and explore. I soon learned that this space was not "my garden," but that we shared this sacred place. The brilliant winged choristers bathed daily in the pond as the bunnies would drop by to partake in an early brunch among the leaves and flowers.
The garden quickly became a beloved teacher revealing the hidden mysteries of God and life in Christ.
Lessons of patience and faith came to life as flowers peeked through the winter snow. If a work of art can emerge from the depths of the earth then there was hope in the dark season of my soul.
I gained a whole new perspective for the need to nourish, as well as ruthlessly prune in order to bear fruit in my own spiritual life.
The garden also spoke to the transforming power that beauty and creativity behold.
Being attentive to God's magnificent beauty revealed through creation helped to quiet the constant chatter in my mind. This enabled me to be still to hear His voice as I walked with Him in prayer in the garden.
As I participated in creation by cultivating the earth I began to notice God resurrecting life back to my stagnant soul.
There was something cathartic and healing in the secret depths of the garden. I realized it was hard for me to brood over wounds or disappointments when my hands were busy digging, weeding and planting as a co-creator. As new life emerged from beneath the soil this offered hope that God could also breathe life in me.
Michael Yankoski beautifully articulates it this way,
"Every garden plot, no matter how small, becomes a miniature Mount of Transfiguration."
This has certainly been true for me.
This hallowed ground became a gift to see, smell, taste, hear and experience God all around me.
The garden also turned out to be an extraordinary gift as a gathering place to foster community.
When I think of sacred spaces I tend to typically picture serene places for reflection. I have since learned that a sacred space can also be used as a gift to offer belonging and hospitality to others.
We have so much fun hosting spring teas, movies, baseball games and intimate dinner parties here in the garden.
This gift has become an unexpected space to nurture deep friendships.
Every time I gather the bounty from the earth to share with others around our table I take a moment to bow in reverence and thanksgiving.
You see, even sharing the humble provision from the garden is a gift in itself.
God's unexpected gifts never end.
As we begin this week together let us slow down and keep a look out for God's unexpected gifts. They may show up in the most unexpected places.
In gratitude, I want to dedicate this post to these two extraordinary women who also happen to be gardeners after God's own heart.
Mum, (Happy Belated Mother's Day)
Thank you for teaching me about the powerful gift of prayer. You have certainly been a precious gift in my life.
Linda, (the Giver of gift # 1 and 3)
Thank you for revealing God The Gardener to me. This garden has been one of the most unexpected life giving presents I have ever received.