The morning had a familiar feel to it, soft but salty, the way it used to feel when I was a little girl, growing up by Jacksonville Beach. It made me smile with happy memories. I climbed down the stairs from the deck into the heart of the garden and sat at the blue French table to enjoy my coffee. The flowers, kissed with dew, gleamed in the early sun, Although the birds were absent from the feeder, and none singing nearby, there was music in the air— the sound of life humming about the garden. “What a glorious symphony this is, God,” I said. “Thank you.”
A breeze stirred the flowers, sending them bobbing and weaving about, waving to me. I breathed in deeply. “There’s glory in the air this morning God. Your glory.” I took a sip of my coffee and gave thanks for all the wonders God created for me today.
The sun lifted her veil of darkness and peeked out over the San Francisco bay. Time to start my day, I thought to myself and pushed off the blankets. A heaviness entered my heart as I found my way to the kitchen; my mind filled with the pandemic and the weeks of social isolation that stretched ahead.
“The world is broken,” I said as I ground coffee beans.
“But you aren’t,” God said above the noise of the whirring grinder.
I thought about that for a few moments. “You’re right. I’m not broken. You’ve made me whole.”
“I’ve also made this day for you. What will you do with it?”
I thought about the gift of being alive on this sweet morning, broken world or not. I thought about what I can do to help mend it. “I’ll do my best to love,” I answered.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and went outside to hear God singing with His precious birds as they woke up and heralded this new day.
We glory in our sufferings.
I woke to the plaintive calls of the geese on the wing, high overhead. Their cries touched my heart, reminding me of a time when I was full of sorrow. “I remember when I felt as woeful as they sound,” I whispered in the dim light of dawn.
“I was there with you,” God said.
“At first, I wasn’t sure. I felt so alone and forgotten. It took time for me to realize that the hardship I faced was actually a gift you were giving to me. It gave me the opportunity to mature and to grow closer to you. It took even more time, but eventually I not only recognized the gift, I felt your hands extending the gift to me. I touched them.”
“Yes. I remember,” God replied.
I reached for my robe at the foot of the bed, ready to start my day. The geese called out again, way off in the distance. “They’ll come back, just like I know that hard times will return again some day.”
“Life is full of ups and downs, that’s true,” God agreed.
“Next time, I’ll search for you hands through the gift right away,” I answered.
“They will be there,” God promised. “They will always be there.”
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”
~1 Corinthians 3:16
“Tell me about happiness,” I asked God in a particularly unhappy moment.
“Oh, yes, happiness. One of the most misunderstood emotions,” He replied.
“I don’t misunderstand it, I just miss it,” I grumbled.
“There, there, my little Sparrow,” God said softly. “I’ll explain happiness to you.”
“I’m listening,” I said, as I focused my attention on God’s words.
“People search all over for happiness as if I made it hard to find. They look for it in relationships, in their bank accounts, in the way their body looks. They even look for it in mac n’ cheese,” God chuckled. It’s not in any of those things. No, you don’t have to go looking for happiness. I made it easy to find. I put it inside of everyone so no one could lose it. But people don’t think I made it that easy. They don’t think to look inside of themselves. So, they keep looking outward,” God explained.
“But where is it inside of me? I can’t find it in me,” I said honestly.
“It’s in your heart, not your head. You can’t think your way to happiness; you must feel your way there.”
“How? All I feel is chaos today.”
“Take a deep breath. Can you smell the hints of spice from the cedar next to you? Can you feel the comfort of the sun on your skin? Listen. Hear the birds on the telephone wire singing? See the flowers in your garden dancing on the breeze? That’s happiness,” God said. “Happiness is life. It’s a beating heart. It’s breath in your lungs.”
“But…” I started to argue.
“No buts, Sparrow,” God stopped me. “Happiness dwells inside of you because I dwell inside of you.”
I took a deep breath as I put my hand over my heart and felt its steady rhythm. I exhaled into the moment. Finally, I understood. God put Himself inside of us and that is where our happiness resides. In Him. In the gift of being alive.
It’s better to give.
The handmade baskets in the store window lured me to go inside the funky little store. The display was gorgeous—there were baskets of every shape and size. I picked up one of the more exotic ones and turned the price tag over. It wasn’t cheap, but I wanted it, even though I wasn’t sure where I would put it in my little cottage.
“How do you spend your money?” I heard God whisper to me.
“Is buying a basket that you don’t need a good use of your funds?” God asked.
I did a quick review of all the financial responsibilities I have. “No, not really,” I said.
“It’s more than the math,” God said.
“What do you mean?”
“Spending your money in order to satisfy your ego doesn’t grow your heart. But giving to someone in need does, for giving is at the center of my Heart; it is at the center of Love.
I thought about God’s immeasurable generosity and put the basket down. “There will be better ways for you to part with your money; ways that share love—ways that grow your heart and soul,” He explained.
I walked out of the store emptyhanded but with a fuller heart, more conscious of the gift that comes with giving. I’d find better things to do with my money than to waste it on the desires of my ego.
“Lo, the day is coming to an end…”
A pale light is all that remains of the day, and soon, it shall slip below the horizon and be gone. The birds have abandoned their posts at the feeders for nests unseen. The squirrels, too, have disappeared into the woods, and the night animals have yet to appear. The only sound is stillness as I sit out under the pear trees in the garden.
“Thank you, God, for the gift of today,” I whisper, not wanting to disturb the quiet.
“You are welcome, Sparrow,” God replies.
I rise from my chair, my eyes straining in the dark to find the path back to the cottage. “I’ll walk with you,” God says, and tosses a handful of stars into the night sky to illuminate our steps. Together, we make our way back home so that I can ready myself for sleep, and for the gift of tomorrow.