Surprises! Some people love them while others hate them! I’m not one who ever liked surprises but I’m getting used to being amazed by God so I think I’m okay with them now! Oh, I’m still not a huge fan of bad surprises; flat tires, the “check engine” light on my car, the unexpected cost increase in utilities or insurance, the phone calls bringing bad news, and most recently a rock flying through the air and shattering our sun roof, pouring glass over us! But I have found as I get older if I “wait and see” instead of reacting instantly, God will surprise me even if the situation doesn’t necessarily turn out in my favor!
See, God is all about watching over and working with us! BUT, to benefit from his watching and working it is vital to work with Him by loving on Him and walking in His calling and purposes! Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” When we love God, we see Him causing all things to work together! But more than that, we see HIM as He works! Undoubtedly where God is, there is a good surprise waiting to happen, and we will SEE it WHEN we are looking for Jesus! So, I remind myself to look for Him no matter what comes my way and am usually in for a surprise!
The other things I like more as I get older are antiques, perhaps because we have so much in common (being old you know)! I appreciate antiques; not the expensive, luxurious, or fanciful ones but those that surprise me by telling a story as my imagination takes me on a journey! I like to mosey through antique shops, thrift stores, or flea markets to find storied treasures and am rarely disappointed even if don’t buy anything, because the hunt is as satisfying as the kill (I mean purchase)!
Sometimes the “hunt” is set up out in the open air, presenting a unique risk factor since rummaging in the rain isn’t much fun. We regularly attend an antique/flea market event that occurs just three holiday weekends a year, and it is open, rain or shine. Half the booths are outside so nice weather is a bonus! Plus, they charge admission to meander, so once you pay, you want to get your money’s worth and not leave early because of blustery weather!
One day I was surprised by God while antique shopping! I share the story because hopefully it will inspire someone else to pay closer attention to what God is saying and doing, to be surprised by Him, and not let miry conditions keep us down!
One day my husband and I made plans to attend this antique/flea market even though rain was predicted! Getting out of bed the morning of our adventure, it looked to be a fine day with the sun shining so we chose not to heed the weather forecast for the day (who believes them anyway?) and headed out. After parking then paying, with the sun still shining bright, we looked out across the horizon to see dark and torrid rain clouds in the distance. Surely they were not headed our way!
But just in case, we decided to bypass our normal leisurely stroll through the compound, rushing to as many outside exhibits as possible while keeping a close eye on the sky so we could make a mad dash inside if and when the rain came! Of course this totally messed with my idea of a good day of treasure hunting, not to mention I couldn’t let my imagination take me very far because there just wasn’t time! But hey – one must adapt!
All my hoping that the rain would miss us didn’t work! Not only did it not miss, but it was heavy, continuous and accompanied with thunder and lightning…in the MORNING! It just kept pouring and pouring and pouring! My frustration grew because remember… I paid to get in, and there was no way I had gotten my $3.50 worth before the rain came, meaning I couldn’t leave but it wasn’t looking good. The rain was so heavy and constant we couldn’t even attempt a sprint to the car if we wanted to, which I didn’t, because remember, I paid good money for this! (okay, I’m a little cheap!)
So we hung out in my least favorite building (mostly crafts instead of antiques) looking at the same things over and over and over again, waiting for the rain to stop, my irritation and agitation mounting steadily! At its peak, I was standing in a cubicle when God spoke, “Stop looking at stuff and start looking at people”. The stormy weather surprised me but God surprised me more, and He wasn’t finished. He told me to get my eyes (and emotions) off what I was missing because of the rain, and on to what I was gaining by looking up instead of down; I needed a perspective shift!
Now, I am an avid people watcher, intrigued by how people look, act, react, interact, and whatever else! So to be told to look at people was quite rare and seriously, not a problem! When I did what God said, I looked up to see the “owner” of a booth who seemed to be about 70 years of age, working on hooking a rag rug. I asked the Lord if this was “who” I was supposed to look at! Getting the go ahead, I started a conversation!
It turns out she was 92 years old, not 70, and I was all over that since she didn’t look even close to her ninetieth decade of life! I couldn’t stop telling her how great she looked (thinking back, she must have thought I was a real creeper)! Just as amazing as her beauty and age was the fact she was sitting in a damp building during a thunderstorm, making and selling her crafts and antiques, seeming more than content.
I cut right to the core and started asking questions to which she responded politely but also stayed busy at work. After awhile I guess she figured I wasn’t going anywhere too soon so put down her work and stood up. Her eyes conveyed the message she was just waiting for someone to talk TO her not pass by or ask the obligatory question, “How much does this cost?” Her kind smile drew me in to her life, moving me to ask more questions, and though I have no problem getting down and dirty about life real fast in conversation, I generally don’t do it with COMPLETE strangers. Yet, here I was, in the middle of a rainstorm, in a big building filled with seemingly useless “stuff” to find a very useful person! God has a way of surprising His people!
At first it seemed to be uncharted territory for her, sharing details of her life, but as time passed, she got more and more comfortable! I asked who had helped her set up the beautiful display and without missing a beat she said, “I did! Well, I drove up to the door and had some gentlemen help unload my car and bring the totes here but then I set up the tables and displays.” I replied, “Wow! That’s a lot of work! You ARE impressive!”
The more I asked, the more she told me about her life, how she went through many hardships, sicknesses, disease, even a stroke. She said there were many times she wanted to give up, but then thought, “I’m still here so I might as well make the most of it”, pushing herself to get better, refusing to sit in a nursing home and melt away, doing everything her physical therapist said to do with the goal of being productive back home again.
She has often thought of retiring from her craft but every time she leans toward that inclination, she sells a bunch of her crafts and concludes, “Why stop? As long as I can do it, I will!” When I asked her details about her rag rugs I was again surprised by the amount of love and work she puts into each one. “Do you cut all the strips of material by hand?” I asked. “Oh no honey! I snip and rip. That’s the best way to make them and keeps them the strongest. AND, you have to use old material. None of this new synthetic stuff.” Now remember, she is 92, tiny, with hands that look so frail you wouldn’t think they could possibly accomplish what they do, and she is snipping, ripping, and shopping garage sales and thrift stores for old material!
When I asked her to show me how she hooks, she started but then put the hook down saying, “My hands are cold. It is difficult to hook when they get like this.” I took her hands in mine to warm them, admiring the strength and tenderness in them. Surprised…again!
I was about ready to move on thought the rain hadn’t, and I told her how amazing and beautiful she was. She replied, “Well I don’t know about the beautiful part, but I know I’ve had an amazing life as God gave me a wonderful husband and that helped me a lot when things got really bad.” So we chatted about her husband, gone to live in his heavenly home twenty years earlier. As she elaborated on him and their marriage I said, “You still miss him don’t you?” She replied tenderly, “Oh yes. Very much! Sometimes I still go home after a show like this one and start talking out loud to Henry about what happened, what people say, how many things I sold, and then realize he is not there.” Then she chuckled and said, “The mind is amazing isn’t it?” I asked her about home life, if she had help, etc. No! She lives alone, caring and cooking for her own home, and doing crafts.
Wow! I was at times speechless while at other times I couldn’t stop complimenting and encouraging her, wanting to hear more and more! Finally, the pitter-patter of the rain on the tin roof slowed so I took that as my cue to leave. But before I did, I thanked her for being an inspiration to me. I told her how incredibly blessed I was to meet her, to hear her stories, to share her experiences, and to glean from her expertise. It was obvious she was not used to receiving compliments but managed to comfortably embrace what I was saying with humility!
What a surprise from the Lord that day! How refreshing to visit with a woman who chooses to look up and receive His refreshment instead of looking down at what attempts to deplete her. She is a living testimony of “I can” instead of “I can’t”! God loves to surprise us; so be open to being surprised by Him; to believe Him for more; to trust in His ability; to know He has His best reserved for people who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
When I left the cubicle that day it was as though I heard the Lord say; “There! Wasn’t that better than pouting about the rain?” Yes, Lord! It was SO much better! Thank You! Thank You for Your patience! Thank You for Your tenderness! Thank You for Your mercy! Thank You for Your direction! Thank You for speaking to me! Thank You Lord for surprising me, yet again!