The Strawberry Shortcake and I, we sit on the small side step- her with a plate of carefully divided graham crackers and a glass of milk, me with another form of food: the bread of words. We enjoy each others company over our little meal. She dips her crackers and gobbles them down, and I digest thoughts, metaphors.
The Christmas tree twinkles from the window as the low winter sun, pale and white, shines dully, but shines yet, on our upturned faces. Strawberry drinks her milk and we both drink in the sunshine on this, the last warm day of the year. 67 degrees in December, in New York- a bit of magic for all of us northerly inhabitants. One last kiss of warmth before we hunker down for the months of layered snowflakes measured in feet, pointy icicles, bone-chilling cold. We take this warm day for what it is -a gift- and we soak up every last bit of it, a little like Strawberry’s milk-laden graham crackers.
She’s dunking and I’m previewing a bit of an as-yet-unreleased book by one of my favorite authors, Margaret Feinberg. It comes out on Christmas, a detail I’m sure was not overlooked, and one that seems appropriate given that her books are like gift-wrapped presents, crisply folded, beautifully decorated, and ready to be unpacked of their goods. They should come supplied with ribbons and bows, I think.
I was sent these few chapters of Wonderstruck weeks ago, yet took until now to pick them up. Truth is, I’ve been avoiding them- I haven’t felt so “wonderstruck” lately.
Normally it doesn’t take much. A warm, grassy breeze might send me into hallelujahs; the colors of fall- the rusty reds and burnt oranges, the deep purple of the mums that sit, fat and proud, outside my door- bring whispers of thanks. The sunshine, a sunset drunk with pastels- both have caused me to lift my hands to the sky, to the Master Artist, in praise. And that mysterious yellow field of flowers that’s set afire every spring on a hillside near our home never fails to cause me to gasp and wonder, certain it must be seen from space- a strange yellow dot on a green continent expanse.
And these are just His handiwork. They speak nothing of the wonder-full ways in which He inserts Himself into my story through even the most mundane of circumstances that play out each day, or the way that His Word never fails to cut straight to the bone, slicing into the raw marrow of life, bringing not pain, but healing. It’s all wonder.
But lately, I’ve felt underwhelmed, under-struck. Not because He’s underwhelming, but because life has seemed overwhelming, heavy. For weeks now I’ve steeped myself in a cup brimming with headlines and deadlines. The newspaper’s always good for a good gut-twisting, and for as many things as I’ve “liked” on my Facebook page, most, I realize, are not the tickled little pictures of fuzzy kittens pages, but the heart-breaking headlines of a world so desperate for a Savior that they look to this, that, and the next crazy thing to fill the emptiness, embracing it heartily though it’s not only void of lasting goodness, but often logic as well.
Then there’s the busyness, the absence of quiet. For every one thing I check off a list, I add two in its place. A deadline looms- a deadline that has the potential to change the entire course of my life. (No pressure there). Christmas creeps up the calendar; the shopping list expands.
I’ve spent time with Him- I have- but it’s the rushed variety. The kind that sits a bit, reads from a couple devotionals, scans a quick few chapters, and then scoots to the next thing on the list. There’s no time for listening, being. I’m busy, doing.
In all the doing I haven’t found the quiet place of thankfulness and silent awe -of wonder- in a little while now, and my soul feels its absence. More troubling, I haven’t heard His still voice breaking through the words on the page and breathing life into my spirit, telling me which way to go; to take courage; or simply washing me in the reassuring love of a Father. And so I’ve felt less than wonderstruck. I’ve felt heavy and burdened; I’m one of those who’ve “misplaced the marvel of a life lived with God.”
So I sit, with my red and gold-headed girl, and unconsciously try to find where I lost it. It’s only an introduction and two chapters- hardly a taste. But as I read, wiping sandy crumbs from a Strawberry’s mouth and laughing at the sun-kissed milk mustache that clings to the baby hairs of her lip, I find.
I find His beauty as I walk the emerald stretch of forest in the Scottish Highlands with Margaret and her cadre of fellow sojourners. I find His omnipresence, His uncanny providence, in the seemingly little things that turn into divine appointments, like their starting of this Highland trip with a bit of Scripture in Genesis and meditating on it, through woods and over rocks, and then, on the last day, finding His “pixie dust:” these very words etched on the walls of an off-beaten French restaurant in Edinburgh, and then again, carved into the doors of an old library just outside (because He works that way- doubly, triply, astounding us).
I find Him as Margaret recounts the time He told her what would seem like a silly bit of nonsense, and had she not been quiet enough to listen and obey, she would have missed it. And I laugh, because how often does He speak to me in such ways, in ways that destroy the wisdom of the wise and frustrate the intelligence of the intelligent, as He says in 1 Corinthians, or in ways that turn a Pharisaic heart like mine inside out, proving time and time again that “…the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength” (1 Cor. 1:25)- the nonsense of virgins giving birth and Saviors strapping on human flesh, of two widow’s coins being greater than a treasure trove, or of fearful, fallible fisherman going out and changing the world.
I find Him, because He’s waiting to be found, if only I be still and wait.
If only I put aside the lists, and listen.
If only I open my ears, my eyes, my heart, and look- for wonder.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…”