I don’t remember what the weather was like that day, what I ate for breakfast or anything much else. The single image that protrudes from details washed away by time is a stack of pages bound in a rose patterned cover. It was the gift of a journal.
The present was a weighty one, as I opened it’s crisp pages. Early on, I had scribbled childhood tales of sick days from school and bubble gum crushes in Hello Kitty diaries. This was different. The paper was thick. The binding tight. It looked like a book. Even smelled like one.
To my preteen eyes, I was to be it’s author.
Smiling and a bit curious, I pulled the surprise out of it’s wrapping. What would I write?
The answer was found as I turned to the inscription inside.
Dear Bonnie — I thought you would like this. A journal to write whatever you want. Happy Birthday. Your friend, Merrianne.
Merrianne was a childhood Sunday School teacher, who later became a lifelong friend and mentor. Right above her words, she pressed a sticker depicting winter in the woods.
It was the most beautiful gift I ever received in my young life.
This past weekend, as I celebrated another year of earthly voyage, I thought back to this first gift of writing, amazed at it’s significance. And how it’s led me to you today.
God gives us intangible gifts like those found in His Word: the fruits of the Spirit, eternal life, and a wellspring of promises lying in wait. There are also gifts He sends to us incognito, passed down to us through the hands of friends and perhaps even strangers.
I didn’t know it at the time, but pen to paper became my soul’s salve and my song. How did Merrianne possibly know how deeply words and writing would become a part of me? God knew and He tucked a passion and calling into my pocket, while I wasn’t even watching.
Throughout the years, I just kept writing. Interrupted, breaks in the record even tell a story. There are stretches of dessert, years missing, hidden and I thought lost.
To my disbelief, words would trickle in return, like winter barren creek beds filled again at spring.
I have tried to bury the dreams of writing when they seemed to fizzle away with the realities of circumstance and life. Yet, I could never abandon my journals. I wrote, not to dream, but to survive.
As I reflect on a year of life and ponder what is to come, God brought this journal back to mind. He tells me, through the memory of this simple gift,
Bonnie, you do not need to be aware of what I am doing in your life. I am still doing it.
In the everyday things we do, God places gifts that bless us. Common place they appear, but the pleasure of enjoying them and the heart to do so are blessings that are rare.
Have you ever received a gift that seemed simple at the time — yet looking back, became a significant blessing that you still enjoy today?
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
This Christmas, as we unwrap boxes that may fall short of our hopes and dreams, let us think on the gifts God’s given incognito. Others may not think our small treasures so big. God knows better. Our joy rests in this belief.