by Sandy Mayle
At the turn of the year I like to look back and identify changes the past twelve months have brought to our family’s lives. Maybe one of us moved to a new home. Someone started a new job. A son married or a grandchild was born. Sadly, there may have been divorce, new health concerns, or a death. Happily, writing accomplishments, spiritual highlights and mountaintops.
But as consequential and action-packed as all that sounds, sometimes I seem to be slogging my way through days full of routine when even the variations seem the same!
On one such midsummer day, the Lord gave me an assignment. For one month I was to daily track and record the unexpecteds of each day. So for the month of July 2021, that is what I did.
As it turned out, nobody in my immediate world died in July. No one married, moved, had a child or (thankfully) divorced. Our health concerns were fairly low-key. No especially heady spiritual mountaintops. It really was a seemingly inconsequential month, as if it could have been lifted right out of our stories and little would have been changed by the omission.
Yet according to my unscientific calculations, I tallied 62 unexpected, small-scale occurrences in that very uneventful month, including changes of plans, ideas and accomplishments, spiritual realignment, random happenings, and health issues.
In fact, the Lord pointed out that very often, hidden within the humdrum are four types of change, both good and bad:
- Slow-creeping Danger: I’d begun to feel like, It’s Monday. I know the drill – work, groceries, dinner… same old thing. With that mindset, it’s easy to be lulled. To become depressed by the predictable. To miss “unexpecteds” that don’t command my attention. And to become sleepy and sluggish of spirit, like the ten foolish virgins in Jesus’ parable (Mt. 25:1-13), who fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. Suddenly they awoke to find their oil had run out and the bridegroom was approaching. Oh to have those dulls hours back and prepare differently!
“Be alert and of sober mind,” wrote the apostle Peter. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pt. 5:8 NIV).
- Minor Opportunities: In late July I received a call from a friend who was having significant problems with her teenager. It was perhaps a twenty-minute conversation. but a big step forward in deepening our relationship and allowing me to prayerfully offer some interpretation and encouragement. Another day, my husband casually invited our single, elderly neighbor to a backyard family picnic. Just a brief invitation to a low-key event, yet his response was astounding. “This is all so different from what I’m used to,” he blurted, throwing his arms wide to include us all as we sat around a fire that evening. “It’s been so long since I’ve been a part of something like this.” Then I began to understand how solitary and lonely his life had become, and to look for ways to connect with and help him.
“As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:10 NIV).
- Slight Changes of Plan: Multiple times during the month of July, get-togethers and other plans were changed or cancelled because someone (usually me) was sick. Because of health problems I missed a party for visiting relatives, babysitting our granddaughter and, ironically, a dr. appointment. But I had this assurance;
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rm. 8:28 NIV).
- Small-scale Revelations: On one occasion, the Lord brought to my mind a solution to the Sunday lunch dilemma: what to feed my extended family as together we enjoyed this weekly meal. A rotation, came to mind. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with varied menus each week (cooking is not my gift or my highest joy), I could rotate a few of our favorites and by repetition learn to do them easily and well. Another morning, at our camp, I took a spontaneous walk in the woods. The Lord and I discussed my nagging concern with the prospect and process of growing old, my husband having recently retired. As we talked, He affirmed to me His care as we age, and my anxiety dissipated.
“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (Ps. 73:24 NIV).
Many, many small events were highlighted in the Bible – a widow with two coins; a child on a lap; stories of a mustard seed, of a lily, of a woman sweeping her house… seemingly insignificant subjects used by Jesus to illustrate vital truth for millions who have read the Word.
“Who dares despise the day of small things?” the Lord asked the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 4:10 NIV). He delights in choosing and using little shifts, small beginnings, overlooked occurrences.
All the seemingly trivial events of my life and yours are being recorded for the Day when God looks at what we’ve done with what we’ve been given. Happenings and opportunities and revelations once half-concealed in the folds of dull routine will then be clearly seen through His eyes.
And we’ll be glad we honored the day of small things, and see how significant each of them were,
When they’re no longer hidden in the humdrum.
Sandy is a freelance writer living in Erie, Pa. She loves words, nature, and solitary retreats. Her newest venture is mentoring in the equine therapy program at a nearby horse ranch. She and her husband, Dave, have three sons and three grandchildren.