Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Such Good and Perfect Gifts


Before I even opened the brown paper bag with the charming name of Vinegar Hill scrolled across the bottom, I knew the gift inside would be perfect. 

My friend Gail has exquisite taste, somehow always choosing something beautiful and befitting. I’m not sure if it’s because she lives near trendy and fashionable London or if the British are naturally experts in the elegant art of gifting.

Gail is my oldest friend — we’ve been friends for more than three decades now — but this summer in Italy was just the fourth time we’ve seen each other. Before texting, before Facebook, before FaceTime, Gail and I were pen-pals. 

{Or pen-friends, as she charmingly calls us.}


On the cusp of teen-hood, Gail wrote to me from the bucolic countryside of Cheltenham, sending magazine clippings of Princess Diana along with her letters. 

I wrote to her from the steel-dusted hills of Pittsburgh on pretty pages of stationery filled with my girlish chit-chat. 

We first met in-person in our early 20s when Gail finished nursing school and swung by America on a year-long trip around the world. Ten years later Gail visited me again in Florida, then met me in Paris three years ago {you can read about it here}. 


This summer we broke our pattern of seeing each other every ten years when Gail jetted over to Milan and Lake Como to spend a few days while I was there on my art and faith retreat. 

Sweating through Italy’s hottest summer {ever?} in our hotel without air conditioning, our conversation was still filled with our hopes and dreams as we wondered how we could turn traveling into a job. 

{I couldn’t manage to convince her that her idea of leading literary tours around Shakespeare’s old haunts was brilliant.} 

As we parted ways this summer and Gail handed me the gift bag, I just knew something delightful was sure to be inside. 

Gifts from those that know us well are like that -- an invitation to adore, to love, to delight in something they chose for us.



And who knows us better than God does? 

He knows what delights our hearts, what whets our appetites and kindles our passions. All the things he fills our lives with are meant for our good, and he promises to work even the hard things into good for us.

I’m not sure I look at the hard things in my life as gifts exactly. 

Isn’t naming them a difficulty or challenge the best I can do to beautify what seems ugly to me?

When disruption and discomfort and distress spill out of the circumstances of my life, leaving me with only torn up paper and crushed ribbons to tidy up, I think maybe the gift lies in the invitation to tell it all to God in front of my pink velvet prayer bench.


Do I trust that God knows better than I do what is good for my life? 

Do I believe that the only one who can see the overarching span of the decades of my life is good to me? 

Waiting, disappointment and redirection don’t seem at all like gifts I would want. I regard them with dread or disdain, for really, I think, how could anyone want them?

But when I accept the invitation to bring all that’s in my life to God in a conversation of prayer, refusing to think that my words are just being absorbed in the folds of fabric adorning my bedroom windows, I’ve found the truth that those unwanted gifts have unfolded a new perspective of God himself.


Waiting is no longer wasted time when I catch a godly glimpse of what is not yet here, but ahead in the distance. 

Disappointed expectations stop being the evidence to give up on what my earthly eyes can see, but instead energize me to pray to see God’s sacred vision for my life more clearly. 

Disruption in my plans becomes the magnetic pull for the transformation I deeply want when I pray, God, change me.

Through your wait, in your disappointed expectations, around the disruptions in your life, can you still see the hints of God’s promises in the distance of your future?
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see. - Heb. 11:1


Leave it to Gail to give me the perfect gift of a book inside that Vinegar Hill bag that combines two of my loves — baking and literature. 

The book’s cover boasts that it is the ultimate treat for book and cake lovers.

There are 72 of these novel recipes, such as Wuthering Bites, The Adventures of Huckleberry Flan, The Red Velveteen Rabbit Red Velvet Layer Cake, War & A Piece of Cheesecake, and of course, my favorite, The Grapefruit Gatsby.

I'm not sure what to do first --get baking or curl up with a good book? 

Either way, I think a delicious read awaits.



I'm having coffee with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Click the image to read more posts from my blogger friends!



11 comments:

  1. ...oh how we so quickly want to scoff at God's good and perfect gifts when they don't come wrapped in the package we think they should... ♥ What a cool book and lovely friend you have in Gail--- (my English competition?!?! LOL!) xoxo Valerie!! Thank you as always for the perfect reminders of a God who is greater than all our questions and disappointments. Praying right here with you for God to change me as well : )

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    1. Heather,
      Yes! I almost included what Gail said about you being her competition but I edited it out for length! :) And while we're praying for change, I'm also looking forward for what God is going to do in both of our lives! xo

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  2. Hi Valerie- I love this -"He knows what delights our hearts, what whets our appetites and kindles our passions. All the things he fills our lives with are meant for our good, and he promises to work even the hard things into good for us'
    I love the thought of gifts too and how when some one really knows me how much they hit the spot- great to think and ponder on that and how wonderful God is and how well he knows me. I also love the idea of "God's sacred vision of my life"---Hard to believe my life could be sacred and amazing to think God has a vision for it! -Thanks for all these good thoughts and helping me to trust in God's good character- even when there is disappointment-always look forward to your posts and visiting you! Hugs!

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    1. Hi Susie,
      I look forward to your encouraging words and I'm so grateful that you stop by each week. I think that God has so much more for us than we could ever imagine if we could look at our lives like he does {quite the challenge, though, isn't it?} and try to see as he does -- he sees the things that are not as though they are -- I just love that verse in Romans! And I'm praying that for both of us! xo

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  3. Oh, Valerie, you do know how to weave the most beautiful posts with your heart-words and stunning photos and winsome stories that bring us right in to your experience.

    I always leave here refreshed and encouraged to reach a little higher. I'm so grateful you're in my life.

    And for what it's worth, I think you'd make the most incredible tour guide ... to wherever!

    ;-}

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    1. Linda,
      Thank you for all the sweet words you offer here! You are truly gifted as an encourager and I'm so grateful to have met you too, on this blogging journey! And I shall save a spot for you in case Gail and I ever lead a tour . . . to anywhere! :)

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  4. That's so cool that you remained friends with a pen pal from so many years ago. And her gift is so unique and suited to you. :) I am with you in wondering how hard things can be gifts, and I love how you describe it - "the gift lies in the invitation to tell it all to God." Beautifully said and so comforting, Valerie. I'm also moved by this - "Disruption in my plans becomes the magnetic pull for the transformation I deeply want when I pray, God, change me." It makes me think how I pray that I may be made more into the image of Christ and yet I balk when God disrupts my plans for His. And yet His plan is the very thing we've been praying for! Thank you for refreshing my heart today, Valerie.

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    1. Trudy,
      I'm with you! I pray for change and yet the very things that could bring those changes happen to me and I view them as unwanted disruption and dismiss the inconvenience they are bringing to me -- oh for eyes that see the work God is doing in my life! Always love your encouragement here! xo

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  5. Ah, Valerie, I feel like I've just taken a quick trip to Italy! How refreshing during my lunch break!! And yes, I can see the hints of God’s promises in the distance of my future! Thank you for refreshing my view!

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    1. Ellen,
      I'm glad you felt like you accompanied me -- always good to have you travel along with me here! xo

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  6. That sounds like an amazing book!
    The best gifts usually aren't the most expensive :)

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