Beyond Our Expectations...

A week ago, I was standing on the bow of a ferry as we cut across the glistening northern Atlantic waters on our way back to the mainland after a day on Monhegan Island. It was part of our long anticipated vacation to Maine to see my grandmother and reminisce as we took in all the familiar sights of our childhood.


The water was calmer on our return trip...not as choppy and exciting as the ride out had been that morning. And with the wind at our backs, the bulk of the cabin blocked us from the cold. The only thing missing was a glimpse at the ocean's wildlife.


As I stood against the rail at the very front of the boat, wedged in at the point, I scanned relentlessly across the rippling water, hoping to see some sign of life. We'd seen our share of loons, but birds don't hold the same thrill as a slippery mammal peeking out from the deep.


When the coast came into view, and I'd not yet seen anything, I offered up this humble prayer: Father, I know this ocean is huge and there are so many creatures just underneath this surface. Can I please just see one? That's all I ask. Just one.



Just one, I asked. But what I was picturing in my mind wasn't JUST anything. I imagined a massive whale breaching near enough to sprinkle us with saltwater. Or one of the Great Whites that we'd read follow the seals. What I prayed for was simple, yet what I hoped for was a grand display. Not long after, I caught sight of a sleek, gray/brown body as it surfaced only long enough to glide back under. It was a seal, but it didn't come back, so I didn't bother mentioning it to anyone.

It's the precursor, I thought. A prelude to what's coming. My eyes remained on the water. The port grew larger in the distance. Then out of the deep blue rose the glossy shape of a porpoise. This time I shouted for the others to come see. And to our delight, it gave us another look just moments later. But the glimpse ended so quickly...and soon disappointment settled in. Was that it? Had I missed the bigger moment...perhaps on the other side of the boat? We docked, and it wasn't long before we were back at the cottage smelling my dad's homemade spaghetti simmering on the stove. I sat in the sunroom, looking out at the harbor, and honestly felt let down. I'd been sure, for the months leading up to that outing, that we would see SOMETHING significant.

The day moved on and so did my thoughts. Until this morning at service. I can't tell you what was said or sung to bring me back to that late afternoon on the boat, but this thought entered my mind: My prayer had been answered. And quickly. In His kindness, the Father had allowed me the thing I asked...yet it wasn't enough for me in the end. Oh mercy, so many parallels could be drawn to parenting, couldn't they? A gift is given, but it isn't the right one. The kids are treated to a special day out, but it doesn't compare to so and so's special experience. But perhaps gratitude is a lesson we need reminded of at all ages. Perhaps, for some of us, our eyes are scanning desperately for the bigger moments, and we aren't seeing the smaller ones strategically laid before us in love. Life is unpredictable, and sometimes we're just barreling through the wilds in hope that something huge will happen to make it all worth it. And in the meantime, we're missing the significance in the little things. The little answers to our humble, urgent pleas for just one opportunity to write. One second to feel like we're accomplishing something. Maine is a wild, wooded land still in many ways. The thing about forests is this: they're beautiful to look at/walk through/fly over, but if you look closely, the beauty...what makes the forest unique and special...is comprised of what appears to be absolute chaos.

A toppled tree leaning into an evergreen. Scattered leaves and fallen, dangling limbs. Trunks swallowed up by overgrown bushes. Death. Decay. New life. Tiny saplings emerging wherever they want. There is order and purpose in all things created by God, but close up, reality can often look too much like chaos for our short-sighted minds. But like the vast ocean teeming with life and the wild forest in a constant state of change, sometimes the smaller glimpses are God's grace to us. We might have docked before I ever had a chance to see a single creature, but He orchestrated those little moments with the seal and porpoise. And in the forest, He opens our eyes to the subtle beauties. To blueberries and wild flowers and bird songs. To the smell of Balsam and a flash of orange as a fox flies into hiding. To simpler, smaller moments that are often much more special than the grandness of the forest in its entirety. My prayer is now this: Forgive me, Lord, for begrudging your gentle gifts. Please give me eyes to see beyond my expectations.

LAURA FRANCES grew up a shy thing, always daydreaming. She is now the author of the Slave series (a clean dystopian story) and Songs in the Night (a clean fantasy). Residing in midwest America as a wife, mother, homeschool teacher, and writer, Frances strives to convince others through the art of storytelling that they can do the things they think they can't.



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