Today I was walking Schubert, and I saw a blue heron fly over our small lake. It alighted in a dead tree on the far side of the lake and just perched there, still as a branch. I never would have noticed it if I hadn't seen its wings extended in the air first. I stopped walking and just stood and stared at it, waiting to see whether it would move. Schubert and I were near the little bridge that the Eagle Scout put in for his service project last year, the bridge across the south tip of the lake where the runoff flows down into the Sangamon River. It was a novel place for Schubert to stop and explore, so he snuffled and scratched at the ground while I watched the heron.
It's a perfect fall day, cool, crisp and warm in the sun. It's that strange point in autumn where most of the foliage is still green, but the ground is covered with crunchy fallen leaves nonetheless.
The heron didn't move until another large bird flew across the lake and passed it. That catalyzed a reaction and the heron lifted its wings and glided away to the northwest. Schubert and I resumed our walk.
Whenever I see a blue heron, I somehow remember that God loves me. I don't know why this is, but my heart lifted as we crunched along through the leaves on the path in the woods.
I remembered: yesterday I had gone to Hobby Lobby to look for a shelf. We've been working on the main shared bathroom upstairs, and I wanted to install a shelf on the wall over the toilet. I'd been combing Amazon, but then it occurred to me that Hobby Lobby might have something, and I wouldn't have to wait for it to be shipped. I know that Hobby Lobby is, well, Hobby Lobby. But sometimes I have surprisingly good luck finding useful things there.
So I went to Hobby Lobby, and right off the bat, I pulled into the parking lot, and there was an SUV backing out of a spot literally right in front of the store. I could not believe it. I could not believe it wasn't a handicapped spot. I double-checked and no, it was a plain, ordinary parking spot, smack in front of the store. I pulled in, wondering whether God was blessing me.
Then, as I was walking into the store, in the vestibule, I saw a small blackish cabinet that was just like what I've been looking for to put in a corner of our half-bathroom downstairs. I've been looking for about a year and a half, but everything is either too big, or too small, or too spindly, or too art deco, or too something. But here was a little black cabinet that looked just right. The price wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible. I thought maybe I'd consider buying it if it was still there when I was finished shopping.
Perusing the store, I found a shelf that was just what I was looking for, too, and it was half price (sometimes when I shop at Hobby Lobby, the things I need are not half price, and then I hate to buy them, because I know if I go the right week, they will be half price). At half price, it was considerably cheaper than anything I'd seen on Amazon, and I liked the design better anyway.
I should pause here to say that I despise shopping, and it does not generally go like this for me. This may be a boring and mundane story for anyone else to read, because perhaps your shopping trips are successful all the time, but it was quite an aberration in my life, and that is why I am recording it. That is why I remembered about it, after I saw the heron by the lake.
So anyway, I bought the shelf, and the cabinet, and a wall plaque that I thought would be cute in our guest bedroom. The cabinet fit nicely in the trunk of the car, and I was able to load it easily, all by myself, without incident.
Then I went to Aldi, and (1) I got another good parking spot and (2) when I went to get a cart, although I had forgotten to prepare a quarter, it having been eons since I had been to Aldi, I found that the last cart in the stack already had a quarter in it, and thus was free for the taking.
At this point, I knew that the Lord was smiling on me, telling me that He loves me. It's little things, you know. I want my family clustered around me, in peace and love and good Christian fellowship, everyone full of joy and successfully working through their sanctification towards the ever increasing glory of eternal life. I want grandchildren to dandle on my knee, growing up a mile or two away, close enough that they can nap at my house while their mom is shopping for groceries, then wake up to help me deadhead the zinnias. I want a new roof and freshly waterproofed basement. But, you know, a quarter in the cart at Aldi is nice, in the absence of the rest of it. It tells me that although God will not accommodate my whining, He does like to let me know that He's paying attention, and He does like to thrill my heart in His own ways.
When I finished at Aldi, I went to return my cart to the corral. A woman was coming towards the carts from her car. Let me just explain that the cart racks at this particular Aldi are about impossible to navigate, so shoppers are always trying to catch someone before he has plugged his cart back in, in an attempt to avoid the struggle of unlocking and then trying to steer an impossible cart backwards through a crazy-long length of metal corral. So this woman came running, hand extended with a quarter, calling out to me to please not run the cart into the corral. Her hair was blowing into her face, and in her left arm she clutched a shopping basket that flopped awkwardly against her leg. I saw myself in her, and I loved her.
I left the cart at an angle for her and headed towards my car. She came running after me with her quarter, frantic to be a decent person. It felt so good to say, "Don't worry, there was already a quarter in in the cart when I got it!" I saw her visibly relax, turning to take the cart into the store, and here, too, I felt the love of God.
When I got home, I put away my food, and the new little cabinet fit perfectly in the spot where I'd been wanting to put it.
There are bad things too, things I won't mention, but the symbol of them was on the middle of the road towards the beginning of my walk with Schubert: a dead squirrel on its back, with blood running out of its open mouth, too gruesome to examine closely, and eighteen inches from him, a flattened chipmunk. These lay in the road and my stomach lurched as I yanked my dog away on his leash, squinting, picking up my pace to get past. I don't know the story of how they got there, or why they were both there, so close together and so freshly dead. I pulled my dog away, and soon I saw a friendly neighbor installing a smart looking new light on his porch, and then I got to the lake, and the bridge, and I saw the heron.
God shows us blue herons, yellow butterflies, a single brilliant red maple in a sea of green. He helps us find shelves and cabinets. He gives us perfect parking spaces and free carts at Aldi. He even gives us opportunities to pass it all forward, if we will just take note.
He is here. He is near. He knows.