Wiser it were to welcome and make ours
Whate’er of good, though small, the Present brings—
Kind greetings, sunshine, song of birds, and flowers—
With a child’s pure delight in little things.
R. C. Trench, quoted in Daily Strength for Daily Needs
Into all our lives, in many simple, familiar, homely ways, God infuses this element of joy from the surprises of life, which unexpectedly brighten our days, and fill our eyes with light. He drops this added sweetness into His children’s cup, and makes it to run over.
The success we were not counting on, the blessing we were not trying after, the strain of music in the midst of drudgery, the beautiful morning picture or sunset glory thrown in as we pass to or from our daily business, the unsought word of encouragement or expression of sympathy, the sentence that meant for us more than the writer or speaker thought—these and a hundred others that everyone’s experience can supply are instances of what I mean.
You may call it accident or chance—it often is; you may call it human goodness—it often is; but always, always call it God’s love, for that is always in it. These are the overflowing riches of His grace, these are His free gifts.
S. Longfellow, quoted in Daily Strength for Daily Needs
We’ve been out and about for more than two hours. The library. The drug store. Lunch at Doug’s office downtown. And I can’t go home yet, even though I desperately want to.
The whole reason we came downtown in the first place was so I could go to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and buy shoes for the kids, an excursion I am dreading.
People throng the downtown sidewalks. It’s early August, the best time of year to be in Seattle, and clearly everyone is.
I maneuver the twins’ stroller over curbs and down curbcuts, Jack and Jane following me. We wait at corners for the light to turn green, then plow into the crosswalk like everyone else. I keep looking back and sideways to make sure Jack and Jane are still with me.
When I first moved to Seattle, 19 years ago, I loved coming downtown, the excitement and bustle of it, the cosmopolitan feel so different from my small-city upbringing. Now, though, it just feels overwhelming, and I can’t wait to be out of the crowds. It doesn’t help that I am dreading, dreading, dreading the next hour of my life.
When we reach Nordstrom, I struggle to get the stroller through the doors. Jack and Jane each hold one open, but people are streaming out, so I can’t get in. Finally, two gentlemen step aside and allow me to pass into the store. I smile at them and gush gratefully.
Jack and Jane want to take the escalators up to the fourth floor, where the kids’ shoes are. Because of the twins’ stroller, I have to take the elevator. I give Jack and Jane specific instructions about staying together, about waiting for me in the shoe section, about staying together. “You already said that,” Jack says.
“You’ll stay together?” I say again.
“Yes, Mama.” He’s annoyed.
I drop it. “Okay. I’ll see you up there in a couple minutes.” I watch them hold hands and step onto the escalator. Then I wheel the stroller in the direction of the elevators. As I pass the Mac makeup counter, I realize there’s music.
I look past the crisscrossing floors of the escalators and see a man at the grand piano. I’d forgotten this about Nordstrom. They have live piano music. As I move closer, I can even hear the tune.
I recognize it. It’s a praise and worship song. It’s “He is exalted.” I stop mid-stride and stare at the pianist. I can’t help grinning. The words come to mind of their own accord.
“He is exalted, forever exalted,
and I will praise his name.
For he is the Lord, forever his truth shall reign.
Heaven and earth rejoice in his holy name.
He is exalted, the king is exalted on high.”
I have no idea why the pianist at Nordstrom is playing this song. As I continue on my way to the elevators, I wonder if maybe it wasn’t originally a praise and worship chorus; perhaps whoever wrote the words co-opted the tune. Hymn writers did that a lot back in the day. Maybe this is the same thing.
But, really, it doesn’t matter whether the pianist intends it as a worship song. It only matters that I receive it that way. And I do.
When I step off the elevator on the fourth floor, I see Jack and Jane standing at the top of the escalator, waiting for me. I look at the shoe section, brightly lit and balloon-festooned, and I am again dreading the next hour of my life. I hate shopping. I find it exhausting at the best of times. With kids in tow, it’s grueling.
But as I walk past the escalator bay, I hear the strains of “He is exalted” wafting up from the first floor. The music reminds me that God is mightier than a shoe sale: if God-on-High is for me, how can an hour of shoe shopping vanquish me?
It reminds me that God is present in this place, that I have only to look and see where God might be hiding, waiting with a grin on his face for me to spot him, even in the most unlikely of places. I think he’s laughing over me right now.
And I think this song is just for me. God’s gift of grace and humor to give me strength for the hour ahead. I smile as I wave at my kids and we head to the shoe section.