Growing up, my family was on a pretty tight budget as I am sure most families were. In order to keep us from constantly asking for things (at least I think this was some of the logic behind it), we were told that on certain special occasions, we would get a certain gift, and that would be the only time we would be given such a gift.
For instance, when we were nine, we received our one and only new bicycle. If anywhere down the road we wanted another one, then we would have to buy it. When we graduated from eighth grade we got a watch. When we were sixteen, a stereo or something similar of our choice. (I chose a tape recorder. No idea why.) When we graduated from high school, it was a typewriter––electric.
These gifts were very special, and to this day I still have the bike and the watch. But as special as these were, I think the most memorable gifts were the ones that were complete surprises regardless of when they were received or who gave them to me:
That an unexpected check from my already too generous parents.
The acoustic guitar my brother bought me when I was in high school. (He woke me up at midnight and said, "This is for you." Then left. Always a master with words.)
A card in the mail from someone special.
A handmade card and spiced pecans from a wonderful friend to welcome be home from my travels.
The three pennies and a dime from my three-year-old niece when our van died at their house one vacation. (She took back the dime.)
God also promises us certain specific gifts: the gift of salvation, of grace, of the power to stand. But he also loves to give us those unexpected gifts that sometimes come in the most surprising ways. Ann Voskamp illustrates this so wonderfully in her book One Thousand Gifts, as she finds God’s gifts in a sunrise, a child’s smile, or a bird’s song. At other times, though, these gifts are wrapped in pain. But any gift from God is both good and perfect despite what the packaging might suggest (James 1:17). Let us be aware and grateful of all of God’s gifts, both big and small, obvious or a bit obscure.