“Hey now, Lil!” you might be saying. “I thought you hated surprises! What is this about being thankful for the unexpected?”
I know, I know. But where would the fun be if there wasn’t a little contradiction now and then to keep life interesting?
But let me explain: Anticipation is fantastic. I swear by anticipation. But not having any expectations at all and then being pleasantly surprised— and its extreme cousin bowled over by a truly unexpected and undeserved outcome is even better.
It’s that “knocked over by grace” outcome that I am talking about today.
Case in point #1: The Tinfoil Crotch Sausage
Here I am just minding my business, trying to keep myself sane by writing a little blog while I wait for something to happen on the publishing front for my novels. My goal is to document a challenge I set for myself of not shopping for clothes, with a few rules. One of those was rules was that I had to learn how to alter the clothes I already owned, so that I could make them more wearable.
I was writing into the void, my sister my only regular reader at the time, with a random internet stranger tripping and falling entirely by accident, landing awkwardly on my blog from time to time and getting out before they could be seen.
I could have done my challenge without a blog, but the blog served a secondary purpose: to take the edge off the impatience of waiting for someone to decide that my writing was worthy of being published. (And before you suggest it: I don’t want to self-publish my novels. I want someone to catch the vision for them and believe in me enough to take a chance.)
So publishing, under a nom de plume, near-daily on a blog was, for me, a way to catch a little bit of the happiness hormone of being published, even if there was a grand total of two of us reading it.
I wrote an article about one of my attempts at learning how to alter a pair of pants, and I shared it with the Facebook sewing group who stepped up to the plate to help me figure out an extraordinarily counterintuitive technique, just for fun. Sharing it with the group garnered my blog more attention than it had ever had up until that point, and I was tickled.
I kept on writing other things. I let some of my close friends know that I was writing, and I started having a few more readers. Months passed.
Then, randomly, one day, I noticed that the article about the alteration of my pants and the “tinfoil crotch sausage” method for fixing a wedgie in the seat of trousers was being read by a lot of people in the Netherlands and Great Britain. I mean, like, in one day, it was read by 75 people, which for me was huge. I was entirely unprepared for what would happen next: over the next week it would go from 0 views to 75 views to 720 views in one day. Apparently, sewists across Europe were sharing the article and getting a giggle.
Giggling was the point of the article, and to know that what I had written had provided that to so many people felt like such a grace to me. I walked around my everyday life feeling like a superhero, at the bakery, for example, ordering a baguette, or picking up my boys from school, looking on the outside like a normal, forgettable person, but on the inside, knowing that I had made 720 people smile in one day!
To this moment I am so thankful for the person who decided to share that article with a handful of friends, who liked it enough to share it with their own handfuls of friends. They made me feel like a superhero which was, let’s face it, a highly unexpected but incredibly memorable outcome.
And hey! You there! I am so thankful for you, your reading eyes and your feedback. You, too, are the “center of the universe“, and my prayer for you this Thanksgiving is that you might know it in the depths of your soul.
Case in point #2: The Goodie Box
Years ago I had helped a young man who was part of a young start-up film production company by doing an industrial video voiceover for which he had won a contract.
I’d done some English voiceover projects by then, because I worked at a radio station and was regularly asked to do the voiceover work for our interviews that took place in English. (Two birds, one stone, I guess–I could translate for and voice the interviewees!)
I also had been part of a production team for a series of little films for an American media outlet about what was happening on the ground in churches across Europe. This was a fun project, but would never have been my job. But I can still say that I travelled across Europe doing a documentary project, and that does have a nice ring to it.
I was the only native English speaker this young man knew at the time, and so he asked me if I would do the voiceover work for him, and I agreed. I think he even offered to pay me for it, but I didn’t have a free-lance business set up at the time, an “auto-entreprise”, as it is called in France, and honestly, it took me all of a few minutes to do the work on my lunch break.
He and his little company sent me a box of chocolates as a thank you, which was very sweet, and honestly, unnecessary. Shortly thereafter, I did start an auto-entreprise to take on free-lance voiceover work and give singing workshops (work that I absolutely adored!)
Well. Earlier this year, someone from that same production company contacted me. That medical services company, for whom I had done the original industrial video, had a new line of products and had hired them to create their media campaign. Would you be able to do the voiceover work, and how much do you charge?
The great irony of this was that for five years there after I did the original voiceover, I did have an “auto-entreprise”, through which I could have been paid. But because I hadn’t done any paid free-lance work since my second scalawag had been born, I had taken the step to close down my little business. Being a parent was precluding freelancing, and the administrative of work of reporting 0€ in income every quarter was honestly depressing and disheartening!
But I had just purchased my Yeti Blue microphone for my podcasting projects, so I had the material, wanted to learn how to use it, and so I offered to do it for free. I would slip away to my closet while the boys were playing Legos and listening to audiobooks and record a few sentences, then run back to make sure everyone was okay, then run back to record a few more sentences.
When the project was complete, I got a box in the mail. That box you see up top.
I couldn’t remember ordering anything, nor was I aware of anyone else who had. So the origin of this nice sized box was a mystery. It had my name on the label. It was from the production company.
Sidebar: I had just finished listening to a podcast called “Killer Psyche” about the UnaBomber and I had a split-second thought that maybe life was imitating art–or at least imitating podcast.
I opened the box. It was full of little bubble-wrapped goodies. Every time I reached in, there was another something underneath it. It felt like I would never reach the bottom of the box. Here. Take a look:
Shall I give you a tour of what is in my box? There is a series of five little jars of artisanal dessert spreads, a bar of artisanal chocolate, the most precious cube composed of cubes of artisanal marshmallows (OMG! I did not know this was a thing either!), an Advent Calendar of little artisanal surprises, and last but not least, a box of artisanal chocolate covered marshmallow bears (with a superhero bear on the box, thank you very much.)
My first inkling was not to break into the cube of marshmallow, nor open the box of chocolate covered marshmallow bears. My first and most pressing desire was to re-wrap everything and put it back carefully in the box so that when I would be home alone the next week I could unwrap everything and experience that feeling of bounty and unexpected delight again.
Here is what is so special about this outcome: For all of my life, I have been unsatisfied and unsatisfiable. The feeling of “is that all there is?” is shamefully ubiquitous in my heart. This was the first time in my life that I was expecting nothing and was not unsatisfied by that with which I had been presented.
I am even now not sure I ever want to even break the seal on those gifts. They represent so much more than just sweet little treats: they represent a breakthrough in my own war against dissatisfaction. Although I am certain they will be delicious, there is nothing more delicious than feeling satisfied.
Have you not seen?
So, Lily Fields; Have you not seen how all your longings have been granted in what He ordains?
Wanting to make people smile and laugh has been part of who I am for as long as I can remember, as if that longing to bring joy to people was planted in my heart by the Creator of the Universe before he set the world a-spinning. The superhero-ish feeling of having brought that to so many people contributed to a thought that perhaps, for just a split second, I was the center of the universe and that all things had worked together so that I could be that person who brought joy.
Wanting to be satisfied has been one of the core tenets of my 2021 challenge. To not just be satisfied by a generous gift, but to feel so undeservedly spoiled, just for doing something so easy and, quite frankly, fun, as talking into a microphone… That longing to be satisfied was granted in God’s generosity, using a production company’s thank you gift. No salary could be more generous than the knowledge that grace is sufficient.
So while I may hate surprises, an unexpected positive outcome can turn me into a chocolate-covered marshmallow superhero bear in no time flat!