When my copies of The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion arrived a few months back, I had to dig up my submission to Ave Maria Press to find my entries. Seeing the three there, I was more easily able to find them in the compilation book among the others submitted by over 80 writers.
But wasn’t there one about Flannery O’Connor? I had thought so, but I didn’t see it in the document that had been turned in months before. I must have just been thinking I wanted to include Flannery, but now, it was clear, that was just one of those thoughts that passes.
Later, just before a book event, a friend helped me prepare the books for sale by “tabbing” my three entries, so that anyone who wants to read my portions can easily find them. There are no page numbers, since it is a devotional; pages are marked instead by the day.
Flash forward to this morning. I have really loved this devotional, certainly not because I am a contributor, because my part is so small, but because of all the beautifully rich words of comfort and courage they have provided since the book arrived at my doorstep in August. As always this morning, I opened to the devotional of the day, but immediately, an odd feeling came over me as I began reading the title. It sounded so familiar. And the quote had come from one of my favorites, Flannery O’Connor. A feeling of already knowing rushed through me. Another contributor must love her as much as I do, I thought. How beautiful.
And then it hit me, and I had to turn the page to verify it, but sure enough, there it was, my own name assigned to the end of the Nov. 16 devotional. So it hadn’t been just a thought after all. I had, in fact, included a submission by this incredible soul who has been such a great companion to me, especially through her letters, compiled in The Habit of Being.
Has anything like this ever happened to you? Have you ever reached out to bless others, only to find your own words or actions coming back to bless you? This morning, my own words blessed and surprised me, but this discovery is much less about the gift I ended up inadvertently giving myself, and more about the gift God has given me. This morning, he reminded me that when I stay near Him, I have the ability to touch and bless others when they are open to it. He reminded me that sometimes, I forget my own worth and how, with Him as my guide, outcomes beyond my expectations can happen.
I was also reminded of my two friends who traveled with me two summers ago to visit Flannery’s hometown, and again the following summer for a Flannery reunion in Stillwater, Minn., where I gifted them with a framed photo of we three sojourners.
Seeing Flannery in this rich little book, though I’d forgotten the entry existed, seemed also like a gift from Flannery herself, as if her ghost had returned to say, “Ha! Gotcha!” Flannery had a marvelous sense of humor, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to know that she was peeking at me from on high this morning, reminding me of how much she loved Christ and His ways, reminding me to keep my sights on Him.
Thanksgiving is still a week away, and yet it has arrived early for me. Today, I am grateful for happy surprises that point me toward the eternal.
Q4U: When were you last surprised?