When was the last time you encountered something that was way better than you expected?
A few weeks ago, we were in Southwest Florida, and decided to visit Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island. We entered the tiny parking lot at Lighthouse Beach, to a line of cars driving around and around in a slow circle waiting for a spot to open up. We made a plan that the kids and I would unload at the little wooden bridge that led to the beach, and Jamie would keep driving around.
As we inched toward the wooden bridge, a parking spot opened right in front of us, the very closest spot. What luck!
We gathered up our towels, buckets, snacks, beach chairs, and nets, piling as much as possible onto our three boys – (“Yes, you can carry more than your towel”) – and crossed the little wooden bridge to the beach. The smell of sunscreen and the scratch of sand under our feet mixed with a welcome blanket of humid air as we caught our first glimpse of Lighthouse Beach.
A quiet tune started to play in my head as we crossed the little bridge to this pristine charming beach with rainbow umbrellas and white sand: “I think I’m gonna like it here!” from the musical Annie.
We found a spot at the water’s edge and set up our chairs and towels. My sons picked up the football and headed to the waves while I opened a new Fredrick Bachman novel. “It doesn’t get any better than this,” I thought.
But a few hours later, when the boys and I were in the shallow water, we saw a dolphin swimming around in the deeper waves, playing or fishing. We watched, entranced, as the dolphin caught a huge silver fish in his mouth and then swam around, rolling over and over with the fish and presumably eating it.
But THEN, the dolphin came playfully swimming in our direction. Closer and closer, looping to the left of us under water; then pulling his head above water and splashing us parallel to the shore, putting on a show for the whole shoreline and soaking Eli and me.
Thrill and surprise and delight filled me with a gasp. I jumped up and down clapping, turning around to see if anyone else saw it.
The other boys saw it, and Jamie sort of captured the moment in a photo. A whole shoreline of beachgoers waded into the water to see if he would come close again.
As we were gazing off to the right into the deeper water, spellbound by the dolphin – the beachgoers on our left yelled to us all to get back a little. A whole group of stingrays was swimming by.
Did you know that a group of stingrays is called a fever? That makes it sound as dramatic as it felt – we had to step back a few feet as a fever of stingrays swam by. I was wonderstruck. We marveled that tourists pay money to swim with dolphins and encounter stingrays – but for our family that day it was a complete thrilling surprise, all at once.
It made me realize how little of my life I am genuinely thrilled by unexpected blessing.
I had this feeling again this week with two pieces of good health news for family members. I received two texts, one after the other on Monday morning, and I wanted to jump up and down clapping, just like I did with the dolphin and the stingrays.
Such unexpected good news.
But why don’t we expect good news? When I pray for something lately, why does it always sound like, “Please help us get through this,” rather than like someone who is expecting to be thrilled. Delighted. Blessed.
This question materialized for me while writing in a guided journal. The question was, “Consider a decision you are facing this season that feels particularly difficult to resolve. In this decision…what is the best thing that could happen?”
That question knocked me out. Our family is facing an arduous decision this season. Never once had I considered the best thing that could happen. Do you ever do this? I had spent hours laying awake, going over and over all the worst things that could happen in either scenario.
As I started thinking instead about the BEST things that could possibly result from this decision, one by one, I felt a little thrill. A sense of delight rather than heartache. Excitement about what could be.
Are you facing a decision that feels difficult? Do you feel stress and anxiety over it? Are you considering a job change? Leaving your church? Moving to a different place? Graduating, but without a clear next step? In the gospel of John, Jesus says,
“I have come to give you everything in abundance – more than you expect – life in its fullness until you overflow!” – John 10:10 (TPT)
If you are like me, I encourage you to consider that question as you lay your requests before an all-powerful God who knows how to give good gifts to us. What is the best that could happen?