Unexpected Delight Amid Difficulties

©Joy Dunlap  https://joydunlap.com

The unexpected – when bad – can deliver a punch that hits hard, bruising our lives.

A 2 a.m. call awakens the mom and dad of a college-aged daughter to inform them of a serious accident.

The sole provider for four young children gets an office visit by the boss who says layoffs are immediate.

An elderly woman discovers thousands of dollars of credit card charges she didn’t make.

A long-planned vacation is cancelled due to COVID concerns.

Appliances stop working.

Cars break down.

Friends fail us.

Unexpected negatives range from the catastrophic to merely chaotic.

This past year brought many unpredicted situations into lives – children learning from home instead of school buildings, family members kept apart from those in care facilities, and loved ones seriously ill in the hospital.

Many positive aspects of the unexpected also emerged – lifelong learning and discovery through technology events, friendship reconnections, expanded outdoor activities, innovative entrepreneurship, enhanced family time together, creative at-home play, and much more.

The unforeseen doesn’t always bring heartache; sometimes unexpected surprises bring warmth to our hearts.

A reconnecting phone call by a friend from years past.

A raise or bonus that boosts our bank account.

A bouquet of flowers or thoughtful gift given by a loved one.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been struck by the unexpected in some ways and pleasantly surprised by others.

A weird reaction following the vaccine shot has left my arm numb and heavy and my fingers and face tingling on the left side. So many are afflicted with much worse medical ailments and I am so very grateful to God for the good health I’ve had, yet this is causing difficulties.  But the doctor I’ve seen is caring and compassionate. 

When I took my well-running car in for an oil change, the mechanic broke a part on it, then another part broke, etc.  After almost two weeks total in the shop and significant investment, my car is acting up again and is not road worthy. But thankfully we have another car to drive.

Frost wiped out two lush hydrangea bushes in our garden that had been looking better than ever until the cold snatched their potential away.  But the beautiful tulips my friend Malissa gifted and planted as a birthday present for me brightened our flower beds for weeks.

Our backyard deer sighting on Easter morning brought us great delight. Then we discovered that lithe and beautiful creature had chowed down on our azalea bushes like an all-you-can-eat bud buffet. Previously full of the promise of multiple blooms, those bushes will now be barren for months or even a year.

Those particular ones will not bloom right now, but if we look, we’ll see something else is.    

Surprises are tucked throughout God’s creation. A walk on the trail or in a garden offers us opportunities to discover them. The grouping of heart-shaped leaves swaying in the wind.  A single purple flower in a forest of green.  A cross-shaped shadow on a bridge.

The secret lies in spotting and celebrating unexpected delights.

Despite the challenges of the past couple of weeks, a surprise handmade gift and sweet note from a faraway friend arrived in the mail and brought a smile to my heart. A tiny tree frog startled me then made me smile when it hopped towards me – in the car – as I opened the car door.

The elephant ear my husband and I planted and watched grow during the COVID shutdown unfurled its first tiny leaf of 2021.  The banana tree that provided a tropical feel in our yard last year during many days at home sprouted its first leaf of this new season.

God sends messages of love and care daily to our hearts and our lives.

As we stopped at the red light on our way home this weekend, the sun was shining and the license plate on the car in front of me read “DanceJoy.”

Yes, indeed.

May my lips dance upwards in smiles to all I meet.

May my actions dance with God’s love to all I greet.

May my words dance with grace and mercy for all I see.

May my life dance the joy of the Lord exuberantly.

Praise the Lord, my soul,

    and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things

    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Psalm 103:2-5 NIV

  • If you had a word license plate, what message would you want it to send to others?
  • Which unexpected blow hit you hardest this past year?
  • What unanticipated action or discovery brought you delight recently?
  • In what ways can you enhance your response to the unexpected good that you see, hear or receive?
  • What could you do this week to bring delight to the life of one person who isn’t expecting it?

Praise the Lord.

I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.

Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:1-2 NIV


Life is Better When It’s Full – Joy-full, Thank-full, Purpose-full and Friend-full! ™


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