I once had a pen pal. She lived in Colorado. Her name was Lacy.
I remember running to the mailbox to get my monthly letter from her, the thrill when it was waiting for me and the slumped shoulders when it wasn’t. I had her address memorized.
I have terrible handwriting, but when I wrote back I slowed down for every turn of my pencil. It was important that my cursive be proper and pretty. I selected the most pristine paper to write on and usually drew a picture along the sides: some sort of trailing ivy and unidentifiable flower. I wanted each word to be worthy of the 600 mile trip back across the mountains to her.
On one spring morning I laid my address book, with exactly one address in it, on my windowsill. The sunshine filled my room making the pink lace comforter speak weirdly in only the way pastel colors can. Because I didn’t care about little things like alphabetical order back then, I turned from Lacy’s page to the next one and prepared it for my next entry. With the faith that only an eight year old can muster, I wrote...
Then I waited for over an hour. I remember because I counted how many of my favorite cartoons I missed while watching the sunshine flood my otherwise mostly blank address book.
I wondered what I had done wrong. Maybe God is left handed? Maybe I should slant the book the other direction. So I tried that.
The sun warmed my everything. I felt content and sleepy. I laid on my bed with my legs up the wall and waited for Him to show up and sign my address book. I’m not sure what I expected exactly as an address for the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Maybe “1000 Heaven Alley” or “Second Star to the Right and straight on ‘til morning.”
I expected something though. Something real and tangible. Because every time I sent a letter to Lacy, I got one back. That’s how this works, right?
Maybe God is shy? I wondered.
So I opted to have some lunch and let Him show up in His own time.
I peeked in 2 hours later and then 2 hours after that.
That night, as I crawled into bed and covered my eyes with my blanket, I had to admit that something had gone amiss and there were only two possible explanations.
God was too busy to write in my address book.
He signed it in invisible ink.
My mom gave me this address book a few years ago when she was cleaning out my childhood momentos. I opened it and found exactly 2 entries: Lacy and Jesus.
And the memories came rushing back of that day, of the waiting, of the simplistic faith...
Of the disappointment.
I’ve had thirty years of waiting for Him to sign my address book.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
He doesn’t have an address.
He’s in the friend who was never called but showed up anyway.
He’s in the breath of my loved one sleeping on my lap.
He’s in the ramshackle home my kids are systematically disassembling during quarantine 2020 (Give. Me. Strength)
He’s the hope in the chaos.
He’s unabashedly in the joy.
He’s the peace in the sadness and the worry.
The moments and the people who carve out space for hope, warmth, light, safety...that’s where I find Him most.
The letters from Lacy stopped coming. We both hit puberty and stopped looking in our mailboxes. I still doodle in the margins of my paper when I write. A writing teacher taught me to just keep my pen going on the paper even when the ideas stop coming. It’s a habit I already had from my years as a pen pal.
God knows me well enough to know that if He had signed my book that day with anything other than sunshine;) I wouldn’t have looked for Him in the moments, small and smaller, ever since.
It was more important to Him that I become the kind of person who looks for Him in unexpected dusty windowsills and forgotten corners.
On the days that I feel forgotten or unknown.
On the days when worry feels bigger than mountains and infinitely harder to climb.
In the mess. I've learned that God does His best work in the mess.
He’s there in all of it.
Always has been and always will be.