A little construction paper and glitter angel
I found her on the very top of the first box I opened. A little glitter angel with bright blue eyes, crooked halo, and a gold wrapping paper dress smiled up at me from a piece of faded red construction paper. “Oh! Hello there, sweet thing.” I thought, “Let’s see who made you.”
I turned her over and gasped. I could almost remember writing like that – pencil gripped in my fist as I carefully created the three letters of my name – A. M. Y. “You’re MY angel. How on earth did you survive so long and end up in here?”
But there she was. 50-ish years after little-child-me made her. On the very top of the first of five large boxes of old papers that I’d decided to sort against the admonitions of my sister (“It’s a fool’s errand. Give yourself the gift of time!”) But I was stuck at home with a virus and a little bored, so I opened “just one.” And I found her- just as I believe I was meant to.
Real life angels
I believe in angels. In little moments when I feel cared for, protected, and sometimes even poked, by God. Like this little one, none of the angels I’ve noticed in my life have been super dramatic. I have not needed to hear the words “Be not afraid” that accompany angel sightings in ancient scripture. In fact, more often than not, the angels in my life have made me feel less afraid. And that has been miracle enough.
I remember being lost in a rough neighborhood in a big city. I was a relatively new driver and could not find an open gas station to pull into to ask for directions. There was too much traffic to pull over and try to figure out where I was on my giant paper map.
Just as my frustration morphed into fear (and tears), I looked up and caught the eye of a man in a blue car two lanes of traffic over from me. My windows were up. I assume his were too. Yet still I heard him say, “Follow me. I’ll get you to the highway.” And I did. And he did – waving in his rearview mirror as we parted ways.
Though it has been more than 30 years since that day, I have not forgotten how I felt as I pulled onto the highway. A sense of wonder and okay-ness flooded through me. I knew I’d had a brush with the miraculous – in just the right shape and size for me to accept.
Suburban parking lot miracle
More recently, I remember pulling into a parking lot, exhausted and overwhelmed and sure there was no way I could get everything done that everyone needed me to do in time for Christmas. The whole town seemed to be in that parking lot, and they all seemed to feel the same way I did. It felt like I was driving in a crazed, rule-free video game. “All will be well,” I thought to myself as I tried to make sense of the senseless traffic patterns, “all manner of things will be well.”
And, with cars streaming by from all directions, all looking for a place to park, I noticed a spot right next to me. I pulled up, backed in, and, in wonder, thought “Thank you.” As if that weren’t gift enough (or perhaps so I would be sure to notice what was happening), I walked up to the counter in the store and a woman standing next to me turned and said, “You have perfect timing. A minute ago there was a 30-minute wait. I’m the last one from that line.”
I again thought, “Thank you.” As I did, I realized that my exhaustion, overwhelm, and loneliness had lifted. I felt cared for. And that same sense of wonder and okay-ness flooded through me. Little worldly happenings, I am certain, are often the way that God reaches out to let us know that we are not alone, we do not have to shoulder it all, and we are always being cared for.
A tiny miracle with perfect timing
My little glitter angel feels like one of these miracles. The fact that, despite being as fragile as one made of construction paper, glitter, and Elmer’s glue can be, she survived for decades and somehow made her way from my mother’s attic to my own is almost incredible. The fact that something in me recognized her – she tugged at my heart instantly – is amazing.
The real miracle, however, is the timing of her reappearance. I’m in a period of life that Kelly Corrigan aptly called the middle place. This is a time when “adulting” can feel overwhelming – when you are simultaneously loving and caring for two sets of parents and young adult children. These are the people you love the most in the whole world. You wouldn’t not do any of it. Nonetheless, there are moments (many of them some weeks) when you’d really like to do a little less of everything.
To receive a glimpse of the hope, wonder, joy, and love-of-all-things-sparkly at the heart of little-girl-me reminded me of who I am and always have been – and who I can again be right now when these traits will be especially sustaining.
- The pride and joy I feel in this childhood work of art reminds me that I love to make pretty things and to make things pretty (and easier and happier) for those around me.
- My little angel’s very crooked glitter halo reminds me that I am far from perfect, but my imperfect attempts are enough.
- Like my little angel, I have a big smile and I love using it.
- And I believe that little miracles show up with huge effect just when you need them.
With wonder I again think, “Thank you.”
Keep an eye out as you zip around your life. Miracles are all around you. Especially when you need them the most.
PS As you may have noticed in the photo, I had my little angel framed and she is smiling at me as I sit at my desk right this very moment.
One of the gifts of spiritual direction is that you have someone walking with you through your life who can help you recognize the miracles around you. Reach out if you’re interested in learning more.