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I am living in a week of surprises! Not all of them have been welcome. In trying to take an airplane flight to San Francisco on Monday, the delays and cancellation diverted us to spontaneous Plan B, which was to embark on an overnight road trip, complete with motel stay, a visit to an old Italian restaurant, and navigating traffic and road repair.

Yet, I found that there was surprising Grace in the change of plans. Despite starting out at the tail end of a holiday weekend, there was almost no traffic going our way as we started out, a welcoming inn in which to stay, a long restorative sleep to be had in comfort. And I found in the recesses of my travel bag, a mystery novel tucked away, which I began to read aloud to my husband, which diverted and kept us amused along the lengthy sojourn the next morning. We often read to each other, but rarely do we read fiction or stay in such contained quarters for so long. For me there was a welcome intimacy in the sharing of space and story.

We arrived in San Francisco on the dot of the time we were to meet beloved friends at the art museum, there to see an exhibit of the artist Edouard Munch. However, we had spare time to wander other exhibits in the newly expanded and appointed museum. The top floor had an exhibit called Sound, a title which did not sound like much art to me, until I saw the exhibit by Celeste Boursier-Mangenot, an installation of ceramic bowls in a broad pond of gently moving water. From the surrounding observation bench, I could hear the slight ting of each bowl as it nudged the one beside it, moving it a little bit forward or to the side, sending it off a new trajectory. I kept being surprised by my fascination as I sat watching, as layers of implication for the world and the way humans live in it coursed through my imagination. What if we were to be a bowl that floated in grace with others, and brought forth a song of delight and grace when we bumped into each other? Wouldn’t that be a surprise!

My surprises were still unfolding. As we entered the warm hospitality which is the hallmark of the home of our friends, I was greeted with the question,
“Are you the surprise lady?” Not quite sure of what was transpiring, I looked at my husband and my friends to discover that this evening was to be a small dinner, very early birthday celebration for me, months in the planing, threads of e-mails streaming through the internet, and memories and pieces of my life gathered from over 40 years. I had my initial beginning anxiety: would it all work? was I dressed for the occasion? and who might appear? And then as I allowed myself to savor the surprise, I prayed that I would be open to receive whatever came as the gift of this generous, extravagant offering of love. As I did the surprises poured out: memories from long ago, shared journeys, laughter, wisdom, hilarity, reflections on my presence and person, surrounded with amazing provisions and touches of charm. And, in a way, in that evening, we became the beautiful ceramic bowls floating in the same sea, touching one another gently, and making beautiful music together. It was a brief, shining moment with which I begin a birthday month and start a new year of life. Not only will I be offering grace notes to each of my companions, but I will be carrying the images with me as source of Hope and Grace.

Even as I savored the beauty and goodness, my family was awaiting medical reports and news from the latest hurricane. Friends were digging out from devastation, managing new paths forward after diagnoses that threatened, navigating situations that seem hopeless, and marching with courage and ardor for justice in the streets of our cities and towns. So I am not confused into thinking that if I just float in Grace that everything will be all right in the world. But I know deeply that I am invited to be open to surprise when it appears, to hang on to its presence firmly, and to let it be Light when I am needing Hope in the Dark!

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