I guess in the midst of the chaos that was my life to that point I was looking for something special - a sign I suppose - to encourage me and remind me that God was still present and active in this mixed-up, broken world.
No sooner had the words left my heart, however, than I heard a silent voice reply: "But Mark, I do beautiful things every single day! It's just that you aren't always looking for them."
A moment of stunned silence on my part as I began to chew on what I believe God had just handed me. Then, regaining my composure, I made a silent resolution to keep a look out for the many beautiful things - big and small - that God was up to that week.
I was more than halfway through the week and I had witnessed many beautiful things: dark clouds over the ocean, rain splashing on the waves, pelicans flying gracefully above the water, my sons pulling in fish from the sea, my Mom making making another pot of tea for us...
...But I still felt like there was something more. I wanted something extra special - something out of the ordinary and extra-beautiful. Then I saw it. I saw it as I walked onto a beach filled with people.
It wasn't something that jumped out and grabbed my attention. It wasn't something unusual. In fact, at first it was the most normal thing in the world to me: it was... people. Plain, ordinary people. Fat ones, skinny ones, dark ones, blinding-white ones, incredibly average ones. Again I felt I could hear that inaudible voice telling me: "Look Mark! This is it! I'm showing you what you asked to see. These are what make up the crown of all my wonderful creation! These are the most beautiful things I have to offer besides myself - they are what I died to keep!"
The day came for us to say good-bye to my parents and with them our amazing beach vacation. I had asked God to show me something beautiful - and he did! But what he showed me wasn't what I had expected. It was far more normal yet far more profound than anything I could have imagined.
I'm back to reality now which means a combination of taking an on-line course, waiting on our visas for Spain, developing more prayer and financial partnerships for our ministry, substitute teaching, raising three incredible kids, and spending time with my beautiful wife. I'm thankful for the reminder that God does something beautiful everyday and that the most beautiful things he does involve people. There's beauty in forgiveness; there's beauty in a second chance. There's beauty in a kindness offered to a stranger; there's beauty in a simple hug. There's beauty in a child's wonder at creation; there can even be beauty in the face of tragedy and death. Solomon had it right: "There is a time for everything" and God "has made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecclesiastes 3:1,11)
There's beauty everywhere if we'll just open our eyes.
PS - A fun perk of making the trip South was getting to spend time with some of my cousins along the way! Over the course of the week I got to see my Uncle Larry, Aunt Phyllis and their entire family (including grand kids!).