Last Friday I received an unexpected gift in the form of a phone call from Henry that he’d locked his keys in the car down in Nogales, an hour and a half away.

The story actually begins more than two years ago, when I visited a dear friend in Colorado and lost a favorite small Native American earring somewhere along the trail of plane, train, and automobile between my home and hers. I carefully checked my clothing and belongings, but the earring was truly gone. I’d had the earrings for so long that I didn’t remember where or how I’d purchased them or received them as a gift, but knew I wanted to replace them when I had a moment to hunt down something similar.

Shortly thereafter, COVID-19 brought everything to a standstill and any hope of browsing jewelry stores went on the back burner for months. I had an idea of where I might begin my hunt, but everything was shut down. Life moved on, I got busy, and the earring search stayed on the back burner.

Then, two months ago, we returned to New Mexico to spend Christmas with my family, and I renewed my search by spending a morning wandering through multiple Native American shops in Albuquerque’s Old Town. I found some helpful shop owners, but not the earrings I was seeking. I did learn that they were from the Hopi tribe in Arizona, so I realized I would need to take my search closer to home.

Now back to Friday. Henry was going across the border to meet with church leaders in northern Mexico about developing cross-diocese church relationships. When he called, I was somewhat surprised that my initial emotional reactions weren’t anger and frustration. I was running late on a work project and a three-hour round-trip drive didn’t fit with my goal of getting the completed manuscript to the client by the end of the day. Instead, I felt some confusion (2018 Honda CRVs with fancy electronic keys aren’t supposed to allow you to lock them inside), some relief (Henry was okay and with colleagues), and some compassion that he must have felt horrible having to call me to come rescue him. (Later he told me that one of those colleagues asked him in all seriousness if it was safer for him to call his wife or to call a locksmith! I’m glad he felt safe to call me.)

I told the client about my change in plans (and received a generous response), made a quick salad for lunch, tucked my computer in the car in case there was time to work before Henry returned, and left for the McDonald’s in Nogales where the car was parked. Driving down, I passed the arts-destination town of Tubac and recalled that one of their shops is where I had thought I might find those replacement earrings.

I got to Nogales and had time to open and search Henry’s car before he returned, finding his jacket but no keys. The group returned shortly thereafter, and they assured me that everyone had helped him search all over for the keys. Since the keys weren’t in the car, Henry went inside the McDonald’s to ask if any keys had been turned in—and walked out with them!

Again, I could have been frustrated and angry, but I wasn’t. Instead, I was glad that someone had turned them in rather than spending time figuring out which car they belonged to and driving away with it! Once the relief and celebration were over, I suggested we stop in Tubac on the way home. We did, and I found a mother lode of earrings to choose from!

It was such a gift to have the opportunity and time to pick through them and choose two pairs of earrings (pictured above, along with the single earring from the original pair). We then enjoyed an early dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant before heading back to Tucson, thereby missing most of the Friday-afternoon and holiday-weekend traffic—and making one more stop to purchase a new vacuum cleaner(!) on the way home.

Thus ends my story, but not my gratitude. What could have been a “mess” of a Friday afternoon or the introduction of “chaos” into my carefully ordered workday became a time of grace and gift because I was open to it. If you’re not familiar with the welcoming prayer, I invite you to learn more about it. I welcomed what happened as it unfolded and feel richly blessed with the results.

What unexpected gift have you been able to receive recently? How might you become more open to welcoming whatever happens and finding the gifts within it?

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