God of the details

In the northern hemisphere, this is the time of year when coloured pencils and binders are on sale, the nights are starting to cool, and the picnic basket has been traded in for school bags or briefcases. There’s excitement in the air—the goodness of beginning fresh—and sometimes also a bit of heaviness as we leave summer behind and enter the season ahead.

When change is in the air, I need to pause and look back before moving forward. What do I want to take with me? What will I choose to leave behind?

As we begin this season, I’m holding close the memory of a day last week, turning it over and exploring what it tells me about the God who is going before me and with me into the fall.

I was staying with friends for a few days. I’ve never considered myself a visual artist (particularly since the teacher in our mandatory grade ten art class informed me that my perspective was “screwy as hell.”) But I’m drawn to beauty and color, and my friend, Linda, a watercolor artist, was helping me learn to play with paint. Together we gathered leaves and ferns and grasses and arranged them in wet paint, allowing the beauty of their forms to pattern the page and delighting in the surprise of how the colors merged and mingled. 

One afternoon, we set aside the paint and went to walk a nearby trail.

Dragonflies hummed by, and I tried repeatedly to catch their image with my camera, eventually whispering the longing in my heart, “Oh, God, even from a distance they’re so beautiful. Could you bring one close enough that I can really look at it?” 

But they were too quick and eventually I had to stop trying to grasp a gift that wasn’t being given and get on with receiving the gifts that were being given that day.

The following morning, Linda went out to get the mail. There, by her feet, was a perfectly formed dragonfly. His brief lifespan had ended, and the God who knows each sparrow that falls evidently keeps track of dragonflies too, letting this one bring Him glory even in his death.

As I sat and looked and worshiped the Creator, turning his tiny creature around and around in the light of the new day, I pictured God smiling as he’d received my prayer the previous day and planned the surprise for the following day, whispering, “That gift is for tomorrow.” 

I can be tempted to feel like the gifts of vacation are for a few days or weeks only, and to feel sad or heavy as I leave vacation behind. It is true, particular gifts are for particular days. But the heart from which they come does not change, and each day holds new gifts.

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

Lamentations 3:22-23, NLT

We move into this new season preceded and accompanied by the God who has created us and the world around us—the dragonfly’s compound eyes, the fine hairs on its back, the lace of its wings—and who delights to show us his love in the details of our daily lives.

May we be given eyes wide to see God’s goodness, and hearts open to delight in Him as we begin this new season with Him.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Mary

    Thank you for givng me this gift of “new eyes” to really look at a dragonfly, I have a fear of any bug, no matter how beautiful and your reminder that the same God who made us as intricate as we are is the God who formed this lovely creature.

  2. Connie Storr


  3. Janet Sketchley

    Amen, Carolyn, and thank you. As much as I love dragonflies and the story of God’s timing of this gift, what I’m taking most from this post is the reminder to “stop trying to grasp the gift that wasn’t being offered and get on with receiving the gifts that *were* being given” — this is something God has been repeating to me lately.

  4. Julie Flemming

    Dear Caroline
    This particularly resonated with me because I love Dragonflies. I love them more than Butterflies. Thank you for your keen explicative description.

  5. Kim

    Carolyn, so beautiful, yes it also resonates with me, letting go of what I think it should look like, and praying for eyes to see the beautiful gifts in front of me. Can you share how you painted those pictures? (I received the message whenI was in third grade I did not have artistic ability and still struggle with that lie). Yet I have been drawn to watercolors but do not know how to start and your pictures were inspiring yet looked like something I could do. Blessings so glad to find you in my Monday inbox again I have missed your writings.

    1. hearingtheheartbeat

      Thanks, Kim. I’m glad it resonated with you.
      Re the painting, the idea came from Ann Blockley’s lovely book “Watercolour Workshop.” Basically, we arranged the leaves, ferns etc on the water-colour paper so we knew what we were going to do, then removed them, wet the paper with a very wet paintbrush, applied various colors of paint wherever we wanted them on the paper letting them blend together where they touched each other, replaced the leaves etc, and then, in the examples I showed, placed crunched up plastic wrap over top to add more texture. If the leaves weren’t lying perfectly flat, we put a plate or book over top to weigh it all down while the paint dried (overnight), then removed the plate and plastic wrap and leaves.
      You need quite a bit of pigment on the page for it to work well. Some paint colors and leaves work better than others so it’s a matter of playing around. And you can reuse the plastic wrap over and over (and in the first painting I showed, I had intentionally not washed the remaining bits of red paint off the plastic wrap from a previous use, and that is where the red came from in that otherwise blue and gold painting!)
      Hope that helps!

  6. Daniel Mullaney

    Thank you!

  7. Bonita

    Awesome! Beautiful stuff, and awesome to have a friend to help you in these creative endeavours!

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