Big pines stood tall around me bearing witness to the smile stretched across my face. The campground was alive with morning noises — bacon sizzling on outdoor skillets, kids laughing louder than they would at home. I watched a bright blue chested bird perch on a branch heavy with pinecones while two hummingbirds zipped around in a magic dance. I sipped slow on my steamy coffee.
Everything is better in the mountains.
This was my family’s favorite week – when we (mostly) unplug, enjoy nature, and soak up lots of time just being together. It was the perfect way to end summer — connecting and refreshing before my husband begins his busiest season of the year as a college volleyball coach and our three boys start back to school and all the activity and responsibility that brings.
With fresh air in my lungs and no alarm to wake me up (save for the loud whispers of excited kids), it was easy to start each day with gratitude in my heart. I thanked God for crackling campfires, family corn hole tournaments, and sunny trails just waiting for the happy thud of hiking boots.
Thank You, God, for seeing our need for a break from ordinary routine.
One afternoon I sat on a huge log at the far end of our campsite. My husband was on a jog, and the boys were building an epic fort. In the stillness of the moment — no one needing me, no task demanding to be done — I answered the still small voice. Pour it all out to Me.
So I began to pray. For my husband and for each of our boys. For friends by name as they came to mind. I prayed for the young women my husband coaches and their upcoming season. For my book writing and other projects in the making. For you, our beloved (in)courage readers, for each contributor, and my staff-mates. For all that God has done and will yet do.
I talk to God every day. But it’s often in the whirl of fixing meals or the rush of driving here and there. It had honestly been a while since I just sat with Jesus without some pressing next. Given the space to think, feel, share all that was on my heart, I found myself overflowing with thanks. For every request I had, my praise was doubled. Not because I’m extra pious or righteous but because of God’s profound goodness.
With the sun on my back and the gift of time, I was flooded with awareness for all the ways God had answered so many prayers. So I was a little surprised by what the Spirit whispered to my heart next: Give thanks for the gifts you didn’t ask for. Praise Me for answers you never prayed.
Looking around, I realized that this moment was forged in blessings I never requested:
When I was dreaming about my future spouse, I didn’t ask God for a husband who loved camping; I had yet to discover how alive I felt in the greatness of creation. But God knew in advance my heart would crave the altar of nature and gave me a partner with a shared appreciation for fresh-air wonder.
I never thought to ask God for in-laws who would be generous with their time and treasure, yet that’s what God gave me in two people willing to loan us their beautiful trailer for a week every summer (complete with delivery, setup, and cleanup)!
Even in preparation for our mountain vacation, it never crossed my mind to ask God for the gift of good “campsite neighbors.” Some friends had planned to join us for part of our trip, but at the last minute it didn’t work out. My boys were super bummed. Brothers are great, but at the end of summer they were, let’s say, itching for some new playmates!
Then on our third day, a family with two boys pulled in. Within a few hours these five kids acted like they had known each other forever. They spent the next four days building Lego creations, having water balloon fights, and constructing the most elaborate military base Serrano Campground had surely ever seen. All their happy playing made more margin for this mama to sit and read — just be! God had gone ahead of our disappointment over friends who couldn’t make it and prepared the way for a whole new version of blessing.
Friends, God sees the needs you have today and the ones yet to come.
These are just a few examples from one small slice of my life. Imagine all the ways God is working on your behalf. Consider what you might usually just chalk up to luck or coincidence, good fortune or your own hard work paid off. That relationship restored or that closed professional door. That clean bill of health or nearly missed accident. That unexpected friendship or creative spark or good night’s sleep. I don’t know what it is for you, but I do know God is moving in your life whether you name it as His grace or not.
Let’s name it today! Let’s call out the answers we didn’t request. Let’s praise Him for the gifts wrapped in hardship and joy that we never knew we needed.
Start with this simple prayer: God, help me to see the gifts I didn’t ask for.
Share your gifts in the comments and purpose to walk eyes-wide-open to God’s goodness today.