But, this bag I saw wasn’t about practicality. It was just beautiful and staring back at me in my favorite color. When I looked at the price, it wasn’t awful but I also had been trying to save money. Inside the boutique, there were pretty dresses, blouses, and pants, but my eye was on the blue purse.
Once I decided to not buy it, I walked back out to 19th Street with my friend. I couldn’t afford the purse, but I could afford some chicken quesadillas and a margarita at Goode Company. It was one of those crisp and clear January days, where the sky looks a perfect blue and the sun shines brilliantly because we’ve gone through a string of gray days.
Days later, after the margarita and the quesadilla, I found myself still thinking about the blue bag. It’s just a bag, I think to myself. What is it about some gifts in our life, no matter how small, you can’t help but fixate on what you don’t have?
I’ve always been a dreamer. I can think of the best possible scenario for any situation. I can also think of the worst. Oftentimes, when I’m in one room, I find myself thinking about something else. I’ve found it’s easy to dream, but harder to face the reality of your situation.
It’s often in long waiting seasons that I fixate on what I don’t have. I grow impatient and it feels like the clock is ticking. When I’m driving sometimes, it always feels like when I’m late for something, that’s when a train likes to block traffic. Especially on Westheimer! I sit there, impatiently tapping my foot, so close to my destination but also feeling so far away. I wonder if I’ll ever get there. The wait feels never-ending.
In one of my favorite movies, “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things,” that I stumbled upon shortly after the winter freeze in 2021, the main character’s mom tells her this about time.
“It’s true that we’re losing time every day, all the time, until one day it’s gone. But you’re gaining it too. Every second, perfect moments, one after another, until by the end you have your whole life. You have everything. And it costs you everything. But it’s worth it. I promise it’s worth it.”
What she said hit me like a ton of bricks. What do I already have in my life that I don’t already see? What am I gaining in my everyday moments that I can’t ever get back?
During the pandemic, I usually met up in Buffalo Bayou with one of my best friends to walk. It was our weekly escape. We would chat about everything --- the news, the upcoming election, our families, COVID, jobs, friendships. We covered it all. As we circled the bayou, our mouths never stopped moving. You would think that after years of friendship, we might run out of something to say. But that’s the best part about being around people that just understand you, that know your soul. Back then, I thought about all the things I’d rather be doing than stuck in a pandemic with walks in the park as one of my only escapes. I could be on a cruise. I could be sitting in a café in Paris.
During that summer, around my birthday, I was getting ready to turn 28. A few days before my birthday, I found out a longtime source I covered for a story passed away. I was gutted. Hearing about COVID all year long was one of the first times I remember being confronted with how fragile life could be. Everything around me felt unsafe, insecure. That it could crumble at any second. And in turn, my anxiety was through the roof. I didn’t really say all of this to my friend who I took walks with, but she knew. One day, she showed up with a chocolate cake she made from scratch on my front porch with the number 28. My heart burst.
Here was a moment that I would never get back again, but I would replay over and over again.
In March, I went back into the boutique on a whim. It was a Friday full of possibility. The sky was clear and the sun beamed down on my back. I just spent the last couple hours, working, laughing and catching up with two of my best friends. I wondered as I walked closer to the store: Could the bag possibly still be there?
As I made it inside the store, I looked around the boutique and picked out a pair of white jeans. I made small talk with the owner. After a few minutes, I finally asked the question: “I saw a blue bag in here a couple months ago. It was Kate Spade and fringe. Is it still here?”
To my surprise, the bag was hanging on the mannequin at the front of the store. No one had bought it yet. My gift was right there in plain sight. She gave me a discount and when I got home, I pulled it out onto my kitchen table, letting the sun shine from the windows onto the blue fringe. My cat brushed her head against the bag, rubbing it slowly back and forth. Even she was obsessed.
This was just a bag. Something that I probably would get tired of and eventually forget about, but it was like my 28 chocolate cake. A gift in plain sight. A gift all for me.
The blue bag is just a material gift, but I wonder how many other gifts God has waiting in plain sight that I’m walking right past. That I’m too blind to notice. A lot of the best gifts God gives have nothing to do with something I can carry on my arm. I realized this during the pandemic, when I woke up every day breathing clear in and out of my lungs as others struggled on a ventilator. I could walk next to my best friend in Buffalo Bayou, but some lost their best friend that year.
Each day is another chance to hang onto one of those perfect moments that you may not ever get to experience again. Each day God has a gift waiting for you: sun shine on your back, breath in your lungs, a new fresh start all over again. But do you see it? Or is it easy to ignore?
It’s easy to forget the goodness of God described in Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.” But don’t. Hold tight to it. The goodness. The gifts. All right there for us to take hold of every day.