We have all seen it. The green on the mountains surrounding Tucson. It was one of the surprises that greeted us mid-July when we returned from our summer trip. We could not believe it. As I drive by A Mountain each day or look toward the Catalinas, I still cannot believe how green they are. The monsoon rains have poured life into this desert, and we now enjoy this rare sight. This and other surprises have been a source of joy for me these last several weeks. While having my blood drawn a couple of weeks ago, I looked out the window and saw the lot behind the laboratory filled with butterflies fluttering from plant to plant. Surprise! I could not remember a time I had seen so many butterflies in one place. I pointed it out to the phlebotomist who paused from her hurried work and stood in wonder. She said she could not believe it. Something so beautiful was right outside the widow and she had been too busy to notice.

A few days later while driving home, I saw a single white flower by the road near our neighborhood. I had never seen this flower in Tucson before. The following morning, I saw a whole section further down that same road filled with this flowering plant: the Sacred Datura (also known as Jimsonweed, Thornapple, or Moonflower). Surprise! It looked beautiful, and yet so out of place in the section of land usually void of any vegetation. Thanks to some well-informed friends, I learned that though rare, the Datura plant has been in this part of the world and used by indigenous people to make poisons, medicines, and intoxicating substances for rituals for at least 3,000 years. Hence, its designation as sacred and cherished in the landscape. Since then, Krysia and I have made it a game to search for the Datura and other flowering surprises along our route each morning. Although we do not know the names of the plants we see, it has been fun to notice the yellows, purples, blues, and oranges we would have otherwise sped by unaware.

For me, these sights have been a reminder of God’s presence both generally in all of creation and specifically in our lives. It has been a reminder of how easy it is to not notice and how often we do not notice. Busy schedules and concerns about our work or finances. Worries about our health or that of a loved one. Tragic news from around the world. So many things stand in the way of our noticing the butterflies outside the window. So many things can distract our attention from Spirit’s nudging at our heart saying, “I am here; I am with you.” Yet, our God comes with surprises. Surprise! A baby for a couple well into their years. Surprise! Liberation for slaves and manna in the desert. Surprise! God, Emmanuel. Surprise! A beautiful sunset. Surprise! A plan of treatment from a doctor. Surprise! A call from a friend on a very bad day. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!  “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”