Sometimes, I Like Surprises

The Lovely Lady saw it first. She usually does.

Look! A surprise lily!

By and large, it is not the season in our part of the country for brilliant blossoms on plants, the bountiful spring rains having mostly deserted us in this sweltering summertime heat. The ground is parched and crunchy — the latter being the sound the vegetation makes underfoot when one takes a shortcut through the yard.

But, sure enough, right near the driveway, where once there was a flower garden, the bare stem towers above the crunchy grass, gorgeous purple blooms standing proudly atop it.

It is properly called a lycoris. We just call them surprise lilies, when we don’t call them naked ladies, the latter a description, not of anything risque, but of the way the stem shoots up from the ground bare of any leaves whatsoever.

Every year they surprise me, although I can’t think why. Well, perhaps a reason or two will occur to me in time, but by now you’d think I’d simply mark my calendar. Late July and early August — like clockwork, you might say — the various-colored trumpets poke their heads out. Every year.

I would have told you it couldn’t happen this year.

Besides the dried up vegetation from the heat of the last few weeks and the lack of precipitation, which should have been enough to discourage their appearance, I did my part to guarantee this particular stand of lilies would never surprise me or anyone else, ever again.

I said they grew from the spot where once a garden grew. Twenty years ago the flower garden held a prominent place in that yard. It was tended by my father-in-law, who kept the encroaching weeds and volunteer trees — pin oaks, maples, and sweetgum, to name a sampling — from taking root where the roses and lilies resided.

Over the intervening years, the garden had become a tangled mess of weeds, vines, and trees, so we mowed them down. Not only that, the volunteer trees were lopped off at ground level to make it possible to keep them under control for the foreseeable future.

The flower garden was erased from the face of the earth. Literally. We thought.

To further ensure that the sneaky lilies never popped up unexpectedly again, although that wasn’t my express motivation, this past spring I spent hours with a mattock chopping out roots and stumps. The ground around was pulverated — torn up like a war zone.

No surprise lilies this year!

Boy, was I in for a surprise!

The exclamation was no sooner out of the Lovely Lady’s mouth than I headed over to see this miracle for myself.

True, no more than a solitary array of blooms was visible, but I’ll wager tomorrow there will be three.

Out of the parched ground, covered in crunchy grass and weeds, the beauty from the hand of the Creator stands, proudly exclaiming its victory.

Victory over me. Well, victory over my doubt, anyway.

When all is dark and hopeless, light creeps in and taps us on the shoulder.


I’m remembering a road trip many years ago through the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. With the Lovely Lady and our youngsters, we had taken the scenic route after visiting Carlsbad Caverns on our trip west. I had hoped to be off of the winding two-lane road before dark, but we had lollygagged along for too many miles, as we admired and exclaimed about the beauty of creation.

With foreboding thoughts, I watched the hot summer sun dip toward the western horizon. We’d never reach the interstate highway before dark. Never.

Sure enough. We dipped into a valley as the sun dropped down on the western edge of the mountains. Dark.

Then, we started up the other side of the valley. I had no hope of seeing the sun again. Still, there it was — shining brightly — until we dropped down into another valley.

Each time we topped the next incline, the sun was there as if it had been in view all along. Broad daylight.

Every time we started down into another valley, it disappeared completely from view. Darkness surrounded us, just like night time.

Finally, we came onto a sort of plateau, up on top. In daylight, we saw the marking for the interstate highway up ahead. In daylight — still — we turned onto the four-lane and drove off into the sunset.

It was a surprise every time the sun appeared again, a pleasant one. I had been convinced we were staying in the dark for the rest of the curvy, two-lane road. Every time, I was convinced. I was wrong.

I like surprises. That kind of surprise, anyway.

But, here’s the thing. In very much the same way as I know the lilies in the front yard will pop up at the same time next year, I knew the sun was still there. I knew it.

Why was it such a surprise when the light shone on us again?

We let our dread overshadow the hope, the reality we know to be true.

Time and again, we descend into the darkness, believing we’ll never rise above it, ever again.

Can I make you a promise? It’s not me standing behind the promise, but the Creator of all that is.

We who once lived in darkness are assured that the light — His light — will shine upon us. (Isaiah 9:2) It is a certainty.

He is our sun as well as our protection from danger and is giving us every good thing constantly. (Psalm 84:11)

Why so surprised?

It’s almost as if we’ve come to expect darkness and gloom.

But, in the darkest night, with the storm raging, His light guides and He gives peace. Still.

With a word, He calms the storms. Still.

He who was before time began hasn’t lost any of His power. He still holds all of creation together. (Colossians 1:17)

Right down to those surprise lilies.

Right down to surprising us with light — precisely when we need it.

I like surprises.


Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises
With healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
to cheer it after rain.
(William Cowper ~ English poet ~ 1731–1800)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.



Christ-follower, writer, Horn player, curmudgeon-in-training. Recovering hypocrite.

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Paul Phillips

Christ-follower, writer, Horn player, curmudgeon-in-training. Recovering hypocrite.