Muffled Messages of Hope Amidst the Mundane of Life

by | Apr 28, 2015 | Encouragement


Walking past the pub, dry cleaner and our favorite curry restaurant, I hold the straps of a canvas bag filled with a bouquet of flowers; a thank you handed to me after a speaking engagement. Heels press into pink petal confetti strewn about the street like a dancers skirt laid out on the carpet and gently shaken.

Small tornados of flower petals rise in an exhale of gust and drift down, collecting in the architectural open spaces of concrete fences and iron gates, creating masterpieces of graduated color and texture.

I am witnessing what Frederick Buchner describes as, “The occasional, obscure glimmering through of grace. The muffled presence of the holy. The images, always broken, partial, ambiguous, of Christ.”

As I turn into Olympia Station, past the tree dressed in white, I cast a second glance over my shoulder as if the blossoms are saying something to me. I long for my camera but instead, frame the glory in my memory. Of a tree among saplings flourishing through a small square in the sidewalk.

Branches stretch out like the arms of Jesus, towering above roof lines.

Through the muffled presence of the holy comes this gem of truth: Being deeply rooted in faith leads to a beautiful life that stands out as different from the others.

That tree becomes a marker of remembrance waving to me each time I pass it.

When I enter the grocery store, fumbling with the trolley while excavating a list from deep pockets, a security officer speaks softly while making eye contact when I pass him. “I like the way that smile looks on your face.”

I know this is uncommonly British — to say what you think out loud to a stranger without motive — so I pay attention to everything after that.

When the cart pulls like a magnet to a display of fresh cut flowers I begin questioning myself. Why waste time here when a beautiful bouquet is already in my possession?

A woman pushes her cart next to mine, making remarks about prices and the meager selection. Chooses a bunch of bright faced Gerber daisies declaring they are fun instead of practical.

Choose joy in the midst of mundane responsibility.

An old woman hobbles slowly down the cheese aisle through a throng of Saturday shoppers holding lists and chiding children captivated by screens on cell phones. Her small frame steadied by the handle on a grocery cart drifts through crowded chaos like a life raft among a sea of ships carrying a message.

Life is brief and fragile, don’t lose focus.

As I push past an endcap of tissue, a man’s sharp voice interrupts a train of thought. He is bending down, wagging his index finger two centimeters from the face of a small boy who has yet to experience a full decade of life.

Children don’t know how to think like adults. Remember this when you are frustrated, angry and stressed. We don’t often see what rips open the scars harmful words have left but your prayers make a difference in healing them.


When startled from the stillness of sleep by the shrill sound of a truck clanging down your quiet street, it provides an awakening; a startling reminder of what you cannot see but know in your heart. The muffled presence of the holy hovers like a gentleman waiting for your acknowledgement.

He is not just an answer. He is flesh.

That one word prayer you utter is like a child’s faint voice breaking through a choir of mature voices – broken, needy and welcome.

There is a place, a season, a marker when Jesus becomes more than an answer, superstition, something you fit into your week. When truth and experience become inseparably linked.

It is not that He wasn’t always there like He is here.  But instead of standing in the room at a safe distance He is in your personal space.  Warm breath on your forehead, aroma of spring in a vase, fingers laced through yours when you cross the street.

How would you define “the occasional, obscure glimmering through of grace” in daily life? Tell me what that looks like for you in the comments.

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  1. Anita Mathias

    “But instead of standing in the room at a safe distance He is in your personal space. Warm breath on your forehead,” Lovely!

    • Shelly Miller

      Thanks Anita! Look forward to seeing you soon in Oxford.

      • Anita Mathias

        Yes, do message me you mobile # 🙂

  2. Mary Gemmill

    Beautiful words conjured up beautiful images..thank you dear Shelly for blessing us with your gift.

    Through the muffled presence of the holy comes this gem of truth: Being deeply rooted in faith leads to a beautiful life that stands out as different from the others.

    I wonder if you can even grasp the truth in those words….they are truly prophetic, as you will see in the weeks and months to come 🙂

    Where do I see: “the occasional, obscure glimmering through of grace” ?

    This morning a beautiful tree I planted 8 years ago outside my bedroom window was filled with sparrows, flitting down to food on the lawn then back up to the safety of the tree. God uses birds often to let me know He is with me. This-morning there were more birds than I have even seen before, and I knew He was gracing my quiet time with His Presence. A Holy and reverential time ensued.In His Grace, He sends me a sign when I need a reminder of His constant presence with me 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      God often speaks to me through birds (and trees) too Mary. When I read your response I thought about Proverbs 3:18. xxx

  3. Celeste

    This morning my phone rang as I was reaching for the doorknob to usher my son off to school. A lot of zeros, India calling. Through muffled garble, a skype date is planned for later that day. In the afternoon a call to a family member asking about how missionary friends are in Nepal following the recent earthquake.
    The early morning low cloud gave way to brilliant afternoon sun.
    Now, walking back from school we stop to pick some lilacs from the drooping branches that bend into the alley. “I want to give some to Dolly,” my son says.
    Dolly, an older woman answers the knock at her door, waves in my direction pleased with her bouquet from a young man.
    Another phone call, this time with news from Pakistan. Uncle Yunis has passed away. A dear man. Sadness mingled with joy.
    A notification from my tablet lets me know that I just received and email from someone in England.
    All this to say, that throughout my scheduled day there seemed to be moments of grace mingled in between the busyness of routine. More so, the thought of graceful connection. A community of friends from all over the world. Separated by distance yet connected by heart.

  4. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, your breathtaking posts are taking on a decidedly British air. Well, why wouldn’t they?! You know how much I love England, so it’s a treat for me to read these even more than before. And I love Buechner too. From which of his works is this quote? We can see glimmers of Jesus, of grace, everywhere really, if we have the eyes to see. I call it heartsight (ala Ephesians 1). I glimpsed Him today in the phone call of a dear sister in Christ, who unexpectedly encouraged me in ministry. What would we do without the people He places in our life to comfort and encourage? You are such a one to me!
    And trees?! God gave me a tree message when I first left my career at the USO to come home and raise Sheridan. I was the stripped winter tree, but God promised me if I would root myself by living water, eventually I would flourish and bear fruit in season. Since that time, I have been stripped more than once, but each time there is a new flourishing….yet another glimpse of God’s grace!
    Love you,

  5. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    How do I hear His whispers? See His hand? In the birds, in the trees, in the sunset, the sunrise…. The kindness of a family member’s words to cover a hurting heart in my home… Oh, how He loves us—everywhere we are –whether here or across the world where you are.

  6. Jerri Miller

    I see grace in daily life whenever I see light. I look for it everywhere – shafts of light glimmering through trees, a glow of lamplight on my desk, sparkles in my grandbabies’ eyes. He’s everywhere because He is the light.

    • Nancy Ruegg

      Oh, Jerri, I love this! I want to become a Light-watcher, too! Sunbeams have always grabbed my attention, as if the bright light emanated straight from God on his throne. But the glow from a lamp, or the sparkles in our granddaughter’s eyes? Hadn’t thought of those sources as reminders of our God of Light. Thank you!

      • Jerri Miller

        Jesus is the light. It just makes sense He is wherever you can see light of any kind.

  7. Nancy Ruegg

    I think I’ve told this to only one other person, for fear it would sound silly. But one way I enjoy “the occasional, obscure glimmering through of grace” is when I climb into the car to drive somewhere, I will put my hand out on the passenger seat, as if Jesus is sitting there with me. It’s a way to refocus myself on his presence–in my personal space (as you put it so delightfully). When attentive to his presence, I almost always feel him near–with his comfort, strength, encouragement, and support. Thank you, Shelly, for more examples, and the heart-touching term, “glimmering through of grace.” Love that!

  8. Selina


  9. Sharon O

    When I stop being busy and start to look around and listen, it is amazing what I observe and become a part of, like your experiences. You could have been so busy that the ‘little lessons’ could have been lost. Love the way you bring life as it is today into the written word as a challenge. Keep pressing on and write, we are blessed and challenged by your words.

  10. Becky Keife

    Beautiful glimpses, friend! THIS is the stuff of awakening to wonder! Of experiencing the holy in the mundane, the glorious smack dab in the middle of ordinary. Grace glimmers for me through nature…budding flowers, fallen leaves, the ways light and shadow dance and play. I see it in timely encouragement from a friend who doesn’t quite know the significance of her words. Hugs and giggles and couch cuddles with my little boys. All is grace.

  11. Kelly W

    Realizing that practicing gratitude allows grace to soak in layer by layer. And realizing that even on those days where glimmers are invisible, knowing that they surround me, whether or not I can see them.

  12. Joy Lenton

    Shelly, I love your thought wanderings as you ambled through petal-strewn London streets with life unfolding before your eyes. Seeing the sacred in the secular is a habit well worth developing. I’ve seen “glimmering through of grace” in a weed-strewn garden with dandelions proclaiming a glory flag and a wind-blown dancing poppy making poetry come alive in me, a rain-heavy darkening sky where streaks of light escaped round the edges, a look and act of love, an answer to prayer and a strengthening when a load feels too great for human flesh to bear.
    Mindful contemplation is also slowly opening my eyes to wonder and awakening my soul to beauty in the everyday. Thank you for your lovely images and poetic words. They’re a real blessing and gift of grace! 🙂

  13. Lisa

    The breeze…its just one of the ways I sense God’s presence, but one that is so tangible; warm or cool, brushing against bare arms or one’s cheek. Moving against me as walk through His creation, gentle, persistent, inviting.

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