The Giver in the Gift

Here’s something I believe with all my heart: God is a speaking God. 

This morning a sparrow let me come near and look at it perched in the rushes. It didn’t move as I stepped closer, pushing the dewy grasses aside till I could see the sun glinting off its feathers. I stood in the mud of the little marsh and looked it in the eye. It held my gaze, never flinching, till its partner darted close and the two of them dove into the chokecherry bushes on the bank. 

The exchange took less than a minute. But it filled me with a sense of beauty and connection. I had been seen. I been noticed. 

It may sound odd to say, but God is in the sparrow’s eye. Not in some generalized filling of nature, blurring the lines between Creator and created, but particularly present and available to be noticed—to be acknowledged as the Giver behind all good things. 

George MacDonald said it well:

For the real good of every gift is essential first, that the giver be in the gift—as God always is, for He is love—and next, that the receiver know and receive the giver in the gift. Every gift of God is but a harbinger of His greatest and only sufficing gift—that of Himself. No gift unrecognized as coming from God is at its own best: therefore many things that God would gladly give us, things even that we need because we are, must wait until we ask for them, that we may know whence they come: when in all gifts we find Him, then in Him we shall find all things.

from George MacDonald: An Anthology by C. S. Lewis

The pause before a bird lifts.
The smell of wild roses on the morning breeze.
The kitchen window spider masterfully crafting its web.

Gifts of creation, yes. Gifts from the Creator—here is the deeper joy. Recognizing the Giver’s wink re-enchants the world for me.

Too often I feel disconnected from God and his mystery. But I’ve found that one of the first steps back to connection is to remember this truth: the whole world is made to vibrate with his voice. 

The voice of God is not limited to the places and spaces we have deemed “spiritual,” cordoned off with scarlet ropes for Sundays or “reserved seating” for the professionally religious. 

Here’s the beautiful freedom: there is no separation. God is giving, speaking, loving, noticing, and generally flinging grace on any random Tuesday morning. This morning I caught it. I saw it, behind the sparrow’s eye, and it drew me in, like spider silk. The Giver in the gift. 


~ Lindsey Gallant

The Caves at Orheiul Vechi: A Poem

Image by Andreea Onu (watercolour)

This poem was inspired by my visit to the church and monastery at Orheiul Vechi in Moldova. I was captivated by the beauty of the place and the prayers left in the side of the cliffs. My talented young friend Andreea Onu painted the above picture in response to my words – thank you, Andreea.

The Caves at Orheiul Vechi

I saw your prayer
folded quick and pressed into the
cleft of rock, our last meeting place.

I spread the ink
in the sun to dry, but not before 
your name smudged blue on my thumb.

Tell me why
you have such faith in limestone pores
and the raw edge of these monks’ murmurs.

I would have come
without your coin and spread my rainbow
flame over the whole greening valley

And told you
how indelible these syllables are,
my kiss in every furrowed crease.


~ Lindsey Gallant
S. D. G.

Easter Encounter: Mary’s Name

Mary is the first to wake in the gloom of morning, to realize that this is the third day without him. First to creep to the tomb before even the birds awake, clutching her offering of spices. It is a garden and it is dark and though there are no flaming swords she feels the place is abandoned, perhaps even cursed. The smell of Eden that was beginning to be on his clothes, all gone. Now there must be myrrh and aloes to disguise the stink of death.

And — lo! — she is first to see the shock of a gaping hole where her beloved’s body was meant to be. All is bewilderment. What could this mean? Not even left with the scraps so carefully bound?

She runs to find the others because she cannot find him — she cannot find God.

The men come, running, sleep dust in their eyes, to see what she has seen, but they do not understand either. There is nothing to see here, and so they go back home. Back to bed? Back to a house aching with hopes pierced? Back to breakfast pots and pans all out of tune because the melody of life, the song they had just caught on to, had suddenly dropped out of the score?

But Mary stays. 

Oh Mary, she stays. Perhaps she is exhausted from the morning run. Perhaps there is something within her that will not let go. Perhaps she has been wrestling with an angel all night, and that is why she is not surprised to see two of them when she finally screws up her courage to look into the empty tomb.

“Why are you weeping?” they ask.

“They have taken him. I don’t know where he is!” 

And here we find our own voice with Mary’s.

We are weeping because of everything that has been taken from us — the husband who did not wake up, the hair that fell out after the second round of chemo, the home that was blasted apart by enemy shelling, the hopes that have withered into burdens too heavy to hold. 

“I don’t know where he is!” 

God, where are you?

Once upon a time, at the very beginning, God came looking for us in a garden. And we hid. We hid because we had seen ourselves naked and realized the problem was us. We had listened to lies and could not bear the fallout of living without trust in the Maker’s way. And our own thorny way has choked us ever since. 

Our race keeps choosing not-trust, not-love, not-peace, and the whole weary world is sick, sick, sick, and what if we are the worst cancer of all?

Is this the bitter end of our march out of Eden? That in our desperation we finally come looking for God but he is nowhere to be found? Could it be the last nail was the last straw, and he has washed his hands of the whole wretched lot of us? Are we left alone in our suffering at last? 

Our tears blind us.

But into this tanglewood of grief a man steps.

And the first, fresh word off his lips? — “Woman.”

She turns toward the voice.

“Why are you crying?” he says.

She is crying for Eve and all of us. 

“Whom are you seeking?” His voice is gentle, earthy. 

Here is a woman seeking, not hiding. But she sees only a gardener, and for the third time this exhausting morning tells her tale of woe. 

First, to the disciples.
Second, to the angels.
Third, to the early rising gardener. 

How long, oh Lord, how long? How many times must the story of our griefs be told? 

And then, into her suffering, the rasping voicing of it all, comes the revelation. 


Her name on his lips.

And then the turn, the volta that shifts her whole horizon. 

“Teacher!” His name on her lips. Jesus

Here is the daybreak revelation — finally, we can see him when we hear our own name spoken by him.

The name Mary, deep-rooted in the word for bitter — suddenly her name in his mouth changes her whole identity and begins to change the world right then and there. It becomes sweet. It becomes reborn. It becomes resurrected.

This is worthy of a pause. For all Mary did not yet know or understand, and with the tears still wet on her cheeks, dissolving wrinkles of salt — Jesus speaks her name and the thorny garden of her anguish begins to transform. The birds begin to sing again. 

For those who keep seeking, even in their suffering, this treasure is to be found —
For those who keep knocking their calloused knuckles on the sides of stone graves —
For those who keep asking, “Where are you, God?” —

These are the first to see the risen Jesus. To touch the life that begins to strip death of its power and sickness of its lordship and war of its tyranny, to make everything sad untrue. It is only a beginning, but it is enough. A man and a woman in a garden. 

We are not alone. We are not abandoned. Here in the freshness of morning Jesus speaks our name, perhaps the only word that can reach deep enough into our sorrow and begin our own resurrection. A name that turns to music in the mouth of God. 

Oh Mary, she hears and she sees. Her name. Her God. And all the world is singing, singing, singing…


Read Mary’s story in John 20:1-18


Click here to download a free 8 day Easter devotional and journal. I created this simple guide to keep your heart focused on resurrection realities in the days after Easter. Enjoy!

~ Lindsey Gallant

Stories from Moldova: I am Liuba

“I am Liuba! My name means love!” Tears stream down her face as she grasps Tanya’s hand through the bars. Her other hand clutches a scarf to her cheek, a new one Tanya had brought and passed through the iron barrier between them. “I need communion,” she says, reaching for Tanya as if for an anchor in a storm. 

Liuba’s voice rings loud through the inner courtyard, and she stands tall, bright and unmistakable in orange. It is not the orange of a prison uniform, but her own winter coat. She is in isolation for two weeks, just back from another facility where she was sent due to health issues. She has served more than five years of her sentence, with another two to go, and has two children waiting her release, currently being fostered by a Christian family.

Tanya holds her through the bars of the door, praying calmly yet firmly in Romanian, and there is a transfer of holy energy here. Leslie and I step back a few paces, leaving them to this exchange of tears and prayer.

The spring sun shines on the white buildings of the compound and the brave green shoots coming up through the grey soil. A cat moves silently to a sunspot in the grass. But the north wind is cold here at Rusca women’s prison.

We have just had a writing session in the Prayer Room at the top of the hill, also known as the “Miracle Room.” We had surrendered our passports — Canadian, American and Moldovan — and been given a full pat-down by a female guard at the front gate. Leslie and I are here with a few local ladies that regularly visit this prison. Luminița carried in a stack of boxes loaded with placinta, the delicious pastry I had fallen in love with at first bite. We walked the steep road up to the Prayer Room where the women were waiting for us (and the placinta), crowded around three sides of a square of tables. One of them, beaming in a black wool vest, enveloped each of us in an enthusiastic hug. We took our seats at the front of the room, smiling at this rather unusual class and the curious murmur of Romanian and Russian.

The women wear their own clothes here, and jewelry. There were young women, with eyebrows carefully and thickly drawn on, and old women, grandmas in colourful scarves tied beneath their chins. There were Roma women, some women we were told who could neither read nor write, and others with eyes turned at odd angles, deformities which made me wonder who must have taken advantage of them on the difficult path to this prison. Most seemed eager. A few were reserved, the person inside retreating behind a still face, holding secrets, averting gaze.

Plates of placinta, hot tea in paper cups, notebooks and pens were passed out. The slide presentation Leslie had prepared would not load on the prison’s smart screen. Leslie dove in bravely without it, Tanya there to translate everything into Romanian. When Leslie introduced herself as a mother of six (five boys!) and a grandmother of four, the room erupted in applause. Here was something they honoured greatly. 

As Leslie began to speak of her own survival in a place where her voice did not matter, I saw a hungry sort of hope in the quieted room. Faces glimmered with tears and nods of understanding. She went on to tell about how God asked her to forgive her own abusive father, and how writing helped her to do just that. But we did not dwell on heavy things. For there was a story of Seabird Soup to be told! And this all from memory, for the only copy of the story was on the missing slides. Crinkly-eyed smiles met Leslie and Tanya’s dramatic retelling. 

Then, it was time to write. Leslie prompted, “What were you good at as a girl?” “Tell a story about you and food!” Some did not touch their notebooks or pens at all. Others opened them eagerly, sending their neat script onto the waiting lines without any hesitation. Eyes brightened with remembrance of long-forgotten days.

As the sound of scribbling and low voices filled the room, I sipped my tea and looked around at the pale orange-pink walls, shelves of living plants, photos of children, a full bookshelf, and a picture of Jesus holding one lost sheep. In many ways it did not look like a prison — simply a meeting of women, gathering around stories and sweets the way women have through the ages.

When the time came to share what they had written, some of them were fairly bursting. They were good at cooking for the family! At baking! One grandmotherly figure, who told us she was a kindergarten teacher, spoke of taking care of her siblings as a girl — this naturally led to her career. I wondered what had led her to this place? What other identity did she own besides kindergarten teacher? And the lady sitting next to Leslie, whose silent tears had been flowing almost since Leslie began to speak, turned and poured forth her story to us, her voice rising almost to a wail as she spoke of how important her family was to her, how grateful she was that they had not abandoned her here in prison. When women first begin to awaken to their voice, it is hard to silence them.

But our time was limited. This was not, after all, a tea party. These women were due for a routine check, and the schedule would not wait. Empty cups and paper plates were cleared, notebooks and pens claimed. Perhaps more stories would follow? 

On the way out, the lady in the black vest puts something in my hands — an exquisitely crafted card decorated with delicate rolled paper flowers and a tiny ladybug. Inside, the inscription reads:

Înainte ca să Mă cheme, le voi răspunde; 
înainte ca să isprăvească vorba, îi voi asculta! Isaia 65:24

Later, I look it up in English:

“Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.”

We hug one last time. Doesn’t every miracle start with being heard by God?


“I love you! I love you all!” Liuba declares boldly, arms thrown wide toward us. “We share this love in Jesus!”

Her presence seems to me a beacon in this bleak place — a desperate cry of need and yet an affirmation of the identity she has found and is still in the tumultuous process of living out. A name that is more than a name. A name which needs the touch of loving hands to get her through this sentence of suffering. But her words pass beyond the bars, out into the air where the birds are singing, singing, unbound by the chains we humans fashion for each other and ourselves. 

“I am Liuba! My name means love!” These words will always have the snap of north wind and the colour of orange — the truth which is setting her free, even here. The truth which echoes in my ears and into my heart, which does not know enough about love yet either. This is how she wants to be known. In a place where the penalty for her sins has taken so much away from her, she has this — her name. Her voice. 

We must go — the prison guards are telling us so. We push the button marked “Exit,” a privilege for the free. We walk one at a time though the metal turn-gate and collect our passports. My passport will not have the stamp of Rusca on its official pages, but Liuba’s words have inked something in my soul. I will remember that there is a love that connects us. Jesus, I need this love too. I will remember your name, Liuba


~ Lindsey Gallant
S. D. G.

Between the Red Road and the Sky

It is a dull morning, lionlike for the beginning of March, with a biting north wind sharpening the edges of muddy snowdrifts. I step through the gritty crystals in my familiar hiking shoes, hat scrunched low, to take the road I always take in these before-school walks.

I have walked this particular road as therapy, as labyrinth, as prayer, and as protest. If pavement could talk, this stretch would have a lot of dirt on me. Despite its familiarity, this country lane has been the scene of many small epiphanies. It is no Zion, but I am yet a pilgrim, even to the summit I have called Drunk Skunk’s Hideaway, and down to the stream where the kids take their bikes to catch minnows in spring. A thin place, the ancients might have called it.

Grey clouds meet grey road today, and nothing feels too inspiring. I am ok with this. I pause to greet the rosebush, even dirtier now than in January, with one or two winter-gnarled hips still attached. I nod to a spruce in the field, one that still has its full top after the big fall storm. Where the road bends to go up the hill, I stop to listen to the water as it gurgles from the culvert beneath me into a pool with a soggy beer carton at its edge. None of this is particularly beautiful, but it is familiar. Loved in a well-trodden way. These simple landmarks have become friends, companions in the quest to live within my boundary lines and make peace with limitations. I know this road. 

When I turn to head for home, the wind hits me full in the face, clawing across the corn field. The pungent smell of silage from the cow barns hits too. I tuck my face down and think about the days ahead. In a week I will be on a road completely different and new to me – in Moldova, a tiny Eastern European country on the fringes of war. It’s not the first place I thought I’d travel to after all these years, but it feels fitting, like the road was meant to lead there all along. I am excited to meet friends I have only seen through a screen, and share stories with women and men who are looking for the deeper meaning in their own lives.

The thing is, I’ve spent so much time and thought in the place of small that I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to walk on roads that aren’t island red, or past signs that say “slow” or even “stop.” I have made such peace with small, perhaps I am afraid to leave it? What first terrified me in its tightness now fits like an old pair of shoes. 

Will I know how to walk off the runway? Will my eyes adjust to a wide new view? Will my story fit anywhere else?

A barn swallow flits overhead, darting erratically around the smoother flight of pigeons lifting from the metallic ridge of the barn roof. Even the small can fly. The sun almost breaks through the rolling clouds – I can feel the warmth for half a moment, a lamb’s defiance against the wind, the thin veil almost lifted. Then it is gone.

Will spring be here when I return? Perhaps I will have new tales to tell the rosebush and the red earth and the swallows. Perhaps I, too, will fly, and be breath-taken by what lies beyond. 


This week I will be landing in Moldova along with the author Your Story Matters to share the power of story! After being involved in the Your Story Matters online writing community for almost 3 years, I am so excited to meet up in person with Leslie Leyland Fields and Tanya Onu for a week of workshops, training and ministry – serving the people of Moldova and Ukrainian refugees there. Sharing our stories is a powerful form of connection and healing. I would love your prayers – for health, safety, and that our time would be a blessing to those we meet.

~ Lindsey
S. D. G.