By Anne Maxwell

I struggled with blowing bubbles

I blew a lot of hot air attempting to whistle a tune. 

And, thanks to my recessive gene from my dear Dad, I cannot roll my tongue. 

But within the annals of childhood feats, there was one “trick” that I was able to master. 


I cannot take much credit. It all goes to my Grandpa AJ. 

He had beautiful, deep, dark brown eyes. The kind of hue that flashes fire in a fit of anger yet radiates undeniable warmth with pride. He loved to tease people, enjoyed a good visit, and animated his conversations. Winks with his expressive eyes were a natural companion to jokes or turns of phrase. Likewise, whenever I had done something that met his approval, it garnered his trademark wink. 

I was determined I was going to make my own brown eyes wink just like the Grandpa I adored. And, I got the hang of it with his help. My initial attempts were met with a lot of good-natured chuckles from grandpa, and then, with my success came his unforgettable wink and smile.

A smile still crosses my own face when I remember his stamp of approval. 




It is just a simple motion of facial muscles, but it all adds up to encouragement. I think back to how it was a special shorthand way of communicating, “You’re ok, kid. I love you. Keep on going.” 

I still miss those winks from Grandpa. But I was reminded recently how God sends those winks and nods to us. We catch them if we are paying attention. 

They vary a bit, but they are unmistakable. Sometimes, they are subtle, quick and amusing. 

On a manic Monday followed by a turbulent Tuesday, I crawled into work in a caffeine haze on a wonky Wednesday feeling overwhelmed and out of steam to discover a post-it note at my desk with the encouraging message:

“I am amazing. I got this.”

The handwriting told me the note was undoubtedly scripted by my 15-year-old daughter who had stopped in at my office on her way to practice. However, the real message was a wink from above.

Other times, these heaven-sent winks strike respond to the very prayer of our hearts. Before the holiday season, I had such a prayer. 

It was to see Mary. 

I asked for the grace to focus on the peace of Jesus’ mother at the manger scene. Despite the activity swirling around her -- cattle lowing, angels singing, wise men kneeling -- she is looking at Jesus and Jesus only. 

I prayed for God to help me see Mary and to center myself likewise on the manger through all the holiday festivities, celebrations, and family hoopla.

I showed up at my parent’s house the first night of our Christmas celebrations and my sister -- who is ever thoughtful -- hands me a magazine she had thought I would like. 

Who was on the cover? 



It was Mary on the front of the December 2015 issue of National Geographic

“Have you seen it?” my sister asked. 

“No …” I replied, staring at the magazine in stunned silence. “What … where did you ever find this?”

“I got it at the little library in town,” she replied. “The one where people put magazines and books that they’re done reading for others to take and enjoy.” 

As I gazed with wonder at a magazine that ended up in my hands through what I could only explain as answered prayer, it wasn’t so much what I was seeing, but what I was hearing. 

“I’ve got you … I’m listening … I’ll help you.” 

He had winked again. 

I hope your new year began with hope and joy. Even if it hasn’t, keep looking up. You never know when you might catch a wink from above. 

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