Ellen Hopkins, a novelist who has published several New York Times bestselling novels, is quoted as saying “Sometimes the little things in life mean the most.”

It started me thinking of some “little things” that have meant a great deal to me (and to Joice). I’ll relate a few incidents—but there are many more!

From 1958 until 1962 we were living in a remote village in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea (then called the Territory of Papua and New Guinea). Every week or fortnight we would send carriers for supplies and mail to an airstrip and government station about a 4 or 5 hour walk away (depending on the weather). We would supply waterproof bags and a small Qantas bag and hire young men to get our items. 

On one occasion the boys were given a pineapple at a mission station but, instead of carrying it and putting eggs in the small bag, one of the boys reversed the process and decided to carry the egg carton and put the prickly pineapple in the bag. When he arrived the eggs, which he had carried under his arm, were broken and dripping out of the egg carton. Joice was very upset—it was her only egg carton and had been used for several strips. While still internally complaining about the loss of her egg carton, one of the other boys arrived with the mail. He dumped out the contents from the waterproof bag and included was a parcel that Joice’s mom had mailed three months earlier. On top of the box was—you guessed it—an egg carton. When Joice asked her mother (a letter exchange back and forth to American took a month), she replied that she didn’t remember ever sending an egg carton. It was probably something she put on top of the contents for packing, but it made an impression we never forgot. If God was so interested in us that He would supply an egg carton, why were we anxious about anything? It was a little thing in one sense, but very big in another. Joice told that story many times.

When I had my 40th birthday we were at our mission’s headquarters in the Eastern Highlands. Not short on creativity, Joice decided to give me a “hillbilly” party (I am from the Allegheny mountain area of Pennsylvania and some of us so-called “hillbillies” did live there), one I would never forget. All the party participants dressed as hillbillies—blackened teeth, wrapped big toes, corn cob pipes, overalls, plaid shirts, and ridiculous gifts. It was a “little thing” because it didn’t cost much and everyone improvised and had fun, but I (and the guests) will never forget it—and I have pictures to prove it! “Little things” are often like that. (Of course, in today’s culture we could be castigated for portraying a class of people called “hillbillies,” although their still seem to be some “rednecks” around. In my defense, I respect both groups.)

Joice has always loved birds and there were plenty in Papua New Guinea. On one occasion when we were on a trip and visiting another mission station, Joice heard birds calling and watched a flock of the Bird of Paradise nest in a nearby tree. She was able to walk near the tree and observe them in all their beauty for some time. A little thing, but one never forgotten.

Returning from MD Anderson after one of our visits following Joice’s proton radiation, we stopped at a rest area. While I went inside, Joice waited in the car. Suddenly a blue bird, one of her favorite birds, landed close to her and they seemed to be as aware of each other. It was an experience that she viewed as a sign of God’s hope for her. It was just “a little thing” but the hope and joy it gave her (and, by extension, me) was immense.

Sometimes on April Fool’s Day I would try to do something unusual to fool Joice. Once I found a tree branch that I fashioned into what could resemble a bird if you had a good imagination and were still sleepy. I planted it some distance from the house and then called Joice to come and identify the bird. She examined if for some time, then got the binoculars and discovered my joke. She laughed and laughed and, of course, tried to fool me at times as well. Little things, but just enough to make us talk about them again and again.

Little things can be like that: they can give us delight and make us thankful. When you pause and remember some of the “little things” that have happened in your life, remember that God is not only the creator of the universe, He is also the initiator of “little things,” and these can be as marvelous to us as the Milky Way.

I think a lot about the “little things” that enhanced our marriage and there is, thankfully, no shortage of them.