Memorably, it was around the time of the blog post on the lettuce leaf that Nicole started reading my blog - and thus a great friendship and, dare I say, partnership, was born.
I was sitting in the Maternal and Child Health Care Centre yesterday morning, waiting for the nurse to appear, slightly anxious because I had brought Thomas' yellow record book instead of Andrew's blue one (an essential item on all visits to the nurse). I had been congratulating myself on remembering the record book during my mad rush to get out of the house by 8:45 (after having suddenly realised it was 8:30 and I hadn't showered, dressed Andrew, done Lizzy's hair, put on Andrew's and Thomas' shoes, or finished packing Ben's lunchbox) until I arrived at the nurse and realised I had picked up the wrong book.
So I was sitting there waiting, somewhat anxiously as I explained, while Andrew and Thomas played with the toys, when Thomas said "lettuce!" and pulled out an incredibly realistic toy lettuce leaf. My immediate reaction was to wonder why someone had left a fresh lettuce leaf among the toys, when I picked it up and realised that no real lettuce leaf has the weight and rubberiness of seaweed, let alone a small circle on the back where the rubber/plastic mix has been poured into the mould. But this toy lettuce leaf was meticulously contoured and coloured, perfect in every detail, obviously one of those expensive toy foods. (Those of you who are not parents or childcare providers may be surprised to discover that toy food has a range of accuracy depending on its price, but I assure you it's true. One of the advantages of wealth is realistic plastic food.)
What a miniature world of wonder is the lettuce leaf! Seeing it lying there, in all its perfectly detailed moulded plastic glory, led to a lengthy reflection on how beautifully God has made the humble lettuce. Have you ever noticed how the flesh of the lettuce leaf bulges out between each tiny vein, so that the whole leaf is ruched and fluted? Or how delicately coloured a lettuce leaf is (and no, I'm not talking iceberg, this was your top end lettuce) from palest green at the stem, gradually shading to a rich, deep green at the edges? Or how the texture varies (at least in a real lettuce leaf, not a rubbery plastic one) from the curved firm stem at the heart of the leaf, with its long, straight veins holding the leaf erect, fanning out to the delicately thin, crisp leaf, with its tiny hills and valleys, trimmed at its edges more daintily than any frock, with minutely ruffled edges?
This simple toy lettuce leaf filled me with awe for the God who made real lettuce leaves, with his detailed attention to the beauty of humble things. I guess he could have given us a perfectly flat, spherical, vitamin-filled leaf. Instead, he gave us an incredible variety of lettuce leaves, each one meticulously textured, coloured and detailed, a small object of incredible beauty, if only we stop to look before we crunch. Praise be to the God who created this world so wonderfully, a world in which even the lowly lettuce leaf bears witness to his glory, and fills our hearts, if we take time to reflect for a moment, with awe and admiration for him.
This, by the way, is an example of what the Puritans called "creaturely meditation", much easier to do with a sunset than a lettuce leaf, in which we reflect on how God's character is revealed in the things he has made, and allow them to lead us to him in wonder and praise.