In an interview before his death, Horton Foote, the acclaimed Texas playwright who wrote the screenplays for “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Tender Mercies,” said, “I’m grateful for all the gifts I didn’t know I was being given.”

When I was 11 years old, I was given such a gift. That’s when I first met my wife, Carole. We were childhood friends in Dallas, where we attended the same church and high school. We never dated each other but shared the same friendships and experiences.

After high school I went to Baylor and she went to North Texas. Eventually, we both married and I lost track of her. However, as I found out later, she had kept up with me through a mutual friend. Thirty years later, after we both had gone through painful divorces, Carole called me with the intention of introducing me to one of her friends.

Instead, taking the wise suggestion of my daughter, I went to Dallas and took Carole to dinner in Lakewood. That night we drove around our old East Dallas neighborhood, went back to her house and talked into the wee hours — Carole claims that she thought I’d never go home.

Despite the fact that she was a “morning person” and I was a “night owl,” less than two years later, we were married. And then within two weeks, we put our possessions together and moved from Dallas and Arlington to Weatherford, where we’ve lived happily most days since. Friday, Carole joined me on the backside of 80 and on April Fools Day we will have been married 24 years. I never would have guessed that the gift of a friend in my youth would turn out to be my beloved wife so many years later. Carole is one of the best gifts I didn’t know I was being given.

Sometimes we are like the Psalmist, who looked back over his shoulder and realized that “goodness and mercy” had been following him all his life, pointing him toward the house of the Lord. If we turn to look, to our surprise and delight, we may also become aware of a future in our past — gifts we didn’t know we were being given. God is always at work for good in our lives — whether we know it or not!

Lord, thank you for your unexpected grace and for a companion who is wife, proofreader, and old friend. Amen.

John Paul Carter is a regular

contributor to the

Weatherford Democrat.