This is another post which I am “cross pollinating” from Sarah's site. It’s actually one of my favorite posts which is why I want to share it here on Smithellaneous. I hope you enjoy it!
(Written September, 2005)
Steve and I were paying our bills one night when we came upon an unexpected whopper of a bill. We had to work pretty hard to get all the figures to work out, but we managed to get that bill paid, in addition to writing our monthly tithe check which was due at the same time. (Paying a tithe is giving ten percent of your income.)
I must make a confession to you, though. As I began to write that check to the church I thought to myself, “I know what the Bible says about tithing. I know what I’ve practiced all my life. I know what we've taught our children. However, it would sure be nice, just this once, to take that tithe money and put it on this big bill.”
We didn’t. And I knew we wouldn’t. But I just wanted to confess that I was surely and sorely tempted!
Because of that large bill, when I headed out to the grocery store the following day, I didn’t have a whole lot of extra money left to spend. I shopped very carefully with my main splurges being some extra fruit and a box of Little Debbie Snack Cakes.
The next morning, I happened to hear that two families in our church were in need of meals due to some medical challenges they were facing. Although our church has many wonderful ladies who help in that department, occasionally things crop up that need immediate action and I just take on those opportunities myself. It’s a part of my “stealth ministry” as a pastor’s wife!
Providing those meals though, turned out to be an enlightening experience for me because as I started packing up my homemade chicken pot pie and deciding which side dishes to send along, I felt an unexpected but unmistakable twinge of selfishness shoot through my soul.
I knew it would be nice for the families to have some sort of dessert to go with their meals but the only “dessert-y type” things I had in the house were my newly purchased (and highly coveted) Little Debbie cakes.
And I knew that fresh fruit is always a great addition to any meal but I also knew how much Sarah loved those green grapes I had just bought. Did I really want to send out the door the groceries I had just selected and purchased with such frugality? Did I really want to give away my Little Debbie Snack Cakes? The chocolate ones?
I mean, really?
I stood in the middle of my kitchen floor and “duked it out” with myself over cakes and grapes. Do I send the extras along, or do I keep them for my own family? Should I be selfish or not selfish? Should I give or should I keep?
I finally got kind of bored with arguing with myself (it’s much more scintillating to argue with someone else) and said, “Okay. I will give this stuff away and I will be happy about it and I will believe that as we are faithful to be generous with what we have, then God will be faithful to supply our needs.”
And so out the door (in the hands of Steve, the Meal Delivery Guy) went my much longed for snack cakes and grapes, along with the chicken I had been reserving for our own supper. When Steve returned from his delivery run, I had made a quick tuna casserole (thank the Lord for always present cans of tuna), and the three of us ate a contented, albeit chicken-less, meal together. And that was that!
Now we move along to the subject of junior bridesmaid dresses. (Don't worry--it's all going to tie together. Eventually.)
Two weeks from now, Sarah (along with three other girls) will take part in an Honor Stars Crowning Ceremony, which is the culmination of a whole lot of work done in conjunction with her girls’ group at church. Each girl is suppose to have a white dress for this ceremony and I had started stressing out over that because I wanted Sarah to have something lovely. However, I knew I couldn’t just sashay into Jewel’s Formal Wear downtown and fork over $100 for one of their lovely dresses.
Well, last Friday on our day off, Steve and I decided to continue our ongoing quest for a gently used couch for his church office. Someone had told us that on the older side of town, there was a large indoor flea market that sometimes carried used furniture. I told Steve, “Well, we probably won’t find anything there, but let’s drive out just for the fun of it.”
We hadn’t been walking through that flea market for more than five minutes when I glanced up and saw a truly wondrous and incredible sight. I saw . . . (wait for it!) . . . a white, junior bridesmaid dress.
Now to truly understand the significance of that discovery, you have to remember that I was standing smack dab in the middle of an uninspiring flea market. A dusty flea market. A flea market filled with every sort of unusual piece of junk known to man, with the aforementioned junk filling up every crevice and cranny of this gargantuan building.
Some of the junk was interesting and wonderful, some of it was ugly and dirt-covered, but the bottom line was that it most definitely was not a place where Lovely White Dress Sightings happened very often.
As soon as I saw the dress, I screeched to a halt, veered off my course and charged across the aisle, leaving my bewildered husband wandering in my wake. I wanted to take a closer look at the dress to make sure it wasn’t just an apparition that my overwrought imagination had conjured up.
I looked at the size. It was Sarah’s size. I looked at the price. It was only $15!
I sternly laid aside the temptation to do a happy jig in the middle of the aisle and merely asked the man behind the counter if he would hold the dress till the next day.
Later that day when I told Sarah I had found a dress possibility she said, “It sounds pretty. What store is it at?”
I said, “Well . . . (long pause) . . . it’s at a flea market.”
Poor child. She had never even heard of a flea market!
She said, “Mom, you’re wanting to buy my special white dress for my crowning ceremony at a place called a flea market?”
But Sarah is a chip off the old block and is very open minded in her shopping philosophies. As long as she understood that the dress from the flea market was not going to be infested with fleas, she was all for going to take a look at it.
Saturday morning as we pulled up to the weather beaten warehouse, I had a moment’s misgiving. I looked at the place through the eyes of a twelve year old who is becoming aware of fashions and brands and style and I thought, “Oh dear. She is going to think this is the worst place ever and she is going to be utterly appalled about the fact that her mom is even thinking about buying her special dress in a place that sells rusty tools and velvet pictures of Elvis!”
But to her credit, she flung her little purse across her shoulder, beamed at me brightly and happily accompanied me through the doors, commenting on how interesting everything was and quickly laying to rest my fears that she had become too hoity-toity for such a place.
She saw the dress. She liked it! She tried it on. It fit!
I almost felt like crying as I saw her sweet little eyes overlook all the strangeness of our shopping environment and I heard her lovely voice cheerily say, “Yes, I think it’s a good idea to buy this dress. It will save you and daddy some money and I like it just fine.”
Now the best part was yet to come.
As we were getting ready to pay the vendor’s wife walked over and said, “I thought you might like to know that this dress was worn just one time and the people paid $75 for it, on sale. Also, you might be interested to know that it came from Jewel’s Formal Wear downtown!” (The very place I knew we couldn’t afford to shop at!)
I stood there for a moment in stunned, quiet thankfulness as I was reminded so beautifully that God had seen my challenges throughout the week--my struggles with writing the tithe check and my even bigger struggles with giving away the food. (Especially the chocolate.)
The coincidence of finding a dress like that in a place like an old flea market was not lost on me. I mean, what were the chances of it being the right color, the right size, the right style and coming from the very store I had wanted to shop in?
The joy on Sarah’s face at finding such a lovely bargain made me smile as I completed the transaction, being extra careful to keep the lovely white frock from coming into contact with the old dirty wrenches and pliers that were flung across the table near the cash register.
The final poignant moment came when the vendor started rummaging around trying to find a clean bag amidst all of the greasy, grimy guy stuff he had for sale. He finally emerged triumphantly from under the grimy, germy counter with a shopping bag from Nordstrom’s in his hands! I almost laughed out loud.
I have been in a few Nordstrom's stores in my life but have never purchased anything because their stuff is so expensive. To have our lovely dress from Jewel’s packaged in a Nordstrom's bag and handed to us over the display of dirty screwdrivers--well, it just seemed precious, funny, and surreal, all the same time.
And I knew heaven was smiling!
I felt like God was saying, “You wrote your tithe check and gave away your chicken and your green grapes and your chocolate Little Debbie snack cakes and in return, I had a white dress waiting for you in the most unlikely of places. Is that a good trade-off, or what?”
The bottom line? Don't ever tell me that God isn't everywhere, or that He doesn't see everything!
He even shows up in dusty, musty, velvet Elvis encrusted Flea Markets.