"Mooooooom, I'm so, so sorry..."
Oh boy. Girl, actually.
Only a few quick steps away I ask it worried " What happened, Selah?"
The couch and rug are showered in scrambled egg crumbles.
Sigh. Could be a lot worse. I set the baby aside so she can stop making ground egg a new part of the rug design, she screams and kicks, her scavenging interrupted. The vacuum whirs and distracts and no real harm done and I scoop up the baby to head to the car and... wetness.
Sigh. A diaper(and outfit) change later we finally make it to the car, buckled down, doors shut and I breath relief at not having to chase the Baby or field a crisis for a few minutes.
We make it all in one piece to Mom and Dad's and nieces are welcomed by adoring Aunts. Needs are met and it's nap time for big Sister as I grab the Baby to run last minute errands before women's group.
I dread and procrastinate going to Walmart, but I have a return for Husband and one for Sister, and there are things that Husband is missing daily now that we have moved to the townhome so he offers and transfers money and encourages me to at least try to look.
I don't want to. Money thoughts have been weighing on my heart and the pressure has been building and I hear the Spirit saying "give.... give here too..." in many situations and I do and I ache not because I don't want to but because I want to give more and there is no more.
I am rich and poor and wrecked and whole and asking and questioning and trying to listen well.
I spend more than I planned, but not one thing that hasn't been on a "needed" list for quite a while. I feel they are all good buys, money saving in the long run. Still, it hurts.
It is almost small group time, I take the Baby to her sweetheart Aunt, and rush, late, to find I am the first to arrive. I am grateful that He leads the group, not me, I can only make a space for Him, He meets us, fills us. I stammer and share and worship raw. We read His Love Words, He heals, refreshes.
Then it's on my mind as I pick up sisters from starbucks, I forgot to buy tea light candles for Advent. I can't afford to buy this beautiful wreath from this young, amazing craftsman, but tea lights on their own will give a similar effect. We have a Christmas tree given us from dear friends, now half a world away in Spain, but we could use some Christmas tree lights too, with only a third of the set we have working. Little Girl loves a lighted tree, has already been waiting for two whole days of December.
Two stops to Walmart in one day is unheard of for me. Especially in my current mindset about money. Still, I call and Mom says the baby is fine and all lights seem to be green so I pull in and park, ready to rush right through, stay focused, on mission. I will not be distracted by sparkling sales.
Walking briskly in the biting wind I barely see her coming before she is there. A young woman, about my age, carrying a cardboard box with a few gift wrapped treats. The facts rush and slap cold against my face and I can't process all the depth of what she's saying, and I try to keep my facial expression from reading "is this a scam?" while I open my wallet to give because how can I not if even half of what she says is true? I would rather her have the money than us have the cat bed I had returned earlier. I know the Husband will understand, agree.
I turn to go but her "God bless you" has a certain tone that brings my gaze to her eyes. And I see it there, like in so many clients I counseled from the Pregnancy Center, tears and shame and quiet pain that breaks my heart in deep, familiar places. I look down, and from the short distance I had walked, I could now see her swollen belly that had been the shelf for the packages she carried. At least that part of her astoundingly sad story was clearly true.
"God bless you, too!" I place my hand over my womb that has held three babies, two of which survived me. "That is a blessing..."
Her "I know..." is soft and caught up in the cold, blown away.
Her eyes stay with me and I power walk. Greet the greeter. Try to find lights, tea lights. My sisters try to keep up. The ache in my heart builds as I dodge the holiday madness, searching for what I came for. His Spirit speaks to me and I pray the whole time. "God, please let her still be there when we leave. Why didn't I tell her about the Pregnancy Center? Why didn't I tell her about church?..."
I was too busy, too rushed. On mission. What is my mission here, on this spinning ball of rock and water? Tea lights for Advent, to celebrate His coming? He came for her. For me. He gives me much love for this stranger, I am reminded of how much He has forgiven.
We checkout and I scan the parking lot, I don't see her. I pray and say this, disappointed, out loud "...I don't see her... I wanted to talk to her..."
My sister spots the young woman's sister, who was helping her sell small trinkets. Two of her sisters, actually, were out in the cold night with her. What are sisters for?
I ask and she points a couple rows over, I pray and park as I spot her, now talking to a man outside his truck.
I approach wide and and say I'd like to speak with her once they are done talking and he says words painfully similar to ones I had heard, and ones I've said "we are done, you are probably the same as me, I was telling her I wished I could help, but I was telling her to keep the faith, you know?..."
How can she keep the faith if she doesn't have Him? And how can she have Him if we aren't willing to be hands and feet and share Him?
"she did help me, " she cuts him off, still soft and tender. " a lot."
He leaves and I tell her about the Pregnancy Center, about the Christian Women's Job Corp, and about my church, I point, just right across the street. The church held in a gym, and yes, I just came from leading a women's group and we laugh as I motion to my t-shirt, jeans, and flip flops and I don't mind at all that I don't look "put together" because I look just like her and she smiles, more comfortable, "it's good that you don't have to dress up for church."
And I listen as she shares about her girl, two years old, and she rubs her soon to join son, wrapped warm in her stretched womb. And she tells how her husband is out of work for four months now, and I see the shame when she says how she knows this isn't right, selling things in the parking lot, and her voices almost breaks as she says "I've even got my sisters out here doing this..." but it's then she looks me straight in the eyes "but what am I gonna do?"
And we are joined by her curious sisters and she repeats what I've shared. They look at me skeptical, as I had looked at them. The wind chills and rips right through and I say it's freezing as we shiver, now standing all together, and weren't we made to be sisters sharing warmth in this dark, cold place?
I say that church is not a building, but is the people, and these people are amazing, they loved me when I was unwed pregnant at nineteen, they didn't judge me for my past abortion but instead were kind in word and deed, a needed salve to severe burns from my close encounter with hell.
She asks what time service is, and they laugh as I admit we are always late but that it starts at 10:30. And she says it several times, that she may come, if she can get up in time.
I encourage with empathy this ember, this maybe, this hope I see in her eyes. "I know it can be scary going to a church you've never been to before, I've been to church my whole life and I would be even be scared to go to a new church..."
She nods, grateful I can understand her now out-spoken fear "It's like going to a new school where you don't know anybody."
I smile. "Like finding a seat in the lunchroom... where do I sit?... and everyone is insecure."
The sisters smile and nod and nod, knowing the feeling well. Maybe I do understand a little, and maybe church wouldn't be so scary after all? We all want to belong. We were made to belong. To Him. To each other. In perfect unity.
"Well, I would LOVE for you to come!..."
We share names and a few more words then goodbye. I've thought of her, Jennifer, a lot since then. I hope and pray that she comes in the Light to Warmth and Hope on Sunday. I'll be there on time this week. I'll really, really try to be.
My heart was already splitting, burdened, for those in need. So many people, so many kinds of need. The encounter with Jennifer just ripped the seams wide open. And I know that I am not the source of any of the solutions, I just want to used by Him who holds all this patched up world together.
I know there is a time for everything, and now must be my time for searching. I am having to seek the LORD in ways I've never had to before, trust Him deeper, ask harder questions and be okay with not understanding His answer.
It is okay to not know everything. I'm just not usually this aware of how much I don't know. I think that is a good thing too.
I know Him. He Who crushed my insecurities by letting me belong to Him. That is so much more than enough.
My heart says of you, ''Seek his face!'' Your face, LORD, I will seek.~Psalm 27:8