A Divine Detour in a Department Store

Thought I’d type out a blog entry before getting some much-needed sleep… While running an errand this evening to pick up something for my mom at a nearby mall, I had a strong feeling to park near a certain department-store entrance. Part of it probably had to do with safety, but it also turned out to be a divine detour.

Even before I left the house, the thought came to my mind about stopping by that store’s small book section. But I brushed it aside as I grabbed my purse and cell phone, intending to quickly run the errand and then get other things accomplished and checked off my list.

But then there’s God. ; ) Once I walked through the doors, the thought returned. So, instead of sticking to my original plan, I took the detour.

Immediately, my eye caught the title “God’s Shelter For Your Storm,” by Sheila Walsh. In the middle of little gift books for birthdays and anniversaries and the birth of babies, there were two or three copies of this book. Sheila is an inspiring woman of God, and one of my sisters used to work with her; she even gave my sister’s daughter a baby shower.

As I flipped through the pages, many nuggets of comfort and wisdom and insight jumped out. I also noticed a woman walking up the aisle to pass by me. And I knew she was a Believer in Christ. Immediately, I sensed a light coming from her, His Love. I moved so she could get by, and we exchanged polite hellos. But she didn’t keep going; she, too, stopped to look at the books.

“Sometimes God places the right book in front of you at the right time,” I said. (Yes, I talk to strangers. ; ) She smiled sadly and said she was looking for one for a friend whose husband had died, and that her friend had no other living family member. I showed her the book. She looked at it and smiled brighter. “God sent you here to point that book out to me,” she said.

I got to tell her about how I didn’t even intend on looking at books, that I had an errand to run — and she got to tell me about how she was going to go down another aisle, but she felt God prompt her to go past me and say hello.

She had such a kind, gentle spirit, with so much light coming from her eyes. I told her I knew she was a Christian as she walked up. She almost cried, then shared how she had just come through one of the most difficult seasons of her life — that she had gone through battling breast cancer and losing her hair to chemotherapy, and then losing her mother… She told me to cherish the time I have with my own mother… She said it was her faith in Jesus that got her through those times, and that the cancer is gone now, but how He used it all to encourage other people going through similar struggles… She is a warrior woman. If you’d like to pray for her, her name is JoAnne, and her friend’s name is Penny.

He’s amazing how He arranges people’s paths to cross, even for a little bit of time, even in a department store … all because He loves us that much…

A Valentine’s Day at an L.A. McDonald’s

I like Valentine’s Day. Even though I’m single, there’s something about this holiday of red and white and pink and purple. With all the chocolate-coated candy and sweet cards. And the flowers and romantic movies, especially “Pride and Prejudice.”

Some friends see it as purely a consumer-oriented day. Some see it as an obligatory tell-someone-I-love-you day and then forget about it. Some take the day off and cry, reliving old loves or a love that hasn’t shown up yet.

I see Valentine’s Day as a day to exercise. To make your brain healthy. ; ) To make healthful choices so you don’t get caught up in all the sad love songs. It’s a time to actively pursue a good mindset and not fall victim to the lie that you’re all alone and incomplete. Because whether or not you have a love in your life right now, you’re already complete. You were made in God’s image. You are unique and special. Anything more is extra. Yes, it would be wonderful to be in love at this moment. But I’m not going to manufacture love or rush it. I don’t want just anybody. I want my soul mate. I’m determined to not let the day go by without celebrating life and the love that I do currently have.

Am I always successful at this? No. ; ) But the point is that I’m trying. And I hope you are too. As humans, we’re all in this together. Each year, this holiday rolls around, whether you like it or not, so why not choose to celebrate? Make your own traditions. Don’t let anybody else tell you how to spend it. The day is yours; don’t let it go by unnoticed. Have fun. Choose to have fun. Even it’s just by baking cookies or watching a comedy. Feed your insides, then feed someone else. Be love in action, instead of dormant love.

Maybe you’re blessed with family members or friends or both. Or with pet-family members. Or maybe you’re completely on your own, with nobody else at this moment. You still have reason to love. If you’re reading this, it means you’re blessed with eyesight and a brain that’s functioning properly. Some people can’t do what you can do. So maybe the love you show this year could be to sign up as a volunteer reader at a local school or library or nursing home or hospital. And if they don’t have those programs, maybe you could start one. Or start another act of love that uses gifts — maybe cooking or playing music or stand-up comedy or sending letters/notes/cards to shut-ins, or “just” the art of listening to someone over a cup of hot chocolate.

If you do have that someone special in your life, then tell them how much they mean to you. Learn their love language. Hey! Do you even know yours? Get to the library and check out a copy of “The Five Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman. And visit http://www.5lovelanguages.com and take the free quiz. It’s fun and it might be enlightening. What if all that’s wrong with your relationship is that you haven’t learned to communicate in the most effective manner? If you truly love the other person, and you’ve done everything you can think of to make it work but haven’t tried this yet, go ahead. It could make all the difference.

Now. About my most memorable Valentine’s Day… It happened in L.A. during a very rough penny-pinching season. Literally, pinching pennies. On one particular February 14 though, I decided to make the most of it anyway. My mom had sent a beautiful card with a some money and note that instructed me to go get a box of candy. So I did. And although I imagined how great it would be to go out with my soul mate, there wasn’t one. I remember sitting in my room and looking out at the big magnolia tree that reached my second-story window. I was alone. Again.

It wasn’t my idea of a how to spend the day. If I could’ve written my life then, I’d be getting ready to go meet up with the soul-mate guy for dinner at some quaint neighborhood restaurant that had history, maybe one that had been around since the ’40s or ’50s or ’60s. A place with stories to tell. And then maybe go to the Griffith Observatory and then to Malibu. Of course, maybe earlier we would’ve gone to Huntington Gardens and to the Getty Museum. And maybe we’d have caught a new movie somewhere. And we might’ve had a picnic lunch under a tree after a hike. And maybe that morning we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway for the view. Something like that.

But no. The way the day went was that I was up by 4:30 a.m., was at a part-time on-site job by 6 a.m., then came back to do my freelance work. Always just making ends meet. I didn’t complain. At least not much.; ) I don’t like complaining. It gets you nowhere and is exhausting. That’s why I can’t be around complainers and negativity for any length of time; it drags down my spirit, and I don’t want that in my life.

Back to my room. Work was done for the day, and there I sat. There would be no romantic date that evening. There wouldn’t even be a nice Mexican, Indian, or Italian dinner take-out to bring back and watch a Jane Austen movie with. No money.

But something else showed up in the mail that day. Along with the card from my mom. McDonald’s sent me a coupon. It was for (if I’m recalling correctly) a free Veggie McBurger (?). I’m a vegetarian. It seemed perfect, under the circumstances. So. I regained my focus on what was important and what wasn’t, and picked up the coupon.

“Okay, God,” I remember saying out loud. “You’re my Valentine. Even when you bring my soul mate into my life, you’ll still be my top Valentine. So let’s go.” (It went something like that anyway. ; ) As I grabbed my purse and headed for the door, I stopped suddenly when I heard, “Take some quarters.” (If you’ve read my blog entries before, you might remember a couple of similar stories — of almost getting out the door and then being stopped…) All I can tell you was that it wasn’t “audible” exactly, and it wasn’t my thought. It was like someone was in the room — God — and when He speaks, you just know… I remember standing there for a minute.

And then I argued. Just a little. “But those are my quarters for doing laundry.”

Silence. Well, what the heck. I grabbed a few quarters and went on out the door.

When I got to McDonald’s, the drive-through was long, about 10 cars in front of me. So I got on the phone, using the time to play catch-up. As I waited, I noticed a guy around 20-something walking up to certain cars. Finally, he seemed to give up, and he walked back over to a cement table and sat down. It wasn’t until I ended my call and started to order that I realized he was probably homeless.

“God, please feed that man.”

And then I heard, “You feed him.”

The quarters! And the dollar menu! Ha! I was able to get him a meal. (I would’ve given him the veggie burger, but I had purchased one before and didn’t like it so much… I thought he’d probably like a regular ol’ hamburger instead with some fries.)

When I drove back around, there were no more cars waiting. The drive-through line was empty, and there he still sat, with his head down, elbows propped on the tabletop, hands covering his face. I got out and walked up to him.

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” I said. “This is for you.” I offered him the bag of food.

And then he looked up at me. Only I didn’t see his eyes; they weren’t his eyes… I saw the most beautiful, loving eyes I’d ever seen, except in a vision-dream once of Jesus. I saw His eyes again. I can’t explain it, other than to say it was something supernatural. It took me by surprise and made me catch my breath.

The man thanked me and I think I said you’re welcome… I just remember getting back to the car as quickly as possible, because the combination of power and love from His Presence was overwhelming.

As I sat there for a minute, I heard the same “voice” that told me to take the quarters. I heard: “Thank you for feeding me.” And then the Scripture came to my mind about how when you feed someone who needs it, you’re actually feeding Him. You’re acknowledging Him in another person — who’s made in His image… I cried driving back to my place. But it was the good kind. My Valentine had shown up after all…

“For I was hungry and you gave me food … Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.” –Matthew 25:35-40 (Amplified)