Thursday, September 24, 2015

Immanuel in the details

I have always liked dimes: tiny, whimsical, silver disks.  Dimes are delicate and slippery, in a dry, whispery kind of way.  When I sort change and stack dimes, they are the rarest of the coins, never as many dimes as pennies, nickels or quarters.  Dimes seem valuable, perhaps even precious, and they spark my imagination to dream of times when currency was in coin and pure metals rather than in paper or electronic accounts.

I like copper too.  Although nobody would prefer a penny to a dime, I do love the rustic brown of copper.

When Jonathan was around six, he bought me a copper necklace.  We were at Target, just the two of us, which was a miracle of sorts, in and of itself.  We'd walked into the entrance of the store, and he must have seen me glance over at the jewelry counter.

"Do you want some jewelry, Mom?" he asked.  "Come on, I'll buy you some jewelry!"  He pulled me over toward the counter as I protested.  Who knows what was running through his head?  Of course I never buy anything like jewelry for myself, but he wanted to buy me a gift.  Of course he didn't have  a lick of money, but should I squash his generous spirit?  I finally figured we could browse for a minute or two and then move on.

However, as I sifted through the necklaces hanging on the display, I came across a different and unique one.  It was simple, yet not completely plain, tiny copper hearts linked together in a chain that had a single strand falling down from the center.  I detangled it from the necklaces around it.

"Do you like that one, Mom?" Jon asked.

"Yes," I told him, "I actually do like this."

He may have been a little disappointed that it wasn't fancier or more colorful, but all he said was, "Are you sure?" and then, "I'll buy it for you!"

Thus, the necklace was added to our shopping cart.  I thanked my debonair companion after I charged it on Discover.

It became one of my favorite necklaces.  Being brown, it matched most of what I wear.  I often traveled with it, because it was a nice, un-fussy piece to transport and use.

Then one day, after our move to Illinois in 2013, I couldn't find it.  I didn't panic.  I told myself, "It will show up."  I stopped looking and did something else.

But the next time I tried to find my necklace from Jonathan, it was still lost.  And the next time, and the next.  I searched high and low and racked my brain trying to think of where it might have slipped away to.  I thought of all the different trips we have driven on since we moved here, countless college drop-offs and pick-ups and such.  Visits to Minnesota and Missouri to see parents.  The whole Ohio wedding expedition.  To top it off, I couldn't remember the last time I'd had it.  All I knew was, I missed it.  How long had it been gone?

In the meantime, Jonathan.  Jonathan is slipping away.  I pray to the Lord from a torn and throbbing heart, begging Him to bring this wandering, wayward son safely back home.

Last May (May 2015), I hit a low point.  I was fretting over Jonathan, and I could not find my necklace.  On one particular day, I went through another search for the necklace, hoping, trying not to hope, wishing I had it, feeling bereft.  Tears running down my face, I cried out to the Lord and said, "Please, God, of course you know I'd rather have Jonathan come back to a good place than anything else.  But do I have to lose the necklace he gave me, too?  Do I have to lose something that reminds me of happier times?  It was such a good memory of what a delightful little boy he was.  If you could just please help me find the necklace, it might help me hold on to hope for him."

I cried a little bit, and then I went downstairs to prepare a lasagna for some beloved visitors we were expecting.

Now, the previous day I had driven into town to Aldi, to buy ingredients for the lasagna.  I was sure I had everything; I'd made a list.  I'm usually pretty organized in this type of situation, but for whatever reason, when I got all my fixings out on the counter, I was short one can of tomato paste.  Although annoyed at myself, I've been working on positive self-talk and learning to say, "It will be okay."  So, as I examined the situation, I decided that the sensible thing would be to run over to the local IGA and buy a can of tomato paste, instead of driving all the way back to town for Aldi.

In my head, "It will be okay," was trying, but the other voice was pretty upset: "Do you know that tomato paste is 39 cents at Aldi, and it is fully 99 cents at IGA?  That's more than twice as much!"  But it was only one can, and the 60 cent difference was significantly less than the cost of gas to get all the way to Aldi.  I soldiered on.

In IGA, I actually found a can of tomato paste marked down on sale to 59 cents, and I felt the smile of God on me.  He was being merciful, and I appreciated it. It was graduation weekend for our local high school, so although IGA is usually a sleepy little joint, the registers were humming under lines of people buying cakes and balloons.  I took my one tiny can of tomato paste and stood in line at the service desk, where there were fewer customers.

As I waited for the person in front of me to finish, it occurred to me that it would be insane to put the charge on my credit card, so I began rifling through my billfold for cash.  I didn't have any dollars, but I figured I probably had some change.  However, as I poked through the change compartment of my wallet, I found that there were no quarters to be found.  Pennies, a few nickels, an old dog tag, a lost button.  I poked my finger around, searching, and began to turn up dimes.  I found two or three, then continued to dig . . . four . . . five . . . I only needed one more.

I swished the tip of my index finger through the contents again (they were getting a bit sparser with five dimes removed), and then, just as I turned up the last dime that I needed--yes, miraculously, I scrounged up exactly six dimes--just then, I noticed something in the crevice of the seam at the bottom of the compartment.

My necklace.

I quickly scooped the sixth dime into my left hand with the other dimes, and then carefully lifted the necklace out from beneath a smattering of dusty pennies, heart pounding, eyes stinging.  I stood there blinking, trying to breathe, incredulous, trying to think.  Then I realized that the cashier was waiting to serve me.  I handed her the can of tomato paste. She put it into a bag and asked for sixty cents.  I gave her my six dimes and walked out of the store, heart fluttering, whispering, "Thank you Jesus.  Thank you Jesus."

The sun spilled bright over the asphalt parking lot, illuminating the lines of the parking spot next to my car.  Looking down, I saw a glint of silver.  I bent over, and it was a dime, on the ground.  A few few inches away was another one.  When does one ever find dimes on the ground, and two, no less?  I scooped them up and slipped them into my coin purse, but it wasn't until later that I figured it out.  Those two dimes were the difference between the 59 cent can of tomato paste I'd just purchased at IGA and the 39 cent can I had neglected to buy at Aldi the previous day.

Only God.

Only God could affect my planning so that on the very day I cried out to Him, I would be short a single can of tomato paste, so that I would go to IGA to buy just that one item, so that I would comb through my change looking for a way to pay without a credit card, so that I would get to the bottom of my coin keeper as He placed one dime at a time before me until I had exactly enough to pay for my purchase, and then lead me to find my long-lost necklace.  Only God would top it off by refunding me the difference in the price I would have paid for the tomato paste at the store where I meant to buy it.  On top of everything else, God gives back the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25).  He has, He does, and He will.

God is so good, so overflowing with graciousness, so intimately connected to us, so able to handle everything, from the universal to the minuscule.   I felt His presence powerfully that day, His love, His kindness, His grace, His reassurance of His faithfulness.  God with me.  Immanuel.  Love.  I can trust Him.

I wear this necklace often these days.  I do not wear it always, for that would be superstitious; but I wear it often, to remind me of the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord.  Now it is a symbol of two wonderful memories: when I first got it, and when it was restored to me.

God builds our faith in little things, so that we will know that we can trust Him in big things.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.
They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
    like poplar trees by flowing streams.
Some will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’;
    others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The Lord’s,’
    and will take the name Israel.
Isaiah 44:3-5 (NIV)

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling 
and to present you before his glorious presence 
without fault and with great joy—
to the only God our Savior 
be glory, majesty, power and authority, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
before all ages, now and forevermore! 
Jude 1:24-25 (NIV)

(My apologies to those who read the condensed version of this story on my Instagram last May.  The shorter one is probably much better.  Also, I am sorry about the coinage in the billfold picture above.  Yes, there are quarters in there.  That photo was taken today, and does not accurately reflect what the contents of my billfold were last May.)


Shannon said...

I read this story on your Insta, and I read it here, and I liked them both! It just makes a really neat little story, especially the way you threaded the dimes and the necklace through it right to the end and the way they intertwined at the climax. Ah. Artfully done. I just think it's a beautiful little gift of a blog entry (about a beautiful little gift)!

Priscilla said...

That is so cool! God is the best!