An Umbrella with a Side of Meat

The year we were engaged, R worked for a ministry that served the homeless population in our town.  We happened to live in a city with a rather large homeless population and we also attended church under a major interstate bridge with those whom were served by this organization.
Best Palm Sunday ever?
The year that a homeless man played Jesus and R & I caught him smoking just before someone hit the donkey on the rear end and both donkey & man playing Jesus looked terrified as they ran under  a very loud, very busy I35.    It was awesome.

I've hesitated to share an experience I recently had.  It just seemed so personal and well, I just wasn't sure I was ready to share this.

But I think the time is right.  And I think God began weaving this into our story years ago - when my parents took us to serve in a local soup kitchen once a month as kids.  They began teaching us that God's love isn't based on our economic status and that it is a joy to serve others.  They taught us to to be obedient to the Spirit's nudging.  I vividly remember one time witnessing a situation in Dallas and watching as others sat silent and tried to ignore while my parents got up and did what they could in that moment. They laid foundations early on for serving others - right where we are at.   Then there was that year spent attending church beside the outcasts and downcasts of our city - working with the homeless population.

Do you ever feel like God is trying to tell you something?  Margaret Feinberg calls this experience the "sacred echo."  She says, in her book,The Sacred Echo,

When God really wants to get your attention, he doesn't just say something once. He echoes. He speaks through a Sunday sermon, a chance conversation with a friend the next day, even a random email. The same theme, idea, impression, or lesson will repeat itself in surprising and unexpected ways until you realize that maybe, just maybe, God is at work.

It was a beautiful, cold day several months ago.  We were preparing to have company for dinner so R allowed me the luxury of going to the grocery store ALL BY MYSELF.

Let's pause for a moment of silence at the gloriousness of how efficient one can be all my themselves at the store.

Ok. I've reflected.  I'm back.

As I pulled up to the grocery store, I saw a man on a bike.  I could tell by his clothing and hair that he probably was living in poverty.  God pricked my heart with the memory of serving the homeless years ago.

I dismissed the thought and grabbed my reusable bags and my list and headed inside the store.

While I was at the store, I kept hearing this awful, hacking cough.  I couldn't see who the cough belonged to but my soul begin to stir.

Suddenly, I was on the same aisle as the man and I very clearly knew God was giving me an opportunity to serve this man.

As I continued my shopping and began to argue with God, I kept hearing the cough.  It seemed every aisle I turned on, the man with the horrible cough was on the next aisle.  It didn't take long before I realized that it was a powerful cough - literally clearing the aisles.

I even noticed at one point that all of the checkers had come out of their lanes to try to determine where this cough was coming from.  It resounded throughout the store.

And I knew exactly what God was calling me to do but I couldn't figure out how to make it work.  I didn't want the man to know what I planned on doing to help him.  So I told God to figure that part out.  I agreed to show up but asked God to figure out the timing and details.

So, being God, He did.

As I finished my shopping, I went to the front of the store to check out and noticed that the man with the horrific cough was already in a lane.  So I lined up behind him.

(First detail?  Check.  He managed to work out the timing just right for us to each end our shopping trips - we entered the store together and though my basket was full and he only had a handful of items, we finished together too.)

I never carry cash but R had asked me to deposit come checks so I actually had cash on me.
(Another detail?  Covered.)

I did not want the man to know what I was going to do but I clearly knew God was encouraging me to pay for this man's groceries.

So I slid the cash to the cashier and quietly whispered to her to use it for his groceries.  She nodded almost imperceptibly and I knew she understood my desire to keep it  quiet.

But then it wasn't enough.   The man scanned his state assistance card.  And the cashier told him he needed $7 more.  He didn't seem to have it as he patted all of his pockets and stared blankly at her.  He also seemed very confused by her comments.

I slid more cash discreetly to the cashier and before I knew it, she told him it was done and to have a nice day.  He accepted this without question and gathered his bags.  I quickly grabbed the change and pressed it into his hand with an urging to buy some hot coffee before getting on his bike again.

As he left the store, the cashier asked me, "How did you know?  Do you know him?"

"No."  I replied.  "How did I know what?"

"He was completely out of funds on his welfare card.  He had nothing left."


I was stunned.  No wonder the urging from the spirit was so strong.  No wonder the call to obedience so obvious and echoed in my heart so loudly.

I told her I didn't know.  I didn't know him or his financial state.  I simply felt like God was asking me to buy his groceries for some reason.  So I did.

When I went home, I shared the story with my family and began to unpack groceries.

And that's when I saw it.

His meat.  Somehow, the bagger had inadvertaently tossed his meat into my sack.

So I called the store and explained the situation. I  didn't want this kind man to come back into the store confused and demand meat or, worse, try to buy meat and think he had forgotten it.  I was pretty sure he had some cognitive disorders and I knew he had no idea I had purchased his groceries so I was afraid that he would not realize he should not need to buy more meat.  The store handled it with grace and assured me repeatedly that they would make sure he got another package of meat no questions asked if he returned.  And I told them I would return the original meat package when I got a chance.

That chance didn't come that day.

Or the next.

In fact, it was two days later before I was able to get back to the store.  I grabbed the meat and my kiddos and my umbrella.

It was pouring rain.  And frigid outside.

As I drove to the store, I suddenly saw a man on a bicycle not too far away.  He was riding a bike in the pouring down rain.  He was wearing that same tattered yellowish/brownish coat.  He had no hat on his long, gray hair.  His face was unshaven and his jeans soaked.

I knew it was him.

And I knew, once again, that God was calling me to obedience.  My soul felt that distinctive tug and so I whipped the car around in a u-turn on a busy street.  I found a side street to park on and I hopped out of the car - grabbing the package of meat as I went.  I didn't spend as much time arguing with God this time- I knew He was working out the details without my help.

My flashers were blinking and I left the car running as I ran, yelling, "hey!"

Then, as clear as anything, I felt the Lord nudge me strongly.  He reminded me I had a big umbrella in my car.

So I returned and grabbed it from the backseat.

As I ran to Bob, I yelled, "Hey!'

He looked at me almost with confusion in his eyes.

Understandably, I guess.

Here was a strange woman running across yards on a busy street in the pouring down rain carrying an umbrella and a grocery sack of cheap meat.

But he stopped his bike.  And he watched me.

When I got to him, I simply said, "you forgot your meat at the grocery store."  He accepted it without question or reservation.

And then I handed him my umbrella.  I watched as he rode off, the meat in the sack hanging from a handlebar, and the umbrella in his hand - covering his head.  My big black and white umbrella.

He keeps bringing Bob into our lives.  He keeps reminding me of His faithfulness, of His desire to cover the details and bring us good things.

We laugh and say that if God keeps this up, He's going to be calling us to obedience with Thanksgiving dinner -that before we know it, Bob will be a regular at our home for meals.

It might be easier than chasing him down to deliver his groceries in the rain.

I'm learning that I don't have to go far to serve others.  There are people hurting in my neighborhood, in my city, in my church, and in my grocery store.  I just need to be obedient to finding ways to step in and serve them right where I'm at.  And I really want this truth to sink into my children. I want them to hear stories and to know people like Bob by his name.  I want them to know how God provides and cares for and blesses us.

Recently, I opened my front door to discover a huge box on my porch.  Inside was a lovely a mug and girly umbrella to review from Dayspring (an affiliate company of Hallmark.)

 I knew as soon as I opened it that it wasn't mine.  I knew this was an opportunity to pass it on  to someone who needs it - and maybe someone who needs to be reminded of all God gives that is good (Psalm 103), or who needs something pretty to hold in their hands every now and then, or who just needs to be seen and recognized.

 (Although I could use an umbrella... I've been using Will's pirate one now since Feb!)

Isn't that what we all want?  A friend last week sent cookies to Will after a difficult day of medical testing.  The cookies were delicious but what ministered to my heart was knowing that my friend got it. She wasn't pitying us.  She was walking alongside us.  She recognized that sometimes, this is hard and not typical.

I don't know yet who I will deliver these items to but I think I'll place them in my car - ready to go - as soon as I begin to feel those sacred echos.  They are too pretty not to be in the hands of someone who needs to smile, to feel beautiful and feminine.   I mean, I know it's an umbrella & a mug.  But the details make all the difference.

And maybe this time I won't be so argumentative.  He has proven Himself trustworthy with the details. I do believe He delights in the details.

What about you?  Do you ever feel those sacred echos?  Have you seen God recently in the details?  Is He calling you to obey and serve someone - even if it seems as silly as passing your umbrella off with a side of meat?

If you like these items, they are available for purchase here.  They come in a gift set - perfect for making someone smile on a rainy day.

Also- just fyi - Dayspring has lots of great items on sale right now through the end of the month.
Buy 2 Get 1 Free- Mugs!

 Love this canvas-  Bless this Home- $20 off!

Looking for cards for graduates or Father's Day?
15% off on all card purchases. Coupon code: 15OFFCARDS

(Wish I had had that code last week before I spent way too much on cards at Hallmark!)

 Fun, affordable items to speak encouragement into someone's life.

(and speaking of giving something away... I'm working on a giveaway coming soon (hopefully.))

(Dayspring sent me these products to review but all opinions are mine.  They are not paying me to review this item.  Photo credit:  Dayspring (In) Spired Deals Fyi :))

3 thoughts:

Anonymous said...

thank you katie for this post! it is such a good reminder that God is speaking to us and to be obedient to being the hands and feet of jesus when people need us to be. plus - it is so good with what he does in our own hearts when he has us serve others - we are changed and the other person is blessed!
always so encouraged and blessed by your blog!

kelly said...

Thanks for sharing, katie :)

Sharon C said...

Thanks for the BIG SMILE today Katie! I'm so grateful for the day your Aunt Carolea led me to your blog! Sharon

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