I don’t get out much. Our family has one vehicle, and when my husband works the kids and I stay home. When we do get out, it’s usually to run to the grocery store. It seems that the most interesting things happen at the grocery store, perhaps because that’s mainly where we go. This outing was no exception.
It was a rare time when I was going grocery shopping alone. My husband was working from home and gave me the opportunity to go out by myself to regroup. I gratefully accepted the offer. As such, I took my time and perused a little longer than usual, just enjoying the solitude of having my thoughts to myself.
When I made my way through the checkout line, I had quite a few things to buy as I hadn’t been to the store for a couple of weeks. The cashier commented on my groceries.
“Are you vegetarian?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Does this taste like real meat?” she asked. I was buying Tofurkey.
“No, not really, but it’s still good.” I said. “We actually don’t eat it much either, mostly fruits and vegetables, but it’s a nice treat once in awhile.” I smiled.
“When I was growing up, my best friend was vegetarian. I would go to her house and eat some of the veggie meat they had. I liked it,” she said.
We continued chatting as she rang up my bill. She read me the total and I swiped my debit card to pay.
“Unauthorized,” the card reader said.
“Ummm. It didn’t work. Should I swipe it again?” I asked.
“Go ahead,” she said.
I tried the card again. Still unauthorized. “Ok, it’s not working,” I said. “And the bad news is, I don’t carry any other cards with me, so I have no way of paying for this. I’ll have to call the card company and see what’s going on.”
“Sure, no problem. I can just suspend this transaction and you can come back to this register and pay.” She was very helpful.
“Thank you,” I said, somewhat embarrassed. “Sorry.”
I stepped out of line and sat in the windowsill as I dialed the number on the back of my card.
“Lord, help me to be able to get our groceries,” I prayed.
The lady at the bank answered and said there was a hold placed on my card but that I’d have to call another number to see why. I did. That time I was put on hold for quite awhile. When I finally talked to the customer service rep, she said that there was a suspicious charge to my card in Pakistan, so they put a hold on it, and I’d have to get a new one. That meant no paying for groceries.
I went back to the kind cashier and let her know the news. “I guess there’s fraud on my card so I can’t use it,” I told her. “I’ll have to run home to get my checkbook and come back to pay. Is that okay?”
“Sure,” she said. “This sort of thing happens all the time. You’d be surprised.”
I wasn’t particularly comforted by that, but at least she was unbothered by my dilemma.
I headed out the door, empty-handed. Oddly, I was still cheerful, and even though I had about an hour round-trip drive ahead of me, it didn’t seem like the end of the world.
“This is nice to have peace. Thanks God!”
Then the thought hit me. My husband was going to renew our license plate tags and had taken the checkbook with him, but hadn’t had time to renew them yet.
“Check the glove box,” a voice said.
“Oh!” I grinned.
As I reached my van, I gleefully opened the door and reached across to the glove box. “Please let the checkbook be there!”
I pulled the latch and down flopped the door of the glove box. I didn’t see the checkbook. I looked under a couple of papers just in case. There it was!
“Well praise the Lord!” I said aloud, grinning from ear to ear.
I nearly skipped back into the grocery store, and went up to the cashier smiling. “Did you need us to put your frozen food back in the freezer?” she asked.
“No!” I smiled. “My husband left the checkbook in the car, praise God, so I can pay for my groceries!”
The lady in the line next to me turned and smiled.
I paid for my groceries, loaded up the van, and headed home - a song in my heart and a smile on my lips.
As I rode home, I thanked God again. Then He silenced my praise with this thought, “I know neither haste nor delay.”
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I prayed in the store that I’d be able to pay for my groceries, but God didn’t make my card work. He did give me peace and joy amidst the trial. He also let me go through the trial of making the phone calls to the card company. It took up time I could have saved if I had gone to the van immediately and found the checkbook, but He didn’t tell me to do that. I had to wait. Then, when I saw things weren’t going how I hoped and prayed they would, He gently gave me the answer. Not a moment too soon, not a moment too late. Right on time. He always is. Always.
I sat in sober silence while I drove home. Then I prayed, “Lord, show me this in nature.”
“Of course!” He answered. “Consider the plants of the field. They grow patiently in a timely manner. They do not produce their fruit until due season. If you pick it too early, it doesn’t have the full flavor or nutrients as when it is perfectly ripe. If you pick it too late, it starts to spoil.”
“Oh, I see.” I answered. “Where else?”
“Seasons, growing a giant oak tree from an acorn, the sun rising and setting, the ocean tides…”
“It’s everywhere!” I breathed, choking up.
You see, my husband has been looking for work for over three years. We took a leap of faith and he left a steady secular job to work for God. The thing is, God didn’t swoop in and bless us beyond measure like I naively thought he would. In fact we have been waiting, waiting, and waiting some more. Now we were at a point where we were at the very end of our provisions and God was going to have to act, because by our own means, we weren’t going to make it.
God used the provision at the grocery store to remind me that, in fact, He had it all worked out before I even asked, but He doesn’t reveal things too early, or it isn’t as sweet. Neither does He wait too long, or it’s too late. His timing is always, ALWAYS, perfect.
Something I’ve learned since declaring an outdoor/nature-based homeschool is that God reveals Himself to us in four distinct ways: His written Word, nature, Providence, and direct impressions to our minds.
It’s probably obvious to us that He speaks directly to our individual situations through the Bible, and similarly with Providential circumstances, but how many of us look to nature for answers? Have you ever prayed before a nature walk, like you do before a devotional time, for specific prayer requests, asking God to reveal His answers to you in His created works? It’s amazing! I never knew the potential of how much more God is trying to speak to us until this door of nature was thrown wide open before me.
It sounds so simple, and in a way, it really is. Just like that day at the grocery store, I have found that God will reveal Himself or confirm a lesson through nature if we are looking. The beauty of it is, the potential to bless others when we are keeping our eyes open to God’s lessons is limitless as well. What if that cashier was influenced by that whole scenario? What if it really was as much about her as it was about me? What if the lady in line next to me who smiled at my praising God outburst was inspired to action for God that day? What if her actions influenced someone else? What if? What if …
We just can’t know the domino effect that God has in perfect orchestration. He’s got it. All. And He’s hoping we’re paying attention to His words and works, because He’s got it written out all around us in the language of nature so we can understand His infinite love more clearly. After all, that is the ultimate purpose of nature study.
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
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