I was feeling pretty discouraged last week. Throughout the whole week, I felt like anything that could go wrong did go wrong, mostly because of something I'd said or done. I said to Geoff one day that I'm used to one of the kids being mad at me at any given point; but that on a few days last week it felt like all three were mad at me most of the time, in addition to him being upset with me for a few things. I felt like I was messing everything up, at home and elsewhere. In addition, a few life circumstances are occasionally so challenging that it's just plan hard juggling and managing everything. I'm a pretty healthy person, emotionally, usually; and I'm generally fairly strong and resilient. However, last week challenged most of my better qualities.
On Sunday morning at church, while our pastor was speaking, I was just plain discouraged. I had a head ache that I'm sure was brought on by all of the anxiety and discouragement, and I didn't know how to regain my equilibrium. So I prayed about it quietly, sitting there in church. I told God about all of it, and then said that I don't ask Him for a whole lot just for myself, but that I really wanted to ask Him for a little encouragement. I said that I didn't even know what that would look like, and I told Him that it was ok if the encouragement didn't come and that I'd be all right; but I also said that I felt like I really needed it from Him. I didn't feel any differently after I'd finished praying; in fact, I beetled out to the van soon after, my head pounding.
Later that afternoon, having had no time to myself for weeks already, I said to Geoff that I really needed to get out of the house for 2-3 hours on my own, if he felt like he could manage the kids. He said he was ok, and so I decided to drive out of town a ways to one of my favourite places.
Pine Ridge is this peaceful, country place just thirty-five minutes away from home, and it has a beautiful shop and restaurant located on the most beautiful grounds, inside a beautiful provincial park area. In summer and fall, I love to go there and walk around the expansive gardens. It's where I wanted to go with my family for my 50th birthday celebration a couple of years ago and it's where I usually go once or twice a year for a delicious meal and a wander. This was where I'd been wanting all day to be.
I went up into the restaurant and my server asked me how I was doing. I said that I wasn't having the best of weekends, but that I was glad to be there because I find it so peaceful there. She said that she hoped she could make my day a little better, and offered to bring me a cup of chai with almond milk. I said that would be perfect.
Later, I ended up ordering supper, and while I ate, I wrote down a bunch of things that I'd been thinking about and processing. I felt a little calmer and more organized in my head. Eventually, my server came back and said that it looked like I needed some dessert. I agreed, and asked her to surprise me. She brought me some lemony thing that had dairy in it, but I didn't really care...it was her favourite dessert.
Some time later, I called the server over and said that I was ready for the bill. I was feeling a bit more relaxed and a little better. The woman who'd been serving me said that my bill had already been taken care of. I was puzzled and said that I didn't understand. She repeated that there was no bill today, and that it had been taken care of. It briefly crossed my mind that Geoff had phoned in with his credit card number, but that immediately didn't make sense because we share the same credit card account, so what would the difference be if he called it in? I shook my head at the young woman I was talking to and said "What?! I don't understand." Then she told me, almost reluctantly, that she had taken care of my bill already. "What?!" I said again, stunned and totally not understanding. I started to tear up and said that I didn't understand - why would she do that for a stranger?
She said that she had seen me when I'd walked into the restaurant earlier and that I'd just looked so discouraged; then she heard me say that I wasn't having a good weekend. And she had wanted to make my day a little better, and to encourage me. I started to cry, she started to cry, and then she came over and hugged me. I'm sure we looked like idiots to everyone around us, but whatever. I told her that she was a true blessing to me on a day when I really needed it, because that was exactly what I was in need of...encouragement. I was so moved, and I hugged her again when I left a few minutes later, still teared up.
I cried most of the way home, so moved. Even some of the words my young server had used were some of the precise words/phrases I'd used that morning when praying. I felt/feel very thankful that God chose to answer that very specific prayer in a totally unique and unexpected way. It wasn't about the money...it was about feeling heard by the One who made me about a small need that He counted important enough to respond to in a very personal way. In the Bible's New Testament book of Matthew, believers are encouraged to not worry about their lives, because as God takes care even of the birds of the air, how much more valuable are we to Him? On Sunday, I had a personal experience of God caring not only for the sparrows; He took care of me.