When God Says “See?”

I am the queen of wet hems.  I lived for six years in a climate rainier than Seattle without ever buying the most practical of footwear for said conditions:  boots.  I’d see those classy ladies in their slick knee-high boots, all cozy in those leather tubes of dryness and elegance.  Meanwhile my jeans would have a creeping margin of damp crawling up the ankle, causing the heavy fabric to pool and scuffle along the dirty sidewalks as I tried to avoid the deeper puddles.

I tried to shop for some boots, but every time I was repulsed by both the price tags and the hard-won knowledge that footwear sold in Chile was often poorly made unless it was an internationally known brand, which threw it up into the untouchable price range for a missionary gal with damp hems.  Fast forward to life in the United States, with it’s fair share of damp and snow and I trudged through four years more with wet hems after several failed attempts to locate used boots at thrift stores.

It’s funny the things you think about in the shower.  It was Saturday morning and I was thinking through what to wear on my feet for an outdoor wedding in November that evening.  It was to be cold and I had nothing that fit into the categories of both warm and formal.  “Man,” I thought, “If only I had some boots.  It always comes back to boots.”

Why didn’t I just go buy some?  Well, because our tenant left us $4,000 behind in rent along with a $400 unpaid water bill, and we just paid school taxes on both properties, that’s why.  I can’t even go to the grocery store, much less buy footwear.  We don’t want credit card debt, so we just sort of doggie-paddle to keep afloat by living from our freezer and pantry and the food I’ve canned.

So I prayed for boots.  Why it doesn’t occur to me that God cares about me being perpetually soaked each rainy day is perplexing.  If I, sinful and small, make sure my children are cared for and properly attired, how could I think that God would not wish to care for my needs?  I prayed for boots to walk into my life and dethrone me as queen of wet hems.  It felt silly to pray for such when there’s things like starvation and disease and natural disasters wreaking havoc, but I did.

Twenty minutes later I was settled into our faded blue wing chair with my laptop checking Facebook.  I had a message from my husband’s cousin’s wife Deanna, written about seventeen minutes previous:

“Hi Sarah, What size feet do you have? I have a lovely pair of black boots and I am trying to find a good home for them.”

Folks, you just can’t make this stuff up.  I replied:

“Oh my word. This is too funny, because even if the size isn’t the right one, I just prayed when I was in the shower that God would help me to have some boots for winter (we’re broke at present and I don’t own any boots). I am a size 7 1/2 or 8. I am smiling at God’s hilarity.”

I had the most startled and grateful feeling warming my heart.  God was there, right there in the shower hearing my words and He was moving.  He wanted to bless me, surprise me, remind me of his loving care and kindness.  He wasn’t going to make all our problems go away, but He was going to add a sweetness in the trials, a gift.  Deanna wrote back:

“Well, this is perfect. Now these are not work boots, but they are tall riding like boots which are pretty snazzy and without a tall heel. they look like they have only been worn a few times and they are size 8. We got them out of one of the storage units we cleaned out. We can drop them by after church tomorrow and we can leave them at your door if you are not there. Will that work?”

IMG_2766I came home from church the next morning to these lovely Ann Taylor size 8 leather boots which fit like they were made for me.  Alongside was a whole box of size 2T boy clothes, something else I had been praying for as Henrik grows.  I gathered my kids around me and I told them this new story in our family history, about boots and prayer and a God who listens to His children with stunning compassion.  How God is not a cosmic vending machine who doles out nice things if we insert prayer, but rather, He is a surprising, loving Father who likes to remind us now and then in special ways that He sees us, loves us.

And yes, Father, I see You, I see Your kindness to me in this special gift of boots, of dry hems, and renewed hope.  Thank You.

The Strangest Mercy

I was glad for the bagginess of my bee suit.  Not only that it gives a buffer zone between my tender skin and the stabbing dagger-like stingers of thousands of honeybees, but because at six months pregnant, I still fit into it.  Now, I may look like an astronaut trying to shoplift a basketball, but I’m relatively safe and comfortable.

I waited until Henrik ceased his happy pre-nap shenanigans (i.e. throwing his blankets out of his pack and play, belly-flopping delightedly, and grinning at me over the top of the sides in a most awake-and-knows-it way).  When he finally succumbed to the nap, I prayed in a whisper that God would protect me as I went to rob tens of thousands of honeybees of their hard-earned honey (not all of it, mind you, just their spare pantry).

I got my smoker going strong on the most tailor-made-honey-collecting day ever (mild temperatures, little wind, and undiluted sunshine).  I don’t normally even inspect my hives without another adult at home, because I’d like to have some back-up if I get stung and have a reaction, but a string of cloudy days and conflicting schedules and a limited time frame in which to borrow an extractor meant that on this one sunny day, I was going in Lone Ranger.

I did Les Abeilles hive first (which is French for “the bees”), which is my older colony and quite a robust one.  This hive alone swarmed twice last May, forming two new colonies of sizable populations, while still leaving behind a great multitude.  I’d be harvesting twenty frames of honey off of them. It’s an intimidating thing to approach the home of thousands of stinging insects.  Worse yet to attempt to plunder their reserves.  I steeled myself for the worst, though I’ve yet to be stung in my two years as a beekeeper, I could just imagine that today would be my initiation rite into true beekeeping.  “Stung forty times, huh?  Well, you’re a true beekeeper now”, I imagined some seasoned beekeeper saying, while slapping me on the back.

I puffed the smoke into their front door and breathed the pent-up nerves out.  Let’s do this. I worked my way through, frame by frame, puffing with smoke (which tells the bees, ‘Hey, there’s a forest fire going on, you should probably chow down on honey because your home is going to be burnt up.’ or ‘Was that an alarm pheromone I just smelled?  No….I just smell smoke….I’m so happy now.  Nom nom nom.’).

I took each frame and gave a few swift shakes over top the hive, harmlessly dislodging the bulk of the feasting bees right back into their home.  Some get understandably irritated.  Wouldn’t you be?  There you are at the fridge, grazing on some cheese and reaching for the milk when all of a sudden someone picks up your kitchen and shakes you out the door.  And if you don’t fall out of the doorway, well then you are swept out with a giant broom. I hustled the bee-less heavy frame of honey to my wagon awaiting downhill, where I put it into a box and swiftly covered it with a sheet so the bees didn’t try to claim it again.  Repeat twenty times while sweating profusely from every pore on your body and keeping your smoker going, and hoping against hope that they don’t smell through the smoke haze the scented alarm that the guard bees are emitting, and you too could harvest honey!

Amazingly, no stings.  Not even more than a handful of fly-bys (when the guard bees attempt to kamikaze my veil in indignation).  I put the hive back together and said, “Thank you, ladies!” and carefully navigated the heavy wagon back down to the house.  I then repeated this with The Bee-Bee Boomers (my first swarm catch colony), and they too amicably allowed me to plunder their pantry.

There are twenty-seven frames of honey on my back porch under sheets awaiting extraction tomorrow.  And no painful stings on my body.  And the baby is still napping.  Mercy.

And that’s what it is.

It’s not because I’m some wonderfully intuitive bee-whisperer.  It’s not because of me.  It’s one of God’s strange mercies for me, for this day and the other days past of hive inspections and honey harvests.  It implies nothing about tomorrow, or the next day, the next harvest.  No promises for a sting-free future.  But a mercy for today. I’ll take it.  I’ll give thanks and thanks again. For every strange mercy, giving thanks.