Posted by: Leigh Reynolds | December 24, 2014

It IS a Wonderful Life

I recently signed a new contract with a client that would mean, temporarily, some extra income for us. Sure, it’d be more work too, but I can manage that pace for a few months and there was plenty we’d like to do with that money – pay off some debt, fix a bathroom that is in disrepair, put some money in savings for a trip to Disney in 2016. I had the money spent long before the ink dried on the contract.

It has also offered a less stressful Christmas with no debt for a single gift. Now, the day before Christmas Eve, we have just a few things to pick up. I had a moderately heavy ‘to do list’ and a sharp plan to get it all done so that tomorrow would be a little less hectic than usual. One of the items on the list was to take 2 dozen cinnamon rolls to Wil’s preschool for the teachers. We had it all set – I’d pick them up from Patrick’s work on my way to take Wil. Easy-peasy. But when I called to tell him I was on my way he told me they weren’t done. A delayed delivery truck. I’d have to drop off Wil, wait a bit, then pick up the cinnamon rolls and go back across town. Frustrating, but I’d make it work.

I ran an errand, killing time. About ready to head over to pick the rolls up, Patrick calls to tell me they forgot to put the them in. The ovens are now full of lunch orders. I’d already told the teachers I’d be back with them, so if I wanted the teachers to get them today, I’d have to pick them up and cook them myself. There goes my time for rolling through the ‘to do list’, and the treat for the teachers that was supposed to be simple, just got hard. I was headed to Grandma’s to pick them up. Patrick calls again. His car just died. Dead. In the middle of the off-ramp. Not good…

I was already a little upset about the messed up morning and cinnamon rolls, I wanted to be downright pissed about the car. I started thinking about our plans for that extra money and how it would now, most likely, have to be used on a car. But then I thought about my dad and what he’d say… “Well, what are you going to do about it darlin’? That’s just how life goes some times. Be thankful you have a little extra money to get a new car. It’d be a lot worse if you didn’t…” Even just in my head, my dad was giving me the tough love I needed but really didn’t want.

Then I thought about what Patrick always says…”Praise the Lord! In all things, praise the Lord!” Now, sometimes he says it in a moment of blessed sincerity. Often he says it to get my goat and make me smile a begrudging smile.

I didn’t want to listen to either of them. I could feel the beginnings of a pity party brewing inside. Then it happened. I just decided not to go there. I listened to these voices in my head and chose something better. I chose to be thankful in all things. Even a messed up morning and a dead car 2 days before Christmas.

We got the car towed, I rescheduled the cinnamon rolls for tomorrow, and we all got ready to do some last minute shopping – a fun outing together to some of our favorite stores. But then it took the kids forever to get ready. One couldn’t find a shoe. The other refused to eat. We wanted to leave by 2, be home for dinner before 6pm. We rolled out of the driveway at almost 4pm. Now we’d face busier stores, get stuck in traffic and be lucky to make it home for dinner. But I was done working for the week, we were out and about, and so I took a deep breath and chose joy again.

We got through our shopping and were headed home. A little later than originally planned, but still in time for the dinner I had planned at home. Except when we went to load the car with our treasures, it was dead. The kids had headed out ahead of us and turned on the car just enough to kill the battery. Seriously. Well, I figured bad things come in 3’s so I must be done, right?

A good friend drove out, jumped the car and we were headed home – but it was after 7. By the time I got home and cooked, we wouldn’t be eating until 8pm, so we decided to grab a bite out. Chipotle sounded great, so we swung by… the line was out the door. Taco Bell it is. A bummer, but after today, a small matter. I just wanted to get home. I would still have time to knock a few things off the list after I got Wil to bed.

In the drive thru, I reach for my purse to pay for our food… No purse. No purse anywhere. We get out of the car, dig through it all, then it hits me… I had put the purse under the cart so Wil could sit in it. I didn’t remember taking it out. I was sure I’d left my purse under the cart, outside the door of World Market, when I lifted Wil to carry him to the car. Panic started to set it.

Surely it was turned in and this would be a feel-good tale. I call the store – they look in the carts, asked around, but no purse was turned in. Ok God, this is getting harder. Praise the Lord at all times?! Really?!! My purse, ID, all my cash, credit cards, over $100 in gift cards… all gone 2 days before Christmas. You want me to be glad in this?!

I really wanted to be flaming mad. There was a time I would have screamed, cussed, cried. But the kids were watching. I’d worked so hard to hold it together today. I couldn’t lose it now.

I drop Patrick, Tess and Wil at home and – against the odds – Jake and I head back to Westport to search for the purse. Maybe someone grabbed the cash and dropped it in a dumpster? Maybe it was still in the cart in the parking lot.

On the way I talked it through. Hard at first, I reminded myself of all I’d already reminded myself of today. I thought, maybe whoever got it was really struggling and needed the cash. I prayed that it would be a blessing to them. I won’t be able to give Patrick and the kids the gift cards, but there will still be plenty under the tree. More than we need or deserve. I have my phone; usually in my purse, I had it in my pocket for once. What a blessing. Regardless of what I lost today, I still have so much more than so many. Tomorrow morning the sun will rise and though I’ll spend the morning closing accounts and ensuring my identity wasn’t stolen, I’ll be with my family, in my warm house, surrounded by those I love, celebrating the most important birthday there ever was. Praise the Lord. In all things, praise Him. It came hard, but it came.

We look in the carts, we check the nearby trash cans, Jake heads over to the dumpster and I go to make sure the manager has my info on the off chance it turns up. “I have it,” she says… then I realize, she doesn’t mean my info, she means my purse. It had been turned in, totally in tact.

I hugged her. Twice.

Jake and I headed home, feeling happy and blessed.

Now, I know this will sound crazy, but there is a part of me that thinks it is precisely because I was OK that it was gone that it was there. God lives outside the restrictions of time and space. It’s possible.

Either way, as I sit here now, watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” while my purse hangs on the doorknob, I know that it is indeed a wonderful life. And it would be even if my purse was gone, because I chose to praise the Lord in all things. In a strange way, I am so thankful this day happened. I grew in my resolve to choose joy and I strengthened my joy-choosing muscle. My kids were there to see it and maybe tuck that away in their toolkit for later. And just 36 hours before Christmas, I was reminded that all the stuff is just stuff and my heart was turned toward others who could use my compassion.

So I wish you a Merry Christmas. May you unwrap joy, every day.




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