Thrift-shop Provisions

Anya is in Virginia, living out a teenager's dream with her own room, own TV, own computer, and no siblings at her grandparent's house for the next 2 weeks.

Chad is in New Mexico, living out an extrovert college minister's dream, networking with collegiate workers from around the US.

I'm in Raleigh, NC, living out a missionary-mom's nightmare, helping 3 emotionally-fragile TCKs adjust to a new place yet again, solo. But I have craig's list and Google Maps, so we've stocked up on wheels for this 'Wheels Warrior' gang. Only--no helmets. I wasn't that worried, since they were just doing circles in the empty church parking lot, but then I got adventurous and took them to a bike trail. Turns out my kids have the need for speed. I'm sure you could have told me that, any of you who know them. But I underestimated the speed at which Isaac would fly down the hills on that flimsy piece of tin, and I could almost see the nurse-shaming headlines reading, "Nurse Practitioner-Mom fails to provide helmets; son in ICU, husband considers bringing charges of malpractice."

So I did what any self-respecting cheap-skate would do; piled the kids back in the car and googled 'thrift stores near me' and hit 'GO.'

1.3 miles made me smile, and I tried not to think about how badly things could go in a thrift store with 3 grumpy, hot kids who would rather be flying down hills on two wheels. But when I saw the store-front, I almost passed it by. Run down, some ugly particle-board end tables outside, an older couple smoking in plastic chairs at the entrance looking like they were most definitely speaking something other than English. I wasn't afraid, let me clarify. Not at all. I just doubted the effort:gain ratio was worth it. But honestly, I didn't really want to take the kids home and listen to their whining, and I figured I could find a cheap toy to bribe them into temporary peace there.

The woman welcomed us warmly, and then proceeded to find perfect items for everything I rattled off on my list. 3 brand-new helmets that fit each kid. New roller blades for me. Plastic plates and cups. Nice coffee mugs. And of course, the impulse buys as well--2 full sets of original Lincoln Logs, 4 puzzles, 2 games, 2 light sabers, a leather reading pillow. And while I was browsing, she sat on the floor and played with the kids. Teased them and gave them free ice cream bars. It was the most peace I've had in 3 days, that 2 hours in a thrift shop.

I was there for so long because a sudden thunder storm hit and the rain was torrential, so she wouldn't let me consider checking out. Instead, we sat and talked. I told her we were new to the area, and she offered to take me around and help in any way she could. She's from Syria, but she's been in the US for years, living all over but liking Raleigh best for raising a family. Her kids are all grown, but she has stayed because it's home now.

5pm hit, and their phone-app call to prayer went off. Her business partner, from Egypt, left the room quietly, but she and I continued to talk. When she asked why we had been in Kenya, I experienced another momentary pause. But why beat around the bush? I told her my husband is a minister.

She repeatedly exclaimed how wonderful that was--us serving other people. And she wanted to bless us in return. She would only charge us what I offered, and no more, even if I only offered her $1. For everything. Of course I couldn't give her only $1; I'm pretty sure we were both happy with the final arrangement.

When I tried to get the kids out the door, Ethan came running up with an electronic key-board. "Oh, he must have that! Take it, too." she exclaimed. "And come back and visit with me again!"

I definitely will.

It's a nice story, isn't it? God cares for us so creatively! But careful. Do you catch the irony?

One of the warmest blessings/welcomes we have received as weary returning global workers came from a Muslim woman. From Syria.

Don't worry--I don't have the energy to get into politics here. But I do know this.

A Syrian-American Muslim woman welcomed me back to the US with sacrificial generosity. If America gives in to its delusional idea that 'we' can do a single thing to protect ourselves from danger by fearing 'different' and excluding 'other,' then we will have lost. We will have lifted our (illusion of) safety as our ultimate god, over human kindness, generosity, and God's mandate to care for the powerless, the widow and the orphan. There is nothing great in that.


  1. Brilliant. Beautiful. And, Welcome back.... because I know you're not "Home" yet. :)

  2. Beautiful. thank you so much for sharing! praying the Lord will bless and guide your time there!

  3. This story blessed me greatly!!! Continuing to pray for all of you as Chad is away. Praying for more opportunities like this one for you. Denise

  4. And I thought I was having the fun in New Mexico...

  5. Awesome story! Thank you, Miriam.

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