Pulling into what had been destined to be our residential area, the large Allied moving van made its way to the small house we would call home...Yes, it was over two decades ago when the driver parked on the curb and grimaced at the steep driveway that led to the entry of our humble abode. I wasn't sure why he seemed so irritated, but walking inside, this fella shook his head and grumbled, "So you think you are going to fit all of that furniture into this small house?!" Little did he know that I had earned a third-degree black belt in decorating and arranging furniture! And yes, little did he know that the woman who stood before him was suffering from a broken heart. I did my best to maintain a contented and enthusiastic facade. I carefully camouflaged the gaping wounds that were deep inside my soul--ever threatening to burst open at a mere moment's notice. Yes, I had left a spacious home in a hilly, wooded, and picturesque neighborhood in California, but more than that--I had left my heart--not in San Francisco--but in another portion of that golden state. Ahhhhh, yes, the work before me would manage to occupy my wandering thoughts for awhile.
And so, one by one, the large pieces of furniture were placed in the master bedroom, then the two smaller bedrooms, and then the kitchen...When my antique, turn-of-the-century sofa was brought in, I knew the less formal sofa would soon follow--along with the formidable task of separating my living area into two sections. And when the wicker sofa with its comfy cushions was finally set in place, I was left with my shattered dreams and a double car garage filled from ceiling to floor with unpacked boxes.
I remained in that little home for fourteen years. Many of those years were long and hard. I recall how I would sit directly across from that aforementioned wicker sofa--stealing away from the chaos of my life to meet with my Savior. Beside that sofa was an antique tea cart with a collection of assorted floral teacups. And even though that sofa now graces the home of a family member and I now reside elsewhere, I continue to look at those teacups. And I remember my journey from THERE to HERE and how a cup filled with sweet water cannot spill one bitter drop! How I would love to tell you that I embraced that truth on that late summer day decades ago when I moved to Decatur, Texas...But I didn't!
While all of the particulars aren't important, what is important is that I was a woman filled with hopelessness and despair. If anyone could ever have felt insignificant and useless, I was that woman. Oh, I knew Jesus, but the path before me was covered with a heavy fog of uncertainty. My eyes were gazing at the seemingly impossible situations before me, while merely glancing at my Savior's able provision. What I can tell you is that I didn't want to remain in that condition...I cried out daily, but continued to wallow in a sea of self-pity and deep depression. The enemy's taunts were almost deafening at times--"Paula, your life has no value...You are of no use to anyone...Why don't you just give up?" I continued to read His Word and pray...And the truth is that while it wasn't a pretty picture to behold, I was processing through the pain. And Jesus met me there in the most peculiar fashion! You see, on a day like any other day, a young girl, my little girl, looked into my eyes and said, "Momma, you don't look happy..." Something deep inside of me came to attention! If my more vocal daughter had noticed my despondency, I knew my less talkative son must be aware of it, too...How much I wanted my children to observe in me a life of victory! And so, the degree of attention that I had placed on my uncomfortable and unpleasant circumstances, I now transferred to fervently seeking God's perspective.
After weeks of praying, the strangest directive seemed to flood my being..."Go to Wal-Mart!" And somehow I knew this wasn't a shopping excursion I was being led to go on, but a mission of a different sort...And so I went. Day after day, I went. Why? Well, you see, I had already observed that the employees in our little Wal-Mart were not the most happy individuals. And so, the directive became more clear...I had been reading in Luke when the verse popped off of the page at me in Technicolor--"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38) And while this verse has often been associated with financial giving, the verses surrounding it showed me the truth about relationships...I was to go to Wal-Mart and give what I was in need of!
I shall never forget the woman God led me to go to repeatedly in Wal-Mart. Her facial expression painted a portrait of a tired and discouraged woman--a woman who felt useless and insignificant...Before me God had placed a visual--a mirror image of my heart! Propelled by that image, I went daily and always dropped by her usual work station. I began to look forward to my daily visits where I could encourage this dear one on an outfit she was wearing or how she had directed me to the item I was searching for on that particular day. Sometimes I simply greeted her with interest about her life. I did this for six months with little or no response from this precious, but hurting, lady. And you know what? My particular circumstances remained the same, too. On my knees one night, I said, "Lord, I must have misunderstood you. I could never possibly share this with anyone...They would lock me in a padded cell for sure!" And yet, I knew I was to persist. The truth was (and is) that God was giving me the greater victory that is discussed in Psalm 27:6--"Then my head will be exalted above the enemies that surround me. At His tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy. I will sing and make music to the Lord." Yes, the difficulties in my life remained, but He wanted me to rise above them...And that was indeed a greater victory!
One evening, I discovered that this lady attended the same church that my children and I had been visiting. She came up to me, with tears streaming down her cheeks and said, "Paula, you will never know how much you have encouraged me by talking to me in Wal-Mart!" Dear friends, I left that night with tears of my own--tears of gratitude. And lo these many years later, I continue to walk in the truth that our God is ever calling us to give what we are in need of...Perhaps, that person will not give it back to us, but our Lord will...And so, whenever I am asked the secret to living a life of usefulness and significance and purpose...I simply smile and say, "Why, I go to Wal-Mart!"