After ten years of walking the earth with my delightful little pixie, I knew exactly what those giant eyeballs were exuding. Disaster. I was frozen to the earth as her little hands held out the remains of another $372 orthodontic tragedy. This time her retainer hadn’t been run over by a car in the Home Depot parking lot. This time it was her own bare feet. She had taken it out to have a snack by the pool and left it abandoned and unprotected on her towel. Standing up to jump back in the water, she felt and heard the crunch.
I braced myself and held back the urge to roar. This would be our third retainer in three months. I turned abruptly, speed dialed my husband, and moaned incomprehensibly into the phone. He encouraged me to exit stage left and regroup at home. We got in the car in silence, and my daughter tentatively suggested that she would be paying for her new retainer. I eliminated all doubt of tentativity.
Over the next several hours, Rachel asked to mop the kitchen floor, wash dishes, and baby sit friend’s kids. She had about $76 in savings already and calculated that it would take her about 18 months to earn the remaining $300. She has never been a procrastinator, so she was on it. That night she told me she was praying for two things. One that God would give her lots of jobs to do so she could earn money faster, and second that he would drop $300 in a vacant field somewhere where she would know it was from him and wouldn’t feel obligated to return it to anyone. A precious prayer, but we live in L.A. and there aren’t many “large vacant fields” around. Still her faith in the miraculous was priceless, as was her industrious heart.
The day before our appointment to get the mold made for a new retainer, a letter arrived in the mail for me. It was from the school where I work and read something like this: “We trust that your summer has been wonderful so far, and to make it even better, the Board of Trustees would like to extend a small token of our appreciation for your hard work and commitment to the school.” Enclosed was a check. For $300. Dated the day Rachel stepped on her retainer.
I stood there frozen for about two seconds before tears started flowing. I had received a bonus check at Christmas before, but never the third week in June. This was obviously not my money. This was the “money in the field.” It just happened to find its way into the mailbox. God is resourceful that way.
That night we sat at the table for a family meeting and time of prayer. We shared what we had been praying for and Rachel reiterated her two-fold prayer. Lots of extra chores and/or money in a field. Dan and I locked eyes, and I slowly pushed the check in front of her. Her reaction will be tattooed on my heart forever. With tears streaming down her face she looked at me and said, “You are giving this to me???” I just smiled, and with the unbridled whirl of childhood delight she punched her fists into the air, threw back her head and shouted, “God, you are REAL!!! I can’t wait to tell everyone that you are REAL!”
And she did. She shared Him with the dental assistant who shoved the gooey purple mold into her mouth the next day. She shared Him with the receptionist in the front office, who had surreptitiously offered us a $50 off coupon when we first entered the office…since we were frequent fliers I assume. Rachel did the math and realized she was now out of pocket only $22. When the receptionist heard that she had been “God’s hand” in Rachel’s life by offering her the coupon, she started sharing her own stories of the goodness of God and how she was amazed that he allowed mere mortals to be his hands and feet. (She also managed to get the back office to knock another $105 off the retainer.) By the time we walked out, Rachel had a new retainer and $83 in her back pocket. Talk about basking in the treasures of heaven.
Rachel hasn’t stopped telling the story to anyone who will listen. And while God may never drop another dime in Rachel’s lap, she will always have a broken retainer wrapped in a check stub, tucked carefully into her memory box. It is a reminder that no matter what happens, He is very, very, very real.