I looked for the sunset that Friday evening. Usually I feel guilty looking into the deep oranges and purples of the sky when I’m leaving a store that close to the beginning of Sabbath. Yet I have seen some absolutely stunning sunsets then. God’s grace still shows up and I enjoy praising Him all the way home.

But tonight was different. No guilt. I had just experienced something beautiful and I was hoping to see tangible evidence in the sky of the glory I felt inside. I turned my face toward the west to an as-yet-unremarkable sky. Still, I praised the Maker. Oh, the lengths He went to notify a lonely mom that He was watching over her and her babies. And I got to be the messenger!

For weeks I had been meaning to return a purchase from a Walmart clearance haul. After weeks of missed opportunities I felt frustrated that I wasn’t getting it returned—other things kept taking priority. I finally got it as far as the car, managing to keep track of the receipt. I would breathe a sigh of relief whenever I noticed it was still there.

Restlessness wouldn’t leave me that particular Friday afternoon. My husband and older son were working on a school project that didn’t mix with two lively younger boys. So, with an hour to spare before sundown, we piled into the car and headed out on a dubious adventure. Getting into the store was hard enough with an awkward whiteboard under my arm, the all-important receipt clutched in my fingers and two kids who sprang out of the car into the busy parking lot without Mommy. Once safely inside I got a cart and reassessed, double checking the receipt.

WRONG ONE! No way. The piece of paper I’d been staring at in my dashboard for weeks wasn’t the right one at all. With a tired sigh we reversed our steps for a thorough search. The boys hovered like buzzing bees. I was agitated and prayed for help. If I was supposed to find this receipt only God could find it, and I needed to trust Him. In retrospect I suppose this moment of surrender prepared me for the ministry opportunity ahead.

A big smile broke across my face as I grasped the correct receipt at last. Now, it was time to try again. No sooner had we safely re-entered those doors than one of the boys had to use the bathroom. That mission completed, we were at last on our way to Customer Service. But now there was a line. Grrr..hadn’t expected that.

Splashes of joy

Then I saw him—a tiny beautiful baby peeking out of a car seat carrier. A toddler stood in the basket. I smiled at the mom. “Could be worse places to stand in line,” I remarked. We began chatting about her 11-week-old baby and that her kids were only 11 months apart. Mine are also close together, so an instant understanding went between us. She told me she had lost her mom two years ago and had miscarried several times prior to the older one. So much loss. Our precious kids watched quietly, mine scuffling a little on a nearby bench.

They live out in the country. She was three months away from graduating when she had her baby last year. It was the clinicals portion, so it didn’t work out to finish although it would have meant a lot to her. Her husband prefers she not work, and she felt the pressure of being a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) with much responsibility while she noticed he enjoyed certain perks that came with his job. The joy and intelligence in her face also hinted at disappointment and longing for more.

I listened and prayed. What a neat person, I thought. When it seemed appropriate, I told her about the moms group that I enjoy (food, crafts, speakers, child care—all free) and asked if she would be interested in attending. She thought so, saying she was needing friends. Not much support system, especially since her mom died. She entered my info in her phone and then she was next in line. I noticed a pregnancy test at the bottom of her cart and wondered what was next in her complex life.

We parted with a wave and I almost skipped away. Then I looked at the time on my phone and realized I did not have time to pick up the few items on my list. I had specifically waited to return my purchase and combine my shopping so I would make the trip worthwhile. But as I walked out the doors and lifted my eyes to the western horizon, I realized just how special this trip was—more worthwhile than anything I could have bought.

The colors deepened as I drove along the highway back home. Sabbath had begun. The boys and I prayed for the family we had just met. I was content and joyful. What a way to begin the Sabbath, by being part of a special mission of courage and care for a mom whom God had not forgotten. Not ever.