We pulled into the gas station about an hour after we left Sonora and I realized my purse was not in the car.
I could feel the panic begin to climb and I could picture my purse hanging on the chair in Starbucks. I couldn't pull up the phone number fast enough. A young girl answered.
"I left my purse in your store an hour or so ago I told her." As the words rushed out I am sure I sounded crazy. "I left it on my chair. It's a big bag. White with black straps. It has bright colored birds on it. Do you see it?" My heart was racing.
"No Maam." The girl answered. "I don't see it."
I heard her talking to someone else over the phone. "Could someone have turned it in?" I asked. And I heard her answering someones else's coffee question. "Hello!" My voice was rising. "Can you check if someone turned it in?"
"No one turned it in Ma'am." She finally answered.
"Are you sure? Did you speak with everyone?"
My mind was now racing to catch up to the speed of my heart as the mental list I began to make of things in my purse got longer.
The girl comes back to the phone. "I spoke to everyone," The girl said sweetly. "Your purse isn't here, Ma'am, and no one turned it in. I'm really sorry."
I began to cry and the same instant I wondered if I could I have set it on the hood of the car? I'd done that before. Maybe it fell off and was lying in the parking lot. "Could you check the parking lot for me please, please?" I begged her, and I told her where we parked.
She comes back. "It's not there." She says. "I'm really sorry."
I gave her my name and phone number then put my head in my hands. I had to think.
When Paul and I travel by car, I constantly shuffle things from suitcase to computer bag to purse depending on what our day looks like. I tried to picture the contents of my purse that morning. ATM card, Amex, 120 dollars folded in the zipper pocket, Maui Jim's, eyedrops, sunscreen, wireless headphones, medication, Berts Bees, sunscreen, Were both my eyeglasses in there? My chargers?
"I have to call the bank," I told Paul, so he pulled away from the pump and parked in the shade.
"There was a charge about 30 minutes ago at a Mini-mart." The Union Bank representative said after we established that the last time I had used it was at Starbucks. "I will cancel the card for you now, Mrs. Payne, and I will flag this charge. But you'll need to call the bank again on Monday."
After I called American Express, I began to cry again. I wanted my things. I really really wanted them. How was I going to ride my bike without my sunglasses? How would I get through work this week without my organic sunscreen and lip stuff. Those things have to be ordered online. It would take days. My eyes began to hurt just knowing that I didn't have my eye drops and sunglasses.
"Well... Lord..." Paul began to pray. "Let the things in Pam's purse be a blessing to whoever took it. Use this for your good purpose." Then he reached over and squeezed my hand.
I couldn't join in the prayer. I didn't squeeze his hand back. I wasn't mad. I was the one who had left my purse on the seat. But I really wanted my things. I wanted them to bless me, not someone else. "My medication was in there, too." I told Paul.
We were headed in the direction of home, but our bikes were in the back of the truck and we had planned to spend the day riding them around the Yosemite Valley floor. We traveled in silence for the next several minutes. "Do you just want to go home?" Paul asked me.
"No." Was all I could say.
But the loss of my purse consumed me. I couldn't get past it. Could not let it go. And somewhere in the middle of all came the realization that God was all over it. It wasn't long before I began to see how tight I was holding onto certain things. How having or not having them had suddenly become a deciding factor in not just my comfort, but also my joy. I thought about Anne VosKamp's cry from her book, One thousand gifts, of "Euchristeo." Praise God in all things. Does "Praise" count if thoughts get stuck in your throat before they find their way into words? Does it count if Euchristeo comes from sheer obedience even when a heart isn't pure?
As I rode my bike through one of the most beautiful places in the world, I took pictures like I always do because this act is simply a part of me now. I see God everywhere. But the wonder and joy in it was gone.
Over the next few hours, God laid questions on my heart and deep hidden things began to surface as God's light swept out cobwebs from the darkest corners of its chambers. "Do you believe the things you say about me?" He asked.
"Oh Lord..." I began to cry again. "Don't I?"
"Do you believe I am sufficient for all that you need?"
His words went deep and they hurt because I suddenly wondered if I really did. "Help me Lord. I do believe you. I do trust you. Help me get past myself."
Tears rolled down my cheeks off and on for another hour or so as we rode our bikes past waterfalls and wildflowers and trees and mountains and beautiful light. The truth of God's words pierced my heart, and now, instead of grieving my things, my heart just broke from the things God showed me that it had held inside.
The ride home was quiet. "When we get home, order some new sunglasses and whatever else you need," Paul told me. "You're outside all day. There was nothing in your purse that can't be replaced."
He was right of course, and I did order sunglasses and a wireless ear piece that night, but I didn't feel like I deserved any of it. "I'm so sorry, Lord. I had no idea that stuff was in me."
God knew though, and He wanted me to see it. I know I needed to see it. Even in this season of walking intimately with Jesus, the Lord required a new examination of my heart. In that place, I knew it was God's desired plan that my purse remain in Starbucks.
The force of all this had finally run the gamut in my spirit and my flesh and I went to bed that night with peace. God was great and He loved me. I knew both those things without a doubt.
On Sunday, I shared this little chapter of my God written story with a few friends and had a quiet afternoon at home. That evening, I watered my garden, saw God's glory, and gave him praise.
Mid-morning Monday, my cell phone rang. "Honey." It was Paul. "I just got a call from the manager of the Starbucks in Sonora. They have your purse."
On Wed. a brown box was placed on my porch by a man wearing a brown uniform driving a brown truck. I opened the box. Inside was my purse. I wept as I realized the only thing missing were the five 20 dollar bills that I'd tucked inside the zipper pocket. Even the used ATM card had been put back in.
The man in brown may have delivered this package to my door, but I know my purse arrived home by the power of a God great enough to change the heart of a purse snatcher into a purse returner. I also believe that God had His way with the money they took out of it. "For His good purpose," just like Paul had prayed.
I wiped a tear away as the Holy Spirit laid a few more words upon my heart. "This is how much you are loved."
I can't fathom this kind of love any more than I can fathom why Jesus would put himself on a cross and die for me. But both of these unfathomable things are true.
As for me? I am a daughter with a swept out heart chamber soon to be filled up with more spiders and cobwebs. But I...Oh...I am very greatly loved.