When I was a kid my family had basically no money. My parents both had paper routes at various intervals throughout my childhood in addition to my dad's day job, and until I was in high school we lived in the same rented house with cracked walls and moldy bathrooms, renting out our spare room to relatives or friends from church. Sometimes when we went to our favorite salad buffet restaurant my parents would send my brother and me ahead to find seats right before they reached the register. Now I know they did it so they wouldn't have to pay for us.
I remember asking once when I was very young, "Mom? When are things not going to be ‘tight’ anymore?" I had started to notice that money was always "tight" until the end of the week, "tight" until the end of the month, "tight" until after Christmas, and my innocent mind wondered when the low hum of tension around our household would let up once and for all. She grimaced and then laughed. "I don't know, sweetheart. I don't know..."
We were deeply knit into a church community and our friends helped out when they could-- buying school uniforms for me when I transitioned out of homeschooling in fifth grade, presenting my little brother with a special bike he could ride with his handicapped feet, babysitting so my parents could have a date night. We probably couldn't have survived without the help of relatives and friends who stepped in to offer their time and finances. But despite the wealth of support we received, there’s one gift I remember most.
I was in middle school when I heard my parents talking in the kitchen about an envelope. Someone had left a small, bumpy package for us in the church foyer, and when my mom finally opened it at our kitchen table something glimmered inside. It was a ring. Soft rubies sprinkled with two tiny diamonds on a gold band. There was an anonymous note inside explaining that our benefactor knew we had been having a difficult time and wanted us to have the bauble. We could pawn it, sell it, keep it, whatever we wanted-- they, whoever they were, just wanted us to have it.
My parents had the ring appraised that week and pondered what to do with it. There were bills to pay, birthdays coming up, maybe we could get cable again? The ring wasn't worth enough to solve all our problems, but it could certainly take a few things off our budgetary to-do list.
Then one night a few weeks later, I was ironing in the garage when my mom stepped out onto the cool concrete and said she wanted to talk. Over the ironing board she told me that she and my dad had decided they wanted me to have the ring. She placed the sparkling trinket in my chubby sixth grade hand and said,
“We want you to have this ring because we want you to remember that no matter what happens, God will always, always provide for you.”
I’ve been wearing the ring a lot lately, drawn not only to its rich pink floral sparkle, but in some subconscious way the promise it carries. Money has been scarce, this time of my life often feels hopeless and unending, and sometimes I can’t imagine ever being able to unpack my suitcase for good… But when I see the glimmer on my hand today, 15 years after it was left in an envelope to help my family pay bills, something in me remembers that provision is all around, and a gorgeous surprise could be just a minute away. Anything could happen. Diamonds could happen! When I look at my ring I see that God not only takes care of me, he takes care of me beautifully.
Provision became a promise. And I haven’t forgotten.