Shrinking sales sliced my husband’s commission income in half. We trimmed luxury items from the family budget. That meant going without my favorite cologne until business improved. I drained the last bottle a few weeks before the Christmas season. We earmarked spare pennies for gifts for the kids, food and holiday travel. My husband, Doug, and I decided to forego buying gifts for each other.
A few months before Christmas, Helen began attending our church. I introduced myself and found she had emigrated from Poland at the end of the Second World War, leaving all family members behind. At 63, without children, relatives or husband, she filled her days with prayer and Bible reading. Helen sat alone in church each Sunday, her need for friendship obvious. On the Monday before Christmas, I arranged a luncheon at my home for a few older women from church. I invited Helen, hoping she would make friends.
Helen arrived for the lunch with a hostess gift –a plate of Christmas baking and a small wrapped package, chocolates I assumed. During our afternoon visit, Helen told the others about her journey to Canada, which included a two-year stopover in Germany. Ilse, another guest, originally from Germany, remembered the transition camp where Helen had lived. A bond developed between them.
My guests listened in wonder as Helen told how she recently came to know Jesus alone in her bedroom while reading a Gideon Bible. Others shared their stories of hardship and God’s faithfulness. Hours passed without a lull in conversation. New friendships blossomed.
The women left my home late in the afternoon. I hurriedly prepared a meal for my family. After dinner, clean-up completed, I remembered the little beribboned box from Helen. I opened it expecting to enjoy a delicious chocolate with a relaxing cup of tea. Instead, I unwrapped a bottle of my favorite fragrance. I stared at it wondering how Helen knew of my preference for that particular cologne. Even my husband, who had purchased it several times, couldn’t remember its name. Helen hadn’t visited my home before that day and our short conversations hadn’t touched the subject of cologne.
I phoned to thank her for the gift. “How did you know that was favorite cologne?” I asked.
She told how she’d been shopping in a large department store, walking back and forth amongst dozens of bottles at the perfume counter. “I simply asked Jesus to show me which one to buy for you,” she said. “And He led me to that one.”
That day in the department store, God shared a little secret about me with Helen. Nothing is hidden from Him. And, from time to time, he reveals our needs and desires to others. The cologne wasn’t a need, it was an icing on the cake kind of gift. I dabbed a little behind my ears and basked in the aroma of God’s love.
Helen’s gift was a reminder that when challenges come I might think he’s forgotten my name and address but He even remembers my preferred brand of cologne.