Shrinking sales had sliced my husband’s commission income in half. We trimmed luxury items from the family budget. That meant I had to go without my favourite perfume until business improved. I drained the last bottle a few weeks before Christmas.
We earmarked spare dollars to buy 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 learned she had emigrated from Poland at the end of World War II, leaving all her family members behind.
At 63, without children, relatives or a husband in a new country she now called home, she filled her days with prayer and Bible reading. Helen sat alone in church each week, 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 might make friends.
Helen arrived for the lunch with a gift: a plate of Christmas baking and a small, wrapped package. Chocolates, I assumed.
During the visit, Helen told the others about her journey from Poland, 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 had recently come to know Jesus alone in her bedroom while reading a Gideon Bible. Others shared stories of hardship and God’s faithfulness. Hours passed without a lull in the conversation. New friendships blossomed.
The women left my home late in the afternoon. I hurriedly prepared a meal for my family. After dinner, the cleanup completed, I remembered the little box from Helen.
I opened it, expecting to enjoy a delicious chocolate. Instead, I unwrapped a bottle of my favourite perfume. I stared at it, wondering how Helen could have known about my preference for that particular scent.
I phoned to thank her for the gift. “But how did you know that was my favourite perfume?” I asked.
She told me that she’d been shopping in a large department store and had walked back and forth inspecting the 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 had shared a little secret about me with Helen.
Nothing is ever hidden from God, and from time to time He reveals our needs and desires to others. The perfume wasn’t a need. It was an icing-on-the-cake kind of gift, a frivolous add-on. After we hung up, I dabbed a drop or two behind my ears and basked in the aroma of God’s love.
Helen’s gift of my favourite perfume let me know that in all our difficulties, God is with us. The perfume was His way of saying, “Your present challenges might tempt you to think I’ve abandoned you, but in the midst of the challenge, I’m right here with you!”