When I saw her standing in front of the frozen gluten free breads' case, I assumed she was buying for her grandchildren. As I stood next to her trying to decide what to buy, she spoke...
Sandy: So, you do gluten free, too?
Me: Oh. Yes. Actually, my three children and I all eat gluten free because of Celiac disease.
Sandy: (in a very animated 70 year old Texas lady sort of way) Well, good for you. My husband was recently in the hospital 8 times in 9 months, and the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with him. He lost 55 pounds and was just so sick. They were about to open him up for surgery when I decided to take him home and figure out what was wrong with him myself. I got on the internet and looked up his symptoms. I took him to get tested for Celiac, and that's exactly what it was!
Me: Wow. That's great.
Robert and kids are standing nearby watching this exchange in a very congested lane intersection of the store. Sandy and I kept having to re-adjust our positions in order to continue our conversation.
Sandy: He's been back in the hospital twice because of cross-contamination. He's very sensitive to gluten, and we have to be so careful. It's difficult. You know this gluten and Celiac thing is so prevalent and the doctors just don't want to believe it. And it can cause so many different problems, and so many people just don't want to hear it.
Me: Well, at least it's an issue that can be resolved without surgery and drugs. I think of that as a blessing. And isn't it great that you were finally able to figure out what was wrong with him!
Sandy: Oh yes, so glad he doesn't need surgery and medication. And honey, it wasn't me that discovered it. It was all GRACE. Those who have eyes to see will see, and those who have ears to hear will hear.
Me: YES ~ grace! I know. That's how I discovered it in my son, too. The Lord showed me and led me to the answer. I was so thankful.
Mid-stream in this response, Sandy reached up with her right hand and pulled my face close to her as if she needed to tell me a secret. Then ~ she kissed me on the cheek! I was shocked, but so blessed. All at the same time, I giggled at her gregariousness, and fought tears over her kindness, her friendliness. I hoped she didn't think I was mocking her, because I wasn't. I was just SO tickled over this spontaneous friendship with a complete stranger that was happening in this birthplace of Whole Foods ~ Austin, TX, that I couldn't control the giggles.
She chatted a while longer, and then said a quick goodbye before heading off to do more shopping. I made my way to the checkout line with Robert, Kory, and Kayla. (Cooper was at his first basketball practice.) We all marveled together at what had just happened, and it was during those moments in the checkout line that I felt a strong nudge to go and find her again and ask her if I could send her a book. While my family checked out and waited in the store's cafe, I went to find Sandy. (I didn't even know her name at the time.) I found her easily...
Sandy: WHY????? Oh honey, why would you want to live THERE????
Me: (laughing) Well, my husband is a pastor there. We moved there about 13 years ago to plant the church.
Sandy: Well, then it ought to be planted by now and you can come HOME! You are coming back home now aren't you?
Me: No, we're just on a 3 month sabbatical. The Lord is doing great things at our church in Massachusetts. The church is full of college students and twenty/thirty-somethings, and He is really at work among them. It was just time for us to take a little break.
Sandy: Oh, I know. I understand. Obedience is better than sacrifice. You've got to obey.
Then she kissed me on the cheek again! I told her that I had written a book for children about Celiac disease, and asked if she would mind giving a complete stranger her home address, so that I could send her a copy. She gladly wrote it down for me, and asked to have my address as well. It was at this point that we finally exchanged names. It was also at that point that she asked me to pray for her son, who had been in ministry at a large church in Tennessee, but was now living back at home and feeling a bit lost and disillusioned.
Sandy: I want you to know that this is the first time in two years that I have asked anyone to pray for him, but I'm asking you. OK?
Me: OK. Yes, I will pray for him. And thank you again for your kindness. I will send you a book soon.
In parting, she reminded me about a gluten free store nearby who's owner is also a mom who wrote about her son's struggle with and then healing from ADHD/Autism Spectrum through a gluten free diet. She encouraged me to take my book by there also. Sandy said a sweet goodbye, and then I caught up with Robert and kids in the cafe. A few seconds later, Sandy walked through the cafe on the way to the bathroom and waved to all of us.
Kayla wanted to take a quick look in the Old Navy store nearby, so we headed in that direction while Kory and Robert took our grocery bags to the van. At one point, I glanced behind me and saw Robert not too far behind us on the sidewalk on the way to Old Navy. I didn't see him in the store right away, but simply assumed he was looking in the men's section and out of our sight. A while later, he found me in the store...
Robert: The woman you were talking to in Whole Foods tracked me down on the way over here and gave me this.
He passed some folded money into my hand. I slowly unfolded it to discover a $100 bill.
Robert: She said she wanted to give me something....for Christmas. Then she changed her mind and said that she and her husband had recently felt there was too much paganism in our Christmas celebrations, so she adjusted her wording to say she just wanted to give me something.....for me, for us.
Me: Oh. My. Goodness. That is just crazy. Did she say anything else?
Robert: No. She just grabbed my arm and said goodbye and walked away.
"The natives (hee hee) showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in, and because of the cold, they kindled a fire, and received us all."
Acts 28: 2
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."
Galations 5: 22-23
"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!"
It was Sandy's kindness that made me richer than I was before. Her generosity of spirit superseded her generosity of resources. What a Christlike generosity ~ kindness and abundant provision all wrapped up in one person. Feeling very rich to have had this encounter ~ even after spending a small fortune at Whole Foods. Only in Texas?!?!