“Hello... what are you doing in there?” ten-year-old Jenny Clovis' voice echoed as she hoisted herself over the edge of the trash dumpster, scraping her elbow and smudging her shorts.
"Wait just a minute!" Jenny hollered as she scooted back down and went to look for something she could use to fish out the worthless-looking object. She came back carrying a long stick with a notch at the end.
“C’mon, don’t worry, I’ve got you now! You’ll be fine!”
It was late August and though the sidewalk blazed white in the summer heat, Jenny’s bare feet were tough enough so she hardly noticed. She skip-hopped the half-block toward home. Clutching her find, she flung herself in, banging the screen door behind her.
“Oh, for gosh sakes, girl, now what have you dragged in?” Lucy, Jenny's mother glanced up, not really expecting an answer. With the back of her hand she nudged an escaping blonde tendril from her brow and took the doll from her daughter,
“Oh my, you are a mess aren’t you? Have you picked out a name yet, Jen?”
“Oh, I think 'Perpetua'.” Jenny had already begun to dab at the doll's face with a half-soaped, pink washcloth.
Lucy stirred the pan of oatmeal, plopped a large helping into a bowl and set it down for Jenny. “Now where on earth did you get a name like Perpetua?”
"Oh no, not that again, Mom, I'm tired of oatmeal. Can't we have something else? Besides it's too hot for hot cereal!"
"Now Jenny, you know Jesus promises to provide our needs, not necessarily our wants! We have to be thankful for His provision, whatever it might be!"
“Thank you, Jesus for all your pro-vizhun!” Jenny unfolded her hands, reached for her spoon and started to eat from the steaming bowl. “I dreamed it!”
“You what? You dreamed it?” Distracted by many things, Lucy only half listened.
“Yeah, Mom. I mean Yes, Ma’am! Can I have some sugar on top? I just now remembered; last night I dreamed I found a doll exactly like this one and an angel called her Perpetua.”
“May I have some sugar, PLEASE. An angel, huh. And where was this angel and how did you know. . . it was one?”
Lucy bent to kiss the top of her daughter's damp head before she sank down across the table from her. “Whew! I could use an angel about now!” Hoping to still her churning thoughts, she closed her eyes a moment, resting her head in palms of both hands, her elbows on the table.
Suddenly Lucy gasped, her heart racing, her mouth dry as dust. A light so bright it penetrated her closed eyelids as if they were nothing filled the room. She fell to her knees, then prostrated herself, her arms outstretched and flat to the floor.
But Jenny sat unmoving, quiet as a sleeping bird. Later she would tell her mother she heard a 'splash' of music or words - she was unsure which - that sounded like round golden bells falling on water.
What Lucy heard was like nothing she could describe. Both mother and daughter understood though; they knew they must follow the Word.
“You are Perpetua,” was the message imprinted upon their minds. “You were unclean, ragged and filthy like this old cloth doll, but now because of my words you are pure, white, and sparkling clean.
"And just as you, Jenny, plucked Perpetua out of the trash pile in the dumpster, so have I chosen the two of you out from the world! From henceforth forever, you belong to Me.”
Then Lucy and Jenny were made aware the good Light and Voice were no longer present and they awoke as out of a dream.
Jenny's eyes flew open and immediately she reached for Perpetua, “Mommy, Mommy, look! she's like brand new. How beautiful she is. See how bright her colors are? And oh, Mommy, you are beautiful, too. Am I beautiful?”
"Yes, darling, you are beautiful! But then, to me you always have been.” Lucy hugged Jenny and Jenny, in turn, squeezed her doll.
Jenny propped Perpetua against an artificial ivy and picked up her spoon. The sugar had melted into the oatmeal, brown and syruppy and delicious-looking.
Jenny paused a moment, spoon poised midair, eyes as curious and soft as a young doe. "Guess what, Mom? Even my oatmeal is beautiful!"
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