“Must be nice not to have to struggle to pay the bills and have whatever you want,” the woman muttered, as she watched the television jackpot winner being awarded a sizeable check.
Careworn Jackie Winters grabbed her keys and sailed out the door for her night shift at the factory. She continued to fume while she climbed into the “beater” car, a fifteen-year old relic, while her next-door neighbors’ brand new, shiny jeep seemed to jeer at her rattling down the street. So intent Jackie was worrying over her finances, she failed to notice God’s paintbrush spanning the horizon as the sun lowered in the western sky.
Six hours later, Jackie escaped the noisy machines for her outdoor break, trying to enjoy her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and carrot sticks. In the distance, she could hear the crowds at the local fair as the carousel music floated across the field. Her heart ached as memories of too few such excursions with her young children played in her head like old home movies. They were all grown now and far away, making their own careers and families. They had good, stable jobs, if not lucrative ones, but she refused to accept assistance from them.
“I’m not going to pick their pockets now when Stan and I deprived them of frills when they were young. They need all they can to give their own children what we couldn’t give them.”
She continued brooding over the past until the factory buzzer rang. Failing to see the thousands of twinkling stars dotting the darkening sky or the beauty of the moonbeams playing across her path, Jackie thought of her twelve grandchildren so far away. Her friends were forever bragging about daily contact with their grands . . .
On the way home, a weary Jackie stopped by local coffee shop for a cup of coffee and a muffin. She parked next to a shiny Jeep, again lamenting the sorry condition of her own car.
“What are the odds—it’s Julie’s,” her classy neighbor sitting alone at a corner table, sporting name brand clothing and designer sunglasses.
Something about Julie’s demeanor as she sipped her coffee, though, tugged at Jackie’s heart.
“Hey, neighbor. Can I join you?”
The two women conversed for awhile, glitzy elegance next to plain and ordinary, sharing meaningless conversation. The waitress had left their bill tucked discreetly halfway between them on the café table. Julie’s long, designer manicured and polished nails snagged the paper first and she removed her sunglasses to read the amount, wincing as the clasped receipt scraped across her battered face. Jackie involuntarily gasped at her friend’s blackened eyes and bruised cheekbones unsuccessfully covered with makeup.
“Jules, what happened to you?!”
“I ran into a freight train named Ron,” this reference to her husband’s abuse a reality that shook Jackie.
It seemed this wasn’t the first time Julie had been attacked, but she was going to make it the last time by choosing to go to a battered women’s shelter for help. The two women prayed together and a thoughtful Jackie returned home.
“Wow, Lord. Thank you for blessing me with a kind, loving husband,” entering her humble home where the smell of a hot supper prepared by him sat on the stovetop.
The next day, the neighbors’ car didn’t look as shiny anymore, and Jackie’s car, after a good cleanup that morning, didn’t seem so bad.
At break time that same day, young Katherine followed Jackie outdoors.
“Hi, Katy! Hey, I noticed you were having trouble at your machine. Are you feeling okay?”
“I just need a breather . . . are the stars out tonight?”
Confused, Jackie looked up at the brilliantly studded sky, diamonds against black velvet.
“I can’t see them anymore,” Katherine continued, “the specialist says it’s only a matter of time before these glasses won’t work for me, even for close up stuff. Don’t tell the supervisor, okay? I’ll be losing my job soon enough . . .”
Jackie spent the weekend ignoring her unbalanced budget and sat outdoors in the sunshine, marveling at the beauty of God’s creation.
“Thank you, God, for eyes that can see . . .”
Monday, Jackie’s station partner called in sick.
“Zach has a fever and Jan can’t take anymore time off from her job,” Lacey explained with a sigh, “Don’t get me wrong—I love the grandkids, but sometimes I envy you, Jackie. At least you’re separated by enough miles . . .”
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