Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
It was Thanksgiving Tuesday. 2002. I had just had my last of three miscarriges, my fourth pregnancy loss. I was wearing the charm bracelet that my sister-in-law, Sarah, had so carefully assembled for me to remember each baby. A pair of baby shoes and an aquamarine charm for our first loss in March 2000. A little girl and a ruby charm for our Elise, born still at full-term in July 2001. A ball cap and a peridot charm for our August 2002 loss (which we knew was a boy). And then a little Mommy and child charm with an April stone for our most recent loss on November 15, 2002 — a little girl we were so certain would make it because she was such a surprise. I wore all those to Super Walmart for some Thanksgiving bounty.
I was leaving — picking up some last minute produce that I forgot — and I looked down to see my entire charm bracelet falling apart. Every charm except the first two were gone along with all the beads in-between. I retraced my steps, and the disassembly had started somewhere around the Pepsi, but it had really collapsed in the produce. I picked up what I could see, but there were many beads underneath the grape and lettuce displays. If I just had a broom. . . .
I looked around for an “associate.” As usual, there was no one to be found. Except at the Deli counter. I explained that I just needed a broom to pick my charms. She obviously was unimpressed, but she faked a phone call to someone out of my range of hearing and then told me they were on their way. A lie. No one came. It felt like my family — or what was left of it — was scattered on the filthy floor among the raisiny cherry tomatoes, and no one would help me.
Fine. I marched to the cleaning aisle and grabbed my own broom. If they aren’t going to help me, I’ll use someone else’s yet-to-be-purchased broom. If you were also there at Walmart that day, you saw me — grey, stretchy skirt and all — sprawled out on that icky floor. The ruby charm. The little girl. The mommy/child charm had been run over by a grocery cart, but no matter. It looked fine. I retrieved all the charms but one — the peridot stone.
I looked and looked and looked. I prayed. Hard. The stone could be replaced, I’m sure. But I didn’t want a replacement. I wanted that one. I spent several minutes there, weeping, praying. I set time limits for myself that I kept breaking.
Finally, a nice grandpa and his tween grandson asked what was up. A friend! I explained that I had lost a green stone charm somewhere here, gesturing broadly toward the tomato display. The gentleman in the grandpa and the treasure-hunter in the grandson were intrigued, and they looked with me, all of us hoping that new sets of eyes might see something fresh.
They finally but kindly gave up, and the grandpa offered some ideas as we stood next to the bagged lettuce. “You should tell the manager. Maybe they’ll find it when they clean up?” he suggested. I said with tears in my eyes but grasping at humor, “You think they clean up here?” He smiled sympathetically. I’m sure he saw the tears. I said again, “I know it was somewhere here!” I gestured again and looked down. There it was. Hidden among the wilted lettuce pieces. “There! There it is!!!!” The tears and smiles came easily now. I said, “Thank you so much. If you hadn’t come along, I would have given up earlier. Thank you. You have no idea what this bracelet means to me.”
I left that night exhausted and exhilarated. God helped me find that last little green charm among the same-colored garbage. He kept me looking when I was discouraged, brought along an unmet friend when I needed support, and put my foot right where I’d see it. It wasn’t infinitely important, but it was important to me. I look at that bracelet now — I wear it only to church these days since it’s becoming so chock-full of memorials — and remember how much God loves me. He has looked for each of us on the dusty floors and under the seemingly more important commercial displays until He found us. And He commissions an angel choir to rejoice with Him when He does find us.
It makes no sense. To a detached deli clerk, it’s just more material goods that are easily replaced. It’s hardly worth the effort. But in love, those little memories are everything. In Grace, material worth is insignificant. A lost son, lost sheep, or a lost coin — God pursues us even when we have given up ourselves.