Bottle Return Blessings

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track…” Proverbs 3:9-10 (The Message)

Like many Americans, our family is on a tight budget. While it’s truly a blessing to have the money to buy groceries every month, I do what I can to find sales, use coupons and store programs like Mperks here in the Midwest to help cushion the budget. My husband got me started a few months ago thanking God ahead of time for the great deals He would provide and the blessings He would give instead of waiting until after the shopping is complete and seeing whether or not God came through. As a result, even on the days that I feel less optimistic because there aren’t as many coupons, not as many sales, or I haven’t any Mperks rewards to cash in, I try to remember to say, “Thank You for the successful trip” ahead of time. One week in September was such a week. Let me explain how God went over the top to show me He is the God of details…

I usually go shopping on Friday mornings after dropping off our youngest at school. Wednesday I received in the mail a rebate I had forgotten about in the form of a VISA card, for $12. I was happy because that was $12 I could add to help cushion my grocery bill two days later. Thursday night our youngest woke up from a sound sleep throwing up, which meant that he couldn’t go to school the following day. Bill and I agreed to let him sleep in as long as possible Friday morning and while I still had to grocery shop despite him missing school (no other time to do it) we realized he was just going to have to go with me as long as he had stopped getting sick. I took the time he slept in to work and by the time he got up and around, and was feeling slightly better, we left to go to the store later than my usual time. On the way out the door, I had grabbed our bottles, thinking it would give me an extra $1.50 to add to my savings. We don’t drink a lot of pop, so that’s a great amount of bottle return money for our family.

We got to the store and went to the bottle return area first since it has an entrance separate from the main store. All the sections were filled with people who had overflowing carts of empty bottles, so I settled in to wait for a while. While playing peek-a-boo with a little one who was “helping” his mama insert bottles into the machine, I noticed a man next to her wearing earbuds taking care of his own returns. He finished one bag and then turned to talk to me. I can’t always hear very well, so I thought he was asking me if I wanted to go ahead of him, having only 15 bottles to his two very full bags left. However, when I moved closer, I realized he was offering me the rest of his bottles if I wanted to stand and take care of them, because “I’m done…now I remember why I don’t do this very often. If you want them, you can have them.” I was shocked…and thankful. I made sure he was really offering that and when he agreed once again, thanked him profusely.

While standing there inserting plastic bottles into the machine, God whispered to me, “I can provide for you in ways you never even thought of. You think in terms of coupons and Mperks rewards and items on sale, all things you do, but I think in terms of giving you bottles from a stranger.” He then whispered, “And I want you to pray for the man too.” Guess how much I received from the returned bottles? $14.10. That was more than the VISA card I was so happy to have gotten in the mail earlier that week.

I knew right then that God was written all over this encounter. He allowed our son to get sick in the middle of the night (with no lasting effects) but then to sleep through the night. He prompted me to let him sleep in the next day and to grab 15 bottles to return on the way out our door. He also allowed it so that we arrived at the store in time to have an encounter with this particular man.

We walked into the store armed with our $14.10 bottle returns, other coupons, and Mperks and started shopping. This particular week shopping felt different than most weeks do. I always know God is with me, but that particular Friday it was as though God was walking up and down the aisles right beside me. Almost every item we needed to buy (or I wanted to bless my husband or kids with) was Buy One Get One Free or on sale and I had a coupon to add to the savings I was already receiving. Every time I saw that and placed the item in my cart, I said a quick prayer of thanks and moved onto the next item on my list.

I wasn’t sure how the final result would be, but I was trusting God and enjoying the “adventure” He was taking me on. While I’m no coupon diva or professional like you see on Extreme Couponing, checking out usually takes me quite a while. My total before the savings made me cringe slightly…it was more than I had hoped. However, by the time I had used all the savings God had provided for us, we had saved over $50 from what the total said, over $65 completely. Our grocery bill was the lowest it had been in years…and it was a full shopping trip. When I got home, I was able to fill up our fridge, freezer and cupboards with the food we needed and even a few things we “wanted” but weren’t necessities. And…the $12 VISA rebate I had received in the mail? Still in my pocket, waiting for our next grocery trip or maybe will be used to pay for something else we need in the future.

I’m not sure but I think God used the day of the bottle returns to teach me something far more important. That night I had a dream which left me feeling melancholy when I woke up. It was a dream about an experience that happened to me years ago, one I don’t think about very often. I talked to God during my quiet time the next day and wondered why I was dreaming about that now? Then I waited silently and God whispered this in return.

“Just as I orchestrated all the events yesterday to line up so that you would be in the right place at the right time and could receive the blessing of the $14 bottle returns, I have been orchestrating your days throughout your life to line up so you would be in the right place at the right time to receive the other blessings I’ve wanted to give you as well.”

That dream He allowed me to have reminded me how blessed I am to be married to the man God gave me. It reminded me that the man my parents prayed about for me all throughout my childhood was being raised into a godly man while I was being raised as the princess God designed. It reminded me that while my husband could have married anyone he wanted, he waited for me to share his life with. It reminded me that I am so blessed to be loved by a man who loves God first, then me, then his kids and finally everyone else. While neither of us is perfect, he is definitely perfect for my personality and that is such a blessing, directly from God.

It took the blessing of bottle returns and a melancholy dream to show me just how intimately God is involved in the details of my life.

Whatever you are going through in life, my friends, remember that God wants to direct your path as well. If you keep your eyes open, He might show you how much He loves guiding your details too.

© Cheri Swalwell 2019

 

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