We went out to dinner tonight.  We were going to go to a buffet place that I love and that DH is not-so-very-fond of, but when we got there, the lines were incredibly long and I didn’t feel like shuffling through various lines to fill my plate.

          We ventured across the street to Red Lobster, though we both knew that meant spending more than originally planned or anticipated.  After about a 10 minute wait, we were seated, with Skeeter still screeching in protest of his empty belly.

          Those oh-so-fabulous Cheddar Bay Biscuits arrived and he settled down a bit.  There were some quiet couples seated around us, and DH and I just kept looking at each other, wondering how other people were taking Skeeter’s wailing banshee impressions.

          Before our main course arrived, the couple that was seated next to us prepared to leave and dropped a check on our table.  "Here’s your check."  I was a bit baffled and couldn’t find my tongue to voice the fact that we hadn’t even gotten our meals yet.  Before I could sputter anything too embarrassing, a gentlemen and red-headed woman were standing by our table, next to Skeeter’s high chair.  They proceeded to explain to us that our check had been paid for. 

               

         

          Complete.  Strangers.  Paid.  Our.  Check.

         The gentlemen explained that he was also a young parent, who had 5 children and he remembers very well what it is like to provide for small mouths and bodies.  It made him happy to see us out and about with our children.  It was that simple. 

          My face was red-hot and I can only imagine how red my cheeks must have been.  We thanked them and asked Mega to say thank you as well, but he turned shy and refused with a smile on his face.  We thanked them again and they went on their way.

          Their waitress told us that they do that every time they come in – they pick a table and pay the bill.  How many things had to fall into place for it to be our night?  We ate later than usual, and it was made even later by my refusal to be a part of a cattle call for our evening meal.  We waited and were sat at that particular table, in a restaurant that is bigger than most others we frequently patronize.  Aside from humbling me once again, it just made me think.

          The very first thing that came to mind was God walking amongst us every day.  Was it God who so kindly paid our bill and talked to us about our family?  "Your bill has already been paid."  Was He telling me that my sins, however horrible, secretive, and guilt-inspiring, have already been forgiven?  Was it a gentle reminder that He believes in us even when we don’t believe in Him?  So many ways to see the same picture…  Perhaps I see what I want.  But how odd that me, who is having such trouble with faith, would first see God in this simple act of kindness.  How odd that someone so skeptic didn’t see this as a sign to quit while we are ahead – to give up on more children because even complete strangers see our struggle.  How very striking that I would jump to God…

          It also made me remember that God helps those who help themselves.  We’ve paid our bills on time, in full and so rarely have anything left over that it is very nice when we can afford to go to such a place and not have to use our credit cards – which we were both a bit happy to see that we could skip the credit cards on this night out.  Was that Him winking at our efforts?

          You get what you give.  We’re not rich people when it comes to the balance in the checkbook.  We volunteer, we help others when we can, and just about every chance we get, we donate food or clothing to shelters, thrift stores, and other places of need.  As a doula, I plan to take several clients per year, free of charge.  We try very hard to share with others what we have, little though it may be.

          Never give up on your dream.  When they said they had raised 5 children and knew what the struggle was like, it gave me new hope that we could add to our family.  If it is meant to be, it will be as long as we keep ourselves open to such possibilities. 

          Happiness isn’t having what you want; happiness is wanting what you have.  We don’t have a big house with a sprawling yard, or 6 digit incomes, or even 2 incomes.  While it is true that there is rarely anything left after the bills are paid, the bills are paid.  There is always food in the house, a roof over our heads, and every other need we have is more than adequately met.  What more could we really ask for?  Yes, it is a rare event when we can eat out and pay for it out of our checking account rather than on a credit card, but it makes us truly appreciate it that much more

          Yes, I would like more children.  Yes, I would like to own a home and have a yard for the children to play in.  Yes, I would like to have my college degree and a midwifery practice of my own.  But you know something?  What I have ain’t too shabby.  It might be small compared to some, but DH and I have earned every bit of it – the good, the not-so-good, and the bad.  We might not to be millionaires, or even the Jones that others strive to keep up with.  But you know what?  We’re happy. 

          Like a beautiful mosaic, I keep replaying and reliving the night’s events and each time, I see it a bit differently.  One thing remains constant – with each look, I see kindness and sincerity.

         Thank you, lovely couple at Red Lobster.  Thank you for dinner, but more importantly, thank you for reminding us of a few very important things.  One day, we hope to be able to do the same for others – to pay it forward.  Thank you.

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