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Cover Story


Stranded



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 Tiffany, wake up!” My mom stirred me.

“Uh?” I looked up groggily. I had been trying to catch up on my sleep, though I found it hard to nap in the backseat of our car.

“Tiffany, have you seen my purse?”

I moved the sleeping bag curled around me and shuffled through the bags of chips and empty soda bottles that had accumulated throughout our travels. My sister was searching the backseat as well.

A few weeks ago my parents had decided to take a road trip to Indiana to spend Thanksgiving with my mom’s family. However, this trip to Grandmother’s house was a lot more complicated than around the river and through the woods. Indiana was almost across the continent from our home in California.

After loading our car with luggage, snacks, and blankets, my parents had squeezed my sister and me into the two little holes left in the backseat. Then we took off, driving through the states and finally arriving at our destination.

We’d had a fun Thanksgiving, and now we were on our long trek back to California.

Lost purse

“I can’t find it,” I finally reported to my mom. I had climbed all around the car, searching every crevice. “Neither can I,” my sister seconded.

“Where do you last remember having it? Retrace your steps.” My father’s face betrayed his worry. Mom’s purse contained all the traveler’s checks and money we had brought on the trip.

My mom thought long and hard. Then she gasped. “The last time I remember having it was when we were at that gas station in Texas.”

That gas station in Texas was more than 200 miles away from the gas station in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we sat. Mom guessed that when she’d taken my sister and me for a potty break, she’d left her purse on the back of a toilet. So here we were, stranded without money.

While Mom and Dad tried to figure out what to do, Mom found $20 in the glove compartment. My dad bought $20 worth of gas, but we would need much more than that to get all the way home.

Mom and Dad made a couple calls and found out that the owners of the Texas gas station lived next door to the station in a trailer. They could unlock the restroom and see if the purse was inside. But they were out for the evening and wouldn’t be back until later that night.

After thinking through their options, my parents made the decision to go back to Texas and try to retrieve the purse. The trip would use up most of the gas we’d just bought, and if Mom’s purse wasn’t there, we’d be stuck in Nowheresville, Texas.

My family determined to lift up our situation to God in prayer. Up to this point the extent of my prayers had been morning and bedtime prayers and blessings for food. I’d never prayed so hard in my life.

Please, God

We sat almost completely silent through the trip back to Texas, which was amazing, since my sister and I weren’t exactly the quietest kids. The majestic desert of New Mexico, a sight that generally would have captivated my imagination, passed in a blur as I stared up to the sky praying, God, please let that purse be there.

After the long journey, we arrived at the little mom-and-pop gas station. Just as the highway patrol officer had said, there was a trailer next door. Leaving us in the car, my parents went up and knocked on the door.

A man in nightclothes answered. “Can I help you?” he asked, a little perturbed to be awakened in the middle of the night.

My parents explained the situation.

The man shook his head. “No one has turned anything in, and several people have been in that bathroom today. I don’t think you’re going to find anything in there.”

The man’s wife, who’d come to the door by this time, chimed in, “I cleaned the bathroom myself. I didn’t see any purse.”

After prodding from my parents, the couple reluctantly went to open the ladies’ room door. My mom went inside.

To everyone’s amazement, she came out with purse in hand. All the money, traveler’s checks, and other contents of the purse were intact, completely untouched.

The man and his wife stood there dumbfounded, their mouths open. I think my parents were a little shocked too. They must have expected that something, perhaps the cash, would have been taken from the purse, but everything was there!

We thanked the couple and God, and continued on our way home. I’d never experienced such a miracle. I wonder to this day how God chose to protect the purse. Maybe He made the purse invisible. Perhaps He made the door of that particular stall stick tight so no one could enter. Or maybe He touched the hearts of those who went in to leave the purse alone. No matter how He decided to protect it, He did. And we were thankful.

In the huge scheme of things, a missing purse and a stranded family can seem small beside problems such as war, disease, and death. But no matter how small our problem, God interceded and helped us that night.

As a kid, I witnessed firsthand the mighty power of God. And since then, I’ve never doubted miracles. 

 

This story won first prize in the Student Short Story category of the 1997 Insight writing contest and appeared in the February 14, 1998, issue. At that time Tiffany S. Taylor was a freshman biology major at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. Her home was in San Bernardino, California.

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