Peggy and I were returning from a romantic 30th wedding anniversary weekend at Destin Beach. I had gone all-out to find a special B&B with a balcony suite that opened to a spectacular ocean view. We had surprised each other with little treasures that had obviously required forethought and planning. The waiter and pianist at a quaint waterfront restaurant had added special touches to make our anniversary dinner a memorable one. The five hour drive back to Atlanta was slipping by quickly as we reflected on past memories and savored the joyful prospects of facing the next 30 years together - still ministry partners, lovers and best friends. About an hour outside Atlanta as our discussion turned to the realities of the coming week, Peggy reached for her purse where she keeps her schedule book. "Where's my purse?" she gasped in a panicked voice as she probed around and under the front seat. After a frantic and vain search of every crevice in the car, in every bag and under every garment where a purse could possibly hide, Peggy began intensely retracing her movements that day. She remembered having it in Wendy's back in Eufaula, Alabama, where we had stopped for lunch two hours earlier. She remembered laying it on a chair at our table. That was the last time she could recall seeing it.
I handed Peggy my cell phone and she tracked down the number of the only Wendy's in Eufaula. The manager was courteous and sympathetic, even went out and checked the chairs in the dining area, but there was no purse to be found. Peggy's heart sank. Her credit cards, her check book, her keys, her phone, her driver's license… someone could have quite a spending spree at our expense. They would have the keys to our house and cars and know our address. She was sick. Without wasting another minute she called our credit cards 24-hour 800 numbers and immediately cancelled our accounts. She would have to wait until we reached home to get the number to cancel her cell phone. Closing the checking account would have to wait until Monday morning.
That was all Peggy could do for the moment - except punish herself for being so careless. As the remaining miles of our journey slipped by we settled into a depressing silence, scenarios of credit damage, home invasion and financial liabilities troubling our minds. Peggy was distraught. Her self-depreciating outbursts revealed to me how very angry she was with herself. For long miles I searched for the right words to offer her some measure of reassurance but most of them seemed either trite or patronizing. Finally I broke the silence with the only words of comfort that felt authentic. "Honey, God knows exactly where your purse is and God cares about you." I was relieved to see her take in a long breath, sigh deeply and release the matter - at least for the moment - into God's hands.
No more than 30 seconds had passed when we were startled by the ringing of my cell phone. We looked at each other with puzzled expressions. The phone was still turned on from Peggy's earlier calls but no one had my number except Peggy. The female voice on the other end asked hesitantly "Is this Peggy?" It was indeed Peggy! "Did you loose your purse?" The woman was calling from Eufaula. She had found Peggy's purse at Wendy's, and unsure that the restaurant personnel could be trusted, took it upon herself to find its owner and return it. At that moment she had pressed the auto-dial key on Peggy's phone that accessed my phone! We could hardly believe what we were hearing. Could it be that God was smiling as he surprised us with a gift so timely, so astounding as to render us nearly speechless? When the brief phone conversation ended, we sat in stunned silence, shaking our heads and smiling in wonderment.
A few days later, Peggy's purse arrived in the mail - keys, credit cards, check book, cell phone and schedule book all in place - just the way she had left it when she laid it on the window ledge at Wendy's in Eufaula. Mary Jackson did not want the reward Peggy offered her. She would receive her reward in heaven, she said.
Our romantic 30th wedding anniversary is one we will remember with much fondness - the walks on the beach, the candlelight dinner, the little unexpected delights we exchanged. And the unforgettable, serendipitous finale - a surprise anniversary gift from God.