As the days grew warmer, it became obvious that we could not put off a trip to the shopping centre much longer. Our two children needed new summer clothes.
Some months earlier, we had started the practice of praying in the car park before we went into the shops. We always prayed the same prayer. "Please God, help us to find the items we need at the best possible prices and please prevent us from wasting any of the money we have on things we can do without."
On this trip, we prayed as usual and confidently entered the shopping centre, knowing God was with us. However, my faith was tried almost as soon as we walked through the doors, as the girls announced they wanted to look around Esprit--a relatively expensive shop, selling lovely clothes for children and teenagers, just the sort of things my kids really liked.
What should I do? Should I go in and risk them being disappointed at not being able to have something they had set their hearts on? Or would it be better to put my foot down now, explaining that there was nothing in the shop we could afford?
As we rounded the corner, the girls saw huge signs in the Esprit shopwindows and cried out enthusiastically, "There's a sale on." So in we went.
As we wandered from rack to rack looking for bargains, a salesgirl approached us with a small pile of silver-coloured cards. "Would you like one of these?" she asked, handing each of us a card.
Mystified, we took them, not knowing what they were. "They're like 'scratchies'," she explained. "You scratch off the silver coating and it will tell you what reduction in price you will receive today. It could be anything from 15 to 75 per cent off the usual price."
We all excitedly began scratching away. I had 25 per cent off and so did Arabella, my older daughter but when 11-year-old Abi scratched the silver coating off hers, we saw an almost unbelievable "75 per cent off everything in the store" written underneath.
For a few moments all was confusion. We didn't know where to start. But slowly the truth dawned: we could buy all the clothes we needed for a fraction of the usual price. We walked around in a kind of daze, saying, "We can afford this, this and even this," gathering up all the summer clothes we wanted for this year and next. We bought a pair of jeans for $12, reduced from $84, beautiful T-shirts for $5 each, as well as pants, shorts and a blouse. Everything we had hoped for and more.
Of course, some might say it was just a coincidence. After all, someone had to get the big prize but we knew different. God was looking after us yet again.
And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't he more surely care for you? You have so little faith! Matthew 6:28-30.
Elizabeth Yap is married with two teenage daughters and lives in Sydney, New South Wales.