Thrift Store “Signs”

From Mary K~

Mary and I have taken on this co-writing book project with another partner, the God that guides us. Besides our shared interest in writing (letter and otherwise), we share a love of God, tea, reading, and stationery. And though both of us love a good thrift store, it could be said that as a mother of eight and a former eBay seller, I am master at the art of thrift-store shopping. In fact, my husband and I often spent time in thrift stores as part of our “date days.” I mention this in my book, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace (Familius, October 2014):

“At a Goodwill store just weeks before David’s death I’d lamented the lack of vintage stationery—the dearth of paper products in our thrift store adventures.
     “No one writes letters anymore,” I’d said. “So why don’t I ever find vintage paper and stationery here?”
      David had just smiled at the simplicity of his wife’s desires.
      The first time I visited a Goodwill store after David’s death, I couldn’t believe my eyes as I walked up and down the same aisles he and I had frequented together. At every turn, on nearly every shelf, there was something that caught my eye. That first solo trip, I filled a cart with books on grieving, boxes of stationery, pads of paper, scented candles, and pretty baskets. My eyes practically bugged out of my head when I spotted a flock of small bird statues similar to the ones David had given me the previous Christmas. It was as if someone had personally stocked the shelves with me in mind. I left the store in tears, holding bags of merchandise that felt like gifts from above. While I’d rarely seen stationery in my thrift store trips with David, after his death I couldn’t stop finding paper. There seemed to be no end to the books, cards, and stationery available.
     And I bought it all.” (page 70)

It was true that for two years after my husband’s death, I was finding stationery at every Goodwill I visited, filling several drawers and cabinets with the bounty. I now have enough stationery stocked away that I could write ten letters every day for the rest of my life and still not deplete the supply. Of course paper-lovers will understand that there is no such thing as “too much stationery,” and there is never enough. Two years after David’s death however, the abundance of stationery available at thrift stores abruptly stopped. The first time I left a shop without stationery, I thought it was a fluke, but after several months of not finding paper, I knew the source had dried up and it was back to normal in regards to my thrift store trips. By that time I had realized I would never be able to fill the hole that David had left with paper, anyway. Though I was extremely disappointed by the lack of stationery, it was eleven-year-old Abby who questioned it.

“Doesn’t God, or Daddy, still care about us? You don’t find stationery and I don’t find Littlest Pet Shop toys anymore.” (she’d been finding LPS toys at every thrift store we shopped, just as I was finding the stationery)

I pondered the valid question a moment before I answered.

“I think we were finding so many of the things we loved for those two years because we needed it more then. It means we are healing. God brings us what we need when we need it.”

In a similar vein, Mary and I have seen and experienced signs that God is blessing this book. We begin our writing sessions with prayer and ask for God’s guidance in who we are to approach for a guest essay. We have followed God’s leading in our choice of chapter topics. Repeatedly, we have gotten together and agreed on a topic or idea we thought the other had broached, only to discover that neither of us had brought it up. Where did that idea come from?

So, it has been nearly eight months since I have felt God’s hand in my thrift store forays. Until yesterday, that is. The first thing I spotted on a shelf  at Goodwill was the “Circle Journey” box. “Keep in touch. Write back & forth with someone special in a Circle Journey book. Capture life with words, images, energy and heart,” the words on the front of the box proclaimed. Inside are envelopes, photo corners, stickers, idea starter and a 60-page, Circle Journey book. “Start a Circle Journey book with a friend. Send it back and forth…then keep it forever,”  I continued reading on the back of the box. What an amazing idea in this world of e-mails and texting!  What a perfect idea for Mary and I, was my thought before I moved on to the bookshelves. The book I picked up first was The Friendships of Women, by Dee Brestin, a book we had compared ours to in the book proposal. I’d borrowed it through inter-library loan, so was glad to find a copy for my own bookshelf. I felt a chill go down my spine when in rapid succession, I added Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole, Pen Pals by Olivia Goldsmith, The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene, and Tea Time with God to my cart.

What is going on? I wondered. These are all books related to things Mary and I will be writing about: letter writing, friendship, and yes, tea. We are often drinking tea as we write, and mention it frequently in our letters. I smiled to myself, seeing these books as a sign that God is blessing our endeavor. The only thing missing is stationery, I thought wryly.

You guessed it. The next thrift store was a goldmine of stationery. Not one box, but matching boxes of cheery blue stationery with hot air balloons and a “Have a bright ‘n breezy day” greeting, priced at a mere 49-cents a box, a bounty I will share with Mary. There was a package of lovely flower print paper and envelopes, with a butterfly at the top and bumblebees at the bottom, both full of significance for me, 88-cents and my next choice for a letter to Mary. Then there was the Main Street Press stationery folio for 99-cents and a huge bag of notepads and another filled with designed printer paper, along with a box of vintage Normal Rockwell print stationery. For less than $10 total, I was blessed with a gift that will bring me (and the recipients of my future letters) joy for months.

thrift store finds 005

And once again, I am given a sign in my thrift store finds. God is, indeed, in this “Mary & Me” project.

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