“Hello, my dear.” I knew the voice very well. I turned around and saw a sweet smiling face.
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Johnson.” The dear woman never fails to speak to me when I enter her shop of organic, home-grown vegetables, fruit, and soaps and candles.
I nearly begged my mother, earlier that day, if I could have stayed home and watched the pot of soup, while she went to the store. She told me that it would be good for me to get out, since I always had a book in my hands.
“Why, my child, do you avoid good Mrs. Johnson?” Mama often asked me this question. “She has a treasure hold of wisdom inside of her, and she loves nothing more than to share the things of God with others.”
I did not want to answer her. I knew she was right, yet I did not enjoy the dear woman’s company. She often tried to invite me over for tea, or ask me of things that, truly, I did not see as her concern. I avoided my mother’s inquiry and instead listed the reasons why I thought it better that she be the one to go and purchase the vegetables and not I.
My weak arguments failed to win me a pass to stay at home. I tried to put a smile on my face as I put my coat and scarf on and begun my short walk to the store. I don’t mind going out. In fact, I rather enjoy seeing my neighbors and watching the business of our town. However, I wasn’t going out to meet people and see old friends, I had one specific job, and that was to visit Mrs. Johnson at her store and buy vegetables for tonight’s supper.
All I need are a couple of carrots and a head of cabbage I thought to myself as I strolled along towards the town’s most popular shop. The kindness of Mrs. Johnson made whoever enter the store feel welcomed and invited; the dear woman always had a smile on her face and encouraging words on her lips. She was indeed a woman of the Lord whom everyone could benefit from, by talking to her, but I had no interest in talking to her. I wanted to purchase my food and be on my way as soon as I could.
As I opened the door to the quaint little shop, I smelled the sweet aroma of lavender that was hanging from the exposed beams. The bell jingled as the door shut behind me. The icy bitterness of the outside air quickly melted away as the warmth from the fire-place ushered me inside. There were old, yellowed photographs hung up on the wall. I saw Bible verses that were carefully written out on pieces of fine paper. There were piles of all sorts of fruits and vegetables that Mrs. Johnson grew at her home and in the garden behind the store, however, because of the cold weather during this time of year, she had them sent in from good friends. In late Spring and all through Summer, she has flowers spread out through the shop as well. There was a table in the middle of the shop that displayed soap, scented with honey and herbs. She had candles that smelled of cinnamon or vanilla. I stood in front of the door and closed my eyes. I breathed in the aroma of spices, herbs, and burning logs.
I walked over to the vegetables and fill my wicker basket with carrots and a head of cabbage. I was still determined to leave quickly so I could go back home and enjoy the safety of my own home, my own fire, and my own books. As I walked to the front counter where I would purchase my chosen goods, I couldn’t help but stop and smell a few bars of soap. I admired the candles that smelled sweet and homey. I picked up a sprig of dried lavender leaves and brought them to my nose. I was enjoying myself when I felt a warm hand rest upon my shoulder.
“Hello, my dear.”
I turned to see Mrs. Johnson’s face. Wrinkles were just starting to form on the corners of her eyes- a sign of frequent laughter and smiling. Her smile was one to behold, as it filled her entire face. Her laugh was jubilant and gentle. Her blond hair, just starting to gray, was tied up in a ribbon. Her blue eyes twinkled when she spoke with a dear friend. When you shopped in her store, you would hear her hum the tune of a hymn as her long skirt flew across the wooden floor when she swept.
You would often hear folks of the town praise Mrs. Johnson. She helped people in need when they were cold, hungry, or in need of a friend. She was often in the church, as she held Bible studies for the women. Many of the people can tell of one or two times when they had a long and reassuring conversation with the dear woman. I found out quickly that Mrs. Johnson was determined to make me one of those people who can testify of a long and reassuring conversation.
I am here now, in the store. I look at Mrs. Johnson and think about my words. But before I settle within myself of what I am going to say, my mouth forms the words for me.
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Johnson.” I knew now that, once again, I would have to decline an invitation to tea and tell her that I really must be getting home, as Papa would be arriving from work soon and Mama needed these vegetables.
“Katherine, how are you?”
“Very well, thank you. I am just about to head home, as Mama needs these vegetables for supper.”
Mrs. Johnson smiles at me, “Oh what a dear child you are, running errands in such frightfully bitter weather for your mama!”
I smile, “Thank you, that is very sweet of you to say.”
“How is your mama? I do hope she is well, after that nasty cold that kept her in bed for a week.”
“She is certainly much better, thank you. I am sure that the chicken soup she is preparing for tonight will further her healing,” I say, trying to remind her of why I came to her shop today.
“Oh indeed! I’m sure it will,” she says cheerfully. “Oh, Katherine, you simply must come over for tea sometime soon. Perhaps this coming Lord’s Day, after service and fellowship?”
Here it is. Once again, I must politely decline her offer of tea and conversation. I carefully pick out my words, but before I begin speaking, she says something that peaks my interest.
“I have something that I want to show you. I do think that you would find it fascinating. But, you know, it is at home and I know it would be difficult to explain it without having it here to show you.”
Something to show me? How interesting this dear woman is! Perhaps, just one Sunday afternoon? I question my thoughts. How quickly my mind is swayed… Would I invade this woman’s privacy only to have my curiosity satisfied? But, she did invite me over to find out this item that she has for me to see.
“Oh, how kind of you, truly, to invite me over.” I no longer think about my words, I have not the time in my mind. I am not accustomed to accepting her offer. “I think, if it is really no trouble to you, that I may come over after service this Sunday. Would you have me bring a dessert or perhaps sandwiches?” At least I remembered my manners I think to myself as I still toss around my response in my mind.
“What a joy! Oh, dear Katherine, we will have wonderful fellowship. No no, do not bring anything at all. I am your hostess, so I shall serve you. I want you to enjoy yourself.”
“Very well. I shall see you soon, then.” I smile, partly because I am excited and partly because I know it is the right thing to do. I turn to leave, but then remember my vegetables. I turn back and walk to the front counter.
“Mrs. Johnsen, I have to purchase these vegetables before I leave.” I place my basket on the table.
“Oh, of course!” She laughs and takes the vegetables out one by one. She adds up the prices as she hums Come Thou Fount, a beloved hymn. I glance around and see a small bowl of homemade toffee. I pick one up and place it on the counter. Her eyes twinkle as she then adds that to the list of purchases.
A little different today, no? Every Saturday, I will add a chapter to this story. I hope you enjoy it! Leave me comments below and let me know if you have questions or thoughts.
Have a blessed day!
Featured image taken from Stock Snap.