Sunday, June 10, 2007

Changing Church Part XXIII

The week was much quieter. “Heads of households” called with questions, most easily answered using a concordance. The Strong’s sat beside the telephone, along with a spare Bible. Some of the single women also called, looking for assignments to a deacon. Will scheduled a meeting with as many of the deacons as possible for Saturday evening, to discuss what their responsibilities would be toward the women and their families. Wives were also invited, of those who were married, for when dealing with women, having a woman involved was, at least, a good show of above-board intentions.

Tuesday afternoon Anne skimmed through the women’s ministry directory, a volume much smaller than the church directory. That troubled her, but for the moment she was looking for a familiar name. Sarah was a recently married woman of about Anne’s age. She smiled a lot, and was often the center of attention. When she started laughing, she couldn’t stop. Anne called her.

“I need to do my weekly grocery shopping, and was wondering if you were available to provide company.” Anne’s was a strange request. Usually one invited a friend for dessert, or a movie, or an afternoon of comfortable chatting. Another thing that had come up in Will’s studies with her, though, was how often the early church was together. They seemed to do everything together. Grocery shopping as a community effort seemed to complement their church meeting style.
Sarah was reluctant. Anne pressed her. “We could talk, and you could come to my house for some coffee or tea afterward.” Ok, it sounded more like begging. Anne’s aunt and uncle nominally attended their church. So far they had not provided any feedback on the changes her new husband was making, though they had come back for the implementation week. They were the reason Anne had come to the church. Not many friends remained. Call it a phenomenon of her age; peers didn’t stay in one place very often.

Finally Sarah agreed, and asked what time Anne was thinking. “Tomorrow afternoon? Is that good with you?” she returned.

“Ok, after lunch?” the young woman’s voice increased in excitement. Maybe this could be fun. A new experience need not be feared, right?

So the following day Anne carefully prepared her list from her budget and menu. Then she toured the house to double check supplies of cleaners, tissues, and the like. Sarah arrived just after one. “I’m so bad at shopping; Dave usually goes with me,” she giggled nervously. “Is it alright if I brought my list, too?”

This was unexpected, but Anne was in a good mood, and wide awake. “Sure.”

Initially, Anne eyed Sarah’s cart and her list with concern. Should she say something? Instead, they chatted about life and husbands. Anne asked whether Sarah and Dave were hoping to have children. “Oh, some day. Right now we just want to enjoy life and each other. We want to travel a little. I’m involved in like three different charities. We stay busy.”

“Oh.” That didn’t help. The discomfort grew. Was there any common ground?

Sarah broached the subject of prices. “I look at my grocery bill and find myself speechless. So much for just two people! How do you do it on only a pastor’s salary?”

The two carts stopped in a corner of the bakery department. From her purse Anne drew her budget and her list and her printed-out spreadsheet of available coupons. “Work,” she began. “Cooking more often from scratch.” Her hand went to some boxed meals and packaged cookies in Sarah’s cart. “And settling for store brand, or none at all. My mom taught me that when we’re hungry, it’s important to make what we feed ourselves count towards nourishment, not just satisfying an appetite. So cookies, and these mixes, they’re mostly artificial flavoring and sugar… things like that. They even taste like the real thing. But unless you do fruits and vegetables and grains and meats, cut back on sodium that comes as a preservative in these things…” Anne wondered if she had gone too far. Sarah honestly looked like she might cry.

“Your mom taught you all that? How to shop? Can I see your spreadsheet?”

“Wow. You’re a pro, or something. I always thought I was a pro shopper. I know when the best clearance prices are at Dillard’s,” she smiled. “That’s what I learned when I was in high school.”

“I know. Since I was homeschooled, I got real home-ec. Apprentice-style.”

“My mom worked. She is a paralegal. We ate out of boxes and frozen dinners and Wendy’s all the time.”

“Maybe we should do apprentice-stuff with the women at church. I always get bored while I shop. Let me see your list.” Anne took her pen, with which she had been systematically marking items from her list, circling items on her coupon sheet. A scrap piece of paper made Sarah’s new list. Their two heads bent over Anne’s cart. She used a cereal box against which to write. A container of pre-cut fruit was changed to two apples, three oranges, and a bunch of bananas. Hamburger helper changed into whole-grain pasta, tomato paste, and two kinds of cheese. “You look at the ingredients to pick. Don’t look at the front of packages when you’re deciding. Look for sodium content and artificial flavors, fat and sugar percentages, stuff like that,” Anne instructed. “Here, I have a coupon for some of these things.”

“I don’t want to take your coupons,” Sarah objected.

“You’ll never learn if you don’t try,” Anne argued. “We’re going to start a club or something. Coupons, recipes, lists, substitutions, bargains, shopping parties. It’ll be fun.”

“This actually sounds fun. A lot of women don’t have time, though. They work, and schedules are so rigid.”

“Tell me about it! Work, classes, charities, ministries: I can’t get anyone to come over and play!”

To God be all glory.

See the index for first and additional chapters.

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