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My Missing Bag

She’s never on her own—even when tiny crises hit. She just has to remember to have faith.

Marion Bond West

When we got to the hotel Gene helped the bellhop as I rushed ahead to check in. The hotel clerk had a message: “Madam, you left your makeup bag at your husband’s daughter’s house in Oklahoma this morning. It’s on its way overnight express.”

No! Not my makeup bag. Not this weekend.

It would have been one thing if it were just a getaway with Gene; after 10 years of marriage he’s seen me at my worst. But this was a seminar in Little Rock, Arkansas, where I would be presenting my work to fellow writers, writers who had their makeup bags. I had been nervous for weeks, and now this! My whole face was in that bag. My custom-blended foundation, my rose-plum lipstick, my night cream, my day cream, even my electric curlers.

“I have to have that bag!” I shrieked. The hotel clerk stiffened. The people in the lobby stared.

Gene took my arm and dragged me to the elevator. I wanted to believe it wasn’t happening. I wanted to go home.

When Gene and I were first married I used to put on fresh makeup every night before bed. Then I reapplied it in the morning prior to jogging. I don’t feel right without my makeup.

“Can’t you just go out and buy some more?” Gene asked, opening the door to our room and flicking on the lights.

“It’s not like a can of your shaving cream,” I told him. “Some of it comes from specialty shops. It’s blended just for me. And it costs . . . well, it costs a lot. Anyway, it’ll be here tomorrow.”

I plopped my suitcase on the bed and rummaged through it. Underneath a couple of blouses I discovered a Ziploc bag with a few basics I hadn’t been able to cram into my makeup bag. I let out a small sigh of relief. Gene propped up his feet and turned on the television.

“How can you possibly watch TV when my makeup and curlers are missing?”

“I thought it might make the evening news.”

“It’s not funny!” I snapped. Easy for him to joke. He’s the one who packed the car, and all his bags are here.

That night I slept wearing my makeup, careful not to move too much. The next morning I reluctantly decided if I kept a smile on my face maybe no one would notice.

I was so caught up in the seminar I almost forgot I was walking around with a nearly naked face. As soon as we had a break, however, I raced back to the check-in desk.

The same clerk shook his head. “No, Madam, your bag hasn’t arrived.” I suspected he was secretly delighting in my horror.

Convinced no man would ever understand, I targeted a woman across the lobby. Tall, smart black dress, name tag, good makeup and hair. “Do you work here?” I pleaded.

“Yes, can I help you?” When I explained my dilemma, she nearly wept. Donna took me to her private office and began making phone calls. She had a soft but determined voice—a woman on a mission. Finally she hung up.

“I’m so sorry, Marion, but your makeup bag is in Memphis, Tennessee. It just passed through the shipping company’s scanner. It’s not going to arrive until Monday. You’ll be gone by then, so I’ll leave a note for our staff to send it on to your home. Meanwhile, I want you to look through my cosmetics and see if there’s anything you can use.” I’ll never forget her. She ranks right up there with the nurse who encouraged me through a 30-hour labor and delivery.

I limped through the rest of the weekend on my Ziploc bag stash and Donna’s kindness. I managed to keep smiling during the rest of the seminar.

Back home Monday morning I was paging through the newspaper when the phone rang. Donna explained there had been a mix-up and my makeup bag was sent back to Oklahoma.

“I see,” I said robot-like, hanging up. I flopped down in a chair and decided to talk to God. It wasn’t that I hadn’t wanted to bother him with this; the truth was it hadn’t even occurred to me to ask him for help.

“I should have come to you sooner,” I admitted. “You cared enough to come to me.” God had helped me get by. He was at work when I discovered the Ziploc bag. And when some of Donna’s makeup matched mine.

“You kept me from getting angry with Gene when I was really tempted to. And I couldn’t have smiled through the writers’ seminar alone. All of those things were you.” I had been created without makeup. The only thing ugly about me that weekend had been my overreaction.

When I’m hit with the big things, I’m fine. I run to God and embrace his love. It’s the little crises that make me lose my head. I had always tried to fix them my own way, forgetting God cares as much about the day-to-day matters as he does the life-and-death ones.

I still love my makeup. I still need it. But not as much as I need a little more consistency in my belief that God is there, all day, every day. Belief that he will help me smile through those daily snags, whether I’m wearing rose-plum lipstick or not.

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