Katherine took a ragged breath and opened the envelope. Three hundred sixty-five dollars. How close were they to having the debt collectors start calling? So many people would laugh at the pitiful amount—nearly pocket change, but for her and Gabe the balance was scary. The spiral notebook came out and Katherine tried dearly for a way to scrounge up some of the money. Besides the normal bills they had to pay gas for Gabe to get to work and back, groceries for meals, and then both the older kids needed shoes. Katherine looked at the two pairs of tiny sneakers near the door and tears filled her eyes—you could see little holes around the toes and the Velcro on one no longer worked.
God! We really need you. You said you clothe the lilies of the field and feed the swallows. We look to you and know you will provide for us too. Help me know if I am doing right with the material gifts of money you give us each month. What do I do about the doctor bills? They scare me, God.
Katherine budgeted in the money to buy shoes and saw that there was nothing left… again. Jericho was now five months old. They hadn’t been able to pay anything after the first month. Surely the debt collectors would call soon.
For days the worry hung on her head and she prayed about it fervently. She hated the unease, the worry, and kept reminding herself that God would provide. He always provided. When her and Gabe had decided to have children and for her not to work they had agreed to trust God to get them through it.
About a week after the last envelope came, Katherine had her brood outside enjoying the last of the Spring sun. The older one toddled and explored. Jericho giggled and cooed in her arms. Then, a strange voice called out.
“Hola! Hola! Como estas? Hola!” Katherine nearly jumped out of her own skin and wildly looked around. Was that Spanish? They were alone on the ranch, weren’t they?
It was coming from the trees. Oh, Lord! There was a man hidden in the trees!
Katherine wildly started ushering her little brood inside. She placed her sleeping Jericho in his crib and rounded up the two smaller toddlers, Julie though was still outside and when she came to snatch her up the girl was pointing happily to some branches.
“Look, Mom! Bird! Bird talk!”
Katherine paused and followed the direction of the soft fingers and then uttered a soft, “Oh.”
There in the elm tree branches was a huge bird. Its exotic feathers and large curved beaks looked amazingly out of place with the desert background. He continued to flap his fingers and call out in Spanish, words she didn’t understand. He looked at her and Julie like he expected them to do something.
They lived hours from a town and she didn’t know anyone who kept birds on the ranches around them. How would she contact the owner? Where would she start? There were several small towns, all hours away.
“Go inside, Julie.” The little girl complied though she would have rather stayed and looked at the bird. Katherine juggled the options in her brain and finally decided on laying out pieces of whole corn they had in the pantry. She didn’t have to wait long, the poor bird came hungrily down and Katherine covered him with a large box from the garage. She called a pet shop in the closest town.
“Hello. I found a parrot, I think, out here on the ranch. I don’t know where it came from or what to do with it.”
Katherine explained what he looked like and how he acted. She asked if they sold them or might know the owner. She called pounds and other shops as well and they all told her the same thing—no one had come looking for a parrot that was lost and they had no idea who would own it. It seemed the bird had simply appeared from nowhere.
As she dialed the last pet shop in a hundred-mile radius, she prayed. God, I don’t know what to do with this poor guy. I can’t take care of him. What do I do with him?
The last pet shop said the same as the ones before, but as she was about to hang up the man on the line hesitated and then asked, “Ma’am, are you interested in selling him?”
Katherine didn’t know. It wasn’t hers, but she couldn’t keep him. She didn’t know how and she couldn’t find his owners. “I guess I could. How much would you take for him?”
The man hesitated again and then asked, “How much do you want?”
“Three hundred and sixty five dollars.” Katherine said it and then wanted to laugh at herself. Who was she kidding?
“Great! When can you bring him over?” Her jaw should have dropped to the floor. But a strange sense of peace came over her.
“Tomorrow? Saturday?” The man agreed and the next day she proudly took a three hundred sixty-five dollar money order to the county Memorial Hospital. Balance paid.
Katherine thought about it later and laughed. God answered prayers in the strangest ways sometimes.