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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Hammar

When Hearing God's Whisper Means Giving Something Away

By Ann C. Averill

Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Ann's Story

A few Saturdays before Christmas, I’m browsing some open studios in my town,

and find my way to the workspace of Ruth Sanderson, my favorite children’s illustrator,

famed for her luminous depiction of fairytales. Rummaging through a bin of discounted

prints, my eye is captivated by the image of an auburn-haired princess gazing at her

reflection in a pool of water lilies. I lift the picture from the others and proceed to the

register even though I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. It’s just beautiful.

On the way home, I stop at Big Lots for an inexpensive frame. I place the print on

the counter during check out, and the cashier, whose face appears carved by a hard life,

says, “Isn’t that pretty!”

We exchange smiles, and something in me responds, Give her the picture. But that

makes no sense, I don’t know her, I haven’t even framed it yet, and with a long line of

impatient shoppers behind me, I ignore the prompting and leave.

Because of its aqua tones, the print ends up in the bathroom. Its placement on the

wall opposite the throne, allows ample opportunity to study the composition. In the distance, a castle on a hill. In the foreground, a pond surrounded by gardens. The focal point, a maiden, her reflection distorted by languid waters. Gazing at the image over the course of a week, it occurs to me that the cashier has long auburn tresses like the princess. On a good hair day, in a perfect world, they’d even look alike.

The next Saturday, I awake with the distinct impression that I’m supposed to give

the cashier the print. I shrug it off as I make my tea. How awkward to give a stranger a

gift for no reason. Then it strikes me, perhaps this is how God sees the cashier. As his

lovely daughter, princess of the high king of heaven. Through the sacrifice of Christ, no

more pain or shame marring her features. In a moment, I realize maybe I don’t need to

understand why I’m supposed to give this woman this gift. My part—just do it. Besides,

what do I have to lose? Never being able to shop at Big Lots again?

I decide to wrap the picture like a Christmas present from God, but the only

paper I have on hand is more appropriate for a child’s birthday. I’ve never done anything

like this before, and I procrastinate until late afternoon.

Finally, heart pounding, package in hand, I venture into the store. My cashier isn’t

at the register. I wander the aisles in search of her, bypassing boxes of candy canes,

catnip mice, and reindeer sweaters made in China.

At last, I spot a supervisor. “I’m looking for a woman who works here. She has

kind of wavy, reddish hair. I don’t know her name, but I have something for her.”

The supervisor squints at the blue wrapping paper covered in puppies. My eyes read the label on a giant red tin behind her, Poppycock, which suddenly seems to sum up my mission.

Then, she points behind me, “Is this who you’re looking for?”

I turn. It’s my princess.

“Remember me? The picture?”

She bites her lip and nods.

My words tumble out, “I think God wants you to have this. I’m not sure why. I

wanted to use Christmas paper, but. . .”

She interrupts, “Do you know what day this is?”

“What?” I’m not following.

She takes the gift. “It’s my birthday!”

Chills race up my spine. Only God could know I’d end up using birthday wrap, that my hesitation would land her gift right on time, and that for some reason, this woman, needed a tangible expression of His love for her today.

Back in the parking lot, I gaze into the starlit sky, and like the shepherds, shiver at the mystery of Immanuel, God with us.


The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest writer series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.

Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE five-day devotional (45 beautiful pages!) called, “Closer: Five Days to Hearing God Louder.” Each day features teaching on one posture and a guided journaling section to help us practice taking steps toward hearing God louder in our every day.

Learn more about each of these five postures:

New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!

Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.


About Ann

Ann C. Averill is a retired teacher and author of Teacher Dropout: Finding Grace in an Unjust School.

Ann lives in the woods of western Massachusetts with her husband, her cat, and a flock of silly chickens. She enjoys tap dancing, kayaking, and long walks with close friends.

You can find Ann's blog at


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