Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Trip, a Contest, and a Wardrobe

The year was 1961, and I was a sophomore in Seward High School. An announcement attracted my attention. The local Odd Fellows and Rebekahs lodge was sponsoring a contest for sophomores and juniors for an all-expense-paid trip. That coming July, the winning student would travel with 35 other teens from the Pacific Northwest and Canada and four chaperons by educational bus tour across Canada to New York City to study the United Nations for a week and return through the northern United States, visiting many points of interest en route.

It sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime. All I had to do was ace a written test and win a speaking contest. I was a good test taker and often led our church youth group. With my parents permission, I entered the contest and was the top scorer on the written test.

The speaking contest was held on a Wednesday evening. Because we had midweek services every Wednesday in our church, my parents were not in the audience that night. The topic of each five-minute speech was to be the United Nations. We would be judged not only for the content and presentation, but also on poise and appearance.

As the night progressed, I thought each speech was terrific. In spite of a bad case of nerves, I felt confident that I had done well. How would the judges be able to choose just one of us?

My heart pounded as the moment for the big announcement came. "And the winner is...AnnaLee Cousart." I'd won! I could hardly believe it. I learned later that it was my highest score on the test that put me over the top.

My parents were proud of me. Mother berated herself for not being there. I was ecstatic that I'd won--until I looked in my closet at my wardrobe.

I had no clothes appropriate for the hot, humid summer weather I was sure to encounter on that trip. Alaskan summers are cool and often rainy along its southern coast. Once school was out, we wore jeans or pedal pushers with shirts and sweaters and almost always needed a jacket or windbreaker except on Sundays when I wore my one suit with its long-sleeved jacket until the weather changed in the early fall.

The brochure listing what to take on the trip stated that the girls would be required to wear dresses or skirts every day--no pants. I had several wool skirts and sweaters for school, but no skirts and dresses suitable for a month-long trip in hot weather. And we didn't have money to buy me a new wardrobe.

"We'd better pray about it," my mother said. "The Lord will provide."

Somehow, word got around that I'd won the trip. The state president of our denomination's women's organization learned of my need for a wardrobe and took it on as a project. She wrote letters to all our ladies' groups around the state. Most of those churches were small and struggled to pay the bills, just as ours did. But that didn't keep them from helping out.

Soon, letters began to arrived with checks of various amounts designated for me to purchase items needed for my trip. My mother, an excellent seamstress, bought material to make skirts and blouses and dresses for me. By the time I flew out to meet the tour group, I was outfitted from head to toe with everything I needed for the trip.

How has God not only met your needs but also the desires of your heart?

In my next blog, I'll write about how I learned to keep my mouth shut.

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