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Lost In Translation
Life lessons often come in unexpected packages.

My teenage daughter loves the Far East—the clothes, the culture, the music, the art, the whole bit. Anything marked “Made in Japan” makes her heart sing.

So when it came time to shop for her school’s Winter Ball—a formal affair, one notch down from a prom—she found the Oriental dress of her dreams online. Not your typical brightly hued prom gown made of slinky material with lots of straps and slits, but a genuine cheongsam. You’ve seen them: long, straight silk brocade dresses with short, capped sleeves and frog closures.

My daughter’s favourite cheongsam was pale lavender decorated with cherry blossoms—the perfect colour for her, and at a price almost too good to be true. A few days before Christmas, I ordered the dress in her size, certain we’d receive it in time for her January dance. Though imported from China, the item was definitely in stock.

My daughter was thrilled. The perfect dress!

Mom was even more elated. No trip to the mall! One full week went by. Not long for mail order but too long for my daughter.

“Please e-mail the company!” she begged, which I dutifully did in apologetic tones: “I know it’s been only seven days, but I thought I’d see how things were looking … ”

Mere hours later, we heard back from them: “Gown on way. You receive soon.” Not the detailed delivery information I’d hoped for, but still encouraging.

Another anxious week of awaiting a delivery truck, and still no brown box.

My daughter was not the only one getting desperate. I dreaded the thought of a last-minute shopping debacle, filled with high expectations and zero success. And my husband, Bill—forced to endure all this female angst—was losing patience fast.

I e-mailed the company again, wording my request more tersely this time: (1) How was it shipped? (2) Do you have a tracking number? (3) When can we expect delivery?

Once again, a speedy reply came via e-mail: “Already sent. Please wait few more days.”

Alas, we didn’t have a few more days. It was Thursday. The Winter Ball was Friday.

My daughter and I (please help us, Lord) were bound for the mall. We dragged ourselves out the door, both miserable. She had her heart set on that gown. I just wanted a gown, without all the department-store drama.

Since Bill was off running errands, my daughter and I climbed into our seldom-used second car and found a pile of mail on the passenger side.

“Good grief,” I muttered, noticing the late-December postmarks. “Your father must have pulled this stuff out of our mailbox ten days ago!” I collected the letters and catalogues, intending to throw them in the back seat, when a manila envelope caught my eye.

It couldn’t be. But it was.

Out of a plain, flat, hand-addressed envelope—no padding, no wrapping—fell my daughter’s silk dress.
“Wheee!” she shrieked, dashing into the house to try it on, her stunned mother trailing after her.

Ten days of worrying. Ten days of whining. Ten days of a slender package quietly waiting in our driveway because Bill forgot to bring in the mail?!

I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or wring my dear husband’s neck.

Our daughter, meanwhile, was doing pirouettes around the house in her new dress. “This was supposed to happen, Mom. What a lot of fuss for nothing! I need to learn not to care so much about material stuff.”

Did my daughter actually say that? She did. Life lessons often come in unexpected packages.

Did I strangle my husband when he got home? I did not. I, too, have some learning to do.

God finds the most creative ways to teach us His truth—in this case, the folly of putting our hope in material things and the wisdom of putting our hope in God, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Only one challenge remained (other than choosing the right shoes): What to say to the Chinese import company?

Dear Sirs:
So very sorry to have troubled you! Our dress got lost in the mail …

Liz Curtis Higgs is an inspirational speaker and the author of 26 books, includingSlightly Bad Girls of the Bible. Visit her online at

Originally published in Faith & Friends, December, 2007.




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