A Broken Hallelujah In the Target Parking Lot

This morning I walked out of Target with my two daughters to the sound of violin music playing. (We were there because my youngest had caused us to embark on new adventures in the tween undergarment section. Don’t get me started.) The music was so loud! And so beautiful! I got out the door and looked around to find a couple pan handling over in the corner of the parking lot.

Back up just a sec: A few weeks ago I passed by a man in uptown Charlotte with a sign that said, “Need a miracle.” I felt compelled to stop and pray with him, but I was with my husband and daughter and we were in a time crunch. Besides that, the Queen City, though I’ve lived in her suburbs my entire life, is definitely not my comfort zone. I did not heed the Spirit’s prompting in that moment and as soon as we passed without stopping I regretted it. I’ve been praying for that man ever since.

Okay, back to this morning: When I saw this couple in the Target parking lot I thought of that man in the city and I knew immediately that I had to go and pray with them. While I was walking toward them, I mentally inventoried what we had to give. I had a few $1s in my wallet and we had just bought snacks for each of the girls. Awesome. We got a little closer and I realized he was playing an electric violin through an amp and his talent was astounding. As we crossed the parking lot others passed by the couple and dropped coins and few bills in the case and moved on. When we got close enough to assess the whole scene, I noticed that there was a cardboard sign propped up inside the man’s violin case next to an iconic illustration of Mother Mary. It said something about losing a job and three kids, but my mind was spinning and I didn’t really read it. There was a smart phone in the grass next to the violin case and the women had a purse hanging across her body. I tried to process as many of the details as I could, but I kept hearing,

“Just get their story.”

I introduced my girls and myself by our first names and asked the woman what was going on. She said her name was Maria and that their family was from Romania. They used to live in Miami, but the hurricane destroyed their home and they’ve been traveling ever since. I asked where they were staying and she said they sleep in the car. I asked where the kids were and she gestured to a nearby van. I asked if we could pray for them and she agreed. As I started praying, the man stopped playing his violin and got down on his knees to join us in prayer. I asked God to bring the right people with the right resources into their lives, I declared God’s blessing and provision over them, and I prayed for whatever brokenness was in their lives to be healed. After we prayed the man stood up and thanked us. He said his name was Daniel. As I was getting his name, my oldest took out her wallet and thumbed through 5 or 6 twenty dollar bills. I thought, “Geez, kid! Don’t go flashing all that money around!” I was beside myself thinking she was going to give them $20! I was immediately overwhelmed with gratitude for her tender and generous heart. But what happened next…

You guys.

She gave them ALL OF IT. All of her money.

She’d spent 12 hours babysitting on a Saturday to earn that money. Little ones, too. We were supposed to go to the bank so she could deposit it in her savings account, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. The money was for her return trip to Peru next summer. She’s saving AGAIN… to just go and be friends with girls her age who are living in a shelter because they’ve been abused or raped. Some of them are even pregnant or new mothers.

She worked to earn money to go and be love in a place she now loves and then used the money instead to pour out love on the need she saw right in front of her.

I was astounded by her generosity and did everything I could to hold back an ugly cry until we walked away. We wished them well and headed for the car. As we walked, I looked at her in awe and as I saw her choking back her own tears, the man began playing his violin. There was no mistaking melody I heard. It was Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.

Someone please pass the tissues.

As Daniel offered his broken hallelujah through the voice of his violin, I silently offered my own. God, how can it be that you’ve brought such beauty from the ashes I created early in life? This incredible young woman has a heart that is such a reflection of Yours. She’s moved by the sound of Your voice and she’s learning to obey. Lord, take this experience and make it a seed! Plant it for Maria and Daniel and their kids, for me, for my kids… For you, reader. Lord, grow something from all of the mess of this life that brings you glory, Jesus. Multiply our broken hallelujahs. 

Once we were in the car, I assured her that God would honor her generosity and that her needs would always be met by our abundant provider. I reminded myself and the kids that it isn’t our place to judge anyone’s motives or the truth of their story. Our only job is to obey when the Spirit speaks. No obedience is ever wasted. I told them the meaning of the song Daniel was playing and a little about King David’s life and the messes he made… and that he’s still known for all time as the man after God’s own heart. I feel newly encouraged after looking up the Psalms David wrote after his most scandalous sins were revealed (Psalms 32, 51, 86, 122).  In case you need a reminder, David’s riveting story can be found in 2 Samuel. I encourage you to go and read it and then study the Psalms listed here.

Be encouraged, friend. No matter how broken we are— by circumstances beyond our control or by our own sin, we can always stand before God with nothing on our tongue but hallelujah. He’ll always receive us and longs to heal our brokenness. And he’ll never let us down. Give Him your pieces and trust Him to make them more beautiful than before.

I’ll leave you with this verse from the famous song that played as we walked away from such a broken situation at Target this morning:








This article originally appeared at TiaMcNelly.com.

Tia McNelly
Tia McNelly
Tia McNelly lives in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters. Her little piece of the internet can be found at tiamcnelly.com where she blogs about hearing from God in everyday life. Tia is also the featured speaker at Collected workshops for women (@collectedwomen). These events empower communities of women all over the world to walk in the fullness of their identity with purpose and passion. With a background in maternity nursing and non-profit management, Tia is honored to have a seat on the board of Flourish Kenya, a non-profit organization that prevents and supports unplanned adolescent pregnancy in rural Kenya. (Photo credit: allisonkeel.com) Find here here: blog: tiamcnelly.com Collected: tiamcnelly.com/events @collectedwomen: www.instagram/collectedwomen Flourish Kenya: flourishkenya.org

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