It was a huge opportunity. I could hardly believe it.
I would be sharing my poetry at a couple of workshops, and also have the opportunity to sell some of my pieces. And of all churches, it was a function of Willow Creek. We would be at the Lincolnshire Hotel, where the retreat was held.
I felt like this was a break for me. And being inexperienced, I didn’t know what to expect. I made some decisions. I ordered mats and frames and worked for days getting everything ready.
And then the day came. The night before, I could have a table set up. The only problem was, I had a prior engagement with my church. But a friend, Robbie, offered to sit at my table, and I gladly accepted.
“Anne, the women loved the pieces. When they dismissed everyone, it was amazing seeing everyone come towards me.” She sold hundreds of dollars worth of my pieces. I was so thankful for her help. Tomorrow would be the big day.
Can I confess something? I’m not a business person. I’m just a creative who’s happy to create.
As we were getting ready to leave, I remember a conversation between God and me.
“Do you trust me?” he asked.
And I quickly responded. “Yes, Lord. And then I added, “I don’t care how much money we make.”
Isn’t that the acceptable answer? I think I stood a little taller, knowing I had responded correctly.
I only hoped we would experience what my friend had experienced the night before.
After the main speaker, an announcement would be made so the women knew there were vendors there. I watched and waited, but no announcement was made.
I tensed up. I wasn’t feeling very tall now. I kept focusing on the women who left instead of the ones who came to our table.
We waited on our few customers, and before long it was time to pack up. I was so glad my husband was with me, as well as our friend, Kym. Many hands do lighten our loads.
One Quick Stop
“I better stop at the washroom before we leave,” I told them.
So I ran into the restroom and when I was finished I joined them to finish packing up. I was happy for the sales we made. I was grateful. Yes, I still thought about how it could’ve been better if an announcement had been made, but I pushed that thought out, or at least I tried to.
Negative thoughts are like velcro. Once they attach, they’re there to stay.
Finally in the van we borrowed, we buckled in and I asked, “Should we stop somewhere to eat?”
I hoped they wanted to, I was hungry. Besides, eating out was a treat.
“With $1250.00, we could go anywhere,” I laughed.
“No, I’m kind of tired,” Mike said. “Let’s just go home.”
“I’m a little tired too,” Kym added.
I tried once more, “Are you sure?”
And then I reached for the zipper pouch with our earnings. There was $600.00 in checks and the rest was cash.
My heart started beating faster and my stomach tied in knots. I couldn’t find the pouch.
“Mike,” I said softly, “I can’t find the money.”
“Please, tell me you’re kidding,” he said.
I wished I had been kidding.
“I’m not,” I admitted.
I looked around as best I could but had to wait until we were home to do a thorough search.
This was before cellphones, so I’d just have to wait to make the call to the hotel. That hour crept by.
Once home, we quickly unloaded and I started rummaging through the boxes.
Praying as I went, I realized I was on the last box. Still no pouch.
I called the hotel and told them my story.
They took my information, telling me they’d call if anything showed up.
Waiting is Hard
I dialed my church and relayed the story, asking for prayer.
A while later, the phone rang. My heart hoped it was the hotel.
“Mom, what’s going on? The youth leader told me something’s going on, but he didn’t tell me what.”
“Nathan, I made $1250.00 and I lost it.”
Nathan paused and then said something much wiser than his 15 years.
“Mom, it’s only money. God had you do it for another reason.”
The tears started to fall and I was unable to stop them.
Our nine year old daughter asked, “Are we poor now?” I told her no, but inside I struggled.
Didn’t God know we needed that money? I had borrowed $1900.00 worth of frames and mats from a company I wrote poetry for.
I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.
Mike got quiet. I was just trying to deal with everything when I remembered my conversation with the Lord.
A Simple Question
“Do you trust me?” he had asked.
And my response was, “Yes, Lord, I don’t care how much money we make.”
But I did care. I probably cared too much.
The money never did show up.
Kyle, the youth leader came by and gave us $50.00, which really touched our hearts. And weeks later, one woman realized I never cashed her check and she re-issued one.
The debt for the mats and frames was lessened when they took back the unused supplies and let me make payments for what I still owed.
But the majority of the money was gone.
A day later, I wrote this poem.
Lord, I’m so discouraged
the plans I had fell through.
I sit with disappointment
and don’t know what to do.
I had my day all figured out,
most everything was planned,
but nothing went the way I thought,
and I don’t understand.
He answers with compassion,
“I know you are in pain,
just trust in me completely,
your loss will turn to gain.”
It’s been 38 years since that happened, and of all the stories I’ve shared when I speak, this is the one everyone remembers.
So What Did I Learn?
It’s better for me not to use something new when collecting money. I was doing fine until someone said, “Why don’t you use this pouch?”
And because I was unaccustomed to it, I placed the pouch down when I was in the washroom, and someone took it.
I learned that I was concerned about how much we made. This was confirmed by how I felt when people were leaving, because they didn’t know we were there.
I learned that some things in life don’t make sense. But God is still worthy of trust.
Has “my loss turned to gain,” like the poem says? This is where faith comes in. I don’t believe God wastes anything.
When I taught primary Sunday school, one day I told the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Jesus told the disciples when the people were done eating, “Gather up what’s left.”
There were twelve baskets full. God said to me, “See, I don’t waste anything.” And that’s something I’ve never forgotten.
God is good. And just because we have disappointments in life, it doesn’t take away from who God is. God can’t be anything less than good.
Do I trust him? Yes, more than anyone in the world. He’s my father.
Photo credit: Maranatha Pizarras on Unsplash