Yesterday was a day of new beginnings, stepping out in faith, and learning experiences.
I've had a couple of dreams for almost all of my adult life. One was to be a writer, and the other was to create quilts I could sell for real money.
Yesterday I entered into both worlds for real for the first time. I spent most of the day up by the Columbia River at the Portland Expo Center, viewing a dazzling array of art in quilt. At the end of the day I attended a Christian writers group at a local church, hearing the story of a real author's journey of faith and writing. Then I came home and thought about it all, and went to sleep. When I woke up this morning, the two had melded into one huge, grace-filled learning experience.
First I'll tell you how I came to be at the Expo Center. A few years back I was bitten with the machine quilting bug. I took quilting classes, following up my beginnings at In The Beginning, a quilt shop in Seattle, when my daughter was not even a year old. This time, I was transported suddenly out of my singing self and into a new me I didn't even know. I found myself in Tacoma, Washington, at a quilters' convention called Innovations, with a focus on machine quilting. I had come with only the thought of trying out the machines, but while I was there I began to think this was the direction my life should take. But the costs are astronomical. And so, I used the machines on display there to practice, wanting to see if I could justify such a purchase. One of the sales women got disgusted with me spending so much time at her booth and made a comment which sent me flying back to the familiar life of singing for about 5 more years.
Simultaneously (as always, I cannot stick with one thought until it's completed), I was working on becoming a writer. I took two online classes through the community college, and thought I might publish an article or two. Sadly, they were rejected by all five magazines to which I sent them in such hopes, and I went back to my familiar world of singing. After all, I knew God had called me there, but these other areas might simply be larks, passions that needed taming, therapeutic hobbies, or simply yet two more symptoms of my theoretical ADD. So I stuck with the sure thing awhile longer.
Until my world completely came apart last year.
When you are crushed, sometimes everything gets squished out of you. I mean all my soul was drained, my spirit seemed dead, my dreams buried, and the future non-existent. Having lived 30 years married to someone I completely depended on for my livelihood and a lot of other things, I now had to learn to live on my own at the age of 51, to build a career at a time in life when most people were winding down into retirement and learning to rest on their laurels. I had to do this at a time which was for me the absolute worst time, having had my rug snatched from under me, my safety net evaporating, my friends retreating, my purpose obfuscating. My children both dove into vortexes of self-defeat, my husband utterly refused to even discuss reconciliation or counseling, my home was taken from me, which meant my son as well, and my confidence was rocked to pieces. My old self died and was buried with the marriage. I hung at the end of a very long rope, of which only the tiniest thread persisted to remain, and that was sheer will to keep the faith of my fathers and mothers.
I've said many a time over this past year and a half since my daughter went away with a con man:
If the LORD had not been on our side—If I had not had an extremely firm foundation of faith in a loving Father in heaven in my Baptist upbringing, I have no idea if I'd be alive or dead, in this lovely rental home or in a gutter, seeking a career now or a drunk on Skid Road. I know one thing, I might well be in a crazy ward somewhere, living in a made-up world in my own mind rather than face the dreary reality of this world and winters in Oregon alone. But I did have that upbringing, I did have those two loving parents to model my loving God's attitude toward His children, and I do have His word, every word of promise in the Bible on those days I feel completely defeated.
let Israel say—
if the LORD had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away. (from Psalm 124)
And so, winding back around to the purpose of this blurb, yesterday I took His promises by the horns and attended those two events. I had known for some time now just what I told God He was planning for me to do with my "widowhood". I was going to buy one of those unGodly expensive machines (nobody should charge so much for a machine!), and I was going to quilt for His people. And in the process I was going to be discovered and win awards and people were going to line up to have me quilt their works of art. Oh yes, I knew He would provide if I would just go and choose a model, and actually order one on credit. I knew it in my bones. This was the direction He wanted me to go, because I wanted to go that direction so much myself. God provides when we step out in faith, oh yes, and so I knew all I had to do was go there and purchase, and the money would flow in. I still believe that, when God is at the helm.
At the Expo I signed up for credit on two different machines, not wanting to limit myself, in case one wouldn't give me credit. I didn't want to limit God either, and having a hard time knowing which machine I liked better I figured that way God could decide better for me, since I'd narrowed His choices to only two. I know this sounds contradictory, but it's me, so that's par for my course. I both thought I was giving God a free hand and limiting His choices to save Him time.
Then, exhausted and hopeful, I went home and got a drink of water, let the dog out, fed the cat, and then went off to my writing group, pen and notebook in hand. I took some of my writing, but hadn't had time to review it, so I'm glad she didn't call on me! The group ended up sitting in a circle and listening to a self-published writer tell her story. It was interesting, and sounded somewhat like my own Christian journey through self-doubt, to confidence in my plan for God, to....
And this is the surprising thing that is causing me to write all this loooong account: that author shared one thing that stayed with me all night, through all the deliberating of my brain over long-arm machines, debating which room would be best to put one in, whether it will even fit in either of them, how they should be configured. She shared how, every time she receives a letter from a publisher after submitting a book, she gets on her knees and prays a prayer of acceptance of God's will, whatever the message in the letter. The reason she shared this is because one time she did not, but sent off her response to an editor who was taking too long for her, and lost the contract.
This made me think about myself: was I taking time to pray before making the decision to spend so much money I don't have on one of those machines? Was I willing to accept that I might not get a loan, and what that would mean? Would I be able to get down on my knees and offer my work to God for whatever He sees fit to reward me with, even if it's nothing monetary?
This was an eye-opener for me. I had been there before, when singing for church. It was easy then, because they never pay, but was worried about my reputation. I mean, if I hit a bad note, it would never be forgotten, I thought, and my future as a singer would be in the toilet. So I had to give my performance to Him as an offering in order to become what my favorite teacher calls transparent, so He could shine through regardless of my failings. Could I do that in a business though?
It seems I have to. As a matter of fact, this morning I realized that all the plans I had decided for God to have for me would just have to give way to physics. The long-arm sellers and their assistants all said I need to purchase a frame large enough to quilt at least a queen size quilt if I'm going into business. But the physics of my room say, Oh no you don't! Not only that, but the numbers on the order sheets say the rest: You don't have the money, girl.
God says, Do your best for Me, and I'll take care of the rest. Right? So this morning, I may go back to the Expo, but I am not planning to purchase a machine there. I will go there to listen, listen to God, and to the quilts I see that have already been quilted, and to people other than the vendors, such as other quilters. I am going to just be there, listen for the Song of the King, so I can learn it well enough to sing it when it's my turn.
"Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground"*, was in my mind when I got out of bed this morning. I don't want to follow the Pied Piper of my own desires and ambitions. I've done that already and made a huge mess of the greatest treasures God could give me, my family. All I want to do now, for the rest of my life, is follow that good Spirit.
Thanks for reading. May your spirit be blessed by this simple song.
*Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.