Unexpected Dividends

I’m not much of an investment banker. One would think one must have something with which to bank and to invest to be an investment banker. I am of the lower economic echelon, therefore I get a bit confused on how all that works. I think the general idea is to take some money, give it to an organization, said organization makes a copious amount of money and gives you your money back and then some. If said organization loses money, then so do you. Nothing gained, everything lost. I could be way off, and that process may have another name, like scratch off lottery, but I kind of think that’s how it works. Keep in mind I am the same person who will frequently lose a bet over a simple math calculation to Scott Martin.

I do think on a day to day I am making investments, but they are of a different nature.
Included are, investments of my time, my skill set. Investments of words, investments of money (albeit small amounts), investments into friendship and other people’s lives, but investments nonetheless. Some of the investments I make, I don’t see the payoff. Sometimes, well lots of times, that is frustrating for me. I’m not known for my patience. Several years ago I made the widow’s mite kind of investment, or at least what I thought was.

My heart was hurt and broken to bits, my vision skewed by the world around me. The King’s people especially frustrated me and I wanted nothing more than to not invest in them, despite being a them. I just wanted to crawl into my bed of hurt and pull the covers of disappointment and cynicism over my head and sleep. As I pondered putting on the pj’s of self pity the time-consuming practice of Bible study came up. I had always enjoyed knowing about the King’s book. I’d read it and occasionally studied it, liked it, found it fascinating. I certainly didn’t love it, not even close.

bible-christian-christianity-272337So on a warm September morning one who knew me well insisted I drive across town to the Bible Study where I was sure to find out where in the King’s book my dinosaur questions could be answered. I went reluctantly.

Over the course of time, something happened, the investment of others began to pay off and I was reaping the benefits. I was beginning to see how the King’s economy works. I grew to love that book, and now the thought that I haven’t always makes me sad inside. Eventually the need to drive across the town would not be necessary and not only did I figure out the Dinos, I began to appreciate the King’s book a bit more. As I meandered around in my pjs of hurt I was asked to pray, to pray about making an investment, an investment I viewed as one of epic proportions, for it would take all that I had to give, and the payoff wasn’t guaranteed.

I wasn’t sure if I were willing to risk it. I’d have to think about it. A few weeks later I received the go via the TV weatherman. Give it everything. Blindly. Stand back and reap the dividends I’d never even begun to consider. For several years now, during the school year, I’ve invested in Wednesday.

Wednesdays have been aptly named by a friend of mine as “Wipe out Wednesday.” At the end of each Bible Study Day, I’m exhausted.

Over the course of time, I’ve counted snacks and crafts, I’ve sparkled, sorted, and separated and herded Sheeps of all manner to and fro. I’ve disciplined and discipled, and doctored boo-boos. I’ve hugged, now I’m both the initiator and receiver. I’ve pondered, cried, and laughed so hard my body has physically hurt. I’ve surveyed a room full of women seeing each one as absolutely stunning, convinced this is how the King must see them. I’ve prayed with, cried with, and have just been present with women from all walks of life. I have seen prayer after prayer answered and over time healing has come.
This weekly investment though can cause one to grow weary. During the summer months it isn’t as easy to see a payoff. During the summer months when one is not in the thick of it, the encouragement to press on is difficult to distinguish as well.

This brings me to a dividend I never expected. I had the privilege of glimpsing into that in the most unlikely of places.

best-friends-blond-hair-bonding-1574650It looked something like this. Recently, when asked what she wanted for her birthday Charlotte told me 2 things, a set of colored pencils and time with her friends. After some text messages and such, the plan was in place. Despite not realizing it until well into the evening, the friends all had a common denominator, their Mamas were made up of Wipeout Wednesday Workers. I observed them as we traversed the roads picking up and meeting and such, one-by-one the meeting of the last just as giddy as the seeing of the first. Their conversations tickled me and I inwardly laughed, remembering those years when I was their age.

They talked comics and Marvels and DCs and mission trips and church and music and snacks and oh how they’d missed one another. They captured a “night butterfly” known to the rest of the world as a moth and tormented the hater of winged creatures of the group until I confiscated said night butterfly. They ate more than a swarm of locusts and my picnic bag looked like it had been merely a light snack. They giggled and shrieked over the thought of a port-a-potty and oohed and ahhed over a fireworks display. They circled up and every time I said “Girls, we’re prayin’!” they dutifully bowed, and immediately quieted and it hit me none of them was unfamiliar with the act. As they giggled late into the night, talking and shhhing and talking again I clearly saw the payoff. The King’s book says as metal sharpens metal, two King’s kid friends will do the same (Paraphrase Amy Martin style).

I am thankful that once again the King’s economy means investment from me, dividends for my children. My imagination wandered that night and I saw each one of them grown, sharing that common denominator of friendship and Bible study, and I wondered where it would take them. Among them they are sure to change the world. The possibilities are endless: artist, comedian, athlete, missionary, nurse, spy, administrator, teacher, mom, wife, writer, pharmacist, doctor. At the heart of them all is a love for the King. And as the Mama of one of them, I can say confidently, that is what I desire most.

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The Day the Cows Came Home

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For reasons I do not know or have yet to fully understand – although I am somewhat convinced it has to do with dependency – financial struggles have been the baseline under which we as a family operate.

There has never been feast or famine, there has always been just enough. The summer months tend to be lean months for our budget, we barely make it to a vacation paid in full. As school starts up and the days shorten, the budget improves slightly and by the calculator-calculation-insurance-finance-53621time the Christmas season rolls around it inevitably proves to be more lean than its predecessor autumn.

We’ve learned to roll with it, define what it is, and in which season we are in. This serves to prime the pump for a miracle. There was a particular day last fall when I and the Holy Spirit alone knew the essential home item, toilet paper, was making its way to the last few sheets. As I took note of such need and asked the King to intercede I had no idea that He had just that day prompted a dear friend to purchase the biggest pack of Angel Soft my eyes had ever seen. Then in a fish and loaves kind of move, that toilet paper seemed to go on and on. When one roll was placed on the holder to either be folded or wadded (I’ve learned there are two kinds of people in this world – wadders or folders – I am the latter, a fact I find ironic as I am disheveled in most areas of life save the one).

The following month The Lord Jesus used various anonymous gifts to sustain us through those lean times: a gift card here, a “I’m cleaning such and such out, you want it?” and the such-and-such would be precisely what we needed. I would find myself recollecting “The Green Grape Story.”

grapes-frozen-fruit-summer-organic-115007.jpegMany years ago, before I knew what it was like to rely on God to provide, I heard this story. I listened and can still recall the details of, at the time, a very foreign concept to me. The speaker was conveying how her young daughter, had requested green grapes for her snack. The Mama knowing full well grocery and payday were a bit away, made no promises that green grapes would be in the near future. That afternoon when the Mama arrived home, someone had left a box of random grocery items for the family and there among the items was a bunch of green grapes. There are times of lean when I recollect the “Green Grape” story, and I am reminded that Jesus knows exactly what we need and delights in giving us good gifts.

The Angel Soft from Heaven has been just one of the tangible ways The King has met our needs, and on a recent Cow Appreciation day I was reminded of another. It is no secret that the Chick-fil-A (CFA for short) is a Martin family favorite. When given the choice, it is always a chosen eatery. As recent as the day before Cow Appreciation Day, I had to decline a request for lunch at the favorite restaurant of choice, noting the dwindling budget and sighting the “sandwich stuff” already at home in the Frigidaire. I reminded my children that we would be dining at home sans chicken and waffle fries. They reluctantly accepted my verdict and we made our way home. Early the following day I was perusing the internet, researching, investigating and figuring out just how to make that tight budget just a wee bit more flexible when I stumbled across the Cow Appreciation day info. As a veteran participant I knew the drill: dress up like a cow, get free food. When I made mention of it to my youngest she immediately said, “But we don’t even have a cow costume Mama but you do have that donkey one.” True, I contemplated, could I pass that donkey for a cow? Not likely. The bushy tail and oversized lopped ears are a dead giveaway. Perhaps we could make a cow costume. Perhaps, one but not the required five. “There ain’t no way” was my exact thought as I yielded to the incessant plea to just go see if we had what would be required to construct the costumes.

As we made our way downstairs I gave her the daunting task of finding white t-shirts. I knew full well we did not possess one, much less five tee shirts of coordinating colors. Our laundry piled high on a table makes finding a white shirt in in that pile more daunting than a two inch straw colored needle in a 75 foot haystack. In a matter of moments I had just what was needed for the base of the cow costume. A little more searching and a few minutes later I had a small remnant of scrap black fabric, I began to cut random cow spots.

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I expected to get no more than four or five spots but it was as if the fabric just kept multiplying. My scissors cut and the moment I looked away there was always more. The final spot was cut and I began to pin those spots in place. In a few moments I had constructed 5 costumes, cow ears and to my amazement they didn’t look all that bad.

As we arrived at our destination I marveled at how smoothly it had all come together, how the King knew the details, how He knew it would delight the hearts of the Martins to have lunch at their favorite. I marveled at how He provided in a most unconventional way. He knew I was capable of making the costumes, he expected me to take a leap of faith and at least make my way downstairs in search of supplies, and he knew I would be delighted to have an opportunity to craft and create with my youngest.

His word says that He will give us the desire of our heart if we delight ourselves in Him. (Psalm 37:4) I forget the delight part. I am all about the “give me” part, but the truth is when we delight ourselves in Him, He puts the desire in our heart and we can trust that desire is in essence His desire and He will use that for good.

The cows came home that afternoon, full and happy, giggling over bad jokes and puns that were “udderly” hysterical, having made a day of delightful memories. I marveled at how once again He who is good provided.

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