I love craft fairs. So much. So, SO much. My hands can do a whole gaggle of things, but what they can’t do is put together barn wood, paint, and burlap to creatively innovate something people want to pay money for. Others do the creating and I do the buying. It’s a beautiful partnership.
Three years ago, I found myself at my daughter’s volleyball game, sitting beside two mothers. We’d known each other for years, since our daughters had tentatively walked into the same kindergarten classroom and formed a friendship. Over school events and birthday parties, I formed a friendship with these two ladies too, one borne from both proximity and affection. Volleyball games were some of our most treasured times of the school year. Since volleyball season began as autumn was tip-toeing into the air and Husker football was kicking off, we’d throw on red, bulky sweatshirts and stumble into the gym with large coffees to cradle our sleepiness in the chill of those early Saturday mornings. We’d plop onto chairs, side by side, and shout affirmations at our daughters as the games played on, while also discussing life – our other children, our jobs and our dreams. After the games concluded, these ladies and I would load kids in our cars and spill into a restaurant for brunch. Over pancakes and omelets and more coffee, conversation would continue. It wasn’t a perfect union. We didn’t always agree. Sometimes we’d say or do something that offended another. After the volleyball season concluded, we could end up with a snap of silence that lasted a long time before communication was established again. But it always happened that volleyball would come back around and we’d find ourselves seated next to one another. So that day, three years ago, cushioned in between the whistle blows from the referee and our frequent clapping, one of us – I’m unsure who – wondered aloud why the school had never hosted a craft fair. Since I held a delight for craft fairs in general and liked the chance to hang with these ladies more, it seemed like a fabulous idea. And a new event was born.
At the time, I had just crawled my way out of utter despair. Still covered in the soot and rubble from the life that had come crashing to my family’s feet in the wake of a nightmare, we were in the midst of rebuilding, brick by brick, when volleyball season rolled around again. I was grateful for the routine. Thankful for the welcome of familiar faces. The devastation we had walked through left me shaky and on edge, wondering if it’s presence in the book of my life would derail the ministry work I did, or leave a stain on our lives, one we could never overcome. I’m a recovering people pleaser. I’ve spent more of my years than not performing for the audience in a shallow attempt to receive the applause. Somewhere along the way I had picked up that the shouts of glory and ‘Bravo!’ meant that I was proven. It was validation in the same sense that a snort of cocaine is just a momentary hit; it never lasts long before another is needed to satisfy. The enemy baits some people to stumble through addiction or adultery; his target with me has always been approval. A deep down part of me, the one who always wanted that approval and needed inclusion, longed to be reaffirmed in the aftermath of that summer struggle in 2015.
That I was okay.
That I would rally.
That I would be restored completely.
I didn’t see it then, but now I know how the subconscious part of me locked onto that craft fair idea with ferocity. I knew immediately it would be a hit. And I knew that a successful craft fair for the school also meant a stamp of approval for me. So I pushed aside the voice I heard whispering to me and forged ahead. As we planned away, my Father in Heaven asked me to step aside from the event, knowing full well that I was about to hit a wall. That the heavy weight of healing would cause my shoulders to sag and my knees to buckle. He tried in vain to clear my plate as I kept piling it higher and higher. He gave me clear direction to scale back when I whined about my weariness from all the things. When I outright complained, my good Father tried to redirect my path time and time again. During those same months, He also made major progress in other areas. He kept chipping away at the broken parts and sculpted them into something beautiful. My need to please became less and less. My voice became more confident and sure when I saw clearly who I am in the arms of the King of Kings. My eyes squinted through the fog to see the ministry He laid out before me, sharpening my calling. My giftings became more pure and refined. My stance became more upright when I understood I could stand in the face of spiritual attack, even the worst possible kind, meant to obliterate. My ears started to hear His voice distinctly and we spoke in a language meant just for me and Him. It all happened in the midst of my disobedience. He does that all the time. Raises us up and makes us better, even as we behave in ways that undermine His efforts. He’s so good, y’all.
Every time I met with the craft fair committee (that’s a fancy schmancy word for me and these two friends), I felt a check in my spirit. I’d sit in the chair and squirm, knowing I wasn’t welcome there. It wasn’t my friends that were being inhospitable. They welcomed me warmly, complimenting my efforts to advertise on the radio or secure vendors. No, I wasn’t welcome because the disobedience was thick, flying directly in the face of what Father had asked of me. He had already laid out a ministry path for me to follow. He rolled out the red carpet and told me to walk forth. But I wanted to stop along the way, deviating to do this or that, stepping off the carpet for a moment or two as the attraction of something new and flashy caught my eye. All this goodness waited at the end for me, but I couldn’t take my eyes off my want.
How could He really want me to pass up something that I enjoyed so much, something so good, something that was about to raise a whole mass of money for my daughter’s small private school?? But friends, my God asks us to give up good stuff all the time. He asked Abraham to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac. He asked Mary to release her beloved son, the one who’s surprise appearance in her womb nearly cost her a husband and her dignity, to the whole world. He asked that same Son to give up His life to save the world from themselves. And they all said yes to God’s requests. The yes, the obedience is what led to the blessings that came afterward. Can you imagine what our lives would look like if we traded all our no’s for a yes that was immediate and perpetual?
That little craft fair idea went on to be a smashing success. We raised dollars by the thousands for the band program, and brought people into the church building by the hundreds. It convinced me that I had surely heard the Lord wrong. So I signed on for another year and that check in my spirit came floating up in me again. Another year, same scenario and still I forged ahead out of my own faulty strength. Can you believe that? I heard clear as day from my Father in Heaven, the creator of all who saw fit to bend down and speak to me, and I ignored it completely. For two years. Told Him no. Stomped my feet and plugged my ears while I shook my head to drown out the words. I wanted what I wanted, even if it blocked my need. Our bodies can grow older, but sometimes our minds can stay stuck at seven years old, friends.
The second craft fair was just as successful as the first. More so, actually. I praise God for that, because He granted favor to something I put my hands on, despite His instruction to take myself elsewhere. But my heart was folding under the boulder of my disobedience. And because my God knows me completely, inside and out, He decided to speak to me in the only way I could hear it.
‘Honey, you can’t do this anymore. And let me tell you why. Because it’s not for you. I’ve already appointed and anointed others to care for it. If you keep butting in, they can’t receive what I have for them, my love. Ask me what I want you to do and I’ll tell you.’
So I did. Through tears and a deep sadness, I asked my Father what I should do and He told me. To resign my role, to have a discussion with the committee, to follow Him. And after I did, the relief that washed over me was sweet and tender. I could feel His delight in my obedience to His will and out the carpet rolled again, beckoning me forward.
In the book of Luke, it’s said we are blessed when we hear the word of God and obey it. It’s that the most beautiful transaction? ‘Hear me, child….and then just do. I’ll take care of the rest.’ When we strip away all the grime and filth from the world we live in, the world that dunks us in lie after lie until we’re gasping for air and it’s hard to see truth, what we’re left with is a gorgeous simplicity that is rooted in love. It’s not chaotic or confusing or tricky. It’s purposeful and caring. It’s the heart of a good father. When I finally took my hands away from my ears and did as He asked, another part of my tarnished heart obtained freedom. I won’t receive that applause this year and that’s okay. I’ll be clapping for my friends instead, just as it should be. My Father will smile with such pride at His little girl, whom He loves so.
God asks us to do hard things. All the time. Sometimes, the ask is really, really hard, far more than what a craft fair can amount to. But His promise still stands, the one that says He uses all things for our good, and to give us a future, to give us a hope.
The hard ask can be sweet too, friends.