After Service

Before my first apartment, I was in a duplex. It was drafty- chilly in winter and warm in summer. There probably wasn’t much of any insulation in the walls or anywhere else. The floors were a charming reddish brown hardwood except in the one tiny restroom that was tiled and in the small kitchen where there was linoleum. The living room and the one bedroom both had a ceiling fan that somewhat circulated the air flow and the heat from the giant, ancient floor vents. (For anyone who knows the type of vents I’m talking about, you know it is nothing nice to forget about their location on your bare-foot journey to the restroom in the middle of the night! Ooch! Ow! Ow!)

The duplex had two doors that led outside- one off the kitchen and one off the living room. To get a really good idea of how old this place was, let me tell you, the windows worked on a pulley system! I’d never seen anything like it. The landlord was waiting on someone to rent the place, I guess, so she would have a reason and the money to modify the windows that had been painted with lead paint and get the floor heaters cleaned and one of them fixed. Yes, there were repairs that needed to be done. I took what I could get at the time. After all, I was moving in without a job, with a two year old and on good faith because of God’s grace and a distant relative calling in a favor from his best friend who happened to be my landlord- a story for another blog post. God is good!

The front yard was small but had a tree that reminded me of the one just like it that used to be in my grandma’s yard- fuzzy, pink blossoms and all! Fond memories…minus the ants. My landlord managed about 4 duplexes. She lived in one with her skittish, black and white, indoor/outdoor cat. I’m not sure what it’s name was, but it never gave me a chance. *hurt feelings* In the middle were my duplex (a short walk from my landlord) and another duplex that shared a driveway. This driveway led through a chained, locked gate to which we all had a key to and shared. We would park behind the duplexes. My living room door led to the front yard beside the driveway. It was nice for what it was. Living there provided my first opportunity to turn recycling into a lifestyle because there would be a truck separate from the garbage truck that would pick up our water bottles from the containers provided. Sweet deal. (By the way, I’ve upgraded to reusable, personal water containers. Yay, me! Yay, clean, healthy environment!)

I had moved to that particular city in maybe September or October of 2008. In November, I landed a part-time job on campus and joined a really big church whose building had been used previously as a business. (I’m TOO excited to tell you about my first experience at that church and how I ended up there! It’ll be in another blog post, so hold tight!) At this church, I had grown more spiritually in 2 months than I had in 20 years! It was such an exciting time. Things were not perfect there. You won’t find a perfect church because we are the church. However, I learned to be faithful- not because I should be but because I wanted to be, for God. Faithfulness had me showing up to church regardless of the weather. In fact, I remember driving to church in a storm with a black, plastic garbage bag duck taped to one of the windows because it wouldn’t let up. Maybe the window’s motor had gone out. Imagine driving on the Interstate in a storm with the rain beating and the wind rippling through a garbage bag over a window. It sounded like the car had helicopter blades. God’s grace kept us from going deaf! In all things, give thanks, right? Total, I was a member of this particular church from November 2008 until January 2015 when I moved away. There were so many great spiritual principles taught and learned there. One was, “Service (serving others) starts after (church) Service ends.”

Dear Reader, as you know, this blog site is branded Looking for God #HEISEVERYWHERE, so allow me to share with you how I found God after service. Maybe a year or two had passed at this point, but I was still struggling as head of household, single mom, college student and part-time employee, etcetera, etcetera but looked forward to Tuesday nights where we would have Bible Study! I just knew there would be a Word from the Lord for me concerning my circumstance. Our attendance was necessary. It was the light at the end of the tunnel that we looked forward to each week. It was the refreshing wind that was so sorely needed. Some weeks, it seemed the lessons did not apply to us or our particular situation. However, I had to keep going. I needed a Word, and the children’s class was a blessing! By all means, feed me the Word and give me a break! One Tuesday, I reeeaaallllyyyy wanted to go to church, but my gas tank looked sick. Rent was due, and the pressure was on. I just didn’t have enough money. There is no telling how long I juggled the decision of whether or not to go to church. My gas tank said, “I might let you get to work. I’ll think about it. Get back to me.” My faith said, “Stay consistent and faithful. Keep expecting God to work a miracle.” Knowing that there had to be a blessing in staying faithful, there was no way HE was going to leave me hanging. On a wing and a prayer, we went to Bible Study expecting a move of God. I looked for God in the parking lot entering the church. I looked for God in the church lobby before service started. I looked for God as we gathered and took our seats around the tables. I looked for God at neighboring tables. I looked for God during Bible Study and throughout the message. Constantly, I looked over my shoulder, listened for Him, kept talking to Him and asking Him to help. I really needed the rent money to keep a roof over our heads. Service ended. I made no quick moves. I waited. Lingered. Prayed. I stayed so long that I was nearly the last to leave the sanctuary. Finally, I figured that maybe I should just ask someone and receive. One of the other members, a really friendly lady whom I chatted with from time to time and was quite fond of, was spotted in the crowd. We chatted and I communicated a need. She did not have it to give. Still, I waited on God to move. I had no clue where the rent money was coming from. The church was almost empty, but still I lingered and prayed, taking slow steps, waiting on God to answer my prayers. HE wouldn’t leave me hanging. I knew HE wouldn’t…because I had faith and expected HIM to move…so HE had to show up. I continued my slow walk all the way to my car, expecting God. I drove my car really slow avoiding the exit because I was waiting for God. HE must have been moved by my faith and expectancy because my phone rang just when I was about to leave! It was the friend! She asked me where I was and asked me to turn around and come back! It was “Thank You God! Thank You God! Thank You Jesus!” the whole way. The friend had a friend who God spoke to and told to give me money. The lady went to the ATM and came back and gave me the exact amount for the rent. $395.00. At the time, I don’t even think the lady knew what my rent was. That was a miracle! I had never seen that lady before, and I don’t think I’ve seen her since. Her obedience to God blessed me. God works through the hearts and minds of HIS people. HE can do whatever HE wants to do! God uses people all the time to bless. We don’t know what kind of impact our obedience will have. Just be obedient. Stay faithful, and EXPECT great things, even MIRACLES! Because this wonderful, Holy Spirit-led woman of God chose to serve after service, my son and I were blessed. She could have easily been selfish and ignored our need, but she didn’t because of her willingness to obey God’s Voice. Take God out of the box. #HEISEVERYWHERE High and low, I was looking for God and found HIM after Service.

In the Garden

One of my favorite pastimes is gardening- both indoor and outdoor. It is so peaceful and relaxing. I enjoy having live plants around me, especially foliage. Plants have been around me my whole life, but it became personal about 5 or 6 years ago. My son and I were living in our first apartment, and I had gotten fed up of our not having our own house. There were so many things I wanted to do like paint the rooms different colors; decorate with all kinds of large paintings and wall sconces; have more space and privacy; have a sun room with lots of green, leafy air purifiers; have a screened-in porch where I could get fresh air while I sew, yet keep the bugs at bay. Our plans for what we would call home were a long delightful list, but unfortunately, we were still renting. We were upstairs and only had two windows that let a smidgen of sunlight in. Thankfully, these two windows were about 5 or 6 feet wide. One was in my bedroom. One was in my son’s bedroom. Determined to fight through dissatisfying apartment life (no washer or dryer connections, etcetera) while longing for something more, I spent 3-4 hours in my bed with my cell phone one Saturday Googling about plants that would survive low light and thrive in the average temperature of my dwelling. You know, make the best of things. So after my research, notes and planning, I felt empowered to start my first indoor garden. (I started my first outdoor garden when I was age 8, and it was butterfly central!) I went to the local hardware store and the more main stream home improvement store to see if there were any low light plants that would work for my home environment. Not to throw myself under the bus, but I kinda went krazy and ended up with 21 different plant containers of various kinds and plant types. Such fun! My son would make fun of me because I used to take my babies for a “walk” and have them outside to get some sun. During that time and for the next year, I studied and learned about lighting, fertilization and drainage and root ventilation.

Dear reader, as you know, this blog site is branded Looking for God #HEISEVERYWHERE, so allow me to share with you how I found God…in the garden. There was a shift in the spiritual atmosphere and all ties keeping me in the city I’d called home for the past 7 years were severed. I mean SEVERED! School, church, home and work. God was moving me for something GREATER, but that is a story for another blog post. *Wink*

Sadly, after I transitioned to a new city to temporarily live with a relative to get back on my feet, the environment was not fitting for my babies and they pretty much all died. *big sniff* I confess that the plants may have become my idols. I also confess that they were a poor excuse for a void-filler and could never take God’s place. The truth is I was battling depression at the time and in my mind, I needed something to do, something pretty and cheerful to keep me going, something low maintenance to take care of that didn’t stress me- plants were it. It worked but only for a little while. It was like…after one plant was settled in a container and looked pretty, I’d get bored and need another plant. That’s how I ended up with 21 potted plants and no more window sill space.

The move was necessary, but I did not expect what happened to my plants to happen. It was January 2015, frost was on the ground and the relative and I had much disagreement about space and I gave up and just put some of my stuff out, including my plants, and said forget it. Every…single…plant…died. I cried and cried and shut down, withdrew and became nonchalant. I didn’t argue about anything and didn’t disagree much. Everything was, “Okay,” “It doesn’t matter,” “If you want to.” I was not myself. For the months that followed, I would not go near a plant for sell. Every garden department of any super center or home improvement store was avoided like the plague, and if I saw a plant or came too close to one, my eyes would tear up. I was broken. My son tried to minister to me. He fed me all of the scripture and lessons I taught him. Poor thing. It must have been hard for him when the teaching tables were turned. I knew he was right, but I’d hit rock bottom. No car, no home of our own, no job and now no plants.

Five months later, I’d gotten back on my feet but no live plants were in our new apartment. I had put so much into my garden before and never wanted to be hurt like that again. This went on for some time. My son would try to encourage me to get back into gardening. From a place of pain I would respond that I couldn’t right now or that I wasn’t ready. Once God made me realize my sin, confess it, repent of it and had cleansed me from that unhealthy attachment to the plant idols, I was grateful. Never again would I repeat those poor choices.

With that new perspective, I handled my new plants differently. They weren’t my babies anymore. They didn’t have names. I no longer took the time to wipe each and every leaf on the plant with a damp microfiber cloth to make sure they looked their best. My goodness! Thank God that’s over, right?

In the last 4 years, I’ve taken pothos plants to new heights, literally! You should see my living room walls! Unfortunately, the outdoor plants that were in small containers were stolen. Ugh…thieves… The plants needed to be in the ground. I figured that if any thief wanted them bad enough and took the time to dig them up, then they can have them! We were in another apartment complex, yes, but God gave me favor with the apartment manager! With my newly granted written permission to start an in-ground garden below my window, I went to work last year in a tornado of graph paper, mechanical pencils, tape measures, straight rulers, calculators, color pencils, etcetera. So many trips were made to my favorite home improvement store that the workers would check in and ask me how my project was going. This garden would be the first in-ground garden I’d done in 22 years. This garden would deter plant thieves. This garden would prepare me for when God blessed me with home-owner status. This garden was special. Why? Because this garden was dedicated to God. Yes. What used to be my addiction had turned into my ministry! I went to God and asked Him to use my gardening skills to beautify the community and to minister. I asked Him to bless and anoint this garden so that anyone who laid eyes on it would be ministered to in whatever way they needed to be ministered to. Who knows how God works?! Maybe some wayward youth would lay eyes on it and be reminded of how his now-deceased grandmother used to garden and used to give him the Word of God and encourage him to always follow the right path. Then he would change. Maybe a struggling single mom would come home at the end of a long day, see it and be reminded of the beauty of God and how He still cares. Maybe a widower would see the blooms and think of his beloved wife, smile and think to himself that she would have loved these, and the fond memory would warm him and give him peace. Who can put limits on what God can do?! There are no limits for God. #HEISEVERYWHERE

God saw me in the state of my depression, saw my faulty attempt to fill the voids, allowed me to be broken so that HE could mend be back better than I was, and then HE blessed me so that I could bless others. …And HE did it all right there…in the garden.

In Progress…like all of us

Shelter from the Rain

Not so many years ago, maybe 5, times had gotten really tough. My car had broken down the year before, and the car that used to be my great-grandmother’s finally left me on the side of the road. Resilience and determination are my strengths. Taking all of the cash I had that week which was less than $200, I paid a neighbor to take me to a particular super center to buy a bicycle for transportation and bring me home. The bicycle was a big, beautiful candy apple red with dark eggnog-colored trim and tires. It had a chocolate-colored wire basket in the front, two-toned handlebar grips and an adjustable rack on the back. The brand was a Huffy Nel Lusso- a real beauty. It rode reeeeeeeaaaaaally smoooooth.

Thankfully, I’d strategically moved within a 7 minute drive of a grocery store, university, grade school, daycare, gas station (which I no longer needed), fast food restaurant and a fabric store that would later became my place of employment. My routine at the time was to take my son to school, finish getting ready for work, go to work, get off work, and pick him up from daycare on my way home (the daycare would pick him up from school). The rack on the back was a part of the bike frame and really not suited for passengers. My son would ride on the back and wrap his arms around my waist and hold on tight. (I was slender enough at the time which really helped the situation.) Soon the rack became uncomfortable for his bottom, so I had to get creative. We had to keep moving forward and upward no matter the circumstance. I observed the bike rack and devised a plan to create a custom seat to attach to it. Of course we still didn’t have much money, so I went on a scavenger hunt around our apartment to see what might be useful. There was wood and 1″ thick foam left over from a custom headboard and foot stool I’d made before my car went down. There was thick, royal purple upholstery fabric salvaged from some old throw pillows that didn’t match anything in my apartment. My tool box housed my staple gun and wood glue, and a local hardware store took care of the u-shaped brackets and short wood screws I needed as well as the strip of foam that had adhesive on one side. After an hour maybe, I’d upholstered the wood and attached the seat. The foam served as cushion so that the brackets would not scratch the paint. It was nice. My son thought it was cool, and I had him try it out. He approved and so we kept on rolling, literally.

God favored us with nice weather for some time. Even getting to work seemed easier and more enjoyable. Dogs were kept at bay. Crosswalk lights assisted us with busy intersections. It was pleasant, and we were truly making the best out of our situation though some people laughed at us. Gee…I wonder what they would have done in our situation.

Dear reader, as you know, this blog site is branded Looking for God #HEISEVERYWHERE. Let me share with you how I found God on a sidewalk on my way home. One day, the weather turned, and it was up in the air as to whether we would beat the rain home. Right after I’d picked my son up in our 2-wheeled Cadillac, it started to sprinkle. As you can imagine, our journey was sprinkled with prayers. My concern was not only that we would get soaked and uncomfortable but also that the rain would make the sidewalks we road on and the bike pedals slippery. The last thing we needed was to slip and fall into traffic. With much caution and continuous prayer, we road on. We were almost home! HALLELUJAH! Then the sprinkling got heavier and the clouds thickened and darkened. Thunder rumbled a little ways away. Yes, in the back of my mind, getting struck by lightening was a concern. It didn’t look like we were going to make it. On the outside, I stayed calm for my son. On the inside, I kept telling myself to keep the faith in the face of fear. Faith was important. Fear could not win. The pastor of the church we belonged to at the time taught us that it is faith that moves God- not tears and emotion.

Then the Holy Spirit dropped a scripture in my spirit that gave me an idea. HE reminded me of how in the Book of Joshua chapter 10 versus 12-14 NIV, Joshua spoke to the sun and moon and told them to stand still until their victory was won. I knew that my faith had to be some kind of big to even think this would work, but there was no time to doubt. We could not afford doubt. Matthew 18:20 NIV says, “For where two or three gather together in my name, there am I with them.” I believed this, so to prepare for what I was about to ask God, I called out over my shoulder to my son. “Do you remember how in the Bible a man prayed to God to stop the sun so that he would be victorious in battle?” (That isn’t the exact wording of the scripture, but I remembered just enough at the time I needed it.) “Yes ma’am,” he yelled back over the passing wind. “Do you believe that if I ask God to hold back the rain until we make it home safely, HE’ll do it?” “Yes, ma’am,” he yelled back once more. I smiled. That was all I needed. With all the faith I could muster, coupled with the agreement with my 3rd grader, I petitioned God’s throne to hold back the rain until we made it home safely. Of course HE heard me the first time and knew what we needed before we asked, but still I prayed 3 times. The droplets reduced in size and slowed to a stop. More seconds separated the thunder. Answering the knock of opportunity, we speedily but carefully made it home. When we reached the bottom of the stairs, I had my son hop off the bike and go upstairs. I quickly followed behind with the bike on my shoulder. The moment my foot hit the top step, buckets of rain poured from the sky like the neighborhood would flood! Our eyes were wide in amazement at how much water could fall from the sky. Turning to my son with excitement, “Didn’t God do it?! HE answered our prayers!” We cheered and celebrated and just beheld the AWESOME power of God! Then in my mama voice, I told him to always remember the day that we witnessed this miracle. Always remember how God stopped the rain for us so we could make it home safely. To this day, he remembers. We both remember…how God was shelter in the rain. Be encouraged dear reader and just know that if you are Looking for God, #HEISEVERYWHERE

After much wear and tear, she’s still standing. Huffy Nel Lusso

Brocade

Years ago, I was struggling in my finances, struggling to stay in college, and looking for ways to earn money, you know, a side hustle. Being between jobs and being responsible for another life had its challenges. It was October 2009, and I’d remembered a pastor reminding me that my gifts would make room for me and place me in the presence of important people. Using the scripture as my springboard, what followed next were late nights and pre-sunrise brainstorming sessions. The search was on! What could that one gift be? Sure, I had many talents, but what was I so gifted in, so experienced in, such a natural at that people would pay me?? I figured it would have to be something that was introduced to me as a child. The sooner I’d been exposed to a skill the better! Music had been my life for probably half of my life, but I was so out of practice… and I knew what it would take to get me back on point. That kind of time wasn’t a luxury. Plus, the late-night performance opportunities weren’t suited for my particular lifestyle. I needed to be home.

Then I remembered sewing. Hmm… Sewing and I hadn’t done the tango in some time, a little bit of hand sewing custom doll clothes with my mom when I was age 8, and an attempt at an unfinished quilt top on my first sewing machine at age 18. That experience wasn’t really enough to make money. Also, as much as I needed more money, the servant in me believed that my efforts and business would not be as blessed if I didn’t make this about more than just me. I couldn’t be selfish. After a month of praying, researching and modified fasting, I believed I had God’s approval to pursue a business in sewing custom clothing for women.

The idea stemmed from my own painful shopping experiences. This is the part where my story gets emotional. Have you ever gone to clothing store after clothing store after clothing store after clothing store (add in as many as you need to) only to find that nothing fit right or looked right? Pants don’t have your back. Thighs give pants the hand. Ankles play hula hoop, or heels tuck themselves in all warm and cozy. Hips put up a wall of resistance or need a rescue team because they went missing. Rolls pose for mental pictures. Cleavage (if this applies to you) feels extroverted. Armpits choke to death, or shoulder seams look like they’re on muscle relaxers. Bra cups (if this applies to you) play peek-a-boo behind swinging arms. Swimsuit bottoms hold the lap at knife point. The list goes on and on, and my tears have witnessed these true life experiences. Back then, still growing, I allowed myself to entertain low-self esteem. I truly felt that the fashion industry didn’t care about girls like me. It hurt. I still mattered. Not everyone looks like the traditional model, and frankly, I don’t think I want to. No offense. This emotionally debilitating shopping experience happened one too many times. A righteous anger took over me, and it became the FIRE behind Ebony Elice Fashion “Because IT Should Fit YOU!” That business is still building and improving and has seen satisfying success for the most part, by the way.

So there I was in now November 2009, armed with God’s blessing, a mission, a business name, a slogan and a plan to gain the skills and resources I needed to accomplish what morphed from an idea of how to earn money into a passion and ministry!

Fast forward to 2012, I was working in a fabric store earning minimum wage. Even though the feeling of being overworked, underpaid, over-qualified and under-appreciated nagged at me, the journey still seemed on course. Fashion Merchandising and Home Furnishings Merchadising were my concentrations. I’d obtained the first sewing machine that I’d ever bought. (The one that was gifted to me when I was age 18 broke down and went M.I.A..) Plus, I was in fabric heaven! Every day I worked was an opportunity to touch and feel beautiful fabrics from 100% cotton prints to more expensive bridal lace and brocade. This is where my story really gets interesting. *wink*

Dear reader, as you know, the branding of my blog site is Looking for God #HEISEVERYWHERE. Let me share with you how I found God in a fabric store. Being a dreamer and a doer, it was nothing for me to walk the store when traffic slowed down and feel and note all of the fabrics I would buy when I had the money and what type of garment I would make out of it. Heaven! The $6.99+/yard fabric always gave me pause because of my low income at the time. It would take at least 3 yards to make almost anything I wanted to make, so there was much to consider. Waiting long enough for prices to drop while not waiting too long that the fabric was bought by somebody else was a true art that I had to learn. Sometimes it was hit or miss. Timing was a factor. Plus, what could one do about the ones who had the money regardless of the retail price? Oh, well… Wasn’t meant to be, right? We weren’t allowed to really hide anything for sale that we wanted to buy as an employee. Plus, it might have been months before I could save for a decent amount of nice special occasion fabric!

There is a particular work day I will always remember. I’d had my eye on a gorgeous bolt of robin’s egg blue brocade with different pastel-colored blooms scattered over it. Talk about heart eyes emoji! Checking its availability daily and praying for it quickly became a habit. The yardages slowly decreased, and the praying and watching increased. Then the test came. There was only so much fabric left on the bolt, and I still could not financially afford it. A lady walked in the store and brought my brocade to the cutting table where I was stationed and assigned to cut fabric… Let that marinate for a moment.

I believe that prior to her bringing that piece, I’d been helping her locate other choices, answering her questions and chatting with her. She seemed nice. I couldn’t go too far from the cutting table and especially not for long, so I went back to my post to wait for her to make her final selections. When I saw that bolt, my baby, at the cutting table, it seemed like everything went into slow motion. Voices were distant and drowned out, the blinking of eyelids seemed like windshield wipers on the lowest setting, the gulping sound in my throat filled my head and ears, and my heartbeat sounded like a loose bass drum. To say that my life flashed before my eyes would be too dramatic and untrue. At the same time I was seriously freaking out inside! Don’t ask me why this particular piece of fabric was so important to me, but it was. It was like my heart was tied to it. How humbling it was for me to have to measure and cut this fabric I so desired but couldn’t afford! I’m sure my demeanor changed when I had to cut the fabric, but the lady had been so nice to me and we’d chatted previously, so naturally she wanted to continue that as I cut her fabric. My face ratted on me and sang like a canary. I could sense that the customer noticed a change in me. Here I was about to cut and hand over my baby. In this moment, I had a choice to make- either remain professional and take the blow like a woman or let my customer service suffer. Silence and short responses weren’t going to cut it. Plus, my facial expression betrayed me, so I was forced to be absolutely transparent with the lady and tell her the truth. She found out about my passion, my dreams, my college major and concentrations, my faith, my love for that fabric and my hope to own enough of it to create a garment masterpiece one day. She was so compassionate, understanding and also shared my faith. With consideration for me, she decreased her original yardage request. I felt kind of bad because as an employee, I didn’t want anything I said to come between a shopper and an item for sale. Prayers flooded my mind pleading for strength, grace, mercy and favor- anything to keep me together. Finally, her fabric was cut and there was maybe less than 4 yards left on the bolt. There would not be as much as I wanted left. I just knew that the remainder of that bolt was as good as gone. We weren’t going to be getting anymore of that in. The fabric would not make it to see another price drop. My finances hadn’t improved.

What happened next was worse. The luck of the draw had me picked out as the one to ring up the customer who had my fabric! At this point, I looked upward and mouthed, “Why, God?” My palms started sweating though I don’t sweat easily. The customer kept encouraging me, our apologies ping-ponging back and forth across the table and counter to each other. Finally, the transaction was complete. My feet must have forgotten their purpose because I couldn’t move. I just stood there watching the brocade through its clear bag waltz right out the door. My eyes met with my co-worker’s. They all knew how much that fabric meant to me and had watched the whole ordeal go down. My heart and mind tried to make sense of what just happened. I was grieving, literally.

Just when it seemed all hope was gone, the lady unexpectedly came back in the store seemingly with purpose. She was looking for me. I thought to myself, “What now? Coming back to finish me off?” (I know. I’m a comedienne, maybe even a dramatic one.) She patiently waited until I finished with another customer. Then I joined her on the other side of the counter. What she had to say blew my mind! She expressed that she wanted to buy the fabric for me, but I politely declined. She was adamant and shared with me how God had stopped her before she got to her car and told her to turn around and go buy that brocade for me. (My eyes are teary just writing this.) I was taken aback. Cheerfully smiling, she kept reassuring me. I raced to the back of the store to ask my store manager if it was okay and let her know that it was of the customer’s own free will which aligned with policy. Approval was given, but I believe my manager had to cut employee fabric. The customer asked me how much I needed. 3 yards would have allowed me to do something with the brocade. Again, there was less than 4. She bought the remainder of the bolt for me and maybe even got an end-of-bolt discount. I cried. She too was emotional. We talked about God’s love, care and faithfulness, and she left. Standing there, squeezing my bagged gift to my chest, I cried and thanked God. I was a sobbing mess! “Who am I, God, that You would bless me with a want and not just a need?!” I felt God’s love that day. Putting things in perspective, it was just fabric. God didn’t have to do that for me. I wanted it so badly, but it wasn’t a life or death situation. I’m sure there were more pressing prayers that needed God’s attention- like healing diseases and snatching people back from their death beds and rescuing crash victims who were all alone on the road. God is EVERYWHERE, and though HE was at all of those named and unnamed situations, HE also stopped by a fabric store. Who can fathom the mind of God?! That day, I learned that God cares about the small and the big. Why? Because HE cares about us. Look for God. #HEISEVERYWHERE

My Brocade

Rivers and Starlight

Oh, how I enjoy sitting by the river watching the currents. It is so peaceful and calming. I remember my favorite spot by a particular river. One night years ago when I was feeling lost, alone, sad and looking for any sign of what my purpose is, I went to meet God at the river and sit on my favorite concrete block where the riverboats would dock. Sadness consumed me, but deep down inside, there was hope. There had to be… because I was looking.

Dear reader, let me share with you how I found God in the river and in the stars! As I stared at the dark water, I became entranced by its swirling and tossing and folding into itself. The motion was like my life. It was like a rhythmic dance that seemed to change time to keep one on her toes! Still, it was soothing…maybe because I could identify. Finally, after a few moments of staring into the water, I let go. My shoulders slumped, and my sadness began to filter into the waves like an unraveling ball of yarn- slowly but steadily. I noticed that even though the currents seemed to be going in every direction, the bigger picture showed the river moving as a whole in one direction. I wondered, “How could this frenzied, indecisive water know where to flow, still, when it seemed to have no direction?” Just then, my attention was drawn to the reflection on the water’s surface, and I looked up. I looked up at the great expanse suddenly feeling very small. The spread of stars looked like pale gold glitter strategically dusted across a bluish black velvet cloth. I was in awe. The water seemed guided by God who made all of this and was in control of and watching over the river. I thought to myself, “God is guiding the river and it is still on course.” A spark of hope caught in my heart. “Surely, like this river, there is hope for me!” I called out to God and began to confess my sins, disclose my pains, expose my wounds and request an increase of hope. My eyes teared. Then searching the sky for an answer- anything- any sign at all, a star shone brighter than all the rest and began to twinkle. My eyes grew wide and my pupils dilated. Peace warmed me in the midst of a cool breeze. “God, who am I that You would acknowledge me?!” Big, warm tears streaked my face. We passed the time together there, at the river, under the starlight. HE turned my heaving sighs to laughter, my tears of sorrow to tears of joy. A burden, a weight, had been lifted! We playfully walked back to my vehicle, drove home together, and HE tucked me in. HE’d never left me. I’d just gotten distracted, went too far and stayed too long, but I was home now where I was supposed to be.

God is everywhere. HE found me when I was lost…and as badly as I needed HIM and still do, HE wants me and still does. I am a Believer, so my faith assures me that HE wants you too! #HEISEVERYWHERE

Jigsaw Puzzle

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Jigsaw puzzles… they didn’t always used to be my favorite. They started off as a way to keep me busy and quiet while my mother cleaned our home. At first, all of those little pieces seemed overwhelming like they had placed a special demand on me to put them together and with accuracy! Asking my mom for help, I learned some great strategies that helped me not only complete the puzzles but also more easily and with speed, focus and excitement!

The key was to first organize. Sorting the pieces and grouping by similarities helped make sense of the massive pile (Massive is an exaggeration, but as a child, everything seems bigger!). I would first sort and group my straight-edged pieces together, making the four corners a sub pile. Then I would go to work sorting my colors even down to the shades and tints. Special identifying markers would have their own pile such as a birdhouse hole, door or path. The strategies my mom taught me stuck with me even unto adulthood.

Dear reader, as you know, this site is branded “Looking for God #HEISEVERYWHERE”. With that being said, let me share a bit more with you about how I recently found God in a jigsaw puzzle. Last month, I took on my first 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. At first, part of me thought I was crazy. Another part of me was confident that no matter how many pieces to the puzzle, the same strategies could be applied. As I studied the pieces in order to put together the puzzle, I noticed pieces that seemed like they would fit but didn’t. There were some that seemed to have no place at all but did when it was time. There were some that fit but needed a little push to make the union seamless. Still, there were pieces that did fit and match until the arrival of bona fide surrounding pieces made it clear that a particular piece was a counterfeit! Even though I had my strategy and I knew what the big picture should look like, it was clear to me how much I still needed intuition and God’s guidance. I didn’t know what I was doing! The relationship of the pieces ministered to me and reminded me of people who have come into my life, those who left and those who stayed.

The first type of piece reminded me of people who came into my life that I was excited to see coming, thinking they would be a good fit in my life only to find out that they were meant for some place else. The second type of piece reminded me of “angels in disguise” who seemed to have no rhyme or reason for being present until their purpose was served. Bless the LORD! Isn’t it amazing how our eyes can be opened to what was in front of us all along?! How often do we see without SEEING?! The third type of piece is the one that is meant to be there. It belongs. It looks right, and whatever might be askew just needs a gentle nudge to make it just right. How often do we neglect fine tuning just because something is right? Just because things are right doesn’t mean they can’t be improved. Bless the LORD! The fourth type of piece reminded me of the people who seemed to jump right into the rhythm of my life and flow! I mean they fell right in, we had things in common and my close loved ones even liked them, but as other things started falling in place, it was clear that the person I welcomed so easily was a fraud- maybe not intentionally. Maybe they too thought we were a good fit, but there was always that one thing that never was quite right…

In every situation, I need God. No matter how good my strategies may be, I need God. Even if the destination is obvious and the big picture seems crystal clear, I need God, and as a Believer, I believe we ALL need God. Take your pieces to God. I promise you that HE can do something with them!