How It All Started

    One wintry morning in 2003, a few tears and a dusting of snow splashed into my coffee cup and swirled together in a cloud of sparkling pixie dust that enveloped me like a magical cloak and crowned me with the inspiration for this party business.

    Not really.

    The truth is, God did something far more miraculously marvelous than any story I could ever make up! He wrapped up an answer to a prayer in swirling snowflakes and delivered it directly to my front door in the middle of a blizzard.  

    I was feeling sad and a little scared because our family finances were as bleak as the weather report. My stay-at-home-mom days were screeching to a halt, and I was trying to figure out the best and fastest way to earn income. It was going to be a difficult balancing act because I had young children at home who needed me. And I had no marketable skills. Zip.

    Sitting at the kitchen table, I sipped coffee and watched fat snowflakes drape the back deck in icy white.  We had awakened to a winter storm warning, with school and road closings. It seemed like a great day to go back to bed, but I knew I would be unable to sleep. Too much stress. My future looked just as slippery as the back deck.  

     What could I possibly do? I had never even flipped a fast food burger.  Self-pity welled up and the tears began to flow. I didn’t want to work. I just wanted to stay home with my children! I prayed, and I am embarassed to tell you that it was the most self-centered, take-pity-on-poor-me-because-I-have-to-(gasp!)-work  prayer one has ever had the misfortune to pray.  

      Afterward, I didn’t feel a bit better. I just felt guilty. Moms all over the world have to scour through garbage cans and work in inhumane conditions in an attempt to feed their children and I had the audacity to feel sorry for myself because I had to go out and earn an honest living! Poor me — having to give up a few of those hours and hours of time to take my children to the park and the pool and read them books and schedule playdates. I bowed my head again and asked God to please scratch the earlier prayer and instead, show me what I might do to earn an income. I also asked for a pretty powerful sign because I am not particularly endowed with wisdom and discernment.  

        This time, after praying, I evaluated my volunteer experience….All of it centered around children. I loved dressing up and playing with children. And I loved parties. In fact, my garage was filled with cardboard painted for all of my daughter’s many and varied birthday party themes. In our family, it was a tradition to choose the theme for the following year  immediately after a birthday party ended — because the parties were so elaborate it took an entire year to create them.  One year we created an entire Land of Oz, with individual munchkin houses and a yellow brick road lined with lollipops, windmills and silk flowers, a corn field with a live scarecrow, an apple orchard, a crawl-through witch’s castle and an Emerald City decorated entirely in green.

      Could I do birthday parties for a living, I wondered. Would anyone hire me to do this same kind of thing for other children? Perhaps I could put all those painted backdrops in the garage to good use — and collect new cardboard to paint additional backdrops. Refrigerator boxes were free. I could turn one into a princess castle, maybe. Or a sunken ship filled with treasure! How about a secret fairy hideaway tucked in the roots of an old oak tree? Hmmmm…. Possibilities whirled and twirled like snowflakes as I paced from room to room, excitedly pondering party themes and programs.   

       But it seemed like such a daunting thing to do!  Would it be worthwhile to try to open my own business? What if I wasted all that time painting backdrops and creating parties and no one hired me? Should I really try to do this? Questions churned in my heart.  

        I paused beside the dining room window to admire the frozen wonder of our front yard, now fully carpeted in white — with more snow dancing down. Frosty branches dipped and bowed beneath the weight of the ice, and the whole world was still and quiet, absolutely postcard perfect.

          Except for one glaring inconsistency. 

          A Best Buy truck idled in the street directly in front of my house. There was no driver in the cab. The truck was parked so that its back directly faced my line of vision. The back was open. And it was filled with refrigerator boxes.

          I was so taken aback that I actually stepped out into the snow barefoot to get a better look. That lasted about two seconds, and at least I knew from the cold burning sensation in my feet and the wet flakes on my face that I was definitely not dreaming. I scuttled inside to get a coat and shoes before walking out into the street, where I circled the truck slowly. Swirling snow gave the entire thing a surreal ambiance. Where on earth was the driver?

          I began knocking on doors. As it turned out, the driver was racing the clock to install a new dishwasher in the home of my neighbor. All drivers had been recalled that morning due to the weather, but he had felt compelled to go ahead and make this particular delivery before returning. I know why, of course, but he did not — and he was kicking himself for making such a crazy decision. He told me to help myself to all the cardboard I wanted, but to hurry because he was leaving in another few minutes. 

        That cardboard became the foundation for this business. I started painting the following week. And as God continued to lay the path before me, one step at a time, I never doubted that it was the right one. The next few years were filled with jaw-dropping “coincidences” just like the one I have described.

           I tell people that God has never spoken to me from a burning bush, but He has definitely delivered a truckload of answers directly to my doorstep in the middle of a blizzard.  I love to share this story because it illustrates both God’s majesty and His mercy. People who hear it tend to smile, and some get goosebumps or blink back tears.

        But sometimes this story just frustrates the people with whom I share it. They have prayers that they’d like answered — and they’ve been faithfully waiting and waiting and waiting for the answers to come.  They’re feeling weary and distressed and doubtful. This story does not touch them; it makes them vaguely uncomfortable. Where, they wonder, is their truckload of cardboard in the blizzard? 

      To those people, I offer this encouragement: God does not always set a bush on fire or park a truck in your front yard to get your attention. The Creator of the erupting volcano with its massive landscape of fire and ash is the same as the Creator of the dragonfly’s fragile wing. The God who created thunder and lightning can also speak in a voice as subtle as the pitter patter of rainfall on clover.     

         There is an email that circulates sometimes about recognizing God’s voice.  I received it again just this morning. This is how it goes:

             “Speak to me, God,” the man whispered. The meadowlark sang, but the man did not hear. 

             “Speak to me, God,” the man yelled. Thunder rolled across the sky, but the man did not listen.

              “Show yourself to me, God,” cried the man. The stars twinkled above, but the man did not look.

              “Dear God, give me a miracle!” pleaded the man.  A life was born, but the man did not notice.

              “Just touch me,” sobbed the man. “Reach out and touch me, Lord.” 

                God did indeed touch the man, but the man brushed away the butterfly that landed on his sleeve.  

                Hmmmm. That truck filled with cardboard would have been parked in front of my house that morning whether or not  I looked out the window. I saw the truck — God’s amazing, jaw-dropping answer to my prayer for direction — only because I looked out my dining room window when I got up and began to get excited. If I had remained seated at my kitchen table, crying in my coffee and feeling sorry myself, I would have seen nothing of that truck. I would have continued to watch the snow pile on the deck at the back side of the house while the truck — and God’s glorious answer to my prayer — quietly came and went.  It was only when I stood up and began to pace through the house, contemplating the possibilities and getting excited about them, that I made it to the dining room and looked out the window and the fanfare began. 

               The point is that we have to be in a place where we’re able to see God’s life-changing answers to our prayers when they come to us. If we’re looking through the wrong window, we won’t see anything at all.  

              My women’s Bible study has been focusing in great detail for some weeks now on the book of Phillippians and its powerful encouragement to think positive thoughts.  It was only when I got past the self-pity and began to focus on positive thoughts and possibilities that I was able to see God’s marvelous response to my question that day.   

               Discerning God’s voice is an ongoing process of recognition and appreciation. It’s an exercise in listening quietly and with faithful, positive focus. I don’t think you can really hear it unless you ask to hear it.  

               Myself, I pretty much stink at this whole discernment thing. But I want to get better and I’m working on it. 🙂 And sharing my stories of how God works in my life is part of developing a listening ear. It’s speaking up in order to hear better. It’s giving God the glory.

                 So thanks for letting me share my amazing Blizzard Truck story with you!

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One Response to “How It All Started”

  1. Kathy Says:

    I just read your story (I am searching for ideas for my 3 year old’s birthday party) and I LOVE it!!!!
    I love hearing (reading) fellow believers testimonies and it is such an awesome witness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
    May God bless everything that you do!
    Kathy 🙂

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