Early in the summer, I went to a local gift store. One of the employees asked if I made the bag I carried over my shoulder..
"No, but a friend did."
"I'm learning to sew."
"There's a group of ladies who sew at my church every Tuesday night. They are teaching me. I'm making a bag." She described the colors of the fabric.
"Sounds beautiful. Save the scraps and you can eventually make a quilt!"
She laughed. Maybe she wasn't sure about the quilt yet.
My Church Ladies - God's Provision
I made my way through the store looking at various items. While she was talking about the ladies who sew, my heart swirled back to the numerous 'church ladies' in my life who helped me cook by writing their recipes on index cards, introduced me to quilting by sharing stories of their handwork and providing fabric, but more importantly offered positive models of what it meant to be an encouraging wife and nurturing mother.
I called these women "silent encouragers." They had no idea I was watching as they interacted with their spouses, prepared meals and raised their children. Church ladies were part of God's provision for me, filling a huge gap in my life by living out healthy marriages and child raising.
God's Provision through the Ram
The Bible lists may stories of God's provision. One of the most remarkable is when God tests Abraham's faith by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham obeyed taking his son to a mountain, tying him on an altar made from a pile of wood. Just as Abraham raised a knife to kill Isaac, an angel called to him saying, "Don't hurt the boy or do anything to him," he said. "Now I know you have obedient reverence for God, because you have not kept back your only son from him."
The story continues, "Abraham looked around and saw a ram caught in in bush by its horns. He went and got it and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his son. Abraham named the place, 'The Lord Provides.' And even today people say, 'On the Lord's mountain he provides.'"
God's Provision for My Family
Sometimes God's provision is with something material. For example, we lived in Vincennes, Indiana, from June 1989 to June 1996. One late Friday afternoon, Mike, Anna and I were walking to the high school football stadium for the opening game of the season. Sarah was a freshman. She played in the marching band and was already at the stadium practicing for the pre-game show.
As the three of us were walking the few blocks from our parsonage to the stadium, we wondered how we were going to afford to get in. It was the end of the month and our bank account registered $5.00. We weren't sure if six-year-old Anna was free, nor did we remember the cost of adult admission. We kept walking, hoping we had enough. If not, we decided one of us would stay at the game with Anna and the other would go home.
We were at the bottom of the street leading to the stadium when a car pulled over to the sidewalk.
The friendly voice of a church lady called out, "Hi Mike and Jacquie! Are you going to the game?"
"Yes we are!"
"I have two adult tickets. Would you like them? John and I can't go tonight."
Stunned, we replied, "Sure ...yes we could use your tickets!" Pat's hand jutted out the window waving the two tickets.
"I get season tickets each year free because I'm a school principal. So glad we found someone to use them!"
God's provision once again.
We got into the game. Anna was free and the $5.00 we brought enabled Anna and a friend to split a bag of popcorn and have a drink.
God's provision was timely, serendipitous, and received with much gratitude.
Keeping Hearts Open for Everyday Provision
God's provision occurs throughout the day - many times we may not even be aware. When we're struck with a new thought or insight about life or we sense a nudge to complete God's call to extend love to others - these are ways God provides. God is always waiting to deepen our faith and move us closer to his image. Keeping an open hear ensures a readiness to receive what God gives readily and with great love.
The church ladies in Mike's three rural student pastorates in North Carolina were formative in my early days of marriage. As I said, they showered me with recipes and encouragement as I learned to cook. The church ladies in each of Mike's appointments in those early years offered models to ground my life in God and to be the best wife to Mike and mother to Sarah and Anna. Even after 42 years, the imprint of what they gave me remains.
Questions for reflection:
1. Who are the silent encouragers from your life?
2. What individuals or groups of people have modeled Christian living for you?
Prayer: God, I thank you deeply for the many ways you have offered provision to fill gaps of loss in my life. These church ladies have blessed me in ways that still carry me today. As I have been blessed, open my heart to bless others in your name. Amen.