Do you like to make things? Maybe objects out of Legos or tree forts in the woods or dresses for dolls? Well, when I was a little girl I liked to make crafts. I would see some interesting decoration or knick-knack in a store window or at someone’s house, and then I would try to copy it using things I had access to at home or in nature. Many times a collection of pine cones, painted rocks, or even buttons would serve for several projects.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV) says that “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."
One thing I thought I could copy pretty well was a Christmas tree ornament I had seen made out of empty thread spools. That doesn’t sound very attractive, but when you cover the middle of the spool with pretty pieces of cloth and put small round pieces of felt on the ends, it looks better. You can even paint the thread spool colors that will go with the cloth you choose. But you have to have a way of hanging it on the Christmas tree, right? Well, if you put long hat pins through the felt at either end of the spool, you can attach a ribbon to that. To give it some bling, I put the long hat pin through some colorful beads on their way to the center of the spool. The finished ornament was very attractive—at least that’s what people told me.
Creating an Investment Project
At church, people described various investment projects that members could do to earn money for missions. Some people sold plants or made birdhouses. Others sold baked goods, and some even sold wigs! We kids collected food labels worth 5 or 10 cents each and turned them in throughout the year. But everyone was doing that, and I wanted to do something different.
My family didn’t have much money, but I wanted to contribute to the investment effort too. We couldn’t afford some of the supplies that many of the projects required, but I could find the supplies I needed for those Christmas ornaments just lying around our house or by asking my grandmother if I could go through her collection of craft and sewing items. Grandma liked to sew a lot, and she always had pieces of ribbon and cloth and buttons and beads in her sewing desk drawers that she would let me have.
I gathered my supplies and made some samples that I could exhibit at our church fair. The fair was held on a lovely fall afternoon in the gymnasium that joined the church to our elementary school. There were many tables of interesting and pretty things for sale that day. People from the community came as well. It was fun for all of us to share the same purpose of raising funds for the Lord. I could feel the energy in the room. No competition, just support for a common cause. My exhibit was rather simple compared to others, especially the ones manned by the adults. But people came by and gave me compliments and put in orders for the different color themes they would like for their ornament. The adults wanted to encourage the young people in their projects for investment and bought many items from the kids. I didn't have an overwhelming number of orders, but it was a respectable amount, and I really felt that I was doing something for Jesus. Since our church fair was in the early fall, I felt I had plenty of time to work on my Christmas ornament orders after school and on weekends. I wanted to be sure to get the ornaments to my customers before the Christmas holiday season so they would be ready to decorate all their trees at home.
Then it happened. First Peter 5:8 (NIV) says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Unfortunately, he set his sights on me. I knew that a lion was not going to eat me, but I did pay attention in Sabbath School, and I realized that the devil was very clever and had countless ways to try to mess up God’s plan for each of us.
One morning before school I was racing other kids in that same school gymnasium as I had done many times, but this time something went wrong. I was usually the fastest in races at school and even won a second-place ribbon at the Ohio Pathfinder Fair one year. Racing outside was one thing, but racing indoors was another. Outside you would just run over the finish line and let yourself keep going and then slow down at your own pace. Inside the gym there was a cement block wall to stop you at the other end. I had raced in our school gym many times and had developed a technique of going full steam ahead to the finish line painted on the floor, and then coming to a stop before the wall by sliding on my tennis shoes at the end. Well, this time my tennis shoes did not slide, and I hit full steam, head first into the cement block wall. The next thing I remembered I was lying on a stretcher outside the school and being placed into an ambulance. At the hospital they gave me a brain test that involved sticking electrodes to my head. I was in the hospital for a week while they did tests on me. My head sure hurt. No stitches, but I had a concussion.
After I returned home, I felt very weak for a while. I had schoolwork to catch up on, so making the Christmas ornaments was put on the back burner. I didn’t want to let people down, though, because Colossians 3:23 (NIV) tells us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Even though I was making these Christmas ornaments to sell to people, my efforts were really for the Lord.
My mother and other family members helped me with the ornaments and to fill all the orders. I found out that my church family customers were very sympathetic and willing to wait as long as necessary for their purchases. I even had extra orders come in. I finally realized that they were as much a part of my project as all those craft items. Together we blessed each other, and we praised the Lord. “So we have many people of faith around us. Their lives tell us what faith means. So let us run the race that is before us and never give up” (Heb. 12:1, ICB).
The race I won in the school gymnasium that fall day was nothing compared to the future races I would run and win with God and my church family rooting me on. Not the kind of races you run on a track, but the kind where people who love you are keeping you in prayer from the sidelines, and Jesus is at the end of every lap offering a drink of cool water or a soft cloth to wipe the sweat from your face. And He, after all, is the ultimate prize behind the finish line.