Another craft fair, and another series of lessons from the Lord!
The craft fair in Steuben was a two-day event, Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. It’s not far from home, and we were glad to have a short drive, and everything already prepared from our experience in Bangor.
Our day started off like any other…People stopped at the table, they asked questions and chatted. Being a small town, people were generally more laid-back, more friendly, smiling and pleasant and out having a relaxing time.
A pair of ladies stopped, browsing through muslin napkins and tea-towels, waxed-canvas journals and beeswaxed-food-wraps. The one lady said to her friend, “You know, I have a big block of beeswax at home that I’ve been wondering what to do with – I wonder if I could try something like this?” So I realized that she wasn’t interested in purchasing anything, but that she might have a couple of questions about making things herself. She turned to me and asked if I had waxed these myself. I said that I had, and explained how I just use a warm iron, the same kind that is used for waxing skis or snowboards, and that I would simply heat the fabric and apply the beeswax until it was thoroughly soaked. I explained how the food wraps used a light-weight cotton muslin, while the journals used a heavier-weight cotton canvas. I said that it was fun to do, and that it smells lovely while you’re working. She said, “That’s nice. You know it’s toxic, right?”
Me: blink…blink…”I’m sorry, what?”
She: “It’s toxic, beeswax. When you heat it up, the fumes are highly toxic. I took a class once. They filled the room with big fans and opened all the windows. You should really only do it outside. You should Google it.” And she walked off. I was so completely caught off-guard! My husband asked what that was about, so I told him. He laughed and shrugged. I laughed and shook my head. I explained to my children that this had been very rude, and they should never speak to someone this way, but if they had legitimate concerns for some one, they should find a way to express them kindly and privately. I also explained that if someone was rude to them, it was okay, and we have to assume that they didn’t know any better, or that they were doing the best they could, and forgive them, and pray for them.
I dutifully Googled it when I got home. As I suspected, all search results regarding “beeswax toxic fumes” will tell you to switch to beeswax candles to avoid the toxic fumes produced by paraffin and other ingredients often included in mass-manufactured candles. Even the FDA classifies beeswax as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe). You can burn it. You can put it in your lotion. You can even eat it (though I wouldn’t recommend it in large quantities!). And it remains healthy!
A few minutes went by. Another lady stopped at the table, looking at some of my husband’s hand-carved serving spoons. She said, “I forgot my glasses – can you tell me how much this one costs?” It was a large serving spoon, carved from Wild Cherry, with a natural knot-hole drain and lots of lovely figure. It was $82.00. She looked shocked and quickly put it down. I said sympathetically, “I know, some of our items are expensive. Because they’re hand-carved from hand-harvested woods, there can be a lot of time that goes into them, and so some of the specialty items have a higher price.” She nodded, and continued browsing. She paused again at some other items, and beckoned me over. I thought she might have another question. Instead, she pulled me aside and said, “You guys should really be in a high-end craft fair.”
Me, hoping to end the conversation simply and graciously: “Thank you. We certainly look into each opportunity as it comes.”
She, frowning and shaking her head: “No, really. I mean, you seem to do nice work, and I’m sure it takes time and everything, but your prices are so different from everyone else here…” Then, growing agitated, she finished with, “You really should be somewhere else.”
Okay. Again, Joe asked me what that was all about, and I recounted the conversation. Again, I explained to my children that this was rude, but we must assume she was well-intentioned, and forgive her.
So, based on my experiences so far, it would seem that I was a very unsuccessful little salesperson, and that this fair was not promising to be a very good fit for us…But I try not to pay attention to that kind of thinking at all, because it’s based upon appearances, and our family wouldn’t be at this craft fair if God didn’t have a reason for us to be here! Again, we talked about how, if we never made one sale, we could rest certain in the comfort that simply being here, with God’s word all over our table, smiling and being kind to others, ready to share the word of the Lord, was the good work of faithful servants.
And things moved along reasonably well. The kids each sold some toys and games, some books and ornaments. We chatted with people as always, sharing a little of our story as a family. During slow times, we entertained ourselves variously…
And then, the Lord began to unfold a lesson that certainly was one of the reasons why we were there that day…
A young lady stopped by our table. She began looking over our selection, noticing the scriptures written on everything. She was smiling and nodding, and said, “I love this! God is good!” And I smiled and said, “Yes, He is!” but she was wandering off just as quickly, and that was all I had the chance to say.
A few minutes later, she came back with her husband. They stood slightly back from the corner of the table, chatting. Her husband stepped forward to the table, and looked at a few things. And then he looked at me and said, “Can I see those bowls?” He was pointing to a stack of large bowls that I had stored underneath our table. I hadn’t even placed them out on display, because they are the most expensive items in our inventory.
“Sure!” I reached beneath the table, and pulled them out. “This one?” He nodded, and I sent the bowl out to him with my son, Asher. The gentleman looked at the bowl, admiring it. I didn’t realize it until Asher told me later, but he looked at the price tag and said, “Oh, eight-hundred dollars. Oh no, that’s too much, I don’t have that much with me right now.”
Asher said, “Oh, no sir, that’s two-hundred dollars!”
“Oh great!” he laughed. “I don’t have my glasses!” He turned to me and said, “Yes, I’ll take it, please.”
He didn’t hesitate. He actually made it sound like he would have paid $800 for it, he just didn’t have that much cash on him! I was so surprised!
As I bustled about trying to wrap up this large serving bowl, Joe chatted with the couple, who were just passing through. They introduced themselves as the McCanns. “What town are we even in?” they asked, laughing. They were on their way up the coast on a little adventure, a mini-vacation. They were so excited to have found this perfect gift for a wedding present for their very dear friend. Joe told them how he had taken the tree down himself, and split it, hand-carving the bowl from one half of the section of poplar. They admired the way it was entirely hand-gouged. Mrs. McCann also decided to buy one of Spencer’s hand-carved Rubberband Board Games, as a gift. There was so much excitement and laughter! Mrs. McCann asked asked us to group up for a photo, telling me how much our family had touched her heart, how much we were filled with light, and how she wanted to remember this happy moment in their adventure!
It all happened so fast! As soon as they were out of sight, I was instantly filled with regret…I wished I had not been so flustered, I wished I had not felt like things happened so quickly, I wished I had chatted a little more, said a few more things, asked to pray with them before they left, given Mrs. McCann a hug, maybe asked her to be in the picture instead of taking the picture…So many things that I could have done better!
And so I prayed, “Lord, I am so sorry for all of my shortcomings! There is so much that I could do better, and wish I had done better! Thank you for this experience, and please bless the McCanns with an abundant blessing from our encounter. May the bowl and the game be a continued blessing to them, and to those who receive them as gifts. I may have fallen short, but You never do, and I would be grateful if You please make up for all my shortcomings in Your blessing upon these works of our hands that go out according to Your will!”
And here are some of the things that I began to learn, both through my overwhelming sense of my own shortcomings, and through God’s overwhelming display of His sovereignty.
~ one ~
Even if everyone in that room told me that our things were too expensive and this was not the right market for us…Yet, the Lord could pluck a couple off of the highway, detour them into a random small-town craft fair, and inspire them to buy one of the most expensive items in our inventory, even when we didn’t have it out on display.
~ two ~
It had nothing to do with my skill. It had nothing to do with my market analysis. It had nothing to do with my salesmanship. In fact, this was absolutely the most inadequate and clumsy I had felt in any sales transaction yet!
~ three ~
And the very fact that I felt so inadequate was its own blessing of comfort from the Lord, reminding me that this was entirely in the Lord’s hands, and entirely not in my own. In spite of any negative feedback, in spite of all my shortcomings and failures, yet God reminded me once more, that all of this rests, not on me, but on Him. And as long as I remain steadfast in devoting everything about our business to His hands, to His glory, then He will continue to provide, and to compensate for my shortcomings, not according to the world’s wisdom, but according to His amazing ways!
And the lessons were not over, yet!
For the first time, we had made a two-day commitment, and so, Saturday morning, we were up and ready to go again! It seemed that more people had opted for Black Friday shopping, and Saturday was quieter. We were off to a pleasant start as customers purchased one of Spencer’s books and a couple of Asher’s rubberband guns.
We smiled and chatted and smiled and chatted. We kept busy during slow times with trips to the playground. And then, there was this one lady…
Once more, a customer approached our table and began speaking to me, and Joe didn’t notice. He said he thought that these interactions must come directly to me for some specific reason, because otherwise, it didn’t make sense to him that he wouldn’t notice until it’s over! He had actually seen this lady coming into the fair, and he said he immediately felt his spirit stirring up within him. He thought there might be a confrontation coming his way. But, actually, it was coming my way!
She was an elderly lady, hunched low over a walker and moving slowly. She stopped in front of Spencer, and we offered our customary smiles and greetings. She asked if Spencer had made these items, and he said yes. She asked if Spencer had written this book, and he said yes. She picked it up and thumbed through a couple of pages…
And then, she angrily closed the book and slammed it down, shaking her head and saying, “No! No! Uh-uh.”
I was surprised. No matter how often it happens, rudeness still shocks me! I wouldn’t accept this behavior in my children, and I never expect it from adults!
I said, “I’m sorry, ma’am, is something the matter?”
She said, “I don’t believe in this stuff, Bible and religion and all that. No.”
“I understand,” I replied. “Our work is not about religion, it is about God.”
“No!” she answered. “I am a Quaker, William Penn, you know him?”
“Yes, I know who he is,” I replied.
“We don’t believe in that. We are god.”
“Oh no, ma’am,” I said. “We are not God. We are created by God, but we are certainly not God.”
“We are god,” she said. “Think about it.”
“No, thank you,” I responded. “We don’t have to think about that. We know very well Who God truly is through the word that He has given us.”
“No,” she said. “I’m leaving Maine, anyway.” She began moving away. “I’m going to Delaware. It’s different there.”
“I wish you the best!” I said. And I prayed that God would open her eyes. I wonder if I should have prayed that bit out loud, but in these strange moments, which arise and pass so very suddenly, I can only meekly hope to faithfully say what God has for me to say, and pray that I get better about it each time! This poor, strange, deceived lady passed down to the next table, where she chatted and laughed with the two vendors for a long time, and where I continued to ponder over this strange world in which people can fellowship with the devil and never bat an eye, and never see that anything is wrong…
~ four ~
There is something specific that was causing attacks to come to me, and not to Joe. And I could never be prepared for them, but must rely on my obedience to the Holy Spirit to say what He wants me to say. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. (Matthew 10:19, KJV)
The Last Fair
One more craft fair would wrap up our season for the year. And the learning continued…
The Christmas on Main Street Craft Fair in Milbridge is one that we also participated in last year, so the setting was familiar. We settled ourselves into our space, and prepared to see what the day would unfold for us.
Almost at the very beginning of the fair, we saw a familiar face. It was a lady that we had met soon after our arrival to the area. She had always been friendly, had spoken kindly of our moving to the area, homeschooling, and raising our family in the Lord. I had the impression that she followed the Lord, as well. We had always smiled and said hi and exchanged pleasantries at the grocery store and such. And here she came, probably to say hi and chat a bit, I thought. I smiled at her. Instead of coming to the table, she stood well back in the aisle, walking past quickly, and shouting, “I have tons of that stuff at home! My nephew’s a woodworker, I have stuff like that all over the place!” And she hurried away.
Whoa. What? I was instantly struck with a flurry of thoughts…One, of course, that our table is full of so much more than woodenware…Next, that this is my neighbor, and she has to run from me and my children, shouting us away, without even saying hi…And then, of course, that this was far from any kind of Christian behavior. In that moment, I realized a solemn truth. Someone who can be seized in a moment to act in such a bizarrely-unfriendly manner is not someone who consistently devotes her heart to living a life according to God’s will.
~ five ~
Even the nicest person, if they are not devoted to the Lord, can be used by the enemy in a heartbeat.
And Joe said, “What did she say to you?” I told Joe what she had said. I said, “I can’t believe that a woman who claims to be godly, could behave that way.” And then, “Why do you think I keep receiving these attacks?” My eyes began to fill a bit. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to learn. Am I doing something wrong? I don’t overly mind the attacks, themselves, but am I doing what I am supposed to be doing, to simply take each attack with a smile, and pray for the person afterwards, or am I doing something wrong, and that’s why they keep coming?”
And then, something began to change, and another lesson began to unfold.
On this particular day, Joe did not feel like carving while we were at the fair. He usually carves spoons at the table, as a demonstration to passers-by, and to make good use of the time. This means that I do most of the talking with customers, since carving takes concentration. I don’t mind, that’s just the way it works out. But today, Joe felt it was right to set aside his carving and take the lead in speaking with customers. I was still right beside him, still interacting with those who stopped at our table, but it was more like Joe was in the lead and I was his partner and support. And wouldn’t you know, after that very first interaction, as Joe shifted into the lead speaking role at the table, there was not one more personal attack from one more person all day. And I felt this great comfort, watching Joe speak with customers, knowing that he prays, literally, about everything that he says, knowing that I was now free in a support role under his leadership. It was a sense that all was as it should be, and that I had just learned something of the truth behind these attacks.
~ six ~
The attacks had been mine to endure, not because I was doing something wrong, but for my perseverance until such time as Joe was supposed to step into the leading role, and for my appreciation of the awesome protection and power that is God’s ordained good for us as wives of godly husbands. …but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (John 9:3, KJV)
But wait, there’s more?
Joe and I chatted, during down-times, about how this year at craft fairs had been so very different from last year at craft fairs. Last year, at each fair, so very many people stopped to compliment our family, to express their support and admiration for what we were doing, to encourage the children, to ask us about homeschooling, to appreciate seeing a family all working together. Even if they didn’t buy anything, so many people stopped to say a kind word. This year, we received very little positive interaction, and really quite a lot of specifically negative interaction! What had changed?
It couldn’t be about selection. We had repeated several items that were very popular last year, and we had added new items that people had shown interest in, like handbags and necklaces and soaps. So we had a mix of previous-popular items and new offerings. And it couldn’t be all about price. We actually had even more low-priced items, well within the price range that people were willing to spend at other tables…But more than that, there was the really noticeable lack of positive interaction compared to last year. Not so much that fewer people were making purchases, but that fewer people were even stopping at all, fewer people had a kind word to say, and noticeably more people were specifically saying unkind things.
We realized that the difference, really, was all about God’s word.
You see, last year, the craft fair was something that we did on relatively short notice, just because the kids were interested, just to see how things went. We made our items by-hand, we set them up on the table, and we were smiling and prepared to share God’s word. We had a few items at the table with God’s word specifically on them, we had God’s word on our business cards, but we also had a lot of items that were just, simply, items.
But since that time, we have been building our online business, with the specific intent to glorify God as much as we can in each thing that we make.
So this year, every single thing that we made had scripture on it! We decided we didn’t want anything that we made to go out into the world unless God’s word was on it. So, even if a product didn’t have scripture written directly on it, all of our labels included scripture. All of our business and information cards included scripture. Everything that we offer is named according to a specific scripture. Even more than last year, there is not one place that you can look on our table where you will not encounter God’s word. And this, actually, is the only reason that we felt comfortable continuing to attend craft fairs, at all! We don’t want to do anything out of selfish ambition, but if we can trust each event to God’s hands and know that we are constantly sharing His word, we are comfortable that we are acting according to His will.
And so, it suddenly made sense to me that, if we had committed this year to specifically glorifying God by ensuring that His word went out with every single thing that we made, it would only be natural for the enemy to meet those efforts with tactics meant to discourage and dissuade.
~ seven ~
You can’t expect to devote yourself to purposely, outwardly, faithfully doing all things to the specific glory of God without experiencing resistance, rejection, and attack from the enemy and the world. And that is its own comfort.
It did make me sad that there were so many people who could be happy for our family, last year, when we might be seen as just a “crafty” family; and yet could be used by the enemy, this year, to avoid or even attack our family when we were a specifically-godly family.
But, these moments that are saddening have their own strange comfort, because the knowledge that the enemy is attacking an effort of godliness is a reassurance that it is a right path, and a promise that steadfastness and faithfulness and perseverance will yield a harvest in time.
Much to Reflect Upon
Nothing we undertake to do for the Lord is for nought.
As I reflect back over these few short weeks, over this handful of craft fairs, it is almost astonishing to see how many lessons were jammed into such a short season of life!
It seems that the intentional decision to glorify God in every small way we can think of prompts a reaction from the enemy, of obstacles and attacks.
It seems there are many, many people who, though probably nice enough on any given day, are yet sadly available to be used by the enemy in such attacks.
It seems that there are many, many people who are comfortable enough chatting with a hand-crafting family, who are not comfortable chatting with a family dedicated to doing all things for the glory of God.
It seems that things are at their best when Joe is specifically the lead spokesperson, a wonderful example of how God’s ordained order is best, down to the tiniest details.
It seems that God is pleased to display His absolute sovereignty and abundant grace in so many ways in our simple, daily lives.
Throughout our craft fair days, the Lord was kind to also grace us with some wonderful interactions, some lights of encouragement, those individuals and couples who specifically appreciated our devotion to God, who made purchases that they were excited about, or who asked for contact information for future projects, and even a fellow-vendor who suggested that we should apply for a spot at a church-based venue that she had really enjoyed.
Thank you, Lord, that you work all things to our good, refining us according to Your will. Thank you, Lord, that in the midst of this learning, which can be difficult and uncomfortable, You not only lead us in Your wisdom, but even comfort us with positive interactions and experiences, to refresh our struggling flesh in the midst of our battles, and keep us in Your ways when we are growing weary.
Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.(Ephesians 6:19-20, NIV)