Last weekend began the season of Advent. As the first day approached, I asked Siri for her definition, and here was her response:
"Advent is the arrival of a notable person, thing or event."
I was stirred by this and began thinking about Immanuel...God WITH us; and that's when the reality of it hit.
I have to back the story up a bit. Running our job creation program, Landmine Design, requires us to sell jewelry -- lots of jewelry. We work hard to have an out-of-the-park website for online sales (you should take a look -- landminedesign.org); we also find various markets where we can sell; and we work to develop business partnerships for ways to sell as well.
In October of this year, a sweet pastor's wife, from Alaska called us (hey, Lisa!). Somehow, she had learned of Landmine Design and wondered if we would send her a box of jewelry to sell at a Christmas event in the arctic cold of her world. We were so honored by her and pulled together a box of jewelry.
A few thoughts directed what we put in her box: 1. This was the first time these folks would hear of Landmine Design, so we decided to send last year's stock of jewelry. 2. With other events upcoming, we needed to save brand new stock for those markets where we already were established. 3. It was Alaska. I'm sorry to even type this, but we thought: "How fashion forward can they really be in Alaska?" I know. I KNOW! Really terrible thought, but it helped us figure out what to send to this sweet lady from Alaska. (Lisa, I'm trusting that you'll already forgive me for this last thought!)
Now, on to the next part of this story...hang in there, it will come together, I promise!
Our biggest market every year is a holiday event in the Denver area. It has been our top preforming marketplace for the past three years. As we prepared inventory for all events (after sending the box of last year's jewelry to Alaska), we were informed that this same top preforming marketplace in Denver had run out of room. Several vendors, including Landmine Design, were notified just a month before the event that we would not have a space at the market.
Yea...I was pretty frustrated. For us, this particular market typically generated $6,000 for a weekend of jewelry sales. The late notification by the market organizers put us in a rough bind as we had already declined invitations to other events because we were planning to sell at this top preforming one instead. I wrote emails, called, and tried to convince the organizers to find space for us. In all honesty, losing this earning potential meant losing months worth of salaries for the ladies in our program.
It all was of no use. There simply was no way we'd be in this event this year.
Friday, December 1 (the weekend to kick off Advent), I was preparing for another event. This one was on a much smaller scale and came about because a fellow organization learned of our plight and allowed us to have a corner of their booth over the weekend (thanks so much Hope Works!). I sat down with my cup of coffee for a break from preparation and took a look at what was happening in social media world.
The very first post I saw was from, and about, the other marketplace -- the one that had no room for us. It was a great post about the excitement for the event happening that same weekend. The one where thousands of shoppers would attend and spend thousands and thousands of dollars. I glared at the post and wanted to write something of my own. In my mind, that post went something like this: "Thanks Denver ____ Marketplace for not including us...it's sad that you don't care about women at risk of being trafficked into the sex industry."
Yea... I know! Really strong, passive aggressive words that were rolling around my brain that morning. Don't worry! I didn't take action and post them; but, if I'm honest, I wanted to. How grateful I am for the grace of Jesus when my sinful thoughts run wild. It was the first day of Advent and my grumbly heart was doing just that...grumbling.
As I sat -- with a terribly grumpy heart -- looking at posts about the event we weren't a part of, a text came across my phone screen. It was from the sweet lady in Alaska (hey again, Lisa!). Her words were:
"I'm so blessed to give you this news!!! We will be sending you a check for $7,174..."
As I read her text, tears began to sting my eyes and my sin of grumpiness, complaining, bitterness, etc... pierced conviction in my heart. Within minutes, I was full out weeping over the ways of Jesus:
- He knew we would lose out on the other marketplace and sent the sweet lady from Alaska (hey Lisa) before we had any idea we wouldn't even be part of it.
- He knew my heart would grumble. He knew I would struggle with wanting to be snarky and mean.
- He knew what our sweet ladies needed so they could still receive salaries.
- He knew that HE WOULD PROVIDE and that He would provide ABOVE and BEYOND what we normally would achieve at the market we weren't a part of.
- He knew we would have had a rough time managing the bigger event and 'released' us from it.
- He knew he didn't need me at all in ANY of this! It was HIS work...He was doing it ALL.
He knew all of that and so much more! All at once, the thought raced to my awareness...
Advent. The arrival of a notable person, thing or event.
Jesus had arrived in that exact moment for me.
- In the moment when I was grumbling and frustrated, He arrived.
- In the moment when I didn't know how we would recover funds so very needed, He arrived.
- In the moment when I didn't really want to try selling at a much smaller event, He arrived.
- In the moment when I was tempted to post unkind words, He arrived.
And so today, as I ponder this incredible season of Advent, I feel humbleness and grace mixed together. That the ONE who arrived over 2000 years ago, arrives still today! He is Immanuel, God WITH us. He arrives in all areas, even the mess of my sin and ugliness!
I'm praising Jesus for His arrival, again and again and again this Advent Season! I pray you are acutely aware of His arrival, in every area of life, as we celebrate our Immanuel!