Jim was teaching at the community college in Arkansas City, south-central Kansas, close to the Oklahoma border, and I was church secretary after our fourth child Hank was born. Hank was five years younger than Matthew; Matt five years younger than Francy and two years between her and Kurt. This is the context of the most memorable Valentine’s Day I would ever have.
It was soon evident I needed to begin my business/ministry so I could work my own hours from home. I loved being on the road servicing book racks. It brought many adventures – like my Valentine Day story.
I figured I could service book racks on Saturdays to begin, so I sold my first account to Graves Drug store in town. Twenty-four more accounts in close-by towns followed easily after facing my fears, which was very difficult. My life-saver was repeating out loud 2 Timothy 1:7, from the Amplified: “God has not given me a spirit of timidity—of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear—but of power and of love and of calm and a well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.” Soon, I found Zechariah 4:6 to be quicker to say and just as powerful: “Not by might, nor by my power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty.” Repeating these Scriptures brought peace and calmed my fears.
In all the places which agreed to put in Christian books, those sales were made on the first call. Store managers liked the family values they portrayed with service provided as a guaranteed sale at 25% discount. We middle-(wo)men distributors bought at 40% discount, making it necessary to have an abundance of accounts to be worthwhile.
With the racks and home parties, I soon left the secretarial job. I absolutely loved my new adventure with Jesus. It was like He took my hand and directed every move. He so very subtly built my confidence.
Over the next seventeen years the twenty-five racks grew to fifty. Matt and Hank helped me price books with UPC stickers. Our garage converted to a bookstore on delivery day. A room off the garage with no windows, built for the previous owner’s paintings, doubled perfectly for bookshelves—no sunlight to fade the books. We had fun and I was able to buy my own van for delivery, but all the work was not without a price.
The 10,000 miles per year turned into 30,000; stress began to take its toll. My time with the Lord was compromised when I found myself leaving at 4:30 a.m. to get to Oklahoma City to have those racks serviced by the deadline of 10:00 a.m. Trips from Tulsa to Lawton, Oklahoma, Wichita Falls, Texas, and Boonville, Arkansas started to get to me—especially after two close calls on the highway.
I started to wake up and ask God what I was doing. A book in the Bible began to haunt me. The prophet Hosea was appalled at the idolatry of God’s people, idolatry he called adultery.
God expressed His love to the people through Hosea’s life when, at God’s direction, he took a wife who was as unfaithful to him as Israel was to her God. She left Hosea and he bought her back. God told Hosea, “Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods . . . “(Hosea 3:1).
The verse that haunted me was 2:16, “In that day,” declares the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’”
I meditated on that verse and asked the Lord, “What does this mean? Am I seeing You as my master? Have I gotten out of balance into the doing side of life in ‘possessing the land’ and left my goal of being? He so very quietly seemed to say, “Yes, I think so.”
“Then what does it mean that we will call You our husband? I understand the bride of Christ; I’ve always thought we will be that in heaven, but this seems to mean now, right? Does it mean I should ask You to be my husband rather than my master? . . . I know You have already done all You could ever do for me, so I do that. I’m asking you.”
Until . . . Valentine’s Day
I called a friend of mine, who worked in a neighboring town, to meet me for lunch. She had recently gone through a divorce and needed encouragement. My van was loaded for servicing racks that Friday afternoon close by her work.
My latest delivery of books contained a new one, Hugs for Encouragement. I arrived at the little café early to finish reading this book that I was going to give her. I’d started it and couldn’t put it down. I sat at a table where she would be sure to see me and continued to read.
Noon came and went and my friend did not show up. Oh well. I’m glad she forgot. I can finish this book. Without being able to pinpoint anything particular, all I can say is that the whole book convicted me of how I’d sought to “be encouraged” rather than to be an encourag-er. I made a vow right then to the Lord, “I will spend the rest of my life seeking to encourage, rather than to be encouraged.”
I thought, I guess I should have stayed home and invited my husband to have lunch with me since it’s Valentine’s Day.
“He’s right here!” The words were clear. Jesus is right . . . here . . . beside me!
“My arm is around your shoulders.” He spoke again. I could not move—afraid I would spoil the moment. I basked in his love unspeakable and full of glory.
After about an hour, I mustered the energy to leave. The cashier asked me, “Is everything all right?”
“Uh, hum,” is all I could say.
I had to forget the racks, drove home and parked in front of the house. I sat in the driver’s seat, still unable to move, my strength gone—until two hours later when the UPS man came with a delivery.
Almost unable to get out of the van, I could not speak to him, but managed to sign for the book. I got back in the van, still basking in the love of Jesus . . . until the school bus dropped off the children.
My adventure with Jesus was only beginning. My friend had been at the café and could not find me. Afterwards, these words kept going through my mind:
Will you be my Valentine? Love, Jesus.
I knew they were not for me alone.
Click here for RESOURCES where you can find a Hugs book similar to the one I was reading this day–under “Devotionals.”