Ups and Downs (November 20)

A walk in the forest in Downeast Maine...

Ah, fall, the time of harvest and of winterizing, of last-minute projects, rainy days, and surprise-sunshine walks…

A walk in the forest in Downeast Maine...

a sunny day, and a mossy forest!

A new carport from Mimi filled a few days with leveling and grading and installing…

Shelter Logic Carport...difficult to install...leaks...but it'll do for the winter.

And a failed fan turned Joe into a laptop-repairman-for-the-day!

And many days this fall were filled with preparation for a craft fair!

the craft fair

We went to our first really large craft fair, in Bangor, Maine on November 9th. It was an event with over 300 vendors and over 10,000 visitors on the day that we were there.

I was so very proud of the kids’ preparations for it. They turned out rubber band pistols and rifles, hand-carved peg games, origami ornaments and mobiles. The display was really lovely, piled high with all of the works of their sweet little hearts and hands!

2019 Craft Fair at the Bangor Mall...Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, rivenjoiner.com
2019 Craft Fair at the Bangor Mall...Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, rivenjoiner.com
2019 Craft Fair at the Bangor Mall...Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, rivenjoiner.com

Joe had a wide selection of woodenware, representing a complete price range from under $20 to over $100, from napkin rings to centerpiece serving bowls. I had added some things to my own offerings, as well, and was grateful for the inspiration to make a few things that are more in-line with popular interest these days…Necklaces, swaddles, handbags, and some inexpensive scripture prints alongside my slightly-pricier original artwork. We even had homemade soap and an essential oil blend!

When I stepped back and surveyed our table, I though, “Surely, there will be something here to interest people! I know we are so different from most of the world, but this table has something for all kinds of interests, for all kinds of price points.” It was really neat.

Before we went to the craft fair, I had a little chat with my middle child, Spencer, who said, “Do you think people will want to buy anything from us?”

“I don’t know, sweet pea. I think so. You’ve all done a wonderful job, and we have a great selection! But, ultimately, people will only want to buy anything from us if the Lord prompts them to buy something from us. But I do know this. All your work, you’ve done out of wanting to honor the Lord with the work of your hands. Everything we’ve made has God’s word on it, either written right on it, or written on the label that goes with it. It’s on all our business cards. No one will stop at our table without seeing God’s word. And I have to be ready, if we don’t sell one single thing, to know that we still did a good work to glorify the Lord.” He smiled, sweetly, and agreed.

And this is almost exactly what came to pass.

On Saturday morning, we were up early and in the truck, arriving in Bangor around 7:30 a.m. for setup. Everything went, really, very smoothly. We found our spot, we set up our display, and we were ready to go when the fair began at 9:00!

2019 Craft Fair at the Bangor Mall...Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, rivenjoiner.com

We were situated next to a lady that sold sparkly tumblers, across from a lady that sold Tupperware and diagonal from a lady that sold CBD lotions. I couldn’t help but notice how very un-mainstream we were.

As people began to stream past, we began to smile and say, “Good morning!” Because, that’s what we do!

2019 Craft Fair at the Bangor Mall...Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, rivenjoiner.com

The crowds increased, and the aisles filled with people, filled with faces, tired faces, annoyed faces, bored faces, hurrying faces…Faces that tried not to make eye contact, and tried to slip past as quickly as possible…Even faces that stopped at our table, slowly examining things one-by-one, touching or holding or studying all of our items, without looking up…One by one, from one corner of our table to the other, our family smiled, and said, “Good morning!” and “Hi, how are you?!” and, eventually, “Good afternoon!” And each face that heard our words, often beginning with Spencer’s bright voice, would look up, startled, see a smiling face, and smile back before they knew what they were doing. Sometimes, they would quickly frown again and hurry away…Sometimes, they would pause and smile and exchange a few more words. Sometimes, they would ask us about the things that we had made. Many people expressed admiration. “This is just lovely.” “Wow, that is beautifully made.” “Oh, I love this.” “What a great idea!” “You kids did a fantastic job!” “You made this by hand? What amazing craftsmanship!”

2019 Craft Fair at the Bangor Mall...Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, rivenjoiner.com
2019 Craft Fair at the Bangor Mall...Riven Joiner & the Homestead Store, rivenjoiner.com

But no one bought anything. Many people admired the rubber band guns. But no one would buy one, because they were afraid their kids would shoot each other, or shoot their pets. Many people admired the beautiful peg games, reminiscing over how much fun they had been, commenting over how much their children enjoyed playing with them at daycare or at the library. One person bought one. Several people said they thought they’d go home and make their own. Two people stood and read Spencer’s entire book, cover-to-cover, complimented him, and walked away. Though little Genevieve’s beautiful origami butterflies and wildflowers and rosebuds and hearts cost only a few dollars, only one person bought one of the very smallest ones. Many people held and admired spoons and handbags, artwork and necklaces. And then they moved on. Two people, all day, commented on our faith, and encouraged us for being a light.

We spent the entire day at that craft fair, and while people wandered by with bags of dog-treats, home decor signs, burlap wreaths, cookies, and candy, we made only three sales (one for each child, at least!). We handed out many business cards. We listened to many people talk about the beautiful workmanship at our table and then suddenly say, “Oh, look, sparkly mugs, those are soooooooo cute! I have cabinets full of mugs, but maybe I need just one more!” We smiled, and we greeted, and we smiled, and we greeted.

And at the end of the day, the only thing that I can really say with any certainty about that craft fair is that a river of people flowed by us, darkened in countenance…But as they passed our table, nearly all of them received a cheerful greeting, and were suddenly smiling, for just a moment, in spite of themselves!

We bundled ourselves off to Chick-Fil-A, exhausted, hungry, glad to be done, cheerful in spite of the day, because the one thing we knew was that we had done our best to serve the Lord, and we were happy to have the day behind us.

In the face of such utter failure, when there are plenty of others who, under similar circumstances, succeed, I can only reflect upon the truth that these things are entirely in the hands of the Lord. And so, it is entirely the Lord’s will that this entire sea of people was not led or stirred to buy anything from us. I don’t know why, exactly, yet. In these situations, having prayerfully considered all that we had done, step-by-step, we have no question that both our participation in the craft fair, and our entire lack of success at the craft fair, were according to the Lord’s will. Is it for our perseverance, and dependence upon Him? Is it to demonstrate to us that this is not our path, and prepare us for different path that He has yet to lay before us? I don’t know. Only time will tell. And all the comfort that I have is in the fact that I simply continue, with all my heart, to seek to do the Lord’s will, every day, when it makes sense, and even, especially, when it doesn’t make sense…Because in times like these, when nothing seems to make sense, I am certain of one thing: all things unfold according to the Lord’s will, He alone sees all things in the light in which they make perfect sense, and so only by seeking and following His will each day, step-by-step, can I hope to navigate these bewildering waters.

And so I trust that our work at this craft fair, in displaying His word, for His glory, and inspiring smiles, where there were none, though it did not earn us any daily living, is the work of faithful servants of His kingdom!

the accident

In the days that followed the craft fair, I was affected more than I could have expected. I felt exhausted. I felt sad. I felt as though I could barely drag myself through the slow next steps of the next few days, putting things back in order, supporting the regular routine of lessons and laundry and meals…

And then on Wednesday morning, still struggling to stir up my soul to the simple hope and joy and trust that characterize most of our days in this quiet little homestead, my heart was rocked again.

It was one of those moments where everyone is looking somewhere else, and something suddenly goes wrong. My oldest son, Asher, was lying quietly on the floor, reading. Joe was busy in the workshop. Genevieve had been sitting with the iPad, watching a nature show as part of her daily lessons. I had just settled down with the laptop. Suddenly, there was a crash. And a cry. I looked over and Genevieve was lying face-down on the floor, iPad in her hands, on the other side of Asher. Apparently, she had finished her show, gotten up to put the iPad away, tripped over Asher, and fallen, on her chin, on the floor.

I was at her side in a moment, asking, “What hurts, what hurts?”

She only cried, and looked up at me with big eyes, asking, “What happened?”

She had blacked out. Her chin was bleeding. I scooped her up, and held her chin, and comforted her. Joe arrived from the workshop with napkins. Suddenly, Asher, who had stood up in great distress, passed out. Joe disappeared to Asher’s side while I held the napkins to Vivi’s chin, and gently shushed and re-assured her. Joe settled Asher and Spencer down into seats and told them to stay put. Joe returned and quickly bandaged the wound. It was deep. It might need stitches. We grabbed the Arnica gel, and the ice packs. Vivi was upset about the stitches, upset about not being able to remember what happened, upset because her jaw hurt, and though we sang praises to the Lord, and assured her that everything was just fine, and the Lord would help her through all things, her sobs continued…

We snuggled her onto some cushions, warm by the fire, with icepacks on her cheeks, and put on The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child. The distraction finally helped her over the hump, and she began to calm. We kept checking her chin. The bleeding had stopped, almost immediately. We would keep an eye on it, watching for any signs of fever or swelling, but it sure looked like it would be okay.

Suddenly, Spencer passed out. I began to wonder if something was in the air, and we opened some windows and stirred up the fire, but it was all just a result of being over-excited. We settled Spencer down for a nap, from which he awoke feeling completely back to normal.

And then, Asher’s stomach began to ache. When he fainted, he had fallen on the edge of a table. Between that, and being so upset over his sister’s injury, he was just in great distress and pain. We bundled him into bed. I rubbed his back. We prayed and sang praises to the Lord. He was feverish, and uncomfortable, but manageable. It was a long night, but he eventually drifted into a comfortable sleep.

In the morning, the children were largely restored. Genevieve’s wound was still held tightly, no bleeding, no swelling, no fever, no tenderness. Her jaw was sore, and she ate soft foods, but she was in good spirits. We continued with rest, and ice, and Arnica gel. Asher was well. Spencer was completely fine. We made our slow way along in rest and recovery.

Roasting by the wood stove...Vivi's feet turn orange in the glow!
toasty by the fire…

The strange thing for me was the absolute feeling of trauma, though all of our afflictions had been light and momentary and attended with great grace and healing from the Lord. Every little noise startled me. The slightest things would bring tears to my eyes. I couldn’t eat. I realized I was fasting. I realized I was in some kind of a battle. I still don’t entirely know if I was battling for healing for my children, for perseverance for myself, maybe for deliverance from attacks for the whole family, as we seemed to sit under a cloud of failure and trouble…I just know I was hard-pressed, crying out frequently, “Lord, help us! Lord, help me!”

I would go slowly about my daily work, but sometimes, all I could manage to do was sit down and read scripture, desperate for comfort from the only place that I can find it. As evening approached, my stomach would settle into a knot, and every evening, after reading the Bible, after reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary until I felt sleepy, I would close my eyes, and cry out to the Lord for long hours. “Lord, I am sorry for this fear and anxiety. I don’t know where it comes from. I trust You in all things. My children are Your children. Your will is perfect in all things. Your deliverance and healing have been so great, now, as they have always been. Thank you for Your protection, Your healing, thank You for guarding and restoring our children. O Lord, help me. Help me to trust entirely, to obey cheerfully. Help our family to serve You faithfully, to know Your will confidently, to follow You entirely.”

It has been nearly 10 days now, all told, through the craft fair, through Genevieve’s accident, to today, as I sit down, able to reflect upon this strange time. I feel almost normal again.

back to normal

My usual day in this season of life is full of vaguely-puzzled hopefulness. It has become absolutely normal to me not to understand how what I am doing, right now, will someday settle into a life in which we, as a family, are able to earn a regular daily living that glorifies God. Yet, I don’t doubt that we will, and in every set-back, I find an unexplained hopefulness to simply move on to the next thing that I can do.

But for 10 days, I have been living under an equally-unexplained dread in the simplest of things. Our circumstances have not changed. But my feelings have changed greatly. Within this change, I am anchored by the knowledge that the hope is true, and the dread is not; that the hope is eternal, and the dread is temporary; that although dread is all that I can feel right now, hope remains, and will return, and all I must do is wait.

And after 10 days, I am grateful to be returning to the days when unexplained-hopefulness is replacing unexplained-dread once more, and grateful that the knowledge of the certain truth of hope has sustained me through quite an unexpected valley of dread!

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 4:6-7, KJV)

2 thoughts on “Ups and Downs (November 20)

Add yours

  1. I’ve had that uneasy, dreadful feeling come over me in the past and linger for several days. I’ve wondered before if it’s a type of depression trying to creep in, maybe from a spiritual attack. I’ll pray the Lord brings you peace and joy to quickly get through it! đź’•

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    1. Thank you so much! I have suffered from anxiety and depression in the past, before I came to know the Lord, and the feeling is similar, except that now I also have this stubborn, sure foundation of hope underneath, so it doesn’t feel like the bottomless, hopeless pit that it did before. I definitely treat it as a spiritual attack – and thank you so much for your prayers!

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