God of the Stick Horse

…as told to me by my friend, Cheryl (formerly published in Standard)

My husband hung up the phone, disappointment written on his face.

“Well, that’s it,” he said. “The buyer just backed out.”

We were at my 89-year old mother’s house, helping her sign the papers to finalize the sale of my parent’s summer house in the mountains of Georgia. I saw the same disappointment reflected in her eyes, but she simply sighed, saying nothing.

My own heart felt crushed. Since my father’s death, I had dreamed of selling the old run-down house and property and building a ‘real’ vacation home in the mountains – a place our families and friends could go to escape. My sister and I and our husbands had found property in a better location with a spectacular view, and had pooled our funds to purchase it. The sale of the old house and property would give us the money to build the new one.

Somehow I felt I owed the house to my mother, for her years of sacrifice and hard work. Despite growing up in a large, poor family in the hills of Kentucky, Mother had always been an amazing, creative woman. She quilted and sewed until arthritis stole her hands. She loved to paint flowers and birds on anything she could find. Her mind was sharp and she still had a quick wit. The last few years of my father’s life had been difficult for her, as she watched Altzheimer’s Disease gradually paralyze his mind. Since he had died her life had settled down into a comfortable routine, but I knew her health was beginning to fade, and our time to share this gift was limited. I could picture her face as she rocked on the expansive porch in the cool of a summer evening, watching her great-grandchildren chase fireflies in the yard. Now that dream seemed just as elusive.

“God,” I cried out in my bed later that evening. “Everything to this point was going so smoothly. I thought you were blessing these plans – and now the buyer backs out. What’s happening?” The questions chased around in my brain until sleep came.

I began my devotions the next morning, and the Scripture reading for the day came from Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The devotional reading went on to say,”God’s answer to your problems today will be creative and it will be couched in His eternal purposes.” As I closed the booklet, I spoke honestly to God. “Father, this is your word – the ‘logos’. In my head I know all of this is true. But it hasn’t reached my heart yet. Help me to understand this truth in my heart.”

A few days later mother and I were running errands and stopped in a local department store. She was content to find the groceries she needed by herself, so I had time to look around. I remembered that my grandson had recently become fond of a friend’s ‘stick horse’ toy – a broom handle with a stuffed animal head attached. Matthew would use my broom or anything else he could find to pretend to ride around the house like a cowboy. So I headed to the toy aisle to look for a stick horse.

On my way, I met up with my friends from church, Larry and Terri. When I told them what I was looking for, Terri laughed. “My mom sent a stick horse to our grandkids. When you squeeze one ear it whinnies and when you squeeze the other one it makes a ‘clip-clop’ galloping noise.” I’d never heard of such a thing –it sounded like something Matthew would love. We said goodbye and I kept shopping, but I quickly learned this store didn’t carry stick horses of any kind. Oh well, I thought, Mattie will have to wait. Soon I found my mother and took her back home.

That night my husband called the real estate agent in Georgia, hoping the buyer had reconsidered, but the deal was off. Although I was reminded of the Scripture I had read early that week, I still had no sense of peace in my heart.

A few days later, Mom and I were returning from a doctor’s appointment and stopped by a local fruit stand. Beside it, a neighbor was holding a yard sale, and Mom suggested we stop and look. As we walked up the driveway, I spotted a blanket on the ground, strewn with toys. Among them was a black stick horse. I picked it up and furtively squeezed the left ear, giggling as I heard it whinny! Sure enough, a squeeze of the right ear produced a ‘clip-clop’ sound. The black plush head looked brand new – and the horse’s gentle eyes begged to be taken home. Matthew would love it. But how much was she asking for it? I knew I only had limited cash in my purse.

I took it to the woman in charge. “How much for this stick horse?” I asked.

“Oh, just two dollars for that. My kids never played with it.”

As Mom and I walked away with our small treasures in hand, I felt God’s voice gently tug at my heart.

“Now see,” He seemed to say. “If I care enough about you to provide for a simple thing like a stick horse for a child, can you not trust me about the big things?”

I sighed, and smiled at my mother as we got into my car. What I had known up to this point only in my head had finally reached my heart. “Yes, Lord,” I replied. “I can trust you — with a mountain home, with my mom’s future, and even with a stick horse.”

Copyright 2009 Mary E. Egidio  Permission is given to distribute this post, with attribution, but not for commercial purposes.  (you can share this with your friends, but tell them who wrote it, where you found it, and don’t try to sell it!)

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