Have you been blessed by being locked out?
My locked out stories began in 1986 on a frigid December day when Tim was out of town, and his wife and young sons were locked out of our warm, cozy home for eight hours. Cameron, Clint, and I dressed in layers, rushed outside to build a snowman, and accidentally locked ourselves out. With no cell phones or neighbors home, fear gripped! We could see our keys hanging inside with no hope of retrieving them until Tim returned.
Silent prayers kept panic from rising and the good Lord gave us a day of adventure we still share around the dinner table. We searched our car for spare change and set out with a few dollars and frozen feet. Walking to the Red Barn (where our Expo Center is today) and spending two hours around Mr. Chestnut’s round pot belly stove warmed our bodies, gloves, and spirits. We played, plundered through tons of treasures, pulled icicles from his porch, and put on dry gloves and boots for our next stop…McDonalds.
Hours passed as we shared two Happy Meals and watched television, then walked across the street to K Mart, where I pushed the boys in a buggy and played games in the vacant aisles. We tramped back to The Red Barn for another warm up and icicle sword fight, back to McDonalds for a bathroom break, water, and more television, walked another route home making up silly snow games along the way, finished our snowman, and spent time in Mr. Parson’s back yard until Clint fell in his frozen goldfish pond and panic rose in his mother’s heart.
Cameron rescued and calmed Clint by leading us into Mr. Parson’s little shed. I held Clint inside my coat as Cameron tried to warm his feet. Then, we heard a sound that filled us with glee. We closed Mr. Parson’s door and rushed home for a sweet sight to see…a little red 280Z and two tired sons running to their daddy. Warm baths, footed pajamas, hot soup, and stories of our locked out day shared in daddy’s lap still linger in living color in my mind. Loving memories made on that cold day (that could have been a freezing, frightful experience) still warm my heart today.
A recent locked out adventure stirred my heart to write this story in hopes of helping people look for blessings when burdened, especially in situations that halt hurried lifestyles. My plans for the Friday after summer care ended included sleeping late, cleaning The Learning Station, and heading for the beach. Wide awake before dawn, I spent time reading and listening to Steven Furtick preach about Bringing Blessings from Burdens. My ‘me time’ was getting good when a stirring to go to The Learning Station at 6:30 a.m. would not subside. Driving there, I thanked God for waking me every morning throughout summer 2017 (and 27 prior summers at The Learning Station) and helping me be in place to greet kids and parents at 7 a.m. Having favorite things to do and being able to do them should be on our ‘thank you, Lord’ lists every day.
Completing paperwork and cleaning consumed my Friday morning. Emptying the last trash can brought an unexpected burden when the back door closed behind me. Trying to turn the door knob made my heart sink; I was locked out! My initial response was, “Why today, Lord?” Feeling like a deflated balloon, hopes of heading to the beach looked bleak, for I was locked out with no phone or plan. Walking across the busy street, I asked to use the phone at Clinton Truck and Tractor but numbers stored in my cell phone were not programmed in my mind. Finally, my son’s number surfaced, he answered, and promised to come rescue his locked out mother.
Thoughts bounced back and forth in my mind like a ping pong ball, with tummy growling for food and heart hoping Cameron would come quickly. I thought of Paul’s plea in the Bible for his helpers to “come before winter” and hoped my wait time would be in minutes not seasons! Sitting in the prayer garden on a cross bench my sons gave me for Christmas brought thoughts of our ‘locked out’ adventure thirty one years earlier. Time flies by fast, things change in family dynamics, and together time can be endangered. Growing older brings blessings beyond burdens when family and friends share support with people who need people. And we all need people!
The hot sun’s shadows signaled early afternoon when I sat down again on the bench beside Tim’s Gift. Sitting down and being still in the middle of the day does not happen often in people’s lives today. Thoughts surfaced that pierced my heart with joyous praise, ‘Thank You, Father, for family, for my son being in town today, for a good summer with Sonshine Kids, for happiness after heartaches, for people who support and help us help others in the ministry, for Your love and looking after people all over the world, even a locked out old lady right here in Clinton!’
I professed my deep love for the Lord on that bench and surveyed blessings I had not stopped to enjoy all summer …the flags a friend gave flying in the breeze, the lean on shelter – filled with medical equipment – paid for by Jesus dollars, the pots filled with flowers the children watered daily, the drain donated by Mr. Robinson that takes away excess waters, the retaining wall Eddie, James, Brandon, Mike, Sam, and my brother-in-law helped build that prevents flooding and provides a place for the cross, the playground where children play, the Little Free Library Hunter Bruce built with the help of family and scout friends, and the bench I sat on my sister helped my sons find for a special Christmas gift, and I wept tears of joy for the good life God has given and His calling to love and help people.
Sitting on that bench longer than I had expected beckoned me to rise up and do something. Mother instilled the drive to be ‘a doer and giver’ at an early age, a gift I did not understand when she was teaching but embrace every day with a thankful heart. Mother expected us to rise early, work hard, and give to others. Looking to the blue sky, I thanked mother while wondering what she was doing in Heaven and wishing I had cherished her ways and words of love more when she was here. Never take a loved one’s presence and presents for granted, make memories with family and friends every chance you get, and enjoy each opportunity God sends – even ones when you’re locked out from being where you long to be.
An hour passed without being rescued. Hungry, hot, and helpless, frustration set in. Losing my cool would please the enemy and spoil my blessing, so I told him more than once to get behind me… to flee! Pulling weeds and picking up trash put positive thinking in place. Heading to the other side of Tim’s Gift, I found a sore sight I hadn’t noticed for weeks – tall weeds and briers choking out the flowers. Bending down and filling my arms with worrisome weeds, I stood up and almost hit my head on the cross. Feeling weak but strong, I dropped the weeds and went to my knees. I knew my burden of being locked out was a blessing…bringing me to the cross with amazing love stories to share in His perfect timing. Praising Him aloud, with Carolina Taco customers every which way I looked, brought joy to me – grins and thumbs up from many of them. Heaven hears our hallelujahs, especially on hot, ‘locked out’ days at the foot of the cross.
With tasks and time with Thee done, I settled back down on the prayer bench wondering how much longer the wait would be! That’s when a stirring to select a book from The Little Free Library surfaced. Browsing through the books, my heart raced with thanksgiving for every person that helped make library on a post possible. Pulling a book titled, Knowing God Intimately, from the library was a blessing waiting to bloom.
Sitting in the sun, I read two chapters with a hunger to keep going. Joyce Myer opened her heart with messages that touched mine. She encouraged people to make their inner lives a dwelling place of God, to submit to inner promptings of the Holy Spirit, to listen to His nudges to ‘let things go’ and trust in Him, in order to live in peace. She went deeper, “If we want to be a comfortable home for the Lord, we must give up grumbling, complaining, faultfinding, and murmuring. Our words should be full of praise. We should wake up in the morning professing love and saying, “Jesus, I want You to be comfortable in me today. I love You. Thank you for all the good things You are doing.” Tearfully, I turned the page to read, “Our lives can be like beautifully wrapped packages with nothing inside of them. Our outer lives can look good, but our inner lives can be dry and empty. We can look spiritual on the outside but be powerless within, if we don’t allow the Holy Spirit to make His home in our heart.”
Closing my book and my eyes, I bowed my head and held my hands close to my heart where I hope God always feels at home! Taking me to the cross and to the book about being intimate with Him were blessings beyond the burden of being locked out. Sitting in silence, the wind gently blew with a message settling in my heart; ‘Being locked out of Heaven is not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year…but Always”! And I knew God was stirring this story ‘for such a time as this’ with a wink of warning to put Him first and be prepared for His coming! He loves us so much and longs for us to know Him intimately, but our Lord and Savior is tired of being locked out of our lives!
Jesus is waiting to live in our hearts….what is our answer to Him?
Hearing my son’s truck, I turned to see Cameron’s hair blowing in the wind and sweet smile that warmed my heart. He hugged me tight while apologizing, “Momma, I’m sorry it took me so long to get here!”
I kissed him on the check with a reply Heaven surely heard, “Son, you’re right on time.”
Becky Spell Vann is the owner and operator of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.