Barriers and Resources

This year’s Summer Sampler is about “Women Who Have Changed Our Lives,” the women who have inspired or encouraged us in our spiritual walk. These are the unsung heroes of the faith, the Sunday School teachers and neighbors and friends who were instrumental in our spiritual growth. No matter who we are or where we come from, God can use us to make a difference for eternity. And he calls all of us! We’re hoping that these stories will inspire and encourage you that you, too, can make a difference in the spiritual life of another woman.

For more information about the wide range of services offered by our ministry, please click here.

Barriers and Resources

By Laura Carpenter

When we think of investing in the lives of others as God has commanded us, so many barriers can quickly pop into our minds! Perhaps the common phrases “full,” “not much margin,” or “tired” come to mind. Sadly, I must admit: I have used these terms more than once lately to describe my own life. Or maybe it’s not the resource of time that you feel is in short supply; perhaps you feel that you don’t have much emotional margin due to difficulties in your own life … perhaps you feel like you aren’t a great “people person” … maybe finances are tight. Whether you feel in short supply in the area of time, finances, emotional margin, energy, or people skills, listen up: I have a word of encouragement for you!

Laura and her mentor Karen

Let me start by taking you back to the days of big bangs, oversized flannel and denim, grunge music, and phones that were still connected to the wall by an often-tangled cord and telling you about one of my favorite people in the whole-wide-world. In the midst of my tumultuous teenage years, God used a youth-group volunteer at my church named Karen to show me what a daily walk with the Lord looks like, to demonstrate tangibly the care of God for me, to help steer me from bad choices and toward good ones, to draw out deeper thinking about the world around me and God’s purposes for me in it, and in so many ways to make a forever investment in my life. Karen was easily 30 years my senior. She drove an older-model minivan. She wasn’t independently wealthy. I’ll bet she might have described her life as “full” or “tired,” and I’m certain she could have listed the areas where she felt she was in short supply of “resources to pour out to others.” When I think back on her care for me, I am reminded of the widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17) whose last swirl of oil in a jug was used to sustain herself, her family, and the prophet Elijah during a long, severe drought … or the widow in Luke 21 who was commended for placing her two copper coins into the offering box. When I think back on the many memories that include Karen’s influence on my life, I am reminded that God doesn’t need abundance or ingenuity. He just calls us to be obedient with the resources he has given to us. Karen didn’t need to make her life lovely in order to be to me one of the loveliest people I have ever known.

Karen didn’t use a formal discipleship plan or regularly scheduled meeting times to build into my life in such a remarkable way. Instead, she used cheese, ice cream, and oil changes. Cheese, ice cream, and oil changes? Yep! True, there were some “scheduled” times together. She would occasionally pick me up after school, swing through the Dairy Queen to buy a slush, and take me to a park where I would pour out my heart about “boyfriend woes” … or who knows what other drama of the day. But I also knew my way to her house, and I would frequently stop by and sit at her table (where I knew I was always welcome) while she continued on making dinner or caring for her afternoon. She would usually offer to slice me a piece of cheese and talk or listen – no specially prepared-in-advance snack required. She was also marvelously “sneaky.” On several occasions when her husband was traveling for work, she would tell me she “needed me” to stay at the house with her. No major plans. No extra activities … just eat dinner with her, get ready for bed, sleep in the guest room, get up for school … and “Oh! Let’s stop to read a quick devotion before you head off for the day.” She took advantage of oil changes and had me ride along. I could go on and on about her “willingness” and “availability”… just opening up the usual activities of her life and letting me join her in them.

So, perhaps you don’t feel that you are overflowing with resources to invest in the lives of others. But I’ll bet you have meals, or dog walks, or oil changes. And I am certain that there is a neighbor, or a church member, or a teenager down the street, or a young mom who is most definitely valuable in the sight of God and in need of someone to make some investment in their life. What is the “swirl of oil” in the jug of your life that you can invest for eternity? Just like that widow whose oil sustained not only Elijah, but also her own family and herself, God will not only use that willingness and offering as a blessing in the lives of others, but will return it as encouragement and fruit in your own as well!

Laura Carpenter is a busy wife and mother of four sons (ages 11-19) who resides in Nashua, NH, where her primary role is wife and mom. She volunteers in women’s ministry, youth ministry, and children’s ministry with her church family at Trinity Baptist. Her “paid” work is in an emergency department as a physician assistant. She is happiest with coffee and her Bible or with warm sunshine on a long run.