By Linda Brooks Davis
Inspiration can rise from unexpected quarters.
In the vernacular of my growing-up days, the poor widow of Mark 12: 42-44 gave her last red cent, a worthy lesson, I reasoned, for my young Bible students who dole out pennies for the collection basket. In search of supplies for money bags, I browsed through drawers of old sewing materials from my and my mother’s 55-to-75-year sewing pasts.
I found a pattern not for the bags … but for stewardship, even as a writer.
Mother was certain about her faith, principles, and what she taught her children. Much like Betsy in my debut novel, The Calling of Ella McFarland, Mother believed negligence in caring for hard-earned possessions ranked close to the unforgivable sin.
Mother’s philosophy returned as I rifled through a drawer she would label a mess but I call easy going. Amid a jumbled array of my recent purchases–still in their wrappers–I found her button tin, an old container for Singer parts, that sported dents, rust, and wear.
Inside? ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s-era buttons Mother had removed from clothing that had served its purpose. A dented fruit cake tin contained metal zippers she had clipped from garments bound for the rag basket.
Alongside her repurposed tins sat a handy-dandy, snap-together, see-through, color-coded odds-and-ends contraption I had purchased on a whim. Inside? Never-been-used, still-attached-to-the-cards, bright-and-shiny buttons galore. Not a single used button. I had tossed them out with old clothing.
Although a widow for many years, Mother learned stewardship in the 1920s in a cotton field in South Texas where her mother understood every handful of raw cotton meant another spoonful in her children’s mouths. Mother learned stewardship during the Great Depression when she and her mother called a corner of a barn home. Mother refined her skills as the wife of a farm hand earning $5 a week. They lived on $2.50 until the money Daddy borrowed for their wedding clothing was paid back.
Even in widowhood, Mother never reached for her last red cent, but she came close. Had she not learned stewardship alongside her mother, she would have faced the same dilemma as the widow in the Gospel of Mark.
I’m neither a widow nor destitute. I give from my abundance. I’ve never been called to give my last mite. But would I? Was the jumbled array in my sewing drawer a call to better stewardship?
Might it be a call to better stewardship of my time as a writer? Might I repurpose a few hours a week to the task to which the Lord has called me?
I had gathered materials fit for the worthy steward who reared me: a skein of yarn from twenty years back; playtime coins from five years ago; a decade-old jewelry gift bag; scraps of fabric of indeterminate age; a four-decades-old thimble; and a 1940s packet of heavy-duty needles Mother used to patch canvas cotton sacks.
As it turned out, my students took home more than plastic coins. They carried with them a bit of long-ago when times were simpler but harder and harder but more faith filled and, tucked into the recesses of their drawstring bags, the prayer of their teacher: May they never know a time when they are down to their last red cent, Lord. But should that time come, I pray they hold their pennies–and I, my writing goals–in hands outstretched and open wide. For Jesus’ sake.
As the First Place 2014 Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel recipient, Linda Brooks Davis is grateful for the release of The Calling of Ella McFarland by Mountainview Books in December 2015. Linda and her husband, long-time members of San Antonio’s Oak Hills Church, delight in their veterinarian son and daughter and dote on six grandchildren.