God’s gifts are so good, and His timing is impeccable. He sees us in the midst of our hardship and works things out in mysterious ways.
My husband and I used to go antiquing at auctions and thrift stores looking for things to resell. I love the challenge of finding interesting items and researching the history of them. A lot of times I find “junk,” but occasionally I have found items of some modest or good value.
On one such trip, I found a small dish that looked intriguing for only a few bucks. I looked it over carefully. It looked brand new, but of good quality and hand painted. The back of the dish was in another language. So I had no information to go on. It could have just been a souvenir plate someone picked up on vacation. But the design was unusual and compelling. So I purchased it and brought it home.
I started researching this plate during the many months my Mom was in the hospital, just for something to get my mind off things. I had no idea how to start, but I eventually found a website that identified the markings and gave me some direction to research. To my surprise, it looked like this curious little dish might be something valuable. I found similar pieces in museum collections and a few had also been sold through the Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction houses. So I took photos and submitted them to Christie’s for evaluation.
A Christie’s Asian Art rep contacted me back quickly, and they believed that my item was a genuine article. So they sent an art shipping company to crate up my plate and to deliver it to their offices in New York.
Several months later and about two weeks after my Mom passed away, it sold at auction. Christie’s aired the auction online, so I was able to watch the bidding. They started the auction that morning, but my plate didn’t go on the block until the evening. So it was a day full of suspense for us.
The sale of this dish came in God’s perfect timing, and it gave us the resources for the many events that unfolded in our lives that year. I was able to pay off my Mom’s funeral expenses. She had no money or life insurance, so our family had to cover everything out of pocket.
Our local Moody radio station had been taking missions trips out to Arizona for several years to work building a church and youth camp on a Navajo reservation. We had been listening to the stories of the people who had gone on past trips and felt called to go on the trip in 2013. My husband had never been on a mission’s trip, but he decided to go on this one. We ended up getting the check from the auction just in time to sign up on the last day for registration for the missions trip. It was an amazing trip, and we met many life-long friends that we are still in touch with. My husband met Jack, who became as close as a brother to him. Jack and his wife Michelle have been precious friends to us for many years since that trip, and our son is named in his honor.
This was also the year that my stepson came to live with us at the age of 17. My husband and I had been married for several years, but my stepson lived in another state, so I had never met him before. We were blessed to be able to take him that year to visit his Grandpa and other family in Vermont. He had only been introduced to his Grandpa when he was a baby, and he had had no contact with him since that time. So it was a significant trip for our family. About that same time, God decided to grow our family by even more, and we found out we were expecting our first little one as well. So God provided us just enough extra resources for what He called us to that year.
When I originally researched this dish, it was often referred to as a “Birthday Dish.” Although it looked brand new, it was actually about 300 years old. The story goes that these dishes were designed as a special gift from the Yongzheng Emperor to be presented to his advisors on their 70th birthday. It invokes the traditional Chinese birthday greeting: ‘May your happiness be as deep as the Eastern Sea, and may you live to be as old as the Southern Mountains.’ All of the imagery and numbers have meaning in that culture, and are meant to bestow a blessing on the receiver.
So our heavenly King blessed us with a truly royal and valuable gift at just the time we needed it. I’ve since thought about the gifts presented to Jesus’ parents by the earthly kings. God knew that they would have need of resources to live, especially during the time they lived in exile in Egypt. He brought the right people and resources to them, at just the right time. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the future and to be discouraged by the lack of resources to achieve the things that we believe that God wants us to accomplish. But that doesn’t always mean that we need to abandon those goals. God has a reason for everything, and he will provide you the resources, at the right time, for the things He has called you to do.
I believe that God puts burdens on our hearts (in accordance with His righteous Word, not sinful in any way) that maybe we don’t even realize they are there at first. Sometimes it is the impulse to visit a certain place or to contact someone we haven’t spoken with in a while. Don’t ignore impulses, but pray about them. These are sometimes divine appointments. I’ve experienced many over the years. Study God’s Word, live righteously and ask Him to make you sensitive to His leading. He may lead you to be blessed with a special earthly gift that you need for a time, or to meet someone who is in need of His salvation. He may give you an opportunity to store up heavenly treasures by sharing His Word and His love with others, or to just to share your story of how He has worked miraculous things in your own life.
My life verses are “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight.”
– Proverbs 3:5-6.
I have found this to be very true over the years, that I have to trust God with the future, even when I don’t fully understand the events I have already lived through. As time goes on, more pieces of the puzzle are put in place and the image becomes clearer. I am so amazed by the handiwork of God in my life, and how He has protected me through the hard times, brought the right people to walk with me during each season and how He has blessed me in ways I never could have imagined.
For anyone interested to learn more on this dish. The excerpt below is from a post on Alain R. Truong’s blog and gives more details on the imagery of this piece. I did a lot of research on this plate and learned quite a bit in the process. Sending this in for auction and going through the process was one of neatest experiences I’ve had.
“Note: The scene depicted on this dish represents the seventh trial of Zhao Sheng, a disciple of the Eastern Han dynasty Celestial Master Zhang Daoling (AD 134-156) who is credited with founding the Way of the Celestial Masters sect of Daoism. This theme of testing the faith of Zhao Sheng is also captured in the famous Eastern Jin painter Gu Kaizhi’s ‘Account of Painting the Cloud Terrace Mountain’, preserved in Zhang Yanyuan’s Record of Famous Paintings of All the Dynasties (AD 847). Zhang Daoling told his disciples that he would reveal the essence of the Way to those who could obtain peaches from a peach tree growing sideways from a steep cliff. Only Zhao Sheng had the courage to carry out the task and he returned with a peach from the tree. While the rendition of this story on the present dish excludes the figures and how they should be depicted in Gu Kaizhi’s instructions, it retains his description of a lofty cliff overlooking a deep ravine and the peach tree that grows sideways from it. The additional inclusion of the five red bats heightens the auspiciousness of the scene while increasing the supernatural element of the story.”