She was a dear old soul who greeted you with a warm hug, smile and a story. You could see by her demeanor that her heart was open to all that came into her life and her smile was one that would be engrained into the memory forever. She was a champion of hospitality, not just the lonely old lady yearning for someone to talk to, Veneta was inviting and truly enjoyed all that she came into contact with.
I remember the first time I met Veneta. It was a warm summer day and I was looking at her house which was for sale. My wife and I wanted to sell our home in Grand Rapids Michigan in hopes of finding a home that we could enjoy near the Michigan lake shore. As a child, my wife was introduced to the Michigan lakeshore and it had become a staple of fun, relaxation and enjoyment over the years. As we took off on the search process for a Lake Michigan home we were deluged with obstacles that constantly got in the way. That one is too expensive! This one is too ugly! That one smells! I can’t believe they really want to sell that dilapidated old money pit for that much! And the list went on. Finally, we settled on a cute little yellow home in the village of Pentwater Michigan. This was a find, but not without issues!
Pentwater is a beautiful little vacation community on Lake Michigan in the central part of the state. We were quite familiar with the area and knew that homes here would only escalate in price. It would be a great investment! It was a small cottage, only three blocks from the shore, but it would be ours! Woohoo! So, I made the offer and within twenty-four hours we had an accepted contract that was contingent on the sale of our home. Now all I had to do was sell our other home in Grand Rapids. “That’s OK, God is in control! It’ll happen if He wants it to!”
In the meantime, another offer was submitted that was not contingent. We had lost our place in line and the home of our dreams was fading off into the sunset before our very eyes! It was then that I realized I was in pursuit of “my dreams” and not “God’s will” for my life. I had forgotten the topic we addressed early on in this blog: It’s not about me! How difficult a lesson that is to learn, comprehend and actually apply to our individual lives! Surely “my plan” is the same as “God’s plan?” But through the failures and struggles of selling our home and inspecting others, somewhere in the midst of that we turned our future hope over to God.
As I stepped onto the porch of Veneta’s house I encountered the sign: “Do NOT let the cat out! Wow, this old lady really loved her portly old fat cat! Charlie had been her sole housemate since the death of her husband and her love for him had been expressed in the constant feeding him of treats! He was a pretty cat but had a “roly-poly” belly that spread out like butter in a hot pan wherever he plopped. In fact, whenever I saw Charlie he was sitting! Nevertheless, he was loved.
Veneta’s nature was to care for everything around her and to see the good inside of it. “Come on in honey” she said as our realtor made the formal introductions. “Oh, I’ve been praying that God would send someone to buy this house! You need this house!” So, looking the house over we determined that the entire thing needed to be gutted and remolded, all the way down to the walls, plumbing, electrical, yup, pretty much everything! As we considered this home as our lifetime investment and future residence the Spirit of God kept nudging us forward. This was the place that He had planned for us. But the thing that was so encouraging was the absolute faith of this old widowed woman. In her faith, she was nothing less than staunch and unwavering! Truly she had invested her life in the words provided by James 4:8.
James 4:8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Ever since the day I first met Veneta I have been amazed at the faith of this woman that had every reason to doubt and become bitter. Her health was frail, she didn’t really have enough money to move closer to her daughter to be cared for and she was like a leaf in the wind without her husband of many decades, yet her trust and faith in God was built on the foundation of Jesus: The Rock! Veneta had sought God first! “Hmmmm, Lord I want to have faith like Veneta!”