Seek Ye First…….What?!?

Posted by admin in February 17th, 2009
Published in faith

I’m a total idiot. A spaz. I know that! I’ve always known that. So falling into the lake shouldn’t have been a complete surprise to me.

It was my third trip to Finland. I had made some really good friends there on my maiden voyage. People in the Christian community were so kind to me and took care of me whenever I passed through heading in or out of Russia. A sweet group there asked me to speak at their annual missions conference held every summer just outside of Helsinki in a Christian camp. I of course jumped at the opportunity and was thrilled they’d even ask me.

I got to the camp early. I was staying in the city because of other stuff I was working on. I got there about eight o’clock to check the place out and maybe bum a cup of coffee. I was scheduled to speak on China at ten. There was a huge group there. Bigger than I expected. They’d asked me to challenge the campers to consider China as a possible calling. My girlfriend Marja had shown me a book once about Finnish missionaries to China dating back as far as the early 1800s. I knew from that Finland was no stranger to China.

Praise and worship was to start around nine that morning. I got that cup of coffee and decided to walk around the big old lake near the camp. Finland has the most unusual landscape. Flat rocks slip into amber colored water. Even though it was summer, Finland was cold! I was wearing a new white blouse and a cotton navy skirt—very conservative, but so are the Finns.

Imagine me. Walking around the lake with the breeze blowing against my face. I looked up at the clear blue sky marveling at how great God’s creation was. (Birds were singing, the sun was shining much like a Snow White moment). I was walking along the banks of the lake when BAM! In a millisecond; in a flash, I slipped on a moss-covered rock and fell smack dab into the stinkin’ water! How’d that happen? You say, “Teri, how could that be?” Well, because I am a retard and that’s what happens to retards! The water was freezing cold and there was no one around. They were doing their Christian duty getting ready for the meeting. I tried to climb out of that stupid lake, but the moss on the rocks was so slick and slimy that I couldn’t get a grip. I struggled and struggled. I’d make progress and then slide right back down to where I started. I couldn’t touch bottom so I felt stuck—I couldn’t go down and I couldn’t go up. Somebody help that woman!

After several loooong minutes of struggling I finally swung my leg onto a rock and pushed myself up on the bank. I was exhausted, cold and well, a bit stunned! I took a moment to calm down and then I assessed the damages. My brand new white cotton blouse was completely covered with mucky muck. Brownish, greenish gunk covered me from my neck down to my ankles. Attractive. Very attractive. I was soaked and I was dirty…well…filthy. I had to speak in less than two hours. Yeah. Seriously.

Dripping wet and looking ridiculous I went around to the back of the building and came in through the kitchen. Finnish women of all ages were in the kitchen cleaning up breakfast dishes and starting lunch. When I walked in they all stopped what they were doing and literally sucked the air out of the room. They started shouting orders in Finnish (another language I don’t speak). Then they attacked me with dishtowels and dishcloths and handkerchiefs and spit and water and anything they could find. Unfortunately they didn’t make a dent.

The thing I love about Finns is that not one of them laughed and ya know I looked insane!

First order of business was finding me another blouse. The moss and mucky muck had completely ruined mine. The problem was my size. I am a big girl and none of those Finnish sisters were my size. Unless someone could sew a couple of blouses together, I was out of luck. Then one of the Finns remembered the old-maid missionary from England. Maybe she had something. We rushed up to her room and praise God she wasn’t as small as the others. She lent me a blouse that was about two sizes too small and I stretched that sucker until it finally did the job. I was scheduled to speak in about 45 minutes! What’s that smell? Oh, it’s me with stinky lake-fish-muck smell! Oh my word.

That morning with a too small blouse and a skirt smelling of old dead fish I shared the tremendous need in China. I told stories of everyday Chinese people who were disappointed by their government, disillusioned by communism, people looking for a new basis for hope. We had a time of prayer and then we all went to the cafeteria for lunch. I sat next to the British missionary lady who lent me the blouse. She had served most of her life in Finland.

For some in the Christian world, singleness is a scary thing. Corrie ten Boom (my all-time hero) used to say, “Some people choose singleness, others are born to it, and some have it thrust upon them against their wills. But regardless of how it comes about, God is able to give his children peace through it.”

Two questions I personally struggled with in my singleness were, “Who will take care of me when I am old? and Will I die alone?”

The blouse lender was 80 years old. She had a very quick mind (quicker than mine, but that’s not really saying a lot). She had one of those beautiful voices. You know, the kind you hear on Masterpiece Theater, or an Emma Thompson movie? We talked about her years of service in Finland and the unique peculiarities of serving the Finns. I found her fascinating.

“I have a question for you,” I leaned into her as if it was some kind of secret that only the two of us could know. ..

“Don’t you ever worry about old age? Like, who will take care of you and help if you have health problems?” I was dead serious and she burst out laughing right to my face! That’s not very British.

“Teri! I’m already old! What do you mean?” She smiled at me and patted my knee as if I was a little girl. “Let me tell you a story…” And Sister Margaret began telling me her story.

Sister Margaret Nelson became a missionary nurse at the age of 19. She spent some time in other countries but by her late 20s she felt a call to Finland. She worked hard to learn the very difficult language. Her ministry was to street people and drug addicts. She loved and cared deeply for the Finnish people. For nearly forty years she ministered there. Her family and friends urged her to return to England worried that she wouldn’t qualify for Britain’s form of social security. But Sister Margaret took it to the Lord and what He spoke to her carried her throughout her missionary life, “You focus on Me Margaret and concern yourself with the things I am concerned with and I will perfect the things concerning you.”

She paused and she looked me straight in the eye, “And well, Teri love, that has been my motto all my life.”

When Sister Margaret hit 65 her health failed her and she needed more and more medical attention. With great sorrow she returned to England. Because she hadn’t been paying into the system all those years, she had very little to draw from it. She read an ad in the London paper for a caretaker and companion for an elderly woman. Sister Margaret applied, and though the family was not thrilled with her age, they did like the fact she had medical training and she was cheap, uh I mean, inexpensive. She got the job.

The old woman she cared for lived on the outskirts of London in a beautiful old Victorian mansion. The family was very, very wealthy. However, the greed of the children and the bitterness of the old woman prompted all the family members to constantly remind Margaret that there would be nothing in it for her. “When I die you get nothing!” the old woman would say almost on a daily basis. The children and grandchildren had told Margaret early on that she better have her bags packed and her belongings together because the moment the old woman died, Margaret had less than 24 hours to be out of the house.

“Not the warmest environment I have ever worked in,” Margaret told me. The story was sad and cruel. It reminded me of a Charles Dickens’ tale.

After nearly 11 years of working for the old woman, the mistress of the house died, peacefully in her sleep. Margaret notified the family immediately and then began packing up her things. “ I was heading right out the front door when the barrister stopped me in the hallway. He said, ‘Miss Margaret, will you please come into the study?’” Margaret said she was scared to death. She was afraid the family was going to accuse her of stealing or breaking something. “I thought surely I was in a heap of trouble.”

All those hateful children were present and about half the spoiled grandkids were there. The barrister told Margaret to have a seat. Of course the family was furious at her presence and tried to give her the evil eye!

“It seems,” said the barrister, “your mother indeed did have a kind bone in her body despite what most of us believed. Last year I witnessed a revised version of your mother’s will. She decided to leave the house and its contents to Miss Margaret Nelson with enough sterling in the bank to cover taxes and insurance each year.”

“So,” goes Sister Margaret, “the will was quite solid and the old woman had added a clause that if any of the children tried to contest the will he or she would be immediately disinherited. So the house was mine, the furniture was mine and there was enough cash on account to cover my taxes and necessary insurance. A few months after the estate was settled my dearest friend from missionary training school came home from over 40 years in Africa. She had no place to go and no place to stay, so we took a little money and put a wall down the center of the house and made ourselves a duplex. We have a lovely vegetable garden in the back and we are as happy as two peas in a pod.

“You see dear Teri, when we focus on the things that concern Christ, He will perfect the things concerning us. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.’ God’s words are true and trustworthy. And don’t ever forget that Teri. Don’t ever forget that.” And I haven’t. Peace.

6 users Responded In This Post

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79. texas sister said,
February 17th, 2009 at 11:19 am

I promise it could have been me slipping into the murky depths and ruining my pretty white blouse!!

I am very touched by the closing verse today from Margaret the Brit and you. I must focus on the things that concern Christ and not the “things”. He knows our needs way better than we do.
I can still hear in my head you singing about the “Lillies of the Field” and Solomon’s glory from about 1986 or so. It cheers me on as do these encouraging words.


81. margaret said,
February 17th, 2009 at 11:41 am

Ok, first of all, I love any story where the heroine is named Margaret!! Secondly, I love happy endings.(that’s why I am a Christian-for the happy ending!!)
what a beautiful example of the Everlasting Father taking care of His girls!!

thanks for sharing!(even the messy stuff!)
Sistah Margaret

82. admin said,
February 17th, 2009 at 11:47 am

Thanks for reading. Even the messy stuff. Connie you are so kind and thanks too for your prayers. We’re almost done! Praise God for His grace during this time.

83. ndhorton said,
February 17th, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Don’t you love the methods God uses to say, “It’s not about you”? Something about that “My grace is sufficient” stuff. Can you picture the Apostle Paul trying to preach with a lake moss coiffure? I thought about him on Malta, but then everyone else on board the ship had also been “baptized.” If it’s any encouragement, Jonah appeared to do his best preaching while wearing “eau de sea bass.” Then again, it helped that the Ninevites worshipped a fish god. Seriously, ever since a Bible study last night I’ve been riveted to Luke 12. I am ever walking the line between the fear of man and the fear of God. What was it again that God told Paul?–My grace is sufficient. “Sufficient”–What a great word. His grace is not only essential, it’s sufficient. Water is essential for life, but it’s not sufficient. God says His grace is sufficient.

Thanks for a wonderful reminder. 😉

84. little momma said,
February 18th, 2009 at 8:11 am

wow. I read this at 630 this morning. I needed to hear these words today. And whoever ndhorton is I really liked the emphasis on His grace being, sufficient. If I had been in the audience T, I would have asked what perfume you were wearing! Oh that new “fishe toliette? hmmmm. Is that Channel? 🙂
I’m so impressed by your stories of such devotion and commitment to the Father. I’m not so sure I could have been as dutiful as the Finns though and not chuckled a bit under my breathe when you walked into the back kitchen. You are marvelous, my dear friend. I love you.

92. Lisa Darling said,
March 13th, 2009 at 1:31 pm


My son asked me what gift I wanted for my birthday. I said that I needed money to fix some things in the house that were breaking down. I have been worried about the money needed for painting my house, getting a new roof and fixing the clogged sink in my bathroom. He replied, “Mom, what about money for a future trip with your sisters?” “No”, I replied. I am worried about all these things that pertain to my house. See, I am worried about temporal things and not what God can do in this situation.

Teri, thank you for the story about Margaret and what God spoke to her, (“You focus on Me Margaret and concern yourself with the things I am concerned with and I will perfect the things concerning you.”) It touched my heart and gave me a new focus. God is sufficient!!

Thank you for blessing me today,


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