Deft, gnarled fingers caressed the smooth wooden vase with an indescribable love. Turning the vase over, Norman’s index finger traced the burnt etched words “Love is patient” and his own signature. With a smile he said, “It is finished.”
Plopping down into a tattered chaise lounge, he surveyed his pile of white birch logs. It was time to begin another piece, but what would it look like? Who would name it? How would God lead this time? Norman glanced over to his work bench where a large piece of birch lay partially exposed. The grains had once beckoned him to create something, but a large knotty flaw in the wood had stunted his creativity long ago. It still taunted him every time he prepared to begin a new piece.
Maybe this was the night that God’s inspiration would prevail and a new vessel would be born. Norman got up, moving toward his work bench with trepidation. Picking up the large log, he turned it over and over in his hands. The flaw was like an open wound that wouldn’t heal. Norman wondered if the flaw ran too deep or whether it would ultimately destroy the integrity of the whole piece. The log could shatter entirely once it was subjected to the strength of the lathe.
Something in Norman, though, told him not to give up on this special wood. A battle of wills began that night and only ended at the break of dawn when from this one flawed piece of birch was hewn a most glorious vase. It stood nearly two feet high. One side dipped down in a flourish where the flaw gave way to an inner beauty.
“I will call you, ‘Marvelous,’” he said, “For ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalms 118:22-23 NASB)
Pulling into the gravel driveway, our family looked up at a three-story house wrapped in glass windows and wide wood porches like an offering to the Alaskan wilderness that surrounded it. This beautiful bed and breakfast, nestled across from a finger-like inlet was our family’s last chance at finding a room in Haines for the night.
A quick inquiry revealed that the proprietor’s two bedroom suite was available for two nights, but we were soon to discover that a three-day stay was in our future. The elderly couple embraced our family with a special love that only comes from the Father. Norman invited us into their spacious family room filled with books and knick-knacks—testimonies to a full life. Two large telescopes sat near the picture windows ready for humane mountain goat and bald eagle hunting.
Norman was anxious to please. He and his wife suggested a restaurant for dinner, told us of the morning breakfast routine, and insisted we stay an extra day so my husband could “make a bowl.”
Make a bowl? What could that mean? As if reading our thoughts, Norman proceeded to invite my husband to his corrugated metal workshop behind the house. “I do woodworking. I’m helping another guy tomorrow finish his bowl, but by the next day we could get started on your bowl. And, if you stay an extra day we could finish it up.” He winked slyly and looked anxiously at my husband for an answer.
My husband and I exchanged looks. Why not stay? This trip was open-ended and we wanted our girls to experience as much of life as possible.
While my husband bonded with Norman and embarked on his own spiritual discovery, the girls and I combed the beach for inlet treasures and shopped for local crafts. We discovered Norman’s birch creations in one shop—each one bearing the marks of its heavenly and earthly creators. One vase named “Marvelous” particularly caught our attention.
It was a carpenter’s gift to the world.
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