It has been almost a year now, since a friend was so excited about a float with a group of people in a parade last year. She was so excited and thought maybe we could do that kind of thing too.
For a couple of years, I had been saying the same thing. We really could be in a parade, if we put our minds to it. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of people to make a parade work, and no one seemed interested when I brought up the subject.
Actually, I have always wanted to be in a parade. It probably started when I was little, and we would go and watch the Christmas parade in downtown Orange, New Jersey. My aunt was in it, because she was a majorette. Ever since that time, I wanted to be in a parade.
My dad used to take us to the parades. He was a big fan of parades, as was I. I ended up with my aunt's baton, and I would practice this thing on a regular basis, but never found a place that gave lessons, nor did I find any classes in school that offered baton twirling.
But one day, the hope of being in a parade came closer. An announcement over the P.A. system indicated that there was going to be baton twirling classes on Saturday mornings at a particular school, with the possibility of being in the parade. So, my friend and I went, and scouted out the school building where these supposed classes were to be held, but we never found the class rooms. Later on, we found out that the classes were for younger girls, not Junior High aged girls. Bummer.
Many years later, I made sure that any baton twirling classes that came my way, would end up with one of my daughters at least, to be a participant in the class. Of course, it was always with the hope of the daughter ending up in the parade at Christmas time. I found a baton twirling class and my daughter was in. However, there was no opportunity for being in any parade.
Fast forward many years. Finally, I got to be in the parade (the same one I always tried to be in) and this time, it was not with a baton or twirling students, but it was doing something else I love even more. We were in this parade, and have a really nice float. We are giving out tracts to people. It doesn't get any better than this. This parade opportunity happened two or three times, then it wasn't there anymore.
Like I said, I have always wanted to do a parade, but last year, when my friend saw what we could do, I jumped on that opportunity and called the Chamber of Commerce that day and found out how we could be in the parade next year. I gathered a group of people who would be in it and we made all the plans. Everything was set.
I called the Chamber of Commerce again in August to make sure I wouldn't miss getting the application. As soon as they were taking them for the Christmas parade, I sent mine in. We got the banners. We ordered and put together the give-aways. We designed T-Shirts and came up with a float design with all the props. We were on our way and pretty much ready, when November 3rd was quickly approaching. The deadline for the applications to be sent in was October 10th. They told us in an email that if our application was accepted, then we would hear back by November 3rd. For the week leading up to November 3rd, I kept an eye out looking for things in the mail from them, but nothing came. The email they sent out also stated that those applicants who were not accepted would be refunded their money that week.
On November 1, I realized that my application was probably rejected. It was a very sad weekend. How will I tell my people about the rejection? Was it too late to find another parade? Is there something else we can do in place of the parade? What was God doing in all this?
Saturday was a very weary day for me. It was a sad day, because the more I thought about the situation, the more I realized that we probably wouldn't be in the parade. Sunday morning rolled around, and on my way to the church meeting, I had thought about some of the things that were written in the email from the Chamber of Commerce. There were 4 requirements or strong desires that they had for each applicant. Three of them I had met, but one I didn't meet. It was the one that indicated that you needed to have been in one of their parades prior to this one. I had not ever applied for one, so now I realized how disadvantaged I was, after all, there were patrons who had been in the parade maybe 40 years or more, and now I come in and want to take their place because they cut the number of applicants down to 75. Either my group and I would be one of those 75 or we wouldn't be in the parade at all. In the morning, I was talking with a friend about it who was familiar with this parade. She said that the parade last year was too long, and the parade committee decided to restrict this one to 75 groups that would be able to participate. All I could think of after hearing that, was, if we did get in, it would be a miracle.
But Sunday morning, somehow faith began to well up inside of me. I knew that the devil wasn't going to be happy, and I also am familiar in some ways, with the way God works in situations like this. God is sovereign and He does test us out when we are serving Him. That is a good thing. He is not testing us out to frustrate us and make us feel defeated. Many times, another open door swings wide open and God wants us to walk through that door. Sometimes though, the door is closed and there is not a wide open door somewhere else. What is God going to do with this parade situation? But more than that, how is my heart going to respond to whatever God is doing? Would my faith disappear? Would I become confused and angry? Would I wait a couple of weeks doing nothing, then all of the sudden a door opens up for us? What was God going to do with the dream that I had of evangelizing through a parade? Was my dream only a pipe dream, or wishful thinking? Only God knows, but He does have a plan.
By Sunday night I was pretty much resolved to the fact that we weren't going to be in the parade. I threw it out to the group and asked for suggestions. Maybe we could take the truck and trailer and go caroling somewhere. We could dress up like we were going to be in the parade. What a cool idea. I could still give away my frisbies and Candy Cane Legend cards. The only thing we wouldn't use would be the big banner that we would have used in the parade. We also would have had to put more people on the trailer and we would not want to give the people in the neighborhoods we are caroling in, the impression that we are parade rejects. But we have over 50 people signed up for the parade and how can we fit them all on a trailer?
Sunday night I got on the Internet and wrote to someone who was in charge of a parade in our town. I explained that even though it was too late for this year, I wanted to be kept in the loop for next year or future parades. The woman wrote back the next morning and said that it was not too late for this year and I could sign up immediately. So, I found the registration form and filled it out, and as soon as I get the rejection notice or phone call from the other parade committee, I was ready to click on the link that would send the form in.
I left the web page open so I could just click on the link when I was ready. Meanwhile, I had called the Chamber of Commerce and left my name and number for the person to call back to affirm that we were definitely not going to be in the parade. By this time, I am totally fine with not being in that parade, especially since I found a new one we could be in. The group was excited too, but many had to check their schedules to see if they had that day free.
I waited all morning for the dreaded return phone call, which never came. In the early afternoon, I got an email from the Chamber of Commerce and I knew that it was the rejection letter. But I was ok, because I could just click on the link for the other parade and we were all ok with that. I had decided also that I would never sign up again for this other parade that was so hard to get into. Only if a miracle happened, would we get in anyway. But God does do miracles, so I don't want to write anything off too quickly and jump into making other decisions without knowing all the facts.
It was a rough 2 days, but God helped me through it all. Some were praying for me. It is easy for me to become discouraged. It is easy for me to lose faith and start doubting God. But since I have had some experiences with difficulties like this one, God's grace was totally there this time. I didn't put God in a box and expect a certain thing to happen a certain way, and when it didn't happen, then get angry about it. (I have done this before, I hate to admit).
I opened the email, with full knowledge that it was a letter telling me they were sorry that I was not accepted in the parade this year. The only thing I wished from them, was that they would have told me sooner. But it all worked out in my mind anyway. When I opened the email, the words that I read were, 'Congratulations! You have been accepted in the 62nd Annual Winter Park 'Ye Olde Hometown' Christmas Parade'. What? Did I read that correctly?
Of course, that means now I have to go back to looking for a place to order the T-Shirts from, laminating the Candy Cane Legend card, ordering imprinted balloons and more tote bags, and designing the sticker for the lollipops that I ordered. So, my imaginary weekend nightmare is over, and we are back on track now with making parade plans. If I only knew that the application was accepted, how different my weekend would have been, but how much less would have I experienced a work of God in my heart! We really do walk by faith in humility. May we learn to see God in all of our life experiences and not lose heart, no matter how adverse the situations might look to us!