Friday, October 28, 2022

Like Those Who Dream: Chapters 24 and 25

Like Those Who Dream, Chapters 24 and 25
-Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow

Chapter 24: When You Get Right Down To It

We do not plan God’s will for our lives, and we do not try to figure it out like someone going on vacation.  God does not ask us to decide how long we want to stay in His appointed place, or what we would like to do when we get there. Knowing the will of God is more like observing a flower grow. First the seed is planted, then we see the shoot break the ground, then the stem, then the bud, then the flower as it opens to the sunlight—revealing its beauty, displaying its brilliance, and sending forth its fragrance. The whole process takes time, and we must patiently wait for the will of God to unfold before us.

In Lodi, I viewed my commitment to Don, Dean, and Russ as complete, but temporary. I was “all in”, but unsure for how long I would stay. I was unsure if it was a stepping stone to something still ahead. Up to this point all my steps in following God’s will were made up of short-term experiences. After graduating from Bible College, the longest I had been in one place was less than two years. Even though the work I was now doing was exciting and rewarding, I still wondered if it was a training time for a completely different ministry that was still “out there somewhere”. One day, as I was entering the Arcade to go to work, I recognized the still small voice of the Holy Spirit that I heard so many times before, reassuring me that I was in the right place and would be so in the future.

This understanding helped me to settle into the work at hand and give myself to it without reservation (I had no idea that God would keep me involved full-time until the day of my retirement, and then keep me involved through teaching, mentoring, and new writing opportunities in the years after my retirement).

In the fall of 1971 my brother Don and his family came to pay us a visit from Mexico. They were living in Mexico on tourist visas and it was common for them to visit us when they had to leave the country and renew their papers in the States. We always enjoyed our times together and it provided a great way for them to get refreshed before going back to Mexico.

One night during their visit, my brother Don and I had a lengthy discussion that became very philosophical. We covered a lot of ground during our conversation and dealt with a lot of issues. When we finished, Don looked at me and said, “You know Roy, when you get right down to it, the only thing that really matters is Jesus.”

When I heard those words a light went on inside me!

“I think what you just said would be a powerful message on a Christmas Card.” I said enthusiastically.

Not only did I have the thought for a Christmas Card, but also how it should be designed.

“I can see a man sitting near a Christmas tree just after the presents had been opened.” I informed Don; “The look on the man’s face would be one of bewilderment. The front of the card would say ‘When you get right down to it…’ and the inside would say ‘The only thing that really matters is Jesus!’”

Don thought I had a great idea.

I couldn’t wait to go to work the next morning and share the Christmas card idea with Russ. After telling my story, Russ got excited. “Let’s do a sketch of the card and show it to Don and Dean.” he suggested.

We gathered a few props and drove to my apartment. Russ had me put on my bathrobe, took me to the back patio, had me sit on the ground, and then strike a pose with my hand under my chin. He placed some cardboard boxes beside me to represent gifts, placed a small tree behind the boxes and started sketching. Within a short time the cover of the Christmas card was on his scratchpad. He then wrote out the words, “When you get right down to it…the only thing that really matters is Jesus”

When the layout was completed we wasted no time driving to Fellowship Press to show Don and Dean.

“What do you think?” I asked excitedly as I handed them the sketch.

“We like it!” they immediately responded.

We made a decision, on the spot, to print some samples and mail them to the Christian Bookstores on our mailing list.

Russ got the card ready for printing. To keep it simple we printed the card samples with two colors, black and magenta. After printing, we put the cards inside a mailing envelope along with an order form. We had no idea how the card would be received. When the first orders started coming in we were ecstatic! As the days passed, more and more orders arrived and we knew the greeting card idea was connecting with the stores and their customers.

Ten years before this mailing, my brother Don and I were living a party-life in an apartment in the San Fernando Valley. We were unsaved, empty, and struggling. If someone had told us back then that God was going to use us—two Jewish boys—to create a Christmas Card that would help launch the largest Christian greeting card company in the world, it would have been unfathomable.  

The card, When You Get Right Down To It…, became a “little messenger” telling us about the need and desire for contemporary Christian cards in the market place. They didn’t exist at that time. Believers were looking for cards with fresh designs, and meaningful messages that would help express their faith. It was a big need and we were being led to fill it.

I enjoyed parakeets and kept one in a cage in my office. Little by little I taught it to talk. It could say some words and even a short phrase or two. When my writing ministry at work continued to expand, some of my friends jokingly teased me that my messages were actually coming from the parakeet.


At a brainstorming meeting during one of our lunch hours, we discussed the idea of creating a separate brand name for our fast growing card and stationery products.  Dean brought up the name DaySpring. By the end of our lunch hour we had settled on it.

Note: Since most people today are more familiar with the name DaySpring, it is the name I will use in all the remaining chapters.


Chapter 25: Growing, Growing, Gone!

As you wait upon the Lord,
You learn to see things from His perspective,
Move at His pace, and function under His directives.
Waiting times are growing times.
As you quiet your heart, you enter His peace…
As you sense your weakness, you receive His strength…
As you lay down your will, you hear His calling.

During most of the first year that Russ and I worked in the Arcade, Don and Dean remained in Fellowship Press doing commercial printing. Their work in the print shop was an important piece in meeting the growing financial needs of DaySpring. Before the first year was over, Don was able to leave the print shop and join Russ and I in the Arcade. We all celebrated the move! About six months later Dean was able to join us full-time. It was at that time that Fellowship Press was sold.

In the mid-70s, as DaySpring grew, we needed more room and more help. At the four year mark, we had rented every business office in the Arcade, with the exception of one office occupied by an insurance agent. We were bursting at the seams. One office held our product inventory, film, shipping materials and store displays. Another office was used as our shipping department. Another office was turned into the creative department, and another was used for administrative needs and assembly work.

The heartbeat of DaySpring was getting out a message, not creating products. Every product we created energized us to get it to the market place because we wanted to touch people’s lives. The business was a means to an end, and it was a joy to see the protective hand of God on what we were doing.

Late one night, a strong rainstorm came over our area. When we entered the Arcade the following morning we discovered a miracle...The roof above the Arcade had developed a leak during the storm—water entered the office where important negatives were being stored. Some of the negatives were stacked on a small wooden pallet and the remaining negatives were sitting on the cement floor. We noticed a large puddle of water in the front part of the office. As we walked to the back of the office we noticed that the path of the water came to up to where the negatives were sitting…at that point the path of the water divided. Instead of washing over the negatives, the water went completely around them, not a single negative was damaged! We were spared a huge loss, and a great expense.


My responsibilities grew along with the demands of the business. At one point I was working in product development, heading up the shipping department, working in manufacturing, and acting as the sales manager. As the sales manager I had responsibility for sixty Christian Bookstore accounts in the Southern California area. I also took sales trips a few times a year up the coast, past San Francisco.

On my first selling trip I tried to call on as many stores as possible. At the end of the day I did achieve my goal, however, I did not make much of a profit. The reason was due to unexpected returns of a particular card we had produced that wasn’t selling…

In the early stages of developing greeting cards we didn’t have a full understanding of what made a card work and what didn’t. We made the mistake of printing a card that was all about judgment and the second coming of Christ. We called it the “War and Famine” card. It would have made a great Gospel tract, but it was a terrible idea for a greeting card (after all, who could you send it to?).

One of my desires was to place our products in every Christian Bookstore in Southern California. I was one store short of seeing that desire fulfilled. It was a store in San Bernardino. I tried every approach I could think of to get the store owner to place an order. No matter how hard I tried I was always turned down. On one trip to the store I became very frustrated with the owner’s refusal to order our products. As a final plea I said, “Do you know that you are the only store in Southern California not carrying any of our products?” My attempt to make her feel guilty did not work. Discouraged, I got back to my car and prayed, “Lord, I can’t get anywhere with this store. Please open up a way to get our products inside.”

Months went by without any order from the store in San Bernardino, and I decided not to go back. About this time we had made contact with a young artist attending Biola College. Her specialty was illustrating children in fun, everyday situations. We liked her work and wanted to use her art on a set of gift enclosures. She came up with the idea of showing the front view of a child on one side of the card, and a back view of the same child on the other side of the card. They were as cute as could be. When we published the line of gift enclosure cards they were a big hit with our customers.

One day a letter arrived from the bookstore in San Bernardino. When I opened the letter it included an order for some of our products, including the gift enclosure cards. I was stunned, amazed, and thankful all at the same time. I shipped the order wondering what had caused the store owner to finally change her mind.

A few weeks later, the artist of the gift enclosures came to my office. During our visit she told me the following story…

“After DaySpring published my art work, my mother wanted to buy a complete set of my gift enclosures for her own use. She lives in San Bernardino. When she went to the bookstore in town she discovered that my gift cards were not there. My mother is friends with the owner and asked her why my cards were not in the store. The store owner apologized, and said she had no idea the cards were out, but promised she would place an order for them “immediately.” It was a reminder of how God answers prayer in unexpected ways!

One of my most embarrassing sales calls came when I was taking inventory at a Christian bookstore that carried a large selection of our products. While I was bending down to count the number of note packages left in their note rack, I heard my pants rip open on the backside. I didn’t know what to do! The woman who was helping me take inventory had just gone to get something out of the cash register when my accident happened. I knew I needed to do something before she got back. I covered my backside with my order form and headed for the door. Thankfully, the store was located in a shopping mall. I spotted a variety store nearby and went inside. As cautiously as I could, I picked up a sewing kit, got in line, and paid for it. My next stop was a department store. I found the men’s department and walked into one of the dressing rooms. I took off my pants, took out my sewing kit, quickly sewed them up, got dressed and returned to the bookstore. When I arrived back, the lady who was helping me with inventory could not figure out where I had gone or what had happened to me. I tried to explain without saying too much, but realized that some questions are better left unanswered.

By 1975 we needed to find a place with more space. In Glendora, a town about five miles north of the Arcade, a building that once housed a supermarket was for sale. At first it seemed like too big of a step, but after more thought and prayer we felt it was one we should take. It turned out to be a great move and provided us with all the space we needed to grow for the next four years. There was even enough room to build a store front and sell products to the public. The new location would also bring a big change into our lives as a family.

(Join us next week as we continue this journey of Roy's memoir, Like Those Who Dream. The book is available through DaySpring and Christian retailers everywhere.)

#likethosewhodream  #ministry #roylessin #memoir #dayspring 

©2022, Roy Lessin, Meeting in the Meadow. ©2021 DaySpring, used with permission. All rights reserved.

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