When I was in middle school, I was able to take my first shop class. One of the things we were taught was how to tool leather. We learned how to take leather and put designs in it and learned how to stitch them together. I really enjoyed making things and continued to do so through high school and even into college. I made wallets and even some belts for family and friends. I was good enough at it that a local western store offered me an opportunity to sell belts in their store, but I knew how long it took to make a good one and did not see where I could make enough to make any money at it. Besides, when you start selling your hobby, it becomes work.
I put the tools away after college, but they have been stored in a closet in every house we have lived in. When Shane was in middle school, he wanted to know how to tool leather. I had some scrap pieces of leather stored with the tools, and we broke them out. I started teaching him how to cut and stamp the leather. Also stored with the tools was a wallet kit, and I started tooling it but did not finish it up, and we eventually put it all back in the closet.
I decided that I would take all of Thanksgiving week off as vacation this year, and then I saw the weather forecast. We were expecting cold, damp and rainy weather, and I had planned to do things outside. What was I going to do? The unfinished wallet came to mind, and I decided to get it and my tools out once again. When I saw the leather back of the wallet, I could tell that it was dried out. It had been close to 10 years since I started that wallet, and it would need to be prepared properly before I would be able to tool it. In leather work, preparing a piece of leather for working is called casing. The way I learned to do it was by using a sponge to apply water to the leather to get it damp and then sealing in a plastic bag. This lets the pores of the leather open up, and the leather will get soft. Without casing, the tools would not leave their imprints in the leather, and it would be difficult to work with. Once the leather was cased, I was able to finish cutting and stamping the leather. I am not as good at it as I used to be, but the wallet is almost finished and ready for stitching.
As Christians, I think that sometimes we believe we are as tough as that dry piece of leather. God can't work with us like that, and we won't accept his imprint on our lives. We need to be cased before he can really work with us. That's where our trials come in. We tend to think that God has forsaken us, but often times, hard times are not the absence of God but His presence in our life. It is during these times that God is preparing us to leave His imprint on our lives.