Nancy Knapp Horn and Penny Graham Weaver, of Middletown, Ohio, describe themselves as two crazy girls with lots of good, clean, fun ideas. They’re not just girlfriends, they’re sisters.
“I married her brother, Jerry, when I was 17 years old,” explained Nancy. “Eleven days before my 18th birthday.”
This year they are celebrating 53 years of marriage!
Nancy’s the sister-in-law that Penny refers to as her “sister-in-love.” The bond they have exceeds family ties. They are co-owners of a stationery business called Chit Chat Cards. They cut, punch, glue, stamp, glitter, glam, fold, stick, stuff, laugh, cry, and chit chat! They chuckled while reminiscing about their first time creating cards.
“I was in a bad mood that day,” giggled Nancy. “I didn’t even want to touch the cards.”
Fans of their friend Brenda’s handmade Christmas cards, they invited her over to Penny’s for a tutorial. However, Nancy’s mood was soured by a stressful encounter previous to her arrival to Penny’s house. With a little persuasion, she released the negative disposition and reached for the crafts covering Penny’s kitchen table.
Like a therapeutic medicine, Nancy and Penny discovered creating cards helped them decompress. That was the inception of their pursuit to indulge in a hobby that eventually developed into a business. But first, they would have to evade a dance with death.
It was 2012 when Penny’s persistent cough and Nancy’s stubborn acid reflux led them both to see their primary care doctors.
“My doctor stuck a tube down my throat to see what was going on,” said Nancy. “I had to return to his office for a routine colonoscopy a week later and that’s when I got the results from my throat exam.”
Ray Phillips is the senior pastor of Stratford Heights Church of God (COG) in Middletown.
“My church secretary called my cellphone saying, ‘Nancy’s been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. She’s with her family, they need to see you, where are you?’” Pastor Ray said as he was driving. He responded by saying, ‘I’ll go to them, where are they?’”
“I couldn’t bring myself to go home so we went to a nearby restaurant,” explained Nancy.
“Bob Evans, if I remember correctly,” stated Pastor Ray. “On my drive over to them, I prayed for God to give me His words to encourage them. I’ve been on staff at Stratford Heights COG 28 years, 10 as senior pastor. It’s not my desire to give false hope. I marry people and I also bury them. As Christians, our ultimate goal is to enter heaven’s gates to be with God. I don’t wish to pray people out of where they’re meant to be.”
Stratford Heights isn’t a modest congregation. They have 1,300 members on their roster. If you're impressed by Pastor Ray’s reaction to zip over to Bob Evans, what happened next might really get you pumped.
“After praying, God gave me a peace that surpasses all understanding. That peace, which isn’t felt in all situations, was my confirmation that Nancy was going to live and not die,” expressed Pastor Ray. “I told Nancy that I had heard from the Lord and from that day forward we stood on His promise for her healing.”
Nancy said Stratford Heights COG is connected to a prayer chain that reaches churches all over the United States.
“Everyone was praying for me,” said Nancy. Three weeks later she saw a specialist in Beavercreek, Ohio.
“I received healing without ever being medically treated, a CAT scan confirmed me cancer-free,” Nancy said.
That's a healing miracle worthy of great celebration!
Penny’s situation was much different. She had to endure three years before receiving her healing. That persistent cough yielded a gamut of trial and error treatments for a respiratory disease that Penny said is considered incurable.
“It’s an auto-immune disorder that causes chronic hives. My prednisone treatments caused blurred vision, and sleep deprivation. I was on several inhalers and allergy medicines that left me unable to be in the sun. I used an umbrella every time I went outdoors. When I’d have a breakout, itchy whelps covered me from my neck to my ankles. I was hospitalized for hives twice - 11 days each.”
Penny’s failing health left her unable to maintain responsibilities as president of the ladies group at Stratford Heights COG, and office manager of the medical office that employed her, a career she said she loved.
With mounting medical bills, she and husband of 36 years, Duane, decided to sell that little red Mercedes and their custom-built home with an in-ground pool they’d only lived in for three years. Penny said she was overwhelmed by her physical condition and uncontrollable life changes.
“I didn’t handle it well. I slipped into a deep depression and became suicidal,” she said calmly.
Her contemplations may have been many, but one night in particular, Nancy sensed real trouble and showed up on her doorstep.
“She crawled into bed with me and began to speak life over me,” explained Penny. “She spent the night that night.”
Nancy’s healing came through prayer, but Penny’s came through giving. From the depths of their anguish Penny and Nancy began to pour themselves out and into others with a little chit chat while creating cards.
“We’d make cards and give them away to people we knew and they started asking for more, in bulk,” exclaimed Nancy.
There’s even a high-end boutique called Kathryn’s Home Accents with locations in Cincinnati and Lebanon, Ohio that are beginning to carry Chit Chat Cards exclusively.
“When we sit down to create a card, it's all about envisioning someone with a beautiful, funny, sad, happy piece of our heart in a one of a kind card,” said Penny.
“We want our customers to know someone put their own love, laughter, and tears into making the card they’re sending,” elaborated Nancy. “Chit Chat Cards are crafted by two creative hearts.”
More information can be found at www.ChitChatCards.Net
Sometimes God requires us to give what we need before it’s released into our own lives. Penny was depressed, yet she found joy by encouraging others. I hope this story will inspire you to explore ways to plant the harvest you wish to eat from.
Claudia Parker is an author, photographer and a reporter. Her columns appear every second and fourth Thursday of each month. She can be reached at AuthorClaudiaParker@yahoo.com