Monday, 30 April 2012

The small Miracle of Holding Hands

One weekend about a year after I became a widow, a friend and I were watching the first four movies in the “Love Comes Softly” series. Based on the bestselling books by Janette Oake, Clark and Marty meet on a wagon train going out west. Marty’s husband has just been killed in an accident. She knows (although no one else does in the beginning) that she is pregnant, and the untamed West is no place for her. She will have to go home, although she’s not sure where she will go. Clark’s wife died several years ago, and he is trying to raise his strong-willed daughter on his own while working the farm. He asks her if she would consider marrying him. She will raise his daughter, and he will protect her and give her a home. Grieving and angry, unsure about farm life and raising children, there are many conflicts, but Clark is patient. After one particularly tender line (and yes, I did know this was a movie, and as such, not realistic) I turned to my friend and said, “Where do you get one of those?”
            That was the first time I considered marrying again. Every time after that , we referred to the search for the man God had for me as “Clark.”
            Remember when you were pregnant, and it seemed that everyone had a protruding belly?
            As the time passed, and my loneliness deepened, and it seemed to me that everyone was holding hands. I had to look away.
I kept a journal during those years, and when the pain became intolerable, I would write a few lines.
“Loneliness crouches on my shoulder daily.  When I see a couple of any age showing affection, it will lean forward and poke me with its bony finger, and laugh.  I turn away and get busy, and it sits back.  “But you have a full life, your kids, your friends...”  It’s true.  I have wonderful, caring friends and the best family in the world.  I have fulfilling work and a second career as a writer.  None of that addresses the grinding ache in my soul for the love of a good man.”
“I’m no good at this widow thing.  I’m OK at putting a good face on it, but inside I am ripping

Two years ago, I decided to buy an artificial Christmas tree. I was standing in Canadian Tire,
waiting for the young man to bring me my purchase, when a couple my age came into my line of
vision. They were “kibitzing”—he had grabbed a feather duster and was trying to dust her back,
and she was laughing and shooing him away. Suddenly, tears were running down my face, and I
had to leave the store. That level of married love having fun together was more than I could
handle. I knew I had to take my search to the next level.
For the next year, I entered the world of online dating. I made many stupid, naïve mistakes, got
hurt, and met 17 scammers. Most of them I could spot immediately, but a few deceived me. After
a year of this, I almost gave up, but didn’t know what else to do, either.
"Lord, marriage is your idea. I know it won’t solve all my problems, and there will be challenges, as there always are when two people of different personalities get close. I’m not really looking for prince charming, just a godly man who will treat me like You want him to. I want to serve him and honour him and submit to him as he submits to me. I want to serve You together! My heart’s desire is to spend the rest of my life joined with someone who loves You and loves me, serving You together, praying together and serving others together. God, I know that’s what you want, too. I pray that you will bring that man into my life. I’m tired of the deception, the rejection and the downright rudeness that I have been experiencing. I don’t believe that this is your plan for me. You promised me “a future and a hope” and I’m asking for that now. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that you love me. You’ve seen every hurt, you’ve gathered every tear. Now, Lord, please fulfil your will, and bring the right man into my life."

Then, as just the right time, God sent my “Clark.” Except his name is Hunter.
Monday, April 30th, before God, and among family and friends, we will hold hands and make vows to each
other, and become husband and wife.
Jer. 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to                      harm you, to give you a future and a hope.”
God, You are so good!

The small miracle of communication

Imagine a world of Weebles. Rotund little wooden creatures to are weighted on the bottom, so
they wobble, but don’t fall over. Weebles have painted bodies indicating their careers, but
minimal facial expression. As they go about their daily activities, they wobble, and may bump
into each other, but they turn away and keep going. Weebles don’t communicate.
I’ve met a few Weebles in my day.
They are busy people, and have an agenda. They may say words, but seldom communicate. They
keep to themselves, keep busy, keep to the program.

I am thankful, today, for the small miracle of communication.

I am writing this on a plane, on my way home from the most incredible communication
experience. For five days, I sat with, talked with, learned from, shared with and heard the heart
and passion of other writers. The Christian Writer’s Guild Craftsman course has these days as the
cornerstone of the course, The 12 students  are at different levels in our writing, but none of us
are beginners. We were learning from writers of the caliber of Jerry Jenkins, Dennis Hensley,
DiAnn Mills and Steven James. Each of these highly successful authors has a heart to share the
craft with others, and train the next generation of writers. We asked questions and wrote notes
until our fingers stiffened,. We got to know each other, and hugged and prayed for each other.
We encouraged each other. And in the course of the week, we grew. We are a psychiatrist a court
reporter, a retired cop and a pastor, but we are more. We are writers.We are not Weebles.

God gave us communication in many forms, because His desire for us was to be community. We
need each other. He wants us to rub against each other, not just to wobble on our wooden way,
but to touch each other—to communicate. It’s how He made us. He communicates with us, wants
to hear from us, and wants us communicating to each other. All these are His gifts. When we
communicate, we are richer, we grow and learn. Sometimes it hurts. But I’d rather be a feeling,
and sometimes hurting person than a Weeble any day.

Think of some of the ways God has allowed you to touch others today through the small miracle
of communication.

Monday, 23 April 2012

The small miracle of adventures


I know adventurous people. They get an adrenalin rush from hanging off the CN tower or skydiving or facing sharks. They are always looking for new adventures.

The apostle Paul was like this. Full of energy and zeal, he faced shipwrecks and beatings and all kinds of dangerous situations with the spirit of an adventurer. I bet he threw off the covers and exclaimed, "What do you have for me today, Lord?"

I am not like that. When adventure comes my way, my modus operandi has been to pull up the covers, peek my nose out and ask, "Are you sure, Lord?"

I relate more to Moses than to Paul. Some of us see Moses as the strong "10 Commandments" type figure, standing at the Red Sea with his rod extended. He became that, but before the exodus and the Red Sea experience, God had a lot of work to do. First, he killed a man. He was found out and he panicked and ran. He settled in Midian, married and probably expected to be a shepherd the rest of his life. But God had other plans. Adventures.

 I love Moses' whiny exchange with God at the burning bush.
God: Moses!
Moses: Yes?
God: Take your shoes off- this is holy ground.
I have a job for you. My people Israel are miserable. I want you to bring them out of Egypt to a land of milk and honey.
Moses: (in a squeaky voice, pointing to himself) Me? You want me to free your people? Why me? What makes you think I can do this?
God: I will be with you, and when you've brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship right here,
Moses: They're not going to listen to me! Who should I say sent me?
God: (getting slightly annoyed) Tell them I AM sent you. Now GO! I'm going to make some nasty stuff happen in Egypt because Pharoh won't listen to you. You'll see miracles and plagues. You just wait. Those Egyptians will be begging for you to go. Eventually.
Moses: (getting really whiney now) They won't listen to me. They won't believe me. I can see them all laughing at me now.
God: What's in your hand?
Moses: Huh? You're God- surely you know this is a staff...
God: Throw it on the ground.
Moses: (skeptical look) O...K..(throws it down and it becomes a snake) AHHHHHHHHH!
God: Grab it by the tail.
Moses: The tail? (does and it becomes a staff again.)
God: See- they will trust you because you have talked to God. Put your hand in your shirt.
Moses: Is there a snake in there? (Does it- and pulls his hand out- leprous.) OH GREAT!
God: Do you get it? I am behind you. In front of you. All around you. If these signs don't work, pour some water out, and it will turn to blood. They will get the message.
Moses: But God...
God: Yes...
Moses: I don't speak well. I stutter and stammer.
God: Who made your mouth? I WILL BE WITH YOU.
Moses:(crying, pleading)  Please send someone else!
God: (definitely ticked off at this point) Your brother Aaron will speak the words, but you will tell him what to say. NOW GO!!

Can't you hear it- God thundering and Moses sniffling? Man,I can relate. God and I have those conversations all the time.

That's not the end of the story, or the end of Moses. We know that Moses became a great leader, and led the Israelites out of Egypt. Years later, he still had his whiny moments. ("God, Your children--oy vey!) Although Moses allowed God to use him through protests and with his heels firmly dug into the ground, he grew and was used, when God called him to adventures.

It's not the end of me, either. I still occasionally pull the covers up and try to ignore God's call, and I have my whiny moments. But God has called me to many adventures, and each time, I have learned to trust Him a little more. Here is a recent conversation:

God: Ann
Me: Yes, Lord?
God? What have you got in your hand?
Me: laptop?
God: Yes. Go forth and write. You will take courses to prepare yourself. The final course will involve you going to Colorado Springs by yourself. You will fly to places you've never been, have a layover, go to a hotel in a city you don't know with people you don't know. You will learn to be a better writer, and you will have a blast.
Me: But, Lord...
God: Ann?
Me: Yes, Lord?
God: I will go with you. Shut up.

Leaving Wednesday on my great adventure. Bon voyage!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The small miracle of trusting God

I'm a pretty flexible person. There's not a whole lot that's a deal breaker with me- I can go for chicken or fish or steak or a vegetarian dish. We can go out or stay in. I like a variety of movies I like to try new things. But there's one thing that can drive me crazy.

I hate loose ends.

I don't care it we do this or that- just tell me. When I know, I will make plans around whatever we are doing. If it changes, I will change my plans. I like to anticipate and organize.

But sometimes God doesn't tell me the plan. And it drives me nuts.

God has been walking with me around this mountain for many years. Every time I have a victory, and learn to trust Him and let go, I think, "Whoo Hoo- I've finally learned to trust!" And God smiles and says, "Let's try it again." During a recent year long journey, I gathered every verse I could find about trust, and posted them on my fridge. (After all, there is no place in my house I frequent more.) In the middle, I wrote the words that God spoke to me one Sunday in church as I cried out to Him.

Sometimes, I stand at the fridge and read. And read. And read.

Nahum 1:7 The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him.
Psalm 9:10 Those who know your name, trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 27:8 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.
And my personal favourite: Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. (I'm afraid a lot.)

Sometimes, I stand at the fridge and cry. And rant.

"Lord, I know You want me to trust, and I'm trying, but do You have any idea how hard this is? And how much it hurts? And how frustrated I am? (Protracted pause as I consider what I just said. Sigh...) Yes, I know You understand. You're God." Then I read more.

Psalm 25:2 I trust in You: do not let me be put to shame, not my enemies triumph over me.
Psalm 91:2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, my God, in whom I trust.
Proverbs 3:5,6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding:
In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Sometimes, I stand at the fridge and try to reason.

"Lord, I was just wondering if You had considered this possibility? Because if you did it this way, it would work out so perfectly. At least I think it would. Of course, I am me, and You are the Alpha and Omega, but I just thought I'd mention it..."

And God smiles, and draws my eye to the verse in larger font that He gave me when I started the journey into widowhood almost five years ago.

Jer. 29:11 'For I know the plans I have for you, " declares the Lord, "Plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope."

Welfare...future...hope.  Okay, Lord. I'm listening. Again.

Does anyone else struggle with trust?