Which Lane?

You had a doctor’s appointment, but the doctor was delayed with an emergency. You must wait approximately an hour to see the doctor. Do you remain or reschedule your appointment? You’ve spent the time in preparation and arrival, so that will be wasted if you return home now.

You’re in a hurry! You survey the line at your local store determining which lane will be the quickest. What do you know? Sally has a problem with her purchase and is “holding up” the entire lane.

You can leave your lane and try for another or wait for Sally to complete her purchase. You choose to wait. Yet all the while you are becoming more frustrated. Life is filled with these unexpected inconveniences and delays.

What happens when these delays or totally missed appointments are prayers which seem to have been overlooked? Do we push ahead with our own agenda and walk away from God, stomping our feet and whining about the outcome, or do we wait on His time?

As I have shared frequently, I’ve spent years praying about matters in which God ultimately told me “no.” My request was not going to happen.  I’ve mentioned the long period I’ve had in trying to sell my house, but for four years God has not allowed a sale. I’ve shared about praying for relationships that were annihilated or are so fractured they may never resume. I’ve cried out to God often. Does He hear me?

Recently, there were two separate examples that yes God does hear us, even when we are “in the wrong lane” or when He has been delayed with His appointment. I was reading a recommended book and the author; Mindy spoke of hearing devastating news. Mindy went to her closet and sobbed, pleading for God to send someone to pray with her during this time.

Even though she had a husband and children that supported and loved her, at that exact moment, they were not home, and she didn’t want to wait for the “doctor to arrive.”  The phone rang and it was someone whom Mindy had previously had a conflict with. When Mindy answered, the other party stated she had called the wrong number, but asked how Mindy was doing. Mindy explained she wasn’t doing well and asked for prayer. The caller prayed with her at that precise moment. It was what Mindy had requested. God heard!

While traveling to Wisconsin to visit my brother and his family, my sister-in-law, Dee planned on joining us for a mini-family reunion to Ohio. A couple of days before I departed for my trip, Dee received a call that her brother was terminal. She flew to another state to join her family. The very day my brother and I departed for Ohio, Dee’s brother died.

When Dee returned back to Wisconsin, she said, “God ordained this.” Had she been in Ohio, it would have been more difficult to join her family. God knew which lane Dee needed to be in. I’m often reminded of one of my favorite verses, Psalm 27:14 NKJ, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord.”

 

 

Home Again!

There are some awards in life which no amount of money can purchase. Family is one of the greatest of these gifts. As a child, when my parents uprooted our family of five from the only family we had known, I was dismayed when I realized there would be no more holiday gatherings or visits with our aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even though I had occasional contact with some of the extended family, as an adult my yearning to reconnect intensified.

Years later I began one of several return trips to the city and state of my birth; Norwalk, Ohio.  While retracing my paths, my  delight was in rekindling a personal relationship with my favorite aunt, Joan. Over these past twenty-five years, we have chatted frequently via telephone, shared cards, and letters, but the greatest joy has been when I could see her face to face. Her sweet smile and joyful heart add sunshine to even the darkest of days. God has bestowed her with remarkable health in her almost ninety years of life. Now alone in her home and community she will be relocating across the country to be near her children and their families.

I could not have this precious lady move so far away without returning to Ohio to bid her farewell. I also realized the “gift to Joan” would be enhanced with not only my visit, but that of my brother whom she hadn’t seen since he was a young child. No amount of money could purchase the blessing we received. The journey to Ohio was several days with my brother and me. We had the endowment of time and conversation which will be added to our reminiscences.

The highlight of the trip reminded Clyde and me of the riches we have with our Christian family. As we conversed with Joan and our cousins, we all shared of the joys of the Lord. We conferred about the journey our lives have taken us on, but the utmost exultation was sharing with one another how God has been with us during times of happiness and sorrow.

I was saddened my sister-in-law could not join us on this voyage, but she had a death in her family which precluded her from making the trip. Dee so sweetly said, “God ordained all of this.” She was with her family, while Clyde and I were with ours. God doesn’t promise us “tomorrow”, so we always cherish the time we have with one another.

As a very young child, I desired the bond and love of family.  I didn’t have it as a child or adult. I’ve imparted to others frequently,  why the “gift” of love which was one of the most imperative desires I had was never granted me. Nonetheless, when God grants “gifts” of time with my family, I seize and treasure it for as long as God allows. John 13:34 NIV, “A new command I give you: Love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tears and Fuzzy Socks

Fuzzy socks, a quilt, pj’s and a cup of tea. What other components are needed to enjoy movies about a lost dog and another about true love? Tears and more tears. It seems I always have an abundance of those, for my emotions appear to live on the surface of my life.

The quilt is one I’ve been working on hours a day for the past several weeks; a gift. I was quilting while watching the movies, fearful I would saturate the quilt with my tears. The fuzzy socks earnestly caused a severe broken toe a few weeks ago.  I dashed across the room in those fluffy, little foot coverings and my toe caught the edge of the table. Ouch! I knew immediately it was broken, as I watched it protruding from the side of the same foot recovering from a recent surgery. During my post-op appointment, the x-ray confirmed. Yes, it is broken.  Now these several weeks later, it is quite swollen and “fusses” each time I constrain it in shoes.

The pj’s! Not always my casual attire, but because they are over-sized tees and “baggy” bottoms, they serve me well while completing household chores. The cup of tea, sometimes hot, but in the warmer months there is nothing better than a tall glass of iced, freshly brewed herb tea. The tears! Those are  required for any sappy movie that involves “furry babies” or “true love.”

As I cry, it is often for the pictures in my life which were unfulfilled. Just today I received a lovely e-mail reminding me that when people choose to leave us, we must bid them goodbye.  My life is fine, for God is in control. No, He didn’t choose my family to be broken and for my husband of 44 years to love another, but He allowed it.

As a seminary student many decades ago, we were often reminded  God always answers our prayers, but not always as we desire.  They will forever be yes, no or wait awhile. I have prayers which I have been praying for years. The greatest concern was answered with a no. Whereas with others, they are “to be determined at a later date.” Despite the sorrowful emotions of watching movies about true love and the dedication of loving one another, I have to accept not all love stories have “happy ever after” endings. It takes determination and commitment that one’s desire for another person is greater than their own desires.

With my tear drenched face, broken toe in fuzzy slippers, comfy pj’s and ginger peach tea, I say “thank you” dear friend for reminding me that life is not always a “Hallmark” movie. Many people we love choose not to love us. They choose to leave, but God is still with us. Thus, we can enjoy those “sentimental movies”, cry for awhile and get “back to living.” Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV,” The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

 

For Sale By God

Those of you that know me personally, are aware my life took a much different path than I ever hoped or planned. Despite the arduous roadblock which took me down an unpaved road with huge ruts and potholes, I have continued to say, “God you are my GPS.”  Since April 2016, I have been trying to sell my house. God’s map has been different than mine, but I have not detoured. I had such hope my house would sell that I moved to Texas for 6 months, believing it would sell while I was away.

I loved my tenure in Texas, but it didn’t happen. I returned to Oklahoma disappointed, but realizing God’s plan is seldom mine.  God never fails to remind us He is always in control when we allow.  Several months ago,  I mentioned, it seems when we are seeking information, whether in making a purchase or a life decision, there are frequent prompts about our pursuit. Because my quest is a “heart” matter,  then God’s words which others share give me the encouragement to continue using my present GPS.

I understand my house won’t sell, if it isn’t listed, so I again resumed my prayers and God’s direction. There was one of those “flashing road signs” today when I read Chuck Swindoll’s words, “ If God’s ways are higher than mine, then I bow before Him in submission. The result of that attitude is true humility. Submission to the Father’s will is the mark of genuine humility. And all of us could use a huge dose of that. How unusual to find a humble spirit in our day, especially among the competent… Here’s the second: If God is in full control, then however He directs my steps, I follow in obedience. What relief that brings! Finally, I can relax, since I’m not in charge.”

Over the course of these past four years, I have become quite frustrated when folks say, “what is wrong with your house? Why hasn’t it sold?”   If only I could have placed a yard sign that read, “For sale by God.”  I’m eager to reply that God has chosen for it not to sell.  I have reflected on circumstances which transpired since 2016 that might not have occurred had I been living in Texas; serious situations which God was controlling.

It was noteworthy when my current realtor walked into my house and said, “why hasn’t this it sold? There is absolutely nothing wrong with it and it should have sold years ago.” I wanted to grab her and give her a big hug, but maintained my “social distance” and just chuckled. I told her of the numerous condemnations I had about my house not selling. What I know for certain is, I’m following in God’s obedience. As Chuck said, “what a relief, I can relax.” God has his! When my house does sell, I can proclaim, “sold by God.” Isaiah 55:8 NIV, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”

One More Step

Dear Readers, today is “true confession”; time to say, “I think I had the post quarantine giggles.” I had a thought to share with you on taking the last step, but then I had much on my mind about being out and about that my mind wandered and my blog deflated.

As I awakened at 3:00 a.m. today, I realized it was disconnected and the blessing I wanted all of you to receive was missing. I also realized I had even failed to title my blog. So, let’s try this again and see if I can “stay focused.”

As I shared yesterday, during our pastor’s message last Sunday, he spoke of the fact that God will walk with each of us to be with Him, but we must take that one last step to Him. I immediately thought of persons in my life whom I’ve walked with and held their hand, but they refused the final step. As the pastor reminded us, if we don’t take that single last step, then God’s efforts will be unproductive. I feel certain there is a great sadness in God’s heart when He realizes someone, He has given so many opportunities during their lives, repudiates just one step.

Over the years, I’ve had many persons I gave  much of myself to, but they refused to take even one step with me. I’ve even held their hand and said, I’m right here with you. Just come this way. I’ve prayed for them; I’ve been there for them. I cried with them and loved them, but  they “walked away.” My sorrow was always immense for some I spent years walking with. I felt defeated for I had bestowed much, if not all to that person or persons.

Did you ever consider why people may walk with you for months or years and then reject that last step with you? Have you ever tried to go back and encourage them to “come on with you?” I’ve done that several times with people I had valued as friends. Then without an explanation, they turned and left. I would reach out again trusting our friendship could rekindle, but they had taken another path.

One of the gifts of aging, is we learn to accept other people’s actions more so than when we were younger. I still grapple with rejection, but I’m not as easily offended by some that choose not to take the last step with me. There are certainly those in my life I have grieved over, but as I continue to stay focused on God and not the ones on the path with me, He reminds me, He has a plan in all of this.

Like the many God has walked with and asked them to take the one final step, reality is that we can’t make persons do anything. We can’t make them love us, care about us or even walk with us.  Ephesians 2:10 NKJ “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Is What Happens

Does it seem as though when you are considering a life decision such as a major purchase or a change in your situation, there are constant reminders and reinforcements? I have often heard people say, “I’m planning on purchasing a new car and now I see those cars everywhere.”  I’m confident there are no more of those cars currently than several months ago. However, awareness of them is now more evident.

Over these past eight years as I’ve had to accept a “new normal” for my life,  God has placed many people on my journey as prompts or an awareness that I’m not alone. Most have been butterflies; merely flitting by for a few days or weeks, but then flew off to pursue their life.  As my daughter reminded me years ago, God brings us the people or things we need “for that season.”

One of those persons that very briefly crossed my path gave me a gift; a book by Jeff Manion on “finding God in difficult transitions”. I’ve read numerous books during these past eight years which were referred to me or given as gifts, during my own “difficult transition.” Do you ever read or hear something that makes you feel as though someone was present in your life? The words they speak are what you have been living. As I read a passage from Jeff’s book, I realize there are common threads for all going through evolutions.

As Jeff shared of a friend going through a divorce and the frustration over the division of the property, Jeff cited years from now, none of that would matter. However, it was as though he had known my heart and mind when he stated, “but the decisions of the heart made in this troubled space could affect Tony’s life fifteen years later…he would need to walk through the stages of grief, as he worked to process the betrayal, heartache and loss…Tony was in the process of deciding who he was becoming…it is critical to recognize that not simply the hardship, but also the reaction to the hardship is forming us.”

Leslie Koh reminds us that even when Paul was doing the work, he believed God asked him to do, Jesus stopped him.  Paul’s work was needed more elsewhere. Leslie notes, “It’s sensible to make plans. A well-known adage goes, “Fail to plan, and you plan to fail.” But God may disrupt our plans with His own. Our challenge is to listen and obey…As we continue to make plans, we can add a new twist: Plan to listen. Listen to God’s plan.”

I’ve offered many thanks during these past eight years; thanks for allowing me to see and understand situations I might not, if my life had been as I planned.  I’m grateful for the reminder there is still time for God to use me; to form me for what He desires of me.

Proverbs 19:21 NIV, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

 

 

 

 

Soapy Windows

As the summer drew to a close, there were other escapades with Clyde and Sharon, but none as harrowing as the broken window accident. With each passing year, our family’s level of poverty increased. There were no birthday or holiday celebrations. However, once a year our local fire department held a fall festival on Halloween night. The town’s children of all ages and income were welcomed for homemade chili, treats and a night of games and prizes.

My excitement had continued to increase from the moment I first heard about it until the day of the event. There was so little happiness in our family, but tonight would be a wonderful memory.  Little did I realize my excitement would turn to sadness within a matter of hours.

When Dad arrived home, he noticed soap on some of the windows. With Dad’s harsh interrogation, I readily admitted I was the guilty one. My classmates said they were going to soap windows as a traditional Halloween event. I wanted to be accepted as one of the “cool kids” in town.  I soaped only a few windows, enough that when queried the next day, I could exclaim I too had participated in such an adventuresome tradition.

Upon confessing to my crime, Dad hastened to deal with what he deemed a most dastardly deed.  As he immediately removed his large, leather belt, I knew the beating awaiting me. I thought the beating would be sufficient, but not to Dad.  Following my beating, I was forced to remain at home scrubbing all windows, including those not soaped. While my siblings and other children were attending the fireman’s party, I sobbed and pleaded for Dad’s mercy.

I carried the bucket of water from window to window; my hands numb and painful from the water and cold, northern OH night air. The few soaped windows could have easily been cleaned the following night, but Dad insisted I receive the maximum punishment that very night.

When my schoolmates passed by querying if I was attending the party, my moans and cries could be heard for several houses away. I continued to plead with Dad to go to the party. His word was law; “no.”  Only months earlier Dad tearfully stated I had assisted in saving my sister’s life. Now I was being unjustly punished for a childhood prank. No windows were damaged or broken. Nonetheless, my spirit and heart were shattered.

Such incidents reminded me my parents not only viewed me as someone that completed their household chores and tasks, but their refusal to accept me as their 8 year-old daughter that sought to be a child.  It was as though my siblings and I lived in different homes. They were free to play and relish their lives as children.

I can now reflect on those times realizing there would be more times of disappointment. However, I learned at a young age God was with me in all situations. He gave me the strength to endure iniquitous individuals and the disillusionments they bestowed and a reminder He would never forsake me.

Colossians 3:21 NKJ, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

 

 

Stay Here

How I yearned to be a child; to enjoy my life as all the other children. Yet as a missionary friend of our family’s cited frequently, “Janie, you were born an adult. You were never permitted to be a child.” I now realize that God was preparing me for a life filled with challenges beyond comprehension. Had I not learned to be self-sufficient and a care-giver at my young age, when the tempests of life came, I would have been unprepared.

During those years in OH as our family moved from house to house and town to town, there were several memorable incidents. One of the most paramount was  during a summer in the 1950’s. As the eight-year-old care giver of my siblings, I was fulfilling my role as the family laundress on the first floor of our house when I heard an agonizing shriek coming from upstairs. I left the hot iron and ironing board, vaulting up the stairs to discover my brother awe struck while my three-year-old sister stood on the bed, a bloody hair brush in her hand, blood pouring down her arm, as the sun glisten off a jagged, broken window.

Certainly, at age eight, I had no training as a nurse or doctor, but God imparted me with the calmness and knowledge to do what was necessary in this dire emergency. As my brother and sister were jumping on the bed, the hair brush which Sharon held in her hands, was thrust into the window. Still grasping the brush, as she pulled her arm into the room, the window tore a large and deep gash in her upper arm. I clutched my younger sister grabbing a blanket from the bed as I raced down the stairs into the kitchen. I gently sat her on the blanket on the kitchen floor, while dashing to grab a towel and tightly wrapping it around her arm. At age four, my brother understood the urgency as I screeched, “you stay here with Sharon, while I run to get Mom and Dad.”

Following my Dad’s recovery from his injury, my parents opened a drapery installation business in the town where we now resided. It seemed as though I was running for miles to alert my parents of Sharon’s accident. Upon arriving to the security of realizing my parents could now come to take care of her, I screamed, “come quickly, Sharon was badly hurt.” Returning to that house and town, years later, as an adult, the home was at least two miles from my parents’ business. I then realized why it seemed like such a long distance for an eight- year- old in distress.

When my parents returned from the hospital emergency room with my sister, my father was crying. It was the only time in my entire life Dad was sincerely appreciative of my actions. As the tears washed his face, he said “Janie, if not for your actions, the doctor said your sister could have bled to death.” Before the summer ended, there were other mishaps, but I was grateful, not as serious as my sibling’s gymnastics on their bed.

I Timothy 5:8 ESV, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Pack It Up

As I shared in my last blog, at age five, I understood roller skating to my neighbor; Auntie Alice was a respite from the chaos of my home. Due to my father’s injury, my mother had become the sole financial provider for our family of seven.

As a result of my grandmother’s extreme mental illness when she was not a patient in the state mental hospital, her care was shared between my mother and maternal uncle. As a child, my heart ached to see my grandmother’s mental and emotional condition, sobbing when visiting her at the hospital.  Although young, I understood these patients’ dignity and self-respect were striped away. They were treated only slightly better than a family pet.

Therefore, even though Grandma was a challenge, I was always happy she was with us. She didn’t always grasp her surroundings, but I did. With Grandma’s illness and my father’s injury, neither of them could care for us children. I was designated the day-time care giver for my brother, less than two years of age and my sister, an infant.

This was not discussed, but mandated. As my mother departed daily for her employment at the local green house,  she left bottles of milk for my sister and instructions to change her diapers often. I was also instructed to prepare lunch.

Mom’s arrival home was seldom pleasant. Her mood was agitated. Now as an adult, I realize the burden of caring for our family of five, plus the challenges of her mentally ill mother and the addition of my uncle, was solely on her tiny, frail shoulders. Mom never had the life she had desired. Thus, her unfulfilled dreams also altered my life as a child and later as an adult.

The charming house in northern OH which Dad built himself, would become a mere memory. For my parents, it was the last home they would own until almost twenty years later. Our residence there was short-term following Dad’s accident. In less than five years, our family of five moved six separate times.

Because I had been given the role of “care-giver”,  I was also assigned the task of maid and chef during my mother’s absence. As the boxes were moved into an aged, rented farmhouse, I was instructed to unpack all the kitchen items and place them in the cabinets. My memory is as vivid today as then. I had to walk on the counters to reach the tall cabinets, but my task was completed without breaking even one glass or dish.

What a tremendous disappointment when less than 72 hours later, my Dad announced we were moving from that house into another. All the work of unpacking was now left to me to repack. This would be the saga of moving in and out of homes in four different OH towns over the next four years.

Hebrews 6:10 NIV, “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

The Key To Take Flight

As I hung the skate key around my neck and strapped on my roller skates, it was my way to “take flight” from the reality of life. The house at the end of our tree-lined street in northern Ohio was a “safe haven”; a place for me to find a hug and always a treat. Auntie Alice, as I fondly called, Alice Sharp was a neighbor, full time house wife and mother of a young adult son and a daughter whom had drown in Lake Huron when she was five years of age, several years earlier.

Auntie Alice became a surrogate “mother” for me and I,  a substitute daughter for her. Our friendship remained for many years, but the frequent moves of my family diminished the friendship as I could no longer “drop in” for those sweet times of fellowship. I now realize Alice comprehended  my life was more of a challenge than any five-year-old should endure.

Her 1940’s home with the large wrap around porch possessing a wicker swing, seemed like a fairy- tale castle to me, filled with treasures my young senses had never experienced.  Her parlor was laden with beautiful tapestry chairs and love seats, but the showpiece was the player piano. When hearing it, I longed to learn to play the piano, but it would be years before the dream became a reality.

Aromas filled the air which I desired for our own home; fresh flowers and home baked cookies, breads or cakes. These sweet treats were always enjoyed with lemonade or a cold glass of milk on Auntie Alice’s sunny screened in porch or her garden filled with the fragrant flowers which bedecked her home. I was also intrigued with the beautiful summer cottage in Auntie Alice’s garden. The cottage had a fireplace and furniture with gorgeous, floral cushions, which appeared to have been freshly picked from her garden.

The large garage was designed with an upstairs apartment, which I deemed would make a great hideaway where I could reside.  This young girl was convinced Auntie Alice truly lived in a castle. Our home at the end of the street, built by the hands of my skilled, carpenter father was new and lovely, but modest compared to Auntie Alice’s fine home.

With seven family members residing in our two-bedroom, one bath house, it seemed smaller than it actually was. It did however have a basement which had been my parents’ home before Dad built the primary residence. Our immediate family of five consisted also of my paternal, teen-aged uncle and my widowed maternal grandmother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Tragically, my father sustained a broken back when falling from a second story scaffold while working in his profession as a carpenter. This fall left my father partially incapacitated for several months. This was a tremendous setback for the family, but also for me as a child. My life as a care free child ended the day of my father’s accident.

I learned at a young age that life would never be one of joy, but God would be with me.  Jeremiah 29:11 NIV, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you…”