Sunday, May 23, 2010

Finding a House

We lived in the cottage for two months, but winter was coming on and Grey Bruce Art World was closing.   The plan was to find a place to live in Chatham, Ontario.  A pastor had asked Bruce to come and help him with his church, and this is what Bruce had decided to do.  See Decision .

We decided to take a trip to Chatham to look for a place to rent.  I had always hated renting.  We loved buying older homes and fixing them up, but renting meant that all your investment in time and money would go down the drain when you moved.

But, now, I had settled myself on being content wherever the Lord placed us.   See Cottage .  This would be the best home ever, because it would be the Lord's choice for us.  For the first time in many years, I was prepared to rent.  But the Lord had a surprise waiting for us in Chatham.  

We had called a realtor about finding a place to rent, but he had not been very helpful.  We decided to tour the streets of Chatham looking for "For Rent" signs. We drove up one street and down another.  Each time we saw a sign we would jot down the number, but non of the rental units seemed right and we didn't follow up on any of them.

We were passing a Harvey's restaurant when we spotted a cute little pink house around the corner.  It was so unique that we decided to drive by it.  That's when we saw the "For Sale" sign on the house next door to it.

Now, remember, we were not looking for a house to buy.  It would be crazy to assume that we could get a mortgage on a house when we had just lost everything, see Wrong Direction , and had just gone through a consumer credit proposal, see Decision .  What we had forgotten was that nothing is impossible with God.

But as we looked at that little white house with the "for sale" sign we began to remember.  It just seemed like the Lord was telling each of us, my husband, our two daughters, and me, as we walked around the house, that this was what he wanted us to have, and He was able to give it to us.  

The house didn't look like much from the outside.  The paint was peeling and the trees were overgrown in front, but it was a solid house.  We could see that.  And something inside us was telling us that this house would be ours.

There were a couple of things we didn't know about the house.  We didn't know that the owner of the property across the street was waiting for it to go up for sale because he wanted to buy it. Neither did we know that this house had been on the market for two months.  No one else knew it either, especially the businessman across the street.  The owner had listed the house two months ago but had refused to let the real estate agent put up a sign or advertise it in any paper. The day we headed for Chatham to do our house hunting was the day she had a change of heart and decided to allow the sign to be posted.

We called the agent and made an appointment for early in the morning.

The house was just about the lowest priced house in town, and yet it was a good solid older home that just needed a paint job and a few renovations. Our host was excited with us.  "If you don't get this I will," he told us.  "It's a great investment."

We knew that he knew his stuff when it came to market value in houses.  He owned one of the most beautiful homes in town and he had built it, and paid for it mostly by flipping houses.  If he said it was a good deal, it was.  But that didn't make it any easier for us to buy it.  The cheepest house in town would still just have been a dream for us if we hadn't known that the Lord had directed us to it.

We made a conditional offer, and it was accepted before the businessman could get his offer in.  Now we had a few days to secure a mortgage.  But we had made plans to go to a campground in Alabama and that's what we intended to do.  We left it all in the hands of our real estate lady and the mortgage agent and left for camp.

The camp was a time of refreshing for all of us, but every day when we called back home, the house situation had not progressed.  Just before our time was up we called our agent again.  "How's it going?" we asked.

"Well," she said,  "Your friend saw me on the street and asked how the mortgage was coming, and  I told him you weren't going to get it.  He asked me if his signature would help.  He just went in and cosigned your mortgage.  You've got yourself a house."

We loved that house because God had given it to us!!

To read how the Lord continued to lead us after we moved in read:  Traveling in God's Will
To read how God continued helping us with the house see: Our God is a God of Detail
To read from the beginning of this series start at Broken Mom

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Cottage

During our final month at Grey Bruce Art World, we had to find a temporary place to live.  The power was being shut off and the creditors were preparing to take our house. See Wrong Direction
A few weeks earlier, the pastor of the church in Chatham had asked us to help them find a Christian campground where the men and boys of his church could go for a weekend retreat.  We found one for him up on the peninsula, but before they even had a chance to use it we had moved into a small cottage on that campground.

It was a blessing from God.  The cottage had room for two beds and a sitting area with a partial divider between.  The whole thing was smaller than our living room in the big house, and we had to walk quite a distance to get to the washrooms, but to my husband, daughter, and I this was home. 

We were happier there than we had been in a long time.  In the mornings, at sunrise, I would take a canoe out onto the still lake and would sit there in the midst of all that beauty and worship the Creator. In the evenings we would listen to preaching or singing tapes, or read the Bible, or just talk. 

Part of the time, during the day I would work at sorting through our things.  A lot of our stuff had to be left behind, but I didn't mind.  Our fancy house certainly had not brought us happiness.  That was the house where I first had to face my failure as a Mother. See Broken Mom Part 1 and Broken Mom Part 2 .

Our oldest daughter, Samantha, see Happiness Is and I'm at a Loss for Words had come back to the Lord the month before, but I was still hurting from the sting of knowing that our son was out in the world.  That was the main cry of my heart at that time.

I was happy to leave this big house behind but I knew that I had to make sure I didn't forget any important papers.  I was sorting through an old file box when I came across a note I had long forgotten. It was from the early years of our marriage. 

I have never had an easy time talking about things that matter to me without getting teary eyed, and when we first got married Bruce was not good at handling my tears, so when I needed to talk to him and couldn't, I would write a note for him to read when he got up in the morning.  This was one of those notes.

"You asked me what my goals in life were," I had written.  "I have only one goal, and that is that all our family follow the Lord with all their hearts, and it doesn't matter whether I live in a mansion or a one room cottage."

By the time I finished reading the note I was crying harder than I had when I wrote it.  The Lord knew way back then that we would have to leave the grand house we had built for ourselves. He knew that we would some day be living in a one room cottage,  and He knew where to hide the note and when to let me find it so I would be reminded of what I had written.

 It was like God was giving me a special promise for my family that day, a promise that, now that we were happy to be living in a one room cottage, willing to do whatever the Lord had in mind for us, He was promising to fulfill my desire to see my family serving the Lord.

I have claimed that promise ever since.

To read the previous post  go to The Decision

In the next post I write about Finding a House.  It was amazing how the Lord worked.

To start at the beginning of this series go to Broken Mom 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Decision

"Lord help me, please," I begged, as I opened my Bible, "We have to find a way out soon, and Bruce isn't in any condition to make decisions.  I desperately need an answer. Could you please give me something from your word?"

 We had floundered along ignoring God's call for long enough.  (see God Leads us Along Part 1 and Part 2 ) We knew we needed to find His direction, but Bruce was an emotional wreck.  (this often happens when you fight God's plan for your life)

Our accountant had introduced us to something called a consumer credit proposal where your creditors agree to take a percentage of what you owe for a number of years and then you are free and clear.

It worked for us but meant that we still had Grey Bruce Art World, and this was a problem.  We tried selling our art supplies to a local stationary store that sold some supplies, but they would only give us six cents on the dollar wholesale.  We said "no."   I was heavily burdened about what to do and was praying and asking God for the direction we needed. 

I was sure the Lord had an answer for us.  He had already shown that He was there to help when we turned it over to Him, so I believed He would direct us now. I picked up my Bible.  I have always been able to hear from the Lord by reading from his word.  It often seems like the passage I read is a direct answer to the questions I am asking, like he has directed me to where He has already provided the answer.

So I opened my Bible and started reading.  But all I read was a verse about wives being in subjection to their husbands. "Lord, this is no help to me now," I prayed, "My husband is in no condition to make decisions.  He's a wreck!"

I flipped over to find something else to read, but again I met with the same theme: Wives be in subjection to your husbands. I didn't want to take it, it didn't make sense, so again I flipped over and tried another place.  Could you believe it? There was another passage about a wives submitting.  I never realized there was so much in the Bible on that one subject.
"OK, Lord," I finally conceded.  "I don't understand, but I know you are trying to tell me something here."

The next morning, as we were waiting for business at Grey Bruce Art World, Bruce asked me what I thought we should do.  I was ready.  "What every you decide, Honey." I answered.

"No! Don't give me that."  At this point he really did not want any kind of responsibility, so he asked again, and I gave him the same answer.  He started getting mad.  "Just tell me what to do; you know you won't be happy with any decision I make.  You'll say, 'we should have done --' so you may as well make the decision."

"Honey," I said as calmly as I could, "that is my decision.  I have decided to trust you as leader of the family."

He stomped out the door but then suddenly turned around and came back in.  He spoke with authority.  "Here's what we are going to do," he said.  "We're going to notify all the artists and tell them that all the art supplies are going on sale for 50% off for the next month, and then we're going to pack it all up and close the business.  We'll find a place to live in Chatham, (he had been asked by a pastor there to come and help him) and then we'll go to the Christian camp ground in Alabama for three weeks to rest and seek God."

This was a side of my husband I hadn't seen in a long time.  He was sure of himself.  He knew that he was being directed by God.  I felt a huge weight lift off me, a weight I should never have been carrying in the first place.

A few hours later, after he had a chance to do some of his own thinking, he began suggesting that maybe we could set up the framing part of the business in Chatham.  I was tempted to argue, but instead, I bit my tongue and said, "whatever you say."  I had to remember to let God do the leading.

On the first day of the sale one of our regular artist customers came in and said, "What am I going to do for framing now? You wouldn't consider selling all your framing equipment, would you?"  That was the end of the framing business plans for Bruce.  If the Lord had gone to the trouble of making the framing equipment his first sale, who was he to argue.

And so the month went.  With sales like we had never seen, three times better than our best month, this was our first month of being blessed by being in God's will!

And it only got better.  Read the next post, The Cottage for more examples of God's love.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wrong Direction Part 2

So, what happens when you say "no" to God?  We found out the hard way.

Bruce had just told the Lord that he still wasn't ready to go into the ministry because his wife needed her chance to make it as an artist. See Wrong Direction Part 1 ,  and so we started down our own path, leaving the blessing of the Lord behind.

I didn't realize what had happened between Bruce and the Lord. I should have known, should have sensed it in my spirit, but I was so wrapped in my new career, and Bruce was not about to burst my bubble.

Instead we continued with our plans.  We did some renovating, had some prints made from a few of my paintings, contacted suppliers for framing and art supplies, called my favorite artists to teach the various types of art lessons, and set up our gallery for my oil paintings and the creations of some of the best artists in the region.

We made plans to put up a big sign, but that's when we hit our first snag.  We were on the Niagara Escarpment where nothing can happen without the approval of the Escarpment Commission.  And the Escarpment Commission takes its own sweet time, especially when God is not on the other end of the line working for you.  How do you attract customers without a sign?

We decided that we needed to go heavy on radio and newspaper adds.  That was expensive but how else were we going to attract customers? I cut the cost down a bit by doing a weekly arts column in a regional paper, a monthly column in an arts magazine, and a monthly television report.  All these helped expand my writing experience, but had a minimal effect on our sales.

We had contacted all the artists on my long list, hoping they would support us with their business. They were delighted to have a place to display their work and to shop  "if they ran out of a few things between trips to Toronto." (three hours drive away)

Our prices were comparable with Toronto, our selection was great, our artists were talented, but our blessing from above was missing, and after a year of struggling, we had lost all our savings and our health, and were in debt beyond hope of recovering.  Finally, we were ready to go the way God had planned for us.

And oh the blessings that were waiting for us when we yielded to His will!
The next blog, The Decision and the ones that follow will focus on those blessings.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Wrong Direction, Not Following

The Mother's Day incident  was just one in a series of stepping stones that the Lord used to lead us along and refine us. It was a time of brokenness in many ways for both of us. See (Broken Mom and Broken Mom 2)

Bruce had just taken a buy out from the Post Office.  He had come up through the ranks until he had made it to Post Master, but had begun to find that some aspects of the job compromised his standards.  So after thirty years of being employed by the Government of Canada, he had taken an early retirement.

I had already started writing.  I had been working on a book about my mom, Susie's Story , spending time every day going over the incidents in her life and getting all the little details the way she remembered them. 

But then another interest started taking over my life.  I had signed up for art classes at the local high school just for a fun night out, but when we started working with oils, I took off with it.  By the time the course was over I had sold my first painting for way more than I had expected.  (that's a story for another time)

I started focusing on the painting and set Susie's Story aside. Bruce was proud of my work.  We both got caught up in the idea of having a gallery.  But we have never been good at starting small.  We decided to open a large art complex.  We would sell art supplies, do framing, have a gallery for other well known artists in the community, have art shows, and set up art classes.  

A friend from church had the upstairs of a large building available on a main highway, and the rent was cheep. We had done our homework, had a list of over 600 artists in the area and knew that their was no art supply store in the area. There was only one problem; something that I didn't know about.

Bruce had been alone in the car talking to the Lord one day when the Lord spoke to him and said, "It's time, my son."  Bruce knew exactly what he was talking about.  He had had a call on his life since shortly after his conversion in his early twenties, and had put off going into ministry while "making it" in the Post Office. The Lord had been patient.

But Bruce still wasn't ready.  "Not now, Lord," he argued.  "My wife needs her chance with her art." 

If there is one thing a Christian should never do, it is say "no" to God.  It just doesn't pay.   

What happened to us when we walked out from under God's will is posted in Wrong Direction Part 2
For the previous post go to: Broken Mom Part 2

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Broken Mom Part 2

I was still reeling from the shock of seeing my son out in the world, when I found out that our oldest daughter, Samantha had drifted away as well.  Samantha had just left home for the first time to venture out on her own in the big city.

Samantha had always had a powerful independent streak.  She was cooking meals by herself when she was eight years old.  She hated having me there supervising, choosing, instead, to do it all by herself.  This was her nature.

Though my husband and I were concerned about her living in Toronto, She was excited about it. She would be attending a church where she had some friends; she could be a witness to so many people; she was ready to conquer the world.  But it didn't quite work out that way.  Before the year was up the world had caught her in its grip.

Our firstborn, our pride and joy, the one who had given her heart to the Lord when she was only four years old was now away from the fold, wandering in sin.  And our only son was out there, too.  My heart was breaking.  I didn't want to go on living.

The beautiful five bedroom house we had built was a worthless pile of sticks to to me now.  It wasn't a home.  Every room was a reminder of the hopes I had cherished for my home and had lost.  I began to hate it.

I even resented my husband for any part he might have played in causing two of our children to stray. It was easier to blame him than to admit I was a failure as a mom.   I was a mess.

I didn't want to go to church that Mother's Day.  I didn't want to receive my rose for being a mother.  Why should they honor me?  But I went.  That's what you do on a Sunday morning.

The minister hadn't gotten very far into his sermon before I started weeping.  I'm a crybaby at the best of times; I couldn't stop myself.  I knew people were looking at me but I couldn't stop.  All the talk of perfect mothers didn't help at all.

I had tried to be a perfect mom, hadn't I.  I had dedicated the past twenty years to my children.  What had I done wrong?

People were watching me probably wondering why I was crying?  Then, ever so gently, I felt a nudging in my spirit.  "Do you know why you are crying?" that still small voice asked.  "Is it concern for your wayward children, or is it something else?"

Of course it was concern, wasn't it?  I loved my kids.  But slowly, as I opened my spirit to listen, I began to see what was controlling my tears.  I did love my children with all my heart, but the emotions that were overpowering me had nothing to do with love.  They were all about self: self pity, self righteousness, and above all, pride.

I had thought I had it all together, I had expected to be the perfect mom with the perfect children, but it hadn't happened that way, and I was mortified.  I remembered all the times I had been asked to pray for someone else's wandering child and I had thought, "If they had spent the effort raising their children right, they wouldn't be having this problem."

I was crying again but this time for a different reason.  "Oh, Lord God, I am so sorry. Forgive me for my horrid pride.  Fill me with your compassion for other moms and dads who are going through this.  And please, Lord, don't ever let me be judgmental again."

I was spent, I was broken, but the Lord accomplished something in my life that day.  And grandually he showed me that he was at work in my children's lives too.  My son still has more to go through before God can use him as He has planned, but he will use him.

My daughter is serving the Lord now. (listen to her singing her song At a Lose for Words ) Her story will be the subject of another blog.

Because of the problems we had with our own son, my husband and I entered the Christian School ministry, reaching out to other people's children, and young souls have been saved because of it.  God has a purpose in everything.

"In everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you."

For the next post in the series go to Wrong Direction Part 1
For the previous post go to Broken Mom Part 1

Broken Mom Part 1

 Mother's Day the year we were in our fancy new home was not a good day.  I was miserable.  What was the good of celebrating motherhood when I knew I was a failure at the one thing I cared about, the one thing, above all else, that I had planned for all my life, had read books about, had encouraged others about --- and now, after almost twenty years, to realize that I had so little to show for it?  It was almost more than I could bare.

For the last few weeks I had been listless, struggling just to go on from one day to the next, living in a fog of depression.  The tone of my normally upbeat nature had begun to shift the day I knew for sure that our only son was not serving the Lord.

Bruce Jr. was a miracle baby.  After the first two girls, I was thankful for a two year break, but then I began to crave another baby.  Not just any baby, I wanted a boy.  Every time I would see a baby boy I would want one so desperately.  This went on for two more years but the doctor didn't have any answers.

"We could try giving you hormone pills," he suggested one day.  I shook my head emphatically.

"No, Doctor," I looked him straight in the eye.  "I'm on pretty good terms with the Giver of Life.  If He wants me to have a baby, then I want one, but if He doesn't, then I don't."  He was a Christian and understood my resolve.  I went home with no more answers, but I had peace.

Nine months later, Bruce Jr. was born!  My miracle baby!  He started smiling before he left the hospital, and by the time he was a month old he was laughing even in his sleep.  Nobody could argue the fact that he was a gift from God.

I would stand over his cradle sometimes as he slept and my heart would just be overflowing with love and gratitude for this soft bundle of blessing.  I would stand there praying for him and for his future, and I would beg the Lord for the wisdom to teach him to serve God.  I would even ask God to take my baby right then and there if He knew that he would not live for Jesus.  I knew that the heartbreak of losing a baby to the arms of God could never be as devastating as losing a son to the world.  And so I begged God to spare me that heartache.

In my heart I always believed that our son was destined to be a preacher.  We had dedicated him to the Lord, and even before that, when I was yearning for a son, my desire was to give him back to God.  I taught him the Bible, and occasionally we would see how the Lord would use his childlike innocence to speak to someone's heart. 

But we began to see problems after he started school.  We had looked into sending him to a Christian School but that didn't work, and at the time we hadn't even thought of homeschooling.  We believed that as long as we did our best to teach him while he was at home, God would protect him while he was in school.  I even started helping out in his classroom so I could get to know his classmates.

But before I had even started helping out in his grade three class, the problems had begun.  Bruce always wanted to be accepted, but he had a learning difference that made reading and writing difficult for him.  Bright, well adjusted students don't usually choose friends who are still struggling to read in grade three.  But there were always students who didn't care about scholastic ability as long as they could have a fun time.  These were the ones who befriended our son.

Had I known what I know now, I probably would have taken him out of school, but I don't even know if that would have changed his direction.  I only know that, by the time he was fifteen, he was going his own way and I was a heart broken mom.

The Bible says that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord, and in every situation we are to praise Him, but how was I to praise Him in this? And how could it have happened?

I did eventually understand, but it took some real brokenness.

For part 2 of this story go to: Broken Mom Part 2

Sunday, May 02, 2010

At a Loss for Words

 Some day I hope to share the story of our daughter, Samantha with you.  (See Mental Illness  and Mental Illness 2) It will touch your heart.  But for now, listen to her sing a worship song she wrote while on a mission trip in Africa.

To read about Samantha see: Broken Mom Part 2 and Mental Illness

For the next post see: God sees Sparrows and Children