Sunday, August 29, 2010

Love Story part 2

"Are you scared?" Anita and I were curled up in the backseat of the car on our way home from Michigan where a charming Honduran had just made his interest in her quite obvious. (see: Love Story part 1)

Her answer was barely audible, "yes."

I pushed a little further.  "Do you like him?"

This time I had no problem hearing her answer. "Yes."  The tone of voice said, "What a dumb question. Of course I like him."

I knew her concerns.  She had often confided to me that she would never marry any of the young men in the churches where we had attended or visited.  To her way of thinking, they were all spiritually arrogant, and she wanted nothing to do with a proud man.  She didn't even want to marry a handsome man, since she thought most of the handsome men she knew were also conceited and full of themselves.

I smiled at the thought.  There was no denying the fact that Noe was handsome with his dark Hispanic features.  But somehow I couldn't quite picture him as being either arrogant or conceited.  I wondered if he even realized how handsome he was.  It was the charming boyishness of his smile that was drawing Anita to him.

Noe began a very persistent telephone campaign to win our daughter, and Anita enjoyed the calls, but she refused to commit her love to anyone without a sure word from the Lord.  We had long talks about love and marriage, and Noe, and I felt that Noe was the one for her, but she needed to know beyond a shadow of a doubt.  She never wanted to be able to look back when things got tough and say "maybe I made a mistake."

Bruce and I were just about to begin the Christian School phase of our lives and were planning on taking a trip to Texas for a week of training.  We didn't want to leave Anita behind, but we knew it was pointless to bring her with us.  Since Michigan was on the way to Texas, a family from the church in Michigan invited her to spend the week with them.  They held the same kind of standards that we believed in, and had  young people willing and eager to act as chaperons should the need arise, so we felt safe in allowing her to go.

We were sure that Noe would be delighted, but what we didn't realize was that he was just starting a new job that took him all over the country.  He would probably be fixing printing presses in Indiana while Anita was in Michigan.  Anita resigned herself to the idea that maybe God didn't want her spending the week so close to Noe.

Noe was tempted to ask for the weekend off, but he knew it would not be fair to his new boss. He wanted to the right thing, so he agonized over the situation, but he kept his mouth shut.

And then the miracle happened.

The boss needed to take some time off.  He was very sorry to have to delay Noe's training for a whole week, but he really wanted to take his family for a holiday before the weather turned cold.  Would Noe mind staying at home for a week. Noe could look after his horses for him and that way he would still get paid.

Noe said, "sure, I'll look after your horses.  You just go and have a good time and don't you worry about me."  And then he ran for the phone and called Anita.  I think it was at that point that Anita knew that the Lord was giving His blessing.

We dropped her off in Michigan, and went farther south for a week of intensive training, but before the week was out we got a call from Anita.  "When you get back to Michigan, there is something that Noe wants to ask Dad, so can you hurry back real soon?"

We did.  But before we got there some of Anita's friends asked, "What are you going to do if your Dad says, "no"?

Anita didn't hesitate.  "Then I won't marry him."  Her friends could hardly believe it, but there was no question in her mind.  She wanted her marriage to be blessed.  She wouldn't have it any other way.

Her father gave his blessing, and they set a date in October.  Anita had determined that her first kiss would be the kiss at the alter, and though those three months were hard, she kept her resolve.

  They were married in Michigan by three ministers, the pastor from the church in Michigan, Noe's father, and Anita's dad. It was conducted in two languages, English and Spanish.  Her sister, Samantha, (see Mental Illness 1 and 2) wrote a beautiful song, "Let the First Love Last Forever", and sang it at the wedding.  And their church friends all helped with whatever they could, from creating bouquets out of our dried flowers to providing a delicious reception meal.

The wedding was truly beautiful, and later they were blessed with the two wonderful children that are subjects of many of my posts on ChristianGrandparents.com  and are the children who are featured in my YouTube GrandmaCarolFlett Channel

So although I lost my hairdresser and musician, I gained, not just a wonderful son-in-law, but also two new hairdressers and musicians and a whole lot more! Anita and Noe were blessed but so was I.

For the next post see: Place for a Christian School

For the previous post see: Love Story part 1

Love Story

Anita had only ever had one dream for her future.  She wanted to be a stay at home mom.  But at twenty three it seemed her dream was nowhere near to being realized.  She had never even had a boy friend.

It wasn't that the boys didn't like her; it was just that she had made up her mind not to pursue a relationship with any man she did not feel she could marry, and she would not marry anyone that did not fit her high Christian standards. And so she was still single.

I loved having her home with me.  She was a wonderful daughter, a marvelous hair dresser, and a terrific singer and musician, and we always sang together where ever we went.  It was a great arrangement for me, but I ached for her and prayed that God would see the yearning of her heart and fulfill her desire.

We traveled extensively during this time, my husband preaching and the girls and I singing, and one of our favorite churches was just south of us in Michigan.  We knew and loved all of the core congregation, but, of course, their were always new people coming in, and we enjoyed meeting them as well.

One week end we arrived on a Saturday evening and stayed at the pastor's home for the night just as we always did.  In the morning when we gathered around the big dining room table for breakfast, a young Latin-American young man came and sat down beside us.  The pastor introduced him as Noe Reyes, the son of a minister friend in Honduras.  He was staying in the pastor's rental house next door, and often took his meals with the pastor and his wife.

My Momma mind instinctively started checking him over.  Could this be the one?  He certainly was likable, entertaining us with stories of Honduras in his heavily accented English, and it seemed he was not married or engaged.  I looked over at Anita.  I could see she was enjoying his company as well. 

After church many of the congregation headed over to Country Buffet for lunch.  I was a little disappointed to notice that Noe was not with us.  After we were all settled and starting to eat, Noe and a friend arrived.  They had started to go someplace else, but had changed their minds and joined us. The only seats available at the table were right next to us, and again we were entertained with Noe's lively conversation. 

Later that afternoon as I was visiting with the pastor's wife, she started talking about Noe.  "He's such a nice boy, so helpful around here, and he really loves the Lord, but the poor boy desperately needs a wife."  She said he was in his early thirties and knew it was time to settle down, but he just hadn't found the right girl. Again, my momma mind was at wondering.

We didn't see Noe again that weekend.  He had gone off with his friends somewhere, and I was disappointed.  If he was really looking for a good woman, why hadn't he stuck around to get to know Anita?
She certainly was attractive enough, and I knew he had enjoyed her violin music and her singing.  What was the matter with him anyway?

On the trip home Anita and I discussed Noe in a round about way.  "He seems like a really nice guy," I said, and added, "I wonder who we could pare him up with." I then proceeded to list a few of her older unmarried friends.  To each name she found a good reason why they would not be suitable.  I never suggested the name, Anita, and neither did she, but I think we were both wondering the same thing.

Anita and I were eager to go to Michigan again, but when the opportunity finally arose, Noe was not there.  I think we were both disappointed.  It wasn't until the missionary conference at that church that we saw Noe again.

His parents were visiting from Honduras and his father was one of the speakers.  In the afternoon we were sitting and visiting in the pastor's living room.  Noe asked Anita to play the organ and she played a few songs. We got talking again, and the subject came up about ages.  He asked Anita how old she was.

I had no idea how important Anita's answer was to Noe, but from the moment she told him that she was twenty four, he never left her side if he could possible help it.  I found out later that he had been thinking she was about sixteen, and was chiding himself for taking an interest in a girl half his age.  He kept saying to himself, "no! it isn't right!" but the minute he found out that she was not just a sweet "little" girl, everything changed.

I heard later that he told his parents, that same day, that Anita was the girl he was going to marry.  But Anita had told the Lord, many years before, that she would not step into any kind of a relationship with a man unless she knew it was God's will for her, and she was not about to give her heart to any man, no matter how pleasant he appeared, until she knew she had that assurance.

Her struggles and the assurance that followed will be the subject of my next blog post, Love Story part 2

For the previous posts read Funeral Party

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Funeral Party

It was Mom who coined the term "funeral party".  The idea had never even entered into our heads.  It just somehow happened as God led, and what a blessing it turned out to be!

It was just after our daughter, Samantha, had her first psychotic break (see Mental Illness Part 1 and Part 2 ) that Mom took sick.  It didn't appear that she would last for long.

I called all my brothers; one from across the continent in British Columbia, one from evangelizing all over the planet, and one from his mission field in Mexico.  All just happened to be available to come and see their mom one last time - or at least they thought it would be the last time.  Non of us knew at the time the real reason why God had planned this.

Mom and Dad were living in a lovely nursing home where they were able to stay together in a double room with a bedroom and sitting room area.  The nursing home also had a large recreation room that Mom had always wanted to make use of, so when she found out that her whole family was coming for a visit she decided that it was a good excuse to book the hall for a party.

A pizza party is what she asked for, and she rallied for the occasion.  We all took delight in Mom's exuberance, and decided to prepare a little program for her and Dad.  Our family had always sung together, the rest of the family playing guitar or mandolin or organ, and me mainly just singing.  Those many jam secessions from the past were among the best memories of my childhood, and I knew Mom and Dad had loved them too, so we dug up some of the old songs and got our daughter Susie to play the piano, Anita to play the violin and our son-in-law, Hank Snow, (really, that's his name) to play the guitar. 

We had originally planned this for mom because she was so sick, and she did thoroughly enjoy it, but it was Dad who was touched the most.  Their were tears on his cheeks throughout the singing.  I know he would have loved to be able to pick up a guitar again and join us, but he had become far too feeble. Always a quiet man, he had almost stopped talking, but his love and emotion  poured out that day.

After we had finished singing, one of my brothers took a chair and plunked it down directly in front of Mom and Dad and sat down.  He started talking to them about the blessings he had received in being their son.  When he was done, another brother took the chair, and this continued until all the family including some of the inlaws and grandchildren had presented their bouquets of thankfulness to my parents.

Mom had always claimed she didn't see the point in showering a person with flowery speeches after they died, she wanted her roses while she was still living, and that day she and Dad received them.  That's when she started calling it the funeral party.

Less than three weeks later we got a call from the nursing home.  My darling Dad had had a stroke.  He remained in a coma until my brother Dave, the missionary from the south, arrived to see him one last time, and then, less than an hour after Dave's arrival he went home to be with the Lord. 

Mom hung on for almost two more years before joining her beloved husband, but she never forgot the wonderful "funeral party" she and Dad were able to attend together.  And we felt so blessed that we had been able to give, not only Mom, but Dad his roses before he left us.

For the previous post see: Mental Illness part 2
To read the story of my wonderful parents, see the Susie Series: Susie's Story, Susie's Journey, and Susie's Calling 

To read more about my father see my Christian Grandparents.com blog posts: Grandpa Henry 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mental Illness Part 2

"I decorated my room!" the childlike delight in the voice of my grown daughter did nothing to dispel the shock that hit me as I looked first at the room and then at her. 

The walls were covered with graffiti, some of it very good, some very strange.  The floor was strewn with a jumbled mixture of clothes, feminine unmentionable items, and hair -  lots and lots of hair. Curling locks that, half an hour earlier had hung down her back, were now scattered everywhere throughout the room.  Her hair, or what was left on her head was wet and she was holding a towel.

She smiled at me sweetly, the smile of an innocent three year old. (I learned later that she really did think she was three years old while this was happening.)

A few days earlier we had brought Samantha home from the hospital in Sarnia. See Mental Illness Part 1  We weren't sure how we would cope, but we didn't trust the hospital.  What were they giving her that was making her act so strange?  We thought they were just doping her up, and she would be well once we brought her home and surrounded her with prayer.

We had a lot to learn! 

The room decorating incident sent me running to the phone to talk to a Christian friend who was also a psychologist.  "You need to get her to the hospital at once," he urged when he had heard.  "I understand what you are thinking, but it really is a medical problem.  There is a chemical imbalance in her brain and her wires are crossing." 

We took his advice and prayed and sang all the way into town while Samantha believed she was on a giant roller-coaster having the time of her life.  When I sang, she sang along with more power and musical creativity than I had ever heard, and under normal circumstances I would have been delighted, but now it only scared me more. 

That was the strange thing about this illness.  Her creative ability would soar along with her sense of invincibility, and then sometimes she would crash and cry her heart out.

But God was working.  Samantha had been drifting away from the Lord.  It was the second time for her.  This time she had become wrapped up in movies staring Charley Sheen and had become an avid fan of his.  She had actually been looking for Charley the day the police found her at the radio station.

Now, during one of her saner moments, she asked me to clean out all the evil stuff she had collected. She didn't want the movie star to control her weakened mind, she wanted God to have it back, and she knew what had to be done.  It was a long drawn out process, first doing a thorough house cleaning, and also spending a lot of time in prayer, but the evil part of her sickness left.

But she was still sick.  Breaks came several times a year, keeping us on our knees before God for her.  Several times her confused mind led her to believe she was invincible, causing her to do things like racing her car through a stop sign, over a ditch, and into an open field.  But God always seemed to have arranged it that I was fasting and praying during those times, and Satan's attacks were thwarted.  Even though she totaled a car she was never seriously injured.

The Lord was changing me, too.  This was the girl I had always been so proud to call my daughter.  The child who wrote beautifully, and sung like an angel, was now an embarrassment when we were in public.  She would follow close at my heals in the store and then suddenly start to giggle and say something like, "I think I'll give you a hug." And she would proceed to do it.

Thirty years ago it would have delighted me, but not now, not with this full grown woman.  I was mortified.  And then I realized just what a horribly proud woman I was, and it sent me down on my knees before the Lord again for forgiveness for my own prideful nature.

Samantha has been free of breaks for at least four years now.  Her doctor started her on a new medication that worked, and she has lived a normal life ever since.  She was able to get more education while she was on pension, and she is now a personal support worker with an ability to work with the handicapped that she never would have had were it not for her own illness.  And, above all else, she is now serving the Lord.

I have a greater understanding now for families of the mentally ill.  Instead of avoiding them, I can now relate, and I thank God for that.  I also have a greater spiritual awareness of my own prideful shortcomings.  I pray for daily grace.  Nothing could stop my prayers from bouncing off the ceiling faster than pride.  Lord, let this be enough of an awakening that You never have to do it again!

These were some of the hardest trials in my life, but I thank God for every one of them.  May He continue helping us all grow to the place where we were meant to be, in whatever way He deems necessary .

To read the next post see: Funeral Party
For the previous post see: Mental Illness Part 1
For more about Samantha see: Broken Mom Part 2
And to watch her sing a song she wrote: I'm at a Loss for Words

Monday, August 09, 2010

Mental Illness

"Do you really trust me?"
"Yes, Lord, you know that I do"
I had had this conversation with the Lord before and thought the answer was settled. I had been talking to Him about our wayward children, assuring Him that I had given them into His hands because He knew best.  What ever He needed to do was OK with me.  Or so I convinced myself until He asked, "What if I have to withdraw my hand and allow something to happen mentally?  Would you still trust me then?"

I stiffened.  There was nothing I could think of that was any worse than mental illness.  Anything but that!  It was something I had always feared - a childhood "what if" horror I had never quite conquered.  And now the Lord was asking that I release that fear.

But how could I say "yes"?  How could I say "anything Lord" knowing that it could mean mental illness? Was there anything worse than mental illness?  Yes!  Hell was worse!  A billion times worse!  I would accept anything necessary to keep my children out of Hell. 

"Yes, Lord, I trust you."  I said it, and I meant it.  But then I forgot about it for a couple of years while we moved to Paisley, and my husband started pastoring.

Samantha had left her job in Paisley and was staying with friends in Sarnia while taking a Computer course there.  She was whizzing through her studies. We were proud of her.

And then we got the call from the police officer.  "We have admitted your daughter to the hospital," he said.

I was stunned.  But I was in for an even greater shock.  "We picked her up at the radio station.  She was insisting that Snoopy had told her to meet her at the radio station.  She was carrying a teddy bear, and she was dressed weird.  The radio station couldn't get rid of her so they called me."

I couldn't fathom it. Our  brilliant daughter acting strange?  What was he saying?  It took actually seeing her in the hospital, for the truth to sink in.  The Officer was right.  Samantha was not in her right mind.  She sometimes sounded sane, but then in the next sentence we would know that something was terribly wrong.

The Lord had taken me at my word.  He had allowed this.  And I knew that it would all work out.  But oh, how hard it was.  It was one of the worst trials we have ever had to face.  But God was with us and we grew.

I cannot finish this story in one post.  God did prove faithful, as you will see, but it is just to long for one post so I will have to continue on in the next.

For more about Samantha see: Broken Mom - Part 2
To watch her sing one of her own songs see: At a Loss for Words  The words hold extra meaning when you know her story.

For the previous post see:  Recommendation from an Agnostic
For the next post see: Mental Illness Part 2

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Recommendation from an Agnostic

"I understand you are a minister,"  The man introduced himself as the deacon of the little Baptist church around the corner where Karen's mom went.  We were in the midst of a garage sale and were having a great time meeting and talking to all the locals.

Bruce answered the man.  "Yes," he said, "I am an ordained minister, but where did you find out about me?"

The deacon nodded toward the house next door.  "Your neighbor, Karen."  He hesitated.  "I don't know if she told you, but our church is without a pastor.  We would like you to come and preach for us."

Bruce was floored.  He was being asked to preach based on the recommendation of an agnostic neighbor.  "But you don't know anything about me," he stammered.  "I don't even belong to your denomination."  That didn't seem to matter. So he tried again.  "I only preach straight from the Bible; I'm not fancy."

"Good," the deacon's eyes lit up, "that's exactly what we want." he didn't even stop there.  "Would you consider coming and being our pastor?"

Bruce held his hands up palms forward. "Wait a minute. You're going way too fast.  I will come and preach for you.  I have promised the Lord that where ever He sends I will go, but you need to hear me preach before we make any more of a commitment."

That evening, as I sat with Karen on her back deck playing with the dogs, I told her what was happening.  "Good," she smiled.  "I told Mom they aught to get Bruce as pastor because he practices what he preaches."

I don't know why this should have surprised me, and yet it did.  Karen had told us once how she had sat in that church as a child and listened while the pastor who had just been refused a raise, had told his congregation that the Lord had led him on to a different, a bigger, better paying church, and that is what my neighbor always remembered when she thought of church. 

But Karen must have seen something else in the previous year or two, times when we relied on the Lord to meet our needs and He came through without us having to ask anyone else.  I always confided these thing in  her.  I loved visiting with her and her dogs, but I never dreamed it would end in Bruce becoming the pastor of her mother's church, but as usual, God has His own very unusual ways of bringing things to pass.

The congregation agreed that they wanted Bruce for pastor, and said they would have a board meeting to discuss his salary.  That's where the big test came.  We knew how much they had paid the former pastor, but when they told Bruce what they could afford to pay, it was so very much lower that he was insulted.

They had asked him how much he needed to live on and he had told them.  It wasn't much, but we could survive on it.  Now they were offering him less than half of that.  They needed to do things like fixing the kitchen floor, etc. The church was a heritage building and it was very important to them to keep it looking good.

Bruce's insides were churning.  "They have insulted my ministry, Lord," he prayed, "They're concerned with their building, but they want to give me next to nothing.  It's just not right!"

And then the Lord spoke, and, in that still small voice that is so gentle, he asked, "what if there was one soul in that congregation that I wanted you to reach, would you do it, for that one soul?"

At that, Bruce broke, and the tears started.  "I'd do it for nothing, Lord," he answered, and he meant it with all his heart.

God did supply our needs that year.  Bruce knew who his real employer was, and we were never left short handed. God did have one precious soul in that church who needed to hear what he had to say.  Just before Mary left this world she said to me, "I know that God sent you and Bruce here just for me."  Mary is waiting in Heaven for us today because an agnostic neighbor watched our lives and saw something real, and because Bruce was willing to follow God's call regardless of the financial situation.

One neighbor had lost her faith in that church because a minister wanted a better pay check.
The other neighbor found her faith in that church because a minister was willing to do without a better pay check.

For more about Mary, read: The Girl Next Door
For more about Karen read the last blog: The Drought
In the next post: Mental Illness disaster strikes.