Monday, February 16, 2015

Our love story

This is the sequel to the blog I wrote a couple of days ago.  It is taken directly out of the autobiography Bruce was working on when he died.

One Tuesday evening I got dressed in my finest: a black suit, black shirt, white tie, and a white silk puff in my lapel pocket, and I headed for church. (We were taught that when you went to church to worship the Lord, you dressed your best)

When I got to church, I found my usual seat at the back, and sat down. Just before the service began, a young man came in accompanied by a young lady. At the time I didn't pay much attention to them other than to notice that they were not regulars.

Some time during the song service, someone suggested that perhaps one of the visitors might have a word or a special for us. After a slight hesitation, the young lady got up and came to the front. She consulted with the pianist and then started singing, “Jesus, He's the Way Maker”.

I knew that Jesus was the way maker by the way He had led me from the start of my Christian walk and that He would work out the problems that lay before me. I looked at this young singer. She wore a blue and white checkered cotton dress. She had long silky blond hair, and ravishing blue eyes, and when our eyes met, the Lord spoke to me. “This is the one that will become your wife.”
I was riveted by what had transpired in those few short seconds. I couldn't tear my eyes away.

But she had come in with someone else, and she went back home with him. I waited. How would God bring his word to pass? I didn't have her phone number. I don't think I even knew her name. All I could do was leave it in the hands of my Lord.

The next time Carrie (Bruce's name for me ) came to church, she was with her parents. I learned that she was not dating the young man whom she had come with that first time. Her parents started attending regularly and bringing her with them. I was delighted.

We quickly became acquainted, doing activities together with other young people in the church. But them one night after church I asked her parents if I could take her with me and another couple out to Niagara Falls. I promised that I would get her home safely and not keep her out too late.

They hesitated, but finally agreed to let her go, and that was the start of our courtship.

We had gone to Mama Mia's restaurant in Niagara Falls, and although Carrie seemed to be enjoying herself, she didn't eat much. On the way home I reached for her hand. She didn't pull away. I was driving, and the other couple were in the back seat. I planned on dropping them off before taking Carrie home.

I must have been deep in thought, or perhaps just unable to think at all, because I suddenly heard some snickering behind me. I realized that I was stopped and was waiting for a green light, but the intersection didn't have a traffic light, only a stop sign. I don't know how long I had been waiting there, but when I realized where I was, I quickly moved forward and dropped off my amused passengers at their destination.

I was alone with the girl who, I knew, would some day become my wife. They say that love is blind, and I guess it must be true, because, that same evening, as I was taking her up Thirty Road to the farm where she lived with her parents, I missed seeing another stop sign. This time, instead of giggles behind me, I heard the sound of a siren and saw flashing lights.

I wondered what I had done. The police officer was quick to inform me of my failure to stop at a stop sign, but not so quick to fill out all the paper work necessary for the ticket he issued me. It must have taken an hour before we were allowed to be on our way again. Our first date, and I was very late in getting my girl home to her parents.

That late night could have ended our relationship. Her parents were very strict about punctuality. I had never been much good at being anywhere on time, and this was not the best way to endear myself to them. But the Lord had a plan for my life that included Carrie Peters, and, in spite of my failings, He continued to work out all the details.

I pursued Carrie with all my might. I was determined to hear a declaration of her love, but she was a little slower to respond with the words I was waiting for. It took almost two whole months before she finally admitted that she loved me.

There was no proposal. You see, we both assumed that my coaxing her to say those words and her declaration of love was the same as a proposal on my part and a “yes, I will marry you” on hers. Our only question was when would we ask her parents, and how soon would we tie the knot.

Two months later on a cold February day we were declared husband and wife. Carries parents had had their concerns, but they were willing to embrace me as their son. I was determined to be a responsible husband and, I hoped, someday, to be a good parent.

For the previous post see: Where Could I Go but to the Lord

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Where could I go but to the Lord

One year ago today we were gathered around the hospital bed that had been placed in our dining room.  As my dear husband lay there absorbing the love of his family, we started singing some of the songs he loved.  "It is Well With My Soul"  "But Until Then"  and the one that he requested with his last audible words, "Where Could I Go but to the Lord"

He died that evening after a restful sleep.  His hand was still holding onto my arm where, in his last display of physical effort, he had placed it earlier that day. 

The words of the song he requested were a reference to a time earlier in his life when he had given that as an answer to the Lord.  I would like to let you read an excerpt from his life story that we worked on together just before he died.

"I was changing a window display one Monday afternoon. It was hot in there with all the lights generating heat. My head was pounding, and I had the flu. Lyle was looking after the floor, serving customers and getting me things I needed for the display. A young lady came in the store. She talked to Lyle for a few minutes and then left. I had come to edge of the window for two things: To get some relief from the heat, and also to look at the girl. In my eyes she was a knockout. After she left, I asked “Lyle, who was that?”

He answered casually, “Oh, she's my sister.”

I found out her name was Linda, and she had been out west with Lyle, but when Lyle came back to Ontario, she had stayed for a while with her other brother. Now she was back at home with her parents.

The next time I was asked to go to church I readily accepted. I did my best to get Linda to go out with me, and before long, we started dating, going for pizza after church, or driving the few short miles to Niagara Falls.

I went to church whenever she went to church. On one particular week night, the service was ending, the preaching was finished, and everybody was standing and singing, clapping, praising, and in general having a good Pentecostal time. All I was thinking about was where we would go after service, but then something happened.

A Voice spoke to me. It was not an audible voice and yet I heard it clearly. That Voice that I'd been yearning to hear from my boyhood onward, that Voice that I was searching for as a little child up in a pear tree, that voice said to me:

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. You step out in that isle, and I'll meet you.” God had broken the silence; He was talking to me.

I grabbed hold of the handmade pew in front of me. I was shaking. The pew was bouncing on the floor. I was shocked with fright. After a few minutes I began to think, “What will happen if I step out.”

I took that step, and the next thing I knew, I was at the alter on my knees. People were all crowded around me, some saying do this, and others saying do that.

Some time before all of this, I had talked to the Pastor and asked him, “How does somebody like me join your church.”

He said, “You can't join. We don't have memberships.” He also told me I needed to ask Jesus Christ to forgive me of all my sins, and then I needed to thank Him for taking away my sins and for His Sacrifice on Calvary for me. He said I needed to turn away from sin and follow Christ.

I hadn't done anything about it at the time, but now, down at that alter, I did exactly what the pastor had instructed me to do. I asked for forgiveness, and then I started thanking Him.

A heavy load dropped off me that day and landed right at the foot of the Cross of Calvary. When I got up I knew something wonderful had happened to me. I was beginning a journey with my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He promised never to leave me, and He hasn't. Not for a step, not for a second.

Winston Churchill once commented after losing an election. “I lost my appendix, my seat, and my party.” He had to start afresh. I was starting afresh, also. Within a short time I lost my job, and my girlfriend, and I was facing an unknown future. I didn't know anything about this walk of faith in Jesus Christ, but I had his promise that He would meet me. I was about to find out that He was true to His word.

The very first thing I did after I started my walk with God was to become familiar with him. I wandered downtown that first morning and discovered a Christian Book Store. I entered to have a look around. I must have seemed lost because a lady in the store came up to me and asked “Can I help you, young man?”

I don't know, I guess I need a Bible.” I replied.

Why do you think you need a Bible?”

I was eager to tell of my new-found faith. “Last night in a little church on Carlton St. I got Saved. Now I think I need to get a Bible and read it.”

She showed me where the Bibles were and told me to look them over and choose one that I liked. “If you have any questions,” she said, “I'll try to answer them for you.”

I found one that I liked, a Holman King James Bible. I took it and its box to the counter. I told the lady this was the one I liked but that I'd have to come back when I had the eight dollars. I explained that I had just lost my job.

She told me her name was Ruth Miller and that she was the owner of the store. “Bruce,” she said after I had introduced myself, “you take that Bible with you now. You can come in and pay me when you have the money.” She wrote my name in a book she kept under the counter. I thanked her and said I would be in to pay her soon.

Ruth and I had that arrangement for all the years that I lived in St. Catharines. Whenever I was browsing and found a book that interested me I'd let Ruth know, and she'd let me take it and pay for it at payday.

I took that Bible home and started reading at Genesis Chapter 1. The more I read of the Bible, the more I wanted to read. While I was out of work I spent most of my time reading, I just couldn't seem to get enough.

There were many things that I didn't understand, and I would save those questions for my talks with my Pastor. Most of his answers cleared up my ignorance of the Scriptures, but sometimes I had to dig for answers for myself. Other questions had to wait to be answered in God's time, and some are still waiting to be answered.

It was amazing how quickly, after being saved, I was forced into growing. About three months into my new life in Christ, the Sunday School Superintendent ask me to teach a boys class of 8 or 9 to 12 year olds. I didn't think I could do it, but she assured me they would supply me with quarterly Sunday School aids to help me.

I started the class trying follow the Sunday School quarterly, but I found I just wasn't using it. After about six weeks I went to the superintendent and asked her not to buy the next quarterly. I wanted to teach my students from what I was discovering in the Bible for myself. She said “Okay.”

That was the beginning of a new adventure in teaching for me. When we started that next quarter I was writing all my own lessons. The boys loved it and so did I. Years later one of the boys in that class visited me in Cambridge, Ontario, at my office. During our reminiscing he brought up those lessons and told me he still remembered them after all those years.


Now, as I lay there in my reclining chair, so close to death's door, thinking of how it had all turned out, I continued to talk to the Lord. “Lord, you know that I have tried to follow you since the day I walked down that isle. I never shook my fist at you, never turned away from you, even though some people thought I would.”

Because there had been no tears accompanying my salvation some of the people in the church had watched me carefully wondering if my experience had been real, or if, in fact, it was only a ploy to hold onto Linda. They knew how badly I wanted to win her hand.

From that day in the shoe store when Linda walked into my life I had done everything in my power to woo her. My first entrance into the little church on Carlton street happened because I had wanted to be where she was. I had used all my newly acquired management skills to try to convince her that I was the one for her. I had convinced myself that I was succeeding. I thought she would someday become my wife. I was confident that she was part of God's plan for me.

For close to a year I held on to that hope. Linda and I continued to date.

But I had not been raised in a Christian home; I had not had the example of a Godly father to model my behaviour after; and I was not even established in a respectable career. I guess, to all outward appearances, I wasn't much of a catch. What I didn't know was that God had a better plan.

Linda ended our relationship, and her parents took her with them on a three month trip to the States.

I was devastated. I had been so sure she was the one for me. How could God have allowed this to happen? Didn't He know how much I loved her? Hadn't He put her in my path? How could I possibly go on without her?

I kept on attending church while Linda and her parents were away but the emotional pain was almost unbearable. I couldn't eat or sleep. It was hard to keep going, but I was still determined to wait it out and fix it up however I could. It wasn't until Linda fell in love with someone else that I knew for sure that I had to give up my hope of ever having her back.

During a service one morning, I got up and slipped downstairs where I could be alone with God. I had to do some serious soul searching. My heart was so heavy I just couldn't bear it. What was I going to do?

All my hopes, my dreams had crumbled. What was left? The Lord spoke to me. He asked me a question. “ What will you do? Are you going to continue on, or will you desert me now?”

I didn't realize, when I answered, that I was almost quoting, word for word, the words of the disciples as they answered the same question. “Where would I go, Lord? You are the only one that has eternal life.” I knew that there was nothing back where I came from. Nothing in my past would help me over this. Only God could sustain me. Only God could bring me through this trial, and I depended on him more than ever.

I still struggled, but then one day the Lord sent a lady from Ottawa, Sister LeBranch, to visit our church, and while she was there, she told me she had had a vision of me. She saw me walking down a road filled with potholes and lots of hills and valleys. When I would stumble or the hills were too high or the valleys too long and deep, she said, “remember this. The Lord says 'I've got hold of your right hand and I won't let you fall, and I'll be with you to take you over every high hill and through every valley.'”

Lord, You have been faithful to keep Your word. I can sing that song, 'I know Who holds tomorrow and I know Who holds my hand.'"

The next part of his story is about the "something Better" God had for Bruce and that, of course, was me, so maybe I'll let you have a peek of that in my next post.

For the next post see: Our love story
For the previous post see:  The Path

Friday, February 06, 2015

The Path

Several inches of snow had blanketed the field during the night with a new fluffy layer.  It looked absolutely beautiful, but it had completely camouflaged my pathway to the chicken coop.

For those of you not familiar with farming in the Canadian snow belt, let me explain.  Although most of us are modern enough to have the snow blown from our driveways, and to shovel our walkways to the front door, we tend to use a different method when creating paths to our out buildings.

When the first heavy snow blocks my way to the chicken coop, I simply put on snowshoes to reach my chickens, but snowshoes are awkward to work in, so after one or two times over the same route, the snow is packed  down sufficiently enough to walk the same route in high boots.  Each time it snows, as long as I follow the same trail, I can continue to pack the snow down.  

There's just one catch.  Only the narrow path is packed down.  If I step the slightest bit off the beaten path I can go down, up to my hips in snow.  When it snows during the night, and the path fills in, I have to find my way one cautious step at a time.

This was the situation I found myself in.  The step carved into the entrance to the path was barely visible but it was there, a huge blessing to know where to start.  From there I continued cautiously, keeping my eye on my destination, and feeling each step with my boot.

Things were going good until I got overconfident.  It only takes one wrong step to go down.  I took that wrong step.  I was down. 

It's cold down in the snow.  It gets into your boots and up your sleeves, and it doesn't want to let you go.   Getting out of deep snow is hard work.  It would be so much easier to just lay there, but of course, that is not an option.  I struggled and finally made it back on my feet, and back on the path.

But the experience got me thinking.  This path I walk on is a narrow one. At times it becomes hidden and it's  hard to find my footing.  I have to search for the firm foundation below all the fluff.  But sometimes I get overconfident and that's when I slip up.  When I step off the path (and I often do) I fall, and when I fall it's hard to get up.  But if I didn't pick myself back up I know it would be fatal.

So, with the help of my Heavenly Father, I get back on my feet, and for the next few steps, at least, I hope I walk more carefully.

For the next post see:  Where Could I Go but to the Lord

For the previous post see: Forty Eight Years Ago

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Forty-eight years ago

Oh, how wise God is and how foolish we are!

Forty-eight years ago today I was excited but scared.  Was I doing the right thing or had I made a terrible decision that would mess up my whole life?

I had always believed that my Heavenly Father would give me the perfect husband.  Yes, I always tried to clarify, "perfect for me", but, in my imagination, that had a very specific meaning.

Naturally I expected him to be dedicated to God.  There never was any other option with that, but there were other values that I believed would be part of the perfect man for me.

I knew I needed a husband that would be strong. I was convinced that as long as I had a strong husband I could be a good wife.

Of course he would be intelligent with a good sense of humor.  I was used to being around intelligent men; I had three older brothers.  Our daily table talk was always intelligent and usually hilarious as well.

But there were many other characteristics that  I was convinced would be part of my perfect husband's character.

First of all, he would never get angry.  I was blessed with a gentle father, and I took for granted that the man for me would never raise his voice.  The strange thing was, I didn't want someone like my softhearted Dad.  I didn't want a man who cried.  I hated the fact that I was a cry baby, and I didn't want us both getting blubbery. 

I wanted someone who was firm, but, naturally, I expected that he would always see things my way, because without that trait, I didn't think he would be perfect for me.

He would love everything about me, but wouldn't act like a puppy dog about it.  He would be the one that I would look up to and adore.

He would be punctual, but he would never be impatient. 

Oh, and one more thing.  He would sing like an angel, and we would spend our lives traveling and singing together.

And then I met Bruce, and I knew that he was the man for me.  He knew it too.

Within a couple of months we were engaged.  There had been no time to compare him to my list.  The next two months were busy with preparations, but during that time, my "perfect man for me" list would flip up occasionally and I would try to tuck it back down.

But by February 3rd, I knew I would have to face it.  Tomorrow I would be getting married and I was scared.

It wasn't that he wasn't a good Christian; I knew that he was.  And I was quite aware of his high degree of intelligence; there was no question about that.  I had even seen that he had a sense of humor, but that left me with a certain foreboding; it was much different than mine, and I wasn't sure I could handle it.

He was strong; that was obvious, but his strength left me feeling very annoyed, especially when he didn't agree with everything I said or believed.

I had also heard him raise his voice.  True, it wasn't at me, but the very idea that it could be me the next time, left me frightened.

I wondered if, on that day two months earlier, I shouldn't have refused the diamond when he had arrived at my home an hour late to offer it to me.

But I knew it was too late to back out.  Besides, in spite of my fears, I loved him.

As our honeymoon ended and real living began, there were more days when I struggled with those unwanted thoughts.  His single-parent home had been so different from mine, his walk with God so new, his background so very much in contrast to mine. 

The perfect helpmeet I had been so sure I would be, turned into a nagging, arguing, crying wife.

It is a slow process this business of iron sharpening iron.  Only God knew how long it would take to smooth our jagged edges. All I can tell you is that it didn't happen over night.  But it did happen.

It happened when we started really putting God first. It was only then that I totally realized why Bruce was the perfect man for me.  In my dreams of the perfect marriage, I had been looking through the self-centered lenses of how my husband would fulfill my wants.

God was looking at how he would fulfill my needs, my need to mature, my need to see my own weaknesses so I could cry out to God to change me, my need to know that I really was very self-centered and to let God become the center of my life.  My need to go through some major refining.

And while our Father was using Bruce to gently work on me, He was also using my weaknesses to make a giant of a man out of my husband.

Those doubts that had plagued me 48 years ago are long gone.   God did give me the perfect husband.  The best in the whole world. 

No, he never did learn to be on time, and he never did learn to sing on key, though he did love to listen.  But when he answered God's call on his life, we did travel to various churches around the continent.  And where ever we went he would preach, and I would sing with our daughters. 

And what could be better than that!

This will be my first anniversary without Bruce and I may need your prayers.  Thanks.

For the next post see: The Path
For the previous post see: Never Alone