Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Chapter 7: Not Your ordinary Love Story, Part Two

From: Amazing Journey, Amazing Grace

As the reality of singleness set in, I became acutely aware of how many things I was now responsible for. I needed to earn enough money to keep a roof over my head; I needed to keep that roof, and everything below it, clean, maintained and repaired; and, I needed to keep all the inhabitants under that roof well-fed and healthy. Wow! How could I ever manage all of these responsibilities as a single mom?! As a single homestay mom?! I needed superhuman strength--and wisdom, too.

One day I felt particularly overwhelmed by the enormity of my responsibility and my inability to get everything done. How could I keep up? I was sooo tired. All I could do was pray and wait for the answer. It came soon enough.

Have you ever read something that really resonated with you? That while you were reading, you just knew those words were meant for you? That while you were reading, the words were almost popping off the page at you?

Well, that’s what happened to me one morning as I sat reading my Bible. I had a strong sense that God was telling me to take particular notice of the words:
“Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. The shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood will be remembered no more, for your Creator will be your ‘husband. The LORD Almighty is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. For the LORD has called you back from your grief—a young wife abandoned by her husband.” (Living Bible)

Wow! The message couldn’t have been plainer!

In the past God had repeatedly told me not to worry about anything. Now as I read and re-read those verses in Isaiah, it slowly dawned on me that here was the reason why! It was because HE would fill the role of a ‘husband’ in my life. HE would be my protector, my provider and my comforter. HE would make sure there was help when I needed it. I would not be doing everything alone! Once this realization sank in, I was in awe of how freeing is God's love.

First of all, His love frees me to be the real me that He created me to be. I no longer have to ‘walk on eggshells.’ With God I can just relax and be myself. When I pray to Him, I don’t fear he will reject what I'm feeling and saying. He will be patient with me. If I'm wrong, he will gently correct me.

Secondly, His love frees me to be the new me that He is helping me to become. Less insecure, less self-centered, less worried, more loving, more accepting, more patient, more tactful and definitely a lot calmer. Don't get me wrong. I'm no saint, and never will be this side of Heaven. But, at least I'm heading in the right direction.

From that day until the present, as I have looked for answers through daily Bible reading and prayer, God has never gone back on the promise to be my Creator-'husband.' Numerous times, help came in at just the right time for house cleaning, repairs, painting, etc. When I've needed extra money to pay for unexpected expenses, it has always come in--sometimes from the most unexpected sources. In future chapters I will write in more detail about specific incidences.

God has never left me, nor has he ever given up on me. He has always exercised patience and kindness toward me. He has never quit loving me. What an awesome God! I know this is not your ordinary love story, but, I hope it gives you a glimpse into why I love God with all my heart, my soul and my mind!

Now, sometimes God does allow times of testing. But when bad things happen I know He is allowing it for a reason, although that reason might not be clear for awhile. For example, one Saturday afternoon in February 1994, I was relaxing on the sofa when my eyes suddenly focused on a telltale “brown” ring on the ceiling above me. My heart sank. The roof over my head had sprung a leak!

To be continued.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Chapter 6: Not Your Ordinary Love Story, Part One

From: Amazing Journey, Amazing Grace

Before I contine writing about my experiences as a homestay mama, I want to backtrack to June 8, 1985. My marriage was teetering on the brink of collapse. Marriage counseling was not working. I didn’t know what else to do or where to turn. As I crawled into bed that evening in June, I felt helpless and hopeless. I couldn’t sleep and just laid there staring at the ceiling. My feelings were a jumbled mess. My mind refused to think--refused to deal with the problem any longer. I was at the end of my rope.

Then I saw Jesus. His arms were outstretched toward me, palms up--inviting me to come. It wasn't a distinct image, yet it was intense and powerful just the same. I knew it was Him. I could feel His presence in the room--a presence that emanated the most amazing love I have ever felt. Even though this experience was most unusual, I felt no fear. The love I felt from Him was so peaceful, so comforting, so compelling that I wanted to surrender. But, there was a barrier between us!

My sins.

They had to be dealt with once and for all!

Some sins are obvious, but the worst kind lurk just beneath the surface of one’s spiritual heart. One by one as God brought my arrogance, critical spirit, self-righteousness and a host of other sins to the surface, I saw how ugly they were in His eyes. Especially my pride! That seemed to be the major problem in everything He was bringing before me!

I had grown up in a Christian home. I had been a relatively obedient child. I believed in God. I went to church every Sunday. I didn’t do those obviously ‘bad sins,’ which other people did. I tried to live and work ethically, honestly and in harmony with those around me! I gave to the poor and tried to help the less fortunate. Surely all of that counted for something!

But in God’s eyes my goodness counted for nothing. In front of Him the playing field is level. I was no better than the worst of sinners! Seeing myself as God saw me, reduced me to broken humbleness. All pretense was stripped away. There was no place to go but down on my knees, and so I slipped out from under the covers and knelt down beside the bed.

As God brought first one sin after another to the surface, I asked Him to forgive me and remove it from my heart. I don't know how long I was there on my knees, but it seemed like a very long time. When He was finished, I felt like my heart must surely resemble a block of Swiss cheese—full of holes from all the sins He’d carved out! “Oh, Lord,” I prayed. “Don’t leave me like this! Please fill all those holes with your love!”

And He did!

Oh, what a difference! I felt clean inside! I felt peace and joy. But most of all, I felt love--pure love--for the first time in my life! And, I had renewed hope because I knew I now had God's love and his Spirit living inside me. I desired reading the Bible like I'd never desired it before and so I read, and read, and read some more. I felt like a parched desert after a drenching rain! It was wonderful!

Now fast-forward to 1992. Even though I had fervently prayed for God to heal my marriage, my husband left. At that point I could have become bitter, thrown in the towel and turned my back on God. But, I chose to hang on. And, I’m so glad I did!

Tomorrow: Not Your Ordinary Love Story, Part Two.