Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thanks - for pivotal moments

Today my thoughts strayed to those moments in my life when something crucial changed because someone did or said something, or stuff just happened that seemed to be "co-incidences" (which is simply - according to Einstein - God's way of remaining anonymous.)  

I am grateful for those moments where things have changed in the direction of my life or of my thinking just by certain people being placed in my path or by certain events happening.  Here are some examples:  

Fifty cents:  When I was about 9 or 10, my mom kept house for various clients.  One of those people was a severe, wizened old crone who seemed to have had all the joy sucked out of her.  She owned the apartment building and had one tenant upstairs. When it became too much for me downstairs, I would mount the stairs to Amy's little apartment.  Amy, as sweet and soft-spoken as the other woman was sharp and curt - was timeless to me.  She was probably about 80 years old in reality.  She had never once cut her hair, and kept it in a bun on the back of her head, held up by decorative hair barrettes made of dyed porcupine quills, leather, and sticks of wood.  Watching her take down her hair and brush it was mesmerizing to me.  She was kind to me.  She would talk about my schooling, my friends, take an interest in me.  When she saw me fidgeting after about ten minutes of conversation, she would press two quarters into my hand - a fortune to me, especially from a person who wasn't a family member - and let me go into town to buy myself a treat.  Her kindness was a haven for me in what was often a world of people twice my height who seemed to be angry with me all the time.  Her belief in me helped me believe - if only just a little - in myself.  Thanks Amy!  

The road home: I was twelve, old enough to attend the youth class in Sunday School.  It was taught by a lady named Jean.  Jean had been a war bride from England - with a rich Yorkshire accent and a heart for young people.  To me she was old - but she was probably only about 60.  She valued my contribution to the class, and never ridiculed me once for asking or saying anything stupid. She never once yelled at me for anything. When I was about 13 and in the midst of my teenage rebellion, some correspondence course material started arriving for me in the mail, something called the "Road to Emmaeus".  I never really knew who sent it, but I'd be willing to bet it was her.  I did the lessons and sent them in to the company; they came back to me with check marks on them and someone wrote encouraging words in red pen: "Excellent!"  It gave me a spiritual anchor in what were those tumultuous teen years when everything was topsy-turvy.  

The reflection: It was grade 9.  I was at the zenith of my teen rebellion... even stole cigarettes from my dad's packets to smoke at school.  I had started smoking to get a bully off my back, one who got her face into mine and yelled - threatened - cajoled me into trying tobacco with the oh so persuasive peer-pressure argument, "How do you know you don't like it if you haven't tried it?" ( I hated it, by the way, my mouth tasted like an ash pile.  I was just doing it to get out of being bullied. )  I was hanging out with some pretty rough characters, had developed a reputation that took me years to live down afterward.  In the midst of that, my guidance counselor, Mr. Moleman, called me into his office.  Very quietly he mentioned he'd seen me around the schoolyard with some people, and had noticed that I had started smoking. If he had gotten angry with me or raised his voice with me, I would have dismissed him.  But he just locked his gaze into mine from about 10 feet away - and simply said, "I want you to do me a favour when you get home.  Go find a place at your house with a full-length mirror.  Take out a cigarette - don't light it - just hold it in your fingers.  Watch yourself put it into your mouth.  Then look at yourself and ask yourself - is this what I really want for myself?"  He ignored my quizzical / innocent look.  "Just do it, ... please."  That afternoon after school and before my parents got home, I went into their room where the only full-length mirror we had was placed.  I took out the cigarette, and did as Mr. Moleman asked.  What I saw, I didn't like.  That was when I decided to quit - and over the next three weeks, the desire to smoke left me as I stopped lighting up.  The bullies - for some strange reason - left me alone after that.  Who knew.  It was the beginning of a long road back from nowhere.  Thanks, Mr. Moleman.  

Source: (via Google Images):
The lifeline:  I would be sixteen in three weeks. Someone had said some very harsh words to me.  I was smarting from them.  I was miserable, lonely, and totally unhappy.  Yet Someone waited for me behind that empty bedroom doorway.  I went into the room, closed the door behind me and sunk to my knees beside the bed.  Hot tears spilled over and soaked into the bed-spread as I sobbed my way back into His waiting arms.  There was no condemnation, there were no harsh words there.  Only forgiveness, only goodness, only grace.  In those moments, the course of my life changed permanently.  Had I continued with the road I was on, I would have ended up in a ditch somewhere, dead - or worse.  He rescued me with His love.  I will never forget.  Thank You Jesus.  I owe You my life.  

The schoolbus:  I was almost 18 and had been away from home for the first time in my life that was more than 2 weeks, at a Bible camp in the States.  I'd been corresponding with a friend all summer - and had just gotten a letter from him.  I went into an abandoned schoolbus behind the camp to read it by myself.  As I read, my friend revealed a secret to me which should have made me furious with him.  Yet all I could do was sit there and forgive him, want to talk to him and tell him everything was going to be fine.  Part of me was baffled by my reaction - and I asked myself why I would behave this way, why?  And then the answer came to me, as if that part of me was an entity outside myself.  "Because you're in love with him, ya dummy!"  That moment of realization turned everything around for me, put a lot of things into focus.  By the way, I ended up marrying the guy.  (grin).  

The interview:  I was looking for work - I'd have been around 22 - and had only been able to get summer jobs as a waitress here and there.  Finally I went in to talk to a counselor about this job I saw that I knew I could do.  Her first question to me was, "So what was your major in university?"  I was flabbergasted.  I'd never been to university.  You didn't need to be a college graduate to do those duties I had read on the job posting.  What was she talking about?  I told her I had not been to university and she said bluntly that I couldn't apply for the job, then.  I got angry.  "Well then, what would it take to say, have YOUR job?"  She told me it would take a Bachelor of Arts with a major in one of the social sciences, like Psychology or Sociology.  "Fine! I retorted.  "I'll see you in four years!" And I stormed out of her office.    Later, I mentioned that conversation to my hubby.  And he said, "Good!"  (Huh? I thought.)  "Why not?" he queried.  (What? me?  college?)  He urged, "You can do this, why not show her?"  And I found myself saying, "All right, I WILL!"  And that's when I applied to go to university.  Getting my degree opened a lot of doors for me in so many ways I can't begin to count - all because of one interview.

The employment counselor:  There was this guy who had been in a diving accident which left him a quadriplegic - he also happened to be an employment counselor and I found myself in his office quite frequently as I looked for work near the end of my university days.  He believed in me, went to bat for me, and encouraged me.  I will never forget Tony, nor will I ever stop being grateful to him for never giving up on me.  

The telephone voice: I was a brand new mother and trying to nurse my child.  I'd gotten all the wrong advice from well-meaning people in the hospital, people who had never nursed their children - one who had never even HAD a child.  When I got home from the hospital I was sore - things were burning and stinging all over the place.  Finally hubby said, "Wasn't there a booklet we got at prenatal class with the number for a support group somewhere?"  I dug out the booklet and called the number.  The voice at the other end was one of a kind and understanding woman.  She listened as I described my situation and then said one word which let me know she knew what I was going through:  "OUCH!"  In the next five minutes, she corrected the misinformation I had been given, gave me some positioning tips and within three days the pain was completely gone.  I started going to the support group and through this same woman, became the co-leader of the group.  For six years, I was able to help people just like she helped me - and that experience as leader has stood me in good stead in my career development - believe it or not! 

The crucible:  The children were young, and after a failed business we were in such deep, crushing debt that we couldn't see our way out of it.  The defining moment came for us as we sat across from a loans officer at a finance company to borrow money to pay for groceries that week... for the second time.  We knew we were in way over our heads. So after much soul-searching and weighing options, we finally sat across from a bankruptcy trustee and filed for personal bankruptcy.  We lost friends over it, we lost the support of people whose theology didn't include that sort of thing - and yet we saw so much good come out of it.  Most notable was that we learned to trust God for everything.  Every thing.  (I've spoken at length about this in previous posts, so I won't repeat myself here).  We also learned a lot about the nature of grace - and although I would rather crawl over ground glass than do it EVER again, I am so grateful we went through that experience.  We learned lessons we never would otherwise have learned.  And through it all we knew the provision of God, day to day.  

The policeman:  One incident which happened on March 24, 2009 is burned into my brain.  I called my husband when he didn't show up at the appointed time to go home with me from work.  I reached him only to find out he was at the hospital.  I rushed out there, and saw him in the "quiet room" which is where they put the drunks to dry out.  A policeman guarded the door.  He was a young man and had spent over two hours with this fellow twice his age who couldn't string two coherent sentences together.  I went up to him and without going into a lot of detail, there were grounds for pressing charges against him for public drunkenness. I was beside myself.  My hubby had been scheduled to go into the Rehabilitation program of the local addictions centre within a week. And now this. The officer looked at me - I must have appeared in some distress because he took pity on me.  He gave me a choice between letting the police have my husband to book him, or me taking him home in his present state and letting him sleep it off.  Justice - or mercy.  For me there was no question.  I chose mercy.  Because of that kind policeman's offer, my hubby was able to get the help he needed when he needed it most.  He has not had a drink since that day. God used that young man to help give my husband back to me.  
Thank God.  Thank you, Officer.

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