"For I know the thoughts that I
think toward you, says the Lord,
thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope."
Life was comfortable and fulfilling. Good friends, church family, music ministry, work I enjoyed, people who appreciated me. I had become quite content with the way things were, when suddenly and unexpectedly, I met a "Christian" man through work. And I have purposefully put that word in quotes, because one of the first lessons I learned during my stint with the organization I met him through, is that some folks claiming to be Christians just use the title to try and take advantage of their unsuspecting sisters and brothers in Christ. I have been more burned by them than by anybody else I've known. But I digress.
This person was my boss, and not only did he want to marry me, but he also offered me what looked like the job of my dreams. I wasn't sure what to make of all this because at this point in life I no longer considered the possibility of remarrying. I enjoyed my independence, and being able to come and go as I pleased. However, I also reveled in the attention he showered upon me. It felt kind of nice to have someone think I was so special and be genuinely concerned about my wellbeing. What to do.
I did a lot of praying, begging the Lord to step in and close all the doors if this wasn't of Him, but at the same time, I tuned out all the little warnings that the still small voice within was trying to bring to my attention. I saw only what I wanted to see, which was that this man was mature, responsible, and trustworthy. I believed him when he told me his word was something I could bank on. And when both his pastor and mine gave us their blessing, I reasoned that it was a sign of the Lord's blessing too, and this romantic fantasy started playing in my mind of what an awesome testimony this would turn out to be. I even tried to help the Lord speed things along instead of waiting on His perfect timing.
The owner of my apartment complex, which had turned co-op, had offered to pay me to move out so he could sell my apartment. At first I turned the offer down, but now I told him I'd reconsidered, and would like to take him up on it. My daughter had said I could stay with her until I got married, which was supposed to happen shortly after the move, and so the wheels were set in motion. I gave up my business, gave most of my furniture and money to a friend who had been staying with me so she and her girls would be able to find another place to live, and set out with only what I could squeeze into my little two-door Ford Escort. A home and a job awaited me, so I wasn't worried about myself at all.
Segway from there right into the second lesson I was soon to learn, which is that only God's word can be banked on. Only His word can be trusted 100% of the time. Everyone else's word is subject to change. People make commitments they don't or can't keep. Sometimes it's because they make them in haste before considering all the ramifications. Other times it's because circumstances get in the way. Even the most honorable and best intentioned folks are subject to sickness, accidents, unavoidable delays, and death.
To make a long story short, not only did the job fall through, but I soon found out there was not going to be a marriage either, and I ended the relationship. So here I was, stripped of everything familiar; a bag lady living out of boxes and inhabiting the top bunk of my granddaughters' bunk bed.
It was in this top bunk that the Lord finally got my undivided attention. Many tears were shed when no one was around, and after I found a job, I would even find myself crying while I was driving back and forth from work. One of the major miracles of that time was that I never had an accident, even when my eyes were so filled I could hardly see where I was going. I just kept weeping and asking over and over again, why Lord did you let this happen to me when I not only prayed, but even begged you to close all the doors if this move was not of you.
Finally, one day when there were no tears left to cry, a sudden calm come over me, and I felt as though the Lord had put His arms around me and was holding me close and quieting me. A picture flashed through my mind of a very rebellious horse finally being broken in, and in that moment, I was able to release what was in my tightly clenched fist, and open it up to receive something better.
On that road towards something better, there were many lessons to learn, and one of the first things to get chipped away at was my pride. For the first time in my life, I was on the receiving end instead of the giving one. I was beginning to walk in the other person's shoes, and experience the shame of needing a handout, and the humiliation when certain people think it's your fault and you're just too lazy to go get a second or a third job.
Another first was that nobody seemed to need anything I had to offer. In the big city I came from, I had never had problems making friends. People were often in and out of my apartment, and there was plenty for me to do at church as well, but here I was in this small town I had never even heard about before, and my overtures were rejected. My ego was diminishing by leaps and bounds. It was a very painful and puzzling experience.
More than once I asked the Lord why I couldn't make friends, and why I couldn't be part of a music ministry. His response was that if He wanted me to keep doing the things I did before, he would have kept me there. He had uprooted and transplanted me into unfamiliar territory so He could start doing something new. I began to understand that just because things didn't turn out the way I expected they would have if I had really heard from the Lord didn't mean that I hadn't. All it meant was that He had a different purpose in mind.
During my 12 years in this small town the Lord provided in miraculous ways--not only for my needs, but for some of my wants as well. I learned to trust Him more than ever as I experienced first hand the manifestations of His faithfulness and love. It is too much to put into one post, but you can read about some of the most awesome things He did, here and here (two posts I wrote on my other blog).
It doesn't end there though, so stay tuned for Part IV, the conclusion of my testimony, which I hope to be able to get written soon.
PART IV The Best is Yet to Come