A Different Kind of Trust

 

I stabbed the unsterilized pin into my thumb, then squeezed it until I was rewarded with a small blob of blood. With a scrunched face and a small squeal, my girlfriend followed suit.

We triumphantly held up our bloodied thumbs, then pressed them together. We were blood sisters forever!

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As an adult, I cringe at the memory of the unsterilized pin and the possible exchange of viruses or whatever else we could have contracted that day. But we were only eight and we’d seen a similar blood ceremony in a movie. That day, however, was the start of a long sisterhood and a close bond that lasted through making forts behind sofas to giggling about boyfriends in high school. We trusted each other implicitly and would never have knowingly hurt each other. We would have sacrificed a hundred date nights than to have stood idly by watching pain enter each other’s lives.

I’ve since discovered even more of a trusting and protective relationship between my husband and I. Our soul aim within our relationship is to try and make each other happy and secure.

But yesterday I was reminded of the most important relationship of my life. I strode into my friend’s hospital room, and was greeted by the radiant smile of my sister in God. She had been in and out of the hospital for years with infections due to circulatory problems. Last year after a few toes had been amputated on her left foot, she lost her whole foot and ankle. Now she is facing more amputations on her right foot. But through it all, her faith remains strong. Of course there were tears, especially when she told me about her son who hadn’t visited for two years. God promised that there would be problems in this life, but He also promised He would never abandon us, and would always walk through trials with us.

Learning how to trust God through trials takes me back to another story, this time, from my teen years. I worked at a stable in exchange for riding lessons. One horrible night, I smelled smoke in the hallway of the barn. While a few people raced to battle the blaze in the feed room, others ran to evacuate the horses.

One horse refused to budge from his stall. There was smoke funnelling down the hallway and all his senses told him that his stall was the only secure place. I hauled at his halter, but when a thousand pound animal sets its feet against a hundred pound girl, there is no contest. It was only when I covered his eyes with my sweater that he allowed me to lead him through the smoke. When he arrived with the rest of the horses outside the smoky barn and I took off his blindfold, he immediately settled down.

Similarly, we have to relinquish control and walk ahead by blind faith alone at times of trials. When there is pain in our lives, we have to trust that God has a master plan for it all. If we could see our lives from beginning to end, we wouldn’t receive gifts like faith, and hope.

My friends earn my trust by not hurting me or allowing pain to enter my life. However trusting God is a different kind of trust. God isn’t interested in protecting me from all pain – he has a much bigger goal in mind. As a parent, I do understand that to shelter my kids from pain is to not allow them to grow stronger as adults. And unfortunately pain is often God’s tool to increase my faith in Him. Like the blindfolded horse that had to relinquish control to walk through the smoke, I too have to trust that His plan is the best, even if it hurts.

After all, this world isn’t our home, and God isn’t in the business of making us comfortable and happy here. If nothing else, pain is a reminder that I’m not meant to handle life’s trials alone.

Here is my gift to you! If you haven’t heard Laura Story’s song Blessings, you are in for a treat. Have a listen!

 

 

 

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YOUR Chance To Interview Todd Burpo!

 

Heaven's For Real

Every now and then, a book falls into your hands when you most need it. About five years ago, the book that gave my family hope and renewed our faith was a little book called Heaven Is For Real. For those who haven’t read it or seen the movie, the story recounts the experiences that Colton, a four-year-old boy, relates from visits, which he said he made to heaven during a near-death experience. He came back talking about things about their family, that his parents never told him, and little by little, his pastor father began to realize his little boy’s ramblings were the real thing.

Heaven Is For Real was the only book that my mom (in her 90’s) read voraciously from start to finish in a couple of sittings: a feat that truly spoke of her need for hope.

And here’s why…

Murray

Five years ago, my brother Murray had to stay home from work for a whole week with severe leg and foot pain. (It’s just a bit of plantar fasciitis, he told me) While I was helping him prepare meals, he also complained of difficulty swallowing. I dragged him to his doctor, and wasn’t surprised when Murray was quickly admitted to hospital.

After he endured several days of procedures, I arrived to the hospital one day to find curtains drawn around his bed. Then a doctor backed out, saying, “Sorry. I wish I had better news.”

Dread washed over me. I deflated into a chair by his bed and took Murray’s hand. Seeing his tears instantly made me cry.

Fear and disbelief lined his face. “It’s cancer! They think it started in my esophagus and has spread to my liver. My legs are sore because I have clots in the veins!” He gripped my hand as if it were the only thing keeping him from falling into a chasm.

Anxiety clenched my stomach.

Details of those moments are etched in my memory: the terror in his eyes, the steady beep of his monitor, and tears dripping off his chin making dark spots on his blue hospital gown.

We cried and clung to each other. I prayed for strength for Murray. But we both knew that he didn’t have much more time on earth. However, we weren’t prepared that he would only have about three weeks to live.

Murray was literally ripped from our lives. We had no time to adapt or comprehend what just happened to our normally boisterous, larger-than-life brother.

We desperately needed to be reminded that we would be seeing him again. And the book Heaven Is For Real was given to me by a friend.

Of course, as a Christian, I knew about heaven and read about it in the bible. But here was a timely and solid example of how God was reminding me that we would indeed see Murray again. My mom was too overwhelmed and confused at 93 to understand completely what Murray had or why he could have gone so quickly. It’s just not right or natural that a mother should be burying a child.

 

images movie

When the Heaven Is For Real movie came out, my mom and I went three times. And she would have gone again, (that little Colton was such a great actor) if she had her way.

About a month ago, I stumbled on the Heaven Is For Real website, and pressed the contact button before I knew it. What could I lose? Imagine my surprise when they got back in touch with me granting me an interview with Todd Burpo, the pastor and author of the book!

So…

I thought I would open it up to you, as to the questions I would ask in the interview. What would you like me to ask Todd about his life, his experiences, his family, how the movie came to be, etc? In my next blog, I will have been able to interview Todd Burpo with your questions (and a few of my own of course).

 

 

The Best Pain

“No Mike.” I smiled at my older brother. “You don’t toss away your daily devotionals at the end of the year. You merely turn back to the first page again.”

Mike has had about 35 years of debilitating health issues, including deteriorating liver, liver transplant, stroke and more recently, constant seizures. Even though his faith has remained strong, Mike has become like a confused child again. But nonetheless, he is my spiritual inspiration and the reason I kick my own butt when I feel life gets tough.

I showed him my devotionals that had a few pencilled stars beside the text where I’d found some particularly appropriate points or scriptures. I explained that each year different things popped out at me depending on what I was going through.

“Oh… whoops!” He grinned at his own dog-eared leather-bound books that had parts completely highlighted and underlined, with notes written in pen in the margins.

“No worries, Mike. You can still use them. And here’s another I think you’ll enjoy! Merry Christmas!”

His devotion to his devotionals was inspiring. Every day he started out communing with God. No matter what he was doing or what day it was, he still made the time.

My devotionals had a conspicuously reduced number of pencilled stars from about November on to the beginning of January. Even though Christmas was the time I should be drawing closer to Jesus, I seemed to drift from my routine of pulling Him into my day.

But here I am once again, humbled, and seeking strength and guidance for upcoming projects and family issues for 2016. As much as I hate to admit, most of my growth doesn’t come from when I’m on the mountain tops where everything is going well, it’s in the valleys where I’m struggling.

My brother’s constant health issues have been the reason for his spiritual walk. He knows he can’t do it alone, and he knows God is between him and his problems.

Of course, this morning I put a star on my devotional that reminded me that my path will be of multiple failures and stresses along with some hopeful successes. But each failure is followed by a spiritual growth spurt and my increased reliance on Him.

So, the best pain? That’s easy, it’s when I am overwhelmed and at a loss of where to turn next. And I find Him there waiting for me as always. In addition, I seek out quiet places, turn on music, jump in my hot tub, go for a walk, and just rest in His grace.

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Can you tell me what you do when life dumps on you?

 

 

Reading for Inspiration

 

rays from heaven

As a senior in high school, I took an English elective titled “Reading for Pleasure.” Every day in class, I was required to spend forty-five minutes reading fiction. This would be my favorite class of all time!
The catch? Over a ten-week period, I had to read thirty-six books from a general reading list or fifteen books from the classical literature list to get an A. Eager and ambitious, I signed up for the classics. How hard could it be? Less than two books per week, and I could just keep reading at night for homework. Oh, and I had to take a test over each book. Piece of cake.

Success in College

from the book, Success in College

I read the books – Anna Karenina, War and Peace, The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, The Count of Monte Cristo, Madame Bovary, Animal Farm, to name a few. I got my A.

I was so depressed.
Didn’t these writers believe in happy endings?? I’ll give Dickens a little credit. At least Oliver Twist got a new and better family after he’d been abused for the entire novel. And Louisa May Alcott proved an exception to all the gloom.
For the second ten weeks, I contracted for the thirty-six general books. My teacher was not pleased.

credit to rallythereaders.com

credit to rallythereaders.com

Yet, even after that intense semester, I love literary fiction. While I often read cozy mysteries, fun chicklit, and some spec fiction, I prefer highly complex stories of mainstream literary fiction. Someday, I hope to write complicated stories of my own. Only I want Jesus as the central theme when generations of my characters weave a tapestry of tragedies, adventures, and daily living.
I’ve provided a list below of Christian authors who create wonderful, many-layered novels. While no one pens a story as heavy as Tolstoy, these authors write in a literary style filled with hope in the midst of their characters’ trials, and they bring the reader, and their protagonists, safely ashore by Finis. They don’t sugarcoat the reader’s world, but they offer far more hope and joy than the most lighthearted works of Jane Austen.

Pinterest.com

Pinterest.com

Wouldn’t it be great if high schools had required reading lists with these authors?

Ann Tatlock

Gene Stratton Porter

Elizabeth Musser

Madeleine Engle

Lisa Wingate

J.R.R. Tolkien

C.S. Lewis

John Bunyan

Francine Rivers

 

Who would you add for Christian literary fiction?

 

Lessons From a Seventy-Five-Year-Old Musher

… And a top skiing instructor, and an extreme landscaper, and a backcountry horseman (in the 1940’s when most women did NOT do that).

Yes, of course, this is one and the same person – my mom!

As mentioned, in the 1940’s, when most of my mom’s friends were learning the fine art of sewing, doing kitchen duties and catering to their husband’s every need, Mom was kicking around on her horse in the B.C. backcountry when she wasn’t teaching gym to kids. She wanted to visit family in Vancouver 300 miles away approximately, so off she went (in her twenties) on her horse without a second thought, with some grain for her and her horse to eat, beef jerky, and a general idea of how to get there. Did I mention there were no roads? Seven days later she and her horse wandered into Vancouver no worse for wear, visited for a few days, then turned around and went home again. No problem!

mom and horse

As a small child, I assumed that every kid’s mom was able to man-handle 100 pound slabs of rock from the hills surrounding our place to put into landscaping. (She was only about 5’4 ) We lived on three acres that contained barns, horse pastures, fish ponds, huge multilevelled barbecue areas, ravines, and lake frontage to romp around in. Normal stuff, I thought.

Then, I remember, when I was about seven, skiing with family while mom taught others to ski. She’d started skiing when she was about 50, but as her indomitable nature dictated, she excelled quickly then was hired to teach at our local mountain. She has been hailed as one of the best teachers to have hit the mountain, even to this day!

Later, my parents, in their seventies, lived in a cabin by a small lake above our town. No running water, outdoor biffy, and bears for neighbours. My kids’ earliest memories were of tobogganing by the cabin in the winter, and fishing on the lake in the summer. Mom owned two siberian huskies that pulled her around on a sleigh in the winter. These dogs were obstinate pullers by nature, but were as calm and obedient on the leash as any citified dog.

How?

Mom twisted their leashes over their backs, around their middles and through their hind legs. So… uhm, pulling for these male dogs was not an option on the leash. Ingenious, right? This allowed mom to take them on lengthy strolls through the woods by herself.

mom and dogs

Mom has always had a quiet, get-things-done nature with no negative thoughts on her situation or other people. Don’t think for a second that our family has always been blessed with good health and prosperity. We have had our share of tragedies with finances, health and relationships, but with everything she showed a humble determination to simply work through obstacles, and when you couldn’t, you worked with what you had left. Let go and let God, was her steadfast motto. She introduced me to my faith and showed me where her strength comes from.

She is now celebrating her 97th birthday and is going strong.
Elsie Wilson is the ultimate hard act to follow!!

Love you to the moon and back, Mom!!!

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Taste of Heaven

Once upon a time, a little girl attended the annual Thanksgiving feast at her aunt’s house and discovered a plate filled with beautiful, glossy miniature fruits. Set apart from all the other appetizers, their brilliant colors called out for more attention than the bold Chiquita Banana Lady in the ads of the era. “Take a bite,” they stage-whispered. “Our flavor is even more exquisite than our beauty.”

The little girl popped an apricot shape into her mouth for she loved apricots above all other fruits. Ohhh. Surely, the taste of heaven filled her mouth! She couldn’t help it. In no time at all four – or was it five – more pieces disappeared from the plate. Sad that she couldn’t eat it all, for someone was bound to notice, she abandoned the table.

I was that little girl, who shortly thereafter suffered a major tummy ache. The candy-fruits were marzipan, the richest, sweetest dessert I’ve ever experienced. Composed of almond paste, molded into complex shapes rarely larger than the diameter of a quarter, and decorated in rich colors, marzipan is a culinary work of art. And NOT to be gobbled. You savor each nibble allowing the flavor to glide over your tongue over and over.

Poetry is served best in the same manner. (See Poetical Immersion) I savor one poem over and over when I read poetry. The marzipan of literature.

I had promised to share a few of my favorites. Here they are:

Eletelephony.” I’m a person who loves mixing and matching words, and Laura E. Richards does a delightful job of making it a game.

I learned two of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems while a young child. Often in bed with strep throat in those early years, I identified with “The Land of Counterpane.”

illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith

illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith

The poem “My Shadow” fascinated me because I had just discovered what shadows can do. Imagine that a grown-up wrote about the same phenomenon!

For rhythm, expression, and fun, I taught Eugene Fields’s “The Duel”  to my fifth-graders. They learned to drop their self-consciousness at the door and use their voices to over-emote the silliness of toys and household objects personified during the ridiculous spat.

Once my students were at ease with the above introduction to poetry, we moved on to “When the Frost Is on the Punkin’” by James Whitcomb Riley. They could use onomatopoeia of “clackin’ and cluckin’” with alacrity, and the class next door could hear the rooster’s “hallylooyer!”

frosty pumpkin

My all-time favorite is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. He offers me ripples of reflection as I consider the what-ifs of life. What if I had chosen a different college? Where would I be living? Who would I have married? What if I had never taken the National Novel Writing Month challenge six years ago? Would I be writing a blog today? What might I be doing instead?

road not taken

“What-if” is the exquisite question to ponder every time I read “The Road Not Taken,” for in life, we truly cannot retrace our steps and find out what might have been. Yes, I will savor the poem and allow it to glide through my mind over and over once again…

Poetical Immersion

 

If I were to compare the number of novels to the number of poems I’ve read, the ratio would be at least 100:1. It’s obvious how I prefer to spend my leisure time.

 

 

poem by Lt. Col. John McCrae

poem by Lt. Col. John McCrae

 

Let me get lost in a story. Let me join Wendy in the adventure of a lifetime in Neverland. Let me travel to planets outside my galaxy with Meg in A Wrinkle in Time. Let me wake up in Oz with Dorothy.

 

 

wendy peter pan

 

 

 

 

 

 

And yet. Every once in a while, I love to sink into poetry. Read it. Read it again out loud. Feel its rhythms. Luxuriate in its emotion. Reflect upon the meaning of life.

 

photo by Sharon Birke

 

When I pick up a novel I read for escape, for entertainment, for a “good” story. At The End, I set it down with a sense of satisfaction and move on to the next good read within twenty four hours. Occasionally, the novel’s theme remains with me for years. Those are the best – stories that encourage me to emulate selfless heroes and teach me how to live a life glorifying to God.

 

Poetry, at least the poetry I’ve taken time to memorize, always stays with me. When I taught fifth grade, our curriculum offered an excellent selection of poetry to memorize. To this day, my son, now in his thirties, can recite “The Village Blacksmith” by Longfellow. I wanted my students to own that same passion for poetry. We had fun with it, discussed meanings behind meanings, and I hope many of them have a favorite poem from their year with Mrs. Samaritoni.

Next time it’s my turn to post in Scriblerians, I’ll share my favorites. In the meantime, please share with me any poems that you still have memorized from childhood.