Christian, Divorced Christian, Uncategorized, Walking by Faith

The Heart of Stone

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Heart of Stone

“I will take the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

           “I have stopped praying for him.” My friend, Trina said. She was not the first one who had told me this. Since I had been divorced for about six months several people had told me that they had stopped praying for my ex husband. I had not. I didn’t know how to stop praying for him, or even if I should.

I planned a personal retreat to the outside of Vancouver Island on the advice of one of my friends at Regent College.  I was taking a class from Eugene Peterson called Ministry and Spirituality. At the end of the class we were required to write a paper on how we would keep our spirituality once we got into ministry somewhere. Beverly had told me that when she got to that place in the class she took a personal retreat to seek the Lord about it. That sounded like a great idea to me. I had never done such a thing.  Many stories came out of that retreat. This is one of them.

I made reservations to stay at a bed and breakfast inn in Tofino. I wanted to be on the ocean, where the surf rolls in. My home on Drayton Harbor overlooks a shallow bay where the tide slips in and out twice a day, but I felt I wanted to be somewhere with surf.

On the second day of my stay as I went through some of the verses that I believed that they Lord had given to me as promises for my husband’s salvation. One of them was the verse above from Ezekiel. “I will take the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Later that day I walked on the beach, in the rain. The stones on the beach were wet and gray. But suddenly I walked past a small stone the color of red brick. I turned around and went back to it. It was shaped like a human heart.

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“Oh, my,” I thought. “It’s a heart of stone.”

I picked up the cold, wet stone and put it in my pocket. I wrapped my fingers around it. As I held the stone it got warm.

I took the stone home with me and it became a tool for a kind of body prayer. I can’t really explain in words the significance of it. It was prayer without words. I kept the stone next to my bed. When I would wake up in the morning, or in the night, I would pick up the stone and lay it on my body—on my neck or my chest or my belly. The stone would be cold and shocked me when I put it on my warm skin. But as it lay there it would get warm. I would then turn it to feel the cold surface again. Somehow this ritual was working to release me from the one flesh relationship with my husband. I could not have articulated that then, but afterwards I realized that is what happened.

Resurrection morning fell several weeks after I had been praying with the stone. That morning when I picked up the stone and laid it at the base of my neck, it absolutely abhorred me!  I could not stand the touch of it on my skin. I grabbed it off myself and set it on the side table.

“That’s it,” I thought. “I am through praying for him.” I knew it.

 

A couple of hours later I went to the sunrise service for resurrection Sunday at Semiahmoo, a beach on the spit near where I live. Several of the community churches got together every year to reenact the resurrection of Jesus. A friend of mine from Regent was there with her new born son, Blaine. I had been with her when Blaine was born—another amazing time for another story perhaps. Sharon asked me if I would like to hold the baby, Blaine. Of course, I did.

I cuddled him close to my neck. I could feel him breathing. Then I sensed his little heart beating next to mine.

Oh, my gosh!  My knees shook. It’s a heart of flesh!

The Lord had been talking about two different hearts.

He would take my husband’s stony heart, and he would give me a different heart to hold—new people, new relationships.

Stunned I moved toward the buckets of flowers at the foot of cross. We had been instructed to take a flower for ourselves and place it on the cross. As I took out a flower for me, and one for Blaine, I could hardly see for the tears flowing, flowing down my face.  A familiar voice from behind me said, “What’s this, Jonni? Starting over?”

I tried to smile and explain to my former brother in law that the baby was Sharon’s but then I thought, “No, that’s right. I am starting over.”

My friend Tim was at the Sunrise Service that morning, too. I had spoken to him and told him that my marriage was not going to make it.

I certainly did not know it then, but the next Resurrection Sunday at Semiahmoo I was there with Tim, my husband, the heart of flesh the Lord had promised. One day earlier that spring he and I had gone to the beach at Semiahmoo together and I had thrown the heart of stone back into the cold ocean waters.

Now, almost 20 years later, Tim and I have moved back to Blaine. Our home overlooks Drayton Harbor. We walk the streets and pray for Blaine, and for the people we stop and talk to on our walks. Recently a friend pointed out to me that the red headed baby boy named “Blaine” was not only a type the Lord showed me about my new husband, but also the represented the call he would put on my life to pray in and for Blaine.

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Now, 20 years after Tim and I threw the heart of stone representing my former husband’s heart out into the water at Semiahmoo, God still knows where it is. He will redeem it in his timing.

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Granddad’s House

 

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Granddad’s House

“Ain’t gonna need this house no longer.”

Mothers’ Day 2014.

My mom had been diagnosed with Aortic Stenosis. It’s serious. It would kill her. Eventually it would cause heart failure. Nobody knows how long she had but statistically someone with severe AS lives two years or less. How long it take for the hardening of the aortic valve to get to the point where it caused heart failure was up to the Lord.  In the meantime, Mom’s attitude was great. She was ready to go to the Lord when he called her. While she waited she prayed through her alphabet lists.

My sister-in-law, Marlene,  was visiting for Mothers’ Day. She wanted to go see “Granddad’s House.” I had not been back there for years. I even avoided driving by it. But  Marlene wanted to see it, so Tim and I loaded Mom in a wheelchair and we took her.

The house had been vacant since we sold it in 2005. The new owners had been taking care of the yard and keeping the place looking nice, but the house had recently sold again. The new owners had not been keeping it up. The place looked awful. The lawn hadn’t been mowed for weeks, weeds clung to the sides the  building. The paint I had so carefully applied years ago, hung in shredded fragments or lay scattered under the ragged shrubs and roses. My grandmother’s favorite yellow rose bush outside the dining room window had climbed all the way to the second floor. A single crumbled bud still clung to the vine.

Marlene got out of the car to take pictures. I sat in the back seat hurting and stunned.

This had been the house where my grandparents had lived. Every summer when I was growing up, my family would drive from California to spend time with my mother’s parents.  They bought it in 1946 when they returned from 25 years on the mission field in China. My mother had been a student at the University of Washington then. My grandparents had lived in that house until they died–my grandmother in 1977 and my grandfather in 1980.My husband and I bought the house from Granddad’s estate. We had it as a rental house until 1994 when we sold our home in Ferndale, paid off our debts and moved in to it.

At the time that Bob and I moved in our marriage was failing. We were divorced in 1996. When everything else in my life was chaos and pain, I found comfort in being in that house. The one place in the whole world where I had had unconditional love as a child.

I built a white picket fence around the house. The fence had been to contain my border collie puppy, but it had much deeper significance to me. The fence marked my boundaries, my place. This is where I belonged.

As I looked over Drayton Harbor from my quiet time place in the front room I told the Lord I would like to name the house.

“What shall I name it, Lord?”

“Harbor House”, I heard.

That same day I painted the name on the mailbox.

A couple of days later a friend stopped by and asked me if I were opening a bed and breakfast.

“No,” I laughed in reply. “That’s just what I do, not my job.” It was true. I nearly always had people staying with me. My future son in law called them my “waif collection”.

But the Lord had plans. A couple of years later I did open a bed and breakfast there. That is a different story.

I loved that house. I told my friends that I expected to live there the rest of my life. Apparently, the Lord had other plans. In 2005 my new husband and I sold the house to develop our business elsewhere. That is also another story.

Tim had found a piece of property about 10 miles away, on a busy road, where he felt our goat dairy business could prosper. I could not imagine selling Granddad’s house. One morning as I stood in the front room Drayton Harbor looked as if it had molten gold poured over it. The Canadian mountains stood as a snow peaked backdrop. I worshipped the Lord with my hands raised. I praised him for the beauty of the place where I he had brought me. Then I heard his voice.

“Are you willing to give this up so someone else can learn to worship me here?” He said.

Without hesitation, I answered, “In a heartbeat.”

“I have a plan,” He said.

“OK,” I answered.

I called a neighbor who had told me that if we ever wanted to sell it, let her know. In less than 30 minutes the house was sold. Cash. Full price. No inspections. We could take all the time we needed to move. I could not help but see the hand of God in that.

Even though I believed that the Lord had arranged the sale and had us move to the new location on the Birch Bay Lynden Road, I grieved the loss of that house, every day. From the new house I had a view of the busy road. Not only did it have no beauty, it was also noisy. Conversation was impossible on the front porch because of the road noise. I told Tim even before we agreed to buy that property that it would not be permanent. It was not a home. It was business. I grieved the loss of the water view and a place to be quiet before the Lord.

As business prospered through the years. The noise level increased. I fed all the employees at lunch time. They used the house as their break room throughout the day. Customers drove in the driveway. Trucks came in and out. Change was the only constant.

Then in the fall of  2015 Tim and I  moved to this condo on the other side of I never have to move again. But I am the Lord’s bond servant and He may yet have another plan for me.

I still don’t know what his plan for Granddad’s house is. It has been vacant since we moved out 12 years now. It would have failed any inspections in 2005, now it is in ruins.

After Marlene got back in the car we drove down to Semiahmoo, thinking that we would have lunch there. But I was in too much pain. I really could not think about lunch, much less a Mothers’ Day Brunch celebration. We drove back to our place on the Birch Bay Lynden Road.

The next morning while I on the treadmill I heard this song.

“This Ole House”

by  Stuart Hamblen

This ole house once knew his children
This ole house once knew a wife
This ole house was home and comfort
As we fought the storms of life
This old house once rang with laughter
This old house heard many shouts
Now she trembles in the darkness
When the lightnin’ walks about

(Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer)
(Ain’t a-gonna need this house no more)
Ain’t got time to fix the shingles
Ain’t a-got time to fix the floor
Ain’t got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend no windowpane
Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer
I’m a-gettin’ ready to meet the saints

Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer
I’m a-gettin’ ready to meet the saints

 

As I listened, I thought about Mom’s failing body. She would not need it much longer. The song gave me joy.

When I shared the song with Mom and Marlene, Mom told me that she had painted a picture of a house and put that song title on the picture. She found the picture. The house wasn’t Granddad’s House, but it was on Drayton Harbor Road. The view behind it could be the view from Granddad’s House. The house in the picture was in as deep a state of disrepair as Granddad’s House is.

The picture struck me.

“Ain’t gonna need this house no longer,” it says.

Truth, suddenly, set me free.

“I ain’t a gonna need that house no longer, I ain’t a gonna need that house no more.

“Ain’t got time to fix the shingles, ain’t got time to mend the floors. . . .

“I’m a getting ready to meet the saints!!!”

 

With the truth in my heart, not just my head, I was set free.

With the Lord’s perfect timing he used my fading mother, my sister-in-law’s curiosity, an old song, and a water color painting to set me free of that old house.

When the Lord has set you free, you are free, indeed. Praise God!

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And She Laughs . . .

My daughter’s moving eulogy to my mom, her grandmother.

The Deepest Love

“And she laughs at the time to come,” Proverbs 31:25

Rebecca Terry

The last time I spoke with my grandma, late on an August afternoon, she had labored all day with chest pain and asphyxia. She closed her eyes for the last time just hours after we hung up the phone.

While we spoke, she marveled at the love of her family and caregivers; she blessed me and expressed her joy that I had started a new job; she said something light-hearted about her transfer to hospice; and she told me she loved me.

I told her I loved her too, but I couldn’t find any other words. I didn’t know how to say goodbye. The conversation lasted less than a minute. Death, laughter, eulogy, hope, courage

But in that sixty seconds she gave me, distilled, the treasures of her life: self-forgetting gratitude and light-hearted courage.

Self-forgetting. Grandma held her life lightly. Free of self-importance…

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