Becoming a Believer, Blessing, Christian, Sibling squabbles, Testing Your Faith, Uncategorized, Walking by Faith, Witnessing

Conversion

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14

 

Conversion June-July 1976

 

My brother’s wedding invitation came to Petersburg Alaska sometime in the spring of 1976. My husband, our two daughters, aged 2 and 6, and I had been living on a boat in the harbor in Petersburg for the past year.  We had been fishing commercially in the summers for several years, but this had been our first winter in Alaska. Eric’s invitation was like a breath of fresh air. The card had a picture of Eric and his fiancé standing under a flowering tree in California. After 18 months in Alaska a flowering tree looked like a beacon of light in the darkness.

I somehow convinced my husband to let me go. I still have no explanation for why he allowed me go except that God had planned for me to be at Eric’s wedding.

I took the girls to California in June.

I was the oldest of the six children in my family. We were not raised in a Christian home even though my mother’s parents had been missionaries in China and my mother had been born and raised there. Several years before my brother’s wedding my sister Janie, two years younger than I, had become a Christian. One by one my other siblings had followed suit–all but Christy and me.  Christy  had become a Mormon. I mocked them all.

Eric’s wedding was lovely. The church even impressed me. I had been surprised to find that the people quite nice, thoughtful and intelligent. In my previous mocking of Christians I joined my husband in thinking that Christians had stopped thinking for themselves—blindly following some ancient ritual.

The week I was there, the Pastor’s son was giving a series of lectures comparing various religions. Every night my brothers and sister would take off for church to hear Ron Carlson. They always asked me if I would like to go along, but of course I was much too stubborn, and prideful, to join them. But the night before my return to Alaska, Ron Carlson would be talking about Mormonism. Again, my family asked me to go along. This time I thought, “What the heck. I might as well try to find out why everyone is so upset that Christy is a Mormon.

I don’t remember now much about Ron’s talk, but having done a lot of studying since then I can well imagine what he talked about. The thing that impressed me was the intelligence of the lecture. Ron Carlson had done his research. These were well educated people who taught and listened to this stuff.

At the end of the lecture I asked my sister, Janie, if I could meet Pastor Carlson, Ron’s dad, and tell him how much I had enjoyed his church.

I suppose my sister was more than delighted to introduce her pre-believing sister to her pastor!

I told Pastor Carlson that I had been impressed with his church and asked him if he could give me a book or something that I could take back to Alaska with me.

He invited me into his office for a private conversation.

“What do you think a Christian is, Jonni?” He asked me.

I really didn’t know the right answer. I wanted to say, “Someone who is born in America,” but I knew that wasn’t right, so I said, “Someone who can love unconditionally.”

“That’s a pretty good answer,” he said, but do you know what the Bible says a Christian is? Have you ever read the Bible?
I told him that I had tried a couple of times but it had never made sense to me.

He showed me the verses from 1 Corinthians 2 that tell us that the things of the Spirit of the Lord cannot be understood except if that same Spirit helps us.

Then he did a very wise thing. He asked me if I would be willing to pray this kind of prayer, “Spirit of God, if you have the truth, teach it to me. I want to know the truth.”

There was no danger in this prayer. If there was nothing there, nothing would happen and I would continue as before, but if the Holy Spirit was there and truth to be known, then I should know it. I agreed to pray.

We got on our knees. I prayed that prayer with him. There were no explosions of light; I didn’t feel anything different; the world went on as before; we got up from our knees.

Then he gave me a Living Bible and a bible study on the book of John. He also gave me the whole lecture series that his son had been teaching on cassette tapes.

The last thing I said to Pastor Carlson as I walked away from his office with all those materials was, “Now I have to go back to Alaska and defend myself to my husband.”  That was like a word of prophecy, but I didn’t know it.

When I got back to the boat I started going through the cassette tapes and reading the things I had brought back with me. But I had to read and listen at times when my husband was not on the boat. I had to hide the Bible and the cassettes from him because he went absolutely nuts!

So I listened in secret and I read in secret.

One by one the questions that I had, and questions that I didn’t even know I had, were answered.

The first one was “Is there a God?”

As I listened to Ron Carlson’s lectures I realized that we could not have gotten here by chance. There had to be a creator.

The second was, “Is Jesus God?”

I had never heard anyone say that before. I had heard “son of God” before but it didn’t mean anything to me.

Again, as I listened to Ron Carlson I realized that God, in order to communicate with us, could have become a man and come to earth to teach us who God is. OK. I could accept that, but the next question was a big one.

What about this “sinner” business. I wasn’t such a bad person.  How could God claim that I was a “sinner” and needed to be “saved”?

Up to this point I had been listening to the tapes in what I though was random order. I had gone through “How we know the Bible is the word of God,” and the lectures on the other major religions of the world. There was only one tape left. It was on the Occult. The date was July 4, 1976—the 200th birthday of the United States. We had been fishing in Taku inlet. We had tied up the boat in Juneau, Alaska for the holiday. My husband went up to town to celebrate. I put the girls to bed and pulled out that last tape.

I don’t remember what Ron Carlson said about the occult, but at the end of the tape he started talking about my sister, Janie. I was shocked!  This was a lecture series that he had been delivering all over the world and here he was talking about my sister!  I know it was my sister. He said, “When Janie walked into my intervarsity Bible study and Diablo Valley College . . . “ There was no question. That was my sister. Janie had been “saved” in that intervarsity Bible study. But the rest of Ron Carlson’s statement cut me to the heart.

He said, “When Janie walked into my intervarsity Bible study at Diablo Valley College she said she could feel nothing. She felt no pain, no joy, nothing.”

I knew that was true about Janie. I knew it was my fault.

I had been so wicked to Janie while we were growing up that I could almost pinpoint the day when she had shut off her feelings so I couldn’t hurt her anymore. I had beaten her, insulted her, excluded her, humiliated her and ignored her.

I fell on my face on the floor (deck) of the boat. I wept uncontrollably. “Oh, yes, Lord, I am a dirty rotten sinner. Please forgive me.” I cried and pleaded with Lord.

When I got up, I was a new person.

There is no way to explain the joy and relief that I felt. I had been radically born again!

As my tears turned to laughter I spent the next hour writing a letter to Janie.

Here is what I wrote:

 

July 4, 1976

Dearest Janie,

How can I express on plain paper with mere pen what is happening to me tonight. Janie—I prayed tonight, all my myself I spoke to God for the 1st time on my own. I thanked him for you. I thanked him for your prayers for me. I told him I loved you and I asked him to bless you.

A couple of weeks ago in Pastor Carlson’s office I opened the door for Jesus. He came to me then, but he didn’t fill me up until tonight. He’s been guiding me—teaching and gently showing the way to learn. Tonight, after several weeks of lessons, he felt I was ready to hear—learn (I’m not able to find the right word). He arranged for me to be alone on the boat and I listed to more of Ron’s tapes. I’ve been listening to them in a rather hap-hazard order. I kind of thumb through and listen to one that sounds/looks interesting. Never before have I listened to more than one in one evening. Tonight I listened to one—and then He had me hear another. He has been preparing me for it for several years, maybe all my life, I don’t know that for sure, but I do know that my learning has followed a definite pattern than cannot have been accidental.

The second tape I heard tonight was Ron’s occult one. The closing thoughts were about you. I wept as he was speaking and I realized that he was weeping, too, If you haven’t heard that tape you should. There can be no doubt in hearing it that Ron loves you—that Jesus, that God love you and me, too.

I had been holding back something—not letting myself all the way open—not telling all—and then you and Ron and Jesus showed me.

I don’t know what else to say, Janie. I hope you can read what I have said already. I’m scribbling, I know, but tonight is our last night in town before we go fishing.

Bob will be home in a few minutes—when he gets here I want to go mail this tonight before we leave.

Please speak to Pastor Carlson for me. I don’t have his address—maybe you can send it to me, and Ron’s too. Please tell both of them how grateful I am. And tell yourself that, too!

Janie, I wish I could hug you. I am so grateful for your prayers for me. I will be praying for you, now.

I’m not going to have time tonight to write this story again for Mom—so if you would, she might want to read this letter, too. She is one of the most important people in my life.  Most people’s mother’s are—but ours is special.

God bless you, Janie, and all of us,

 

 

Love,

Jonni

On the back of the envelop it said “The 1st thing I read after writing this letter was Romans 8, verses 1,2,3,4

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law could not do weak as it was through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, he condemned sin the flesh so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

In reading the letter I wrote to Janie, now as a much more mature Christian, I wish I had been more clear in my confession to her, but I know that she wept with joy when she received this letter. I didn’t know that she had saved that letter until after her death 9 years later. But that is another story for a later chapter.

 

EPSON MFP image

Janie

Christian, Divorced Christian, Uncategorized, Walking by Faith

The Heart of Stone

 beach-stone4

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.

beach-stone

“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.

beach-stone3

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.

Uncategorized

Granddad’s House

 

img_1461

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!

this-old-house

 

 

 

Uncategorized

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…

View original post 538 more words

Uncategorized

It’s Always a Glorious Day in the Lord

IMG_1787On this day after the official day of giving thanks, I would like to tell you about a lady I met a long time ago. She knew how to live in that place of constant praise, in spite of losing everything. Her name was Gertrude. Gertrude means “spear” and “strength”.

It’s always a glorious day in the Lord.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

                     I met Gertrude in a nursing home in Blaine. I had gone there to meet my friend, Daphne,  one of the staff members of the nursing home, for lunch. I took a seat in the foyer to wait for her. Gertrude sat across from me in a wheelchair. She had only one leg. I said something to her about the weather and I don’t remember if the weather was good or bad, but the Gertrude answered, “Oh, it’s always a glorious day in the Lord!”

Wow, I thought. Here is someone I need to get to know. I moved over next to her and introduced myself. She told me her name and that she had lived in Blaine a long time.

“You might remember my grandparents,” I told her, “Mary and Myron Terry.”

“Oh,” she exclaimed.  “I knew your grandmother! She painted a head of Christ for me.”

“I remember when she did those,” I said. “She made one for my sister, too.”

“I used to have it hanging in front of where I sat and did my quiet time,” she said. “I loved that picture. But I don’t have room for it here.”

“What happened to it?” I asked.

“I think my kids gave it to the church when they took my apartment apart.”

“When did they take your apartment apart?”

“A month ago,” she said. “I started having some heart trouble and had to go to the hospital. While I was there I got this problem with my leg and they had to amputate it. That’s why I had to move here.”

“Oh, dear,” I said, “you lost your leg just a month ago?  That must be so hard for you.”

“The hardest part about losing my leg,” she said, “was that they couldn’t give me a general anesthetic when they did it because of my heart. So I was awake!  I couldn’t really feel what they were doing, though.”

“Oh, dear,” I said again. “I am so sorry. What a rough time you have had .”

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” she said. “The only thing I really miss is my large print Bible. I don’t know what my kids did with that.”

“Well I am sure we could find you a large print Bible around here somewhere!” I said.

“It wouldn’t do me any good. My glasses are broken anyway.”

Gertrude told me all of this, after she had started by our conversation by saying, “It’s always a glorious day in the Lord!” She had lost her leg, her home, her independence, her portrait of Jesus, her quiet time place, her Bible and her glasses!! I am not even sure what order of importance she might have given to all those losses.

She amazed me. She became my hero, and my friend. I visited her often after that—whenever I came to the nursing home to meet Daphne.

Daphne got her glasses fixed for her, and found her a large print Bible.

I went to the church and found the head of Christ my grandmother had painted. I took a snapshot of it. (This was long before we had digital cameras). I had a tiny print made and put it in a little frame.   She carried that picture in her pocket for the rest of her life. The picture she gave to me I will also carry for the rest of my life.

Update March 20, 2017

I just added a snapshot of the picture my grandmother painted. Just today I received the picture from a friend who received it from the church where it had been hanging since Gertrude had to give up her apartment about 25 years ago. My grandmother painted in in about 1953. Thanks be to God that he care about things like this and the picture is now in our family. Thank you Nancy Dement for sending it to me!

Uncategorized

What are we going to do now?

“When God made Adam on the sixth day, Adam arose on the seventh day and said to God, “What are we going to do today?” God responded, “Nothing. I want you to learn immediately that everything we are going to do, we are going to do from rest.”

I just read this in “Operating in the Courts of Heaven”. It is almost word for word the last conversation I had with my mom. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that it was my last conversation. It happened on Friday August 12, at 6:45 PM. It is also significant that this was the beginning of Shabbat, sundown Friday evening, the day of the sabbath rest. (The Hebrew day starts in the evening. Genesis one shows us this pattern: there was evening, and there was morning, the first day. All the days of creation are marked that way.)

I was standing next to Mom who was lying in her bed at Hospice House. She had been there a couple of hours, and had been in great distress. She struggled to breathe, moaning and tossing in agitation.  The hospice staff had started a morphine drip into one leg, and an anti-anxiety medication drip in the other.  They had told me that it would take about four hours for the medications to stabilize and she would feel better. I had been standing next to her, stroking her head with one hand and talking to her. I was also trying to keep up with all the texts that were coming in to my cell phone.  I realized that my phone needed to be charged so I crawled under the edge of Mom’s bed to plug it in.  I stood up and  had my back to Mom when she suddenly spoke to me. She had not spoken since arriving at Hospice House, nor had she for several hours before that at the hospital.

            “Hello, Grace,” she said, clear as a young girl’s voice.

            I turned around, surprised, and so pleased, “Hi Mom!” I said.

            “Did you make a special trip to bring the phone?” She asked.

            “No, I have been here,” I said.

            Then so cheerfully she asked me, “What are we going to do NOW?”

            I smiled and said, “We are going to take a nap.”

            “Oh,” she said, “that sounds REALLY nice.”

            “There’s my bed, right there,” I said, pointing to the day bed next to her. “I will lie down right there next to you.”

            “That sounds really nice,” she said again.

            Then her face changed a little and she said, “Are we at Hospice?”

            “Yes,” I answered.

            “How long have we been here?”

            Before I could answer she went back to the anxious groaning.

            She left her body behind 24 hours later, at the end of Sabbath, 6:35 Saturday night.

            She has entered the greater rest.

Hebrews 4:9-10, and 4:11

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. . .

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by. . .disobedience.

 

mom-nap-with-sadie

Uncategorized

The Lord Knows My Name

me-2015

The Lord Knows My Name

The Lord called me from the womb,
from
the body of my mother he named my name. Isaiah 49:1

“Mom,” I asked, “did you ever have the sense when you were pregnant with me that I should have had a different name?”

She said, “Yes, I wanted to name you “Grace” after my grandmother, but it didn’t go with “Svensson”. ‘Grace Svensson’ was just too hard to say.”

I asked my mom that question after meeting some people who told me that they waited until the Lord told them what their child’s name was before they named him.

The Lord knows my name. He calls me by my name. But what if I had been given the wrong name? What if I changed my name?

My name for the first 49 years of my life was “Jonnie”, pronounced “Johnny.” My mom had been a big fan of Louise May Alcott and she liked the idea of having a family full of girls with boys’ names. My mom was raised in China where baby girls were abandoned in “baby towers” outside the cities, or killed by drowning, as soon as they were born. Girls had no value.

That is the lie I grew up with.

“Were you supposed to be a boy?”

“Was your dad hoping for a boy?”

“What’s your real name?”

“Were you supposed to be a boy?”

How does a child answer these questions?

I guess so. Why else would I have this boy’s name? Nobody ever told me it was a good thing to be a girl, or that girls were special, or that girls had value, or that girls could be loved. I guess I was supposed to be a boy. I am wrongly made. By whom? Who decided that I would be male or female? Who is the force behind the “supposed”? Who decides what is “supposed” to be or not to be? I don’t know. I’m confused, unloved, unwanted, have no value.

What’s wrong with girls?

Everything. Nobody wants one. It’s wrong to be one. I hate them. I hate me.

I’m angry.

I’m scared.

Who cares?

Nobody.

Girls don’t matter.

Boys matter.

I hate boys.

I hate girls.

Why?

Because girls don’t matter.

Girls get thrown away in China.

Girls get thrown away here.

Really? How do you know?

Because I got thrown away.

By whom?

Everyone.

Girls don’t matter.

It doesn’t matter what we think, what we do, what we want, where we go, or how we feel.

Girls don’t matter.

This was my war but I didn’t know my enemy. I didn’t know the one “supposed” that I would be a girl. I wasn’t “a girl”. I was something else that was “supposed to be a boy”. (I told a counselor my story recently and he said, “It is a good thing that you are not going through that now. Someone would give you a sex change operation.”)

I did everything I could to not be a girl. I hated curls and dolls and dresses. In those days girls had to wear dresses to school so when I got home I ripped off my dress and wore my jeans. I played with stick horses and I wandered the hills of California with my dog.

I didn’t know the Lord then, but I somehow “prayed” when I was about 10 years old that the things that happened to girls’ bodies as they grew up would not happen to me. I refused to look at my body. When I was about 12 my mom took me into the bathroom to teach me how to shave under my arms. I didn’t know I had hair under my arms. When I got my shirt off, she said,”Oh, we need to get you a bra, too.” I didn’t know I had breasts. That experience in the bathroom mortified me. I did not look at my body again, at all, until I was in  my mid 30’s when I forced myself to stand in front of a mirror and look. By that time I had been married for 12 years and had two children.

I blamed my name for lots of troubles I had in my life.

In my 40’s I thought, “If I were to change my name, what would I change it to?” I thought about Bible characters who had changed their names after an encounter with God, and I thought, “Grace”. I would change my name to Grace. It is only by his grace that I am where I am today.

And where was I? I had been walking with the Lord for 20 years. I was living in the house that had been my grandparents home. My marriage was disintegrating. My daughters were both in college. I was a student, too,  at Regent College, a graduate theological school in Vancouver, BC. I had met a girl at Regent named Grace. As I worked my way through much inner healing I realized how much grief my name had given me throughout my life. If I had been treasured as a girl, and a woman, I am sure I would not have had such a hard time with my name. I blamed a lot of my troubles on my name. I didn’t seriously think about changing it though, not then.

But later, when I married Tim, I struggled with my name in another way. “Jonnie Lukens” just did not work. I couldn’t write it; I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t make a signature out of it. My mom and Tim both encouraged me to go ahead and change it. I was 50 years old. Changing your last name when you get married is one thing. Changing your first name, the name people call you, is a whole different matter! But with Mom and Tim’s encouragement, I decided to do it. I would become Grace Lukens.

Then the problem of a middle name came up. What would I give myself as a middle name? Since Grace has one syllable and Lukens has two, I figured that my middle name should have three syllables, but I couldn’t think of anything that I liked. Elizabeth? Annemarie? Eloise? No. Then I remembered one of the lectures I heard at Regent. Gordon Fee pounded on the podium as he taught from Galatians, “Grace, plus nothing, equals right standing with God!”

Grace plus nothing. (Now, “plus nothing” has three syllables, but that’s not what I thought!) I thought, “I didn’t need a middle name.” Grace Lukens was enough. Very well. That would be it.

So, I went to the courthouse and filed the papers to change my name to Grace Lukens. I was given a court date five days later.
That same day I dropped off a computer to be fixed. When the technician asked me my name, I told him “Grace.”

“Very good, Grace, we will call you when it is ready.”

Wow!!! That was amazing! He called me a feminine name! He didn’t ask me how to spell it. He just said it! I floated out of that building as if on air. For the first time in my life I felt like my name fit. Indescribable.

Then I went home and starting writing letters to my siblings to tell them what I was doing. As I wrote those letters I realized that my three sister each had feminine names: Nora Nylund, Christine Elaine, and Gloria Jane. Gloria Jane was Janie. When Christy and I were little we couldn’t say, “Gloria” we said “Glowy” so Mom decided that we would all call Gloria, “Janie”.

“Gloria” I thought as I wrote the letters. “Gloria” has three syllables. Gloria goes well with “Grace” and it would be a wonderful tribute to Janie to name myself after her. Janie had died 14 years earlier. She had been the first in our family to become a Christian, and she prayed me in–even while I mocked her. I would be “Grace Gloria Lukens.”

I thought about going right down to the courthouse to change the papers, but decided that I could do it on Friday when my “case” would be heard. I was excited.

I had a friend who was also excited about my name change. She had changed her name by adding a middle name. I had called her when I first made the decision to change my name. She didn’t know anything about my struggle and decision over the middle name. She just knew that I was going to change my first name to “Grace.” She asked me to meet her on Friday, for lunch, before the court date. She told me that she had something I “had to see.”

When we were seating across from each other she pushed a book across the table at me. “You have to read this,” she said. The book was “Hinds’ Feet in High Places”. The book is an allegory, the story of a young woman making her way to the Lord. The part of the book that Mary Kay wanted me to read was at the end when the young woman is making her final climb to the Lord. The Lord hands her something and says, “Your name is no longer “Much Afraid”, your new name is “Grace and Glory.” Hallelujah! What a beautiful confirmation from the Lord for me. Your new name is Grace and Glory.

So now I am Grace Gloria Lukens. When I first started thinking about changing my name I had looked up the meaning of Jonathan, the closest thing to Jonnie. John, Jonathan, means “gift from God” or “God has been gracious”. Indeed. I realized that I had had the correct word for my name, just the wrong translation. The Lord knew my name. He still does.