Bad Date

That’s the last time I’m ever, ever going on a blind date, she vowed.  I would rather end up an old maid with a cat than suffer through another disastrous dinner with a dud. 

Olivia was livid as she walked out of the restaurant.  She hailed a cab and quickly got in, anxious to put as much distance between her and her date.  All the way home, she fumed, reliving every tortuous moment of the date.  To say that it was a bad date was a gross understatement.

First of all, he was late and when he showed up, he was dressed as if he were if he were still lounging around in his apartment.  No effort to look presentable.  He was immature, kept calling her Olive and was more interested in his tablet than in her company.  The conversation was strained because they had absolutely nothing in common.  The only good thing was the restaurant.  The food was good but she didn’t enjoy it because of him.  She ended up paying for her own meal.  And passed on dessert.

At one point, he got her so mad that she had to excuse herself and go to the washroom where she spent a few minutes, trying to calm down.  It was then that she decided that she had had enough.  She was going home.  He could stay if he wanted. She didn’t care.

When she went back to the table, she announced that she was leaving.  He seemed surprised, though she couldn’t understand why he should be.  He was the worst date she had ever had the misfortune of having.  She wouldn’t wish him on her worst enemy.  She asked for the bill and paid her half and then she bid him goodnight and left.  She didn’t shake hands or anything.  She just left.

No more blind dates.  She had her career to keep her busy for the moment.  Being single was not such a bad thing.  It was better than being stuck in a bad relationship or marriage.  For now, she would put looking for love on hold.

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Anchored

She stood on the pier watching the boats come and go.   She was once like an unmoored boat, drifting out into the currents of life because she had no anchor to hold her like the boats fastened to the dock.  It began when her parents were killed in a car accident and she had to live with her aunt and uncle.

Life with her aunt was terrible.  Her uncle was nice–he treated her with kindness but her aunt was a miserable woman.  She kept saying to her, “You are your father’s daughter.  You are just like him.  No good.  He was a good for nothing lout, a drunk and a cheat.  I don’t know why my sister ever married him.”

Day in a day out she said bad things about her Dad and her.  It got to the point where she stayed out late just to avoid going back to that house.  Her aunt thought that she was out drinking and partying with her friends and threatened to kick her out.  “I will not have that sort of behavior in my house,” she fumed.  It was no point telling her aunt that she hadn’t been doing any of those things.  The truth she had spent hours in the library until it closed and then she had gone to the pier to look at the boats and the flickering lights.  It was her favorite place.  She and her Dad used to go there.

She didn’t say anything in her defense but went on the laptop in the study and started searching for an apartment to rent.  Her uncle helped her to find a place and she gladly moved out.  She was relieved to be away from her aunt who was a Christian.  Her uncle wasn’t one.  If Christians were any thing like her aunt, she wanted nothing to do with them.

Of course things didn’t get any better after she moved out.  She struggled to get by.  She had to do a lot of things for herself–such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying bills, etc. Working part-time while studying was a great challenge.  Going out with friends during the week was out of the question now.  She went out with them on Saturday nights but she got tired of going to nightclubs and bars and meeting guys who had only one thing on their minds.

After she graduated, she got a job at a publishing company and life was improving.  She was no longer struggling.  She made new friends.  It was at a barbecue at one of these friends’ home where she met Jim.  Jim was a funny, handsome and easy-going guy.  They hit it off right away.  They spent most of the afternoon and evening together.  He drove her home and they arranged to go out for a bit to eat the following evening.  They started to see each other on a regular basis.

When Jim first told her that he was a Christian, she couldn’t believe it because he was the complete opposite of her aunt.  One evening he invited her to go to church with him on Saturday.  At first she was hesitant but then he persuaded her and she went.  The moment she set foot in the church, she was amazed at how warm and friendly the people were.  Jim’s parents were there too and he introduced her to them.  They invited both of them to have lunch with them after church.  She spent a very pleasant afternoon with the family.  Like her, Jim was an only child.   He and his parents were very close.  As he drove her home, he told her that they liked her very much.

Jim studied the Bible with her and she went to church with him very week.  Then one Saturday morning, she got baptized.  Her uncle went but her aunt didn’t.  When she heard that it was a Seventh-day Adventist church, she refused to go saying, “Adventists aren’t real Christians.  They are a cult.”

She smiled now as walked along the pier.  It was here where Jim proposed to her.  It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon.  They had just had dinner and had come here afterwards. As they walked slowly along the pier, he suddenly went in front of her and got down on one knee and popped the question. With a happy laugh and tears in her eyes she said, “Yes!”  He sprang to his feet and hugged her.  For the rest of the night she was walking on cloud nine.

She called her uncle and asked him to give her away.  As they drove to the church, he looked at her and said, “I wish your parents were here to see what a beautiful young woman you have become, especially your Dad.  He was a good man, Amanda.  He adored you.  And he was good to your mother.  It’s just that things got rough for him and he coped with it the only way he felt he could.  You are your father’s daughter and don’t let anyone make you ashamed of that.”

She smiled at him through the tears and squeezed his hand.  “Thanks, Uncle Bob.”  Yes, she wished her Dad were there that day to walk her down the aisle.

Now she stood there on the pier, anchored in her faith and in her marriage.  Yes, she was like one of the boats fastened securely to the dock.

woman on pier with sunglasses

Moving Out

She stood there, suitcases packed in the small flat she had called home for eight years. Memories flooded her mind as she stepped to the window and gazed across at the park.   They had been so happy when they moved in.  After dating each other for two years, they decided that they would take big step of moving in together.   Of course, her parents hadn’t been thrilled.  They were Christians and didn’t believe in unmarried people living together.   At the time she wasn’t into church that much and felt that if two people loved each other, there wasn’t anything wrong with them living together.  This flat was Mike’s and hers.  Besides, they had talked about the possibility of getting married one day.

She smiled as she remembered how they had to order take out because she had burnt the roast because she had forgotten to set the timer.  It was the smoke coming out of the oven that alerted her and she managed to turn off the oven and open the windows before the smoke alarm went off.  Mike had been a good sport about it.  Since then, she had improved greatly in the kitchen.

The smile faded and tears sprang to her eyes.  She was leaving Mike.  After ten years together, she was ending their relationship.  It was hard.  She had invested so much in this relationship but she couldn’t continue like this.  Whenever she brought up the subject of them getting married, he seemed reluctant to talk about it or hedged around it until she dropped it.   Then, one evening she asked him point blank as they were having dinner if he wanted to get married.  He told her that he wasn’t ready.  He said that he liked things the way they were at the moment.  Marriage was a big step and he just wasn’t ready to take it right now.  Besides, they hadn’t really seriously talked about it, right?  It was something that was possible one of these days, just not now.  They were still young and had plenty of time to think about tying the knot.

She didn’t mention marriage again after that but it weighed on her mind.  Living together was troubling her now and it became a conviction when she started going to church with her friend.  The first time she went was when Mike was away on business. Carla invited her one Saturday morning and she absolutely loved it.  The people were so warm and friendly and she felt at home.  She went to church every Saturday after that and one day, she could have sworn that the pastor was speaking directly to her.  That day she was convinced that it was wrong for her to be living with a man she wasn’t married to.  When Mike got back from his trip she shared her feelings with him and he got angry.

“I will not be forced into getting married just because you suddenly have an attack of conscience,” he declared before he stormed out of the apartment.  After that their relationship was strained.  Whenever he wanted to make love, she said she had a headache until he finally stopped trying.  They hardly spoke.  Most of the time she ate alone.  He was gone when she got up in the mornings and was in bed when he got in. The business trips became more frequent.   She was miserable.  She spoke to Carla about it and her friend encouraged her to pray about the situation.  She did and she was convinced that God wanted her to move out.  And here she was.  Suitcases packed and ready to say goodbye to the man she had loved for ten years.  Marriage was out of the question as far as he was concerned and she couldn’t settle for less.  So, this was it.  She had to leave.  She was taking only her clothes and trinkets and books.  Everything else she was going to leave.  Carla offered her the guest room until she found a place.

She turned away from the window and walked over to the mantelpiece where several photos of Mike and her stood.  She reached for the one of them standing in front of the Eiffel Tower.  They had spent two weeks in Paris.  She had believed that they would return there one day–perhaps for their honeymoon.   She was tempted to take the photo but shook her head and turned away.  She didn’t want any reminders of what they once had.  The memories would always be there.  She didn’t need any physical reminders or mementos.  She glanced at the letter she had propped up beside the photo.  She had written it last night.  In it she explained why she had to leave and that she loved him. She will always love him.  She also mentioned that she would leave her key in the rental office.

She walked over to where her suitcases were and she pulled them behind her.  She opened the door and put them outside in the passageway and then turned and locked the door.   As she went slowly down the hallway, she felt as if her heart would break.   She left the key at the rental office, not seeing the curious look the woman gave her as she walked away.

Before she climbed into the taxi, she turned and looked up at the window of the flat which overlooked the park one final time.

looking to the sky

Precious Lord

Today I learned who wrote the beautiful hymn, Precious Lord, the one we hear playing in the background when we see images of starving children in poverty stricken countries.  Here is the story of how this hymn was born: 

Back in 1932, I was a fairly new husband.

My wife, Nettie and I were living in a little apartment on Chicago’s south side. One hot August afternoon I had to go to St. Louis where I was to be the featured soloist at a large revival meeting. I didn’t want to go; Nettie was in the last month of pregnancy with our first child, but a lot of people were expecting me in St. Louis .  I kissed Nettie goodbye, clattered downstairs to our Model A and, in a fresh Lake Michigan breeze, chugged out of Chicago on Route 66.

However, outside the city, I discovered that in my anxiety at leaving, I had forgotten my music case. I wheeled around and headed back.

I found Nettie sleeping peacefully. I hesitated by her bed; something was strongly telling me to stay. But eager to get on my way, and not wanting to disturb Nettie, I shrugged off the feeling and quietly slipped out of the room with my music.

The next night, in the steaming St. Louis heat, the crowd called on me to sing again and again. When I finally sat down, a messenger boy ran up with a Western Union  telegram. I ripped open the envelope….Pasted on the yellow sheet were the words:YOUR WIFE JUST DIED.

People were happily singing and clapping around me, but I could hardly keep from crying out. I rushed to a phone and called home. All I could hear on the other end was “Nettie is dead. Nettie is dead.'”

When I got back, I learned that Nettie had given birth to a boy. I swung between grief and joy. Yet that same night, the baby died.

I buried Nettie and our little boy together, in the same casket. Then I fell apart.  For days I closeted myself.

I felt that God had done me an injustice. I didn’t want to serve Him anymore or write gospel songs I just wanted to go back to that jazz world I once knew so well. But then, as I hunched alone in that dark apartment those first sad days, I thought back to the afternoon I went to  St. Louis . Something kept telling me to stay with Nettie.  Was that something God? Oh, if I had paid more attention to Him that day, I would have stayed and been with Nettie when she died.

From that moment on I vowed to listen more closely to Him.  But still I was lost in grief. Everyone was kind to me, especially one friend. The following Saturday evening he took me up to Maloney’s Poro College , a neighborhood music school. It was quiet; the late evening sun crept through the curtained windows.

I sat down at the piano, and my hands began to browse over the keys. Something happened to me then. I felt at peace. I felt as though I could reach out and touch God. I found myself playing a melody. Once in my head they just seemed to fall into place:  ‘Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired,

I am weak, I am worn, through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.’

The Lord gave me these words and melody, He also healed my spirit. I learned that when we are in our deepest grief, when we feel farthest from God, this is when He is closest, and when we are most open to His restoring power.

And so I go on living for God willingly and joyfully, until that day comes when He will take me and gently lead me home.

—-Tommy Dorsey

This story is a reminder that during the times when we are hurting and we are angry with God, He is right there.  He never left!  He speaks to our hearts and there are times when we  ought to listen but we don’t.  We let the cares or distractions of the world occupy our thoughts.  God knows and sees everything.  When He speaks to your heart–listen.  If like, Tommy, God tells you to stay close to a loved one, do it.  You may never get another opportunity to be with that person.  And, whenever you are hurting and you feel alone, remember this promise, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Tommy was not alone–he had God and his and Nettie’s son–a reminder of the love they shared.

Stress

What is stress?  For some it is trying to prioritise the many projects they have undertaken and making decisions.  For others it is moving to another apartment; raising a family; going for a job interview; meeting their future in-laws.  Stress is knowing that the deadline for an article is fast approaching and you just can’t seem to find the time to sit down and write it.  Stress is having to wait another 15 minutes for a bus because the first driver did not stop even though he saw you dashing across the street, your arms flailing.

Then there is good stress like having a child; getting married or getting that promotion you always wanted.  These are stressful because they are big chances.  For each there are greater responsibilities and a lot of adjustments to make.

Stress can result from an overactive imagination.  Take Susan for example.  She invited her boyfriend for lunch for the first time.   She worried that she wouldn’t get home from church in time to prepare the meal.  She worried that he wouldn’t get a parking space.  She worried that he wouldn’t be able to eat chicken or turkey because she wasn’t sure if he was a vegetarian.  She worried that she would be so nervous that she would spill or break something.  Well, her boyfriend got a parking space as soon as he arrived.  Not only did he eat the chicken and the turkey but he had seconds.  Lunch went very well.  The only setback was that it was not long enough.  Susan had allowed herself to get stressed out because she imagined the worst.  Stress robs us of a peace of mind and rest.

Many of us have spent sleepless nights because of stress.  We lie awake worrying about that presentation we have to make to very important clients; a job interview or final exams.  A lot of times stress is self-induced.  We worry and fret unnecessarily and only succeed in giving ourselves high blood pressure. 

How do we cope with stress?  Taking time out is always a good idea and doing something else such as going for walks in the neighbourhood or in the park.  Around this time of year it is especially nice because of the changing colours of the leaves and the air is fresh.  Fresh air helps to clear the mind.  Exercise is another option.  Walk off the stress on the treadmill or pump it out of your system as you lift weights.  Read a book or flip through a magazine.  Pick up the phone and call a friend.  It helps to talk to someone.