Thursday, November 29, 2007

From out of Africa

This business of divorce is not all it's cracked up to be — not that I ever wanted one in the first place.

Sometimes I love the independence and the surety that if I leave the portable phone somewhere, it will be right where I left it when I want it next, but coming home to the silence of an empty apartment can be very difficult after 38 years of noisy co-habitation with a spouse and family members who made their way into the world, one by one.

Recently, I went through three very dark days when I hardly knew how to hang on. Life really didn't seem worth living without anyone to intimately care. My little Lola (dog) is a priceless companion, but sometimes a person needs more than wet kisses and a wagging tail.

On the third evening, I arrived home late. Emptiness filled my world. I was very sad. Taking an envelope out of my purse that I had picked up from the mail at noon, I saw that it was from Alice, the little Ugandan girl who I have been supporting for the last four years through Compassion Canada. It has been gratifying to see her progress from primitive drawings to increasingly tidy handwriting.

Alice's letter read, "Thank God that we are still alive here in Mbale. We are hoeing and preparing and planting crops of maize and brans. I have a memory verse I got from the Book of Proverbs 3:5,6. It says trust in the Lord with all your strength and never rely on what you think or you know."

Tears began to run down my face. There is no way that little girl could have known that Proverbs 3:5,6 has been my signature verse ever since I returned to the Lord in 1978. Over and over again, He has brought it to me in difficult times in remarkable ways.

What blew me away was God's timing. That letter was probably written about a month before I got it. It had to cross the ocean, go through Canada Post and be delivered to my mailbox. It had been in my purse since noon, waiting for the exact moment God knew I would need to see that He really cares.

The other thing that blew me away was the gift of caring that Alice gave. There she was, a little 12-year-old girl, living in a mud hut, sending me the very best thing she had to give – the love of God.

And so I wrote back, thanking Alice for her wonderful letter, telling her how beautifully God had used her to cheer me.

Yesterday, another letter arrived from Mbale. Alice wrote, "God will send victory to you from the sky like rain. I love you and God bless you."

I am blessed — very, very blessed — by design.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No Bull

When we were in the process of buying our last home, I stood with the realtor and my (then) husband on the back deck gazing out at the magnificence of the fields and woods all around us. It was a pastoral scene, utterly peaceful.

Until I looked down and saw one of the biggest, fattest, blackest, leggiest spiders I have ever seen. Jumping to the side, out of the corner of my eye I saw something else move. It was another gross spider. Looking a little closer at the deck, I was horrified to see that the two creatures had a big family.

Now, you have to understand how I feel about spiders. I was the child at the cottage who used to make my mother sweep out the entire outhouse and clean around the underside of the plywood-sided hole before I would tentatively enter, afraid that some creepy crawler would suddenly appear from under a two by four. Then, I would make her or my sister wait outside the door until I was finished, all the time calling, "Are you still there? Are you still there?"

I loved the house my husband and I were about to buy, but how could I possibly relax in a place infested with huge spiders? When I got home that day, I remembered the scripture about man being given dominion over all the animals and determined to put my position to the test.

I prayed, "Lord, you know I can't live in a place with all those enormous spiders. I just can't do it, so I'm taking you at your word that they have to come under my authority."

Then, I pictured that deck in my mind and spoke to the spiders. I can't remember whether I spoke out loud or just in my mind. I said, "Spiders at our new house, I command you to crawl away from the house, go out into the fields at the back and never return."

You're probably thinking, "She's not really going to say they left, chuckle chuckle." But that's exactly what I'm going to say! I never saw another of those spiders in the 26 years we lived in that house. Sure, there were spiders here and there—but never a ginormous fat black one.

I suppose it would have been possible to think that was just a fluke—until the day my neighbour's bull and twenty-seven cows broke some fences and wandered onto my front lawn. I had just planted some new little shrubs and made new flower gardens.

Now, you have to understand how I feel about bulls. I was the child at my uncle's farm who quaked in fright every day that I had to walk past a fenced field where a bull lived on my way to school. I would never, ever consider wearing red, knowing that that old bull would come snorting after me for sure!

So here we were—this humungous bull and his twenty-seven wives having lunch on my newly planted lawn—and me, home alone. I did everything I could to scare them away (without venturing further than my porch). I yelled at them, threatened what I was going to do if they didn't get out of there, banged pots, even took one of my son's drums out and beat on it as loudly as I could.

That old bull looked up, stared me straight in the eye, continued to chew his cud and telepathically thanked me for the dinner entertainment.

Now I was getting mad. Flowers weren't cheap and it hadn't been easy planting those shrubs.

Then I remembered the spiders. I stared back at the bull, pointed towards the broken down fences and said, "In the Name of Jesus, I command you to turn around and march right back over those fences you broke and go back to your own fields. And take the girls with you!"

You're probably thinking, "She's not really going to say they left, chuckle chuckle." But that's exactly what I'm going to say!

That big old bull looked up at me one last time. He looked at me for a couple of minutes without moving. I wondered what he was going to do. A fleeting thought crossed my mind. Was I wearing anything red?

But then, almost disdainfully, the bull turned away from me and began to amble off towards the broken fences. Kicking the white planks as he lifted his clumsy hoofs over the wreckage, he shook his head. The girls all turned from their lunch and began their retreat behind him.

Coincidence? Perhaps. Or was it by design?

It makes one wonder what is really available to us if we were to believe God and take Him at His word!

Monday, November 26, 2007

God is in the Car Business!

I bought a brand new car last week. It wasn't the car I had originally planned to buy. Here's what happened.

My little Honda has served me well, but I felt that the Lord was nudging me to trade. My speedometer was about to go into 200,000 km. neverland and the car would soon be another year older. I needed new tires and who knew what else was around the corner?

So I thought I'd trade up from my 2001 to a 2004 Honda I found with only 46,000 km on it. It seemed like the perfect solution. I didn't anticipate any problem with the financing since I would just be extending my Bank of Montreal car loan. I'd never missed a payment and had never been late. Sounds easy? Uh-uh.

Because I'd recently gotten divorced and my circumstances had changed, the bank wanted three years of company statements (which was a little difficult since I just registered byDesign Media last year). So, okay, they said, give us three months of bank statements showing the amount you've claimed to bring in. When I submitted those (showing more than I had claimed) they wanted invoices to prove my income. So okay, I produced the invoices. When I submitted those, they wanted something else.

I gave up. I said, "Lord, I'm pretty sure you wanted me to trade my car, but I'm giving up trying because this is too frustrating. If you've got a different plan for me, I'll just wait to see it." I've been around the block enough times that I know God might have a better idea.

Saturday morning, I had coffee with my friends, Nina and Lori. Lori said, "Why don't you examine your other options—like a new car. Hmmmm. Hadn't thought of that. Because I'm not quite back on my feet yet, I had thought that I'd have to get a used car.

So off we went to the Saturn dealership. They took my social insurance number, checked my credit rating and gave me the keys to a brand new white Saturn! (Well, not quite. That last line was a lie because I had to wait until Tuesday to pick the car up—but the drama was better the other way. :)

A brand new car with 0% financing and full warranty for five years! I would be paying only about $20.00 per month more than I was already paying for my old car that was out of warranty long ago!! Obviously, God didn't think I should have to pay interest! What a plan!

As though that wasn't enough, Saturn gives free weekly car washes for the life of the car and a picnic every year!!!!

In the process of doing the deal, the salesman asked what I do for a living.

"I'm a writer," I said.

"What do you write?"


"What kind of books?"

"Christian books. Are you a Christian?" I asked.

"No." He shook his head a little uncertainly.

"Well, what's your plan for after you die?" I asked.

"Um...I guess I really hadn't thought about that," he said.

"What?" I asked. "Do you mean that I have spent all this money for extra warranty just to make sure I don't have a problem with my car — and you don't even have a plan for eternity?" I smiled, shook my head, signed the paper and left.

When I returned on Tuesday to pick up my brand new car, I gave the salesman a copy of my first book, My Father's Child," in which the plan of salvation is clearly laid out. I inscribed it, "Thanks for all your help. I thought you might be up for a little fire insurance!"

What an awesome God.

By the way, the salesman's name is Luke. If you're looking for a great little car, go and see Luke at the Whitby Saturn dealership. He'll look after you real fine. Tell him Diane sent you - by design.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How to Get Your Dentist to Pay Your Bills

For about 30 years, I've been having interesting discussions with my agnostic dentist about the reality of God—sometimes particularly interesting when I'm trying to make a point with his drill in my mouth! He always does that to me - says something he knows I'll take exception to and then starts drilling away! We've had a lot of fun jousting back and forth over the years.

Every time I have a new book published, I take a copy in to him in hopes that something in my writing will ring a bell.

I recently had a Legacy Journal published called, To My Family...My Life. Along with sections for the recording of values, reflections and family history, there are scriptures at the bottom of each page.

I owed my publisher $1220.00 for copies I had purchased and needed to pay the bill before Christmas—just over a month away! In my present circumstances, that was a real challenge.

Last Tuesday, I sold a journal to a fellow in the morning for $20.00. Then I proceeded up to my dentist's office to get my teeth cleaned. When I gave him a copy of my new journal, he flipped though it and said, "This is fantastic. What a marvelous idea!"

"You know," I said, "this would make a fabulous Christmas gift for everyone on your list!"

He stared at me and said, "You're right! I'll take twenty."

"Twenty journals," I exclaimed! "You want twenty??"

"Yes," he said, whereupon I, without a thought, took his face in my hands and gave him a great big kiss (not something I usually do!)

He was so shocked that he said, "Give me sixty!"

"Sixty journals??? Are you serious?"

"Yes. Give me sixty." He smiled.

I wasn't sure that I had that many with me, but when I checked, I had exactly sixty journals in boxes in my car!

As soon as we took them inside, he happily began to pass them out to his patients. My agnostic dentist was passing out scripture and paid me for the pleasure of doing it!

On the way home, I started doing the math. Sixty journals times $20.00 each = $1200.00. $1200.00 plus the $20.00 in the morning = $1220.00. My publisher's bill was paid in full.

I think God had some fun with that one, too!