The Curtain Conversation

A couple of days ago, my renter moved out of my house.

Well, she sort of moved out. She left behind a couple of recliners inside the house, along with a lot of old laminate flooring and cardboard boxes. There is also a car (which doesn’t run) left in the garage. I’m not sure if she planning to come back for it at some later time, or if she is giving it to me.

Regardless of whether or not she is coming back for these last few items or if I’m going to be left to dispose of the old recliners and the car myself, this is a chapter that is swiftly coming to a close and a new one is about to begin with another renter.

During this time of transition, I’m having to busy myself with taking care of a few repairs on the house. There turned out to be much more repairing than I was aware of, and due to the fact that I live over two hours away makes it difficult to be sure things are getting taken care of in a timely manner.

It’s a stressful situation… and since I was a little girl, the way I normally deal with a rising stress level is to write. Therefore, for today’s stress relief, I’ve decided to write about one of my favorite stories from when I actually lived in that sweet little white house.

I’m going to write about a conversation I had with God.

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Perhaps you don’t believe that God actually converses with people.  After all, it doesn’t make much sense for the Creator of the Universe, the same One who thought up Saturn and the stately Sequoia tree and the enormous Blue Whale, to care about having a conversation with me. Who am I, among all things created, that God would care to hear my thoughts and respond in a personal way?

All I can say is that He does.

It’s not audible voice booming out of nowhere. (Though one time I did, in fact, think I actually heard God’s voice. You can read that story here.) Rather something more like an insistent whisper in the back of my head, a constant nudging urging me to pause and listen.

And when I do listen to that still, small voice, I know without a doubt I am not just having a conversation with myself.

I know because I would never ever say the things that God says to me!

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Summer 2010.

I’d been single for three years and lived in my “new home” for about a year.  While there were many things I loved about my life, I had an negative, unsettled sort of spirit deep down, as if I were just waiting for life to get better instead of enjoying life where I was at currently.

I didn’t like the fact that I lived in one town and worked in another. I felt pulled between the two communities. I struggled to keep good after-school care for my three children. As a former military spouse, I missed my friends who were scattered all over the nation (and world), and felt like my search for more local kindred spirits was hopeless. All in all, I just felt desperately unsettled in my life. And I couldn’t figure out how to shake it.

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So one Saturday morning, I complained to God about the unsettled feeling I have about living in my pretty new home. I lay in my bed, relating to the Lord about how I had expected my life to be different than it was, especially once I got situated into the beautiful house He had provided for me and my children. Much like a petulant child, I whined and moaned about my lot, and then demanded to know why God moved me only to let me go through such a lonely season.

The response I got was not what I hoped for or even expected. In fact, God did not seem sympathetic to my plight in the least.

 I do not think people who have yet to hang up curtains should complain about feeling unsettled in their new home.

I lay there, quietly for a moment. No doubt about it, this was the voice of God whispering in my head. After all, I would never tell myself that I had no right to complain!

Several more seconds went by as I pondered what God had clearly said. I wasn’t sure I knew exactly what He meant and so I decided to ask for clarification.

“I don’t understand, Lord. What do curtains have to do with me feeling unsettled?”

To my shock, there was a quick and definite reply.

“You’ve lived in your home well over a year now.  You haven’t hung up any curtains.  Generally, when people plan to stay somewhere, they hang up curtains. Are you planning to stay”

The comment and the question unnerved me. Again, it was not at all what I was expecting to hear.  I fumbled around for a moment before muttering,  “Well … I’m not planning to go anywhere else.”

 “That’s not what I asked. I asked if you were planning to stay.”

Now, I not only felt stunned by this back and forth conversation I was having with God, but I felt utterly rebuked. I decided perhaps it was best at this point just come clean with God.

“Okay, Lord … if you want to know how I really feel, then I will spell it out for you. You moved me to this beautiful house, but my job is 30 miles away. I can’t seem to get a more local job, no matter how hard I try. On top of that, after-school child care for the kids has been sporadic and undependable the entire time I have lived here … AND I don’t have a single real friend who lives close by.  I thought you wanted me to live here. I keep pushing on doors, but none of them open. And as a result, I don’t feel settled.  I might live here, but it does not really feel like home.  This morning I’ve come to You with all these problems that I want You to help me solve and instead You want to talk about the fact that I haven’t hung  up curtains. What does that have to do with anything anyway?”

“The truth is, Paige, that all of these details are insignificant to the fact that I asked you to come here and live.  So live here, Paige. Make yourself at home. In the meantime, go hang a few curtains.”

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For a long while that morning I stayed in bed, pondering curtains and why I hadn’t yet hung any.  I had some good excuses.  I silently listed each one to see if there was any real value to any of my reasons for the lack of curtains over the windows.

To begin with, I had never hung curtains before and I wasn’t really sure I knew how.  I mean,  I knew that it couldn’t be that hard, but there was this nagging worry in the back of my head that I might hang them wrong. What if I messed up and didn’t hang them straight?  People might come over to my house and laughed at my crooked curtains. How embarrassing!

Secondly, I didn’t even own a drill.  How could I hang up curtains without a drill?

And finally, curtains aren’t cheap. What if I bought curtains and then hated the way they looked once I got them hung over the windows? That would be a lot of money down the drain!  I certainly didn’t have a lot of money.

Over the course of time, it became easier for me to have bare windows than to risk failure on any of these levels. I suddenly felt ashamed of my curtain-less house, and my unwillingness to try something new out of fear of failure.

But the real break-through happened later that morning when I began to understand that my conversation with God wasn’t really about the lack of curtains over my windows. It was more about me actively choosing to live my life right where God has me today, instead of simply choosing to bide my time as I waited for my circumstances to change.

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As a Christian, I know two things:

(1) God has not promised us a life without problems and troubles.  Jesus told His followers, “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”  (John 16:33)

If I am waiting for my life to become perfect before I actually live, I will be waiting for a long, long time. In the meantime, life will pass me by, as none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

Which brings me to the second thing I know.

(2) This world is not my home.  My final destination is heaven.

But our citizenship is in heaven. ~Philippians 3:20

Further more, my days on earth are numbered, as the span of my life was determined long before I ever was born.

A man’s days are numbered. You know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set. ~Job 14:5

All my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. ~Psalm 139:16

 

While I long for heaven and the perfect life that is to come in eternity with my Saviour, I can’t just sit around waiting for God to take me home to live with Him in paradise. In fact, Jesus warned His followers about that very thing in the parable about the talents, which is found in Matthew 25.  When Christ comes back, He wants to find that we have been busy working for His kingdom, instead of just sitting around waiting His return.

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By the way,  that Saturday morning conversation five years ago did, in fact, end with me hanging a few curtains. Almost instantly I felt better about my home, more settled because in my heart I was determined to actually live where God had placed me, and not just stay still while I hoped for my circumstances to change.

And in the process, I learned an important lesson about intentionally living my life instead of waiting around for something better.

Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. ~Colossians 1:10

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J is for …

letterJ

 

J is for Jon.

My husband Jon and I met online in April 2009 … but I knew Jon before our first introduction ever happened. I knew him because God disclosed to me information about my future husband, giving me plenty of interesting details about the man I would one day marry. The only detail He never gave away was his name.

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Life as a divorced mom in rural Louisiana was hard. I felt out of place at church and community functions. At home, I just felt lonely. I deeply longed for companionship.  I had spent nearly two years working to heal and recover from my divorce. Even so, I wasn’t sure I was really ready to face the dating world again. Besides, I lived in rural Louisiana. The only available single men at my church were a few widowers, most of them old enough to be my father. The options seemed limited.

Then, at the beginning of 2009, my personal counselor asked me a question. “Paige, have you ever considered online dating? There are Christian websites. If you are willing to use a lot of discernment, it might be a way for you to discover if you are ready and interested in having a relationship again.”

Online dating? Wasn’t that for losers who couldn’t find dates in person?  And wouldn’t it feel rather impersonal, sort of like shopping online, only for a husband instead of a dress?   I had concerns online dating would work for me, and yet my curiosity had been piqued.  After nearly a month of toying with the idea, I finally decided to give it a try.

If I had any expectations for what might happen, those were soon dashed by a steady stream of men who told half-truths.

First I met Shawn. After an exchange of three short emails, he admitted he was a married man looking for an online affair. (Ewww!)

Next came Eric, who claimed to love children. Hardly a week of communication passed between us before I figured out he was nothing more than a deadbeat dad who had left his own six kids and kept up no regular communication with them. (No, thanks. My kids don’t need that kind of love in their life.)

Gary seemed interesting … until I found out he was unemployed and educated and healthy.  Gary wrote that he was “content to sit at home, waiting for his ship to come in,” which he believed would be soon. (Well, Gary, I guess this is not a good match after all. I am not looking for a dreamer. I need someone with a tad more motivation.)  

Then there was Steve, who talked of nothing but his involvement in a particular prison ministry.  Trying to get to know him more, I asked why prison ministry meant so much to him. His reply message said, “I first became involved during my own twelve-year incarceration. I’ve been out now about 6 months. Now that I’ve told you, will it make a difference?” (Um … yes. It does. Especially since you weren’t clear about the fact you were a convicted felon initially.)

Turned off, as well as confused, I was ready to give up. In fact, I did.  Writing in my prayer journal, I gave my desire for a godly marriage and a husband to God. I asked Him to pick for me.  And then I wrote,

“I trust you to choose, but I don’t trust me to see … so can you show me how to recognize that man who loves You better than he will ever love me?”

Truthfully,I don’t know what I was expecting to happen after that prayer, but I can tell you that what did happen was definitely not what I was expecting. Over the period of about a week, God began answer me, revealing qualities I should look for when I considered whether or not a man worth dating and eventually marrying.

Honestly, I don’t know why I get surprised when God answers my questions. He loves to do that sort of thing:

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

~Jeremiah 33:3

At any rate, I was surprised when God started to respond to my concern. Some things God told me to look for were relative no-brainers for any woman seeking to find a Christian husband.  He should be a Bible reading, church going, prayer warrior kind of guy. A generous giver.  Involved in a ministry, either through his church or some other Christian organization.

More specifically, God divulged He had picked a man who was more than two years older than me. He would also be tall, standing well over six feet, with dark hair and hazel green eyes.  My future husband would be musically inclined and have a voice that was pleasant to my ears.

Then came the last two details, so specific it both baffled and excited me a the same time. God told me the man I would one day marry would ask to pray with me regularly from the very beginning of our dating relationship. Last, but not least, he was going to be such a gentleman that he would ask permission before he kissed me the first time.

Before the end of the week, there were three pages were of details written in my journal. God shared over 35 different character traits, leaving me to feel as if I were searching for a needle in a haystack. And truthfully, I didn’t believe such a man possibly existed.

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My God-given list is originally dated for April 8, 2009.  Before a month had passed by, Jon introduced himself to me via the online dating community. Oddly enough, I had already decided to no longer continue my membership to that website, but still had another few weeks before my subscription would expire. I had quit going to the website with any regularity because of my previous experiences as well as my decision to let God introduce me to my future husband.  For that to happen, I figured God would have to move me to the moon before I would meet the man who possessed all the qualifications on my list. Still, when I saw the email notification, I took the time to log in on the website and read it.

It wasn’t love at first site … or first read. But I found the email to be chatty and somewhat witty, so I replied. He replied back to me. I replied again. Initially, we mostly talked about God and our relationship with Him. I could tell Jon was a man who knew God quite well, and I found that to be a trait I really liked.

One night, as I was replying to his latest email, he sent me an instant message. Talking in “real time” turned out to be just as fun. He was quick, intelligent, well-spoken (err … written, I should say). Soon, we were exchanging emails 3-4 times a week and chatting through instant message every few days as well.  When my membership to the online dating community ended, Jon and I decided to keep in touch via Facebook.

Spring turned into summer; summer turned into fall.  By mid-September, we were communicating on a near daily basis, though emails, instant messages, and phone conversations. Our friendship was definitely growing, but there were still no hints of romance kindling. We were just two people who loved to talk, mostly about God, but other things as well.

In fact, it wasn’t until my counselor again brought up the topic of dating, asking me if I thought Jon might soon ask me on a date,  that I even thought of the possibility of something more than a friendship. Suddenly, I felt unsure and awkward. Why did Jon talk to me so much?  Was this only a friendship, or was there something more?

I pulled out my journal and flipped back to those pages. As I read down the list, it was as if I could place check marks beside more than half of the qualities. Jon was 6’3″, with dark brown hair and hazel-green eyes. He played guitar, led worship at his small church, and participated in many church ministries. So far he was matching up pretty well to the standard God had given me, but I couldn’t really tell. After all, some of the items in my long list were things I didn’t yet know. So I did all I knew to do … pray and ask God to show me!

It wasn’t long afterward when Jon telephoned me. He seemed to be not his normal self, as if perhaps he had something on his mind.  Soon enough, it all came tumbling out.

“Paige,” he said, “I really enjoy spending time talking with you. I like our friendship a lot. But I wonder if perhaps there might be more than just a friendship. It’s a risk because there might not be. Going forward will probably mean we can never go backward if things don’t work out.  But, if you are willing, then I’d like for us to date each other and see … and before we do anything else,  the first thing we should do is pray together, because if we  put God in the middle, then we can trust He will lead us the right way.

I was stunned. In that moment I knew deep in my heart …  Jon was God’s man for me.

What I didn’t know was there would still quite a bit of journey left before I would become Mrs. Jon Hamilton … but before the I Do’s were said, nearly everything on the list of things God revealed to me came to pass.

J is for Jon … my husband, who God personally picked out for me.

Next up is the letter K, which stands for the kiss … the first kiss that never was and the second chance that made it right.