I took a course in Floral Design after my divorce. It was both an awkward and a wonderful time. It was wonderful because I was learning to do something that I loved to do. I had taken a little community course in Floral Design when I was married, but could never do anything with it because my husband figured we could not afford to buy supplies for me to make silk arrangements.
One time I got so frustrated about not having money for that, I decided that I was going to find a way, regardless, to make something pretty for our house. I saw a photo of a little rocking horse in the back of a housekeeping magazine. I copied from it to cut a cardboard shape, glued batting to to the cardboard, and cut up an old skirt with a small, pretty print to staple over the batting, made a saddle out of felt, and a mane and tail from wool. It was a cute decoration for my kitchen wall when I was finished, and I was very proud of myself for being resourceful.
I needed to do that kind of thing a lot more often, but resourcefulness was foreign to my thinking in those days. I tended to depend too much on other people. This, however, was the first trickle of ingenuity getting past my mindset of helplessness.
When I started my classes as Kwantlen College in Richmond, I felt annoyed, at first, at how the other ladies in class were fluently discussing flowers with the teacher. I thought they were showing off. I could identify roses, tulips, carnations, chrysanthemums, and violets, but that was about it. I recalled how panicked my husband and I had felt one time when we ordered a Christmas arrangement for friends in Alberta. The saleslady rattled off some suggestions and we had no idea what she was talking about. We knew what chrysanthemums and carnations were when she listed them, however, so we quickly agreed to sending those. The saleslady looked puzzled because she could see that we were feeling very uncomfortable. We felt out of our depth and out of control, afraid she would think we were stupid, if she knew how little we knew about flowers. I was jealous that the other ladies in my class knew a lot more about flowers than what I did. I soon learned all the names that they knew, however, and realized that it is just natural to speak that way about flowers, when one knows their names.
I loved being around lots of flowers every day during the week and handling them. It was fun to find out the tricks of the trade and realize that it isn't hard to arrange flowers good enough to satisfy most people, if a person has a bit of artistic talent. People with more artistic talent are likely to see design flaws in arrangements that have been put together with low–level skills, but it is interesting what can be done with wire and floral foam and floral picks, etc., and to learn how to make bows. The veil of mystery was being stripped away.
I didn't feel very competent when I was working on my projects. When trying to feather a carnation, the petals kept slipping around in my hands. Everybody else in the class was way ahead of me. I looked at my hands and thought, "God is going to make my hands skillful, because He told me to learn Floral Design. He wouldn't tell me to do something that I couldn't do." It encouraged me to think of how He had led me to find out that I should do Floral Design and then opened the doors to learn how.
At the beginning of the course, some of the ladies asked if we would go out to a restaurant at the end of the course. The teacher said, "No, some of the people taking this course are not in the position to pay for a restaurant meal." I was relieved at his reply. I was on Income Assistance and certainly could not afford to go to restaurants. It was all I could do to put gas in my old, beater Pinto stationwagon to drive to a mall in Delta, where a couple of ladies in my class picked me up to go to Richmond.
At first, all went well with the women I carpooled with, but we were joined by another woman who had come from the Kootenays to take the course. She was a Christian and I was delighted to visit with her, but when I told her that I wanted to get back together with my husband, that soured her on me. She sharply said I was living in a fantasy and needed to face reality.
Yes, I was, but it was too soon for me to face reality. I was in terrible, emotional pain and could not face that reality, yet. My fantasy was a cushion that I needed until I was ready to let go, and God did not want to rip it away from me, for that fantasy kept me from getting involved with other men, giving Him time to teach me some things that I needed to know before it was safe for that to happen. Otherwise, I was likely to get involved with the same type of guy as my husband and have my heart ripped to pieces again.
This lady took a dislike to me because I did not accept her advice. She had issues with one of her daughters, and I think that my resistance to her advice reminded her of that daughter, causing her to transfer her frustration with her over to me. I recall her telling one of the other women that this daughter could forget it, if she thought that she was going to pay for her to go to Bible school. I thought, "Man, if I had a daughter whom I was having trouble with, but she was willing to go to Bible school, I sure would pay for it. She would be bound to learn some good things there about how to be a better person."
This woman's dislike and disdain intensified when I inadvertently put her and the other ladies I carpooled with in an embarrassing situation. A couple of Chinese ladies in the class offered to take the rest of us out to eat dim sum. When the class discussed it afterwards, the Chinese ladies not being present, the other women and the teacher said, "Oh no, we can't let them pay for everything." I figured that the dim sum was off, and congratulated myself on having again escaped a situation where my lack of money would embarrass me. Much to my alarm, though, it was decided that we would all go out for dim sum.
I fretted about what to do. I had a little money, but I also owed money to my friend Sherlene's father for fixing my car. I felt that, in all good conscience, I could not squander money by joining the others because this man had bills to pay, too. I did not think of explaining my situation to anyone because I was very embarrassed about not being able to afford to go with them. If I did try to explain my situation, it might seem that I was hinting for a hand–out so that I could go.
Those women I carpooled with did not like me any more because the older Christian lady from the Kootenays did not like me and had gotten them stirred up against me. I could picture their disdain when, after having eaten a meal in a restaurant, I was unable to pay for my share of the bill. They would think that I was a free–loading creep. I paid my mechanic's bill and took my bag lunch to school that day, then slipped away to a nearby mall to eat it at lunch time, instead of going with the rest of the women to the restaurant.
Boy, did I ever get bawled out on the way home. All three of those women came down on me like a ton of bricks, demanding why I had not gone with them, and telling me how embarrassed they were when the others asked where I was, but they did not know. I told them that I didn't go because I didn't have the money to pay. The driver snapped that the Chinese ladies had paid for everyone. I said, "But you and the teacher said that you couldn't let them pay for everyone." They hotly denied that such a thing had ever been said.
Then the driver asked, "What would you have done, Lanny, if we hadn't given you rides?" I don't know what the purpose was of asking me that question, unless it was to make me feel like some type of social leper, and that I should be terribly beholden to them for putting up with me, but I replied, "God would have found another way for me to get there." They rolled their eyes. I humbly told them that I was very sorry for having made them angry because I really liked them. That defused their anger and they all shut up, but I can't honestly say that I liked any of them after this incident. It kind of helped, though, at the end of the course, when the driver lady read off a poem she had written about her classmates and she said something complimentary about me having a mild temper. I guess my answer convicted her about how she had joined in on ganging up on me. Seriously, during that course, those women acted like a bunch of high school girls in a clique.
To make matters worse, when I got back to the mall where I had parked my car, I discovered that I had left my lights on and the battery was dead. My nerves were raw from the tension of the day and the scolding I had received. I looked up at the leaden clouds in the sky above and asked, "Lord, what do I do now?" He told me to trust Him, though everything seemed to be going wrong. I thanked Him in the situation, plucked up my nerve, and began to ask other people in the parking lot if they had cables and could give me a boost.
One old gentleman had cables and he tried to give my battery a boost, but it wouldn't take. I sat in the back seat of my car, feeling totally discouraged, and began to cry. The old gentleman became sympathetic and asked why I did not call a friend to help me. I wailed that I didn't have a quarter to make a call. I said, "I have had such an awful day. You wouldn't believe it," as I tried to dash the tears from my eyes. He became very anxious and shoved a five dollar bill at me, asking if I wanted more. I shook my head and said that it was enough. The man then said that my problems couldn't be as bad as his wife's, as her father had just died. I needed to hear about someone who had worse troubles, and I admitted that what he said was true. It helped me to stop crying and he went away.
I was living with a wonderful Christian couple named Bud and Ruby Beasley. I got some change from the mall and called Bud to come pick me up. When I told Ruby what happened that day, she was furious with those women and called them a nasty name. I have never at any other time heard Ruby call anyone a bad name, so that goes to show how angry she was. I had not put a name to them myself, but I didn't contradict her because they really had acted like bags. It helped that someone could see my situation from my point of view and understand why I felt compelled to pay a bill, rather than to spend money at a restaurant.
I learned from that incident that I was very naive and somewhat socially inept. My tendency to be honest had compelled me to believe that the teacher and the other students had meant what they said about it not being proper to let the Chinese ladies pay the bill. Now I realized that they had just been making polite noises, so that they did not seem eager for a free meal, and hadn't meant a word of it, which is probably why those women couldn't remember what was said in class, and what they had said themselves in the car on the way home that day. I also realized that God had meant me to have more faith in Him; that I was supposed to go forward, like the children of Israel, and expect the waters of the Red Sea, as it were, to part. It had been important to join my classmates.
I discussed this situation with my friend Sherlene, who had more faith than I did. She said, "I've gone into restaurants to eat without having any money, because the Lord told me to." I was astonished and asked her to explain this to me. She said, "The Lord told me to go to a certain restaurant, and when I did, I saw someone I knew. I was supposed to talk to him, which I did, and I ordered a meal with him. He paid the bill." Okay, so sometimes God tells us to step out on a limb. Sherlene assured me that God would give me another chance to be faithful to Him in this. Um, okay. Well, no hurry.
Sherlene's Dad went to the mall and got my car going with his cables, which were of a very good quality. It was a relief that I did not have to buy a new battery. I asked the Lord why He had let me have such a terrible day. He replied to my heart, "You needed to know that you could go through a lot of stress without losing your mind." Yes, praise the Lord, I was not so afraid of having another nervous breakdown after that.
That Christian lady in my Floral Design class certainly did not act Christian, and it confused me alot. My experience up until then was that I had found that most of the Christians I knew were very kind and generous. I am not saying that any of them loaded me with money or things, but if they did little things for me, they never seemed to grudge it. I had gotten a ride into Richmond with this lady one day when she decided to go somewhere after class with another woman. She was not going back to the mall in Delta where I had left my car. This put me in a very awkward position. I needed to take a bus, but I had no money with me. When I set out that morning, I had no idea that I would need to take a bus.
Again I felt very embarrassed about my penurious situation and tentatively explained to her that I needed to take a bus to get back to my car. She snapped, "If you need money for bus fare, Lanny, just ask." Her tone implied that I was being deceitful and manipulative by not asking for money straight out. She was not at all gracious about letting me "save face". I learned from her bad example to have empathy for people's dignity when ministering charity to them.
My feelings for her went steadily downhill and one of her friends pointed out to me that this woman did not feel that she could do anything right when she was around me. I had taken to avoiding her (go figure), but I realized that she had a point. I had become very critical in my heart towards her, though I did not talk about her to anyone. It would not have done me any good, if I had. It would have just created more strife, and I certainly did not need any more stress in my life. I thought it was odd that this lady did not have any consciousness of her wrongs towards me, and was now feeling sorry for herself because she did not feel comfortable around me. It was weird that she was like that.
I didn't think that it was fair that I was being judged for what I was thinking, as I actually did not say or do anything negative towards her, but I needed to be made aware that I was making her feel uncomfortable by my thoughts when she came near me. I had to admit to myself that I had very negative thoughts about her. Somehow they must have been conveyed to my face, in spite of my efforts to maintain a neutral expression when she was around.
The rebuke from that other woman whom I carpooled with made me realize that I despised the Christian lady, and it snapped me out of despising her because the Bible says that he who despises their neighbour is not wise. I think that the Bible is saying that, if we despise someone, we will become like them, because we are focussed on their negative behaviour. Also, we could miss seeing their good qualities and benefiting from them, if we are focussed only on the negative.
I stopped despising that woman, but I was still very angry with her, and God used this to break me out of some unhealthy thought patterns. I always wanted to be a good Christian, so I tried to think and do what I believed was correct (not always with success), denying my true feelings. Finally, one night, I got honest with myself and with God. I had been trying so hard to forgive that lady, but getting nowhere with it. I said to the Lord in frustration, "God, I'm angry about what she did!" To my great surprise, I heard Him say in my spirit, "I'm not happy about it either." I melted. God cared about how I felt!
As a child, I had been taught that it did not matter how I felt. I was obliged to always be so grateful to my parents for the good things they did for me, that it would be considered a mark of gross ingratitude to be angry with them when they were not fair to me. Except for very rare occasions when they acknowledged being in the wrong, they were not in the wrong, even when they were wrong. I was a kid, so it was my duty to shut up and put up with their decisions. I figured that God, like my parents, expected me to always have nice feelings in negative situations, and since I did not, He must disapprove of me a lot of times. Yet, here He was sympathizing with me. I felt like He was hugging me, as I sat there and mulled over the fact that God, too, thought what that woman had done to me was wrong. That didn't mean that He didn't like her. He liked her because He knew all about her good qualities, and He loved her, but He disapproved of how she had behaved towards me.
That incident of God's word of empathy helped me to be more honest with God about my feelings, as well as more honest with myself about my feelings. It sure was good to find out that my feelings matter to Him, though He expects me to work my way through them and forgive others when they wrong me. If we don't recognize that we are angry and acknowledge it, we can't get started towards forgiving. Holding hidden resentments in our hearts can make our bodies, and our minds, sick.
I wrote that woman a letter, gently trying to explain how she had hurt me. I used the illustration of a flower that was struggling to grow through a crack in the sidewalk, but had been stepped on, or something like that. She wrote back a scathing letter about how I was wrapped in self–pity and was implying that I was a dainty, little flower, whereas she and her cronies were weeds. It was a bewildering response because it was not my intention at all to portray myself as better than they, and I certainly said nothing about weeds.
This lady's husband and both her parents had died recently, which had been very stressful for her, but she thought that she had worked through most of her feelings about these losses. She saw herself as quite the victor in her situation and said that God wanted her to write a book about her experiences some day, but I don't think she was handling her losses as well as she thought she was.
When she had been behaving friendly, she told me that before she married her husband, she liked the way he joked, but she got into the habit of clamping down on him because she came to think of his jocularity as silly. Then one day, as she watched him interacting with other people, she realized that they enjoyed his sense of humour, and remembered how she used to, as well. She decided to ease up on him and let him be himself. Shortly after this, he suddenly died and it was too late to make further amends.
She may have felt convicted about how she treated her husband, but that conviction did not extend in my direction. She was still trying to remake people the way she thought they should be and taking out her frustrations on them. I was a young woman who was in a lot of pain over having been rejected by her husband, and the last thing I needed was to have someone dumping their frustration with life on me.
I didn't even do anything to invite it, except that I wanted to get back together with my husband (contrary to her notions about what she thought I should do with my life), and then that business about going out for a meal. Possibly she resented how confident I seemed when I said that I believed God was going to reunite me with my husband. She could not be reunited with her husband, until she got to Heaven, so there may have been some jealousy there, but aside from that, I have noticed that insecure people seem to resent it when others have confidence.
I suppose I would not have been so angry with that woman, if I had been more aware of how much she was hurting from having lost her parents and her husband in a short time, but she seemed so confident that she was handling it really well that I did not doubt her assessment of her situation.
I never saw that lady again after that, but I wondered if this was a case of what a visiting preacher to my church had been talking about. He said that when the devil tries to keep you out of a situation by setting up a scarecrow, it tells you that the corn over there must be good. Was this a relationship that could have done me a lot of good, if I'd had the perseverance to hang out around this woman, instead of avoiding her? She could not have been happy with me, unless I had let her take control of my lips and my life. Another preacher said that the people who do us the most good are the ones who give us the hardest times, citing the case of a very contrary young girl whom she knew, as it had worked a lot of character in her to be patient with that girl.
I might be wrong, but I don't agree with those preachers' statements, where they apply to relationships. I think that, unless you hear a specific word from God to venture into a relationship that is like a minefield, or are forced to be around them, it shows masochistic tendencies to voluntarily try to be close to people like that. We need to set healthy boundaries, not only to preserve our mental and emotional health, but also to help others grow up. If we let them act like jerks, their immaturity will become more and more entrenched.
If we have attractive personalities and admirable character, the kind of people who others like to be around, those who have mistreated us will be more motivated to change, so that we will allow them to spend time with us. I know that my ex–husband drank because he wanted to, and that my shortcomings were just excuses he used to justify it, but I have often thought about what I would do much better, if I could go back into time, so that he would feel that he had a lot more to lose, if I told him he had to leave our home.
Perhaps he would have gone for counselling to the pastor I tried to get him to see, to help him get rid of his addiction. Bud McLean used to be an alcoholic, so I figured that he would be able to relate to my husband and get through to him. I asked him to spend time with my husband, to mentor him. He got together with him once, but Bud told me afterwards that he would not see him any further until my husband came to him, because it was useless to try to help an alcoholic give up drinking, unless they were willing to give up it up.
As for that woman preacher who considered her stubborn, ill–tempered young friend a blessing, when I told her that I have been much more blessed by people who were kind to me, than by people who were mean to me, she snapped that I took her too literally. She quickly got hold of herself and tightly shut her lips, but I figured that she still had a ways to go, if a simple remark that did not agree with her views got such a rise out of her. Maybe to hone her patience, she needed to spend more time with that girl who was such a trial to her.
For myself, I preferred people like my friend Pat Lamont, who used to tell me with a dazzling smile that she thought I was wonderful. It made me want to be as wonderful as Pat thought I was. Pat battled cancer and then later died of malaria on the mission field, leaving behind a lot of lovely memories of her warm and gentle heart.
Pat wasn't always like that. She was a nurse who lived a sinful life before she received Yehoshua as her Saviour, and she had also been a guard in a men's prison. She said that her language used to be so crude and her tongue so sharp that she could have stripped wallpaper with her words. I thought it was ironic that Pat had the same kind of temperament as my mother, yet I got along so well with her. That showed me that I didn't have problems getting along with cholerics; it was just a problem with my mother. What a relief it was to know this. Granted, Pat was a mature, Holy Ghost–filled Christian, and that makes a difference to any temperament. As for my mother, it is pretty normal for daughters to have issues with their mothers.
I got a bit of sound advice when I did volunteer work in a hospital emergency ward. One of the women from the Ladies' Auxillary told me that, if I did not have rapport with a patient, to just move on. I was not obliged to try to help people who couldn't stand me. The only ones I could help were those who liked me and were open to what I had to offer. This advice was invaluable when a crazy lady was brought in. She had to be strapped to a guerney. When I stroked her hair, trying to calm her, she glared at me and snarled that my teeth were dirty. I inwardly took umbrage at that, as they certainly were not, but hers were caked with scum. Then I remembered what Marie from the Ladies' Auxillary said and moved on, and I had pleasant times visiting with patients who were glad of my company.
I finished my Floral Design course and got a job working in a flower shop in Cloverdale during the Christmas season when the owner needed a bit of help. It was amazing the strength God gave me, after it being such a long time since I had worked for someone and needed to be on my feet for hours a day. After my first day of work, I shovelled snow off the sidewalk when I got home, feeling full of energy.
When Christmas was over, I got a job in a flower shop in Langley as a salesperson. My job didn't involve doing much in the way of floral design, but I was dubbed "Queen of the Basket Gardens" and that part of the work was left mostly up to me. Besides waiting on customers, I also swept floors, washed buckets, cleaned flowers, and watered plants. Though most of my tasks were rather mundane and the job didn't pay well, it was wonderful to be around beautiful flowers.
After working there for a week, God gave me a chance to take that test again about going to a restaurant with no money. It was the custom on an employee's birthday for everyone to meet for breakfast before going to work. Uh oh. I had only five cents in my wallet, but if I did not join the others for breakfast, they would think that I was not interested in fitting in and that was likely to generate some cold vibes, as well as get me dumped at review time.
It was scary driving to work that morning, wondering how I was going to pay for my meal. I thought, "Well, I can just ask for a pot of hot water and not eat." The Lord said to my heart, "No, you are going to order your favourite breakfast." Okay, so I was going to order Eggs Benedict. That would be about six dollars. I asked the Lord how I was going to pay for it. He said I would never guess. That shut down trying to think of how it would be paid for; anything I could think of would not be how it was going to be paid for. God knows what to say to get us to stop thinking about something.
I got to the restaurant ahead of the others and went to the washroom. As I washed my hands, I couldn't help myself from looking around to see if someone had accidentally dropped some money in the room. But no, God said I would never guess, so that ruled out lost money.
I went to the table and when it was time to order, I asked for Eggs Benedict and let myself enjoy my meal, chatting with the others. When the bill was presented, a girl named Margie confidently took charge of collecting the money and told me to cough up my share. I could think of only one thing to do, since no stranger had come by the table and said, "Here; the Lord told me to give this to you." I calmly turned to my boss, who was sitting on my right, and asked if I could borrow some money from the till to pay my part of the bill. Margie looked startled at the realization that I had ordered a meal without having any money to pay for it, and then Elaine, who was sitting on my left, said, "Oh, by the way, Lanny, you have a cheque in the till."
Yay! The Red Sea parted and I was able to repay the loan right away. Both Margie and I were surprised to learn that it was pay day. I thought I would have to wait at least another week before I got paid. God was right. I would never have guessed that I would pay the bill myself, but it was no less of a miracle to me, for all that. It saved me from disgrace. Margie had been ready to judge me, and maybe the rest of my co–workers would have, too, except that the solution was offered so fast that none of them had much time to think about it.
When I worked in the flower shop in Langley, my ex–husband asked me if he could take our children to Alberta with him when he helped his parents move back there to be near friends who lived on a reservation. For several years, his mother worked among the natives as a missionary, after having received a call to this work when she lived in Scotland. My mother–in–law was a godly woman, but she was part of the problems in our marriage, and I was glad that she was leaving the province. I figured that my ex–husband and I had a better chance of reconciling if she wasn't around.
I knew that his asking for my permission to take our kids on the trip was a mere formality. My ex–husband asked me several months before if he could take our kids with him on a trip to California with his girlfriend. They were going to leave on a weekend when I was supposed to have the children, and I didn't want him to go off somewhere with a girlfriend, so I said no, but he went anyway. I told myself, "Well, it would be nice for the kids to see where their grandparents are going to live, so that they can picture it in their minds when they get back." I said it was okay, though I really didn't want to miss my visit with them.
I was afraid that my children's father would not bring them back, but he allayed my fears by pretending that he intended to keep our son in the Christian school that he attended. I was so happy about that because his teacher seemed to have a good attitude towards Andrew and to know how to handle him.
A busybody had told me that my kids were a mess (implying it was my fault) and nobody could handle them, but when I talked to Andrew's teacher, he said that Andrew was no more difficult than any other kid, but, like most kids, needed someone to stay on top of him to keep him under control.
As for Heather, who was five–years–old when the complaint was made, she was not as bad as she had been painted. Though her teacher felt she was too aggressive, she said it was not much of a problem, but could become a problem if she wasn't dealt with while still quite young.
I knew the teacher was right because, before I talked to her, I stood outside the classroom and could hear Heather bossing the boys around. She was born with a feisty, extroverted personality; because I'm an introvert, she sometimes seems like she's from another planet. Or maybe it's me who is from another planet. Anyway, it is pretty strange for someone like her to come out of someone like me. Though some of our tastes are similar, Heather and I are total opposites, whereas my son and I are very similar in temperament.
Heather was now in a regular school, but Andrew had been put back in the Christian school because someone paid the tuition for him. I was very grateful. I wanted my children to have as much of a Christian upbringing as they could get, regardless of how their father and I had failed them as parents and to give them the heritage in the Lord that they should have had.
As days went by, fears about my ex–husband taking off with the children niggled at me, but I kept putting off the fatal phone call that would confirm those fears. It was just too scary to contemplate.
When I recovered from my nervous breakdown, which was after my husband was given custody of the children, I asked my lawyer to apply for a restriction that would ensure that my children would not be taken out of the province. She talked me out of it, saying that a judge would not prevent the children's father from leaving the province, if it made it easier for him to obtain employment. My lawyer left me defenseless against any notions that my children's father might have about taking off with them.
Sometimes when you go through Legal Aid to get a lawyer, you don't get one that is really helpful. This woman was insipid from the word go. Her feeble, pseudo–genteel handshake should have tipped me off that she had some antipathy towards me. I guess when she reviewed my case, she figured that because I'd had a nervous breakdown, I was permanently disabled and no longer fit to look after children, if I ever had been.
My lawyer was inclined to believe my husband's slanders more than she believed me and was acutely embarrassed, one time, for being so gullible. She asked me to account for an incident where my husband took my children and me to a park for one of my visits with them. She said, "His lawyer said that you sat in the dirt." I cried out, "Well, of course I did! My knee popped out of its socket and I couldn't walk any farther!"
My husband did not offer any assistance when I hurt my knee, nor did he look like he would, if he was asked. I hopped across the park on one foot over to the playground as far as I could go. The kids were excited about being there and I didn't want to disappoint them by leaving, nor did I want my visit with them to end so quickly. When my good leg got tired and gave out, it happened to be right where there was a bare area on the lawn. I collapsed on the dirt and stayed there because I was too tired to move. I had to hop all the way back to the van on my own, as well.
My husband wanted to give his lawyer the impression that I sat in the dirt because I was mentally ill, so he left out that detail about how my knee popped out of its socket when I was playing tag with our son. There was no other reason for him to tell his lawyer about our visit to the park.
I learned the hard way to not always take a lawyer's advice, having let that one dissuade me from putting a non–removal order from the province on my children. With this past experience in mind, some years later, I stood up to a lawyer's ridicule and went against his advice. Though he was referred through Legal Aid, he was a much better lawyer than the other one. He was actually rather aggressive. I am sure that he would have gone after my husband tooth and claw, if I had let him, starting with counter filing for a divorce. It would not have cost me a cent. I did not want a divorce, however, or to be what I thought was "mean", so I refused to give my permission.
That lawyer represented me again through Legal Aid when my children returned from Alberta, and custody of my daughter was turned over to me. Also, there needed to be some arrangements made about child support, but nothing ever came of that. The kids were too much for me to handle, so my daughter lived with me for only a year and two months before she went into care of Social Services.
My son wanted to get a driving license when he was sixteen, but my observations of his behavior gave me doubts about his sense of responsibility. After his father turned him over to Social Services, he stayed with me for a couple of months, and then I had to get him put into a group home. His father still had legal custody of him, though he was not very involved with him. I asked my lawyer to help me obtain full custody, so that his father could not sign for him to get a license.
My lawyer was a huge man, 6' 7", rather scary–looking. I'm only 5' 4". He belittled my qualms about my son's safety, and pointed out that my son was not living with me. In his opinion, there was not any point in trying to get custody. He talked to me like I was a defendant on a witness stand and ridiculed my intuition about my son getting a driver's license and his father's willingness to sign for it. It made me angry. I thought, "Look at what my kids went through because I listened to a lawyer, rather than my intuition. It's not going to happen this time!"
I went to a family legal counselling service at my local courthouse and got some good coaching from the adviser there, as well as instructions about the court process. I also asked the judge to explain things to me that I was not clear on, instead of being afraid that people would think I was dumb for not knowing. Oh, I've come a long way, baby!
The judge wanted to defer the court date because he didn't think that the matter was urgent. I protested that it was. How about that? Shrinking Violet actually contradicted a judge! Respectfully, of course. He asked me why, and I explained my reasons. Then and there, he issued an order that required both parents' signatures before my son could get a driver's license. It probably saved my son's life, and maybe some other lives besides.
Shortly before my children's father took our children out of the province, I moved to a boarding house. About three weeks after my move, my sister and her husband got the news that his father died. Judy thought of getting me to look after the kids while she and John went to Edmonton to look after funeral arrangements, but nobody in my family knew my new address. My youngest brother had helped me move, so he roughly described the location. Judy set out to see if she could find a house that matched his description.
It was Sunday morning and a friend was on her way to pick me up for church. I was usually ready on time and out the door as soon as my ride arrived, but this particular morning, I broke with my normal habit. I decided to go and stand out by the road ten minutes early. Judy was at her wit's end by now, despairing of finding the house, but ahead of her, she saw a woman standing at the edge of the road. She thought, "That looks like Lanny." My nose in a book, as usual, I noticed nothing until she stopped the car in front of me. She was so happy to have found me. I agreed to look after my nephews for a couple of weeks.
It was good to have some people other than myself to think about when I got the terrible news that my children were not coming back to BC. That afternoon, a co–worker and I prepared a trolley that we were going to roll out to the back of the mall where we worked. It was set up with materials that we needed for doing a messy task; dipping ferns in dormant oil to retard decay.
I was busy with work and quite unaware of impending disaster. My co–worker noted that it looked like it was going to rain, and she wondered what she ought to do about keeping her hair dry. I suggested that she tie a plastic bag to her head. She said, "But then I won't be able to breathe." I could see the headlines: WOMAN DIES OF STUPIDITY. I replied, "No, you don't put it over your face. You just tie it over your hair."
We had just finished getting everything ready when the Manager said that there was a long distance call for me. In a jolly mood with my whimsical reflections about those headlines, I answered the phone.
It was my ex–husband calling. He confirmed my fears, smugly telling me that he had married the woman whom he had hired to look after our children when he was at work, that he had moved his own household to Alberta when he moved his parents there, and he triumphantly announced that he and the kids weren't coming back.
I was in shock. After a brief and unsatisfactory conversation with him about when I would be able to see the children, I hung up the phone. I called my pastor and told him what had happened. It was Wednesday and we made an appointment for him to see me after the Bible study at church that night. Then he asked, "Are you going to go home to sleep?" I thought, "Why would I do that? I have a job to do." Wow. God sure had changed me. In the last year of my marriage, I slept a lot because I was so dismally depressed about my life. I had now been dealt a huge blow, but I was more able to deal with reality.
I was crying and couldn't deal with customers, but the dormant oil job was all ready to go. Instead of sending my co–worker to help me, my boss let me go out behind the mall alone. It was raining by now, but I didn't care. My tears mingled with the rain as I dipped the ferns into the bucket of oil. I exercised my faith to thank God in the circumstances, just as the Bible instructs us to in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in the Anointed Lord Yehoshua concerning you."
I wasn't thanking God for the circumstances, but in them. He is still a good God, though bad stuff sometimes happens to innocent children and people who have put their trust in Him. I actually found it easy to say those words, which was a relief. In less difficult circumstances, I sometimes had to grind out those words through clenched teeth, but when I needed a lot of grace, God gave it to me.
I now knew what my mother–in–law meant by her last words to me. I had been saying good–bye to her after visiting my kids at her place. She looked at me solemnly and said, "Stay good, Lanny." She knew she was going to do something that would hurt me deeply, but she didn't want me to become bitter and lose my soul over it. It is odd though, that she went along with her son's plans when she considered me to be a good person.
When I got back to my sister's place, I looked through her closet to borrow a red dress; it was another act of faith. My pastor had been preaching on James 1:2 & 3, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience." My pastor paraphrased it as, "When you experience trials, throw a party!" I couldn't stop crying, but I could, at least, put on a red dress. It was a cheerful colour, though it took water stains and got speckled with tears.
After the meeting, I talked to my pastor and his wife, telling them how I had wanted my husband and I to work out our problems, but he married another woman and took off with our children. The pastor's wife shook her head sympathetically and said, "That is the saddest story that I have ever heard." I thought so, too, at the time, but other people have gone through far worse.
When my ex–husband left the province with our children, it was timely that I had just finished a Praise and Worship course at my church. The teacher used Terry Law's book Praise and Worship as our text, and I was still reading it. When my ex–husband dropped his bomb on me, I had gotten to the part in the book where Terry Law of Living Sound spoke of having experienced a terrible loss in his life.
I felt a foreboding that he was talking about his wife Jan, who prayed for me at the altar when I made my public declaration of faith in Yehoshua. This was confirmed as I read on; Jan was killed in a car accident. My attention was thoroughly engaged as Terry described how devastated he was, and how Oral Roberts counselled him that he needed to thank and praise God in the midst of this tragedy or it would destroy him. My association with Terry's ministry and his wife fastened my heart more tightly to his advice. It was what I needed to do in the midst of this fiery furnace.
I started to write poetry when I had a nervous breakdown after my separation from my husband. The gift grew and I always felt thrilled when God gave me poems in the midst of fiery trials. I endeavoured to write an epic to commemorate His comfort to me in the midst of this trial. I was crying a lot that first week, but I was also listening to what God was saying to my heart. While attempting to write the epic, a couple of simple verses came to my mind. I scribbled them on a scrap of paper and set it aside, intent on doing a much more impressive literary work. But it wouldn't fly, so I gave up on it.
One day as I lay on the couch blubbing, I thought to myself, "The Bible says 'Thanks be to God who always leads us to triumph.' I am going through tragedy, but God will ultimately lead me to triumph!" Then in my heart, I heard God speak to me sternly about my nephews. He said, "Get off that couch and quit crying! Think about those little boys! They've just lost their grandfather!"
I was surprised by this thought. The kids were playing out in the yard after school with their friends and looked like they were having a good time. All week, they just played, played, played and never moped, not even about their parents being away. I had figured that their grandfather's death hadn't affected them much because they had hardly known him, but now it occurred to me that maybe that was making it harder to take, even if they didn't show it. Now they would never have the chance to get to know their grandfather better.
I got up off the couch and made the boys some deep–fried cookies that my mother used to make when my siblings and I were kids. We had loved them, and my youngest nephew enjoyed them so much that he talked about them for years to his family, saying that he wished Auntie Lanny would make them again.
If I hadn't had other people to think of besides myself, I probably would have drowned in my tears. It was timely that my sisters' children needed me. At that time, my youngest sister's child lived with John and Judy. Lorrie had been married to John's brother, so I was looking after two boys who were twelve, and Judy's youngest, Ryan, was seven, the same age as my son.
I sure was under attack in those days. The year before, I lived with my father's girlfriend, whom he later married. She told me that when I moved in with her, my father was so mad about it that he didn't sleep for two nights. I was astonished and asked her why he was angry. One would think that a man would be happy that his girlfriend and his daughter got along so well and that his girlfriend was helping out his daughter. My Dad wasn't very mature, though. He was very self–centred and wanted all of Betty's attention for himself. He thought there was only so much love to go around, and that if she gave any love to me, it would diminish how much love she could give him. I was boggled that my own father was so grudging towards me, never mind that I was his child AND going through a really hard time and needed Betty's kindly friendship.
Betty was a great blessing to me even before I moved in with her. After I recovered from my nervous breakdown, my ex–husband insisted to the courts that I have only supervised access. They imposed it on me for a time. It was a such a hassle to find someone who could be with me for the weekends when I had the kids. My family was angry about it because they thought my ex–husband was acting like a jerk. They got me to babysit their kids sometimes when they needed a sitter. They had no patience with that restriction, but that didn't help me. They were too busy to let me spend the weekends with them. I had to round up whoever I could find from church to help me out. It was such a struggle to arrange those visits.
Finally, I cried out to the Lord and said that I couldn't handle it; it was just so hard to find people who had the free time to help me out. He replied, "Well, Lanny, if this burden is heavy, then it is not a burden that I have given you, because my yoke is easy and my burden is light." I said, "Okay, God. I give this to you." And then I felt quite relaxed. When I asked Betty to be with the kids and me that weekend, she sternly replied, "Yes, and I think from now on when you have the kids, you better bring them over to my place, because this isn't good for them to be bounced around from one place to another every time you have them. And I will give you a key so that you can come to my place whenever you feel like it, even when I'm not home." Wow! Hallelujah!
Everything was so much more settled after that. It was nice to relax with just my kids and Betty, instead of always being on the go, doing stuff with other people and their kids, and to know each time I had my children where we would be. The kids got to know Betty and one day, as five–year–old Heather kneeled on her chair at the dining table, she asked, "Betty, do you know how much I love you?" Betty chuckled and said, "No, Heather. How much do you love me?" Heather squinted, giving the matter a moment of consideration and then pointed at the living room wall as she said, "From here to that wall." Betty and I laughed, and I told her later, with some smugness, "But Heather says she loves me to infinity!" Betty laughed and said that was as it should be.
My husband and mother–in–law and I used to teasingly call Heather, "Heather the Bletherer" because she was so full of fanciful stories when she was a little girl. She was at it again one day when we were having dinner with Betty. Andrew wasn't buying what she was saying and he said forcefully, "Oh, bull tweet!" Then he screwed up his face in puzzlement and asked Betty and I, "What does bull tweet mean?" We chuckled, but didn't reply. Those kids sure were cute.
After a few months, the supervision was lifted off, and it was just the kids and me having peaceful times at Betty's place. Well, they were peaceful as long as their Dad didn't make an issue of anything. He was eager to find fault with me. Every now and then, his scorn and animosity would blast out at me like fire from a dragon's mouth, creating a kafuffle and all sorts of talk among his mother's acquaintance. Thankfully, God had led me to a church in New Westminster, some distance from the one that he and his mother attended, so I didn't run into those people very often and have to endure their questioning looks.
I felt sad one day, though, when I saw a woman whom we had spent Christmas with one year. She seemed ashamed to look me in the face. I thought, "Oh, I get it. She has listened to them run me down, and she feels ashamed that she found it fascinating to listen to." I think she had some doubts about what she had been told, especially since I didn't offer to enlighten her about the situation. It was one thing to tell my friends about my side of the story because I needed emotional support, but I didn't want to alienate my mother–in–law's friends from her.
One of the things that my ex–husband made a huge deal about was when I took my son to a cemetary. I didn't set out to take him to a cemetary. My car ran out of gas beside it. We were within walking distance of where his father lived, but I did not want to take Andrew home before my short time with him was up. The cemetary was right there. It had nice landscaping and looked so peaceful on that bright, sunny day. I am not superstitious about ghosts and stuff like that, so I thought it would be nice to walk there for a while. Besides which, my interest in history made me take an interest in reading the headstones, figuring out how old the people where when they had died, and wondering about their lives.
Andrew did not seem at all afraid to walk on the grounds. He was seven–years–old at that time. We enjoyed the sunshine and I remarked to him about some of the headstones that had a testimony of faith in the Lord Jesus on them. I said, "Oh, that person was a Christian. They're in Heaven with the Lord." I didn't say anything about anyone being in Hell, but Andrew made the connection that, if these people were in Heaven, all the rest were in Hell. He told his Dad later that I took him to a cemetary and told him which people were in Heaven and which were in Hell. His father got a lot of mileage out that. He wasn't interested in hearing my explanation and brought it up to his lawyer, but eventually the furor died down.
Here is a tip for people who are battling for custody of their kids: don't do anything, even if it is innocent, that the other parent can easily twist into something that sounds bizarre, unless you have adult witnesses, who are of impeccable reputation, to vouch for you.
The other major thing was sex education. Andrew asked me how babies were born. Heather told him where they come out of. He screwed up his face and said to me, "Really?" I asked Heather, "Who told you?" She said her babysitter's daughters had told her. I figured, "Well, that's what happens when little girls hang out around older girls." I nodded at Andrew and said, "Yes, you remember how the giraffe was born and how the seal was born that you saw on TV, don't you?" He looked amazed and said, "That wasn't real, was it?" I laughed that he was so cynical already about what is on TV, and that he thought someone could possibly dream something like that up, if it wasn't true.
Andrew seemed ready to accept how babies were born, but then both he and Heather wanted to know how they got there. I didn't care about that question until I was twelve–years–old, and when my mother replied that a man and lady slept together, that was all she needed to tell me. I filled in the rest, reasoning in a way that I thought was very logical, "Oh, I get it. When the man and lady are asleep, God does something mysterious and the next thing you know, the lady is expecting." My kids were not easily fobbed off with a simple reply that did not explicitly explain what they wanted to know. I told them to ask their father. There was no way that I was going to give him a chance to attack me about telling the kids about sex.
Later when I talked to their Dad, laughing as I told him about our conversation, I said that he needed to tell the kids about sex. He brushed it off as unimportant and said, "Oh, you can tell them yourself." Having been taught in church that there is safety in being submissive to my husband, I figured that I was covered from attack because I had his permission to tell my children about sex. I told them frankly, in clinical terms, how it occurs, but I also told them the spiritual side about how God said this is good between a husband and his wife. I wanted my kids to know that sex within marriage is not dirty, but something to look forward to, when the time is right. I reasoned that it was better for the kids to learn the facts of life from me, rather than to get a distorted picture of sex from their sniggering, little friends.
What I had not reckoned on was that, going to a Christian school, their classmates' parents were not so frank and open with their kids. That is not to say that all Christians are reticent to talk about sex with their children, but there is likely to be some who have hang–ups about it because of skewed interpretations of Scripture. Andrew told one of his friends what I had told him and the kid told his parents, who had not been ready to speak to their child about that subject, I guess. They complained to the school and to my ex–husband about what Andrew had told their child. My ex–husband was embarrassed and very quick to blame me for having told our son, though he had given me permission to explain the birds and bees to him. Things were added that I had not said, but there was no convincing the kids' father that I had not said those things. When I discussed it with Heather years later, she said she remembered me telling her and Andrew about sex, but she could not remember me saying the stupid things that I was accused of saying.
For a while, I wondered if I had said those things, and I talked it over with Pat Lamont, who was a psychiatric nurse. I told her, "I don't even think those words that he said I used. I wanted to teach my kids that sex isn't dirty. Why would I use words like that? Wouldn't it defeat the purpose of why I told them about it?" She warned me that my husband had a forceful personality and, if I was not careful, I could let him convince me that I was guilty of what he accused me of.
The situation was further complicated when a little girl who visited my ex–husband's home walked into my son's room, undressed, and urged him to have sex with her. My ex–husband and his girlfriend thought that Andrew had initiated it, and I was blamed for having talked to him about sex. After I got my kids back, I learned from Heather that this little girl's mother tended to leave her bedroom door open when she was with her boyfriend, which is how the little girl learned about sex, and she wanted to try it out with my son.
My ex–husband spoke to me on the phone about this matter and said that the little girl's mother was threatening to call the police about what had happened, implying that the police were going to want to talk to me about what I had said to the kids about sex. I said, "Well, go ahead and call them. I don't mind talking to the police about that." I really wasn't afraid to speak to them because what I had told my children was nothing more than what they would have heard about sex education in a secular school, except for the bit about the Garden of Eden when God made the first man and woman, and other spiritual aspects. My ex–husband backed down right away and said nothing further to me about it, after I said that I didn't mind talking to the police. I suppose that the child's mother really didn't want to talk to the police, in case they found out about her habit of leaving her bedroom door open when she was in bed with her boyfriend.
So, here is another piece of advice. If you are divorced or at odds with your spouse, don't tell your kids about sex unless both you and the other parent are in the room. That way, the other parent has to bear some of the responsibility for what the kids know. If the other parent won't cooperate, then make sure that there is another adult present who has an impeccable reputation and can attest that you did not say anything inappropriate. The children's sex education is a very volatile issue when a marriage relationship has fallen apart.
A week after that situation blew up, as I passed through an elementary school yard, I saw a lewd picture drawn on a wall with filthy words written beneath it. I thought, "No, I am not sorry that I told my kids about sex, because I told it in a way that presented it as good, not dirty. They would have soon learned about it anyway, but with a lot more detail. At least, I got in on the ground floor with my good messages about it."
My personal preference is to not tell kids about sex until just before their teens. I like for kids to stay innocent for as long as possible and be concerned only about playing with toys and doing chores and learning regular school subjects. My innocence when I was a child was bliss to me, for the most part. It was scary only when adults talked inappropriately to me, such as when my mother told me that, if any of her daughters got into "trouble", meaning pregnant, she would take a gun and shoot them. I believed she was serious and didn't know how to prevent myself from being killed. Other than that, if I had not seen things on TV that I don't think should have been permitted, my childhood would have been happier for not thinking about such adult concerns, but I recognized that my children were being exposed to much more than what I was when I was a child, and they needed to know about sex sooner than I did.
When my ex–husband took off to Alberta with my children, I lived in a boarding house. It was a lovely place with a grand piano and a pool. My landlady was a charismatic Catholic and very spiritually gifted in a healing ministry, although she did say that sometimes she felt like she was on the verge of losing her mind.
I questioned her as to why she had statues of Mary in her home. She smiled and said, "I feel that these statues are like having family photos in my home." I restrained myself from pointing out that her religious paintings and statues were only artists' conceptions of what they thought Mary and Yehoshua looked like.
I did not see a picture of my father until I was 13, but my mother told me before then that someone thought he resembled Gregory Peck. Would it have made sense to place a photo of Gregory Peck in my room and tell people it was a "family" photo? Or to say, "That's a picture of my Dad; I believe that maybe he looks like that." When I met my father, if he ever resembled Gregory Peck, he most certainly did not anymore, nor do I think that he ever resembled him enough that anyone, except for someone who was silly, would mistake him for that movie star. When I was a little girl, I looked like Gregory Peck, though. Ha ha!
Actually I mean, if I was standing near him, people probably would have mistaken me for being his daughter. I had dark hair, dark eyes that looked like his, a similar jaw, and I was skinny. My Mom and her friends said they thought I looked like Jackie Kennedy, and when I was in my thirties and forties, a lot of people thought I looked like Nana Mouskouri, even when I wore my hair in a bun. They said that to me so many times that I told my boss she should get one of Nana's tapes and I would lip–sync it for the customers. I figured it would be a big draw for the restaurant, if people thought that she had Nana Mouskouri working for her ;)
I asked the Lord about this business of someone who seemed to be a genuine Christian having these idols in her home and how she still kept Mary on a pedestal in her heart. He gave me a dream where I saw lots of beautiful, lush, green plants scattered through the house, but all of them had white patches of blight on them. Then the Lord explained to me that my landlady had a genuine faith in Yehoshua, but this holdover of Catholic idolatry was a blight on her faith, and if she did not repent and cast down her idols, they would eventually engulf her faith and make it shipwreck. I think that this can hold true of any kind of idol that Christians from any kind of background refuse to cast down.
The other tenants were all young people, and quite irresponsible. Except for one other tenant, none of the rest were good about paying the rent. When my landlady interviewed me prior to renting from her, I warned her that I would have to pay my monthly rent from two paycheques because I was getting only part–time hours. She said nothing to me at the time. Later she denied having heard me say that.
Shortly after I moved in, an interesting thing happened. I had a dream one morning that I was with my friends and we were having tea and little cakes. Then I became aware of the sun shining warmly on my face through the window, opened my eyes, looked at my watch, and leaped out of bed in a panic. I had overslept and had only fifteen minutes to get to the bus stop to catch the bus that would take me to Langley, so that I could be on time for work. I made it in time.
Later after work, I went to my brother's place, where I had been staying before I found my new place, and asked him to bring my stuff over to my new place. He said that he was too busy. I had to wait another week. That was frustrating, but what could I say?
I hunted down my sister–in–law to see what she was up to. Sherry was in the bathroom, putting on make–up. She said that John had wanted to go to Chilliwack to spend the evening with friends, she had said no, but since I was here, she might as well go because I could look after the kids. I was amused that she did not ask, just assumed, but she was right. I did not mind doing that for her.
John and the kids and I all assembled in the kitchen. John and Sherry had three kids, but Judy's kids were over, as well. Johnny's kids asked their Dad what time they had to be in bed. I opened my mouth and was about to say, "Nine o'clock,", but Johnny beat me to it and said, "You don't have to go to bed. You can stay up all night, if you want to. Shane will be in charge, but if any of you give him trouble, he will talk to Auntie Lanny." I thought, "Oh, thanks a lot, Johnny! Now I have to stay up all night!"
The kids had a grand, old time, running around the yard and through the house like a bunch of hooligans non–stop for several hours. This was a normal thing in Johnny's house; he is very phlegmatic, and I am rather phlegmatic, too, though not as much as he is. Once when his kids were having a great time tearing up the place, I sat beside my brother in the den and watched him as he sat in a chair daydreaming, holding a cigarette. I thought that the kids needed to be settled down, but it wasn't my place to say so. My brother–in–law Larry stood next to Johnny, looking down at him in amazement because Johnny was so completely oblivious to the running and shrieking as little bodies flew by us, up and down the stairs and back and forth through the room. Larry shook his head and said, "Johnny, I don't know how you do it."
Here I was again, in the middle of this maelstrom, but it reached its end. Around nine, when the sun was going down, the kids swarmed into the kitchen and Trina asked if she could make the cakes she got in a bakery set that someone had given her as a gift. I said I thought she should wait until her mother was around to do that. She said,"My Mom said that if I was going to do it, I had to do it myself, and she lets me use the stove." I shrugged and said okay then, if it was all right with her mother. It sounded like something Sherry would say. The rest of us went into the den to watch a movie.
After a while, Trina came in with a tiny teacup that she gave me, with a teabag and water in it, a jar of hot water to top it up, and a slice of one of her little cakes on a tiny saucer. I thanked her and took it, then looked at the big line of kids stretched behind me on the couch, all standing there watching the movie. It suddenly came back to me that I had dreamed this before I woke up that day, but the rush to get to work had wiped it out of my mind. I looked at what I held in my hands and then at the kids again. I thought, "I am with my friends, and I am having tea and little cakes!"
It suddenly hit me that my niece and nephews were my friends. I had just thought of them as relatives, but these kids liked me. They were so sweet and affectionate. Whenever I went to my brother's place, Trevor, his youngest, would leap onto me like a little monkey to be hugged and carried. They always made me feel so welcome. They were not just my kin; they were my friends. And I knew that I was supposed to be there that night, that it was all right that my brother had not helped me move my stuff; this was God's plan for the evening.
As it turned out, the children did not stay up all night. At midnight, I told them to turn out all the lights in the house because I was going to tell them some scary stories. I figured that when the lights were out, limiting their sensory input, they would calm down. They rushed around in excitement, hurrying each other along because Auntie Lanny was going to tell them some scary stories! Then with Trevor on my lap and the rest assembled all around me on the couch, I started off, "Once upon a time, there were three, little pigs …" This started off protests of, "Aw! That's not a scary story!" I said urgently, "Yes, it is! There are these three, little pigs, and a big, bad wolf wants to eat them!" They listened to my story and then I invited them to tell their versions.
Their stories got pretty wild. Ryan's three little pigs dropped out of a helicopter in Thailand, holding machine guns, and killed Trina and me off within the first two minutes. I protested and said, "No! We were only wounded. We were taken to Bangkok to the best hospital, and put in the best room after we were operated on, and people brought us flowers and chocolates …" I totally took over the story, going into a long list of presents that people brought us, because the boys' versions were too violent. Within a short time, with all of the lights off, the kids fell asleep. Ha ha! I was then able to get some sleep.
I had lived in my new place for about a month when I had to go to John and Judy's place to look after the kids. I had paid $200.00 a few weeks in advance for the following month's rent, and still had to pay $100.00 that was due on the first of the month. When the first of the month came around, I was looking after the kids and assumed that there would not be any problem paying the balance when I got home the following week. I found out differently when I called my landlady to get my recipe book out of the cupboard and read my deep–fried cookie recipe to me.
She read the recipe and I wrote it down, but as soon as she finished, she started hollering at me that she had never been so put upon in her life as to be asked to do that by a tenant. Huh? I thought we were friends. We were sisters in the Lord. What was the big deal about getting a book and reading out a recipe? She then started ranting about the rent. That was what it was really all about.
She was under a lot of stress because, except for the $200.00 I had given her and the rent from the tenant who had a trust fund, none of the other tenants had given her any money. They didn't have any and they expected her to look after them. She carried on in a really ugly way, taking her anger with them out on me, saying nasty, nasty stuff. It was the last thing I needed when I was already reeling from a huge blow. She didn't know that my ex–husband had taken off with my kids, but she did know that there had been a death in my family and I was helping out with baby–sitting. I explained to her that I had the money, but I was looking after my nephews and didn't want to leave the kids alone to go back home, but since she was so upset, I would be over the next day to pay the rest of the rent.
When I hung up the phone, I thought to myself, "I don't have to put up with people treating me like that. I better give my notice." I wished that I didn't have to spend another day in that place, but she was legally entitled to a month's notice. She was going to lose one of her tenants that actually paid their rent, but that was her problem. It was a victory for me to make such a sensible decision like that, instead of just taking the abuse, and letting her guilt me into thinking that I had been trying to take advantage of her, and that I deserved to be yelled at.
After arranging for the kids to play at a neighbour's house after school until I got back, I went over there the following day, thinking that this situation was just so bizarre. This spiritually–gifted woman, whom I had looked up to, was behaving in a very immature way, regardless that she was so stressed out over those other tenants. The devil was definitely messing around in this.
I sat down in the living room to talk to her. She sat there and cut me down, sneering and telling me that she was my superior in every way. She actually said those words and with that emphasis. She said that she was not impressed with how I had said, "Peace to this house," when I had entered it. She told me about some man she knew who had said those same words and what a fake he turned out to be. There was no call for her to be comparing me to that man. I was stunned that she was saying all that stuff to me; I had't done anything to deserve it. Being a week late with a third of the rent didn't justify it.
I told her that I was going to pay the rest of my rent for the month, and I would pay the rent for next month when it was due, but I was giving my notice. I held out the written notice to her, but she snapped, "You don't have to give me your notice. You can get out right now!" I could hardly believe my ears! God was letting me off the hook! Hallelujah! I said, "Well then, let's figure out how much money you owe me that I have already paid towards this month's rent, and you ought to pay me all of my damage deposit. Your coffee table got wrecked, but you know that I didn't break it." She admitted that this was true.
I phoned Bill Piegstra and Heidi Johnson, my former landlords, and asked them to come and help me move out. They knew from how I sounded that it was urgent and they came right away. Bill and Heidi were such a huge blessing to me. While they packed up my stuff and took it out to their truck, I worked out how much money my landlady owed me and then prayed in tongues under my breath while she finished her calculations. Then I showed her how I came up with my total. She shook her head and grumpily said it didn't make any sense to her. She showed me how she figured it out, and she arrived at the same total. It was really eye–opening to discover that people have different paths in their brains and think differently from me. It had never occurred to me before that there could be different ways of arriving at the same answers. Until that moment, I didn't know that Math could be interesting.
She paid me back all the money she owed me. I was sure glad that I spoke peace to that house when I moved in. As the Bible says, if the people in it are not worthy, then our peace will return to us. She scoffed at me for doing that, but I think it had a lot to do with me being allowed to move out right away, and to get all my money back that was owed. I was so glad to be out of there because I had not been there for very long when I could see it was not going to work out. None of the other tenants worked; they mostly just laid around the house all day, and when I got home, I had to wash out one of the dirty pots, so that I could make my dinner. Also, they weren't very careful with the furniture, and I didn't want to lose my damage deposit due to someone else's carelessness.
Bill and Heidi took me back to my sister's place and helped me put my stuff in her garage. They sure worked fast packing it for me at the other place. It took them only an hour and then we were out of there. Praise the Lord!
I asked my pastor after this incident to pray that the demonic assignment against me would be cancelled. I was getting tired of being bashed about by people who should have loved me and cared about me, but they were acting like nutcases. I also tried to give him back the damage deposit that the church had loaned me, but the pastors insisted that I keep it and they gave me another $100.00 because they felt that I needed money, and they wanted to bless me. I sure did need it. That money, together with some money my brother–in–law gave me for looking after my nephews (which I had not expected), bought me a round trip plane ticket to Edmonton to see my kids a month later, and I think my ex–husband was very surprised that I was able to afford it.
About a week after I got that nasty call from my ex–husband, as I was hurrying to get ready for work, I came across the scrap of paper with two, simple, little verses written on it that God had given me, instead of verses worthy for an epic. I stuck it in my coat pocket and rushed out of the house. As I sat on the bus, leaning against the window, two more verses popped into my mind. Tears leaped into my eyes and made my sinuses sting. Worried about ruining my make–up, I tried to discreetly mop my eyes as I said in my heart, "Lord, You made me cry!" God held back the rest of the gift of this poem, which is actually a song, until after I got home from work and had some privacy. If you are interested in reading the words of the song, click on the link to take you to MIRACLES HAPPEN.
I stayed with John and Judy for a couple of weeks while I looked for another place to live. I wanted to move to Langley because I worked there. My sister Lorrie rushed in one day and dropped off The Langley Advance before she headed off somewhere else. I reached for it half–heartedly. I wanted to find a boarding situation in a Christian home, so that I didn't have to listen to anyone's rock and roll music, and I also wanted the landlords to be Pentecostals, so that they would not think I was weird, if they overheard me praying in tongues. I thought to myself, "What are the chances of finding a place like that in a secular newspaper?"
There was only one ad worth calling. It offered board and room for what I was willing to pay. Lo and behold, that very first ad, the only ad that I called about, was exactly what I wanted! The people were Christians and they went to my stepmother's church, which was Full Gospel! Hallelujah!
I went out to see them on Thanksgiving Day, and it was settled just like that with no fuss. Len and Evelyn Peterson were a lovely, warm–hearted couple and they became like a father and mother to me. Their home was so peaceful. They had two grandsons who lived with them because their mother, the older daughter, had died of cancer.
They also had a snobby, orange marmalade tabby cat named Morris who amused me no end. He acted like he wanted nothing to do with me when I tried to be friendly, but he followed me all over the house. He would sit for hours, watching me decorate wreaths for a crafts fair at my church. There was a really handy place in the basement for me to work on that project, complete with a nice, long counter, a high stool to sit on, and a handy socket for my glue gun. Morris hung around in my room a lot, too, when I was gone. I walked in one day and saw him lying on my bed. I said to him, "If you don't like me so much, why are you lying there on my bed, with your nose dripping?" He slowly blinked at my insolence and impassively turned his face away, too dignified to let himself be troubled by ridicule.
I thought the Peterson's daughter Lyla was so cute when she chided Morris for his attitude one day, cuddling him as she showed him his reflection in the mirror and told him that the expression on his face looked ugly, and she sweetly tried to coax a nicer one out of him. He refused to be coaxed. Lyla was a tall, beautiful girl with blonde hair and deep dimples. She looked a lot like her father.
Len was a really tall and very handsome man with Viking blood, but he was gentle as a lamb. He had a lovely, square jaw with a dimple in his chin and deep dimples in his cheeks, and wavy, brown hair. I called him my "hugging" Dad. He was one of the few men old enough to be my father whom I felt comfortable hugging.
I wanted to have Christian men in my life who would be like a father to me because, though I was my stepdad's little pet when I was a child, he was not physically affectionate. Later on when the kids in our family got older, I discovered that he didn't know how to deal with teens. A rift grew between us after I stopped believing that he had all the answers. He could not handle having his ideas of what is right being disputed.
I craved a father's love but, being in my thirties, older men did not see me as someone they could mentor like a daughter. The unattached ones seemed to think that I could be someone who could cheer them in their old age as a young wife. I also came across older, married men who thought they might fancy me as a mistress. When I was a waitress, one of these thought he would win me over with hot, smouldering looks, not realizing that all women are not flattered by that kind of attention. I felt insulted that he supposed that I would be impressed with his money and commit adultery with him. It sure was refreshing to meet a wholesome man like Len. I had to stand on my tiptoes to get his hugs, but I liked it that he was so tall.
His wife, Evelyn, was a darling. She was a busy woman, but could hold a conversation while working. I did most of the talking, but she was always listening. I have always wished I let her talk more instead of being the one who did most of the talking; she died of cancer a few years later. But the few things that she got to share with me, I cherished.
She spoke of how she had a nervous breakdown shortly after she got married. She didn't know that it was a nervous breakdown; she just knew that she was feeling really rough. She said that one day, she went outside and laid down on the ground, and put her hand on the earth and rested her cheek against her hand. She said, "As a farmer's wife, I loved the earth, and when I touched it that day, I suddenly knew that I was going to be all right, and from that point forward, I got better."
She really opened my eyes to the healing properties that God has put in nature. From then on, I sometimes touched trees when I walked by them, or felt leaves, to get that goodness out of them. And when I was with people who needed me to comfort them in their emotional distress, I got them to look at beautiful flowers and to touch leaves and walk barefoot on the grass. It worked wonders in helping to lift their depression.
It was so good to have Len and Evelyn to talk to about my circumstances. They were never cloying in their sympathy. I actually lived a pretty ordinary life, in spite of what was going on with my children. I never felt like moping. Len and Evelyn's home was a peaceful and joyful household, a good place to be when passing through a storm. It was a blessing to have the distraction of their family life going on around me. The Petersons and their children and their relatives all loved each other so much.
I did not have much to do with the grandsons. The oldest was fourteen and the younger one was ten; they were nice kids who didn't give their grandparents much trouble. When they were at home, they spent a lot of time downstairs in the den with their friends, or watching TV. Warren, the older one was a quiet boy. Chad, the younger, was Mr. Congeniality. He had loads of friends.
Len thought it was really funny one time when Chad misbehaved that Warren scolded him and then told him, "You go upstairs and tell Grandma what you did." Predictably, with such a sensible, disciplined type of personality, he became an accountant. I think Chad works at a ski resort, which is rather predictable, too.
I thought Len's and Evelyn's son Terry was funny when he was moving a chest of drawers for their daughter Lyla. He put it in the backseat of his car and I sat on one side of it while Terry, his wife Lois, and I waited for Lyla to join us from the house. Referring to the bureau, I asked Terry, "Is this Lyla's date?" He glanced back at it and said, "Well, at least she can get into its drawers." Lyla laughed when I told her what he said and she replied, "That sounds like my brother."
Whenever I visited the Petersons in their home after I moved out, I always felt like I was coming back home. I never felt that way with my own parents. When I went to see them, I always felt like I was going to their house, not going back to my home. I felt much more connected to Len and Evelyn than I ever was to my Mom and Dad, though I love my parents. I could never talk to my parents on the cosy level that I could talk to the Petersons. What a blessing it turned out to be that my landlady at that boarding house went into a big snit about me being late with part of my rent.
Evelyn also told me about a sweet miracle that happened when her older children, Sandra and Terry, were tots. They had a little dog and it broke its leg one day. Evelyn put the dog in the basement. They didn't do anything for the dog. They lived out in the country on a farm and probably didn't have money to pay for a vet, unless it was to look after an animal that brought in revenue, such as one of their cows. As she brought the laundry up from the basement, Evelyn saw Sandra and Terry sitting on the stairs, their fair heads bowed together, little hands covering their eyes as they prayed that God would heal their dog. Evelyn said in her heart, "Oh God, you can't disappoint them." He didn't. The next day when she opened the basement door, the little dog friskily ran up the stairs and into the kitchen with no sign whatsoever of having broken its leg.
The family lived in Alberta until after Lyla moved to BC to attend Trinity Western University in Langley. Her brother Terry visited her and met her room–mate Lois, fell in love with her, and they married. Then the rest of the family moved to Langley. I moved in with the parents about a couple months later. Len was starting up his accounting business from home and Evelyn was busy helping him with it when I joined the household.
Len and Evelyn liked to play Scrabble with me. I don't recall them ever winning any games, but they didn't seem to mind that. They said they liked to play against me because they enjoyed the challenge. Every now and then, though, Len would gripe about how it was just luck that I got the tiles I got. Uh, uh, uh. It wasn't all chance. I used my noggin to make the most of the triple letter and triple word squares. Life is like that. You can't always choose what happens, but you can choose how you use what happens and make the most of it.
Later when I got my kids back and they played Scrabble with me, I looked at the opportunities they were missing and asked, "Now do you want to just play Scrabble, or do you want Momma to teach you how to play Killer Scrabble?" Heather snapped that she just wanted to play Scrabble. Her game has picked up since then; now she wins me at least half the time. Andrew played a game with me when he was in his early twenties and I kicked his butt. He refused to finish the game when he saw he was over a hundred points behind near the end and he hasn't challenged me since then. I don't let myself be discouraged when I see that I am not going to win. I have fun seeing how much I can close the gap before the game is over.
I went off to Alberta to see my children. At that time, my mother lived just outside Edmonton, in a house that looked like a castle. It was on a large piece of property out in the sticks and had two complete kitchens, a round den on the roof that was reached by a spiral staircase, an underground carport that was accessed through a set of shelves that was on hinges, and it had four turrets, one in each corner, that were used as large closets.
My mother's husband was raised in Yugoslavia and lived at the bottom of a hill that had a castle on top. He told my mother he always had wanted to build himself a castle. He was fighting cancer at that time; my mother told him that if he was going to build a castle, he had better get on with it. She has always been a mover and a shaker. This was the first time I had visited them since the castle was completed.
My mother can be quite a character. One time when she was angry at her husband, she put up a sign by the iron gates. It said, "Castle for Sale – Cheap – Husband Included." When she looked out at the road a while later, there was a crowd of people, all laughing and taking pictures of her sign.
My stepstepfather was quite a character, too. He owned a scrapyard and went about in oily, old coveralls. Nobody would guess to look at him that he had money. He has brains, too. He went to university in Yugoslavia, but people assumed he was uneducated because he has a thick accent. He let them think he was dumb, like when he offered a flour company two cents a bag for some flour bags they had misprinted. They took him up on the offer, thinking that they were getting a good deal on those bags. He turned around and sold them for quite a bit more to a sandbagging company that didn't care what was written on them. When he invited people home for lunch, they accepted the invitation, but didn't expect much because he didn't look like he could offer much. When they arrived at the castle, their jaws would drop open and they checked with him to make sure that he really did live there.
My ex–husband was supposed to bring the kids to my mother's house so that they could visit there with me. He said he would stay to supervise, though in BC, the courts had lifted that off of me. But then my Mom told him that she was going to go out, and we would have the place to ourselves. I wonder if she thought that would give him a chance to rethink his decision to dump me. I don't think his new wife liked the idea of us being alone with only the kids as chaperones.
Before I left for Alberta, my ex–husband called my lawyer and started going back on our arrangements, and said he wanted my mother and me to meet him in Camrose, which was near where he lived, because it was snowing and it was so hard to get around. He snowed my lawyer. There wasn't much snow, and Mom and I had no trouble getting around in it. My kids didn't get to see their grandmother's castle and I think they still regret that. It was sold a few years later.
The kids were happy to see me when I met them at West Edmonton Mall for our first visit. I was taken back by how much weight my daughter had lost. She looked like a little pixie. Her Dad and her stepmother confirmed that she had lost five pounds in the last month since they had moved to Alberta, and then the stepmother chided Heather about not eating her dinner. It didn't take genius to figure out that the kids weren't happy about their move to Alberta.
There were plenty of distractions in West Edmonton Mall to detract from having a good visit with them. Their Dad was quite snide, as well, which did not contribute towards it being a pleasant time for me or the children. For the second visit, my mother took me to Camrose to meet them all for dinner in a restaurant and another stroll around another mall. Andrew was upset because a slinky I gave him had gotten broken. They sure didn't make them to last like they used to when I was a kid. We went to Zeller's, so that I could buy another one for him. Those two visits in malls were the only times I got to see my children when they were in Alberta, but visiting them so soon helped me to get through the shock of them moving there.
After I got back from the trip, I had to look for another job. I didn't have money to pay the rent and it bothered me a lot. Finally, when I was fretting about it one day, promising Evelyn that I would pay them what I owed for board and room after I got another job, she said firmly, "I wish you would just stop fussing about it and forget it." I was really blown away. I had just met these people only a month ago, and they were now willing to help me out like that?
I looked for a job in New Westminster, where I wanted to move to so that I would be near my church. I applied for work in restaurants; with tips, waitressing paid much better than working in a flower shop. When I ran out of money for bus fare, I stood in the kitchen and thought, "What do I do now?" Evelyn had a magnet on the fridge that said, "Bloom Where You're Planted." I thought, "Okay, so since I can't go anywhere, what can I do here?" The answer came to my mind quickly. It was the beginning of December and Evelyn had wanted to do some Christmas baking, but she was too busy helping Len with his business. I got busy and filled up the freezer with cookies, tarts, squares, cinnamon buns, Christmas pudding, and whatever else I could think of. It all turned out really well.
Len and Evelyn were so pleased. It didn't even seem to occur to them that I owed them a month's rent (later two) and ought to be doing something to earn my keep. One night as Len, Evelyn, and I were driving home from church, Len said, "We told Lyla that we're adopting you and she said that was good." I think that is one of the sweetest things anyone ever said to me and I was glad that Lyla wasn't jealous that her parents liked me so much.
I got a call in January from one of the restaurants I applied at, was hired, and found a nice, little bachelor room to rent in a lovely neighbourhood in New Westminster. I had to share the bathroom with my landlady and another tenant, but my suite had French doors that gave a lovely view of the backyard, and there were fruit trees in the yard, as well as berry bushes. Len and Evelyn helped me move in February. It was so cold that my nails kept breaking because they became brittle, but soon I was settled into my cosy, little place. It was only a few blocks from work and within walking distance to church.
It wasn't long after this that Evelyn became ill. First it was heart trouble and then cancer. When I heard that she was in the hospital, I had a dream. In my dream, I went into a flower shop and looked at basket gardens. I decided it would save money, if I made one for her myself and took it to her, but the Lord spoke to my heart that it would take too long and I needed to buy her one right away. I forgot about my dream when I woke up.
I went to see my doctor that day and was about twenty minutes too early for my appointment. To kill some time, I wandered into a flower shop. As I passed through the door, I suddenly remembered my dream. I started looking at basket gardens and had the same thoughts that I'd had in my dream. I stood a moment undecided. I had very little money, but then I thought, "What is the point of God talking to me, if I don't listen to Him? He isn't going to talk to me anymore, if I don't do anything about what He tells me to do."
I went ahead and ordered a basket garden to be delivered from the shop in Langley where I used to work. The clerk asked me what I wanted to have written on the note. I started to speak and then, much to my surprise, I got choked up. I knew I loved Evelyn, but I hadn't realized I cared about her so deeply. I told the lady that my friend had nearly died; I felt embarrassed about being so emotional.
I was so happy to get in to see Evelyn the next day. Just as I was driving into the hospital parking lot, Len was driving out. He parked again and took me upstairs to see her, so that I could get into the Intensive Care Unit. For the next few years, I mainly just saw her when she was in the hospital. She was in there a lot. My children had returned to BC shortly before Evelyn went into the hospital for the last time, and my daughter Heather was living with me. The Petersons had not yet met my children, but they knew that God had given me my miracle. Len phoned and told me that the cancer had gone into Evelyn's liver and that she wouldn't be coming out of the hospital this time. He invited me to come and be with her, as the doctor expected she would die that day.
I kept my daughter out of school and took her with me. We joined other friends and family who were gathered around Evelyn on her bed where she was unconscious. Heather, who was twelve, sat on my lap while we all quietly sang and prayed around Evelyn's bed. Heather said that it didn't bother her to be there because she didn't know the lady who was dying. I think that God wanted Heather to be there for Evelyn's sake.
I could sense that Evelyn was hanging on because she was worried about what would become of her children and grandchildren after she was gone. She fought courageously to live, especially for the sake of the grandsons who lived with her because they were only in their teens. The youngest was now sixteen, not quite so young anymore, but she still worried about them all. As she breathed her last breaths, still clinging tenaciously to life, a nurse told us to keep on talking because she could still hear us.
Lyla and Len each bent over her and told her they loved her. I then bent over her and said, "Evelyn, it's Lanny. I am here with my daughter Heather. God brought my babies back to me, and He will take care of your babies, too." As soon as I said that, she let go. I was so relieved. It had been painful to watch her suffer, but now she was at rest.
Len was lonely with her gone. When I visited him, he talked about how lonely it was to walk into church by himself when he was so used to Evelyn being with him. But he said he did not feel like getting married again, yet. I said, "Well, when you are, you won't be on the shelf for long. Unmarried men your age are as rare as hen's teeth, and there are a lot of nice ladies out there who will be eager to snap you up."
I was right. A widow whom Len and Evelyn knew before she was widowed soon proposed to him. Gladys knew Len well enough to realize that he would not be aggressive about dating and getting remarried. They spent seven happy years together before she died of cancer, and then he married another fine woman of God. He was so proud of Myrtle because of her accomplishments and her award as a business association's Woman of the Year. They were married for two years and then Myrtle died, and a couple of years later Len went Home to be with the Lord and his three, lovely wives.
But before that happened, I got my children back! It took five years for my miracle to happen, but God did it; He brought my children back to BC. And when it happened, even my siblings, who are unbelievers, cried and said it was a miracle. Here are some of the details about that happy REUNION.Single Again
Copyright © March 2010, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on September 5, 2011
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.