A Sunday’s Collection

What a day!

I had a phone call this morning from Scotland…. at about 4am!!!

Kylie was homesick.

Tomorrow is  her grandmother’s 60th wedding anniversary and her family will all be celebrating today.  She organised a nice surprise for her Nan through her sister and her step-brother is taking his laptop and whatever gear he needs to Skype later this morning, but it’s not like being there.  She and her Nan are close.  It was her Nan that introduced her to Jesus when she was only little.  Her Nan is so proud of her work in Scotland with the Churches over there – but I know she will be missing Kylie today too.

Just imagine.  Sixty years of being married.  I’d have to be live til a ripe old age to get there now.  I’d probably forget half of it.  What a dud.  Oh well – at least I’m not pining away now like a sad sack… most of the time anyway.  Pity about the handsome rogue that missed out on me, though.  Hmmm, if he gets his act together in the next couple of years and stops by I might condescend to get hitched so that I can celebrate forgetting half our marriage when we reach 60 years.  I think I’ll go for a younger man though.  They used to say that women lived about 7 yrs longer than men, so perhaps I should start looking at the guys about 7 years younger than me – that way I wouldn’t end up a lone widow.

Anyway, after spending time talking to Kylie, I just couldn’t get back to sleep so I got up again and dug out my sewing gear.  I’ve had patterns and fabric to make a princess dress for Emily and a fairy outfit for Jasmine.  I washed the material almost as soon as I bought it, but I’ve done nothing with it since.  This morning I cut out the patterns for both outfits and started on the fairy suit.  I’m so excited.  I can’t wait to finish it.  I think I was working right up til lunch time and would probably have kept going if Karen hadn’t appeared at my door.

Jazzy is sooo going to love this outfit.  Paul will have fits because she will want to wear it to places that he won’t think are suitable – but hey – how long are you seven for, right?

Where was I up to? Karen.  Yeah.  Right.

I was just finishing this seem and Karen knocks at my door.

Now I’m really stumped.  Karen NEVER comes to visit me.  I’ve often wondered if she even really likes me.  Like maybe she thinks I’m some kind of hypochondriac because of the Depression or something … anyway – there she is.  So I invite her in with my best manners, like she does when I visit her.  I offer her a cuppa, like she does when I visit her.  And we sit down in the lounge like we do when I visit her.  Now I’m not sure what to do next or what she expects – because I’m not her and I’m just thinking “wait a minute, just be yourself” when she bursts into tears.

Aack!

Karen doesn’t cry.

Karen doesn’t show emotion.

Help!!!

“Karen, what is it? Is there anything I can do?”

She just keeps crying.  Her tissue is fast getting shredded so I go and get my friendly box of Kleenex that I keep handy for visitors.  I seem to get lots of visitors who cry.  I think people think it’s more acceptable and less humiliating to cry in front of someone who gets officially depressed than in front of other people.  Karen thanks me and takes another tissue.

Eventually the tears slow down and she can talk.

“I’m sorry.” First thing everybody says after they’ve cried in front of anybody.  She takes a deep breath.  “I just don’t know what to do.  It’s Joel.  He’s become really ridiculous about this whole Christianity thing.  Hamish has been really good – but Joel has been at him like a …. a … a ”

“Like a Joel.  I remember what he can be like, Karen.  What’s he been doing?”

“He keeps telling asking him if he’s been talking to Jonah.  He’s been ringing the school.  He is insisting that they make sure that he doesn’t go to religious education or spend time with the children that they know have religious beliefs – which is  utterly  ridiculous and he knows it; he’s even taken to searching Hamish’s room to make sure that he hasn’t got any Bibles or religious books hidden.  He’s ridiculous.  Poor Hamish is putting up with it really patiently – which I must say surprises me because, you know, temperament-wise they have always been cut from the same cloth.  He bites his tongue, he answers politely when I want to shout at Joel.  I don’t know why Joel can’t believe him.  I do.  And I don’t know why Joel can’t see that he’s not going to shift what our son believes like he’s trying to.  Anybody can see that he’s really convinced that its true.”

Go Hamish.  You champion.  God is faithful and holds those who cling to him in the palm of his hand … he even hangs on to ones who flail.  You keep on standing in the face of opposition and be godly.  To hear that his mother is seeing changes in him already is awesome.

“This is Joel we’re talking about, here Karen.  You and I both love him – but we both know that he does absolutely nothing by halves.”

She sighs.

“But this.  This is different.  He has gone beyond reason with this.  You should see him, Alciana.  It truly is like watching him turn into a different man when he gets going.”

I sit with her in silence for a few moments and just listen.

“Alciana?”

“Yes.”

“I need you to explain something to me.”

My heart starts to beat faster.

“What do you want explained, Karen?”

“I need to know what exactly is this “gospel” that my son has taken hold of so strongly.  I need to know what my son believes and why he is holding on to it so strongly.”

My heart is in my mouth and I have tears rising towards my eyes.

“That is something that I would be glad to do for you, Karen.”

And I gulped down a huge mouthful of cold tea.

And so it was that this afternoon I got to share the gospel with Karen.  I told her what Hamish believed.  How did I do it?  I took her through a simple explanation using the 2 Ways to Live drawings and verses.

“And that’s it?” she asked.  “That’s what’s changed my son?”

“That’s what’s transformed your son.”

“But why is Joel making such a big fuss about this?  Anyone would think Hamish had joint some wild cult or something.”

“I’m not sure, Karen.  He wasn’t always, but he hasn’t been reasonable about it for so long now I can’t remember when it started.  He won’t talk to me about it.  Paul might know more.  Maybe Mum or Dad.”

“Your parents couldn’t tell me anything useful.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Do?  I don’t know.  I’d like to understand it more.  Do you think you’d be willing to show me some more about this stuff some time?  I mean, we’d need to be careful.  I don’t want Joel to know.  And I don’t want Hamish to either – he might think I’m taking sides or something, you know?”

“They don’t have to know, Karen.  You just come around when it’s a good time for you and we can talk some more.”

I am praying here at the same time that I look something like casual – because right now I am feeling like I want to take off tap dancing around the room and singing at the top of my voice.

Karen lights up.  Note – I have never ever seen Karen light up.  Maybe we have just made contact, Lord.  Please touch her heart and draw her to you.  Karen always seems like she never really trusts anyone.  Help her to trust you.  Grant her faith.

Anyway, then she asks me about what I was doing when she arrived (like a good visitor), so I got to show her what I was working on for the girls.  We had a good laugh about the idea of Jazz as a fairy and picturing Paul laundering fairy clothes.  Mind you he already does little dresses and cleans little school shoes and all sorts of little girly things.  It’s kind of sweet really.  Lisa would have loved seeing him doing these things.

I miss Lisa.

Anyway, tonight’s Church held yet another surprise.  Carlos and Megan have decided to make our church their home Church for the next while.  This was a big surprise, but apparently after talking to the doctors this week they have taken leave of absence from everything but Carlos’ study and because none of their supporting Churches are in this area where they need to be for Carlos’ study and Megan’s medical needs they’ve chosen to join us.  I’m so glad for the purely selfish reason that I’m going to love having Megan around.

I’m catching up with Megan on Wednesday after work this week.  I’m going to head over there on my way home for afternoon tea.

Father, please help me to sleep well tonight after such a busy day.  I’m tired after the early start.  Please help me to watch my sleep this week so that I don’t get all topsy-turvy on my sleep patterns.  That always ends badly.  Thanks for giving me people to connect with just as I’m reminded of those I miss.  And thanks for the chance to explain the gospel to Karen.  Please may Hamish have his mother to turn to for support in you some day.

Amen.

Sweet and Sour Pudding

What an evening!

Megan is amazing.  She says that she hopes that we can keep in touch – and she’s the kind of person you just believe when she says that.  We just sort of clicked.  It was nice.  I hope we can be friends.  I haven’t had a good Christian friend my own age in so long.  I mean, I’m not setting her up to be my best friend and all that – but I think I could feel connected to her.  The closest I’ve come to that with anyone but Bennie since Kylie went to Scotland and Lisa died is Gina.  I want to be her friend. And for some reason I think she wants to be mine.

The kids had a great time I think for the afternoon, although they were pretty serious after tea and Emily looked pretty rattled by something for a moment.  Not that it was there for all to see for longer than that … but she is so like Lisa it’s hard not to read her sometimes.  I was going to ask her if she wanted to talk on the way home, but – well we were all a little distracted by then …

Carlos is studying full-time this year thanks to some supporters who had put aside his tuition fees.  He’s been working towards developing some further training programmes that can be run for local believers where they are serving.  He also wants to start work on some ongoing work that will help the small team that they work with to remain heartened as the work is often hard and slow to bear fruit despite the fact that the people are kind to them.  It doesn’t help that the government is closed to the gospel.  They tell of tremendous lessons in the value of a prayerful heart and the lessons that they have learned about praying.  I am no longer surprised that the first thing that the first thing that Hamish learned about from Jonah was prayer, nor that this seems to be one of the things that seems most natural for him to do.

I think that Jazzy enjoyed the company of the big kids.  They were pretty good about including her.  There was a little while while they were talking by themselves, but she was quite happily sitting with Paul by then.  I think that he liked them too.  This is good.  It means he can be comfortable talking with Carlos.

Overall the night went well until Joel came to get Hamish.

I hadn’t thought anything of it, but of course – to Joel it was strange that Paul and I were here also.  He threw up his guard immediately.

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh,” says Megan, looking around and picking up on the tension, but not aware of the larger picture. “You must be Joel.  Karen said that you’d be picking Hamish up.  It didn’t click then that you’re all family.  We met Alciana and Paul and the girls on Sunday at church and invited them around to get to know them better.  It’s nice to get to meet you too.”

I grimaced.  I did.  Joel didn’t see it.  Paul did.  I don’t know about the girls – but I saw the equally horrified look on Hamish’s face and knew the truth.  Hamish was scared.  Not just worried.  Scared.  Thankfully, Megan, puzzled by my grimace, had not seen it.  Emily grasped his hand.  She had.  Hamish shuffled his feet and shoulders and everything in between but accepted the support. And the clock only ticked once.

“You people are all the same.  You take an intelligent person and try to brainwash them into the fold.  I’ve seen it before.  Well no more.  No thank you.  You will not do that to my son.”

Megan and Carlos stood aghast at Joel’s accusations.  Carlos went to take a step forward.  I shook my head and said quietly,

“Not today.” and nodded at Hamish.

Hamish stood ashen face, but with a kind of defiance in every muscle of his body.

Emily’s knuckles were white, but she didn’t seem to notice.  She had tears in her eyes, looking at her Uncle Joel with a resigned disbelief.

And Jonah looked sad.  Like he’d seen it all before.  Felt it all before.  Praying the prayers he’d prayed before.  And I realised, given his parents’ account of their ministry that he probably had.

“Hamish.” Joel summoned his son.

Hamish started walking only to be held back by his cousin’s grasp.  Realising that she was still holding his hand, Emily let go and Hamish walked obediently out of the house, thanking his friend’s parents for their hospitality.

When Hamish had gone, Joel turned briskly and left the house, wiping his feet on the doormat as he left.

Trust Joel for that little bit of drama.

Megan had tears in her eyes – for Hamish, I think – and perhaps Joel.  Carl’s voice was raspy.  Paul and I were embarrassed and both started to apologise for the scene at once.

Carlos interrupted and reassured us.

“We all know that the word of God is not welcome among unbelievers.  It should be no surprise to us that Joel was hostile to Megan or myself that he didn’t like his son being with believers.  We’re just not used to such strong reactions at home.  This is a part of everyday where we are normally.”

Which is all very well but Joel was still horribly rude.  And his son, despite his lack of fear for his faith was terrified of his father.

Suddenly then Megan got up and hurried from the room with Carlos behind her.

There must have been some kind of routine to this because Jonah frowned, stood and with Emily by his side went purposely from the room in a different direction.  Jazzy – somehow after Joel’s soap opera scene had fallen asleep in a bean bag.

Paul and I just looked at each other.

“She’s out like a light.  We should go soon.”

“Yeah.  Wait ’til Megan comes back and we can find Emily then.”

“Nice people.”

“Yeah.  I hope I get to see more of Megan.  She says she doesn’t really know a lot of people around here.  She could make a good friend.”

“You haven’t really had that for a while – what with Kylie overseas and Lisa gone … ”

“No.  What did you think of Carlos?”

“Seems like a good bloke.  He said he’d come and help Andy and I sort out a couple of the questions I’m having that he can’t answer.”

“That’s great.”

“Yeah.  I’m beginning to think so.”

Megan and Carlos come back in.

“Where are the kids.”

“Went walkabout.”

“Ah. Sorry.  People tell you about morning sickness – mine comes at night.  Half Irish, you see.”

“Oh. Congratulations.  Does Jonah know?”

“No.  We won’t tell him ’til we’re reasonably sure this one’s going to make it.  The last couple haven’t and before that I carried one to term and she died a day after she was born.  That nearly broke his heart.”

“Oh Megan.”

“Megan gets pretty sick when she’s pregnant too.  We nearly lost her with the last miscarriage.  That’s another reason why we came home when we found out she was pregnant again.”

“We haven’t told many people.  But – I wanted to tell you.  I want us to be friends, and you seem to too.  But please don’t tell anyone else about the baby.”

“Of course I won’t tell anybody and if Paul does, I’ll box his ears – but you can trust him with a secret forever.  Lisa used to say the only thing you had to worry about is if he’d remember it… ” I grinned at him.  He grinned back at the memory.

“If you’re not careful I’ll start …”

“Then we’d better say our thank yous and goodbyes and go”

Lord, please soften Joel’s heart.  Strengthen Hamish for whatever is in the days ahead.  I have a feeling that they’re not going to be easy.  Help Jonah to be a support for his friend no matter how creative he has to be.  And Lord please help him with whatever that worried look was for.  Help me to find a moment to talk to Emily also.  Thanks for the work you’re doing in Paul.  May he continue to ask questions about you and come to trust you.

And Father, thank you for a friend.  Please keep her safe.

Amen.