Part II – The Love Dream

Chapter 25 – The Chat

It was a slightly overcast Friday evening in October.  I sat at my desk staring at the computer screen.   I had just completed updating some records and I felt exhausted.  I looked at my watch and it said 3:10 p.m.; fifty more minutes and I will be heading home. I decided to take a walk around the office, stretching my legs a bit.  As I walked I began thinking about Nicky.  It would be great to hang out with her this weekend I thought.  

“Hey Maxine”,  I turned around to see Cassy waving to me from behind her tidy cubicle.  Cassy and I started working at St. Peter’s Community College on the same day.  She was employed at the Accounts Division and was responsible for updating students’ financial records.  Cassy and I respected each other, and she was always fun to chat with.  I walked over to Cassy and we chatted a bit.  As we chatted I thought to myself, I wonder if Cassy is mature enough to share my concerns with.  She seemed to be in her late thirties and experienced in such matters. It would be great to get someone else’s perspective on my relationship challenges, I thought. 

We chatted about work and then after what seem to be a timely pause, I said to Cassy, “I would love to hear your view on a personal matter, are o.k. with that?” Cassy tilted her head playfully and said, “Sure, go head, test my expertise.”  I then carefully shared my heart, not giving too many details.  “I have this friend; we have been friends since kindergarten.  We have always been close, best of friends.  We always share things with each other and never kept secrets.  Recently, however I have been feeling as if we are drifting apart. In the recent past we talked to each other daily, but now, on average, we would connect about once a week. I want to do something about it, but I don’t know where to begin.”  

As I spoke, I could not help noticing Cassy’s eyes, her eyebrows and her forehead.  She was fully engaged with my story, fully animated as she listened. Cassy did not fail me.  She looked directly into my eyes and said, “Sweetheart, you are growing up and changes would happen.  What feels like a distance is just you maturing and finally deciding what kind of future you want.  Remember, we have our individual paths to take, and we cannot act as kids or teenagers forever.  Things happen that creates distances at times; career choices, marriage and even our decision to follow Christ.”   My eyelids suddenly fluttered, and I quickly composed myself. Those words “our decision to follow Christ” hit me like a pebble in my mid-section.  I suddenly thought to myself, maybe Cassy is a “follower of Christ”, like Jason.  Why would she say that? It was not common for me to hear such phrases in my conversations with others.  I thought to myself, now who is Cassy and what is going on here?

Cassy continued to speak with deep care and concern, I could not help but listen.  “Whatever happens, try to keep the communication lines open and healthy. “Don’t try to read her mind or what she is thinking, you may perceive her or judge her wrongly. Have a chat with her about what you are experiencing and keep in touch. No matter what you may think, just do what is right at all times, love her.  If you do that she would always feel comfortable reaching out to you in difficult times. Remember, she too would be growing up”   I looked at Cassy shaking my head.   “Wow”,  I uttered with a sigh.  “Thank you Cassy! You are good at this; I am so happy I spoke with you.”   Cassy, looked at me and said, “One day I would tell you all about my story.”

I left Cassy feeling hopeful!  She really inspired me during those few moments.  As I walked back to my desk, my anxiety heightened, I could not wait to leave the office.   It was now 3:20 p.m., I quickly reviewed the work I had outstanding and prepared my to-do list for Monday.   Once that was done, I called Nicky to see if she was available and was totally overjoyed to find out that she was.  “Do you want to sleep over tonight.”  She asked.  “That sounds great” I exclaimed.  I was so happy I reached out.  I sat back and literally stared at the clock until it said 4:00 p.m.   I must have been out the door and into Dad’s vehicle by 4:02 p.m.  My Friday night was going to be awesome!

Chapter 26 – The Pit Bull

Popcorn, ice cream, tamarind balls and burgers.   I made sure to pack some of our favorite goodies and headed out to Nicky’s.  I was fortunate to have the use of Dad’s vehicle for the night.  As I drove, I began thinking of my future.  What kind of future do I want? I certainly wanted my parents to enjoy a long and healthy life and to grow closer to my siblings. Of course, I wanted Nicky, my best friend to be always there, and then my newest and dearest friend, Jason Emery.  My thoughts parked on Jason for a while as I savored memories of the time spent with him recently. I wondered what role he would possibly play in my life in the future. My imagination became alive as I envisioned a home where my family and friends would always be welcomed.  I saw a home filled with laughter, celebration and lots of great memories.  As I indulged my imagination, I heard a whisper resonating in my heart that asked, “Where is God in your Future?” I could not or did not want to think about the answer then.

I could see evidence of the start of a beautiful sunset as I continued up the final incline to the Apartment Complex where Nicky lived.  I chose to focus on the anticipated fun-filled evening just ahead of me and not too much on matters of God that have been stirring endless questions in my mind.  Somehow, on this night, I wanted to be free of the responsibility of thinking too much and finding answers.  As I parked next to Nicky’s car and stepped out on the pavement, I noticed something to the left of her apartment standing, just in front the picket fence.  It was not clear to me what it was, especially as the object was located in the midst of some humongous trees with huge branches that created a sinister line of shady areas in the back yard.  I was about to lock the door to Dad’s Jeep then thought, not yet I may just need to jump back in.

I reached for my phone to alert Nicky that I had arrived while at the same time keeping my eyes on the location where the object was seen.   All it took was a few seconds of me looking away from the shadows and to my phone screen.  Before I knew it, there was a huge black Pit bull charging towards me.  Initially, my body froze, then I screamed for help with every ounce of breath in my lungs. I then remembered that I was still standing next to Dad’s jeep and it was still unlocked. I could see the dog closing its distance between us. I managed to order my brain to turn my body towards the door of the jeep, open it and heaved my bottom on the driver’s seat.  As I was about to swing my feet inside with one hand on the door handle ready to close it, I felt sudden pain jabbing me in my right ankle and loud angry snarls of an ugly looking animal.  The jaw of the pit bull was around my ankle. Fear gripped me and I screamed but no one seemed to hear me.

I felt helpless, alone and utterly afraid and cried out “God, help me!”.   The moment I uttered that cry, I felt blood flowing to my brain and I was able to think clearly even while experiencing excruciating pain.  The animal would not let go and it seemed to be tightening its grip and determined to gain more access to my body. Using my free hand I managed to start the vehicle.  My determination to survive suddenly surged. I revved the engine aggressively hoping for the dog to give up its hold; the bull would not budge. I then tried launching forward hoping to somehow get away from its grip.  After three attempts, it finally worked!  As it lost its grip, I slammed the door and turned off the engine.  My ankle bled profusely.  Remembering the training that my mother gave us, I took off my T-Shirt and quickly and firmly wrapped it around my ankle and placed my feet up on the next seat. 

I looked around me and no one could be seen; it was absolutely quiet. “What the hell is going on here?”, I said out loud, tears now flowing freely. I could not understand why no one came out.  “Where is Nicky?”  I suddenly remembered the dog and wondered where it went; it was nowhere to be seen.  Breathing heavily and feeling confused and scared, I managed to call Nicky on the phone. Nicky came out while answering.  I spilled the words as fast as I can. “Hey, I am here but don’t come out, there is a lose Pit Bull somewhere around, it just attacked me, and I need to get to the hospital.  I was screaming for help.  Didn’t you hear me?” Nicky froze in front of her door and immediately stepped backwards into her apartment. “Oh my God, Maxine, wh-wh-what…..p-pit bull?  I…….what, there is no pit bull here. Where did it come from? How come I did not here you. Oh God!” 

My word, what’s next?

Trust God while waiting (Part II) – How to wait joyfully!

Waiting joyfully is not impossible but it can be tough at times especially when you have been waiting for a while. But there are practical things we can do to help us focus less on “the waiting”.

Seek to live in Gratitude. Living in gratitude helps us to place our mind on the things that are happening for us, the blessings we have received, the lessons we have learned and just the simple things we enjoy every day. We should make the effort not to complain and to ensure that we are emanating a spirit of appreciation that is evident in our interaction with others. We can strengthen our ability to live in gratitude by what we read, the company we keep, the music we listen to and by posting verses, quotes and various statements of affirmation on our bedroom walls, in our offices and even in our vehicles. In other words, saturate your environment with reminders and positive enforcements.

1 Thessalonians 5: 18 says “In every thing give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Think about this verse, we are commanded to always be thankful. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are expected to choose gratitude even when things are not going well. You are commanded to choose gratitude when you may have lost your job and you are desperately seeking new opportunities, when you have tried to succeed at your dreams and experienced failure or when you have lost a loved one.

It is a choice that we make daily! It begins with what we believe. If we believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God, we would be able to remain anchored, stable and confident even when we are waiting for answers from God. The joy of the Lord stays in our hearts when we choose to actively believe His promises.

Chapter 22 – The Chat

We sat in the living room facing each other. Jason thought it was a good idea to read a bible verse and pray before we began talking. I remember thinking, this is different. Jason opened his bible and read from Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” I immediately remembered the verse and smiled as I recalled the evening of my birthday when Jason presented to me the sweetest gift ever.  As he prayed he asked God to guide our conversation so that it can be fruitful. Wow! Who prays like that? I thought. I was now intrigued with his lifestyle; the more I spent time with Jason the more I became amazed with his way of living.

As Jason’s prayer ended, I started to share. “That is where it all started.” I said. “It was on my birthday when I unwrapped your gift and read that verse. I experienced a presence I never experienced before. It was crazy! When I read that verse something inside me was unleashed. I felt awakened to another world and I did not know what to do about it. Since that day I have been reading my bible and searching for answers through my daily experiences. Sometimes I feel like crying other times I feel like screaming. It is so weird.”  As I shared my heart with Jason and made eye contact with him, I could not help noticing the colour of his eyes as the sunlight escaped through the curtains an unto his face. Jason’s eyes were light brown, just as seen in the dream.  Wow!, I thought!  Now this is really corny.

After listening attentively Jason looked at me and said. “I am so happy for you.”  He was smiling ear to ear.  In response to my facial expression of disbelief, he continued to explain. “What you are experiencing is something good. I cannot explain everything about it, but I can identify with it. I have had similar experiences; I completely understand.” I moved to the edge of my seat as I continued to listen. “The presence you felt on your birthday was God. I believe that was an answer to my prayer.”  “What do you mean?”  I hastened to ask.  “I prayed that he would reveal himself to you.  I have been praying for you since the first time we met.”

I looked away from Jason and down to my interlocked fingers. “Wow! Jason! Were you really praying for me, all this time?”   “Yes! All this time!”  Jason proudly declared. This was really strange territory for me. All I had was some Sunday School stories about creation, a few popular bible stories like “Jonah and the Whale” and  “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”.  Added to that was the emphasis on giving to the poor and attending church. I never heard about the presence of God in this manner and my idea of prayer was something you do when you found yourself in trouble or as part of a religious ceremony. I felt honoured just knowing that I was being prayed for by Jason even before he got to know me.

The conversation with Jason was filled with such revealing and exciting moments.  It seemed unreal, or was it? I pinched my arm discreetly as I leaned back on my chair.

Chapter 23 – The Prayer

Jason continued to enlighten me as he explained Jeremiah 29:11. “That verse in Jeremiah shows that God has a plan for all of us and His plans are always good, even when it does not seem that way. First and foremost is His plan for everyone to be repent from their wrongs and to worship Him. I believe if you are patient and choose to believe in His plan for your life you would get to experience greatness” “How do you know for sure?” I asked. “Why would God be that interested in me. What makes me so special?”

Jason set out to provide answers. “Look at this,” he said and reached for his phone which was in his pants pocket. A minute later he passed his phone to me and asked me to read what was on the screen. I read it aloud, “Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” “Check this one out too,” Jason urged as he retrieved a second verse. I read it to myself. It said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” It was taken from John 3:16 a verse I heard before.

Jason then said, “Imagine even before you were born, God sent His son Jesus to die for your sins. “Yes, yes, I responded, I am very familiar with the story of the birth of Christ and why He came but never understood it in such a personal way.  What I experienced that day felt like a personal touch from God and it is unforgettable because it was on my birthday. Jason you speak about God as someone who desires to have a relationship with us, to know us.  Someone who planned for us over two thousand years ago.   I never saw God that way.”

“Maxine,  when Jesus Christ died on the cross He died with you in mind and His grace is extended to you and everyone else.  He gracefully extends eternal life to anyone who believe.  But it is more than just eternal life.  He empowers you to live successfully on this Earth. He gives you a peace and a joy that no one has ever fully explain.  He changes your desires, your interests, and your will, He transforms you totally.”   I looked at Jason as he shared with deep conviction and wondered if it was all true.   I have grown quite comfortable with my life as it is.   I felt pretty good as an educated citizen who sought to treat my family and my friends well.   I was no law breaker and certainly not a hypocrite as some of my church friends.   Suddenly, I felt overwhelmed, scared and confused.

I knew that something was going on with me, something I could not explained.  I felt turmoil inside and desired to understand clearly what was happening.   I looked at Jason and somehow believed that even though I could not fully understand what he was sharing with me, he could be trusted.  I got up from where I was sitting and walked to the living room window.  I could see it was moonlight as the reflection of the moonlight could be seen on the windshield of Dad’s vehicle.  I felt lost and without a compass to direct me.  I turned around and looked at Jason who was now standing where he once sat, looking at me, in silence.  “Could you pray for me? Please?”  I asked. I detected the tremble in my voice and sought to quickly compose myself by taking a deep breath.

Jason walked towards me, placed his hand on my shoulder and prayed.  “Dear God, please reveal yourself to Maxine and give her peace. As she searches for answers please open her eyes and her heart to receive from you. In Jesus Name, Amen!.”   That’s it? I asked, looking up at him a bit perplexed.  “Yes, that’s it!  Accepting that Jason had just prayed for me, I relaxed, opened the front door and made my way to the front porch; Jason followed me.  “Please be sure to tell your entire family thanks again for me.  My evening was wonderful.”   Jason smiled at me as he said good night and walked towards his vehicle.  As he drove out of the front yard I re-entered the living room and closed the door.

Chapter 24 – The Change

As the weeks went by my life slowly changed; it felt like maturity and it felt good. I spent less time hanging out with friends, watching television, and liaising around. I continued to develop an interest in God and spiritual matters. I became more enthused about learning, pursuing my dreams and building healthy relationships with my family. My life felt more meaningful, even while still having unanswered questions.

I enrolled in a Marketing Degree at St Peter’s Community College, my Employer. It was always my goal to further my studies in Marketing after achieving my Associate Degree from the said College. I was always intrigued by the power of Advertisements, and company branding; I loved designing and creating content. As an employee of St. Peter’s Community College, I enjoyed a 40% discount on tuition fees, a benefit I no longer wanted to take for granted. Classes were both in person and online. I implemented a study schedule that demanded me to manage my time effectively.  I became more focused and very occupied.

Jason and I remained connected.  I continued to visit his Church. Each Sunday I visited I became more knowledgeable as many of my questions about faith and the bible were answered.  I felt uplifted by the music and the fellowship. I never felt pressured or judged but rather accepted. It was an experience I would often question as it seemed so unreal and so unnatural.  The response from my family to my regular attendance to church was positive and I was grateful for that.  While Rena appeared to have no interest in accompanying me, she would often enquire about how things went.  Dad and I would have numerous discussions about the weekly messages. Joel accompanied me most times and began making a few friends.

I missed my best friend, Nicky, terribly.  It was a while since we did something together. After moving into her new apartment, she seemed to become more interested in living a private and independent life. The anticipated sleepovers were not taking place as often as I hoped.  I too became occupied with my new friendship and had to admit that my interest in certain activities was dwindling, such as the after-work limes at our favourite bars. I struggled with this change that I did not fully understand. Nicky was my best friend, and I treasured her friendship wholeheartedly. I was scared that things between us may be changing and I did not know what to do about it.

Trust God while waiting (Part 1)

Many of us know what it is like to be on pause. Your foot is on the brake paddle and you have received no directions for moving forward. There are signs that something is happening behind the curtain, you can see a flicker of light every now and then, but it seems like it is taking forever. Despite the discomfort, you know deep within you that your God can be trusted. He has proven it before, not once, not twice, but many times. But no matter your history, it is still difficult to wait.

The good news is there are strategies we can learn that would help us to exercise patience in waiting through-out our lives. If you are able to wait and be joyful and content while doing so, you have accomplished something significant.

Look at your rear view mirror at a time when you planned a date with your girlfriend or a family member. You both agreed to meet at the coffee shop for 8:00 a.m. You arrived 8:55 a.m., it is now 9:20 a.m. and you are still waiting. You are waiting outside of the coffee shop which faces the east, so about that time the sun is hitting you head-on and it is blazing hot. You considered entering the small coffee shop, but it is crowded. On your shoulder is a bag which contains a number of books you are returning to your friend; the bag is quite heavy. In your left hand is your phone and in your right a cold bottle of water. Your hands are getting numb so you are switching both items between your left and right hand. In addition to that, the slippers you are wearing are uncomfortably tight.

You decide to call your friend or family to find out how much longer your wait may be. Your friend/family says to you “I will be there in five minutes”. You waited for an additional twenty minutes before they arrived. The most important aspect of this scenario is that you did not prepare to wait and this made it more difficult for you.

This scenaro allows us to reflect a bit on our behaviour while waiting on God to answer our prayers or to show us what’s next in our lives. We need to be more prepared to wait and we need to utilise our time well, while waiting and while making every effort not to complain or become grumpy. As we experience the waiting periods, we can choose to worship, to reach out to others, to build relationships, read a good book, get involved in “do it yourself projects”, get therapy, work on a healthier you and more, but we must never just sit and wait. It is in the joyful waiting that we grow, learn and are able to influence others positively when we least expect it. Joyful living even through difficult times helps us to cope during the times when we do not have answers or directions.

Let’s make that effort to wait joyfully and never let go of the promise that He (God) will never leave us.

(In part two we would talk more about practical ways to wait joyfully – Please feel free to share tips we can all practice while waiting).

Chapter 19 – The visit to Church

As planned Saturday evening Jason picked us up at 8:15 a.m. and we headed to Church. Joel wanted to come along, and I did not hesitate to ask Jason oh his behalf. The main worship, as Jason called it started at 9:00 a.m. or thereabout. We probably took about thirty minutes to get there. Jason escorted us to our seats and disappeared wishing us a wonderful experience. We sat in anticipation waiting for the service to begin. The service started with a welcome and a presentation of the morning’s activities. The young lady welcoming us was warm and jubilant. I admired her energy and zeal.

Her welcome transitioned into wonderful singing led by a small group of singers. I remember recognizing two of the girls who were part of the singing group at Jason’s birthday party. Joel and I soaked it all in. As song after song was sung, I noticed Jason walking unto the stage and to my surprise took hold of one of the mikes and began to sing. Joel and I instantly looked at each other. “Jason can sing. Damn!”, Joel blurted out as a whisper. “Shhhhhh” I whispered back. We are in Church!  After releasing a smirk, he settled down.

Jason sang beautifully, another wonderful discovery about my newest friend. The proceedings of the service flowed seamlessly. It felt as if everything was structured to arrive at a peak or a climax. The Speaker or Preacher was a young man, probably around Jason’s age. He spoke about meaningful living. I remembered thinking, I am quite intentional with my time and my activities and that I was o.k. But then the speaker said something that grabbed my attention.  “Many of us think we are doing well because we are measuring ourselves against society’s standard and not God’s standards.” He went on further to say, “Imagine all our good works are like filthy rags when God does not approve of them.” The statement resonated with me and I thought to myself, does God approve of my behaviour, or my good works?

I found my appetite growing for more discussions like those as I locked in all my attention to front stage. The Speaker was clear, lively and encouraged us to think. As he came to an end, he encouraged everyone to invest in a relationship with Jesus so that they can pursue a life with true meaning and purpose. Questions poured out of my heart, my mind and my soul. This was new territory for me and I suddenly began to feel afraid.

Chapter 20 – The Memory

As we travelled back home we enjoyed listening to uplifting  gospel music. Jason thanked us for accepting his invitation and we teased him about hiding his singing talent from us. We said very little on our way home; my mind was loaded.  There was so much to figure out, so many questions. My emotions seemed to be mixed up and messed up; I felt overwhelmed not understanding what I was experiencing. I could hear Joel’s fingers tapping the screen on his phone as he kept himself amused playing some sort of game.

I glanced over at Jason quickly who was softly singing along as he drove. As I looked away, I remembered the dream. It was my “Love Dream”, that’s how I called it. I saw myself in Jason’s arms looking into his brown eyes…. wait a minute, I thought, what’s the colour of Jason’s eyes? I suddenly became curious  and  I wanted to find out if that aspect of the dream was also true. Sitting next to Jason this dream felt so weird. I forced myself to think about something else removing the discomfort that began to rise within my chest.

I began to feel anxious and desperate to finally have Jason to myself so we could talk. I needed to talk to someone about my experience and I needed to do it soon. I felt loaded with the desire to know more. Something was stirring within me that I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t believe that I dreamt a dream and later found out that the character in the dream was real. I replayed everything that happened that night; somehow this dream was changing my life.

With my face turned towards the window the cool breeze caressed my face. I anticipated the time when Jason and I would finally talk. “Is everything ok?” I heard Jason ask. I looked at him somber and deep in thought. “Not really!” I answered after a long sigh. “Could we chat later?” I quickly asked. “Sure, whenever you’re ready.” I am ready right now! I thought to myself. My heart was full, I wanted to just let it all out and for some reason Jason’s ears felt like a safe place.

Chapter 21 – The Lunch invite

Dad was on the front porch when we pulled into the driveway. As we came out of the vehicle and Jason greeted Dad, Dad asked “Could you stay for lunch?” Jason had a big grin on his face but appeared hesitant. “One minute,” he said. He then pulled out his phone and made a call. A few seconds later he told us he could stay.

Lunch was great! Once more, I was impressed with the handy work of Dad and my sister Rena. Jason appeared impressed as well and honoured to share our dining table experience.. The conversation was lively and interesting. Jason shared a lot about himself and his family. It was great to feel the connection around the table. Rena was at her best! It was clear that she was growing fond of Jason.

After eating I told Dad I would do the dishes; I thought it would be a great time to chat with Jason, providing he didn’t have to run off and my family gave us the privacy needed. At first it looked like only wishful thinking. The conversation migrated from the dining room to the kitchen with heated opinions being hurled around about who is the best NBA Team. Rena, although she hated sports, was an avid basketball fan. In fact, we all loved Basketball. The three main teams in our conversation were the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Utah Jazz. The Lakers were an all-time favorite of our family.

Finally the battle of opinions ended and we were by ourselves in the kitchen. By this time most of the dishes were washed. Jason looked at me and said , “Do you want to talk now? I can spare another fifteen minutes.” “Sure! Maybe we can move to the living room.” No one was there and it seemed like the perfect place. On entering the living room, I felt a little nervous and I immediately pushed back the feeling saying to myself, nothing is going to hinder me from talking to Jason this afternoon, nothing!  I needed to exhale! I needed someone to know what I was experiencing.

Part II – Chapters 16 – 18

Chapter 16 – The Presence

It was Wednesday evening. I was blessed to receive two hours off from work that day; a welcomed gift from my Employer. Nicky, my dear friend, Brad, Dad, Rena, Joel, and my Aunt Sharon were all part of the planning team. Everything was in place for my birthday celebration and I was anticipating the arrival of my Guests. Despite my attempts to get involved in the final details, Rena and Nicky wouldn’t have it. My bossy sister and determined best friend were no match for me.

I gave in and decided to bask in the special treatment by dancing to some of my favorited songs. The living room was sparkling clean and decorated, and It was all mine. I was dancing my heart out when I heard the first guest arriving. It was my twin buddies from Community College, Becky, and Bailey; I was so fond of them. They were light spirited and eccentric. They brought positive energy the moment they walked in. Once they arrived, everyone else showed up within a few minutes of each other. Jason was the last to arrive and as usual accompanying him was his contagious confident and positive demeanor.  

The evening turned out blissfully wonderful. It was filled with warm intimate moments with my friends and family who did everything possible to make sure I felt special. Unlike other birthday parties I was able to witness, the last item on the evening’s programme was the presentation of gifts; I was totally blown away. Gifts emerged out of bags and pockets and even from cupboards and corners within my own home. Lost for words and overflowing with gratitude, I received them one by one; I was so overwhelmed with appreciation.

With Jason Emery being my newest friend, I was not expecting to receive anything from him and was astonished when I saw the exquisite gift he presented; I still treasure it to this day. As I carefully unwrapped his present, I felt my heartbeat accelerating. Something in my gut told me this gift was no ordinary gift. As I removed the last bit of the wrapping, I realised how right I was. I stood there staring at the most beautiful gift ever. It was a picture of me standing next to “Whisper Bend River”. My back facing the camera as I stood looking across at the river. You could see the clear water, the smooth rocks, and the sunlight glistening through the trees. It was a captivating picture. Below the picture was a brief history of the River, as Craig explained it that day when we went hashing. The picture was enclosed in an acrylic covered frame with words inscribed at the back which read “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” 

What happened next would always be seen as one of the weirdest and unforgettable moments of my life.  As I read the words, I felt as if someone was speaking directly to me. Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming presence of someone or something hovering over me and my hands began to shake, and I shivered.  I could not understand what I was experiencing because there was no one physically close to me at the moment.  It was just me and what felt like a supreme being lingering over me.  I then began to feel a warm sense of comfort and assurance, of love and acceptance. Something shifted within my breast and it was as if darkness escaped and light entered.   I must have stood their staring at the gift for at least twenty seconds before I felt arms all around me, hugging me.   I came out of my trance and to my senses and saw that those hands belonged to Dad, Nicky, and Jason.  I felt safe and loved and somehow believed that the moment just experienced was unnatural.

Chapter 17 – The Psalm

The remainder of the week mesmerized like water on the streets on a very hot day. Since my birthday I have been walking on cloud nine and cloud nine seemed to have several steps to another cloud which I wanted to explore. I yearned to understand what I experienced that day; “the presence”. It was Saturday morning and I laid on my bed with my journal seeking to capture my current thoughts and mood.

As I wrote in my journal, I heard the pitter patter sound of light rain on the roof. Without hesitation, I pulled my cover sheet up to my waist. Come rain come, I said to myself. Let me bask in your presence. After updating my journal, I decided to read my bible. Since that unforgettable experience, I have been reading my bible almost daily, starting with Jeremiah 29:11, the verse that was transcribed on my gift from Jason Emery. I later began reading the book of Psalms and was enjoying the journey through the pages. As I read, I found my thoughts drifting back to that moment, at Jason’s birthday celebration, when I looked up to see him staring down at me as if he saw me beyond the surface of my skin. I wondered what made him so different. Why did he seem so deep, so grounded, so hopeful, and so peaceful?

I found my thoughts switching to the negative zone of my searching mind. Is Jason as sincere as he seems? What if he is not real? Maybe God was trying to warn me about him through my dream. As I laid there pondering, somehow it did not feel right thinking those thoughts. I immediately shook myself out of my foolish imagination.  I had to admit that Jason Emery had shown himself to be a well composed, respectful young man who, unlike most men I knew, was not interested in flirting with me. He acted as if he wasn’t aware of how strikingly attractive, he was. He portrayed a stillness and a rich character that appeared to be firmly planted. I became aware of my fingers playing with the edges of the pages of my bible and urged myself to get back on track, looking at the Psalm in front of me.  It was Psalm thirty-four. I read to my heart’s content.  It felt strange but wonderful. I found myself lost within the poetic and uplifting rhetoric of the psalm. The Writer appeared to be declaring his promise to praise God.  

As I read, I wondered what would stir someone to write such exalted and glorified literature to a God no one has ever seen; a God that seems to be sleeping when evil prevails.  It was another moment of doubt as I struggled with what seemed to be a desire to know more. After reading the entire psalm, I decided to call it quits for the day.  As I walked out my bedroom door, my mobile phone rang.  It was Jason Emery! Instant happiness flooded by spirit as I hastened to answer the call.

Chapter 18 – The Church Invitation

Jason’s rich mellow voice responded to my greeting, “Hello, Maxine, how are you?”  “Great, Just finished journaling and reading my bible.”  There was a brief pause then Jason said, slowly, “sounds…. good.”  His tone seemed to suggest that he understood exactly what I was experiencing.  This guy knows everything, I thought to myself.  We chatted for a while and then Jason invited me to accompany him to Church.  Instantly, I felt uncomfortable, as I did not expect the invitation.   I think my experience of church was limited to my childhood days since we all lost interest as we grew into our teenaged years. For me church seemed like a routine to be practiced so that you can appear as “good” in the eyes of others.  Except for the great moral values that we learnt during Sunday School, it felt very boring and lifeless and for the most part, I didn’t see any difference between those who attended church and those who did not. I considered though, that this was not necessarily the experience of others.   

As I took a brief trip down memory lane, I felt more and more uncomfortable. Jason waiting patiently on the phone for an answer.  I found myself tongue-tied for a few seconds, then blurted out like an injured puppy, “Yes!” “Is everything alright?”  Jason asked.   I nodded my head then erupted into laughter, “sort of.” Confused thoughts stormed my mind.  I was very uncomfortable with Jason’s invite, but I blurted out “yes”. What is wrong with me?  As if he sensed what was taking place, Jason indicated that he would touch base with me later that day concerning arrangements for Church and we said our goodbyes. Whew! I can breathe, I thought. I needed to seriously get myself together. I thought to myself, Jason must think I am a psycho.

I made my way downstairs wondering what everyone else was up to while I was up in my room being sane and crazy at the same time. Rena was nowhere to be seen, Dad was at the dining table with his laptop and eating what seemed to be breakfast. If was just about 9:00 a.m.; the rain ceased, and the sun came out in its full golden splendour. I walked over to the living room where I found Joel crouched on the floor over something that seemed to have captured his attention. “What are you doing?” I asked, with genuine interest.  Joel seemed happy to see me and shared every bit of detail concerning his school project. I fixed myself some cereal and joined Joel on the floor and immediately became involved with Joel and his project. He was attempting to create a model of the Solar System. “Do you know that Jupiter is the largest planet?” Joel asked, with his brown eyes twinkling with excitement. “I believe so, I must’ve learned that in school years ago.” I answered.

That morning, we spent about an hour and a half working together on Joel’s Project. For me it was time well spent and I knew Joel appreciated the attention and the support; it was a while since we did something together, just the two of us. Despite the fact that he can be annoying, I loved my brother so much and admired his determination to do well in school. If Mom was at home, she would’ve certainly been in our company.  Mom was always available for school related activities.

As we wrapped up for the day and began tidying up, I told Joel that Jason invited me to Church on Sunday and was completely moved by his response. “Yea? That’s cool! I like Jason! He is like the big brother I always wished I had.” From my bent position with pieces of construction paper in my hand, I stood up straight and looked at my brother straight in the eye. “Never heard you say something like that before, you know, about having a big brother. Maybe God is answering your prayer.” “I don’t know, maybe,” Joel replied. “Jason is a keeper though, he’s different.” Joel’s words forced me to sit and ponder for a minute. He was right, Jason was different and certainly a friend to cherish.

Do you think Maxine’s perspective on church would ever change?

Support for the bereaved

No matter how old we get, no matter how often it happens, losing a loved one through death is no easy experience to get over. However, if you are surrounded with family, friends or acquaintances who are sensitive to your needs, it can make a huge difference.

Here are a few things to remember when seeking to support a friend or family who has lost someone through death.

1. Give them space – Avoid calling during the first two days. You can opt for sending a message instead. This would allow the person to read the message and respond in their own time. When some time has passed and you wish to call, avoid calling too early or too late. Suggested hours are between 9:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Many times when individuals are grieving they may wish to sleep in or just stay in bed. They may also wish to retire early; this is absolutely normal. These adjustments are all necessary as they seek to cope with their loss.

2. Avoid asking sensitive questions surrounding the death such as: the cause of death and how it transpired, funeral plans, family travel plans, whether or not there is a Will etc. Keep in mind that the individual is grieving and may not wish to discuss such details at that point. Your aim should be to make them as comfortable as possible. Keep your conversation along the line of comfort and support. Seek to uplift and assure them that you are available if they need anything. For example: You can say; “I wish to extend condolences on the passing of your sister. I am so sorry for your loss. Please know that I am praying for you.”

3. Avoid visiting during this time as we are still experiencing a pandemic. However, if you must, be sure to contact them first to confirm that it is o.k. to visit. Never turn up unannounced. Try to keep your visiting party very small with a maximum of three persons. Be sure to wear your mask and adhere to all COVID-19 Protocols. Keep in mind also that once you decide to visit, the bereaved becomes the Host and would want to be able to accommodate you well. Being a host to visitors requires cleaning, preparation of a refreshing drink and of course the energy to engage your guests. You can consider taking off some pressure of the Host who is also the bereaved by doing the following;

~Offer to help them with a daily chore eg: Cut the grass, wash the dishes or rake the leaves.

~Offer to provide refreshments that they can serve to their guests.

~Call in advance and find out whether there is something they would like you to bring from the Supermarket.

Individuals who are hurting because of the loss of a loved one appreciates our ability to place their needs above our needs. It is a sign of true care and empathy. Having understanding family and friends around, allows us to relax outside of pressure and demands and it assures us that a support structure is there for us when we need it.

How Great is Our God!

(Picture provided by google images)

If we do not know the extent of God’s greatness and we have never experienced His miraculous love we would obviously doubt His power.

If we do not believe that God is the Creator of all things, we would always be searching for our identity in someone else or something else. Sadly, it would never work. He is God and that’s just the way He is.

Our beliefs influences our thoughts, how we relate to others, what we see as valuable in this life and the lifestyles we pursue.

But whether we believe or not, God is the most powerful being, creator of the Universe. He is the Triune One, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is Love and His love is lasting and unconditional. He is also Holy, has never sinned and cannot. This means he cannot tolerate sin even while His grace may extend to all men. Our decision to believe or not does not influence who God is. He is powerful, we are not. We are His prized creation and He desires to commune with us daily.

This triune God cannot be compared to any world leader and should not be. God is a jealous God and doesn’t take pleasure in playing second fiddle. You and I do not fully understand the greatness of God because we are limited in our thinking. He is infinite, we are finite. He speaks and the earth trembles. This God through his Son Jesus has defeated Lucifer by resurrecting himself from the Grave and winning the victory over death. As a babe He entered this world and created a massive spiritual earthquake. Many rejected Him, but he survived the odds. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and the sooner we recognise this the quicker we experience lasting joy and peace.

  Job 37:5 “God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.”