When God Speaks


Hello? Who is this? Do I know you?

Have you ever had one of those calls when the person on the other end starts speaking, assuming you know who’s calling, but you aren’t clear who it is? You think you recognize the voice, and you feel a little embarrassed that you can’t attach a name right away? What do you say?

Awkward, isn’t it?

I think sometimes that’s how we feel about God. He expects we will know his voice, but we aren’t always certain we do. How is God supposed to sound? How do I know I’m not just talking to myself?

How do I know if it’s God speaking?

It can be challenging to decipher. We do have an enemy who is out to mess us up. The Bible says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2Cor. 11:14). And, he used scripture to tempt Jesus (Matt. 4:3-11).

No wonder we can be confused!

But I think God wants to make it easier for us. He tells us in John 10 that we are his sheep, and his sheep know his voice. I find that reassuring when I’m feeling a bit confused about whether I’m hearing God or not. If I’m his sheep, then I will know his voice. Phew!

These are some of the ways I know I am hearing from God:102

  1. Jesus came to forgive, not condemn. Satan is the accuser and “father of lies.” If what I hear condemns, accuses or is untruthful (even if there is a thread of truth), it is not from God. If what I hear convicts with hope and forgiveness and settles my heart, even if I feel sorrowful about it, it is God.
  2. Satan’s goal is to devour, kill, steal and destroy. Jesus came to give us abundant life. If what I hear is destructive to me or someone else and leaves me feeling hopeless, devastated and stuck, it is not God. When God speaks, I feel a sense of promise, restoration and life. Like a breath of fresh air.
  3. When God speaks, what he says matches his character and what his word says. His character is loving, patient, kind and forgiving. He is mighty and just and merciful. Sometimes it may seem that even the Bible is contradictory, but if we dig deeper into the context, we often find the answers to each seeming conundrum. God is consistent.
  4. God’s words bring peace not turmoil. Even if I don’t like what I hear from God, I still know it is right and my heart feels settled. Even in the craziest situations. Like when I moved here with no job, hardly any money and only a temporary place to live. Single with three teenagers. Or when I met my husband online and traveled to Australia to meet him. And he moved here with his three young children to marry me and live in America. As crazy as it seemed, I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew God spoke and in a place of faith, I (we) followed his lead.

Sometimes it seems scary to listen for God.

I mean, what if I didn’t really hear him or heard him wrong? What if I don’t like what he’s telling me or asking me to do because I can’t really see the bigger picture and can’t imagine things working out? What about when I need to humble myself and forgive someone or pray for someone or in love tell someone something difficult they need to hear?

All very good points.

I’ve found that God is faithful to meet me in every one of those situations. He forgives me and has a good plan even if I miss what he said, or didn’t hear him completely accurately. Even when I don’t like what he has to say, he can handle it and help me follow through. And if he asks me to do something difficult, he’s right there to make me able to do it if I trust him.

The good news is he loves us, speaks to us and wants us to be able to hear him. And the more we get to know him, the more confident we’ll be when he speaks.

When has God spoken to you, but you weren’t sure about it? When has he spoken and you knew it confidently?

Christmas # 5


A few weeks ago, I realized that this year is the fifth Christmas Brendan and I have spent together. Wow! The awareness made me think back, recapping each year and its unique joys. Perhaps you’d like to join me…

Blair making his favorite "Sandies"
Blair making cookies 2008

Christmas 2008 – I spent the ten days prior to Christmas in Australia. Brendan and I shopped for the children together for the first time. I introduced my pending Aussie family to my Christmas tradition of stockings and learned about Santa bags! The kids and I made Christmas cookies. Santa surfing in the mall surprised this White Christmas girl. Brendan proposed on December 22.  I returned home the next day; then watched Brendan, Brodie, Bella and Blair open their presents Christmas morning via Skype which was on my Christmas Eve afternoon.

Band Hero all night
Band Hero all night

Christmas 2009 – Our first married Christmas. Brendan and I enjoyed some special moments in front of the fireplace with our Christmas tree lights twinkling ambience. Bella and Blair scootered through the kitchen on new Razors. Brodie practiced shooting his new pellet gun. We all played Mario Cart and Band Hero with the grown up kids until way too late that night. My future daughter-in-law Sabina helped me pack up Christmas because of my increasing illness from the mold in our house (of which we knew nothing at the time!)

Christmas 2010 – We celebrated Christmas with our dear friends Jeff and Jo who had allowed us to live with them because of the necessity of leaving our moldy house. We had been trying to purchase a home here, but every offer and counter offer fell through. Our friends were blessed to have children in their home and we were blessed to have a home to stay in! They left for the holidays so we were able to enjoy spending the time with all but one of our children! Two new grandchildren added to the fun. It ended up being a great Christmas in spite of our not so perfect situation.

086

Christmas 2011 – Our first Christmas in this house.  We enjoyed the delight of decorating our home with lights and tree and stockings even 245more because all of our things had been in storage the previous year. Brendan and I treated ourselves to new bikes and rode around the block freezing our hands and faces! We added a new dimension of music by replacing our dead piano (in pieces in our garage) with a keyboard from Santa. Bella and Blair still reveled in the double blessings of Santa bags and stockings!

Christmas 2012 – Here we are! We have a really tall tree and the house decked with Christmas around every corner. The weather has been bitterly cold for us Aussie/California types. Scraping frost off the windows in the morning in order to drive kids to school kind of cold! Bella’s old enough to have figured out the Santa “game” of Christmas and to help wrap packages and decorate at church. Brodie’s off with friends most of the time, and Blair is filled with the wonder of new discoveries.  As a family, we’ve chosen gifts to give to others in far off countries who have nothing. Some families far away will get to have some clothes, soccer balls, a goat and freedom from slavery. It’s been a Christmas for solidifying traditions and making some new ones. I love my husband more every day.  What a journey we’ve been on. What a journey we have yet to go.

261 Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What are some of your favorite Christmas memories? Is this year different? In what way?

Yearning for Physical Touch


I’m delighted to offer another excerpt of Brendan’s this week. For those of you enjoying his perspective on our story…

It seems that the online dating experience reverses the process of any other type of situation in which two people get together.

Ordinarily a couple might see each other across a room (visual stimulation) and say hello while shaking hands. They might exchange a very light embrace, and perhaps dance, if the meeting is at such a venue. Then phone calls follow (voice attraction and deepening relationship), and finally some sort of writing such as email, texts and possibly, although rare these days, letters (a deeper communication after deciding how to accurately express thoughts).

But we had done it the opposite way.

Deep affection for each other was the result, and caused us to yearn for physical touch. It was time for Laura to come to Australia for a couple of weeks.

I felt a bit awkward about how to handle the visit. What if she got here and one of us didn’t like the other up close? It could be the longest, most uncomfortable three weeks of our lives. The thought occurred to me that despite our interaction over the last few months, Laura might be anxious about meeting me. After all I could be a serial killer or an assassin. I had already told her I was an international spy wanted by the CIA, Interpol, The Kremlin, MI5 and Neighborhood Watch, notorious and wanted for parking in disabled car spaces all over the world.

She merely laughed.

My solution, given me by God, was to also invite Laura’s youngest daughter, Ashley. Laura accepted and was delighted with the prospect of having her beloved daughter travel with her to meet me and my kids, be moral support and, dare I say it, chaperone us. That would make it less awkward at least for Laura, but God was looking out for Ashley as well. As the youngest of Laura’s four children, she found our situation rather trying for her to embrace given that her mother was interested in someone that could cause Mom to leave home. The well received solution created a good situation for Laura and Ashley.

Plans for travel to Australia began.

K-I-S-S-I-N-G


This week I’m delighted to offer another guest post from Brendan Bennet, an excerpt from The Miracle of Us: Confessions of Two Online Daters. Brendan gives us a glimpse into his initial experience with internet dating…

I began my internet dating experience on a secular website. 

Silly Me! My first clue should have been the computer generated initial ‘hi’ for this site was a kiss. A bit forward, don’t you think? I mean kissing on the first date would be pretty irregular especially before even being introduced.

I received my share of interest from people who I declined politely. Those were individuals twice my age (and I was 47 then), not resembling a female (who am I trying to kid, not even vaguely female), escaping war torn nations, believers in the god Pluto (the Disney one), and shall we say, business ladies.

Despite some hiccups, I did connect with a couple of ladies who I ended up meeting in person. One of the ladies decided she was too independent for a serious relationship and my having three children required someone serious about family! I went out with the other women four or five times for some laughs over drinks and dinner. We became friends and had some good times together, but we were not interested in each other romantically. No other situation presented itself. Still, it was refreshing and fun to meet these ladies and realise that being single might not be a permanent situation.

It soon became apparent, however, that secular dating sites might not be the best place for me to search for my life partner. In view of my Christian beliefs, it was desirable to meet a like-minded lady. It would be a disaster if we found out later that our philosophies and beliefs conflicted, and we couldn’t get along because our values were misaligned. Trouble was I didn’t even imagine there might be such a thing as a non-secular dating site.

Technology is not my strong suit. I only recently learned that search engines have, for a very long time, had the ability to tag linked accounts, such as email, with banners for businesses that might synch with the activity on the account. Given I was on a dating site as well as various Christian sites regularly, the search engine must have married those two activities and come up with the banner over my email advertising a dating site called Christian Café. I don’t believe in coincidence; I believe in Providence. I felt this began a long list of interventions that brought me and my family to the U.S. where God gave me Laura as His gift and blessing for healing, new life and wholeness. Mark down finding Christian Café through a banner advertisement as intervention number one.

46 Year Old Man Seeks Company


This is the first of a series of guest posts by Brendan Bennet taken from our book in progress The Miracle of Us: Confessions of Two Online Daters. Needless to say, he’s the second dater in the story. I think some of you have been waiting to hear from him…
 

Looking for romance in all the wrong places?

Okay, I’d been out of the dating scene for a decade and a half so where do you go to look for romance with a view to finding a future? Forty-six year old man with three young, dependent kids seeks company, possibly long term if mutually desired.

What did I do? I went to a night club. Can you believe it? No really, I did. What the heck did I think I was going to find in there? I found about a thousand twenty-somethings staring at a silly old man.

“What on earth are you doing in here?” I queried myself.

To make it worse I went in there alone. That made me look not only pathetic, but possibly perverted. I didn’t feel comfortable in that night club. Go figure.

Do you know that there aren’t many ways to meet people if it isn’t for professional reasons or to play a sport? However, there was a relatively new concept starting to get a foothold in the world of socialising–internet dating.

“No, Brendan. Don’t be ridiculous. That’s not for you!”

I chided myself. Then I reconsidered, “But what else is there? Do I dare to put myself in such a scary place? Internet dater people are still being mocked by trendy, socially adept, bar hopping people for being “losers.”

“Ah, what the heck. Let’s do it!” I didn’t know who I was talking to, but he or she agreed.

Next step – research!

I knew a sum total of zero people using internet dating services. Either my friends and acquaintances were much more sophisticated than I and didn’t need to consider internet dating, or there were a number of liars amongst them. I’m going with the latter. A smarter man may have given up there, but…

Google! Don’t we love that word! In Australia, the premier dating service on the internet appeared to be a site called RSVP. At last, following a gruelling sixty seconds of clicking, research was complete! The catchy RSVP advertisement allowed 30 days free trial. I couldn’t wait to get started so I missed the clause, “Must supply credit card details for a minimum 6 month membership.”

But wait; there was a huge set back. I actually had to supply my personal details, a (recent) photograph and, horror upon horror, “a few paragraphs about yourself.”

“What is your weight?”

“None of your business or anyone else’s. She’ll have to love me for who I am.”

“What’s your hair colour?”

“Scarce. Is that a colour?”

“Are you in shape?”

“Yes, round. Round is a shape.”

“Eyes?”

“Two.”

“Do you have children?”

“No, their mother did that.”

“Do you want more children?”

“Well, how many are you trying to get rid of?”

“If you could be stranded on a deserted island with one other person, who would you choose?”

“It wouldn’t matter. That person would soon kill me, or at least never talk to me again for getting us both stranded on a deserted island.”

“Are you gainfully employed?”

“Much more so than the idiot who wrote these questions.”

There it was; my completed profile. Here is a word of advice for anyone thinking of going down the internet dating route. Don’t use your computer camera to take that profile picture. Hire a professional. It will save you a lot of heartache—rejection type heartache.

 

Continued next week…

Deadly Expectations


Our first night out (alone) in Australia.

Brendan, ever the gentleman, held open the door of the building. We had agreed to walk because we were close to numerous restaurants.

“Where do you want to go?” he asked.

“Uh, well….since I don’t know any places here or really where we are, I’m not sure.”

I admit I felt a little disappointed at his lack of planning. It’s not like I could offer any ideas either since I knew nothing about the area.

“Well, what do you feel like eating?”

“Maybe we can start walking and see if something appeals to us?” I suggested.

We wandered down the street, my stomach starting to growl because it was nearly 8 p.m. After considering a few places, we settled on a cozy Italian establishment that offered warm, gentle lighting and renaissance walls. I figured we couldn’t go wrong with Italian cuisine. How wrong I was!

Brendan had to ask for menus, napkins, silverware, and water which were brought one item at a time (yes, even each fork, knife and spoon). After a mediocre meal, we decided to fore-go dessert. We couldn’t seem to attract the attention of anyone who looked remotely prepared to bring us a dessert menu or take our order. While we waited for the check, our first disagreement erupted and smoldered.

I had expected to be swept off my feet.

The sweeping would happen as a result of a perfectly planned evening (by Brendan) at an accommodating restaurant where dinner would taste divine, and we would share a delectable dessert over fascinating conversation. Then perhaps more romantic wooing with a stroll down the beach holding hands and sharing our dreams for the future. The strolling, of course, would be punctuated with a few well-timed kisses. Finally, he would escort me home with gallant intentions to protect my honor by restraining himself at the door with a lingering gaze and a kiss just passionate enough to leave us satisfied yet wanting.  I would then proceed to drift off to sleep with dreams of the enchanting night we shared on our first night out alone.

The evening wasn’t unfolding as I planned in my mind.

I did attempt gracious acceptance since I loved Brendan and was happy to be with him, but I began to feel increasingly disappointed. My grand expectations and hopes for our wonderful evening out together dictated my emotions so when Brendan made a comment and I disagreed what resulted was a defensive standoff that had no place in my plans for the previously mentioned romance. Naturally, the disagreement added to my frustration.

I don’t remember even a hint of what we argued about.

Part of the problem was the expectations I had regarding our date. The evening needed to look a particular way in order for me to be content. Flexibility wasn’t the issue. We didn’t have to eat at a particular restaurant or order something specific. I wasn’t looking for precise words or actions, but in my heart I had unknowingly set up a scenario that required adherence to (at least) the most general of details. And, I expected Brendan to telepathically pick up on my disappointment, apologize sincerely and fix it. Except that I didn’t even know that’s what I was thinking.

I realize now that expectations like that can be deadly.

The best thing to do is communicate. My fear of hurting Brendan’s feelings or sounding like a demanding shrew kept me silently scrambling to figure out everything in my head. But if I had shared what I was struggling with, we could have worked things out. Maybe we would have argued, but probably we would have ended up laughing over it all.

Love covers over so many things and makes a place for us to share what’s in our hearts—both the good and the bad. Fear keeps us trapped while we question our desires and the other person’s motives. Fear made me judge Brendan’s lack of planning and foresight and offered me the conclusion that it revealed a lack of care for me. I didn’t realize all of that at the time, but I did want to put aside whatever it was in me that was creating discontent.

In order to salvage what I thought was a ruined evening; I suggested a walk on the beach in the moonlight…

Have you ever been disappointed when your expectations weren’t met? How did you handle it?

How Would the Kids Take it??


Excerpt…

As soon as I arrived home (from the jewelry store), I Skyped Brendan so he could see my ring. He felt a bit sad to not have given it to me in person, but I thought the whole situation romantic and exciting.

“Did you tell the kids yet?” I asked as soon as I finished telling him the story of the lady in the jewelry store.

“Uh, no. Actually, I didn’t think of it.”

“Really? I called everyone while I was still in the airport in Australia.”

It seemed inconceivable that he wouldn’t want to tell the kids right away.

“When’re you gonna tell them?”

“I reckon I’ll tell them later after dinner. I want to have a good sit down with them and explain about moving to America. I’m not sure how they’ll take it.”

I supposed that made sense. After all, it’s a pretty big deal to tell your young children that you are going to marry a woman who will become their second mother.

“Oh, and by the way, we’re all moving to another country thousands of miles away that you’ve never seen before. You’ll have to give up all your friends and family here, and you will be plunged into an unfamiliar culture where everyone will think you sound cool when you talk, but they won’t understand a word you say.”

I so didn’t envy Brendan that conversation. Naturally we were counting on the fact that this was God’s idea, and he must have a way to make it work not only for us, but the children as well. It’s not like he would do something to bless us at their expense. We really had to trust that somehow he would make it okay for them in their hearts and thoughts. They seemed closer to me as time went on, so we believed he was working in their hearts.

To Brendan’s amazement, all the children received the information with positive comments and excited questions! Even Brodie voiced interest in making the move.

Another miracle in our eyes. Seven children all on board with this momentous decision was no small feat!

Christmas in Australia


Another excerpt…

Within a couple of days, Brendan and I started talking about when we would see each other again. It was the first week of December so Christmas shopping and decorating had just barely begun, and Brendan felt a little lost regarding what to do. In the past, he had relied on his wife, who had all things for Christmas purchased, wrapped and ready to go by September. The first Christmas after her passing, Brendan had little to do as she, in her usual manner, had already completed most of the shopping and preparations, but this year he was on his own. As we discussed his situation, I offered some ideas that I had found helpful to me. I wondered if there was anything I could do for him from where I was, but obviously my options were limited. Suddenly, Brendan threw out a question.

“Do you think you would be willing to come here for Christmas?”

Heart stopping thrill and an onslaught of my own questions made me speechless.

“REALLY? Well…I…hmmm…,” I stumbled over my thoughts and words.

“That would be amazing, but I can’t be gone for Christmas. There’s no way I wouldn’t be with the kids. I don’t think I could do it. I just couldn’t.”

“I get it. I wouldn’t want to be apart from my kids on Christmas either.”

 “I mean, they are adults, and I’m not sure the boys will even be here. Chris is in Reno, and I’m not sure about Josh. I know Vici has Logan, but still she’d miss our family traditions like baking and stockings. And Ashley’s still just getting her life back together and already struggles with me being in a relationship. Can you imagine if I left her for Christmas?”

I tried to make it feel right in my heart, but I had never been away from them at Christmas, and I just couldn’t bring myself to be okay with it. It was one thing to have them move away as adults or share time with me and their in-laws, but quite another for me to toss away all of our special family time.

“What if I came now, but then flew back home in time for Christmas?”

Brendan agreed, and we checked out flights. Christmas is in the middle of summer there so tickets aren’t exactly cheap, but when we found a reasonable deal that would give me an almost two week visit we snatched it up.

“What do you think, darling? Can you be ready to leave in three days?”

I laughed. Me? The crazy non-traveler?

“Only by God’s grace and a miracle! But I’d better start right this minute.”

My mind raced with all the things I had to do here, whether I could get enough accomplished and what shopping I could do in Australia.

“I’ve got to tell the kids, finish shopping, pack and find a ride to the airport. Thank goodness we have a lot of Carol’s wedding stuff already done. Will you book the ticket?”

 “Doing it as we speak, beautiful girl.”

“Wow, Brendan! Nothing like jumping into the next step. Here we go! I’m so excited. And a little panicked! I love you. Talk to you later. Bye.”

I took a deep breath and grinned with a tear in my eye.

“Carol!!” I called down the hall. “Guess what? I’m going to Australia! In three days!”

The Reality of Two Continents


If you read my confessions of an amateur writer, you will see why I am behind this time in my posts…ahhh the perils of penning! But I leave you with another small excerpt from The Miracle of Us: Confessions of Two Online Daters…

This may be a good point to impart some information regarding the time zone difference between the USA, namely California where I live, and the east coast of Australia where Brendan is from.

He was seventeen to eighteen hours ahead depending on daylight savings which they do not observe on the Gold Coast of Australia. So, just to give you an idea of what our world was like for nearly a year; Brendan would get up at 5 a.m. so that I could say good morning to him when it was 12 p.m. the day before, my time. That would be the first I would “see” or talk to him each day. Then he would get ready for his day and get the kids off to school. (Later, after we were certain about our relationship, I would often speak to the kids as well, sending them off to school with my love.)

Usually, after the kids were safely on the bus, Brendan would come back and talk to me again around 8 a.m. his time; 3 p.m. my time, if I didn’t have to be out the door to go tutor someone after school(my other job). Then when his work day was ending, before he had to pick up the kids, he would call again – 2 or 3 p.m. his time (10 p.m. mine) to say good night to me.

We’d be chatting away when suddenly one of us would exclaim, “Oh my gosh, it’s four o’clock – time to pick up the kids from the bus!” Then off he would go to get the kids, and I would go to bed. Many times I would “wait up” so we could finish our conversation, or so I could see the kids. It became a strange, surreal world we lived in being in two time zones, living in two different days, in two different countries. It was a wonderful world as well, and the only way we knew to “date” online from such a distance.

Conflict Makes a Story…Immigration Part 3


So, I just finished reading Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years and his words still reverberate through my mind at various times through my day. (I highly recommend the book which you can check out at www.donaldmillerwords.com ).

In his book, he talks about the process of making one of his other books (Blue Like Jazz – another amazing work of art) into a movie, and what it took to create a story of his life that would be interesting and worth viewing. Truth is, he learned that he wanted a better story to his life period, so he began engaging in life in ways he had never imagined. Way to go, Don.

One of the things (too many to mention here) that grabbed me about his book was the idea of conflict causing change in characters. Now, I was taught in writing classes that a good story must have what we call rising action, a series of conflicts that build to a climax after which the action falls into some type of resolution. Writing 101. However, even though we write about life and things we know about or hope for, it never occurred to me that the conflicts in my actual life were creating a better story.

Since this blog(and the book in progress) is about my life, I asked my writing critique partner if she thought there was enough real conflict to make my story interesting. She assured me there is, and as I’ve taken another look, I’ve begun to see that what makes our story a great story–other people’s words not mine, though I agree–is not how romantic it is, but that there have been tremendous conflicts faced and overcome. We started on an impossible journey and watched the conflicts build and resolve as we kept saying yes and moving ahead.

Hence, the immigration issues we’ve faced make for a better story. Thank you USCIS.

To continue the story….

Within just two weeks we heard from America and Australia that the approved application for Brendan’s visa had been received, and he could submit all the necessary paperwork to the consulate in Australia. They kindly enclosed a list of about a dozen required items including a police report, fingerprints, a medical examination and clearance, all the previous documents in duplicate (what did they do with the other four copies?) and, of course, more money.

I have to confess that we cheated a little. I had already done extensive research to find out what things they would ask for before we got the letter asking for them so that we could be ahead if possible. Remember, we were in a time crunch with a wedding hopefully taking place in just six weeks. So when we received the letter, Brendan had already made the required doctor appointments for him and the kids in Brisbane, and was ready to head out the door to get his police report taken care of.

But when he called me hours later, I was crushed. The police report would take 6-8 weeks they said. And that was just one part of all the things we needed done before he could fly to Sydney (with the kids) to submit it all for the visa. We didn’t know what to do.

“Did you tell them you needed it as soon as possible??” I snapped at him. Like it was really his fault.

“Yes, darling. I did. No one really cares. They just said it would be that long when I asked, and then they moved on to the next person.”

I was so disappointed. I envisioned postponing our wedding for a second time. In all fairness, the website and letters we received made it very clear that we should not book tickets or plan weddings until a visa was actually in hand. Of course they didn’t take into account the details of planning weddings or travel now, did they?

“Well, I guess it’s another opportunity for a miracle. There’s no other option than to trust that God knows what he’s doing and will do the best for us.” I said the words more to convince myself than out of actual belief at that point. I certainly didn’t see how it would work out.

Brendan and I hung up, and I went and cried.