I sit on the train looking out the big windows at the landscape slipping past me: tall evergreen trees interspersed with the lacework of leafless trees thrusting their branches against the grey sky, all anchored in a natural forest undergrowth. Raindrops splashing and runnng down in small riveluts, causing the landscape to blur in front of my eyes…. or is it tears in my eyes? Maybe both..
I’m returning to Portland, OR, from Bellingham, WA, close to the Canadian border where my parents live . They’re in their late 80’s, and becoming fragile. I did some food prep for them and put it in the freezer; things they enjoy. It’s strange to be at their comfy trailer home and me do the cooking. All my life, my mom’s cooking is a highlight in our home. . . and now the roles are reversed.
I leave Bellingham early this morn. a train change in Seatlle WA, arriving in Portland OR. around dusk. It’s early afternoon: I won’t know that without my watch, the sky is dark with clouds. We just went through an area that I know well, where my former husband was raised. So many wonderful, crazy memories of two kids who fall in love and planning their marriage. Driving in a blizzard near Tacoma WA., going to a huge state fair in Puyallup WA, , canoing on Greenlake (near the University) in Seattle, a stolen kiss riding in the rumble seat of a friend’s car… (rumble seat: that may be another word you will need to look up. Believe me, it’s unforgettable!)
MEMORIES! MEMORIES! flowing though my brain on my mind’s screen. My Lord and Father God. What happened over the years to change all of that? What did we do wrong? What did I do wrong?
Too many questions with no answers…Will I ever have any answers?
I continue to look out the window. I should be seeing palm trees, clear blue sky, rolling hills at times with sharp peaks… and why am I hearing English instead of Portuguese?
I pull my warm sweater more tightly around me (I need to go to a thrift store and look for more warm sweaters.) and reach for my Amplified Bible. I haven’t yet read today’s Proverbs. Let me see: today is December 3, 1987. So it’s Proverbs 3. I open my Bible and read.
Proverbs 3 Amplified Bible (AMP)
1 My son, forget not my law or teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; 2 For length of days and years of a life [worth living] and tranquility [inward and outward and continuing through old age till death], these shall
shall they add unto you..
3 Let not mercy and kindness [shutting out all hatred and selfishness] and truth [shutting out all deliberate hypocrisy or falsehood] forsake you; bind them about your neck, write them upon the tablet of your heart. 4 So shall you find favor, good understanding, and high esteem in the sight [or judgment] of God and man.
5 Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. 6 In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord and turn [entirely] away from evil. 8 It shall be health to your nerves and sinews, and marrow and moistening to your bones.
I stopped reading. Wow. I know I’ve read this before, many times, but this afternoon, it is exactly what I need.
I let my body relax and more memories of these past months come as a flood when I open the dam restraining them.
I look out the window,without seeing the trees and rain.
Scenes of slowly packing and closing the house in Belo Horizonte and the day I give the keys to the realtor. Him telling me how sorry he is for all that is happening, also sharing with me other things he knows of that my husband had done.
Getting on the plane; flying to São Paulo where my younger son is serving as an interpreter for a Jimmy Swaggert Gospel Campaign: going to the soccer stadium filled with 20,000 or more Brazilians. Thankfulness to see my son there on stage, translating. The absolute joy as hundreds stream from the surrounding stands to come to the Lord! Then flying to Rio de Janeiro for the second campaign: experiencing the same awe of what God is doing! My kids attempting to convince me I should stay in Brazil until after their baby is born.
The DIFFICULT flight from Rio de Janeiro to Portland, Oregon. Looking out the window at the ground miles below; wondering if I would ever get to “come home” again.
Arriving from Brazil, stepping off the plane in Portland, Oregon, wondering what is reality? The only reality I have is I know I can trust is God’s promises and what He is teaching me about forgiveness, thankfulness and blessing my enemies. I still have much to learn!
My teenage daughter and I are in a small two bedroom apartment, our mattresses on the floor. We are on the second floor of an older building with the laundry in the basement. (Good exercise!) We have a small kitchen, living/dining room with a gas fireplace, inexpensive carpeting, and two bathrooms. (Important!)
We are near the Columbia River, so the frigid wind from eastern Oregon comes whistling down the gorge. Many nights I lay awake, warmly snuggling under a pile of blankets, listening to the whining of the wind around the building as it battered against the windows, sometimes managing to come in through an ill-fitting casing. I lay there, warm, thanking God for His protection, my daughter and I are safe and there is peace in our little apartment. No fighting. No drama. Peace.
At this time, I have no idea how we will make it financially, but my mind is too “washed out” to think straight or try to find work. I don’t think I even have skills to find work. My pastor did a psychological test on me: he was shocked when he saw my score on self esteem – zero!
My Father knows exactly where we are, and what we need, and He provides for us. In a “strange land,” the apartment begins to feel like home. We shop garage sales and thrift stores: I’m amazed at what we find and how it all fits together. I am proud of my daughter. This is also being tough on her!
Proverbs 3, Psalms 23, Psalms 91, Psalms 139… They all take on new depth and meaning, and I thank God.
I thank Him . . . and wait to be able to walk through the dark tunnel I’m now in. I hope it won’t be long before my mind and emotions are out of this dark tunnel, and out – once again – into the light and warmth of day.
I awaken out of my thoughts as the train begins to slow down, the conductor coming through the car calling out, “Portland! Portland”.
I gather up my Bible and the papers I’ve been writing on, hurriedly put them into my carry- on bag, run my hand through my hair, and prepare to step off the train, wondering who will be there to meet me.
Tonight I’m in Portland, Oregon, looking out the window at the sky as the sun disappears behind the horizon, and darkness creeps up from the west into the bowl of the sky overhead.
I stand here, remembering the emotional anguish, confusion, and desperation for normalcy I was living in as the structure of family was in the process of demolition from a storm that destroyed my home’s very foundations.
May 1987 One week after the life I knew ended.
I am standing in the master bedroom. My husband …(My mind reminds me I must quit calling him that. I am still legally married, but the marriage has ended. It’s time to face up to reality)… okay.. my former husband left for the states three days ago at the request of our mission board.
It is night. My youngest daughter is asleep in her bedroom down the hall, but the rest of the house is empty of life. My body and mind are weary.
The view of the room from where I am standing causes overwhelming anguish.
There is the old king size bed: that foam mattress was packed onto the ship when we moved to Brazil 20 plus years earlier, and it’s accompanied us in each move since. It’s been on such a wide variety of bed frames; one apartment we lived in we couldn’t get the bed frame up the narrow stairway, so just the mattress went up and was on the floor without a frame. (I smile as I remember how I had to get on my knees to make that bed on the floor.)
On each side of the bed are wicker shelves filled with books and papers and the night lamps for reading in bed – which I love to do! There is a comfortable chair in the corner, beside the Dutch door to the walkway outside. (Dutch door – another word to google?)
Some old rugs scattered on the rustic tile floor. A room that is/was a hideaway for me. Now, it is mocking me with memories.
I look at the pile of objects my former husband left on his shelves. I’d better start sorting and boxing his things. I have to start somewhere. .. but I think I’ll listen to some sermons from the states while I work. That will help keep my mind from going in these endless circles, like it’s in a trap, trying to escape.
I found the tapes, popped one into the tape player, and started sorting.
Listening to Pr. Ted Roberts teaching about Moses, my hands and mind were busy, and I was accomplishing something. I filled a couple of small boxes with articles for my “former”husband. But, Lord, I don’t want him to be that: I want my home and my life! I was weary; there is still the closet to clean out.
I’ve got to listen more closely to the tape. My mind is starting to go in circles again. Unexpectedly, I hear the word “forgiveness” applied in a way I’d not thought of before. I stopped to listen; then, with tears streaming down my face, I gropingly found the recorder and turned off the tape. Weeping uncontrollably, I dropped to my knees on one of the old rugs beside the bed; put my head in my arms on top of that ancient king mattress covered with a quilt, and started crying out to God.
The sorting could wait. I had more important work to do as I started down this road of forgiveness, learning lessons which would forever change my life.
Next post soon: HOW do I forgive – when I don’t want to??? And WHY SHOULD I? What advantages does it give to me?
Hi! I’ll be continuing this story out of my life, posting 2 or 3 times a week.
Along with some detours.
My suggestion? Check the box below so you can receive these posts in your email. In that way, you’ll receive them automatically. Easier for all of us.
Looking forward to meeting here again. Some big Brazilian hugs, Voni P.