Saturday, 27 February 2016

It's a Maisy Day

Modeling the "Over the Shoulder" look.
     Today seemed like a good day to set the camera to film Maisy.  Sunlight provided some brightness in my office, even thought it was a bit overcast today.  
     I made three short films.  But I'm only posting one here.  All three of them are on

     When Maisy likes something and can't wait for another piece of it, she will flicker her tongue.  It always makes me laugh.  I must apologise for the film starting off centre, but what I really wanted to record (her flicker) is exactly positioned where it should be and is very clear.  I hope this will bring a smile to you face.  Just click on the link below.  

Maisy loving her treats! 

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,
"Lady Helene"

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Singleness Five--"You Should Be A Writer"

Possible Book Back Jacket Photo

“You Should be A Writer.”

          First of all, thank you to all of the people who have been so kind to take the time to read my posts.  I greatly appreciate it.  And to those who have left comments or sent replies, a second thanks for your time, energy and thoughts.  

          Secondly, it seems that having a theme is a good idea.  I’ve been reviewing the statistics and the most read of my blogs posts are the ones I’ve written about my thoughts and experiences of singleness.  

          This leads me to point number three:  I don’t know how many articles/posts there will be in this series of “Singleness” posts.  I didn’t set out a meet a specific number of posts—so we both will just have to wait and see what unfolds.

          I’m sharing my experiences because maybe it will help others who have never married, or who find themselves single again because of broken relationships, divorce or death.  

          What kept me going mentally and emotionally was the “Pre-marriage Goals List.”  As mentioned before, those were: 1) live on my own; 2) write a book and 3) see England. 

          I’ve touched on learning to live responsibly as a single person.  So, now I’ll move on to the second item on the list; Write a book.  

To be honest, my daydreams as a young teen into my 20’s, was to become a well known writer.  I even pondered what it would be like to write a best-seller.

I daydreamed of sitting on the interviewee’s couch on talk shows, doing book signings and posing for different back cover photos.  

 I’ve never achieved that because I have not developed the personal disciple to achieve this.  I have not conquered my fears or overcome the obstacles.  This objective deserves some more unpacking emotionally—which is too complicated for this blog.  Bottom line, writing and publishing a book was more about creating a name for myself than being independent.  Saying it another way, I wanted to be known for myself, not as some body’s wife.

          I’ve always been a daydreamer.  My imagination helped me cope through my younger years when our family was on the move.  But the idea of being a writer began to formulate in my brain in the months following my 13th birthday.  I’m not sure why.  

          I speculate that it was because my father had wanted to be a writer.  Another reason was that I was an avid reader—my escape from the everyday life of a small Midwestern community.  I found that people were often listening to me when I shared stories or retold jokes.  I think too, I wanted to find a way to share the message of Jesus and His amazing love. 

          While still a young teen-ager, I remember a moment when a still, small voice spoke in my mind.  “The season you will write, is after you’ve married and have children.”  I still wanted to write a book before I got married; there was nothing to contradict that.  It was the desire to make my mark before I joined forces with someone else.

          I did write a book manuscript before I got married.  Here is the story of how it happened.

          On a November night in 1993, I lie in my queen-sized bed in the dark.  My heart was broken.  My journey into the future did not look like a fork in the road.  Nor did it look like a cross-road.  Rather it had the appearance of a dead end.

          Educationally my academic standing was at 1 ½ years of college credits. At that point in time I refused to take out loans for college.  So, it seemed as though returning to college—even part time—was not feasible.

          Professionally, I was employed as a clerk-typist for the state of Indiana.  Although my job required skills as an administrative assistant, the job was classified as a level four clerk-typist position.  Since it was a government job, the only way to “move up” was to apply for level three positions.  But it was not a job that inspired me, nor allowed me to use my creativity.  Yet, I had learned to be content in it, and do it as though for the Lord.  

          Emotionally I was working through the grief of a broken engagement.   I was 35 and my hope of marriage and family was shattered.  Although my former fiancĂ© and I could communicate well as friends, we disagreed about the important issues.  

          “D. J.” broke our engagement in August.  It was now the middle of November.  In those weeks in between, I’d talked to several people.  They suggested going back into YWAM.  Five years had passed since the door to returning to England had closed.

          I revisited my 1988 plan to return to YWAM Earl’s Court.  Their ministry focused on reaching out to the homosexual community, drug addicts and other people in crisis.  I was not a trained counsellor.  The other staff positions were for administrators and clerical workers.  

            The Holy Spirit said to me:  “If you are unfulfilled as a secretary in paid employment, what makes you think you would be fulfilled doing it as a missionary in England?”   I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied; another dead end.

          At that time in my life, the financial front was limited to my bi-monthly pay from Indiana and the pay from a part-time job.  Because I’d decided to rent by myself instead of finding a roommate, I had to work two jobs just to cover all my expenses.  If I’d gone to YWAM I would have had to raise the support to cover rent living in London.  I had no savings.

          Lying in bed, watching the headlight beams from passing cars dance along the walls and ceilings, I sighed.  It felt like my life’s journey had arrived in a cul-de-sac, going in circles and going nowhere.  

          I prayed the only prayer I knew how to pray:  “Now what, God?  I don’t want to work in an office the rest of my life.  I can’t afford to go back to college.  The wedding is cancelled.  Marriage is not going to happen.  So, now what?”

          “I did not call you to be a missionary.  I called you to be a writer.”  The Heavenly Father’s voice was so kind, so sweet and gentle.  I was comforted.  That desire from childhood now made sense to me.  

          From that day forward, I felt that I was on the verge of change.  I resumed work on a correspondence course through the now defunct Christian Writers’ Guild.  I wrote a series of devotionals to be used at our church’s Ladies Retreat.  

          It was in February that a friend and I were sitting on the end of my bed reading the YWAM Global Opportunities book.  That book listed all the YWAM bases in the world, as well as all the training schools.

          A listing for a base in Texas caught my attention.  I rang (phoned) my mom.

          “Hi Mom!  Guess what I just found?”

          “I’m listening.”  She reassured me.

          “Out of curiosity, I was looking for ministries to Native Americans and Reservations and came across this.  It says, School of Writing, with topics of thematic writing, fiction, magazine article writing, etc.” I enthused.  

          “That’s interesting.” She observed.  “Yes, you should check it out.”

          I thought about writing a letter.  Instead, I made a phone call.  That phone call provided me with the information I needed.  The School was to start in September 1994.  I was the first student to apply and was accepted.

          Following the completion of the school, I applied for a three-month book writing internship.  I wrote the first three chapters of the book during that time.  I applied to join YWAM Woodcrest, to help staff the School of Writing.  I finished my manuscript in 1995.  

          Through a friend, it was given a critique by two professional editors.  But the critiques got lost in the mail.  I’ve made lots of false starts on re-writing it.  As yet, I have not made the commitment needed to stick to it and finish it.  I must say, it haunts me.

          What is my point about sharing this, in reference to singleness?  As I was writing this, I realised that each person in the world needs to have the experience of discovering his/her own God-given purpose.  

          For me marriage carried the expectation that I would have to support, encourage and even enable my husband to follow and fulfil God’s call on His life.  There was the potential to establish my identity through wrapping myself up with supporting him (whoever he was).   

          “Write a book” was my young self stating my need to confirm my talent and then “be about My Father’s business.”  To successfully complete a manuscript I would be embracing the talents God had blessed me with, plus give myself a sense of identity apart from another person.  

          So, for the last thirteen years I’ve been in the season of which I was supposed to be writing.  And I have not ignored writing, but neither have I totally invested with my will.  Until now.

          Writing 200 blog posts in 2016 is my way of getting serious about fulfilling my call.  The habit of writing will be established and hopefully I a passion will be created.  

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,
“Lady Helene”

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Singlensss Part Four

The Lesson I Needed To Learn

“And you shall [earnestly]remember all the way which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and to prove you, to know what was in your [mind and] heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  And He humbled you and allow you to hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you recognize and personally know that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:2-3
       When I read that verse this morning, it confirmed that the next thing I needed/wanted to share about was one of the lessons I needed to learn about trust and provision.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the things I wanted to do prior to getting married was to have the experience of living on my own for at least six months to a year.

          As an older teen, I remember discussing independence and responsibility with my parents.  These conversations were usually around the dinner table in the evening.  

          The conversations may have sounded something like this:
Dad: “Sis, you should know how to take care of yourself, even if you do get married.  Something could happen to your husband and then you would have to pay the bills, take care of your home and everything else involved with that.”

Me:  “What do you mean about something happening to my husband?”

Dad:  “If your husband is in the military, he might be sent out on TDY (Temporary Duty Assignment) for three to six months.  You’d be left ‘holding the fort’.  Or, you husband might be in an accident where he would be unable to work again, so you’d have to be the one who earned enough to pay the bills.  Or you might find yourself divorced, with a family to support.  Any of those things could happen.”

          I saw the wisdom in this advice.  “The List” was born—‘Things I want to  achieve before I know that I’m ready to get married’ list.  There three primary ones—but they had no specific priority.  

1.        Live on your own.  This means to have the practical experience of:

  • How to be financially responsible
  • Acquire the confidence to own and maintain a car;
  • Dealing with landlords regarding home repairs
  • Learning to make due with the resources that I have
  • Manage my time

2.     Write a book. 
3.     Visit England
In January 1977 I began studying at the School of the Ozarks (now College of the Ozarks) in Branson, Missouri.  By December 1977 I knew that it was pointless to stay in college any longer;  I had no idea as to what area of study in which I wanted a degree.  Over the Thanksgiving break I discussed the issue with Mom and Dad. We all decided that I should join the military.  

The insurance company weight charts (that have ruined many a life by their unscientific conclusions and unrealistic standards) put paid to that.  At five-foot, three-inches tall, the accepted weight chart declared that the perfect weight to be met was 115 pounds/52kgs.  A healthy weight to suit my build and body type would have been about 135 pounds/61 kgs.  But the military are adamant about meeting standards and there was no way I was going to reduce my weight to 115 lbs/52kgs without falling ill.

Through prayer and knocking on doors, I found my way into barber college.  It took me nine months to get my apprentice barber’s license.  A year later I earned my master barber’s license.  This gave me a skill I could use to earn money anywhere I went.  It is a skill that has served me well over the years.

 I had depended on my skills and ability to work to earn a living.  I was thankful for the talents God had blessed me with.  When I went to Youth With A Mission DTS, I had saved up the part of the money to pay for it.  It was supplemented well by my home church.  

Each day we had spare time and I’d brought my haircutting equipment.  It provided a way for me to earn money to pay for the use of the washing machines, buy the occasional chocolate and other personal items I needed. 

In 1995 I was accepted onto Staff with YWAM, University of the Nations/School of Writing (SOW).  The facilities were in Texas, and I could not work as a professional barber unless I passed a Texas state exam.  Being on school staff meant there was not time to work a second job.  

My home church was just beginning to understand and support foreign missions and missionaries.  But the structure of that support was based on cell groups adopting missionaries who had been a part of the group prior to leaving for service.  

I had a few supporters who were not a part of my home church.  But the amount I needed was more than those who had pledged to help me.

In the months leading up to the School of Writing, the other staff and I worked in the office preparing for and recruiting students.  One Monday morning I’d gone into town to collect the post for the SOW office.  My staff fees and rent were coming up and I was hoping to receive a support cheque from my home church.  I didn’t want to become indebted to the base or my landlady.   There were no support cheques in the post—not from church and not from any of my other supporters.  The savings in my bank account had been used up.  I felt I was in dire straits.  

Emotional turmoil pressed me into seeking a hiding place.  Once in the bathroom, I sat with tears rolling down my cheeks.  

“God, I don’t understand.  Why aren’t I getting any financial support from my home church.  I’m trying not to be hurt.”

“Too late for that.”  The Father’s voice whispered.  

To get beyond the pain, I needed to acknowledge it, press into it and then forgive the ones I felt had let me down.  In those moments, I realised that I was looking to the church to meet my needs.  After all, they were my spiritual family.  

Unfortunately, relationships bring with them expectations.  My expectation of receiving financial support was not met.  I needed to forgive them for not meeting my expectations.  More than that, I needed to realise that by putting my expectation on people, I was not putting my expectation in the correct place—which was my trustworthy Heavenly Father.  

The following Sunday, the Holy Spirit awakened to my mind and heart that I had been proud of being able to work to earn money.  Hidden in my heart was the sin of self-sufficiency and pride.

When I had come the Texas, the Lord had made it clear to me that I was not to go looking for employment—even part-time employment to meet my needs.  I had answered the call to work with YWAM.  

The talent and skills that God had given to me were to bless others—not necessarily to meet my financial needs.  I needed to repent of smugness and prideful self-sufficiency in order to obtain grace. 

I had been led into a financial wilderness in order for my heart motivations, wrongful expectations and self-righteousness to be exposed.  And God was proving my faith.

          When a baker allows bread to prove, the yeast causes the bread to increase.  But for the bread to be really good, the bread needs to be “knocked-back” and allowed to rise again. 

          The Lover of my Soul had allowed the ‘first rising’ of my faith to be flattened.  I needed to be free from the misdirected hope in myself and other people.  In the days that followed, I meditated upon the faithfulness of God, the promises of His word and gave thanks for all His provision in the past.  Eventually I was blessed with other partners who were not a part of my church family.  And several misunderstandings were straightened out so that my church family were able to help provide resources.

          It was good for me to experience life on my own and facing the daily practical acts of paying rent, grocery shopping, balancing a cheque book and looking after a car.  But the deeper, more needful lesson I needed to learn was a fuller, deeper trust in God as a Father who lovingly supplies. 
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,
“Lady Helene”

Monday, 22 February 2016

And from the beginning...

Childhood choices

          From the day of our birth until we are mature enough to make all of our own adult decisions, our adult lives have been influenced by decisions made for us by our parents, our teachers and even the laws of the land.  Yet, the skill of decision making begins in our “tender years”; we observe and learn through experiences that bring us to conclusions that affect us in adulthood.

          My long-term singleness as an adult was created by what I learned by watching my parents, our family experiences and even listening to what other people said when I was a child.

          It was November 1958.  As an Air Force family, my parents and older (half) brother were moving house, as Dad was to begin a new training assignment.  Between Shepherd Air Force, near Wichita Falls, Texas to Travis Air Force Base, near Fairfield, California lies over 1,600 miles. 
        The Air Force was responsible for moving the household furniture; the only thing in the car was the family of three and luggage for clothing.

          Other men from Dad’s unit, including good friend, Alan Balance, had been transferred to Travis AFB as well as my Dad.  He and his wife, Joanne, made arrangements to travel in tandem with my parents; driving cross country with another family meant mutual support for both families should a troublesome situation arise. When the need for stopping arose, they would signal by flashing headlights.

The two cars followed the blacktop across the panhandle of Texas, the plains and into the mountains of New Mexico, through the dessert of Arizona, up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  About eighty-percent of the distance to their new home had been covered. 

          My mother was about eight and a half months pregnant with me.  She’d been instructed to lay down in the back of the family estate car (station wagon) the whole trip.  But, she was too curious about the landscape of the Great American West, and sat up.  She’d always wanted to see California, having grown up in the Midwest.  The journey was through states she’d never seen before—she didn’t want to miss it. 

But the trip was taking its toll on Mom; exhausted and uncomfortable, she began spotting blood.  Dad flashed his car headlights to signal the other family over.  When they discussed the issue, my parents learned that Barbara Balance’s sister lived in Bakersfield, California.  Finding a payphone, Barbara called her sister.  The sister told them to make their way to Bakersfield.  Once there, they took my Mom to Mercy Hospital.

After examining my Mom, the doctor, (a Catholic nun), informed my Mom that she had two choices:  1) remain in hospital until the due date.  2) induce labour, as she was sure the baby was developed sufficiently to have a healthy birth.

Now, seeing as how waiting for natural labour could be two or even three weeks, and my father had to report for duty at the new base within the next day or two, it was decided that Mom would have labour induced.  I was born at 5.12 pm, on Wednesday, 19th November 1958 in a Catholic hospital.

My father’s military career affected the timing of my birth.  His military career also created in me a desire to travel and experience different cultures, different countries and even different kinds of work.

Dad actually worked two jobs while he served in the Air Force.  During the week he was a parachute packer, working on base.  On Saturdays he worked as a barber.  He was very good with his hands.

In my teens I did not trust that I could find another person who would share my love of travel.  My concern was that if I got married young, the children would come along quickly and there would never be enough money or time to travel, to see England and parts of Europe. 

Both of my parents had been married to other people and divorced.  They were in their early 30’s when they met and married.  Dad was 35 when I was born and Mom was 32.  In my mind I didn’t need to worry about having children in my late teens and twenties, because Mom had children in her thirties. 

Knowing a bit about both of my parent’s stories led me to conclude that by getting married young, one could marry the wrong person. 

In my mind, getting married when I was about twenty-seven seemed wise and highly desirable.  Only, I lived through my late twenties, my thirties and into my forties before the desire to married was fulfilled. 

It is very likely that I needed those extra years to learn all the lessons I needed to learn before I could have the marriage of which I always dreamed.

Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,
“Lady Helene”