I never got to have a child of my own. Whatever happened to that dream child with chubby cheeks and big brown eyes called “Andrea”... “Andy” for short? What do I do now with these God-given nurturing energies that lie deep inside of me? Who will listen to the lessons I’ve learned from God and life’s experiences? Who can I try and save from the wrong turns I took and the traps I fell into? I understand now why parents are famous for giving so much advice. It is not as young people might believe, that it is a prideful attempt to show superiority or a need to control, but it is a desire that their child not suffer as they did, that they have a better life.
I will write these letters to a niece. A wise and humble niece whose ears are always listening, whose eyes are always scanning for messages from heaven, whose mind is open to the ways of God. And I will rest in the knowledge that if mistakes are made, if wrong roads are taken, if pits are fallen into, promises from God arch above her as beautiful as a rainbow in the sky, that He will work all things for her good, that His Presence will be with her in the pain, and that He will use the struggles to make her more like Himself. Aunt Tricia
WHO AM I TO GIVE ADVICE?
January 1, 2015
Who am I to give advice? I don’t have a PhD, or a Masters, not even a Bachelor’s degree. I work a job that is respected by few. In most people’s eyes, I am a failure.
But I am happy. I just heard of a survey of people living in the United States, when asked if they are happy, only 10% said they were. Hey, I am in the top 10%.
I am content. I think I know what the Apostle Paul meant in Philippians 4:11 when he said that he had learned to be content. I have the least amount of material possessions of anyone I know, but I can’t think of any current need or desire. I’ve seen the Lord anticipate my needs over and over again and provide for them at just the right time.
And I am at peace. There is such peace in knowing you are on God’s path. I know the scriptures well enough to know that all the answers we need are within them. What a comfort this is.
But the biggest reason I am writing these letters to you is because I love you. I think of mountain climbers, the ones that have gone before, the ones higher up on the rope, calling back instructions and encouragements to the ones below.
No, I haven’t “arrived” at the mountain top yet, but I know I am on the path that leads there. Dear Niece, I want you to join the climb.
THE OCEAN OF FAITH
February 1, 2015
The other nieces don’t understand but I think you do. I have seen you in your boat near the shore, taking brief trips, testing the waters. For me, a life of faith has been like being on a raft out on the ocean, with no way to steer, no way to provide for my needs, and no way to shelter or protect myself. Aunt Tricia, who always tried to be responsible, save and prepare for the future, now finds herself totally in the Lord’s keeping.
At first, I stayed near the shoreline. Whenever I felt areas of my life threatened, I’d catch a wave and ride back in to attend to it myself. Then I would hear the call again to venture back out. As the years have passed, I find myself further and further out. And I sense I will continue to be called out even further. There are still tangible undergirdings, at least in my mind, friends and relatives that might come if I shouted loud enough from my little raft for help.
I know there have been others ahead of me that have left "peoples, houses, and land" to follow Christ and never looked back. They didn’t take years as I have to the meet the challenges.
If you ever wonder why your Aunt Tricia gets to see the miracles she does, it is probably God keeping His promise to her to provide while she is out on the ocean of faith.
YOUR DESIRE TO BE LOVED
March 1, 2015
God understands your desire to be loved. Think about the first commandment: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, thy strength and thy might."
And the second one, " Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
Have you ever thought about the possibility that God desires to be loved by us?
I once read the Old Testament with one prayer: “Show me your heart.” If there is such a thing as feeling sorry for God, I did. By the time I reached the book of Hosea, I had tears in my eyes. For hundreds of years, God put up with abuse and rejection from a people He was good to, patient with. We are created in God’s image. He put the desire to be loved within us.
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,” Lamentations 3: 22 tells us. I like the New American Standard Translation that describes His love as "unchanging love…”
How changing is our love. We are sinners in a fallen world. So, outside of God, in our own strength, we don’t do such a good job of loving or dealing with the times when we are unloved.
WHILE YOU ARE WAITING
April 1, 2015
I think of women in the past that got ready for future marriage by preparing their trousseau, hemstitching napkins, crocheting doilies, and piecing together quilts. Surely, this constant hand movement helped quiet jittery nerves in their waiting hands.
When I pray for you and your heart for marriage, the name “Esther” comes to mind. Queen Esther in the Bible makes me think of two things. First, her uncle’s comment that she had been prepared “for such a time as this.” I think of the current work that you are doing and how God is using you in your singleness. I also think about the season of preparation Esther must have gone through in anticipation of being united with the King.
I wonder if it would help with the waiting if you take good care of yourself: get enough sleep, down time and fun, eat healthy, exercise, build up your stamina? Be in as good physical shape as you can be as a gift to your future husband, yourself, and the children you may have. I recently heard of a woman who put off the conceiving of her second child until she was in the best possible shape and strong enough to give the child every chance to develop well. I thought this very wise of her.
Proactively, have you thought about praying for your future husband? Not just that he come, but for his health, his relationship with God, for a good day for him? Ask the Lord how to pray and He will show you.
Most of all, believe in God’s love for you. His word is full of promises, like "seek first the kingdom of heaven and these things will be added." And "no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly." Trust Him. If it is a good thing for you to be married, you will be. If not, then your singleness will be in God’s love for you also.
May 1, 2015
I don’t know what the age is today, but back in the 1970’s when I was in school, the popular girls started becoming sexually active at age 14. I know now why they were popular, popular with the boys that is. Do you detect any malice in that comment? Maybe just a little left over from my then feelings of “They’re not playing fair; they’re gaining advantage by breaking the rules.”
Were they gaining advantage? I have to wonder if the heavy drinking I saw among them was an attempt to drown their grief over so easily giving themselves away. I remember the remorse and suicidal thoughts expressed by a classmate who asked me to pray with her. After having sex with one of our pedophile teachers, she told me “No matter what I do, I can’t feel clean.” I remember the unstable behavior of a 17-year-old girl I knew who confessed to having multiple abortions.
My “crush” from 9th grade through my senior year, had dated almost every popular girl in school. I wrote a love song for him. I look back blushing with embarrassment at my first attempt at songwriting. After trying to give him a guitar lesson, I asked if he wanted to hear my first song. He did and after I sang the pathetic chorus:
“I can’t say that I love you, I don’t know what the word means
I can’t say that I love you but sometimes, that’s how it seems”
He guessed I was singing about him and with a sheepish but respectful tone said, “Tricia, you’re not the kind of girl a guy dates. You’re the kind of girl a guy marries, and I’ve got to finish college first."
As I was leaving, he bent over and picked a purple iris from his mother’s flower bed and presented it to me. I can’t tell you how special this made me feel, realizing he thought of me in this way.
Save yourself for your husband, Dear Niece. Your gift will be a jewel of great price that your husband will prize and cherish.
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK
June 1, 2015
I don’t know how it is at your church, but in the informal churches where I am from, while “preachin’” is going on, it is common to see a man with his arm around his wife. At times, he may caress her shoulder, lightly massage her back, or with a sweet look in his eyes, lean over and whisper something in her ear. Little harmless displays of emotion, I know, but if you are a woman sitting alone and desiring a family, it can be torture. I know, I have been there and more than once had to abruptly leave a service before the tears that were welling up in my eyes spilled over.
You sit there and pick out what appears to be a perfect couple. “Oh, if I could have a husband like that,” you say to yourself, trying not to be guilty of the sin of coveting. For Christian women, they often look at the Pastor and his wife as the “blessed” couple. “Oh, to have a man of God, now he would treat me right,” you think to yourself. "He would read the scriptures to me. He would be perfect, just like Jesus,”
Take a closer look. A pastor’s wife I once knew, only from a distance because she would not let anyone close to her, had eyes that reminded me of ones I've seen in a caged animal, trapped and desperate to escape.
I went to visit another minister’s wife I knew who was waiting for surgery. “Why are you so happy?” I asked. “Because there is a chance I might die,” was her answer. When visiting her the next day, I did not believe her response when I asked about the blood on the mattress. “Oh, that is where my IV 'accidently' pulled out.”
While getting to know another one of the women of the perfect couples I had picked out, I learned she dealt with her loveless marriage by fantasizing that men in the church were secretly in love with her.
Have you ever heard marriage compared to flies on a screen door? Those that are outside wanting to get in, and those who are inside wanting to get out.
Marriage is a beautiful God given institution. It is a picture of God and His People Israel, and it is a picture of Christ and His Church. There are good marriages, but because we all marry sinners and still must live in a fallen world, as the scriptures tell us, there will be problems.
THANK GOD FOR UNANSWERED PRAYER
July 1, 2015
I looked him up on Facebook the other night. I shouldn’t have done it. What’s the old saying, “Curiosity killed the cat?” Well, it killed this old cat’s sleep. The image of his face seemed to burn a hole in my brain, and it was a good 24 hours before it felt healed. I think it was after I was able to say a prayer of blessing for him and his family.
Thirty-five years ago, I would have feasted on that image, the face of a movie star, the physic of a young Greek god. How desperately I wanted him to be “the one.” When I prayed about it, I believe the answer “no” came to me several times. I remember once praying, “But Lord, all things are possible with you. You could make him ‘the one." Thank God for unanswered prayers.
“Kind of seems full of himself,” was my father’s comment after their one and only meeting. My father had an uncanny ability to judge character.
My "Crush" once told me, “If you want a Romeo (referring to himself), you have to be a Juliet (meaning me and I wasn’t). Often putting on his Professor Higgins hat, he’d instruct me in what men wanted in women. I learned I was not educated enough, athletic enough, or bosomed enough. I later learned that he didn’t have much of an opinion of my face either calling me “dog face” when I wasn’t around. But he did approve of my generosity and constant attempts of buying his affection through gifts. “You are so giving, a man will be fortunate to have you as his wife,” he once told me while accepting a new dress shirt and cardigan sweater.
I learned from Facebook that my old love interest ended up on the west coast, happily married, a millionaire in early retirement and the father of two beautiful children.
Jealous? Regretful? No, honestly, I can say I’m not. Marriage would not have changed the person he was or the way he treated me. Someone who once worked with him, observed him stealing accounts from other employees. Would his integrity necessarily have improved with marriage? No, the pressures of marriage would have only made Romeo’s issues worse.
I truly am thanking God for unanswered prayer.
LEARN A LESSON FROM LISA
August 1, 2015
No, Lisa isn’t her real name but we all know a Lisa, a full grown woman who still acts like a spoiled child. Lisa gets what Lisa wants, when Lisa wants it. She learned at an early age to wheedle and wail her way to any heart’s desire. So when Lisa decided to remarry she took a good look at all the eligible men at our church and chose Elmer Potts.
Elmer was handsome, wealthy, and had a good job. She liked everything about Elmer except his name. “Potts, I can’t imagine myself being called ‘Mrs. Elmer Potts,’” she whined. Well, she must have resigned herself to it because it wasn’t long before I stood with Lisa at the back of the church, while the orchestra tuned up for our big Christmas extravaganza, and I noticed her new hairstyle, and the extra care she had given to what usually was an already perfect appearance. She pointed out Elmer to me and whispered, “Watch this.” She reached down and threw open the thigh high split in her skirt. She took off down the aisle and just as she passed Elmer she looked back over her shoulder and showered him with her dazzling smile. Sure enough, the next day I heard that Elmer had asked Lisa for their first date. It seemed only a short time before Lisa was waving a seven diamond engagement ring in my face. It felt like a cold, hard slap. I hadn’t even been asked out for a date. I still tried to be happy for Lisa and bought a nice nighty for her lingerie shower. Lisa was looking forward to a new and exciting love life with Elmer, something she felt was missing in her first marriage. And the way Elmer scandalously played “handsy” with her during church service, we all believed her.
“How is she getting away with all of this?” I kept asking myself as I tried to wait on God for someone in my life.
Flash forward a few years:
Lisa and I are sitting in a restaurant over lunch and she confesses to me that she didn’t “get away with it.” For reasons she wasn’t quite sure of, perhaps because she rushed him in the relationship and even in the beginning had made him break up with another girl he was dating, once they were married, Elmer was not interested in a sex life. All the Victoria Secret gifts we gave her, in a fit of rage and despair, she had thrown in a dumpster. Her step daughter continued to blame her for coming on the scene too quickly after the break- up of Elmer’s previous marriage and extinguishing any hope her parents would reunite. Nothing she did would bring down the emotional wall her step daughter had built between them. I could see how different things would have been if Lisa had only waited for God, for His way and His time.
P. S. Perhaps I know what a” full grown woman who still acts like a spoiled child” looks like because on more than one occasion, I have been one myself. One day, I finally realized my fits of depression were nothing more than silent temper tantrums at God because I didn’t get what I wanted when I wanted it. I’m now trying to learn to wait.
YOUR MAKER IS YOUR HUSBAND
September 1, 2015
I’ve never been a widow and who am I to judge how one feels when their husband is gone. It must be excruciating to be torn in half when you’ve been one flesh with another person. But I can’t help but wonder if it would have been an easier transition for those who continue to actively grieve year after year if they had realized early on that they already have a husband. "For thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of hosts is His name.” Isaiah 54 :5
How many times have I stood on that scripture? Most of my adult life I have been single and alone . There are benefits to this status, such as not having another person to answer to, doing what you want to do when you want to do it, being able to keep a quiet, organized and clean home – but then there are drawbacks.
I guess because I grew up in a family of men who could fix anything. The time I feel the most alone is when something breaks and I don’t have the skill, or the tools, or the physical strength to repair it. One such time happened many years ago, shortly after moving into my first apartment. The apartment was not air-conditioned and as a teenager just starting out in the world, I couldn’t afford to have one put in. It was a garage apartment, and as you know heat rises, so in the warm and balmy Carolina summer months it could get quite sultry.
Since I cooked most of my meals, I figured it would be to the greatest advantage to put a window fan in the kitchen. This area was shaded by tall maple and poplar trees and there always seemed to be a breeze blowing through them. But I couldn’t get to that breeze. The window was stuck. Being an experienced painter, I thought I knew every trick to opening a window that had been painted shut but this one wouldn’t budge. The more I tried, the more the sticky perspiration ran down my back and added to my misery.
I had to get that window open. My patience was at its end. But wasn’t my frustration and anger a little exaggerated? Deep down, I think what really was bothering me was feelings of loneliness as I watched my girlfriends getting married. "I bet they don’t have to open their own stuck windows,” I thought.
So down I went, trying to get the best leverage. I pushed with all my might. Nothing. Hanging my head down with the tears stinging my eyes, I prayed. “Lord, I don’t have a husband but you say in your word that you are my husband. Please help me get this window open.” I pushed once again. “SWOOOSH!” The window slid up so quickly that it caused me to lose my balance as I fell slightly forward. The cool air rushed in, refreshing my perspiring face. I prayed in my relief, “Thank you Lord.“
Many times since, I have stood on that scripture with the same results. My true, perfect and eternal husband has never let me down.
October 1, 2015
Psalm 68: 6 says that God "makes a home for the lonely." I like the King James translation that says He “sets the solitary in families."
A 16-year-old neighbor named Ryan has come across the street a few times lately. His father has custody of him every other weekend. He is bashful and shy like I am, so despite our vast age difference, there seems to be an understanding and sense of comradery going on between us. He’s all braces when he smiles but I can see a handsome young man emerging.
I’ve seen him dressed up leaving with his dad on Sunday mornings. I suspect he is a Christian. Not because of this but because of a light I see radiating from his face, a sparkle in his eyes, and gentleness in his spirit. We seem to have a mutual admiration society going. He encourages my writing efforts and I applaud his many accomplishments. He attended a leadership conference this past summer and I commented on the change I saw in him: his confidence, his eye contact and the way he stood. “You think so?” he happily responded as he stuck out his chest and stood even straighter.
Even though I know our visits may only be for a fleeting season, in my heart of hearts I have made him an honorary grandson and am planning a small Christmas gift. God has always been faithful to send me “family” over the years.
When I was growing up, my mother mostly slept because of poor health and sedating medications. But God would send Christian teachers who took me under their wing, listened to me, and nurtured me.
God’s “family” is everywhere. He will put them in your path when you need them.
I will never be alone and neither will you, Dear Niece.
LIGHT-HEARTED AS THE BIRDS
November 1, 2015
"It has taken long for me to learn
The simple lessons that the Master taught:
To consider the lilies as their petals burn
Among the wayside grasses, to take no thought
Of a tomorrow that may never bring
Some direful, long-anticipated thing;
To mark the sparrows on a windy stem
Lashing and dipping in a day of storm
And to remember that He cares for them,
And shelters them and keeps them from all harm
And that I am more valuable than they
To Him who walks beside me day by day.
“Let not your heart be troubled…” these His words
Should have been learned and heeded long ago
I should have lived lighthearted as the birds
I should have marked the lilies – Ah, too slow
Has been my heart in learning how to live
Dear God, You tried to teach me. Please forgive."
I keep a copy of this poem called “It Has Taken Long” by Grace Noll Crowell on the side of my refrigerator to look at in the morning as I wait for the microwave to heat my breakfast. But here I am at age 55, still trying to learn this simple lesson. Oh, how I want you to learn this lesson now, so you won’t carry worries and burdens as long as I have.
Years ago, while watching the large birds in the upper air, with outstretched wings, held up and gliding on the upper air currents, just resting like God would have us rest on His strength and Spirit, I believe the Lord spoke to my heart, “That is how I want you to be.” Then He pointed out the smaller birds near to the ground, rapidly flapping their wings reminding me of my struggling efforts in my own strength. Then I believe I heard “But that is how you are now.” It wasn’t a condemning voice, but one of challenge and hope that I would fly higher with a lighter heart one day.
KNOW THAT YOU ARE LOVED
December 1, 2015
Never forget that you are loved. “Yeah, Yeah, I hear you saying “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” I am just included in that love.” No, Dear One. I know it is hard for you to wrap your head around this, but if you were the only one in need of salvation, Jesus would have gone to the Cross for you. Read Psalm 139 when you doubt this and think about His thoughts for you outnumbering the sand of the sea.
One night, I was especially enjoying my time with the Lord and I heard myself pray as I was drifting off to sleep, “I just want to see your face.” It wasn’t long before, in that state they call “twilight” somewhere between being awake and asleep, I saw Him looking at me. Yes, I can describe what I saw but the thing that convinced me what was happening was real was the way He was looking at me...with such love and acceptance. I never could have, in a thousand years, imagined that look. I often have this nagging feeling that God is upset with me because I am always messing up and missing the mark. What I saw in His face Dear Niece was GRACE…His unmerited love for me.
I know He loves you in the same way. Never forget this.
FIVE YEARS LATER
July 1, 2020
It is hard to believe that it has been five years since my last letter. Time certainly does pass quickly. I am sending this letter to you at your last address. I am sorry that we have lost contact. I have missed you, Dear One.
I guess you heard after 28 years of being single, I finally got married. My husband's name is Chuck and he loves and wants to serve the Lord as I do. We are ministering together and very happy. It is wonderful to be married, but it was wonderful to be single. I hope you are making the most of this undistracted time that you have with God. The Apostle Paul was right when he said a married person must divide his time with his spouse and with God. There are challenges.
You will never have this special season in your life again Dear Niece. Savor it.
Please let me know how you are and where you are in your journey. I think about you and pray for you. I wish you all of God’s very best.