The Things God Withheld

It’s easy for me to thank God for everything He has given me—but things He has withheld from me?

When husband Alan retired after 35 years in the ministry he was offered a Church of Scotland rental house at a reduced rate. The first house we looked at was in Grantown-on-Spey—and we loved it. We told the property manager that we would take it…only to be informed that neighbors who had seen us looking at it had decided to purchase it.

God withheld living in Grantown-on-Spey from us and we never knew why until a few days ago when we made a six-hour trip there to visit friends. The area is beautiful, but after two days—we were becoming claustrophobic. Tall fir-tree-clad mountains held Grantown-on-Spey like the sides of a bowl. No, make that a mug. They were tall. Even worse—it was cold. We were miserable. The day we left, blowing snow covered everything. It was already an inch thick before we left. As we got closer to Dunoon, the snow ended. The temperature climbed—as much as it ever climbs in Scotland!

God has withheld other things from me. Singing. My sisters and I memorized songs from every musical and sang them loudly and joyously—to the horror of our parents who could sing on key and in tune. I still have no idea what keys have to do with singing. They unlock doors. As for singing—that’s easy. You just follow the voices and go up and down when they do. In my childhood mind, I sounded just like Julie Andrews, even the accent. But here in Scotland, folks don’t think I sound like Julie Andrews. They ask, “What part of the States are you from?” As for singing, people in different churches I’ve attended say, “Don’t worry if you can’t sing. The Bible says to make a joyful noise to the Lord.” Still, I’m never invited to lead praise or join the choir.

When I changed my major to drama at LaGrange College in Georgia, I wanted desperately to sing. Julie Andrews, right? I wanted the leading female role in the summer musicals we staged at Calloway Gardens. Instead of being awarded even a minor role or a place in the choir, however, I wound up painting backdrops for the productions. They trusted me with a paintbrush, but not with those illusive keys in the sky that I can’t see or hear.

What a blessing that God withheld singing from me. If I could sing, I wouldn’t write. I love singing so much that I would chase the will-o’-the-wisp of fame and fortune and knock down those doors that are locked by that key that I’ll never fathom. Instead, I have 31 published books and another one in progress.

And, instead, I’m a Christian. None of my drama department buddies were Christians. Since I thought I was an atheist back then, I fit right in. I would have continued a lifetime of travel on crowded, busy roads, too rushed and too frantic to hear God’s still small voice.

In Revelation 1:18 Jesus says, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”

Because Jesus lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. And because He lives—I am glad He withheld singing from me and allowed me to exchange those mystery keys for the keys to Heaven.

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It Has Happened

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It has happened. Trees shivering their leaves off limbs and me shivering right along with them in empathy, sympathy—or just because I’m cold.

I hate cold. I hate being cold. I hate winter. I have always hated winter. There are very few things in this life I hate: fire ants, scorpions inside the house, winter, being cold.

All three of my winter memories are bad. When I was eleven, I took three cute brown and white puppies home without asking my parents first. I expected my parents to see the puppies, fall in love with them, and agree we could keep them. They didn’t. I had to take the puppies back, walking several miles through snow in canvas shoes with holes in them and wearing no gloves. I suffered severe frostbite on my toes and fingers. To this day my fingers quit working when it drops under 75F, and since it is nearly always cold here in Scotland, I spend part of my working day at the computer sitting on my hands to warm them up.

My second winter memory is worse; cutting, stacking, and carrying ice-crusted logs into the house for the fireplace—without gloves. Our family was too poor to buy gloves. Have I mentioned about my hands? Pain as severe as slowly freezing human limbs is hard to describe—and even harder to forget.

The third winter memory is taking Luke to cut a live Christmas tree when he was four. He had the necessary outfit: snow boots, snowsuit, coat, and gloves. Being a single mom supporting her child—I did not. This was deeper and colder snow—if that’s possible, and we were in it for a long time while Luke searched diligently for the perfect Christmas tree. Me—wearing canvas shoes and blue jeans—by the time Luke found his tree I would have gladly settled for a tin can and a twig.

The good thing about being a writer is that it’s okay to stay inside working—until life intrudes and forces you outside. Then it’s still winter, I’m still cold, I still hate the winter.

Psalm 74:17 says of God, “You have set all the borders of the earth; You have made summer and winter.”

Since God made winter, He has a purpose for it. That means my job is to be happy for those who enjoy the winter and follow the advice in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks.”

So I am thankful. I am thankful that winter ends.

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