ISN'T THIS JUST LIKE YOU, LORD???"
Poor Miss Maggie Doodle! She finally arrived in Scotland, delivered to us the day after our arrival at the Edinburgh Airport Hilton. A sensitive soul, I hoped she would be able to forgive and forget the travel nightmare! Having been sent off by strangers from Sea-Tac International Airport, she was then crated for hours in the hold of a roaring jumbo-jet. Arriving after a night in Frankfurt, she looked bedraggled...and smelled far worse. Even so, it was a joyful reunion.
Thursday, November 6, 2014... We packed up the "New Blue Poo" (Short for Peugeot) and headed north on the A-9. Dark clouds and heavy rain made driving a chore, yet the mystery of the snowy Highlands enchanted. Hours later, as we neared the north coast, a sinking November sun pierced the clouds. We found ourselves snaking along, atop craggy cliffs, towering far above the North Sea. Finally, turning west toward Thurso, we crossed miles of rolling moorland. I couldn't help but imagine the heather in bloom...
Friday, 7 November, 2014...we boarded the ferry at Scrabster for the last leg of our journey to Orkney. God was merciful and our sailing was smooth. We checked in at the Lynnfield, which would be our home for the next eleven days...then drove to "Little Halley", our new 'home'. The shipment bearing our earthly possessions would not arrive for two more weeks, but we unpacked the toaster, food processor and Kitchen Aid mixer purchased at Costco in Edinburgh. It was the beginning of our habitation...and all a little surreal.
Tuesday, 18 November 2014...(Journal Entry) "As I sit here, as close as I can get to the small dining room window, I struggle to tear my eyes from the magnificent, ever-changing vista. As I enjoy the view, a strange irony impresses me. While I lament the loss of so many beautiful picture-windows in our home in Graham, You have shown me that while it was beautiful and quite familiar, my view was limited there. Whether by towering stands of fir trees, the hill at the back of the property, or the obstruction of other homes...my vision there was lovely, but eclipsed. Now, strangely, I find myself gazing through a comparatively tiny portal, out onto a horizon so vast I cannot take it all in. The limitation is no longer the view, but the ability of my human eyesight...even a telescope would provide only limited access to all that lies before me...
ISN'T THIS JUST LIKE YOU, LORD???"
Panic set in. Could it be that the Lord was leading us to live on an island in the North Sea??? We flew back to Edinburgh and then home. For several months we battled the fear of invisible 'giants in the land' of Orkney...long, dark winters...epic gales...the isolation of island living. The Lord patiently waited while we wrestled and argued, while we grieved the loss of all that was beloved and familiar. I sat at the kitchen table, which had been my special meeting place with the Lord for almost twenty years. Looking out the window, I remember willfully committing to memory the view...fearing I would one day be desperate for the memory of it.
Tears were flowing and I heard the Lord's gentle voice saying: "I am EXPANDING your view!"
I went to the piano, choosing to believe Him.
He gave me two lines, which I sang
over and over:
"Lord, make me willing to release,
Ready to receive...
Willing to release,
Ready to receive..."
I recognized these tears, this grieving was necessary. There would be no room in my heart for what God had in store... until I released EVERYTHING to Him. I remembered a quote from A.W. Tozer that I had recorded in my journal in July of 2012:
"Possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in life. We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety...so we WILL be brought to this testing place...our whole future will be conditioned
by the choice we make." (The Pursuit of God)
The ensuing months would be spent tenderly, ruthlessly sifting through twenty-plus years of accumulated memories. By God's grace (and I say this because I am NOT organized by nature) I managed to sort through it all, deciding what would make the journey to Orkney and what would be re-homed. The movers arrived on Monday, September 15 of 2014. They went for the juggler! First in the order of packing? The piano, then my kitchen... My heart turned to jelly, which soon liquefied and spilled from my eyes.
By Thursday of that week we bid adieu to our furniture, most of our clothes and all of our household goods. The house was a shell...and I wondered how we would manage until our departure on November 3rd.
I strolled around our long, looped driveway, taking in the sights and scents of 'home'...crafting a collage in my mind: little pillows of moss, ripe blackberries hanging on the vine, towering fir trees, yellowing leaves of Indian plum, bits of wool caught in the fence, the familiar odor of the sunbaked barnyard...
Then on Saturday the 20th, Richard C. Dahl proposed to our daughter, Kate! Our hearts filled with gratitude to the Lord! Wanting us to be part of the planning and preparation...they decided to get married on October 25! We had just over a month to pull it all together. I needn't have worried about being bored for our last six weeks in Washington!
"By any chance, do you have black granite countertops in the kitchen?" It must have seemed such a strange and random question!
Pat's response was straightforward: "Well, as a matter of fact we do," yet her tone spoke of perplexity. I knew I had to explain...before I knew it we were in the car, driving to view their home in Deerness. I would soon see firsthand what I had seen in a dream almost two years earlier:
"I had the strangest and most wonderful dream about discovering a hidden house that was ours...The main feature I remember was the beautifully polished black granite countertop in the kitchen. I remember running my hand over it, admiring the workmanship. I told Henry, 'We really should start living here...Only You know the plans you have for us - both here and for eternity. One thing I know, You are good in ALL Your ways.'" (from my journal entry of May 22, 2012)
As we arrived at Rob and Pat's home, they explained that it had been rebuilt from a stone 'steading' (farmhouse) that was about 150 years old. We walked through the main entry and to the right, into the dining/kitchen area. There it was...the countertop from my dream! After our initial viewing that night, we would return in the morning for a daylight introduction to 'Little Halley'.
All I remember is feeling a peculiar blend of excitement and anxiety. We had been praying and waiting and searching for SO long. Could it be our quest was at an end? We were graciously given the tour, finishing at the west end of the home. Rob paused at the threshold and commented, "We call this room 'the chapel'."
For ten years we had worshiped in 'The Chapel' at Sunrise Medical Campus. It was a symbol of the Lord's presence that still echoed with heartfelt worship. I had wrestled with God on my face in that Chapel the day we learned my Dad had gone missing...finally testifying with Job, 'The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.'
Saying goodbye had not been easy...
This window, almost identical to the Sunrise Chapel window, provided a different view entirely! Instead of Mount Rainier, we were looking at the convergence of the cliffs of East Mainland Orkney and the North Sea.
There didn't seem to be much doubt that the Lord had gone before us! Every avenue we pursued in our own strength was a dead end. Then, when we had completely run out of options, the Lord provided for us in an unimaginable way! With guarded excitement, we drove back to The Foveran, where we were staying.
WE DIDN'T SLEEP ALL NIGHT...
October 30, 2013, Journal Entry:
"It is the fifth anniversary of my Dad's disappearance...and the final offer for the sale of Sunrise Medical Campus has been accepted. Now the journey begins in earnest...clearing out my office, unloading the Oasis...and finally, beginning the process of packing up our house to move. What a strange and surreal thought. I am so grateful You go before us!"
In His mercy, the Lord was slowly weaning me from my comfortable and familiar world. The sale of Sunrise closed at Christmas time, and the same buyers soon offered to purchase the Oasis. This leg of our journey was at an end and we still had no clear idea of what the Lord had in store for us. Walking by faith and not by sight was no longer a platitude. Henry had booked tickets to revisit Scotland/Orkney in February of 2014. We would view homes near Peebles (in the south) and in Orkney...
February 13, 2014, Journal Entry:
(Edinburgh) "I find myself in the strangest juxtaposition...caught between the sharp suspense regarding our future - and the desire to enjoy the privilege of visiting this warm, stately city. My heart will find no rest - until I find my rest in You. This must be my daily pursuit."
"I am not sure what to make of the sudden destruction of Henry's greenhouse and garden in the windstorm last night after we left...Our prayer is: 'Speak Lord, your servants are listening. Sometimes we are slow of hearing. Forgive us, protect us, and correct our course if necessary!'"
Our days exploring the Borders were pleasant, but fruitless. We had certainly found no suitable home...no open door. The highlight was having dinner with a local pastor and his wife, Ian and Lindsey Gray, whom we had contacted online before the trip. Ian is the pastor of Peebles Baptist Church, and we had been listening to his messages online, deriving MUCH encouragement from his truthful treatment of Scripture and God-given gift of teaching. If anyone is interested, check out their website!
It was perhaps with a combined sense of dread and destiny that we boarded the tiny plane to Orkney on Valentine's Day. Upon landing we were greeted by unexpected sunshine! We 'hired' a car and drove to The Foveran, a 'restaurant with rooms', where we would enjoy the hospitality of Paul Doull and his family for the next five days.
Eager to get a glimpse of the place we could call 'home', we struck out to see the houses we planned to view while there. I cannot begin to explain the sense Henry and I had as we drove up to the first. While the setting was beautiful, there was something dark and foreboding about the property. We could not bring ourselves to keep our appointment, but called to cancel at the last minute.
After several disappointing experiences/dead ends, I began to wonder if we were on a proverbial goose chase...
Sunday we returned to Kirkwall Baptist Church, where the Lord had met us in a profound way the previous June. At the morning service, we learned that a couple who had prayed with us in June, Alastair and Sarah Banks, would be sharing about their recent trip to Nagaland (India) at the evening service. We decided to attend.
Shortly after we arrived that evening and found our seats, Pastor Rob Kiff and his wife Pat came in and sat down beside us. Rob had given the message about Jonah, which greatly impacted us when we visited before. After the service, Rob (who recognized us) queried: "You're back???"
"Actually," I responded, "we think the Lord may be calling us to move here."
Rob's wife looked at him, then at me. "Well, if you're moving to Orkney, you could buy our home! We're looking to downsize. We haven't put it on the market yet. We've only just begun to discuss it."
I was dumbfounded. Could this be the answer to our prayers? Then, remembering a dream I had journal about in May of 2012, I asked: "By any chance, do you have black granite countertops in the kitchen?"
She looked perplexed and answered,
"Well, as a matter of fact we do. Why do you ask???"
By the time I had gone through my journal (starting in May of 2012 ) I had a stack of index cards an inch and a half thick! The Lord had been using dreams, Scripture, impressions during times of prayer, conversations with other believers, and even headlines in the news...to prepare my heart for the greatest step of obedience I had ever taken...
The Lord had certainly directed us toward Orkney, but a crisis of belief ensued. We spent countless hours online, looking at homes all over Scotland...from the Borders in the south to Orkney in the north. We were also faced with the dilemma of what to do with our current home! It was hard to imagine leaving...
Built on the Benston homestead, still held by family, selling was not an option. We began to pray for the Lord's leading in finding a family who could live there. This home had been a blessing for us, and we prayed that blessing would be multiplied. It was our son, Drew who first mentioned a young family in his church. We had become acquainted with PJ Tangedahl through our café, the Oasis. A worship pastor at a local church, he and his wife had two children of their own, as well as foster children. Their oldest daughter, Anna would soon be too old to share a room with her brother Zack. They would need to find a larger home, or stop doing foster care..
We invited PJ and his wife Mandy to have dinner with us at a local Indian restaurant. After visiting for awhile over samosas and pakoras, Henry began:
"You know the Lord is leading us to leave the U.S. We have been praying about what to do with our home. God has put you on our hearts. We are wondering if you might be interested in renting it."
PJ's mouth dropped open. A few moments of silence followed. Then he shared, "I have never told anyone this....not even Mandy, but a few months ago I had a dream. I dreamed I was standing in your living room and I somehow knew that I lived there!" Not one given to dreams...we were all astounded by how the Lord had gone before...preparing PJ's heart, just as He had prepared ours...
"Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear
a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it.'"
Just back from Texas, I was once again staring in the face of uncertainty...
July 27, 2013 (Journal Entry): "Father, I am a MESS this morning...I feel like my worlds are fragmenting AND colliding...the beauty of our home and garden is breathtaking - everything blooming at once! Even the hydrangea is showing off. Can it really be this is our last summer here? I will go, but please , don't make me go without my children! I have not spent thirty years raising them for destruction..."
July 31, 2013 (Journal Entry): "I had a dream of being in a house, hearing a loud crack, and realizing the house was sliding down the hillside, collapsing as it went. I climbed frantically up the ruins as it continued to slide, and barely made it out. I do feel like everything is slipping out from under us. You are our Sure Foundation. I will trust in You.
Strangely, I woke up singing a song I started working on last week in Amarillo:
'How can I believe You, Lord
The clouds have settled in
The light that burned inside my soul
Has flickered and grown dim...'"
Doubt and fear had plagued me far too long. I had to know for myself that God was speaking, calling us to leave. There was too much at stake! Taking Christine's advice, I picked up some index cards and hauled out my journals. I decided to turn back to May of 2012...a full calendar year before Henry ever mentioned leaving America. My skin prickled and the hair on my arms stood up as I read...
May 22, 2012 (Journal Entry):
"I had the strangest and most wonderful dream about discovering a hidden house that was ours....the main feature I remember was the beautifully polished black, granite countertop in the kitchen. I remember running my hand over it, admiring the workmanship. I told Henry, 'We really should start living here!'
Only You know the plans You have for us, both here and for eternity. One thing I know, You are good in ALL Your ways."
"A coincidence", I thought to myself. It's just a coincidence. "Don't jump to conclusions. It was just a dream..." My curiosity was stirred though, and I turned the pages of my journal with a guarded sense of expectation:
June 13, 2012 (Journal Entry):
"God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God..." Psalm 53:2
June 18, 2012 (Journal Entry):
"Woe to the obstinate nation...inscribe it on a scroll for the days to come...these are a rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord's instructions..." (Excerpt from Isaiah 30)
June 19, 2012 (Journal Entry):
"I sense that I am at a strange crossroads, but haven't spent enough time with You to see my way ahead..."
June 20, 2012 (Journal Entry):
"I sense today we arrive at a roundabout that will take our lives in a different direction - along an unfamiliar path...we can count on You to go ahead, to light the way, to bring strength and comfort...to lead us home."
Comfort and assurance began to wash over me. The Master Gardener, who knows me better than I know myself, knows my roots were deep in Graham. The idea leaving all that was familiar would be formidable. In His kind and gentle manner, He had begun to plant seeds of change in the soil of my heart. Over the course of the next year, He would water and nurture them. Roots would grow, and begin to break up the fallow ground of supposition. He was making room for His plans...which were SO MUCH HIGHER THAN MINE.
Sojourner. Servant. Recipient of undeserved Grace. Worshiper.