All I Did was Listen

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Peterson

Sometimes people need to talk. Even if they are wrong numbers.

She called looking for Pete Peterson. I knew there was no Pete at our house, but I felt God prompting me to just listen, so I did.

Also, I remember my husband telling me that the guys in the army used to call him Pete.

The elderly woman continued to tell me why she was looking for Pete.

“We used to be friends and my husband knew him for years. I’m having a surprise birthday party for my husband and it would mean the world if I could have Pete there.”

“Have you tried to do a search?” I asked.

“No, I’m not very good with technical things. My daughter usually does that kind of thing for me, and she tried a little with no luck.”

I didn’t feel like I was supposed to hang up so I asked her a few more questions. Like where he lived, worked, how old he was. Things that would help me in my search.

I told her I’d call her if I found out anything.

“Why are you helping me?” she asked. And it was a fair question. After all, I didn’t know her.

“I’m a Christian,” I replied and I feel I’m supposed to help you.

Then I said, “That’s nice that you’re having a surprise party for your husband.”

She started crying. This person I didn’t know. This person that mattered and was more than a wrong number.

“My husband has cancer.” She said as her tears came through the phone.

“May I pray for you?” I asked.

There was silence for a few seconds and then she said, “I would like that very much. No one has ever asked me that before.”

And so I prayed for this woman I was getting to know. Prayed that we would find Pete Peterson. Prayed for her husband.

She cried again, called me an angel and we hung up.

Hours later I still had no leads. And I was done for the day. I knew God cared about this woman. Otherwise why would he ask me to stay on the phone?

The next day still brought me no closer to finding Pete. Finally I shared the story with a friend of mine who lived one town over.

“I used to know a Pete Peterson,” she said.

I needed to make sure this was the right direction so I asked, “How did he spell his name?” No use following wrong leads.

“No,” I responded to my friend when she told me her Pete Peterson spelled it, s-e-n.

And then, the next day I asked my friend for her Pete’s number anyway.  What if Shirley was mistaken about the spelling? It might be worth a try.

So there I was calling a guy I didn’t know. Telling him about Shirley and her husband. He listened quietly and then he said. “I know them.”

I could hear him get choked up when I relayed to him how they had looked for him for years. He definitely would come to the party.

Calling Shirley was wonderful. Once again she called me her angel. And she asked if we could meet some time.

“Sure,” I said. “That would be great.”

We chose a Mc Donald’s in the next town. There was no doubt in my mind it was Shirley when I saw her walk in with a huge smile on her face.

“Are you Anne?”

I smiled back, “Yes.”

“You are my angel,” she said again.

“I hope you won’t mind but I picked out something I want you to have,” she said as she placed the gift before me.

I pulled off the fancy wrapping paper to reveal a beautiful porcelain angel. Her features were well defined and just looking at her made you feel wonderful.

And now that exquisite angel sits in my china cabinet. A wonderful reminder of what God can do if we just respond to his voice.

I’m no angel. All I did was listen.

The Dad I Never Had

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 Father’s Day is almost here. Sons and daughters will stand in line with cards and gifts in their hands. Cards that tell their dads how much they mean to them.

Others will barely make it through the day, thinking about how they no longer can give their dads a Father’s Day card. Just wanting the day to end as well as their grief.

There will be some people who never had a dad they could remember. Year after year they endure the day and basically wish it never existed.

And there’s yet another group. A group that had a dad, but didn’t. He was there. but not in the way a dad should be.

Our Dad was absent though present. I have memories of him sleeping in his chair in front of the television set.  My more vivid ones are of him whipping out his belt and taking off after us. I’d him yelling things no person should ever hear. My siblings would be crying in their bedrooms and I cried knowing I was next. It never occurred to me that he had a problem. He was a rage-aholic. I honestly thought we were bad.

Then our mom died when I was sixteen years old. That’s when our family fell apart. She was the glue.

One month after mom was gone my brother Gus sat having lunch with my dad.

“Dad, did you know the night Mom was sick she called Anne and Anne didn’t go?”

I froze as my father’s eyes narrowed. With his finger extended he said, “It’s your fault your mother’s dead.”

And at sixteen, I believed him.

It’s hard living with someone who blames you for your mother’s death. Impossible really. Eventually my guilt was too much to bear. I left home and lived with an aunt.

Then months later, maybe even a year, my sister called.

“Anne, you need to come and see Dad. He’s got cancer.”

I managed to get the words out,” I can’t come.”

“Anne, you already regret not going to Mom. Don’t do it again.”

As impossible as it was to imagine seeing my dad, she was right.

So the next day I walked the long hall at Veteran’s hospital. What would I find when I got there?

The years had not been kind to him. He looked a lot older than fifty-two.

“Annie” he said with a smile when I walked in his room.  ” You came. But why do you look so mad?”

“It was not my fault she died,” I stammered.

“I know,” he said quietly.

He knew? He knew but didn’t bother to tell me?

I let him talk and was surprised when the words came, “I’m sorry I wasn’t a good father to you.”

The images of him chasing us with his belt, his eyes wild with rage flooded my mind. But instead I pushed those images out and instead saw the man before me.

There was no belt in his hand now. And he was beaten himself, by this cancer.

At that moment, God softened my heart.

I looked at my dad and responded, “You did the best you could.”

Words I had not planned on saying. But words that nonetheless needed to be said.

Reaching down I kissed the cheek of my dad. The one who said to my sister and me when we were little girls, “Make your legs stiff,” as he lifted us high into the air. With our dresses tucked in out underpants we felt like we were beautiful ballerinas that owned the world. With arms out to the side we smiled so big.

I wish things had been different. I wish I felt loved and nurtured by this ballerina lifter, but I didn’t. And yet, God gave me an opportunity for reconciliation.

My dad apologized for the first time ever. Our last conversation was our best.

The next day my father died.

So on Father’s day I hold onto the memory of me lifted high in the air. And like others I miss my dad. The dad I never had.

Let Your Words out

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I have to write. From the time I was young, writing has been an escape for me. While things were difficult at home, I could go to this imaginary place. my new home.

The spiral notebooks stacked in a box don’t look like much. But tucked inside are the pages of my life. The days when we didn’t know where my sister was, the endless prayers, “God give us an answer.”

The days leading up to the births of my children. Each emotion scrawled onto the paper. Scrawled because not everyone could write like Mary Ann Kenny.

Looking through those journals I see a younger me, someone whose feet were not wet, someone whose heart was still intact. Someone very young and inexperienced.

Writing is not a hobby to me. Writing is like breathing.

I place my fingers on the keys and my mind opens. Out tumble the words which had been waiting by the door. Sure, sometimes they trip over each other because of their exuberance at finally being free. But even that’s okay. They know I’ll come by and reposition them.

I love words. They are the only thing I can manipulate without protest. Tweet.

 

And even the words who don’t make it in this story know that there will be a place for them somewhere. I’m not going to exclude them. I know what that feels like.

Writing is a chance to pull back the curtains of my life and let you into my world. To let you see who I am.

Yes, I have to write. People were created to touch each other. To be in community with one another. And it’s our words whether spoken or written that can reach out. Without that we are islands that shrivel up inside.

A couple of years ago I had a desire to pursue my writing. I took a writing course called Tribe Writers, by Jeff Goins. Little did I know what it would do for me. I thought it was just about the words. I was so wrong.

Tribe Writers gave me the tools I needed to hone my writing. It also taught me that while we may be individuals, we share so many common emotions. We may look differently and have different roles in life, but we are so alike. We all hurt. We can all experience joy.

I found a place where my writing was read and accepted. Where I was accepted.

And I wrote the book I was meant to write. I opened up my life and jumped onto the paper. Tribe Writers created the place where I could learn the things I needed to learn and then practice them.

What about you? Do you have a story within you the world is waiting to hear? Or are you yearning to know how to release those captive thoughts inside you?

Maybe Tribe Writers is the launching ground for you. You can find out more about Tribe Writers here at this affiliate link.

It’s not to late to sign up, if you need help in getting those words out.

I know I’m glad I did.

Tribe Writers

A Review – Writer’s Doubt

I think I can.

I hope I can.

What was I thinking?

What we tell ourselves matters.

I still remember sitting in our brand new LeCar as my instructor, none other than my husband, attempted to teach me how to drive. And wouldn’t you know it, it was a stick shift.

Once again the hill won as I killed the car.

“You’re not going to get this,” he said to me.

“Just watch me,” I responded.

That was on a good day. A couple days later I believed him and I just about gave up.

Then I had a brilliant idea. Why not let my friend Cindy teach me.

With every successful use of the clutch I heard, “Good job. I knew you could do it.”

And that made all the difference in the world. There is another licensed driver out there because of it. One who didn’t learn till she was in her 30’s.

Another challenge – writing

While driving was one challenge, I would have others, like writing.

I won a writing contest when I was young. And as I kept writing I experienced success. I have my poetry in stores, I published Bible Studies, articles, devotions. Then I took a writing course, Tribe Writers and attempted another challenge. A book.

My first attempt seemed to go well. But then I decided to write the book that was burning within me. A memoir of sorts. And while I had experienced doubts whispering before, now they were standing on chairs screaming:

Are you nuts?

Who would want to read a book YOU write?

You still have problems, what have you got to say to a listening world?

How can we fight doubt?

Lucky for me I heard about a book that dealt with those nagging doubts.

Bryan Hutchinson’s book, Writer’s Doubts, was just the ammunition I needed to face those doubts head-on. His book helped me all the way to publication.

Hutchinson’s book assured me having doubts as a writer, or any artist is normal.

What if I waited till I had no doubts? Well, I can honestly say two books would have never been written and I’d still be getting someone to drive me everywhere.

Resistance – our enemy

I highly recommend Writer’s Doubt if you are trying to achieve a goal and finding resistance is winning.

I learned a lot reading his book.I learned that resistance is to be expected.

I discovered resistance became stronger the closer I got to my goal.

That understanding helped me. I could anticipate it, and somehow diffuse some of its power.

So what are you thinking of doing? And what’s trying to stop you?

You too, can go past those doubts.

Writer’s Doubt will help you discover:

• How to let go and tell your story.
• What your true writing potential is and how to reach it.
• How to break free from inhibitions and self-imposed limitations.
• How to overcome your internal (and external) naysayers.
• How to use your doubts and fears to your advantage.

So what do you say? Are you tired of silencing the desire within you?
Tired of watching others achieve what your heart yearns for?

Then order a copy of Writer’s Doubt and get going.

I highly recommend this book. It will help you with any resistance you may have. And it will help us too, because the world needs what you have to say. It really does.

You can visit Bryan Hutchinson’s Blog or visit his Facebook page HERE, or you can twitter him @adderworld.

 

 

I Did it!

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I did it, Peggy.

I set out to write your story and I completed it. But what I didn’t know was that I would be adding my own story as well.

I also didn’t know how hard it would be to put it in black and white. I figured it would be okay since I’ve shared our story for years. It was different, very different.

Holding the book in my hands the other day when I got it through the mail was surreal.

A lot of life within those one hundred and seventy-five pages. A lot of pain.

And now here I sit. Knowing I accomplished what I set out to do leaves me with mixed feelings. Yes, I feel a sense of accomplishment. The technological part alone caused me a lot of big headaches. And you can verify that with a number of people.

And as any author knows besides writing the book, I still had life to do. I dealt with things like a leaky pipe, a soaked carpet. Taking the rug out.  My computer broke. I had work done on our house as they insulated it. We had a few days clean-up after they were done. I worked on another computer, which was difficult. Well, you get the idea.

But I faced those obstacles and did it anyway. It feels good to say, “I did it.”

But I’m sad too. Writing BROKEN, opened the door to some memories which have camped out in my mind, refusing to leave. But maybe that’s okay. You see, remembering the difficult parts of our lives makes us sensitive to others who are hurting. I want to be sensitive to others.

We live our lives where people settle for imitations of community. Many are lonely. And when hurting people are alone, the pain is intensified.

I’m praying for those who hurt. I’m praying God uses words I’ve written to ease someone’s pain.

God’s the only one who can do that. He comforts us so we can comfort others.

I miss you Peggy. But that’s okay, it won’t be forever. Some day we’ll see each other again and then we’ll catch up.

But for now I’ll think about a story I recently wrote. It was about you, Mom and me going for a special tea. I know the story wasn’t real, but it felt real. And for five hundred words or so, I felt like we were together again. We talked, we laughed. It was special.

Well I’m going to have to go, the book launch is today. People can actually buy the book on Amazon.

I’ve made a list of things that determine what success means regarding this book. And you know what? That list is really helping me.  And guess whose idea it was? Your eldest son, Drew.

Too often we determine our success by the wrong indicators. We use things like money, numbers of sales, etc. Knowing this book can encourage someone will mean I’m successful.  Knowing someone else may feel less alone, that too would mean success.

It’s all perspective.

Well, now I do have to go. But I’ll talk again soon.

In the meantime. I can imagine what you would say if you were here.

You’d smile and say, “That’s good, Anne. I’m proud of you.”

I love, you Peg. I always will.

Your sister,

Anne

Review for “Cats are Better than Dogs”

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Peterson.

“Look at this,” Mike said walking in one day. He carried in a small tiger-striped kitten under his arms. I knew our daughter Jessie would just love it.  

Mike said,  “I walked into the garage to deliver car parts and I saw two kittens, this one walked right up to me. And the guys there said,  “Why don’t you take that thing home with you. It’s been hanging around all week.”

I looked at the green eyes and beautiful coloring.

Mike saw my hesitancy. Though I myself had a few pets growing up, I also knew what a responsibility they were. But I caved, the cat could stay.

Mike placed the kitten on an end table, waiting for Jess to see her.

And after she shrieked with joy she asked, “Can I keep it?”

We nodded.

What will you call her? we wanted to know.

“Puddie,” she said. “Just like when tweetie pie would say, “I taut I taw a Puddie cat.”

Puddie it was. She adapted easily to us. Or should I say we succumbed to her desires. From the time she moved in, we quickly learned who was in charge.

Some images surface when I think of Puddie. The first time I made popcorn and she bombarded around with every pop, as if she was dodging bullets. Off the couch, into the blinds, over to a chair.

The way she slept underneath the Christmas tree looking up at the lights.

The way she would bop Jessica in the head and then run away. I believe Puddie thought they were sisters.

We loved Puddie. Later as she got older and lost control of her bladder we gave her to someone with a lot of land. It’s hard when you rent. When we visited her we almost couldn’t recognize her reduced waistline. No longer was she eating whenever she felt like it. Instead she got plenty of exercise.

And when we moved we knew we might never see her again. Tears were shed, and still are when we think of her.

I’m writing about Puddie because I recently read a book, Cats are Better than Dogs.  I know Puddie would have loved this book. She thought she was better than everything. Certainly better than my brand new Loveseat she peed on the first day I had it. Much better than that.

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Don’t tell anyone, but I miss Puddie. I miss her soul-full eyes when I would be sad. Eyes that looked right through me. I missed the hours of entertainment we had watching her antics. I miss the way she loved Jess, sitting there as Jess dressed her up.  

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Photo courtesy Jessica Peterson.

Puddie seemed to say, “how long do I have to take this?”

Yes, Puddie would have loved this book, and you will too. So check out Cats are Better than Dogs, and whether you’re a cat lover or a dog lover, you will find yourself smiling.

Just like I do when I think of Puddie.

He Cried with Me

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My heart was heavy. How would we make it without our brother?

Martha stood before me, “The Master is calling for you.”

The weight around my heart released its grip. I knew he’d come. I ran towards Him. I had to see Him. He would understand.

And seeing Jesus, I fell down at His feet—my safe place to fall. (Tweet that)

From the first time I met Him, I devoured every word He’d say. I had to. Those words would sink into the deepest parts of me, like a healing balm. And when He spoke it was as if He knew me. My thoughts, my heart, the real me.

He’d come to our home and Martha would fuss. Martha loved fussing. She’d even get upset with me. Wanting me to get up and fuss with her.

But I wasn’t going to miss one word. Not one. And now in our grief He was here.

I stood up though my heart tried keeping me down. Grief weighs heavily. The closer the loved one— the heavier the weight.

Somehow standing next to Him I knew He’d help us through this. Jesus loved Lazarus. Oh Lazarus. How I ache.

The words forced their way out of my mouth.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

He knew how I felt, whether I spoke it or not.

That “if only,” had tormented me for hours, ever since we saw him stop breathing. We were just so sure Jesus would come. His absence made everything much harder. Impossible.

And now, standing beside Him, my tears fell freely. This was my brother I lost, the one I shared my life with.

Looking up, I saw Jesus’ eyes. There were no looks of judgement. He felt no need to rebuke me in His gentle way.

He wasn’t disappointed in my humanness. Instead, I saw His compassion, reflected in His tears.

And in His grief, He prayed.

Grief would not stop Him, nothing would stop Him from acknowledging God. He thanked God for hearing Him.

He showed me God can always be reached, no matter where we are.

And Jesus called out, “Lazarus, come forth!”

The air was quiet. I saw the faces of those around me. Those who had loved Lazarus, loved us.

I struggled to believe good would come out of something so hard. But somehow with Jesus there, it seemed possible. With Him all things were possible.

All eyes were on the tomb. The anticipation was thick. No one moved.

And then, we saw him still bound, walking toward us. There was no question it was him. Martha and I had put those grave clothes on. Carefully, we dressed him, remembering our times together.

And now here he was. I caught my breath. Time stood still.

We ran to him. Embraced him.

He had been gone, yet he stood before us.

I always felt my Master loved me. But today I see how much. Do you know why?

He cried with me.