By Kristi Sanderson
Single again after an 18 year marriage, dancing became a part of my social life. One summer evening as I entered a dance, I caught sight of a tall, good looking man out on the dance floor and was excited when he came over to ask me for a dance. His name was Syd. He told me later that he instantly knew he was going to marry me, the moment he saw me. He said it was a revelation from God.
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” John 16:13
We hit it off that evening, and soon we were dating. He was wonderful in nearly every way, but there was one thing that I saw as a deal breaker. There were twelve years between us and we were in different stages in our lives. He was already a grandpa, while my youngest was still in grade school. Gently, I told Syd that I didn’t see a future for us, but didn’t want to lose him as a friend. Though he was hurt at first, we stayed in touch and became good friends. I didn’t know it, but because of his revelation, Syd was sure I would change my mind. When that hadn’t happened after several months, he became discouraged.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
During a slumber party with some ladies from my singles group, we each wrote up a list of attributes we wanted in a husband. When I read over my list, I realized how perfectly it described Syd. It was then that I decided to put my doubts aside and before long, our friendship had turned to courtship.
One evening, Syd told me something a friend said that had encouraged him through those months when our friendship had seemed to plateau. He suggested that Syd think of me as a carefree bird that would come and go as it pleased. Though at first, it might only stop by for brief visits; with time, it might grow comfortable enough to perch on his hand and find itself exactly where it wanted to be, never to fly away again. He suggested that I might also grow comfortable with Syd in time and find that I wanted to spend my life with him. Syd was sure God had inspired those words to encourage him.
One Saturday morning, Syd came by bright and early to pick me up for a day of cross country skiing. But instead of hurrying me out the door, he sat me down on the sofa and stunned me with a marriage proposal. I stammered uncomfortably as I tried to gently explain that I thought we were headed for marriage but I wasn’t ready to commit to it just yet. I needed more time and most importantly, a confirmation from God before I could give him my answer. Syd and I set the subject aside and off we went skiing for the day.
It was a beautiful, clear day in the mountains. As we skied down the sun-glistened trail, an adorable little bird caught my attention skipping along the branches beside me. I’m sure I looked like a fool, but I couldn’t resist talking to it. I was so delighted with my new friend that I pointed it out to Syd. The next thing I knew, that bird boldly flew ahead and landed smack dab on the back of Syd’s hand! We watched in astonishment as it perched there fearlessly, as if it was the most natural thing in the world! Neither of us had ever seen a wild bird do such a thing before, but we shrugged it off as nothing more than a friendly bird hoping for some food. It took me a whole two days to realize how closely our bird experience mirrored the bird analogy from Syd’s friend. God’s confirmation about marriage had come in a miraculous way, and it came on the very same day as Syd’s proposal. We married later that same year.
After we married, I once again became a homemaker. But after a while, I grew restless. One morning I woke up with my mind already made up that I would find myself a part time job. The challenge would be to find one that would allow me to be home with my disabled son when he wasn’t in school, and that included summers and all non-school days. I decided to work just one day per week and chose Wednesday because that was the day that Nate’s dad always cared for him after school. I don’t think it was coincidental that on that very same morning while out shopping, I heard a rumor that a nearby store was hiring. I went right over to check into it and was amazed to find that not only were they hiring - they were looking for a Wednesday-only employee. It was just what I wanted and I was hired. Since my boss had always given all non-school days to the students he employed, I never even had to request those days off. I was very blessed to have found the perfect job IN A MATTER OF HOURS! I loved my new job and enjoyed working alongside a woman who had been widowed at a relatively young age. That job would be a wonderful blessing to me not only then, but especially during a very difficult time in the not so distant future.
Syd knew how to live life to the fullest. Every moment with him was an action packed adventure. Syd had a reputation for getting into frequent predicaments. His best friend once said that his idea of a boat outing with Syd was to have a helicopter, fully equipped with supplies circling overhead waiting to rescue them. In my adventures with Syd, he and our boat both caught fire, we ran our boat into the ground in shallow waters, had our propeller break on us twice, our shifting went out, we lost control of our boat and nearly collided with another boat and dock, lost our dinghy, had equipment failure at sea, were nearly lost at sea, got stuck paddling for hours on what was supposed to be a river rafting trip, about missed the last bus for the day, ran out of gas, had the brakes go out on our car, and more.
One Monday morning in October, I was hit with an overwhelming urge to gather reading materials for Syd’s daughter Sherry, who had recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I bought several books that day and went right to work marking sections I thought Sherry should read, on what I regarded as a link between yeast, food intolerances and disease in general, and M.S. in particular. I felt sure that Sherry could learn to manage her disease through diet and supplements. By the end of that day, the books were ready to go.
As I was getting ready to leave for my Women’s bible study the next morning, I felt a strong impression that someone would need my help when I arrived. As soon as I pulled in, Leslie, who had parked right beside me, came dashing over to ask for my advice. She was worried about her son. He’d had many recent health problems and she was concerned about his frequent and persistent vomiting. She’d been taking him to the doctor, but it wasn’t getting them anywhere. She suspected that yeast in his diet was the trigger and wondered if I had any advice on managing food intolerances to yeast. I told her I’d felt something nudging me just the day before, to prepare reading materials to give to Sherry. But since nearly everything I had prepared was directly applicable to her son's problem, I was sure the materials were meant for her. She gasped and told me that she had been praying about what to do when my name came forcefully to mind. We stared at each other in amazement as we realized what God had just done. God knew that I would be encouraged by that experience in the days that followed. I would draw strength from it, knowing that He was actively at work in my life.
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” Romans 8:16
It was also around that time that I attended a Women’s Retreat. The theme of the retreat was about listening and responding to the Holy Spirit. Our main speaker cleverly compared the consequences of failing to follow boating guidelines with spiritual consequences from failing to listen and respond to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Because Syd and I were such boating enthusiasts, and had more than our share of mishaps, I could completely relate to the topic. I felt a tremendous closeness to God the entire weekend. Also attending the retreat was a lady by the name of Kay, who I’m sure, was put in my path for a special reason. During our testimony meeting, Kay shared with us her experience with her daughter taking ill and passing away soon after her return from the women’s retreat the previous year. I was inspired as she shared how she had felt God comforting her in the year since her loss. Before the weekend was over, Kay and I had become friends.
Shortly after my return home from the retreat, I ran across a poem I hadn’t seen in years (*). It was written by my Grandfather to my Grandmother on the night he passed away. My grandmother found him the next morning in his favorite chair with that sweet poem laying on the table right beside him. I was so touched by the poem that I typed it up and emailed it off to my brothers and sisters. Around that same time, Kay sent me an email. It was the one year anniversary of her daughter’s passing, and she and her family were celebrating a day of remembrance. I was inspired by her example of trusting God for strength and amazed at how gracefully she was handling her loss. It was the very next day that I would need God’s comfort and strength as I began a grieving process of my own.
“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
That next day, I woke up feeling God’s presence as strongly as I ever have in my entire life. I was just bursting with happiness and overflowing with God’s love. God spoke to my heart that morning, assuring me that he had a plan for my life. I was filled with excitement when He revealed to me that part of His plan was for me to write a book about my adventures with Syd. Off I went to work, carefree as could be. Little did I know that later that same day; I would return home to find that Syd, my husband of only three years, had been killed in a tragic accident. Suddenly at the age of 45, I was a widow. I soon recognized that God had been preparing me in the weeks leading up to Syd’s death.
"And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, "even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:16-18
Syd and I had always been on the go, but now that he was gone, I found myself at home alone way too much of the time. The house seemed very empty and it was unbearable! God provided exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it. The manager at the store resigned and I was given her hours until a new manager could be found. I don’t think it coincidental that my new hours were precisely the same as Nate’s school hours. The owner temporarily took over the manager’s duties and I was able to continue that schedule for several months until a new manager was hired. By the time summer rolled along, I was able to resume my previous schedule so I could be home with Nate. God always provides!
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” Ephesians 3:14-20
Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33), but we never have to worry about facing our troubles alone. God has given us a companion who will never leave us. He lives in us and knows us intimately. He continually teaches us, gives us strength, helps us with our problems and guides us in our decisions. He is our helper, comforter and the spirit of truth. He is the Holy Spirit. How very grateful I am for Him!
~Kristi Sanderson (alias)
(Stay tuned for more. I have much more to share)
*This is the poem my grandpa wrote, that I stumbled upon just days before Syd passed away. I think it was God’s way of reminding me that Syd was with God and we would one day see each other again.
The days they move so swiftly, and I have things on my mind
Have told the sweetheart of my youth you’re still my valentine.
Remembering how oft we kissed as I held your hand in mine
Thrilled to be with you my love – it has been sublime.
Our time of departure nears and brings tears into my eyes
Won’t it glorious be my dearest love when we meet beyond the skies?
There we’ll meet dear friends who’ve gone on before to mansions in the sky
To love and cherish them throughout eternals days.
And thank you for the burdens shared with me until this very hour.
Wake up my love my fair one and come away…
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