Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Canada (01/29/09)
By Shirley McClay
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An elderly woman stepped out of a stall behind me and washed her hands. I could feel her eyes on me and had a pretty good idea what she was thinking.
“I know, you’d think I’d have learned. I never have time to blow dry though.” I tried to scrunch the ice out of my damp hair.
She smiled at me in the mirror. “My son still wears shorts in spite of the minus forty weather. He goes everywhere on buses and never seems to get chilled.”
“Frigid temperatures in the winter, summertime mosquitoes… I’ve heard stories that scare me. I hate mosquitoes.” I felt silly when the tears welled up.
“You haven’t been here long, eh?” Her sympathetic voice warmed me deep inside.
“No. I married a Winnipegger a few months ago. I’m from the States. Mountains and forests. So many little differences. Tim’s instead of Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, Zellers instead of Kmart, washroom instead of restroom, heavy pocketfuls of change called Loonies and Toonies…”
“What do you think of our open fields?”
“Frustrated, there’s nowhere for my eyes to settle.”
“Have you seen them in fall?”
“No... not yet.”
The elderly lady sat down in a chair near the “washroom” door.
She smiled and her eyes drifted away. “The canola fields glow like golden sunshine. And there is a purplish blue crop... not sure what it is… but next to the yellow... so beautiful. The skies stretch on so far that you can see incredible cloud formations.”
“Yes... I love the clouds. And the snow. Josh has told me about some of the summer storms. Thunder that sets off car alarms and literally rattles windows. Lightning that traces across the entire sky. Even tornados!” I shook my head. “I never expected to see tornadoes up in Canada.”
“Were you expecting igloos, sled dog teams, and polar bears walking the streets?” She chuckled and rubbed lotion into her cracked and wrinkled hands. Vanilla overcame the disinfectant washroom smell.
“Maybe... something like that anyway.” I knew Josh was waiting at our table but this meeting seemed to be from God. I took a seat in a wingback chair across from her.
“Maybe if it was really like that it would be easier to accept… more like an adventure.” She leaned forward and her brown eyes connected with mine. I struggled to keep contact as she searched them. She must’ve found what she was looking for because her intense scrutiny softened and she settled back against the couch cushions.
“You’ll do fine, my dear. God has an adventure for you here in the prairies of Canada. The mosquitoes, bitter weather, and flat prairies are just another setting for your story. It’s not about location; it’s all about your heart.” Her chuckle was deep and soothing. “God loves to work with an adventurous soul. There is so much He can do with you that others would balk at.”
I felt my cheeks burn as I looked down at my hands. “I’m afraid I’ve been doing a lot of balking. I do love adventure but this wasn’t what I’d imagined.”
“It never is, child. Storybooks temper the pain and fear involved in adventuring, but it’s a necessary part. That’s what pushes you to grow and change. To become the person that God has envisioned. It can deepen your character and develop your strength. If you embrace it.”
“I haven’t been strong in good ways lately... just in rebelliousness.” It was hard to push the words past the thickness in my throat.
“Then it’s time to let Him change that. Your strength needs to come from Him. Your trust should be centered in Him. Let God use these struggles to deepen your relationship with Him.”
A thought struck me. “How’d you know I’m a Christian?”
She laughed again. “After all these years... I can usually tell.”
The woman pushed herself to her feet with a groan. A hand rested on her lower back and she slowly straightened. “I’m sure your young man is wondering who kidnapped you. You better go now. Thanks for taking time to chat with an old lady.”
“I’m glad you were here.” My words weren’t enough but she just winked at me as we passed through the doors into the dim restaurant.
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