A new book, Praise from the People of St. Paul’s on-the-Hill, brings together 27 stories from the parishioners of St. Paul on-the-Hill, Pickering. Several stories recount the loving, nurturing companionship of God during a lifetime of ups and downs. All show how a relationship with God has been strengthened. Here are four stories from the book.
Love on a leash
By Janet Myers
By March 2021, the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus had been raging for a year. It had been a long, dark, cold winter. I felt deprived of everything that made me happy: visits with family and friends, holiday gatherings, restaurant rendezvous, live theatre, movies, shopping and attending church services.
I felt like a prisoner in a cement box, a.k.a. our new condo. I felt no strong connection to the neighbourhood because we had recently moved from a rural setting to downtown Pickering ± a big adjustment!
To maintain some level of fitness, for a change of scenery, for fresh air and for mental health, most days my husband and I walked. The neighbourhood was swarming with people out walking for all the same reasons. Anxious for socialization, everyone spoke to one another. One man in particular attracted my attention. Several times a day, despite needing a walker for support, he walked his little dog. We always stopped to admire the dog, as he was very friendly and always made me smile. Any occasion to smile felt wonderful! The man’s name was Don and the darling dog was Toto.
I thought about how hard it must be for Don, with his obvious physical challenges, to walk Toto. At the same time, I felt sorry for Toto, whose outings were so very short. Out of the blue, I offered to walk Toto every day when I was free. Don was delighted and so was I.
And so, my adventure as a dog walker began.
Toto was very friendly and approached everyone he saw. If I noticed someone sitting alone on a bench, I steered him in that direction. They all loved patting him and having a little visit. He brought smiles to their faces. Mine too!
If we approached children, I took him over for a visit. Many overcame their fears once they saw his darling face and patted his soft head. Smiles all around!
As I got to know Don and his wife, I quickly realized they were lonelier than I was. Each day that I picked up Toto included a visit. A friendship developed that involved lots of laughter and mutual support.
During the summer, I joined some friends from church at the local park. We met most days and enjoyed many interesting conversations. But my welcome was never as warm if I showed up without Toto! They loved having him join us. They are now proud to be his “aunties” and they love him dearly.
I reflect on how Toto has changed my life. He has simply brought joy into my life at a time when it felt devoid of all things joyful. He has introduced me to many of my neighbours, greatly increasing my sense of affiliation with my new home. He has also brought joy into the lives of others, which makes me very happy. He feels like a ray of sunshine, bringing smiles to all he meets and to me.
Am I just lucky? Did this happen by accident? I don’t think so. I think God realized I was in trouble and needed a source of joy in my life. So out of His great love for me and His wisdom in knowing how to meet my needs, He gave me compassion for Don’s situation. God knew that my reward would be exactly what I needed. I believe that reward, a sweet little package at the end of a leash, was God’s love gift to me.
Thanks be to God who knows all our needs and blesses us in unusual and delightful ways!
A difficult class
By Kehinde Ladipo
During my undergraduate years at university, there was a particularly challenging semester when I was having a hard time with a mandatory advanced mathematics course. I knew the exam would be very difficult, but I trusted the Lord for divine help. I prayed about it and asked God to give me direction.
I decided I would solve as many problems as possible and ask for feedback from the professor as the semester progressed. I searched through the library for books with related new problems to practice.
Imagine my astonishment on exam day when I immediately recognized that some of the problems had been taken from the books I had been using for practice! It was a three-hour, essay-type examination with six questions, out of which we were to choose four. To the glory of God, I attempted all six and decided on which two to cross out before submission.
I was so elated that all the way back to my dorm I hummed the song, “O bless the Lord my Soul,” based on Psalm 103. I got an almost perfect score in the course, to the glory of God. Even better, this experience taught me to take every matter to the Lord in prayer, regardless of how insignificant it may seem.
God’s plans for my family
By Rhona Bradbury
In 1967, Bill and I immigrated to Canada. By 1969, we had a home in Ottawa and felt ready to start our family, just as we had planned – two children of our own and then adopt. We anticipated no problems, expecting “our” plans to unfold as naturally as everything else we had hoped for.
When nothing happened, we sought help and discovered that pregnancy was not going to be easy. In fact, even if it did happen, a miscarriage was highly likely.
I had been a choir member of a church in downtown Ottawa but found no comfort or support there, and I stopped attending. I still questioned God as to “why” and often prayed for our dreams to be fulfilled.
We eventually regrouped and went to plan B ± adopt first and see what happens. Within two years, we had adopted our oldest son and, three years later, we welcomed a second son. I never gave up hope of another child but when a nurse mentioned that we could complete our family with twin girls who needed adoption, I remember thinking that my family was already complete. Little did I know I was pregnant!
Our baby girl did indeed complete our family and I was satisfied. I called her my little miracle because I knew God had made her happen for us.
In 2001, we decided to return to church and were led to St. Paul’s on-the-Hill. This church has nurtured and guided us to a better understanding of the God we serve. We had made our plans, but God had His plans for us and His plans have served us well.
We have a son who serves his community as a police sergeant and is a proud family man, another son who has survived a marriage break-up and always made the well-being of his children his top priority, and a daughter who, with her husband and children, are active members of their church.
Every time our grandchildren are together and I hear their laughter and see their delight in each other, I pause to give thanks to a loving God who knows what I need, when and how I need it, and answers my prayers in His good time.
By Geoff Cox
Thirty-five years ago, two partners and I were the owners of a successful business. We were sure that we were competent, knew what we were doing and were ready to expand. After spending time doing due diligence, we completed the purchase of another company operating in the same line of business. However, it was not a good time to expand. The new company’s income fell far short of its expenditure. Our due diligence had not been good enough.
At that time, the world’s economy entered a steep recession. Then the bank withdrew our line of credit. We were bankrupt.
Bankrupt! The word no business owner ever wants to hear. We had remortgaged our home and invested all of our money into the business. I felt that I was a total failure and had wasted all of my family’s savings. Fortunately, our children were grown, but how was I to continue to provide for my wife after losing all of our investment, having no job, no home and no income? I was desolate.
A couple of days later, I woke from a dream where I had been in church and had been nominated to read aloud the Gospel. I stood and opened the Bible to the passage I was to read. But before I could start reading aloud, the text disappeared from the page. I put the Bible back down in the pew and picked up another Bible. I opened the second Bible to the required passage but once again the text disappeared from the page. The person in the pew ahead of me turned and kindly offered me his Bible, opened to the passage. As I accepted this third Bible and looked at the passage, the text again disappeared from the page.
At this point in the dream, I woke up in a cold sweat.
I needed to discover exactly what was written in the disappearing text. I had to immediately get out of bed, go into the den, and get a Bible from the bookshelf.
The scripture reference had been imprinted in my mind from the dream: Matthew 6:25. “Therefore, I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”
In retelling this event, I am reminded how God grabs my attention when He wants me to particularly focus on a matter that He considers of utmost importance to me at that particular point in time. Three times! “Pay attention Geoffrey! I promise that I will look after you and Margaret.”
And for 30-odd years, that’s exactly what God did. He taught me to be satisfied with what I had. He surrounded me with friends, including those at St. Paul’s. These friends taught me how to pray, and what to pray for. They surrounded me with love and taught me how to care for others.
Over and over, God confirmed again, as in Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your lifeº Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”