A Miracle On 132nd Ave.

I slumped in the passenger seat as she backed down the driveway. I looked longingly at my house wishing I was wearing my over sized pajamas with a warm dog snuggled near me on each side.

I glanced at the clock.  It was 7:30 and we were already an hour late.

“I really don’t want to go to this,” I thought.

She had invited me to attend a prayer gathering at a home very close to mine.  It wasn’t the theme of the evening that was bothering me as much as it was that I didn’t want to be around people.  In my life, I have gone to many of these type of meetings with enthusiasm expecting for someone to give me a ‘word’.  However, I wasn’t much in the mood for a word, a sentence or even a paragraph.

Situations swirling around me regarding relationships, finances and the approaching pressure of the holidays was fully weighing me down.  I had gotten out of bed that morning feeling absolutely dead inside.  I was quickly finding out that my frustration at not being able to fix my problems was leading me quickly down the dark road of depression.  Every time I went inward, I felt an empty space of nothing.  On the one hand, I didn’t want to care about anything, and on the other I felt so grieved at the overwhelming loneliness I felt.

“If anyone has anything to say to me, they can say it, but I am not telling anyone what is going on with me.  If God has something to say, it will happen.”

“I would like Brad to pray for you while we are there,” she said.

I was fine with that, but I was not going to open up and let any one of these people in on my problems.  Either God was going to reach out and take hold of me or I was on my own.

I watched the streets go by as she followed her GPS and its instructions.  The drive was only eight minutes but it felt like an eternity.  I couldn’t wait to go back home and flop down in my despair with a cup of hot tea.

As we were turning toward our destination, I sent up this silent prayer,

“God, if you care about me, I need you to give me $1,000 in cash for Christmas.  I have nearly nothing left to give right now.”

For weeks, I had been running low on money but made choices to cut back on things to make it work.  At the same time, I kept getting small promptings to give where I could to put what I had into circulation to help combat the fear.  Yet, I knew I had obligations coming and the strain of it all was taking me down.

I had heard on the radio that the average American family spends $961.00 for gifts. I don’t know if I come close to that amount, but being in the position of not being able to give anything was part of my unhappy state.  The decorations and music in the stores were not helping.  Everything was simply reminding me that I was going to be left empty handed.

My friend parked her car and I stood by the driver’s side as she collected her purse.  I did not tell her that I asked God for money.

“I want this to be a night I remember,” I said.  “I hope this doesn’t waste my time.”

We walked into an empty upstairs but found about twenty people in the basement listening to a man speaking about how God could fix anything if you let it happen.   I watched as people went forward for prayer as he spoke positive, uplifting words.  We were trying to slip in quietly.  She found a seat near the front while I took one toward the back.  My intention was to sit and watch.

Without warning, the pastor turned toward me and said,

“Do you have needs?”

I thought he was looking at me, but I was hoping he wasn’t.  Two women who were seated in front of me shook their heads no, but then he said,

“The one in the pink.  Do you have needs?”  He pointed right at me.

There was no escaping it now.  I had worn the brightest pink hoodie in my entire collection.

I answered,

“Uh…. ya.”

“Do you want to get rid of them?”

I paused because I knew what was coming.

“Yes,” I said.

“Then come on up.”  Oh, boy, so much for sitting in the back and letting the evening go by.

I could feel my friend’s eyes on my back.

“Do you have a physical ailment?”

I shook my head no.

“Are you going to say what you need?”

I shook my head no.  I was holding to my vow in the car on the way over.  If God had something to say, then it would present itself without me giving out any information.

He began to speak, and his words pierced my heart. Two weeks before this, I had visited a church one evening and went into a room with two women who sat quietly for a few minutes praying and then began to speak.  They had told me that my future was ‘bright’ and that there was nothing to worry about.  They kept saying that I was going to be okay and not to worry or fall into despair.  His words greatly mirrored what I had already been told.  I felt my resolve crumbling as my pain, anger, frustration and sadness burst out of me.

I began to cry so hard I was paralyzed where I stood.  His wife came and took me to a couch where she continued to pray for me.  The only thing I felt in that moment was what I whispered,

“I feel forgotten.  I feel like I am all by myself, and I don’t matter anymore.”

As the evening went on, more people came up for prayer, and I was still not totally out of my funk.

I heard my friend say to a man across the room,

“I would like you to give a word to my friend Christine.”

I was still wallowing in a puddle of tears, so  I attempted to clean my face up which left all of my makeup on a tissue.

“This is Brad,” she said to me.  He was meeting me at probably one of the lowest times of my life.

He knelt down by my side, and I closed my eyes as he began to pray.

The one thing I recall that he said was this:

“God wants you to know John 14:27 is for you.”

John 14:27 says this:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

He said,

“It’s like your mind is racing at all times.  I see it going so fast and things coming and going in and out of your mind.”

Unknown to him, I was completely consumed with worry about my finances from the time my eyes would open in the morning.  I would get out of bed just to immerse myself in tasks to keep my mind off of it.

As he spoke, I felt myself relax because his words were ringing true. He called his wife over who was so joyful that no one could possibly stay sad in her presence. It was energy that was alive and contagious that only further erased my negative state of being.  It was like the two of them picked me up, stood me on my feet, brushed off the dirt and put me back on the road.

As she prayed for me, I noticed he put his hand over his heart, then he leaned over and whispered something in her ear.  She nodded and smiled and he got up and walked away.  I figured maybe he was leaving me in her care while he helped another.

Within moments, he returned with an envelope with my name written on it.

“We want to sow this into your life.”

I looked at it not fully understanding.  I eventually took it from him and put it in my purse.

The pain had disappeared, and I felt happier and more secure.  It’s difficult to describe an event when it is a spiritual experience.  But, much like having a surgery, I felt as if a toxin that was choking the life out of me had been removed.

After thanking those who had helped me, I got into my friend’s car and said,

“Oh, I have an envelope with something in it.”

“From who?”

“Brad and his wife Lori gave me this.”

As I slid my finger along the enclosed edge, I suddenly recalled my silent plea to God for $1,000 in cash on the way to meeting.

I carefully opened it and saw a $100 bill on top.  I slammed it shut.

“Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  I think God did what I asked.  I think…”  I started crying again as I looked at and counted $1,000 cash, all in $100 bills, in my lap.

“WHAT!?” my friend said as she leaned over to see.  We headed for curbs and lawns as she tried to keep the car on the road.

I could not speak because I felt how much I was truly loved.  For you see, it wasn’t just about the money, it was about feeling that divine, strong, powerful connection between myself and the One who is unseen. My request to God was said as a sort of ultimatum that I thought would go unanswered.  I had asked for something to touch with my hands but it was so much more touching to my heart.

My faith was completely restored and in the past week since this event, I have found myself feeling more secure than ever and my problems seem to be more distant now than a heavy load on my back to carry.

I began to wonder the other day why I was able to have this prayer answered when I didn’t say a word to anyone about it.  I was immediately directed to this passage of scripture:

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.  (Matthew 6:6 NLT)

What I did that night was I shut myself away from others and sent up a private request that only my Creator was aware of.  And, as I did so, my reward presented itself rather quickly. I encourage all of you that are weary to never give up, and to ask for supernatural help.  I had no idea that I would go into a stranger’s home for a mere two hours and come out the recipient of a miracle on 132nd Ave.

 

envelope

 

 

 

Trouble Is Brewing

The aroma of coffee beans permeated my hair and clothing the second I walked in the door. Like a warm, friendly hug it engulfed me. The tables were loaded with drinkers of all sorts sipping on frothy concoctions that were worth every inflated dime. I saw my good friend standing by the counter eyeing her choices on the board.  She was having a hard time deciding what she wanted because this wasn’t her usual drive thru order.  This was a legitimate experience that required more from her than just saying,

“I will take the number 1.”

No, this was a face to face encounter with another human being versus hanging out the car window yelling into a box.  A treat this great comes with much contemplation.

“I love coffee. I love it,”  she said as I watched her eyes scan the board.

“What are you having?” she asked.

“I am having a medium iced peach black tea with a shot of raspberry.”

“That sounds good.  But, I love coffee. ”

After much travail, in which I thought she was going to opt for a fancy whipped up drink on steroids, she said,

“Coffee.  Black.   With a little cream.”

I think she went back and forth on the cream, but I was preoccupied getting out my card to pay.

Both of us were ecstatic to be meeting not only because we hadn’t seen each other for awhile but because it was free time.  No responsibilities and pure freedom.

It wasn’t difficult to find ourselves quickly wrapped up in discussions over writing, talking about God, and how our lives were progressing.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman enter the shop. It was one of those subtle things that happen but you don’t really recall the details of it until later.

We continued to talk, and she began telling me a story from her childhood.  Usually most of our time together is spent telling our true life stories.  Some funny, some sad, but we always leave each other feeling better just for having been together for a little while.

I was slightly aware that the woman who had come in was going table to table and talking to the patrons.  I was listening to my friend speak, but I was somewhat distracted as I watched people get out their wallets and go into their purses and hand her cash.

As she made her way closer to us, I didn’t give my friend any indication that I was overhearing or seeing what was going on around us.  My mind and eyes went from the thief making her way to our side of the room to trying to stay focused on what was being said.

I watched stealthily as she hit on a couple next to us.  Again, I made no mention of this to my friend who continued on talking.

When she sidled up to us, I kept my eyes locked straight ahead.  I refused to give her eye contact.

“I need gas money,” she barked.

She was glaring at my friend who responded by gulping and grabbing her purse to rummage for loose change.

I moved my head in slow motion so I could take in her attire. Her attitude was in full broadcast.

“I ran out of gas.  I need gas for my car.”

I saw her lick her lips as my friend handed over cash just like all the other people had done.

She turned to look at me.

“You don’t have cash?  You don’t have anything to give me?” Her annoyance was running high because I hadn’t moved into action to do her bidding.

I felt like I was in a school play yard and the class bully was attempting to take my lunch money. There was no humility or even a ‘please’.  Her approach was aggressive and intimidating.

I looked at my wide eyed friend who had conformed, and I saw the unspoken pleading for me to hand over what was being demanded.

“What color is your car?”  I asked.

She took a slight step back.

“What?” she asked with a sneer.

“I asked you the color of your car.”

“Ah-Ah-Ah-Bl, I mean red,” she snapped.

“What type of car is it?” I said immediately trying to limit her time to think.  Most people are able to say the color and make of their car without much thought.

“Ah- Ah-Ah-What difference does this make?” she snarled.

“What type of car do you drive?” I repeated not blinking.

“I uh, drive a red Pontiac.”

“Where are you stranded?  What are you going to use to put the gas into?  You don’t have a container.”

“I am going to buy a gas can!  Are you going to give me money or not?!”

“There are no stores around here to buy a gas can from.”

As she continued to retreat, her voice was becoming so loud that conversations ceased as we went back and forth.  My questions were making her lies come to light.

“Before I give you money, I am actually trying to help you solve your problem.  I don’t know how you are going to put gas in your car without having something to put it in.”

Realizing that I was exposing her to all those who had just believed her sob story, she shouted,

“I don’t need your money!”

Then, she looked at my friend and screeched,

“Thank YOU for helping me!”

Like that was supposed to make me feel embarrassed in public for not helping.  She ran as quickly as she could out the door and that ended her shift working the room.

When I turned back to my friend, she was shaking her head in disbelief and the couple at the table next to us began to argue.

“Why did you give that lady any money?”  he asked.

“Because she said she was out of gas!”

“She was lying! Why did you listen to her?!  You gave her a lot of money!”

“How was I supposed to know she wasn’t telling the truth?”

They had overheard my entire interaction with the petty criminal and realized they had been scammed.

“So many things get triggered when someone talks to me like that,” my friend said.  “I have had experiences in my past where people have bullied me so I just give them what they want so they will go away.  That is why I gave her the money.”  I could tell she felt bad about her decision now that the dust had settled.

“She was pretty intimidating, so I could see why you did what she wanted you to do.”

I sat for a moment and thought back over the entire exchange.  From the time she walked in the door, I knew that something was not legitimate about the lady.  That still, small voice inside of me was saying: Don’t do what she says.  The line of questioning I put her under was not preplanned and happened spontaneously.

It was similar to breathing. I don’t consider where my next breath is coming from.  It just shows up.

To live like this is the ultimate way to peace because it takes the dilemma out of things.  I like to help people who are in need, but I do not like to assist those who are ripping off the public.  Her yelling at me as if I was a cold hearted individual not willing to help was meant to humiliate me, and I have to say for a couple seconds she did make me feel like a low life. However, I had uncovered so many falsehoods in her story, I was easily able to shake off that notion of myself.

In this day and age of media, we are being told what to believe and how to believe it in the hopes that we will make our decisions based on what we see with our physical eyes and hear with our ears.

Proverbs 20:12 says,

“Ears to hear, and eyes to see-both are gifts from the Lord.” (NLT)

To embrace this wise saying means a wonderful thing.  We all have a powerful second set of senses connected to the spiritual realm that if utilized will help us separate the authentic from fabrications.

We know that God loves us, and we know that prayer helps to lead us on the right path when we have a decision to make.  The combination of that unfailing help of heaven and being willing to take a minute or two to quiet down and wait for an answer to come can make all the difference in the world.  Many times we are blinded by the raging noise from our televisions and radio.  We listen to all the voices telling us what to do instead of going inward and having the honest answer surface.

I didn’t have time to sit and ponder my decision as this person made her way over to our table that day.  However, I had been regularly practicing the quieting of my mind when faced with options to choose from.   With that in operation, I was able to easily identify the truth from fiction.  According to the verse above, we can tap into that supernatural vision and allow God to work on our behalf when trouble is brewing.

 

coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acting Squirrelly

Thud! Splash!
With spatula in hand, I turned toward the pool area to listen for any further sounds. There was no flapping of wings or familiar noises that a duck would make. There was no scurrying of feet or barking to indicate that one of my dogs had decided to go for a swim. So, what had just landed?

I closed the lid on the grill and cautiously walked up the stairs to look over the fence. I saw a small head frantically trying to stay above water as it paddled to get out of the deep end. For months the structure had sat uncovered collecting melting snow, rain water and every leaf that blew in. The shallow part had no water, so this unfortunate creature had found itself in a cesspool of unattended crud.

From my vantage point, I could not tell what it was. At first glance, it appeared to be an otter, however, that idea faded when I saw the small animal finally reach dry land and flop down.

“Oh, no!” I said to no one. “It’s a baby squirrel!”

In all the years of owning it, nothing like this had ever happened. I called out for my daughter and we determined that I would have to net and release it into the yard.  As I walked to the shed to retrieve what I needed for the job, she said,

“Mom! There is another one in there!”

“No! No! No!” was my mantra as I rushed back hoping she was wrong.

She wasn’t.

While the one panted in a heap after its Olympic medal swim, another was leaning up against the side of the pool looking rather dejected as if all of its attempts to escape had been depleted.

I talked non-stop in sentences that made absolute no sense as I tried to extend the pole to try to keep the animal as far from me as possible on the off chance that I was able to capture it.

I pretended to casually remove leaves as I slowly edged closer to the one that was fighting exhaustion.  Just as I was closing in, he took off back into the water with one leap.

“I am trying to help you!” I reasoned.

Finally, I was able to get him into the net while he chattered and bared his teeth.  I had visions of dirty fangs dripping with rabies biting into my hands as I hauled the screaming furball over the fence and into the yard. With a quick shake, he was slightly airborne, hit the ground running and scampered half way up the tree. He turned to stare me down.

“I can’t do this again,” I said looking at the other frightened little one.

As I pondered how to remove the next one, a terrible smell surrounded me. I looked down into the black water and realized what was going on.  A few days prior, and from a longer distance away, I had noticed what I thought were two large leaves floating near the surface.  Now on closer examination I could see two bushy tails bobbing along.

“Oh no!  Please no!”

“What?” my daughter said.

“I think those are the parents!”

I ran to get a large trash bin with a garbage bag inside.

“I can’t do this!” I shrieked as I reluctantly put my net back in the water.  Bringing it up, I had unearthed a bloated adult squirrel that I quickly disposed of.

“Aw!  Yuck! Some of the water splashed on my legs!  I need an entire hot soapy shower!”  I had lost my ability to talk quietly.  The yelling at the top of my lungs was coming naturally as a way to release my disgust as this horror show was playing itself out.

Quickly, I retrieved the second one and then turned my attention to the living.  With all my verbal outbursts, I had only scared him more.

“Okay,  little guy. This will be over really quick if you just cooperate.”

Of course, he took off like his brother, but the three other rescues had made my net handling skills sharper.  In no time, he was flying up the nearest tree to recuperate from his harrowing backyard adventure.

For the remainder of the evening, I kept checking to see if all was well.  I ended up getting a snow shovel and moved one of the two to the front yard.  He obviously was in some sort of shock. It clung to the earth with its claws as I hefted him gently out of harm’s way. By dark, both had left, and I thought that was the end of it.

A few days later, I heard another splash.  Looking over the fence, I could see another one swimming rapidly. This was followed up by more of the same water fighting, snarling teeth and screeching by me and the baby squirrel before I got him to safety.

This time, he ran as far away as he possibly could.  I wasn’t sure if it was one of the original two I had saved, but my initial thought was that maybe he had to come back to see if his parents really were no longer living.

Why would it revisit a place that had brought it so much pain and agony?  As I stood there, I began to wonder why I do that sometimes.  How many times do I go back mentally to some horrible situation and relive what was said or done to me that was traumatic?  Why is it so easy to let myself go there instead of staying in the present moment and let bygones be bygones?  Why can’t I just let the dead things of former days go?

When I have found myself in the throes of an old memory that is dredging up emotions that I thought I had gotten past, God is always holding out the net saying, “I am trying to help you!  Get out of the muck!”  And, like the helpless animal, I have snarled, resisted and made my own self miserable when I didn’t have to.

In Isaiah 43: 18 it says: Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. (AMP)

Why not?  Why is it not good to continually go back over and dwell on those mistakes and negative issues from a former time?

Because of Isaiah 43:19: Listen carefully!  I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth.  Will you not be aware of it? (AMP)

If I am so preoccupied with what has happened to me before, I will not be able to focus on what I want to happen to me now.  If I let my past take up all of my thinking today, then that leaves no room for a new and good thing to take its place tomorrow.  I have found that to stop myself from unnecessarily going back in time, I must stay on top of my thoughts and allow myself only to dwell on things that will advance me forward into living a better life. Being fully aware that God is with me as a constant companion also restores my peace.  I can pray, release and let go of those things that have caused me pain and not fall into the trap of acting squirrelly.

squirrel

 

 

Black and White

“I don’t know if I can do parallel parking,” she said.

It was the afternoon before her driver’s test and the nerves were a little on edge. Mine included. I just wanted it over for both of us.

“Would it help if we went and practiced in a parking lot somewhere?”

“I guess.”

We drove to a large church nearby. I set up two garbage containers so that she could gauge in the mirror how to maneuver the car in between them.

After a half hour she was feeling more confident so we decided to make the trip back home. We talked along the way about how relieved we would be to have the test behind us. She had been practicing for months to prepare. This was my first experience as a parent sitting in the driver’s seat. I wanted nothing more than to see her achieve this goal and be free of me.

In rush hour traffic, we made our climb up an incline near my home. As she was coming down the other side, I felt that her speed was picking up due to going down hill.

“Slow down,” I said. “The hill is making you go too fast.”

As I said this, I noticed the speed limit sign come up on my right that displayed a ten mile an hour difference.

“Brake!” I said more emphatically.

“I am,” she answered back.

I leaned over to see that her speed was coming down as she slowed the vehicle. As I straightened back up in my seat, I saw the cop car sitting at the bottom of the hill with her radar gun pointed at the oncoming traffic.

For a moment, I thought we were in trouble, but my daughter had corrected the error and we glided on by her within the normal speed limit.

Apparently, this did not matter to the officer. She swung out of her hiding spot that was obscured enough to catch criminals and came up behind us. I wasn’t sure what to do because she didn’t turn on her lights to indicate for us to pull over. We kept on going down the road until I saw them flash.

“You are going to have to get over and stop,”  I said with my heart somewhere in my throat region.

I watched in the mirror as a blonde young officer made her way to the driver’s side of the car.

When she put her head down and was making direct eye contact with me, I said,

“I am really sorry. She has her permit and we were out practicing.  I told her to slow down on the hill as fast as I could.”

“YOU LET HER DRIVE THAT FAST??” she screamed at us.

“No,” I replied.  “It was an accident.  Her speed got away from her, and I was telling her to hit the brake to slow down.  It wasn’t on purpose.”

“Let me see your license,” she barked at my daughter.

“She doesn’t have one,” I repeated.  “She only has her permit.”

I felt my voice quiver out of anger and fear.  She wasn’t listening to what I was saying and she seemed to have her mind made up that we were both out joyriding and breaking the speed barrier.

“Then, let me see your permit, and I am going to need your license.”

Both of us got out our wallets and handed over the requested cards.

When she walked back to her vehicle, I felt my chest tighten from the frustration of not being heard.

“She is going to run my license and see that I have a clean record.”

I had a small glimmer of hope that this would be smoothed over, she would see that we weren’t out to cause trouble and we would be exonerated.

When she returned, she had a number of pieces of paper in her hand.

“This is the speeding ticket,” she said without any emotion.  “And the rest of this tells you how she has to deal with it.”

“She is supposed to take her driver’s test tomorrow,” I replied.

“Oh, she still can.  And, this won’t be put into the system until next week.”

She practically threw the papers in the car at me and sauntered away.

That’s when we both started to cry as a result of the high intimidation level we had just endured.

I switched places with her and drove the few blocks to our house.

I went over the paperwork to find that this ticket was going to cost in the realm of $200, but there was a way out of it being counted against her and my car insurance.  If she attended a session at city hall the violation would be waived.  That still didn’t get us out of paying the ticket, however.

After a night of misery, she passed her test the next day with flying colors.

Within a week’s time, the ticket was processed, so  we chose a date for her to attend a class.

I was able to sit with her as she was forced to watch over an hours worth of video about teen texting and driving.  Various shots were taken of quite graphic scenes of people being mangled and smashed by distracted drivers.  I recall one where a couple was hugging in the street and ended up sandwiched between two cars that crashed head on leaving them dismembered.

About half way through this, with both of us feeling sickened by what we were viewing, I whispered to her,

“Where is the video about going down a hill too fast?  You weren’t texting.  You weren’t distracted.”

My anger began to flare, and once we forked over the money and were leaving, I had an outright hatred for the entire police department.

And, it didn’t disappear.  Every time I saw someone being pulled over I would comment,

“There’s some more money for the city to spend.”

To add insult to injury, I began to hear that others were being pulled over on the same hill for speeding. The police had a nice racket going because some people weren’t aware that the speed limit change would shift so quickly until it was too late.

Many times when someone would speed by me or nearly cause an accident, I would remark,

“Gee. Where are the police when you need them?  Oh, they are sitting at the bottom of the hill hiding so they can collect some more money.”

I had never had these feelings before this incident.  I had been trained as a child to respect authority and never question it.  Now, I was wondering why I had given the police so much honor in all the years prior.

As time clicked by and my animosity was not changing, I decided to make a bold move and go in and speak with the chief of police.

“How may I help you,” he said as he came into the small conference room.  I shook his hand and told him my name.

I went over the details of the incident and the unfair situation that I felt I had been put in.

“You don’t think she deserved the ticket?”

“No,” I replied.

“Why not?” he asked.

“She still had her permit. I was telling her to do the right thing and your officer did not care.  I explained everything and she acted like it was done on purpose.  And, I had no clue she was even pulling us over.  She didn’t turn her lights on but just followed us.”

“Well, we don’t want to scare the other drivers by turning on our lights.”

Each time I explained my side, he countered with a justification.  We were getting no where, and I again felt that I wasn’t being heard.

“You know what,” I said.  “I am going to make sure that every parent who is teaching their kids to drive in this community knows that the police do not care about us.  We are out here trying to teach them the proper way on how to do things, and your officer did not care one bit about that. She wanted to make money,and my daughter was sent to a class that had no relevancy to what happened.  To me, all of this says, you do not care.”

I saw him straighten up slightly in his chair.  My eyes were locked on his,and my children have told me that when I become angry, my stare can melt plastic.  I wouldn’t know because I can’t see it, but I always have taken their word for it, so I reserve it for special occasions only when necessary.

He cleared his voice and said,

“I see your point.  I can’t undo the ticket.”

“I know you can’t.  I am here to tell you that you need to have a meeting with all of your officers and let them know that parents are doing their best to safely train their children to drive.  We don’t need to be hassled and made to feel like criminals while doing so.”

“I can do that.  Some people come straight out of the police academy and follow the rule to the letter.  If they see a speeder, they will give them a ticket no matter what.  I have been doing this long enough now to know to ask questions and find out what is happening.”

“Then you need to train your staff on that otherwise it appears that you don’t care.”

We ended our conversation with him saying this,

“I do go by an old saying: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

“That is a good one to go by,” I said. “I wish you would have been the one to pull us over that day.  I think you would have at least taken into consideration my side of the story.  I live by an old saying as well.  It is this: What comes around goes around. What you sow, you will reap.  So, the way I see it, your officer has some unfair situation coming her way. Probably a lot worse than mine.  She needs to treat people a little more fairly for her own sake.”

“I will talk to her directly and let her know everything we have discussed.”

Once he dropped his wall of defense and became a real person talking to me, I found that we had common ground.

“I am sorry that this happened to you and your daughter,” he said as I left.

“Thank you.”

Did this magically make me trust the police in my area?  No.  In the years that have passed, my outlook has adjusted somewhat, but this encounter changed me.  Instead of believing that all people in uniform are out for my own good, I realized, sadly, that some were not.

I am more aware of where the police situate their cars to catch speeders, and I make sure that as I drive by, I slow down further and look them directly in the eye.  When I am followed by an officer who is right on my bumper, I refuse to speed up to go faster than the posted limit.  Maybe I am saving him from his next accident.

I have had to go about my days and put it behind me, yet,  I now know that injustice can happen to anyone because we live in a society that is run by imperfect humans.

With the recent violent eruptions taking out good people who were doing their jobs correctly, I have to say that all of this is a heart issue wherein we don’t honor the sanctity of life that God has given.  It’s so easy  for people to get angry in this day and age and go out and destroy a life which in turn has a ripple effect.  Revenge trumps sanity leaving broken pieces in its wake.

Therefore, we must come to the understanding that these troubles are far from being explained away by claiming it is all racially driven.  It is the hearts of men that have grown cold toward one another.  This is the issue that must be addressed for healing to come.

Not a simple task to get a handle on, and one with many grey areas that are not so black and white.

police

Keep On Climbing

I crouched down and placed my hand on the moss covered boulder. Inwardly I imagined a mother figure saying,

“Go slow.  Take your time.  Don’t hurry or you could slip.”

She sounded a lot like me.

I gripped onto the nearest tree trunk for support as I took another step higher.

With sweat pouring down my face and coming out of every gland I own, I looked at the trail ahead.  This particular stairway to heaven was covered with slippery mud covered stones, and the people walking past us who had conquered the mountain were dirty from head to toe.  Most of them looked exhausted, yet oddly, they were all smiling.  I could see that this was not for those who wanted to keep their whites clean.  This was for the rugged adventurist with good knees and expansive lungs.

Everything of mine was burning.

Once past the rocks, the next part became a twisted gnarled maze of tree roots that let me know they were here on earth long before I was.  The challenge was to carefully plant the foot not to trip and fall headlong over the edge and into the jungle.  There was no barrier between the walker and an unexpected airborne experience into heavily wooded territory.

We came upon a small waterfall which made me think this was worth the exertion until we continued past it.  More steep uphill fighting against gravity that worked relentlessly against me.   A little more further, and we were overlooking a grand view of the beach below.  Stopping long enough to catch my breath, I snapped a few pictures just so I could look back and appreciate it later.

My knees and hamstrings were yelling for me to take the nearest escalator back to level ground.

We pushed on more until we all agreed that we would rather be cooling off in the ocean.  Two young boys came by.

“How far did you two go?” I asked.

“Oh, we went the entire eleven miles.  There is a beach up at the top so we did that.”

They looked unwinded and fresh like they had just rolled out of bed.

I was a panting, hunched over mess.

“Is it very far to the bottom?” one of them asked.

“No.  You only have about a half mile to go.”

We let them pass us as we made our descent.  I continued to be mindful of where I put my feet.  If going up was stressful, coming down was even more so.  My right knee, that I had sustained an injury in years ago, began to freeze up.  It decided to rebel and not bend without tightness and a horrible pain.

Squatting down and hanging on to whatever nature was providing as stability for the moment, I silently sent up an S.O.S to the heavens just to get me back safely.  I felt weak, unable to go further, and I realized I was trying to accomplish this all on my own.

A phrase floated into my mind that brought relief.

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” (Psalm 18:33)

The pain lessened, and I was able to reach the end of the trail without a scratch or mishap.  I didn’t care at that moment whether it was an angel who flew me down or an invisible hand holding onto me, but I felt the tangible presence of help. Instead of struggling to reach a goal, I felt an unseen partner come in an assist me.   Don’t let your pride or fear stop you from praying for help.  God isn’t preoccupied helping someone else more worthy.  Ask and expect assistance.  It can make all the difference to an uncomfortable situation to help you keep on climbing.

 

 

rockymountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still Learning

Her gaze was unyielding as she looked at me and said,

“You can do this. You have it in you.”

She squeezed my hand and smiled.

“How many children do you have?”

“A four year old and a baby,” I replied.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake! That would be simple. I have six children! And we have done just fine. You will too.”

Even though I smiled and nodded, I think she spotted the uncertainty in my eyes.

“You really can do this. Trust that you can do anything.”

With that, she handed me cash for her items she had purchased at my garage sale and left. It was as if she had been sent as a confirmation to all the other messages I had received. For weeks leading up to our meeting, every time I turned the dial on the radio or changed the channel on the television I was confronted with the subject but had tried to dismiss it.

The question that hung over my head was: Did I have what it would take to home school?

There were those who would question the socialization of my daughters as if they were living life in a cave sequestered away from “the real world.” And, by what right did I have to educate them when I lacked a teaching degree but had successfully completed high school along with a B.A. in Psychology? Would the kids resent me later for not sending them to school?  Was I damaging them for life?

Despite these terrifying thoughts, this woman’s words penetrated my heart that I could take on the task of home education and successfully raise two strong, intelligent women. Her encouragement brought about a clear cut decision so much so that I began working that summer with my preschooler on workbooks just to test the waters.

It proved to be that it was the right direction to go, and the following year when she was to board a school bus, she was at home sounding out consonants and coming to understand vowels. One of her favorite subjects was reading out loud to me as she walked around the room with her book. I had heard that for some kids, learning came easier for them when not chained to a desk. So as she fluttered about the room, I helped her get a grip on simple sentences and story lines.  At times, I had to draw things on paper to keep her attention, and I am the first to admit that I lack the skill to draw, however, despite this, she discovered ideas about American history.  As we progressed, I bought curriculum packages that had captivating photography and hands on learning to enhance the experience.

Because of a four year age gap between the two girls, I started kindergarten all over again as the older one moved into third grade. This began what I called my “ping pong ball” years where I would bounce between the two to answer questions to clear up brain fog.  While just finishing up in one room I would hear these phrases called out,

“Mom! I don’t get this!”

“I think I am done with this!”

“Mom, what is this?!”

And so my days were consumed with explanations and at times reading my teaching manuals to be sure I was giving out accurate information.  I always had the inner critic telling me that I wasn’t equipped to do it, that I was missing something, and that someone else could do the job better than I could.

In between the studies, we regularly attended group activities that included field trips and specialty classes.  At one point, I was helping plan day trips, writing a newsletter and teaching gym classes to various ages. While one was in ice skating, the other was in dance. Sometimes, we had to do “car school” as we ran from one event to the next. For those who think isolation is inherent to teaching kids outside of school, think again. There were days I longed for quiet time.

So the years rolled on and my first daughter graduated. It was at this point that I realized I only had four years left. It felt like a lifetime in front of us until it wasn’t.

This past week, I sent in the final progress reports to the private school that my youngest child has been apart of. All of her online classes had been viewed and all the book work completed. It was a mixture of sheer joy but also a tinge of sadness like saying goodbye to a friend for good.

It seems unreal to say she is done. I am done. We are finished.

Add to this unconventional way of living the fact that she requested not to have a celebration at home but wanted to go to Hawaii to see the ocean for the first time in her life.

While waiting for take off, I kept wondering where the time had gone and how did I find myself on a plane bound for paradise? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were learning to color and tell time? I glanced across the aisle at the two who seemed much at ease with leaving behind the old for a new adventure. Youth can somehow do that a little easier than those who have put a few years on.

I looked at my bottle of water and recalled the science lessons on evaporation and how liquids become solids. How we planted seeds in the garden and sprinkled them daily with the hose. How excited they both were to watch the progress of a plant sprout and spread out into a big sunflower in the garden.  Just like them.  How they have grown so much while I thought I was paying attention.

As we took flight, I glanced out my window that took me back to our days of geography and learning about cities and various terrain. Using colored pencils to shade in maps that would help solidify learning for those of us who aren’t so knowledgeable on what country exits on what part of the globe.

All of these things have been on my mind as I don’t know how to fill in the gap of home schooling that has been a part of my house for nearly eighteen years.  The realization has come that just because I was led to complete a short term mission in life doesn’t make it mine forever.

That is the key.  We get caught up in the idea that what we have today will be here tomorrow.   There is a grieving that makes us automatically feel empty and unsure about what to do next when the ‘for sure thing’ no longer exists.  This is the space where we have to make a decision to either see it as a negative or a positive.  I could say,

It has ended,” and spend my time crying in a corner.  Or I can say,

“This is just the beginning of something good coming up next.”  

We all got out of bed at five a.m. to drive to a beach the other day.  Not my normal routine, but when in Hawaii, you do things you usually wouldn’t.  As I stood on the shore and watched the sunrise, I understood.  Some would say that the night had ended, and some would say that the day had begun. Simultaneously, both events were happening and one couldn’t happen without the other.   It’s the natural order of how God has created life to be.  To fight against it mentally really is unnecessary.  We cannot change the ebb and flow of certain situations, but we can chose to see ourselves as instruments to be used  to impart love to our families, our friends and to humanity.  Just because something has come to a halt doesn’t mean that we are washed up or unnecessary.  We are agents waiting with open hearts ready to take on our next assignment for the greater good.  We are meant to expand and develop more understanding as time passes in order to be complete and whole.

“When is high tide?” I asked my daughter as we stood on a beach.

“I don’t know.”

“When is low tide?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Me either.”

We looked at each other puzzled.

“How can we not know this?” I said grabbing my cellphone to look it up. All these years of schooling and neither one of us could recall the information.

That says to me that just because the school bell has rung one final time doesn’t mean that we aren’t still learning.

 

sunshine

 

 

The Walking Wounded

My daughter and I were out shopping the other day, and while she went into a dressing room, I stayed nearby looking at various clothing items.

“Get over here, right now!” she shrieked.

I stopped my hand mid-way on the hanger because the tone of the voice was jolting.

I looked up and saw a woman towering over a boy who was no more than three years old.

“I have other things to do. You are slowing me down!  Get over here!” she yelled.

I try not to judge a situation because I am not living her life, but if someone spoke to me the way she was to him, I would have done exactly what he did. Run the other way.

“Fine! I am not getting you anything you want!”

She spun her cart toward a customer service counter while he fled in the opposite direction. I tried to see where he was going but he disappeared. She talked to the store representative as if there was no urgency to find her child. I moved myself farther out to try and get a better look to see where he had gone while she was taking her time focusing on what she thought was so important.

Because I know we live in a society where children are not safe to be left unattended, I felt that I needed to try and find him just to be sure he was okay. I glanced around not trying to draw attention to myself because I didn’t want someone to think I was a predator instead of a protector. After awhile, I heard the wheels on her cart moving, so I knew she was on the hunt for him now that she had taken care of her own needs first.

I observed her run up and down aisles searching for him. By this time, my daughter had come out, and I explained what I was watching. She didn’t call his name but merely walked briskly around the store glancing back and forth. I began to wonder if she really wanted to reconnect with him. Inwardly, I was feeling somewhat panicked as it was taking so long for her to relocate him. I was hoping he had not gone out into the parking lot on his own.

From a few rows over I heard his wails as she said,

“Get into the cart!”

“NO!”

Somehow she managed to put him into the child seat while her tongue lashing continued.

The last words I heard him say to her before I exited the store were,

“You don’t love me.”

They weren’t shouted or screamingly said in a tantrum. It was just a matter of fact statement of not feeling cared about. I turned to look back to see her not paying attention to him with her eyes glued to her phone. No interaction. No correction. No place for apologies. Just silence.

We ventured across the street to another store and within moments, I was in the middle of witnessing another mother and son moment. This time, the boy was close to twelve and was carrying two boxes of shoes.

Normally, I don’t go about listening to other people’s conversations with their children, but when a woman’s voice is so loud that it invades my hearing space, what am I to do? She began chastising him for every small infraction she thought he was doing. I saw him move away from her to give himself some distance.  She was twice his size in weight and her face was one big scowl.

He placed both boxes of shoes on the jewelry counter while she busied herself on her phone. He quietly waited for her when suddenly, she spun around and said,

“Get those boxes off of there!”

Like a brute, she ran over and snatched one out of his hand. He put his head down and placed the other box under his arm.  I could see that he felt he could do nothing right to please her.

“We are leaving!”

My daughter and I glanced over the rack at each other feeling another round of despair for this young boy. As I continued in the store, I began to contemplate what I had observed. Why had such venom been directed at these children? I understand we live in a world where some kids are diagnosed with various physical and mental disorders that can frazzle an adult’s patience,  but in both cases, it appeared to me as if the moms were the ones suffering from a malady.

I silently sent a prayer of love over both situations, and I inwardly asked God a couple questions:

Why is this happening? Why are these moms so angry?

The first thing that popped into my mind was that both of these women had some sort of unresolved anger toward a male figure in their lives and the stress of circumstances was bringing it out toward their boys.  I have to say, I would not have come up with that on my own.  It made me see the situation differently.  In fact, after watching the second lady verbally trash her son, I was so filled with hatred toward her that I would have loved to put her properly in her place.  So to have the thought come that she herself was wounded, made me reconsider my anger.  It made me view the situation through another set of eyes that were more compassionate than my own.

Moving along through the store brought me to yet another mother and son.

“Mom.  I am tired,” he said while she was looking through bras and underwear.

“I know.  Just a couple more minutes.”

She spoke softly and he responded in the same manner.

What was I seeing here?  Respect from both parties toward one another.  Her acknowledgement of his feelings and his trust in her that what she just said back to him would come to pass.

He quietly stood by while she finished.   She took his hand as they walked toward the cash register.  She said,

“I am ready to go. Thank you for waiting so nice.”

I was relieved to have encountered that after the other two experiences.

To some, this wouldn’t matter, but to me it does because what you see going on in public is just a small reflection of what is going on at home and eventually we all have to deal with it.  I know that everyone has a bad day, both children and parents, and parenting is not easy.

I guess what I was struck most by was the tone and the volume that the other two had used so that the entire store was made aware of the conflict.  Like the pressure was so volatile and huge inside of them that they were bursting because they couldn’t contain it.  Unfortunately, their children were the recipients of it and some of us bystanders were splashed by it as well.

With all of the technology, parenting classes, scads of books and articles available you would think our society would be the best at child rearing and healthy adult living.  Yet, you can see many times over we are not at the top of our game.  Something is missing.

So, what is the answer?  What is the key to a good, loving household?  In Ephesians 6:4 it says:

And now a word to you parents. Don’t keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful. Rather, bring them up with loving discipline… (TLB)

If children are expected to honor and love their parents, then the parents need to give their children something to build upon.  And, if mom or dad has past issues and pain, then it’s time to deal with that too.  And guess what? In  Psalm 147:3 it says this:

He heals the brokenhearted, binding up their wounds. (TLB) 

If you are observant, you can see that there are gaping holes in the hearts of people.  A gigantic band aid cannot fix the problem, but we can pray for America’s parents to turn toward and move into the arms of a loving Creator who can repair the damage.  In turn, their children will reap the benefit of wholeness.  God is faithful to restore and make well the lives of the walking wounded.

 

bandaid

 

 

The Right Road

“I think dad has something for you outside,” she said.

“What is it?” I asked.

“You better go see.”

She walked with me to the shed that was at the back of the garage. At first, I didn’t see it until he began to push it toward me.

“This is your bike.”  It was much bigger than my other one that had training wheels.

It was a beauty painted a bright lime green with a flowered banana seat to match and handlebars that were designed to make it look like a motorcycle. I jumped on it so he could adjust it to my height.

“Let’s give it a try,”he said.

This was the first time I was to ride without the help of two extra small wheels. I had reached the age of liberation, and I was thrilled.

When I started to walk toward the driveway with it, he redirected me by saying,

“Not that way. We have to go through the backyard and go on Norway.”

This was how I became introduced to the fact that I was banned from riding freely on the street in front of our house. It had something to do with it being the 1970’s, having the neighborhood filled with teen drivers galore and people zooming so fast that the living room floor vibrated when they roared by.

My mother was adamant that I not put one toe toward that direction for fear of my safety. The route behind our house never had a single vehicle ever drive on it, so she knew I wouldn’t get run over while practicing. My dad hung on to the back while I pedaled to teach me to balance, and in no time I was moving along quite easily. It was all so exciting at first until monotony set in from seeing the same scenery.

I often wondered when I looked out  our front window and saw other kids gliding by why they weren’t quarantined to a dull, obsolete street like I was. Where were their concerned parents? These children were right out in the street living life on the edge.

A neighbor friend rode her bike over one day and asked if I could join her.

I ran in the house and got permission with the usual stern response,

“Yes, but only on Norway Street.”

It was futile to argue as all of my attempts prior had fallen flat.

I backed out from the garage and started walking through the yard to the gate.

“Let’s go ride on the other street,” she said

“I can’t. My mom won’t let me. She thinks it isn’t safe because cars go by so fast.”

“I do it all the time,” she whined.

This conversation went on all the while we walked through the back alley. She was wearing down my already fragile resistance.

“My mom lets me go wherever I want to. Yours treats you like a baby.”

How was I supposed to deal with that? The more she talked the more I was convinced that one small jaunt elsewhere wouldn’t hurt me.

“Okay,” I said.

I turned myself in a direction I had never gone before. The wind whipping through my hair felt better than ever. Just as I would begin to relax, however, I would recall that I was on a forbidden thoroughfare. I quickly checked over my left shoulder and then my right to be sure no one was following and reporting back to headquarters.

Moments into this glorious and freeing experience, I saw a familiar figure up ahead. It was one of my three brothers!

There was no denying what I was up to, and all members of the household knew the rules that were set for me because they had gone through the same thing.

There was no getting around him or fleeing the other way. I had to go past him and face the consequences. As I went by him, he said,

“You aren’t supposed be on this street.”

That’s all he said in the most calm, quiet manner I had ever heard. While I was expecting yelling and ranting and being dragged into the house, that was his only reaction. His unpredictable response threw me straight into fear. I made a beeline for where I was supposed to be.

“Are you in trouble?”

“Probably.”

“I need to go home, ” I said after a few minutes. My momentary adventure had turned the afternoon quite sour.

I put my bike away and noticed that the station wagon was gone.

I walked into the house and found it to be empty and quiet. Just before leaving the kitchen, my brother materialized.

“Mom is gone shopping, so I’m in charge. I didn’t tell her that I saw you riding on the street, and I won’t. Just don’t do it again.”

I should have collapsed with relief at his generous offer, but that was when the tightness in my chest began, and I couldn’t rid myself of it.

I kept replaying the scene over in my head and feeling guilty for not being given a proper sentencing.

I tossed and turned all night, dreaming of being caught, and waking up drenched in sweat from nightmares. I woke up to the sound of my mom working in the kitchen.  How was I going to face her at breakfast? Like ripping off a band aid, I decided to get it over with as quick as I could.  I sprang out of bed, flung open my bedroom door as the floodgate of my tears rushed down my face.

Crying did not relieve the crushing weight on my chest.  It intensified the problem and left me only able to gulp and my vocal cords to fail me.

“What is wrong?” she said looking up at me from the kitchen table.

I saw her give me the usual registered nurse scan to check my coloring, dehydration level, and my pupil size.  When you have six kids, and one comes staggering out of her bedroom at an early hour in the summertime, no good is usually going to come of it.  She was probably getting ready to grab a basin just in case I was about to throw up.

“Don’t you feel good?” she asked.

The compassion in her voice just made me cry harder.  I was not worthy of being asked if I was alright.  I had committed a crime without punishment, and I couldn’t handle it.

The sniffs and shudders continued until I got myself under control and admitted my wrong doing in understandable English.

“So, you rode your bike on the street that you aren’t supposed to?”

“Y-y-yes,” I said.

“Do you promise never to do that again?”

I nodded.  It was easier than trying to speak.

“Then I won’t take your bike away this time.  But, if you ever do it again, you can’t ride it anymore.  Do you understand?”

Another nod as she handed me a tissue.

“Okay.  What do you want for breakfast?”

I couldn’t believe the fortune I had struck at not having something bad befall me after going out of my way to blatantly go against her orders.  She had every right to send me to my room for however long she wanted.  My bike should have been locked up for weeks.  But, none of that happened and instead, I was given a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice.

I found out many years later the behind the scene conversation that my brother had with her.  Apparently, he had told her he had seen me even though he told me he wouldn’t.  I guess his theory was that if he said that to me, and made her aware of my disobedience, then she could be on the lookout for any future rebellion on my part.  My sobbing confession made my mom see that my conscience was alive and healthy, and she could trust that I was not going to put myself into that predicament again.

In my walk with God, and in the times when I have messed things up, it has been demonstrated to me the type of approach that my brother took.  Instead of lashing out, and bringing down the hammer, my misgivings are often shown to me in subtle, non-threatening ways so I can make some changes.  And, the only reason why those mishaps are revealed to me is because of the great love of God.  We are here to live a life that is joyful and rewarding not riddled with shame and guilt.  When we find ourselves veering off into the wrong lane or one that isn’t for our highest good, we can depend on the reliability and faithfulness of heaven to put us back on the right roadbike

(My old bike in the rafters in storage)

A Mother’s Pledge

We met when she was thirty-six. I didn’t know it, but she had five children in her care. By the time we became acquainted, the first four kids were thirteen, twelve, eleven and ten while the fifth one was headed for the age of seven. Unaware of the fact that she cooked, cleaned, washed laundry, cared for the sick when a pandemic swept through the house, made school lunches, and stitched up holes in clothes, I was just another one to round it all out by being the sixth.

She thought her pregnancy years were behind her, but I showed up to let her know she was wrong. According to one of my sisters, after she got home from the doctor and she had learned of her state of affairs, she wasn’t quite herself. She removed her coat, stood and stared out the picture window overlooking the street and absent mindlessly began to remove her blouse button by button. Her idea was to change into more casual clothes but she forgot she was not in the privacy of her bedroom. She was stopped before she got too far and brought back to her senses. She laughed at herself, but it was quite apparent that she was in some form of shock.

It must have been rough to be up at night with a newborn only to have the alarm sound at five a.m. to get breakfast ready so that everyone could be out the door on time for school. Once the house was quiet, much of her time was spent cleaning and making beds. Before she knew it, they were all back home.

As the years went by, life didn’t get any less difficult as everyone had after school sports, activities and jobs. Supper became like a restaurant shift where some had to eat early and others had to eat late. When I was four, she was in the height of carting people from various destinations before everyone had their license to drive or owned their own car.

The one thing she never wavered on was her appearance. No matter the stress, she always wanted to be out in public looking her best with hair combed and clothes neat. She didn’t want the world to see a disheveled woman who looked like she didn’t have it all together.

I always went along in the station wagon while she drove around town. While she was dropping one off, she usually was picking up another. I tried to stick close to her side as she always seemed in a rush during this process, and I didn’t want to get left behind in the chaos.

“Chrissy, we have to go,” she said as she walked through the living room. This meant I was to put away my toys and prepare to leave.  Because of our hectic life, she generally spoke in short sentences to get her point across without explanation.

“Time to get up.”  “Clean your room.”  “Go to your room.” “Go help your dad.”  “Go to sleep.”

I followed her into her bedroom as usual while she went to her dresser. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and began fixing her hair with her hands quickly. I could tell by her movements she was in a hurry. She grabbed a can and sprayed in circles all around her head to be sure all strands would stay in place.  This was the era of big hair and complicated styles requiring many applications of high powered aerosol. She gave herself one quick look and then turned to see me standing waiting for her.

“What smells like lemons?” she asked me.

I didn’t understand, and I didn’t answer. She sniffed the air to try and detect where the odor was coming from.  I saw her eyebrows come together.

“Oh, no!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe it!”  Her mouth was wide open.

She spun around and glanced at the product she had just used.

“Furniture polish! I just sprayed myself with lemon furniture polish!  I thought it was hairspray!”

We raced out the door with my mother smelling like an end table.

When a woman becomes a mom, there is an invisible document that is signed within the sight of God where an oath is taken to let bits and pieces of oneself go while caring for the family.  It stretches us to our limits at times but in that process we begin to see how wide and deep our love can go. There are moments of such great frustration followed immediately by dandelion bouquets and sloppy hugs in which all is forgiven.

Our world is so fast paced you might not always recognize those who are working in the trenches, and often times, it is subtle. But, the next time you see a mom out in the store patiently dealing with a screaming toddler, stop for a minute and realize how blessed you are that you have just come into contact with someone who has taken a mother’s pledge.

 

mom

(The other thing…it was never too early to begin your first real novel.  Her favorite hobby is reading)

Masterpiece

“Up you go,” he said with a sadistic tone.

He had no idea my fear of heights, and he couldn’t see from where he stood that various areas on my body were beginning to break out in a sweat. The machine whined as I ascended to the vaulted ceiling of the main lobby. I was hoping my spirit would just keep on going up and out of the building rather than face what was coming next.

Clutched in my damp hand was the project that I had spent hours laboring over the entire weekend. The previous Friday our class had been assigned the task of creating a structure that would support an egg from breaking when dropped from a high place. We were given a box of toothpicks, a rubber band and were told we had to supply our own glue to hold it all together.

It was my senior year of college, and I had procrastinated taking an art class.  I was months away from obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, and the class was a requirement for graduating. Because of my dislike of the subject and my lack of skill, I had waited a bit too long.  All of the other art courses had filled, so I was left to join one that combined art with physics.  A deadly combination for a person who is not gifted in either arena.

As I was hoisted upward on a cherry picker in the middle of the campus main hall,  I was expected to free my creation to see how it fared when smashing into the ground.  I was being graded on function as well as a beautiful design.  Neither of those would have described the piece of junk I was about to heft over the ledge to its demise.  I found myself mentally apologizing to the egg that was about to be sacrificed in the ordeal.

“Let it go!” He shouted up at me.

I looked down to see that a crowd had gathered.  It was bad enough that I had to do this in front of my classmates but the entire school had turned out for cheap entertainment.

My index and middle fingertips were numb from burning myself on the hot glue gun I had used.  It looked like I had spent a total of five minutes working on it, when in reality it had sucked up all of my time from Friday evening onward. When my alarm sounded Monday morning I would have rather made a trip to the dentist for a root canal.

I dangled the object of my disdain and dropped it. I watched as it rocketed to the ground picking up momentum along the way.  It bounced and rolled.  That part actually went how I had envisioned. One of the instructors bent over to examine the white oval that hung suspended in the middle with the rubber band.

“It barely cracked, but it still broke.  Bring her down!”

If the egg had survived the fall I would have been guaranteed an A.  Because it had a hairline crack, the teacher was gracious enough to give me a C.

“Nice try,” he said with a quick smile as if to say: Let’s move on to better talent. 

Up next was an Art major.  Of course, she had done what we all should have thought to do.  She had spent hours breaking her toothpicks into small pieces that she glued together.  It was a massive looking hairball that when she let it go, it floated to the ground and the egg never budged.  She had thrown in the rubber band just because she had to.

Both of the instructors applauded and smiled as if she had just presented them with the Mona Lisa while the rest of us non-art majors stood around feeling inadequate.

That was only our first project of many.  Going forward another element of misery was added into the  mix.  For every assignment we did, we were required to get up in front of the class with our final product and explain why we had designed it the way we did.

This caused me many problems.  For one, I had no confidence in what I was building.  Second, I am artistically challenged. And, I had no explanation for the monstrosities I was turning out. I didn’t even know what to say about how messed up it looked.  To make matters more complicated, there were two instructors in charge instead of one. We had to win them both over to get a good grade.

No project was without its oddity.  We were given random materials that made absolutely no sense to work with.  For example, I was given different shaped boxes and told to build something that would show how a person’s life would evolve from childhood to death.  The best I could do was glue them all together and paint the last box black and call it a day. I could tell by their furrowed eyebrows they weren’t impressed, but for some unknown reason, my C average was holding tight.  Angels and unknown forces must have been at work.

The only project I ever felt somewhat good about was a bridge I made from red solo cups.  On the day I was to turn it in, I slammed it in my car door on the way out of the parking lot.  My excuse was not accepted, and I saw them fighting off annoyance.

At one point, a girl who was as anxiety riddled over the class as I was, got up to present. I witnessed the two professors rip her to shreds.  They mocked her, told her it was a piece of useless work and excused her abruptly.  One of them laughed as he used his pen to mark down her grade on his sheet.  I saw her face turn various colors before she fled the room crying.

That was the day that I decided not to care anymore.  I knew I wasn’t any good, and I knew I could work myself to a frazzle and never achieve above average.  I made the decision to formulate the best story I could about what I was showing to the two.  If they believed my tall tale, then maybe my grade would improve, otherwise, I wasn’t going to put my heart into any of it anymore.

The next day in class as we spent our time constructing, the girl who had been publicly demeaned came to me and said,

“I just wanted to come back and say goodbye to you.  You were always so nice to me.  I am dropping this class.”

“You can’t,” I said.  “You won’t graduate.”  I wasn’t the only one who had waited too long.

“I don’t care.  I am not going to let them do that to me again.”

“Just stay and get through it,” I said.  “It isn’t worth quitting now.”

She insisted on leaving and wouldn’t listen.  Although it sounded tempting to depart, I wanted to graduate that spring.  I was tired of school, so I had to get past these two clowns to do so.

The only way out was to get weird and fake my way through.  I also decided to turn a blind eye to the artists who were planning on making a career in the field. I had to nod and smile at their work and remember to not compare anything I did with what they were doing.  I solely relied on my story telling abilities to convince the instructors of the greatness of my work.

I saw the magic of this happen instantly on the next project.  Standing in front of the firing squad, I made up the biggest fabrication I could come up with.  I went into great detail as to why I chose colors, patterns and layout. At the final word, I swallowed hard wondering when I was going to be reprimanded for a job poorly done.  Instead, they started arguing with each other.

“I like what she did with that side of it.  It really represents life in true form.”

“That isn’t what she meant to do. She did that as an abstraction. It is to symbolize life not show it in its true form.”
I ended up sitting down as they yelled at each other over my creation that I had no clue what it even represented. This repeated itself time and again.  I would sell them hogwash, they would argue, and I would then be out of the limelight.  This is how I survived the course and earned a B.  I guess my degree in psychology was the right direction to go since I was so good at using it to change their behavior toward me.

Many years afterward, I was talking to my mom about how much I hated that class.

She said, “I thought it was good for you.”

“What?!  Why?  They were mean to the students.”

“It took away your fear of public speaking.  When will you ever be heckled by an audience?  It took away your anxiety about getting up to talk.”

She had a point.  And, it made me realize something else as well.  When I decided to not worry over every single detail, I did better.  I still did the best I could, but I relaxed. I allowed my imagination to take over to the point that I actually enjoyed the mess I was making.  I also quit comparing myself to the award winners. I became my own individual instead of a competitor.

We are called to a divine path that our Creator has crafted just for each and every one of us.  If only we would let it unfold as it should without looking to the right or the left to see what everyone else is up to.  Put forth your best where you are, don’t quit when it seems too tough, and know that according to Ephesians 2:10, you are God’s masterpiece.

 

 

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