Watched Over

Throughout the years, I have tried to heal my relationship issues with money. I have attempted to keep gratitude journals where I have been known to write: Nothing bad happened today.

I saw this as a good thing to be thankful for, as simple as it was.

Another thing I did was I started writing thank you on the back of every payment I sent out. It reminded me I was paying someone’s wage to help them afford their mortgage or meals for their kids. I even sent my regards to the IRS when I mailed in my quarterly estimated taxes. I drew a smile on the envelope to add to the positivity. Did I mean it? I am not sure, but they say if you do the action, the feelings might show up later.

I have done money drops where I would take cash and encouraging notes and place them for the unsuspecting to find. I stuffed them into diaper boxes at the store, left them in bathroom stalls at the airport and in books at the library.

While all that was fun, it still didn’t do much to reverse this lack mindset that had been ingrained in me since childhood, where money was the root of all evil. If anything good came my way, it was pure luck and not to expect anything.

I recall at age seven opening a birthday card with money and saying to my mom in front of a relative,

“You can’t use this for new socks this time!”

I was catching on to what the green bills meant and how they were being taken away from me. I remember she looked slightly embarrassed. I was always challenging her frugal approach to life. Something inside of me knew that her view of things was slightly off.

When she was making her grocery list one day, I said I wanted something.

“It’s not on my list, Chris.”

She had her head down, writing out this massive novel of needed items. I didn’t understand the tight rope she was on trying to make it all work. I was tired of this worn out answer she always gave me.

“Just put it on your list,” I said, thinking this was the most brilliant idea that she had never thought of.

She looked at me and started laughing. That was not the response I was hoping for, so I one-upped her and scribbled out what I wanted onto her overloaded piece of paper when she left it unattended.

“Here,” she said to my shock while she handed me the item after she returned from the store. She hid her list after that.

If I had holes in my clothes, which was inevitable because they were never new, she would stitch them or put a patch on them. She taught me to wear something until it literally fell off my body and was paper-thin from the wash.

The message was continually sent that we could not afford anything, so get used to it. After years of that, it’s no wonder I have struggled to believe I could have it better.

Having a divorce thrown in on top of that didn’t help either, which only took my uncertainty up a notch.

At the same time, I picked up on the idea to give away things to help others. My street is busy, so if I need to get rid of anything, I set it out at night, and it disappears by dawn. I have had people come to my door asking if I meant for the items to be free because they are in good shape. I have given away tables, children’s items, and everything else under the sun. Someone always needs it more than I do.

The other day I cleaned my room and came across yet another experiment that I tried in 2014. I decided to write down every good thing that happened to me for the year and placed the notes in a jar.

When I read through them, I could still see that part of me was wanting to believe that what I learned as a kid wasn’t true. I realized the progress I had made between then and now, which that in itself is worth it.

And I discovered something else. God has been faithful. Even during the most challenging times, I still never got down to my last dime, even though I sometimes skated close to that. I always had ideas come to me on how to manage, and multiple people stepped in at times to save the day unknowingly.

I wrote everything, including the tiniest detail, like finding $2 at the mall. As I have let God cure me of my money trauma, the worries have faded, and I can handle the unexpected a lot better than I used to.

At one time, if I got a bill in the mail, I would obsess over it so much that I would miss out on something more substantial, like a daughter’s birthday. I would be present in the body, but my mind was whirling, figuring out how to meet that obligation. The first time I realized I wasn’t doing that anymore was a significant milestone for me.

And where did all that fretting get me? Nowhere. I wish I had known this verse from 2 Corinthians 9:8:

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (NLT)

I cannot overlook the fact that this was passed down to me from someone I trusted and was looking to for answers about life. So, if you are acting like this, your children are watching and will repeat your mistakes. That was a huge reason for me to correct this in myself because I don’t want my girls to be mentally tormented as I have been.

One day in the middle of the pasta aisle, my youngest daughter couldn’t take it anymore.

“Get the organic one.”

“It’s more expensive.”

“It’s a quarter more! Get it! It’s better for us than the other one!”

I held each jar. She was sending lasers with her eyes and I knew I wasn’t going home with the cheaper one. My final fight with her was over cheese, and I said,

“You know what? I am no longer at the age where I can waste my time arguing with someone over dairy products, so fine! I will get the one you want me to, and move on!”

That started me on a new road to buying healthier options.

I used to try to skimp by on everything as much as I could. God met me in that place and provided because that is how it works. I don’t do that anymore, but if something comes along that I know has been discounted to make me feel heaven’s presence, that’s another story.

Today, my friend had breast cancer surgery. It was particularly tough because her fiance, Dan, went on to heaven last winter. He had cancer for nine years and had defied all odds. He often nudges me to buy her orange flowers, and anytime I bring them to her, she has always prayed and asked for them as a sign that he is near.

I went into the store and had that persistent thought to get flowers from her heavenly husband. I knew what color they had to be, but I didn’t know if they would have any. I had made up my mind to get her a bunch, and I didn’t care what the cost was.

In the floral department, I found three big bouquets set apart from all the rest. Of course, and he never makes me guess but always directs me to them. I thought I saw a clearance price, but I wasn’t sure, so they rang up really low when I ran them through the self-checkout.

“Is this right?” I asked the employee standing nearby.

“Yes, we got a big over shipment of flowers that we had to sell. Those are really pretty.”

A blessing had found me when I least expected it.

I spent next to nothing for them when I was prepared to empty my bank account to ensure she knew how much she is watched over.

Best Deal

His voice boomed through the store,

“Chris! Get ten of them!”

He wasn’t even in the same aisle that I was in, but he was so tall that I could almost see his head above the highest shelf.

“Stop putting stuff back! Get what you need, I mean it!”

“I don’t know if I need this many, though.”

“Christine! Get them!” He had used my full name, so that meant he was serious.

This was during a tough time financially for me. My divorce had not been finalized; there was no child support, so I was living off of fumes, and when he caught wind of it, he insisted on taking me to buy groceries. I had resisted the idea but had given in due to his persistence.

“I want you to get what you need. If there is a sale, take it and stop putting things back.”

I had a hard time doing what he said because I knew he was going through his own problems.

He had wandered off into another part of the store, so he couldn’t even see what I was doing as I took a couple of things, put things back, looked at prices, and kept telling myself to limit what I was getting. I was used to cutting coupons and strictly following a budget, and this craziness of just throwing things in the cart was foreign to me.

As I continued not to listen to his directions from afar, he repeated it as if he could see me, but I knew he couldn’t.

“Christine..get that! Stop putting things back!”

A lady next to me looked at me funny.

“Is he with you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“How can he see you?”

“I don’t know. He just can, I guess.”

She frowned and moved on quickly.

I went to the next section, and he came around the corner.

“You are still not doing it the way I told you to? You have nothing! Get back in that aisle, and get some things you need!”

He took control of the cart and landed himself back to where I had been.

“Look at this! You can get ten of these. You only took two! What are you doing? Get them!”

He did this through the entire store.

“What about this? Do you need any of these?”

“Yes, but..”

A vast handful went in, and we moved on.

“That’s so many..I…”

“I don’t want to hear any of your excuses. You have a poverty mentality, and God wants to heal you of that. You deserve things, Chris. God wants to show you that you will be supplied with what you need. Always.”

I wasn’t accustomed to his renegade-type approach to life because I was more of a keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best kind of faith back then.

He quickly piled in items as I tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen to me.

“Just thank me for it, and that’s it. Don’t say anything else.”

He held up a box of cereal.

“What about this?”

“I am not sure…”

“Do your kids eat these?”

“I think so, but…”

He took his arms in a hug-like fashion and dumped in a bunch.

“That’s what I want you to do. Don’t overthink it. Just do it! Stop looking at the prices and thinking I can’t afford it. I am doing this because God told me to help you. So, quit fighting it.”

There were so many other customers around us, and they had to think we were having a domestic right there. A towering man was loudly barking orders and demanding that I buy things. Isn’t it usually the other way around?

“God can do anything, Chris. Now get stuff!”

The minute I would hold something in my hand and barely glance at it, he would pluck it away, grab fifteen more, and say,

“Those are yours now.”

When he went to pay, he acted like it wasn’t enough.

“Look at all this, and that’s all it came to. What are you so worried about? Do you want to go get more?”

“No! Please, no!”

I couldn’t take any more of his generosity. I thought it was nice and all, but I couldn’t mentally deal with it. I was not used to this because I felt that life had to be difficult, and the things I needed or wanted had to be challenging to obtain.

“Thank you,” I said once we were in the parking lot.

“You have to get over limiting God and what can be done for you. You are stopping the blessings from coming into your life.”

A few months later, he asked me if I wanted to go on a treasure hunt with him and some church members. He was clinging to God, trying to clean up a very messy split from his wife. He had children with whom he had no visitations and a whole host of things coming at him that would have made most people give up on believing in anything good.

I said I would attend, but I was a little in the dark about what this was. We were handed a pen, a piece of paper and told to sit quietly in a part of the church where no one else would speak to us. The instruction was given to pray and ask for words to write down.

This exercise was meant to strengthen our spiritual hearing and build our confidence in genuine, live faith. I had various words go through my mind, so I wrote them down.

“Now that you have your clues, we are going to go to the mall and look for what you wrote down. God will lead you to people who need prayer.”

Huh? I had to talk to people now? I looked at my list. Chapel, housekeeper, mop, coin, an American flag, water fountain, and a red shirt were what made up most of my list.

It was a Saturday, so the place was packed with shoppers. This wasn’t just any spot; it was the Mall of America which had thousands of people streaming in from all over. Of course, he had to pick the most massive collection of humanity possible. His go big or go home attitude was in everything he was doing.

The group split up once we all arrived. The minute I walked through the double doors, I saw her. Unbelievable as it was, I saw her pushing a heavy housekeeping cart. I glanced down at the words I had written. Oh, no! It was happening so fast!

How could this be? I tried to tell myself that she was busy. Maybe I shouldn’t interfere with her work because I am sure there were many messes to attend to. I was so thankful that my friend wasn’t with me because he would have grabbed my arm and dragged me over.

I observed for a minute. She stopped and started to rearrange the garbage bags, her spray bottles, and then she did something that ended up propelling me forward. She wrung out her mop! Red shirt, mop, housekeeper….it was all there.

I walked over to her and saw that she was standing right by a chapel! I could not believe it! It’s a place that is set up for quick marriages. I knew it existed, but I had never seen it.

To start the conversation, I said,

“What do you think of places like that? Have you ever seen anyone get married in there?”

I was grasping for anything I could think of to say.

“Oh, sure. I clean in there sometimes, and it’s not as bad as you might think.”

She continued to wring out her mop. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff with absolutely no safety net.

“So, I have a question for you.”

“Yes,” she said, not looking up.

“Do you have anything that you need prayer for? I think God sent me to you.”

She stopped what she was doing and made eye contact. I prepared myself for a considerable slap down. I felt like a Jehovah’s Witness coming to my door and asking me if I had ever read the Bible. I was always kind to them, but some don’t treat others that way, especially if they have been abused in churches or have a bad relationship with God. She could have been an atheist for all I knew. This was too personal and up close for me.

She leaned against the mop handle.

“I need God to help me see the goodness in people again. I have been through a lot, and I don’t trust people anymore.”

“I don’t either at times,” I said. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

“I work here, and I do my best. But, I feel like there is more out there for me. My family isn’t kind to me, and I feel like something is missing in my life.”

“Let me show you something,” I said. I pointed out the words that I had written down that matched up exactly to her.

She started to cry.

“I have felt so alone. And now you are here telling me that I am not, and I know God hasn’t given up on me.”

“I don’t think so. There are many promises that say we aren’t ever abandoned.”

She grabbed my hands and said,

“Please pray for me.” This was now getting easier by the second.

And right there, in the busiest place in America, I asked God to restore her faith in humanity and to show her what her purpose was.

When she opened her eyes, with tears streaming down her face, she thanked me.

“I need to do more with my life. I know there is a church by my house that I think I need to go volunteer at and start living again.”

I took a deep breath when I left her. That was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life! I had convinced myself I would be so wrong, but God showed me that I could hear pretty clearly.

I kept thinking I was to find the water fountain. Now that I had been given a slight win with the first attempt, my fear wasn’t as high. I sat near the cascading water; I saw a woman sit down, looking tired.

Was this who I was supposed to help? I only had three vague clues left to go on, so I moved closer but not enough to have her see me. A coin was directly behind her in the water, and someone had thrown in a lapel pin that had an American Flag on it.
Yep, this was it.

I was back to square one emotionally, with terror ripping through me. I decided to throw all caution to the wind and start a conversation.

“It is so busy today, and I try not to show up here on Saturdays.”

“I had to sit down. My arthritis is acting up.”

She held up her hands so I could see them.

“It starts to hurt in my hands and feet.”

“Would you want me to pray for you? I know that sounds strange, but I can if you want…”

Before I even finished my sentence, she grabbed both of my hands.

“Yes. I would like that.”

Her eyes slammed shut like this was the most normal thing to do by the water fountain in the mall, surrounded by swarming masses.

I leaned in closer to her so she could hear me over all the noise. I felt a warmth flow from my hands into hers, and I felt her relax. She sighed and began to smile.

“I feel so much better now. Thank you,” she said.

After that day, I went on a few more treasure hunts with him and his group. It became more manageable, and I was so surprised how I was led to the right person each time. I never had anyone turn me away who I was supposed to approach.

All of this brought to life this scripture for me found in 1 Peter 2:9:

“But you are God’s chosen treasure…”(TPT)

I still heard from him from time to time, and I know he got married. A couple of months ago, I was at an outdoor event that was packed with people. My daughter stopped to talk to someone she knew, and I looked up. And he was right there.

“Hey! Chris!” That booming voice.

“I can’t believe it’s you! Out of all these people!”

He said his wife was waiting for him across the street, and I had to keep moving with the group I was with. He said he would call me and get caught up.

I got word the other day that he is sedated, on a ventilator, and fighting for his life. There are no visitors allowed, and I wish I had lingered with him longer the last time we ran into each other. I hate regrets like that where you want to rewind the clock.

No matter the outcome, I know he will be where God wants him, and he won’t pass up on the best deal.

Beautiful Sunset

When my oldest daughter was two, I began a home-based daycare. I had been working evenings and weekends, so this would give me a chance to be with her, she would have friends, and I could continue contributing to the household income.

I revamped the basement with new carpet, paint, bought many toys, and got my training and licensing through the county.

I put a sign in my front yard, and the kids showed up. At one point, it was seven against one, but somehow I learned how to be a conflict resolution director quickly. Daily, I dealt with perfect angels one minute who could turn on a dime and bite their best friend. There were episodes of mutual hair pulling, tussles of arms and legs in wrestling matches on the floor to get a specific object, and name calling that would make a peaceful temper flare. Something as simple as “dum-dum” would cause a barroom brawl.

My day started at 6 am and would often go until 6 pm. There were times when parents were under pressure by their employers to be at work no matter what, so that meant I would get sick kids drugged up with Tylenol. I got to know them so well that I could look into their eyes and detect something was wrong. The parents were often aware they weren’t well, but the pressure of losing their job would win out. So I took them in and tried to make them feel better when they often just wanted their mom.

I always provided them with structure no matter their ages. I taught colors, numbers and read one book after another. There had to be a balance of free time versus activities, or the restless energy would descend, and trouble would start.

I tried to keep God at the center of all things. If aggression popped up between two or more of them, I would try to explain that they should treat each other how they want to be treated. It seemed to work, and just when I thought I was not making any progress, I would leave the room for a second and come back to find them all hugging each other. I had unseen help around every corner.

My daughter loved having friendships, and at one point, I had to stop her from giving all of her toys away. She had a very generous personality, so she felt that she needed to give each child a parting gift at the end of the day. Every single day. I went out and bought items for her to continue to do this so her room wouldn’t end up empty.

The oldest of the group was Molly, who was four. She knew she was the top dog, and I had to often bring her down off her own self-made pedestal where she tried to control the rest. While they all wanted to do their own thing, she wanted their total undivided attention. She was most upset when the other kids would run away and not do what she wanted.

“Miss Chris! They aren’t listening to me!”

“Then stop trying to make them listen. Maybe they will later.”

“I want them to be over here, not over there.”

“They don’t want to be.”

She was coming to me to see if I would give her back up to enforce her rules.

“But I want them to listen to me!”

“Why don’t you just tell me what you want to say.”

“That’s not fun.”

“This is as good as it gets for now. It’s either me or no one.”

She would grumble in frustration and start trying to read or go into a very long dissertation on how life should be. Soon, all the others would notice and come sit by us. She would get her way the minute she didn’t try to force it.

She also had a reputation for not telling the truth. I caught her multiple times doing things that she would deny.

“Molly, did you hit your brother?”

“No.”

“Then why is he sitting on my lap crying with a red mark on his leg? How did that happen?”

“I think he bumped it over there.”

“Are you sure that’s your final answer? Do you want to think about it for a second? I just want you to tell me the truth. So does God.”

Her eyes would go everywhere but look at mine. It was an inward battle as a younger sibling had given testimony against her, I had exhibit A as physical proof, and now she had to scramble to come up with an alibi.

“I think he tripped and fell.”

“For sure?”

There were more hard swallows and no eye contact.

“Well, he was bothering me.”

“She push me!” Her brother was at the stage of having less speaking ability, but enough to verbalize he had been wronged.

“So you pushed and hit him?”

Now there was hair twirling involved as she nervously shifted from foot to foot.

“He was trying to take away something from me.”

It was always the usual speech about not concealing the truth and letting me know to intervene.

No matter how many times I tried to help her see this, she feared the punishment, even though all I had her do was tell him she was sorry. It killed a part of her to have to apologize and admit wrongdoing. Something that should have taken minutes turned into a long, drawn out process until she would finally come clean.

One day, during lunch, she was accused of another offense. There was a witness list against her a mile long.

“I did not do that!” She said adamantly.

The noose was tightening as each of her companions gave me details of something she had done. None of them were changing their story, and I had a feeling she was guilty as charged. Her demeanor suggested total deception like all the other times I had dealt with this.

“Molly, I want you to tell the truth, and that’s all. Lying isn’t a good habit because it won’t seem wrong to you at some point.”

It was a breezy, nice day, and I had all the windows open. There was work being done off the back of the house as the porch was being constructed, and I had pulled the curtain closed across the sliding glass door. The person out there had overheard what I had said. None of the kids were aware that he was there, and he had taken a break and was sitting quietly.

“Molly, God is always watching, and you need to remember that. You need to be nice to people, and God wants you to be good to others.”

She still wouldn’t cough up the truth. The wind made the floor-length curtain billow inward toward her back.

“Molly….” came this deep voice from behind her.

I saw her jump.

“What was that?” She said, looking at me, and now I was suddenly her lifeline.

She turned to see the curtain blow toward her, and it was the best visual effect I could have asked for, especially if God was showing up to reprimand her for me.

Again…

“Molly…”

I had a hard time not smiling. Instead, I pretended to be as in much shock as she was. Because they all trusted me, the entire table had gone silent. If I was reacting in surprise, then it had to be God!

With eyes wide, she blurted out,

“Miss Chris, I did do what they said, and I was lying. I am sorry.”

“Really? Just tell the truth all the time right away, okay?”

She was utterly unnerved that God had spoken her name out of nowhere. In a split second, she went from deceitful to the most honest person in the room, thinking the Creator had appeared to deal with her.

I pulled the curtain back and had her see it wasn’t God but a person.

She went on to correct herself after that. She often still wanted to cling to her false stories, but that moment solidified what I had been trying to tell her all along.

Many years later, way after I had quit childcare, I was outside raking. And I heard:

“I am what you think I am.”

What does that mean?

“If a person thinks I’m revengeful, then they don’t think they can approach me. If they think I’m forgiving, then they come freely. If they think I put sickness and disease on them, they blame me for it. If I am seen as a healer, then they come for healing. People put their own restrictions on me. I am unlimited in the reality of all things. I am who you think I am.”

Molly thought she was dealing with an angry God from the many times outside of my care when the hammer was thrown down after she confessed. So she decided it was easier to try and sneak out of it. I kept saying that while she needed to not act like an animal from the wild, there is always a way of humility and taking responsibility for wrong choices.

Psalm 86:5 says: “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.”(NLT)

Molly should have had Proverbs 28:13 stamped on her forehead:

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. (NLT)

Your view of God is what you will get, and you will create it.

Proverbs 23:7 says: For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. (NKJV)

Are you ducking and running from a God who is ready to blast you with a lightning bolt and requires you to feel horrible every single second of your life? Even for something you did a long time ago? Or, are you walking in the light of the truth where no matter what, you can always ask for forgiveness from the One who offers peace and closure?

Being taught anything other than this is an illusion. All things can be forgotten and concluded. Just look to the sky at the close of the day, and you will see this message displayed in full array in every beautiful sunset.

Floating

Sometimes you have to drop out of what you usually do and take some time to think. I often do this on a daily walk, but I decided to visit a place that would require me to be quiet. I made the thirty-minute drive through hectic Saturday traffic as the entire world was heading off to harvest festivals. When the weather reaches nearly eighty degrees in October, no one wants to miss it because we could be facing a blizzard and a polar vortex by the following Monday.

“I need to get there because I’m supposed to go relax, and these crazy people and their driving are stressing me out!” I had been cut off multiple times, and someone behind me felt I wasn’t driving fast enough. It was very frantic all around me, and I wanted out.

She prayed that we would be teleported there like The Jetsons, and my lane started moving. Suddenly we were past the snarl and pulling into the parking lot.

The receptionist said it was Pumpkin Days, so people were flocking into the city in droves. I already felt the slight shift in the atmosphere with the lavender diffused air and spa music playing over my head.

“This is where you will find the towels, robes, and flip flops. The lockers are over there, and you go through that door when you are ready.”

We changed, grabbed what we needed, and went where she had pointed. I walked into a warm, massive room that housed the mineral pool. To make it even better, we were all alone.

That always amazes me when I end up on a road, in a store, or a theater with no other soul around. Many people occupy the earth, so how do I end up having a piece of space to myself?

Usually, when there is a pool involved, kids are splashing, and there is a lot of noise. This was like walking into a sanctuary. Both of us slipped into the 90-degree water quickly, and it wasn’t the usual gradual entry while my body had to adjust; I just went right in up to my chin.

When I get into the water, I usually run or do some nonrelaxing type of activity. This wasn’t like that at all, and I ended up floating suspended on pool noodles with my eyes shut. We both felt like we shouldn’t even talk because it felt different from usual, more like therapy and not like a waterpark.

The water was infused with 83 minerals that the skin absorbs. All of this is to help calm the mind and nervous system along with other disorders that a person might be facing. The draw for me was that it was to relieve nerve pain. I had jokingly told the chiropractor that someone had gotten on my last nerve as she treated me a few days prior.

As I drifted along, I started to picture the scene from the Bible where the disabled man is lying by the edge of the water. An angel would come to stir the water, and whoever got in would be healed….

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

At once, the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
(John 5:2-10 NIV)

When he was asked if he wanted to be well, he didn’t say “yes”. He explained why it couldn’t happen. He gave an excuse to justify why he had laid there for a long time. And it had become his identity. I wonder if he even tried to get in after all that time, or was it easier to submit himself to being immobile? It seemed that he had written himself off as a lost cause.

And what does that say about the compassion of God? Even when you come up with all your reasons why you can’t do something, you are allowed to get off your “sick” bed and move on. This is a mental block most of the time, and believing that you can is the hardest part.

When the nerve pain in my face has been at its height, I tell myself that the treatments I am doing for it are working, and I try to be aware of when it feels normal. This has been very effective in making the attacks less frequent and shorter in duration. I have had to come at this with the idea that I am healed, not unwell.

It’s not easy to do when the pain is screaming, but I can when it wanes. It’s something to build off of so it doesn’t become a stronghold. I feel gratitude when nothing hurts. And when it does, I tell it that I refuse to accept it. If Jesus asked me if I wanted to be over it, I would say yes. Would you? Or do you sink yourself in the symptoms, letting them run you?

I went into the tumultuous, hot tub—what a difference between the soothing unmoving water in the pool to now submerging in a loud, hot, boiling cauldron. Yet, it has its way of bringing a different kind of peace. I heard in my mind: See? You can be in a place of chaos like this and be still. It can surround you, and you can be in it, but not of it.

I did gravitate back to the more tranquil spot where I had started and surrendered myself back into the silence.

Just as I thought I was not going to have anyone invade my world, I heard her say,

“Have you ever been here before?”

I opened my eyes, and a woman was looking at me. I noticed that my daughter had drifted off into a far corner, and it appeared she was asleep. All day she had been right next to me, but now it looked like she had been pushed away to leave me alone with this person.

“I have been to this spa before, but never to the pool,” I said.

I flipped into an upright position. I used to wonder how I was always targeted for this type of thing. I didn’t look approachable with my eyes closed, but apparently, there was a reason for this encounter. It happens all the time, so I go where it takes me.

She told me that she and another family member had given her parents a gift card, and they had refused it, so before it was going to expire, it had to be used.

“I have arthritis, neuropathy, and fibromyalgia. My spine is shot, and I might have another surgery to fuse it. I am hoping being here will help.”

“Do you take medication?”

“Yes. But it does nothing. I have had acupuncture, a chiropractor, and physical therapy, and nothing works.”

I listened while she spoke about all of her issues.

“What about food? Are you on an anti-inflammatory diet?”

“I do Keto, and that seems not to cause me more trouble.”

I always have to be careful not to say, “do you think this is all in your head?” That sounds terrible when the symptoms are real.

“Have you ever considered that what you are thinking about or what is stressing you out could be contributing to this?”

She didn’t answer me but went back to going over all of her troubles again. The problem was bigger for her than a solution, so she had fallen victim.

I began to ask God how I could help this lady. Do I hold her hand and pray? But I felt the answer was no. Do I speak a verse over her? No. Do I talk about heaven and how much God loves her? That’s not it. Do I dunk her under and baptize her? I saw a visual of that with her still talking with bubbles coming to the surface. No, Chris. What is it then?

“Tell her to get quiet and meditate.”

That’s so simple and not earth shattering. She’s really a mess and telling me every single thing that is wrong with her, and now she has launched into what is going on with her spouse. Isn’t there some electric current I can send? Like zap, she is better and starts walking on water?

No. She needs to meditate and ask what she needs to do next. Only she can do that. Not you, and this is what she needs.

I interrupted her and said,

“Do you meditate?”

I saw something come across her eyes.

“Oh. No, but I have a bunch of meditation music that I bought and never used.”

“Use it.”

“I forgot all about that.”

“It will help you so you can think clearly. You need to get quiet and let whatever your body needs to be shown to you. This doesn’t have to take over your life because we were created to heal, and your body doesn’t hate you. So don’t think that. It was designed to support you in life.”

“I’m retired, and there are so many things I want to do, and this all stops me from that.”

“Then meditate. It sounds simple and like something that wouldn’t help, but how hard is it to sit in a chair and do this every day, so you get an answer?”

“Right. That is easy.”

“But you have to do it, so you know what to do next.”

Her sister, who had gone into the women’s locker room, whipped open the door.

“What are you doing? We have to go!”

“Oh! I forgot all about you.”

Meanwhile, my daughter was unmoving in the same spot. So strange after all day of her and I being side by side, and she was sound asleep on her back.

“I better go! I didn’t know she was in a big hurry!”

“Do what I said and have your husband do it too. You will get the answers you need.”

“I will. Thank you, and I think it will help.” She seemed brighter and less weighed down.

My daughter came back the minute she left.

“What happened? I didn’t hear a thing. I fell asleep and got a bunch of new ideas for work.”

“She just needed some advice. You know the drill.”

Later, I asked my daughter if the bottom of her foot was still painful. She had stepped on a piece of glass, and the spot was tender to the point of not being able to put all her weight on it entirely. She worried that maybe she hadn’t gotten it all out.

Pressing down on the area, she said,

“It’s fine! It’s not as swollen, and it feels normal.”

What I think is that God has created every single one of us to receive assistance in a certain way. Preaching an entire fire and brimstone message to that woman was not the answer, and she probably would have left with less hope. She was attracted to me like a magnet, but her ego was getting in the way of hearing. She sought me out, and I told her exactly what she needed to hear. If she follows through, she turns on a switch to victory.

Some need encouragement; others need to change how they look at life with negative eyes or fearful thoughts. Healing can come even by spending the day without a care, immersed with God, just floating.

Mask

During times of stress, I have lost my ability to talk. It has not happened for a while, but there was a pattern I noticed where when times got tense, I would develop laryngitis. I realize now it was my body’s response to dealing with an uncomfortable situation. If that part of me was shut down, I could not speak up, and I could use it as an excuse to be quiet. Once the uproar had passed, my throat would heal until the next bout would seemingly come out of nowhere. At the time, I saw no correlation between my outward circumstances and this occurring. 

It wasn’t easy when I had two small children who wanted my attention, and they needed me for guidance. Or, one would say,

“Mom, can you read me a book?”

I spent hours gargling with salt water and whispering. By the end of the day, I felt drained from trying to get my point across. I didn’t understand that as I stuffed my feelings down, I was creating a physical silence. 

Years later, I looked this up and discovered a vast number of articles on the subject. Some have it happen when going through the grieving process and describe it as having a lump in their throat because they can’t get past the loss. When living in a state of unrelenting fear, others, like myself, will experience what I did. 

My biggest concern was that I would sound like a dragon lady for the rest of my life. I was coming across like a chronic smoker. While I desperately wanted it back, would it return normal? During one of these episodes, my daughter asked,

“What if it never comes back?”

 It was an innocent question as it had been going on for two weeks, with slight underlying worries that it was gone forever. So when she said that, I gargled more. 

As the years went on, it stopped. But, I had other symptoms manifest in other places. While I no longer lost my voice, I would get horrific lower back pain connected to my sciatic nerve. My daughter had found information that if this happened, there was a pressure point on the back of the leg that could be activated to alleviate it. 

The process was to lay face down while she took a closed fist and punched this area. It was weird, but it worked. However, it was only a temporary fix because it was emotionally based. I sought chiropractic treatments that helped, and when this nerve pain in my back seemed to have lost the fight, it found another place to take up residence. 

I have had reoccurring pain in the right side of my face. This time, I became aware of it being caused by outside issues that I wasn’t dealing with correctly. As I employed acupuncture, meditation and went back to the chiropractor, it has gotten better, but on occasion, it will strike and cause me to be unable to function. It is called ‘suicide pain’, which I try not to think about when in the middle of the problem.

Last April, my dad fell and was admitted to the hospital. It was discovered that he had been given a medication that should not have been administered. It was a tangled web of trying to find answers, and as my annoyance began to soar, the nerve in my face was sending out excruciating signals. I didn’t have time to sit on the couch because I didn’t want him to be alone.

He needed supplies from his apartment, including a cream that helps with pain in his knee. So as I have done before, I pushed my feelings aside and went to his rescue. I explained to the hospital staff his hearing issues, and they told me that as long as I shut his door, I could speak to him without a mask. 

On this particular day, with my face on fire, I was on my phone responding to a text while he was watching a baseball game. I had tried to hand off his medicated cream at the desk, but I was told to give it to the nurse assigned to him for that shift. I was told she would be by to get it from me. It was going on two hours since I had arrived, but I decided to wait it out. I had taken a pain reliever with not much relief.

I still had my mask, but it was on my chin as he would ask me questions; it was just easier for him to comprehend what I was saying. 

I heard his door open, and I looked up. 

“Pull up your mask!” She yelled. 

I instinctively did because, after a year of this, I never want to make anyone uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “He is hard of hearing and..”

“I don’t care! You both should be wearing a mask! If I get sick because of you, then who is going to work here if I’m at home having to use up my vacation time?”

Wow, that was a lot of take in. I tried again to diffuse the situation.

“He is really hard of hearing, and I pulled it down so he could…”

“I don’t care! There are so many people coming in and out of these rooms not taking this seriously, and then I have to deal with it!”

I watched her grab his arm forcefully to put on the blood pressure cuff. He looked over at her and said,

“Hey, take it easy.”

She started the process of getting a reading and was quiet, so I said,

“It must be hard for you to work in these conditions, and you must be stressed out by it.”

Usually, when I take this approach, I get a calmer response back. Not with this one.

“It’s people like you that are the problem! Both of you. And I’m the one that’s going to get sick! Because of you!”

“He has been tested, and he is fine. I have no symptoms of…”

“I don’t care!” She abruptly ripped off the cuff.

“I will be back later.”

I held up the medications I needed to give her. 

“I need you to take these for him.”

“I will be back after you leave!”

She spun out the door.

I glanced over at him. His eyes were glued to the tv. Oblivious, thank goodness. He saw me looking at him and said,

“Is everything ok, Chris?”

“Yes,” I said, lying my face off. “I need to go speak to the nurse at the desk, but I will be right back.”

Every masked face looked up as I approached. 

“Can I help you?”

“Yes. The person helping my dad needs to be terminated!”

All the eyes got wide as I explained the unbelievable beating I had just taken. I made sure that no one sitting there was unaware of what I had endured. The charge nurse asked another staff person to take the medication, and she walked me back to his room. 

“She usually is assigned to another floor. You be with your dad, and we will sort it out. I am so sorry she acted like that.”

I shut his door behind me as I entered. I startled him, and he knocked an entire cup of water on the floor. I grabbed something to clean it up and was crouched down by the side of the bed. I heard his door slam open. She was back for round two. 

I stood up with water dripping off my hands. 

“What knee does this cream go on?!” She said with the same tone as before. I saw that she was holding the containers in her hands. 

“You don’t know? Are you not in charge of his care right now?”

I was not the same person she had come across moments ago.

“I have not had time to look at his chart!”

“Well, maybe you should. Maybe you should know what you are dealing with. Is it my fault that you aren’t doing your job?”

As I spoke, she visibly started to wither. I didn’t raise my voice, but I decided to pick my words very clearly.

“You are the worst example of a nurse I have ever met. You have no idea what this man has been through coming off a pill that could have caused a major injury. And you are a poor listener. It would be best if you never worked with the public. You should figure out your retirement package immediately.”

I don’t recall the rest of my come to Jesus speech, but her eyes were wide, and she clutched both bottles under her chin. I know I kept my language in line, but I was now in protective mode over a vulnerable adult, and once that is on, there is no coming back. Words streamed from my mouth, and I had no idea what I was saying. I was not about to lose my voice as I had in times past. 

When I quit, she blinked rapidly and stammered,

“I will go look into this.”

“You do that,” I said, going back to the spill at my feet.

I looked over at him. 

“Is everything ok, Chris?”

“Just perfect. Who is winning?”

A new nurse appeared and took over his case for the night. I found out later that the former one had upset numerous people, staff included, and my confrontation was helpful in having her adequately dealt with.

Amazingly, the fire that had been coursing through my jaw wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. I know that there is a scripture that says a kind answer turns away wrath. But, in this case, that didn’t work. 

Proverbs 31:8-9 says,

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushedYes, speak up for the poor and helpless,

and see that they get justice. (NLT) 

There is a balance to all things that God has created. Sometimes, I think people try to ‘nice’ their way through life. I am not against being kind, and I will always chose that before DEF-CON 5, but there are times when a person needs to confront and not enable bad behavior. Don’t cause yourself trouble by not handling conflict properly because your body will begin to manifest symptoms you do not want. Let your voice be heard, be your authentic self, and come out from behind the mask.

A Nice Ring To It

After my mom went to heaven in May 2019, I kept having this reoccurring thought about a ring, and it would show up in my thoughts randomly like a gentle nudge.

Like a mother’s ring, this one would have five gemstones, including mine, my daughters, grandma, and mom’s. None of us have the same color, and it would represent four generations of women. I kept thinking about it but not acting on it.

June became July, and I tried to help my dad adjust to assisted living while cleaning out their house.

During that time, my daughter had to take her computer in for a repair, and I went with her to see if it was salvageable.

We left it in the hands of those who could potentially help, and I started to drive.

“Wait! They are having a sale!”

“Who?”

She pointed to a jewelry store nearby, and I hadn’t realized we were near one.

“You should go in there. Don’t you want to design a ring?”

“I don’t know. I’m tired, and I don’t feel like it.”

“I think you should go in there.”

So I did.

The manager was very helpful as I told him what I wanted. He took an anniversary band out of the case with five diamonds in the setting.

“We could remove all of these and put in the stones you want.”

He took colored markers and made it look like what the finished product would be. When it was on my finger, I knew I would have a hard time saying no.

“What do you think?”

“It’s perfect, but you have to tell me how much.”

“The stones being removed will be an extra charge as a repair. And if you want the insurance, that will be a bit extra as well.

He wrote down everything as he tapped away on the calculator.

I was undecided when he presented me with a number.

I looked over at my daughter, who sent me a nonverbal message that I better say yes.

I took it off and handed it back.

“I don’t know.”

“We can hold this for you if you want to put some money down, and then take your time deciding that way..”

He stopped talking mid-sentence as he looked at the price tag.

“Wait a minute. I think this is on sale, so the price I quoted you isn’t right. I have to go look at something.”

I know a sales tactic when I see one, but he looked genuinely shocked. I began to feel it was supposed to be mine, and I was trying to find a reason why I shouldn’t get it.

When he returned, papers were shuffled around, and he said,

“Okay, this has a pink tag on it, so that means it’s going to be discontinued. We can still make it into what you want it to be but at a lot cheaper cost.”

That should have catapulted me into action, but it didn’t. I knew that I was supposed to say yes, but I said,

“I’m still not sure.”

My daughter looked at me like I should be put away.

I left without making the purchase, and I decided to think about it. And that’s all I did for 24 hours; I knew it belonged to me.

I bought it and had to wait two weeks, but I had it on my hand just in time for my birthday. The minute I put it on, my connection to heaven became even more potent.

When I went back to have it cleaned, one of the managers said,

“I show everyone who comes in here a picture of your ring, and we have had other people do the same thing once they see yours.”

It’s always nice to know that something I have done for myself goes on to inspire others.

This past August, I started to feel a pull to look at rings online. I typed in a description of what I wanted. Instantly, a certain one appeared on the screen. I glanced at the price but decided this time not to care. I didn’t look any further as I knew this was what I wanted.

I began to pretend I already had bought it. When I would remove my real ring, I would take my invisible one off as well. I would walk by my daughter, show her my hand and say,

“Isn’t my new ring great?”

I did this for about three weeks. Over Labor Day weekend, I had my finger sized. That particular location did not have it, but the salesperson told me it was on clearance. When we got home, we found a store that had one.

The next day, I drove to the mall, hoping to at least see it in person.

“It says that we have one here, but I can’t find it,” said the salesperson.

She searched drawers and display cases. Another associate came over to help.

“We don’t have it. But there is one about an hour away.”

An hour? Another drive? It was losing its appeal.

I called to be sure it was there.

“Yes. We have only one, and I will put it aside for you.”

When I hung up, I said to my daughter,

“I don’t know if I want to drive an hour to get a ring,”

It was the same look she had given me in 2019.

“Okay, fine. I will go get gas and decide if I want to go that far.”

She said nothing.

On the way to the gas station, I heard in my mind,

“Chris, you have asked me to be the man of your life. You have looked at this ring, and if you don’t buy it, then that’s all your fault. I need you to take the money I have given you and get it.”

The voice was loud and firm, reverberating throughout me.

I filled my tank and started the hour trek. As each mile went by, I was more confident that I did want it. I didn’t fully know what the price was going to be, but I was willing to follow the lead of heaven and get it.

“If I am driving all the way there, I’m probably going to buy it.”

“I knew that an hour ago in the parking lot,” she said nonpulsed.

I went into the store, and the person I spoke to took it out of the case so I could slide it on my finger for less than three seconds; I told her I wanted it.

With the sizing, warranty, and clearance, it was less than half of the original listing. Once again, I was shown that God would open a door for me to walk through when I let myself believe in something.

My daughter gave me a placeholder ring for that finger while I had to wait the long two weeks to get it, and I no longer had to pretend.

Some people buy material things to fill a void, and once the novelty wears off, the next purchase is made to achieve another high. That could go on forever, and sometimes it does.

In James 1:17 it says:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (NIV)

When you are the recipient of something directly from the One who created everything, the search is over. You can enjoy what has been given, and peaceful fulfillment takes over your heart. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?

Shine

“I stopped doing it because I was told it was witchcraft.”

This was the first time I had heard this.

“What possible connection would there be between what you were doing and practicing the dark arts?”

“I don’t know, but it made me feel so guilty that I didn’t do it again.”

I knew she had spiritual powers, but she had hidden them, and now I knew why. This was why she had me stifle my own because she didn’t want me to be subjected to the same comments.

“I thought this person was closer to God than I was. I didn’t want to do anything wrong.”

“You sent healing to a sick person, and this isn’t from God? That makes no sense.”

“I did it all the time. Once when your dad was really sick and in the hospital, I did it then because he was having kidney problems.”

I remembered that because it was so frightening. When I was eight years old, I woke up to him yelling things that didn’t make sense. My bedroom was right off the kitchen, so any slight noise there would immediately wake me up.

“We have to get the boats in! There’s a storm coming! Hurry up!”

He started saying the names of my brothers and family members as if he could see them. What was happening? I was lying in bed wondering if I was dreaming.

“Jack, come with me. It will be okay,” I heard her say.

“No! We have to get the boats in. There’s a storm! It’s going to get worse in a few minutes.”

“I will help you get safe. Just come with me.” She sounded calm, as if this happened every day. I guess her training as a nurse in a crisis was kicking in.

“Hurry up! You are moving too slow! Get the fishing rods! Run!”

This craziness went on for a while. She was trying to get him to the car, and he was off somewhere on a lake. She opened my door and said,

“Chris, I have to get your dad to the doctor. I will be back in a little while.”

There were older siblings to make sure I was not left alone, but it was so scary when she said it. I thought he was dying.

Eventually, she was able to get him out of the house and to the Emergency Room. Later, I found out that he had a fever so high he was hallucinating.

They discovered he had kidney stones that would require surgery. The doctor was convinced there was no other way but to have the procedure. When she left the hospital, he was still very ill and not responding to the treatment they were administering.

“No one was around when I got home. So I sat at the kitchen table. I shut my eyes, and I could see him lying in bed at the hospital. It was so real like I had been transported there. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me. I was in two places at once. I knew I was in the kitchen, but I also was in his room. I felt this warm light start in my chest and flow out of my hands, and I directed it to him. I just sat like that for a while, not saying anything but letting this energy go through me to him.”

“When you explained this story, did you use the word “energy?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that’s what made you into a witch. Dogmatic Christians can be hypersensitive to what words are used. But what you are saying is an accurate description of what it is. Energy, light, divine healing…I guess you didn’t use the right buzzword and got yourself in trouble.”

“I guess so. But right after I did that, he got better. His fever lifted, and the stones dissolved. The doctor couldn’t believe it. He had a total turnaround, and it worked every time I used it.”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“I was made to feel that way. I have had the Holy Spirit with me for a long time. When I was twelve, I went to a tent revival, and since then, I have had a lot of spiritual help.”

She grew up in a small town where gossip and secrets ran rampant. I always had this view of her hometown as honest and pure until she told me some of the incidents that had been hidden from public view. There were extramarital affairs, children born from those affairs, and a bunch of other shady behavior. The priest would make house calls while the husbands were away at work, and he left his Bible and rosary at home. My grandma refused to let him in.

My mom’s story was the most buried, and I had uncovered it a few years prior. She had confessed to me that her father had sexually abused her. This had left her feeling ashamed and guilt ridden. He would target her when her mom would leave her in his care. She was afraid to speak up because in one instant, when she tried to say something, her mom told her she would kill him if he ever did that. My mom kept quiet because she didn’t want her mother to go to jail for murder.

These ugly encounters with her dad were going on consistently, and she didn’t know how to escape. When she heard that a preacher was coming to town, she snuck into the meetings, against her Catholic upbringing. When a man from this group was walking around and had asked her dad if he had found Jesus, he had sarcastically responded,

“I didn’t know he was lost.” His sense of humor was always cutting and at the expense of others.

She was taking a huge risk by attending the traveling preacher’s meeting, but something was pulling her in. When they asked people to come forward for the altar call, she went up, and her life changed from that moment.

At home that night in her bedroom, she was looking out her window. She felt a strong presence all around her and a strength that was not there before. She heard the familiar sound of his feet coming up the stairs, just like all the other times.

When he opened her door, she looked him in the eye and said,

“You will never touch me again.”

He backed up and walked away.

He still verbally abused her and made her life miserable in other ways. But she said he no longer made her afraid.

“I have had this power with me since then, and I have used it when I have needed it.”

“But, you keep some of it hidden to fit in, right?”

“Yes. I don’t want to do anything wrong, and I don’t want to argue with people.”

When she told me all this, I didn’t fully grasp it, but I do now. I continually have things happen that I cannot explain, and I don’t go looking for them. They show up, and while I used to be frightened by some of it, I am not anymore.

I find it so interesting how Jesus said this,

“The person who trusts in me will not only do what I am doing but even greater things..”

He walked on water, changed water into wine, healed the sick…and we are supposed to do even better than what was done? If you have a gift that doesn’t make sense, don’t let anyone convince you that it isn’t God just because they don’t understand it and are missing it.

I have been subjected to the same treatment, even being told demons possessed me by a church leader who had the worst behavior I have ever seen in life. Why? He was scared and felt threatened when I told him the truth. To counter that, he had to make me look bad.

If you allow heaven to invade your life, you will reap this reward in Mark 4:11:

He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God.”

If you ask for more, it will come, and it won’t always make sense, but God will work through you so that you can let your light shine.

Trapped!

I could not seem to solve the problem. No matter who I spoke to and repeated the long, complicated facts, it wasn’t changing the situation. I would wake up in the morning with my heart racing because it would be the first thought on my mind. 

In February of 2020, a letter had arrived in the mail that my daughter’s health insurance would be terminated. There was no reason for this, as she had paid her premium each month, so it was not making any sense at all.

The correspondence arrived on February 14, with an end date of February 29. It was a leap year, so that gave her an extra day before the lights were shut off.

To add to the uproar, she was sick. Thinking of the time, I am sure she had Covid before it became popular. We hadn’t gone into all the shutdowns and restrictions that were upcoming in March. The public knew something was brewing, but we had not been given the full-blown details at that point. 

She had all the earmarks of the disease. The rash on her legs, the high fever, fatigue, and eventually, it all went into her lungs. I was watching her closely as I always do, but on top of this, she was trying to figure out why her coverage was on the chopping block. 

She refused to go to the doctor, feeling it would eventually go away. On the day she lost her voice entirely, I was starting to have visions of throwing her over my shoulder and not giving her any choice but to go in.

The fatigue was overwhelming as she tried to sit up on the couch long enough so I could dial the number to speak to a representative. This cancellation was not happening at the insurance company level. This was our state-run marketplace where she had chosen a policy. I had my tangles with them for mine. And once they mess something up, it’s long wait times and confusion. Someone can push the wrong button, and life becomes a nightmare.

“May I have your name and social security number?” she said. 

I explained that she had laryngitis. 

“I see. Well, she has to permit me to speak to you about her case, or I cannot help.”

“You have to try,” I said, looking at my daughter.

She gulped down water and started to move her lips. If a dinosaur could talk, that’s what it sounded like as she tried to force out her name and give consent. 

The state fairy godmother granted us our wish, which began the long, arduous process that would consume me with worry day and night. 

More letters would come claiming that if they didn’t hear from her, that on the 29th, she would be uninsured. This was after we called in daily to check on the status of where this was going. We were told there was a “glitch” in the system. Ignore the threats; they weren’t real, they said. They seemed very credible, and in the meantime, her symptoms were getting worse instead of better.

I called the insurance company directly and was told it was out of their hands. I had to keep going to the state-run system to get this fixed. I could not believe that this was such a mess, and it seemed like no one was in the state of emergency that we were.

I contacted a woman who had connections behind the scenes and strategies that I had no access to. Finally, I had found an advocate who seemed to be as riled up as I was.

“They do things so stupidly,” she said. She promised to help. 

It was the final week of February, with no progress made, and all of it was hanging over my daughter’s head. Six days before the dreaded date, we did a conference call again. 

A MNSure representative answered. This was number 10, at least. The maddening thing is that you never get the same person twice. I explained the trouble. Impatiently she snapped, 

“I need to read the notes that we have. I’m putting you on hold.”

We were used to that, but I wasn’t accustomed to how she spoke to me. She acted like we had created the problem, forgetting we were the reason why she had a job in the first place. 

My daughter could hear me taking deep breaths. After a long pause, the representative returned and started rattling off information that was not accurate. Each time I tried to let her know this, she spoke over me as if reprimanding a small child. I kept inhaling and would exhale while speaking, and she would not back off and listen. I was running out of air.

“I need to speak to someone up higher than you.” I could not withstand the verbal beating anymore. 

I purposely tried to get her to understand that this was over her ability to help, which didn’t fly so well. There were more accusations as if my daughter had caused all of this when it was a human error on their part. 

More oxygen in, 

“I want someone else to help us.”

“Hold, please.”

When she said that, I started speaking to my daughter, who had been quietly listening to this nonsense. 

“Can you believe this person?!” I said everything that I had wanted to say, believing we were on hold. My language was not for general audiences but for a more mature crowd. 

“What did you say? I thought I heard you say something.” She was still on the line with us. “Do you need anything else?” It was a taunting tone that suggested she was on a power trip. 

“Transfer us like you said,” my daughter barked. 

“You have a good day now,” she with a syrupy inflection. 

Once we were disconnected from her, I said, 

“What was that? Was she even a real?” 

Another person answered, and we started the process all over. 

That night, before I fell asleep, I decided to forget it. There wasn’t any more I could do; I had exhausted all options. 

“I give it to you, God,” I whispered into the darkness.

She continued to suffer through her sickness, and before her coverage expired, I helped her get to a minute clinic. She was asked if she traveled outside of the country, and she hadn’t. There was no testing to see what it was or deep dives into who she had been in contact with. 

At one point, while instructed to take a deep breath, she almost passed out. I was thankful that I had taken her in. 

She was sent home with medication, and by the next day, she fell off her plan for coverage. 

She slept through the entire month of March, and when I would start to get nervous, I would just tell God that I needed help. I decided not to fight it anymore, and it got easier. I was not waking up scared, and I felt calmer. 

Suddenly, the clouds seemed to part, it was fixed, and by then, she was better. 

At the end of it, I had a memory flash through my mind. 

I always trusted my brothers, and they all gave me a good reason not to. 

One day, one of them came into my room with this strange colorful object in his hand.

“Try this, Chris. It’s really neat.” Right there is where I should have run away. 

I willingly and innocently let him shove my index fingers into each end.

“Now, take your fingers out.”

I tried. The material tightened around them more. With each moment of struggle, I lost more of my ability to regain my independence. 

He sat back and watched.

I started to feel panicked, which only drove me to want out more. 

“I’m stuck!” I said to him.

“Yep.” 

He did not attempt to help me.

I dropped my hands. I thought if I looked pathetic enough, he would come to my rescue. 

“Instead of pulling, push them closer to the middle.”

What? That would be the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish.

I did what he said anyway. Little by little, it loosened, and I was able to get out of it.

When I created a calm mindset and followed instructions, I was able to be entirely free. 

“Do you want to keep it?” He said, laughing. 

“No,” I said, throwing it at him. 

When you are faced with something that seems beyond your ability to handle, remember 1 Peter 5:7 says,

Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. (TLB)

God will never leave you stuck or trapped. 

(These are still not fun..)

Pressure

I have never been fond of stress. Some people like the thrill of it and the drama. Not me. Why rush when I do a better job at something when I can think about it for a while? Isn’t the outcome then going to be better? I never understood why the education system didn’t consider this when forcing us to take timed tests.

In high school, I took a typing class. I was somewhat versed in the subject already, having used an old-fashioned one at home. This new model was electric, which made the letters appear quicker than the ancient one, requiring a firm press down to work. It only took a light touch to get this one to work.

We were told that timed quizzes would be given in addition to our regular homework assignments. There was nothing better on a Monday morning to be half asleep and have that news thrown at you.

We stationed ourselves obediently and placed our hands on ‘home row’. It was like a runner taking his mark. The nerves were high because what if I hadn’t practiced enough to get through the passage before the buzzer went off?

With silence hanging heavily in the air, we waited for the signal to begin. Unfortunately, when the instructor screamed,

“GO!” my entire body jumped, causing my hands to hit all the keys at once. My first line was a mess, and my grade would get knocked down for that. I never got used to her method of having us begin, and she might as well shot off a handgun for the same effect.

Similar to that anxiety producing experience was my mom’s pressure cooker. She had a big family to feed, so this pot allowed a large quantity of food to be done in a short amount of time.

It was set on the stove to sizzle just to let you know it was there, ready to attack if you got too close.

“Be careful of the pressure cooker if you go in the kitchen,” she would say to me.

Often, I would forget and run by it. That is when I found out it was to be feared. It would spit scalding hot water on anyone who did not pass its path on tiptoes. The surprise sting of the liquid, plus the loud hissing sound, struck fear immediately. It seemed to be in charge and made sure to make you aware of its presence. I vowed never to have one.

For Christmas, a few years ago, I was given the upgraded version of one. My childhood fears resurfaced as I looked at the box. However, this one has safety features and is not at all like the ones of former years. It plugs into an outlet and has a sealed lid, presenting a gentler approach to using it.

I still didn’t trust it. But, I was willing to see how it worked. So, the first time, I found a soup recipe, and I put in the ingredients and made sure that I followed all the instructions. I kept visualizing it going off like a bomb and destroying my entire neighborhood, and the Red Cross was involved. Did I want that kind of destruction just for a bowl of soup?

I went online to read voraciously about those who had been brave enough to try it. There is a rather large community of people who like to live on the edge. They throw everything into this, making anything you can think of, with some owning multiple units. Many of them have built on additions to their homes to house all their pots. And they post pictures. None of them are shy about how obsessed they are.

Not one of the message threads spoke of any disaster happening. This made me less fearful about using it.

I put on the lid, which makes a magical chime sound to calm the nerves, and set the timer as indicated by the cookbook. I stared at it as the numbers clicked by. I felt safe to leave it for a minute, but then I was back to be sure that I knew when we were all going to die possibly.

The valve on the top of the lid began to hiss slightly. I went to the online cult and found that this was normal. It meant that it was coming to pressure, and there was no cause for concern. After that, it was as if nothing was happening.

The thirteen minutes went by way too slow. This was supposed to give me free time to wander the house and think deeply. That was not how it went at all, and I kept going back to watch it do nothing.

The next part was the most harrowing. It was a requirement to push the sealing mechanism on top to release all the steam. The timer beeped, and I decided that I could not stand directly in front of it as I did this. I had come this far in the process without losing a limb or two, and I hoped I would have both hands available to eat the soup.

I got out an oversized potholder and pulled it up to my elbow, and grabbed the longest spatula out of the group. I realized that where the pot was lined up with the wall would work to my advantage. I could reach around and hit the valve with the spatula but have the wall keep me hidden, just in case this didn’t go as planned.

Blindly, I reached around. I took a quick peek to see if the utensil would be able to release the steam. I hit it as fast as I could and then retracted my arm out of the way. I ran in the opposite direction, hearing the sound of a massive amount of vapor streaming upward. But that was it. There were no casualties as I had thought there would be. And, it was the best soup I had ever made in my whole life.

I use it now without a second thought.

All of us, at some point, are going to be confronted with something that makes us feel uncomfortable. Most of the time, when we feel tension, we imagine the worst outcome. Worry, anxiety, and panic can feel overwhelming, and it’s difficult to discern or think straight. So why not do this?

Psalm 55:22: So here’s what I have learned through it all: Leave all your cares and anxieties at the feet of the Lord, and measureless grace will strengthen you. (TPT)

Give it to God, and it will take off the pressure.

Shelf

“I think you should apply at the library as a shelver,” she said.

I had barely been out of my first temporary job, and she was already talking about the next one. (See Going Through A Rough Patch blog as to why my excitement was at an all time low about another job)

At least her suggestion was something I had an interest in versus a large department store. My mom would not be satisfied until I worked part-time and earned straight A’s in school. It would build my character, she said. And kill me, I thought.

“Do I need to call and set up an interview?” I asked.

“I already did.”

Of course.

After school one day, I was whisked away as her excitement ran high. She loved the thrill of reliving her teen years through mine. Meanwhile, I had bags under my eyes from writing research papers and taking final exams.

“I think this will be so great for you. You like to read, and books will surround you.”

I already had a stack of them on my bed with homework assignments due in less than twenty-four hours.

She gleefully walked in with me trailing behind.

“My daughter has an interview,” she said to the lady at the circulation desk, like she was my handler.

I was told to sit in a specific place and wait where two other girls were seated. One of them I recognized from school. She always wore her hair in two low braids with ribbons. This was 1984, where perms and high hair ruled the day. She complimented her appearance with patent leather shoes with frilly ankle socks. She was locked into a first-grade dress code.

I could feel her snooty attitude rippling out in waves. The whole package screamed perfectionism. Back then, we didn’t have handheld electronic devices to look at. We had to endure uncomfortable situations, fully engaged with people we would rather not be.

The girl next to her was called in while I took up a catatonic stare at the floor.

“I’m going to get this position,” she said. I looked up.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“My aunt works here, so the job is already mine. They always hire relatives before outsiders.”

I don’t know what bugged me more. What she said or the way she said it.

“You might as well go home. You are wasting your time.”

She was a vision of superiority and self-righteousness wrapped up in a floral print that was hard on the eyes.

Her name was called, and she flounced away.

When it was my turn, I was sequestered into a small room, asked why I was applying and what long-term goals I wished to achieve. My short-term goal was to get this over.

Getting past the firing squad of questions, I was expected to show how well I could put a book cart in order while timed. I did my best, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking how pointless this was if the girl with the shining personality had already gotten it. I was a formality.

In between classes at school, she saw me and said,

“I told you that I would get it.”

I walked past her as if she were invisible.

At the news of my unsuccessful attempt, it was on to another idea.

“I think you should work at the nursing home.”

“Isn’t that for old people?”

“Yes, Chris. They have a housekeeping and laundry position open, and they need someone for evenings, weekends, and holidays.”

I would be giving up the glamour of the library for washing clothes, sweeping, and taking out the trash, amongst other Cinderella-type chores. It sounded much more labor intensive than the other, but what choice did I have? She wanted to let all the neighbors know that her youngest daughter wasn’t lying around on the couch eating cereal straight out of the box and drinking right out of the milk carton. We had to keep up a good image.

That interview was set up, and once again, my mom was elated at the prospect of me launching into minimum wage slavery that would shape my outlook on life.

I breezed through the meeting and then went home to wait while they picked the most talented of all of us.

“I hope you get this one,” she said. “It would be good for you to work around the elderly.”

She had given birth to me at age 36, but I chose not to mention that I already felt plenty exposed to that daily.

“I want you to have a solid lead before school ends. Everyone will be out looking, so if this comes through, it would be great.”

I went back to my real job. I was trying to pass tenth grade.

A few weeks later, I was greeted at the door with her smiling from ear to ear.

“You need to call Joyce back.”

She was the one I had met with for the housekeeping position. She went across the room, took the phone off the wall receiver, and stretched it over to me—no time like the present.

The job was mine if I wanted it. I was shocked because I thought I would be back out looking again.

It was explained that I had not been their pick, but the rightful candidate had fallen through. I was the only one they had not reached to let know that had been bypassed for the job.

“We thought it would be easier just to give you the position rather than going back to someone we already said no to.”

With my mother standing there watching me like a hawk, how could I turn it down?

They hired the right person because I not only did housekeeping and laundry, but I worked in the kitchen, was a social worker after college, and was an assistant in therapeutic recreation on the Alzheimer’s unit. My accidental landing of the initial role benefited them for over ten years.

It wasn’t until I was looking for employment after my divorce I revisited the library idea. I had felt robbed of that for years. So when I saw that a shelver was needed, I applied. By then, I was nearing 40, and this time I was way beyond the age of my competitors. I flew through the interview with ease and did the timed test basically with my eyes closed. What a difference twenty-four years made.

A few days later, I was told I had not gotten the job as the woman who vacated the position returned from the military, and they had to give it back to her by law.

I could not believe I was ripped off again!

My daughter saw my disappointment and said,

“God will give you something better.”

A month passed before I thought of it again. Then I got a call.

“I would like to offer you a part-time shelving position. We kept all of your information from the application you filled out before this, and we think you would be a good addition here.”

The job was not at the branch I had just applied to a month prior, but the original library that I had been turned away from at sixteen.

“If you want it, orientation starts next week.”

I took it, and I can say I still have a hard time not straightening books at stores and random libraries.

God had given me exactly what I had wanted after a lot of years of waiting. If you trust, He will never leave you sitting on the shelf.