Nails

My mom would have celebrated her 90th birthday this past August. On that day, I was thinking of all the little things she used to say to me. Not big textbook-worthy things, but just tiny, get-to-the-point comments that carried value. There were six kids at one point in the house, so she didn’t have time to waste words. A good friend and I were texting right after I had been reflecting on this. I asked a question, needing some counsel. Out of the blue, she wrote: Be True to Thyself. This acquaintance had never met my mom, but that phrase was always spoken quite often when I was in conflict over something.—just a little nudge from heaven to say…See, Chris? I am still around.

Later, I ran to get ice at the gas station near my home. As I walked in, I heard: buy a rose. I thought….here? But sure enough, there was a lovely display of them. I chose one, and I noticed down the entire plastic sleeve that it was in, were words of advice…starting with: Be not afraid. Be bold. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Get a good night’s sleep…

Motherly advice that just happened to be with the flower I plucked out of a million? Sure, why not? I brought my ice and single rose to the counter. A young man helped me, and I noticed his nails were polished black like mine. I said,

“I love that color,” and he smiled when I showed him we matched.

“My fiancé did this,” he said.

He seriously looked twelve and not ready to walk down the aisle, but as I get older, everyone appears younger and younger.

I laughed and asked,

“Did you fall asleep?”

“No, she gets anxiety so bad, and I read that if you can get a person to focus on something, it helps alleviate the symptoms. So I gave her my hands to help her get through it.”

I will confess that when I commented on his nails, I couldn’t believe I had. The words had tumbled out before I could stop them. Because of changing trends and times, I don’t always understand why things are the way they are, but he had just undone some of my ‘old’ way of looking at something.

And then I remembered another piece of motherly advice that was said repeatedly: Meet people where they are at.

Had I not complimented this young person on his nails, I would have missed the opportunity to tell him that he is a very good man and that his soon to be wife was fortunate for how much he understood her.

A few days later, I attempted to self-check with an unruly machine at the grocery store. It miscalculated my total and insisted that my organic bananas were almonds. I had to push the dreaded ‘help me now’ button, and a worker came over to assist. He quickly punched all the right keys to free me from produce jail. My eyes were drawn to his hands. Once again, black nail polish.

I felt her familiar presence come close once again, prompting me not to let this moment pass me by.

“Look at us. We have the same taste in nail color.”

He smiled at me.

“I was bullied so badly in school for wearing this and for other reasons. I dropped out.”

“Really? I am sorry to hear that.”

“I am smart, and no one understood me. I asked to move into an independent study. I basically did all the work by myself, but then I left and quickly got my GED. People don’t like others who they can’t figure out.”

How sad is this world we live in?

“Are you happy now?”

“Yes. I work here, but I am pursuing what I really want to do with my life.”

“Good for you to overcome such rough circumstances. You should be so proud of yourself.”

I could tell when he put his head down, he wasn’t accustomed to people giving him praise, but he smiled and thanked me.

We didn’t get a chance to talk further because he had to help another person and a malfunctioning machine. Whether he wants it or not, he has job security. Once again, I received another level of understanding and compassion because I commented on his appearance when I otherwise wouldn’t have. Ashamedly, I would have wanted to just inwardly feel a bit of distaste and not engage. But, when you are in the thick of spiritual growth, and you have asked to be shown things from a heavenly perspective, they start to appear to bring you up higher.

I know many people would say…your mom is gone now. And I say, no, she isn’t. There’s freedom in acknowledging that. It gives me peace and death..it has no sting. In a way that is hard to explain sometimes, but I understand her better now. She wasn’t perfect by any means, but then again, who is? She struggled with past issues that she never entirely freed herself from.

But, despite that, she has given me the insight to look past the obvious, and continues to subtly point me to the One who went to the cross and took on a different set of nails.

(She was also the one who used to call me lump lumps, and I hated it. Would annoyingly sing Here She Comes, Miss America when I was barely out of bed, and would never take NO for an answer!)

(On her 60th birthday, she didn’t realize we had flipped her candle to a 9..)

Vain Train

In 2019, I was in a dark place. Looking back, I think various circumstances triggered this, including the separation between my parents and myself. At the time, they lived about five minutes from me. Both were deteriorating, and it was pretty apparent that they should not have been living in their home independently. Neither of them would surrender their post. In 2018, my dad had lost his privilege to drive.

Months before his driving exam ordered by the doctor, he had told me that he would move out of their home and into an assisted living if he failed the test. He promised me beyond a doubt that he would do this. My mom gave up her license without a fight because, on some level, she realized she couldn’t manage this skill. At that point, he was running out doing errands every day for the two of them.

The day of the test came, and he was confident he would get through it with flying colors. I didn’t because he had taken me on a hair-raising scary ride just before that. He kept confusing the gas pedal for the brake. And as I suspected, he failed every single component. I felt terrible when he arrived back home looking defeated.

The sympathetic side decided I would help him out until they moved into a new, safe environment. After all, he had told me that he would not continue to live like they were if he didn’t pass. I had told him to call me if he needed something, and I agreed to get him to the stores he liked to frequent. I rearranged my work schedule to make this possible. So began my job as his chauffeur, and when I asked about moving out, the conversation went from looking into it to an absolute no.

When I realized he wasn’t going to give in and make some changes, I began the hunt for a driving service he could use. Interestingly, my daughter discovered GO GO Grandparent, a company specifically designed for those who need rides, especially older adults. There was much grumbling about this at first, but then I started getting the texts he didn’t know I signed up for, indicating he was calling for assistance. That seemed to be going along well, coupled with my help for shopping trips.

The months were slipping by, and there was still no indication that either one of them was going to give up their stance and find other living arrangements. During this, I made a stop at my credit union. The teller greeted me and said,

“Oh, I just saw your dad.”

“He must have called for a ride,” I said.

I pulled out my phone and saw no alert that a car had been summoned. When I looked back up, her lips were twisted into a strange shape. The song by Fleetwood Mac, Tell Me Lies, Tell Me, Sweet Little Lies, began to play on the overhead speaker above me. Coincidence? I think not.

“Uh, well….”

“Did you see a driver pull up, or did he drive his car?”

“UH…” Again with the face contortions. She knew he was not to be driving as I had told her this previously. The bank was a daily stop for him, and the staff all knew him quite well. At that moment, I realized I was being played. He had told me over and over he had not been driving. I believed him and hadn’t had the heart to remove the car so soon.

I just nodded at her and glanced over at my daughter. Back in the car, a tracking device was purchased online. I decided not to accuse him and hear more of his deceit, but I would catch him in the act. I called the police department to ask if this was illegal, and I was told it wasn’t technically okay, but if it were being done to stop harm to the community, it could be overlooked.

He had been asking me to take his vehicle on our trips out together, so the next day, I told him we would do that. His first request was to stop at a hardware store. My daughter stayed back and placed the device in the backseat. We finished up our outing and returned home to watch the app on her phone. His conscience must have been bothering him because I got a text requesting a driver. I started to wonder if I had jumped to the wrong conclusion. I hadn’t.

A few days later, a notification came up showing his location. Feeling anger like I hadn’t ever felt before, I got in my car and parked right next to his at a store. We always went out on Fridays together, so why was he doing this on a Thursday? What was so important that he needed a day before going with me?

I found him in an aisle, and I pretended we had stumbled into each other. I wanted to see how far he would keep up the act.

“What are you doing here?” He asked in total surprise. “I thought you were babysitting on Thursdays.”

Wow. He had even planned this according to the schedule he thought I had.

“I had to come to pick up something. How did you get here?”

“I called for a ride.”

“You did?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t think you did. I am parked by your car. You drove here, and you aren’t supposed to be driving.”

This was when he tried to get past me in his motorized cart. He was done listening or talking to me. Not moving out of his way, I said,

“You lost your license to drive. The doctor took it away. If you come home with me, I won’t call the police if you agree never to do this again. Otherwise, I am reporting you.”

I was so hopeful that he would cooperate, but that’s not how it went. He told me to get out of his life, and I called the local police station.

Before the officer arrived, my dad was back at his car with me standing guard next to it. He wanted me to move so he could drive away, and I told him no. Then, he was willing to let me take him home now that he saw he had pushed past the point of no return. I stood my ground all the more and told him we would let a third party decide what to do.

To my horror, his license was run through the system, and it showed it was still valid. The physician had not taken the time to revoke it through the state. All I could do was stand there while he smiled at me to indicate he had won. I walked away from him and didn’t look back for a year and a half.

I would see him driving from time to time, and I found out that no matter how often his doctor was told about this, she failed to follow through. He told family members he was taking ‘back roads’ to be safe. I saw him on more than one occasion speeding down a heavily trafficked road during rush hour. When I would hear sirens in the neighborhood, I would wonder if he had caused an accident, and I silently vowed to testify against him in court. At the same time, I worried that I was an awful daughter.

This anger and depression combined created hopelessness in me. I had internalized my parents’ behavior as a sign that they never really loved me at all. Their unwillingness to trust my judgment revealed years of stubborn thinking and hard-heartedness. Then I began to think of all the times I had allowed so many people to treat me like this. I started to convince myself that life had no meaning, which led me to have thoughts of not wanting to be here anymore. I would ask God to send a train to hit my car as I crossed the tracks while driving home from work every day. I couldn’t bring myself to take myself out, but I knew He could do it.

In May of 2019, my mom went into the hospital unresponsive. She ended up in hospice at home. (The repair of my relationship with both of them began then, and that’s another story for another day.) While lying with her eyes closed, I saw her stirring. I walked over and leaned down close to let her know I was there.

She opened her eyes, and they focused directly on mine.

“Are you here in vain?”

The tone was not her voice. It penetrated my entire chest and felt like a physical blow. I heard what she had said, but I leaned in more and said,

“What did you say?”

Very physically weak but determined, she emphatically said,

“Are. You. Here. In. Vain?”

These dark, black eyes were looking for an answer. I felt myself swallow hard as I was faced with an ugly truth.

Somehow my thoughts of wanting to end my existence were being exposed. My big secret was coming out to confront me. How could that be when I hadn’t told anyone?

Quickly, I said, “No.”

She put her head back down on the pillow, closed her eyes, and quietly said,

“Good.” And back off to sleep she went.

In that split second, I realized that I didn’t want to have an attitude of living just for myself. If I no longer existed, what would I miss out on? What future person could I not go on to bless if I wasn’t around? I didn’t want to carry on my parent’s legacy of selfishness. I realized I was still here for a reason, and I was only accountable to God.

Romans 14 states: It’s God we are answerable to-all the way from life to death and everything in between-not each other. (Message)

I let my parents’ poor, selfish decision-making make me feel unworthy, and my reaction was to turn inward to self in a different way. Keep God the focus of your life, listen to the leading of that still small voice and do what it says. This will keep you from buying a ticket to ride the vain train.

The train tracks I crossed daily…

Obedience Training

A while ago, as if in another life inside this one, I acquired a black lab. I had said farewell to my first dog, Libby, a Beagle. She was eight and had been a trial run to see if I could parent a child. I had read in a book that if you can raise a dog, chances are, you are a good fit as a parent. I’m not kidding when I say that. I was young and impressionable, so I didn’t know any better. 

Libby saw me through the early stages of my marriage and the birth of my children. She stood by as I let daycare kids into my home to make a living. I often found her under a pile of little ones who were all trying to hug her at once. She was patient as circumstances changed around her. Death came to call so early, I felt, and I wanted her to know she could leave. Every night, I would go out into the quiet of the living room, lay my hands on her and ask for a peaceful passing. As I put groceries away a few days later, I felt this overwhelming pull to the living room. I rushed to her as she took her last breath. When I returned to the kitchen later, I had left the refrigerator door wide open, and I had dropped everything all over the floor. Tears overwhelmed me as I cleaned up. 

Having another dog wasn’t something I desired until one night, after tucking my girls in bed, I heard: make room for another one. There was a gigantic hole in my heart, but I covered it up as my kids were young, and I didn’t have time to sit around and grieve. 

I went to bed thinking..no!

The following week, Shady was living in my home. She had an owner who loved her dearly, but his wife did not. This dog landed in my household at nine months old with absolutely no training and extreme separation anxiety. Her black lab stature was pushing more than 80 pounds from being fed from the table and spoiled rotten. She was convinced she was a small lap dog and tried to execute this move frequently. When she wanted my attention, she got it, whether I was prepared to give it or not. 

Having no real bond with me initially, I had to learn how to deal with the bad habits that her previous owner had instilled, but who was I to enforce the rules? Leaving her alone in the house was a nightmare. I never knew what I was going to come home to find destroyed. I had gone from a well-trained Beagle to a black machine of mass destruction. I consoled myself by realizing this wasn’t her fault but the lack of teaching she never received. 

My commands to her were a foreign language because she never had to obey before. It was like taking in an animal from the wild. She loved water as this breed is naturally inclined to, and we had an above-ground pool. Her idea was to get into the water, and mine was to keep her out because her nails would shred the liner. I always made sure to close the safety gate behind me to keep her at bay-until I forgot.

One morning while I was pulling back the cover to put in weekly chemicals, I saw a gigantic shadow over my reflection in the water as I was crouched down. Instinctively, I glanced upward to see the underside of Shady hurdling over me to get into the pool. With a thundering splash, she cleared me but then began to panic, not knowing how to get out. The ladder was way too small, and the pool was deep. I had no choice but to jump in freshly showered and with full make-up on to rescue her. As I tried to reach her, she would move away. By some miracle, I got behind her and was able to shove her hulking form onto the deck. She shook off her coat, turned, and looked at me as if this was such a wonderful spontaneous moment. Like we had just had the best pool party of our lives. I had ten minutes to get reassembled and out the door, while she napped on the kitchen floor, exhausted from her morning swim. 

Because she was accustomed to going everywhere all the time in her previous living situation, I was left in a quandary trying to curb her extreme fear of being left alone. I thought as time passed, she would get the idea that when we left, we would return. But her anxiety got the best of her, and she was causing damage. The final straw came when I walked in the door to see one of my daughter’s Beta fish tanks in the living room. In a frenzy, she had decided to take it off the kitchen table and run with it. There was water, rocks and an empty plastic container proudly strewn all over.

When I heard my daughter sadly say, “Oh, no! Not Oscar!” I began frantically searching for the tiny red fish, hoping the whale hadn’t swallowed him! 

I found him breathing quite rapidly under the table, so I rushed around trying to make it right and stop the tears of a little girl for her beloved fish. I think he died of a heart attack. Oscar joined the other dearly departed Beta fish in the little cemetery we had created. I think he was number ten. I lost count. 

This prompted me to buy the most oversized kennel I could find. I put the softest of all dog beds inside it to convey how nice she had it. It was to be a safe oasis for her to meditate and center herself while she was alone. I gave the idea a try. The kennel was placed and left open for her to come and go. To coax her in, I would leave treats for her to find. She would buzz in quick and fly out just as fast. It was a battle of wills by the time I made her go in, but I knew this had to be done. 

I gave her an extra treat through the metal front and told her that we would be right back. While driving away, I realized I now had acquired an anxiety disorder about leaving her. I brushed the thoughts away, hoping for the best. 

When we returned home, Shady greeted me at the door. I regret not leaving a recording device while we were away. I looked across the room at the kennel, and it appeared perfectly intact. The door was secure and locked. It wasn’t until I walked to the side that I saw the gaping hole where she had made her escape. She stood by once again, whipping me with a happy tail while I took in the incredible handiwork she had done, eating away at the plastic to gain her freedom. It was impressive to see that she had cut out the perfect side door with just her teeth. 

Shady taught me some lessons. First, fear can make both people and animals do crazy things. She was perfectly safe, but she thought she wasn’t, and she made a mess trying to solve her illusionary problems. The kennel was a respite, not a trap. Second, she left me to understand that when someone feels they are limited, there’s always a way out. It may not be the most logical, but the drive to change circumstances to one’s liking can happen no matter what. Shady wasn’t happy, so Shady made a way where there seemed to be no way.

Do we let our fears get the best of us? Or do we see with the eyes of God? Do we rest and allow a safe place to be provided where our spirit knows that it’s okay to stay awhile? Or do we chew and claw at the walls of our lives, desperate to create an opening by our willpower? Or do we get still and let the divine take over so that the outcome is perfect? 

I applaud Shady’s desire to run free, but her solution wasn’t ideal. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 it says: 

All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. (Message) 

So how do we get to this point of just strolling through panic mode? We have to embrace the thought that we are loved beyond measure in an unearthly way. It requires receiving, not striving. 

Romans 8:28 says: That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. (Message) 

God’s love, trust, and faith are the best things to rely on while people (and dogs) must undergo obedience training. 

Afterthought: Shady lived with me for three years. I used clicker training and other devices to help her adjust. It didn’t tame all of the wild behavior, but enough to cohabitate decently. In the end, she went to live with another family. I was getting a divorce, and she required a lot more attention than I had at the time. Again, by forces beyond my control, a family was provided. They lived on a lake. The day the couple came to see her, she greeted them like they were old friends. They asked if they could take her. At first, I thought…huh? Then I gathered up her bowls, her leash, and all other items. We walked outside; the lady slid open the door to their van, and Shady jumped in without glancing in my direction. The last I heard of her, she was retrieving tennis balls from the lake. 

To the Letter

Two things seem to be antiquated: handwritten letters and printed books with pages meant to be turned. Both of these I genuinely enjoy, so they continue to take up space in my life.

There is a particular author who I have become fond of that has long since passed onto eternity, but I value his insight, and his voice of knowledge rings true for my spiritual growth. His books are still in print, and instead of downloading them, I have made it a personal goal to buy and create a library. I find myself scouring eBay quite frequently, looking for the price I want and the format I would prefer. Usually, this happens as I am engrossed in one of his books, and a reference is made about another title. This puts me on the hunt.

The last time this happened, I was doing my usual mental back and forth regarding paperback versus hardcover. Loud and clear in my mind, I heard: Go with the hardcover!

That narrowed my choices as there was only one. In an instant, it was in the shopping cart, payment was rendered, and I forgot all about it until it arrived a week later.

After retrieving it from the mailbox, I carefully unwrapped the package, then flipped through it to check for highlighted passages or see if any secret notes were scribbled in the margins. I never view these as flaws in used books, and I feel a little disappointed when there aren’t any. It’s fun to read what impacted another and to see if it would resonate with me.

The pages were crisp and clean, so feeling a slight letdown, I went to close it and put it aside until I had finished my current one. That’s when I noticed the letter neatly folded, tucked inside the cover. I smiled, thinking how I will use anything available as a bookmark. Gas receipts, car recall notices, and old bills have not been spared when I need a placeholder.

I unfolded it, saw that it was from 1998, and gave it a quick read. It’s funny how a person can look at a date and make an assumption. I figured the author of the note was either deceased or unreachable. I also had difficulty determining who had been the recipient and why the writer had sent it. It was apparent that there had been a passing, but who needed to be consoled? A widow, perhaps? Because I didn’t have time to delve deeper, I put the whole matter aside.

The following week, I thought that maybe my daughter would benefit from reading that particular book. As I gave it to her, I said,

“There’s a bizarre letter in the front of it. I don’t get it. It’s 23 years old, and probably everyone is long gone who was involved with that.”

Not listening to me as usual, she went online and quickly found information about the man who wrote it.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “I mean, there’s got to be a million men in the world with the last name Brown.”

I had tried to search for him and came up with half a million and quit looking. Talk about your needle in a haystack!

“No, this is him. I know it is.” She had this tone that left no room for arguing.

Still, I was unfazed. I had let my head take over, and I thought this would be an embarrassing situation if I contacted the wrong person. Because of her insistence that I can never refuse, I sent off a message. As soon as I hit send, I started to feel sadness in my chest, like when you lose something valuable, and you can’t get it back, no matter how hard you try.

I looked at her and said,

“I think you found the right Jerry. I don’t know how I am even saying this, but it’s him.”

Randomly, she opened the book to a page where the author discussed his recent North Carolina and Minnesota trips. A coincidence? No, because that is where Jerry was from and I live in a suburb of Minneapolis.

Within a few hours, I heard the familiar sound of my phone receiving a response to my message. I wanted to look, and yet I didn’t.

I found this stranger to be kind and appreciative regarding my efforts to get in contact with him. I had asked if he wanted me to mail his special note back to him, but he told me to keep it. In the course of our conversation, I learned that he and one of the men mentioned in the letter, Bryant, had been best friends. He had penned and given it to Bryant when his dad had passed in 1998.

The book had been on Bryant’s bookshelf with Jerry’s letter kept safely inside. He told me that in May, Bryant had died of cancer just before his 70th birthday. The magnitude of that hit me, and both my newfound acquaintance and I could not help but tell each other that we were sobbing. He admitted that he missed his best friend terribly, and it was startling for him to see the letter from so long ago. Both of us came to understand the profound meaning of what was occurring.

Jerry’s words of comfort were now being sent back to him from heaven. I was so glad that I had listened and chose the copy of the book I now owned. One minute I was laughing, the next, I had tears flowing down my neck like a river. Out of all the people in the world, I had been allowed to help lift another soul. Can anything compare to that? I don’t think so.

It is stated in Matthew 6:8: …for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him…

I didn’t realize that I needed to have this experience just as much as Jerry because it reminded me of how much we are loved beyond what we can hold in our hands or see with our eyes. God knows precisely what will touch us and bring us peace, right down to the letter.

Love Blooms Eternal

I recently was a part of a very moving experience when my best friend Jeanne stood lovingly by Dan, the man she chose to give all of her heart and soul to, as he slipped over into eternity. He knew as he passed that their love for one another was not of this world. Before God, and in private, they spoke vows to one another. Not in a legal way, but solidifying their spiritual bond that nothing can ever break. Not even death. When she returned to her home in Minnesota, she knew life was going to be different. And after his funeral service, the days were bleak. But, we had no idea that Dan was sending a great message of deep love from heaven. You will find this blog is a bit different than my usual ones. Jeanne tells her side of the story, and I share mine.

Jeanne:

I stayed at my sister Carolyn’s at night because I did not want to be alone. My house just seemed so cold and empty, and I couldn’t bear the thought of the silence and to sit there alone with my feelings of how much I missed Dan.

Wednesday, when I returned to my house in the morning, I opened the drapes to let in the sun. Snow sat in piles outside my front window, and I soon was reminded that we had another month of winter to go.

I tried to watch some TV, and around 1:30 decided to go over to Trader Joe’s to get some tulips. For the past five years, I had bought tulips in February and March to bring life into my home and remind me that spring was around the corner. I did a quick check online and drove to Trader Joe’s after seeing an ad for their double bunch tulip special. When I got inside, I was surprised to find no tulips and a dismal assortment of other cut flowers. No tulips? I tossed a mixed bouquet in my cart and started to roll away. I stopped; no, this won’t do. I put it back and grabbed another one and put that back as well. I settled on a bunch of yellow roses, my favorite, and headed for the cheese. I stopped again and turned my cart around to put the yellow roses back. I wanted tulips, and nothing was going to fill that void. Tulips were what I needed to fill that hole in my soul right now. They reminded me of Dan. The past couple of years, he had started buying me tulips when he knew how happy they made me. One time he walked in and saw I already had two bouquets of tulips and asked, “Should I be jealous?”

“No, I bought these myself.”

“I wanted to surprise you!”

I told him he could buy some with really tight bulbs, and it would be a surprise when they bloomed. He loved to surprise me, and I could never tell him that I always knew the tulips would be either yellow, purple, or red.

As I put the yellow roses back, a bunch of orange roses caught my eye. Wow! I don’t know if I have ever seen orange roses like that. The color was striking and surreal. They were pulsing in a supernatural illumination that reminded me of when God highlighted someone out in public I was to give a word to.

For some reason, I was supposed to have them regardless of the $9.99 price tag, but I was disappointed as I rolled my cart towards the dairy section. I wanted tulips. Orange tulips. Bright colored tulips spoke life, but it wasn’t meant to be.

On my way out, I asked if they were getting more tulips in, and the clerk told me to come back the next morning as a new shipment was coming in.

When I got home, I half-heartedly put the roses in a vase with water and didn’t bother to trim the stems. I set them by the window and went about my day. Later that night, before my sister picked me up for the night, I glanced at them and smiled. They may not have been tulips, but this bright splash of orange brightened up the room, and I vowed that I would go over to Trader Joes in the morning to pick up some tulips.

The next morning I woke up and heard my sister working on her computer in the other room. I sat on the edge of the bed and started to cry. I missed Dan so much, and I silently asked God for a sign that he was okay. I knew he was in heaven. But what was heaven really like? Did Dan miss me? Or was I now forgotten? How do I move on from this? He might be having the time of his life right now, but I was hurting and didn’t know how to fill the void.

I suddenly felt this warmth encircling me, like a big bear hug from behind and a soft pressure against my cheek. It was unexpected, and it felt safe, warm, and familiar. It felt like a hug from Dan. I sat for several minutes in this supernatural embrace and felt comforted and then pulled myself out of it—either you’re crazy or playing with fire. I told myself, don’t look for this. Satan can fool people into thinking it’s from God and it isn’t. But the truth was I wanted it to be from God. Hadn’t I asked Him for a sign?

I dressed and waited for my sister to give me a ride home. My friend Christine was coming over today to help me organize my office so I could get going on finishing my book. I wanted to run over to Trader Joe’s to get some tulips and then give my place a quick vacuum. I wasn’t sure if I was going to tell her about the supernatural hug. She wouldn’t think I was crazy, but sometimes when something special from God happens to you, you don’t want to share it with anyone. Not because no one will believe you, but if they can’t feel the same intensity of God’s love in this for you, it diminishes the gift. Some experiences are to be kept in that secret exchange of love between you and Daddy God.

I got home and quickly vacuumed but continued to putz, so there was no time to run to Trader Joe’s. God whispered, “Christine is bringing you tulips; you don’t need to go.” I laughed to myself, “Sure, wishful thinking, Jeanne, you just don’t want to drive over to Trader Joe’s again to be disappointed. I texted her, “Let me know when you are here. I will be in my office in the back but will leave my back door unlocked; please walk-in.”

Sometime later, I heard a knock, and I yelled, “Come on in!”

Christine let out a yelp. “Oh my God, oh my God!”

I started laughing. I was waiting for her to say, “You didn’t have to vacuum just for us!” She has brought her daughter Kelsey with her, and I can hear them in the kitchen.

Christine came into my office with a vase in each hand.

Christine:

On Wednesday, I was at home attending a virtual meeting that was to run from 1-1:45 pm. At 1:30, it ended early. As I was shutting down my computer, I heard very loud and clear in my mind: get Jeanne orange tulips.

I was planning on seeing her the next day, so I thought I would get her a bouquet. It was right after Dan’s funeral, and I wanted to give her something to cheer her up. I hadn’t planned on what color or type, so this message was somewhat helpful. I told my daughter Kelsey what I had heard, and she immediately said we should go to a specific florist by our home. I was planning on just doing a grocery store type of purchase, but I felt that this was not a request when she said a certain place. This was an order being given, and I suddenly was the delivery person. I had never been to this particular florist, and I wasn’t going to come out of there with anything but orange tulips, so help me, God!

When we walked in, the only person on staff was helping a young couple plan their wedding flowers, so she told us to look around…even in the back room where she puts displays together. I saw a square vase filled with small pebbles and water with white tulips arranged in it. I said, “You don’t have orange tulips do you?”

I hadn’t seen any in the whole store.

Her face lit up, and she said, “Yes! I have a whole bunch that just came in about an hour ago! Go see what we have, and I will help you out in a minute.”

I decided to get the display with the small stones in the square vase, and the original one had a little butterfly on it. I kept thinking of Dan being a newly transformed man in heaven when I saw it. The florist came out with the bouquet and had stuck a pale orange monarch-type butterfly on it. It had Dan’s presence all over it as a gift of love. Kelsey ordered a vase filled with every orange flower in the place…tiger lilies, roses, carnations, and a daisy. It was just one big orange beautiful burst of gorgeous. I got in my car and thought…why did we get all orange? I mean, that place had so many color options. I figured it had some meaning, but I wasn’t sure what. I wanted to text Jeanne and tell her, but I kept hearing a still small voice say: Shhh…this is a surprise.

The next morning my daughter and I drove to Jeanne’s house for our visit. She said to text when I arrived so she could open the garage door. She was in a back bedroom, so she wasn’t at the door when we walked in. I stopped in my tracks! The entire house was filled with a beautiful light. Not only from the sunshine but a presence that only heaven could send. As I stood in her kitchen with a vase in each of my hands, I saw a huge display of orange roses on her living room table.

“Jeanne! Jeanne! I can’t believe this!” Orange roses??? Orange?

“My God! My God!” That’s all I could think of to say. She thought I was exclaiming over her cleaned-up house!

When she saw the tulips in my vase and the ones Kelsey got her, she cried. She told me of her disappointment in not being able to find orange tulips. I could only say, “The love story of Dan and Jeanne continues.”

All day while visiting, we would stop and stare at this grand display of orange that was on her table. My daughter looked up the meaning of orange flowers…it signifies strength. Of course, it does! I saw my beautiful friend’s eyes go from weary and sad to joy like a snap of the fingers because heaven came down and gave her a hug and a kiss on the forehead with vases filled with meaning. You see, those flowers will fade away and not be here for long. But, the event will always remain. Dan may have moved on to heaven, but his love (like God) for Jeanne is eternal.

One of Dan’s last Facebook posts was of a still picture with a Bible verse. In the background, there are roses. Guess what color they are? We saw this AFTER we delivered her flowers.

Jeanne:

Later, God reminded me of the significance of the orange flowers. Every trip Dan and I went on, he wore this camo jacket that had a bright orange lining. I never liked the color orange, and it might be because I have red hair and never wore orange or red. I loved that jacket on him, and I began to associate the bright orange POP of color with fun, adventure, safety, security, love etc. As much as I wanted to travel, I had a lot of anxiety when away from my home. Dan was my rock and assured me that I was safe and cared for by him and God.

Off My Rocker

Last spring, while taking some time away from work, I began a project that I had put off for a while. Around my home’s perimeter, I have river rock. The weeds were having their way with one particular area, and every time I took out my trash and I was brave enough to peer around the garage, it seemed that a jungle was beginning to grow. All the stones needed removal and new material placed underneath to keep the unwanted foliage down to a minimum.

My first trip was to the dreaded hardware store to pick up the landscaping roll, pins to hold it in place, and buckets. This has never been a favorite outing. During my childhood, I recall visiting many of these places with my dad. He seemed to speak in a foreign language about saws, wrenches, and screws that all had their use. None of it ever made sense to me, and even now, I still struggle to understand what some of the products are on the shelves. Throw in math and measurements, and I zone out.

I gathered up my supplies and started the process of picking up the rocks with gloved hands. I had no idea the labor and time this was going to take, but I kept a clear vision in my mind of a pristine area that no longer brought on a cringe.

At certain times of the day, the sun would go over the house, which provided shade. Despite this, as summer approached, the temperatures began to rise, so I was often drenched in sweat. I would go out of the house fresh and ready to conquer and return weak, dehydrated, and filthy. My reflection in the bathroom mirror always displayed a “dirtstache” over my top lip.

One evening, I decided to go back out after giving it a rest from working earlier in the day. It was cooler, and I wanted to accelerate my progress. My neighbors had friends over for a cookout, and the section I was focusing on was visible from their front porch. Soon, I felt a presence next to me. A little girl smiled and said,

“Can I help?”

While the adults were having cocktails and talking about issues she couldn’t comprehend, she decided that what I was doing looked more attractive.

I caught on quick that boredom had led her over. She didn’t want to lend a hand; she just wanted someone to keep her entertained. I turned on music that she requested, which was followed by humming in between a million questions. Every rock she picked up was examined, and I was asked what it was. Not many made it into the bucket she was given. Instead, she put them back and moved on to another one that caught her eye.

“Do you know how fast I can run?” she asked with her big brown eyes looking at me intently, hoping I was up for the challenge.

“No, I don’t,” I said.

“I will show you!”

And like a flash, she was running toward the backyard. I stopped what I was doing so she could see that I was paying attention to her. I had sympathy as I recalled being her age and stuck in a room full of older people and feeling left out of the conversation.

She ran back to my side, panting uncontrollably.

“This time, can you count?”

“Sure,” I said.

I mean, what would it hurt to do so if it made her night more fun? She got into a runner’s stance showing how serious this was.

“Ready? Set? Go!”

She took off again, and I began to count.

When she returned, her breath came in short gasps.

“I want to run around the whole house. Can you still count while I do that? I want to know how fast I am.”

“Okay,” I said.

It would be easier to keep doing the task I had come out to accomplish with her out of my sight. The rocks were not leaping into the buckets by themselves, and it was going to get dark.

We went through the countdown, and she took off like a shot.

One of the neighbors yelled,

“Chris, you are a sucker! She will have you doing that all night long!”

I put my head back down and grasped a handful of rocks in each hand.

“Nine, ten, eleven, twelve…”

I was shouting numbers at the top of my lungs to be sure she could hear me. When I saw her coming, I slowed way down, and as she pulled up next to me clutching her kneecaps with both hands, straining to breathe, I said randomly,

“TWENTY!”

Once she was able to talk, she said,

“I am going to do it again to see if I can make it back faster. Count slower this time.”

“Okay,” I said with a smile.

It was like cheating on the number of swings you take when you golf.

She got in position to go again, and I began to count so she could hear.

“One, two, three, four…” I yelled out in a happy tone as I dropped more rocks into the bucket.

Suddenly, I felt like I was being watched. I glanced to my left, and an older woman passing by on the sidewalk was frowning at me like I had lost my mind. From where she stood, it appeared that I was counting each rock as I was removing them. The little girl was still on the backside of the house. The lady’s forehead was tight with confusion and concern. At first, I thought of ceasing my count, but the speedrunner was depending on me, so I didn’t want to disappoint.

As she shook her head and rolled her eyes, I counted louder. She moved on quicker when I made eye contact with her.

That is when I started to laugh, and I am sure that solidified the idea that my sanity had slipped away. Things weren’t quite as they appeared.

This can be said for many situations we encounter daily. Do we jump to conclusions or make assumptions based on what we see or hear? Maybe that person across the street with the political sign in their yard that doesn’t line up with your views has a need you can fulfill. But, the sign keeps you away. How about the slow driver who is impeding your progress, is crying their eyes out on the way back from a funeral? What about the long line at the grocery store because the cashier is new and doing the best she can?

We are quick to process a scene without any insight.

As I move along in this life, I am more conscious of that still, drama-free, inner voice that speaks knowledge that cannot be seen with the human eye. For me, this has led to more compassion, grace, and forgiveness.

Tapping into my spirit, I have access to wisdom that keeps me more grounded and less off my rocker.

Psalm 19:14: May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.

Empty

This summer brought a lot of stress. When I think back to spring, I was only concerned about my lawn and how to get rid of weeds. My life consisted of taking care of my home and going to work. Around Mother’s Day, I heard that my mom was hospitalized. I didn’t go see her because I was taking a break from my parents, and my hiatus had turned into over a year. They were living in a way I didn’t approve of, and the environment was not safe. But, all requests to change their ways had fallen on deaf ears. And, when a situation turned so ugly between my dad and me, I walked away. Daily, I felt guilty, and I would ask God if I was a horrible daughter. I mean, who walks away from their parents in their eighties? I did. And, every time I asked God what to do, I would hear these simple words: Trust Me. I will let you know when you are needed.

I want to say that this made me feel better, but it didn’t. I had to seek God continually to find a sense of peace, but I was always on edge. If I would hear a siren in my neighborhood, I would instantly visualize that my dad was in a car accident or someone had taken a death fall down the stairs. I would go on social media to scan the police reports for my town searching for answers and hoping I wouldn’t see that they were hurt or caused anyone else’s demise.

When I heard that my mom was hospitalized, I figured she would be okay.  And, she was.  She stayed until the Tuesday following Mother’s Day, and from what I heard, she went home energetic and back to her old self.  That was until Wednesday when my dad couldn’t wake her up. The emergency number was called, and she was taken back to the hospital.  When I received that news, I felt uneasy. I hadn’t had that feeling the first time, but I knew I couldn’t just sit back and let it go. At midnight, I went up to the hospital knowing my dad would be at home, and she would be there by herself.  When I entered the room, I saw her lying in bed sound asleep.  I came near her side, and her feet started moving almost as if she was jumping up and down.  It looked like she was excited to see me, but her eyes were closed, and I hadn’t said a word. I was going to pray for healing, and as I started to do so, a nurse and an aide walked into the room.  I explained I was visiting, and that I was hoping she was okay.  The nurse assured me that she was fine, and I felt like I was to leave.  I looked at the clock in my car and saw that I was only with her for about twenty minutes.  I said to my daughter,

“I don’t think I was to pray for her healing.  I think she wants to go on to heaven.”  I knew right then that I was to help make her transition from earth to the next place.

The following day, I went back to the hospital. In my heart, I was hoping she would be sitting up in bed and greet me when I entered. But, it wasn’t to be that way. She was still sound asleep. This only solidified what I already knew.  Two days later, the hospital staff gathered my family and told us that hospice was the only answer.  We decided to take her back home so my dad would be right with her along with twenty-four-hour help.  The ten days at home brought social workers, nurses and a music therapist who played the best tunes. Even in her state of sleep, my mom managed to lift a finger to swing along with one of the songs.  Music was one of her favorite things.

True to his word, God made the situation right. On more than one occasion, my mom woke up and said very significant things to me.  I can’t explain this fully, but I could actually hear her speak to me while she was sleeping, and if I closed my eyes and asked God to show me what she was doing, I saw the entire scene of where she was. There was a bridge, and her mother was escorting her from earth to heaven.  Now, I didn’t fully believe this at first when I started to see it, but by the end of it all, I did.  I would see something and hear her say something in my spirit, and then she would wake up briefly and speak these things to me to confirm that I wasn’t losing my mind. This brought me great comfort during this time because it made me realize that heaven is not very far away. I think a lot of us think of it in miles and imagine it is light-years beyond us. I can tell you from experience that it isn’t.  Heaven is closer than your next-door neighbor.

After my mom passed on to heaven on May 28th, my dad went into assisted living.  It was now time to clean the house they had occupied for 60 years.  By the time I was done going through the house, and it was on the market in September, I  had become possession sensitive.  I began to look at my own home to figure out what I could throw and not leave for my children to deal with when I die.  Old papers were taken to the city shred fests, and places in my dwelling were gone over and cleaned up. This is still a work in progress, and I am nowhere near dying as far as I know.

One day, while making the final rounds at their house, I started to notice the beauty of it.  Amazingly, they had raised six kids in a small rambler, and I started to see it for the miracle it was. I had spent most of the summer months in a panic state trying to get rid of everything and in that mindset, it was a daily burden.   Cleaned out of all of its contents, I could finally see it for what it really was. My mind was somewhat free of its clutter momentarily enough for me to realize that I hadn’t taken a second to even think clearly since May. It had all been about work and stuffing down my feelings just trying to survive the onslaught. I didn’t want to feel the loneliness that often accompanies grief, and the distraction of moving furniture had freed me from it. But, I knew I had to let myself feel something sooner than later.  I went into the basement and sat on the floor surrounded by an empty room and walls, so I thought. In the quiet of that space, I went back in time.

During my preschool years, my dad would make popcorn on the stove the old fashioned way.  A splash of oil was heated and a kernel of corn was thrown in. When that one went off, the rest of the batch was thrown in. A large dose of salt followed as it was poured into a large bucket.  All eight of us would assemble in the family room in the basement around the tv.  We were given a black plastic bowl to scoop up a portion of popcorn.  I never was satisfied with what was in my bowl.  As soon as my mom would fill it, I would dump it back into the container.  I would go to each of my siblings and ask for some out of their bowls.  Of course, they all gave me some, but there was grumbling, mainly from the brothers who wanted what they had and didn’t want me bothering them.  When I would eat the few pieces they all had shared, I would go around again to ask for more.  There would be more slight complaining, but they always complied.  One time, before sharing his, one of my brothers asked me why I did this.  He wanted to know the reason I had to take theirs when there was an entire bowl I could get my own from.

“Yours tastes better,” I said with my four-year-old eyes piercing his.

How can you argue with that? He reluctantly gave me more, and after eating it, I made my rounds again.  My timing was horrible as they would all be watching a good part of a movie, and I would be standing blocking their view. I was too young to understand that a commercial break would have been a more acceptable time to go around for my offering. But as many times as I asked, they threw in what I wanted just to get rid of me quickly. My persistence always paid off.  My bowl was never empty.

Romans 15:13: I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.  Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

(How their popcorn looked compared to mine.  And, yes, these are the original black bowls.)

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Special Delivery

“All of the things I ordered should be here on Thursday between 2:15 and 6:15pm,” she said.

My daughter had placed several orders at the end of the year for her business. Seventeen boxes were expected to arrive at our house Thursday with twelve more to come on Friday.

Thursday evening, as the clock was getting nearer to 9 pm, I began to doubt that she was going to get anything. At 9:45, she got the dreaded notification that all of her packages would be arriving on Friday at the same time of day that had been previously promised.

I had already had trouble with this particular delivery company being late and delaying my orders.

“I am going to complain to the company,” I said as I went to bed that night.
“They need to do better business than this. People aren’t going to trust them anymore.”

I had put it out of my mind until the next evening when six o’clock was looming. Both of us had been looking out the window at any slight sound that would indicate the truck with all twenty nine packages had arrived. I felt my irritation growing as I started to assume that no one was going to show for a second time.

I went into the kitchen to prepare dinner when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a man hefting four boxes balanced precariously and breathing heavily.

I took what he had and handed them off to my daughter. Just as I was going to launch into my disgruntled customer speech and how unreliable the company he worked for was becoming, he blurted out,

“My dad died. I won’t be able to scan any of these packages.”

I felt my mouth drop open while my mind tried to switch from annoyance mode to sympathy.

“Oh. I am sorry to hear that.”

He stalked back off to his truck that was parked perpendicular to my driveway.

I whirled around and said to my daughter,

“Get your coat and boots! The guy’s dad died. I think we should help him bring everything up to the house so he can get going. He just told me his dad died.”

“What?” was all she said as she grabbed her outerwear and flew out the door with me.

I could hear him moving possessions in the back of the truck. The windchill was wicked and within moments my face and lips felt like stone.

My daughter took a few items to our front door while I waited for another load.

“So when did you find out this news of your dad?”

“Two blocks ago,” he answered matter of fact like.

Instantly, I thought maybe he and his dad weren’t close.

“Was this an expected death?”

I received no response from him, but then I realized he had called someone.

My daughter returned to my side.

“I don’t think he is okay,” I said to her in a hushed tone. “He has to get out of here. He is probably on the phone trying to make funeral arrangements with his family.”

Another round of packages were shoved our way and we each took another trip up the driveway.

To speed up things, I jumped on the truck and began to look through the load with him. He had gotten off his phone as we looked for the last two items that were on the list.

“You said you can’t scan any of these. So, it will look like they weren’t delivered. Will you be able to fix that later? I don’t want you to get in trouble for anything.”

“It will be just fine. I will make sure to adjust the information once I am done for the day.”

“Okay,” I said. “Are you going to be able to get off of work soon?”

“I am almost done with my route for the day,” he said casually. It was like he didn’t really care that one of his parents had just passed away. “Thank you for helping me.”

“Well, this is all too much for one person to handle,” I said. I wasn’t just thinking of all the stuff she had ordered but his situation as well.

My fingers were getting numb as the cold was setting in viciously. “I don’t know how you do this every day. It is freezing in here!” I was trying to help as best as I could. All thoughts of complaining about the delays were the farthest from my mind.  I was finding out quickly that his job was not fun in such brutal weather.

“I think the last two things will be coming tomorrow. I don’t think they are on this truck,” my daughter said to us from the open side door.

With that, I hopped down and said to him,

“I am so sorry that your dad died. I hope you are able to get going now and deal with that.”

He blinked a couple times and then a huge smile appeared.

“No, no no,” he said as a started to laugh. “My dad didn’t die! My diad died.” He held up his scanner.

“This is why I couldn’t scan your boxes. It died two blocks ago.”

“No one is dead then? Your dad isn’t dead?”

“No,” he said again as he bent over with a giggle. “This is called a diad.  My dad didn’t die.”

“Well, that makes me feel better!” I said laughing along with him.

We said goodbye and the warmth of my house never felt so good.

I realized later that because I thought he had lost his dad, my attitude about the delivery being late was forgotten. My perspective had changed just with one simple sentence that I had not heard correctly.

I began to wonder how many times I could have circumvented a negative emotion had I taken a step back and changed my mind before I reacted.  How much time have I wasted on being upset over something that I am not going to remember a week from now? How much of my energy have I given up punching at the air?  We have universal control over how we respond to a situation.

In Proverbs 15:1 it says: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

I think that when we chose to say something in a way that is peaceful, then we and the receiver are at peace.  When we chose to respond with anger then it not only fuels our fire but the one who is listening has to take in an earful.  Even though I looked quite foolish dashing and rushing trying to help out a person who I thought had a death in his family, I was thankful that I hadn’t gone ahead with what I had planned on saying to him.  At the end of it, I had wound up laughing and probably made that guy’s day a lot happier.

Only God can make a lesson come like that in a special delivery.

 

 

 

Come To The Table

At the beginning of November, my daughter and I began the quest to find a table for our kitchen.

In 2011, we had packed up our house and moved to Arizona where we thought we would reside indefinitely. Within 11 months, I was back to where I started, however, I had given away my dining room table and six chairs. I had put all of it under a tree on my boulevard with a free sign. A lady came to my door and asked,

“Is that really for free?”

“Yes, I am moving and it is just too much to take with me.”

“I need a table just like that.  I have six kids and can’t afford one right now. Is it okay if I have a friend help me haul it to my house?”

“Sure.”

I ended up standing guard by it until she returned. As it was being loaded up into a truck, she had tears in her eyes.

“Now we can have a meal at a real table with chairs.”

After moving back to my house, we ‘temporarily’ filled in the space by putting up a long white plastic work bench. It served its purpose for longer than it should have, and six years later, we couldn’t stand it anymore. It was a good place to lay a purse, work on a project or throw junk mail, but without enough chairs, it certainly was not a table to have a meal or gather around regularly. It had really become an eyesore.

Off we went one Saturday to find the replacement. I learned quite quickly how to spot the hovering sales people. I would see a clipboard and suddenly my pace would go into turbo speed, and I would weave in a pattern much similar to what I have heard survivalists teach if you don’t want to get shot. If you move fast enough, and change direction repeatedly, you have a better chance of not getting hit.

I did find myself trapped on one occasion. I think I got so wrapped up in looking that I didn’t see him coming out of my peripheral vision.

“Do you need any help with anything?”

I gave the customary response, “No, we are just looking today.” Smile.

I really don’t mind having help when I need it, and I know he needs to make a living, but sometimes I feel like I cannot have a moment just to contemplate and think as we were shopping.

He nodded politely and said,

“If you need me for anything, let me know.”

I assured him that I would as she and I continued to browse.

Less than five minutes later, he was back by my side. This is when I really had to paste on a happy face because I don’t like to be pressured.

“Anything yet?” He inquired.

“No, we are still looking,” I said less enthusiastically.

Putting his clipboard under his arm so he wouldn’t drop it, he put both of his hands together in the form of a prayer. He slightly bowed and said,

“Your journey continues then.”

I expected a gong to sound as if I was on an episode from the old 70’s show Kung Fu.

“Yes, yes it does,” I said trying not to laugh because he was being serious.

Many furniture stores later, and two Saturdays lost, I said to my daughter,

“We are done looking. The table needs to come to us. God is going to have to send it to us.” She agreed as she was not enjoying the search any more than I was.

On the Saturday night after Thanksgiving, I came home and put on my comfy new pajamas, got something to drink and plopped on the couch ready to relax. The big meal was over, I had gotten some baking done over the weekend, and I was ready to be quiet. I started watching a show I had recorded while my daughter was sitting in a chair working on her computer.

I suddenly woke up with a jolt to my own loud snore! Very unladylike, but the fatigue was real.

“Darn! I have missed part of my show,” I said. Just as I was reaching for the remote to rewind, a furniture commercial came on.

I saw a table and set of four chairs.

“Hey! Have you looked into this place?”

“No,” she said. I rewound the commercial which was quite short so we could see it again. Had I not woken up, we would have missed it.

We both went online and saw that they were having a sale that ended the next day, so we agreed that it would be worth the trip.

Interestingly, no salesperson greeted us at the door. We zipped over to what we both knew we would like and took a few moments to admire it and picture how it would look in the kitchen. I had to track down a lady for help.

Less than 24 hours later, a table and four chairs had been purchased and ready for delivery.

I realized that while I was not paying attention, literally snoring on the couch, the table and chairs had indeed found us. Instead of sweating it out searching, I had just thrown up a request before heaven, and my prayer was answered.

The set was delivered today, and as the delivery guy put it together he said,

“This is a nice table.  I don’t know why they discontinued it.  You aren’t going to find this one again.”

He didn’t know it had found me.

How much more could be accomplished on our behalf if we would just ask, rest and trust? Our loving Creator tells us to freely come to the table.

 

Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NIV)

 

 

 

The Missing Link

“Buy it for yourself,” she said.

I looked into her dark brown eyes and wondered if a ten year old girl with no mortgage to pay, groceries to worry about or a vehicle to maintain could really understand the value of a dollar.

“I am sure I can’t afford it, and I only put it on to see what it looked like. Not to buy it.”

It sure felt nice with the coolness of the silver chain encircling my wrist and the light catching the pink and white stones to make it glitter.

I had entered the store in my usual way telling myself at the door that I couldn’t purchase anything.  I had to be sure that both girls had clothes to wear and food on the table. How I had found myself gazing into the jewelry cases was beyond me. Obviously, it was a moment of weakness that I shouldn’t have let myself indulge in.

“Ask the lady how much,” she persisted.

We were talking in low whispers at this point. I had gone from looking to now wearing the item that had called my name from the display.

The salesperson was standing inches away marking items. Without much enthusiasm, I said,

“Could you tell me how much this is?”

I really didn’t want to know because the minute she spoke, I knew I was going to take it off and the magical moment would be over. There is nothing more frustrating to want something and then have to put it back and walk away. I was mentally beating myself up over it. I should have not touched it at all.

“Let’s see,” she said pulling out the box. She looked at the tag.

“That doesn’t seem right to me. Hold on a minute. Let me double check.”

I had this awful feeling creeping into my stomach that I was going to hand it back to her.

She returned with her glasses perched on the end of her nose. She began punching numbers into her calculator. She pulled out an ad and did more button pushing.

“Okay. Well, it is $50. It says it retails for about $150, but we have a sale going on right now. Wow, that is a really good deal for that. Those are real crystals.”

I glanced down at my daughter who was speaking to me sternly non-verbally. I felt the guilt of paying the money as I stood there admiring the piece.

I fought down the negative feelings and decided to get it anyway because it had been so long since I had gotten anything for myself. The divorce had left me thinking that I had to make sure I spent every bit of money on the kids to be sure they were taken care of.

The woman grabbed the long white box and we followed her to the register. She began the process of entering in the item along with the discounts she had mentioned. In the middle of it, she leaned into look closer at the screen on her register.

“You aren’t going to believe this,” she said.

Oh, no. Here comes the bad news. She probably had done her math wrong, I thought.

“It rang up at $29.00.  I have gone over all my numbers and it keeps coming up as that.  I will do it one more time just to be sure.”

After a few moments, she said,

“You need to go out and buy yourself a lottery ticket because today is your lucky day.  It keeps coming up at $29, so that must be the price.”

I handed over my debit card inwardly thanking God that I could keep the bracelet on for an even cheaper price.

After the transaction was done, she said again,

“Really, go buy that lottery ticket!”

That was ten years ago.  I have worn it off and on over the years with many compliments.  Last week, it broke. I was sitting at an outdoor picnic table, lifted my wrist and the heart fell to the ground leaving the chain around my arm.

With much disappointment, I put it in my purse.  A few days later, I drove to a jeweler by my house to see if it could be fixed.

While I was parking my car in the lot, I found myself thinking again about money.  Much in the same way that I had been when I bought the bracelet.  I wondered how much it would cost, and would I be able to afford it.  This then led to other thoughts about upcoming bills, health insurance payments and a host of things that rushed to the forefront of my thinking.  By the time I walked in the front door, I felt somewhat burdened mentally.

I approached the counter and a woman with silver hair and large black glasses greeted me.  I took the two pieces out of my purse and laid them on the counter.  I explained what had happened as she examined it.

She jotted down information on an envelope.   A repetitive sound started coming from a back room.

“I am sorry,” she said.  “Do you mind if I run back there for a second?  I have an alarm going off on my phone.”

“That’s okay,” I replied.

When she returned, she said,

“I have to take medication four times a day since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I can’t remember to take it all the time, so I set my alarm to remind me.”

Suddenly, my small worries about finances didn’t seem so great.

“How are you doing now?”  I asked.

Her complexion was beaming and her smile was so bright.  Her eyes looked energetic, and I would have never guessed she had been through such a medical trauma.

“I feel really good.  God loves me, and He has helped me through it all.”

I took her hand and said,

“I am so glad to meet you.  You look so healthy.  I would have never known you had been sick.  You look great.”

She squeezed my hand.

“I am seventy years old, and I have had a really good life.  If I had not made it through, I kept telling my family I was okay with going on to heaven.  But, I am still here.  And, I feel His love for me even more.  You cannot worry about things.  You know that scripture that says He feeds the birds of the air, and we shouldn’t worry about what we are to eat and drink?  The one where He says don’t worry about tomorrow?  That’s my scripture verse.  He is in charge of everything, and He loves us so much.”

She finished writing out my order and said,

“This will only be about $10 to fix.  I will do the job myself and make sure it is done perfectly.”

Before I left, I took her hand again, and I prayed for her body to be completely whole and healthy from head to toe.  I felt as if we had blessed each other in a way that only can happen when there is divine intervention.

My previous anxiety about my budget had left.  I got into the car with a renewed strength that all was well.  Even though I have had many experiences where I know my prayers have been answered, I still have moments where I need reassurance that I have a support system working on my behalf that I cannot see.  Her words of faith were just what I needed to remind me that I am not alone.

I got my bracelet back the other day looking as good as the day I bought it. As I took in her handiwork,  I realized that when one little loop of metal was missing, it upset my ability to wear it and enjoy it.

Isn’t that just like allowing God into your life?  He really is what keeps it all together whether we acknowledge it or not.  A relationship with your Heavenly Father will make things go a lot smoother if you are struggling. Give heaven a chance to assist you in all things.  Prayer really is the missing link.