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.

 

Advertisements

With A Cherry On Top

I called her name from the house.  It was one of those beautiful Sunday afternoons where all the windows in the entire house were open to let in the surprisingly cool breezes that you don’t expect at the end of June.  I called for her again, but she didn’t come.  Her brother, Stinky, had long been in the house after winding himself running up and down the fence a few times with the neighbor dogs.  It wasn’t like them not to come in when I called running side by side.  They had come into the world together, and continue to keep an eye on one another.

“Lily!” I said again hoping she wasn’t going to make me come find her.  When I got no response, I slid on the closest pair of sandals.  I located her under one of our trees throwing up.  Once she got it all out of her system, she did her usual energetic tail wag and came running as if nothing had happened.  I have owned a few dogs in my time, so this didn’t seem too unusual as this has occurred many times before.

I secured the two dogs and went grocery shopping.  I came home to more evidence that Lily’s stomach was not okay.  When I tried to give her a little food a few hours later, she headed straight back outside to be sick again.  At that point, I was beginning to become concerned.  It wasn’t like her to have this happen so many times in a row in such a short space of time.  Of course, it was a Sunday night, so our vet was not open.  I decided to pray before bed, ask God to help her and slept with one of my hands on her next to me.

The following morning, I fed her as and she seemed fine.  Business as usual, so I went to work and texted my daughter early in the afternoon.  I received a response back that all was well.  Then, within a half an hour, another text came saying she was throwing up again.  I came home and watched her travel from spot to spot in my backyard until she no longer had anything left in her stomach.

I placed a call to the vet.  I was told they were all booked up until the following day at 3 pm.  The technician told me not to hesitate to go to an emergency vet overnight, and she said not to feed the dog until morning.  I was to give her a small amount to see if the situation was clearing up.

That evening, Lily was more than upset to see her brother getting dinner and she was not.  Again, she zipped around the house, barked at strangers passing by on the sidewalk and didn’t seem to have anything wrong with her.  No matter how much she looked at me with her pleading hungry eyes, I stood my ground withholding her food until morning.

I woke up the next day, and I said to God: You have promised me that you will help me.  You care about my life and all the things that are in it.  I need an answer to this right now.  I have a 3 o’clock appointment at the vet that isn’t going to be free.  Please show me if I should take her in or not today.  I had enlisted the help of four people who I knew were praying for me.  Some would say: Why waste your prayers on a dog?  I would say:  Why not?  God cares about all aspects of my life.

I gave her a small portion of breakfast and followed her outside.  Along the way, I kept thanking God for the answer.  I didn’t have it yet, but I was saying it anyway.  I also kept saying: Show me the source of this trouble.

Lily walked over to a tree in the middle of the yard and began sniffing around.  I crouched down to see what she was finding so interesting.  On the ground was a bright red pit.  I picked it up to examine it.  It was as if someone had taken a cherry and ate the fruit and spit out the seed.  I thought it was odd, but actually dismissed it.

She headed back for the house with no more ill effects.  I still wasn’t sure what the trouble was, but I had a thought to look up cherries and toxicity to dogs.  What I found astounded me.  Not only can a cherry cause stomach problems for pets, the pit is highly toxic and can cause death.  I sprinted back outside to look for the pit but I couldn’t find it.  I gave my daughters instructions not to let the dogs outside until I had returned later.

As 3 ‘o’clock loomed closer, I kept getting this uneasy feeling.  What if she was really sick, and I didn’t take her in? As I pulled into my driveway, this thought went through my mind: if she doesn’t act sick, keep her home and cancel the appointment.  I found her to be back to her old self.  She sprinted across the yard and didn’t seem to have anymore tummy upset.  As I stood and watched her, I kept thinking…where did that cherry pit come from?  We don’t have cherry trees in my yard, nor had I bought any at the store.

God, where did it come from? I asked inwardly.  I felt I was to look to the left of me.  Across the yard, and slightly hidden by my shed, I saw a neighbors tree blossoming over my fence.  I walked over to examine it and found it full of choke cherries.  Some had fallen over the fence into my yard where my dogs run with hers back and forth. I had found the culprit!

I walked along picking up half eaten berries and other full ones so that no more would be ingested.  I saw my neighbor come out, and I spoke with her about the issue.  She said her dogs had never bothered with it, and she immediately cut the branches back so it was no longer dangling over my fence.  She was not aware of the poisonous nature of the fruit to dogs.

When I look back at the series of events, I can see how I was led to the solution.  I tried not to panic, but I gave God a chance.  Many times, we cannot see the truth because we are so blinded by fear.  My dogs are like my children to me, so when one of them is a little off kilter, so am I.  However, I know that God loves me and wants me to live in peace.  This is why I knew if I asked for guidance, an answer would come.

I cannot tell you how comforting that is to the mind and the spirit.  To let go and cast your care into the hands that made all that is around us.  We are not alone in anything we go through.  The answer may not always show up overnight, but if we keep on listening, don’t fall into despair and let the peace of God surround us, it will make us alert to what action to take in finding a remedy.  We are promised that we can have it all with a cherry on top.

Jeremiah 33:3

“Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” 

 

Retrieve Your Liberty

The drive was a dark twenty minutes from her workplace to our home. Post Christmas and New Year’s was evident by the lack of twinkling pretty lights I had enjoyed looking at on this stretch just a few weeks ago. While she sat in the back catching up on her social media, I glanced at the clock to see it was twenty to ten. I pondered what I should do first when I got home. The laundry was partly complete with some items still in the wash when I left and some in the dryer. The dishwasher was calling my name to be emptied of its clean contents. But, there was the lure of the lateness of the hour and the end of a full day which usually meant pajamas, a snack and a couch cushion that had my imprint on it.

All of this thinking led to other thoughts. Why had her Jeep Liberty blown up on her just a month before she finished school in December? The head gasket could have held itself together just a tad bit longer so she could finish, start her new job and figure out what to do next. However, that is not how life presents itself at times. On November 11, she experienced a rather thrilling ride home with a temperature gauge rising out of control. She made it safely, but the next day we took it to a local shop.

After the car was gone for about thirty minutes, the phone call came asking if we could meet with the mechanic. I knew while I was driving back that generally easy news is delivered over the phone and an in person explanation meant trouble.

We were escorted into the back where many cars hung suspended and the smell of oils and solvents penetrated the air. Or was that my fear? I am not sure. A young man with a clipboard approached us and said,

“You really have two choices. She has a blown head gasket, so we can put in a refurbished engine which will cost $4,000 or a brand new engine for $8,000.”

I think we both experienced a gut punch simultaneously. This was the first vehicle she ever owned and it had seemed so reliable with its four wheel drive in the winter over the past two and a half years.  Just minor tiny fixes here and there had been required but nothing she couldn’t manage.

“Do you have $8,000?” I asked her. “How about $4,000?” I was hoping that the mechanic would actually hear what I was saying and how crazy I thought he was for even telling us such a thing. The car had 175,000 miles on it.

She silently shook her head. I knew she was feeling just as frustrated about the whole thing as I was. She had taken nearly all of her hard earned savings and put it toward a short term college course so she could move ahead in life. A good decision that now seemed to be rewarded with a punishment.

I thanked him for his time and exited. I didn’t get out the door before the guy at the front desk tried to tell us to apply for their credit card offer and put the entire expense on it. I didn’t thank him for his time, and I got back out into the parking lot as quickly as I could.

Because I wanted to be sure we had both heard the correct news, I took the car to another shop that following week. It was determined that the car did indeed have a blown head gasket, and the work would be roughly over $3,000 for repair. We parked it in the garage, as if putting it into hospice, with its terminal diagnosis.

I would find myself walking by it on the way to my car often wondering why. It looked so nice on the outside, so why did it have to betray her? To make the situation sting even more was the fact that she still was making payments on it. So, to sell it meant she had to find a buyer who would give her enough to pay off the loan so she could walk away free and clear.   Our choices were limited by lack of finances, and nothing seemed to give us any freedom from the problem.

Thus, began my chauffeuring service so she could finish school and get to work. This also entailed car pooling to stores so she wouldn’t feel so trapped in the house without transportation. All of this was transpiring during Thanksgiving and Christmas which can always bring a mad rush to shop, prepare the huge feast, bake and shop some more.  At other times of the year, my time isn’t as constrained, but this was the height of hectic.

So, on this dark January night, as I drove along contemplating all of it, my wonderings of why became more prevalent.   I pulled into the garage and we both got out at about the exact moment.  Now it was nearly ten, and winter had set in.  It wasn’t below zero, but a crisp twenty degrees generally sends most into the house quickly.  However, I saw her turn her head and say something about a dog.  Then, I saw her crouching down just outside the garage in the driveway.

I looked toward the sidewalk and saw the most beautiful retriever come to a screeching slide as she tried to heed my daughter’s call.  I joined in saying,

“Come here!  Come on!”  I got down low as well so the dog would see that we would mean her no harm.  She did that belly crawl type walk where a dog wants to keep running but they are so enticed by the command to come, they can’t help themselves.  Then, she sprang into action and ran right to my daughter.

runaway

“Does she have a collar?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she answered as the dog was excitedly wagging its tail and trying to lick her face.  I reached down and found a collar to hang on to.  Just as I did, I heard a slight wheezing sound.

“Oh!  Hang on to her!  Oh!  Please!  OH!” The dog heard this too and tried to wiggle her neck out of the collar, but I knew that trick and grabbed on tighter with both hands.  Obviously, she wasn’t out for a relaxing evening stroll with her owner.

I saw a short woman puffing out quick breaths as she tried to get up our driveway.  It was like she was running and not making much progress.  The sidewalk was slick so she was also trying not to fall.

“OH!  You caught her!  Hang on to her!”  She was trying to breathe and talk so it was hard to understand her.   I pulled the dog into the garage with the woman as my daughter ran and shut the garage door.  At this, the dog happily took off to investigate the entire garage while the woman slumped over my car in sheer agony.  I put my hand on her shoulder and said,

“Breathe.  Just breathe.  She is okay now.”  Then, when she looked up, I said,

“Hey!  I know you!”  We hadn’t seen each other for awhile, but I had walked by her house many times during warmer weather and we would talk.  I had gone to a couple of her garage sales as well during my twenty-four year residence in the neighborhood.

“Well, hi!” she said and hugged me.  While doing so, she gasped,

“I am so glad you two came along!  I have been chasing her for awhile.  She got out and wouldn’t stop running.  I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was starting to panic.”

She draped herself over my vehicle again as she caught her breath.  I told her to inhale and relax.  Meanwhile, her dog was running around happy as could be.

“We took her in last July from a family that couldn’t keep her anymore. The lady had cancer and her husband couldn’t keep the dog, so we are all still adjusting.”  I watched as the dog bounded around so full of life for her young age without at clue that she had nearly given the woman some sort of attack whether heart or asthma.

It was decided that the owner would sneak through my house, go home, gather up a leash and return with her car.  While she was away, my daughter sat on the steps waiting.  I saw the dog sit down next to her, look her in the eye and give her an enormous slurp from her chin to her hairline.  We both laughed.  It was like the dog knew us her whole life and had strolled over to casually say hello.

This may sound odd, but in that second, I knew deep in my heart that my late night pick up and all of its hassle had a point.   Normally, when I pull into the garage, I shut the door and go inside.  If my daughter would have gotten done any earlier, that woman and her dog would have been out running the neighborhood in frigid weather.  It was as if on cue, we had returned to help out a neighbor who was struggling.  The grander picture began to fill my thoughts that I am not here just for the sake of myself. Things occur for a reason, and if I would just stop overthinking it or fighting with myself about it, all of it would eventually make sense.

The dog was answering some of my ‘why’ questions from my drive home.

The woman retrieved her retriever, thanked us profusely again and drove off safely back to her residence.

That night served as a small anchor as more days passed with no answers regarding our dilemma. I would conjure up the image of the dog kissing my daughter’s face just to help myself believe that there is a force who loves me completely and cares for my entire household.  Freedom comes when you are given a hint of something that is divine in nature.  If you can be given the gift of having the ‘why’ question answered, it makes the traveling through the pain easier at times.

As of this writing, a solution has come for my daughter and her car.  After much mental turmoil, I decided to send an email letting someone know of her plight.  I am not one to ask for assistance with my girls as we generally can figure it out ourselves.  To be honest, I think all of us should have some balance with that.  If someone offers to help you, then don’t feel guilt or ashamed in taking the assistance if you need it.  And, if you feel led to ask for help, then just ask. I have found that this actually brings the giver a blessing in return.

My intent in sending the correspondence was only to verbalize and get out on paper what she was going through. In turn, I received a response where my daughter’s car will be restored for her to alleviate the burden.  Did I know this when I wrote what I did?  No.  At no expense to her, an attempt is going to be made to see if the Jeep can be salvaged to its former state.  (Yes, I am still on the floor from fainting from hearing the news of this because I wasn’t expecting that or seeking it.)

I am learning that asking others for help, and allowing God to use me to be someone else’s helper is the ebb and flow of life.  Knowing that you are loved by your Creator makes it possible during a bleak time to stay strong, live a life with meaning, and help you to keep, restore and sometimes retrieve your liberty.

 

 

jeep