Watched Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s not on my list, Chris.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get the organic one.”

“It’s more expensive.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A blessing had found me when I least expected it.

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

Beautiful Sunset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“They don’t want to be.”

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

“But I want them to listen to me!”

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

“That’s not fun.”

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

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

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

“Molly, did you hit your brother?”

“No.”

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

“I think he bumped it over there.”

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

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

“I think he tripped and fell.”

“For sure?”

There were more hard swallows and no eye contact.

“Well, he was bothering me.”

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

“So you pushed and hit him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I saw her jump.

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

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

Again…

“Molly…”

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

With eyes wide, she blurted out,

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I am what you think I am.”

What does that mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Chance

I was raised in the Catholic Church, and at a very young age, I became aware that there were many rules to follow. With God so elusive, and when we struggle to grasp what we can’t explain, someone has to lay down laws for comfort sake. Without standards to follow, who knows where the train could go off the track? The masses might all get the crazy idea that God cannot be put into a box. 

So there were the incense-infused ceremonies, no meat on Friday during Lent, and a series of steps a young person had to go through to achieve the accolades of the institution. 

The basic level was first communion. Barely six years old, I was expected to sit and listen to a really old guy speak. It was on a Saturday morning. How do I remember that? All of my weekend cartoons were on, I was finally out of school for the week, and I had to absorb a lecture that made no sense. I’m sure his intentions were great, but my thoughts were back at home. He didn’t seem to understand children. 

To make it worse, we had homework, and I had to pray these long, boring paragraphs that were just words on a page. If anyone was trying to get me to have a connection with God, I wasn’t getting it. Somewhere in my little self, I knew that I had a spirit, but this was not helping me to uncover it. 

One of the experiences that kept occurring was I would feel separated from my body. The only way I can describe it was like looking through my eyes from behind my eyes as if you were looking through a pair of binoculars. 

These feelings were so strange; I decided to tell my mom. At this young age, it wasn’t easy to make her understand, so I said,

“I don’t feel like me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t feel like I am myself.”

“Who do you feel like?”

“Not me.”

“I feel like a floating feeling.”

“Floating how?”

“Outside of me.”

Our circular discussions amounted to nothing. This started to happen more frequently, even while other people would be speaking to me. I would become an observer, which she began to notice. When she would say something and expect a specific response from me, and I would reply, “I wasn’t feeling like myself,” she started to worry. 

“Chris, you are scaring me.”

Well, who wants to frighten her mother? So I quit talking about it. But it continued. 

Funerals and visitations were another thing. She took me along, and I was so freaked out at first to see an unmoving person displayed in a casket. Everyone was standing around casually talking, and there was a body in the room! Hello?! A dead person! Why was no one feeling alarmed about this? At first, I forced myself to adapt, and then I started to notice something once I got over my initial horror. Around certain dead people, I saw a very bright light. The first time I did, I tried rubbing my eyes to make it go away, and it only expanded farther out. 

With this new feature added, I stopped fearing attending these and started looking for the shine. It made it more like a game. Instead of listening to an adult speak about topics that were way beyond my ability to comprehend, I would stare straight ahead, start to squint, and then look for it. I’m sure the people around me thought I was a little off, but then again, I kind of was. 

I began to notice that most people had this heavenly glow to them while others did not. I also picked up on conversations around me. “I can feel her presence here listening to us,” or “He was such a good man.” Those were the brightest lights. 

One night on the car ride home, I said,

“Isn’t that light around the dead person weird? And others don’t have it.” 

I saw her glance up into the mirror to make eye contact with me in the backseat. 

“What do you mean?”

“The dead people. Some have a bright light around them, and others don’t.”

The silence was loud. She looked back at the road. 

“You see a light around some of them? And not others?”

“Yes. Don’t you?”

“No. Some people call that an aura or an energy type thing. When do you see it?” 

“While I’m sitting there waiting for it to be over.”

“No. I don’t see it at all. I’m too busy listening.”

I felt like she was sending me a message to stop talking about it. We had already dealt with my other odd revelation, so I kept my thoughts to myself from then on.

In the spring, I had to go to confession, and I was petrified. To receive communion, this was an absolute necessity, or the world would end. My infant baptism had begun the process of keeping me from going to hell, but who knew what eternal damnation I could get myself into at the age of six? 

There were a lot of question-and-answer sessions. 

“What do I do? It looks like a closet.”

“You go in, sit down and tell the priest everything you have done wrong,” she said. 

“Like what?”

“Have you lied?”

“No.

“Do you do everything I ask you to do?”

“Yes.”

“You can’t think of one thing?”

I didn’t like getting into trouble, and she had gone out of her way to enforce rules, so no, at that point, I had no infractions to account for that I could conjure up. I tried to avoid punishment and guilt at all costs. 

Seeing that I didn’t have sin on demand, she said,

“Something will come to you. You will know what to say.”

The big day of my unleashing my burdens arrived. I was hoping to wake up sick—no such luck. 

During the drive to the church, I was racking my brain trying to develop a stellar story that I could ask forgiveness for. My quiet demeanor got her attention. 

“What are you going to say?”

“Nothing. I have nothing to say.”

Her mouth popped open.

“Chris, you have to say something. You can’t just go in there and not say a word.” 

Yes, I could. But then I would feel like I let her and the entire Catholic Church down. 

“Ask God to tell you. I thought by now you would know.”

I did know, and I had nothing to say. But that wasn’t going over so well. My mind was blank. 

The church was incensed up when we walked in, and it stung the lungs to inhale. Again, on a Saturday, I was ripped away from my pleasant day of freedom. I stood in a line watching boys and girls enter and exit the tiny closed off rooms. No one looked worse the wear as they walked past me, and most looked happy to have it over with. 

I was up to the plate. I opened the door and sat down. 

In the dark, I could see an outline of a man, and I heard him clear his throat. 

“Bless me, Father, for I sinned,” he whispered.

Oh! I was supposed to say that! I already had messed up my lines. 

Quickly, I repeated it. 

He then instructed me to tell him the biggest offense that was ruining my relationship with God.

On the fly, I said, 

“I hit my brother.”

As soon as the words came out, and he went into some sort of incantations, it was like scalding water was rained down on me. 

I had NOT hit my brother; he had hit me in the arm, hard. And I had just lied to a priest in confession! 

I couldn’t wait to leave that stifling little box. I found my mom sitting with her eyes shut, probably begging God to help her youngest child. I was relieved it was over, but now I had a crushing weight on my chest. I was a liar! In a church of all places! 

She looked down at me and said,

“Do you feel better?”

I started crying so hard she couldn’t believe it. Crying was deemed a weakness in our house and in public? Never! In her eyes, I was obviously having the ultimate spiritual experience. 

“You must have had something that was bothering you. Didn’t it feel good to get rid of that? To free yourself of that burden?”

I sobbed harder, unable to speak. I was going to hell! I had just sealed my eternal fate while in elementary school! 

“No. I lied.”

“What? Chris, what did you say?” She took her hand off my back. The comfort session was over. 

Hunched over ready to throw up, I choked, 

“I lied. I told him I hit Bob. But, Bob hit me.”

She shook her head, accompanied by a sigh. I just wasn’t an easy student. Miraculously, she didn’t make me go back in and undo the damage. She said God would forgive me in the car on the way home. What?! That was an option? 

It is impossible to get through life without missing the mark. If we think we are perfect, we are delusional. But, we also don’t have to swing to the other extreme and live in self-condemnation and write ourselves off as unforgivable. If we do, we are as useless as the prideful and arrogant. 

There’s a nice balance between the two.

In 1 John 1:8-10, it says:

 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—simply come clean about them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. (Message) 

Why do organizations complicate things? 

Just recognize where there needs to be a minor fix, ask for assistance, and gratefully accept the second chance. 

The Right Road

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

“What is it?” I asked.

“You better go see.”

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

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

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

“Let’s give it a try,”he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, but only on Norway Street.”

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

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

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

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

“I do it all the time,” she whined.

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

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

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

“Okay,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you in trouble?”

“Probably.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t you feel good?” she asked.

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

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

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

“Y-y-yes,” I said.

“Do you promise never to do that again?”

I nodded.  It was easier than trying to speak.

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

Another nod as she handed me a tissue.

“Okay.  What do you want for breakfast?”

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

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

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

(My old bike in the rafters in storage)

Grandma’s Goodbye

“I need you to pray that grandma’s surgery goes well.” I heard the plea in her voice and considered how difficult it must have been for my mom to ask for prayer. She had always been close to my grandma, her mother.

“When is the procedure?” I asked.

“Tomorrow at nine in the evening.”

My grandma had been residing in an assisted living facility because her memory had begun to slip making it impossible for her to live unsupervised. Her physical health was superior, and the only medication she was taking was eye drops. One day, while walking down a hallway, she tumbled, broke her hip and was now in need of surgery.

“Her physician says she will do just fine, so I am not worried, but prayer would be nice.”

“I will pray, ” I said as we hung up.

Instead of rushing right ahead to pray, I began thinking about my grandma and the times we had visited her when I was a child. Scenes from days gone by went through my mind. I recalled how she repeatedly said to me,

“Chrissy, I feel Jesus standing right here next to me.” She would point to her right shoulder, and I would imagine Him standing there. “He is always with me.”

Then, it was as if someone pushed a fast forward button on my memory and a recent conversation with her came to my mind.

“I am ready to go anytime. I don’t need to stay here anymore.”

At this, tears began to fall from my eyes because I was beginning to get the picture.

I hadn’t gotten down on my knees to plead with heaven to spare her. I didn’t pull out scriptures from the Bible requesting that it be done. I simply had paused for a moment, took a breath and decided to let whatever I felt come to me.

I wasn’t so sure I was comfortable with what I was feeling, so I decided to call my brother. When he answered the phone I explained my dilemma.

“I can’t pray for her like mom has asked me to. I feel like she wants to leave.”

“I know, ” he replied. “I feel the same way. She doesn’t want to be here anymore.” We spoke of her age and the full life she had lived.

The two of us had known her as a loving grandma without being fully aware of the hardships she had endured. I hadn’t realized until I was an adult that she had suffered through an unloving, unfaithful marriage. If that was difficult enough, she had raised a bedridden daughter and later watched her die. We just knew her as the one who made the best peanut butter cookies and cherry kool aid.

“I have never had this happen before. Usually, I pray for people and expect the best. I still expect the best, but she might be called to go home.”

“I know,” he said again. With that, I felt reassured that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.

The next day, I completely forgot about the surgery. I got out of bed and went about my day, full speed ahead with an eleven month old and a five year old. Back then, there wasn’t time to think or dwell on anything.

By evening, I had somehow tucked both girls into bed by 9 pm without the usual silly hassle of multiple drinks of water and last minute requests. Already, divine intervention was at work. Quietly, I shut their bedroom door and tiptoed to the kitchen. This is what I used to call “mommy time.”  The house was quiet, and I had a few moments of peace all to myself.

As I entered the kitchen, I found myself in a strange place. It was as if a projector screen was pulled down in front of me. My eyes were wide open as I stood and observed the scene. I was standing at the head of a hospital bed. The white, soft curls were immediately recognizable. It was my grandma. Then it hit me. The surgery was scheduled for 9 pm!

In a whispered tone I heard,

“We cannot stabilize her blood pressure. I don’t know why.”

The whir of the machines was quite audible. It is difficult to put into words what happened next. It felt like a warm blanket was wrapped around me but not just on the external. I felt warm from the inside out. Similar to when you see someone whom you love across a crowded room. As I looked on, I saw my grandma, or her image, float above her body and begin to fly away. I felt myself begin to go with her. Soon, we were out of the building and in the sky. Again, this was all happening like a virtual game going on as I stood in my kitchen, yet I was with her as well. As she flew higher and higher, these words went through my mind,

“Keep writing. Don’t give up. And, take care of your mother for me. ”

As I stood there, I thought,

What is this warm feeling?

“Heaven,” came the reply.

After this, I was able to walk into my living room with the glorious feeling radiating in my being. I began to wonder,

How can she see me? I live in Minnesota. She lives in North Dakota.  The answer swiftly popped into my head.

“It was promised to you when you were a child. She promised to say goodbye to you before she left here.”

I then saw a scene from when I was nine years old. My grandma and I were walking in her backyard looking at trees, flowers and birds. Our talk turned to how life soon is over and becomes death.

She jokingly said,

“Chrissy, I am going to come back and haunt you.” She made these big scary eyes and starting hooting like an owl which made me laugh.

“What if I go first? I will come back for you!”

As we continued on our walk we spoke of God and the afterlife.

“Will you say goodbye to me before you leave?” I asked innocently.

“Yes. If God lets me I will.”

And, it happened. My grandma Hazel, who made me feel so important as a child, came and said farewell before going on to a much better place.

Without warning, I was back in the living room and the warmth had disappeared.  I cried because I knew she was gone.

Shortly after, the phone rang. A family member said he had news for me.

“Grandma is gone,” I said.

“How do you know that? I was calling to tell you.”

“She came and said goodbye to me.”

That night, before bed, a poem came to mind. I can’t help think that she sent it my way. After all, she was a talented writer who never found fame or glory in it, but wrote for the love of it.

I know what she is doing
Now that she’s taken flight
She is standing next to Jesus
Bathed in His glorious light
She’s hugging close the little ones
Who leave the earth too soon
She’s telling them God’s secrets
How He made the sun, the stars, the moon
She is not getting out her china
And setting places so neat
No, she is at the Lord’s table
In her own special reserved seat
She’s living in her mansion
That Jesus went to prepare
I know she has a garden
She’s tending with extra care
Her eyes no longer blurred
She can hear the angels sing
She joins in the chorus
Giving praises to the King
I know that she will be there
Waiting expectantly for me
Her home is heaven
Peaceful eternity.

Seventeen years ago today on January 29, 1998 I experienced my grandma’s goodbye.

Hazel

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