Made to Last

“Was it love at first sight?” She asked. I looked over at him and already knew the answer.

“What?” He asked.

He looked to me for guidance because he couldn’t hear her behind the mask.

“When you met your wife, was it love, at first sight?”

The inquiry was in its processing stage, and then I saw the understanding hit.

“No!” He said as if having to endure it again.

“Really? Why not?” She asked.

He crossed his arms tightly across his chest and said,

“She was a prude!”

“Well, you were no catch either,” I said in her defense, recalling her version of their first meeting. He smiled at me, knowing I was telling the truth.

It was a blind date, set up by friends that were a couple. They thought the two of them were compatible, but it was an act of God because they were from two different planets.

While she grew up in a small town in North Dakota, highly disciplined, he was on the streets of St Paul, causing a whole bunch of mischief. He had learned how to scam people wherever he could just to get a few cents in his pocket.

While still in elementary school, he took a handful of free pamphlets from the church and sought out the homebound elderly in his neighborhood.

“I would sell them. It was a quick way to make money. I had to sit and talk to them sometimes, which was boring. Sometimes I got a cookie, which made it better. But I always got paid.”

He was also in the recycling business. A small store sold pop in bottles which he and his friends would steal. They would drink it and then go in the shop’s back door where the owner would give them change. Then, they would race around to the front and buy candy.

“You could get a lot of penny candy back then.” He always said it like he wore a badge of honor.

He attended Catholic school where nuns were at the ready to whack him across the forehead with a ruler for any infraction. This did not deter him from getting out of line. He and a friend would sneak into the empty church during recess and roll under the seating.

It was on a hill with a dramatic slope from the back to the front.

“We would get on our sides to see who could get to the front first.”

One day, the back door flew open, echoing across the empty sanctuary.

“Who is in here?”

The two boys didn’t move a muscle, hiding under the pews, hoping she didn’t find them. He saw her long, ankle-length dress and heard the swinging of the beads as she went row by row.

“Jackie! Are you in here?”

Out of all the kids, she could name from his class, he was on the radar.

His prayers were answered, and she didn’t find them. And instead of being led by fear, he and his companion continued their daily race. If he could get away with it, he did it.

He graduated with all F’s and was sent into the military.

Meanwhile, my mom was scoring at the genius level on IQ tests and was the valedictorian of her class. She walked the straight and narrow path and lived under her father’s constant verbal and tormenting abuse. She escaped to nursing school in Minnesota, and this is where their two very mismatched worlds collided.

Doctors were in pursuit of her, and she went out on dates quite frequently. The night before her encounter with my dad, a suitor had brought her a corsage that she had pinned on a dress coat; she left it on because the flowers were fresh.

“I had to come down this long staircase,” she had told me. “He was waiting at the bottom.”

When she took the last step, he turned to her, pointed at the corsage, and said sarcastically,

“What do you think we are going to a ball or something?”

That set the tone for the night. She instantly hated him. And to send the message, she crossed her arms and made sure he came nowhere close to her.

“I was getting long-stemmed red roses and gifts from men who already had graduated from medical school. There was one in particular that I thought was going to develop into something more serious.”

I always envisioned the outcome of that. By some chance, what if she had married a wealthy doctor and I had been born into it?

“But your dad and I were a marriage made in heaven.”

And just like that, the pony, the outdoor pool, and everything else I ever wanted would vanish.

An unseen force was pushing them together; they saw each other again and somehow figured it out. While she loved picnics, he abhorred them. She loved to dance, but he didn’t. But she had a way of getting her way.

One night when he refused to dance with her, she accepted the invitation of another man. He had gone to use the restroom, and when he came back, he couldn’t find her. When he saw she was enjoying herself with someone else, that was the last time he said no to dancing.

Later, they found out they had been at the same party at a house before knowing one another. As they talked about it, all the details were the same, but they never saw each other there.

“We were just supposed to be together,” she would always say even when things weren’t perfect.

“We got into a big fight, and I took my engagement ring off right before the wedding,” she told me. “I was done with the whole thing. But then he came and looked so devastated that I forgave him.”

I guess when a divine plan is at work, anything can happen. I had seen her unflinching attitude once her mind was made up. But he somehow had worn down her defenses.

“He kissed me and slid the ring back on my finger.”

There went my mansion on easy street.

I didn’t come into their lives until way after the initial flames had flickered. One child after another had arrived, and I was the last of the six. When my dad wanted my attention and said my name, he would accidentally rattle off all five ahead of me before landing on mine. One morning I woke up to my mom calling in the dog.

“Chris! Stop barking and get in this house!”

“Did you just yell my name out the door?” I asked from my room that was near the kitchen.

This had now gone to a whole other level. She opened my door and looked at me in shock; it was an expression I came to know well as she tried to keep up with so many kids and things to attend to.

Many years later, while I was in high school, I had come home one evening to find him lying on the kitchen floor trying to fix the dishwasher. He had gotten off work early because it was their anniversary, and he had walked into a pool of water.

He could usually repair anything, build what she wanted, and never took a car in for an oil change. He did everything himself. But this was proving to be a challenge.

“We were supposed to go out,” she said when I came in. “He’s been working on this for hours.”

I could tell that the tension in the room was high as his frustration was climbing, and he was hungry.

Much to his dismay, he could not remedy whatever was wrong. This meant he would have to call for someone to help, but it was way past the time to do that. It was a blow to his ego.

Their evening out turned into a pizza delivery, and she got out paper plates. He still seemed annoyed as he mindlessly ate while still trying to figure out why he couldn’t solve the problem.

Suddenly, he came back to reality and remembered this wasn’t a usual weeknight.

“I got you a card,” he said, jumping up to go get it. He came back and handed it to her.

She opened it and started to laugh to the point she had to put it down on the table.

He looked at her like she needed to be committed to the nearest facility.

“Why are you laughing? That card isn’t funny!”

She tried to catch her breath, and once she did, she read it out loud.

“To my dearest wife, on her birthday!” This put her right back over again while he just shook his head and said,

“Dammit! I hate this day!”

She laughed louder. But, I saw him start to relax. For her, it was the perfect anniversary with no dishes to do, no meal to cook, and he had made her smile unexpectedly.

When something is meant to be, God will make it happen for the benefit of both. In Ecclesiastes 4:9 it says:

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: One can help the other up if either of them falls down. NIT)

That was the secret to their success, even if it looked worn out, frazzled, and all-out insane. They used their strengths to help one another’s weaknesses.

My parent’s entire relationship was filled with moments where they had to see the good in the middle of big messes. No matter how bad things got, it was made to last.

(All smiles until all the kids showed up; 68 years later this week)

Right Place

Every church that I have attended had a children’s Bible school. For a week every day, I would drop off my girls so they could learn more about God. This was a long way from how I was brought up, and they actually liked to go. My experience as a child, on the other hand, with anything church related, felt like surgery without anesthesia.

We were attending a pretty large church, and they spared no expense. All week they kept encouraging the kids to bring friends. At the end of every session, they made a point to bring out this gigantic plastic bag filled with paper. The more friends a kid brought, the more entries were put in for a prize.

All week, they continually mentioned that they would be giving away an Apple iPod on the final day. This was one of the very first models on the market in the early 2000s.

They gave away smaller rewards daily with the constant reminder that on Friday, all names that had been put in the bag all week would have the potential to win.

On the evening before the final day, my oldest daughter, who was nine years old, told me she wanted to bring a friend.

“I want to win the iPod.”

I remember thinking, you will have one entry after this whole week, and you think you can win that? Kids were hauling in strangers off the street to walk away with it.

I didn’t say that, but I told her I would ask her friend’s mom if she could come along the next day.

She explained that it was the only thing that had appealed to her, and she didn’t want anything else.

Every day I had sat upstairs in a waiting room reading while they attended. That particular day I decided to sit in the balcony to hear and see what they were being taught.

They were all given coins to go to a make-shift store to buy candy or other fun things. Like I said, my fire and brimstone upbringing was nothing like this Willy Wonka atmosphere.

They dismissed the kids by age. I watched her and her friend leave to spend their pretend money.

The sanctuary began to fill up as the time to end neared. She wasn’t back, which didn’t surprise me because it’s not in her nature to spend what she has been given quickly. She likes to consider and contemplate her choices. And then ponder some more.

“Okay, so we are going to do some other drawings before the big one we have been telling you about. We are going to wait until everyone gets back here for that.”

This massive bag looked like it was holding shredded pieces of paper. It was full of names, and I saw a lot of hopeful faces. They started giving away items working their way up to what all of them were eyeing.

Where are they? Her younger sister and her friend were already seated. I leaned over the railing, trying to see the back door.

I saw the children’s pastor scanning the room, trying to determine if all the kids were back. I looked at the clock, and they should have been done, but apparently, they were still hardcore shopping.

“We are going to do the final prize drawing, and if we call a name and that person isn’t here, we will pick another.” Some kids had already left.

I leaned over more trying to see where she was. What was taking this child so long?

I saw him reach in and pull out the tiniest strip.

I looked at him and back again to the door.

He said her name.

He repeated it. I knew I couldn’t get down the stairs quick enough to grab her. So I tried to get his attention from the balcony so he would know she was still in the building, but he could not see me.

He kept looking at all the faces for hers. Because I helped in the children’s ministry, he knew her and me.

He repeated her name.

You have got to be kidding me! What was she doing? This is why they say we get grey hair.

Suddenly she materialized at the door.

He spoke her name, and I could tell by the look on her face that she was unsure what was happening.

She froze in place like she thought she was in trouble for being late.

Her friend realized the meaning and said,

“He said your name! You won!”

Because she wasn’t moving, the pastor started walking toward her.

“You won the iPod.”

I saw the smile spread across her face as the realization sunk in that she wasn’t going to be rebuked but be rewarded.

Into her hands went the grand prize.

We took it to the store later because we had no idea how to use it. After a quick crash course, she was happily listening to music.

A month later, I took them to the state fair. One of the tv stations was doing a giveaway of another version of the iPod, more of a compact one. When you have two kids, everything has to be even. Or at least that was my philosophy.

This time, I was the only one who could throw an entry in because you had to be over eighteen. I scribbled my information on the pink slip and placed it in this metal tumbler with a large handle. There was a little wait until they were going to make the announcement.

I asked the girls,

“Are we in agreement that it’s ours?”

I was attempting to apply this from the book of Mathew:

When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. (Message)

I was always trying to have them move through life with a simple reliance on God for whatever they wanted.

They said they believed with me for the win.

The canister was spun, and I saw the paper taken out. It was weirdly folded like in accordion style, and I instantly determined by how it looked that it wasn’t mine. Some people think if they shape their entry a certain way, it will make it more susceptible to be plucked up. I folded mine in half, and there was no way it was me.

The lady reading it unraveled it like a scroll and stated that someone from my city had won. What an extraordinary coincidence! I was possibly going to see someone that lived by me.

I said to the girls, “I wonder if I know this person?”

I had mentally abandoned the tiny bit of faith I had moments ago.

When she read my name, I was in absolute shock. I looked at them, and they both lit up.

I handed it right over to my younger daughter. The miracle of winning two of them just weeks apart was a reminder of this in Mark 11:24:

I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. (NLT)

I don’t even know if my prayer counted, but I think theirs did. Someone out of the three of us didn’t waver.

Or, this was true:

I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”(Matthew 17:20, NLT)

Why is it so easy to forget the hand of God at work in our lives? We pray, the answer shows up, and then we go on to worry about the following situation.

In both of these instances, the end result was not life or death, and they were each given something that would brighten their days. So if you are under the impression like I used to be, that God only helps if circumstances are critical, then think again. He handed out two iPods, so what else can be done?

I have found that what we think about ourselves determines the strength of our beliefs. If you feel you are unworthy, then you are. And you will get back according to that mindset. If you think you lack confidence, then you do, and your results will reflect that.

What does God think of you? In Ephesians 2:10 it says,

For we are God’s masterpiece. (NLT)

So if you walked into a museum, your picture would be the most important one in the whole place and super expensive. So if you feel undeserving, that is not God’s view of you. That has been something either put on you by others, or you have taken it upon yourself as accurate. It’s an illusion. And it needs to be healed and changed so your prayer life and relationship with God can excel.

You aren’t supposed to cower and come like a scolded child, hoping that you will be heard.

In Hebrews 4:16 it says:

So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most. (Voice)

Heaven is waiting for you to take on your actual persona. You were created to be a powerful force and vessel that God can operate through to change the world around you for the better of all.

And once you surrender your made-up faulty image for God’s view of you, life will become more enjoyable, you will achieve more, and you will be effortlessly led with perfect timing to the right place.

(The grand prize that is now in her box of memories kept forever…)

Servant

My girls and I decided to go on an evening stroll with a representative from the local historical society. It was advertised as a “ghost” walk, but I was more interested in finding out how some of the landmarks came to be.

Our guide was in vintage attire from the 1940s with a cloche hat and an old-fashioned Halloween print skirt. She had a personality that was a mix of dramatic flair and knowledge like a librarian.

We traipsed through neighborhoods stopping along the way for her to explain the significance of some of the houses and the strange occurrences that had taken place.

One very elaborate home had been built by a colonel who was known for his kindness. The current owner has kept some of his original belongings where he had them, and she has reported that she feels a presence from time to time. One night, she saw the light on in the basement that no one had used, and she went to turn it off. She noticed a strong smell of gas. This prompted a call to the emergency line at the gas company and all occupants evacuated.

A pipe needed repair, and apparently, if it had gone on longer, the house would have blown up with everyone inside.

He also rescued someone who was standing on a chair and began to fall. She said she felt someone hold her up as she was headed for the floor, preventing injury and ensuring a safe landing.

When our fearless leader started to go over the town’s past plague of tornadoes, an unexpected turbo force picked up out of nowhere, throwing leaves and garbage all over the place. It wasn’t lost on any of us in the group that it didn’t seem like a coincidence. We moved on with wind whipping us all in the eyes. And as quick as it came, it went away.

One of the most impressive locations was a home that a married couple had owned. He was a physician who took a streetcar to his office while his wife, Flora, had her practice out of their residence. Only 6 percent of women were doctors in the United States during that time, so her achievement was remarkable. She focused on women’s and children’s health care.

When I stood outside looking up at the second floor, I felt like I was being watched. It wasn’t a bad feeling but just like someone observing. It felt like a lonely person who wanted to talk but couldn’t.

Across the top of the house toward the roof, a banner was displayed when it was open for visitors. Someone had turned it into a store. We were told that those who shopped there often heard footsteps from the upper floor and smelled cigarette smoke when no one was there. It was not the healthiest habit, but in her era, they had no idea of its ill effects.

It sounded like the perfect place for me to go back and see for myself.

The next day my daughter and I returned. The front of the building looked somewhat junked up with merchandise spread all over. For such a majestic entry, nothing was being done to preserve it.

Inside the door, there was the most beautiful spiral staircase. I instantly felt a stifling, closed in feeling as I saw wall-to-wall items for sale. It was advertised as antique offerings but mostly what I saw were handmade items from the present. It felt like I was in a museum that should have been held in high honor, being disrespected, and used to hock trinkets. It felt all wrong to me.

As we made our way around the lower level, the tightness in my chest got stronger. It wasn’t anger but sadness. From the small speaker, the song Like A Bridge Over Troubled Water started to play hauntingly. That song has significance due to seeing my mom transition to heaven over a bridge. So when I hear it, I know I am supposed to pay attention.

I tried to concentrate on finding what remained from the past. Old doorways and windows were still intact amongst the wares being peddled. I looked past the gnomes and the dishcloths to see remnants of a time long ago.

The kitchen was a step back in time with a bell by the window and a pantry. I felt this was the respite where the two doctors came together after a long day at work to finally have a minute of quiet.

I climbed the ornate stairway with it creaking every step of the way. I have always wanted one, and this one was built to pass the test of time.

The upstairs was jam-packed with more items. But I began to picture Flora treating her patients and using her office to keep records. I walked to a far back room just to take a minute to breathe. It was like someone had struck me across the back, and it was an overwhelming sensation of constricted breathing. Not like I was suffocating but as if I was grieving. It was like being in a room with someone who was weary. I got the impression that this lady wasn’t stuck but visiting and not thrilled to see what had been done to the place.

My daughter suddenly felt an extreme coldness next to her. Again, not in a scary way, and just a presence that something was with us, sending out a remorseful feeling that this space once set apart for medicine was now being used for another reason far removed from that.

There was another spiral staircase in this extremely large wrap around. One big circle would have made it so easy for her to go room to room treating ailments and comforting the sick. And she had two ways to return to the first floor if she had to.

I ended up leaving feeling somewhat dejected that it hadn’t been better taken care of so generations would know of her outstanding work within the community. I wanted to hold something in my hand that she had. Like a stethoscope or a thermometer, anything she had touched would be valuable compared to what was being sold.

I looked up her information online to try and get to know her better. She helped spearhead the town’s first public library. No wonder I like her so much. On top of that, she was a published author who had written over two hundred poems plus a couple of books on better health. The fact that she was a leader of a women’s group showed she wasn’t all in it for her own gain. She was determined to make life more meaningful for everyone around her.

It was reported that her mother had died of an illness when she was twelve, moving her to pursue her life’s work. She was going to be a missionary until she met and married her spouse. It seemed her steps weren’t her own, and she walked where God told her to go.

I started to think about what happens to a person’s legacy once they have departed. A woman who dedicated herself to alleviating pain is barely remembered inside her own home. God used her hands to heal, and there was not a scrap of evidence of that.

That is why seeking an eternal reward is more critical than the flaky accolades of this dimension.

In Matthew 6:19-21, it addresses this:

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)

A clearer picture is given in Luke 12:33-34:

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)

In Luke 6:35, another route to gaining what matters is stated,

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great…(ESV)

When the time comes for you to leave here, hopefully, you will know that you joyfully served God to your highest ability, you helped those who needed it, and a heavenly welcome mat will be rolled out with congratulations coming your way as a good and faithful servant.

(Flora did it up big with this entry)
(I did this…maybe they will get it together and remember her more…)

Growing Up

It seems that no matter where I attended church, I always worked with the kids, and I found that I fit in better with them than sitting in the sanctuary with the adults.

I think the reason was because of the spontaneity of the atmosphere. Children are so much more open to the voice of God and aren’t usually afraid to say it out loud. I’m not against listening to someone speak, but I found so much more value in being in a classroom thinking I was the teacher, but really, I would often be the student.

At one time, I was in charge of a class of thirty, four-year-olds. I had one older woman who struggled to walk but would always help where she could and my daughter would come with me.

Every Tuesday, while their moms would go to a Bible study, I would go to work on helping them understand God better. I had them do role-playing, skits, and team-building exercises to expand their awareness of the spiritual side of life. It was always fun to see someone their age acting in the role of an important Biblical figure. I had so many who wanted to be Noah, Moses, or Jesus. I was never short on volunteers.

At the start of the day, I would ask them to tell us what they needed prayer for, so everyone knew what might be troubling their friend. Some would make requests for a new dog or bike, and I put no limitation on it because I wanted them to know that they could ask for anything from God. And many times, by the next week, they would return to tell me that their prayers were being answered.

They did love to have the spotlight.

“Miss Chris, look at my new shoes!”

That statement and others like it led to all of them wanting me to comment on their new shirt, hair cut or whatever else they were proud of. Once that started, it was a chain reaction of them jumping to their feet to gain my attention. Did I say there were 30 of them and one of me?

You would think that there would have been a lot of crowd control or discipline needed with a group of children that big. There wasn’t. I don’t know if it was all the prayers we said together, but they were the most unusually well behaved kids I had ever seen. They always wanted to help, and they actually shared with one another. There wasn’t the tug of war over hot ticket items.

I witnessed a live, in action expression of how life should operate if one is surrendered to God. There was no backbiting, complaining, whining, competition, or hating someone because they were different. None of that existed, and I did not have to put in much effort to make it go so easily. There was no conflict at all, and without the negativity, God showed up all the more.

One day, I had them close their eyes, and I shut off all the lights. This was way off the prescribed plan of what I had been told to teach them. One of the women who ran this ministry of the church had looked in through the door window. She wondered what I was doing, but she said there was so much peace flowing toward her, she let me go ahead.

I had each child become very still and see whatever came to mind. This was with preschoolers, and they did what I said without any hesitation. No one made a sound. Right there, that was a miracle. Afterward, I had them stand up and tell me what they experienced. One boy said,

“Miss Chris! I saw a huge angel standing next to me!”

“You did? That’s great,” I said.

Others had similar experiences, and I told them to go home and continue to practice this.

The following week, the boy’s mom told me that her son had been having nightmares, but they had disappeared after he saw the angel, and he continued to see it. She said his fear of bedtime no longer existed.

While many good outcomes such as this happened with the kids, I had the opportunity to put my faith into action.

I walked into the church office, and one of the other teachers held a tissue to her eyes.

“I might have you take my kids into your room today. My eyes are burning and won’t stop watering.”

I looked at her in total shock. I already had 30 of them! Taking in all of hers would have my number rocking the boat at 50. I decided that wasn’t going to happen. I had a nice little thing going, so I stepped forward and said,

“What is wrong with your eyes?”

“I don’t know. I have tried eye drops, rinsing them with water, but they hurt so much. I can’t see. I am not going to be able to lead my class today.”

Her eyelids were bright red, and tears dripped uncontrollably down each side. She had to keep catching them with the cloth in her hand.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I just followed what I heard in my mind.

“Close your eyes.”

She complied, and more wetness covered her cheeks. I had to close my own eyes as I prayed because her symptoms were stripping down my faith. It looked horrible, and who was I to come along and help her?

I started praying that she was healed. At the end, I opened my eyes, and I snapped my fingers at the center of her forehead while saying, “dry up!”

What was I doing? I would have never thought to do that. Other people were watching us now.

She mopped up her face and blinked.

“They don’t hurt anymore.”

The next few minutes were critical because the moms and kids would be arriving, and she had to decide. I saw her eyes clear, she smiled, looked at me without squinting as she had been, and said,

“It’s gone. “Thank you. It’s all back to normal.”

I was just glad I didn’t have to corral 50 kids.

That all happened during a time where I had just had a 17-year marriage end. I would tell people that I felt like I was jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, waiting to hit the ground. I was in a daily free fall of anxiety, not knowing what would happen to me next.

But, in that, I had been given little ones who showed me who God really was and how I could walk in a quiet place on the inside and see the good happen on the outside. Their childlike faith had strengthened me in my most desperate time, where rejection and abandonment were running high. They demonstrated to me that God would never leave even if people did.

They brought to life this verse in 1 Peter 2:2 that says: As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”

I had been stretched to a place in my spiritual life that I didn’t even know existed. And it continues to this very day. Every step is one more leap than the last.

There is a verse that says not to despise the days of small beginnings. Just when I thought I had something important to impart to those who were so very young, they surprisingly gave it back to me and set me on a lifelong course toward growing up.

(I walk every day..this was on my path the other day…there’s always more to learn from God)

A Mother’s Pledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What smells like lemons?” she asked me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Music To Your Ears

Following my divorce, I was in somewhat of a panic as I job searched. I already had a part-time work from home position, and I was employed at a local school as an after hours helper.  However, due to fear and uncertainty, I felt I needed to find more work.  While scanning through the classifieds, I came across an ad that sounded interesting. No music skills were required, and the employer was seeking someone who would be able to travel to various daycare facilities in my area and hold music classes with kids.

I called the number and spoke to a woman who informed me that they were holding a group interview at one of the childcare locations near my house.

“Could you come tomorrow and observe our lead music teacher and see if this would be something you would enjoy doing?”

“Sure.”

Why not. Back then I would have tamed wild sharks if it meant helping me survive financially.

The next day upon arrival at the location, I was escorted into a classroom where at least ten other adults were standing around waiting to be told what to do. This was at the height of our economic down turn, so jobs were a hot commodity.  Some of them looked rather nervous, but I started to notice the cute kids who seemed to range in age from three to four years old. Some of them who made eye contact with me would wave, smile and say,

“Hi,” like they knew me all their life. I returned the smiles and the waves.

The music teacher came in dragging a suitcase behind her and set up in the front of the room.

“Why don’t we have our visiting friends sit down and join us,” she said motioning us to the floor.  As I sank to my knees, six children raced over to sit in my lap.  This resulted in a moment of pushing and shoving.

“Why don’t you all sit down next to me. That way, we can all see each other,” I suggested. I suddenly had become Mary Poppins without even trying.

The teacher led the class in various songs as she pulled instruments made for preschoolers out of her big bag of tricks.

I joined in with my little tribe as we jumped, twirled and followed all of her instructions. This was the strangest job interview I had ever been apart of, and the most fun. The kids sang and danced as she taught them simple rhythm sounds.

At the end of the class, she handed out stickers to an excited bunch who were so proud to wear them like badges of honor.

For the adults, she handed us pieces of paper and said,

“Now that you have watched a class, if you are interested, return tomorrow at this same time. Read the instructions on the sheet because it will be your turn to teach the kids.”

I went home and found empty toilet paper rolls, filled them with rice, and taped the ends shut to serve as shaker instruments.  I practiced my songs and thought of clever things to say to capture my young audience. By the time I went to bed that night, I knew the job was something I would love to do, however, with the crowd that had showed up for the first part of the interview, I wasn’t so sure I would get it.  I began to question why I had pursued this in the first place.  What had prompted me to do this?

Even with these doubts,  I returned the following day ready to take on my competition. Astonishingly, only three of us came back.  I noticed that as the kids tried to communicate with one potential prospect, she seemed edgy and uncomfortable. Her answers were high pitched and her eye twitched non-stop.

The minute I sat down on the floor to watch the two other candidates show us their best performance, I was once again surrounded by many little ones longing for attention.  When it was my turn, I handed each child a shaker and led them through the various songs.  What was once a quiet and solemn room was now a buzzing energetic atmosphere.  All the children took my lead as we marched, skipped and hopped on one foot around the room.

I received a phone call later that afternoon with a job offer.

“You impressed the teachers,” my new employer said.

“That is nice to hear.  I don’t have any musical talent.  I just did what I thought the kids would like.”

“You were the only one who showed up for the job without any music background.  Everyone else had their music degree except for you.”

“Really?  Why did you hire me if everyone else has experience in this type of thing?”

“We wanted someone that we could train instead of a person who thought they knew it all.  And, you related to the kids the best.”

Within the week, I had an official shirt and my own suitcase stuffed with curriculum, instruments and treats.   I began by traveling three times a week to three different centers to bang instruments together and bring a little joy to the classrooms.  I began to feel like the visiting grandmother as I was always ambushed at the door with excitement when I would show up. I began to notice the reason why this was.  The teachers seemed overworked, stressed out and not very present.  I am not saying they were not good people.  However, the work was long and difficult day after day, and sometimes more than eight hours at a time with a roomful of kids who weren’t always glad to be there.

There were days of brawl like fights and many children who were not obedient.  I noticed a glassy look to some of the teachers and assistants eyes as the days wore on.  When I stepped into the room, this was their time to check out mentally.  I returned home after every session to immediately change and wash my clothing.  Sickness was prevalent and my own immune system got a work out.

Before going into the facilities, I would spend a few moments in my car in the parking lot praying.  I would ask God to accompany me so that every child would feel the love of heaven.  I was not able to speak of anything faith related so this was my only way of injecting it into the situation.  It proved to be working because I was the most popular person to walk through the halls.  Kids would see me and practically fall over themselves to grab me around the kneecaps or to hang off of me like monkeys on a tree.

A few months into this, I was in a classroom with four year olds talking to them about the body’s five senses.   At this age, kids love the idea that they know more than adults.

“What do you do with your ears?  Do you smell with them?” I asked.

“NO!”they yelled back at me.

“Do you touch things with your ears?”

“NO!”

“I bet you guys eat with your ears!”

“NO we don’t!”

“Then what do you do with your ears?”

“We hear with them!”

“Oh!  That’s right.  We hear things with them. What do you hear?”

“My mom tells me she loves me in my ear.”

“My dad says I am good at coloring.”

“I hear dogs bark.”

As they shouted out answers, I made sure that they knew that their responses were the best I had ever heard.

When the excitement began to die down, a little blonde boy with brillant blue eyes said,

“I hear God talking to me with my ears.”

When he said this, the adult workers near him began to laugh, which in turn made all the kids giggle.  I saw him quickly put his head down to look at his lap.  It wasn’t difficult to see the embarrassment and that he was the subject of ridicule at a tender age.

“Hey.  You know what?”  He looked up at me.  “If God is talking to you, then I would keep on listening. That is very important.”

The minute I spoke those words it was like a hush came over the room. The two young teachers now put their heads down as I continued.

“Not everyone would be able to say that, so that is about the most special thing I have heard here today.”

Of course, not to be outdone, others began to shout,

“God talks to me too!”

“Me too!”

I again looked straight at him and said,

“If God is talking to you, then I would keep on listening.  He might have something very good to tell you.”

His little smile beamed.  It was one of the only times that I was able to openly discuss God, but it was a sign to me that nothing can keep the divine from invading a place even if it is forbidden.

As we approach a brand new year, take some quiet time for yourself.  People make resolutions one week and fail them the next.  What I have found is that if I sit down with a pad of paper and make myself available for instruction, words begin to come that bring insight and revelation.  Instead of struggling to figure out what you should do next or how you should solve that problem that seems to persist, give God a crack at it.  You will be surprised at what you will hear.  It could very well be music to your ears.

Colorful Wooden Toy Maracas Frame Stock Photo

 

 

 

 

 

(Image courtesy of Kittikun Atsawintarangkul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Out of Order

The three of us looked on as many approached, saw the sign and backed away. It was clearly written in permanent marker and in no uncertain terms that the machine was out of order.

“It’s not working, ” she said with a dejection that jumpstarts a mother into action.

It had been a simple request for a pack of hard to find cinnamon mints while walking through the mall. The grocery stores and gas stations we frequented did not carry them, but a large glass encased vending machine at the food court offered every color of the rainbow to those who desired fresh breath. Unless the machine was malfunctioning.

Instead of walking away, I began to dig in my wallet for change. Money and the availability of it had become scarce following the divorce. My oldest child saw what I was doing and said,

“Don’t put your money in there. You will lose it.”

I had taught her well. It sounded like my own voice and practical advice that I had doled out on numerous occasions to her and her sister, yet, I persisted in locating another coin. Maybe there was one at the bottom of my purse.

“You are going to lose your money.”

Despite her warnings, I felt I was to ignore what I was seeing and go after the item she had requested. I clutched two quarters in my hand as I watched another person go up, read the sign and leave.

When I made my decision to try it anyway, she kept trying to talk me out of doing something so crazy. Once the coins were in the slots and I pushed them in, I grabbed on to the metal handle.

This is where things got somewhat tricky. The mechanism would not budge so my coins were suspended and not dropping in to allow my candy to be dispensed. I latched on with both hands, gritted my teeth, closed my eyes and put everything I had into turning that knob to the right. I leaned into it. I grunted inwardly.

After a few moments of mother against machine, I heard the soft clinking sound of my two coins falling into other coins. I opened my eyes to see a pack of red hot mints shoot across the room like a machine gun firing a bullet.

“Go get them!” I said as I watched them fly away. I didn’t have any money left to do it again.

As they both raced to retrieve them, I watched as another person walked up to the machine, read the piece of paper and walked away.

I know that I was not operating under my own impulses that day. How do I know? Because during that time of my life I was hanging on by a thread emotionally, physically and financially. Everything in me at all times feared the worst, and I was in survival mode to make sure my two children had what they needed. The divorce had left its scars on all of us, and I was trying to regain some normalcy.   But, to put my money into a machine that was probably going to take what little I had was not what I would have chosen to do.

However, I had this overwhelming thought to do it anyway because someone great was watching over us. Someone besides myself knew and saw the grief, despair and pain my household was enduring. A love greater than what I could hand out to my kids was watching us struggle to find our footing again like new born creatures. Everything seemed uncertain, so to take a chance by sticking my last two quarters into a machine was definitely not an idea generated by my own thinking.

I was being shown that not everything appears as it seems. It was an inward prompting to trust something bigger than myself, and to bring this passage alive: We walk by faith, not by sight.  Two quarters and a pack of elusive mints taught me one of the best lessons of my life.

When the divine is allowed in to bring healing, love and hope, nothing can ever be out of order.

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