Irritant

I had finally escaped the pain that was zipping through my face by falling asleep. Once it started, it would sometimes last for three days before subsiding. When you do everything you can to stop it, and nothing seems to be working, you start to wonder if it will go back to normal.

Acupuncture and chiropractor visits had offset it, but stress was the culprit that had promoted it. Mentally, it was wearing, taunting me to forget everything I knew was true about healing. Even when it subsided, there was this low level fear that it would return without warning.

I had used a TENS unit to send electrical pulses to the area as a way to activate the central nervous system, which can create a temporary respite.

The one thing I learned not to do was increase the intensity quickly. With the pads adhered to the side of my face and down my neck, I had to turn the dial slowly. At the lowest level, nothing could be felt, so I had to move it up until it was tolerable.

There would be this slight pinching feeling that would begin and spread out into a wave. I always felt a tingling on the inside of my cheek.

I found out the hard way that if the dial were accidentally bumped up to the highest level, you would have an impromptu shock therapy session.

Like in a movie where someone is being tortured to cough up the truth, this self-inflicted move will have you become vocal so that every person around you knows that you would be indebted for life if there were a swear jar. The current that shoots into your body could light up a small town.

I felt like someone was watching me as I blinked my eyes. It seemed like my jaw, where it had started, felt better. Maybe I was on the mend, and it followed a pattern, it seemed. Once at this point, from past flare ups, I knew I was probably past the worst of it.

Just as I was about to say this, she appeared above me with something in her hand. Like she had been waiting for me to wake up. I wasn’t quite fully conscious.

“What are you…”

I felt a coldness on my temple as she went to work rolling on some liquid in a glass bottle. I don’t know how this had happened, but somewhere along the way, my daughter had become a holistic medicine person, researching, buying, and applying it to me. Just to see how it went.

I had flashbacks from my childhood when remedies would be forced upon me with no explanation. Ointments, sprays, or yucky tasting liquids, all slathered, spritzed, or presented on a spoon, were given without warning. It was futile to refuse.

“I read that peppermint oil is supposed to help this type of pain.”

She put it across my forehead and on my other temple. I had to close my eyes as the scent was strong like one gigantic after-dinner mint.

“It feels better since I slept,” as she continued to put more on.

I was starting to detect the coolness turning to warmth on my face. Similar to going near a source of heat when you are chilled. At first, it was soothing until the burning started.

I stopped her mid-application.

“Something isn’t okay,” I said.

“What?”

It was going up from mild to scorching rapidly. When I felt drips of it reach both corners of my eyes, I knew that I was going to have to wash some of it off.

“How much of this are you supposed to put on?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should do it differently next time. This is supposed to be good for this type of thing.”

At that moment, I recalled that sometimes less is better. I had to remove the pads and run blindly for a sink without opening my eyes. That was impressive. If I ever had to leave my home in an emergency, I had just proven to myself I could do it without having sight.

The nerve pain in my face was long forgotten as I tried to remember what I had learned in chemistry when hydrochloric acid had spilled and splashed at me. This felt worse.

When you are a part of an experiment not conducted by any scientific means, you run the risk of coming to your own rescue.

Hanging over the sink, I said in between handfuls of water that I was drowning myself in,

“What happened to me waking up in a blissful state? You pounced on me the minute that you saw I was awake!”

She came into the bathroom to check on me. As usual, when she is standing there looking at me, it makes me laugh. I don’t want to, but it’s something about how she looks so bewildered as to why her carefully laid plans have gone astray.

I grabbed a towel to dry off, but I had to plunge back in and continue to try and remove it.

“What is this supposed to do? How was this supposed to help? What did you find online that said this was a good idea?”

I said all this as I choked on all the water in the world I could get.

“It is supposed to relax the nerve.”

“I am not relaxed right now. None of my nerves are at peace right now.”

The next time I used it, I put it on my wrists, as far from my face as I could get it. You can do that, and it will still bring results without incinerating your skin.

Worse than an adverse reaction to a substance is to be forced to deal with a person that has become a nuisance, gotten under your skin, and possibly on your last nerve.

There was an Aunt Sophie vs. my Dad period during my childhood, which was tumultuous. When I was seven, I recall seeing him struggle with dealing with his mom. My grandma had gone through a series of strokes and health issues, so she was considered a vulnerable adult, but back then, it was not viewed as it is today. She lived with her sister, Sophie, who was not the best at taking care of herself, let alone another human being.

People were left to their own devices and the help we have today to deal with these types of situations was not there back then.

He would always get this impatient tone when he had to field a call from Sophie. I noticed that he held the handset far from his ear when she spoke like he was putting as much distance between her lips and his ear as possible.

I could visualize her in my mind. She always had on the brightest shade of red, usually smeared across her front teeth.

His only response strategically placed was,

“Uh, huh.”

She could talk his face off, and he was not one for being on the phone when he wanted to be outside doing a task he considered enjoyable, like building something out of wood. He didn’t want to listen to a woman talk at him. It was never a pleasant exchange.

There always was some upset that he was expected to deal with. I was too young to understand what the pressure exerted on him was, but I saw his blood pressure go up the minute he had to speak to her.

If I came in the kitchen when this was going on, my mom would whisper,

“It’s Sophie. You might want to leave.” She didn’t want me to be subjected to more of his language than I had to be. She knew that he would go off at some point when he had reached his limit.

Her calls were the worst timing when he would finally be free from work, and it was a Saturday where he had no schedule.

“Sophie, stop crying. I can’t understand what you are saying.”

This was usually the opening statement, and it was stated mechanically.

I often stood there looking up at him to see if he would notice me. He rarely did because something had to happen to bring him back once he went into this far-off state. His eyes would glaze over like he wanted to leave his body.

I could hear her shrill voice on the other end. When he took me with him to see her, I asked him later why she chewed gum every time I saw her.

“That’s not gum, Chris. That’s her nerves. She can’t sit still. She is crazy.” And this was the person in charge of his mother.

On one particular day, he was at his wit’s end. My mom had yelled out the front door that he was wanted on the phone.

“Who is it?”

“Sophie. I think something is wrong.”

It was always the same thing to guilt him into coming in.

I could tell the minute he stepped in the house that this wouldn’t go well. I heard a deep sigh as he said,

“Hello?”

For a few brief seconds, it was silent. Then after months, and maybe years of this, the explosion happened. He had been stuffing down his frustration for so long he could not hold it back anymore.

The whole thing ended with him yelling super loud, and he smashed the phone back into the cradle. He stormed back outside. My mom looked at me. I looked at her. It was like someone had pushed his final button.

It was a warm spring day, so all the windows were open. From the garage, we heard him yelp. Like one of those Fred Flintstone shriek’s that seem fake, but this was not.

“What was that?” she asked me. I shrugged. We both looked out the kitchen window to see him coming back, holding onto his hand.

“John, what did you do to yourself?”

Always the nurse ready to get out her bandages and splints.

He held out his thumb, which was quickly becoming double its size.

“I was going to hammer in a nail, and Sophie made me so mad that I hit myself instead. I cannot stand that woman!”

An ice bag was applied to his injury, and the coldness in his heart toward his aunt didn’t improve, especially once he found out that she was stealing funds from my grandma.

He had to learn to tolerate her even though he looked like he was being scraped with sandpaper every time they had to be in the same room together.

He tried his absolute best to follow Proverbs 15:1:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (NIV)

Sometimes that is all you can do. Did he roll his eyes when he would have to see her? Yes, every time. He made sure to look at me and do that. But, he kept his mouth shut and his temper under control. He found out it wasn’t worth getting all bent out of shape or almost breaking his thumb.

He had to learn to limit his time with her to keep his peace. Just like I had to learn how to use the oil sparingly to help my physical pain, we have to do that with people sometimes. And believe it or not, you might be the object of someone’s angst. We all can be.

I have a list of the eight most common emotions hanging on my refrigerator. Each one gives examples of what is felt, such as frustration or resentment associated with anger. But, with each one, another column tells what gift is earned as you work with each one.

So that friend or neighbor who drives you up the wall is building your inner strength, helping you put up boundaries, and allowing you to develop some assertiveness skills.

God can do that, even with the worst irritant.

None

One of the biggest challenges of homeschooling was getting my point across. Even though I am terrible at drawing, if I put an abstract idea on paper and it was visual, this made it easier to conceptualize. For math, I bought manipulatives which included colorful objects used for counting, adding, and subtracting. 

When you home educate, people get the impression that there is no structure. There’s this myth that those who forgo the traditional public school system live off the land, eat grass and leaves and make their clothes out of curtains. 

None of that is true. Or at least in my experience, it wasn’t. 

Instead, our days were filled with trying to master skills that would help them to function in a world that requires legible writing and the ability to read. I generally purchased a curriculum that included a Bible study. 

Elementary school was interesting as the oldest tried to pronounce big words, many times beyond her scope. My daughter would often read aloud and walk around the room with the book. She didn’t have to sit up straight at a desk all day to get her work done. That’s where we diverted from the typical way school was conducted.

“Jesus traveled to Jerjuicesalem.”

“Jerusalem?”

“Ya. Jerjuicesalem.”

“It’s not juice. You drink that. It’s Jerusalem. Say it slower.”

“Jer juice salem.”

“Jerusalem.”

“Can I have some juice?”

“Sure.” 

After a few times of trying to correct her, I figured by the time she was in her teens, it would flow off her tongue naturally. 

In middle school, the other daughter had to grasp the structure of the Catholic Church.

“So a monk is a man who commits his life to God. What do they call women who do the same?”

A quiz was coming up, so I reviewed high points from the weekly readings to help her be prepared. If anything, it would come in handy later in life when she played bar trivia during happy hour while she drank a cocktail. 

I could tell she could not readily think of the answer. Sometimes if I shortened the question, it would surface.

“A man is a monk. What is a woman called?”

“A mink?”

I generally tried not to laugh when a wrong answer was given because I didn’t want them to think I was making fun of them, but I could not help myself. 

She made a quick remark without thinking, like when you take a Rorschach test, you are presented with inkblots and say the first thing that comes to mind. 

“A nun. They give up everything to be with God. The last thing one of them would own would be a mink.”

The other day, we played a game where the word ‘nun’ became the center of attention. The concept is to ask your device a question to get it to say the word you have chosen. I was tempted to ask,

“Alexa, who are women who have consecrated their lives to God in the Catholic Church and don’t buy mink coats?”

As we navigated our way through, we found that it’s how you ask the question that brings the correct answer. 

We labored over the word ‘dimension’ for at least thirty minutes. 

“Alexa, in the opening of The Twilight Zone, what is the speech that Rod Serling gives?”

I watched the blue line go back and forth as she put her thinking cap on to bring me information. I know he says it. She just needed to cooperate. 

She rambled on about the origin of the series and came nowhere near speaking about what I needed to get the points so I could advance. 

We were educated on parallel universes and alternate realities, but she would not say what we longed to hear.

Finally, I had an idea.

“Alexa. What does the D mean in 3D?”

Cue the Jeopardy music as she worked her circuits, trying to figure out something to say.

Holding my breath because I didn’t want to spend another second on this subject, she said, 

“This might answer your question. The D in 3D means dimensional.”

As long as the word is included as a part of the whole, it counts. 

We went on to have another half-hour struggle with the term attitude.

My daughter asked,

“If a person is in a sassy mood, what does that mean?”

“Sassy is defined as impertinent, saucy, or insolent.”

“I know the feeling,” I said as I glanced at the clock approaching 2 am. She was going to say this word! There was no way a machine would control me. Yet, it was.

“Alexa, what does it mean to have a sunny disposition in life?”

“Here is something I found that might help. Having a sunny disposition is being annoyingly happy all the time.”

That’s a life lesson right there. 

“Alexa. What is an outlook on life?”

“Here is something I found on the web. It is the outlook on life that changes the whole life for a person.”

“Alexa, what is gratitude?”

For sure, she had to know that attitude and gratitude went together.

“I don’t know,” she said. 

“Talk about stupid,” I said, now having a bad attitude. “Look what she has done to me.” No one will ever accuse me of having a sunny disposition again. 

“Alexa, what is a mood?”

“Here’s something that might help. A prevailing emotional tone or attitude.” Finally!

The absolute worst was when she would go quiet. I would ask a very straightforward question, and the blue line would look as if it was calculating and then disappear. Just leave me hanging there with nothing in return. That would end my turn because you can only ask one question, and if she does not answer, you move on to the next player. Her silence spoke volumes.  

Because she is superior in intelligence, we must first assume that we inquired wrong or that she was too busy shopping on Amazon to answer. Whatever the case, I felt ignored when she would not answer me. 

I did not consider that she was malfunctioning or had a hardware issue. I was the problem, not her.

A couple of days later, during a moment of quiet, God whispered to me: You do this with people, you know.

What? Do I?

Yes, you do. 

How?

I was brought back to when I was seeing a therapist after my divorce.

“Have you ever read the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship?” she asked me. “Patricia Evans wrote it.”

“No.”

She gave that as an assignment, and I found it right away at a second-hand book store. 

Right in chapter one, there was a checklist to go over to help the reader recognize what this subject entails. It wasn’t light material or pleasant because it exposed what I had been subjected to but also what I had allowed. It was shocking to learn that the silent treatment is a form of wrongdoing. 

How ironic is that? When no words are said, that is considered verbal abuse. It’s a form of manipulation, so the other party maintains control. But, it had been utilized against me in my childhood. If I were going against the powers that be, I would be ignored or shut off until I got back in line. I would scramble to try and make things right to get back to where I felt secure. I had to go out of my way, in fear, to get back into the good graces of those in charge.

It’s an unjust way to get someone to conform. Just like Alexa going dark, the truth is that there is nothing wrong with you; it’s the other way around. 

This damage is subtle but long-lasting. It is like a default in a computer program. When you have had an authority figure treat you like that and get used to living this way for so long and have had others treat you the same, you suddenly become paranoid about having done something to cause a problem where none exists. You take on the blame for things that aren’t yours. 

And you give all your power away to someone who will keep on taking it. Once it is revealed to you, though, God can heal it. 

You will also be shown where you think it exists and it doesn’t. You are hypersensitive to it and seek to correct it just like always. 

I had that happen. I got so busy that I didn’t message someone right away, and they accused me of putting them on ignore. That was not my intention, but I was shown how this was their issue, not mine. They probably were treated just like I was in my past and assumed I was not happy with them, ultimately trying to make them feel bad. I had not done that at all. 

Communication gets tiring. There is something to say for going into reverent silence for days on end. Now I know why there are monks and nuns; it starts to appeal. 

I appreciate that God is so in tune with me that I can be made aware of how to do better, undo false thinking from my past, and move forward into a life free of baggage. 

In Psalm 139:4 it says,

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. (Message)

God is a mind reader; unfortunately, most people are not. (I am working on it, though.) That leaves us no choice but to be the best at expressing ourselves. 

Until I reach a state of higher consciousness that requires only thoughts, I will have to rely on putting words into sentences that make sense, figure out where I am a mess and need correction, and try to bring no harm to none. 

(Never to be confused with a mink)
(It’s not as easy as it looks…)

Revenge

One of the best environments to perfect your conflict resolution skills is in the presence of children who all want to play with the same toy. This was a daily occurrence in the daycare I operated out of my home.

“I had it first,” one would say.

“No! I did!”

I always hoped that the two parties would sort it out without my intervention, but those wishes never came true.

I usually had to pull two kids off of each other, with one clutching onto the highly sought after item for dear life.

An orange plastic spatula from the kitchen set could suddenly be the hot commodity of the day for no reason. And in the heat of the battle, a weapon to ward off the competition. It was anyone’s guess what would be next. It was like an invisible wheel was spun, and without warning, a fight broke out over the dark blue crayon because someone wanted to color a picture of the sky.

“What about light blue?” I would ask.

“No! I want that one!”

You can’t interfere with the vision of a budding artist.

These brawls could escalate fast and turn physical quickly. The worst offense was when someone would make the poor decision to bite someone else.

None of the behavior was acceptable, and I knew I was training these people for their futures. I didn’t want anyone going into a business meeting at thirty and sinking their teeth into their employer or coworkers.

This is where I had to teach them how to get along in the world and deal with other people without drawing blood.

Molly, the oldest of the group, introduced me to this way of handling her emotions. She had no problem chomping into her brother’s nearby arm. And usually, it was when I wasn’t looking she would do so.

The next thing I knew, he would be running toward me, mouth wide open, face contorted and making no sound until he exhaled. On that output of oxygen, I knew that an ear-shattering sound was about to erupt.

He would throw himself at me, and in between sobs, he would say,

“She bit me!”

I knew who the vampire was that he referred to without even asking. I would console him and ask where she had struck. Generally, it was his hand or arm, but she would go for his cheek below his eye on occasion.

“Molly. Why did you bite your brother?”

Now I had to be like Solomon and decide what punishment to hand out. If it were determined she had tried to wrestle something out of his hands and used her teeth to get it, she would be sent to a remote location where I could still see her and hear her but give her time to think.

She usually stormed off, highly irritated that I wouldn’t see her side of things even though she had assaulted him. I knew my judgment was fair, with the other kids testifying against her and an established pattern.

My oldest daughter never engaged in such combativeness. She generally tried to negotiate her way out of situations through reason. If something upset her, she would use her verbal skills to convey the injustice, and if she was in the wrong, I didn’t automatically give in just because I was her mom. I made her learn just like the rest of them.

She minded her own business most of the time until one of them would disrupt her peace. She was good at saying “no” very emphatically when the occasion called for it, and she never took something away from someone else. It was as if she knew the feeling of having that happen, so she never did that.

“She bit me, Miss Chris!” I heard Molly say.

I was helping another child get dressed for the day.

“Who?” I asked.

When she said my daughter’s name, I was shocked. Molly pulled up beside me and showed me the mark on her arm.

Great, it was spreading like a virus now.

When I questioned my daughter, she didn’t deny it.

“She hit me, so I bit her.”

The advantage of being at home made it possible for me to send her upstairs and know she would be safe.

Molly acted like she was on her death bed as I looked at the tiny indentation.

“Why do you think she did this?”

“I dunno.” The nervous shifting and hair twirling. Clear signs that Molly was not an innocent bystander.

When I asked later what happened, my daughter confessed that when Molly tried to grab what was in her hand, she fought to keep it. Then Molly slapped her, and my daughter then did what she knew was not right.

“Come and get me next time,” I said.

“I don’t like it when she bites her brother.”

“Then you shouldn’t do that.”

I was concerned that once this started, maybe it wouldn’t be stopped, and all of them would be snarling like rabid dogs.

I took my daughter to a store and made her pick out something to give to Molly to make amends with the promise never to do it again.

That was the easy part. The problematic portion was the “I am sorry.” On some level, my daughter felt like Molly deserved the pain inflicted on her. And secretly, so did I. But, we had to do the right thing, and that’s not always fun.

I just wanted everyone’s teeth kept to themselves, and it seemed to disappear after that when the olive branch was extended.

While that seemed to be over, my youngest daughter would apologize when I prompted her, but its sincerity was questionable.

“You need to tell your sister that you are sorry.”

She had excellent enunciation skills until that moment. This child was advanced on all levels. She was up and running at nine months old and speaking so clearly in complete sentences like she had already been to preschool when she hit a year.

So when it came to apologizing, and she slurred her words, that was a slight hint that she was faking it. She threw a “w” in where one should not have been.

“I am sorry” got changed to “sworrie” with no pronoun. She thought it was good enough as she would say it and then run off before I could stop her. It was the least amount of effort to get out from the line of fire. I would often return her to the crime scene, wrestle with her to have her stand still, and have her repeat after me.

The two of them can be competitive. Board games and cards have always been grudge matches where they often go after one another while I sit back and watch the carnage. Many times I end up winning as an observer, like Switzerland.

When we played Sorry! they never could gently land on the other player’s space and put them back at home. It was a trouncing on that piece with it flying across the room and the yelling of “sorry, not sorry!”

They did this through every single game to each other. Back and forth with a vengeance, they would roll, slide and knock each other off. If one of them didn’t notice that the other had invaded their spot, silence would hang in the air until the opponent was fully aware that they were about to be sent back to start. An innocent pawn would be removed with a flick of a wrist, making someone’s blood boil.

Like what you witness daily while in your car when you see a vehicle cut someone off.

Or like the other day when I was waiting in a long line at a store and this lady who was talking on her phone, totally oblivious to the world going on around her, walked in front of me to go next. I would have stayed quiet, but I had to be somewhere.

When I told her the line was behind me, she snapped at me as if I were the problem and then returned to her call. You can’t help some people.

Not too long ago, just before a holiday when the store was bursting at the seams with people, I was in another line in the same situation, and a man with a cart full of items materialized in front of me with a lot of people waiting.

“There’s a line behind me,” I said.

He spun around, and I thought it would be the usual apology, but instead, he said condescendingly,

“Just relax!”

And he didn’t move.

“I am relaxed,” I said. “I’m letting you know that the line is behind me.”

Again he said,

“Relax!”

He held out the last sound like a hiss and proceeded to take the next available register while the rest of us stood around longer.

How do we possibly live here with such horrible people? I’m asking for a friend.

It is not easy to coexist with others who seem to go out of their way to run others over. The only way I can cope with it at times is to tell myself I won’t ever see them again, hopefully. Apparently, we are to take it one step farther according to 1 Thessalonians 5:15,

Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. (NIV)

Easier said than done, but it doesn’t cause you damage in the long run.

To carry the offense is to drag along baggage that weighs you down and changes your outlook on life. Soon, it becomes a habit to find something wrong with everything and everybody because now you have formed a negative attitude.

So what are you supposed to do instead? 1 Peter 3:9 says this,

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (NIV)

In the tension of the moment, or after years of putting up with bad behavior, it is tempting to want to lash out and return with a nasty remark, but what does that accomplish in the long run? It’s a temporary high that creates more darkness.

I have found that most of my spiritual growth has come when I have had to control my responses and let God take over. It doesn’t mean denying how I feel, but when I am not doing the talking, all the right words seem to pour out, and the situation gets diffused. It’s like a game of tug of war where someone drops the rope, and it ends it.

God, the one I know, is described as omnipotent and benevolent. Meaning, the best outcome will happen if you allow divine intervention and the putting aside of your way. That will always win over revenge.

(Are you really sorry? I don’t think so..)
(Try and stay out of it..)

To the Letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I looked at her and said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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