Succeed

I don’t know how the thoughts started, but they were relentless. I had difficulty concentrating in school, and the only way to describe it was like living underwater. I still managed to get all of my work done, and my classes passed, but it was a challenge to overcome this dark voice that constantly told me to end it. 

I recall listening to one of my friends speak to me in a hallway, and while it appeared I was listening, my mind was a million miles away. I could go through the motions of pretending all was well, but it wasn’t. I couldn’t exactly figure out why it had suddenly come out of nowhere, but now I see it was years of hiding who I was and trying to conform to what was expected.

I had to get perfect grades because I lived with a perfectionist. On the one hand, she would tell me to do my best, but then if I came home with less than an A, she would ask me why I hadn’t achieved that—residing in a home with someone like that makes for instability.

I never knew when I would hit the right mark to make her pleased with me. I knew for sure when she was unhappy, which was a lot of the time because I was not exactly one not to fight the system.  

Her way of parenting was control, and I was her subject. She didn’t take into account how I felt about most things. There was a house to clean, food to buy, kids to cart all over for various activities, and that did not leave time for her to sit down and interact with me. She had a list of chores to get done, and a lot of the time, I felt like I was one of them. 

These thoughts became more prevalent and would be right with me in the morning when I would wake up. It was like having a person around nagging me and giving me reasons why I should execute it.  

It would have been the classic case of a straight-A student suddenly snapping and taking her life. Every time I hear of this happening, it isn’t a surprise to me like it seems to be to others. When you are under that much pressure not to make any mistakes, and it has been years of it, it eventually becomes like a volcano. Issues are going on under the surface that no one knows. 

There was a gigantic disconnection between what I was showing on the outside and what really was going on inside. All of her insistence of me attending every single church service with her was not working its magic like she thought it was. I recall that I defiantly refused to leave the house with her one time. My dad was gone on a fishing trip, and she expected me to go to mass with her.

“I am going to go start the car,” she said.

“You go right ahead,” I said.  

“Hurry up. You are going to be late.”

“I am not going.”

You would have thought I said I murdered someone.  

“Oh, yes, you are.”

“No. No, I am not.”

“Okay,” she said, trying to use reverse psychology on me. “I guess I will just go without you.”

I was never so happy to hear her say it. I went to my room and decided to enjoy the peace. It was rare to be alone, and I wanted to be.

“Christine Ann..”

Oh, here it was.

“You get yourself in that car right this minute!”

And, as usual, I dragged myself to the vehicle and sat silent the whole time while she talked about how great it was to go to church.  

Was she out of touch with reality? Yes. Often, she was because she had a filter through which she saw life.

I didn’t know this until a lot later, but her dad’s sexual abuse of her affected my entire upbringing. She had cut herself off emotionally from all people. While many were drawn to her for her wisdom and immense problem solving, she was not one to be invested in feeling what others felt. It was a mixed bag of spiritual insight, but she kept everyone at arm’s length.  

And, after years of that with me, I had come to a place where it was all breaking down. One day, I was walking past her as she was ironing.  

“How was school?”

“Fine,” the typical response just to get it over with. 

“Are you starving yourself? What have you been eating?”

When she spoke to me, I was taught that I was to stop what I was doing and engage. But, it was the last thing I wanted to do.

“I don’t think you are eating. Is this true?”

She was now on to me. I had subtly been using that as a way to self-destruct.  

“Yes,” I admitted.  

“Why are you doing that?”

I decided to tell her what my thoughts had been. She started checking on me more often and made sure that I was eating. She would put food on a plate and stand over me while I ate it, so I had no choice. 

That’s what most people do. They don’t look inward to solve the problems, and everything externally is exhausted to bring relief. She saw her daughter exhibiting a particular behavior, but she missed the point of what was at the root of it. 

We quickly judge people’s outward behavior but miss what is driving the real issues.

If you see someone doing something that you know will destroy them in the long run, that’s a sign that something on the inside is not okay. Sometimes, God will call you to help them, and other times you aren’t the one. 

Many years later, I continued to conceal my emotions. I recall filling out a lengthy intake form for therapy, and at the end of it, I heard in my mind,

Go back to page eight. You lied.

When I flipped back to that spot, I realized I had answered no to some questions that clearly should have been yes regarding some of the things I had endured. I had gotten so good at denying it, I believed my lies. I had been trained to do that. To cover up the truth and soldier on. 

In my case, the complete healing of the wounds inflicted by her didn’t come until after her death. During her transition, I was able to see where she was, what she was experiencing, and she told me everything. In the beginning of being in heaven, she started making amends.

I watched her walk into eternity for many days over a long bridge before she was fully there on May 28th, 2019. 

On June 2, 2019, she told me this:

On that bridge, I saw every place where I missed the mark. And I couldn’t fix it, but I asked God to fix it. There is nothing that can’t be fixed by the hand of God. I couldn’t go on and rest if I left such pain behind. I wish more people knew that. Every word. Every action. No one is perfect. Perfection is only obtained after you walk through the gates. And, yes, there are gates. They aren’t pearly. Just beautiful ornate gates that are open wide. I got to walk right through!

Not one time did she tell me she experienced remorse, but she was shown where she chose herself at the expense of others. But, this didn’t keep her out of heaven. That is how loving God is.  

She went on to tell me this:

I see how people fit into my life. It was all God’s plan. It was a beautiful work of art that I didn’t always understand. I tried to control the brush in the painter’s hand. That was a losing battle. He had such a good life for me, and I always didn’t see it that way. How I wish I could take back those days of storming around acting so nuts. I lost my mind, Chris. All the junk I thought was so important was not at all. I saw Jesus hold all of that in His hand and blow it away like pieces of tiny dust. That’s how important it was.

In another conversation with me, she stated regarding the fallout of her abuse and never dealing with it,

I became tough on the exterior to show the world that I would never put up with anyone treating terrible me again. It’s so regrettable I did that. The fullness of my life got squashed down. And I squashed down others in the process.  

When I told her I wished we could have a do-over, she said,

I know. But I am now. So this is why you are here with me. God saw that you always wanted a real mom. Your prayers have come before God, and I can do it. I am not on earth, but I am a new creation here. Isn’t that exciting to know you can be changed? 

Revelation 21:3-5 says,

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.” (Message)

My understanding of what happens in the afterlife has been changed. I never knew that those who had gone on would be given a chance to continue to help us. It’s not to earn an award or ascend higher. It’s the goodness of God who has created an eternal bond between you and others. The most amazing part of all of this for me is that even someone who might have been an obstacle to your growth while they were here, can now be used to help you along your path.

This isn’t something you can purchase online or do externally. This is all work that comes from a place that is unseen and from a spiritual standpoint. There will be signs and people put on your path if you start to pay attention. All of this will point you into fulfilling your purpose on earth as heaven wants to see you succeed.

(Even the word ‘feelings’ is hiding itself.. don’t do that..it’s not good)

Be Awake

“Mom?”

“What?” I answered.

“Mom?”

“What?”

“Mom?”

“What! What do you want?”

“Mom!”

I realized she couldn’t hear me. I thought I was responding, but I wasn’t.

I could hear her voice, but I was trapped, unable to move or make my vocal cords function.

I was answering from a deep state of sleep paralysis where my body was completely nonfunctional, but my sense of hearing and mind was wide awake. I tried again to answer, but nothing happened.

I had never had this happen before, and I started to panic, wondering if I would snap out of it.

I wanted so desperately to be able to move, but I couldn’t. And the more I tried, the more stuck I seemed to be.

The closest I had ever come to something like this so horrifying was when I fell asleep once with my left hand in the air.

For some reason, I had put my elbow down on the mattress, and my hand was up. I don’t know why I had fallen asleep in that position, but in the middle of the night, it fell right into my face. I opened my eyes and thought someone had broken into my house from a graveyard and slapped me with a cold hand of death. I don’t know what would be more troubling. An actual intruder or a zombie. I assumed it wasn’t mine because I didn’t feel myself doing it.

I went to sit up to defend myself, and my arm slid lifeless to the side. Great! I was at a disadvantage to fight this invisible enemy who had stolen into my bedroom in the dark of night.

I woke up more, stared straight ahead, and figured out I was the only person in the room. That was a relief, but now I had to compensate by moving and transferring a body part that was sound asleep.

I have also awakened to having both arms exactly how that one was. You don’t realize how much you use your appendages for leverage first thing in the morning until they lay unmoving. The only thing you can do is flip and use your legs to get into a sitting position. You feel so accomplished until all the blood starts circulating again and the tingling starts to take over, causing pain. Having no feeling didn’t seem so bad after all.

“Mom!”

I don’t know where I got the willpower to overcome the prison where my body kept me. I was so overly tired that it had shut down and wasn’t about to let me open my eyes and have a conversation with someone. By the time I broke free, I had sat up quickly and was out of breath as if I had been underwater for longer than I should have been.

“What?” I finally said, sucking in as much oxygen as I could.

Against my better judgment, I flicked on my light switch. Now I had taken away my ability to see, but I was fully conscious, so that is all that mattered.

“I heard a loud explosion.”

It went without saying that I hadn’t.

“Where?”

“Outside.”

“How far away?”

“I don’t know.”

As long as the house wasn’t hit and there wasn’t a crater in the front yard, all was well.

“It was so loud. The house shook.”

I wouldn’t know.

“It was so scary.”

Both of us then realized how far gone I had been, what an odd sensation to want to talk and be aware of someone’s presence but not be able to say a word.

The next day it was reported that a meteor had passed by, breaking the sound barrier. How often had I said that even a bomb going off wouldn’t wake me when I was so depleted of energy?

Recently, this phenomenon happened to me again.

I could hear her yelling,

“Hello! Hello! Hello!”

I thought I was still awake, but I wasn’t. The sound of her voice was faded. This time on some level, I recognized that I wasn’t going to be able to communicate, so I chose to remain nonresistant. I let myself stay stationary until I opened my eyes.

Of course, she had taken that opportunity to shoot a video with her phone of me fast asleep while she was repeatedly trying to get me to respond. She had made a loud noise, told her sister she should run the vacuum cleaner, and started shouting ‘hello’ over and over.

When I opened my eyes, I started laughing, and I couldn’t stop for some reason. It wasn’t the same way I had felt the last time it had happened.

“I was starting to get worried,” said the younger daughter, who was not filming me. “You were not moving at all.”

I have met people who have walked through life like that in a half-sleep state where the world is going on around them, but nothing of eternal value is being accomplished. They are going through the motions. The lights are on, but no one is home.

Looking into a mirror has revealed a truth that I cannot deny. You put on a smile, say all the right words to get yourself out of conflict, and you feel nothing. Your goal becomes blending in and looking like everyone else, so you don’t stand out.

The first time I walked into the storage facility my daughter rented a unit from, I was amazed at how everything looked the same. The multiple rows of garage-type doors and the gleaming bright white floors, and the buzzing of fluorescent lights overhead all in the same order.

Locked up in each one are memories, outdoor equipment, stolen merchandise, and important documents. And you try really hard not to recall that one episode of Dateline where they unlocked one and..forget it.

“What is your number?” I asked. She took out a piece of paper and told me. Without that, we would have wandered for days, not knowing where to go.

It felt like being in a maze where each row was the same as before, and it would be easy to get lost with no direction.

When we got to hers, she had to look again to know what the lock combination was so we could open the door.

God has the answer for escaping your self-prescribed, small way of living. Just like my body going numb from being cut off from the blood supply, you can live in that state for a while and be content with it. But you have to be willing to change. You have to fight to get yourself out of a bed built on a false identity.

The opportunity will present itself where you can either be free or keep doing the same things that only lead to your withering away. If it makes you uncomfortable and it seems impossible, that is just your spiritual circulation kicking in. On the other side of that is liberty.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:5-7, there’s a reminder of this:

You’re sons of Light, daughters of Day. We live under wide open skies and know where we stand. So let’s not sleepwalk through life like those others. Let’s keep our eyes open and be smart. (Message)

You can settle for taking a passive approach to life where God constantly gives you nudges to do something that is not your usual, but you ignore it. You choose to hit the snooze button.

You have to come to the understanding that you weren’t put on earth to look only to serve yourself. Doing the same thing with no new results will only lead to self-destruction. Where there isn’t growth, there is eventual death in some way, shape, or form. You deny yourself and the world your gifts and talents.

A sobering fact is that along with keeping your eyes stubbornly slammed shut, you pass up on the chance to help others who need you to be awake.

(What lies hidden behind all these locked doors?)

Welcome Everyone In

I ended up in the second row of seats. It wasn’t the plan as I rode along with my dad and sister. She was at the permit stage of obtaining her license.

Because there were eight of us, my parents owned a station wagon. This was before any of us buckled a seatbelt. They hung unused as we flew at high speeds down highways, never thinking.

I would often play in the car because it was somewhere I could be by myself, out of the chaotic house of all the uproar. The far back was my favorite. It was designed with benches facing each other in a circle, much different than the middle and front.

When it was parked in the garage, I would bring in toys and entertain myself away from the tension of parents and four teens. I was so much younger than the rest of them that I had to separate myself from the noise I didn’t understand.

My brothers were often assigned to sit there when we went somewhere, so I did when I got the chance to have it to myself.

My dad had handed me a pack of MMs just before we got in to go on this drive from hell.

If he had to pick something up on the way home, he would get me some and slide them into his pocket. When he walked in the door, he would put me on top of the refrigerator and ask me if I had been good. It was like a truth serum because it was high up, and I was at his mercy to get me down. I always said I was, so he would secretly hand me the packet so my mom didn’t see.

When I found out he was going out on a drive with her, I begged to go and sat way in the back.

I wasn’t aware of the fact that in her driver’s education classes, she had been exposed to so many scenes of accidents and life-threatening situations, which caused her to be extra jumpy with the brake.

And like I found out later when it was my turn to practice with him, he wasn’t exactly the voice of calm. He could make the most seasoned driver nervous before starting the car.

We had barely left home when it happened. There was a truck turning at a distance. I heard my dad tell her to go, but she stopped abruptly, sending me forward. I smacked into the back of the front seat with a thud. I landed, and I didn’t know how I had been displaced so fast.

This was way before all the commercials showing the crash dummies and the consequences of not being strapped in.

I recall sitting on the floor, dazed, much similar to when a bird flies into a window. You are there, but you aren’t.

His raised voice brought me back around.

“That truck was two blocks away! When I say go, go!”

Both of them were so focused on the road that a few moments went by.

When it got quiet, he suddenly realized he had another child in the car, and I was no longer where I had been. He looked down and said,

“Chris, you can’t sit there! Get up on the seat.” As if that was safer.

Not, “Hey, are you okay?” That speaks volumes to what our life was like then, where every man had to look out for themselves. There wasn’t time for me to be flying forward out of control in a car. It wasn’t convenient.

He said it like I had chosen this for fun. When the realization hit me that my candy had also been a victim, that is when I got upset. Not that I could have gone through the windshield headfirst, but that I was holding an empty bag in my hand. I had no idea the danger I had been in.

That wasn’t the only time I was a passenger and subjected to a scary ride. A part of my social service job was to visit potential residents in their homes, other care facilities, or hospitals. I had a waiting list a million miles long. Legislation had been passed that no more nursing homes could be built in our state. Many needed long-term care, so we were never short of possible cases.

This was before the luxury of speaking into a device that would direct you to your destination. It entailed getting on the phone and having someone give you directions that you had to write down.

“So take a left by the restaurant that is operated by my friend’s brother’s sister’s cousin. Then, take a right by the gravel road, come to a stop sign, and then go about two inches before you run right into a gas station that got robbed last week and take an immediate left. Continue straight until you see a white picket fence that needs a fresh coat, and then there will be this huge sign that you cannot miss. The entryway will be right there. But, you can’t park there, so you will have to drive around to the back, and there is this small section where visitors can park, or you will be towed. Does that make sense?”

Sure, it does. And you drove with a piece of paper in your hand with things scribbled on it that made sense when you wrote them, but now they are not readable.

It was madness, and if I was unfamiliar with an area, I could easily get lost. I struggle with getting left and right correct at times. Throw in a snowstorm, then that was a whole other variable to contend with.

I had to work closely with nursing. While I assessed the person’s personality, they determined how much care we would provide. Depending on where the opening was, we had to match the resident to the proper location in the building.

“I am ready to go,” she said, entering my office.

“Okay,” I said, not knowing much about her. She was a new hire, much older than I was, but she seemed very knowledgeable about her profession. This was her first time going on a visit like this, and her supervisor knew I had gone on many of them and would be able to help her.

“I will drive,” she said.

“Do you have directions?” I asked.

“Yes. I wrote them down. You can help me get there.”

I didn’t notice her edginess at first, but then I did detect her breathing seemed a bit more rapid. I kept my eyes on the road as we had started to get into more heavy traffic. While we had been discussing the details of the family we were about to see, she had seemed relaxed, but as we went, she suddenly got quieter.

That is when she started applying the brake too much. There wasn’t any reason to do what she was doing, so I said,

“Are you having trouble driving?”

Cars were going around her, and I could see that people were getting annoyed with her sudden stops.

“I have a trigger leg,” she said with a choke.

I have this weird thing where I see pictures when people say certain words in my mind. I pictured the horse Trigger.

“What?” I asked. “I don’t understand.”

“When I drive, and I get scared, I can’t control my leg.”

I looked down.

“Which one are we talking about?” I asked. I was hoping to God it was not the one she used to drive.

“The one I drive with.” I saw her hands gripped tighter on the wheel, and her forehead looked sweaty.

“I think we are okay. There isn’t anything to be afraid of right now.”

I said this as if I believed it. I was not frightened by the other cars around her, but more so by her behavior.

“Why didn’t you tell me this? I could have done the driving,” I said, feeling trapped in. I controlled my voice so she didn’t know how terrified I was.

“It embarrasses me to tell people,” she said awkwardly.

It got more pronounced with my neck being jolted forward and back, and I was starting to feel sick. I would have to be admitted to the hospital for whiplash by the time we arrived.

I had that familiar feeling of something else taking over and speaking through me to her. The more I told her she was safe, she seemed to stop doing what she said was so uncontrollable. A peace seemed to take over the car, and she quit repeatedly pushing on the brake.

When she parked the car, she told me that she had never been able to get it under control like that before. After our appointment, she asked me if I wanted to drive.

“No,” I said, not believing I was going to let her take me on another ride. “I think you will do just fine.”

It was now rush hour, and she had no problem getting us back without one hiccup or trigger or anything.

In both cases, I was unknowingly in places with the potential for bad outcomes, but it seems like I had been given some heavenly help to protect from injury or death. I was not where I am spiritually now. I was not even giving God the time of day during those periods of my life. But, I was extended what is described in Psalm 34:7,

The messenger of the Eternal God surrounds everyone who walks with Him and is always there to protect us and rescue us. (VOICE)

That says to me that God looks beyond our faults or ignorance and is not a fire and brimstone deity that has been professed by those who don’t know the truth.

The other day, I saw a man standing by the gates of heaven as he waited for someone to cross over. A lady was in hospice and expected to pass soon. She did that night.

I saw him waiting with a big bouquet of flowers that took both hands to hold. I told her daughter this as she was afraid of the process and felt as if her mom would be alone. There was uncertainty about the afterlife and what to expect. Would she be accepted into heaven?

The flowers represented how much he loved this one about to transition. I saw some specific details of this man who resembled a relative that had passed on. When I don’t personally know the family, I feel like I am shooting in the dark, but it was suspected he was a person the dying woman had been very close to by the way I described him. I was able to comfort the daughter, who was feeling uncertain. That is how God works. Even at the point of leaving this world, we are cared for.

Every time I have seen heaven, the gates are never closed. He doesn’t want to shut us out but longs to welcome everyone in.

Dark Days of Debt

“I need to transfer a balance,” I said.

“Okay, Christine, we can help you with that. I just need to collect some information from you.”

It was the usual rundown of my work history, wages, and place of employment.

“We will have to check your credit report to see what that is. Can I put you on hold?”

“Yes,” I said.

It had been eight long years of feeling the burden of this crushing my spirit. I had transferred the balance more than a few times, and luckily, I had been able to.

I had found myself owing $10,000 because a situation went sour. Decisions were made that didn’t turn out as planned, and I was swamped under what seemed like a giant. I had never had this happen before, and it won’t again, but I learned a few things.

At one point in this financial desert, God told me to give money to a person who needed it. While everything in me screamed no, I did it anyway. After doing so, I had unexpected money come my way, and in a matter of months, I had cut my amount down to $5000.

After that, I stopped believing I could get out from under it. I blamed myself for not being smarter and denied myself many things as punishment. I reasoned inwardly that I would go without anything new for myself if I had money to pay toward offsetting the monster.

Not that I ever spent money like water anyway, but I went down this very depressing path, believing money and I were at odds. My messed up beliefs drew in more pain and self-inflicted whippings to ensure I knew how stupid I was. The more I embraced this, the easier it was to let a poverty mentality take over.

I had become my own mob boss, making threats and degrading myself. I didn’t know this,

If they obey and serve him, they will have a good, long life on easy street. (Job 36:11/Message)

I felt that God could trust other people with finances but not me. Yet, I had an outstanding credit score after coming through a difficult divorce. I had forgotten how much God had shown up for me during that time.

I let the idea that I put myself into trouble at my own doing, so I had to get myself out of it. I didn’t expect heaven to take pity on me and send out a rescue team. I needed to be taught a lesson.

It was always there breathing down my neck, the clock running out on another balance transfer. I had managed to keep the amount low until my water heater went out. I had gotten the total down to under $5000 by making minimum payments, but then it went up to $8000 overnight.

I had no savings because every dime went for bills and food. If I had wanted clothes, I would have talked myself out of it because I wasn’t as crucial as that credit card payment. It was ruling over my life like an evil Queen.

“It looks like you are approved,” she said, coming back on the line.

“This is the last time I’m doing this,” I said.

She laughed like I was crazy.

“No. I have moved this money since 2013. This is it. I’m not doing it again.”

“Your card should arrive in 7-10 business days.”

“Okay. My goal is to pay this off and never use the card.”

“Good luck to you, Christine. I’m glad we could help you.” She couldn’t get rid of me quick enough because I was talking nonsense. She had probably heard people say this a million times.

I meant it. I decided that would be the last time I would ever do that. I was starting to wake up to the notion that I was using it as a crutch instead of paying it off. It was an easy way out until the time expired. It doesn’t take any faith to play the game that way. You put it off and put it off year after year. Like a good victim of misfortune.

I had never paid interest, but I had fees on a few of the transfers, which just increased the problem. I was done living like this after all that time. It was January of 2020. I made up my mind that even if I had to leave it at the end of the promotional year, and pay interest, I would.

I was not moving it again. Ever.

I had been given a journal that I found in my room in August. I started writing this every day: I am living a happy, fulfilling, all-expense paid life, fully funded by God.

Those words had dropped into my mind, and they were easy to remember. I then would ask myself: How am I happy? How am I fulfilled? How is God funding my life?

After writing the short affirmation, I would go through and answer those every day. I wrote down what I had left as a balance: $4,229.00. That was August 28th. Then as I made payments, I would write the amount I paid and the total left. On November 4, 2020, I paid it off. I had done what I told myself was impossible for eight years in three months.

I could breathe again. It had felt like a chokehold on me for many days and nights. Once I decided not to settle, the money came so I could free myself. It was like thinking I had a padlock on my arms and legs when really, it was a loose rope that I was able to slip out of.

As I go back and read what I wrote during that time, I see that I thanked God for every small thing, and I put down on paper what I wanted even if it hadn’t happened yet. This is what last year’s entry looked like:

December 8,2020
How am I fulfilled? I can be myself, do what I want, and live free with God by my side. I know that He is helping me with all things.

How is God funding my all-expense paid life? I am happily paying all my bills, putting money aside to do with as God directs. Money is my friend that goes to work on my behalf. Money works for me.

How am I rewarded in this life? I am surrounded by good, like-minded, and supportive people who love me and help me without any conditions applied.

At the end of these passages, I always wrote down five things I was grateful for that went back to the ideas listed in the opening sentence. It was repetitive, but that’s how you start to believe it.

What I noticed and still see occurring is that my words have created my surroundings very different from how I used to function. Once I decided to let God work with me, instead of fighting against it, all my circumstances changed. I was no longer “surviving.” I was actually living.

When I started off to make it better, I had no idea how it would happen, but I listened to every message from heaven and applied it.

I was the problem. Not God. Me. You. Us. We are. You think you don’t deserve it. She thinks she isn’t good enough. He convinces himself he is not worthy. It’s all wrong. I assumed I was a bad person because I made a mistake. I thought there was no divine intervention for me. I found out how wrong I was. I didn’t even have to believe that diligently. I just had to block out all the negativity that surrounded the issue.

I set an intention with God and put it into His hands, knowing I would be given something extraordinary. I had a goal to pay that off in one year. It was gone in three months. Why? Because God’s ways are not our ways. What if I had insisted on making it a year? I could have walked around telling everyone I would pay it off by the end of the year. I hoped.

Instead, I kept it between God and me. I did what I could, didn’t put limitations on it by talking stupidity, and watched the magic unfold. Silence is golden. Whoever made that up, they get it. Keeping my mouth shut unless I blessed it was the most significant piece to succeeding.

In 1 Peter 5:7, it tells us what to do that I didn’t do for eight long years,

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (Message)

If you are under the weight of something that seems like it will take you out, turn to the One who has all the answers. What I owed got paid off, but what I cannot get back is the time I wasted. I don’t recommend doing what I did.

Ask for help quickly, watch as God gets out an eraser, and let the bondage be broken as you are granted your release from the dark days of debt.

More Than A Number

“Are you near your computer?” He asked me.

“Yes.”

“I need you to type in..”

He went into turbo speed talk, trying to give me a string of numbers and letters to put into the browser to get to a website.

“Wait,” I said.

He was on number or letter fifty, and I was still putting in one from the beginning. I was on the phone with a helpline representative.

“Are you at the portal?”

Like to leave earth? No. But sometimes I wish.

“No. I’m still trying to get what you said in.”

I went back and read off what I had been able to keep up with.

“Oh, ok. I didn’t know you were that far behind.”

He started off where I was, and I hit enter. I knew when I saw code error 404, it wasn’t going to work.

“It says that the link is broken. I can’t go to that site.”

“Well, I’m there, so I know it’s working.”

I went back to where we started.

“I will go through each letter and number one by one.”

“Okay,” I said.

“A as in apple. Do you have that now?”

For real, guy? You go from speed talk to now acting like I’m four years old.

“Yes. Got it.”

“Are you ready for the next one?” He said in soft tones so as not to mentally break me.

“Yes,” I said.

He went at a snail’s pace to ensure I didn’t miss anything.

“Did we make it?”

Like we were hiking a treacherous mountain.

When I am made to feel ‘old’, I recall what I have read in multiple publications: age is a mindset. Most of these are written by people from a long time ago in history and are dead, but their words make sense. When more than one person says something, and they are not associated, that is when you know you are on to the truth.

A year ago, while visiting my dad at his assisted living when restrictions were still in place, he proved this theory. He was in lockdown, so his meals were being delivered to his apartment, and there was no contact with the outside world, really.

I had arrived before noon to find him still in bed, fast asleep. His days and nights were mixed up, and I often found meals stacked up in his refrigerator untouched, which led me to believe he was sleeping around the clock.

I clicked on the tv trying to find Christmas music but landed on a community channel. I could hear music playing, and with his hearing being impaired, it was like a live band had suddenly rushed into the small space.

He slowly came around the corner and parked himself. I realized it was polka music, and he was all entranced because of his polish heritage. He used to play the accordion when he was young, so it didn’t take much to make him stop in his tracks, and he forgot all about eating.

Over the noise, he said,

“Look at all those old people dancing!”

They all appeared slightly younger than him, but who wants to ruin his perception?

“What song is this?” he asked. “I can’t tell.”

That type of music makes me cringe, so I didn’t inherit some of his DNA. But, out of some long-forgotten memory bank, I said,

“I think it’s called Help Me Make It Through the Night.”

“Help me make it through the night? These people are so old, they aren’t going to make it through this song!”

“At least they are up and moving. You barely made it out of bed today,” I said. He laughed.

When I fill out a survey that asks me my age range, and I’m at the first number in the series, there’s still something to celebrate as I check off the box. I wonder how I will feel when I’m in the last bracket like him?

While it might appear that the world has sped up, it’s really about keeping up with changes and learning new things.

Speaking into the remote control has been a monumental leap forward. I purposely say the wrong thing just to see where it will lead me. It takes its revenge, though, and refuses to hear what I have said correctly at other times. It’s a love/hate relationship. It knows we have no buttons to use like the older models, so it owns us.

Then there are those times when I hear someone of my age say,

“Rewind that video.”

“You know we don’t have VCRs anymore, right?” I say nicely. I can’t let this soul wander around so blatantly showing their age.

I asked my daughter when she knew I was no longer breezing through life.

“When I had to teach you how to copy and paste on your computer.”

And she said it real quick, like it was just minutes ago. So apparently, that was a pivotal point in my aging process.

Isn’t that why I had kids? To take all the guesswork out of life? If I can’t figure something out, I just hand it over, they give it back, and I am on to my next technical issue.

One of the things I do not like is when an older person who may be related to me is in the middle of a health crisis and says,

“Just wait until you are my age!”

They say this from their hospital bed like they will feel better knowing someone else in the future will be in the same poor condition. Misery loves company, and when someone doesn’t have the answers, they will pull you in to make themselves feel better. They are just hoping that you will start talking about the ailments that plague you.

I stopped being quietly polite along the way and will say I refuse whatever they are trying to make me believe. I have said back,

“We were designed to be in good health and heal. That is what God wants.”

That usually changes the direction of the conversation for the better. I realized I didn’t have to agree with something just because it was spoken. The ‘respect your elders’ idea is fine unless they talk negatively. It’s wise to counteract those ideas before they take root and replace them with thoughts like this from 3 John 2 that states,

God wants me to prosper and be in health, even as my soul prospers. (KJV)

Why expect to get sick just because your cousin Nancy did? If you look at what others in your bloodline have as a diagnosis and claim it for yourself, you will live out what you believe.

I was reminded over the summer that age can be positive when I visited a cave that was discovered in 1881 by two brothers. As I stood in the depths of the caverns that had existed for way longer than I had, and they were still growing and bringing to life various gems, it reminded me that even as we age, we can be useful.

The history of its existence was made up of many new discoveries as explorers found new passageways and hidden places. As they kept searching, they kept finding.

That is how your walk with God can be. You toss aside what the world says is so important, like the number of candles on your last birthday, and know that there are many things you haven’t even understood yet.

The space was treated with great reverence, and while on tour, we were told to be very careful along the way, so we brought no harm to it. We were many feet below the surface, and for some reason, it felt safe to me, not suffocatingly frightening.

“When a horrible tornado went through, the owners came down here because they knew they would be safe,” our guide told us.

One of the advantages of being a little further along the way is that you can provide security for someone who hasn’t been down the same road. You have had experiences, some good, some not, that can shed light and bring revelation to someone who needs help.

One thing is for sure. No, not taxes and death, but yes. Other than those, there will always be problems that need solving, which is why we are here. When you can stand firm in the face of adversity and when someone younger than you witnesses this, their faith is allowed to grow.

Don’t fall for the lie that you are no longer valid because you think you’re too elderly to be of any use anymore. Digits are used in our society for crowd control. Like at the DMV, when you are standing in a sea of humanity, you are looking at a ticket that says 3000, which signifies that is the year they will get around to you.

The message is sent many times over to us through media that once you hit a particular time of life, you might as well hang it up. It’s a lie, so don’t fall for it.

The world may tell you that, but to God, you are more than a number.

(You can handle being number 2..you are only one step away from being the first.)

Let God Speak

I came in the door, and a loud beeping sound began. I was balancing multiple grocery bags and froze. I thought it was happening again.

My daughter came around the corner.

“What are you doing?”

“I thought it was the alarm.”

She laughed, went over to the air fryer, and shut it off. It was the appliance coming to the end of its cycle, but it had the same tone, just less intense than the one that had surprised me for two years.

“You really thought the house was armed?”

“Yes! I was trying to think how to stop it quickly, but I would have had to drop everything.”

This has happened so many times since 2019. I have lost count. We had gone years without a security system, and while my mom was in hospice, we had it installed. My thoughts were partially elsewhere as the guy walked around the house, showing me where he had placed the sensors.

“I look for vulnerable spots where most criminals will try a break-in. The cameras at the front and back of the house will pick up sound and anyone approaching. Each door has an alarm.”

He had put a small device with a screen on the counter that would allow us to get information from each window and door.

“I labeled them, so if a window is open at night and you don’t want it to be, you can just look on the screen and see which one it is.”

He went through all the instructions on how to arm the system at night or while we were away.

“You can do that from the keypad or use the app on your phone. Many people pull into their garage and disarm it from their car on their phone.”

That sounded easy.

“If you set the alarm off in the next five days, the police will not show up because we notify them that you are still getting used to it. But after that, they will come if you don’t get it to shut off in time. And they aren’t too pleasant after a lot of false alarm runs.”

I was trying really hard to concentrate, but my mind was having difficulty focusing. I had not been sleeping and was spending many hours at the hospital. My attention was split between what he said and wondering when my phone would ring.

“If you trip the alarm, you must type in your code to have it stop. You can do this at the keypad or on the app. But, if you don’t get it in time, the company will call you to verify that you need help. They will assume you want assistance, and you have to give them the secret word you picked.”

My daughter and I had chosen a numerical sequence and a word that would be easy to remember.

“If you say the password, they will assume you are not being held at gunpoint. People will purposely say the wrong one, so they will still send the police because they are in danger, but it doesn’t alert the intruder.”

He handed me a stack of paperwork.

“Read over all of that. It will help you recall what I just told you.”

After he left, I made the familiar trek back to the hospital.

During the day and into many evenings, I sat with my dad, who had difficulty realizing that my mom’s condition would not improve. She would sleep and wake up briefly. I had been given the ability to hear and see all that she was experiencing. If I shut my eyes, I could see her contemplating leaving earth as she stood at the beginning of a bridge that would lead to eternity.

This was new to me, but I wrote down everything I witnessed. I could also hear her voice telling me what was happening. I would write what she said, and she would slightly move in bed, look at me, and say exactly what I had just heard. I was being trained on how to hear and see the other side.

I realized she wasn’t one to leave a party early. She had to be sure that someone could communicate with her before leaving. I was chosen, and so was my daughter. I am still not sure why. But I never want it to go away. It helps make sense of everything.

Without my daughter’s confirmation, I would have thought I needed an intervention. I would have assumed grief was at the heart of these strange experiences, but with someone else having it happen too and getting the same messages, it helped me adjust.

It was determined that she would be discharged back to her home to receive hospice.

The day after we had the security system installed, I wrote in my journal that I could see her in a waiting room for the final transition. She had crossed the bridge, but this is what I saw and heard:

May 22, 2019, 8:30 AM
I see the waiting room filled with people praying. Mom’s head is bowed, and her lips are moving. Everyone looks like that. Absolute silence. No one sees me watching. Intense prayer. This seems to be a time of reverence. I’m getting the impression that the body created is such a sacred thing, and as it dies, heaven prays and worships the Creator.

10:30 AM
Mom has prayed for peace for the family. She doesn’t want us sad. She wants to hear us laugh. They continue to pray.

1:53 pm
“This is beautiful—the coming together of all these people to pray. We are praying for the family. We went to each child, each household and placed a blessing on them. I placed a drop of oil on your forehead to seal you into the kingdom of peace. My children will go ahead now without me and know that God is with them. The generations to come after you will know of His love. It may appear that the world can corrupt them, but the seal is placed now into the bloodlines. It’s a promise of God.”

When I write these things, I don’t know until later sometimes what they mean.

Because there was so much going on with my mom being moved to her home and spending all the time there, several days went by after I had jotted that down. But, proof of her visitation to my home showed up.

“I checked the security camera footage, and I think there is an orb. It looks like a bright ball of light,” my daughter said.

She pulled up the video, and I was shocked. On the camera at the back of the house, by the garage, a strange moving object appeared on screen and floated around and into the side of the wall. I watched it over and over.

“It looks like a flashlight, but it isn’t,” I said. This appeared the night before I had written what I did in my journal.

I did show other people, and only one had an adverse reaction. I understand it’s fear because I have gone into all of this reluctantly.

“Didn’t you write that she had visited us?” My daughter asked.

I went back through my notes and found that I had. We had lamps that would click on and off for a while, but this seemed more significant. One of the most strange things is that my daughter will smell the perfume my mom used to wear. She will pull her ponytail over to see if she is right.

“I smell her in my hair!”

My mom used to love to play with my daughter’s long hair and say how much she loved it.

Now she says, “My grandmother is in my hair!” This usually means that we need some problem solved. And the answer will come quickly when it happens.

Since then, we have had orbs show up on that camera many times. I have my grandma’s refrigerator on the other side of the wall where they travel.

“The refrigerator is probably a portal,” I said to my daughter jokingly.

I am sure some information is out there that claims this type of thing likes to travel through cold spaces and checks out the freezer for ice cream. I have no idea how it all works. It’s too bad we are dairy-free.

While this otherworldly experience is fun, the alarm going off due to us forgetting about it has been not.

Like the night I woke up to that sound you don’t want to hear at 3 am—a dog on the brink of throwing up all over your bed. If you haven’t had this happen, you are running toward the door before you are fully awake, and there is no thought of needing to shut off the night alarm. Your mind goes blank while formulating the numbers to get it to cease. The idea that you have to hurry doesn’t help either. Meanwhile, the dog throws up all over the kitchen floor.

Another time you might not consider the security system is when your daughter texts you from her bedroom in the basement saying she hears a weird sound outside her window. When you go half-asleep to see what is happening and open the window, the blaring noise reminds you that it is 2 am.

Or when you come back from somewhere, everyone forgets, and it screams when you barely go through the entry an inch.

So when I came in the door with my arms unavailable and heard a beeping sound, I was not being unreasonable for being alarm sensitive. I have been educated by trial and error on responding to the slightest sound. This is similar to my spiritual senses that have been activated and put on high alert.

So many signs have shown up, and circumstances have happened to me in the last two years that the uncertainty and doubt have evaporated. I don’t care if people believe me or not. I used to, but now I don’t. I don’t care if people agree with me either.

All of this, from ringing alarms, orbs, unexplained visitations, and visions, have made me more heavenly-minded. And, none of it would have happened without me dropping what I thought I knew and adopting a new mindset. I had to leave behind the rhetoric that is too familiar and comfortable for many believers.

I can easily say the buzzwords and make myself fit in when I have to, but I don’t do that as often.

I asked God to help me understand death better, and I am continually shown new things. But, not everyone is going to agree.

In John 17:16, we are told not to expect any of this to be ‘normal’:

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (ESV)

Start paying attention to the subtle signs of heaven coming your way. It’s not that complicated, and sometimes they will come gently in like a whisper, a bird singing you a song or something spoken at just the right time.

In Isaiah 55:3 it says:

Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. (NLT)

(Our very first visit in 2019..that I am aware of…)

Your faith will grow exponentially once you decide to get quiet, hear, and let God speak.

(While I was sleeping…)

Unity

Art class was never my favorite, but the public school system was always on a mission to create a well-rounded individual. So for those who were going to pursue basket weaving or making paper chains, we had to put in our time so our future would be successful.

There is artistic talent in my family that my daughters inherited, but it seemed to bypass me. It is so frustrating to see mentally what I want to put on paper but then produce something that is not even near what was intended. There’s darkness between that part of my brain and my hand.

I had always been under the impression that the ability to draw was given to some, not to others. There are claims out there that this isn’t true. If you work at it, like playing the piano, you can pick it up just as if you have natural talent.

I was never given this insight in school. Most of our instructors floated into the room and seemed abstract, like the projects they expected us to complete. We were supposed to glue things and apply paint to blank pieces of paper.

It was to reveal my deeper self with no directions, and it was a “do what comes to mind” type of thing.

This was the exact opposite of books and writing that I was drawn to. Those have rules like reading left to right, and there’s a point.

An article I read recently about this topic lost credibility for me with its grammatical and punctuation errors. It solidified my theory that we each have strengths and those we should capitalize on. Literally, use capital letters and punctuation when you write, and complete sentences are great, too.

I recently attended an evening of decorating glass ornaments with my two girls. It’s bad enough that I lack in this area, but then to sit next to those two who can whip out masterpiece work in seconds, my efforts look like preschool.

Within minutes, I was unimpressed. The idea was to take ink and apply it to the outside of frosted white glass globes.

After a while, it started to remind me of another object the more I had to labor over it.

“If a lamp burns out at home in the next 24 hours, I’m leaving it. These are making me hate light bulbs,” I said to my youngest daughter, who was in the middle of applying her magic effortlessly.

“And it reminds me of dying eggs for Easter. You know what happens when I mix colors.”

They always somehow turned out looking like grey rocks.

She was a bit annoyed but was making the best of it. She had set aside her colors right where she was going to sit, but when we left the room for minutes and returned, someone had taken all of her choices. Looking around, we realized we were immersed in hostile territory where some were taking this little craft way too seriously.

The person leading this had shown us how to use sponges and plastic wrap. During this demo, one woman kept saying,

“Wow! That is so amazing!” Like she had come from another planet.

What was I missing? I wasn’t catching the vision, just like all those times in school.

I was in great company with a lady across from me. She was throwing back one cocktail after another to cope, and this wasn’t her interest either. While she drank away her evening, I struggled to get through the task at hand. All the alcohol started to catch up with her, and she became a great distraction for me.

“Do you know what would make this even better?” She said.

“What?”

“If I went outside and smoked a cigarette.”

Every time she picked up a bottle of ink to start applying it, it was empty.

“I think that is a sign,” I said.

“I think it is,” she said, trying to squeeze any stray liquid from the bottle.

After making absolutely no effort, she quit. Her friend across from her was intricately painting like Martha Stewart, and all of hers were identical and perfectly done. She then started telling those around her how they could improve their efforts.

“I think you should add some gold to that,” she said randomly as she took another swallow of the never ending liquid in front of her.

She looked like she was going to doze off at any minute.

The lady seated at the very end of our table was going with an all blue motif.

When it was time to quit, my hands were covered in various shades that would not come off that easily.

“Oh, look at that!” A lady said, gushing over the heart that my daughter had meticulously added to hers. She had somehow gotten over the adversity of having thieves take her supplies.

My other daughter was glad it was over as she found herself in my shoes for once. This just wasn’t a match for her artistic talent.

“Could you take my picture?” I heard to my left. The room had cleared, and she was alone; I thought she was with the group that had been there.

“I’m going to give these balls to my boyfriend for Christmas. I painted them blue, and he will get the joke,” she said, laughing. I wanted to say: there are children in the room, but there weren’t.

She just threw that at me. Like she knew me her whole life, and even then, that wouldn’t have been long enough. As usual, I didn’t flinch outwardly, but I cringed inwardly. She started to hand me her phone, but then pulled it back.

“Wait! Let me show you what he looks like.”

I wasn’t sure what I was about to see, but we had come this far, and there was no turning back.

“He is 65, and so am I.”

She flicked through pictures of his house, seemed to be focused and enamored with his wealth, and spoke like she had been with him for centuries. It felt a little desperate to me, and I had a bad feeling creeping in.

“How long have you known him?”

“A month. I went on a dating app. That’s how I meet everyone that I date. The guy I was with before him cheated on me, and the one before that too, but I went on the app and picked another one.” Just like shopping for eggs at the grocery store. Dozens to choose from.

I would rather be thrown in a pit of snakes than live that kind of life.

“Doesn’t that get frustrating? Going from one person to the next? Searching?” I asked.

“Sometimes. But, I really think this time he is the one. My husband died in 2012, so I have been dating since then.”

I saw a brief flash in my mind of her on her phone and looking for another option.

She posed with her creations while I snapped this precious moment in time. A year from now, it would probably be a long forgotten memory and deleted.

How do you tell someone that history is about to repeat itself while they gush on excitedly about their circumstances? You don’t.

She asked me where I lived, and apparently, one of her former cheaters lives near me. She warned me to stay off a specific street. Like I was going to be his next target on a drive-by? What powers did she think this guy had?

Suddenly, she started to talk about God and the church she attended. And then came the question I’m always asked,

“Where do you go to church?”

My standard answer is: online. Otherwise, it’s like attending a timeshare presentation, and they want you to sign up and commit on the spot.

I thought about her later that night, and I heard: She’s worried about her age and being alone, which is why she keeps making the same mistakes. Fear is motivating her, and that always leads to failure.

I was shown that while she wants to connect with God, she keeps getting swayed to look for protection and security in men. And while she sets her sights on the outside, she cannot graduate to a higher level on the inside. If she would, the striving to find what she thinks will make her happy would cease.

Do you know that God is okay with you coming close to Him, or were you taught to be afraid and to keep a distance? In Psalm 17:15, there is an answer that could clear up a lot of unnecessary chasing:

And me? I plan on looking
you full in the face. When I get up,
I’ll see your full stature
and live heaven on earth. (Message)

The invisible realm is challenging to rely on because you cannot always see it, but it can be felt. The more time you spend seeking that instead of what the world claims to give, you find peace beginning to settle in. You have to get comfortable with not always being able to view it as we usually do.

In Philippians 4:6-7, it is explained how to let go of the dating app and hold on to God’s hand:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. (NLT)

Instead of looking at all the broken pieces and trails of disappointments, God can use it all to create an original mosaic that can be viewed as magnificent.

There is an art term that sums up what can happen if we let God do the work in us:

Unity: The arrangement of one or more of the elements used to create a feeling of completeness. Everything in the work seems to belong and contributes to the overall picture.

When you let go of your plan, and let heaven direct circumstances for your highest good, you will come to realize a new level of existence that is known as unity.

Best Gift

When I had to go through my parent’s house and sort through 60 years of possessions, the one thing I would have taken if it still existed would have been the original nativity set.

But, it had long been gone after seeing its days spent in the hands of all the kids. I don’t think one of us didn’t take them out of their places and play with them. By the time I got to them, they were chipped and dented.

With three boys, I can only imagine what they did to those, and they were made out of ceramic. Nothing fragile or plastic was ever safe around them. Many of the things that had survived their childhood path of destruction were barely hanging on.

Like the Monopoly money that was taped together, one of them got so mad that he ripped the fake currency in half. When my mom saw what he had done, she made him piece it all back together. Her purpose was twofold. They probably couldn’t afford to buy a brand new game, and for the rest of time, this temper tantrum would be long remembered so as not to repeat itself. It was a message to all of us that consequences might last forever if we did something once.

Because of his brief tirade, I had to hand over bills with yellowing tape every time I wanted to buy Boardwalk. The question was always asked when I played with friends,

“Why does this look like this?”

I had to explain that one of my brothers had gone crazy momentarily long ago. They would look at me like I was related to a notorious criminal.

My mom told me that one year she and my dad had bought toys for Christmas on credit.

“Before we had it paid off, every single thing we gave them had broken. We never did that again.”

So it was no surprise that the pieces from her nativity were beaten up. When she put them out, they would soon be scattered all over the room. It took mileage to get the wise men from point A to B.

First, Mary and Joseph had to get to the stable, which wasn’t a short jaunt. I had to pack up my tiny Barbie suitcase with clothes for the journey. And the camel that got them there ran on green energy with no fuel emissions, so the going was slow.

If my mom had to vacuum the carpet, that just set back the trip, and I would have to start the process all over again.

I would get the two of them all the way to living room Bethlehem and take them from the couch to a chair, the stereo, the end tables, and finally, the stable that was losing its roofing.

“Chris, I need to dust. You need to leave.”

It never failed! She always thwarted the birth of Jesus.

That meant I would have to start all over again later, and I hadn’t even gotten the wise men on their way yet.

I have a hazy memory from about four, where I pretended to be the Virgin Mary. I had a light blue blanket that I would drape over my head because every movie that depicts her puts her in a blue-colored head covering. I grabbed whatever doll I could find, Raggedy Andy would do, and I would put him under the tree.

My mom had told me that God had sent the world a gift in the form of a baby. In my mind, then, he should be where all the other presents were.

“They were expecting a baby to come, and God surprised them. It was a great plan because no one could figure it out,” she always told me.

I was taught young, growing up Catholic, that Mary was to be worshipped. But as I grew up, I never felt she was any different than anyone else. God just handpicked her because He knew she could accomplish a mission that not many would be able to, and we all can do that.

A lot was expected of her that the world was not going to understand. I can relate as more supernatural events keep on showing up.

Because I was the youngest, I got the job of putting Jesus in the crib on Christmas Eve. My mom would leave him in the box until then. She always made a cake, sang Happy Birthday, and handed me the tiny figure wrapped in a little cloth. If she had put it up high to keep me from moving the pieces, someone had to lift me so I could reach.

I was the only one of the six who had the longest record of having this assignment. With them all so close in age and as an outlier, I had no one to compete with. I begged for a younger sibling, but she always said,

“You will have to wait for someone else in the family to have a baby someday.”

I thought she was being mean to me, not realizing she was past 40, and all of her patience was long gone.

And so was mine when her house had been left in disarray without a single thought of who would have to deal with it. They lived like death didn’t exist; I don’t recommend doing that to your children.

I had started working on it in June, and by October, it was listed. Just before that, my daughter and I went back over, which we had been doing daily.

All of the Christmas decorations were long gone, but in the middle of one of the rooms was a handmade ornament with my mom’s name on it. There was absolutely no reason for that to be there, with all of that having been removed months before. Just like a little thank you note.

It had become her way of getting my attention during that time so I wouldn’t forget that she was still around. She let me know that just because I couldn’t see her didn’t mean that she wasn’t still alive.

In the first year of her moving on to heaven, I wrote daily passages. I would get a vision of her sitting at a table, and she would put on a pair of glasses.

I wondered why she wore glasses in heaven, and I was made aware that it symbolized wisdom and that I was about to learn something. I knew I was to start writing, and it wasn’t the greatest to see that while I was driving. Her timing wasn’t always the best.

When I go back and read some of the passages from two years ago, I see a subtle warning about an upcoming pandemic, encouraging words on how to stay strong in the face of adversity, and a lot of details of her heavenly home. Basically, she reiterates a truth to me repeatedly. God loves humanity. In this entry from my journal on June 5th, 2019, I was having one of these learning sessions:

“Chris, God is God. People can make Him into whatever they want, but He is the Creator. And there are no shifting shadows in Him. The spin that the world puts on Him is nonsense and makes no difference. God longs to come and be in communion with His creation. The pain you see in the world, the confusion and the self hatred is lack of communion with God. When His love floods the body and the mind, all these things will flee.”

It fits right in with John 3:16, where we are told that God loves the world.

I try to keep that in mind as I am given reasons to hate it more and more. But it must not show because people are drawn to His presence like a magnet.

I continually have people smile at me when I walk through stores; some say hi, some want to know where the soup aisle is, and others want to tell me their life stories. Like the guy who saw me put back something, I was considering buying as an ingredient.

“You really didn’t want that anyway,” he said.

This is how it always starts. I’m minding my own business, and someone appears.

“I love my grandchildren, and I am getting them candy before I go see them.”

He started grabbing boxes and examining others, trying to decide what they would like best. He chatted on about anything he could think of while I kept trying to find something on my list.

He explained to me that his car wasn’t working right; he and his son had to fix it.

“The tires are shot. You know what I wish?”

“No. What.” It could be anything.

“I wish I could ride a horse everywhere I go, and that would be great.” And, he kept right on looking for what he wanted.

I laughed. Where did he come from, and why?

“I love horses. And they are more reliable than driving a car. I got to spend ten days on a ranch, and I wish I could go back, and I want a horse. That’s all I need.”

“I think you are going to need a lot of money for food and vet bills.”

“Ya, that might be more expensive.”

He talked about his kids, his job, and everything that was going right in his life. He was a fountain of positivity. And as fast as he appeared, he said goodbye to me.

As I drove home, I heard: It’s not all bad. See? I just showed you that. That man is happy even when things aren’t going right with his car. He found other things to be grateful for, which will keep him going through all that is ahead of him a lot easier.

God can be straightforward like that and not complicated at all. So keep an eye out for those encounters that offset the negative.

When you need encouragement from heaven, and it arrives in a way that you weren’t looking for, that is the best gift.

Simple

Less Tears

“Did you see that?” She asked as I walked through the store, trying to focus.

I stopped to look at what she wanted me to notice. It was a display of cardinals. Glassware, plates, and mugs were adorned with the red-winged symbol. I picked up a miniature one and saw that it had a small card associated with it.

My eyes were so swollen from crying I could hardly read.

“It says that when someone wants to send you a message from heaven to tell you they are ok, a cardinal will appear.”

I was having a lot of other signs happening, but not this one. When my mom moved on in 2019, my life dramatically changed as I could easily go between the two realms.

I had seen a few videos where people described their encounters with birds, but I hadn’t had the experience. I picked up a small charm to purchase and went back to looking around.

It was the day after my dog had passed on to heaven in my lap. I had gotten out of the house to distract myself and was trying to feel normal.

I felt guilty for being so lost without him. How could I feel this way about a dog? People had died that I knew, and I wasn’t this upset. I felt like I had watched my child go away, and I kept trying to tell myself I had to pull it together.

I had been trained not to feel anything as I grew up, so I was used to being able to pretend the pain wasn’t there. But, this time, I couldn’t make it stop. It kept coming in waves, and I knew that he wouldn’t be there when I got back home as he had been for 12 years.

Over the noise in my mind, I heard it playing on a speaker above my head.

“Do you hear that?” I asked my daughter.

It was Ave Maria. That was always a strong indication that my mom was trying to tell me she was around.

I have found that music is an easy way for those in heaven to communicate with us. My playlist on my phone will suddenly go to a song with lyrics that tells me how to look at a situation in a helpful way. Or there will be words that will comfort me when I don’t understand circumstances that seem so out of control. It will happen while I am driving or shopping.

At first, I used to ignore it or explain it away. That’s one way we keep ourselves safe and try to understand what we don’t understand. It’s just a coincidence, and it means nothing, right?

But when you start to listen closely and pay attention, it becomes so pronounced that you can’t brush it off anymore.

While my mom was days away from her transition into eternal life, I could not go anywhere without hearing Rod Stewart sing Forever Young. After the third time, I started to notice this, and I would suddenly catch the lyrics while in a store, restaurant, or even on hold. It really hit me when I was in the freezer section of a small grocery store I rarely went to.

The realization of it was astounding. All knowledge is given where she is, so songs, books, anything is available to send subtle messages.

I had to unlearn what I thought I knew about the other side. I had been taught not to mess with the dead because that was demonic. Evil can come as light, so don’t go near it, like when you are taught as a kid not to touch a hot stove. So I had tried for years to push away what was trying to break through into my existence.

As I stood there not twenty-four hours after his departure, I listened to this significant tune being played just for me. I knew I was being told I wasn’t alone.

Grief can do that in the most unrelenting way. It comes in and covers you in darkness. No unseen forces are working against you; this is you against you.

While I knew I had to feel what I did, I didn’t want to stay stuck in it, which is easy to do. So I was trying to remain mindful of how much I was getting swept up in the sadness. I had wanted to leave with him, and I couldn’t. I was trying not to think about the long dark tunnel that was ahead for me without him.

And then the guilt.

When I told my daughter about that, she said,

“People are always going to do things that make us upset, and they are going to hurt and disappoint us, but he never did that to you. He gave you unconditional love, and sometimes you had to correct him, but he never hurt you.”

That helped.

So as Ave Maria played, I turned and saw a shelf of battery-operated lanterns. When the switch on the bottom was moved, it lit up, and a fan started to move glittery snowflakes like a snow globe but with no effort to shake it.

One of them had a male and female cardinal in it. My dad didn’t want a Christmas tree put up the year before, so I thought maybe he would like this instead. It had a significant meaning attached to it as he went through his second year as a widower. Having her favorite song play nonstop was guiding me on how to help him and me.

When I gave it to him and told him I had one, he said,

“Maybe we will be looking at them at the same time.”

“Should we communicate by telepathy through the birds?”

At first, he thought I was serious, and he always gets this look on his face that makes me laugh. The same one that put her into hysterics.

“Is that possible?” He asked.

“I’m just kidding,” I said. Who knows at this point. Maybe.

“Oh. You had me a little worried there for a minute.”

After all I had told him about my supernatural life, this was a worry?

“I do have strange things that I can’t explain happen to me all the time.”

“Accept it, Chris. God has chosen you to give this gift to. Just accept it.”

We didn’t access supernatural powers through our Christmas lanterns, but mine would turn itself on at random times. Even if the off switch were on, it would startup, and I just accepted it.

I had been searching for something to put on my tree in memory of my dog. I couldn’t find anything in the store that day, so I went online. I was briefly disappointed to see that a particular one had sold out. It was a cardinal looking into a window. He had always sat with one eye toward the living room windows to be sure we were protected.

“I want this,” I said, showing my daughter. “But it’s gone.”

I tried to find something else, but I kept coming back to that one.

One day as I was walking past my tree, which I had put up early as another distraction from my grief, I said,

“I expect to get that ornament, and I am going to put it right on this branch!”

I was somewhat moving into the anger portion of my loss. Not severe, but enough to not put up with the lack of supply for something I wanted. I wasn’t asking for the world, just something small. And if God owned everything, then I could have it.

Every day, sometimes more than once, I would go up to that spot on my tree and say out loud,

“That ornament is going right there, and it’s going to hang on that branch.”

I never looked at it online again, but my daughter did.

A handful of days into this, she was woken up at 2 am and told to search a particular website. To her amazement, there was one available, and she purchased it before falling back to sleep.

Every day she had to listen to my speech about how great my tree looked with the ornament on it. She waited as time went by, and there was no delivery. She messaged the seller and was told that it had been delayed, but it was coming.

Meanwhile, I kept repeating the same mantra every single time I walked by the space. It was mine, and I wasn’t taking no for an answer.

On December 19, many weeks after all this began, I got home late and I was trying to tell her something. She kept shifting her eyes away while I was speaking. Finally, I said,

“What is wrong with you? Why do you keep doing that with your eyes?”

She didn’t answer me but looked away again. I squinted, trying to get a reading on what was up. Had the stress of her career gotten to her? What problem was I now going to have to help her solve? Was she overworked? I came up with nothing. Usually, I just knew.

“What is going on?”

More of a head nod this time made me look toward whatever had her attention. The entire house was dark except for the lights on the tree, and I stepped closer to the spot that had been empty.

I could not believe it! The sold-out ornament was on the tree!

“What? How did this happen?” I said.

She told me about her late night purchase with my mom’s voice telling her where to get it.

I thought that was the end of it, but we had two cardinals repeatedly show up in the yard over the summer. They were replicas of the ones in my lantern, and I had never had this happen before. One of them started to fly so close to me at times, I had to shut the door quickly so that it wouldn’t get in the house.

During all of this, my grief still raged on at times so harshly that it would stop me in mid-sentence or come out of nowhere when I thought I was fine.

I was sitting in my friend’s salon chair in mid-July as she mixed up hair color. She had her dog go to heaven days after mine did, very unexpectedly, so she knew first hand the sorrow I was feeling.

She stopped what she was doing and stepped in front of me. This was unusual for her as she is a very driven person who doesn’t stop once involved in a task.

She took off her glasses and said,

“God just said me that He is going to show you the love that your dog had for you in a different way. Stinky was an example of what is coming next into your life.”

Then she went back to work on my hair. But that became an anchor for me as I have drifted in and out of rough places, being tossed around, wondering if life would be okay without him.

We are being taken care of in so many ways, and we don’t even know it. To see, though, it requires expansion. I still miss my dog, but the sting of it has gotten easier. I still want him to materialize next to me on the couch and scratch my hand to get me to pet him, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, I have to move on because there is more to do here. He isn’t coming back no matter how much I want him to.

But, what I can do is keep myself as close as possible to the One who created him just for me.

In Psalm 34:18 it says,

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (NLT)

This I have found to be true. As I have drawn near to God, I have overcome some of the hurt to get through the darker days. As I have allowed healing to come without resistance, my capacity to help others has grown. I can’t go anywhere now without someone telling me they have had to say goodbye to an important person.

Last weekend, I was in a hardware store getting zip ties, and the cashier randomly said his best friend had died at the end of October. I could see a tall man standing next to him, around fifty years old.

“Do you feel his presence? Was he tall?” I was testing the waters.

“Yes, I can feel him by me every day. He was much taller than me and died at 55. But it’s like he never left.”

And I thought I was going to get zip ties.

My faith has increased through all of it, my spiritual ears have become more receptive, and my eyes opened to more incredible things with less tears.

Remaining To Be Seen

How many times did I have to hear her tell this story? It was ingrained in my mind, and I didn’t fully believe it. It would come out of nowhere, and it made me uncomfortable sometimes because it gave off the idea that I was “special.” I didn’t want to be perceived as that.

“Your dad thought you were going to be a boy, and I knew we were going to have another girl.”

This is how the soliloquy always started. She would get this far-off look and go back in time.

“We chose your name because we knew we could go either way with it, and you were destined to either be a Christine or a Christopher.”

When I started printing my name, I realized the first part looked like a major holiday. She displayed all of the cards after getting them in the mail. I took one of them to her and said,

“Is Christmas named after me?”

I pointed out the first five letters. If she said yes, my life at six years old was about to change for the better.

“No. It’s named after Christ and not Christine.”

What a major disappointment!

“The “mas” part means mass. So together, it means Christ’s Mass, and to celebrate his birth.”

This is why I was at church on Christmas Eve at midnight, trying not to fall asleep. I would never make kids do that if it was named after me. There would have been one present after another, candy and no school, ever for the rest of our lives. Instead, it was a hot environment with lung-burning incense and words spoken in Latin in low monotone voices. That was a tranquilizer right there.

“Your dad was so sure that you were going to be a boy that he went out and bought a set of infant pajamas that said little slugger on them. He wanted a boy to play baseball.”

Somehow his wish was granted. I played softball for eight years, and he was at every single game.

He was so accustomed to having three sons ahead of me; he tried to lure me into the fold. I think he secretly wanted to outnumber the girls and get an advantage over my mother.

If I didn’t want to eat something, he would look at me and say,

“Chris, eat that! It will put hair on your chest!”

“John! Don’t tell her that! She really won’t eat it now!”

She was right because I visualized everything. I was not about to leave that table looking like a gorilla because he convinced me to eat beets. No way.

I watched every football game with him, and he always had me open the numbers that he had bought at the office.

“Open these, Chris. You have better luck than I do.”

It never made sense to me, but I took the paper that was sealed and opened it. He always won some small amount based on the score, and I recall two zeros won him $50.

“Here. Sip the foam.”

He would hand me his mug of beer. I absolutely hated the taste, but it was his, so I slurped as he said to.

It was an indoctrination to tip the scales in his favor.

“The day I went into labor with you, he took his time. I told him we had to go, and he made himself a cup of coffee, took a long shower, slowly shaved every hair off his face, and had breakfast. I kept telling him to hurry up. He thought it would be like the other five. A long, laborious process and him sitting in a waiting room. I told him it wouldn’t be that way this time.”

The nurse had gotten her into the room and settled.

“I think you should call the doctor right away,” she said.

“Oh, it will be a while.” I will be back to check on you in a little bit.”

“That was so frustrating not to have anyone listen to me. I knew it was going to happen fast.”

She pushed her call light, and when the nurse appeared again, she insisted.

“You need to get the doctor now!”

The nurse saw that my mom was right and ran to get help.

“The obstetrician slid into the room and caught you at the last second. And then the moment came!”

This is when the story always took a higher, dramatic turn.

“I told your dad that I didn’t enjoy looking into a baby’s eyes because they never looked back at me. It was like a blank slate with nothing there. But not you! You looked at me, and I said…look! She has an understanding of things, and she came here with knowledge, and God sent her here with a message.”

I didn’t fully believe her recounting of this because she also went around telling everyone I had blue eyes way past the point of it being a possibility. She desperately wanted one of her children to have my dad’s colored eyes, but her predominant brown always won out.

“I never got my blue-eyed child! Actually, his eyes can be blue sometimes and switch to green. I would have taken either one.”

I innocently asked him once,

“Why do your eyes change color?”

“They are green when I have money and blue when I don’t.”

I believed him, so I always looked at him closely before executing my begging session for spare change.

“You had something that no other infant I held ever had. Instead of a dark void, you were born with wisdom, Chris.”

She had seen her fair share of dealing with births, from her own to those she assisted with as an RN.

In later years, I searched the meaning of my name and found out it means “follower of Christ.” She knew what she was doing, sealing my association with God.

She also gave me this piece of advice,

“You can always tell what’s going on with a person by looking them in the eye.”

Her words came to life for me recently when I was at a restaurant with a friend. She travels with her small dog everywhere she goes, and she puts her in a high chair. The staff at this particular place think something is wrong if she doesn’t show up with her pet. Not a single patron took offense, and everyone who looked our way would smile brightly.

We had been there for a while, and a lady on her way out stopped.

“That is the cutest thing I have ever seen!”

Then, she broke down crying.

“I had to put my beagle down a few months ago.”

She was so overcome with grief we had her pull up a chair. She told us that her significant other of twenty years had died unexpectedly in March. He was driving his semi-truck, and an autopsy later showed he had suffered a blood clot to the brain, killing him instantly. A man saw what was happening and took control of the truck, and called for help.

I found out she was in her mid-70s, while he had been 64 and one year away from retirement.

“Do you feel his presence?” I asked.

She wasn’t drawn to us to just admire the dog.

“Not really. I miss him terribly.”

Her pain was so severe, and I felt a crushing pain in my chest. She felt as if her life was turned upside down financially, and fear gripped her regarding how she would take care of a house all by herself. As she spoke of all of her worries, she cried harder.

I knew this type of fear, not from death but from a divorce. Except she was much older than I had been when my unexpected adjustment arrived.

“He’s standing right here. I can see him, and he isn’t gone.” I tried to break past her pain for just a second.

I start to feel like I’m saying the same thing to different people, but this is how it seems to be. Those who have gone on stand near or behind those to who they are connected to. This seemed to calm her down a bit.

“I do feel him sometimes on the side you say he is.”

“What about lights? Mine used to get clicked on and off when my mom first wanted my attention. I would suddenly be sitting in a dark room, and then they would blink back on. Does that happen to you?”

“Oh. Yes. I have a lamp that does that all the time.”

“That’s him. He’s trying to tell you that he is around. And I know you have to grieve, but try to take yourself out of it for a little bit. When you feel happy, that is the frequency he is on. Heaven isn’t on anything but joy.”

“I kept seeing a cardinal in my daughter’s yard all last summer, and it would come to sit by me. Do you know about what is said about that?”

Do I know about the symbols of cardinals showing up to represent a message from heaven? Definitely.

“Yes. I know about that a lot. So, you said at first you didn’t feel his presence, but you do. He isn’t gone from you at all. You miss the physical part of who he was, but if you can feel his presence, it will help you heal. It will help you overcome the loneliness.”

I took her hand and asked God to have her start seeing what I could.

By the time she said goodbye to us, I saw her smile reach her eyes. I was witnessing Psalm 147:3 in action:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (NIV)

“I’m so glad I met you both,” she said on her way out. There wasn’t a trace of one tear because I helped her realize this from Psalm 32:8 that says:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. (NIV)

They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. When you allow God to take over your life completely, all else will fall to the wayside and that will be the only thing remaining to be seen.

I still think it should have been named after me…