Stop and Smell the Roses

I yanked with my gloved hands as the bush’s thorns started to bite into my palms.

“Come out!” I said through gritted teeth.  “You will never win!”

I was attempting to follow through with my spring cleaning list and this eyesore was being removed whether it wanted to be or not.  I had worked around the roots with my shovel and thought that it would easily slide right out of the earth.  Instead, it wouldn’t budge.  I felt a twinge across my lower back as the muscles strained there and along the back of my calves.  Without warning, I was airborne across the lawn with the prize in hand over my head. It had played a nasty trick by suddenly and unexpectedly releasing its hold.  I landed with a thud directly on my back while clutching the dirty monster to my chest.

I looked up at the sky and did an inward safety inspection.  From time to time when I have taken a spill, I often lay still for a minute to make sure nothing is fractured, dangling or throbbing incessantly.  Feeling no pain and knowing that the coast was clear, I began to laugh.  I pictured the neighbors peering out their windows seeing an irate woman yelling at foliage and then being flung to the ground in a heap.  I sat up and brushed the dead grass out of my hair.  I was covered in soil but I was triumphant.  Not only had I gotten the rebellious bush out of its place, but I could check something off my to do list, and I had done it myself.

A few days prior to my seek and destroy mission, I sat on my back porch to write down what I wanted to get done around the house.  I had come to have a love hate relationship with my dwelling after it was awarded to me in the divorce.  My marriage had been one of the traditional nature where I attended to the indoor tasks while he worked outside.  I had found myself slightly unprepared to handle both, and my budget wasn’t allowing for too much improvement. I had determined to do what I could to clean up and declutter where I could without generating an expense. Removing the long forgotten about landscaping had been a priority.

As the list came together, I glanced over at the above ground pool that had a stocking cap at the bottom of it.  In the days when it was working properly, a cover would have concealed it at this time of the year.  But, the liner had succumbed to a tear, so it was drained and my youngest daughter and her friend had found delight in constructing a snowman in it over the winter. Frosty had melted and his hat, nose and eyes were all that was left of him.  It brought me a bit of sadness to see the pool in that state of disarray as I recalled the girls and I enjoying soaks in it on hot summer days. I knew I couldn’t fix it due to money constraints so I didn’t add it to my list.

As I sipped on my hot tea that morning, a thought went through my mind,

Do what you can on your list.  I will send a man to help with the pool.

I didn’t know what that meant exactly so I began to clean up what I could a little at a time day by day.

One afternoon, about a month later, my doorbell rang. When I answered it, a man with a city badge hanging on a lanyard greeted me.

“Hi. I am Patrick from the city.  Your home is due for an inspection for property tax purposes.”

I let him in and we walked from room to room as he made notes and checked out the interior of the house.

When we got out on the back porch, I said,

“That pool bugs me.  It is so ugly right now. It needs a new liner.  Since my divorce, I haven’t been able to fix it.”

He got really quiet and took a step closer to the window to look down on it.

“I think I might be able to help you with that.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  When I made the statements about the pool, it was more of a complaint than a proposal.  I wasn’t asking for help. I was bemoaning my existence.

“I can’t promise you anything but let me see what I can do.”

He had my contact information and we parted ways.

In a few days, he called asking if he and a friend could come over and inspect the pool.  I gave the go ahead and after he and his friend looked it over, he said,

“We would like to fix your pool for you.”

“What?”  Of course, my money fears surfaced so I said, “I don’t really have the money to pay for a new liner right now.  So, that is very nice of both of you, but I can’t pay for it.”

“We don’t want to be paid.  We want to fix it for you.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” his friend replied. “It should be pretty easy to do.  I work in the pool business so I know how to do them, and I can get the supplies fairly cheap.”

He went on to say that he was only in town for a few days to visit but he would enjoy doing the work.

That is when it came back to me….

I will send a man to help with the pool. 

I agreed to let them fix it, and within a few days my pool was up and running again.  Not only did they both work on it in the evening, but they also purchased chemicals that I needed to keep it in good shape. They didn’t ask me to be home while they were there, but requested that the side gate remain unlocked so they could come and go.

One night, I arrived home and went outside to see how they were coming along.  I found three different colored lounge chairs sitting on the deck. They knew that I was a single mom with two daughters, so they had purchased us each a place to sit poolside.  The pool was filled with sparkling, crystal clear water.   It had been restored to perfection.

After all that, and many years later, my fears of not having enough money or being taken care of should not even exist anymore.  Right?  No. I still fight with it at times when I am faced with uncertainty and not knowing how I am going to overcome a situation.

The other night as I was retiring for the day, I found myself wondering about my finances.  In that moment, I had completely forgotten of the story I just shared with you and all the other ones that have transpired over the years where I have been blessed with supernatural help. I went to bed questioning the upcoming months and some changes that will occur.  I am not an ebb and flow type person where I will ‘wait’ and see what happens. I like to plan things out at times, and when I can’t, I find myself doubting the trusted hand that has been with me every step of the way.  I got this message:

Buy yourself a bouquet of pink roses tomorrow.  Inhale the scent of them and know that I am in charge of everything.

My thoughts were no longer on finances but the idea that pink usually wasn’t my color of choice for roses.  I usually gravitate toward bright, bold, and dramatic colors.  Then, I thought,

How much will this cost me?

I drifted off to sleep wondering how roses were going to improve my outlook on life.

I was walking into the store the next day and again came the words,

Buy yourself a bouquet of pink roses.  Breathe in their scent and know that I am in charge of your life.

I obediently walked right over to the floral section.  There was an array of all colors, but only one small bunch that housed five pink roses.  I grabbed the cellophane wrapper and turned it around to check for a price.  A small label was attached to the front that read: Faith.

I immediately looked for more pink roses and found none.  I checked all the other flowers for the same word and could not find it!  Some said smile, some said freedom, but not a single batch of them had this message written on them. I gently placed them on the bottom of my empty shopping cart.  Tears began to well in my eyes as I smiled and thought how absurd my worries are.  Just more proof that we are loved unconditionally even if we don’t feel it at times.  In all of your ups and downs with this life, cast your care on God to bring you through, and take some time to stop and smell the roses.

 

flowers

 

 

 

 

 

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Heaven Scent

Whipping Cream. Cola. Whipping Cream. Cola.

When I enter a grocery store without a list, I mentally repeat what I need so I don’t forget before leaving.  One item was in dairy, and the other would be found in the pop section, so I took off in that direction.   The next thing I knew, I was reading labels on brownie packages, crumb cakes and cookies.  How had I gotten to the bakery department? When did I take a detour to salivate over all the baked goods?

This phenomena is similar to when you get in your car and drive to a destination and you have no clue how you got there.  Your mind is on autopilot and without much effort, you find yourself where you wanted to be.  However, in this case, I was not where I had intended to go.  As if waking up from a short term case of amnesia I thought,

What am I doing?  It’s still January!  Why am I clutching desserts which I swore off just a few short weeks ago?  This usually doesn’t happen at least until February!

I put back the forbidden fruit pie and my fingers brushed up against a large circular container of cookies.  In that brief second, I was taken back to a time in my life when survival seemed to be a struggle.

I was looking over a math problem with one of my girls when I heard the familiar beep of his horn.  A couple honks to indicate that I needed to open the garage door.  This was a ritual on Friday afternoons.  As a volunteer at the local food shelf, he faithfully helped hand out items to those who found themselves in tough financial situations  Often, he would make trips to various stores to pick up extra boxes and food items including baked goods that were nearing the end of their shelf life.  At the end of his shift, he was allowed to take what he wanted, especially those things that probably wouldn’t survive the weekend.  With me and my daughters in mind, he would pick up an assortment of products that he thought would help alleviate the hardship.

This was in the wake of my divorce when life was uncertain and my worries were at an all time high.  I was swimming in new waters as a single mother hanging on to God as a life preserver and wondering if I would ever see a semblance of normal again.

Every day I had the nagging thought that I was not going to make it.  I don’t know exactly what I thought that meant, but I constantly was anxious about not being a good mother, falling short on my bills and a host of other tragedies I imagined would befall me.  I slept in small amounts and at times ate next to nothing just to make sure my children had enough.  The dark circles under my eyes gave away my inner turmoil, and falling asleep the minute I sat down also was a clue to those around me that I was exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually.

That particular Friday when I got out of bed for the day, I kept thinking about flowers and how much I missed having a fresh bunch of them displayed on the dining room table.  I had never gotten many of them except the occasional birthday or Valentine’s bouquet, but when I did, I absolutely cherished them.  I would drag out the best vase I could find and fuss over them for days trying to make them last forever.  When I had to throw them away, it felt like I had attended a funeral, and I knew it would probably be a long time before I would see any again.

It was beyond me why I was thinking about flowers that day.  There wasn’t any extra money lying around to cover the cost.  And I never had been in the habit of purchasing any for myself. I guess I was under the impression that in order to have them, they had to be given to me on a special occasion.

Despite those beliefs, I kept seeing images of roses as clear as if they were already in my home, and I recalled how they smelled fresh out of the package.  While walking through the living room, I thought,

“I really wish I had some flowers.”

I put the idea out of my mind as I became preoccupied with school work with the girls until I heard the familiar sound of his horn. I walked over and hit the button and heard the chugging sound of the door going up.

Before I could get my shoes on, he was already at the door handing me bags of fruit and other packages.

“Not a whole lot there today,” he said with a shake of his head.

“That’s okay,” I said as I took what he had brought. “Is there more? Do I need to come out and get anything?”

“No. I can get it. The shelves were kind of bare today.”

I began unpacking everything on the counter and pulled the garbage can over. This was part of the sorting process. Most of the food was on its last leg of freshness so I often had to discard moldy pieces of fruit, meat or cheese. And even when I thought what I kept was okay, often the next day I would have to throw more as it had succumbed to death overnight.

The two girls came into the kitchen to see what treasures their grandpa had found.  Organic blue tortilla chips for salsa were usually fresh, and sometimes a welcome vegetable tray would somehow manage to stay unshriveled. They always found something to snack on as they watched me put things in the garbage and some into the refrigerator.

As I separated the good from the bad and ugly, the one staple that was never stale were the cookies that had been donated.  The food shelf staff were told to give away more of the nutritious items to families versus baked goods, so there was always an abundance of them left over.  The stores had to get rid of them a few days before expiration and the agreement was that whatever was donated had to be taken.

So it was no surprise to come across a gigantic cookie tray in the pile.  I took half of its contents and put them into a freezer bag to ward off impeding doom and the other half were left to sit on the black plastic tray under the clear dome lid. As I was putting the cover back on, the door opened.  The sound of crunching cellophane made me glance up.  In each hand he was holding a bouquet of flowers.

“These were donated and no one wanted them.  Would you?  I saved one for your mom too.  I tried to pick out the ones that looked the best.  These look pretty good.”

I walked over to him and peered into the bags.  Both bouquets were roses that were surrounded by green foliage and white baby’s breath.

“They had flowers at the food shelf?  Why?”

“I don’t know.  They were donated to be given away.”

I took both bags happily, but I found myself perplexed.

I was having trouble deciding whether I had said a true prayer for a bouquet of flowers or if my visions of them beforehand were God’s way of letting me know I was going to get a delivery later.  I had not been specific about the amount that I wanted, and in true form to how it goes with the divine, I was given two bouquets when one would have thrilled me to pieces.

I washed my crystal vase and combined the two into a bright array that made me smile every time I walked past them. It made me feel like I wasn’t struggling and that money wasn’t so tight.  The impact of that day stayed with me and confirmed a passage that says: “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask..”

The roses and their fragrance were a constant reminder that I was not alone in my circumstances.  I found strength in the idea that a pair of listening ears, caring eyes, and strong hands were always at the ready to help right on time when my faith was stretched to the limit. This small gesture was an enormous uplift and boost to my wavering confidence.

My circumstances have gotten a lot better since then. But, I will never forget that I was the recipient of something that was heaven scent.

 

roses

 

 

Loved From Head to Tail

I flopped into my bed at sunrise after a night of Black Friday shopping. I shivered under the covers as a slight hypothermia had started to set in. In a drowsy state waiting for sleep to fully descend, a picture began to form in my thoughts of my youngest daughter carrying a puppy in her arms. In my mind, I saw her go into her bedroom and shut the door. Then, another scene took its place of my other daughter carrying a puppy into her room and closing a door.

I opened my eyes. Had I been dreaming? I glanced at the clock. Not even a minute had gone by. I was pretty sure I had been awake with my eyes shut. A strange longing to give each girl a dog for Christmas began to grow as I stared up at the ceiling. Like a little nudge by someone saying,

“You want this. You know you do.”

After a few moments of consideration, I began to come up with every reason why I would NOT want this at all!

I just had gone through a horrible divorce.
I just had given away our black lab less than a year prior to a family who loved her. (A fallout from the divorce and lack of being able to take the time to keep her.)
I had never raised two dogs at one time.
Neither girl was asking for a dog for Christmas.

And, then I added this out loud:

“I need them to be free.  I cannot afford to buy dogs right now.”   I knew if I threw that on it, it would not come about.

I turned over satisfied that I had dismissed the entire emotional episode and fell into the most peaceful sleep during the daytime with the sun fully shining.

A week later, I received a phone call.

“I am at an appointment, and there is this lady who has puppies she wants to find good homes for before Christmas.  I was thinking you could take two. One for each of your girls.”

I had not spoken of my experience, and I had forgotten about it.

“How much does she want for them?” I asked.

“She is giving them away for free.”

“How much?”

My ability to hear correctly shut down because the event from the week before was hitting me full on.

“They are free.”

“How much?”

“Chris, they are free! She wants them to go to good homes.”

“Well, maybe I can take one.”

After I made that statement, I felt a heaviness and slight sadness in my heart. So much so that I had to blurt out the whole story about each girl getting a puppy for Christmas.

Once the entire encounter was out in the open, he said,

“You need to take two.  One for each girl.”

“I guess I will,” I said.

I told him to give my phone number to the puppy owner so she could call me later in the day.  She did so, and I made the mistake of putting the call on speaker phone.  I had each girl hanging on my every word as we spoke.  My oldest daughter wanted a boy, and the other wanted a female.  Taking only one was no longer an option.  I made arrangements to go see the entire litter later that day.

While driving over for our visit, I began to feel myself panic.  I silently went over all my reasons why I should not have been engaging in this.  Once I saw the puppies, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to say no.  As I fretted along, I felt a strong peace settle in my chest.  It was like my mind was whirling a hundred miles an hour, but I had a calm that kept my foot on the gas and the car moving toward the destination.

When we arrived and I knocked on the door, I heard a chorus of barking.  The three of us were greeted by puppies running around us in circles.  We decided to sit down in the middle of it all to see what would happen.  A small little male came and settled in quite nicely on my oldest daughter’s lap.  A smaller female came to occupy the other daughter’s lap.

“Ever since we got off the phone, these two have been sitting by the door like they were waiting for you to come,” Ellie, the owner, said.

The decision had made itself.  Lily and Stinky were now ours to keep.

We left them in her care for another week and on December 12 they came to take up permanent residence in my home.  Both girls had been given free dogs for Christmas.

I still don’t fully understand how they came to be mine because having two dogs was the farthest thing from any of my wishes.  However, they completely changed the entire atmosphere of my home.  We all laughed more often, and I worried less.  Many times, we would entertain ourselves watching the two of them tussle over toys.  I can still see Lily, all of two pounds at the time, dragging her brother Stinky across the living room floor by the toy in his mouth. He had clamped onto her favorite stuffed animal and wouldn’t let it go.  They became a good distraction from all that had gone wrong.

Oddly, after we had gotten them, my youngest daughter told me something even more strange.  After our black lab was adopted, she created a virtual dog on one of her gaming systems. It helped her to get over the fact that our real dog was no longer with us.  She named her virtual pet ‘Lily’ and gave her a black coat just exactly like the real Lily.  The dogs were already named when we went to go visit them, and we kept their names once we got them home. All of it seemed to be so arranged.  In a very good way.

The following year, as Christmas was approaching, I made up cookie trays and wondered if Ellie would like one.  On the night before Christmas Eve, I had a strong inclination to put together a tray and get it to her house.  Snow was falling hard that night, but I knew I was to deliver this to her.  When I knocked on the door, I heard the familiar sound of barks.

“Merry Christmas,” I said when she opened the door.  “I brought you a cookie tray that I made.”

I saw the tears come into her eyes, and then she hugged me while I tried not to drop the entire tray.

“I just got back from the store.  My oven broke so I can’t bake anything, and I was trying to find packages of cookies or something.  This comes at just the right time.”

That is how I felt about her gift of the dogs to me.  They came at just the right moment in my life, and I didn’t even realize then how much I needed them.  Someone who loves me deeply knew and sent them my way.  Just more proof that we are loved completely from head to tail.

stinky

Stinky and Lily

Turkey for Two

The Sunday paper was lying in a heap on the kitchen table. As usual, it was Monday, and I was finally getting around to reading a few of the ads. Most of the inserts spoke of doorbuster sales, but I wasn’t thinking of finding Christmas gifts early.  Instead, I needed two turkeys for Thanksgiving. As I paged through the various catalogs of information, I wondered what had happened to this holiday? It seemed like we no sooner had Halloween and all its uproar with candy scarfing then we hurtled full speed ahead to boughs of holly and mad dashes to find the perfect gift. What had happened to the cranberries, the stuffing, the giving thanks and a day of digesting one of the best meals of the year?

I located the grocery store ad in hopes of finding a buy one get one on frozen turkeys. In years past, this had been offered, but it became apparent that our economy had taken a hit as I could not find a deal on any turkey. I thought maybe the week before Thanksgiving this would surely be an offering.  No such luck.

The reason for buying two birds was not so I could eat them both, but my intention was to give one to a good friend of mine who had just gone through a divorce just like I had. He was going to be cooking a meal for his kids for the first time as a single man. I guess I was trying to take away some of the stress by helping him along in the kitchen by giving him the main dish to which he could easily add in the sides. I was not at the height of having an abundance of money, but I knew I was to help him out this way.

I put the paper aside, and I made the decision that I would go out and buy each of us a turkey the next day. In the meantime, I had to take my youngest daughter to her dance class. While driving, I mulled over the predicament. I knew exactly to the penny what I had in my checking account and back in those days, a savings account didn’t exist. I was never one for using a credit card to buy my food, so I knew I was going to have to just fight off the fear of lack and do it anyway.

After I dropped her off at her class, I sat in my car and said a quick prayer asking for help in apprehending two turkeys for our meals. It wasn’t anything fancy. Just a quick shout out to heaven with a simple thank you. Then, I put it out of my mind and got out a book to read while I waited.

When I got home, I saw the ad laying on the table where I had left it.  I felt a slight twinge of disappointment because I really wanted to give him a turkey, but I didn’t know how I was going to afford two of them plus all the rest of my meal.  I walked out to the mailbox, and as I shuffled through the usual bills, a bright red postcard surfaced.  Written in fancy font it read:

Your name has been submitted to receive a free Thanksgiving basket.  Please come to the address listed below on Wednesday to pick up your items. Thank you.  

I could not believe it!  Just moments ago I was worrying over how I was going to give away a turkey that I didn’t have to pay for and now I was going to be able to give away an entire meal!   Not even for a moment did I consider keeping this gift for myself.  I wanted to give it away to a person who was going through a hard time of adjusting to a new way of living.  I was so overjoyed that I barely heard the phone ringing when I came back into the house.

“Hello?” I said.

“Is this Christine?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Christine, I am calling because someone gave us your name to receive a Thanksgiving basket.  I am calling to see if you would like one. Our church gave away baskets over the weekend, and we are now trying to find homes for the ones that are leftover.  We sure would appreciate it if you would take one.”

“I just got a postcard in the mail that I am to pick up a basket this Wednesday.  Is this from your church?”

“No.  We didn’t send out postcards.  And, our delivery happened over the weekend.  So, what we have are baskets that didn’t find homes in need of them.  Would you like one?”

It was one of those moments when my mouth hung open on its own accord, and I lost my ability to speak for a few seconds.

“Sure.  I would love one,” I said.

“If you could come and pick this up before Wednesday, that would work out great.”

I assured her that I would.

On Wednesday, I stood in my kitchen with two overflowing baskets both containing two large turkeys, stuffing mix, cranberries, canned vegetables, fresh potatoes and all the staples every well stocked pantry could afford such as flour, sugar, butter and even a gallon of milk!

As we approach this time of the year once again, I am reminded of how I had no need to worry about any of the details.  I had asked for help, and the divine had come to my rescue.  Even before I had prayed, heaven had made a way for turkey for two.

twoturkeys

When the Chips are Down

The three of us appeared war torn and zombie like as we walked through the store wishing we could buy ‘normal’. I had jokingly told people that Sunday was my favorite day of the week. The usual response to this was:

“Because you get a day of rest?”

“No. There is no mail.”

My life had become a daily dread of wondering what was going to show up in my box next as the divorce procedure was in full swing. Something would arrive from my attorney only to be countered by the other lawyer. Like a game of tennis, I was the ball batted back and forth over the net. And, this match was not about ‘love’.

Add to that the grief of having a marriage end which I had not envisioned when I said “I do.” It was the termination of a relationship that had gone off the tracks. There was a nagging feeling of remorse felt throughout the soul because the happy ending didn’t come as expected. I wept sometimes over the idea that I wouldn’t be a member of the grey haired couples club who get to celebrate 50 happy years together. It was a let down on many levels.

Tangled up with all of that was the financial aspect which I tried to hide from my two young girls. I was supposed to hold my head high and go through my days as if nothing unusual was transpiring. It was like trying to row a boat in the middle of a hurricane.

As we walked along the aisles of the store, we didn’t say much. We were too exhausted emotionally and physically. When we got near the snack bar I suggested buying them each an Icee. Those had always been a favorite, and I thought it might be a way to get a small spark of joy back momentarily.

My oldest daughter objected because she was keenly aware of our financial state, but I insisted and began the all too familiar ‘digging’ in my purse for loose change. I got into a long line as I counted pennies, nickels and dimes.

I observed other shoppers reach in and pull out bills or swipe cards to pay. It was done so effortlessly without any thought. I was slightly jealous remembering it had been that way for me at one time.

I cupped my coins carefully as I inched forward in the line. I glanced over at my daughters who had seated themselves. Their pale faces and tired eyes reminded me of my own whenever I caught a glance of my reflection. We all needed a boost of happiness, and I was determined to have some for a small price.

Just as it was my turn to order, it was as if someone smacked the underside of my hand that gripped the coins. I watched as they fell not only to the ground, but lodged themselves in between all the snack bags that were housed on shelves in front of me.

No one around me was aware of the explosion of anger that ignited within me. I quickly began gathering up what I could find on the ground as other customers streamed ahead of me buying what they wanted quickly without hesitation.

While on my hands and knees scrounging on the dirty floor, I was screaming inside,

Why is everything so hard, God?!?

I was seething as I crawled around wondering how my life had disintegrated to this lowly state.  A woman in line tapped me on the shoulder and handed me one of my wayward pennies.  I smiled and said,

“Thank you, ” not meaning a single word of it.

I stood to the side and counted the change I had managed to find.  It wasn’t enough.  I glanced at the chip bags and knew what I had to do in order to get what I had come for.

I carefully stored the money I had retrieved and then set about the task of plunging my hands into various piles of bags feeling blindly for lost coins. I rearranged the entire display with much shame and embarrassment in my search. Surprisingly, I had found everything but my last quarter when my hand ran into an object that seemed unusual.  It was square and felt leather like.  I brought it up to the surface.

I had unearthed a man’s wallet.   Holding it in front of me, I could not believe what I was seeing.  By now there was no one in line and the woman behind the counter said,

“Did you find that?!?”

“Yes,” I said in shock.

I handed it to her and she said,

“We have a disabled man who works here during the day.  Yesterday, he came in line to get food and couldn’t find his wallet. He was so upset and could not locate it. He must have dropped it where you found it.”

My anger was beginning to quickly recede.

With much excitement she added,

“If he were here right now, he would hug you.  Everything is in here. He was so worried about his bank card and social security card being stolen. He stopped by today and asked if we had found it because it was bothering him.  If you hadn’t dropped your money like you did, he wouldn’t have known what happened to it and continued to search frantically for it.  I have to give him a call and tell him you found it so he can relax.”

Just then, I looked down at my right foot and saw the elusive last quarter that I had been seeking.

I paid for two frozen treats with a new attitude, and as I was walking back to my seat a strong idea came into my awareness.

Everything happens for a reason.  

I was used to bring mental relief to someone who was in turmoil. It was as if my question earlier of ‘why everything was difficult’ was being answered.  I felt it reverberate throughout my entire spirit. There was a point to the madness.

That particular moment has become a memory anchor for me when life has become turbulent.  It reminds me that no matter what emotional state we find ourselves in, we can be a vessel to bring peace to a fellow human being and we are never alone even when the chips are down.

chips

Out of Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You are going to lose your money.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

outoforder

Eau De Oxiclean


When a bag of ice is in the trunk on a hot summer day and the trip from Walmart to home isn’t short, there is a sort of panic that ensues. No one wants to arrive home with a gigantic bag of water. In my haste last Sunday to unearth my ice from the thousands of Walmart bags I had carelessly piled on top of it, I grabbed my industrial sized jug of laundry soap and was holding it in one hand while attempting to grasp onto the bag that housed the ice. The large soap container slipped from my hold which I attempted to stop with my right foot. The bottle bounced and landed on its cap smacking the gargage floor sending a beautiful blue shower of fluid onto my new shoes, my ankles and both knee caps. It’s at times like this when a person loses all sense of speech and just keeps on repeating,

“Oh no. Oh no. Oh no,” while trying to reach down to stop the madness of the river forming around the feet.

The dilemma really was to try and get out of the blue puddle and race my fast melting purchase a few steps into the outside freezer without tracking detergent all over. At the same time, I was very aware of the sticky feeling that was beginning to happen between my toes. The ice took precedence as I skipped unhappily over to the refrigeratior to solve problem number one.

When I returned to the scene of the mess, my daughter came outside to help carry in more groceries. Because the liquid was right behind the trunk of my car, she had to keep her feet way back, reach in to grab more groceries and edge her way out without touching the glob. While she did this, I carefully picked up the container to attempt to clean it off and get it to the laundry room.

“I purposely picked out the bigger one with Oxiclean it. Now it’s all over the floor!” I said as I whisked into the house irritated at the circumstances.

While I was downstairs attending to the task, I heard the door to the kitchen open, and I heard her say,

“Trouble. Trouble Trouble.” Followed by a bit of running over ahead and then the sound of the faucet running.

It turned out, she had her run in with the soap as well. As she was trying to get more groceries out of the back, a large wrapped loaf of Italian bread took a dive into the puddle. I found the bread in the sink.

My hands and entire body reeked of detergent.

“Here. You hold the bag. I will use these tongs to slide the bread out without touching the bag, and I think we can save it.”

“My hands smell like laundry soap. I don’t think I can do it. I don’t want to ruin the bread.”

With the skills of a kitchen Ninja I carefully extracted the bread from the bag with the tongs without touching the afflicted bag. And, then it hit me.

Laughter. I was laughing so hard thinking about the two of us nearly running into each other in the garage and walking with my feet spread wide apart as if that would help anything. And it doesn’t. It never does, but I do it anyway to make myself feel better in those types of situations.

This then led me to recalling another time of chaos.

“Mom, I don’t feel good,” she had said just before bed. “I have a headache and my stomach feels weird.” I was exahusted from a full day of chores around the house, and I wanted to get to bed.

“Why don’t you sleep on my floor?” I made up a bed for her with pillows, extra bedding and a basin in case of an emergency.

“Just try to go to sleep. I will be back in a minute. I have dishes to clean up.”

Within moments of being in the kitchen, I heard my bedroom door open. I knew instinctively that something was amiss. Our black lab, Shady, thought my daughter was coming out to play. While I attempted to get to my daughter, the dog lept in my way.

Dog and daughter collided in the hallway and suddenly there was vomit all over the back end of that dog! My daughter scampered into the bathroom while the dog ran crazily into my other daughter’s bedroom, jumped on her BRAND NEW comforter and began rolling around on it. I stood in the hallway not knowing which way to go first. Do I get the dog off of my upset teenager’s bed, or do I go rescue the one in the bathroom?

I opted to check on the one who threw up while hearing the other one yell,

“What is happening?!?!”

The next step was to get the dog calmed down which wasn’t easy. Once in insane play mode at over 80 pounds, she was difficult to harness. I finally grabbed her by the collar and dragged her into the tub. She abhored baths and thought of them as punishment, so to make her feel better, I got in with her and turned on the water. She sat down looking defeated and dumbstruck. How had playtime turned into bath time? As I began scrubbing her down, I began to laugh so hard I was crying. Her face looked so dejected.

It had been months since I had really had a genuine good laugh. I had just come through a horrible divorce where grief and pain greeted me each day as a reminder that my life seemed like a failure. There was no room for joy as I went through the motions of trying to get to everyone and everything. The more I laughed, the more depressed the dog looked which made me laugh more.

Once the dog was dry and escaped the bathroom happily, the ill child was sleeping peacefully, and I had loaded the dirty bedding into the washer, I felt relaxed. It was nearly 2 am before I got to bed, but I went to sleep that night feeling that some of the sadness had departed from my spirit. I was on my way to healing.

I believe it is in the moments of what we would call ‘insanity’ that many of us come to realize we need to find our sense of humor. If we don’t find it, it may just come calling for us. Joy snaps us out of a place of despair and connects us again to the One who wants to see us happy.

I decided not to wash off the smell of the laundry soap. It’s my new scent.  Eau De Oxiclean. (That may be French.  I am not sure)

laundry

Wedding Bells and Empty Shells

“She is dating a co-worker of mine. I see them together everyday while I am here and they flirt with each other right in front of me.”

“And you have been married how long to this woman?”

“A month.”

“So, you were married a month ago and already she is cheating on you?”

“She says she isn’t, but at the end of her shift she goes home with him for the night.  She has told me that nothing is going on.”

“Have you known her for awhile?”

“Yes. We have a two year old son together.” He pulled out his phone to show me a picture of himself and an adorable red headed boy.

“Was she like this before you got married?”

“She flirted with men, but it wasn’t like this. She won’t let me touch her or kiss her. She is like a totally different person.”

“Who helps you with the baby?”

“Her parents do.”

“Have you discussed her behavior with them?”

“Yes. They don’t approve but they told me that they love their daughter and it wasn’t their business to get involved in our marriage.”

“Did you tell them you might divorce her?”

“Yes, and they told me to go ahead with whatever I felt was right.”

He continued talking about how miserable his life was with this person.

“She tells me that nothing is going on, and that I am being unreasonable about all of it. She took off her wedding ring because she said she has a rash on that hand and can’t wear it. Everyone here at work knows they are together. This guy has had four kids with four different women.”

Alarm bells and red flags!

“Why are you still with her? I know you just got married a month ago, but what keeps you in this marriage?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“I love her.”

“That is admirable of you, but do you see that you are being used? She is carrying on with another man while you are working, raising your son and she is making you out to look like a liar while she is cheating.”

He fiddled with his wedding ring spinning it around on his finger. “I know, but I love her.”

“Are you happy? Is this what you consider marriage?”

“No. But I love her. I want to punch the guy in the face everytime I see him.”

“What about her? She is participating along with him.”

“I know.” I saw a few glints of tears in his angry eyes.

“I am not trying to tell you what to do. I have been through a divorce and it isn’t fun at all for anybody. This person is married to you and using it as a front to be with someone else. Is this really what you want out of life?”

“No, I didn’t think it would work out like this at all. I thought things would be different.”

“Then maybe your next step should be to pack it in, start fresh, raise your son and move on and let her find her way.”

“I can’t. I love her.”

No matter what I said, it came back to this same answer. This conversation began when I had gone to the front desk of the resort where we were staying to pick up a card that would offer me discounts on area attractions. Little did I know that the representative behind the desk would begin telling me his whole life story.

I had simply asked for my card, told him the neighbors above our unit were extremely noisy and the next thing I knew he was unloading his pain on me in massive doses.

“If you are this unhappy now, what will it be like ten years from now?  Will she go to counseling with you to get help?”

“No. She claims she isn’t doing anything wrong so she won’t go with me.”

“What if she gets pregnant with this man?” At this, his neck became red up to the roots of his hair.

“I am worried that might happen.” I sensed the slight tremor of fear.

“You have to take some time and think all of this through,” I said. “I have to say you are doing the best you can in a very tough situation.” He thanked me for listening, and I began my walk down the long hallway.

I have had situations such as this happen over my years where someone I don’t know very well will begin to spill very serious and intimate details of his or her life. Usually, my inward reaction is shock, and I want to check my shirt to see if it reads: Please tell me all your problems right now!

I cannot explain it fully, but while those emotions are going on, something else takes over. I often feel a calm settle over me as I listen, ask questions and try to sort through the mess. On the outside it appears that I am cool and collected while many times I am thinking,

“What is happening?!?”

As I walked away from him I began to think of how I had ‘trapped’ myself into situations over the years. I think many of us get our hearts set on something and even when it is going very badly, we cling to it hoping things will change.  We make up stories in our heads and dismiss the fact that our problem is in fact our unwillingness to look things squarely in the eye and make a decision to save ourselves from agony.  Sometimes, as in this man’s case, it is too painful to acknowledge the pain.

I believe in prayer.  I do believe miracles can happen. I have experienced prayers being answered in ways where things that were not serving me were removed. I have prayed for burdens to be lifted and to walk in freedom only to find that I was hindering my own progress by not letting go.

As I approached the door of my condo, I saw a couple walk by holding hands and having a lively conversation. You know the kind where you can feel the electricity in their attraction as they talk and walk. I thought of the wounded and dejected guy behind the desk. This is what he was longing for deeply but missing it because his partner was not on board.

I thought about the vow he had so recently taken about being together “until death do us part”. I never used to think of it this way, but there have been times in my life where something has ‘died’ so to speak, and I have not wanted to part with it.

Relationships fizzle out when one doesn’t reverance and honor the other party.  A picture comes to mind of a shell on the beach that has washed up without the creature inside. The housing still exists but the contents are empty. It appears that you have stumbled upon a treasure but when you flip it over you realize that whatever lived there before is gone. The shell is just a remnant of the life that was.

I send my best prayers to this man who so deeply loves a woman who does not love him back.  He deserves a good outcome that is more than living life like an empty shell.

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