Scary

My oldest daughter attended an online charter school in 7th grade that required a laptop. Because those were the days I was working three jobs and trying to home school, I had to find something I could afford. Luckily, we did just before she was to start.

Barely out of the box, one of us tripped over the charger, ripping it straight out of where it was plugged in. This was round number one to replace it.

A few weeks later, after we moved the computer to another location, someone else did the same exact thing, requiring a second run for another one.

The third mishap could have turned out way worse than it did. At the time, our dogs were puppies, and one of them chewed up the charger cord while it was plugged in. No one got fried in the process.

Except for me. I was beyond my tolerance for having this repeat itself. I was worn out from going through the double doors of the electronic store, becoming a regular like at a bar.

I thought we were out of the woods once we hit the six-month mark, but then the modem died. So it was back to the same store but with a different problem.

I was hoping to circumvent help, grab something and go. But, the options were endless, so I had to stay longer than I wanted, which then drew an employee’s attention. I was just fine on my own, but she took it upon herself to assist.

I must not have masked my feelings very well. I wasn’t taking my annoyance out on her, but I wasn’t exactly overly welcoming. My goal was to get out of there as quickly as I could. My youngest daughter was with me, also trying to speed up the process. I tried not to make much eye contact or speak, to rush it along. The “helper” was happily chirping away about various models and prices. And any other topic she thought would be of interest to me. She wasn’t picking up on my nonverbal cues, and I decided I might as well speak because she was there for the duration.

Finally, I said,

“This is my fourth time here.”

I explained my charger drama as I went back to looking on the shelf for what we needed. I began talking to make time go by faster and not complaining, just trying to make an awkward situation less uncomfortable since she seemed bored and wanted something to do.

She edged closer to me. I thought I was in her way, so I moved over. I picked up a box, decided that was the one, and turned to thank her for trying to help.

Out of absolutely nowhere, she said,

“You need a hug!” And she threw herself at me.

I was somewhat shocked that I hadn’t been fast enough to dodge out of the way.

I was highly skilled at this from having to face many overzealous church greeters. I learned quickly to avoid the double arm maneuver in the lobby.

It was first the handshake, then the forearm grab as you are pulled in before you can change your mind and run back to your car. Your limb is nearly dislocated, but you feel thoroughly greeted.

To avoid being involved with that, I would get so preoccupied with my purse and keys, pretending to juggle them so I didn’t have a free hand to spare. Instead, I would smile, say hi, look totally stressed out trying to handle my bag, and move on, bypassing the whole thing. I was a professional at it.

I had also been subjected to embracers as well, and my best excuse was to say I had to run to the bathroom. Even the most hardcore smotherer for the Lord won’t bother you if they think you have had a lot of water to drink before a service. They wish you well from afar and say they will catch you next time.

I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I decided my skirting around them was a win for all of us. I was freeing them up for the next unsuspecting victim.

I believed I had a rock solid barrier between myself and this type of behavior. I was completely surprised by her actions; I was frozen in place, hanging on to the modem box. My arms were at my sides, unmoving. Was this part of the employee of the month program? Was she going to have her picture posted on a wall somewhere just for ninja attacking me? She was not letting go quickly, and time for me had halted.

After the unwanted advance, she stepped back and said,

“I hope you feel better.”

I had dissociated from my body momentarily.

My daughter held in the biggest laugh of her life because she is well aware of my small personal bubble. I somewhat staggered backward to regain my independence.

“Have a great day!” she said.

I nodded and walked away like a zombie to the register. My daughter, no longer able to contain herself, said in between gasps for air,

“Your face! You should have seen it!”

“Why did she do that to me? That is not normal! We are in a store!” I said in a yell whisper.

I was afraid she was lurking nearby within listening range, and I didn’t want to give her any reason to feel sorry for me again. That was not my intention in the first place. I kept looking around as if she was going to pop up out of nowhere.

This only made her laugh more all the way to the car. Loudly.

I locked all the doors, which brought on another round of hysteria.

“I just can’t stop thinking of how you looked!”

“How am I supposed to look when someone lunges at me like that? Who does that?”

On the one hand, it’s nice to know that we have good hearted people in the world, but I couldn’t get past its oddity.

This is not the only time a worker has gone out of their way to console me but in a less invasive way.

I had taken my lawnmower in for an oil change and to get the blade sharpened. It’s not my favorite thing to do in the world as I am totally out of my element. I have a smaller, less crowded hardware store nearby, but it’s still very testosterone leaning, and the rows of unknown things are mind-blowing.

Who has time to browse the aisles looking at miles of gadgets and minuscule metal objects? From my observation: retired men. Of which I am not one. Who generally works there? The same demographic.

I don’t do this at the beginning of spring because everyone else does. I try to time it to go in after the onslaught of eager lawn fanatics so I will get it back faster. With fewer mowers, I wait a shorter time.

A week went by, and I heard nothing. That seemed unusual, so I called to ask if it had gotten taken care of.

“I don’t see it here,” the person who answered the phone said. “Our system says it’s still out for repair.”

That made me wonder if something was wrong with it that I didn’t know about.

“What is the date it has been promised to be done?”

“A week from today. But it’s always done way early when I bring it in at this time of the year.”

“Well, then wait until then. It’s not here.”

I felt like I was interrupting her life, so I did what she said. I always default to being the one who is wrong when it comes to not being confident in what I am dealing with.

Two whole weeks went by, which seemed off to me. This was the first time it had taken this long. I usually get a text saying it’s ready for pick up, but my promised date had passed. So I called to see if it had been overlooked.

“Nope, it’s not back yet,” she said. “It says it’s still out for service when I look it up.”

I hung up, realizing I was going to have to use their loaner. I drove over to get it. I’m accustomed to mine, which is self-propelled. What they gave me was similar to that metal clipper-type thing that has to be pushed. It was heavy and nearly broke my spirit by the time I finished both yards. I didn’t realize how nice I had it.

A week later, now three weeks of waiting, I went into the store again. I just felt that something wasn’t right, and there was no reason for this to be taking so long.

I told my story to another person, gave them my receipt, and waited while they went to check in storage. Within moments, my mower was coming through the door.

“The tag says it was back three weeks ago, and it only took a couple of days because the inventory was low.”

So, the very first time I called to ask, it was finished and waiting for me.

“I tried to get it, but no one had contacted me. When I called in, I was told it was still out, and I had to wait until the exact date I had been given.”

“It was sitting there the entire time. Whoever answered the phone should have double checked the storage room and not just the computer. That thing can be wrong all the time. I am sorry.”

“I’m just glad to get it out of jail,” I said.

She laughed and took my paperwork to the register. I hadn’t ever seen her before.

There was a long line to wait through, and I kept an eye on my mower so it wouldn’t be retaken hostage.

When I was going to pay, I was told a certain amount that seemed low.

“Are you sure you typed that in right?”

When I dropped it off, I had put down a deposit, and the remainder should have been more.

“The manager said you had some problems, so she wanted to make it right.”

I was stunned.

“She doesn’t have to do that. I’m not upset at all, and I’m just glad I got it back.”

“She wants to be sure you come back.”

“I always come here. This won’t change that.”

They wouldn’t charge me the full price no matter how much I insisted they should.

On my way to the car, I looked at the receipt; it had a personal note attached, professing their apologies and adoration for me. Very similar to the hugger many years ago, and just out of the ordinary.

God will show up in ways that seem strange. In neither of those incidents was I outwardly exhibiting my frustration, but I was polite and trying to navigate my way through unpleasant situations. Part of what I was trying to do was resolve problems that are areas of life I find unfamiliar, which is the root of the stress. Electronics and tools are just not high on my list of expertise, and God knows that. Every time I have been forced to deal with an issue that seems too big to handle, I have discovered that I can. And it makes it easier the next time.

In Isaiah 65:24 it says:
I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!(NLT)

So maybe all those times I got sent back to the same store was to purge my fear of the unknown. The repetition, even though maddening, created familiarity. Not that God wanted me to have bad things happen, but everything can be used to bring us up higher. I can now look back and say maybe, just maybe, the weird hug was to congratulate me on a job well done. I’m still not sure, and I don’t need it to happen again in the middle of the electronic department. Ever.

In Psalm 139, this comforting promise is made:

You have searched me
and known me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You understand my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down;
You are aware of all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
You know all about it.
You hem me in behind and before;
You have laid Your hand upon me.(NLT)

Isn’t the goal to live anxiety-free and to walk by faith? Then sometimes, we will be required to stop avoiding what we don’t like, face it, know it’s for our good, and check it off the list as no longer scary.

(My receipt..who wouldn’t keep this?)

Wounds

It wasn’t uncommon for me to suffer disappointment while growing up. My parents came out of the Great Depression, where they were taught that money was scarce, nothing should be wasted, and everything could be repaired. 

It was a routine, but horrible experience, to have water added to the ketchup or salad dressing bottle so every last drip could be consumed. She would shake it all together, try to hand it to me, and I refused because I had found it tasted like death. 

“Chris, just use it. It’s not that bad.”

Even her head shaking and sighing would not move me. She had stockpiled more, and I knew it. Sometimes she would give in and act as she had just found a brand new bottle that she had “forgotten all about.” Miracles can happen every day if you are stubborn enough. 

Besides holding my ground on condiments, I had to beg and plead for her to open the purse strings for anything. If she could find a way to buy something that never needed to be replaced, she was on board. So my request to get a pumpkin at a farm was coloring way out of the lines.

“I want a real pumpkin,” I kept saying day and night, starting in September. This was a tactic that had worked on a few things in the past. But, not always. If I got her to say,

“Maybe,” I knew I was closer to my goal. 

Every house in our neighborhood had carved pumpkins on the front steps. She had chosen to buy a plastic one that she could plug in, which she had gotten long before I was on earth. Frugal at its finest. 

It didn’t have the personal touch of a kitchen knife in an artist’s imperfect hand. It was a factory-produced, false rendition of something organic, started from a seed, grown in a field. Hers was a far cry from that. The light bulb had started to burn off some of the original orange paint. But, to no avail, she got it out every single year, which killed my chances of getting a real one. 

The year I had given up, feeling that she was not going to budge an inch, she took me by total surprise and said,

“I think it would be fun to go to a pumpkin patch.”

I could not believe it! I acted as if it was not a big deal, but it was. We made the drive to the nearest place. 

I walked through rows and rows of them, trying to decide which one would be mine. Because of the age gap between my siblings and me, I was the only kid in the age bracket to find this experience exciting. All my energy and wear-down approach had finally paid off in fourth grade. 

I carried my selection to the person who she would pay. She suddenly noticed the sign stating the price per pound. I hadn’t chosen the largest one I could have, but her default kicked in once it hit the scale. 

“That’s way too much. I’m not going to spend that.”

The guy dressed like a farmer looked at her and then at me. I could not believe that she was actually going to back out now. 

“Is that the real price?” She asked. I could tell that the “fun” part was being sucked out of it. 

“Yes.”

“No, thank you. Chris, let’s go.”

I had been so close! The guy glanced over at me again with very sympathetic eyes. It wasn’t until that moment I realized I shouldn’t be happy. I had been denied so many other things so often that my ability to feel sadness had been curtailed. I was supposed to accept that whatever she did or said would produce no emotional response on my part. 

I had become really good at it, but I also made a vow to myself that once I had children, I would never do to them what had been done to me. Or at least try not to. 

So whether it was acceptable or not, I took my girls to get pumpkins in the fall. The stigma of doing so and going against what was presented as evil in the church’s eyes didn’t stop me. I read all the literature and folklore about its practice and decided that God knew my heart. I wasn’t doing this to ward off mischievous spirits or engage in the dark arts. I was trying to heal something from my past. 

It worked as I watched them produce some of the most beautiful pieces of art I had ever seen. Somewhere in their DNA, they were awarded the ability to draw and create things I had never been given. Scribbling out a stick figure is a challenge for me. 

One year, my youngest daughter decided to spraypaint her pumpkin. She had seen the idea somewhere and decided that this was something she wanted to try. She purchased a can of purple glitter spray and covered the entire thing. It turned out very professional looking. 

The only thing was that it never occurred to us to put it outside in the cold air to preserve it. Day after day, it sat in the house looking like a royal piece of artistry straight out of a fairy tale, subjected to a warm environment. One night I noticed a strange smell. Why this always befalls me, I do not know. 

“Is that your pumpkin starting not to smell so great?” I asked as it was in the air drifting and becoming more fragrant. Pumpkin in a can of spray is nowhere near this natural one.

“Maybe,” she said. 

Both of us approached it warily. I have learned the hard way that once something makes its presence known by way of a foul odor, you have to think before reacting. I had been the unfortunate recipient of cleaning out the refrigerator and unearthing containers that held contents that once had good intentions of being used later. Refried beans are not your friend on day 237. And by all means, do not hastily remove the lid unless you are right over the garbage with a hazmat suit securely fastened. 

Now we stood in front of the most magical looking pretty display, trying to decide which one of us was going to pick it up. She knows she can outlast me, so of course, it would be me. 

All that glitters on the outside is not necessarily a good representation of what is really going on.

When I slowly moved it, I immediately saw the mold that started at the base and rapidly spread. Pieces of paint were falling off in the back as the green fuzz was making its attack. She leaned in to get a better look, and I turned it so she could see how bad it was. Right as I did, an enormous black spider jumped out from its hiding place, trying to dodge being squished into the afterlife.

I heard her scream, and when I looked, she was long gone, just like the spider. 

I could not stop laughing. 

“Where did it go?” She said from the farthest corner of the house. 

“I don’t know.” Dreaded words for one who is terrified of things that crawl. 

I had to throw away the decayed piece of produce, and she spent days looking over her shoulder for the escapee. 

God can bring resolution to the biggest and smallest of pain. And heaven has a way of providing it in the most perfect of ways. Even if the person who hurt you never apologizes, fractures can be mended. It may come in the form of a funny moment or a simple word spoken like this one in Psalm 71:20, 

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth, you will again bring me up. (NIV) 

In addition, this is a steadfast promise of God’s faithfulness from Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages up their wounds.” (NLT) 

Yep..I have talent in my house

Wherever You Go

“You are trying to live a champagne life on a beer budget,” he said to me.

“What does that mean?” He generally spoke straightforward and not in riddles.

“You want what you cannot afford.”

We were in a car lot, and my dad was tired of hearing me say ‘no’ to all the options he had given me for vehicle choices.

“I don’t like any of them.”

The salesperson tried to stay positive, but my dad had mercy on him and said,

“We will be back. We need to figure out what she can have.”

Being the youngest, I was offered something that everyone else ahead of me had to wait for. My parents were worn out from driving kids all over town, so they decided to find a used car for me when I was seventeen to cut themselves free from the responsibility forever. I was the only one left. Having older parents had its advantages; they were more like grandparents when I was in my late teens. What they once had endless energy for, now was no longer a priority.

I ended up being given an older Pontiac Firebird, which halted my searches through car lots. But, I was not spared the long speech.

“If you get a speeding ticket, we will take the car away.” There were more rules stated, but I zoned out. I figured if I did something wrong, they would let me know later. For now, I had my own transportation.

I could not believe that I had hit a taxi. I did not live in a vast metropolis where we had cabs on every corner with people chasing them down, and they were rarely seen on the route I was traveling. The driver slammed his door and seemed angry as he walked to my car.

It was early morning, and I was on my way to high school. I must have been tired from working all weekend and had a momentary too long of a blink. I heard the sound of metal and crunching.

I was already saying I was sorry before I got out of my car. I saw that he had a passenger in the back seat. He crouched down and looked at his bumper and mine. I must have read his initial facial expression wrong because he looked up at me, smiled, and said,

“Are you okay?”

I said I was. Physically, yes, but mentally, no.

“Well, I have no damage. These are built like tanks, and it looks like you have the worst of it.”

Most of the people in my school were driving cars that barely started. I was asked if my family was wealthy because mine was in such great shape. Now, I had put a dent in it.

“Are you sure you are alright? You don’t look like you are,” he said.

This was before cell phones, so I couldn’t just call my dad and have him come to my rescue, and this had never happened to me before.

“I have a special needs student in the back, so I have to get him to school. Can you make it to where you are going? That damage to your car can be easily fixed. You didn’t hit me that hard.”

I believed him, and we parted ways. I had to find a payphone.

“I hit a taxi,” I said, trying not to cry.

“What? You hit a what?” He was a father of six. Wasn’t he supposed to be ready for anything at all times?

“A taxi,” I said with my throat beginning to close.

“How did you do that?”

All the questions! Always.

“I don’t know. It was in front of me at a light, and I hit him!”

He actually started to laugh, so that meant I wasn’t going to get a lecture.

“Just go to school, and I will come look at it.”

He fixed it for me, but after that, I had a slight fear while out driving. Something that had been so automatic now didn’t seem like it. I got over it, and that was the only accident I have ever been in. But, my relationship with cars, dealing with them and their surprises have not been my favorite.

It’s always at the most inconvenient time when a battery dies, something leaks, or there’s a weird sound that starts up. And while getting my oil changed, I have been met by the dire news that some thing-a-ma-jig isn’t doing what it should, so now I have to pay for it without warning.

The most recent was my gas line coming off. I had just had my car in for a service, and the technician did not secure it properly with a clip after flushing that out. I took a turn, and my car died immediately. With my hands still on the wheel, I sat there wondering why I was smelling gasoline. I got out and saw that the full tank of gas I had just put in was spilling all over the ground.

One little broken clip required a tow back to the shop. To say that my patience has been tried is an understatement. With all of our technology, why are we not teleporting at this point?

On a Saturday morning not too long ago, my oldest daughter was getting ready to leave for work. Neither one of us really take the time to speak at that time of day because she is in a hurry, and I don’t want to slow her down. I was reading something, and I heard the garage door up.

I saw her back out of the driveway, and for some odd reason, I said,

“God, put angels around her car.”

I just had this weird feeling.

Within a minute, my phone was ringing.

“A guy hit me.”

“I am coming,” I said.

She had made it to the corner on our street, so my drive was about 30 seconds. When I pulled up, I started walking straight for my daughter. The other driver came around his truck, blocked me, and said,

“Hi, mom!”

I stepped back from him, inwardly cringed, and said a quick hello. I skirted him, but he followed close behind me, and I wasn’t sure what he was trying to accomplish.

“Are you okay?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said.

I glanced to my right, and he could not have been standing any closer to me. I backed up again.

“She was turning, and she hit me,” was his claim.

I called the police so a report could be filed.

He acted like we were old acquaintances, and that wasn’t making me feel so comfortable. I tried not to say anything, but the silence got to him.

“Where were you going?” He asked her.

“To work,” she answered.

“Where do you work?” he asked.

She pointed randomly straight ahead.

“That way.”

I raised a smart one.

He was so strange, and I tried to keep moving the two of us away from him. Every time I tried to talk to her alone, he would zoom in between us.

First, he told us he had never been involved in an accident, then went on to say he had some sort of road rage incident. I started to wonder what drugs he was on.

The police officer arrived, took down their information and stories. He looked like we had gotten him out of bed for the day. Before he left, he handed each of them his card and said that a report would be online to give to our insurance companies.

I told her to get into her car and roll the window down, which was the only moment she and I had together alone.

“Are you sure you are okay?”

“Yes,” she said again.

I looked over, and he was behind his wheel, staring at us.

Her car was driveable, so she took off. I made sure he went in the opposite direction. I wanted to go home and hose myself down after being in the presence of that man.

The police report was posted within a day, and officer Barney Fife stated that my bright orange vehicle was involved in the accident, not her very white one. He had glanced at the insurance card, where both cars were listed, and wrote in mine. It was no surprise that he also hadn’t listened to her account and messed that up as well.

After that was corrected and her car was repaired by paying the deductible, it became a ‘he said, she said’ case. He claimed she swerved into his left turn lane while she took a right. And she said he hit her in her lane. The whole thing, I was told, wasn’t going to go anywhere and would be a waste of time, especially because of the botched police report.

So what do you do when you know you have been wronged? You have to give it to God and count the things that worked in your favor. She didn’t get hurt, the car was fixed quickly, my insurance lady helped me on a Saturday because we are good friends, and we never have to see that guy again. I hope.

And, I was grateful for the angels that acted on her behalf when I asked for them to come, just like Psalm 91 says:

He orders his angels to guard you wherever you go. (Message)

The Door of Her Heart

I made it my mission to teach my oldest daughter about God even before she could speak. I was coming to understand faith, and while my spiritual walk was moving ahead, I had to be quiet about it as my household at the time was divided. If I tried to voice my beliefs, it didn’t go over well.

Instead of causing conflict, I studied and kept hidden anything related to the subject. I put books at the bottom of my dresser or tucked away in a dark corner that I only knew about. I didn’t let the opposition stop what God and I had started, but I went out of my way to guard myself.

I turned all of my knowledge toward her because she was a clean slate without any religious baggage or ability to argue with me.

In the car, no matter where she and I went, I played children’s music that incorporated scripture verses set to tunes that easily got stuck in the memory. As she got older, I would hear her humming happily to herself as she played with her toys.

It became very apparent that this was effective when she and I were in a crowded restaurant. She always was content sitting next to me coloring, talking non-stop about everything she could think of. On this particular night, she jumped to her feet in the booth, and at the top of her lungs, started singing Go Tell It On the Mountain.

No matter how much I tried to stop her, she wouldn’t quit. All the other customers got quiet and looked over at us. I was so worried that she was disrupting them with her unexpected off-Broadway dinner show, so I kept quietly saying her name, trying to get her to zip it.

Many people don’t appreciate an acapella version of a song in public. And I’m very aware that children, by some, are barely tolerated. But, there was no stopping her. I kept glancing up, and as she kept on going, I saw people smiling, so I just gave up my efforts. She was determined to finish all the lyrics, and there was no other choice.

At the end of it, she received applause. As if it was no big deal, she went back to her crayons.

On another occasion, my neighbor lady saw me outside working in the backyard.

“Do you know what one of my favorite things is in the evening?”

“No,” I said.

“I will be washing dishes, and I can hear your daughter singing while she is on her swing set. She goes through this long list of songs.”

It was spring, so all of us had our windows wide open for fresh air.

I had heard her do it too, and her ability to say certain words was still a challenge. Abraham was pronounced with an “n”, and it sounded like Neighborham.

“I like that one the best of all,” she said, laughing.

Someone gave me a large glass jar filled with slips of paper in it. On each one, there was a question regarding God that you could ask your child. It was an exercise to help expand their thinking about the unseen.

Because I continued to plant what I could in a secretive way, I thought this would fit right in.

So every night before bed, she would pick out a random piece of paper to be quizzed. She loved it so much that one was never enough, and sometimes she wanted so many I had to cut her off. She was like a sponge for learning and enjoyed what I was teaching her.

One night, she handed me her choice, and I asked:

“What does it mean to have God knock on the door of your heart?”

She did her usual squint and looked up at the ceiling.

“I know! That’s the song that I sing in the car. He knock, knock, knocks on your heart.” She added a closed fist pounding to her chest.

“So, what does that mean?”

“Ummm…What does it mean?” She asked.

“You don’t know?”

“No.”

I couldn’t believe that we were at this point already. It had taken me years to get to this, and now at 4, she was already inquiring about such a deep topic.

“Well, when you think you want to, you can let God be in charge of your life. It can’t be taken away from you, but you willingly give it.”

I grabbed a book where I knew there was a picture of Jesus knocking on a door.

“It’s like you open the door and say come in. That’s it. Do you want to do that?”

She said she did, so I had her say a little prayer with me.

After that, she had daily prayer sessions with her infant sister. She would prop her up in her carrier and try to explain the Bible. Just like I did with her, it was someone who had to listen and couldn’t talk back or run away. Even if her audience drifted off to sleep, she would keep on expounding her newfound wisdom.

I sometimes regret the decision I made to have her attend various churches alongside me. Not that she still didn’t keep the simple message she learned, but as with most formal organizations, there are rules to follow, and people get in the way by putting their own spin on it. Soon, what was so easy to know at such a young age had become so complex that the relationship started to wane. Why? Because the spiritual upkeep got to be overwhelming.

You are pressured to be something you are not, everything you do is monitored, and you slowly lose your freedom of choice. Anything supernatural that cannot be explained must be evil; the devil is behind everything, and conformity is a must because being different is unacceptable. Life becomes anxiety riddled, and you hope you are still on God’s good side.

Now you no longer depend on inner guidance, but you rely on those in leadership to educate you and discipline your wayward passage. You seek people instead of the One who holds all the answers that you need. You are instructed how to think and speak, so you don’t stand out from the rest. It was so far away from her innocent singing songs that made her heart happy. The joy of having a close relationship with the Creator was slowly being stripped away. None of this moved either of us up higher or into a deeper place with God.

If that’s how you feel where you are, get out and return to the truth. Go back to where she and I started as it says in Ephesians 5:1:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (ESV)

So how do you act like something you cannot see? In 1 John 4:16 it says this:

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. (NIV)

It doesn’t take a lot of discernment to recognize when you are tangled in something that doesn’t reflect that. People are not ever going to be perfect, but there’s no reason to stay too long and lose your way.

The God I introduced my daughter to wasn’t harsh; like an old friend, He was welcoming and didn’t require anything but her eager willingness to answer the knock at the door of her heart.

Do Over

“We had a common-law marriage so that we could get a tax deduction,” she said in a monotone voice.

That was a new one, I thought, as I wrote it down in the margin. It didn’t exactly fit into any of my categories, and I would have to work my magic and present it less shockingly.

“I thought he would someday commit, but he wanted his freedom. Signing a paper made him feel trapped, and I held on waiting, thinking he would change his mind.”

Her voice was lifeless, like she was tired of answering this question.

She wasn’t my usual interview for a social history. As part of the intake information I had to gather, I met with those who were newly admitted to the nursing home to get their stories. Most of them were similar with staunch religious upbringing, early entry into matrimony, 19 kids and counting, traditional roles of running a household, and then the death of a spouse.

I usually could write it with my eyes shut, and I hadn’t had this type of answer given to me before.

She was a bit younger than most of our residents, with long, wild grey hair and clothes that were somewhat more modern. This was back when assisted living, and home health care was not yet prominent like it is today, which she would have been a prime candidate for now.

While physically she was in good shape, she had developed mental issues that caused unsafe living conditions.

She had done a lot of drugs that had contributed to the problem as she aged. Her life experiences were the exact opposite of what I usually had people tell me.

“We didn’t have any children, but I thought I was happy.”

“You weren’t? This wasn’t what you wanted?”

I was under the false assumption that everyone from the free love movement was blissfully content, living contrary to what everyone else was doing. That’s how it had been advertised.

“No. Toward the end, I tried to say that I wanted more, and he walked away. By then, we couldn’t have kids, but I wanted the paper signed. We ended up getting into a huge fight over it, and he left. He came back later to get all of his things, and that was it. He immediately moved in with someone else. I knew his behavior wasn’t right for a long time, but I just put up with it. I kept thinking he would change his mind.”

“That’s too bad,” I said.

I recall being at a loss for words. She had bought into a non-traditional way of thinking that hadn’t worked how she thought it would.

“I most regret not having kids. I feel like that was taken away from me. I thought I would be okay without that, but now I feel I have made a mistake.”

She had chosen to isolate herself as a way to cope and was struggling now to reside where she wasn’t alone.

These were the times during my social worker days where I had to help people grieve a loss. Sometimes, like in this case, I just listened and held her hand.

“None of this will be public knowledge,” I told her. “But you can talk to me anytime you want about it. You did the best you could, right?”

Somehow God would come in and calm the situation down when I had no idea how to. This was before I even had a prayer life; that is how good God is. I was rescued from many situations when I didn’t know what to say.

“Yes. I did what I thought was right at the time. I have not ever gotten over it, though.”

“You can’t go back and change it, but you can make a new life.”

She did have extended family, nieces, and nephews that visited. Slowly, she adapted to her surroundings, where I often saw her talking to other people, and she looked more relaxed. When we had kids come into volunteer and do activities, I made sure to pair her up with one because I knew she had missed out on raising her own.

Little by little, she let go of her past and let God fill in the empty places with new experiences. She quickly found herself surrounded by a supportive group of women that had gone through loss differently, but she could relate to.

Years later, I actually met a woman who had come through a worse situation.

I started with the usual questions of birthplace, parents’ names, and sibling count.

“I got married at sixteen. My family knew his, and they had a bakery in a town next to ours.”

While she became pregnant multiple times and ran the house, her husband’s responsibility at the bakery grew. He assumed the role as sole owner, and he was gone for long hours at a time, but she accepted it because they had a family to raise.

She spent many evenings alone as he would decide to stay overnight instead of making the commute home. He had to be up at the crack of dawn to bake, so it made sense not to trek back to her.

“We had eight children, so I was never without something to do. I sewed their clothes, helped them with school, made all the meals. It wasn’t an easy life, but I did what I had to do.”

I jotted down her words, and I was going to move on to the next subject.

“I thought he was at work day and night, but that’s before I knew he had a whole other family.”

I remember looking up at her trying to conceal my true emotions. Did she say that he had another family? I thought people only did shady things like this in the 1970s. This man was way before his time, and I had a lot to learn back in my early twenties.

“I don’t understand,” that is all I could come up with.

“I found out from someone in town that he was married to another woman in the town where the bakery was, and they had children. He wasn’t working all those hours as he told me.”

I had to write this angle into her biography, but I didn’t want it to be like the National Enquirer!

This was supposed to be a way for the staff and other residents to get to know her. We used this as an ice breaker technique so a new person was introduced to the community. Her picture and what I wrote would be posted in the main lobby.

This was to tell others about her interests and strengths. I was going to have to do a lot of cutting and pasting.

“It was hidden from me for years. I’m not afraid to talk about it.”

“So what happened? You found this out, and then what?”

“I went looking for the truth. He had set up a whole life with this other woman, and they had as many kids as we did. He spent holidays with them and everything, but his lies were so good, he had me fooled. I was young and naive. I remember the worst thing was that I found out he spent Christmas with his other family. He was so good at making sure he covered his tracks that he got gifts for the children and me. That really hurt me. All of it was hurtful.”

Explaining it to the kids wasn’t the easiest either. They couldn’t figure out why their dad was gone and not coming back.

After her husband’s unfaithfulness surfaced, her parents stepped in and helped her get past the rough time. An older man came into the picture, and she got remarried.

“Was it hard for you to trust him?”

“Sometimes. But he went out of his way to prove to me that he wouldn’t do what my first husband did. He took on eight kids, and most men wouldn’t do that, so that helped. We had a great life. I had to put all of that behind me.”

Both of these women had given their best efforts and had been left holding an empty bag. They recovered from a betrayal in their own way. One chose to live a closed off existence while the other decided to take a chance and trust again.

God leaves that up to each of us.

What do you do when life presents you with a person described in Psalm 41:9?

Even my best friend, the one I always told everything
—he ate meals at my house all the time!—
has bitten my hand. (Message)

No one is immune to having this happen, and in my own experience, it takes time. A lot of people say…just forgive and move on. What if it doesn’t come that easy? For some, it might, and for others, it may take longer. The key is not to get stuck in it.

God wants us to see it for what it is and heal. But if we stubbornly refuse to get past it, we cripple ourselves, and we will miss out on this from Jeremiah 29:11:

I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Message)

Some relationships aren’t going to make it to the ‘until death do us part’. For one reason or another, it happens. Having been through a divorce, nothing is certain except the promise that we always have the opportunity to brush ourselves off, figure out how not to repeat a mistake, and let God lead us in a new direction of a do over.

(They took the Until Death Do We Part..a little too literal…)
(This had the song I Got You Babe playing…shudder…)

Growing Up

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

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

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

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

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

They did love to have the spotlight.

“Miss Chris, look at my new shoes!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You did? That’s great,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is wrong with your eyes?”

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

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

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

“Close your eyes.”

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

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

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

She mopped up her face and blinked.

“They don’t hurt anymore.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More

I hate chain letters where you have to forward something or face dire consequences. Out of nowhere, someone in your contacts has a weak moment and falls for the mafia pressure. They make the poor decision to hand off the matter to all their acquaintances so they can sleep at night. 

Along the same lines, I don’t appreciate multilevel marketing schemes where your friends suddenly are known as your ‘upline’. When they call, you stop answering, and you can’t take another meeting that costs you your entire savings account for a supplement made from a rare botanical plant grown in a foreign country. 

Another life invading moment I don’t care for is the bread recipes where a freezer bag of tan liquid is put on your counter without your permission. 

“I’m giving you this nice starter bag.” They say. “It’s so easy to do; just follow the instructions.” 

It appears to be benign, but then you find out you have to stir it for ten minutes each day for ten days at the exact same time, add flour fifteen days in, squish it around in the bag until day twenty and swear yourself over to a new religion at the end of thirty days for the bread to bake.  

Then you have to take the two cups of the liquid you separated and plague someone else with the mess. That’s time you just can’t get back.

And the biggest cringe worthy scam is the one that comes with the promise of a direct connection to heaven by using various gimmicks so you can advance spiritually and unlock all the treasures that are hidden away in a vault.

I was watching something I had recorded and fast-forwarding through commercials when I saw an infomercial for a seed packet. I paused, went back, and watched pure fraud marketed for those who were in desperate situations. As if asking God for help isn’t enough, this flashy segment used words such as “miracle power” and “special blessing” to gain the emotions of the vulnerable. Planting and harvesting ancient sprouts is a sure-fire way to have it all, was the claim. 

They paraded out one paid actor after another, singing the praises of these tiny seeds that produced results that rivaled the parting of the Red Sea, Noah’s Ark, and Lazarus coming back to life. 

The real catch is that no money is needed to obtain the Jack and the Beanstalk beans, but just a simple giving of your home address to get added to the hit list. 

I clicked past it, glad I wasn’t that gullible. 

A few days later, my girls and I were watching something, and the same ad came up again. I had them see how ridiculous it was. Then I forgot all about it until I got a gigantic packet in the mail.

If you have ever attended a closing or refinance on a house, that’s the amount of paperwork that was stuffed into this oversized envelope. I looked at the return address and realized I had somehow been caught in the seed pusher’s snare. 

I said to my daughter, 

“How did they find me?”

She came over to see what I was holding in my hand.

“What is it?”

“It’s from that ministry that promises fake results. How did they get this to me?” Were all the conspiracy theories right about our televisions being one extensive computer database that could be used to infiltrate our lives? How did this happen to me?

I opened it and took out three different colored envelopes along with multiple pages of rules. It would take hours to follow all the steps, so I decided to rip into the red envelope, which held more instructions.

I glanced over at one of the other pieces of paper and saw this written in bold lettering: 

“Do not open the red envelope! This will cause a curse to come upon your house! Open that last!” 

What if someone receiving these were color blind? Would that rule still apply, or would there be an exemption? 

Since I was already flirting with unleashing eternal damnation upon my house, I started opening up all the envelopes to skim read. Why not keep this game of Russian Roulette going? 

The central theme of it was to send in a prayer request and money. The simple message was camouflaged by threatening remarks, intimidation tactics, and arm twisting. It was a “let me help you, help us” type of approach.

Everything was time sensitive. Specific actions and rituals had to take place, or you would miss your “moment of visitation.” Each statement was backed up with a scripture verse as solid proof this was a life changing moment. 

Sprinkled throughout, there was the ego rewarding phrases such as “you have been chosen” for this, and my first name was strategically placed so that I would feel like they knew me. 

Just when I had seen it all, I found a small, clear plastic packet. Holding it up to the light, I could see beads of moisture inside like something had been in it but had evaporated. Looking further through all the material, I solved the mystery. I had not been lucky enough to get a seed packet, but I had been selected to receive healing water that had dried up or leaked out before getting to me. 

I was supposed to place it under my pillow and watch everything I had ever wanted continuously stream to me. 

That was it. I gathered it all up and threw it away, imagining a gasp from an invisible audience. 

Later, I pulled one sheet of the disposed of paper from the trash and showed my other daughter when she came home from work. 

“Do you remember this? We saw this advertised?”

She smiled.

“Yes.”

“They sent me an empty packet of tap water!”

“What?” She said, taking a closer look, laughing. 

“How did these people find me?”

Without hesitation, she said, 

“I signed you up.”

Just like that, very matter of fact.

“You did this?”

So much for being tracked by an evil entity through the TV, thank goodness! 

“Do you know how much junk I am going to get now from this?”

She laughed more. Oh, she knew pretty well what would happen! And she also was very pleased with herself for getting me all rattled. 

“I’m going to take every single thing they send, put it in a box, wrap it and give it to you for Christmas!”

She knew she had done a great job on this and wasn’t threatened in the least. 

I came home a few months later to more correspondence from the dreaded prophet.

“Oh no!”

This one was just as bad as the first with extra pleas because I hadn’t responded. Maybe I was just about to hand over my offering if they coerced more. 

“How are you enjoying your water packet?” was one of the lines. 

I clipped out the stock picture of the guy who said he had such a burden to help me and taped it directly across from my daughter’s bed. He has his arms outstretched and eyes closed, sending that extra special prayer that she needs. 

I haven’t received any more, so maybe he got the hint that I wasn’t such an easy mark. 

The counterfeit is aggravating because you know people fall for it. They think that to gain God’s attention and favor, there has to be something materially given to receive. And those who are hurting can be talked into anything. Their want for a better life isn’t wrong, but it is preyed upon by those who gain financially.

God loves a cheerful giver, not a dragged-out, beaten down, out of guilt and obligation giver. 

And in John 6:35, this verse sets you free from accepting empty promises from water packets and time-consuming recipes: 

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (NLT).

There are no mountains to climb or steep obligations to meet. Divine messages may come that you don’t understand at first, but it’s never complicated, allowing you to cut out the middle man. God’s recipes for life are simple; Follow Him for more. 

Amazing

As if daily existence isn’t a puzzle enough, I decided to test myself by going into a corn maze. Doing this during the day would have been too easy, so she and I opted for an after sunset challenge with a flashlight. 

There are two things I’m very aware of that don’t always work in my favor. My sense of direction, even as simple as left or right, can suddenly betray me without warning. And my aversion to feeling trapped. That one takes precedence over the other.

One time while wearing a long winter jacket that went to my calves, my zipper got stuck midway, trapping me in like a physical restraint. With minimal mobility, panic was quickly my friend. This was in the middle of a busy mall in the winter, where the heat index was at least 100 degrees. 

When I realized I could not escape easily, I frantically started jumping in place because it gave me the feeling of accomplishing something. I got one arm free and wrestled the entire thing off to the floor. It felt like years had passed.

Both of my girls stood away from me, laughing, to let it be known they were not associated. They had initially tried to help, but I wouldn’t stop moving long enough, so they gave up. When that type of fear sets in, the outside world becomes a blur. 

So realizing my weaknesses, why not go into an enclosed space, in the pitch dark? I figured it would possibly cure some of my irrational, claustrophobic fears. 

Before I went on this evening adventure down at the farm, the other thing on my mind was an episode from The Twilight Zone. A bratty kid sends people to a cornfield when he gets offended, and they are never seen or heard from again. Scary segments and scenes from that TV series always seem to pop up in my memory at the most inopportune times. 

I affixed my wristband that would help identify my body later when the rescue team would find me. And I grabbed a map. 

“The phone number is at the top of that. Are you going to call them if you get lost? I can just see you in a dark corner trying to get help,” she said, laughing. 

“If it comes to that, yes,” I said. We all have our security blankets in life. 

“It says right here that no profanity is allowed,” she said, pointing to the small print. 

“I cannot guarantee that,” I replied. 

That had already been the case when I left the house. My map decided to reroute me out of rush hour traffic and felt I would immensely enjoy a ride through massive construction instead. Then, it took me to a water tower and announced I had “arrived”. I had to pull into a parking lot to take my life back. 

We stood at the entrance and watched young children filter into the tall corn stalks and the blackness, unafraid. I figured if it got too bad, I would just apply the verse that says: and a little child shall lead them. She clicked on her light to illuminate our way, and as if scripted, the moon came out from behind a cloud to watch. 

“I’m going to let a higher power guide me through this,” I said. “And I always have heard to go to the right. If you do that, you will find the answer.”

I followed behind her hooded head as she went into Nancy Drew mode. Every single turn to the right was a dead end or a circle back to where we began. So much for that theory. 

We rounded a corner and stumbled into a woman sitting on the ground. Both of us jumped and grabbed each other for protection.

“Sorry. I’m just waiting for my family.” 

I was so thankful that this was not an added feature to contend with all along the way. We left her in the corner and carried on. 

We slowed down for a second as it seemed we had come to an impasse. To our left, we spotted a tiny, obscure opening. Everyone else seemed to be running past it, but we both had a feeling to sneak through it just to see where it led. We took the path less traveled, and it bought us our freedom. 

“Most people aren’t seeing that,” I said to her. 

It reminded me of this verse:

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14, NLT) 

Behind me, a large group of kids materialized. They had followed us, ditching their parents.

“We did it! Let’s wait here to see how long it takes them.” 

You never know who you are influencing by taking a risk, going out on faith, and showing others the way. 

We decided to drive to another field not too far away. I ended up on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. We were leaving civilization behind to upgrade to a more prominent attraction. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a UFO hovering over my vehicle.

My right hand was stamped to prove I really had signed up to do this a second time, and we walked to the entrance. The cornstalk walls seemed much closer together, higher and more complicated. But, just like before, she pulled up her hood, clicked on her light, and went back into character straight out of Scooby-Doo.

The decision making was more intense. At one point, we had three openings to choose from, and in the middle of it all, there was a set of stairs that led to a platform. We could see the entire field from there. It was a nice view, but it did absolutely nothing to get us out. 

We thought we had it solved but then decided we were not right. 

“Did we just go around in one big circle?” I asked. 

“I think so,” she said. 

We retraced our steps. She thought maybe some of the smaller openings were the key, but it didn’t work that way as I was whipped across the eyes by stalks that led us to a parking lot. My first clue that we had taken a wrong turn was the smell of exhaust. 

“This is not the way out, Nancy!” I said, pulling a piece of dried stalk out of my mouth.

She laughed, and we plunged back in. We soon discovered that we had been at the exit earlier, but we hadn’t realized it, second guessed ourselves, and overthought it. 

“Why didn’t we just walk out? We were done a long time ago,”

“It didn’t look like the right way.” 

It reminded me of this from 2 Corinthians 5:7:

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (ESV)

We can talk ourselves out of a blessing and possibly a miracle just by deciding it doesn’t appear to be a gift from God. We choose to go our own way, and we miss out. Then we spend unnecessary time going in circles wondering why God has forsaken us. Being a victim of circumstances and making excuses are easy habits that keep us stuck.

To move ahead, one has to trust that God is in charge, advancing us forward. 

On a cold October night, I made it out alive, became more comfortable in a limited space, expanded my capacity for patience, and was shown once again that while life can be uncertain, it is meant to be amazing. 

(Maze 1 before sunset)
(Dead end, but no dead bodies..)
(Maze 2..I passed the height check..)

Watched Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s not on my list, Chris.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get the organic one.”

“It’s more expensive.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A blessing had found me when I least expected it.

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

Best Deal

His voice boomed through the store,

“Chris! Get ten of them!”

He wasn’t even in the same aisle that I was in, but he was so tall that I could almost see his head above the highest shelf.

“Stop putting stuff back! Get what you need, I mean it!”

“I don’t know if I need this many, though.”

“Christine! Get them!” He had used my full name, so that meant he was serious.

This was during a tough time financially for me. My divorce had not been finalized; there was no child support, so I was living off of fumes, and when he caught wind of it, he insisted on taking me to buy groceries. I had resisted the idea but had given in due to his persistence.

“I want you to get what you need. If there is a sale, take it and stop putting things back.”

I had a hard time doing what he said because I knew he was going through his own problems.

He had wandered off into another part of the store, so he couldn’t even see what I was doing as I took a couple of things, put things back, looked at prices, and kept telling myself to limit what I was getting. I was used to cutting coupons and strictly following a budget, and this craziness of just throwing things in the cart was foreign to me.

As I continued not to listen to his directions from afar, he repeated it as if he could see me, but I knew he couldn’t.

“Christine..get that! Stop putting things back!”

A lady next to me looked at me funny.

“Is he with you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“How can he see you?”

“I don’t know. He just can, I guess.”

She frowned and moved on quickly.

I went to the next section, and he came around the corner.

“You are still not doing it the way I told you to? You have nothing! Get back in that aisle, and get some things you need!”

He took control of the cart and landed himself back to where I had been.

“Look at this! You can get ten of these. You only took two! What are you doing? Get them!”

He did this through the entire store.

“What about this? Do you need any of these?”

“Yes, but..”

A vast handful went in, and we moved on.

“That’s so many..I…”

“I don’t want to hear any of your excuses. You have a poverty mentality, and God wants to heal you of that. You deserve things, Chris. God wants to show you that you will be supplied with what you need. Always.”

I wasn’t accustomed to his renegade-type approach to life because I was more of a keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best kind of faith back then.

He quickly piled in items as I tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen to me.

“Just thank me for it, and that’s it. Don’t say anything else.”

He held up a box of cereal.

“What about this?”

“I am not sure…”

“Do your kids eat these?”

“I think so, but…”

He took his arms in a hug-like fashion and dumped in a bunch.

“That’s what I want you to do. Don’t overthink it. Just do it! Stop looking at the prices and thinking I can’t afford it. I am doing this because God told me to help you. So, quit fighting it.”

There were so many other customers around us, and they had to think we were having a domestic right there. A towering man was loudly barking orders and demanding that I buy things. Isn’t it usually the other way around?

“God can do anything, Chris. Now get stuff!”

The minute I would hold something in my hand and barely glance at it, he would pluck it away, grab fifteen more, and say,

“Those are yours now.”

When he went to pay, he acted like it wasn’t enough.

“Look at all this, and that’s all it came to. What are you so worried about? Do you want to go get more?”

“No! Please, no!”

I couldn’t take any more of his generosity. I thought it was nice and all, but I couldn’t mentally deal with it. I was not used to this because I felt that life had to be difficult, and the things I needed or wanted had to be challenging to obtain.

“Thank you,” I said once we were in the parking lot.

“You have to get over limiting God and what can be done for you. You are stopping the blessings from coming into your life.”

A few months later, he asked me if I wanted to go on a treasure hunt with him and some church members. He was clinging to God, trying to clean up a very messy split from his wife. He had children with whom he had no visitations and a whole host of things coming at him that would have made most people give up on believing in anything good.

I said I would attend, but I was a little in the dark about what this was. We were handed a pen, a piece of paper and told to sit quietly in a part of the church where no one else would speak to us. The instruction was given to pray and ask for words to write down.

This exercise was meant to strengthen our spiritual hearing and build our confidence in genuine, live faith. I had various words go through my mind, so I wrote them down.

“Now that you have your clues, we are going to go to the mall and look for what you wrote down. God will lead you to people who need prayer.”

Huh? I had to talk to people now? I looked at my list. Chapel, housekeeper, mop, coin, an American flag, water fountain, and a red shirt were what made up most of my list.

It was a Saturday, so the place was packed with shoppers. This wasn’t just any spot; it was the Mall of America which had thousands of people streaming in from all over. Of course, he had to pick the most massive collection of humanity possible. His go big or go home attitude was in everything he was doing.

The group split up once we all arrived. The minute I walked through the double doors, I saw her. Unbelievable as it was, I saw her pushing a heavy housekeeping cart. I glanced down at the words I had written. Oh, no! It was happening so fast!

How could this be? I tried to tell myself that she was busy. Maybe I shouldn’t interfere with her work because I am sure there were many messes to attend to. I was so thankful that my friend wasn’t with me because he would have grabbed my arm and dragged me over.

I observed for a minute. She stopped and started to rearrange the garbage bags, her spray bottles, and then she did something that ended up propelling me forward. She wrung out her mop! Red shirt, mop, housekeeper….it was all there.

I walked over to her and saw that she was standing right by a chapel! I could not believe it! It’s a place that is set up for quick marriages. I knew it existed, but I had never seen it.

To start the conversation, I said,

“What do you think of places like that? Have you ever seen anyone get married in there?”

I was grasping for anything I could think of to say.

“Oh, sure. I clean in there sometimes, and it’s not as bad as you might think.”

She continued to wring out her mop. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff with absolutely no safety net.

“So, I have a question for you.”

“Yes,” she said, not looking up.

“Do you have anything that you need prayer for? I think God sent me to you.”

She stopped what she was doing and made eye contact. I prepared myself for a considerable slap down. I felt like a Jehovah’s Witness coming to my door and asking me if I had ever read the Bible. I was always kind to them, but some don’t treat others that way, especially if they have been abused in churches or have a bad relationship with God. She could have been an atheist for all I knew. This was too personal and up close for me.

She leaned against the mop handle.

“I need God to help me see the goodness in people again. I have been through a lot, and I don’t trust people anymore.”

“I don’t either at times,” I said. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

“I work here, and I do my best. But, I feel like there is more out there for me. My family isn’t kind to me, and I feel like something is missing in my life.”

“Let me show you something,” I said. I pointed out the words that I had written down that matched up exactly to her.

She started to cry.

“I have felt so alone. And now you are here telling me that I am not, and I know God hasn’t given up on me.”

“I don’t think so. There are many promises that say we aren’t ever abandoned.”

She grabbed my hands and said,

“Please pray for me.” This was now getting easier by the second.

And right there, in the busiest place in America, I asked God to restore her faith in humanity and to show her what her purpose was.

When she opened her eyes, with tears streaming down her face, she thanked me.

“I need to do more with my life. I know there is a church by my house that I think I need to go volunteer at and start living again.”

I took a deep breath when I left her. That was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life! I had convinced myself I would be so wrong, but God showed me that I could hear pretty clearly.

I kept thinking I was to find the water fountain. Now that I had been given a slight win with the first attempt, my fear wasn’t as high. I sat near the cascading water; I saw a woman sit down, looking tired.

Was this who I was supposed to help? I only had three vague clues left to go on, so I moved closer but not enough to have her see me. A coin was directly behind her in the water, and someone had thrown in a lapel pin that had an American Flag on it.
Yep, this was it.

I was back to square one emotionally, with terror ripping through me. I decided to throw all caution to the wind and start a conversation.

“It is so busy today, and I try not to show up here on Saturdays.”

“I had to sit down. My arthritis is acting up.”

She held up her hands so I could see them.

“It starts to hurt in my hands and feet.”

“Would you want me to pray for you? I know that sounds strange, but I can if you want…”

Before I even finished my sentence, she grabbed both of my hands.

“Yes. I would like that.”

Her eyes slammed shut like this was the most normal thing to do by the water fountain in the mall, surrounded by swarming masses.

I leaned in closer to her so she could hear me over all the noise. I felt a warmth flow from my hands into hers, and I felt her relax. She sighed and began to smile.

“I feel so much better now. Thank you,” she said.

After that day, I went on a few more treasure hunts with him and his group. It became more manageable, and I was so surprised how I was led to the right person each time. I never had anyone turn me away who I was supposed to approach.

All of this brought to life this scripture for me found in 1 Peter 2:9:

“But you are God’s chosen treasure…”(TPT)

I still heard from him from time to time, and I know he got married. A couple of months ago, I was at an outdoor event that was packed with people. My daughter stopped to talk to someone she knew, and I looked up. And he was right there.

“Hey! Chris!” That booming voice.

“I can’t believe it’s you! Out of all these people!”

He said his wife was waiting for him across the street, and I had to keep moving with the group I was with. He said he would call me and get caught up.

I got word the other day that he is sedated, on a ventilator, and fighting for his life. There are no visitors allowed, and I wish I had lingered with him longer the last time we ran into each other. I hate regrets like that where you want to rewind the clock.

No matter the outcome, I know he will be where God wants him, and he won’t pass up on the best deal.