Floating

Sometimes you have to drop out of what you usually do and take some time to think. I often do this on a daily walk, but I decided to visit a place that would require me to be quiet. I made the thirty-minute drive through hectic Saturday traffic as the entire world was heading off to harvest festivals. When the weather reaches nearly eighty degrees in October, no one wants to miss it because we could be facing a blizzard and a polar vortex by the following Monday.

“I need to get there because I’m supposed to go relax, and these crazy people and their driving are stressing me out!” I had been cut off multiple times, and someone behind me felt I wasn’t driving fast enough. It was very frantic all around me, and I wanted out.

She prayed that we would be teleported there like The Jetsons, and my lane started moving. Suddenly we were past the snarl and pulling into the parking lot.

The receptionist said it was Pumpkin Days, so people were flocking into the city in droves. I already felt the slight shift in the atmosphere with the lavender diffused air and spa music playing over my head.

“This is where you will find the towels, robes, and flip flops. The lockers are over there, and you go through that door when you are ready.”

We changed, grabbed what we needed, and went where she had pointed. I walked into a warm, massive room that housed the mineral pool. To make it even better, we were all alone.

That always amazes me when I end up on a road, in a store, or a theater with no other soul around. Many people occupy the earth, so how do I end up having a piece of space to myself?

Usually, when there is a pool involved, kids are splashing, and there is a lot of noise. This was like walking into a sanctuary. Both of us slipped into the 90-degree water quickly, and it wasn’t the usual gradual entry while my body had to adjust; I just went right in up to my chin.

When I get into the water, I usually run or do some nonrelaxing type of activity. This wasn’t like that at all, and I ended up floating suspended on pool noodles with my eyes shut. We both felt like we shouldn’t even talk because it felt different from usual, more like therapy and not like a waterpark.

The water was infused with 83 minerals that the skin absorbs. All of this is to help calm the mind and nervous system along with other disorders that a person might be facing. The draw for me was that it was to relieve nerve pain. I had jokingly told the chiropractor that someone had gotten on my last nerve as she treated me a few days prior.

As I drifted along, I started to picture the scene from the Bible where the disabled man is lying by the edge of the water. An angel would come to stir the water, and whoever got in would be healed….

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

At once, the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
(John 5:2-10 NIV)

When he was asked if he wanted to be well, he didn’t say “yes”. He explained why it couldn’t happen. He gave an excuse to justify why he had laid there for a long time. And it had become his identity. I wonder if he even tried to get in after all that time, or was it easier to submit himself to being immobile? It seemed that he had written himself off as a lost cause.

And what does that say about the compassion of God? Even when you come up with all your reasons why you can’t do something, you are allowed to get off your “sick” bed and move on. This is a mental block most of the time, and believing that you can is the hardest part.

When the nerve pain in my face has been at its height, I tell myself that the treatments I am doing for it are working, and I try to be aware of when it feels normal. This has been very effective in making the attacks less frequent and shorter in duration. I have had to come at this with the idea that I am healed, not unwell.

It’s not easy to do when the pain is screaming, but I can when it wanes. It’s something to build off of so it doesn’t become a stronghold. I feel gratitude when nothing hurts. And when it does, I tell it that I refuse to accept it. If Jesus asked me if I wanted to be over it, I would say yes. Would you? Or do you sink yourself in the symptoms, letting them run you?

I went into the tumultuous, hot tub—what a difference between the soothing unmoving water in the pool to now submerging in a loud, hot, boiling cauldron. Yet, it has its way of bringing a different kind of peace. I heard in my mind: See? You can be in a place of chaos like this and be still. It can surround you, and you can be in it, but not of it.

I did gravitate back to the more tranquil spot where I had started and surrendered myself back into the silence.

Just as I thought I was not going to have anyone invade my world, I heard her say,

“Have you ever been here before?”

I opened my eyes, and a woman was looking at me. I noticed that my daughter had drifted off into a far corner, and it appeared she was asleep. All day she had been right next to me, but now it looked like she had been pushed away to leave me alone with this person.

“I have been to this spa before, but never to the pool,” I said.

I flipped into an upright position. I used to wonder how I was always targeted for this type of thing. I didn’t look approachable with my eyes closed, but apparently, there was a reason for this encounter. It happens all the time, so I go where it takes me.

She told me that she and another family member had given her parents a gift card, and they had refused it, so before it was going to expire, it had to be used.

“I have arthritis, neuropathy, and fibromyalgia. My spine is shot, and I might have another surgery to fuse it. I am hoping being here will help.”

“Do you take medication?”

“Yes. But it does nothing. I have had acupuncture, a chiropractor, and physical therapy, and nothing works.”

I listened while she spoke about all of her issues.

“What about food? Are you on an anti-inflammatory diet?”

“I do Keto, and that seems not to cause me more trouble.”

I always have to be careful not to say, “do you think this is all in your head?” That sounds terrible when the symptoms are real.

“Have you ever considered that what you are thinking about or what is stressing you out could be contributing to this?”

She didn’t answer me but went back to going over all of her troubles again. The problem was bigger for her than a solution, so she had fallen victim.

I began to ask God how I could help this lady. Do I hold her hand and pray? But I felt the answer was no. Do I speak a verse over her? No. Do I talk about heaven and how much God loves her? That’s not it. Do I dunk her under and baptize her? I saw a visual of that with her still talking with bubbles coming to the surface. No, Chris. What is it then?

“Tell her to get quiet and meditate.”

That’s so simple and not earth shattering. She’s really a mess and telling me every single thing that is wrong with her, and now she has launched into what is going on with her spouse. Isn’t there some electric current I can send? Like zap, she is better and starts walking on water?

No. She needs to meditate and ask what she needs to do next. Only she can do that. Not you, and this is what she needs.

I interrupted her and said,

“Do you meditate?”

I saw something come across her eyes.

“Oh. No, but I have a bunch of meditation music that I bought and never used.”

“Use it.”

“I forgot all about that.”

“It will help you so you can think clearly. You need to get quiet and let whatever your body needs to be shown to you. This doesn’t have to take over your life because we were created to heal, and your body doesn’t hate you. So don’t think that. It was designed to support you in life.”

“I’m retired, and there are so many things I want to do, and this all stops me from that.”

“Then meditate. It sounds simple and like something that wouldn’t help, but how hard is it to sit in a chair and do this every day, so you get an answer?”

“Right. That is easy.”

“But you have to do it, so you know what to do next.”

Her sister, who had gone into the women’s locker room, whipped open the door.

“What are you doing? We have to go!”

“Oh! I forgot all about you.”

Meanwhile, my daughter was unmoving in the same spot. So strange after all day of her and I being side by side, and she was sound asleep on her back.

“I better go! I didn’t know she was in a big hurry!”

“Do what I said and have your husband do it too. You will get the answers you need.”

“I will. Thank you, and I think it will help.” She seemed brighter and less weighed down.

My daughter came back the minute she left.

“What happened? I didn’t hear a thing. I fell asleep and got a bunch of new ideas for work.”

“She just needed some advice. You know the drill.”

Later, I asked my daughter if the bottom of her foot was still painful. She had stepped on a piece of glass, and the spot was tender to the point of not being able to put all her weight on it entirely. She worried that maybe she hadn’t gotten it all out.

Pressing down on the area, she said,

“It’s fine! It’s not as swollen, and it feels normal.”

What I think is that God has created every single one of us to receive assistance in a certain way. Preaching an entire fire and brimstone message to that woman was not the answer, and she probably would have left with less hope. She was attracted to me like a magnet, but her ego was getting in the way of hearing. She sought me out, and I told her exactly what she needed to hear. If she follows through, she turns on a switch to victory.

Some need encouragement; others need to change how they look at life with negative eyes or fearful thoughts. Healing can come even by spending the day without a care, immersed with God, just floating.

Mask

During times of stress, I have lost my ability to talk. It has not happened for a while, but there was a pattern I noticed where when times got tense, I would develop laryngitis. I realize now it was my body’s response to dealing with an uncomfortable situation. If that part of me was shut down, I could not speak up, and I could use it as an excuse to be quiet. Once the uproar had passed, my throat would heal until the next bout would seemingly come out of nowhere. At the time, I saw no correlation between my outward circumstances and this occurring. 

It wasn’t easy when I had two small children who wanted my attention, and they needed me for guidance. Or, one would say,

“Mom, can you read me a book?”

I spent hours gargling with salt water and whispering. By the end of the day, I felt drained from trying to get my point across. I didn’t understand that as I stuffed my feelings down, I was creating a physical silence. 

Years later, I looked this up and discovered a vast number of articles on the subject. Some have it happen when going through the grieving process and describe it as having a lump in their throat because they can’t get past the loss. When living in a state of unrelenting fear, others, like myself, will experience what I did. 

My biggest concern was that I would sound like a dragon lady for the rest of my life. I was coming across like a chronic smoker. While I desperately wanted it back, would it return normal? During one of these episodes, my daughter asked,

“What if it never comes back?”

 It was an innocent question as it had been going on for two weeks, with slight underlying worries that it was gone forever. So when she said that, I gargled more. 

As the years went on, it stopped. But, I had other symptoms manifest in other places. While I no longer lost my voice, I would get horrific lower back pain connected to my sciatic nerve. My daughter had found information that if this happened, there was a pressure point on the back of the leg that could be activated to alleviate it. 

The process was to lay face down while she took a closed fist and punched this area. It was weird, but it worked. However, it was only a temporary fix because it was emotionally based. I sought chiropractic treatments that helped, and when this nerve pain in my back seemed to have lost the fight, it found another place to take up residence. 

I have had reoccurring pain in the right side of my face. This time, I became aware of it being caused by outside issues that I wasn’t dealing with correctly. As I employed acupuncture, meditation and went back to the chiropractor, it has gotten better, but on occasion, it will strike and cause me to be unable to function. It is called ‘suicide pain’, which I try not to think about when in the middle of the problem.

Last April, my dad fell and was admitted to the hospital. It was discovered that he had been given a medication that should not have been administered. It was a tangled web of trying to find answers, and as my annoyance began to soar, the nerve in my face was sending out excruciating signals. I didn’t have time to sit on the couch because I didn’t want him to be alone.

He needed supplies from his apartment, including a cream that helps with pain in his knee. So as I have done before, I pushed my feelings aside and went to his rescue. I explained to the hospital staff his hearing issues, and they told me that as long as I shut his door, I could speak to him without a mask. 

On this particular day, with my face on fire, I was on my phone responding to a text while he was watching a baseball game. I had tried to hand off his medicated cream at the desk, but I was told to give it to the nurse assigned to him for that shift. I was told she would be by to get it from me. It was going on two hours since I had arrived, but I decided to wait it out. I had taken a pain reliever with not much relief.

I still had my mask, but it was on my chin as he would ask me questions; it was just easier for him to comprehend what I was saying. 

I heard his door open, and I looked up. 

“Pull up your mask!” She yelled. 

I instinctively did because, after a year of this, I never want to make anyone uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “He is hard of hearing and..”

“I don’t care! You both should be wearing a mask! If I get sick because of you, then who is going to work here if I’m at home having to use up my vacation time?”

Wow, that was a lot of take in. I tried again to diffuse the situation.

“He is really hard of hearing, and I pulled it down so he could…”

“I don’t care! There are so many people coming in and out of these rooms not taking this seriously, and then I have to deal with it!”

I watched her grab his arm forcefully to put on the blood pressure cuff. He looked over at her and said,

“Hey, take it easy.”

She started the process of getting a reading and was quiet, so I said,

“It must be hard for you to work in these conditions, and you must be stressed out by it.”

Usually, when I take this approach, I get a calmer response back. Not with this one.

“It’s people like you that are the problem! Both of you. And I’m the one that’s going to get sick! Because of you!”

“He has been tested, and he is fine. I have no symptoms of…”

“I don’t care!” She abruptly ripped off the cuff.

“I will be back later.”

I held up the medications I needed to give her. 

“I need you to take these for him.”

“I will be back after you leave!”

She spun out the door.

I glanced over at him. His eyes were glued to the tv. Oblivious, thank goodness. He saw me looking at him and said,

“Is everything ok, Chris?”

“Yes,” I said, lying my face off. “I need to go speak to the nurse at the desk, but I will be right back.”

Every masked face looked up as I approached. 

“Can I help you?”

“Yes. The person helping my dad needs to be terminated!”

All the eyes got wide as I explained the unbelievable beating I had just taken. I made sure that no one sitting there was unaware of what I had endured. The charge nurse asked another staff person to take the medication, and she walked me back to his room. 

“She usually is assigned to another floor. You be with your dad, and we will sort it out. I am so sorry she acted like that.”

I shut his door behind me as I entered. I startled him, and he knocked an entire cup of water on the floor. I grabbed something to clean it up and was crouched down by the side of the bed. I heard his door slam open. She was back for round two. 

I stood up with water dripping off my hands. 

“What knee does this cream go on?!” She said with the same tone as before. I saw that she was holding the containers in her hands. 

“You don’t know? Are you not in charge of his care right now?”

I was not the same person she had come across moments ago.

“I have not had time to look at his chart!”

“Well, maybe you should. Maybe you should know what you are dealing with. Is it my fault that you aren’t doing your job?”

As I spoke, she visibly started to wither. I didn’t raise my voice, but I decided to pick my words very clearly.

“You are the worst example of a nurse I have ever met. You have no idea what this man has been through coming off a pill that could have caused a major injury. And you are a poor listener. It would be best if you never worked with the public. You should figure out your retirement package immediately.”

I don’t recall the rest of my come to Jesus speech, but her eyes were wide, and she clutched both bottles under her chin. I know I kept my language in line, but I was now in protective mode over a vulnerable adult, and once that is on, there is no coming back. Words streamed from my mouth, and I had no idea what I was saying. I was not about to lose my voice as I had in times past. 

When I quit, she blinked rapidly and stammered,

“I will go look into this.”

“You do that,” I said, going back to the spill at my feet.

I looked over at him. 

“Is everything ok, Chris?”

“Just perfect. Who is winning?”

A new nurse appeared and took over his case for the night. I found out later that the former one had upset numerous people, staff included, and my confrontation was helpful in having her adequately dealt with.

Amazingly, the fire that had been coursing through my jaw wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. I know that there is a scripture that says a kind answer turns away wrath. But, in this case, that didn’t work. 

Proverbs 31:8-9 says,

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushedYes, speak up for the poor and helpless,

and see that they get justice. (NLT) 

There is a balance to all things that God has created. Sometimes, I think people try to ‘nice’ their way through life. I am not against being kind, and I will always chose that before DEF-CON 5, but there are times when a person needs to confront and not enable bad behavior. Don’t cause yourself trouble by not handling conflict properly because your body will begin to manifest symptoms you do not want. Let your voice be heard, be your authentic self, and come out from behind the mask.

A Nice Ring To It

After my mom went to heaven in May 2019, I kept having this reoccurring thought about a ring, and it would show up in my thoughts randomly like a gentle nudge.

Like a mother’s ring, this one would have five gemstones, including mine, my daughters, grandma, and mom’s. None of us have the same color, and it would represent four generations of women. I kept thinking about it but not acting on it.

June became July, and I tried to help my dad adjust to assisted living while cleaning out their house.

During that time, my daughter had to take her computer in for a repair, and I went with her to see if it was salvageable.

We left it in the hands of those who could potentially help, and I started to drive.

“Wait! They are having a sale!”

“Who?”

She pointed to a jewelry store nearby, and I hadn’t realized we were near one.

“You should go in there. Don’t you want to design a ring?”

“I don’t know. I’m tired, and I don’t feel like it.”

“I think you should go in there.”

So I did.

The manager was very helpful as I told him what I wanted. He took an anniversary band out of the case with five diamonds in the setting.

“We could remove all of these and put in the stones you want.”

He took colored markers and made it look like what the finished product would be. When it was on my finger, I knew I would have a hard time saying no.

“What do you think?”

“It’s perfect, but you have to tell me how much.”

“The stones being removed will be an extra charge as a repair. And if you want the insurance, that will be a bit extra as well.

He wrote down everything as he tapped away on the calculator.

I was undecided when he presented me with a number.

I looked over at my daughter, who sent me a nonverbal message that I better say yes.

I took it off and handed it back.

“I don’t know.”

“We can hold this for you if you want to put some money down, and then take your time deciding that way..”

He stopped talking mid-sentence as he looked at the price tag.

“Wait a minute. I think this is on sale, so the price I quoted you isn’t right. I have to go look at something.”

I know a sales tactic when I see one, but he looked genuinely shocked. I began to feel it was supposed to be mine, and I was trying to find a reason why I shouldn’t get it.

When he returned, papers were shuffled around, and he said,

“Okay, this has a pink tag on it, so that means it’s going to be discontinued. We can still make it into what you want it to be but at a lot cheaper cost.”

That should have catapulted me into action, but it didn’t. I knew that I was supposed to say yes, but I said,

“I’m still not sure.”

My daughter looked at me like I should be put away.

I left without making the purchase, and I decided to think about it. And that’s all I did for 24 hours; I knew it belonged to me.

I bought it and had to wait two weeks, but I had it on my hand just in time for my birthday. The minute I put it on, my connection to heaven became even more potent.

When I went back to have it cleaned, one of the managers said,

“I show everyone who comes in here a picture of your ring, and we have had other people do the same thing once they see yours.”

It’s always nice to know that something I have done for myself goes on to inspire others.

This past August, I started to feel a pull to look at rings online. I typed in a description of what I wanted. Instantly, a certain one appeared on the screen. I glanced at the price but decided this time not to care. I didn’t look any further as I knew this was what I wanted.

I began to pretend I already had bought it. When I would remove my real ring, I would take my invisible one off as well. I would walk by my daughter, show her my hand and say,

“Isn’t my new ring great?”

I did this for about three weeks. Over Labor Day weekend, I had my finger sized. That particular location did not have it, but the salesperson told me it was on clearance. When we got home, we found a store that had one.

The next day, I drove to the mall, hoping to at least see it in person.

“It says that we have one here, but I can’t find it,” said the salesperson.

She searched drawers and display cases. Another associate came over to help.

“We don’t have it. But there is one about an hour away.”

An hour? Another drive? It was losing its appeal.

I called to be sure it was there.

“Yes. We have only one, and I will put it aside for you.”

When I hung up, I said to my daughter,

“I don’t know if I want to drive an hour to get a ring,”

It was the same look she had given me in 2019.

“Okay, fine. I will go get gas and decide if I want to go that far.”

She said nothing.

On the way to the gas station, I heard in my mind,

“Chris, you have asked me to be the man of your life. You have looked at this ring, and if you don’t buy it, then that’s all your fault. I need you to take the money I have given you and get it.”

The voice was loud and firm, reverberating throughout me.

I filled my tank and started the hour trek. As each mile went by, I was more confident that I did want it. I didn’t fully know what the price was going to be, but I was willing to follow the lead of heaven and get it.

“If I am driving all the way there, I’m probably going to buy it.”

“I knew that an hour ago in the parking lot,” she said nonpulsed.

I went into the store, and the person I spoke to took it out of the case so I could slide it on my finger for less than three seconds; I told her I wanted it.

With the sizing, warranty, and clearance, it was less than half of the original listing. Once again, I was shown that God would open a door for me to walk through when I let myself believe in something.

My daughter gave me a placeholder ring for that finger while I had to wait the long two weeks to get it, and I no longer had to pretend.

Some people buy material things to fill a void, and once the novelty wears off, the next purchase is made to achieve another high. That could go on forever, and sometimes it does.

In James 1:17 it says:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (NIV)

When you are the recipient of something directly from the One who created everything, the search is over. You can enjoy what has been given, and peaceful fulfillment takes over your heart. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?

Trapped!

I could not seem to solve the problem. No matter who I spoke to and repeated the long, complicated facts, it wasn’t changing the situation. I would wake up in the morning with my heart racing because it would be the first thought on my mind. 

In February of 2020, a letter had arrived in the mail that my daughter’s health insurance would be terminated. There was no reason for this, as she had paid her premium each month, so it was not making any sense at all.

The correspondence arrived on February 14, with an end date of February 29. It was a leap year, so that gave her an extra day before the lights were shut off.

To add to the uproar, she was sick. Thinking of the time, I am sure she had Covid before it became popular. We hadn’t gone into all the shutdowns and restrictions that were upcoming in March. The public knew something was brewing, but we had not been given the full-blown details at that point. 

She had all the earmarks of the disease. The rash on her legs, the high fever, fatigue, and eventually, it all went into her lungs. I was watching her closely as I always do, but on top of this, she was trying to figure out why her coverage was on the chopping block. 

She refused to go to the doctor, feeling it would eventually go away. On the day she lost her voice entirely, I was starting to have visions of throwing her over my shoulder and not giving her any choice but to go in.

The fatigue was overwhelming as she tried to sit up on the couch long enough so I could dial the number to speak to a representative. This cancellation was not happening at the insurance company level. This was our state-run marketplace where she had chosen a policy. I had my tangles with them for mine. And once they mess something up, it’s long wait times and confusion. Someone can push the wrong button, and life becomes a nightmare.

“May I have your name and social security number?” she said. 

I explained that she had laryngitis. 

“I see. Well, she has to permit me to speak to you about her case, or I cannot help.”

“You have to try,” I said, looking at my daughter.

She gulped down water and started to move her lips. If a dinosaur could talk, that’s what it sounded like as she tried to force out her name and give consent. 

The state fairy godmother granted us our wish, which began the long, arduous process that would consume me with worry day and night. 

More letters would come claiming that if they didn’t hear from her, that on the 29th, she would be uninsured. This was after we called in daily to check on the status of where this was going. We were told there was a “glitch” in the system. Ignore the threats; they weren’t real, they said. They seemed very credible, and in the meantime, her symptoms were getting worse instead of better.

I called the insurance company directly and was told it was out of their hands. I had to keep going to the state-run system to get this fixed. I could not believe that this was such a mess, and it seemed like no one was in the state of emergency that we were.

I contacted a woman who had connections behind the scenes and strategies that I had no access to. Finally, I had found an advocate who seemed to be as riled up as I was.

“They do things so stupidly,” she said. She promised to help. 

It was the final week of February, with no progress made, and all of it was hanging over my daughter’s head. Six days before the dreaded date, we did a conference call again. 

A MNSure representative answered. This was number 10, at least. The maddening thing is that you never get the same person twice. I explained the trouble. Impatiently she snapped, 

“I need to read the notes that we have. I’m putting you on hold.”

We were used to that, but I wasn’t accustomed to how she spoke to me. She acted like we had created the problem, forgetting we were the reason why she had a job in the first place. 

My daughter could hear me taking deep breaths. After a long pause, the representative returned and started rattling off information that was not accurate. Each time I tried to let her know this, she spoke over me as if reprimanding a small child. I kept inhaling and would exhale while speaking, and she would not back off and listen. I was running out of air.

“I need to speak to someone up higher than you.” I could not withstand the verbal beating anymore. 

I purposely tried to get her to understand that this was over her ability to help, which didn’t fly so well. There were more accusations as if my daughter had caused all of this when it was a human error on their part. 

More oxygen in, 

“I want someone else to help us.”

“Hold, please.”

When she said that, I started speaking to my daughter, who had been quietly listening to this nonsense. 

“Can you believe this person?!” I said everything that I had wanted to say, believing we were on hold. My language was not for general audiences but for a more mature crowd. 

“What did you say? I thought I heard you say something.” She was still on the line with us. “Do you need anything else?” It was a taunting tone that suggested she was on a power trip. 

“Transfer us like you said,” my daughter barked. 

“You have a good day now,” she with a syrupy inflection. 

Once we were disconnected from her, I said, 

“What was that? Was she even a real?” 

Another person answered, and we started the process all over. 

That night, before I fell asleep, I decided to forget it. There wasn’t any more I could do; I had exhausted all options. 

“I give it to you, God,” I whispered into the darkness.

She continued to suffer through her sickness, and before her coverage expired, I helped her get to a minute clinic. She was asked if she traveled outside of the country, and she hadn’t. There was no testing to see what it was or deep dives into who she had been in contact with. 

At one point, while instructed to take a deep breath, she almost passed out. I was thankful that I had taken her in. 

She was sent home with medication, and by the next day, she fell off her plan for coverage. 

She slept through the entire month of March, and when I would start to get nervous, I would just tell God that I needed help. I decided not to fight it anymore, and it got easier. I was not waking up scared, and I felt calmer. 

Suddenly, the clouds seemed to part, it was fixed, and by then, she was better. 

At the end of it, I had a memory flash through my mind. 

I always trusted my brothers, and they all gave me a good reason not to. 

One day, one of them came into my room with this strange colorful object in his hand.

“Try this, Chris. It’s really neat.” Right there is where I should have run away. 

I willingly and innocently let him shove my index fingers into each end.

“Now, take your fingers out.”

I tried. The material tightened around them more. With each moment of struggle, I lost more of my ability to regain my independence. 

He sat back and watched.

I started to feel panicked, which only drove me to want out more. 

“I’m stuck!” I said to him.

“Yep.” 

He did not attempt to help me.

I dropped my hands. I thought if I looked pathetic enough, he would come to my rescue. 

“Instead of pulling, push them closer to the middle.”

What? That would be the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish.

I did what he said anyway. Little by little, it loosened, and I was able to get out of it.

When I created a calm mindset and followed instructions, I was able to be entirely free. 

“Do you want to keep it?” He said, laughing. 

“No,” I said, throwing it at him. 

When you are faced with something that seems beyond your ability to handle, remember 1 Peter 5:7 says,

Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. (TLB)

God will never leave you stuck or trapped. 

(These are still not fun..)

Pressure

I have never been fond of stress. Some people like the thrill of it and the drama. Not me. Why rush when I do a better job at something when I can think about it for a while? Isn’t the outcome then going to be better? I never understood why the education system didn’t consider this when forcing us to take timed tests.

In high school, I took a typing class. I was somewhat versed in the subject already, having used an old-fashioned one at home. This new model was electric, which made the letters appear quicker than the ancient one, requiring a firm press down to work. It only took a light touch to get this one to work.

We were told that timed quizzes would be given in addition to our regular homework assignments. There was nothing better on a Monday morning to be half asleep and have that news thrown at you.

We stationed ourselves obediently and placed our hands on ‘home row’. It was like a runner taking his mark. The nerves were high because what if I hadn’t practiced enough to get through the passage before the buzzer went off?

With silence hanging heavily in the air, we waited for the signal to begin. Unfortunately, when the instructor screamed,

“GO!” my entire body jumped, causing my hands to hit all the keys at once. My first line was a mess, and my grade would get knocked down for that. I never got used to her method of having us begin, and she might as well shot off a handgun for the same effect.

Similar to that anxiety producing experience was my mom’s pressure cooker. She had a big family to feed, so this pot allowed a large quantity of food to be done in a short amount of time.

It was set on the stove to sizzle just to let you know it was there, ready to attack if you got too close.

“Be careful of the pressure cooker if you go in the kitchen,” she would say to me.

Often, I would forget and run by it. That is when I found out it was to be feared. It would spit scalding hot water on anyone who did not pass its path on tiptoes. The surprise sting of the liquid, plus the loud hissing sound, struck fear immediately. It seemed to be in charge and made sure to make you aware of its presence. I vowed never to have one.

For Christmas, a few years ago, I was given the upgraded version of one. My childhood fears resurfaced as I looked at the box. However, this one has safety features and is not at all like the ones of former years. It plugs into an outlet and has a sealed lid, presenting a gentler approach to using it.

I still didn’t trust it. But, I was willing to see how it worked. So, the first time, I found a soup recipe, and I put in the ingredients and made sure that I followed all the instructions. I kept visualizing it going off like a bomb and destroying my entire neighborhood, and the Red Cross was involved. Did I want that kind of destruction just for a bowl of soup?

I went online to read voraciously about those who had been brave enough to try it. There is a rather large community of people who like to live on the edge. They throw everything into this, making anything you can think of, with some owning multiple units. Many of them have built on additions to their homes to house all their pots. And they post pictures. None of them are shy about how obsessed they are.

Not one of the message threads spoke of any disaster happening. This made me less fearful about using it.

I put on the lid, which makes a magical chime sound to calm the nerves, and set the timer as indicated by the cookbook. I stared at it as the numbers clicked by. I felt safe to leave it for a minute, but then I was back to be sure that I knew when we were all going to die possibly.

The valve on the top of the lid began to hiss slightly. I went to the online cult and found that this was normal. It meant that it was coming to pressure, and there was no cause for concern. After that, it was as if nothing was happening.

The thirteen minutes went by way too slow. This was supposed to give me free time to wander the house and think deeply. That was not how it went at all, and I kept going back to watch it do nothing.

The next part was the most harrowing. It was a requirement to push the sealing mechanism on top to release all the steam. The timer beeped, and I decided that I could not stand directly in front of it as I did this. I had come this far in the process without losing a limb or two, and I hoped I would have both hands available to eat the soup.

I got out an oversized potholder and pulled it up to my elbow, and grabbed the longest spatula out of the group. I realized that where the pot was lined up with the wall would work to my advantage. I could reach around and hit the valve with the spatula but have the wall keep me hidden, just in case this didn’t go as planned.

Blindly, I reached around. I took a quick peek to see if the utensil would be able to release the steam. I hit it as fast as I could and then retracted my arm out of the way. I ran in the opposite direction, hearing the sound of a massive amount of vapor streaming upward. But that was it. There were no casualties as I had thought there would be. And, it was the best soup I had ever made in my whole life.

I use it now without a second thought.

All of us, at some point, are going to be confronted with something that makes us feel uncomfortable. Most of the time, when we feel tension, we imagine the worst outcome. Worry, anxiety, and panic can feel overwhelming, and it’s difficult to discern or think straight. So why not do this?

Psalm 55:22: So here’s what I have learned through it all: Leave all your cares and anxieties at the feet of the Lord, and measureless grace will strengthen you. (TPT)

Give it to God, and it will take off the pressure.

Shelf

“I think you should apply at the library as a shelver,” she said.

I had barely been out of my first temporary job, and she was already talking about the next one. (See Going Through A Rough Patch blog as to why my excitement was at an all time low about another job)

At least her suggestion was something I had an interest in versus a large department store. My mom would not be satisfied until I worked part-time and earned straight A’s in school. It would build my character, she said. And kill me, I thought.

“Do I need to call and set up an interview?” I asked.

“I already did.”

Of course.

After school one day, I was whisked away as her excitement ran high. She loved the thrill of reliving her teen years through mine. Meanwhile, I had bags under my eyes from writing research papers and taking final exams.

“I think this will be so great for you. You like to read, and books will surround you.”

I already had a stack of them on my bed with homework assignments due in less than twenty-four hours.

She gleefully walked in with me trailing behind.

“My daughter has an interview,” she said to the lady at the circulation desk, like she was my handler.

I was told to sit in a specific place and wait where two other girls were seated. One of them I recognized from school. She always wore her hair in two low braids with ribbons. This was 1984, where perms and high hair ruled the day. She complimented her appearance with patent leather shoes with frilly ankle socks. She was locked into a first-grade dress code.

I could feel her snooty attitude rippling out in waves. The whole package screamed perfectionism. Back then, we didn’t have handheld electronic devices to look at. We had to endure uncomfortable situations, fully engaged with people we would rather not be.

The girl next to her was called in while I took up a catatonic stare at the floor.

“I’m going to get this position,” she said. I looked up.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“My aunt works here, so the job is already mine. They always hire relatives before outsiders.”

I don’t know what bugged me more. What she said or the way she said it.

“You might as well go home. You are wasting your time.”

She was a vision of superiority and self-righteousness wrapped up in a floral print that was hard on the eyes.

Her name was called, and she flounced away.

When it was my turn, I was sequestered into a small room, asked why I was applying and what long-term goals I wished to achieve. My short-term goal was to get this over.

Getting past the firing squad of questions, I was expected to show how well I could put a book cart in order while timed. I did my best, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking how pointless this was if the girl with the shining personality had already gotten it. I was a formality.

In between classes at school, she saw me and said,

“I told you that I would get it.”

I walked past her as if she were invisible.

At the news of my unsuccessful attempt, it was on to another idea.

“I think you should work at the nursing home.”

“Isn’t that for old people?”

“Yes, Chris. They have a housekeeping and laundry position open, and they need someone for evenings, weekends, and holidays.”

I would be giving up the glamour of the library for washing clothes, sweeping, and taking out the trash, amongst other Cinderella-type chores. It sounded much more labor intensive than the other, but what choice did I have? She wanted to let all the neighbors know that her youngest daughter wasn’t lying around on the couch eating cereal straight out of the box and drinking right out of the milk carton. We had to keep up a good image.

That interview was set up, and once again, my mom was elated at the prospect of me launching into minimum wage slavery that would shape my outlook on life.

I breezed through the meeting and then went home to wait while they picked the most talented of all of us.

“I hope you get this one,” she said. “It would be good for you to work around the elderly.”

She had given birth to me at age 36, but I chose not to mention that I already felt plenty exposed to that daily.

“I want you to have a solid lead before school ends. Everyone will be out looking, so if this comes through, it would be great.”

I went back to my real job. I was trying to pass tenth grade.

A few weeks later, I was greeted at the door with her smiling from ear to ear.

“You need to call Joyce back.”

She was the one I had met with for the housekeeping position. She went across the room, took the phone off the wall receiver, and stretched it over to me—no time like the present.

The job was mine if I wanted it. I was shocked because I thought I would be back out looking again.

It was explained that I had not been their pick, but the rightful candidate had fallen through. I was the only one they had not reached to let know that had been bypassed for the job.

“We thought it would be easier just to give you the position rather than going back to someone we already said no to.”

With my mother standing there watching me like a hawk, how could I turn it down?

They hired the right person because I not only did housekeeping and laundry, but I worked in the kitchen, was a social worker after college, and was an assistant in therapeutic recreation on the Alzheimer’s unit. My accidental landing of the initial role benefited them for over ten years.

It wasn’t until I was looking for employment after my divorce I revisited the library idea. I had felt robbed of that for years. So when I saw that a shelver was needed, I applied. By then, I was nearing 40, and this time I was way beyond the age of my competitors. I flew through the interview with ease and did the timed test basically with my eyes closed. What a difference twenty-four years made.

A few days later, I was told I had not gotten the job as the woman who vacated the position returned from the military, and they had to give it back to her by law.

I could not believe I was ripped off again!

My daughter saw my disappointment and said,

“God will give you something better.”

A month passed before I thought of it again. Then I got a call.

“I would like to offer you a part-time shelving position. We kept all of your information from the application you filled out before this, and we think you would be a good addition here.”

The job was not at the branch I had just applied to a month prior, but the original library that I had been turned away from at sixteen.

“If you want it, orientation starts next week.”

I took it, and I can say I still have a hard time not straightening books at stores and random libraries.

God had given me exactly what I had wanted after a lot of years of waiting. If you trust, He will never leave you sitting on the shelf.

Shortcuts

When I visit my dad at his apartment, I never know what I will stumble upon. I was completely shut out from seeing him from March to September of 2020 due to Covid restrictions. I had to drop off items he had requested at the front door and wave to him through the window. Soon, I noticed he wasn’t in the lobby anymore, and when I tried to call him, he wouldn’t answer his phone. At times, my only communication was with the staff, who told me he was sleeping a lot and staying secluded. All activities had been stopped, and all meals were delivered to him.

I wondered how many hours a day he was sleeping. It wasn’t easy because when he went to live there in 2019, the help was a bit touch and go. I was astonished at the lack of accountability since I had a background in long-term care. We had to document every incident and follow up with one meeting after another.

Not so much with this place. It was like the Wild West of senior living with no rules and a somewhat fend for yourself environment.

So the lockdown wasn’t the most ideal. Once I jumped through multiple miscommunications, I was allowed to return as one of his essential caregivers. My suspicions of him sleeping all day and up all night were accurate. Every time I arrived in the mid-morning, he was still in bed with breakfast sitting on his table. He had lost all track of time. When I would say,

“Why are you still sleeping?” He would tell me there was no reason to get up.

The first time I went back in, I was thankful I had a mask in my possession. I don’t think his bedding had been washed that entire time, and housekeeping looked like they abandoned ship. I spent my time cleaning, scrubbing, and getting him to wake up.

His appearance had changed to resemble Rip Van Winkle with a beard flowing. It took a lot of effort to reverse the psychological effects this isolation had done to him.

His meals were still being dropped off to him during that time, so one day while I was there, two of the workers from the kitchen came in and asked him what his preferences were. He is highly deaf in both ears and reads lips, so their masks made it challenging for him to comprehend what was said.

“What?” He asked, leaning forward.

“What do you want for lunch?” one of them asked.

“What?”

I pulled my face covering off so he could see my mouth.

“They want to know what you want for lunch.”

“Oh! What do you have?”

The one who had tried to ask the first time said,

“Do you want fish?”

“What?”

“Fish!”

She proceeded to take both of her hands in front of her to create a fin-like visual, and she moved her hips in a side-to-side motion. She was doing the best charade game of her life to try to get her point across.

He frowned deeply and leaned forward more, trying to comprehend her movements. I did not attempt to interrupt his interpretation as she continued to demonstrate while he pondered. I saw a lightbulb go off.

“Snake? We are having snake for lunch?”

His eyes were huge at the thought. He had just been telling me how much the place was going downhill.

She dropped her hands, exasperated.

“Fish!” I said, stepping in to help.

“Fish? That fish looked just like a snake!”

Recently, there was another Covid scare, so I was not permitted to see him for a couple of weeks. I worried he would slip back to his old habits because he was once again under total quarantine.

It didn’t take long for the facial hair to grow again and the sleeping in to start. When I went in the other day to surveillance his place, I found a pair of summer shorts cut in half. I just stood there holding them up, trying to figure out what in the world had happened.

I brought them before his eyes.

“What happened to these?”

“I had to cut myself out of them.”

I took a second to take that in. He cut himself out of his pants.

“I know I should move on, but I have to know..why? I just bought you these. Why did you do this?”

“I was stuck in them.”

I’m a very visual person, so I tried my hardest to develop a good image of why this had occurred. Nothing was coming.

“I was honest to God stuck in them, and I had to get out of a bad situation, Chris.”

I thought maybe a third try at it would clear the muddy waters, but it didn’t.

“So, instead of pushing your pendant for assistance, you grabbed a pair of scissors and cut off your pants?”

“Yes.” He said it like this was an everyday thing to do.

We both just stared at each other. I was at a loss for words. Of all the circumstances I have been in with this man, this by far had hit the top of the list.

I always treat him with respect, even if what he is telling me is so off the wall or not even close to the truth.

“I’m just trying to understand. Were you throwing a wild party and just decided to live freely? I don’t get this.”

He started laughing.

“No, I didn’t have a party. Are you crazy? I’m an old man! I was trapped in those and had to get out of them!”

Oh, my gosh! He could talk in circles for days on end! And he called ME crazy? I was not the one with a pair of shorts with a slit up the side like an evening gown.

“I think you wanted to show your leg off more on that side.” He laughed again. “Or were you needing an apron for the kitchen?” I turned them around and bunched up the material across my waist. The two pockets on each side were perfect.

“I still don’t get it. Why did you not ask for help?”

“Because they are busy here, and I didn’t want to bother anyone. I was struggling, and I figured I could do it myself.”

“Well,” I said, fanning them out, “you did.”

“You have gotten me a lot of those. I have at least seven pairs. Well, now maybe six.”

“Where were you when this all took place?”

His memory is getting worse, so he attempted to piece it all together.

“Were you in your bathroom?”

“I think so. They got caught on the side of the wheelchair, and I was stuck like that for a while.”

Now the story was all coming back to him.

“I tried to get myself free by pulling on them, but it wasn’t working. I saw the scissors on the sink, so I got myself out of prison.”

While it made me feel bad for him, I couldn’t help laughing. Which he then did too.

It reminded me of that part from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles where John Candy gets his arms stuck in his seatbelt while driving.

And the more I thought about it, the more I laughed.

“I don’t know what goes on around here. I will buy you another pair.”

“I won’t be having an encore performance. That’s it for this lifetime.”

No matter how much I have tried to tell him to call for help, he stubbornly refuses and decides he is the master of his fate.

And it makes me wonder, where am I not getting help? I don’t want to be a burden, so I often do it myself and keep quiet. But are we supposed to do that all the time? Don’t we have help available to us?

My dad must have forgotten all about Psalm 91:15 that says,

He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

We wear an invisible call button that when we request assistance, it has been promised that help will come. Far too often, we do it alone and exhaust all options before we ask. We might end up fashioning our solution, which will never match the help of heaven. The more we don’t ask, the easier it gets until we forget that we can.

His tattered and torn pair of pants destined for the trash is a great reminder that we aren’t supposed to take any shortcuts.

(My witty daughter saw the brand name and said, “He’s just living up to what the tag says..No Boundaries.” Where does she get it? Hmm..)

Time After Time

I heard the familiar click and wondered what the selection would be. There was no song playing. I looked up and saw that the bottom piece was spinning, and it was the right time, but it wasn’t doing what it should. Wondering if someone switched off the sound, I got up and took it off the wall.

On the side, there was a reset button, so I tried that, and nothing happened. I pushed the other option, and I got the same result. The next solution was to check the batteries, and after that didn’t help, I was at a loss.

My daughter had purchased the clock while my mom was in hospice. The day after she went on to heaven, it was delivered to our house. Because of the many supernatural experiences I kept having during that time, I found it no coincidence that this became a part of it.

One of my mom’s favorite songs was Ave Maria. Every time the hour struck, that melody would play even though there was a selection of at least thirty other tunes. Many times, when I was in the height of frustration trying to clean their house of sixty-one years and wondering why this wasn’t something my parents had done before, I would come home late to that playing the minute I opened the door.

“You’re welcome, mother!” I would say to the ceiling as I walked into my room and threw myself across my bed, exhausted.

Other times, when I was engaged in a conversation about her, whether good or bad, that song would suddenly come on to interrupt me mid-sentence as if to say,

“Chris, I can hear you!”

Their lack of planning was a burden, but I realized that to get out from under it, we had to get the house on the market. I spent days moving heavy items to the curb and had college kids who had no money come and take furniture for their housing. They were elated to have such good choices free of charge. I just wanted it gone, and that was payment enough.

It wasn’t just big items that were a nuisance but a lot of paper. They kept every single scrap. Whether it was an old bill or a magazine, they had it. I could have had a bonfire twice a day for the rest of my life with all of it—hours of shredding what was once important and throwing what wasn’t. Not to mention the canned food that could have fed an entire country. I hated every single minute of it. So much so that I went through my entire household and tossed things left and right, never to put that on my children.

This was not a sentimental journey where I looked at items and had my heartstrings pulled, but all I saw was a mess left for someone else to deal with. The self-centeredness of this would grate on me, but I knew I would only prolong the escape process if I got too wrapped up in it. I wanted out, so I put my mind to what was in front of me and shook off the resentment.

I could shut my eyes and see the interior of the house as if it were indelibly stamped in my mind. It had consumed my life from morning until night. There had been so many treks to the front yard with free signs hoping that someone would take mercy on me. One of the items was the ugliest chairs on the planet. It had sat there for a few days, and one night as I was leaving, I rolled down my window, pointed at it, and told its owner to get it immediately. The next day it was gone. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Near the end of this, my daughter and I made the trip back over to wrap up a few things that would finally set me free.

“I will not miss driving down this road,” I said.

That day, when we walked into the nearly empty living room, there was a cassette tape on the floor that my daughter picked up.

“Where did this come from?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “What is it?”

“It’s her favorite song. The one that has been playing all the time on the clock.”

I laughed. She was the most undead woman I had ever met.

So for the clock to quit working all of a sudden seemed like a loss of something that had been used to pull me through a stressful time.

“What is wrong with this?” I asked my daughter.

“I don’t know.”

This is unusual for her to give me that answer because she can usually figure out anything. She went through the same motions I had to try and fix it, but we were both left without answers.

I tried going online to see if I could contact the company where it was made. The purchase had been on Amazon, but I found the original manufacturer, so I sent out an email and got nothing in return.

The next step was to locate a repair place near us to take it apart and see what was wrong. She found one about thirty minutes away that claimed to be able to help even the worst case.

I made a call and talked to a man who seemed very accommodating.

“We don’t know why it stopped working, and we have done everything we can to fix it.”

“I work in the department that can do this for you. Bring it in, and I will take a look at it.”

It was our first glimmer of hope in solving the mystery.

I had no idea where this was, so I had to listen to the directions closely, and she made sure I didn’t miss a turn or go off in the wrong direction.

She seemed sad as if all the dead ends were starting to get to her. The clock just wasn’t a timepiece because of the significance it had taken. I tried to stay positive.

“The guy was so nice, and he seemed like he could help us. I think it will all work out just fine, and if we have to leave it with them, I think we will have it back quickly. I keep thinking it’s not as bad as we think it is.”

I felt like my cheerleader’s advice wasn’t going over.

The shop was small, but it wasn’t short of clocks. Just walking in was overwhelming with all the clicking and clacking going on. How did people work in this environment day after day? Talk about time staring you in the face. I started to think about how old I was standing there.

A lady came to the register.

“How can I help you?”

I put the clock on the counter and started to explain what had been going on.

“I called, and whoever I spoke to said to bring it in so it could be repaired.”

That’s when the attitude started. Like a light switch was flipped, I felt my upbeat mood challenged.

She picked up the clock, looked at us, and said,

“Did you drop this?”

“No. It’s been hanging on the wall in the same spot for the entire time.”

She popped open the back and removed the batteries.

“These look cheap.”

“No. They are the ones that came with the clock, and I got the same ones when we replaced them.”

Her icy expression continued.

“The company that makes these are very picky about returns. Do you still have the warranty papers?”

We said we did.

“Well, I highly doubt they will want to replace or repair this for you because they will claim you broke it by dropping it.”

Where was she coming up with this story? None one had dropped or mishandled the clock.

“That never happened,” I said.

She sighed and shook her head condescendingly.

Was I in the right clock shop? Was this the place where I had called and gotten such excellent assistance and was now up against the crypt keeper? Did they change owners in the thirty minutes it took me to drive?

“All of the parts in this are plastic. Let me see what I can find out,” she snapped.

She walked into a back room. I looked at my daughter, who seemed highly distressed. While she was sinking into a bit more of a down mood, this lady was pushing me to the brink with her accusations, and the slow burn inside of me was starting. There is one thing I cannot stand: being told I did something wrong when I haven’t.

I was hoping she would come back with a changed outlook on life but to no avail.

“They won’t take this. I already told them that this was probably not worth our time at all. It seems to have been damaged somehow.”

There it was again. The subtle blame the customer speech. I took back the clock before my hair caught on fire from the anger coursing through me.

“Okay,” I said quietly, suppressing the rage. I looked at the cuckoo clock on the wall behind her. Very fitting.

Back in the car, my daughter slumped down from the chastising while I was not at all feeling shame.

“We have done nothing wrong,” I said.

“She made me feel that way, though. Like I did something to cause this problem.”

“But, we know we didn’t, and she can say whatever she wants. She is a poor representative for working with the public. She didn’t want to help us. I am going to find a way to resolve this.”

Just then, I had a memory flash through my mind of a speech I heard where it was said that if you have closed doors and keep getting the answer no, that means you haven’t found your yes.

“I am going to get your yes.”

When we got home, I went back online to search for any help. I kept finding nothing, so finally, I said,

“God, help!”

That was it. I didn’t throw ashes on my head, light candles, or get down on my knees and beg.

I clicked on a link, and suddenly I found an obscure email address that I hadn’t seen before. I explained the entire situation, crossed all my fingers, and hit send.

In a few days, I got a response.

“Who is Eugene?”

I opened it, and he explained that he would be sending a shipping label for us to print. All he needed was the original papers from the purchase, including the warranty, and he would try to repair it.

We sent it on its way, and about three weeks later, I got another email.

“There was something defective with that clock, and I am sending you a brand new one. Be on the lookout for it.” So much for the company being challenging to deal with. It was back on the wall in no time and happily playing the same song again, over and over.

When you are supposed to have something, God will make sure you get it. It has been proven to me time after time.

Hunger

“A bag from Chipotle was dropped off at our door,” the text said.

“What?” I shot back.

“Someone delivered it to our front step.”

I wasn’t home, but my daughter was.

This was a puzzle. Did we get mistaken for another house, and now someone in my neighborhood was dying of starvation, looking for their order?

“Leave it there. Maybe they will realize the mistake and come back and get it.”

Later, our security camera captured a boy on a bike showing up. He looked a little suspicious as he glanced out in the street, circled a few times, and grabbed it.

I thought nothing of it, figuring he was the rightful owner. We had checked the contents before he showed up, and it contained a single bowl plus a drink.

The next afternoon, I happened to be home and was walking through the living room; I saw an unfamiliar car pulling up, and I watched as he dropped something on the step.

I said to my daughter,

“Who is that?”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew we had gotten a second delivery. I raced to the front door and saw the familiar brown bag, just like the day before. Quickly, I picked it up and ran to the vehicle at the end of my driveway. My street was busy, so he had to wait for traffic to pass.

He frowned as I approached.

“Is something wrong with your order?” he asked.

“No. No one by this name lives here. The same thing happened yesterday, and I think you have the wrong address.”

He pulled his car into the street and parked at the curb. He started scrolling through his deliveries.

“This is the correct spot. You didn’t order this?”

“No,” I said, handing it to him. This time there were two meals instead of one.

I was starting to see the game being played but didn’t have the full details of it. I looked around, trying to see if anyone was coming to do a pick up, but there were just cars speeding by in both directions.

As he looked on his phone for an explanation, I glanced up again. I was on the sidewalk in front of my house, and across the street, I saw a kid who resembled the one from the day before. He slowly pedaled toward us but on the opposite side of the road.

“I wonder if this is his,” I said.

“Ask him.”

I walked around to the back of the car and yelled,

“Did you order food?”

He was directly across from me now and stopped.

It was so noisy that he seemed to have a hard time hearing me.

“What?”

“Did you order this?”

He looked at me angrily and snapped back,

“No!” And then turned his bike and slowly rode away. For an instant, I felt terrible about asking him, and his reaction made me feel like I was the guilty party, like I was profiling him.

“He said it wasn’t his. I don’t want this food. What should I do with it?” I said, handing it back.

“I will call the help desk to see what we can do.”

There was no “help,” really. He was becoming exasperated with the poor communication while speaking to someone who understood very little English.

“No! She got an order. She doesn’t want another one! This one isn’t hers.”

“Can you hold?”

“Why not?” He barked. He was a kind man, but his patience was being tested.

After a long wait, the helper returned.

“Sir?”

“Yes?”

“Does she want a free meal?”

“No! She does not! Try to understand me. She got an order that isn’t hers! I want to know who placed this and was the address this one?”

“Can you hold?”

I never saw such a murderous look overcome a person before.

“Why not!” He said between gritted teeth.

Trying to free him from this predicament, I said,

“How about you take the food? I’m sure you have other work to do, and this is holding you up.”

“We can’t take the food back to the restaurant, but I was hoping to get some information, so this won’t keep on happening to you. Should I block your address from our route?”

“Yes. Take the food for yourself, but give me the bag.”

My criminal radar was going off.

He took the two bowls.

“My wife is going to be so happy. This is my last run, and now she won’t have to cook.”

At least something good was coming out of this.

I took a gigantic rock, placed it inside the bag, and put it on the front step. I wanted to see if anyone would appear. Whoever was doing this was up to no good. I realized that possibly a stolen credit card was being used to place orders, have the food delivered, and then gathered up at my address. I was an innocent party to a scam being run.

My daughter had looked outside when I confronted the boy on the bike, and she confirmed it was the culprit.

The decoy bag sat untouched. Had I scared him off?

When UPS pulled up an hour later, I became more concerned. Now the merchandise had been upped from food to clothes. My daughter took the tracking information off the H & M package, and she discovered that this purchase had been overnighted. The thief had been so confident with the first drop going so well, he was online shopping with greater confidence and spending a lot of someone else’s money.

I had reached my limit and called the police.

“We have gotten food, and now clothing delivered that doesn’t belong to us.”

He started laughing.

“So nothing is being stolen from you but being delivered to you?”

I was annoyed with how lightly he was taking this.

“You understand that this is someone with stolen credit cards, buying things and having them come here?”

That seemed to help him get the picture.

“I have heard of drug deals happening like that. They find a house where people are gone during the day and exchange money and drugs on the front steps. But not food or clothes.”

He told me to let them know if it continued.

My daughter noticed that the person who ordered the UPS delivery attempted to stop it, but it came to us anyway.

All went quiet after that. Every time I got in my car, I looked for that kid on the bike, and he had vanished into thin air.

I thought.

This spring, I saw a delivery driver sprint across my front yard. We have this happen often, so I didn’t pay much attention. When I retrieved it, I noticed a name on it that wasn’t familiar.

Oh, no! Not this again.

The package was from Best Buy. Inside were a nice new pair of Apple AirPods. I called the 1-800 number to speak with a representative for the store.

“If that was bought on a stolen credit card, there’s nothing we can do. You got yourself a free pair of earbuds!” He laughed most irritatingly, and I had to hold down a scream.

“I don’t want stolen things in my possession. That’s wrong.”

He cleared his throat, remembering our call was being recorded.

“Oh, um, you could return them so they can be restocked.”

“That’s my plan.”

I hung up, wondering what happened to ethics.

My daughter had heard the entire conversation.

“I bet this is the same kid from a year ago.”

“If it is, he is horrible at this. Why would he target the same house if I caught him before?”

I decided to put the box in my room and deal with it later.

That afternoon, I got a text:

“He showed up on camera and knocking on the front door.”

Our small time crook was at it again. From the footage, we determined he was about thirteen, and this time he had shown up without his bike.

“He will probably come back later,” I replied.

And he did. Unreal as it seems, he came back that evening to my front door. I had the windows open, and I heard a loud knock. I looked out the security eyehole and saw him.

“Hello? Is anyone there?” He asked.

I was trying to decide what to do. Should I confront this again or let it slide? Was this worth my time? I could make the return and call it a day.

Of course, right then, my daughter dropped something in the kitchen. It sounded like an explosion, sending the message that someone was home. So much for having a second to consider my options. He heard it and began frantically pounding louder. I wanted to tell him off, but as usual, I wasn’t in control anymore. I felt a calm come over me.

I walked to the window and said,

“Can I help you?”

I decided to keep the screen between us. If someone can steal, they can also carry a weapon to get their way.

He sprang over to be in front of me.

“I had a pair of earbuds ordered. I think they came here by mistake.”

“You did?”

“Yes, here I will show you.”

He turned his phone toward me to show an order.

I glanced at it, pretending to believe him. I could have won an award for my performance.

“Do you have them?”

“No.” Technically, they were in the other room.

His face fell. I didn’t want to lie to him, but I also needed more information at that moment.

“It says they came to this address today. This morning.”

His voice was shaking, trying to convince me of what he was saying. I decided to drop a bomb.

“I do have them. I will give them to you if you introduce me to your parents.”

This made him instantly panic.

“No! Please! Can I just have them?”

“No. If you allow me to walk with you to your house, have your parents come to the door, I will give them to you.”

“I will prove it’s me. Here’s my student ID.”

He showed me his phone again, but I kept my eyes locked on his.

“I want to meet your parents.”

“Please, no.”

“Where do you live that they came to my address by mistake?”

He mumbled off some random numbers. This child needed help with his deception skills if this was the career of his dreams.

“I want to meet your parents.”

“No. They will be mad at me.”

“Why? If you ordered these, why would they be angry?”

“I got into a fight in school, and they told me I can’t have anything right now.”

“So, how did you order these then?”

“My friend let me use his credit card.”

Now we were getting closer to the truth.

“Please don’t ask to see my parents.”

“I can do whatever I want at this point. I have known about you since a year ago. You had food and another item delivered here. You stole them, and I called the police. They were looking for you and might still be now.”

His eyes got gigantic.

“You need to stop this before you get into trouble. What if you came here and I had a gun? You don’t know me. You are going to strangers’ homes and engaging in dangerous behavior. I’m not giving them to you. I’m taking them back to the store.”

“I want them so bad!” He looked like he was in physical pain.

“This isn’t the way to get them. You are smarter than this, and you know you are.”

Tears began to form in his eyes. There went my plan to dress him down verbally! God is nicer than I am.

“I keep getting into fights at school. My parents are mad at me.”

“So why don’t you show them that you can do better? Do it for yourself? You don’t have to live like this. You are smart; I know you are. You can have whatever you want. God wants you to have the best in life.”

Where had all my anger gone?

It was like no one had ever said a kind word to him, and he was soaking it up. I could feel my words touching his wounds.

As I poured on the encouragement, he broke down and told me all the scam details.

“Do you know why we picked your house?”

Inwardly, the word “we” set me back. This wasn’t a one man operation after all.

“Why?”

He looked over at my neighbor’s house.

“You don’t have cars in the driveway, and it doesn’t seem like you have a lot of people at home.”

“You have no idea how wrong you are, and this is why I’m telling you to stop this right now. I have you on camera from a year ago and today. I called the police once, and I will do it again. This whole street has cameras, and you are going to get caught.”

He looked at his feet.

“Promise me you will stop this, and I won’t turn the footage over to them.”

“I promise. Thank you. I’m sorry I did this. I can do better.” Humility was beginning to set in.

“You can quit right now. Do something to earn money. Show your parents they don’t know you. You can come back and talk to me anytime you want. You are going to end up in a place you won’t like if you don’t stop this right now at this very moment.”

“Ok.”

“You have to leave this behind and work on something better. You can do it. Has anyone ever told you that? Has anyone ever said you were smart? Let God show you that.”

“No. I just get yelled at.”

“Well, then they don’t see what I see. Just prove them wrong.”

“I’m sorry. I promise I will quit. Thank you.”

As he walked away, he seemed somewhat dejected. I noticed on the back of his shirt he had an advertisement for a local church.

I could blame his age on the behavior he displayed, but that isn’t the problem. He thought a material item would fulfill a gaping hole in his heart. But really, he wanted recognition of his importance on earth. His logic was to try and stop the pain by obtaining an item. But for how long? Don’t adults call that retail therapy?

There is nothing wrong with having nice things, but it’s how they are acquired and where they fit in on the list of importance. Chasing them down and taking from others isn’t necessary when you know that your blessings can be obtained by applying your faith. He didn’t understand that and was acting like the rest of the greedy, desperate world.

He didn’t know these promises:

In Psalm 37:4-5 it says:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. (ESV)

Psalm 107:9
For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (ESV)

This young man wasn’t born to be a trouble maker, stealing other people’s food. He was put here for a more significant reason, and like all of us, he is seeking something higher. At some point, when he has worn out all options, he will figure out that only God can satisfy that type of hunger.

Strong Finish

“I prayed for a money bonus,” she said as I walked through the living room.

“A bonus?”

“Yes. I asked God to send me extra money as a way to practice using my words and faith. I want to see if it will work.”

My daughter wasn’t asking out of a need but to build her walk with God. I didn’t know what that was like. I always asked heaven for financial help to pay a bill, and so far, so good.

Her request was a bit beyond mine, and I had never thought to pray for something I wasn’t in a crisis for because I thought that was the rule. Don’t you have to have an emergency to wring a drop of help from above?

“I’m just putting it out there to see what happens.”

“So is this bonus like at the casino where the machine launches you into that extra thing? You play the regular game, and then it suddenly takes you to a different screen to accumulate more?” I had watched her do that numerous times.

“Yes. That’s why I am saying it’s a bonus, and it’s an add-on to what I already have.”

With Christmas around the corner, my thought was her chances were pretty high that someone would give her a gift, possibly money.

But, the holidays came and went, and her prayer went unfulfilled. I forgot all about it, and she didn’t mention it to me again.

She doesn’t like clutter, but she often gets very busy with her career, so her room and workspaces can be a mess.

During the first week of January, she declared one morning that she would straighten up her room. It had gotten to the point of overload where she was feeling confined. Just like me, this process feels like an evil necessity. I don’t want to do it, but I know I will love it when I walk in the door to be surprised as if a maid had magically appeared. She would thank herself later for taking the time now.

I began my day when I heard,

“Mom! Oh my gosh! MOTHER!”

It was one of those statements where I was in her room and didn’t recall how I got there that fast.

“What’s wrong?”

She was standing by her bookshelves, holding two $50 bills.

“Did you find that?”

When both my girls tidy up, they always find a small lost treasure, like a couple of extra dollars or a piece of jewelry.

“This wasn’t here before.”

She kept looking at each hand.

“What?”

“Remember how I asked for a money bonus? I didn’t put a time on it or an amount. I was cleaning that top shelf, and these were folded neatly there.”

The space she spoke of was high, and no one had been in her room or in our house to do this.

I took one of the brand new bills from her hand. It had that new smell, and the paper wasn’t worn. Like it had been freshly printed.

Even though she knew it would eventually manifest, her shock was quite evident.

“I know it works now.”

“Put it to work for me,” I said.

In the summer, we went to the track. She took the money with her because she had intended that it would be used for something entertaining. As each race ended, her money was dwindling. Her picks weren’t coming to fruition, and I could see her irritation rising. She isn’t accustomed to losing, and while she looked serene to the outside world, I sensed the frustration. Her mind was making her believe that all was not going her way.

As we approached the machine to make her guesses for the final race, she said with much annoyance,

“I am here to have fun! And I’m getting all my money back right now!”

I watched her fingers fly across the touch screen as she decided to play the trifecta. This meant she had to correctly predict the horses that would come in to win, place and show, and it was an all-or-nothing chance. She didn’t bat an eyelash as she punched it in and hastily grabbed the printout.

We had some time to wait, and she said again,

“I’m getting it all back! Right now!”

There was a tone in her voice that meant she wasn’t backing off believing that she could. Like when Jesus flipped tables kind of energy.

The horses lined up, and the bell rang. We watched the screen to see how it would all end. I wasn’t even sure who she had bet on because she hadn’t told me.

She calmly watched as all three of her picks eased across the finish line in the exact order she had set.

At the collection window, she was given back all of her bonus money.

She had won the trifecta once before, so she had the confidence that she could do it again. That made all the difference when the mood went from downcast to “nothing can stop me from accomplishing this.”

In Jeremiah 17:7-8 it says,

But blessed is the man who trusts God,
the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers.
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season.

It looked like she was going to lose it all, but she came out the winner.

You and I are running a race with God cheering us on. We get to decide how we proceed. Will we do it with joy, peace, and faith? Or do we go with a double mind mentality and doubt? My daughter put no parameters on her prayer, and she just flung it out there on a whim to see what would transpire and let it go. It all came to pass, and we all have that power.

No horse limped across the line. They were in their best shape, charging forward with the end in mind. Are you doing that? Are you inwardly driven to victory?

2 Timothy 4:7 says:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Determine to have a strong finish.