Come Clean

“Would you have time to write about a lady named Terry who is about to graduate from the program?” He asked me.

I knew that this friend of mine had a heart for those struggling to begin a new life free from drugs. He was a volunteer who helped serve on a board and was involved with the ceremony to celebrate those who had crossed the finish line. My writing would be used as a part of that.

I had never been to a treatment facility before, and an opportunity to highlight the achievements of one of their success stories was being presented to me.

I agreed to meet with her, unsure of what this would look like.

I knew that this resource for helping those with chemical dependency issues had been around for a while, serving teens, men, and women. I was taken to a location in Minneapolis where only female housing was available.

It was afternoon, and I felt a stillness when we entered. I was given a brief tour of the resident rooms, the community meeting place, and the kitchen. It was explained to me that this environment offered peace to those coming from very intense lifestyles, where the addictions ran so strong, many had come close to death.

I met with her in a simple room consisting of a bed and a dresser.

She grew up in a family of wealth, and the high school she attended had a peer group of the same affluence. I had been under the wrong impression that if a person is surrounded by material ease, life will open up much better than one of financial struggle.

This was not the case, as it afforded her a way to buy and use substances that would eventually take over her life.

She was by no means unintelligent. She was a hard worker who found herself at the top of the chain no matter what business employed her. Everything she did made the atmosphere around her better. But, unknown to her coworkers, she was deep into self-destruction.

One of the most shocking things she related to me was that she would go into high-end department stores, grab clothes off the rack, and go put on layers in the women’s changing rooms. She got so crafty at sneaking under the radar that she was carting out expensive items under the nose of security. This was before the invention of the devices attached to items for purchase.

She used all of her dishonest gains to trade on the street for what she wanted. At one point, she was stealing specific items that had been requested. It eventually caught up with her both physically and mentally. And her path led to recovery.

I would not have known for a second the pain she had overcome to now be in such a positive mindset. She had taken all of her coursework seriously, and at the root of it was the understanding that God was on her side, leading the charge to a brand new way of living. He had come in and taken up residence in her heart; that was what she had been longing for that all along. She just didn’t know it.

As much as she had been determined before to get her hands on pills, liquids, and inhalants, she now was going to use that same power to become a mentor to other women.

She had dropped her pursuit of those things that had only brought her harm to embrace a love that was streaming from heaven. This wasn’t a fake display where I saw a person who could easily slip back into her former self. She was upfront and about where she had been and the hurdles she still would face moving on.

But I could see the strength in her eyes and feel the perseverance flooding her spirit. While she had walked a troublesome road, she had her sites set on helping others find their way. That light streaming from heaven was going to touch many around her.

At her lowest, she had been taken in, surrounded by good people who saw her true potential and was given a chance. God had become her priority, and out of a cleansing process, she found her purpose, and there wasn’t anything that would stop her. She had a detailed plan of her every move to keep her on track with laser focus.

I parted ways with her, feeling joy. That is the gift she imparted to me. It was faith building to know that someone could come from such a broken experience and be lifted to a higher plane of existence. I could feel her connection. In her voice, I could hear compassion as she now was moving from self-absorption to an absolute urgent calling to pull others from the flames of despair.

For her life to do a complete turnaround, she had to be willing to look into her past to see where she had been overtaken by darkness that seemed to offer her good but was leading to her early demise. She had to put aside herself and let God take over, and this wasn’t without resistance as her body revolted, wanting its way, just like old times. Habits that had long been entrenched and a mind programmed to respond had to be made new.

But God can do that. And, you don’t have to be in Terry’s same situation to get the help that will reverse a self-control issue or anything that you have fallen prey to. Whatever out of control circumstances seem to have you in their grip, there is a way of escape. Like it says in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it. (ESV)

It requires one of the most challenging actions a person must undertake to overcome. Surrender. To let go of what we might hold onto tightly as a security blanket because it’s familiar.

Terry was very honest about all of her former excuse making. She rationalized her strung-out functioning, which only fueled the problem more. Once she decided that she had value and not all the money that was readily available, this is when the change began. She quit fighting to stay where she was to move ahead.

She had to look back to move forward.

I had this demonstrated through an object lesson.

“I can’t find that letter,” she said, flying past me. I could tell by how she was rushing that something wasn’t right.

I heard things being moved, sighing, and more swift shuffling.

“Where was it last?”

“On the table. It’s not there now.”

I was hoping it would appear in an obscure place because what would happen next wouldn’t be pleasant.

There was more searching, and frantic mode was approaching.

“It isn’t in your room?”

“No.”

“Where did you see it last?”

“In the kitchen.”

I began looking with her trying to calm her down.

Then she said what I was dreading.

“It is probably in the garbage.”

I glanced over at the bag I was about to take outside.

“It cannot be in there,” I said as flashes of times past came to mind.

I had been involved in far too many of these rescue operations, and it was the last thing on earth I wanted to do at midnight. Yet, we don’t always get our way.

I reluctantly sat on the floor and untied the knot I had tightly made because this wasn’t supposed to be happening. My real self was sleeping, not about to delve into a messy, disgusting pile of discarded waste.

“I hate this,” I said, as she stood by looking like she were ready to hurl. It always amazes me that the one not doing the task appears to suffer the most. I got a pair of gloves because, well, because.

I began slogging through the contents, putting them into an empty bag beside me.

“If this piece of paper is in here, it’s going to be soaking wet.”

I had that happen multiple times before, with checks that had come and accidentally been thrown away like we were so rich it was disposable. I had to retrieve them and get out the hairdryer.

“I don’t want to be here right now,” I said. But I was, and I wasn’t finding whatever she had lost; I had just cleaned out the refrigerator where everything was on its final breath to add to the fun.

“What day did you have it last?”

“I think on Monday,” she said with much uncertainty.

Because time is an illusion in my house, that could have been two Fridays ago or a random Wednesday.

Getting to the bottom of the bag, I had to say it.

“There are more bags outside.”

I dragged myself out to the driveway as we both tried to uncover the elusive correspondence.

“Do you realize I am sitting outside at 12:30 in the morning digging through the garbage?”

Wasn’t carrying her for nine months and bringing her into the world enough? No, because once you are a parent, a good one anyway, you’re driven by forces outside of your will to help.

We came up short. While I reassembled the garbage to make it more pretty, she went back into the house to see if she had overlooked a hiding spot.

As I stuffed everything back into the container, I was struck by the thought that going through those bags was returning to the past.

Just like Terry had to retrace her steps, I had to subject myself to what was once edible but now was a massive conglomeration of unwanted and unnecessary baggage. I shut the lid and went back in. There was no way I would do that anymore—both literally and symbolically.

“I think it was a scam.”

The much sought-after prize was business related, with a deadline and payment requirement.

“What?” I said, standing in her doorway feeling unwashed.

“I went online and looked it up. It wasn’t real, and if I had followed the instructions, I would have been scammed. I guess something protected me from falling for it by taking away the letter.”

She smiled at me. It was now 1 am. Spiritual growth can come at all hours, and you just dismiss the bags under your eyes the next day.

God will continually pursue you to get your attention to remove those things that have hounded you and have prevented a higher climb. Whether we believe it or not, we are a critical piece of the puzzle, and in the grand design, your role is needed.

But it won’t be forced upon you.

It’s an invitation to walk away from the false safety nets and go where heaven knows that genuine awaits. All that is required is to get honest with what is not really for your good, recognize what needs to go, and come clean.

(Friend by day, foe by night…)

Foreign

I had been convinced to help a friend with a purchase.

“I want to place an order for beef, but the smallest amount is too much. If you split it with me, then it would work out better.”

There was an organic farm not too far away, and she was trying to rid her life of anything artificial. Hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners were on her hit list.

I agreed to try it with her and was told it would be a few days before I could pick it up. I totally forgot about it because this was when I was homeschooling, trying to get around to everything, and I didn’t have mental space for livestock.

“Is dis Christine?” The accent was heavy, and the voice unfamiliar. I wished I had let the call go when I couldn’t identify the number.

“Yes,” I said hesitantly. Who was calling from Norway?

“Dis is Helga. I need ta ask you questions.”

I now wondered if this was a long-lost relative. A Norwegian from my grandma’s side of the family with that name. Could this be the call where I am told I have inherited the unknown family fortune?

“I have beef dat you wanted. I need ta know how you want it.”

I was listening intently because she was trying so hard to get her message across to me. I always feel bad when speaking to someone who tries their best in English, and I have to make them repeat themselves.

“I am so sorry. Could you ask that again?”

This was happening multiple times as she tried to talk me through the steps. I had never done this before, so I had no idea what I was doing.

I finally understood that she wanted me to select cuts and different types of processing. It was smooth sailing from there once I comprehended what the point of this was. We were doing great, me and Helga until she got to the final question.

“Do you want da liver?”

“No, I will pick up my order.”

What an odd thing to say after being told that I would have to drive thirty minutes to get it.

“Da liver or no?”

“I will come to get it,” I repeated.

“No. No. Do you want da liver?!”

“When do you want me to come to get it?” I decided not to answer the question since we were getting nowhere.

“Da liver! Da liver? Do you want that?”

With Helga raising her voice many decibels, I took a minute to think. It dawned on me that she wasn’t giving me a delivery option.

“Oh!” I said, and I could almost hear her collapse. Now that I knew, I was slightly grossed out.

“No. I don’t want that.”

And with that, Helga went on to her next frustrating phone call.

That wasn’t my first brush with a foreign language. In middle school, I had to take Spanish, German and French.

German was the hardest because of the pronunciation coming all from the throat, it seemed. My brothers were always watching Hogan’s Heroes, and my goal in life as an 8th grader was not to sound like Colonel Klink or Sergeant Shultz. It just had a bad mental image for me, making it even more difficult to learn.

The other two were okay, but I struggled overall. When I got to college, I decided to take French to fulfill the requirement for earning my degree. I didn’t picture myself jetting off to Paris, but I wanted to graduate as quickly as possible.

So you run the gauntlet.

Our instructor was not the warmest person. Behind her smile, I could sense a drill officer who expected perfection. At this stage of life, most classes had no required seating, but not her. We were put in alphabetical order, and this class met every single day.

We had one of the biggest snowstorms strike during the winter, and she would not cancel. We all dragged ourselves in, risking life and limb to do her bidding while the rest of the school shut down. It was apparent to me that day she had us under mind control. Not a seat was vacant, and all of us looked stressed. One girl showed up in her pajamas. This was before doing that in public was fashionable.

She used intimidation as a tool to educate us about what is known as the language of love.

The toughest part for me was learning the male and female pronouns. It was bad enough trying to grasp words and their meaning, but then you had to know if an object was masculine or feminine. Even for a visual person, this was a struggle. And if you remembered wrong, you were already lost by choosing the incorrect pronoun.

There was a rule that if a word ended with an ‘e’, then it was feminine. Your choice for the word “the” was un or une depending on what gender was involved, but not always, and that is where the confusion came in.

She would lead us in group reciting sessions so we all could cover our inadequacies. Our voices joined as one made it easy to whisper and let others drown you out. The absolute horror of this class was when we would walk in and find headphones at all of our seats on a Monday. She loved her pop quizzes.

She would station herself in a soundproof booth while we read passages out loud from the textbook. She would click in to listen to us each individually.

It was so clear who she was targeting. While the rest of us moved on, I could hear some poor soul going over and over the same sentence trying to appease her.

It happened to me all the time. And the guy next to me always looked scared because he knew he was going to be next.

“No! Do it again!” She would yell. So I would.

“No! No! Again! Again!”

I could hear the F being scribbled into her teacher’s notes.

Then she would always try the tactic of pronouncing it and wanting me to follow what she said. The chorus of voices around me, robotically speaking, always threw me off. And the sound was staticky because this was way before technology and noise canceling earbuds.

At some point, I decided there was no pleasing this woman. She was a perfectionist, and even if I did something right, she marched on finding more faults.

Because a significant portion of our grade was based on the actual speaking of the language, I was not doing so well, and neither was anyone else. Weirdly, I redeemed myself on the tests along the way. When I went back to review, I realized I had memorized many words, and I could write sentences and read, but I couldn’t say it.

Without her negative attitude breathing down my neck, I realized I wasn’t that dumb like she made us all out to be. In the quiet, without her around, I could think and do better.

I had to get comfortable with making it to the tests and not look at how horrible I was doing along the way. She was a bad teacher, but I was somehow still learning despite her.

When that clicked, I was able to escape with a B. My test scores were outstanding, but she would have never told me that. I’m sure she’s way retired by now eating a Pillsbury croissant somewhere. If no more students are being tortured, that’s a good thing.

Understanding how God talks is much like learning a foreign language, and it requires putting aside what you think you know. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 it says:

We live by faith, not by sight. (NLT)

I remember the first time someone said that to me. I was having a crisis in my life and was worrying non-stop. That statement made no sense to me. Wouldn’t my sweating it out bring the problem to a close faster?

Matthew 6:27 says no:

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (NLT)

So we aren’t supposed to be afraid, trust God, cast all our care into heaven’s hands, and use faith, not our physical senses, to live from a powerful spiritual standpoint. None of that sounds simple because it isn’t, you have to learn it, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s a job done from the inside out, but the more you persist and keep exposing yourself to communication with God, you unlearn what you thought was so important. There’s another way of living where you are allowed to have insight into an unseen realm. You pray, and you crawl before you walk. But, you see the gradual building of something valuable.

God doesn’t want people wandering around in the dark, not knowing what to do. In Matthew 7:7-8 it is presented this way:

Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. (Message)

The great thing about learning to come up higher spiritually is that you can help others navigate through their rough waters. You can hear and see things they can’t, and if they listen and apply what you say, there’s a blessing for both of you.

Be careful who you let be your authority figure in this. My French teacher impeded my progress to learning by coming at us in an aggressive nature. I have been to churches that believe that you have to run it by them, and you live in a crippled state of never advancing because someone has convinced you they know better than you do. No one knows you better than God. If it doesn’t feel like you have the freedom to think on your own and ask questions, that isn’t the place to grow.

God is always in the business of expansion. But the prerequisite is that you start small and work your way up. Learn the vocabulary, and soon it won’t feel so foreign.

(There are problems in EVERY language!)

Unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They always somehow turned out looking like grey rocks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

“If I went outside and smoked a cigarette.”

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

“I think that is a sign,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He is 65, and so am I.”

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

“How long have you known him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where do you go to church?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True Self

I had finally gotten all of them under control. Whenever I walked into a classroom, I was overtaken at the door by a mob of preschoolers who knew I only visited them once a week. It was one of three jobs I was working, and a company hired me to go to various daycare centers and lead a music class. I had beaten out those with much higher qualifications academically, and the job market was scarce, so I knew this opportunity had come my way for a reason.

I unzipped my suitcase and let the kids pick out their instruments. I rarely followed the curriculum but always was interested to see what they wanted to do.

In every room I visited, I saw the weariness in the teachers’ eyes. Most of them would collapse in a corner while I had the children’s full attention.

I always sat on the floor, and if they had their way, all of them would have been as close to me as possible. I had to fight my way in, and my shirt and jeans always showed proof of many runny noses using me as a Kleenex. They all would wrap themselves around my waist, ankles, and arms, anything they could grab onto. The minute I got home, my clothes went in the wash on high-power sanitize mode.

“What should we start with?” I asked.

They started to raise their hands. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her crawling toward me. Before I knew what was happening, she curled up in my lap like a cat.

“Miss Chris, I don’t feel good.”

I could tell she was running a fever from the heat that was coming off of her. She settled herself in like this was a normal thing to do. I was supposed to teach a class where no one ever sat still, and now I was somewhat trapped.

She fell asleep.

I looked to the teacher for information.

“Her mom couldn’t take off work today. She has a double ear infection with bronchitis, and she is on an antibiotic, but I don’t think it’s helping.”

“There wasn’t anyone else who could help?” I asked.

“No, and as long as they are on a medication, they can come here.”

I put one hand on her back. I guess I was going to have to get creative as all eyes were on me. I would have had all the kids pray for her in a church, but if I had done that in this setting, I would have been escorted out the door to my car.

“I think I have been coming to see you guys so much that I bet if I sit here and tell you what to do, you will be able to, right? Like, big kids?”

I have found that if you tell people they are capable of more, they at least try, and this age group always seems eager to be more grown-up.

“Yes,” they all said at once.

“What do we use to hear music?” I asked.

“Our ears,” they all said.

“Okay, so if I tell you what to do, can you use your ears to do that even if you don’t see me doing it too?”

The little girl was in the deepest sleep, not moving an inch.

“Yes,” they all said again.

They did everything I asked of them, and even when I turned on music for them to follow along, she never woke up.

They crashed cymbals, marched around the room, and went through various hand motions I had taught them to do with certain songs. For an hour, I stayed stationary like a piece of furniture so this child could rest, and it was as if she was in a soundproof room.

When it was time for me to leave, she flipped over and looked up at me.

“I feel better,” she said.

“You do?”

“I was tired, Miss Chris.”

“I think you were.”

The color in her face looked brighter and her eyes less sick. She got up, walked over to where her group of friends was, and jumped in to play with them.

“That’s the best I have seen her look all day,” the teacher said.

Sometimes, we just need a nap.

Mine came in the form of a guided meditation this past June. I had read an article on psychological healing that suggested success in recovering from deeply embedded wounds. Because of my strong ability to visualize anything, it didn’t take long to go inward to this place that often lays dormant.

It felt similar to having a dream, but I could easily come back if I had to.

I was taken to a wooded area where I was instructed to sit on a rock. I saw a short form appear as if hiding behind a tree, peering out at me as I looked. It was all black, almost cartoon-looking. I could see a head, legs, arms, and hands, but no details. Similar to a pedestrian sign type drawing. I got the understanding that it was a representation of a human form.

As I watched, this figure came and sat across from me. I realized that this was a part of me that had been there all along, buried under by a lot of dirt that had been piled on her.

I was to have a conversation with this aspect of myself and let her know that she was not in danger despite all the pain she had previously been subjected to. That even though life had not gone the smoothest, I would no longer contribute to her suffering.

Often what happens when a person is subjected to the cruelty of others, two outcomes can occur. Either you reject it or accept it. Usually, those who are seen as weak are targeted and vulnerable. They believe the spoken remarks, and even when the aggressor is long gone, the words continue to play in the mind like a broken record.

Soon, you hate yourself, and you don’t even really remember why. This negative mindset attracts more “proof” as these types of people manifest themselves from time to time to serve as a reminder that it’s a fact, which helps to solidify the idea more. You swim continually in a pool of misinformation, and if anyone tries to tell you differently, it’s hard to believe it. You have been programmed to have a critical low-level self-loathing view no matter how often you are presented with the truth.

It’s similar to the brainwashing that recruits undergo when cult members work to break them down mentally to implant conformity.

Now that I was face to face with the innocent part of me who did absolutely nothing but show up on the earth, I was to tell her that it wasn’t her fault and not to believe what she had heard, even if it had been said by an authority figure or someone she was supposed to trust.

I started doing this practice daily. Sometimes I floated in a canoe with my young self, met with her in a field of flowers or back in our original meeting place.

After a month of this, I found myself in a room that had three folding chairs. It had gotten to the point where I didn’t need to listen to an audio at all. I could close my eyes and see what I needed to. I walked in and sat down, not sure what was going to happen. There was a whiteboard with words written on it that had long plagued me. Ugly, fat, stupid, not good enough. They were all there. The door opened, and an angelic being sat in one of the empty chairs. Then she came into the room, totally different than our first encounter. I recognized myself. No longer was covered in blackness, but I could see every feature.

I knew it was me, but I felt protective of her as I would be over one of my daughters. Where before, she kept her distance, now she sat near me just like all the kids I had met over the years.

A bright light began to circulate from the angel to her, then me and back around. I looked again at the words on the board, and they began to disappear. Soon, it was empty. All of these sessions had been a dismantling of years of self-inflicted wounds ignited by the negative and careless comments of others.

In Revelation 21:5-7, it is made clear how God wants us to be our best selves, free from the restraints we put ourselves in:

Then the one who sits on the throne said, “And now I make all things new!” He also said to me, “Write this, because these words are true and can be trusted.”

And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty, I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.

All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.”(NLT)

In Romans 8:33, things are made more clear about how important we are to God:

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love…(Message)

The uncovering process isn’t something I got up every day excited about. It made painful memories surface that I had buried, but it helped me understand the why behind some of my thinking about myself.

Am I fully healed? No. But I’m more aware of how my past has affected me, and I don’t want to carry it with me any further. And, I don’t tolerate personal attacks on my character like I used to. Instead of letting them slide by, I am assertive and confront them. Why let history repeat itself?

You have to be willing to make it an ongoing project to uproot those things that aren’t serving you and are hindering your growth.

If you do, you are going to feel like someone has come along and stripped away all the fake exterior that has served as your protection. But the result will be that you will finally be your true self.

(She looks a lot like the one I met over this past summer…)

Less Tears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then the guilt.

When I told my daughter about that, she said,

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

That helped.

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

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

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

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

“Should we communicate by telepathy through the birds?”

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

“Is that possible?” He asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is going on?”

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

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

“What? How did this happen?” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

She took off her glasses and said,

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

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

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

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

In Psalm 34:18 it says,

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

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

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

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

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

And I thought I was going to get zip ties.

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

Shape Up

“We should do a plank challenge,” she said.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Every day, you do a plank exercise, but you hold yourself in that position a little longer each time.”

She showed me a graphic that outlined the idea from day 1 to day 30.

“On the first day, you only do twenty seconds?”

“Yes.”

That seemed so simple, and I could give up that amount of time without regret.

“On Day 30, I’m supposed to be able to do this for 5 minutes?”

“Yes.”

I had spent years doing various workout programs, always getting somewhat bored and moving on to another one. Going to a gym never was high on my list. In my twenties, I did, and I found it inconvenient compared to being at home.

During a time when I was drinking diet pop, I would have significant blood sugar drops. I didn’t equate that I was putting in chemicals that represented something that my body thought it needed to supply insulin for.

At times, the reaction would get so severe that I would begin to lose my eyesight. The only way that I had learned to counteract it was to consume sugar as quickly as possible. I could feel the symptoms begin with overall fatigue that would spiral into a waterfall of sweat. From there, it just would get worse. If I caught it fast enough, I could stop it quickly.

After drinking an entire can of diet pop, I had just gotten started in a class and ate next to nothing before arriving. My nutrition plan was starvation.

I felt the first wave of weakness begin and tried to ignore it. My idea was to mentally combat it and stay focused on what the instructor was saying.

I had never had this situation occur while I was exercising, and it seemed to worsen.

I could no longer withstand it anymore; I knew I had to solve the issue or be in total darkness.

This was way before I had children, and I didn’t carry around a vast purse stuffed with everything known to man for all emergencies. I had seen my mom do that, but I was carefree and never prepared for anything; I was living on the edge with only a wallet.

When this state of being would come upon me, I had to move fast to get help. It’s similar to a person needing their next inhalation of nicotine or some other substance they are addicted to. Nothing else matters at that moment while your body is begging for attention.

I grabbed change from my locker, and in a fog that was rapidly overtaking me, I thought I would quickly find what I needed.

I forgot where I was, and back in those days, they believed in no vending machines, unlike now. If you were there to improve yourself, they would ensure you had the whole experience of pain and suffering. Why would I think I could find sugar in a gym? I saw wide-eyed stares at the front desk as I sprinted out the door. They thought I must have gotten inspired to run an impromptu marathon.

My only choice was to exit and go to a grocery store in the same strip mall. I was not moving slow but somewhat erratically down this long hallway, knowing that I could blackout in public. That was what I had read about the subject, anyway. Some have gone into a coma-like state if this condition isn’t attended to, and I didn’t want to do that in public.

At this point, calories don’t matter, and stopping the progression is the goal. I spotted two small gumball machines with candy in them, and I jammed in one dime after another while cranking the handle.

As fast as I could, I shoved them in my mouth and kept getting more. I could feel my legs getting numb, and it was spreading into my hands.

I must have appeared like a crazy person who couldn’t stand one more second of a restricted diet. I had come running out of a gym, hit the candy like I was playing a slot machine, and sweating profusely while chewing.

In my haze, I had not noticed the man leaning up against the wall watching all of this.

I heard a loud slurp through a straw. In mid-gulp of Mike and Ike’s, I looked up.

“You can’t eat that! You are going to get fat!”

My mouth was so full I couldn’t defend myself, and he took on the role of my life coach.

“You don’t want to do that to yourself! This is going to make you gain weight! You are going to get fat!”

All I could do was stare at him and keep eating.

“It can’t be that bad! Get back to the gym! This isn’t what you want to do, and you are undoing all of your hard work.”

I ignored him and deposited another coin.

“Lady! Listen to me! You are going to regret this later! Stop eating that!”

This went on for a few minutes. I was battling off the lights going out, and he was harassing me.

Once I got myself to feel more normal, I said out of breath,

“I had a blood sugar drop. I had to do that.”

“I don’t believe you. I think you just wanted junk food.”

At first, I thought he was joking, but the more I tried to explain, the more he accused me of being a person who had just escaped a fat camp.

I walked away with him yelling at me,

“Quit eating that stuff! You are going to gain weight!”

I canceled my membership after that, never looked back, and decided to faint at home, not in front of weird strangers. When the kids did come along, and I hefted a heavy purse everywhere I went, I didn’t have time for it anyway.

My daughter’s suggestion of doing a workout with me was not out of the ordinary. We had tried an assortment of them. The chin-up bar across the bathroom entry hadn’t seen a chin in months. The huge, inflated, life-changing ball was slowly losing air, taking up space in the corner. All of the pilates and yoga DVDs were collecting dust. Multicolored bands were resting on a shelf somewhere, waiting to be used. And we just paraded by them all with bowls of ice cream.

“When do we start this?” I asked her.

I looked at the calendar. If we started it that second, we would be finished on Thanksgiving Day.

We decided this was perfect timing to discipline ourselves into a healthy habit before eating for ten people.

On Day 1, when the twenty seconds were up, I wondered if this was too easy for me. I found as the days rolled by and time was added on, it wasn’t simple. Even with a rest day every six days, it was starting to become a chore to endure. The one-minute mark on Day 7 was when I realized I had been lured into something that had seemed so basic but was proving to be otherwise.

I felt like time stood still as I balanced on my toes and forearms, pondering my life. The soreness in every part of my body would rear its ugly head, especially when I would have to go up or down the stairs, generally in a hurry but having to bow down to the fire that ripped through muscles I didn’t even know I had.

“The girl in the picture was smiling,” I said to my daughter as we advanced and had time to kill.

I contemplated my life, balanced my checkbook in my mind, did meal planning, and mentally made a grocery list not to acknowledge that everything was shaking. At the tone going off to announce our freedom, we both crumpled to the floor.

“Why are we doing this again?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said with her face on the carpet.

Once we were at a minute, 30 seconds got added on next. Then ten-second increments. Little by little, the torture was slowly creeping in.

Day 18 brought 2 minutes and 30 seconds to the table, and it was like a lifetime. So, what kept me going? I had read about the health benefits of better core strength, balance, more energy, a faster metabolism, improved mood, a reduction in injuries, and stronger back muscles.

The night before our final session, I held myself stationary for 4 minutes and 30 seconds while trying not to scream breathe. I had come a long way from a mere 20 seconds. Only one more day, and it was going to be the mother of them all. 5 minutes.

I woke up with the worse backache of my life! I crawled out of bed, unable to complete the final round. I could not believe that I had done the entire thing, only to be cut off on the very last day. Instead of realizing how far I had come, I only felt defeated that I couldn’t finish what I had started. I didn’t ever want to hear the word plank again.

In my walk spiritually, I have had these same moments where I knew I was to go a certain way, but then the path I was on led me in an entirely different direction. But that’s how living by faith goes. When you begin, you might not know the outcome.

In Proverbs 16:9, there is a good reminder that we are not in control and never will be:

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. (NLT)

It may be a tough pill to swallow at times, but if you want to live fully under the shadow of heaven’s wings, you have to conclude that it’s not all about you. Eyes are watching that see everything from a standpoint that we cannot, and our lives are meant to be used for the good of all humanity.

Underused body parts will let you know when they are not comfortable, and there have been times when I have not felt secure as my abilities to see and hear the unseen realm are increasing. I didn’t want to be deemed different than others, so I hid the truth of who I am becoming so others don’t live in fear because of me. If you can’t explain it, you set yourself up for the judgment of others, and that’s fun.

Growth involves not staying where you have been, so there’s going to be letting go of old, worn-out ideas, saying goodbye to what doesn’t serve you anymore, and coming to know the potential you have always possessed. It can feel like you are dying, but you are not.

You are becoming your genuine self as you trust in the One who put you here to do a job, and you allow yourself to be stretched beyond what you thought you could handle, only to find out you can.

Remaining stagnant is always going to be an option, but there will never be fulfillment in that. The still, small voice will never stop pursuing, hoping to see you move forward into your best self as you shape up.

Burn Out

It all starts with a simple sentence, spoken by one of the three of us, that causes time to slip away as if we have been abducted by aliens.

“Look at this candle.”

That always begins a session of smelling, comparing, discerning, deciphering, and sometimes gagging as we go along the shelves searching for the perfect one. And just because it is displayed in an attractive jar does not mean that is the pick. We have specific criteria that have to be met.

Not too floral. Not too much like a dirty sock that hasn’t seen a washing machine in years. Not the scent of a deceased relative’s musky perfume. Not anything that resembles something forgotten in the fridge for a while. Or an armpit in need of deodorant.

There’s a whole section to be avoided at all costs. The enticing aroma of cinnamon rolls, sugar cookies, or salted caramel needs to be handled with discipline. If those get lit, we all become ravenously hungry, causing a storm of binge eating and wanting to bake. Anything with the word “grandma” on it usually means something associated with a calorie-laden concoction that will lead us down a diabolical path.

We have rigorous standards, and sometimes none of them meet the requirements. When the sneezing starts and the sinus cavity is burning, it’s time to stop.

We have fallen prey to purchasing specific ones online that, once burned to a certain point, a small jewel is exposed. Just like the lottery, it could be worth millions. So far, not.

On the more conventional side, those once burned can be converted into a wine glass. While the candle is a long-forgotten memory, the jar can be used until it gets knocked off the counter shattering into a thousand shards of glass, and you wish you were not barefoot right then.

“Put a light in every room so you are aware of my presence.”

This was at a time when life was at its height of uncertainty. I was not sleeping, eating very little, and worrying about everything. I told a counselor who I was seeing at the time that I felt like I had jumped out of an airplane and was in a free fall every day, anticipating a crash into the ground.

Panic attacks came out of nowhere as I tried to regain some normalcy even though God remained with me. The shadows would descend, leaving me unable to breathe and wanting to die. When I would return to reality, I would beat myself up for not having enough faith.

So when the simple message came to me while I wrote in my journal, I knew that God was sending me an answer.

I had very little extra money, so I had to find a way to buy inexpensive candles for every room. We had some, but I needed more, and I couldn’t afford to purchase the high-end kind made with exotic ingredients. My existence had become low-budget.

The dollar store was my best friend for things such as this. I placed tall, white, unscented candles throughout my house to remind me that I wasn’t alone. I was aware of them enough to have my daughters help me blow them out at night or when we left, but I often forgot about them until I would come across one burning brightly. This would instantly ground me in the fact that I was protected and God was in charge.

“Help! Oh, no!”

I heard this from the bathroom. That is never my favorite thing, and I must have been out of energy because I did not jump up as usual. When your child yells for you, particularly from that part of the house, you dread what will be asked of you.

“Mom!”

I looked at my older daughter, and she looked back at me. I did not budge. Neither did she.

“Help!” came another plea.

I couldn’t handle another thing.

“What is going on in there?”I said to the one staring at me. She got up to investigate and cautiously opened the door.

I watched the expression on her face go from neutral to horrified in a millisecond. She kept cringing and flinching, not saying a word.

“What is going on?” Now I was on high alert just because of her body language.

“There’s a fire,” she said, staring blankly forward.

“What?!”

Now I was on my feet.

“The rug is on fire.”

My youngest daughter, fully clothed, was standing on the toilet seat, trying to avoid the potential raging inferno going on below her. She had decided to wave a piece of toilet paper over the open flame for fun, thinking she could flirt with fate. When it caught ablaze, she threw it toward the floor onto the rug, setting off a more significant problem.

I quickly threw water on it, and from that moment on, the bathroom went without God’s presence.

While flames can be beautiful, I have seen them get out of hand. My dad demonstrated this quite professionally.

My parents had gotten a fireplace built into their basement when I was twelve. My mom was in seventh heaven, while he wasn’t so much enamored because he had to put in all the work.

“I want you to make a fire,” she would say, and his whole countenance would immediately drop.

This meant his evening would be spent building it, messing with the damper, and keeping it going. For him, it was a chore, and it would infringe on his time to not exert himself.

I knew he hated every minute of it, not only because of the effort but because he wasn’t totally confident in his abilities. A night of tranquility would take a turn when all was going well, and then the smoke would be pouring into the room out of his control.

There would be “why” questions from her, all the lights turned on, and swear words flowing from him.

One Sunday afternoon, I came home from ice skating, and the minute I walked in, I could smell burnt wood. My mom was in her room reading, so I surmised he must have attempted to learn how to use it better during daylight.

The dark haze burnt my eyes the minute I started going down the stairs. It appeared that no one was there through the heavy air, but then I saw him lying on the floor as if he had suffered from smoke inhalation.

They say where there is smoke, there is fire. In his case, there were barely glowing embers.

He was sound asleep just below the thick fog. Now the hard decision. To wake or not to wake. He never liked it when his nap was interrupted, but I threw all caution to the wind.

“Dad!” I said. Nothing. “Dad!”

Still no response. I had seen him sleep like this many times, so I knew he had not died.

I shook his shoulder.

“Wake up!”

“Chris! What do you want!” Yelling before his eyes were even open.

“The room is full of smoke.”

He blinked, trying to see me.

“You need to get up.”

Now I knew first hand the misery my mom went through every morning trying to catapult him out of bed for work.

He looked at me like I was a ghost materializing out of a mist. He committed to sitting halfway, came to, and suddenly realized that he had made a fire. That’s when the swearing started, and I left to do my homework.

The final straw came when the entire family was over, and he started a fire outside the fireplace. He always used a small propane torch to get it started. He set it aside, not realizing it was still on. While he frantically poked and stirred up the kindling, a vase filled with dry, ugly weeds that she thought were decorative went up in seconds. He was oblivious while everyone yelled to get his attention.

That was one of the last fires I ever saw him attempt; he was over it.

Our walk with God can be just as contentious. A burning light in every space in my house brought me peace, but the same element made my dad highly frustrated. When things start to go wrong, it’s easy for some to turn on the One who would offer the most help. But it’s vital to remember 1 John 1:5:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him, there is no darkness at all. (NIV)

When you start to believe that God isn’t on your side or has your best interests in mind, that is when resentment or distrust can begin to take hold. And the lie has to be dismantled.

Romans 8:28 states:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (NLT)

When you find yourself feeling as if all things familiar seem out of control, apply this: 1 Peter 5:7:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV)

Instead of carrying the weight of what seems like a burden, give it to God, so you can go on being a glowing lantern in the world and never burn out.

Remaining To Be Seen

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

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

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

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

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

“Is Christmas named after me?”

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

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

What a major disappointment!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Here. Sip the foam.”

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

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

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

The nurse had gotten her into the room and settled.

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

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

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

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

“You need to get the doctor now!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

I innocently asked him once,

“Why do your eyes change color?”

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

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

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

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

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

She also gave me this piece of advice,

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

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

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

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

Then, she broke down crying.

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

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

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

“Do you feel his presence?” I asked.

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

“Not really. I miss him terribly.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still think it should have been named after me…

Leashed

What’s wrong?” She asked. I must have been too quiet.

I was deep in thought, contemplating how I could outrun the devil while eating Fruit Loops.

We had just gotten back from visiting my grandparents, and a family that lived next to them had a girl who was a little older than I was. Every time we were there, she and I spent time together. It was a very small town, so I was probably a great distraction from boredom, especially in the summer.

While we were at the park nearby, she said casually,

“Satan worshippers come here at night all dressed in black with hoods. They light a fire and kill animals.”

This was shocking for my young mind because I could always visualize what people said, and I hadn’t learned how to turn it off. So everything she stated was being absorbed and creating a troubling feeling. I could hear and see the entire scene she described.

Over the next few days, the conversation would pop up in my thoughts, but I would push it away, trying to forget it. Nightmares had highly plagued me for a while, so these images by day only added to the terror I experienced when sleeping.

Every single night I was hunted down by a dark force that wanted to do me harm. I would try to get away, but my efforts weren’t fast enough. Right as I knew I was going to die, I would wake up feeling like I couldn’t breathe.

I had learned to hide my fear because when I would say I saw dark shadows or sensed something scary, my mom’s response would always be,

“There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

I had learned to try and calm myself down, but if the panic was too overwhelming, I would call out for her and ask for water. Mechanically, she brought me some, and we never really talked about it. She was always sleepwalking and had to be up by 5 am.

There was only one time when she tripped while coming into my room which sent the glass flying. It hit a windup carousel toy I had, and it started playing the song, “Cruising Down the River.”

She flipped my light on, and both of us squinted against the brightness. When she got down on the floor to mop up the mess with a towel, and the tune kept playing, she started laughing uncontrollably. Fatigued by way too many kids and interrupted sleep had set that off.

“I can’t stop laughing,” she said weakly.

She kept trying to stifle herself not to wake up the entire house, but that just caused it to come on more. She ended up sitting with her eyes closed, trying to pull herself together. That made me laugh, which then created more.

“Chris, shh,” she tried to say, but even she couldn’t take herself seriously.

She dragged herself back to bed, and my fear had dissolved.

So she knew on some level that I was struggling with trying to understand ominous.

When I didn’t answer her, she asked me again,

“What are you thinking about? I can see that you are worried.”

If I told her, she probably wouldn’t believe me, just like all the other times. I had conditioned myself to live with what haunted me, but the pressure was more than I could handle this time. I decided to spill the truth whether she acknowledged my feelings or not.

She put down her dishrag and pulled out the chair next to me. This was serious if she was halting dishwashing.

“You don’t need to be afraid of the devil, Chris. If you don’t go near him, he can’t come near you.”

She knew my ability to see what was spoken, so she added,

“Think of it like a small dog tied up, and you are walking by. All that dog can do is bark at you. He can look frightening, but he can’t get at you if you keep your distance. God has the power, not that little dog.”

That made me feel better.

I decided to take this small opportunity to ask a question that I had a million times.

“Can we get a dog?”

“No, Chris.”

Seeing that my problem was solved, she went back to the sink.

A few weeks later, my mom was standing by the fence visiting with the neighbor lady. I overheard this,

“You need to get her a dog.”

Finally! Someone was on my side.

“No. That’s too much responsibility, and we don’t really want one.”

It was as if she hit play on a recorded message every time this subject came up.

“Jean, I see her out here playing with worms.”

This sent a shockwave through my mother’s soul.

“She does not.” I could tell by her mouth that she was trying to regain her sense of control.

Technically, I didn’t. I found caterpillars and put them on leaves so they had a chance against the forces of nature. I had listened in second-grade science for once.

“Yes. I have seen her; she does this all the time, and a dog would make her happy.”

Who knew we had a sage living next door? I was unaware of the tension that existed between these two women. They spoke with one another, but there had been feuds before I was on the scene. My mom had high standards to keep in the community and their outlook on the family, and her small-town upbringing had solidified this in her DNA.

She couldn’t have people whispering in the shadows about how her youngest was playing with dirty things from the ground, and this neighbor would be the one to get the talk started. That sounded too earthy for a person who prided herself on germ-free living.

This ushered in the arrival of a dog that she could bathe.

I wasn’t given the luxury of choosing the canine that became a part of the household; she was part cocker spaniel and poodle. I came home from school, and she was running around the backyard.

Our initial meeting did not give me one indication of a lifelong hatred that was waiting in the wings. Not on my part, but deep jealousy that she had toward me. If I sat next to my mom, this would bring on an attack. If I tried to pet her when she didn’t want me to, I got snapped at. I became afraid of her, and I loved all dogs.

One night, she did bite me and drew blood because I walked into the room. My dad got out a work boot and slammed it repeatedly next to where she was hiding. He didn’t strike her, but he was trying to instill some sort of authority into her memory.

“She knows you are afraid of her, and you can’t let her think that.”

None of that changed anything. Her behavior continued, and I was the only one she loathed. My mom’s brilliant idea of having her sleep with me was miserable. If I moved one foot, she would growl and bite me. I would rather have demons chasing me in my dreams, not one in my bed in real life.

It got to the point where she and I existed, but I ignored her. I never gave her any of my attention, and I have very few memories of her except the bad ones. But, I didn’t get targeted anymore, so my mom’s theory of not going near something evil had worked.

I was having all these thoughts go through my mind as I stood in line waiting to go into a seminar where there were going to be tarot card readers, psychics, intuitives, numerology, crystals, potions, lotions, oils, and every other thing that I had been told was something to run from. I knew I was supposed to go, and I had my youngest daughter with me.

The minute I got into the hallway, I felt dizzy. I have had this happen many times in church and where there is a lot of spiritual charge in the air. I had to put my hand on the wall a couple of times to be sure I stayed upright. If I went down, it would have just looked like I skipped breakfast, which I had, and that my highly caffeinated coffee was not working its magic.

The main room was packed with vendors of all sorts hoping to make sales. I slowly began walking. I am not immune to sales tactics, even ones that try to reel me in.

“Wow, I love your hair!” said one lady.

“Thank you.” They had a sign with the word ‘groovy’ in it. “I am old enough to know what that means,” I said. It was not one of my favorites as a total slaughter of the English language.

“Really? You look so young!” I moved on and heard her say to the next person,

“You have the most beautiful hair.”

If she had pointed out my smile, then maybe.

I stopped to talk to a young psychic, who seemed to be covering up insecurity. She was dressed the part, but I could tell below the surface, she was not happy. I sensed a depression within the smile, and sitting at a table trying to collect money for her services was not something she wanted to do anymore. Before speaking to her further, she had a paying customer she fully turned her attention toward. It was like I never existed.

As I moved on to another table, this very nice man said,

“Do you want to sign up for a card reading?”

“I am just walking around for now,” I said.

“Well, she uses cards that came way before the tarot.”

I looked behind him to see a lady engaged in a serious conversation with another person, which was happening all over the room. As I glanced around, I started to wonder what all the fear was about. I took her business card and moved on.

I had seen the sneers and heard the conversations of many who think they have cornered the market on God.

I felt total peace as I walked from table to table, just observing. The one thing I did feel was what I had felt a million other places..they all were hoping for a sale to pay their bills.

And, everyone was smiling.

Later, I went into a private meeting that I had paid extra for. Usually, I sit as far to the back in anything I attend, and I never want attention turned on me. When I walked in, I saw two chairs right in the center of the front row.

“I think we are going right to the front,” I said to her.

“Okay.”

We sat down, and two people, a young guy and an older woman introduced themselves. They said they would travel around the room and answer questions that the audience had for them. I felt, again, I was supposed to watch.

As the man stood in front of me, he spoke to a woman seated way in the back. She started to talk about a relationship that had ended in tragedy; she had been in love with someone who had died. During this, I looked at the floor and heard,

“Please tell her I love her because I never told her. She is so sad that she cannot hear.” I saw a huge bouquet in a man’s hand; I didn’t see him clearly, as if a camera was zoomed up close to red roses. My entire body was vibrating with electricity, as I had never felt before.

I said quietly to the man who was trying to give her some sort of message,

“He wants her to know he loves her. Can you tell her that?”

“Why don’t you tell her?” What? When did I become the headliner?

These people had paid and come here to have one of these two say something, not me.

“I don’t know where she is.” I was trying hard to get out of it. The person next to me said,

“You have to tell her!”

I turned around, and she stood up.

“He is handing you the biggest bouquet of roses ever, and he wants you to know he loves you, but he couldn’t say it. Keep a watch out for red rose symbols. Get a rose pin and put it on your jacket. He isn’t gone.”

For a reason beyond me, I pointed at her, and I said,

“You are looking for a sign; this is your sign.”

When I did that, I watched a wave of something hit the entire row she was in and all around her. Everyone started crying.

She put her hand over her heart, and I said,

“Does this make sense? Red roses? The color red?”

“I wear red all the time,” she said between tears.

“That’s him. He isn’t gone, and he’s right by you. It will become stronger now as you go.”

I sat down and faced forward. The guy next to me said,

“Do you do this for a living?”

“No.” The man leading it said,

“You should.”

He then went on to a lady right behind me. She asked about her dad, and it was determined that he had passed away, leaving a cabin.

“I think he talks to me, but I am not sure.”

I saw him standing behind her.

“He is behind you. He is protecting you all the time.”

“I see that too,” said the man. While he moved on, I got a tap on the shoulder.

“Is it really my dad?”

I turned around. I was trying so hard to stay quiet, and I couldn’t.

“Yes. You need to write down what he says.”

“How do I know I won’t be speaking to spirits that aren’t of God?”

“The Holy Spirit covers me. That is my covering, and I write down everything I hear.”

“I love the Holy Spirit!” I saw her whole face light up with relief.

“Just write down what you hear. A year later, you can go back and read things and see how they came to pass. People who are in heaven know things that they want to tell us.”

As I spoke, I saw people start to cry around her. The lady next to her showed me a ring that had belonged to a relative.

“I just want to know so bad if my grandma is with me.”

The guy next to me said,

“What do you have to say to her?”

I laughed. He had more confidence in me than I did.

He said to all of those looking at us,

“I can see this woman’s spirit! She has a huge gift from God!”

I showed the lady my ring with all the stones representing five generations of women, including my mom and grandma.

“I had this designed, and it has made my connection stronger.”

Her eyes seemed to clear a little. The sorrow started to fade.

“She wants you happy. Try to think of all the good times you had with her. That is the frequency of heaven.”

She smiled at me while the rest all started to sniffle again.

The lady next to my daughter started asking questions, and I heard,

“Tell her to go buy something with amethyst in it.”

I forgot, but later we ran into her. My daughter had told me she was seeing the color purple while I was hearing that particular stone.

“I am supposed to tell you that you are to go get something with amethyst in it.”

Out of her purse, she pulled two small amethyst bracelets that she had just bought for her granddaughters.

I found out she was an RN who had left the profession after feeling drawn into homeopathy.

I said,

“You are like a medicine woman.”

“That’s funny you say that because my family heritage is the Crow Tribe.”

She is at the start of a substantial online business specializing in natural medicine.

“It’s going to do very well.”

Sitting in the parking lot later, I said to my daughter,

“I have no idea what just happened, but that felt like I belonged there. For those who sit from a distance and judge, they are missing it.”

Had I let my fear of ‘evil’ keep me away, I would not have had the chance for God to show me how the divine is at work in my life. There were needs in a room, and He used my voice to help. I wasn’t there to “save” people but to encourage them. That’s it. I had no plan or agenda. I didn’t show up to preach or convert. I was just there as a representative of the One who knows everything. In 1 John 4:18, it says,

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. (NIV)

It’s up to heaven what happens, not me, and how it is done. The hand of God will go anywhere to bring peace, comfort and remove hindrances that keep humanity leashed.

Blind

I was walking through an antique store, and I saw it sitting on the shelf. I had spent a lot of my childhood going through reels, looking at still shots of fairy tales and faraway places. I was around four when it was given to me, but I still recall how fascinating it was to gaze upon colorized versions of scenes from familiar stories with somewhat of a 3 D image. Instead of words on a page and everything left up to the imagination, this invention brought various subjects alive.

A neighbor had brought over her kaleidoscope. And with much build-up, she told me to hold it up to one eye and turn it. Even at that young age, I knew it was somewhat archaic and outdated. I was not impressed because it didn’t hold a candle to the ViewMaster. Who would want to watch the same colors fall together over and over and make a predictable pattern? Boring. I was slightly spoiled.

Many years later, when I had to look through dual lenses at the eye doctor, it reminded me of my long-lost toy. Except this contraption had more of an alien look to it.

“How about this?” He said, sliding a small circle-like lens in front of my eye.

“No.”

“This?”

“It’s blurry.”

“This one?”

“That’s a little better.”

“This?”

Could I live with this option?

“I’m not sure.”

“How about that?”

“I think I liked the other one better.”

“Okay. Read the alphabet with that.”

I didn’t feel myself squinting as much, but was there better? I read off what he told me to.

“I think that is the one,” he said.

I was finally facing the fact that I was having difficulty seeing in certain situations. When it was raining or snowing at night, and I was driving, I had to watch the white line on the shoulder, or I could easily be in the wrong lane.

“You have astigmatism.”

He went through a lengthy explanation of why bright street lights or headlights of oncoming traffic would resemble one big gigantic spotlight. It had something to do with my eyes having mismatched curves and a refractive error. Buying a pair of jeans for my body type was challenging enough; I didn’t need this type of trouble.

“You probably have had this for a long time.”

I had, and I just put up with it because I didn’t want to wear glasses.

“I am going to order these, and when you first wear them, you are going to feel like you are living in a fishbowl. You don’t need to use them all the time, but initially, you have to.”

When I returned the next week to pick them up, he adjusted them. While I was not excited, glasses were considered a prop during that time and people who didn’t need to wear them were throwing on fake ones that matched their clothes. My oldest daughter considered me ‘lucky’ to get to have them.

“I am going to hate them,” I said. I know me.

It isn’t easy to deal with something that suddenly appears later in your life that you have to adjust to. I had braces put on my teeth in my mid-twenties, but I knew that wouldn’t be a lifelong commitment, and I had chosen to have it done. This was somewhat being forced upon me.

I wanted to keep running carefree without something adhered to my face. Yet, I didn’t want to end up in a ditch, so that won out over my opposition.

When I walked to the parking lot, I tripped over the first curb I came upon, which didn’t make me look fashionable. I caught myself and realized that the fishbowl thing he talked about was happening.

My car was parked far away because I believe in making myself get in steps any way I can. The ground kept looking like it was coming up toward me, and I had to concentrate on my orange vehicle in the distance. If I looked down at my feet, I instantly felt off balance, and I had to look ahead and not turn my head.

Driving was another experience where I had to apply the same rules while getting to my car. Slow head movements and facing forward were my best options. I couldn’t help but notice how everything looked like HD quality. Images were sharper, and I could read the names of streets from farther away. That was a plus.

While driving in wet conditions at night, the brightness around me wasn’t as glaring, and I could see the lane I was in. Yet, I often forgot all about them because even though they corrected a problem, I just wasn’t in the habit of wearing them.

And, I always have the same reaction when I finally put them on: I can see.

Gaining spiritual vision has followed this same pattern. I didn’t know I could detect things from the unseen realm until they manifested. I often decided to discount what I saw or heard because it was unusual. I had asked God numerous times to let me experience supernatural things, and when they started to show up, it was somewhat frightening because of some of the erroneous teaching I had.

One of the first experiences was a dream where I was on the phone talking to a friend, and they told me that one of their relatives was in the hospital. It was very vivid, and the next day, I found out that this was true.

By mid-afternoon, I knew I was to drive to the hospital nearby. On the way, I heard,

“Go into the store on the way there and buy some flowers.”

I did as I was told and picked out a bouquet. I went over to the cards and had a Get Well Soon one in my hand. As soon as I picked up the pen to write on it, I began to see the man’s hospital room. Two prominent men, who I knew were angels, came in and stood on each side of the bed.

This was the first time I saw that escorts are provided to heaven. In subsequent visions of these types of situations, I see it every time. No one goes into heaven alone. So, if you ever think that someone dies by themselves, they don’t. God never abandons the family.

They stood by each side of him as he got out of bed, leaving his body behind. I watched as all three floated up to the ceiling and went up through the roof. I was suddenly back to looking at the Get Well Soon card I was about to commit to.

I decided to get a more generic Thinking of You that I could give to the wife. At that point, I had no proof that anything had happened, and it was one of my initial experiences. I doubted myself all the way to the parking ramp. Had I really seen that, or was it my imagination playing tricks with me?

After finding out what room he was in and getting off the elevator, I could tell by the looks on the family’s face that I wasn’t wrong. He had passed on while I was getting the flowers.

I should have gotten comfortable with it right then, but I didn’t. I figured it was a one time thing until it happened again in a much bigger way. And, since then, even more so. But, I don’t go around advertising to everyone that I have this. The reason? It scares people, and at first, it did me too.

But, as time has gone on, I have gotten used to it, and it was explained very clearly to me after I had seen a woman standing behind her husband with her hand on his shoulder while he spoke of her passing. He had tears streaming down his face, stricken with grief.

Later, I silently asked why I was able to see this. Was it good? Was it bad? I asked for it to be taken away if it wasn’t from God, but it got stronger. I was told that I could see both realms because my spirit is connected to God, who acts as a transmitter and is everywhere at once.

How many times in services had we sang, Open the Eyes of My Heart? And, now I was questioning if it was God because it was strange, and I didn’t want to be attacked by the mob and labeled as a witch.

In 2 Corinthians 3:18 it says this:

But all of us who reflect the Lord’s glory with an unveiled face are being transformed into his own image, from one degree of glory to another. This too is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.(EHV)

Too often, I see that the church has become a group of people who all want miracles, but when someone does something that doesn’t ‘fit in,’ it is marked as a negative. I fell for that for a while, but now I don’t. If God wants to show me something new and expand my understanding, I will let it happen. Many people out in the world need to know what heaven is really like. They are grieving and in such a state of despair, searching for any scrap of comfort and hope.

But, it takes courage to allow the unfamiliar to come in so you can help other people. It’s a form of sacrifice to cast all that you think you know, which you don’t, and decide to let God take over.

We are not designed to stay in a comfort zone, all safely together, saying the same things verbatim and having an “us” vs. “them” mentality. What I find fascinating is that I could easily be in the clique one day and out the next due to disapproval. If I say I have psychic abilities, my membership card is immediately removed and burned. But, if I claim I have prophetic gifts, then I can stay. I believe the word “seer” has now gotten the stamp of approval. But don’t ever whisper the term oracle. It’s not easy keeping up with the changing dogmatic rules that many are under.

I have come to understand that I’m not on earth to make all people happy. For awhile, I was under the impression that was my purpose, and it’s exhausting not living as your authentic self. Instead, I have surrendered my life to God otherwise I am wasting my time. I am intelligent enough to let the One who put me here direct my steps. And so are you.

This can be with anything God asks you to do—healing the sick, feeding the poor, speaking in front of crowds, or going into the mission field in a faraway place. Or just simply hearing from heaven.

You have a choice to let your spiritual growth be stunted by what others think, or you can decide to remove the fake cover up and no longer settle for being led by the blind.