King

Some would say she was a determined leader, and that was true. She had to manage many employees, and one catastrophe could pull the rug out from her perfectly orchestrated day at any moment. I could hear her shoes stomping down the hall before she made an appearance.

Her expectations were extremely high, from the dress code to the volume of your voice. If she found a person’s choice of clothing for the day distasteful, she would engage them in a lengthy conversation and then tell that person’s supervisor she disapproved of their appearance.

She was not above producing a ruler to measure where the hem of a skirt fell in relation to a knee cap. She mainly did that to the younger ones she wanted to see wearing apparel from the Victorian era. If anyone questioned this, we noticed they disappeared shortly after. Yes, just like the mafia.

It left us all wondering who her next unsuspecting victim would be.

It was done with the purpose to maintain her position of authority. Literally, she threw her weight around by being intimidating.

The place didn’t run on respect for her; it operated on fear. When I heard her heels coming and saw her entering my office, I knew it usually meant we were about to get reprimanded for some unwritten, vague infraction.

She had at least thirty years on me. Her speech was like a machine gun going off directing, telling, and commanding. As fast as she whipped into a room, she flew out onto her next mission of ridding the place of any peace.

“You are stealing money from the company if you are socializing when you should be working.”

We were forced to attend monthly meetings with that kind of team-building inspirational speech.

“It is considered theft.”

Hypocrisy at its highest.

At one time in my career there, I had worked in the kitchen when I was a teen in high school. At least twice a week, this individual would walk into the cooler and devour the chocolate pudding ordered explicitly for the residents. I never saw a spoon in her hand.

Because the floor was tile, I could hear the cadence of her approach quite clearly. We all would freeze, hoping she didn’t stop to inspect our hairnets and purse her lips as she took in our appearance. We all breathed easier when she disappeared.

“The sergeant is here, I see,” said one of my coworkers who was putting water glasses on a cart.

Once she had ducked into the refrigerator to eat to her heart’s content, an older woman I worked with would always whisper to me,

“It must be her time of the month again, dear. She’s on the rag.”

“That’s what you said last week,” I would reply in a hushed tone.

When she came back out, we knew she hadn’t been in there to run an inventory. Not with pudding as lip liner.

“Make sure you check expiration dates. I think I saw some that were outdated.”

“Okay,” we would say, going along with her game. The clicking of her heels signaled the departure.

Once I moved up into a higher position, the office I worked from was right next to hers. I was fully aware that she was your ally one day, and the next, you were on the hit list.

How did I deal with the madness? I found my sense of humor. I didn’t realize what a great coping mechanism this was. God will have your finest gifts come to the forefront when trying to survive a horrible situation.

When she would swoop in acting uptight, I would say something that would diffuse her anger. Instead of getting her wrath, I would make her laugh, and she would find someone else to chew out. It was a part of me that I had never known that I possessed.

Soon, she was coming in to sit down and rest. She no longer was showing up to rattle off orders but to take a few minutes to talk about life issues that were bothering her. I still would make her laugh, but I also asked her questions to try and build a rapport with her.

It never got to where I wanted her as my best friend, but I understood her better. She conversed about the pressure of her job and the stress of her home life. I got a better understanding of who she was, but she never was a staff favorite. I had learned how to circumvent her tirades and tongue lashings.

I often would walk into the gossip of those she had run over with her harsh behavior. The worst complaint about her was that she would make life miserable behind the scenes if someone weren’t up to her expectations. Every discussion always seemed to revolve around her eventually. She had planted herself firmly in all of our minds by way of bullying.

If a decision had to be made about anything, it always came down to if she would give it her stamp of approval. It had to be strategically laid out step by step, looking for landmines that could trigger a volatile reaction. Even a man’s best-made plans can still be for naught. I heard many staff weeping through the thin walls of my office and hers. Walking on eggshells doesn’t always guarantee bypassing a wicked reaction.

I had watched from my desk people get escorted to their cars after being fired. This wasn’t a gesture of courtesy. It was like watching someone on death row go to the executioner.

We were drilled on state requirements and prepared for drop-in inspections. We were always told to act calm when a state inspector showed, and if they suddenly came, every one of us knew who to contact so the entire facility was aware. There was a chain of command to follow. Her ultimate badge of honor was to be deficiency-free no matter the carnage of staff she left in her wake.

The idea was not to let them see us sweat. She thought if we showed any nervousness, this would go over as guilt. Like we were hiding something.

I was on the phone gathering information on a potential client, and over the loudspeaker, I heard her scream,

“They are here! I repeat! They are here!”If she would have had a nuclear button on her desk, she would have hit it with a hammer.

So much for serenity. I heard the familiar beat of heels getting their workout as she ran for the front door. The atmosphere changed from tense to unbearable. This would be a week of intrusion that we all hoped would result in the news she wanted to hear.

None of us wanted to get a poor result, but the added layer of how she could potentially make us pay if we did was foremost on the minds of all.

As an assistant, it would be rare for me to go head to head with anyone representing the state. Usually, the supervisors of each department were introduced to batten down the hatches. It was one of her worst nightmares to think that one of us underlings would be able to handle a situation and say the right thing.

It was viewed like the segment in the Miss America competition where we had to give answers on the spur of the moment. Minus the swimsuit or evening gown portion. She didn’t want anyone to stumble over their words and appear uneducated. She feared that someone would babble.

Imagine her coronary arteries going into an uproar when I was suddenly greeted by one of the inspectors from the state.

“Can I come in?” He asked, knocking on the door. My supervisor had just left for a few moments, and I had to be her substitute because that was the rule. They could quiz all of us at any given moment.

He extended his hand and introduced himself. Sitting down, I knew from training, I was to close the door. This is when I saw her look at me through the window. Eyes wide and a hard swallow, with a slight head shake, were signs signaling that she thought I was about to blow her perfect record.

I heard her go into her office next door. Probably with her ear to the wall to be sure I was the perfect Stepford Wife.

He started to ask me a series of questions about finances and how payment was processed. I went through each type, pulling out examples of paperwork, explaining each one. About halfway through, I realized he had no idea what I was talking about. He seemed nervous.

“Could you repeat that?” He would say as he took notes on his sheet. So I asked him,

“Do you know the difference between Medicare and Medical Assistance?”

“Not at all. I’m new to this, so you are helping me learn.”

I went from feeling put on the spot to being his mentor in seconds. I knew what it was like not to understand something complex but necessary to perform well on a job.

By the time our interaction was over, he left like he had attended a seminar on the subject and thanked me.

She immediately vaporized in the hall.

“How did it go?”

She had listened through the wall, so she already knew.

This is how I remember her all these years later. I don’t think it was necessarily a personality disorder as it was a drive for perfectionism and power. She conducted herself in a way that left mental scars on many. Some of us could withstand it, while others escaped, often feeling like failures.

No longer able or willing to undergo her temper tantrums, they departed with awful memories of her. For those of us who somehow managed to stay aboard the Titanic, it was for a check. None of us had any loyalty toward her.

Her life stressors didn’t excuse her brutality.

She never considered the pain she inflicted on those around her. While she was so consumed by being monitored by the government, she never thought that God was watching. Every unkind word, act, and power play was being observed by heaven. She didn’t just break the Golden Rule. She crushed it into the ground under her mauve-colored pumps with many spirits attached.

No one is God, so her fate is in His hands.

The other day I saw this advertisement by a fast food restaurant looking to hire:

Why work for a clown when you can work for a King?

I knew the reference, but I saw it in another way.

In many church circles I have been in and out of, one of the repetitive phrases has been that we are “daughters and sons of the King.” So often, we slave under conditions where a message is sent loud and clear. We aren’t valued for what we do.

You might hear a thank you once in a while, but you are very aware of how ungrateful your boss is the rest of the time. You are made to feel that your paycheck is a gift, not a given. While you put in your best effort, you are subjected to the cruel nature of a dictator who is on a power trip.

When you wake up to it because your self-worth increases, there really is no going back. You are done with what was accepted by you before. Boundaries are put into place where there had been none, and you no longer can sit under the weight of someone else’s darkness and be suffocated by it.

You have this epiphany that the fear no longer holds you down. You don’t have to settle anymore to play the punching bag at the office. God has shown you the way, and He is your source for all you need.

You throw all caution to the wind and walk away, freeing yourself from the false tyranny.

In Psalm 37:18-19, God’s character is revealed,

God keeps track of the decent folk; what they do won’t soon be forgotten. In hard times, they’ll hold their heads high when the shelves are bare, they’ll be full. (Message)

Further in verses 25-29,

I once was young, now I’m a graybeard—
not once have I seen an abandoned believer or his kids out roaming the streets. Every day he’s out giving and lending, his children making him proud.
Turn your back on evil, work for the good, and don’t quit. God loves this kind of thing, never turns away from his friends. Live this way, and you’ve got it made, but rotten eggs will be tossed out. (Message)

The choice is yours—Trade in the clown for the King.

(Clowns to the left of me..jokers to the right…)

Dark Path

You really haven’t lived until your eyeballs are frozen, and you have lost all feeling in your fingers. When I bought tickets to go on a luminary walk in the winter, it sounded peaceful. An event named Candlelight and Ice was so appealing because we had not seen one flake of snow. It was a deceiving offer as it presented itself in October when the days still were sunshine filled, and the wind was warm. Not wicked cold and blowing sideways. And, the sun disappears after not making much of an appearance by 4:30. 

We made our way to the wildlife rescue that was a half-hour away. The temperature was only going to drop more, so I figured if we got there earlier, our chances of dying from hypothermia would be less. Apparently, so did everyone else. There were spaces available for ten cars at the most, and at least seventy-five of us had shown up right when it began. I had to drive away from where we were supposed to enter and park on a side street. 

This added to our time out in the elements where you can see your breath. Something that you would never think about and take for granted suddenly reminds you that you are still alive. 

At first, the fresh air feels decent because we are locked up so much with a furnace running full blast. You breathe it in, wondering why you haven’t done this sooner. By the time you dodge traffic and get back to where you started, it is beginning to occur to you that you should have dressed warmer. This is when your lungs start to let you know that they are not accustomed to taking in air that has come straight from Siberia. 

When you look around during times like this, people are basically all foreheads and eyebrows. Not an inch of bare skin is visible, and everyone moves stiffly because their arms and legs are restricted by limited mobility. They have put on layers and stuffed themselves into jackets and ski pants. The frigid air is filled with the high squeaky sound of nylon rubbing against nylon. Everyone is trying to move quickly, but they are going nowhere. 

You know that all of these people are some of the same ones that were at the Sunflower Festival in August when the temperature hit one hundred degrees, and the suffering was the opposite. Just so you can get that perfect picture of fields teeming with vibrant yellow flowers, you traipse through the dirt that kicks up dust, so you go home a dirty mess. 

“I have your name right on my list,” the lady said. “You can either go to the right or the left. The one to the left is the longer of the two.”

This was to lead us through the woods with the two trails to choose from. If I have taken the time to drive thirty minutes away from home, I will not take the mini version of anything. I am going to make sure that I drag my frozen corpse down the one that is going to give me the whole experience that offers the bluest lips and most windburnt skin. 

Both of us stopped for a minute and decided where to house our phones so we could easily access our cameras. I had on enormous gloves that were three times the size of my hands, so zipping up a pocket was a miracle. In this type of situation, you want to expose any part of yourself as little as possible. 

But then it happened. I saw how beautiful the candles were glowing on the trail ahead of me. So I removed one glove with my teeth and was going to capture it. Right as I was going to take it, two kids ran ahead of me and started tripping and falling all over each other. Then the pushing, shoving, and the wrestling began. 

There went the idea of peace as they beat each other up in the snow. 

This is where the ‘ice’ part of my night began as my right hand became immovable.

“I have to put my fingers together inside of my glove,” she said.

I did the same thing as I moved ahead. Now I was walking with fists inside of my gloves, trying to get them to return to normal, and just as they did, I saw another picture-worthy moment. Thus, began the freeze and thaw process. 

“Weren’t there supposed to be animals out here? Didn’t you say we would see deer or owls?”

“That is what the description said. I think it said if you looked close enough, you might see something.”

If your eyes are still functioning. 

“All the wildlife are smart and have gone someplace warm, unlike us,” she said as both of us felt our legs beginning to go numb. I do pay a mortgage on a fully heated house, so why would I go outside and put myself through that?  

Because it’s pretty.  

There is something that calls us into nature, even if it is miserable. Later, we tell everyone we went, but during it, you are wondering why you came.

I have had the same experience with God. You recognize the still, small whisper telling you to do something and then wonder why you are doing it. It doesn’t make any sense, it feels so uncomfortable, and you don’t have to if you don’t want to. But, you do it because your relationship with heaven is more important than any other thing you can think of.  

During a time when I had next to nothing to live on, I was in a mall with my two daughters. I glanced over at a young couple sitting a few tables away from us in the food court. I had a twenty-dollar bill in my wallet that I was hanging onto. I was limiting what I was eating to be sure that my money would last longer and that they had everything they needed. 

I wasn’t trusting God fully at the time to help me, and I lived in fear. Yet, when I heard the familiar voice say, offer them the money, I pushed my chair away from the table and told my daughters I would be right back. I didn’t give it a second thought as I walked over to them. They both looked up at me.

“I am supposed to give you this,” I said. Whenever I have done this, people look surprised. I noticed a newborn baby in a carrier sitting next to them. I hadn’t seen it from where I was. 

The young mom said,

“We were just talking about how we needed to buy more diapers, but he doesn’t get paid until tomorrow. We don’t have any extra money right now.”  

“Then take it,” I said. “It’s yours, not mine.” I had just relieved the burden of another and forgot all about my own.

That became a pivotal point in my walk with God, where no matter how much I felt I was living the unbearable, I would be a giver and act on it when I was told to. It takes a bit of sharpening of spiritual hearing because all of your logical parts will scream and tell you not to listen. Every single reason you should not do what you are hearing will manifest itself. So I had learned to move fast. Don’t think. 

I had read this in the book of James,

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. (Message)

I didn’t want my faith to be dead. 

As I walked in the cold air amongst all the softly glowing bags and containers that lit my way, I was reminded of this great verse from Psalm 119:105 that tells you who God can be to you, if you allow it,

By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. (Message)

(This may or may not have been when my legs lost all feeling…)

Illusion

“Do you see the penny?”

“Yes,” I said.

I knew what was coming next because my brothers had shown me this trick repeatedly. The shiny copper piece would be held before my eyes to ensure I watched. The master was performing it, though, and he had taught the three of them how to do it.

“Now watch. I’m going to rub it into my elbow.”

When I think about it now, that’s the most ridiculous thing I could ever imagine falling for. Why not involve his kneecap? What was so magical about his elbow? A magician has to use whatever he can to get his audience to be receptive.

So he would start to move his hand with the coin in it, but he would drop it at least three times to keep my full attention. He would pretend to be clumsy, let it loudly rattle on the table, and have to start the process all over again.

Then, it would totally disappear. The hand it had been in would be empty. He would take the other hand, put it up to my ear and say,

“It’s right here!” And it would materialize out of thin air. I hadn’t felt a thing, so how could that happen? If I had money stashed away that close by, life would have been so much easier.

“Do you want to see it again?” He would ask.

“Yes,” I would say because I thought I had missed something. My dad could do that at least 100 times, and it was like watching it for the first time.

As I got out of my preschool years, I wanted to know how he manipulated it, but he wouldn’t show me. The other day I said,

“Here. Teach me how to do that disappearing thing you used to do.” I handed him a dime.

“What? That’s so ancient! I can’t remember that, Chris.”

“You better. I have waited a long time for you to tell me this. It will come back to you.”

He dropped the dime I had given him multiple times due to his shaky hands, not for the show. But it did all flood into his memory as he went through the motions.

“So you switched hands,” I said. I demonstrated it to him.

“I never showed you how I did that?”

“No.”

“Now it spoils it for you. It takes away the mystery. But now you can baffle people.”

“Baffle, huh? Really? I wouldn’t say anyone would be in awe of that unless they are really naive.”

He laughed.

“But it does take away the secret of it.”

It wasn’t the first time I had been told the truth about something that had seemed so real.

I was led to think that Santa would show up every Christmas Eve. Presents from him would always appear in the living room while I was in the basement. I was the last one of the kids to accept this, and the others never said a word. They let me have the experience just like they had.

I trusted that what I heard was true. I equated Santa with God. So when my mom announced to me on Christmas Eve that he wasn’t real, I thought she was joking. When it became clear that she wasn’t lying to me, I wondered if everything else I had been told was accurate.

It wasn’t difficult to be in a religious organization and lack a closeness with God. And this upsetting news made it easy for me to question everything. It wasn’t that I had been fooled into a myth, it was how I was told and when. The timing of it was not ideal for a seven-year-old.

When unpleasant things happen, you can decide not to repeat history, and that was my goal with my girls. Because of my disappointment long ago, I chose to skip the traditional man in the red suit coming down the chimney. Instead, I always hid a gift that they had to find. Because after all, the element of surprise was the aim. There were a few wrinkles to iron out, however.

I found out that the game of hot and cold was a challenge for my oldest. As she got closer to what she was seeking, and I would say, “You are burning up,” she would suddenly run away as if she were in danger. It took a few times for her to understand that cold wasn’t what she wanted. I had spent years telling her not to touch a hot stove, so that’s where I think the confusion came in. So, we pressed on, and I had to undo some of my parental training so she could find her elusive item.

I made sure to reiterate not to run with scissors, though.

“You are ruining Christmas!” A family member said who learned of my rouge departure from the iconic Christmas character. I got a tongue lashing on how horrible I was for taking away all the ‘fun’ out of the holiday. There was another person nearby who agreed with my stance, but they suddenly lost their ability to speak, so I withstood the beat down.

I didn’t listen. I bought a book that explained the place St. Nicholas took in history as a generous man who made sure that the poor were cared for. I educated my girls to know who he really was, not the one depicted in movies or cartoons.

I told them both to never ruin it for others but keep it to themselves.

“Santa isn’t real,” said my youngest daughter at the age of three, out loud to her friend as they looked at a display at a mall. Before I could clamp my hand over her mouth to stop more from spilling out, her friend said,

“Oh, I know! That’s Santa’s helpers. That isn’t the real Santa, silly!”

There is a God.

I wondered at times if I was damaging them somehow by not adhering to age-old rules. Was I stripping them of something that others were participating in and they were not? There were small indications along the way that I wasn’t completely destroying their childhood.

“I’m buying this so I will get a Nintendo DS.”

My oldest daughter showed me a game that only could be played on that particular handheld device. At the age of twelve, she set the intention and expected it; soon, she got it. She applied her faith, and the money she needed to buy it showed up.

My youngest daughter was sitting on my lap during a magic show when she was four years old. The guy on stage would hold out his hands, and doves would suddenly fly out. I watched as she put her hands together, trying to recreate what he was doing. It was the beginning of her understanding that she could make things appear that hadn’t been there before.

Throughout the years, I tried to model for them what this verse meant from Hebrews 11:1,

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. (Living Bible)

During tough times, I would write down what I needed God to do for me. Like a Christmas list, mine had things on it, such as getting the house repainted, the dishwasher fixed, and money for a car repair. I wanted them to understand that prayer doesn’t only operate during a season, but it is always available to stream to us what we need. There were times I had no idea how problems would be solved, but I let them know I was giving it to God, so they could do the same.

The idea that we can ask for help from an entity outside ourselves is prevalent. It seems to have been downloaded right into our DNA.

Instead of having them put their hopes in a legend, I had them look to the One who owns it all and have lifelong, genuine communication with heaven, which is real and not an illusion.

(He is a good second place, though)

Small Stuff

Going into the building was the last thing I wanted to do. So many changes were happening at once, but I was moving forward, trying to make life seem normal after the wreckage.

I was newly divorced with two young girls, one eight and the other barely thirteen. It was up to me to make sure they saw me as confident because I felt enough damage had already been done.

I had a mix of emotions, from guilt, fear to relief. It was as if I would circle through those repeatedly, never really staying secure at any given moment. I expected bad news to come all the time.

My lawyer had me complete paperwork to apply for medical assistance through the state. I had a family member make sure to tell me I was on “welfare,” which disturbed me. It was stated in a way to let me know that I had fallen to a level of low that they for sure never would.

I had difficulty believing I was relying on taxpayer money to live. It brought me so much shame that even with “free” healthcare provided, I rarely went to see a doctor, even if I was deathly ill. And during this time of high stress and negative thinking, I was sick a lot.

I chose not to accept food stamps, which seemed like I totally hadn’t plunged into darkness. It gave me a shred of hope that I could at least buy food and household items without it being a handout. The comment by my relative had bothered me so much that I brought it up to the therapist I was seeing. I had been given a court order to attend counseling sessions, so the girls and I complied.

The therapist’s response was,

“I would gladly pay for you to get back on your feet again. For you and your girls.”

I never forgot the remark that was made to me because it was cruel, but it also made me see how far I had come to understand all of this where before I hadn’t.

If someone mentioned that their marriage was over, I used to let it go in one ear and out the other. I had absolutely no understanding of the pain involved, so I stood silently by. But after mine, I was able to ask questions, understand, and put myself in that person’s shoes. I wanted details so I could help if I could.

I realized that the demeaning comment that was made was from ignorance.

I had to deliver the applications to the office building following legal advice. I waited in a room with countless others who all had the same dead look in their eyes. Many had small children with them while others were like me, sitting with a number in hand and a packet in the other.

A few floors down, there was a community food shelf that my dad volunteered for. Every Friday, he would get up early and drive to various grocery stores to pick up boxes and donations. He would then drop them off and go to work handing out items to those in need. He knew I was struggling mentally with all of this, so he would pull up into my driveway and carry in what had been left after every one of his shifts.

“I just brought you a few things,” he would say to get past my objection.

Because my kids were so happy to see him, I allowed him to help me. But, I hated that I was in this situation, to begin with. It took a while for gratitude to replace my low feelings.

Because money had been so scarce, I had even cut back on what I ate; It was a form of self-punishment for being one half of a failed equation. I felt like I deserved nothing good, and the girls were innocent victims, so I wanted everything to go to them.

I worked three jobs, home-schooled, and felt like I was living in hell. All the outdoor work was mine to contend with, from raking, mowing, and snow removal. I couldn’t afford to hire anyone, so I had to learn quickly.

When they wanted lights on the house for Christmas, I got on a ladder and did it myself.

I had asked for help from someone who knew how, but instead of coming over and showing me what to do, he tried to explain it over the phone. This was not helpful at all. It reminded me of this verse, 1 John 3:17:

If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear. (Message)

It sent the message to me that I wasn’t worth the time.

I went to church, prayed, read my Bible, and taught various children’s classes, but I was fighting off panic attacks, sleepless nights and felt dread as if something terrible could happen at any moment. Yet, I slapped a smile on and pretended that all was well.

Somehow, a friend convinced me to go in to have a physical. I think she could see the stress wearing on me.

“If something happens to you, what would happen to your kids?”

Because I solely existed for them, I listened and went in. A few days later, I received a phone call.

“The results of your mammogram show something abnormal on your left side. We need you to schedule a follow-up appointment so we can run more tests.”

The next phone call was from a support counselor.

“Are you afraid of getting a cancer diagnosis?“

“No,” I said. And I meant it. I was so numb and worn out from all the turmoil of my life, I didn’t care anymore.

“Are you sure you aren’t worried?” I didn’t have any of it left.

“No,” I repeated. “God will help me. Whatever the outcome, I will be okay.”

I could say all the right things robotically, but I didn’t trust God altogether because of all the bad that had come my way.

A few weeks later, I was in another waiting room with a lady who had the same appearance as what I had seen in the financial assistance office. It was the look of dejection and uncertainty. The person with her tried to cheer her up, but she kept crying. When her name was called, she slowly got up, slumped shoulders, and went off to find out her fate.

Usually, that would have made me afraid, but I wasn’t. When you don’t care anymore, fear can’t even find you.

“We saw a shadow on the left.” The room was dark and only lit by the machine. “We want to do a test that will give us a sharper image,” the technician said.

As she went through various procedures, she asked me about my life. So I told her everything. All of it. It poured out of me without any emotional upheaval.

She stood back from me for a minute and said,

“Do you know how strong you are? Do you see that in yourself?”

“No,” I said.

“You are so strong. I have never met someone as strong as you.”

And, yet, I felt alone and weak.

When she said “strong,” I instantly saw my youngest daughter hugging me. When the breakdown of our family began, she would run up to me, throw herself around my waist and not let me move. No matter how I tried to get away from her, she would hold me in place, and she would say over and over,

“Mom, you are strong.” This little eight-year-old child was the voice of God, and I hadn’t even realized it.

The results came back that nothing was out of the ordinary, so I was spared.

Many more trials have come since then, and most not pleasant; however, I have learned in each instance. And I have seen the faithfulness of God.

The other day, when I said something out loud that was bothering me, the same girl who told me I was strong 15 years ago looked at me and said,

“Mother, you hear from heaven! Why would you even worry about this?”

She’s right. Sometimes we don’t see in ourselves what others can, and a reminder is necessary. God can bring that to you when you need it most. Even in a coffee shop.

I was with my oldest daughter at a mall, and to our surprise, all drinks, no matter the size, were $1.00.

So I let her pay. On the wall, we saw a row of pins hanging. A guy who worked there said,

“Take one. They are complementary.”

I chose the one that has been my lesson while here on earth. The enormity of a problem is only as much as you worry about it.

When you put it into God’s hands, you become an observer, as you watch heaven take over and transform it, you stress less about the small stuff.

Watched Over

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s not on my list, Chris.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get the organic one.”

“It’s more expensive.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A blessing had found me when I least expected it.

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

The Missing Link

“Buy it for yourself,” she said.

I looked into her dark brown eyes and wondered if a ten year old girl with no mortgage to pay, groceries to worry about or a vehicle to maintain could really understand the value of a dollar.

“I am sure I can’t afford it, and I only put it on to see what it looked like. Not to buy it.”

It sure felt nice with the coolness of the silver chain encircling my wrist and the light catching the pink and white stones to make it glitter.

I had entered the store in my usual way telling myself at the door that I couldn’t purchase anything.  I had to be sure that both girls had clothes to wear and food on the table. How I had found myself gazing into the jewelry cases was beyond me. Obviously, it was a moment of weakness that I shouldn’t have let myself indulge in.

“Ask the lady how much,” she persisted.

We were talking in low whispers at this point. I had gone from looking to now wearing the item that had called my name from the display.

The salesperson was standing inches away marking items. Without much enthusiasm, I said,

“Could you tell me how much this is?”

I really didn’t want to know because the minute she spoke, I knew I was going to take it off and the magical moment would be over. There is nothing more frustrating to want something and then have to put it back and walk away. I was mentally beating myself up over it. I should have not touched it at all.

“Let’s see,” she said pulling out the box. She looked at the tag.

“That doesn’t seem right to me. Hold on a minute. Let me double check.”

I had this awful feeling creeping into my stomach that I was going to hand it back to her.

She returned with her glasses perched on the end of her nose. She began punching numbers into her calculator. She pulled out an ad and did more button pushing.

“Okay. Well, it is $50. It says it retails for about $150, but we have a sale going on right now. Wow, that is a really good deal for that. Those are real crystals.”

I glanced down at my daughter who was speaking to me sternly non-verbally. I felt the guilt of paying the money as I stood there admiring the piece.

I fought down the negative feelings and decided to get it anyway because it had been so long since I had gotten anything for myself. The divorce had left me thinking that I had to make sure I spent every bit of money on the kids to be sure they were taken care of.

The woman grabbed the long white box and we followed her to the register. She began the process of entering in the item along with the discounts she had mentioned. In the middle of it, she leaned into look closer at the screen on her register.

“You aren’t going to believe this,” she said.

Oh, no. Here comes the bad news. She probably had done her math wrong, I thought.

“It rang up at $29.00.  I have gone over all my numbers and it keeps coming up as that.  I will do it one more time just to be sure.”

After a few moments, she said,

“You need to go out and buy yourself a lottery ticket because today is your lucky day.  It keeps coming up at $29, so that must be the price.”

I handed over my debit card inwardly thanking God that I could keep the bracelet on for an even cheaper price.

After the transaction was done, she said again,

“Really, go buy that lottery ticket!”

That was ten years ago.  I have worn it off and on over the years with many compliments.  Last week, it broke. I was sitting at an outdoor picnic table, lifted my wrist and the heart fell to the ground leaving the chain around my arm.

With much disappointment, I put it in my purse.  A few days later, I drove to a jeweler by my house to see if it could be fixed.

While I was parking my car in the lot, I found myself thinking again about money.  Much in the same way that I had been when I bought the bracelet.  I wondered how much it would cost, and would I be able to afford it.  This then led to other thoughts about upcoming bills, health insurance payments and a host of things that rushed to the forefront of my thinking.  By the time I walked in the front door, I felt somewhat burdened mentally.

I approached the counter and a woman with silver hair and large black glasses greeted me.  I took the two pieces out of my purse and laid them on the counter.  I explained what had happened as she examined it.

She jotted down information on an envelope.   A repetitive sound started coming from a back room.

“I am sorry,” she said.  “Do you mind if I run back there for a second?  I have an alarm going off on my phone.”

“That’s okay,” I replied.

When she returned, she said,

“I have to take medication four times a day since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I can’t remember to take it all the time, so I set my alarm to remind me.”

Suddenly, my small worries about finances didn’t seem so great.

“How are you doing now?”  I asked.

Her complexion was beaming and her smile was so bright.  Her eyes looked energetic, and I would have never guessed she had been through such a medical trauma.

“I feel really good.  God loves me, and He has helped me through it all.”

I took her hand and said,

“I am so glad to meet you.  You look so healthy.  I would have never known you had been sick.  You look great.”

She squeezed my hand.

“I am seventy years old, and I have had a really good life.  If I had not made it through, I kept telling my family I was okay with going on to heaven.  But, I am still here.  And, I feel His love for me even more.  You cannot worry about things.  You know that scripture that says He feeds the birds of the air, and we shouldn’t worry about what we are to eat and drink?  The one where He says don’t worry about tomorrow?  That’s my scripture verse.  He is in charge of everything, and He loves us so much.”

She finished writing out my order and said,

“This will only be about $10 to fix.  I will do the job myself and make sure it is done perfectly.”

Before I left, I took her hand again, and I prayed for her body to be completely whole and healthy from head to toe.  I felt as if we had blessed each other in a way that only can happen when there is divine intervention.

My previous anxiety about my budget had left.  I got into the car with a renewed strength that all was well.  Even though I have had many experiences where I know my prayers have been answered, I still have moments where I need reassurance that I have a support system working on my behalf that I cannot see.  Her words of faith were just what I needed to remind me that I am not alone.

I got my bracelet back the other day looking as good as the day I bought it. As I took in her handiwork,  I realized that when one little loop of metal was missing, it upset my ability to wear it and enjoy it.

Isn’t that just like allowing God into your life?  He really is what keeps it all together whether we acknowledge it or not.  A relationship with your Heavenly Father will make things go a lot smoother if you are struggling. Give heaven a chance to assist you in all things.  Prayer really is the missing link.

 

Selling Yourself Short

“I know exactly what the problem is,” she said as I was laying face down on the table.

I had just explained that my lower back on my right side had been sending out painful messages, and I didn’t know why.  She had walked down by my feet.

“Are you going to tell me that one leg is shorter than the other?”

The only reason why I said this was because a friend of mine who is very intuitive had told me this months prior after I had sent out a text explaining that I had to crawl out of bed one morning as sharp spasms gripped my entire lower back.

“Yes. Your right leg is shorter than your left.”

For three months I had put up with it figuring it would go away after awhile. Simple tasks became horrible as I would lock into a certain position when trying to put on a sock or grab a pen that had fallen to the floor. Things I had taken for granted now were difficult to perform.

Many hot packs and Epsom salt baths later, I was ready for the truth to set me free.

“This is something that we can fix today.”

The only reason I had finally gone to the chiropractor was because my youngest daughter had complained of stiffness and aches in her lower back. When it comes to the kids, I will go in immediately, but for myself, I will wait.  I had reluctantly put myself up on the table out of necessity.

She came back up toward my head and began to run her thumbs along my spine. The familiar humming of a tune began.  The first few times I saw her for treatment this struck me as odd. Just before the snap and crunch, she would hum a melody that usually consisted of long drawn out notes that made me relax.

“Okay,  I need you to lay on your left side facing the wall.”

This was something we had done before, so I was well versed in flipping over.  She pulled my right leg across my body.  This also was usually part of the procedure, however, she did something different this time.  When she performed the maneuver,  I let out a surprising,

“OOF!”

My eyes must have gone wide and my face pale because my daughter who was observing said,

“Mom, are you okay?”

I did a mental check of my body and realized that she hadn’t caused me pain, but she had taken some of the oxygen out of my lungs.  Whatever she did felt like my right hip had been relocated to its natural spot. I no longer felt the grabbing twinge on my right side.

Afterward, she took out a plastic skeleton and showed me that when a person has an injury on one side of the body, later in life it can cause that side to become shorter than the other.  I left the office feeling so much better now that I wasn’t walking a crooked path.

When I returned home, I checked my home phone for messages and saw a number from a local technical college. I clicked the button to listen.

“I am calling to see if you would like to come in for a free massage at our school in the next month.  Please call us back and let us know.”

The year before, I had been looking for places that gave massages and found that I could volunteer for students.  I had put my name on the list but hadn’t heard anything.  I dialed the number and spoke with a student.

“Sure.  We can get you right in here.  Oh, the other thing is, if you want, you can actually have three free massages over a period of three weeks.”

“Really?” I said astonished.

She booked me for two hot stone massages that would last an hour and a half per session and an hour Swedish massage.  I got off the phone in slight amazement as I was suddenly realizing how small actions can lead to blessings.

Four days before this, I had splurged and sought out a massage therapist close to home who specializes in pain therapy.  I was drawn to this particular spot after reading online that it wasn’t just about the massage but the idea that healing could come to my body.  I felt I was to spend some money on myself as there still are times I catch myself worrying about my finances.  It was to be a two fold mission.  One, to seek out pain relief, and two, to make myself a priority.

I was greeted by a woman who had a calming, welcoming demeanor.  We made our way to a dimly lit room where she and I talked for awhile.  It became clear that she wasn’t just a therapist, but a person who took interest in her clients.  I had given her very little information to go on in my paperwork other than where the location of my discomfort was.

She suddenly said,

“Are you concerned about money?  I sensed that when I said hello to you.”

I smiled but I actually could not hold in my tears.  Whether it was the pain taking its toll on me or the soft spoken words of truth, it hit me emotionally enough that she had to hand me an entire box of Kleenex. I explained a few of my underlying fears revolving about money since my divorce and how eight years later, with my youngest graduating from high school, I felt uncertain about my existence in general.

She openly confessed to me that her marriage was in a shambles, and she was trying not to consider divorce.

“I made it this far,” I said gulping down another round of tears.

“Then, you will make it even farther.  You are a strong person.  I can see that from only you being with me for such a short time.”

We proceeded on to the most wonderful ninety minute session where we spoke very little.  At the conclusion of our time together she said.

“When I treat people, I often pick up on things that they are feeling or thinking.  It’s just part of my job.  I feel like you have a lot of pain built up that you need to keep releasing. I usually will feel a tingling sensation with people, but with you I felt a large amount of burning almost as if a fire is trapped inside of your body. This can cause inflammation as well.   Just let things go and get it out of your system.  Don’t hold things in so much.  So what if people know you aren’t happy all the time? Let it out either through laughter or crying. Whatever makes you feel better.”

To some, her words would be nonsense, but to me they made sense.  I felt relief not only on the outside but on the inside as well.

When I went to pay my bill, I knew that the charge was going to be an amount that I normally would have balked at.  But, this time, I had made up my mind to take care of myself.  In addition, I felt led to give a tip that would bring honor to this person who had just helped me so much.

As I got into bed that night, I wondered how I could get another massage.   Where would the money come from to enjoy such an experience again? Each morning after, I contemplated how I could ‘afford’ to have another treatment.  Not so much by the same person, but to allow myself the indulgence because it made me feel so much better.   Little did I know that by allowing myself the treatment ,and giving her a tip, that days later I would be the recipient of three more free treatments.   Along with the care of a wonderful chiropractor, I felt like I was being offered more help to resolve my painful problem.

I attended my first free massage the other day.  I was assisted by a woman who looked at least ten years older than me. She didn’t fit the description of the typical ‘student’.  I wondered as I got prepared for the session how her hands would hold up because it was to be an hour long.  Gently, she went over all of the instructions, made sure I was doing okay, and at one point while lying on my stomach I started to drift into a dream where I saw myself and my daughters laughing.  It was so real that when I snapped back to reality I didn’t know at first where I was.  She leaned down and said with a smile,

“We are all finished.  What do you think?”

“Thank you. That was great.”

She smiled brighter, and I could see that she loved the work.

Am I totally healed at this point?  No.  I still have moments of residual pain across my lower back that requires an ice bag or two and an occasional adjustment. But, what has this done?  I listen to my body more.  I don’t blow off the signals that tell me something is amiss.  I rest when I need to. I sleep and don’t force myself to stay awake.  And, I have become more mindful of the word ‘short.’  You see, when the chiropractor said my one leg was shorter than the other, I began to consider how many times I have worried about being short on money.  Each month I have fought a small amount of fear that this could be the ‘big one’.  I could be one of those people who suddenly find themselves destitute, so I limit doing nice things for myself because there are more important expenses to take care of.  There is an inner system of judgment that says: “If you can afford this, then why aren’t you paying this particular bill faster?”

There has to be a balance between obligations and taking care of oneself.  In John 10:10 it says: “The thief comes only to kill and destroy.  I have come to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (New Living Translation)  I am the one who robs joy from myself through my worry and unfounded fears. When I limit help, I limit God.   But, the desire of heaven is for all of us to live our days in health and peace. I am grateful for the people who have been put on my path to show me this.

Take care of yourself because it brings honor to your Creator and it stops you from selling yourself short.

 

 

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Stop and Smell the Roses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He had my contact information and we parted ways.

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

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

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

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

“Really?”

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

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

That is when it came back to me….

I will send a man to help with the pool. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much will this cost me?

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A Good Vibe

I was in need of a new vehicle right after my divorce, and I had never bought a car on my own. When I was in high school, my older sister sold hers to me, and when I got married my spouse made the choice. So the idea of going to a dealership and trying to find something new was a little bit scary for me.  I enlisted my dad to ride shotgun so he could give me good advice.

We pulled into the first dealership and he said,

“Try to avoid the salesman. Drive around a bit.”

I did my best. How does one navigate an eight passenger van and go unnoticed? We saw a guy trying to approach us when my dad said,

“Turn. Turn. Don’t let him get near us!”

I swiftly turned the wheel to dodge him and it became a giant game of cat and mouse.  I wasn’t able to look at cars because I was too preoccupied deciding which way to go to dodge this stranger who my dad had deemed as a heat seeking missile.

“These guys are all out to take your money. You can’t even look and they start to bother you.”

This went on far too long until I thought the person went left but he faked me out and darted right so he could catch up to the passenger side of the car. He stood by the door and made a motion for my dad to roll down his window. My dad sat stiff and didn’t move a muscle with his eyes locked straight forward.

“I think he wants you to roll down the window so he can talk to you.”

“I know what he wants. He wants our money.”

I hit the button on my side of the car to open the window. I heard quiet giggles from my two girls in the backseat.

“What brings you folks out?” the man asked.

“I am looking for a new car,” I said. My dad wasn’t offering any type of friendly chatter.

“Well, we have a lot of them, ” he said with a smile.

“We are just driving through to look around,” I replied. I was feeling somewhat anxious since I was the only one holding up the conversation from the car.

“I am hoping to trade in this van and get something different.”

The salesman reached in and placed his hand on my dad’s shoulder.

“I am sure we could find you something here,” he said with a bright smile.

I saw my dad glance down at the guy’s hand and then said,

“What are you doing? Seeing where you can stick your knife into me? Trying to find the soft spot?”

The man’s eyes widened as he retreated a few steps back from the car. My dad took himself off of mute and continued,

“Well, you know you guys are all alike. You just want to take our money.”

Again, I heard small muffled laughter from the backseat.

The salesman tried to keep himself composed.

“No. I just want you to find a new vehicle that you would like.”

“Riggghht. And, take our money,” my dad shot back.

This was not going how I thought it would.

“Drive around and see if there is anything you like, and if you do, come find me.” He stalked off.

After a few moments, I said,

“Why don’t we try another place?”

For some reason, I kept feeling like there was something I was missing. I had no clue what I was doing and my dad was driving away the help.

He suggested another dealership, so I went there.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw an orange car sitting near to where I parked. I got out of the van, pointed at it and said,

“I think that is my car.”

“What?” my dad said.

“That is my car. I think that is the one.”

“You haven’t looked at anything yet.”

“I know. That’s it.”

I had no sooner spoken when we saw a man coming toward us.

“Here he comes,” my dad grumbled under his breath.

The man extended his hand and said,

Hi, my name is Randy.”

My dad reciprocated by saying,

“You guys are all nuts!”

I saw Randy’s smile fade. So, when he turned to me I said,

“Nice to meet you. My name is Chris, and I am sorry about that. He doesn’t trust car salesmen.”

“I know there are people out there who aren’t so nice,” Randy said. “I am not one of them.”

My dad chuckled. To most people unaware, they would have thought my dad was being jovial.  I knew it was one of those laughs that meant he didn’t believe the guy for a minute.

I decided to test drive the car and soon found myself in a negotiation over a 2005 burnt orange Pontiac Vibe. As I went back and forth with costs, my dad appeared out of no where with a powdered donut in one hand and white sugar surrounding his lips. When he spoke a puff of white dust filled the airspace. Somebody apparently had found the free snacks by the coffee.

“What is going on? Are you getting it?”

“I don’t know, ” I said. “He is going back and forth with the manager trying to help me get a lower price.”

My dad disappeared and returned crunching down a bag of popcorn.  It was like he was at the state fair eating his fill.

“This is the best we can do,” Randy said.  “He won’t go any lower.”  He placed a piece of paper with a number on it in front of me.

“Then, I am not going home with the car. That is still too high.”

“Are you sure? It’s a really nice car with low miles and would be very dependable.”

“I just can’t do that much right now. Thank you for helping me.”

 I was surprised by how determined I had become in such a few short hours.  I thought my dad would do all the talking but he was too busy chewing.  However, I learned that I did have the courage to venture into something I hadn’t ever done before, and I didn’t crawl out the door or hang my head. That car was supposed to be mine, but I wasn’t going to bite off more than I could handle financially. 

I shook his hand, and I really was grateful for his attempts. He looked sad as I walked away, and I felt that it wasn’t so much about him not making the sale but about me not getting the car.

I got back into the van, and dropped off my dad so he could be home in time for dinner, although he had eaten his way through the dealership. We had spent the entire afternoon on one car and I had come home without anything to show for it. The word frustrated didn’t even come close to how I felt because I knew without a doubt that the car I had test driven was meant to be mine.

I prepared dinner and tried to take my mind off of it.  While cleaning up the dishes, my youngest daughter said,

“I went online and looked at the car.  I think the price is lower.”

“I don’t even want to talk about the car,” I said. I couldn’t take it.  Not purchasing it was bothering me, and I figured she was just trying to make me feel better.

“Let me show you what I found.”

“I don’t want to look at it.  I really want it, and I can’t have it.”

She insisted that I look at what she was trying to show me.  For nine years old, she was a persistent one.

“Is this the car?” she asked.  I half looked at the computer screen.

“Yes. But, that is the wrong price.  That is what I wanted to pay.  They quoted me a higher amount.”  I stepped in closer to examine it further.

“I am calling them!”

I hadn’t been home for more than two hours and already I was back in the thick of it getting my hopes up.

“How may I direct your call?” a lady answered.

“I was in today looking at a 2005 Pontiac Vibe.  The price was too high, but online it is lower and it is what I am willing to pay.  Could you find out the actual price?”

I was put on hold while she spoke with the person who listed the vehicles online.

“The price you are seeing online is the correct one.  The person in charge of the online pricing said he just changed it.   He had no idea you were even in here looking at it today.”

“I think I am coming back right now,” I said.

I called my dad and drove back to the dealership.

This time, I signed the paperwork and left with the car I KNEW I was supposed to have.

When God wants you to have something, a way will be made. If you are willing to let an unseen hand guide you and you can give up your reasons why it is impossible, then the struggle to obtain what you desire doesn’t have to be difficult.  This is usually not accompanied by a giant billboard or a flashing neon sign telling me what to do. It is often more subtle than that and comes from a inner knowing that can only be described as a good vibe.

 

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Free For All

I carefully placed my coupons on top of my purse as I pushed my cart through the store. My list seemed longer than normal.  The uneasy feelings were always the same.  I would begin to feel scared in the parking lot and by the time I made it to the cashier with my groceries, my anxiety about spending too much of the family budget would be at an all time high.   It was a torture session I endured every week.  It wasn’t that the money was not there.  It was my false belief that I was living in scarcity.

On this particular day, I found myself getting angry about the fact that I was going through this again. I wanted to rid myself of it.  As I grabbed cans of generic items, I began to count my blessings.  I had a house.  I had a bed.  I never was short on food.  My bills were all paid. And just to prove to myself that my thinking was out of line, I decided to start placing things in my cart that were not on my list with the full intention of giving it all away to the local food shelf.

I began to feel my mood shift as I joyfully went along picking and choosing products with the sole intention of blessing others.  My trip had now taken on a new meaning that took the attention off of my worries and replaced them with the idea of helping someone else.

While I stood in the checkout line, I noticed the couple in front of me.  They had a rather large order for themselves and were struggling to keep two small children occupied.  The husband stood at the end of the belt slowly bagging up their purchases as his wife handed over food stamps.

“Some of these items are not eligible,” the cashier said to the woman.

“Oh.  Which ones?”

I found myself tuning it out and started glancing at the magazine covers around me.  When it was my turn to move up, I saw that the situation must have been resolved.

She began sliding my items over the sensor and sending them down the belt next to the family ahead of me.  They were still in the midst of getting their groceries into the cart.  I was trying to stay calm, and often at this stage, I would ‘zone’ out to block out the ‘beep’ ‘beep’ ‘beep’ of the racking up of a bill.

“Excuse me,” I said to the couple as I wheeled my cart by them.  For a few moments, I was able to put items into bags until the cashier said,

“I have your total.”

I left my cart unattended to pay. Once I was done, the family of four had departed so I had more room to finish up my task.

When I arrived home, I began unloading my purchases onto the kitchen table.  I realized I had not segregated out my donations.  As I looked through what I had spread out on the table and the counter, I could not locate what I was looking for.

I walked back out to my car to see if anything had been accidentally left in the trunk.  I found that I had removed everything.   I took a closer look and discovered that not only had my food shelf items gone missing but a couple other things were not to be found as well.  An inexpensive package of toothpaste and a much needed bottle of cheap toilet bowl cleaner were among the missing.

As I stood puzzled wondering what had happened, the family of four flashed through my mind.  I had left my groceries next to their belt with just enough time for either adult to take what he or she might need to steal.

Grabbing my receipt and car keys I went back to the store to replace the stolen merchandise that I needed.

By the time I returned, the store was nearly empty but the same cashier was working the same lane.

“I think the people ahead of me took some items that didn’t belong to them.”

“They did?”

“Were they paying with food stamps?”

“Yes,” she said recalling the moment.

“Did they have trouble paying?”

“Yes.”

“I have items missing.”

“Did they do the five finger discount?”

“Well, I think they decided to take what was mine and made it theirs.  The funny thing is that they took most of the items I was going to give away to the food shelf.”

There was an absolute moment of silence until she and I started laughing.

“So, they stole food shelf items before I could donate them.  They just saved me a trip.”   This brought us to another round of laughter that made our eyes well up with tears.

I do not condone thievery, and I wish to this day that I would have paid attention to what was going on around me.  Yet, at the same time, I thought how pitiful it was that someone had to nab and grab to just get by in life.  And, somehow, I had mentally brought myself to the level of thinking that I was living in poverty.  Far from it.  I discovered that I was in a class much different than what I was envisioning over my life.

In times when I have feared the worst or imagined some catastrophe coming upon me, I often hear that still small voice whisper to me.  And, if I slow down, breath, and listen, I am drawn in by a peace that is free for all.

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