Accused

He was at it again.  With poor aim, he flicked peas to the amusement of his comrades. I dodged the green bullet he sent my way by swaying to the left.  He set his sights on the girl who was eating her lunch quietly next to me.  How had I ended up sitting across from him?  Had he forgotten the events of less than twenty-four hours? John ‘the tomato’ was living life on the edge for whatever reason I was not aware of. He earned his nickname because his face was round and turned bright red when he was angry or got caught doing his daily devious deeds.  He was taking his chances while we were under the watch of a woman straight out of Nazi Germany.

She plainly announced her presence with a strong nicotine odor and a dragon voice to match.  An entire table of energetic smiling children would freeze with utensils in mid-air as she slithered by with a slow deliberate stroll, darting her squinting eyes looking for infractions.  All verbal communications would stop when she locked her eyes on a child, and pensive normalcy would not resume until she continued onward with her patrol.

When she decided that the noise had gotten on her last nerve, she would pick up a microphone and yell,

“BE QUIET!” with decibels that could have shattered the sound barrier.  We never knew when she would blow.

The lunch room was located in the elementary school’s gymnasium to conserve space.  An orange partition was set up to confine us for crowd control, and to serve as a means for public humiliation.  If a student was apprehended for breaking one of her laws, he or she was immediately dispatched to the ‘the wall’ with nose pressed against it for the rest of us to see.

The day before, I had witnessed her approach John from behind, grab his shirt by the collar with her talons and drag him off to a spot.   There was no wrongdoing on his part that any of us had seen.  She had decided to punish him just because she could.

He had beat the wall with his fists screaming,

“I didn’t do anything!  I want my mom!  I didn’t do anything!” True to form, his face was a brilliant shade of crimson.   Usually, I didn’t feel bad for him because he generally was guilty of the crime, but this time had been different.  There had been no offense to afford him the trip up there with his backside to us.

So it was beyond me why he would want to tempt fate to be singled out again.

I heard her approach with my right ear. When in a situation where threats abound, the senses become more keen.   It was the familiar squish sound of soft soled mandatory cafeteria shoes along with the perfume cigarette scent she wore like a badge of honor. John sat up straight and ceased fire of his vegetables.   She bent down underneath our table and brought up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that had been trampled by numerous shoes.

“Who does this belong to?” she hissed.

We all shook our heads to indicate it wasn’t any of ours.  Without warning, the tomato pointed his dirty pudgy finger at me and exclaimed,

“It’s hers.  I saw her throw it.” A bold faced lie.  The kid who had been wrongly blamed the day before was targeting me.  Any compassion I had felt for him melted away forever.

I glanced up to face off with one of my biggest terrors in human form.

“Is this yours?” she bellowed with her red lips in a snarl.  The entire room went silent.

“No.  I already ate mine.”  I had been done eating for quite awhile and had disposed of my brown lunch bag.

“It’s hers!  I saw her!” he said again. This time his friends joined in with him as well as others around us.

She stood over me and presented the item in question directly underneath my nose.

“Eat it.”

“It isn’t mine,”  I said trying to convince her of the truth. It wasn’t working.

“You either eat this or you will have detention.”

I wan’t one of those kids who got detention!  I had not ever been sent to the wall.  Detention meant the beginning of years of juvenile delinquency, and that was not who I was.  And, I had been told to never go against an authority figure.

The first bite was crunchy as gravel from the floor mixed in with the bread on the surface of my teeth.  I gagged at first but managed.  There was no liquid to wash it down so each sandy bite felt like the desert. I could hear the stifled giggles as those around watched me eat a meal that wasn’t mine.  Her dark shadow enveloped me until she was satisfied with my last swallow.

“We don’t throw food here,” she said as she sauntered away.

When I got home from school that day, I was greeted with the usual question:

“How was school today?”

“I had to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich off the floor, ” I said.

“WHAT?”

I explained the event to my mom.

“Why did you eat it?”

“I was told if I didn’t that I would get detention.”

This situation would have been harrowing for any parent to hear, but she was a registered nurse who kept our home sterile like a hospital.  There was always a can of Lysol lurking in a cupboard waiting to be sprayed.

“Don’t ever do that again, ” she said.

I thought that was the end of the matter, but that evening I could hear her relating the tale to my dad once he got home from work.  From my vantage point in the house, the news wasn’t going over so well.  I was ushered into a remote location in the basement that was nearly sound proof while a phone call was made to the principal.

Before bed, my dad stepped into my room and said,

“If she ever makes you or another child do something like that again, say something right away.  If she does anything that isn’t right, tell an adult.  She will be fired.”

I went into the lunchroom the next day with a new sense of power.   It was like someone had slayed the dragon or at least put out her fire.

I proceeded as usual to get my small carton of milk to go along with my bag lunch. I made sure to distance myself from John’s table.  I had no sooner been seated when I sensed her approach.  With a fake loving hand on my shoulder she said in a voice so soft,

“I didn’t mean for you to eat that sandwich.  There must have been some mistake.”  I looked her directly in the eye without a trace of fear or humility.

“You made me eat that sandwich that wasn’t mine and you know you did.  My dad said you will be fired if you ever do that again.”  She dropped her hand away, blinked rather rapidly with her mouth contorting in shock.  I had found my fifth grade voice. She had suddenly lost hers. She turned on her heel and marched away.

There have been other times in my life where I have been in situations where I felt alone in the face of uncomfortable circumstances.  However, I have learned that just because I feel that way doesn’t make it true.  Just like my dad supported me, we have access to our Creator who loves us so deeply that a plan will be enacted on our behalf if we ask for it. A heartfelt prayer asking for assistance can change things around in an instant. We can go from helpless to hopeful very quickly just by spending some time in the presence of the One who sees it all.   There will be times when maybe the truth of the matter is only known between us and heaven, but we can find comfort knowing that we are not walking on earth in solidarity.  Someone is always in your corner.  Even when you are unjustly accused.

peanutbutter

Problem Solved

Please don’t call on me. Please don’t call on me.  This was my daily mental mantra during his math class in sixth grade. I had a history with this man and had hoped to never be his student again.

Previously I was in one of his classes in second grade, and I had gone from being an avid reader with great pronunciation skills to not being able to comprehend sentences.  I began to bring home extra work to do with my mom to improve my understanding.  She noticed that I was not struggling as she and I worked together.  After a couple of these sessions, she said to me,

“I don’t think you like your teacher.”

“No. I don’t.”

“Why?”

My seven year old mind could not articulate clearly why I did not like him.  I just knew I didn’t.  In hindsight, it was my first experience with being intimidated, but I didn’t understand it.  It wasn’t that he was a male teacher as much as his attitude about being of that gender.  I recall seeing him flirt with the young female teacher across the hall, and in an instant his demeanor would become harsh with the children in his room.  He was unpredictable, and I never knew when I would meet his approval or not.  He put me on edge, and I always felt his anger simmering below the surface. To add to my fear, he towered over me. One of my brothers was just as tall, but it was the way this man glared at me from above that made me cower.

During our one on one reading sessions he would often laugh and ridicule those who were not pronouncing words correctly.   He would use another student to ‘correct’ the one who was making a fool of himself.  It was a form of public humiliation amongst the peers.  Not being able to take the pressure, I shut myself down and with that my favorite subject became my most difficult.  My voice, that once was strong, became small and weak with the idea that he was going to lash out and make me feel horrible about myself.  The best part of my day was when our hour of reading with him was over, and I returned to my home room next door.

When second grade ended, I wasn’t only glad to welcome in the freedom of summer but to be away from him forever.  Forever lasted until the sixth grade. He picked up right where we had left off. This time, he was my math instructor which wasn’t my best subject.   His eyes would scan the room looking for his prey to call up to the board. Hands across the room would fly up, but I always put my hands under my desk to be sure there was no mistaking my desire to stay seated.   Regardless, he would pick me.  I never got used to being in front of the entire class sweating over the board trying to appease him only to be interrupted.  I would just begin to write and he would snap.

“No! That’s already wrong. Go sit down.”  I would quietly put the chalk back in its place while he would then call upon his star math student who would go up and show us all how it was to be done.

“Now, that is perfect,” he would say shooting me a satisfied sadistic smile.

The worst part was the homework.  He would hand out our assignment and expect it back by the end of the day.  For a person who caught on to numbers quickly this would have been easy.  But, I had such a mental block, partially due to him making me feel stupid, I needed the extra time in the evenings to complete the work.  If a student didn’t turn in the homework of the day, then she was expected to ask him permission to take it home and turn it in the next morning.  Every day I made the short but long walk to his door to ask if I could have an extension. It was a ritual short of bowing and kissing a ring on his hand. Some afternoons when he was preoccupied with impressing some of his young female students, I would get a head nod followed by a grunt. Other times, he would torture me with tormenting questions.

“Can I take my math work home tonight?” I would squeak.

“Again? Why can’t you get it done during the day like everyone else?”  He knew full well I needed the extra time.  After making me feel like an absolute idiot, I would finally get the approval to take my work home.

One day, as I walked slowly down the hall, I noticed him standing in his classroom doorway facing his students.  He was quiet and so was the entire class.  Looking back now, I should have known to just turn around and forget it, but I didn’t realize what I was walking into.  As I neared him, he began to yell at the top of his lungs.

“I told you all to shut up, and I mean it!  I don’t want to hear another word until the bell rings!”  His voice echoed off the walls around me.  Sensing I was behind him, he whirled around.  Screaming in my face he said,
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?” Spit flew from his mouth and his eyes were crazy looking.

“I need to take my math home….” I think I actually whispered my request.

“I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU DO!”

He spun on his heel and slammed the door so hard that the floor beneath my feet shook.  I ran back to my class. When I came in the door, my teacher asked,

“Are you okay, Christine?”

I kept my head down and nodded.  He looked at me for awhile like he wasn’t so convinced.  I don’t know how he hadn’t heard the commotion out in the hallway, but I was so paralyzed with fear I could not speak.

I left elementary school and went on to middle school, high school and college bearing the unseen scars that he inflicted.  I was amazed by the other kids who could whip out math answers while I struggled over each and every problem. I had a teacher tell my mom at a conference that he felt sorry for me because he could see that I really wanted to comprehend the material but it just didn’t stick.  Something was blocking my ability to get to the right answer.  When she told me this I must have been touched by it because on the next test I whizzed through it.  By the end of that year I had gotten a low B in his class.

The damage wasn’t just confined to school.  If I was with a group of people playing a game where a score needed to be tallied, and I was questioned on my accuracy, I would immediately say,

“I am bad at math.” I was merely verbalizing the thought I was having twenty-four seven.

Usually I hadn’t made an error, but due to early childhood programming by a bully math teacher, I constantly defaulted to what I thought was true.  If the person in my social circle was somewhat aggressive, I found myself thinking for certain I was at fault and he or she was right. I was continuing to exist as a sixth grade math student.

The pattern of living this way began to dissolve when I decided to home school my daughter.  I knew that I was going to excel with instructing her on reading, writing, spelling and basic math, but there was the nagging question if I had what it took to effectively teach math at the sixth grade level or higher.  The summer before she was to begin that grade, a packet came in the mail that included a math placement test.  Before I gave the exam to her, I took it.  I was shocked to see that I scored rather high.  Calculations that would have been confusing made absolute sense.  How had I become one of those kids that I had envied so much?

That is when I realized how my thinking was not correct on this matter.  There were other hints along the way, but I had brushed them off quickly because after all, “I was bad at math.”

When I began to home school, I purposefully bought a math curriculum that used a hands on approach to teaching not only basics but also some geometric and algebraic principles.  As I showed her the logic to solving equations, I began to understand that I had not been taught properly.  I was slowly beginning to see that I was not the stupid idiot I thought I was.  I actually had not been given good instructions nor was I treated like I should have been.

This made me begin to question what other lies I was believing about myself that were not true, and I made a determination to begin an ‘uncovering’ process to free myself from deceptive thinking.  This meant asking God to reveal whatever wasn’t right so I could correct it.   After all, it is promised that ‘all crooked paths will be made straight.’  I am realizing that this is an ongoing process.

This man was in my life more than 36 years ago.  And all these years later I can conjure up his face, his words and his demeanor.  The difference, however, is that I no longer believe him.  I have put a loving arm around my sixth grade self, and I have told her,

“You are good at math.  Problem solved.”

math

Wedding Bells and Empty Shells

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

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

“A month.”

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

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

“Have you known her for awhile?”

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

“Was she like this before you got married?”

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

“Who helps you with the baby?”

“Her parents do.”

“Have you discussed her behavior with them?”

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

“Did you tell them you might divorce her?”

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

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

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

Alarm bells and red flags!

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

He shrugged his shoulders.

“I love her.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can’t. I love her.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is happening?!?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

shells

Angelic Friends

estatesale I was out with my best friend yesterday morning when he spotted this sign. “An estate sale. Should we go?” “I have not ever been to one before.  Ok.” For some reason the title ‘estate sale’ makes me envision a long winding driveway that whisks one by a perfectly manicured sprawling lawn up to the doors of a mansion. A butler greets you at the door and you walk around wonderful antiques and treasures of great value from all corners of the earth. So, when we drove by the townhouse garage I was a bit skeptical.  In fact, the sale was so obscure, we had to circle around because we drove right by it. “Should we skip it?”  he asked. “No,”  I said always on the hunt for a story.   As we approached the end of the driveway, an older man was shuffling his bills back into his wallet.  He wasn’t carrying anything, so I assumed he hadn’t found what he was looking for.  He looked at us, smiled, and said sarcastically, “She had quite the collection.”  He rolled his eyes and shook his head as he stalked off to his car.  This wasn’t looking promising.  When I walked into the garage, I was astonished. garage There were boxes and tables filled with all varieties of angels.  I figured the person having the sale had decided to sell off some of her collectables to downsize.  It occured to me that this probably wasn’t the case as I walked into the home and found more areas filled with angels.  Upon going up the stairs, I discovered another table covered with them.  The walls had angels of many types.  A bedroom housed more.  I was so overtaken as I walked from room to room seeing nothing but angels. I asked a lady who seemed to be running the sale if she could tell me anything about the person these belonged to. “They all were owned by one lady.  She died from cancer.  She was only 64.”  It felt like there was alot of negativity toward the entire situation.  Like it was a burden and the items needed to be gotten rid of.  I walked out of the house feeling awful. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin,” I said.  “How would I even know what was valuable or not?”  I then had an idea to call my youngest daughter because she is a doll collector. “Maybe if I come back with her I can have her look things up and find out more for me.  I noticed that many of the angels were from the Napco company like my cookie jar.” Within a short period of time, I was back at the sale accompanied by my child who has a better ability to find rare items than I do.  I tried to prepare her mind for the massive amount of angels she was about to see.  She had the same reaction I did. “Wow.  This is neat,” she said. She began searching online for angels from Napco and showed me a picture of one. “Do they have this?”  I looked at it and to my own surprise said, “They had that one upstairs on a table!” We climbed the stairs to the living room on the second floor.   I had found my first angel. candyangel As she and I walked around I felt led to go in certain rooms.  If I found one angel in the garage, I found a matching one that went with it in a bedroom at the back of the house. “They have not put the sets together,” I said. I started to feel sad for the woman who had spent so much time taking such care of the pieces. The company that had been hired to run the sale had spent hours unwrapping thousands of angels that had been carefully stored and preserved.  However, they had placed them haphazardly in places out of order. When I went back into the living room area, I noticed a woman sitting in a chair going through boxes at her feet.  We began to talk, and I found out more information about the ‘angel lady’. “She and I were good friends,” she said.  “She was part of an angel club that met together all the time.”  I could see the tears in her eyes as she spoke to me. “Julie told me that she had stage 3 ovarian cancer. When she had gotten the diagnosis she started collecting angels.  I think they brought her comfort, and she lived for twenty-five more years.   I guess there were only eight woman living in Minnesota with cancer that advanced. When she died in March, she was the last one to go.” My daughter and I bought a few items and returned home.  Not knowing what I had purchased, we began looking up Napco and Lefton collectibles.  We discovered that many of them were quite valuable, and I felt compelled to return with a new understanding of what these angels meant. This time as I went through the house I felt as if the owner was leading me to get her collection back in the right order.  I started to get a sense of peace as we sat and carefully looked over all of the items. Many times throughout the day we heard slight comments such as, “what a hoarder” or “why would someone do this?”  I realized these people were missing the point. I also found that many who roared through the place were looking to make money and in that pursuit were missing out on the fact that a woman had died at such a young age from a horrible affliction. As I pieced together various sets to make them more appealing to potential buyers, I found out that the people running the sale had no knowledge of who Julie was and her reason for collecting angels.  Nor did they know that if she became aware of someone in need of food or money, she would make sure she helped with whatever she could give.  Her heart was that of what we would expect of an angel. Giving. Kindhearted.  Helpful.  Friendly. I learned all of this as I sat and listened and tried to gleen as much information about her life from the woman who was her friend.   I left at the end of the day with 24 angels for my shelf at home.  I cleaned off a space to make room and arranged them in a way that was orderly. I felt as if I had been a part of preserving the history of a stranger who I had come to know in one afternoon. I woke up today and the first thing that caught my eyes were my angels.  Because they are so detailed, it is difficult not to get caught up for awhile looking them over and realizing that before I was born, someone had crafted these treasures.  Most of what I bought was made in 1956.  As I sat gazing at them, I wondered if I should return to the sale to see what was left. This was an odd feeling for me as I have never gone to a sale four times in less than a twenty-four hour period. I don’t hardly ever go to sales in the first place.  To be honest, even GoodWill and Salvation Army stores give me the creeps somewhat as I can only think that I am buying stuff that someone died with in their hand. Like that really cheap coffee mug that reads: Have a Great Day! I cannot bring myself to buy it and then enjoy a drink from it. I had spent so much time in this woman’s house, knew of her recent death and had not felt unsettled about that at all.  The more time I spent surrounded by her angels, the more peaceful I became. We decided to visit again today to see if many more pieces had been sold.  I found a few sets still sitting out that I had arranged the day before. As she and I walked around the garage, I began to notice alot of July angels.  I pointed this out to my daughter. “I wonder if her birthday was in July,” she said. Moments later we heard a woman inside the house say, “Julie would have been so happy to see all of her collections being bought by people so they could go on being enjoyed.  Today is her birthday so this sale is just all that more special.” I could not believe my ears!  I quickly snatched up a July angel to take home to my shelf. I didn’t want to leave the sale without taking a token to honor this woman.

julyangel

Apparently, it had been a ‘coincidence’ that the sale of her beloved treasures landed on her birthday.

angelfriends

 This sale showed up in my life the day after I prayed and asked God if I could be made more aware of angels in my life. I have been reading books and different accounts of how people have encountered angels.   I long for that touch of heaven here on earth all the time.  Yet, at the same time, I am a little afraid.  I think about when the angels showed up in the field to announce the birth of Jesus.  The shepherds were scared out of their wits.  Knowing this, I asked to be shown the presence of angels in a way that was gentle and non-threatening that I could easily accept.  I believe now more than ever.

 mygirl

Even though I never met her, I will never forget Julie and her angelic friends.

Giving Me A Leg Up

I have dealt with self hatred my entire life.  I have gotten better, however, there are moments when I still criticize myself in subtle ways. While entering the store with my daughter the other day,  I noticed my reflection in the glass door. In that split second I thought, “I need to work on my legs to shape them up.” I had on a brand new tank top, shoes and a pair of shorts that I had purchased at the end of the season last year so they are fairly new. Instead of feeling good about my new clothes, I was slightly finding something wrong with myself.   It was a fleeting thought that soon was gone as we went up and down the aisles gathering my items off of my list.

As we exited, I noticed a pair of legs that appeared to belong to a woman.  She was standing near a garbage can off to the right side of where we came out.  Normally, my attention is not drawn to legs, but hers were covered with scabs from her kneecaps to her ankles.  Below her left knee she was wearing a large bandage.  From my quick glance, I could see that her wounds were dry but looked red and inflammed.  As I approached her line of sight I was telling myself,
“Don’t stare. Don’t stare.”  I put my head down as I strode past her.  My arms were full so I just pretended to be preoccupied with my bags.

“You look comfortable,” she said quietly to me. I stopped and turned to her.  Her smile was radiant.

“What?” I asked in disbelief.

“You look comfortable.”  I smiled wondering when she was going to ask me for money.  I knew where this was going.

“I do?” I asked.  I glanced down at myself and said, “Really?” She continued to smile and said again,

“Yes.  You look really comfortable in that.”

I allowed myself to look at her more closely. She was wearing a pretty sundress that came to just above her knees which clearly left her leg wounds exposed and open for all to judge and see.

“You are the one with the nice dress on,”I replied. “This is the best time of year to wear a dress in the warm weather. That looks good on you.”   She nodded and smiled.

“You just look very comfortable,” she said it again.

“Thank you,” I replied.

“Have a good day,” she said.

“You too.”

As I walked to the car, I was dumbfounded.  She had not asked me for any money, but she had given me something.  A compliment!  As my daughter and I discussed the situation I said,

“Did you see how bad her legs looked?”

“No.”

“What?!  Her legs were covered with wounds like she had leprosy.  I was trying not to stare at her before she started talking to me.  And, why did she say I looked comfortable?  I was questioning earlier if I really liked this shirt, but now I do. She actually made me feel good about myself.”

“I thought she was saying that you look comfortable in your own skin,” my daughter said.  “Like you appear confident and you like yourself.”

“HUH?”  Then it hit me. I recalled my harsh mental critique of myself when I had entered the store.

“You didn’t see her legs?”I asked again.

“No.”

“I’m going to drive around and see if she is still there.”  I pulled my car around the building and headed for the entry.  She was gone.  I drove away feeling like she had been sent to get something straightened out on the inside of me.

In the last few days I have been thinking about her smile and her words of kindess.  As I am becoming more aware of my faulty thinking, I am wondering where this all started.  When did I become conditioned to find something wrong with myself instead of finding something right?  Maybe it was demeaning words spoken to me at school as a child, a family member who picked on me or the media and its constant opinion of what is ugly or beautiful.  What do all of these things have in common?  Another person’s idea or judgment.

What trumps all of that?  The One who made me.  There is a passage in the Bible that says, “You are God’s Masterpiece.”  A Masterpiece lacks imperfection.  It is time to live in a place mentally where I let go of the negative self image that has some how made its way into my life.  The only legs I should ever judge should be the chicken legs I am about to purchase and make for dinner.  To the mystery lady who helped me see the error in my thinking, I say thank you for giving me a leg up.

chickenlegs

Setting the Captives Free

“Hey, come over by this tree.  I want you to see something.”

That was all it took for me to dart over to where my brother was standing. Being the youngest child in the family, I was always hoping for the attention of my oldest siblings. When they wanted to include me in on something, I didn’t want to miss my chance.

“Do you think I could tie you to this tree without any rope?”
“No,” I said.

He instructed me to face the tree as if I were going to hug it while he positioned my legs around the base.

“Now slide down slowly so you don’t scratch yourself and hang on with your arms wrapped around the trunk.”

I did what I was told and found myself sitting on the ground up close and personal smelling tree bark.

“Now, get up.”

I attempted to stand and found that I could not move. Somehow, he had trapped my feet under my legs. Using my arms for strength, I attempted to use the tree to pull myself up. I didn’t budge an inch.  Another family member came over and both of them laughed as I struggled. I wasn’t necessarily giving up all that easily, but I was wearing myself out with all of the exertion.

“She can’t move. Maybe we should just leave her there.” That struck a little bit of panic.

“Get me off the tree,” I said.

After what seemed a lifetime of torture, and I threatened to tell my mom, he lifted me up by my waist and put me back on my feet to stand. When I attempted to run as far from him as possible, I found that my legs were weak, so I had to settle for a limping exit.

I found out later that this was a technique used by the military to keep prisoners captive to ward off escape. Isn’t it unreal to think that a person’s own body can be used to keep him or her from moving? I believe many of us do this to ourselves all the time. We begin to feel trapped in our jobs, in our marriages and in our lives. Some of us don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe we have a staggering mountain of debt bearing down upon us and we don’t know how we are going to survive. We dwell on the problem. We tell everyone we know about the problem. Our whole focus is on the problem. And, suddenly, we have created our own snare with our thoughts and words. We have mentally chained ourselves so securely to the problem that it begins to affect every area of our lives.

If my family member would have not released me, I would have eventually become thirsty, hungry, dehydrated, and unable to live any longer. Thank goodness he didn’t do that, but this is what happens when we take an uncomfortable predictament and meditate on it day and night. We go to bed thinking about it, and before our eyes are open in the morning, we are pondering the situation. Our whole existence revolves around the trouble we have found ourselves facing, and just like I struggled over and over trying to stand up, we keep on attempting the same method without seeing any results. And, isn’t that exhausting?

Once I stopped fighting the inevitable and he saw that the entertainment was over, he came and assisted me. In the same regard, unless we allow divine intervention to rescue us, we are going to continue to be stuck in our circumstances not only physically but also mentally. The freedom that you are longing for can be had very easily if you will turn to heaven for help. And, unlike my brother, God is not amused about your trouble.

I used to think that I had to ‘qualify’ for God to hear me because He had alot of people on earth to contend with, so I didn’t want to be a bother. I really used to believe that, so I hesitated to ask for assistance. I still have a tendency to strive inwardly when I am faced with a challenge, but I am learning to reprogram myself to talk to heaven first and just say what I need and let it go.

I am finding that in order to live the ‘carefree life’, I must be willing to change the way I do things in order for peace to come in. I am often reminded of this bit of good advice: “Cast your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” A diligent effort must be made on my part not to try and stand on my own, but to allow God to lift me up and out of the mess I have found myself in. It doesn’t even matter if I created the mess, if I ask for help, it will be given.  After all, it is the job of heaven to set the captives free.

palmtree

Fears, Fretting and Finances

During the month of March, I decided to try an experiment with my beliefs about abundance and prosperity.  I have been in a few religious circles in my time and have absorbed different teachings on the subject.  I have been told that God supplies all my needs.  I have been told that He will punish me for not giving to the church enough by making me miserable in my finances through hardships such as my car breaking down, my appliances blowing up or an unexpected mishap will befall me.  Then, I was told that God loved me no matter what.  That His love was bigger than I could ever imagine.  But, there was always the but….if I didn’t serve in the church or jump through this hoop or do that thing, well, then maybe He might just not put a checkmark in my box for the go-ahead for that need I have.

I decided to put all of that teaching aside.  I made the choice to believe that God loves me like no one else can, and the good things of life can be obtained regardless of who I am.  Don’t we see that all the time?  Do you ever wonder how that greedy, selfish person came away with so much money and you wonder, why not me?  I am good.  I am not greedy. I made the determination that I was worthy of having extra money for no reason other than I am here, I am breathing, and I have needs.  If other people can have what they want out of life, then why not me?

I discovered a technique about a year ago that helps a person deal with emotions.  Sure, I have them, and so do you.  I love the happy ones, but I don’t so much like the ones that make me feel sad, angry, frustrated or depressed about myself. Aren’t those moments in life great when you say to yourself, “Gee.  I was having so much fun, I forgot to worry.  I forgot the problem even existed for just a little while.” You see, for some of us worriers, we make it our full-time job.  If we aren’t sleeping, we are thinking about how things are, how we don’t like our circumstances and all the bad things that COULD come our way if we don’t take care of this problem.  I hate to admit it, but worry has been my choice of drug for quite some time.  I didn’t come to earth with a worrisome thought, but I have picked up the habit from those around me who taught me.  I am not here to beat up those individuals because someone taught them and they passed it on to me.  So, another piece to setting myself free was to rid myself of the anxiety and fear that would rise up in me every time I thought about my money or took a peek with one eye closed at my bank account.  This was the key place for me to start.

How can I believe that I am worthy to receive money and the good things in life when I am filled up with fear and concern?  The technique I used is called “EFT” (Emotional Freedom Technique) I don’t fully remember how I stumbled on to this, but it has helped me begin to change my programming and thinking to what it should be.  The first time I watched a YouTube video and followed the instructions, I laughed my way through it.  I made sure I was in a room with the door tightly shut so that my family wouldn’t think I had gone crazy.  Without going into too much detail, EFT involves light tapping with the fingertips on various points on the face, chest and head.  It has proven to relieve not only emotional pain but physical pain for those of us who are brave enough to give it a try. I found out later that some people at a church I had been attending used tapping to help a family member quit smoking.  I had to get over the idea that somehow I was doing something ‘evil’ or that God would not approve of.  But, I was getting such good results, the guilt disappeared so I used it off and on.

It wasn’t until this past month that I began to take it seriously to begin clearing out the emotions that were not serving me.  I decided to begin working on my fear of ‘not having enough.’  I have put off buying myself small things or doing little things just because I was so afraid I would run out of money.  No matter how much money I had in my account, I felt this overwhelming panic that it would drain down to nothing, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills and take care of my responsibilities.  I made the decision to do the things I was afraid to do.

It wasn’t the typical ‘white knuckle’ experience either.  You know the one I am talking about where you are afraid of snakes or spiders so you put your bare hand into a cage and touch them while you suffer.  It wasn’t like that.  I began acknowledging that I had fear.  That’s a great place to start because a lot of us stuff down our true feelings.  I began tapping daily and saying, “Even though I have this fear of not having enough, I know that God loves me.  I know that He wants me to have enough because He has promised to meet all of My needs.  He takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servants.  His perfect love casts out all fear. ” I noticed that the panic feeling in my stomach area was slowly dimminishing.

I became more aware of where I was feeling the fear in my body and the instensity of it.  As I began doing this experiement, I had recollections of situations where I didn’t know how I was going to pay a bill or meet an obligation.  Much of this stemmed from a divorce from a few years ago where I suddenly became a single mother and had to navigate unfamiliar waters of mortgage payments and an assortment of bills. I told a counselor at the time that I felt like I had been shoved out of a plane without a parachute. I could see the ground as I was free falling, and I lived each day anticipating the crash.

While tapping one morning, a particular memory surfaced regarding the first Christmas after the divorce.  I had received a gift basket from a local church.  I sat in the living room feeling so ashamed that my life had taken this turn that I had to submit myself to receiving charity.  I didn’t see it as a blessing at the time.  I felt embarrassment in front of my two young daughters who were looking to me for answers.  My marriage that was supposed to last my lifetime was over, and I was fully responsible for the management of the household going forward. While thinking of this from the past, I found myself crying as if I were back in that moment. I began to tap on the various points and said, “I release and let this go.”  That was all I said as I cried.  Amazingly, I can think of that moment from my past now, and I don’t feel any emotions.  I got it all out of my system.

As the feelings of fear and anxiety began leaving, I found myself wanting to do the things I had told myself I couldn’t afford.  I took two road trips, ate out more than usual, bought items that I had denied myself for years, went to a toy sale and bought gifts for a family who just found out that a baby is on the way, and I purchased a gift card so a friend and her husband could have a night out for dinner.  I did all of this without the fear hanging over me like a dark shadow.  I found myself joyful, relaxed and hopeful that life wasn’t about trying not to go under.  I felt weights of worry lift off even more as I went about my life doing good not only for myself but for others around me.

Here is the really exciting part…I had money left over at the end of the month to put into my savings account.  To wake up in the morning and not have worry hit me before my eyes are open is the best part of the entire experience.  I cannot say that I am entirely free of the fretting, but I am putting into practice a new way of doing things.  I encourage you to do the same.

A book I found helpful on EFT: The Tapping Solution by Nick Ortner

A Youtube channel: Brad Yates (The guy has everything you could ask for about what ails you emotionally. He offers free tapping sessions to help clear out those things that are weighing you down.)

What to say, what to say?

A blank white page like this can be intimidating and daunting especially when you are new to the blog world.  What would people want me to write about that would hold their attention?  Time is important so I shouldn’t waste it by going on and on about nothing.  Hmmm…maybe this is where I write a little bit about myself just to get going…

My desire for writing began in elementary school.  When the teacher would announce that all students would need to write a paper, the group groan reverberated off the walls. But, not me.  One time, I recall we were expected to write a fictional story.  The instructor had sheets of paper on her desk and if we needed more for writing, we had to go and get more to continue on.  My classmates began counting out loud how many times I sprinted back and forth between my desk and hers.  While they suffered with writer’s block and lack of imagination, I effortlessly filled page after page.

I love to write for the pure joy of it.  Now you know the secret behind my blog name,and it is a reference to a Bible scripture that has meant a lot to me.  I have found that if you can get rid of thinking about what is WRONG this creates room for what is RIGHT.  More on this later…

My purpose in writing this is to make my Facebook status posts shorter, to make you laugh and to encourage those who need it.  I hope you drop in from time to time with a nice cup of coffee….or tea…Together, we can think about those things that are lovely, pure and right.                                                   (Stinky and Me)

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