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)

Golden

When I chose to homeschool, it wasn’t as popular or understood as it is now.

“How will she socialize?”

“Won’t she be different than everyone else?”

“You can do that?”

“What about college?” This one I got asked when she was in kindergarten.

There were more fear inspiring inquiries, but I pressed on, trying to listen to that inward guide telling me to put aside the voices and give her an education that was meant to be.

I countered the naysayers by seeking out groups where I ended up teaching gym classes, arranged field trips, and wrote a newsletter to create a bond between all of us who were supposedly insane for wanting to teach our kids from home. We had relatives, neighbors, and friends looking at us with skepticism as if we were corrupting the next generations.

I met families with multiple children and watched as mothers utilized fantastic parenting skills to have each child learn responsibility by assigning the older ones to help out with the younger. We all had a common goal to see our kids learn but also be able to grow into their true selves

I signed my oldest daughter up for an ice skating class that was described for those who were home-educated. When we arrived, she ended up being the only student.

“We usually have more sign up, but I am willing to work one-on-one with her.”

So instead of a group class, my daughter was given private lessons.

Her first attempts were brutal. She fell over and over. But the teacher would pick her up and have her try again. It looked like a mess from where I was watching. And painful.

At the end of the first session, she said,

“She is a great skater with a lot of natural ability.”

That was the exact opposite of what I saw, so I thought maybe she was being nice.

“Go and get her a new pair of skates. What she is wearing is the problem. They aren’t supportive enough. With the right ones, she will fly on the ice.”

She wrote down the name and address where I could find her some.

We drove to the location, and I was able to rent her a pair. At her next class, she laced up and did as the teacher had said. She stumbled only slightly and stayed upright. The boots gave her the ankle support she needed to keep her from meeting the ice face first.

“Did you see the difference? She will move up on skills very quickly.”

She did, and by spring, I enrolled her in a nightly class where the same teacher was in charge of a group. The application of various techniques came easy for her. As I watched over the years from the stands, I saw her perform moves I never thought possible.

The night I saw the instructor do a single axle and then looked at her to repeat it, I thought…no way! I wasn’t sure if I wanted to see her feet leave the ground. It was one of those moments where you want to close your eyes but can’t because then you will miss it.

She did it perfectly.

Every year she performed in a show, similar to a dance recital. And while she was taking the ice by storm, I had a four-year-old who suddenly started dancing across the room.

I decided to enroll her in a preschool dance class. They learned simple steps by walking on their tiptoes, pushing small grocery carts, and leaping over strategically placed carpet squares. After a few sessions, I was approached by her teacher and was asked if she could go professional. At four?

“She’s got something the others don’t. Just think about it.”

All the kids got stage fright at the dance recital but not her. It ended up they all crowded around her and followed her steps. The teacher was right about what she had told me.

I considered the offer until I saw the next group of girls perform. They were in their young teens, if not preteen, and danced in a way that to me was not how I wanted my daughter to in her future. The outfits were revealing and the music sexually explicit. I knew as I watched, this wasn’t going to be her world.

The following fall, I had her go to a dance school that emphasized modesty and worked diligently on skills. It seemed to be a holistic approach to the art versus students throwing their bodies at the audience.

She thrived with other home-educated kids. And just like her sister, taking the stage caused her to act calmer. I could never fathom having to dance or skate in front of an audience. But not those two. They suddenly lost all fear and became so immersed in what they were doing that it looked effortless.

“She is so mean!” My daughter said, getting into the car after class.

“Who?”

“Maggie. She sticks out her tongue at me and glares. She’s mean!”

I had never heard her talk about anyone like that before. The following week, I figured out why this child was not so pleasant.

I was in the waiting room and overheard Maggie’s mom berating her.

“You are so stupid, Maggie. Get your stuff and get into class.” I observed a highly aggressive mom who verbally took shots at her daughter. She never said a kind word to her. I tried to start a conversation with her to see if I could uncover an underlying problem to help, but she was just as abrupt with me as her daughter.

I spoke with the teacher in private to clue her in on what I had witnessed. Not to gossip, but to see if someone else could develop a solution.

Nothing seemed to be working.

Christmas was coming, and a note was sent home that the kids could bring small gifts for everyone. My daughter chose to do gift bags. One of the things that she was giving was pencils that were glitter encased. We got a twelve-pack since there were eleven girls. This meant she could have one too.

To a seven-year-old girl, anything that sparkles makes life better. There were various colors but only one gold and one silver.

“Which one is yours?” I asked.

“I really want the gold one, but I’m giving it to Maggie,” she said as she put items together.

“You are? Even though she has been so terrible to you?”

“Yes. Her mom isn’t good to her, so maybe if someone is nice, she will change.”

This was beyond even what some adults were capable of.

She handed out the bags and noticed going forward that it helped her interactions with Maggie somewhat. Sadly, you can’t always undo years of damage with only one act of kindness. In time, Maggie returned to her old ways, but my daughter would smile back at her instead of getting upset.

That spring, for the dance recital, one of the costumes was a red leotard that had a matching feather that I had to clip into her hair. Before the performance, I saw Maggie and her mom snarling at each other. While I peacefully worked on my daughter’s outfit, those two had an awkward barking session in the corner. I never saw them enjoy each other’s company.

As the class was in the middle of their routine, Maggie’s feather broke free and started floating above her head. The kids had been drilled with the idea that nothing should stop them. If the music quit, they were to keep going. If a wardrobe malfunction happened, they were to solider on.

And they did, except for Maggie. She got distracted and chased her red feather across the stage. She batted at it, which only created more of a draft, sending it up higher, out of her reach more.

I heard the laughter begin and ripple through the audience. To those who didn’t know the situation, it was funny. It made me feel sad because this was just one more thing for Maggie to feel like a failure.

The song ended, and it floated to the ground next to a stressed-out Maggie.

Backstage as we picked up to leave, I heard,

“Just go get in the car, Maggie!”

And I saw her dejectedly go down the hall with her mom racing ahead of her.

That’s the last time I saw them.

This was a moment where my young daughter learned that there would be times when you can’t save everyone from their problems. Even though she tried to be compassionate toward Maggie, it went seemingly unnoticed. She was spending more time in a hostile environment, so my daughter’s actions weren’t enough to offset that. It was only a temporary fix for a short time once a week. Then, Maggie would go back to what was familiar, and even though it was destructive, it probably felt safe, so she didn’t know there was better.

“You tried,” was all I could think of to say. “And God knows that.”

Sometimes you have to be okay with that kind of result.

I am hoping that this girl and her mom had a divine intervention somewhere along the way. What a terrible pattern to keep repeating in a family line.

My daughter’s small attempt to disrupt it could have been a catalyst for change. You never know what God can do later when you aren’t looking. In Luke 6:35 it says,

I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. (NIV)

It’s like learning how to skate without the proper footwear; you fall and don’t want to get up, it hurts, but when you let God take over, you suddenly can glide along even with someone you are at odds with and they can be considered a frenemy.

It’s always good to apply the rule that is universal: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. With that, you will be golden.

Time After Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Chris, I can hear you!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where did this come from?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “What is it?”

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lady came to the register.

“How can I help you?”

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

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

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

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

“Did you drop this?”

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

She popped open the back and removed the batteries.

“These look cheap.”

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

Her icy expression continued.

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

We said we did.

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

Where was she coming up with this story? No one had dropped or mishandled the clock.

“That never happened,” I said.

She sighed and shook her head condescendingly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We have done nothing wrong,” I said.

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

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

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

“I am going to get your yes.”

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

“God, help!”

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

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

In a few days, I got a response.

“Who is Eugene?”

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

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

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

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

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.

The Magical Jar

One evening three years ago, while living in Arizona, I was talking to my youngest daughter about the cookie jar that used to sit on my Grandma Hazel’s counter. With my eyes closed, I could vividly see the tiny kitchen where she had spent so much time baking and cooking.

“Her cookie jar had a pink heart on it and was covered with cutout cookies,” I said.

“Like this?” she asked showing me a picture that she had googled.

“That’s exactly it! Where did you find it?”

“I looked it up under ‘cookies all over cookie jar’.”

We went on to read that it had been manufactured in the 1950s by a Japanese company named Napco and given away as a premium gift. Back then, if a housewife saved up enough stamps from purchasing certain items, she could buy a gift for free. Most of the jars for sale on Ebay were either damaged or too highly priced.

I kept looking online once in awhile as the idea would come and go. Last year, during the early summer, I began to think of it again and searched for something that would be affordable and in good shape. As I looked at various pictures by sellers, I was transported back to her house and the days when I would come in from swimming in the community pool that was across the alley. We always took advantage of a swim as she didn’t have air conditioning in her old house. North Dakota summers can get extremely hot especially in July so a soak in cold water could keep a kid cooled off for awhile.

I was usually greeted on her back porch with a glass full of cherry kool-aid and peanut butter cookies from the jar on the counter. It seemed as if that jar never was empty even though we ate one cookie after another. It was as if by magic it refilled itself.

During the time she was moved from her home into assisted living, items were auctioned off, and I regrettably did not ask for it as a keepsake. My hunt to own one was slightly marred by the fact that it wouldn’t be the original from my grandma’s house, but at least I could have the good memories to go with it.

One night about a week before my birthday last year, I began my search again in earnest. I thought it would be special to have it as a gift, but my pursuit was coming up short. Exasperated, I looked up to heaven and said,

“Grandma, if you want me to have this cookie jar, then bring it to me!” I closed my eyes and saw myself standing in her kitchen next to the cookie jar on the counter. In my imagination, picked it up and held it in my hands.

Before clicking out the light, I did one last search. Up popped a seller in Mesa, Arizona. I was surprised because moments before, it had not been there at all. The next day, I passed on the information to my best friend who has relatives in that area. After a few attempts on his part to contact the seller, we thought it had been sold because she wasn’t returning his calls.

I made the decision to drop the idea. If I was to have it, I would. I was not going to struggle anymore to get it. My birthday came and went without the jar in my possession, but I had completely put it out of my mind. In October, I drove to the airport to pick up my friend from his short stay in Arizona. When we arrived at his house, he got out of his car and said,

“I have something for you in the trunk.” I knew he had gone to the massive flea market that they have in Mesa so I said,

“Did you get me some of those really good scrubber things for dishes? Mine are getting old.”

He opened his trunk, pulled out a carry on bag and unzipped it. From where I stood, I just saw a bunch of his socks. My first thought was that some laundry needed to be done. I was shocked when he pulled out the possession I had been so desperately seeking.

“Happy Birthday,” he said handing it to me.

I could not comprehend that I was actually holding it in my hands with the matching lid that has a walnut on top. He had gotten in touch with the woman in Arizona who hadn’t returned his calls.

“She had this in a box labeled ‘Grandma’ and she told me that no one wanted it.” A coincidence that it had that label? I think not.

It was long past my July birthday, but the gift came at just the right time. My mom had been admitted to the hospital a few days earlier with complications due to a severe case of shingles. I had been running back and forth to visit her multiple times, and getting little to no sleep. As I had sat by her bedside watching her rest, I had often thought of my grandma and how she and my mom had kept in touch while living so far apart. They had written letters back and forth to each other over many years until her death. I felt her presence so strongly as I sat during the quiet times in my mom’s room.

Every morning I wake up, look across my bedroom and see the jar sitting on my shelf. (I am that protective of it..it will never be near the kitchen.) And I often wonder, where did the desire come from to track this down? Was it my own or did someone who dearly loves me from the other side want me to remember those hot, happy summers that we spent with one another? To some it would be an antique, and to others it would be perhaps an ugly piece of ceramic. But, to me, it is Grandma’s magical jar.

cookiejar

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