Going Out With a Bang

He pulled into my grandparent’s driveway and sighed in relief. He had packed up the three kids and made the 500 mile drive much more cautiously this time. He had checked his speed, looked to make sure there were no cars following too close and fastened up his seat belt.

The cause of his anxiety was that the night before he had a nightmare from which he had awakened in a shivering sweat. The content was that he had died. He could not recall how his demise had come but only that he had not survived. With that image still in mind, he was determined to play it safe in the car without mentioning it to anyone. He thought it was either a warning to watch his driving, or it was just an overactive imagination. Either way, he wasn’t taking his chances.

My mom, who was pregnant with me at the time, could not accompany him on the trip to see her parents. The doctor had put her on bed rest as she was in her late thirties expecting her sixth child. My two brothers stayed behind to make sure she was attended to while my dad took my two sisters and my brother along with him.

Once he had parked the car he thought he was in the clear, and the dream from the night before was forgotten.

On the Fourth of July, my dad, my grandpa and the three kids went out to my grandparents lake home. My dad spent what little spare time he had building model airplanes on the weekends, and he had brought one along to fly in the open fields. He positioned himself purposely away from any power lines and began flight. The plane began to have some sort of engine trouble. Once he remedied the problem, he set about to give it another try. Without realizing it, he had placed himself into the path of danger.  Off the aircraft went again and suddenly looped itself around one of the voltage lines.

In a flash, he was knocked off his feet to the ground by 69,000 volts.  Because wireless technology didn’t exist back then, the wire connecting the hand held remote to the airplane was the conduit for power to surge through his body from the overhead lines. Even though the power had been knocked out, he was still surrounded by a highly dangerous field of electricity. No bystanders could go near him or suffer the same fate he had.  Clinically, he was considered dead.

Because he had fallen backwards, the remote happened to land upon his chest right by his heart.  Within minutes, another 69,000 jolt was sent his way as a circuit breaker was activated to restore the power line that had been interrupted.  This time, the thin wire burned away, but the second surge of power had restarted his heart much like a modern day defibrillator. My grandpa, who had been standing by not being able to administer CPR while my dad was still connected to the source of electricity, was able to check his pulse and begin artificial breathing.

My sister, who was 12 at the time, was ordered to go get help while all of this was going on.  She has said that this was the day she decided to become a nurse because she never wanted to be in an emergency situation again and feel helpless.  At the time of this writing, she is still a very knowledgeable and compassionate RN.

Miraculously, he began to breathe on his own but was transported to the town hospital for inspection.  He had multiple burns on his body with tiny grass blade holes in his shoes.  Without any further complications, he walked back to my grandma’s house the next day looking no worse for the wear.

One of the things that he kept seeing in his mind, however, was the imprint of his body scorched into the grass at the cabin.  Apparently, it took many years for the outline to disappear.  A reminder that he almost left the earth that day.

When he returned home, he had some tough days where he questioned why he had lived, and many times suffered through bouts of depression.  He never said he saw a light or had the usual near death experience.

Norman Vincent Peale was popular at the time, so he immersed himself in his writings and prayed for guidance and comfort daily.  Little by little, he began to relax back into his normal life.  Jokingly he said to me, “God didn’t want me and neither did the devil, so I came back.”

How different my life would have been if he had not survived.  I would have been born without a dad into a family of five kids.  What would my mother’s life been like?  It would have impacted us all in a way that we never had to experience. Instead, he lived on to hit his 85th birthday this past March and continues forging ahead to the next milestone.

His survival tells me that life can change very quickly when we least expect it.  And, I am called to live it to the fullest every day.  I am not to live in fear of my life being cut short or a trauma coming upon me. I am here for a purpose.  We all are. It’s more than just paying bills, worrying about how we can or cannot afford a material thing or if our kids are going to turn out okay.  With God on our side, we can do all things with strength. If He can raise a man from the dead, how much more can He do for you?

God doesn’t want me to come back to Him accomplishing nothing.  Kind of like that firecracker you light and nothing happens.  The dud.  The dreaded dud that no one likes.  You have these high expectations for some sort of sizzle and pop, so you run away expecting something great and nothing happens. That is not our destiny.  We are meant to be here so others take notice, come to us for that ‘power surge’ that only comes from Our Creator that gives unlimited peace and joy no matter what.  I want my life to be a shining bright light for those who feel like they are alone.  For the one who needs his or her head lifted and tears wiped away with laughter.

I don’t know about you, but I am not satisfied with just a little fizzle.  I am going out with a bang!

 

(actual excerpt from the newspaper)

 

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Back On My Own Two Feet

I found myself lying face down on the ground thrashing from side to side in an attempt to escape the pain. As seconds slid by, the fire in my knee grew hotter. I felt a guy jump on my back and yell into my left ear,

“Don’t move! You have probably hurt your ACL. If you move, you will injure it more.”

I screamed into the sand and didn’t care that my whole mouth and face was encased in it. He pinned me down in an attempt to save me from further damage. I tried to fight him off but I couldn’t.

“Don’t move!” he shouted.

At that moment, I wanted to leave my body. In my mind I pictured a cartoon character running so fast that he left his body to escape whatever was chasing him. That is what I wanted. I longed to separate myself from the agony.

“Someone call an ambulance,” he shouted as he continued to hold me in place. “It will be okay. Just don’t move. I did the same thing to myself once, and I caused myself more injury by not being still.”

I listened to what he had to say, but I continued to wail so loudly that the neighboring town probably could hear me. I closed my eyes as I felt many hands cover my back.

As luck would have it, I was at a church picnic where those in attendance believed in prayer. I heard murmurings of my name as those who surrounded me were asking God for help.  In the middle of a volleyball sandpit, God showed up.

I cannot fully put into words what I experienced next, but I found myself floating above the scene. I saw the people around me, and I felt peaceful. I saw a man who looked very much like I imagined Jesus to resemble walk through the crowd and put his hand on my forehead. I heard this,

“If you just keep looking at me, you won’t feel any pain. If you forgive the person who did this to you, you will be healed quickly.”

When I opened my eyes, I felt the misery return so I kept shutting them and watching from another place. I began to whisper,

“I forgive. I forgive. I forgive.” No one heard me, but I wanted to follow the instructions that I was being given. I was suddenly realizing that I had two small girls to take care of, and I didn’t have time for being injured. One of the two was to start second grade at home in less than a month.

By the time the medical personnel arrived, I was much calmer but still had pain. They loaded me up and injected a large dose of morphine into my system. My knee was swollen to twice its size, and I did not dare to move it one inch due to an onslaught of torture that would follow. I just kept repeating,

“I forgive, God. I forgive.”

The x-rays at the hospital revealed no fractures so I was sent home with orders to see an orthopedic surgeon the next day.

The following morning, after throwing up most of the night from the medication I was supposed to take, I woke up in the same clothes from the day before with mounds of sand in my bed. As my two little girls sat near me, I kept repeating in my mind,

“I forgive. I am doing what you said. I forgive. I want to be healed fast.”

Once in the doctor’s office that day, he twisted and turned my leg to the point of me wanting to pass out.

“Well, from this initial exam, I think you have either torn, ripped or strained your ACL.” He went on to explain that this was something only an MRI could completely determine.

“Even if you have the slightest tear, we will have to do surgery. If we leave it like it is, you will never run normal again. You will always have the possibility of falling or your leg catching mid-stride. It feels like you have at least torn it. So, prepare yourself mentally for surgery and at least a six week recovery.”

I felt tears well up in my eyes. I could not be laid up for that long. I had two kids counting on me.

“Let’s get you scheduled for that MRI.”

A few days later I went back for the procedure. I was not able to see the physician for a follow up for another two weeks as his schedule was booked and he was on vacation.

In the meantime, a friend of mine gave me a magnet infused pad to wrap around my knee.  It was supposed to help bring blood flow to areas that were swollen.

Every morning I woke up with my injured leg shaking and quivering beyond my ability to control it. There was no pain associated with that, but it felt like it was being strengthened from the inside out. And, I kept saying,

“I forgive. I forgive.”

It got to the point where I didn’t have to say it anymore. I just focused all of my attention on getting better. I didn’t have time to hold a grudge or be angry at the person who had caused this. My thoughts were on my well being and not dwelling on the past. I was looking forward to a future where I had two functioning legs.

By the time I saw the doctor again I was slightly limping with little to no pain.

When he walked into the room, he said,

“Could you get up, please, and show me how you are walking like that?”

“Sure,” I said. “It has gotten much better since we last saw each other. I don’t even need my crutches anymore.”

I walked briskly around the room with just a small hitch.

“Does that hurt?”

“Not really.”

“Come on back and sit down. Let’s look at your MRI results.”

“I must have only strained my ACL instead of tearing it or ripping it in half like you said. I feel almost back to normal.”

“You ripped your ligament in half. Medically speaking, you don’t have one.  You shouldn’t be walking like that.”

“What?”

“I have never seen anything like this. Most patients with an MRI that looks like this get scheduled for surgery and are in a lot of pain and not walking around like that.”

I smiled and said,

“I know a good friend in a high place.”

“I guess you do because this is not usual.  I am going to order six weeks of physical therapy to strengthen that leg.  We will see how you progress because like I said before, you don’t want to spend your life not being able to use that leg fully, especially if you want to be active and run with your kids.”

He had me walk around the room one more time before I left, and he smiled and shook his head in disbelief.

I spent the next three weeks faithfully attending physical therapy at a hospital near my house.  The therapist was astonished when she looked at my MRI and then saw what I was able to do.

“I know the doctor ordered six weeks of this, but you are at your maximum right now.  I don’t have any further exercises to give you to strengthen that leg.  In fact, you are lifting a heavier weight with that leg than your good one.”  She called over her fellow therapists to show them my great strength and then showed them the MRI result.

“That’s not hers!” one of them said.

“Yes it is.”

“How is that possible?”

I knew how it was possible.  And, it became more of a reality the first time I sprinted across the room with one of my daughters without any side effects.

Recently, I had a person tell me that you don’t have to forgive someone if they don’t say they are sorry or ask for forgiveness.  He quoted a scripture that said that if the person repents, then you forgive them.  Otherwise, you do not have to forgive.

I would have bought his explanation had I not gone through the experience I did.  You see, the letting go of the cause of the incident made way in my heart for God to come in like a flood and heal me.  I got on the same page as heaven and allowed nothing to block the supernatural from assisting me.  Had I hung on to bitterness or anger, I may have hindered my quick progress with my negative emotions.

The other day while I was running three miles on my treadmill, my mind was taken back to this miraculous event.  To this very day, I am grateful that I listened to that still small voice tell me to forgive so that I could get back on my own two feet.

treadmill

Adapt

Last year right after Christmas, my local hardware store had a clearance on all of their seasonal products. I had been admiring all the candy canes glowing in backyards as I drove around, so I went in and purchased some for the following year. I put them in the closet thinking it would be a long time before I would ever even get to use them until suddenly it was November and unseasonably warm. Because I have struggled to put up lights in frigid bone chilling weather before, I decided to string them up while the weather was still decent.

After examining the instructions which basically showed a small stake being inserted into the bottom of the cane, I got to the task of unwrapping them, pulling off sticky adhesive and plugging them in to one another on the kitchen floor. For good measure I tested them to make sure they lit up, and I was pretty proud of myself when I lined them up in the yard across the front of the house like soldiers in perfect formation.

Amazed at the ease of all of this, I grabbed an extension cord from the garage with much enthusiasm to see my handiwork. When I tried to connect the two, they didn’t fit. I proceeded to dig up every single cord I could find to no avail. Nothing I had was working. Suddenly, my excitement was dying.

“I have to go the hardware store,” I told my daughter.

She knows full well my dislike for not having things work right, and on top of it, I had to go into a store that I consider more for those who like to get their hands dirty.

I brought a cane with me, and upon entering, a young teenage boy asked if he could help me. I explained my story, and with a frown he said,

“We have extension cords over in this aisle.”

He tried the black one, the green one, the brown one and the orange with no luck.

A woman who worked in the store joined him in his pursuit. Another young male crammed into the aisle as we all tried to find the right connection.  The store was empty so this was the height of excitement for them.  We all were coming up empty handed.

“This plug needs an older model,” the woman said.

“I just bought this in the store last year.”

“I know, but they change things all the time. I don’t know if we are going to have anything for this to work.”

My hopes were plummeting as she and the boys were getting nowhere.

“Jerry, can you come to aisle 4 please?” she said into her device. “I am having the store manager come over. He usually knows what to do.”

A tall dark haired man joined us in our quest to figure out an answer. I was reminded of an old joke:

How many people does it take…..to find an extension cord?

He frowned, he looked up and down the shelves and said, ‘no, nope, no’ as he went along.

I was starting to feel hot in my jacket not just from the warmth of the store but from the stupidity of what was happening. Not aimed at the help I was receiving but in regard to the situation of having something brand new, never used, and with the prospect of it already being out of date.

I peered around a corner and saw that the store was selling the exact plastic product that I had purchased on clearance.

“You are selling these right now, so how are people going to set these up?” I asked him.

“You are the first person to come in here with this problem,” the lady said to me as if this was something to be proud of.

Wonderful news, I thought.

As I followed behind Jerry to another aisle, I whispered to my daughter,

“There has to be a solution to this!”

That is when I said inwardly,

God, I need this fixed right now! I expect an answer to this problem.  There must be something that can make this to work.

Suddenly, the man stopped in front of me, went back to the aisle we had just left, and stood there for a second.  I saw his head jerk as if someone had slapped him.

“OH! Why didn’t I think of this sooner?”

He reached up and plucked down a large orange object that had many different outlets around it.

“This should help,” he said.  With ease the two fit like they were made for one another.

I was able to go home, use this device and stand back and admire the beautiful lights that would not have been possible without getting something new to make them work.

With the fast paced world we live in, we often want to make the ‘old’ fit when times are calling to let in the ‘new.’

Change is inevitable even though some of us want to ignore it or fight it.

There are times when we don’t have a choice.  Divorce papers are handed over or a death comes unexpectedly.  How do we cope when a large gaping hole suddenly comes and brings despair?

The only thing I have found to work in all situations is prayer whether the change is a good one by my choosing or it is seemingly out of my control.

In Psalm 91:14-15 we are given this great assurance:

14 For the Lord says, “Because he loves me, I will rescue him; I will make him great because he trusts in my name. 15 When he calls on me, I will answer; I will be with him in trouble and rescue him and honor him. (TLB)

The only requirement mentioned is that you love God, and like a good Father, He will help out his children.

As we go along into the next year with unknown situations ahead of us, the most uplifting thing we can cling to is that we can call on our Creator who will not abandon us but will comfort us in our times of sorrow, will guide us in the right direction and will hold our hand when we need to adapt.

cane

Trouble Is Brewing

The aroma of coffee beans permeated my hair and clothing the second I walked in the door. Like a warm, friendly hug it engulfed me. The tables were loaded with drinkers of all sorts sipping on frothy concoctions that were worth every inflated dime. I saw my good friend standing by the counter eyeing her choices on the board.  She was having a hard time deciding what she wanted because this wasn’t her usual drive thru order.  This was a legitimate experience that required more from her than just saying,

“I will take the number 1.”

No, this was a face to face encounter with another human being versus hanging out the car window yelling into a box.  A treat this great comes with much contemplation.

“I love coffee. I love it,”  she said as I watched her eyes scan the board.

“What are you having?” she asked.

“I am having a medium iced peach black tea with a shot of raspberry.”

“That sounds good.  But, I love coffee. ”

After much travail, in which I thought she was going to opt for a fancy whipped up drink on steroids, she said,

“Coffee.  Black.   With a little cream.”

I think she went back and forth on the cream, but I was preoccupied getting out my card to pay.

Both of us were ecstatic to be meeting not only because we hadn’t seen each other for awhile but because it was free time.  No responsibilities and pure freedom.

It wasn’t difficult to find ourselves quickly wrapped up in discussions over writing, talking about God, and how our lives were progressing.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman enter the shop. It was one of those subtle things that happen but you don’t really recall the details of it until later.

We continued to talk, and she began telling me a story from her childhood.  Usually most of our time together is spent telling our true life stories.  Some funny, some sad, but we always leave each other feeling better just for having been together for a little while.

I was slightly aware that the woman who had come in was going table to table and talking to the patrons.  I was listening to my friend speak, but I was somewhat distracted as I watched people get out their wallets and go into their purses and hand her cash.

As she made her way closer to us, I didn’t give my friend any indication that I was overhearing or seeing what was going on around us.  My mind and eyes went from the thief making her way to our side of the room to trying to stay focused on what was being said.

I watched stealthily as she hit on a couple next to us.  Again, I made no mention of this to my friend who continued on talking.

When she sidled up to us, I kept my eyes locked straight ahead.  I refused to give her eye contact.

“I need gas money,” she barked.

She was glaring at my friend who responded by gulping and grabbing her purse to rummage for loose change.

I moved my head in slow motion so I could take in her attire. Her attitude was in full broadcast.

“I ran out of gas.  I need gas for my car.”

I saw her lick her lips as my friend handed over cash just like all the other people had done.

She turned to look at me.

“You don’t have cash?  You don’t have anything to give me?” Her annoyance was running high because I hadn’t moved into action to do her bidding.

I felt like I was in a school play yard and the class bully was attempting to take my lunch money. There was no humility or even a ‘please’.  Her approach was aggressive and intimidating.

I looked at my wide eyed friend who had conformed, and I saw the unspoken pleading for me to hand over what was being demanded.

“What color is your car?”  I asked.

She took a slight step back.

“What?” she asked with a sneer.

“I asked you the color of your car.”

“Ah-Ah-Ah-Bl, I mean red,” she snapped.

“What type of car is it?” I said immediately trying to limit her time to think.  Most people are able to say the color and make of their car without much thought.

“Ah- Ah-Ah-What difference does this make?” she snarled.

“What type of car do you drive?” I repeated not blinking.

“I uh, drive a red Pontiac.”

“Where are you stranded?  What are you going to use to put the gas into?  You don’t have a container.”

“I am going to buy a gas can!  Are you going to give me money or not?!”

“There are no stores around here to buy a gas can from.”

As she continued to retreat, her voice was becoming so loud that conversations ceased as we went back and forth.  My questions were making her lies come to light.

“Before I give you money, I am actually trying to help you solve your problem.  I don’t know how you are going to put gas in your car without having something to put it in.”

Realizing that I was exposing her to all those who had just believed her sob story, she shouted,

“I don’t need your money!”

Then, she looked at my friend and screeched,

“Thank YOU for helping me!”

Like that was supposed to make me feel embarrassed in public for not helping.  She ran as quickly as she could out the door and that ended her shift working the room.

When I turned back to my friend, she was shaking her head in disbelief and the couple at the table next to us began to argue.

“Why did you give that lady any money?”  he asked.

“Because she said she was out of gas!”

“She was lying! Why did you listen to her?!  You gave her a lot of money!”

“How was I supposed to know she wasn’t telling the truth?”

They had overheard my entire interaction with the petty criminal and realized they had been scammed.

“So many things get triggered when someone talks to me like that,” my friend said.  “I have had experiences in my past where people have bullied me so I just give them what they want so they will go away.  That is why I gave her the money.”  I could tell she felt bad about her decision now that the dust had settled.

“She was pretty intimidating, so I could see why you did what she wanted you to do.”

I sat for a moment and thought back over the entire exchange.  From the time she walked in the door, I knew that something was not legitimate about the lady.  That still, small voice inside of me was saying: Don’t do what she says.  The line of questioning I put her under was not preplanned and happened spontaneously.

It was similar to breathing. I don’t consider where my next breath is coming from.  It just shows up.

To live like this is the ultimate way to peace because it takes the dilemma out of things.  I like to help people who are in need, but I do not like to assist those who are ripping off the public.  Her yelling at me as if I was a cold hearted individual not willing to help was meant to humiliate me, and I have to say for a couple seconds she did make me feel like a low life. However, I had uncovered so many falsehoods in her story, I was easily able to shake off that notion of myself.

In this day and age of media, we are being told what to believe and how to believe it in the hopes that we will make our decisions based on what we see with our physical eyes and hear with our ears.

Proverbs 20:12 says,

“Ears to hear, and eyes to see-both are gifts from the Lord.” (NLT)

To embrace this wise saying means a wonderful thing.  We all have a powerful second set of senses connected to the spiritual realm that if utilized will help us separate the authentic from fabrications.

We know that God loves us, and we know that prayer helps to lead us on the right path when we have a decision to make.  The combination of that unfailing help of heaven and being willing to take a minute or two to quiet down and wait for an answer to come can make all the difference in the world.  Many times we are blinded by the raging noise from our televisions and radio.  We listen to all the voices telling us what to do instead of going inward and having the honest answer surface.

I didn’t have time to sit and ponder my decision as this person made her way over to our table that day.  However, I had been regularly practicing the quieting of my mind when faced with options to choose from.   With that in operation, I was able to easily identify the truth from fiction.  According to the verse above, we can tap into that supernatural vision and allow God to work on our behalf when trouble is brewing.

 

coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acting Squirrelly

Thud! Splash!
With spatula in hand, I turned toward the pool area to listen for any further sounds. There was no flapping of wings or familiar noises that a duck would make. There was no scurrying of feet or barking to indicate that one of my dogs had decided to go for a swim. So, what had just landed?

I closed the lid on the grill and cautiously walked up the stairs to look over the fence. I saw a small head frantically trying to stay above water as it paddled to get out of the deep end. For months the structure had sat uncovered collecting melting snow, rain water and every leaf that blew in. The shallow part had no water, so this unfortunate creature had found itself in a cesspool of unattended crud.

From my vantage point, I could not tell what it was. At first glance, it appeared to be an otter, however, that idea faded when I saw the small animal finally reach dry land and flop down.

“Oh, no!” I said to no one. “It’s a baby squirrel!”

In all the years of owning it, nothing like this had ever happened. I called out for my daughter and we determined that I would have to net and release it into the yard.  As I walked to the shed to retrieve what I needed for the job, she said,

“Mom! There is another one in there!”

“No! No! No!” was my mantra as I rushed back hoping she was wrong.

She wasn’t.

While the one panted in a heap after its Olympic medal swim, another was leaning up against the side of the pool looking rather dejected as if all of its attempts to escape had been depleted.

I talked non-stop in sentences that made absolute no sense as I tried to extend the pole to try to keep the animal as far from me as possible on the off chance that I was able to capture it.

I pretended to casually remove leaves as I slowly edged closer to the one that was fighting exhaustion.  Just as I was closing in, he took off back into the water with one leap.

“I am trying to help you!” I reasoned.

Finally, I was able to get him into the net while he chattered and bared his teeth.  I had visions of dirty fangs dripping with rabies biting into my hands as I hauled the screaming furball over the fence and into the yard. With a quick shake, he was slightly airborne, hit the ground running and scampered half way up the tree. He turned to stare me down.

“I can’t do this again,” I said looking at the other frightened little one.

As I pondered how to remove the next one, a terrible smell surrounded me. I looked down into the black water and realized what was going on.  A few days prior, and from a longer distance away, I had noticed what I thought were two large leaves floating near the surface.  Now on closer examination I could see two bushy tails bobbing along.

“Oh no!  Please no!”

“What?” my daughter said.

“I think those are the parents!”

I ran to get a large trash bin with a garbage bag inside.

“I can’t do this!” I shrieked as I reluctantly put my net back in the water.  Bringing it up, I had unearthed a bloated adult squirrel that I quickly disposed of.

“Aw!  Yuck! Some of the water splashed on my legs!  I need an entire hot soapy shower!”  I had lost my ability to talk quietly.  The yelling at the top of my lungs was coming naturally as a way to release my disgust as this horror show was playing itself out.

Quickly, I retrieved the second one and then turned my attention to the living.  With all my verbal outbursts, I had only scared him more.

“Okay,  little guy. This will be over really quick if you just cooperate.”

Of course, he took off like his brother, but the three other rescues had made my net handling skills sharper.  In no time, he was flying up the nearest tree to recuperate from his harrowing backyard adventure.

For the remainder of the evening, I kept checking to see if all was well.  I ended up getting a snow shovel and moved one of the two to the front yard.  He obviously was in some sort of shock. It clung to the earth with its claws as I hefted him gently out of harm’s way. By dark, both had left, and I thought that was the end of it.

A few days later, I heard another splash.  Looking over the fence, I could see another one swimming rapidly. This was followed up by more of the same water fighting, snarling teeth and screeching by me and the baby squirrel before I got him to safety.

This time, he ran as far away as he possibly could.  I wasn’t sure if it was one of the original two I had saved, but my initial thought was that maybe he had to come back to see if his parents really were no longer living.

Why would it revisit a place that had brought it so much pain and agony?  As I stood there, I began to wonder why I do that sometimes.  How many times do I go back mentally to some horrible situation and relive what was said or done to me that was traumatic?  Why is it so easy to let myself go there instead of staying in the present moment and let bygones be bygones?  Why can’t I just let the dead things of former days go?

When I have found myself in the throes of an old memory that is dredging up emotions that I thought I had gotten past, God is always holding out the net saying, “I am trying to help you!  Get out of the muck!”  And, like the helpless animal, I have snarled, resisted and made my own self miserable when I didn’t have to.

In Isaiah 43: 18 it says: Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. (AMP)

Why not?  Why is it not good to continually go back over and dwell on those mistakes and negative issues from a former time?

Because of Isaiah 43:19: Listen carefully!  I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth.  Will you not be aware of it? (AMP)

If I am so preoccupied with what has happened to me before, I will not be able to focus on what I want to happen to me now.  If I let my past take up all of my thinking today, then that leaves no room for a new and good thing to take its place tomorrow.  I have found that to stop myself from unnecessarily going back in time, I must stay on top of my thoughts and allow myself only to dwell on things that will advance me forward into living a better life. Being fully aware that God is with me as a constant companion also restores my peace.  I can pray, release and let go of those things that have caused me pain and not fall into the trap of acting squirrelly.

squirrel

 

 

The Right Road

“I think dad has something for you outside,” she said.

“What is it?” I asked.

“You better go see.”

She walked with me to the shed that was at the back of the garage. At first, I didn’t see it until he began to push it toward me.

“This is your bike.”  It was much bigger than my other one that had training wheels.

It was a beauty painted a bright lime green with a flowered banana seat to match and handlebars that were designed to make it look like a motorcycle. I jumped on it so he could adjust it to my height.

“Let’s give it a try,”he said.

This was the first time I was to ride without the help of two extra small wheels. I had reached the age of liberation, and I was thrilled.

When I started to walk toward the driveway with it, he redirected me by saying,

“Not that way. We have to go through the backyard and go on Norway.”

This was how I became introduced to the fact that I was banned from riding freely on the street in front of our house. It had something to do with it being the 1970’s, having the neighborhood filled with teen drivers galore and people zooming so fast that the living room floor vibrated when they roared by.

My mother was adamant that I not put one toe toward that direction for fear of my safety. The route behind our house never had a single vehicle ever drive on it, so she knew I wouldn’t get run over while practicing. My dad hung on to the back while I pedaled to teach me to balance, and in no time I was moving along quite easily. It was all so exciting at first until monotony set in from seeing the same scenery.

I often wondered when I looked out  our front window and saw other kids gliding by why they weren’t quarantined to a dull, obsolete street like I was. Where were their concerned parents? These children were right out in the street living life on the edge.

A neighbor friend rode her bike over one day and asked if I could join her.

I ran in the house and got permission with the usual stern response,

“Yes, but only on Norway Street.”

It was futile to argue as all of my attempts prior had fallen flat.

I backed out from the garage and started walking through the yard to the gate.

“Let’s go ride on the other street,” she said

“I can’t. My mom won’t let me. She thinks it isn’t safe because cars go by so fast.”

“I do it all the time,” she whined.

This conversation went on all the while we walked through the back alley. She was wearing down my already fragile resistance.

“My mom lets me go wherever I want to. Yours treats you like a baby.”

How was I supposed to deal with that? The more she talked the more I was convinced that one small jaunt elsewhere wouldn’t hurt me.

“Okay,” I said.

I turned myself in a direction I had never gone before. The wind whipping through my hair felt better than ever. Just as I would begin to relax, however, I would recall that I was on a forbidden thoroughfare. I quickly checked over my left shoulder and then my right to be sure no one was following and reporting back to headquarters.

Moments into this glorious and freeing experience, I saw a familiar figure up ahead. It was one of my three brothers!

There was no denying what I was up to, and all members of the household knew the rules that were set for me because they had gone through the same thing.

There was no getting around him or fleeing the other way. I had to go past him and face the consequences. As I went by him, he said,

“You aren’t supposed be on this street.”

That’s all he said in the most calm, quiet manner I had ever heard. While I was expecting yelling and ranting and being dragged into the house, that was his only reaction. His unpredictable response threw me straight into fear. I made a beeline for where I was supposed to be.

“Are you in trouble?”

“Probably.”

“I need to go home, ” I said after a few minutes. My momentary adventure had turned the afternoon quite sour.

I put my bike away and noticed that the station wagon was gone.

I walked into the house and found it to be empty and quiet. Just before leaving the kitchen, my brother materialized.

“Mom is gone shopping, so I’m in charge. I didn’t tell her that I saw you riding on the street, and I won’t. Just don’t do it again.”

I should have collapsed with relief at his generous offer, but that was when the tightness in my chest began, and I couldn’t rid myself of it.

I kept replaying the scene over in my head and feeling guilty for not being given a proper sentencing.

I tossed and turned all night, dreaming of being caught, and waking up drenched in sweat from nightmares. I woke up to the sound of my mom working in the kitchen.  How was I going to face her at breakfast? Like ripping off a band aid, I decided to get it over with as quick as I could.  I sprang out of bed, flung open my bedroom door as the floodgate of my tears rushed down my face.

Crying did not relieve the crushing weight on my chest.  It intensified the problem and left me only able to gulp and my vocal cords to fail me.

“What is wrong?” she said looking up at me from the kitchen table.

I saw her give me the usual registered nurse scan to check my coloring, dehydration level, and my pupil size.  When you have six kids, and one comes staggering out of her bedroom at an early hour in the summertime, no good is usually going to come of it.  She was probably getting ready to grab a basin just in case I was about to throw up.

“Don’t you feel good?” she asked.

The compassion in her voice just made me cry harder.  I was not worthy of being asked if I was alright.  I had committed a crime without punishment, and I couldn’t handle it.

The sniffs and shudders continued until I got myself under control and admitted my wrong doing in understandable English.

“So, you rode your bike on the street that you aren’t supposed to?”

“Y-y-yes,” I said.

“Do you promise never to do that again?”

I nodded.  It was easier than trying to speak.

“Then I won’t take your bike away this time.  But, if you ever do it again, you can’t ride it anymore.  Do you understand?”

Another nod as she handed me a tissue.

“Okay.  What do you want for breakfast?”

I couldn’t believe the fortune I had struck at not having something bad befall me after going out of my way to blatantly go against her orders.  She had every right to send me to my room for however long she wanted.  My bike should have been locked up for weeks.  But, none of that happened and instead, I was given a bowl of cereal and a glass of juice.

I found out many years later the behind the scene conversation that my brother had with her.  Apparently, he had told her he had seen me even though he told me he wouldn’t.  I guess his theory was that if he said that to me, and made her aware of my disobedience, then she could be on the lookout for any future rebellion on my part.  My sobbing confession made my mom see that my conscience was alive and healthy, and she could trust that I was not going to put myself into that predicament again.

In my walk with God, and in the times when I have messed things up, it has been demonstrated to me the type of approach that my brother took.  Instead of lashing out, and bringing down the hammer, my misgivings are often shown to me in subtle, non-threatening ways so I can make some changes.  And, the only reason why those mishaps are revealed to me is because of the great love of God.  We are here to live a life that is joyful and rewarding not riddled with shame and guilt.  When we find ourselves veering off into the wrong lane or one that isn’t for our highest good, we can depend on the reliability and faithfulness of heaven to put us back on the right roadbike

(My old bike in the rafters in storage)

Hooked

“This is how you cast your line.”

With a smooth fluid motion, he brought the rod over his head and flung it out toward the water.  His bobber hit with a small plop.

He handed me a rod after he put a minnow on for me.  I couldn’t bear to do that part. Looking behind me to make sure no one was there as he had instructed, I held down the big white button and then released it as I made the forward motion just like he had.  My bobber hit the water with more force, however.

“You did okay, but your minnow came off. Bring it in and you can do it again. You can’t do it so hard.”

He rebaited the hook, and I tried again but this time consciously with less arm power behind it.

We were at my uncle’s cabin that sat on a lake that was so clear you could see the sand on the bottom. Fishing off the dock was just as good as a boat because the water housed many crappies, sunnies and walleyes that swam by in large schools.

Just as he had taught my three older brothers to fish, he was passing the ability on to me. For my first few attempts, he stayed close by keeping careful watch as I tried to do as he had said. For eleven years old,  I thought I caught on quickly. I only had a few mishaps of releasing the line too early and getting it caught in the weeds behind me on shore.  A few other attempts left my bait going airborne until I learned control.

When he was satisfied that I could handle myself, he went back into the house. My brother, Bob, was on a dock next to my uncle’s so he thought he could leave and have my sibling supervise me.

“I need you to bait the hook,” I pleaded.

“You have to learn sometime,” he answered without looking at me.

“I don’t like doing it.”

“Too bad.”

He wasn’t about to budge from his spot on his dock beside mine.  It would have taken too much physical effort for him to walk the few feet over to help me.

So, with bravery I did the deed and abhorred every second of it.

While practicing my new skill, my cousin came and stood by me. I wasn’t thrilled with him invading my space, but it wasn’t in my nature to be unkind to him. Whenever we visited our relatives, I felt like he clung to me too much, and he threw temper tantrums over the slightest mishaps.  I never knew when the kid was going to sound off like an alarm without warning so he made me slightly edgy.

He started asking me a bunch of questions that I only half listened to.  I was trying to concentrate on casting and getting it right.  Too many times my minnow was sailing through the air forcing me to reload and try again.  I was determined to learn and show my dad how good I was.

I reeled in my line. I made sure I carefully extended my right arm over my cousin’s head before jerking into a cast.  Even with the careful, deliberate movement, I saw my bait fly over his head.  Then, he started to wail like a wounded animal.

I yanked on my line thinking maybe I had gotten it stuck on the weeds behind us on the shore.  Every time I pulled he screamed bloody murder.  I cranked on the line again and felt much resistance.  This felt different than when I had gotten hung up on something before.  This was quite the puzzle until he bellowed,

“MY EAR!”

I glanced at him to figure out what all the fuss was about and saw the hook securely planted in his big earlobe.  In my defense, the child did not have petite ears.

“Why is he crying?” my brother yelled over.

Great.  Now he takes an interest in what I am doing, I thought.

“I don’t know.”

I gulped at the sight of my handiwork in body piercing.

“Did you hook him?” my brother asked.

He cried louder.

“I will help you.  Just hold still,” I said.  I was trying to quiet him down so the adults wouldn’t come running.

“Did you really hook him in the ear?” my brother asked again from his dock.  I could tell he was trying not to laugh.

I ignored him and carefully removed the source of pain without saying anything about what I was doing.

“Is that better?” I asked hopefully.

“NO!  It still hurts.”

“Let me see,” I said.

It was a very small hole with a spot of blood that was visible.

“I want my mom!” he suddenly yelled.

“Wait.  Let’s just see how it feels,” I suggested before he ran off half crazed and got me into trouble.

I imagined my fishing privileges being revoked if word got out that I had actually impaled him.

I dipped my hand into the frigid water and put it on his ear. I had to come up with something quick. I didn’t know how long I could hold him there.

“You know what?  I think a bee stung you.”

“Really?”

His glasses were fogged up and he was breathing heavily.  He wasn’t at the height of health for a six year old.  He was as round as he was tall and easily got winded just from walking up a set of stairs. Sweating came easily for him and his bright red cheeks were an evident sign that he was in distress.

“Ya.  I think it flew right in and stung you on the ear!  It’s gone now though.  I got it away from you.”

“You did?”

“Yes.  Does it feel better?”

“A little bit.  It doesn’t hurt as much.”

He stopped crying and mopped his face with the back of his pudgy hand.

“I am going to go tell that I got stung by a bee!” He huffed and puffed his way off the dock and ran as best as he could toward the cabin.

“Did you tell him he got stung by a bee?” my brother yelled over.  “That is hilarious!  He actually believed you!”

No longer able to hold in his amusement he began to laugh loudly.

“Shut up!” I said as I followed behind my cousin.

By the time I got to the house, he had told all the adults.

When I walked in the door, I was questioned immediately.

“Did he get stung by a bee?”

I took a slight breath and nodded affirmatively.

When he walked past me his ear was barely pink and almost back to normal.  I had just lied myself into a situation that I didn’t have to.

“I think it will be just fine,” my mom said.  “He seems to be okay.”

I inwardly sighed.  As long as he thought he got stung by a bee and so did everyone else, I was off the..well..I was in the clear.

I returned to the dock, picked up my rod and tried again.

“Does everyone think he got stung by a bee?” my brother asked.

“Yes,” I said.

The fly in the ointment!  My brother knew the truth.

“They don’t know you lied?”

“No.”

I tried to preoccupy myself with the waves rolling up to the shore.

“I do.”

It was left at that, and I thought the incident was over, but I was about to be introduced to a concept that I didn’t understand.  Blackmail.

The next day, as usual, my brother did something to me that was not to my liking.  When I was about to let my mom know, he whispered,

“Remember?  The bee sting?”

If I stepped one toe in my mom’s direction to tell on him, he would spill the beans about my cousin’s ear!

The tightness in my chest at the thought of being exposed was enough to freeze me in place.  In that instance, I was lured into his scheme.

One night, about six months into his game, I was on my way to let my mom know that he had just done something again to upset me.  As I turned to leave, he whispered,

“Remember?” He had shortened it to one code word.  No longer did he need to explain like in the beginning. We both were clear on what he was saying.

I suddenly started yelling at the top of my lungs,

“I don’t care!  Tell her!  Tell her everything!”

Months of this torture had built up inside of me. While I was keeping my mouth shut, he was able to say and do whatever he wanted to me.  I decided in that moment to take back my power and face the punishment that I should have received months prior.

My mom heard all the commotion and said,

“What is going on?”

I ran up the stairs before he could and found her at the table making out her grocery list.  The words gushed out of me.

“Remember that time last summer when I said a bee stung Noel on the ear?  I lied.  I accidentally hooked him with my fishing line.  Bob knew the truth and has held it over my head since then. Every time I was going to come tell you something, he would stop me and tell me he was going to tell that I lied.”

Her eyes turned into a tight squint.

“Robert! Get up here now!” She had used his legal first name.  Trouble!

Her voice reverberated through my chest like one of those huge sonic booms that you hear on the Fourth of July.

I watched him slump up the stairs.

This actually wasn’t going in his favor, and it surprised me.

“Is this true?  Have you been blackmailing your sister all this time?  I don’t allow that in my house!”

That was the first time I had heard the term. I may not have been wise to the vocabulary back then, but the experience was enough for me to never forget.

He admitted to his wrongdoing and was sent to his room.  For once, he had come to find out that he wasn’t always going to be on her good side.  To tell you the truth, I was shocked that she treated him how she did.

She turned to me and said,

“Don’t ever let anyone do that to you.  First, tell the truth and don’t lie.  Second, if you have something to say, then say it.  Don’t let another person ever have that much control over you.”

“Okay,” I replied.

I waited for my sentencing, but there wasn’t any.  She figured I had gone through enough months of emotional turmoil at his dark bidding.

Many years later, as an adult, her message to me still rings true.  Whether it is a relative, a scary financial situation or an unhappy existence in a workplace, do not let anyone or anything hold you hostage.  If anything, go to God and tell the truth so that you can have the help you need and live free.  Unload the burden from your heart, and let your honest prayers be the beginning of you no longer being hooked.

 

hooks

 

(On a side note, the next time we went fishing, and my brother and I were fishing on separate docks, I overextended my cast and hooked him in the palm of his hand.  His yelps could be heard for miles.  My dad actually laughed and said we needed to work more on my technique.)

 

 

 

Blowing Smoke

I unpacked my overnight bag and immediately put the items into the wash with extra soap poured on for good measure. My hair reeked of the smell, but I couldn’t throw myself in with the clothes so a different kind of scrubbing was needed.

Any type of establishment that allows smoking inside the premises leaves its trace long after one has departed. Standing outside in hurricane type gales would not even do the trick to remove the odor.

So it was after a night away that I found myself hurriedly transferring the offensive garments to the machine and thanking myself for quitting the habit at the age of eleven .

What would have happened to me if I would have let it take hold? I wondered.

One day while at a friends house, unattended by any responsible adult, we were left to our own devices.  I was sitting in the living room when she rounded the corner with a lit cigarette between her long skinny fingers.  She sat down next to me, handed me one and said,

“Here.  Try this.”

“Where did you get this from?” I asked.

“My mom’s room. She doesn’t even know when I take some.”

I felt a slight twinge in my stomach.  I wasn’t the type to steal, lie or do anything that suggested shadiness.  However, before I knew it, I had white puffs coming out of my mouth that I was trying to fashion into different shapes.

I didn’t go into a coughing rage or choking fit.  I watched what she did, repeated it and took one drag after another.  Once down to the end of it, we both ran them under cold water and threw them outside into the trash.

That is when the guilt hit.  I had just smoked a cigarette!  All the way home, I wondered,

Would they smell it on me?  Would I look different when I walked in?  Would my mother look me in the eye and know what I had been up to?  

Anxiety overwhelmed me as I strode in the door and made a quick turn into my bedroom.

That entire evening as I ate dinner, worked on my homework and changed into my pajamas, I prepared myself mentally for the bomb to drop.  Nothing happened.

The next day I found myself in the same set of circumstances and the days to follow.  Soon, it was becoming a regular afternoon occurrence to which she invited another girl to join us.  My worries became non-existent as my confidence grew that my parents did not have a clue as to what I was doing.  I generally limited myself to one, but with the three of us smoking in the same room, it would get hazy fairly quickly.

One evening, while eating dinner, my dad said,

“I bet when Chris grows up she is going to smoke.”

It was like he jabbed a hot poker into my chest.

“Why?  What? No I wouldn’t.”

He slurped down a spaghetti noodle and said,

“I think you will.”

I became instantly angry with him for unfairly judging me.

“I would not!  I will not smoke!” I raised my voice much louder than I normally would.

How dare he look across the table and decide what I was going to do when I was an adult? Then, I remembered.  I was already smoking.

“I think you will, ” he said again.  “And anger shows guilt.”

It was like the ceiling fell on top of me.

He knew!  He knew!  How did he know?  I thought I had covered my tracks carefully by spraying myself with perfume and chomping on mint gum.

“When someone is angry like that it shows they are guilty.”

“I am not guilty,” I said looking at my carrots on my plate.

My mom saw how upset I was getting, so she added,

“She won’t smoke.  Smoking is bad for your health.  Chris is too smart for that.”

Oh, boy.  I finished my meal and slunked away.

The following day when I was offered a cigarette, I declined.

“I think my mom and dad might know,” I told her.  “I am quitting right now.”

For a few weeks I was ridiculed by the two smoking partners, but the situation changed when the thief was caught stealing from her mother’s stash.  Fortunately, I was not a part of their group that had grown to a club of eight.  I guess, lifting one or two goes unnoticed, but that amount got her into trouble.

The subject was never discussed in my household again until I was in my twenties.

“How did you know I was smoking?” I asked my dad.

“What do you mean?”

“You know. That time I was sitting at the table and you kept saying I was going to smoke when I grew up, and I got mad. You said anger shows guilt.”

“I was just joking.  You were smoking?”

“Yes!  And, I thought you knew I was so I quit the next day because I thought you were on to me.”

“No.  I was teasing you.”

“You and mom really didn’t know what I was doing?”

“Nope.”

I am grateful to this day for the intervention of an unseen source on my behalf.   We hear of statistics of many dying from lung cancer due to this, and yet if you stop in traffic long enough and glance around, chances are you will see someone who has gotten caught into the addiction.  Most likely, someone made the offer and they took it.  Just like I did.

The other day while in the grocery store, the cashier said,

“You don’t drink pop?”

She held up a bottle of an antioxidant fruit beverage.

“No.  I quit drinking it.  And, that is my substitution.”

“Is it good?”

“Yes, but quitting wasn’t easy.  I am okay now, but it took a few days.”

“I know how that goes.  I quit smoking a year ago.  Cold turkey.  I decided one day not to do it anymore, and I had been smoking for awhile.  I started before my teens.”

“You quit without any type of help?”

“Yes.  My mom told me I would never be able to do it.”

I asked the obvious,

“Does your mom smoke?”

“Oh, yes, really bad.”

“That is why she told you that you couldn’t do it because if you were successful, then she would have no excuse not to quit too.”

Once out in the parking lot, I thought about the power of that mother smoking and discouraging her daughter from doing something healthy.  What a triumph to overcome the cigarettes in the face of such adversity.  Not everyone has the “I will show you” attitude.  In fact, many of us shrink down under the presence of a negative thinker with a bad outlook on life, and we take on their pessimistic stench.

How many times have you gone into an environment in a peaceful state and were inundated with harsh words, a sharp bark or a put down only to find your sunny disposition gone within seconds? Suddenly, the world is dark and unfavorable.  The next thing you know you have a headache or some other sort of pain in your body, and maybe a whole week goes by where you find yourself depressed and out of sorts. All because you allowed someone else’s foul ideas to permeate your spirit.

Here is a possible solution to not living like that anymore.

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
    keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the[c] paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways. (Proverbs 4:23-26;NLT)

Here we are given a wonderful answer to how we can combat and protect ourselves from being pulled into the opinion or drama of another.  If we stay connected closely to the Creator and only exist to please heaven, then one can remain on the outside of the mess without stepping into it.  A love filled relationship with God provides a way for us to see the genuine goodness of life and avoid those who are just blowing smoke.

 

image

 

Driving You Crazy


Teaching your child to drive isn’t mentally easy.  Images from days gone by have a tendency to flash across the mind while she clutches the steering wheel for the first time and you sit like a slug in the passenger seat.  For instance, you  quickly recall when she could barely stumble across the room while hanging onto the edge of the couch or used an end table to support her wobbly legs.  Other mental scenes emerge of her unable to use a spoon or suck liquid through a straw. How was I supposed to let her drive my vehicle up and down streets where potential hazards awaited us at every turn? I would have rather put myself on a roller coaster to be flipped upside down non-stop for an hour. Yet, I had to maintain my composure because all good parents want to see their children succeed and mature into independence.  I wanted to remain calm, I really did.  I didn’t want to repeat the experience I had with my dad when I was learning how to drive.

It would begin before we left the garage.  His discomfort was evident as I turned the key and a battery of instructions and inquiry would follow before we even budged.

“Did you check the mirror?”

“Yes.”

“All of them?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have your permit?”

“Yes.”

“Is there gas in the car?”

“Yes.”

After satisfying all of his questions, I would barely move into reverse when he would say,

“Keep your foot on the brake! I don’t want to go flying down the driveway.”

I would go at snail speed and it was still too fast for him.

One day, before I got the key into the ignition, I couldn’t take it anymore.

“I am not driving with you!” I said defiantly.

My mom and I had gone out that afternoon to practice, and I noticed a remarkable difference.  She let me start the car, back out, and barely said one word except,

“Oh, look at that beautiful bird in that tree!”

As we drove through the familiar streets of our town, she would say occasionally,

“I wonder what they are building over there.”

For her it was a chance to get out of the house away from cooking, cleaning and laundry.  Once in awhile she would say,

“Why don’t we turn left up at the stoplight?  I haven’t been down that road in a long time.”

It became a sightseeing tour for her, and I just drove the car without worrying over every maneuver I made.

If I took a right when she said to go left her response was,

“Oh, well, you will get it next time.”

My experience with him was a sharp contrast, and his nerves were getting on my nerves, so my outburst was to make the negativity stop.  He said quietly,

“Let’s go.  Just start the car.”

It wasn’t said in an angry tone but one of realization that he was not helping the situation with his worry.

I began our nightly trek to a place where we could practice parallel parking and how to park on a hill.  We tried to get it all in before the sun set on that pre-summer night.  There wasn’t much traffic as I made my way back toward our home.

“Turn left up here,” he instructed.

I was feeling so much better about our time together now that I was sensing he wasn’t so anxious.  I had relaxed and he seemed much more at ease as well.  Unless he was faking it, and I couldn’t tell the difference.

As usual, I turned right instead of turning left.

“This is right, Chris.  I said left.”

“Oh, well,” I said parroting what I had heard my mom say.  “I will figure out a way to turn around.”

It wasn’t as easy as that.  I had turned on a road that was leading us forward with no option of a U-turn. We found ourselves slowly creeping along what appeared to be a private road not meant for the usual drive through.  There were beautiful manicured lawns surrounding us on both sides.  I took notice of this and other details because the speed limit sign had clearly stated we could only go 10 miles per hour.   It became quite evident where we had landed when we both saw a large green sign with white lettering.

STATE HOSPITAL

“What?  We are at the state hospital?”  Now a whole new type of fear descended upon him.

“We are?”

“Yes.  You have driven us right into the looney bin!”

I had a hard time not controlling my laughter at his reaction.  He has a tendency to lose all decorum and ability to be politically correct when terror strikes.

The road slowly wound around to the front of the facility where a few people milled about the grounds while orderlies stood by in white outfits.

“Lock the doors!  Roll up the windows!” he ordered.

This was back during the time before our cars mechanically did all of these things for us.

I glanced over to see his eyes wide as he kept them trained on all the residents roaming.

As if on cue, a tall male began walking alongside the passenger side of the car which brought my dad’s mood to a full tilt panic. The car door seemed like a paper thin barrier between him and this stranger.

“Hurry up and get us out of here!!” he yelled.  “This guy is racing us!”

“I am driving what the speed limit says, ” I retorted.  After all, I didn’t want to break the law by speeding, for heaven’s sake. And, I wasn’t the least bit afraid.  I was not going to allow my speedometer to go one inch over the 10 mile per hour mark.

We came to a crosswalk where there was a stop sign.  All of my new training was kicking in. There was no way I was running through it, and a complete stop was what I was taught to abide by.

The guy walking near the car stopped with us and peered in the window at my dad.

“Get us out of here!” he said again.

“I am!”

“It is getting dark!  We need to get out of here!”

There was another man standing by the curb who appeared to want to cross in front of us.   I sat waiting for him to make a move.  But he remained frozen.  Just staring straight at us.  His eyes looked glassy and fatigued.

“Is he going to cross the road?” I asked more to myself than to my passenger.

“He looks like he wants to kill us!  JUST go!”

“What if he steps in front of me?  I might hit him!”

A few seconds went by with all four of us glancing at each other.  Through gritted teeth, my dad made his final plea,

“Go!  Right now!  Just go!”

I slowly edged forward as the two residents watched us glide by.  Neither moved a muscle.

“Keep going to the left!”

I did what he said and soon we found ourselves driving out the exit and back into his comfort zone.  He stayed quiet the entire ride home as I tried not to giggle.

When we walked in the door, my mom asked,

“So, how did she do?”

He opened the palm of his hand and said,

“She did just fine but I lost a tooth.”  He had been clutching on to it the whole way home.

“What?!”

“I bit down so hard while she was driving that I broke my tooth.”

My mother and I looked at each other and started to laugh uncontrollably.

“She drove me to the state hospital!” he said coming to his own defense.

“She should have left you there!” my mom said.  “Why do you worry so much?”

Now that I have had my time sitting in the seat of the car to be the instructor, I do understand his fear so much more.  Isn’t this true when we go through situations in life?  We become more understanding and compassionate when we have the experience for ourselves.  My dad had been taught how to worry somewhere along the way.  We aren’t born in that state, but it is a learned response. The bad news is that it is highly contagious.  The last thing I want is for my daughters to live life from a weakened mental place instead of a bold and courageous stance, so I am aware of it and try to correct myself immediately.

I decided recently to take a drive to where this event occurred. Most of the buildings stand empty with windows boarded up. Long gone are the men and women who walked the halls with whatever was afflicting them.  It struck me how something that once seemed so ominous had now become obsolete. A place that brought my dad such a nightmare moment no longer would illicit such a reaction.

So what bothers you today that may not even exist tomorrow?  What are you fretting over that may not even be a threat at all?  A famous passage tells us that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, can guard our hearts and minds if we allow it.  It’s really up to you whether you want to live a life of calm or one of torment.  Heaven isn’t withholding it from you.

In this day and age,with stress running at an all time high, it is imperative to know that God loves you and is always ready to help when life is driving you crazy.

 

 

(One of the original empty cottages at the state hospital)

anoka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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