Unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They always somehow turned out looking like grey rocks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

“If I went outside and smoked a cigarette.”

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

“I think that is a sign,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He is 65, and so am I.”

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

“How long have you known him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where do you go to church?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Gift

When I had to go through my parent’s house and sort through 60 years of possessions, the one thing I would have taken if it still existed would have been the original nativity set.

But, it had long been gone after seeing its days spent in the hands of all the kids. I don’t think one of us didn’t take them out of their places and play with them. By the time I got to them, they were chipped and dented.

With three boys, I can only imagine what they did to those, and they were made out of ceramic. Nothing fragile or plastic was ever safe around them. Many of the things that had survived their childhood path of destruction were barely hanging on.

Like the Monopoly money that was taped together, one of them got so mad that he ripped the fake currency in half. When my mom saw what he had done, she made him piece it all back together. Her purpose was twofold. They probably couldn’t afford to buy a brand new game, and for the rest of time, this temper tantrum would be long remembered so as not to repeat itself. It was a message to all of us that consequences might last forever if we did something once.

Because of his brief tirade, I had to hand over bills with yellowing tape every time I wanted to buy Boardwalk. The question was always asked when I played with friends,

“Why does this look like this?”

I had to explain that one of my brothers had gone crazy momentarily long ago. They would look at me like I was related to a notorious criminal.

My mom told me that one year she and my dad had bought toys for Christmas on credit.

“Before we had it paid off, every single thing we gave them had broken. We never did that again.”

So it was no surprise that the pieces from her nativity were beaten up. When she put them out, they would soon be scattered all over the room. It took mileage to get the wise men from point A to B.

First, Mary and Joseph had to get to the stable, which wasn’t a short jaunt. I had to pack up my tiny Barbie suitcase with clothes for the journey. And the camel that got them there ran on green energy with no fuel emissions, so the going was slow.

If my mom had to vacuum the carpet, that just set back the trip, and I would have to start the process all over again.

I would get the two of them all the way to living room Bethlehem and take them from the couch to a chair, the stereo, the end tables, and finally, the stable that was losing its roofing.

“Chris, I need to dust. You need to leave.”

It never failed! She always thwarted the birth of Jesus.

That meant I would have to start all over again later, and I hadn’t even gotten the wise men on their way yet.

I have a hazy memory from about four, where I pretended to be the Virgin Mary. I had a light blue blanket that I would drape over my head because every movie that depicts her puts her in a blue-colored head covering. I grabbed whatever doll I could find, Raggedy Andy would do, and I would put him under the tree.

My mom had told me that God had sent the world a gift in the form of a baby. In my mind, then, he should be where all the other presents were.

“They were expecting a baby to come, and God surprised them. It was a great plan because no one could figure it out,” she always told me.

I was taught young, growing up Catholic, that Mary was to be worshipped. But as I grew up, I never felt she was any different than anyone else. God just handpicked her because He knew she could accomplish a mission that not many would be able to, and we all can do that.

A lot was expected of her that the world was not going to understand. I can relate as more supernatural events keep on showing up.

Because I was the youngest, I got the job of putting Jesus in the crib on Christmas Eve. My mom would leave him in the box until then. She always made a cake, sang Happy Birthday, and handed me the tiny figure wrapped in a little cloth. If she had put it up high to keep me from moving the pieces, someone had to lift me so I could reach.

I was the only one of the six who had the longest record of having this assignment. With them all so close in age and as an outlier, I had no one to compete with. I begged for a younger sibling, but she always said,

“You will have to wait for someone else in the family to have a baby someday.”

I thought she was being mean to me, not realizing she was past 40, and all of her patience was long gone.

And so was mine when her house had been left in disarray without a single thought of who would have to deal with it. They lived like death didn’t exist; I don’t recommend doing that to your children.

I had started working on it in June, and by October, it was listed. Just before that, my daughter and I went back over, which we had been doing daily.

All of the Christmas decorations were long gone, but in the middle of one of the rooms was a handmade ornament with my mom’s name on it. There was absolutely no reason for that to be there, with all of that having been removed months before. Just like a little thank you note.

It had become her way of getting my attention during that time so I wouldn’t forget that she was still around. She let me know that just because I couldn’t see her didn’t mean that she wasn’t still alive.

In the first year of her moving on to heaven, I wrote daily passages. I would get a vision of her sitting at a table, and she would put on a pair of glasses.

I wondered why she wore glasses in heaven, and I was made aware that it symbolized wisdom and that I was about to learn something. I knew I was to start writing, and it wasn’t the greatest to see that while I was driving. Her timing wasn’t always the best.

When I go back and read some of the passages from two years ago, I see a subtle warning about an upcoming pandemic, encouraging words on how to stay strong in the face of adversity, and a lot of details of her heavenly home. Basically, she reiterates a truth to me repeatedly. God loves humanity. In this entry from my journal on June 5th, 2019, I was having one of these learning sessions:

“Chris, God is God. People can make Him into whatever they want, but He is the Creator. And there are no shifting shadows in Him. The spin that the world puts on Him is nonsense and makes no difference. God longs to come and be in communion with His creation. The pain you see in the world, the confusion and the self hatred is lack of communion with God. When His love floods the body and the mind, all these things will flee.”

It fits right in with John 3:16, where we are told that God loves the world.

I try to keep that in mind as I am given reasons to hate it more and more. But it must not show because people are drawn to His presence like a magnet.

I continually have people smile at me when I walk through stores; some say hi, some want to know where the soup aisle is, and others want to tell me their life stories. Like the guy who saw me put back something, I was considering buying as an ingredient.

“You really didn’t want that anyway,” he said.

This is how it always starts. I’m minding my own business, and someone appears.

“I love my grandchildren, and I am getting them candy before I go see them.”

He started grabbing boxes and examining others, trying to decide what they would like best. He chatted on about anything he could think of while I kept trying to find something on my list.

He explained to me that his car wasn’t working right; he and his son had to fix it.

“The tires are shot. You know what I wish?”

“No. What.” It could be anything.

“I wish I could ride a horse everywhere I go, and that would be great.” And, he kept right on looking for what he wanted.

I laughed. Where did he come from, and why?

“I love horses. And they are more reliable than driving a car. I got to spend ten days on a ranch, and I wish I could go back, and I want a horse. That’s all I need.”

“I think you are going to need a lot of money for food and vet bills.”

“Ya, that might be more expensive.”

He talked about his kids, his job, and everything that was going right in his life. He was a fountain of positivity. And as fast as he appeared, he said goodbye to me.

As I drove home, I heard: It’s not all bad. See? I just showed you that. That man is happy even when things aren’t going right with his car. He found other things to be grateful for, which will keep him going through all that is ahead of him a lot easier.

God can be straightforward like that and not complicated at all. So keep an eye out for those encounters that offset the negative.

When you need encouragement from heaven, and it arrives in a way that you weren’t looking for, that is the best gift.

Simple

Brittle

“Chris, the timer is going to go off. Can you turn the cookie sheet and put five minutes on the clock?”

I grew up in a house that had a dysfunctional oven. Nothing was ever done to correct it, and when it was in use, care had to be taken to watch the time or half of what was in there would burn.

It seemed that my mom was always off in another room when it had to be handled. If not done right, there would be smoke, a scorched unrecognizable and inedible object. A pizza could quickly become a plastic frisbee and a pan of brownies transformed into a brick.

So when she told me I had to deal with whatever she was baking, I moved fast because that night’s meal hung balanced precariously between life and death.

The heat blast that came from it when the door was opened was nuclear radiation quality. With my eyes closed and oven mitts on, I repositioned whatever was the scientific experiment that night. We were in unfamiliar territory and what came to the table in the evening was anyone’s guess.

My dad was put on a low fat diet, and a doctor’s visit had revealed that his cholesterol was out of line. His Saturday breakfast of eggs and bacon was replaced by whatever was considered devoid of the ‘F’ word. Not a thought was given to high sugar content as long as he was eating artificial, man made products with enough preservatives to provide it with a shelf life of at least ten years. But, by God, he would have triglycerides that would be phenomenal.

It was a sure fire way to help him live longer and make him hate his existence.

He was raised on meatloaf, pork chops, and chocolate cake that he poured gravy on. The first recollection I have of him doing that, I knew it was wrong. I tried to tell him not to eat it, and maybe I would have warded off his cholesterol issues, but he turned a deaf ear to my gagging. He sealed his fate.

All of his favorites were off-limits, and he was undergoing a massive adjustment with his taste buds and mentally trying to cope with what she was throwing at him.

One night she tried to use crispy rice cereal to make a coating on the chicken. I don’t know what other ingredients she put in it, but when he went to take some, all of these tentacle-like strings inhibited his ability to get it on his plate, and it kept bouncing away from him like a gigantic Slinky.

In exasperation, he put the spoon back and said he was not going to eat it. It had become like a workout for his bicep. She somehow got some of the glop on his plate, and he ate it to make it to another day. He was almost living the dream.

Occasionally, I was the unlucky recipient of his lunch because she sometimes mixed the bags up. He basically ate a sandwich heavily laden with mustard and crammed with lettuce. When I got that by mistake, I fasted. He, on the other hand, had the best meal he had in weeks.

“Chris, I got your lunch today. It was great.”

I had taken one for the team.

Somehow, he adjusted, and she found recipes that he accepted half-heartedly. When Christmas came around, though, he relaxed a little, took a vacation from it almost entirely.

She baked a variety of cookies which he had a hard time staying away from. She would stuff them into their big freezer, and he would grab a handful because calories don’t count when you steal them away from the watchful eye of the prison warden.

I don’t know how this started, but they joined forces to make peanut brittle at that time of year. I have made it, and I have never needed help, so I still am unclear why this was a team effort. It just shouldn’t have been.

One year, my arrival was way off as I went over to their house at the height of him stirring the liquidy syrup on the stove. It has to get to a specific temperature, and a candy thermometer is needed so you know exactly when it’s done. It has to get to 300 degrees usually to create a hard crack texture. The only thing cracking up was him.

He nervously kept an eye on it while the bubbles began to increase the whole time he stood there.

Meanwhile, she stood by with a box of baking soda and a teaspoon. The mixture gets thick as it cooks, and you have to keep it from scorching. This is when the yearly argument would ensue.

“You have to throw that in quick.”

“I know, John. I have done this a million times.”

“I don’t want to burn this.”

“Keep stirring. Move it around more.”

“I can’t move it around more. It’s getting thicker.”

Two bags of spanish peanuts had been added; those weren’t the only nuts in the room.

“Let me do it then.”

“No. You will burn it.”

“I will not. Just let me see.”

He would not release the spoon to her, but he kept voicing his anxiety.

“If we don’t get this to a certain temperature, it’s going to be sticky and will get stuck in your teeth when you eat it. I don’t like it like that.”

“I know. Let me see what it’s like.”

I should have left. It doesn’t get better from here.

“I am sweating,” he said. This was common for him, and not so much from standing over the burner, but his nerves.

She realized I was standing there watching. I still had my hand on the doorknob and was considering going back out to my car.

“Hey! You’re just in time to watch us fight,” she said, laughing. She and I tried to talk about other things while he kept sighing, stirring, and fretting. It was good he wasn’t in charge of national emergencies.

“He gets too upset over this.”

“Why do you two do this every year?”

“It’s tradition,” she said with a smile.

“So, you purposely put yourselves in a position to argue every year?”

“It makes us closer.” She always had this way of trying to diffuse him while in the heat, literally, of the battle.

“Hey!” he said. “Stop talking and pay attention to what I am doing. I need you to throw that in right when I say to.”

This elicited a frown from her. No one told her to stop talking, ever.

“I can talk to her all I want,” she said.

Here it comes; I still stood right by the door.

“You always are talking. I need it quiet.” He said, staring straight into the saucepan in front of him.

“You would think a man who had six kids running around here at one time would be able to handle us talking. Chris, what are you up to today?”

Now she was going to drag me to take her side, and he had tripped her rebellious switch.

“I..uh..” I didn’t want to commit.

“Are you paying attention?” he barked. As the temperature rose, so did he.

“Yes, John. I can do two things at once. I can talk and pay attention to what you are doing, but I don’t get all bent out of shape about things like you do. Why are you here, Chris?”

I had words forming in my head that kept getting stopped before being spoken. I did not want to be in the middle of this madness.

“You better be ready with that baking soda when I say it has to go in.”

She grabbed the oven mitt and whacked him with it.

“I will be!”

It didn’t phase him.

“Don’t goof around. I need you to be ready!”

“This is why men don’t have babies, Chris.”

We were all over the board on subjects, just because they were both in the kitchen at the same time trying to accomplish a task.

“I think I could have had kids just fine,” he said in his defense.

“No way! You stub your toe, and you go down for days! A little sniffle sets you back. Having a baby would kill you.”

“Being quiet would kill you.”

Her response was always to act hurt, laugh, and keep on talking.

“See? He isn’t nice to me, Chris.”

Still trying to get me on her side.

“I am very nice to you! Do you have the teaspoon and soda ready?”

“For Pete’s sake! I am right here with both of them. Can’t you see me?”

His glasses were fogging up from the steam rising upward.

“I am so hot!”

“Let me see what you are doing.”

“No. Just wait until I tell you what to do.”

“So, why are you here, Chris?”

“I don’t know,” I said, forgetting why I had even come in the door.

I saw him lean in to read the small print on the thermometer.

“I think it is time. I can’t read it.”

She tried to see it, so both of their heads were close together as they fought to see what the number was.

“I can’t see with you sticking your nose in here,” he said.

“I can’t see with you not moving out of my way!”

“Get the glass of water!” He said.

They didn’t trust the reading, so the old-fashioned way of doing things was still used. A small drip was put into a cold cup of water, and if it wasn’t sticky, it was good to go.

Both of them huddled over the glass and saw the crystal shape form.

“It’s ready! Get the soda! Right now!”

He moved the pan over to the next burner but accidentally pushed her across the room, making her drop the teaspoon and the soda that she had ready.

“Get it in there!” He said.

“I am trying to!”

She scrambled to pick up what he had knocked out of her hand.

“What is wrong with you, woman? Hurry up!”

I was in crazy land. These two had been my role models as a kid. Now, I wasn’t sure why I ever listened to them.

“I have to get a new teaspoon. This one was on the floor, and it’s dirty now.”

You did not take anything off the floor that was dropped and use it in her world. Her nurse’s training was in full gear to sanitize all things.

“Hurry up! You have to throw it in right now!”

She started finding another measuring spoon in a drawer that was not known for its ease in locating anything. Forks, knives, and other metal objects were being tossed around as she rummaged through, trying to find a clean one.

He was having a stroke and a heart attack all at once. Maybe even a brain embolism.

Finally, she did her part and threw in the key ingredient. The mixture puffed up like it was supposed to. But, the next step had to be executed.

“That has to be put on the cookie sheet now,” he said.

We weren’t out of the woods yet.

There was more pushing, shoving, trying to get past each other. Their workspace was small, and when one moved one way, so did the other. They kept crashing into each other.

“John, just slow down. You are going to drop it!”

“Move. I can do it.”

She felt the need to keep on stirring while he transported the pan across the room to the kitchen table. She was on her tiptoes because he was taller than her.

It finally made it to its destination. I knew if I came back the following year, I would be a witness to it all over again.

“You are spreading that too thin,” she said.

Not able to take it anymore, she grabbed the spatula out of his hand. He stood over her watching her every move.

“You aren’t moving that quick enough. One side of that is going to be thinner than another.”

“John, I know what I am doing. Just let me do it!”

He sighed, looked at me.

“When did you get here?”

I was inches from him the whole time.

“I have been here too long,” I said.

Once he saw that she was not inept, he said,

“I am out of here!”

“We are making two batches,” she said. “You aren’t going anywhere.”

“What? I thought we were done!” His whole Saturday was going to hell in a handbasket.

“We always make two.”

He rolled his eyes at me.

“I am going to go sit down somewhere for a second. I am sweating!”

At this point, his glands should have been running on empty.

“So, why are you here?” she asked, turning to look at me.

Now that she had finished using the spatula, she decided to taste it, and she bit off some and started chewing.

“I had nothing better to do than come here to see this,” I said. My time was free-flowing before I had kids, so there was no real reason to be there other than to enjoy their marital bliss.

“This is chewy,” she said. She ripped off another piece with her teeth while holding the spatula up and looking at me.

“Is work busy?” she asked. “He is going to be so mad that this turned out so chewy.”

Her jaw was working overtime. But she kept trying to engage me in a conversation.

She had no idea that she was eating the spatula, and I could see a huge bite taken off the hard plastic corner. She kept on struggling to eat it.

“You might want to stop doing that,” I said.

“Why? I am taste testing it to see if we did okay. It’s just really hard to chew!”

I grabbed the spatula out of her hand.

“Look at this. Don’t eat anymore of that. Spit it out!”

Her eyes got huge, and she ran over to the garbage.

“What’s wrong with it?” he said from the living room.

She and I started laughing, so we could not speak.

“Is it sticky? Is to too chewy?” he yelled.

That just made us laugh more.

“What is wrong with you two?”

If a stranger had come into that house and observed, a determination could have easily been made that they had the worst relationship. But, I knew it was only a tiny snippet of the entire picture.

Our walk with God is sometimes the same way. We get in the way, worry about the outcome, and if someone from the outside sees us, we might be marked as having no faith. But, all that is required is a mustard seed, and they must have had that going for them.

Anytime she asked him to do anything, he did it. Maybe not without a grumble or two, but he complied because he wanted her to be happy. And when he needed her, she was right there to help. They worked together most weirdly at times, but at the foundation of it, they kept each other a priority, working to keep their hearts soft and not brittle.

(No spatulas were harmed or injured in the making of this year’s double batch)
(Unassisted and in a meditative state)

True Self

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

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

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

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

“What should we start with?” I asked.

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

“Miss Chris, I don’t feel good.”

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

She fell asleep.

I looked to the teacher for information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” they all said at once.

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

“Our ears,” they all said.

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

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

“Yes,” they all said again.

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

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

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

“I feel better,” she said.

“You do?”

“I was tired, Miss Chris.”

“I think you were.”

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

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

Sometimes, we just need a nap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wear It

“What is this?” I asked my daughter. “It has your name on it.”

I was struggling to get a gigantic package through the front door.

“I don’t remember.”

This is a common occurrence at our house where she will order items she needs for her business and then forget what is coming.

I shoved it through the entryway into the middle of the living room. She opened the top and peered inside.

“Oh no! I didn’t know it was going to be this big!”

“What is it?”

“It’s a shoe.”

She kept staring into the box with a wary look.

“This is one shoe? For what?”

“I wanted a small Cinderella slipper that I could put under my Christmas tree. I didn’t know it was going to be this big!”

Her work involves scale, so it was quite a shock for her to see she had underestimated the size.

She took it out of the box and assembled it. My idea of a dainty princess flew out the window. When she plugged it in, it was so bright we turned off all the lights to conserve energy.

“I guess that is going to go outside.”

“It’s for the kids who drive by.”

Her goal was to set up a massive display so our house would stand out like Las Vegas in the darkness of winter.

That huge high heel began the process of more deliveries, zip ties, frozen fingers, and pounding stakes into the ground.

A gigantic engagement ring and a carriage took their places from the fairy tale of the girl who was down and out who suddenly found herself the center of attention in the eyes of the prince.

As the story goes, he was not satisfied until he found the rightful owner of the stray shoe. Many tried to force it on, but only she was the perfect fit.

And while he is on the hunt, she goes back to her everyday life, of mundane tasks and being verbally abused by a stepmother and half-sisters. And where is her dad? I always wondered that.

She accepted her lot in life, didn’t get bitter after seeing the wealthier side for one night and the people who had it a lot easier than she did.

She was grateful for the small opportunity that she didn’t know would lead to a life-changing event.

There are over 500 versions of this tale, and many of them date back before Disney brought out their rendition. In one of them, the mean stepsisters get their eyes pecked out by birds while serving as bridesmaids at the royal wedding. That gruesome part, understandably, didn’t make the cut for children.

It can’t be overlooked that their lack of vision and hatred toward their sibling brought on trouble of their own making. When there’s a plan in progress, a path will be cleared past those who stand in the way and bring torment.

I came across a made-for-TV movie that changed the footwear to a magic stocking. A young woman attends a masquerade ball at a mansion and ends up finding the favor of the millionaire because he picks the stocking she brought.

I could only take so much between the overacting and the cheeseball lines, but the message was the same: a rescue mission.

That is the role of God in every person’s life. In Psalm 18:30, it is explained how we are taken care of,

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. (NLT)

When you hear God speak or guide you in a specific direction, it brings peace in the middle of chaos. That is the beginning of the end for aimlessly going through the motions, embattled by anxiety and feeling trapped. It starts with becoming more aware that there is a Creator of all who wants a connection with you.

Cinderella didn’t bat an eyelash when she was told to put the rags aside and get out of the house. She allowed it to happen without knowing how it would. Putting one foot in front of the other, the plan began to unfold, and she walked into it.

Sometimes you have to mentally barricade yourself from those who don’t support where you are headed. You just keep on letting God lead. Despite the negativity swirling around her, everything came together perfectly.

We are given these instructions about how to combat interruptions,

Keep your eyes straight ahead;
ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. (Proverbs 4:27, Message)

Often, we forget those moments when what we have been praying for manifests. We don’t enjoy the “happily ever after” part but rush on to the next problem.

It’s good to go back and write down all the times that blessings have come, so you don’t forget and to show gratitude.

I remember what the Lord did;
I remember the miracles you did long ago. (Psalm 77:11)

Through signs and wonders, heaven will make sure you know the truth even when all hope looks gone.

In verse 8 of 1 Corinthians 13, it is stated that love never fails, and this presented itself right before my eyes.

One evening last year, just before Christmas, my daughter said,

“Look at what the camera recorded from the front yard.”

I pulled it up on my phone after she told me a date and time. On the sidewalk directly in front of my house, a couple had stopped to look at her handiwork. She added dogs, a ballerina, trees, music, and the Eiffel Tower, which created a unique glow.

Apparently, this inspired an overwhelming, romantic Hallmark moment, and it turned into a kiss cam like at a sporting event. Seconds turned to minutes as the security footage rolled on.

I believe that your outlook on life creates your circumstances, and positive attracts more of the same.

When I watched this secret encounter happen, I knew that it had been drawn in as if by a powerful magnet. It sent a loud and clear message to me. In the middle of a pandemic where hatred had presented itself in so many ugly ways, the love of God had shown up and manifested a surprise public display of affection.

We live in a self-centered world, where it often seems that kindness is in short supply. What will you be remembered for? If your memorial service was held today, what would people say?

That you are a miser with a bad temper? Or a giver who would come to the aid of anyone at any time? A person who always has the right words exactly when they are needed? A critical nitpicker who drains the energy in every room by seeing only the bad in every single situation? Someone who takes advantage of others so you can get ahead? Or putting others before yourself for the joy of seeing them succeed?

The choice is yours, and if the shoe fits, wear it.

I don’t know if this is a big enough engagement ring…

Shape Up

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

“What is that?” I asked.

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I ignored him and deposited another coin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I walked away with him yelling at me,

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

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

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

“When do we start this?” I asked her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leashed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That made me feel better.

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

“Can we get a dog?”

“No, Chris.”

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

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

“You need to get her a dog.”

Finally! Someone was on my side.

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

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

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

This sent a shockwave through my mother’s soul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have the most beautiful hair.”

If she had pointed out my smile, then maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, everyone was smiling.

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

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have to tell her!”

I turned around, and she stood up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you do this for a living?”

“No.” The man leading it said,

“You should.”

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

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

I saw him standing behind her.

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

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

“Is it really my dad?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The guy next to me said,

“What do you have to say to her?”

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

He said to all of those looking at us,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said,

“You are like a medicine woman.”

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

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

“It’s going to do very well.”

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

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

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

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

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

Blind

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

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

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

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

“No.”

“This?”

“It’s blurry.”

“This one?”

“That’s a little better.”

“This?”

Could I live with this option?

“I’m not sure.”

“How about that?”

“I think I liked the other one better.”

“Okay. Read the alphabet with that.”

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

“I think that is the one,” he said.

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

“You have astigmatism.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 2 Corinthians 3:18 it says this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wounds

It wasn’t uncommon for me to suffer disappointment while growing up. My parents came out of the Great Depression, where they were taught that money was scarce, nothing should be wasted, and everything could be repaired. 

It was a routine, but horrible experience, to have water added to the ketchup or salad dressing bottle so every last drip could be consumed. She would shake it all together, try to hand it to me, and I refused because I had found it tasted like death. 

“Chris, just use it. It’s not that bad.”

Even her head shaking and sighing would not move me. She had stockpiled more, and I knew it. Sometimes she would give in and act as she had just found a brand new bottle that she had “forgotten all about.” Miracles can happen every day if you are stubborn enough. 

Besides holding my ground on condiments, I had to beg and plead for her to open the purse strings for anything. If she could find a way to buy something that never needed to be replaced, she was on board. So my request to get a pumpkin at a farm was coloring way out of the lines.

“I want a real pumpkin,” I kept saying day and night, starting in September. This was a tactic that had worked on a few things in the past. But, not always. If I got her to say,

“Maybe,” I knew I was closer to my goal. 

Every house in our neighborhood had carved pumpkins on the front steps. She had chosen to buy a plastic one that she could plug in, which she had gotten long before I was on earth. Frugal at its finest. 

It didn’t have the personal touch of a kitchen knife in an artist’s imperfect hand. It was a factory-produced, false rendition of something organic, started from a seed, grown in a field. Hers was a far cry from that. The light bulb had started to burn off some of the original orange paint. But, to no avail, she got it out every single year, which killed my chances of getting a real one. 

The year I had given up, feeling that she was not going to budge an inch, she took me by total surprise and said,

“I think it would be fun to go to a pumpkin patch.”

I could not believe it! I acted as if it was not a big deal, but it was. We made the drive to the nearest place. 

I walked through rows and rows of them, trying to decide which one would be mine. Because of the age gap between my siblings and me, I was the only kid in the age bracket to find this experience exciting. All my energy and wear-down approach had finally paid off in fourth grade. 

I carried my selection to the person who she would pay. She suddenly noticed the sign stating the price per pound. I hadn’t chosen the largest one I could have, but her default kicked in once it hit the scale. 

“That’s way too much. I’m not going to spend that.”

The guy dressed like a farmer looked at her and then at me. I could not believe that she was actually going to back out now. 

“Is that the real price?” She asked. I could tell that the “fun” part was being sucked out of it. 

“Yes.”

“No, thank you. Chris, let’s go.”

I had been so close! The guy glanced over at me again with very sympathetic eyes. It wasn’t until that moment I realized I shouldn’t be happy. I had been denied so many other things so often that my ability to feel sadness had been curtailed. I was supposed to accept that whatever she did or said would produce no emotional response on my part. 

I had become really good at it, but I also made a vow to myself that once I had children, I would never do to them what had been done to me. Or at least try not to. 

So whether it was acceptable or not, I took my girls to get pumpkins in the fall. The stigma of doing so and going against what was presented as evil in the church’s eyes didn’t stop me. I read all the literature and folklore about its practice and decided that God knew my heart. I wasn’t doing this to ward off mischievous spirits or engage in the dark arts. I was trying to heal something from my past. 

It worked as I watched them produce some of the most beautiful pieces of art I had ever seen. Somewhere in their DNA, they were awarded the ability to draw and create things I had never been given. Scribbling out a stick figure is a challenge for me. 

One year, my youngest daughter decided to spraypaint her pumpkin. She had seen the idea somewhere and decided that this was something she wanted to try. She purchased a can of purple glitter spray and covered the entire thing. It turned out very professional looking. 

The only thing was that it never occurred to us to put it outside in the cold air to preserve it. Day after day, it sat in the house looking like a royal piece of artistry straight out of a fairy tale, subjected to a warm environment. One night I noticed a strange smell. Why this always befalls me, I do not know. 

“Is that your pumpkin starting not to smell so great?” I asked as it was in the air drifting and becoming more fragrant. Pumpkin in a can of spray is nowhere near this natural one.

“Maybe,” she said. 

Both of us approached it warily. I have learned the hard way that once something makes its presence known by way of a foul odor, you have to think before reacting. I had been the unfortunate recipient of cleaning out the refrigerator and unearthing containers that held contents that once had good intentions of being used later. Refried beans are not your friend on day 237. And by all means, do not hastily remove the lid unless you are right over the garbage with a hazmat suit securely fastened. 

Now we stood in front of the most magical looking pretty display, trying to decide which one of us was going to pick it up. She knows she can outlast me, so of course, it would be me. 

All that glitters on the outside is not necessarily a good representation of what is really going on.

When I slowly moved it, I immediately saw the mold that started at the base and rapidly spread. Pieces of paint were falling off in the back as the green fuzz was making its attack. She leaned in to get a better look, and I turned it so she could see how bad it was. Right as I did, an enormous black spider jumped out from its hiding place, trying to dodge being squished into the afterlife.

I heard her scream, and when I looked, she was long gone, just like the spider. 

I could not stop laughing. 

“Where did it go?” She said from the farthest corner of the house. 

“I don’t know.” Dreaded words for one who is terrified of things that crawl. 

I had to throw away the decayed piece of produce, and she spent days looking over her shoulder for the escapee. 

God can bring resolution to the biggest and smallest of pain. And heaven has a way of providing it in the most perfect of ways. Even if the person who hurt you never apologizes, fractures can be mended. It may come in the form of a funny moment or a simple word spoken like this one in Psalm 71:20, 

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth, you will again bring me up. (NIV) 

In addition, this is a steadfast promise of God’s faithfulness from Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages up their wounds.” (NLT) 

Yep..I have talent in my house

Growing Up

It seems that no matter where I attended church, I always worked with the kids, and I found that I fit in better with them than sitting in the sanctuary with the adults.

I think the reason was because of the spontaneity of the atmosphere. Children are so much more open to the voice of God and aren’t usually afraid to say it out loud. I’m not against listening to someone speak, but I found so much more value in being in a classroom thinking I was the teacher, but really, I would often be the student.

At one time, I was in charge of a class of thirty, four-year-olds. I had one older woman who struggled to walk but would always help where she could and my daughter would come with me.

Every Tuesday, while their moms would go to a Bible study, I would go to work on helping them understand God better. I had them do role-playing, skits, and team-building exercises to expand their awareness of the spiritual side of life. It was always fun to see someone their age acting in the role of an important Biblical figure. I had so many who wanted to be Noah, Moses, or Jesus. I was never short on volunteers.

At the start of the day, I would ask them to tell us what they needed prayer for, so everyone knew what might be troubling their friend. Some would make requests for a new dog or bike, and I put no limitation on it because I wanted them to know that they could ask for anything from God. And many times, by the next week, they would return to tell me that their prayers were being answered.

They did love to have the spotlight.

“Miss Chris, look at my new shoes!”

That statement and others like it led to all of them wanting me to comment on their new shirt, hair cut or whatever else they were proud of. Once that started, it was a chain reaction of them jumping to their feet to gain my attention. Did I say there were 30 of them and one of me?

You would think that there would have been a lot of crowd control or discipline needed with a group of children that big. There wasn’t. I don’t know if it was all the prayers we said together, but they were the most unusually well behaved kids I had ever seen. They always wanted to help, and they actually shared with one another. There wasn’t the tug of war over hot ticket items.

I witnessed a live, in action expression of how life should operate if one is surrendered to God. There was no backbiting, complaining, whining, competition, or hating someone because they were different. None of that existed, and I did not have to put in much effort to make it go so easily. There was no conflict at all, and without the negativity, God showed up all the more.

One day, I had them close their eyes, and I shut off all the lights. This was way off the prescribed plan of what I had been told to teach them. One of the women who ran this ministry of the church had looked in through the door window. She wondered what I was doing, but she said there was so much peace flowing toward her, she let me go ahead.

I had each child become very still and see whatever came to mind. This was with preschoolers, and they did what I said without any hesitation. No one made a sound. Right there, that was a miracle. Afterward, I had them stand up and tell me what they experienced. One boy said,

“Miss Chris! I saw a huge angel standing next to me!”

“You did? That’s great,” I said.

Others had similar experiences, and I told them to go home and continue to practice this.

The following week, the boy’s mom told me that her son had been having nightmares, but they had disappeared after he saw the angel, and he continued to see it. She said his fear of bedtime no longer existed.

While many good outcomes such as this happened with the kids, I had the opportunity to put my faith into action.

I walked into the church office, and one of the other teachers held a tissue to her eyes.

“I might have you take my kids into your room today. My eyes are burning and won’t stop watering.”

I looked at her in total shock. I already had 30 of them! Taking in all of hers would have my number rocking the boat at 50. I decided that wasn’t going to happen. I had a nice little thing going, so I stepped forward and said,

“What is wrong with your eyes?”

“I don’t know. I have tried eye drops, rinsing them with water, but they hurt so much. I can’t see. I am not going to be able to lead my class today.”

Her eyelids were bright red, and tears dripped uncontrollably down each side. She had to keep catching them with the cloth in her hand.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I just followed what I heard in my mind.

“Close your eyes.”

She complied, and more wetness covered her cheeks. I had to close my own eyes as I prayed because her symptoms were stripping down my faith. It looked horrible, and who was I to come along and help her?

I started praying that she was healed. At the end, I opened my eyes, and I snapped my fingers at the center of her forehead while saying, “dry up!”

What was I doing? I would have never thought to do that. Other people were watching us now.

She mopped up her face and blinked.

“They don’t hurt anymore.”

The next few minutes were critical because the moms and kids would be arriving, and she had to decide. I saw her eyes clear, she smiled, looked at me without squinting as she had been, and said,

“It’s gone. “Thank you. It’s all back to normal.”

I was just glad I didn’t have to corral 50 kids.

That all happened during a time where I had just had a 17-year marriage end. I would tell people that I felt like I was jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, waiting to hit the ground. I was in a daily free fall of anxiety, not knowing what would happen to me next.

But, in that, I had been given little ones who showed me who God really was and how I could walk in a quiet place on the inside and see the good happen on the outside. Their childlike faith had strengthened me in my most desperate time, where rejection and abandonment were running high. They demonstrated to me that God would never leave even if people did.

They brought to life this verse in 1 Peter 2:2 that says: As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”

I had been stretched to a place in my spiritual life that I didn’t even know existed. And it continues to this very day. Every step is one more leap than the last.

There is a verse that says not to despise the days of small beginnings. Just when I thought I had something important to impart to those who were so very young, they surprisingly gave it back to me and set me on a lifelong course toward growing up.

(I walk every day..this was on my path the other day…there’s always more to learn from God)