Find What You are Looking For

“Hmmm,” I said as I ducked under the coffee table finding nothing hidden there.

I zipped over to the couch and checked the cushions.

This was back before plastic took the place of real eggs for hunting, and I didn’t carry a frilly basket. I clutched the carton in my hand as I searched my grandma’s living room for the last one.  She and I had spent the previous Saturday afternoon engaged at the dining room table over cups of fizzy colors and the pungent smell of vinegar. With newspaper spread out to catch spills, we carefully balanced the white ovals on large spoons to submerge them gently into various shades.  Every once in awhile, I would lose my hold on the utensil and with a splash, it would jump into the solution all on its own cracking its fragile outer shell in the process.  This always brought about a sharp gasp not only for the dunker but the one who was subjected to the liquid dye flying across the table.

A quick wipe up with a paper towel and a little laughter was all that was needed to remedy the mishap.  The tricky part of unearthing the egg from its bath was not an easy feat either without knocking over everything.  Eventually, we got all of them into the drying tray that was provided with the egg dying kit.  Then, it was not complete without affixing various stickers to compliment the overall look.  We got fancy with a white crayon and personalized some of them before the colorization because it was so magical to see my name or someone else’s appear out of no where on an edible object.

So on this particular Easter Sunday, with fingers still stained from my hard work the day before,  I knew what every single egg looked like prior to them being scattered about her house.  And the one that was missing was a deep shade of purple.  Seeing that I was struggling and not wanting to get behind on her gigantic meal she was preparing, she tried to be of help.

“Chrissy, let’s play hot and cold.”

“Ok,” I said not really understanding what she meant.

“You are cold right now.”

“What?”

“You are cold right now.”

Seeing that I didn’t comprehend what she was saying she explained,

“When I say you are cold, that means you are not close to what you are looking for.  When I say you are hot, then you are right by it.”

Got it.

“You are cold.”

My brain processed what she said, so I moved one foot out to the left and the other to the right like I was going to do the splits.

“You didn’t move. You are still cold.”

I took my chances and marched far left.

“You are still cold.  Now you are very cold.”

So, I decided to swing very far to the right and ran all the way into the next room.

“You are still cold.”

So, I ran toward her but past her almost to where I had began.

“No, you are back to where you started.  I can see it from where I am,” she said.

I scanned the walls, the ceiling and all the furniture.   I thought I saw something peeking out from behind the rocking chair.  I came up empty handed.

“I can still see it,” she said.

This went on for another ten minutes or so, and I was starting to get frustrated and sweaty from sprinting in circles.

“Just look around,” she said making her eyes really, really big.  I opened my eyes as wide as I could and cranked my head to side to side.

“Chrissy, I know where it is,” she said again almost in a whisper.  I saw her standing by the clock that hung in her living room.

“I know,” I said.

She changed her voice and made it lower and moved her eyes to the right and left and said,

“I know where it is.”

I laughed at her facial expression and her old man voice.

I ran over to the bookshelf.  Nothing.  My grandpa’s ashtray.  Nope.

I looked at her again.  She was standing with her back straight up against the wall right by the clock, and she had her eyes shut.  As I kept looking at her, I saw something purple next to her head.  I ran over to her to get a closer look.  On the clock ledge was the absent egg.

Her eyes flew open and she said with great joy,

“You found it!  It was right by me all along.  You just had to look at me.”

I was never so happy to see that last one.  I thought we were going to miss out on her ham and mashed potatoes.

When she died, I got her clock which now hangs in my kitchen.  I placed a purple plastic egg that remains there to remind me of an important message that she taught me. The thing that you are searching for may be right in front of you and the only thing that is stopping you from finding it is you.

I should have focused my eyes on the person who knew its location.  Likewise, we would be smart to turn our attention to the One who placed us here with the gift of life.  When we seek answers, and we all do, if we would only stop our frantic seeking for the solution and go to the source of all wisdom and knowledge to save us time and worry.  And, just like Grandma Hazel, heaven is trying to help you find what you are looking for.

(Grandma Hazel’s clock)

clock

 

 

 

Driving You Crazy


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

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

“Did you check the mirror?”

“Yes.”

“All of them?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have your permit?”

“Yes.”

“Is there gas in the car?”

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I wonder what they are building over there.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Let’s go.  Just start the car.”

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

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

“Turn left up here,” he instructed.

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

As usual, I turned right instead of turning left.

“This is right, Chris.  I said left.”

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

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

STATE HOSPITAL

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

“We are?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get us out of here!” he said again.

“I am!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Go!  Right now!  Just go!”

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

“Keep going to the left!”

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

When we walked in the door, my mom asked,

“So, how did she do?”

He opened the palm of his hand and said,

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

“What?!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

anoka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Show Must Go On

By the way she slammed the car door and flopped into the backseat, I knew she wasn’t happy.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t want to wear this,” she said showing me a heavily sequined one piece black costume. “It scratches my skin and it’s ugly.”

In the rear view mirror, I could see the red marks on her neck.

“Our costumes haven’t come in yet and they are saying that we might not have them in time for the show, so they gave us these from a bin.  They were leftovers from other shows.”

The skating school where she attended put on an annual performance so that the students could show off their tricks and newly learned maneuvers for their families.

The recital included costumes, themed numbers, photographs for the program and hours of preparation. I had turned in my payment for her participation before December to ensure her outfit would arrive on time.  It was now March and the deadline was coming up quickly.

“If I have to wear this, I don’t want to be in the show.”

I sighed and did what I only knew to do. I closed my eyes and prayed in the parking lot. I didn’t care who saw me or what others would think of me. If this was important to my daughter, then it was urgent to me.

I didn’t recite a long drawn out request but stated the facts that we needed the costume as soon as possible. While praying with my eyes shut, I saw a cardboard box that was sealed on the top. It was a vivid image that came and went as soon as I opened my eyes.

I put the worn out costume away when we got home, and during the week when I encountered it, I would recall my plea to heaven and remind myself that I had asked for this to be made right.  My daughter, on the other hand, was not so sure about it being resolved.  She suddenly would get quiet and sullen as if imagining having to wear the uncomfortable material for the show.  I understood her disappointment and tried to reassure her that it would all work out.

The next time she went in for practice, we reluctantly took the unwanted outfit with us as she was told to do. I had called the school during the week to check on the order status.  The instructor informed me that the company that was to make and send the costumes claimed they had lost the order.

“They took our money and now are telling us that they probably won’t be ready in time for the recital.”

I chose not to tell my daughter this unhappy news.  I hung on to the fact that I had prayed for what we wanted to happen and shut off the idea of it not happening.

That night when she got into the car her irritation was evident.

“I am not going to be in the show if I have to wear this.”  I started the car, pulled out into the street and wondered,

 Why was there no resolution to this?

It wasn’t looking good, so that same week when she went in for another practice, I decided to stop in and speak with the school owner.

“Any news on the costumes?” I asked.

She smiled slightly.

“We only got one box this afternoon, and the company told us that this will be the only shipment they will be sending out in time for pictures and the show.”  There were a lot of kids in the school, so this was not the greatest of news.

She led me to her office where I saw a taped cardboard box.  It looked strangely familiar. She opened it and handed me a beautiful sparkling navy blue skating outfit.  While holding the item in my hands, I was overwhelmed not only that we had received it but that the box was the exact one I had seen for that brief moment while praying in the car.

“Your daughter’s class will be the only one who will be wearing the right costumes.  The rest will have to wear the older ones we have on hand.”

“I have to show her this,” I said.  I could hardly contain my excitement.

Looking through the observation window, I saw her out on the ice warming up.  I waved to get her attention while holding up the dress.  By the smile she gave me, she understood.

It’s these moments that I reflect on when faced with situations that seem to have no end in sight.  A request made is never gone unheeded by heaven, and the love that God has for us is beyond what we could ever imagine. Even the divine is very much aware that the show must go on.

(The actual costume)

dress

 

 

 

 

Grandma’s Goodbye

“I need you to pray that grandma’s surgery goes well.” I heard the plea in her voice and considered how difficult it must have been for my mom to ask for prayer. She had always been close to my grandma, her mother.

“When is the procedure?” I asked.

“Tomorrow at nine in the evening.”

My grandma had been residing in an assisted living facility because her memory had begun to slip making it impossible for her to live unsupervised. Her physical health was superior, and the only medication she was taking was eye drops. One day, while walking down a hallway, she tumbled, broke her hip and was now in need of surgery.

“Her physician says she will do just fine, so I am not worried, but prayer would be nice.”

“I will pray, ” I said as we hung up.

Instead of rushing right ahead to pray, I began thinking about my grandma and the times we had visited her when I was a child. Scenes from days gone by went through my mind. I recalled how she repeatedly said to me,

“Chrissy, I feel Jesus standing right here next to me.” She would point to her right shoulder, and I would imagine Him standing there. “He is always with me.”

Then, it was as if someone pushed a fast forward button on my memory and a recent conversation with her came to my mind.

“I am ready to go anytime. I don’t need to stay here anymore.”

At this, tears began to fall from my eyes because I was beginning to get the picture.

I hadn’t gotten down on my knees to plead with heaven to spare her. I didn’t pull out scriptures from the Bible requesting that it be done. I simply had paused for a moment, took a breath and decided to let whatever I felt come to me.

I wasn’t so sure I was comfortable with what I was feeling, so I decided to call my brother. When he answered the phone I explained my dilemma.

“I can’t pray for her like mom has asked me to. I feel like she wants to leave.”

“I know, ” he replied. “I feel the same way. She doesn’t want to be here anymore.” We spoke of her age and the full life she had lived.

The two of us had known her as a loving grandma without being fully aware of the hardships she had endured. I hadn’t realized until I was an adult that she had suffered through an unloving, unfaithful marriage. If that was difficult enough, she had raised a bedridden daughter and later watched her die. We just knew her as the one who made the best peanut butter cookies and cherry kool aid.

“I have never had this happen before. Usually, I pray for people and expect the best. I still expect the best, but she might be called to go home.”

“I know,” he said again. With that, I felt reassured that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way.

The next day, I completely forgot about the surgery. I got out of bed and went about my day, full speed ahead with an eleven month old and a five year old. Back then, there wasn’t time to think or dwell on anything.

By evening, I had somehow tucked both girls into bed by 9 pm without the usual silly hassle of multiple drinks of water and last minute requests. Already, divine intervention was at work. Quietly, I shut their bedroom door and tiptoed to the kitchen. This is what I used to call “mommy time.”  The house was quiet, and I had a few moments of peace all to myself.

As I entered the kitchen, I found myself in a strange place. It was as if a projector screen was pulled down in front of me. My eyes were wide open as I stood and observed the scene. I was standing at the head of a hospital bed. The white, soft curls were immediately recognizable. It was my grandma. Then it hit me. The surgery was scheduled for 9 pm!

In a whispered tone I heard,

“We cannot stabilize her blood pressure. I don’t know why.”

The whir of the machines was quite audible. It is difficult to put into words what happened next. It felt like a warm blanket was wrapped around me but not just on the external. I felt warm from the inside out. Similar to when you see someone whom you love across a crowded room. As I looked on, I saw my grandma, or her image, float above her body and begin to fly away. I felt myself begin to go with her. Soon, we were out of the building and in the sky. Again, this was all happening like a virtual game going on as I stood in my kitchen, yet I was with her as well. As she flew higher and higher, these words went through my mind,

“Keep writing. Don’t give up. And, take care of your mother for me. ”

As I stood there, I thought,

What is this warm feeling?

“Heaven,” came the reply.

After this, I was able to walk into my living room with the glorious feeling radiating in my being. I began to wonder,

How can she see me? I live in Minnesota. She lives in North Dakota.  The answer swiftly popped into my head.

“It was promised to you when you were a child. She promised to say goodbye to you before she left here.”

I then saw a scene from when I was nine years old. My grandma and I were walking in her backyard looking at trees, flowers and birds. Our talk turned to how life soon is over and becomes death.

She jokingly said,

“Chrissy, I am going to come back and haunt you.” She made these big scary eyes and starting hooting like an owl which made me laugh.

“What if I go first? I will come back for you!”

As we continued on our walk we spoke of God and the afterlife.

“Will you say goodbye to me before you leave?” I asked innocently.

“Yes. If God lets me I will.”

And, it happened. My grandma Hazel, who made me feel so important as a child, came and said farewell before going on to a much better place.

Without warning, I was back in the living room and the warmth had disappeared.  I cried because I knew she was gone.

Shortly after, the phone rang. A family member said he had news for me.

“Grandma is gone,” I said.

“How do you know that? I was calling to tell you.”

“She came and said goodbye to me.”

That night, before bed, a poem came to mind. I can’t help think that she sent it my way. After all, she was a talented writer who never found fame or glory in it, but wrote for the love of it.

I know what she is doing
Now that she’s taken flight
She is standing next to Jesus
Bathed in His glorious light
She’s hugging close the little ones
Who leave the earth too soon
She’s telling them God’s secrets
How He made the sun, the stars, the moon
She is not getting out her china
And setting places so neat
No, she is at the Lord’s table
In her own special reserved seat
She’s living in her mansion
That Jesus went to prepare
I know she has a garden
She’s tending with extra care
Her eyes no longer blurred
She can hear the angels sing
She joins in the chorus
Giving praises to the King
I know that she will be there
Waiting expectantly for me
Her home is heaven
Peaceful eternity.

Seventeen years ago today on January 29, 1998 I experienced my grandma’s goodbye.

Hazel

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Days of the Weak

Monday Mourning: And so it begins when the eyes have not yet opened, the alarm is set to go off, and that dreamy world is slowly slipping away. The mind begins to conjure up images of the day and the problems that seem unavoidable.  The lips begin to move and form the words, “I hate Mondays.” You crawl out of bed and pick out your best black outfit.  Murmuring into the shower, over the bowl of cereal, and all the way to the dreaded desk in the back office where mounds of work await. And the clock ticks ever so slow as the air is filled with dissatisfaction and not one single moment affords a smile.  Co-workers approach with perky attitudes and depart with heads hung low as if they have just attended a funeral after leaving your presence.  Mumblings continue on the commute home all the way through the evening news until the moment for bed arrives.

Tuesday Tirade: This day finds you at the top of your game demanding and belittling those who are blessed enough to be in your proximity.  You wish you had a missile launcher to clear your path to work because everyone on the road is a moron.  Your colleagues are graced with your snappy responses and treated like something stuck to your shoe that you cannot remove. Even the family dog is not immune to getting ‘barked at.’  You fall into bed exhausted after the multitude of idiots you have had to deal with all day.

Wednesday Whinning:  Why are gas prices so high?  Why can’t anyone put ink into the printer? Why is milk so expensive?  Why do people make stupid decisions?  Why don’t I get a raise? Why do I even work here?  Why do I have to do all the busy work?  Why didn’t I get invited to the important meeting?  Why do people take up two parking spaces?  Why can’t someone else mow the lawn? Why do I have to do all the decision making? Why can’t someone else do the dishes?  Why do I have to always take out the trash?  Why don’t I have more money in my bank account?   Why do I have to get up so early?

Thursday Thin-Skinned:   All questions, compliments and sentences set you off. Whether written or verbal, all forms of communication are going to irritate you.  You find hidden meanings in everyone’s words that send you reeling into a silent simmering anger and possibly tears by lunch.  You ready yourself for arguments that never happen, but you are prepared anyway.  You sit at your desk and rehearse what you will say, how you will say it and practice squinting your eyes to show that you mean business.

Fretful Friday:  You wake up disappointed by the fact that it isn’t payday.  If it is payday, you dread the idea that you have to pay bills and all your money is gone before it has hit your account.  You wonder what you will do all weekend if you are single.  The prospect of a Netflix binge with junk food gorging sounds depressing. While everyone else is out having fun and posting selfies of excitement to their Facebook status, you will be using your shirt as a giant napkin to wipe the excess cheese off your fingers from the crunchy curls you are inhaling.  If you are in a bad marriage or relationship, you wonder what your plan should be this time to avoid the other person for the next three days. You can’t fake being sick every weekend. You clear your throat indicating that a cough is coming on.

Someday Saturday:  You don’t have to jump out of bed today, but this leaves room for the imagination to wander and begin to think about how you are doing nothing that you want to do.  You had big hopes and plans to travel and live the high life, but you have found yourself in the same job year after year doing the same tasks over and over.  Your vacation days are spent at home getting around to all those extra projects that can’t wait.   You make yourself feel better by saying “someday I am going to..” and you repeat this weekly only to find that it never is happening.   The closest you come to taking that big dream trip is watching the Travel station on cable.  With more crunchy cheese curls on hand.

Somber Sunday:  You might as well get into your car now and drive to work.  Your mind is already there filing papers, answering phones and fixing problems.   The entire day is spent dwelling on where you will be tomorrow and you are totally missing today.

I hope none of you are living your days like that.  I know some who do.  When you look for the good things in life, more show up, but it begins with a smile no matter what, having positive conversations with those around you, believing you are here for a reason, and being grateful to God for everything. It doesn’t hurt to pray for help once in awhile either.  Let heaven help make your weak be strong.

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