With A Cherry On Top

I called her name from the house.  It was one of those beautiful Sunday afternoons where all the windows in the entire house were open to let in the surprisingly cool breezes that you don’t expect at the end of June.  I called for her again, but she didn’t come.  Her brother, Stinky, had long been in the house after winding himself running up and down the fence a few times with the neighbor dogs.  It wasn’t like them not to come in when I called running side by side.  They had come into the world together, and continue to keep an eye on one another.

“Lily!” I said again hoping she wasn’t going to make me come find her.  When I got no response, I slid on the closest pair of sandals.  I located her under one of our trees throwing up.  Once she got it all out of her system, she did her usual energetic tail wag and came running as if nothing had happened.  I have owned a few dogs in my time, so this didn’t seem too unusual as this has occurred many times before.

I secured the two dogs and went grocery shopping.  I came home to more evidence that Lily’s stomach was not okay.  When I tried to give her a little food a few hours later, she headed straight back outside to be sick again.  At that point, I was beginning to become concerned.  It wasn’t like her to have this happen so many times in a row in such a short space of time.  Of course, it was a Sunday night, so our vet was not open.  I decided to pray before bed, ask God to help her and slept with one of my hands on her next to me.

The following morning, I fed her as and she seemed fine.  Business as usual, so I went to work and texted my daughter early in the afternoon.  I received a response back that all was well.  Then, within a half an hour, another text came saying she was throwing up again.  I came home and watched her travel from spot to spot in my backyard until she no longer had anything left in her stomach.

I placed a call to the vet.  I was told they were all booked up until the following day at 3 pm.  The technician told me not to hesitate to go to an emergency vet overnight, and she said not to feed the dog until morning.  I was to give her a small amount to see if the situation was clearing up.

That evening, Lily was more than upset to see her brother getting dinner and she was not.  Again, she zipped around the house, barked at strangers passing by on the sidewalk and didn’t seem to have anything wrong with her.  No matter how much she looked at me with her pleading hungry eyes, I stood my ground withholding her food until morning.

I woke up the next day, and I said to God: You have promised me that you will help me.  You care about my life and all the things that are in it.  I need an answer to this right now.  I have a 3 o’clock appointment at the vet that isn’t going to be free.  Please show me if I should take her in or not today.  I had enlisted the help of four people who I knew were praying for me.  Some would say: Why waste your prayers on a dog?  I would say:  Why not?  God cares about all aspects of my life.

I gave her a small portion of breakfast and followed her outside.  Along the way, I kept thanking God for the answer.  I didn’t have it yet, but I was saying it anyway.  I also kept saying: Show me the source of this trouble.

Lily walked over to a tree in the middle of the yard and began sniffing around.  I crouched down to see what she was finding so interesting.  On the ground was a bright red pit.  I picked it up to examine it.  It was as if someone had taken a cherry and ate the fruit and spit out the seed.  I thought it was odd, but actually dismissed it.

She headed back for the house with no more ill effects.  I still wasn’t sure what the trouble was, but I had a thought to look up cherries and toxicity to dogs.  What I found astounded me.  Not only can a cherry cause stomach problems for pets, the pit is highly toxic and can cause death.  I sprinted back outside to look for the pit but I couldn’t find it.  I gave my daughters instructions not to let the dogs outside until I had returned later.

As 3 ‘o’clock loomed closer, I kept getting this uneasy feeling.  What if she was really sick, and I didn’t take her in? As I pulled into my driveway, this thought went through my mind: if she doesn’t act sick, keep her home and cancel the appointment.  I found her to be back to her old self.  She sprinted across the yard and didn’t seem to have anymore tummy upset.  As I stood and watched her, I kept thinking…where did that cherry pit come from?  We don’t have cherry trees in my yard, nor had I bought any at the store.

God, where did it come from? I asked inwardly.  I felt I was to look to the left of me.  Across the yard, and slightly hidden by my shed, I saw a neighbors tree blossoming over my fence.  I walked over to examine it and found it full of choke cherries.  Some had fallen over the fence into my yard where my dogs run with hers back and forth. I had found the culprit!

I walked along picking up half eaten berries and other full ones so that no more would be ingested.  I saw my neighbor come out, and I spoke with her about the issue.  She said her dogs had never bothered with it, and she immediately cut the branches back so it was no longer dangling over my fence.  She was not aware of the poisonous nature of the fruit to dogs.

When I look back at the series of events, I can see how I was led to the solution.  I tried not to panic, but I gave God a chance.  Many times, we cannot see the truth because we are so blinded by fear.  My dogs are like my children to me, so when one of them is a little off kilter, so am I.  However, I know that God loves me and wants me to live in peace.  This is why I knew if I asked for guidance, an answer would come.

I cannot tell you how comforting that is to the mind and the spirit.  To let go and cast your care into the hands that made all that is around us.  We are not alone in anything we go through.  The answer may not always show up overnight, but if we keep on listening, don’t fall into despair and let the peace of God surround us, it will make us alert to what action to take in finding a remedy.  We are promised that we can have it all with a cherry on top.

Jeremiah 33:3

“Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” 

 

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Adapt

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We have extension cords over in this aisle.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonderful news, I thought.

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

“There has to be a solution to this!”

That is when I said inwardly,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cane

Acting Squirrelly

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

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

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

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

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

“Mom! There is another one in there!”

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

She wasn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh no!  Please no!”

“What?” my daughter said.

“I think those are the parents!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

squirrel

 

 

Keep On Climbing

I crouched down and placed my hand on the moss covered boulder. Inwardly I imagined a mother figure saying,

“Go slow.  Take your time.  Don’t hurry or you could slip.”

She sounded a lot like me.

I gripped onto the nearest tree trunk for support as I took another step higher.

With sweat pouring down my face and coming out of every gland I own, I looked at the trail ahead.  This particular stairway to heaven was covered with slippery mud covered stones, and the people walking past us who had conquered the mountain were dirty from head to toe.  Most of them looked exhausted, yet oddly, they were all smiling.  I could see that this was not for those who wanted to keep their whites clean.  This was for the rugged adventurist with good knees and expansive lungs.

Everything of mine was burning.

Once past the rocks, the next part became a twisted gnarled maze of tree roots that let me know they were here on earth long before I was.  The challenge was to carefully plant the foot not to trip and fall headlong over the edge and into the jungle.  There was no barrier between the walker and an unexpected airborne experience into heavily wooded territory.

We came upon a small waterfall which made me think this was worth the exertion until we continued past it.  More steep uphill fighting against gravity that worked relentlessly against me.   A little more further, and we were overlooking a grand view of the beach below.  Stopping long enough to catch my breath, I snapped a few pictures just so I could look back and appreciate it later.

My knees and hamstrings were yelling for me to take the nearest escalator back to level ground.

We pushed on more until we all agreed that we would rather be cooling off in the ocean.  Two young boys came by.

“How far did you two go?” I asked.

“Oh, we went the entire eleven miles.  There is a beach up at the top so we did that.”

They looked unwinded and fresh like they had just rolled out of bed.

I was a panting, hunched over mess.

“Is it very far to the bottom?” one of them asked.

“No.  You only have about a half mile to go.”

We let them pass us as we made our descent.  I continued to be mindful of where I put my feet.  If going up was stressful, coming down was even more so.  My right knee, that I had sustained an injury in years ago, began to freeze up.  It decided to rebel and not bend without tightness and a horrible pain.

Squatting down and hanging on to whatever nature was providing as stability for the moment, I silently sent up an S.O.S to the heavens just to get me back safely.  I felt weak, unable to go further, and I realized I was trying to accomplish this all on my own.

A phrase floated into my mind that brought relief.

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” (Psalm 18:33)

The pain lessened, and I was able to reach the end of the trail without a scratch or mishap.  I didn’t care at that moment whether it was an angel who flew me down or an invisible hand holding onto me, but I felt the tangible presence of help. Instead of struggling to reach a goal, I felt an unseen partner come in an assist me.   Don’t let your pride or fear stop you from praying for help.  God isn’t preoccupied helping someone else more worthy.  Ask and expect assistance.  It can make all the difference to an uncomfortable situation to help you keep on climbing.

 

 

rockymountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selling Yourself Short

“I know exactly what the problem is,” she said as I was laying face down on the table.

I had just explained that my lower back on my right side had been sending out painful messages, and I didn’t know why.  She had walked down by my feet.

“Are you going to tell me that one leg is shorter than the other?”

The only reason why I said this was because a friend of mine who is very intuitive had told me this months prior after I had sent out a text explaining that I had to crawl out of bed one morning as sharp spasms gripped my entire lower back.

“Yes. Your right leg is shorter than your left.”

For three months I had put up with it figuring it would go away after awhile. Simple tasks became horrible as I would lock into a certain position when trying to put on a sock or grab a pen that had fallen to the floor. Things I had taken for granted now were difficult to perform.

Many hot packs and Epsom salt baths later, I was ready for the truth to set me free.

“This is something that we can fix today.”

The only reason I had finally gone to the chiropractor was because my youngest daughter had complained of stiffness and aches in her lower back. When it comes to the kids, I will go in immediately, but for myself, I will wait.  I had reluctantly put myself up on the table out of necessity.

She came back up toward my head and began to run her thumbs along my spine. The familiar humming of a tune began.  The first few times I saw her for treatment this struck me as odd. Just before the snap and crunch, she would hum a melody that usually consisted of long drawn out notes that made me relax.

“Okay,  I need you to lay on your left side facing the wall.”

This was something we had done before, so I was well versed in flipping over.  She pulled my right leg across my body.  This also was usually part of the procedure, however, she did something different this time.  When she performed the maneuver,  I let out a surprising,

“OOF!”

My eyes must have gone wide and my face pale because my daughter who was observing said,

“Mom, are you okay?”

I did a mental check of my body and realized that she hadn’t caused me pain, but she had taken some of the oxygen out of my lungs.  Whatever she did felt like my right hip had been relocated to its natural spot. I no longer felt the grabbing twinge on my right side.

Afterward, she took out a plastic skeleton and showed me that when a person has an injury on one side of the body, later in life it can cause that side to become shorter than the other.  I left the office feeling so much better now that I wasn’t walking a crooked path.

When I returned home, I checked my home phone for messages and saw a number from a local technical college. I clicked the button to listen.

“I am calling to see if you would like to come in for a free massage at our school in the next month.  Please call us back and let us know.”

The year before, I had been looking for places that gave massages and found that I could volunteer for students.  I had put my name on the list but hadn’t heard anything.  I dialed the number and spoke with a student.

“Sure.  We can get you right in here.  Oh, the other thing is, if you want, you can actually have three free massages over a period of three weeks.”

“Really?” I said astonished.

She booked me for two hot stone massages that would last an hour and a half per session and an hour Swedish massage.  I got off the phone in slight amazement as I was suddenly realizing how small actions can lead to blessings.

Four days before this, I had splurged and sought out a massage therapist close to home who specializes in pain therapy.  I was drawn to this particular spot after reading online that it wasn’t just about the massage but the idea that healing could come to my body.  I felt I was to spend some money on myself as there still are times I catch myself worrying about my finances.  It was to be a two fold mission.  One, to seek out pain relief, and two, to make myself a priority.

I was greeted by a woman who had a calming, welcoming demeanor.  We made our way to a dimly lit room where she and I talked for awhile.  It became clear that she wasn’t just a therapist, but a person who took interest in her clients.  I had given her very little information to go on in my paperwork other than where the location of my discomfort was.

She suddenly said,

“Are you concerned about money?  I sensed that when I said hello to you.”

I smiled but I actually could not hold in my tears.  Whether it was the pain taking its toll on me or the soft spoken words of truth, it hit me emotionally enough that she had to hand me an entire box of Kleenex. I explained a few of my underlying fears revolving about money since my divorce and how eight years later, with my youngest graduating from high school, I felt uncertain about my existence in general.

She openly confessed to me that her marriage was in a shambles, and she was trying not to consider divorce.

“I made it this far,” I said gulping down another round of tears.

“Then, you will make it even farther.  You are a strong person.  I can see that from only you being with me for such a short time.”

We proceeded on to the most wonderful ninety minute session where we spoke very little.  At the conclusion of our time together she said.

“When I treat people, I often pick up on things that they are feeling or thinking.  It’s just part of my job.  I feel like you have a lot of pain built up that you need to keep releasing. I usually will feel a tingling sensation with people, but with you I felt a large amount of burning almost as if a fire is trapped inside of your body. This can cause inflammation as well.   Just let things go and get it out of your system.  Don’t hold things in so much.  So what if people know you aren’t happy all the time? Let it out either through laughter or crying. Whatever makes you feel better.”

To some, her words would be nonsense, but to me they made sense.  I felt relief not only on the outside but on the inside as well.

When I went to pay my bill, I knew that the charge was going to be an amount that I normally would have balked at.  But, this time, I had made up my mind to take care of myself.  In addition, I felt led to give a tip that would bring honor to this person who had just helped me so much.

As I got into bed that night, I wondered how I could get another massage.   Where would the money come from to enjoy such an experience again? Each morning after, I contemplated how I could ‘afford’ to have another treatment.  Not so much by the same person, but to allow myself the indulgence because it made me feel so much better.   Little did I know that by allowing myself the treatment ,and giving her a tip, that days later I would be the recipient of three more free treatments.   Along with the care of a wonderful chiropractor, I felt like I was being offered more help to resolve my painful problem.

I attended my first free massage the other day.  I was assisted by a woman who looked at least ten years older than me. She didn’t fit the description of the typical ‘student’.  I wondered as I got prepared for the session how her hands would hold up because it was to be an hour long.  Gently, she went over all of the instructions, made sure I was doing okay, and at one point while lying on my stomach I started to drift into a dream where I saw myself and my daughters laughing.  It was so real that when I snapped back to reality I didn’t know at first where I was.  She leaned down and said with a smile,

“We are all finished.  What do you think?”

“Thank you. That was great.”

She smiled brighter, and I could see that she loved the work.

Am I totally healed at this point?  No.  I still have moments of residual pain across my lower back that requires an ice bag or two and an occasional adjustment. But, what has this done?  I listen to my body more.  I don’t blow off the signals that tell me something is amiss.  I rest when I need to. I sleep and don’t force myself to stay awake.  And, I have become more mindful of the word ‘short.’  You see, when the chiropractor said my one leg was shorter than the other, I began to consider how many times I have worried about being short on money.  Each month I have fought a small amount of fear that this could be the ‘big one’.  I could be one of those people who suddenly find themselves destitute, so I limit doing nice things for myself because there are more important expenses to take care of.  There is an inner system of judgment that says: “If you can afford this, then why aren’t you paying this particular bill faster?”

There has to be a balance between obligations and taking care of oneself.  In John 10:10 it says: “The thief comes only to kill and destroy.  I have come to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (New Living Translation)  I am the one who robs joy from myself through my worry and unfounded fears. When I limit help, I limit God.   But, the desire of heaven is for all of us to live our days in health and peace. I am grateful for the people who have been put on my path to show me this.

Take care of yourself because it brings honor to your Creator and it stops you from selling yourself short.

 

 

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Hooked

“This is how you cast your line.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t like doing it.”

“Too bad.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“MY EAR!”

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

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

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

“I don’t know.”

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

“Did you hook him?” my brother asked.

He cried louder.

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

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

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

“Is that better?” I asked hopefully.

“NO!  It still hurts.”

“Let me see,” I said.

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

“I want my mom!” he suddenly yelled.

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

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

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

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

“Really?”

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

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

“You did?”

“Yes.  Does it feel better?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Did he get stung by a bee?”

I took a slight breath and nodded affirmatively.

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” I said.

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

“They don’t know you lied?”

“No.”

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

“I do.”

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

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

“Remember?  The bee sting?”

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

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

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

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

I suddenly started yelling at the top of my lungs,

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

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

My mom heard all the commotion and said,

“What is going on?”

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

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

Her eyes turned into a tight squint.

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

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

I watched him slump up the stairs.

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

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

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

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

She turned to me and said,

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

“Okay,” I replied.

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

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

 

hooks

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Good Vibe

I was in need of a new vehicle right after my divorce, and I had never bought a car on my own. When I was in high school, my older sister sold hers to me, and when I got married my spouse made the choice. So the idea of going to a dealership and trying to find something new was a little bit scary for me.  I enlisted my dad to ride shotgun so he could give me good advice.

We pulled into the first dealership and he said,

“Try to avoid the salesman. Drive around a bit.”

I did my best. How does one navigate an eight passenger van and go unnoticed? We saw a guy trying to approach us when my dad said,

“Turn. Turn. Don’t let him get near us!”

I swiftly turned the wheel to dodge him and it became a giant game of cat and mouse.  I wasn’t able to look at cars because I was too preoccupied deciding which way to go to dodge this stranger who my dad had deemed as a heat seeking missile.

“These guys are all out to take your money. You can’t even look and they start to bother you.”

This went on far too long until I thought the person went left but he faked me out and darted right so he could catch up to the passenger side of the car. He stood by the door and made a motion for my dad to roll down his window. My dad sat stiff and didn’t move a muscle with his eyes locked straight forward.

“I think he wants you to roll down the window so he can talk to you.”

“I know what he wants. He wants our money.”

I hit the button on my side of the car to open the window. I heard quiet giggles from my two girls in the backseat.

“What brings you folks out?” the man asked.

“I am looking for a new car,” I said. My dad wasn’t offering any type of friendly chatter.

“Well, we have a lot of them, ” he said with a smile.

“We are just driving through to look around,” I replied. I was feeling somewhat anxious since I was the only one holding up the conversation from the car.

“I am hoping to trade in this van and get something different.”

The salesman reached in and placed his hand on my dad’s shoulder.

“I am sure we could find you something here,” he said with a bright smile.

I saw my dad glance down at the guy’s hand and then said,

“What are you doing? Seeing where you can stick your knife into me? Trying to find the soft spot?”

The man’s eyes widened as he retreated a few steps back from the car. My dad took himself off of mute and continued,

“Well, you know you guys are all alike. You just want to take our money.”

Again, I heard small muffled laughter from the backseat.

The salesman tried to keep himself composed.

“No. I just want you to find a new vehicle that you would like.”

“Riggghht. And, take our money,” my dad shot back.

This was not going how I thought it would.

“Drive around and see if there is anything you like, and if you do, come find me.” He stalked off.

After a few moments, I said,

“Why don’t we try another place?”

For some reason, I kept feeling like there was something I was missing. I had no clue what I was doing and my dad was driving away the help.

He suggested another dealership, so I went there.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw an orange car sitting near to where I parked. I got out of the van, pointed at it and said,

“I think that is my car.”

“What?” my dad said.

“That is my car. I think that is the one.”

“You haven’t looked at anything yet.”

“I know. That’s it.”

I had no sooner spoken when we saw a man coming toward us.

“Here he comes,” my dad grumbled under his breath.

The man extended his hand and said,

Hi, my name is Randy.”

My dad reciprocated by saying,

“You guys are all nuts!”

I saw Randy’s smile fade. So, when he turned to me I said,

“Nice to meet you. My name is Chris, and I am sorry about that. He doesn’t trust car salesmen.”

“I know there are people out there who aren’t so nice,” Randy said. “I am not one of them.”

My dad chuckled. To most people unaware, they would have thought my dad was being jovial.  I knew it was one of those laughs that meant he didn’t believe the guy for a minute.

I decided to test drive the car and soon found myself in a negotiation over a 2005 burnt orange Pontiac Vibe. As I went back and forth with costs, my dad appeared out of no where with a powdered donut in one hand and white sugar surrounding his lips. When he spoke a puff of white dust filled the airspace. Somebody apparently had found the free snacks by the coffee.

“What is going on? Are you getting it?”

“I don’t know, ” I said. “He is going back and forth with the manager trying to help me get a lower price.”

My dad disappeared and returned crunching down a bag of popcorn.  It was like he was at the state fair eating his fill.

“This is the best we can do,” Randy said.  “He won’t go any lower.”  He placed a piece of paper with a number on it in front of me.

“Then, I am not going home with the car. That is still too high.”

“Are you sure? It’s a really nice car with low miles and would be very dependable.”

“I just can’t do that much right now. Thank you for helping me.”

 I was surprised by how determined I had become in such a few short hours.  I thought my dad would do all the talking but he was too busy chewing.  However, I learned that I did have the courage to venture into something I hadn’t ever done before, and I didn’t crawl out the door or hang my head. That car was supposed to be mine, but I wasn’t going to bite off more than I could handle financially. 

I shook his hand, and I really was grateful for his attempts. He looked sad as I walked away, and I felt that it wasn’t so much about him not making the sale but about me not getting the car.

I got back into the van, and dropped off my dad so he could be home in time for dinner, although he had eaten his way through the dealership. We had spent the entire afternoon on one car and I had come home without anything to show for it. The word frustrated didn’t even come close to how I felt because I knew without a doubt that the car I had test driven was meant to be mine.

I prepared dinner and tried to take my mind off of it.  While cleaning up the dishes, my youngest daughter said,

“I went online and looked at the car.  I think the price is lower.”

“I don’t even want to talk about the car,” I said. I couldn’t take it.  Not purchasing it was bothering me, and I figured she was just trying to make me feel better.

“Let me show you what I found.”

“I don’t want to look at it.  I really want it, and I can’t have it.”

She insisted that I look at what she was trying to show me.  For nine years old, she was a persistent one.

“Is this the car?” she asked.  I half looked at the computer screen.

“Yes. But, that is the wrong price.  That is what I wanted to pay.  They quoted me a higher amount.”  I stepped in closer to examine it further.

“I am calling them!”

I hadn’t been home for more than two hours and already I was back in the thick of it getting my hopes up.

“How may I direct your call?” a lady answered.

“I was in today looking at a 2005 Pontiac Vibe.  The price was too high, but online it is lower and it is what I am willing to pay.  Could you find out the actual price?”

I was put on hold while she spoke with the person who listed the vehicles online.

“The price you are seeing online is the correct one.  The person in charge of the online pricing said he just changed it.   He had no idea you were even in here looking at it today.”

“I think I am coming back right now,” I said.

I called my dad and drove back to the dealership.

This time, I signed the paperwork and left with the car I KNEW I was supposed to have.

When God wants you to have something, a way will be made. If you are willing to let an unseen hand guide you and you can give up your reasons why it is impossible, then the struggle to obtain what you desire doesn’t have to be difficult.  This is usually not accompanied by a giant billboard or a flashing neon sign telling me what to do. It is often more subtle than that and comes from a inner knowing that can only be described as a good vibe.

 

12718346_10209096761443167_8510732950381906200_n

 

Retrieve Your Liberty

The drive was a dark twenty minutes from her workplace to our home. Post Christmas and New Year’s was evident by the lack of twinkling pretty lights I had enjoyed looking at on this stretch just a few weeks ago. While she sat in the back catching up on her social media, I glanced at the clock to see it was twenty to ten. I pondered what I should do first when I got home. The laundry was partly complete with some items still in the wash when I left and some in the dryer. The dishwasher was calling my name to be emptied of its clean contents. But, there was the lure of the lateness of the hour and the end of a full day which usually meant pajamas, a snack and a couch cushion that had my imprint on it.

All of this thinking led to other thoughts. Why had her Jeep Liberty blown up on her just a month before she finished school in December? The head gasket could have held itself together just a tad bit longer so she could finish, start her new job and figure out what to do next. However, that is not how life presents itself at times. On November 11, she experienced a rather thrilling ride home with a temperature gauge rising out of control. She made it safely, but the next day we took it to a local shop.

After the car was gone for about thirty minutes, the phone call came asking if we could meet with the mechanic. I knew while I was driving back that generally easy news is delivered over the phone and an in person explanation meant trouble.

We were escorted into the back where many cars hung suspended and the smell of oils and solvents penetrated the air. Or was that my fear? I am not sure. A young man with a clipboard approached us and said,

“You really have two choices. She has a blown head gasket, so we can put in a refurbished engine which will cost $4,000 or a brand new engine for $8,000.”

I think we both experienced a gut punch simultaneously. This was the first vehicle she ever owned and it had seemed so reliable with its four wheel drive in the winter over the past two and a half years.  Just minor tiny fixes here and there had been required but nothing she couldn’t manage.

“Do you have $8,000?” I asked her. “How about $4,000?” I was hoping that the mechanic would actually hear what I was saying and how crazy I thought he was for even telling us such a thing. The car had 175,000 miles on it.

She silently shook her head. I knew she was feeling just as frustrated about the whole thing as I was. She had taken nearly all of her hard earned savings and put it toward a short term college course so she could move ahead in life. A good decision that now seemed to be rewarded with a punishment.

I thanked him for his time and exited. I didn’t get out the door before the guy at the front desk tried to tell us to apply for their credit card offer and put the entire expense on it. I didn’t thank him for his time, and I got back out into the parking lot as quickly as I could.

Because I wanted to be sure we had both heard the correct news, I took the car to another shop that following week. It was determined that the car did indeed have a blown head gasket, and the work would be roughly over $3,000 for repair. We parked it in the garage, as if putting it into hospice, with its terminal diagnosis.

I would find myself walking by it on the way to my car often wondering why. It looked so nice on the outside, so why did it have to betray her? To make the situation sting even more was the fact that she still was making payments on it. So, to sell it meant she had to find a buyer who would give her enough to pay off the loan so she could walk away free and clear.   Our choices were limited by lack of finances, and nothing seemed to give us any freedom from the problem.

Thus, began my chauffeuring service so she could finish school and get to work. This also entailed car pooling to stores so she wouldn’t feel so trapped in the house without transportation. All of this was transpiring during Thanksgiving and Christmas which can always bring a mad rush to shop, prepare the huge feast, bake and shop some more.  At other times of the year, my time isn’t as constrained, but this was the height of hectic.

So, on this dark January night, as I drove along contemplating all of it, my wonderings of why became more prevalent.   I pulled into the garage and we both got out at about the exact moment.  Now it was nearly ten, and winter had set in.  It wasn’t below zero, but a crisp twenty degrees generally sends most into the house quickly.  However, I saw her turn her head and say something about a dog.  Then, I saw her crouching down just outside the garage in the driveway.

I looked toward the sidewalk and saw the most beautiful retriever come to a screeching slide as she tried to heed my daughter’s call.  I joined in saying,

“Come here!  Come on!”  I got down low as well so the dog would see that we would mean her no harm.  She did that belly crawl type walk where a dog wants to keep running but they are so enticed by the command to come, they can’t help themselves.  Then, she sprang into action and ran right to my daughter.

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“Does she have a collar?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she answered as the dog was excitedly wagging its tail and trying to lick her face.  I reached down and found a collar to hang on to.  Just as I did, I heard a slight wheezing sound.

“Oh!  Hang on to her!  Oh!  Please!  OH!” The dog heard this too and tried to wiggle her neck out of the collar, but I knew that trick and grabbed on tighter with both hands.  Obviously, she wasn’t out for a relaxing evening stroll with her owner.

I saw a short woman puffing out quick breaths as she tried to get up our driveway.  It was like she was running and not making much progress.  The sidewalk was slick so she was also trying not to fall.

“OH!  You caught her!  Hang on to her!”  She was trying to breathe and talk so it was hard to understand her.   I pulled the dog into the garage with the woman as my daughter ran and shut the garage door.  At this, the dog happily took off to investigate the entire garage while the woman slumped over my car in sheer agony.  I put my hand on her shoulder and said,

“Breathe.  Just breathe.  She is okay now.”  Then, when she looked up, I said,

“Hey!  I know you!”  We hadn’t seen each other for awhile, but I had walked by her house many times during warmer weather and we would talk.  I had gone to a couple of her garage sales as well during my twenty-four year residence in the neighborhood.

“Well, hi!” she said and hugged me.  While doing so, she gasped,

“I am so glad you two came along!  I have been chasing her for awhile.  She got out and wouldn’t stop running.  I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was starting to panic.”

She draped herself over my vehicle again as she caught her breath.  I told her to inhale and relax.  Meanwhile, her dog was running around happy as could be.

“We took her in last July from a family that couldn’t keep her anymore. The lady had cancer and her husband couldn’t keep the dog, so we are all still adjusting.”  I watched as the dog bounded around so full of life for her young age without at clue that she had nearly given the woman some sort of attack whether heart or asthma.

It was decided that the owner would sneak through my house, go home, gather up a leash and return with her car.  While she was away, my daughter sat on the steps waiting.  I saw the dog sit down next to her, look her in the eye and give her an enormous slurp from her chin to her hairline.  We both laughed.  It was like the dog knew us her whole life and had strolled over to casually say hello.

This may sound odd, but in that second, I knew deep in my heart that my late night pick up and all of its hassle had a point.   Normally, when I pull into the garage, I shut the door and go inside.  If my daughter would have gotten done any earlier, that woman and her dog would have been out running the neighborhood in frigid weather.  It was as if on cue, we had returned to help out a neighbor who was struggling.  The grander picture began to fill my thoughts that I am not here just for the sake of myself. Things occur for a reason, and if I would just stop overthinking it or fighting with myself about it, all of it would eventually make sense.

The dog was answering some of my ‘why’ questions from my drive home.

The woman retrieved her retriever, thanked us profusely again and drove off safely back to her residence.

That night served as a small anchor as more days passed with no answers regarding our dilemma. I would conjure up the image of the dog kissing my daughter’s face just to help myself believe that there is a force who loves me completely and cares for my entire household.  Freedom comes when you are given a hint of something that is divine in nature.  If you can be given the gift of having the ‘why’ question answered, it makes the traveling through the pain easier at times.

As of this writing, a solution has come for my daughter and her car.  After much mental turmoil, I decided to send an email letting someone know of her plight.  I am not one to ask for assistance with my girls as we generally can figure it out ourselves.  To be honest, I think all of us should have some balance with that.  If someone offers to help you, then don’t feel guilt or ashamed in taking the assistance if you need it.  And, if you feel led to ask for help, then just ask. I have found that this actually brings the giver a blessing in return.

My intent in sending the correspondence was only to verbalize and get out on paper what she was going through. In turn, I received a response where my daughter’s car will be restored for her to alleviate the burden.  Did I know this when I wrote what I did?  No.  At no expense to her, an attempt is going to be made to see if the Jeep can be salvaged to its former state.  (Yes, I am still on the floor from fainting from hearing the news of this because I wasn’t expecting that or seeking it.)

I am learning that asking others for help, and allowing God to use me to be someone else’s helper is the ebb and flow of life.  Knowing that you are loved by your Creator makes it possible during a bleak time to stay strong, live a life with meaning, and help you to keep, restore and sometimes retrieve your liberty.

 

 

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