Wounds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

“No, thank you. Chris, let’s go.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe,” she said. 

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

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

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

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

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

I could not stop laughing. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yep..I have talent in my house

Watched Over

Throughout the years, I have tried to heal my relationship issues with money. I have attempted to keep gratitude journals where I have been known to write: Nothing bad happened today.

I saw this as a good thing to be thankful for, as simple as it was.

Another thing I did was I started writing thank you on the back of every payment I sent out. It reminded me I was paying someone’s wage to help them afford their mortgage or meals for their kids. I even sent my regards to the IRS when I mailed in my quarterly estimated taxes. I drew a smile on the envelope to add to the positivity. Did I mean it? I am not sure, but they say if you do the action, the feelings might show up later.

I have done money drops where I would take cash and encouraging notes and place them for the unsuspecting to find. I stuffed them into diaper boxes at the store, left them in bathroom stalls at the airport and in books at the library.

While all that was fun, it still didn’t do much to reverse this lack mindset that had been ingrained in me since childhood, where money was the root of all evil. If anything good came my way, it was pure luck and not to expect anything.

I recall at age seven opening a birthday card with money and saying to my mom in front of a relative,

“You can’t use this for new socks this time!”

I was catching on to what the green bills meant and how they were being taken away from me. I remember she looked slightly embarrassed. I was always challenging her frugal approach to life. Something inside of me knew that her view of things was slightly off.

When she was making her grocery list one day, I said I wanted something.

“It’s not on my list, Chris.”

She had her head down, writing out this massive novel of needed items. I didn’t understand the tight rope she was on trying to make it all work. I was tired of this worn out answer she always gave me.

“Just put it on your list,” I said, thinking this was the most brilliant idea that she had never thought of.

She looked at me and started laughing. That was not the response I was hoping for, so I one-upped her and scribbled out what I wanted onto her overloaded piece of paper when she left it unattended.

“Here,” she said to my shock while she handed me the item after she returned from the store. She hid her list after that.

If I had holes in my clothes, which was inevitable because they were never new, she would stitch them or put a patch on them. She taught me to wear something until it literally fell off my body and was paper-thin from the wash.

The message was continually sent that we could not afford anything, so get used to it. After years of that, it’s no wonder I have struggled to believe I could have it better.

Having a divorce thrown in on top of that didn’t help either, which only took my uncertainty up a notch.

At the same time, I picked up on the idea to give away things to help others. My street is busy, so if I need to get rid of anything, I set it out at night, and it disappears by dawn. I have had people come to my door asking if I meant for the items to be free because they are in good shape. I have given away tables, children’s items, and everything else under the sun. Someone always needs it more than I do.

The other day I cleaned my room and came across yet another experiment that I tried in 2014. I decided to write down every good thing that happened to me for the year and placed the notes in a jar.

When I read through them, I could still see that part of me was wanting to believe that what I learned as a kid wasn’t true. I realized the progress I had made between then and now, which that in itself is worth it.

And I discovered something else. God has been faithful. Even during the most challenging times, I still never got down to my last dime, even though I sometimes skated close to that. I always had ideas come to me on how to manage, and multiple people stepped in at times to save the day unknowingly.

I wrote everything, including the tiniest detail, like finding $2 at the mall. As I have let God cure me of my money trauma, the worries have faded, and I can handle the unexpected a lot better than I used to.

At one time, if I got a bill in the mail, I would obsess over it so much that I would miss out on something more substantial, like a daughter’s birthday. I would be present in the body, but my mind was whirling, figuring out how to meet that obligation. The first time I realized I wasn’t doing that anymore was a significant milestone for me.

And where did all that fretting get me? Nowhere. I wish I had known this verse from 2 Corinthians 9:8:

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (NLT)

I cannot overlook the fact that this was passed down to me from someone I trusted and was looking to for answers about life. So, if you are acting like this, your children are watching and will repeat your mistakes. That was a huge reason for me to correct this in myself because I don’t want my girls to be mentally tormented as I have been.

One day in the middle of the pasta aisle, my youngest daughter couldn’t take it anymore.

“Get the organic one.”

“It’s more expensive.”

“It’s a quarter more! Get it! It’s better for us than the other one!”

I held each jar. She was sending lasers with her eyes and I knew I wasn’t going home with the cheaper one. My final fight with her was over cheese, and I said,

“You know what? I am no longer at the age where I can waste my time arguing with someone over dairy products, so fine! I will get the one you want me to, and move on!”

That started me on a new road to buying healthier options.

I used to try to skimp by on everything as much as I could. God met me in that place and provided because that is how it works. I don’t do that anymore, but if something comes along that I know has been discounted to make me feel heaven’s presence, that’s another story.

Today, my friend had breast cancer surgery. It was particularly tough because her fiance, Dan, went on to heaven last winter. He had cancer for nine years and had defied all odds. He often nudges me to buy her orange flowers, and anytime I bring them to her, she has always prayed and asked for them as a sign that he is near.

I went into the store and had that persistent thought to get flowers from her heavenly husband. I knew what color they had to be, but I didn’t know if they would have any. I had made up my mind to get her a bunch, and I didn’t care what the cost was.

In the floral department, I found three big bouquets set apart from all the rest. Of course, and he never makes me guess but always directs me to them. I thought I saw a clearance price, but I wasn’t sure, so they rang up really low when I ran them through the self-checkout.

“Is this right?” I asked the employee standing nearby.

“Yes, we got a big over shipment of flowers that we had to sell. Those are really pretty.”

A blessing had found me when I least expected it.

I spent next to nothing for them when I was prepared to empty my bank account to ensure she knew how much she is watched over.

Best Deal

His voice boomed through the store,

“Chris! Get ten of them!”

He wasn’t even in the same aisle that I was in, but he was so tall that I could almost see his head above the highest shelf.

“Stop putting stuff back! Get what you need, I mean it!”

“I don’t know if I need this many, though.”

“Christine! Get them!” He had used my full name, so that meant he was serious.

This was during a tough time financially for me. My divorce had not been finalized; there was no child support, so I was living off of fumes, and when he caught wind of it, he insisted on taking me to buy groceries. I had resisted the idea but had given in due to his persistence.

“I want you to get what you need. If there is a sale, take it and stop putting things back.”

I had a hard time doing what he said because I knew he was going through his own problems.

He had wandered off into another part of the store, so he couldn’t even see what I was doing as I took a couple of things, put things back, looked at prices, and kept telling myself to limit what I was getting. I was used to cutting coupons and strictly following a budget, and this craziness of just throwing things in the cart was foreign to me.

As I continued not to listen to his directions from afar, he repeated it as if he could see me, but I knew he couldn’t.

“Christine..get that! Stop putting things back!”

A lady next to me looked at me funny.

“Is he with you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“How can he see you?”

“I don’t know. He just can, I guess.”

She frowned and moved on quickly.

I went to the next section, and he came around the corner.

“You are still not doing it the way I told you to? You have nothing! Get back in that aisle, and get some things you need!”

He took control of the cart and landed himself back to where I had been.

“Look at this! You can get ten of these. You only took two! What are you doing? Get them!”

He did this through the entire store.

“What about this? Do you need any of these?”

“Yes, but..”

A vast handful went in, and we moved on.

“That’s so many..I…”

“I don’t want to hear any of your excuses. You have a poverty mentality, and God wants to heal you of that. You deserve things, Chris. God wants to show you that you will be supplied with what you need. Always.”

I wasn’t accustomed to his renegade-type approach to life because I was more of a keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best kind of faith back then.

He quickly piled in items as I tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen to me.

“Just thank me for it, and that’s it. Don’t say anything else.”

He held up a box of cereal.

“What about this?”

“I am not sure…”

“Do your kids eat these?”

“I think so, but…”

He took his arms in a hug-like fashion and dumped in a bunch.

“That’s what I want you to do. Don’t overthink it. Just do it! Stop looking at the prices and thinking I can’t afford it. I am doing this because God told me to help you. So, quit fighting it.”

There were so many other customers around us, and they had to think we were having a domestic right there. A towering man was loudly barking orders and demanding that I buy things. Isn’t it usually the other way around?

“God can do anything, Chris. Now get stuff!”

The minute I would hold something in my hand and barely glance at it, he would pluck it away, grab fifteen more, and say,

“Those are yours now.”

When he went to pay, he acted like it wasn’t enough.

“Look at all this, and that’s all it came to. What are you so worried about? Do you want to go get more?”

“No! Please, no!”

I couldn’t take any more of his generosity. I thought it was nice and all, but I couldn’t mentally deal with it. I was not used to this because I felt that life had to be difficult, and the things I needed or wanted had to be challenging to obtain.

“Thank you,” I said once we were in the parking lot.

“You have to get over limiting God and what can be done for you. You are stopping the blessings from coming into your life.”

A few months later, he asked me if I wanted to go on a treasure hunt with him and some church members. He was clinging to God, trying to clean up a very messy split from his wife. He had children with whom he had no visitations and a whole host of things coming at him that would have made most people give up on believing in anything good.

I said I would attend, but I was a little in the dark about what this was. We were handed a pen, a piece of paper and told to sit quietly in a part of the church where no one else would speak to us. The instruction was given to pray and ask for words to write down.

This exercise was meant to strengthen our spiritual hearing and build our confidence in genuine, live faith. I had various words go through my mind, so I wrote them down.

“Now that you have your clues, we are going to go to the mall and look for what you wrote down. God will lead you to people who need prayer.”

Huh? I had to talk to people now? I looked at my list. Chapel, housekeeper, mop, coin, an American flag, water fountain, and a red shirt were what made up most of my list.

It was a Saturday, so the place was packed with shoppers. This wasn’t just any spot; it was the Mall of America which had thousands of people streaming in from all over. Of course, he had to pick the most massive collection of humanity possible. His go big or go home attitude was in everything he was doing.

The group split up once we all arrived. The minute I walked through the double doors, I saw her. Unbelievable as it was, I saw her pushing a heavy housekeeping cart. I glanced down at the words I had written. Oh, no! It was happening so fast!

How could this be? I tried to tell myself that she was busy. Maybe I shouldn’t interfere with her work because I am sure there were many messes to attend to. I was so thankful that my friend wasn’t with me because he would have grabbed my arm and dragged me over.

I observed for a minute. She stopped and started to rearrange the garbage bags, her spray bottles, and then she did something that ended up propelling me forward. She wrung out her mop! Red shirt, mop, housekeeper….it was all there.

I walked over to her and saw that she was standing right by a chapel! I could not believe it! It’s a place that is set up for quick marriages. I knew it existed, but I had never seen it.

To start the conversation, I said,

“What do you think of places like that? Have you ever seen anyone get married in there?”

I was grasping for anything I could think of to say.

“Oh, sure. I clean in there sometimes, and it’s not as bad as you might think.”

She continued to wring out her mop. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff with absolutely no safety net.

“So, I have a question for you.”

“Yes,” she said, not looking up.

“Do you have anything that you need prayer for? I think God sent me to you.”

She stopped what she was doing and made eye contact. I prepared myself for a considerable slap down. I felt like a Jehovah’s Witness coming to my door and asking me if I had ever read the Bible. I was always kind to them, but some don’t treat others that way, especially if they have been abused in churches or have a bad relationship with God. She could have been an atheist for all I knew. This was too personal and up close for me.

She leaned against the mop handle.

“I need God to help me see the goodness in people again. I have been through a lot, and I don’t trust people anymore.”

“I don’t either at times,” I said. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

“I work here, and I do my best. But, I feel like there is more out there for me. My family isn’t kind to me, and I feel like something is missing in my life.”

“Let me show you something,” I said. I pointed out the words that I had written down that matched up exactly to her.

She started to cry.

“I have felt so alone. And now you are here telling me that I am not, and I know God hasn’t given up on me.”

“I don’t think so. There are many promises that say we aren’t ever abandoned.”

She grabbed my hands and said,

“Please pray for me.” This was now getting easier by the second.

And right there, in the busiest place in America, I asked God to restore her faith in humanity and to show her what her purpose was.

When she opened her eyes, with tears streaming down her face, she thanked me.

“I need to do more with my life. I know there is a church by my house that I think I need to go volunteer at and start living again.”

I took a deep breath when I left her. That was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life! I had convinced myself I would be so wrong, but God showed me that I could hear pretty clearly.

I kept thinking I was to find the water fountain. Now that I had been given a slight win with the first attempt, my fear wasn’t as high. I sat near the cascading water; I saw a woman sit down, looking tired.

Was this who I was supposed to help? I only had three vague clues left to go on, so I moved closer but not enough to have her see me. A coin was directly behind her in the water, and someone had thrown in a lapel pin that had an American Flag on it.
Yep, this was it.

I was back to square one emotionally, with terror ripping through me. I decided to throw all caution to the wind and start a conversation.

“It is so busy today, and I try not to show up here on Saturdays.”

“I had to sit down. My arthritis is acting up.”

She held up her hands so I could see them.

“It starts to hurt in my hands and feet.”

“Would you want me to pray for you? I know that sounds strange, but I can if you want…”

Before I even finished my sentence, she grabbed both of my hands.

“Yes. I would like that.”

Her eyes slammed shut like this was the most normal thing to do by the water fountain in the mall, surrounded by swarming masses.

I leaned in closer to her so she could hear me over all the noise. I felt a warmth flow from my hands into hers, and I felt her relax. She sighed and began to smile.

“I feel so much better now. Thank you,” she said.

After that day, I went on a few more treasure hunts with him and his group. It became more manageable, and I was so surprised how I was led to the right person each time. I never had anyone turn me away who I was supposed to approach.

All of this brought to life this scripture for me found in 1 Peter 2:9:

“But you are God’s chosen treasure…”(TPT)

I still heard from him from time to time, and I know he got married. A couple of months ago, I was at an outdoor event that was packed with people. My daughter stopped to talk to someone she knew, and I looked up. And he was right there.

“Hey! Chris!” That booming voice.

“I can’t believe it’s you! Out of all these people!”

He said his wife was waiting for him across the street, and I had to keep moving with the group I was with. He said he would call me and get caught up.

I got word the other day that he is sedated, on a ventilator, and fighting for his life. There are no visitors allowed, and I wish I had lingered with him longer the last time we ran into each other. I hate regrets like that where you want to rewind the clock.

No matter the outcome, I know he will be where God wants him, and he won’t pass up on the best deal.

One Smart Cookie

On the first day of Christmas vacation during seventh grade, I found myself with a whole day of nothing to do. I took my mom’s stained Betty Crocker cookbook out of the drawer to see what I could make that would shock and awe all of those who would receive her annual cookie tray that year.

I stumbled upon a gingerbread boy/girl recipe that was intriguing because I had not made those before. I checked to be sure all of the ingredients were in the house, and I rummaged around a drawer until I found a cookie cutter that was in the shape of a traditional gingerbread person.

As I went over the recipe and looked at the cookie cutter, I decided that just one batch was not going to be enough. I wanted to be sure we had plenty to give away. I decided to double the recipe just to be safe.

I gathered up all that was necessary and began an afternoon of what I was sure was going to be the best experience ever. The recipe called for seven cups of flour, but I was doubling it, so I had to measure out fourteen cups. That should have been an indication to me what was to come, but I did not take heed. I happily went along mixing, measuring and stirring.

I did each ball of dough in two bowls so I would not lose track of what I was doing and accidentally omit an ingredient. I decided that one bowl would be for gingerbread boys while the other would be for girls.  After chilling the dough for an hour, I preheated the oven and took out one bowl to begin rolling, cutting and baking. I pressed raisins in for eyes, noses, mouths and buttons. While one batch was in the oven baking, I was sweating it out attending to the next assortment.

My parents were going to a Christmas party that evening, so when they left, I was in the middle of production.

“How many of these are you making?” she asked as they left.

“I don’t know. I doubled the recipe so I’m not certain.”

With that, they departed for dinner, and I was left with a monster I was creating.

By the time I finished baking, the entire kitchen table, dining room table and an extra table I had to set up in the living room were covered with baked cookies ready to be frosted. I had not taken a minute to eat and had worked all evening in an attempt to use up all the dough I had made.

I cleaned up all the baking dishes and plunged into making a huge batch of white frosting that I split up for pink and blue frosting.  I followed the instructions in the cookbook by trying to make neat fringe around the wrists and ankles of each cookie followed by a hat.  My hand grew tired after the first few, but I looked up at the sea of naked cookies around me.  I couldn’t stop now.

As the hours wore on, my eyes were beginning to droop.  I heard the garage door go up signaling the arrival of my parents.

When my mom opened the kitchen door her mouth popped open and she froze in place.  She scanned the dining room and the kitchen with a look of amazement. Not the good kind.

“What is going on?  Are you still baking?”

“No,” I said trying to be optimistic.  “I am frosting.”

“Have you been doing this all night?”

I glanced at the clock.  It was midnight.

“I guess so.”

I went back to the cookie in front of me.  Over the moments spent with them, I silently vowed I would not eat any because I was so tired of looking at them.  After I finished, I was going to part ways with them for good.  My neck and back were developing stiffness and pain from hunching over cookie sheets all night long.

“How did you end up with this many?” she asked.

“I doubled the recipe.  I didn’t think I was going to have enough.”

“What?!”  She went over to the drawer, pulled out the Betty Crocker and found the recipe.

“Did you use fourteen cups of flour?”

“Yes.”

“What?! Fourteen CUPS of flour? Really?”

I put my head down and kept going.

“What are we going to do with all of these?”  I didn’t know.  My job was to bake them and frost them.  After that, my duty was done.

When I heard a gasp followed by the exclamation,

“There is more out here too?!”  I knew she was putting away her coat in the living room closet and had walked past the extra table that held more.

I kept quiet and continued on with my self inflicted slave labor.

I believe I finished just before 2 am and stumbled off to bed not caring what would become of my creations.

The next morning, she had packed all of them into multiple empty ice cream buckets and put them into the freezer until she assembled her trays to give away.  For weeks she brought them to work just to rid our house of them and by the fourth of July, she finally threw them away as everyone had lost interest.

In the years that have lapsed since then, I have only made that type of bakery good once with my daughters.  And, I did not repeat the mistake of doubling the recipe.  In my attempt to control what I thought was going to be lack, I created a mess that would never have transpired had I stuck to the original recipe.

This is exactly how life becomes complicated.  When a person entertains limiting thoughts or has a fear of lack, and she uses her own will power to remedy this false belief, all sorts of trouble can happen. I found out that trying to manufacture an abundance of something by my own doing was not a blessing at all.  It was a nuisance that I could not free myself from soon enough.

In the same way, when we find ourselves short on material resources, we have a tendency to give less and hoard more. However, this flies directly against a well known passage that states: Give and it shall be given to you.

It is a bit frightening to give a hand out when you are terrified of going under financially.  However, it can be exhilarating to actually follow through, put it to the test, and see how it not only brings a blessing to the receiver but also to the giver.

To rest in a state of peace even when it doesn’t seem like you have enough isn’t easy.  To laugh when you should cry, to sleep peacefully when you should be up all night worrying and to give a gift when you don’t think you can afford it, are signs that you believe all is well.  It shows that you are in agreement with God, and that is the sweet life of one smart cookie.

 

ginger

In Hot Water

I had just looked at my bank account and felt a momentary sense of peace and calm come upon me.  At this time of the year my thoughts begin to turn to the holidays that are coming and added spending that I will do.  I was contemplating how much money to put into my savings when my phone chimed with this text from one of my daughters:

“Not sure if you know this, but I just took a shower and the water was cold. I had the thing all the way turned over to hot because I was freezing and it was just warm not hot. I turned on the bathroom faucet all the way to hot and it was the same thing as the shower. Kitchen sink too. Saying this just to tell you not to worry you.”

This began a chain of events including finding the number to the utility company to see if someone could come and check on my water heater. This was Thursday, and I was told no one could help me until Sunday. I was prepared to tough it out for three days, but by evening I discovered a puddle of water around the tank that indicated it was leaking, so I called again and was told someone would be out by morning.  Amazing how when something leaks it gets quick attention.

A friendly and knowledgeable man showed up promptly the next day and informed me that a new water heater was in order.  Not really surprised, I spoke with a man in the service and parts department and was told the amount that I would have to come up with to cover the replacement. Because hot water is a necessary commodity, I gulped down my astonishment and gave the go ahead for the new item to be placed in my home.

By afternoon, two men had arrived armed with tools, a garden hose and other equipment that would suffice for the dismantling of the iron monster that had decided to spring a leak.  In less than an hour, I was signing papers and was being shown how to locate the pilot light.

While running errands later with my two girls, I found myself silently muttering over the cost that I had just been charged. I was not really fretting or all out worrying but just not comfortable with the idea of that much money flying the coup at once.  I didn’t dwell too long on this inward conversation with myself but made the conscious decision to forget it and move on.

The girls and I decided to go into a gas station for a fountain drink.  When I spied the cookies in the display case I said,

“Who wants a cookie to celebrate my new water heater?”

As the three of us were standing in front of the well stocked shelves someone coming in the door to my left caught my attention.  I thought he was standing behind us but found that he had gone into the aisle directly behind me.  When I turned to look at him, I saw his hand reach out to the candy bars and move toward his coat pocket.  He saw me looking at him and quickly put it back.  He moved on, and I turned my attention back to the cookies.

For some reason, I turned around again and noticed him reaching for the same item, and when he saw me looking, he threw it back again.  I noticed that his hands were jumpy and his movements were quick and nervous.  It dawned on me that I was witnessing a potential shoplifter.  I turned away again and felt I was to remain quiet and not confront him.  We have had a series of robberies occurring in gas stations where guns have been drawn.  With my two daughters beside me, I felt a calm knowing that I was not to cause any kind of disturbance.  I felt like I was being given a command to sit and stay.

As we picked out our selections, I heard a cellophane wrapper behind me.  I glanced back to see him making quite the show of getting a rice krispy bar.  I was still uncertain if he had put anything in his pockets, however.  He walked past me and our eyes met.  He shifted his away quickly as I watched him go up to the cashier.

I was conflicted as I stood in the next line over.  Had he really been stealing?  Why would a shoplifter be purchasing something if he had intended on not paying in the first place?  I took out my wallet and stood with it close to my face but peered over it so I could see what he was doing.  The cashier slumped across her register as he began patting himself down for loose change.  He emptied out his pants pockets but not his jacket.   I could have sworn I saw a king sized Reese’s candy bar go into his left coat pocket earlier.  I wondered when that would come out to show his thievery.

He glanced at me sideways.  He knew I was watching! I began examining my bank card closer.  In normal situations I would have offered to help him pay for whatever item he had, but I knew he was stealing and he knew that I knew! He threw his change on the counter and when the girl thanked him for it, he dashed for the door.  I stood in my line still wondering what he had taken that didn’t belong to him.

“I can help you over here,” she said.

I walked over to where he had been.  On the counter were his eye glasses, a screwdriver, a bag of fruit snacks and other items he had set down in his haste to find money in his pockets.  She looked down and said,

“Oh, no.  I should go get him.”

“No you shouldn’t,” I said.  “Was he having trouble paying for what he got?”

“Yes.”

“I believe he was stealing.  Let him come back himself.”

I went on to tell her what I had witnessed.

“Please don’t accuse him of it until you have proof though, ” I said.  “I didn’t want to say anything to him until I knew for sure.  I couldn’t tell.”

“I will review the video and see if he stole anything, and if he did, he will have to give all the items back if he wants his stuff back.”

Another lady wandered over who was an employee of the gas station.  She had overheard our conversation.

“I thought he was stealing earlier.  I saw him put an ice cream cup into his pocket, and I asked if I could help him.  He said no and put it back.”

When she said that, I knew that my observations were not wrong.  He had left in such a frantic hurry not to get caught that he left what little he owned spread all over the counter.  I paid for my items and decided not to wait around to see the outcome.

When I got home, and before moving on to my next task, I took a moment to soap up my hands with an antibacterial that promises the smell of fresh ocean breezes.  I turned the hot water on and made a huge lather between both hands.  I began sending up my praises for the use again of both faucets in my house.  No matter the cost, I am not to fear how I will pay.  A way is always made for me when I ask for help.  I wish the man in the gas station was aware of this power that is available to all.  It doesn’t have to be taken under cover, but it is given freely out in the open for anyone who asks.

If he only knew that circumstances could be different so he wouldn’t be in a gas station doing illegal acts that could eventually get him thrown into jail. What pressure to exist under knowing that at any moment he could be caught red handed.   I only feel sorrow for such a man who is living life in such hot water.

waterheater