Foreign

I had been convinced to help a friend with a purchase.

“I want to place an order for beef, but the smallest amount is too much. If you split it with me, then it would work out better.”

There was an organic farm not too far away, and she was trying to rid her life of anything artificial. Hydrogenated oils and artificial sweeteners were on her hit list.

I agreed to try it with her and was told it would be a few days before I could pick it up. I totally forgot about it because this was when I was homeschooling, trying to get around to everything, and I didn’t have mental space for livestock.

“Is dis Christine?” The accent was heavy, and the voice unfamiliar. I wished I had let the call go when I couldn’t identify the number.

“Yes,” I said hesitantly. Who was calling from Norway?

“Dis is Helga. I need ta ask you questions.”

I now wondered if this was a long-lost relative. A Norwegian from my grandma’s side of the family with that name. Could this be the call where I am told I have inherited the unknown family fortune?

“I have beef dat you wanted. I need ta know how you want it.”

I was listening intently because she was trying so hard to get her message across to me. I always feel bad when speaking to someone who tries their best in English, and I have to make them repeat themselves.

“I am so sorry. Could you ask that again?”

This was happening multiple times as she tried to talk me through the steps. I had never done this before, so I had no idea what I was doing.

I finally understood that she wanted me to select cuts and different types of processing. It was smooth sailing from there once I comprehended what the point of this was. We were doing great, me and Helga until she got to the final question.

“Do you want da liver?”

“No, I will pick up my order.”

What an odd thing to say after being told that I would have to drive thirty minutes to get it.

“Da liver or no?”

“I will come to get it,” I repeated.

“No. No. Do you want da liver?!”

“When do you want me to come to get it?” I decided not to answer the question since we were getting nowhere.

“Da liver! Da liver? Do you want that?”

With Helga raising her voice many decibels, I took a minute to think. It dawned on me that she wasn’t giving me a delivery option.

“Oh!” I said, and I could almost hear her collapse. Now that I knew, I was slightly grossed out.

“No. I don’t want that.”

And with that, Helga went on to her next frustrating phone call.

That wasn’t my first brush with a foreign language. In middle school, I had to take Spanish, German and French.

German was the hardest because of the pronunciation coming all from the throat, it seemed. My brothers were always watching Hogan’s Heroes, and my goal in life as an 8th grader was not to sound like Colonel Klink or Sergeant Shultz. It just had a bad mental image for me, making it even more difficult to learn.

The other two were okay, but I struggled overall. When I got to college, I decided to take French to fulfill the requirement for earning my degree. I didn’t picture myself jetting off to Paris, but I wanted to graduate as quickly as possible.

So you run the gauntlet.

Our instructor was not the warmest person. Behind her smile, I could sense a drill officer who expected perfection. At this stage of life, most classes had no required seating, but not her. We were put in alphabetical order, and this class met every single day.

We had one of the biggest snowstorms strike during the winter, and she would not cancel. We all dragged ourselves in, risking life and limb to do her bidding while the rest of the school shut down. It was apparent to me that day she had us under mind control. Not a seat was vacant, and all of us looked stressed. One girl showed up in her pajamas. This was before doing that in public was fashionable.

She used intimidation as a tool to educate us about what is known as the language of love.

The toughest part for me was learning the male and female pronouns. It was bad enough trying to grasp words and their meaning, but then you had to know if an object was masculine or feminine. Even for a visual person, this was a struggle. And if you remembered wrong, you were already lost by choosing the incorrect pronoun.

There was a rule that if a word ended with an ‘e’, then it was feminine. Your choice for the word “the” was un or une depending on what gender was involved, but not always, and that is where the confusion came in.

She would lead us in group reciting sessions so we all could cover our inadequacies. Our voices joined as one made it easy to whisper and let others drown you out. The absolute horror of this class was when we would walk in and find headphones at all of our seats on a Monday. She loved her pop quizzes.

She would station herself in a soundproof booth while we read passages out loud from the textbook. She would click in to listen to us each individually.

It was so clear who she was targeting. While the rest of us moved on, I could hear some poor soul going over and over the same sentence trying to appease her.

It happened to me all the time. And the guy next to me always looked scared because he knew he was going to be next.

“No! Do it again!” She would yell. So I would.

“No! No! Again! Again!”

I could hear the F being scribbled into her teacher’s notes.

Then she would always try the tactic of pronouncing it and wanting me to follow what she said. The chorus of voices around me, robotically speaking, always threw me off. And the sound was staticky because this was way before technology and noise canceling earbuds.

At some point, I decided there was no pleasing this woman. She was a perfectionist, and even if I did something right, she marched on finding more faults.

Because a significant portion of our grade was based on the actual speaking of the language, I was not doing so well, and neither was anyone else. Weirdly, I redeemed myself on the tests along the way. When I went back to review, I realized I had memorized many words, and I could write sentences and read, but I couldn’t say it.

Without her negative attitude breathing down my neck, I realized I wasn’t that dumb like she made us all out to be. In the quiet, without her around, I could think and do better.

I had to get comfortable with making it to the tests and not look at how horrible I was doing along the way. She was a bad teacher, but I was somehow still learning despite her.

When that clicked, I was able to escape with a B. My test scores were outstanding, but she would have never told me that. I’m sure she’s way retired by now eating a Pillsbury croissant somewhere. If no more students are being tortured, that’s a good thing.

Understanding how God talks is much like learning a foreign language, and it requires putting aside what you think you know. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 it says:

We live by faith, not by sight. (NLT)

I remember the first time someone said that to me. I was having a crisis in my life and was worrying non-stop. That statement made no sense to me. Wouldn’t my sweating it out bring the problem to a close faster?

Matthew 6:27 says no:

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (NLT)

So we aren’t supposed to be afraid, trust God, cast all our care into heaven’s hands, and use faith, not our physical senses, to live from a powerful spiritual standpoint. None of that sounds simple because it isn’t, you have to learn it, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

It’s a job done from the inside out, but the more you persist and keep exposing yourself to communication with God, you unlearn what you thought was so important. There’s another way of living where you are allowed to have insight into an unseen realm. You pray, and you crawl before you walk. But, you see the gradual building of something valuable.

God doesn’t want people wandering around in the dark, not knowing what to do. In Matthew 7:7-8 it is presented this way:

Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. (Message)

The great thing about learning to come up higher spiritually is that you can help others navigate through their rough waters. You can hear and see things they can’t, and if they listen and apply what you say, there’s a blessing for both of you.

Be careful who you let be your authority figure in this. My French teacher impeded my progress to learning by coming at us in an aggressive nature. I have been to churches that believe that you have to run it by them, and you live in a crippled state of never advancing because someone has convinced you they know better than you do. No one knows you better than God. If it doesn’t feel like you have the freedom to think on your own and ask questions, that isn’t the place to grow.

God is always in the business of expansion. But the prerequisite is that you start small and work your way up. Learn the vocabulary, and soon it won’t feel so foreign.

(There are problems in EVERY language!)

Unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They always somehow turned out looking like grey rocks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?”

“If I went outside and smoked a cigarette.”

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

“I think that is a sign,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He is 65, and so am I.”

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

“How long have you known him?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where do you go to church?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Gift

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

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

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

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

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

“Why does this look like this?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No. What.” It could be anything.

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

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

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

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

“Ya, that might be more expensive.”

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

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

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

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

Simple

Brittle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had taken one for the team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have to throw that in quick.”

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

“I don’t want to burn this.”

“Keep stirring. Move it around more.”

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

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

“Let me do it then.”

“No. You will burn it.”

“I will not. Just let me see.”

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

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

“I know. Let me see what it’s like.”

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

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

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

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

“He gets too upset over this.”

“Why do you two do this every year?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I..uh..” I didn’t want to commit.

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

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

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

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

She grabbed the oven mitt and whacked him with it.

“I will be!”

It didn’t phase him.

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

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

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

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

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

“Being quiet would kill you.”

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

“See? He isn’t nice to me, Chris.”

Still trying to get me on her side.

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

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

His glasses were fogging up from the steam rising upward.

“I am so hot!”

“Let me see what you are doing.”

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

“So, why are you here, Chris?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Get the glass of water!” He said.

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

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

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

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

“Get it in there!” He said.

“I am trying to!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We weren’t out of the woods yet.

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

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

“Move. I can do it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

He sighed, looked at me.

“When did you get here?”

I was inches from him the whole time.

“I have been here too long,” I said.

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

“I am out of here!”

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

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

“We always make two.”

He rolled his eyes at me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I grabbed the spatula out of her hand.

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

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

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

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

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

That just made us laugh more.

“What is wrong with you two?”

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

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

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

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

True Self

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

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

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

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

“What should we start with?” I asked.

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

“Miss Chris, I don’t feel good.”

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

She fell asleep.

I looked to the teacher for information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes,” they all said at once.

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

“Our ears,” they all said.

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

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

“Yes,” they all said again.

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

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

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

“I feel better,” she said.

“You do?”

“I was tired, Miss Chris.”

“I think you were.”

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

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

Sometimes, we just need a nap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Made to Last

“Was it love at first sight?” She asked. I looked over at him and already knew the answer.

“What?” He asked.

He looked to me for guidance because he couldn’t hear her behind the mask.

“When you met your wife, was it love, at first sight?”

The inquiry was in its processing stage, and then I saw the understanding hit.

“No!” He said as if having to endure it again.

“Really? Why not?” She asked.

He crossed his arms tightly across his chest and said,

“She was a prude!”

“Well, you were no catch either,” I said in her defense, recalling her version of their first meeting. He smiled at me, knowing I was telling the truth.

It was a blind date, set up by friends that were a couple. They thought the two of them were compatible, but it was an act of God because they were from two different planets.

While she grew up in a small town in North Dakota, highly disciplined, he was on the streets of St Paul, causing a whole bunch of mischief. He had learned how to scam people wherever he could just to get a few cents in his pocket.

While still in elementary school, he took a handful of free pamphlets from the church and sought out the homebound elderly in his neighborhood.

“I would sell them. It was a quick way to make money. I had to sit and talk to them sometimes, which was boring. Sometimes I got a cookie, which made it better. But I always got paid.”

He was also in the recycling business. A small store sold pop in bottles which he and his friends would steal. They would drink it and then go in the shop’s back door where the owner would give them change. Then, they would race around to the front and buy candy.

“You could get a lot of penny candy back then.” He always said it like he wore a badge of honor.

He attended Catholic school where nuns were at the ready to whack him across the forehead with a ruler for any infraction. This did not deter him from getting out of line. He and a friend would sneak into the empty church during recess and roll under the seating.

It was on a hill with a dramatic slope from the back to the front.

“We would get on our sides to see who could get to the front first.”

One day, the back door flew open, echoing across the empty sanctuary.

“Who is in here?”

The two boys didn’t move a muscle, hiding under the pews, hoping she didn’t find them. He saw her long, ankle-length dress and heard the swinging of the beads as she went row by row.

“Jackie! Are you in here?”

Out of all the kids, she could name from his class, he was on the radar.

His prayers were answered, and she didn’t find them. And instead of being led by fear, he and his companion continued their daily race. If he could get away with it, he did it.

He graduated with all F’s and was sent into the military.

Meanwhile, my mom was scoring at the genius level on IQ tests and was the valedictorian of her class. She walked the straight and narrow path and lived under her father’s constant verbal and tormenting abuse. She escaped to nursing school in Minnesota, and this is where their two very mismatched worlds collided.

Doctors were in pursuit of her, and she went out on dates quite frequently. The night before her encounter with my dad, a suitor had brought her a corsage that she had pinned on a dress coat; she left it on because the flowers were fresh.

“I had to come down this long staircase,” she had told me. “He was waiting at the bottom.”

When she took the last step, he turned to her, pointed at the corsage, and said sarcastically,

“What do you think we are going to a ball or something?”

That set the tone for the night. She instantly hated him. And to send the message, she crossed her arms and made sure he came nowhere close to her.

“I was getting long-stemmed red roses and gifts from men who already had graduated from medical school. There was one in particular that I thought was going to develop into something more serious.”

I always envisioned the outcome of that. By some chance, what if she had married a wealthy doctor and I had been born into it?

“But your dad and I were a marriage made in heaven.”

And just like that, the pony, the outdoor pool, and everything else I ever wanted would vanish.

An unseen force was pushing them together; they saw each other again and somehow figured it out. While she loved picnics, he abhorred them. She loved to dance, but he didn’t. But she had a way of getting her way.

One night when he refused to dance with her, she accepted the invitation of another man. He had gone to use the restroom, and when he came back, he couldn’t find her. When he saw she was enjoying herself with someone else, that was the last time he said no to dancing.

Later, they found out they had been at the same party at a house before knowing one another. As they talked about it, all the details were the same, but they never saw each other there.

“We were just supposed to be together,” she would always say even when things weren’t perfect.

“We got into a big fight, and I took my engagement ring off right before the wedding,” she told me. “I was done with the whole thing. But then he came and looked so devastated that I forgave him.”

I guess when a divine plan is at work, anything can happen. I had seen her unflinching attitude once her mind was made up. But he somehow had worn down her defenses.

“He kissed me and slid the ring back on my finger.”

There went my mansion on easy street.

I didn’t come into their lives until way after the initial flames had flickered. One child after another had arrived, and I was the last of the six. When my dad wanted my attention and said my name, he would accidentally rattle off all five ahead of me before landing on mine. One morning I woke up to my mom calling in the dog.

“Chris! Stop barking and get in this house!”

“Did you just yell my name out the door?” I asked from my room that was near the kitchen.

This had now gone to a whole other level. She opened my door and looked at me in shock; it was an expression I came to know well as she tried to keep up with so many kids and things to attend to.

Many years later, while I was in high school, I had come home one evening to find him lying on the kitchen floor trying to fix the dishwasher. He had gotten off work early because it was their anniversary, and he had walked into a pool of water.

He could usually repair anything, build what she wanted, and never took a car in for an oil change. He did everything himself. But this was proving to be a challenge.

“We were supposed to go out,” she said when I came in. “He’s been working on this for hours.”

I could tell that the tension in the room was high as his frustration was climbing, and he was hungry.

Much to his dismay, he could not remedy whatever was wrong. This meant he would have to call for someone to help, but it was way past the time to do that. It was a blow to his ego.

Their evening out turned into a pizza delivery, and she got out paper plates. He still seemed annoyed as he mindlessly ate while still trying to figure out why he couldn’t solve the problem.

Suddenly, he came back to reality and remembered this wasn’t a usual weeknight.

“I got you a card,” he said, jumping up to go get it. He came back and handed it to her.

She opened it and started to laugh to the point she had to put it down on the table.

He looked at her like she needed to be committed to the nearest facility.

“Why are you laughing? That card isn’t funny!”

She tried to catch her breath, and once she did, she read it out loud.

“To my dearest wife, on her birthday!” This put her right back over again while he just shook his head and said,

“Dammit! I hate this day!”

She laughed louder. But, I saw him start to relax. For her, it was the perfect anniversary with no dishes to do, no meal to cook, and he had made her smile unexpectedly.

When something is meant to be, God will make it happen for the benefit of both. In Ecclesiastes 4:9 it says:

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor: One can help the other up if either of them falls down. NIT)

That was the secret to their success, even if it looked worn out, frazzled, and all-out insane. They used their strengths to help one another’s weaknesses.

My parent’s entire relationship was filled with moments where they had to see the good in the middle of big messes. No matter how bad things got, it was made to last.

(All smiles until all the kids showed up; 68 years later this week)

Wear It

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

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

“I don’t remember.”

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

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

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

“What is it?”

“It’s a shoe.”

She kept staring into the box with a wary look.

“This is one shoe? For what?”

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

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

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

“I guess that is going to go outside.”

“It’s for the kids who drive by.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are given these instructions about how to combat interruptions,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shape Up

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

“What is that?” I asked.

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I ignored him and deposited another coin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I walked away with him yelling at me,

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

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

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

“When do we start this?” I asked her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remaining To Be Seen

How many times did I have to hear her tell this story? It was ingrained in my mind, and I didn’t fully believe it. It would come out of nowhere, and it made me uncomfortable sometimes because it gave off the idea that I was “special.” I didn’t want to be perceived as that.

“Your dad thought you were going to be a boy, and I knew we were going to have another girl.”

This is how the soliloquy always started. She would get this far-off look and go back in time.

“We chose your name because we knew we could go either way with it, and you were destined to either be a Christine or a Christopher.”

When I started printing my name, I realized the first part looked like a major holiday. She displayed all of the cards after getting them in the mail. I took one of them to her and said,

“Is Christmas named after me?”

I pointed out the first five letters. If she said yes, my life at six years old was about to change for the better.

“No. It’s named after Christ and not Christine.”

What a major disappointment!

“The “mas” part means mass. So together, it means Christ’s Mass, and to celebrate his birth.”

This is why I was at church on Christmas Eve at midnight, trying not to fall asleep. I would never make kids do that if it was named after me. There would have been one present after another, candy and no school, ever for the rest of our lives. Instead, it was a hot environment with lung-burning incense and words spoken in Latin in low monotone voices. That was a tranquilizer right there.

“Your dad was so sure that you were going to be a boy that he went out and bought a set of infant pajamas that said little slugger on them. He wanted a boy to play baseball.”

Somehow his wish was granted. I played softball for eight years, and he was at every single game.

He was so accustomed to having three sons ahead of me; he tried to lure me into the fold. I think he secretly wanted to outnumber the girls and get an advantage over my mother.

If I didn’t want to eat something, he would look at me and say,

“Chris, eat that! It will put hair on your chest!”

“John! Don’t tell her that! She really won’t eat it now!”

She was right because I visualized everything. I was not about to leave that table looking like a gorilla because he convinced me to eat beets. No way.

I watched every football game with him, and he always had me open the numbers that he had bought at the office.

“Open these, Chris. You have better luck than I do.”

It never made sense to me, but I took the paper that was sealed and opened it. He always won some small amount based on the score, and I recall two zeros won him $50.

“Here. Sip the foam.”

He would hand me his mug of beer. I absolutely hated the taste, but it was his, so I slurped as he said to.

It was an indoctrination to tip the scales in his favor.

“The day I went into labor with you, he took his time. I told him we had to go, and he made himself a cup of coffee, took a long shower, slowly shaved every hair off his face, and had breakfast. I kept telling him to hurry up. He thought it would be like the other five. A long, laborious process and him sitting in a waiting room. I told him it wouldn’t be that way this time.”

The nurse had gotten her into the room and settled.

“I think you should call the doctor right away,” she said.

“Oh, it will be a while.” I will be back to check on you in a little bit.”

“That was so frustrating not to have anyone listen to me. I knew it was going to happen fast.”

She pushed her call light, and when the nurse appeared again, she insisted.

“You need to get the doctor now!”

The nurse saw that my mom was right and ran to get help.

“The obstetrician slid into the room and caught you at the last second. And then the moment came!”

This is when the story always took a higher, dramatic turn.

“I told your dad that I didn’t enjoy looking into a baby’s eyes because they never looked back at me. It was like a blank slate with nothing there. But not you! You looked at me, and I said…look! She has an understanding of things, and she came here with knowledge, and God sent her here with a message.”

I didn’t fully believe her recounting of this because she also went around telling everyone I had blue eyes way past the point of it being a possibility. She desperately wanted one of her children to have my dad’s colored eyes, but her predominant brown always won out.

“I never got my blue-eyed child! Actually, his eyes can be blue sometimes and switch to green. I would have taken either one.”

I innocently asked him once,

“Why do your eyes change color?”

“They are green when I have money and blue when I don’t.”

I believed him, so I always looked at him closely before executing my begging session for spare change.

“You had something that no other infant I held ever had. Instead of a dark void, you were born with wisdom, Chris.”

She had seen her fair share of dealing with births, from her own to those she assisted with as an RN.

In later years, I searched the meaning of my name and found out it means “follower of Christ.” She knew what she was doing, sealing my association with God.

She also gave me this piece of advice,

“You can always tell what’s going on with a person by looking them in the eye.”

Her words came to life for me recently when I was at a restaurant with a friend. She travels with her small dog everywhere she goes, and she puts her in a high chair. The staff at this particular place think something is wrong if she doesn’t show up with her pet. Not a single patron took offense, and everyone who looked our way would smile brightly.

We had been there for a while, and a lady on her way out stopped.

“That is the cutest thing I have ever seen!”

Then, she broke down crying.

“I had to put my beagle down a few months ago.”

She was so overcome with grief we had her pull up a chair. She told us that her significant other of twenty years had died unexpectedly in March. He was driving his semi-truck, and an autopsy later showed he had suffered a blood clot to the brain, killing him instantly. A man saw what was happening and took control of the truck, and called for help.

I found out she was in her mid-70s, while he had been 64 and one year away from retirement.

“Do you feel his presence?” I asked.

She wasn’t drawn to us to just admire the dog.

“Not really. I miss him terribly.”

Her pain was so severe, and I felt a crushing pain in my chest. She felt as if her life was turned upside down financially, and fear gripped her regarding how she would take care of a house all by herself. As she spoke of all of her worries, she cried harder.

I knew this type of fear, not from death but from a divorce. Except she was much older than I had been when my unexpected adjustment arrived.

“He’s standing right here. I can see him, and he isn’t gone.” I tried to break past her pain for just a second.

I start to feel like I’m saying the same thing to different people, but this is how it seems to be. Those who have gone on stand near or behind those to who they are connected to. This seemed to calm her down a bit.

“I do feel him sometimes on the side you say he is.”

“What about lights? Mine used to get clicked on and off when my mom first wanted my attention. I would suddenly be sitting in a dark room, and then they would blink back on. Does that happen to you?”

“Oh. Yes. I have a lamp that does that all the time.”

“That’s him. He’s trying to tell you that he is around. And I know you have to grieve, but try to take yourself out of it for a little bit. When you feel happy, that is the frequency he is on. Heaven isn’t on anything but joy.”

“I kept seeing a cardinal in my daughter’s yard all last summer, and it would come to sit by me. Do you know about what is said about that?”

Do I know about the symbols of cardinals showing up to represent a message from heaven? Definitely.

“Yes. I know about that a lot. So, you said at first you didn’t feel his presence, but you do. He isn’t gone from you at all. You miss the physical part of who he was, but if you can feel his presence, it will help you heal. It will help you overcome the loneliness.”

I took her hand and asked God to have her start seeing what I could.

By the time she said goodbye to us, I saw her smile reach her eyes. I was witnessing Psalm 147:3 in action:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (NIV)

“I’m so glad I met you both,” she said on her way out. There wasn’t a trace of one tear because I helped her realize this from Psalm 32:8 that says:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you. (NIV)

They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. When you allow God to take over your life completely, all else will fall to the wayside and that will be the only thing remaining to be seen.

I still think it should have been named after me…

Leashed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That made me feel better.

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

“Can we get a dog?”

“No, Chris.”

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

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

“You need to get her a dog.”

Finally! Someone was on my side.

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

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

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

This sent a shockwave through my mother’s soul.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have the most beautiful hair.”

If she had pointed out my smile, then maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, everyone was smiling.

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

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

“Okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You have to tell her!”

I turned around, and she stood up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you do this for a living?”

“No.” The man leading it said,

“You should.”

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

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

I saw him standing behind her.

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

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

“Is it really my dad?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The guy next to me said,

“What do you have to say to her?”

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

He said to all of those looking at us,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I said,

“You are like a medicine woman.”

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

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

“It’s going to do very well.”

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

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

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

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

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