Floating

Sometimes you have to drop out of what you usually do and take some time to think. I often do this on a daily walk, but I decided to visit a place that would require me to be quiet. I made the thirty-minute drive through hectic Saturday traffic as the entire world was heading off to harvest festivals. When the weather reaches nearly eighty degrees in October, no one wants to miss it because we could be facing a blizzard and a polar vortex by the following Monday.

“I need to get there because I’m supposed to go relax, and these crazy people and their driving are stressing me out!” I had been cut off multiple times, and someone behind me felt I wasn’t driving fast enough. It was very frantic all around me, and I wanted out.

She prayed that we would be teleported there like The Jetsons, and my lane started moving. Suddenly we were past the snarl and pulling into the parking lot.

The receptionist said it was Pumpkin Days, so people were flocking into the city in droves. I already felt the slight shift in the atmosphere with the lavender diffused air and spa music playing over my head.

“This is where you will find the towels, robes, and flip flops. The lockers are over there, and you go through that door when you are ready.”

We changed, grabbed what we needed, and went where she had pointed. I walked into a warm, massive room that housed the mineral pool. To make it even better, we were all alone.

That always amazes me when I end up on a road, in a store, or a theater with no other soul around. Many people occupy the earth, so how do I end up having a piece of space to myself?

Usually, when there is a pool involved, kids are splashing, and there is a lot of noise. This was like walking into a sanctuary. Both of us slipped into the 90-degree water quickly, and it wasn’t the usual gradual entry while my body had to adjust; I just went right in up to my chin.

When I get into the water, I usually run or do some nonrelaxing type of activity. This wasn’t like that at all, and I ended up floating suspended on pool noodles with my eyes shut. We both felt like we shouldn’t even talk because it felt different from usual, more like therapy and not like a waterpark.

The water was infused with 83 minerals that the skin absorbs. All of this is to help calm the mind and nervous system along with other disorders that a person might be facing. The draw for me was that it was to relieve nerve pain. I had jokingly told the chiropractor that someone had gotten on my last nerve as she treated me a few days prior.

As I drifted along, I started to picture the scene from the Bible where the disabled man is lying by the edge of the water. An angel would come to stir the water, and whoever got in would be healed….

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

At once, the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
(John 5:2-10 NIV)

When he was asked if he wanted to be well, he didn’t say “yes”. He explained why it couldn’t happen. He gave an excuse to justify why he had laid there for a long time. And it had become his identity. I wonder if he even tried to get in after all that time, or was it easier to submit himself to being immobile? It seemed that he had written himself off as a lost cause.

And what does that say about the compassion of God? Even when you come up with all your reasons why you can’t do something, you are allowed to get off your “sick” bed and move on. This is a mental block most of the time, and believing that you can is the hardest part.

When the nerve pain in my face has been at its height, I tell myself that the treatments I am doing for it are working, and I try to be aware of when it feels normal. This has been very effective in making the attacks less frequent and shorter in duration. I have had to come at this with the idea that I am healed, not unwell.

It’s not easy to do when the pain is screaming, but I can when it wanes. It’s something to build off of so it doesn’t become a stronghold. I feel gratitude when nothing hurts. And when it does, I tell it that I refuse to accept it. If Jesus asked me if I wanted to be over it, I would say yes. Would you? Or do you sink yourself in the symptoms, letting them run you?

I went into the tumultuous, hot tub—what a difference between the soothing unmoving water in the pool to now submerging in a loud, hot, boiling cauldron. Yet, it has its way of bringing a different kind of peace. I heard in my mind: See? You can be in a place of chaos like this and be still. It can surround you, and you can be in it, but not of it.

I did gravitate back to the more tranquil spot where I had started and surrendered myself back into the silence.

Just as I thought I was not going to have anyone invade my world, I heard her say,

“Have you ever been here before?”

I opened my eyes, and a woman was looking at me. I noticed that my daughter had drifted off into a far corner, and it appeared she was asleep. All day she had been right next to me, but now it looked like she had been pushed away to leave me alone with this person.

“I have been to this spa before, but never to the pool,” I said.

I flipped into an upright position. I used to wonder how I was always targeted for this type of thing. I didn’t look approachable with my eyes closed, but apparently, there was a reason for this encounter. It happens all the time, so I go where it takes me.

She told me that she and another family member had given her parents a gift card, and they had refused it, so before it was going to expire, it had to be used.

“I have arthritis, neuropathy, and fibromyalgia. My spine is shot, and I might have another surgery to fuse it. I am hoping being here will help.”

“Do you take medication?”

“Yes. But it does nothing. I have had acupuncture, a chiropractor, and physical therapy, and nothing works.”

I listened while she spoke about all of her issues.

“What about food? Are you on an anti-inflammatory diet?”

“I do Keto, and that seems not to cause me more trouble.”

I always have to be careful not to say, “do you think this is all in your head?” That sounds terrible when the symptoms are real.

“Have you ever considered that what you are thinking about or what is stressing you out could be contributing to this?”

She didn’t answer me but went back to going over all of her troubles again. The problem was bigger for her than a solution, so she had fallen victim.

I began to ask God how I could help this lady. Do I hold her hand and pray? But I felt the answer was no. Do I speak a verse over her? No. Do I talk about heaven and how much God loves her? That’s not it. Do I dunk her under and baptize her? I saw a visual of that with her still talking with bubbles coming to the surface. No, Chris. What is it then?

“Tell her to get quiet and meditate.”

That’s so simple and not earth shattering. She’s really a mess and telling me every single thing that is wrong with her, and now she has launched into what is going on with her spouse. Isn’t there some electric current I can send? Like zap, she is better and starts walking on water?

No. She needs to meditate and ask what she needs to do next. Only she can do that. Not you, and this is what she needs.

I interrupted her and said,

“Do you meditate?”

I saw something come across her eyes.

“Oh. No, but I have a bunch of meditation music that I bought and never used.”

“Use it.”

“I forgot all about that.”

“It will help you so you can think clearly. You need to get quiet and let whatever your body needs to be shown to you. This doesn’t have to take over your life because we were created to heal, and your body doesn’t hate you. So don’t think that. It was designed to support you in life.”

“I’m retired, and there are so many things I want to do, and this all stops me from that.”

“Then meditate. It sounds simple and like something that wouldn’t help, but how hard is it to sit in a chair and do this every day, so you get an answer?”

“Right. That is easy.”

“But you have to do it, so you know what to do next.”

Her sister, who had gone into the women’s locker room, whipped open the door.

“What are you doing? We have to go!”

“Oh! I forgot all about you.”

Meanwhile, my daughter was unmoving in the same spot. So strange after all day of her and I being side by side, and she was sound asleep on her back.

“I better go! I didn’t know she was in a big hurry!”

“Do what I said and have your husband do it too. You will get the answers you need.”

“I will. Thank you, and I think it will help.” She seemed brighter and less weighed down.

My daughter came back the minute she left.

“What happened? I didn’t hear a thing. I fell asleep and got a bunch of new ideas for work.”

“She just needed some advice. You know the drill.”

Later, I asked my daughter if the bottom of her foot was still painful. She had stepped on a piece of glass, and the spot was tender to the point of not being able to put all her weight on it entirely. She worried that maybe she hadn’t gotten it all out.

Pressing down on the area, she said,

“It’s fine! It’s not as swollen, and it feels normal.”

What I think is that God has created every single one of us to receive assistance in a certain way. Preaching an entire fire and brimstone message to that woman was not the answer, and she probably would have left with less hope. She was attracted to me like a magnet, but her ego was getting in the way of hearing. She sought me out, and I told her exactly what she needed to hear. If she follows through, she turns on a switch to victory.

Some need encouragement; others need to change how they look at life with negative eyes or fearful thoughts. Healing can come even by spending the day without a care, immersed with God, just floating.

A Nice Ring To It

After my mom went to heaven in May 2019, I kept having this reoccurring thought about a ring, and it would show up in my thoughts randomly like a gentle nudge.

Like a mother’s ring, this one would have five gemstones, including mine, my daughters, grandma, and mom’s. None of us have the same color, and it would represent four generations of women. I kept thinking about it but not acting on it.

June became July, and I tried to help my dad adjust to assisted living while cleaning out their house.

During that time, my daughter had to take her computer in for a repair, and I went with her to see if it was salvageable.

We left it in the hands of those who could potentially help, and I started to drive.

“Wait! They are having a sale!”

“Who?”

She pointed to a jewelry store nearby, and I hadn’t realized we were near one.

“You should go in there. Don’t you want to design a ring?”

“I don’t know. I’m tired, and I don’t feel like it.”

“I think you should go in there.”

So I did.

The manager was very helpful as I told him what I wanted. He took an anniversary band out of the case with five diamonds in the setting.

“We could remove all of these and put in the stones you want.”

He took colored markers and made it look like what the finished product would be. When it was on my finger, I knew I would have a hard time saying no.

“What do you think?”

“It’s perfect, but you have to tell me how much.”

“The stones being removed will be an extra charge as a repair. And if you want the insurance, that will be a bit extra as well.

He wrote down everything as he tapped away on the calculator.

I was undecided when he presented me with a number.

I looked over at my daughter, who sent me a nonverbal message that I better say yes.

I took it off and handed it back.

“I don’t know.”

“We can hold this for you if you want to put some money down, and then take your time deciding that way..”

He stopped talking mid-sentence as he looked at the price tag.

“Wait a minute. I think this is on sale, so the price I quoted you isn’t right. I have to go look at something.”

I know a sales tactic when I see one, but he looked genuinely shocked. I began to feel it was supposed to be mine, and I was trying to find a reason why I shouldn’t get it.

When he returned, papers were shuffled around, and he said,

“Okay, this has a pink tag on it, so that means it’s going to be discontinued. We can still make it into what you want it to be but at a lot cheaper cost.”

That should have catapulted me into action, but it didn’t. I knew that I was supposed to say yes, but I said,

“I’m still not sure.”

My daughter looked at me like I should be put away.

I left without making the purchase, and I decided to think about it. And that’s all I did for 24 hours; I knew it belonged to me.

I bought it and had to wait two weeks, but I had it on my hand just in time for my birthday. The minute I put it on, my connection to heaven became even more potent.

When I went back to have it cleaned, one of the managers said,

“I show everyone who comes in here a picture of your ring, and we have had other people do the same thing once they see yours.”

It’s always nice to know that something I have done for myself goes on to inspire others.

This past August, I started to feel a pull to look at rings online. I typed in a description of what I wanted. Instantly, a certain one appeared on the screen. I glanced at the price but decided this time not to care. I didn’t look any further as I knew this was what I wanted.

I began to pretend I already had bought it. When I would remove my real ring, I would take my invisible one off as well. I would walk by my daughter, show her my hand and say,

“Isn’t my new ring great?”

I did this for about three weeks. Over Labor Day weekend, I had my finger sized. That particular location did not have it, but the salesperson told me it was on clearance. When we got home, we found a store that had one.

The next day, I drove to the mall, hoping to at least see it in person.

“It says that we have one here, but I can’t find it,” said the salesperson.

She searched drawers and display cases. Another associate came over to help.

“We don’t have it. But there is one about an hour away.”

An hour? Another drive? It was losing its appeal.

I called to be sure it was there.

“Yes. We have only one, and I will put it aside for you.”

When I hung up, I said to my daughter,

“I don’t know if I want to drive an hour to get a ring,”

It was the same look she had given me in 2019.

“Okay, fine. I will go get gas and decide if I want to go that far.”

She said nothing.

On the way to the gas station, I heard in my mind,

“Chris, you have asked me to be the man of your life. You have looked at this ring, and if you don’t buy it, then that’s all your fault. I need you to take the money I have given you and get it.”

The voice was loud and firm, reverberating throughout me.

I filled my tank and started the hour trek. As each mile went by, I was more confident that I did want it. I didn’t fully know what the price was going to be, but I was willing to follow the lead of heaven and get it.

“If I am driving all the way there, I’m probably going to buy it.”

“I knew that an hour ago in the parking lot,” she said nonpulsed.

I went into the store, and the person I spoke to took it out of the case so I could slide it on my finger for less than three seconds; I told her I wanted it.

With the sizing, warranty, and clearance, it was less than half of the original listing. Once again, I was shown that God would open a door for me to walk through when I let myself believe in something.

My daughter gave me a placeholder ring for that finger while I had to wait the long two weeks to get it, and I no longer had to pretend.

Some people buy material things to fill a void, and once the novelty wears off, the next purchase is made to achieve another high. That could go on forever, and sometimes it does.

In James 1:17 it says:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (NIV)

When you are the recipient of something directly from the One who created everything, the search is over. You can enjoy what has been given, and peaceful fulfillment takes over your heart. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?

Deep Water

As September was sliding into October, my family made a trip to my uncle’s cabin on a lake. We usually went during the summer when the water was warm and crystal clear enough to see white sand. I spent hours floating on an air mattress, letting the waves gently rise and fall around me. An occasional boat would zip by pulling a water skier, or a slow pontoon would motor near, full of people who would raise their drinks to say hello. 

This time, crisp breezes were beginning, the sun was losing its zeal, and leaves were starting to fall. So there was no swimsuit and towel to pack. I wasn’t looking forward to going because without the option to swim, there wasn’t too much to do. 

The drive was always a marathon to endure, and I was not given any option but to sit directly next to my brother. At home, I avoided him as much as I could, so to spend hours in close proximity was a test of my patience. 

He could do sound effects of everything, and he did it accurately. Did I say repeatedly? If we were waiting for my dad to put gas in the car, and another vehicle would start up next to us, he could mimic the engine’s sound before the driver turned the key. He absolutely adored this about himself. 

Most of all, he was so impressed that he could produce the sound of a mosquito better than the real thing. And he loved to do this very near to my ear to make me think I was under attack..especially when I was trying to read. If I had a book in my hand, which I always did, this was his cue to find a way to disturb me. 

To say I was always happy to get out of the car is an understatement. He had a short attention span, so he thought I was a great diversion from his boredom. Before the station wagon was stopped entirely on the gravel drive, I was opening the door to free myself from his presence. 

I helped unpack the car, mainly a hospital supply of first aid choices because my mom was an RN. Any medical emergency that cropped up would immediately be taken care of. From calamine lotion to a tourniquet, she had it along. 

My brother made a beeline for the water with his fishing rod. To stay away from him longer, I chose to sit with the adults, and it didn’t last long.

As I got up to leave, my dad asked,

“Where are you going?”

“Down by the lake.”

“Don’t fall in.”

I was at an age where his overprotective comments didn’t appeal. I was in fourth grade and fully capable of maintaining my balance, so why was he treating me like a newborn? 

He flashed me a smile which only irritated me more. 

As I opened the screen door, I said over my shoulder, 

“Do you think I’m stupid or something? I’m not going to fall in!”

And with my bratty attitude, I let the door slam behind me. I heard him say, 

“Just don’t fall in!”

Ugh! 

Why I went down by the dock he was fishing off is a mystery to me, and I must have been highly bored to subject myself to more of his horrible interpersonal skills. 

For once, he was quiet, and I stood on the shoreline picking up rocks and small shells. I saw him jerk his line and start to reel. He pulled a fish from the water and went about taking it off the hook.

“Look at this! Come here!”

What else was there to do to pass the time? I hesitantly walked onto the dock to see what was such a big deal. There wasn’t anything special; he just wanted me to watch him put it into the floating bucket. How exciting!

He turned back to what he was doing, and I looked into the somewhat murky water. I saw small fish swimming near, darting back and forth. The waves were coming in heavier as the wind began to pick up. Hypnotized by what I was seeing and not realizing how off balance I was becoming, much to my surprise, I hit the water face first as I fell in! 

I surfaced, gasping for air. My brother slowly turned to see the look of surprise on my face, and he looked just as shocked. 

“Chris, are you okay?” He actually mustered up genuine concern. 

I didn’t answer at first because all I heard was my dad’s words ringing in my ears and what I had said. I just stood there soaking wet in a heavy fall turtleneck and jeans. 

“Are you going to cry?”

And that’s as far as his compassion ran. He threw back his head and howled like a rabid dog.  

“You fell in! That is so hilarious!”

He didn’t offer to help me out of the water because he was too weak from finding my predicament so funny. I sloshed over to dry ground and considered my dilemma.

I wanted to run away from him, but I didn’t want to face the music back at the cabin.

My hair was hanging in strings, and my shoes and socks were heavy. Every time he looked my way, instead of feeling bad, he clutched his stomach and doubled over in glee with his whole body convulsing. 

I wished I hadn’t said what I did to my dad. But I couldn’t take this anymore. I got up and made the long, squishy walk back.

I considered not going in right away to see if I would dry out, but it wasn’t summer anymore, and I was so uncomfortable. I had no choice.

The door squeaked loudly, announcing my arrival. I stood in the doorway dripping. All eyes were on me.

My mom was the first to speak, 

“Chris! What happened to you? You are soaking wet!”

It was pretty obvious what had occurred, but she forced me to say it. 

“I fell in.”

As if scripted, the entire room erupted much the same as my brother had. Not a single soul felt my pain. 

My mom grabbed a towel and handed it to me. I wanted to put it over my head and hide because I knew what was coming next. 

“So, Chris, do you remember what you said on your way out of here?” My dad asked. 

Of course, he knew I knew.

“Didn’t you say: Do you think I’m stupid or something?”

It was so humiliating, but I couldn’t take it back.

“Yes, I said it,” trying to dry my hair. 

“Pride comes before the fall,” he replied. 

I had no clue what that meant, but the subject got changed, and so did my clothes. From then on, I learned that when he said something, I tried to conceal my pre-teen eye-roll at least. While his unnecessary concerns still drove me nuts, I didn’t ever want a repeat performance of what happened at the lake. 

In this passage, some valuable information is offered in Proverbs 15:31-32: 

Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.

Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. (NLT)

Who likes to be corrected? No one. Ever. But, something is to be gained when it does happen; we learn about ourselves that we can change for the better. It brings us up higher spiritually so mistakes made in the past can be erased and forgotten.

I had dismissed my dad’s prophecy as ridiculous, but what if I took it seriously? God is speaking to us all the time, whether we want to admit it or not. We are offered protection and can receive it if we incline our ears to hear warnings and instructions from above. What trouble could be avoided if we just took the time to listen versus rushing ahead dismissing that part of our lives? It just might keep us from getting into deep water.