Irritant

I had finally escaped the pain that was zipping through my face by falling asleep. Once it started, it would sometimes last for three days before subsiding. When you do everything you can to stop it, and nothing seems to be working, you start to wonder if it will go back to normal.

Acupuncture and chiropractor visits had offset it, but stress was the culprit that had promoted it. Mentally, it was wearing, taunting me to forget everything I knew was true about healing. Even when it subsided, there was this low level fear that it would return without warning.

I had used a TENS unit to send electrical pulses to the area as a way to activate the central nervous system, which can create a temporary respite.

The one thing I learned not to do was increase the intensity quickly. With the pads adhered to the side of my face and down my neck, I had to turn the dial slowly. At the lowest level, nothing could be felt, so I had to move it up until it was tolerable.

There would be this slight pinching feeling that would begin and spread out into a wave. I always felt a tingling on the inside of my cheek.

I found out the hard way that if the dial were accidentally bumped up to the highest level, you would have an impromptu shock therapy session.

Like in a movie where someone is being tortured to cough up the truth, this self-inflicted move will have you become vocal so that every person around you knows that you would be indebted for life if there were a swear jar. The current that shoots into your body could light up a small town.

I felt like someone was watching me as I blinked my eyes. It seemed like my jaw, where it had started, felt better. Maybe I was on the mend, and it followed a pattern, it seemed. Once at this point, from past flare ups, I knew I was probably past the worst of it.

Just as I was about to say this, she appeared above me with something in her hand. Like she had been waiting for me to wake up. I wasn’t quite fully conscious.

“What are you…”

I felt a coldness on my temple as she went to work rolling on some liquid in a glass bottle. I don’t know how this had happened, but somewhere along the way, my daughter had become a holistic medicine person, researching, buying, and applying it to me. Just to see how it went.

I had flashbacks from my childhood when remedies would be forced upon me with no explanation. Ointments, sprays, or yucky tasting liquids, all slathered, spritzed, or presented on a spoon, were given without warning. It was futile to refuse.

“I read that peppermint oil is supposed to help this type of pain.”

She put it across my forehead and on my other temple. I had to close my eyes as the scent was strong like one gigantic after-dinner mint.

“It feels better since I slept,” as she continued to put more on.

I was starting to detect the coolness turning to warmth on my face. Similar to going near a source of heat when you are chilled. At first, it was soothing until the burning started.

I stopped her mid-application.

“Something isn’t okay,” I said.

“What?”

It was going up from mild to scorching rapidly. When I felt drips of it reach both corners of my eyes, I knew that I was going to have to wash some of it off.

“How much of this are you supposed to put on?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should do it differently next time. This is supposed to be good for this type of thing.”

At that moment, I recalled that sometimes less is better. I had to remove the pads and run blindly for a sink without opening my eyes. That was impressive. If I ever had to leave my home in an emergency, I had just proven to myself I could do it without having sight.

The nerve pain in my face was long forgotten as I tried to remember what I had learned in chemistry when hydrochloric acid had spilled and splashed at me. This felt worse.

When you are a part of an experiment not conducted by any scientific means, you run the risk of coming to your own rescue.

Hanging over the sink, I said in between handfuls of water that I was drowning myself in,

“What happened to me waking up in a blissful state? You pounced on me the minute that you saw I was awake!”

She came into the bathroom to check on me. As usual, when she is standing there looking at me, it makes me laugh. I don’t want to, but it’s something about how she looks so bewildered as to why her carefully laid plans have gone astray.

I grabbed a towel to dry off, but I had to plunge back in and continue to try and remove it.

“What is this supposed to do? How was this supposed to help? What did you find online that said this was a good idea?”

I said all this as I choked on all the water in the world I could get.

“It is supposed to relax the nerve.”

“I am not relaxed right now. None of my nerves are at peace right now.”

The next time I used it, I put it on my wrists, as far from my face as I could get it. You can do that, and it will still bring results without incinerating your skin.

Worse than an adverse reaction to a substance is to be forced to deal with a person that has become a nuisance, gotten under your skin, and possibly on your last nerve.

There was an Aunt Sophie vs. my Dad period during my childhood, which was tumultuous. When I was seven, I recall seeing him struggle with dealing with his mom. My grandma had gone through a series of strokes and health issues, so she was considered a vulnerable adult, but back then, it was not viewed as it is today. She lived with her sister, Sophie, who was not the best at taking care of herself, let alone another human being.

People were left to their own devices and the help we have today to deal with these types of situations was not there back then.

He would always get this impatient tone when he had to field a call from Sophie. I noticed that he held the handset far from his ear when she spoke like he was putting as much distance between her lips and his ear as possible.

I could visualize her in my mind. She always had on the brightest shade of red, usually smeared across her front teeth.

His only response strategically placed was,

“Uh, huh.”

She could talk his face off, and he was not one for being on the phone when he wanted to be outside doing a task he considered enjoyable, like building something out of wood. He didn’t want to listen to a woman talk at him. It was never a pleasant exchange.

There always was some upset that he was expected to deal with. I was too young to understand what the pressure exerted on him was, but I saw his blood pressure go up the minute he had to speak to her.

If I came in the kitchen when this was going on, my mom would whisper,

“It’s Sophie. You might want to leave.” She didn’t want me to be subjected to more of his language than I had to be. She knew that he would go off at some point when he had reached his limit.

Her calls were the worst timing when he would finally be free from work, and it was a Saturday where he had no schedule.

“Sophie, stop crying. I can’t understand what you are saying.”

This was usually the opening statement, and it was stated mechanically.

I often stood there looking up at him to see if he would notice me. He rarely did because something had to happen to bring him back once he went into this far-off state. His eyes would glaze over like he wanted to leave his body.

I could hear her shrill voice on the other end. When he took me with him to see her, I asked him later why she chewed gum every time I saw her.

“That’s not gum, Chris. That’s her nerves. She can’t sit still. She is crazy.” And this was the person in charge of his mother.

On one particular day, he was at his wit’s end. My mom had yelled out the front door that he was wanted on the phone.

“Who is it?”

“Sophie. I think something is wrong.”

It was always the same thing to guilt him into coming in.

I could tell the minute he stepped in the house that this wouldn’t go well. I heard a deep sigh as he said,

“Hello?”

For a few brief seconds, it was silent. Then after months, and maybe years of this, the explosion happened. He had been stuffing down his frustration for so long he could not hold it back anymore.

The whole thing ended with him yelling super loud, and he smashed the phone back into the cradle. He stormed back outside. My mom looked at me. I looked at her. It was like someone had pushed his final button.

It was a warm spring day, so all the windows were open. From the garage, we heard him yelp. Like one of those Fred Flintstone shriek’s that seem fake, but this was not.

“What was that?” she asked me. I shrugged. We both looked out the kitchen window to see him coming back, holding onto his hand.

“John, what did you do to yourself?”

Always the nurse ready to get out her bandages and splints.

He held out his thumb, which was quickly becoming double its size.

“I was going to hammer in a nail, and Sophie made me so mad that I hit myself instead. I cannot stand that woman!”

An ice bag was applied to his injury, and the coldness in his heart toward his aunt didn’t improve, especially once he found out that she was stealing funds from my grandma.

He had to learn to tolerate her even though he looked like he was being scraped with sandpaper every time they had to be in the same room together.

He tried his absolute best to follow Proverbs 15:1:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (NIV)

Sometimes that is all you can do. Did he roll his eyes when he would have to see her? Yes, every time. He made sure to look at me and do that. But, he kept his mouth shut and his temper under control. He found out it wasn’t worth getting all bent out of shape or almost breaking his thumb.

He had to learn to limit his time with her to keep his peace. Just like I had to learn how to use the oil sparingly to help my physical pain, we have to do that with people sometimes. And believe it or not, you might be the object of someone’s angst. We all can be.

I have a list of the eight most common emotions hanging on my refrigerator. Each one gives examples of what is felt, such as frustration or resentment associated with anger. But, with each one, another column tells what gift is earned as you work with each one.

So that friend or neighbor who drives you up the wall is building your inner strength, helping you put up boundaries, and allowing you to develop some assertiveness skills.

God can do that, even with the worst irritant.

Peaceful Balance

Garbage day shouldn’t be that difficult to remember. Only a handful of times have I missed it. You don’t soon forget it, though, when you do because it becomes a full-time job figuring out how to deal with the excess.

It’s one of those moments when you are minding your own business in a deep sleep that you desperately need after a night of insomnia, and you hear the faint sound of beeping. It floats into your mind, and it tries to make sense of it, turning it into a weird dream where you are disarming a bomb. You have to decide what color wire you should cut to save the world.

Just as you are about to snip the black one because it makes the most sense, you come into consciousness just a bit more as you hear your neighbor’s trash going into the truck.

In a half-sleep state, you start to consider time. Isn’t it Wednesday? No. That was two days ago when you had to take the dog to the vet. It must be Thursday. Maybe not. It doesn’t feel like a Thursday. It seems more like a Tuesday, but you know it isn’t because you had a Zoom meeting you attended where you had to turn off your camera because you were zoning out from lack of sleep. It has to be Thursday, then. But something says it isn’t.

That something is the garbage truck that drives past your house at ninety miles an hour because they don’t need to stop at the next place by yours because they use a different company. It is long gone into the next county by the time you are near the front window.

The last time this happened, it was a short day due to a holiday. They usually will send a driver back later, but they didn’t want to keep anyone from their family this time. I agreed but knew I would have to get creative. A week of garbage plus a week more was going to be trouble.

But when you set your mind on succeeding, you do. By the time the following week came, I had skillfully stacked as much as I could short of needing a ladder to get the final bag on top. It was artistic and practical. There was no way I was missing it again.

Our service was delayed a day, but my structure stood firm even though we had heavy gusts of wind come through. I had proven the saying that necessity is the mother of invention. You learn what your dormant natural abilities are. This is the crucial stuff they will never teach you in school.

If there were an award for cramming as much as possible into a garbage bag, my house would win it, hands down. The metal container I have is not all that big, so often, I will place the bag outside of it and continue to fill it.

The idea is to not waste room toward the top. I am often amazed at the ability of all of us who strategically place more into it just to avoid a trip to take it out. You would think it was a five-mile walk to the garbage cart, but it’s steps from the front door.

The plastic drawstring, used by normal people, is generally cinched together to close it off. Not ours. Those are there to strap down the contents that have been piled over the capacity of what it can hold. They become the glue that holds it all together.

I always have the right intention when I think I could fit just a little more in. And then it becomes a competition to see just how far we can go. If there’s the tiniest space on a side, for sure, someone will find it and force another thing in.

You tell yourself just one more item tossed in there won’t hurt, so you jam in one more paper towel and walk away, not considering that moments later, someone else is going to repeat what you just did.

When it finally looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy with arms, legs, and the beginning of a head, you make the difficult decision to stop the madness. They have outlasted you, and you know it. You now wish you would have trekked it out the day before when there wasn’t a blizzard happening outside with sideways winds.

Now it’s a six-mile walk from the kitchen with a 500-pound bag that is bigger than yourself, so you use both hands to drag it to the door.

We cause ourselves a lot of problems. I could just end this with that sentence and let us all go into a deep depression. Have a nice day.

It’s the truth, though. We take something like trash or dishes and leave them to accumulate; then, it takes more effort and adds time to deal with a task that would have felt like nothing had it been attended to in increments. We let it build up, and now it’s a monster.

Maybe instead of a stockpile of old newspapers, it’s unresolved irritation over something that started so trivial and now has mushroomed into full-blown unforgiveness. It has grown in stages to bitterness.

As you recall the event or moments of the past, the details get uglier, and more gets added to the storyline, making it into a heap that is difficult to see past.

That’s where God comes in. With divine help, you can get over it and move on instead of letting it create a larger mess, like stuffing a bag of garbage to death.

Hebrews 12:17 says,

Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. (Message)

I have let God work with me while also keeping myself away from the source of my contention. Sometimes it’s only possible to have no emotional reaction about another person by not being in their presence. You can think neutral thoughts from afar. That’s okay, and there should be no beating oneself up over that.

I used to think that my forgiveness of someone hinged on whether or not I could be in the same room with them. If I can think of them and I have no thoughts either way, good or bad, that indicates to me that they have lost control over who I am.

Pushing your feelings down isn’t a bright idea either. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. In Ephesians 4, there is some guidance on how to handle your emotions.

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. (Message)

Nowhere does it say to hide your feelings, but you are given parameters on how to conduct yourself. You are not to be a doormat nor a raving lunatic that cannot see anything but red twenty-four hours a day. Why? Because you stay stuck, unmoving spiritually, and cutting yourself off from seeing beyond this realm. You start only to see what’s wrong with the world instead of what’s right.

And that final banana peel that someone carelessly tosses on top of your already packed and ready-to-burst emotional trash bag has you saying and doing things that stunt your growth. Not theirs. Yours.

To put it in scientific terms, to remove the mystery, your choice of how you react and what state of mind you live in most will determine your frequency, like a radio wave. Negative responses keep you in shallow conditions. Heaven is high.

Your spiritual insight and advancement depend on how long you allow yourself to operate in lower states of mind, such as fear, anger, or depression. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t love you. You are limiting and blocking your potential.

If anything, try as much as you can not to do this:

Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. (Ephesians 4/Message)

Believe it or not, when you live in a place where you are not happy, either is God. There is the temptation to believe that you are being punished, causing a victim mentality. If you think that you are supported by a power greater than yourself, you will be.

Gradually, what burned you before, won’t be there, and more won’t be added on. You won’t have to try and find a place to put more of your unhelpful perceptions, causing the problem to linger. It will dissolve itself, and you will be given a peaceful balance.

(That’s not even full yet…)

King

Some would say she was a determined leader, and that was true. She had to manage many employees, and one catastrophe could pull the rug out from her perfectly orchestrated day at any moment. I could hear her shoes stomping down the hall before she made an appearance.

Her expectations were extremely high, from the dress code to the volume of your voice. If she found a person’s choice of clothing for the day distasteful, she would engage them in a lengthy conversation and then tell that person’s supervisor she disapproved of their appearance.

She was not above producing a ruler to measure where the hem of a skirt fell in relation to a knee cap. She mainly did that to the younger ones she wanted to see wearing apparel from the Victorian era. If anyone questioned this, we noticed they disappeared shortly after. Yes, just like the mafia.

It left us all wondering who her next unsuspecting victim would be.

It was done with the purpose to maintain her position of authority. Literally, she threw her weight around by being intimidating.

The place didn’t run on respect for her; it operated on fear. When I heard her heels coming and saw her entering my office, I knew it usually meant we were about to get reprimanded for some unwritten, vague infraction.

She had at least thirty years on me. Her speech was like a machine gun going off directing, telling, and commanding. As fast as she whipped into a room, she flew out onto her next mission of ridding the place of any peace.

“You are stealing money from the company if you are socializing when you should be working.”

We were forced to attend monthly meetings with that kind of team-building inspirational speech.

“It is considered theft.”

Hypocrisy at its highest.

At one time in my career there, I had worked in the kitchen when I was a teen in high school. At least twice a week, this individual would walk into the cooler and devour the chocolate pudding ordered explicitly for the residents. I never saw a spoon in her hand.

Because the floor was tile, I could hear the cadence of her approach quite clearly. We all would freeze, hoping she didn’t stop to inspect our hairnets and purse her lips as she took in our appearance. We all breathed easier when she disappeared.

“The sergeant is here, I see,” said one of my coworkers who was putting water glasses on a cart.

Once she had ducked into the refrigerator to eat to her heart’s content, an older woman I worked with would always whisper to me,

“It must be her time of the month again, dear. She’s on the rag.”

“That’s what you said last week,” I would reply in a hushed tone.

When she came back out, we knew she hadn’t been in there to run an inventory. Not with pudding as lip liner.

“Make sure you check expiration dates. I think I saw some that were outdated.”

“Okay,” we would say, going along with her game. The clicking of her heels signaled the departure.

Once I moved up into a higher position, the office I worked from was right next to hers. I was fully aware that she was your ally one day, and the next, you were on the hit list.

How did I deal with the madness? I found my sense of humor. I didn’t realize what a great coping mechanism this was. God will have your finest gifts come to the forefront when trying to survive a horrible situation.

When she would swoop in acting uptight, I would say something that would diffuse her anger. Instead of getting her wrath, I would make her laugh, and she would find someone else to chew out. It was a part of me that I had never known that I possessed.

Soon, she was coming in to sit down and rest. She no longer was showing up to rattle off orders but to take a few minutes to talk about life issues that were bothering her. I still would make her laugh, but I also asked her questions to try and build a rapport with her.

It never got to where I wanted her as my best friend, but I understood her better. She conversed about the pressure of her job and the stress of her home life. I got a better understanding of who she was, but she never was a staff favorite. I had learned how to circumvent her tirades and tongue lashings.

I often would walk into the gossip of those she had run over with her harsh behavior. The worst complaint about her was that she would make life miserable behind the scenes if someone weren’t up to her expectations. Every discussion always seemed to revolve around her eventually. She had planted herself firmly in all of our minds by way of bullying.

If a decision had to be made about anything, it always came down to if she would give it her stamp of approval. It had to be strategically laid out step by step, looking for landmines that could trigger a volatile reaction. Even a man’s best-made plans can still be for naught. I heard many staff weeping through the thin walls of my office and hers. Walking on eggshells doesn’t always guarantee bypassing a wicked reaction.

I had watched from my desk people get escorted to their cars after being fired. This wasn’t a gesture of courtesy. It was like watching someone on death row go to the executioner.

We were drilled on state requirements and prepared for drop-in inspections. We were always told to act calm when a state inspector showed, and if they suddenly came, every one of us knew who to contact so the entire facility was aware. There was a chain of command to follow. Her ultimate badge of honor was to be deficiency-free no matter the carnage of staff she left in her wake.

The idea was not to let them see us sweat. She thought if we showed any nervousness, this would go over as guilt. Like we were hiding something.

I was on the phone gathering information on a potential client, and over the loudspeaker, I heard her scream,

“They are here! I repeat! They are here!”If she would have had a nuclear button on her desk, she would have hit it with a hammer.

So much for serenity. I heard the familiar beat of heels getting their workout as she ran for the front door. The atmosphere changed from tense to unbearable. This would be a week of intrusion that we all hoped would result in the news she wanted to hear.

None of us wanted to get a poor result, but the added layer of how she could potentially make us pay if we did was foremost on the minds of all.

As an assistant, it would be rare for me to go head to head with anyone representing the state. Usually, the supervisors of each department were introduced to batten down the hatches. It was one of her worst nightmares to think that one of us underlings would be able to handle a situation and say the right thing.

It was viewed like the segment in the Miss America competition where we had to give answers on the spur of the moment. Minus the swimsuit or evening gown portion. She didn’t want anyone to stumble over their words and appear uneducated. She feared that someone would babble.

Imagine her coronary arteries going into an uproar when I was suddenly greeted by one of the inspectors from the state.

“Can I come in?” He asked, knocking on the door. My supervisor had just left for a few moments, and I had to be her substitute because that was the rule. They could quiz all of us at any given moment.

He extended his hand and introduced himself. Sitting down, I knew from training, I was to close the door. This is when I saw her look at me through the window. Eyes wide and a hard swallow, with a slight head shake, were signs signaling that she thought I was about to blow her perfect record.

I heard her go into her office next door. Probably with her ear to the wall to be sure I was the perfect Stepford Wife.

He started to ask me a series of questions about finances and how payment was processed. I went through each type, pulling out examples of paperwork, explaining each one. About halfway through, I realized he had no idea what I was talking about. He seemed nervous.

“Could you repeat that?” He would say as he took notes on his sheet. So I asked him,

“Do you know the difference between Medicare and Medical Assistance?”

“Not at all. I’m new to this, so you are helping me learn.”

I went from feeling put on the spot to being his mentor in seconds. I knew what it was like not to understand something complex but necessary to perform well on a job.

By the time our interaction was over, he left like he had attended a seminar on the subject and thanked me.

She immediately vaporized in the hall.

“How did it go?”

She had listened through the wall, so she already knew.

This is how I remember her all these years later. I don’t think it was necessarily a personality disorder as it was a drive for perfectionism and power. She conducted herself in a way that left mental scars on many. Some of us could withstand it, while others escaped, often feeling like failures.

No longer able or willing to undergo her temper tantrums, they departed with awful memories of her. For those of us who somehow managed to stay aboard the Titanic, it was for a check. None of us had any loyalty toward her.

Her life stressors didn’t excuse her brutality.

She never considered the pain she inflicted on those around her. While she was so consumed by being monitored by the government, she never thought that God was watching. Every unkind word, act, and power play was being observed by heaven. She didn’t just break the Golden Rule. She crushed it into the ground under her mauve-colored pumps with many spirits attached.

No one is God, so her fate is in His hands.

The other day I saw this advertisement by a fast food restaurant looking to hire:

Why work for a clown when you can work for a King?

I knew the reference, but I saw it in another way.

In many church circles I have been in and out of, one of the repetitive phrases has been that we are “daughters and sons of the King.” So often, we slave under conditions where a message is sent loud and clear. We aren’t valued for what we do.

You might hear a thank you once in a while, but you are very aware of how ungrateful your boss is the rest of the time. You are made to feel that your paycheck is a gift, not a given. While you put in your best effort, you are subjected to the cruel nature of a dictator who is on a power trip.

When you wake up to it because your self-worth increases, there really is no going back. You are done with what was accepted by you before. Boundaries are put into place where there had been none, and you no longer can sit under the weight of someone else’s darkness and be suffocated by it.

You have this epiphany that the fear no longer holds you down. You don’t have to settle anymore to play the punching bag at the office. God has shown you the way, and He is your source for all you need.

You throw all caution to the wind and walk away, freeing yourself from the false tyranny.

In Psalm 37:18-19, God’s character is revealed,

God keeps track of the decent folk; what they do won’t soon be forgotten. In hard times, they’ll hold their heads high when the shelves are bare, they’ll be full. (Message)

Further in verses 25-29,

I once was young, now I’m a graybeard—
not once have I seen an abandoned believer or his kids out roaming the streets. Every day he’s out giving and lending, his children making him proud.
Turn your back on evil, work for the good, and don’t quit. God loves this kind of thing, never turns away from his friends. Live this way, and you’ve got it made, but rotten eggs will be tossed out. (Message)

The choice is yours—Trade in the clown for the King.

(Clowns to the left of me..jokers to the right…)

None

One of the biggest challenges of homeschooling was getting my point across. Even though I am terrible at drawing, if I put an abstract idea on paper and it was visual, this made it easier to conceptualize. For math, I bought manipulatives which included colorful objects used for counting, adding, and subtracting. 

When you home educate, people get the impression that there is no structure. There’s this myth that those who forgo the traditional public school system live off the land, eat grass and leaves and make their clothes out of curtains. 

None of that is true. Or at least in my experience, it wasn’t. 

Instead, our days were filled with trying to master skills that would help them to function in a world that requires legible writing and the ability to read. I generally purchased a curriculum that included a Bible study. 

Elementary school was interesting as the oldest tried to pronounce big words, many times beyond her scope. My daughter would often read aloud and walk around the room with the book. She didn’t have to sit up straight at a desk all day to get her work done. That’s where we diverted from the typical way school was conducted.

“Jesus traveled to Jerjuicesalem.”

“Jerusalem?”

“Ya. Jerjuicesalem.”

“It’s not juice. You drink that. It’s Jerusalem. Say it slower.”

“Jer juice salem.”

“Jerusalem.”

“Can I have some juice?”

“Sure.” 

After a few times of trying to correct her, I figured by the time she was in her teens, it would flow off her tongue naturally. 

In middle school, the other daughter had to grasp the structure of the Catholic Church.

“So a monk is a man who commits his life to God. What do they call women who do the same?”

A quiz was coming up, so I reviewed high points from the weekly readings to help her be prepared. If anything, it would come in handy later in life when she played bar trivia during happy hour while she drank a cocktail. 

I could tell she could not readily think of the answer. Sometimes if I shortened the question, it would surface.

“A man is a monk. What is a woman called?”

“A mink?”

I generally tried not to laugh when a wrong answer was given because I didn’t want them to think I was making fun of them, but I could not help myself. 

She made a quick remark without thinking, like when you take a Rorschach test, you are presented with inkblots and say the first thing that comes to mind. 

“A nun. They give up everything to be with God. The last thing one of them would own would be a mink.”

The other day, we played a game where the word ‘nun’ became the center of attention. The concept is to ask your device a question to get it to say the word you have chosen. I was tempted to ask,

“Alexa, who are women who have consecrated their lives to God in the Catholic Church and don’t buy mink coats?”

As we navigated our way through, we found that it’s how you ask the question that brings the correct answer. 

We labored over the word ‘dimension’ for at least thirty minutes. 

“Alexa, in the opening of The Twilight Zone, what is the speech that Rod Serling gives?”

I watched the blue line go back and forth as she put her thinking cap on to bring me information. I know he says it. She just needed to cooperate. 

She rambled on about the origin of the series and came nowhere near speaking about what I needed to get the points so I could advance. 

We were educated on parallel universes and alternate realities, but she would not say what we longed to hear.

Finally, I had an idea.

“Alexa. What does the D mean in 3D?”

Cue the Jeopardy music as she worked her circuits, trying to figure out something to say.

Holding my breath because I didn’t want to spend another second on this subject, she said, 

“This might answer your question. The D in 3D means dimensional.”

As long as the word is included as a part of the whole, it counts. 

We went on to have another half-hour struggle with the term attitude.

My daughter asked,

“If a person is in a sassy mood, what does that mean?”

“Sassy is defined as impertinent, saucy, or insolent.”

“I know the feeling,” I said as I glanced at the clock approaching 2 am. She was going to say this word! There was no way a machine would control me. Yet, it was.

“Alexa, what does it mean to have a sunny disposition in life?”

“Here is something I found that might help. Having a sunny disposition is being annoyingly happy all the time.”

That’s a life lesson right there. 

“Alexa. What is an outlook on life?”

“Here is something I found on the web. It is the outlook on life that changes the whole life for a person.”

“Alexa, what is gratitude?”

For sure, she had to know that attitude and gratitude went together.

“I don’t know,” she said. 

“Talk about stupid,” I said, now having a bad attitude. “Look what she has done to me.” No one will ever accuse me of having a sunny disposition again. 

“Alexa, what is a mood?”

“Here’s something that might help. A prevailing emotional tone or attitude.” Finally!

The absolute worst was when she would go quiet. I would ask a very straightforward question, and the blue line would look as if it was calculating and then disappear. Just leave me hanging there with nothing in return. That would end my turn because you can only ask one question, and if she does not answer, you move on to the next player. Her silence spoke volumes.  

Because she is superior in intelligence, we must first assume that we inquired wrong or that she was too busy shopping on Amazon to answer. Whatever the case, I felt ignored when she would not answer me. 

I did not consider that she was malfunctioning or had a hardware issue. I was the problem, not her.

A couple of days later, during a moment of quiet, God whispered to me: You do this with people, you know.

What? Do I?

Yes, you do. 

How?

I was brought back to when I was seeing a therapist after my divorce.

“Have you ever read the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship?” she asked me. “Patricia Evans wrote it.”

“No.”

She gave that as an assignment, and I found it right away at a second-hand book store. 

Right in chapter one, there was a checklist to go over to help the reader recognize what this subject entails. It wasn’t light material or pleasant because it exposed what I had been subjected to but also what I had allowed. It was shocking to learn that the silent treatment is a form of wrongdoing. 

How ironic is that? When no words are said, that is considered verbal abuse. It’s a form of manipulation, so the other party maintains control. But, it had been utilized against me in my childhood. If I were going against the powers that be, I would be ignored or shut off until I got back in line. I would scramble to try and make things right to get back to where I felt secure. I had to go out of my way, in fear, to get back into the good graces of those in charge.

It’s an unjust way to get someone to conform. Just like Alexa going dark, the truth is that there is nothing wrong with you; it’s the other way around. 

This damage is subtle but long-lasting. It is like a default in a computer program. When you have had an authority figure treat you like that and get used to living this way for so long and have had others treat you the same, you suddenly become paranoid about having done something to cause a problem where none exists. You take on the blame for things that aren’t yours. 

And you give all your power away to someone who will keep on taking it. Once it is revealed to you, though, God can heal it. 

You will also be shown where you think it exists and it doesn’t. You are hypersensitive to it and seek to correct it just like always. 

I had that happen. I got so busy that I didn’t message someone right away, and they accused me of putting them on ignore. That was not my intention, but I was shown how this was their issue, not mine. They probably were treated just like I was in my past and assumed I was not happy with them, ultimately trying to make them feel bad. I had not done that at all. 

Communication gets tiring. There is something to say for going into reverent silence for days on end. Now I know why there are monks and nuns; it starts to appeal. 

I appreciate that God is so in tune with me that I can be made aware of how to do better, undo false thinking from my past, and move forward into a life free of baggage. 

In Psalm 139:4 it says,

God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. (Message)

God is a mind reader; unfortunately, most people are not. (I am working on it, though.) That leaves us no choice but to be the best at expressing ourselves. 

Until I reach a state of higher consciousness that requires only thoughts, I will have to rely on putting words into sentences that make sense, figure out where I am a mess and need correction, and try to bring no harm to none. 

(Never to be confused with a mink)
(It’s not as easy as it looks…)

Fenced In

“I think your dog got out,” she said when I came around the corner. “My boys opened the front door, and she ran off.”

She was still speaking while I was flying toward the front yard. The way it was said so casually indicated to me that she had no idea the jog I was about to take. Or the danger that my pet was in.

It was pouring rain, and I had dashed out without shoes so my socks were soaking wet in seconds. I could see her way up ahead, nose to the ground, oblivious to the cars zipping by.

This wasn’t the first chase I had been on since getting her. I had no idea when I was researching dog breeds and which one to get that this would be something to contend with.

She had been born and raised in a place that wasn’t the best. When I got to the location, there were beagle puppies running everywhere. The mom hid under an old beat-up car and looked at me with sad eyes. I didn’t know about puppy mills back then, but the conditions looked rough. When I took her to the vet because she had so many parasites, I was given medication actually to save her life.

“If you hadn’t taken her in, she would have died soon,” I was told. She was so wild and full of energy that I would have never known.

It appeared to be a farm that hadn’t been taken care of, so dog breeding had been thrown in to raise funds. There were so many dogs going in all directions that I decided to sit on a gravel path to see what would happen.

A very tiny girl puppy came and started pulling on my shoelace. The harder I tried to get it away from her, the more ferocious she held on and threw in a little growl while wagging her tail. When she was tired of that, she curled up in my lap.

“She’s the runt of the litter,” the breeder said. So was I, and she became mine.

My backyard had no fence, but we were told she was so small that we could probably catch her. Probably not. A chain-link fence had to go up immediately.

I took her to obedience classes. While all the other students ran to their owners, she visited everyone else and their dogs around the room. I wasn’t even an afterthought.

“Beagles have a heart of gold, but they will not listen. They will follow a scent and forget what is around them completely. They get focused and do not hear. It’s really difficult to train that out of them.”

So I ran down the sidewalk yelling her name, trying to catch her attention during a spring thunderstorm. We never went out the front door, and the people there were looking to buy something listed in the paper.

A neighbor waved at me from his garage as I tried to get closer to her. All of them had seen this happen so many times between the two of us.

She would spend a few moments on one spot of grass and then suddenly zoom away as if triggered by a smell of something she just had to investigate.

It ended the same way every single time. I was now blocks from home, within inches of her, out of breath, and she would realize I was behind her.

“Libby!” I would say for the millionth time, and she would stop.

“You stay.” And she would, now worn out from her half-crazed jaunt.

She wasn’t sitting still out of realizing she had done wrong; she was exhausted and wanted a lift back home.

Curling into a small ball, she would wait until I picked her up to carry her.

I walked back into my house with a dripping wet dog. I peeled off my socks in the kitchen.

“Oh. You caught her,” the lady said, smiling. My hair was dripping into my eyes. One of her teenage boys went through the front door, and Libby charged again, ready to have a second round. I grabbed her before It could happen.

I went over and locked the door. The lady looked at me like I was being rude, locking her son outside.

With a tight grip on the dog, I said,

“Either they stay in the garage or come in the house. I have had my exercise for today.”

I stalked off to find dry towels with her securely in my arms. If given a chance, she would do it all over again. And that lady didn’t get it.

Some would say that an animal can’t control their behavior, such as Libby, who once on a trail had to follow it.

I have met people who have been on that path. It’s operating on no filter and sheer determination to satisfy something that may be a bit out of balance.

During one of my shifts as a shelver at a public library, I was approached by a woman.

“Can you tell me where the adult videos are?” It was a low whisper.

I held a stack of DVDs that I was putting back. I knew what she was asking me, but I decided to pretend I didn’t fully comprehend.

“All of the material for adults is right here. The children’s section is toward the entry.”

I made no eye contact and went back to my task. This was one of those moments when I wished she had gone to the reference desk. I was a lowly shelver, and they were paid and trained to deal with these issues.

“No,” she insisted. This is not what I am looking for. I want movies for adults.”

I held up what I had in my hands.

“These are for adults.”

I was trying to have her give up and walk away. Inwardly, I was screaming for God to help me. I kept my facial expression neutral.

“You don’t seem to understand me,” she retorted. Now she was getting snippy, not realizing I was brushing her off for her good.

“I want movies made for adults only.”

“You are looking right at them,” I said, not budging for the third time.

“I want X-rated movies. Porn! I want porn!” She said this not with an inside voice, and her quest to get what she wanted had overtaken her ability to practice self-control in a public place.

A couple of patrons glanced our way. It was a quiet weeknight, so the crowd was thin, but the older man looking at the history selection looked a bit shocked. I smiled weakly at him. I knew it was part of my job to keep things orderly, and that wasn’t just the books.

My subtle efforts to redirect her had gone unnoticed, so I had to set her straight now. Her drive for something like my beagle escaping was taking her to places she shouldn’t be.

“This is a public library. Are you aware of how the media gets paid for so you and everyone else can come here and check out material for free? Do you know how that system works?”

She blinked when the realization hit her that I was a lot more intelligent than I had come across initially. I didn’t demean her, but with as much professionalism I had within me, I continued to inform her about the ways and means of purchases made so the community at large could enjoy them.

“This is all possible with taxpayer money. Do you think people will sign up to pay for what you are looking for?”

Now she had gone silent. I had killed the mood with talk about taxes. You can pretty much make a room go silent if you start talking about the IRS.

“You aren’t going to find what you are looking for anywhere in this building. Does that make sense?”

She nodded.

“I don’t want to see you wasting your time going from place to place searching for something that doesn’t exist. You will not find that here or at any other locations.”

I was helping her but also sparing other employees from this conversation later.

I kept my voice low and made sure I didn’t make her feel bad. If anyone felt horrible, it was me! I wanted to drop everything and run for the break room. But I fought off my awkwardness to help her understand.

Suddenly, she looked ashamed, mumbled thank you, and walked away.

She just needed someone to put down a boundary to bring clarity.

No one is immune to saying or doing things based on habits or even false ways of thinking. Self-discipline isn’t always at the top of the priority list, and something that starts out innocently can run amuck.

I learned this when I was in elementary school. Every Christmas, my dad would make homemade chip dip. This was the only time of the year that we would have it, and it was my favorite. I basically ate nothing else but that when he brought it out on Christmas Eve. It was like a bowl of an addictive substance I could not leave alone. And every year at midnight, I was violently throwing up.

When I was nine years old, my mom anticipated my upcoming vomit session by addressing me before it hit the table.

“Chris, try not to overeat that this year.” She told me this while he had the mixer going and was in the process of putting it together.

As she gave me this speech, my brother’s girlfriend asked,

“What are you talking about?”

“Chris throws up every year because she overeats chip dip. Every year!” She had to add a sigh like it was the end of the world.

“I will give you a quarter if you don’t get sick this time,” she said.

As the night went by, I thought about the deal struck, and it made me consider my choices. I limited my indulgence. It was my first year that I didn’t have to run for the bathroom in the early hours of Christmas Day. My mother rejoiced and offered me a quarter until my late thirties to ensure I never did it again.

All that was needed was a guideline so I could adjust my actions. While I had to be the guardian of Libby and give assertive instruction to a stranger in the library, I had control over my own fate.

When it gets difficult to see past the addiction or the behaviors that aren’t for your highest good, that’s where God can help. Heaven will come gently to your side and offer assistance so you can advance. It might be in the form of a counselor, a sign that change must occur, or a quarter. In 2 Corinthians 3:17, it says,

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (NIV)

And if you are wondering if God wants to be there for you, read this from Psalm 91,

If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God,
“I’ll get you out of any trouble.
I’ll give you the best of care
if you’ll only get to know and trust me.
Call me, and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I’ll give you a long life.” (Message)

All it takes is realizing that you want better for yourself and a simple prayer. Strength will come to you to get past the situation where you can live at a higher level, with no limitations, never feeling restricted or fenced in.

(Just Say No…)

Illusion

“Do you see the penny?”

“Yes,” I said.

I knew what was coming next because my brothers had shown me this trick repeatedly. The shiny copper piece would be held before my eyes to ensure I watched. The master was performing it, though, and he had taught the three of them how to do it.

“Now watch. I’m going to rub it into my elbow.”

When I think about it now, that’s the most ridiculous thing I could ever imagine falling for. Why not involve his kneecap? What was so magical about his elbow? A magician has to use whatever he can to get his audience to be receptive.

So he would start to move his hand with the coin in it, but he would drop it at least three times to keep my full attention. He would pretend to be clumsy, let it loudly rattle on the table, and have to start the process all over again.

Then, it would totally disappear. The hand it had been in would be empty. He would take the other hand, put it up to my ear and say,

“It’s right here!” And it would materialize out of thin air. I hadn’t felt a thing, so how could that happen? If I had money stashed away that close by, life would have been so much easier.

“Do you want to see it again?” He would ask.

“Yes,” I would say because I thought I had missed something. My dad could do that at least 100 times, and it was like watching it for the first time.

As I got out of my preschool years, I wanted to know how he manipulated it, but he wouldn’t show me. The other day I said,

“Here. Teach me how to do that disappearing thing you used to do.” I handed him a dime.

“What? That’s so ancient! I can’t remember that, Chris.”

“You better. I have waited a long time for you to tell me this. It will come back to you.”

He dropped the dime I had given him multiple times due to his shaky hands, not for the show. But it did all flood into his memory as he went through the motions.

“So you switched hands,” I said. I demonstrated it to him.

“I never showed you how I did that?”

“No.”

“Now it spoils it for you. It takes away the mystery. But now you can baffle people.”

“Baffle, huh? Really? I wouldn’t say anyone would be in awe of that unless they are really naive.”

He laughed.

“But it does take away the secret of it.”

It wasn’t the first time I had been told the truth about something that had seemed so real.

I was led to think that Santa would show up every Christmas Eve. Presents from him would always appear in the living room while I was in the basement. I was the last one of the kids to accept this, and the others never said a word. They let me have the experience just like they had.

I trusted that what I heard was true. I equated Santa with God. So when my mom announced to me on Christmas Eve that he wasn’t real, I thought she was joking. When it became clear that she wasn’t lying to me, I wondered if everything else I had been told was accurate.

It wasn’t difficult to be in a religious organization and lack a closeness with God. And this upsetting news made it easy for me to question everything. It wasn’t that I had been fooled into a myth, it was how I was told and when. The timing of it was not ideal for a seven-year-old.

When unpleasant things happen, you can decide not to repeat history, and that was my goal with my girls. Because of my disappointment long ago, I chose to skip the traditional man in the red suit coming down the chimney. Instead, I always hid a gift that they had to find. Because after all, the element of surprise was the aim. There were a few wrinkles to iron out, however.

I found out that the game of hot and cold was a challenge for my oldest. As she got closer to what she was seeking, and I would say, “You are burning up,” she would suddenly run away as if she were in danger. It took a few times for her to understand that cold wasn’t what she wanted. I had spent years telling her not to touch a hot stove, so that’s where I think the confusion came in. So, we pressed on, and I had to undo some of my parental training so she could find her elusive item.

I made sure to reiterate not to run with scissors, though.

“You are ruining Christmas!” A family member said who learned of my rouge departure from the iconic Christmas character. I got a tongue lashing on how horrible I was for taking away all the ‘fun’ out of the holiday. There was another person nearby who agreed with my stance, but they suddenly lost their ability to speak, so I withstood the beat down.

I didn’t listen. I bought a book that explained the place St. Nicholas took in history as a generous man who made sure that the poor were cared for. I educated my girls to know who he really was, not the one depicted in movies or cartoons.

I told them both to never ruin it for others but keep it to themselves.

“Santa isn’t real,” said my youngest daughter at the age of three, out loud to her friend as they looked at a display at a mall. Before I could clamp my hand over her mouth to stop more from spilling out, her friend said,

“Oh, I know! That’s Santa’s helpers. That isn’t the real Santa, silly!”

There is a God.

I wondered at times if I was damaging them somehow by not adhering to age-old rules. Was I stripping them of something that others were participating in and they were not? There were small indications along the way that I wasn’t completely destroying their childhood.

“I’m buying this so I will get a Nintendo DS.”

My oldest daughter showed me a game that only could be played on that particular handheld device. At the age of twelve, she set the intention and expected it; soon, she got it. She applied her faith, and the money she needed to buy it showed up.

My youngest daughter was sitting on my lap during a magic show when she was four years old. The guy on stage would hold out his hands, and doves would suddenly fly out. I watched as she put her hands together, trying to recreate what he was doing. It was the beginning of her understanding that she could make things appear that hadn’t been there before.

Throughout the years, I tried to model for them what this verse meant from Hebrews 11:1,

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. (Living Bible)

During tough times, I would write down what I needed God to do for me. Like a Christmas list, mine had things on it, such as getting the house repainted, the dishwasher fixed, and money for a car repair. I wanted them to understand that prayer doesn’t only operate during a season, but it is always available to stream to us what we need. There were times I had no idea how problems would be solved, but I let them know I was giving it to God, so they could do the same.

The idea that we can ask for help from an entity outside ourselves is prevalent. It seems to have been downloaded right into our DNA.

Instead of having them put their hopes in a legend, I had them look to the One who owns it all and have lifelong, genuine communication with heaven, which is real and not an illusion.

(He is a good second place, though)

Vessel

I woke up to take another sip of water. The skin on my forehead felt tight from a sunburn, but my symptoms were not from the after effects of a tropical vacation. Instead, it was the flu.

I had heard all the reports that year about how bad it was. People who were in good health had died because this one was supposedly the worst strain yet. This was three years before the pandemic, but it wasn’t given as much publicity.

I implemented what I had learned from my upbringing from my mom, the personal in-house nurse,

“Drink, Chris,” she would say when I didn’t want to.

“No. I’m not thirsty.”

“Do it anyway.”

I would put my lips on the edge of the glass and pretend.

“You didn’t take any. Drink!”

When I was that sick and fatigued, the last effort I wanted to make was swallowing liquid.

“I can tell by the color in your face that you need water,” she would say. If she forgot her thermometer, she would either put the back of her hand on my face or her lips on my forehead. She never seemed fearful of contracting what I had. She had to run the house, so even germs obeyed. She was in control. Not an illness.

We could be sprayed down with Lysol at the door, made to choke down substances that are illegal to give humans now, and forced to gargle the salt content of the entire Dead Sea. A spoon coming at me always meant something disgusting was about to hit my tongue.

If a disease dared to manifest itself in her home, she would become a totally different person. I wasn’t used to her giving me a lot of attention. And, I would have gladly done without it.

If one or more of us were down, she had lists of medications, times, and temperature checks. You were on her roster, and she would make her rounds.

I couldn’t keep anything from coming back up during one particular illness, so the forced fluids weren’t working. She noticed that I had started to throw up dried blood from my lungs.

The following day I woke up to the smell of popcorn. The minute my eyes opened, she came into my bedroom with a bowl of it and a glass of room temperature pop.

“I want you to try and eat this.”

Everything in me refused, but she insisted.

“Just try it, Chris. Just one small piece.”

I put it in my mouth, too tired to chew, and fell back to sleep. Throughout the day, she would tell me to eat more, and for some odd reason, it started not to be so bad, and I was also developing this incredible thirst. I drank down the initial glass, and she filled it up.

By the end of that day, I had drank a lot. A few days later, I was improving rapidly.

“Remember that night you threw up what looked like coffee grounds?” She asked. It was hard to forget.

“Yes.”

“I asked the Holy Spirit what I should do. That’s one of the first signs of pneumonia. I heard to make you popcorn and put a lot of salt on it, and it would make you well. It would make you thirsty.”

I bet that tip isn’t on any web MD list of recommendations.

She had pulled us all through times of physical distress by applying her nursing skills and praying for guidance.

She ingrained it in me so strongly that when I had a run-in with the superbug of the century that year, I did what she had always said,

“Drink, Chris, drink!”

It is easier to make yourself do it as an adult because you understand the goal better. The idea is to flood the system and force the invasion out. If I did this at the onset, it would shorten its duration by days and give my immune system control.

So I would wake up, try not to think about the death toll, and finish one cup at a time.

During one of my hydro sessions, I went into my email. I don’t know how they had gotten my address, but there was an invitation to be a book reviewer online.

In my feverish haze, I typed in all my information, set up an account, and drifted off. Two weeks later, I recalled I had done something.

Sure enough. I had signed up. I investigated and found I was on the very bottom of the pile. There were six levels to achieve, kind of like a video game where you have to show your merit.

My first undertaking was written by a pastor who took the age-old story of Adam and Eve and made it new. I had specific guidelines to follow as I wrote out my paragraphs from my notes. It had to be run by the elite editors on the site and checked for adherence to the guideline rules.

I had to strictly implement certain criteria into each one or face the firing squad. On the one hand, I could write freely, giving my thoughts, but on the other, I had to include key elements, such as listing the title and the author’s name. And if any of these requirements were missing or not done as ordered, the review could be rejected.

I passed the first one with flying colors, and since I was a novice, they gave me no payment. As I said, I had to prove myself worthy. By my fifth attempt, I was moving up levels quickly, earning bonus points, and was at 6, the writers who were offered the higher paying jobs.

I fought my way through a couple of author disputes. All the writers were grateful for the most part, but a couple had their egos all wrapped up in their books. I understand it is a part of you when you write, but a few of them were so suspicious of us not giving them the perfect review, they would attack for no reason. The moderator had to step in on my behalf to appease the other party.

One of the worst offenders was a church leader.

The business owner changed some of his rules and decided that if you were at the top, you had to participate in editing other reviewers’ work. I did not enjoy this at all. If I felt someone had done an excellent job, but another editor found fault with something, we had to argue our point. I didn’t go to school to be a lawyer. It wasted my time and took away from the real reason I was there.

This created an unhealthy relationship between all of us. Once getting glowing scores, my reviews now became subject to a harsh system where I started to feel as if my writing was failing. It was the same, if not better, but the editors were told to find something wrong to keep too many from climbing too fast. I had to dispute many remarks made and defend my work to keep my score high. The grading became degrading.

Slowly, it took away my joy of what had always come so easily to me.

After three years of being under that scrutiny, I took a long break and kept everything I wrote to myself. The day I quit, I immediately went back to reading what I wanted, just like I always had. It felt like I was taking in oxygen again. Because of the rules, I started to believe I wasn’t a good writer anymore based on a faulty system. I had to conform, or I wasn’t approved. I had let the judgments of others get to me.

I heard The Little Drummer Boy playing in a store the other day. It reminded me of one of my brothers, who is naturally talented in drumming. He, too, went through situations where instead of being allowed to play freely, he was expected to follow a particular beat and restrain his abilities.

While in high school, I recall this happening in a music class where my parents realized an instructor was crushing him down. He wanted to quit and started to feel inadequate. When really, he was great at it.

My mom noticed that his nightly practice in the basement wasn’t happening. Usually, for an hour every evening, we would have to yell at each other to communicate over the crashing sounds from below. You could hear him down the block.

“He used to sit in the middle of the kitchen floor and drag out all my pots and pans to play. He could barely walk and was in diapers when he did that,” she always told me.

It was unusual for his drums to sit silent.

It became a learning time for him as it had for me. Not everyone will see what God has blessed a person with, and from those places, you walk away. If you aren’t appreciated for what you bring, then that’s a sign you aren’t in the spot you have been created for. Sometimes things aren’t going to follow the way that things are ‘normally’ done. I was healed from pneumonia one popcorn bowl at a time.

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, it puts it into perspective the only One who we have to please with our abilities:

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere, but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere, but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! (Message)

When I heard the song, I listened to the lyrics. The drummer comes to play because that’s his gift to offer. He isn’t the main attraction in the story, but he carries an important message. He isn’t there to win over the crowd but to display the abilities that are God given, to do something he loves, make the world better and be a vessel.

More Than A Number

“Are you near your computer?” He asked me.

“Yes.”

“I need you to type in..”

He went into turbo speed talk, trying to give me a string of numbers and letters to put into the browser to get to a website.

“Wait,” I said.

He was on number or letter fifty, and I was still putting in one from the beginning. I was on the phone with a helpline representative.

“Are you at the portal?”

Like to leave earth? No. But sometimes I wish.

“No. I’m still trying to get what you said in.”

I went back and read off what I had been able to keep up with.

“Oh, ok. I didn’t know you were that far behind.”

He started off where I was, and I hit enter. I knew when I saw code error 404, it wasn’t going to work.

“It says that the link is broken. I can’t go to that site.”

“Well, I’m there, so I know it’s working.”

I went back to where we started.

“I will go through each letter and number one by one.”

“Okay,” I said.

“A as in apple. Do you have that now?”

For real, guy? You go from speed talk to now acting like I’m four years old.

“Yes. Got it.”

“Are you ready for the next one?” He said in soft tones so as not to mentally break me.

“Yes,” I said.

He went at a snail’s pace to ensure I didn’t miss anything.

“Did we make it?”

Like we were hiking a treacherous mountain.

When I am made to feel ‘old’, I recall what I have read in multiple publications: age is a mindset. Most of these are written by people from a long time ago in history and are dead, but their words make sense. When more than one person says something, and they are not associated, that is when you know you are on to the truth.

A year ago, while visiting my dad at his assisted living when restrictions were still in place, he proved this theory. He was in lockdown, so his meals were being delivered to his apartment, and there was no contact with the outside world, really.

I had arrived before noon to find him still in bed, fast asleep. His days and nights were mixed up, and I often found meals stacked up in his refrigerator untouched, which led me to believe he was sleeping around the clock.

I clicked on the tv trying to find Christmas music but landed on a community channel. I could hear music playing, and with his hearing being impaired, it was like a live band had suddenly rushed into the small space.

He slowly came around the corner and parked himself. I realized it was polka music, and he was all entranced because of his polish heritage. He used to play the accordion when he was young, so it didn’t take much to make him stop in his tracks, and he forgot all about eating.

Over the noise, he said,

“Look at all those old people dancing!”

They all appeared slightly younger than him, but who wants to ruin his perception?

“What song is this?” he asked. “I can’t tell.”

That type of music makes me cringe, so I didn’t inherit some of his DNA. But, out of some long-forgotten memory bank, I said,

“I think it’s called Help Me Make It Through the Night.”

“Help me make it through the night? These people are so old, they aren’t going to make it through this song!”

“At least they are up and moving. You barely made it out of bed today,” I said. He laughed.

When I fill out a survey that asks me my age range, and I’m at the first number in the series, there’s still something to celebrate as I check off the box. I wonder how I will feel when I’m in the last bracket like him?

While it might appear that the world has sped up, it’s really about keeping up with changes and learning new things.

Speaking into the remote control has been a monumental leap forward. I purposely say the wrong thing just to see where it will lead me. It takes its revenge, though, and refuses to hear what I have said correctly at other times. It’s a love/hate relationship. It knows we have no buttons to use like the older models, so it owns us.

Then there are those times when I hear someone of my age say,

“Rewind that video.”

“You know we don’t have VCRs anymore, right?” I say nicely. I can’t let this soul wander around so blatantly showing their age.

I asked my daughter when she knew I was no longer breezing through life.

“When I had to teach you how to copy and paste on your computer.”

And she said it real quick, like it was just minutes ago. So apparently, that was a pivotal point in my aging process.

Isn’t that why I had kids? To take all the guesswork out of life? If I can’t figure something out, I just hand it over, they give it back, and I am on to my next technical issue.

One of the things I do not like is when an older person who may be related to me is in the middle of a health crisis and says,

“Just wait until you are my age!”

They say this from their hospital bed like they will feel better knowing someone else in the future will be in the same poor condition. Misery loves company, and when someone doesn’t have the answers, they will pull you in to make themselves feel better. They are just hoping that you will start talking about the ailments that plague you.

I stopped being quietly polite along the way and will say I refuse whatever they are trying to make me believe. I have said back,

“We were designed to be in good health and heal. That is what God wants.”

That usually changes the direction of the conversation for the better. I realized I didn’t have to agree with something just because it was spoken. The ‘respect your elders’ idea is fine unless they talk negatively. It’s wise to counteract those ideas before they take root and replace them with thoughts like this from 3 John 2 that states,

God wants me to prosper and be in health, even as my soul prospers. (KJV)

Why expect to get sick just because your cousin Nancy did? If you look at what others in your bloodline have as a diagnosis and claim it for yourself, you will live out what you believe.

I was reminded over the summer that age can be positive when I visited a cave that was discovered in 1881 by two brothers. As I stood in the depths of the caverns that had existed for way longer than I had, and they were still growing and bringing to life various gems, it reminded me that even as we age, we can be useful.

The history of its existence was made up of many new discoveries as explorers found new passageways and hidden places. As they kept searching, they kept finding.

That is how your walk with God can be. You toss aside what the world says is so important, like the number of candles on your last birthday, and know that there are many things you haven’t even understood yet.

The space was treated with great reverence, and while on tour, we were told to be very careful along the way, so we brought no harm to it. We were many feet below the surface, and for some reason, it felt safe to me, not suffocatingly frightening.

“When a horrible tornado went through, the owners came down here because they knew they would be safe,” our guide told us.

One of the advantages of being a little further along the way is that you can provide security for someone who hasn’t been down the same road. You have had experiences, some good, some not, that can shed light and bring revelation to someone who needs help.

One thing is for sure. No, not taxes and death, but yes. Other than those, there will always be problems that need solving, which is why we are here. When you can stand firm in the face of adversity and when someone younger than you witnesses this, their faith is allowed to grow.

Don’t fall for the lie that you are no longer valid because you think you’re too elderly to be of any use anymore. Digits are used in our society for crowd control. Like at the DMV, when you are standing in a sea of humanity, you are looking at a ticket that says 3000, which signifies that is the year they will get around to you.

The message is sent many times over to us through media that once you hit a particular time of life, you might as well hang it up. It’s a lie, so don’t fall for it.

The world may tell you that, but to God, you are more than a number.

(You can handle being number 2..you are only one step away from being the first.)

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.

No Way

“Can you open your mouth like a big girl?” She asked. The hygienist couldn’t have been any nicer, but she was up against a rebel.

She had even put sunglasses on her so that the light above her head wouldn’t hurt her eyes.

“I just need to count all of your teeth.”

I watched as she clamped her lips tighter together and shook her head no.

“You have to let her help you,” I said, thinking I could convince her.

This was the first time I had taken my youngest daughter to the dentist for an exam and cleaning, and her two-year-old plus self wanted nothing to do with it.

Between this lady and me, we went around and around with her for thirty minutes. Her mouth stayed slammed shut. Finally, she said,

“I don’t think she is going to cooperate. You will have to reschedule. I have another client coming, and we need this exam room.”

This little girl had just pushed my patience farther than anyone had ever. Her sister always complied, and I had never seen this brick wall behavior before.

I was trying not to say a word even though I could not believe that a preschooler was running the show. I expected her to act better than that.

The minute we got outside of the suite and into an empty hallway, she threw the nuclear bomb.

“That was easy,” she said with a slight smile.

If she had stayed quiet or said she was scared, that would have been a different story.

I could not believe she so casually said that. Where had she possibly gotten such a stubborn nature from? The apple hadn’t fallen that far from the tree, but I didn’t recognize it then.

I could not contain myself any longer. In a yell whisper, I said,

“You will never do that again. When someone asks you to do something, you will do it.”

I saw that what I was saying wasn’t sinking in, so I added,

“I’m skipping the toy store. I was going to take you there after this, but you didn’t let her look at your teeth.”

That struck a nerve. I started walking toward the exit.

“I will go back in! Please!”

“It’s too late. They have other people coming now.”

She was in anguish all the way home. I was hoping she was learning something, but it was hard to tell with this one.

The following week when we returned, she did everything that was asked of her, and I then took her to Toys R Us.

For years, it was a reward for her following upsetting times like when she had to go to the doctor for immunizations. And it held happy memories like when she had been given money to spend. Even though other stores had the same products, the glistening aisles, and the giraffe meant the world to her.

When they announced their bankruptcy and possible closure, she followed every scrap of information to see if there would be a last minute rescue operation.

On the day that the founder and original owner died, the company made it public that they were going out of business for good. It was reported that the people who had taken it over had run it directly into the ground, and there wouldn’t be any saving it.

As the emptying of the building progressed, everything was on sale. One night we went to see what was left. Light fixtures and shelving were everywhere, waiting to be purchased. What had held such great memories for her looked empty and lonely.

As we were leaving, she saw a shopping cart.

“I want that,” she said.

“Really? Why?”

“It’s from here.” It was a way to hang on to something from her childhood.

We found an employee, and $35 later, she was the proud owner of the big blue cart.

I opened the back of my car and flipped both seats down. Neither one of us had any clue how we were going to fit it in. We tried shoving it in one way, and it got stuck. For sure, we reasoned, if we jam it in the other way, it will slide right in. It was not working no matter what we did. At one point, I went into the store to see if they had any tools. I was going to try and take it apart.

“We don’t have tools. We sold them.”

Of course.

I went back to the car where she was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

After an hour, I had visions of her pushing it home. I looked up how long it would take. An hour and forty minutes seemed a bit steep. There were sidewalks along the way, and when I mentioned it, she paused her attempt at getting it into my car. Her eyes were wild, and I saw sweat on her brow. The look I got was piercing and somewhat scary.

“No! I keep seeing myself doing that! I’m not doing that!”

I started laughing as I saw it more clearly in my mind. Her schlepping it all the way home would look a lot like she was wandering the streets homeless.

“I will drive slow and follow you,” I suggested trying not to laugh more.

“NO!”

I could not stop laughing. I don’t know if the summer heat was getting to me mixed with desperation or what.

What happened next is still unexplainable, but she snapped and suddenly wasn’t willing to play this game anymore. Similar to when a pregnant lady lifts a car off of someone pinned underneath it, she gathered together her strength and applied it to this situation.

With a forceful shove and a primal-like scream, it popped right in. She stomped off to get into the front seat. She had somehow solved the puzzle, like a Rubix Cube. I was astonished she had done it by herself.

“How did you get that in there?” I said, pulling out of the parking lot.

“I don’t know. I got angry, and it went in as it should have over an hour ago!”

I laughed, thinking of the alternative if it hadn’t.

Once I pulled into the garage, I figured it would be easy for us to remove it, but I was wrong. We were right back at square one.

“What is with this thing!” I said. More perspiration and it not budging. Now I was getting worried.

“What if we can’t get this out? I will have to drive around with a Toys R Us cart in the back of my car forever!”

“Stop!” She said, trying to catch her breath.

Her sister wandered out to help.

“How did you get this in there?”

“We don’t know,” I said.

All three of us put in our best effort from various angles. My concern was growing exponentially, and there wasn’t any way to take this molded piece of plastic apart.

“What if I have to sell my car someday? Who is going to want this?”

I could see the ad: It even comes with a shopping cart!

“Stop!” She said again, with her irritation charging off the charts.

I stood back to observe. I was at a total loss. It was like one of those moments when you wished it was a bad dream.

“I’m going in the house for a minute,” I said.

I realized that looking at the mess we were in wasn’t helping me solve the dilemma, and I had to get away from it.

I had read so many books that had discussed the benefits of visualization and seeing the outcome. I sat on the couch, closed my eyes, and imagined her coming in the door telling me she had figured it out. I felt like this was more productive than me watching and worrying.

Within a very short while, the door opened, and she said,

“I got it out!” Exactly what I saw in my imagination.

Like birthing a baby with sheer determination, she had single-handedly yanked it out of my car.

“You did?”

“Yes!” And she collapsed in a heap on the floor. She was more mentally tired than anything.

This speaks to what we are capable of if we put our mind to it. Each one of us can overcome every obstacle that comes our way. She kept trying no matter how much effort was required, and I removed myself to help her more.

In Isaiah 40:29 it says:

He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might, He increases strength, causing it to multiply and making it abound. (AMP)

I knew that my negativity and fear were not helping, so I turned my attention inward to what we wanted instead of what we didn’t want.

In Hebrews 11:1, it is described like this:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

I saw what hadn’t happened yet, and then it materialized. I sat in the comfort of my air-conditioned house without stress or strain and saw the best images I possibly could.

Each of us has been given the ability to overcome anything if we are willing to apply our faith. To the unsuspecting eye, it looked like I had fallen asleep in the living room, but I was putting in as much work as she was.

The combination of her not giving up and me seeing the solution freed us from all toil. Our repeated actions were not making any difference, and it wasn’t until I tried something else we made progress.

When tenacity is combined with the simple act of prayer, heaven seems to suddenly jump into action to make a way where there seems to be no way.

The Puzzle
Looks so simple…