Strong Finish

“I prayed for a money bonus,” she said as I walked through the living room.

“A bonus?”

“Yes. I asked God to send me extra money as a way to practice using my words and faith. I want to see if it will work.”

My daughter wasn’t asking out of a need but to build her walk with God. I didn’t know what that was like. I always asked heaven for financial help to pay a bill, and so far, so good.

Her request was a bit beyond mine, and I had never thought to pray for something I wasn’t in a crisis for because I thought that was the rule. Don’t you have to have an emergency to wring a drop of help from above?

“I’m just putting it out there to see what happens.”

“So is this bonus like at the casino where the machine launches you into that extra thing? You play the regular game, and then it suddenly takes you to a different screen to accumulate more?” I had watched her do that numerous times.

“Yes. That’s why I am saying it’s a bonus, and it’s an add-on to what I already have.”

With Christmas around the corner, my thought was her chances were pretty high that someone would give her a gift, possibly money.

But, the holidays came and went, and her prayer went unfulfilled. I forgot all about it, and she didn’t mention it to me again.

She doesn’t like clutter, but she often gets very busy with her career, so her room and workspaces can be a mess.

During the first week of January, she declared one morning that she would straighten up her room. It had gotten to the point of overload where she was feeling confined. Just like me, this process feels like an evil necessity. I don’t want to do it, but I know I will love it when I walk in the door to be surprised as if a maid had magically appeared. She would thank herself later for taking the time now.

I began my day when I heard,

“Mom! Oh my gosh! MOTHER!”

It was one of those statements where I was in her room and didn’t recall how I got there that fast.

“What’s wrong?”

She was standing by her bookshelves, holding two $50 bills.

“Did you find that?”

When both my girls tidy up, they always find a small lost treasure, like a couple of extra dollars or a piece of jewelry.

“This wasn’t here before.”

She kept looking at each hand.

“What?”

“Remember how I asked for a money bonus? I didn’t put a time on it or an amount. I was cleaning that top shelf, and these were folded neatly there.”

The space she spoke of was high, and no one had been in her room or in our house to do this.

I took one of the brand new bills from her hand. It had that new smell, and the paper wasn’t worn. Like it had been freshly printed.

Even though she knew it would eventually manifest, her shock was quite evident.

“I know it works now.”

“Put it to work for me,” I said.

In the summer, we went to the track. She took the money with her because she had intended that it would be used for something entertaining. As each race ended, her money was dwindling. Her picks weren’t coming to fruition, and I could see her irritation rising. She isn’t accustomed to losing, and while she looked serene to the outside world, I sensed the frustration. Her mind was making her believe that all was not going her way.

As we approached the machine to make her guesses for the final race, she said with much annoyance,

“I am here to have fun! And I’m getting all my money back right now!”

I watched her fingers fly across the touch screen as she decided to play the trifecta. This meant she had to correctly predict the horses that would come in to win, place and show, and it was an all-or-nothing chance. She didn’t bat an eyelash as she punched it in and hastily grabbed the printout.

We had some time to wait, and she said again,

“I’m getting it all back! Right now!”

There was a tone in her voice that meant she wasn’t backing off believing that she could. Like when Jesus flipped tables kind of energy.

The horses lined up, and the bell rang. We watched the screen to see how it would all end. I wasn’t even sure who she had bet on because she hadn’t told me.

She calmly watched as all three of her picks eased across the finish line in the exact order she had set.

At the collection window, she was given back all of her bonus money.

She had won the trifecta once before, so she had the confidence that she could do it again. That made all the difference when the mood went from downcast to “nothing can stop me from accomplishing this.”

In Jeremiah 17:7-8 it says,

But blessed is the man who trusts God,
the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers.
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season.

It looked like she was going to lose it all, but she came out the winner.

You and I are running a race with God cheering us on. We get to decide how we proceed. Will we do it with joy, peace, and faith? Or do we go with a double mind mentality and doubt? My daughter put no parameters on her prayer, and she just flung it out there on a whim to see what would transpire and let it go. It all came to pass, and we all have that power.

No horse limped across the line. They were in their best shape, charging forward with the end in mind. Are you doing that? Are you inwardly driven to victory?

2 Timothy 4:7 says:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Determine to have a strong finish.

Make Your Way Home

The walk home from middle school was only a mile, but it felt like a million. I packed my books into my canvas bag, slung it over my shoulder, and zipped up my coat.

I pushed open the exit door, happy to leave the place behind. I never felt like I fit in, and I didn’t try all that hard to. I thought my peer group was immature, and I couldn’t bring myself down to that level. I had already tried smoking at 11, felt incredibly guilty, and that was all the farther I was willing to delve into juvenile delinquency type behavior.

I had friends in elementary school, but they had chosen to follow the road of least effort and do drugs and other activities I didn’t care to participate in. I kept dodging their invites, so they deemed me an outsider who thought she was superior to them. When I didn’t bow down to the peer pressure, they ridiculed and threw me aside.

Because of the so called rejection and my decision to walk away, I didn’t trust anyone. If they could turn on me like that, who else would? So I shut myself off and kept a safe distance from everyone.

It had been awhile since his harassment began, and like a winged creature, he would swoop out of nowhere and follow me. I had no protection other than to push the ignore button. He was two years younger than I was, so quite a bold move on his part to try and gain my attention.

His approach was aggressive as he would invade my personal space by standing in front of me, blocking the way. Like a small, yapping dog, he would say vile things. None of what streamed out of his mouth was frightening; it just made me angry.

I generally just kept my eyes locked straight ahead and my hands in my pockets. I said nothing in return and kept on moving as best as I could. Inwardly I could not believe how demented this kid was, and I did not indicate that he even existed.

I had been trained at home to treat my older brother that way. My mom had told me that my reaction would determine whether the situation would halt in its tracks or keep going. I had learned to breeze past my sibling, not giving him the satisfaction of my time. He was left standing by himself with no one to torment.

I was applying that theory to this situation, but it didn’t seem to be working. This troll wasn’t backing down. He had been doing this since the first day of school, and it was now mid-February. I could have told my brothers to handle him, but I felt that was an unfair advantage because they were double his age. On some level, I knew he was a mess, but I was hoping he would get bored and leave me alone.

As usual, he was hiding behind a tree and jumped in front of me. This game was so old and predictable. That particular day, the air was skin burning cold with a wicked wind, and my legs felt frozen with frostbite.

He started in with his usual litany of talk as I tried to escape. I crossed the street, he followed close by, running in circles around me, hurling disgusting comments. I could see my breath in the air as I sighed and made a decision. I stopped and turned around to face him.

He was shorter than me, with a height not even to my shoulders. He seemed to think this was the victory he had been longing for. The big moment had arrived, and he felt he had wooed me with his words. A crooked smile spread across his face. Another surge of fury went through me, and what he didn’t see coming was my gloved fist making contact with his nose. I purposely tried to have him feel the impact of the ring I had on my middle finger. The cold air added to the pain of the punch.

“You hit me!”

I dropped my book bag to the ground, ready to do it again. It felt good to unleash on him finally.

He crouched down at my feet while I
towered over him.

“My nose,” he wailed.

I didn’t feel the slightest bit of remorse. I was more than ready to do it again.

He stumbled back to his feet, covering his face.

“I’m telling my mom!”

“Really?”

I picked up my bag and said,

“Where do you live? I will come with you and tell her everything you have been saying to me.”

He looked like he would have rather died of a stroke.

“Let’s go!”

His target and object of affection had now turned the tables on him.

“Get away from me!”

He started backing up, and I moved in closer. Half looking at me, half beginning to run, he began to flee, but I pursued him. The hunter had now become the hunted.

“Leave me alone! I’m telling!”

“I know. Let’s go tell!”

He broke out into a full on run, and so did I despite the ice. When he rounded the corner, I stopped, and he went on without me, never to bother me again.

Sometimes in life, you have to rise and put a stop to things that are a nuisance. If we passively sit by and let situations or people push us down, we have given away our God given power. Whether we surrender it out of fear or to be “nice”, there comes a time when we have to get honest and cut ties with it to be our authentic selves.

The pest appeared to be intimidating, but he fell like a house of cards when it came right down to it. While I had to fight back physically, most battles will be mental. We will have to go toe to toe with thoughts like worry, low self-esteem, or negativity. Putting them in their place will bring an end to the disruption. Some may linger and taunt relentlessly, seemingly hindering your purpose and destiny. Still, if one keeps persistently refusing to accept the illusion, a new mindset will knock out the false one.

In Romans 12:2, we are given great advice on how to silence the bullying thoughts that plague us:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. (NLT)

You can shut off the unnecessary noise through prayer, filling one’s mind with positive news and acting on the instructions of heaven. When you decide not to allow it anymore, God will clear your path and pave it with peace as you make your way home.

Messy Development

Road construction is disorderly. It’s inconvenient. Not to mention confusing. Sometimes I wonder if there is a sadistic city planner who says,

“Let’s take the frustration level of the commute up a notch and close down every route possible to see if the average person can get to their destination and back.”

And then that person flies to the store in his or her own hovercraft while the rest of us sweat it out with one another in lines of traffic that inch along. I am not exaggerating when I say that every road around me has been closed down with detours or so ripped up that if you choose it as your course, you can feel every extra ounce of fat jiggle on your body.

Oftentimes while jouncing around on such a thoroughfare my daughters have heard me say,

“This road makes me crabby. It reminds me that I should work out more, and I need a better support bra.”

Today I drove down my street to the makeshift four way stop. This has replaced our usual stoplights that left no room for confusion on whose turn it was to go. Now we all stare at one another and see if anyone wants to take a stab at continuing on their assigned path without being broadsided. I turned my blinker on to take a left and found that someone had put up a barricade. When I looked to my right, I found the same option. No entry. I had no other choice but to go straight. Yet, I really wanted to go left because there was no detour. The street I was on was not going to bring me anywhere near where I wanted to go.

After dealing with this type of circumstance repeatedly since April, I decided to find out what was ahead. What a surprise to see more blockades at the end of the street with a sign letting me know I was not going to continue on. I stared out the windshield at the scene before me. Behind the orange and white enclosures, every type of tall grass, wild flower and weed imaginable took up space. All of which was stopping me from going on any further.

I turned the car around and began a series of turns and stops to try and find my way through the maze. As I did so, I began to think about what I had just seen. No further work could be done on opening up that spot until the neglected land was cleared and smoothed out. As long as nature was allowed to grow in all directions unhindered, that section of the city was not fit for travel.

Driving around gave me extra deep thinking time as I saw the connection between the inner ‘construction work’ I have been doing to eradicate fear, worry and doubt from my life in order to accomodate faith, joy and peace more fully. Removing the negative is never pretty work. It can be quite ugly when you have to admit or face the fact that you are the problem. It isn’t a happy notion when you realize the reason why you are not moving on is because you are hanging onto beliefs that are impeding your own progress.

When I first realized this it was awful news and liberating at the same time. No longer can I blame someone else for the troubles I am in. For the first time, I have felt like my life isn’t vague and out of my control. I question God’s love for me less and less as I go about being more mindful of how I am thinking and do not tolerate unproductive thoughts to consume me. Instead of working against myself, I am taking responsiblity in clearing up the field of my spirit to make way for a new journey on a smoother paved road. It might be a bit of a mess getting there but at least it is development.