A Miracle On 132nd Ave.

I slumped in the passenger seat as she backed down the driveway. I looked longingly at my house wishing I was wearing my over sized pajamas with a warm dog snuggled near me on each side.

I glanced at the clock.  It was 7:30 and we were already an hour late.

“I really don’t want to go to this,” I thought.

She had invited me to attend a prayer gathering at a home very close to mine.  It wasn’t the theme of the evening that was bothering me as much as it was that I didn’t want to be around people.  In my life, I have gone to many of these type of meetings with enthusiasm expecting for someone to give me a ‘word’.  However, I wasn’t much in the mood for a word, a sentence or even a paragraph.

Situations swirling around me regarding relationships, finances and the approaching pressure of the holidays was fully weighing me down.  I had gotten out of bed that morning feeling absolutely dead inside.  I was quickly finding out that my frustration at not being able to fix my problems was leading me quickly down the dark road of depression.  Every time I went inward, I felt an empty space of nothing.  On the one hand, I didn’t want to care about anything, and on the other I felt so grieved at the overwhelming loneliness I felt.

“If anyone has anything to say to me, they can say it, but I am not telling anyone what is going on with me.  If God has something to say, it will happen.”

“I would like Brad to pray for you while we are there,” she said.

I was fine with that, but I was not going to open up and let any one of these people in on my problems.  Either God was going to reach out and take hold of me or I was on my own.

I watched the streets go by as she followed her GPS and its instructions.  The drive was only eight minutes but it felt like an eternity.  I couldn’t wait to go back home and flop down in my despair with a cup of hot tea.

As we were turning toward our destination, I sent up this silent prayer,

“God, if you care about me, I need you to give me $1,000 in cash for Christmas.  I have nearly nothing left to give right now.”

For weeks, I had been running low on money but made choices to cut back on things to make it work.  At the same time, I kept getting small promptings to give where I could to put what I had into circulation to help combat the fear.  Yet, I knew I had obligations coming and the strain of it all was taking me down.

I had heard on the radio that the average American family spends $961.00 for gifts. I don’t know if I come close to that amount, but being in the position of not being able to give anything was part of my unhappy state.  The decorations and music in the stores were not helping.  Everything was simply reminding me that I was going to be left empty handed.

My friend parked her car and I stood by the driver’s side as she collected her purse.  I did not tell her that I asked God for money.

“I want this to be a night I remember,” I said.  “I hope this doesn’t waste my time.”

We walked into an empty upstairs but found about twenty people in the basement listening to a man speaking about how God could fix anything if you let it happen.   I watched as people went forward for prayer as he spoke positive, uplifting words.  We were trying to slip in quietly.  She found a seat near the front while I took one toward the back.  My intention was to sit and watch.

Without warning, the pastor turned toward me and said,

“Do you have needs?”

I thought he was looking at me, but I was hoping he wasn’t.  Two women who were seated in front of me shook their heads no, but then he said,

“The one in the pink.  Do you have needs?”  He pointed right at me.

There was no escaping it now.  I had worn the brightest pink hoodie in my entire collection.

I answered,

“Uh…. ya.”

“Do you want to get rid of them?”

I paused because I knew what was coming.

“Yes,” I said.

“Then come on up.”  Oh, boy, so much for sitting in the back and letting the evening go by.

I could feel my friend’s eyes on my back.

“Do you have a physical ailment?”

I shook my head no.

“Are you going to say what you need?”

I shook my head no.  I was holding to my vow in the car on the way over.  If God had something to say, then it would present itself without me giving out any information.

He began to speak, and his words pierced my heart. Two weeks before this, I had visited a church one evening and went into a room with two women who sat quietly for a few minutes praying and then began to speak.  They had told me that my future was ‘bright’ and that there was nothing to worry about.  They kept saying that I was going to be okay and not to worry or fall into despair.  His words greatly mirrored what I had already been told.  I felt my resolve crumbling as my pain, anger, frustration and sadness burst out of me.

I began to cry so hard I was paralyzed where I stood.  His wife came and took me to a couch where she continued to pray for me.  The only thing I felt in that moment was what I whispered,

“I feel forgotten.  I feel like I am all by myself, and I don’t matter anymore.”

As the evening went on, more people came up for prayer, and I was still not totally out of my funk.

I heard my friend say to a man across the room,

“I would like you to give a word to my friend Christine.”

I was still wallowing in a puddle of tears, so  I attempted to clean my face up which left all of my makeup on a tissue.

“This is Brad,” she said to me.  He was meeting me at probably one of the lowest times of my life.

He knelt down by my side, and I closed my eyes as he began to pray.

The one thing I recall that he said was this:

“God wants you to know John 14:27 is for you.”

John 14:27 says this:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

He said,

“It’s like your mind is racing at all times.  I see it going so fast and things coming and going in and out of your mind.”

Unknown to him, I was completely consumed with worry about my finances from the time my eyes would open in the morning.  I would get out of bed just to immerse myself in tasks to keep my mind off of it.

As he spoke, I felt myself relax because his words were ringing true. He called his wife over who was so joyful that no one could possibly stay sad in her presence. It was energy that was alive and contagious that only further erased my negative state of being.  It was like the two of them picked me up, stood me on my feet, brushed off the dirt and put me back on the road.

As she prayed for me, I noticed he put his hand over his heart, then he leaned over and whispered something in her ear.  She nodded and smiled and he got up and walked away.  I figured maybe he was leaving me in her care while he helped another.

Within moments, he returned with an envelope with my name written on it.

“We want to sow this into your life.”

I looked at it not fully understanding.  I eventually took it from him and put it in my purse.

The pain had disappeared, and I felt happier and more secure.  It’s difficult to describe an event when it is a spiritual experience.  But, much like having a surgery, I felt as if a toxin that was choking the life out of me had been removed.

After thanking those who had helped me, I got into my friend’s car and said,

“Oh, I have an envelope with something in it.”

“From who?”

“Brad and his wife Lori gave me this.”

As I slid my finger along the enclosed edge, I suddenly recalled my silent plea to God for $1,000 in cash on the way to meeting.

I carefully opened it and saw a $100 bill on top.  I slammed it shut.

“Oh my gosh!  Oh my gosh!  I think God did what I asked.  I think…”  I started crying again as I looked at and counted $1,000 cash, all in $100 bills, in my lap.

“WHAT!?” my friend said as she leaned over to see.  We headed for curbs and lawns as she tried to keep the car on the road.

I could not speak because I felt how much I was truly loved.  For you see, it wasn’t just about the money, it was about feeling that divine, strong, powerful connection between myself and the One who is unseen. My request to God was said as a sort of ultimatum that I thought would go unanswered.  I had asked for something to touch with my hands but it was so much more touching to my heart.

My faith was completely restored and in the past week since this event, I have found myself feeling more secure than ever and my problems seem to be more distant now than a heavy load on my back to carry.

I began to wonder the other day why I was able to have this prayer answered when I didn’t say a word to anyone about it.  I was immediately directed to this passage of scripture:

But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.  (Matthew 6:6 NLT)

What I did that night was I shut myself away from others and sent up a private request that only my Creator was aware of.  And, as I did so, my reward presented itself rather quickly. I encourage all of you that are weary to never give up, and to ask for supernatural help.  I had no idea that I would go into a stranger’s home for a mere two hours and come out the recipient of a miracle on 132nd Ave.

 

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Selling Yourself Short

“I know exactly what the problem is,” she said as I was laying face down on the table.

I had just explained that my lower back on my right side had been sending out painful messages, and I didn’t know why.  She had walked down by my feet.

“Are you going to tell me that one leg is shorter than the other?”

The only reason why I said this was because a friend of mine who is very intuitive had told me this months prior after I had sent out a text explaining that I had to crawl out of bed one morning as sharp spasms gripped my entire lower back.

“Yes. Your right leg is shorter than your left.”

For three months I had put up with it figuring it would go away after awhile. Simple tasks became horrible as I would lock into a certain position when trying to put on a sock or grab a pen that had fallen to the floor. Things I had taken for granted now were difficult to perform.

Many hot packs and Epsom salt baths later, I was ready for the truth to set me free.

“This is something that we can fix today.”

The only reason I had finally gone to the chiropractor was because my youngest daughter had complained of stiffness and aches in her lower back. When it comes to the kids, I will go in immediately, but for myself, I will wait.  I had reluctantly put myself up on the table out of necessity.

She came back up toward my head and began to run her thumbs along my spine. The familiar humming of a tune began.  The first few times I saw her for treatment this struck me as odd. Just before the snap and crunch, she would hum a melody that usually consisted of long drawn out notes that made me relax.

“Okay,  I need you to lay on your left side facing the wall.”

This was something we had done before, so I was well versed in flipping over.  She pulled my right leg across my body.  This also was usually part of the procedure, however, she did something different this time.  When she performed the maneuver,  I let out a surprising,

“OOF!”

My eyes must have gone wide and my face pale because my daughter who was observing said,

“Mom, are you okay?”

I did a mental check of my body and realized that she hadn’t caused me pain, but she had taken some of the oxygen out of my lungs.  Whatever she did felt like my right hip had been relocated to its natural spot. I no longer felt the grabbing twinge on my right side.

Afterward, she took out a plastic skeleton and showed me that when a person has an injury on one side of the body, later in life it can cause that side to become shorter than the other.  I left the office feeling so much better now that I wasn’t walking a crooked path.

When I returned home, I checked my home phone for messages and saw a number from a local technical college. I clicked the button to listen.

“I am calling to see if you would like to come in for a free massage at our school in the next month.  Please call us back and let us know.”

The year before, I had been looking for places that gave massages and found that I could volunteer for students.  I had put my name on the list but hadn’t heard anything.  I dialed the number and spoke with a student.

“Sure.  We can get you right in here.  Oh, the other thing is, if you want, you can actually have three free massages over a period of three weeks.”

“Really?” I said astonished.

She booked me for two hot stone massages that would last an hour and a half per session and an hour Swedish massage.  I got off the phone in slight amazement as I was suddenly realizing how small actions can lead to blessings.

Four days before this, I had splurged and sought out a massage therapist close to home who specializes in pain therapy.  I was drawn to this particular spot after reading online that it wasn’t just about the massage but the idea that healing could come to my body.  I felt I was to spend some money on myself as there still are times I catch myself worrying about my finances.  It was to be a two fold mission.  One, to seek out pain relief, and two, to make myself a priority.

I was greeted by a woman who had a calming, welcoming demeanor.  We made our way to a dimly lit room where she and I talked for awhile.  It became clear that she wasn’t just a therapist, but a person who took interest in her clients.  I had given her very little information to go on in my paperwork other than where the location of my discomfort was.

She suddenly said,

“Are you concerned about money?  I sensed that when I said hello to you.”

I smiled but I actually could not hold in my tears.  Whether it was the pain taking its toll on me or the soft spoken words of truth, it hit me emotionally enough that she had to hand me an entire box of Kleenex. I explained a few of my underlying fears revolving about money since my divorce and how eight years later, with my youngest graduating from high school, I felt uncertain about my existence in general.

She openly confessed to me that her marriage was in a shambles, and she was trying not to consider divorce.

“I made it this far,” I said gulping down another round of tears.

“Then, you will make it even farther.  You are a strong person.  I can see that from only you being with me for such a short time.”

We proceeded on to the most wonderful ninety minute session where we spoke very little.  At the conclusion of our time together she said.

“When I treat people, I often pick up on things that they are feeling or thinking.  It’s just part of my job.  I feel like you have a lot of pain built up that you need to keep releasing. I usually will feel a tingling sensation with people, but with you I felt a large amount of burning almost as if a fire is trapped inside of your body. This can cause inflammation as well.   Just let things go and get it out of your system.  Don’t hold things in so much.  So what if people know you aren’t happy all the time? Let it out either through laughter or crying. Whatever makes you feel better.”

To some, her words would be nonsense, but to me they made sense.  I felt relief not only on the outside but on the inside as well.

When I went to pay my bill, I knew that the charge was going to be an amount that I normally would have balked at.  But, this time, I had made up my mind to take care of myself.  In addition, I felt led to give a tip that would bring honor to this person who had just helped me so much.

As I got into bed that night, I wondered how I could get another massage.   Where would the money come from to enjoy such an experience again? Each morning after, I contemplated how I could ‘afford’ to have another treatment.  Not so much by the same person, but to allow myself the indulgence because it made me feel so much better.   Little did I know that by allowing myself the treatment ,and giving her a tip, that days later I would be the recipient of three more free treatments.   Along with the care of a wonderful chiropractor, I felt like I was being offered more help to resolve my painful problem.

I attended my first free massage the other day.  I was assisted by a woman who looked at least ten years older than me. She didn’t fit the description of the typical ‘student’.  I wondered as I got prepared for the session how her hands would hold up because it was to be an hour long.  Gently, she went over all of the instructions, made sure I was doing okay, and at one point while lying on my stomach I started to drift into a dream where I saw myself and my daughters laughing.  It was so real that when I snapped back to reality I didn’t know at first where I was.  She leaned down and said with a smile,

“We are all finished.  What do you think?”

“Thank you. That was great.”

She smiled brighter, and I could see that she loved the work.

Am I totally healed at this point?  No.  I still have moments of residual pain across my lower back that requires an ice bag or two and an occasional adjustment. But, what has this done?  I listen to my body more.  I don’t blow off the signals that tell me something is amiss.  I rest when I need to. I sleep and don’t force myself to stay awake.  And, I have become more mindful of the word ‘short.’  You see, when the chiropractor said my one leg was shorter than the other, I began to consider how many times I have worried about being short on money.  Each month I have fought a small amount of fear that this could be the ‘big one’.  I could be one of those people who suddenly find themselves destitute, so I limit doing nice things for myself because there are more important expenses to take care of.  There is an inner system of judgment that says: “If you can afford this, then why aren’t you paying this particular bill faster?”

There has to be a balance between obligations and taking care of oneself.  In John 10:10 it says: “The thief comes only to kill and destroy.  I have come to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (New Living Translation)  I am the one who robs joy from myself through my worry and unfounded fears. When I limit help, I limit God.   But, the desire of heaven is for all of us to live our days in health and peace. I am grateful for the people who have been put on my path to show me this.

Take care of yourself because it brings honor to your Creator and it stops you from selling yourself short.

 

 

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Stop and Smell the Roses

I yanked with my gloved hands as the bush’s thorns started to bite into my palms.

“Come out!” I said through gritted teeth.  “You will never win!”

I was attempting to follow through with my spring cleaning list and this eyesore was being removed whether it wanted to be or not.  I had worked around the roots with my shovel and thought that it would easily slide right out of the earth.  Instead, it wouldn’t budge.  I felt a twinge across my lower back as the muscles strained there and along the back of my calves.  Without warning, I was airborne across the lawn with the prize in hand over my head. It had played a nasty trick by suddenly and unexpectedly releasing its hold.  I landed with a thud directly on my back while clutching the dirty monster to my chest.

I looked up at the sky and did an inward safety inspection.  From time to time when I have taken a spill, I often lay still for a minute to make sure nothing is fractured, dangling or throbbing incessantly.  Feeling no pain and knowing that the coast was clear, I began to laugh.  I pictured the neighbors peering out their windows seeing an irate woman yelling at foliage and then being flung to the ground in a heap.  I sat up and brushed the dead grass out of my hair.  I was covered in soil but I was triumphant.  Not only had I gotten the rebellious bush out of its place, but I could check something off my to do list, and I had done it myself.

A few days prior to my seek and destroy mission, I sat on my back porch to write down what I wanted to get done around the house.  I had come to have a love hate relationship with my dwelling after it was awarded to me in the divorce.  My marriage had been one of the traditional nature where I attended to the indoor tasks while he worked outside.  I had found myself slightly unprepared to handle both, and my budget wasn’t allowing for too much improvement. I had determined to do what I could to clean up and declutter where I could without generating an expense. Removing the long forgotten about landscaping had been a priority.

As the list came together, I glanced over at the above ground pool that had a stocking cap at the bottom of it.  In the days when it was working properly, a cover would have concealed it at this time of the year.  But, the liner had succumbed to a tear, so it was drained and my youngest daughter and her friend had found delight in constructing a snowman in it over the winter. Frosty had melted and his hat, nose and eyes were all that was left of him.  It brought me a bit of sadness to see the pool in that state of disarray as I recalled the girls and I enjoying soaks in it on hot summer days. I knew I couldn’t fix it due to money constraints so I didn’t add it to my list.

As I sipped on my hot tea that morning, a thought went through my mind,

Do what you can on your list.  I will send a man to help with the pool.

I didn’t know what that meant exactly so I began to clean up what I could a little at a time day by day.

One afternoon, about a month later, my doorbell rang. When I answered it, a man with a city badge hanging on a lanyard greeted me.

“Hi. I am Patrick from the city.  Your home is due for an inspection for property tax purposes.”

I let him in and we walked from room to room as he made notes and checked out the interior of the house.

When we got out on the back porch, I said,

“That pool bugs me.  It is so ugly right now. It needs a new liner.  Since my divorce, I haven’t been able to fix it.”

He got really quiet and took a step closer to the window to look down on it.

“I think I might be able to help you with that.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  When I made the statements about the pool, it was more of a complaint than a proposal.  I wasn’t asking for help. I was bemoaning my existence.

“I can’t promise you anything but let me see what I can do.”

He had my contact information and we parted ways.

In a few days, he called asking if he and a friend could come over and inspect the pool.  I gave the go ahead and after he and his friend looked it over, he said,

“We would like to fix your pool for you.”

“What?”  Of course, my money fears surfaced so I said, “I don’t really have the money to pay for a new liner right now.  So, that is very nice of both of you, but I can’t pay for it.”

“We don’t want to be paid.  We want to fix it for you.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” his friend replied. “It should be pretty easy to do.  I work in the pool business so I know how to do them, and I can get the supplies fairly cheap.”

He went on to say that he was only in town for a few days to visit but he would enjoy doing the work.

That is when it came back to me….

I will send a man to help with the pool. 

I agreed to let them fix it, and within a few days my pool was up and running again.  Not only did they both work on it in the evening, but they also purchased chemicals that I needed to keep it in good shape. They didn’t ask me to be home while they were there, but requested that the side gate remain unlocked so they could come and go.

One night, I arrived home and went outside to see how they were coming along.  I found three different colored lounge chairs sitting on the deck. They knew that I was a single mom with two daughters, so they had purchased us each a place to sit poolside.  The pool was filled with sparkling, crystal clear water.   It had been restored to perfection.

After all that, and many years later, my fears of not having enough money or being taken care of should not even exist anymore.  Right?  No. I still fight with it at times when I am faced with uncertainty and not knowing how I am going to overcome a situation.

The other night as I was retiring for the day, I found myself wondering about my finances.  In that moment, I had completely forgotten of the story I just shared with you and all the other ones that have transpired over the years where I have been blessed with supernatural help. I went to bed questioning the upcoming months and some changes that will occur.  I am not an ebb and flow type person where I will ‘wait’ and see what happens. I like to plan things out at times, and when I can’t, I find myself doubting the trusted hand that has been with me every step of the way.  I got this message:

Buy yourself a bouquet of pink roses tomorrow.  Inhale the scent of them and know that I am in charge of everything.

My thoughts were no longer on finances but the idea that pink usually wasn’t my color of choice for roses.  I usually gravitate toward bright, bold, and dramatic colors.  Then, I thought,

How much will this cost me?

I drifted off to sleep wondering how roses were going to improve my outlook on life.

I was walking into the store the next day and again came the words,

Buy yourself a bouquet of pink roses.  Breathe in their scent and know that I am in charge of your life.

I obediently walked right over to the floral section.  There was an array of all colors, but only one small bunch that housed five pink roses.  I grabbed the cellophane wrapper and turned it around to check for a price.  A small label was attached to the front that read: Faith.

I immediately looked for more pink roses and found none.  I checked all the other flowers for the same word and could not find it!  Some said smile, some said freedom, but not a single batch of them had this message written on them. I gently placed them on the bottom of my empty shopping cart.  Tears began to well in my eyes as I smiled and thought how absurd my worries are.  Just more proof that we are loved unconditionally even if we don’t feel it at times.  In all of your ups and downs with this life, cast your care on God to bring you through, and take some time to stop and smell the roses.

 

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Playing the Game Right

Just before Christmas, I found myself in the game section of the store. I often go there because I like to see what is new with the potential of being added to my large collection. On a shelf at the end of an aisle, I found a rather intriguing box with the words Japanese Card Game written on the back. I had no sooner picked it up to examine it, when a man was at my side with a cell phone to his ear.

“You have to get that game!” he said.

“No, honey, I am talking to a person at the store. She is looking at Machi Koro. I am telling her to buy it,” he said into his phone.

He then said to me, “I am talking to my wife, but I had to come over here to tell you to buy that game. It is really fun. We love playing it.”

“Thank you,” I answered.

He disappeared as quickly as he had shown up. But, he did such a good sales job for a guy who was not even employed by the store, that a lady standing next to me decided to purchase the game as well.

I took note of the price, and with all of the holiday shopping I had completed, I hesitated. I wondered if I should buy if for myself or not. It was only about $20, but I still have moments where I wonder if I should spend my money on me. I had one part of me saying I should, and another part was escorting me to a bankruptcy hearing for purchasing something ‘not necessary’.

I decided to buy it and left the guilt at the store in the toy aisle.

Our first attempt to play was a disaster. While it sounds glamorous and worldly to play a game that is from another country, there is also the formality of the rules not being crystal clear. I kept reading this: Game play should be about 30 minutes.  We read the manual from cover to cover and that took longer than a half hour.  What’s interesting is that when people do not comprehend an idea, the reader will read louder to see if revelation will come. I have concluded that the volume of voice does not bring about understanding. After two hours of being baffled, we turned to a YouTube video to lend us a hand.

It was one of those online viewing sessions where after hours of struggle you continually say, “OH!” “Hey!” “OH!” But, you cannot get the wasted hours back of sweating it out at the table wondering if buying the game in the first place wasn’t a huge mistake.

My daughter and I decided to try again the next day to see if we could get through one round. Basically, players are at the mercy of the roll of dice and how many coins they possess. The objective is to accumulate money to buy landmarks to win. I watched as she spent herself down to her last coin while I hoarded mine and spent very little. Time and again, she beat me by completing her buildings before I had barely begun.

I noticed that she had a very carefree attitude about spending her earnings while I clung to what I had tightly refusing to buy anything on my turn. Then, she would get just the right roll, and more coins would flow into her pile which she would immediately spend.

Finally she said, ‘You have to spend your money or you are going to lose every time.”

I decided to take her advice and fight off the feelings of panic when the space in front of me held no money to spend. I actually had feelings of discomfort rise up in me as this went against everything I had ever conformed to.

I began to buy ‘the ranch’ cards which once accumulated can start to make money back for the one who purchases them. By the end of that game, I had actually beat her! It proved itself to be true whenever we played. I may not have won every time, but when I let go of what I had to spend, I ended up farther ahead than when I held on and refused to spend a dime on anything. I became a stronger competitor by trusting that I could make money by spending money.ranch

 

The next day, I was out in the store looking at water purifiers. The mental dilemma surfaced of if I should buy one or not. Suddenly, a vision of our game from the day prior filled my mind.

“Buy the ranch!” I heard her say.

I put the item into my cart and happily went on my way. I discovered that if I don’t allow myself to have things, then my life is going to be about worry and hoarding versus living the life I know God wants all of us to have.  It is a matter of trust and a deep knowing that there is a love so deep that it won’t let you fall off the edge of a cliff into despair.  We have the choice to limit ourselves or to allow good to come into our lives.

In this new year, our slogan now is: Buy the ranch!

In other words, loosen the grip, and put God’s love for you in motion by not saying no to yourself all the time.  Before you know it, you will be playing the game right.

 

machi koro

 

Free For All

I carefully placed my coupons on top of my purse as I pushed my cart through the store. My list seemed longer than normal.  The uneasy feelings were always the same.  I would begin to feel scared in the parking lot and by the time I made it to the cashier with my groceries, my anxiety about spending too much of the family budget would be at an all time high.   It was a torture session I endured every week.  It wasn’t that the money was not there.  It was my false belief that I was living in scarcity.

On this particular day, I found myself getting angry about the fact that I was going through this again. I wanted to rid myself of it.  As I grabbed cans of generic items, I began to count my blessings.  I had a house.  I had a bed.  I never was short on food.  My bills were all paid. And just to prove to myself that my thinking was out of line, I decided to start placing things in my cart that were not on my list with the full intention of giving it all away to the local food shelf.

I began to feel my mood shift as I joyfully went along picking and choosing products with the sole intention of blessing others.  My trip had now taken on a new meaning that took the attention off of my worries and replaced them with the idea of helping someone else.

While I stood in the checkout line, I noticed the couple in front of me.  They had a rather large order for themselves and were struggling to keep two small children occupied.  The husband stood at the end of the belt slowly bagging up their purchases as his wife handed over food stamps.

“Some of these items are not eligible,” the cashier said to the woman.

“Oh.  Which ones?”

I found myself tuning it out and started glancing at the magazine covers around me.  When it was my turn to move up, I saw that the situation must have been resolved.

She began sliding my items over the sensor and sending them down the belt next to the family ahead of me.  They were still in the midst of getting their groceries into the cart.  I was trying to stay calm, and often at this stage, I would ‘zone’ out to block out the ‘beep’ ‘beep’ ‘beep’ of the racking up of a bill.

“Excuse me,” I said to the couple as I wheeled my cart by them.  For a few moments, I was able to put items into bags until the cashier said,

“I have your total.”

I left my cart unattended to pay. Once I was done, the family of four had departed so I had more room to finish up my task.

When I arrived home, I began unloading my purchases onto the kitchen table.  I realized I had not segregated out my donations.  As I looked through what I had spread out on the table and the counter, I could not locate what I was looking for.

I walked back out to my car to see if anything had been accidentally left in the trunk.  I found that I had removed everything.   I took a closer look and discovered that not only had my food shelf items gone missing but a couple other things were not to be found as well.  An inexpensive package of toothpaste and a much needed bottle of cheap toilet bowl cleaner were among the missing.

As I stood puzzled wondering what had happened, the family of four flashed through my mind.  I had left my groceries next to their belt with just enough time for either adult to take what he or she might need to steal.

Grabbing my receipt and car keys I went back to the store to replace the stolen merchandise that I needed.

By the time I returned, the store was nearly empty but the same cashier was working the same lane.

“I think the people ahead of me took some items that didn’t belong to them.”

“They did?”

“Were they paying with food stamps?”

“Yes,” she said recalling the moment.

“Did they have trouble paying?”

“Yes.”

“I have items missing.”

“Did they do the five finger discount?”

“Well, I think they decided to take what was mine and made it theirs.  The funny thing is that they took most of the items I was going to give away to the food shelf.”

There was an absolute moment of silence until she and I started laughing.

“So, they stole food shelf items before I could donate them.  They just saved me a trip.”   This brought us to another round of laughter that made our eyes well up with tears.

I do not condone thievery, and I wish to this day that I would have paid attention to what was going on around me.  Yet, at the same time, I thought how pitiful it was that someone had to nab and grab to just get by in life.  And, somehow, I had mentally brought myself to the level of thinking that I was living in poverty.  Far from it.  I discovered that I was in a class much different than what I was envisioning over my life.

In times when I have feared the worst or imagined some catastrophe coming upon me, I often hear that still small voice whisper to me.  And, if I slow down, breath, and listen, I am drawn in by a peace that is free for all.

shoppingbag

In Hot Water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can help you over here,” she said.

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

“Oh, no.  I should go get him.”

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

“Yes.”

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

I went on to tell her what I had witnessed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

waterheater

When the Chips are Down

The three of us appeared war torn and zombie like as we walked through the store wishing we could buy ‘normal’. I had jokingly told people that Sunday was my favorite day of the week. The usual response to this was:

“Because you get a day of rest?”

“No. There is no mail.”

My life had become a daily dread of wondering what was going to show up in my box next as the divorce procedure was in full swing. Something would arrive from my attorney only to be countered by the other lawyer. Like a game of tennis, I was the ball batted back and forth over the net. And, this match was not about ‘love’.

Add to that the grief of having a marriage end which I had not envisioned when I said “I do.” It was the termination of a relationship that had gone off the tracks. There was a nagging feeling of remorse felt throughout the soul because the happy ending didn’t come as expected. I wept sometimes over the idea that I wouldn’t be a member of the grey haired couples club who get to celebrate 50 happy years together. It was a let down on many levels.

Tangled up with all of that was the financial aspect which I tried to hide from my two young girls. I was supposed to hold my head high and go through my days as if nothing unusual was transpiring. It was like trying to row a boat in the middle of a hurricane.

As we walked along the aisles of the store, we didn’t say much. We were too exhausted emotionally and physically. When we got near the snack bar I suggested buying them each an Icee. Those had always been a favorite, and I thought it might be a way to get a small spark of joy back momentarily.

My oldest daughter objected because she was keenly aware of our financial state, but I insisted and began the all too familiar ‘digging’ in my purse for loose change. I got into a long line as I counted pennies, nickels and dimes.

I observed other shoppers reach in and pull out bills or swipe cards to pay. It was done so effortlessly without any thought. I was slightly jealous remembering it had been that way for me at one time.

I cupped my coins carefully as I inched forward in the line. I glanced over at my daughters who had seated themselves. Their pale faces and tired eyes reminded me of my own whenever I caught a glance of my reflection. We all needed a boost of happiness, and I was determined to have some for a small price.

Just as it was my turn to order, it was as if someone smacked the underside of my hand that gripped the coins. I watched as they fell not only to the ground, but lodged themselves in between all the snack bags that were housed on shelves in front of me.

No one around me was aware of the explosion of anger that ignited within me. I quickly began gathering up what I could find on the ground as other customers streamed ahead of me buying what they wanted quickly without hesitation.

While on my hands and knees scrounging on the dirty floor, I was screaming inside,

Why is everything so hard, God?!?

I was seething as I crawled around wondering how my life had disintegrated to this lowly state.  A woman in line tapped me on the shoulder and handed me one of my wayward pennies.  I smiled and said,

“Thank you, ” not meaning a single word of it.

I stood to the side and counted the change I had managed to find.  It wasn’t enough.  I glanced at the chip bags and knew what I had to do in order to get what I had come for.

I carefully stored the money I had retrieved and then set about the task of plunging my hands into various piles of bags feeling blindly for lost coins. I rearranged the entire display with much shame and embarrassment in my search. Surprisingly, I had found everything but my last quarter when my hand ran into an object that seemed unusual.  It was square and felt leather like.  I brought it up to the surface.

I had unearthed a man’s wallet.   Holding it in front of me, I could not believe what I was seeing.  By now there was no one in line and the woman behind the counter said,

“Did you find that?!?”

“Yes,” I said in shock.

I handed it to her and she said,

“We have a disabled man who works here during the day.  Yesterday, he came in line to get food and couldn’t find his wallet. He was so upset and could not locate it. He must have dropped it where you found it.”

My anger was beginning to quickly recede.

With much excitement she added,

“If he were here right now, he would hug you.  Everything is in here. He was so worried about his bank card and social security card being stolen. He stopped by today and asked if we had found it because it was bothering him.  If you hadn’t dropped your money like you did, he wouldn’t have known what happened to it and continued to search frantically for it.  I have to give him a call and tell him you found it so he can relax.”

Just then, I looked down at my right foot and saw the elusive last quarter that I had been seeking.

I paid for two frozen treats with a new attitude, and as I was walking back to my seat a strong idea came into my awareness.

Everything happens for a reason.  

I was used to bring mental relief to someone who was in turmoil. It was as if my question earlier of ‘why everything was difficult’ was being answered.  I felt it reverberate throughout my entire spirit. There was a point to the madness.

That particular moment has become a memory anchor for me when life has become turbulent.  It reminds me that no matter what emotional state we find ourselves in, we can be a vessel to bring peace to a fellow human being and we are never alone even when the chips are down.

chips

Out of Order

The three of us looked on as many approached, saw the sign and backed away. It was clearly written in permanent marker and in no uncertain terms that the machine was out of order.

“It’s not working, ” she said with a dejection that jumpstarts a mother into action.

It had been a simple request for a pack of hard to find cinnamon mints while walking through the mall. The grocery stores and gas stations we frequented did not carry them, but a large glass encased vending machine at the food court offered every color of the rainbow to those who desired fresh breath. Unless the machine was malfunctioning.

Instead of walking away, I began to dig in my wallet for change. Money and the availability of it had become scarce following the divorce. My oldest child saw what I was doing and said,

“Don’t put your money in there. You will lose it.”

I had taught her well. It sounded like my own voice and practical advice that I had doled out on numerous occasions to her and her sister, yet, I persisted in locating another coin. Maybe there was one at the bottom of my purse.

“You are going to lose your money.”

Despite her warnings, I felt I was to ignore what I was seeing and go after the item she had requested. I clutched two quarters in my hand as I watched another person go up, read the sign and leave.

When I made my decision to try it anyway, she kept trying to talk me out of doing something so crazy. Once the coins were in the slots and I pushed them in, I grabbed on to the metal handle.

This is where things got somewhat tricky. The mechanism would not budge so my coins were suspended and not dropping in to allow my candy to be dispensed. I latched on with both hands, gritted my teeth, closed my eyes and put everything I had into turning that knob to the right. I leaned into it. I grunted inwardly.

After a few moments of mother against machine, I heard the soft clinking sound of my two coins falling into other coins. I opened my eyes to see a pack of red hot mints shoot across the room like a machine gun firing a bullet.

“Go get them!” I said as I watched them fly away. I didn’t have any money left to do it again.

As they both raced to retrieve them, I watched as another person walked up to the machine, read the piece of paper and walked away.

I know that I was not operating under my own impulses that day. How do I know? Because during that time of my life I was hanging on by a thread emotionally, physically and financially. Everything in me at all times feared the worst, and I was in survival mode to make sure my two children had what they needed. The divorce had left its scars on all of us, and I was trying to regain some normalcy.   But, to put my money into a machine that was probably going to take what little I had was not what I would have chosen to do.

However, I had this overwhelming thought to do it anyway because someone great was watching over us. Someone besides myself knew and saw the grief, despair and pain my household was enduring. A love greater than what I could hand out to my kids was watching us struggle to find our footing again like new born creatures. Everything seemed uncertain, so to take a chance by sticking my last two quarters into a machine was definitely not an idea generated by my own thinking.

I was being shown that not everything appears as it seems. It was an inward prompting to trust something bigger than myself, and to bring this passage alive: We walk by faith, not by sight.  Two quarters and a pack of elusive mints taught me one of the best lessons of my life.

When the divine is allowed in to bring healing, love and hope, nothing can ever be out of order.

outoforder

Common Cents

It had been a long afternoon discussing my options with the realtor. I was considering relocating to a townhouse, and we had spent a few hours going over finances that seemed like a game of Monopoly.  Numbers ran around in my head as I tried to figure on paper how all of it was going to work out in my favor.  After we parted, I had to run an errand, and I discovered that my gas tank was in need of fuel. I began the process of trying to decide which station to go to since there is not a shortage of choices in my neighborhood.  I had to make up my mind quickly, however, because the orange ‘out of gas’ light was shining brightly.  Not wanting  to drive down to my last fume, I turned on my blinker and abruptly made a right turn into a place that I generally didn’t frequent.

After pumping my car to full, I decided to reward myself with a cappuccino.  Even though it was the dead middle of summer with August temperatures soaring into the 90s, the frothy warm substance in a cup sounded inviting.   The addiction was in the beginning stages and there was just no fighting it.  On my way in, a man in a dirty white shirt opened the door for me.

“Thank you,” I said.

His brown eyes matched his long single braid that went down the entire length of his back.  I headed straight for the cappuccino machine to contemplate which size coffee I deserved after enduring all that talk of money.  I went about my customary tasks including a walk to the ice machine to fill up my empty cup because I didn’t want to wait for my drink to cool down on its own.  During all of this, my thoughts were on my meeting earlier and how much I could afford to spend to live in a new place.  As I held my ice filled cup under the vanilla hazelnut version of my affection,  I overheard,

“I need a quarter for that.”  There was a long pause without any response that I could hear.  Followed by the same woman saying,

“You cannot have a cup of ice water without giving me a quarter.”

I put the lid on my purchase and walked to the front of the store.  There I saw the man who had held the door for me being confronted by the cashier.

Now that I was behind him, I noticed the softness of his voice.

“I need a cup of water.”

“You can have water in the fountain over there,” she said pointing in the direction of the bathrooms.  I saw him drop his head.

I took better notice of him.  Filthy fingernails, unclean pants, worn shoes.

“It is so hot outside. I would like to take a cup of ice water with me.”

“Then give me a quarter,” she snapped.  She looked at me and rolled her eyes as if she assumed I was on her side against him.

“I don’t have a quarter,” he said again almost inaudibly.   I noticed the extra change sitting right by her register but she made no move to offer him any.

“Then go get a drink at the fountain!”

I don’t know what bothered me more.  Was it her callous nature or his down and out posture?  Just to make sure we all knew what side I was on, I said,

“Here.  I know I must have an extra quarter in here somewhere.”   I put down my cup and jostled around in my purse and unearthed my last quarter.

He looked me straight in the eye and quietly said,

“Thank you,” with a vibrant smile.  Such a small amount had brought him relief, and he asked me for nothing more.

Once he was out of the range of our conversation, I said to her,

“Does he get a straw too? Or will that cost extra?” I am not sure if she picked up on the angry undertone to my question, but I was checking to be sure she wouldn’t accuse him of stealing next.

As she rang up my coffee, and he was headed for the exit, he raised his cup to me with a word of thanks.  I smiled and told him to keep himself cool in the heat.

“He could have gotten a drink at the fountain for free,” she snapped.

“But, he wouldn’t have been able to take it with him.  It is hot out there today. ” I gave her a great chance to examine her approach to life.   She gave me a curt and customary thanks for my patronage and turned her back to me.

I guess I was dismissed.

I got into my car and turned on the air conditioning full blast as I sipped on my hot beverage.  A surge of gratitude hit at that minute while I sat in the parking lot.  I had drove in moments before, fretting over my financial situation and thinking how poverty stricken my life seemed, and now with great clarity I could see how well taken care of I was.  I wasn’t wandering the streets looking for a cup of ice water and not able to buy it for a quarter.  I had a bed to sleep in, a bathroom, clean clothes, a bank account with money and the ability to transport myself all over town.  My point of view of myself had changed rapidly.

I was left to wonder why the lady behind the counter was so hard hearted. Did she have to deal with this all the time during her shift and she had lost her compassion?  No one must have ever let her in on a small but powerful secret:  A generous person will prosper, whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

It is never a mistake to help those who genuinely need it. It puts life into better perspective, and makes one grateful for every possession great and small.   All of that just adds up to good common cents.  (yes, I know how to really spell it)

coin

The Connection

I was coming home from an all expense paid trip to San Diego, and while I was riding up an escalator after checking my bags, I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude rise up within me. Silently, I thanked God for the getaway that was completely covered including our every meal, our accommodations and our flights. I felt like a princess who had been given the royal treatment for three days. I was not begrudgingly going home, but I had a strong desire to travel again soon, and if the next trip was free…all the better!  I asked mentally for a way to be made for another excursion in the next year.

As we walked to our gate, I paused along the way at various gift shops and vendors not only to search for souvenirs but to leave behind notes with dollar bills rolled up inside. It sounds like an odd practice, but I had read a book called Happy Money by Laina Buenostar while enjoying my vacation. She suggested that in order to have freedom with money to give small amounts away to create joyful feelings. The instructions were quite simple, really. Take a dollar bill, or whatever amount doesn’t make you faint, and write a little note such as, God bless you or Don’t worry about money because God loves you and then drop them in places where an unsuspecting passerby will come upon it.  According to the author, when she began doing this, she noticed that more money and blessings would float her way from different sources and she was never without.   I believe this is much like the verse that says, “Give and it shall be given to you..”

So, I happily placed my notes around the building.  I put dollar bills in bathrooms, magazines, books that were financially motivating, and I finally dropped the last one in a mug that would sure to be grabbed by a tourist as they raced to his or her gate.  I did this discreetly because it wasn’t supposed to draw attention to me, and I was not to hang around to see who got the note.

About thirty minutes before boarding, an announcement was made that our flight was overbooked. An airline employee asked for volunteers to step down and get on the next flight. My travel companion put our names on the list.  When he sat down next to me I said,

“What happens if we don’t get on our flight?”

“If they put us on another flight it will only be about an hour behind this one.  And, they will give us each a $400 flight voucher to be used within the next year to go wherever we want for free.”  I nearly fell out of my chair.  My prayer on the escalator was coming to pass!

The two of us waited while the rest of the passengers boarded.  As the crowd thinned, and we were the only passengers left, the lady behind the desk motioned for us to go ahead and board.

“We don’t need you to stay behind after all. Your seats are available. ”

With a heavy heart, I walked onto the plane with a despondent attitude dragging my carry on behind me like a dead weight.  After getting buckled in I began to text my daughter that went something like this:

“We are on the plane!  We didn’t get our free tickets.  I am coming home now.  I knew this stuff didn’t work!” My disappointment stemmed from the fact that I had been reading such marvelous stories about people who prayed for miracles and got what they had asked for.

I started thinking, I guess I am not good enough for a miracle. 

Out of no where a  flight attendant ran up the aisle toward the two of us yelling,

“Get off the plane!  Get off the plane!  Get off the plane!”

The shocked faces around us were too many to count, and we didn’t wait around to explain.  We frantically unbuckled, grabbed our belongings and scrambled for the door.  To those not knowing what was happening, we looked rather criminal.   Within moments a young dad was sprinting to our empty seats with two small children.

We were given two $400 flight vouchers to be used anywhere in the United States within the year and an allowance to enjoy free meals while we waited to catch the next flight.  We had secured our free flights, but now we needed to make the decision about where to go.

In April of the following year, we had not gone on our trip and both of us seemed rather undecided about what to do.  We had been told by the airline staff that we could not give the vouchers away.  We had to use them and no one else.  Only three months remained until the tickets would expire and it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. Tired of trying to decide, I put my hand on both vouchers and asked for my request to be completed.

“I need somewhere to stay,” I said out loud.  I kept this to myself to see how it would work itself out. By the end of the week, I received a text from a family member with an offer to give us some of her timeshare days for free.  When she called to check on availability, she was told that nothing was open during the time we preferred.  Minutes later, the same person said,

“Oh, wait.  We just had something put back into the system.  We now have an opening for what you need.”  She went on to book a large condo that slept six with an ocean view, a full kitchen and two full bathrooms.

When we arrived to check-in we were early, but I decided to take my chances anyway.  Usually, check-in isn’t until four, and we had shown up at noon.  The representative behind the desk clicked away on her keyboard to locate our accommodations.  I was fully prepared to go back to the rental car and drive around for hours while waiting.

“It looks like your room is ready. Yours is the only one in the whole complex. Lucky you.”  I knew it wasn’t luck.

As I stood there in awe, my mind flashed back to the airport where I had placed my notes and bills so that others could have a brief moment of happiness.  In return, I was understanding something.  Giving had opened up a pathway for the divine to work on my behalf.  Giving cheerfully had brought back a reward to me that I would never have imagined.  For the first time, I felt and understood the connection.

oceanview

(The Gulf of Mexico..our view from our trip)