Stumped

Restringing the weed whipper on the first try is a small victory for me. I have often gone into deep, intercessory prayer for myself while working with the thin nylon line that has a mind of its own. When you think it’s cooperating, it all unravels from the spool, and it’s back to the drawing board. 

Since becoming the sole owner of my home, I have learned that the lawn isn’t going to cut itself, the leaves won’t jump into the bags without my effort, and the weeds need constant attention. 

Last summer, while redoing the rock outside the perimeter, I suddenly saw a man standing nearby. I have noise-canceling headphones, so I didn’t hear him approach. His lips were moving, but I heard absolutely nothing. I removed one earbud. 

In situations such as this, I freeze. I assess my escape plan, and I only half pay attention to what is said. He looked like someone I could easily throw rocks at if I had to for a defense mechanism. Once I had mentally decided I could get away quickly if I had to, I heard, 

“…do you mind if I take some?”

“I didn’t hear the first part of the question. What did you say?”

“I was just asking if I could take one of your rhubarb plants.”

I looked over at the row my dad and I had planted long ago. They were ancestors of some from my grandma’s garden then transplanted at my mom’s house. 

“Well,” I said hesitantly. 

Who was this guy? He shows up and wants something? 

“I don’t need any,” he said quickly. 

“No. I don’t know if I want you to take an entire plant. You can have some stalks if you want because they grow back quickly.”

“Ok. Well, I didn’t know how to ask you, and I have seen you out here as I walked by.”

I had many visitors throughout the days as I did this time consuming chore. No one helped me, but all of them wanted a free therapy session. Some sat on the retaining wall and told me their issues ranging from childhood, parenting troubles, and landlord hassles. It helped pass the time as I filled and moved heavy buckets. 

It was hot, and my clothes were clinging to me, and I didn’t feel like standing there longer than I had to. If I kept working on the task, I didn’t notice how much I was dripping sweat. He appeared to be of retirement age, with nowhere to go. Wonderful. 

He was lingering, telling me of his time in the service, that he had recovered from a heart attack, his mom was in an assisted living, his wife loved quilting and a whole host of other things. I decided that I would give him my time. I was unemployed, so what was my rush? 

“I need to ask you something.”

Bracing myself, I said, 

“Okay.”

“I walk through the neighborhood all the time, and I pray. I ask God who I can help. I used the rhubarb as an excuse to come and speak to you.”

I was slightly concerned and a bit skeptical. What did he really want from me? Because he had mentioned he was married, I felt it was safe to stay, but I kept my distance. 

“Is there anything I can do? God told me to ask you that.”

 I wasn’t used to strangers coming off the street readily asking this question. 

“Really?” 

“Yes. What do you need help with? Do you want me to move all these rocks?” 

I looked down at the million stones at my feet. I could handle this, and I wanted something to do outside. This was like being handed a genie lamp and getting one wish. 

“I cut down trees, I redo bathrooms, I do all kinds of work.” 

I didn’t want him in my house. I wasn’t comfortable with that.

My neighbor had been over the night before and said,

“Chris, you need that tree cut down.”

Dreaded words as I had one taken down the summer before, it was a mess and expensive. 

“You cut down trees?”

“Yes, do you need that?”

I showed him the tree in my backyard. 

“I can do that. God told me to help you.”

He convinced me he could do it. 

I didn’t hear from him for a couple of days, but then he resurfaced. He brought a gigantic ladder and an electric chainsaw. Slightly a bit scary to me on the ground, he ascended with the saw in hand. At one point, he precariously balanced on his right leg while the long extension cord dangled next to me. 

He had no safety net or any harness. He seemed calm as could be. I began to wonder if my homeowner’s insurance would cover an unexpected fall or if he had life insurance to protect his spouse financially after his untimely death. I was pondering this as I heard a cracking sound. 

I barely had time to sprint to the far corner of my yard as a massive branch fell. Maybe I was the one who needed better life insurance.

“Sorry about that,” he yelled. “I was trying to send that in the other direction.” 

As he adjusted himself from side to side, there was a tense moment where he almost dropped the saw. He caught it with one hand by some act of every angel available in heaven, while the other quickly grabbed the ladder. I covered my eyes, not ready to catch him or the power tool. It was like watching a person on a tight rope. His crowd of one was relieved to open her eyes and see him still above, working away without a care. 

More of the tree came down in places he wasn’t expecting, with apologies following. I wasn’t safe anywhere I stood. The last one struck my chain link fence, bending it slightly.

“I’m so sorry!” I could tell he felt terrible. “I will replace it for you.”

I moved it back into place. 

“It’s still standing. That is okay.”

Over the next few days, he returned to keep hacking away at branches. Often I would ask if he wanted my help, but he would shoo me away. Sometimes, I would insist on helping. 

“God told me to do this for you. You don’t have to be out here.” 

I felt guilty seeing him wilting in the summer heat, hauling pieces of wood and remnants into a pile by himself. I would go out and work with him and bring him ice water, even while he tried to get rid of me. I learned he was a very proud grandfather, uncle, and churchgoing man. He loved serving his country and told me of various jobs he had worked to make a living. 

One day, while I was away, my neighbor lady kept an eye on him from their window. I hadn’t asked her to do this, but she looks out for me. 

“What was he doing earlier today?”

I had no idea what she was talking about.

“He was crawling on your lawn, Chris. Down on his hands and knees moving across the back yard.”

That was a new one for me. 

“Why would he need to do that if he’s cutting up a tree?” She asked. 

I ran this by another friend of mine.

“He was on the grass, crawling,” I said.

“Did you ask him why?”

“No. I don’t want him to think my neighbor is spying on him.”

“You said he is a veteran, right?”

“Yes.”

Where was she going with this?

“Well, maybe he was doing tactical maneuvers in your backyard as he used to in the military.”

“Are you serious?” I said with concern. 

She burst out laughing. 

“Ya, maybe he’s re-enacting something from the past.”

“Like he has PTSD?”

“Maybe.”

“I hope not!” What next? Was he going to set up a bunker and blow off a cannon? 

I had no clue, but why question his approach to things? He could have been stretching out his lower back or examining the dirt for all I cared. The job was getting accomplished. 

He ended up taking all the brush away on a day I was gone. It was nice to see the work get finished without barely lifting a finger. 

The wood was piled up, and I lost touch with him for a little while. 

This spring, my rhubarb plants came up as usual. I picked a bunch to give away to a friend. One night while I was out walking, I ran into him.  

“My sister passed away.”

He told me she had been sick for a short time, and he had stepped in to help. He didn’t shed a tear as he spoke of her; I had come to know his slightly stoic, friendly nature. 

“Guess what my wife made for the gathering after the funeral? Rhubarb cake. I came and took some of your rhubarb. People loved it!”

“You finally took some a year later? Get more. It grows non-stop.”

He has been back a few times. 

As I walk with God, I cannot predict who will be sent my way or for whatever reason. 

In mid-summer, I was out in the back working, and I glanced over at where the tree had been removed. It was beginning to look like a small shrub, so I knew I had to deal with the next step, and I wasn’t sure what to do. 

A few hours later, my neighbor, who had been gone all weekend, yelled over my fence, “Do you want that stump removed?”

He had not been around to see me standing there earlier pondering what to do next. 

“Sure!”

I could not believe that I was being helped again without having to beg anyone. In no time, it was done, and my neighbor returned to fill it all in with black dirt.

I asked him what I owed him, and he told me not to worry about it. 

These are the times when I am astonished by God’s hand in my life. Psalm 63:7 expresses it best. 

Because you are my helper, I sing under the shadow of your wings. (NLT)

And what a beautiful picture is painted in these words from John 15:5: 

“I am the vine; you are the branches.” (NLT) 

When God shows up unexpectedly and removes a burden, you might not be able to figure out how or why. And it’s okay just to move on happily stumped. 

Used

I knew something was amiss every time a certain woman would call. I had somewhat of a loose connection with her, but it seemed she had my number on speed dial in times of crisis. This was when I was at the height of raising two young daughters, one of them an infant and the other a four-year-old, who always had an urgent question for me like, can I have a popsicle? Can I go outside and play? Where are my shoes? Mom? I think the dog is frowing up. You get the picture.

She always started off so brightly when I took my chances by answering, but then the conversation would take a negative turn. She told me that all men were horrible and that no one could be trusted. This was mainly because her ex-husband, who she remained friends with in hopes of a remarriage, kept seeing other women on the side. As I tried to make our communication more positive, she would counter and bring it back down again. While she had no schedule outside of work, I did with hungry children staring at me on the edge of starvation. Many times I had to cut her short.

Alcoholism was rampant in her childhood home, where she was verbally and physically abused. Her brothers and sisters seemed to have buried their past. She did the same by drinking to excess. I didn’t know the extent to which she engaged in this, but there had been multiple attempts through counseling to get a hold of this addiction that seemed to have a firm grip. Looking at it as an outsider, she cared too much without boundaries, and the world seemed to take advantage of that. This, in turn, would activate the need to drown out more sorrow.

One night, she began talking to me about God. I tried to help her understand that grasping for things on the outside would never heal her wounds on the inside. Downing a bottle of wine wouldn’t erase anything but complicate her life more. For a while, she seemed to embrace what I was sharing with her. She told me that she had tried to go to church on occasion, but every message was about how much God hated sin, which made her feel guilty about every area of life where perfection wasn’t reached. Shame didn’t change the behavior; it only ramped it up more. Her family tried to brush it all under the rug, so she did her best to conceal her problem.

The only comfort was to continue the repeated self-inflicted numbing of the mind.

It got to the point when her number was showing up multiple times on my caller ID, I had to let the calls go to voicemail because I didn’t have the time or the energy to help. This made me feel guilty as I knew she was in some sort of struggle, but I also felt that my advice was falling on deaf ears. We kept going around in circles, getting absolutely nowhere.

One morning after praying for her, I had a brilliant idea. I went to a store and purchased a book about how to hear from God. During a moment of no interruption, I sat down and wrote her a letter. I felt that I could get some ideas across without distraction. She would have a chance to look it all over without feeling judged. I hoped that the material would resonate with her. I quoted John 10:10, which says: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”(NLT)

Sending it off in the mail, I knew it would either do some good, or the message would turn her away from me. There was nothing more I could do.

My worst fear came to pass when my phone went silent. On the one hand, it was a relief to let this go because it was beyond my ability to say anything more than what had been stated. On the other, I felt like I had let her down by pawning her off on God.

A year later, I found out that she had been in yet another emergency treatment, resulting in going to a halfway house. Hearing this, I was hopeful that maybe she was seizing the help to overcome this once and for all. I heard she successfully completed the program, and shortly after, her employer relocated her to a state in the south.

She had won awards due to her success in her career, so all of this sounded wonderful as if she had finally turned over a new leaf. It seemed as if her life was taking a turn for the better with a fresh start. That was until I heard she had died. Her physician had told her during her last bout of hospitalization that if she didn’t halt her imbibing, her body would cease to function.

Far away from family and friends, she secretly kept up her habit with a partner who loved to share drinks with her. She died alone in her bed.

In the quiet of my house at night, when all were tucked into bed, I would find myself wondering where I had let her down. What if I had continued to take her calls? A darkness descended on me that if I could dismiss her like that, maybe I wasn’t such a great person who God could even love.

During the busyness of my days, I wouldn’t ponder these ideas so much, but when I had moments alone, they would come, and I would question my usefulness.

That spring, I was asked by the family if I wanted something of hers. It felt slightly awkward looking at her possessions and realizing I would not see her again. And the guilt that was always right there to remind me of what a horrible, underserving person I was. Underneath a pile of office supplies, I saw the book I had sent with the letter inside of it.

I took that and nothing else. My grief over not being a better friend to her was overwhelming. Later that evening, I opened the book and took out the letter. She had used it to mark a specific page, and she had highlighted several passages. A bright, bold red stamp was marked across the top of my letter. RECEIVED.

I felt warmth flood my chest. Received? In business terms, that means the letter was read. But, in spiritual language, the message was embraced. For the first time since her passing, I had an assurance that she had taken in what I had said. It wasn’t that she was angry with me for trying to shove God down her throat, but she didn’t know how to get away from her habit. She didn’t want me to be disappointed in her like so many others had been.

I had a dream of her shortly after. She walked up to me with a gown on that was so white it hurt my eyes. She thanked me for helping her get to know God, and her smile was the most fantastic thing I had ever seen. Even though I could not help her one way, I had put her squarely in front of her Creator, and she was finally at peace.

When you think you might not be doing any good, you never know how you will be used.

Garbage

I try to avoid watching things that frighten me. For many years I engaged in movies and shows that would put me in a state of panic, not realizing that my brain didn’t know the difference. The fight or flight response was unknowingly triggered, so while in the thrall of the plot, my mind was recording events and sending out signals on how to protect me. I recall many sleepless nights of “what was that noise?” and “is that shadow in my room the main character who terrorized the town?”

It wasn’t so fun after dark. But sure enough, in broad daylight, I would tune in, telling myself the torture of the night before wasn’t going to occur again. And then it would. 

After repeated sessions of this, I had a legitimate adverse reaction to heights. I had viewed multiple scenes, I am sure, of someone being shoved over a cliff, planes crashing into mountains, and cars plummeting down treacherous hillsides. There was no other explanation for my sweaty hands, racing heart, and an overwhelming feeling of wanting to run away when I was subjected to higher ground. 

I had to combat this for a long time and pretend not to be bothered, especially when my girls were young. I didn’t want them to pick up on something and have the impression that high places were to be avoided. I continued to white-knuckle it so that they wouldn’t know. 

Just before I went to a water park one day, I was silently suffering before leaving because I would have to climb ladders up onto platforms to take my kids on various rides. It’s an old psychology trick to do the action that makes one afraid. I tried to see this as an opportunity to overcome this entrenched idea that my death would come by plummeting to the ground. I heard that still, small voice say:

“Keep putting yourself up high, and you will see the end of this.”

The anxious feelings were a little less that day, and I didn’t have to fake enjoying the scenery. 

I obeyed and also employed Emotional Freedom Technique(EFT). It took a while of administering this self-care to overcome the problems, and I recall getting on a plane feeling calm. I waited for the usual uncomfortable emotions to overtake me, but they didn’t. I had reprogrammed a part of myself to feel secure when I was safe all along. 

After all that work, you would think that I would never put anything that would elicit fear before my eyes. It’s interesting how we forget and go back to doing something, maybe a bad habit, because we convince ourselves that it’s not harmful. 

So I found myself planted in front of the tv one dark and stormy night. In the back of my mind, I kept reminding myself I needed to throw a bag of junk away. I had been cleaning earlier that day, and instead of taking it to the bin, I pitched it into the garage. I didn’t want to leave it there overnight.

The show began, and I felt the old familiar twinge of suspense coming on me. All it takes is sound effects and music to start the process. A few times, I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. This was entertainment? But, I forged ahead, convincing myself I just had to see the outcome as I binge-watched. Right at the height of an intense scene, I heard her say, 

“Mom! There’s a spider on the wall!”

I hit the pause button.

“Where?”

“It’s big, mom. It’s big. Mom, you have to get it!”

The repeating of my title “mom” or “mother” doesn’t thrill me when I’m physically exhausted. I don’t have as much compassion at times when others have their irrational fear. Can’t someone else be the leader for a second?

Again I said,

“Where?”

“On the wall.”

“There’s a lot of walls. Where?” 

By now, she was clutching her blanket and peering over the edge of it like a herd of tarantulas was attacking us.

Sighing, I got up and started to scan the room. Normally, I do a catch and release type of mission, but our temperature had dropped outside to frigid numbers, so this would not end that way. 

“I see it!” She squeaked, pointing straight ahead. 

I got a tissue and appraised my options. Slowly taking small steps forward, I thought I would end this quickly. It knew its number was up and made an attempt to flee. After darting and traveling miles around the living room, it was apprehended. 

I told her she could uncover her head. 

“You got it?”

“Yes.”

I showed her the dark form in the Kleenex. Satisfied that her nerves were back in order, I walked to the wastebasket and put it in there. I thought momentarily about the story line of the show we were watching and that I should remove the bag with the dead spider if it resurrected itself. I was feeling jumpy. An episode of the Twilight Zone flashed in my memory. The one where the guy puts the arachnid in the tub and rinses it down? Ya, that one. It comes back up through the drain and strangles him? I didn’t want that to happen. 

While pondering all this, I didn’t realize she had snuck up behind me. She leaned close to my left ear and whispered in a low, growling, inhuman voice, 

“Scary!”

I dropped the bag and screamed at the top of my lungs! I should have recorded it, sold it, and made millions; it was so well done. Who knew I had a hidden talent for horror movie acting? Whipping around, I found her laughing hysterically.

“Did you really just do that to me after I just made you feel better about a tiny bug?”

She couldn’t catch her breath to speak as the giggles came harder and in bigger waves. My other daughter, who was in the basement, had heard my blood-curdling shriek and sent me a text. 

“What’s happening?”

It was comforting to know that she would at least check in on me from a distance if my life were in danger. She had surmised I was okay because her sister’s merriment was ringing through the entire house. 

I picked up the contents of the spilled bag off the floor and stepped past my child, who thought this was the funniest thing of her life. I found myself shaking my head, trying not to join in on her glee. Her laugh is infectious, but I didn’t want her to think she was off the hook. 

Before going out the door into the garage, I turned and said,

“I will get you back! When you least expect it, this will come back to haunt you!”

She laughed louder. 

As I took the step down, it was like something pushed me from behind. I tried to regain my balance, but there was no stopping my momentum. I was going to fall headfirst into a concrete floor, and I was very aware of this as it was happening. 

Instinctively I threw what was in my hands to the side to free my arms in an attempt to break my fall. I landed straight on the big bag of trash that I had tossed out there earlier. The impact was like a bomb going off as all my body weight smacked into it. 

“Kelsey, help me!” I yelled as I was going down like a freshly cut tree. But apparently, she hadn’t heard me.

I lay unmoving, facedown in the aftermath, doing a physical assessment to see if anything was broken. I felt the cold floor on my right shoulder, but the majority of me had squarely hit the bag like a gigantic pillow. 

I tried calling her name a few more times, but there was no response. After a while, I sat up, hoping nothing was out of line or aching. To my amazement, I was all in one piece. I got up and went back into the house. My chore of taking out the trash could wait.

I found her to be calmly looking at her phone, seemingly unaware of my near-death experience.

“Didn’t you hear me calling your name? I could have hurt myself!”

“What?”

“I fell off the steps. Full on with nothing to stop me! I was out there calling for you!”

“I thought you were trying to scare me. I heard you say my name, but on the way out the door, you said you were going to get me back! I thought you were doing it when I least expected, so I pretended I didn’t hear you!”

This brought on another round of laughs by both of us.

“I wouldn’t try to get you back that fast!”

“Exactly! That’s what I thought, so then I thought maybe you were! You fell?”

“Yes! And my shoulder is getting sore, but the trash bag stopped my crash.”

We burst out laughing. 

I was so thankful I had put off moving that bag; otherwise, my night would have ended in the ER. 

That chain of events proved to me once again that fear is a state of mind. We attract unpleasant things to ourselves by not taking charge of our thoughts. 

The Bible has many scriptures that remind us to fear not.

Why? Because it’s not necessary and just a bunch of garbage. 

The Missing Link

“Buy it for yourself,” she said.

I looked into her dark brown eyes and wondered if a ten year old girl with no mortgage to pay, groceries to worry about or a vehicle to maintain could really understand the value of a dollar.

“I am sure I can’t afford it, and I only put it on to see what it looked like. Not to buy it.”

It sure felt nice with the coolness of the silver chain encircling my wrist and the light catching the pink and white stones to make it glitter.

I had entered the store in my usual way telling myself at the door that I couldn’t purchase anything.  I had to be sure that both girls had clothes to wear and food on the table. How I had found myself gazing into the jewelry cases was beyond me. Obviously, it was a moment of weakness that I shouldn’t have let myself indulge in.

“Ask the lady how much,” she persisted.

We were talking in low whispers at this point. I had gone from looking to now wearing the item that had called my name from the display.

The salesperson was standing inches away marking items. Without much enthusiasm, I said,

“Could you tell me how much this is?”

I really didn’t want to know because the minute she spoke, I knew I was going to take it off and the magical moment would be over. There is nothing more frustrating to want something and then have to put it back and walk away. I was mentally beating myself up over it. I should have not touched it at all.

“Let’s see,” she said pulling out the box. She looked at the tag.

“That doesn’t seem right to me. Hold on a minute. Let me double check.”

I had this awful feeling creeping into my stomach that I was going to hand it back to her.

She returned with her glasses perched on the end of her nose. She began punching numbers into her calculator. She pulled out an ad and did more button pushing.

“Okay. Well, it is $50. It says it retails for about $150, but we have a sale going on right now. Wow, that is a really good deal for that. Those are real crystals.”

I glanced down at my daughter who was speaking to me sternly non-verbally. I felt the guilt of paying the money as I stood there admiring the piece.

I fought down the negative feelings and decided to get it anyway because it had been so long since I had gotten anything for myself. The divorce had left me thinking that I had to make sure I spent every bit of money on the kids to be sure they were taken care of.

The woman grabbed the long white box and we followed her to the register. She began the process of entering in the item along with the discounts she had mentioned. In the middle of it, she leaned into look closer at the screen on her register.

“You aren’t going to believe this,” she said.

Oh, no. Here comes the bad news. She probably had done her math wrong, I thought.

“It rang up at $29.00.  I have gone over all my numbers and it keeps coming up as that.  I will do it one more time just to be sure.”

After a few moments, she said,

“You need to go out and buy yourself a lottery ticket because today is your lucky day.  It keeps coming up at $29, so that must be the price.”

I handed over my debit card inwardly thanking God that I could keep the bracelet on for an even cheaper price.

After the transaction was done, she said again,

“Really, go buy that lottery ticket!”

That was ten years ago.  I have worn it off and on over the years with many compliments.  Last week, it broke. I was sitting at an outdoor picnic table, lifted my wrist and the heart fell to the ground leaving the chain around my arm.

With much disappointment, I put it in my purse.  A few days later, I drove to a jeweler by my house to see if it could be fixed.

While I was parking my car in the lot, I found myself thinking again about money.  Much in the same way that I had been when I bought the bracelet.  I wondered how much it would cost, and would I be able to afford it.  This then led to other thoughts about upcoming bills, health insurance payments and a host of things that rushed to the forefront of my thinking.  By the time I walked in the front door, I felt somewhat burdened mentally.

I approached the counter and a woman with silver hair and large black glasses greeted me.  I took the two pieces out of my purse and laid them on the counter.  I explained what had happened as she examined it.

She jotted down information on an envelope.   A repetitive sound started coming from a back room.

“I am sorry,” she said.  “Do you mind if I run back there for a second?  I have an alarm going off on my phone.”

“That’s okay,” I replied.

When she returned, she said,

“I have to take medication four times a day since I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I can’t remember to take it all the time, so I set my alarm to remind me.”

Suddenly, my small worries about finances didn’t seem so great.

“How are you doing now?”  I asked.

Her complexion was beaming and her smile was so bright.  Her eyes looked energetic, and I would have never guessed she had been through such a medical trauma.

“I feel really good.  God loves me, and He has helped me through it all.”

I took her hand and said,

“I am so glad to meet you.  You look so healthy.  I would have never known you had been sick.  You look great.”

She squeezed my hand.

“I am seventy years old, and I have had a really good life.  If I had not made it through, I kept telling my family I was okay with going on to heaven.  But, I am still here.  And, I feel His love for me even more.  You cannot worry about things.  You know that scripture that says He feeds the birds of the air, and we shouldn’t worry about what we are to eat and drink?  The one where He says don’t worry about tomorrow?  That’s my scripture verse.  He is in charge of everything, and He loves us so much.”

She finished writing out my order and said,

“This will only be about $10 to fix.  I will do the job myself and make sure it is done perfectly.”

Before I left, I took her hand again, and I prayed for her body to be completely whole and healthy from head to toe.  I felt as if we had blessed each other in a way that only can happen when there is divine intervention.

My previous anxiety about my budget had left.  I got into the car with a renewed strength that all was well.  Even though I have had many experiences where I know my prayers have been answered, I still have moments where I need reassurance that I have a support system working on my behalf that I cannot see.  Her words of faith were just what I needed to remind me that I am not alone.

I got my bracelet back the other day looking as good as the day I bought it. As I took in her handiwork,  I realized that when one little loop of metal was missing, it upset my ability to wear it and enjoy it.

Isn’t that just like allowing God into your life?  He really is what keeps it all together whether we acknowledge it or not.  A relationship with your Heavenly Father will make things go a lot smoother if you are struggling. Give heaven a chance to assist you in all things.  Prayer really is the missing link.

 

Back On My Own Two Feet

I found myself lying face down on the ground thrashing from side to side in an attempt to escape the pain. As seconds slid by, the fire in my knee grew hotter. I felt a guy jump on my back and yell into my left ear,

“Don’t move! You have probably hurt your ACL. If you move, you will injure it more.”

I screamed into the sand and didn’t care that my whole mouth and face was encased in it. He pinned me down in an attempt to save me from further damage. I tried to fight him off but I couldn’t.

“Don’t move!” he shouted.

At that moment, I wanted to leave my body. In my mind I pictured a cartoon character running so fast that he left his body to escape whatever was chasing him. That is what I wanted. I longed to separate myself from the agony.

“Someone call an ambulance,” he shouted as he continued to hold me in place. “It will be okay. Just don’t move. I did the same thing to myself once, and I caused myself more injury by not being still.”

I listened to what he had to say, but I continued to wail so loudly that the neighboring town probably could hear me. I closed my eyes as I felt many hands cover my back.

As luck would have it, I was at a church picnic where those in attendance believed in prayer. I heard murmurings of my name as those who surrounded me were asking God for help.  In the middle of a volleyball sandpit, God showed up.

I cannot fully put into words what I experienced next, but I found myself floating above the scene. I saw the people around me, and I felt peaceful. I saw a man who looked very much like I imagined Jesus to resemble walk through the crowd and put his hand on my forehead. I heard this,

“If you just keep looking at me, you won’t feel any pain. If you forgive the person who did this to you, you will be healed quickly.”

When I opened my eyes, I felt the misery return so I kept shutting them and watching from another place. I began to whisper,

“I forgive. I forgive. I forgive.” No one heard me, but I wanted to follow the instructions that I was being given. I was suddenly realizing that I had two small girls to take care of, and I didn’t have time for being injured. One of the two was to start second grade at home in less than a month.

By the time the medical personnel arrived, I was much calmer but still had pain. They loaded me up and injected a large dose of morphine into my system. My knee was swollen to twice its size, and I did not dare to move it one inch due to an onslaught of torture that would follow. I just kept repeating,

“I forgive, God. I forgive.”

The x-rays at the hospital revealed no fractures so I was sent home with orders to see an orthopedic surgeon the next day.

The following morning, after throwing up most of the night from the medication I was supposed to take, I woke up in the same clothes from the day before with mounds of sand in my bed. As my two little girls sat near me, I kept repeating in my mind,

“I forgive. I am doing what you said. I forgive. I want to be healed fast.”

Once in the doctor’s office that day, he twisted and turned my leg to the point of me wanting to pass out.

“Well, from this initial exam, I think you have either torn, ripped or strained your ACL.” He went on to explain that this was something only an MRI could completely determine.

“Even if you have the slightest tear, we will have to do surgery. If we leave it like it is, you will never run normal again. You will always have the possibility of falling or your leg catching mid-stride. It feels like you have at least torn it. So, prepare yourself mentally for surgery and at least a six week recovery.”

I felt tears well up in my eyes. I could not be laid up for that long. I had two kids counting on me.

“Let’s get you scheduled for that MRI.”

A few days later I went back for the procedure. I was not able to see the physician for a follow up for another two weeks as his schedule was booked and he was on vacation.

In the meantime, a friend of mine gave me a magnet infused pad to wrap around my knee.  It was supposed to help bring blood flow to areas that were swollen.

Every morning I woke up with my injured leg shaking and quivering beyond my ability to control it. There was no pain associated with that, but it felt like it was being strengthened from the inside out. And, I kept saying,

“I forgive. I forgive.”

It got to the point where I didn’t have to say it anymore. I just focused all of my attention on getting better. I didn’t have time to hold a grudge or be angry at the person who had caused this. My thoughts were on my well being and not dwelling on the past. I was looking forward to a future where I had two functioning legs.

By the time I saw the doctor again I was slightly limping with little to no pain.

When he walked into the room, he said,

“Could you get up, please, and show me how you are walking like that?”

“Sure,” I said. “It has gotten much better since we last saw each other. I don’t even need my crutches anymore.”

I walked briskly around the room with just a small hitch.

“Does that hurt?”

“Not really.”

“Come on back and sit down. Let’s look at your MRI results.”

“I must have only strained my ACL instead of tearing it or ripping it in half like you said. I feel almost back to normal.”

“You ripped your ligament in half. Medically speaking, you don’t have one.  You shouldn’t be walking like that.”

“What?”

“I have never seen anything like this. Most patients with an MRI that looks like this get scheduled for surgery and are in a lot of pain and not walking around like that.”

I smiled and said,

“I know a good friend in a high place.”

“I guess you do because this is not usual.  I am going to order six weeks of physical therapy to strengthen that leg.  We will see how you progress because like I said before, you don’t want to spend your life not being able to use that leg fully, especially if you want to be active and run with your kids.”

He had me walk around the room one more time before I left, and he smiled and shook his head in disbelief.

I spent the next three weeks faithfully attending physical therapy at a hospital near my house.  The therapist was astonished when she looked at my MRI and then saw what I was able to do.

“I know the doctor ordered six weeks of this, but you are at your maximum right now.  I don’t have any further exercises to give you to strengthen that leg.  In fact, you are lifting a heavier weight with that leg than your good one.”  She called over her fellow therapists to show them my great strength and then showed them the MRI result.

“That’s not hers!” one of them said.

“Yes it is.”

“How is that possible?”

I knew how it was possible.  And, it became more of a reality the first time I sprinted across the room with one of my daughters without any side effects.

Recently, I had a person tell me that you don’t have to forgive someone if they don’t say they are sorry or ask for forgiveness.  He quoted a scripture that said that if the person repents, then you forgive them.  Otherwise, you do not have to forgive.

I would have bought his explanation had I not gone through the experience I did.  You see, the letting go of the cause of the incident made way in my heart for God to come in like a flood and heal me.  I got on the same page as heaven and allowed nothing to block the supernatural from assisting me.  Had I hung on to bitterness or anger, I may have hindered my quick progress with my negative emotions.

The other day while I was running three miles on my treadmill, my mind was taken back to this miraculous event.  To this very day, I am grateful that I listened to that still small voice tell me to forgive so that I could get back on my own two feet.

treadmill

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.

 

envelope

 

 

 

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.

 

flowers

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven Scent

Whipping Cream. Cola. Whipping Cream. Cola.

When I enter a grocery store without a list, I mentally repeat what I need so I don’t forget before leaving.  One item was in dairy, and the other would be found in the pop section, so I took off in that direction.   The next thing I knew, I was reading labels on brownie packages, crumb cakes and cookies.  How had I gotten to the bakery department? When did I take a detour to salivate over all the baked goods?

This phenomena is similar to when you get in your car and drive to a destination and you have no clue how you got there.  Your mind is on autopilot and without much effort, you find yourself where you wanted to be.  However, in this case, I was not where I had intended to go.  As if waking up from a short term case of amnesia I thought,

What am I doing?  It’s still January!  Why am I clutching desserts which I swore off just a few short weeks ago?  This usually doesn’t happen at least until February!

I put back the forbidden fruit pie and my fingers brushed up against a large circular container of cookies.  In that brief second, I was taken back to a time in my life when survival seemed to be a struggle.

I was looking over a math problem with one of my girls when I heard the familiar beep of his horn.  A couple honks to indicate that I needed to open the garage door.  This was a ritual on Friday afternoons.  As a volunteer at the local food shelf, he faithfully helped hand out items to those who found themselves in tough financial situations  Often, he would make trips to various stores to pick up extra boxes and food items including baked goods that were nearing the end of their shelf life.  At the end of his shift, he was allowed to take what he wanted, especially those things that probably wouldn’t survive the weekend.  With me and my daughters in mind, he would pick up an assortment of products that he thought would help alleviate the hardship.

This was in the wake of my divorce when life was uncertain and my worries were at an all time high.  I was swimming in new waters as a single mother hanging on to God as a life preserver and wondering if I would ever see a semblance of normal again.

Every day I had the nagging thought that I was not going to make it.  I don’t know exactly what I thought that meant, but I constantly was anxious about not being a good mother, falling short on my bills and a host of other tragedies I imagined would befall me.  I slept in small amounts and at times ate next to nothing just to make sure my children had enough.  The dark circles under my eyes gave away my inner turmoil, and falling asleep the minute I sat down also was a clue to those around me that I was exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually.

That particular Friday when I got out of bed for the day, I kept thinking about flowers and how much I missed having a fresh bunch of them displayed on the dining room table.  I had never gotten many of them except the occasional birthday or Valentine’s bouquet, but when I did, I absolutely cherished them.  I would drag out the best vase I could find and fuss over them for days trying to make them last forever.  When I had to throw them away, it felt like I had attended a funeral, and I knew it would probably be a long time before I would see any again.

It was beyond me why I was thinking about flowers that day.  There wasn’t any extra money lying around to cover the cost.  And I never had been in the habit of purchasing any for myself. I guess I was under the impression that in order to have them, they had to be given to me on a special occasion.

Despite those beliefs, I kept seeing images of roses as clear as if they were already in my home, and I recalled how they smelled fresh out of the package.  While walking through the living room, I thought,

“I really wish I had some flowers.”

I put the idea out of my mind as I became preoccupied with school work with the girls until I heard the familiar sound of his horn. I walked over and hit the button and heard the chugging sound of the door going up.

Before I could get my shoes on, he was already at the door handing me bags of fruit and other packages.

“Not a whole lot there today,” he said with a shake of his head.

“That’s okay,” I said as I took what he had brought. “Is there more? Do I need to come out and get anything?”

“No. I can get it. The shelves were kind of bare today.”

I began unpacking everything on the counter and pulled the garbage can over. This was part of the sorting process. Most of the food was on its last leg of freshness so I often had to discard moldy pieces of fruit, meat or cheese. And even when I thought what I kept was okay, often the next day I would have to throw more as it had succumbed to death overnight.

The two girls came into the kitchen to see what treasures their grandpa had found.  Organic blue tortilla chips for salsa were usually fresh, and sometimes a welcome vegetable tray would somehow manage to stay unshriveled. They always found something to snack on as they watched me put things in the garbage and some into the refrigerator.

As I separated the good from the bad and ugly, the one staple that was never stale were the cookies that had been donated.  The food shelf staff were told to give away more of the nutritious items to families versus baked goods, so there was always an abundance of them left over.  The stores had to get rid of them a few days before expiration and the agreement was that whatever was donated had to be taken.

So it was no surprise to come across a gigantic cookie tray in the pile.  I took half of its contents and put them into a freezer bag to ward off impeding doom and the other half were left to sit on the black plastic tray under the clear dome lid. As I was putting the cover back on, the door opened.  The sound of crunching cellophane made me glance up.  In each hand he was holding a bouquet of flowers.

“These were donated and no one wanted them.  Would you?  I saved one for your mom too.  I tried to pick out the ones that looked the best.  These look pretty good.”

I walked over to him and peered into the bags.  Both bouquets were roses that were surrounded by green foliage and white baby’s breath.

“They had flowers at the food shelf?  Why?”

“I don’t know.  They were donated to be given away.”

I took both bags happily, but I found myself perplexed.

I was having trouble deciding whether I had said a true prayer for a bouquet of flowers or if my visions of them beforehand were God’s way of letting me know I was going to get a delivery later.  I had not been specific about the amount that I wanted, and in true form to how it goes with the divine, I was given two bouquets when one would have thrilled me to pieces.

I washed my crystal vase and combined the two into a bright array that made me smile every time I walked past them. It made me feel like I wasn’t struggling and that money wasn’t so tight.  The impact of that day stayed with me and confirmed a passage that says: “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask..”

The roses and their fragrance were a constant reminder that I was not alone in my circumstances.  I found strength in the idea that a pair of listening ears, caring eyes, and strong hands were always at the ready to help right on time when my faith was stretched to the limit. This small gesture was an enormous uplift and boost to my wavering confidence.

My circumstances have gotten a lot better since then. But, I will never forget that I was the recipient of something that was heaven scent.

 

roses

 

 

Retrieve Your Liberty

The drive was a dark twenty minutes from her workplace to our home. Post Christmas and New Year’s was evident by the lack of twinkling pretty lights I had enjoyed looking at on this stretch just a few weeks ago. While she sat in the back catching up on her social media, I glanced at the clock to see it was twenty to ten. I pondered what I should do first when I got home. The laundry was partly complete with some items still in the wash when I left and some in the dryer. The dishwasher was calling my name to be emptied of its clean contents. But, there was the lure of the lateness of the hour and the end of a full day which usually meant pajamas, a snack and a couch cushion that had my imprint on it.

All of this thinking led to other thoughts. Why had her Jeep Liberty blown up on her just a month before she finished school in December? The head gasket could have held itself together just a tad bit longer so she could finish, start her new job and figure out what to do next. However, that is not how life presents itself at times. On November 11, she experienced a rather thrilling ride home with a temperature gauge rising out of control. She made it safely, but the next day we took it to a local shop.

After the car was gone for about thirty minutes, the phone call came asking if we could meet with the mechanic. I knew while I was driving back that generally easy news is delivered over the phone and an in person explanation meant trouble.

We were escorted into the back where many cars hung suspended and the smell of oils and solvents penetrated the air. Or was that my fear? I am not sure. A young man with a clipboard approached us and said,

“You really have two choices. She has a blown head gasket, so we can put in a refurbished engine which will cost $4,000 or a brand new engine for $8,000.”

I think we both experienced a gut punch simultaneously. This was the first vehicle she ever owned and it had seemed so reliable with its four wheel drive in the winter over the past two and a half years.  Just minor tiny fixes here and there had been required but nothing she couldn’t manage.

“Do you have $8,000?” I asked her. “How about $4,000?” I was hoping that the mechanic would actually hear what I was saying and how crazy I thought he was for even telling us such a thing. The car had 175,000 miles on it.

She silently shook her head. I knew she was feeling just as frustrated about the whole thing as I was. She had taken nearly all of her hard earned savings and put it toward a short term college course so she could move ahead in life. A good decision that now seemed to be rewarded with a punishment.

I thanked him for his time and exited. I didn’t get out the door before the guy at the front desk tried to tell us to apply for their credit card offer and put the entire expense on it. I didn’t thank him for his time, and I got back out into the parking lot as quickly as I could.

Because I wanted to be sure we had both heard the correct news, I took the car to another shop that following week. It was determined that the car did indeed have a blown head gasket, and the work would be roughly over $3,000 for repair. We parked it in the garage, as if putting it into hospice, with its terminal diagnosis.

I would find myself walking by it on the way to my car often wondering why. It looked so nice on the outside, so why did it have to betray her? To make the situation sting even more was the fact that she still was making payments on it. So, to sell it meant she had to find a buyer who would give her enough to pay off the loan so she could walk away free and clear.   Our choices were limited by lack of finances, and nothing seemed to give us any freedom from the problem.

Thus, began my chauffeuring service so she could finish school and get to work. This also entailed car pooling to stores so she wouldn’t feel so trapped in the house without transportation. All of this was transpiring during Thanksgiving and Christmas which can always bring a mad rush to shop, prepare the huge feast, bake and shop some more.  At other times of the year, my time isn’t as constrained, but this was the height of hectic.

So, on this dark January night, as I drove along contemplating all of it, my wonderings of why became more prevalent.   I pulled into the garage and we both got out at about the exact moment.  Now it was nearly ten, and winter had set in.  It wasn’t below zero, but a crisp twenty degrees generally sends most into the house quickly.  However, I saw her turn her head and say something about a dog.  Then, I saw her crouching down just outside the garage in the driveway.

I looked toward the sidewalk and saw the most beautiful retriever come to a screeching slide as she tried to heed my daughter’s call.  I joined in saying,

“Come here!  Come on!”  I got down low as well so the dog would see that we would mean her no harm.  She did that belly crawl type walk where a dog wants to keep running but they are so enticed by the command to come, they can’t help themselves.  Then, she sprang into action and ran right to my daughter.

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“Does she have a collar?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she answered as the dog was excitedly wagging its tail and trying to lick her face.  I reached down and found a collar to hang on to.  Just as I did, I heard a slight wheezing sound.

“Oh!  Hang on to her!  Oh!  Please!  OH!” The dog heard this too and tried to wiggle her neck out of the collar, but I knew that trick and grabbed on tighter with both hands.  Obviously, she wasn’t out for a relaxing evening stroll with her owner.

I saw a short woman puffing out quick breaths as she tried to get up our driveway.  It was like she was running and not making much progress.  The sidewalk was slick so she was also trying not to fall.

“OH!  You caught her!  Hang on to her!”  She was trying to breathe and talk so it was hard to understand her.   I pulled the dog into the garage with the woman as my daughter ran and shut the garage door.  At this, the dog happily took off to investigate the entire garage while the woman slumped over my car in sheer agony.  I put my hand on her shoulder and said,

“Breathe.  Just breathe.  She is okay now.”  Then, when she looked up, I said,

“Hey!  I know you!”  We hadn’t seen each other for awhile, but I had walked by her house many times during warmer weather and we would talk.  I had gone to a couple of her garage sales as well during my twenty-four year residence in the neighborhood.

“Well, hi!” she said and hugged me.  While doing so, she gasped,

“I am so glad you two came along!  I have been chasing her for awhile.  She got out and wouldn’t stop running.  I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was starting to panic.”

She draped herself over my vehicle again as she caught her breath.  I told her to inhale and relax.  Meanwhile, her dog was running around happy as could be.

“We took her in last July from a family that couldn’t keep her anymore. The lady had cancer and her husband couldn’t keep the dog, so we are all still adjusting.”  I watched as the dog bounded around so full of life for her young age without at clue that she had nearly given the woman some sort of attack whether heart or asthma.

It was decided that the owner would sneak through my house, go home, gather up a leash and return with her car.  While she was away, my daughter sat on the steps waiting.  I saw the dog sit down next to her, look her in the eye and give her an enormous slurp from her chin to her hairline.  We both laughed.  It was like the dog knew us her whole life and had strolled over to casually say hello.

This may sound odd, but in that second, I knew deep in my heart that my late night pick up and all of its hassle had a point.   Normally, when I pull into the garage, I shut the door and go inside.  If my daughter would have gotten done any earlier, that woman and her dog would have been out running the neighborhood in frigid weather.  It was as if on cue, we had returned to help out a neighbor who was struggling.  The grander picture began to fill my thoughts that I am not here just for the sake of myself. Things occur for a reason, and if I would just stop overthinking it or fighting with myself about it, all of it would eventually make sense.

The dog was answering some of my ‘why’ questions from my drive home.

The woman retrieved her retriever, thanked us profusely again and drove off safely back to her residence.

That night served as a small anchor as more days passed with no answers regarding our dilemma. I would conjure up the image of the dog kissing my daughter’s face just to help myself believe that there is a force who loves me completely and cares for my entire household.  Freedom comes when you are given a hint of something that is divine in nature.  If you can be given the gift of having the ‘why’ question answered, it makes the traveling through the pain easier at times.

As of this writing, a solution has come for my daughter and her car.  After much mental turmoil, I decided to send an email letting someone know of her plight.  I am not one to ask for assistance with my girls as we generally can figure it out ourselves.  To be honest, I think all of us should have some balance with that.  If someone offers to help you, then don’t feel guilt or ashamed in taking the assistance if you need it.  And, if you feel led to ask for help, then just ask. I have found that this actually brings the giver a blessing in return.

My intent in sending the correspondence was only to verbalize and get out on paper what she was going through. In turn, I received a response where my daughter’s car will be restored for her to alleviate the burden.  Did I know this when I wrote what I did?  No.  At no expense to her, an attempt is going to be made to see if the Jeep can be salvaged to its former state.  (Yes, I am still on the floor from fainting from hearing the news of this because I wasn’t expecting that or seeking it.)

I am learning that asking others for help, and allowing God to use me to be someone else’s helper is the ebb and flow of life.  Knowing that you are loved by your Creator makes it possible during a bleak time to stay strong, live a life with meaning, and help you to keep, restore and sometimes retrieve your liberty.

 

 

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Playing Your Cards Right

We gathered around Mrs. Iverson’s piano as she pounded out Farmer in the Dell. Our off key faltering voices attempted to sing the familiar song that we had gone over since starting kindergarten with her that fall. It was her way of getting us to settle down and to capture our full attention. When we finished the last note, she said,

“Children, I have something that I need you to take home to your mom and dad today. ”

She held up green and red papers that were folded neatly.

“We are going to be having a class Christmas party and this letter will tell your parents what you need to bring.”

This news brought on an uproar so she quickly ran her fingers across the keyboard to begin the song again.

After another rousing chorus, and peace had been established, she assembled us into a line to hand out invitations to the first school party of our young lives.

I was thrilled to have reached such a pinnacle. Being the youngest of six, I had observed my older siblings celebrating events to which I was not privileged to attend.

The instructions were that each child was to bring a boy/girl gift and in doing so, we would receive a gift in return. Over the weeks leading up to Christmas, our classroom became a blizzard of handmade construction paper snowflakes, endless Santa coloring sheets and a tree adorned with red and green paper chain garland.  Each day, more presents appeared as the kids began bringing in their offerings.

My mom bought a card game that was suitable for a child in that age group. She and I wrapped the gift and affixed a tag that was addressed to a girl from me.   I was so excited to contribute to the pile under the tree. Many of us often looked across the room at the various sized boxes and pretty bows wondering which would make its way into our little hands.

The day before the party, I came home to the delightful smell of spritz cookies and a tray that my mom was putting together for me to take to school. The days of waiting were almost over, and I could hardly sprinkle the colored sugar on the cookies in the right direction as my exhilaration grew.

I woke up in the middle of the night fully aware that something was not right. My stomach felt like a washing machine that was stuck in the spin cycle.  Chills ran up and down my skin, yet, I felt heat coming off my forehead.

“Mom?” I called out weakly.

Being a nurse, she was at my bedside in seconds with a basin. I guess by the time you have six kids you recognize a distress call even when you are in a dead sleep.  It was a good thing she brought the bucket.

After determining I was running a fever, she said,

“I don’t think you are going to be able to go to the party,”

I reluctantly fell back to sleep with tears brimming in my eyes at the thought of missing out on something I had waited my entire life for.  I slipped into the black abyss of stomach flu dreams.

By morning, I was not any better so I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going anywhere.

“I will have your sister walk up to the school later this afternoon and get your gift,” she said trying to console me.

I sipped on clear carbonated beverages and took small bites of saltine crackers as the virus worked its way through my body. Falling asleep off and on during the day only made time seem to go slower. I would wake up after a five minute nap feeling as if hours had gone by only to see the clock not advancing.

Finally, I heard my sister return and voices talking in the kitchen. I propped myself up in bed. This was the moment I had been waiting for.

My mom came into my room with a package that looked similar to the one I had brought.

“Hey. This looks like our paper we used.”

I looked up at her and saw a tinge of sadness.

“This is your gift. The teacher forgot to put it into the exchange.”

I unwrapped it and put it aside. The game that was supposed to bring so much merriment to another child now represented disappointment, and I would have rather thrown it into the trash.

Years later, I found the deck on a shelf in my parent’s basement unopened.  I opened the box and took off the shrink wrap and read the instructions.  I realized that I had let someone ruin something for me so long ago.  As a child, that is understandable.  I had felt rejected, unwanted, unworthy.  All these things that I felt in my heart that I could not express at the age of five.  I had decided that I would take it out on the gift that had an intent to bring happiness to the receiver.

As I played the game, I forgave this particular authority figure.  Had she done the right thing? No. However, what was the point of hanging on to the pain?  The only thing it accomplished was to keep me chained to my past.  The moment had come and gone for her, I am sure.  She probably isn’t alive today.  So, the only person I was punishing was me.

It is a well known fact that holidays with family and co-workers can be miserable for some.   There can be awkward silences, or suffering in silence and then later rampaging and venting about how we can’t stand Aunt Gertrude or that demanding guy who has an office next to ours.  The reality is, we can make this time of the year be what we want it to be.  We have a choice about how we react to situations and how we feel.  I am not suggesting that you ignore your emotions.  Just don’t allow them to overtake you and find yourself in a drama of grand proportions. Don’t allow your joy to be stolen by a dysfunctional problematic Grinch.  Eat.  Drink.  Be Merry. Pray.  Forgive.  Ask for forgiveness..because you are somebody’s Aunt Gertrude…and let the season be light.  As you forgive, you are forgiven.  All of this adds up to playing your cards right.

 

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