Scary

My oldest daughter attended an online charter school in 7th grade that required a laptop. Because those were the days I was working three jobs and trying to home school, I had to find something I could afford. Luckily, we did just before she was to start.

Barely out of the box, one of us tripped over the charger, ripping it straight out of where it was plugged in. This was round number one to replace it.

A few weeks later, after we moved the computer to another location, someone else did the same exact thing, requiring a second run for another one.

The third mishap could have turned out way worse than it did. At the time, our dogs were puppies, and one of them chewed up the charger cord while it was plugged in. No one got fried in the process.

Except for me. I was beyond my tolerance for having this repeat itself. I was worn out from going through the double doors of the electronic store, becoming a regular like at a bar.

I thought we were out of the woods once we hit the six-month mark, but then the modem died. So it was back to the same store but with a different problem.

I was hoping to circumvent help, grab something and go. But, the options were endless, so I had to stay longer than I wanted, which then drew an employee’s attention. I was just fine on my own, but she took it upon herself to assist.

I must not have masked my feelings very well. I wasn’t taking my annoyance out on her, but I wasn’t exactly overly welcoming. My goal was to get out of there as quickly as I could. My youngest daughter was with me, also trying to speed up the process. I tried not to make much eye contact or speak, to rush it along. The “helper” was happily chirping away about various models and prices. And any other topic she thought would be of interest to me. She wasn’t picking up on my nonverbal cues, and I decided I might as well speak because she was there for the duration.

Finally, I said,

“This is my fourth time here.”

I explained my charger drama as I went back to looking on the shelf for what we needed. I began talking to make time go by faster and not complaining, just trying to make an awkward situation less uncomfortable since she seemed bored and wanted something to do.

She edged closer to me. I thought I was in her way, so I moved over. I picked up a box, decided that was the one, and turned to thank her for trying to help.

Out of absolutely nowhere, she said,

“You need a hug!” And she threw herself at me.

I was somewhat shocked that I hadn’t been fast enough to dodge out of the way.

I was highly skilled at this from having to face many overzealous church greeters. I learned quickly to avoid the double arm maneuver in the lobby.

It was first the handshake, then the forearm grab as you are pulled in before you can change your mind and run back to your car. Your limb is nearly dislocated, but you feel thoroughly greeted.

To avoid being involved with that, I would get so preoccupied with my purse and keys, pretending to juggle them so I didn’t have a free hand to spare. Instead, I would smile, say hi, look totally stressed out trying to handle my bag, and move on, bypassing the whole thing. I was a professional at it.

I had also been subjected to embracers as well, and my best excuse was to say I had to run to the bathroom. Even the most hardcore smotherer for the Lord won’t bother you if they think you have had a lot of water to drink before a service. They wish you well from afar and say they will catch you next time.

I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I decided my skirting around them was a win for all of us. I was freeing them up for the next unsuspecting victim.

I believed I had a rock solid barrier between myself and this type of behavior. I was completely surprised by her actions; I was frozen in place, hanging on to the modem box. My arms were at my sides, unmoving. Was this part of the employee of the month program? Was she going to have her picture posted on a wall somewhere just for ninja attacking me? She was not letting go quickly, and time for me had halted.

After the unwanted advance, she stepped back and said,

“I hope you feel better.”

I had dissociated from my body momentarily.

My daughter held in the biggest laugh of her life because she is well aware of my small personal bubble. I somewhat staggered backward to regain my independence.

“Have a great day!” she said.

I nodded and walked away like a zombie to the register. My daughter, no longer able to contain herself, said in between gasps for air,

“Your face! You should have seen it!”

“Why did she do that to me? That is not normal! We are in a store!” I said in a yell whisper.

I was afraid she was lurking nearby within listening range, and I didn’t want to give her any reason to feel sorry for me again. That was not my intention in the first place. I kept looking around as if she was going to pop up out of nowhere.

This only made her laugh more all the way to the car. Loudly.

I locked all the doors, which brought on another round of hysteria.

“I just can’t stop thinking of how you looked!”

“How am I supposed to look when someone lunges at me like that? Who does that?”

On the one hand, it’s nice to know that we have good hearted people in the world, but I couldn’t get past its oddity.

This is not the only time a worker has gone out of their way to console me but in a less invasive way.

I had taken my lawnmower in for an oil change and to get the blade sharpened. It’s not my favorite thing to do in the world as I am totally out of my element. I have a smaller, less crowded hardware store nearby, but it’s still very testosterone leaning, and the rows of unknown things are mind-blowing.

Who has time to browse the aisles looking at miles of gadgets and minuscule metal objects? From my observation: retired men. Of which I am not one. Who generally works there? The same demographic.

I don’t do this at the beginning of spring because everyone else does. I try to time it to go in after the onslaught of eager lawn fanatics so I will get it back faster. With fewer mowers, I wait a shorter time.

A week went by, and I heard nothing. That seemed unusual, so I called to ask if it had gotten taken care of.

“I don’t see it here,” the person who answered the phone said. “Our system says it’s still out for repair.”

That made me wonder if something was wrong with it that I didn’t know about.

“What is the date it has been promised to be done?”

“A week from today. But it’s always done way early when I bring it in at this time of the year.”

“Well, then wait until then. It’s not here.”

I felt like I was interrupting her life, so I did what she said. I always default to being the one who is wrong when it comes to not being confident in what I am dealing with.

Two whole weeks went by, which seemed off to me. This was the first time it had taken this long. I usually get a text saying it’s ready for pick up, but my promised date had passed. So I called to see if it had been overlooked.

“Nope, it’s not back yet,” she said. “It says it’s still out for service when I look it up.”

I hung up, realizing I was going to have to use their loaner. I drove over to get it. I’m accustomed to mine, which is self-propelled. What they gave me was similar to that metal clipper-type thing that has to be pushed. It was heavy and nearly broke my spirit by the time I finished both yards. I didn’t realize how nice I had it.

A week later, now three weeks of waiting, I went into the store again. I just felt that something wasn’t right, and there was no reason for this to be taking so long.

I told my story to another person, gave them my receipt, and waited while they went to check in storage. Within moments, my mower was coming through the door.

“The tag says it was back three weeks ago, and it only took a couple of days because the inventory was low.”

So, the very first time I called to ask, it was finished and waiting for me.

“I tried to get it, but no one had contacted me. When I called in, I was told it was still out, and I had to wait until the exact date I had been given.”

“It was sitting there the entire time. Whoever answered the phone should have double checked the storage room and not just the computer. That thing can be wrong all the time. I am sorry.”

“I’m just glad to get it out of jail,” I said.

She laughed and took my paperwork to the register. I hadn’t ever seen her before.

There was a long line to wait through, and I kept an eye on my mower so it wouldn’t be retaken hostage.

When I was going to pay, I was told a certain amount that seemed low.

“Are you sure you typed that in right?”

When I dropped it off, I had put down a deposit, and the remainder should have been more.

“The manager said you had some problems, so she wanted to make it right.”

I was stunned.

“She doesn’t have to do that. I’m not upset at all, and I’m just glad I got it back.”

“She wants to be sure you come back.”

“I always come here. This won’t change that.”

They wouldn’t charge me the full price no matter how much I insisted they should.

On my way to the car, I looked at the receipt; it had a personal note attached, professing their apologies and adoration for me. Very similar to the hugger many years ago, and just out of the ordinary.

God will show up in ways that seem strange. In neither of those incidents was I outwardly exhibiting my frustration, but I was polite and trying to navigate my way through unpleasant situations. Part of what I was trying to do was resolve problems that are areas of life I find unfamiliar, which is the root of the stress. Electronics and tools are just not high on my list of expertise, and God knows that. Every time I have been forced to deal with an issue that seems too big to handle, I have discovered that I can. And it makes it easier the next time.

In Isaiah 65:24 it says:
I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!(NLT)

So maybe all those times I got sent back to the same store was to purge my fear of the unknown. The repetition, even though maddening, created familiarity. Not that God wanted me to have bad things happen, but everything can be used to bring us up higher. I can now look back and say maybe, just maybe, the weird hug was to congratulate me on a job well done. I’m still not sure, and I don’t need it to happen again in the middle of the electronic department. Ever.

In Psalm 139, this comforting promise is made:

You have searched me
and known me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You understand my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down;
You are aware of all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
You know all about it.
You hem me in behind and before;
You have laid Your hand upon me.(NLT)

Isn’t the goal to live anxiety-free and to walk by faith? Then sometimes, we will be required to stop avoiding what we don’t like, face it, know it’s for our good, and check it off the list as no longer scary.

(My receipt..who wouldn’t keep this?)

Wherever You Go

“You are trying to live a champagne life on a beer budget,” he said to me.

“What does that mean?” He generally spoke straightforward and not in riddles.

“You want what you cannot afford.”

We were in a car lot, and my dad was tired of hearing me say ‘no’ to all the options he had given me for vehicle choices.

“I don’t like any of them.”

The salesperson tried to stay positive, but my dad had mercy on him and said,

“We will be back. We need to figure out what she can have.”

Being the youngest, I was offered something that everyone else ahead of me had to wait for. My parents were worn out from driving kids all over town, so they decided to find a used car for me when I was seventeen to cut themselves free from the responsibility forever. I was the only one left. Having older parents had its advantages; they were more like grandparents when I was in my late teens. What they once had endless energy for, now was no longer a priority.

I ended up being given an older Pontiac Firebird, which halted my searches through car lots. But, I was not spared the long speech.

“If you get a speeding ticket, we will take the car away.” There were more rules stated, but I zoned out. I figured if I did something wrong, they would let me know later. For now, I had my own transportation.

I could not believe that I had hit a taxi. I did not live in a vast metropolis where we had cabs on every corner with people chasing them down, and they were rarely seen on the route I was traveling. The driver slammed his door and seemed angry as he walked to my car.

It was early morning, and I was on my way to high school. I must have been tired from working all weekend and had a momentary too long of a blink. I heard the sound of metal and crunching.

I was already saying I was sorry before I got out of my car. I saw that he had a passenger in the back seat. He crouched down and looked at his bumper and mine. I must have read his initial facial expression wrong because he looked up at me, smiled, and said,

“Are you okay?”

I said I was. Physically, yes, but mentally, no.

“Well, I have no damage. These are built like tanks, and it looks like you have the worst of it.”

Most of the people in my school were driving cars that barely started. I was asked if my family was wealthy because mine was in such great shape. Now, I had put a dent in it.

“Are you sure you are alright? You don’t look like you are,” he said.

This was before cell phones, so I couldn’t just call my dad and have him come to my rescue, and this had never happened to me before.

“I have a special needs student in the back, so I have to get him to school. Can you make it to where you are going? That damage to your car can be easily fixed. You didn’t hit me that hard.”

I believed him, and we parted ways. I had to find a payphone.

“I hit a taxi,” I said, trying not to cry.

“What? You hit a what?” He was a father of six. Wasn’t he supposed to be ready for anything at all times?

“A taxi,” I said with my throat beginning to close.

“How did you do that?”

All the questions! Always.

“I don’t know. It was in front of me at a light, and I hit him!”

He actually started to laugh, so that meant I wasn’t going to get a lecture.

“Just go to school, and I will come look at it.”

He fixed it for me, but after that, I had a slight fear while out driving. Something that had been so automatic now didn’t seem like it. I got over it, and that was the only accident I have ever been in. But, my relationship with cars, dealing with them and their surprises have not been my favorite.

It’s always at the most inconvenient time when a battery dies, something leaks, or there’s a weird sound that starts up. And while getting my oil changed, I have been met by the dire news that some thing-a-ma-jig isn’t doing what it should, so now I have to pay for it without warning.

The most recent was my gas line coming off. I had just had my car in for a service, and the technician did not secure it properly with a clip after flushing that out. I took a turn, and my car died immediately. With my hands still on the wheel, I sat there wondering why I was smelling gasoline. I got out and saw that the full tank of gas I had just put in was spilling all over the ground.

One little broken clip required a tow back to the shop. To say that my patience has been tried is an understatement. With all of our technology, why are we not teleporting at this point?

On a Saturday morning not too long ago, my oldest daughter was getting ready to leave for work. Neither one of us really take the time to speak at that time of day because she is in a hurry, and I don’t want to slow her down. I was reading something, and I heard the garage door up.

I saw her back out of the driveway, and for some odd reason, I said,

“God, put angels around her car.”

I just had this weird feeling.

Within a minute, my phone was ringing.

“A guy hit me.”

“I am coming,” I said.

She had made it to the corner on our street, so my drive was about 30 seconds. When I pulled up, I started walking straight for my daughter. The other driver came around his truck, blocked me, and said,

“Hi, mom!”

I stepped back from him, inwardly cringed, and said a quick hello. I skirted him, but he followed close behind me, and I wasn’t sure what he was trying to accomplish.

“Are you okay?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she said.

I glanced to my right, and he could not have been standing any closer to me. I backed up again.

“She was turning, and she hit me,” was his claim.

I called the police so a report could be filed.

He acted like we were old acquaintances, and that wasn’t making me feel so comfortable. I tried not to say anything, but the silence got to him.

“Where were you going?” He asked her.

“To work,” she answered.

“Where do you work?” he asked.

She pointed randomly straight ahead.

“That way.”

I raised a smart one.

He was so strange, and I tried to keep moving the two of us away from him. Every time I tried to talk to her alone, he would zoom in between us.

First, he told us he had never been involved in an accident, then went on to say he had some sort of road rage incident. I started to wonder what drugs he was on.

The police officer arrived, took down their information and stories. He looked like we had gotten him out of bed for the day. Before he left, he handed each of them his card and said that a report would be online to give to our insurance companies.

I told her to get into her car and roll the window down, which was the only moment she and I had together alone.

“Are you sure you are okay?”

“Yes,” she said again.

I looked over, and he was behind his wheel, staring at us.

Her car was driveable, so she took off. I made sure he went in the opposite direction. I wanted to go home and hose myself down after being in the presence of that man.

The police report was posted within a day, and officer Barney Fife stated that my bright orange vehicle was involved in the accident, not her very white one. He had glanced at the insurance card, where both cars were listed, and wrote in mine. It was no surprise that he also hadn’t listened to her account and messed that up as well.

After that was corrected and her car was repaired by paying the deductible, it became a ‘he said, she said’ case. He claimed she swerved into his left turn lane while she took a right. And she said he hit her in her lane. The whole thing, I was told, wasn’t going to go anywhere and would be a waste of time, especially because of the botched police report.

So what do you do when you know you have been wronged? You have to give it to God and count the things that worked in your favor. She didn’t get hurt, the car was fixed quickly, my insurance lady helped me on a Saturday because we are good friends, and we never have to see that guy again. I hope.

And, I was grateful for the angels that acted on her behalf when I asked for them to come, just like Psalm 91 says:

He orders his angels to guard you wherever you go. (Message)

The Door of Her Heart

I made it my mission to teach my oldest daughter about God even before she could speak. I was coming to understand faith, and while my spiritual walk was moving ahead, I had to be quiet about it as my household at the time was divided. If I tried to voice my beliefs, it didn’t go over well.

Instead of causing conflict, I studied and kept hidden anything related to the subject. I put books at the bottom of my dresser or tucked away in a dark corner that I only knew about. I didn’t let the opposition stop what God and I had started, but I went out of my way to guard myself.

I turned all of my knowledge toward her because she was a clean slate without any religious baggage or ability to argue with me.

In the car, no matter where she and I went, I played children’s music that incorporated scripture verses set to tunes that easily got stuck in the memory. As she got older, I would hear her humming happily to herself as she played with her toys.

It became very apparent that this was effective when she and I were in a crowded restaurant. She always was content sitting next to me coloring, talking non-stop about everything she could think of. On this particular night, she jumped to her feet in the booth, and at the top of her lungs, started singing Go Tell It On the Mountain.

No matter how much I tried to stop her, she wouldn’t quit. All the other customers got quiet and looked over at us. I was so worried that she was disrupting them with her unexpected off-Broadway dinner show, so I kept quietly saying her name, trying to get her to zip it.

Many people don’t appreciate an acapella version of a song in public. And I’m very aware that children, by some, are barely tolerated. But, there was no stopping her. I kept glancing up, and as she kept on going, I saw people smiling, so I just gave up my efforts. She was determined to finish all the lyrics, and there was no other choice.

At the end of it, she received applause. As if it was no big deal, she went back to her crayons.

On another occasion, my neighbor lady saw me outside working in the backyard.

“Do you know what one of my favorite things is in the evening?”

“No,” I said.

“I will be washing dishes, and I can hear your daughter singing while she is on her swing set. She goes through this long list of songs.”

It was spring, so all of us had our windows wide open for fresh air.

I had heard her do it too, and her ability to say certain words was still a challenge. Abraham was pronounced with an “n”, and it sounded like Neighborham.

“I like that one the best of all,” she said, laughing.

Someone gave me a large glass jar filled with slips of paper in it. On each one, there was a question regarding God that you could ask your child. It was an exercise to help expand their thinking about the unseen.

Because I continued to plant what I could in a secretive way, I thought this would fit right in.

So every night before bed, she would pick out a random piece of paper to be quizzed. She loved it so much that one was never enough, and sometimes she wanted so many I had to cut her off. She was like a sponge for learning and enjoyed what I was teaching her.

One night, she handed me her choice, and I asked:

“What does it mean to have God knock on the door of your heart?”

She did her usual squint and looked up at the ceiling.

“I know! That’s the song that I sing in the car. He knock, knock, knocks on your heart.” She added a closed fist pounding to her chest.

“So, what does that mean?”

“Ummm…What does it mean?” She asked.

“You don’t know?”

“No.”

I couldn’t believe that we were at this point already. It had taken me years to get to this, and now at 4, she was already inquiring about such a deep topic.

“Well, when you think you want to, you can let God be in charge of your life. It can’t be taken away from you, but you willingly give it.”

I grabbed a book where I knew there was a picture of Jesus knocking on a door.

“It’s like you open the door and say come in. That’s it. Do you want to do that?”

She said she did, so I had her say a little prayer with me.

After that, she had daily prayer sessions with her infant sister. She would prop her up in her carrier and try to explain the Bible. Just like I did with her, it was someone who had to listen and couldn’t talk back or run away. Even if her audience drifted off to sleep, she would keep on expounding her newfound wisdom.

I sometimes regret the decision I made to have her attend various churches alongside me. Not that she still didn’t keep the simple message she learned, but as with most formal organizations, there are rules to follow, and people get in the way by putting their own spin on it. Soon, what was so easy to know at such a young age had become so complex that the relationship started to wane. Why? Because the spiritual upkeep got to be overwhelming.

You are pressured to be something you are not, everything you do is monitored, and you slowly lose your freedom of choice. Anything supernatural that cannot be explained must be evil; the devil is behind everything, and conformity is a must because being different is unacceptable. Life becomes anxiety riddled, and you hope you are still on God’s good side.

Now you no longer depend on inner guidance, but you rely on those in leadership to educate you and discipline your wayward passage. You seek people instead of the One who holds all the answers that you need. You are instructed how to think and speak, so you don’t stand out from the rest. It was so far away from her innocent singing songs that made her heart happy. The joy of having a close relationship with the Creator was slowly being stripped away. None of this moved either of us up higher or into a deeper place with God.

If that’s how you feel where you are, get out and return to the truth. Go back to where she and I started as it says in Ephesians 5:1:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. (ESV)

So how do you act like something you cannot see? In 1 John 4:16 it says this:

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. (NIV)

It doesn’t take a lot of discernment to recognize when you are tangled in something that doesn’t reflect that. People are not ever going to be perfect, but there’s no reason to stay too long and lose your way.

The God I introduced my daughter to wasn’t harsh; like an old friend, He was welcoming and didn’t require anything but her eager willingness to answer the knock at the door of her heart.

Growing Up

It seems that no matter where I attended church, I always worked with the kids, and I found that I fit in better with them than sitting in the sanctuary with the adults.

I think the reason was because of the spontaneity of the atmosphere. Children are so much more open to the voice of God and aren’t usually afraid to say it out loud. I’m not against listening to someone speak, but I found so much more value in being in a classroom thinking I was the teacher, but really, I would often be the student.

At one time, I was in charge of a class of thirty, four-year-olds. I had one older woman who struggled to walk but would always help where she could and my daughter would come with me.

Every Tuesday, while their moms would go to a Bible study, I would go to work on helping them understand God better. I had them do role-playing, skits, and team-building exercises to expand their awareness of the spiritual side of life. It was always fun to see someone their age acting in the role of an important Biblical figure. I had so many who wanted to be Noah, Moses, or Jesus. I was never short on volunteers.

At the start of the day, I would ask them to tell us what they needed prayer for, so everyone knew what might be troubling their friend. Some would make requests for a new dog or bike, and I put no limitation on it because I wanted them to know that they could ask for anything from God. And many times, by the next week, they would return to tell me that their prayers were being answered.

They did love to have the spotlight.

“Miss Chris, look at my new shoes!”

That statement and others like it led to all of them wanting me to comment on their new shirt, hair cut or whatever else they were proud of. Once that started, it was a chain reaction of them jumping to their feet to gain my attention. Did I say there were 30 of them and one of me?

You would think that there would have been a lot of crowd control or discipline needed with a group of children that big. There wasn’t. I don’t know if it was all the prayers we said together, but they were the most unusually well behaved kids I had ever seen. They always wanted to help, and they actually shared with one another. There wasn’t the tug of war over hot ticket items.

I witnessed a live, in action expression of how life should operate if one is surrendered to God. There was no backbiting, complaining, whining, competition, or hating someone because they were different. None of that existed, and I did not have to put in much effort to make it go so easily. There was no conflict at all, and without the negativity, God showed up all the more.

One day, I had them close their eyes, and I shut off all the lights. This was way off the prescribed plan of what I had been told to teach them. One of the women who ran this ministry of the church had looked in through the door window. She wondered what I was doing, but she said there was so much peace flowing toward her, she let me go ahead.

I had each child become very still and see whatever came to mind. This was with preschoolers, and they did what I said without any hesitation. No one made a sound. Right there, that was a miracle. Afterward, I had them stand up and tell me what they experienced. One boy said,

“Miss Chris! I saw a huge angel standing next to me!”

“You did? That’s great,” I said.

Others had similar experiences, and I told them to go home and continue to practice this.

The following week, the boy’s mom told me that her son had been having nightmares, but they had disappeared after he saw the angel, and he continued to see it. She said his fear of bedtime no longer existed.

While many good outcomes such as this happened with the kids, I had the opportunity to put my faith into action.

I walked into the church office, and one of the other teachers held a tissue to her eyes.

“I might have you take my kids into your room today. My eyes are burning and won’t stop watering.”

I looked at her in total shock. I already had 30 of them! Taking in all of hers would have my number rocking the boat at 50. I decided that wasn’t going to happen. I had a nice little thing going, so I stepped forward and said,

“What is wrong with your eyes?”

“I don’t know. I have tried eye drops, rinsing them with water, but they hurt so much. I can’t see. I am not going to be able to lead my class today.”

Her eyelids were bright red, and tears dripped uncontrollably down each side. She had to keep catching them with the cloth in her hand.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I just followed what I heard in my mind.

“Close your eyes.”

She complied, and more wetness covered her cheeks. I had to close my own eyes as I prayed because her symptoms were stripping down my faith. It looked horrible, and who was I to come along and help her?

I started praying that she was healed. At the end, I opened my eyes, and I snapped my fingers at the center of her forehead while saying, “dry up!”

What was I doing? I would have never thought to do that. Other people were watching us now.

She mopped up her face and blinked.

“They don’t hurt anymore.”

The next few minutes were critical because the moms and kids would be arriving, and she had to decide. I saw her eyes clear, she smiled, looked at me without squinting as she had been, and said,

“It’s gone. “Thank you. It’s all back to normal.”

I was just glad I didn’t have to corral 50 kids.

That all happened during a time where I had just had a 17-year marriage end. I would tell people that I felt like I was jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, waiting to hit the ground. I was in a daily free fall of anxiety, not knowing what would happen to me next.

But, in that, I had been given little ones who showed me who God really was and how I could walk in a quiet place on the inside and see the good happen on the outside. Their childlike faith had strengthened me in my most desperate time, where rejection and abandonment were running high. They demonstrated to me that God would never leave even if people did.

They brought to life this verse in 1 Peter 2:2 that says: As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”

I had been stretched to a place in my spiritual life that I didn’t even know existed. And it continues to this very day. Every step is one more leap than the last.

There is a verse that says not to despise the days of small beginnings. Just when I thought I had something important to impart to those who were so very young, they surprisingly gave it back to me and set me on a lifelong course toward growing up.

(I walk every day..this was on my path the other day…there’s always more to learn from God)

Unnecessary Chain

When you raise children, you have no idea what is coming your way. Suddenly you see life with a new set of eyes, and if you are a good parent, you don’t want to repeat the mistakes made in your past. So I read every single parenting book possible, but I found there are just some situations that no expert can prepare you for.

My oldest daughter would say to me out of the blue,

“Mom, I think I’m going to tell a lie.”

I would say, “Then don’t.”

“Okay,” she would reply and then would look relieved just to have told me. This became a quick fix to stop underhandedness.

My youngest daughter tended to conceal or go around the truth. It wasn’t a flat-out lie, but there was a bit of sleight of hand.

It wasn’t done to harm others but to be to her advantage. What I didn’t know wouldn’t hurt me, and she flew under the radar, so she thought. This began at a very young age, so I tried to get a grip on it right away to avoid it getting worse.

I was at a register paying, and I glanced down to see her looking at something in a bin about her height. She was about to put it in her jacket pocket. She was only two at the time, so I crouched down and whispered that she couldn’t do that. No one around me knew, and I could tell she wasn’t fully aware that her actions weren’t right. I put it back discreetly.

Once I got her into the car and I was driving, I calmly started to explain that what she had been doing was stealing, and God didn’t want us to do that. She was silent as I spoke, taking in what I was saying.

“Some big people go to jail for taking things, so don’t do it anymore. They don’t care that it’s wrong, and then they go to prison.”

I drove a little further and heard a little gasp. I looked in my rearview mirror.

With tears streaming down her face, she screamed,

“I don’t wanna go to jail!!”

“Hey! Listen..you won’t….”

She was screaming so loud she couldn’t hear me.

“I don’t wanna go to jail! I don’t wanna go to jail!”

“You won’t…hey… listen….”

Her older sister had a hard time not laughing.

In between wails, I kept trying to reassure her she wasn’t headed for the big house.

“Do the right thing. Don’t take things that don’t belong to you, and you won’t go to jail, ok?”

“Okay,” she said, finally able to hear my voice.

You would think she would have changed her ways after that, but she was still learning and pushed the envelope where she could.

Every morning, I had each of them take a chewable vitamin. One loved them, and the other was not very amicable to anything healthy. She wanted bottomless bowls of goldfish crackers with apple juice free flowing. Her older sister would pop down whatever I asked, but she would put up a fight after running it through her invisible mental filter and deeming it “yucky”.

I let her pick the color she wanted out of the bottle, and she would run off to her room to take it. One day, I heard: Tell her to show you her teeth.

She ran past me, and I said,

“Open your mouth. I want to see something.”

Her choice of the day was purple, and if she had just eaten it, her teeth would show the evidence. She immediately complied, so she had no idea the trap that was being set.

They were white as snow.

“What did you do with your vitamin?” I asked.

“I ate it.”

“No. You didn’t.”

She closed her mouth, realizing I was on to her.

I walked into her room and found the dog frantically trying to dig behind her dresser.

“What is happening?”

I pulled the heavy piece of furniture away from the wall. A year’s worth of vitamins spilled out from where she had been stashing them.

I used both her first and middle names to summon her while I fought off the dog from gulping them down and overdosing.

She appeared in the doorway, between her sparkling teeth and the dog leading me, she knew her number was up.

“You haven’t taken any of these? Ever?”

She shook her head no.

I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t want her to think it was okay.

She confessed that she had slipped the tiny supplement into a small opening daily. It was like the actions of a person in a locked ward bypassing their medication. I didn’t even know what to do with that. She had come up with something I had never read in any of my parental training manuals. Ever.

“You have to tell me the truth and don’t hide things.”

I think I gave up on the vitamins after that.

She promised to be good as gold, but there were a few more minor things that she tried to get away with.

Years later, she told me while trying not to laugh, she crawled under my bed and watched a show that I told her I wanted to preview first to see if it was age-appropriate. I had no idea she was happily watching along with me while I was trying to protect her innocence. At the end of it, she crawled out, unknown to me, without a twinge of guilt.

Somewhere along the way, she became honest as the day is long, developed a healthy conscience, and became her authentic self.

It has been my experience that a person can only hide in the shadows for so long until a moment comes when they are brought into the spotlight of truth. There are various shades of dishonesty, from the mild, like hers, to the more extreme, where its become a lifestyle of functioning in an alternative reality.

For some, it comes in the form of people pleasing. We don’t want to let others down, and conflict isn’t our favorite subject. So, we push our true feelings aside, make excuses and carry on with a smile. It appears to be a noble undertaking because we go out of our way to make everybody happy and don’t want to disappoint, all the while we are withering away on the inside. We keep skirting past those uncomfortable moments of setting boundaries and saying no because we need to keep the peace.

No one becomes a doormat without allowing it.

The other day, I opened up a cupboard and pulled out a bag of organic potatoes. They had been enjoying their time in the dark, sprouting major eyes and decomposing second by second. Because they were pushed to the back, no one realized they were there.

I moved them to the counter from where they had been on the floor. A brown, oily puddle began to form and seeped its way under the microwave. The worst part was the smell that started to infiltrate the kitchen.

I grabbed the nearest roll of paper towels and the bottle of kitchen cleaner in an attempt to stop the problem.

My daughter, who heard my muffled screams because I was holding my breath, materialized with her can of pumpkin spray, which I still have some trauma from last year’s spray down episode. She tried to combat one overwhelming scent with another with her shirt pulled up to her eyebrows.

No matter how fast I was trying to clean it up, the rancid smell was winning. The only solution was to triple bag the rotting produce and put it outside. Hours later, there were still hints of it in the air. Mixed with pumpkin air freshener.

Like those hidden potatoes, when you stuff down your true feelings, they will eventually leak out in some way. Either the body will manifest symptoms, or your emotional well-being will suffer. God doesn’t want you to live like that.

In Matthew 5:37, it says: Say only yes if you mean yes, and no if you mean no. (NCV)

And in Romans 13:8 it states: Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another..(NASB)

Don’t hold yourself hostage by surrendering your power to keep others feeling content.

Fear is the culprit, promising in a twisted way to keep you safe from upset, but every time you shut off what you want to say, your spirit fades a little more, and it gets easier to do so. Then when you do speak up, it’s such a foreign and rare occurrence that you aren’t taken seriously, so you go back into your corner and convince yourself that this is how it’s supposed to be. It seems normal, but it isn’t.

This way of conducting oneself is usually years in the making, probably going back to childhood, so to get out of it will be somewhat of a struggle, but every time the decision is made to correct it, you gain more of yourself back. You learn how to live in a balanced way where you aren’t a pushover or an aggressive bully.

This is where your prayer life has to be taken seriously as you seek answers that will help undo old habits. As usual, if you involve God, then it can be done, and it says so in 2 Corinthians 3:17:

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

In addition to doing an inward search, I have found that just like all the parenting advice I used to read, there are plenty of resources to look to for healing this part of your life so you can be genuine, live unafraid, and finally break the unnecessary chain.

Best Deal

His voice boomed through the store,

“Chris! Get ten of them!”

He wasn’t even in the same aisle that I was in, but he was so tall that I could almost see his head above the highest shelf.

“Stop putting stuff back! Get what you need, I mean it!”

“I don’t know if I need this many, though.”

“Christine! Get them!” He had used my full name, so that meant he was serious.

This was during a tough time financially for me. My divorce had not been finalized; there was no child support, so I was living off of fumes, and when he caught wind of it, he insisted on taking me to buy groceries. I had resisted the idea but had given in due to his persistence.

“I want you to get what you need. If there is a sale, take it and stop putting things back.”

I had a hard time doing what he said because I knew he was going through his own problems.

He had wandered off into another part of the store, so he couldn’t even see what I was doing as I took a couple of things, put things back, looked at prices, and kept telling myself to limit what I was getting. I was used to cutting coupons and strictly following a budget, and this craziness of just throwing things in the cart was foreign to me.

As I continued not to listen to his directions from afar, he repeated it as if he could see me, but I knew he couldn’t.

“Christine..get that! Stop putting things back!”

A lady next to me looked at me funny.

“Is he with you?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“How can he see you?”

“I don’t know. He just can, I guess.”

She frowned and moved on quickly.

I went to the next section, and he came around the corner.

“You are still not doing it the way I told you to? You have nothing! Get back in that aisle, and get some things you need!”

He took control of the cart and landed himself back to where I had been.

“Look at this! You can get ten of these. You only took two! What are you doing? Get them!”

He did this through the entire store.

“What about this? Do you need any of these?”

“Yes, but..”

A vast handful went in, and we moved on.

“That’s so many..I…”

“I don’t want to hear any of your excuses. You have a poverty mentality, and God wants to heal you of that. You deserve things, Chris. God wants to show you that you will be supplied with what you need. Always.”

I wasn’t accustomed to his renegade-type approach to life because I was more of a keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best kind of faith back then.

He quickly piled in items as I tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen to me.

“Just thank me for it, and that’s it. Don’t say anything else.”

He held up a box of cereal.

“What about this?”

“I am not sure…”

“Do your kids eat these?”

“I think so, but…”

He took his arms in a hug-like fashion and dumped in a bunch.

“That’s what I want you to do. Don’t overthink it. Just do it! Stop looking at the prices and thinking I can’t afford it. I am doing this because God told me to help you. So, quit fighting it.”

There were so many other customers around us, and they had to think we were having a domestic right there. A towering man was loudly barking orders and demanding that I buy things. Isn’t it usually the other way around?

“God can do anything, Chris. Now get stuff!”

The minute I would hold something in my hand and barely glance at it, he would pluck it away, grab fifteen more, and say,

“Those are yours now.”

When he went to pay, he acted like it wasn’t enough.

“Look at all this, and that’s all it came to. What are you so worried about? Do you want to go get more?”

“No! Please, no!”

I couldn’t take any more of his generosity. I thought it was nice and all, but I couldn’t mentally deal with it. I was not used to this because I felt that life had to be difficult, and the things I needed or wanted had to be challenging to obtain.

“Thank you,” I said once we were in the parking lot.

“You have to get over limiting God and what can be done for you. You are stopping the blessings from coming into your life.”

A few months later, he asked me if I wanted to go on a treasure hunt with him and some church members. He was clinging to God, trying to clean up a very messy split from his wife. He had children with whom he had no visitations and a whole host of things coming at him that would have made most people give up on believing in anything good.

I said I would attend, but I was a little in the dark about what this was. We were handed a pen, a piece of paper and told to sit quietly in a part of the church where no one else would speak to us. The instruction was given to pray and ask for words to write down.

This exercise was meant to strengthen our spiritual hearing and build our confidence in genuine, live faith. I had various words go through my mind, so I wrote them down.

“Now that you have your clues, we are going to go to the mall and look for what you wrote down. God will lead you to people who need prayer.”

Huh? I had to talk to people now? I looked at my list. Chapel, housekeeper, mop, coin, an American flag, water fountain, and a red shirt were what made up most of my list.

It was a Saturday, so the place was packed with shoppers. This wasn’t just any spot; it was the Mall of America which had thousands of people streaming in from all over. Of course, he had to pick the most massive collection of humanity possible. His go big or go home attitude was in everything he was doing.

The group split up once we all arrived. The minute I walked through the double doors, I saw her. Unbelievable as it was, I saw her pushing a heavy housekeeping cart. I glanced down at the words I had written. Oh, no! It was happening so fast!

How could this be? I tried to tell myself that she was busy. Maybe I shouldn’t interfere with her work because I am sure there were many messes to attend to. I was so thankful that my friend wasn’t with me because he would have grabbed my arm and dragged me over.

I observed for a minute. She stopped and started to rearrange the garbage bags, her spray bottles, and then she did something that ended up propelling me forward. She wrung out her mop! Red shirt, mop, housekeeper….it was all there.

I walked over to her and saw that she was standing right by a chapel! I could not believe it! It’s a place that is set up for quick marriages. I knew it existed, but I had never seen it.

To start the conversation, I said,

“What do you think of places like that? Have you ever seen anyone get married in there?”

I was grasping for anything I could think of to say.

“Oh, sure. I clean in there sometimes, and it’s not as bad as you might think.”

She continued to wring out her mop. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff with absolutely no safety net.

“So, I have a question for you.”

“Yes,” she said, not looking up.

“Do you have anything that you need prayer for? I think God sent me to you.”

She stopped what she was doing and made eye contact. I prepared myself for a considerable slap down. I felt like a Jehovah’s Witness coming to my door and asking me if I had ever read the Bible. I was always kind to them, but some don’t treat others that way, especially if they have been abused in churches or have a bad relationship with God. She could have been an atheist for all I knew. This was too personal and up close for me.

She leaned against the mop handle.

“I need God to help me see the goodness in people again. I have been through a lot, and I don’t trust people anymore.”

“I don’t either at times,” I said. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

“I work here, and I do my best. But, I feel like there is more out there for me. My family isn’t kind to me, and I feel like something is missing in my life.”

“Let me show you something,” I said. I pointed out the words that I had written down that matched up exactly to her.

She started to cry.

“I have felt so alone. And now you are here telling me that I am not, and I know God hasn’t given up on me.”

“I don’t think so. There are many promises that say we aren’t ever abandoned.”

She grabbed my hands and said,

“Please pray for me.” This was now getting easier by the second.

And right there, in the busiest place in America, I asked God to restore her faith in humanity and to show her what her purpose was.

When she opened her eyes, with tears streaming down her face, she thanked me.

“I need to do more with my life. I know there is a church by my house that I think I need to go volunteer at and start living again.”

I took a deep breath when I left her. That was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life! I had convinced myself I would be so wrong, but God showed me that I could hear pretty clearly.

I kept thinking I was to find the water fountain. Now that I had been given a slight win with the first attempt, my fear wasn’t as high. I sat near the cascading water; I saw a woman sit down, looking tired.

Was this who I was supposed to help? I only had three vague clues left to go on, so I moved closer but not enough to have her see me. A coin was directly behind her in the water, and someone had thrown in a lapel pin that had an American Flag on it.
Yep, this was it.

I was back to square one emotionally, with terror ripping through me. I decided to throw all caution to the wind and start a conversation.

“It is so busy today, and I try not to show up here on Saturdays.”

“I had to sit down. My arthritis is acting up.”

She held up her hands so I could see them.

“It starts to hurt in my hands and feet.”

“Would you want me to pray for you? I know that sounds strange, but I can if you want…”

Before I even finished my sentence, she grabbed both of my hands.

“Yes. I would like that.”

Her eyes slammed shut like this was the most normal thing to do by the water fountain in the mall, surrounded by swarming masses.

I leaned in closer to her so she could hear me over all the noise. I felt a warmth flow from my hands into hers, and I felt her relax. She sighed and began to smile.

“I feel so much better now. Thank you,” she said.

After that day, I went on a few more treasure hunts with him and his group. It became more manageable, and I was so surprised how I was led to the right person each time. I never had anyone turn me away who I was supposed to approach.

All of this brought to life this scripture for me found in 1 Peter 2:9:

“But you are God’s chosen treasure…”(TPT)

I still heard from him from time to time, and I know he got married. A couple of months ago, I was at an outdoor event that was packed with people. My daughter stopped to talk to someone she knew, and I looked up. And he was right there.

“Hey! Chris!” That booming voice.

“I can’t believe it’s you! Out of all these people!”

He said his wife was waiting for him across the street, and I had to keep moving with the group I was with. He said he would call me and get caught up.

I got word the other day that he is sedated, on a ventilator, and fighting for his life. There are no visitors allowed, and I wish I had lingered with him longer the last time we ran into each other. I hate regrets like that where you want to rewind the clock.

No matter the outcome, I know he will be where God wants him, and he won’t pass up on the best deal.

Mask

During times of stress, I have lost my ability to talk. It has not happened for a while, but there was a pattern I noticed where when times got tense, I would develop laryngitis. I realize now it was my body’s response to dealing with an uncomfortable situation. If that part of me was shut down, I could not speak up, and I could use it as an excuse to be quiet. Once the uproar had passed, my throat would heal until the next bout would seemingly come out of nowhere. At the time, I saw no correlation between my outward circumstances and this occurring. 

It wasn’t easy when I had two small children who wanted my attention, and they needed me for guidance. Or, one would say,

“Mom, can you read me a book?”

I spent hours gargling with salt water and whispering. By the end of the day, I felt drained from trying to get my point across. I didn’t understand that as I stuffed my feelings down, I was creating a physical silence. 

Years later, I looked this up and discovered a vast number of articles on the subject. Some have it happen when going through the grieving process and describe it as having a lump in their throat because they can’t get past the loss. When living in a state of unrelenting fear, others, like myself, will experience what I did. 

My biggest concern was that I would sound like a dragon lady for the rest of my life. I was coming across like a chronic smoker. While I desperately wanted it back, would it return normal? During one of these episodes, my daughter asked,

“What if it never comes back?”

 It was an innocent question as it had been going on for two weeks, with slight underlying worries that it was gone forever. So when she said that, I gargled more. 

As the years went on, it stopped. But, I had other symptoms manifest in other places. While I no longer lost my voice, I would get horrific lower back pain connected to my sciatic nerve. My daughter had found information that if this happened, there was a pressure point on the back of the leg that could be activated to alleviate it. 

The process was to lay face down while she took a closed fist and punched this area. It was weird, but it worked. However, it was only a temporary fix because it was emotionally based. I sought chiropractic treatments that helped, and when this nerve pain in my back seemed to have lost the fight, it found another place to take up residence. 

I have had reoccurring pain in the right side of my face. This time, I became aware of it being caused by outside issues that I wasn’t dealing with correctly. As I employed acupuncture, meditation and went back to the chiropractor, it has gotten better, but on occasion, it will strike and cause me to be unable to function. It is called ‘suicide pain’, which I try not to think about when in the middle of the problem.

Last April, my dad fell and was admitted to the hospital. It was discovered that he had been given a medication that should not have been administered. It was a tangled web of trying to find answers, and as my annoyance began to soar, the nerve in my face was sending out excruciating signals. I didn’t have time to sit on the couch because I didn’t want him to be alone.

He needed supplies from his apartment, including a cream that helps with pain in his knee. So as I have done before, I pushed my feelings aside and went to his rescue. I explained to the hospital staff his hearing issues, and they told me that as long as I shut his door, I could speak to him without a mask. 

On this particular day, with my face on fire, I was on my phone responding to a text while he was watching a baseball game. I had tried to hand off his medicated cream at the desk, but I was told to give it to the nurse assigned to him for that shift. I was told she would be by to get it from me. It was going on two hours since I had arrived, but I decided to wait it out. I had taken a pain reliever with not much relief.

I still had my mask, but it was on my chin as he would ask me questions; it was just easier for him to comprehend what I was saying. 

I heard his door open, and I looked up. 

“Pull up your mask!” She yelled. 

I instinctively did because, after a year of this, I never want to make anyone uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “He is hard of hearing and..”

“I don’t care! You both should be wearing a mask! If I get sick because of you, then who is going to work here if I’m at home having to use up my vacation time?”

Wow, that was a lot of take in. I tried again to diffuse the situation.

“He is really hard of hearing, and I pulled it down so he could…”

“I don’t care! There are so many people coming in and out of these rooms not taking this seriously, and then I have to deal with it!”

I watched her grab his arm forcefully to put on the blood pressure cuff. He looked over at her and said,

“Hey, take it easy.”

She started the process of getting a reading and was quiet, so I said,

“It must be hard for you to work in these conditions, and you must be stressed out by it.”

Usually, when I take this approach, I get a calmer response back. Not with this one.

“It’s people like you that are the problem! Both of you. And I’m the one that’s going to get sick! Because of you!”

“He has been tested, and he is fine. I have no symptoms of…”

“I don’t care!” She abruptly ripped off the cuff.

“I will be back later.”

I held up the medications I needed to give her. 

“I need you to take these for him.”

“I will be back after you leave!”

She spun out the door.

I glanced over at him. His eyes were glued to the tv. Oblivious, thank goodness. He saw me looking at him and said,

“Is everything ok, Chris?”

“Yes,” I said, lying my face off. “I need to go speak to the nurse at the desk, but I will be right back.”

Every masked face looked up as I approached. 

“Can I help you?”

“Yes. The person helping my dad needs to be terminated!”

All the eyes got wide as I explained the unbelievable beating I had just taken. I made sure that no one sitting there was unaware of what I had endured. The charge nurse asked another staff person to take the medication, and she walked me back to his room. 

“She usually is assigned to another floor. You be with your dad, and we will sort it out. I am so sorry she acted like that.”

I shut his door behind me as I entered. I startled him, and he knocked an entire cup of water on the floor. I grabbed something to clean it up and was crouched down by the side of the bed. I heard his door slam open. She was back for round two. 

I stood up with water dripping off my hands. 

“What knee does this cream go on?!” She said with the same tone as before. I saw that she was holding the containers in her hands. 

“You don’t know? Are you not in charge of his care right now?”

I was not the same person she had come across moments ago.

“I have not had time to look at his chart!”

“Well, maybe you should. Maybe you should know what you are dealing with. Is it my fault that you aren’t doing your job?”

As I spoke, she visibly started to wither. I didn’t raise my voice, but I decided to pick my words very clearly.

“You are the worst example of a nurse I have ever met. You have no idea what this man has been through coming off a pill that could have caused a major injury. And you are a poor listener. It would be best if you never worked with the public. You should figure out your retirement package immediately.”

I don’t recall the rest of my come to Jesus speech, but her eyes were wide, and she clutched both bottles under her chin. I know I kept my language in line, but I was now in protective mode over a vulnerable adult, and once that is on, there is no coming back. Words streamed from my mouth, and I had no idea what I was saying. I was not about to lose my voice as I had in times past. 

When I quit, she blinked rapidly and stammered,

“I will go look into this.”

“You do that,” I said, going back to the spill at my feet.

I looked over at him. 

“Is everything ok, Chris?”

“Just perfect. Who is winning?”

A new nurse appeared and took over his case for the night. I found out later that the former one had upset numerous people, staff included, and my confrontation was helpful in having her adequately dealt with.

Amazingly, the fire that had been coursing through my jaw wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. I know that there is a scripture that says a kind answer turns away wrath. But, in this case, that didn’t work. 

Proverbs 31:8-9 says,

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushedYes, speak up for the poor and helpless,

and see that they get justice. (NLT) 

There is a balance to all things that God has created. Sometimes, I think people try to ‘nice’ their way through life. I am not against being kind, and I will always chose that before DEF-CON 5, but there are times when a person needs to confront and not enable bad behavior. Don’t cause yourself trouble by not handling conflict properly because your body will begin to manifest symptoms you do not want. Let your voice be heard, be your authentic self, and come out from behind the mask.

Trapped!

I could not seem to solve the problem. No matter who I spoke to and repeated the long, complicated facts, it wasn’t changing the situation. I would wake up in the morning with my heart racing because it would be the first thought on my mind. 

In February of 2020, a letter had arrived in the mail that my daughter’s health insurance would be terminated. There was no reason for this, as she had paid her premium each month, so it was not making any sense at all.

The correspondence arrived on February 14, with an end date of February 29. It was a leap year, so that gave her an extra day before the lights were shut off.

To add to the uproar, she was sick. Thinking of the time, I am sure she had Covid before it became popular. We hadn’t gone into all the shutdowns and restrictions that were upcoming in March. The public knew something was brewing, but we had not been given the full-blown details at that point. 

She had all the earmarks of the disease. The rash on her legs, the high fever, fatigue, and eventually, it all went into her lungs. I was watching her closely as I always do, but on top of this, she was trying to figure out why her coverage was on the chopping block. 

She refused to go to the doctor, feeling it would eventually go away. On the day she lost her voice entirely, I was starting to have visions of throwing her over my shoulder and not giving her any choice but to go in.

The fatigue was overwhelming as she tried to sit up on the couch long enough so I could dial the number to speak to a representative. This cancellation was not happening at the insurance company level. This was our state-run marketplace where she had chosen a policy. I had my tangles with them for mine. And once they mess something up, it’s long wait times and confusion. Someone can push the wrong button, and life becomes a nightmare.

“May I have your name and social security number?” she said. 

I explained that she had laryngitis. 

“I see. Well, she has to permit me to speak to you about her case, or I cannot help.”

“You have to try,” I said, looking at my daughter.

She gulped down water and started to move her lips. If a dinosaur could talk, that’s what it sounded like as she tried to force out her name and give consent. 

The state fairy godmother granted us our wish, which began the long, arduous process that would consume me with worry day and night. 

More letters would come claiming that if they didn’t hear from her, that on the 29th, she would be uninsured. This was after we called in daily to check on the status of where this was going. We were told there was a “glitch” in the system. Ignore the threats; they weren’t real, they said. They seemed very credible, and in the meantime, her symptoms were getting worse instead of better.

I called the insurance company directly and was told it was out of their hands. I had to keep going to the state-run system to get this fixed. I could not believe that this was such a mess, and it seemed like no one was in the state of emergency that we were.

I contacted a woman who had connections behind the scenes and strategies that I had no access to. Finally, I had found an advocate who seemed to be as riled up as I was.

“They do things so stupidly,” she said. She promised to help. 

It was the final week of February, with no progress made, and all of it was hanging over my daughter’s head. Six days before the dreaded date, we did a conference call again. 

A MNSure representative answered. This was number 10, at least. The maddening thing is that you never get the same person twice. I explained the trouble. Impatiently she snapped, 

“I need to read the notes that we have. I’m putting you on hold.”

We were used to that, but I wasn’t accustomed to how she spoke to me. She acted like we had created the problem, forgetting we were the reason why she had a job in the first place. 

My daughter could hear me taking deep breaths. After a long pause, the representative returned and started rattling off information that was not accurate. Each time I tried to let her know this, she spoke over me as if reprimanding a small child. I kept inhaling and would exhale while speaking, and she would not back off and listen. I was running out of air.

“I need to speak to someone up higher than you.” I could not withstand the verbal beating anymore. 

I purposely tried to get her to understand that this was over her ability to help, which didn’t fly so well. There were more accusations as if my daughter had caused all of this when it was a human error on their part. 

More oxygen in, 

“I want someone else to help us.”

“Hold, please.”

When she said that, I started speaking to my daughter, who had been quietly listening to this nonsense. 

“Can you believe this person?!” I said everything that I had wanted to say, believing we were on hold. My language was not for general audiences but for a more mature crowd. 

“What did you say? I thought I heard you say something.” She was still on the line with us. “Do you need anything else?” It was a taunting tone that suggested she was on a power trip. 

“Transfer us like you said,” my daughter barked. 

“You have a good day now,” she with a syrupy inflection. 

Once we were disconnected from her, I said, 

“What was that? Was she even a real?” 

Another person answered, and we started the process all over. 

That night, before I fell asleep, I decided to forget it. There wasn’t any more I could do; I had exhausted all options. 

“I give it to you, God,” I whispered into the darkness.

She continued to suffer through her sickness, and before her coverage expired, I helped her get to a minute clinic. She was asked if she traveled outside of the country, and she hadn’t. There was no testing to see what it was or deep dives into who she had been in contact with. 

At one point, while instructed to take a deep breath, she almost passed out. I was thankful that I had taken her in. 

She was sent home with medication, and by the next day, she fell off her plan for coverage. 

She slept through the entire month of March, and when I would start to get nervous, I would just tell God that I needed help. I decided not to fight it anymore, and it got easier. I was not waking up scared, and I felt calmer. 

Suddenly, the clouds seemed to part, it was fixed, and by then, she was better. 

At the end of it, I had a memory flash through my mind. 

I always trusted my brothers, and they all gave me a good reason not to. 

One day, one of them came into my room with this strange colorful object in his hand.

“Try this, Chris. It’s really neat.” Right there is where I should have run away. 

I willingly and innocently let him shove my index fingers into each end.

“Now, take your fingers out.”

I tried. The material tightened around them more. With each moment of struggle, I lost more of my ability to regain my independence. 

He sat back and watched.

I started to feel panicked, which only drove me to want out more. 

“I’m stuck!” I said to him.

“Yep.” 

He did not attempt to help me.

I dropped my hands. I thought if I looked pathetic enough, he would come to my rescue. 

“Instead of pulling, push them closer to the middle.”

What? That would be the opposite of what I was trying to accomplish.

I did what he said anyway. Little by little, it loosened, and I was able to get out of it.

When I created a calm mindset and followed instructions, I was able to be entirely free. 

“Do you want to keep it?” He said, laughing. 

“No,” I said, throwing it at him. 

When you are faced with something that seems beyond your ability to handle, remember 1 Peter 5:7 says,

Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you. (TLB)

God will never leave you stuck or trapped. 

(These are still not fun..)

Pressure

I have never been fond of stress. Some people like the thrill of it and the drama. Not me. Why rush when I do a better job at something when I can think about it for a while? Isn’t the outcome then going to be better? I never understood why the education system didn’t consider this when forcing us to take timed tests.

In high school, I took a typing class. I was somewhat versed in the subject already, having used an old-fashioned one at home. This new model was electric, which made the letters appear quicker than the ancient one, requiring a firm press down to work. It only took a light touch to get this one to work.

We were told that timed quizzes would be given in addition to our regular homework assignments. There was nothing better on a Monday morning to be half asleep and have that news thrown at you.

We stationed ourselves obediently and placed our hands on ‘home row’. It was like a runner taking his mark. The nerves were high because what if I hadn’t practiced enough to get through the passage before the buzzer went off?

With silence hanging heavily in the air, we waited for the signal to begin. Unfortunately, when the instructor screamed,

“GO!” my entire body jumped, causing my hands to hit all the keys at once. My first line was a mess, and my grade would get knocked down for that. I never got used to her method of having us begin, and she might as well shot off a handgun for the same effect.

Similar to that anxiety producing experience was my mom’s pressure cooker. She had a big family to feed, so this pot allowed a large quantity of food to be done in a short amount of time.

It was set on the stove to sizzle just to let you know it was there, ready to attack if you got too close.

“Be careful of the pressure cooker if you go in the kitchen,” she would say to me.

Often, I would forget and run by it. That is when I found out it was to be feared. It would spit scalding hot water on anyone who did not pass its path on tiptoes. The surprise sting of the liquid, plus the loud hissing sound, struck fear immediately. It seemed to be in charge and made sure to make you aware of its presence. I vowed never to have one.

For Christmas, a few years ago, I was given the upgraded version of one. My childhood fears resurfaced as I looked at the box. However, this one has safety features and is not at all like the ones of former years. It plugs into an outlet and has a sealed lid, presenting a gentler approach to using it.

I still didn’t trust it. But, I was willing to see how it worked. So, the first time, I found a soup recipe, and I put in the ingredients and made sure that I followed all the instructions. I kept visualizing it going off like a bomb and destroying my entire neighborhood, and the Red Cross was involved. Did I want that kind of destruction just for a bowl of soup?

I went online to read voraciously about those who had been brave enough to try it. There is a rather large community of people who like to live on the edge. They throw everything into this, making anything you can think of, with some owning multiple units. Many of them have built on additions to their homes to house all their pots. And they post pictures. None of them are shy about how obsessed they are.

Not one of the message threads spoke of any disaster happening. This made me less fearful about using it.

I put on the lid, which makes a magical chime sound to calm the nerves, and set the timer as indicated by the cookbook. I stared at it as the numbers clicked by. I felt safe to leave it for a minute, but then I was back to be sure that I knew when we were all going to die possibly.

The valve on the top of the lid began to hiss slightly. I went to the online cult and found that this was normal. It meant that it was coming to pressure, and there was no cause for concern. After that, it was as if nothing was happening.

The thirteen minutes went by way too slow. This was supposed to give me free time to wander the house and think deeply. That was not how it went at all, and I kept going back to watch it do nothing.

The next part was the most harrowing. It was a requirement to push the sealing mechanism on top to release all the steam. The timer beeped, and I decided that I could not stand directly in front of it as I did this. I had come this far in the process without losing a limb or two, and I hoped I would have both hands available to eat the soup.

I got out an oversized potholder and pulled it up to my elbow, and grabbed the longest spatula out of the group. I realized that where the pot was lined up with the wall would work to my advantage. I could reach around and hit the valve with the spatula but have the wall keep me hidden, just in case this didn’t go as planned.

Blindly, I reached around. I took a quick peek to see if the utensil would be able to release the steam. I hit it as fast as I could and then retracted my arm out of the way. I ran in the opposite direction, hearing the sound of a massive amount of vapor streaming upward. But that was it. There were no casualties as I had thought there would be. And, it was the best soup I had ever made in my whole life.

I use it now without a second thought.

All of us, at some point, are going to be confronted with something that makes us feel uncomfortable. Most of the time, when we feel tension, we imagine the worst outcome. Worry, anxiety, and panic can feel overwhelming, and it’s difficult to discern or think straight. So why not do this?

Psalm 55:22: So here’s what I have learned through it all: Leave all your cares and anxieties at the feet of the Lord, and measureless grace will strengthen you. (TPT)

Give it to God, and it will take off the pressure.

Shortcuts

When I visit my dad at his apartment, I never know what I will stumble upon. I was completely shut out from seeing him from March to September of 2020 due to Covid restrictions. I had to drop off items he had requested at the front door and wave to him through the window. Soon, I noticed he wasn’t in the lobby anymore, and when I tried to call him, he wouldn’t answer his phone. At times, my only communication was with the staff, who told me he was sleeping a lot and staying secluded. All activities had been stopped, and all meals were delivered to him.

I wondered how many hours a day he was sleeping. It wasn’t easy because when he went to live there in 2019, the help was a bit touch and go. I was astonished at the lack of accountability since I had a background in long-term care. We had to document every incident and follow up with one meeting after another.

Not so much with this place. It was like the Wild West of senior living with no rules and a somewhat fend for yourself environment.

So the lockdown wasn’t the most ideal. Once I jumped through multiple miscommunications, I was allowed to return as one of his essential caregivers. My suspicions of him sleeping all day and up all night were accurate. Every time I arrived in the mid-morning, he was still in bed with breakfast sitting on his table. He had lost all track of time. When I would say,

“Why are you still sleeping?” He would tell me there was no reason to get up.

The first time I went back in, I was thankful I had a mask in my possession. I don’t think his bedding had been washed that entire time, and housekeeping looked like they abandoned ship. I spent my time cleaning, scrubbing, and getting him to wake up.

His appearance had changed to resemble Rip Van Winkle with a beard flowing. It took a lot of effort to reverse the psychological effects this isolation had done to him.

His meals were still being dropped off to him during that time, so one day while I was there, two of the workers from the kitchen came in and asked him what his preferences were. He is highly deaf in both ears and reads lips, so their masks made it challenging for him to comprehend what was said.

“What?” He asked, leaning forward.

“What do you want for lunch?” one of them asked.

“What?”

I pulled my face covering off so he could see my mouth.

“They want to know what you want for lunch.”

“Oh! What do you have?”

The one who had tried to ask the first time said,

“Do you want fish?”

“What?”

“Fish!”

She proceeded to take both of her hands in front of her to create a fin-like visual, and she moved her hips in a side-to-side motion. She was doing the best charade game of her life to try to get her point across.

He frowned deeply and leaned forward more, trying to comprehend her movements. I did not attempt to interrupt his interpretation as she continued to demonstrate while he pondered. I saw a lightbulb go off.

“Snake? We are having snake for lunch?”

His eyes were huge at the thought. He had just been telling me how much the place was going downhill.

She dropped her hands, exasperated.

“Fish!” I said, stepping in to help.

“Fish? That fish looked just like a snake!”

Recently, there was another Covid scare, so I was not permitted to see him for a couple of weeks. I worried he would slip back to his old habits because he was once again under total quarantine.

It didn’t take long for the facial hair to grow again and the sleeping in to start. When I went in the other day to surveillance his place, I found a pair of summer shorts cut in half. I just stood there holding them up, trying to figure out what in the world had happened.

I brought them before his eyes.

“What happened to these?”

“I had to cut myself out of them.”

I took a second to take that in. He cut himself out of his pants.

“I know I should move on, but I have to know..why? I just bought you these. Why did you do this?”

“I was stuck in them.”

I’m a very visual person, so I tried my hardest to develop a good image of why this had occurred. Nothing was coming.

“I was honest to God stuck in them, and I had to get out of a bad situation, Chris.”

I thought maybe a third try at it would clear the muddy waters, but it didn’t.

“So, instead of pushing your pendant for assistance, you grabbed a pair of scissors and cut off your pants?”

“Yes.” He said it like this was an everyday thing to do.

We both just stared at each other. I was at a loss for words. Of all the circumstances I have been in with this man, this by far had hit the top of the list.

I always treat him with respect, even if what he is telling me is so off the wall or not even close to the truth.

“I’m just trying to understand. Were you throwing a wild party and just decided to live freely? I don’t get this.”

He started laughing.

“No, I didn’t have a party. Are you crazy? I’m an old man! I was trapped in those and had to get out of them!”

Oh, my gosh! He could talk in circles for days on end! And he called ME crazy? I was not the one with a pair of shorts with a slit up the side like an evening gown.

“I think you wanted to show your leg off more on that side.” He laughed again. “Or were you needing an apron for the kitchen?” I turned them around and bunched up the material across my waist. The two pockets on each side were perfect.

“I still don’t get it. Why did you not ask for help?”

“Because they are busy here, and I didn’t want to bother anyone. I was struggling, and I figured I could do it myself.”

“Well,” I said, fanning them out, “you did.”

“You have gotten me a lot of those. I have at least seven pairs. Well, now maybe six.”

“Where were you when this all took place?”

His memory is getting worse, so he attempted to piece it all together.

“Were you in your bathroom?”

“I think so. They got caught on the side of the wheelchair, and I was stuck like that for a while.”

Now the story was all coming back to him.

“I tried to get myself free by pulling on them, but it wasn’t working. I saw the scissors on the sink, so I got myself out of prison.”

While it made me feel bad for him, I couldn’t help laughing. Which he then did too.

It reminded me of that part from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles where John Candy gets his arms stuck in his seatbelt while driving.

And the more I thought about it, the more I laughed.

“I don’t know what goes on around here. I will buy you another pair.”

“I won’t be having an encore performance. That’s it for this lifetime.”

No matter how much I have tried to tell him to call for help, he stubbornly refuses and decides he is the master of his fate.

And it makes me wonder, where am I not getting help? I don’t want to be a burden, so I often do it myself and keep quiet. But are we supposed to do that all the time? Don’t we have help available to us?

My dad must have forgotten all about Psalm 91:15 that says,

He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

We wear an invisible call button that when we request assistance, it has been promised that help will come. Far too often, we do it alone and exhaust all options before we ask. We might end up fashioning our solution, which will never match the help of heaven. The more we don’t ask, the easier it gets until we forget that we can.

His tattered and torn pair of pants destined for the trash is a great reminder that we aren’t supposed to take any shortcuts.

(My witty daughter saw the brand name and said, “He’s just living up to what the tag says..No Boundaries.” Where does she get it? Hmm..)