New View

This seemed like a great idea at the time, but now not so much. The beginning of this didn’t seem so bad, but it got worse. The descent had taken a steep dive, and the path was slippery. It was not your typical tourist jaunt laid out with cement steps and a railing. There were no smiling greeters to guide you or tell you that you weren’t going to die.

It was rugged and all natural the whole way, and I wondered why this detail had been left out of the description in the vacationer’s guide. It was bordering on treacherous. There was an entire jungle to my right and left, and while it was beautiful, it was dangerous.

She had bought the book to study what would be the most exciting and unforgettable sites to see while in Maui.

“There’s this place called The Secret Beach.”

Anytime there’s a bit of mystery and intrigue involved, she knows she can get me to listen to her. It must be my overactive imagination that pulls me right in.

“Why do they call it that?”

“It’s supposed to be hidden. Not a lot of people go there, so they gave it that name.”

When you are sitting in the comfort of your condo, drinking coffee, looking at professional photographs, you can be talked into anything. Throw on a mystifying title, and now you are in the car trying to find the elusive location.

“Let me read what it says.”

At the bottom of the paragraph, there was a slight mention of it being so undisclosed that people felt free to shed their swimsuits. I looked at her like a mother would.

“Did you see this part right here? Are you prepared for that? Am I prepared for that? I don’t know.”

“It says it’s a rumor.”

I read further, and it did, but could I trust that? What if this ended up being a whole nudist colony? Even if I’m home alone, I lock the bathroom door for privacy!

According to the rest of this blurb about one of the most enticing scenes on the island, surfers wanted the beach to themselves so they made up a wild story to scare off visitors. They didn’t want a lot of traffic to contend with.

That made sense. I hoped.

In fact, it was the least of my worries as I half slid down to wherever this was that I was going. I could faintly hear the crash of the waves ahead, but I was trying to focus on not falling into the abyss on either side of me. Both of us had to stop to catch our breath.

She knew what I was thinking, but I was trying to stay positive. Every muscle in my legs was on fire, and stopping was only prolonging the agony. There was so much sweat and effort being put into this. I looked back up from where I had come as I considered turning around. It seemed pointless because I was at the halfway mark. And I didn’t want to disappoint her. I just can never do that.

We resumed our careful movement as I tried not to imagine a sprained or broken ankle with each step. I didn’t want to be having a medical emergency on Gilligan’s Island.

The narrowness of the trail forced us to walk single file. Coming towards us was a man holding a surfboard. He had no problem maintaining his composure as he easily sprinted upward. We both moved over as far as we could. As he ran past us, he blurted out,

“There are a lot of old naked people down there!”

What was I walking into? They don’t do this in Minnesota! It’s too cold to do this tropical free for all in that neck of the woods. We zip up to our chins most of the time.

“What did he just say to us?”

She repeated it.

“Is he lying?” She asked.

At that point, I needed to sit down, and I couldn’t where I stood. So I had no choice but to keep on going no matter what was up ahead.

“He probably is. That’s what the book said.”

Finally, we reached the bottom, and it was unbelievably beautiful, not only because there wasn’t a nudist retreat going on but a majestic ocean right in front of us. There were only a handful of people that I could see, properly dressed, so I didn’t have to execute my plan of throwing my towel over her head to protect her from anything obscene.

No longer fearing the unknown, we ventured forth to fall back into an exhausted state of being. We sat there unmoving for a while, watching a single surfer perform his magic on tumultuous waves.

It was a desolate place, straight out of a book on being shipwrecked. I stood up, ready to walk again, to take a few pictures. A lady was looking out at the water.

“It’s so pretty here,” she said as I came by.

“Yes. We don’t have this in Minnesota.”

“You are not from there!”

“Yes, I am.”

“I’m from there too!”

We found out we lived about 40 minutes from one another. It was a small world moment for us both in the middle of nowhere.

I noticed an older couple walking close to the water with heavy duty shoes on. That seemed strange to me. He used a huge walking stick as they trudged along. There was no way these two had gotten down there as we had. I saw them stop and speak to the people a little further down from us. There was a lot of pointing at the sand, conversing and pointing downward.

I noticed the people they had spoken to were now moving around quickly like something was wrong.

One of them saw me staring and said,

“Be careful! There are jellyfish all around you! “

The older couple shuffled over. They began pointing out every jellyfish that we were in the midst of, and while they were dead, they could still sting if stepped on. I looked around at the glistening forms that I hadn’t even realized were there.

As our bad news ambassadors moved on, I stood with bare feet on top of my tennis shoes. Both of us decided to ditch this event and return to civilization; I would not let one inch of my bare skin touch a thing, and neither did she. We balanced up against each other as we slid back into socks.

After all was said and done, I was glad I had the experience with her. There were so many reasons not to follow through with it, but we pressed on, determined to see something we hadn’t before.

I realize that is what God wants us to do. We are being called to see things in ways that we never thought possible, even though it may frighten us to the core. It’s a change of scenery with a new perspective. We aren’t to be so mentally locked down that we disregard a message that heaven is sending. If so, we will miss out, and it will be our fault. Not God, but us.

Our reasoning gets in the way. We look at something and make a split-second decision about how wrong or right it is. I have done that, and you have too. It becomes too scary instead of investigating and allowing God to show you something, so it gets immediately shut down. If it doesn’t line up with the comfort zone, then it has to go.

Is that truly living to our highest, most authentic self? The tricky part of allowing more is to surrender what we think we know. The walk is by faith and not by sight.

In Isaiah 55:8, it says:

I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”(Message)

For some of us, that’s about as appealing as being pushed off a cliff because we want to be in charge at all times with no surprises. We don’t want uncertainty and a free fall without an end. We want rules and predictability, so we feel safe and secure, accomplishing next to nothing spiritually.

So ask yourself: What’s so wrong with taking a chance and letting the One who knows it all and sees it all offer you a new view?

(Before the sharp decline)
Gilligan’s Island

Deep Water

As September was sliding into October, my family made a trip to my uncle’s cabin on a lake. We usually went during the summer when the water was warm and crystal clear enough to see white sand. I spent hours floating on an air mattress, letting the waves gently rise and fall around me. An occasional boat would zip by pulling a water skier, or a slow pontoon would motor near, full of people who would raise their drinks to say hello. 

This time, crisp breezes were beginning, the sun was losing its zeal, and leaves were starting to fall. So there was no swimsuit and towel to pack. I wasn’t looking forward to going because without the option to swim, there wasn’t too much to do. 

The drive was always a marathon to endure, and I was not given any option but to sit directly next to my brother. At home, I avoided him as much as I could, so to spend hours in close proximity was a test of my patience. 

He could do sound effects of everything, and he did it accurately. Did I say repeatedly? If we were waiting for my dad to put gas in the car, and another vehicle would start up next to us, he could mimic the engine’s sound before the driver turned the key. He absolutely adored this about himself. 

Most of all, he was so impressed that he could produce the sound of a mosquito better than the real thing. And he loved to do this very near to my ear to make me think I was under attack..especially when I was trying to read. If I had a book in my hand, which I always did, this was his cue to find a way to disturb me. 

To say I was always happy to get out of the car is an understatement. He had a short attention span, so he thought I was a great diversion from his boredom. Before the station wagon was stopped entirely on the gravel drive, I was opening the door to free myself from his presence. 

I helped unpack the car, mainly a hospital supply of first aid choices because my mom was an RN. Any medical emergency that cropped up would immediately be taken care of. From calamine lotion to a tourniquet, she had it along. 

My brother made a beeline for the water with his fishing rod. To stay away from him longer, I chose to sit with the adults, and it didn’t last long.

As I got up to leave, my dad asked,

“Where are you going?”

“Down by the lake.”

“Don’t fall in.”

I was at an age where his overprotective comments didn’t appeal. I was in fourth grade and fully capable of maintaining my balance, so why was he treating me like a newborn? 

He flashed me a smile which only irritated me more. 

As I opened the screen door, I said over my shoulder, 

“Do you think I’m stupid or something? I’m not going to fall in!”

And with my bratty attitude, I let the door slam behind me. I heard him say, 

“Just don’t fall in!”

Ugh! 

Why I went down by the dock he was fishing off is a mystery to me, and I must have been highly bored to subject myself to more of his horrible interpersonal skills. 

For once, he was quiet, and I stood on the shoreline picking up rocks and small shells. I saw him jerk his line and start to reel. He pulled a fish from the water and went about taking it off the hook.

“Look at this! Come here!”

What else was there to do to pass the time? I hesitantly walked onto the dock to see what was such a big deal. There wasn’t anything special; he just wanted me to watch him put it into the floating bucket. How exciting!

He turned back to what he was doing, and I looked into the somewhat murky water. I saw small fish swimming near, darting back and forth. The waves were coming in heavier as the wind began to pick up. Hypnotized by what I was seeing and not realizing how off balance I was becoming, much to my surprise, I hit the water face first as I fell in! 

I surfaced, gasping for air. My brother slowly turned to see the look of surprise on my face, and he looked just as shocked. 

“Chris, are you okay?” He actually mustered up genuine concern. 

I didn’t answer at first because all I heard was my dad’s words ringing in my ears and what I had said. I just stood there soaking wet in a heavy fall turtleneck and jeans. 

“Are you going to cry?”

And that’s as far as his compassion ran. He threw back his head and howled like a rabid dog.  

“You fell in! That is so hilarious!”

He didn’t offer to help me out of the water because he was too weak from finding my predicament so funny. I sloshed over to dry ground and considered my dilemma.

I wanted to run away from him, but I didn’t want to face the music back at the cabin.

My hair was hanging in strings, and my shoes and socks were heavy. Every time he looked my way, instead of feeling bad, he clutched his stomach and doubled over in glee with his whole body convulsing. 

I wished I hadn’t said what I did to my dad. But I couldn’t take this anymore. I got up and made the long, squishy walk back.

I considered not going in right away to see if I would dry out, but it wasn’t summer anymore, and I was so uncomfortable. I had no choice.

The door squeaked loudly, announcing my arrival. I stood in the doorway dripping. All eyes were on me.

My mom was the first to speak, 

“Chris! What happened to you? You are soaking wet!”

It was pretty obvious what had occurred, but she forced me to say it. 

“I fell in.”

As if scripted, the entire room erupted much the same as my brother had. Not a single soul felt my pain. 

My mom grabbed a towel and handed it to me. I wanted to put it over my head and hide because I knew what was coming next. 

“So, Chris, do you remember what you said on your way out of here?” My dad asked. 

Of course, he knew I knew.

“Didn’t you say: Do you think I’m stupid or something?”

It was so humiliating, but I couldn’t take it back.

“Yes, I said it,” trying to dry my hair. 

“Pride comes before the fall,” he replied. 

I had no clue what that meant, but the subject got changed, and so did my clothes. From then on, I learned that when he said something, I tried to conceal my pre-teen eye-roll at least. While his unnecessary concerns still drove me nuts, I didn’t ever want a repeat performance of what happened at the lake. 

In this passage, some valuable information is offered in Proverbs 15:31-32: 

Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.

Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. (NLT)

Who likes to be corrected? No one. Ever. But, something is to be gained when it does happen; we learn about ourselves that we can change for the better. It brings us up higher spiritually so mistakes made in the past can be erased and forgotten.

I had dismissed my dad’s prophecy as ridiculous, but what if I took it seriously? God is speaking to us all the time, whether we want to admit it or not. We are offered protection and can receive it if we incline our ears to hear warnings and instructions from above. What trouble could be avoided if we just took the time to listen versus rushing ahead dismissing that part of our lives? It just might keep us from getting into deep water.

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.

Nails

My mom would have celebrated her 90th birthday this past August. On that day, I was thinking of all the little things she used to say to me. Not big textbook-worthy things, but just tiny, get-to-the-point comments that carried value. There were six kids at one point in the house, so she didn’t have time to waste words. A good friend and I were texting right after I had been reflecting on this. I asked a question, needing some counsel. Out of the blue, she wrote: Be True to Thyself. This acquaintance had never met my mom, but that phrase was always spoken quite often when I was in conflict over something.—just a little nudge from heaven to say…See, Chris? I am still around.

Later, I ran to get ice at the gas station near my home. As I walked in, I heard: buy a rose. I thought….here? But sure enough, there was a lovely display of them. I chose one, and I noticed down the entire plastic sleeve that it was in, were words of advice…starting with: Be not afraid. Be bold. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. Get a good night’s sleep…

Motherly advice that just happened to be with the flower I plucked out of a million? Sure, why not? I brought my ice and single rose to the counter. A young man helped me, and I noticed his nails were polished black like mine. I said,

“I love that color,” and he smiled when I showed him we matched.

“My fiancé did this,” he said.

He seriously looked twelve and not ready to walk down the aisle, but as I get older, everyone appears younger and younger.

I laughed and asked,

“Did you fall asleep?”

“No, she gets anxiety so bad, and I read that if you can get a person to focus on something, it helps alleviate the symptoms. So I gave her my hands to help her get through it.”

I will confess that when I commented on his nails, I couldn’t believe I had. The words had tumbled out before I could stop them. Because of changing trends and times, I don’t always understand why things are the way they are, but he had just undone some of my ‘old’ way of looking at something.

And then I remembered another piece of motherly advice that was said repeatedly: Meet people where they are at.

Had I not complimented this young person on his nails, I would have missed the opportunity to tell him that he is a very good man and that his soon to be wife was fortunate for how much he understood her.

A few days later, I attempted to self-check with an unruly machine at the grocery store. It miscalculated my total and insisted that my organic bananas were almonds. I had to push the dreaded ‘help me now’ button, and a worker came over to assist. He quickly punched all the right keys to free me from produce jail. My eyes were drawn to his hands. Once again, black nail polish.

I felt her familiar presence come close once again, prompting me not to let this moment pass me by.

“Look at us. We have the same taste in nail color.”

He smiled at me.

“I was bullied so badly in school for wearing this and for other reasons. I dropped out.”

“Really? I am sorry to hear that.”

“I am smart, and no one understood me. I asked to move into an independent study. I basically did all the work by myself, but then I left and quickly got my GED. People don’t like others who they can’t figure out.”

How sad is this world we live in?

“Are you happy now?”

“Yes. I work here, but I am pursuing what I really want to do with my life.”

“Good for you to overcome such rough circumstances. You should be so proud of yourself.”

I could tell when he put his head down, he wasn’t accustomed to people giving him praise, but he smiled and thanked me.

We didn’t get a chance to talk further because he had to help another person and a malfunctioning machine. Whether he wants it or not, he has job security. Once again, I received another level of understanding and compassion because I commented on his appearance when I otherwise wouldn’t have. Ashamedly, I would have wanted to just inwardly feel a bit of distaste and not engage. But, when you are in the thick of spiritual growth, and you have asked to be shown things from a heavenly perspective, they start to appear to bring you up higher.

I know many people would say…your mom is gone now. And I say, no, she isn’t. There’s freedom in acknowledging that. It gives me peace and death..it has no sting. In a way that is hard to explain sometimes, but I understand her better now. She wasn’t perfect by any means, but then again, who is? She struggled with past issues that she never entirely freed herself from.

But, despite that, she has given me the insight to look past the obvious, and continues to subtly point me to the One who went to the cross and took on a different set of nails.

(She was also the one who used to call me lump lumps, and I hated it. Would annoyingly sing Here She Comes, Miss America when I was barely out of bed, and would never take NO for an answer!)

(On her 60th birthday, she didn’t realize we had flipped her candle to a 9..)

Hello..I am not Boris!

“What?” I said as I retyped my address for the fourth time. I paid close attention to the numbers on the screen. After each push of a key, I glanced up to see what numerical sign had gone in the prescribed box. Everything was in the right order. With an abrupt tap, I hit enter. I was in need of directions from my house to a location I had not been to before. It was late, and I had to be up early the next day.

No such address exists. Please re-enter your home address.

“Don’t tell me that I am not here! I am sitting in the middle of my living room at the address I have given you four times!”

I decided to charge ahead, take my chances and see if a fifth time would do the trick. This brought on another rejection and error message forcing me to find another online map to get the desired result. According to the first site, I was not even on the planet.

A few days later I noticed the balance on my credit card bill seemed higher than normal.  I had mentally kept track of the amount of spending I had done, so when I saw a number that was larger than expected, I scanned the pages of the bill looking for additional charges.  This caught my eye:

Find Hot Black Men

Online Dating for Black Women

Find Your Black Soul Mate

Someone had used my credit card to find the love of her life!

Reigning in my anger, I called customer service.  After the announcement that my call would be recorded along with the usual typing in of my number, followed by telling the customer service representative my number again, the last four digits of my social security number and my mother’s maiden name, I was finally able to express with some dignity,

“There are charges on my card that are not mine.”

“Which ones are you finding that are not yours?”

I told her the dates of the charges and added,

“I am really not in the market for a black man right now.  I am currently in a relationship.”  My sarcasm struck her as humorous.

“I understand, and I am really sorry that this happened to you.  We will cancel your current card and reissue you another one.  We will also send you a packet in the mail so you can put into writing exactly what has happened.”

For the first time in my life, I had been the victim of credit card theft.  Fortunately, I had held the same card over ten years, so the company easily could go back and track all purchases and see that the websites accessed would not be part of my history.

The paperwork she promised arrived a few days later along with a new card.  It made me wonder what type of person would steal my identity in order to find a date?  What man in his right mind would want to be in a relationship with a thief and a liar?  By stealing my credit card to find her dream man, she may have just set herself up to find the exact opposite.

As I began the arduous task of filling out the forms, I decided to forgive her and move on with my life.

These two events made me wonder what my significance is here.  If an online map can so callously erase me from the earth without even an email notification and a desperate woman can steal my personal information, then what defines me?

I think we are given a false sense of security when we have our own passwords and user names. We feel important when we can access what belongs to us by using a unique code or string of letters and numbers. Add on to that our social security numbers, our age, our weight and height, whom we call our friends, our hair color and the brand of clothes we wear, we think we are somebody.  The big glitch in the system is that all of these can be taken away or rearranged at any time leaving us feeling insecure.

We form our lives around our physical world and sometimes at the suggestions and pressure of others.  If you were laid bare of all of your wordly identifiers, who would you be?  Do you ever daydream about being someone else doing something other than what you are currently doing? Have you become shackled by the demands of others and this has determined now who you are? Did you envision yourself doing something really, really great, but now you find yourself living a life that doesn’t resemble what you wanted? That is true identity theft. That is the erasure of you off the planet, yet you are still living and breathing and waking up every day not living the life you want.

I have begun to understand that if I don’t live my life, who will?   I see successful people living their dreams, so why can’t I?  I believe the first step to living a genuine life is to fully embrace the idea that we can.  As I surround myself with more teaching that is positive about how much the Creator of everything loves us, I find it easier to put a barrier between who the world says I am and who I was designed to be.  The societal and cultural factors will exist around me, but I don’t have to swim so deep in it that I lose my true self.

A simple rule to follow is this: Be in the world, but do not conform to the world.  This does not mean we go about in rebellion. But, we rise up and defend ourselves and why we were put here.  If you can paint, then paint.  If you can write, then write. Do what makes you happy and do not listen to what you cannot do.  Your age doesn’t matter either.  Just begin right from where you are and expect that you can be whatever you came here to do.

“Hello?”

“Is this Boris?”

“Do I sound like I would be a Boris?”

“Not really. Well, I am looking for Boris.”

“I am not Boris.  My name is Christine.”

Click. And they hang up on me…

(I have been getting calls for Boris for three years now since I have been assigned a new home phone number.  I have had to respond to drug stores, dental offices, mattress factories, physcians offices, debt collectors, credit card companies and ward off car warranty people just to say…I am not BORIS!)

phone

Giving Me A Leg Up

I have dealt with self hatred my entire life.  I have gotten better, however, there are moments when I still criticize myself in subtle ways. While entering the store with my daughter the other day,  I noticed my reflection in the glass door. In that split second I thought, “I need to work on my legs to shape them up.” I had on a brand new tank top, shoes and a pair of shorts that I had purchased at the end of the season last year so they are fairly new. Instead of feeling good about my new clothes, I was slightly finding something wrong with myself.   It was a fleeting thought that soon was gone as we went up and down the aisles gathering my items off of my list.

As we exited, I noticed a pair of legs that appeared to belong to a woman.  She was standing near a garbage can off to the right side of where we came out.  Normally, my attention is not drawn to legs, but hers were covered with scabs from her kneecaps to her ankles.  Below her left knee she was wearing a large bandage.  From my quick glance, I could see that her wounds were dry but looked red and inflammed.  As I approached her line of sight I was telling myself,
“Don’t stare. Don’t stare.”  I put my head down as I strode past her.  My arms were full so I just pretended to be preoccupied with my bags.

“You look comfortable,” she said quietly to me. I stopped and turned to her.  Her smile was radiant.

“What?” I asked in disbelief.

“You look comfortable.”  I smiled wondering when she was going to ask me for money.  I knew where this was going.

“I do?” I asked.  I glanced down at myself and said, “Really?” She continued to smile and said again,

“Yes.  You look really comfortable in that.”

I allowed myself to look at her more closely. She was wearing a pretty sundress that came to just above her knees which clearly left her leg wounds exposed and open for all to judge and see.

“You are the one with the nice dress on,”I replied. “This is the best time of year to wear a dress in the warm weather. That looks good on you.”   She nodded and smiled.

“You just look very comfortable,” she said it again.

“Thank you,” I replied.

“Have a good day,” she said.

“You too.”

As I walked to the car, I was dumbfounded.  She had not asked me for any money, but she had given me something.  A compliment!  As my daughter and I discussed the situation I said,

“Did you see how bad her legs looked?”

“No.”

“What?!  Her legs were covered with wounds like she had leprosy.  I was trying not to stare at her before she started talking to me.  And, why did she say I looked comfortable?  I was questioning earlier if I really liked this shirt, but now I do. She actually made me feel good about myself.”

“I thought she was saying that you look comfortable in your own skin,” my daughter said.  “Like you appear confident and you like yourself.”

“HUH?”  Then it hit me. I recalled my harsh mental critique of myself when I had entered the store.

“You didn’t see her legs?”I asked again.

“No.”

“I’m going to drive around and see if she is still there.”  I pulled my car around the building and headed for the entry.  She was gone.  I drove away feeling like she had been sent to get something straightened out on the inside of me.

In the last few days I have been thinking about her smile and her words of kindess.  As I am becoming more aware of my faulty thinking, I am wondering where this all started.  When did I become conditioned to find something wrong with myself instead of finding something right?  Maybe it was demeaning words spoken to me at school as a child, a family member who picked on me or the media and its constant opinion of what is ugly or beautiful.  What do all of these things have in common?  Another person’s idea or judgment.

What trumps all of that?  The One who made me.  There is a passage in the Bible that says, “You are God’s Masterpiece.”  A Masterpiece lacks imperfection.  It is time to live in a place mentally where I let go of the negative self image that has some how made its way into my life.  The only legs I should ever judge should be the chicken legs I am about to purchase and make for dinner.  To the mystery lady who helped me see the error in my thinking, I say thank you for giving me a leg up.

chickenlegs

Setting the Captives Free

“Hey, come over by this tree.  I want you to see something.”

That was all it took for me to dart over to where my brother was standing. Being the youngest child in the family, I was always hoping for the attention of my oldest siblings. When they wanted to include me in on something, I didn’t want to miss my chance.

“Do you think I could tie you to this tree without any rope?”
“No,” I said.

He instructed me to face the tree as if I were going to hug it while he positioned my legs around the base.

“Now slide down slowly so you don’t scratch yourself and hang on with your arms wrapped around the trunk.”

I did what I was told and found myself sitting on the ground up close and personal smelling tree bark.

“Now, get up.”

I attempted to stand and found that I could not move. Somehow, he had trapped my feet under my legs. Using my arms for strength, I attempted to use the tree to pull myself up. I didn’t budge an inch.  Another family member came over and both of them laughed as I struggled. I wasn’t necessarily giving up all that easily, but I was wearing myself out with all of the exertion.

“She can’t move. Maybe we should just leave her there.” That struck a little bit of panic.

“Get me off the tree,” I said.

After what seemed a lifetime of torture, and I threatened to tell my mom, he lifted me up by my waist and put me back on my feet to stand. When I attempted to run as far from him as possible, I found that my legs were weak, so I had to settle for a limping exit.

I found out later that this was a technique used by the military to keep prisoners captive to ward off escape. Isn’t it unreal to think that a person’s own body can be used to keep him or her from moving? I believe many of us do this to ourselves all the time. We begin to feel trapped in our jobs, in our marriages and in our lives. Some of us don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe we have a staggering mountain of debt bearing down upon us and we don’t know how we are going to survive. We dwell on the problem. We tell everyone we know about the problem. Our whole focus is on the problem. And, suddenly, we have created our own snare with our thoughts and words. We have mentally chained ourselves so securely to the problem that it begins to affect every area of our lives.

If my family member would have not released me, I would have eventually become thirsty, hungry, dehydrated, and unable to live any longer. Thank goodness he didn’t do that, but this is what happens when we take an uncomfortable predictament and meditate on it day and night. We go to bed thinking about it, and before our eyes are open in the morning, we are pondering the situation. Our whole existence revolves around the trouble we have found ourselves facing, and just like I struggled over and over trying to stand up, we keep on attempting the same method without seeing any results. And, isn’t that exhausting?

Once I stopped fighting the inevitable and he saw that the entertainment was over, he came and assisted me. In the same regard, unless we allow divine intervention to rescue us, we are going to continue to be stuck in our circumstances not only physically but also mentally. The freedom that you are longing for can be had very easily if you will turn to heaven for help. And, unlike my brother, God is not amused about your trouble.

I used to think that I had to ‘qualify’ for God to hear me because He had alot of people on earth to contend with, so I didn’t want to be a bother. I really used to believe that, so I hesitated to ask for assistance. I still have a tendency to strive inwardly when I am faced with a challenge, but I am learning to reprogram myself to talk to heaven first and just say what I need and let it go.

I am finding that in order to live the ‘carefree life’, I must be willing to change the way I do things in order for peace to come in. I am often reminded of this bit of good advice: “Cast your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” A diligent effort must be made on my part not to try and stand on my own, but to allow God to lift me up and out of the mess I have found myself in. It doesn’t even matter if I created the mess, if I ask for help, it will be given.  After all, it is the job of heaven to set the captives free.

palmtree

Driving vs. Striving

As I got back into the passenger seat of the car, I realized I had left my keys on the counter in the store.  I had cashed in some reward points for a free coffee and the clerk had scanned the card on my keyring.

“I will be right back,” I said to my friend after explaining what I had to do.  An employee handed my keys to me as I walked in the door.

“We hoped you were coming back,” he said.   I thanked him and put them into my purse for safe keeping. With my head down, I exited the building shuffling things around at the bottom of my purse.  I opened the passenger door, threw myself into the seat and reached for the seatbelt.

“I cannot believe I could be so dumb!” I said as I buckled up.  “I left them right on the counter.”  My nose was suddenly accosted by a strong cigarette smell causing me to look up.  Staring back at me was a rather shocked stranger.  Unknowingly, because I was so distracted with my purse, I had entered and made myself comfortable in another person’s car!

“Oh my gosh!” I yelled as I saw my best friend look at me from the next car over.  It wasn’t just a glance either.  It was one of those ‘what in the world are you doing?!’ looks.  My fingers frantically tried to find the release button so I could eject myself from the situation.  As I slammed the door and was running away, I heard the stranger say, “What the fu***”  He didn’t say fudge.  Pretty sure he didn’t.

I whirled into the correct vehicle and slouched down.

“Let’s go!” I said as embarrassment overwhelmed me. My companion shook his head, started the car and began the interrogation.

“What made you do that? What were you thinking? Did you not see that he was not me?  Why did you get in that car?  I never moved my car, so what made you go to that car?”  I had no answer for his questions other than I had not paid attention when I had left the store.  All the way down the road I kept saying,

“I feel so stupid!  How could I be so stupid?”

The two of us grew quiet. In the silence, I felt the first bubbles of humor begin in my stomach.  Laughter then erupted as I thought about the facial expression of the stranger and my reaction.  My stomach muscles ached and tears rolled down my face as I replayed the scene through my mind.

“That guy was so confused!” The more I talked about it, the more hysterical I became.

I hadn’t thought about this incident for quite some time, but the other day it burst onto the scene of my memory, and I found myself giggling just as I had on that night. I began to think a little deeper about it.  What if the guy had locked me in and drove off?  I am certain that my best friend would have called the police and chased him down.  But, I would have been at the mercy of someone else in control of my whereabouts.  When I made the realization that I was in the wrong car, I quickly remedied the error as fast as I could. The unfamiliar smell of smoke is what woke me up to the fact that I was not with my friend.

It reminds me of how my life is taking a turn lately.  I feel like I have been in the wrong car being driven by someone other than myself.  I have taken in the scenery, complained about the situation, but I didn’t  jump out and start over.  The road I have been driving on has been paved by bad past experiences and being told repeatedly that I had to ‘play it safe’ or else.

I gradually have been waking up to the idea that my actions, thoughts, and beliefs have shaped my surroundings. Just like the cigarette smell put me on the alert that I was in the wrong place, I am becoming more aware of what I want out of life and what I need to eliminate from my belief system to get there.  I have allowed someone else’s opinions and limitations to take over my thinking so much so it has stopped me from determining things for myself.  I have had old programs of fear playing in my mind as well as feelings of unworthiness.

For example, today I was told I could pick out a bouquet of flowers at the local floral shop.  I found myself gravitating toward the ‘less expensive’ selection because I didn’t want this person to spend too much on me.  He knew what I was doing because he knows me, so he said, “Stop looking at the price and pick out what you want!”  I have been programmed to go the cheap route.  Do you find yourself looking at a price tag and deciding how much you are worth? Am I worth $9.99 or am I worth $29.99 plus shipping and tax?  I am not saying to go out and be greedy or foolish with your finances, but when are we important enough to receive some of the good stuff?

I have to admit, it is time consuming and expends much energy living in a place of unworthiness. If I would just let myself say ‘yes’ to the opportunity before me instead of running it through my internal filter as to why I shouldn’t have it, life would be less complicated.  Am I saying I am my own problem? Yes, I am.  So are you if you are identifying with this.  It’s time to exit the current vehicle, change lanes, do a u-turn and start over again. Leave the former things in the dust behind you.   Begin to believe that you are worthy to experience the best of life just because God put you here.  Stop striving and start driving.

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Hired Help

I recently took a vacation to West Palm Beach Florida unexpectedly. Family members who were scheduled to go on the trip suddenly found themselves unable to and offered us the chance to stay in their condo. We planned for a week and off we went.

Once in Florida, we went to pick up our rental car and were treated to an upgrade. We found ourselves in a brand new Mustang convertible for the entire week! It wasn’t difficult to adapt to buzzing around Florida and seeing new places while sipping on my Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. (the butter pecan is heaven) I found myself happily surprised that I could actually get a tan sitting in the car. Honestly, it began as a sunburn. I had a seatbelt strap mark across my chest for a few days as a reminder that I hadn’t put sunscreen on right away. I guess a traveler from Minnesota who has come from gray skies and cool temperatures can find herself a little too accommodating to the sun. After much sunscreen, it was a faded reminder of rookie mistake.

We were able to experience beautiful coast drives, walks along shorelines and fresh seafood.  I found myself surprised by the fact that I didn’t step foot into a Walmart until we were almost ready to come back home. For me, that is a true vacation. Getting away for awhile can be an eye opening experience. There are no schedules to abide by, you can read incessantly by the pool or the ocean and speak to someone from another part of the country.  It re-sets the thinking to expand and allow a person to see that there is a lot going on outside her backyard existence.  It gives you a chance to think, breathe and go to Sonic at all hours of the night for their half price specials and not feel a shred of guilt about it.  You are on VACATION!

Once I returned home, the routine started up again, and I found myself on the phone struggling with a problem.  I tried not to let it bother me, but it did.  All week it would pop up in my mind, and I would speak over the situation words of peace.  On Saturday, I decided to go on a long walk.  It gave me a chance to think about what was going on without distraction.  I had texted a friend of mine earlier in the day regarding the issue, and he said: “What are you not letting go of?”  As I walked along, I pondered that.  Why was I struggling so hard with this?  What was causing me anxiety and loss of sleep or waking up with my heart pounding? The conclusion was that I felt alone. I felt like I had to fight the fight on my own.  Without going into too much detail about the problem, I was being transferred from one agency to another by phone.  Being put on hold. Being disconnected.  No answers forthcoming.  Instead of hanging up, I held on.  Sadly, I wasted an hour on hold at one point and then a recorded message came on that let me know that ‘all our lines are busy, please call back later.’ Dial tone.

I began to think about the condo we had just stayed in and the thought went through my mind, “While you were on vacation, wouldn’t it have been ridiculous to do the job of the hired help?”  I laughed at the thought of being on vacation and making everyone’s beds, vacuuming the hallways and taking out the trash.  It wasn’t necessary for me to do so because the condo had maids and staff to meet our every whim. Many times while there I was asked how our stay was and if there was anything we needed.  We would come back from a long day out exploring and find fresh towels and emptied trash containers.  It was simply done for us.  The help was there to do it for us. It was supplied.

So, what would happen if I began to allow the help of heaven? I believe in divine help and that God has already supplied everything I need.  Why then must I fight to get it?  I don’t believe I have read anywhere that God expects me to come up with a plan or fight to get something.  In fact, the Bible says He has a good plan all worked out for us and He wants to meet our needs. We have the Holy Spirit who is to guide us and divine workers to carry out the orders. I realized that I have been trying to accomplish my life by myself and not fully allowing the hands of heaven to assist me.

I have been under the false idea that I am to muddle my way through and if problems arise, I have to solve them without help.  I believe this thinking comes from a divorce I experienced a number of years ago and was left in charge as a single mom of two and a household to run. Also, I was raised to be a problem solver.  It was expected as I was growing up to be ‘independent’ and do things for myself.  That is a good character quality to have unless it cripples a person from asking for help.

As I strolled through my neighborhood, I lifted my concern to heaven and told God I needed help.  By the time my walk ended, I felt lighter and less concerned about the outcome of my unresolved situation.  It really is much easier to get through something and maintain peace.  As I have come to find out, the calm on the inside of me makes my outward circumstances line up quickly.

The next morning, I asked for a sign that heaven was working on my behalf.  I prayed and asked that angels be sent out to do the behind the scenes work so that my issue could be resolved quickly.  Shortly after, I was walking through a parking lot (Yes, Walmart) and I saw a heart shaped bracelet laying at my feet.  How quickly the divine responds when we ask for a boost of confidence.

I encourage you to call upon the hired help of heaven, and let the work be done for you. heart

Fears, Fretting and Finances

During the month of March, I decided to try an experiment with my beliefs about abundance and prosperity.  I have been in a few religious circles in my time and have absorbed different teachings on the subject.  I have been told that God supplies all my needs.  I have been told that He will punish me for not giving to the church enough by making me miserable in my finances through hardships such as my car breaking down, my appliances blowing up or an unexpected mishap will befall me.  Then, I was told that God loved me no matter what.  That His love was bigger than I could ever imagine.  But, there was always the but….if I didn’t serve in the church or jump through this hoop or do that thing, well, then maybe He might just not put a checkmark in my box for the go-ahead for that need I have.

I decided to put all of that teaching aside.  I made the choice to believe that God loves me like no one else can, and the good things of life can be obtained regardless of who I am.  Don’t we see that all the time?  Do you ever wonder how that greedy, selfish person came away with so much money and you wonder, why not me?  I am good.  I am not greedy. I made the determination that I was worthy of having extra money for no reason other than I am here, I am breathing, and I have needs.  If other people can have what they want out of life, then why not me?

I discovered a technique about a year ago that helps a person deal with emotions.  Sure, I have them, and so do you.  I love the happy ones, but I don’t so much like the ones that make me feel sad, angry, frustrated or depressed about myself. Aren’t those moments in life great when you say to yourself, “Gee.  I was having so much fun, I forgot to worry.  I forgot the problem even existed for just a little while.” You see, for some of us worriers, we make it our full-time job.  If we aren’t sleeping, we are thinking about how things are, how we don’t like our circumstances and all the bad things that COULD come our way if we don’t take care of this problem.  I hate to admit it, but worry has been my choice of drug for quite some time.  I didn’t come to earth with a worrisome thought, but I have picked up the habit from those around me who taught me.  I am not here to beat up those individuals because someone taught them and they passed it on to me.  So, another piece to setting myself free was to rid myself of the anxiety and fear that would rise up in me every time I thought about my money or took a peek with one eye closed at my bank account.  This was the key place for me to start.

How can I believe that I am worthy to receive money and the good things in life when I am filled up with fear and concern?  The technique I used is called “EFT” (Emotional Freedom Technique) I don’t fully remember how I stumbled on to this, but it has helped me begin to change my programming and thinking to what it should be.  The first time I watched a YouTube video and followed the instructions, I laughed my way through it.  I made sure I was in a room with the door tightly shut so that my family wouldn’t think I had gone crazy.  Without going into too much detail, EFT involves light tapping with the fingertips on various points on the face, chest and head.  It has proven to relieve not only emotional pain but physical pain for those of us who are brave enough to give it a try. I found out later that some people at a church I had been attending used tapping to help a family member quit smoking.  I had to get over the idea that somehow I was doing something ‘evil’ or that God would not approve of.  But, I was getting such good results, the guilt disappeared so I used it off and on.

It wasn’t until this past month that I began to take it seriously to begin clearing out the emotions that were not serving me.  I decided to begin working on my fear of ‘not having enough.’  I have put off buying myself small things or doing little things just because I was so afraid I would run out of money.  No matter how much money I had in my account, I felt this overwhelming panic that it would drain down to nothing, I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills and take care of my responsibilities.  I made the decision to do the things I was afraid to do.

It wasn’t the typical ‘white knuckle’ experience either.  You know the one I am talking about where you are afraid of snakes or spiders so you put your bare hand into a cage and touch them while you suffer.  It wasn’t like that.  I began acknowledging that I had fear.  That’s a great place to start because a lot of us stuff down our true feelings.  I began tapping daily and saying, “Even though I have this fear of not having enough, I know that God loves me.  I know that He wants me to have enough because He has promised to meet all of My needs.  He takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servants.  His perfect love casts out all fear. ” I noticed that the panic feeling in my stomach area was slowly dimminishing.

I became more aware of where I was feeling the fear in my body and the instensity of it.  As I began doing this experiement, I had recollections of situations where I didn’t know how I was going to pay a bill or meet an obligation.  Much of this stemmed from a divorce from a few years ago where I suddenly became a single mother and had to navigate unfamiliar waters of mortgage payments and an assortment of bills. I told a counselor at the time that I felt like I had been shoved out of a plane without a parachute. I could see the ground as I was free falling, and I lived each day anticipating the crash.

While tapping one morning, a particular memory surfaced regarding the first Christmas after the divorce.  I had received a gift basket from a local church.  I sat in the living room feeling so ashamed that my life had taken this turn that I had to submit myself to receiving charity.  I didn’t see it as a blessing at the time.  I felt embarrassment in front of my two young daughters who were looking to me for answers.  My marriage that was supposed to last my lifetime was over, and I was fully responsible for the management of the household going forward. While thinking of this from the past, I found myself crying as if I were back in that moment. I began to tap on the various points and said, “I release and let this go.”  That was all I said as I cried.  Amazingly, I can think of that moment from my past now, and I don’t feel any emotions.  I got it all out of my system.

As the feelings of fear and anxiety began leaving, I found myself wanting to do the things I had told myself I couldn’t afford.  I took two road trips, ate out more than usual, bought items that I had denied myself for years, went to a toy sale and bought gifts for a family who just found out that a baby is on the way, and I purchased a gift card so a friend and her husband could have a night out for dinner.  I did all of this without the fear hanging over me like a dark shadow.  I found myself joyful, relaxed and hopeful that life wasn’t about trying not to go under.  I felt weights of worry lift off even more as I went about my life doing good not only for myself but for others around me.

Here is the really exciting part…I had money left over at the end of the month to put into my savings account.  To wake up in the morning and not have worry hit me before my eyes are open is the best part of the entire experience.  I cannot say that I am entirely free of the fretting, but I am putting into practice a new way of doing things.  I encourage you to do the same.

A book I found helpful on EFT: The Tapping Solution by Nick Ortner

A Youtube channel: Brad Yates (The guy has everything you could ask for about what ails you emotionally. He offers free tapping sessions to help clear out those things that are weighing you down.)