Right Place

Every church that I have attended had a children’s Bible school. For a week every day, I would drop off my girls so they could learn more about God. This was a long way from how I was brought up, and they actually liked to go. My experience as a child, on the other hand, with anything church related, felt like surgery without anesthesia.

We were attending a pretty large church, and they spared no expense. All week they kept encouraging the kids to bring friends. At the end of every session, they made a point to bring out this gigantic plastic bag filled with paper. The more friends a kid brought, the more entries were put in for a prize.

All week, they continually mentioned that they would be giving away an Apple iPod on the final day. This was one of the very first models on the market in the early 2000s.

They gave away smaller rewards daily with the constant reminder that on Friday, all names that had been put in the bag all week would have the potential to win.

On the evening before the final day, my oldest daughter, who was nine years old, told me she wanted to bring a friend.

“I want to win the iPod.”

I remember thinking, you will have one entry after this whole week, and you think you can win that? Kids were hauling in strangers off the street to walk away with it.

I didn’t say that, but I told her I would ask her friend’s mom if she could come along the next day.

She explained that it was the only thing that had appealed to her, and she didn’t want anything else.

Every day I had sat upstairs in a waiting room reading while they attended. That particular day I decided to sit in the balcony to hear and see what they were being taught.

They were all given coins to go to a make-shift store to buy candy or other fun things. Like I said, my fire and brimstone upbringing was nothing like this Willy Wonka atmosphere.

They dismissed the kids by age. I watched her and her friend leave to spend their pretend money.

The sanctuary began to fill up as the time to end neared. She wasn’t back, which didn’t surprise me because it’s not in her nature to spend what she has been given quickly. She likes to consider and contemplate her choices. And then ponder some more.

“Okay, so we are going to do some other drawings before the big one we have been telling you about. We are going to wait until everyone gets back here for that.”

This massive bag looked like it was holding shredded pieces of paper. It was full of names, and I saw a lot of hopeful faces. They started giving away items working their way up to what all of them were eyeing.

Where are they? Her younger sister and her friend were already seated. I leaned over the railing, trying to see the back door.

I saw the children’s pastor scanning the room, trying to determine if all the kids were back. I looked at the clock, and they should have been done, but apparently, they were still hardcore shopping.

“We are going to do the final prize drawing, and if we call a name and that person isn’t here, we will pick another.” Some kids had already left.

I leaned over more trying to see where she was. What was taking this child so long?

I saw him reach in and pull out the tiniest strip.

I looked at him and back again to the door.

He said her name.

He repeated it. I knew I couldn’t get down the stairs quick enough to grab her. So I tried to get his attention from the balcony so he would know she was still in the building, but he could not see me.

He kept looking at all the faces for hers. Because I helped in the children’s ministry, he knew her and me.

He repeated her name.

You have got to be kidding me! What was she doing? This is why they say we get grey hair.

Suddenly she materialized at the door.

He spoke her name, and I could tell by the look on her face that she was unsure what was happening.

She froze in place like she thought she was in trouble for being late.

Her friend realized the meaning and said,

“He said your name! You won!”

Because she wasn’t moving, the pastor started walking toward her.

“You won the iPod.”

I saw the smile spread across her face as the realization sunk in that she wasn’t going to be rebuked but be rewarded.

Into her hands went the grand prize.

We took it to the store later because we had no idea how to use it. After a quick crash course, she was happily listening to music.

A month later, I took them to the state fair. One of the tv stations was doing a giveaway of another version of the iPod, more of a compact one. When you have two kids, everything has to be even. Or at least that was my philosophy.

This time, I was the only one who could throw an entry in because you had to be over eighteen. I scribbled my information on the pink slip and placed it in this metal tumbler with a large handle. There was a little wait until they were going to make the announcement.

I asked the girls,

“Are we in agreement that it’s ours?”

I was attempting to apply this from the book of Mathew:

When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. (Message)

I was always trying to have them move through life with a simple reliance on God for whatever they wanted.

They said they believed with me for the win.

The canister was spun, and I saw the paper taken out. It was weirdly folded like in accordion style, and I instantly determined by how it looked that it wasn’t mine. Some people think if they shape their entry a certain way, it will make it more susceptible to be plucked up. I folded mine in half, and there was no way it was me.

The lady reading it unraveled it like a scroll and stated that someone from my city had won. What an extraordinary coincidence! I was possibly going to see someone that lived by me.

I said to the girls, “I wonder if I know this person?”

I had mentally abandoned the tiny bit of faith I had moments ago.

When she read my name, I was in absolute shock. I looked at them, and they both lit up.

I handed it right over to my younger daughter. The miracle of winning two of them just weeks apart was a reminder of this in Mark 11:24:

I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. (NLT)

I don’t even know if my prayer counted, but I think theirs did. Someone out of the three of us didn’t waver.

Or, this was true:

I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”(Matthew 17:20, NLT)

Why is it so easy to forget the hand of God at work in our lives? We pray, the answer shows up, and then we go on to worry about the following situation.

In both of these instances, the end result was not life or death, and they were each given something that would brighten their days. So if you are under the impression like I used to be, that God only helps if circumstances are critical, then think again. He handed out two iPods, so what else can be done?

I have found that what we think about ourselves determines the strength of our beliefs. If you feel you are unworthy, then you are. And you will get back according to that mindset. If you think you lack confidence, then you do, and your results will reflect that.

What does God think of you? In Ephesians 2:10 it says,

For we are God’s masterpiece. (NLT)

So if you walked into a museum, your picture would be the most important one in the whole place and super expensive. So if you feel undeserving, that is not God’s view of you. That has been something either put on you by others, or you have taken it upon yourself as accurate. It’s an illusion. And it needs to be healed and changed so your prayer life and relationship with God can excel.

You aren’t supposed to cower and come like a scolded child, hoping that you will be heard.

In Hebrews 4:16 it says:

So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most. (Voice)

Heaven is waiting for you to take on your actual persona. You were created to be a powerful force and vessel that God can operate through to change the world around you for the better of all.

And once you surrender your made-up faulty image for God’s view of you, life will become more enjoyable, you will achieve more, and you will be effortlessly led with perfect timing to the right place.

(The grand prize that is now in her box of memories kept forever…)

Unexpected

My daughter and I wandered into the air freshener aisle at the store. Cans of seasonal sprays, plug-in devices, and candles pervaded an entire section. It was one massive scent parade. An equally large clearance display housed the already forgotten summer fare of cotton laundry, ocean breezes, sunflower burst, and Malibu sunshine. It was, after all, barely the first week of September. Room needed to be made immediately for everything that suggested colder weather, crackling fireplaces, and sweaters. There was no more running wild in flip-flops and short sleeve shirts. It was time to buckle down and bundle up! Yet, it was still 85 degrees outside. 

She sensed my dissatisfaction with looking at pumpkin anything this early. I pulled out my phone to distract myself as she surveyed her options. 

“You don’t want me to get this,” she said, picking up my thought. 

It felt too early. My tan lines hadn’t faded, and I knew how this always ended. By the stroke of midnight one second past Thanksgiving, everything she was considering buying would be in the trash. All of this seemed so thrilling now but day after day of it got to be monotonous. Half of the product would go unused. Then it would be onto evergreen or sugar cookie, which I already saw on the shelf creeping their way in. 

“No, I don’t. Are you sure you will even use it? You know how you get tired of it quickly.”

She has a slight weakness for anything marked Limited Edition, so I didn’t put a lot of energy into dissuading her as I knew my efforts were futile. 

She went on to smell another offering, and I went back to not paying attention. Locking down her choice and sliding it into the cart, I still had a visual of me throwing it away in two months. 

Once at home, I took out a new box of baking soda. I had scoured the extra refrigerator in the garage, and it needed a replacement. My daughter was emptying the contents of her shopping bags on the kitchen table as I headed out the door. 

I was just about to open the fridge when I realized I forgot to mark the date to remind myself when another box would be necessary. 

I spun around quickly in the pursuit of a black sharpie located in the kitchen. From that moment, I don’t clearly recall everything. Right as I pushed open the door to go back in, I collided with my daughter, who had one arm upraised. This caused me to look upward at her hand. In a swift, sweeping motion, she dispensed pumpkin air freshener into my eyes, onto my lips, and straight up my nose. I gasped, which only caused me to inhale more, and my tongue fell victim. I had luckily slammed my eyes shut out of an initial response. 

“Mom! Oh, no! Are you ok? Mom! Mom!” 

I was saturated in an artificial mist cloud, leaving me without the ability to communicate or breathe properly. 

The more I was frozen in place with my eyes closed, the more she panicked. 

“Mom! Please say you are ok! Mom!”

Finally, able to speak, I said one word, 

“Why?” 

“I wanted you to be able to smell it when you came back in. I was going to spray it around the whole door, so you could see what it was like. You were supposed to walk through it and be surrounded by it.

She had maced me. 

I ventured to open my eyes a crack. There was no burning, just the overpowering aroma of factory produced pumpkin, mainly because I had a wet upper lip dripping with the scent. 

I looked at her through the haze. Her eyes were wide with her finger still on the nozzle. 

I have lived long enough to have tasted pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin bars. This was not that at all. Not even close. It was a disguised can of hair spray marketed for autumn. 

I noticed I had somehow held onto the box of soda as I started to return to a state of consciousness. 

“Mom? Are you ok?”

“No! I am not! I’m not okay! No! None of this is okay! Nothing about this is ok at all!”

And that’s when I started laughing so hard I could not stand up. I ended up lying on my back in the middle of the kitchen. The air closer to the floor wasn’t as perfume ladened, but I was a walking fragrance from which there was no escape. I tried rubbing it off my face, but it soaked in more and transferred itself onto my hands. As I took in oxygen, I got to experience the simulation of fall over and over. 

Assuming I was fine, she laughed with me. 

“I wanted you to see that it wasn’t a waste to buy it, and I would use it.” 

I rolled to my side, trying to stop the waves of laughter that gripped me. 

I caught my breath for a moment to say, 

“It is not even fall yet!”

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time isn’t a pleasant experience. I was going about my life, not anticipating a seasonal assault at the door. 

My daughter intended to “cozy” up the house, but it didn’t turn out that way. Her timing and mine were off. What if your timing and God’s don’t coincide? Do you keep trying to make something happen, or do you wait until the way opens up? 

I think we all know when something is easy, and all the pieces fall simply into place. There’s no force needed or coercion, and it just comes along naturally. Often with God, we are left with mouths hanging open in awe. All of your plans could never be as detailed and take into account all that is involved. 

Lagging is never a good idea either because opportunities get missed, and regrets happen later. So how do you walk in line with the Creator of all? 

Proverbs 3:5-12

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;

    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;

    he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Message)

So as we move into another season, where things change beyond our control, remember the One who is in control of it all. You never know when that great thing you have been waiting for will suddenly manifest. 

Often God’s timing is just like that pumpkin spray…unexpected.