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..)

Strong Finish

“I prayed for a money bonus,” she said as I walked through the living room.

“A bonus?”

“Yes. I asked God to send me extra money as a way to practice using my words and faith. I want to see if it will work.”

My daughter wasn’t asking out of a need but to build her walk with God. I didn’t know what that was like. I always asked heaven for financial help to pay a bill, and so far, so good.

Her request was a bit beyond mine, and I had never thought to pray for something I wasn’t in a crisis for because I thought that was the rule. Don’t you have to have an emergency to wring a drop of help from above?

“I’m just putting it out there to see what happens.”

“So is this bonus like at the casino where the machine launches you into that extra thing? You play the regular game, and then it suddenly takes you to a different screen to accumulate more?” I had watched her do that numerous times.

“Yes. That’s why I am saying it’s a bonus, and it’s an add-on to what I already have.”

With Christmas around the corner, my thought was her chances were pretty high that someone would give her a gift, possibly money.

But, the holidays came and went, and her prayer went unfulfilled. I forgot all about it, and she didn’t mention it to me again.

She doesn’t like clutter, but she often gets very busy with her career, so her room and workspaces can be a mess.

During the first week of January, she declared one morning that she would straighten up her room. It had gotten to the point of overload where she was feeling confined. Just like me, this process feels like an evil necessity. I don’t want to do it, but I know I will love it when I walk in the door to be surprised as if a maid had magically appeared. She would thank herself later for taking the time now.

I began my day when I heard,

“Mom! Oh my gosh! MOTHER!”

It was one of those statements where I was in her room and didn’t recall how I got there that fast.

“What’s wrong?”

She was standing by her bookshelves, holding two $50 bills.

“Did you find that?”

When both my girls tidy up, they always find a small lost treasure, like a couple of extra dollars or a piece of jewelry.

“This wasn’t here before.”

She kept looking at each hand.

“What?”

“Remember how I asked for a money bonus? I didn’t put a time on it or an amount. I was cleaning that top shelf, and these were folded neatly there.”

The space she spoke of was high, and no one had been in her room or in our house to do this.

I took one of the brand new bills from her hand. It had that new smell, and the paper wasn’t worn. Like it had been freshly printed.

Even though she knew it would eventually manifest, her shock was quite evident.

“I know it works now.”

“Put it to work for me,” I said.

In the summer, we went to the track. She took the money with her because she had intended that it would be used for something entertaining. As each race ended, her money was dwindling. Her picks weren’t coming to fruition, and I could see her irritation rising. She isn’t accustomed to losing, and while she looked serene to the outside world, I sensed the frustration. Her mind was making her believe that all was not going her way.

As we approached the machine to make her guesses for the final race, she said with much annoyance,

“I am here to have fun! And I’m getting all my money back right now!”

I watched her fingers fly across the touch screen as she decided to play the trifecta. This meant she had to correctly predict the horses that would come in to win, place and show, and it was an all-or-nothing chance. She didn’t bat an eyelash as she punched it in and hastily grabbed the printout.

We had some time to wait, and she said again,

“I’m getting it all back! Right now!”

There was a tone in her voice that meant she wasn’t backing off believing that she could. Like when Jesus flipped tables kind of energy.

The horses lined up, and the bell rang. We watched the screen to see how it would all end. I wasn’t even sure who she had bet on because she hadn’t told me.

She calmly watched as all three of her picks eased across the finish line in the exact order she had set.

At the collection window, she was given back all of her bonus money.

She had won the trifecta once before, so she had the confidence that she could do it again. That made all the difference when the mood went from downcast to “nothing can stop me from accomplishing this.”

In Jeremiah 17:7-8 it says,

But blessed is the man who trusts God,
the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers.
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season.

It looked like she was going to lose it all, but she came out the winner.

You and I are running a race with God cheering us on. We get to decide how we proceed. Will we do it with joy, peace, and faith? Or do we go with a double mind mentality and doubt? My daughter put no parameters on her prayer, and she just flung it out there on a whim to see what would transpire and let it go. It all came to pass, and we all have that power.

No horse limped across the line. They were in their best shape, charging forward with the end in mind. Are you doing that? Are you inwardly driven to victory?

2 Timothy 4:7 says:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Determine to have a strong finish.

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

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.

Come To The Table

At the beginning of November, my daughter and I began the quest to find a table for our kitchen.

In 2011, we had packed up our house and moved to Arizona where we thought we would reside indefinitely. Within 11 months, I was back to where I started, however, I had given away my dining room table and six chairs. I had put all of it under a tree on my boulevard with a free sign. A lady came to my door and asked,

“Is that really for free?”

“Yes, I am moving and it is just too much to take with me.”

“I need a table just like that.  I have six kids and can’t afford one right now. Is it okay if I have a friend help me haul it to my house?”

“Sure.”

I ended up standing guard by it until she returned. As it was being loaded up into a truck, she had tears in her eyes.

“Now we can have a meal at a real table with chairs.”

After moving back to my house, we ‘temporarily’ filled in the space by putting up a long white plastic work bench. It served its purpose for longer than it should have, and six years later, we couldn’t stand it anymore. It was a good place to lay a purse, work on a project or throw junk mail, but without enough chairs, it certainly was not a table to have a meal or gather around regularly. It had really become an eyesore.

Off we went one Saturday to find the replacement. I learned quite quickly how to spot the hovering sales people. I would see a clipboard and suddenly my pace would go into turbo speed, and I would weave in a pattern much similar to what I have heard survivalists teach if you don’t want to get shot. If you move fast enough, and change direction repeatedly, you have a better chance of not getting hit.

I did find myself trapped on one occasion. I think I got so wrapped up in looking that I didn’t see him coming out of my peripheral vision.

“Do you need any help with anything?”

I gave the customary response, “No, we are just looking today.” Smile.

I really don’t mind having help when I need it, and I know he needs to make a living, but sometimes I feel like I cannot have a moment just to contemplate and think as we were shopping.

He nodded politely and said,

“If you need me for anything, let me know.”

I assured him that I would as she and I continued to browse.

Less than five minutes later, he was back by my side. This is when I really had to paste on a happy face because I don’t like to be pressured.

“Anything yet?” He inquired.

“No, we are still looking,” I said less enthusiastically.

Putting his clipboard under his arm so he wouldn’t drop it, he put both of his hands together in the form of a prayer. He slightly bowed and said,

“Your journey continues then.”

I expected a gong to sound as if I was on an episode from the old 70’s show Kung Fu.

“Yes, yes it does,” I said trying not to laugh because he was being serious.

Many furniture stores later, and two Saturdays lost, I said to my daughter,

“We are done looking. The table needs to come to us. God is going to have to send it to us.” She agreed as she was not enjoying the search any more than I was.

On the Saturday night after Thanksgiving, I came home and put on my comfy new pajamas, got something to drink and plopped on the couch ready to relax. The big meal was over, I had gotten some baking done over the weekend, and I was ready to be quiet. I started watching a show I had recorded while my daughter was sitting in a chair working on her computer.

I suddenly woke up with a jolt to my own loud snore! Very unladylike, but the fatigue was real.

“Darn! I have missed part of my show,” I said. Just as I was reaching for the remote to rewind, a furniture commercial came on.

I saw a table and set of four chairs.

“Hey! Have you looked into this place?”

“No,” she said. I rewound the commercial which was quite short so we could see it again. Had I not woken up, we would have missed it.

We both went online and saw that they were having a sale that ended the next day, so we agreed that it would be worth the trip.

Interestingly, no salesperson greeted us at the door. We zipped over to what we both knew we would like and took a few moments to admire it and picture how it would look in the kitchen. I had to track down a lady for help.

Less than 24 hours later, a table and four chairs had been purchased and ready for delivery.

I realized that while I was not paying attention, literally snoring on the couch, the table and chairs had indeed found us. Instead of sweating it out searching, I had just thrown up a request before heaven, and my prayer was answered.

The set was delivered today, and as the delivery guy put it together he said,

“This is a nice table.  I don’t know why they discontinued it.  You aren’t going to find this one again.”

He didn’t know it had found me.

How much more could be accomplished on our behalf if we would just ask, rest and trust? Our loving Creator tells us to freely come to the table.

 

Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (NIV)

 

 

 

Stop and Smell the Roses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He had my contact information and we parted ways.

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

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

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

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

“Really?”

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

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

That is when it came back to me….

I will send a man to help with the pool. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much will this cost me?

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

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

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

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

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

 

flowers

 

 

 

 

 

Playing the Game Right

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

“You have to get that game!” he said.

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

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

“Thank you,” I answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

“Buy the ranch!” I heard her say.

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

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

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

 

machi koro