Shape Up

“We should do a plank challenge,” she said.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Every day, you do a plank exercise, but you hold yourself in that position a little longer each time.”

She showed me a graphic that outlined the idea from day 1 to day 30.

“On the first day, you only do twenty seconds?”

“Yes.”

That seemed so simple, and I could give up that amount of time without regret.

“On Day 30, I’m supposed to be able to do this for 5 minutes?”

“Yes.”

I had spent years doing various workout programs, always getting somewhat bored and moving on to another one. Going to a gym never was high on my list. In my twenties, I did, and I found it inconvenient compared to being at home.

During a time when I was drinking diet pop, I would have significant blood sugar drops. I didn’t equate that I was putting in chemicals that represented something that my body thought it needed to supply insulin for.

At times, the reaction would get so severe that I would begin to lose my eyesight. The only way that I had learned to counteract it was to consume sugar as quickly as possible. I could feel the symptoms begin with overall fatigue that would spiral into a waterfall of sweat. From there, it just would get worse. If I caught it fast enough, I could stop it quickly.

After drinking an entire can of diet pop, I had just gotten started in a class and ate next to nothing before arriving. My nutrition plan was starvation.

I felt the first wave of weakness begin and tried to ignore it. My idea was to mentally combat it and stay focused on what the instructor was saying.

I had never had this situation occur while I was exercising, and it seemed to worsen.

I could no longer withstand it anymore; I knew I had to solve the issue or be in total darkness.

This was way before I had children, and I didn’t carry around a vast purse stuffed with everything known to man for all emergencies. I had seen my mom do that, but I was carefree and never prepared for anything; I was living on the edge with only a wallet.

When this state of being would come upon me, I had to move fast to get help. It’s similar to a person needing their next inhalation of nicotine or some other substance they are addicted to. Nothing else matters at that moment while your body is begging for attention.

I grabbed change from my locker, and in a fog that was rapidly overtaking me, I thought I would quickly find what I needed.

I forgot where I was, and back in those days, they believed in no vending machines, unlike now. If you were there to improve yourself, they would ensure you had the whole experience of pain and suffering. Why would I think I could find sugar in a gym? I saw wide-eyed stares at the front desk as I sprinted out the door. They thought I must have gotten inspired to run an impromptu marathon.

My only choice was to exit and go to a grocery store in the same strip mall. I was not moving slow but somewhat erratically down this long hallway, knowing that I could blackout in public. That was what I had read about the subject, anyway. Some have gone into a coma-like state if this condition isn’t attended to, and I didn’t want to do that in public.

At this point, calories don’t matter, and stopping the progression is the goal. I spotted two small gumball machines with candy in them, and I jammed in one dime after another while cranking the handle.

As fast as I could, I shoved them in my mouth and kept getting more. I could feel my legs getting numb, and it was spreading into my hands.

I must have appeared like a crazy person who couldn’t stand one more second of a restricted diet. I had come running out of a gym, hit the candy like I was playing a slot machine, and sweating profusely while chewing.

In my haze, I had not noticed the man leaning up against the wall watching all of this.

I heard a loud slurp through a straw. In mid-gulp of Mike and Ike’s, I looked up.

“You can’t eat that! You are going to get fat!”

My mouth was so full I couldn’t defend myself, and he took on the role of my life coach.

“You don’t want to do that to yourself! This is going to make you gain weight! You are going to get fat!”

All I could do was stare at him and keep eating.

“It can’t be that bad! Get back to the gym! This isn’t what you want to do, and you are undoing all of your hard work.”

I ignored him and deposited another coin.

“Lady! Listen to me! You are going to regret this later! Stop eating that!”

This went on for a few minutes. I was battling off the lights going out, and he was harassing me.

Once I got myself to feel more normal, I said out of breath,

“I had a blood sugar drop. I had to do that.”

“I don’t believe you. I think you just wanted junk food.”

At first, I thought he was joking, but the more I tried to explain, the more he accused me of being a person who had just escaped a fat camp.

I walked away with him yelling at me,

“Quit eating that stuff! You are going to gain weight!”

I canceled my membership after that, never looked back, and decided to faint at home, not in front of weird strangers. When the kids did come along, and I hefted a heavy purse everywhere I went, I didn’t have time for it anyway.

My daughter’s suggestion of doing a workout with me was not out of the ordinary. We had tried an assortment of them. The chin-up bar across the bathroom entry hadn’t seen a chin in months. The huge, inflated, life-changing ball was slowly losing air, taking up space in the corner. All of the pilates and yoga DVDs were collecting dust. Multicolored bands were resting on a shelf somewhere, waiting to be used. And we just paraded by them all with bowls of ice cream.

“When do we start this?” I asked her.

I looked at the calendar. If we started it that second, we would be finished on Thanksgiving Day.

We decided this was perfect timing to discipline ourselves into a healthy habit before eating for ten people.

On Day 1, when the twenty seconds were up, I wondered if this was too easy for me. I found as the days rolled by and time was added on, it wasn’t simple. Even with a rest day every six days, it was starting to become a chore to endure. The one-minute mark on Day 7 was when I realized I had been lured into something that had seemed so basic but was proving to be otherwise.

I felt like time stood still as I balanced on my toes and forearms, pondering my life. The soreness in every part of my body would rear its ugly head, especially when I would have to go up or down the stairs, generally in a hurry but having to bow down to the fire that ripped through muscles I didn’t even know I had.

“The girl in the picture was smiling,” I said to my daughter as we advanced and had time to kill.

I contemplated my life, balanced my checkbook in my mind, did meal planning, and mentally made a grocery list not to acknowledge that everything was shaking. At the tone going off to announce our freedom, we both crumpled to the floor.

“Why are we doing this again?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said with her face on the carpet.

Once we were at a minute, 30 seconds got added on next. Then ten-second increments. Little by little, the torture was slowly creeping in.

Day 18 brought 2 minutes and 30 seconds to the table, and it was like a lifetime. So, what kept me going? I had read about the health benefits of better core strength, balance, more energy, a faster metabolism, improved mood, a reduction in injuries, and stronger back muscles.

The night before our final session, I held myself stationary for 4 minutes and 30 seconds while trying not to scream breathe. I had come a long way from a mere 20 seconds. Only one more day, and it was going to be the mother of them all. 5 minutes.

I woke up with the worse backache of my life! I crawled out of bed, unable to complete the final round. I could not believe that I had done the entire thing, only to be cut off on the very last day. Instead of realizing how far I had come, I only felt defeated that I couldn’t finish what I had started. I didn’t ever want to hear the word plank again.

In my walk spiritually, I have had these same moments where I knew I was to go a certain way, but then the path I was on led me in an entirely different direction. But that’s how living by faith goes. When you begin, you might not know the outcome.

In Proverbs 16:9, there is a good reminder that we are not in control and never will be:

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. (NLT)

It may be a tough pill to swallow at times, but if you want to live fully under the shadow of heaven’s wings, you have to conclude that it’s not all about you. Eyes are watching that see everything from a standpoint that we cannot, and our lives are meant to be used for the good of all humanity.

Underused body parts will let you know when they are not comfortable, and there have been times when I have not felt secure as my abilities to see and hear the unseen realm are increasing. I didn’t want to be deemed different than others, so I hid the truth of who I am becoming so others don’t live in fear because of me. If you can’t explain it, you set yourself up for the judgment of others, and that’s fun.

Growth involves not staying where you have been, so there’s going to be letting go of old, worn-out ideas, saying goodbye to what doesn’t serve you anymore, and coming to know the potential you have always possessed. It can feel like you are dying, but you are not.

You are becoming your genuine self as you trust in the One who put you here to do a job, and you allow yourself to be stretched beyond what you thought you could handle, only to find out you can.

Remaining stagnant is always going to be an option, but there will never be fulfillment in that. The still, small voice will never stop pursuing, hoping to see you move forward into your best self as you shape up.

Burn Out

It all starts with a simple sentence, spoken by one of the three of us, that causes time to slip away as if we have been abducted by aliens.

“Look at this candle.”

That always begins a session of smelling, comparing, discerning, deciphering, and sometimes gagging as we go along the shelves searching for the perfect one. And just because it is displayed in an attractive jar does not mean that is the pick. We have specific criteria that have to be met.

Not too floral. Not too much like a dirty sock that hasn’t seen a washing machine in years. Not the scent of a deceased relative’s musky perfume. Not anything that resembles something forgotten in the fridge for a while. Or an armpit in need of deodorant.

There’s a whole section to be avoided at all costs. The enticing aroma of cinnamon rolls, sugar cookies, or salted caramel needs to be handled with discipline. If those get lit, we all become ravenously hungry, causing a storm of binge eating and wanting to bake. Anything with the word “grandma” on it usually means something associated with a calorie-laden concoction that will lead us down a diabolical path.

We have rigorous standards, and sometimes none of them meet the requirements. When the sneezing starts and the sinus cavity is burning, it’s time to stop.

We have fallen prey to purchasing specific ones online that, once burned to a certain point, a small jewel is exposed. Just like the lottery, it could be worth millions. So far, not.

On the more conventional side, those once burned can be converted into a wine glass. While the candle is a long-forgotten memory, the jar can be used until it gets knocked off the counter shattering into a thousand shards of glass, and you wish you were not barefoot right then.

“Put a light in every room so you are aware of my presence.”

This was at a time when life was at its height of uncertainty. I was not sleeping, eating very little, and worrying about everything. I told a counselor who I was seeing at the time that I felt like I had jumped out of an airplane and was in a free fall every day, anticipating a crash into the ground.

Panic attacks came out of nowhere as I tried to regain some normalcy even though God remained with me. The shadows would descend, leaving me unable to breathe and wanting to die. When I would return to reality, I would beat myself up for not having enough faith.

So when the simple message came to me while I wrote in my journal, I knew that God was sending me an answer.

I had very little extra money, so I had to find a way to buy inexpensive candles for every room. We had some, but I needed more, and I couldn’t afford to purchase the high-end kind made with exotic ingredients. My existence had become low-budget.

The dollar store was my best friend for things such as this. I placed tall, white, unscented candles throughout my house to remind me that I wasn’t alone. I was aware of them enough to have my daughters help me blow them out at night or when we left, but I often forgot about them until I would come across one burning brightly. This would instantly ground me in the fact that I was protected and God was in charge.

“Help! Oh, no!”

I heard this from the bathroom. That is never my favorite thing, and I must have been out of energy because I did not jump up as usual. When your child yells for you, particularly from that part of the house, you dread what will be asked of you.

“Mom!”

I looked at my older daughter, and she looked back at me. I did not budge. Neither did she.

“Help!” came another plea.

I couldn’t handle another thing.

“What is going on in there?”I said to the one staring at me. She got up to investigate and cautiously opened the door.

I watched the expression on her face go from neutral to horrified in a millisecond. She kept cringing and flinching, not saying a word.

“What is going on?” Now I was on high alert just because of her body language.

“There’s a fire,” she said, staring blankly forward.

“What?!”

Now I was on my feet.

“The rug is on fire.”

My youngest daughter, fully clothed, was standing on the toilet seat, trying to avoid the potential raging inferno going on below her. She had decided to wave a piece of toilet paper over the open flame for fun, thinking she could flirt with fate. When it caught ablaze, she threw it toward the floor onto the rug, setting off a more significant problem.

I quickly threw water on it, and from that moment on, the bathroom went without God’s presence.

While flames can be beautiful, I have seen them get out of hand. My dad demonstrated this quite professionally.

My parents had gotten a fireplace built into their basement when I was twelve. My mom was in seventh heaven, while he wasn’t so much enamored because he had to put in all the work.

“I want you to make a fire,” she would say, and his whole countenance would immediately drop.

This meant his evening would be spent building it, messing with the damper, and keeping it going. For him, it was a chore, and it would infringe on his time to not exert himself.

I knew he hated every minute of it, not only because of the effort but because he wasn’t totally confident in his abilities. A night of tranquility would take a turn when all was going well, and then the smoke would be pouring into the room out of his control.

There would be “why” questions from her, all the lights turned on, and swear words flowing from him.

One Sunday afternoon, I came home from ice skating, and the minute I walked in, I could smell burnt wood. My mom was in her room reading, so I surmised he must have attempted to learn how to use it better during daylight.

The dark haze burnt my eyes the minute I started going down the stairs. It appeared that no one was there through the heavy air, but then I saw him lying on the floor as if he had suffered from smoke inhalation.

They say where there is smoke, there is fire. In his case, there were barely glowing embers.

He was sound asleep just below the thick fog. Now the hard decision. To wake or not to wake. He never liked it when his nap was interrupted, but I threw all caution to the wind.

“Dad!” I said. Nothing. “Dad!”

Still no response. I had seen him sleep like this many times, so I knew he had not died.

I shook his shoulder.

“Wake up!”

“Chris! What do you want!” Yelling before his eyes were even open.

“The room is full of smoke.”

He blinked, trying to see me.

“You need to get up.”

Now I knew first hand the misery my mom went through every morning trying to catapult him out of bed for work.

He looked at me like I was a ghost materializing out of a mist. He committed to sitting halfway, came to, and suddenly realized that he had made a fire. That’s when the swearing started, and I left to do my homework.

The final straw came when the entire family was over, and he started a fire outside the fireplace. He always used a small propane torch to get it started. He set it aside, not realizing it was still on. While he frantically poked and stirred up the kindling, a vase filled with dry, ugly weeds that she thought were decorative went up in seconds. He was oblivious while everyone yelled to get his attention.

That was one of the last fires I ever saw him attempt; he was over it.

Our walk with God can be just as contentious. A burning light in every space in my house brought me peace, but the same element made my dad highly frustrated. When things start to go wrong, it’s easy for some to turn on the One who would offer the most help. But it’s vital to remember 1 John 1:5:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him, there is no darkness at all. (NIV)

When you start to believe that God isn’t on your side or has your best interests in mind, that is when resentment or distrust can begin to take hold. And the lie has to be dismantled.

Romans 8:28 states:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (NLT)

When you find yourself feeling as if all things familiar seem out of control, apply this: 1 Peter 5:7:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV)

Instead of carrying the weight of what seems like a burden, give it to God, so you can go on being a glowing lantern in the world and never burn out.

Leashed

What’s wrong?” She asked. I must have been too quiet.

I was deep in thought, contemplating how I could outrun the devil while eating Fruit Loops.

We had just gotten back from visiting my grandparents, and a family that lived next to them had a girl who was a little older than I was. Every time we were there, she and I spent time together. It was a very small town, so I was probably a great distraction from boredom, especially in the summer.

While we were at the park nearby, she said casually,

“Satan worshippers come here at night all dressed in black with hoods. They light a fire and kill animals.”

This was shocking for my young mind because I could always visualize what people said, and I hadn’t learned how to turn it off. So everything she stated was being absorbed and creating a troubling feeling. I could hear and see the entire scene she described.

Over the next few days, the conversation would pop up in my thoughts, but I would push it away, trying to forget it. Nightmares had highly plagued me for a while, so these images by day only added to the terror I experienced when sleeping.

Every single night I was hunted down by a dark force that wanted to do me harm. I would try to get away, but my efforts weren’t fast enough. Right as I knew I was going to die, I would wake up feeling like I couldn’t breathe.

I had learned to hide my fear because when I would say I saw dark shadows or sensed something scary, my mom’s response would always be,

“There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

I had learned to try and calm myself down, but if the panic was too overwhelming, I would call out for her and ask for water. Mechanically, she brought me some, and we never really talked about it. She was always sleepwalking and had to be up by 5 am.

There was only one time when she tripped while coming into my room which sent the glass flying. It hit a windup carousel toy I had, and it started playing the song, “Cruising Down the River.”

She flipped my light on, and both of us squinted against the brightness. When she got down on the floor to mop up the mess with a towel, and the tune kept playing, she started laughing uncontrollably. Fatigued by way too many kids and interrupted sleep had set that off.

“I can’t stop laughing,” she said weakly.

She kept trying to stifle herself not to wake up the entire house, but that just caused it to come on more. She ended up sitting with her eyes closed, trying to pull herself together. That made me laugh, which then created more.

“Chris, shh,” she tried to say, but even she couldn’t take herself seriously.

She dragged herself back to bed, and my fear had dissolved.

So she knew on some level that I was struggling with trying to understand ominous.

When I didn’t answer her, she asked me again,

“What are you thinking about? I can see that you are worried.”

If I told her, she probably wouldn’t believe me, just like all the other times. I had conditioned myself to live with what haunted me, but the pressure was more than I could handle this time. I decided to spill the truth whether she acknowledged my feelings or not.

She put down her dishrag and pulled out the chair next to me. This was serious if she was halting dishwashing.

“You don’t need to be afraid of the devil, Chris. If you don’t go near him, he can’t come near you.”

She knew my ability to see what was spoken, so she added,

“Think of it like a small dog tied up, and you are walking by. All that dog can do is bark at you. He can look frightening, but he can’t get at you if you keep your distance. God has the power, not that little dog.”

That made me feel better.

I decided to take this small opportunity to ask a question that I had a million times.

“Can we get a dog?”

“No, Chris.”

Seeing that my problem was solved, she went back to the sink.

A few weeks later, my mom was standing by the fence visiting with the neighbor lady. I overheard this,

“You need to get her a dog.”

Finally! Someone was on my side.

“No. That’s too much responsibility, and we don’t really want one.”

It was as if she hit play on a recorded message every time this subject came up.

“Jean, I see her out here playing with worms.”

This sent a shockwave through my mother’s soul.

“She does not.” I could tell by her mouth that she was trying to regain her sense of control.

Technically, I didn’t. I found caterpillars and put them on leaves so they had a chance against the forces of nature. I had listened in second-grade science for once.

“Yes. I have seen her; she does this all the time, and a dog would make her happy.”

Who knew we had a sage living next door? I was unaware of the tension that existed between these two women. They spoke with one another, but there had been feuds before I was on the scene. My mom had high standards to keep in the community and their outlook on the family, and her small-town upbringing had solidified this in her DNA.

She couldn’t have people whispering in the shadows about how her youngest was playing with dirty things from the ground, and this neighbor would be the one to get the talk started. That sounded too earthy for a person who prided herself on germ-free living.

This ushered in the arrival of a dog that she could bathe.

I wasn’t given the luxury of choosing the canine that became a part of the household; she was part cocker spaniel and poodle. I came home from school, and she was running around the backyard.

Our initial meeting did not give me one indication of a lifelong hatred that was waiting in the wings. Not on my part, but deep jealousy that she had toward me. If I sat next to my mom, this would bring on an attack. If I tried to pet her when she didn’t want me to, I got snapped at. I became afraid of her, and I loved all dogs.

One night, she did bite me and drew blood because I walked into the room. My dad got out a work boot and slammed it repeatedly next to where she was hiding. He didn’t strike her, but he was trying to instill some sort of authority into her memory.

“She knows you are afraid of her, and you can’t let her think that.”

None of that changed anything. Her behavior continued, and I was the only one she loathed. My mom’s brilliant idea of having her sleep with me was miserable. If I moved one foot, she would growl and bite me. I would rather have demons chasing me in my dreams, not one in my bed in real life.

It got to the point where she and I existed, but I ignored her. I never gave her any of my attention, and I have very few memories of her except the bad ones. But, I didn’t get targeted anymore, so my mom’s theory of not going near something evil had worked.

I was having all these thoughts go through my mind as I stood in line waiting to go into a seminar where there were going to be tarot card readers, psychics, intuitives, numerology, crystals, potions, lotions, oils, and every other thing that I had been told was something to run from. I knew I was supposed to go, and I had my youngest daughter with me.

The minute I got into the hallway, I felt dizzy. I have had this happen many times in church and where there is a lot of spiritual charge in the air. I had to put my hand on the wall a couple of times to be sure I stayed upright. If I went down, it would have just looked like I skipped breakfast, which I had, and that my highly caffeinated coffee was not working its magic.

The main room was packed with vendors of all sorts hoping to make sales. I slowly began walking. I am not immune to sales tactics, even ones that try to reel me in.

“Wow, I love your hair!” said one lady.

“Thank you.” They had a sign with the word ‘groovy’ in it. “I am old enough to know what that means,” I said. It was not one of my favorites as a total slaughter of the English language.

“Really? You look so young!” I moved on and heard her say to the next person,

“You have the most beautiful hair.”

If she had pointed out my smile, then maybe.

I stopped to talk to a young psychic, who seemed to be covering up insecurity. She was dressed the part, but I could tell below the surface, she was not happy. I sensed a depression within the smile, and sitting at a table trying to collect money for her services was not something she wanted to do anymore. Before speaking to her further, she had a paying customer she fully turned her attention toward. It was like I never existed.

As I moved on to another table, this very nice man said,

“Do you want to sign up for a card reading?”

“I am just walking around for now,” I said.

“Well, she uses cards that came way before the tarot.”

I looked behind him to see a lady engaged in a serious conversation with another person, which was happening all over the room. As I glanced around, I started to wonder what all the fear was about. I took her business card and moved on.

I had seen the sneers and heard the conversations of many who think they have cornered the market on God.

I felt total peace as I walked from table to table, just observing. The one thing I did feel was what I had felt a million other places..they all were hoping for a sale to pay their bills.

And, everyone was smiling.

Later, I went into a private meeting that I had paid extra for. Usually, I sit as far to the back in anything I attend, and I never want attention turned on me. When I walked in, I saw two chairs right in the center of the front row.

“I think we are going right to the front,” I said to her.

“Okay.”

We sat down, and two people, a young guy and an older woman introduced themselves. They said they would travel around the room and answer questions that the audience had for them. I felt, again, I was supposed to watch.

As the man stood in front of me, he spoke to a woman seated way in the back. She started to talk about a relationship that had ended in tragedy; she had been in love with someone who had died. During this, I looked at the floor and heard,

“Please tell her I love her because I never told her. She is so sad that she cannot hear.” I saw a huge bouquet in a man’s hand; I didn’t see him clearly, as if a camera was zoomed up close to red roses. My entire body was vibrating with electricity, as I had never felt before.

I said quietly to the man who was trying to give her some sort of message,

“He wants her to know he loves her. Can you tell her that?”

“Why don’t you tell her?” What? When did I become the headliner?

These people had paid and come here to have one of these two say something, not me.

“I don’t know where she is.” I was trying hard to get out of it. The person next to me said,

“You have to tell her!”

I turned around, and she stood up.

“He is handing you the biggest bouquet of roses ever, and he wants you to know he loves you, but he couldn’t say it. Keep a watch out for red rose symbols. Get a rose pin and put it on your jacket. He isn’t gone.”

For a reason beyond me, I pointed at her, and I said,

“You are looking for a sign; this is your sign.”

When I did that, I watched a wave of something hit the entire row she was in and all around her. Everyone started crying.

She put her hand over her heart, and I said,

“Does this make sense? Red roses? The color red?”

“I wear red all the time,” she said between tears.

“That’s him. He isn’t gone, and he’s right by you. It will become stronger now as you go.”

I sat down and faced forward. The guy next to me said,

“Do you do this for a living?”

“No.” The man leading it said,

“You should.”

He then went on to a lady right behind me. She asked about her dad, and it was determined that he had passed away, leaving a cabin.

“I think he talks to me, but I am not sure.”

I saw him standing behind her.

“He is behind you. He is protecting you all the time.”

“I see that too,” said the man. While he moved on, I got a tap on the shoulder.

“Is it really my dad?”

I turned around. I was trying so hard to stay quiet, and I couldn’t.

“Yes. You need to write down what he says.”

“How do I know I won’t be speaking to spirits that aren’t of God?”

“The Holy Spirit covers me. That is my covering, and I write down everything I hear.”

“I love the Holy Spirit!” I saw her whole face light up with relief.

“Just write down what you hear. A year later, you can go back and read things and see how they came to pass. People who are in heaven know things that they want to tell us.”

As I spoke, I saw people start to cry around her. The lady next to her showed me a ring that had belonged to a relative.

“I just want to know so bad if my grandma is with me.”

The guy next to me said,

“What do you have to say to her?”

I laughed. He had more confidence in me than I did.

He said to all of those looking at us,

“I can see this woman’s spirit! She has a huge gift from God!”

I showed the lady my ring with all the stones representing five generations of women, including my mom and grandma.

“I had this designed, and it has made my connection stronger.”

Her eyes seemed to clear a little. The sorrow started to fade.

“She wants you happy. Try to think of all the good times you had with her. That is the frequency of heaven.”

She smiled at me while the rest all started to sniffle again.

The lady next to my daughter started asking questions, and I heard,

“Tell her to go buy something with amethyst in it.”

I forgot, but later we ran into her. My daughter had told me she was seeing the color purple while I was hearing that particular stone.

“I am supposed to tell you that you are to go get something with amethyst in it.”

Out of her purse, she pulled two small amethyst bracelets that she had just bought for her granddaughters.

I found out she was an RN who had left the profession after feeling drawn into homeopathy.

I said,

“You are like a medicine woman.”

“That’s funny you say that because my family heritage is the Crow Tribe.”

She is at the start of a substantial online business specializing in natural medicine.

“It’s going to do very well.”

Sitting in the parking lot later, I said to my daughter,

“I have no idea what just happened, but that felt like I belonged there. For those who sit from a distance and judge, they are missing it.”

Had I let my fear of ‘evil’ keep me away, I would not have had the chance for God to show me how the divine is at work in my life. There were needs in a room, and He used my voice to help. I wasn’t there to “save” people but to encourage them. That’s it. I had no plan or agenda. I didn’t show up to preach or convert. I was just there as a representative of the One who knows everything. In 1 John 4:18, it says,

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. (NIV)

It’s up to heaven what happens, not me, and how it is done. The hand of God will go anywhere to bring peace, comfort and remove hindrances that keep humanity leashed.

Acting Squirrelly

Thud! Splash!
With spatula in hand, I turned toward the pool area to listen for any further sounds. There was no flapping of wings or familiar noises that a duck would make. There was no scurrying of feet or barking to indicate that one of my dogs had decided to go for a swim. So, what had just landed?

I closed the lid on the grill and cautiously walked up the stairs to look over the fence. I saw a small head frantically trying to stay above water as it paddled to get out of the deep end. For months the structure had sat uncovered collecting melting snow, rain water and every leaf that blew in. The shallow part had no water, so this unfortunate creature had found itself in a cesspool of unattended crud.

From my vantage point, I could not tell what it was. At first glance, it appeared to be an otter, however, that idea faded when I saw the small animal finally reach dry land and flop down.

“Oh, no!” I said to no one. “It’s a baby squirrel!”

In all the years of owning it, nothing like this had ever happened. I called out for my daughter and we determined that I would have to net and release it into the yard.  As I walked to the shed to retrieve what I needed for the job, she said,

“Mom! There is another one in there!”

“No! No! No!” was my mantra as I rushed back hoping she was wrong.

She wasn’t.

While the one panted in a heap after its Olympic medal swim, another was leaning up against the side of the pool looking rather dejected as if all of its attempts to escape had been depleted.

I talked non-stop in sentences that made absolute no sense as I tried to extend the pole to try to keep the animal as far from me as possible on the off chance that I was able to capture it.

I pretended to casually remove leaves as I slowly edged closer to the one that was fighting exhaustion.  Just as I was closing in, he took off back into the water with one leap.

“I am trying to help you!” I reasoned.

Finally, I was able to get him into the net while he chattered and bared his teeth.  I had visions of dirty fangs dripping with rabies biting into my hands as I hauled the screaming furball over the fence and into the yard. With a quick shake, he was slightly airborne, hit the ground running and scampered half way up the tree. He turned to stare me down.

“I can’t do this again,” I said looking at the other frightened little one.

As I pondered how to remove the next one, a terrible smell surrounded me. I looked down into the black water and realized what was going on.  A few days prior, and from a longer distance away, I had noticed what I thought were two large leaves floating near the surface.  Now on closer examination I could see two bushy tails bobbing along.

“Oh no!  Please no!”

“What?” my daughter said.

“I think those are the parents!”

I ran to get a large trash bin with a garbage bag inside.

“I can’t do this!” I shrieked as I reluctantly put my net back in the water.  Bringing it up, I had unearthed a bloated adult squirrel that I quickly disposed of.

“Aw!  Yuck! Some of the water splashed on my legs!  I need an entire hot soapy shower!”  I had lost my ability to talk quietly.  The yelling at the top of my lungs was coming naturally as a way to release my disgust as this horror show was playing itself out.

Quickly, I retrieved the second one and then turned my attention to the living.  With all my verbal outbursts, I had only scared him more.

“Okay,  little guy. This will be over really quick if you just cooperate.”

Of course, he took off like his brother, but the three other rescues had made my net handling skills sharper.  In no time, he was flying up the nearest tree to recuperate from his harrowing backyard adventure.

For the remainder of the evening, I kept checking to see if all was well.  I ended up getting a snow shovel and moved one of the two to the front yard.  He obviously was in some sort of shock. It clung to the earth with its claws as I hefted him gently out of harm’s way. By dark, both had left, and I thought that was the end of it.

A few days later, I heard another splash.  Looking over the fence, I could see another one swimming rapidly. This was followed up by more of the same water fighting, snarling teeth and screeching by me and the baby squirrel before I got him to safety.

This time, he ran as far away as he possibly could.  I wasn’t sure if it was one of the original two I had saved, but my initial thought was that maybe he had to come back to see if his parents really were no longer living.

Why would it revisit a place that had brought it so much pain and agony?  As I stood there, I began to wonder why I do that sometimes.  How many times do I go back mentally to some horrible situation and relive what was said or done to me that was traumatic?  Why is it so easy to let myself go there instead of staying in the present moment and let bygones be bygones?  Why can’t I just let the dead things of former days go?

When I have found myself in the throes of an old memory that is dredging up emotions that I thought I had gotten past, God is always holding out the net saying, “I am trying to help you!  Get out of the muck!”  And, like the helpless animal, I have snarled, resisted and made my own self miserable when I didn’t have to.

In Isaiah 43: 18 it says: Do not remember the former things, or ponder the things of the past. (AMP)

Why not?  Why is it not good to continually go back over and dwell on those mistakes and negative issues from a former time?

Because of Isaiah 43:19: Listen carefully!  I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth.  Will you not be aware of it? (AMP)

If I am so preoccupied with what has happened to me before, I will not be able to focus on what I want to happen to me now.  If I let my past take up all of my thinking today, then that leaves no room for a new and good thing to take its place tomorrow.  I have found that to stop myself from unnecessarily going back in time, I must stay on top of my thoughts and allow myself only to dwell on things that will advance me forward into living a better life. Being fully aware that God is with me as a constant companion also restores my peace.  I can pray, release and let go of those things that have caused me pain and not fall into the trap of acting squirrelly.

squirrel

 

 

Turkey for Two

The Sunday paper was lying in a heap on the kitchen table. As usual, it was Monday, and I was finally getting around to reading a few of the ads. Most of the inserts spoke of doorbuster sales, but I wasn’t thinking of finding Christmas gifts early.  Instead, I needed two turkeys for Thanksgiving. As I paged through the various catalogs of information, I wondered what had happened to this holiday? It seemed like we no sooner had Halloween and all its uproar with candy scarfing then we hurtled full speed ahead to boughs of holly and mad dashes to find the perfect gift. What had happened to the cranberries, the stuffing, the giving thanks and a day of digesting one of the best meals of the year?

I located the grocery store ad in hopes of finding a buy one get one on frozen turkeys. In years past, this had been offered, but it became apparent that our economy had taken a hit as I could not find a deal on any turkey. I thought maybe the week before Thanksgiving this would surely be an offering.  No such luck.

The reason for buying two birds was not so I could eat them both, but my intention was to give one to a good friend of mine who had just gone through a divorce just like I had. He was going to be cooking a meal for his kids for the first time as a single man. I guess I was trying to take away some of the stress by helping him along in the kitchen by giving him the main dish to which he could easily add in the sides. I was not at the height of having an abundance of money, but I knew I was to help him out this way.

I put the paper aside, and I made the decision that I would go out and buy each of us a turkey the next day. In the meantime, I had to take my youngest daughter to her dance class. While driving, I mulled over the predicament. I knew exactly to the penny what I had in my checking account and back in those days, a savings account didn’t exist. I was never one for using a credit card to buy my food, so I knew I was going to have to just fight off the fear of lack and do it anyway.

After I dropped her off at her class, I sat in my car and said a quick prayer asking for help in apprehending two turkeys for our meals. It wasn’t anything fancy. Just a quick shout out to heaven with a simple thank you. Then, I put it out of my mind and got out a book to read while I waited.

When I got home, I saw the ad laying on the table where I had left it.  I felt a slight twinge of disappointment because I really wanted to give him a turkey, but I didn’t know how I was going to afford two of them plus all the rest of my meal.  I walked out to the mailbox, and as I shuffled through the usual bills, a bright red postcard surfaced.  Written in fancy font it read:

Your name has been submitted to receive a free Thanksgiving basket.  Please come to the address listed below on Wednesday to pick up your items. Thank you.  

I could not believe it!  Just moments ago I was worrying over how I was going to give away a turkey that I didn’t have to pay for and now I was going to be able to give away an entire meal!   Not even for a moment did I consider keeping this gift for myself.  I wanted to give it away to a person who was going through a hard time of adjusting to a new way of living.  I was so overjoyed that I barely heard the phone ringing when I came back into the house.

“Hello?” I said.

“Is this Christine?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Christine, I am calling because someone gave us your name to receive a Thanksgiving basket.  I am calling to see if you would like one. Our church gave away baskets over the weekend, and we are now trying to find homes for the ones that are leftover.  We sure would appreciate it if you would take one.”

“I just got a postcard in the mail that I am to pick up a basket this Wednesday.  Is this from your church?”

“No.  We didn’t send out postcards.  And, our delivery happened over the weekend.  So, what we have are baskets that didn’t find homes in need of them.  Would you like one?”

It was one of those moments when my mouth hung open on its own accord, and I lost my ability to speak for a few seconds.

“Sure.  I would love one,” I said.

“If you could come and pick this up before Wednesday, that would work out great.”

I assured her that I would.

On Wednesday, I stood in my kitchen with two overflowing baskets both containing two large turkeys, stuffing mix, cranberries, canned vegetables, fresh potatoes and all the staples every well stocked pantry could afford such as flour, sugar, butter and even a gallon of milk!

As we approach this time of the year once again, I am reminded of how I had no need to worry about any of the details.  I had asked for help, and the divine had come to my rescue.  Even before I had prayed, heaven had made a way for turkey for two.

twoturkeys

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

Catching On

The other day I was driving by the city park and was surprised to see a lot of rubble and trees chopped down laying in piles.  The place where I had spent so much time playing softball has become a construction nightmare.  A new state of the art outdoor recreation center is in the works.  I guess grass and dirt are no longer ‘in’. They can rip the place apart, but the memories and events that took place there long ago are not forgotten.

When I turned ten, a friend of mine convinced me to try out for a team. On the way to my first pratice my dad gave me these words of wisdom,

“Don’t let them put you behind the plate.  It’s dangerous there. The catcher always gets hurt.”

I hadn’t stepped one toe on the field and he was already talking about injury.

We spent the first part of the practice trying to stop ground balls and catch pop flys.  When it came time for us to take up field positions the coach told me to go behind home plate.

“Let’s see how you do as our catcher.” I gulped down my terror.

I did as I was told and crouched down behind the white plate.  I glanced upward at the aluminum bat inches from my skull.  I jumped every time someone got a hit thinking that my head was going to be mistaken for the ball. I must have made a good impression, however, because that became my assigned spot.

When I got into the car, my dad asked,

“Where did you end up playing?”

“They put me in as catcher.” I am sure he imagined ambulances and crutches, but he kept his thoughts to himself.  We drove home in silence until he pulled into the garage.

“We better buy you a good mask.”

That first summer was difficult. My opponents barreled full force into me trying to knock me off my feet so I couldn’t tag them at home plate. One moment in particular was extremely painful as a girl twice my size in weight ran at me and purposely buried her head into my left shoulder. She was safe, and I was a ball of dust struggling to get off my back. Her team and coach gave her slaps of congratulations as I got up with tears in my eyes trying not to show the agony. My catcher’s mask was not only good for protecting my face from a wild pitch, but it also served as a good cover when I was hurting. I was determined to just suck it up and play on. But, I couldn’t fool my dad. Our eyes just happened to meet as he looked down from the stands. He called out to the coach who took a time out.

When the coach asked if I was okay, my tears overflowed, and I was replaced for the rest of the tournament. I found it rather difficult to sit on a bench with an ice pack and watch when I wanted to play. And, my replacement was horrible. We lost the game due to so many runs at home being missed.

By the end of that first season, I was learning how to plant my feet more firmly into the ground by the plate so no one could knock me off balance. Usually, the first runner at home would test me to see just how strong I was. It was a widely expressed fact that the catcher of a team was usually the weakest player. In short order, I proved this to be a fallacy.  Many times, a runner would come at me fully expecting to take me down but would find herself lying flat on her back being tagged out.

After a rough game where I had to fight to keep myself from being bowled over, my mom said,

“They think they can knock you over only to find out it’s like hitting a brick wall. You have taught yourself how to be immovable.”

During the seven summers I played catcher, I had to learn to have confidence in my position. It didn’t come naturally, and I had to be knocked down a few times to learn how to stand up strong.

I am finding as I go through life post divorce, and I am approaching a birthday that is looming ever closer to 50, that my times of being pushed over have only taught me how to stand my ground.  I have had situations come at me that seemed unsolvable, and in those moments where it seemed I was at the mercy of the events, I found I had more power than what I imagined.  I have had to mentally ‘plant’ my thoughts into the positive and not budge no matter what.  Even if this has meant repeating a certain phrase in my mind over and over such as “Nothing is impossible with God” when I have wanted to start to worry. The key to not being taken down begins in the mind and an attitude that refuses to accept anything but a good outcome.

And where would I be without the peace of God? That would be like trying to catch a ball without a glove. (You can do it, but boy, does it sting.)  The Creator is the one who supplies the inward strength so you can laugh when you want to cry and you can sleep when you should be awake with insomnia.  Can I do this flawlessly?  Certainly not.  To all of this I am still catching on.

mask

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.)