The Connection

I was coming home from an all expense paid trip to San Diego, and while I was riding up an escalator after checking my bags, I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude rise up within me. Silently, I thanked God for the getaway that was completely covered including our every meal, our accommodations and our flights. I felt like a princess who had been given the royal treatment for three days. I was not begrudgingly going home, but I had a strong desire to travel again soon, and if the next trip was free…all the better!  I asked mentally for a way to be made for another excursion in the next year.

As we walked to our gate, I paused along the way at various gift shops and vendors not only to search for souvenirs but to leave behind notes with dollar bills rolled up inside. It sounds like an odd practice, but I had read a book called Happy Money by Laina Buenostar while enjoying my vacation. She suggested that in order to have freedom with money to give small amounts away to create joyful feelings. The instructions were quite simple, really. Take a dollar bill, or whatever amount doesn’t make you faint, and write a little note such as, God bless you or Don’t worry about money because God loves you and then drop them in places where an unsuspecting passerby will come upon it.  According to the author, when she began doing this, she noticed that more money and blessings would float her way from different sources and she was never without.   I believe this is much like the verse that says, “Give and it shall be given to you..”

So, I happily placed my notes around the building.  I put dollar bills in bathrooms, magazines, books that were financially motivating, and I finally dropped the last one in a mug that would sure to be grabbed by a tourist as they raced to his or her gate.  I did this discreetly because it wasn’t supposed to draw attention to me, and I was not to hang around to see who got the note.

About thirty minutes before boarding, an announcement was made that our flight was overbooked. An airline employee asked for volunteers to step down and get on the next flight. My travel companion put our names on the list.  When he sat down next to me I said,

“What happens if we don’t get on our flight?”

“If they put us on another flight it will only be about an hour behind this one.  And, they will give us each a $400 flight voucher to be used within the next year to go wherever we want for free.”  I nearly fell out of my chair.  My prayer on the escalator was coming to pass!

The two of us waited while the rest of the passengers boarded.  As the crowd thinned, and we were the only passengers left, the lady behind the desk motioned for us to go ahead and board.

“We don’t need you to stay behind after all. Your seats are available. ”

With a heavy heart, I walked onto the plane with a despondent attitude dragging my carry on behind me like a dead weight.  After getting buckled in I began to text my daughter that went something like this:

“We are on the plane!  We didn’t get our free tickets.  I am coming home now.  I knew this stuff didn’t work!” My disappointment stemmed from the fact that I had been reading such marvelous stories about people who prayed for miracles and got what they had asked for.

I started thinking, I guess I am not good enough for a miracle. 

Out of no where a  flight attendant ran up the aisle toward the two of us yelling,

“Get off the plane!  Get off the plane!  Get off the plane!”

The shocked faces around us were too many to count, and we didn’t wait around to explain.  We frantically unbuckled, grabbed our belongings and scrambled for the door.  To those not knowing what was happening, we looked rather criminal.   Within moments a young dad was sprinting to our empty seats with two small children.

We were given two $400 flight vouchers to be used anywhere in the United States within the year and an allowance to enjoy free meals while we waited to catch the next flight.  We had secured our free flights, but now we needed to make the decision about where to go.

In April of the following year, we had not gone on our trip and both of us seemed rather undecided about what to do.  We had been told by the airline staff that we could not give the vouchers away.  We had to use them and no one else.  Only three months remained until the tickets would expire and it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. Tired of trying to decide, I put my hand on both vouchers and asked for my request to be completed.

“I need somewhere to stay,” I said out loud.  I kept this to myself to see how it would work itself out. By the end of the week, I received a text from a family member with an offer to give us some of her timeshare days for free.  When she called to check on availability, she was told that nothing was open during the time we preferred.  Minutes later, the same person said,

“Oh, wait.  We just had something put back into the system.  We now have an opening for what you need.”  She went on to book a large condo that slept six with an ocean view, a full kitchen and two full bathrooms.

When we arrived to check-in we were early, but I decided to take my chances anyway.  Usually, check-in isn’t until four, and we had shown up at noon.  The representative behind the desk clicked away on her keyboard to locate our accommodations.  I was fully prepared to go back to the rental car and drive around for hours while waiting.

“It looks like your room is ready. Yours is the only one in the whole complex. Lucky you.”  I knew it wasn’t luck.

As I stood there in awe, my mind flashed back to the airport where I had placed my notes and bills so that others could have a brief moment of happiness.  In return, I was understanding something.  Giving had opened up a pathway for the divine to work on my behalf.  Giving cheerfully had brought back a reward to me that I would never have imagined.  For the first time, I felt and understood the connection.

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(The Gulf of Mexico..our view from our trip)

Wedding Bells and Empty Shells

“She is dating a co-worker of mine. I see them together everyday while I am here and they flirt with each other right in front of me.”

“And you have been married how long to this woman?”

“A month.”

“So, you were married a month ago and already she is cheating on you?”

“She says she isn’t, but at the end of her shift she goes home with him for the night.  She has told me that nothing is going on.”

“Have you known her for awhile?”

“Yes. We have a two year old son together.” He pulled out his phone to show me a picture of himself and an adorable red headed boy.

“Was she like this before you got married?”

“She flirted with men, but it wasn’t like this. She won’t let me touch her or kiss her. She is like a totally different person.”

“Who helps you with the baby?”

“Her parents do.”

“Have you discussed her behavior with them?”

“Yes. They don’t approve but they told me that they love their daughter and it wasn’t their business to get involved in our marriage.”

“Did you tell them you might divorce her?”

“Yes, and they told me to go ahead with whatever I felt was right.”

He continued talking about how miserable his life was with this person.

“She tells me that nothing is going on, and that I am being unreasonable about all of it. She took off her wedding ring because she said she has a rash on that hand and can’t wear it. Everyone here at work knows they are together. This guy has had four kids with four different women.”

Alarm bells and red flags!

“Why are you still with her? I know you just got married a month ago, but what keeps you in this marriage?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

“I love her.”

“That is admirable of you, but do you see that you are being used? She is carrying on with another man while you are working, raising your son and she is making you out to look like a liar while she is cheating.”

He fiddled with his wedding ring spinning it around on his finger. “I know, but I love her.”

“Are you happy? Is this what you consider marriage?”

“No. But I love her. I want to punch the guy in the face everytime I see him.”

“What about her? She is participating along with him.”

“I know.” I saw a few glints of tears in his angry eyes.

“I am not trying to tell you what to do. I have been through a divorce and it isn’t fun at all for anybody. This person is married to you and using it as a front to be with someone else. Is this really what you want out of life?”

“No, I didn’t think it would work out like this at all. I thought things would be different.”

“Then maybe your next step should be to pack it in, start fresh, raise your son and move on and let her find her way.”

“I can’t. I love her.”

No matter what I said, it came back to this same answer. This conversation began when I had gone to the front desk of the resort where we were staying to pick up a card that would offer me discounts on area attractions. Little did I know that the representative behind the desk would begin telling me his whole life story.

I had simply asked for my card, told him the neighbors above our unit were extremely noisy and the next thing I knew he was unloading his pain on me in massive doses.

“If you are this unhappy now, what will it be like ten years from now?  Will she go to counseling with you to get help?”

“No. She claims she isn’t doing anything wrong so she won’t go with me.”

“What if she gets pregnant with this man?” At this, his neck became red up to the roots of his hair.

“I am worried that might happen.” I sensed the slight tremor of fear.

“You have to take some time and think all of this through,” I said. “I have to say you are doing the best you can in a very tough situation.” He thanked me for listening, and I began my walk down the long hallway.

I have had situations such as this happen over my years where someone I don’t know very well will begin to spill very serious and intimate details of his or her life. Usually, my inward reaction is shock, and I want to check my shirt to see if it reads: Please tell me all your problems right now!

I cannot explain it fully, but while those emotions are going on, something else takes over. I often feel a calm settle over me as I listen, ask questions and try to sort through the mess. On the outside it appears that I am cool and collected while many times I am thinking,

“What is happening?!?”

As I walked away from him I began to think of how I had ‘trapped’ myself into situations over the years. I think many of us get our hearts set on something and even when it is going very badly, we cling to it hoping things will change.  We make up stories in our heads and dismiss the fact that our problem is in fact our unwillingness to look things squarely in the eye and make a decision to save ourselves from agony.  Sometimes, as in this man’s case, it is too painful to acknowledge the pain.

I believe in prayer.  I do believe miracles can happen. I have experienced prayers being answered in ways where things that were not serving me were removed. I have prayed for burdens to be lifted and to walk in freedom only to find that I was hindering my own progress by not letting go.

As I approached the door of my condo, I saw a couple walk by holding hands and having a lively conversation. You know the kind where you can feel the electricity in their attraction as they talk and walk. I thought of the wounded and dejected guy behind the desk. This is what he was longing for deeply but missing it because his partner was not on board.

I thought about the vow he had so recently taken about being together “until death do us part”. I never used to think of it this way, but there have been times in my life where something has ‘died’ so to speak, and I have not wanted to part with it.

Relationships fizzle out when one doesn’t reverance and honor the other party.  A picture comes to mind of a shell on the beach that has washed up without the creature inside. The housing still exists but the contents are empty. It appears that you have stumbled upon a treasure but when you flip it over you realize that whatever lived there before is gone. The shell is just a remnant of the life that was.

I send my best prayers to this man who so deeply loves a woman who does not love him back.  He deserves a good outcome that is more than living life like an empty shell.

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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