Out of Order

The three of us looked on as many approached, saw the sign and backed away. It was clearly written in permanent marker and in no uncertain terms that the machine was out of order.

“It’s not working, ” she said with a dejection that jumpstarts a mother into action.

It had been a simple request for a pack of hard to find cinnamon mints while walking through the mall. The grocery stores and gas stations we frequented did not carry them, but a large glass encased vending machine at the food court offered every color of the rainbow to those who desired fresh breath. Unless the machine was malfunctioning.

Instead of walking away, I began to dig in my wallet for change. Money and the availability of it had become scarce following the divorce. My oldest child saw what I was doing and said,

“Don’t put your money in there. You will lose it.”

I had taught her well. It sounded like my own voice and practical advice that I had doled out on numerous occasions to her and her sister, yet, I persisted in locating another coin. Maybe there was one at the bottom of my purse.

“You are going to lose your money.”

Despite her warnings, I felt I was to ignore what I was seeing and go after the item she had requested. I clutched two quarters in my hand as I watched another person go up, read the sign and leave.

When I made my decision to try it anyway, she kept trying to talk me out of doing something so crazy. Once the coins were in the slots and I pushed them in, I grabbed on to the metal handle.

This is where things got somewhat tricky. The mechanism would not budge so my coins were suspended and not dropping in to allow my candy to be dispensed. I latched on with both hands, gritted my teeth, closed my eyes and put everything I had into turning that knob to the right. I leaned into it. I grunted inwardly.

After a few moments of mother against machine, I heard the soft clinking sound of my two coins falling into other coins. I opened my eyes to see a pack of red hot mints shoot across the room like a machine gun firing a bullet.

“Go get them!” I said as I watched them fly away. I didn’t have any money left to do it again.

As they both raced to retrieve them, I watched as another person walked up to the machine, read the piece of paper and walked away.

I know that I was not operating under my own impulses that day. How do I know? Because during that time of my life I was hanging on by a thread emotionally, physically and financially. Everything in me at all times feared the worst, and I was in survival mode to make sure my two children had what they needed. The divorce had left its scars on all of us, and I was trying to regain some normalcy.   But, to put my money into a machine that was probably going to take what little I had was not what I would have chosen to do.

However, I had this overwhelming thought to do it anyway because someone great was watching over us. Someone besides myself knew and saw the grief, despair and pain my household was enduring. A love greater than what I could hand out to my kids was watching us struggle to find our footing again like new born creatures. Everything seemed uncertain, so to take a chance by sticking my last two quarters into a machine was definitely not an idea generated by my own thinking.

I was being shown that not everything appears as it seems. It was an inward prompting to trust something bigger than myself, and to bring this passage alive: We walk by faith, not by sight.  Two quarters and a pack of elusive mints taught me one of the best lessons of my life.

When the divine is allowed in to bring healing, love and hope, nothing can ever be out of order.

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Setting the Captives Free

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now, get up.”

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

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

“Get me off the tree,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

What to say, what to say?

A blank white page like this can be intimidating and daunting especially when you are new to the blog world.  What would people want me to write about that would hold their attention?  Time is important so I shouldn’t waste it by going on and on about nothing.  Hmmm…maybe this is where I write a little bit about myself just to get going…

My desire for writing began in elementary school.  When the teacher would announce that all students would need to write a paper, the group groan reverberated off the walls. But, not me.  One time, I recall we were expected to write a fictional story.  The instructor had sheets of paper on her desk and if we needed more for writing, we had to go and get more to continue on.  My classmates began counting out loud how many times I sprinted back and forth between my desk and hers.  While they suffered with writer’s block and lack of imagination, I effortlessly filled page after page.

I love to write for the pure joy of it.  Now you know the secret behind my blog name,and it is a reference to a Bible scripture that has meant a lot to me.  I have found that if you can get rid of thinking about what is WRONG this creates room for what is RIGHT.  More on this later…

My purpose in writing this is to make my Facebook status posts shorter, to make you laugh and to encourage those who need it.  I hope you drop in from time to time with a nice cup of coffee….or tea…Together, we can think about those things that are lovely, pure and right.                                                   (Stinky and Me)

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